New bloody poster for Denzel’s ‘The Equalizer’

"The Equalizer" Theatrical Poster

"The Equalizer" Theatrical Poster

THE MOVIE: Directed by Antoine Fuqua (Replacement Killers), The Equalizer will be loosely based on the 1980′s TV show about a sophisticated former government agent (Denzel Washington) atoning for the sins of his past by righting the wrongs of a flawed legal system. The script is written by Richard Wenk (The Expendables 2). Catch The Equalizer in theaters on September 26, 2014.

Updates: Nicolas Winding Refn (Drive) and Rupert Wyatt (Rise of the Planet of the Apes) were attached to direct, but both dropped out due to scheduling and creative conflicts. | Collider reports that Carrie’s Chloe Grace Moretz has landed the female lead opposite Denzel Washington. | Teaser poster. | 1st trailer. | 2nd trailer.

BREAKING NEWS: Check out the newest poster.

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Restless, The (2006) Review

"The Restless" Korean Theatrical Poster

"The Restless" Korean Theatrical Poster

Director: Jo Dong-Oh
Producer: Jo Min-Hwan, Kim Sung-Soo
Writer: Jo Dong-Oh
Cast: Jung Woo-Sung, Kim Tae-Hee, Heo Jun-Ho, So E-Hyun, Park Sang-Wook, Kim Kwang-Il, Yu Ha-Jun
Running Time: 105 min.

By JJ Hatfield

In 984 AD, the Kingdom of the United Shilla fell into chaos and ruin due to the corruption of the royal family who indulged themselves in luxury and excess as the people suffered and starved. Violence spread, revolts and war swept the land. The royal demonslayers, the Chuyongdae, raised a rebellion for the citizens but ultimately failed. The people became thieves and refugees. In order to appease the demons, the people offered the living as sacrifices.

The Chuyongdae were once held in high esteem, respected by the people and feared by the demons. Now, there is but one left, and Yi Gwak is a hunted man. After destroying demons for a small village he is poisoned instead of paid. Using his considerable martial art skills to escape the treacherous villagers, Yi Gwak staggers out into the pouring rain. With his body beginning to succumb to the toxins, he stumbles into a strange small shrine. Watching as the written prayers sway in the wind, he draws his last ragged breath.

Yi Gwak finds himself in an alien, ethereal other-world. Totally disoriented, he slowly discovers that he is in Jungcheon – Midheaven, literally, a place all spirits are transported after death. Midheaven is beautiful and tranquil, between earth and heaven where the immediately deceased go for precisely 49 days to give them the opportunity to do good works before the spirit moves on to heaven, hell or reincarnation.

When Yi Gwak does not have the accouterments standard for everyone in Midheaven the inhabitants begin to realize that he is not dead. But only the dead can be in Midheaven, so if Yi Gwak is alive, how can he be there? Before this conundrum can be solved, there is a great commotion as riders on horseback race through the streets, emerald capes flying. Demons suddenly break through into Midheaven appearing from out of nowhere to destroy everything and everyone. They are met by the defenders of Midheaven, led by a beautiful young woman who is an exact likeness of Yi Gwak’s dead fiance.

Jung Woo-sung (The Good, The Bad, The Weird) is Yi Gwak, the last Chuyongdae. After awaking in Midheaven he walks around hunched slightly forward, leaning in, looking for all the world like a deer in the headlights. This is to show the audience he is confused and bewildered by everything he sees and hears. Fortunately, demons and evil guys show up forcing Yi Gwak to fight, thus saving the viewer from having to continue to watch him looking dazed.

The director seems to have taken Yi Gwak’s look from Musa only cheaper, loose indistinct clothing with very long seriously disheveled hair that is desperately in need of a good conditioner. Woo-sung manages to inject some authenticity in his character, at least the warrior aspect, but no one in this film could survive the vacuous script. Jung is a better actor and fighter than is evident from this movie.

TV’s Kim Tae-hee is So-wha the Chuneen, in charge of Midheaven. Her character is established early on as being unsure of her abilities to lead the guardians of Midheaven. Kim is young and pretty, but the talent just isn’t there, certainly not for a lead in film. It isn’t much of a stretch to believe she is not only inept, but a bit of a klutz as well. When a spear is thrown at her she turns her head away and knocks herself out obligating Yi Gwak to come charging to her rescue. This would be okay if it happened once or twice, but the scenario is repeated in various locations and with different villains far too many times.

Heo Jun-ho, known for Silmido, is Banchu, general of the Chuyongdae and a good friend to Yi Gwak in life. Now that he is dead, Banchu has different aspirations and sends legions of demons and the rest of the Chuyongdae into Midheaven to destroy the Chuneen and Midheaven itself. The Gates of Midheaven were closed to keep the demons out, but Banchu was able to transport them at will, killing the guardians of Midheaven leaving So-Hwa alone. Well, not quite alone. Yi Gwak is her constant companion, totally devoted to her and would face any evil that threatened though she feels nothing for him. Whether she remembers him or not, Yi Gwak will defend her to the death.

Billed as South Korea’s first action fantasy, cgi director and writer, Cho Dong-oh, used a wisp of a Chinese tale for the story. This seems bizarre as it is a Korean movie with a Korean director and Korean cast. However the film was shot in China with Chinese crew. South Korea has a rich history of it’s own with folklore and fables, so why use one from another country? Perhaps because there have been Chinese movies that first brought out the story of ghostly love and the accompanying difficulties.

This is Cho’s first director position though he has been an assistant director on a handful of films including Musa. I think he might benefit from some additional assisting. Cho stated in several interviews this was supposed to be more of a cgi action movie, but it is essentially a love story caught up in the battle of good and evil. It is a very old premise requiring a new element to be of interest. Yi Gwak relentlessly pursues So-wha believing he can make her remember their love as Yon-wha. So-hwa is adamant that she is not Yon-hwa, that he is wrong and she cannot feel anything for him. This conversation runs for virtually the entire movie.

The opening is too rushed. Yi Gwak is in Midheaven before seven minutes have passed, literally. More demons fighting Yi Gwak on a reasonable scale, say Yi Gwak against six or seven demons, would have added an element of authenticity to his truly awesome abilities and how the whole demon situation came into being. Where did they come from? How did they get here? Do they eat anything besides humans? A little time spent on the back story of the demons would have been time well spent. All we are given is visual. The demons are bipeds, quite powerful, great at jumping, move like fast zombies with a sort of shuffling gait, and have long matted hair around the face with long sharp nasty teeth. Look quick because you won’t be seeing much of those demons again. Damn shame.

