Genghis Khan: To the Ends of the Earth and Sea (2007) Review

"Genghis Khan: To the Ends of the Earth and Sea" Japanese Theatrical Poster

"Genghis Khan: To the Ends of the Earth and Sea" Japanese Theatrical Poster

Director: Shinichiro Sawai
Writer: Takehiro Nakajima, Shoichi Maruyama
Cast: Takashi Sorimachi, Rei Kikukawa, Mayumi Wakamura, Ken’ichi Matsuyama, Yoshihiko Hakamada, Eugene Nomura, Go Ara, Takahiro Araki, Kachiwo Endo, Yusuke Hirayama, Naoki Hosaka, Sosuke Ikematsu, Satoshi Jinbo
Running Time: 136 min.

By Kyle Warner

Thirty minutes into Genghis Khan: To the Ends of the Earth and Sea I came to realize that I was not watching a historical epic. Instead, this movie is a biopic about a man who lived a historically epic life. And all in all, that’s not such a bad thing. We’ve seen plenty of historical epics over the years, and we’ve seen a couple about Khan, so maybe a different approach to the subject should be welcomed. The film’s shortcomings as a historical epic could be forgiven… except that it’s not a very good biopic either.

So often I found myself trying to reason with the movie. I’m not asking for much, oh great Khan, just give me something to make the next two hours feel like they are worth my time. Thing is, I don’t think Genghis Khan cares much for the audience. The film plays out like a history lesson that’s being told by a professor who’d rather be anywhere else but here. There’s a distinct feeling of disinterest to the production.

Genghis Khan: To the Ends of the Earth and Sea (AKA The Blue Wolf: To the Ends of the Earth and Sea) is a Japanese/Mongolian co-production. Though filmed on location in Mongolia and featuring thousands of Mongolian extras, the primary cast and crew is made up of Japanese talent and Japanese is the spoken language. The film tells the life story of Genghis Khan from birth to old age. We see him grow into a warrior, take on his rivals and deal with betrayal, and eventually try to unite the Mongols against China. (I cannot claim to know enough about Genghis Khan to tell you with any authority whether the movie is more fact or fiction, but it often feels overly dramatized.)

One of the first rules that any aspiring screenwriter is taught is to never use voiceover to narrate their story. Like most writing tips, there are a whole lot of ‘buts’ to this rule. It’s hard to imagine Fight Club, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, and Taxi Driver (among others) without their voiceover narration, which serves to elevate the films. However, too often voiceover is used as a crutch for bad writing. Instead of taking the weight off the story and letting things operate more smoothly, the crutch only brings more attention to the weaknesses of your screenplay. Such is the case here. Genghis Khan’s mother narrates much of the film. It would’ve been much better without this added component. At one point she tells the audience how her son gave no mercy to traitors… just minutes after Khan kills a traitor without mercy. Thanks, Mom. There’s even a moment where we see two armies ready for battle, and then the narration tells us that the battle lasted for days but things worked out in the end. Umm, I personally would rather see the battle instead of just being given the summary afterwards. Whatever.

I thought at first that maybe the movie wasn’t going to be too bad. It didn’t bring anything new to the table — almost every scene had been done better in other movies — but at least the story had some kind of flow to it. However, it quickly became apparent that not only was it repeating material seen in other similar films, but it was repeating scenes from earlier in this film. There’s an awful feeling of sameness to the movie as we move into the second half. Director Shinichiro Sawai wisely sets much of the film in the outdoors on Mongolia’s green hills, but he never manages to do much with the location. It’s a beautiful place, but everything begins to look the same after a while, and no images really grab you. In addition to a boring visual style, the drama often feels like it is on repeat. Even though the confrontations and the dialogue changes, every scene unfolds more or less the same. The characters speak overly dramatic dialogue, turn their back on each other, say something else, and then continue staring off into nothingness. It’s boring staging and terribly repetitive. Stepping into the role of Genghis Khan is Takashi Sorimachi (Fulltime Killer). Sadly, like much the rest of the cast, I can’t say many good things about Sorimachi’s performance here. Everyone is overacting. I don’t put too much blame on the actors, though, as I feel this is something the director should’ve tempered. Sorimachi, like basically everybody else in the cast (which includes Gantz’s Kenichi Matsuyama and Godzilla: Final Wars’ Rie Kikukawa), has been much better in other films.

