Lawless Kingdom | aka The Four II | DVD (Lionsgate)

Lawless Kingdom | aka The Four II | DVD (Lionsgate)

Lawless Kingdom | aka The Four II | DVD (Lionsgate)

RELEASE DATE: September 2, 2015

Lionsgate presents the DVD for Lawless Kingdom (aka The Four II), directed by Gordon Chan (Fist of Legend).

Four detectives (Emotionless, Iron Hands, Life Snatcher, and Coldblood), each uniquely skilled with their own individual superpowers, are sent to investigate a murder outside the city.

Lawless Kingdom stars Deng Chao (Detective Dee), Liu Yifei (Outcast), Collin Chou (Special ID), Ronald Cheng (12 Nights) and Anthony Wong (Untold Story). | Watch the trailer.

Pre-order Lawless Kingdom from today!

Posted in Asian Titles, DVD/Blu-ray New Releases, Martial Arts Titles | 4 Comments

Philip Rhee is rebooting the ‘Best of the Best’ franchise!

"Best of the Best 3: No Turning Back" Theatrical Poster

"Best of the Best 3: No Turning Back" Theatrical Poster

While promoting his latest movie, Underdog Kids, Philip Rhee revealed that he will be rebooting his successful Best of the Best saga, which consists of Best of the Best (1989), Best of the Best 2 (1993), Best of the best 3: No Turning Back (1995) and Best of the Best 4: Without Warning (1998).

The big question is whether Rhee will be the main star or if he’s looking for new blood to lead the new franchise? Here’s what he told TAE: “We’re going to reboot the whole franchise with a new cast. I have things… I’m going to bring in elements that nobody has ever seen before. I will produce the picture.”

Underdog Kids, Rhee’s first movie in 17 years, will be released on DVD by Anchor Bay on July 7, 2015.

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Tony Jaa to cameo in Michael Jai White’s ‘Never Back Down 3′

"Never Back Down 3" Teaser Poster

"Never Back Down 3" Teaser Poster

A sequel to Michael Jai White’s directorial debut, Never Back Down 2: The Beatdown (2011), is currently in production in Thailand. White is returning to the director’s chair, as well as reprising his role as Case Walker. Also back in action is the incredibly fluid choreography work of Larnell Stovall (Falcon Rising).

Never Back Down 3 also stars Jeeja Yanin (Chocolate), Nathan Jones (Muay Thai Giant), Ron Smoorenburg (Who Am I?), Brahim Achabbakhe (Pound of Flesh), UFC’s Josh Barnett (Mercenary: Absolution), Esai Morales (Rapa Nui), Stephen Quadros (Cradle 2 the Grave) and Gillian Waters (Jackie Brown).

BREAKING NEWS: In a bit of news that’s sure to please fans, it looks like Thai action superstar Tony Jaa will be making a cameo appearance in Never Back Down 3. Tony Jaa and Michael Jai White recently starred opposite together in the action film Skin Trade (via M.M.A.C./FCS).

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Happiness of the Katakuris, The (2001) Review

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

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

Director: Takashi Miike
Writer: Kikumi Yamagishi
Producer: Hirotsugu Yoshida
Cast: Kenji Sawada, Keiko Matsuzaka, Shinji Takeda, Naomi Nishida, Kiyoshiro Imawano, Tetsuro Tamba, Naoto Takenaka, Tamaki Miyazaki, Takashi Matsuzaki
Running Time: 113 min.

By Kyle Warner

When Takashi Miike agreed to do a remake of Kim Jee-woon’s directorial debut The Quiet Family, he wanted to give the story his own “personal stamp” to make his version worthwhile. And Miike did exactly that, turning the dark comedy into a bizarre musical, complete with claymation monsters and zombie dance numbers. The Happiness of the Katakuris is somehow simultaneously one of Takashi Miike’s most insane films and one of his most accessible. It’s a wonderfully weird journey into the mind of one of cinema’s boldest, most inventive filmmakers.

The basic plot of the film follows the original pretty closely. After a series of disappointments, Masao Katakuri (Kenji Sawada) buys a guesthouse and wants his family to help him run it. There are rumors of a new road coming through the area, promising to bring lots of business right to their door. Until that time, though, there’s a whole lot of waiting as the guests just aren’t coming. When finally they welcome their first guest, the man commits suicide in his room. Worried that the death will ruin their business, the family gets rid of the body and covers up the crime scene. Then the next guest dies, too, and it seems like the Katakuris are spending most their time burying bodies in the woods. Things get even crazier when a series of suspicious characters enter their lives, threatening to bring down everything they’ve worked for.

Unlike The Quiet Family, which was a thriller with a dark sense of humor, Miike tells this macabre tale as a musical. No musical number is quite like the one that came before it as multiple music genres are depicted throughout the film, including a Sound of Music-style song in a field, an 80’s rock and roll music video, and even a karaoke singalong. I would say that even those filmgoers who typically don’t like musicals will get a kick out of this one.

The film opens in a way that I fear may scare some viewers off. In the opening sequence, a claymation monster pops out of a woman’s bowl of soup, jumps into her mouth, and tears out her uvula. The monster then flies off and so begins a circle of life with other claymation animals and monsters. It’s the weirdest, most disturbing sequence in the film and is only barely connected to the rest of the story. I’ve grown to like the opening on repeat viewings, but initially it came as a shock, and made me worry the whole film would be just as strange. Well, the movie that follows is weird, just not the same breed of weird. The opening does successfully setup the audience for an “anything goes” type of movie, but I’m still not sure it was the right way to start things off.

Miike’s known for filling his films with shocking content, so it’s interesting to see how he plays with comedy here. The situation that the Katakuris have put themselves in is nuts already, but the world that surrounds them seems just as crazy. On TV the only shows to watch are a newscaster with a beetle in his brain and an aging female singing ‘Dem Bones’ (both the newscaster and the singer are played by one of Miike’s repeat players, Naoto Takenaka). In one of my favorite parts of the film, daughter Shizue Katakuri (Naomi Nishida) falls in love with a dashing Navy serviceman named Richard Sagawa (rock star Kiyoshiro Imawano). Richard claims to be on leave from the US Navy, or “To be more precise, Britain’s Royal Navy.” This all leads to one of the film’s best visual moments as Richard sings about how much he loves Shizue in the middle of a garbage dump while trash flies in the wind.

The performances all around are very good, selling both the horror and the humor. Naomi Nishida (My Secret Cache) is excellent as the love-struck Shizue. I’m largely unfamiliar with Kiyoshiro Imawano but he’s great as Richard, who is likely the film’s most complicated character. Veteran actor Tetsuro Tamba (You Only Live Twice, The Water Margin 1 & 2) is also a welcome member of the cast, giving a carefree performance as Grandpa Katakuri. It’s a great ensemble with no weak links to be found.

The newly released Arrow Video Blu-ray contains a wealth of special features both old and new. Ported over from the old DVD are interviews with the cast, a making-of featurette, a quick look at the claymation, and a commentary from Takashi Miike. New to this edition is a video essay look at Miike’s career put together by Midnight Eye’s Tom Mes, a film commentary by Mes, a booklet, and a new 40 minute interview with Miike. The new video essay by Mes is pretty good, detailing Miike’s start as an assistant director for Shohei Imamura before eventually becoming one of the most famous directors in Japan. Tom Mes isn’t the liveliest commentator and his commentary track for Katakuris won’t be for everybody, but the author knows his subject well and offers some informative tidbits throughout. The best new feature is the interview with Miike, who tells memories of filming Katakuris and his feelings towards directing in general. The exhaustive special features — plus a colorful picture presentation — make this Blu-ray easy to recommend to fans of the film.

Kim Jee-woon’s The Quiet Family is a good film but it’s not one of the director’s finest. You can see how Kim has grown as a filmmaker since then. Miike made The Happiness of the Katakuris at the most interesting point in his career where he was transitioning from Japan’s bad boy director to one of Japan’s most popular mainstream filmmakers. As such, the film has the same madness and energy we recognize from his earlier films, while also being mainstream enough for general audiences without ever feeling like a company product.

