Scott Adkins gets Marvel-ously ‘Strange’…

"The Expendables 2" Teaser Poster

"The Expendables 2" Teaser Poster

Martial arts star Scott Adkins (Close Range, Expendables 2) has joined the cast of Marvel’s Doctor Strange, an upcoming film about a sorcerer who protects Earth from mystical threats.

According to The Wrap: Adkins’ role is being kept under wraps, though insiders suggest he’ll have several major action scenes featuring hand-to-hand combat.

Although Adkins is primarily known for straight-to-video titles, he’s definitely no stranger to getting parts (albeit bit) in bigger Hollywood motion pictures (i.e. The Medallion, Unleashed, The Bourne Ultimatum, X-Men Origins: Wolverine, Zero Dark Thirty and the upcoming The Brothers Grimsby).

Doctor Strange is directed by Scott Derrickson (Sinister) and stars Benedict Cumberbatch, Chiwetel Ejiofor (Red Belt), Rachel McAdams, Mads Mikkelsen and Tilda Swinton.

The film is currently in production and has a release date set for November 4, 2016. Stay tune for more details regarding Adkins’ role.

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Yuen Woo-ping and Tsui Hark to remake ‘Miracle Fighters’

"Miracle Fighters" Chinese Theatrical Poster

"Miracle Fighters" Chinese Theatrical Poster

Now that Yuen Woo-ping (True Legend) has finished duties on Ip Man 3 and Crouching Tiger, Hidden II, one of his next gigs is a remake of Miracle Fighter, a supernatural kung fu film he directed in 1982.

Lending a hand will be Tsui Hark (The Taking of Tiger Mountain), who is on board as producer and writer.

The original – which starred Leung Kar Yan (Five Shaolin Masters), Yuen Cheung-yan (Once Upon a Time in Shanghai) and Yuen Yat Chor (The Postman Srikes Back) – follows a kung fu master who learns special skills from a pair of priests to defeat an evil magician.

According to FBA: Yuen says that aside from sharing the title of the film, the remake will tell an entirely new story. He said that if the original film was meant to present an alternative form of wuxia film, the new film intends to redefine it.

Miracle Fighters starts production in 2016. Stay tuned for more updates.

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Deal on Fire! Stray Cat Rock: The Collection | Blu-ray | Only $39.99 – Expires soon!

"Stray Cat Rock: The Collection" Blu-ray Cover

"Stray Cat Rock: The Collection" Blu-ray Cover

Today’s Deal on Fire is the Blu-ray for the Stray Cat Rock: The Collection, which contains Delinquent Girl Boss (1971), Wild Jumbo (1970), Sex Hunter (1970), Machine Animal (1970) and Beat ’71 (1971).

The Stray Cat Rock series (read our reviews) stars Meiko Kaji (Blind Woman’s Curse) who with these five films began her reign as the badass action queen of the era. In these five tales, Kaji stars alongside Bunjaku Han (Love Letter) and Tatsuya Fuji (Massacre Gun). .

Order Stray Cat Rock: The Collection from Amazon.com today!

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Exclusive Clip: Scott Adkins vs Vehicle in ‘Close Range’

"Close Range" Theatrical Poster

"Close Range" Theatrical Poster

We’re pleased to present an exclusive new action clip (click here to watch) from Isaac Florentine’s Close Range, which is being released by XLrator Media on December 11th. If you’re wondering if Scott Adkins has what it takes to fill Van Damme’s shoes for Hard Target 2, the clip will definitely prove he’s the right guy for the job.

If you haven’t already done so, be sure to read Zach Nix’s review for Close Range, who says the film is proof that Florentine and Adkins are one of action cinema’s greatest director/actor duos currently working today.

XLrator Media will be releasing Close Range in Theaters on December 11th and on VOD and iTunes December 4th, followed by a Blu-ray and DVD release on January 5th.

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The Assassin | Blu-ray & DVD (Well Go USA)

The Assassin | Blu-ray & DVD (Well Go USA)

The Assassin | Blu-ray & DVD (Well Go USA)

RELEASE DATE: January 26, 2016

Well Go USA presents the Blu-ray & DVD for The Assassin, by acclaimed director Hou Hsiao-Hsien (A City of Sadness) and starring Shu Qi (Journey to the West).

In 9th-century China, Nie Yinniang (Qi) is a woman who was abducted in childhood from a general and raised by a nun who trained her in the martial arts. After 13 years of exile, she is returned to the land of her birth as an assassin.

The film also stars Zhou Yun (Bodyguards and Assassins), Chang Chen (Helios) and Tsumabuki Satoshi (Waterboys). | Watch the trailer.

Pre-order The Assassin from Amazon.com today!

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

A writer purchases a full-page ad to save ‘Die Hard 6′

"A Good Day To Die Hard" Japanese Theatrical Poster

"A Good Day To Die Hard" Japanese Theatrical Poster

Deadline reports that Fox wants Len Wiseman (Live Free or Die Hard) to return for Die Hard 6 with producer Lorenzo di Bonaventura (Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit). A screenwriter is currently being sought to move the idea forward.

Die Hard 6, under the working title Die Hard: Year One, will be part origin story that will take place in 1979 and feature a young John McClane in the mean streets of New York. The older McClane (Bruce Willis) will then bookend the “past” tale with his current adventure.

Fox studios have obviously changed their mind regarding screenwriter Ben Trebilcook’s Die Hard 6 idea from 2013. In it, McClane found himself a ‘fish out of water’ in Japan, teaming up with Samuel L. Jackson’s character from Die Hard with a Vengeance. There was even some speculation that John McTiernan, director of the original Die Hard, was being brought back to helm Die Hard 6 (under the working titles Die Hardest and Old Habits Die Hard).

Whatever they do, let’s just hope they leave John Moore (A Good Day to Die Hard) out of the picture. In fact, don’t let that guy make another movie ever again. We’re serious.

Update: Eric D. Wilkinson, producer and writer of Mischief Night, is pitching his own idea for the next Die Hard installment, by way of a full-page ad in “The Hollywood Reporter.” Click here to view the ad (via Collider).

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Michael Jai White’s ‘Never Back Down 3′ gets a DVD date!

"Never Back Down 3" Teaser Poster

"Never Back Down 3" Teaser Poster

Never Back Down 3, the sequel to Michael Jai White’s directorial debut, Never Back Down 2: The Beatdown, is making its way to DVD on April 5, 2016.

In Never Back Down 3, White is returning to the director’s chair, as well as reprising his role as the film’s star. Picking up after the events of Never Back Down 2, former MMA champion Case Walker (White) finds himself in Thailand and aims to become champion once again.

Never Back Down 3 also stars Jeeja Yanin (Chocolate), Nathan Jones (Muay Thai Giant), Ron Smoorenburg (Who Am I?), Brahim Achabbakhe (Pound of Flesh), UFC’s Josh Barnett (Mercenary: Absolution), Esai Morales (Rapa Nui), Stephen Quadros (Cradle 2 the Grave) and Gillian Waters (Jackie Brown).

Thai action superstar Tony Jaa (SPL 2) will be making a cameo appearance, which makes Never Back Down 3 Jaa and White’s 2nd time appearing together since Skin Trade. Also back in action is the incredibly fluid choreography work of Larnell Stovall (Falcon Rising).

The DVD for Never Back Down 3 is currently available for pre-order on Amazon.com. A digital, theatrical and Blu-ray release date is still pending. Stay tuned!

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Transporter Refueled | Blu-ray & DVD (Fox)

Transporter Refueled | Blu-ray & DVD (Fox)

Transporter Refueled | Blu-ray & DVD (Fox)

RELEASE DATE: December 8, 2015

Fox presents the Blu-ray & DVD for Transporter Refueled, directed by Camille Delamarre (Brick Mansions) and starring Ed Skrein (Game of Thones), Loan Chabanol, Lenn Kudrjawizki, Tatiana Pajkovic, Ray Stevenson and Radivoje Bukvic.

Frank Martin (Skrein) is the best driver money can buy, willing to deliver anything for a price. But when his father (Stevenson) is kidnapped by a gorgeous gang of thieves, Frank must shift his skills into overdrive to rescue him. | Trailer.

Pre-order Transporter Refueled from Amazon.com today!

Posted in DVD/Blu-ray New Releases, Other Notable Titles | 1 Comment

Choi Min-sik returns in ‘The Tiger: An Old Hunter’s Tale’

"The Tiger: An Old Hunter's Tale" Korean Theatrical Poster

"The Tiger: An Old Hunter's Tale" Korean Theatrical Poster

The director of The New World, Park Hoon-jeong, is back with the new movie titled The Tiger: An Old Hunter’s Tale, which stars Choi Min-sik (The Admiral: Roaring Currents, Old Boy).

The Tiger: An Old Hunter’s Tale (read our review) is set in the final days of the Joseon era, when Korea was under Japanese rule. Min-sik will play a local hunter who’s given the task of hunting down the last tiger in Korea.

Much like The Admiral: Roaring Currents and Ode to my Father, this looks to be plugging into the current trend of Korean patriotism, as Min-sik’s characters main motivation seems to be to not let the tiger die at the hands of the Japanese.

Hoon-jeong has proved to be both a solid director and writer (he scripted both The Unjust and I Saw the Devil), so The Tiger: An Old Hunter’s Tale is definitely on our radar!

The Tiger: An Old Hunter’s Tale is set for its domestic release at the end of the year. Until then, here’s the trailer, courtesy of Paul Bramhall.

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Close Range (2015) Review

"Close Range" Theatrical Poster

"Close Range" Theatrical Poster

AKA: Dust Up
Director: Isaac Florentine
Writer: Chad Law, Shane Dax Taylor
Cast: Scott Adkins, Nick Chinlund, Caitlin Keats, Jake La Botz, Tony Perez, Madison Lawlor, Julien Cesario, Jimmy Chhiu, Ray Diaz, Robert Dill, Scott Evans, Umar Khan
Runnging Time: 80 min.

By Zach Nix

Close Range is the latest collaboration between Israeli director Isaac Florentine (Undisputed 3: Redemption) and British action star Scott Adkins (Wolf Warrior). The two have previously worked together on Special Forces, Undisputed 2: Last Man Standing, The Shepherd, Ninja, Undisputed 3: Redemption, Ninja: Shadow of a Tear, and now Close Range, their latest direct to video action fest. While the two’s latest actioner is nowhere near as dramatically compelling as some of their previous efforts, the film continues to prove that Florentine directs and photographs action better than most commercial directors.

