Deal on Fire! First Strike | Blu-ray | Only $7.49 – Expires soon!

Jackie Chan’s First Strike | Blu-ray (Warner)

Jackie Chan’s First Strike | Blu-ray (Warner)

Today’s Deal on Fire is the Blu-ray for Jackie Chan’s First Strike, (aka Police Story IV) directed by Stanley Tong (Police Story 3: Supercop). Please note that this Blu-ray is most-likely the English-dubbed, U.S. edited version of the film.

In post-soviet Russia nothing is as it seems. When members of the Russian mafia pose as KGB agents to steal a nuclear missile, the CIA calls on martial arts master Jackie Chan to stop them. Also starring Jackson Lou (The Last Blood), Annie Wu (Ballistic Kiss) and Bill Tung (Rumble in the Bronx).

Order First Strike from Amazon.com today!

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Full Strike (2015) Review

"Full Strike" Chinese Theatrical Poster

"Full Strike" Chinese Theatrical Poster

Director: Derek Kwok, Henry Wong
Writer: Derek Kwok, Henry Wong
Cast: Ronald Cheng, Josie Ho, Ekin Cheng, Tse Kwan Ho, Edmond Leung, Siu Yam Yam, Wilfred Lau, Andrew Lam, Grace Yip, Michael Tse, Vincent Kok, Phillip Keung
Running Time: 108 min.

By Paul Bramhall

Movies about racquet sports hardly have the most successful track record, either at the box office or critically. Even thinking of one seems liken an unnecessarily difficult struggle. It took me a whole minute before I dragged the 2004 romantic comedy Wimbledon from the depths of my memory, and I was just as happy to return it there. That was a movie about tennis, which you can at least imagine the potential to appear dynamic on the big screen – the speed of the ball, the size of the court, the gracefulness of the players movements. Ok I’ll confess, I’m clutching at straws, but my point is, if it sounds difficult to make a movie about tennis, why even bother attempting to make one about badminton!?

However that’s exactly what directors Derek Kwok and Henri Wong have done with 2015’s Full Strike. If anything, the production had the odds stacked against it even more, thanks to the release of a title during the same year which revolved around another cinematically dull sport, Dante Lam’s To the Fore, which focused on bicycle racing. Having Dante Lam’s name behind To the Fore saw most fans of Hong Kong cinema keeping their gaze firmly locked on his latest effort, and ultimately its failure to exceed anyone’s already low expectations, seemed to result in Full Strike barely registering.

This is a shame, because Kwok and Wong’s effort is one of the most energetically insane and funny Hong Kong movies to come out of recent years, hardly stopping to catch its breath during the entire run time. Kwok is best known for his 2010 kung fu throwback Gallants, co-directed with Clement Cheng, which displayed a keen sense of awareness of what made Hong Kong cinema so great in the past. Full Strike marks Wong’s second time as a director, having both written and directed 2013’s Hardcore Comedy. However the pair have collaborated before, firstly on Kwok’s fire-fighting drama As the Lights Goes Out, in which he was a member of the special effects team, and also on a stop-motion short using Batman action figures. Go figure.

Bringing both of their talents to the directors chair, as well as writing the script, for a full length feature should be a winning combination, and within the first few minutes it becomes apparent that it is. Opening like an old-school kung fu movie, complete with a stern voiced narration tracing the origins of the sport from India to England, there’s no doubt we’re not going to be watching a normal sports drama. Soon we’re introduced to Beast Ng, played by Josie Ho, a lowly worker at her brother’s restaurant who, 10 years ago, used to be the ‘Queen of Hong Kong Badminton’. However thanks to her violent temper, her reign was short-lived.

All that changes though, and bear with me here, when she witnesses a large shuttlecock shaped meteorite fall to earth. Soon she’s being chased by an alien, or it could be a homeless person, and ends up in a run-down badminton school, which happens to be home to a trio of former ex-criminals. All three have some kind of physical impairment, the leader, played by Ekin Cheng (of the Young and Dangerous series fame), is hard of hearing. His two cohorts, one of which is played by Edmond Leong, only has one hand, and the other, played by Wilfred Lau, has poor eyesight. All three of them want to put their life of crime behind them, and redeem themselves through playing badminton. The question is, can Josie Ho rekindle her passion for the sport in time to get them in shape and compete in the Fantastic 5 Badminton Championship?

If the plot outline sounds like a completely random concept for a movie, you’d be right, and the above events also all take place in the first 10 minutes alone. Josie Ho holds the whole thing together though as a likeable anchor to which the craziness revolves around. Ho has been in the Hong Kong movie industry for over 20 years, a highlight of which was her lead role in 2010’s Dream Home (she also had a role in Street Fighter: The Legend of Chun-Li, but we’ll forgive her), and Full Strike adds another highlight to her filmography. Paired with Ekin Cheng, fresh from starring alongside Jean Claude Van Damme in Jian Bing Man made the same year, they have a good chemistry with each other, with both characters serving to motivate the other to better themselves.

At its heart that’s really what Full Strike is about, bettering yourself regardless of the outcome, however it’s wrapped up in a Looney Tunes paced package that, to some degree, sometimes feels reminiscent of Stephen Chow’s Kung Fu Hustle. Kwok and Wong throw in plenty of subtle kung fu references, with characters names splashed onscreen in Chinese calligraphy to introduce them, nicknames like the Flying Devil, and a team logo that looks remarkably similar to the Shaw Brothers shield. There’s also a drunken master type character, who used to be a former badminton champion, but has fallen on hard times. Played by Andrew Lam, recognizable from Sammo Hung movies like Pantyhose Hero and Encounters of the Spooky Kind 2, some of Full Strike’s biggest laughs belong to him. From teaching badminton strokes using a couple of giant meat cleavers, to his random outbursts of English, to a fantastic projectile vomit scene.

Full Strike is very much reminiscent of the Hong Kong movies from the 80’s and early 90’s, especially Stephen Chow’s mo lei tau style of wordplay. Some of the interactions are no doubt lost in translation, however just as many hit the mark, with an expletive filled script that doesn’t shy from some hilariously foul language. Also just like those Hong Kong movies of old, it doesn’t shy from bad taste rape jokes either. I guess you have to take the bad with the good. However with such an anything goes approach, proceedings move on so quickly that nothing dwells in the mind too long before another left of field joke comes along, and reminds you it’s just a movie.

Throw in some nice references to kung fu movies of old, from a sequence which has Andrew Lam training the trio of ex-criminals Crippled Avengers style, to a match played with a steel capped shuttlecock. Full Strike could well be the badminton movie that fans of classic Hong Kong cinema never knew they wanted. Much like Gallants, from the music through to the set design and camera work, Kwok and Wong have constructed a movie that captures the essence of why we love watching these productions in the first place. The energy, the action, and most importantly, the heart that seems to have been missing from many of the Hong Kong film industries recent output, is here very much alive and well. For that alone, Full Strike warrants a watch.

Paul Bramhall’s Rating: 7.5/10

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Nick Cheung’s new thriller proves he’s a ‘Keeper of Darkness’

"Keeper of Darkness" Teaser Poster

"Keeper of Darkness" Teaser Poster

Looks like a certain someone feels right at home on the dark side: Nick Cheung’s (Helios) new thriller, Keeper of Darkness. In the film, Cheung plays a streetwise exorcist (Cheung) who becomes an overnight sensation when his extraordinary exorcism goes viral online.

Keeper of Darkness is Cheung’s sophomore directorial follow-up to last year’s Hungry Ghost Ritual. The movie is written by Sin Ling Yeung (The Bullet Vanishes) and stars Amber Kuo (Triumph in the Skies), Louis Cheung (The Legend is Born – Ip Man) and Sisley Choi (Overachievers).

Updates: The film’s trailer has just arrived. It is not only full of darkness but also special effects. Check it out here.

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Untold Story, The | aka Bunman (1993) Review

"The Untold Story" Japanese Theatrical Poster

"The Untold Story" Japanese Theatrical Poster

AKA: Human Meat Roast Pork Buns
Director: Herman Yau
Writer: Law Kam-Fai, Lau Wing-Kin
Cast: Anthony Wong, Danny Lee, Emily Kwan, Lau Siu-Ming, Shing Fui-On, Parkman Wong Pak-Man, Yee Ka-Fat, Lam King-Kong, Julie Lee, Wong Tin-Fai, Leung Hung-Wah, Cheng Choh-Fai, Lee Yi-Chong, Long Chi, Si Man

By Martin Sandison

One of the most notorious Category 3 Hong Kong films ever made, Bunman (what a title!) features everything that makes extreme HK cinema so unique: brutality, seriously dark comedy and insane energy that spills off the screen. Only in Hong Kong in the 90’s would an actor as great as Anthony Wong star in such a disturbing film, and then win the Hong Kong film award for best actor for it! At the time Wong was making a name for himself, having appeared in amongst numerous others Ringo Lam’s bizarrely demented and uber stylish Full Contact and John Woo’s utter masterclass in action (and my favourite movie) Hard Boiled. 1993 was a very busy year for Wong, with his stand out roles in The Heroic Trio and another Category 3 thriller Taxi Hunter (also directed by Herman Yau) – only the tip of the iceberg.

