Cityonfire.com’s ‘Cross’ DVD Giveaway! – WINNERS ANNOUNCED!

Cross | DVD (Well Go USA)

Cross | DVD (Well Go USA)

Cityonfire.com and Well Go USA are giving away 3 DVD copies of Simon Yam’s Cross to three lucky Cityonfire visitors. To enter, simply add a comment to this post and describe, in your own words, this classic 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 DVD for Cross was officially released on June 23, 2015. We will announce the 3 winners on July 21, 2015 and ship out the prizes immediately.

CONTEST DISCLAIMER: You must enter by July 20, 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: Chris Lane, Mathew A., and Bill N.

Posted in News | Tagged | 10 Comments

‘Raid’ star Iko Uwais joins Wahlberg and Rousey in ‘Mile 22′

"The Raid 2" Japanese Theatrical Poster

"The Raid 2" Japanese Theatrical Poster

Mark Wahlberg (The Big Hit) and director Peter Berg (The Rundown) are in negotiations to re-team for Mile 22, an action movie co-starring UFC’s Ronda Rousey (The Expendables 3) and Iko Uwais (The RaidThe Raid 2).

According to THR, Mile 22 tells the story of a CIA agent (Wahlberg) stationed in Indonesia who is tasked with transporting an informant to an airport 22 miles away. While en route, they must battle a bunch of bad guys who plan on taking them out before they reach their plane.

Following 2013′s The Lone Survivor and the upcoming oil-explosion disaster flick, Deepwater Horizon, Mile 22 will be Wahlberg and Berg’s 3rd collaboration together. Stay tuned for more updates!

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Deal on Fire! Heroes Two | Blu-ray | Only $9.69 – Expires soon!

"Heroes Two" Blu-ray Cover

"Heroes Two" Blu-ray Cover

Today’s Deal on Fire is the Blu-ray for Heroes Two, a Shaw Brothers classic directed by the legendary Chang Cheh (Five Element Ninjas, Slaughter in Xian) with action scenes choreographed by the great Lau Kar-leung (Shaolin Mantis, Drunken Master II).

This impressive production, also known as Bloody Fists or Kung Fu Invaders, is a true landmark in kung fu film history. The first of Chang Cheh’s Taiwan-produced, mid-1970s Shaolin cycle, Heroes Two is the low-budget beginning of several films starring Fu Sheng, which culminated with the grand Shaolin Temple in 1976.

Order Heroes Two from Amazon.com today!

Posted in Deals on Fire!, News | 1 Comment

‘Arrow Arbitration’ helmer is back with a ‘Master’ of kung fu!

"The Master" Chinese Theatrical Poster

"The Master" Chinese Theatrical Poster

Xu Haofeng made a name for himself by penning the screenplay for Wong Kar-Wai’s The Grandmaster. But it was 2011′s The Sword Identity, his directorial debut, which showed Haofeng’s true talent. Then came his acclaimed second film, 2012′s Judge Archer (aka Arrow Arbitration).

Haofeng’s trend in both films was presenting the martial arts in a less stylized and more realistic manner, perhaps not unlike the 2007 Japanese film Black Belt or David Mamet’s 2008 MA-themed Redbelt.

Now, Haofeng is back with his knack of realistic hand-to-hand combat in The Master. According to FCS: Liao Fan (Armour of God III: Chinese Zodiac) stars in the title role as a Wing Chun master from Canton eager to establish himself in Tienjin with an intricate plan to do so goes awry when military official moves in with a deadly campaign to systematically indoctrinate miltary training throughout each school.

Co-starring in The Master is Song Yang (The Sword Identity), Jia Song (On His Majesty’s Secret Service), Li Xia (The White Dragon), Huang Jue (Founding of the Party) and Chin Shih-Chieh (The Brotherhood of Blades).

If you’re lucky enough to live where it’s playing (like, China for instance), the film is opening this weekend. If you’re not, you can watch the trailer until a distributor like Well Go USA or Lionsgate picks it up. Stay tuned!

Posted in News | 2 Comments

100 Yen Love (2014) Review

"100 Yen Love" Japanese Theatrical Poster

"100 Yen Love" Japanese Theatrical Poster

Director: Masaharu Take
Writer: Shin Adachi
Cast: Sakura Ando, Hirofumi Arai, Miyoko Inagawa, Saori Koide, Shohei Uno, Tadashi Sakata, Yozaburo Ito, Osamu Shigematu, Toshie Negishi, Ruka Wakabayashi
Running Time: 113 min.

By Martin Sandison

As well as being a beautiful and cultural place, my home city of Edinburgh, Scotland has one of the longest-running film festivals in the world, this year being the 69th. This time the festival has been one of the best in my memory, with a varied line up and many nations represented. The festival has always had a substantial Asian cinema representation, and this year was no different. Previous entrants have included Oldboy, Motorway, Life Without Principle and Hero.

100 Yen Love looked to be a good one to watch, and I wasn’t disappointed. Star Sakura Ando appeared in one of my favourite Japanese movies Sion Sono’s Love Exposure at the tender age of 22, and her performance is one of the most memorable things about that film. From then on she appeared in numerous television series and films, notable ones including Takashi Miike’s For Love’s Sake (his over the top musical based on a Manga), and Nao Kubota’s Homeland, the first commercial Japanese film set in Fukushima since the nuclear crisis. One of three films Ando made in 2014, 100 Yen Love represents her as an actress at the top of her game. The movie is a great vehicle for her talents, and manages to shine in many other aspects. Director Masaharu Take balances these aspects with a great eye and ability as a story teller.

At the beginning of the film Ando’s character is an early 30’s slacker who is living with her family in Tokyo. She has so many arguments with them that she decides to move out, and finds an apartment and a job in a shop. Every day she walks past a boxing gym, and eventually strikes up a relationship with one of the boxers, Yuuji. In the end she decides to take up boxing herself, and the film ends with her first professional fight. Not a boxing film per se, the movie is really a character study with boxing as a means of redemption for Ichiko. Along the way there are comedic touches, disturbing moments and intensely choreographed boxing scenes.

After watching Love Exposure, Ando’s wonderful portrayal of a girl who is at first manipulative and twisted, but some how ends up lovable was a joy to behold. 100 Yen Love manages to see her handle an even more complex character with similar aplomb, navigating the twists and turns of the plot. I was discussing the film with a guy who did the post-film Q & A with Ando and Take, and he thought every character in the film, even Ichiko, had very few redeeming features. I would disagree, as Ando creates a picture of Ichiko as a misunderstood and pure hearted girl who never stops fighting.

The film is littered with memorable scenes; Ichiko trying to eat the toughest steak ever cooked while crying, numerous scenes between Ichiko and a homeless woman who she gives discarded food, Ichiko beating the crap out of her A-hole boss after she’s had some boxing training, and of course the riveting boxing scenes. Ichiko’s transformation from slacker to boxer is fist-pumping stuff, and as the narrative is so coherent everything fits in to place.