After Colton MacReady (Scott Adkins) rescues his niece from a drug cartel, he unleashes their fury when he accidentally takes a thumb drive containing crucial information about the cartel’s bank accounts and drug dealings. Colton soon finds himself and his sister’s family in danger as corrupt cops and the cartel descend upon their ranch in search of the stolen drive. The tension reaches a boil when Colton faces off against the cartel in order to rescue his captive sister’s family.

There’s no denying that Close Range features a rather simplistic plot to hinge its action packed proceedings upon. Therefore, the film is nowhere near as compelling as previous Florentine and Adkins collaborations that feature more interesting characters and intriguing mythos. However, the film still features the incredible trademark action that the two are known for, and that makes up for any simplicity in the film’s script. After all, many of the direct to video films released in the early to mid 2000s are notorious for their overly complex plots and dull action. Therefore, Close Range is utterly fantastic in contrast to early direct to video efforts.

Unfortunately, Close Range still suffers from a few direct to video trappings that many efforts of its genre succumb too. For example, the names of various locations are typed out on screen and accompanied by a silly digital sound effect. The film also features a baffling instance of on screen text in which every one of lead villain Fernando Garcia’s henchmen has their name typed out next to their face. No offense to Florentine or whoever decided to include these henchmen’s names on screen, but no viewer is likely to remember their names mere seconds later. There is no purpose in typing out the names of Adkin’s cannon fodder, as none of them are substantial characters anyways beyond Garcia or his nephew.

The film also features some mediocre acting, as many low budget action films do, as well as some shoddy stock music. A moment in which the police crash their car into Adkin’s vehicle is accompanied by music that one can hear on old episodes of Fear Factor. Fortunately, these are the only flaws holding down an otherwise non-stop action film.

Close Range is a fun genre effort in which Florentine sets his latest outing with Adkins in a neo-Western setting. The film makes for a fun contemporary Western with its desert ranch setting, plentiful cowboy cats, kidnap/revenge plot, and house face/off. The soundtrack also sports several guitar tunes that further establish the film’s Western genre influences. Florentine is cited on his IMDB page as wanting to become a filmmaker after seeing Sergio Leone’s The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly at a young age. In fact, Close Range’s final face off recalls the photography and editing of Leone’s infamous triangle face off, although Florentine’s work is a far cry from Leone’s. That being said, it’s clear that Florentine wanted to pay tribute to the genre that he loves by setting his latest actioner in a contemporary setting with strong Western elements.

Florentine’s eye for action is better than ever in Close Range. He treats audiences to two solid fistfights during the film’s first two acts, as well as some exciting gunplay. However, the pleasure in watching Close Range is reaching its finale in which Adkins goes head to head with the drug cartel on his family ranch in an all out action fest. The action on display in Close Range’s finale is better than many of the final action set pieces of any of this year’s theatrically released action films. Commercial Hollywood directors wish their action films ended as spectacularly as Close Range, a film that doesn’t mess around and gives action fans exactly what they want. The final house face off is filled with memorable kills, brutal brawls, and steady photography and editing that allows the viewer to visually comprehend all of Adkin’s punches and kicks. It’s only a matter of time until Hollywood gets a hold of Florentine and puts him at the helm of a major franchise or studio actioner in order to finally give him the budget and scale that he deserves to work with.

Close Range isn’t as memorable as Florentine and Adkins’ superior genre efforts. However, the film is still a solid action picture and proof that these two are one of action cinema’s greatest director/actor duos currently working today. If one can forgive the wafer thin plot and flat characters, than one will find immense joy in Close Range’s action packed proceedings. It’s a simple genre effort, but a badass one and proof that American action cinema currently reigns in the direct to video market, not on the big screen.

Zach Nix’s Rating: 7/10

Close Range hits theaters and iTunes on December 4th. Own a physical copy on Blu-ray or DVD on January 5, 2016.

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‘Veteran’ director Ryoo Seung-wan prepares ‘Battleship Island’

"Veteran" Theatrical Poster

"Veteran" Theatrical Poster

After his smash hit Veteran, Ryoo Seung-wan is now gearing up for his next feature, Battleship Island, a production that the director had touched on in a recent interview with Twitch.

Set on Hashima Island in Japan, the movie will revolve around the story of Korean laborers force to work by the Japanese military during World War II, who plan to escape to the island.

Filming is set to start next year, with Veteran star Hwang Jeong-min rumored to be taking a leading role. It sounds like Battleship Island could be more similar to Tsui Hark’s The Taking of Tiger Mountain, than The Berlin File and his other efforts – either way, any new Ryoo Seung-wan movie is a reason to celebrate! (via Paul Bramhall).

We’ll keep you updated as we hear more!

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Kill Line (1991) Review

"Kill Line" Korean Theatrical Poster

"Kill Line" Korean Theatrical Poster

Director: Richard H. Kim
Writer: Richard H. Kim
Producer: Bobby Kim
Cast: Bobby Kim, Michael Parker, H. Wayne Lowry, Marlena Shapiro, Michael Ford, Clif Willis, George W. Byers, Sheila Ivy Traister, Marty Bechina, Tony Carpenter
Running Time: 93 min.

By Paul Bramhall

In the 1980’s there was a sort of mini-wave of Korean directors who immigrated to the States. Park Woo-sang, the man behind such old school flicks like Shaolin: The Blood Mission, made the move and starting working under the name of Richard Park, making complete trash like L.A. Streetfighters, Miami Connection, and American Chinatown. Lee Doo-yong, who directed everything from Bruce Lee Fights Back from the Grave, to influential classics such as The Last Witness, also made the move, and went on to direct such questionable efforts as the Linda Blair starring Silent Assassins.

Bobby Kim, while not a director, is a Taekwondo grandmaster and had briefly enjoyed a spell as an action star in Korea. Bearing a striking resemblance to Charles Bronson, he quickly got dubbed as the Asian version of the Death Wish star. Active just for a few years between 1975 – 1979, he cranked out a total of 9 movies, some of which even got picked up by the infamous IFD Films for international distribution, such as Mad for Vengeance. Then he moved to Colorado, where he settled and opened up a Taekwondo school, while still finding the time to occasionally make a movie.

Perhaps his most famous movie outside of his Korean work is Manchurian Avenger, an East meets West western which had Kim facing off against Bill ‘Superfoot’ Wallace. Made in 1985, it was the same year that Wallace would also face off against Jackie Chan in The Protector, and it makes for an interesting comparison to watch the fight scenes of both movies side by side. In Manchurian Avenger Kim plays a character called Joe, who returns to Colorado (very convenient) after a long absence. Four years later, in 1989 Kim would star in Kill Line, a movie in which he plays a character called Joe, who returns to Colorado after a long absence. There’s definitely something going on here.

While Kill Line was completed in 1989, it wouldn’t be released until a couple of years later. Kim is actually listed twice in the credits under different names – in the cast list he’s credited as Bobby Kim, however he’s also the producer, against which he’s listed as Robert H. Kim. To make things a little more confusing, the movie is written and directed by Richard H. Kim. Kill Line is literally the only movie credited to the mysterious Richard H. Kim, no matter how hard you scour the internet, the guy is a 1-movie ghost. Is it another alias for Bobby Kim? It’s a question worth pondering, as if I was the director of Kill Line I’d probably want to change my name as well.

As previously mentioned, Bobby Kim returns to small town Colorado after a long absence, however once there he finds himself endlessly hassled and abused by the town sheriff. If any of this sounds familiar, it’s probably because you’ve seen First Blood, Richard H. Kim definitely has. Bobby hasn’t returned from the Vietnam War though, he’s just wrapped up a 10 year prison sentence. It turns out he was present at the deathbed of a dying man, along with a vicar, the director of a charity organization, and a doctor.  The dying man reveals he has 2 million dollars hidden in his house, and that it must go to the “Center for the Less Fortunate in New York”.

Of course, the characters greed gets in the way. Kim is entrusted with delivering the money which is packed into a briefcase, however he himself is no angel, and instead decides to give it to his hard up brother. When the brother refuses to take it, he throws the briefcase off the table causing it to break open, which reveals that there’s nothing inside except torn up newspaper. As the camera focuses in on the newspaper strewn across the floor, we hear a judge deliver in voiceover that Kim has been sentenced to 10 years in prison. What exactly is he guilty of? Well, that’s never explained, but perhaps in Colorado carrying around torn up newspaper in a briefcase is considered a serious crime.

Kill Line has so many mistakes in it that, if you were to play a drinking game, you’d be drunk within the first 15 minutes. The quivering shadow of a boom mic is in plain sight on the side of a van two characters are talking next to, a dialing tone is used as a phone ringing, and there are bizarre nonsensical lines like, “I’m going to ask you one last time, you’re not going to send this money back!” So, what’s the question!? There’s also a pursuit at night involving a car, in which you can see literally nothing except the cars headlights, and in a latter chase scene a car flies off the road into a lake, however the cameraman misses the shot, so the actual impact happens just off-screen.

It quickly becomes apparent that Kill Line was a one take only production, and it hurts it beyond redemption. The brightest part is actually a pre-credit sequence, which sees the family of Bobby’s brother shot to death inside their own home. There’s a machine gun and a shotgun involved, however once the characters start firing them it looks more like the guns are in control of the actors, as they struggle to control where they’re firing. It’s supposed to be a harrowing scene, but the amateur nature of it makes it laughable.

Special mention also has to go to a unique scene which makes a part of a bigger car chase sequence. In one part the sheriffs car is nudged, which sends it careening towards the windows of a car dealership. The camera then cuts to a shot taken from inside the dealership, which shows the car hurtling towards the window in slow motion. However before the impact, the camera suddenly cuts away again, this time back to the outside, and the car that was about to go smashing through the glass lightly drives into a wall instead. I was convinced it was because they couldn’t afford to break the glass, however hilariously, the sheriff then gets out, smashes one of the windows with his baton, before jumping into one of the dealership cars, and drives through the glass from inside the dealership. The whole scene doesn’t make a lick of sense.