After all the dull character drama, it comes as a relief when we finally get to a big action sequence. However, things don’t really get much better here. There are a lot of men and horses on screen, but the action is aimless, the music doesn’t fit, and the film features some of the most violent, relentless horse tripping I’ve ever seen. The action is so poorly staged and uninvolving that I was more than ready to get back to the tents for more moody dialogue-heavy scenes.

There’s a decent film in here somewhere, I think. Genghis Khan: To the Ends of the Earth and Sea obviously wasn’t a cheap production. The thousands of extras, the armor and weapons, a half-way decent cast, and a legendary character should’ve created a better film than the one we got. Actually, if you step back and strip away the individual scenes, you come away with a decent story. It’s a film about a warrior who became a legend… and though he was good to his people, he was often cruel to his family. In the film’s most striking scene we see a young Genghis murder his own brother because he refused to fall in line. Later in the film, when Genghis is old, he repeatedly sends his bastard son into dangerous lands, and we can only assume it’s because he hopes the boy will not return. However, when you consider the dull dialogue, the repetitive staging, and the formless action, you come away with a film that’s uninteresting and feels four hours long.

If you’re looking for a good film about Genghis Khan, my advice is to check out Sergey Bodrov’s Mongol and leave Genghis Khan: To the Ends of the Earth and Sea on the shelf.

Kyle Warner’s Rating: 3.5/10

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

The Muthers | DVD (Vinegar Syndrome)

The Muthers | DVD (Vinegar Syndrome)

The Muthers | DVD (Vinegar Syndrome)

RELEASE DATE: March 10, 2015

Vinegar Syndrome presents the DVD for 1976′s The Muthers, directed by the master of Filipino sleaze, Cirio H. Santiago (Future Hunters).

Climb aboard with The Muthers – The meanest, toughest and most action packed pirate crew in the pacific. Join Jayne Kennedy (Ms .45), Rosanne Katon (She Devils in Chains), Jeannie Bell (TNT Jackson) and their crew on a daring rescue mission to save one of their own from the clutches of vicious white slavers. The Muthers blasts onto DVD newly restored from its 35mm negative.

Pre-order The Muthers from Amazon.com today!

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

Cityonfire.com’s ‘No Tears for the Dead’ Blu-ray Giveaway! – WINNERS ANNOUNCED!

No Tears for the Dead | Blu-ray & DVD (CJ Entertainment)

No Tears for the Dead | Blu-ray & DVD (CJ Entertainment)

Cityonfire.com and CJ Entertainment are giving away 3 Blu-ray copies of No Tears for the Dead to three lucky Cityonfire visitors. To enter, simply add a comment to this post and describe, in your own words, the beginning of this credit sequence from the 1975 Jimmy Wang Yu classic, The Man from Hong Kong.

We will be selecting a winner at random. Be sure to include your email address in the appropriate field so we can conta6ect you for your home address. Additionally, you must ‘Like Us‘ on cityonfire.com’s Facebook by clicking here.

The Blu-ray & DVD for No Tears for the Dead will be officially released on February 17, 2015. We will announce the 3 winners on that day and ship out the prizes immediately.

CONTEST DISCLAIMER: You must enter by February 16, 2015 to qualify. U.S. residents only please. We sincerely apologize to our non-U.S. visitors. Winners must respond with their mailing address within 48 hours, otherwise you will automatically be disqualified. No exceptions. Contest is subject to change without notice.

WINNERS: Congratulations to Cheh Chieh Huang, Fabian and Evan. You have all been notified via email!

Posted in News | Tagged | 26 Comments

Two new TV Spots for Neill Blomkamp’s ‘Chappie’!

