Michael Jai White joins Steven Seagal’s ‘Asian Connection’

"The Asian Connection" Teaser Poster

"The Asian Connection" Teaser Poster

We love Steven Seagal, but damn, we sure find it hard as hell to keep up with the films on his to-do list. So far, we have Code of Honor, Under Siege 3, Cypher, Perfect Weapon, End of a Gun, Killing Salazar and Four Towers.

Another one you can add to the pile is The Asian Connection, a project that’s being helmed by Daniel Zirilli, a director mostly known for 2010′s Locked Down and Circle of Pain, both of which are MMA-style TapouT Film productions. Danny Roth (Shark Lake) is producing.

The Asian Connection also stars Michael Jai White (Skin Trade), Tom Sizemore (Natural Born Killers), Damon Whitaker (Ghost Dog), Ron Smoorenburg (Who Am I?) and Sahajak Boonthanakit (Tekken 2: Kazuya’s Revenge).

Here’s what you can expect from the film’s plot: Two American expatriates, Jack and Sam, unwittingly steal a drug lord’s money when they rob a series of banks in Southeast Asia and become the target of the gang’s vengeance. When Sam is killed, Jack turns to the love of his life, Pom, and the couple becomes a modern-day Bonnie and Clyde that takes the fight to the gang.

We’ll keep up updated as we hear more – stay tuned!

Posted in News | 2 Comments

The pressure is on for Robert Yahnke’s action flick ‘Blowback’

"Blowback" Teaser Poster

"Blowback" Teaser Poster

A spy breaks up with his girlfriend after another false accusation of infidelity, and in her rage, she discovers his true occupation as a spy and blows his cover to the arms dealer who is looking for him. Espionage is a bitch…

You’ve just read the plot synopsis for Blowback, an Asian-influenced action flick by Robert Yahnke. The film stars Sport Karate Hall of Famer, Jessen Noviello (known for this stuntwork in films such as Universal Soldier: Day of Reckoning and 300: Rise of an Empire), and features action choreography by veteran stuntman Steven Lambert (Ninja III: The Domination).

There is currently no release date for Blowback, but we’ll keep you in the loop as we hear more. For now, don’t miss the film’s trailer!

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Exclusive: Interview with Sakura Ando

Exclusive: Interview with Sakura AndoBeginning with 2008’s Love Exposure, actress Sakura Ando’s career trajectory has been mightily impressive. She has worked with two of the biggest contemporary Japanese directors, Sion Sono (Why Don’t You Play in Hell?) and Takashi Miike (13 Assassins), and continues to develop as a great leading lady in Japanese cinema.

I knew that Miss Ando was going to attend the Edinburgh Film Festival, and was in the process of attempting to get an interview with her when I bumped into her at a Film Festival party. I managed to charm her enough to get an interview the next day before she left the city. Looking very different in appearance from her role in 100 Yen Love (see my review), she had slimmed down, and looked all the better for it. The interview was enlightening and enjoyable, as she considered each question with an air of coolness and relaxed wit.

Note: The interview was entirely conducted with myself speaking English and Miss Ando speaking Japanese.

"100 Yen Love" Japanese Theatrical Poster

"100 Yen Love" Japanese Theatrical Poster

MARTIN SANDISON: Have you had a chance to walk around Edinburgh? What do you think of the city?

SAKURA ANDO: I really enjoyed the city, I really like Edinburgh. I went to the Botanical Garden, it was the best timing to go. All the nature, the history, it feels like everything is fused in together and it is really comfortable. Not just comfortable really enjoyable and entertaining aswell.

MS: So what do you think of the Edinburgh Film Festival?

SA: I’ve only had a limited time before the screenings, I have only had two days. It’s a shame I haven’t had a chance to look around much. I had heard about Edinburgh Film Festival and its reputation so I was looking forward to it. The point is that the film festival is based in Edinburgh with this background, which makes it a unique Festival. It’s an international film festival but it feels very friendly and homely aswell.

MS: That’s Edinburgh. So to talk about 100 Yen Love, what do you think of your character and her development throughout the film?

SA: The transformation physically, the appearance, that had a lot of affect on the actual character. So that played a large part in creating the character. Because the training was done in a very limited, short time to actually to be able to reflect on yourself and your body it was a very precious experience to have. About my character Ichiko I was drawn to it when I was reading the script particularly how she was fighting, how she was battling. It’s not necessarily the most beautiful thing she gets really gruesome she gets hit a lot she gets knocked down. It doesn’t look attractive. Even when she knows she’s losing she still gets up and keeps fighting, and thats the factor that I was drawn to in the character.

Sakura Ando getting strong now in "100 Yen Love"

Sakura Ando getting strong now in "100 Yen Love"

MS: Had you studied boxing before the role?

SA: I actually did about a year of boxing when I was 14. The reason why I did it was because there was a boxing gym in my neighbourhood that was filled with Yakuza-type people (laughs) so I was curious to see what it was like to do it. That was when I enjoyed doing boxing and really liked the sport.

MS: Have you done any Martial Arts training?

SA: I’ve never done sports training besides the boxing when I was 14. No Martial arts, no sports. Before training for the film I started off without having much muscle on me but I think I’m quite agile and have the flexibility to move.

MS: Well you look like a professional!

SA: I was training as if I was actually going to become a professional. I didn’t want the professional trainers to think that I was training just because I was an actress. Just for the act. Then the boxing associates suggested that I take the professional route!

MS: It’s like Robert De Niro in Raging Bull!

(SA Laughs)

SA: At the beginning I felt a strong feeling towards Ichiko before she starts doing boxing that she is unkempt, she’s slacking and she has a very sewage like scent going off her. But I didn’t want people to think Oh! an actress is doing that for the part. I really wanted to get in to the part and not just the surface. I tried really hard to visually and mentally become Ichiko in that unkempt situation where she is dirty.

Sakura Ando with her crew in "Love Exposure"

Sakura Ando with her crew in "Love Exposure"

MS: Possibly your most famous role is in Sion Sono’s Love Exposure. You perform a lot of fight scenes in that film. How would you compare working on those to the boxing scenes in 100 Yen Love?

SA: Comparing the two films, Love Exposure does have a lot of physical fighting but I think it’s more about the mentality. The character herself is a bit mental at the beginning (Laughs). So the body is moving but it’s more on the basis of what the character can do to the other people. How she can manipulate them physchologically. And so it’s more about the character enjoying that mentality. Whereas with 100 Yen Love it’s purely more physical battling. It’s a battle she has with herself both physically and psychologically. It’s a comparison with whom she is fighting.

MS: How would you describe working with Sion Sono? What’s he like as a director?

SA: The film and the director himself, I made this film 8 or 9 years ago so it’s quite a while. It was when I was getting more involved with feature films and I learned a lot about the involvement the energy that goes in to film making. And I learned a lot from doing that. That was because the director was so energetic, charismatic person and trying to keep up with him, the toughness you need to do that, that’s really helped me throughout the career I’ve had after that film. He requires almost the impossible from you and it’s a very hustle bustle environment to work in but everyone’s enjoying it at the same time. The director himself is really enjoying it. It’s a very special experience.

"0.5mm" Japanese Theatrical Poster

"0.5mm" Japanese Theatrical Poster

MS: Will you work with Sion Sono again?

SA: Love Exposure was a very condensed, really intense shoot, so me and the other leading actress Shikari Mitsushima haven’t had much chance to work with him after that, but if there is a chance that shows up after this it will be a good opportunity to work with him. But right now he is a very popular director he’s making films constantly throughout the year.

MS: You have worked on both Japanese film and Television, how would you compare working on them?

SA: Yes I’ve tried once starring in a major television series in Japan. The process of creating a television series and a film is completely different, particularly in shooting physically you’re restricted in time, you’ve got regulations of what and cannot do in television, so that’s really different than film. There’s a lot of things I could say if I was being truthful and honest, but now I’m thinking things through! After concentrating completely on the television series I had a time when I got really confused with how I act because it’s so different doing TV and films. Particularly the TV series I was in it wasn’t a typical Japanese drama it was more like I would always have my face or eye looking at the camera at all times so it was very different. It was through experiencing something that I was not used to doing, so all that frustration was reflected in to 100 Yen Love. I’m not really saying that either one is good or bad, they both have their benefits and their good sides. I think it’s because my father is a director and my sister is a director too. I’ve grown up in an environment where film was very close to me so I’m more familiar and closer to the making of feature films compared to how television series are made.

"Oh, My Bomb" Japanese Theatrical Poster

"Oh, My Bomb" Japanese Theatrical Poster

MS: So do you have a favourite Japanese director?

SA: Very difficult question! (Laughs) I do like Kihachi Okamoto.

MS: He is one of my favourites too! I love his films. Do you have a favourite film of his?

(Sakura asks her agent and the translator to find the English title of one of Okamoto’s films)

SA: Both questions what is your favourite film, what’s your favourite director are both very difficult questions to answer. It depends on the day! (Laughs) To be honest even if I have a favourite director I think, Oh I like this director! There are films that I’m not keen on.

MS: Me too. My favourite director is John Woo and I love his earlier films like his Martial art films then his gangster films, but now his films are not so good.

SA: Directors do change over time! (Laughs) I’m not saying which is better or not but it’s kind of nostalgic and nice when you recognise a film and go Oh! This is one of the earlier films that the director made and I really enjoyed it. It’s very interesting.

(Sakura finds out the name of the Okamoto film)

Photo courtesy of ishikawatakuya.com.

Photo courtesy of ishikawatakuya.com.

