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

"13 Assassins" Japanese Theatrical Poster

"13 Assassins" Japanese Theatrical Poster

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

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

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

Updates: Watch the first teaser trailer, thanks to FCS.

Posted in News | Leave a comment

Deal on Fire! The Expendables 3: Unrated Edition | Blu-ray | Only $10 – Expires soon!

The Expendables 3: Theatrical & Unrated | Blu-ray & DVD (Lionsgate)

The Expendables 3: Theatrical & Unrated | Blu-ray & DVD (Lionsgate)

Today’s Deal on Fire is the Blu-ray for The Expendables 3, which includes the never-before-seen unrated edition of the film – featuring more action, more explosions, more fights – and a higher body count – everything fans have come to love in the franchise!

Extras: Documentary; Featurettes: “New Blood: Stacked and Jacked” and “The Total Action Package”; Extended Scene; Gag Reel; Unrated Edition (131 minutes); and the Theatrical Version (126 minutes).

Order The Expendables 3 from Amazon.com today!

Posted in Deals on Fire!, News | 5 Comments

New set photos featuring cast and crew of ‘Crouching Tiger 2′

"Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon" Japanese Poster

"Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon" Japanese Poster

Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon II: The Green Destiny will be premiering simultaneously on both Netflix and IMAX theaters on August 28, 2015. Yuen Woo-ping (True Legend) is directing, with a script by John Fusco (The Forbidden Kingdom), which will be based off the fifth book in Wang Du Lu’s Crane-Iron Pentalogy – the same source material Ang Lee used for the original film. Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon II will be headlined by Donnie Yen (Kung Fu Jungle) and Michelle Yeoh (Yes, Madam).

Other stars include Nicholas Tse (As the Lights Go Out), Harry Shum Jr. (Revenge of the Green Dragons), Jason Scott Lee (Dragon: The Bruce Lee Story), Veronica Ngo (The Rebel), Chris Pang (Fist of the Dragon), Darryl Quon (Arrow), Roger Yuan (Once Upon A Time in Vietnam) and Eugenia Yuan (The Drummer).

Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon II will continue to revolve around Yu Shu Lien (Yeoh). “This was an opportunity to explore a lifelong passion I’ve had for Wu Xia, and if there wasn’t continuing source material, I would never have gotten involved,” says Fusco.

Updates: Photos of Donnie Yen preparing himself for the sequel. | First official photos from the production, featuring Donnie Yen and Michelle Yeoh.

It has been confirmed that Vietnamese actress, Thanh Van Ngo (The Rebel, Clash and Once Upon a Time in Vietnam), will play the part of Mantis in Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon II. Here are some photos of her on set with Bey Logan.

BREAKING NEWS: More details (and new photos: 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 ) have emerged regarding Veronica Ngo’s (aka Thanh Van Ngo) character. According to vnexpress.net, Ngo will play the part of an assassin named Mantis, the right hand woman of the film’s main villain, Iron Crow, played by Roger Yuan. The article also hints that her fight scenes are performed beautifully, which isn’t exactly a surprise if you’ve seen her work in The Rebel or Clash. Better yet, check out her 2014 Showreel (Warning: Footage may cause you to fall in love). Thanks to ngoisao.net and vnexpress.net for the photos.

Posted in News | 32 Comments

Target, The (2014) Review

"The Target" Korean Theatrical Poster

"The Target" Korean Theatrical Poster

Director: Yoon Hong-seung
Writer: Jeon Cheol-Hong, Jo Seong-Geol
Cast: Ryu Seung-Ryong, Yu Jun-Sang, Lee Jin-Wook, Kim Seong-Ryeong, Jo Yeo-Jeong, Jo Eun-Ji, Kim Dae-Myung, Jang Jun-Nyung, Yeom Ji-Young, Lee Hyun-Wook
Running Time: 98 min.

By oneleaf

Life is good for medical resident Lee Tae-joon (Jin Wook-Lee). He’s expecting his first child with his beautiful wife, Jung Hee-joo (Yeo-jeong Jo), a psychiatrist, who works at the same hospital. Also, the two have just moved into a new apartment together. To put it simply, Lee couldn’t be happier.

Things take an unexpected turn when ex-mercenary Baek Yeo-hoon (Ryu Seung-Ryong) shows up in the ER with gunshot wounds. He falls under Lee’s care – hours later, an assassin makes an unsuccessful attempt on Baek’s life.

The next day, Lee is brutally attacked in his apartment by an unknown assailant and his wife, Jung, is kidnapped. Lee later receives a call demanding that he take Baek to an undisclosed location ub exchange for his wife – otherwise, she will be killed.

The color palette of The Target is beautiful to look at, which is not surprising since it’s helmed by Yoon Hong-seung (Death Bell), a stylish director known for his work on music videos for various pop groups in Korea. The Target – a remake of the French action thriller Point Blank (2010) – is his sophomore outing as screenwriter and director.

Ryu is well-suited for the role of Baek, a world-weary ex-mercenary seeking a simple life that becomes shattered when he becomes “the target” of unknown sinister forces. The audience feels his anger and fear, yet he’s always in control, regardless of the unfortunate circumstances. His potent portrayal of Baek’s disposition of calm resolve in the face of imminent danger is the film’s high point.

There’s a considerable amount of violence in the film, but none of it is gratuitous, with very little bloodletting seen on screen. There’s even a short female-to-female, hand-to-hand combat sequence in tight quarters that made me want more.

The Target is quite a ride. It’s suspenseful, well-timed and nearly unrelenting from start to finish. For the most part, the action sequences are well-choreographed. Ryu does a good job of maintaining a stoic composure without breaking stride. In one scene, he walks into an office and single handedly takes out a handful of bad guys using nothing but his bare hands. It’s actually hard to believe that not a single shot is fired by one of these guys, who basically just waited their turn to fight him.

Especially gratifying is the final shootout at the police station where almost everything in sight – chairs, desks, partitions, etc – are shot to pieces as bullets fly from every conceivable angle while an SUV plows head-on through the front door.

I did find the pace of the film somewhat erratic. From the outset, it takes off frenetically by having one chase/shootout after another. Suddenly, it veers off into some character development for the leads; then for almost half of the film, everything slows down, and finally picks up again.

Another weakness is the film’s lack of character development for the non-leads. Yoon has expended most of his energy for the action pieces, but neglects to encompass more characterization for the supporting characters. A good start would be to explore the dark side of Song (Yu Jun-Sang), the film’s ever-grinning shifty eyed villain.

Overall, The Target is a satisfying action flick that has a few flaws, but still manages to deliver.

Recommended.

oneleaf’s Rating: 6/10

Posted in Korean, News, Reviews | Tagged | 3 Comments

‘Jurassic World’ Big Game trailer is open to the public! RUN!!!!

"Jurassic World" Teaser Poster

"Jurassic World" Teaser Poster

THE MOVIE: The fourth installment in the Jurassic Park franchise is titled Jurassic World. Directing the film will be Colin Trevorrow (Safety Not Guaranteed). There are no plot details, but the film has a release date for June 12, 2015. So far, the cast includes Chris Pratt, Bryce Dallas Howard, Jake Johnson, Nick Robinson, Ty Simpkins and Irrfan Khan.

Chances are his script will bear no resemblance to an earlier one from The Departed‘s Willian Monahan that floated around the web back in 2007. That draft had a soldier of fortune returning to Jurassic Park with the help of some genetically engineered mini-T-Rexes who obeyed his commands like domesticated dogs. We’re not even making this up!

Updates: Here’s a new pack of cast photos, featuring Chris Pratt, Bryce Dallas Howard, Nick Robinson and Ty Simpkins, courtesy of Collider. | First official poster. | First Jurassic World teaser. | First full trailer.

BREAKING NEWS: Watch the Big Game trailer.

Posted in News | 1 Comment

First trailer for ‘Samurai Cop 2: Deadly Vengeance’

"Samurai Cop 2: Deadly Vengeance" Poster

"Samurai Cop 2: Deadly Vengeance" Poster

25 years ago, they joined forces to take on the Yakuza in Samurai Cop (1991), now Detective Frank Washington (Mark Frazer) and Joe Marshall (Matt Hannon) are teaming up once again in Samurai Cop 2: Deadly Vengeance, which will be directed by Gregory Hatanaka (Violent Blue). This time their mission is to solve a series of assassinations being committed by a secret group of female vigilante killers.

