Colombiana (2011) Review

"Colombiana" Thai Theatrical Poster

"Colombiana" Thai Theatrical Poster

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

By HKFanatic

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

HKFanatic’s Rating: 4/10 stars

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

The White Storm | DVD (Lionsgate)

The White Storm | DVD (Lionsgate)

The White Storm | DVD (Lionsgate)

RELEASE DATE: August 4, 2015

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

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

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

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

Taking of Tiger Mountain, The (2014) Review

"The Taking of Tiger Mountain" Chinese Theatrical Poster

"The Taking of Tiger Mountain" Chinese Theatrical Poster

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

By Kyle Warner

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Kyle Warner’s Rating: 7/10

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

"Tron" Japanese Theatrical Poster

"Tron" Japanese Theatrical Poster

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

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

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

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

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

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

Posted in News | 1 Comment

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

"Who Am I?" Chinese Teaser Poster

"Who Am I?" Chinese Teaser Poster

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Order The Grandmaster from Amazon.com today!

Posted in Deals on Fire!, News | 4 Comments

Chocolate | aka Fury (2008) Review

"Chocolate" Japanese DVD Cover

"Chocolate" Japanese DVD Cover

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

By HKFanatic

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

HKFanatic’s Rating: 10/10

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

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

"Point Break" Teaser Poster

"Point Break" Teaser Poster

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

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

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

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

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

Posted in News | 1 Comment

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

"Conan the Barbarian" Japanese Theatrical Poster

"Conan the Barbarian" Japanese Theatrical Poster

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Posted in News | 9 Comments

Fox Hunter (1995) Review

"Fox Hunter" Chinese DVD Cover

"Fox Hunter" Chinese DVD Cover

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

By Paul Bramhall

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Paul Bramhall’s Rating: 7/10

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Justin Lin to shoot unreleased Bruce Lee project ‘Warrior’

"The Big Boss" Japanese Theatrical Poster

"The Big Boss" Japanese Theatrical Poster

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

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

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

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

"Black Mass" Theatrical Poster

"Black Mass" Theatrical Poster

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

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

Updates: Watch the 2nd trailer for Black Mass.

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

"John Wick" International Theatrical Poster

"John Wick" International Theatrical Poster

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

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

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

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

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

"A Better Tomorrow" Blu-ray Cover

"A Better Tomorrow" Blu-ray Cover

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

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

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

Order A Better Tomorrow from Amazon.com today!

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Soo | aka Art of Revenge (2007) Review

"Soo" Korean Theatrical Poster

"Soo" Korean Theatrical Poster

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

By HKFanatic

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

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

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

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

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

HKFanatic’s Rating: 9/10

Posted in Korean, News, Reviews | Tagged | 2 Comments

And they thought a ‘World War Z’ sequel would be ‘Impossible’

"World War Z" Japanese Theatrical Poster

"World War Z" Japanese Theatrical Poster

Deadline reports that Paramount and Skydance have signed Juan Antonio Bayona (The Impossible) to direct a sequel to World War Z, with a script by Steven Knight (Locke). At this time, there’s no official word on the return of Brad Pitt. Deadline says “there’s no real road map for this yet and that will have to be solved on the page before anything else happens.”

The original film was directed by Marc Forster (Quantum of Solace) and definitely had its share of production hell (over budget, massive reshoots, etc), but despite its problems, World War Z became both a critical and financial success.

Updates: According to sources, the World War Z sequel has a release date set for Summer of 2017. No plot details have been unveiled, but according to scriptwriter Steven Knight, they’re approaching the sequel with a “clean slate”.

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Is ‘VIRTUS’ Louis Koo’s answer to ‘Edge of Tomorrow’?

"VIRTUS" Teaser Poster

"VIRTUS" Teaser Poster

Tom Cruise, eat your heart out! Louis Koo (Accident) is doing the powered exoskeleton thing with VIRTUS (aka Mao Dun Zhan Zheng), an upcoming sci-fi action flick that may possibly be Hong Kong’s answer to all that Halo, Robocop and Edge of Tomorrow stuff.

