Seoul (2002) Review

"Seoul" Chinese DVD Cover

"Seoul" Chinese DVD Cover

Director: Masahiko Nagasawa
Writer: Yasuo Hasegawa
Producer: Cha Seung-Jae, Lee Jeong-Hak
Cast: Tomoya Nagase, Choi Min-Soo, Hoon Jang, Sung Choi, Jin-myung Go, Shim-young Hahm, Hun-suk Jung, Ki-won Kang, Dong-wook Kim, Ji-youn Kim, Chan-young Lee, Do-hyung Lee, Kyung-hwan Park, Young-jin Park
Running Time: 110 min.

By Paul Bramhall

Seoul is an interesting curiosity of a movie. It looks, feels, and sounds like an early 2000’s Korean action flick, however it is in fact a Japanese production. Produced by the legendary Toho studios, and directed by Masahiko Nagasawa, it was made in that transitioning period for both the Japanese and the Korean film industries. Japan had found its niche during the late 90’s, with quietly unsettling horror movies such as Ring and Audition, however with the dawn of the new millennium, its mainstream output had already begun a decline into mediocrity. The Korean film industry on the other hand was going through the opposite process, having finally got international recognition with the 1999 production Shiri, many consider 2003 to be a defining year for Korean cinema, a year after Seoul hit the screens.

The plot has Tomoya Nagase as a fish-out-water cop in, as the title suggests, Seoul. Nagase was a member of the J-pop group, TOKIO, and his role in Seoul led to him winning the Yujiro Ishihara Newcomer Award at the 2002 Nikkan Sports Film Award. He’s the only Japanese actor in the production, and the movie has him on the trail of a group of terrorists operating in Seoul, who have both Japanese and Korean members. Events transpire in such a way that Nagase soon finds himself paired with tough guy cop Choi Min-soo. The pairing of Nagase and Min-soo is Seoul’s first issue. While Nagase may have proved enough reason for his pop group fan-base to watch the movie in Japan, for an international audience, Min-soo’s screen presence serves to make him look like a scrawny high school boy whenever they share the screen.

Min-soo is considered to be one of the bad boys of Korean cinema. Known for his fiery temper onset, and with a reputation for hitting production staff, he doesn’t come with the best reputation for working with. However his charisma onscreen is undeniable, his tall and muscular frame making him an imposing presence. He can also do action, and the 1995 movie The Terrorist provided a worthy showcase for his fists and kicks. Seoul can be considered to be the first time Min-soo took part in a non-Korean production, however he’s done so several times since then, most notably in the Jackie Chan movie The Myth, as well as taking the lead in the 2011 Hollywood movie Assassin’s Code. While technically he’s a co-lead here, the fact that it’s a Japanese production inevitably sees the focus on the less interesting character Nagase portrays, while he’s left with scenes that have him sat in the police station staring moodily into the distance.

While the production is clearly sold on the pairing of Nagase and Min-soo, the onscreen chemistry really isn’t there. This could partly be blamed on the fact that Min-soo spends half the movie punching Nagase in the face whenever they meet, but the main reason is that Nagasawa chooses to navigate the language barrier between them, by having a translator follow the pair around for 90% of the runtime. The translator, played by Kim Ji-yeon, is little more than a plot device, who literally follows Nagase around to translate whatever he’s saying to Min-soo, and whatever Min-soo is saying to him. She gets no character development at all. While it gets points for realism, cinematically it doesn’t really work, and quickly gets tiresome listening to her constantly repeat what the other actor has said either in Korean or Japanese. Seoul would have benefited greatly from employing a fictional device, such as the ear pieces worn in the more recent Helios, which has Hong Kong and Korean cops working together.

Predictably, the script also decides to incorporate some highly awkward speeches concerning Japanese and Korean relations. In reality, the relationship between Japan and Korea has always had a high level of tension bubbling beneath the surface. In a nutshell, it boils down the fact that Japan has never formally apologized for its treatment of Korea while it was under Japanese rule from 1910 – 1945. During that time Koreans were forced to adopt Japanese names, were expected to only speak Japanese, and many of the women were forced into prostitution to ‘service’ Japanese soldiers. Much like with China, for Korea it remains a sore point. So when Nagase breaks into a speech declaring how great it would be if Japan and Korea could just get along, it induces more than a few cringes.

During the finale is when things most likely get extra uncomfortable for a Korean audience, as scriptwriter Yasuo Hasegawa has Min-soo give Nagase a ridiculously cheesy send off, complete with his own Korean Air flight. Nagase’s walk to the plane is lined with the whole police department and airline staff saluting him as the hero, as Nagasawa closes proceedings making it abundantly clear that Japan has saved the day. While for a broader audience these cultural nuances will have little bearing on their overall opinion of Seoul, the multiple denouncements still translate as poor cinematic language, dragging the ending out unnecessarily.

Seoul of course also promises to deliver its fair share of action, however that promise is not one that’s delivered. While Japan hasn’t been able to deliver a solid action movie since the Sonny Chiba karate flicks of the 70’s, for Korea it was an action movie that put their film industry on the map, with the breakthrough hit Shiri, made just 3 years prior. The shootouts that comprised the action in Shiri were undeniably Hollywood-esque in their execution, bringing to mind productions such as Michael Bay’s The Rock and Bad Boys. In many ways the 5 year period from 1999 – 2003 was a transitionary era for Korean action. Most 90’s Korean action movies up until that point has been of the fedora wearing gangster variety, and employed Taekwondo based fight scenes from the likes of 80’s kung fu movie stalwarts Casanova Wong, Dragon Lee, and Hwang Jang Lee.

Shiri seemed to mark the end of that era, as the shift moved to recreating the glossy shootouts seen in Hollywood productions. It wasn’t until the infamous corridor hammer fight in OldBoy, from 2003, that Korean action seemed to shift back to creating its own flavor. Seoul is a prime example of an Asian movie attempting to recreate the Hollywood style of action, what little there is of it, with a finale that in particular seems to have been inspired by the street shootout in Heat. With such an emphasis on shootouts, it’s a shame Min-soo doesn’t get to let rip with his feet at any point during Seoul, as it could certainly have livened up proceedings. Most likely the action was handled by a Korean unit, otherwise this could well be the only case of a Japanese action scene copying a Korean action style influenced by a Hollywood action aesthetic.

Overall Seoul is an interesting collaboration between Japan and Korea, made at a time when relations were going through a good patch between the pair. Both countries co-hosted the FIFA World Cup the same year (the only time in history it’s ever been co-hosted), so a movie which saw a Japanese cop and Korean cop working together probably also seemed like a good idea at the time. It’s difficult to imagine a production like Seoul being made now, if anything the Korean film industry has long since surpassed the Japanese equivalent, both in quality of output and popularity, and would most likely turn its nose up at such a suggestion. However, if the outcome of such a collaboration would result in a movie similar to Seoul, then perhaps that’s for the best.

Paul Bramhall’s Rating: 4.5/10

Posted in All, Japanese, Korean, News, Reviews | 1 Comment

Don’t miss Amazon’s Cyber Monday Deals Week!

Why go through the hassle of long lines, insane parking and crazy crowds, when you can shop right from your computer or device? During Cyber Monday Week, Amazon is offering some ridiculous deals on almost everything you can imagine – and it’s going on right now.

You’ll find movies for under $5, tons of video games for 50% off, 4K TVs for 30% off, flash drives for 50% off, and so much more. Don’t wait too long to purchase, because prices change all the time and the best deals usually sell out. Also, by purchasing from Amazon, you’re not only saving money, you’ll also be supporting

We hope you have a fun, safe time with your family and friends during the holiday season. As always, we appreciate your readership!

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JCVD kicks ‘em in the 1st ‘Kickboxer: Vengeance’ trailer!

"Kickboxer: Vengeance" Teaser Poster

"Kickboxer: Vengeance" Teaser Poster

Radar Pictures’ highly-actipated reboot of 1989′s Kickboxer, titled Kickboxer: Vengeance, will finally be hitting the big screen in 2016. The upcoming film is directed by John Stockwell (In the Blood) and written by Jim McGrath (1990′s Elvis TV series) and Dimitri Logothetis (Wings of the Dragon).

Newcomer Alain Moussi (click here to read our interview with him) takes the lead role of Kurt Sloan (previously played by Jean-Claude Van Damme in the original).

Other stars include WWE star Dave Bautista (The Man with the Iron Fists), UFC welterweight champion Georges St. Pierre (Captain America: The Winter Soldier), Gina Carano (Haywire), Darren Shahlavi (Ip Man 2), Jean-Claude Van Damme (Kickboxer), T.J. Storm (Punisher: War Zone), Matthew Ziff (The Martial Arts Kid) and Sara Malakul Lane.

Martial arts star Tony Jaa (Skin Trade) was attached, but dropped out due to scheduling conflicts. Also attached was Scott Adkins (Zero Tolerance, Wolf Warrior), who declined the role of  David after realizing how small his role would be. Both of their roles were replaced by Van Damme and the late Darren Shahlavi, respectively.