Bunman gained a reputation for being nihilistic yet darkly comic, and it’s a testament to the idea and Wong’s performance that the film rises above its exploitative base to deliver a serious message about the nature of man and the realities of modern society. The very premise – purportedly based on a true story – is profoundly sick but humorous like the rest of the film. Wong plays Wong Chi-Hang, a restaurant owner who has inherited it from a gambling friend. As body parts start to pile up on the beach and Wong’s behaviour becomes increasingly psychotic, the police start to move in.

The film manages to maintain an edgy, dark atmosphere that is punctuated by silly comedy (what more would you expect of a 90’s HK film?) and Yau must be given credit for this. Without Wong’s performance the film would suffer however, and what a towering one it is. Wong constantly looks like a real psychotic throughout, a real nasty piece of work. Later in the film I grew to feel sorry for him though, despite his despicable actions. He gives shades of humanity to a real monster of a human being, deserving all the accolades he received. Subsequent Wong performances in everything from Category 3 shockers like Ebola Syndrome or gangster flicks like Johnnie To’s Exiled have proven his range, but none come close to the intensity on show in Bunman.

The film is produced by and co-starring Danny Lee, that legend of HK cinema. The previous year he had directed another Category 3 classic Dr. Lamb, the subject matter of which is similar to Bunman. Other than these two instantly recognisable faces, most of the cast are second or third tier HK actors. Emily Kwan Bo Wai features as Bo, the female officer who is the butt of most of the (sexist) jokes. She appeared in Dr. Lamb and Ringo Lam’s Full Alert among others. Lau Siu Ming has a small part as Cheng Lam, the friend of Wong’s who suffers greatly in his only scene. He is a veteran HK bit part actor, having been in Tsui Hark’s new wave fantasy extravaganza Butterfly Murders and Corey Yuen’s pure 80’s actioner (and the first HK film I ever bought on VHS) Righting Wrongs. Shing Fui On (Big Sillyhead to his fans) has a very small part as Lau’s brother, making Wong’s short spell in prison pretty horrible.

The catalogue of horrors that are depicted in the film are seriously twisted, and test even the strongest stomach. The worst of them comes midway through, with the murder of Cheng Lam and his family (including his three very young daughters). This scene is up there with the most harrowing moments of all cinema. Other ones feature Wong’s torture by the police – wherein a nurse who Wong had previously tried to use as a hostage injects him with water that creates blisters all over his skin – and his suicide attempt that culminates in him biting the artery on his wrist.

Despite not being for everyone, Bunman is a very engaging and intense film that anyone with a penchant for extreme cinema must check out. Obvious faults are the lack of a consistent style and the limitations of a low budget, but these can be overlooked. After watching Wong take on the role with so much gusto, I would be slightly worried if I met him! By all accounts he is one seriously cool and relaxed guy in person, giving credence to his unbelievable depiction of Wong Chi-Hang.

Martin Sandison’s Rating: 8/10


By Numskull

“We seem to be the only species who truly goes crazy without benefit of disease or a sharp blow to the head.” -Jessica Horsting, MIDNIGHT GRAFFITI (copyright 1992, Warner Books)

“Masterpiece” is not a word that I throw around lightly. Pardon me for saying so, but there are certain “critics” on the net who dole out perfect ratings way too easily. It’s feast or famine with some people; either a movie is “flawless,” “perfect,” and “tied with (72 other films) for Greatest Movie Ever Made,” OR, it’s “worthless,” “dog shit,” and “enjoyable only by those with I.Q.s of lower numerical value than their shoe sizes.” No middle ground? Bollocks.

If you ask me, there’s no such thing as a perfect movie, but there are a select few that are so impressive that I can forgive their shortcomings unconditionally. Like what? There’s BRAINDEAD (Yours Truly’s all-time favorite flick), POLICE STORY (Jackie Chan has yet to top it and probably never will), SEVEN (yeah, that’s right, a Hollywood movie…you got a problem with that?!?), and now, THE UNTOLD STORY (which, by the way, is only the second film I’ve ever reviewed on this site and given a 10/10 rating).

How about music? Can you think of any albums (do they still make those? I guess I should just say “CDs”) where you can listen to the whole thing through and not be even remotely tempted to skip a song or fast forward through a small part of one? I can…VEREHRT UND ANGESPIEN by In Extremo, and Kreator’s brilliant ENDORAMA (which, by the way, includes “Chosen Few,” a song I am going to insist, come Hell or waters high, be played at my wedding reception, in the unlikely event that I ever have one). Not even Skyclad…the greatest band ever to walk the Earth…has such a CD in their discography (which, by the way, has been growing steadily since 1991).

Books (you know, those things with words in them)? Well, the “masterpieces” I had to read in school bored the living shit out of me, and served as a solid basis for my theory that English teachers want to turn kids off of literature in general to prevent them from wanting to become English teachers themselves, thus ensuring their own job security via lack of competition (except for Alexander, of course). So what would I happily slap the “M” word on? Definitely TITUS GROAN and GORMENGHAST by Mervyn Peake, and maybe SURVIVOR (which, by the way, has nothing to do with that crappy TV show) by Chuck Palahniuk, author of FIGHT CLUB (which, by the way, has a much cooler ending than the movie).

Now that I’ve lost about 70% of my audience by talking about books and the other 30% by shamelessly plugging stuff, I can get on with THE UNTOLD STORY. It’s a deliberately nasty, brutal film based on a tragic, real-life story (which, by the way, means it is no longer “untold”). How accurately the events are presented…how much fiction is mixed in with the facts…I do not know. Perhaps it doesn’t even matter, because there’s so much senseless violence in the real world anyway; the movie painfully drives home the reminder that all sorts of terrible things can happen to anyone at anytime…especially at the hands of another human being.

Anthony Wong is brilliant as the psychotic Wong Chi Hang. He strikes a perfect balance between ultra-violent dementia and false normalcy. The most dangerous sort of lunatic is the one who gives an outward appearance of being a mentally stable, unremarkable (if a little obnoxious, in Wong’s case) member of society, letting their insanity out to play only when it is safe to do so (or when they’re going to kill all the witnesses…). That’s what you can expect to see in this movie. A lesser actor probably would have played the role like an obscene Saturday morning cartoon super-villain, mindlessly slobbering over child pornography and laughing hysterically while beating people to death in public. Wong resists the temptation to play a Satanic Jim Carrey on crack and instead gives us a thoroughly impressive and utterly plausible performance. Small wonder he won the 1993 Hong Kong Best Actor award for it.

Meanwhile, Danny Lee plays a cop for about the 847th time. He regularly picks up prostitutes (or at least loose women) and he bosses around a few men who alternately try to please him, try to score with his chicks, and needle their female colleague about her lack of ladylike characteristics. They get slapped a lot. The darkly comic aspects of The Untold Story revolve around these decidedly UN-Supercops; witness their childish “Eww, gross” reaction to the human body parts that wash up on a beach at the beginning of the movie.

Too much has been made of the whole “people getting chopped up and fed to restaurant patrons in the form of meat buns” business (which, by the way, is somewhat perpetuated by the restaurant-style DVD menus…nice touch). Yeah, it happens, but to say that that’s what the movie is “about” would be doing it a great disservice.

There can be no argument that the Category III rating is warranted. Little is held back in terms of raw brutality. Two scenes in particular stand out for being shockingly explicit. I don’t want to give too much away; you’ll know which scenes I’m talking about when you see them. After reading EXQUISITE CORPSE by Poppy Z. Brite and AMERICAN PSYCHO by Bret Easton Ellis (which, by the way, is so gruesome it makes the movie look like a Disney cartoon by comparison), you can handle pretty much anything, so I wasn’t bothered too deeply. YOU might be. And I wouldn’t blame you. Watching women get raped and children get butchered ain’t for everyone. Remember, though: stuff like this happens to somebody, somewhere, every single day.

The script is very well-done. It would have been easy to throw together a cheesy teen slasher flick-type flow of events where Wong remains on the loose until the very end, when the last fine officer of the law finally brings him down. Mercifully, a much more realistic and satisfying road gets taken. I find it a little hard to believe that the cops would have found the evidence in the garbage truck THAT quickly (and in the dark, no less), but, when my first and foremost quibble is something as minor as that, I’m perfectly willing to look the other way.

