Expect more martial arts action as the Punisher joins Netflix’s ‘Daredevil’

"Daredevil" Japanese Theatrical Poster

"Daredevil" Japanese Theatrical Poster

By all accounts, season one of Netflix’s Daredevil series has proven a rousing success. The 13-episode program, which features Charlie Cox (Stardust) as Marvel Comics’ blind attorney turned vigilante, earned high marks from both critics and fanboys alike thanks to its blend of crime drama and hard-hitting action.

The show’s fight scenes, of which are there many, offer intricate martial arts choreography that wouldn’t be out of place in a Hong Kong action flick. In fact, Daredevil showrunner Steve S. DeKnight revealed to Entertainment Weekly that the series’ inspiration included modern Indonesian classic The Raid: Redemption. Given the acclaim that greeted Daredevil’s first season, fans are already anticipating Season 2.

And they have every right to get excited: Marvel announced today that actor Jon Bernthal, perhaps best known for his turn as hotheaded Shane in TV’s The Walking Dead, has been cast as the Punisher – Marvel Comics’ other streetside vigilante who, unlike Daredevil, isn’t afraid to pull the trigger and mete out a deadly brand of justice. Looks like things in Hell’s Kitchen are about to be anything but quiet when Daredevil: Season 2 arrives sometime in 2016.

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Are Steven Seagal and Warner cookin’ up an ‘Under Siege 3′?

"Under Siege 2" Japanese DVD Cover

"Under Siege 2" Japanese DVD Cover

The man, the myth, the mystique that is Steven Seagal began in 1988′s Above the Law and peaked with 1992′s Under Siege. Now, nearly 20 years after 1995′s Under Siege 2: Dark Territory, the actor wants to reprise his role as Casey Ryback, the former Navy SEAL operator turned chef who became famous for the line “I’m just a cook.”

During a recent interview with TBI, here’s what Seagal had to say about his plans for wanting to set Under Siege 3 in Russia:

“It seems like Russia has been Hollywood’s default bad guy forever. I sorta think the opposite. I think that America and Russia should be great allies and great friends. And can be. What I want to do is write a movie, which I’ve sorta already done, where Russian special forces and American special forces work together to combat terrorism.” Seagal continues, “I’m trying to do Under Siege 3, which is the plot that I told you. I’m trying to do some martial arts films in China. I have a lot of different scripts and ideas.”

I admit, the possibility of an Under Siege 3 is intriguing, but I’m not sure how I feel about Under Siege 3 being a straight-to-video title, which inevitable, considering Seagal’s track record. Regardless, I’m definitely rooting for it.

In a recent interview with JoBlo, Steven Seagal once again mentioned the possibility of an Under Siege 3: “I’d like to do [another] sequel to Under Siege. I’d like to do Under Siege 3 and everyone wants to see that. We’d love to do that. The reason why we didn’t do it for so many years was because there was a [feud] going on between Warner Bros and – there was a rights dispute I should say. But that’s been cleared up now so we could, in theory, make that.” Additionally, Seagal noted Donnie Yen as the “best action guy out there”. The Aikido master also hinted that he has a Kurosawa-esque script completed titled Attrition that he’s interested in filming.

Updates: This may or may not be related to Under Siege 3, but Steven Seagal is apparently teaming up with Russian Oscar-winning director Nikita Mikhalkov (Burnt by the Sun) for a U.S.-Russia co-production (via EP). Could this be the “Russian” connection Seagal mentioned months back for Under Siege 3? Only time will tell.

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

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

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

RELEASE DATE: August 11, 2015

Well Go USA presents the Blu-ray & DVD for Jackie Chan’s Police Story: Lockdown (aka Police Story 2013).

In Police Story: Lockdown, a man looking for the release of a long-time prisoner takes a police officer (Chan), his daughter, and a group of strangers hostage.

Police Story: Lockdown is directed by Ding Sheng (Little Big Soldier) and co-stars Liu Ye, Huang Bo, Jing Tian, Zhang Lanxin, Wang Zhifei, Zhang Xiaoning, Guli Nazha and Aaron Aziz. Watch the trailer.

Pre-order Police Story: Lockdown from Amazon.com today!

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

Deal on Fire! Hero | Blu-ray | Only $5.88 – Expires soon!

"Hero" Blu-ray Cover

"Hero" Blu-ray Cover

Today’s Deal on Fire is the Blu-ray for Zhang Yimou’s 2002 wuxia film Hero, which stars Jet Li (Flying Swords of Dragon Gate), Tony Leung (Bullet in the Head), Maggie Cheung (Police Story), Chen Daoming (Infernal Affairs 3), Zhang Ziyi (Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon) and Donnie Yen (Special ID).

Hero revolves around a nameless soldier (Li), who embarks on a mission of revenge against the fearsome army that massacred his people. The film features fight choreography by the legendary Tony Ching Siu Tung (Duel to the Death). Be sure to read our reviews for Hero.

Order Hero from Amazon.com today!

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Zebraman (2004) Review

"Zebraman" Japanese Theatrical Poster

"Zebraman" Japanese Theatrical Poster

Director: Takashi Miike
Writer: Kankuro Kudo
Cast: Sho Aikawa, Kyoka Suzuki, Teruyoshi Uchimura, Yui Ichikawa, Koen Kondo, Naoki Yasukochi, Makiko Watanabe, Keisuke Mishima, Yu Tokui, Yoji Tanaka
Running Time: 115 min.

By HKFanatic

With the massive success of 2010′s 13 Assassins it’s easy to forget that, oh, just a year ago director Takashi Miike was more well known for his typically surreal cinema efforts, which have included such feats as a woman shooting darts from her, uh, private regions and people regularly being cut in half. 2004′s Zebraman is one of those zanier flicks, and though it tones down the sex and violence it ramps the weird factor way up. Despite the titular character’s goofy, Super Sentai-inspired costume, don’t mistake this for a kid’s movie.

The heart and soul of Zebraman is actor Sho Aikawa, who previously worked with Miike on the Dead or Alive films. Aikawa plays a character who is a complete failure at life and has very little to recommend about him as a human being, and yet because of Aikawa’s performance you can’t help but root for the guy. Aikawa is a 3rd grade teacher who puts the minimal amount of effort required into his job; his son gets beat up at school because all the other kids think his dad is a loser; his wife is cheating on him; and his daughter sleeps around with middle-aged men she meets on the internet.

The only reprieve from his dreary life comes from his nights spent dressed up as Zebraman, a TV superhero he recalls from his childhood. Yet even this act is clouded with shame: Aikawa actively worries that someone from his job will see him dressed in the black-and-white costume and fire him on the spot. Eventually, Zebraman learns that he might actually have a knack for this superhero thing. When some CG aliens show up looking to make Japan ground zero for their invasion, only Zebraman can stop them – but first he’s got to believe that he can do it, which might take some convincing.

If there’s anything that mars Zebraman as a film, it’s the pacing. The film is very leisurely paced, which means it never manages to build up momentum. About an hour in, some apocalyptic-type events transpire and I was certain that the film was leading into the climactic encounter between Zebraman and the aliens – and then there was another hour to go. 115 minutes is probably a tad too long for what basically amounts to a superhero farce. Still, it gives Miike time to develop the characters and the world of the film.

I’ll also admit it was more fun to watch Zebraman take on your garden variety robbers, serial killers, and would-be rapists with his “Zebra Double Kick” and “Zebra Screw Punch,” than it was to see him fight aliens. The problem with the end battle between Zebraman and the aliens is that the extraterrestrials are low-rent, low-budget (for 2004!) CG blobs that wouldn’t have looked out of place in the Robin Williams comedy Flubber. So the ending wasn’t as entertaining as it could have been.

Regardless, there’s a lot to recommend about Zebraman. It’s a story about a pretty pathetic guy – the kind of person you might know at your job or school – who finds the strength inside himself to become a hero. Along the way, there are a lot of pratfalls and bathroom jokes, including a guy who washes his crotch with alien-infected water at a sauna. But I’ll admit that part made me laugh, among other scenes, and Miike brings his usual flair for action and absurd scenarios. If you enjoy superhero comedies, Power Ranger parodies, actor Sho Aikawa, or just weird Japanese movies in general, Zebraman fits the bill nicely.

