Scott Adkins kills (and kills again) in the new ‘Re-Kill’ trailer!

"Re-Kill" Theatrical Poster

"Re-Kill" Theatrical Poster

With After Dark Films establishing a new working partnership with Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment, 2012′s Re-Kill (aka Dead Ahead), the long awaited action/horror film, is finally going to see the light of day in North America.

Re-Kill stars martial arts sensation Scott Adkins (Wolf Warrior) Bruce Payne (Passenger 57) and Daniella Alonso (The Collector). It’s written by Michael Hurst (Room 6) and directed by Valeri Milev (Wrong Turn 6: Last Resort).

Official Plot: It’s been 5 years since the outbreak that wiped out 85% of the world’s population, but the war between Re-Animates (Re-Ans) and Humans wages on, as most of the major cities are still uninhabitable. Within the few surviving cities, the Re-Ans have been segregated into “zones” and are policed by the R-Division of the QUASI S.W.A.T. Unit who hunt to re-kill the Re-Ans in the hope of quelling a second outbreak.

Re-Kill will have a limited theatrical release, nation wide, on October 16th, 2015, followed by a Blu-ray/DVD release. Until then, watch the newest trailer!

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Call Me King | DVD (Entertainment One)

Call Me King | DVD (Entertainment One)

Call Me King | DVD (Entertainment One)

RELEASE DATE: September 8, 2015

Entertainment One presents the DVD for Call Me King, an upcoming action movie written and directed by R.L. Scott.

Call Me King stars Bai Ling (The Crow), Amin Joseph (The Expendables), Chris Mulkey (Boardwalk Empire), Alimi Ballard (Numbers), Lester Speight (Transformers), Robert Miano (Donnie Brasco), Bill Cobbs (Oz: The great and Powerful), Del Zamora (True Blood), Gabrielle Dennis (The Game) and Monyque Thompson Scott (Lie to Me). | Watch the trailer.

Pre-order Call Me King from Amazon.com today!

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Redeemer (2014) Review

"Redeemer" Japanese Theatrical Poster

"Redeemer" Japanese Theatrical Poster

Director: Ernesto Díaz Espinoza
Producer: Guillermo Prieto, Noah Segan, Marko Zaror
Cast: Marko Zaror, Noah Segan, Loreto Aravena, Otilio Castro, Smirnow Boris, José Luís Mósca, Nuñez Nelson, Mauricio Diocares, Mauricio Raab Sanz, Pablo Raab Sanz
Running Time: 90 min.

By Martin Sandison

For my money, the end fight in Undisputed 3 – one of the best martial arts flicks of recent years, which pits Scott Adkins’ iconic Boyka against Marko Zaror’s extravagant villain Dolor – is one of the greatest fight scenes in history. Both men prove themselves as two of the best screen fighters working today.

Zaror is most well known for this role and his small part in Robert Rodriguez’s debacle Machete Kills, but his filmography stretches way back. He studied Karate, Kickboxing and Taekwondo from the age of 6, and got his break doubling Dwayne ‘the Rock’ Johnson in 2003’s The Rundown, for which he won a World Stunt Award.

In 2006 he collaborated with first time director Ernesto Diaz Espinoza on Kiltro, the first Chilean martial arts movie. A success in theatres and DVD around the world, this was followed up by Mirageman and Mandrill, again small scale successes. Mandrill was made in 2009, and since then, Espinoza has worked as an editor on Eli Roth’s The Green Inferno, among other projects. Fans of Zaror and Espinoza’s earlier films waited patiently for their next collaboration, which has come in the form of Redeemer.

Looking through the pages of the Edinburgh Film Festival brochure, I didn’t spot Redeemer until my friend told me about it. One of only two martial arts films on in the Festival, of course I had to see it. As a fan of the earlier films, I immediately became excited. The film sports a stronger plotline and characters than the previous efforts, as well as a dash of humour and higher production values. The plot features Zaror as a kind of avenging angel, the ‘redeemer’ of the title. He punishes bad guys for being bad, basically, and is searching for one who it seems did him some wrongdoing. His motivation is not revealed until late on in the film, and the construction of the narrative around this is pretty well put together.

There are basically two plotlines going on at the same time. One featuring Zaror’s character and two friends he makes as they hide out from the villains. Another concentrating on a drug lord, played by American Noah Segan – this is where the comic relief comes in. Almost a direct reference to Hong Kong movies post 70’s – the inconsistency in tone due to the silly, humorous antics of Segan, compared with the brutal violence and sombre tone of most of the plot – is evident from the outset. The way the different narratives come together is well done, and the pacing allows for plenty of what Zaror does best: high impact martial arts.

The fights come thick and fast, and for those hoping that the action is amped up to a higher level than the previous films of Zaror and Espinoza, you won’t be disappointed. Kiltro and Mirageman have action that certainly delivers in its high impact style; but aspects such as fluidity, inventive exchanges and crisp editing were missing at times. From the first fight scene on, Redeemer shows a marked improvement, with Zaror moving like a seasoned pro and the stuntmens reactions on point. There is a good mix of group and one-on-one fights, with Zaror exercising each of his formidable skills. His kicking especially is of the highest level, as he alternates more modern tricking styles with powerful hook kicks.

The group fights feature Raid-style 360 camera moves and intricate choreography, although some of the exhchanges are a little unconvincing. There are three notable one-on-one fights; two in the middle and at the end. The longest fight is with one of the lackeys who is a good fighter, and contains a mix of MMA-style grappling and 90’s HK kickboxing. Unfortunately, the grappling slows down the fight and isn’t integrated that well, not reaching the heady heights of Donnie Yen’s masterful end fight in Flashpoint.

The other mid-film fight features some inventive use of environment, with the fighters crashing through wood. Zaror’s opponent here is not a great martial artist, but a good brawler. The finishing move is something to behold, as Zaror references another Donnie Yen masterclass Ip Man as he unleashes Wing Chun-style chain punching finishing with a deadly uppercut that sees the blood fly. The end-fight sees him face off against the intimidating uber evil bad guy played by Jose Luis Mosca, a skilled martial artist and good actor. Despite being a bit of a let down compared to the previous two one on one fight scenes, the location on the edge of a cliff and the pacing creates drama and tension.

There are tasteful references throughout the film, especially to Westerns, HK flicks and Tarantino-esque scenes featuring Segan, and Espinoza weaves these together without sacrificing narrative logic. One fault that is unusual for a viewer like myself is the incredibly brutal violence, which seems a little unnecessary. At one point Zaror puts a hook through a guys mouth that comes out of his eyeball, and is shown in graphic detail. Being a low budget production, the CGI on show is poor and takes the viewer out of the film slightly, but this can be forgiven.

The religious symbolism is at times heavy handed, as can be seen with the title and the positioning of Zaror’s character as some kind of vigilante avenging angel. These faults don’t ruin what is a very solid modern martial arts film, that has enough innovation in its fight scenes to entertain even the most jaded of fans.

Martin Sandison’s Rating: 7/10

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Wild City (2015) Review

"Wild City" Theatrical Poster

"Wild City" Theatrical Poster

AKA: Hustle
Director: Ringo Lam
Writer: Ringo Lam
Cast: Louis Koo, Shawn Yue, Joseph Chang, Tong Liya, Jack Kao, Sam Lee, Philip Ng, Dave Wong, Simon Yam
Running Time: 100 min.

By Paul Bramhall

Not taking into consideration the segment he directed for 2007’s Triangle, it’s been 12 long years since Ringo Lam directed a Hong Kong movie. Look to when he last directed one of the crime thrillers that he built his reputation on, and you have to go back even further. So the announcement that Wild City was to see him returning both to Hong Kong filmmaking, and the crime thriller genre, was a big deal. Lam himself explained that the movie would round off what he saw as his ‘City Trilogy’, with the other titles being this very sites namesake, his 1987 classic City on Fire, and his 1997 production Full Alert. Like Park Chan-wook’s ‘Vengeance Trilogy,’ the movies are connected thematically, with Lam stating that the “films are all set in Hong Kong, and are about people who are lost in the city.”

Wild City of course represents a very different Hong Kong from both of its predecessors. City on Fire was made at a time when Hong Kong cinema was at its creative peak, with Full Alert being made in the year the territory was handed back to China from its 99 year lease to the UK. With the mainland emerging as a significant influence on box office success in recent years, these days Hong Kong movies are no longer simply targeted at local Hong Kong audiences, with the importance of appealing to China as a whole taking precedence.

The handover of Hong Kong back to China was also significant in another way though, which was that all movies made there now had to go through the process of passing the government censorship board. This led to many Hong Kong directors jumping ship to try their hand at working in Hollywood (Lam himself made 3 movies with Jean Claude Van Damme there), while others decided to switch to making period swordplay movies, due to the ease of which they passed the board. For directors like Lam though, used to making gritty and realistic crime thrillers, he was stuck between a rock and a hard place, with no distributors willing to back his ideas for fear they’d never get approved for release. Thankfully in 2015, the censorship board has loosened its iron grip ever so slightly, and with Lam’s own desire to still make movies and capture the ever changing Hong Kong landscape on film, Wild City was born.