SA: It’s called Oh, My Bomb! There is another one too. I like the other one. It depicts the life of a normal Japanese bussinessman.

MS: I don’t know that one. I’ll have to watch it! What’s your next project?

SA: I’ve had three consecutive films made with me as the protagonist and I’ve put all my heart, spirit and soul into all three, so I’ve been taking a break as an actress this past year. But I’ve been doing a lot of the promotion of the three films going abroad and promoting and trying to send that film so people want to see it. It’s been a very fulfilling, satisfying and good experience being able to be in the same place, where I can send off the things I’ve been creating and experience people seeing it at the same time. So that’s been a very good experience. Come September/October I’ll be starting another shoot, a film based on music, related to music.

MS: That’s great, thanks very much!

SA: Thank you!

To read more of our interviews, please click here.

Posted in Features, Interviews, News | 3 Comments

COF’s ‘Police Story: Lockdown’ Blu-ray Giveaway! – WINNERS ANNOUNCED!

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

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

Cityonfire.com and Well Go USA are giving away 3 Blu-ray copies of Police Story: Lockdown to three lucky Cityonfire visitors. To enter, simply add a comment to this post and describe, in your own words, this clip.

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 Police Story: Lockdown will be officially released on August 11, 2015. We will announce the 3 winners on August 17, 2015 and ship out the prizes immediately.

CONTEST DISCLAIMER: You must enter by August 16, 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: Gary W., Andrew and Pai Mei.

Posted in News | Tagged | 31 Comments

Eternal Fist | aka Fist of Steel (1992) Review

"Eternal Fist" Theatrical Poster

"Eternal Fist" Theatrical Poster

AKA: Death Zone
Director: Teddy Chiu (aka Irvin Johnson)
Producer: Andy Andico, Vivian Andico
Cast: Dale ‘Apollo’ Cook, Don Nakaya Neilsen, Cynthia Khan, Alina Borkowski, Greg Douglas, Greg Douglass, Jim Gaines
Running Time: 97 min

By Paul Bramhall

In 1989 a movie by the name of Cyborg unleashed a certain Belgian thespian upon the world in the form of Jean Claude Van Damme. The story, which took place in a dark post apocalyptic world ruled by chaos and violence, saw Van Damme rising up to be a hero for the people through slow motion spinning jump kicks and questionable acting. Be that as it may, Cyborg is solid B-movie material, and helped put Van Damme firmly on the map as an action star. 3 years later, in 1992, director Irvin Johnson decided to try the same tactic to launch Dale ‘Apollo’ Cook as the next big action hero.

It’s worth pointing out that Irvin Johnson is in fact a pseudonym for director Teddy Chiu, a member of that revered group of Filipino directors that churned out countless action B-movies in the 80’s and early 90’s (see also the likes of Mission Terminate and Future Hunters). Teddy liked his aliases, as he also sometimes went by the pseudonym of Ted Johnson (Blood Chase), other times he called himself Ted Hemingway (Final Appraisal), and on occasion he even went by the name of Teddy Page (Ninja’s Force). Quite where Irvin came from is anyone’s guess.

Eternal Fist kicks off with stock footage of an atomic bomb going off. By 1992 Johnson must have presumed the world had been subjected to that many post apocalyptic movies, we should all know the deal. So we never find out what the cause of the bomb was, and we don’t even get a voiceover telling us how half of humanity have been wiped off the planet, and the rest left to fend for themselves. Isn’t that how all these movies are supposed to start off? Instead we get a title sequence which let’s us know that we’re going to be watching WORLD KICKBOXING MIDDLEWEIGHT CHAMPION DALE ‘APPOLO’ CREED, and US KICKBOXING HEAVYWEIGHT CHAMPION DON NAYAKA NIELSEN.

Apart from the permanence of such introductions (I’m sure neither of them are the current champions), there is something distinctly ominous about such overstated billing. It’s almost like the producers are pre-empting the fact that these guys performances are going to be really poor, but when it comes to fighting they’re the real deal! Unfortunately it’s become a well known fact by now that just because you have the credentials in the ring, doesn’t mean you’re going to look great on the screen – just ask Don ‘The Dragon’ Wilson.

Cook continued to be pushed as the new Van Damme for the duration of his career in the film industry, which totaled 9 movies between 1991 – 1995, but audiences just didn’t buy it. In part it was due to lack of exposure, when one of your biggest roles is being the star of American Kickboxer 2, you know you’re in trouble when the first question most people ask is, “Was there an American Kickboxer 1!?”. By the time he starred in one of his last efforts, Raw Target, it was almost as if the distributors simply decided the best way to move forward was to force the point, plastering across the poster – “Dale Apollo Cook is the New Van Damme…” It wasn’t just speculation anymore, it was fact!

What’s most interesting about Eternal Fist though is that neither Cook nor Nielsen receive top billing. That privilege goes to Cynthia Khan. What is Cynthia Khan, a name synonymous with the Girls with Guns genre, doing in a B-grade English language post-apocalyptic flick!? It’s a good question. Khan is one of the most recognizable faces from the late 80’s – early 90’s Hong Kong action movie scene, having starred in every official entry of the highly regarded In the Line of Duty series. By the early 90’s though the Girls with Guns genre was on its way out, so it could well be that Khan was attempting to diversify into other types of genre. Sadly though it wasn’t a successful transition, and even though she still had some high points, notably the Sammo Hung directed 1993 period piece Blade of Fury, by 1995 she was relegated to starring in Philip Ko Fei directed Filipino cheapies like Angel on Fire.

In Eternal Fist Khan bizarrely gets two roles. When the movie opens she and Cook are running through the desert (because naturally the atomic bomb turned the world into one big desert) while being pursued by an evil gang of post apocalyptic bad guys. You know they’re evil, because one of them wears a wheel trim on his chest as a fashion statement. They fight, but Khan doesn’t survive, with Cook barely escaping. He eventually stumbles across a settlement of Christian’s (the director is Filipino after all), and there he’s nursed back to health by, wait for it, Cynthia Khan. It turns out that the woman nursing him back to health is the spitting image of his murdered girlfriend, Lyssa, but it’s confirmed several times (probably as much for the audiences benefit as Cook’s) that this character isn’t Lyssa, this character’s name is Wild. You may think Cook would be suspicious of someone with such a name, but his character is called Amp, so I guess not.

Cook actually had a small role in the Cynthia Khan starring Hong Kong movie Deadend of Besiegers, made a year earlier, which is perhaps how she ended up appearing in this. Much like Cook was dubbed for his role in Deadend of Besiegers, here Khan, although evidently speaking English by reading her lips, is over dubbed by what sounds like a softly spoken middle class British woman. Personally, I would have preferred to hear her actual voice. That said, even dubbed, she out acts and out performs everyone else in the movie, including Cook.

Eventually a plot forms which revolves around fighting tournaments that are held between each ‘settlement’, with winnings like clean water and dope (even though an atomic bomb has gone off, apparently people still like to get high). One of the fighters is a power mad lunatic called Mainframe, who along with his henchman, Wires, want all the girls for themselves. Mainframe even considered Lyssa to be one of his girls, and the fact that she ran off with Amp makes him think that maybe others will try to steal his girls as well, so he decides to beat everyone up. Did I call this a plot? I guess I should apologize, as the description I just gave is as good as it gets. Mainframe and Wires are played by Gregg Douglass and Don Nayaka Nielsen respectively, who barely scrape a handful of movie appearances between them, however their performances are entertaining. This applies to Douglass in particular, who insists on putting a mouthguard in every time he fights, which is attempted to be passed off as some kind of edgy character trait.

All of this of course leads to a lot of sloppy fight scenes. What Cook lacks in screen presence also carries over to his screen fighting, with the choreography being of the ‘I’m going to stand here and wait for you to kick me’ variety in most of the matches. The real highpoint comes when Cook decides to train the mild mannered Wild (yes the name is ironic) in how to fight. Up until that point she’s been wearing an earthy loose fitting outfit, however mid-training sequence, she miraculously changes into a mix of black spandex and leather, even indulging in some dual nunchucks action with Cook (no metaphor here, they really do).

Proceedings pick up a little towards the end. Cook arms himself with the aforementioned nunchucks, and Khan does her thing with a mini-crossbow, visibly performing her choreography too fast that the other no-name cast members struggle to keep up. Everything eventually culminates in a two-on-two battle, as Amp and Wild face off against Mainframe and Wires, in a confrontation which does actually succeed in generating a modicum of excitement, but it’s arguably too little too late.

I’m really unsure of what message Eternal Fist is trying to bestow upon us. If anything, it seems to be that if your girlfriend is savagely killed, if you’re then lucky enough to find someone who looks just like her that falls in love with you, well, you don’t really have a lot to complain about. Or perhaps it conveys everything it wants to say with Khan’s closing line of the movie – “You’re right about one thing, this world is too full of sh*t to be weak.” The world is full of sh*t movies as well, but sometime black spandex and leather can make them just that little bit better.

Paul Bramhall’s Rating: 4/10

Posted in All, Asian Related, Chinese, News, Reviews | Tagged | 6 Comments

Furious (1984) Review

"Furious" Theatrical Poster

"Furious" Theatrical Poster

Director: Tim Everitt, Tom Sartori
Writer: Tim Everitt, Tom Sartori
Cast: Simon Rhee, Phillip Rhee, Arlene Montano, Howard Jackson, Loren Avedon, Mika Elkan, Bob Folkard
Running Time: 73 min.