HKFanatic’s Rating: 7/10

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George Nolfi’s ‘Birth of the Dragon’ searches for its Bruce…

"Enter the Dragon" Japanese Theatrical Poster

"Enter the Dragon" Japanese Theatrical Poster

A new Hollywood film about Bruce Lee titled Birth of the Dragon is in the works. The movie will take a look at the life of legendary martial artist and movie star Bruce Lee, using Lee’s disputed bout with Master Wong Jack-Man as the centerpiece of the story.

There’s some speculation that this could lead to a Rashomon-like structure to Birth of the Dragon since there are so many varying accounts of how the fight between Bruce Lee and Master Wong went down.

This isn’t the first time Hollywood has explored the legend of Bruce Lee. Perhaps the most well known example is 1993′s Dragon: The Bruce Lee Story, a heavily dramatized biopic from The Fast and the Furious director Rob Cohen that featured Jason Scott Lee (Time Cop 2) in the lead role.

If you’re worried about Hollywood once again playing fast and loose with the facts of Bruce Lee’s life, you can at least be assured that Birth of the Dragon has some decent pedigree behind it: screenwriters Christopher Wilkinson and Stephen Rivele previously wrote Nixon and Ali.

Updates: Variety reports that filmmaker George Nolfi (The Adjustment Bureau) will be directing Birth of the Dragon. The next big question is: Who will be playing Bruce Lee?

According to Deadline.com, Shannon, daughter Bruce Lee, is teaming up with producer Janet Yang (Joy Luck Club), Lawrence Grey (Last Vegas) and Ben Everard (Walt Before Mickey) to make the definitive biopic on Lee. “There have been projects out there involving my father, but they’ve lacked a complete understanding of his philosophies and artistry,” Lee said. And according to Grey: “We will bring on a world class filmmaker and writer, who’ll work with Shannon and myself and then we will talk to American and foreign partners.”

BREAKING NEWS: Birth of the Dragon is officially in search for the role of Bruce Lee. According to PC (via FCS): “Casting directors are looking for a young Bruce Lee between the ages of 20 to 30 years old. An experienced martial artist highly desired but not required.”

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‘Furious 7′s’ James Wan to direct live-action ‘Robotech’?

"The Super Dimension Fortress Macross" Japanese DVD Cover

"The Super Dimension Fortress Macross" Japanese DVD Cover

After years of development hell, Warner Bros. is finally moving forward with their big screen, live-action adaptation of Robotech… wait a minute. We’ve heard this before, right? Does this mean third time’s the charm…

According to Deadline, Andy Muschietti, who directed the 2013 Spanish-Canadian horror film, Mama, is being eyed to direct. Michael Gordon (G.I. Joe: the Rise of Cobra) is writing the screenplay, and Gianni Nunnari (The Departed) and Mark Canton (300) are producing.

We first heard of the live-action Robotech movie back in 2008. At the time, Tobey Maguire was set to produce and Lawrence Kasdan (The Empire Strikes Back) was brought on board to write. Then, Robotech disappeared.

A few years later, news broke that Nic Mathieu (Spectral) was “officially” attached to helm the adaptation. Around this time, there were rumors flying around that Leonardo DiCaprio (The Wolf of Wall Street) was in talks to play one of the lead characters. Somewhere along the way, Maguire lost interest, Kasdan went on to scribe some flick called Star Wars: Episode VII – The Force Awakens and the idea of a live-action Robotech was once again shelved indefinitely.

Whatever the case was back then, the newest update – if it’s happening – is exciting news if you’re familiar with Robotech. If you’re not, here’s a brief history: 1985′s Robotech – which was basically mash up of three, unrelated Japanese cartoons by Tatsunoko Productions –  was one of the first titles responsible for igniting anime fandom.

On the surface, you can say that Robotech is about piloted, transforming robots that battle aliens (*cough* Pacific Rim); but what really made Robotech special was its edgy themes of love, death and war. It wasn’t your average happy-go-lucky G.I. Joe or Transformers episode. People got killed. Relationships were complicated. And the storytelling was fascinating. Simply put, if done right, a live-action Robotech could be epic.

Updates: Deadline reports that Sony has acquired the rights to Robotech and are planning on developing it as a worldwide franchise. It’s unclear if Andy Muschietti (Mama) is still attached as director, but we’ll be sure to keep you in the loop as we hear more. Hopefully it’s not another 3 years from now.

BREAKING NEWS: James Wan (The Conjuring, Furious 7) has agreed to direct the live-action Robotech. But as THR (via Collider) adds: with Wan not being free until next spring, after he completes The Conjuring 2, and with Aquaman already having a 2018 release date, one imagines the superhero pic will be first on deck. Stay tuned!

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20th Century Boys: Chapter 1: The Beginning of the End (2008) Review

"20th Century Boys: Chapter 1" Japanese Theatrical Poster

"20th Century Boys: Chapter 1" Japanese Theatrical Poster

Director: Yukihiko Tsutsumi
Producer: Nobuyuki Iinuma
Cast: Toshiaki Karasawa, Etsushi Toyokawa, Takako Tokiwa, Teruyuki Kagawa, Takashi Ukaji, Kuranosuke Sasaki
Running Time: 142 min.

By HKFanatic

20th Century Boys is a live-action film based off the immensely popular and award-winning manga by Naoki Urasawa, who also created Monster. I’m not familiar with the source material but it must be pretty damn epic – it’s taken three movies, each over 2 hours long, just to complete the 20th Century Boys saga. I imagine this will be the biggest stumbling block for viewers looking to get into the series: Chapter 1, the first film, is 142 minutes long and you don’t even get the complete story.

Regardless, this is a movie worth looking into. It starts in a familiar way, not unlike Shaun of the Dead or even The Matrix, with an assuming everyman stuck in a job that’s going nowhere until he receives a call to action and must embark on a hero’s journey. The main character, Kenji, is an ex-rock guitar player now nearing his 40′s who runs a convenience store with his mom and looks after his vanished sister’s baby. He’s a good-hearted guy who’s resigned himself to a middle of the road kind of existence. Then one day the apocalyptic prophecies that he and some childhood friends dreamed up when they were kids, prophecies involving a cult and a deadly virus, actually start coming true. Now it’s up to Kenji to reunite with his old pals, figure out who’s behind the conspiracy, and save Tokyo before it’s destroyed.

At 142 minutes, you better believe this movie takes the time to set up the plot and introduce the characters. Without a doubt you get to know everyone in the film, even though the cast is quite large. It can be a bit confusing to keep track of everyone and the film jumps around in time from the past in the 1970′s to the “present” of the story in 2000 and even to the future in 2015. Stay focused and you’ll find that the characters are quirky and endearing, and you’ll be dying to learn just who the mysterious Friend – the masked foe out to destroy humanity – really is.

If I have one complaint about the film, it’s that despite the long runtime and measured pace the ending feels rushed.  Once you do get to the climactic final 20 minutes of the film, featuring a giant robot stomping on Tokyo and spraying a deadly mist that causes people’s heads to explode, the action sequence doesn’t have time to develop. It’s kind of like if they had tried to shoehorn the Battle at Helm’s Deep into the last 20 minutes of Fellowship of the Ring. Granted, it probably wasn’t an option to end the film earlier since Chapter 2 takes place in the future and with a mostly new set of characters (I told you this thing was epic), but the finale just didn’t carry the impact I wanted. The special effects are certainly remarkably impressive, though – and who doesn’t love giant robots tearing shit up?

The 20th Century Boys trilogy is one of Japan’s largest cinematic undertakings, with a budget of 6 billon yen ($77 million) and a cast of hundreds across the entire series. Committing to watch all three films is certainly a large investment of time, seeing as how altogether they run about 7 and a 1/2 hours. But after watching and enjoying Chapter 1, I feel confident that the rest of the series is worth looking into.

HKFanatic’s Rating: 8/10

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

Deal on Fire! The Stool Pigeon | Blu-ray | Only $8.90 – Expires soon!