Louis Koo continues on his mission to appear in every Hong Kong movie ever made (the guy was in 7 movies alone just in 2014), here starring as a disgraced former cop turned bar owner. He quit the force after attempting to cover for his brother, played by Shawn Yue, a petty criminal who has now gone straight and is working as a taxi driver. When Koo befriends a drunken woman from the mainland in his bar, played by Tong Liya, the three of them quickly find themselves being pursued by both her former lover and the group of thugs employed to catch them. The contents of the suitcase she seems so desperate to retrieve soon reveal why, and a game of cat and mouse develops as the trio try to remain one step ahead of their pursuers.

While many argue that the Hong Kong film industry is on its last legs, Lam proves here that it’s still very much possible to create what looks, feels, and is a Hong Kong crime movie. The city is as much a part of the story as the characters who are in it, with its skyline, harbors, countryside, and many narrow alleyways and stairs all lensed in a way that really capture its character. Make no doubt about it, Wild City is just as gritty as you want a Ringo Lam movie to be, but just underneath the surface, it also seems to be a love letter to Hong Kong and its many locales.

Johnnie To also succeeded in making a gritty crime picture with Drug War, which he achieved through filming in the mainland city of Tianjin, but even more so by casting mainland actors as the heroic cops, and a who’s who of Hong Kong talent as the villains. Lam isn’t quite as willing to sellout the Cantonese speaking protagonists that always feature in his movies, so while the gang of thugs pursuing the trio are all clearly speaking Mandarin, he smartly avoids any censorship issues by having them called the ‘Taiwan Gang’. A minor detail, but one that clearly worked. The gang is lead by, appropriately enough, Taiwan actor Joseph Chang. Chang, who starred alongside Jimmy Wang Yu in one of the best movies of 2013, Soul, adds some welcome depth to his character with his portrayal of a guy who just wants to go back home. The death of his acquaintances ultimately gives him more motive to kill than the money he’s being paid, and turns him into a worthy villain of the piece.

Which of course brings us to the violence, an aspect that plays a part in any Ringo Lam movie, whether it be the brutal beatings of Prison on Fire, or the bullet point of view shoot outs of Full Contact. Violence also plays an important part in Wild City, whether it be the threat of it which our 3 protagonists are constantly faced with, or if they’re forced to dish it out themselves. Lam throws the trio into a situation were danger is never far away, and it becomes apparent very quickly that the bad guys like to go old school, arming themselves with steel bars and machetes as their weapons of choice. This leads to a number of chase sequences that effectively build up a sense of desperation and tension, as people get sliced and cut up in a series of bloody confrontations. Special mention should also go to a nasty scene involving a boat propeller.

Things really culminate in the final 30 minutes, kicking off with Koo’s brutal interrogation of a gangster, played by Sam Lee, in an isolated public toilet, which will no doubt have Lam’s fan base nodding their head in approval of the directors return. Throw in a number of vehicle chase sequences that for the most part are played out for real, with some minor and entirely acceptable CGI assistance, and those looking for the visceral action thrill of Lam’s previous works will be more than satisfied. While it could easily be argued that Wild City lacks the kind of layered writing and imagery of his movies like Full Alert, it could also be said that the nature of the story makes this a mute point. As another director who recently returned to the crime genre, Takeshi ‘Beat’ Tikano, had the same criticism leveled towards him, it could be said that Wild City is to Full Alert what Outrage is to Sonatine. Yes the deeper layers may not be there, but they don’t need to be.

Above all the clear message in Wild City is how money corrupts, with Liya’s desperation to hang onto the suitcase perhaps indicative of Lam taking a sly swipe at the youth of China’s current obsession with materialism and money. In one of the movies closing moments, Liya looks across to the Hong Kong skyline from Victoria Harbour and cheerily declares, “Hong Kong is an unforgettable place!” For fans of Hong Kong cinema, so are many of Ringo Lam’s movies, and Wild City sits comfortably amongst them.

Paul Bramhall’s Rating: 8.5/10

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The Target | DVD (Lionsgate)

The Target | DVD (Lionsgate)

The Target | DVD (Lionsgate)

RELEASE DATE: October 6, 2015

Lionsgate presents the DVD for Yoon Hong-seung’s The Target, a remake of the 2010 French film Point Blank. In The Target, a man finds himself pitted against rival gangsters and trigger-happy police in a deadly race to save his wife and unborn child.

The film stars Ryoo Seung-Ryong (War of the Arrows), Lee Jin-Wook (My New Boyfriend), Yu Jun-Sang (Fists of Legend), Jo Yeo-Jeong (Human Addiction), Kim Sung-Ryoung (The Client), Jo Eun-Ji (Confession of Murder) and Jin Goo (Mother). | Watch the trailer.

Pre-order The Target from Amazon.com today!

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

Morgan Freeman is stuck on an apocalyptic flight to Tokyo!

"Airport '77" Japanese Theatrical Poster

"Airport '77" Japanese Theatrical Poster

Deadline reports that Morgan Freeman (Danny the Dog, Lucy) is set to play one of the leads in an upcoming action flick titled Down to a Sunless Sea.

Based on the 1982 novel of the same name by David Graham, the film sounds like it’s reminiscent of the airport disaster films of the 70s, such as Airport 1975 (1974), Airport ’77 (1977) and The Concorde: Airport ’79 (1979).

In Down to a Sunless Sea, an Airbus A380 with 600 passengers on-board is trapped midway between Los Angeles and Tokyo when every airport in the world is wiped out in a global thermonuclear war.

We’ll keep you updated as we hear more!

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Shaw Brothers legend Kara Hui to shoot final action film!

"My Young Auntie" Chinese Theatrical Poster

"My Young Auntie" Chinese Theatrical Poster

Kara Hui (Wu Xia), the martial arts icon famous for appearing in Shaw Brothers films like My Young Auntie (1980) and Eight Diagram Pole Fighter (1983), recently revealed that she will begin filming a new, untitled action film for director Giddens Ko (You Are the Apple of My Eye) later this year.

Unfortunately, Hui announced that it would be her final action film before her retirement: “In fact, a few years ago, I have planned to retire in 2017 and learn ink wash painting. Hopefully I will be able to hold an exhibition of my art in the future,” said Kara.

Updates: According to HK Top 10, Hui plans to do all her own stunts. To avoid injury, she’s been working out diligently. Originally, she wanted to appear in a bra top but she did not want to be called a “beautiful demon woman.” The film starts shooting in October.

Posted in News | 3 Comments

Louis Koo leads Johnnie To’s crime thriller ‘Three’

"Three" Chinese Teaser Poster

"Three" Chinese Teaser Poster

Production for Johnnie To’s crime thriller Three aka (Three on the Road) has wrapped. The upcoming film stars Louis Koo (Accident), Wallace Chung (Drug War) and Gao Yuanyuan (Robin-B-Hood) and Vicky Zhao Wei (14 Blades).

Official plot, according to TFC: Realizing that he will be defeated in no time during a police showdown, a thug shoots himself to force the cops to cease fire and take him to the hospital. In the hospital, he claims human rights to refuse immediate treatment in order to bide time for his underlings to rescue him. The detective in charge sees through his scheme but decides to play along so as to capture his whole gang once and for all.

We expect a trailer to be hitting soon – stay tuned!

Posted in News | 4 Comments

Deal on Fire! Chuck Norris: Total Attack Pack | Blu-ray | Only $14.99 – Expires soon!

Chuck Norris Total Attack Pack | Blu-ray (MGM)

Chuck Norris Total Attack Pack | Blu-ray (MGM)

Today’s Deal on Fire is for the Chuck Norris: Total Attack Pack Blu-ray set. This 4-disc collection includes some of the best titles from Norris’ filmography:

Lone Wolf McQuade (1983), starring David Carradine and; Missing in Action (1984), starring James Hong; Code of Silence (1985), starring Henry Silva; and The Delta Force (1986), starring Lee Marvin and Robert Forster. All that’s missing is Slaughter in San Francsico (1974)!

Order the Chuck Norris: Total Attack Pack from Amazon.com today!

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Sifu vs. Vampire (2014) Review

"Sifu vs. Vampire" Chinese Theatrical Poster

"Sifu vs. Vampire" Chinese Theatrical Poster

Director: Daniel Chan Yee Hang
Writer: Wong Jing
Producer: Wong Jing
Cast: Yuen Biao, Ronald Cheng, Michelle Hu Ran, Philip Ng, Kelvin Kwan Cho Yiu, Jiang Lu Xia, Tony Ho Wah Chiu, Winnie Leung, Ricky Yi Faan Wai, Patrick Keung Hiu Man
Running Time: 95 min.