By Jeff Bona

In the 80s, walking into a video rental store’s martial arts section was like waiting in line for a rollercoaster: The anticipation was just as exciting as the ride itself. The movie that was finally decided on was always hit or miss, but it was the “browsing” experience that mattered most. In between all the usual Shaolin, Bruceploitation and Ninja flicks, there was that one VHS box you kept stumbling upon, but never rented. Everyone had one. Mine was 1984′s Furious.

At first glance, the original VHS box for Furious resembled a typical, dubbed Hong Kong kung fu flick from the 70s: a shirtless Bruce Lee wannabe in a martial arts stance; a grim-looking, grey-haired “grandmaster”; a black dude with a half-afro sporting traditional Chinese garb; and of course, an attractive warrioress in a “don’t f*ck with me” formation. But if you take the time to read its marketing hook – “Filmed Entirely on Location in Southern California” and “Red Hot Karate Action! All New! Never Before Show in Theaters or on TV!” – the hint is there: This isn’t your typical martial arts film. In fact, it isn’t even your typical film.

Furious is an American-made feature written and directed by Tim Everitt (Too Fast Too Young) and Tom Sartori. Filmed in one week – without a script – with a budget of $30,000, the movie is one heck of an oddity. It’s the type of flick that only one’s own eyes can describe as they’re watching it. For the sake of this review, I’ll do my best…

The film opens with a female (Arlene Montano) getting chased and murdered by white guys dressed in Mongol-like attire. The female’s brother, Simon (Simon Rhee), a martial arts teacher who lives in a treehouse with a bunch of his young students, sets out to avenge her death. Under the guidance of his master (Phillip Rhee), Simon’s search for revenge turns into a spiritual quest filled with mystery, deception and above all, action!

To give you an idea of just how bizarre this movie is, here’s a rundown of what to expect: Evil magicians who shoot chickens out of their hands; people transforming into talking pigs; martial arts masters flying around like Superman; a replicant army dressed up like members of the band Devo (speaking of rock bands, Furious has that too!); opponents turning into giant, fire-breathing dragons; and a subplot of how an alien race turns humans into chickens to lower food costs for their chain of restaurants. Oh yeah, let’s not forget about the film’s soundtrack, which sounds like something you’d hear in a movie from the 1930s.

Above all the weirdness, what really stands out is how Furious has almost no dialogue at all. According to director Tim Everitt’s audio commentary, he wanted to tell the story visually. However, Everitt contradicts himself: he later mentions it was decided to keep the dialogue to a minimum so it can be sold to a global market and dubbed with any language, with very little work. Whatever the case, the film’s limited dialogue only adds to the film’s peculiar charm.

For those watching it for the martial arts sequences alone are in for a real treat. Everitt and Sartori obviously gave the Rhee brothers total creative freedom when it came to the action choreography. The hand-to-hand combat is authentic, fluid and captured mostly in long takes. There are a few sloppy set ups, continuity issues and other amateuristic moments, but for the most part, saying the fight scenes are years ahead of they’re time isn’t an exaggeration. Considering what the Rhee brothers would accomplish a few years later, none of this should come as a surprise. Look out for a fight sequence in a restaurant where Simon takes out several bad guys who rush him at the same time. It’s impressive as all hell.

The film’s overall cinematography ranges from spotty to superb. One minute, we’re getting camera work from someone who might be on acid; the next minute, we see an impressive aerial shot. According to Everitt, a shell-shocked helicopter pilot, who fought in Vietnam, was paid $300 a day to capture these shots. Talk about being resourceful.

Furious is the first film to star brothers Simon and Phillip Rhee (4 years before the pair found the greener pastures of Hollywood in the Best of the Best franchise), both of whom hold Black Belts in Taekwondo and Hapkido. The rest of the film’s cast consists mostly of the Rhees’ own students and friends, including an early appearance by Loren Avedon (No Retreat, No Surrender II). Also appearing is former World Kickboxing Champion, Howard Jackson (Code of Silence), former Miss Philippines, Arlene Montano (L.A. Streetfighters) as well as a quick cameo by Susanna Hoffs (of the popular 80s band, The Bangles).

In recent years, Furious reached a cult status and started to get theatrical screenings in festival circuits around the country. Pre-owned VHS copies of the film would sell on eBay for $50-$100. It was around this time that Everitt approached Leomark Studios for a proper release, which is exactly what’s happening on July 21, 2015 when the film finally makes its official debut on DVD. In addition to the feature – mastered from a high quality source – you also get some extras, including trailers, and an amusing commentary by Everitt himself.

The bottom line: Furious is 72 minutes of unconventional entertainment that’s part “so bad, it’s good” and part hidden gem. Highly recommended.

Jeff Bona’s Rating: 8/10

Posted in Asian Related, News, Reviews | Tagged , , | 8 Comments

Deal on Fire! Black Dynamite | Blu-ray | Only $9.99 – Expires soon!

"Black Dynamite" Blu-ray Cover

"Black Dynamite" Blu-ray Cover

Today’s Deal on Fire is the Blu-ray for Black Dynamite, starring Michael Jai White (Blood and Bone), Arsenio Hall, Tommy Davidson and featuring martial arts choreography by Roger (Once Upon a Time in Vietnam) and Ron Yuan (The Girl from the Naked Eye).

It’s Black Belt Jones, Shaft and Enter the Dragon rolled into one hell of a parody. And don’t let the word “parody” fool you – this is a solid movie filled with quality action, outrageous comedy and grind house goodness. Director Scott Sanders (Thick as Thieves) definitely did his homework.

Order Black Dynamite from Amazon.com today!

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

Kwaidan | Blu-ray & DVD (Criterion)

Kwaidan | Blu-ray & DVD (Criterion)

Kwaidan | Blu-ray & DVD (Criterion)

RELEASE DATE: October 20, 2015

Criterion Collection presents the Blu-ray & DVD for 1965′s Kwaidan, directed by Masaki Kobayashi (Harakiri). This release is the original 3-hour cut, never before released in the United States.

After a decade of political dramas and social-minded period pieces, Kobayashi shifted gears for this stylized quartet of ghost stories. Featuring surreal sets and luminous cinematography, these haunting tales, adapted from Lafcadio Hearn’s collections of Japanese folklore, are existentially frightening and meticulously crafted. | Watch the trailer.

Pre-order Kwaidan from Amazon.com today!

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

COF’s ‘Snow Girl and the Dark Crystal’ Blu-ray Giveaway! – WINNERS ANNOUNCED!

Snow Girl and the Dark Crystal | Blu-ray & DVD (Well Go USA)

Snow Girl and the Dark Crystal | Blu-ray & DVD (Well Go USA)

Cityonfire.com and Well Go USA are giving away 3 Blu-ray copies of Snow Girl and the Dark Crystal to three lucky Cityonfire visitors. To enter, simply add a comment to this post and describe, in your own words, this trailer.

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

The Blu-ray & DVD for Snow Girl and the Dark Crystal will be officially released on August 4, 2015. We will announce the 3 winners on August 5, 2015 and ship out the prizes immediately.

CONTEST DISCLAIMER: You must enter by August 4, 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: Damon, M. H. Boroson and 31FilmTalk.

Posted in News | Tagged | 15 Comments

Neill Blomkamp reveals new ‘Aliens’ sequel artwork

"Alien" Japanese Theatrical Poster

"Alien" Japanese Theatrical Poster

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

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

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

BREAKING NEWS: Check out Blomkamp’s latest piece of concept art. According to the director, the Aliens sequel is “Going very well. Love this project.”

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New trailer for Shinji Higuchi’s live-action ‘Attack on Titan’

"Attack on Titan" Japanese Theatrical Poster

"Attack on Titan" Japanese Theatrical Poster

The shrinking budget for complex computer-effects has allowed many Japanese filmmakers to bring the world of anime, with its gravity-defying heroes and city-destroying battles, into the realm of live-action. Successful adaptations of the Death Note and Gantz series have helped pave the way in recent years, and the trend shows no signs of slowing down.

In fact, director Shinji Higuchi – known primarily for his special effects work on the 90′s Gamera trilogy – is preparing to bring Attack on Titan to the big screen in a two-part saga, the first of which releases next year. The series Attack on Titan takes place in a strange, quasi-medieval world in which giant humanoid creatures named Titans appear and threaten the lives of everyday people.

Civilization’s only line of defense against the Titans are teenage soldiers who traverse the Titans’ massive bodies using powerful grappling hooks. The first season of the popular show is currently streaming on Netflix.

In preparation of the film’s release next year, the producers have released several character posters (click here). | First footage from the live-action film. | 1st teaser trailer. | 2nd teaser trailer.| New trailer.

BREAKING NEWS: Check out the film’s latest trailer (via FCS).

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Stray Cat Rock: Wild Jumbo (1970) Review

"Stray Cat Rock: Wild Jumbo" Japanese Theatrical Poster

"Stray Cat Rock: Wild Jumbo" Japanese Theatrical Poster

AKA: Alleycat Rock: Wild Jumbo
Director: Toshiya Fujita
Producer: Toshiya Fujita, Shuichi Nagahara
Cast: Meiko Kaji, Bunjaku Han, Takeo Chii, Tatsuya Fuji, Yusuke Natsu, Soichiro Maeno, Akiko Wada
Running Time: 94 min.

By Kyle Warner

After the success of Stray Cat Rock: Delinquent Girl Boss, a follow-up film was rushed into production and released just three months later. Stray Cat Rock: Wild Jumbo is a messier, cheaper looking film than its predecessor, but somehow that doesn’t seem to matter. While the first film played with audience expectations and genre clichés, this movie just wants to have fun.