Kickboxer: Vengeance tells the story of David and Kurt Sloan, the descendants of a well-known Venice, Calif., fighting dynasty. When David wins the Karate World Championship, a promoter lures him to Hong Kong, despite his brother’s protestations that the man is a crook. When Kurt travels to Thailand to meet his brother, he discovers he has died, and seeks his revenge. The film is scheduled to be released early next year.

Updates: Official still, which has Dave Bautista (Spectre) as Tong Po, double wielding swords. | Click here to see 12 official stills from Kickboxer: Vengeance.

BREAKING NEWS: Watch the film’s first teaser trailer!

Posted in News | 15 Comments

Jackie Chan’s ‘Skiptrace’ gets skipped back to 2016

"Skiptrace" Chinese Teaser Poster

"Skiptrace" Chinese Teaser Poster

Jackie Chan is teaming up with director Renny Harlin (Die Hard 2) for Skiptrace, an upcoming action-comedy about a detective from Hong Kong (Jackie Chan) who teams up with an American gambler (Johnny Knoxville) to battle against a notorious Chinese criminal.

Skiptrace also stars Fan Bingbing (The White Haired Witch of Lunar Kingdom), WWE’s Eve Torres (The Scorpion King 4: Quest for Power), Michael Wong (Zombie Fight Club) and Eric Tsang (The Last Blood).

Updates: Teaser trailer. | Making-of featurette, which contains loads of new footage (via MAAC).

BREAKING NEWSSkiptrace was expected to hit theaters in China on December 24th 2015, but for unknown reasons, the film has now been pushed back to 2016. A North American release date is pending (via SC).

Posted in News | 5 Comments

New TV Spots for ‘Star Wars: The Force Awakens’

"Star Wars: The Force Awakens" Korean Theatrical Poster

"Star Wars: The Force Awakens" Korean Theatrical Poster

It’s hard to believe that J.J. Abrams’ Star Wars: The Force Awakens (aka Star Wars: Episode VII), the continuation of the Star Wars saga created by George Lucas, is finally hitting theaters on December 18, 2015.

Star Wars: The Force Awakens stars John Boyega, Daisy Ridley, Adam Driver, Oscar Isaac, Andy Serkis, Domhnall Gleeson, Max von Sydow, Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher, Mark Hamill, Anthony Daniels, Peter Mayhew and Kenny Baker.

The film’s screenplay is by Lawrence Kasdan (The Empire Strikes Back) and Abrams. Kathleen Kennedy, J.J. Abrams, and Bryan Burk are producing. John Williams is returning as the composer.

Updates: Disney CEO Bob Iger revealed that the sequel will take place 30 years after the events of Return of the Jedi. | Lucasfilm confirms that the new Star Wars films will have nothing go do with the “Expanded Universe” (i.e. offshoot novels, cartoons, comic books and video games). | An old school, practical approach is being taken for the special effects in Star Wars: The Force Awakens, which will make J.J. Abram’s sequel mesh with the original trilogy even more. | Reliable sources indicate that Daniel Craig (Spectre) will be playing a stormtrooper in Star Wars: The Force Awakens. Additionally, Simon Pegg has a similar cameo.

The Raid 2 stars Iko Uwais, Yayan Ruhian (Mad Dog/Prakoso) and Cecep Arif Rahman (The Assassin), will reportedly have roles in Star Wars: The Force Awakens. No details on what or who they’ll be playing, but Twitch said it best: “After the underwhelming prequel trilogy with its massive over-reliance on CGI trickery not only has Abrams shown a strong preference for practical effects but has now also cast a trio of highly skilled martial artists who have already demonstrated their skills with blades, batons, etc in a world where super powered warriors fight with blades, batons, etc.”

A Han Solo spin-off is being directed by Phil Lord, Christopher Miller (The Lego Movie). A Boba Fett spin-off movie is also supposedly in the works as well. | Check out our coverage for Gareth Edwards’ Star Wars: Rogue One.

According to media sources, Benicio Del Toro confirms his role as a “bad guy” in Episode VIII, which starts filming in March. As far as the latest on Episode VII, is kicking off “Star Wars Force Day” with a full stock of related merchandise. Click here to check it out!

Star Wars: The Force Awakens Trailers: 1st Teaser | 2nd Teaser | Comic-Con 2015 Reel | Korean TV spot. | 3rd Teaser. | Final Trailer. | Japanese Trailer. | TV Spot # 1 |  TV Spot #2 | TV Spot #3. | TV Spot #4. | TV Spot #5. | TV Spot #6. | TV Spot #7. | TV Spot #8. | Clip #1.

BREAKING NEWS: TV Spot #9 and  TV Spot #10.

Posted in News | 21 Comments

Dirty Kung Fu (1978) Review

"Dirty Kung Fu" Chinese Theatrical Poster

"Dirty Kung Fu" Chinese Theatrical Poster

Director: Lau Kar Wing
Writer: Ni Kuang
Cast: Wong Yu, Cecilia Wong Hang Sau, Wilson Tong, Lau Kar Wing, Thompson Kao Kang, Karl Maka, Norman Chu, Fung Hak On, Cheng Hong Yip, Wong Shu Tong, Dean Shek, Billy Chan, Chan Dik Hak, Peter Chan, Cheung Chok Chow
Running Time: 90 min.

By Matthew Le-feuvre

Deftly defiant, and roguishly engaging with a persona that marginally capitalized on the edge of sardonic repose: a contradiction indeed! The late Wong Yue, who in many ways unintentionally mirrored (his) contemporary, Alexander Fu Sheng, as well as heralding the prospective box office clout of Jackie Chan by at least three years has, to varying degrees, never been properly commended or even designated into somekind of “Hall of Fame” accolade. The question is why?

Despite once being a crucial, though critically underrated, Shaw Brothers asset, much of Wong Yue’s pictures (bar exception his supporting roles in timely classics such as 1976′s Challenge of the Masters and 1975′s The Flying Guillotine) tended to be essentially “variations on a theme” that observedly stretches back to 1975 with his highly-animated lead debut in Lau Kar Leung’s crowd pleasing supernatural comedy The Spiritual Boxer (1975). By the mid eighties, in furtherance of the Shaws’ inevitable transition to Television production, Wong’s commercial attraction sadly began to spiral into igmony. A crime in itself! However, mercurial bankability and personal challenges with alcohol and drug dependancy (which thankfully he overcame!) saw Wong’s output diminished to less-than-princely cameos – or employment as a technical advisor/stunt arranger – before venturing into the casino business.

Ultimately whatever his human shortcomings in the day – regardless of a very stressful, physically demanding lifestyle – Wong Yue’s easygoing, cocksure deportment married with a fluid, almost spontaneous, kung fu style – courtesy of Lau Kar Leung/Lau Kar Wing’s innovative and expressive choreography – tickled audiences throughout what is believed to be the better part of an erratic decade marred by a split (cine-passionate) demograph.

Although plucked from the bowels of obscurity – apparently on a casting whim of Sir Run Run Shaw? – Wong Yue’s restrictive working misadventures as a hotel baggage clerk undoubtedly paled in comparison to his inaugural forays into stuntmanship. Still, this preparation for a solid, albeit conservative and labourous career, at the Shaws’ movietown enclosure was, it seems, designedly manufactured and attentively monitored ensuring maximum commerce potential. Yet beyond the unpredictability of the HK box office, Wong ably circumvented the legalities of his long-term contract by starring in several independent pictures financed/directed by the aforementioned Lau brothers. Of these, Dirty Kung Fu tipped the comedic scales towards the inane, relying sporadically on appropriated plot elements from The Spiritual Boxer, and the Lau’s antecedent He Has Nothing But Kung Fu (1977), to insure another goofy addition to Wong’s actively diverse filmography.

Indeed, characteristically dependent on Wong’s ability to charm, invoke or otherwise: Dirty Kung Fu ventures into avenues of humourous absurdity, thrilling us devoted patrons with an undemanding script that is, in part, fondly reminiscent of Jackie Chan’s critically divided Half A Loaf of Kung Fu (1978/80). And despite patently blemished by incoherent cinematography, twitchy editing, and suffice to say – throw away dialogue of an impromptu nature; well at least in its dubbed format – one cannot disregard or overlook the exciting balletic opening or subsequent fight arrangements plentifully centred (for budgetary reasons, no less) in a ‘new territories’ type village location: home to extortions, corruption and everything else in between.

Ironically enfolded in a market ‘then’ deliberately suffused with a torrid plethora of Bruce Lee clones and (now) counterpoised by Jackie Chan wannabes, Wong Yue refreshingly eclipsed these unwelcomed charlatans for another unforgettable screen incarnation as Pei Chou-Chai aka ”The Rubberball Kid,” an incompetent opportunist impassioned to make his mark as a bountyhunter. Unfortunately, he is outclassed, and equally, out manoeuvred by more experienced resident hunters: “Flashing Blade,” Mr Yip (Tsui Siu Keung) and “The Snake King,” Pei Yuen Tin (Lau Kar Wing – who speaking of, directs with the right measure of dynamic jollity!).

