Korean cinematic bad boy Kim Ki-duk is back with the disturbing ‘Moebius’

"Moebius" North American Theatrical Poster

Ever since 2000′s The Isle caught the attention of the international cinema scene,  director Kim Ki-duk has been known as an iconoclast and provocateur of Korean cinema. Although his 2012 effort Pieta earned him the coveted Golden Lion at that year’s Venice International Film Festival, the controversial filmmaker hasn’t decided to play it safe. His upcoming film Moebius is set to land in select North American theaters this August 15th, followed by an On Demand release on August 29th.

The movie’s tagline is ‘Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned’ and the new trailer promises a violent and disturbing tale of infidelity, castration, and catharsis.

Moebius proved so disturbing, in fact, that it was initially banned in South Korea before their ratings board reviewed film a second time and changed their mind.

Needless to say, fans of ‘extreme Asian cinema’ will want to check out the newly released North American trailer and prepare to have their worlds properly rocked by Kim Ki-duk next month.

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Angels 2 | aka Iron Angels 2 (1989) Review

"Angels 2" Japanese Theatrical Poster

"Angels 2" Japanese Theatrical Poster

AKA: Angel 2, Fighting Madam 2
Director: Stanley Tong
Writer: Teresa Woo San
Cast: Alex Fong, Moon Lee Choi Fong, Elaine Lui Siu Ling, Gary Siu Yuk Lung, Sin Ho Ying, Jackson Ng Yuk Su, Yuen Tak
Running Time: 90 min.

By Paul Bramhall

The ‘Girls with Guns’ genre is generally considered to have been kicked off by the 1985 Corey Yuen movie Yes, Madam!, which introduced us to the femme fatale coupling of Michelle Yeoh and Cynthia Rothrock. The rest of the 80s were spent introducing us to a bevy of dangerous ladies – in 1986 we were given the ferocious pairing of Moon Lee and Yukari Oshima in Iron Angels, and in 1987 we were given yet another deadly duo with Cynthia Khan and Michiko Nishiwaki in In the Line of Duty 3.

Despite the talent of these ladies, the genre arguably always remained a tier below the output from their male counterparts. As time went on the action seemed to increasingly move to countries which had cheaper production costs, such as the Philippines and Malaysia, and by the mid-90s the ‘Girls with Guns’ genre had all but disappeared. For the few glorious years that these movies were getting produced though, the sheer number that got cranked out pretty much guaranteed at least a few minor classics. Often filled with copious machine gun fire and cheap and cheerful pyrotechnics, interspersed with moments of intense fight action, it’s easy to see why these kick ass gals gained a sizable following.

The original Iron Angels delivered a strong cast, apart from the aforementioned Moon Lee and Yukari Oshima, they were ably backed up by Alex Fong, Elaine Lui, and Shaw Brothers legend David Chiang, who essentially filled the role of Charlie in a Hong Kong version of Charlie’s Angels. Throw in Japanese star Saijo Hideki and Korean boot master Hwang Jang-lee, and it would be difficult not to have a good time. The movie is considered a classic of the ‘Girls with Guns’ genre, and spawned two sequels, the second of which has frustratingly yet to be released on DVD in any English speaking country.

It’s a shame, as while Iron Angels 2 is hardly a contender for an Oscar, it is a worthy addition to the genre. The three principal members of the original return in the form of Moon Lee, Elaine Lui, and Alex Fong, who essentially make up the team of angels. Why one of the angels has to be played by a guy is anyone’s guess, but in the pantheon of questions that could be raised out of Hong Kong’s movie output from the 80’s, this is probably one of the lesser ones.

The story concerns the angels being distracted from their holiday in Kuala Lumpur, when the host with whom they’re staying turns out to be an insane revolutionary. This is revealed in a wonderful speech when he explains that he wants to make “an Asia for the Asians”, and we get to see him kick back in the evening with a whiskey on the rocks, while watching videos of Hitler parading through the streets of Germany. Of course in an effort to flesh out the plot a little bit more, Elaine Lui becomes romantically involved with him, unaware of his extreme ideals, and if that wasn’t enough to push the run-time to a suitable length, the rest is padded out by travelogue like shots of Kuala Lumpur city.

While Iron Angels was hardly a big budget affair, it did get by on the merits of having a pair of strong adversaries in the form of Yukari Oshima and Hwang Jang-lee. Oshima seemed to relish her role of the vicious gang boss, and the whole movie stayed true to its genre origins by having Moon Lee and Elaine Lui ultimately have to rescue the captured Fong from her lair.

The sequel loses points somewhat in the fact that if anything, the shift in focus seems to be away from the ladies, and instead Fong is now the image of the macho 80’s Hong Kong action hero, seemingly able to beat up anyone who crosses his path. After playing the deadly leading lady in the Shaw Brothers classic Come Drink With Me, Cheng Pei Pei suffered a similar fate in its sequel Golden Swallow, when she played second fiddle to Jimmy Wang Yu. The only problem here is Alex Fong is no Jimmy Wang Yu, and director Stanley Tong is no Chang Cheh.

While I’m sure a more academically minded critic would be happy to draw comparisons between the notions of feminism between the original Iron Angels and its sequel, let’s face it, at the end of the day we’re all here for the action. Moon Lee would go on to make several movies together with Yukari Oshima, so the real question is how does she fare here with no promise of a final throw down with the Japanese beauty. Thankfully the answer isn’t a disappointing one, in large part due to the showdown that she has with the movies action director Yuen Tak.

Tak is one of the more unsung heroes of Hong Kong action cinema. Originally cast as a kind of Jackie Chan clone in the 1980 Shaw Brothers movie The Master opposite Chen Kuan Tai, he went onto to have a successful career as an action director, working on such movies as Dragon from Russia, while still occasionally making onscreen appearances, most notably returning as the villain in the 1997 version of Hero. Here Tak serves as action director and plays the head henchman, who happens to face off against Lee in a munitions hut in the finale. While their fight is frustratingly brief, what’s there is gold, as the two exchange a lightening fast flurry of feet and fists.

The fight is so good that it makes you realize that she’s just spent the majority of the movie wasted in what for the most part is a non-action role, while it’s Fong who gets given the majority of the movies action beats. While Fong is a passable screen fighter, the fight between Lee and Tak makes his scenes look like rehearsals. This is made even more glaringly obvious when straight after the showdown he’s given the final confrontation of the movie, which while not particularly bad, simply doesn’t stand up compared to the few seconds of excellence we’ve just bore witness to.