"The Stool Pigeon" Blu-ray Cover

"The Stool Pigeon" Blu-ray Cover

Today’s Deal on Fire is the Blu-ray for The Stool Pigeon, a 2010 Hong Kong action film directed by Dante Lam (That Demon Within) and starring Nicholas Tse (As the Light Goes Out), Nick Cheung (Helios) and Kwai Lun-mei (Flying Swords of the Dragon Gate).

The Stool Pigeon revolves around a police detective (Tse) who uses informants to gain information about gangsters. The movie took home the Film of Merit Award at the 17th Hong Kong Film Critics Society Awards.

Order The Stool Pigeon from Amazon.com today!

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Is Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson in ‘Big Trouble in Little China’?

"Big Trouble in Little China" Japanese Theatrical Poster

"Big Trouble in Little China" Japanese Theatrical Poster

Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson is in talks to star in and produce a remake of John Carpenter‘s cult, kung fu-driven, mystical-filled classic Big Trouble in Little China. According to TW, the remake will be written by Ashley Miller and Zack Stentz (X-Men: First Class).

The 1986 film starred Kurt Russell as Jack Burton, a truck driver whose life on the road takes a sudden supernatural tailspin when his best friend’s fiancee is kidnapped. Jack finds himself deep beneath San Francisco’s Chinatown, in a murky, creature-filled world ruled by Lo Pan, a 2000-year-old magician who mercilessly presides over an empire of spirits.

As always, we’ll keep you updated as we hear more!

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Steven Seagal looks behind the ‘End of a Gun’!

"True Justice" Japanese DVD Cover

"True Justice" Japanese DVD Cover

Steven Seagal is teaming up with Keoni Waxman (A Dangerous Man) for the 7th time in End of a Gun, an upcoming action flick written by Chuck Hustmyre (House of the Rising Sun). Producers are Daniel Grodnik (Drive Hard) and Binh Dang (Force of Execution).

According to Variety, Seagal will play an ex-ATF agent who comes across a woman being beaten by her boyfriend in a mall parking lot. He’s forced to kill the assailant and finds himself facing possible criminal charges and an offer from the woman to help her steal $2 million hidden in the trunk of her boyfriend’s car in the police impound lot.

Stay tuned for more updates regarding this project!

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Donnie Yen’s ‘Kung Fu Killer’ hits hard this July!

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

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

Legendary Hong Kong action icon Donnie Yen is back in top form with the bone-crunching, martial arts action thriller Kung Fu Killer (read our review), debuting on Digital HD July 7, before hitting Blu-ray™ and DVD July 21 from Well Go USA Entertainment. Watch the trailer!

Bonus Features include: Making of, Fight To The Top, The Spirit of Kung Fu, The Final Duel, Legendary Action Directors and Trailer.

When a vicious serial killer targets top martial arts masters, convicted criminal and kung fu master Hahou (Donnie Yen) is the only one with the skills to stop him. Released from jail and into police custody, they soon have their doubts about Hahou’s true allegiance, causing Hahou to be hunted by an unstoppable killer (Wang Baoqiang) and the entire police force. Louis Fan (Flying Swords of Dragon Gate), Wang Baoqiang (Iceman) and Charlie Yeung (Bangkok Dangerous) also star for Director Teddy Chen (Bodyguards & Assassins, The Accidental Spy) in the action-packed drama that won “Best Action Choreography” at the 2015 Hong Kong Film Awards.

Until then, don’t miss our review and watch Well Go USA’s trailer.

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Jon Foo and Justin Hires join fists and feet for ‘Rush Hour’

"Rush Hour 3" Japanese Theatrical Poster

"Rush Hour 3" Japanese Theatrical Poster

Warner is making Rush Hour into a TV series. Brett Ratner (director of the original franchise) and Arthur Sarkissian will serve as executive producers, while Cougar Town’s Bill Lawrence will co-write along with Blake McCormick.

Jon Foo (Tekken) will play Detective Lee, originally played by Jackie Chan. Comedian Justin Hires has been cast for the Chris Tucker role. James Lew (Big Trouble In Little China), will be serving as the series’ stunt coordinator.

Updates: According to Deadline, Pysch creator/executive producer Steve Franks is signing on to serve as showrunner on the midseason CBS series Rush Hour, working alongside Bill Lawrence and Blake McCormick. In case you haven’t, be sure to check out the trailer (via FCS) for the pilot, which will premiering early next year.

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Master Strikes, The (1980) Review

"The Master Strikes" Thai Theatrical Poster

"The Master Strikes" Thai Theatrical Poster

Director: Kao Pao Shu
Writer: Kao Pao Shu
Cast: Meng Yuen Man, Tony Ching Siu Tung, Casanova Wong, Yen Shi Kwan, Eddie Ko Hung, Wong Mei Mei, Max Lee Chiu Jun, Meg Lam Kin Ming, Sham Chin Bo, Chan Ling Wai
Running Time: 85/91 min.

By Paul Bramhall

The Master Strikes is one of those movies that seems to split audiences down the middle. Some fans praise it as being the movie in which Casanova Wong’s kicks have never looked better, while others say that the comedy is so awful it negates any of the positives to be found. Of course with the kung fu comedy becoming a mainstay of the genre from the late 70’s, most of us are accustomed to sitting through a certain amount of grating Canto style gurning in order to reach the fight action. So the question is, what is it about this movie that makes it any different?

One of the last movies from female director and writer Kao Pao Shu, a prominent figure in the industry who was a Shaw Brothers actress through the 50’s and 60’s, The Master Strikes brings with it a cast of kung fu talent that would be enough to capture even the most jaded fans attention. Along with the previously mentioned Korean boot master Casanova Wong, in a rare starring role legendary fight choreographer Tony Ching Siu Tung also features. Siu Tung would cement his unique style of intricate and fantastical wirework a couple of years after The Master Strikes with his 1982 directorial debut, the classic Duel to the Death. Here though, in which he also takes on choreography duties, there is no wirework in sight, instead going with a strictly old-school grounded approach, which we’ll get to later.

Alongside Siu Tung is another old school favorite, Meng Yuen Man. Yuen Man was an actor who was on a roll in the late 70’s – early 80’s boom of kung fu movie excellence. Prior to The Master Strikes he played a similar role a year earlier in The Hell’s Windstaff, were in place of being buddied up with Siu Tung, he partnered with Meng Hoi to take on the wrath of Hwang Jang Lee. The Master Strikes may not have Hwang Jang Lee as its villain, but it does have fellow villain aficionado Yen Shi Kwan, who adequately compensates. Shi Kwan may not be the most familiar name, but his career had a surprising longevity, and he’s faced off with the best of them. The guy who Jet Li has the ladder fight against in Once Upon a Time in China? That’s Shi Kwan. The villain with the deadly sleeves that Donnie Yen and Yu Rong Guang have to team up against in Iron Monkey? That’s Shi Kwan as well. The guy is a silent achiever if nothing else.

These are just the main players, throw in roles from the likes of Eddie Ko and Tony Leung Siu Hung, and you have to wonder what could go wrong? Perhaps the best way to put it is, depending on your tolerance, nothing does. The story of The Master Strikes is simple if not entirely coherent. Shi Kwan hires Wong, who runs a courier service, to deliver a box containing a priceless jade horse. Quite where the journey takes Wong we’re never quite sure, but within the first 5 minutes he’s completed it, and delivers it to, well, Shi Kwan. Apparently the journey took 17 days, and exactly why Shi Kwan had it delivered it to himself comes across as rather bizarre, but things are partly explained when it’s revealed that the horse has gone missing from the box.

Wong becomes frantic, and ends up handing over all of his land, as well as his business, to Shi Kwan as compensation, before going to a local teahouse to drown his sorrows. It’s there that he meets the mischievous duo of Siu Tung and Yuen Man, and after striking up a conversation, they reveal to him how easily he’s been conned. Explaining that Shi Kwan must have used the same technique that they use to cheat when gambling, which basically entails the box having a removable bottom so that it’s easy to switch items, Wong comes to the realization of what’s happened. This is usually the part in most kung fu movies that our main character would swear vengeance, and go on a rampage taking down everyone in his way. But not in The Master Strikes, and this is probably the point that divides people.

