Rise of the Legend (2014) Review

"Rise of the Legend" Chinese Theatrical Poster

"Rise of the Legend" Chinese Theatrical Poster

Director: Roy Chow
Writer: Christine To
Producer: Ivy Ho, Bill Kong
Cast: Eddie Peng, May Wang, Tony Leung Ka Fai, Sammo Hung, Jing Boran, Wong Cho Lam, Simon Yam, Max Zhang Jin, AngelaBaby, Feng Jia Yi, Byron Mann
Running Time: 131 min.

By oneleaf

19th Century China was a time of turmoil. The majority of the populace suffered from extreme poverty and Western imperialist pressure was slowly rearing its ugly head in major cities all over the country. Local feudal-like gangs engaging in turf wars have become a commonplace along with the proliferation of opium dens. An undercurrent of discontent from the masses was about to boil over…

This is the backdrop of Rise of the Legend in the port city of Guangzhou, China revolving around its main wharf controlled by two factions, the Black Tiger Clan and the Northern Sea Clan.

Rise of the Legend stars Eddie Peng (Unbeatable) as Wong Fei Hung and Sammo Hung (Once Upon a Time in Shanghai) as Lei Gong of the Black Tiger Clan. The film is a re-imagining of the life and times of Chinese folk hero Wong Fei Hung. Martial arts movie fans will no doubt remember the character made famous by Jet Li (Flying Swords of Dragon Gate) and Tsui Hark in the Once upon a Time in China film series. This new glossy interpretation chronicles Wong’s meteoric rise from street urchin to folk hero.

Rise of the Legend opens with a drenched Wong – obviously in distress – running amidst a heavy downpour, fighting for his life as axe and sword wielding goons rush at him from every direction. The Corey Yuen-choreographed clash is beautiful to look at. The slow motion pan and scan, the CGI and even some ‘wire-fu’ makes Peng (a non-martial artist in real life) look believable with his “shadowless kick” Wong is famous for. The almost-endless rhythmic ballet of punches and kicks – packed with a cacophony of sound – left me affixed to the screen. Heightening the life-and-death action in progress is the outstanding score by Shigeru Umebayashi (The Grandmaster).

Yuen finally redeems himself from the debacle that was Badges of FuryRise of the Legend is vintage Yuen. He’s truly in fine form here with his visual flair for summersaults, aerial wireworks and a variety of connecting kicks and punches. One particular inventive sequence made me want more: During a sword battle between Wong and his opponent, Wong’s sword flies out of his hand and impales onto a pillar on the opposite side of the room. After leaping atop his enemy – landing a near-fatal, closed fist knuckle blow to the head – Wong continues to strike him repeatedly. Stumbling backwards from the attack, his opponent basically decapitates himself, falling back onto the aforementioned sword. This clever scene has to be seen to be believed.

Peng’s casting as Wong was a good choice. His charismatic presence is well-balanced by his nonchalant, under-the-surface seething. Hung is excellent as s Boss Lei Gong, the cruel, tyrannical leader of the Black Tiger Clan. He’s ruthless, yet in his own way, benevolent to those he deemed loyal and worthy.

Peng reportedly buffed up and trained for almost an entire year in Nanquan (Southern fist) to prepare for the role. His dedication paid off: His moves are no mere mimicry; they appear powerful, effective and real (take this from someone who actually practices martial arts). He’s also quite adept at using the broadsword, which is no small feat for someone with a year’s training.

Rebooting the much beloved folk tale of Wong into Rise of the Legend was a gamble. Some detractors would label the film sacrilegious, compared to the Once Upon a Time in China series. However, even the Once Upon a Time in China series is a fictionalized rendition; not a biopic. The gamble, in my opinion, did pay off and this new tale of Wong stands on its own.

Rise of the Legend is not without drawbacks. Clocking in at over 2 hours long, the script borders on information overload: too many thematic elements are explored, but none are fully developed. As a result, Roy Chow’s (Nightfall) directing and pacing isn’t as smooth as it should be. It constantly transitions from one theme to the next with flashbacks. These transitions left very little room for character development for two main characters in the film.

Nevertheless, the film’s excellent choreography, overall storytelling and inevitable duel between Wong and Lei Gong make up for its shortcomings. What a finale.

Rise of the Legend is definitely recommended.

oneleaf’s rating: 7/10

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2nd trailer for the Sean Penn action flick ‘The Gunman’

"The Gunman" Teaser Poster

"The Gunman" Teaser Poster

Looks like “serious actor” Sean Penn is following the footsteps of Liam Neeson by taking on an action flick. Penn’s The Gunman, which is being directed by Pierre Morel (Taken, District B13), hits theaters on March 20, 2015.

The Gunman, which is based on Jean-Patrick Manchette’s novel The Prone Gunman, is about a spy (Penn) who must clear his name in order to save himself from the organization that he used to work for.

This Joel Silver-produced film also stars Javier Bardem, Idris Elba, Ray Winstone, Mark Rylance and Jasmine Trinca. 1st trailer! | International trailer. | New character posters: 1 | 2 | 3

BREAKING NEWS: Watch the 2nd trailer!

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Retaliation | Blu-ray (Arrow Video)

Retaliation | Blu-ray (Arrow Video)

Retaliation | Blu-ray (Arrow Video)

RELEASE DATE: May 12, 2015

Arrow Video presents the Blu-ray for 1968′s Retaliation, a Nikkatsu gangster flick directed by Yasuharu Hasebe (Assault! Jack the Ripper).

A yakuza lieutenant (Akira Kobayashi) emerges from jail to find his gang dispersed and his aging boss in his sickbed. Meanwhile, a rival gangster (Joe Shishido from A Colt is My Passport) is waiting to kill him and a young woman (Meiko Kaji from Lady Snowblood) is caught in the crossfire. Watch the trailer.

Pre-order Retaliation from Amazon.com today!