Chinesemov lists Koo not only as star, but also as director. But according to FCS (via OverDope), Benny Chan (Shaolin) is attached to direct. Whatever the case, the newly released teaser trailer is guaranteed to impress with its Hollywood-like special effects, courtesy of The FatFace Production FX Team.

VIRTUS is set to film by the end of this year. Until then, check out its teaser trailer. Stay tuned for more updates!

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Michael Dudikoff fights for survival in ‘Navy Seals vs. Zombies’

"American Ninja" Theatrical Poster

"American Ninja" Theatrical Poster

Whether you want another zombie flick or not, here’s the scoop on Navy Seals vs. Zombies, the upcoming directorial debut of NASCAR driver/stuntman Stanton Barrett, whose stunt credits include Looper and Terminator Genisys.

Navy Seals vs. Zombies stars Stephanie Honoré (13 Sins), Molly Hagan (Cheater, Cheater) and everybody’s favorite American ninja, Michael Dudikoff (Avenging ForceAmerican Ninja) – not to mention real-life Navy SEALs and other military personnel.

Navy Seals vs. Zombies is expected to be released in time for Halloween 2015 – be sure to check out WAFB’s coverage.

A trailer for the film should be hitting soon – stay tuned!

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‘Blade Runner 2’ gets ‘Skyfall’ cinematographer Roger Deakins

"Blade Runner" Japanese Promotional Poster

"Blade Runner" Japanese Promotional Poster

THE MOVIE: Ridley Scott and Hampton Fancher, director and writer, respectively, of the original Blade Runner, are currently working on the follow up to the ground-breaking 1982 science fiction classic, which will take place some years after the first film concluded.

Harrison Ford is officially returning as Rick Deckard and filmmaker Denis Villeneuve (Prisoners, Enemy) is taking over directing duties for Scott.

Updates: Rope of Silicon reports that the upcoming Blu-ray for Prometheus clearly shows (screen shot at link, originally from Reddit) that there is a connection between the Blade Runner and Prometheus (which technically means the Alien franchise is also connected). The connection is a dictated message by Peter Weyland (Guy Pearce) that implies an obvious reference to Dr. Eldon Tyrell (Joe Turkel) from Blade Runner and his creation of Replicants. Of course, this may have an effect on the upcoming sequel to Blade Runner. | THR reports that Michael Green, writer of 2011′s Green Lantern, is in negotiations to work on Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner sequel.

In a recent interview, Empire asked Ridley Scott about Blade Runner 2, and this is what he had to say: “Yeah, we’re working on [Blade Runner 2] right now – that will happen sooner or later.”

According to Variety (via MTV), Ridley Scott says the screenplay is not only “written and ready to go,” but that Harrison Ford loves it: “I sent him this (script) and he said, ‘Wow, this is the best thing I’ve ever read,’ so it’s very relevant to what happened (in) the first one,” Scott told MTV News. “I’m not just doing a sequel with lots of action and see how far we can go with the special effects because you can’t really. ‘Blade Runner’ kind of landed on a somehow very credible future. And it’s very difficult to change that because it’s been so influential with everything else.” | According to sources, Ryan Gosling (Drive) is in talks to co-star in Blade Runner 2. No other details about his potential character are available.

BREAKING NEWS: Sources report that ace cinematographer, Roger Deakins (Skyfall), will be re-joining director Denis Villeneuve for Blade Runner 2. The two collaborated on 2013′s Prisoners.

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Big Match (2014) Review

"Big Match" Theatrical Poster

"Big Match" Theatrical Poster

Director: Choi Ho
Producer: Park Sang-Hyun
Cast: Lee Jeong-Jae, Shin Ha-Gyun, Lee Sung-Min, BoA, Kim Yui-Seong, Bae Sung-Woo, Son Ho-Jun, Kim Yun-Sung, Choi Woo-Sik, Park Doo-Sik
Running Time: 112 min.