The original Samurai Cop (1991), directed by the late Amir Shervan (Killing American Style), is a cult classic that found a whole new audience during its midnight theatrical circuit and film festival re-release. Its resurgence prompted producers Rich Mallery and Gregory Hatanaka to start production on a sequel!

In addition to its returning stars (including Gerald Okamura and Robert Z’Dar), Samurai Cop 2: Deadly Vengeance will also include Mel Novak (Game of Death), Bai Ling (The Crow), Tommy Wiseau (The Room), Mindy Robinson (American Slaughter), Shawn C. Phillips (Aliens vs Titanic), Joe Estevez (Lockdown), Laurene Landon (Maniac Cop), Kristine DeBell (The Big Brawl) and adult film stars, Kayden Kross and Lexi Belle.

Updates: Watch the film’s first trailer, thanks to Paul Bramhall.

Posted in News | 2 Comments

Brotherhood of Blades (2014) Review

"Brotherhood of Blades" Chinese Theatrical Poster

"Brotherhood of Blades" Chinese Theatrical Poster

Director: Lu Yang
Writer: Chen Shu, Lu Yang
Producer: Terence Chang, Wang Donghui, Ling Hong
Cast: Chang Chen, Cecilia Liu Shi Shi, Wang Qianyuan, Ethan Li Dong Xue, Ye Qing Nie Yuan, Zhou Yi Wei, Chin Shih Chieh
Running Time: 106 min.

By Kyle Warner

There’s a line in Jean Renoir’s The Rules of the Game that goes a little something like, “The awful thing about life is this: everyone has their reasons.” It’s a simple concept, but so true, and I wish more people writing villains would keep it in mind. I believe director Lu Yang understands Renoir’s sentiments as he paints all the characters of Brotherhood of Blades in various shades of gray. No hero is without sin and no villain does evil without cause. Everybody’s doing what they feel they must in order to survive, even if that means a few people get hurt along the way. So often in these sorts of films we are treated to a sneering villain, one who is clearly evil because his performance and dialogue would allow him to be nothing else in the world. And while Brotherhood of Blades is full of villainous characters, they all have their reasons.

In the 1620s, the Eunuch Wei (Chin Shih Chieh) was seen as too powerful to continue his reign, and the Emperor asked him to step down. Even with Wei now removed from power, his influence was still felt far and wide, and so begun a manhunt for his closest followers who were known as the Eunuch Clique. Tasked with detaining or killing the Eunuch Clique are three Imperial Assassins (played by Chang Chen, Wang Qianyuan, and Ethan Li Dong Xue,). When finally they are sent to eliminate Wei himself, one of the assassins makes the mistake of letting Wei talk. Instead of assassinating Wei, he takes Wei’s bribe of gold and delivers a burnt corpse to the officials, one whose identity cannot be readily identified. Suspicion grows and soon it seems like everyone the three assassins knows is out to kill them.

With Brotherhood of Blades, I expect you’ll come for the action but you’ll stay for the story. This is a complex historical drama full of backstabbing, secrets told behind paper walls, and the bloody consequences of telling one lie too many. It’s the sort of action film where more is accomplished (or brought to ruin) with a sideways glance and a lie than most films manage with a series of explosions ripping through a city street. It’s a subtle, stylish script, brought to life by great direction and some nuanced performances.

The three Imperial Assassins at the center of the story are like brothers, so when one of them takes Wei’s bribe and betrays their masters it’s interesting to see how the three respond. You can sense how much they mean to each other, even while this transgression threatens to collapse the brotherhood they have built.

Chen plays the man who took the bribe, but he did so with the best of intentions. Chen does a good job playing the conflicted character, detailing his hero’s fall from grace both physically and emotionally. Wang and Li, who play the other members of this Brotherhood, are also quite good. Qianyuan Wang is the senior member and takes the betrayal as a personal slight. I liked the way Wang conveyed so much with only the use of his eyes. I’m not familiar with the actor, but I’m taking notice now. Dong-xue Li plays a man with a dark secret, but he’s also the most innocent of the three. Li’s character endangers the film the most as he goes through young love, but the actor never lets these scenes hinder the story in any way.

Perhaps most impressive is Cecilia Liu Shi Shi, who plays Chang Chen’s love interest. Liu’s character is a courtesan in a high-priced brothel and Chen’s trying to buy her freedom. In many movies, this would have been a weak character — the hooker with a heart of gold, if you like — but Liu and the writers manage to make her into something more. Despite Chen’s devotion for her, Liu is in love with someone else, and no big dreams or promises of freedom are going to change her mind. The moments between Chen and Liu are my favorite parts of the film. There’s a quiet but determined stillness to them that I like, as two characters who want very different things are forced to do a dance of manners for fear of disappointing the other person. Strong female characters are rare in these sorts of films. And I don’t necessarily mean women who can kick ass (Liu does not play such a character here). I mean layered, complete female characters with wants and needs of their own that don’t exist solely to enrich the male hero’s character development. Shishi Liu is superb in the role.

While the film’s script and performances are the strongpoints, the action is pretty good, too. Brotherhood of Blades opts for a more handheld approach to its camerawork, which makes the fight sequences more in-your-face and visceral. As a tradeoff, we don’t get shots that truly wow the viewer, but I don’t think action fans should have much to complain about. Still, keep in mind that Brotherhood of Blades is a drama first and an action film second: remember that and you should find a lot to enjoy here.

I feel I must also comment on the costume design, which is top-notch and very cool (and has apparently won an award or two). Costume design, like set design, makeup, hair, and lighting, usually goes unnoticed unless it’s truly awful or very impressive. With Brotherhood of Blades, I’m happy to say that everyone brought their A game.

Brotherhood of Blades has the looks of a wuxia action film, but it works best as a complex character drama. The story is tightly written, the direction is stylish, and the acting is excellent. It’s a great movie.

Kyle Warner’s Rating: 8/10

Posted in Chinese, News, Reviews | Tagged , , , | 2 Comments

He’s back! New trailer and poster for ‘Terminator Genisys’!

"Terminator Genisys" Teaser Poster

"Terminator Genisys" Teaser Poster

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

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

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

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

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

BREAKING NEWS: Check out the new Big Game trailer and poster for Terminator Genisys.

Posted in News | 22 Comments

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

"Masquerade" Blu-ray Cover

"Masquerade" Blu-ray Cover

Today’s deal on Fire is the Blu-ray for Masquerade starring Lee Byung-hun (I Saw the Devil) and Ryu Seung-Ryong (War of the Arrows).

Amid national chaos and fear for his life, King Gwanghae (Lee) orders his councilor Heo Kyun (Ryu) to find a body double. He hires Ha-seon (also Lee), a peasant who bears a perfect resemblance to the King. When the King collapses from a mysterious poison, Ha-seon reluctantly becomes a King. Now, he must save his country from collapse, avoid assassination, and pull off the biggest masquerade in history.

Order Masquerade from Amazon.com today!

Posted in Deals on Fire!, News | Leave a comment

‘John Wick’ duo to helm Chris Pratt’s ‘Cowboy Ninja Viking’?

"Cowboy Ninja Viking" Graphic Novel Cover

"Cowboy Ninja Viking" Graphic Novel Cover

Funny action man, Chris Pratt (Guardians of the Galaxy), is set to play the lead in Universal’s adaptation of A.J. Lieberman’s graphic novel, Cowboy Ninja Viking. To give you an idea of what to expect, here’s Amazon’s description to the graphic novel:

“It started with Dr. Sebastian Ghislain: rogue psychotherapist/covert op/DJ. Tasked with creating a counter-intelligence unit, he turned to those long thought useless to society… patients with Multiple Personality Disorder. These agents became known simply as Triplets. Misguided? Yeah. Impractical? Sure. But did it work? Absolutely not. Now someone has located each Triplet and created a band of ridiculously disturbed, but highly effective assassins. Our only hope? A Triplet known as Cowboy Ninja Viking!”