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It’s a deadly game of ‘Poker Night’ for Beau Mirchoff, Ron Pearlman and Carlos Esposito

"Poker Night" Theatrical Poster

"Poker Night" Theatrical Poster

Wingman Productions brings the 2014 film Poker Night to Blu-ray and DVD this month. This riveting crime thriller revolves around a poker game between a bunch of cops who aim to help a rookie law enforcer named Jeter (Beau Mirchoff) out of a very sticky situation.

Don’t be fooled by the film’s title – although it centers around a poker game, it doesn’t get into the nitty gritty of poker, nor does it throw endless terminology at the audience. For the most part, the poker skits are used to educate Jeter about the morals of being a good police officer.

The educators come in the form of a slew of famous actors such as Sons of Anarchy duo Ron Pearlman and Titus Welliver, as well as Breaking Bad star Carlos Esposito – all playing veteran cops.

Things become interesting when Jeter is faced with his kidnapper and crazed psychopath, and as the plot thickens, writer and director Greg Francis throws endless twists into the proceedings to help keep the audience on their toes throughout. Ultimately, it’s a quite bold indie film that has been released in an effort to stimulate fans of a myriad of different genres.

Partly because in the last two years, Hollywood has seen a raft of casino-related films flop including the latest Paramount Pictures film starring Mark Wahlberg, The Gambler. But Francis knew this, and has created an interesting spin on the world’s favorite casino game, that saw its popularity reach unprecedented levels in the late 90s when online gaming saw its inception via the Malatese-based InterCasino. After that, many icons of the sport became household names like Johnny Chan and Phil Hellmuth resulting in filmmakers everywhere, tapping into the popularity of casino gaming. But as the genre has slowly died out, Francis has enthused the film with elements that will excite horror fanatics the world over.

Although it’s fair to say that we have seen the last of big budget poker films, Poker Night’s refreshing take on the game may encourage indie filmmakers to jump on the bandwagon and start exploring their options once more.

Be sure to catch the film’s trailer!

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Deal on Fire! Legendary Amazons | Blu-ray | Only $8.49 – Expires soon!

Legendary Amazons Blu-ray & DVD (Well Go USA)

Legendary Amazons Blu-ray & DVD (Well Go USA)

Today’s Deal on Fire is the Blu-ray for Legendary Amazons (read our review), directed by Frankie Chan (How To Meet Lucky Stars).

Legendary Amazons stars Cecilia Cheung (Shaolin Soccer), Richie Ren (Accident), Liu Xiaoqing (A Dream In Red Mansions), Cheng Pei-pei (Come Drink with Me) and Kathy Chow (Cheap Killers).

This update of the Shaw Brothers classic, 14 Amazons, takes place in the early 11th century China during the reign of Emperor Renzong of the Song Dynasty.

Order Legendary Amazons today from Amazon.com!

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The New Barbarians | Blu-ray & DVD (Blue Underground)

The New Barbarians | Blu-ray & DVD (Blue Underground)

The New Barbarians | Blu-ray & DVD (Blue Underground)

RELEASE DATE: June 30, 2015

Blue Underground presents the Blu-ray & DVD for 1983′s New Barbarians (aka Warriors of the Wasteland), directed by Enzo G. Castellari (1990: The Bronx Warriors).

In The New Barbarians, two mercenaries help wandering caravans fight off an evil and aimless band of white-clad bikers after the nuclear holocuast.

The film stars Fred Williamson (Vigilante), Anna Kanakis and Venantino Venantini. Watch the trailer.

Pre-order The New Barbarians from Amazon.com today!

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Buddha’s Palm and Dragon Fist | aka Roving Heroes (1980) Review

"Buddha’s Palm and Dragon Fist" DVD Cover

"Buddha’s Palm and Dragon Fist" DVD Cover

AKA: Roving Heroes
Director: Got Si Ho
Cast: Chi Kuan Chun, Lee I Min, Suen Shu Pau, Wong Chi Sang, Eva Lin Yi Wa, Ma Cheung, Ma Chin Ku, Shih Ting Ken, Ching Kuo Chung, Chiu Chung Hing, Woo Hon Cheung
Running Time:85 min.

By Martin Sandison

By the mid to late 70’s Taiwanese made kung fu films were exploding, with movies such as The Hot, The Cool and the Vicious leading the way. Buddha’s Palm and Dragon Fist is a welcome addition to the genre. Despite the extreme low budgets of Taiwanese flicks, they created some of the absolute classics of of the era including the aforementioned The Hot, the Cool and the Vicious (which Buddha’s Palm references in its opening scene) and the genius Green Jade Statuette.

The stars of Buddha’s Palm are two of the brightest in the genre at the time. Chi Kuan Chun starred in numerous Shaw Brothers classics including Disciples of Shaolin and Shaolin Temple in the early to mid 70’s, and went on to star in numerous Taiwanese productions, including directing The Big Rascal. Li Yi Min was one of the most versatile martial artists of the time, and he of course starred in the all time classic Seven Grandmasters, a movie that needs no introduction. Buddha’s Palm has a pretty perfunctory plot, that in the grand tradition is an excuse for lots of action.

Basically Chi and Li are sent by their master to try and find a killer in a small town, and they encounter lots of martial artists and the main villain, Suen Shu Pau. Li’s character is a pretty strange one; he is goofy and mischievous, but beats up and tortures a monk in a bizarrely violent scene. It’s a welcome change from the usual predictable character behaviour of old school movies. Chi’s character is much more archetypal, the strong silent type who talks with his fists. Both leads have good chemistry and the silly comedy is pretty entertaining. One amusing scene has Li trying to put Chi off training by throwing various things at him, eventually throwing a recently used chamber pot at him! In another scene the two leads have a drinking competition, with Li drinking from an insanely large pot of wine.