There’s also a whole lot of obligatory but satisfying machine gun fire and explosions in the finale, but despite it all, Iron Angels 2 remains a notch under the original. Later that same year Lee would be seriously burnt when she was caught in an explosion, which detonated early while escaping from a building on the set of the movie Devil Hunters, but like the strong female characters she portrayed on screen, she didn’t stay down for long. Hopefully movies like both Devil Hunters and Iron Angels 2 will some day make it onto DVD, and everyone can enjoy watching the ladies of Hong Kong cinema kick just as much ass as the men.

Paul Bramhall’s Rating: 7/10

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Takashi Miike is back with bloody horror film ‘Over Your Dead Body’

"Over Your Dead Body" Japanese Theatrical Poster

As advance pictures of Yakuza Apocalypse can attest to, Takashi Miike is back in fine form and doing what he does best: delivering mind-blowing and extreme Asian cinema. Along those lines, the trailer for Over Your Dead Body hit the web today. 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.

It’s been quite some time since Takashi Miike has played in the horror realm, despite making quite a name for himself with films like One Missed Call (which even saw a subpar Hollywood remake) and his notorious Masters of Horror episode Imprint, not to mention his modern horror classic Audition. Based on the trailer, Miike appears to be pulling out all the stops with Over Your Dead Body. Fans can expect the film in Japanese theaters this August ’14. Thanks to Twitch for the news.

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American Muscle | Blu-ray & DVD (Well Go USA)

"American Muscle" Theatrical Poster

"American Muscle" Theatrical Poster

RELEASE DATE: September 30, 2014

Well Go USA presents the Blu-ray & DVD for Rafvi Dhar’s American Muscle. Falcon (Nick Principe) did 10 years of hard time in prison, now he’s got 24 hours to get revenge on every person who sent him there. It isn’t exactly a post-apocalyptic flick, but judging from the trailer, it has enough road action, sex and brutal violence to keep up us pre-occupied until Mad Max: Fury Road finally gets released.

American Muscle also stars Robin Sydney (Trophy Heads), Todd Farmer (Drive Angry) and John Fallon (Dead Shadows). Watch the trailer.

Pre-order American Muscle from Amazon.com today!.

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Rain joins forces with Bruce Willis in the action thriller ‘The Prince’

"The Prince" Theatrical Poster

"The Prince" Theatrical Poster

Brian A. Miller (Officer Down) upcoming action thriller The Prince features an all-star cast that includes Bruce Willis (Die Hard 6), John Cusack (Love & Mercy) 50 Cent (Get Rich or Die Tryin’), Jason Patric (Narc), South Korean superstar Rain (Ninja Assassin) and Johnathon Schaech (Doom Generation).

The plot for The Prince, written by Andre Fabrizio and Jeremy Passmore (2012′s Red Dawn), is as follows: A retired Las Vegas crime boss is forced to return to the city, and face his former enemies, when his teenage daughter goes missing.

Update: It’s been at least half a year since we’ve heard anything about The Prince, but a trailer has surfaced online. The film receives a limited theatrical and On Demand release this August 22nd. Also, here’s the new poster.

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Warrior Princess | aka Queen Ahno | DVD (Lionsgate)

Warrior Princess | aka Queen Ahno | DVD (Lionsgate)

Warrior Princess | aka Queen Ahno | DVD (Lionsgate)

RELEASE DATE: September 16, 2014

Lionsgate presents the DVD for Shuudertsetseg Baatarsuren’s Warrior Princess (aka Queen Ahno), Mongolia’s highest-grossing film to date! In a time when honor was everything, discover how one woman’s (Otgonjargal Davaasuren) sacrifice inspired the courage of a nation’s army in their fight for freedom! Based on the true story of Queen Ahno of Mongolia, who gave her life to save her husband and sons in battle. Watch the violent trailer.

Also starring Myagmar Mondoon, Bayarmagnai Yeguzer, Myagmarnaran Gombo, Sarantuya Sambuu, Altantuya Tumurbaatar and Ravdan Gombo.

Pre-order Warrior Princess from Amazon.com today!

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Want a ‘Pacific Rim 2,’ kaiju fans? You’ll get it April 7, 2017!

"Pacific Rim" Japanese Theatrical Poster

"Pacific Rim" Japanese Theatrical Poster

Last summer’s ‘giant monsters vs. mech’ film Pacific Rim proved to be a modest hit worldwide, grossing $400 million on a budget of about half that. The movie arrived in theaters with plenty of internet buzz, thanks in part to the reputation of director Guillermo Del Toro (Hellboy, Blade II). Now Del Toro is assuring fans that, if they keep their fingers crossed, we might just get Pacific Rim 2.

The acclaimed Pan’s Labyrinth filmmaker recently stated that he is working on a screenplay with Zak Penn (X-Men: The Last Stand), and that Charlie Hunnam and Rinko Kikuchi’s characters will be returning. In the past, Del Toro has teased that a sequel might involve humans ‘drifting’ (kind of a telepathic link) with a kaiju, or giant monster, and the kaiju/mech that would result from such a connection. Fans of the first film, we ask: what would you like to see in a Pacific Rim 2?

Updates: According to Collider, Guillermo del Toro is returning to the director’s chair for Pacific Rim 2, which has a set release date for April 7, 2017.

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Deal on Fire! Saving General Yang | Blu-ray | Only $6.85 – Expires soon!

Saving General Yang | Blu-ray & DVD (Well Go USA)

Saving General Yang | Blu-ray & DVD (Well Go USA)

Today’s Deal on Fire is the Blu-ray for Saving General Yang, directed by Ronny Yu (Jet Li’s Fearless). Northeast China, early Northern Song dynasty, AD 986. The Khitan army takes its revenge for a past massacre, abducting General Yang Ye (Adam Cheng) and leaving his wife and seven sons to rescue him – and fall into their deadly trap. Led by the first son (Ekin Cheng), the seven set out with a small band of fighters to face an army of thousands so they can bring their father home. The film also stars Yu Bo, Vic Chou, Raymond Lam, Wu Chun and Fu Xinbo. Stephen Tung (A Better Tomorrow) handles action choreography.