After misidentifying a corpse as an outlaw at a funeral service, Pei finds himself wanted by the local police chief (Karl Maka) on a charge of fraudulent behaviour. In order to expunge this mistake, Pei hopelessly exhausts his improvisational deceptions by either losing his captives to the lure of gambling or simply because of a lack of martial skill. Determined to bring down an untouchable miscreant (Wilson Tong in super sinister mode) versed in the mysterious art of “Heaven’s Door Kung Fu” – a debased version of “Spiritual Boxing,” Pei devises an eel/snake combo-system whilst employing the use of his girlfriend’s underwear – an unusual, yet, in Chinese mythology, an exceptable accoutrement for battling spiritually possessed fighters. For Pei, though, will these intergrated deterrents insure victory?!

Verdict: On the further inspection beneath a ‘now’ commonplace exterior, interfacing concepts do not always harmonize, but somehow (the) Lau’s kinetic formula, which wasn’t consistently subtle, or for that matter, original, repeatedly worked! It wasn’t so much the pioneering, new, fangled ideas in preference of old school values in the way the late Bruce Lee had accomplished! The Lau’s “originality” nonetheless was in applying re-imagined methodologies from an alternative perspective. Fortuitously, Dirty Kung Fu slots firmly into this catagory!

Matthew Le-feuvre’s Rating: 7/10

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The World of Kanako | Blu-ray & DVD (Drafthouse Films)

The World of Kanako | Blu-ray & DVD (Drafthouse Films)

The World of Kanako | Blu-ray & DVD (Drafthouse Films)

RELEASE DATE: February 2, 2016

Drafthouse Films presents the Blu-ray & DVD for Tetsuya Nakashima’s The World of Kanako (read our review), starring Koji Yakusho, Nana Komatsu and Satoshi Tsumabuki.

The World of Kanako is a nonstop visual and emotional assault to the senses as it follows troubled ex-detective Akikazu on the hunt for his missing teenage daughter, Kanako. What he discovers is an unsettling web of depravity surrounding both Kanako and himself. | Trailer.

Pre-order The World of Kanako from today!

Posted in Asian Titles, DVD/Blu-ray New Releases | Tagged | 1 Comment

Netflix to stream ‘Gangs of Wasseypur’ saga as a series

"Gangs of Wasseypur II" Theatrical Poster

"Gangs of Wasseypur II" Theatrical Poster

If you’re looking for singin’ and dancin,’ look elsewhere… but if you’re looking for beatin’ and killin’, don’t miss Gangs of Wasseypur, an Indian-made crime saga written and directed by Anurag Kashyap (Satya), who is considered the “Poster Boy” of Bollywood’s new wave of cinema.

This controversial two-part film, which is being described as India’s answer to The Godfather, follows a bloody feud between two families that begins in the early 1940s and lasts until the mid-1990s.

Netflix recently announced that a special edited version of Gangs of Wasseypur will stream as an eight-part series the first week of December. Until then, don’t miss the trailer.

Posted in News | 3 Comments

Drive Hard (2014) Review

"Drive Hard" Japanese Theatrical Poster

"Drive Hard" Japanese Theatrical Poster

AKA: Hard Drive
Director: Brian Trenchard-Smith
Producer: Kirk Shaw, Paul O’Kane, Pam Collis
Cast: John Cusack, Thomas Jane, Zoe Ventoura, Christopher Morris, Yesse Spence, Damien Garvey, Jerome Ehlers, Carol Burns, Robert Newman, Christopher Sommers, Andrew Buchanan, Jason Wilder, Adrian Auld
Running Time: 96 min.

By Paul Bramhall

The name Brian Trenchard-Smith should be familiar to anyone who’s a fan of Hong Kong movies, as the British born director was the man behind the 1975 Jimmy Wang Yu vehicle The Man from Hong Kong. A resident of Australia since his late teens, in the 70’s and 80’s Trenchard-Smith directed a string of low budget cult classics in the land down under. From the early Nicole Kidman flick BMX Bandits, to schlocky horror like Dead End Drive-In, to martial arts actioners Strike of the Panther and its sequel – it’s fair to say he was a pioneer in the field of Ozploitation. In the 2008 documentary Not Quite Hollywood: The Wild, Untold Story of Ozploitation!, Quentin Tarantino even goes so far as to say Trenchard-Smith is one of his favorite directors, which is high praise indeed.

Since then his output has maintained its low budget charm, but has arguably been mostly forgettable. While the 90’s saw him take on the likes of Leprechaun 3 and Leprechaun 4: In Space, the turn of the millennium has seen him working almost exclusively in the DTV field. In many ways his most recent efforts hark back to the days when Australian filmmakers would invite Hollywood stars down under, knowing their names would help sell the movie, such as the Jamie Lee Curtis starring Road Games from 1981. However while that movie was a suspenseful Hitchcock-esque thriller, the likes of the Cuba Gooding Jr. flick Absolute Deception is hardly held in quite the same high regard.

Made a year after Absolute Deception, Drive Hard sees Trenchard-Smith keep the same filming location of the Gold Coast in Australia (which is also were the Jackie Chan movie First Strike was filmed), and exchanges Gooding Jr. for the double whammy of John Cusack and Thomas Jane. Like Gooding Jr., the offers haven’t exactly being pouring in for either star, with Cusack mostly relegated to starring in direct to video action movies like The Prince, made the same year, and Jane, the one time Punisher, limited to mostly supporting roles. Drive Hard is pitched as a getaway chase movie, and with Cusack’s vaping bank robber taking Jane’s former race car driver cum driving instructor hostage, the simple plot and small budget seem perfectly tailored to Trenchard-Smith’s method of filmmaking.

Unfortunately, the small budget becomes brazenly apparent from almost the word go. Cusack’s bank robbery is painfully dull, and consists of them pulling up outside a building, which then cuts to a close-up shot of a safe that anyone can buy in your nearest hardware store. Cue generic alarm sound effect, and what appears to be stock footage from a corporate training video of peoples legs briskly walking towards camera, and the heist is complete! Stock footage also shows up in other places, with most of the Gold Coast shots clearly lifted from a local tourism video. In terms of production values, things don’t get any better, such as when proceedings move to a police station, you know it’s the captains office because his name appears to have been printed on a piece of A3 paper and stuck to the door.

Throw in visible bullet hole stickers stuck onto car windows, stunt equipment used to flip a car left in clear sight, a car being right hand drive in one scene and left hand drive in the next, and cars used in stunts being completely different models than what they’re supposed to be, it gives some idea of the level of detail paid to the filming process. Understandably, as an exciting chase movie, Drive Hard fails miserably. On top of the technical blunders, none of the actual chasing is particularly fast, apart from the aforementioned flip there’s not a single car crash in sight, and the sense of danger is non-existent.

There is a saving grace though, and it comes in the form of the chemistry shared between Cusack and Jane. The script gets off to a rocky start, which was penned by Trenchard-Smith himself and Brigitte Jean Allen, subjecting us to not one but two unfunny seatbelt jokes within the first 30 minutes. However it soon hits its stride, with the relationship between kidnapper and kidnappee hitting some worthy comedic notes. In one particular meta-scene, Cusack insists that Jane calls the major crimes squad, and tells them he’s being forced to be a getaway driver for the bank robbery. After two unconvincing attempts to explain the situation, Cusack grabs the phone off him and yells, “You suck as an actor!” It may be a cheap laugh, but it works.

The movie is also filled out by a host of entertaining characters that the pair meet along the way, all played by local Australian talent. From a foul mouthed psychotic grandma, to a shotgun wielding gas station manager, to a rough and ready biker gang, all have a go at capturing the fugitives with amusing results. It’s during these scenes that the movie works best, as it almost becomes a fish out of water story, with the pair of Americans dealing with the hazards of the distinctly Australian locals. The colorful language of the various characters is definitely not for the easily offended, and harkens back to an era of Australian cinema that was itself very much rough and ready, producing similarly low budget chase movies such as Mad Max and alike.

Whenever the attention turns back to the main plot though, the tone becomes uninteresting and dull. Cusack’s thief has a generic but decent enough back story as to how he got to the situation he’s in today, but as there obviously wasn’t enough budget to film it as a flashback scene, he simply tells it to Jane via dialogue while sitting in the passenger seat. Film is a visual medium, and it’s this type of scene that only serves to draw attention to its lack of budget. It’s a recurring issue throughout the movie, in that whenever the script wants to expand the scope of the story, it falters due to not being able to stray too far away from Cusack and Jane driving around in their getaway car.