Cho relies far too heavily on flash backs to tell the story. Keeping the audience in suspense is one thing. Feeding the audience chips of a plot using the same memories instead of telling the story is another. Most of the blame can be laid directly on Cho’s immature nonsensical script. There were subjects mentioned that seemed very important only to never be mentioned again. Characters change radically without any explanation, sometimes breaking a stated given in this other world. It happens more than once but once is too much suddenly Midheaven is showing some gaping discrepancies. When will directors learn that no matter how many effects you throw into a film you can’t break your own rules for the world you created? There still must be a real story on some level if you want to make a full film.

Jung Doo-hong directs the action for the actors and the cgi characters. Unfortunately, Jung’s style is masked by several serious problems including shots that are too tight and blurred due to the slow motion spinning. Cinematographer Kim Young-ho did a fine job of lensing lovely scenery, but falls short on the action side. There are more than a couple of just plain unusual shots that don’t qualify as innovative, only irritating, that miss the fighting.

The Restless is a physically beautiful film. Lush forests, sun drenched meadows, gorgeous surroundings and terrific care with the set dressing and props; they all work together to create a truly magnificent visual experience.

Great attention to detail is obvious in virtually every scene. The stunning costumes are the work of costume designer Emi Wada. Wonderful creations such as the formal Chuyongdae uniforms, and the richly embroidered green capes of the Midheaven defenders, are just some of the notable costumes. Wada has worked on a number of movies including Hero (Jet Li), House of Flying Daggers, Ran and Reign of Assassins.

The art directors, Han Zhong and Wu Ming, display considerable talent that helps to make Midheaven resplendent. The soundtrack by Shiro Sagisu keeps pace with the movie but is not much above mediocre.

There were instances that were poor imitations of the originals from The Lord of the Rings. Yi Gwak and So-Hwa hide in the same manner, but not nearly as well as the Hobbits with the Ring Wraith. Black birds are used by the enemy as spies and there is a cgi background near the end of the movie that reminds me more than a bit of one of the sets for Mt. Doom. But there were also a couple of Mortal Kombat moments, particularly during a major cgi fight scene in the forest, as Yi Gwak defends So-Hwa from his former Chuyongdae comrades.

Something about the soundtrack and snakish chains that slam into trees as well as bodies. The cgi is technically quite good, actually flawless at times, especially when transitioning from live to computer action. But the cgi is dreadfully unimaginative at times, as well as using bits of the same footage repeatedly. Every time Yi Gwak kills a demon or a dead former comrade – or anything really – they all die in the very same cgi way. Pretty cool the first thirty times you see it. By the finale fight, the combatants are all represented by cgi, with the exception of a few face shots. People, even with massive wirework, don’t move the same way cgi characters do in The Restless.

I really wanted to like this movie. Korea’s first action cgi. I wasn’t even concerned with the level of quality, as much as the creativity. I cannot deny there are some gorgeous scenes, but there is no “real” fighting, and most of the cgi is, well cgi. I expected more than pictures, no matter how lovely, but this picture is flat and one dimensional. Ultimately, I was frustrated because the film never made sense as a whole.

The Restless is for those who enjoy pretty sappy love stories, with enough threats for the male to repeatedly have to fight and rescue the female. If that’s what you’re looking for, The Restless will do you fine.

JJ Hatfield’s Rating: 6 /10

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Gary Daniels’ ‘Misfire’ gets a DVD release date from Image

"Misfire" Theatrical Poster

"Misfire" Theatrical Poster

Martial arts star Gary Daniels (Bloodmoon, The Expendables) is back with a new action film called Misfire. Directed by R. Ellis Frazier (Dead Drop), the official plot of Misfire centers arounds a hardened DEA agent names Cole (Daniels), who descends into the dangerous underworld of Tijuana, Mexico in search of his journalist ex-wife who he believes has been abducted by a charismatic Cartel boss with aspirations for public office.

Judging from the available footage, Misfire is more of shoot ‘em up, with no signs of hand-to-hand combat; so those expecting to see Daniels in Bloodmoon-mode may be a little disappointed. But then again, it’s only a teaser trailer, so it’s probably too early to jump to conlusions.

Fans of Gary Daniels (Tekken) must be creaming their pants by now. The martial star has a string of upcoming films that include Tekken: Kazuya’s RevengeSkin TraffikZero Tolerance and Bullpen Fight Club. We assume that Daniels’ other two films – Blackwater and Soldier Girls – are dragging in development hell.

BREAKING NEWS: Misfire will be released on DVD by Image Entertainment. You can pre-order the DVD from Amazon.com, which will be released on October 21, 2014. Watch the new trailer.

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Yuen Woo-Ping’s ‘Vigilantes’ to be released in 2014?

"Vigilantes" Teaser Poster

"Vigilantes" Teaser Poster

Acclaimed martial arts choreographer and filmmaker Yuen Woo-ping (True Legend) will tackle a three-part Chinese and Canadian co-production called Vigilantes. The first film in the series is titled Vigilantes: The Lost Order. It has been billed ‘The Matrix meets Wall Street.’ Now give your brain a moment to recover from imagining that crossover.

Vigilantes: The Lost Order follows a young female assassin who sets out to hunt down the villains that destroyed her family and along the way uncovers a global financial conspiracy ruling the world.

Interestingly enough, the Vigilantes movies will be shot in the English language. Yuen Woo-ping is, of course, no stranger to working on English-language productions but he has never actually directed a North American film himself.

While it might be a bit hasty to plan Vigilantes as a trilogy before the first film has even proven a hit, that’s production companies for you. The crucial role of Vigilantes’ leading lady has yet to be cast.

Updates: We’re not sure what’s going on with Vigilantes, which was first announced back in 2012. Birch Tree states that the movie is “In Development,” with a U.S. release date set for 2014. They even released a teaser poster. Considering Yuen Woo-Ping probably has his hands full with Donnie Yen’s Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon 2, a 2014 release for Vigilantes is highly unlikely (we wouldn’t be surprised if the project has been scrapped completely).

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Joker | DVD (Action Slate)

Joker | DVD (Action Slate)

Joker | DVD (Action Slate)

RELEASE DATE: August 19, 2014

Action Slate presents the DVD for the Kazakh revenge thriller Joker. A man avenges his brother’s death with the help of an otherworldly monk who teaches him the skills to destroy his enemies. Joker stars Vitalij Kischenko, Denis Lituyev and Yerbolat Toguzakov.

From Film Combat Syndicate: Joker began its inception in 2010, born out of the desire to create an intellectual film for a cult audience, with a story written with a noir comic book appeal, much like The Crow and Sin City films. Watch the trailer.

Pre-order Joker from Amazon.com today!

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Watch entire ‘Ultraman’ series right now… for FREE!

Watch "Ultraman" for FREE!

Watch "Ultraman" for FREE!

Mill Creek Entertainment’s Iron Fist TV is offering an unlimited viewing of the ENTIRE Ultraman series for FREE (for 4 days) starting today!