I’ll definitely be checking out the other Herman Yau/Anthony Wong collaborations, such as TAXI HUNTER and NEW TENANT (which, by the way…oh, shit, I haven’t seen it yet so I guess I’ve got nothing to add here). I’ll be one deliriously happy camper if I enjoy them half as much as I enjoyed The Untold Story.

Which, by the way, was one hell of a lot.

Numskull’s Rating: 10/10

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Rodriguez and Cameron unite for ‘Alita: Battle Angel,’ but first…

"Alita: Battle Angel" Manga Cover

"Alita: Battle Angel" Manga Cover

Longtime James Cameron fans who have watched his post-Titanic career with curiosity know that the director has long mulled over a live-action adaptation of Kishiro Yukito’s manga Alita: Battle Angel, but it was another case where Cameron was waiting for technology to catch up with his vision – that is – until a few days ago when it was announced that Robert Rodriguez (Machete) would be helming the project with Cameron producing.

According to THR, Alita: Battle Angel is about a female cyborg that is discovered in a trash yard by a scientist. With no memory of her previous life except her deadly martial arts training, the woman becomes a bounty hunter, tracking down criminals.

Updates: Before starting work on Alita: Battle Angel, Rodriguez has teamed up with sock and underwear company Happy Socks to make a short film called Sock’Em Dead. It stars Madison Davenport and is really fun to watch (click here to view). You can check it out here and do keep an eye out for cameos by some high profile actors.

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First on-set photo from ‘Cold War 2′ starring Tony Leung and Chow Yun-fat

"Cold War" Chinese Theatrical Poster

"Cold War" Chinese Theatrical Poster

First-time directors Longman Leung and Sunny Luk scored a major hit a few years ago with their Hong Kong cop thriller Cold War. The relatively inexperienced duo managed to attract a big name cast, including Tony Leung Ka-Fai and Aaron Kwok, to the film based on the strength of their screenplay. Well, every good crime saga deserves a sequel, which is why Cold War 2 is currently in production.

Chow Yun-fat, who reportedly called Cold War one of the best Hong Kong films since Infernal Affairs, has officially joined Cold War 2 (via THR). His role is rumored to be a villain, who matches wits with Tony Leung Ka-Fai’s police commissioner.

Update: You can check out the first on-set photo of Cold War 2 here (via Sam the Man). Tony Leung Ka Fai (The Raid), Kenny Wong Tak Bun (Fire of Conscience) and Tony Yang Kam Tin (The Crossing) were filming some gun battles in the Kam Tin district of Hong Kong and reportedly it looked so realistic that some of the public thought a real robbery was taking place. Cold War 2 is slated for a July 2016 release.

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‘Legend is Born – Ip Man’ star forms a new film company

"The Legend Is Born – Ip Man" Japanese Theatrical Poster

"The Legend Is Born – Ip Man" Japanese Theatrical Poster

If you are a fan of The Legend is Born: Ip Man, you may be wondering where main actor Dennis To Yu-Hang is up to these days. Since The Legend is Born, he has appeared in a number of films but hasn’t had many opportunities to really show off his skills as a martial artist again. His last film appearance was in Wong Jing’s 2013 film Princess & Seven Gongfu Masters.

But it looks like To may be making a major comeback soon. Hong Kong media has just reported that he has formed a new film company and the company’s first projects will include a horror film and an action movie. To will be starring in both films and it will certainly be interesting to see whether he can really shine in his own productions.

We’ll keep you updated on this story as we hear more!

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Dragon Blade | Blu-ray & DVD (Lionsgate)

Dragon Blade | Blu-ray & DVD (Lionsgate)

Dragon Blade | Blu-ray & DVD (Lionsgate)

RELEASE DATE: December 22, 2015

Lionsgate presents the Blu-ray & DVD for Daniel Lee’s Dragon Blade, an action/adventure period flick starring Jackie Chan (Police Story 2013), Adrien Brody (The Pianist), John Cusack (Love & Mercy), Choi Siwon (Helios), Lin Peng (Viral Factor) and Wang Tai Li (East Meets West).

When corrupt Roman leader Tiberius arrives with a giant army to claim the Silk Road, Huo An teams up his army with an elite Legion of defected Roman soldiers led by General Lucius to protect his country and his new friends. | Watch the trailer.

Pre-order Dragon Blade from Amazon.com today!

Posted in Asian Titles, DVD/Blu-ray New Releases, Martial Arts Titles | 7 Comments

Cityonfire.com’s ‘Northern Limit Line’ Blu-ray Giveaway! – WINNERS ANNOUNCED!

Northern Limit Line | Blu-ray & DVD (Well Go USA)

Northern Limit Line | Blu-ray & DVD (Well Go USA)

Cityonfire.com and Well Go USA are giving away 3 Blu-ray copies of Northern Limit Line to three lucky Cityonfire visitors. To enter, simply add a comment to this post and describe, in your own words, this video.

We will be selecting a winner at random. Be sure to include your email address in the appropriate field so we can contact you for your home address. Additionally, you must ‘Like Us‘ on cityonfire.com’s Facebook by clicking here.

The Blu-ray & DVD for Northern Limit Line will be officially released on October 20, 2015. We will announce the 3 winners on October 21st.

CONTEST DISCLAIMER: You must enter by October 20, 2015 to qualify. U.S. residents only please. We sincerely apologize to our non-U.S. visitors. Winners must respond with their mailing address within 48 hours, otherwise you will automatically be disqualified. No exceptions. Contest is subject to change without notice.

WINNERS: Alan Tan, Sito and Bernie W.

Posted in News | Tagged | 17 Comments

Adventure begins for Shu Qi in the new trailer for ‘Mojin’

"Mojin – The Lost Legend" Chinese Teaser Poster

"Mojin – The Lost Legend" Chinese Teaser Poster

Chinese films have enjoyed great success at the local box office so far this year. Monster Hunt became China’s all-time top-grossing film last summer, and the more recent (and currently still in release) Lost In Hong Kong has also broken a few records and is a contender to claim the box office crown from Monster Hunt.

Another Chinese blockbuster due to be released this year is Mojin – The Lost Legend. Previously known as The Ghouls, it is directed by Wuershan (Painted Skin: The Resurrection and The Butcher, The Chef and the Swordsman) and produced by Chen Kuo Fu (The Message). It boasts an all-star cast that includes Chen Kun, Huang Bo, Shu Qi, Angelababy and Xia Yu.

Mojin will be released in IMAX and 3D in China on December 18. You can check out its new trailer here.

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The Complete Lady Snowblood | Blu-ray & DVD (Criterion)

"The Complete Lady Snowblood" Blu-ray Cover

"The Complete Lady Snowblood" Blu-ray Cover

RELEASE DATE: January 5, 2016

Get ready to start 2016 with a bloody vengeance! On January 5, 2016, the prestigious distribution company, Criterion Collection, will be releasing both Lady Snowblood (1973) and Lady Snowblood: Love Song of Vengeance (1974) as a box set on Blu-ray and DVD. Read on for the details.

A young woman (Meiko Kaji), trained from childhood as an assassin and hell-bent on revenge for her father’s murder and her mother’s rape, hacks and slashes her way to gory satisfaction.

Rampant with inventive violence and spectacularly choreographed swordplay, Toshiya Fujita’s pair of influential cult classics Lady Snowblood and Lady Snowblood: Love Song of Vengeance, set in late nineteenth- and early twentieth-century Japan, respectively, are bloody, beautiful extravaganzas composed of one elegant widescreen composition after another. The first Lady Snowblood was a major inspiration for Quentin Tarantino’s Kill Bill saga, and both of Fujita’s films remain cornerstones of Asian action cinema.

Features include: New 2K digital restorations of both films, with uncompressed monaural soundtracks on the Blu-rays; New interviews with Kazuo Koike, the writer of the manga on which the films are based, and screenwriter Norio Osada; Trailers; New English subtitle translations; plus, an essay by critic Howard Hampton.

Pre-order The Complete Lady Snowblood on Amazon.com today!

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

Advocate: A Missing Body, The (2015) Review

"The Advocate: A Missing Body" Korean Theatrical Poster

"The Advocate: A Missing Body" Korean Theatrical Poster

Director: Huh Jong-Ho
Writer: Choi Kwan-yeong, Lee Gong-joo
Cast: Lee Sun-Kyun, Kim Go-Eun, Lim Won-Hee, Jang Hyun-Sung, Hong Sung-Duk, Kim Yoon-hye, Kwak In-joon, Choi Jae-woong, Park Ji-yeong, Choi Kyoo-hwan
Running Time: 117 min.