It’s a shame, because Bobby Kim does have a certain amount of charisma. His character is the type of guy who calmly smokes a cigarette while knocking back glasses of Jack Daniels, and he has that kind of cool exterior that you know hides something more, the kind that Steven Seagal had in his early movies. There’s even a fight in a billiards bar, in a scene that Seagal would go on to perfect in Out for Justice, released the same year.

Despite what Kim has to go up against though, what minimal fight action there is in Kill Line is of a very poor quality. The fact that he’s the only martial artist in the cast no doubt has a lot to do with it, but even that can’t forgive the limp wristed nature of them. There’s a real sense of being careful not to hit anyone for real, with punches and kicks thrown at the speed of a snail. Often there’s a visible hesitation before throwing them, and it’s all shot in such a way that nobody comes out looking good.

While Bobby Kim can never be considered to be in the same screen fighting league as his Korean peers like Hwang Jang Lee and Casanova Wong, Kill Line is definitely not representative of what he can do. To appreciate him in action the way he should be seen, it probably goes without saying that it’s best to stick to his 70’s Korean output. For Kill Line though, I’ll end this review in the style that the movie is written, and that’s by asking you a question – don’t bother watching this movie.

Paul Bramhall’s Rating: 3.5/10

Posted in All, Asian Related, News, Reviews | Tagged | 4 Comments

Hana-Dama: The Origin | Blu-ray & DVD (Olive Films)

Hana-Dama: The Origin | Blu-ray (Olive)

Hana-Dama: The Origin | Blu-ray (Olive)

RELEASE DATE: January 19, 2016

Olive Films presents the Blu-ray & DVD for Hana-Dama: The Origin. At turns poetic and brutal, Hana-Dama: The Origin is an entertaining blood-soaked tale of vengeance that pays homage to both Carrie and Heathers.

From the wild imagination of director Sato Hisayasu (Splatter: Naked Blood), one of a group of directors known as the “Four Devils” (who made their mark in the softcore “pink” film genre in the late 1980′s), comes a twisted tale of revenge via plant life in the terrifying Hana-Dama: The Origin, which will be hitting Blu-ray from Olive Films on January 19th, 2016.

Bullied Japanese high school student Mizuki (Sakuragi Rina, Girl’s Blood) has the ultimate revenge on her teenage tormentors in this horror-fest tinged with dark humor.

Possessed by a powerful spirit, Mizuki sprouts a mysterious flower from her head which empowers her with deadly skills to exact revenge, with bloody consequences, against the bullying classmates led by mean girl Aya (Nakamura Eriko, August In Tokyo).

Hana-Dama: The Origin features supporting performances by Shimamura Maika, Fujiwara Kei and Asada Shun.

Special Features:

- Backstage and Behind the Scenes Featurette
- Interview with the Cast and the Director of Hana-Dama: The Origin

The film is currently available for pre-order. Until then, don’t miss the film’s trailer!

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

Promotional poster for Jackie Chan’s ‘Kung Fu Yoga’

'Kung Fu Yoga" Promotional Poster

'Kung Fu Yoga" Promotional Poster

Jackie Chan is reuniting with noted Hong Kong director Stanley Tong for an upcoming action comedy titled Kung Fu Yoga.

The duo created magic together in a string of some of Chan’s most loved films of the 90s, including: 1992′s Police Story 3: Supercop, 1995′s Rumble in the Bronx and 1996′s Police Story 4: First Strike. Kung Fu Yoga will mark their first feature together since 2005′s The Myth.

Kung Fu Yoga is rumored to be more in line with Armor of God than spandex, spiritualism and yoga mats. In the film, Chan plays a renowned professor of archeology who teams up with the beautiful Indian professor to locate a lost treasure in tibet.

Co-starring with Chan are Lay Zhang (of the K-pop group EXO), Miya Muqi (Tomb Robber), Aarif Rahman (Bruce Lee, My Brother) and Indian film stars Sonu Sood (Arundhati) and Ileana D’Cruz (Happy Ending).

Kung Fu Yoga is currently filming in Dubai. One of the reported action pieces include 3-car chase scene that involves a McLaren, a Lamborghini and a Bugatti Veyron.” (via Sam the Man)

Other projects Chan has in the works include Railroad Tigers, The Foreigner, The Civilian, Chinese Zodiac 2Karate Kid 2, Shanghai Dawn and Rush Hour 4. You can catch him next in Renny Harlin’s Skiptrace, which releases in December.

Updates: Despite news about investor Viacom18 dropping out Kung Fu Yoga, filming has not been interrupted and is still scheduled to be released next year (via Superchan). Here are some of the first photos from the film’s production, featuring Jackie Chan and Stanley Tong, the film’s director.

BREAKING NEWS: Check out the promotional poster for Kung Fu Yoga.

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The Raid’s Iko Uwais is going in for a ‘Headshot’ kill!

"Headshot" Teaser Poster

"Headshot" Teaser Poster

The Mo Brothers, the filmmaking duo separately known as Timo Tjahjanto and Kimo Stamboel, are teaming up with The Raid’s Iko Uwais for an action film titled Headshot. Starring alongside Uwais will be fellow Indonesian actresses Chelsea Elizabeth Islan (Refrain) and Julie Estelle (“Hammer Girl” from Raid 2), as well as Sunny Pang (The Collector).

According to Deadline, Headshot focuses on an amnesiac (Uwais) who, Bourne Identity-style, washes ashore with a serious and mysterious head injury. Shortly after being nursed back to health by a young doctor (Islan), his past comes back to haunt him.

If you’re familiar with The Mo Brothers’ work – such as the thrillers Macabre and Killers – expect a serious amount of bloodletting and hardcore violence. Of course, topping it off with Uwais’ fluid martial arts skill, one can only imagine the film’s insane outcome. After all, it is called Headshot.

Other Uwais films in the works include Gareth Evans’ Blister, Peter Berg’s Mile 22 and the upcoming sci-fi film, Beyond Skyline, a sequel to 2010’s Skyline.

Headshot is currently in production – look for it in 2016!

Updates: Check out the first image from the film (via Timo).

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Pray for Death | Blu-ray (Arrow Video)

Pray for Death | Blu-ray (Arrow Video)

Pray for Death | Blu-ray (Arrow Video)

RELEASE DATE: March 8, 2016

Ninja film fanatics, brace yourself! Arrow Video has just announced their Blu-ray release for the 1985 cult martial arts classic, Pray for Death, starring Sho Kosugi (Ninja III: The Domination). The movie is slicin’ its way onto Blu-ray on March 8, 2016!

In Pray for Death, Japanese Restauranteur Akira (Kosugi) has taken his wife and two boys to the United States in search of a better life. But their slice of the American Dream is quickly soured when they fall foul of a group of vicious jewellery thieves. Unfortunately for the bad guys, they didn’t count on Akira being a secret black ninja.

The samurai sword of vengeance falls swift and hard in this classic slice of ’80s ninja action from director Gordon Hessler (Rage of Honor), culminating in an action-packed showdown with a bodycount worthy of Commando.

Special Features:

- High Definition Blu-ray (1080p) presentation from a transfer of original elements by MGM of the unrated version
- Optional English SDH subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing
- Brand new interview with star Sho Kosugi
- Archive interview and Ninjutsu demonstration with Kosugi from the film’s New York premiere
- Original Theatrical Trailer
- Reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Matthew Griffin
- Collector’s booklet featuring an extract from Sho Kosugi’s upcoming biography

Pre-order Pray for Death from Amazon.com today!

Posted in DVD/Blu-ray New Releases, Martial Arts Titles | Tagged | 6 Comments

Exclusive: Interview with Won Jin – The Scorpion King

Back in 2002 I could still be considered a relative newcomer to the world of kung fu cinema, having gotten into the genre only a few years earlier. Living in the UK, most of my kung fu movie watching came in the form of picking up the latest release from the Hong Kong Legends label, which at the time was going through its own golden era. This particular year saw them release a title by the name of The Scorpion King, from 1992. It was a production which featured some familiar names, such as Chin Kar Lok and Lau Kar Leung, and some not so familiar, namely, a certain Korean gentleman called Won Jin.

Keep your Blu-ray discs. It was all about "Operation Scorpio" on high definition VCD.

Essentially playing the villain of the piece, as Sunny the Scorpion, Won Jin marked himself as a legend of kung fu cinema in just a single movie. Showing amazing physical dexterity and flexibility, his kicks seemed to defy gravity, and in the image that defines him, he drops down onto one knee while propping himself up with both hands, arching his other leg over his back to perfectly imitate a scorpion. Not many people can claim to have made such a memorable impact on the genre so quickly, however after featuring in the trashy Women on the Run the following year, just like that he seemed he disappear from the Hong Kong movie scene.

Many rumors circulated around what exactly happened to the mysterious super kicker after so brightly lighting up the screen, from health issues to mentions of him possibly having died. Thankfully the later wasn’t true, however apart from briefly returning to Hong Kong cinema in the early 2000’s, Won Jin has mostly remained behind the camera in his native Korea. Then, seemingly out of the blue, in 2013 he appeared back on the screen in the Korean action movie The Suspect. Despite only being onscreen for a few minutes, they weren’t wasted, as he faced off against the title character in a scene which showed he still very much had all the moves.

"The Suspect" Korean Theatrical Poster

"The Suspect" Korean Theatrical Poster

His appearance in The Suspect was followed by a more substantial role in the 2015 production Kwon Bob: Chinatown, in which he plays the leader of a villainous Chinese gang. Despite its clear low budget, whenever Won Jin is onscreen he lights it up just as he did almost 25 years ago, displaying an array of kicks that the Scorpion King would be proud of.

As it happened, I planned to visit Seoul, the capital of Korea, in September 2015, and in one of those rare light bulb moments, the thought crossed my mind – I’m in Korea, Won Jin has a new movie out, why don’t I try to contact him for an interview? That’s exactly what I did, and after several e-mail exchanges, on the afternoon of 25th September I was greeted by Sunny the Scorpion in a quiet café, located within the backstreets of Gangnam. What was supposed to be just an hour long interview, surprisingly turned into us spending the next 12 hours together, encompassing coffee, alcohol, live octopus, and karaoke.