The fights are choreographed by the film’s villain, Suen Shu Pau, a veteran old school actor who also appeared in numerous Shaw Brothers films of the 70’s. It’s definitely a case of the fights get better as the film goes along, with some of the early ones lacking in bite and too dance like. Li’s acrobatics and kicking are put to the fore, and he comes out with some dizzying stuff. A mid film fight has some brilliant acrobatic kicking in slow motion, despite the rest of the fight being pretty pedestrian. Chi’s handwork is as intricate and powerful as always, and he proves his real ability throughout.

The end fight is where the action really hots up as our two heroes take on Suen. This sends the shapes fan into pure heaven, with each element completely complimentary. Two uses of wire work really bring in some impact, and the sound effects enhance this greatly. I noticed a rip off from the masterpiece Drunken Master in one piece of choreography, wherein Suen rips off a shred of jacket and punches the same point immediately. It’s pulled off with almost the same gusto as Jackie.

Unfortunately the movie suffers from a lot of the same problems that dog the old school independent martial arts movie. Namely terrible sound editing, silly dubbing and bad editing. In one scene Chi throws a guy from a balcony on the street, and when he hits the ground Chi is miraculously beside him! As we all know the real fan looks past these to concentrate on the traits that make old school movies so great: the charm, atmosphere and great action.

Despite not being up there with the classics, Buddha’s Palm has its moments and is an entertaining watch.

Martin Sandison’s Rating: 6.5/10

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Firewalker | Blu-ray & DVD (Olive Films)

Firewalker | Blu-ray & DVD (Olive Films)

Firewalker | Blu-ray & DVD (Olive Films)

RELEASE DATE: April 21, 2015

Olive Films presents the Blu-ray & DVD for 1986′s Firewalker, directed by J. Lee Thompson (Kinjite: Forbidden Subjects, Death Wish 4: The Crackdown).

After a long career of failures, archaeological adventurers Max and Leo (Chuck Norris and Louis Gossett Jr.) are ready to call it quits until a blonde with an ancient treasure map hires them to guide her into Central America to find Aztec gold. But as they draw closer to the priceless bounty, they are unaware that a powerful spirit is tracking their every move! Watch the trailer.

Pre-order Firewalker from Amazon.com today!

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1990: The Bronx Warriors | Blu-ray & DVD (Blue Underground)

1990: The Bronx Warriors | Blu-ray & DVD (Blue Underground)

1990: The Bronx Warriors | Blu-ray & DVD (Blue Underground)

RELEASE DATE: June 30, 2015

Blue Underground presents the Blu-ray & DVD for 1982′s 1990: The Bronx Warriors (read our review), directed by Enzo G. Castellari (Street Law).

In a post-apocalyptic New York City, a policeman infiltrates the Bronx, which has become a battleground for several murderous street gangs.

1990: The Bronx Warriors stars Mark Gregory, Fred Williamson, Vic Morrow, Christopher Connelly, “Betty” Elisabetta Dessy and Stefania Girolami. Watch the trailer.

Pre-order 1990: The Bronx Warriors from Amazon.com today!

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Well Go USA to release Tianyu Zhao’s ‘Snow Girl and the Dark Crystal’ on February 27th!

"Snow Girl and the Dark Crystal" Theatrical Poster

"Snow Girl and the Dark Crystal" Theatrical Poster

Just around the corner is the 3-D action fantasy film titled Zhong Kui: Snow Girl and the Dark Crystal, directed by Tianyu Zhao (Deadly Delicious) and starring Chen Kun (Young Detective Dee) and Li Bingbing (Detective Dee & the Mystery of the Phantom Flame).

The film also features the skill of Academy Award-winning director, cinematographer, and visual effects artist Peter Pau.

Here’s the plot (via THR): “Zhong Kui: Snow Girl and the Dark Crystal tells the story of legendary Chinese anti-hero Zhong Kui, a young man endowed with mysterious powers who is forced into a battle among the realms of Heaven, Earth and Hell in the course of his attempt to save his countrymen and the woman he loves.”

Additional cast members include Winston Chao (1911), Yang Zishan (So Young!), Bao Bei-er (The Four) and recording artist Jike Junyi (The Voice of China).

Zhong Kui: Snow Girl and the Dark Crystal is set for a domestic release on February 19th 2015, Chinese New Year. Until then, don’t miss the first trailer | 2nd trailer.

BREAKING NEWS: Well Go USA has announced the acquisition of US and Canadian distribution rights to Snow Girl and the Dark Crystal. The film also marks the company’s first 3D theatrical release aligned with Asia’s New Year. Catch it in theaters on February 27th, until then, here’s Well Go USA’s new trailer!

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Escape From the Bronx | Blu-ray & DVD (Blue Underground)

Escape From the Bronx | Blu-ray & DVD (Blue Underground)

Escape From the Bronx | Blu-ray & DVD (Blue Underground)

RELEASE DATE: June 30, 2015

Blue Underground presents the Blu-ray & DVD for 1983′s Escape From the Bronx (aka The Bronx Warriors II), directed by Enzo G. Castellari (1990: Bronx Warriors).

In Escape From the Bronx, a rag-tag group of people must fight extermination squads amid their ruined city.

The film also stars Mark Gregory, Henry Silva, Valeria D’Obici, Giancarlo Prete, Paolo Malco, Ennio Girolami and Antonio Sabato.

Pre-order Escape From the Bronx from Amazon.com today!

Posted in DVD/Blu-ray New Releases, Other Notable Titles | Tagged | 2 Comments

Charlene Choi bares all for Herman Yau’s Cat III flick ‘Sara’

"Sara" Chinese Theatrical Poster

"Sara" Chinese Theatrical Poster

Herman Yau (Taxi Hunter, Untold Story, The Legend Is Born: Ip Man) is returning to his Category III roots with a new psychological thriller titled Sara. In the film, Charlene Choi (Kung Fu Dunk) plays a woman whose dark past comes back to haunt her when she encounters an underage prostitute in Thailand.