There’s also the issue of a completely throwaway side story concerning a couple of corrupt cops, played by Damien Garvey and Andrew Buchanan, who were assigned to the theft case, but get thrown off it when a special unit steps in. The agents from the special unit are played by Zoe Ventoura and Jason Wilder, however not only do any of the four characters never get anywhere close to capturing Cusack and Jane, they also exit the movie all together in a bizarre scene that comes out of nowhere. It almost seems like they were originally planned to be a major part of the plot, but somewhere along the way it was decided that the finale wouldn’t involve them at all, so the filmmakers had to somehow find a way to write them out of the picture before it gets to the climax.

Basically their roles in the movie serve nothing more than to pad out the short 90 minute run time, which is ultimately what Drive Hard is to the careers of Cusack and Jane, a production to pad out their filmographies until something better comes along. Trenchard-Smith might have blown it all sky high in the past, but at the moment, Drive Hard marks an unfortunate low.

Paul Bramhall’s Rating: 6/10

Posted in All, Asian Related, News, Reviews | Tagged , , | 2 Comments

New poster for Chow Yun-fat’s ‘From Vegas to Macau 3’

"From Vegas to Macau 3" Teaser Poster

"From Vegas to Macau 3" Teaser Poster

From Vegas to Macau 3, the 3rd chapter in the From Vegas to Macau series, will reunite legendary Hong Kong actors, Chow Yun-fat (From Vegas to Macau 2) and Andy Lau (Shanghai 13, Switch), both of whom starred in the original God of Gamblers classic.

This time around, Vegas to Macau 3 is being helmed by Andrew Lau (Daisy), with Wong King (director of Parts I and II), reprising his role as writer and producer. From Vegas to Macau 3 also stars Jacky Cheung (1990′s The Raid), Nick Cheung (Cross), Carina Lau (Young Detective Dee) and Li Yuchun (Bodyguards and Assassins).

From Vegas to Macau 3 will be getting a domestic release on February 8, 2016. Stay tuned for the trailer!

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Ghost Warrior/The House Where Evil Dwells | Blu-ray (Shout!)

Ghost Warrior & The House Where Evil Dwells | Blu-ray (Shout! Factory)

Ghost Warrior & The House Where Evil Dwells | Blu-ray (Shout! Factory)

RELEASE DATE: January 5, 2016

Ready for some obscure samurai action? Shout! Factory presents the Blu-ray Double Feature for 1982′s The House Where Evil Dwells and 1984′s Ghost Warrior (aka Swordkill).

In The House Where Evil Dwells, an ancient Japanese curse turns a couple’s lives (Edward Albert and Susan George) into a nightmare of lust and revenge! This release features a new high-definition transfer and trailer.

In Ghost Warrior, a deep-frozen 400-year-old samurai (Kamen Rider’s Hiroshi Fujioka) is shipped to Los Angeles, where he comes back to life (almost sounds like Donnie Yen’s Iceman, eh?). Special features include a trailer… whoop dee doo.

Pre-order this Double Feature from today!

Posted in DVD/Blu-ray New Releases, Martial Arts Titles | Tagged | 1 Comment

Korean version of ‘The Exorcist’ is coming to America

"The Priests" Korean Theatrical Poster

"The Priests" Korean Theatrical Poster

First time director Jang Jae-hyeon looks to be taking on a Korean version of The Exorcist for his debut movie, The Priests.

The film stars Kim Yoon-seok (The Thieves) and Kang Dong-won (Kundo). The two play a pair of priests who hope to exorcise what they believe to be an evil spirit possessing the body of a young girl in a coma. Also in the cast are Park So-Dam (Veteran) and Lee Hyo-Je (Hidden Time).

CJ Entertainment is giving The Priests its North American debut beginning Thanksgiving Day, November 26, 2015 in Los Angeles and Dallas, followed by a wider release on December 4, 2015 in San Francisco, New Jersey, Honolulu, Seattle, Vancouver, Toronto and more.

Until then, be sure to catch the film’s English subtitled trailer.

Posted in News | 1 Comment

Double Team (1997) Review

"Double Team" Japanese Theatrical Poster

"Double Team" Japanese Theatrical Poster

AKA: The Colony
Director: Tsui Hark
Writer: Don Jakoby, Paul Mones
Producer: Moshe Diamant, David Rodgers
Cast: Jean-Claude Van Damme, Dennis Rodman, Paul Freeman, Mickey Rourke, Hung Yan Yan, Natacha Lindinger, Valéria Cavalli, Jay Benedict, Joëlle Devaux-Vullion
Running Time: 93 min.

By Zach Nix

International action star Jean-Claude Van Damme (Pound of Flesh) was on a cinematic roll through the late 80s and into the mid 90s. Although few of his films were ever as good or as successful as the likes of Arnold Schwarzenegger or Sylvester Stallone, almost every one of Van Damme’s films were commercially successful. Unfortunately, Van Damme’s hot streak came to an end in the late 90s with two of his most commercially disappointing films, Double Team and Knock Off. These films signaled the end of Van Damme’s theatrical career due to their inept plots and poor box office receipts. Van Damme followed up said films with even more disappointing efforts such as Universal Soldier: The Return and his first entries into the direct to video/limited theatrical market, Legionnaire and Desert Heat.

Even though Double Team started Van Damme’s slippery slope away from mainstream success, the film is more entertaining than most of his successful theatrical efforts. Directed by Hong Kong filmmaker Tsui Hark (The Taking of Tiger Mountain), Double Team is a highly stylized, although immensely inept, actioner that needs to be rediscovered by action fans for its awesome action sequences and utter insanity. It is arguably the wildest entry in Van Damme’s filmography and an undiscovered cult classic to boot.

The biggest hurdle with tackling Double Team is deciphering its plot because it is nearly impossible to recall said plot or even understand it while watching the film. Hark immediately drops the viewer into the life of government anti-terrorist agent Jack Quinn (Van Damme) as he retrieves stolen plutonium in an extended action sequence that also doubles as the film’s credits. As to who decided it was a good idea to lay credits over an action sequence is beyond me.

Anyways, the film gets into the thick of things once Quinn goes after terrorist Stavros (Mickey Rourke) who is also apparently his nemesis. When Quinn and his men track down Stavros and his family to a theme park, a shootout engages and Stavros’ son is caught in the crossfire. Unfortunately, Quinn fails to capture Stavros and is sent to a prison island for failed agents who are too valuable to kill. Therefore, Quinn must make his way off of the “inescapable” island and save his wife Kathryn from Stavros’ vengeance. Oh, and an arms dealer played by basketball player Dennis Rodman somehow fits into all of this.

Wow, where to begin with this one? The plot, or what resembles a plot, is all over the place and absolutely bonkers. Double Team tries to combine three films of entertainment into one but to no avail. It’s as if Hark and the screenwriters couldn’t decide on a revenge film, a prison escape film, or a buddy film, and decided to blend all of them together and call it Double Team. Even though the film’s poster, trailer, and title advertise it as a buddy picture between Van Damme and Dennis Rodman, Double Team is anything but. It is as if Hark crafted a ‘versus film’ between Van Damme and Rourke, and than decided to tack on a buddy element at the last minute and wedge it into the plot however possible.

Van Damme and Dennis Rodman are truly the most mismatched buddy pairing of all time. Even though nobody asked for a team up of ‘The Muscles from Brussels’ and ‘The Worm,’ Double Team delivers exactly that and with no chemistry to boot. While Van Damme does a fine job, as he is always on point no matter how bad the film, Rodman proves that he should never act thanks to a bevy of awful basketball puns. Rodman is equally as bad an actor as other fellow basketball players turned actors Michael Jordan and Shaquille O’ Neal, but he is at least far more fascinating thanks to his ridiculous ever changing hair color and wild outfits. Rodman’s arms dealer character is truly the most fascinating element of the film, as his character serves the plot in no way, shape, or form. He joins up with Van Damme’s character to help him save his wife and child simply because “he likes danger.” Regardless, Rodman’s presence adds to the film’s bizarre charm, as well as Hark’s knack for automated dialog replacement (ADR).

Not since Steven Seagal’s On Deadly Ground has an action film featured so much dialog from characters completely off screen. The amount of ADR in this film is absolutely baffling, especially during Rodman and Rourke’s dialog scenes. They typically have their back to the camera, are far away within the shot, or are nowhere in sight, and yet they sound as if they were standing right next to you. This large amount of ADR is due to Hark’s fast paced shooting style that results in lots of voice dubbing during the post-production process. Still, the insane amount of ADR adds to Double Team’s cult-like attraction.