Instead of the above, Wong enacts a mental breakdown, resulting in him becoming completely insane. This mostly takes the form of him acting like an epileptic monkey with mental deficiencies that’s been living on a diet of Red Bull and Helium. He also becomes unable to say anything other than “I understand!” over and over again. For anyone who’s familiar with the animation South Park, he somewhat takes on the characteristics of Timmy, only replace the phrase “Timmy!” with “I understand!” In the interests of full disclosure, I’ll point out here that I watched The Master Strikes with the English dub. Would it have made any difference to have watched it in its original language? In my personal opinion I doubt it, although I’m open to being corrected.

Wong decides to hang out in the teahouse mumbling to himself for a sizable chunk of the remainder, which results in him disappearing from proceedings for an extended period. Instead, the movie shifts its focus to the hijinks of Siu Tung and Yuen Man. This is were things start to get gratingly bad. Soon we’re drowning in several scenes of slapstick and gurning, all of which would be forgivable, except for the fact that every one of them seems to end with multiple characters yelling over each other until it becomes an inaudible mess of white noise. It’s enough to make you reach for the mute button.

Somewhere amongst the bombardment of insufferable humor even Beggar Su makes an appearance, played by Max Lee Chiu Jun, and spends a brief period training the two fools, in a sequence which bears no connection to the rest of the plot beyond padding out the runtime. Amongst all of this comedic wreckage though, some scenes are actually funny, most involving Casanova Wong. Whether it’s in the original language track, or just a stoke of genius by the dubbing crew, I dont know. Whatever the case, during the scenes which take place in the teahouse, specifically the ones which don’t involve Wong directly, you can constantly hear him faintly mumbling in the background, “I understand…..I understand.” The absurdity of it is hilarious, and had me genuinely laughing.

So, understandably from all of the above, The Master Strikes sounds like more miss than hit. However, it’s an old school kung fu flick, so it’s only right that judgment should also be heavily based on the quality and quantity of the fights. Actually there are only three main fight sequences – one when Wong first goes crazy and attacks Siu Tung and Yuen Man in the teahouse, another featuring Eddie Ko, and the finale which sees Wong, Siu Tung, and Yuen Man team up to take on Shi Kwan and two henchmen. This review would be much easier to conclude if the fights were as average as everything else, but frankly, that’s not the case. Put simply, they contain some of the most amazing choreography you’re likely to see in any kung fu movie.

Wong’s kicks seem to be operating on a different level, perhaps it’s the insanity, but to draw a comparison, imagine at the end of Drunken Master 2 if it had been Ken Lo who drinks the industrial strength alcohol instead of Jackie Chan, and that may come close to capturing the intensity of his moves. For all of the awful comedy that’s come before, from the 70 minute mark we’re treated to an almost non-stop 15 minutes of kung fu gold. Eddie Ko throws down in an extended sequence which is a joy to watch, and the finale itself is difficult to do justice to with words. What’s supposed to be a 3-on-3 at some points hilariously becomes a 1-on-5, with Wong being that out of control that he tries to take out literally everyone around him.

While Wong remains empty handed throughout, Siu Tung and Yuen Man brandish spears against the henchmen’s guandaos, eventually segueing into a 3-on-1 empty handed shapes fest against Shi Kwan. The mix of fists, feet, acrobatics, and even a dose of sexual harassment is heart pounding in its ferocity and speed, quickly making all that has come before like a bad memory. I always try to be subjective when I watch a movie, and as I’ve gotten older I find I’m no longer so tolerant towards sitting through an hour of mediocrity to get to the good stuff, however in the case of The Master Strikes, perhaps I can best sum it up with 2 words – “I understand!”

Paul Bramhall’s Rating: 7.5/10

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

Martial arts fighters collide in the trailer for ‘Bloody Destiny’

"Bloody Destiny" Chinese Theatrical Poster

"Bloody Destiny" Chinese Theatrical Poster

A new tournament-style martial arts flick is on its way from the Chinese mainland titled Bloody Destiny. Not much is known from the plot, but considering its poster is reminiscent of old-school Shaw Bros. and Golden Harvest flicks (it even features a guy dressed up in Bruce Lee’s famous yellow/black tracksuit from Game of Death), the movie definitely stands out as something to look out for.

Zang Xichuan directs with Gu Shang Wei leading a cast consisting of Haitao Du, Yun-su Choi, Feng Xinyao, Feng Gang and Ka-Yan Leung. Check out the teaser and a trailer (via FCS and SF).

Bloody Destiny hits Chinese theaters on June 26th, 2015 – is Well Go USA listening? Only time will tell…

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Colombiana (2011) Review

"Colombiana" Thai Theatrical Poster

"Colombiana" Thai Theatrical Poster

Director: Olivier Megaton
Writer: Luc Besson, Robert Mark Kamen
Producer: Luc Besson, Pierre-Ange Le Pogam
Cast: Zoe Saldana, Michael Vartan, Cliff Curtis, Lennie James, Callum Blue, Jordi Mollà, Graham McTavish
Running Time: 108 min.

By HKFanatic

During the past few years, Luc Besson has made the transition from writer/director to writer/producer, creating a stable of Eurotrash action flicks with a rotating set of directors. He’s helped launch the careers of guys like Louis Letterier, who made the transition from The Transporter to big time American studio fare like the Clash of the Titans remake, and Pierre Morel, whose Taken was such a big hit that he was once slated to helm a Dune revamp. Perhaps Besson is still stinging from the critical and financial drubbing that his Joan of Arc pic The Messenger received. Either way, he hasn’t actually directed a live-action film that’s hit American screens in over a decade. Action fans no doubt miss his visionary touch behind the camera, but in the meantime we’ll have to make due with his Europa-studio films that tend to hit the theaters at least once a year.

Besson’s screenplays are at their finest when playing off Middle American fears, whether it was Liam Neeson discovering that Paris is one big sleazy ghetto and justifying CIA torture tactics in Taken or John Travolta confirming that your neighbors, your friends, yes, even your fiance could be a Islamic sleeper agent in From Paris With Love. Besson’s latest production effort, Colombiana, abandons any such potentially offensive subject matter and moves the story to Chicago for your standard contract killer tale. This proves to be a fatal move as Colombiana has to be the worst film I can recall Besson having his name attached to in quite some time. To put it bluntly, Besson just doesn’t “get” contemporary America. His screenplay falters when merely trying to give dialogue to your average thirty-something dude living in a big US city and dogged FBI agents. Besson is served best when painting his home country as a volatile environment where violence could erupt at any moment (Kiss of the Dragon, District B13).

At its heart, Colombiana is an update on Besson’s own formula for The Professional. Besson always hinted that he would return to that story someday and portray Natalie Portman’s character as a grown up assassin. After a lengthy prologue featuring a child actress, Colombiana moves to the present and follows Zoe Saldana as the kind of character one imagines Natalie Portman would have played. She’s a deeply wounded woman who lives in quiet isolation, keeps everyone in her life at arm’s length, and is exceptionally good at killing people.

Saldana has replaced Angelina Jolie as the go-to “hot” action girl since appearing in movies like Avatar and Star Trek. She’s convincing enough as a trained killer, although your milage may vary considering she’s all of 90 lbs and in one scene smacks a guy with a bathroom towel. I’m not sure how much that would hurt. Zaldana is also let down by Besson’s screenplay, which is full of weak dialogue and yet calls on her to breakdown and produce tears in far too many scenes. So much for being an iron-hearted assassin, lady.

Director Olivier Megaton, ridiculous name aside, doesn’t have many films to his name.  Lukewarm reviews dissuaded me from seeing his previous Besson collaboration, The Transporter 3, even though I am a fan of that series. Out of all of the directors that Besson has worked with, he definitely seems the weakest. In Colombiana, Megaton over-relies on slow motion during shoot-outs and films the movie’s crucial fight scene in disorienting close-ups.

