Jiang Wen to helm wuxia flick titled ‘The Hidden Warrior’

"The Lost Bladesman" Theatrical Poster

"The Lost Bladesman" Theatrical Poster

Jiang Wen (The Lost Bladesman) – actor, writer and director of Let the Bullets Fly – has announced that his next project will be a wuxia film titled The Hidden Warrior. The upcoming martial arts actioner will complete his Republican era-set Beiyang trilogy, which started with Let the Bullets Fly.

According to FBA, The Hidden Warrior is the tale of a young swordsman trying to solve a five-year murder case within the bowels of the city in 1936 Beijing. The screenplay for the film – based on a novel by Zhang Beihai – is being written by He Jiping, who is mostly known for penning The Warlords and Flying Swords of Dragon Gate.

We’ll keep you posted on The Hidden Warrior as we hear more. Stay tuned!

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The Saviour Monk (1975) Review

"The Saviour Monk" Chinese DVD Cover

"The Saviour Monk" Chinese DVD Cover

Director: Leung Chit Foo
Producer: Chang Yan-Tao
Cast: Doris Lung Chung Erh, Tong Wai, Philip Ko Fei, Chin Chi Min, Ma Cheung, Yuen Sam, Lee Ying, Tit Mang Chau
Running Time: 87 min.

By Paul Bramhall

The Saviour Monk is a tricky movie to review – it looks, feels, and sounds like an old school kung fu movie. It has a cast which includes familiar old school faces like Doris Lung and Philip Ko, and, well, what 70’s Hong Kong movie with the word ‘monk’ in its title doesn’t feature the monks in question busting out some kung fu moves?

The Saviour Monk is that movie, as in its compact runtime (it clocks in at under 90 minutes), apart from some brief and decidedly average swordplay action, not a single punch or kick is thrown. So, what are we left with? In place of a kung fu spectacle, director Leung Chit Foo appears to have set out to sincerely tell the tale of a suitor to the throne, who decides to forego his birthright in order to become a monk.

There’s some onscreen text at the beginning of the movie which could well explain that proceedings are loosely based on a true story, but unfortunately it’s impossible for me to tell, as none of it was subtitled. The subtitles do kick in for the characters dialogue, even if they look like they were made on a typewriter that’s been dropped on the floor, wildly shaken, and stomped on for good measure. The quality of the subtitle appearance aside, The Saviour Monk did actually add a new word to my vocabulary, when the father of the would-be monk yells at him, “You! the recalcitrant!” Sadly the range of vocabulary is let down later on by such lines as, “Please sit down up.”

The monk himself is played by Tong Wai, who’s righteous appearance often saw him starring in wuxia productions such as Majesty Cat and The Smart Cavalier, as well as featuring in the occasional Shaw Brothers production such as Naval Commandos. With a host of genre talent playing against type, and the selling point of watching a rich prince on his journey to become a monk, you may wonder if there’s any reason at all to watch The Saviour Monk. Thankfully, there is. Those reasons mainly come in the form of director Chit Foo’s rather bizarre production design decisions, which pop up with enough regularity to keep you watching.

When Wai is told by his father that he has to marry the daughter of another provinces royal family, in order to try and discover their military secrets, he reluctantly agrees to go through with it. On their first night together as a married couple, Wai looks at his new wife, and suddenly finding himself tempted by the flesh, reminds himself via voice over that “Sex means empty.” When he next looks at his wife, she’s a jangling open mouthed plastic skeleton. Of course, he’s appropriately turned off. Worrying that his wife is still frisky though, he tells her to light up a joss stick, and together they proceed to run circles around a small table for nearly a whole minute. What makes these scenes so hilarious, is that they appear to have been filmed with a genuine sincerity and seriousness.

As a reward for not giving into his human desires, Wai is visited by the ghost of a monk who’s been inexplicably following him around since the start of the movie, and taps him on the head with a brush, making all of his hair disappear. Having achieved his goal of becoming a monk (seemingly by doing nothing more than resisting having sex with the woman he was forced to marry), Wai doesn’t even bother to wake her up, simply abandoning her in bed and setting off on his monks journey. This sets up the main structure of the plot, which finds Wai stumbling across a cult called the ‘Heaven Religion’, who want to control the population, while at the same time his wife and father are in hot pursuit after she was given the one night stand treatment (minus the sex part).

The leader of the ‘Heaven Religion’ is played by kung fu legend Philip Ko, decked out to look like a Chinese version of Dracula in black robes and pale makeup, it almost seems like a crime that he doesn’t throw a single shape. His base seems to be in some kind of underground cave, albeit a cave which has automatic doors, and when we’re first introduced to his evil schemes it’s through one of the daughters of a village elder, who’s been possessed by his evil spell. The daughter is played by another familiar face from the jade screen, Doris Lung.

Lung had an interesting career in the Hong Kong movie industry, active for the best part of a decade from the early 70’s through to the early 80’s, some sources report that she had an unstable personality, and attempted suicide three times during this time. Whether these facts are true or not is difficult to confirm, but regardless of their authenticity, in The Saviour Monk she gets to unleash her wild side via plenty of manic laughter (dubbed over by a man, no doubt inspired by The Exorcist, made 2 years prior) and arm flailing.

Most interesting of her scenes though is one in which she performs a sexual dance routine in Philip Ko’s lair, not at all dissimilar to the go-go dance scene in The Association, only with slightly less revealing clothing. Both The Association and The Saviour Monk were made in 1975, so it begs the question of which one introduced the ‘sexy dance in a cults hidden lair’ scene first. While Lung’s dance doesn’t involve a see through gown, the scene does get points for incorporating a lineup of male and female backup dancers, some of whom wear expressions which look like they’re questioning how they got roped into such a performance.

The Saviour Monk saves its pièce de résistance for around the mid-way point, when out of nowhere, it decides it’s going to be a kaiju flick, and Philip Ko summons a giant bug eyed monster to erupt out of the ground, stomping everything in its path. Ok, so the only thing in its path are a few model trees, but it still counts. Unfazed by the monster, probably because the scenes were filmed separately, Wai calmly prays to the Buddha, and summons a Chinese dragon to appear and throw down with the bug eyed beast. While the scene is arguably sub-standard compared to its Japanese counterparts of the same era, the novelty of witnessing a kaiju battle in the middle of a movie which it really has no place in being, makes The Saviour Monk worth a watch.

Thankfully the bug eyed monster makes a comeback for the finale, but not before more onscreen randomness such as watching Wai parting a river as if he’s Moses, and Lung being shrunken to the size of a small doll. The Saviour Monk is perhaps best viewed as a watch once curiosity, and as Wai’s character felt after spending a night with his wife, once should be enough.

Paul Bramhall’s Rating: 6/10

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Luc Besson and Mark Chao to enter the ‘Warriors Gate’

"Young Detective Dee: Rise of the Sea Dragon" Japanese DVD Cover

"Young Detective Dee: Rise of the Sea Dragon" Japanese DVD Cover

Director/super producer, Luc Besson (Lucy), is working on Warriors Gate, a French-Chinese co-production that’s being described as a “big production” fantasy film. At the helm of the project will be Matthias Hoene (Cockneys vs Zombies) who’ll be directing a cast led by Mark Chao (Young Detective Dee: Rise of the Sea Dragon), Ni Ni (Flowers of War) and Uriah Shelton (Girl Meets World).

Here’s what Besson told Variety: “It is a pretty big co-production. It is like food. You always try to find something for everybody. It is a very happy family film, kind of like Chronicles of Narnia.”

Warriors Gate starts shooting in May. We’ll keep you updated as we hear more!

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2nd trailer for Shinji Higuchi’s live-action ‘Attack on Titan’

"Attack on Titan" Japanese Theatrical Poster

"Attack on Titan" Japanese Theatrical Poster

The shrinking budget for complex computer-effects has allowed many Japanese filmmakers to bring the world of anime, with its gravity-defying heroes and city-destroying battles, into the realm of live-action. Successful adaptations of the Death Note and Gantz series have helped pave the way in recent years, and the trend shows no signs of slowing down.

In fact, director Shinji Higuchi – known primarily for his special effects work on the 90′s Gamera trilogy – is preparing to bring Attack on Titan to the big screen in a two-part saga, the first of which releases next year. The series Attack on Titan takes place in a strange, quasi-medieval world in which giant humanoid creatures named Titans appear and threaten the lives of everyday people.

Civilization’s only line of defense of the Titans are teenage soldiers who traverse the Titans’ massive bodies using powerful grappling hooks. The first season of the popular show is currently streaming on Netflix.

In preparation of the film’s release next year, the producers have released several character posters (click here). | First footage from the live-action film. | First teaser trailer.

BREAKING NEWS: Watch the 2nd teaser trailer! (via FCS).

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Lust of the Dead 5 | DVD (Tokyo Shock)

Lust of the Dead 5 | DVD (Tokyo Shock)

Lust of the Dead 5 | DVD (Tokyo Shock)

RELEASE DATE: June 23, 2015

Tokyo Shock presents the DVD for Lust of the Dead 5 (aka Rape Zombie: Lust of the Dead 5) starring Asami (Prison Girl) and Mihiro (Ju-on series).