It’s obvious from the film’s opening scene with young people laughing and frolicking alongside the ocean that Wild Jumbo is going to be a very different kind of film. Gone is the gritty world of gangsters and desperate young people caught up in a world of violence. Wild Jumbo is a youth comedy – albeit one with a dangerous edge to it.

The film follows the Penguin Club, a group of five friends (Meiko Kaji, Tatsuya Fuji, Takeo Chii, Yusuke Natsu, Soichiro Maeno) who go from scene to scene goofing off and committing crimes in order to combat boredom. Early in the film the Penguin Club shoots out the tires of a rich girl’s car because they think she’d make a good match for Takeo Chii’s character Taki. The rich girl Asako (Bunjaku Han) inexplicably falls for Taki and the two start a romance which drives a bit of a wedge into the group of friends. As a way of making nice, Asako later goes to the Penguin Club with plans for a heist. The score will make them rich, but is it worth the risk?

Plot and drama are not the chief concerns of the filmmakers here. Stray Cat Rock: Wild Jumbo feels like a collection of scenes connected together by the loosest narrative possible. Not everybody is going to like this kind of free-form storytelling, but I personally think that the individual scenes are good enough that the film often works even if the plot itself remains largely nonexistent for much of the running time.

The major reason behind the dramatic shift in tone between films is that director Yasuharu Hasebe’s place has been taken by Toshiya Fujita. While Fujita’s Lady Snowblood films are well-known and revered by fans of cinema, the remainder of his filmography remains largely unseen in the US (his acting role in Seijun Suzuki’s masterpiece Zigeunerweisen was the only other time that I’ve seen a movie with his name in the credits). Not only is Fujita’s Stray Cat Rock film wildly different from Hasebe’s first foray in the series, it’s also stylistically very different from his own Lady Snowblood films. For someone with only a small sampling of Fujita’s work as a director, it’s difficult for me to say which genre he felt most comfortable in, because he handles both violent action and goofy counterculture comedy with a confident, authorial hand. Interestingly, over the course of Stray Cat Rock’s five film series, the films were split exclusively between Hasebe (films 1, 3, and 4) and Fujita (2 and 5). I’m reviewing these as I make my way through the series, so it’ll be interesting to see if the tone continues to switch back and forth between the two directors, or if one director’s style begins to rub off on the other.

By this time in the series, Meiko Kaji (The Blind Woman’s Curse) had cemented herself as the lead. However, the film works because of the ensemble of actors, all of whom bring the goods. Toshiya Fujita gives even minor actors like Soichiro Maeno, who plays the gun-obsessed Debo, scenes where they’re allowed to shine. Akiko Wada, the star of the first film, is given “Special Appearance” credit for Wild Jumbo… though all her scenes are really just stock footage taken from Delinquent Girl Boss. There’s one scene in which a character acknowledges her from across the street and the stock footage Akiko Wada is awkwardly unaware of his presence. It’s weird, but her ‘guest appearance’ and her music are a couple of the only things connecting the two films.

Not only was this film rushed to theatres just three months after its predecessor, but the third entry Sex Hunter was filmed simultaneously with Wild Jumbo, with actors splitting time between Hasebe’s and Fujita’s sets. It’s a chaotic, crazy way to make a movie. However, despite the hectic manner in which it was created, Wild Jumbo manages to feel like a personal, genuine sort of movie, and not the sort of cash grab that one usually associates with a rush to a release date.

In my favorite sequence of the film, the Penguin Club is driving along when a rival gang drives up and begins taunting them. Tatsuya Fuji can’t stand it, so he jumps out of the moving vehicle, steals a dump truck, and proceeds to chase after the rival’s car, repeatedly ramming them from behind. Instead of acting surprised or condemning his actions, the other members of the Penguin Club get their own dump trucks and join in on the fun. They’re all laughing and cheering as they repeatedly crash into a car and try to drive it off the road. It’s madness, but dammit I was laughing, too. The characters of Wild Jumbo are rebels without a cause – or a clue – and I enjoyed spending an hour and a half in their company. Certain films have been dubbed “hang out” movies over the years and I think Stray Cat Rock: Wild Jumbo fits into that category quite nicely. It’s weird, goofy piece of comic mischief that could have only come out of the 70s.

Kyle Warner’s Rating: 7/10

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Jackie Chan to team up with 007 director for ‘The Foreigner’?

"Polce Story 2013" Japanese Theatrical Poster

"Polce Story 2013" Japanese Theatrical Poster

Perhaps Jackie Chan is taking a page from Liam Neeson’s playbook and realizing that, even at the ripe age of 61 years-old, there’s no reason he has to retire from a life of action. That would explain why the concept for the actor’s next project, titled The Foreigner, sounds so much like a movie Charles Bronson might have starred in his heyday.

In the film, based on a novel by Stephen Leather, Jackie Chan would play a humble restaurant owner who is pushed to violence after a band of terrorists take his daughter’s life in an attack.

Jackie Chan currently has a pack of movies on his agenda, including The Civilian, Kung Fu Yoga, Railroad Tigers, Chinese Zodiac 2 – and possible sequels to the popular Rush Hour and Shanghai Noon franchises – but The Foreigner is already expected to go this Fall.

The film is currently without a director, although sources indicate Nick Cassavetes (Alpha Dog, John Q) is circling the project. Stay tuned for future updates on The Foreigner and other Jackie Chan features.

Updates: According to Deadline (via FCS), Martin Campbell (GoldeneyeCasino Royale, Edge of Darkness) is currently in talks to direct The Foreigner. We’ll keep you updated!

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

"Over Your Dead Body" Japanese Theatrical Poster

RELEASE DATE: January 5, 2016

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

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

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

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New clip for the Expendables-esque flick ‘Beyond the Game’!

"Beyond the Game" Teaser Poster

"Beyond the Game" Teaser Poster

Ever since Sylvester Stallone’s Expendables trilogy brought back some of our favorite 80′s heroes to the big screen, other “copycats” have – or will have – followed!

Copycats like Asylum’s Mercenaries; the soon-to-be released Showdown in Manilla; in-development projects like Avi Lerner’s The ExpendaBelles and Adi Shankar’s “other” all-female untitled film; Indonesia’s take, Garuda 7; then we have the uncertain B-Team and Blood Raid, headed by Don “The Dragon” Wilson. And let’s not forget about the possibility of a Chinese version of The Expendables, led by Donnie Yen.

Well, it’s time to add one more Expendables-esque film to the mix: Beyond the Game, the sequel to 2008′s Lost Warrior: Left Behind. You might want to grab a snack or something, because this film has one heck of a lineup:

Beyond the Game stars Olivier Gruner (Nemesis), Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa (Skin Trade), Armand Assante (The World at Our Feet), Eric Roberts (The Expendables), Mark Dacascos (Drive), Kristanna Loken (Terminator 3), Kelly Hu (Crade 2 the Grave), Tommy ‘Tiny’ Lister, Danny Trejo (Machete), Costas Mandylor (Fist of the North Star), Tony Todd (The Crow), Michael Madsen (Kill Bill Vol. 1), Kevin Sorbo (Kull the Conqueror) and Bai Ling (The Crow).

Also appearing in the film is Martin Kove (The Karate Kid), Steven Bauer (Scarface), Billy Zane (Titanic), Patrick Kilpatrick (Under Siege 2: Dark Territory), Ralf Moeller (Best of the Best II), Casper Van Dien (Starship Troopers), Aki Aleong (Pound of Flesh), Natalie Burn (The Expendables 3), Michael Jai White (Skin Trade), Matthias Hues (Raging Thunder), Don ‘The Dragon’ Wilson (White Tiger), Cynthia Rothrock (Yes, Madam), George Cheung (Rambo: First Blood Part II), Richard Chaves (Predator), Silvio Simac (Man of Tai Chi) and Lorenzo Lamas (Snake Eater).

BREAKING NEWS: Watch a new clip (courtesy of Lucas Nunes Sampaio). In case you missed it the first time, here’s the trailer!

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Skin Trade | Blu-ray & DVD (Magnolia)

Skin Trade | Blu-ray & DVD (Magnolia)

Skin Trade | Blu-ray & DVD (Magnolia)

RELEASE DATE: August 25, 2015

Magnolia presents the Blu-ray & DVD for Ekachai Uekrongtham’s Skin Trade (read our review). A tough-as-nails New York cop (Dolph Lundgren) finds his family murdered by a drug kingpin, he then swears revenge and hops on a plane to pursue their killer to Bangkok. Once in the seedy Thai underworld, he teams up with a local detective (Tony Jaa) to bust heads and right what has been wronged.

The film also stars Ron Perlman, Michael Jai White, Celina Jade, Peter Weller and Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa. Watch the trailer.

Pre-order Skin Trade from Amazon.com today!

Posted in Asian Titles, DVD/Blu-ray New Releases, Martial Arts Titles | 14 Comments

Jason Statham and Tony Jaa to join forces in ‘High Value Target’?

"High Value Target" Cannes Promotional Poster

Jason Statham (The Expendables) is set to star in High Value Target, an upcoming action flick that sounds like a cross between The Expendables and Captain Phillips.

According to TB: The high-intensity action/thriller follows an international squad of private military contractors who infiltrate a cargo ship overrun by pirates in order to capture and extract a seemingly impossible High-Value Target — the pirate warlord.

There are currently no directors or stars attached. At one point, newcomer Spencer Cohen – who wrote the film’s screenplay – was attached to helm the project.

Update: According to FCS, closer sources claim Statham isn’t officially signed. Also, the TB report is supposedly based on an old script.