This fight, between Saldana and her co-star Jordi Molla (the villain from Bad Boys II and severely under-used in this movie), is probably the worst fight scene I’ve witnessed in a major studio production. The camera angles are so tight and the editing so choppy that the entire fight is rendered incomprehensible. The fight choreography is by Alain Figlarz, who did stunts on both The Bourne Identity and Brotherhood of the Wolf, and is clearly going for that “Bourne” sense of immediacy – yet decisions behind the camera and in the editing room mean that it’s impossible to appreciate his work. I am not exaggerating when I say the editing is so rapid it borders on seizure-inducing. It’s really shameful that a professional, highly paid film crew would deliver an action scene this incompetent.

During the entire film, I sensed that Colombiana had been edited to conform to a PG-13 rating, at least when it comes to the violence. Many people are shot but the camera is quick to cut away before any wounds are depicted. There’s no shortage of cheesecake, though, as Zoe Saldana spends almost the entire film in her skivvies. Colombiana, then, is proof that you can sell tickets by having Zoe Saldana in her underwear but you can’t carry a 90 minute movie.

HKFanatic’s Rating: 4/10 stars

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

The White Storm | DVD (Lionsgate)

The White Storm | DVD (Lionsgate)

The White Storm | DVD (Lionsgate)

RELEASE DATE: August 4, 2015

Lionsgate presents the DVD for The White Storm, directed by Benny Chan (Who Am I?, New Police Story).

The White Storm (aka The Cartel War) boasts an impress cast including Louis Koo (Flash Point), Lau Ching Wan (A Hero Never Dies), and Nick Cheung (The Beast Stalker). Louis Koo stars as a narcotics detective hot on the trail of a new drug kingpin (played by Cheung), who may or may not be a former cop that everyone believes is dead. Watch the trailer!

Pre-order The White Storm from Amazon.com today!

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

Taking of Tiger Mountain, The (2014) Review

"The Taking of Tiger Mountain" Chinese Theatrical Poster

"The Taking of Tiger Mountain" Chinese Theatrical Poster

Director: Tsui Hark
Producer: Huang Jianxin, Yu Dong
Cast: Zhang Hanyu, Tony Leung Ka-fai, Lin Gengxin, Yu Nan, Tong Liya, Kenny Lin, Gao Hu, Zhou Dong Yu, Han Geng
Running Time: 141 min.

By Kyle Warner

Adapted from Qu Bo’s 1957 novel Tracks in the Snowy Forest, which is itself based on a true story, Tsui Hark’s The Taking of Tiger Mountain takes what sounds like another drama about China’s revolution following WWII and turns it into an entertaining action adventure instead. Tsui Hark thankfully shirks politics, preferring instead to just have a bit of fun. I don’t always agree with such an approach to historical events, but in recent years we’ve gotten a lot of historical action films from Asia that tried to be tragic and dramatic but came across as stuffy and dull instead. A movie that simply strives to entertain its audience is all right by me. And while it’s unlikely that The Taking of Tiger Mountain will ever be considered one of Tsui Hark’s finest films, it is one of the director’s most entertaining pictures made in the past decade or more.

The film takes place in the year following Japan’s surrender in WWII. In chilly Northeast China, the villainous Lord Hawk and his army of bandits were taking over territories, driving the villagers towards starvation. A small squad of the People’s Liberation Army moves in to help the villagers and end Hawk’s reign. But Hawk has put himself in a position where he cannot be easily defeated. He resides in a fortress atop Tiger Mountain, surrounded on all sides by treacherous rock and ice. In order to get into the fortress, the PLA sends one of their own into Hawk’s midst to gain his trust and sabotage the defenses.

As filmed by another director, The Taking of Tiger Mountain might’ve been a gritty film about war and revolution. However, Tsui Hark gives the action a giddy sense of excitement and adventure. And because the action forms the backbone of Tiger Mountain, that excitement is shared with much of the rest of the film as well. There’s a sequence half-way through the movie when a town is attacked by machinegun toting bandits on skis. At one point during this sequence, a grenade explodes over the bandits, and Hark stops the frame, rewinds it to watch the grenade put itself back together, spins the camera around to a new angle, and watches it explode again. The film has plenty of flaws, but when it’s working it’s a blast.

Hark’s Detective Dee films reminded me a bit of Guy Ritchie’s Sherlock Holmes series (and I still say that fans of one series should check out the other). I think there’s a similarity between Ritchie’s Sherlock films and Tiger Mountain as well. This time it’s not similar stories and heroes, but rather a similar use of style. During some of Tiger Mountain’s action we get these moments where the action slows to a stop, the camera revolves around a bullet, then the camera rushes off to where the bullet will land before time is allowed to continue. In Ritchie’s Sherlock Holmes films, this stylistic device was often used to depict the master detective’s ability to focus during action. Here Hark uses the technique just because it looks cool. And that’s fine, I think. It gives the action a little something different. Right before it starts feeling like overkill Hark stops using the technique and switches to something else, keeping things fresh.

It’s clear that the director and much of the cast are having fun with the movie. In the role of Lord Hawk, Tony Leung Ka Fai gets the chance to play what is essentially a goofy Bond villain. Hawk lives in a super fortress in the snowy mountains, he desires power above all things, he keeps a dangerous hawk as a pet, and his men are crazy loyal and all have names like Bro 6, Bro 7, and Bro 8. Tony Leung Ka Fai is nearly unrecognizable beneath prosthetic makeup and a whispery villain voice. It’s a fun performance and easily the best character in the film.

The PLA squad is a group of uninteresting, self-sacrificing heroes that blend together because they’re all pretty much interchangeable do-gooders. When will writers learn that hero worship often results in boring characters? The only standout character from their bunch is Yang, as played by Hanyu Zhang (Back to 1942). Yang spent time among bandits in the past and their ways have rubbed off on him, making him the odd duck in the squad but the perfect man to infiltrate Hawk’s bandits. Much of the film has the bandits putting Yang through trials to prove his loyalty. It’s in these scenes that we don’t mind that bullets aren’t flying, because Hawk and Yang are the interesting characters, and Leung and Zhang are both actors fully capable of bringing the drama to life. When we’re left to spend time with the rest of the PLA the film buckles a bit. Tiger Mountain is the sort of film where you kinda root for the bad guys because at least they’re entertaining to watch.

The Taking of Tiger Mountain was filmed in 3D and it’s clear that’s the format the filmmaker’s intended you watch it in. Throughout the film Hark throws bullets, blood, chunks of an ear, and more at the audience in an attempt to go for the 3D wow factor. I watched the film in 2D, the only format available on Well Go USA’s otherwise very impressive looking Blu-ray. I think the film looks fine in 2D, but those shots that were obviously designed with 3D in mind are hard to miss.

One of Tsui Hark’s most surprising choices is to bookend the film with scenes set in 2015. In these scenes, a young man watches bits of the 1970 Peking opera adaptation, Taking Tiger Mountain by Strategy. It may be an unnecessary addition, but it adds a bit of whimsy to the film, something that is present in a lot of Hark’s movies. Others may disagree about the 2015 sections in the film, but I liked them.

I did not like how Hark chose to end the film, however. As the credits are about to begin, the film stops and goes, ‘Oh, by the way, there was supposedly an airstrip at Hawk’s base. I wonder how that might’ve impacted the final showdown…’ Though all the various conflicts have been resolved by now, we’re treated to an additional action sequence that pretends that earlier climax never happened. What it feels like is an alternate ending that should’ve been left as a DVD extra but instead has somehow wormed its way into the final cut because the director apparently didn’t know he’d already done a good enough job ending his movie.

I should take a full grade off for that unnecessary sequence… but in the end I enjoyed my time watching Tiger Mountain and I don’t want to discourage viewers from giving the film a chance. One could easily say that Hark was having too much fun with his movie and simply didn’t know when enough was enough. It’s a frustratingly flawed film, but there’s still a great deal to enjoy.

Kyle Warner’s Rating: 7/10

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

Disney pulls the plug on ‘Tron 3: Ascension’!