Below is the transcript of our conversation, which covered everything from his beginnings in the Korean movie industry, to his time in Hong Kong, to his present day activities working in both Korea and China. I hope you enjoy it.


Note: The interview was conducted using a mix of English and Korean.

Author Paul Bramhall and Won Jin kicking back with a cup of pine tree dongdongju.

PAUL BRAMHALL: Master Won Jin, first of all thank you for taking the time out to meet for an interview. I wanted to start by asking about the 2013 movie The Suspect. Of course many of your fans know you from your Hong Kong movies, and some also know of your early Korean productions, but The Suspect marked your return to the screen after a particularly long absence. How did you come to be involved in this movie?

WON JIN: You’re welcome! Well with this movie, actually my work in Korea has mostly been action directing, and I was also involved in constructing some of the action scenes for The Suspect. However director Won Sin-yeon, he knew of my earlier work and was some what of a fan, so he told me that he’d developed a small role in the movie which was just for me, and hoped I would take it. It’s true that I haven’t been in front of the camera for a long time, but of course, it was quite special to have a role made just for myself, so I said yes. I had to train the lead actor, Gong Yoo, how to perform the fight choreography, and I put together the fight scene myself. Gong Yoo learnt quickly, so we were able to film the scene to a high level. When did you see that movie? Was it in England?

Won Jin's now famous "scorpion" pose.

PB: I watched it a couple of years ago upon its release, but not in England, in Australia.

WJ: Ah, it’s good to hear that you watched it. I took a long break from appearing in front of the camera, because many action movies these days, any actors can play the part in them. But for me, I like the martial arts! So with the chance to perform a fight and assist with the fight choreography in The Suspect, we hoped it would be popular internationally and not only in Korea. Even though Hong Kong doesn’t make martial arts movies to the level it used to, it still has a market for them and they can be popular. In Korea that’s not the case, so we hoped with The Suspect the action would be popular in Korea as well as internationally, particularly in China, the Chinese market still appreciates martial arts in movies.

PB: And now of course you have quite a substantial action role, as the Chinese gang boss in the new movie Kwon Bob: Chinatown. When I watched this I was surprised to see you still seem to move just as well as you did over 20 years ago. What made you decide to take the part?

WJ: (laughter) You know I exercise every day, so staying healthy is very important for me! With Kwon Bob: Chinatown, we actually filmed this movie over just 15 days in 2014. It’s a very low budget movie, I would almost say it’s a no budget movie (laughter). However these days I’m getting older, so I have a lot of ‘little brothers’ working in the industry, especially who want to get into action. Many of my ‘little brothers’ were involved in this production, and they asked me if I’d take the part. To help them out, I said yes, and also with it being an action role, I thought it would be a nice fan service for those who wanted to see me onscreen again. I choreographed all of the fights myself, and despite the low budget, I thought I can still make the action exciting with my choreography and kicks. It also gave me the opportunity to train my ‘little brothers’, and give some advice on how best to make a martial arts movie and film the action scenes. But it’s very much the opposite of The Suspect, please don’t watch the movie thinking it’s a big budget production, it was a very quick film, but I hope you enjoyed my performance in it.

"Kwon Bob: Chinatown" Korean Theatrical Poster

"Kwon Bob: Chinatown" Korean Theatrical Poster

PB: I did, and I’m sure your other fans will too once it gets a wider release. I noticed your character only speaks Mandarin in the movie, and as you mentioned you hoped The Suspect would break the Chinese market, was the decision to have your character speak in Mandarin also to help it break the Chinese market?

WJ: (laughter) No, if it breaks the Chinese market, I would be surprised! It was just the way the character was developed. You know every day I would just memorise the sounds of my lines, I really had no idea what I was saying, just practice pronouncing these lines correctly, say them, then fight. You know the last fight scene?

PB: The one in the restaurant?

WJ: Yes, that one, it took 7 hours to complete. I choreographed the whole thing, and it was such a tight filming schedule, so it was a tiring experience! (laughter)

PB: Wow, and there’s also the scene in the parking lot were you take on multiple opponents, how long did that one take?

WJ: Ah, that one, that took 8 hours! It’s impossible! Thinking now I don’t know how I did it, I don’t want to repeat that experience again, but I hope my fans can appreciate the hard work.

Won Jin in a still from "Kwon Bob: Chinatown"

PB: Now going back to when you first got into the movie industry, the Korean Movie Database has your first movie as The Undertaker of Solhwa Province in 1983. Could you tell us a little about how you got into the film industry?

WJ: Actually that listing is not completely correct. My debut was in a 1979 movie called The Eighteen Amazones (aka Bruce Lee’s Ways of Kung Fu). I was just a stuntman in the movie, and the two mains stars were Dragon Lee, he was kind of a Korean version of Bruce Lee, and Chang Il-do, do you know these actors?

PB: Yes, I know their movies very well, Chang Il-do (aka Bruce Lai) also did some Bruce Lee-like movies.

WJ: Yes he did, sadly Chang Il-do passed away last year, but he became my manager for a couple of years in the early days. In the movie I was doing doubling for women, they would stuff my top with padding so it looked like I had breasts, then the more acrobatic moves would be performed by me. I was just 19 at the time, but that was my first taste of working in the movie industry. Like most people my age, the Bruce Lee movies were hugely popular when I was a child, and I’d watch his movies and think I also wanted to be like him.

Won Jin's movie debut, "The 18 Amazones" (aka "Bruce Lee's Ways of Kung Fu")

My father was also a martial artist, now many people tell me I look like my father, I think so too. I have memories of him and how he’d break rocks with his bare fists, he had a lot of power. Sadly when I was 19 he passed away, but that gave me more determination to break into the film industry, I had to prove my worth and I was determined to do it. So The Eighteen Amazones is the movie that gave me that first opportunity.

PB: And what was it like working in the Korean movie industry at that time? I imagine it would be a different world to the industry today.

WJ: A year before The Eighteen Amazones there had been a Hong Kong movie, Drunken Master with Jackie Chan. At that time everyone in Korea went crazy for kung fu, we all wanted to copy the Drunken Master style, so there were many Korean kung fu movies which imitated that style. For someone that wanted to get into martial arts movies, there weren’t too many avenues available in Korea to do something different, however I didn’t want to spend my whole career just as a stuntman. Hong Kong was making so many kung fu movies, and Jackie Chan was going against other Koreans like Hwang Jang-lee and Wang In-sik, so it made me more determined to act in a kung fu movie, but it was quite difficult.

PB: I see, and was it your father that originally introduced you to the martial arts?

Won Jin recreates his famous pose, Gangnam Style!

WJ: Yes, actually when I was a child my father thought my demeanour was a little girlish, so when I was 7 he made me start practicing Taekwondo, and of course I was watching the Bruce Lee movies. Because of them, I became really obsessed with nunchucks (laughter). But because of Bruce Lee, I became interested in movie fighting, so when I was 8 me and my friends would practice fighting with each other like in a movie. The more I learnt about Bruce Lee, I read that he made his own martial arts, so I decided that with my Taekwondo training, I would make my own style, the Won Jin style! (laughter) So I would practice doing different kinds of kicks and kicking combinations, mixing in some flips and things like this, and I would imagine what they would look like in a movie.

PB: Great, and apart from the training you received in Taekwondo, did you study any other martial arts?

Won Jin in a scene from "Women on the Run"

WJ: After I studied Taekwondo very hard, I really put all my efforts into focusing on creating my own style. So I started to think of what kicks I can create and how they could be incorporated into action scenes, this is how the progression of my martial arts training developed, I had a real passion for creating my own distinctive style. Despite this though, I was still very young, and teaching myself was very hard. If I had a teacher, you know someone like Jackie Chan or Bruce Lee, who could have shown me how to fight in a way that looked great onscreen, it would have been much easier! (laughter) But I was driven, so I persisted to keep on practicing and learning by myself.

PB: Speaking of your own style, now would be a good time to bring up a question I wanted to ask you. I know you choreographed the 2001 movie My Wife is a Gangster, but did you do some doubling for the lead actress Sin Eun-kyeong? Especially the fight in the rain at the start, some of those kicks looked very familiar!

Won Jin signs his life away.

WJ: Yes, I did! I had to double for a woman again, you know it’s the second time! But yes, for some of the more complicated kicks, it’s me. It’s funny, you know, Sin Eun-kyeong actually has a fuller body than me, so I felt like I had to act more tough when I was doubling for her! When she was in character, I felt my demeanour was girly again (laughter). I’m glad you recognized my kicks, I can say all the hard work from when I was a child paid off! By the way, do you know Mike Leeder?

PB: Yes, I know him, we sometimes talk on occasion.

WJ: Oh! Well, I met Mike Leeder maybe that same year that My Wife is a Gangster came out, around that time. He’s also from England like you, and he came to Korea, similar to what we’re doing now. I made a new showreel with him, and he published an article about me, he’s a good guy. I thought if you like action then it’s possible that you know him! (laughter)

Won Jin choreographed the fight scenes for the 2001 Korean hit "My Wife is a Gangster"

PB: Right, he’s a familiar face in the Hong Kong movie industry, and of course I think the showreel you’re referring to was included as an extra on the UK DVD for Scorpion King. This is without a doubt the movie you’re most famous for, as the character Sunny the Scorpion, can you tell us how you came to work in the Hong Kong movie industry?

WJ: It was back in 1991 that I first went to Hong Kong, however my journey to get there started a year earlier in 1990. At that time there was a movie agency situated in Hong Kong, it kind of specialised in action movies, and this agency put out an ad internationally requesting for martial artists to submit showreels of themselves, potentially to be cast in martial arts movies. After I saw the ad, I filmed a video of me demonstrating all of the kicks and moves that I’d created and been practicing.

After I submitted this showreel, a few Hong Kong directors who saw it actually came to Korea to visit me. They were really interested in some of the kicks I’d displayed in my showreel, so they asked if I could train them a little on the types of techniques I use, which I did. One of the directors who visited me was David Lai, and as it turned out we got along really well. Director Lai eventually invited me to Hong Kong, and we made 3 movies together there. On Saviour of the Soul 2 I just had a very small role, so that he could see if I could work well in a Hong Kong movie, then after that we made The Scorpion King and Women on the Run together.