The insane apocalyptic zombie saga continues! Watch the viral epidemic spread as the sex-craved, walking-dead expand their rampage across post-nuke Tokyo! Can they be sopped? Can their perpetual lust ever be satisfied?

Don’t miss the trailer! Also see Lust of the Dead 4.

Pre-order Lust of the Dead 5 from Amazon.com today!

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1st teaser trailer for ‘Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice’

'Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice' Logo

'Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice' Logo

THE MOVIE: Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice is an upcoming movie intended to be a sequel to 2013′s Man of Steel. Zack Snyder is directing the film, written by Chris Terrio, from a story by Snyder and David S. Goyer. The film releases on March 25, 2016.

Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice stars Henry Cavill, Ben Affleck, Gal Gadot, Amy Adams, Laurence Fishburne, Diane Lane, Jesse Eisenberg, Jeremy Irons and Holly Hunter.

Updates: Collider reports that Zack Snyder will shoot Batman vs. Superman back-to-back with JLA, which means a 2017 release for JLA. | Here’s the first look at Ben Affleck as Batman. Also, a peak at the new Batmobile in Batman vs. Superman, courtesy of Collider. | Collider reports that Batman vs. Superman (aka Man of Steel 2) is officially titled Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. Also, the new logo has been revealed. | Variety reports that Jason Momoa (Game of Thrones) has signed up for the role of Aquaman in Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice. | First image of Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman. | First photo of Jesse Eisenberg as Lex Luthor, courtesy of Collider (via EW).

BREAKING NEWS: Watch the 1st teaser trailer for Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice.

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Third time’s a charm for Takashi Ishii’s ‘Gonin Saga’

"Gonin" Japanese Theatrical Poster

"Gonin" Japanese Theatrical Poster

In the mood for more Yakuza action? Well, so are we. Takashi Ishii (Freeze Me) is currently wrapping up the third entry to his violent Gonin series. But before we talk about that, let’s take a look at the first two films:

1995′s Gonin revolved around a disco owner who convinces 4 other guys to go along with him in a planned heist of the local Yakuza thugs for over 100 million yen. The heist is successful, however, the Yakuza, obviously perturbed at the theft, send out 2 hit men (one of which is played by Beat Takeshi) to kill the five.

Gonin 2, which came out in 1996, followed Masamichi Toyama (Ken Ogata), a married man who gets into a bad gambling debt he cant pay back. As a result, Yakuza gangsters track him down, beat him to a pulp and rape his wife. Now, the only thing Toyama will pay back is bloody revenge!

According Film Business Asia, Gonin Saga (aka Gonin 3) follows an investigative reporter who meets the sons of the gangsters involved in the aftermath of the original heist. The film stars Masahiro Higashide (Crows Explode), Kenta Kiritani (Outrage Beyond), Anna Tsuchiya (Kamui Gaiden), Tasuku Emoto (A Story of Yonosuke) and Masanobu Ando (Battle Royale).

Gonin Saga is expected to be released in Japan on September 26, 2015. Until then, here’s the first trailer (via FCS).

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First insane trailer for Takashi Miike’s ‘Yakuza Apocalypse’!

"Yakuza Apocalypse" Japanese Theatrical Poster

"Yakuza Apocalypse" Japanese Theatrical Poster

Post-production for Takashi Miike’s Yakuza Apocalypse: The Great War of the Underworld is currently in full effect. According to filmbiz.asia, the upcoming fantasy action flick revolves around an immortal vampire who joins the yakuza and becomes the most powerful fighter in the criminal underworld.

Yakuza Apocalypse is penned by Yamaguchi Yoshitaka (Neko Samurai) and stars Ichihara Hayato (Negative Happy Chain Saw Edge) and Lily Franky (The Devil’s Path). Also appearing is Yayan Ruhian (The Raid 2), who will play one of the international assassins who specializes in the Silat style of martial arts.

Miike (13 Assassins) calls Yakuza Apocalypse his return to form. In a public statement, he said: “Goodbye to tediously boring Japanese films… no one wanted this to happen, but I am making a rampage back to the basics!” Yakuza Apocalypse is due to hit theaters in 2015. Watch the first teaser trailer.

Updates: Watch the film’s first full trailer (via FCS).

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Ryan Gosling to join Harrison Ford in ‘Blade Runner’ sequel?

"Blade Runner" Japanese Promotional Poster

"Blade Runner" Japanese Promotional Poster

THE MOVIE: Ridley Scott and Hampton Fancher, director and writer, respectively, of the original Blade Runner, are currently working on the follow up to the ground-breaking 1982 science fiction classic, which will take place some years after the first film concluded.

Harrison Ford is officially returning as Rick Deckard and filmmaker Denis Villeneuve (Prisoners, Enemy) is taking over directing duties for Scott.

Updates: Rope of Silicon reports that the upcoming Blu-ray for Prometheus clearly shows (screen shot at link, originally from Reddit) that there is a connection between the Blade Runner and Prometheus (which technically means the Alien franchise is also connected). The connection is a dictated message by Peter Weyland (Guy Pearce) that implies an obvious reference to Dr. Eldon Tyrell (Joe Turkel) from Blade Runner and his creation of Replicants. Of course, this may have an effect on the upcoming sequel to Blade Runner. | THR reports that Michael Green, writer of 2011′s Green Lantern, is in negotiations to work on Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner sequel.

In a recent interview, Empire asked Ridley Scott about Blade Runner 2, and this is what he had to say: “Yeah, we’re working on [Blade Runner 2] right now – that will happen sooner or later.”

According to Variety (via MTV), Ridley Scott says the screenplay is not only “written and ready to go,” but that Harrison Ford loves it: “I sent him this (script) and he said, ‘Wow, this is the best thing I’ve ever read,’ so it’s very relevant to what happened (in) the first one,” Scott told MTV News. “I’m not just doing a sequel with lots of action and see how far we can go with the special effects because you can’t really. ‘Blade Runner’ kind of landed on a somehow very credible future. And it’s very difficult to change that because it’s been so influential with everything else.”

BREAKING NEWS: According to sources, Ryan Gosling (Drive) is in talks to co-star in Blade Runner 2. No other details about his potential character are available.

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Suzune Complete | DVD (Tokyo Shock)

Suzune Complete | DVD (Tokyo Shock)

Suzune Complete | DVD (Tokyo Shock)

RELEASE DATE: June 9, 2015

Tokyo Shock presents the DVD for Ryu Kaneda’s Suzune Complete, which contains Suzune: Genesis and Suzune: Evolution.

When your body is bursting with all kinds of erotic parasites, the only person that can save you is Dr. Suzune (Rei Yoshii).

Based on Japan’s most popular mobile phone manga, Kisei jui-Suzune by Haruki. Watch the trailer (don’t blame us, we’re just here to report this stuff).

Pre-order Suzune Complete from Amazon.com today!

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Watch the 2nd ‘Star Wars: The Force Awakens’ teaser trailer!

'Star Wars: The Force Awakens" Teaser Poster

'Star Wars: The Force Awakens" Teaser Poster

THE MOVIE: Currently in post-production is Star Wars: Episode VII, the continuation of the Star Wars saga created by George Lucas. Episode VIII and IX are slated to arrive in 2017 and 2019, respectively. The film’s will be directed by J.J. Abrams (Super 8). The movie, which will be released in 3D, opens worldwide on December 18, 2015.

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).

The offical cast and credits have been announced for Episode VII, courtesy of starwars.com: John Boyega, Daisy Ridley, Adam Driver, Oscar Isaac, Andy Serkis, Domhnall Gleeson, and Max von Sydow will join the original stars of the saga, Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher, Mark Hamill, Anthony Daniels, Peter Mayhew, and Kenny Baker in the new film. Episode VII is being directed by J.J. Abrams from a screenplay by Lawrence Kasdan and Abrams. Kathleen Kennedy, J.J. Abrams, and Bryan Burk are producing, and John Williams returns as the composer.

Looks like they might be taking an old school approach to Episode VII, which will make J.J. Abram’s sequel mesh with the original trilogy even more. Head over to TMZ to see the non-CG sets and creature design. We’re sure there will be CG, but not nearly as much as the prequel trilogy. | First set photos of the Millennium Falcon.

It was announced that Gareth Edwards (Godzilla) will be directing the first standalone Star Wars spin-off. Today, there are several reports that Josh Trank (Chronicle) has signed on to do his own standalone spin-off. In other news, J.J. Abrams cheekily responds to all the leaked photos popping up online. Definitely check it out at Collider. | Head over to Collider for interesting interview tidbits with Mark Hamill.

News has broke that Brick and Looper director Rian Johnson has been signed to write and direct Episode VIII. There’s speculation Johnson may also write a script treatment for Episode IX. It looks like this new trilogy will continue the Original Trilogy tradition of having a new director with each film.

A load of Star Wars VII updates: Click here to see what might be Han Solo’s new costume. At the same link is info about Han’s new ship, the Super Star Destroyer (and the whereabouts of the Millennium Falcon). Also, the new villains are now revealed, as well as images of the new Storm Troopers helmet.