Updates: Variety reports (via FCS) that David Leitch and Chad Stahelski, the duo behind John Wick, are in early talks to direct Cowboy Ninja Viking (World War Z’s Marc Forster was previously attached). We’ll be sure to keep you in the loop as we hear more.

Posted in News | Leave a comment

New TV Spot for ‘The Avengers: Age of Ultron’

"The Avengers: Age of Ultron" Teaser Poster

"The Avengers: Age of Ultron" Teaser Poster

In Joss Whedon’s The Avengers: Age of Ultron, The Avengers reassemble to battle the sentient robot known as Ultron. Cast members include: Robert Downey, Jr., Chris Hemsworth, Mark Ruffalo, Chris Evans, Scarlett Johansson, Jeremy Renner, Samuel L. Jackson, Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Elizabeth Olsen and James Spader. The film hits theaters on May 1, 2015.

Updates: Actor Morris Chestnut (Under Siege 2: Dark Territory) has fueled internet rumors that he may be auditioning for the role of the popular Marvel superhero Black Panther for Avengers 2. | According to dramafever.com, Korean actress Kim Soo Hyun (7th Grade Civil Servant) has joined the cast. | Teaser trailer. | First trailer. | Second trailer!

BREAKING NEWS: Watch the new TV Spot.

Posted in News | 2 Comments

Hit-Girl spin-off film by ‘The Raid’ director Gareth Evans?

"The Raid" Theatrical Poster

"The Raid" Theatrical Poster

Mark Millar, creator of the comic books, Kick-Ass and The Secret Service – the basis for the upcoming Kingsman: The Secret Service – recently mentioned that a planned Hit-Girl spin-off movie was in the works. Here’s the interesting part: Gareth Evans (The Raid, The Raid 2) was in talks for the project.

Here’s what Millar told IGN during a recent interview: “Before Kick-Ass 2 came out, we’d been talking about a Hit-Girl spin-off movie… we’d even talked to a director – we had a couple of calls with Gareth Evans, who I absolutely love. He’s an amazing director. But Gareth’s now busy.”

Well, one can only imagine what a Evans-directed Hit-Girl movie would have been like, but hey, at least we have The Raid 3 to look forward to in 2018.

Posted in News | 4 Comments

No Tears for the Dead | Blu-ray & DVD (CJ Entertainment)

No Tears for the Dead | Blu-ray & DVD (CJ Entertainment)

No Tears for the Dead | Blu-ray & DVD (CJ Entertainment)

RELEASE DATE: February 17, 2015

CJ Entertainment presents the Blu-ray & DVD for No Tears for the Dead (read our review) directed by Lee Jeong-beom (Man from Nowhere).

A hit man (Jang Dong-Gun from The Warrior’s Way) traumatized from accidentally killing a young girl during a job is given the mission to eliminate her mother, and begins the ultimate fight to save her life. The film also stars Kim Min-hee (Helpless), Brian Tee (The Wolverine), Kim Hee-won (Man from Nowhere) and Kim Joon-seong (Innocent Blood). Watch the trailer.

Pre-order No Tears for the Dead from Amazon.com today!

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

Angel Terminators (1990) Review

"Angel Terminators" International DVD Cover

"Angel Terminators" International DVD Cover

Director: Wai Lit
Writer: Yeung Gei
Producer: Georges Lai
Cast: Sharon Yeung Pan Pan, Kenneth Tsang, Carrie Ng, Michiko Nishiwaki, Alan Chui Chung San, Kara Hui Ying Hung, Cheng Yuen Man, Dick Wei
Running Time: 91 min.

By HKFanatic

Here’s a full admission: I love “girls with guns” movies. Back in the late 80′s and 90′s, this sub-genre of Hong Kong action cinema saw women like Moon Lee and Cynthia Khan kicking and shooting their way to stardom. These ladies always gave just as good as their male counterparts such as Chow Yun-fat and Jackie Chan, and probably had to try even harder to prove themselves in the male-driven field of action cinema.

Ever since watching She Shoots Straight, perhaps the pinnacle of the genre, I’ve been dying to see more “girls with guns” flicks. Unfortunately, these films are still criminally rare in the United States. If you’re lucky, Netflix might still have a few of them in circulation near you, although they’ll undoubtedly arrive on an out-of-print Full Screen DVD from Tai Seng (remember them?). Given such slim pickings, I was more or less forced to rent Angel Terminators, a film that is by no means considered a standout of the genre.

Considering the high production values showcased in Hong Kong movies like Hard Boiled or just about any Jackie Chan film, it’s easy to forget that there were still plenty of shoestring productions made on the island during its 90′s heyday. Angel Terminators is the kind of under-funded action film that relies on stuntman putting themselves in harm’s way in order to make up for its obviously low budget. The script is a bit slapdash and hard to follow, with our villain (Kenneth Tsang of The Killer and Police Story 3: Supercop, among countless other films) getting more screentime than the protagonists and a disconcerting number of scenes in which women are urinated on. Yes, it happens more than once. But if you can get past the bad lighting, jumbled storyline, and misogynistic streak, then Angel Terminators has some amazing action scenes, which once again prove that nobody does it better than Hong Kong.

The opening scenes tease us with the presence of the amazingly talented and lovely Kara Hui, a veteran of Shaw Brothers films like My Young Auntie. Don’t get too attached, though, as Kara promptly disappears from the film until the climax. That’s strike one against the movie, as far as I’m concerned. In her stead is actress Pan Pan Yeung, who certainly knows how to throw a kick but is slightly lacking in screen presence. Either that, or her performance was hampered by the terrible 80′s-style haircut she was saddled with.

Yeung was trained in martial arts since the age of six, so she is definitely a woman of action, but there’s a depressing subplot which involves the bad guys getting her hooked on heroin. It’s another example of the film’s sadistic heart that has its female characters tortured and humiliated, when we the audience just want to see them stand up and kick ass. Fortunately, the ending makes up for it when Kara Hui and Yeung team up against the legendary Dick Wei. The two women manage to make him look like a wimp, even though we’ve seen the talented fighter give Yuen Baio and Sammo Hung a run for their money.

Remember that scene in The Dark Knight when Batman lands on top of a van and all the windows shatter upon impact? There’s a scene like that in The Angel Terminators, except it’s just Pan Pan Yueng landing on a car, which is hilarious since you know she’s probably light as a feather. There’s another scene where Yueng is literally dangling from the window of a moving car while firing away at the bad guys. Crazy moments like this make Angel Terminators worth watching for fans of “girls with guns” flicks. The film flirts with Category III-style exploitation, but thankfully never follows that road to its end (except for all the golden showers). If you just want to see some amazing fight scenes and stunts from 90′s-era Hong Kong, and you don’t mind a cruddy DVD picture, then you could have a worse time of it than renting this film.

HKFanatic’s Rating: 6.5/10

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

Taking Manhattan (1992) Review

"Taking Manhattan" Chinese Theatrical Poster

"Taking Manhattan" Chinese Theatrical Poster

Director: Kirk Wong
Producer: Eric Tsang
Cast: Carrie Ng, Lui Chi Yin, Andrew Chan Gwan, Jeff Lee Tak Wing, David Lea, Connie Cabret, Alana Jerins, Michael Lewis, Angelo Lopez, Jaclyn Ngai, Benny Nieves, Theresa Quinn, Anthony J. Ribustello, Janice Sanders
Running Time: 85 min.

By Paul Bramhall

It’s common knowledge that many Hong Kong directors have, in the past, tried their hand at making a movie in an English speaking country. Philip Ko brought Simon Yam to London for his 1990 Crying Freeman adaptation Killer’s Romance, Corey Yuen explored the grimier side of Canada for his 1993 flick Women on the Run, and of course most famously, Stanley Tong brought Jackie Chan to Vancouver, I mean the Bronx, for his 1995 hit Rumble in the Bronx.