Rare behind-the-scenes photos from "The Scorpion King"

PB: Of course in Hong Kong movies at the time, the action choreographer was a very important role. In The Scorpion King, you didn’t just get to work with one action choreographer, but 3 of the very best in Lau Kar Leung, Corey Yuen, and Yuen Tak. What was it like to work with such talented martial arts directors?

WJ: Working with these three, I can say that they were truly A class. Their direction and vision was so ambitious, and it was an exciting time to be working with them. Lau Kar Leung in particular, at that time he was a similar age to what I am now, but I remember clearly he had so much energy and power. Back then, he was living with a woman who was 25 years younger than him, really so much energy! (laughter) When we had our fight, you could really feel that energy and power, I was very surprised because he was so much older then me! But I felt that we were a good match when we were fighting, and I could feel that it was going to be a good scene. Another memory I have of Lau Kar Leung is his coffee intake, he would drink maybe 10 cups of coffee per day when we were working on the film, he could never get tired of coffee! His nickname was ‘Sifu’, and on set that’s what everyone called him, and I learnt why very quickly. You know he passed away now?

PB: Yes, it was a couple of years ago.

WJ: Right, it’s a great loss to the martial arts world. You know the following year after making The Scorpion King, Lau Kar Leung called me, and he wanted me to come to America with him to help work on the movie Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle III, so I was really excited. But, I couldn’t get the working visa for America, so our chance to work together again was cancelled! So sad.

"Police Story 3" Japanese Theatrical Poster

Due to scheudling conflicts, Won Jin had to turn down Jackie Chan's offer to appear in "Police Story 3"

PB: I had no idea about that, what a missed opportunity!

WJ: It was. There were a couple of missed opportunities while I was in Hong Kong. You know Jackie Chan called me, as he’d seen me in The Scorpion King, and he asked me if I could play a character in Police Story 3 and we would have a fight together. It was an exciting opportunity, however I was loyal to director Lai, and I’d already committed to take a role in Women on the Run which was filming at the same time, so I had to turn it down. The funny thing is, a couple of days before Jackie called me, I’d actually had a dream about fighting him, so to receive his phone call so soon after, it was like some sort of destiny!

There was also a Jet Li movie, I don’t remember the name, but Corey Yuen was working on it, and we’d worked together on The Scorpion King, so he asked me if I could take a role against Li. But unfortunately at that time as well I was also busy, so the chance was cancelled. A shame!

PB: Ok now you’re depressing me. (laughter) Going back to The Scorpion King, the choreography is very Hong Kong style, but watching you in action, your moves are clearly Won Jin style. Was there any difficulty in integrating your style of action into the choreography that Lau Kar Leung, Corey Yuen, and Yuen Tak had in mind?

Paul and Won Jin goofin' around between conversations.

WJ: Right, thankfully the choreographers were very talented to incorporate my moves into the fight scenes. The way the fight scenes developed was that Lau Kar Leung, Corey Yuen, and Yuen Tak were given a copy of my showreel, which I’d made in Korea, by David Lai. It was lucky because I really put my all into that showreel, so it showed off the whole array of my moves and what I’m capable of doing, then based on what they saw, they then incorporated those moves into the fight scenes. As you can see in the movie, in every one of my fight scenes I just use my kicks, almost no hands, and that reflects what they saw in the showreel.

PB: And for the famous scorpion pose itself, was this an idea of director Lai, the action directors, or yours?

WJ: That was always director Lai’s idea to have this kind of pose for the character, however the problem was to find someone who could do it, so I was happy to be able to deliver the vision that he had. You know an acquaintance contacted me sometime after the movie was released, and he told me that during the monk’s performances from Shaolin Temple, the scorpion pose had now been included in it! It’s crazy. The pose has appeared in other places as well, there’s a Korean pop music group, they’re called Infinite, they do it in one of their music videos (‘Before the Dawn’). And BYC, a clothing manufacturer here in Korea, they released a range of clothing called the Scorpion Collection, and all of the advertising images for the range have the models performing the pose as well! (laughter)

"High Grade Player" Korean Theatrical Poster

PB: It’s interesting to hear what an influence it’s had on popular culture.

WJ: Yes, and you know David Lai, he had the idea for The Scorpion King 2, and I was going to come back as Sunny. However it was never able to get off the ground, some financing issues, and a couple of years later director Lai wasn’t as active anymore, so finally the idea was cancelled. But even though it didn’t happen as a Hong Kong movie, actually I’d still like to make The Scorpion King 2, maybe here in Korea, maybe in China. I’m confident I could still give a good performance, but with filmmaking, the issue is always to get financing, so you know it’s hard. But one day, I hope it’ll happen.

PB: I’m sure there are plenty of your fans out there who are hoping it will happen too. The funny thing about Sunny is of course that he’s the villain of the piece, but he became much more iconic than the characters played by Chin Kar Lok and Lau Kar Leung, who are the good guys!

WJ: (laughter) Actually Sunny isn’t the bad guy, his father is the bad guy. Sunny just does what his father tells him to do and wants to protect his family, so I’d say that rather than calling him a bad guy, he should be called a good son!

Scenes from "High Grade Player"

PB: You know I’d never looked at it that way until now! Now after you completed Hero from Beyond the Boundary of Time in 1993, you seemed to disappear from the Hong Kong movie scene, and didn’t re-appear until 2000. Can you tell us about what you were doing during those 7 years?

WJ: Right, in 1994 I returned back to live in Korea from Hong Kong. But actually that time was a little stressful, when I left Korea, the action movie genre was still quite popular here. But even just a few years later, when I came back the Korean action movie had kind of disappeared, and it seemed that TV drama had become really popular. So after taking a rest, I became quite anxious about what I was going to do back in Korea.

PB: I’m not sure if you’re aware, but there were many rumors about what had happened to you at the time, from health problems, to one of them even being that you’d died. Was there any truth in any of these?

WJ: Yes, I heard some of those rumors, one that I read had mentioned I’d lost both of my legs! (laughter) There is some truth in me having health issues at that time, I have a sensitive stomach, and compared to Korean food, I found Hong Kong food to be so greasy. What the exact reason was, I’m not sure, but I developed a liver problem and was hospitalised for a few days. After that though I was fine, and I was really thankful to be able to enjoy Korean food again in Korea. I guess you could say the sickness that I was suffering from was a kind of home sickness, so I was happy to be back in Korea again.

Miraculously, Paul walked away unharmed.

PB: 3 years after you’d returned to Korea, you took on one of the main roles in Kim Chun-sik’s movie, High Grade Player, in 1997. It was great to see you back in a role doing martial arts again, how did you come to be involved?

WJ: Kim Chun-sik was from the same era of Korean martial arts movies that I started off in, like me he was a stuntman, and we’d sometimes worked together. Since then he’d developed into a director. He called me one day and said he was going to direct High Grade Player, and said that he’d like for me to take this particular role. After discussing the movie with him, I felt confident that I could perform well playing this type of character, so my heart was telling me that I should take it. You know the character, even before production started on the movie, I felt that he was kind of in the same style as The Scorpion King. He has the unique traits, like a hook for a hand and the long hair, and he’s deadly with his kicks, so in some ways it kind of felt the character was related to Sunny the Scorpion. (laughter)

PB: And how did it feel for you to be back doing a martial arts movie in Korea, now that you’d had the experience of working in Hong Kong?

Won Jin faces off against Yuen Biao in a still from "No Problem 2"

WJ: Firstly, director Kim had a lot of experience in the industry, from being an action star in the past in front of the camera, to his experience working behind the camera as well. Because of that, working with him and taking his direction was very easy, there were no difficulties at all. In Hong Kong, I wouldn’t say it was a problem, but because of the language barrier often scenes would be explained with body language, or choreographers would play out the fight to show what they wanted. Normally my scenes in Hong Kong only took a few days to shoot, so it was never considered worth it to hire a translator. This worked well, but still it was nice to be in Korea and be able to talk to the director. By that time of course director Kim had seen my Hong Kong movies, so he let me have a lot of control over my action scenes and give input on the choreography.

Won Jin with Kang Kyong-joon and Chen Jia Jia.

As for the differences between the two industries, there are so many. What would be considered to be a mid-budget production in Hong Kong, would be considered big budget in Korea at that time, so High Grade Player didn’t have much money behind it which was a shame. The cultures as well of course are completely different, but specifically talking about the culture of making action movies, in Hong Kong they could spend days choreographing and filming just a single fight scene. In Korea it was very different, the fight scenes had to be put together and filmed much quicker, and I think that was partly because we didn’t know if there would even be an audience for the movie. In Hong Kong, it was guaranteed many people would go to see the martial arts movie, so martial arts stars were popular and expectations were high from their performances. I felt envious that Korea didn’t have the same attitude towards martial arts movies, however Hong Kong can be considered as the birthplace of the martial arts movie, and their industry had developed over many years to become what it was. In 1997 Korea didn’t have that yet, so it was much harder.

"China Strike Force" Hong Kong Theatrical Poster

"China Strike Force" Hong Kong Theatrical Poster

PB: Speaking of Hong Kong movies, in the last scene of High Grade Player, when you take on a small army single handedly, I noticed it’s filmed using the ‘step printing’ technique. Sammo Hung had used the same technique in a fight scene for the Jackie Chan movie Thunderbolt, a couple of years earlier. Was that scene inspired by the scene in Thunderbolt in any way?

WJ: Oh, in that last scene, actually I’d choreographed the scene but didn’t know it was going to be filmed in such a way. The decision to film it that way was an idea of one of the production staff, who believed it was a good way to visually show the rage of the character, having witnessed the person who killed his mother die. Personally I don’t think it shows off my action in the best way, and I know many martial arts fans would maybe be expecting a differently filmed scene, but in the end it was done that way to show the emotional trauma of the character.

PB: Now in 2000, just as quickly as you disappeared from Hong Kong movies, you re-appeared with a role in China Strike Force. What led to you returning briefly to the Hong Kong film industry?

Kickin' it with Won Jin.