Director Take really comes in to his own with this film, which is a complete change of pace from his previous one Unsung Hero, a great effort in the Chambara genre. That film had a pretty high budget and a traditional style, whereas 100 Yen Love is low budget and modern Japanese style. Take proves in the action department he is a versatile director, as Unsung Hero includes large scale battles, whilst 100 Yen Love’s final fight is up close and personal. Apparently the fight was shot over a 16-hour period, and the action was pre-choreographed. A problem with a lot of the films we love is that the narrative is just a means to include as much action as possible, sacrificing character development; in 100 Yen Love there is so much investment in the protagonist that by the end that fight pay-off creates a strong emotion in the viewer. This is assisted by close-in angles, fluid editing and crunching sound effects, so you can really feel the heat of the battle. The use of slow motion during a crucial part of the fight also had me in raptures, as Ichiko finally uses her killer left hand.

The obvious touchstone for 100 Yen Love is the classic boxing biopic Raging Bull, however the approach to character and narrative is very different when comparing both. The latter is a picture of a violent, volatile man who progresses in the ring but destroys his life out of it. 100 Yen Love portrays Ichiko as a girl who by the end wants to better herself, and boxing gives her this outlet. In the end the movie does follow a classic underdog story, but leaves enough room for originality and quirkiness so that it transcends this archetype.

A problem that is apparent from the earlier parts of the film is that most of the main characters apart from Ichiko are pretty nasty pieces of work, and it is difficult to find positives in their depiction. Yuuji himself treats Ichiko like dirt, and uses her for his own ends. Ichiko’s sleazy co-worker is perhaps the worst out of the lot, a real first class idiot.

However these are but minor faults in a movie that has heart, emotion, style and great acting. I can’t wait to see where star Ando and director Take go next.

Martin Sandison’s Rating: 8/10

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

Shu Qi’s annihilates her foes in a teaser for ‘The Assassin’

"The Assassin" Teaser Poster

"The Assassin" Teaser Poster

Acclaimed director Hou Hsiao-Hsien remains one of the leading filmmakers of Taiwan’s New Wave cinema movement. He is perhaps most famous for his 1989 effort A City of Sadness, which starred Tony Leung Chiu Wai.

For years, Hsiao-Hsien has been developing a wuxia project based on a Tang Dynasty tale. The movie, titled Nie Yin Niang (or The Assassin in English), has officially wrapped.

Taiwanese actress Shu Qi, known for Hong Kong films like Jackie Chan’s Gorgeous and So Close, stars in the lead role. Her character was taken away by a Taoist nun as a young girl, trained in the martial arts, and later commissioned as a deadly assassin. Co-starring alongside Qi are Zhou Yun (Bodyguards and Assassins), Chang Chen (Helios) and Tsumabuki Satoshi (Waterboys).

The film is said to bear some resemblance to Ang Lee’s landmark Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, but Asian cinema buffs who grow tired of extensive CGI in wuxia films can take heart. Hou has promised The Assassin will be more realistic, telling reporters “Special effects won’t often be seen in the film.” The Assassin will feature martial arts choreography by Stephen Tung-Wai (Fox Hunter).

Updates: Well Go USA has acquired Hou Hsiao-hsien’s The Assassin. The film will be screened at the Cannes Film Festival later this month. Stay tuned for theatrical, VOD, Blu-ray and DVD release dates!

BREAKING NEWS: Watch a new teaser trailer (via FCS).

Posted in News | 1 Comment

Showdown in Little Tokyo | Blu-ray (Warner)

Showdown in Little Tokyo | Blu-ray (Warner)

Showdown in Little Tokyo | Blu-ray (Warner)

RELEASE DATE: July 21, 2015

Warner presents the Blu-ray for 1991′s Showdown in Little Tokyo, directed by Mark L. Lester (Commando, Class of 1984).

This martial arts action-comedy pairs Dolph Lundgren (Skin Trade) and Brandon Lee (Legacy of Rage, The Crow) as L.A. cops against a gang of Japanese drug dealers, headed by Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa (Tekken 2: Kazuya’s Revenge). The film also stars Tia Carrere (True Lies), Toshishiro Obata (The Hunted) and Philip Tan (Kung Pow: Enter the Fist). | Watch the trailer.

Pre-order Showdown in Little Tokyo from Amazon.com today!

Posted in DVD/Blu-ray New Releases, Martial Arts Titles | 5 Comments

‘SPL 3′ (aka Sha Po Lang 3, Kill Zone 3 or whatever you want to call it) is happening!

"SPL 2: A Time For Consequences" Teaser Poster

"SPL 2: A Time For Consequences" Teaser Poster

Following SPL 2′s box office success (read our review), the possibility of an SPL 3 was inevitable – in fact, it’s in stone! According Twitchfilm (via FCS), producer Paco Wong (Zombie Fight Club) announced that the next installment in the SPL franchise has already been green-lit.

The original SPL (aka Sha Po Lang), helmed by Wilson Yip (Bio-Zombie), which was released in North America under the title Kill Zone, helped provide a boost to Donnie Yen’s and Sammo Hung’s popularity before they collaborated again three years later on 2008′s Ip Man. Even with a Category III rating (essentially the Chinese equivalent of the NC-17), SPL proved successful in Hong Kong theaters.

Taking over directing duties for SPL 2 is Soi Cheang (Accident). The film stars Tony Jaa (Skin Trade), Wu Jing (Wolf Warrior), Louis Koo (Flash Point), Simon Yam (Cyprus Tigers) and Zhang Jin (Rise of the Legend). Despite the absence of Yen, SPL 2 had a successful opening in China and is still going strong.

There are currently no directors, stars or a release date attached with SPL 3, but we’ll be sure to keep you informed. For now, don’t miss the trailer for SPL 2 (as well as our review). As for as a North American release? We’re pretty sure it’s coming soon…

Posted in News | 12 Comments

For the Emperor (2014) Review

"For the Emperor" Korean Theatrical Poster

"For the Emperor" Korean Theatrical Poster

Director: Park Sang-Joon
Writer: Lee Yong-Soo, Kim Sung-Dong
Producer: Choi Jae-Il, Lee Tae-Hun
Cast: Lee Min-Ki, Park Sung-Woong, Lee Tae-Im, Kim Jong-Goo, Lee Jae-Won, Han Jae-Young, Lee Yoo-Joon, Jung Heung-Chae, Park Jin-Woo, Kim Ki-Moo
Running Time: 104 min.

By Kyle Warner

In his first years playing in the pros, pitcher Lee Hwan (Lee Min-ki) was a rising star. After an injury hurts his career, Hwan starts rigging his games and earning money on the side. When he’s arrested for illegal gambling, Hwan walks away from sports and joins the gangsters he’d only been loosely connected to in the past. A good fighter with ruthless ambition and a devil-may-care attitude, Hwan quickly rises through the ranks to become one of the most powerful gangsters in the city.