Not to be outdone, director Kirk Wong also took a crack at making a film in the States with his 1992 production Taking Manhattan. Wong has an eclectic but solid resume as a director, which kicked off with his 1981 debut The Club, a movie of which star Chan Wai Man humbly declared “Without doubt the best gangster film to come out of Hong Kong.” Wong went on to direct bold mis-fires such as the Flash Future Kung Fu, which attempted to mix the science fiction and kung fu genres together, to gangster epics like Gunmen, which saw disagreements with producer Tsui Hark result in a brave but inconsistent piece of filmmaking. By the 1990’s Wong seemed to have found his feet directing gritty crime thrillers, scoring hits with both the Jackie Chan starring Crime Story, and Organized Crime and Triad Bureau, with everyone’s favorite cop Danny Lee.

Taking Manhattan could be argued as being made in his transitional period, his previous movie was Gunmen and his next would be Crime Story, which makes the circumstances around its production all the more interesting. It’s worth noting that Wong made the movie essentially as an English language picture. All of the cast appear to be either native English speakers, or at the very least are fluent, with the exception of Carrie Ng. She plays the wife of the lead, and is the only character whose scenes are spoken in Cantonese, which amount to roughly 10% of the movie. With that being said, Taking Manhattan is exceptionally difficult to find in its original form, with almost every available release only featuring the dubbed Cantonese track. This was mainly due to distributor Paragon getting cold feet, at the prospect of marketing an English language movie onto a Hong Kong audience, at the time of its release. For the purpose of this review, the version being reviewed is the original with English language dialogue.

The story of Taking Manhattan puts it firmly into the gangster genre. After a bomb blows up the team mates of a New York city cop played by Lui Chi-Yin, he’s suspended by his superior, played by Alena Adena. Setting up a hot-dog stall with his wife, who’s recently arrived in the US from Hong Kong, Chi-Yin is happy to lead the simple life, even if it involves being harassed by feisty New York hookers who call him “Bruce”. However it’s soon revealed by Adena that the only purpose of his suspension was to take him off the map, allowing him to go undercover and penetrate the gang behind the killings, led by a gangster played by Andrew Chan. Chi-Yin reluctantly agrees, and after being taken under Chan’s wing, a game of cat and mouse ensues, with the audience never being sure exactly who is the cat and who is the mouse.

There are those who believe that Wong only really came into his own as a director with Crime Story, which was made in 1993, however Taking Manhattan arguably proves he had found his style several years before. While Taking Manhattan wasn’t released until 1992, it was actually filmed in 1990, and while we can only speculate, it’s probably safe to assume it sat on the shelf for 2 years because none of the distributors knew what to do with a Hong Kong produced English language gangster movie. Indeed it’s interesting to consider who Wong was aiming for as an audience, the story and themes all seem to indicate he was in fact looking for a US audience, with Carrie Ng being there simply so it could be marketed in Hong Kong with a known actress. Even today, over 20 years after its original release, it’s Ng who is all over the cover of the DVD releases, with main characters Chi-Yin and Chang nowhere to be seen.

The movie itself is in fact a superior example of the gangster genre, and still holds up today. Chang in particular steals the show with a truly psychotic performance as the homosexual gangster Chi-Yin falls in with. Imagine a Chinese guy with the voice of an angry Michael Caine, the demeanor of a Goodfellas era Joe Pesci, and the hair of a Hard Boiled Tony Leung. Chang chews the scenery with gusto in whatever scene he’s in, littering the screen with one of the dirtiest tongues I’ve heard in a long time. When this guy insults you, he goes the distance, even if it’s to Puerto Rican gangsters twice his size. He really does an outstanding job of coming across as an unpredictable ball of rage and nastiness.

Chi-Yin does an equally good job as the undercover cop eager to keep his family out of harms way, and through both of their performances a credible amount of tension and suspense builds up to a satisfying finale. While Taking Manhattan clearly didn’t have the same budget as the US productions filming in New York at the same time, cinematographer Walter Gregg captures the feel of the city well, and the often frantic camera work serves its purpose in creating a sense of excitement and desperation. Throw in the score which is a mix of electric guitar and synthesizers, like many Hong Kong movies made in the early 1990’s (Full Contact comes to mind in particular), and all of the elements combine to give the movie a unique look and sound of its own.

What’s interesting about Taking Manhattan is that it’s essentially an English language gangster movie with Asian leads, which for this reason alone makes it a rarity. The fact that it also happens to be a well put together piece of gritty filmmaking just makes it all the better. In an era when movies like Revenge of the Green Dragons, released as recently as 2014, take the same concept and still can’t get it right, Wong’s picture stands up as a tightly constructed and nicely executed example of the gangster genre. It’s a shame that the original version is so difficult to track down, and it’s a real injustice to Wong’s vision as a director. Just like similar cases were people have discussed if it really matters that a few seconds were cut from the US release of The Raid 2, or if we should be bothered that Celestial’s version of The Chinatown Kid completely changes the ending – when it comes to asking if it makes much of a difference that Taking Manhattan can’t be seen in its original language, the answer should be exactly the same – yes, it certainly does.

Paul Bramhall’s Rating: 7.5/10

Posted in Chinese, News, Reviews | Tagged , | 6 Comments

Cityonfire.com’s ‘Brotherhood of Blades’ Blu-ray Giveaway! – WINNERS ANNOUNCED!

Brotherhood of Blades | Blu-ray & DVD (Well Go USA)

Brotherhood of Blades | Blu-ray & DVD (Well Go USA)

Cityonfire.com and Well Go USA are giving away 3 Blu-ray copies of Lu Yang’s wuxia action film Brotherhood of Blades to three lucky Cityonfire visitors. To enter, simply add a comment to this post and describe, in your own words, this opening sequence from 9 Deaths of the Ninja.

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 Brotherhood of Blades will be officially released on February 10, 2015. We will announce the 3 winners on February 11, 2015 and ship out the prizes immediately.

CONTEST DISCLAIMER: You must enter by February 10, 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: Congratulations to Chad H, Jeff V and Jarrod B. You have all been notified via email!

Posted in News | Tagged | 27 Comments

Josh Trank’s ‘Fantastic Four’ gets a fantastic teaser!

"Fantastic Four" Teaser Poster

"Fantastic Four" Teaser Poster

Josh Trank, the co-writer/director of 2012′s Chronicle, scored a major hit with that film’s ‘found footage’ take on the superhero genre. He’s been rewarded with the task of rebooting the Fantastic Four. The movie will star Miles Teller, Kate Mara, Michael B. Jordan, Jamie Bell, Toby Kebbell, Reg E. Cathey and Tim Blake Nelson. It has a release date set for August 7, 2015.

This will be 20th Centry Fox’s second attempt at launching Marvel Comics’ cosmic family into a successful movie franchise. Trank will be assisted by producer Matthew Vaughn, a filmmaker who has some experience with comic book material: he directed both X-Men: First Class and Kick Ass.

BREAKING NEWS: Watch the first teaser trailer.

Posted in News | 4 Comments

Is ‘Hanuman’ Cambodia’s answer to Gareth Evans’ ‘The Raid’?

"Hanuman" Cambodian Theatrical Poster

"Hanuman" Cambodian Theatrical Poster

Looks like Italian filmmaker Jimmy Henderson – a resident of Cambodia for years  – is following the footsteps of acclaimed action director, Gareth Evans (The Raid, The Raid 2, Merantau). To put it simply: What Evans did for Indonesia’s art of Silat, Henderson is doing for Cambodia’s art of Bokator, in an upcoming flick titled Hanuman.

Here’s the partial official plot: Twelve years after witnessing the murder of his father by the ruthless crime Lord Kim Veng and his gang, Vicheat comes back to Phnom Penh in search of avenge.

Judging from the trailer, the film packs a fistful of violence, but Cambodia’s answer to The Raid? Well, you be the judge. Thanks to Paul Bramhall, Twitch and FCB for the scoop.

Posted in News | Leave a comment

The Man with the Iron Fists 2: The Sting of the Scorpion | Blu-ray & DVD (Universal)

The Man with the Iron Fists 2 | Blu-ray & DVD (Universal)

The Man with the Iron Fists 2 | Blu-ray & DVD (Universal)

RELEASE DATE: April 14, 2015

Universal Presents the Blu-ray & DVD for Man with the Iron Fists 2: The Sting of the Scorpion, directed by Roel Reine (Death Race 2).