By Paul Bramhall

Director Choi Ho is certainly not someone you could say is afraid of working at his own pace. Since his feature debut in 1998 with the youth drama Bye June, skip forward 16 years and Big Match is only his fifth movie, with perhaps his most famous being the 2006 effort Bloody Ties, an action thriller which starred Ryoo Seung-beom and Hwang Jeong-min. While none of his movies have been runaway box office success stories, he’s a director who is still able to attract big names, as his latest production Big Match proves with a cast headed by Lee Jeong-jae and Sin Ha-gyoon.

Jeong-jae and Ha-gyoon also shared the screen together in the 2012 blockbuster The Thieves, in which Ha-gyoon has a cameo as the rich businessman that Jeong-jae steals a rare antique from to kick things off. Since then Jeong-jae has been on a roll, with starring roles in the gangster thriller The New World, and The Thieves director Choi Dong-hoon’s The Assassination. Ha-gyoon hasn’t been quite so lucky, and Big Match marks his first return to the big screen since the poorly received 2013 production Running Man, which thanks to Fox International Productions has its place as the first (and last?) Korean movie to be completely financed by a Hollywood studio.

The plot of Big Match could well have been thrown together during a night of heavy intoxication. It takes the ‘Simon Says’ elements of movies like Die Hard with a Vengeance, mixes them with the illegal betting syndicates seen in the likes of Bangkok Knockout, and hopes for the best. We’re quickly introduced to Jeong-jae’s character, Zombie, an MMA fighter who wanted to be a soccer player, but since he played a match which saw him beat the daylights out of everyone on the opposing side, his brother decided that MMA was a better fit. His brother is played by regular supporting actor Lee Sung-min, and it’s not long into the movie we discover he’s been kidnapped by Ha-gyoon. The only way for Jeong-jae to get him back, is to play a dangerous game of cat and mouse around the city, having instructions fed into his ear by Ha-gyoon of where he should go and what he should do.

That’s the extent of the plot for Big Match, I’m not really sure I could add anymore to it even if I wanted to. Ha-gyoon cruises around the city in a blacked out van surrounded by monitors and touch screen displays, extravagantly gesturing and yelling out new bets and challenges that Jeong-jae has to complete, and then it’s Jeong-jae’s job to make sure he completes them. On paper, Big Match looks like a half baked concept. Ripping off two genres that aren’t even popular at the moment, it’s almost a given that most people who want to check it out will likely have low expectations and not be hoping for much. It is then, perhaps for this very reason, that Big Match turns out to be a surprisingly entertaining time at the movies.

From the get go Ho ensures that this is not a production which is looking to take itself seriously. Jung-jae and Ha-gyoon might as well be playing a pair of cartoon characters – Jung-jae as the quick tempered MMA fighter running around the city, and Ha-gyoon as the villainous mastermind laughing it up from behind closed doors. Big Match also earns points for keeping things humorous throughout, there are plenty of sight gags, and the dialogue is often on the ball as well. Clearly not afraid of coming across as absurd, in one scene Ha-gyoon tells Jung-jae that the ankle bracelet he’s wearing is a bomb, and outlines the conditions that will set if off. Jeong-jae proceeds to break down into histrionics, only instead of begging for his life, through a maniacal grin he yells “This is great! I’m so excited I could shit myself!”

These laugh out loud moments punctuate the runtime of Big Match, which includes probably the most unique karaoke rendition you’ll see in a movie. The breakneck pacing in maintained for the entire 110 minutes, never stopping for any overly long exposition or meaningful moments, and unlike so many Korean comedies, it doesn’t betray itself by turning everything on its head in the finale and pouring on the melodrama. Ho’s intention seems to have been to create a fun flick from start to finish, and in that regard, the movie is a success.

Big Match is at its core though, an action flick. From the moment Jeong-jae finds the door of the prison cell he’s in being remotely opened thanks to Ha-gyoon, he’s pitted against police officers, gangsters, MMA fighters, and even K-pop star BoA is thrown into the mix. Many of the action scenes are played for laughs, which perfectly fit in with the overall tone, however we do get treated to some surprise set pieces that are likely to satisfy action fans.