BREAKING NEWS: The word is that High Value Target is not only happening with Jason Statham, but that Statham has roped his newfound friend Tony Jaa into the mix. That’s right, High Value Target will be the onscreen team-up between Jason Statham and Tony Jaa that many fans hoped for after the two actors met on the set of Furious 7. The only worrying thing? While the film is described as a cross between Black Hawk Dawn and The Raid, reports indicate that part of the story will be told through cameras attached to each of the soldiers, which sounds suspiciously like an attempt to make High Value Target a ‘found footage’ movie. Say it ain’t so, Statham!

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COF Presents: Martial Arts Film in Video Games: Part I

"Spartan X" Video Game Flyer

"Spartan X" Video Game Flyer

What do Bruce Lee (Enter the Dragon), Chuck Norris (Slaughter in San Francisco), Jackie Chan (Wheels on Meals), Jean-Claude Van Damme (Bloodsport), Jet Li (Fist of Legend), Roger Yuan (Once Upon A Time in Vietnam), Ron Yuan (Ring of Fire), Richard Norton (City Hunter) and Chuck Jeffreys (Bloodmoon) have in common? They’re all martial arts stars who have appeared – sometimes inadvertently and/or subconsciously – in a video game.

Note: This article is not about video game-to-martial arts movie adaptations. It is, however, an article about how the martial arts film subgenre – and its known faces – has had a significant influence on the video game subculture. In other words, it’s the other way around: a look at how martial arts film found its way into video games – a practice that’s very much alive and still kicking today.

This practice is not only evident in traditional video games either. Living in Las Vegas, Nevada – a resort city known for its buzzing energy, 24-hour gambling and endless entertainment – I can’t count the number of times I’ve strolled through casinos and seen slot games from sites like www.casinoonline.co.nz – and many of them are martial arts-themed – for instance, the slot games for Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon and the Fist of Fury-inspired Red Dragon.

Whether it be a an arcade from yesteryear, a casino on the Las Vegas strip, a Levi’s commercial or even the branding of a legendary rap group like Wu-Tang Clan – the prime elements of a martial arts film are an appealing force to be reckoned with.

Without further ado, let’s take a look at martial arts film in video games:

Chuck Norris Superkicks (1983) and Bruce Lee (1984)

Chuck Norris Superkicks (1983) and Bruce Lee (1984)

Chuck Norris Superkicks (1983)

Here’s a “Chuck Norris Fact” for you: The first ever video game to feature a martial arts star was Xonox’s Chuck Norris Superkicks (aka Kung Fu Superkicks), which was released for the Atari 2600, Colecovision and Commodore home computers.

In Chuck Norris Superkicks, your mission is to karate the hell out of your enemies by either kicking or punching them. You also have the option of doing flips to counter their attacks. The game also features an in-game map, which, for the time, was pretty groundbreaking. Otherwise, Chuck Norris Superkicks is long forgotten – and probably for good reason.

Bruce Lee (1984)

Developed by Datasoft Inc. for the home computer market, Bruce Lee put our hero in an 8-bit fantasy world where he faces off with ninjas and green-colored sumo wrestlers in a platform-based environment. Bruce also has to skillfully force his way through mines, moving walls and traps rigged with electric shock mechanisms.

Till this day, Bruce Lee is the most acclaimed Bruce Lee-themed game that ever hit the market. Unfortunately, that’s not saying much.

Spartan X (1984) and The Karate Kid (1987)

Spartan X (1984) and The Karate Kid (1987)

Spartan X (1984)

Spartan X is the Japanese title to the 1984 Jackie Chan film Wheels on Meals, hence the title to the Japanese version of the arcade game developed by Irem.

The plot of this platform-based game had little to do with the movie, other than the fact you played a kung fu dude named Thomas (portrayed by Chan in the movie) who had to rescue a girl named Sylvia (portrayed by Lola Forner in the movie) by fighting henchmen in a series of levels reminiscent of Bruce Lee’s Game of Death – i.e. each higher floor featured a boss more powerful than the one before it.

In the U.S., the game was retitled to Kung-Fu Master, then retitled again on the Nintendo Entertainment System (NES) as Kung Fu. Whatever you want to call it, it’s one hell of a game that holds up well till this day.

The Karate Kid (1987)

Based on the successful franchise of the same name, LJN’s The Karate Kid, for the NES, was structured just like Spartan X (1984): part platform with tournament stages where you battle bosses from the movie. Unlike the latter, The Karate Kid has bonus stages where you do things like test your timing by karate chopping blocks of ice, or try catching flies with chopsticks.

The game covers both The Karate Kid (1984) and The Karate Kid II (1986). Sorry to all of you Thomas Ian Griffith fans.

Bruce Lee Lives (1990) and Jackie Chan's Action Kung Fu (1990/1991)

Bruce Lee Lives (1990) and Jackie Chan's Action Kung Fu (1990/1991)

Bruce Lee Lives (1990)

Also known as Bruce Lee Lives: The Fall of Hong Kong Palace, this PC rarity, developed by The Software Toolworks, follows the footsteps of tournament-style fighting games like Karate Champ (1984), Yie Ar Kung-Fu (1985) and Street Fighter (1987).

What made Bruce Lee Lives unique was its AI engine, which changed its difficulty level based on the actions of the player. Pretty slick for the time… just ask someone who has actually played it (that one person is out there somewhere).

Jackie Chan’s Action Kung Fu (1990/1991)

Now Production’s Jackie Chan’s Action Kung Fu, for the NES and TurboGrafx-16 systems, is a platform-based game rendered in a cartoon-style similar to the popular Kid Niki: Radical Ninja (1986). In the game, Jackie has to save his sister from an evil sorcerer and his many minions.

Considering its pre-Rumble in the Bronx U.S. release in 1990, you’d have to be somewhat of a kung fu movie fan to know who Jackie Chan was. Otherwise, the name Jackie Chan was just as fictitious as Kid Niki.

3 Ninjas Kick Back (1994) and Dragon: The Bruce Lee Story (1995)

3 Ninjas Kick Back (1994) and Dragon: The Bruce Lee Story (1995)

3 Ninjas Kick Back (1994)

I’ll probably be crucified for including this one in the article, but whether you like it or not, 3 Ninjas Kick Back is a martial arts movie that became a video game.

Developed by Malibu Interactive for the Sega Genesis, Super NES and Sega CD3, Ninjas Kick Back is another platform-based game where you where you can select one of the three brothers – each with their own unique weapon: a bo, a katana or a sai – to battle ninjas, killer animals, boulders and spikes. Next…

Dragon: The Bruce Lee Story (1995)

Based on the 1993 film of the same name, Virgin Interactive’s Dragon: The Bruce Lee Story – for the Atari Jaguar, Sega Master System and the Super NES – is a tournament-style/beat ‘em up game that sort of follows the movie: you fight gwai lo sailors, Chinese chefs, some guy who’s supposed to be “Wong Jack Man” and even the demon in Bruce’s nightmare. Then the game goes off course by throwing in bad guys who weren’t even in the movie. For instance, a Mr. Han-like character from Enter the Dragon, complete with hand claws. Those looking for Lauren Holly in short gym shorts will be left disappointed.

Dragon: The Bruce Lee Story was also released for the Sega Genesis and Game Gear, but due to the the hardware limitations of these two systems, the version of the game was more of a simpler, platform-style adventure. Again, those looking for Lauren Holly in short gym shorts will be left disappointed.

Street Fighter: The Movie (1995) and Supreme Warrior (1995)

Street Fighter: The Movie (1995) and Supreme Warrior (1995)

Street Fighter: The Movie (1995)

To coincide with the 1994 Jean-Claude Van Damme film, Street Fighter: The Movie (which itself, was based on the Capcom video game franchise), Incredible Technologies gave the film’s video game adaptation the Mortal Kombat treatment: graphics that used realistic digitized sprites, instead of drawn artwork.

The game showcases every actor/actress portrayed in the movie as playable characters. All it was missing were some gruesome fatalities – but hey, that’s where Mortal Kombat had the upper hand.

Supreme Warrior (1995)

You know what, screw digitized sprites! It’s all about full motion video, which is exactly what Digital Pictures did with Supreme Warrior, a first-person fighting/adventure game released for the 3DO, Mac, PC and Sega CD.

Not only was Supreme Warrior filmed on location in China on the Shaw Brothers‘ “Shaw Town” backlot, it also featured Vivian Wu, Roger Yuan, Chaplin Chang, Richard Norton, Ron Yuan and Chuck Jeffreys. In a nutshell, Supreme Warrior is a unforgettable classic that you don’t want to miss.

Stay tuned for Martial Arts Film in Video Games: Part II.

Posted in Features, News | 15 Comments

Chain of Command | Blu-ray & DVD (Lionsgate)

Chain of Command | Blu-ray & DVD (Lionsgate)

Chain of Command | Blu-ray & DVD (Lionsgate)

RELEASE DATE: September 22, 2015

Lionsgate presents the Blu-ray & DVD for Chain of Command (aka Echo Effect), an action-thriller directed by Kevin Carraway (7 Below) and starring Michael Jai White (Blood and Bone) and “Stone Cold” Steve Austin (The Expendables).

A special operative (White) witnesses the brutal slaying of his brother right after returning home from his third tour of duty. He finds himself a target of a deadly conspiracy so vast that there’s no one to trust but himself. | Trailer.

Pre-order Chain of Command from Amazon.com today!