"Chappie" International Poster

"Chappie" International Poster

After teaming up for District 9 and Elysium, director Neill Blomkamp and actor Copley are putting their muscle together for a third time in yet another sci-fi film called Chappie, which hits theaters March 27, 2015.

Official plot: Every child comes into the world full of promise, and none more so than Chappie: he is gifted, special, a prodigy. Like any child, Chappie will come under the influence of his surroundings – some good, some bad – and he will rely on his heart and soul to find his way in the world and become his own man. But there’s one thing that makes Chappie different from anyone else: he is a robot.

Chappie also stars Hugh Jackman, Dev Patel, Ninja and Yolandi Visser, Jose Pablo Cantillo and Sigourney Weaver.

Update: First trailer for Chappie. Don’t let the first trailer fool you… I’m sure this film is R-rated for a reason. | Second trailer. We told ya it would be R-rated for a reason! | International poster brings the action!

BREAKING NEWS: Watch two new TV Spots: 1 | 2

Posted in News | 1 Comment

Deal on Fire! Once Upon a Time in Shanghai | Blu-ray | Only $9.99 – Expires soon!

Once Upon A Time in Shanghai | Blu-ray & DVD (Well Go USA)

Once Upon A Time in Shanghai | Blu-ray & DVD (Well Go USA)

Today’s Deal on Fire is the Blu-ray for Once Upon a Time in Shanghai, a martial arts film directed by Wong Ching Po (Let’s Go!) with action choreography from the legendary Yuen Woo-ping (The Matrix).

The plot involves a laborer who moves to Shanghai in the hope of becoming rich, but ends up using his kung fu skills to survive. The cast includes Phillip Ng (Bodyguards & Assassins), Andy On (Special Identity), Luxia Jiang (True Legend) and Sammo Hung (Kill Zone). Watch the trailer.

Order Once Upon a Time in Shanghai from Amazon.com today!

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

Slaughter in Xian (1989) Review

"Slaughter in Xian" Chinese Poster

"Slaughter in Xian" Chinese Poster

AKA: Xian Massacre
Director: Chang Cheh
Writer: Chang Cheh
Cast: Tung Chi Hwa, Cecilia Wong Hang Sau, Tu Yu Ming, Jia Kang Xi, Ku Wing Chuen, Wong Heung Wai
Running Time: 100 min.

By Paul Bramhall

Director Chang Cheh is commonly referred to as ‘the Godfather of Hong Kong action cinema’, and it’s a title well deserved. In 1967 he cast Jimmy Wang Yu in The-One Armed Swordsman at a time when most Hong Kong action movies featured female leads, and almost overnight an era of bare chested manly heroes was born. Cheh’s movies came to be defined by their machismo – usually featuring shirtless heroes who frequently declare their unbreakable bonds of brotherhood to each other, who take on legions of morally repugnant villains even when the odds are stacked against them, and who die in a hail of heroic slow motion arm flailing and fake blood.

For a long time Cheh was the go-to-director at the Shaw Brothers studio, often churning out close to 10 movies per year in his prime. However as time went by, it also changed, and by the time Cheh made his final movie for the studio in 1983, the classical tales of heroism that defined his early work had turned into rather camp tales of ninjas and trap riddled houses. While his later work had arguably lost the epic scope of his 60’s and 70’s movies, becoming almost entirely studio bound rather than being filmed outside, the movies were still a lot of fun to watch. The heroic deaths had become more and more exaggerated, to the point that our heroes were having their chests sliced open and tripping up on their own intestines, and his obsession with manly bonding had reached a point were some of his movies didn’t feature a single female cast member.

Cheh was once quoted as having a goal of directing 100 movies, so as the Shaw Brothers studio turned their attention more to TV rather than film making, he packed up shop and headed over to continue directing in Mainland China. At the age of 60, Cheh gathered together a new set of performers, and kicked off his Mainland productions in 1983 with Nine Demons. While there, Cheh had a total of 3 movies made with the sole purpose of providing him with enough money to retire – Death Ring in 1984, Shanghai 13 in 1985, and Just Heroes in 1989. However every time, somewhere inside himself he found the will to direct again, and ended up using the money raised to make more movies. In 1993 he’d direct his final feature, Ninja in Ancient China, which would also be his 93rd. He may not have made it to 100, but he certainly can’t be faulted for trying.