For the Emperor will likely feel familiar to just about anyone who’s ever watched more than a handful of organized crime films. In the film we get the usual gangster movie characters and clichés: there’s the rags to riches storyline, the woman who’s indebted to the mob and pays off her debt by working as a call girl, the mafia mentor who is viewed as a rival once the protégé outgrows his teachings, and of course let’s not forget the crazy guy that’s released from prison and threatens to bring everything crashing down… and so much more! Really, you’ve seen all of this before. And you’ve probably seen most of it done better, too.

Burdened with an uninteresting screenplay (based on a comic book by Kim Seong-Dong), For the Emperor never manages to do anything really exciting to set itself apart from the pack of Asian crime films. Beyond the script, though, I found it to be a decently made film. The editing is sharp, giving the film a brisk, agreeable pace. The musical score by Peach and Dalparan (The Good, the Bad, the Weird) is often interesting. The cinematography is cool, making the city of Busan look colorful and bright. And the actors do what they can with the characters given to them, often resulting in some pretty decent performances.

The most interesting part of the film may be the main character Hwan. Early on in the film, Hwan carries himself with complete disregard for his life and the lives of others. Some of his fellow gangsters regard him as overly confident, but it seems to be more than that, like he might be a borderline sociopath. The character becomes less interesting after he finds love and success, learning that he does actually stand to lose something in his life. For the most part, Lee Min-ki (Quick) is impressive playing the lead. His lean frame and pretty boy looks do not always lend well to the character of a tough guy, but when Lee’s allowed to play Hwan as someone dangerous and self-loathing, the actor finds some interesting things to work with. I would compare his performance to the grittier roles of Ryan Gosling – both play their parts with minimal expression or emotion and deliver their lines with cold detachment. Like Gosling, this style of performance only gets Lee so far. When Hwan sits in front of a table of gangsters and is asked to command the screen with just the look in his eyes, Lee falls a bit short. Lee lacks the cool intensity of other better, more experienced actors, and in these scenes he looks less like a man in complete control of his world and more like a man that simply doesn’t have anything interesting to say.

Though the best of gangster cinema are often considered prestige films, For the Emperor only ever tries to be a piece of genre entertainment. It’s just fine with being derivative instead of being original, with characters that try to be cool instead of real, and a romantic relationship between the leads that means to be sexy instead of being believably romantic. Their relationship – and indeed, the love interest herself (Lee Tae-im) – is only there to add steamy sex to the picture while the plot falls into place. Once the villains start announcing themselves, the film pretty much drops the love interest entirely.

Director Park Sang-jun (Bank Attack) fills the film with extreme violence and bone-crunching action. It’s often nasty, unpleasant stuff, but the scenes are fairly memorable and visually striking. Knife fights are the norm for Korean gangster cinema but Park finds some interesting ways to stage the fights, whether by going to new locations or simply lighting the fights in cool and chaotic ways.

I wish the same could be said for how Park staged his dramatic scenes. Way too many scenes feature the characters facing away from each other while they converse. Here’s a fun drinking game for you: down a shot every time someone stares out the damned window, take two shots if we see them staring longingly at either the ocean or the city of Busan lit up like a Christmas tree. I mean, I get it. Dramatically they’re staring off towards the future and stylistically it gives the actors something to do instead of just standing around and talking face-to-face. It’s an oft-used way for staging a dramatic scene, but Park falls back on it way too often here.

For the Emperor definitely feels like a bit of the old ‘been there, done that,’ but that’s not to say that it’s all bad. Yes, it’s overly familiar and lacking deep characterization or any original twists to the old narrative. But it’s mildly entertaining stuff, moves at a good pace, and does not overstay its welcome. I don’t feel that For the Emperor has enough to recommend it, but I expect some fans of Korean crime dramas will find something to enjoy here.

Kyle Warner’s Rating: 6/10

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

Martial arts gangs run rampant in ‘Kwon Bob: Chinatown’

"Kwon Bob: Chinatown" Korean Theatrical Poster

"Kwon Bob: Chinatown" Korean Theatrical Poster

The talented Park Sang-Hyun – who is part of a team responsible choreographing the action in films like Kundo: Age of the Rampant (2014) and For the Emperor (2014) – is making his directorial debut in a new Korean martial arts film called Kwon Bob: Chinatown (“Kwon Bob” means “martial arts”).

Kwon Bob: Chinatown stars Seo Joon-yeong (Bleak Night) as a detective who tries to take down a gang of martial arts fighters. The film also stars Ban So-yeong (The Princess’ Man), Won Jin (The Suspect), Oh Seung-yoon (Stalker), Lee Si-yoo (Traffickers) and Seo Beom-sik (Fists of Legend).

Kwon Bob: Chinatown opens in Korea on July 9, 2015. Stay tuned for the trailer!

Posted in News | 2 Comments

Return of the Valuables (1975) Review

"Return of the Valuables" Chinese Theatrical Poster

"Return of the Valuables" Chinese Theatrical Poster

Director: Chui Dai-Gwan
Writer: Gam Kim
Producer: Chen Ching-Te
Cast: Chen Tao, Joan Lin Feng-Chiao, Gary List, Lee Seung, Lam Chi, Miao Tian, Lan Yun, Gam Kim, Chen Chiu, Chan San-Yat, Tsang Ming-Cheong, Yeung Hung, Keung Hon, Wong Goon-Hung, Chui Lap, Cho Kin, Siu Wong-Lung, Lui Wan-Biu
Running Time: 82 min.

By Paul Bramhall

Toby Russell should be a name that anyone who counts themselves as a fan of kung fu movies will be familiar with. The son of director Ken Russell, he’s a guy who spent his formative years hanging out on the sets of seemingly every legendary kung fu movie ever made, and acting and directing a fair few of them as well. Back in the 1990’s he assisted to run the Eastern Heroes video label in the UK with Ricky Baker, and then in the 2000’s he was the man behind both the Vengeance Video and the Rarescope labels, which released a wealth of old school kung fu goodness onto DVD, often for the first time.

However by 2010, like every other label out there that specialized in the kung fu genre, releases from Vengeance Video and Rarescope had completely dried up. Thankfully though, it appears Russell still has a wealth of movies in his vaults that never got an official release, and towards the end of 2014 he began releasing them as custom projects, usually focusing on movies which have never had English subtitles before. Return of the Valuables is the tenth title that Russell has put out there in his most recent venture, and is a rare 1975 Taiwanese modern day action movie.

Rare kung fu movies usually fall into 2 categories – the first is that for whatever reason, be it distribution rights or lost to the ravages of time, the movies have never had a release either on VHS or DVD, so remain frustratingly impossible to see outside of bootlegs and collectors circles. The second is much simpler – they’ve become rare because they suck and have zero entertainment value, however develop a reputation for being worth watching just based on the fact that the title is so difficult to track down. Sometimes it’s a fine line, so I was curious to see what the deal was with Return of the Valuables.