According to Jaynestars, the film’s poster – which shows Choi’s nude body resting in a bathtub full of bloody water – was shot while the movie was being filmed: “The photographer snapped photos candidly, so it appeared more natural. We did not purposely do a photo shoot just for the movie poster. The results were good, as the mood of the photos really matched the sentiment of the movie,” said Choi.

Sara also stars Simon Yam (As the Light Goes Out) and is produced by Chaptan To (Infernal Affairs 2). The film will get its Chinese domestic release in April of 2015.

Updates: Watch the film’s trailer now.

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Killers | Blu-ray & DVD (Well Go USA)

Killers | Blu-ray & DVD (Well Go USA)

Killers | Blu-ray & DVD (Well Go USA)

RELEASE DATE: April 7, 2015

Well Go USA presents the Blu-ray & DVD for Killers, a Japanese/Indonesian thriller directed by Timo Tjahjant and Kimo Stamboel (Macabre) – the duo also known as The Mo Brothers – and produced by Gareth Evans (The Raid 2).

Killers (read our review) follows a well-dressed serial killer who preys on women in Tokyo, as well as the ruthless Indonesian vigilante he begins engaging in a twisted ‘competition’ with – over the internet! The film stars Kazuki Kitamura, Oka Antara, Rin Takanashi, Luna Maya and Mei Kurokawa. Watch the trailer.

Pre-order Killers from Amazon.com today!

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New trailer for indie martial arts film ‘Unlucky Stars’

"Unlucky Stars" Movie Poster

"Unlucky Stars" Movie Poster

Decades later, the iconic films of Hong Kong legends Sammo Hung and Jackie Chan continue to inspire a new generation of stuntmen and filmmakers. Case in point: Unlucky Stars, an independent martial arts comedy directed by and starring Dennis Ruel. As you can tell from the title, the film takes particular inspiration from the Lucky Stars series of films that Sammo popularized in the Eighties. Expect tongue-in-cheek humor and bone-crunching fight choreography.

You can scope out the teaser trailer for the film on YouTube. The cast includes Dennis Ruel, Ken Quitugua, Sari Sabella, Jose Montesinos, Giovannie Espiritu, and Vladislav Rimburg. | 2nd teaser trailer! | BTS feature. | New trailer.

Updates: New “Story” trailer.

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Colt is My Passport, A (1967) Review

"A Colt is My Passport" Japanese Theatrical Poster

"A Colt is My Passport" Japanese Theatrical Poster

Director: Takashi Nomura
Writer: Nubuo Yamada, Shuichi Nagahara, Nobuo Yamada
Cast: Jo Shishido, Chitose Kobayashi, Jerry Fujio, Akiyoshi Fukae, Zenji Yamada, Hideaki Esumi, Jun Hongo, Akio Miyabe, Toyoko Takechi, Kojiro Kusanagi, Ryotaro Sugi, Takamaru Sasaki, Asao Uchida, Zeko Nakamura
Running Time: 84 min.

By Kyle Warner

In the 1960s, the Japanese studio Nikkatsu was cranking out action films at a rapid pace. They were often made fast and cheap, but they were also wildly inventive, and gave rise to talents like Seijun Suzuki, Joe Shishido, Koreyoshi Kurahara, and Toshio Masuda. Today, I want to shine the spotlight on one of the lesser known action movies of the period: A Colt is My Passport, a film that’s just as cool as its title suggests.

Joe Shishido plays a hitman tasked with killing a rival yakuza boss. After completing the assassination, he and his partner (Jerry Fujio) attempt to escape the country, but the bad guys have all the airports covered. Joe and Jerry are told to hideout in a truck stop outside of town while things cool down. However, while waiting there, his boss makes nice with the son of the recently murdered rival, and an alliance is formed. In order to ensure friendly relations, Shishido must be killed, and his boss is all too willing to give him up.

Made the same year as Branded to Kill, some fans are quick to point out that the two movies share some interesting similarities. Both Nikkatsu films star Joe Shishido as a hitman that’s being hunted. Both feature an assassination attempt that is nearly foiled by a small creature in the crosshairs (butterflies for Branded, a small bird for Colt). And both have a quirky energy to their action sequences – the action is equally visceral and humorous. But beyond these similarities, they’re two very different movies. Suzuki’s film was a trippy nightmare way ahead of its time. Nomura’s film is more of a celebration of the genre, with stark black and white photography, hardboiled film noir dialogue, doomed romances, and a brilliant, bloody finale.

Joe Shishido is excellent as the hitman Kamimura. The actor has played more complex characters and given more showy performances, but he appears perfectly at ease here. At this point in his career, Shishido was adept at playing these sort of roguish antiheroes, and this should go down as one of his finest films thanks in no small part to his steely screen presence.

The director Takashi Nomura is something of an unknown name in film history. A glance at his IMDb filmography shows that he primarily worked in TV since the 70s. From what I can gather, his only other notable film was the 1961 western Fast-Draw Guy, which also starred Shishido. It doesn’t surprise me that Nomura made a western at some point, as we see many elements of the genre show up in A Colt is My Passport. The film’s score uses a harmonica to create the feel of a Spaghetti Western. Also, at about the half-way point, Jerry Fujio picks up a guitar and sings us a tune, and one could imagine the scene working just the same around a campfire. And the action-packed finale which finds our hero at the designated place as gunmen appear from out of a dust cloud in very similar to the imagery of various westerns. Beyond these nods to the western genre, Nomura’s style is less flashy than his Nikkatsu colleagues of the time. But I’m not complaining. A Colt is My Passport is the only Nomura film I’ve ever seen and it’s a great one.