Slaughter in Xian was Cheh’s third to last movie, and is a curious work. Made in 1989, its production values give it a look which could easily make it pass for a movie made a decade earlier. The budget was clearly at a minimum, rooms are sparsely decorated with just a chair and table, perhaps with a phone or vase of flowers on it, and everything looks rather cheap. However, it is great to see Cheh working in the great outdoors again, so we’re treated to scenes such as a motorbike chase through the countryside, and a finale which looks to take place in a temple complex and mansion gardens.

The plot of Slaughter in Xian concerns the friendship between a thief turned Chinese opera performer, played by Chow Lung, and an incorruptible police officer, played by Tung Chi Wa. When a delivery of machine guns is hijacked and stolen by a group of not so incorruptible police officers, led by Ku Wing Chuen, who are in collaboration with a pair of gangsters played by Chin Siu Kin and Do Yuk Ming, they try to get rid of Chi Wa so that they can pin the crime on Lung.

If anything, there’s almost a little too much plotting in Slaughter in Xian for its own good, and there are moments when proceedings threaten to start dragging amongst all the scheming and conniving. However there is enough vintage Cheh here to ensure that some action is never too far away. In many ways the various stages of the director’s career are all on show in some form or another. The movie opens to a title sequence that plays over our main character gunning down several assailants. It’s a highly choreographed sequence that takes place on what almost looks like a theatrical stage, with all of the surroundings and props colored white, recalling the similarly theatrical sequence with Fu Sheng in Heaven and Hell. There’s a dagger throwing character that recalls the likes of Lo Lieh in The Flying Dagger, and there’s an extended opera sequence which could well have been lifted from Vengeance!, both movies which were made close to 20 years earlier.

However there’s little doubting that certain elements in Cheh’s later works are just pure bizarre. The level of manly bonding in his movies sometimes saw critics and fans, even at the time of his movies release, questioning his sexual inclination. The scene in Magnificent Ruffians, in which the main characters enter a bathing area to find a bevy of beauties waiting for them, only for our heroes to chase them away and begin grabbing each others posteriors, is often sited as being overtly homosexual in its nature. However this scene pales in comparison to what can be found in Slaughter in Xian.

In one scene, the two main characters arrive back home drunk. As one tries to help the other to stand up, they fall down on top of each other, at which point rather dreamy music kicks in, and they proceed to roll around on the floor embracing each other in slow motion. In another, an imprisoned character, shirtless and wearing white pants, is subjected to sitting on a chair with a 2-foot long spike in the middle of it. The guards lift him into the air and spread his legs, and once again in slow motion, he’s lowered onto the spike while geysers of blood erupt from between his legs. This isn’t the first time Cheh has had a character die by anal penetration, as anyone will know who’s seen his movies which have Fu Sheng portraying folk hero Fong Sai Yuk. However I don’t think I’ve ever seen it carried out quite as cruel and graphically as it’s done here. Ironically, the scene is juxtaposed with a scene from the opera performance, in a technique which was also used during Ti Lung’s death scene in Vengeance!.

Despite these absurdities, when the action does come it’s satisfying. The Mainland style of choreography has always been a little different from Hong Kong, and it’s evident in Chi Wa’s fight scenes. They’re a little more acrobatic and showy, which isn’t a bad thing at all. It seems that Cheh was looking to make his own heroic bloodshed movie with Slaughter in Xian, as there’s also a lot of gunplay in the action. Cheh’s own student, John Woo, had popularized the gun heavy action movie a couple of years prior with A Better Tomorrow 2, and in many ways it seems to be a case here of the teacher copying the student. What’s refreshing about Slaughter in Xian though, is how the two styles of traditional kung fu fighting, and new wave gunplay, come together.