By Paul Bramhall

Korean cinema has a habit of churning out inferior copycats to the movies that make an impact both on home soil and overseas. That’s why for every The Man from Nowhere we have a Man of Vendetta, and for every Masquerade we have a Memories of the Sword. Whether it be a suspiciously similar story, or the casting of a certain actor in an almost identical role, the copycats rarely stand up on their own two feet, and tend to become quickly forgotten. Part of this comes down to the fact that, regardless of the quality of the production, there’s no escaping the obvious fact that the movies in question would never have been given the green light, if not for the success of the title they’ve been inspired by

A Hard Day was one of the surprise hits of 2013, directed and written by Kim Seong-hoon, the movie has Lee Seon-gyoon playing a cop frantically trying to cover up the body of a man he accidentally kills in a hit and run incident. As much as it’s a thriller, A Hard Day also works just as effectively as a dark comedy, punctuated with some brief bursts of entertaining action. A couple of years later, and we have The Advocate: A Missing Body, which gives us Lee Seon-gyoon playing an incredibly confident lawyer, who’s frantically trying to find the body of a female that’s been the victim of a brutal murder. It just so happens that he’s the lawyer of the number one suspect. So in 2 years Seon-gyoon has gone from being a cop trying to hide a body, to a lawyer trying to find a body.

The Advocate: A Missing Body is directed by Heo Jong-ho, and the movie marks his sophomore effort after 2011’s thriller Countdown. Working from a script by Choi Kwan-yeong and Lee Gong-joo, the pair have put together an effective piece of crime storytelling. Kwan-yeong was himself involved in adapting the previously mentioned A Hard Day, and was also responsible for scripting the fantastic 2009 effort Bedevilled. Gong-joo on the other hand is clearly the less experienced of the pair, having only previously scripted the average horror Death Bell 2: Bloody Camp, and the Ryoo Seung-beom starring Suspect X. Regardless of this though, the pair have crafted a nicely constructed tale of blind sides and double crosses.

Where The Advocate: A Missing Body really goes wrong then, is in the execution. When we’re first introduced to Seon-gyoon’s lawyer character, for the first 30 minutes he’s almost insufferable. Overly confident to the point of arrogance, swaggering about, and clicking finger guns to the female staff at his office, it’s difficult to describe him as anything other than annoying. He’s paired with Im Won-hee, a familiar face of mid-budget Korean productions and favorite of director Ryoo Seung-wan (most notably he played the title role in Dachimawa Lee), however as performers they don’t really seem to gel, and never become entirely convincing as partners.

Seon-gyoon’s lawyer thankfully has a serious blow delivered to his confidence when, at the 30 minute mark, the suspect he’s worked so hard to try and convince the courtroom of is innocent, stands up and confesses to the murder. Having convinced a pair of the suspects friends to lie in court about the suspects relationship with the victim, when this revelation also comes to light his reputation is left in tatters. The only catch is that the body of the victim was never located, which remains Seon-gyoon’s sole piece of information to try and piece together exactly what’s going on and redeem himself as an upholder of justice.

While his reputation has been tarnished, his wits certainly haven’t been, and part of the appeal of The Advocate: A Missing Body comes down to watching Seon-gyoon smartly figure his way out of various conundrums he finds himself in. He has a capable match in actress Kim Go-eun, who goes from initially playing the prosecutor in the case, to someone that comes around to Seon-gyoon’s feeling that everything may not be as clear cut as it seems. Go-eun is one of Korea’s best up and coming actresses. After making her debut in 2012’s erotically charged drama A Muse, she turned in an equally impressive performance in Coin Locker Girl, and does so again here. While she’s made a couple of missteps along the way, notably with roles in flops like Monster, and most recently Memories of the Sword, there’s no denying Go-eun has a lot of talent.

Despite the caliber of the performers involved, and the quality of the script, there’s no escaping the pedestrian direction that the production suffers from. In many ways it’s easy to draw comparisons to Chronicles of Evil, also released in 2015, which similarly draws on the success of A Hard Day, crafting a tale of a cop trying to cover up the accidental killing of a random stranger. Both productions seems to suffer from the fact that neither have the same budget behind them as the movie that inspired them, and more importantly, neither seem to have the same passion. Despite the various predicaments that Seon-gyoon finds himself in, and there are many, there’s a distinct lack of urgency that surrounds any of the action taken as a result of circumstance. Even when he has to resort to chasing a motorcycle on foot, the lack of any excitement or danger sticks out like a sore thumb. As an audience we’re watching it, but we’re far from being involved in it.

During the final third, Jong-ho also makes a fatal error that perhaps points to his lack of experience as a director. By this time it’s been well and truly established how smart Seon-gyoon is, and his ability to stay one step ahead of those wanting to tarnish his name. However when a plot revelation is revealed which sees him deciding to side with the villains, there’s no way on earth any self respecting audience member would believe he’s truly become a bad guy. Jong-ho should be aware of this, so at the very least could have delivered a visual wink to the audience, assuring us that we’re along for the ride. However it seems he also presumes we should fall for his act of siding with the villains, making the whole episode a chore to get through, as we’re simply left waiting for it to be revealed that he’s still a good guy, rather than being told the obvious from the beginning.

Ultimately The Advocate: A Missing Body is difficult to review precisely because of how average it is. It’s not that bad, but at the same time it’s far from being good. Both here and with Chronicles of Evil, I was left with the distinct impression that both productions would have benefited from being made in the TV drama format, rather than a feature length production. There’s nothing decidedly cinematic about Jong-ho’s movie, and it’s mostly strung together with scenes that consist of characters talking to each other to propel the plot forward, in other words – perfect Korean TV drama material. As it stands though, judging The Advocate: A Missing Body as a mid-budget crime thriller, it passes the time much the same way as an episode of Columbo or Ironside. Whether that’s a compliment or not, is for the audience to decide.

Paul Bramhall’s Rating: 6/10

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Deal on Fire! The Last Dragon | Blu-ray | Only $9.99 – Expires soon!

The Last Dragon | Blu-ray (Sony)

The Last Dragon | Blu-ray (Sony)

Today’s Deal on Fire is the Blu-ray for 1985′s The Last Dragon, starring Taimak, Vanity (Action Jackson), Christopher Murney, Julius Carry, Glen Eaton and Ernie Reyes Jr. (Red Sonja).

An enjoyable pastiche of martial arts, romance, music, and video, The Last Dragon presents a likable young hero, Leroy (Taimak), who aspires to become a kung fu master. Though black and living in Harlem with his family, Leroy lives like a Chinese. Trouble arises in the form of a huge black man who calls himself “Sho’ Nuff, who is determined to prove himself the kung fu master of the neighborhood. Watch the trailer!

Order The Last Dragon from Amazon.com today!

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Nicholas Hoult and Felicity Jones ‘Collide’ in a new trailer!

"Collide" International Theatrical Poster

"Collide" International Theatrical Poster

Writer/director Eran Creevy (Welcome to the Punch) is back with dual dose of style ‘n action with his 3rd film, Collide (aka Autobahn). The upcoming flick stars Nicholas Hoult (Mad Max: Fury Road), Felicity Jones (Star Wars: Rogue One), Anthony Hopkins (Mission: Impossible II) and Ben Kingsley (Hugo).

Here’s the official plot: In Collide, a young American couple Casey (Hoult) and Juliette (Jones) are plunged into an adrenaline-pumping game of cat and mouse across Germany when they find themselves caught between two ruthless feuding criminals (Hopkins and Kingsley).

Collider will be hitting theaters on April 1, 2016. Until then, don’t miss the film’s exciting trailer!

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Tran Quoc Bao delivers kung fu action in ‘The Challenger’

"The Challenger" Promotional Poster

"The Challenger" Promotional Poster

Here’s an awesome short film for all of you kung fu fans to enjoy. Titled The Challenger, the short is the prequel for an upcoming feature film from Vietnamese-American filmmaker Tran Quoc Bao. Tran is writing, directing and editing the film, which stars Martial Club’s Andy Le and Ken Quitugua of ZeroGravity Stunts.

Tran says he wants his film’s audience to rush out of the theater screaming and punching the air. The film is slated for production in North America, late 2016. Trans is currently looking for additional investors, sales partners, and production collaborators.

For more information on The Challenger, visit the film’s official site.

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Simon Yam is either ‘Inside or Outside’ the action!

"Inside or Outside" Chinese Theatrical Poster

"Inside or Outside" Chinese Theatrical Poster

Simon Yam (Cross, Wild City) is back to doing what he does best in Inside or Outside, an upcoming action-thriller helmed by Mak Wing-Lun (SDU: Sex Duties Unit), a filmmaker prominently known for being the assistant director for Bodyguards and Assassins (2009) and The Grandmaster (2013).