When Thaddeus (RZA) is found wounded near the village, miner Kung (Dustin Nguyen) and his wife Ni (Eugenia Kang) offer him refuge. As he heals, he becomes entrenched in a conflict that pits the townsfolk against the evil Ho (Carl Ng), his nefarious Clan and the terrifying Lord Pi (Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa). With Thaddeus at his side, the mild-mannered Kung transforms into a deadly warrior! Watch the trailer.

Pre-order The Man with the Iron Fists 2 from Amazon.com today!

Posted in DVD/Blu-ray New Releases, Martial Arts Titles | Tagged | 8 Comments

Corin Hardy’s ‘The Crow’ remake will not fly with Luke Evans

"The Crow" Japanese Theatrical Poster

"The Crow" Japanese Theatrical Poster

Relativity Media has been trying to get a remake of Alex Proyas’ 1994 cult classic The Crow off the ground for what feels like years now. The project has burned through numerous directors (including Juan Carlos Fresnadillo and F. Javier Gutiérrez) and actors (Bradley Cooper, Mark Wahlberg, James McAvoy, Tom Hiddleston and Normal Reedus).

Of course, many fans of the original film who still mourn the tragic loss of star Brandon Lee feel that this is a franchise best left in our memories.

Updates: Variety reports that James O’Barr, creator of the original The Crow graphic novel, is on board as a consultant for the reboot. “I believe that this movie will stand alongside Brandon and his film as a valid work of art, and I look forward to collaborating on the project,” said O’Barr.

James O’Barr chats with Total Film in their latest issue: Here’s an excerpt: “It was his [Javier Gutierrez] idea to go right back to the source material and essentially shoot it shot-for-shot, as in the book, but with a little more backstory for some of the characters,” says O’Barr. O’barr also states that Gutierrez wants to be “as faithful as possible, even down to all the visual metaphors of trains and horses.”

In a recent interview with creator James O’Barr, The Crow remake will be closer to a John Woo film. Here are more details: “We’re not remaking the movie, we’re readapting the book. My metaphor is that there is a Bela Lugosi Dracula and there’s a Francis Ford Coppola Dracula, they use the same material, but you still got two entirely different films. This one’s going to be closer to Taxi Driver or a John Woo film, and I think there’s room for both of them – part of the appeal of the Crow comics after all is that they can tell very different stories after all.”

Deadline reports that Relativity Studios has hired short-filmmaker Corin Hardy to direct the Crow remake. Javier Gutiérrez bailed out, in favor of a new Ring sequel. Want to see one of Hardy’s short films? click here. Also, according to Den of Geek (via Collider), Luke Evans is having second thoughts: ““It’s not, no. No at the minute The Crow is not, not for me, I think it’s a little… I mean, I’m sure it’s going to go ahead at some point, but I have other projects that are greenlit and ready to go and projects that I’m very interested in and you know, I can’t wait much longer! [laughs]“

BREAKING NEWS: According to The Wrap, Luke Evans has officially left the project to pursue other roles. Rest assured, The Crow remake is still happening, because Corin Hardy will continue searching for a new Eric Draven after his film, The Hallow, debuts at Sundance.

Posted in News | 2 Comments

Switch (2013) Review

"Switch" Chinese Theatrical Poster

"Switch" Chinese Theatrical Poster

Director: Jay Sun
Writer: Jay Sun
Producer: Han San Ping, Jay Sun
Cast: Andy Lau, Tong Dawei, Zhang Jing Chu, Lin Chi-ling, Siqin Gaowa, Liu Yu Qi, Wu Xiu Bo, Ariel Aisin-Gioro
Running Time: 122 min.

By Paul Bramhall

With China quickly becoming one of the biggest movie markets in the world, the temptation to appeal to the sizable Chinese box office has seen a lot of the studios adjusting their output for the audience there. Hollywood co-productions are becoming increasingly common, such as Iron Man 3 and Transformers 4, and even countries like South Korea are getting in on the act with blockbusters like The Thieves. While these movies have proven to be successful crowd pleasers on both sides of the world, China’s own movie industry is still very much one that’s finding its feet.

Unlike its troublesome cousin Hong Kong, which had an industry which gave us stars like Jackie Chan, Chow Yun Fat, and countless others in movies now considered to be classics, the mainland hasn’t quite been so successful. While China has always been making movies in some form or another, never has it aimed to produce the Hollywood style blockbusters like it does today. The problem is however, unlike Hong Kong, which quickly developed a tight knit movie industry, China has yet to really develop its local talent.

So we end up with wannabe action blockbusters like Urban Games, co-directed by a Hollywood stunt co-coordinator about extreme sports, and Ameera, some science fiction nonsense with Collin Chou. If you haven’t heard of these movies, then it shouldn’t be a surprise, they’re awful. Most of these Chinese productions don’t even get a showing in Hong Kong, almost as if the former British colony is embarrassed to now be part of a bigger land mass which creates such cinematic atrocities. Bad scripts, terrible CGI, ropey acting, and lackluster direction – these are the defining qualities of today’s Chinese action cinema.

Thankfully though, China seems to be aware of its own cinematic shortcomings, so in 2013, it announced Switch! Armed with a whopping budget of 160+ million RMB, the movie would be a globe trotting action adventure following a secret agent, styled after 007, and the production had even secured Hong Kong megastar Andy Lau in the title roll. To be filmed in China, Japan, Taiwan, and Dubai, Switch was going to be the movie that put China blockbuster filmmaking on the map. Somewhere along the way though, something went very wrong, and while not everyone will have seen Switch, almost everyone came to know it as “the movie that Andy Lau apologized for.” A comment he passed during a press junket for his movie Blind Detective.

An actor apologizing for a movie they starred in is never a good sign, and Switch became somewhat of a hot topic in the Chinese press. It was slammed even by local reviews, however it still found a suitably massive audience in the Chinese public. It seemed to be proof perfect that the general cinema going audience in China didn’t care if the movie they were going to see was good or not, just the fact that it was a movie seemed enough to warrant a trip to the local multiplex. I have to confess that I’m also part of that audience, as I gradually found curiosity getting the better of me, and so it was – I ended up watching Switch.

Let’s just get it out there from the word go – Switch is astoundingly bad, it’s the type of bad that not even a legion of bad reviews can prepare you for. However at the same time, it also manages to achieve that rare level of when a movie becomes so unbelievably awful, it actually passes into the realm of so bad it’s good. From the moment a shoddy CGI plane bursts onto the screen in the opening shot, to the laughably lame title sequence – which looks like a poorly rendered CGI practice run for an action scene, rather than the Bond-esque feel its trying to invoke – there’s a distinct feeling that the next 2 hours is going to be a journey into entertainingly crap cinema.

The plot revolves around an exhibition which is going to take place in a couple of weeks, at which the ancient painting, ‘Dwelling in the Fuchan Mountains’, will be displayed. The painting comes in two halves, with a British arms dealer stealing one of them, and a Japanese kingpin after the other. Will our hero Andy Lau be able to get both pieces of the painting together so that they can be shown to the general public in time!? Honestly, who cares!? ‘Switch’ has the most strangely uninteresting plot I’ve come across in a long time, especially considering the bombastic nature of almost every scene. It’s a movie in which you have to constantly remind yourself – the highest thing at stake here is that the painting won’t be on public display at the exhibition.

The events which transpire around the retrieval of the painting though are interesting, and that’s what counts. Most of Lau’s trouble comes in the form of the Japanese kingpin, who is played by Tong Dawei, sporting a truly bizarre white wig. We’re introduced to Dawei as he lies on a table in his lair wearing only underwear, as scantily clad women sit around him fanning his body with feathers. Oh, other women are swinging from the roof performing gymnastic routines because, well, I have no idea. Nor do I have any idea why he’s in love with his main assassin because she reminds him of his mother, whose image is painted on one of the walls along with a giant fetus, several of them actually, plus there are giant hand sculptures everywhere, and a table that resembles a giant clock. Trust me, this is just scratching the surface.