Hark, a Hong Kong filmmaker, brings his flair for over the top theatrics to the film and crafts numerous excellent action sequences. Even though Double Team may be boring at times, Hark blesses the viewer with an action sequence every fifteen or so minutes to help get them through the film’s thankfully short run time. All of Hong Kong’s flair for over the top action is here: characters leap through windows while firing guns, launch motorcycles and cars through explosions, and perform flips and kicks while firing weapons. Any action fan would be cheating them selves to ignore Double Team based purely upon its immensely entertaining action sequences. Unfortunately, the film also features a large assortment of crazy Dutch angles and occasionally awful framing that prevents some of its action sequences from even being visually legible. Regardless, these odd creative decisions, coupled with the film’s amazing action sequences, help make Double Team that much more entertaining and fun to experience.

Double Team is a mess, but an oddly fascinating and extremely entertaining mess if there ever was one. Regardless of the film’s failure at the box office and the critical backlash it received in 1997, few Van Damme films, and action films in general, are as entertaining and fascinating to watch as Double Team. The film presents a cartoon-like world of changing hair-dos, bonkers action sequences, and crazy characters that help make it one of cinema’s greatest undiscovered cult flicks. I’d much rather watch an energetic mess of a film like Double Team than sleep my way through dull but commercially successful Van Damme efforts like Death Warrant, Nowhere to Run, or Timecop any day.

Zach Nix’s Rating: 6/10

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Steven Seagal vs. EVERYONE in the ‘Code of Honor’ trailer

"Code of Honor" Teaser Poster

"Code of Honor" Teaser Poster

After all these years, Steven Seagal is still hard to kill! According to recent press release from Premiere Entertainment Group, production has commenced for Seagal’s Code of Honor, an upcoming action-thriller written and directed by Michael Winnick (Guns, Girls and Gambling).

“We’re excited to bring this action-packed film together under the direction of Michael Winnick,” said Ryan Noto, President of Premiere Entertainment. “Steven Seagal has huge worldwide appeal, and we’re confident that this film will generate word of mouth among fans and general audiences alike.”

Code of Honor is the story of a special forces colonel who has recently returned back home from the middle east after going on terminal leave. He quickly realizes his home town has disintegrated into a violent degenerate world run by murderers and narco-terrorists. After little deliberation he decides to covertly enter the shadow world and do what he does best. Almost no one can stop him, but an old teammate tries.

Code of Honor also stars Craig Sheffer (A River Runs Through It) and Helena Mattsson (Iron Man 2).

Other Seagal film in the works include Under Siege 3, CypherThe Asian ConnectionEnd of a Gun, Killing Salazar, Perfect Weapon and Four Towers.

Updates: Watch the first trailer for Code of Honor (sorry, trailer has been removed).

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Watch the new Chinese trailer for Donnie Yen’s ‘Ip Man 3′!

"Ip Man 3" Chinese Theatrical Poster

"Ip Man 3" Chinese Theatrical Poster

For martial arts movie enthusiasts, the highly-anticipated Ip Man 3 (aka Ip Man 3D) is their Star Wars (okay, maybe not that big, but you get the picture). The film is finally punching its way into Chinese theaters on Christmas. Shortly after, North American distributer, Well Go USA, is releasing the film on January 22, 2016!

Donnie Yen (Kung Fu Jungle) returns in the titular role, alongside director Wilson Yip (Flash Point). This time around, fight choreography will be handled by Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon’s Yuen Woo Ping (the previous films were handled by Sammo Hung).

Ip Man 3 also stars Lyn Hung (Ip Man), Zhang Han (The Taking of Tiger Mountain), Max Zhang (The Grandmaster), Patrick Tam You Man (Purple Storm), Karena Ng (Kung Fu Angels), Kent Cheng (Flash Point), Louis Cheung (Legend is Born – Ip Man), Mike Tyson (The Hangover), Leung Kar Yan (The Postman Strikes Back) and Danny Chan Kwok Kwun (Shaolin Soccer) as Bruce Lee.

Updates: Here’s what Yen told Flicks and the City: “It’s [Ip Man 3] going to be my last time around playing Ip Man. I think the fans have been waiting for quite a few years. And I kind of didn’t want to take on this role again, and I was onto experimenting with different characters, different roles, until I’m ready. And now, I feel like I’m ready, so we’ll see. I’ll try do the best I can. And hopefully I can top the first two.” | Click here to watch the Tyson vs. Yen promo. | Teaser poster.

According to Sam the Man (via Weibo) Magnum Films has shared the news that Ip Man 3D will have a small part that features Ip Man fighting with Bruce Lee, with Lee being played by Shaolin Soccer’s Danny Chan Kwok Kwun (click here for a set photo), rather than created by CG. Word on the street is some CGI enhancements will be applied for a more accurate image of Bruce. | Behind-the-scenes clip (via DiP!) of a Wing Chun vs Muay Thai fight scene, featuring Donnie Yen, Lynn Hung, and Tony Jaa’s stunt double, Sarut Khanwilai (Skin Trade). | Teaser Trailer. | North American Trailer. | Making of Ip Man 3 featurette.

BREAKING NEWS: Watch a brand new Chinese trailer for Ip Man 3!

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Deal on Fire! The Legend is Born: Ip Man | Blu-ray | Only $8.49 – Expires soon!

"The Legend Is Born: Ip Man" Blu-ray Cover

"The Legend Is Born: Ip Man" Blu-ray Cover

Today’s Deal on Fire is the Blu-ray for Herman Yau’s The Legend is Born: Ip Man, starring award-winning wushu martial artist, Dennis To.

The Legend is Born: Ip Man also stars Sammo Hung (Enter the Fat Dragon) and Yuen Biao (Twinkle Twinkle Lucky Stars), two living legends of Hong Kong Cinema!

The Legend is Born follows Ip Man as he grows from a promising young pupil into an unstoppable force. When political corruption threatens his temple, Ip Man singlehandedly challenges a swarm of shinobi in an ultimate showdown.

Order The Legend Is Born: Ip Man from today!

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Jackie Chan, Pierce Brosnan team up with 007 filmmaker

"Polce Story 2013" Japanese Theatrical Poster

"Polce Story 2013" Japanese Theatrical Poster

Perhaps Jackie Chan is taking a page from Liam Neeson’s playbook and realizing that, even at the ripe age of 61 years-old, there’s no reason he has to retire from a life of action. That would explain why the concept for the actor’s next untitled project (previously known as The Foreigner) sounds so much like a movie Charles Bronson might have starred in his heyday.

In the film, Jackie Chan will play a humble restaurant owner who is pushed to violence after a band of terrorists take his daughter’s life in an attack. The concept is based on Stephen Leather’s 2008 novel The Chinaman.

Directing the untitled movie is everyone’s favorite 007 filmmaker, Martin Campbell (Casino Royale). Co-starring with Chan is former James Bond himself, Pierce Brosnan (Tomorrow Never Dies, No Escape). According to TW, Brosnan will play a former IRA member-turned-government official. The project will unite Campbell and Brosnan for the first time since 1995′s Goldeneye.

Jackie Chan currently has a pack of movies on his agenda, including The Civilian, Kung Fu Yoga, Railroad Tigers, Chinese Zodiac 2 – and possible sequels to the popular Rush Hour and Shanghai Noon franchises.

We’ll keep you updated as we hear more. Stay tuned!

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Attack on Titan: Part 1 (2015) Review

"Attack on Titan" Japanese Theatrical Poster

"Attack on Titan" Japanese Theatrical Poster

Director: Shinji Higuchi
Writer: Yusuke Watanabe, Tomohiro Machiyama
Based on Manga by Hajime Isayama
Cast: Haruma Miura, Hiroki Hasegawa, Kiko Mizuhara, Kanata Hongo, Takahiro Miura, Nanami Sakuraba, Satoru Matsuo, Satomi Ishihara, Pierre Taki, Jun Kunimura, Rina Takeda, Shu Watanabe, Ayame Misaki
Running Time: 98 min.

By Paul Bramhall

Attack on Titan was a production which had the odds stacked against it from the start. Putting aside the fact that it’s a Japanese mainstream blockbuster, which in itself is normally an indication of a movie destined to be devoid of any inspiration or creativity, in this case there were a whole host of other factors working against it. Attack on Titan is adapted from a sprawling manga series, one which would be impossible to do justice to even across two installments. There’d already been a successful anime series based on the manga, which in itself spawned an animated movie. Throw in countless spin-offs in various other formats, topped off with the fact that both the original manga and anime have won various awards, and it inevitably begs the question – why do the tale an injustice by turning it into a live action movie, destined to be a pale reflection of the source material?

As if to silence the many voices of discontent, it was announced early on that director Tetsuya Nakashima would be helming the adaptation. Nakashima is the man behind some of Japan’s best output in recent years, with genre bending efforts like Confessions and The World of Kanako, so to see what he’d do with Attack on Titan was an exciting prospect. Then, one year after the movie was announced, in December 2012 Toho released a statement advising Nakashima had left the production due to creative differences. Attack on Titan lay idle for a whole year, then at the end of 2013 it was announced that Shinji Higuchi would be the new director. So from the director of Kamikaze Girls and Memories of Matsuko, to the director of The Sinking of Japan and Hidden Fortress: The Last Princess. It was the equivalent of being told you’re going to get a steak, and then being served with a tin of Spam.