After The Happiness of the Katakuris, Takashi Miike proved that he could competently direct pretty much whatever he set his mind to. Miike would go on to do many more mainstream films after this, but he remains one of cinema’s most unpredictable directors. Despite its status as a remake, The Happiness of the Katakuris is a one-of-a-kind film. In a 25 year career with already almost 100 films to his name, The Happiness of the Katakuris ranks among Miike’s very best.

Kyle Warner’s Rating: 8.5/10

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Deal on Fire! Rumble in the Bronx | Blu-ray | Only $9.99 – Expires soon!

Rumble in the Bronx | Blu-ray (Warner)

Rumble in the Bronx | Blu-ray (Warner)

Today’s Deal on Fire is the Blu-ray for Rumble in the Bronx, directed by Stanley Tong (Police Story 4: First Strike), which will be released on October 6, 2015.

A young man (Jackie Chan) visiting and helping his uncle (Bill Tung) in New York City finds himself forced to fight a street gang and the mob with his martial art skills. Also starring Anita Mui (Drunken Master II), Francoise Yip (Infatuation), Marc Akerstream (Cyberjack) and Ailen Sit (Thunderbolt).

Pre-order Rumble in the Bronx from today!

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Ultimate action flick starring Jason Statham and Tony Jaa?

"Tom Yum Goong 2" Japanese DVD Cover

"Tom Yum Goong 2" Japanese DVD Cover

Furious 7′s Jason Statham (Blitz) and Tony Jaa (Skin Trade, Tom Yum Goong 2) may re-team for a potential martial arts film together. Statham says he wants to “elevate the action in a way that’s never been done before.” A script for the untitled project is currently being worked on.

Here’s the full scoop from Statham himself: (via MH/MAAC): “What I’d like to do is a fully-fledged fight movie. I’ve never done one. I met Tony Jaa in Thailand and to me he’s an inspirational athlete: one of the greatest real-life stunt guys in the business. We talked about doing a proper fight film where we’re on the same team, and we’ve got a script we’re trying to put together. I want to elevate the action in a way that’s never been done before.”

We’ll keep you posted as we hear more. Stay tuned!

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The Most Memorable Villains in Martial Arts Film: Part I

"Game of Death" Japanese Theatrical Poster

"Game of Death" Japanese Theatrical Poster

Every film genre – action, science fiction, horror, comedy and even animated – has had a series of memorable villains that have stuck with us for most of our lives. Whether it be a sadistic teenager portrayed by James Spader; an emotionless cyborg represented by Arnold Schwarzenegger; a suave, humorous terrorist leader played by Alan Rickman; or even a scarred lion voiced by Jeremy Irons – it’s the bad guys who make the classics so great!

So what about villains in martial arts film?

Villains in martial arts film definitely don’t get enough attention, so we’re aiming to fix this right now. Remember: It’s not so much how they look or how many foes they’ve taken down, it’s more about their impact on modern pop culture.

In no particular order, we introduce the most memorable villains in martial arts film. This is only Part I, so if you don’t see your favorite villain listed here, chances are, he, she or it, will be featured in Part II. Enjoy!


Played by: Bolo Yeung (aka Yang Sze)
Trademark: Huge pectoral muscles
Weapon: His own super strength

Whether he’s playing Chong Li in Bloodsport (1988) or Moon in Double Impact (1991), most will refer to the Hulk-built actor as simply “Bolo,” the name of his most popular character in Bruce Lee’s Enter the Dragon (1973). The name “Bolo” would eventually became his stage name from that point forward. I mean, come on, you know you’re a badass when you’re legally referred to as a character you portrayed in a flick! Imagine if Sylvester Stallone changed his real name to Rambo?


Played by: Lo Lieh
Trademark: Long white eyebrows and beard
Weapon: Eagle Claw-style kung fu

There have been many renditions of this evil Shaolin priest character, but for the sake of this article, our obvious choice is Pai Mei from Executioners from Shaolin (1977) and Clan of the White Lotus (1980). He’s a villain that you can only defeat by use of extreme trial and error (if you’re lucky to even survive the trial period). If by chance you’re able to strike him, he’s protected by his “Iron Shirt” defensive form, which is an exercise that directs energy to reinforce parts of the body, so blows against them are useless! Even Quentin Tarantino dug Pai Mei so much that he resurrected the character in Kill Bill Vol. 2 (2004), where he was played by Gordon Liu.


Played by: Very Tri Yulisman
Trademark: Black hoodie and a baseball bat
Weapon: Take a guess!

If you’ve seen The Raid 2, there’s a good chance “Baseball Bat Man” is embedded in your memory. “Baseball Bat Man” would have flopped as a pro baseball player, but as a cold-blooded assassin, he’s an all-star MVP. Any chance of seeing the character appear in another film would upset any oddsmakers. But then again, Bolo is still alive and breaking necks, despite his character’s demise in countless films. Maybe there’s room for a possible resurrection? Whatever the case, someone out there has a tattoo of this guy.


Played by: Hwang Jang Lee
Visual Trademark: Sideburns and a pornstache
Weapon: His deadly legs

Unlike most villains in old school kung fu movies, the character portrayed by Korean martial artist Hwang Jang Lee said very little and let his legs do the talking. It’s no wonder why the Taekwondo Grandmaster is dubbed “King of the Leg-fighters,” a term given to him because he annihilates his opponents using nothing but a series of deadly kicks. Although his most prominent roles are similar, Hwang is widely known for playing “Thunderfoot” in Drunken Master (1978), opposite Jackie Chan. Don’t let the pornstache fool you, this guy will mess you up!


Played by: Shih Kien
Trademark: Prosthetic hand and receding hairline
Weapon: Interchangeable prosthetic hand weapons

Not even the invincible Jim Kelly had a chance against Mr. Han, the James Bond-esque villain in Bruce Lee’s Enter the Dragon (1973). The fact that he had only one hand made him deadlier: in place of his missing hand was an interchangeable slot – on Monday, his left hand can be a cast iron fist; on Tuesday, it can be a series of sharp blades; on Wednesday, well, you get the idea. We’re pretty sure the inspiration for Wolverine’s claws came from Mr. Han’s detachable Ginsu knives. And yes, this guy really does come right out of a comic book.


Played by: Peter Kwong, James Pax, Carter Wong
Trademark: Handwoven straw hats
Weapon: Powers consist of flying, electricity currents and self-explosions

What would John Carpenter’s Big Trouble in Little China (1985) be without “The Three Storms”? Well, it would be like The Terminator 2 (1991) without the presence of the T-1000. When these mystical kung fu fellas – Thunder, Lightning and Rain – appear on the screen for the first time, this Kurt Russell cult-classic goes from great to epic in a matter of seconds. Several years later, the immensely popular Mortal Kombat video game/film franchise would introduce Raiden, a character that’s not only a spitting image of “Lightning” of The Three Storms, but also hovers and shoots out electricity as well. No coincidence.


Played by: Kareem Abdul-Jabbar
Trademark: 7 feet 2 inches
Weapon: Power kick (while sitting down, nonetheless)

If the duel between Bruce Lee and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar in Game of Death (1972/1978) isn’t iconic, then I don’t know what is. Lee would only prove victorious to the basketball giant by using his own philosphical approach: “Adapt what is useful, reject what is useless, and add what is specifically yours” (i.e. stomp on his bare feet, go for his balls and expose sunlight to his sensitive eyes). The cartoony charm of this match can only be compared to something like James Bond vs. Jaws (Richard Kiel), Godzilla vs. Mothra or Rocky Balboa vs. Ivan Drago.


Played by: Julie Estelle
Trademark: Sunglasses and a pair of hammers
Weapon: Two steel hammers

The line “Hammer Time” once belonged to M.C. Hammer, but now it officially belongs to a certain deaf-mute woman named ”Hammer Girl,” who was introduced to the world when she displayed her act of barbaric violence in The Raid 2. Let’s put it this way: she uses the claw side of a hammer more frequently than the flat-head side. She’s cunning, adorable and menacing at the same time. If she doesn’t have her victim’s blood sprayed all over her own face, it was probably her day off (or she might have just wiped it off). There’s a teenager out there that has a poster of “Hammer Girl” on their bedroom wall, and she probably wasn’t old enough to see The Raid 2.

Stay tuned for The Most Memorable Villains in Martial Arts Film: Part II.