It’s not long before Andy Lau starts looking as confused as the viewer. The main assassin falls in love with him, except he’s married, but at the same time seems to constantly return the assassins advances, at one point spraying his wife in the face with an unknown substance to knock her out. In another scene the assassin turns up while they’re having dinner together and pretends to be pregnant, because apparently all she’s ever wanted is to have Lau’s daughter, and after his wife storms off he simply laughs and has dinner with her instead. Coherent film making was not the order of the day here.

Other highlights include, but aren’t limited to – cringe worthy English line delivery from Caucasian ‘actors’ (that make the guys who turned up in early 90’s Hong Kong action movies seem Oscar worthy in comparison), a dwarf, a villainess who wears a cape, another character who carries her husbands ashes around in an hour glass, random faked deaths, and an orphan child who lives in a swamp (and also falls in love with Lau!). Oh, and it would be a crime not to mention the rollerblading waitress assassins. The scene they’re in deserves a special mention, as there’s a part in which they’re retreating from a building which is about to explode. When the explosion goes off they’re rollerblading towards the camera, before the blast propels them into the air, at which point they do a mid-air synchronized pose. Yes, a synchronized mid-air pose from a bomb blast.

Switch will hopefully be director Jay Sun’s first and last movie. As entertainingly horrendous as it is, at 2 hours long fatigue could well be a side effect for some viewers. Even when all is said and done, nothing really makes any sense, characters leave a scene in one location and enter the next in a completely different one, the constant globe trotting is bewildering rather than exciting, and nobody seems to make a single logical decision throughout the whole thing. For the morbidly curious out there, Switch awaits your viewing.

Paul Bramhall’s Rating: 2/10

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

Has ‘John Wick’ met his match in Eli Roth’s ‘Knock Knock’?

"John Wick" International Theatrical Poster

"John Wick" International Theatrical Poster

Looks like John Wick has finally met his match. Just recently, Eli Roth (Hostel), a writer/director known for his horror productions, released a teaser trailer for an upcoming Keanu Reeves film simply titled Knock Knock, an updated version of Peter Traynor’s Death Game (1977). In a nutshell, the flick is about a pair of femme fatales who wreak havoc on the life of a happily married man. Given Roth’s demented reputation, it’ll be interesting to see what he does with a thriller starring Reeves.

Here’s the film’s partial official plot: Evan Webber (Reeves) is living the dream: a beautiful wife, two wonderful kids, and a stunning house. Things are going so well, Evan doesn’t even mind spending Father’s Day alone while the rest of his family heads out for a beach weekend. And then there’s a knock on the door by two young women (Lorenza Izzo and Ana de Armas)…

Enjoy Knock Knock’s clever teaser trailer, which comes to an abrupt end before you can figure out what’s going on. Stay tuned for its official theatrical release date.

Posted in News | Leave a comment

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

"Shaolin" Blu-ray Cover

"Shaolin" Blu-ray Cover

Today’s Deal on Fire is the Blu-ray for Benny Chan’s Shaolin, starring Andy Lau.

After unscrupulously killing a wounded enemy, Hou Jie (Lau) pays a terrible price for his actions and is forced to seek refuge in the same Shaolin Monastery he blatantly disrespected.

The film also stars Nicholas Tse (The Bullet Vanishes), Fan Bing Bing (Flash Point), Jacky Wu (Kill Zone) and a special cameo by the legendary Jackie Chan. Some call Shaolin the best martial arts film since Ip Man.

Order Shaolin from Amazon.com today!

Posted in Deals on Fire!, News | 1 Comment

Pirates, The (2014) Review

"The Pirates" Korean Theatrical Poster

"The Pirates" Korean Theatrical Poster

Director: Lee Seok-Hun
Writer: Cheon Seong-Il, Choi Yi-Young
Cast: Kim Nam-Gil, Son Ye-Jin, Yu Hae-Jin, Lee Kyung-Young, Oh Dal-Su, Kim Tae-Woo, Park Cheol-Min, Shin Jeong-Geun, Kim Won-Hae, Jo Dal-Hwan, Jo Hee-Bong, Jeong Seong-Hwa, Sully, Lee Yi-Kyung
Running Time: 130 min.

By Kyle Warner

Sometimes a movie surprises you. As I sat down to watch the South Korean adventure The Pirates, I expected a silly headache of a movie that existed just to cash-in on the popular Disney franchise Pirates of the Caribbean (the trailers definitely seemed to suggest as much). And while Pirates of the Caribbean was clearly an influence both creatively and financially in the making of this film, The Pirates manages to bring enough energy and style to make itself stand on its own. It’s a silly movie, but it possesses an addictive lunacy that slowly grew on me.

The story goes like this: a gray whale swallows the Royal Seal during an important time in Korea’s history. It’s absolutely imperative that the Royal Seal be recovered in order to maintain relations with China’s Ming Dynasty. So begins a rat race that pits pirates, bandits, and the military against one another in order to get to the whale first and reap the rewards. Basically it’s Pirates of the Caribbean meets Moby Dick.

Leading the pirates is Yeo-wol (Ye-jin Son), a female warrior that receives the respect of her crew because she clearly cares for them all. Opposing Yeo-wol is her former captain Soma (Kyeong-yeong Lee), who at one point tried to slaughter half his crew in order to appease an official. Elsewhere in the story is a bandit chief named Crazy Tiger (Nam-gil Kim) who has caught wind of the whale chase and wants the treasure for him and his men. The bandit chief also has his own nemesis in the form of a former ally named Mo (Tae-woo Kim). As one would expect, the baddies eventually team up, while Crazy Tiger and Yeo-wol also reach common ground in the fight.

Ultimately the plot is just a setup for crazy stuff to happen. The Pirates works as a series of gags, over-the-top performances, and a few well-made action sequences. It’s a bright and colorful adventure, and director Seok-hoon Lee (Dancing Queen) infuses the film with a rapid pace, which is good because it never lets the audience stop and think of more practical ways for our characters to achieve their goals. There’s a lot of stupidity on display in The Pirates, but for the most part I think you’ll be laughing along.

One of my favorite sequences includes the bandits harpooning a great white shark, which turns their little boat into a speedboat that cruises across the surface, causing all other sea captains to look on with jealousy. Also fun is a chase through a market that soon results in a coastal town’s near destruction as a giant wooden wheel breaks off its hinges (the sequence reminds me of the car busting through the shantytown in Jackie Chan’s Police Story – however, this sequence is less impressive as it’s done largely with CGI). The film is at its best in these big sequences, as the writing and directing sets up the series of events in an amusing way. Like some jokes, you may see the punchline coming, but at least it delivers what it promises.

Hae-jin Yoo (Public Enemy) starts off as the film’s most annoying character but quickly becomes its funniest and most relatable. He plays a member of the pirates who abandoned ship, joined the bandits, but can’t seem to fit in anywhere. When the bandits join the whale chase, he is looked to as the authority on the ocean, and Yoo shines during these moments. He plays the idiot playing the expert, and because his audience is even more ignorant than him the humor really connects. Cheol-min Park (Sector 7) and Dal-su Oh (Old Boy) are reliable in bringing the laughs in their supporting roles, and Kyeong-yeong Lee (Kundo) does a good job lending some drama to the proceedings in the role of the primary villain.

It’s too bad the two heroic leads largely disappoint by comparison. Ye-jin Son was very good in the 2004 romance A Moment to Remember, but her work in The Pirates is weak. There is no depth to her performance and she shows only a limited range of emotions, often staring blankly back at her co-stars. She looks bored with everything and everyone. Her counterpart Nam-gil Kim fairs better, if only slightly. At times Kim is very likable as the bandit chief, but too often his performance falters as he tries to channel Johnny Depp’s Jack Sparrow. On that note, I’d also like to point out that this is not all Kim’s failing; the director should’ve known better. When you openly mimic a well-known and well-liked character, you open yourself up to comparisons. You can say whatever you like about Sparrow in the Caribbean sequels, but in his first appearance the Sparrow character was one of the most original heroes for a blockbuster in a long time. Sparrow’s a goofy oddball, but there’s a moral ambiguity to the character, and you never quite know where you stand with him. He’s a scallywag—a pirate through and through. By comparison, Crazy Tiger’s goofy and true to his men and… not much else. Giving Crazy Tiger some of the same mannerisms in certain scenes makes the comparison inevitable, which only serves to make The Pirates’ weaknesses more evident.