Toho got themselves a two-for-one with Higuchi though, as he’s also one of the top special effects directors in Japan, which for a tale such as this one, would come in very useful. I should put the disclaimer out there at this point that I’ve neither read the manga nor seen any of the anime episodes. I was aware of Attack on Titan, having been a resident of Japan at the time when the manga was first released in 2009, its popularity was hard to get away from. The story revolves around how humanity has been forced to live in cities, surrounded by enormous towering walls, built to keep out gigantic humanoid creatures that mercilessly devour humans, seemingly with no rhyme or reason. The image of a skinless Titan, resembling one of those anatomy models you find in a biology classroom, towering over one of the cities walls, is easily one of the most enduring of the series.

For those who want to read a review that draws comparisons with the source material though, this isn’t it. Instead, I’m just a guy who’d like for once to be able to find a mainstream Japanese movie which I can enjoy. One that hasn’t been watered down so it’s safe to be shown on TV a few months later, thanks to being backed by production companies that own the TV channels. One that isn’t bogged down by endless unnecessary exposition to explain every last detail of what’s going on, because the traditionally minded producers demanded it be that way. Sadly, ten minutes into Attack on Titan, I realized this probably wasn’t going to be that movie. We’re treated to scenes of the saccharine relationship between 3 friends played by Haruma Miura, Kanata Hongo, and Kiko Mizuhara, as they wistfully talk about what could be beyond the wall, and banter over an incredibly out of place accordion soundtrack.

But then, everything changes. At just 10 minutes in, Higuchi seems to realize that nobody cares about any of this, give us Titans! So he does, with the impressive entrance of a towering skinless Titan that starts hammering on the walls with a deafening roar, kicking in a part of the wall that allows a group of zombie like Titans to enter the city. This cues off a 15 minute sequence that sees the cities inhabitants awash with panic, as they attempt to escape almost certain death in the jaws of the towering creatures. Higuchi seems to have embraced the fact that it would be impossible to fit in all the themes that the source material contains, which range from militarism to disenchanted youth, and instead opts for a straight up tale of giant zombies trying to eat people. Even not being overly familiar with the manga, there’s little doubt that this will enrage fans who were hoping for a close knit adaptation, but for everyone else, there’s a lot of fun to be had.

The Titans themselves look fantastic, a mix of prosthetics, CGI, and practical effects, the latter of which the king of splatter himself, Yoshihiro Nishimura, worked on. Their slow moving walk and eerily vacant smiles, mixed with their off-grey color and naked sexless bodies, make them a genuine source of horror. What’s more, and is something that came as a big surprise, is the decision to not skimp on the blood. Humans are bitten in half with blood splattering everywhere, limbs are sliced off, and arrows are fired into eye balls. Higuchi’s experience in special effects really pays off, as it all looks great, and it genuinely feels like the characters are in the same shot as the Titans. It’s refreshing to see such seamless FX work on a production such as this one.

In many ways Attack on Titan seems to be influenced by a number of Hollywood movies that came out around the same time. The wall around the city feels reminiscent of the surroundings found in The Maze Runner, and the mission that’s launched to drive from one city to the next feels tonally similar to the plot in Mad Max: Fury Road. Not to mention the famous Titan slayer general, who seems to owe more than a few nods to Emily Blunt’s character in Edge of Tomorrow. Overall though, the movie that most springs to mind when watching Attack on Titan is Paul Verhoeven’s Starship Troopers, just swap bugs for Titans. It has that same pulpy feel to it, and while I’m sure it’s a feel that Higuchi wasn’t intentionally going for, it’s what he’s been left with. Just like in Starship Troopers, every character is a stereotype, from the reluctant hero to the world weary war veteran, but when you have a cast which includes the likes of Jun Kunimura and Rina Takeda, that’s just fine.

Attack on Titan throws an impressive number of standout scenes into its compact 99 minute runtime. From an exciting night time attack by a baby Titan, to a romantic conversation between 2 characters being interrupted in a way which quickly dashes any hopes of it continuing, to a hilarious bromance scene that takes place in the mouth of a Titan! What makes these scenes so great, is that I’m sure Higuchi filmed them all with 100% sincerity, fully intending the audience to be immersed. But when a couple of guys are passionately yelling at each other in the mouth of a giant creature trying to eat them, there’s only so much you can take seriously. This isn’t to say Higuchi has made a masterpiece of unintentional hilarity or anything along those lines, just that there are some scenes which are entertaining in ways that perhaps weren’t originally intended to be.

The events of the first part of Attack on Titan culminate in a fantastic kaiju vs. kaiju showdown, which has heads being smashed through whole buildings, and even a few flying kicks thrown in for good measure. All in all, Higuchi’s adaptation will be one which severely divides the audience. For those hoping to see the more high brow concepts and themes explored in the manga, it’s safe to say that there’s nothing to see here. For those who’d like to see a tale which combines action, horror, and even a healthy dose of mystery (we need to come back for Part 2 right?), then this should more than satisfy. Attack on Titan gives us liberal helpings of Titan vs. human action, and much like watching a slasher movie, half the fun comes from guessing who’s going to be devoured next. For fans of the manga who see my below score, it’s probably a safe bet they’re hoping it’ll be me.

Paul Bramhall’s Rating: 7.5/10

Posted in All, Japanese, News, Reviews | 2 Comments

Sam Riley to join Scarlett Johansson for ‘Ghost in the Shell’?

"Ghost in the Shell" Anime Theatrical Poster

"Ghost in the Shell" Anime Theatrical Poster

Rupert Sanders (White and the Huntsman) is currently in pre-production mode for DreamWorks’ live-action adaptation of Ghost in the Shell, based on Masamune Shirow’s manga/and anime by Mamoru Oshii of the same name.

Ghost in the Shell follows the exploits a female cyborg cop who hunts a mysterious and powerful hacker called the Puppet Master.

Scarlett Johansson (Lucy) is on board for the lead. Pilou Asbæk (A Hijacking) is also attached. Sam Riley (On the Road) is currently in talks to play the main villain.

Ghost in the Shell – along with Robotech and Akira – is one of the many live-action anime/manga projects in development by Hollywood studios.

Ghost in the Shell has a release date set for April 14, 2017.

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New poster for Quentin Tarantino’s ‘The Hateful 8’

"The Hateful 8" Theatrical Poster

"The Hateful 8" Theatrical Poster

Quentin Tarantino’s 8th film, The Hateful 8, is an upcoming western flick that revolves around Bounty hunters who seek shelter from a raging blizzard and get caught up in a plot of betrayal and deception. The film hits selected theaters on Christmas Day and everywhere on January 8th, 2016.

The Hateful 8 was shot using Panavision anamorphic lenses with an ultra wide aspect ratio that was used on classic films like Ben-Hur (1959) and It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World (1963).

The Hateful 8 stars Samuel L. Jackson, Kurt Russell, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Walton Goggins, Channing Tatum, Demián Bichir, Tim Roth, Michael Madsen, Bruce Dern, James Remar, Amber Tamblyn, Demian Bichir and Zoe Bell. Legendary composer, Ennio Morricone (Fistful of Dollars), will be providing an all-new original soundtrack for the film.

Updates Comic-Con teaser poster. | First trailer. | Final trailer!

BREAKING NEWS: Check out the film’s newest poster.

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Who wants to make a ‘P.A.S.S.’ at Bianca Van Damme?

"Paranormal Activity Security Squad" Teaser Poster

"Paranormal Activity Security Squad" Teaser Poster

P.A.S.S. or Paranormal Activity Security Squad is an upcoming martial arts – horror – comedy flick directed by and starring Alexander Wraith (No Tears for the Dead) and Bianca Brigitte Van Damme (6 Bullets, Assassination Games).

Judging from this promotional image, one can easily describe P.A.S.S. as The Ghostbusters meets exploitation cinema with other elements of craziness (i.e. Charlie Sheen, UFOs and lightsabers).

P.A.S.S. also stars Sean Stone (Savages), Rigan Machado (Kickboxer 4: The Aggressor) and Aki Aleong (Pound of Flesh).

In addition to P.A.S.S., Wraith and Van Damme are also collaborating on Enter the Fist and the Golden Fleecing, as well as Kickbox, which be filmed entirely in Thailand.

An early draft of P.A.S.S. was privately screened in Los Angeles on October 29th. Stay tuned for an official release date and trailer!

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First trailer for ‘Monkey King 2′ starring Aaron Kwok

"The Monkey King 2" Chinese Theatrical Poster

"The Monkey King 2" Chinese Theatrical Poster

Donnie Yen’s The Monkey King had the highest-grossing opening day in China, even surpassing Iron Man 3, so it’s no wonder a sequel was immediately put into production – only this time without Donnie Yen, who wasn’t willing to sit through 5 hours of makeup on a daily basis.