Posted in Features, News | 9 Comments

Park Chan-wook’s ‘female thieves’ film starts production

"Thirst" Korean Theatrical Poster

"Thirst" Korean Theatrical Poster

Visionary director Park Chan-wook (Old Boy, Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance) will soon be starting pre-production on a film adaptation of Sarah Waters’ 2002 novel, Fingersmith. The yet-to-be-titled movie will be Park’s first full length South Korean production since 2009′s Thirst.

According to FBA, Fingersmith revolves around a group of female thieves and their plan to swindle a heiress in early 20th century London. Park’s version will take place in Korea.

Fingersmith stars Kim Min-hee (No Tears for the Dead), Kim Tae-ri and Ha Jung-woo (Kundo: Age of the Rampant).

Updates: Variety reports that the film has started shooting near Nagoya, Japan, last week. Stay tuned for more information.

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Newest trailer for ‘Mission: Impossible Rogue Nation’

"Mission: Impossible Rogue Nation" Teaser Poster

"Mission: Impossible Rogue Nation" Teaser Poster

THE MOVIE: Audiences around the world enjoyed Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol, to the tune of some $680 million dollars. That makes a sequel pretty much a given at this point. Although Paramount had been grooming Jeremy Renner to take the reins to the series, general response has been that Tom Cruise (and Tom Cruise doing ridiculous aerial stunts) remains the big reason why people go see these movies.

Updates: Great news for fans of the highly underrated crime movie The Way of the Gun. The writer/director on that film, Christopher McQuarrie, is directing the next Mission: Impossible film. McQuarrie rocketed to fame back in 1995 by penning the screenplay for The Usual Suspects, but he most recently worked with Tom Cruise on the forthcoming Jack Reacher movie. Both Cruise and the Paramount are reportedly happy with McQuarrie’s work on Reacher, so we can expect an announcement for M:I5 in the near future.

According to Collider, Mission: Impossible Rogue Nation (aka Mission: Impossible 5) will be released on July 31st, 2015. In addition to Tom Cruise; Ving Rhames, Simon Pegg, Jeremy Renner and Paula Patton are rumored to return. Jessica Chastain (Zero Dark Thirty) has declined the female lead, but Rebecca Ferguson (The White Queen) has stepped in. | First cast photo from MI:5, courtesy of Collider. | According to Variety. Zhang Jingchu (Beast Stalker, Seven Swords) has joined the cast and has a major role opposite Tom Cruise. | A video of Tom Cruise hanging from a plane 5,000 feet in the air in Mission: Impossible Rogue Nation, thanks to Collider.

Thanks to Collider, we have a few non-spoiler details: Maggie Q was unavailable to return; Composer Joe Kraemer (Jack Reacher) is “playing with something retro, of course” for the score; Sean Harris (Harry Brown) is the film’s villain; The film will have the feel of an episode of the old show; There will be some score-less action scenes as in Jack Reacher and McQuarrie’s first film, The Way of the Gun; There are specific Brian De Palma references; McQuarrie broke his personal record for footage shot. | 1st trailer. | 2nd full trailer. | Character posters: 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 2nd trailer!

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

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Daisy (2006) Review

"Daisy" Korean Theatrical Poster

"Daisy" Korean Theatrical Poster

Director: Andrew Lau
Writer: Felix Chong
Producer: Hoon-tak Jung
Cast: Jeong Woo-Sung, Jun Ji-Hyun (Gianna Jun), Lee Sung-jae, Cheon Ho-Jin, Simon Yam Tat Wah, David Chiang Da Wei, Yu Sun-Cheol, Dion Lam
Running Time: 110 min.

By Paul Bramhall

On paper Daisy reads like an Asian action thriller fan’s dream. A Korea and Hong Kong co-production (which translates to Korea being in-front of the camera and Hong Kong being behind it) shot entirely on location in the Netherlands, the production boasts an enviable pool of talent from both countries. Directed by Andrew Lau and written by Felix Chong (with the assistance of Jin Gan-san and Kwak Jae-yong), in 2006 the pair were still hot off the tail of being the duo behind the Infernal Affairs trilogy.

Here they provide us with a story that focuses on 3 Koreans living in Amsterdam – Lee Song-jae plays an Interpol agent, Jeong Woo-seong plays a hitman working for the Chinese mafia, and Jeon Ji-hyeon plays a street painter who gets caught up in the middle of everything. For good measure, throw in Shaw Brothers legend David Chiang as the boss of the organization that Woo-seong works for, and an action director in the form of Dion Lam. It’s fair to assume that with the people involved, the end result should be a winning combination.

There is, however, a slight caveat which may impede audiences enjoyment of Daisy, and that is that it’s not an action thriller at all. Despite the names involved, Daisy is in fact a romantic melodrama. Perhaps Lau wanted to have a crack at a different genre, but decided to try and pull it off using the types of characters he was familiar with dealing with. Lau has had a long career in the industry, and before Infernal Affairs he was most well known for directing a series of wuxia movies in the late 90’s – most notably The Storm Riders – which pushed the envelope for what Hong Kong could do with CGI at the time. Daisy was made in-between his car racing manga adaptation Initial D, and Confession of Pain, which was an unsuccessful attempt to recreate the style of genre filmmaking that made Infernal Affairs such a success.

To his credit, while Lau’s decision to basically make a Korean movie may have been a risky one, he was certainly successful in getting some big names to come onboard. Lee Seong-jae was still considered A-list material in 2006, having been in everything from Bong Joon-ho’s debut, the dark comedy Barking Dogs Never Bite, to gritty action flicks like Holiday. Likewise for Jeong Woo-seong, while at the time he was still 2 years away from starring in The Good, The Bad, The Weird, which gained international recognition, he still had several notable roles under his belt, such as his memorable character from Musa. Of course Jeon Ji-hyeon is most recognizable as the title character of My Sassy Girl, and at the time Daisy was a significant departure from the type of slightly wacky characters her career had been defined by to this point.

It’s worth noting that there are 2 versions of Daisy – the theatrical cut and the director’s cut. The version I’m reviewing is the director’s cut version, and for full disclosure I’ve never seen the theatrical cut. What I do know is that the director’s cut is 25 minutes longer than the theatrical version, pushing it to almost 2 hours, and significantly re-orders the scenes, so that the narrative plays with the timeline of how events unfold.

One of the changes I can definitely say applies to the director’s cut is how the movie begins. Over a third of the total runtime is dedicated to following the events that lead up to a fateful shootout in the town square, but it takes the time to be told from each of the 3 characters perspectives. From the opening shot we see Jun Ji-hyeon whimsically musing on when she’ll find her one true love in voiceover, learning that she lives with her grandfather who runs an antique shop, and in her spare time she paints tourists portraits in the town square. Ji-hyeon has been receiving a pot of daisies delivered outside the antique store every day for several months, and although she has no idea who they’re off, she hopes that the sender could be the guy for her.

When Song-jae, the Interpol agent, discovers that the gangsters he’s tracking are using a location in the town square, he realizes that the spot where the portrait artists sit is the perfect position to observe them without being conspicuous. Of course, the portrait artist he chooses to paint him is Ji-hyeon, and as it just so happens that the day he chooses her is also the day he himself is carrying a pot of flowers, she becomes convinced that Song-jae is the mystery daisy sender.

But wait! Enter hitman Woo-seong, whom we learn that after performing a hit, usually waits for the heat to cool off at a cottage in the countryside. That cottage also happens to look out onto a field of daisies that Ji-hyeon often comes to paint, so watching her from a distance, he finds himself becoming silently enamored with her innocent beauty. Hence, it’s actually Woo-seong who’s sending her the daisies, and he even goes so far as to rent an apartment overlooking the town square where she paints, so he can observe her every day instead of just now and then. See his rule is to never make direct contact, it’s a hitman thing.

So we have a perfect love triangle setup, however Dion Lam is onboard for a reason, and that reason becomes evident when the gangsters realize what Song-jae is up to. At this point Woo-seong has learnt that Song-jae is a cop that’s been developing a relationship with Ji-hyeon, so instead of continuing to sit there depressed in his apartment window watching them together, he’s given a choice. With the gangsters about to take out an unsuspecting Song-jae, does he allow his jealousy to let them do it, or will he do the right thing and come to his aid? Of course things get messy, and it’s the innocent Ji-hyeon who ends up coming off worse in the ensuing gun battle.