Order Saving General Yang from Amazon.com today!

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Ryuhei Kitamura makes his grand return to Japanese cinema with ‘Lupin the Third’

"Lupin the Third" Japanese Theatrical Poster

When Japanese director Ryuhei Kitamura made the transition to Hollywood and began directing low-budget horror fare like Midnight Meat Train and No One Lives, fans were eager enough to see what the talented filmmaker threw our way…but deep down, most were waiting for Kitamura to return to Japan and get back to reinventing action cinema with films like Versus and Azumi.

Well, it appears that Kitamura is back in his native country and his first project is a live-action adaptation of the popular and long-running manga/anime series Lupin the Third.

Lupin the Third, or Lupin III as it’s often known, follows the gentleman thief Arsene Lupin III and his many colorful allies as they steal valuable items all over the globe.

The trailer for Kitamura’s live-action film is here, and it promises to deliver plenty of over-the-top setpieces and diverse characters. Could this be the dazzling return to form that Ryuhei Kitamura’s fans have been waiting for? Thanks to Twitch for the news.

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Hot new Asian titles streaming on Netflix

Journey to the West | Blu-ray & DVD (Magnolia)

Journey to the West | Blu-ray & DVD (Magnolia)

Got a Netflix subscription? If so, you’ve got a gateway to some of the latest and greatest in Asian cinema, as well as related martial arts titles. Let’s take a look at some of the titles that have found their way to Netflix’s streaming service in the last month or two.

Journey to the West (2013) – from director Stephen Chow comes this special FX-fueled martial arts flick about the Monkey King

Oldboy (2013) – this English-language remake from director Spike Lee caused controversy when it hit theaters; not so much for its violent content as the fact that Hollywood would dare to touch the Korean modern classic!

Confession of Murder (2012) – fan favorite distributor Well Go USA presents this dark and gritty Korean action/thriller

The Detective (2007) and The Detective 2 (2011) – Hong Kong actor Aaron Kwok is front and center in these two quirky crime thrillers from director Oxide Pang (The Eye)

Fairy Tale Killer (2o12) – genre veteran Lau Ching-wan (A Hero Never Dies) stars in this serial killer thriller directed by the other Pang brother, Danny Pang

Sleepwalker (2011) – we hope you’re not tired of the Pang Brothers yet since Oxide Pang directs this supernatural thriller starring Angelica Lee (The Eye)

Iron Monkey (1993) – martial arts superstar Donnie Yen appears in the dubbed version of this wuxia classic from director Yuen Woo-ping

Lady Vengeance (2005) – from Oldboy director Chan Wook-park comes the final, thrilling installment in his ‘vengeance trilogy’

Oldboy (2003) – the original Korean-language thriller from director Chan Wook-park! A film that needs no introduction

Puncture Wounds (2014) – MMA sensation Cung Le stars alongside Expendables Dolph Ludgren in this martial arts actioner

The Replacement Killers (1998) – Hong Kong acting legend Chow Yun-fat transitioned to Hollywood cinema with this 90′s actioner

Ring of Curse (2011) – Asian horror is alive and well in this J-horror film about a group of school girls who find themselves cursed and dying off, one by one

Sympathy For Mr. Vengeance (2002) – arguably the finest effort in Chan-wook Park’s ‘vengeance trilogy’ – shhh, don’t tell fans of Oldboy

Caught in the Web (2012) – from the director of Farewell My Concubine comes this thriller about internet culture and cyber witch hunts

Machete Kills (2013) – the latest entry in the Grindhouse-esque series features appearances by ‘Mad Max’ himself, Mel Gibson, as well as international martial arts star Marko Zaror (Undisputed III)

The Wrath of Vajra (2013) – a good old-fashioned martial arts actioner in the Bloodsport vein, featuring fight choreography by Sammo Hung

Commitment (2013) – this Korean action/thriller follows a young North Korean spy manipulated by his own government

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Kundo: Age of the Rampant | Blu-ray & DVD (Well Go USA)

"Kundo: Age of the Rampant" Korean Teaser Poster

"Kundo: Age of the Rampant" Korean Teaser Poster

RELEASE DATE: October 21, 2014

Well Go USA presents the Blu-ray and DVD for the South Korean film Kundo: Age of the Rampant (aka Band of Thieves). This 19th century period action/martial arts film stars Ha Jung-woo (The Chaser) and Kang Dong-won (The X), and directed by Yoon Jong-bin (Nameless Gangster).

Kundo: Age of the Rampant revolves around a group of righteous thieves who steal from corrupt public officials and give to the poor. But things get deadly when the thieves come across a powerful figure. Watch the trailer.

Pre-order Kundo: Age of the Rampant from Amazon.com today!

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From Vegas to Macau | aka The Man from Macau (2014) Review

"From Vegas To Macau" Chinese Theatrical Poster

"From Vegas To Macau" Chinese Theatrical Poster

Director: Wong Jing
Writer: Wong Jing
Producer: Andrew Lau, Don Yu Dong
Cast: Chow Yun Fat, Nicholas Tse Ting Fung, Sally Jing Tian, Kimmy Tong Fei, Chapman To Man Chat, Max Zhang Jin, Philip Ng Wan Lung, Hui Siu Hung, Natalie Meng Yao, Gao Hu, Sammy Sum Chun Hin, Yue Chi Ming
Running Time: 94 min.

By oneleaf

The Man from Macau (aka From Vegas to Macau) stars Chow Yun-Fat (The Monkey King) as “Magic Hands” Ken, a highly-skilled, legendary gambler (conman) with lightning fast hands and the ability to literally “feel” the suits on the cards.

The film reunites Chow with prolific writer/producer/director Wong Jing. There are obvious similarities between Chow’s character Ken, and another legendary character, Ko Chun, from the God of Gamblers (1989) and Return of God of Gamblers (1994) – two titles made famous by Chow and Jing. The similarities are a recurring gag that alludes throughout The Man from Macau.

The plot is simple. Ken, along with Cool (Nicholas Tse from The Bullet Vanishes) and his cousin Carl (Chapman To from Men Suddenly in Black), get caught up in espionage and danger when they unwittingly become involved in bringing down a money-laundering criminal named Mr. Ko (Hu Gao from The Bullet Vanishes), the head of DOA.