Here’s the plot synopsis for Eiji Tsuburaya’s classic 1966 series, Ultraman: When the world is threatened by alien invaders and giant prehistoric monsters, there is only one agency equipped to handle the situation, The Science Patrol, an ultra-sophisticated police force equipped with high-tech weaponry and space crafts.

You can access Iron Fist TV on your portable device, your computer, or even in the comfort your living room with a Roku player. Whichever you choose, many action-packed classics are ready to be discovered with a touch of a finger!

Iron Fist TV features an assortment of hard-to-find martial arts, monster films and TV shows from the 60s, 70s, 80s and 90s, featuring selections from Flying Fists of Kung Fu, The Great Impersonators and When Monsters Attack. Also, watch episodes of Fight! Dragon, Iron King, Super Robot Red Baron and Ultraman. Plus, new content will be added regularly!

With Iron Fist TV, you have the option of watching these completely FREE – or – for a low fee of $4.99/month (100% ad-free). For more information, watch the trailer or visit www.IronFistTV.com.

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Deal on Fire! Iron Monkey | Blu-ray | Only $5.97 – Expires soon!

"Iron Monkey" Blu-ray Cover

"Iron Monkey" Blu-ray Cover

Today’s Deal on Fire is the Blu-ray for Yuen Woo-ping’s Iron Monkey. Also known as Iron Monkey:The Young Wong Fei Hong, this 1993 film is a fictionalized account of folk hero Wong Fei-hung (Sze-Man Tsang), his father Wong Kei-ying (Donnie Yen of Special ID), and their encounter with Iron Monkey (Yu Rongguang of Champions).

Iron Monkey is ranked in Empire’s “The 100 Best Films Of World Cinema” in 2010. So, what are you waiting for?

Order Iron Monkey from Amazon.com today!

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Pirate, The (1974) Review

"The Pirate" Chinese Theatrical Poster

"The Pirate" Chinese Theatrical Poster

Director: Chang Cheh
Co-Directors: Pao Hsueh Lieh, Wu Ma
Writer: Ni Kuang
Producer: Runme Shaw
Cast: Ti Lung, David Chiang, Fan Mei Sheng, Bruce Tong, Yuen Man Tzu, Dean Shek, Tin Ching, Lau Gong, Wu Chih Ching, Yue Fung, Alan Chan Kwok Kuen, Chan Dik Hak
Running Time: 96 min.

By Matthew Le-feuvre

Although Chang Cheh will be fondly remembered for his long association with the Shaw Brothers, there was always more to this film-making zeitgeist than geysering blood, decapitations, disembowelment or torturous imagery. In addition to his prolificacy, Cheh’s alternative meditations occasionally embraced social commentary, usually with concerns about modern youth or the impact of organised crime and how each reflected on urban domesticity: these issues were candidly explored in a handful of films like, The Generation Gap, Young People and The Singing Killer – all starring the iconic David Chiang. However overtly sandwiched between [these] historical romps and contemporary expositions, Cheh often delved into ‘escapist’ theatre, the idea being to steer audiences away from apathy at times when looming social or economic shifts threatened stability in south-east Asia, particularly in Hong Kong. In any case, this strategy worked; mellowing the masses and even inducing the most hardened of critics.

Economics aside, in the advent of Cheh’s most popular, though at intervals ‘ contrived ‘ masterpieces: The One Armed Swordsman, Have Sword Will Travel, Vengeance and The Duel by example, the premiere of The Pirate did not really stir much enthusiasm or controversy upon its initial release back in 1973. Understandably, the general populace were more interested about the circumstances behind Bruce Lee’s demise than in box office ratings or forthcoming attractions. In fact, it was considered something of a commercial distraction than a celebration which Hong Kong audiences widely perceive a movie should represent. Anyhow, retrospectively, The Pirate was a slightly pallid expression of high adventure, drawing inspiration no doubt from the familiar archetypes of Robin Hood, The Sea Hawk and The Buccaneers, cross-bred and extravagantly moulded to adhere with Cheh’s signature pastiche for male bonding, a raised fist against the establishment as well as the obligatory betrayer whom the central protagonist has too contend with. Although these components were laxed, there is still enough tension, brutality and innovation to an otherwise enjoyable and dazzling cult rediscovery that, to a point, doesn’t take itself too seriously; yet beneath the surface, Cheh’s palpable hatred of despotism is all too customary, even from the picture’s outset.

Featuring an explosive opening sea channel battle between British Imperialists and indigenous pirates, led by the debonair Chang Pao Chai (Ti Lung). The complex screenplay acts much like the ocean itself, unpredictable one minute and sedate in the next, echoing filmic parallels from Akira Kurosawa to Sam Peckinpah as our deeply flawed anti-hero begins an impromptu journey from the leaking bowels of his vessel to the nearby shoreline of southern china where – masquerading as a rich trader – he becomes unintentionally embroiled with a group of local villagers/ fishermen, whose struggle against exploitation and corruption has forced them into destitution. To quicken repairs, Pao Chai sympathetically agrees to expedite funds for the villagers using currency and jewels plundered from invading colonists.

Returning to his anchored ship/junk, Pao Chai discovers that a vengeful former crew member, Hue er-Dao (Fan Mei Sheng); an escaped convict, has appropriated not only his damaged vessel, but goods and an undisciplined crew. This situation compromises him to take refuge in a gambling house. There he collides with General Wu (David Chiang), a disillusioned loyalist dispatched to apprehend Pao Chai – dead or alive. However as their friendship develops, Wu becomes aware of Pao Chai’s chivalrous nature and, intermittently, begins to question his own moral servitude: what consequences will eventuate? Will Pao Chui retrieve his junk and capital to deliver the villagers from an uncertain fate? Or will Wu conform to his civic duty and arrest Pao Chai?

Verdict: In spite of its somewhat intoxicating artificiality, forty-one years on The Pirate remains a lesser recognized, yet interesting cinematic experience that doesn’t solely rely on political subtleties, trademark cinematography or protracted duels for personal entertainment. On the contrary, the defining novelty of both Ti Lung and David Chiang spearheading their eighteenth collaboration for an indelible saga of obligation, revenge and misguided loyalties, is itself a landmark achievement even by Hollywood conventions.

Matthew Le-feuvre’s Rating: 8/10

Posted in Chinese, News, Reviews, Shaw Brothers | Tagged , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Game of Assassins | aka The Gauntlet | DVD (Lionsgate)

Game of Assassins | aka The Gauntlet | DVD (Lionsgate)

Game of Assassins | aka The Gauntlet | DVD (Lionsgate)

RELEASE DATE: September 23, 2014

Lionsgate presents the DVD for Matt Eskandari’s Game of Assassins (aka The Gauntlet). A group of misfits find themselves trapped in what they believe to be an underground incinerator, and come together in the hope of discovering a way out. But they quickly realize that to get out alive, they’ll each be tested in ways that are specific to their past – ways that will leave their future changed forever.