But it’s not all perfect. For whatever reason, exciting car chases are a rarity in Japanese cinema. The car chase in Colt is strangely polite by Western standards. Thankfully it ends in a splendid way, but I can’t say that the sequence is one of the film’s finer moments. Also, Colt doesn’t spend much time with the villains, so sometimes the viewer may get confused as to who is who in the yakuza family dynamics. I’m not exactly wishing that we had more of the villains in the film, but I do think that they could’ve been more defined and memorable.

Some will find issues with the film’s crazy finale. I’m not one of those people. Shishido and his enemies are given a day to plan for how best to kill one another. The bad guys opt to use an armored car with bulletproof windows. Meanwhile, Shishido digs a grave in the middle of a patch of dirt and… I won’t spoil what happens next. Suffice to say that it may stretch believability just a tad, but it’s so energetic and cool that I personally count it as the film’s best scene.

A Colt is My Passport is available on DVD in the Nikkatsu Noir box set from the Criterion Collection’s Eclipse line. Unlike most Criterion releases, the Eclipse Series is completely devoid of special features. The only supplement is a short essay from Chuck Stephens printed within the case. Also included in the Nikkatsu Noir box is I Am Waiting, Rusty Knife, Cruel Gun Story, and Take Aim at the Police Van. It’s a great set of films – A Colt is My Passport being my favorite of the five.

When you look for lists of the best Japanese crime films, you’re going to see a lot of the same names repeated over and over. Titles like Battles without Honor and Humanity, Shinjuku Triad Society, Hana-Bi, Branded to Kill, and Pale Flower. Names like Kinji Fukasaku, Takashi Miike, Takeshi Kitano, and Seijun Suzuki. You’re not likely to hear A Colt is My Passport mentioned on such lists. And that’s too bad. Gritty, cool, lean, and mean — A Colt is My Passport is just about everything I ask for from an action film of the period. It’s one of the most underrated and underseen yakuza films currently available to Western audiences. I highly recommend it.

Kyle Warner’s Rating: 8.5/10

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Deal on Fire! The Assassins | Blu-ray | Only $4.99 – Expires soon!

The Assassins Blu-ray & DVD (Well Go USA)

The Assassins Blu-ray & DVD (Well Go USA)

Today’s Deal on Fire is the Blu-ray for Zhao Linshan’s The Assassins (aka Bronze Sparrow Terrace or Bronze Sparrow Platform). This period actioner stars Chow Yun Fat (Let the Bullets Fly) and is written by the screenwriter behind Zhang Yimou’s Hero.

The Assassins focuses on Cao Cao (Chow Yun Fat), a prominent warlord who became the head of the central government in China towards the end of the Han dynasty. The film explores areas of military tactics, love, and the relationship between father and son. It also depicts two assassination attempts on the warlord.

Order The Assassins from Amazon.com today!

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Takashi Miike to make Live-action adaptation of ‘Terra Formars’

"Terra Formars" Manga Cover

"Terra Formars" Manga Cover

Takashi Miike (13 Assassins, Graveyard of Honor) is set to direct a Live-action movie adaptation of Tachibana Kenichi (illustrator) and Sasuga Yu’s (author) manga, Terra Formars, a “man vs. mutant cockroaches” sci-fi action/thriller.

Here are more plot details, according to Amazon’s manga description: “In the late 26th century, overpopulation on Earth is reaching the breaking point, and humanity must find new frontiers. The terraforming of Mars has taken centuries but is now complete. The colonization of Mars by humanity is an epoch-making event, but an unintended side effect of the terraforming process unleashes a horror no one could ever have imagined…

After humanity’s first manned mission to the Red Planet was lost, a second expedition arrives. The explorers prepare to exterminate the cockroaches that were used to transform the Martian environment. They are shocked to discover that the insects have mutated into giant, aggressive humanoids with one overriding goal—exterminate the humans! But this crew of explorers has each undergone the “Bugs Procedure,” terrifying experimental surgery designed to make them more than human…”

Thanks to FCS (via ANN) for the scoop. We’ll keep you updated on this story as we hear more.

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Mel Gibson battles drug dealers in thriller ‘Blood Father’

"Get the Gringo" Japanese Theatrical Poster

"Get the Gringo" Japanese Theatrical Poster

After a string of shoot ‘em up titles such as Get The Gringo, Machete Kills and Expendables 3, Mel Gibson is out for more blood in yet another actioner.

Gibson is currently working on action thriller called Blood Father. According to Deadline, Blood Father is about an ex-con who reunites with his estranged wayward 16-year old daughter to protect her from drug dealers who are trying to kill her.

Blood Father is helmed by Jean-Francois Richet (Mesrine) and written by Peter Craig (The Town). As we mentioned before, considering the controversial star is still doing violent films, it’s damn shame he didn’t reunite with George Miller for Mad Max 4: Fury Road.

Updates: First photos from the film (via EP.com).

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The Happiness of the Katakuris | Blu-ray & DVD (Arrow Video)

The Happiness of the Katakuris | Blu-ray & DVD (Arrow Video)

The Happiness of the Katakuris | Blu-ray & DVD (Arrow Video)

RELEASE DATE: June 16, 2015

Arrow Video presents the Blu-ray & DVD for 2001′s The Happiness of the Katakuris, directed by Takashi Miike (New Graveyard of Honor).

It’s the “The Sound of Music meets Dawn of the Dead“! The Katakuris are a family trying to run a peaceful country inn but with a lack of guests there is much excitement for their first visitor, until they wind up dead! As each guest in turn dies in strange circumstances the family agree to hide the bodies but will the coverups come back to haunt them. Watch the trailer.

Pre-order The Happiness of the Katakuris from Amazon.com today!

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New poster for Dolph Lundgren’s Nazi-killing ‘War Pigs’

"War Pigs" Theatrical PosterSince there can never be enough movies about good ol’ Nazi killers, get ready for War Pigs, an upcoming action-war flick directed by Ryan Little (Saints and Soldiers series), about a rag tag unit of misfits known as the War Pigs, who must go behind enemy lines to exterminate Nazis by any means necessary.