Also frustrating is the film’s inconsistent tone. For much of the film, The Pirates operates pretty well as either a comedy or a breezy action/adventure. However, at times it slips into darker territory where it doesn’t really belong, and these scenes really take the viewer out of the film. One such sequence shows a villain massacre a fishing village just so that he has some corpses to take the blame for a pirate’s crime. More striking (in this reviewer’s opinion, at least), is the violence dished out on the whale. Here you are laughing along and then a whale gets a harpoon in the back and there’s blood everywhere. It’s not the sort of thing you want to see when you’ve just cut away from a bit of comedy.

All in all, I think there’s enough to recommend The Pirates to curious filmgoers. Definitely consider it as a rental. It’s not as good as Pirates of the Caribbean: Curse of the Black Pearl, but it is better than at least a couple of that film’s sequels. Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides, the most recent and arguably the weakest of that series, earned over $1 billion dollars worldwide. Clearly a great many people enjoy the Pirates of the Caribbean movies, and I’d be willing to bet that a good handful of them would enjoy The Pirates as well.

Kyle Warner’s Rating: 7/10

Posted in Korean, News, Reviews | Leave a comment

From Asia With Lust Volume 1: Camp & Hitchhike | DVD (Troma)

From Asia With Lust: Volume 1 | DVD (Troma)

From Asia With Lust: Volume 1 | DVD (Troma)

RELEASE DATE: March 10, 2015

Troma presents the DVD for From Asia With Lust Volume 1: Camp & Hitchhike, a double feature directed by Ainosuke Shibata and starring Miyuki Yokoyama.

In Camp (trailer), a camping trip turns into a nightmare for two sisters when they become trapped by five dangerous men. One sister is brutally murdered, the other escapes. Now, it’s time for revenge! In Hitchhike (trailer), a couple are on a road trip, but when they pick up a hitch hiker along the way, all hell breaks loose!

Pre-order From Asia With Lust: Volume 1 from Amazon.com today!

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

Zoe Bell joins Quentin Tarantino’s ‘The Hateful Eight’

"The Hateful Eight" Teaser Poster

"The Hateful Eight" Teaser Poster

THE MOVIE: Quentin Tarantino’s The Hateful Eight revolves around Bounty hunters who seek shelter from a raging blizzard and get caught up in a plot of betrayal and deception. The film will star Bruce Dern, Samuel L. Jackson, Michael Madsen, Kurt Russell, James Remar, Amber Tamblyn, Walton Goggins and Zoe Bell.

Updates: Deadline reports that Tarantino has shelved The Hateful Eight, due to script leakage. Allegedly, the script was hosted and distributed by a website called Gawker. Deadline reports that Tarantino has filed a legal complaint against Gawker, charging the website copyright infringement and contributory copyright infringement. Apparently, Gawker is was blaming Tarantino for making his script a ‘frenzy.’

During a recent live-reading of the “leaked” The Hateful Eight script (featuring Samuel L. Jackson, Kurt Russell, Tim Roth and Bruce Dern), Tarantino announced that he may be filming The Hateful Eight next winter, and it will be based off a newly revised script with a totally new final chapter.

The Hateful Eight starts filming in January of 2015. The announced cast includes Bruce Dern, Samuel L. Jackson, Michael Madsen, Kurt Russell, James Remar, Amber Tamblyn and Walton Goggins. Although Christoph Waltz and Tim Roth performed at the film’s live-reading, they’re not officially tied to the “movie” version.

There’s also some talk (Indiewire, via FCS) about a theatrical release of Kill Bill: The Whole Bloody Affair – a combined, extended cut of Kill Bill Vol. 1 and 2 – which may also hit in 2015. | Jennifer Lawrence (The Hunger Games) is in talks to join the cast. | Jennifer Jason Leigh has landed the female lead.

According to Collider, Channing Tatum has officially joined The Hateful Eight. In addition, Demian Bichir (Machete Kills) has also stepping in. For the official plot synopsis, click here (beware of minor spoilers). In case you haven’t watched it yet, here’s the “leaked” teaser trailer. | Behind-the-scenes photos for Quentin Tarantino’s Hateful Eight, courtesy of Samuel L. Jackson.

BREAKING NEWS: Collider (via TW) reports that stunt woman/actress Zoe Bell (Kill Bill, Death Proof, Raze) is officially part of the Hateful Eight cast. Other cast additions include James Parks, Gene Jones, Dana Gourrier, Keith Jefferson, Lee Horsley, Craig Stark and Belinda Owino.

Posted in News | 2 Comments

R.I.P. Darren Shahlavi, actor and martial artist *updated*

"Zambo Dende" Promotional Poster

"Zambo Dende" Promotional Poster

Media outlets are reporting the death of English actor and martial artist Darren Shahlavi, who died at the age of 42 on January 14th.

According to Shahlavi’s brother, Bobby: “Darren died peacefully in his sleep. More details are still coming out. Thanks for all of your support. Please feel free to post your thoughts and memories of Darren Shahlavi as this is of great support and comfort to all of Darren’s family, friends and fans.”

Shahlavi has left behind a two decade-long body of work, including Tai Chi II (1996), Bloodmoon (1997), Beyond the Limits (2003), Tactical Force (2022), Mortal Kombat Legacy (2011), but he is perhaps best known to most audiences for co-starring in Donnie Yen’s Ip Man 2 (2011).

At the time of his death, Shahlavi was working on Kickboxer: Vengeance (2015) and a short film titled Zambo Dende (2015). His last completed films are the upcoming Pound of Flesh (2015), as well as a brief appearance in Tomorrowland (2015).

Our condolences go out to Shahlavi’s family and friends. If you would like to contribute to the Darren Shahlavi memorial fund, click here.

Update 1: Regarding the mysterious passing of Darren Shahlavi, Mike Leeder – film producer, co-star and friend of Shahlavi – wrote the following on his Facebook: “Even on Pound of Flesh, a few times Darren spoke of issues with a hip injury that had never fully healed but he continued to deliver the action required of him. Unfortunately he was recently prescribed a painkiller for his hip that he wasn’t used to, and a toxic reaction to it, has sadly taken him from us. His passing leaves an huge gap many of our hearts and in the industry, as his full potential had only just began to be explored. He leaves us a legacy with his film work, to enjoy, to learn from and to be inspired by, and lets remember the man and the way he lived…”

Update 2: After Donnie Yen learned about Shahlavi’s passing, he had this to say (via Weibo): “When we worked on that final scene, my co-star suddenly told me that actually we have already met at a martial art forum in England! At the time he was only 15. He said that from that day on he swore to become an actor. Gone too soon!” Here’s a photo of their first meeting in 1988, then again in 2011, on the set of Ip Man 2.

Posted in News | 1 Comment

A Stranger in Paradise | DVD (Freestyle)

A Stranger in Paradise | DVD (Freestyle)

A Stranger in Paradise | DVD (Freestyle)

RELEASE DATE: March 24, 2015

Freestyle presents the DVD for A Stranger in Paradise, starring Colin Egglesfield, Byron Mann (The Corruptor), Gary Daniels (Tekken 2: Kazuya’s Revenge), Catalina Sandino Moreno and Stuart Townsend.

On the verge of making partner at a multi-billion dollar hedge fund, Josh’s (Egglesfield) life is turned upside down when the SEC investigates the head of the company for insider trading. Forced into a well-timed vacation he never asked for, Josh soon finds himself in Bangkok with a price put on his head, courtesy of the Thai Mafia. Watch the trailer.

Pre-order A Stranger in Paradise from Amazon.com today!