First official look of the Millennium Falcon in Star Wars: Ep VII. Look closely… (Note: this is not CGI, it’s an actual model built on set). | If you haven’t, check out a batch of leaked images (beware of spoilers). | Disney revealed that the official title for Star Wars: Episode VII is Star Wars: The Force Awakens. | Watch the first trailer now!

According to MTFG.com, reliable sources indicate that Daniel Craig (Spectre) will be playing a stormtrooper in Star Wars: The Force Awakens: “I don’t know how long he will be in the movie, or how many lines he will have. He may not have any lines at all. I have the feeling that he will though,” says the MTFG.

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 (via FCS) 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.”

BREAKING NEWS:  Watch the 2nd Star Wars: The Force Awakens teaser trailer!

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Pound of Flesh (2015) Review

"Pound of Flesh" DVD Cover

"Pound of Flesh" DVD Cover

Director: Ernie Barbarash
Writer: Joshua James
Producer: Henry Luk, Mike Leeder
Cast: Jean-Claude Van Damme, Darren Shahlavi, Aki Aleong, John Ralston, Jason Tobin, Philippe Joly, Brahim Achabbakhe, Andrew Ng, Mike Leeder, Adele Baughan,
Running Time: 104 min.

By HKFanatic

About two minutes into Pound of Flesh, Jean-Claude Van Damme wakes up in a bathtub full of ice. His skin pallid, his eyes as sunken as a skull’s, he slowly becomes aware of his surroundings. Crawling from the tub, he is trembling, naked, and afraid. He tentatively inspects the massive scar across his side and soon comes to the realization that he has had his kidney removed against his will. The horror of this moment is startling portrayed by Van Damme, who appears in this instance less an action hero and more a frightened victim. Quite frankly, we’ve never seen the actor as vulnerable as he is here.

Unfortunately, this is the only dramatically interesting scene in the entirety of Pound of Flesh. Shortly after Van Damme throws some pants on and makes a few phone calls to his old covert agent connections, the movie becomes your typical low-budget action flick as Van Damme storms through the seedy bars and back alleys of China shouting “Where’s my kidney?!” to unintentionally hilarious effect. You see, before Van Damme was drugged and placed under the knife, he had traveled to the country to donate his organ to a terminally ill niece. If he doesn’t get the missing kidney back in time, his niece is sure to die.

The old ‘waking up in a bathtub of ice’ story has been around for years as something of an urban legend, and was even the premise behind the 2004 Hong Kong thriller Koma from The Bullet Vanishes director Chi-Leung Law. No doubt it’s a serviceable set-up for an action movie; the problem emerges as soon as fists start flying the viewer realizes that, while Jean-Claude Van Damme’s name receives the top billing, his stand-in might receive more screentime than he does.

Although there have been no behind-the-scenes stories or rumors of reshoots, it’s difficult to watch Pound of Flesh and not get the impression it must have been something of a troubled production. There are scenes where it’s glaringly obvious that Van Damme was filmed in front of a green screen and inserted into the middle of previously shot sequences. Worse yet, Van Damme’s stunt double is visible in nearly every action shot in which the camera isn’t facing Van Damme head-on. No doubt Van Damme is an international star, and an actor who’s getting up there in years, so insurance purposes or his health may necessitate the use of a stand-in; however, it’s never been this apparent and easy to spot.

The fight choreography in Pound of Flesh arrives from the talented John Salvetti, an action coordinator who needs no introduction once you realize he’s the guy who fought Donnie Yen at the end of Tiger Cage 2. What he brings to Pound of Flesh is a more grounded, realistic style of combat that favors grappling and other moves that will likely be familiar to fans of Mixed Martial Arts. While his choreography is topnotch, its impact is frequently marred by choppy editing; it also has the unfortunate habit of downplaying Jean-Claude Van Damme and his co-star Darren Shahlavi’s flair for the more acrobatic, high-flying, Hong Kong-influenced style of onscreen martial arts.

It’s impossible to discuss Pound of Flesh without addressing the death of Darren Shahlavi, an immensely talented screen performer who died tragically young shortly after filming. Shahlavi had a gift for playing formidable villains, whether as the British boxer in Ip Man 2, Kano in the popular Mortal Kombat: Legacy web series, or the kung fu serial killer in the Gary Daniels cult classic Bloodmoon. His untimely passing has robbed us of a gifted martial artist who no doubt had many, many more promising roles ahead of him. Fortunately, he’s a highlight of Pound of Flesh, as he seems to be the only actor onscreen who realizes he’s in the middle of a direct-to-video action flick and decides to have fun with it. Shahlavi’s clearly relishing the chance to play a baddie opposite Van Damme and he delivers an entertaining, over-the-top performance to match.

While Van Damme himself appears invested in the Pound of Flesh’s dramatic moments, his performance is undone by a script that paints his character as blatantly unlikable. Van Damme is placed at odds against his long-suffering brother (portrayed by John Ralston), a church-going, violence-averse college professor. Once we learn that this character is literally sterile and had his wife stolen by Van Damme, we realize he’s only here so Van Damme’s character Deacon can look cooler in comparison – which doesn’t exactly endear the viewer to the selfish Deacon. Lest we forget that this guy was drinking it up and engaging in a one night stand the night before he was supposed to donate his kidney to his niece. It’s enough to make you wish Van Damme would stick to playing the melancholy assassins he usually portrays in recent films like Six Bullets.

Thanks to the genuine quality of movies like Universal Soldier: Day of Reckoning and Ninja II, fans are coming to expect more from direct-to-video action movies. The bar has been raised, which is why it’s such a shame that Pound of Flesh feels beamed in from the mid-2000′s, back when Steven Seagal was sleepwalking through movies where he simply overdubbed his voice onto footage of a stand-in actor. It’s anyone’s guess why Pound of Flesh ended up being such a sloppily assembled product – no doubt time and budgetary restraints played a part – but it’s easy to feel let down when our action stars of old appear content to deliver such a substandard film. Simply put, the fans who have supported Van Damme over the years deserve more than this.

HKFanatic’s Rating: 5/10

Posted in Asian Related, News, Reviews | Tagged , , , , | 3 Comments

New trailer for ‘Mad Max Fury Road’ connects the entire saga!

"Mad Max Fury Road" Theatrical Poster

"Mad Max Fury Road" Theatrical Poster

THE MOVIE: George Miller (Mad Max Trilogy) returns to the post-apocalyptic-action franchise that put him on the map. Tom Hardy is taking over the role of Max Rockatansky, formerly played by Mel Gibson. Also starring Charlize Theron, Nicholas Hoult, Rosie Huntington-Whiteley, Zoë Kravitz, Riley Keough and Hugh Keays-Byrne. Note: this will be the first Mad Max to incorporate CG elements.

Updates: Director George Miller finally revealed something of a summary via this official press release. Quote: “Mad Max (Tom Hardy) is caught up with a group of people fleeing across the Wasteland in a War Rig driven by the Imperator Furiosa (Charlize Theron). This movie is an account of the Road War which follows.”

Feast your eyes on 4 action packed posters: 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 1st trailer. | So, is Tom Hardy playing the same Mad Max, or is it a completely different and new Mad Max? Here’s what George Miller told Collider: “Yes and no. Yes, of course, it’s based on the same character that Mel [Gibson] played… But naturally, Tom brings his Tom Hardy-ness to it. He brings another quality. And the character is different, to some degree, because the story is different. So, it’s a yes and no answer. Yes, it’s different, but no, he’s essentially grown out of the same material.” | New photos reveal Charlize Theron as a one-armed warrior! In case you missed it (shame on you!), catch the latest trailer for Mad Max Fury Road. | Japanese trailer! | 2nd Japanese trailer! | New TV Spots: War | Chaos

New trailer for Mad Max Fury Road reveals so much more! Also, sources suggest that Tom Hardy is contracted for three more Mad Max movies (Miller’s original idea was to shoot two movies back-to-back: Mad Max: Fury Road and Mad Max: Furiosa). So if Fury Road is a success, it won’t be long until we see its follow up! | New poster. | new poster.

BREAKING NEWS: Watch the latest trailer, which connects the entire Mad Max saga!

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Aaron Kwok glows in the latest ‘Monkey King 2′ poster!

"The Monkey King 2" Teaser Poster

"The Monkey King 2" Teaser Poster

The Monkey King had the highest-grossing opening day in China, even surpassing Iron Man 3, so it’s no wonder a sequel (and its promotional poster) was revealed at last year’s Cannes Film Festival. A release date has been set for February 8, 2016.

The sequel’s plot is being kept under wraps, but here’s what we know so far: Cheang Pou-soi is returning to the director’s chair. Donnie Yen will not be in it – instead, Aaron Kwok is also taking over Yen’s role as lead character. Additionally, Sammo Hung is taking over Yen’s duties as action choreographer. The film also stars Gong Li, Feng Shaofeng, Xiaoshenyang and Him Law.

Updates: New teaser posters ( 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 ).

BREAKING NEWS: Check out the latest poster for The Monkey King 2.