War Pigs stars Expendable cast members Dolph Lundgren and Mickey Rourke. Joining them are Luke Goss (Tekken), Ryan Kelley (Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles), Noah Segan (Django Lives!), Chuck Liddell (Cradle 2 the Grave), Jake Stormoen (Cyborg X) and Steven Luke (Dust of War).

Updates: First images ( Photo 1 | Photo 2) from War Pigs, courtesy of the movie’s official Facebook page and Luke Goss’ Twitter. | Three character posters, featuring Dolph Lundgren, Luke Goss and Mickey Rourke, courtesy of dolph-ultimate.com.

BREAKING NEWS: Check out the film’s newest poster.

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Lust of the Dead 4 | DVD (Tokyo Shock)

"Lust of the Dead 4" Japanese Theatrical Poster

"Lust of the Dead 4" Japanese Theatrical Poster

RELEASE DATE: May 12, 2015

Tokyo Shock presents the DVD for Lust of the Dead 4 (aka Rape Zombie: Lust of the Dead 4), directed by Naoyuki Tomomatsu (Vampire Girl vs. Frankenstein Girl).

Sexy babes vs. lustful zombies hungry for human flesh… what else is there to say? Lust of the Dead 4 stars Yui Aikawa (Lust of the Dead 1-3), Asami (Prison Girl), Megu Fujiura (Tokyo Train Girls: Private Lessons), Aya Kisaki, An Koshi, Momoha, Takeshi Nakazawa, Yûya Takayama and Miho Wakabayashi. Watch the trailer.

Pre-order Lust of the Dead 4 from Amazon.com today!

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

City War (1989) Review

"City War" Chinese Theatrical Poster

"City War" Chinese Theatrical Poster

Director: Sun Chung
Producer: Catherine Lau, Dean Shek
Cast: Chow Yun Fat, Ti Lung, Norman Chu, Tien Niu, Lee Ka Ting, Lo Lieh, Teresa Carpio, Michael Chow, Ricky Yi, Mary Hon Lut Lee, John Ladalski, Robin Shou
Running Time: 92 min.

By HKFanatic

City War will likely always hold a fascination for Hong Kong movie buffs, as it’s a vintage heroic bloodshed films featuring the fan favorite pairing of Chow Yun Fat and Ti Lung, reunited just two years after A Better Tomorrow II. If only City War could live up the hype and expectation that will no doubt surround it upon first viewing. But the truth is that the movie is just not very good.

Like many Hong Kong films of its era, the tone of City War is wildly uneven. The first hour or so of the movie bounces back and forth from frivolous comedy to steamy romance, as Chow Yun Fat grins and dances his way through the script as a young but high ranking cop with a thing for the ladies. Ti Ling merely smolders with rage in the background, hissing through clenched teeth about injustice in the system and how Hong Kong has gone to the dogs, AKA the Triads.

Their somewhat happy co-existence is shattered when a top Triad gangster (played by a scene-stealing Norman Chu) gets out of prison after a 10 year stint and sets his sights on our heroes. From there, the script dovetails out of nowhere into pitch-black tragedy.

By the end nobody’s smiling for the camera and City War wants us to take it very seriously. The story predictably builds to a climactic shoot-out in a warehouse-like location, which would be all well and good except that the action choreography ends up being a disappointment. City War was directed by Shaw Brothers veteran Chung Sun (The Avenging Eagle). This was Sun’s one attempt at making a more contemporary kind of Hong Kong film towards the end of his career but unfortunately he doesn’t seem particularly adept at handling blood-spurting action.

Plenty of bad guys are riddled with bullet holes but the staging lacks the style and ‘oomph’ of a filmmaker like John Woo. The ending battle would have benefited from the kinetic flair, judicious use of slow motion, and respect for spacial choreography that Woo displays in his finest works. In comparison, the action in City War comes across as choppy and overly edited. Another Chow Yun Fat film - Tiger on Beat – at least went for broke with its ending by embracing madcap, chainsaw-swinging physicality.

A limp ending might not be such a disappointment if the rest of City War gave us a reason to care. But the script seems written on the fly, Ti Lung is sadly underutilized, and Chow Yun Fat’s natural charisma is almost wasted in a role where he has nothing much to do but romance a gangster’s girl until it’s time to get revenge. If you’re anything like me, you’ve probably been eager to view this film just to witness an ’89 pistol opera pairing of Chow Yun Fat and Ti Lung. Sadly, the movie I pictured in my mind was a lot more entertaining than this. There are plenty of similar titles I can recommend viewing over this (Tragic Hero, Dragon Family, even Flaming Brothers). I’d only suggest making time for City War once you reach the bottom of your ‘heroic bloodshed’ checklist. Come on, I know you’ve got one.

HKFanatic’s Rating: 6/10

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Transporter: Series Season 1 | DVD (Fox)

Transporter: Series Season 1 | DVD (Fox)

Transporter: Series Season 1 | DVD (Fox)

RELEASE DATE: March 17, 2015

Fox  presents the DVD for Transporter: Series Season 1, based on the popular Jason Statham franchise of the same name. The series stars Chris Vance, Andrea Osvárt and François Berléand.

Frank (Vance) is the Transporter. He transports anything, anywhere, for anyone. A former British SAS operative, he is trained in driving, combat and survival skills. A man of determination and integrity, he always completes using three specific rules: Never change the deal. No Names. Never open the package. Watch the trailer.

Pre-order Transporter: Series Season 1 from Amazon.com today!

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

Hungry Ghost Ritual (2014) Review

"Hungry Ghost Ritual" Chinese Theatrical Poster

"Hungry Ghost Ritual" Chinese Theatrical Poster

AKA: The Ghost Festival
Director: Nick Cheung
Writer: Nick Cheung, Adrian Teh
Cast: Nick Cheung Ka Fai, Annie Liu, Carrie Ng Ka-Lai, Cathryn Lee, Lin Wei, Eric Chen, Karena Teo
Running Time: 82 min.