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

Black Coal, Thin Ice (2014) Review

"Black Coal, Thin Ice" International Theatrical Poster

"Black Coal, Thin Ice" International Theatrical Poster

Director: Diao Yinan
Writer: Diao Yinan
Producer: Vivian Qu, Wan Juan
Cast: Liao Fan, Gwei Lun-Mei, Wang Xuebing, Wang Jingchun, Yu Ailei, Ni Jingyang
Running Time: 106 min.

By Paul Bramhall

While the last decade has seen China become an important market in the film industry, the countries own output has had less success reaching beyond its own shores. Unlike the Hong Kong movies of yesteryear, which gained a dedicated following in the West thanks to their raucous energy and daring action scenes, the new wave of Mandarin language movies from the mainland have had little appeal to overseas audiences. Recently though, a number of modestly budgeted modern crime dramas have been gaining recognition from critics, and joining the likes of Ning Hao’s No Man’s Land and Jia Zhangke’s A Touch of Sin, Black Coal, Thin Ice is another worthy entry into what will hopefully be a growing pool of mainland talent.

Black Coal, Thin Ice was shown at the 64th Berlin International Film Festival, and not only walked away with the Golden Bear, but also had its leading man Liao Fan take the Silver Bear for Best Actor. Both awards are well earned, with director Diao Yinan crafting a tale that thematically has echoes of Bong Joon-ho’s classic Memories of Murder. Yinan, while primarily a scriptwriter, has directed his own tales twice before, with Uniform in 2003, and Night Train in 2007, which premiered in the Un Certain Regard Competition at the Cannes Film Festival of the same year. While 8 years is a long time between movies, Yinan has stated that it took him that long to finish the script. We can only hope Yinan and Wong Kar Wai never have an opportunity to collaborate together, or chances are we’d probably never hear from them again.

Taking place in the freezing climes of Heilongjiang province in North East China, the story begins in 1999 with the discovery of various dismembered body parts being found in coal plants across the region. After the investigation initially leads the police to a couple of local coal workers, events transpire that result in two officers being killed. Liao Fan plays one of the surviving detectives, who, traumatized by the death of his colleagues, sinks into a state of alcohol fuelled depression, losing his job as well as his will to live. Skip forward to 2004, and Fan, now working as a factory security guard, has a chance meeting with the other surviving detective, played by Ailei Yu, who has remained a cop. Yu reveals that he’s investigating two homicides, both of which were disposed of in a similar grizzly fashion to the original victim. The catch is, both victims were lovers of the original victim’s widow, played by Taiwanese actress Gwei Lun Mei.

Unable to help himself, Fan finds himself drawn to figuring out the connection between Lun Mei and the murders. He starts hanging out at the launderette where Lun Mei works, alone except for the presence of the stores owner, who may or may not be involved. It’s not long of course before he finds himself in too deep, as his poking around leads to ramifications for all those around him. Fan’s performance as the down and out former detective is well deserving of the praise it won at Berlin, a role which he gained 44 pounds for. We’re given little insight or background into his character, other than he has a short temper, however his performance convincingly portrays someone who’s both troubled and morally ambiguous. In some ways he comes across as a less intense version of Seol Kyong-ju’s crumpled detective in Public Enemy, he’s not that likeable, but he ends up winning our sympathy anyway.

Fan is evenly matched by Gwei Lun Mei, who goes from being an innocent widow being harassed by his persistent advances, to someone who may well know more than what we first believe. Both actors are complimented by Yinan’s assured direction. His pacing is slow and deliberate, but it never feels dull. If anything, his direction feels reminiscent of Takeshi ‘Beat’ Kitano’s earlier works such as Sonatine and Hana-bi. From the laid back pacing, suddenly interrupted by short bursts of graphic violence which come out of nowhere, to the dry as a bone humor, like when a passerby who stops to help a drunken Fan get back on his bike ends up riding away on it himself.

The freezing ice and snow covered landscapes of Heilingjiang province play just as much of a role as the characters themselves – the constant snowfall obscuring visibility, and thick snow on the ground making it difficult to move around. The snowy pathways and icy roads are offset by the black coal of the factories, dirtying anything within their radius, including their workers. The town the movie is set in almost seems like it’s from another era, with everything looking old and rusted, and if I remember correctly there’s not a single computer or mobile phone used throughout the whole run time. Instead the characters are left to find their answers from the town and its inhabitants the hard way, battling through the hostile conditions, and always buried deep within oversized winter jackets and hats.

The actual direct English translation of the Chinese title is ‘Daylight Fireworks’, and it’s a theme which is explored more than once in the narrative, arguably making it a more suitable title than Black Coal, Thin Ice. While it’s still relevant, it’s the equivalent of changing the title of Hana-bi to ‘Road Trip’, yes it makes sense, but it doesn’t really touch on the deeper meaning. The title of Black Coal, Thin Ice will also most likely leave many viewers scratching their head over the final scene. Yinan himself stated that the meaning of ‘Daylight Fireworks’ is a reflection of the state someone is in. For Fan’s down and out detective, this could be read a couple of different ways. Is he squandering his talents on a situation in which no one will appreciate his efforts, or is it rather that the darkness he dwells in is capable of releasing the truth from a place it’s remained hidden for too long?

Either way, Black Coal, Thin Ice shows a welcome new side of mainland filmmaking. Revealing a genre piece which is devoid of any flag waving propaganda that plagues so many of the recent mainland productions, and instead focuses on a tightly constructed narrative and well drawn out characters, here’s hoping we see a lot more of Yanin in the future. Any self-respecting fan of the Asian crime genre should definitely make it a priority to check this one out.

Paul Bramhall’s Rating: 8.5/10

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

‘Ghost in the Shell’ filmmaker gets brutal with ‘Nowhere Girl’

"Nowhere Girl" Japanese Theatrical Poster

"Nowhere Girl" Japanese Theatrical Poster

If you think Mamoru Oshii (Ghost in the Shell) is all about Anime, sci-fi and all that other philosophical bullsh*t, think again! Introducing Nowhere Girl (or Tokyo Mukokuseki Shoujo), an upcoming action film starring Nana Seino (Tokyo Tribe). Judging from the film’s trailer, I can’t help but think a ghost-less Memento Mori meets a school girl-induced Die Hard.

Here’s the plot (via NYAFF): The film centers on Ai (Seino), a student at an all-girls’ art high school. Her natural talent for art provokes the fury and envy of both the adults around her and her classmates. Bullying, mockery, and intolerable cruelty ensue: Ai stoically suffers but has nowhere to hide or run to. Her daily life becomes a war, which she slowly loses. But there’s more to the beautiful high school girl than meets the eye: she has a very specific set of skills, skills that make her a nightmare for bullies.

Nowhere Girl will be screened at this year’s New York Asian Film Festival, followed by its July 25th release in Japan. For now, don’t miss the trailer (via FCS).

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It’s not ‘Raid 3,’ but this new Indonesian flick is so ‘Gangster’!

"Gangster" Theatrical Poster

"Gangster" Theatrical Poster

Are you looking for more Indonesian-imported action after seeing The Raid and The Raid 2? If your answer is yes, then you’ll want to check out this new trailer for Gangster, an upcoming martial arts film directed by Fajar Nugro (Refrain).

It’s not quite The Raid 3, but there’s definitely enough hand-to-hand (and foot-to-foot) brutality to win your interest! Gangster stars Hamish Daud (Supernova: The Knight, the Princess & Shooting Star) and The Raid saga’s very own, Yayan Ruhian. | Watch the 1st trailer.

Updates: Check out the 2nd trailer (via FCS). There’s currently no sign of a U.S. release date, but we’re pretty sure Well Go USA is getting their wallets ready!

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First official still from Scott Adkins’ ‘Boyka: Undisputed IV’!

"Undisputed II: Last Man Standing" Japanese DVD Poster

"Undisputed II: Last Man Standing" Japanese DVD Poster

Undisputed IV (tentatively titled Boyka: Undisputed IV), has started production. Returning will be director Isaac Florentine, choreographer Larnell Stovall and screenwriter David N. White. Scott Adkins, the film’s mega-talented star and martial artist from Universal Soldier: Day of Reckoning, Assassination Games and Wolf Warrior is obviously returning as the title character, Yuri Boyka.

Updates: Update from the Seni Event: Adkins spoke of the long-awaited return of Uri Boyka in Undisputed IV. He and Florentine wantthe character seen in the right frame of mind.

Update from Adkins himself (via FB): “I’m very happy to announce that tomorrow I leave for Bulgaria to begin work on Boyka: Undisputed IV. It’s been 6 years since we shot part 3 and the character of Yuri Boyka seems to have took on a life of his own. Not a day goes by without a comment on this Facebook page about when Boyka will return – well the time has come!! I’m sure this will be one of the toughest shoots in my career and I hope that you will ALL support this movie the right way when it gets released. We will do our best to give the fans of these genre movies what they want.”

A post on Instagram seems to announce that actor/stuntman Tim Man will be stepping aboard as action choreographer on Undisputed IV. Tim Man was most recently seen fighting onscreen against Scott Adkins in Ninja II: Shadow of a Tear. Man was also a stunt performer on such Thai action films as Ong-Bak 2 and Rising Phoenix. Thanks to M.M.A.C. for the news.

BREAKING NEWS: Here’s the first official still from from Boyka: Undisputed IV (via Adkins).

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Wolf Warrior | Blu-ray & DVD (Well Go USA)

Wolf Warrior | Blu-ray & DVD (Well Go USA)

Wolf Warrior | Blu-ray & DVD (Well Go USA)

RELEASE DATE: September 1, 2015

Well Go USA presents the Blu-ray & DVD for Special Force: Wolf Warrior (aka Wolf WarWolf or Warg) an action/martial arts flick directed by, and starring Wu Jing (SPL, SPL 2).