The Man from Macau is heavy on slow motion, CGI and slapstick comedy. The cinematography and sound are top notch. The set design is impeccable; especially Ken’s home, which used to be a Portuguese library with its high vaulted ceiling, beautiful wood bookcases, eclectic hardwood floor, and thin curved metal staircases. The film is visually dazzling with its flying dice and semi-levitating/gold-plated cards being flung around like shiruken (ninja stars).

Most of the comedy involves Chapman To. As usual, he’s unny in a nonsensical way. Unfortunately, his scenes don’t add much to the overall flow, as he repeatedly shouts “production by Wong Jing” throughout the film.

Tse’s character looks disinterested throughout much of the film. He’s just there looking bored. Despite being a capable actor, his character is very under-developed. He yearns to become Ken’s protégé and son-in-law, but these two thematic elements could have been explored a bit more. Instead, they were superficial and went nowhere.

Max Zhang (from The Grandmaster) as Ko’s bodyguard/assassin is a very proficient wushu practitioner and his skills are evident in his fight scenes with Lionel (Phillip Ng from Bodyguards and Assassins). Unfortunately, Zhang is given very little to do nor say other than trying to look menacing.

The choreography by Nicky Lee (Chung Chi Li) and Wong Wai-Leung are pretty good. One of the highlights: A scene where Rainbow bounces around on two giant cables, a la Cirque du Soleil-style. However, any action scene involving Tse looked rehearsed, ineffective and weak.

I am a big fan of Chow and had high expectations when I heard he was reuniting with Jing. To say I was disappointed is an understatement. The Man from Macau could have been so much more with the talents of Chow, Tse, To and Hui. Yet, the sum of its part do not equal to the end result of this hodgepodge of sight gags, farce comedy, dull plot and uninspiring characters.

Chow is in fine form as Ken and looks dapper in every scene, courtesy of costume design by Chan Chi-Man and Jessie Dai. A chameleon of an actor, Chow easily switches between comedy and drama effortlessly in the film. He even sings and dances with Benz Hui, which is a breath of fresh air. Yet, even Chow couldn’t save the movie.

Other than Ken, all the other characters are one-dimensional. Ko would have been an excellent adversary for Ken, had Jing given his character more to do, rather than just posturing aimlessly from one scene to another. Kimmy Tong (from The Last Tycoon) as Ken’s daughter, Rainbow, is very pretty and a decent actress. I would have loved to see more of her on screen. Unfortunately, she and the other China-based actors have very little screen time, as their characters are merely accessories.

The Man from Macau is a classic Wong Jing production with stylized images and great cinematography, but the script is weak and formulaic. Obligatory gambling scenes are too few and far in between. They could have been utilized to add more substance to the film. Same goes for the fight scenes.

Nonetheless, it’s good to see Chow in action again. I wanted so much to recommend the movie, but can’t.

Oneleaf’s Rating: 5/10

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John McTiernan’s ‘Predator’ to receive a sequel from a ‘Lethal’ director

"Predator" Japanese Theatrical Poster

"Predator" Japanese Theatrical Poster

Hollywood sure loves their remakes these days, and no film is sacred – not even Chan-wook Park’s beloved Oldboy or the Pang Brothers’ Bangkok Dangerous. Still, it’s one thing for the studios to grab the remake rights to a foreign language film that, let’s face it, most American movie-goers haven’t seen. It’s another thing altogether for Hollywood to remake one of their own beloved genre pictures. That’s why today’s news of a Predator remake in the works is so surprising.

While the original Predator may have its share of cheesy one-liners, it’s regarded by most as a modern action classic. It’s a movie that many consider Arnold Schwarzenneger’s strongest effort, a movie that would most likely be called John McTiernan’s finest hour if it wasn’t for a little film called Die Hard.

Still, even more surprising than the fact that Hollywood would touch the sacred cow of Predator is the news that none other than Shane Black will be directing the film. Before he made headlines for writing and directing Iron Man 3, Black was a talented writer who rose to fame on the strength of scripts like Lethal Weapon and The Last Boy Scout.

Alongside his meteoric rise as a screenwriter in the late Eighties, Black actually had a small supporting role in Predator as the character Hawkins; this blink-and-you’ll-miss-it part was apparently a way for the producers to try and coax Black into polishing the script for Predator, a task which he repeatedly refused. All these years later, the Predator story appears to be coming full circle, as Black will write the treatment for this new Predator before directing the film itself.

The real question is: what modern actor could possibly step into the combat boots made famous by Arnold Schwarzenneger – let alone the other musclebound roles ably filled by Carl Weathers, Jesse Ventura, and Sonny Landham? Considering that most of today’s stars are cast to be pretty rather than buff, it’s most likely that this new Predator will look and feel radically different than the original.

Update: Co-writer/director Shane Black has confirmed that the film is actually an “inventive sequel” and not a reboot as originally thought. Now we’re left to speculate if the film will treat the events of Predator 2 (let alone 2010′s Predators) as canon or ignore everything except the ’87 original.

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Cung Le may just be the busiest man in martial arts action cinema

"Dragon Eyes" Japanese DVD Cover

"Dragon Eyes" Japanese DVD Cover

There’s no rest for the wicked – or for a wicked, musclebound Mixed Martial Arts fighter. Fan favorite actor Cung Le has made a name for himself in and out of the ring, thanks to co-starring roles in films like Bodyguards & Assassins and Dragon Eyes, and the man shows no signs of slowing down. In a recent video interview, Cung Le teased several new projects on his horizon.

Two of the as-of-yet-untitled movies include a film from Sammo Hung (Killzone AKA S.P.L.) and producer Bill Kong (House of Flying Daggers), as well as a role in J.J. Perry’s directorial debut. Perry may not be a name immediately recognizable to action buffs but chances are you’ve seen his work – he served as fight choreographer on both Undisputed 2: Last Man Standing and Blood and Bone!

In addition, Cung Le has mentioned a possible role in the highly anticipated Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon 2: The Green Destiny, which would reunite him with both his The Grandmasters choreographer Yuen Woo-ping and his Bodyguards & Assassins co-star Donnie Yen. Lastly, Le is also in talks for a role in the American remake of The Raid, which is currently in-development from The Expendables 3 director Patrick Hughes. Cung Le clearly has great things coming in the near future, so fans of the talented performer have much to look forward to.