If the above description sounds a little similar to John Woo’s The Killer, it’s understandable. A cop and a killer both wanting to come to the rescue of a damsel in distress, who gets maimed due to their actions, the comparison is inevitable. However unlike Sally Yeh, Ji-hyeon doesn’t lose her sight (I’d consider it a spoiler to reveal what happens though, so I won’t.) While The Killer was very much about Chow Yun Fat and Danny Lee bursting into action, guns blazing, with Yeh’s blindness serving as the reason for them doing so, Daisy is the opposite. Song-jae and Woo-seong both want to capture Ji-hyeon’s heart, and occasionally it involves firing off a few bullets. A perfect example of the difference is when Woo-seong goes on a date with Ji-hyeon, and pops out for a couple of minutes mid-way through to perform a hit, before coming back to carry on were they left off. You know what type of movie you’re watching when the date is the focus, and not the hit.

Daisy relies on the voiceover technique a lot, arguably to the point that at times it results in a disconnect to what’s happening onscreen. On the other hand sometimes it works to keeps things interesting, particularly when one of the many shots of characters brooding in slow motion is given some narration. It somehow manages to make it feel a little less pretentious than just watching them brood in silence. These shots could work under a director like Wong Kar-wai, but here Felix Chong’s story relies a little too much on coincidence and disbelief to give the scenes any weight. Aspects of the movie like Song-jae and Woo-seong constantly letting the other go, because they know Ji-hyeon would be upset if either of them got hurt, come across as laughable rather than admirable. It takes a certain type of director to be able to convey bromance effectively, and Lau is no John Woo.

Once the shootout in the town square is over the movie also suffers, at times feeling like it’s going to stutter to a complete stop. With Song-jae back in Korea, Woo-seong decides to take a chance with Ji-hyeon, however it simply makes all his prior actions seem like that of a stalker rather than a love sick hitman. In part his acting is to blame, while movies like 2014’s Scarlet Innocence and 2013’s Cold Eyes show just how much his acting has matured, here some of his looks and line delivery come across as more creepy than tortured soul. Of course Lau should also take responsibility, and it makes me speculate as to if the reason why there’s so much voiceover is because he couldn’t confidently direct when the lines are being delivered in Korean.

With a decidedly downbeat tone permeating through most of the movie, Daisy is a hard sell both to fans of melodrama, and to those expecting a dose of action. By the time Woo-seong loads up to raid David Chiang’s headquarters close to the end of the 2 hours, the pace has been so gloomy that even the promise of some action, which does indeed get delivered, is difficult to get excited about. With this in mind, perhaps it’s best to leave this Daisy unpicked.

Paul Bramhall’s Rating: 5.5/10

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

30th Anniversary ‘The Last Dragon’ Blu-ray detailed!

The Last Dragon | Blu-ray (Sony)

The Last Dragon | Blu-ray (Sony)

Berry Gordy’s The Last Dragon celebrates its 30th Anniversary by debuting for the first time on Blu-ray August 25 from Sony Pictures Home Entertainment.

The cult classic has been fully remastered in high definition for Blu-ray and features exciting all-new dynamic packaging art by acclaimed Mondo Gallery artist Gary Pullin, as well as the featurette Return of the Dragon, a newly-created retrospective look at the making of the film, featuring new interviews with the cast and crew, including Taimak, Berry Gordy and more! Additional bonus features include commentary by director Michael Schultz and the original theatrical trailer.

The martial arts musical extravaganza follows Leroy Green (A.K.A. “Bruce Leroy”), who dreams of becoming a great martial artist like his idol Bruce Lee, as he searches for the “master” to obtain the final level of martial arts mastery known as “the glow.” Along the way, he must fight an evil martial arts expert and rescue a beautiful singer from an obsessed music promoter. The Last Dragon stars Taimak (Book of Swords) as “Bruce Leroy,” former “Vanity 6″ frontwoman Vanity (Action Jackson) as the singer, Christopher Murney (Barton Fink) and Julius Carry (The New Guy).

Celebrate thirty years of The Last Dragon, now fully remastered in high definition on Blu-ray. Martial arts student Leroy Green (Taimak) is on a quest to obtain the elusive all-powerful force known as “The Glow.” Along the way he must battle the evil, self-proclaimed Shogun of Harlem – a kung fu warrior also known as Sho’nuff (Julius J. Carry III) – and rescue a beautiful singer (Prince protégée, Vanity) from an obsessed record promoter. Combining pulsating music, cutting edge dancing and the best in non-stop action, The Last Dragon is kickin’ good fun featuring an amazing Motown soundtrack, including music by Stevie Wonder, The Temptations, Vanity and DeBarge performing their smash hit “Rhythm of the Night.”

Directed by Michael Schultz (Car Wash) from a screenplay by Louis Venosta (Bird on a Wire), The Last Dragon was produced by Rupert Hitzig (Jaws 3D) and executive produced by Berry Gordy (Lady Sings the Blues, Mahogany, The Wiz).

Exclusive Blu-ray Bonus Features Include: “Return of the Dragon” Featurette; Original Theatrical Trailer; Other features include Director’s Commentary by Michael Schultz. received the above press release from Sony on June 15, 2015.

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Viggo Mortensen to play villain in ‘Bourne 5′?

"The Bourne Legacy" Japanese DVD Cover

"The Bourne Legacy" Japanese DVD Cover

Both Matt Damon and director Paul Greengrass (Captain Phillips) are returning for another film in the Bourne franchise.

During an interview with E!, Damon confirmed another Bourne film: “Yes, we shoot next year. It’ll be in 2016 when the movie will actually come out. Director Paul Greengrass is going to do another one and that’s all I ever said. I just needed him to say yes.”

Updates: According to Collider, Viggo Mortensen is in talks as the Bourne 5′s main villain. Also, Julia Stiles is set to reprise her role as covert agent Nicky Parsons.

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‘Hit-Girl’ prequel and ‘Kick-Ass 3′ in the works?

"Kick-Ass 2" Japanese Theatrical Poster

"Kick-Ass 2" Japanese Theatrical Poster

Mark Millar, creator of the comic books, Kick-Ass and The Secret Service – the basis for the upcoming Kingsman: The Secret Service – recently mentioned that a planned Hit-Girl spin-off movie was in the works. Here’s the interesting part: Gareth Evans (The Raid, The Raid 2) was in talks for the project.

Here’s what Millar told IGN during a recent interview: “Before Kick-Ass 2 came out, we’d been talking about a Hit-Girl spin-off movie… we’d even talked to a director – we had a couple of calls with Gareth Evans, who I absolutely love. He’s an amazing director. But Gareth’s now busy.”

Well, one can only imagine what a Evans-directed Hit-Girl movie would have been like, but hey, at least we have The Raid 3 to look forward to in 2018.

Updates: In a recent interview with Yahoo, this is what Matthew Vaughn (director of the original Kick-Ass) had to say about a Hit-Girl prequel and a Kick-Ass 3: “I’m not happily done with the franchise, for sure. Kick-Ass is a really important film to me and I’m very proud of it, and we would like to dip our toe back into it—when I say ‘we’ I mean Mark [Millar] and I and the team… We’re working on an idea for a prequel of how did Hit Girl and Big Daddy become Hit Girl and Big Daddy. If we make that, hopefully that will be the sorbet for the people that didn’t like Kick-Ass 2, and then we can go off and make Kick-Ass 3. But I think we’ve got to do this prequel just to regain the love that we had with Kick-Ass.”

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Underdogs Kids | DVD (Anchor Bay)

Underdogs Kids | DVD (Anchor Bay)

Underdogs Kids | DVD (Anchor Bay)

RELEASE DATE: July 7, 2015

Anchor Bay presents the DVD for Underdogs Kids, directed by and starring Philip Rhee (Best of the Best series).

It’s a few weeks before the big karate tournament, and the struggling Mid-City Community Center has just lost their instructor. But when former MMA champ Jimmy ‘The Lightning Bolt’ Lee (Rhee) returns to the old neighborhood, he reluctantly agrees to train the misfit kids for their match against the undefeated Beverly Hills team. | Watch the trailer!