By Paul Bramhall

It’s a sad reflection of audiences expectations from Hong Kong cinema when news of a new hopping vampire (or geung si as they’re often referred) movie, starring kung fu legend Yuen Biao, was met with a mostly muted reaction. In the 80’s the hopping vampire movie was a hugely popular sub-genre of Hong Kong action cinema, kicked off by Sammo Hung’s Encounters of the Spooky Kind, the movie that really started the ball rolling was Mr. Vampire, which spawned a number of sequels and copy cats. One of the stars of Mr. Vampire, Chin Siu Ho, starred in a recent revival of the genre, Juno Mak’s Rigor Mortis, which decided to play things straight to chilling effect. Biao himself got in on the action for the first sequel to the Mr. Vampire series in 1985, so to see him also returning to the genre almost 30 years later, it should have been a cause of excitement.

It could well be argued that part of the blame for such a muted reaction was down to the news that Sifu vs. Vampire was going to be directed by Daniel Chan. Chan was once sited for big things, thanks to a screenplay he’d written called Cross. Not only was it selected as one of the top 50 screenplays of the 2008 American Screenwriting Competition, but it also won the NAFF Jury Award at the 14th Puchon International Fantastic Film Festival. Sadly though, the production became an epic mess. Chan ended up leaving, and finally the movie limped onto screens in 2012 with credits that included four different directors, and three different actors playing one role. The fact that Chan’s name was attached to it in any shape of form was bad news.

That being said, outside of the Cross fiasco Chan hasn’t fared much better. The two other movies he’s solely responsible for directing are the lackluster 2012 triad movie, imaginatively titled Triad, and the epic fail of 2013, the rebooted Young and Dangerous: Reloaded. All the signs seem to indicate that perhaps Chan would be best returning to his roots of writing screenplays, however with Sifu vs. Vampire, it looks like he’s yet to notice them. Instead, the master of lowest denominator filmmaking Wong Jing is onboard not only as writer, but producer as well. When Jing wants to entertain, he can, however the history of movies which feature him in some sort of capacity other than director isn’t a pretty one.

Like many of Wong Jing’s screenplays, the story is ridiculously convoluted. Ronald Cheng, known for his comedic roles, plays a low level gangster with a single follower, wannabe martial arts leading man Philip Ng, who bizarrely sports a huge black afro with yellow dots. Cheng is somehow connected to a more powerful gangster played by Kelvin Kwan, who has all the screen presence of a wet leaf. Kwan gets his power from his grandfather’s burial site, which has good Feng Shui, but the time has come when for him to maintain his power, he needs to re-locate the burial site. Enter Taoist master Yuen Biao and his protégé, wannabe martial arts leading lady Jiang Luxia. Biao of course refuses to help based on principle, but becomes connected to Cheng and Ng because Cheng is being stalked by the spirit of a beautiful woman, played by Michele Hu. Hu died at the hands of an evil Taoist master played by Ricky Yi, that Cheng witnessed, who is now keeping her ashes so she can’t cross over into the next world. As it happens, with Biao refusing, Kwan enlists the help of Yi to help him find a new burial site instead.

Got all that? Well, it hardly matters, it’s all inconsequential. The main thing to remember is that if Kwan’s grandfather isn’t moved to a new burial site in time, he’ll become a super powerful vampire that will put an end to the world. Or something like that. Like all things Wong Jing, even though it looks long winded on paper, onscreen it all just becomes an excuse for inane comedy hijinks. Sifu vs. Vampire actually starts off strong, although not necessarily in the way you’d expect it to. A scene involving an exorcism being performed on a sex obsessed demon, in the middle of providing lip service to a poor victims crown jewels, is so outrageous that it’s genuinely hilarious. In fact the initial 15 minutes are little more than an endless barrage of sex jokes, so for all intents and purposes it appears that we’re going to be getting a kind of geung si version of Vulgaria.

Yuen Biao also makes a worthwhile entrance, as possibly the coolest looking Taoist master to have graced the screen so far. Decked out in a sharp black suit and sporting a goatee beard, when this guys deals with demons, he looks good doing it. Jiang Luxia looks equally sharp, here finding herself in yet another geung si movie after 2010’s Vampire Warriors. However the wit and high energy of the first 15 minutes quickly dissipates, and what’s left feels like an endless procession of mind numbing extended ‘comedy’ sequences, none of which come close to generating a laugh. If an actress who begins to turn into a vampire attempting to file her nails to lose the claws she’s growing sounds like good comedy to you, then perhaps you’ll be of a different opinion, or how about a vampire detecting someone because they fart? What’s worse is that the movie even recycles its own jokes, with characters getting impaled in the ass with a sword on two separate occasions. The problem is it wasn’t that funny the first time.

The vampires themselves aren’t clearly defined either. For a start, none of them actually hop, which for fans of the genre is sacrilegious in itself. The all powerful grandfather vampire is dressed in traditional Chinese attire, however he’s mostly obscured by CGI black swirls which surround him, obviously stolen from the same technique that was used in Rigor Mortis. He also moves like a superhero, all ridiculously fast CGI flying from here to there, so much so that he barely registers as an actual character. Others who end up as vampires, such as Kwan and a bunch of extras, seem to turn into either a western style vampire, with a desire to bite attractive female necks, or just boring arm waving zombies.

Despite Ng pulling double duty as action director, assisted by Yuen Cheung Yan, what action is there is hardly worth writing about. Biao barely gets to do anything, instead left to play it straight faced and stoic throughout, with Luxia only given a few brief moments to shine. When things finally start to look up, and Biao summons the Rebel Prince and Monkey King to possess Luxia and Ng’s bodies respectively to take on a corridor full of zombies, it’s frustratingly filmed through a distorted fish eye filter, so it’s not even clear what’s going on.

Sifu vs. Vampire does have a couple of decent ideas, the concept of wearing a gas mask and oxygen tank so that the vampires can’t detect human presence is clever (in Chinese mythology vampires are blind and can only detect people via their breath), and not something I’ve seen before. Also, Biao’s decision to cast Taoist spells on the bullets being loaded into a shotgun leads to a cool scene that has him decked out in his suit, pumping rounds from a shotgun into the vampire. It kind of reminded me of the way Chow Yun Fat decides to deal with things in the finale of The Seventh Curse. But despite how good it sounds on paper, just like the comedy, the CGI, and everything else, onscreen it’s executed terribly. The title may be Sifu vs. Vampire, but in any case, the only loser in this battle is the audience.

Paul Bramhall’s Rating: 3/10

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Redeemer | Blu-ray & DVD (MPI Entertainment)

Redeemer | Blu-ray & DVD (MPI Entertainment)

Redeemer | Blu-ray & DVD (MPI Entertainment)

RELEASE DATE: September 1, 2015

MPI Entertainment presents the Blu-ray & DVD for Redeemer, starring Chilean martial arts star Marko Zaror (Machete Kills) and directed by Ernesto Díaz Espinoza (Kiltro).

Former hitman Nicky Pardo (Zaror) has made a deal with God. Pardo will begin every day by holding a gun to his own head and pulling the trigger. And every day he does not die he will take it as a sign that he is meant to continue hunting down the men he used to work for. Watch the trailer.

Pre-order Redeemer from Amazon.com today!

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

‘Raid’ star to join the fight in Justin Lin’s ‘Star Trek Beyond′

"Star Trek Into Darkness" Japanese Theatrical Poster

"Star Trek Into Darkness" Japanese Theatrical Poster

Since J.J. Abrams (Star Trek Into Darkness) is putting all his time and effort towards Star Wars: Episode VII, it should come to no surprise that a new director is taking over the reins for the third chapter of Star Trek reboot franchise, titled Star Trek Beyond.

Justin Lin (Fast & Furious 6) is helming the next entry of the series, which has a release date set for July 8, 2016. The film stars Chris Pine, Zoe Saldana, Sofia Boutella, Simon Pegg, Idris Elba, Zachary Quinto, Anton Yelchin, Karl Urban, Joseph Gatt, John Cho and Deep Roy.

Updates: According to THR (via FCS), Indonesian martial arts actor Joe Taslim (The Raid) has joined the cast. According to the report, Taslim’s part will be key role opposite Idris Elba, who plays the film’s villain.

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Yonggary | Blu-ray (Kino Lorber)

"Yonggary" Korean Theatrical Poster

"Yonggary" Korean Theatrical Poster

RELEASE DATE: 2015

Kino Lorber presents the Blu-ray for 1967′s Yonggary (aka Great Monster Yongary or Yongary, Monster From the Deep), directed by Kim Ki-duk (no relation to the Moebius filmmaker of the same name) and starring Oh Yeong-il and Nam Jeong-im.

Yongary, Korea’s first entry into the kaiju movie genre, revolves around a prehistoric, gasoline-eating reptile that soon goes on a rampage through Seoul. Essentially, this is Korea’s answer to Godzilla. | Watch the trailer.

Stay tuned for pre-order information.