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New photos of ‘The Raid 2′s’ Yayan Ruhian in Takashi Miike’s ‘Yakuza Apocalypse’

"13 Assassins" Japanese Theatrical Poster

"13 Assassins" Japanese Theatrical Poster

Shooting has started for Takashi Miike’s Yakuza Apocalypse. According to filmbiz.asia, the upcoming fantasy action flick revolves around an immortal vampire who joins the yakuza and becomes the most powerful fighter in the criminal underworld. The film is penned by writer-director Yamaguchi Yoshitaka (Neko Samurai).

Miike (13 Assassins) calls Yakuza Apocalypse his return to form. In a public statement, he said: “Goodbye to tediously boring Japanese films… no one wanted this to happen, but I am making a rampage back to the basics!”

Yakuza Apocalypse has an expected theatrical release date for 2015. We’ll keep you updated on further developments.

Updates: According Film Combat Syndicate (Via screendaily.com), Yayan Ruhian (The Raid 2) is joining the cast of Yakuza Apocalypse. Screendaily reports that Ruhian will play one of the international assassins, who specialises in the Silat style of martial arts.

BREAKING NEWS: Check out some of the first photos from Yakuza Apocalypse. - Thanks to Film Combat Syndicate!

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Someone Has to Review It! Bruce Lee’s ‘The Big Boss’

"The Big Boss" Japanese Theatrical Poster

"The Big Boss" Japanese Theatrical Poster

1971′s The Big Boss, starring the legendary Bruce Lee, did for martial arts movies what Elvis Presley did for music: it made it unforgiving, raw and excessive in almost every way imaginable. Unlike Lee’s other films, The Big Boss’ structure has a slow build up when it comes to the action, so once Lee’s character unleashes his first kick almost 40 minutes into the film, it’s that much more intense.

The Big Boss is also the most brutal, explicit and morally wrong of all his films. Unlike Tobe Hooper’s Texas Chainsaw Massacre, you get to see a “saw” slice through bodies. In fact, calling The Big Boss a sleazy horror flick wouldn’t be far from the truth.

There’s also certain mystique behind The Big Boss. Die hard Lee enthusiasts from all over the world are still in search of a version of the film that includes long lost, edited footage, such as the extremely rare saw-in-the-head scene (photo), as well as a bit where Lee’s character decides to get a piece of ass from a prostitute (photo) one last time before he goes on a kill-crazy suicide mission.

One die hard enthusiast is Brandon Bentley, Indie filmmaker and Big Boss-historian (producer the Bruce Lee vs. Peter Thomas feature in Shout! Factory’s Bruce Lee Legacy Collection), has a new series on youtube titled Someone Has to Review It!, and this week he reviews The Big Boss. The reason I find it necessary to share this review is simple: If there’s someone out there that has something new or interesting to say about The Big Boss, Bentley is definitely one of them. Without further ado, here’s a link to the youtube review. Enjoy!

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Guardian | DVD (Millennium)

"Guardian" Theatrical Poster

"Guardian" Theatrical Poster

RELEASE DATE: October 21, 2014

Millennium presents the DVD for the Indonesian action thriller, Guardian. If you’re a fan of Merantau, The Raid or The Raid 2, then Guardian might be your cup of tea. Just keep in mind, this is definitely an action flick where guys take the back seat!

Written and directed by Helfi Kardit (Suster Keramas), Guardian stars Sarah Carter (DOA: Dead or Alive), Dominique Diyose (Love for Share), Belinda Camesi (Laskar Cilia) and Tio Pakusadewo (The Raid 2: Berandal). Watch the trailer.

Pre-order Guardian from Amazon.com today!

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Natural Born Killers: 20th Anniversary | Blu-ray (Warner)

Natural Born Killers: 20th Anniversary | Blu-ray (Warner)

Natural Born Killers: 20th Anniversary | Blu-ray (Warner)

RELEASE DATE: September 30, 2014

Warner presents the Blu-ray for Oliver’s Stone’s Natural Born Killers: 20th Anniversary Edition. Take a hallucinogenic ride through the minds and exploits of two cold-blooded lovers (Woody Harrelson and Juliette Lewis), and is a powerful, gut-grabbing look at how violence and crime are sensationalized and glamorized in the media. This anniversary edition will contain two versions of the film (Theatrical version and Director’s Cut), and a new featurette Natural Born Killers: Method in the Madness, a rare glimpse provided by director Stone, editor Hank Corwin and technical advisor Dale Dye into the creative process that gave birth to this provocative, unapologetically violent piece of American cinema.

Pre-order Natural Born Killers: 20th Anniversary today!

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Latest ‘character’ trailer for Jung Woo-Sung’s ‘The Devine Move’

"The Devine Move" Korean Theatrical Poster

"The Devine Move" Korean Theatrical Poster

South Korea is back with another revenge thriller called The Devine Move. Filmmaker Jo Bum-Gu goes against the grain of his last movie Quick, by giving us a more gritty, less humorous, non-cgi approach. No blockbuster explosions or vehicle stunts here… just some dirty hand-to-hand combat.

The Devine Move stars Jung Woo-Sung (The Good, The Bad, The Weird), Lee Beom-Soo (Death Bell), Ahn Sung-Ki (Sector 7), Kim In-Kwon (Quick), Choi Jin-Hyuk (Love Clinique), Lee Si-Young (Five Senses of Eros) and Ahn Kil-Kang (Crying Fist).

Updates: Watch the 1st trailer. | 2nd trailerThe Divine Move opens on July 2014 in Sourth Korea.

BREAKING NEWS: Latest trailer. Also, new character posters at Film Combat Syndicate.

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Once Upon a Time in Vietnam | aka Lua Phat (2013) Review

"Once Upon a Time in Vietnam" Vietnamese Theatrical Poster

"Once Upon a Time in Vietnam" Vietnamese Theatrical Poster

Director: Dustin Nguyen
Writer: Dustin Nguyen
Producer: Dustin Nguyen, Ngoc Hiep, Do Quang Minh
Cast: Dustin Nguyen, Roger Yuan, Veronica Ngo, Thai Hoa, Nguyen Hoang Quan, Xuan Phat, Hieu Hien, Dinh Ngoc Diep
Running Time: 104 min.