"Tron" Japanese Theatrical Poster

"Tron" Japanese Theatrical Poster

THE MOVIE: AICN notes that the sequel to the cyberpunk carnival movie was financially popular enough to justify a threequel. Hopefully, this one will spend less time trying to coast on the original film, which is about a hacker named Kevin Flynn (Jeff Bridges) who is literally abducted into the world of a computer and forced to participate in gladiatorial games where his only chance of escape is with the help of a heroic security program.

Tron: Legacy followed the adventures of the son (Garrett Hedlund) of a virtual world designer goes looking for his father and ends up inside the digital world that his father designed. He meets his father’s creation turned bad and a unique ally who was born inside the digital domain of The Grid.

Updates: David DiGilio has been given the go-ahead to write out a script for it. It’s not clear if Joseph Kosinski (or any of the castmembers) would return, either. According to The Hollywood Reporter, Disney’s more likely to decide based on how its upcoming animated spin-off, Tron Uprising, is received.

Via Rotten Tomatoes, Screenrant uploaded a clip of actor Bruce Boxleitner which seems to confirm a second follow-up to the sci-fi series. Jesse Wigutow, who wrote Eragon, is in negotiations to write Tron 3. Joseph Kosinski (Tron: Legacy, Oblivion) is returning to the director’s chair. | Next Movie reports that Garrett Hedlund will return and star in Tron 3. | According to sources, Tron 3 may be shooting this Fall in Vancouver.

Production Weekly reports that Tron 3 will be titled Tron: Ascension. The film will begin its five-month shoot beginning October.

BREAKING NEWS: Disney has pulled the plug on Tron 3. Collider speculates that one of the reasons may be because the recent box office disappointment of Tomorrowland, which failed to resonate with audiences.

Posted in News | 1 Comment

Jackie Chan’s ‘Who Am I?’ remake gets a trailer! Wait…what?

"Who Am I?" Chinese Teaser Poster

"Who Am I?" Chinese Teaser Poster

A trailer has been released for a reboot/remake of Jackie Chan’s 1998’s action flick, Who Am I? In the original, which was directed by Benny Chan (Shaolin), Chan played a secret agent who loses his memory after falling from a crashing helicopter. He is then chased by a number of other agency operatives, but he has no idea why.

2015’s Who Am I? marks the directorial debut of Song Xi-Yin and is produced by Jackie Chan himself. The film stars newcomers Ocean Wang and Anna Yao, as well as Zhang Lan-Xin (Kung Fu Jungle), Ken Lo (Special ID) and Yu Rong Guang (New Police Story).

According to FCS, Who Am I? hits theaters in China on June 12. Watch the trailer!

Posted in News | 3 Comments

Deal on Fire! The Grandmaster | Blu-ray | Only $5.99 – Expires soon!

The Grandmaster | Blu-ray & DVD (Anchor Bay)

The Grandmaster | Blu-ray & DVD (Anchor Bay)

Today’s Deal on Fire is the Blu-ray Wong Kar Wai’s The Grandmaster, an epic action feature inspired by the life and times of the legendary Kung Fu master, Ip Man, who mentored Bruce Lee.

The Grandmaster stars Tony Leung Chiu Wai (Seven Warriors), Zhang Ziyi (The Banquet), Chen Chang (Brotherhood of Blades), Song Hye-Kyo (The Crossing), Bruce Leung Siu-Lung (Dragon Lives Again) and Zhao Ben-Shan (Accidental Hero). Read our review.

Order The Grandmaster from Amazon.com today!

Posted in Deals on Fire!, News | 4 Comments

Chocolate | aka Fury (2008) Review

"Chocolate" Japanese DVD Cover

"Chocolate" Japanese DVD Cover

AKA: Zen, Warrior Within
Director: Prachya Pinkaew
Writer: Chookiat Sakveerakul, Nepali
Cast: Yanin Vismitananda, Hiroshi Abe, Pongpat Wachirabunjong, Taphon Phopwandee, Ammara Siripong, Dechawut Chuntakaro, Hirokazu “Hero” Sano
Running Time: 92/100 min.

By HKFanatic

I thoroughly enjoyed the Thai action movie Chocolate when it first came out in 2008, but revisiting it a few weeks ago on blu-ray – with the sound cranked – I think I loved it even more. This is a Thai action movie I feel will stand the test of time for fans of females who kick butt. Star Jeeja Yanin literally came out of nowhere and debuted with a film that has fight scenes and stunts that nearly rival Jackie Chan in his heyday.

Reportedly director Prachya Pinkaew (Ong Bak) saw Jeeja Yanin performing Taekwondo and was impressed enough to cast her in her own movie. This was a gamble that paid off remarkably. Jeeja engaged in rigorous Muay Thai and stunt training before cameras started rolling on Chocolate. Whether you love or hate Pinkaew’s style of filmmaking, all you need to do is watch the outtakes to know that Yanin is willing to bleed for her art.

The story has the potential to be offensive – I’ve heard it half-seriously labeled “special needs’ploitation” since Yanin’s character has autism. Yanin plays the result of a star-crossed romance between a Thai female gangster and a member of the Yakuza. Her parents split when she is a baby in order to prevent an all-out gang war and the mom ends up raising Yanin on her own. Yanin is indeed a special child, one who lacks social skills but has an uncanny sense of hearing and the ability to mimic whatever she sees performed in front of her – including martial arts moves. She studies the films of Tony Jaa and Bruce Lee, as well as the fighters in the gym that just so happens to be outside her window. In a few years’ time she becomes a prime ass-kicker.

Yanin ends up needing to raise money for her mother’s medical bills. Along with her childhood friend, she goes around to collect the money that various corrupt businesses owe her mom from her days in the Thai mafia. What follows are several set-pieces where shady managers order their employees to beat up Yanin and she lays waste to them in spectacular fashion. After a bit of a slow start, this movie is almost non-stop martial arts action.

What I love about the fights is that Yanin doesn’t just be a the crap out of everybody; the filmmakers went out of their way to feature the kind of obstacle-maneuvering stuff that Jackie Chan would do in his heyday. Yanin slides under glass tables, slips through spaces that the bad guys can’t fit in, swings through guard rails, etc. She’s really a marvel to watch.

The ending provides what might be a homage to the House of Blue Leaves sequence from Kill Bill: Volume 1, with Yanin taking on about 80 guys in black suits in a Japanese restaurant. She’s also finally provided with a fellow martial arts master to truly test her mettle. To say that the finale brings the house down would be an understatement; it features a death-defying sequence high above the ground that put at least one Thai stuntman in a neckbrace.

If you don’t enjoy the bone-breaking simplicity of most Thai action movies like Ong Bak, then Chocolate probably isn’t going to change your mind. But for people who love this kind of stuff or get a drug-like high from it (heh), then Chocolate is the ultimate fix. JeeJa Yanin is cute as a button and kicks ass like nobody’s business. Her character is a likable protagonist and you actually care about her quest to help her mom, which does strengthen the movie.

I’m certain JeeJa Yanin has an excellent career ahead of her, but if debut film goes down as her finest moment I might not be surprised. Chocolate features the kind of electrifying action sequences that ensure it will be watched and re-watched by martial arts fans for years to come.

HKFanatic’s Rating: 10/10

Posted in News, Reviews, Thai | Tagged , | 5 Comments

The only law is gravity in the 1st ‘Point Break’ remake trailer!

"Point Break" Teaser Poster

"Point Break" Teaser Poster

THE MOVIE: Ericson Core is currently on post-production phase for his remake of Kathryn Bigelow’s 1991 heist action film Point Break. Mostly known for his 2006 debut feature Invincible (with Mark Wahlberg), Core started his career as a cinematographer for films such as The Fast and the Furious, Daredevil and Payback.

The remake, which releases on December 25th 2015, will be about an undercover FBI agent who infiltrates an extreme sports-lovin’ criminal gang. Luke Bracey (November Man) will be playing Johnny Utah (previously played by Keanu Reeves). Edgar Ramirez (The Bourne Ultimatum) will be playing Bodhi (previously played by Patrick Swayze).

The original, which starred Patrick Swayze, Keanu Reeves and Gary Busey, was a box office success and has gathered a worldwide cult following. It has been referenced in numerous action films, most notably Johnnie To’s Fulltime Killer.