One guy who was willing is Aaron Kwok (Monk Comes Down the Mountain), who is taking over Yen’s character of Sun Wukong. Additionally, Sammo Hung is taking over Yen’s duties as action choreographer. Returning to the director’s chair for Monkey King 2 is Cheang Pou-soi (SPL II: A Time for Consequences).

Monkey King 2 also stars Gong Li (2046), Feng Shaofeng (Young Detective Dee), Xiao Shenyang (The Grandmaster), Kelly Chen (Infernal Affairs) and Him Law (Young and Dangerous: Reloaded).

Catch Monkey King 2 in Chinese theaters on February 8, 2016. Until then, don’t miss the film’s first trailer.

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Zombie Fight Club | Blu-ray & DVD (Shout! Factory)

"Zombie Fight Club" Blu-ray Cover

"Zombie Fight Club" Blu-ray Cover

RELEASE DATE: February 2, 2016

Shout! Factory presents the Blu-ray & DVD for Zombie Fight Club (read our review), a martial arts/zombie flick directed by Joe Chien (Zombie 108).

This Raid/George Romero-inspired thriller stars Phillip Ng (Wild City, Birth of the Dragon), Andy On (Special ID), Jessica C. (Double Trouble), Jack Kao (Zombie 108), Michael Wong (Nightfall), Terence Yin (Firestorm), Derek Tsang (Dream Home) and Candy Yuen. | Trailer.

Pre-order Zombie Flight Club from today!

Posted in Asian Titles, DVD/Blu-ray New Releases, Martial Arts Titles | Tagged | Leave a comment

Chow Yun-Fat’s ‘Shanghai’ to hit DVD & Digital HD in January

"Shanghai" Chinese Theatrical Poster

"Shanghai" Chinese Theatrical Poster

From Director Mikael Hafstrom (1408) and Screenwriter Hossein Amini (Drive) comes Shanghai, a gripping and intense espionage thriller set in 1940’s China during World War II. This long-awaited film’s U.S. release is finally making its arrival on DVD and Digital HD on January 5th from Anchor Bay Entertainment.

Shanghai stars John Cusack (Love and Mercy), Gong Li (2046), Chow Yun-Fat (From Vegas to Macau II), Jeffrey Dean Morgan (Watchmen) and Ken Watanabe (The Last Samurai).

Nothing is what it seems in this Casablanca-style international thriller set in the ancient Chinese city a week before the attack on Pearl Harbor.

U.S. Secret Agent Soames (Cusack) has just arrived to investigate the murder of his friend (Morgan), only to become quickly immersed in a web of conspiracy and that beset the city. Shadowed by a Japanese intelligence officer Tanaka (Ken Watanabe), Soames’ investigation quickly centers on a local gangster, Anthony Lan-Ting (Fat) – and Lan-Ting’s beautiful wife, Anna (Li). Before long, Soames and Anna are involved in an affair that will put everything they have at stake. As national loyalties are traded fast-and-loose for those of the heart, Soames and Anna must race to solve the mystery and make it out of occupied China before the city’s collapse. | Watch the trailer.

Pre-order Shanghai from today!

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Hunted Hunter, The (1997) Review

"The Hunted Hunter" Chinese Theatrical Poster

"The Hunted Hunter" Chinese Theatrical Poster

Director: Ricky Lau
Writer: Foh Ging-Yiu
Producer: Shum Wai Chung Wai-Shing
Cast: Yuen Biao, Zhang Feng-Yi, Roi Vinzon, Jessica Hester, Jerry Lamb Hiu-Fung, Karen Timbol, Michael Lam Wai-Leung, Wu Ma, Chung Fat, Levy Ignacio, Ricky Lau, Shum Wai
Running Time: N/A

By Paul Bramhall

During the 90’s, it was considered an unspoken rule that the Philippines was the place were the careers of Hong Kong action stars go to die. Philip Ko Fei, Cynthia Khan, and Yukari Oshima all made several movies there, with Yukari Oshima even going so far as to adopt a new Filipino stage name – Cynthia Luster. Few who made a movie in the Philippines ever made it back to Hong Kong to recapture their former glory, with perhaps the exception of Donnie Yen, who after making High Voltage in 1994, went on to become the most bankable action star in China. That’s some turnaround. Yuen Biao wasn’t quite so lucky, and Hunted Hunter could in many ways be considered the last movie that cast him as the headlining star, and yes it’s made in the Philippines.

At the helm is director Ricky Lau, here teaming up with Biao for a second time, having previously made Mr. Vampire 2 together 12 years prior. Lau directed all of the Mr. Vampire movies, along with several other supernatural themed kung  fu flicks, such as Where’s Officer Tuba?, Encounters of the Spooky Kind 2, and Ghost Punting, all of which starred Sammo Hung. Much like Biao, a look at Lau’s filmography post-1997 shows hardly any titles of note, a sign of both their careers being on a downward spiral at the time.

It’s worth mentioning that Biao himself had already worked in the Philippines at this point, having made Tough Beauty and the Sloppy Slop (alongside the previously mentioned Cynthia Khan) a couple of years earlier. However Hunted Hunter seems to be an even lower budget production, with the look and feel being the very definition of ‘cheap’. The language issues don’t help, with the audio transitioning awkwardly between Mandarin (note: the original Chinese audio is Cantonese, however the only DVD release is Mandarin only) and heavily accented Filipino English. If you thought the gwai lo performances found in many an 80’s Hong Kong movie were bad, what’s on display here makes them look almost Oscar worthy in comparison.

The plot itself is essentially a rehash of The Fugitive, with Biao playing the head of security for a corporate building (which I guess makes him a hunter?) that discovers the murdered body of a female office worker. After the murderer escapes, leaving Biao as the only person in the building, he’s found guilty of murder and sentenced to death. Cue the entrance of a pair of Filipino cops, played by locally popular Filipino action star Roi Vinzon, and an incredibly annoying Karen Timbol. Vinzon and Timbol are clearly speaking English, but they bizarrely seem to have been over dubbed in heavily accented Chinese English.

Things get stranger once the action moves to Hong Kong, where they’re accompanied by a translator, but then without any explanation begin speaking perfect Chinese. There’s logic in there somewhere, as it becomes clear that the person dubbing them in English, is now the same person dubbing them in Chinese. It’s amazing that the one piece of coherency the filmmakers seemed to pay any attention to was the voices of the two Filipino actors. Most humorously though, is that the move back to Hong Kong is quite clearly just Chinatown in Manila. Even for a viewer who has never been to Hong Kong or Manila, I somehow doubt many people would mistake the filming locations for Hong Kong, but it’s a commendable attempt at some globe trotting.

Really though, with almost any Yuen Biao movie, we’re checking in for the action. Hunted Hunter has it, although the quality of it varies greatly, most of which I’d hesitate to add is no fault of Biao’s himself, nor choreographer Yuen Bo. The plot moves along quickly, and a little over 10 minutes in Biao launches an exciting escape attempt from prison, while being pursued by several guards. It’s surprisingly violent, with Biao at one point wielding a police baton in each hand and putting the beat down on one of the guards, as well as unleashing with a shotgun.

However a number of his other action sequences are frustratingly filmed using the step-printing technique that was so popular in the mid-90’s. For those unfamiliar, it’s a technique which basically makes the image move in a kind of blurred semi-slow motion. In short, not the best technique for filming action. Mid-way through Biao has a chase sequence up against multiple attackers in a shopping mall, that contains a great stunt in which he literally jumps from one floor of the mall to the other. Later on he also faces off one-on-one against a knife wielding Michael Lam, however both of these sequences are filmed using the technique, which seriously impairs the impact and sense of movement the action should deliver.

What’s more frustrating is that at one point Roi Vinzon storms into a drug lab, and single handedly throws down against the melee of workers inside – and it’s filmed perfectly, with some nice angles to capture the impact. So the internationally unknown Filipino star has his fight scene competently filmed, but one of the greatest physical talents to ever grace the screen has his action obscured by blurred frame rates. It’s not all bad though, despite being shot at night there’s a great stunt that sees Biao jump out of a 5th floor window, and there’s a rooftop chase sequence which is filmed well, despite the landing mats being in plain view in a couple of shots. Vinzon and Biao also get a chance to have a one on one fight, which is free of any slow motion, and it contains some good impacts.

Outside of the action, there’s some notable Hong Kong talent surrounding Biao. Wu Ma shows up as a pony tail sporting bad guy (perhaps inspired by Vinzon, who also sports one), and Jessica Suen plays Biao’s estranged wife who does her best to help him out. Zhang Feng Yi plays the HK cop on Biao’s trail in ‘Hong Kong’, and Chung Fat turns up as one of Ma’s henchmen. The bad guys in Hunted Hunter definitely earn their villain status, as there’s a couple of scenes when things get particularly nasty. One scene has Michael Lam beating the living daylights out of Jessica Suen, which culminates in him pushing a needle down one of her finger nails, and another scene has Biao having a live drill being pushed into his mouth.