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I Am Steve McQueen (2014) Review

"I Am Steve McQueen" Blu-ray Cover

"I Am Steve McQueen" Blu-ray Cover

Director: Jeff Renfroe
Writer: David Ray
Cast: Robert Downey Jr. (voice), Kristin Kreuk (voice), Chad McQueen, Gary Oldman, Zoe Bell, Pierce Brosnan, Randy Couture, Katherine Haber, Norman Jewison, Pat Johnson, Ali MacGraw
Running Time: 90 min.

By Kyle Warner

“You never know with a Hollywood star whether you’re seeing the real person. You know, everyone said that John Wayne was a great hero but the reality is that John Wayne played great heroes. With McQueen, you definitely got the idea that you were seeing an authentic person.” – Film critic Ben Mankiewicz

Produced by Network Entertainment, I Am Steve McQueen is another in the company’s line of documentaries looking back on the life and career of a talent from the past. I’ve not seen their I Am Evel Knievel or their upcoming I Am Chris Farley, but I have seen their 2012 documentary I Am Bruce Lee. The McQueen doc does not differ much from I Am Bruce Lee’s formula. Despite the title that might suggest the documentary is about McQueen’s life in his own words, his life story is primarily told by the family he left behind and the admirers he inspired

The film charts McQueen’s life from his tough childhood to his death at the age of 50 when he was one of the world’s biggest movie stars. As the documentary goes on, it touches on McQueen’s major films like Bullitt, The Great Escape, and Papillon, while also taking time to give his fans a better understanding of his personal life. And of course there’s the racing. Lots and lots of racing. I’d known Steve McQueen had a reputation as a car guy that dabbled in racing now and then, but before watching this documentary I hadn’t known that he was so serious about racing as a sport. There was a time in his career when you could say that he was a racer that also acted and not the other way around.

I think the film’s finest achievement is that does a good job of letting you that McQueen was more than just an actor; he was a highly skilled racer, a military veteran, and a very complicated human being. And I mean complicated. I Am Steve McQueen paints the actor as an incredibly competitive man. Friends from acting school remember him as considering all other blonde, blue-eyed actors as potential enemies. When he went onto bigger films, it seems he did all he could to steal scenes away from his co-stars so that he would leave the biggest impression on the audience (which is especially noticeable in The Magnificent Seven). McQueen wasn’t out to make friends in showbiz, but rather to make a name for himself. And he succeeded, giving us one memorable performance after another while simultaneously building an image for himself as the steely eyed, silent type anti-hero. Often times his competitive nature helped him rise to a level of stardom that other actors could not have reached. However, that same drive also ruined some relationships with artistic colleagues and loved ones. McQueen seemed to understand his competitive nature was leading him to the edge and he thought learning martial arts under the tutelage of Pat Johnson and Bruce Lee would help him to achieve inner balance. It would seem, based on three marriages and a multitude of fractured relationships with directors and co-stars, inner peace remained largely elusive for McQueen through much of his life.

There are many archival clips and images of McQueen throughout the documentary but the man himself grants very little information to the questions posed about his life and career. Instead, others are asked to fill in the gaps. Robert Downey Jr. serves as the film’s narrator, but like McQueen he is given very little to say. McQueen’s family lends information on his personal life and feelings over the years. Director Norman Jewison (The Cincinnati Kid), TCM’s Ben Mankiewicz, and biographer Marshall Terrill give us some history about McQueen’s films. And actors Pierce Brosnan, Gary Oldman, Zoe Bell, and Randy Couture gush with admiration about how McQueen inspired them and influenced the craft of film acting. It’s a lively group of individuals and the documentary is never boring, but I do think I Am Steve McQueen suffers from not enough of the man’s own words about his life. True, it seems McQueen was a quiet type off-screen as well as on-screen, but it still feels less complete than I would’ve liked. One of the things the documentary makes clear is that once McQueen had control over where he wanted his career to go, many of the characters he played told a little something about him. McQueen’s filmography is somewhat biographical, showing his youth on the mean streets, to his time in the military, to his love for cars and racing. So, while the documentary doesn’t give us too much of McQueen talking about himself, perhaps we can still learn something more about the man just by watching his movies.

The documentary spends too much time trying to explain how or why McQueen was cool. I guess I understand the reasoning behind it since he is known as the ‘King of Cool,’ after all. But I feel they returned to this part of McQueen’s mystique too often, leaving some of the interviewees to ramble on about his clothes, his eyes, and whether or not he would still be considered quite as cool if we just recognized him as some random guy and not the famous actor. It’s like they were attempting to explain the science of ‘cool.’ It’s entertaining at first, but only at first.

I was not a fan of I Am Bruce Lee. I felt it barely scratched the surface of the legend that is Bruce Lee, and instead was more focused on showing how Lee influenced others in their film or martial arts careers. I liked I Am Steve McQueen considerably more. Like the Bruce Lee documentary, I feel the McQueen film could’ve gone deeper. I don’t believe that McQueen’s bigger fans will learn anything new from the film. But it’s an entertaining documentary that covers all the major bases. More casual McQueen fans – like me – are more likely to get something out of the documentary, as it grants an interesting, honest look at the King of Cool. In the end, the documentary made me want to rewatch the McQueen films in my collection and check out some of the others that I missed. I figure that means I Am Steve McQueen accomplished what it set out to do.

Kyle Warner’s Rating: 7/10

Posted in Documentary, News, Reviews | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Furious | DVD (Leomark Studios)

Furious | DVD (Leomark Studios)

Furious | DVD (Leomark Studios)

RELEASE DATE: July 21, 2015

Leomark Studios presents the DVD for 1984′s Furious, featuring Best of the Best stars Simon Rhee and Phillip Rhee, as well as Loren Avedon (Raging Thunder).

This cult classic has been pirated by fans all over the world since its first release in 1984. Now, Furious arrives digitally remastered in this collector’s edition DVD. Watch the trailer.

Extras include interview with writer/director Tim Everitt, two trailers and director’s commentary.

Pre-order Furious from Amazon.com today!

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

Skin Trade (2014) Review

"Skin Trade" Theatrical Poster

"Skin Trade" Theatrical Poster

Director: Ekachai Uekrongtham
Producer: Craig Baumgarten, Dolph Lundgren, Mike Selby
Cast: Dolph Lundgren, Tony Jaa, Ron Perlman, Michael Jai White, Celina Jade, Peter Weller, Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa, Conan Stevens, Mike Dopud, Tasya Teles, Leo Rano
Running Time: 95 min.

By HKFanatic

Like many action stars of the Eighties, Dolph Lundgren has spent the last fifteen years starring in a reliable stream of direct-to-video titles. Except for a welcome appearance in The Expendables films, your best chance at catching Dolph in action as of late has been movies like The Killing Machine and Command Performance. Although Dolph frequently steps behind the camera himself for these projects, for the most part they’ve been rote thrillers with little to distinguish them besides Dolph’s natural charm. Thus, the announcement of Skin Trade made martial arts fans stand up and take notice: here was an opportunity to see Dolph Lundgren team up with international sensation Tony Jaa of Ong Bak fame. Cautious optimism aside, martial arts junkies could be forgiven for thinking this might be the best team-up since peanut butter met chocolate.

And let us not forget, in many ways Tony Jaa needed Skin Trade to be a success as much as Dolph did. It’s difficult to believe that only ten years after he shot to international stardom with Ong-Bak, Tony Jaa’s career was in a state of disrepair. By 2013, he was as well-known for his disappearing from the set of Ong-Bak 2 and contract disputes as he was his flying kicks. The dismal reception of Tom Yum Goong 2 - the movie that had once been positioned as Jaa’s comeback – served as salt on the wound. Thankfully, moving into 2015 Tony Jaa seems to be in a much better place: his physical talents will be seen by a wider audience than ever thanks to his cameo in Hollywood blockbuster Furious Seven, and Skin Trade is preparing for a Video On Demand rollout from Magnet Releasing.

Magnet themselves have been smart in building the hype for Skin Trade through a steady stream of online marketing, highlighting the star power of its cast: joining Jaa and Lundgren is fan favorite bruiser Michael Jai White (Falcon Rising), as well as character actors Paul Weller (Robocop) and Ron Perlman (Hellyboy). Which begs the question: does Skin Trade actually live up to the hype or is it destined to join the rest of Dolph Lundgren’s post-millennial career on the racks of America’s now non-existent video stores?

Perhaps befitting a film that seeks to unite two of the biggest action stars from opposite sides of the globe, Skin Trade itself seems to exhibit something of a split personality. The first half hour of the film plays out like you would expect a by-the-numbers Dolph Lundgren actioner to unfold, with Dolph on the hunt for a vicious Serbian gangster (played by Ron Perlman) who traffics women to be sold as slaves in Asia. It’s unclear just why Dolph has such a vendetta against Perlman, except for the fact that he’s a genuinely nasty piece of work, but when Perlman places a hit on Dolph’s family, it’s safe to say that things have become personal. This is the kind of revenge plot that would be set-up within the first ten minutes of a Steven Seagal flick, but for some reason takes three times as long here.