In particular, at the 40 minute mark Jeong-jae finds himself in the traditional OldBoy style predicament – a corridor, he’s standing at one end of it, and a group of armed gangsters standing at the other. It’s a great scene, and just like Gareth Evans has proved to us with The Raid and its sequel, it shows that it is possible to have an action sequence in which the camera is constantly moving, and still be able to see everything. All of the angles work perfectly, adding impact, complimenting the moves, and most importantly of all, capturing everything that’s going on. The fact that it gets quite bloody is just a bonus.

The lack of reliance on CGI for many of the stunt scenes is also a bonus worth mentioning, which means that sometimes it’s possible to see Jeong-jae’s double ducking out the way of a speeding car, or being thrown across a room. In an age in which CGI has become the quick and easy solution to create almost anything, essentially robbing audiences of the excitement of seeing an actual stuntman perform his craft, it adds a nice old school charm to proceedings to see doubles still being used for stunt work.

Some may dismiss Big Match as an overly simple exercise in genre film-making, and to some degree it would be difficult to argue with them. It doesn’t offer anything new, and the whole thing is a decidedly one dimensional affair, however what it does do is offer something old. Old school CGI free action, old school plotting which doesn’t feel the need to throw in a twist ending, and old school characters that might well be nothing but caricatures, but at the end of the day, who doesn’t look at a caricature and find it even a little bit amusing?

Paul Bramhall’s Rating: 7/10

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

Cityonfire.com’s ‘Taking of Tiger Mountain’ Blu-ray Giveaway! – WINNERS ANNOUNCED!

The Taking of Tiger Mountain | Blu-ray & DVD (Well Go USA)

The Taking of Tiger Mountain | Blu-ray & DVD (Well Go USA)

Cityonfire.com and Well Go USA are giving away 3 Blu-ray copies of Tsui Hark’s The Taking of Tiger Mountain to three lucky Cityonfire visitors. To enter, simply add a comment to this post and describe, in your own words, this video.

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

The Blu-ray & DVD for The Taking of Tiger Mountain will be officially released on June 2, 2015. We will announce the 3 winners on June 8, 2015 and ship out the prizes immediately.

CONTEST DISCLAIMER: You must enter by June 7, 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: Sheldon, Frankie C, and Damon.

Posted in News | Tagged | 19 Comments

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

The Guillotines | Blu-ray & DVD (Well Go USA)

The Guillotines | Blu-ray & DVD (Well Go USA)

Today’s Deal on Fire is the Blu-ray for The Guillotines, directed by Andrew Lau (Infernal Affairs). The story revolves around an elite crime-fighting unit that relies on flying swords to defeat their enemies. The film is a homage to the classic Guillotine movies of the 70s (i.e. The Flying Guillotine, Master of the Flying Guillotine).

The Guillotines stars Huang Xiaoming (Ip Man 2), Ethan Juan (Wu Xia), Shawn Yue (Initial D), Li Yuchun (Bodyguards and Assassins) and Jimmy Wang Yu (Man from Hong Kong).

Order The Guillotines from Amazon.com today!

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Move over Donnie Yen! Enter ‘The Monkey King’s Daughter’!

"The Monkey King" Chinese Theatrical Poster

"The Monkey King" Chinese Theatrical Poster

US’s ANA Media and China’s Chunqiu Time Culture Company are joining forced to bring The Monkey King’s Daughter to the big screen. Although the story is based on the hugely popular Chinese legend, The Monkey King’s Daughter is not a sequel, spin-off, nor is it related to Journey to the West: Conquering the Demons or The Monkey King. Instead, the film is based on the young-adult book series by Todd A. DeBonis, who is also writing the screenplay.

Accoring to VarietyThe Monkey King’s Daughter follows Meilin, a California high school sophomore who knows nothing about her father’s true Chinese heritage. On her 16th birthday, her genetic make-up activates, transforming her into an extraordinary, super-heroine and thrusting her into the magical realms of the past to battle monstrous demons from ancient China. With the help of her father, the Monkey King , she must save her mother and friends from certain death.