Update: According to THR, the Point Break reboot has become the biggest success story of the 2013 American Film Market after selling out to foreign distributors around the globe. | Kurt Wimmer (Equilibrium) is writing the screenplay.

BREAKING NEWS: Check out the film’s 1st teaser trailer.

Posted in News | 1 Comment

‘Legend of Conan’ to keep the tradition of the 1982 Milius film!

"Conan the Barbarian" Japanese Theatrical Poster

"Conan the Barbarian" Japanese Theatrical Poster

THE MOVIE: As soon as Arnold Schwarzenegger reached the end of his governorship and announced a return to movies, fans began speculating about the possibility of King Conan – the proposed ‘true’ sequel to Conan the Barbarian, which would pick up where the first movie tantalizing left off. That is, with an aged and wise Conan seated on his throne of power.

Well, 20 years after the original Conan, fans are going to get exactly what they want. ComingSoon reports that Universal is developing The Legend of Conan, a new sequel that ignores both 1984′s Conan the Destroyer and the recent Conan reboot starring Jason Momoa.

The story begins exactly where John Milius’ movie ended, focusing on an older Conan who has survived countless wars and bedded even more women as he searches for his life’s final battle. Expect a 2016 release.

Updates: LA Times reports: Legend of Conan producer and screenwriter Chris Morgan, whose credits include Wanted and Fast Five, says: “We think this is a worthy successor to the original film. Think of this as Conan’s Unforgiven” – referring to Clint Eastwood’s 1992 return to the genre which made him famous. If you’re not pumped up for Legend of Conan, watch this. | LA Times has interviewed screenwriter-producer Chris Morgan, who had met with Arnold Schwarzenegger to pitch him a proposed sequel to Conan the Barbarian.

Total Film reports that during a Q&A screening of The Last Stand, Arnie explained that Universal admitted ‘the previous regime has missed the boat’ and they wanted to produce a serious action movie with a top director and top writers: “[Universal] finally came forward and said, ‘You’re absolutely right. The previous regime has missed the boat here. We want to pick it up. We’re going to buy the rights and we’re going to be serious about it and make a quality film with an A-director and with A-writers and so on. And we want you to participate in this. We want you to star and you to play Conan. We’re going to take a story where Conan is at that age so it’s totally believable and you’re not looking like a 30-year old action guy.”

Collider reports (via Arnold Fans) that Paradox Entertainment President and CEO Frederik Malmberg recently spoke about Legend of Conan. Malmberg says that Arnold Schwarzenegger will return to the title role and the movie is “100% happening.” | According to Latino Review, Paul Verhoeven (Total Recall) is interested in directing. | Deadline reports that Andrea Berloff is scribing The Legend of Conan (World Trade Center).

IGN has a great interview with Chris Morgan, one of Legend of Conan’s producers. In this interesting interview, Morgan speaks highly of the pre-production work. Definitely a must-read if you’ve been following this highly anticipated project. – Thanks to expendablespremiere.com

Paul Verhoeven has expressed his love for 1982’s Conan and he has openly stated that he’s interested in directing the upcoming sequel if given the chance. According to the film’s imdb.com page, Verhoeven is rumored as the director. In our opinion, he would be the next best thing, after John Milius himself. Our fingers are crossed!

According to EP.com, Legend of Conan could film in Spring 2015. Here’s what producer Fredrik Malmberg also had this to say: “We want to polish up the script, specifically about the characters… we’ll probably have this turned in around September… then we’ll take it to the studio and if they’re happy, we can hopefully start (production) in the Spring (2015).” Malmberg adds: “A lot of directors have come fourth and expressed interest… we have been in touch with old great names and new fresh faces. We’re excited about finding the right guy for that.”

According to First Post, Schwarzenegger has invited Shankar (Anniyan, I) to direct Legend of Conan. Shankar is known for directing high budget Tamil films (he’s considered the pioneer of vigilante movies in Tamil).

BREAKING NEWS: Thanks to TAF (via FCS) – who interviewed Chris Morgan, the film’s producer/co-writer, and producer, Fredrik Malmberg –  we have a few interesting tidbits regarding Legend of Conan: Morgan – ”We plan nothing more than to immerse ourselves in the world Milius envisioned from Robert E. Howard’s unforgettable stories and Frank Frazetta’s stunning artwork. I can’t give specifics (nobody likes a spoiler!), but know we are honoring the locales, the religions and the traditions of the ’82 film.” Also, three characters are returning from the first Conan movie. Stay tuned!

Posted in News | 9 Comments

Fox Hunter (1995) Review

"Fox Hunter" Chinese DVD Cover

"Fox Hunter" Chinese DVD Cover

AKA: Hunting Fox
Director: Stephen Tung Wai
Producer:Joe Cheung, Benny Kong
Cast: Jade Leung, Jordan Chan, Yu Rong Guang, Ching Fung, Guy Lai Ying Chau, Ng Git Keung, Roger Lee Yue Ling
Running Time: 92 min.

By Paul Bramhall

Fox Hunter was the second of only 4 movies that legendary Hong Kong action choreographer Stephen Tung Wei would direct, as well as taking on action duties. To his credit, with each movie he did something a little different – his 1990 production Magic Cop gave us Lam Ching Ying on ghost busting duties, but with the twist of it taking place in modern day Hong Kong. In 1998 he directed The Hitman, which was the first movie to feature Jet Li’s real voice, as well as being the last time Li would work in HK before attempting to break the US market. Then in 2001 he stepped into the director’s chair for the final time with Extreme Challenge, which revolved around a fighting tournament, and gave us an early glimpse at the talent of a certain Scott Adkins.

With Fox Hunter, at first glance it looks to be another low budget ‘Girls with Guns’ flick, with Jade Leung in the lead role. Leung was a unique case amongst the familiar faces of the genre. Actresses like Moon Lee and Cynthia Khan had dance backgrounds, which allowed them to adapt to the HK style of fight choreography, Yukari Oshima had a martial arts background, as well as being mentored by Mark Houghton, and Michiko Nishiwaki had a strong presence thanks to her body building regime. Leung on the other hand was a fashion model, plucked from the industry in 1991 to star in Black Cat – a loose remake of Luc Besson’s Nikita – she went on to win the Best Newcomer Award at the 11th Hong Kong Film Awards (and star in several crappy sequels).

Leung was not an obvious choice to be molded into the next female action star, especially in a genre that was already overcrowded, however she managed to leave her mark in the few years that she was active. While she didn’t have the raw physical talent that her peers possessed, Leung brought something different to the table. For a start she was a good actress, and she also didn’t fit the typical image of the fighting femme – her tall figure and flawless complexion never leaving any doubt as to why she was previously a model. But Leung also had something else, and that something could most closely be described as a reckless abandon. She may not have been able to fight, but in her movies she regularly shows her willingness to get thrown around, take falls from high places, and do her own high risk stunts. She doesn’t look too bad brandishing a machine gun either.

Fox Hunter is arguably Leung’s best movie as it combines her vulnerability, with the willingness to be thrown into the thick of things, to great effect. Playing a cop, in a tightly edited opening scene she enters a karaoke bar undercover as a hostess, in an attempt to take down a gangster. The scene is juxtaposed with another one in which she’s told by her superiors at the police station that she’s failed the gun test for a third time, so won’t be able to get a promotion to detective. However she’s given a chance to be a part of an “off the books” operation to take down the gangster they’re after in the bar. The scenes cut back and forth, with Leung’s hesitation to take the position, edited with jumps back to her making contact with the gangster, building up a suitable level of tension.

The gangster, played by Ching Fung, is eventually captured, but ends up escaping and in an act of vengeance, kills Leung’s uncle and leaves her for dead. This acts as the trigger for the events that unfold during the rest of the move, with Leung kidnapping a low level pimp who runs the karaoke bar, played by Jordan Chan, and illegally entering the mainland on the tail of Fung.