By oneleaf

One of the most recognized names in Hong Kong cinema today is Nick Cheung (That Demon Within), an award winning actor with a chameleon-like ability that’s applied to any role thrown at him. It’s not surprising that one day Cheung would step behind the camera and direct a movie himself, which brings us to his directorial debut, Hungry Ghost Ritual, a film that he co-write with Adrian Teh.

While promoting Hungry Ghost Ritual, Cheung revealed that the film was sort of an accident: when a group of investors approached him with a detective project, to which he “jokingly” told them “maybe I’ll star in a horror film instead.” To his surprise, and perhaps dismay, the investors reworked the project into a horror film and approached him again. This time, out of respect for the investors – as well as not going back on his word – Cheung reluctantly agreed to not only star, but also direct the film. The project eventually materialized into Hungry Ghost Ritual.

The title of the film alludes to an ancient Chinese rite, still practiced in certain parts of the world today, called “The Hungry Ghost Festival.” Ancient Chinese folklore has it that July is the month where the gates of hell open up and hungry ghosts roam the earth in search of food. Lanterns are lined on roadsides to illuminate their paths and food offerings are placed to placate these ghosts’ hunger.

Hungry Ghost Ritual opens with an old woman squatting in front of her house burning incense – with food offering neatly piled in front – while her grandchild watches in astonishment as little hungry ghouls roam the street looking for food. This promising introduction sequence was an interesting concept, but unfortunately, the rest of the film is a floundering mess.

Cheung plays Zhong Hua, an entrepreneur returning home from Malaysia after a failed venture with his wife. Zhong is trying to reconnect with his estranged father, Xiaotian (Lam Wai), and his hostile half-sister, Jing Jing (Cathryn Lee), after a lengthy absence. When Xiaotian is hospitalized, Zhong is reluctantly forced into the spotlight to take over his father’s Cantonese Opera troupe.

The introduction of Zhong into the world of Cantonese opera would normally serve as a perfect vehicle for the script writers to introduce the audience to all kinds of ghostly manifestations and back story. There is, of course, the occasional apparition that appears from time to time, such as ghoulish possessed characters able to perform ridiculous contortions (almost laughable at times); objects suspended in mid-air and falling for no apparent reason; and an opera performer hoist in the air and flailing around aimlessly. While amusing to watch, the aforementioned sequences add nothing to the flow of the poorly scripted film. Even sleuthing footage of phantasm from Zhong’s cameras placed outside his sleeping quarter, failed to provide a good “scare” or add more clarity to the confusing plot.

Cheung’s directing leaves the audience wondering what direction (no pun intended) the film is taking. Is Hungry Ghost Ritual a horror movie or a drama with ghostly elements? The relationship between Zhong and his father is a thematic element that was touched on but never explored in depth. This arc would have provided more depth to the sparsely thought out script. Moreover, the back story of Xiaotian’s past – which would help explain the strange occurrences at the opera troupe – wasn’t properly depicted and leaves a lot of questions unanswered.

Normally an accomplished actor, here Cheung seems unsure and at times totally befuddled by his surroundings. I’m wondering if he’s acting in character as Zhong or is it the real-life Cheung seeping through as he is clearly having difficulty making this film. Life imitating art?

Cheung’s directing appears out of focus, poorly paced and everything seems choppy and unstructured. During press conferences, Cheung modestly acknowledged that his direction for Hungry Ghost Ritual was just “OK,” and in later directing projects, he would not act, so he can solely focus directing.

The only bright spot in the Hungry Ghost Ritual is the splendid performance by the seasoned Carrie Ng (City on Fire), as a lead veteran opera performer from Xiaotian’s past. Additionally, it’s a shame there wasn’t more screen time for Annie Liu (Shamo) – Zhong’s love interest – which no doubt would have made the film a bit more interesting.

At the end of the of the day, “directing” and “starring” is clearly something Cheung is unable to deal with.

Not recommended.

oneleaf’s Rating: 4/10

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Hector Echavarria ‘Enters the Dragon’ in ‘Duel of Legends’

"Duel of Legends" Theatrical Poster

"Duel of Legends" Theatrical Poster

Argentina’s Hector Echavarria (Chavez Cage of Glory) is back with Duel of Legends, an Enter the Dragon-esque tournament flick that has the 90s written all over it. The film also stars Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa (Tekken 2: Kazuya’s Revenge) and Quinton ‘Rampage’ Jackson (The A-Team remake).

Duel of Legends revolves around Dax (Echavarria), a martial arts expert who was brought up by Shaolin monks. His deadly kung fu skills are put to the test when he gets himself involved in a Kumite-like tournament that’s connected with human trafficking.

Duel of Legends has an expected release date sometime this year. Until then, here’s the trailer.

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Vengeance of an Assassin | Blu-ray & DVD (Well Go USA)

Vengeance of an Assassin | Blu-ray & DVD (Well Go USA)

Vengeance of an Assassin | Blu-ray & DVD (Well Go USA)

RELEASE DATE: April 14, 2015

Well Go USA presents the Blu-ray & DVD for Vengeance of an Assassin from the late Panna Rittikrai, the director behind fan favorites like Born to Fight and BKO: Bangkok Knockout.

This time around, Rittikrai is teaming back up with his Born to Fight leading man Dan Chupong. It’s surprising to note that 9 years have passed since Born to Fight was originally released, but in the meantime Chupong has carved a name for himself via movies like Dynamite Warrior and Ong-Bak 3. Watch the trailer.

Pre-order Vengeance of an Assassin from Amazon.com today!

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

Loren Avedon and Jalal Merhi are back with ‘Risk Factor’!