WJ: Oh, this came about because I had a friend in Hong Kong. My friend was also friends with Stanley Tong, and when he announced he was going to be making this movie, my friend recommended me to director Tong for a role. Of course I’d missed the opportunity to work with director Tong on Police Story 3, and I’d heard that this new movie was also going to feature Ken Lo from Drunken Master 2, so it sounded like a good opportunity. But actually, the movie turned out to be no good, it had a big budget, but the quality wasn’t there. When I learnt about my role for the movie, I felt like it didn’t play to any of my strengths, so I don’t really know why director Tong thought it would be a good idea to have me involved. Then my death scene, oh, you know I don’t really want to remember this movie, can we just forget about it? (laughter)

PB: Sure, forgotten! But you did stick around though, making No Problem 2 a couple of years later in what would be your final Hong Kong movie. This movie was directed by your co-star from The Scorpion King, Chin Kar Lok, was it good to meet him again?

Reuben Langdon, Won Jin and Big Mike Leeder.

WJ: Oh ok! Actually this movie is a really good memory for me. You know me and Chin Kar Lok, after being in The Scorpion King together, we became good friends. So at the time of No Problem 2, we’d stayed in touch for 10 years, then he called me and said he was going to be directing a movie, with Yuen Biao, and he wanted me to be in it! It was really exciting, I was a fan of Yuen Biao, and Kar Lok told me Biao enjoyed my movies, so working on the movie was a really good experience.

We filmed for 7 days, and when I met Yuen Biao for the first time, he had such a great personality, he’s a really fun guy. At that time, Biao had put on a little bit of weight, but when it came to our fight, it turned out that we were a really good match, and he performed well. You know in Korea, we don’t have that many martial arts actors, so it’s really impossible to find someone who you’re a good match with and can work well together onscreen. But in Hong Kong, at that time, it was always great to find someone who you could be a good match with when performing martial arts. Now in Hong Kong, Chin Kar Lok became the chairman for the Hong Kong Stuntman Association, and sometimes he will call me from his office, inviting me to come there. Even now we’re still good friends. And you know we were discussing My Wife is a Gangster earlier?

Won Jin busy working on his next project in China.

PB: Yes…

WJ: Well No Problem 2 filmed in 2001, and so did My Wife is a Gangster, so my time that year was split between filming No Problem 2 overseas, and working on the action choreography for My Wife is a Gangster in Korea, it was a busy year!

PB: It certainly sounds like one! Now with all of the action performances you’ve been involved in, both in Hong Kong and here in Korea, have you ever sustained any injuries?

WJ: Actually not really, of course when you’re doing action scenes, you’re always going to get cuts and bruises, however in terms of any major injuries, no never. Chin Kar Lok on the other hand, you know he doubled many times for Jackie Chan?

PB: Yes I’d heard that before.

WJ: Yes, I’m sure he suffered many more injuries than me, even we both have done doubling work, stuntwork is much more dangerous.

PB: Now that you mentioned Jackie Chan, you did pop up for a brief cameo in the 2006 Korean movie Almost Love, which opens with a fantasy sequence that has you playing Jackie Chan’s father when he’s born. How did that role come about?

Won Jin poses with a dummy.

WJ: (laughter) I’m surprised you know about this! Actually this story is a little similar to how I got the role in The Suspect. I was doing the action choreography for the film, and the director of Almost Love, Lee Han, is also a fan of Hong Kong action movies, especially mine! (laughter) So he told me he had the idea for the scene, and he really wanted me to play the part, so of course I agreed to it, even though it’s just a brief role.

PB: One of the questions I was really looking forward to asking you is, out of all of the fights that you’ve been a part of in your movies, which is your personal favorite one?

WJ: I have to say going against Chin Kar Lok in the finale of The Scorpion King. You know it was a very special movie, nobody has ever forgotten that movie, so it’s very close to me. After it, I’d go out onto the street, and people would recognize me as Sunny the Scorpion, sometimes it happens even now, so I’m really glad to have been a part of it. I made a good friend with Chin Kar Lok, and we had a great fight onscreen together, so I’ll say it was my fight with him.

PB: Another old school martial arts star was a fellow Korean, Hwang Jang Lee. Now when The Scorpion King was first released, many people said you’re the next Hwang Jang Lee. How do you feel about this comparison?

"Drunken Master" Japanese Theatrical Poster

"Drunken Master" Japanese Theatrical Poster

WJ: Ah yes, I know Hwang Jang Lee, he’s actually in Seoul at the moment. I enjoyed his films from a long time ago, and of course the film which was so popular in Korea, Drunken Master, had Jackie Chan fighting him, so it’s a nice comparison. These days Master Hwang is much older, I believe he’s in his 70s now, but he still occasionally goes overseas to attend Taekwondo seminars and teach his techniques.

PB: Right, I’d also heard this. Since you’ve now been in the action movie industry yourself over 35 years, what’s your own personal preference, do you like acting and fighting onscreen, or creating the action choreography behind the scenes?

WJ: You know I like to do both. When you’re acting and performing in a fight scene, you have to really focus on the outlook, like how is my expression going to look onscreen, however with action directing, it’s very different, the process is internal and you have to think carefully. Actually action directing always makes me a little nervous, but it’s an excited kind of nervous. It can feel like a burden, because with each new production I put a pressure on myself to show some new technique and make the action seem new and fresh. However despite this, I still feel confident that I’m able to do it, so I enjoy each new challenge.

PB: That’s great, and now you’ve been working back in Korea as an action director since 2002, what for you has been your career highlight since then?

Won Jin in "China Strike Force"

WJ: Hmm, I worked on a couple of big movies shortly after returning to Korea from filming No Problem 2, and these movies still stick in my memory as being really enjoyable and challenging to work on. One was the sequel to My Wife is a Gangster, and for this one we tried to improve the action sequences from the original, so it was a big challenge to work on. The other is a movie called, do you know Sword in the Moon?

PB: Yes I know the movie.

WJ: I also was the action director for this movie, and it was really big budget, so it was a great opportunity to direct the action on such a big movie. Choi Min-soo comes with the reputation of being difficult to work with*, however when I had to work on a scene with him he was surprisingly quiet. When he was with me he was very respectful, and called me ‘Sifu’.

PB: And outside of your own work, do you have a favorite kung fu movie that you’ll watch when you have some free time?

"Sword in the Moon" Theatrical Poster

WJ: Of course Bruce Lee, but more recently, I like to watch anything which features Donnie Yen. He’s really become popular in China these days and a big star, so it’s great to see a martial arts star become so popular. Even though we started working in the action movie industry in the same era, Donnie Yen’s choreography has become really great in recent years, it’s very realistic. It would be great if there was a chance to work with him, and have a fight against each other. Actually we were both working in Hong Kong at the same time, but I feel that especially now, both with the way his choreography has developed to the standard it is today, and my own, we could make a really good movie.

Also Ong Bak with Tony Jaa, this is a good movie. But only the first one! (laughter) You know Tony Jaa copies some of my moves in that film? (laughter)

PB: I’m sure he must be a fan of The Scorpion King! And my final question for you is, what can we expect next from Won Jin?

WJ: Right now I’m working on the action for The Suspect 2, and who knows, maybe I can get a scene in the sequel as well. (laughter) I’m also working on the action for a Korean TV drama, but right now I’m not allowed to give any details about that, it’s still top secret. (laughter) The drama will be screened at the beginning of next year. Actually though, I’m not really a fan of drama series, I like martial arts movies! On the drama series you’re never given much time to put together the action sequence and film it, everything happens very fast, so film is better for me.

Peace out!

I also recently finished doing the action for a film in China, it hasn’t been released yet, and doesn’t have an English name, but translated directly, it would be Search for the Lost Heroic Grandmaster. The main star is the Korean actor Kang Kyong-joon, and the lead actress in Chen Jia Jia. Maybe you know her? She was in a couple of Donnie Yen’s movies, Seven Swords and Legend of the Fist: The Return of Chen Zhen. We shot the movie in Beijing, as these days there are more and more work opportunities there. It seems martial arts action is still popular in China, so I recently opened my own company there, it’s like an action consultancy agency, so I can help those who want to get into action and teach them, as well as be available for opportunities myself. We’ll see how it goes.

For now though, I’ll continue to work both in Korea and overseas!

PB: Master Won Jin, thank you very much for your time!

Special thanks to Seulki Choi for assisting to arrange the interview, and Ju-yeon Yu for acting as a translator.

* Director Kim Sung-ho also discussed Choi Min-soo in this interview.

Posted in Features, Interviews, News | 13 Comments

Jason Statham teams up with ‘Equilibrium’ filmmaker!

"Redemption" Japanese Theatrical Poster

"Redemption" Japanese Theatrical Poster

Global action icon Jason Statham (The Expendables) has signed on to star in a new high-octane action/thriller tentatively referred to as Untitled Kurt Wimmer Project – a production between Jason Statham and Steven Chasman’s SJ Pictures and China-based Road Pictures.

Written by Kurt Wimmer (Equilibrium) the movie is centered around an Ex-Pat Brit in Hong Kong who goes on the run with a high-level female Chinese agent to solve a kidnapping with global implications.

Steven Chasman (The Transporter 1, 2 & 3) will produce the movie with Gongming Cai and Julien Favre of Road Pictures, the Beijing-headquartered global media group. Principal photography will begin in fall 2016. The film will shoot in China and in Europe.

Said Chasman, “Jason and I both have been wanting to work with Kurt for a long time. He has such an incredible vision for this film that this collaboration is particularly exciting for us. The narrative Kurt creates is incredibly rich and while our story is rooted in adventure, it is also very much character driven. We couldn’t be more fortunate to be working with him, as well as our new partners from Road Pictures, Gongming and Julien, who really comprehend the global potential for the film.”

Gongming Cai commented, “This is a perfect vehicle for Jason Statham to conquer the Chinese market – he is a true global superstar who has such an authentic connection with audiences around the world. Jason is in a class by himself. There is nothing he can’t do and he proves this time and time again with every project he’s involved in. We’re excited to put this film into production, which marks the beginning of what we see as a fruitful long-term partnership with Jason Statham and Steven Chasman.”

Cityonfire.com received the above press release from Road Pictures

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Tiger Chen and Robin Shou saddle up for ‘Kung Fu Cowboy’

"Man of Tai Chi" International Theatrical Poster

"Man of Tai Chi" International Theatrical Poster

Tiger Hu Chen (Man of Tai Chi, Monk Comes Down the Mountain) is joining forces with Danny Chan Kwok Kwun (Shaolin Soccer, Ip Man 3) and Robin Shou (Cyprus Tigers, City War) in Kung Fu Cowboy, an upcoming East-meets-West martial arts action film.