Game of Assassins stars Dustin Nguyen (Once Upon a Time in Vietnam), Bai Ling (The Crow), Jaime Ray Newman and Warren Kole. Watch the trailer.

Pre-order Game of Assassins from Amazon.com today!

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Tak Sakaguchi out of retirement for the action film ‘Re:Born’

"Versus" Japanese Theatrical Poster

"Versus" Japanese Theatrical Poster

Tak Sakaguchi rose to fame with the 2001 cult favorite Versus, a movie that managed to combine the low-budget charms of Evil Dead-like horror with blistering martial arts and gunplay. The actor later scored another cult hit with Battlefield Baseball, but has most recently hitched his wagon to the Sushi Typhoon production company.

In April of 2013, new broke out that Tak was retiring from acting, which left an unknown fate for his recently announced role in Death Trance II, not to mention a long-rumored sequel to Versus.

Cityonfire.com was recently contacted by director Yuji Shimomura (Death Trance) with breaking news that Tak was out of retirement to make Re:Born, which the actor calls his “very last” and “most superb” action movie:

“After I retired, I found myself having a passion for action that was still smoldering inside of me. After a conversation with action director Yuji Shimomura, I wanted to thrive one more time and create the very last and most superb action movie with my utmost power and passion for the sake of a closure to my entire career. I am convinced that I have to give my very best one last time. That is how I feel about this project. I didn’t realize how many people chose to support a person like myself until after I retired. I hope this movie will be satisfying enough for them to feel absolutely alright for me to go. This is for them.”

Re:Born doesn’t start shooting until 2015. Until then, Shimomura provided us with an “audition” video for Re:Born featuring Tak in some intense sparring action. Enjoy!

Updates: Here is more video footage of Sakaguchi getting in shape for Re:Born. – Thanks Takuma!

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Deal on Fire! The Warrior’s Way | Blu-ray | Only $8.97 – Expires soon!

"The Warrior's Way" Blu-ray Cover

"The Warrior's Way" Blu-ray Cover

Today’s Deal on Fire is the Blu-ray for Sngmoo Lee’s The Warrior’s Way. The world’s most dangerous fighter (South Korean superstar, Jang Dong Gun) flees his homeland to start a new life in the American West. But soon the hunter becomes the hunted, and now the legendary warrior must wage a fierce, all-out battle against a renegade gang of outlaws and a pack of murderous assassins from his own past.

The Warrior’s Way also stars Geoffrey Rush, Kate Bosworth and Danny Huston. Read our reviews.

Order The Warrior’s Way from Amazon.com today!

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‘Fast and Furious 7′ gets a new speedy release date!

"Fast Five" Japanese Theatrical Poster

"Fast Five" Japanese Theatrical Poster

THE MOVIE: Director Justin Lin is stepping down from his post for now and is passing the baton to Saw and Insidious filmmaker James Wan, who will supposedly put a “gritty, ’70s revenge thriller” vibe on the next installment. Here’s an official plot tidbit: After Dominic Toretto (Vin Diesel) and his crew helped take down Owen Shaw, his brother Ian Shaw (Jason Statham) now wants revenge.

In addition to Vin Diesel and Jason Statham, Fast and Furious 7 stars Dwayne Johnson, Paul Walker, Michelle Rodriguez, Jordana Brewster, Tyrese Gibson, Chris “Ludacris” Bridges, Lucas Black, Kurt Russell, Tony Jaa and Djimon Hounsou.

Updates: First photo of Tony Jaa and Jason Statham on location for Fast and Furious 7. | The fun continues with another on-set photo of Tony Jaa and stunt coordinator Joel Kramer. | Photo of Tony Jaa and Dwayne Johnson. | Visit Film Combat Syndicate has a fight tease, featuring Michelle Rodriguez.

Following the news of Paul Walker’s death, Tony Jaa was one of the many stars, who Tweeted about his friend and co-star: “I am truly saddened over the sudden and unexpected passing of my friend and colleague Paul Walker. I would like to express my sincere condolences to his family. I will not tell you about Paul the actor, I will simply tell you that he was a very caring and sincere person towards friends and family. There are a great many people who will miss him. I knew him a relatively short time, but I am better for the experience. Go in peace my friend, you will not be forgotten. TJ”

In honor of Paul Walker, Universal will donate some of the proceeds from the upcoming Fast & Furious 6 Blu-ray & DVD release to Walker’s charity Reach Out WorldWide. As far as the future of Fast & Furious 7, there has been some talk about scrapping the current storyline and moving the plot into a completely new direction.

THR reports that Chris Morgan, Fast & Furious 7′s screenwriter, is revising the script that could make use of scenes that were shot before Walker’s death. If the plan works, production may resume by late January. | Visit Film Combat Syndicate to see a photo of one of the last scenes Walker filmed with Diesel.

THR (via Collider) reports that Walker’s character Brian O’Conner will not be killed off in Fast & Furious 7, but will instead be retired “in a way that the studio hopes will satisfy fans of the franchise and make use of the exciting footage of Walker.”

According to an official statement from F7′s Facebook page, Paul Walker’s real life brothers will step in as doubles for the late actor: “We have resumed shooting and now welcome Paul’s brothers, Caleb and Cody, into our FAST family. Caleb and Cody are helping us complete some remaining action for their brother and fill in small gaps left in production. Having them on set has made us all feel that Paul is with us too.” | There are several reports that Cody Walker may be joining future installments of Fast and Furious as Brian O’Connor’s (Paul Walker) younger brother.

BREAKING NEWS: Fast and Furious 7 has a new release date set for April 3, 2015 (formerly April 10, 2015).

Cityonfire.com is hoping you can take a minute to check out www.FrankandBeanz.com, a doggie apparel website that has just released their Fast & the Furrious clothing line. Part of the proceeds will be donated to Paul Walker’s charity, Reach Out World Wide (ROWW).

Posted in News | 5 Comments

New trailer for Lee Suk-Hoon’s swashbuckling flick ‘The Pirates’

"The Pirates" Teaser Poster

"The Pirates" Teaser Poster

South Korean filmmaker Lee Suk-Hoon is known for directing lighthearted comedies such as Two Faces of My Girlfriend and Dancing Queen, but for his 4th upcoming feature, he’s officially entering action-adventure territory in the upcoming flick, The Pirates.

The movie is set in the Joseon Dynasty period and tells the story of rival pirates who have the common goal of capturing a gray whale that has swallowed a precious royal stamp.

The Pirates stars Kim Nam-Gil (Public Enemy Returns), Son Ye-Jin (The Tower), Sulli (Punch Lady), Lee Kyoung-Young (A Company Man), Yu Hae-Jin (The Unjust) and Oh Dal-Su (Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance).