Yam stars alongside Wallace Huo (Sound of Colors) and South Korean star, Jang Hyuk (Windstruck, The Flu). According to soompi.com, Inside or Outside follows a man with a mysterious past who gets caught up in a series of accidents and becomes the target of an assassinator.

Inside or Outside hits Chinese theaters on November 10, 2015. Don’t miss the film’s trailer!

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Is Bruce Le developing an ‘Enter the Dragon 2′?

"Enter the Game of Death" Korean Theatrical Poster

"Enter the Game of Death" Korean Theatrical Poster

Last year, Bruce Le (aka Huang Kin Long), cult martial arts star of Mission Terminate and Bruce Stikes Back, wrapped up his 7th directorial feature, Eyes of Dawn (a redux of his 1992 film, Comfort Women), a drama starring Cheng Pei-pei (Golden Swallow), her daughter Marsha Yuen (Pound of Flesh), Kenneth Tsang (A Better Tomorrow) and Le himself.

The movie was Le’s first film project after a 20+ year absence from show business. Fortunately, his comeback isn’t about to stop there…

In a recently published interview by Impact’s Mike Leeder, here’s what the “Bruceploitation” star had to say: “In the last ten years, I have been thinking about making a very big kung fu movie, full blooded martial arts action… I would really like to make a big sized co-production between America and China, my dream project is to make something that would be worthy to be called Enter the Dragon 2. That’s something I have been working on for some time, making preparation for the last few years. I know to make a movie that delivers on those elements will be a lot of work but its what I think I have to do.”

Le is obviously onto something. During a Q&A session (read the full interview) at the 2014 SENI Strength & Combat Event in London, the legendary Hwang Jang Lee (Invincible Armour) mentioned the possibility of reuniting with Le: “We made a few movies together in Europe. Actually he called me just last month, he asked if I want to be in a new movie with him. I said, sure, let’s see.”

We’ll be sure to keep you updated on this story as we hear more. Stay tuned!

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Lau Ching Wan gets derailed in ‘The Murderer Vanishes’

"The Murderer Vanishes" Chinese Theatrical Poster

"The Murderer Vanishes" Chinese Theatrical Poster

Director Law Chi Leung re-teams with Lau Ching Wan (Too Many Ways to Be Number One) for The Murderer Vanishes, the highly-anticipated sequel to 2012′s The Bullet Vanishes.

This time around, inspector Song Donglu (Lau) is summoned to investigate Fu (Jiang Yiyan), a woman who brilliantly escapes a prison by digging her way out with nothing but a silver spoon.

The Murderer Vanishes also stars Gordon Lam (Z Storm), Jacqueline Li Xiaolu (2007′s Blood Brothers) and Rhydian Vaughan (Crazy New Year’s Eve).

The Murderer Vanishes hits Chinese theaters on November 27, 2015. Don’t miss the trailer!

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Veteran (2015) Review

"Veteran" Theatrical Poster

"Veteran" Theatrical Poster

Director: Ryoo Seung-wan
Writer: Ryoo Seung-wan
Producer: Kang Hye-Jung
Cast: Hwang Jeong-Min, Yu A-In, Yu Hae-Jin, Oh Dal-Su, Jang Yun-Joo, Oh Dae-Hwan, Kim Si-Hu, Jeong Woong-In, Jeong Man-Sik, Cheon Ho-Jin, Song Young-Chang, Jin Kyung, Lee Dong-Hwi, Yu In-Young, Bae Sung-Woo
Running Time: 123 min.

By Paul Bramhall

Director Ryoo Seung-wan is a familiar name to fans of Korean action cinema, ever since his debut Die Bad in 2000, he’s consistently delivered a series of movies which combine action with a strong narrative. Since his riotous parody of old school Korean action movies with 2008’s Dachimawa Lee, the director has taken a decidedly darker approach, with both The Unjust and The Berlin File exploring the not so pleasant side of life. While both contained plenty of his trademarks, Seung-wan himself expressed a desire to move away from these darker tales, and get back to the type of action movies that he watched in his youth, those that existed in a brighter world where the good guy wins.

Veteran is that return, and is arguably his most successful production to date. At the time of writing, Seung-wan’s latest has surpassed US$1M at the US box office, which is no small feat for a Korean movie, and become the third most watched production of all time domestically. Pushing out Avatar, Korea’s top 3 most watched movies are now all domestic productions released between summer 2014 – summer 2015 (the first is The Admiral: Roaring Currents, and second Ode to My Father), perhaps indicating a new golden era for the Korean film industry.

On watching Veteran, it’s easy to see why. Seung-wan is once again paired with Korea’s best action choreographer and frequent collaborator, Jung Doo-hong, and together the end result is the director’s tightest movie to date. Hwang Jeong-min takes the lead role (also the star of Ode to My Father), and he gets plenty of chances to flex the action muscle which he showed a knack for in Fists of Legend and The New World. Playing an experienced detective, when one of his friends suspiciously attempts to commit suicide, all leads point to an arrogant corporate heir played by Yoo Ah-in. There are a whole bunch of supporting characters, on both sides of the law, however the story basically boils down to Jeong-min trying to get to the truth about what happened to his friend.

Jeong-min and Seung-wan have collaborated together before, when the actor played the lead in the 2010 thriller The Unjust. While in that movie he was also playing a detective, here his role couldn’t be any further away from the previous incarnation. Essentially playing the heart and soul of the movie, Jeong-min confidently swaggers his way though proceedings, never afraid to deliver a punch to the face of someone who deserves it, and thankfully the plot delivers a fair few that do. As the movie opens to the thumping soundtrack of ‘Heart of Glass’ by Blondie, he sets himself up to infiltrate a car smuggling ring, by hiding in the trunk of a vehicle set to be reconditioned. When events transpire that see him alone in a small garage against a group of angry gangsters, a fantastically choreographed scene plays out that displays more than a few nods to Jackie Chan, as various props are utilized in increasingly imaginative ways.

The Jackie Chan influence is also very visible in the way humor is incorporated into the action scenes, with several laugh out loud sight gags thrown in amongst the fists and feet. One aspect of the action which I felt really stuck out in Seung-wan’s previous effort, The Berlin File, was the understanding of how to convey a sense of impact onscreen. In that movie one scene has Ha Jeong-woo being knocked off his feet, landing awkwardly on a ventilation pipe jutting out from a building roof, and it’s filmed in such a way that you genuinely feel it. The sound design and camera angle is just perfect. Seung-wan and Doo-hong have successfully carried over that technique to Veteran, with some truly wince worthy blows and falls thrown into the mix.

Veteran also delivers a stellar cast, with plenty of familiar faces from Seung-wan’s previous movies turning up in various roles. Yoo Hae-jin, who starred alongside Jeong-min in The Unjust, here delivers a repulsive turn as Ah-in’s faithful assistant. Oh Dal-soo, a performer who could well be Korea’s busiest actor working today, turns up as Jeong-min’s closest team member, here hot off the heels from significant roles in both Assassination and opposite Jeong-min in Ode to my Father. Dal-soo also notably had a role in Seung-wan’s 2004 boxing drama Crying Fist.

Ah-in himself could be considered the newcomer of the bunch, and Veteran is by far the biggest production he’s worked on to date. At times his performance threatens to push his villainous upstart into territory which could be considered over the top, however he successfully manages to reel it in just as it’s teetering on the brink each time. His portrayal creates a character that’s easy to hate, which exactly fits the job description of his role, so no complaints.

Notably missing in action is the director’s brother, Ryoo Seung-beom, who usually turns up in some form or another in Seung-wan’s movies, marking the first time he hasn’t appeared since 2006’s City of Violence. Thankfully the movie doesn’t suffer from his absence, and despite a slight lag after a blistering opening third, things are brought back with a bang for the finale, that sees a car chase through the streets of Seoul which is refreshingly CGI free. Seung-wan has stated that a stuntman suffered an almost fatal injury on the set of Veteran, and while he didn’t go into the specifics of which stunt it happened on, watching a couple of impacts during said sequence, it’s probably a safe guess that it was during this scene.

After a container yard throwdown, a frenzied knife fight in a small apartment, a rooftop chase sequence, and a car park beatdown, Jeong-min breaks his fists out one more time to take on Ah-in, in a wonderfully messy knock down drag out street brawl that doesn’t disappoint. It even throws in a hilarious cameo from Ma Dong-seok just for good measure

Seung-wan has openly stated his love for the Lethal Weapon series, and approached Veteran with the series in mind. Stating in a recent interview how he particularly admired the way the cast, director, and production staff remained the same for each movie, the director has confirmed that there’ll be two sequels to Veteran. While we won’t be seeing the next installment for at least a couple of years, if it’s anything like the first one, you can count me in.