Fortunately, once Dolph Lundgren wakes up in the hospital seeing red, he hops a plane to Thailand and the real movie begins. In Asia, he crosses paths with Tony Jaa’s Thai detective – but if you were expecting the two of them to put aside their cultural differences and get to stopping Ron Perlman together, then you clearly haven’t read a comic book crossover in which our two heroes must first slug it out with each other before they can team-up. And once it does arrive, the Dolph Lundgren vs. Tony Jaa title match is well worth the wait. These two radically different combatants go at each other in a knock-down, drag-out brawl that thankfully doesn’t suffer from too much of the choppy editing that has ruined many a highly-anticipated bout (anyone remember Jet Li vs. Mark Dacascos in Cradle 2 the Grave?).

If that weren’t enough, their scuffle might just be bested later on when Tony Jaa squares off against Michael Jai White. The fight choreography is frequently captured from a far-off distance, which is a boon in that it allows us to see the athleticism of our combatants; however, it has the adverse side effect of underselling the drama of the fight. Since we never really cut to a close-up, the film fails to sell us on the emotions of the actors. Thus, I often had the impression I was watching two highly trained stunt people hit their marks rather than two characters engaged in a dramatically-charged conflict. It might seem like a small quibble in a direct-to-video flick, but the viewer should have a reason to care about the combat unfolding besides the fact that it features two of their favorite action stars.

Fans of actor Dolph Lundgren may be disappointed to hear he’s frequently outshined by his co-stars. While he is very much the main character, the filmmakers don’t afford him the same kind of jaw-dropping moments that Jaa and White receive. And despite his massive size and legitimate martial arts skills, Dolph has never moved as a graceful performer onscreen. There’s an awkward, lumbering quality to his movements that continues here, and he spends most of the climax of the film mowing down people with an AK-47 rather than employing fisticuffs. Peter Weller chews up the scenery every moment he’s onscreen (wait till you hear the way he pronounces “Asia”) but he unfortunately disappears from Skin Trade after the first act. Meanwhile, Ron Perlman seems to be doing a variation on his character from Drive, only this time with an Eastern European accent.

Skin Trade is not a great film by any stretch of the imagination – for one thing, it seeks to shed a spotlight on the real world horrors of sex trafficking, while at the same time shamelessly exploiting the few female characters in the cast. Regardless, Skin Trade certainly continues the trend of direct-to-video action movies stepping up their game: the movie harkens back to the kind of old-school, minimal-CG stunts and fight scenes that mainstream Hollywood seems to have turned their back on. There was a time when skipping a theatrical release and arriving via VOD was something of a kiss of death, but movies like Universal Soldier: Regeneration and Ninja II have proved that’s quickly changing. With its fast pace and copious amounts of bloody violence, this is clearly a film that knows its audience. As such, it’s hard to imagine that fans of the central performers won’t come away from Skin Trade thoroughly entertained.

HKFanatic’s Rating: 6/10

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

‘Fruitvale Station’ filmmaker to direct ‘Rambo: Last Blood’?

"Rambo III" Japanese Theatrical Poster

"Rambo III" Japanese Theatrical Poster

In the time since 2008′s Rambo, there have been numerous ideas for the next Rambo film, most of which were generated by Sylvester Stallone himself. You may recall Rambo V: The Last Stand, which pitted Rambo against experimental Universal Soldier-like enemies; there was also Rambo V: The Savage Hunt, in which Rambo was out to rescue a kidnapped girl from sex traffickers and drug dealers near the Mexican border; and later still came the idea of adapting James Byron Huggin’s 1999 novel Hunter into Rambo V.

That plot involved the hunt for a killer beast born from an illegal genetic experiment gone wrong – fans were not entirely enthused about the idea of the Rambo franchise taking a sudden detour into sci-fi.

Now, word arrives that Entertainment One and producer Avi Lerner are conspiring to turn Rambo into a TV series. Even better, it appears likely that Sylvester Stallone will reprise his role as John Rambo for television. While it’s difficult to imagine Stallone committing to a 22-episode season when he’s busy making movies like The Expendables 3, perhaps the Rambo show could be a mini-series or simply offer Stallone the occasional cameo appearance. What say you – are you excited about the idea of Rambo on the small screen or should Stallone stick to his chosen medium of film?

Updates: According to this interview with Jason Statham, the script for Homefront, which was written by Sylvester Stallone in 2008, was originally intended to be Rambo V.

During Sylvester Stallone’s live Q&A event in London’s Palladium, the subject of Rambo was briefly brought up. Stallone jokingly replied: “I’d love to do another Rambo, but maybe if he works in Las Vegas,” followed by “Maybe it’s run its course.”

According to comingsoon.net (via Film Combat Syndiate): A company called Splendid Film has bought the rights to the next film. Here’s what their release said: “With Rambo V Sylvester Stallone returns in his iconic role. This time he goes up against a Mexican cartel. Stallone, who has also written the screenplay, describes the new Rambo as his version of No Country for Old Men. Like the last film, Rambo V is produced by Avi Lerner (The Expendables 1-3).

According to Manlymovie.net (via Millennium Studios), Rambo V shoots in Louisiana later this year. Here’s some words from from Sly himself: “First I will make a new Rambo, darker, in the style of No Country for Old Men. Then Scarpa, the story of a very famous gangster.” | Although details are still pending, there’s a possibility that Tom Hiddleston (“Loki” from The Avengers) may join Rambo V. | According to Expendables PremiereRambo 5 is set to begin shooting in Louisiana late October. | Coming Soon reports that Stallone’s Rambo V will be titled Rambo: Last Blood, a full circle nod to 1982′s First Blood.

Rambo: Last Blood, which was previously said to begin filming in late October, has now been pushed back until January 2015, according to The Times Picayune (via EP.com).

BREAKING NEWS: Depending on how you read Stallone’s recent, yet disjointed, tweet (via FCS), it appears that Ryan Coogler (Fruitvale Station, Creed) might be connected to Rambo: Last Blood – or not? As our reader, STDZ, pointed out, Sly’s tweet doesn’t exactly say Coogler is directing; Sly is simply giving the filmmaker a compliment after mentioning Rambo V. We sincerely apologize for this misleading update.

Posted in News | 13 Comments

Cityonfire.com’s ‘Admiral: Roaring Currents’ Blu-ray Giveaway!

Admiral: Roaring Currents | Blu-ray & DVD (CJ Entertainment)

Admiral: Roaring Currents | Blu-ray & DVD (CJ Entertainment)

Cityonfire.com and CJ Entertainment are giving away 2 Blu-ray copies of Admiral: Roaring Currents to three lucky Cityonfire visitors. To enter, simply add a comment to this post and describe, in your own words, this video.

We will be selecting a winner at random. Be sure to include your email address in the appropriate field so we can contact you for your home address. Additionally, you must ‘Like Us‘ on cityonfire.com’s Facebook by clicking here.

The Blu-ray & DVD for Admiral: Roaring Currents will be officially released on April 28, 2015. We will announce the 3 winners on April 29, 2015 and ship out the prizes immediately.

CONTEST DISCLAIMER: You must enter by April 28, 2015 to qualify. U.S. residents only please. We sincerely apologize to our non-U.S. visitors. Winners must respond with their mailing address within 48 hours, otherwise you will automatically be disqualified. No exceptions. Contest is subject to change without notice.

Posted in News | Tagged | 11 Comments

A lot of terminating in the new ‘Terminator Genisys’ trailer!

"Terminator Genisys" Teaser Poster

"Terminator Genisys" Teaser Poster

THE MOVIE: Skydance Productions, Annapurna Pictures and Paramount Pictures 5th Terminator movie, titled Terminator: Genesis, is currently in post-production phase. The film is directed by Alan Taylor (Thor: The Dark World) and stars Emilia Clarke (Game of Thrones), Arnold Schwarzenegger, Jai Courtney (A Good Day to Die Hard), Jason Clarke (Zero Dark Thirty), Byung-hun Lee (I Saw the Devil), Michael Gladis (Knights of Badassdom) and Sandrine Holt (Once a Thief TV series). Catch it in theaters on July 1st, 2015.

Updates: According to Empire’s sources, the Terminator: Genesis story bears comparison to Back To The Future 2, which you’ll recall partly involves our heroes rushing ingeniously around and within the events of the first film.

In an interview with Collider, Arnold Schwarzenegger says he’s “honored” that studios have called him back to reprise his iconic roles in movies like Terminator, Legend of Conan and Twins 2. Especially in a world where characters are constantly replaced by new actors (i.e. James Bond, Spider-man). He also says that the new Terminator movie “has the same feel” as Terminator 2 (he’s obviously judging by its script).

According to Metro (via expendablespremier.com), after the first film of the new Terminator trilogy is complete, parts 2 and 3 will be filmed back-to-back in a period of over 9 months. In addition, Dayo Okeniyi (Hunger Games) has signed on to play the role of Miles Dyson (previously played by Joe Morton in T2).