The Pirates releases domestically this summer. According to Film Combat Syndicate, the movie struck gold at Cannes, selling up to 15 countries including North America. With that said, we can expect a U.S. release in the future from Well Go USA. Until then, be sure to catch the trailer.

BREAKING NEWS: Watch the new trailer! - Thanks to Film Combat Syndicate!

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Misfire | DVD (Image Entertainment)

"Misfire" Theatrical Poster

"Misfire" Theatrical Poster

RELEASE DATE: October 21, 2014

Image Entertainment presents the DVD for Misfire. Martial arts star Gary Daniels (The Expendables) is back with a new action film called Misfire. Directed by R. Ellis Frazier (Dead Drop), the official plot of Misfire centers arounds a hardened DEA agent names Cole (Daniels), who descends into the dangerous underworld of Tijuana, Mexico in search of his journalist ex-wife who he believes has been abducted by a charismatic Cartel boss with aspirations for public office. Watch the trailer.

Pre-order Misfire from Amazon.com today!

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Deal on Fire! The Road Warrior | Blu-ray | Only $7.99 – Expires soon!

"The Road Warrior" Blu-ray Cover

"The Road Warrior" Blu-ray Cover

Today’s Deal on Fire is the Blu-ray for 1981′s The Road Warrior (aka Mad Max 2), directed by George Miller (Mad Max). In the post-apocalyptic Australian wasteland, a drifter (Mel Gibson) agrees to help a gasoline rich, community escape a band of bandits.

Miller and crew do the impossible by making a high octane sequel that outruns the classic original in every way possible. The fact that he accomplished the amazing action pieces in a pre-CG era is a miracle! I have my fingers crossed for Mad Max: Fury Road - if it’s even half as good as The Road Warrior, I’ll be surprised!

Order The Road Warrior from Amazon.com today!

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Korean cinematic bad boy Kim Ki-duk is back with the disturbing ‘Moebius’

"Moebius" North American Theatrical Poster

Ever since 2000′s The Isle caught the attention of the international cinema scene,  director Kim Ki-duk has been known as an iconoclast and provocateur of Korean cinema. Although his 2012 effort Pieta earned him the coveted Golden Lion at that year’s Venice International Film Festival, the controversial filmmaker hasn’t decided to play it safe. His upcoming film Moebius is set to land in select North American theaters this August 15th, followed by an On Demand release on August 29th.

The movie’s tagline is ‘Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned’ and the new trailer promises a violent and disturbing tale of infidelity, castration, and catharsis.

Moebius proved so disturbing, in fact, that it was initially banned in South Korea before their ratings board reviewed film a second time and changed their mind.

Needless to say, fans of ‘extreme Asian cinema’ will want to check out the newly released North American trailer and prepare to have their worlds properly rocked by Kim Ki-duk next month.

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It’s ‘Die Hard’ in North Korea with producer Bey Logan’s new action film ‘The Borderland’

"The Borderland" Teaser Poster

"The Borderland" Teaser Poster

Bey Logan has long been one of the most vocal Western supporters of Hong Kong cinema, routinely serving up informative commentary tracks on some of your favorite Dragon Dynasty releases. His recent forays into producing movies haven’t met with quite as much success – his 2005 effort Dragon Heat was rather dour despite the presence of both Sammo Hung and Aliens’ Michael Biehn in the cast – but it looks like Logan is learning from his mistakes.

His latest effort is called The Borderland and it’s about an elite agent who becomes trapped in a secret military bunker in North Korea. Think of it as ‘Die Hard in North Korea,’ if you will. The Borderland arrives from French director Mathieu Weschler and stars 5 time world karate champion Seydina Balde (Danny The Dog, stunt performer in Casino Royale) in the lead role.

If you’re still not convinced, check out the 1st trailer, which caught our attention with its stylish look and plenty of brutal hand-to-hand combat reminiscent of The Raid or Universal Soldier: Day of Reckoning. Now that The Raid and The Raid 2 proven you can make a kick-ass action movie on a minuscule budget as long as you have a dedicated and talented stunt team, it’s starting to look like other genre filmmakers around the globe are stepping up their game.

BREAKING NEWS: Watch the 2nd theatrical trailer. According to Film Combat Syndicate, the film has a U.K. release date set for August 18. Lionsgate should be announcing a release date soon. We’ll keep you posted!

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Kundo: Age of the Rampant | Blu-ray & DVD (Well Go USA)

"Kundo: Age of the Rampant" Korean Teaser Poster

"Kundo: Age of the Rampant" Korean Teaser Poster

RELEASE DATE: October 21, 2014

Well Go USA presents the Blu-ray and DVD for the South Korean film Kundo: Age of the Rampant (aka Band of Thieves) on October 21, 2014. This 19th century period action/martial arts film stars Ha Jung-woo (The Chaser) and Kang Dong-won (The X), and directed by Yoon Jong-bin (Nameless Gangster).

Kundo: Age of the Rampant revolves around a group of righteous thieves who steal from corrupt public officials and give to the poor. But things get deadly when the thieves come across a powerful figure. Watch the trailer.

Pre-order Kundo: Age of the Rampant from Amazon.com today!

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Angels 2 | aka Iron Angels 2 (1989) Review

"Angels 2" Japanese Theatrical Poster

"Angels 2" Japanese Theatrical Poster

AKA: Angel 2, Fighting Madam 2
Director: Stanley Tong
Writer: Teresa Woo San
Cast: Alex Fong, Moon Lee Choi Fong, Elaine Lui Siu Ling, Gary Siu Yuk Lung, Sin Ho Ying, Jackson Ng Yuk Su, Yuen Tak
Running Time: 90 min.

By Paul Bramhall

The ‘Girls with Guns’ genre is generally considered to have been kicked off by the 1985 Corey Yuen movie Yes, Madam!, which introduced us to the femme fatale coupling of Michelle Yeoh and Cynthia Rothrock. The rest of the 80s were spent introducing us to a bevy of dangerous ladies – in 1986 we were given the ferocious pairing of Moon Lee and Yukari Oshima in Iron Angels, and in 1987 we were given yet another deadly duo with Cynthia Khan and Michiko Nishiwaki in In the Line of Duty 3.

Despite the talent of these ladies, the genre arguably always remained a tier below the output from their male counterparts. As time went on the action seemed to increasingly move to countries which had cheaper production costs, such as the Philippines and Malaysia, and by the mid-90s the ‘Girls with Guns’ genre had all but disappeared. For the few glorious years that these movies were getting produced though, the sheer number that got cranked out pretty much guaranteed at least a few minor classics. Often filled with copious machine gun fire and cheap and cheerful pyrotechnics, interspersed with moments of intense fight action, it’s easy to see why these kick ass gals gained a sizable following.