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

Stray Cat Rock: Sex Hunter (1970) Review

"Stray Cat Rock: Sex Hunter" Japanese Theatrical Poster

"Stray Cat Rock: Sex Hunter" Japanese Theatrical Poster

AKA: Alleycat Rock: Sex Hunter
Director: Yasuharu Hasebe
Producer: Masayuki Takagi
Cast: Meiko Kaji, Rikiya Yasuoka, Tatsuya Fuji, Jiro Okazaki, Yuki Arikawa, Tomoko Aki, Yoko Takagi, Akemi Nara
Running Time: 93 min.

By Kyle Warner

I first saw Stray Cat Rock: Sex Hunter almost a decade ago. At the time, I was totally unaware that it belonged to a series of films (Part 3 of 5, in fact). When I later learned about the series, I was anxious to see the other films… but Sex Hunter was the only Stray Cat Rock film released on DVD in the US at that time. And that’s the way it was for a lot of us in the West – we had one film to represent a series. Now with the new Arrow Video Blu-ray box set released in the US, it’s been nice to get a look at the other films at long last. Just the same, I was eager to revisit the most well-known entry, Sex Hunter.

Yasuharu Hasebe returns to the series he helped create after Toshiya Fujita stepped in for him on film 2. Under Hasebe’s direction, Sex Hunter leaves Wild Jumbo’s beaches behind and returns to the bloody city streets. Sex Hunter is the darkest and most thought-provoking of the first three films (possibly the entire series. I still need to watch films 4 and 5). What’s interesting is that Hasebe mostly avoids providing the audience with answers to the film’s questions, instead letting the film linger on in the subconscious.

In 2015 I’ve been exposed to a small helping of Hasebe’s filmography. One thing I’ve picked up on is that he doesn’t make any attempt to hide influences of American films and pop culture on his work. Similarly, Hasebe often showcases American influences on Japanese cities, such as clubs that cater to Westerners (this film has a club with a sign that reads, ‘Welcome Americans!’ then in smaller print, ‘Japanese welcome, too!’), American brand names (glass Coca-Cola bottles being used as Molotov cocktails are hard to miss), and frequently sets his films near American military bases (in this case Yokosuka). In Stray Cat Rock: Sex Hunter, these influences on Japanese society in the 70s have a big part to play. There were many political protests at the time seeking US military withdrawal from Japan. And while none of the protests are featured or expressly mentioned in Sex Hunter, the film manages to capture the spirit of the times just the same. Instead of simply going with the flow and showing young Japanese as heroes, Hasebe makes things interesting by depicting both Japanese youth and Americans as menacing and violent at varying times throughout the film. No race is depicted as superior and one’s nationality does not preclude them from being an asshole. It’s not always obvious what Hasebe’s trying to say in certain scenes, but it’s clear that the situation is a complicated one.

The film follows two gangs of delinquent youth. The female gang, the Alleycats, is led by Mako (Meiko Kaji, Lady Snowblood) and the guy’s gang, the Eagles, is led by Baron (Tatsuya Fuji, In the Realm of the Senses). The two gangs are friendly and Mako and Baron even share the same bed, but the relationship becomes strained when the Eagles’ Susumu (Jiro Okazaki, Massacre Gun) is dumped by an Alleycat girl. The girl has chosen a half-Japanese, half-African American young man named Ichiro over Susumu, which enrages all of the Eagles. Baron remembers how his sister was raped by ‘half-breeds’ many years ago and goes off on a tirade about how they’ll steal all the Japanese women. Under Baron and Susumu, the Eagles make it their mission to scare off all the mixed-race young men in town, resorting to violence when scare tactics are not enough. Mako and the Alleycats don’t agree with this and try to reason with Baron while simultaneously helping some of their mixed-race friends escape the violence.

What’s initially alarming is that it’s not immediately clear how writer/director Hasebe and co-writer Atsushi Yamatoya (Branded to Kill) feel about all this. When the Eagles go on their racist crime spree, the men are having a grand time while Tatsuya Fuji comes across as a cool and charismatic leader. This is compounded by the fact that Mako, while possessing Meiko Kaji’s natural cool (and an iconic costume she would return to in the Scorpion series), is a much less interesting character. However, eventually it becomes abundantly clear that, despite being a charismatic character, Fuji’s Baron is very much meant to be the villain, which made me feel a little better about where the film was going. Baron and the Eagles are scary sorts of villains because, not only do versions of them exist in the real world, but they do not require any intelligence to unleash their violence upon the world. While villainous masterminds in movies can be cool, they’re often beyond belief thanks to their overabundance and some occasionally lackluster writing and acting. Stupid villains can be even scarier than their brilliant counterparts. All the wicked morons need is a bad idea to get into their heads and then they’re on the streets raising hell and ruining people’s lives. Additionally, while Baron is clearly the smartest guy in the Eagles (he often has his nose in a non-fiction book), his motivations are still driven by cruelty and stupidity. He hates all ‘half-breeds’ because of an incident that took place 20 years ago. He also thinks little of women and puts them through hell mostly because of his embarrassment over his impotency. There’s no forgiving Baron, but I did appreciate the attempt to make him a complicated character instead of just a man who does wrong for no reason.

While Mako and the Alleycats are mostly ineffective when opposing the Eagles (with the exception of those Coca-Cola Molotov cocktails I mentioned earlier), one mixed-race young man stands up to the bad guys, becoming the closest approximation to Stray Cat Rock: Sex Hunter’s idea of a hero. Played by half-Italian Rikiya Yasuoka, Kazuma Okamoto was my favorite character from the film. Kazuma travels into town and immediately goes to a bar which caters almost exclusively to mixed-race people and their friends. He’s looking for his long-lost sister, but his sister doesn’t have his looks and can easily blend in among the Japanese. Even if he finds her, she may not want to reveal who she really is. Along the way Kazuma runs into the Eagles, leading to a natural combative relationship between him and Baron. It’s an interesting role and Rikiya Yasuoka plays the part well. With imposing size and gruff looks, Yasuoka developed into being one of Japan’s most recognizable character actors, often playing tough guys and gangsters. He sadly passed away in 2012, but in his career he appeared in many popular films, including Juzo Itami’s Tampopo, Ridley Scott’s Black Rain, and in his later years he became a favorite of Takashi Miike, with roles in such films as Graveyard of Honor, Osaka Tough Guys, and Yasuoka’s final feature, Izo.

The theme of mixed-race Japanese was touched upon in Stray Cat Rock: Delinquent Girl Boss, the first of the series, with the boxer character played by Ken Sanders (Sanders also had a somewhat memorable role in Hasebe’s sophomore effort Massacre Gun). One can assume that the subject — and the people — apparently meant something to Hasebe. I personally liked Hasebe’s attempt to depict the mixed-race characters as more than just victims of prejudice, showing them in their jobs as useful members of society before the Eagles torpedo their lives. On the opposite side of the spectrum, in their quest of misguided nationalism the Eagles end up looking like truly worthless members of society. Some of the film is sensationalist and exploitative, but I think Hasebe and Atsushi Yamatoya had their hearts in the right place.

For those wondering where the title Sex Hunter comes in; it doesn’t seem to mean a thing. Sex plays a part in the film, and it’s often depicted in ugly circumstances, but it’s definitely not the driving force behind the narrative. While the first film Delinquent Girl Boss featured a subtitle that correctly suggested what to expect, later films like Wild Jumbo, Sex Hunter, Machine Animal, and Beat ’71 seem to have just gone for cool sounding titles.

Not only is Sex Hunter the most well-known entry of the series, but it’s probably the best. It deals with deeper, darker themes than the films that came before it and as such it may not be the most ‘enjoyable’ but I would say that it’s definitely the most memorable of the films. And if you’re into dissecting and analyzing films you’ll find that Stray Cat Rock: Sex Hunter has more to offer than most violent youth pics. It’s hard not to notice that the racist Eagles, who have strong anti-American views, have named themselves after the symbol of America, drive around in US Army Jeeps, and have no issue earning money by doing jobs for Americans looking for a good time. How much of the film is meant to be analyzed? How much is just there to enhance the director’s vision and the story’s themes? It’s difficult for me to say. But it’s clear that Hasebe and co. put a good deal of thought into Sex Hunter and filled their film with as many interesting sights, characters, and social questions that 90 minutes could hold.

Kyle Warner’s Rating: 7.5

Posted in All, Japanese, News, Reviews | Tagged , , | 4 Comments

Northern Limit Line | Blu-ray & DVD (Well Go USA)

"Northern Limit Line" Theatrical Poster

"Northern Limit Line" Theatrical Poster

RELEASE DATE: October 20, 2015

Well Go USA presents the Blu-ray & DVD for Kim Hak-Soon’s Northern Limit Line (aka Battle of Yeonpyeong). This box office hit stars Kim Moo-Yul, Jin Goo, Lee Hyun-Woo, Lee Wan and Lee Chung-Ah.

June 29th, 2002. As the citizens of South Korea celebrate the FIFA World Cup, the North Korean navy sends two patrol boats to a disputed border in the Yellow Sea. The surprise attack on Battleship 357, now remembered as the Battle of Yeonpyeong, honors the men who bravely fought for freedom – on the Northern Limit Line. | Watch the trailer.