Working from a newly English subtitled version of the German print, one of the few countries it was released in widescreen, the movie opens with a group of stunt motorcyclists riding around a racetrack. I had my suspicions that such a scene probably wasn’t going to have any connection to the rest of the movie, and I was partly right. None of the movies characters feature in the performance, however I suppose it does serve as a connection to the surprising amount of vehicle stunts that feature throughout, often involving motorbikes, but we’ll get to that later.

The plot of Return of the Valuables revolves around a treasure box which contains a stolen tiara. The tiara is originally stolen by the fantastically named Nightclub Gang, led by King Hu favorite Miao Tian, however it’s then in turn stolen by another gang, led by Gwailo actor Gary List, here in his one and only movie appearance. Tian’s gang members insist the tiara would never have been stolen, had it not been for the fact that the brakes on their car didn’t work, and it just so happens that the brother of the car mechanic who recently worked on the car is a morally righteous kung fu expert. Solution to getting the tiara back? Kidnap the car mechanic and blame him for the brakes not working, then blackmail the brother to helping them take on the rival gang. That works for me.

The car mechanic is played by Gam Kim, who also wrote the script, as well as directing movies like Six Kung Fu Heroes and Militant Eagle, while his kung fu fighting brother is played by Chen Tao. Tao of course quickly becomes the main character, and has a satisfying amount of screen presence and fighting talent, so I was surprised to discover that, apart from an appearance in The Iron Profligates the year prior, he doesn’t have any other movies to his name.

Special mention also has to go to the funky soundtrack, which really adds to the 70’s vibe. I’m sure almost all of the music came from somewhere else, as I was able to recognize a few riffs from Lalo Schifrin’s Enter the Dragon score. The box housing the tiara also gets its own entertainingly bombastic score whenever it gets opened, no matter how inappropriate. Gangsters are sitting around a table seriously discussing the tiara – box gets opened, bombastic score suddenly plays out of nowhere, box gets closed, bombastic score abruptly stops and gangsters continue talking.

Adding to my ‘theory in progress’ that every movie made in 1975 had to have a sexy dance scene (see reviews for The Association and The Saviour Monk), Return of the Valuables also doesn’t disappoint in this department. In a scene which is pretty much separate from everything else going on, we get to watch a well endowed dancer, adorned in just a bikini and briefs sporting psychedelic swirls, perform a rather bizarre routine in the Nightclub Gang’s, well, nightclub. To sum it up, the dance involves her prancing around with a rather manic look on her face, while wildly shaking her ample chest from side to side with great speed. It’s all shot in gratuitous close-up, and eventually the bikini comes off, which I’m sure must have resulted in her developing some kind of breast version of whiplash. I never thought I’d want a topless dance scene to stop, so this was certainly a first. Ironically, the next line a character speaks immediately after the scene is, “What kind of bullsh*t was that?” Agreed.

Of course movies like this are all about the action, and Return of the Valuables delivers plenty of it. As I mentioned earlier, there’s a surprising amount of vehicle stunt work for a 1975 production. While some of it may pale in comparison to what can be done today, scenes were a motorbike mounts the top of a truck and performs a high jump across a railway track, just seconds away from being hit by a speeding train, are nothing less than impressive. Just like Jackie Chan would use for his shopping mall pole slide 10 years later in Police Story, director Chui Dai-Gwan employs the technique of replaying the jump from a couple of different angles, which succeed in highlighting the danger of such a stunt.

Tao is a satisfying bad ass throughout. He convincingly portrays a guy who wants to do the right thing, but it also isn’t under him to hang a woman by her legs out of a window several stories up, or throw a gown over a gangsters head as he steps out of the shower and punch him in the face. Outside of these occurrences though, it’s essentially Tao’s job to get into a fight in almost every scene he’s in, and he sells the fights well. Return of the Valuables belongs to the basher category when it comes to the fight choreography, and for me bashers tend to be one of two things. They’ll either have very stilted and blocky choreography (at worse – performed slowly), or they’ll contain fights which appear like the director did something to get everyone really angry, and then said “Go at each other!” Return of the Valuables thankfully falls into the later category, with every one of the many fights coming across as highly aggressive and violent.

What the fights may lack in finesse and intricate movements, they more than make up for with raw energy and anger. There are no character deaths here from an elaborate acrobatic move or flying kick, when somebody bites the dust, it’s probably because they’ve just been enthusiastically punched in the face 20 times, and sometimes, that’s perfectly fine. The action really culminates at the 1 hour mark, and never relents for the remaining 20 minutes. Having not only had his brother kidnapped, but also his girlfriend (played by none other than Mrs. Jackie Chan – Joan Lin) as well, Tao goes on a rampage through Gary List’s Gwailo gangster’s mansion. Just to remind us that it’s the 70’s, he also has to compete with 4 color coordinated bodyguards, who have matching bald heads, red sweaters, and black fingerless gloves. It’s a look which demands respect.

The finale is really an exhausting experience, with Tao, Tian, and List, all going after each other in a combination of vehicle chases that involve cars, motorbikes, and boats. And of course, fisticuffs, lots of them. The fight action is raw and desperate, with at one point List and Tao going at each other in a river which has a current that looks close to being white water rapids. Watching them trying to throw punches at each other while trying not to be swept away, you’d have to be in a coma not to feel a rush of excitement. List may be a Gwailo, and it’s debatable if he had any formal martial arts training, but he shows that he can give and take blows, enduring all the way to the end, which has him and Tao fighting it out on a moving unmanned boat – Face/Off style, only more than 20 years earlier.

For a healthy dose of 70’s basher action, you can’t go too far wrong with Return of the Valuables.

Paul Bramhall’s Rating: 8/10

Posted in All, Chinese, News, Reviews | 5 Comments

Mel Gibson battles drug dealers in thriller ‘Blood Father’

"Get the Gringo" Japanese Theatrical Poster

"Get the Gringo" Japanese Theatrical Poster

After a string of shoot ‘em up titles such as Get The Gringo, Machete Kills and Expendables 3, Mel Gibson is out for more blood in Blood Father, an upcoming action-drama directed by Jean-Francois Richet (Mesrine) and written by Peter Craig (The Town).

Blood Father is about an ex-con (Gibson) who reunites with his estranged wayward 16-year old daughter (Erin Moriarty) to protect her from drug dealers who are trying to kill her. The film also stars William H. Macy, Thomas Mann, Elisabeth Rohm, Diego Luna and Michael Parks.

Updates: Check out a behind-the-scenes feature for Blood Father. A trailer should be popping up soon!