By Mighty Peking Man

Since Dragon Dynasty’s U.S. release of 2006’s The Rebel, Asian movie enthusiasts have had a major hard-on for Vietnamese action films. The Rebel, with its snappy fight choreography and rich storyline, proved that a Vietnamese production could hold its own against some of the finest martial arts flicks from any country.

Unfortunately, Vietnamese titles are heavily overshadowed by Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Thai and most recently, Indonesian movies (you can’t compete with Sony’s go-getter marketing for The Raid and The Raid 2). The reasons are most likely due to limited exposure and lack of availability.

Fact is, unless you’re an avid martial arts film fanatic, it’s possible that you’ll fly through life watching Ong BakIp Man or The Raid several more times without ever watching The Rebel or Clash even once. If you’re one of the few who have been following Vietnamese action films, then you’re probably aware of 2013’s Once Upon a Time in Vietnam (aka Lua Phat), which is officially dubbed “the first Vietnamese fantasy film.”

Once Upon a Time in Vietnam is heavily noted for being the brain child of Dustin Nguyen, the film’s director, writer, producer and star. Apart from being “that Asian dude” from the original 21 Jump Street TV series, Nguyen has maintained a semi-famous status in America, but in his home country of Vietnam, he carries a lot more star power; thanks to his appearance in many Vietnamese films, most notably his role as a heartless villain in Charlie Nguyen’s (unrelated) The Rebel.

Once Upon a Time in Vietnam takes place in an “alternative” Vietnam. Its main setting looks like a town from an old west flick where people wear chaps, leather vests and boots. It’s a fantasy world that fuzes 19th Century technology with modern day street bikes, neon signs and rock music.

The heroes and villains aren’t sheriffs or masked bandits, they’re martial artists who carry Final Fantasy-esque swords and embody supernatural powers akin to a Mortal Kombat and Street Fighter characters. Unlike the town’s bystanders, they wear leather Qing Dynasty-like warrior outfits, garnished with metallic accessories that are etched with “gear” symbols.

In a nutshell, the plot involves an anti-hero named Commander Dao (Nguyen) who’s on the hunt for fellow AWOL warriors hiding out in a small town. Within its structure is a love rhombus, a deranged Emperor (Roger Yuan), a beautiful woman (Veronica Ngo), a clueless father (Thai Hoa, one of Vietnam’s top comedians) a troubled kid (Hoang Quan Nguyen) and a mute (Dinh Ngoc Diep).

Once Upon a Time in Vietnam is essentially bits and pieces of Sergio Leone’s Once Upon A Time in the West, Andrew Lau’s The Stormriders, George Miller’s Mad Max, Sho Fumimura’s Fist of the North Star and Bryan Singer’s Superman Returns. No joke.

The big question is: Does Once Upon a Time in Vietnam join the stellar ranks of The Rebel and Clash? The big answer is: No. In a perfect world, this could have been Vietnam’s answer to a grittier, edgier, more grounded version of a The Stormriders, but instead, it ends up looking more like a subpar version of Sngmoo Lee’s A Warriors Way.

Nguyen’s vision is full of passion, but his execution becomes distorted the process. From a viewer’s perspective, I couldn’t help but notice a sense of lost direction, self indulgence and pretentiousness. Despite meshing all of this influences (Sergio Leone, George Miller, etc.), the final result feels flat and empty.

For instance, there’s a saloon similar to the Titty Twister bar from Robert Rodriguez’ From Dusk ‘Til Dawn. Whereas Rodriguez’ version is flashing with energy and life, Nguyen’s version feels incomplete, generic and in dire need of several more extras per frame.

The special effects are seriously obsolete. Either their computers were low on RAM, or they hired a CG effects guy that has just awoken from a 1995 coma. But honestly, even if the movie had Industrial Light & Magic’s most valuable employee, it wouldn’t have helped because outdated special effects are the least of this film’s problem.

As far as the action scenes, there’s good news and bad news…

First, the bad news: If you’re expecting Rebel or Clash-style fight choreography, turn away and never look back. Considering all the blood, sweat and tears that went into the action – not to mention two experienced martial artists – the hand-to-hand sequences are seriously lacking. The majority of it is over edited, chopped and loaded with pointless slow motion shots. There’s not one fight that stands out. Sure, there’s a second or two of brilliance, but overall, it’s a wishy-washy mess. It’s hard to put the blame solely on the action choreographer (Bui Van Hai), since the issue lies in camera/editing work. Regardless, in this day and age of hyper-kinetic driven martial arts movies, there’s a new standard, and it’s definitely not met here.

Now for the good news: It’s not the most action-packed movie, so you don’t have to worry about overdosing on mediocre martial arts sequences. It’s a damn shame that Johnny Nguyen (The Rebel, Clash) wasn’t hired for his choreography work, because some hard-hitting sequences alone could have escalated Once Upon a Time in Vietnam from being a disappointment. It’s a practice that works for Tony Jaa’s films: Great action + horrible movie = good martial arts flick!

Once Upon a Time in Vietnam shines when it comes to the performances. I’ve always thought Nguyen was a good actor, but after seeing his work in The Rebel, I was blown away by his charisma. As usual, Veronica Ngo (The Rebel, Clash, House in the Alley) is natural when it comes to everything: acting ability, on-screen fighting (with no formal training) and of course, her beauty. Roger Yuan (Black Dynamite) and rest of the cast do a mighty fine job as well.

There’s also no doubt that Once Upon a Time in Vietnam is a good looking movie. The cinematography is beautiful (courtesy of Thai filmmaker Wych Kaosayananda, who is mostly known for directing Ballistic: Ecks vs. Sever); the props and sets are impressive; and the costume designs (by Bao Tranchi) are absolutely stunning.

The bottom line: Maybe Nguyen should have made a couple of smaller films before shooting his passion project. He obviously had the ambition, a decent budget and a competent cast and crew; but none of this added up to the final outcome of the project. To put it simply, Nguyen aimed a little too high and missed.

Mighty Peking Man’s Rating: 5/10

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Watch the newest ‘Revenge of the Pomegranate Hill’ trailer

"Revenge of the Pomegranate Tree Hill" Japanese Theatrical Poster

"Revenge of the Pomegranate Tree Hill" Japanese Theatrical Poster

Thanks to Film Combat Syndicate, we have the scoop on Revenge of the Pomegranate Tree Hill, an upcoming chanbara movie directed by Setsuro Wakamatsu, who is perhaps best known for his 2000 Die Hard-type action film, Whiteout.