Pre-order Northern Limit Line from Amazon.com today!

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

Michael Jai White joins Steven Seagal’s ‘Asian Connection’

"The Asian Connection" Teaser Poster

"The Asian Connection" Teaser Poster

We love Steven Seagal, but damn, we sure find it hard as hell to keep up with the films on his to-do list. So far, we have Code of Honor, Under Siege 3, Cypher, Perfect Weapon, End of a Gun, Killing Salazar and Four Towers.

Another one you can add to the pile is The Asian Connection, a project that’s being helmed by Daniel Zirilli, a director mostly known for 2010′s Locked Down and Circle of Pain, both of which are MMA-style TapouT Film productions. Danny Roth (Shark Lake) is producing.

The Asian Connection also stars Michael Jai White (Skin Trade), Tom Sizemore (Natural Born Killers), Damon Whitaker (Ghost Dog), Ron Smoorenburg (Who Am I?) and Sahajak Boonthanakit (Tekken 2: Kazuya’s Revenge).

Here’s what you can expect from the film’s plot: Two American expatriates, Jack and Sam, unwittingly steal a drug lord’s money when they rob a series of banks in Southeast Asia and become the target of the gang’s vengeance. When Sam is killed, Jack turns to the love of his life, Pom, and the couple becomes a modern-day Bonnie and Clyde that takes the fight to the gang.

We’ll keep up updated as we hear more – stay tuned!

Posted in News | 2 Comments

The pressure is on for Robert Yahnke’s action flick ‘Blowback’

"Blowback" Teaser Poster

"Blowback" Teaser Poster

A spy breaks up with his girlfriend after another false accusation of infidelity, and in her rage, she discovers his true occupation as a spy and blows his cover to the arms dealer who is looking for him. Espionage is a bitch…

You’ve just read the plot synopsis for Blowback, an Asian-influenced action flick by Robert Yahnke. The film stars Sport Karate Hall of Famer, Jessen Noviello (known for this stuntwork in films such as Universal Soldier: Day of Reckoning and 300: Rise of an Empire), and features action choreography by veteran stuntman Steven Lambert (Ninja III: The Domination).

There is currently no release date for Blowback, but we’ll keep you in the loop as we hear more. For now, don’t miss the film’s trailer!

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Exclusive: Interview with Sakura Ando

Exclusive: Interview with Sakura AndoBeginning with 2008’s Love Exposure, actress Sakura Ando’s career trajectory has been mightily impressive. She has worked with two of the biggest contemporary Japanese directors, Sion Sono (Why Don’t You Play in Hell?) and Takashi Miike (13 Assassins), and continues to develop as a great leading lady in Japanese cinema.

I knew that Miss Ando was going to attend the Edinburgh Film Festival, and was in the process of attempting to get an interview with her when I bumped into her at a Film Festival party. I managed to charm her enough to get an interview the next day before she left the city. Looking very different in appearance from her role in 100 Yen Love (see my review), she had slimmed down, and looked all the better for it. The interview was enlightening and enjoyable, as she considered each question with an air of coolness and relaxed wit.


Note: The interview was entirely conducted with myself speaking English and Miss Ando speaking Japanese.

"100 Yen Love" Japanese Theatrical Poster

"100 Yen Love" Japanese Theatrical Poster

MARTIN SANDISON: Have you had a chance to walk around Edinburgh? What do you think of the city?

SAKURA ANDO: I really enjoyed the city, I really like Edinburgh. I went to the Botanical Garden, it was the best timing to go. All the nature, the history, it feels like everything is fused in together and it is really comfortable. Not just comfortable really enjoyable and entertaining aswell.

MS: So what do you think of the Edinburgh Film Festival?

SA: I’ve only had a limited time before the screenings, I have only had two days. It’s a shame I haven’t had a chance to look around much. I had heard about Edinburgh Film Festival and its reputation so I was looking forward to it. The point is that the film festival is based in Edinburgh with this background, which makes it a unique Festival. It’s an international film festival but it feels very friendly and homely aswell.

MS: That’s Edinburgh. So to talk about 100 Yen Love, what do you think of your character and her development throughout the film?

SA: The transformation physically, the appearance, that had a lot of affect on the actual character. So that played a large part in creating the character. Because the training was done in a very limited, short time to actually to be able to reflect on yourself and your body it was a very precious experience to have. About my character Ichiko I was drawn to it when I was reading the script particularly how she was fighting, how she was battling. It’s not necessarily the most beautiful thing she gets really gruesome she gets hit a lot she gets knocked down. It doesn’t look attractive. Even when she knows she’s losing she still gets up and keeps fighting, and thats the factor that I was drawn to in the character.

Sakura Ando getting strong now in "100 Yen Love"

Sakura Ando getting strong now in "100 Yen Love"

MS: Had you studied boxing before the role?

SA: I actually did about a year of boxing when I was 14. The reason why I did it was because there was a boxing gym in my neighbourhood that was filled with Yakuza-type people (laughs) so I was curious to see what it was like to do it. That was when I enjoyed doing boxing and really liked the sport.

MS: Have you done any Martial Arts training?

SA: I’ve never done sports training besides the boxing when I was 14. No Martial arts, no sports. Before training for the film I started off without having much muscle on me but I think I’m quite agile and have the flexibility to move.

MS: Well you look like a professional!

SA: I was training as if I was actually going to become a professional. I didn’t want the professional trainers to think that I was training just because I was an actress. Just for the act. Then the boxing associates suggested that I take the professional route!

MS: It’s like Robert De Niro in Raging Bull!

(SA Laughs)

SA: At the beginning I felt a strong feeling towards Ichiko before she starts doing boxing that she is unkempt, she’s slacking and she has a very sewage like scent going off her. But I didn’t want people to think Oh! an actress is doing that for the part. I really wanted to get in to the part and not just the surface. I tried really hard to visually and mentally become Ichiko in that unkempt situation where she is dirty.

Sakura Ando with her crew in "Love Exposure"

Sakura Ando with her crew in "Love Exposure"

MS: Possibly your most famous role is in Sion Sono’s Love Exposure. You perform a lot of fight scenes in that film. How would you compare working on those to the boxing scenes in 100 Yen Love?

SA: Comparing the two films, Love Exposure does have a lot of physical fighting but I think it’s more about the mentality. The character herself is a bit mental at the beginning (Laughs). So the body is moving but it’s more on the basis of what the character can do to the other people. How she can manipulate them physchologically. And so it’s more about the character enjoying that mentality. Whereas with 100 Yen Love it’s purely more physical battling. It’s a battle she has with herself both physically and psychologically. It’s a comparison with whom she is fighting.

MS: How would you describe working with Sion Sono? What’s he like as a director?

SA: The film and the director himself, I made this film 8 or 9 years ago so it’s quite a while. It was when I was getting more involved with feature films and I learned a lot about the involvement the energy that goes in to film making. And I learned a lot from doing that. That was because the director was so energetic, charismatic person and trying to keep up with him, the toughness you need to do that, that’s really helped me throughout the career I’ve had after that film. He requires almost the impossible from you and it’s a very hustle bustle environment to work in but everyone’s enjoying it at the same time. The director himself is really enjoying it. It’s a very special experience.

"0.5mm" Japanese Theatrical Poster

"0.5mm" Japanese Theatrical Poster

MS: Will you work with Sion Sono again?

SA: Love Exposure was a very condensed, really intense shoot, so me and the other leading actress Shikari Mitsushima haven’t had much chance to work with him after that, but if there is a chance that shows up after this it will be a good opportunity to work with him. But right now he is a very popular director he’s making films constantly throughout the year.

MS: You have worked on both Japanese film and Television, how would you compare working on them?

SA: Yes I’ve tried once starring in a major television series in Japan. The process of creating a television series and a film is completely different, particularly in shooting physically you’re restricted in time, you’ve got regulations of what and cannot do in television, so that’s really different than film. There’s a lot of things I could say if I was being truthful and honest, but now I’m thinking things through! After concentrating completely on the television series I had a time when I got really confused with how I act because it’s so different doing TV and films. Particularly the TV series I was in it wasn’t a typical Japanese drama it was more like I would always have my face or eye looking at the camera at all times so it was very different. It was through experiencing something that I was not used to doing, so all that frustration was reflected in to 100 Yen Love. I’m not really saying that either one is good or bad, they both have their benefits and their good sides. I think it’s because my father is a director and my sister is a director too. I’ve grown up in an environment where film was very close to me so I’m more familiar and closer to the making of feature films compared to how television series are made.

"Oh, My Bomb" Japanese Theatrical Poster

"Oh, My Bomb" Japanese Theatrical Poster

MS: So do you have a favourite Japanese director?

SA: Very difficult question! (Laughs) I do like Kihachi Okamoto.

MS: He is one of my favourites too! I love his films. Do you have a favourite film of his?

(Sakura asks her agent and the translator to find the English title of one of Okamoto’s films)

SA: Both questions what is your favourite film, what’s your favourite director are both very difficult questions to answer. It depends on the day! (Laughs) To be honest even if I have a favourite director I think, Oh I like this director! There are films that I’m not keen on.