Paul Bramhall’s Rating: 8/10

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

‘The Advocate’ hits North American theaters in October!

"The Advocate: A Missing Body" Korean Theatrical Poster

"The Advocate: A Missing Body" Korean Theatrical Poster

CJ Entertainment is releasing South Korean legal crime comedy, The Advocate: A Missing Body in North American theaters October 23. The film stars Lee Sun-kyun (A Hard Day), Kim Go-Eun (Memories of the Sword), Lim Won-Hee (No Blood, No Tears), Jang Hyun-Sung (Shiri) and Hong Sung-Duk (Assassination). The dark comedic twists in this sensational crime thriller are sure to take North American audiences on a wild ride.

Byun Ho-sung (Lee Sun-kyun) is a stylish lawyer with a penchant for “creatively” winning cases for his wealthy clients. His latest case is defending a corporate employee accused of murdering his girlfriend, but of course there is a catch: there’s no body to be found.

The Advocate: A Missing Body is directed by Heo Jong-ho, who made his directorial debut with 2011’s Countdown, which gained acclaim at the 2011 Toronto International Film Festival. Director HEO brings his sophomore film to life with an incredibly talented cast and intriguing plot turns, promising to be his most ambitious and memorable film to date.

Catch The Advocate: A Missing Body on October 23. Until then, watch the trailer.

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Maria Ozawa and Cesar Montano take on ‘Nilalang’

"Nilalang" Theatrical Poster

"Nilalang" Theatrical Poster

Former Japanese adult video star, Maria Ozawa (Erotibot), is making her Filipino film debut in Nilalang (meaning “creature” in Tagalog), an upcoming action/horror movie starring Cesar Montano (José Rizal).

Nilalang will also feature martial arts and gangster-related themes. According to GMA, the film will tackle corrupt Philippine cops, Japanese Yakuza, and a centuries-old, evil curse. Ozawa, who is learning both Tagalog and martial arts for the film, will play the Yakuza’s heiress.

Nilalang will make its premiere in the Metro Manila Film Festival Parade in December. Stay tuned!

Updates: Check out two new trailers: Teaser | Full Trailer.

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More Shaw Brothers titles invade Netflix with a vengeance!

"Five Element Ninjas" Chinese Theatrical Poster

"Five Element Ninjas" Chinese Theatrical Poster

We have some great news for martial arts movie fans with a Netflix account. A couple of months ago, the popular streaming service added a pack of classic Shaw Brothers titles to their digital library – and just recently, they’ve added a fistful more!

The following is a full list of Shaw brothers titles that are currently streaming on Netflix. All movies are in Chinese with English subtitles:

Avenging Eagle (1978): Sun Chung’s Avenging Eagle proves that the Shaw Brothers were still at the top of their game, even toward the end of their movie-making empire. With its charismatic leading actors (Ti Lung and Alexander Fu Sheng), witty rapport, hateful villains, and out-of-this-world weaponry, this one is a definite source of delight for the old-school kung fu fan.

Come Drink with Me (1966): Come Drink With Me is one entertaining film. King Hu’s direction is top notch. The cinematography is beautiful. The sets are visually lavish. Its innovation and influence reflects many popular martial arts movies of today. Cheng Pei Pei is the real deal – we’re not sure what it is about her, but she pulls off a believable kung fu fighting babe with grace and style!

NEW! Cripped Avengers (1987): This Chang Cheh flick is often considered the Venoms’ best movie: It has action, cool characters, crazy special effects, and intricate choreography. The skill and physical prowess of the performers will make you curse the day that “martial arts” movies decided to depend more on pretty faces, wires, and camera tricks than on genuine talent.

Disciples of the 36th Chamber (1985): Disciples Of The 36th Chamber is one of the all time best films of the genre! This was essentially the last of the fantastic films to come from director Lau Kar Leung and the amazing cast (Hsiao Ho, Gordon Liu and Lily Li Li Li just to name a few…) from the Shaw Brothers. If the time had to come to an end for the most talented cast, this film is an excellent way to say goodbye to the viewers.

Executioners From Shaolin (1977): Executioner From Shaolin is one of the quirkier Shaw Brothers movies. What begins as a tale of blood-thirsty revenge slows down to become at times a romantic comedy and domestic drama. But it still has the classic training sequences that you expect from director Lau Kar-leung and one of hell of a bad guy in Pai Mei (Lo Lieh). One of Chen Kuan Tai’s best!

Five Shaolin Masters (1974): Chang Cheh’s Five Shaolin Masters (David Chiang, Ti Lung, Alexander Fu Sheng, Chi Kuan Chun and Meng Fei) is action-packed from beginning to end. It features the occasional artsy dash, livens up the narrative by splitting up into different storylines, and features great choreography – all of which was overseen by Lau Kar Leung himself.

NEW! Five Deadly Venoms (1978): Director Chang Cheh hit upon an extremely successful formula for this landmark kung fu film featuring a very talented cast and a genuinely involving story that goes far beyond the threadbare “I must avenge Teacher” and “kill the Japs” stuff that gives the old school martial arts genre a bad name. In fact, the plot overshadows the action to a certain extent; fight scenes in this movie are not particularly long, intense, or numerous. As it is, it’s very good fun, and its impact on the genre is tremendous.

NEW! Five Element Ninjas (1982): No need to spend $100+ for the out-of-print Blu-ray on Ebay or Amazon. It’s on Netflix right now for you to drool over! Chang Cheh’s pacing of the narrative is perfect. You might think this is just a schlocky fight-fest, but there’s emotional content here. When it comes to Shaw flicks, Five Element Ninjas would rank in the number one position. That’s about the highest praise we can give it.

NEW! Hero (1997): Although it’s not “old school,” Corey Yuen’s (No Retreat No Surrender II) Hero is technically a Shaw Brothers movie. Hero is a great film worthy of great praise. There are a few slow spots but that just gives you time to take a breath before the next savage, take no prisoner fight. The film does wander a bit but the performers are interesting, the fighting is top notch, violent, bloody and fierce. Hero stars Takeshi Kaneshiro, Yuen Biao, Valerie Chow, Yuen Wah, Yuen Tak, Jessica Hester and Corey Yuen himself.

Heroes of the East (1978): You can almost call it The War of the Roses meets Kung Fu with its silly, but smart, plot that revolves around a newlywed couple – a Japanese woman (Yuko Mizuno) and Chinese man (Gordon Liu) – who are constantly challenging each other to prove which is better: Chinese Kung Fu or Japanese Karate/Ninjitsu. A classic from Lau Kar Leung!

NEW! Invincible Shaolin (1978): Invincible Shaolin is a 90-minutes spectacle of deceit, annihilation and kung fu; and talk about a climax where all bloody hell breaks loose. In between the crisp choreography lies some great interaction between the fighters and their social surroundings. Unlike most kung fu movies, the characters (again, featuring the Venoms) are gleaming with personality. They’re smooth with women, honest to their friends, but naive when it comes to their enemies. To simply put it, Invincible Shaolin is one slick flick. You can thank Chang Cheh for this

Kid With The Golden Arm (1978): A fast-paced adventure from director Chang Cheh. There’s not a single dull minute. Insane plotting and many lead characters guarantee you’ll never know who’s going to be killed next, and by who. The spectacular battles are absolutely stunning, especially impressive being of course the final showdown between drunk master Hai To (Kuo Chui) and the high-kicking Iron Feet (not going to tell you who he is…).

Martial Arts of Shaolin (1986): Lau Kar Leung’s Martial Arts of Shaolin is worth a watch for Jet Li fans since you get to see the actor when he was first emerging as a star, fresh-faced and lightning fast. After about 30 minutes of training sequences, the excellently-choreographed battles kick in and rarely let up. Jet gives an earnest, wide-eyed performance and shows off his incredible martial arts skills.

NEW! Masked Avengers (1981): Another Venoms feature from the legendary Chang Cheh. If you’ve ever watched a Shaw Brothers kung fu film and found yourself thinking: “This flick is good and all, but what it REALLY needs is a bunch of blood-drinking, Satan-worshiping, mask-wearing villains and a whole lot more violence,” then Masked Avengers is the movie for you. This is a dark, dark movie, and those who require comedic antics with their kung fu need not apply.

NEW! Return to the 36th Chamber (1980): Also known as Return of the Master Killer, this innovative follow-up to the classice The 36th Chamber of Shaolin shows the Liu brothers at their lethal best, with director Liu Chia-liang transporting Gordon Liu Chia-hui back to the Ching Dynasty with some new kung fu tricks up his monk’s sleeve.