The original Iron Angels delivered a strong cast, apart from the aforementioned Moon Lee and Yukari Oshima, they were ably backed up by Alex Fong, Elaine Lui, and Shaw Brothers legend David Chiang, who essentially filled the role of Charlie in a Hong Kong version of Charlie’s Angels. Throw in Japanese star Saijo Hideki and Korean boot master Hwang Jang-lee, and it would be difficult not to have a good time. The movie is considered a classic of the ‘Girls with Guns’ genre, and spawned two sequels, the second of which has frustratingly yet to be released on DVD in any English speaking country.

It’s a shame, as while Iron Angels 2 is hardly a contender for an Oscar, it is a worthy addition to the genre. The three principal members of the original return in the form of Moon Lee, Elaine Lui, and Alex Fong, who essentially make up the team of angels. Why one of the angels has to be played by a guy is anyone’s guess, but in the pantheon of questions that could be raised out of Hong Kong’s movie output from the 80’s, this is probably one of the lesser ones.

The story concerns the angels being distracted from their holiday in Kuala Lumpur, when the host with whom they’re staying turns out to be an insane revolutionary. This is revealed in a wonderful speech when he explains that he wants to make “an Asia for the Asians”, and we get to see him kick back in the evening with a whiskey on the rocks, while watching videos of Hitler parading through the streets of Germany. Of course in an effort to flesh out the plot a little bit more, Elaine Lui becomes romantically involved with him, unaware of his extreme ideals, and if that wasn’t enough to push the run-time to a suitable length, the rest is padded out by travelogue like shots of Kuala Lumpur city.

While Iron Angels was hardly a big budget affair, it did get by on the merits of having a pair of strong adversaries in the form of Yukari Oshima and Hwang Jang-lee. Oshima seemed to relish her role of the vicious gang boss, and the whole movie stayed true to its genre origins by having Moon Lee and Elaine Lui ultimately have to rescue the captured Fong from her lair.

The sequel loses points somewhat in the fact that if anything, the shift in focus seems to be away from the ladies, and instead Fong is now the image of the macho 80’s Hong Kong action hero, seemingly able to beat up anyone who crosses his path. After playing the deadly leading lady in the Shaw Brothers classic Come Drink With Me, Cheng Pei Pei suffered a similar fate in its sequel Golden Swallow, when she played second fiddle to Jimmy Wang Yu. The only problem here is Alex Fong is no Jimmy Wang Yu, and director Stanley Tong is no Chang Cheh.

While I’m sure a more academically minded critic would be happy to draw comparisons between the notions of feminism between the original Iron Angels and its sequel, let’s face it, at the end of the day we’re all here for the action. Moon Lee would go on to make several movies together with Yukari Oshima, so the real question is how does she fare here with no promise of a final throw down with the Japanese beauty. Thankfully the answer isn’t a disappointing one, in large part due to the showdown that she has with the movies action director Yuen Tak.

Tak is one of the more unsung heroes of Hong Kong action cinema. Originally cast as a kind of Jackie Chan clone in the 1980 Shaw Brothers movie The Master opposite Chen Kuan Tai, he went onto to have a successful career as an action director, working on such movies as Dragon from Russia, while still occasionally making onscreen appearances, most notably returning as the villain in the 1997 version of Hero. Here Tak serves as action director and plays the head henchman, who happens to face off against Lee in a munitions hut in the finale. While their fight is frustratingly brief, what’s there is gold, as the two exchange a lightening fast flurry of feet and fists.

The fight is so good that it makes you realize that she’s just spent the majority of the movie wasted in what for the most part is a non-action role, while it’s Fong who gets given the majority of the movies action beats. While Fong is a passable screen fighter, the fight between Lee and Tak makes his scenes look like rehearsals. This is made even more glaringly obvious when straight after the showdown he’s given the final confrontation of the movie, which while not particularly bad, simply doesn’t stand up compared to the few seconds of excellence we’ve just bore witness to.

There’s also a whole lot of obligatory but satisfying machine gun fire and explosions in the finale, but despite it all, Iron Angels 2 remains a notch under the original. Later that same year Lee would be seriously burnt when she was caught in an explosion, which detonated early while escaping from a building on the set of the movie Devil Hunters, but like the strong female characters she portrayed on screen, she didn’t stay down for long. Hopefully movies like both Devil Hunters and Iron Angels 2 will some day make it onto DVD, and everyone can enjoy watching the ladies of Hong Kong cinema kick just as much ass as the men.

Paul Bramhall’s Rating: 7/10

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Takashi Miike is back with bloody horror film ‘Over Your Dead Body’

"Over Your Dead Body" Japanese Theatrical Poster

As advance pictures of Yakuza Apocalypse can attest to, Takashi Miike is back in fine form and doing what he does best: delivering mind-blowing and extreme Asian cinema. Along those lines, the trailer for Over Your Dead Body hit the web today. In this atmospheric and gory-looking horror film, we follow two young stage actors who find their roles bleeding over (no pun intended) into their real lives.

It’s been quite some time since Takashi Miike has played in the horror realm, despite making quite a name for himself with films like One Missed Call (which even saw a subpar Hollywood remake) and his notorious Masters of Horror episode Imprint, not to mention his modern horror classic Audition. Based on the trailer, Miike appears to be pulling out all the stops with Over Your Dead Body. Fans can expect the film in Japanese theaters this August ’14. Thanks to Twitch for the news.

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American Muscle | Blu-ray & DVD (Well Go USA)

"American Muscle" Theatrical Poster

"American Muscle" Theatrical Poster

RELEASE DATE: September 30, 2014

Well Go USA presents the Blu-ray & DVD for Rafvi Dhar’s American Muscle. Falcon (Nick Principe) did 10 years of hard time in prison, now he’s got 24 hours to get revenge on every person who sent him there. It isn’t exactly a post-apocalyptic flick, but judging from the trailer, it has enough road action, sex and brutal violence to keep up us pre-occupied until Mad Max: Fury Road finally gets released.

American Muscle also stars Robin Sydney (Trophy Heads), Todd Farmer (Drive Angry) and John Fallon (Dead Shadows). Watch the trailer.

Pre-order American Muscle from Amazon.com today!.

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Rain joins forces with Bruce Willis in the action thriller ‘The Prince’

"The Prince" Theatrical Poster

"The Prince" Theatrical Poster

Brian A. Miller (Officer Down) upcoming action thriller The Prince features an all-star cast that includes Bruce Willis (Die Hard 6), John Cusack (Love & Mercy) 50 Cent (Get Rich or Die Tryin’), Jason Patric (Narc), South Korean superstar Rain (Ninja Assassin) and Johnathon Schaech (Doom Generation).

The plot for The Prince, written by Andre Fabrizio and Jeremy Passmore (2012′s Red Dawn), is as follows: A retired Las Vegas crime boss is forced to return to the city, and face his former enemies, when his teenage daughter goes missing.