At the the helm is Jonathan Lim (Pali Road), who is also producing, and co-writing with W. Earl Brown (Deadwood).

According to Variety, Kung Fu Cowboy is a Chinese-Western genre mashup featuring a group of displaced Chinese immigrant workers who fought back against growing racial tensions and discrimination after the building of the U.S. railroads in the 1800s.

Production for Kung Fu Cowboy starts in early 2016.

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Ridley Scott’s company developing TV series for Van Damme

"Welcome to the Jungle" Japanese Theatrical Poster

"Welcome to the Jungle" Japanese Theatrical Poster

Scott Free Productions – a company founded by brothers Ridley (Alien) and the late Tony Scott (True Romance) – is developing a CBS TV series for Jean-Claude Van Damme (Pound of Flesh) titled Jean Claude Van Johnson, a comedy that’s along the lines of Van Damme’s semi-reality themed JCVD (2008).

Deadline describes the project as “a half-hour comedy starring Van Damme, who plays a global martial arts and film star operating under the alias of “Johnson,” the most dangerous undercover private contractor in the world.”

Ridley Scott says Jean Claude Van Johnson will “show the martial arts and film star in a new light that would surprise fans.” Dave Callaham, producer of the upcoming Mortal Kombat reboot, serves as both writer and executive producer of the series.

This isn’t the first time Van Damme is visiting television and comedy. In 2011 came Jean-Claude Van Damme: Behind Closed Doors, a 2011 Fly on the wall-style reality show that aired on United Kingdom’s ITV4. In 2013, the martial arts star successfully showcased his comedy chops in Welcome to the Jungle.

Other Van Damme projects supposedly in the works include Antwerp HeistThe Penrose Affair and The Tower. His long-awaited, unreleased Eagle Path (aka Full Love) is rumored to be finally getting a release early next year.

We’ll keep you updated on Jean Claude Van Johnson as we hear more!

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Deal on Fire! Chuck Norris: Total Attack Pack | Blu-ray | Only $11.99 – Expires soon!

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

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

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

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

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

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

Memories of the Sword | Blu-ray & DVD (Well Go USA)

Memories of the Sword | Blu-ray & DVD (Well Go USA)

Memories of the Sword | Blu-ray & DVD (Well Go USA)

RELEASE DATE: January 5, 2016

Well Go USA presents the Blu-ray & DVD for Park Heung-Sik’s Memories of the Sword, starring Byung-hun Lee (I Saw the Devil).

As the greed of a corrupt Monarchy threatens to destroy the Goryeo Dynasty, three warriors lead a revolt to overthrow the empire and save its people. But when betrayal costs the life of a swordsman, a plot for justice is set into motion.

Memories of the Sword (read our review) also stars Jeon Do-Yeon (No Blood No Tears), Kim Go-Eun (Coin Locker Girl), Lee Joon-Ho (Cold Eyes), Lee Kyoung-Young (Kundo), Kim Tae-Woo (Quick), Bae Soo-Bin (Fly High) and Kim Soo-Ahn (The Chosen). | Trailer.

Pre-order Memories of the Sword from Amazon.com today!

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

Action-packed fight clip from AMC’s ‘Into the Badlands’

"Into the Badlands" Poster

"Into the Badlands" Poster

Hong Kong film star Daniel Wu (Purple Storm) is playing the lead in AMC’s upcoming martial arts series, Into the Badlands. The series follows a ruthless warrior (Wu) and a young boy who take a dangerous journey together to find enlightenment. The series will air in November.

Into the Badlands also stars Emily Beecham (28 Weeks Later), Sarah Bolger (The Tudors) and Oliver Stark (My Hero). Wu’s long time friend and partner, Stephen Fung (Tai Chi Hero), is serving as executive producer. The series – created by Al Gough and Miles Millar (Shanghai Noon) – will be directed by David Dobkin (Wedding Crashers). | 1st teaser trailer. | 1st trailer. | New trailer!

Updates: Watch a fight scene from the series!

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‘The Crow’ reboot to finally fly in March?

"The Crow" Japanese Theatrical Poster

"The Crow" Japanese Theatrical Poster

A remake of Alex Proyas’ 1994 cult classic The Crow has been in development hell 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, Normal Reedus, Luke Evans and Jack Huston).

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: 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.

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.”

Filmmaker Corin Hardy is set to direct the Crow remake. Want to see one of Hardy’s short films? click here. | Following Relativity Studios’s bankruptcy last week, pre-production on The Crow is once again in limbo. According to THR: Relativity is still hoping to go into production this fall, and a source at the company said “we continue to be excited by The Crow.” But whether the embattled company keeps hold of the title remains to be seen.

“It’s going to happen. I talked to Pressman Films a couple of weeks ago and they said within two or three weeks, we should have it placed at a new studio. Because the day Relativity announced that they were having financial problems, there were like a dozen other studios that called about getting The Crow property. It definitely will happen,” says comic book creator, James O’Barr. (via Collider)

BREAKING NEWS: According to CB, The Crow goes into production in March 2016. A release date – and its lead actor – have yet to be determined.

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Say Yes (2001) Review

"Say Yes" Korean Theatrical Poster

"Say Yes" Korean Theatrical Poster

Director: Kim Seong-Hong
Writer: Park Joong-hoon
Producer: Hwang Gi-Seong
Cast: Park Joong-hoon, Chu Sang-Mi, Kim Ju-Hyeok, Gi Ju-Bong, Lee Chang-Yeong, Lee Wu-Jin, Choi Hong-Il
Running Time: 105 min.

By Paul Bramhall

Think of Asian horror during the late 90’s and early 2000’s, and the image that comes to mind will most likely be one of a long black haired female ghost. The 1998 Japanese movie Ring triggered a whole host of Asian horror movies, all of which relied upon the sight of long black haired apparitions to strike fear into the heart of the viewer. Korea was no exception, offering their own adaptation of the novel that Ring was based on with 1999’s The Ring Virus, and in 2002 with the derivative Phone. However Korea’s horror genre didn’t rely solely on long black hair, and during the same time period its film industry produced a number of grizzly murder thrillers, which easily veered into horror territory.

From the severed blood soaked body parts found in 1999’s Tell Me Something, to the graphic images of sliced up pregnant women found in 2002’s H, both movies relied on the more primeval horror trope of gruesome imagery to sell themselves. Say Yes, from 2001, falls into the same category, however unlike its peers it goes down a different path than the murder mystery, instead opting to go for a more direct approach. If any movie was worth drawing a comparison to, it would be Robert Harmon’s 1986 thriller The Hitcher, which has Rutger Hauer playing a psychotic hitch-hiker who makes life hell for a young couple, played by C. Thomas Howell and Jennifer Jason Leigh.

The director of Say Yes, Kim Sung-hong, seems to have quite an affinity for making movies which revolve around a psychotic character. From 1997’s The Hole, to even his most recent effort with 2012’s Doctor (a movie which became more famous for lead actor Kim Chang-wan stating in a TV interview that he wished he’d never made it), Sung-hong isn’t one to shy away from recycling his own movies themes and characters. With Say Yes, we’re introduced to a married couple played by Kim Joo-hyuk and Chu Sang-mi. To celebrate Joo-hyuk successfully finding a publisher for a novel he’s written, the pair decide to take a road trip from Seoul to the seaside town of Sokcho, in Joo-hyuk’s newly purchased car.

Things are going well, until they take a break in a service station along the way. While Joo-hyuk is busy buying coffee, Sang-mi notices a man who persistently stares in her direction. When Joo-hyuk returns he insists that it’s no big deal, however upon pulling out of the car park, the same man throws himself in front of their car, feigning that he didn’t see them pulling out. As an apology, Joo-hyuk agrees to give him a ride to Sokcho, where he’s also headed, and as the expression goes – you should never give a ride to strangers.

The man in question is played by Park Joong-hoon, one of the most recognizable faces in Korean cinema. Joong-hoon was the star in one of the very first Korean movies to get distributed internationally, in the 1999 movie Nowhere to Hide, which had him playing a stubbornly determined cop on the trail of a hitman. He’s an actor who’s been in the industry since the mid-80’s, and at the time of its production was easily the most established star in the cast of Say Yes. It’s surprising then, that if anything his nameless psychopath is really the weak point of the movie.

The issue comes down to the fact that a lot of characterization has gone into establishing Joo-hyuk and Sang-mi’s freshly married couple. They bicker, make up, and worry about things like money and what the future holds. Their relationship seems very real, which seems at odds with Joong-hoon’s one note monotone psycho. It almost seems as if the movie should be a romantic drama, but has had Joong-hoon teleported in as a joke, to see what would happen if a horror movie psychopath is randomly thrown into the mix. Their actions in reaction to Joong-hoon also seem far fetched. Apart from the fact that they let him into their car in the first place, when Joong-hoon casually states that he’s contemplating which one of them he’s going to kill first, as expected Joo-hyuk pulls the car over and angrily yells at him to get out. When Joong-hoon insists that he was just kidding, unbelievably they decide to let him stay in.

Proceedings continue with Joo-hyuk and Sang-mi attempting to enjoy their holiday, only for Joong-hoon to repeatedly step in to ruin things or terrorize them in some way. We really have no idea why he’s chosen the couple as the target of his stalking, so for the longest time we’re questioning why he’s doing such things just as much as the couple themselves are. It isn’t until around mid-way through that, while crushing shards of glass in his fist, Joong-hoon explains that he’s hardly slept a minute for the past 3 years, and as a result can no longer feel anything. Well, that clarifies it then. Still, he seems to be in a significant amount of pain later on when he’s beaten full force over the head with a spade several times over, and then impaled in the chest with a pitch fork.

Sung-hong reaches a level of unintentional hilarity however, when shortly after the previously mentioned impaling, Joong-hoon appears behind the wheel of a truck and chases Joo-hyuk and Sang-mi through the streets, ploughing through cars and even whole buildings. Combined with the glass shard crushing, I’m at least partially convinced that Say Yes started life as a Korean version of The Terminator, with Joong-hoon sent back from the future to stop Joo-hyuk and Sang-mi conceiving the savior of mankind (at one point he even throws a stone through the window while the pair are having sex). Either way, his ability to recover in just a couple of minutes from a beating which pretty much guaranteed death, ensures that we no longer take the movie seriously.