Shaolin Martial Arts (1974): In Chang Cheh’s Shaolin Martial Arts, two Shaolin practioners (Alexander Fu Sheng and Chi Kuan Chung) perfect their kung fu skills to seek revenge on the baddies responsible for wiping out their clan. One of Fu Sheng’s earliest projects for the Shaw Brothers!

We’ll do our best to keep this list updated as more Shaw Brothers titles are added. If you’re not subscribed to Netflix, what are you waiting for? You get all of these movies, plus more, for the monthly price of a Panda Express combo meal.

Posted in News | 13 Comments

Deal on Fire! Ip Man: The Final Fight | Blu-ray | Only $9.99 – Expires soon!

Ip Man: The Final Fight | Blu-ray & DVD (Well Go USA)

Ip Man: The Final Fight | Blu-ray & DVD (Well Go USA)

Today’s Deal on Fire is the Blu-ray for Ip Man: The Final Fight, directed by Herman Yau (The Untold Story) and starring Anthony Wong (Punished), Eric Tsang (Project S), Jordan Chan (Fox Hunter), Dennis To (Ip Man: Legend is Born), Hung Yan Yan (Shaolin) and Ken Lo (SPL 2).

In postwar Hong Kong, legendary Wing Chun grandmaster Ip Man (Wong) is reluctantly called into action once more. What began as simple challenges from rival kung fu schools soon finds him drawn into the dark and dangerous underworld of the Triads. Now, to defend life and honor, Ip Man has no choice but to fight – one last time.

Order Ip Man: The Final Fight from Amazon.com today!

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Raid, The (1990) Review

"The Raid" Theatrical Poster

"The Raid" Theatrical Poster

Director: Ching Siu Tung, Tsui Hark
Writer: Tsui Hark, Yuen Kai-Chi
Cast: Dean Shek Tien, Fennie Yuen, Jacky Cheung, Tony Leung, Joyce Godenzi, Paul Chu Kong, Corey Yuen, Lau Siu Ming, Kei Gwong Hung, Chiu Man Yan, Liu Fan, Shut Mei Yee
Running Time: 100 min.

By Kyle Warner

Beyond a title that may confuse less-informed film fans interested in Asian cinema, The Raid has absolutely nothing in common with the Gareth Evans films of the same name. So, let’s get that out of the way right now. Instead, Tsui Hark’s The Raid has more in common with Hark’s most recent adventure, The Taking of Tiger Mountain. Like that film, The Raid is based on popular source material written in 1950s (a comic book, in this case), revolutionary soldiers are the good guys, Tony Leung Ka-fai plays an outrageously evil villain, big set pieces are the name of the game, and it skirts politics in favor of adventurous thrills at nearly every turn.

It’s a time of oppression in Manchuria during the 1930s, and Emperor Pu Yi has aligned himself with the cruel Japanese Commander Masa (Tony Leung Ka-fai) and Yoshiko Kawashima (Joyce Godenzi) to create weapons that will shake the world. One such weapon is a poison gas, which they intend to use to wipe out their opposition. Dr. Choy (Dean Shek), a retired soldier who now works as a village doctor, learns about the poison gas and tries to join the revolutionary soldiers in their attempts to locate and destroy Commander Masa’s weapons factory. Dr. Choy is told he’s too old, though, and is turned away. Driven by patriotism and annoyance at the younger generations, Dr. Choy goes off on his own, soon proving himself to be a hero of the resistance.

Along the way, Dr. Choy runs into a colorful assortment of characters, including idiotic gangsters Bobo Bear (Jacky Cheung) and Brother Big Nose (Corey Yuen). Shifting alliances and knowing who stands with whom is a big part of The Raid, but the film goes for humor in these situations instead of paranoia and dramatic tension. The comedy is actually funny, too, often based around elaborate misunderstandings. While things are kept light in the dialogue scenes, the action is often surprisingly violent and bloody. This shift of tone may throw some viewers, however those familiar with Hong Kong cinema’s particular styles and indulgences should feel right at home.

The Raid marks the final screen appearance of actor and producer Dean Shek (A Better Tomorrow II), who would retire after this film at the age of 42. Shek is really good here, acting as the story’s backbone. He’s assisted by a strong cast, with each performer giving amusing and charming performances. Jacky Cheung and Corey Yuen are especially likable as a pair of morally ambiguous thugs caught in the middle of the revolution.

As mentioned earlier, The Raid is based on a popular comic book from the 1950s. If you didn’t know that going in, you’ll figure it out pretty quickly as the film can’t help but remind you every 15 minutes. The film’s opening credits are done in an animated comic book style, which is cool, but I think the filmmakers kept it going a bit too long. Scene transitions frequently include the flipping of the page, like we’re going to the next chapter of the comic. Some of these transitions replace the actors with animated versions of themselves for a brief moment. The effect is reminiscent of an 80’s music video. It’s stylish but ultimately unnecessary and maybe a little bit much.

The Raid is co-directed by Tsui Hark and Ching Siu-tung (Duel to the Death) but this feels like a Tsui Hark film all the way. For fans of Hark, almost every scene reminds you of why you love the guy. For Hark’s detractors, The Raid isn’t going to help change your mind about the director. Tsui Hark’s stylish visuals, coupled with a goofy screenplay (attributed to Hark and Yuen Kai-chi) and some messy subtitles on the Well Go USA DVD make for an occasionally dizzying film experience.

The film is available on DVD in the US thanks to Well Go USA. While the print has some dirt on it, I thought that the picture quality was really good. For audio we get 5.1 and 2.0 Cantonese tracks. Sadly the subtitles could use some work, as they’re full of typos, which I think is rare for a Well Go USA release. The only special features are trailers.

The Raid is a crowd-pleasing adventure, one that’s funny and exciting in almost equal measure. It’s not particularly deep but it’s a whole lot of fun. Fans of Tsui Hark that missed the movie before are in for a treat.

Kyle Warner’s Rating: 8/10

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Yonggary | Blu-ray (Kino Lorber)

Yonggary | Blu-ray (Kino Lorber)

Yonggary | Blu-ray (Kino Lorber)

RELEASE DATE January 5, 2016

Kino Lorber presents the Blu-ray for 1967′s Yonggary (aka Great Monster Yongary or Yongary, Monster From the Deep), directed by Kim Ki-duk (no relation to the Moebius filmmaker of the same name) and starring Oh Yeong-il and Nam Jeong-im.

Yongary, Korea’s first entry into the kaiju movie genre, revolves around a prehistoric, gasoline-eating reptile that soon goes on a rampage through Seoul. Essentially, this is Korea’s answer to Godzilla. | Watch the trailer.

Pre-order Yonggary from Amazon.com today!

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‘Expendables 4′ to begin filming in 2016!

"Expendables 4" Japanese Theatrical Poster

"Expendables 4" Japanese Theatrical Poster

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

BREAKING NEWS: According to sources, Expendables 4 will start filming in 2016, following a deal with SP International Pictures on behalf of SSXH Beijing and Max Screen Film Distribution. No director or cast members have been officially announced, but that may change in the next few weeks. Stay tuned!

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Giant monsters attack! ‘Gamera’ to return to the big screen

"Gamera" Japanese Theatrical Poster

"Gamera" Japanese Theatrical Poster

Poll just about anyone around the world and they’re likely to know who Godzilla is. The giant irradiated lizard has been crushing cities underfoot since 1954. Lesser known, however, is Gamera, the larger-than-life turtle who is a friend to all children. The lovable creature has starred in a host of his own movies, though he’s perhaps best remembered for the stellar trilogy of films that started with 1995′s Gamera: Guardian of the Universe.

Because you can’t keep a prehistoric kaiju turtle down, Gamera is set to return next year with 2016′s simply titled Gamera. The film will arrive from director Katsuhito Ishii, an unlikely choice considering his resume of more adult-leaning titles such as Shark Skin Man and Peach Hip Girl and Funky Forest.

An action-packed trailer for the movie recently premiered at the New York Comic Con and it looks like Gamera will be following in the grim ‘n gritty, color-drained look of contemporary monster features such as Cloverfield and Godzilla (2014). Stay tuned for more details as they develop…!

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Deal on Fire! Special ID | Blu-ray | Only $9.96 – Expires soon!

Special ID | Blu-ray & DVD (Well Go USA)

Special ID | Blu-ray & DVD (Well Go USA)

Today’s Deal on Fire is the Blu-ray for Clarence Fok’s Special ID (read our review) which stars Donnie Yen (Kung Fu Killer), Jing Tian (From Vegas to Macau), Andy On (Zombie Fight Club), Zhang Hanyu (White Vengeance), Ronald Cheng (Legendary Assassin) and Collin Chou (Flash Point).