Pre-order Underdog Kids from today!

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

Z Storm | Blu-ray & DVD (Well Go USA)

Z Storm | Blu-ray & DVD (Well Go USA)

Z Storm | Blu-ray & DVD (Well Go USA)

RELEASE DATE: August 18, 2015

Well Go USA presents the Blu-ray & DVD for the crime-thriller Z Storm, which stars Louis Koo (Accident), Lo Hoi-pang (Dream Home), Michael Wong (Nightfall), Gordon Lam (Triad Election) and Liu Kai-chi (The Stool Pigeon).

Z Storm involves the ICAC, Hong Kong’s 40-year-old anti-corruption body, in a three-way conflict among the police and the government. Z Storm also marks the return of veteran Hong Kong filmmaker David Lam, who hasn’t made a movie since 1998′s Magnificent Team. Watch the trailer.

Pre-order Z Storm from today!

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

Lau Ching Wan is back in action for Benny Chan’s ‘The Deadly Reclaim’ with choreography by Sammo Hung

"The Deadly Reclaim" Chinese Teaser Poster

"The Deadly Reclaim" Chinese Teaser Poster

Currently in post-production is Benny Chan’s (ShaolinThe Deadly Reclaim, a period martial arts film that tells the story of a pack of villagers standing up to a young warlord. The film is set in 1914, following the collapse of the Qing dynasty.

The film stars Lau Ching Wan (The Bullet Vanishes), Louis Koo (Flash Point), Eddie Peng (Rise of the Legend), Wu Jing (Wolf Warrior), Liu Kai Chi (The Viral Factor), Philip Keung (Unbeatable), Yuan Quan (Once Upon A Time In Shanghai), Jiang Shuying (So Young), Sammy Hung (Choy Lee Fut) and Berg Ng (The Grandmaster). Sammo Hung (14 Blades) will be handling the action choreography.

The Deadly Reclaim is slated to hit theaters later this year. Until then, here’s some production photos (via HKSAR).

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Outcast (2014) Review

"Outcast" Chinese Theatrical Poster

"Outcast" Chinese Theatrical Poster

Director: Nick Powell
Writer: James Dormer
Cast: Hayden Christensen, Nicolas Cage, Liu Yifei, Ji Ke Jun Yi, Andy On, Wang Bozhao, Fernando Chien
Running Time: 99 min.

By Kyle Warner

When a successful Hollywood star decides to star in a Chinese production, I see it as an interesting career choice. Maybe the script drew them in, maybe it was the chance to work on a new sort of film set, maybe it’s a big paycheck, or maybe they’re simply trying to entertain and/or develop a fan base in Asia. When a struggling Hollywood star decides to star in a Chinese film, I can’t help but see it as an act of desperation. In Outcast we have two stars currently working through the dark days of their respective careers. Hayden Christensen hasn’t had a hit starring role since Jumper (which wasn’t exactly a hit) and Nicolas Cage will seemingly take any role that’s offered to him as long as he’s getting paid. Longtime stunt coordinator Nick Powell (War) makes his directorial debut on the film. Considering all of the above, the film is pretty much what you’d expect: you could say that one star is trying too hard, the other isn’t trying nearly hard enough, and the first-time director knows how to film the action but not much else.

Outcast is a historical action-adventure set in the East during the Crusades. We enter the film as knights Jacob (Christensen) and Gallain (Cage) are attacking a city in the Middle East. Gallain has seen too much war and begs his protégé to go East with him, but Jacob seems to get off on bloodshed, which forms a schism between the two old friends. The whole sequence reminded me a bit of Ridley Scott’s Kingdom of Heaven, but I was willing to think that was simply because there simply aren’t that many films made about the Crusades. I changed my mind about that as the film went on. Jump ahead three years and we find ourselves in China where a dying King has decided to pass his throne to his lovable younger son instead of his cruel warrior eldest son Shing (Andy On). Shing kills his father, says his pipsqueak brother did the deed, and sends soldiers after the kid. Because I guess if you’re going to look to Kingdom of Heaven for inspiration, you might as well watch Gladiator, too (there’s a moment in the final act that also bears a striking similarity to Gladiator).

In the three years since the opening, Christensen’s Jacob has gone in search of Gallain, ending up lost in China and addicted to opium. Luckily everyone in Asia speaks English so Jacob knows when to step in and save the rightful heir when he’s in danger. After that Jacob becomes a guardian of the outcast little brother, taking him to a far off land while Shing’s men close in from all around.

Nicolas Cage is so odd. I maintain that he can be one of our best actors when he’s working with a good script and a talented director. In Outcast, he’s given a poorly written character and a director that doesn’t seem able to rein the actor in. The best that you can say about Cage’s worst performances is that he’s never really phoning it in (well, maybe Bangkok Dangerous…). Here Cage discovers a new kind of “British” accent which I found impossible to take seriously. His character Gallain disappears after the opening, only to be found again in the final act. When we finally catch up with him again he looks like an 80’s rock star, complete with snakes wrapped around either hand. It’s ridiculous. The film wasn’t exactly going smoothly in the time since his departure in the opening, but his return to the film has the effect of grinding the story to a halt and forcing the audience out of the movie completely. Those looking for another oddball Nicolas Cage performance will get what they paid for, I guess, but even that crowd would be better off rewatching Kick-Ass, Raising Arizona, Bad Lieutenant, or even Vampire’s Kiss.

This is Christensen’s first film role since 2010. Christensen is actually pretty good in the lead role – well, good enough to prove that he deserves more work than he’s getting anyway. The actor has had only one excellent performance in his career (2003’s Shattered Glass) and since then his work hasn’t been very impressive. He begins the film by giving us some more of his Anakin Skywalker performance, but he evens things out somewhere in the middle of the film, adding more depth to the antihero character than was probably found on the page. While Outcast is clearly a paycheck movie for most everyone involved, Christensen uses the film to show off a bit of what he’s capable of, and I thought he brought some convincing physicality to the role. Still, at this point I’m not sure that Christensen is the guy you want as your film’s lead, and I think he’s probably better suited as part of an ensemble. So it’s unfortunate that not only does Christensen have to carry the film, but that Cage keeps making the job harder for him with his bizarre performance.

Andy On (Once Upon a Time in Shanghai) is boring as the film’s villain, but I don’t really feel the actor’s at fault here. The screenplay by James Dormer just isn’t very good, giving us lots of predictable scenes and bad dialogue. After Andy On’s Shing stabs his father, the King says, “Heaven forgive you.” The warrior Shing replies, “I have no place in Heaven because of what I’ve done for you.” Or something like that. You know, that line and others like it in probably read pretty well on the page, but when you speak them out loud they just sound preposterous.

The film often looks good thanks to some decent cinematography and impressive costumes and sets. And while the story is predictable, it does manage to move at a good pace. I never found the film boring, just woefully uninspired and occasionally very silly.

From what I can tell, though filmed in China, Outcast was actually made thanks to production companies from multiple nations. Supposedly early on in Outcast’s development it was going to be about Vikings and only later became about the Crusades and China. Whether that was the natural evolution of the story, or if the China setting only got added in there after Chinese money got involved, I don’t know. Considering the plot and locale, one would think that the final product was geared towards Asian audiences, but the English language would seem to dispute that. I’m just not really sure who this movie was made for. I think that, like the film’s characters, Outcast is kind of lost in the world.

In the short time since its release Outcast has developed the reputation of a total disaster. I don’t think it’s that bad. Which is not to say that I think it’s all that good either. It’s an overly familiar historical action movie that’s beaten down repeatedly by bad dialogue and one of Cage’s career worst performances. The best thing about the film is Hayden Christensen… though I realize that might sound like damning praise to most readers. I just don’t think there’s enough to the film to recommend it to any curious viewer. Outcast is totally skippable.

Kyle Warner’s Rating: 4.5/10

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

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

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

RELEASE DATE: October 6, 2015

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

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

Pre-order First Strike from today!

Posted in Asian Titles, DVD/Blu-ray New Releases, Martial Arts Titles | Tagged | 2 Comments

Andy Lau and Johnnie To are ‘Running on Karma’ again!