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The Dead Lands | Blu-ray & DVD (Magnolia)

The Dead Lands | Blu-ray & DVD (Magnolia)

The Dead Lands | Blu-ray & DVD (Magnolia)

RELEASE DATE: August 4, 2015

Magnolia presents the DVD for To a Fraser’s The Dead Lands, an action film that utilized the Maori martial art Mau Rakau (the skilled use of weapons). The film has been described as Mel Gibson’s Apocalypto meets Tony Jaa’s Ong Bak.

After his tribe is slaughtered through an act of treachery, the teenage son of a slain Maori chieftain looks to avenge his father’s murder and bring peace and honor to the souls of his loved ones. | Watch the trailer.

Pre-order The Dead Lands from Amazon.com today!

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

1st explosive trailer for Gerard Butler’s ‘London Has Fallen’

"London Has Fallen" Teaser Poster

"London Has Fallen" Teaser Poster

Gerard Butler, Aaron Eckhart and Morgan Freeman are back for an Olympus Has Fallen sequel, titled London Has Fallen, which has a release date set for October 2, 2015.

Babak Najafi (Easy Money II: Hard to Kill) is directing. Katrin Benedikt and Creighton Rothenberger, who both scribed Olympus Has Fallen, are writing the sequel.

London Has Fallen also stars Angela Bassett, Melissa Leo, Robert Forster, Sean O’Bryan, Radha Mitchell, Jackie Earle Haley, Alon Aboutboul, Charlotte Riley, and Waleed Zuaiter.

Official plot: After the British Prime Minister passes away, his funeral becomes a target of a terrorist organization to destroy some of the world’s most powerful leaders, devastate the British capital, and unleash a terrifying vision of the future. The only hope of stopping it rests on the shoulders of the President of the United States (Eckhart) and his formidable Secret Service head (Butler), and an English MI-6 agent (Riley) who rightly trusts no one.

Updates: Check out the film’s first trailer.

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Is Jackie Chan finally committed to ‘Expendables 4′?

"Expendables 4" Japanese Theatrical Poster

"Expendables 4" Japanese Theatrical Poster

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

During the Power Expo at the NEC Arena in Birmingham, England last weekend, Hulk Hogan mentioned in was in talks with Stallone to play the main villain in Expendables 4.

BREAKING NEWS: From EP.com: Sylvester Stallone made an appearance at the L.A premiere of Terminator Genisys. When being interviewed by the Chinese media, he revealed that both he, Jackie Chan, and most likely, Arnold Schwarzenegger, will be filming a movie in China soon. No further details were given. There’s a strong possibility the project he’s talking about is The Expendables 4. After all, months ago, we reported (scroll up to the 2nd paragraph of this post) that the next Expendables flick would be filmed in Asia. Stay tuned!

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1st trailer for ‘Creed’ (aka the ‘Rocky’ spin-off)

"Rocky 4" Japanese Theatrical Poster

"Rocky 4" Japanese Theatrical Poster

A Rocky spinoff called Creed is currently in post-production. Michael B. Jordan (Fruitvale Station) is playing the grandson of Apollo Creed (portrayed by Carl Weathers in the Rocky films). Sylvester Stallone will reprise his role as Rocky Balboa, who is now a retired fighter-turned-trainer. Ryan Coogler, the director of the critically-acclaimed Fruitvale Station, is helming Creed.

Creed will revolve around the grandson of Apollo Creed, who follows his grandfather’s footsteps when he learns he has the natural gift and potential that made his grandfather a heavyweight champion. The film opens on November 25, 2015.

Updates: According to an interview with Badtaste, Sylvester Stallone had this to say: “…No Rocky VII, I’m done with that series. However, I will take part in Creed, the Ryan Coogler film about the son of Apollo. We start shooting in February. But it really is a completely different film, it’s dramatic.” | First photo.

BREAKING NEWS: Watch the first trailer for Creed.

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Cityonfire.com’s ‘Kung Fu Killer’ Blu-ray Giveaway! – WINNERS ANNOUNCED!

Kung Fu Killer | Blu-ray & DVD (Well Go USA)

Kung Fu Killer | Blu-ray & DVD (Well Go USA)

Cityonfire.com and Well Go USA are giving away 3 Blu-ray copies of Donnie Yen’s Kung Fu Killer to three lucky Cityonfire visitors. To enter, simply add a comment to this post and describe, in your own words, this classic 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 Kung Fu Killer (read our review) will be officially released on July 21, 2015. We will announce the 3 winners on July 21, 2015 and ship out the prizes immediately.

CONTEST DISCLAIMER: You must enter by July 20, 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: Ben, Carlos Hernandez and Devin T.

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Trailer for the Ringo Lam-less ‘Prison on Fire 2015′

"Prison on Fire 2015" Chinese Theatrical Poster

"Prison on Fire 2015" Chinese Theatrical Poster

Don’t let the title fool you. Prison on Fire 2015 has little to do with Ringo Lam’s 1987′s Prison on Fire or 1991′s Prison on Fire II, other than being in the “prison film” sub-genre and sharing some of the same cast members, mainly William Ho, who appeared in the original, as well as 2001′s two throwbacks, Prison on Fire: Life Sentence and Prison on Fire: Plaintive Destiny.

Actually, the film’s real title is Imprisoned: Survival Guide for Rich and Prodigal and is more of a comedy than anything else. The plot involves a loser who hits a passer-by while drinking and driving. He’s then sentenced to one year in jail where learns that the prison world has its own rules for survival…

Christopher Suen (3D Sex and Zen: Extreme Ecstasy) directs with a cast featuring Gregory Wong (Legend of the Fist), Justin Cheung (Stool Pigeon), Liu Kai-Chi (The Viral Factor), Babyjohn Choi (The Way we Dance), Philip Keung, Jessy Li (Port of Call) and Ken Lo (The Constable).

Prison on Fire 2015 received its domestic release last month. In case you missed it, watch the trailer (via DiP).

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Bukaw Banchamek kicks A$$ in ‘Thongdee: The Warrior’

"Yamada: The Samurai of Ayothaya" Thai Theatrical Poster

"Yamada: The Samurai of Ayothaya" Thai Theatrical Poster

Thai welterweight Muay Thai kickboxer Buakaw Banchamek (Yamada: The Samurai of Ayothaya) is back with Thongdee: The Warrior, an upcoming martial arts flick that will apparently be directed by Bin Bunluerit (Panya Raenu trilogy).

Here’s the film’s official plot: Phraya Phichai was a Siamese general serving under King Taksin. After the fall of Ayudhya in 1767, Phraya Pichai and Chao Phraya Chakri (who later become the first King of Chakri Dynasty) followed Phraya Taksin in repelling the Burmese and reuniting Siam. They were considered Phraya Taksin’s left and right hands.

Don’t miss a preliminary clip, which should give you an idea of what to expect from Thongdee: The Warrior (via FCS).