The latest issue(s) of Entertainment Weekly provides some of the first official cast images (see: Cover 1 | Cover 2) from Terminator Genisys, plus a revealing plot teaser: “Sarah Connor isn’t the innocent she was when Linda Hamilton first sported feathered hair and acid-washed jeans in the role. Nor is she Hamilton’s steely zero body-fat warrior in 1991’s T2. Rather, the mother of humanity’s messiah was orphaned by a Terminator at age 9. Since then, she’s been raised by (brace yourself) Schwarzenegger’s Terminator—an older T-800 she calls “Pops”—who is programmed to guard rather than to kill. As a result, Sarah is a highly trained antisocial recluse who’s great with a sniper rifle but not so skilled at the nuances of human emotion. | First trailer. | Big Game trailer. | “living” poster for Terminator Genisys. | UK trailer.

BREAKING NEWS: Watch the latest trailer!

Posted in News | 22 Comments

Darth Vader joins Rob Cohen’s fantasy-action flick ‘Marco Polo’

"Marco Polo" Chinese Theatrical Poster

"Marco Polo" Chinese Theatrical Poster

Rob Cohen (Dragon: The Bruce Lee Story) will be directing a 3D fantasy/action film titled Marco Polo (no relation to the current Netflix series), a co-production between Paramount and China Film Group. The film is scheduled to hit theaters in 2016.

There have also been additional reports that Cohen is considering his Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor leading man Jet Li (Flying Swords of the Dragon Gate) for a role.

Countless projects about the Venetian adventurer have been made in the past, but the obvious one that comes to our mind is 1975′s Marco Polo (aka Four Assassins), a Chang Cheh-directed Shaw Brothers film starring Richard Harrison, Alexander Fu Sheng, Chi Kuan Chun, Gordon Liu, Leung Kar Yan and Shih Szu.

Updates: THR reports that Hayden Christensen (Star Wars Episode I-III) will be starring in Marco Polo.

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Robot Jox | Blu-ray (Shout! Factory)

Robot Jox | Blu-ray (Shout! Factory)

Robot Jox | Blu-ray (Shout! Factory)

RELEASE DATE: July 7, 2015

Before Guillermo del Toro’s Pacific Rim… Before Michael Bay’s Transformers…

Shout! Factory presents the Blu-ray for Robot Jox. Directed by Stuart Gordon (Re-Animator), Robot Jox reveals a world where nations settle their territorial disputes by a single combat between two giant machines. Piloted by national heroes Achilles (Gary Graham) and Alexander (Paul Koslo), the robots meet in Death Valley to fight for the greatest prize of all: Alaska. Watch the trailer.

Pre-order Robot Jox from Amazon.com today!

Posted in DVD/Blu-ray New Releases, Other Notable Titles | Tagged | 2 Comments

Typhoon (2005) Review

"Typhoon" Korean Theatrical Poster

"Typhoon" Korean Theatrical Poster

Director: Gwak Gyeong-Taek
Writer: Gwak Gyeong-Taek
Producer: Park Seong-Geun, Yang Jung-Gyeong
Cast: Jang Dong-Gun, Lee Jeong-Jae, Lee Mi-Yeon, David McInnis, Wook Heo, David No, Chatthapong Pantanaunkul
Running Time: 124 min.

By HKFanatic

From the opening of Typhoon, it’s clear that Korea is screwed. A rogue pirate named Sin (Dong-gun Jang) with a grudge against both the North and the South has amassed some weapons-grade plutonium. His big plan is to release it during a typhoon, when the high velocity winds will spread it across the entire island. Fortunately, some stern-looking military generals in the South declare, “I know just the man for the job.” Smash cut to: our South Korean alpha-male Navy officer hero playing shirtless football on the beach with a bunch of his military buds.

Yup, it’s that kind of movie. South Korea attempts to mimic Hollywood with this slick, expensive blockbuster whose protagonist, played by Jung-Jae Lee, seems like the country’s answer to Keanu Reeves. But Typhoon is not as empty-headed as your typical Michael Bay flick.

That is, there’s some genuine drama to be found. The villain’s only living relative is his long-lost sister, who also happens to be a drug addict. Our hero locates her and tries to use her to bargain with Sin. In the process he develops something like affection for her and respect for Sin. He slowly realizes that the only thing separating him from the pirate is chance or fate; the Navy officer feels just as strongly about protecting his country as Sin does destroying it.

At 124 minutes, Typhoon takes plenty of time to develop its story and lay out some action sequences. There’s nothing mind-blowing but a car chase about halfway through the movie is a sure highlight, with Jung-Jae Lee running out of a hotel lobby and firing his gun at the fleeing bad guys in slow-motion like a bad-ass. Later there’s a tense shoot-out in a tiny cottage, with the good guys in the sights of a crackpot sniper. The climax of the film sees the Korean Navy undergo a daring operation in the heart of the typhoon. The hand-to-hand combat is your standard Hollywood fare, nothing to write home about, but this finale has enough of that ‘explosions on a rain-swept barge that could capsize at any moment’ feel to it to keep your adrenaline going.

Oddly enough, Dong-gun Jang seems like the bigger star of this production, seeing as how he gets top billing in the credits and is featured most prominently on the movie posters. The screenplay goes to great lengths to establish his character as a wounded and sympathetic villain, despite the fact that he plans to murder millions of people. While Dong-gun Jang gives a solid performance and I appreciate the film’s attempts to give us a more three-dimensional antagonist, when I watch an action movie I really just want to see the hero kick the bad guy’s ass without remorse.

There’s not quite enough of that vibe in Typhoon, but it’s a solidly entertaining flick. It tries to imitate your typical Hollywood blockbuster with some degree of success. Still, I think if there’s anything South Korean films have taught us lately, it’s that they’re at their best when they’re making the movies that Hollywood won’t.

HKFanatic’s Rating: 6/10

Posted in Korean, News, Reviews | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Schwarzenegger says there’s room for an ‘Expendables 4′

"Expendables 4" Japanese Theatrical Poster

"Expendables 4" Japanese Theatrical Poster

Despite Expendables 3′s box office belly flop – due to the film’s online leakage, according to Lionsgate – Sylvester Stallone remains optimistic about the future of his popular action series. In fact, he’s already laying out plans for the 4th installment.

Here’s what Stallone told CCTV: “As we go on, we will continue to add more stars, more personalities, more athletes, more individuals around the world, not just Americans… hopefully, we’ll be able to film in Asia very soon.”

Stallone also mentions the possible addition of Jackie Chan, who has been linked to the franchise since the original Expendables: “We’ve always wanted to use Jackie Chan. The only reason we didn’t is because there really wasn’t a part big enough for him, because we had so many actors. But in the next one, we are going to reduce the actors, and let’s just say, expand the screen time of each star.”

In addition to Chan, other names – such as Dwayne Johnson, Christopher Lambert, Jean Reno, Pierce Brosnan and Steven Seagal – have been considered for the franchise (see our updates regarding Expendables casting here). Stay tuned with more developments regarding Expendables 4.

Updates: Thanks to Expendables Premier, we have a video where Stallone talks about the possibility of an Expendables 4. When asked if he’s going to do another one, he replies: “I don’t know. We got so ripped off. If I do another one it’s going to be a lot bloodier though…hardcore R.”

When asked if future installments of the franchise will be Rated R, this is what Stallone had to say: “Absolutely unequivocally yes. I believe it was a horrible miscalculation on everyone’s part in trying to reach a wider audience, but in doing such, diminish the violence that the audience expects. I’m quite certain it won’t happen again.” Stallone also hints that one of the main characters may actually be killed in a future installment. - Thanks to Crave (via Collider)

According to Youth Health (via EP.com), Manny Pacquiao may have a role in The Expendables 4: “During Pacquiao’s match against Chris Algieri, Sylvester Stallone and Arnold Schwarzenegger went to Manny Pacquiao’s locker room to wish him good luck. But someone from Manny Pacquiao’s camp affirmed that something more came up, Stallone and Schwarzenegger recruited the Filipino boxer to join the cast of The Expendables 4! The Filipino champ allegedly accepted the offer and the two legends left the room with smiles on their faces.” Of course, nothing is official until it’s on paper, but only time will tell.

In an interview with Graham Walker (via EP.com) Stallone revealed that he wants Jack Nicholson to play a villain in Expendables 4: “Is it gonna happen? Most likely not. Is it possible? Slightly.” He also mentions Clint Eastwood, but says the possibility of his involvement would be a “long shot.”

No news on Expendables 4, but Deadline reports that Expendables is getting the TV series treatment. Whereas the movie version united big screen action stars, the Expendables TV series will unite small screen action stars. Avi Lerner and Sylvester Stallone will serve as producer and executive producer, respectively. No cast members have been announced, but we’ll keep you updated as we hear more.

BREAKING NEWS: In an interview with USAT, Schwarzenegger, who starred in all 3 Expendables films, had this to say: “I just think it’s a terrific franchise. I told Sly to write another one or have someone else write another one. A really terrific story. Because I think it’s a great idea to have an ensemble piece with that many action heroes in a movie. Especially if the comedy is really done well. It could be a great story. There’s definitely room for another one.”