A cop (Yen) and his team of comrades go undercover in one of China’s most ruthless underworld organizations to stop a gang leader, only to put themselves in great danger after being exposed one by one.

Order Special ID from Amazon.com today!

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Bruce Strikes Back | aka The Ninja Strikes Back (1982) Review

"Bruce Strikes Back" Theatrical Poster

"Bruce Strikes Back" Theatrical Poster

AKA: Eye of the Dragon, Bruce Le Fights Back
Director: Joseph Kong, Bruce Le, Jean-Marie Pallardy
Producer: André Koob, Dick Randall
Cast: Bruce Le (aka Huang Kin Long, Wong Kin Lung), Hwang Jang Lee, Casanova Wong, Harold Sakata, Bolo Yeung, Chick Norris, Fabienne Beze, Andre Koob, Monica Lam, Jean-Marie Pallardy, Dick Randall

By Paul Bramhall

American producer Dick Randall’s name is synonymous with the exploitation genre, having a career which spanned 3 decades, from the early 60’s to the early 90’s he made a slew of entertainingly low budget B-movies. Be it giallo thrillers, slasher flicks, soft-core sleaze, or mondo-documentaries, whatever was popular at the time, Randall got in on. The kung fu genre was no different, and in 1980 he somehow created the unlikely pairing of Bruce Lee imitator, Bruce Le, and Godfrey Ho’s favorite white guy ninja, Richard Harrison. The movie was Challenge of the Tiger, and in a plot to foil a terrorist group who’ve stolen a formula with the power to kill sperm (yes you read correctly), Le and Harrison head to Spain and battle through crazed bulls, Hwang Jang Lee, and other assorted bad guys.

A couple of years on, Randall and Le unite once more for Bruce Strikes Back. Several faces also return from their previous collaboration, including Hwang Jang Lee and Bolo. Notably Le seems to have dug up his wardrobe from Challenge of the Tiger, strutting around in the same white blazer jacket and oversized shades as he did a couple of years prior, but he wears them well so it’s forgivable. Bruce Strikes Back is also much bigger in scope, with Le globetrotting around Italy, France, Hong Kong, and Macau. While he’s lost his partner Harrison, who was probably off fighting the Ninja Empire at this time, Le does get temporarily paired up with a French cop, played by André Koob, and his partner, played by Randall’s wife Corliss Randall (hilariously credited as Chick Norris).

Much like Challenge of the Tiger, Bruce Le is again listed as the fight choreographer and co-director, this time paired with frequent collaborator Joseph Velasco. Velasco (usually credited as Joseph Kong) and Le worked on countless Bruceploitation pictures together, from My Name Called Bruce in 1978 through to Bruce’s Secret Kung Fu in 1988. True to form, in Bruce Strikes Back Le also gets to play a character imaginatively called, wait for it, Bruce. The plot is standard stuff – Le and Hwang Jang Lee play best of friends working for the Chinese mafia in Rome, however when an exchange goes wrong, Hwang gets away and Le is left to take the rap. After serving his jail time, Le’s seen the error of his ways and decides to go straight, however the mafia won’t have any of it. Soon he’s being pursued by Hwang Jang Lee and mob boss Sakata, who is played by Harold Sakata, better known as Odd Job from the 007 franchise !

Sakata even gets to wear the famous steel rimmed hat as he did in Goldfinger 18 years prior, and for good measure has a bronze hand cast that fits on his hand. The cast is the most ridiculous weapon I’ve ever seen, it’s literally just a cast, immobile in every way, like an overly heavy fly swatter. However it seems to do the job of striking fear into any one who questions his authority, as witnessed when he brings it out in front of Bolo, and with a quivery voice the muscle man is reduced to begging, “Please, put that away!” The pairing of Sakata and Bolo as the bad guys also matches with the whole Enter the Dragon meets ‘007’ theme that the movie appears to be stretching for. Musical cues from both movies are used throughout, and you’re never quite sure if the next scene is going to be influenced by Bruce Lee or James Bond.

Thankfully Bruce Strikes Back happily goes off in its own crazy direction more than enough during its compact 80 minute run time. Female nudity is prevalent throughout, and within the first 4 minutes we’ve already been introduced to the bad guy’s mansion, mainly through images of topless women frolicking around the pool. Not to mention the tigers. For the duration of the movie any scene taking place in the mansion comes with a gratuitous topless shot of some well endowed female. By far the most out there scene though comes during a chase sequence through Paris, of which it turns out the destination is an apartment in which a lesbian porno movie is being filmed, in 3D! At least that’s what the director shouts that he wants. The sequence spends more time on the two women, awkwardly fumbling about naked on top of each other, than it does the pursuit itself. When Le eventually gets there, it turns out it’s the wrong apartment! You have to love the exploitation genre.

Speaking of exploitation, the bad guy’s mansion also contains a Bob Wall imitator within its grounds, which possibly make this the first movie to feature a case of Bob Wallspolitation? The scene also deserves a special mention which has the French cop attempting to interrogate a subject by drowning him in a urinal. Somehow everyone working on the production failed to point out that, whose ever idea it was to modify the ‘head in the toilet bowl’ concept to a ‘head in a urinal’ one, the physics of it simply don’t work. But kudos to the actor suffering the interrogation, he does a great job of looking terrified as his face is pressed to the ceramic surface of the urinal, a small trickle of water streaming down his cheek every time the French cop hits the little flush button.

Eventually plot points transpire to propel the movie forward. The daughter of the US ambassador in Italy, played by Randall himself, has been kidnapped, and Le suspects it’s his old cohorts who are behind it. After running into a dead end in Paris, he follows a lead to Hong Kong, only to find his sister there has also been kidnapped. Le’s been spending most of the movie up until this point convincing his Italian girlfriend to come with him to Hong Kong, mostly set to panpipe versions of such classics as ‘Bridge Over Troubled Water’ and ‘Morning Has Broken,’ however it would be a spoiler to say if she joins him or not. In an unexpected turn of events though, when he meets his sister’s boyfriend, the character is played by Casanova Wong.

This leads to an unexpectedly enjoyable scene of Le and Wong teaming up to take on a pair of ninjas in a cemetery, and it’s also worth mentioning an especially well put together scene of when Le goes solo against a disappearing ninja. The sequence has been cut in such a way that it looks like Le is seamlessly performing his choreography, and that whenever the ninja teleports to a different spot around him, his blows land on him perfectly. It would be easy to do with today effects (see Rain vs. Sho Kosugi in the finale of Ninja Assassin), but to see it in 1982, in what’s essentially an old school kung fu flick, it was entertaining to watch just how well it was executed.

As Le gets closer to the truth, events transpire to see him back where it all started, in Rome, Italy. He gets to square off against Sakata, which includes the use of the deadly hat that will be forever associated with Odd Job (and the brass hand cast gets some action as well), however a Bruceploitation flick with a finale set in Rome was only ever going to go one way, and Bruce Strikes Back doesn’t disappoint. Decked out all in black, Hwang Jang Lee awaits Le in the coliseum, and just like Bruce Lee and Chuck Norris had their epic showdown 10 years earlier, the Korean super kicker and former Shaw Brothers actor go toe to toe in the legendary arena. Apart from the obligatory fists and kicks, the fight also comes with a healthy dose of eagle and tiger sound effects, x-ray vision bone breakages, and for anyone who ever wanted to see an animated version of Hwang Jang Lee’s heart, this movie has it.

Bruce Strikes Back may be Bruceploitation, and there’s little doubt that anyone would class it as anything other than a B-movie. But to see Bruce Le punching and kicking his way through Italy, France, and Hong Kong, with a cast that includes names like Hwang Jang Lee, Casanova Wong, and Bolo, for any discerning kung fu fan the movie should provide a good time. For everyone else, there’s gratuitous nudity and Odd Job, not necessarily in that order.

Paul Bramhall’s Rating: 7.5/10

Posted in All, Bruceploitation, Chinese, Reviews | Tagged , , , , , | 7 Comments

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

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

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

RELEASE DATE: December 1, 2015

Well Go USA presents the Blu-ray & DVD for Assassination (read our review), directed by Choi Dong-hun (The Thieves).

A group of rebels are planning a hit on an Army Leader in Japanese-occupied Korea, but the only killer for the job is in prison. Now, the Resistance must devise a jailbreak, escape a hitman… and discover which of them is a traitor.

The film stars Jun Ji-Hyun (My Sassy Girl), Lee Jung-Jae (Il Mare), Oh Dal-su (Old Boy), Ha Jung-Woo (Yellow Sea), Cho Jin-woong (Spirit of JKD) and Lee Kyoung-young (A Better Tomorrow). | Trailer.

Pre-order Assassination from Amazon.com today!

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