"Risk Factor" Promotional Poster

"Risk Factor" Promotional Poster

Martial arts stars Loren Avedon (No Retreat No Surrender 2) and Jalal Merhi (TC 2000) are back in Frank A. Caruso’s Risk Factor, an ultra low-budget film that was shot in 2011 and edited in 2013.

Risk Factor follows Alex (Merhi), a retired CIA operative who is lured back into the game by a femme fatale (Elise Muller). Things get complicated when Alex’s former partner (Avedon) gets involved.

In the 90s, Avedon and Merhi – along with stars like Don “The Dragon” Wilson and Cynthia Rothrock – dominated the straight-to-video scene with films like King of the Kickboxers, Ring of Fire and Tiger Claws. Their titles were hit or miss, but it was always exciting to see their faces on VHS box covers.

Updates: According to carusofilms.comRick Factor will soon be released on iTunes. Until then, be sure to catch the film’s latest trailer.

Posted in News | 6 Comments

Cityonfire.com is ‘Raiding the Rock Vault Charity Concert!’

Cityonfire.com and Frank and Beanz Doggie Apparel are proud to be sponsors of the Raiding the Rock Vault Charity Rock Concert in Las Vegas, Nevada!

Raiding the Rock Vault is joining the One Billion Rising global campaign to end violence against women, rise for justice and promote gender equality with an exclusive Raiding the Rock Vault show on Feb. 13, 2015. Proceeds from this one-night-only performance will benefit the Cultural Arts Training Foundation of Las Vegas.

For tickets and information, click here!

Posted in News | 2 Comments

Dave Bautista to play a barbaric badass in ‘Highlander’ reboot

"Highlander" Japanese Theatrical Poster

"Highlander" Japanese Theatrical Poster

THE MOVIE: A remake of the 1986 action-fantasy flick Highlander is currently in the works. The original film revolved around an immortal Scottish swordsman who must confront the last of his immortal opponent, a murderously brutal barbarian who lusts for the fabled “Prize”.

Updates: Melissa Rosenberg of Twilight fame has been hired to work on the script. Looks like Justin Lin has dropped out as director, and is just serving as producer on the project. Dark Horizons via Deadline added that 28 Weeks Later’s Juan Carlos Fresnadillo is now up for the part of director. | Deadline reports that 28 Weeks Later’s Juan Carlos Fresnadillo is exiting the Highlander remake.

After losing Justin Lin and Juan Carlos Fresnadillo, Deadline reports that the Highlander reboot has a new director: Cedric Nicolas-Troyan. The reboot will serve as his directorial debut. Nicolas-Troyan’s previous credits include visual effects supervisor and second unit director for Snow White and the Huntsman.

The Wrap reports that Tom Cruise is being pursued by the studio to play the mentor role that Sean Connery portrayed in the 1986 film.

BREAKING NEWS: LR reports that Dave Bautista (Kickboxer: Vengeance, Spectre) is going to play the bad ass barbarian role of “The Kurgan.”

Posted in News | 5 Comments

Graveyard of Honor (2002) Review

"Graveyard of Honor" DVD Cover

"Graveyard of Honor" DVD Cover

AKA: New Graveyard of Honor
Director: Takashi Miike
Writer: Goro Fujita, Shigenori Takechi
Cast: Narumi Arimori, Yoshiyuki Daichi, Hirotaro Honda, Harumi Inoue, Renji Ishibashi, Goro Kishitani, Takashi Miike, Ryosuke Miki, Yasukaze Motomiya, Mikio Osawa, Daisuke Ryu, Harumi Sone, Shun Sugata
Running Time: 131 min.

By HKFanatic

“A Yakuza without honor isn’t worth sh*t.” So says a Yakuza Godfather towards the end of Graveyard of Honor, and the entire movie puts this notion to the test against a terrifying new breed of gangster that is without honor or any recognizably human emotion, portrayed by lead actor Goro Kishitani (The Returner) in a terrifying performance.

The story begins when a lowly dishwasher (Goro Kishitani) saves the life of a Yakuza Godfather in the middle of a gangland-style hit. Almost overnight, Goro find himself inducted into the Yakuza and appointed to a top position in the Godfather’s crime family. Only too late does the Sawada Family realize they’ve placed a mad dog at the head of their table – Goro doesn’t care about Yakuza tradition or rules, and he’ll kill anyone who so much as rubs him the wrong way. While Goro has a few allies among his gangster brethren (a superb Ryosuke Miki), it isn’t long before he’s pitted himself against the entire Yakuza.

The film itself is a remake of a 1975 film from Kinji Fukasaku, the director of Battle Royale, but Takashi Miike (13 Assassins) takes to the material as if it were own. Despite working on a low budget, Miike delivers a visually interesting film via superb camera placement and some gloriously long takes even when a lot of action is unfolding onscreen. Graveyard features the kind of over-the-top violence that has become something of a signature for Miike, although it’s not taken to the manga-esque levels of movies like Ichi the Killer.

AnimEigo offers the film in a 2-Disc DVD set, lavishing the film with the kind of respect and care you wish all distributors would lend their top class Asian films. Subtitles are well-translated and easy to read, and come in an optional two different colors. The second disc is reserved for Special Features, such as interviews and footage from the premiere, for those interested in exploring supplemental content. Fans of Graveyard of Honor couldn’t ask for a better release than what AnimEigo has given us here.

With Graveyard of Honor, Takashi Miike is able to meld the traditional Yakuza film – featuring plenty of brutal stabbings and gunfights – with the kind of decadent, heroin-fueled downward spiral you’d associate with a rock star. It’s a grim journey as our lead character lacks anything you’d call empathy, but the result is one of the most satisfying and memorable films of the director’s prolific career. Even if you feel like you’ve seen most of what the Yakuza genre has to offer, Graveyard of Honor is well worth seeking out.

HKFanatic’s Rating: 8.5/10

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