"Running on Karma" Japanese Theatrical Poster

"Running on Karma" Japanese Theatrical Poster

2003′s Running on Karma was one of the strangest yet ultimately fulfilling Hong Kong movies ever made, and now, 12 years later, directors Johnnie To (Election 2) and Wai Ka Fai (Too Many Ways To Be #1) are currently at work on a 3D sequel.

Andy Lau (Switch) is slated to return. Cecilia Cheung, however, is not on the radar. According to Jaynestars (via DiP), To wasn’t fond of her unprofessional habits during the filming of the original Running on Karma – such as a lack of punctuality and frequently calling in sick – so replacing Cheung will be Gao Yuanyuan (Rob-B-Hood). Jacky Heung (True Legend) will also be appearing.

We’ll keep you updated on Running on Karma 2 as we hear more. Stay tuned!

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Rumble in the Bronx | Blu-ray (Warner)

Rumble in the Bronx | Blu-ray (Warner)

Rumble in the Bronx | Blu-ray (Warner)

RELEASE DATE: October 6, 2015

Warner presents the Blu-ray for Rumble in the Bronx, directed by Stanley Tong (Police Story 4: First Strike). Please note that this Blu-ray is most-likely the English-dubbed, U.S. edited version of the film.

A young man (Jackie Chan) visiting and helping his uncle (Bill Tung) in New York City finds himself forced to fight a street gang and the mob with his martial art skills. Also starring Anita Mui (Drunken Master II), Francoise Yip (Infatuation), Marc Akerstream (Cyberjack) and Ailen Sit (Thunderbolt).

Pre-order Rumble in the Bronx from today!

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

1st trailer for Renny Harlin’s ‘Skiptrace’ starring Jackie Chan

"Skiptrace" Chinese Teaser Poster

"Skiptrace" Chinese Teaser Poster

Jackie Chan is teaming up with director Renny Harlin (Die Hard 2) for Skiptrace, an upcoming action-comedy about a detective from Hong Kong (Jackie Chan) who teams up with an American gambler (Johnny Knoxville) to battle against a notorious Chinese criminal.

Chan stars, co-writes and produces. Screenwriters are Jay Longino (Bachelor Party 2: The Last Temptation), Brian Gatewood (Animal Practice) and Alessandro Tanaka (The Sitter). Cast also includes Fan Bingbing (Iron Man 3), WWE’s Eve Torres, Michael Wong (Zombie Fight Club) and Eric Tsang (The Last Blood).

BREAKING NEWS: 1st teaser trailer (via SuperChan). The film hits theaters in China on December 2015.

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Shadowless Sword (2005) Review

"Shadowless Sword" Korean Theatrical Poster

"Shadowless Sword" Korean Theatrical Poster

AKA: The Legend of the Shadowless Sword
Director: Kim Young-Jun
Writer: Kim Tae-Gwan, Shin Jun-Hee
Cast: Yun So-Yi, Lee Seo-Jin, Shin Hyun-Joon, Lee Gi-Yong, Jeong Ho-Bin, Park Seong-Woong
Running Time: 98 min.

By Paul Bramhall

The words ‘Korean’ and ‘wuxia’ are not really two which you’d immediately think of putting together. The Korean film industry has gained a reputation for producing high quality entries in the likes of the gangster, revenge thriller, and melodrama genres. On the other hand, the wuxia genre has tended to remain a mainstay of Chinese filmmaking, with most movies by definition based on Chinese novels about the martial arts world, filled with chivalrous swordsman and alike.

In 2000 though, director Kim Yeong-joon decided to do just that, by adapting the Korean comic Bichunmoo for the big screen. As much as wuxia tales tend to focus on treacherous martial arts clans, doomed lovers, and other such romanticized notions, on screen they’re just as much defined by their action. Yeong-joon didn’t want to take any chances, so took the trip to Hong Kong in the hopes of asking legendary choreographer Ching Siu Tung to come onboard as action director. Unfortunately Siu Tung’s schedule was fully booked, however Yeong-joon clicked with one of his protégés, Ma Yuk Sing, responsible for the choreography in the likes of White Dragon and Enter the Phoenix, and ultimately Yuk Sing took the job.

Bichunmoo was a worthy attempt at making a Korean wuxia, featuring plenty of stylized action, and some subtle use of CGI to enhance many of the practical moves. However in a 2005 interview Yuk Sing expressed his frustration with the final product, citing the lack of time they had to film, the use of stunt doubles for most of the action, and his own failure to really grasp the elements of the movie itself. He did form a strong friendship with director Yeong-joon though, and 5 years later, when Yeong-joon approached him to come onboard as the action choreographer for his 2nd attempt at a Korean wuxia, Yuk Sing didn’t think twice.

That 2nd wuxia would become Shadowless Sword, and together Yeong-joon and Yuk Sing made sure none of the regrets of their previous collaboration would be repeated again. The decision was made to film in China, and before the cameras started rolling all of the key players in the cast did an intensive 6 days per week 2 month crash course with Yuk Sing and his stunt team, to bring them up to speed with the physical demands that any wuxia movie requires.

The story of ‘Shadowless Sword’ takes place in 927AD, and we learn that the leader of the wonderfully named Killer-Blade Army, played by Shin Hyeon-joon (the lead in Binchunmoo), is killing all of the heirs to the throne due to a wrong doing he felt was committed against his family. When a prince, played by Lee Seo-jin, who was believed to have vanished is found masquerading as a commoner, a bodyguard is sent to find him and convince him to accept his birthright. What’s unique about Shadowless Sword, is that for a wuxia movie it gives us a central protagonist in the form of a female, as the bodyguard is played by Yoon Soy. Soy has reverted mostly to acting in TV dramas in recent years, but in 2005 it looked like she was going to potentially carve out an action career for herself, having also starred alongside Ryoo Seung-beom in Arahan 2 years earlier.

Special mention also has to go to the other members of the Killer-Blade Army. Park Seong-woon, most recently seen in the gangster movies Man on High Heels and The New World, is almost unrecognizable as a cudgel wielding monk. Sporting a fully shaved head which is covered in Chinese character tattoos, his look here is definitely a memorable one. Playing a deadly female assassin, who appears just as lethal as Hyeon-joon himself, is the stunning Lee Gi-yong. Shadowless Sword was Gi-yong’s movie debut, and after having a cameo as a female assassin a year later in My Wife is a Gangster 3, she disappeared from the movie scene to return to modeling. It’s a shame, as her action performance is convincing, and at 180cm tall, she has an imposing screen presence.

As a sophomore effort, Yeong-joon and Yuk Sing look to have taken full advantage of their understanding and expectations of each other, as Shadowless Sword crams in an almost non-stop barrage of imaginative and creative action scenes. From a bowman who fires insanely large arrows, which fly through the air impaling people as they go like a human kebab, to a boomerang like sword which our heroes have to fend off while dealing with multiple attackers at the same time. There is no doubt in 2005 that the technology was there to perform all this outlandish action with CGI, so it’s refreshing to see that none of it is. Apart from the standard green screen work for some backdrops, all of the action is performed with wires and in-camera effects, as can be seen in the outtakes when one of the huge arrows being fired along a wire goes a little further than it was supposed to, resulting in Yoon Soy being hit square in the face by it.

Yuk Sing acknowledged that as a Korean movie he wanted to create a different action aesthetic than his Hong Kong work, and in many ways he succeeds. All of the trademark shots from his mentor Siu Tung are there, from props and bodies exploding in every direction, to whole floors being ripped up with the stroke of a sword. But there’s also a lot of originality as well, from an underwater escape, to an open handed fight scene which involves several limbs being snapped in painfully graphic ways. Of course as seems to be the requirement of any post-Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon wuxia movie, we also get a rooftop chase scene, but frankly it wouldn’t have been complete without it.

If it was possible to pick any fault with ‘Shadowless Sword’, it’s that the story is undeniably simplistic. Perhaps in a move to distance himself from the over-convoluted plot of Bichunmoo, which in many ways was down to its source material, here Yeong-joon creates what’s essentially an A-to-B chase movie, with Soy and Seo-jin being pursued by Hyeon-joon and his Killer-Blade Army. It’s a plot structure which was re-used for 2011’s War of the Arrows. In the first third of the movie this looks like it could be problematic, as neither Soy or Seo-jin seem to have particularly good chemistry with each other, and we’re about to spend the rest of the movie with them. However as events progress, thankfully so do their characters, and it’s not long until we’re rooting for them to get away. They also get an unexpected character arc in the finale, which provides a welcome explanation for a lot of what has come before.