As of right now, there are no directors or actors attached to The Monkey King’s Daughter. The film is scheduled to shoot in December in China and Canada. Stay tuned as we hear more!

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It’s Donnie Yen to the ‘Big Rescue’ for a kung fu road movie!

Donnie Yen Promotional Poster

Donnie Yen Promotional Poster

Currently in post-production is Big Rescue, an upcoming “family film” starring Donnie Yen (Kung Fu Killer) and directed by Liang Ting (producer of Yen’s 14 Blades and The Lost Bladesman).

According to Variety, Big Rescue tells the story of a group people who embark on fun-filled cross-country road trip but are captured by an evil villain. They are rescued by a team of kung fu fighting dogs who save them in the nick of time.

In addition to Big Rescue, Yen fans have Ip Man 3Iceman 2 (post-production), Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon 2 (post-production) and Noodle Man (pre-production) to look forward to. As always, we’ll keep you in the loop on all these projects!

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Absolution | Blu-ray & DVD (Lionsgate)

Absolution | Blu-ray & DVD (Lionsgate)

Absolution | Blu-ray & DVD (Lionsgate)

RELEASE DATE: July 7, 2015

Lionsgate presents the Blu-ray & DVD for Steven Seagal’s The Mercenary: Absolution (aka Absolution), directed by Keoni Waxman (Force of Execution). The Mercenary: Absolution also stars Byron Mann (The Corrupter) and Vinnie Jones (Escape Plan).

When an ex-operative is recruited by his old boss to assassinate an Afghan drug dealer, he begins to suspect a link between a drug smuggling operation, a sex trafficking ring and the US Government. Watch the trailer.

Pre-order Absolution from Amazon.com today!

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

‘Fury Road’ sequel to be titled ‘Mad Max: The Wasteland’?

"Mad Max Fury Road" Theatrical Poster

"Mad Max Fury Road" Theatrical Poster

Based on the positive reception of George Miller’s Mad Max Fury Road, a sequel is definitely in the air. According to Miller himself (via The Playlist), the follow-up already has a screenplay, a novella and a title: Mad Max: The Wasteland (formerly Mad Max: Furiosa) – all developed while Fury Road was delayed from its original 2013 release date.

Earlier reports suggest that Tom Hardy is obligated to play Max Rockatansky for two more movies. Charlize Theron’s involvement, however, is questionable, considering her heated feud (via Esquire) with Hardy: “We f*ckin’ went at it, yeah. And on other days, he and George Miller went at it. It was the isolation, and the fact that we were stuck in a rig for the entire shoot. We shot a war movie on a moving truck – there’s very little green screen. It was like a family road trip that just never went anywhere.”

So far, Mad Max Fury Road has won over critics and audiences alike, but has it made up enough money for the studio to warrant sequel? Only time will tell. Until then, if a follow-up is truly in stone, we’ll be sure to keep you in the loop!

Posted in News | 14 Comments

Exclusive: Interview with the author of the upcoming Alexander Fu Sheng book ‘The Biography of the Chinatown Kid’

Alexander Fu Sheng: The Biography of the Chinatown KidAnyone familiar with the Shaw Brothers studio will no doubt be aware of Alexander Fu Sheng. A charismatic performer known for his mischievous persona and physical dexterity, he quickly became a favorite of both Chang Cheh and Lau Kar Leung, starring in such classic slices of Hong Kong cinema ranging from kung fu epics like Five Shaolin Masters, to comedies such as Hong Kong Playboys.

His life was tragically cut short at just 28 years of age, however his legacy has endured thanks to his many memorable performances. To add to his legacy, screenwriter and kung fu movie enthusiast Terrence J Brady has spent the last couple of years deep in research to create the definitive biography of the star. Looking to debunk the many myths about his life, as well as sharing a wealth of new information and anecdotes, the tentatively titled Alexander Fu Sheng: The Biography of the Chinatown Kid is shaping up to be a must-have for any fan of both Fu Sheng, and the Shaw Brothers studio in general.