MS: Me too. My favourite director is John Woo and I love his earlier films like his Martial art films then his gangster films, but now his films are not so good.

SA: Directors do change over time! (Laughs) I’m not saying which is better or not but it’s kind of nostalgic and nice when you recognise a film and go Oh! This is one of the earlier films that the director made and I really enjoyed it. It’s very interesting.

(Sakura finds out the name of the Okamoto film)

Photo courtesy of ishikawatakuya.com.

Photo courtesy of ishikawatakuya.com.

SA: It’s called Oh, My Bomb! There is another one too. I like the other one. It depicts the life of a normal Japanese bussinessman.

MS: I don’t know that one. I’ll have to watch it! What’s your next project?

SA: I’ve had three consecutive films made with me as the protagonist and I’ve put all my heart, spirit and soul into all three, so I’ve been taking a break as an actress this past year. But I’ve been doing a lot of the promotion of the three films going abroad and promoting and trying to send that film so people want to see it. It’s been a very fulfilling, satisfying and good experience being able to be in the same place, where I can send off the things I’ve been creating and experience people seeing it at the same time. So that’s been a very good experience. Come September/October I’ll be starting another shoot, a film based on music, related to music.

MS: That’s great, thanks very much!

SA: Thank you!

To read more of our interviews, please click here.

Posted in Features, Interviews, News | 3 Comments

COF’s ‘Police Story: Lockdown’ Blu-ray Giveaway! – WINNERS ANNOUNCED!

Police Story: Lockdown | Blu-ray & DVD (Well Go USA)

Police Story: Lockdown | Blu-ray & DVD (Well Go USA)

Cityonfire.com and Well Go USA are giving away 3 Blu-ray copies of Police Story: Lockdown to three lucky Cityonfire visitors. To enter, simply add a comment to this post and describe, in your own words, this clip.

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 Police Story: Lockdown will be officially released on August 11, 2015. We will announce the 3 winners on August 17, 2015 and ship out the prizes immediately.

CONTEST DISCLAIMER: You must enter by August 16, 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.

WINNERS: Gary W., Andrew and Pai Mei.

Posted in News | Tagged | 31 Comments

Delta Force 2 | Blu-ray (Kino Lorber)

"Delta Force 2: The Colombian Connection" Theatrical Poster

"Delta Force 2: The Colombian Connection" Theatrical Poster

RELEASE DATE: 2015

Kino Lorber presents the Blu-ray for Aaron Norris’ 1990 action flick, Delta Force 2: The Colombian Connection (aka Delta Force 2 Operation Stranglehold), starring Chuck Norris (Yellow Faced Tiger).

When DEA agents are taken captive by a ruthless South American kingpin, the Delta Force (headed by Norris), is reunited to rescue them in this sequel to the 1986 film. Delta Force 2: The Colombian Connection also stars Billy Drago (The Untouchables, China White) and John P. Ryan (Runaway Train). | Watch the trailer.

Stay tuned for pre-order information.

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

Eternal Fist | aka Fist of Steel (1992) Review

"Eternal Fist" Theatrical Poster

"Eternal Fist" Theatrical Poster

AKA: Death Zone
Director: Teddy Chiu (aka Irvin Johnson)
Producer: Andy Andico, Vivian Andico
Cast: Dale ‘Apollo’ Cook, Don Nakaya Neilsen, Cynthia Khan, Alina Borkowski, Greg Douglas, Greg Douglass, Jim Gaines
Running Time: 97 min

By Paul Bramhall

In 1989 a movie by the name of Cyborg unleashed a certain Belgian thespian upon the world in the form of Jean Claude Van Damme. The story, which took place in a dark post apocalyptic world ruled by chaos and violence, saw Van Damme rising up to be a hero for the people through slow motion spinning jump kicks and questionable acting. Be that as it may, Cyborg is solid B-movie material, and helped put Van Damme firmly on the map as an action star. 3 years later, in 1992, director Irvin Johnson decided to try the same tactic to launch Dale ‘Apollo’ Cook as the next big action hero.

It’s worth pointing out that Irvin Johnson is in fact a pseudonym for director Teddy Chiu, a member of that revered group of Filipino directors that churned out countless action B-movies in the 80’s and early 90’s (see also the likes of Mission Terminate and Future Hunters). Teddy liked his aliases, as he also sometimes went by the pseudonym of Ted Johnson (Blood Chase), other times he called himself Ted Hemingway (Final Appraisal), and on occasion he even went by the name of Teddy Page (Ninja’s Force). Quite where Irvin came from is anyone’s guess.

Eternal Fist kicks off with stock footage of an atomic bomb going off. By 1992 Johnson must have presumed the world had been subjected to that many post apocalyptic movies, we should all know the deal. So we never find out what the cause of the bomb was, and we don’t even get a voiceover telling us how half of humanity have been wiped off the planet, and the rest left to fend for themselves. Isn’t that how all these movies are supposed to start off? Instead we get a title sequence which let’s us know that we’re going to be watching WORLD KICKBOXING MIDDLEWEIGHT CHAMPION DALE ‘APPOLO’ CREED, and US KICKBOXING HEAVYWEIGHT CHAMPION DON NAYAKA NIELSEN.

Apart from the permanence of such introductions (I’m sure neither of them are the current champions), there is something distinctly ominous about such overstated billing. It’s almost like the producers are pre-empting the fact that these guys performances are going to be really poor, but when it comes to fighting they’re the real deal! Unfortunately it’s become a well known fact by now that just because you have the credentials in the ring, doesn’t mean you’re going to look great on the screen – just ask Don ‘The Dragon’ Wilson.

Cook continued to be pushed as the new Van Damme for the duration of his career in the film industry, which totaled 9 movies between 1991 – 1995, but audiences just didn’t buy it. In part it was due to lack of exposure, when one of your biggest roles is being the star of American Kickboxer 2, you know you’re in trouble when the first question most people ask is, “Was there an American Kickboxer 1!?”. By the time he starred in one of his last efforts, Raw Target, it was almost as if the distributors simply decided the best way to move forward was to force the point, plastering across the poster – “Dale Apollo Cook is the New Van Damme…” It wasn’t just speculation anymore, it was fact!

What’s most interesting about Eternal Fist though is that neither Cook nor Nielsen receive top billing. That privilege goes to Cynthia Khan. What is Cynthia Khan, a name synonymous with the Girls with Guns genre, doing in a B-grade English language post-apocalyptic flick!? It’s a good question. Khan is one of the most recognizable faces from the late 80’s – early 90’s Hong Kong action movie scene, having starred in every official entry of the highly regarded In the Line of Duty series. By the early 90’s though the Girls with Guns genre was on its way out, so it could well be that Khan was attempting to diversify into other types of genre. Sadly though it wasn’t a successful transition, and even though she still had some high points, notably the Sammo Hung directed 1993 period piece Blade of Fury, by 1995 she was relegated to starring in Philip Ko Fei directed Filipino cheapies like Angel on Fire.

In Eternal Fist Khan bizarrely gets two roles. When the movie opens she and Cook are running through the desert (because naturally the atomic bomb turned the world into one big desert) while being pursued by an evil gang of post apocalyptic bad guys. You know they’re evil, because one of them wears a wheel trim on his chest as a fashion statement. They fight, but Khan doesn’t survive, with Cook barely escaping. He eventually stumbles across a settlement of Christian’s (the director is Filipino after all), and there he’s nursed back to health by, wait for it, Cynthia Khan. It turns out that the woman nursing him back to health is the spitting image of his murdered girlfriend, Lyssa, but it’s confirmed several times (probably as much for the audiences benefit as Cook’s) that this character isn’t Lyssa, this character’s name is Wild. You may think Cook would be suspicious of someone with such a name, but his character is called Amp, so I guess not.

Cook actually had a small role in the Cynthia Khan starring Hong Kong movie Deadend of Besiegers, made a year earlier, which is perhaps how she ended up appearing in this. Much like Cook was dubbed for his role in Deadend of Besiegers, here Khan, although evidently speaking English by reading her lips, is over dubbed by what sounds like a softly spoken middle class British woman. Personally, I would have preferred to hear her actual voice. That said, even dubbed, she out acts and out performs everyone else in the movie, including Cook.

Eventually a plot forms which revolves around fighting tournaments that are held between each ‘settlement’, with winnings like clean water and dope (even though an atomic bomb has gone off, apparently people still like to get high). One of the fighters is a power mad lunatic called Mainframe, who along with his henchman, Wires, want all the girls for themselves. Mainframe even considered Lyssa to be one of his girls, and the fact that she ran off with Amp makes him think that maybe others will try to steal his girls as well, so he decides to beat everyone up. Did I call this a plot? I guess I should apologize, as the description I just gave is as good as it gets. Mainframe and Wires are played by Gregg Douglass and Don Nayaka Nielsen respectively, who barely scrape a handful of movie appearances between them, however their performances are entertaining. This applies to Douglass in particular, who insists on putting a mouthguard in every time he fights, which is attempted to be passed off as some kind of edgy character trait.