It would be a crime not to mention the soundtrack for Shadowless Sword. Switching between a fast paced Korean drum based score for the action and chase scenes, to a full orchestra for the movies more dramatic moments, the quality of the music really stands out (perhaps in part due to being recorded in Australia, no doubt thanks to US film studio New Line Cinema co-producing). Being Korean, parts of it are unashamedly romantic, so for those who don’t like sweeping scores set to longing looks, there may be parts when you’ll want to look away. But even if that’s the case, it’s never too long before someone gets impaled on a giant arrow, sliced to pieces with a sword, or my personal favorite, has their body explode from the inside out.

Paul Bramhall’s Rating: 8/10

Posted in All, Korean, News, Reviews | 1 Comment’s ‘For the Emperor’ Blu-ray Giveaway! – WINNERS ANNOUNCED!

For the Emperor | Blu-ray & DVD (Well Go USA)

For the Emperor | Blu-ray & DVD (Well Go USA) and Well Go USA are giving away 3 Blu-ray copies of Park Sang-jun’s For the Emperor to three lucky Cityonfire visitors. To enter, simply add a comment to this post and describe, in your own words, this trailer.

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

The Blu-ray & DVD for For the Emperor will be officially released on July 7, 2015. We will announce the 3 winners on July 8, 2015 and ship out the prizes immediately.

CONTEST DISCLAIMER: You must enter by July 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: Alice H, Eric O. and Andrew O.

Posted in News | Tagged | 13 Comments

Jet Li does a flying jump kick onto Netflix’s streaming service

Dragon Dynasty's Jet Li 3-Disc DVD Set

Dragon Dynasty's Jet Li 3-Disc DVD Set

Eagle-eyed martial arts fans who happen to own a Netflix account may have noticed that a significant portion of Jet Li’s back catalog has been slowly added to the website’s streaming service. It appears that the Weinstein Company, who purchased a great deal of Hong Kong action movies during the 90′s, have once again been divvying up their films to Netflix. Cinema buffs have long resented the Weinsteins for their treatment of Asian cinema – Jet Li alone saw some of his most beloved features edited, dubbed, and retitled only to be unceremoniously dumped on DVD.

For instance: My Father is a Hero (one of our personal favorites) became The Enforcer, The Bodyguard from Beijing became The Defender. The good news about these titles being added to Netflix is that they’re now accompanied by their original Cantonese language tracks and streaming with HD quality prints.

Also new to the streaming service is two of Jet Li’s earliest endeavors, 1982′s Shaolin Temple and 1984′s Kids From Shaolin, both of which the Weinstein Company has never actually released on DVD or Blu-ray in North America.

Titles currently available:

-1982′s The Shaolin Temple

-1984′s Kids From Shaolin

-1986′s Born to Defense

-The Legend (AKA 1993′s Fong Sai-yuk)

-The Legend 2 (AKA 1993′s Fong Sai-yuk II)

-The Defender (AKA 1994′s The Bodyguard from Beijing)

-1994′s Fist of Legend

-The Enforcer (AKA 1995′s My Father is a Hero)

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Crank 2: High Voltage (2009) Review

"Crank: High Voltage" Japanese Theatrical Poster

"Crank: High Voltage" Japanese Theatrical Poster

Director: Mark Neveldine, Brian Taylor
Writer: Mark Neveldine, Brian Taylor
Cast: Jason Statham, Amy Smart, Clifton Collins, Jr., Efren Ramirez, Bai Ling, David Carradine, Dwight Yoakam, Corey Haim, Keone Young, Art Hsu, Julanne Chidi Hill
Running Time: 95 min.

By HKFanatic

I used to wonder what a film directed by video game auteur Suda51 (No More Heroes) would look like. Then I saw Crank 2: High Voltage and wondered no more. With High Voltage, writer/director team Mark Neveldine and Brian Taylor have taken the inner workings of your average 14 year-old’s ADD-addled, Mountain Dew-charged, Xbox-and-sex-obsessed mind and uploaded it onto the big screen. Actor Jason Statham is somehow the perfect filter for their madness as he goes around the greater Los Angeles area, trading fisticuffs with thugs and replenishing his ‘health meter’ like a video game beat-em-up come to life.

Neveldine and Taylor have had an interesting rise in the film industry. Their debut was the original Crank, a low-budget effort that made great use of Statham’s trademark snarl and a politically incorrect script. Moviegoers responded to it because of its sheer audacity – like the scene where Statham has sex on a public street corner – and even though it wasn’t a massive hit, a sequel was greenlit. Probably because Neveldine and Taylor know how to make a movie on the cheap: High Voltage was made for $20 million, a paltry sum by Hollywood standards. Inbetween the Crank films the duo turned out the interesting failure Gamer, which took the whole shaky-cam aesthetic to its most nauseating limit, and later saw their reportedly excellent, R-rated screenplay for Jonah Hex turned into the mutilated box office bomb it eventually became.

High Voltage represents Neveldine and Taylor’s signature filmmaking style, back with a vengeance. It’s American pop culture put in a blender and served up raw: you never know when the movie is going to transform into an Atari video game, a talk show parody, or a dream sequence that resembles public access television. The film opens with Jason Statham having his heart removed while a Chinese gangster mocks him and flicks cigarette ashes into Statham’s gaping chest cavity. Later on, Statham escapes from the medical facility (like you had any doubt he would) and kills off the guards, upgrading his weapons along the way in a remarkably video game-like manner.

The rest of the movie proceeds with Statham running on foot, grunting and trash-talking, as he looks for his stolen heart. The screenplay’s gimmick is that Statham’s artificial ticker needs to be charged with electricity every so often or else Statham will drop dead. This leads to scenes like Statham using a police taser on his own tongue. The film’s 90 minute runtime is dedicated solely to seeing if the filmmakers can top themselves every five minutes. Expect outrageous moments like a Latino gangster cutting off his own nipples as a sign of atonement to his boss, Bai Ling’s hooker character being pulverized by a car, and a repeat of the first film’s public shagging. Most likely you’re either in on the joke or you think the whole thing is an affront to decency.

If Crank 2 has one serious flaw, it’s that the movie is so dependent on the first entry. Upon viewing High Voltage I hadn’t seen Crank since it was in theaters all the way back in 2006. The returning characters, frequent references, and flashbacks to the first film were lost on me. I’d suggest watching them back to back if your brain can take it. That’d be one hell of a movie marathon; afterwards you might want to watch that movie that was done in one long camera take, Russian Ark, to give your retinas a rest.

High Voltage has plenty of action – shoot-outs and car crashes occur almost as frequently as the f-bomb – but don’t expect anything jaw-dropping or expertly choreographed. Most of the time the camera shows Jason Statham firing a gun then cuts to someone being shot. Rinse and repeat, and Statham can stand in the middle of a room and not get hit even when eight gangbangers are aiming for him. Oh well, it’s of little consequence – the film is pure superhero fantasy. I’d admittedly like to see Neveldine/Taylor really stretch themselves and film an intricate action sequence, but for Crank 2 the short bursts of violence work. The duo shoots these movies on the cheap and at a rapid pace (31 days of filming) and actually operates the hi-def handheld cameras themselves, even going so far as wear rollerblades to capture Statham as he’s running. Now that’s commitment.

As the film comes to an end, the fate of several lead characters are completely up in the air. You could say it’s a blatant set-up for Crank 3 but at the same time the story is almost besides the point. High Voltage is about attitude – a tribute to Statham’s tough guy persona and a distillation of every pop culture influence rattling around in the directors’ heads. Watch it, enjoy it, feel your brain throb against your skull as you try to keep up with the images onscreen. There’s a cameo from the lead singer of Tool; a scene where Statham and a bad guy turn into giant kaiju monsters and battle like that movie War of the Gargantuas; and another scene where Statham rams a shotgun up a goon’s ass. If you queue this sucker up, I think you know what you’re getting it.