"Chinatown Kid" Chinese Theatrical Poster

"Chinatown Kid" Chinese Theatrical Poster

Cityonfire was recently able to conduct an exclusive interview with Terrence, who took a break from his busy schedule to answer our question on what, and when, we can expect his book.

1. When you consider all the legends of Hong Kong cinema, Fu Sheng may not necessarily be the first name that springs to mind when you think who could be the subject for an upcoming biography, what gave you the idea for the book?

The idea started back in 2007 when I planned an article in observation of the 25th year of his passing. Life though interceded and it got put on the back burner. Three years later, I traveled to Hong Kong with some friends and one of our primary objectives was to visit Alex’s burial site and pay our respects. Prior to that day, he was simply a two-dimensional image on a TV screen but now, being there in his presence, he became very real. Someone who possibly walked the same streets we did while exploring Hong Kong.

I felt he needed a proper tribute and that meant rethinking my article. But why stop there? Why not a book-length biography? The information on many of these Shaw stars comes in scattered bits and pieces and there are truly few books dedicated to a specific individual. Alex was one of the most popular actors of his time whose life was snuffed out prematurely. He was the genuine article and never thought of himself as a movie star. An everyman kind of fellow. I’m sure he would even be a bit embarrassed of the thought of someone writing a book about him.

David Chiang, Fu Sheng, Chang Cheh, Chen Kuan-Tai and David Chiang.

David Chiang, Fu Sheng, Chang Cheh, Chen Kuan-Tai and David Chiang.

We have seen many books on Bruce. On Jackie. Now its Alex’s time. I hope my efforts will do him justice and that his family, friends and fans will enjoy this biography as much as I have enjoyed researching and writing it.

2. There seems to be a substantial amount of information out there already on Fu Sheng, such as him graduating in Hawaii and living in Bruce Lee’s house at the time of his death, what would you say is the appeal of your book to those fans out there who already know all these things about him?

I think there is a good deal of (mis)information out there on Alex. Rumors and hearsay that have been repeated over the years to the point where it becomes an assumed fact. Take for example the story of Bruce Lee’s home. People like the allure that these doomed men shared the same domicile. It links them to a common destiny of two martial arts action stars whose lives were taken in their prime. It makes for good storytelling; a movie-of-the-week! Truth is, reality is boring and for a few dollars to the HK Land Registry, one would discover that Bruce’s old Cumberland Road home has been owned by the same company since 1974.

"Boxer Rebellion" Promotional Still.

"Boxer Rebellion" Promotional Still.

As for Alex? He was staying with his brother in Mei Foo Sun Chuen, a housing estate in Lai Chi Kok, Kowloon, at the time of his fatal accident. I know, not as enthralling, but that’s reality. The other urban myth we continue to hear is Alex graduated from a high school in Hawaii. I have even seen some places on the web list the name of this school; Roosevelt High School in Honolulu. I obtained a copy of the RHS Class of ‘71 yearbook and strangely enough, not a single photo of Alex. I then proceeded to speak with a member of the ‘71 graduating class who also happens to run the RHS class reunions since the early ‘90s. She contacted several of her classmates and they do recall seeing Alex – in the theater. “We used to all watch those movies and we would have known that he was one of ours. Local media are big on touting our “local talent” or if they ever lived on the island of Oahu. I don’t ever remember anything in the local press about him ever having lived here,” she stated.

The Cheung family valued education and three of Alex’s brothers went on to become doctors but Alex? Alex was the least educated of his siblings, dropping out of school at 15. Despite his lack of a formal education, he proved that one could still be a success even without a diploma. Of course if he had followed in his brothers’ footsteps, I probably wouldn’t be writing this biography. I considered myself a knowledgeable fan of Alex before starting this book but what I knew at the start pales in comparison to what I know now. This book will be enlightening to even Alex’s biggest fans.