The final third of Say Yes rather awkwardly shoehorns in a police investigation, which comes across as rather forced when the whole movie so far has focused exclusively on the trio. What’s more, the complete uselessness of the investigation raises the question of why it was introduced into the plot in the first place. Events build to a particularly mean spirited finale, which is made all the more cruel by effectively being a double climax. With everything resolved, it seems the movie has come to its close, and the couple can finally return to Seoul, probably traumatized for life, but at least still alive and together. But then it turns out there’s still another 15 minutes to go, during which everything goes straight to hell, and events build to what becomes a literal bloodbath. Sung-hong’s movies seem to have a running theme of mean spiritedness, and in the case of Say Yes, it left somewhat of a bad taste in the mouth.

There’s a closing sequence which takes place a few months after the bloody finale, and it’s a sequence which shows just how misguided Sung-hong’s effort is. My recommendation would be that if someone suggests you to watch Say Yes, the best thing to do would be to say no.

Paul Bramhall’s Rating: 4/10

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

Over Your Dead Body | Blu-ray & DVD (Shout! Factory)

Over Your Dead Body | Blu-ray & DVD (Shout! Factory)

Over Your Dead Body | Blu-ray & DVD (Shout! Factory)

RELEASE DATE: January 5, 2016

Shout! Factory presents the Blu-ray & DVD for Over Your Dead Body, directed by Takashi Miike (Audition, 13 Assassins) and starring Ebizo Ichikawa, Kou Shibasaki, Hideaki Ito, Miho Nakanishi and Maiko.

In this atmospheric and gory-looking horror film, we follow two young stage actors who find their roles bleeding over (no pun intended) into their real lives. Based on the trailer, Miike appears to be pulling out all the stops with this one!

Pre-order Over Your Dead Body from Amazon.com today!

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

‘Kung Fu Killer’ star takes sci-fi to an ‘Impossible’ level

"Impossible" Chinese Teaser Poster

"Impossible" Chinese Teaser Poster

The charismatic star of Monk Comes Down the Mountain, Kung Fu Jungle (aka Kung Fu Killer) and Iceman (and its upcoming sequel) is returning in Impossible, an upcoming sci-fi/comedy film directed by Sun Zhou (I Do).

Here’s what you can expect from the plot: Memeda, a “human detector” from outer space happens to meet a depressed man named Liguo (Baoqiang) who just lost his daughter in a car accident. After delving into Liguo’s heart, Memeda decides to follow this poor man and study him inside out; however, it eventually gets itself into the complicated “human world.”

Impossible also stars Xiao Shenyang (The Grandmaster), Xin Zhilei (Love Drift), Da Peng (Jian Bing Man), Andrew Yin (Last Flight), and Donna Zhao (Fiji Love).

The film opens in Chinese theaters on December 4, 2015. Stay tuned for the trailer!

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Matango | aka Attack of the Mushroom People (1963) Review

"Matango" Japanese Theatrical Poster

"Matango" Japanese Theatrical Poster

AKA: Fungus of Terror
Director: Ishiro Honda
Writer: Takeshi Kimura, Sakyo Komatsu
Producer: Tomoyuki Tanaka
Cast: Akira Kubo, Kumi Mizuno, Kenji Sahara, Hiroshi Koizumi, Yoshio Tsuchiya, Kenji Sahara, Kenji Sahara, Hiroshi Tachikawa, Miki Yashiro, Hideyo Amamoto
Running Time: 89 min.

By Kyle Warner

Before 1954, director Ishiro Honda worked in multiple genres, including romantic dramas, documentaries, and war pictures. After directing the original Godzilla in 1954, Honda became Toho’s go-to man for their kaiju films and special effects extravaganzas thanks to his skill, speedy productions, and a good working relationship with special effects master Eiji Tsuburaya. Honda was quite proud of his work in the sci-fi genre (as he should’ve been), but he’d never envisioned himself as a sci-fi director and he longed to have more variety in his filmography. Toho liked what he did for Godzilla, though – Honda remains the fan-favorite director of most Godzilla fans – and by 1960 they rarely let him work in other genres. Even when he got away from the kaiju, Honda still mainly worked in sci-fi, fantasy, and horror, though on a more human scale. Films like The Human Vapor, The Mysterians, and Matango may lack the name-recognition of Honda’s kaiju flicks, but the quality was still there. I’d even say that Ishiro Honda’s human scale fantasy films are some of Japanese cinema’s least appreciated gems in the West.

Matango is Honda’s darkest film since the original Godzilla. It’s a cynical story about a group of seven friends and colleagues who go on a boating trip, get lost in a storm, and end up stranded on a deserted island. Things get worse from there. The island has no animals or safe edible vegetation. At one point, the men are out hunting for birds when a gull flies towards the island, only to turn around and head back out to sea. The survivors find a derelict ship meant for scientific research washed up on the shore. It’s covered with thick, colorful mold. The logbooks tell of a new mushroom native to the island called matango. If eaten, the matango mushroom causes hallucinations and poisons the body, making you grow hideous, turning you into a mushroom.

You are what you eat.

The matango mushroom is the only plentiful thing on the island. With food stocks running low, it’s not long before someone takes a bite. Once the mushroom is eaten, that person finds bliss as they lose their humanity. Matango becomes a film about paranoia as no one knows who they can trust. Old friends turn on each other. The mushroom people try to spread the joy of their new lifeform. It’s dark, grim stuff. Think Gilligan’s Island meets The Thing and you’re not far off.

Matango meant a great deal to Honda at the time and it was something of a passion project for the director. Thanks to the money he’d made for Toho with the Godzilla series, Honda had earned the right to make a film for himself. And while Matango would go on to be a financial success for the studio, Toho cut down on similar personal projects afterwards. Matango’s screenwriter Takeshi Kimura was so displeased with Toho’s decision on the matter that he would continue under a penname for many of his future films. Kimura was credited as Kaoru Mabuchi for kaiju classics War of the Gargantuans, Destroy All Monsters, and the wonderfully weird Godzilla vs. Hedorah. As film historian David Kalat noted in his book A Critical History and Filmography of Toho’s Godzilla Series, Matango’s themes can be compared to selling out. The only way to be happy was to eat the mushroom/work with the studio, whereas going it alone leads to madness and isolation.

In Japan, the special effects and the drama were commonly handled by two different crews and directors. In the good old days at Toho that meant that Honda directed the actors and Eiji Tsuburaya would shoot the kaiju and destroy the miniatures. Since Matango was a horror story shot on a human scale, that allowed Tsuburaya the rare chance to work more directly with the cast. His makeup art turned actors into hideous monsters with impressive results. The older mutated mushroom people more closely resemble giant mushrooms and are kind of silly, but the eerie sound effects make the monsters work. Supposedly Matango was nearly banned in Japan because the mutated people resembled the victims of the atomic bomb.

The cast reads like a who’s who of Ishiro Honda’s regular players. Akira Kubo (Destroy All Monsters) plays the professor, the moral center of the group and the film’s main character. The beautiful and talented Kumi Mizuno (Monster Zero) plays a singer who enjoys the fact that multiple men lust after her. Yoshio Tsuchiya (The Mysterians) plays the wealthy owner of the boat and thinks that money can buy him anything. Hiroshi Koizumi (Mothra vs. Godzilla) plays the ship’s skipper who feels disrespected by Tsuchiya’s character, as he’s the skipper in title only. Kenji Sahara (Rodan) plays against type as the ship’s scruffy first mate. Even Godzilla suit-actor Haruo Nakajima is in the film, here playing one of the mutated mushroom people.

When the film was released in America it was given the unfortunate title of Attack of the Mushroom People. The film has a cult status and is either remembered as one of the worst horror films of all time or one of the most underrated and underseen classics of the genre. Me, I love Matango, it’s one of my favorite films. I realize that my rating will seem high to some people, but that’s just how I see the film and I feel like rating it any lower would make for a dishonest review.

When asked for his favorite of the films he’d directed, Ishiro Honda apparently chose Matango. While my favorite Honda film remains the original Godzilla, I would probably rank Matango as my second favorite. Sure, some it is dated and other parts were probably cheesy back in 1963, but I love it anyway. I rewatch the film at least once a year. As a fan of Ishiro Honda, Japanese cinema, and horror films in general, Matango has just about everything I’d want from a classic Toho genre film.

Kyle Warner’s Rating: 9/10

Posted in All, Japanese, News, Reviews | Tagged , , , , , | 1 Comment

First look at Park Chan-wook’s ‘The Handmaid’

"Thirst" Korean Theatrical Poster

"Thirst" Korean Theatrical Poster

Visionary director Park Chan-wook (Old Boy, Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance) is currently hard-at-work on a film adaptation of Sarah Waters’ 2002 novel, Fingersmith. The movie, titled The Handmaid, will be Park’s first full length South Korean production since 2009′s Thirst.

The Handmaid revolves around a group of female thieves and their plan to swindle a heiress in early 20th century London. Park’s version will take place in Korea.

The Handmaid stars Kim Min-hee (No Tears for the Dead), Kim Tae-ri and Ha Jung-woo (Kundo: Age of the Rampant).

Updates: Check out the first official photo from the film.

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Neill Blomkamp ‘Aliens’ sequel put on hold…

"Alien" Japanese Theatrical Poster

"Alien" Japanese Theatrical Poster

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

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

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

Check out Blomkamp’s latest piece of concept art. According to the director, the Aliens sequel is “Going very well. Love this project.” | And don’t forget, Ridley Scott (Alien), is currently working on his “own” Prometheus/Alien continuation, Alien: Paradise Lost. | Blomkamp took to instagram to post a photo of the new pulse rifle that will be featured in his Aliens sequel.

BREAKING NEWS: Blomkamp’s latest tweet suggests that his Alien sequel has been put on hold in an effort to avoid confusion with Ridley Scott’s Prometheus/Alien continuation, Alien: Paradise Lost. We speculate that there may be some legalities or studio politics involved with Blomkamp’s decision.

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