Posted in News | 14 Comments

JCVD co-stars in Da Peng’s Chinese film ‘Jian Bing Man’

"Jian Bing Man" Chinese Theatrical poster

"Jian Bing Man" Chinese Theatrical poster

There are currently 3 reasons why 2015 will be an exciting year for Jean-Claude Van Damme fans: 1) Pound of Flesh, 2) The Kickboxer reboot, and 3) The long awaited and constantly delayed, The Eagle Path – if anything, at least two of these films will be released this year.

To our surprise, there’s another project Van Damme is lending his name to called Jian Bing Man, a Chinese production starring Da Peng (who is also directing), Ada Liu (Badges of Fury) and Yuan Shanshan (One Day).

According to TB, Jian Bing Man is the story of a young man from a poor family earns his living selling jianbing (or Chinese pancake) and suddenly becomes a hero, presumably because he sells the best Chinese crepes in town.

So who does Van Damme play? We have no idea. But who knows, maybe he has a beefy role as the film’s bad guy, a la Enemies Closer!

Updates: Here’s the first trailer for Jian Bing Man (no English subtitles), which, unfortunately, does not feature Van Damme. The film has a domestic release date in China set for July 17, 2015. More trailers should be popping up soon, so stay tuned!

Posted in News | Leave a comment

Tiger Over Wall (1980) Review

"Tiger Over Wall" Theatrical Poster

"Tiger Over Wall" Theatrical Poster

Director: Tony Liu Jun Guk
Writer: Tony Liu Jun Guk
Producer: Alex Gouw
Cast: Philip Ko Fei, Kong Do, Chu Tiet Wo, Hwang Jang Lee, Cheung Lik, Candy Wen, Chan Lau, Pak Sha Lik, Lau Hok Nin
Running Time: 91 min.

By Paul Bramhall

There’s a certain familiarity to watching an old school kung fu movie, in that you tend to know exactly what you’re going to get. A villain has killed a teacher, and the student vows to get revenge. A villain has killed a family member, and the surviving relative vows to get revenge. A villain has killed someone who has a loose connection to someone else, and that someone else vows to get revenge. It’s a tried and tested formula, and the rule of thumb seems to be that as long as we get a healthy dose of exciting fight action, the sub-standard plots can be forgiven.

So with Tiger Over Wall, apart from having a title which resembles a grammatical car crash, it’s refreshing to get a plot which takes a different approach from the norm. As the bombastic music plays over the opening credits, you can’t help but also notice the sound of a dog barking in what sounds like an empty room, which has been mixed over the music at equal volume. It’s quite jarring. This however is the closest we get to a dog for the rest of the movie, as proceedings open on a middle aged British diplomat and his Chinese mistress realizing that their treasured boxed dog, Rover, has gone missing.

Soon enough they’re questioning the nearest passerby to see if they’ve seen the precious Rover, and when the poor sap reveals he hasn’t, he ends up getting beaten by the diplomat, while the mistress cheerfully yells in the background, “That’s right! Beat him! Kick the bastard harder! Kick him ‘till he’s dead! Kick him! Go on!” Things escalate, and within the first 15 minutes, the chief of police – played by Korean kicking legend Hwang Jang Lee – has been called in to try and find the dog, threatening to arrest anyone who doesn’t help with the investigation.

There we have the plot of Tiger Over Wall – the police try to find a white guy’s missing dog. As ridiculous as this may sound, the events are actually based on a true story that took place in Shanghai during 1919. The fact that the dog belonged to a foreign diplomat resulted in the police getting involved, however I’m sure that’s as far as the similarities go.

The movie is directed by Tony Liu Jun Guk, and while his name may not be as familiar as other directors working around the same period, he’s arguably been behind several classic slices of kung fu. Jun Guk hit his stride a few years after making Tiger Over Wall, when while working for the Shaw Brothers studio he made several high energy, slightly off the wall, kung fu movies such as Holy Flame of the Martial World, Bastard Swordsman, and Secret Service of the Imperial Court. As the 90’s beckoned he moved into the Girls with Guns genre, directing a number of Moon Lee starring action fests like Devil Hunters, Dreaming the Reality, and Angel Terminators 2.

Jun Guk enlisted fight choreographer Dang Tak Cheung to stage the action for Tiger Over Wall, and Tak Cheung’s resume makes for just as impressive reading as the director himself. Like Jun Guk, Tak Cheung also liked to work on the slightly more off the wall side of the kung-fu movie world, choreographing the likes of Kung Fu Zombie, and the insane Shaw Brothers production Buddha’s Palm. While working at Shaw Brothers Dak Cheung got the opportunity to have full control on a couple of productions, which led to him directing, writing, and choreographing the late-Shaw era movies Demon of the Lute and Long Road to Gallantry, both of which are personal favorites.

With such talent behind the camera, to really make a great old-school kung-fu movie, you need to have an equal amount of talent in front of it. Thankfully Tiger Over Wall does, who come in the form of Philip Ko, and the previously mentioned Hwang Jang Lee. Both are ably backed up by such familiar old school faces as Kong Do, Chu Tiet Wo, Cheung Lik, and even the director himself shows up as an assassin for hire. Both Philip Ko and Hwang Jang Lee have so many classics between them that it would be impossible to do them justice in just a few lines. Ko, arguably the master of the ‘shapes’ style of choreography, was on fire in 1980, also starring in The Loot and Snake Deadly Act to name but a couple, while Hwang, often referred to as the king of leg fighters, also cranked out classics like The Buddha Assassinator and Challenge of the Tiger in the same year.

In an era where we’re happy just to have one good kung fu movie a year, it’s easy to forget that in the golden era we had several stars making several movies every year, year in year out. It’s a time that will likely never be rivaled in terms of productivity and output, but at least it leaves us with plenty to choose from. In Tiger Over Wall Ko plays the guy who has to see not only his girlfriend’s poor family, but also his teacher, end up getting roped into taking the fall for the missing dog, under false promises of money or business permits. As he’s forced to watch his nearest and dearest be lied to, beaten up, and tortured, things begin to boil over until he can’t take anymore, and he begins to bust out the moves that we’ve all been waiting for.

It’s worth noting that Tiger Over Wall certainly doesn’t rush its fight scenes. Indeed for the first 50 minutes, with the exception of a few brief scuffles by Ko and the constant threat of violence, there’s actually no substantial fight action. Thankfully the hilarious English dub more than makes up for it, providing plenty of unintentional laughs as Hwang Jang Lee storms into various establishments yelling “WHERE’S THE BOXER DOG!?” The absurdity of it never wears off, and keeps proceedings moving along nicely. However at the 50 minute mark Ko gets to explode, taking on Kong Do in an awesome shapes fest involving fists, feet, and a pair of umbrellas. It’s fast, fluid, and sets off a buildup of action which doesn’t stop until the credits roll.

While you’ll often see discussions which talk about how great it would be if certain stars of the old school era had faced off against each other but never did, movies like Tiger Over Wall make you thankful that a movie exists in which, yes, kung fu legends like Philip Ko and Hwang Jang Lee actually do get to face off against each other. And for those who are worried, don’t be, it doesn’t fail to impress. The finale is lengthy and exhausting, as the pair start off with Ko armed with a staff and Hwang armed with a guandao, before segueing into an empty handed showdown of tiger claw versus mantis fist. There’s a part when the two opponents briefly move their fight indoors, and you’d swear Hwang had never learnt to tame his kicks for screen fighting, as every one of them looks like if it made contact it would take Ko’s head off.

What’s so great about Ko and Hwang is that they not only had the moves, but they also had an intensity behind them. When they fight it doesn’t just look like they’re performing finely tuned choreography to perfection, it looks like they really want to kill each other. These guys could perform intricate displays of choreography, and act at the same time, and that’s talent. By the time they’re through with each other, I can guarantee that you’ll have completely forgotten about wondering what became of Rover the boxer dog, which is just as well, as it appears the director did as well.

Paul Bramhall’s Rating: 8/10

Full disclosure: I watched Tiger Over Wall as part of the Brooklyn Zu Vol. 1 9-Movie set which was released by US based label Ground Zero in 2004. The movie was released in the UK by the now defunct Vengeance Video label in 2006 in its original Mandarin language with burnt-in English subtitles, and claims to be fully uncut. While there are no obvious cuts in the Brooklyn Zu version, I have seen discussion in which people talk about a character being on the receiving end of a 360 degree neck snap, which I’m sure wasn’t in the version I saw. On a note of personal preference, I would have to say that I wouldn’t have enjoyed the movie half as much had it not had the English dub, which offers many moments of unintentional hilarity that I’m sure wouldn’t be found with the original audio.

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Mark Dacascos’ Expendables-esque ‘Showdown in Manila’ press footage!

"Showdown in Manila" Theatrical Poster

"Showdown in Manila" Theatrical Poster

Martial arts star Mark Dacascos (Drive) is hard-at-work with Showdown in Manila, an upcoming Expendables-esque movie that will feature an ensemble cast that includes Dacascos himself, Casper Van Dien (Starship Troopers), Matthias Hues (No Retreat, No Surrender II), Cynthia Rothrock (Shanghai Express), Olivier Gruner (Nemesis), Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa (Perfect Weapon), Monsour del Rosario (Bloodfist 2), Don “The Dragon” Wilson (White Tiger), Alexander Nevsky (Black Rose), Tia Carrere (Showdown in Little Tokyo), Iza Calzado and Monsour del Rosario.