Update: It’s been at least half a year since we’ve heard anything about The Prince, but a trailer has surfaced online. The film receives a limited theatrical and On Demand release this August 22nd. Also, here’s the new poster.

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Trailer for Lu Yang’s wuxia actioner ‘Brotherhood of Blades’

"Brotherhood of Blades" Chinese Theatrical Poster

"Brotherhood of Blades" Chinese Theatrical Poster

After receiving much acclaim for 2010′s My Spectacular Theatre and 2012′s A Motor Home Adventure, Lu Yang is back for his third directorial outing: a wuxia action film titled Brotherhood of Blades, which stars Chang Chen (Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon) and Cecilia Liu (Badges of Fury).

Jaynestars has the plot: Set in the late Ming Dynasty, Brotherhood of Blades tells of three close friends (Chang Chen, Wang Qianyuan, and Li Dongxue) who serve as Jinyiwei guards. They are dispatched by a palace eunuch (Nie Yuan) to hunt down Wei Zhongxian (Jin Shijie), a eunuch politician who had been forced to resign from his influential post and exiled from Beijing. The Jinyiwei brothers return successfully from their quest, only to find that their task was but the beginning of a strange conspiracy.

Brotherhood of Blades is getting a domestic release on August 7. We’re sure Well Go USA has its eye on this one for a North American distribution. For now, you can watch the trailer. – Thanks to Jaynestars and Film Combat Syndicate

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Warrior Princess | aka Queen Ahno | DVD (Lionsgate)

Warrior Princess | aka Queen Ahno | DVD (Lionsgate)

Warrior Princess | aka Queen Ahno | DVD (Lionsgate)

RELEASE DATE: September 16, 2014

Lionsgate presents the DVD for Shuudertsetseg Baatarsuren’s Warrior Princess (aka Queen Ahno), Mongolia’s highest-grossing film to date! In a time when honor was everything, discover how one woman’s (Otgonjargal Davaasuren) sacrifice inspired the courage of a nation’s army in their fight for freedom! Based on the true story of Queen Ahno of Mongolia, who gave her life to save her husband and sons in battle. Watch the violent trailer.

Also starring Myagmar Mondoon, Bayarmagnai Yeguzer, Myagmarnaran Gombo, Sarantuya Sambuu, Altantuya Tumurbaatar and Ravdan Gombo.

Pre-order Warrior Princess from Amazon.com today!

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Want a ‘Pacific Rim 2,’ kaiju fans? You’ll get it April 7, 2017!

"Pacific Rim" Japanese Theatrical Poster

"Pacific Rim" Japanese Theatrical Poster

Last summer’s ‘giant monsters vs. mech’ film Pacific Rim proved to be a modest hit worldwide, grossing $400 million on a budget of about half that. The movie arrived in theaters with plenty of internet buzz, thanks in part to the reputation of director Guillermo Del Toro (Hellboy, Blade II). Now Del Toro is assuring fans that, if they keep their fingers crossed, we might just get Pacific Rim 2.

The acclaimed Pan’s Labyrinth filmmaker recently stated that he is working on a screenplay with Zak Penn (X-Men: The Last Stand), and that Charlie Hunnam and Rinko Kikuchi’s characters will be returning. In the past, Del Toro has teased that a sequel might involve humans ‘drifting’ (kind of a telepathic link) with a kaiju, or giant monster, and the kaiju/mech that would result from such a connection. Fans of the first film, we ask: what would you like to see in a Pacific Rim 2?

Updates: According to Collider, Guillermo del Toro is returning to the director’s chair for Pacific Rim 2, which has a set release date for April 7, 2017.

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Deal on Fire! Saving General Yang | Blu-ray | Only $6.85 – Expires soon!

Saving General Yang | Blu-ray & DVD (Well Go USA)

Saving General Yang | Blu-ray & DVD (Well Go USA)

Today’s Deal on Fire is the Blu-ray for Saving General Yang, directed by Ronny Yu (Jet Li’s Fearless). Northeast China, early Northern Song dynasty, AD 986. The Khitan army takes its revenge for a past massacre, abducting General Yang Ye (Adam Cheng) and leaving his wife and seven sons to rescue him – and fall into their deadly trap. Led by the first son (Ekin Cheng), the seven set out with a small band of fighters to face an army of thousands so they can bring their father home. The film also stars Yu Bo, Vic Chou, Raymond Lam, Wu Chun and Fu Xinbo. Stephen Tung (A Better Tomorrow) handles action choreography.

Order Saving General Yang from Amazon.com today!

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Ryuhei Kitamura makes his grand return to Japanese cinema with ‘Lupin the Third’

"Lupin the Third" Japanese Theatrical Poster

When Japanese director Ryuhei Kitamura made the transition to Hollywood and began directing low-budget horror fare like Midnight Meat Train and No One Lives, fans were eager enough to see what the talented filmmaker threw our way…but deep down, most were waiting for Kitamura to return to Japan and get back to reinventing action cinema with films like Versus and Azumi.

Well, it appears that Kitamura is back in his native country and his first project is a live-action adaptation of the popular and long-running manga/anime series Lupin the Third.

Lupin the Third, or Lupin III as it’s often known, follows the gentleman thief Arsene Lupin III and his many colorful allies as they steal valuable items all over the globe.

The trailer for Kitamura’s live-action film is here, and it promises to deliver plenty of over-the-top setpieces and diverse characters. Could this be the dazzling return to form that Ryuhei Kitamura’s fans have been waiting for? Thanks to Twitch for the news.

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Hot new Asian titles streaming on Netflix

Journey to the West | Blu-ray & DVD (Magnolia)

Journey to the West | Blu-ray & DVD (Magnolia)

Got a Netflix subscription? If so, you’ve got a gateway to some of the latest and greatest in Asian cinema, as well as related martial arts titles. Let’s take a look at some of the titles that have found their way to Netflix’s streaming service in the last month or two.

Journey to the West (2013) – from director Stephen Chow comes this special FX-fueled martial arts flick about the Monkey King

Oldboy (2013) – this English-language remake from director Spike Lee caused controversy when it hit theaters; not so much for its violent content as the fact that Hollywood would dare to touch the Korean modern classic!