All of this of course leads to a lot of sloppy fight scenes. What Cook lacks in screen presence also carries over to his screen fighting, with the choreography being of the ‘I’m going to stand here and wait for you to kick me’ variety in most of the matches. The real highpoint comes when Cook decides to train the mild mannered Wild (yes the name is ironic) in how to fight. Up until that point she’s been wearing an earthy loose fitting outfit, however mid-training sequence, she miraculously changes into a mix of black spandex and leather, even indulging in some dual nunchucks action with Cook (no metaphor here, they really do).

Proceedings pick up a little towards the end. Cook arms himself with the aforementioned nunchucks, and Khan does her thing with a mini-crossbow, visibly performing her choreography too fast that the other no-name cast members struggle to keep up. Everything eventually culminates in a two-on-two battle, as Amp and Wild face off against Mainframe and Wires, in a confrontation which does actually succeed in generating a modicum of excitement, but it’s arguably too little too late.

I’m really unsure of what message Eternal Fist is trying to bestow upon us. If anything, it seems to be that if your girlfriend is savagely killed, if you’re then lucky enough to find someone who looks just like her that falls in love with you, well, you don’t really have a lot to complain about. Or perhaps it conveys everything it wants to say with Khan’s closing line of the movie – “You’re right about one thing, this world is too full of sh*t to be weak.” The world is full of sh*t movies as well, but sometime black spandex and leather can make them just that little bit better.

Paul Bramhall’s Rating: 4/10

Posted in All, Asian Related, Chinese, News, Reviews | Tagged | 6 Comments

Jun Ji-Hyun has a Japanese ‘Assassination’ on August 7th!

"Assassination" Theatrical Poster

"Assassination" Theatrical Poster

Snipers. Marksmen. Hired Guns. Double Agents. A group of exiled rebels are planning a hit on an Army Commander in Japanese-occupied Korea, but the only killer for the job is in prison. Now, the Resistance must devise a jailbreak, escape a hitman… and discover which of them is a traitor.

South Korean megastar Jun Ji-Hyun (My Sassy Girl, Blood: The Last Vampire) reunites with writer/director Choi Dong-hun (The Thieves) for Assassination.

Assassination will have the actress leading a group of assassins charged by the Korean resistance to target key supporters of the Japanaese occupation. Co-starring are Lee Jung-Jae (Il Mare), Oh Dal-su (Old Boy), Ha Jung-Woo (The Yellow Sea), Cho Jin-woong (Once Upon a Time in High School) and Lee Kyoung-young (A Better Tomorrow). | Teaser trailer.

Updates: The film will get a limited theatrical run on August 7th, 2015. Is it playing near you? Find out by clicking here. Until then, watch Well Go USA’s new trailer.

Posted in News | 1 Comment

Adkins, Nguyen, Daniels and Kosugi have ‘Zero Tolerance’!

"Zero Tolerance" Theatrical Poster

"Zero Tolerance" Theatrical Poster

Over a year ago, we filled you in on a Thai action movie called Angels, which starred Sahajak Boonthanakit (Streetfighter: Legend of Chun Li), Dustin Nguyen (The Rebel), Gary Daniels (City Hunter) and Ammy Chanicha (The Hangover 2).

Sadly, Angels was never released anywhere, except Vietnam. But now, after a series of re-shoots, re-edits, newly added star power – and even a fresh movie title – Angels will be seen by the rest of world in the form of Zero Tolerance.

In Zero Tolerance, two former para-military operatives, Johnny and his police detective friend Peter, search Bangkok to find the killers of Johnny’s beautiful daughter Angel – Leaving carnage and retribution throughout city.

Angels filmmaker Wych Kaosayananda (Ballistic: Ecks vs. Sever) had this to say about the Angels/Zero Tolerance makeover: “Angels has undergone some pretty radical changes since the start of 2014, we’ve done some additional shooting and added Scott Adkins to the cast and it should be released sometime this year under the new name, Zero Tolerance.”

In addition to Adkins being added to the cast, Kane Kosugi (Choy Lee Fut, Ninja 2: Shadow of a Tear) will also be appearing in Zero Tolerance. We haven’t seen a splice job like this since Jackie Chan’s The Protector. Regardless, having Nguyen, Adkins, Daniels and Kosugi in one movie makes up for any questionable production tactics. | Watch the trailer.

Updates: The UK is getting a September 1, 2015 theatrical release. We’re positive a U.S. release is on its way. Stay tuned!

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Furious (1984) Review

"Furious" Theatrical Poster

"Furious" Theatrical Poster

Director: Tim Everitt, Tom Sartori
Writer: Tim Everitt, Tom Sartori
Cast: Simon Rhee, Phillip Rhee, Arlene Montano, Howard Jackson, Loren Avedon, Mika Elkan, Bob Folkard
Running Time: 73 min.

By Jeff Bona

In the 80s, walking into a video rental store’s martial arts section was like waiting in line for a rollercoaster: The anticipation was just as exciting as the ride itself. The movie that was finally decided on was always hit or miss, but it was the “browsing” experience that mattered most. In between all the usual Shaolin, Bruceploitation and Ninja flicks, there was that one VHS box you kept stumbling upon, but never rented. Everyone had one. Mine was 1984′s Furious.

At first glance, the original VHS box for Furious resembled a typical, dubbed Hong Kong kung fu flick from the 70s: a shirtless Bruce Lee wannabe in a martial arts stance; a grim-looking, grey-haired “grandmaster”; a black dude with a half-afro sporting traditional Chinese garb; and of course, an attractive warrioress in a “don’t f*ck with me” formation. But if you take the time to read its marketing hook – “Filmed Entirely on Location in Southern California” and “Red Hot Karate Action! All New! Never Before Show in Theaters or on TV!” – the hint is there: This isn’t your typical martial arts film. In fact, it isn’t even your typical film.

Furious is an American-made feature written and directed by Tim Everitt (Too Fast Too Young) and Tom Sartori. Filmed in one week – without a script – with a budget of $30,000, the movie is one heck of an oddity. It’s the type of flick that only one’s own eyes can describe as they’re watching it. For the sake of this review, I’ll do my best…

The film opens with a female (Arlene Montano) getting chased and murdered by white guys dressed in Mongol-like attire. The female’s brother, Simon (Simon Rhee), a martial arts teacher who lives in a treehouse with a bunch of his young students, sets out to avenge her death. Under the guidance of his master (Phillip Rhee), Simon’s search for revenge turns into a spiritual quest filled with mystery, deception and above all, action!

To give you an idea of just how bizarre this movie is, here’s a rundown of what to expect: Evil magicians who shoot chickens out of their hands; people transforming into talking pigs; martial arts masters flying around like Superman; a replicant army dressed up like members of the band Devo (speaking of rock bands, Furious has that too!); opponents turning into giant, fire-breathing dragons; and a subplot of how an alien race turns humans into chickens to lower food costs for their chain of restaurants. Oh yeah, let’s not forget about the film’s soundtrack, which sounds like something you’d hear in a movie from the 1930s.

Above all the weirdness, what really stands out is how Furious has almost no dialogue at all. According to director Tim Everitt’s audio commentary, he wanted to tell the story visually. However, Everitt contradicts himself: he later mentions it was decided to keep the dialogue to a minimum so it can be sold to a global market and dubbed with any language, with very little work. Whatever the case, the film’s limited dialogue only adds to the film’s peculiar charm.

For those watching it for the martial arts sequences alone are in for a real treat. Everitt and Sartori obviously gave the Rhee brothers total creative freedom when it came to the action choreography. The hand-to-hand combat is authentic, fluid and captured mostly in long takes. There are a few sloppy set ups, continuity issues and other amateuristic moments, but for the most part, saying the fight scenes are years ahead of they’re time isn’t an exaggeration. Considering what the Rhee brothers would accomplish a few years later, none of this should come as a surprise. Look out for a fight sequence in a restaurant where Simon takes out several bad guys who rush him at the same time. It’s impressive as all hell.

The film’s overall cinematography ranges from spotty to superb. One minute, we’re getting camera work from someone who might be on acid; the next minute, we see an impressive aerial shot. According to Everitt, a shell-shocked helicopter pilot, who fought in Vietnam, was paid $300 a day to capture these shots. Talk about being resourceful.

Furious is the first film to star brothers Simon and Phillip Rhee (4 years before the pair found the greener pastures of Hollywood in the Best of the Best franchise), both of whom hold Black Belts in Taekwondo and Hapkido. The rest of the film’s cast consists mostly of the Rhees’ own students and friends, including an early appearance by Loren Avedon (No Retreat, No Surrender II). Also appearing is former World Kickboxing Champion, Howard Jackson (Code of Silence), former Miss Philippines, Arlene Montano (L.A. Streetfighters) as well as a quick cameo by Susanna Hoffs (of the popular 80s band, The Bangles).