The finale has a shirtless Chi Wa (the bad guys tear it off him of course) ploughing through several adversaries, which include a series of brief and intense one-on-ones, with just his fists, feet, and blade, culminating in a great knife fight against Wing Chuen and Siu Kin. However, it’s once he stumbles across the stolen machine gun stash that things get entertainingly violent, as wave after wave of bad guys are mowed down in a hail of bullets and blood. If Chang Cheh really was looking to make his own heroic bloodshed movie, then he came pretty close.

All in all Slaughter in Xian is far from perfect. It’s sloppy in ways like both the previously mentioned motorbike chase and the finale begin at night, then switch to broad daylight with no explanation whatsoever. The look is cheap and some of the scenes are just plain strange. However despite all this, there are enough glimpses of what once made Cheh so great to keep you watching, and when the finale does come, it doesn’t disappoint. If you haven’t seen a Chang Cheh movie before, then his 91st feature shouldn’t be number 1 on your list to check out. But if you’re familiar with his style and like your action served straight faced and bloody, this effort from his twilight years should definitely be worth a watch.

Paul Bramhall’s Rating: 7/10

Posted in Chinese, News, Reviews | Tagged , | 4 Comments

Mad Max: Collector’s Edition | Blu-ray (Shout! Factory)

Mad Max: Collector's Edition | Blu-ray (Shout! Factory)

Mad Max: Collector's Edition | Blu-ray (Shout! Factory)

RELEASE DATE: May 5, 2015

Shout! Factory presents the Blu-ray for the Mad Max: Collector’s Edition. In George Miller’s Mad Max, a vengeful policeman (Mel Gibson) sets out to avenge his partner, his wife and his son.

Features: New interviews with Mel Gibson, Joanne Samuel and director of Photography David Eggby; commentary by art director Jon Dowding; director of photography David Eggby; FX artist Chris Murray and Tim Ridge; Mel Gibson: The Birth of A Superstar; Mad Max: The Film Phenomenon; Trailers; Gallery; Australian English and U.S. English dubbed audio tracks

Pre-order Mad Max from Amazon.com today!

Posted in DVD/Blu-ray New Releases, Other Notable Titles | 2 Comments

COF’s Blu-ray & DVD Release Highlights for February 2015

If you’re interested in purchasing any of the titles, we’re hoping you’ll click on our Amazon.com links to support cityonfire.com!

Dragon: The Bruce Lee Story: February 3, 2015

Universal presents the Blu-ray for 1993′s Dragon: The Bruce Lee Story, directed by Rob Cohen (The Fast and the Furious). Jason Scott Lee stars in this unforgettable glimpse into the life of the legendary Bruce Lee. Dragon: The Bruce Lee Story is presented in 1080p with DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 surround. Features include: Commentary with Rob Cohen, Archival Introduction, The Making of Featurette, Behind-the-Scenes Reel, Jason Scott Lee Screen Test, Bruce Lee Interview/Photographs, Storyboards, Production Photographs and Theatrical Trailers.

John Wick: February 3, 2015

Lionsgate presents the Blu-ray & DVD for David Leitch and Chad Stahelski’s John Wick, starring Keanu Reeves. Reeves plays John Wick, an infamous, retired assassin who now leads a peaceful lifestyle. But when a series of unfortunate events distort his daily routine, Wick has no choice but to revisit his sinister past and go on one hell of a kill crazy rampage. The Blu-ray for John Wick includes the follow extras: Audio Commentary, Featurettes: Don’t F^#% with John Wick, Calling in the Calvalry, Destiny of A Collective, Assassin’s Code, Red Circle and NYC Noir. Read our review.

Brotherhood of Blades: February 10, 2015

Well Go USA presents the Blu-ray & DVD for Lu Yang’s Brotherhood of Blades, which stars Chang Chen (Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon) and Cecilia Liu (Badges of Fury). Brotherhood of Blades tells of three friends (Chen, Wang Qianyuan, and Li Dongxue) who serve as Jinyiwei guards. They are dispatched by a palace eunuch (Nie Yuan) to hunt down a eunuch politician (Jin Shijie) who had been forced to resign from his influential post and exiled from Beijing. The Jinyiwei brothers return successfully from their quest, only to find that their task was but the beginning of a strange conspiracy. Read our review.