Based on a novel by Jiro Asada (Failan), the plot is as follows: Shimura Kingo (Kiichi Nakai) is a samurai retainer whose lord Ii Naosuke is assassinated. Instead of allowing himself to commit seppuku (ritual suicide) after the loss of his lord, Kingo pends the next 13 years tracking down his lord’s killers.

Revenge of the Pomegranate also stars Hiroshi Abe, Ryoko Hirosue, Nakamura Kichiemon, Masahiro Takashima and Sei Matobu. Watch the film’s latest trailer.

Revenge of the Pomegranate will be released domestically on September 20, 2014.

Update: Watch the newest trailer. – Thanks to Film Combat Syndicate

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Tekken: Kazuya’s Revenge | Blu-ray & DVD (ANconnect)

Tekken: Kazuya’s Revenge | Blu-ray & DVD (ANconnect)

Tekken: Kazuya’s Revenge | Blu-ray & DVD (ANconnect)

RELEASE DATE: August 12, 2014

ANconnect presents the Blu-ray and DVD for Tekken: Kazuya’s Revenge. Kane Kosugi (Choy Lee Fut, Ninja 2: Shadow of a Tear) stars in this prequel to 2010′s Tekken. Joining Kosugi is Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa (Tekken), Gary Daniels (Skin Traffik) and Ron Smoorenburg (Who Am I?). Like its predecessor, Tekken 2: Kazuya’s Revenge (aka Tekken: A Man Called X) is based on the popular Namco fighting game of the same name.

Pre-order the the Blu-ray and DVD from Amazon.com today!

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Deal on Fire! Enter the Dragon: 40th Anniversary Collector’s Edition | Blu-ray | Only $22.98 – Expires soon!

Enter the Dragon: 40th Anniversary Ultimate Collector's Edition Blu-ray (Warner)

Enter the Dragon: 40th Anniversary Ultimate Collector's Edition Blu-ray (Warner)

Today’s Deal on Fire is the Blu-ray gift set for the Enter the Dragon: 40th Anniversary Edition. In addition to the classic movie and a list of bonus content, this set includes a number of collectible nick-nacks pictured here.

Bruce Lee’s Enter the Dragon sports an all-star cast that includes John Saxon (Cannibal Apocalypse), Jim Kelly (The Tattoo Connection), Bob Wall (Way of the Dragon), Bolo Yeung (Enter three Dragons), Anthony Lau (The Devil’s Treasure), Sammo Hung (Dirty Tiger, Crazy Frog) and Angela Mao (Queen’s Ransom).

Order the Enter the Dragon: 40th Anniversary Collector’s Edition today!

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Order Donnie Yen’s ‘Iceman’ at DDDhouse.com today!

"Ice Man" Chinese Theatrical Poster

"Ice Man" Chinese Theatrical Poster

DDDHouse.com now has Donnie Yen’s Iceman on Blu-ray, 3D Blu-ray and DVD in stock and ready to ship! Directed by Law Wing-cheung (Punished), Iceman is remake of the 1989 Hong Kong martial arts film The Iceman Cometh, which starred Yuen Biao.

In the remake, Donnie Yen stars alongside Wang Baoqiang (Fire of Conscience), Simon Yam (Man of Tai Chi), and Eva Huang (The Sorcerer and the White Snake). Its sequel, Iceman 2, opens domestically December 2014.

Why wait another year for Iceman’s North American release, when you can get it now!

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Van Damme talks ‘The Eagle Path’ and Jackie Chan!

"Full Love" Theatrical Poster

"Full Love" Theatrical Poster

If you’re a fan of Jean-Claude Van Damme, chances are you’ve heard of The Eagle Path (aka Full Love). The 2010 action drama is Van Damme’s first directorial effort since 1996′s The Quest and the movie he chose to make rather than appear in the first Expendables movie. The project was shot on a budget of about $5 million on location in Thailand and eventually screened out of competition at Cannes.

Audiences at its 2010 screening offered a mixed reaction. There were even some critics who compared the film’s more ‘out there’ sequences to 2001: A Space Odyssey or Terrence Malick’s Tree of Life. Fans had to wonder: had Van Damme gone arthouse?

Unfortunately, American audiences have been unable to discover The Eagle Path since Van Damme was reportedly unhappy with his final cut. Rumors suggested he wouldn’t release the movie in the West, even on DVD, until he was able to do another edit.

According to Impact, producer Moshe Diamont (The Black Dahlia, Universal Soldier: Regeneration) came onboard to help initiate reshoots, which were meant to help clarify the story and characters for the audience and beef up the action sequences.

Recently, Van Damme took to Facebook to assure fans of the status of the film: “The Eagle Path took longer than what I have expected but that is because I did some recent re-shooting with more ACTION scenes! The movie is going to be re-titled to SOLDIERS. Thank you for your patience… soon, wait for its huge première! — JCVD

Updates: The Eagle Path, apparently now titled Soldiers, has been the most tumultuous film of Damme’s career – and hardly anyone has seen it yet. For whatever reason, this film is taking longer than usual to put together. However, we have long heard that this is one of Van Damme’s most personal projects. Bear in mind, JCVD helped finance Soldiers with his own money and wrote the screenplay, besides directing and starring in it. Regardless of the rumors and the long wait, it sounds like Van Damme is working on something that has the potential to be more than just another martial arts flick.

Here’s some footage: 2010 trailer |  Clips 01 | Clips o2 | Van Damme’s 2010 screening intro | Check out the latest clips (sorry, video has been removed), which feature new re-shoots and action sequences that look like they might have been inspired by Garath Evans’ The Raid.

Here’s a brief on-screen clip from Soldiers (aka The Eagle Path). When will we finally get to see Soldiers? The word is it’s completed and fully edited. Now that Van Damme is done filming Pound of Flesh, he can put more focus on finally releasing Soldiers. Rest assured, City on Fire will keep Van Damme fans updated on the status of this long-in-development film.