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Cross | aka Smile for Me (2012) Review

Cross | aka Smile for Me (2012) Review

Cross | aka Smile for Me (2012) Review

Director: Daniel Chan Yee Hang
Writer: Daniel Chan Yee Hang
Cast: Simon Yam, Kenny Wong, Mimi Kung, Liu Kai-Chi, Evelyn Choi, Chen Ran, Nick Cheung, Pal Sinn, Zhu Guangxuan, Mo Tzu-Yi, September Zhang
Running Time: 90 min.

By Kyle Warner

It took four directors over two years to complete Cross, a thriller that’s less than 80 minutes long with a good portion of that running time taken up by flashbacks. Why did it take so long to finish? Why was it passed from director to director in a desperate attempt to save it? I don’t know the answers but clearly something went very wrong in the making of Cross.

The film starts by giving the viewer false hope. First we get a notice that the film won the 2010 It Project NAFF Award (an award I’m unfamiliar with, but from what I understand it was awarded to screenwriter Daniel Chan’s original pitch for the film, not the finished product that went to theatres). The film kicks off and we get a cool horror movie title sequence, a rather obscure quote from the Bible, and an interesting scene as Simon Yam goes to a police station, spreads evidence across a police officer’s desk, and turns himself in for murder. Except, in Yam’s character’s eyes, he’s not really committing murder, he’s doing “God’s work.”

A devout Catholic, Yam’s killer believes suicide is an unforgivable sin. When his sick wife overdoses on pills and kills herself, Yam becomes obsessed with suicide and begins frequenting websites where people talk about suicide, give each other tips on how to kill themselves, and post videos of their deaths.

Yam’s killer has no interest in talking people out of killing themselves. Rather, he offers his services to them, saying he’ll kill them and they can find peace in death without any worries about Hell. Many people take him up on his offer and he becomes a self-righteous serial killer. And though the killer claims he gave his victims a peaceful, joyful death, one method of murder included driving a power drill into a man’s brain… which, if you ask me, doesn’t seem like a peaceful way to go.

Because the killer turns himself in at the start, all of his kills are told in flashbacks (sometimes flashbacks of flashbacks). As a result, the film never builds up much momentum, resulting in a slog of a thriller. While Yam tells his story to the police and lawyers, a criminal psychologist played by Kenny Wong (Firestorm) tries to piece together the crimes. Wong goes to Yam’s house, puts on Yam’s clothes and eye glasses, touches all his things, and apparently attempts to become the killer in order to get into his head. Ignoring the fact that he’s putting fingerprints all over evidence, this entire subplot seems completely unnecessary, as the killer is already giving them everything they want. I still don’t understand the importance of Wong’s character in the story’s narrative. The film’s cast also includes a cameo by Nick Cheung (Helios), who plays the sleazy webmaster of the suicide site. Cheung’s scene is actually one of the film’s best but I imagine the actor feels lucky he didn’t sign on to play a bigger part.

At times the film plays like a dark drama about death and faith and other times it’s a bloody serial killer thriller. Considering the four writer/directors employed to make Cross (Daniel Chan, Steve Woo, Hiu Shu-Ning, Lau Kin-Ping) one should not be surprised that the film developed a split-personality disorder during its production. So instead of just being a boring movie, Cross is often a confusing one as well.

The most baffling part of the film is the fact that Yam’s lawyer Woo Yip is played by three different actors (Jason Chang, Morning Mo, and Sit Lap Yin). Now, casting young Sit Lap Yin makes sense, as he plays the teenage version of the character in flashbacks. But Jason Chang and Morning Mo are both approximately the same age and the film switches between them with no notice, no reason, no sense of logic whatsoever. When I was first watching the film, I naturally thought they were two different characters… linked somehow… but definitely different people. Not so. Same guy. I had to go back and rewatch things to make sure. Interestingly, the film ends with credits that include freeze frame images of all the primary cast members, but the Woo Yip character and the actors that played him are mysteriously (suspiciously?) left out of the slideshow. In the white text on black screen crawl that follows, the three different versions of the character are officially identified as ‘Woo Yip (Glasses)’, ‘Woo Yip (Ego)’, and ‘Woo Yip (Young)’. If this was an artistic decision, it makes no sense. I suspect the casting of both Chang and Mo had more to do with scheduling conflicts that arose thanks to the prolonged production (or possibly one of the actors ran away from the set and never returned). Whatever the reason, the choice to cast both Chang and Mo did not work, and only served to make more of a mess of things.

In the film’s final act something snaps and whatever had once barely held the film together falls apart. We get an admittedly unexpected twist and then the rest of the film is spent explaining the twist and giving us flashbacks of all the previous kills with new, distorted filters. So many flashbacks. I guess it was easier than filming new material? I don’t know. It’s at this point that you can tell the people making the film were just ready to be done with it and passed it along to the editors to figure out.

The concept behind Cross is decent and one can imagine how it could’ve been a good movie (or perhaps a decent episode of a dark police procedural on TV). Things just went wrong along the way and all attempts to fix it only seemed to exasperate things. Simon Yam’s reputation won’t be hurt by this one as it’s clear he did just about everything he could with the character. Only Yam’s biggest fans should bother with Cross. Everyone else is better off forgetting it.

Kyle Warner’s Rating: 2/10

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Deal on Fire! The King of the Streets | Blu-ray | Only $9.82 – Expires soon!

The King of the Streets | Blu-ray & DVD (Well Go USA)

The King of the Streets | Blu-ray & DVD (Well Go USA)

Today’s Deal on Fire is the Blu-ray for The King of the Streets, a Chinese-language action film hailed as China’s first street-fighting movie.

Yue Feng (Song) is a thug with exceptional streetfighting abilities. He will stop at nothing to defeat all challengers – until he kills a fellow competitor and is sent to prison.

Eight years later, Yue Feng emerges a changed man. Upon his release from prison, a family member is murdered, and a loved one humiliated. Now, he has no choice but to unleash his power in the name of justice.

Order The King of the Streets from Amazon.com today!

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New trailer for Chen Kaige’s ‘Monk’ with Wang Baoqiang

"The Monk" Chinese Theatrical Poster

"The Monk" Chinese Theatrical Poster

Acclaimed director Chen Kaige (Farewell My Concubine) is back with Monk Comes Down the Mountain, a Chinese martial arts film that stars Aaron Kwok (The Monkey King), Wang Baoqiang (Fire of Conscience, Choy Lee Fut Kung Fu and the Donnie Yen flick, Kung Fu Killer), Lin Chi-ling (Red Cliff), Wang Xueqi (Bodyguards & Assassins) and Fan Wei (Back to 1942). Martial arts choreography is being handled by Ku Huan-Chiu (14 Blades, The Expendables 2).

Monk Comes Down the Mountain is based on Xu Haofeng’s best-selling novel of the same name. It should be noted that The Monk marks Columbia Pictures’ second production in Mainland China, following Gone with the Bullets. Monk Comes Down the Mountain will be released in China on July 3.