Super Sentai Zyuranger: The Complete Series
: February 17, 2015

Shout! Factory presents the Super Sentai Zyuranger: The Complete Series. Produced by Toei and Bandai, Super Sentai Zyuranger aired in Japan on February 21, 1992 to February 12, 1993, with a total of 50 episodes. It was the first Sentai series to be adapted into an American TV show; in this case, the extremely popular Power Rangers series! For the first time, Shout! Factory is delivering the entire Super Sentai Zyuranger series in its original Japanese language, uncut and subtitled, in this 10-disc DVD set! The series stars Yūta Mochizuki, Aohisa Takayasu, Hideki Fujiwara, Takumi Hashimoto, Reiko Chiba and Shiro Izumi.

No Tears for the Dead: February 17, 2015

CJ Entertainment presents the Blu-ray & DVD for No Tears for the Dead (read our review) directed by Lee Jeong-beom (Man from Nowhere). A hit man (Jang Dong-Gun from The Warrior’s Way) traumatized from accidentally killing a young girl during a job is given the mission to eliminate her mother, and begins the ultimate fight to save her life. The film also stars Kim Min-hee (Helpless), Brian Tee (The Wolverine), Kim Hee-won (Man from Nowhere) and Kim Joon-seong (Innocent Blood). Read our review.

Kung Fu Grindhouse Theatre: February 17, 2015

World Wide Multi Media presents the DVD for Kung Fu Grindhouse Theatre, which includes two untitled films. In the 1st, an escaped convict is out to claim the Sword of Destiny for his own, in order to wield its power, he must defeat the 3 Blind Mice and the beautiful sirens: Dynamite and Butterfly! In the 2nd, a female Ninja is banished when she opposes the execution of an innocent Ninja. She seeks revenge, but must first battle her way through the ninja’s hierarchy of assassins!

The Master: February 24, 2015

Lionsgate presents the DVD for 2011′s The Master (aka Choi Lei Fut or True Master), directed by Zhou Ke. It stars Hongbo Shi, Ni Cheng, Tianlong Shi and Jintong Mai. In 19th-century China, the population is suffering at the hands of greedy landlords, corrupt officials, and unwelcome invaders. Hoping to unite his people, master Chen Xiang opens a martial arts school. But after Chen refuses to join the armies of the Qing Prince, his mother and his students are seized. To save them, Chen has only one path: all-out war.

Green Street Hooligans: Underground: February 24, 2015

Lionsgate presents the DVD for Green Street Hooligans: Underground (aka Green Street 3: Never Back Down), starring Scott Adkins (Universal Soldier: Day of Reckoning) and directed by James Nunn, the filmmaker behind Fantastic Fest ’12′s breakout hit Tower Block. In Green Street Hooligans: Underground, an old firm leader returns to Green Street for revenge after receiving a call that his little brother was killed.

Dangerously Close: February 24, 2015

Olive Films presents the Blu-ray & DVD for 1986′s Dangerously Close, directed by Albert Pyun (Cyborg). A group of high school students who call themselves “The Sentinels” begin terrorizing classmates. Soon, one of their targets ends up brutally murdered. An editor of the school paper begins to investigate and “The Sentinels” become even more ruthless! This cult favorite stars John Stockwell (director of the upcoming Kickboxer reboot), J. Eddie Peck (Blind Heat), Carey Lowell (License to Kill).

Looking for new import releases?
If you’re looking for a new import release, please visit DDDhouse.com. The trusted retailer carries new and upcoming releases that are not yet available in North America.

Posted in News | Leave a comment

‘John Wick’ filmmakers: ‘John Wick 2’ will outdo the original!

"John Wick" International Theatrical Poster

"John Wick" International Theatrical Poster

In addition to their planned John Rain TV series – based on Barry Eisler’s espionage novels about a half-Japanese, half-American assassin (to be played by Keanu Reeves) – David Leitch and Chad Stahelski, the duo behind last year’s action-packed sleeper hit, John Wick, are developing John Wick 2.