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

Revenge of the Green Dragons (2014) Review

"Revenge of the Green Dragons" Chinese Theatrical Poster

"Revenge of the Green Dragons" Chinese Theatrical Poster

Director: Andrew Lau, Andrew Loo
Writer: Andrew Loo, Michael Di Jiacomo
Cast: Ray Liotta, Justin Chon, Shuya Chang, Harry Shum, Jr., Kevin Wu, Billy Magnussen, Eugenia Yuan, Jin Auyeung, Joanna P. Adler, Alysia Reiner, Linda Wang, Jim Ford, Ron Yuan, Jon Kit Lee
Running Time: 95 min.

By oneleaf

Revenge of the Green Dragons is a Hong Kong/US co-production based on “true events” sourced from Fredric Dannen’s 1992 The New Yorker article of the same name. The piece explores the Green Dragons, a Chinese triad operating out of Queens, New York that terrorized the neighborhood in the ’80s. They specialized in human smuggling, extortion and drugs.

The film focuses on the rise and fall of two sworn brothers thrown together by fate. Young Sonny Tan (Alex Fox) and Steven Wan (Michael Gregory Fung) are both illegal immigrants who land on Ellis Island, New York. Because Sonny’s mother did not make the perilous journey to America, the smugglers force Mrs. Wan to take him in as her own and care for him.

Not long after their arrival, the Green Dragons forcefully enlist Steven using their usual tactic of “beating” potential recruits into submission. Sonny soon follows and they both leave the care of Mrs. Wan and join the family of Paul Wong (Harry Shum Jr. of Glee), their charismatic leader. In Wong, Sonny and Steven find a surrogate dailo (or “big brother”), thus begins their fateful lives into the dark side.

Justin Chon (The Twilight Saga), the adult Sonny, provides the narration. Chon’s monotonous voice needs work. There is almost no intonation in his delivery to liven up what is reflected on the screen. At times, he sounds bored. A more authoritative semi-baritone cadence would have served the film better. As far as screen acting, Chon does a passable job.

Frequent YouTube users will be familiar with Kevin Wu, better known by his stage name, KevJumba. He’s built quite a following for some of his unusual, comedic clips throughout the years. Wu’s portrayal of the adult Steven is unconvincing and wooden. He’s given the chance to dramatically personify his character after a near death experience. Unfortunately, he’s only able to exhibit little or no change in his demeanor in his subsequent scenes.

Fox, as the young Sonny, is a breath of fresh air. He doesn’t appear intimidated by the other adult co-stars in his presence. He’s able to emote with his eyes and facial expressions on point. The same can’t be said of Fung, portraying the young Wan, who basically spends the entire time looking bewildered and disengaged.

Other than Fox and Shum, none of the actors are “realistic.” Most, if not all, of the triad members over-act with over the top glares, screams, and posturing that don’t add any substance to the film. Shum’s character wasn’t given much to do except for popping in and out, barking orders and pseudo-philosophizing in front of his men. Shum definitely deserved more screen time. Chon and Wu were not household names, so casting them as leads for the film were most likely due to budgetary constraints (the movie has an estimated budget of only $5M).

Two directors on board – Andrew Lau and Andrew Loo – for such a simplistic movie is somewhat puzzling. I can only surmise that due to Loo’s inexperience as a director, Lau was brought in to “help” out with the project. Lau, who has made a name for himself in Hong Kong – having worked with A-listers such as Andy Lau, Leon Lai and Tony Leung – has misfired. Or was it Loo, his co-director, to blame?

Having Martin Scorsese (Casino) as executive producer didn’t help either. Other than lending his name – emblazoned in big bold letters – on the movie’s poster, his participation was obviously minimal. There isn’t a single hint of grit, taut or an engrossing story we would expect from Scorsese being involved. Even Ray Liotta (Goodfellas) couldn’t salvage this mess. Rumor has it that Scorsese’s involvement was merely a favor to Lau for his support in his film, The Departed, the American remake of Lau’s blockbuster, Infernal Affairs.

Revenge of the Green Dragons’ inane, generic script could have been lifted from any triad flick from the 90s. I found myself unable to identify with any of its underdeveloped characters. I also found it difficult to get through the movie in general.  It’s such a pity that its a weak adaptation of Dannen’s fascinating New Yorker article.

Not recommended.

oneleaf’s Rating: 3/10

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

Gareth Evans will return for ‘The Raid 3′ in 2018 or 2019

"The Raid 2" International Theatrical Poster

"The Raid 2" International Theatrical Poster

If 2009′s Merauntau hinted that director Gareth Evans was on to something special, then 2011′s The Raid proved our point. With 2014′s The Raid 2: Berandal, expectations were not only met, they were drastically surpassed.

Fact is, in such a short amount of time, Evans is an ingenious filmmaker who is on one hell of a creative peak; funny thing is, something tells us the guy hasn’t even reached his peak yet. Using The Beatles as analogy: If Merauntau is “Meet the Beatles,” then The Raid is “Rubber Soul;” If The Raid 2 is “Revolver,” then perhaps The Raid 3 will be “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band”?

With Hollywood remaking The Raid, and Stallone trying to top its excessive, yet inventive string of violence, Evans has made his mark as one of the hottest action directors working in film today. And he does it with a limited budget, a foreign language and no big names or stars (which has obviously changed for Iko Uwais).

In celebration of Evans’ cinematic victory, we decided to jump the gun on The Raid 3. You can count on us to keep this article updated with the latest news and developments.

So far, here’s what we know about The Raid 3:

“If The Raid 2 starts two hours after the first film, The Raid 3 will start three hours before The Raid 2 finishes. We’ll go back in time a little, and then we’ll branch off. So for me – without giving too much away – I want to try a different landscape. I want to try to shoot something that’s very, very different from the first and the second one. So visually it’ll look completely different, tone-wise it’ll be very different. So there’s a lot going on there, a lot of ideas going around in my head, it’s just a case of putting them down on paper. We’re in the process of developing it for maybe two years down the line,” says Evans. Source: Denofgeek.com

“I don’t have any plans to do The Raid 3 within the next two or three years so I’m going to take a break from that franchise for a bit… I want to do some some things outside of Indonesia for like two films, then come back to Indonesia and shoot The Raid 3. I have another one I want to shoot with him first. Still in the action genre and it’s something that [Uwais] needs to train for for a fair amount of time. You have to make good with some weaponry, my friend,” says Evans. Source: Craveonline.com

Evans is currently developing other projects, including gangster action film Blister. He is also planning on another martial arts film with Uwais, potentially shooting that and The Raid 3 back-to-back in Indonesia. Source: Screendaily.com

Evans has brought up Scott Adkins on numerous occasions, so you can’t deny that Adkins has a chance of appearing in The Raid 3. Even Adkins himself has tweeted: “I’m officially stating it NOW!! @ghuwevans better me put in The Raid 3!! Here’s what Evans had to say about him: ”Scott Adkins I’ve had the pleasure of meeting on a few occasions. He’s ridiculously talented with an all round skillset that combines fight techniques with athleticism and acrobatics. I’m looking for the right project, once I do I would love to work with him on something.” Source: cityonfire.com

According to imdb.com, martial arts super star Tony Jaa (Ong Bak) may be joining the cast of The Raid 3. Although imdb’s information may or may not be accurate, it’s definitely a 50/50 scenario. Here’s what Evans had to say about Jaa: Tony Jaa is a phenomenal talent. Ong Bak was a major announcement to the industry and to audiences that the martial arts genre was back. Of course there’s been a fair amount of mud thrown around regarding the situation between artist and production company but that’s not for us to know nor is it in any way something that takes anything away from his all round talents. With the right script, the right role and please God no elephants.” Source: cityonfire.com

We received a reply from Evans himself regarding Tony Jaa’s appearance in The Raid 3. Here’s what he had to say: “That’s just someone posting it up on imdb.com. I have a huge amount of respect for Tony, but I haven’t even put pen to paper on The Raid 3 yet, and it won’t happen for a couple of years.”

Updates: Evans took to Twitter to give us an update (or lack thereof) for the 3rd chapter of The Raid series: “The Raid 3 isn’t going to be happening anytime soon. Ideas in my head. Nothing written. No set date. 2018/19 possibly.”

Posted in News | 5 Comments