The film (read our review) also stars Scott Adkins (Universal Soldier: Day of Reckoning), Kevin Lee (Pound of Flesh), Vincent Zhao (True Legend) Deng Ziyi (Pay Back), Sona Eyambe (Zombie 108), Kyle Shapiro (Dragon Blade), Samuel Thivierge (In the End) and Nan Yu (The Expendables 2). | Watch the trailer.

Pre-order Wolf Warrior from Amazon.com today!

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

From Vegas to Macau II (2015) Review

"From Vegas to Macau II" Chinese Theatrical Poster

"From Vegas to Macau II" Chinese Theatrical Poster

Director: Wong Jing, Aman Chang
Producer: Andrew Lau, Connie Wong
Cast: Chow Yun-fat, Nick Cheung, Carina Lau, Shawn Yue, Angela Wang, Michelle Hu, David Chiang, Kimmy Tong, Philip Keung, Wu Yue, Jin Qiaoqiao, Kenny Wong, Derek Tsang, Connie Man, Rebecca Zhu, Samantha Ko, Jacky Cai, Ken Lo, Treechada Petcharat, Candy Chang, Max Zhang Jin
Running Time: 110 min.

By Paul Bramhall

The 2014 Lunar New Year movie From Vegas to Macau was far from perfect. It featured a droll performance by Nicolas Tse, an irritating Chapman To, and a wasted action role from Philip Ng. However it also had its pluses, the biggest of which was Chow Yun Fat returning to a Wong Jing directed gambling flick for the first time since Return of the God of Gamblers, made a whole 20 years earlier. Chow, who spent most of those 20 years starring either in Hollywood productions which should have been beneath him, or cardboard cutout period epics from the mainland, couldn’t have had a more welcome return to the world of Hong Kong movies. While From Vegas to Macau was very much a hit and miss affair, just seeing Chow doing his thing front and center in a Hong Kong movie was enough to make it enjoyable.

Wong Jing, never one to let go of a winning formula, sure enough embarked on throwing together From Vegas to Macau 2 in time for the 2015 Lunar New Year. With the original relying almost solely on Chow’s charm, while I like him just as much as the next guy, the prospect of watching another 100 minutes of Chow hamming it up and little else would be stretching even his biggest fans patience. The second installment also does away with most of the supporting cast. Nicolas Tse, Chapman To, and Philip Ng are all gone. Unfortunately so is Jing Tian, who was one of the high points and had good chemistry with Chow. Thankfully though, the new cast ensures none of them are likely to be missed. From Vegas to Macau 2 surrounds Chow with plenty of local Hong Kong talent in the form of Nick Cheung, Shawn Yue, Carina Lau, and even Shaw Brothers legend David Chiang gets a worthy role.

The sequel is also noteworthy as being the Shaw Brothers studio return to feature length filmmaking. Sporting an updated logo for the new millennium, the glossy opening credits provide a worthy accompaniment to the legendary studios come back. It also brings me great relief to say that so does the rest of the movie. From Vegas to Macau 2 does a lot to rectify the faults of its predecessor, and it does so in the way you’d expect a HK Lunar New Year movie to – more action, more spectacle, and more wacky comedy. It should be noted that reviewing any Lunar New Year movie comes with a certain amount of caveats, these productions are never intended to be judged as serious movies, rather they’re supposed to be raucously fun, star filled slices of entertainment for local audiences to enjoy during the New Year festivities.

Previous examples of Lunar New Year productions include the Aces Go Places series, many of the My Lucky Stars movies, Millionaire’s Express, and into the 1990’s most of Jackie Chan and Stephen Chow’s movies were released to coincide with the Lunar New Year. Cohesive storytelling, well developed characters, and if the movie is going to be remembered a few months later are all entirely disregarded when it comes to this genre. Their goal is to entertain, and with this in mind, they should also be reviewed from this perspective.

On the basis of the above, there’s not a lot to dislike about From Vegas to Macau 2. From the moment it starts a breakneck pace is set up of out there humor and random actions scenes, and neither really let up for the duration of the run time. Relaxing with wine on a boat is disturbed by pistol wielding female assassins on jet skis and flyboards (imagine a water powered jet pack, here the first time I’ve seen them used in an action movie), a huge robot with a machine gun arm decimates the interior of an apartment, and gold plated cards are thrown to disarm the enemy. Viewed as a legitimate piece of cinema, From Vegas to Macau 2 is completely stupid and illogical. Viewed as an entertaining way to spend 100 minutes of your life, you could do a lot worse.

It almost feels like a review would be incomplete without a brief plot summary, but really, here the plot is so thin (even in comparison to its predecessor!) that it’s hardly worth mentioning. In a couple of lines though, the evil organization D.O.A. is back, and they have their sites set on Nick Cheung, a former employee who stole a ton of their cash. He’s now on the run with his child daughter, however Interpol are also on his tail, led by Shawn Yue, playing a character who happens to be Chow’s godson. Yue asks Chow to help, and through a series of events Chow ends up buddied up with Cheung in Thailand, which leads to various comedic situations and action. Okay, that was three lines.

Carina Lau also stars as a love interest for Chow, and fans of Taylor Wong’s 1987 flick, Rich and Famous, will no doubt get a kick out of the fact that scenes from the movie, which also starred Chow and Lau as a couple, are used to explain their back story. Despite all the comedic shenanigans, Chow and Lau’s relationship is surprisingly heartfelt, and serves an important part in the finale, delivering some welcome emotional weight to close out proceedings. The same applies to Nick Cheung’s relationship with Yolanda Yuen, and despite their scenes together being remarkably brief, they effectively convey a worthy level of emotion. Although arguably it shouldn’t feel earned considering all the hijinks surrounding such scenes, the quality of their performances somehow make it work.

From Vegas to Macau 2 really excels though when it comes to the action, and it crams in a lot of it. From a raid on a safe house in Thailand 30 minutes in, which contains a fantastic mix of live explosions and stunts, combined with some nice use of GoPro shots, to a Muay Thai match that has one of the most unlikely pairings you’ll ever see – a 60 year old Chow Yun Fat vs. Ken Lo. The match is played for laughs, and provides plenty of them, as Chow hilariously cramps up when trying to throw a kick, and uses stalling tactics which bring to mind Stephen Chow in the finale of Love on Delivery. For those looking for some real toe to toe action though, Shawn Yue gets to briefly throw down a couple of times against Wu Yue, one while handcuffed that sees Wu also agree not to use his hands, and the other in an airplane cabin not dissimilar to a scene in The Transporter 2.

The action is all complimented by the onscreen pairing of Chow and Cheung. Both are great actors, and here they bounce off each other well, whether it be backing each other up in a dodgy Thai casino, or surrounded by a group of hungry crocodiles. From Vegas to Macau 2 is interestingly the second time Cheung has found himself confronting crocodiles while in Thailand, the first being Benny Chan’s awful 2013 action flick The White Storm. The chemistry between the two unintentionally makes the movie a few notches better than it would be had it been another actor left to play Chow’s foil (Nicolas Tse we’re looking at you).

Throw in a bunch of on the mark jokes that reference everything from Donnie Yen, Lost in Thailand, The Walking Dead, Unbeatable, and even Korean drama He Who Came from the Stars, and From Vegas to Macau 2 not only captures the spirit of those 80’s HK ‘everything and the kitchen sink’ movies that we love so much, it genuinely feels like one. For those who have seen the original, the closing couple of minutes wrapped up with an interesting cameo, and the sequel does the same. While last time a few people were left scratching their heads, this time it’s a safe bet that with the closing shot, anyone who counts themselves as even a casual fan of Hong Kong cinema, will most likely be left grinning from ear to ear.

Paul Bramhall’s Rating: 8/10

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Mel Gibson joins Xiao Feng’s ‘The Bombing’ as art director

"Die Hard" Japanese Theatrical Poster

"Die Hard" Japanese Theatrical Poster

Bruce Willis (Die Hard) will be playing a key role in an upcoming Chinese-language World War II film titled The Bombing. According to Variety, the movie, which is being shot in 3D, is a dramatic recreation of the Chinese population’s abiding endurance during the more than five years that Japan bombed the city of Chongqing, beginning in 1938.

The Bombing is directed by Xiao Feng (Hushed Roar) and also stars Nicholas Tse (The Viral Factor), Song Seung-Heon (A Better Tomorrow), William Chen (Triad) and Liu Ye (Curse of the Golden Flower).

The Bombing is currently in production and is scheduled to be released at the end of the year. Until then, stay tuned for more updates!

Update: According to Variety (via FCS), Mel Gibson (The Blood Father) has been announced as art director for Xiao Feng’s The Bombing.

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1st trailer for AMC’s ‘Into the Badlands’ starring Daniel Wu

"Into the Badlands" Poster

"Into the Badlands" Poster

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

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

BREAKING NEWS: Watch the first trailer (via FCS).

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Monk Comes Down the Mountain (2015) Review

"Monk Comes Down the Mountain" Chinese Theatrical Poster

"Monk Comes Down the Mountain" Chinese Theatrical Poster

AKA: The Monk
Director: Chen Kaige
Producer: Chen Hong
Cast: Wang Bao Qiang, Aaron Kwok, Chang Chen, Lin Chi-ling, Fan Wei, Yuen Wah, Vanness Wu, Wang Xueqi, Danny Chan Kwok-kwan, Lam Suet, Dong Qi, Li Xuejian, Tian Zhuangzhuang, Tiger Hu Chen, Jaycee Chan
Running Time: 123 min.