Official plot synopsis: In the film, when a young monk (Baoqiang) is forced to leave his impoverished monastery, he relies on his martial arts skills to survive in the outside world. In search of a mentor, he crosses paths with a Kung Fu master who is in possession of a book, which reveals the lost art of the deadly Ape Strike Kung Fu technique. The rare book is coveted by a sinister father and son who will go to any extremes to obtain it. The monk finds himself immersed in a deadly battle to protect both the book and his master.

Updates: 1st teaser trailer. | 2nd trailer.

BREAKING NEWS: Watch the new international trailer (via FCS).

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Zhang Ziyi and Ge You venture through ‘The Wasted Times’

"Lethal Hostage" Chinese Theatrical Poster

"Lethal Hostage" Chinese Theatrical Poster

Young rising director Cheng Er (Lethal Hostage) is back with another thriller titled The Wasted Times, which stars Ge You (Let the Bullets Fly), Zhang Ziyi (The Grandmaster), Gillian Chung (Ip Man Final Fight) and Asano Tadonobu (Lupin III).

According to FBA, the offbeat thriller, which takes place in 1920s Shanghai, is about a Japanese spy hunting down a former friend for the murder of his family.

If you haven’t already, check out the film’s funky teaser trailer, which keeps the element of surprise up its sleeve. The Waste Times hits Chinese theaters on October 3rd. Stay tuned!

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Silver Hawk (w/Bonus Movies) | DVD (Echo Bridge)

Silver Hawk | DVD (Echo Bridge)

Silver Hawk | DVD (Echo Bridge)

RELEASE DATE: July 21, 2015

Echo Bridge presents the DVD for Jingle Ma’s Silver Hawk starring Michelle Yeoh (True Legend), Richie Ren (Punished), Luke Goss (Death Race II),  Michael Jai White (Falcon Rising) and Li Bingbing (Detective Dee). The DVD also includes the bonus movies: Running Delilah, The Legend of Red Dragon, Snake-Crane Secret and Honor.

In the public eye, she’s billionaire heiress, but with a mask, she’s transformed into a silver crusader. Silver Hawk’s (Yeoh) martial arts skills are put to the test though when a villain sets out to enslave the world.

Pre-order Silver Hawk from Amazon.com today!

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

Ready to see some ‘Awesome Asian Bad Guys’?

"Awesome Asian Bad Guys" Theatrical Poster

"Awesome Asian Bad Guys" Theatrical Poster

Get ready to get reacquainted with Awesome Asian Bad Guys from films of the 80s and 90s! This action/comedy is about two offbeat filmmakers (Stephen Dypiangco and Patrick Epino) who reunite iconic Asian bad guys – from action films such as Die Hard, Lethal Weapon and Rambo: First Blood Part II – to carry off one impossible mission.

Awesome Asian Bad Guys stars Dante Basco (Blood and Bone), Al Leong (Big Trouble in Little China, Rapid Fire), Yuji Okumoto (The Karate Kid II, Red Sun Rising), Tamlyn Tomita (The Karate Kid II), George Cheung (Big Trouble in Little China, Lethal Weapon 4), Randall Park, (The Interview) and Aaron Takahashi (Welcome to the Jungle). | Don’t miss the 1st trailer.

Updates: The film is currently available to watch on Amazon’s Instant Video service. Don’t miss the latest trailer!

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Stray Dog (1949) Review

"Stray Dog" Japanese Theatrical Poster

"Stray Dog" Japanese Theatrical Poster

Director: Akira Kurosawa
Writer: Akira Kurosawa, Ryuzo Kikushima
Producer: Sojiro Motoki
Cast: Toshiro Mifune, Takashi Shimura, Keiko Awaji, Eiko Miyoshi, Noriko Honma, Isao Kimura, Minoru Chiaki, Ichiro Sugai, Gen Shimizu, Noriko Sengoku
Running Time: 122 min.

By Matthew Le-feuvre

At a time when social or political ambivalence wasn’t an option to explore or express through art – or by any other visual medium – acclaimed Japanese filmmaker, Akira Kurosawa, then under contract with the Toho film studios, was one of a select few who took a noble stance at edifying post war audiences with personal featur­es like: The Judo Saga (1943), The Most Beautiful (1944), The Men Who Tread on the Tiger’s Tail (1945) and Drunken Angel (1948). And despite censorship from an American occupational body, these pictures were structured to both preserve and cultivate an awareness of Japanese national identity, while concurrently reconciling with the savage realities of Nagasaki and Hiroshima.

Unlike his contemporaries, Kurosawa appeared to be something of a political chameleon: in one instance during a drunken stupor in the company of Andrei Konchalovsky, he allegedly praised Lenin for his Communist policies – somewhat eccentric, and totally against character for an artist/filmmaker who deliberately chose to illustrate and promote non-conformity, especially in challeng­ing bureaucracy of all kinds because he himself was from a middle class samurai background. Yet for many – including Hollywood’s elite: George Lucas, Steven Spielberg and Francis Ford Coppola – Kurosawa remains an emblem of pure genius whose technical innova­tions resonate a visual style which even by current paradigms is unsurpassed.

Nevertheless, it wasn’t always about technicality; character development was just as important as Kurosawa’s fascination with the human condition: particularly the study of the ‘lone archetype’ as presented in his seminal ‘ronin’ masterpieces Yojimbo (1961) and Sanjuro (1962), where customized traits of suspense-building, raw emotion and explicit sword choreography were all majestically weaved to­gether on a rich celluloid tapestry that was far more appealing in the western hemisphere than in homegrown Japan.

This was, in part, due to Kurosawa’s preoccupation with (largely) ‘Western’ filmmaker, John Ford (1895-1973); another contemporary and a relatively older breed of maverick who invariably defied studio executives with his preference for casting stalwart, John Wayne in many of his own productions. Again, Kurosawa followed suit often fighting for, or opting to select, comparatively inexperienced unknowns such as renowned, intensely versatile, Toshiro Mifune, who went on to help revolutionize Japanese cinema with extraordinary performances in: The Seven Samurai (1954) – remade or reenvision numerous times – Throne of Blood (1957) and The Hidden Fortress (1958); the latter inspiring Lucas’ A New Hope (1977) segment of his ongoing Star Wars anthology.

While Drunken Angel (1948) was raw and, at intervals, uncompromising, Stray Dog (Kurosawa’s follow-up picture with Mifune) is more of an allegory piece than a straight forward detective chase thriller. Yes! An element of noir influences from Frank Tuttle (This Gun For Hire) to Jacques Tourneur (Build My Gallows High) are recognizable at the outset, noticeably made more real by a feeling of oppression, firstly from a sweltering heat wave; which, psychologically, is just as uncomfortable for the viewer as was in all probability for the cast. (And) secondly, Toshiro Mifune’s character is almost represented as a lost soul in a neon-lit hades that is Tokyo – a symbolic, and in essence, ‘corrupt’ macrocosm, by night – yet in daylight hours – embarrassingly depicts overcrowd­ing, poverty and refugees juxtaposed to an extant sense of cynicism which permeates every alleyway, town dwelling or high-rise apartment. Equally, devastation is not solely concentrated upon Tokyo’s infrastructure, but ubiquitously within the heart of all citizens yearning to better themselves socially, materialistically and/or spiritually.