Thankfully both Biao and Suen survive their respective ordeals, and Hunted Hunter culminates in what’s ultimately an entertaining 15 minute finale. Most of it consists of what can only be classed as an equally epic and hilarious shootout. The cops storm the ship were the bad guys are hiding out, and unleash a never ending stream of bullets, into an endlessly regenerating stream of identically suited lackeys. It’s completely goofy, however the kinetic energy of it makes the complete lack of logic behind it forgivable. At the same time Biao takes on both Chung Fat and Levy Ignacio, before the fight segues into a 2 on 2 once Vinzon joins in, with Biao left to take on Ignaco and Vinzon against Fat. The fight is thankfully free of any camera trickery, and contains plenty of collateral damage in the form of broken tables and boxes. It’s a worthy enough final showdown, although not one that anybody is likely to mistake for Biao’s best work.

In the same year as Hunted Hunter Biao would also star as a villain in the Shaw Brothers movie Hero, a role which he’s fondly remembered for. Put side by side, the 2 movies look like they’re from completely different era’s, and while both have Biao showing that physically he still had it, increasingly there seemed to be a shortage of movies that could be tailored to show them off. On the bright side, with a recent resurgence in the Filipino film industry, it’s no longer considered to be the place were HK action stars go when the offers have dried up locally, it’s just a shame that the same resurgence can’t be applied to Biao’s career.

Paul Bramhall’s Rating: 6/10

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First look at Keanu Reeves in action in ‘John Wick 2′!

"John Wick" International Theatrical Poster

"John Wick" International Theatrical Poster

In addition to their planned John Rain TV series – based on Barry Eisler’s espionage novels about a half-Japanese, half-American assassin (to be played by Keanu Reeves) – David Leitch and Chad Stahelski, the duo behind last year’s action-packed sleeper hit, John Wick, are filming John Wick 2 this fall.

This time around, Stahelski will be directing the film solo, while Leitch will stay on board as producer, so he can concentrate on his own solo directorial project, The Coldest City, which films in November.

Here’s what Stahelski had to say in a recent interview with “We have ideas for days and without blinking twice we know we can outdo the action from the original.”

Joining Reeves for John Wick 2 is actor/rapper Common (Smokin’ Aces, American Gangster), Ruby Rose (Resident Evil: The Final Chapter), Riccardo Scamarcio (Burnt) and Peter Stormare (Fargo). Returning cast members from the original John Wick include: John Leguizamo (Carlito’s Way), Bridget Moynahan (I, Robot), Tom Sadowski (Wild), and Lance Reddick (The Wire).

John Wick (read our review) opened to both commercial and critical success and was noted for its amazingly staged action sequences, which makes perfect sense, since the two were known for staging stunt work and fight choreography in films like 300 (2006), Tron: Legacy (2010) and Safe (2012) long before their directorial debut feature.

Collider recently spoke to Keanu Reeves about the John Wick prequel. Here are some highlights: “It’s basically — to me there’s John Wick and then there’s John. You know, John is the married guy whose wife just died, and that five years of his life. Then there’s John Wick, who’s the mythical assassin. In this, John Wick’s past comes and infiltrates John’s life and John Wick, in a way, has to fight for John… we’re gonna do the same kind of thing in the sense of — what are the guiding principles? So it’s longer takes, know where you are on the space, who’s doing what, action with consequence. And then going to other levels of what the gun-Fu was, which was Jujitsu and Judo mixed with weapons and different styles of weapon training.”

Updates: Check out Keanu Reeves in action in this behind-the-scenes clip, courtesy of Splash (via MSN).

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Val Kilmer to reunite with Tom Cruise in ‘Top Gun 2′

"Top Gun" Japanese Theatrical Poster

"Top Gun" Japanese Theatrical Poster

Back in 2012, director Tony Scott (True Romance) and Tom Cruise (The Last Samurai) began location scouting for Top Gun 2, but do to Scott’s death on August 19, 2012, the sequel was put on hold.

Since then, Jerry Bruckheimer confirmed that Top Gun 2 is still being planned. “For 30 years we’ve been trying to make a sequel and we’re not going to stop. We still want to do it with Tom [Cruise] and Paramount are still interested in making it,” the producer said. Cruise has supposedly agreed to return as hotshot fighter pilot, Maverick.

Updates: According to ColliderTop Gun 2 will explore Drone Warfare and will mark the end of the fighter pilot Era.

BREAKING NEWS: Val Kilmer, who played Ice Man in the original, confirmed (via FB) that he has accepted a part in Top Gun 2.

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‘Birth of the Dragon’ biopic has found its new ‘Bruce Lee’

"Fist of Fury" Chinese Theatrical Poster

"Fist of Fury" Chinese Theatrical Poster

A new Hollywood film about Bruce Lee titled Birth of the Dragon is in the works. The movie will take a look at the life of legendary martial artist and movie star Bruce Lee, using Lee’s disputed bout with Master Wong Jack-Man as the centerpiece of the story.

At the helm of the project is George Nolfi (The Adjustment Bureau) with a screenplay by Christopher Wilkinson (Ali) and Stephen J. Rivele (Nixon).

There’s some speculation that this could lead to a Rashomon-like structure to Birth of the Dragon since there are so many varying accounts of how the fight between Bruce Lee and Master Wong went down.

This isn’t the first time Hollywood has explored the legend of Bruce Lee. Perhaps the most well known example is 1993′s Dragon: The Bruce Lee Story, a heavily dramatized biopic from The Fast and the Furious director Rob Cohen that featured Jason Scott Lee (Time Cop 2) in the lead role.

Updates: According to YVRShoots (via Banana Monkey), Birth of the Dragon will film for a month in Vancouver this Fall, starting in late October.

BREAKING NEWS: Variety reports that Philip Ng (Wild City, Sifu vs Vampire, Zombie Fight Club) will portray Bruce Lee in Birth of the Dragon. Additional casting includes Yu Xia (Dragon Squad) as Wong Jack-Man, Billy Magnussen as Steve McKee, and Jinging Qu (Journey Through China), who’ll be playing Steve’s love interest. Ron Yuan (Blood and Bone) and King Lau (Kick Ass 2) are also attached. The legendary Corey Yuen (Kiss of the Dragon, No Retreat, No Surrender II) will be handling the fight choreography.

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Death by Hanging | Blu-ray & DVD (Criterion)

"Death by Hanging" Blu-ray Cover

"Death by Hanging" Blu-ray Cover

RELEASE DATE: February 16, 2016

Criterion Collection presents Nagisa Oshima’s Death by Hanging on Blu-ray and DVD!

Genius provocateur Nagisa Oshima (In the Realm of the Senses), an influential figure in the Japanese New Wave of the 1960s, made one of his most startling political statements with the compelling pitch-black satire Death by Hanging. In this macabre farce, a Korean man is sentenced to death in Japan but survives his execution, sending the authorities into a panic about what to do next. At once disturbing and oddly amusing, Oshima’s constantly surprising film is a subversive and surreal indictment of both capital punishment and the treatment of Korean immigrants in his country.

- New 4K digital transfer, with uncompressed monaural soundtrack on the Blu-ray
- New interview with critic Tony Rayns
- New high-definition transfer of Nagisa Oshima’s 1965 short documentary Diary of Yunbogi
- Trailer
- New English subtitle translation
- PLUS: An essay by critic Howard Hampton

Pre-order Death by Hanging from

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Ridley Scott’s ‘Prometheus 2’ now titled ‘Alien: Covenant’

"Prometheus" Japanese Theatrical Poster

"Prometheus" Japanese Theatrical Poster

Whether Ridley Scott’s Prometheus (2012) was an Alien (1979) spin-off, prequel – or a little of both – there’s no question that it ties to the Alien franchise.

A sequel, simply titled Paradise, has been in development for a couple of years (Noomi Rapace and Michael Fassbender are returning), but just today, in an interview with Scott himself, the film’s new title is apparently Alien: Paradise Lost.

Scott obviously enjoys stirring up public speculation – or – could it be that he’s getting a head start to paint a true Alien(s) connection before someone else *cough* gets their hands on his creation?

Expect Alien: Paradise Lost in 2017. Until then, we’ll fill you in on any developments.

Updates: Alien: Paradise Lost will now be called Alien: Covenant. Production starts in February 2016. Here’s the film’s official synopsis: Ridley Scott returns to the universe he created in Alien with Alien: Covenant, the second chapter in a prequel trilogy that began with Prometheus — and connects directly to Scott’s 1979 seminal work of science fiction. Bound for a remote planet on the far side of the galaxy, the crew of the colony ship Covenant discovers what they think is an uncharted paradise, but is actually a dark, dangerous world — whose sole inhabitant is the “synthetic” David (Michael Fassbender), survivor of the doomed Prometheus expedition.

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