Apparently, Soldiers is now changing back to its original title, Full Love (aka The Eagle Path). Full Love (click here to see the poster) will make its premiere at the Shanghai International Film Festival. “I just watched my film with final mixing. This is the fresh made film poster…” says Van Damme. I will be in Shanghai International Film Festival to share this film with you.”

In our last update, we reported that The Eagle Path’s title was reverted back to Full Love. But now, according to the SIFF schedule, looks like it’s back to being called The Eagle Path. Whatever the case, The Eagle Path / Full Love / Soldiers is still premiering at the SIFF on June 20th.

BREAKING NEWS: In the last several days, Van Damme has been promoting The Eagle Path at the SIFF. During this time, he took the stage with Jackie Chan (video) and also gave this interview (video), where he talks about his career, The Eagle Path and the possibility of working with Chan.

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14 Blades | Blu-ray & DVD (Anchor Bay)

14 Blades | Blu-ray & DVD (Anchor Bay)

14 Blades | Blu-ray & DVD (Anchor Bay)

RELEASE DATE: September 2, 2014

Anchor Bay presents the Blu-ray and DVD for 2010′s 14 Blades, starring Donnie Yen (The Monkey King) and directed by Daniel Lee (White Vengeance). 14 Blades is a kung fu thriller set during the Ming Dynasty and centered on a secret service agent (Yen) in the emperor’s court who is betrayed and then hunted by his colleagues.

14 Blades also stars Zhao Wei (Painted Skin 2: The Resurrection), Wu Chun (Assassin’s Blade), Kate Tsui (Eye in the Sky) and Qi Yuwu (The Founding of a Party). Watch the trailer.

Pre-order 14 Blades from Amazon.com today!

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Watch the second trailer for Steven Seagal’s ‘A Good Man’

A Good Man | DVD (Lionsgate)

A Good Man | DVD (Lionsgate)

Get ready for an upcoming Steven Seagal action flick titled A Good Man (not to be confused with A Dangerous Man). Seagal re-teams with director/producer Keoni Waxman (Force of Execution) for the 5th time. This time around, Tzi Ma (Rapid Fire, Rush Hour, Dark Vengeance), Victor Webster and Massimo Dobrovic are co-starring.

Here’s the official plot: After an illustrious special ops career ends in disaster, Alexander (Steven Seagal) goes off the grid and attempts to lead a quiet life as a handyman at an apartment complex. But when one of his tenants and her family fall under the thumb of a Russian gangster, Alexander is dragged into an all-out war between rival Chinese and Russian gangs; forcing him to not only defend the family, but bringing him face to face with an old foe, and giving him one more chance to reconcile his past.

Update: Just a quick semi-related update. Steven Seagal’s Dark Vengeance will be making its debut to Redbox on February 27th. The film also stars A Good Man co-star, Tzi Ma. For trailer and details, click here. | A Good Man hits DVD this August 19, 2014. Watch the 1st trailer!

BREAKING NEWS: The second trailer has been released. Enjoy!

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John Woo’s ‘A Better Tomorrow’ to be fully restored in 4K

"A Better Tomorrow" Japanese DVD Cover

"A Better Tomorrow" Japanese DVD Cover

According to China Daily, the Committee of the Shanghai International Film Festival has announced that 1986′s A Better Tomorrow will be restored in 4K in 2015. The restoration process will be completed at Cineteca di Bologna with the financial support of Swiss watch maker Jaeger-LeCoultre.

A Better Tomorrow is the film that single handedly rejuvenated the career of director John Woo (Bullet in the Head), and gave Chow Yun-fat (Hard Boiled) a best actor trophy. Shattering all previous box office records, this top grade production features superbly edited action sequences, a stirring theme song, excellent characterization and strong melodrama.

A Better Tomorrow also spawned two sequels (A Better Tomorrow II and A Better Tomorrow III), countless rip-offs (Return to a Better Tomorrow), a Korean remake (2010′s A Better Tomorrow) and even started a brief fashion trend in Hong Kong.

We’ll keep you posted on possible A Better Tomorrow theatrical re-release dates or upcoming Blu-ray editions. Stay tuned!

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Cityonfire.com’s ‘Rigor Mortis’ Blu-ray Giveaway! – WINNERS ANNOUNCED!

Rigor Mortis | Blu-ray & DVD (Well Go USA)

Rigor Mortis | Blu-ray & DVD (Well Go USA)

Cityonfire.com and Well Go USA are giving away 3 Blu-ray copies of Juno Mak’s Rigor Mortis to three lucky Cityonfire visitors.

To enter, simply add a comment to this post telling us what your favorite horror movie is (from any country), along with a brief explanation of why it’s your favorite. 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 Rigor Mortis will be officially released on July 8, 2014, so we will announce the 3 winners on July 9th!

CONTEST DISCLAIMER: You must enter by July 7, 2014 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: Congratulations to M. H. Boroson, Will and Ron. You have all been notified via email.

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Third time’s a charm for Takashi Ishii’s ‘Gonin Saga’

"Gonin" Japanese Theatrical Poster

"Gonin" Japanese Theatrical Poster

In the mood for more Yakuza action? Well, so are we. Takashi Ishii (Freeze Me) is currently filming the third entry to his violent Gonin series. But before we talk about that, let’s take a look at the first two films:

1995′s Gonin revolved around a disco owner who convinces 4 other guys to go along with him in a planned heist of the local Yakuza thugs for over 100 million yen. The heist is successful, however, the Yakuza, obviously perturbed at the theft, send out 2 hit men (one of which is played by Beat Takeshi) to kill the five.

Gonin 2, which came out in 1996, followed Masamichi Toyama (Ken Ogata), a married man who gets into a bad gambling debt he cant pay back. As a result, Yakuza gangsters track him down, beat him to a pulp and rape his wife. Now, the only thing Toyama will pay back is bloody revenge!

According Film Business Asia, Gonin Saga (aka Gonin 3) follows an investigative reporter who meets the sons of the gangsters involved in the aftermath of the original heist. The film stars Masahiro Higashide (Crows Explode), Kenta Kiritani (Outrage Beyond), Anna Tsuchiya (Kamui Gaiden), Tasuku Emoto (A Story of Yonosuke) and Masanobu Ando (Battle Royale).

Filming for Gonin Saga is expected to finish up by the end of the month with a 2015 release date. As soon as a trailer pops up, we’ll be sure to fill you in.

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