Fu Sheng in "My Rebellious Son"

Fu Sheng in "My Rebellious Son"

3. You’ve clearly done a lot of legwork on getting the truth about Fu Sheng’s life, what’s been your favorite moment so far during the time you’ve been researching the book?

The band Deep Purple once sang, “It’s not the kill but the thrill of the chase.” My research on this project has become quite addictive. I have spent upwards of two years researching material and have worked with three different Hong Kongese translators. These native speakers have provided me with a treasure trove of material that, as an English speaker, I would not have been able to acquire alone.

Some of the most satisfying moments though have been following a simple clue on my own, which revealed new clues, which then revealed even further clues. It’s the journey “down the rabbit hole” which has lead me to many dead ends but also has provided some true nuggets of gold.

The historical significance or the real-life events that some of Alex’s films were based on has been an eye-opener to China’s history that was previously unknown to me. I could devote an entire chapter or more, for example, to the 1976 war film The Seven Man Army. This movie is one of my personal favorites and my research has helped me better understand the battles that ignited the Second Sino-Japanese War, those who commanded the field and even led me to the grandsons of the one member of the “seven” who was the only known soldier in this film (the identities of the other six, including Alex’s character, are unknown and the names used in the film are fictionalized).

Fu Sheng on the set of "Marco Polo" with Richard Harrison and Carter Wong.

Fu Sheng on the set of "Marco Polo" with Richard Harrison and Carter Wong.

Of course, meeting and/or interviewing some of the stars that worked alongside Alex has also been a highlight. I’ve got to know Alex through the eyes of Robert Tai, Kara Hui, Lo Mang, Chu Ker, Chen Kuan Tai and several others.

4. Fu Sheng obviously had a wide appeal in his prime, what do you think it was about him that gave him such a connection with the audience of the time, and indeed ensures he still has a fan base even today?

Alex was the complete package. He had the looks, charisma, sex appeal, comedic timing and a vivacious screen presence. Women adored him. Men emulated him. He could act … sing … dance … and most importantly, fight. Though sometimes he would behave like the fool, his martial skills were clean and flowed with a matter-of-fact tone. He was versatile and employed a wide range of characterizations; funny, charming, psychotic, deadly. When he was on the screen, one could not help to focus their gaze on him and forget everything else transpiring.

As for a fan base today? When a person of fame dies at an early age, it seems that their following surges. Some even become the stuff of legends; Bruce Lee, John Lennon, Mozart, Billy the Kid, etc. The same can be said about Fu Sheng. His celebrity status continues to grow despite his passing over 30 years ago. Facebook pages, YouTube tribute videos, web articles, even a bronze bust was recently created and donated to the Martial Arts History Museum in Los Angeles. Hopefully this book will only bolster Alex’s fan base and help find a whole new generation of readers who will be introduced to his films for the first time.

The charismatic Fu Sheng.

The charismatic Fu Sheng.

5. What’s your personal opinion on Fu Sheng’s place in Hong Kong movie history?

I was a bit disappointed that I didn’t see his name on Hong Kong’s Avenue of Stars but since I’m unfamiliar with the criteria for nomination, I cannot judge too harshly. Shaw Brothers is the most famous of the film studios to operate in the Pearl of the Orient and Alex was certainly one of their shining jewels. I’m not sure where I would place Alex in the overall picture of Hong Kong cinema as I’ve only experienced a small portion of it.

However, when I think of Shaw’s Movietown, many who worked there seemed to agree that Alex’s presence, both on screen and off, made it a memorable place to be. He was a down-to-earth person who didn’t get caught up in all the glitz & glam that show biz would bring. His idea of entertainment would be to bring his dogs to the studio which would always liven things up. He had a unique camaraderie with the highest directors to the lowest set construction workers. Dedication to his craft, tomfoolery, random acts of kindness. This was Fu Sheng. To those folks that worked alongside him, he will always have a special place in the history of Hong Kong cinema.