On the surface, the premise (based on Kurosawa’s own unpublished novel) of Stray Dog was as ‘simplistic’ as you could get: however beneath its external, unconventional post-WWII moulding lies a very complex, thoughtfully realized project that – despite occasionally confounding, even frustrating – its maker begins with the theft of a police issue gun owned by a former soldier-turned-detective named Murakami (Toshiro Mifune). Enterprisingly, this instrument of law enforcement becomes an extension of death as Murakami’s gun is sold through an illegal black market, and is eventually passed onto psychopath, Shinjuro Yusa (Isao Ko Kimura), who incrementally leaves a trail of murder and confusion just to impress his sponging, morally vacant girlfriend, Harumi Namaki (Keiko Anaji).

Overwhelmed with guilt, Murakami naturally questions his competency, while doubly intent on catching Yusa dead or alive – a broad view that mildly clashes with his more seasoned superior, chief detective Sato (an award-winning Takashi Shimura), whose passively inclined, almost philosophical, ethics nearly costs him his life during a (subsequent) chance encounter with Yusa at a board­ing house. However there appears to be a methodology to Yusa’s violent dementia, and the grand old question is subtly put forward as to whether killers are born, or manufactured by a series of societal interactions/incidents: a typification unknow­ingly conceived (or perceived), even perpetuated out of ignorant vulgarity.

In a climax clearly indicative of Hitchcock, Lang or Preminger, Murakami pursues Yusa to a rural railway station. It is here in a darkly ironic, yet intense, multi-edited sequence, the claustro­phobia of a lively waiting room amplifies Murakami’s desperation as he fails to identify Yusa (as does the audience) from the description given to him. Ultimately, the railway station randomly transforms into an arena; a battleground of wits, observation, adrenaline, as well as razor sharp reflexes: all in accord will ordain closure for one of them… but who?!

Verdict: No hint of ‘Noh’ or ‘Kabuki’ motifs whatsoever, Stray Dog was the least favourite of Kurosawa’s productions as he felt it was “too technical!” Regardless of this self criticism, characters are defined irrespective of controversy, while pivotal messages are concealed just barely beneath an organized narrative, and like Murakami, we first repudiate – even prejudge who’s good, who’s evil, without fully understanding the totality of ’cause and effect’: a liberating perception Kurosawa was relentlessly communicating in a nontraditional way through his own inspirations, topics, imagery and concepts.

Matthew Le-feuvre’s Rating: 10/10

Posted in All, Japanese, News, Reviews | Tagged , | 3 Comments

The Mercury Conspiracy | DVD (Entertainment One)

The Mercury Conspiracy | DVD (Entertainment One)

The Mercury Conspiracy | DVD (Entertainment One)

Entertainment One presents the DVD for The Mercury Conspiracy (aka The Mercury Factor), directed by and starring Luca Barbareschi (Cannibal Holocaust).

After her son dies from poisoned food, Xiwen falls in love with Matteo, a businessman. Though a good man at heart, Matteo has been lured into the black market trafficking of adulterated food – the same food responsible for killing Xiwen’s son!

This Italian film is noted for its heavy Chinese cast, including Jingchu Zhang (Switch), Carl Ng (New Police Story), Kenneth Tsang (The Killer), Michael Wong (Zombie Fight Club) and Eddie Ko (Heroes Shed No Tears). | Watch the trailer.

Pre-order The Mercury Conspiracy from Amazon.com today!

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

Danger zone! ‘Top Gun 2′ will explore drone warfare!

"Top Gun" Japanese Theatrical Poster

"Top Gun" Japanese Theatrical Poster

A Top Gun sequel was in the works and director Tony Scott and Tom Cruise got as far as location scouting, but do to Scott’s death on August 19, 2012, the sequel was put on hold.

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

Updates: According to ColliderTop Gun 2 will explore Drone Warfare and will mark the end of the fighter pilot Era. Tom Cruise will supposedly return as hotshot fighter pilot, Maverick.

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Bianca Bree Van Damme is going to ‘Kickbox’ in Thailand

"6 Bullets" Japanese DVD Cover

"6 Bullets" Japanese DVD Cover

Looks like Bianca Bree Van Damme is following the footsteps (or should we say “feet”) of her father, Jean-Claude Van Damme (Pound of Flesh). A martial arts movie titled Kickbox is currently in pre-production. Bree will star alongside “rising martial arts star” Alex Wraith (No Tears for the Dead, Killer Feet) who will also be directing the film.

According to producer Nathan McCoy (The Mojo Boys), Kickbox will be predominantly shot in Bangkok, Thailand with the bulk of the crew and actors coming from that region.

Bree, who has been practicing karate and kickboxing since her childhood, has co-starred with her father in number of films, including Assassination Games, 6 Bullets, Welcome to the Jungle and the yet-to-be released, Full Love (aka Soldiers).

If you want a little taste of what she’s capable of, check out her fight reel, which also features Kickbox co-star/director, Wraith. We’ll keep you updated on this project as we hear more!

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HK actress AngelaBaby joins ‘Independence Day: Resurgence’

"Independence Day: Resurgence" Teaser Poster

"Independence Day: Resurgence" Teaser Poster

Roland Emmerich (ID4, White House Down)  has revealed details about the upcoming ID4 sequels (ID Forever Part 1 and Part II), which will be set 20 years after the first film. The first sequel, which will be released on June 24, 2016, is called Independence Day: Resurgence.

The cast includes Jeff Goldblum, Bill Pullman, Charlotte Gainsbourg, Jessie Usher, Maika Monroe, Sela Ward, Joey King, Judd Hirsch, Vivica A. Fox, Brent Spiner, William Fichtner and Liam Hemsworth.

Here’s what Emmerich told EW: “The humans knew that one day the aliens would come back. And they know that the only way you can really travel in space is through wormholes. So for the aliens, it could take two or three weeks, but for us that’s 20 or 25 years.” Emmerich has hired James Vanderbilt (White House Down) to revise his first draft of the script.

Updates: Here’s the official plot synopsis for the ID4 sequel: After Independence Day redefined the event movie genre, the next epic chapter delivers global catastrophe on an unimaginable scale. Using recovered alien technology, the nations of Earth have collaborated on an immense defense program to protect the planet. But nothing can prepare us for the aliens’ advanced and unprecedented force. Only the ingenuity of a few brave men and women can bring our world back from the brink of extinction.

BREAKING NEWS: Jaynestars reports that AngelaBaby (Rise of the Legend) has joined Independence Day: Resurgence. Here’s a photo of her with the cast and a prop from the movie.

Posted in News | 1 Comment