By Paul Bramhall

Up until recently Shaolin trained actor Wang Bao Qiang’s choice of roles did little to show off his physical talents, from his debut in the 2003 drama Blind Shaft, to starring in the hugely popular comedy Lost in Thailand in 2012. Bao Qiang’s luck changed though in 2014, in which he got to bust out his kung fu repertoire not once, but twice, against current action king Donnie Yen in Iceman 3D and Kung Fu Jungle. The 2015 production Monk Comes Down the Mountain rightfully generated a lot of excitement amongst fans of martial arts cinema, as it’s the first movie which casts Bao Qiang in the starring role of a kung fu movie.

Based on a novel by martial arts writer Xu Haofeng, who is also credited as a screenwriter for The Grandmaster, the kung fu loving demographic weren’t the only ones to get excited, as it was also announced that Chen Kaige would be directing. Kaige has long been an ambassador for Chinese cinema, his most well known work, Farewell My Concubine, famously walking away with the Palme D’Or at the 1993 Cannes Film Festival. Since then Kaige has worked steadily, with his last movie before making Monk Comes Down the Mountain, Caught in the Web, being submitted as the Chinese entry for the Foreign Language Oscar. While his latest work may seem like a drastic departure, it’s worth noting that Kaige turned his attention to commercial filmmaking before, with the 2005 fantasy wuxia, The Promise.

The Promise was considered to be an interesting choice for Kaige, and the final product is frequently referred to as rather uneven, and in some cases, quite silly. Having watched Monk Comes Down the Mountain, it’s safe to say that his second venture into the world of mainstream martial arts themed cinema also suffers from the same issues, while unfortunately also being frequently irritating. The movies faults are present in spite of having a significant amount of support behind it, with the picture marking the second time Hollywood studio Columbia Pictures have ventured into the Chinese market (the first being Jian Wen’s Gone with the Bullets).

The main problem is that Monk Comes Down the Mountain presents us with a simple story, but makes the mistake of presenting it in a very childish manner. Bao Qiang plays a monk in an impoverished temple, who in the opening scene fights a group of other monks to win some food, in an incredibly cartoony and wire-work heavy sequence that involves tickling and excessive gurning. Having won the fight, the abbot casts him out from the temple for being too cocky, and hence he ‘comes down the mountain’ and into the real world to learn about life. Bao Qiang’s monk will put a lot of people off in the first 30 minutes, he’s annoyingly naïve and manically laughs at everything, and his 10 feet into the air somersaults over moving cars set to circus style music are more grating than endearing.

Thankfully his character does develop, and soon he’s taken in by a pharmacist played by Fan Wei. When Bao Qiang learns that Wei’s wife, played by Lin Chi Ling, is cheating with his eccentric younger brother, portrayed by Vaness Wu (sporting a bizarre Vanilla Ice haircut), it triggers a chain of events that lead to Bao Qiang setting off on a path of revenge, forgiveness, and redemption. This translates onscreen to him going from place to place meeting a variety of different characters, some of whom have good intentions, and others not so much.

The Monk Comes Down the Mountain crams in a lot of big Chinese names into its cast. Although it’s worth noting that despite Aaron Kwok and Chang Chen sharing top billing with Bao Qiang, Kwok doesn’t appear until an hour into the movie, with Chang Chen only showing up in the final 30 minutes. If you were interested to see the movie as a fan of either, it’s worth adjusting your expectations accordingly. Surprisingly, the two characters who get the most screen time outside of Bao Qiang are a dastardly father and son duo played by kung fu legend Yuen Wah and Jaycee Chan.

It’s hard to tell, but there seems to be a heap of meta-references going on with the relationship between Wah and Chan, which appear to be referencing the real life tumultuous relationship between Jackie Chan and his son. Wah is a kung fu master who wants people to respect Chan, but is frustrated at his offspring’s lack of martial arts talent. One extended sequence in the movie revolves entirely around Chan taking drugs, which leads to his face becoming deformed and him performing all kinds of drug influenced silliness. In another scene he’s busted smoking a joint, and when not doing either he nervously flicks at his nose as if he recently snorted something. Coincidence that at the time the movie was released Chan had recently been arrested in China for drug use? It seems unlikely, but it also does the movie no favors, as the references stick out too obviously.

The playful nature of the movies opening is soon discarded to focus on some clumsily delivered kung fu intrigue. It turns out Kwok and Chen have mastered the Ape Strike, however Wah feels that the technique was stolen from him before he had a chance to master it, so has vowed to get the kung fu manual back and kill the pair. While the prospect of seeing some Ape Strike kung fu sounds pretty exciting, the name is deceiving. In a strange back-story, it’s explained that only apes can look at the sun and capture it within their eyes, which allows them to move at almost superhuman speeds. For the person who masters the Ape Strike, they’ll also be able to move at superhuman speed. But wait, what’s the real connection to apes, and where’s the strike!? There is none.

This of course leads to the movies biggest problem of all – the action. Handled by Ku Huen Chiu, who was also the action director for Stephen Chow’s entertaining Journey to the West: Conquering the Demons, and backed up by the same effects company responsible for the likes of The Matrix Reloaded, the action here is the antithesis of ‘less is more’. There isn’t a single grounded fight in the whole 2 hour runtime of The Monk Comes Down the Mountain, with every one of them requiring the participants to fly at least 10 feet off the ground. Even basic walking and running is wire assisted, and it all lacks any kind of sophistication or grace.

Wire-work always splits opinions down the middle, and I confess I’m someone who doesn’t mind it. Done in the correct way wire enhanced moves do exactly what they’re intended to do – enhance the action. However here Huen Chiu seems to have no understanding of how space and impact affect a viewer’s reaction and investment to the scene. Where’s the danger in a fight if you’re going to have someone doing Hulk style jumps to the other end of a field? What’s the difference between a light tap with a sword and a roundhouse kick if they both send the person on the receiving end flying/floating into the distance with equal power? There’s no sense of spectacle or awe in any of the moves, and by the time Chen jumps as high as a cloud in the finale it’s difficult to care.

I blame the Ape Strike. Thanks to its powers Aaron Kwok effectively plays a Jedi, able to beckon objects into his hand from a distance via telekinesis, and Chen is Neo, able to move so quick he can dodge bullets, and even getting a multiple-Agent Smith style fight scene a la The Matrix Reloaded. Huen Chiu even manages to massacre a traditional Peking Opera performance, in a scene which has Chen in full Opera makeup throwing CGI tables across the auditorium like boomerangs, before stacking them on top of each other.

It’s a shame that Bao Qiang’s ascension to top star of a movie is paired with Kaige’s descent into mediocre filmmaking. Given the right material, both men are capable of greatness, however in this instance, perhaps they both should have stayed on the mountain.

Paul Bramhall’s Rating: 4/10

Disclaimer: Monk Comes Down the Mountain was shown on China IMAX screens in 3D. However here in Australia, it got a cinematic release in 2D, which is how I watched it.

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Deal on Fire! Tarantino XX Collection | Blu-ray | Only $57.99 – Expires soon!

"Tarantino XX: 8-Film Collection" Blu-ray Set

"Tarantino XX: 8-Film Collection" Blu-ray Set

Today’s Deal on Fire is the Blu-ray set for the Tarantino XX: 8-Film Collection.

Tarantino XX includes Reservoir Dogs, True Romance, Pulp Fiction, Jackie Brown, Kill Bill Vol. 1, Kill Bill Vol. 2, Death Proof and Inglourious Basterds.

The set also features 2 discs with 5 hours of bonus material, highlighted by a critics’ retrospective on Tarantino’s groundbreaking catalog of films and “20 Years of Filmmaking” that contains interviews with critics, stars and other masters of cinema.

Order Tarantino XX from Amazon.com today!

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Wesley Snipes to make a sharp return in ‘Blade 4′?

"Blade: Trinity" Japanese Theatrical Poster

"Blade: Trinity" Japanese Theatrical Poster

Fresh off Expendables 3, his first theatrical release since 2009′s Brooklyn’s Finest (due to his two and a half year prison sentence for tax evasion), Wesley Snipes may be reprising his role in Marvel’s Blade action franchise.

According to last year’s NY Daily News: “Wesley Snipes is set to reprise his lead role in Blade, the 1998 vampire thriller that made more than $130 million and generated two sequels. Sources close to Snipes tells us the 52-year-old actor’s comeback after being released from prison in April 2013 is ‘looking good’ and that he’ll make $3 million from this film, plus a cut of the profits.”

Considering the troubles regarding 2004′s Blade: Trinity (Wesley clashed with director David S. Goyer, due to creative differences; the film proved disappointing, both critically and commercially; and the fact that Marvel now holds live action film rights), we’ll be surprised if the franchise moves forward with Snipes. In this day and age, producers are more about rebooting franchises with hot young stars, and not with past-their-peak actors. But, hey, we’re rooting for Wesley!

Updates: At this year’s Comic-Con, here’s what Wesley Snipes told Deadline about his possible involvement in Blade 4: “The project is controlled by Marvel and we did have a really productive and a wonderful meeting and we discussed a number of things. I don’t know where it’s on their schedule at this point, that hasn’t been decided. I guess it’s still up in the air… but if we don’t to a Blade 4 or something else with Marvel, we’ll do something else.” Until we get the official word, you can catch Wesley in NBC’s upcoming TV pilot, The Player.

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