6. What’s your personal Fu Sheng performance and why?

Surprisingly I don’t think I have one. Last year I watched all 43 of his films in production order and it was amazing to watch Alex mature as both martial artist and cinema star. I got to revisit some of his films I had only seen once before and there were four which were a first time viewing for me. The Chinatown Kid will always be a favorite because it’s one of his films I saw back in the 80s but his performance in Sung Chung’s The Avenging Eagle certainly stood out during this marathon as it was his first film with a director other than Chang Cheh. A little trivia here. Most believe it was Chang who gave Alex his start but this is incorrect. It was actually Sun who cut him his first break. Details in the book…

Fu Sheng in "Wits of the Brats"

Fu Sheng in "Wits of the Brats"

7. A lot of people like to speculate on where Bruce Lee would be today if he was still around, do you think Fu Sheng would have potentially rivaled Jackie Chan for the king of kung-fu comedy throne had his career not been cut short so tragically?

Good question. And I’m sure many might be disappointed to hear this but I don’t believe he would have rivaled Jackie as the king of kung fu comedy. No, not because Jackie was more skilled. Au contraire. It was Jackie who mimicked Alex.

But Alex’s misfortunes on the set, his moving towards working behind the scenes and lastly his own admission pretty much ends any speculation: “No. I am not particularly interested in acting in films. It’s mainly because I make a living at it is all. Since I left school, I have never asked my family for money. I don’t want to rely on my family for my whole life. To be independent and make a living, I chose shooting films, but this is temporary. I won’t stay in the industry for the rest of my life.” While discouraging those words might be to his fans, Alex was not one to sugarcoat things. He spoke his mind and despite his future plans to leave the industry, he has left us with an exciting collection of films to explore.

Chang Cheh and Fu Sheng.

Chang Cheh and Fu Sheng.

In the book, I will take an in-depth look at each production, those who worked on the films and provide many colorful conversations from behind the scenes. While Wits of the Brats was Alex’s first film as director, there was at least two other productions in the pipeline that he was going to helm plus other films he was slated to appear in but did not do so for various reasons. I will also explore the unfinished Chor Yuen crime caper The Mark of The Eagle featuring Ti Lung which was shelved due to his Black September injuries.

8. Most importantly of all, when can we expect Alexander Fu Sheng: The Biography of the Chinatown Kid to be hitting the shelves?

I’m working on the second draft at the present, and would love to see this in the hands of Hong Kong cinema fans in 2016.

If anyone has any questions they’d like to ask Terrence regarding the book, he can be contacted at fusheng@teako170.com.

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1st trailer for Lundgren-Rourke Nazi-killing flick ‘War Pigs’

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

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

Updates: Three character posters, featuring Dolph Lundgren, Luke Goss and Mickey Rourke, courtesy of dolph-ultimate.com.

BREAKING NEWS: Watch film’s 1st trailer (via FCS). War Pigs has a release date set for this year. Stay tuned!

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

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

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

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

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

Order Special ID from Amazon.com today!

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Jackie Chan and Owen Wilson to reunite for ‘Shanghai Dawn’?

"Shanghai Knights" Japanese Theatrical Poster

It’s been over ten years since the release of 2003′s Shanghai Knights - and, indeed, it’s strange to reflect back on a time when Donnie Yen’s most high-profile gigs included a cameo in a Jackie Chan Hollywood movie – and rumors of a sequel have been long dormant.

The franchise, which saw Jackie Chan’s Imperial guard teaming up with Owen Wilson’s laconic outlaw, was always viewed as something of an Old West take on the popular Rush Hour formula (i.e. pair Jackie Chan’s fists of fury with a fast-talking funnyman).

Well, perhaps MGM has taken Rush Hour’s revival as a television series as a sign that they should reconsider a potentially hot property.

Screen Crush reports that the studio is keen on green-lighting a sequel, tentatively titled Shanghai Dawn. That title has been around for some time, and way back in ’03 Owen Wilson had told Empire Magazine he thought a third film in the series might see him and Jack head to Egypt. Who knows if that particular plotline will survive, but the question remains: would you be interested in seeing Jackie Chan and Owen Wilson team up one last time to close out the Shanghai Noon trilogy?

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