HKFanatic’s Rating: 6/10

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Skin Traffik | DVD (Alchemy)

"Skin Traffik" Theatrical Poster

"Skin Traffik" Theatrical Poster

RELEASE DATE: October 13, 2015

Alchemy presents the DVD for Skin Traffik, the first “professional” directorial debut by the multi-talented Ara Paiaya (Dubbed and Dangerous). The film stars Gary Daniels, Daryl Hannah, Mickey Rourke, Eric Roberts, Michael Madsen, Dominique Swain, Jeff Fahey, Ron Smoorenburg, as well as Ara Paiaya himself.

In Skin Traffik, a jaded hit man (Daniels) regains his humanity in this dark tale of redemption and sacrifice, set amidst a brutal underworld in which daily survival is not so much a skill but an instinct. Watch the trailer.

Pre-order Skin Traffik from today!

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Francis Ng joins Mark Chao in Luc Besson’s ‘Warriors Gate’

"Young Detective Dee: Rise of the Sea Dragon" Japanese DVD Cover

"Young Detective Dee: Rise of the Sea Dragon" Japanese DVD Cover

Director/super producer, Luc Besson (Lucy), is working on Warriors Gate, a French-Chinese co-production that’s being described as a “big production” fantasy film.

At the helm of the project will be Matthias Hoene (Cockneys vs Zombies) who’ll be directing a cast led by Mark Chao (Young Detective Dee: Rise of the Sea Dragon). The film is currently in production.

Warriors Gate also stars Ni Ni (Flowers of War), Uriah Shelton (Girl Meets World), Dave Bautista (Kickboxer: Vengeance) and Sienna Guillory (Resident Evil: Apocalypse).

Updates: According to Variety, Francis Ng (T00 Many Ways To Be Number One) has joined the cast.

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The Challenge | Blu-ray (Kino)

"The Challenge" Theatrical Poster

"The Challenge" Theatrical Poster


Kino presents the Blu-ray for 1982′s The Challenge (aka Sword of the Ninja), directed by John Frankenheimer (Ronin) and written by John Sayles (Eight Men Out). The movie will be sourced from a brand new HD master.

This swashbuckling cult-classic stars Scott Glenn (Urban Cowboy), Toshiro Mifune (Incident at Blood Pass), Donna Kei Benz (Pray for Death) and Atsuo Nakamura (47 Ronin). The film is also noted for being Steven Seagal’s first film gig (credited as Steve Seagal), where he serves as martial arts coordinator. Watch the trailer.

Stay tuned for pre-order information.

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This Never Happened to the Other Fella…

"Stoner" Chinese Theatrical Poster

"Stoner" Chinese Theatrical Poster

Australian actor George Lazenby has an upcoming documentary film about his life called This Never Happened to the Other Fella – a title that’s a direct reference to his fourth-wall breaking line in the opening sequence of On Her Majesties Secret Service, his one and only outing as James Bond.

Following Lazenby’s short venture as 007, his film career took in interesting turn with an unusual array of films including an Italian Giallo flick, Who Saw Her Die?, as well as a series of Hong Kong exploitation films: Stoner, A Queen’s Ransom and The Man from Hong Hong.

This Never Happened to the Other Fella is currently filming, so we should hear more about it soon. Stay tuned!

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Eight Escorts, The (1980) Review

"The Eight Escorts" VHS Cover

"The Eight Escorts" VHS Cover

AKA: Eight Peerless Treasures
Director: Pao Hsueh Lieh
Writer: Katy Chin, Ni Kuang
Cast: Hsu Feng, Au Lap Bo, Michael Chan Wai Man, Choi Wang, Fang Mien, Goo Chang, Ko Keung, Danny Lee Sau Yin, Lily Li Li Li, Ling Yun, Mau Ging Shun, Stewart Tam Tin, Dorian Tan Tao Liang, Wong Ching, Wang Chung, Wu Ma
Running Time: 90 min.

By Martin Sandison

In 1972 director Pao Hsieh Li and screenwriter Ni Kuang created one of the all time classics of kung fu cinema, Boxer From Shantung. A tour de force of memorable characters, clever plotting and bloody violence, the movie was a highlight of the early 70’s Shaw Brothers canon. Both had illustrious careers with Shaws; especially Ni Kuang (whose screenwriting credits stretch beyond 200) who can count such milestones as One Armed Swordsman, Blood Brothers and Five Venoms as his creations. Pao began as a cinematographer on movies such as Trail of the Broken Blade and The Golden Swallow, both directed by Chang Cheh. In turn he became one of the few Shaws directors to rival Chang Cheh in the early 70’s, with movies like Delightful Forest and The Water Margin under his belt.

By the early 80’s Ni Kuang was dividing his time between Shaws and Independent productions, and Pao was only directing movies for the latter. The Eight Escorts was one that they collaborated on, a Taiwanese production with all the hallmarks of the time, and featuring a superb cast.

The plot revolves around Hsu Feng as Miss Wu, the leader of an escort service who is also searching for her brothers killer. Feng was a favourite of King Hu, one of the greatest Hong Kong film makers of all time. She had substantial parts in Dragon Gate Inn, A Touch of Zen (one of the deepest Martial Arts films you could see) and The Valiant Ones. A good actress, she brings a touch of class to The Eight Escorts.

Li Yun appears as Chin Kai Tai, an honourable martial artist who assists Miss Wu. Yun was a versatile actor, beginning his career in Taiwan in the early 60’s then moving on to Shaws and appearing in movies such as Killer Clans and Death Duel. He moved back to Taiwan and became an action star and director.

Danny Lee appears as Tung Feng, another honourable martial artist. Everyone knows him due to his parts in the Heroic Bloodshed movies City On Fire and The Killer, so it’s interesting seeing in him in a Taiwanese Indie production, especially because he performs a lot of action. Appearing in a small role, Chan Wai Man scorches across the screen with aggression and magnificent kung fu chops. This was one year before he kicked some serious ass in The Club, one of the most raw HK gangster films and two before he appeared in Five Element Ninjas, a movie that needs no introduction.

The ubiquitous Lily Li is on good form as a would be thief who fights almost everyone in the cast at some point. One of the best female martial arts actresses, she appeared in many of classics of the time, including Eight Diagram Pole Fighter and The Loot. The legendary Wu Ma has a small role and supplies some good comic relief as an inn owner who has pigtails and employs young kids to do his bidding.

Rounding off the cast is the magnificent Tan Tao Liang, who most agree is the most flexible kicker of the golden age. One of my favourite martial arts actors, although not a great actor his kicking is a joy to behold. My favourites of his are The Hot, The Cool and the Vicious and the underrated Revenge of the Shaolin Master. There are two stories that capture the imagination when it comes to Tan. The first is when he was in Taekwondo competitions he would land a kick but it would be too fast for the judges to see, so he developed a technique of hopping and landing multiple kicks. This lends itself beautifully to his onscreen fights. Another is that he was the master of John Liu, another awesome kicker. The story goes that Liu was very inflexible, so they agreed that Tan would force him into the splits. Apparently he was in pain for two years, but after that could kick very high. It’s a real shame that they never appeared in a movie together, and that Tan never appeared in a movie with Hwang Jang Lee. Actually at the Eastern Heroes event last year Hwang was asked about Tan, and he didn’t really say much about him.

Unfortunately there are major problems with The Eight Escorts. The story is very convoluted and there are too many characters, meaning it’s nearly impossible to follow the plot. This is a criticism that applies to loads of old schoolers, but here it gets very irritating. There is so much fighting that the plot doesn’t even matter. So to the action. It’s great when there is loads of fighting in a movie as we all know, but if it doesn’t reach a decent level the audience is left unsatisfied. This is the biggest problem with the film.

Most of the fights are slow and uninspiring. The choreographer is Chan Muk Chuen, a veteran old school choreographer, and definitely not up there with the best. He choreographed Big Boss of Shanghai, a movie I enjoyed, but again the choreography never reaches that high a level. The use of unusual weapons is a definite plus point though. When Tan and Chan Wai Man get into the mixer the level immediately goes up, and there is some great invention in the exchanges and the use of environment.

All in all Eight Escorts scores points for a fantastic cast and some great fight scenes towards the end, but in the end it’s a bit of a wasted opportunity.

Martin Sandison’s Rating: 5/10

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