It’s interesting how much the characters of Chan and Fung earmark the movie as a distinctively pre-1997 product of Hong Kong. With only a couple of years before the handover back to China, HK movies still portrayed the mainlanders as either criminals or country bumpkins. Here Chan may be running the karaoke bar, but it’s only because his parents are poor farmers back in China, and Fung is introduced as a Vietnam-Chinese. I’m unsure why but in HK movies of this era I’ve seen villains who are described as Vietnam-Chinese more than once, Yuen Wah’s character in Royal Warriors being another example which immediately springs to mind.

Yu Rong Guang also shows up as the head of the mainland cops, either lighting or already smoking a cigarette in every scene he appears in. However instead of coming across as ridiculous, Rong Guang makes his character the epitome of cool. At one point he even shoots a criminal between the eyes, then casually flicks a cigarette out of its pack and lights it up. In what’s rare for a HK movie, all characters are fairly fleshed out. Chan’s pimp is initially annoying in his constant attempts to escape from Leung, but as the movie progresses he ends up being a sympathetic character, at one point yelling to Leung that he doesn’t want her to pursue Fung as she’ll only end up dead. He could well be right, as Fung’s criminal isn’t just a ruthless gangster, he’s also very smart, constantly outwitting the cops, and has a penchant for using explosives as his main form of attack.

The use of explosives result in some great action scenes, particularly using grenades. In one scene Leung is left in a small room with one which is about to detonate. While I’m sure the grenade itself isn’t real, the explosion which goes off is very much the real thing, generating a massive fire ball in the confined space, while Leung flips a sofa on top of herself to be shielded from the blast. It’s the type of scene in which if one thing had gone wrong, she would have been severely burnt. In others action scenes Tung Wei gets to show off his directing skill alongside his action direction. The plot device of Leung and Chan being in peril together is used effectively throughout, such as in one scene which has Leung holding onto Chan to stop him falling from a window, only for Fung to appear in the doorway armed to his teeth. Left with the choice of holding onto Chan and being riddled with bullets, or diving out of the way and dropping him, these scenes provide a lot of tension along with the action spectacle which is taking place.

By the time the finale comes around, which sees Leung, Chan, and Rong Guang locked down in a crowded shopping mall with Fung threatening to blow the place up, there’s enough creative gunplay, smashed glass, and stunt work happening that it transcends the small budget the movie was made on. Fox Hunter could have been just another low budget throwaway ‘Girls with Guns’ flick, but thanks to the competent direction, strong characters, and frequent action scenes, instead it comes off as a tight little action thriller. Well worthy of a recommendation for those who think they’ve seen everything that 90’s HK action cinema has to offer.

Paul Bramhall’s Rating: 7/10

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Justin Lin to shoot unreleased Bruce Lee project ‘Warrior’

"The Big Boss" Japanese Theatrical Poster

"The Big Boss" Japanese Theatrical Poster

Justin Lin (Fast and Furious) is attached to produce and possibly direct Warrior, a series that Deadline describes as a visceral crime drama that traces the path of a gifted but morally corrupt fighter thrown into crisis after a lifelong quest for vengeance is undermined.

According to FCS, Warrior is based on Lee’s writings which never saw the light of day after his death in 1973, until they were discovered by Shannon Lee, daughter of the iconic film legend.

In addition to Warrior, Bruce Lee fans have much to look forward to, including a new biopic and of course, Donnie Yen’s Ip Man 3, which will utilize Lee’s relationship with the titular character, via CG enhancements. Stay tuned!

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2nd trailer for Johnny Depp’s gangster flick ‘Black Mass’

"Black Mass" Theatrical Poster

"Black Mass" Theatrical Poster

The first trailer for Black Mass, an upcoming gangster-drama starring Johnny Depp and Joel Edgerton, is now online. The film is directed by Scott Cooper (Out of the Furnace) and also stars Benedict Cumberbatch, Kevin Bacon, Dakota Johnson, Jesse Plemons, Corey Stoll, Rory Cochrane, Sienna Miller and Adam Scott. Catch it in theaters on September 18th, 2015.

Synopsis: In 1970s South Boston, FBI Agent John Connolly (Edgerton) persuades Irish mobster James “Whitey” Bulger (Depp) to collaborate with the FBI and eliminate a common enemy: the Italian mob. The drama tells the true story of this unholy alliance, which spiraled out of control, allowing Whitey to evade law enforcement, consolidate power, and become one of the most ruthless and powerful gangsters in Boston history.

Updates: Watch the 2nd trailer for Black Mass.

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

"John Wick" International Theatrical Poster

"John Wick" International Theatrical Poster

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

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

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

Updates: The 2nd trailer for Knock Knock is now available. Enjoy!

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Deal on Fire! A Better Tomorrow | Blu-ray | Only $9.07 – Expires soon!

"A Better Tomorrow" Blu-ray Cover

"A Better Tomorrow" Blu-ray Cover

Today’s Deal on Fire is the Blu-ray for 2010′s A Better Tomorrow, a Korean remake of the 1986 John Woo film of the same name.

In the treacherous world of the black-market weapons trade, honor and vengeance go hand in hand…

This new take on the Hong Kong gangster classic features an all-star cast including Kim Gang-Woo’s (Marine Boy), Joo Jin-Mo’s (Musa) and Jo Han-Seon. It’s directed by Song Hae-Seong (Failan) and produced by John Woo himself.

Order A Better Tomorrow from Amazon.com today!

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Soo | aka Art of Revenge (2007) Review

"Soo" Korean Theatrical Poster

"Soo" Korean Theatrical Poster

Director: Yoichi Sai
Producer: Shin Beom-su, Hwang In-tae
Cast: Ji Jin-Hee, Kang Seong-Yeon, Oh Man-Seok, Lee Gi-Young, Jo Gyeong-Hwan, Mun Seong-Geun
Running Time: 122 min.

By HKFanatic

Soo is not a movie I ever hear listed in the same breath as other Korean revenge flicks like Oldboy or A Bittersweet Life. In fact, it’s not a movie that I ever hear listed at all! It’s a shame this film remains so damn obscure. For my money, Soo is one of the best revenge movies out there.

Actor Jin-hee Ji stars as the titular character Soo, who’s one of the top assassins in all of South Korea. Gangsters live in fear of him and the cops whisper his name with bated breath. But the man himself is haunted by a tragic past, until one day he gets the chance to reconnect with a figure from his youth. I won’t spoil the plot at all, but suffice to say Soo is sent on a quest for revenge that has him assuming another man’s identity and targeting an entire criminal organization. What follows is both a dark character study and a mesmerizing bloodbath.

Now, the big complaint I’ve heard about Soo is this: despite Soo being revered as a bad-ass by just about everybody in the film’s universe, and the fact that we clearly see he has an entire arsenal of automatic weapons in his apartment, most of the time he goes after his foes with nothing but a baseball bat or his wits. And he’s not so much a great martial artist as he is a scrappy fighter who won’t stop until he’s won. So, for some viewers this will hurt the realism of the movie; here we have the supposedly top assassin of Korea and he’s not a king of killers, but a messy fighter who won’t quit. This might be part of the reason why the movie maintains such a low rating at places like IMDB.

Personally, I loved this aspect of the movie. The character of Soo is like a mad-dog who refuses to be put down. You can stab him, try to blow him up, or hit him over the head with a baseball bat, and he will still come after you. There’s a saying like ‘you only die when you give up on living’; if that’s the case, then Soo is one tough bastard who refuses to draw his last breath. The action sequences in this movie aren’t your typical heavily-choreographed fights; they’re bloody brawls and stabbings that the characters barely crawl away from. The ending is one of those big “attack on the bad guy’s base” set-pieces you don’t see much outside of a John Woo movie, this time set to Italian opera. It’s spectacular.

I’ve probably made this movie sound like nothing but violence, but at 122 minutes there is a good deal of plot, character analysis, and strong performances from the two leads. Superb photography and a haunting soundtrack also help make Soo one of my favorite Korean films. Sometimes it’s not about striding into battle in slow motion and never once getting hit; sometimes it’s about picking yourself up off the floor and keeping your guts in your stomach with your own hands as you throw yourself at the bad guy once more. Soo is that kind of movie. Highly recommended for fans of gritty, violent films.

HKFanatic’s Rating: 9/10

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