In recent years, Furious reached a cult status and started to get theatrical screenings in festival circuits around the country. Pre-owned VHS copies of the film would sell on eBay for $50-$100. It was around this time that Everitt approached Leomark Studios for a proper release, which is exactly what’s happening on July 21, 2015 when the film finally makes its official debut on DVD. In addition to the feature – mastered from a high quality source – you also get some extras, including trailers, and an amusing commentary by Everitt himself.

The bottom line: Furious is 72 minutes of unconventional entertainment that’s part “so bad, it’s good” and part hidden gem. Highly recommended.

Jeff Bona’s Rating: 8/10

Posted in Asian Related, News, Reviews | Tagged , , | 8 Comments

Deal on Fire! Black Dynamite | Blu-ray | Only $9.99 – Expires soon!

"Black Dynamite" Blu-ray Cover

"Black Dynamite" Blu-ray Cover

Today’s Deal on Fire is the Blu-ray for Black Dynamite, starring Michael Jai White (Blood and Bone), Arsenio Hall, Tommy Davidson and featuring martial arts choreography by Roger (Once Upon a Time in Vietnam) and Ron Yuan (The Girl from the Naked Eye).

It’s Black Belt Jones, Shaft and Enter the Dragon rolled into one hell of a parody. And don’t let the word “parody” fool you – this is a solid movie filled with quality action, outrageous comedy and grind house goodness. Director Scott Sanders (Thick as Thieves) definitely did his homework.

Order Black Dynamite from Amazon.com today!

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R.I.P. kungfucinema.com

R.I.P. kungfucinema.com

kungfucinema.com: 2003-2015

Many visitors to City on Fire will also no doubt be aware of kungfucinema.com, and are most likely asking the question of why the site has been offline since Sunday 11th July. Unfortunately it was confirmed by site owner Mark Pollard a couple of days ago that kungfucinema.com has been laid to rest, after 12 years online, due to personal reasons.

For myself, as I’m sure for many others, the closure of the site marks the end of an era. Having started in 2003, for the next 6 years the site was run by Mark, providing in-depth and entertaining reviews on kung fu movies both new and old. Personally, many of my DVD purchases of years gone by were based on Mark’s reviews. Having gotten into the genre in 1999, after purging myself on Hong Kong Legends and Eastern Heroes releases, kungfucinema came along at a time when sites like HKflix were just warming up, and Celestial had just began releasing remastered Shaw Brothers movies on DVD for the first time. The reviews and articles on kungfucinema were like an invaluable guide on what was worth picking up and what wasn’t.

In 2007, kungfucinema also gave me my very first writing gig. After having several e-mail exchanges with Mark, he took me on-board as a reviewer, and I took to sharpening my writing skills on a selection of Shaw Brothers movies. As fate would have it though, a few months later Mark became less and less active on the site, which was the end of an era in itself. In 2008 the reigns were handed over to Albert Valentin, whose arrival marked a noticeable shift of focus away from kung fu movies, and onto lesser known American martial arts B-movies from the 1990’s.

2008 also marked another significant event in the history of kungfucinema, as the most well established forum for talking kung fu movies on the internet, Kung Fu Fandom, made the switch from its previous incarnation and began being hosted through kungfucinema. Now going under the title of the Kung Fu Cinema Forum, in its new guise the community went from strength to strength, quickly becoming the home for both people that were new to the genre, and those that had several encyclopaedias worth of knowledge stored under their belts.

For many, the sudden disappearance of the forum is understandably the greatest cause for concern. Not only does it contain 10+ years’ worth of discussion and information, but it also has the posts of forum members who have since passed on, their thoughts and opinions still able to live on in the written word. I became a forum moderator myself at the beginning of 2014, and like many other members of the community out there, the biggest question that’s being addressed right now is to how we can transfer the content to a new home.

One decision that has already been made though, is that the latest incarnation of the forum will be run through Yuku. Just like in its pre-kungfucinema incarnation when it was run through EZBoard, the biggest advantage of this is that it’s not linked to any website, so the worry of all the content being potentially lost if the host website goes offline is removed. Here at COF, we’re also working on including a link to the forum in the black taskbar under the main site logo, so anyone who’s a regular visitor to COF can be 1 click away from accessing it, just like on the kungfucinema site.

For now though, for anyone who has yet to register on the new forum, please follow the link here, and help to spread the word to other members of the community who may not have heard – http://kff.yuku.com/

Posted in News | 38 Comments

Kwaidan | Blu-ray & DVD (Criterion)

Kwaidan | Blu-ray & DVD (Criterion)

Kwaidan | Blu-ray & DVD (Criterion)

RELEASE DATE: October 20, 2015

Criterion Collection presents the Blu-ray & DVD for 1965′s Kwaidan, directed by Masaki Kobayashi (Harakiri). This release is the original 3-hour cut, never before released in the United States.

After a decade of political dramas and social-minded period pieces, Kobayashi shifted gears for this stylized quartet of ghost stories. Featuring surreal sets and luminous cinematography, these haunting tales, adapted from Lafcadio Hearn’s collections of Japanese folklore, are existentially frightening and meticulously crafted. | Watch the trailer.

Pre-order Kwaidan from Amazon.com today!

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Scope out the new ‘Kickboxer: Vengeance’ teaser poster!

"Kickboxer: Vengeance" Teaser Poster

"Kickboxer: Vengeance" Teaser Poster

Radar Pictures is rebooting 1989′s Kickboxer with John Stockwell (In the Blood) at the helm. The film is being written by Jim McGrath (1990′s Elvis TV series) and Dimitri Logothetis (Wings of the Dragon). Newcomer Alain Moussi (click here to read our interview with him) will take on the role of Kurt Sloan, the film’s main character.

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

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

Updates: According to Paul Bramhall: During a Q&A session at the recent Seni Event, Adkins confirmed that he won’t be in the Kickboxer remake. He was offered the role of the brother, but explained that after reading the script and realizing just how much of a small role it was, with very little action involved, he didn’t feel like it was a role which would suit either him or his fanbase, so decided to turn it down. | Tony Jaa (Skin Trade) also dropped out due to scheduling conflicts.

According to the film’s official Facebook page, Kickboxer is now called Kickboxer: Vengeance (most likely to differentiate the film from Albert Pyun’s upcoming Kickboxer title). Also, new details have emerged about some of the cast members: Gina Carano’s character is a “sneaky and dangerous temptress, a boa constrictor of this fighting jungle,” and JCVD’s actual character is named Master Durand (not Master Chow, as previously reported when Tony Jaa was attached).

In a photo from a recent press conference last week – featuring Sam Medina, Sara Makalul Lane, Alain Moussi, Georges St. Pierre – you can catch a glimpse of the teaser poster. Also, here are some behind-the-scenes photos from the film.

BREAKING NEWS: Here’s a closer look at the teaser poster for Kickboxer: Vengeance, as well as two behind-the-scenes photos, featuring Dave Bautista, Matthew Ziff and T.J. Storm.

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COF’s ‘Snow Girl and the Dark Crystal’ Blu-ray Giveaway! – WINNERS ANNOUNCED!

Snow Girl and the Dark Crystal | Blu-ray & DVD (Well Go USA)

Snow Girl and the Dark Crystal | Blu-ray & DVD (Well Go USA)

Cityonfire.com and Well Go USA are giving away 3 Blu-ray copies of Snow Girl and the Dark Crystal to three lucky Cityonfire visitors. To enter, simply add a comment to this post and describe, in your own words, this trailer.

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 Snow Girl and the Dark Crystal will be officially released on August 4, 2015. We will announce the 3 winners on August 5, 2015 and ship out the prizes immediately.

CONTEST DISCLAIMER: You must enter by August 4, 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.

WINNERS: Damon, M. H. Boroson and 31FilmTalk.

Posted in News | Tagged | 15 Comments

Neill Blomkamp reveals new ‘Aliens’ sequel artwork

"Alien" Japanese Theatrical Poster

"Alien" Japanese Theatrical Poster

Back in March, writer-director Neill Blomkamp (District 9, Elysium, Chappie) confirmed that his next movie will be an Alien (aka Alien 5) film. This exciting news came weeks after Blomkamp shared some “personal” concept art for an Alien movie that had been running around his mind.

The artwork – featuring the return of both Ripley (Sigourney Weaver) and Corporal Dwayne Hicks (Michael Biehn) – was a warm welcome to fans of the franchise, especially given the acclaim Blomkamp has received for his influential work.

Updates: According to sources, Blomkamp’s Alien sequel will basically ignore Alien 3 and Alien: Resurrection: “I want this film to feel like it is literally the genetic sibling of Aliens, so it’s AlienAliens and then this film,” said the director. | Michael Biehn has confirmed that he’s set to reprise the role of Corporal Duane Hicks from 1986’s Aliens in Blomkamp’s as-yet-untitled Alien sequel.

BREAKING NEWS: Check out Blomkamp’s latest piece of concept art. According to the director, the Aliens sequel is “Going very well. Love this project.”

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