Confession of Murder (2012) – fan favorite distributor Well Go USA presents this dark and gritty Korean action/thriller

The Detective (2007) and The Detective 2 (2011) – Hong Kong actor Aaron Kwok is front and center in these two quirky crime thrillers from director Oxide Pang (The Eye)

Fairy Tale Killer (2o12) – genre veteran Lau Ching-wan (A Hero Never Dies) stars in this serial killer thriller directed by the other Pang brother, Danny Pang

Sleepwalker (2011) – we hope you’re not tired of the Pang Brothers yet since Oxide Pang directs this supernatural thriller starring Angelica Lee (The Eye)

Iron Monkey (1993) – martial arts superstar Donnie Yen appears in the dubbed version of this wuxia classic from director Yuen Woo-ping

Lady Vengeance (2005) – from Oldboy director Chan Wook-park comes the final, thrilling installment in his ‘vengeance trilogy’

Oldboy (2003) – the original Korean-language thriller from director Chan Wook-park! A film that needs no introduction

Puncture Wounds (2014) – MMA sensation Cung Le stars alongside Expendables Dolph Ludgren in this martial arts actioner

The Replacement Killers (1998) – Hong Kong acting legend Chow Yun-fat transitioned to Hollywood cinema with this 90′s actioner

Ring of Curse (2011) – Asian horror is alive and well in this J-horror film about a group of school girls who find themselves cursed and dying off, one by one

Sympathy For Mr. Vengeance (2002) – arguably the finest effort in Chan-wook Park’s ‘vengeance trilogy’ – shhh, don’t tell fans of Oldboy

Caught in the Web (2012) – from the director of Farewell My Concubine comes this thriller about internet culture and cyber witch hunts

Machete Kills (2013) – the latest entry in the Grindhouse-esque series features appearances by ‘Mad Max’ himself, Mel Gibson, as well as international martial arts star Marko Zaror (Undisputed III)

The Wrath of Vajra (2013) – a good old-fashioned martial arts actioner in the Bloodsport vein, featuring fight choreography by Sammo Hung

Commitment (2013) – this Korean action/thriller follows a young North Korean spy manipulated by his own government

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Kundo: Age of the Rampant | Blu-ray & DVD (Well Go USA)

"Kundo: Age of the Rampant" Korean Teaser Poster

"Kundo: Age of the Rampant" Korean Teaser Poster

RELEASE DATE: October 21, 2014

Well Go USA presents the Blu-ray and DVD for the South Korean film Kundo: Age of the Rampant (aka Band of Thieves). This 19th century period action/martial arts film stars Ha Jung-woo (The Chaser) and Kang Dong-won (The X), and directed by Yoon Jong-bin (Nameless Gangster).

Kundo: Age of the Rampant revolves around a group of righteous thieves who steal from corrupt public officials and give to the poor. But things get deadly when the thieves come across a powerful figure. Watch the trailer.

Pre-order Kundo: Age of the Rampant from Amazon.com today!

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

From Vegas to Macau | aka The Man from Macau (2014) Review

"From Vegas To Macau" Chinese Theatrical Poster

"From Vegas To Macau" Chinese Theatrical Poster

Director: Wong Jing
Writer: Wong Jing
Producer: Andrew Lau, Don Yu Dong
Cast: Chow Yun Fat, Nicholas Tse Ting Fung, Sally Jing Tian, Kimmy Tong Fei, Chapman To Man Chat, Max Zhang Jin, Philip Ng Wan Lung, Hui Siu Hung, Natalie Meng Yao, Gao Hu, Sammy Sum Chun Hin, Yue Chi Ming
Running Time: 94 min.

By oneleaf

The Man from Macau (aka From Vegas to Macau) stars Chow Yun-Fat (The Monkey King) as “Magic Hands” Ken, a highly-skilled, legendary gambler (conman) with lightning fast hands and the ability to literally “feel” the suits on the cards.

The film reunites Chow with prolific writer/producer/director Wong Jing. There are obvious similarities between Chow’s character Ken, and another legendary character, Ko Chun, from the God of Gamblers (1989) and Return of God of Gamblers (1994) – two titles made famous by Chow and Jing. The similarities are a recurring gag that alludes throughout The Man from Macau.

The plot is simple. Ken, along with Cool (Nicholas Tse from The Bullet Vanishes) and his cousin Carl (Chapman To from Men Suddenly in Black), get caught up in espionage and danger when they unwittingly become involved in bringing down a money-laundering criminal named Mr. Ko (Hu Gao from The Bullet Vanishes), the head of DOA.

The Man from Macau is heavy on slow motion, CGI and slapstick comedy. The cinematography and sound are top notch. The set design is impeccable; especially Ken’s home, which used to be a Portuguese library with its high vaulted ceiling, beautiful wood bookcases, eclectic hardwood floor, and thin curved metal staircases. The film is visually dazzling with its flying dice and semi-levitating/gold-plated cards being flung around like shiruken (ninja stars).

Most of the comedy involves Chapman To. As usual, he’s unny in a nonsensical way. Unfortunately, his scenes don’t add much to the overall flow, as he repeatedly shouts “production by Wong Jing” throughout the film.

Tse’s character looks disinterested throughout much of the film. He’s just there looking bored. Despite being a capable actor, his character is very under-developed. He yearns to become Ken’s protégé and son-in-law, but these two thematic elements could have been explored a bit more. Instead, they were superficial and went nowhere.

Max Zhang (from The Grandmaster) as Ko’s bodyguard/assassin is a very proficient wushu practitioner and his skills are evident in his fight scenes with Lionel (Phillip Ng from Bodyguards and Assassins). Unfortunately, Zhang is given very little to do nor say other than trying to look menacing.

The choreography by Nicky Lee (Chung Chi Li) and Wong Wai-Leung are pretty good. One of the highlights: A scene where Rainbow bounces around on two giant cables, a la Cirque du Soleil-style. However, any action scene involving Tse looked rehearsed, ineffective and weak.

I am a big fan of Chow and had high expectations when I heard he was reuniting with Jing. To say I was disappointed is an understatement. The Man from Macau could have been so much more with the talents of Chow, Tse, To and Hui. Yet, the sum of its part do not equal to the end result of this hodgepodge of sight gags, farce comedy, dull plot and uninspiring characters.

Chow is in fine form as Ken and looks dapper in every scene, courtesy of costume design by Chan Chi-Man and Jessie Dai. A chameleon of an actor, Chow easily switches between comedy and drama effortlessly in the film. He even sings and dances with Benz Hui, which is a breath of fresh air. Yet, even Chow couldn’t save the movie.

Other than Ken, all the other characters are one-dimensional. Ko would have been an excellent adversary for Ken, had Jing given his character more to do, rather than just posturing aimlessly from one scene to another. Kimmy Tong (from The Last Tycoon) as Ken’s daughter, Rainbow, is very pretty and a decent actress. I would have loved to see more of her on screen. Unfortunately, she and the other China-based actors have very little screen time, as their characters are merely accessories.

The Man from Macau is a classic Wong Jing production with stylized images and great cinematography, but the script is weak and formulaic. Obligatory gambling scenes are too few and far in between. They could have been utilized to add more substance to the film. Same goes for the fight scenes.

Nonetheless, it’s good to see Chow in action again. I wanted so much to recommend the movie, but can’t.

Oneleaf’s Rating: 5/10

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