Andrzej Bartkowiak (Romeo Must Die), who worked with Dacascos in 2003′s Cradle 2 the Grave, will be producing. Showdown in Manila marks the second directorial project for Dacascos, following his unreleased, Russian-produced debut feature, Changing Lives.

In addition to Showdown in Manila, Dacascos has several projects in pre-production/post-production status, including Ultimate Justice, The Extendables, Operation Rogue, Beyond the Game, Mortal Kombat Legacy: Season 3 and Garuda 7.

Updates: According to Dacascos himself, filming is complete for Showdown in Manila. A trailer should be hitting soon – until then, check out the film’s promo poster.

BREAKING NEWS: Check out video footage ( 1 | 2 ) from the film’s press event, which features interviews with Iza Calzado, Cynthia Rothrock, Cary Hiroyuki Tagawa and Casper Van Dien and more. Also check out a promotional shot.

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Mike Leeder’s ‘Neon Grindhouse: Hong Kong’ kicks into gear!

"The Deadly Silver Ninja" Theatrical Poster

"The Deadly Silver Ninja" Theatrical Poster

Shooting has started on Neon Grindhouse: Hong Kong, an upcoming documentary that will explore lesser known aspects of Hong Kong Cinema, such as: the sex and sadism of the Cat III film, the wacky Bruceploitation sub-genre and Godfrey Ho’s unbelievable cut-and-paste adventures.

In addition, the femme fatale genre and the high impact, bone-crunching work of the Hong Kong Stunt Community will also be covered. The project will also include interviews with stars like Godfrey Ho, Huang Kin Long (aka Bruce Le) and many more!

Neon Grindhouse: Hong Kong is being produced by an expert team that includes Mike Leeder, Dan Findley, Arne Venema, Sophia Shek and Ivy Lam. For more information, visit the official site and/or follow on Twitter – stay tuned!

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Incident at Blood Pass | aka Ambush (1970) Review

"Incident at Blood Pass" Japanese Theatrical Poster

"Incident at Blood Pass" Japanese Theatrical Poster

AKA: Ambush
Director: Hiroshi Inagaki
Producer: Toshiro Mifune
Cast: Toshiro Mifune, Yujiro Ishihara, Ruriko Asaoka, Shintaro Katsu, Kinnosuke Nakamura, Chusha Ichikawa, Ichiro Arishima, Mika Kitagawa, Yoshio Tsuchiya, Jotaro Togami, Chieko Nakakita, Ryunosuke Yamazaki
Running Time: 117 min.

By Kyle Warner

Toshiro Mifune has played many great characters but perhaps his most popular and influential role was born in the 1961 samurai action comedy Yojimbo. After the success of that film, Toho wanted more of the character, so Mifune and Akira Kurosawa returned to their nameless ronin for Sanjuro the very next year. And though writer/director Kurosawa would never again return to the character, Mifune seemed less willing to let the nameless ronin go. After the studio contract system started to die, Toshiro Mifune and other esteemed talents in Japan were forming their own production companies. In 1970, Mifune would bring back the Yojimbo character for not one but two films, both of which would co-star Shintaro Katsu. The first would be in the crossover film Zatoichi Meets Yojimbo, which was produced by Katsu Productions. And the second would be Incident at Blood Pass (aka Ambush), produced by Mifune Productions.

There’s some debate about whether the character that Mifune plays in Incident at Blood Pass is the same man he played in Yojimbo and Sanjuro. My opinion is that yes, he is playing the same guy, but the character has changed from how we remember him. In Incident at Blood Pass Mifune plays a nameless ronin in tattered clothes that hires himself out as a yojimbo (bodyguard) and is more interested in gold than he is in proper samurai etiquette. Sound familiar? The thing is, it’s the same man on the surface, and a different man underneath. Whereas before the Yojimbo was a fiery, amusing rogue that liked to watch people and how they reacted to changing circumstances, here he appears somewhat bored with everybody. Much of this probably stems from Mifune himself, who does not give the same level of performance that once made the character so endearing. What’s puzzling, though, is that he did manage to tap into the character more successfully in Zatoichi Meets Yojimbo, but wasn’t up to task on this film despite having more creative control. But that’s not the film’s most puzzling question. The real mystery is this: how did they get so many talented people together and end up making such a bland movie?

The cast and crew of Incident at Blood Pass can read like a who’s who of classic Japanese samurai cinema from the 60s and 70s. You’ve got Toshiro Mifune maybe-probably-kinda giving a final performance as his most popular character. You have Shintaro Katsu (the Zatoichi series) getting into villain mode to play a sleazy, discredited doctor that’s making illegal medicine in the woods. There’s the stunning Ruriko Asaoka (Goyokin) playing a woman that’s had enough of her abusive husband and leaves him in the dust. Plus there’s Kinnosuke Nakamura (The Shogun’s Samurai) as a half-crazed lawman and 60s superstar Yujiro Ishihara (Crazed Fruit) as a homeless gangster. The film is directed by genre-favorite Hiroshi Inagaki (The Samurai Trilogy) and co-written by Hideo Oguni, who had been one of Akira Kurosawa’s favorite collaborators. There’s so much talent and star power involved in this movie. How did it go wrong? Short answer: bad script.

Mifune’s ronin is hired by a mysterious old samurai to go to a mountain pass and “wait until something happens.”

That’s the plot. ‘Wait until something happens.’

Because he can’t just stand around waiting forever, Mifune checks into an inn where all the other colorful characters are also staying. The film’s not bad when it tries to be an ensemble character piece, because it does a good job of letting every actor shine in their role at one point or another. But mostly we’re just waiting at the inn for something to happen. There’s even a few times when Mifune goes into voice-over and wonders, “Is this it? Is this what I was supposed to wait for?” It’s a film that’s wasting time as it tries to arrive at a plot. Mifune’s hero (and soon the audience) just wants the wait to be over and the mission to end.

Now, I believe that a film can be without plot and still make for a watchable movie. But those successful films are about characters or themes and that’s what makes them work. Incident at Blood Pass is a film that teases you that it’s about something by constantly reminding you, ‘wait for it… wait for it!’ There’s a part where Mifune leaves the inn for a time only to return to find villainous characters are staying there. Mifune says, “I see… so I guess something did happen, after all.” That’s the payoff we’ve been waiting for all this time. I believe the movie thinks it’s being cute and clever but really it just feels like unengaging storytelling.

When you ignore the movie fumbling around for a story to tell it’s possible for you to enjoy the individual scenes. I like the characters and I appreciate how much the actors put into their performances. While he could be accused of overacting, Kinnosuke Nakamura gives an enjoyably nutso performance as the stammering self-righteous officer of the law. And I do believe that any film which pits two titans of cinema against each other is something that fans of those actors are likely to enjoy, so I had fun watching Mifune and Katsu try to figure each other out. But even so, they’d done pretty much the same thing more successfully earlier that same year with Zatoichi Meets Yojimbo.

The film’s final scene is an interesting one. I’m not going to spoil who dies, but I do want to explain the imagery. Mifune cuts down a group of samurai and then walks off into the distance as a harsh wind blows, kicking up dust that flies past the camera in a flurry of movement. Every Yojimbo film ends in a similar fashion: climactic swordplay, Yojimbo gives a somewhat sad farewell, and he walks off as the wind really starts blowing. I think that this final scene of Incident at Blood Pass is deliberately meant to remind the viewer of the imagery from the original Yojimbo and Sanjuro (Kurosawa sure did love his wind), but what’s strange is that this sort of imagery is almost completely absent from the rest of the film. It’s like it took director Inagaki the entire film to figure out the sort of movie that he should’ve been making.

Incident at Blood Pass is not a good movie, but I’ll admit it took me two viewings to figure that out. I liked it more the first time I watched it a few years back. I knew it was flawed then, but I enjoyed it. And you know what, I still enjoy it today, at least on some level. The screenplay really could’ve used a couple more revisions before the cameras started rolling, but there is some good stuff here. Incident at Blood Pass is one of those cases where you can admire multiple scenes but you can’t exactly praise the film on the whole. It’s just unfortunate that the great character of Yojimbo went out on such a dull note.

Kyle Warner’s Rating: 5.5/10

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Deal on Fire! Wu Dang | Blu-ray | Only $9.99 – Expires soon!

"Wu Dang" Blu-ray Cover

"Wu Dang" Blu-ray Cover

Today’s Deal on Fire is the Blu-ray for 2012′s Wu Dang (aka Great Wu Dang), a fantasy-based Chinese martial arts film from director Patrick Leung Pak Kin (Twins Effect II) and action choreography by the legendary Corey Yuen (No Retreat, No Surrender II: Raging Thunder).

Wu Dang (read our review) stars Vincent Zhao (The White Haired Witch of Lunar Kingdom), Siu-Wong Fan (Riki-Oh: The Story of Ricky), Dennis To (Zombie 108) and Yang Mi (Painted Skin 2).

Order Wu Dang from Amazon.com today!

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