Here’s what Stahelski had to say in a recent interview with Movies.com: “We have ideas for days and without blinking twice we know we can outdo the action from the original.”

John Wick opened to both commercial and critical success and was noted for its amazingly staged action sequences, which makes perfect sense, since the two were known for staging stunt work and fight choreography in films like 300 (2006), Tron: Legacy (2010) and Safe (2012) long before their directorial debut feature.

We’ll keep you updated regarding the John Wick sequel. Until then, be sure to enter our current John Wick contest for a chance to win the film on Blu-ray!

Posted in News | Leave a comment

Gun Woman | Blu-ray & DVD (Shout! Factory)

Gun Woman | Blu-ray & DVD (Shout! Factory)

Gun Woman | Blu-ray & DVD (Shout! Factory)

RELEASE DATE: May 26, 2015

Shout! Factory presents the Blu-ray & DVD for Kurando Mitsutake’s Gun Woman, starring former AV model Asami (Prison Girl)

Gun Woman brings Asami to a new level of action film achievement. Starring as a mute girl who is transformed from a sex worker into a hard-as-steel assassin, Asami spends much of the film nude and covered in blood in her quest for revenge on behalf of her master, a psychopathic doctor whose family has been slaughtered. Watch the trailer.

Pre-order Gun Woman from Amazon.com today!

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

Cityonfire.com’s ‘John Wick’ Blu-ray Giveaway! – WINNERS ANNOUNCED!

John Wick | Blu-ray & DVD (Lionsgate)

John Wick | Blu-ray & DVD (Lionsgate)

Cityonfire.com and Lionsgate Films are giving away 3 Blu-ray copies of John Wick to three lucky Cityonfire visitors. To enter, simply add a comment to this post and describe, in your own words, David Carradine’s clothes in this fight scene from Lone Wolf McQuade.

We will be selecting a winner at random. Be sure to include your email address in the appropriate field so we can conta6ect you for your home address. Additionally, you must ‘Like Us‘ on cityonfire.com’s Facebook by clicking here.

The Blu-ray & DVD for John Wick was officially released on February 3, 2015. We will announce the 3 winners on February 11, 2015 and ship out the prizes immediately.

CONTEST DISCLAIMER: You must enter by February 10, 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: Congratulations to Jason W, Mo and Susan P. You have all been notified via email!

Posted in News | Tagged | 38 Comments

Jean-Claude Van Damme is ‘Taken’ by ‘The Penrose Affair’

"Swelter" Japanese Theatrical Poster

"Swelter" Japanese Theatrical Poster

Jean-Claude Van Damme (Enemies Closer) is once again teaming up with Swelter director Keith Parmer for The Penrose Affair, an action thriller about a French detective in Paris. According to Variety, the upcoming film will be influenced by Alfred Hitchcock and Pierre Morel’s Taken.

This news may not excite the avid Van Damme fan, especially considering Swelter’s lukewarm reception. Cityonfire.com’s Kyle Warner had this to say about it: “Swelter may disappoint with a story full of plot contrivances and by wasting Van Damme in a throwaway role, but some fine performances and sharp dialogue manage to make the film strangely likable. It’s a B-movie, to be sure, but it’s a B-movie with some style.

Other Van Damme projects in the works include Kickboxer: Vengeance, as well as the rumored MMA-based flick, The Tower. His latest, Pound of Flesh, is scheduled to be released later this year. Stay tuned!

Posted in News | Leave a comment

Wild Card | Blu-ray & DVD (Lionsgate)

Wild Card | Blu-ray & DVD (Lionsgate)

Wild Card | Blu-ray & DVD (Lionsgate)

RELEASE DATE: March 31, 2015

Lionsgate presents the Blu-ray & DVD for Wild Card, directed by Simon West (The Expendables 2) and starring Jason Statham. The film is a remake of the 1986 Burt Reynolds movie Heat (No relation to the 1995 Michael Mann movie).

When a Las Vegas bodyguard with lethal skills and a gambling problem gets in trouble with the mob, he has one last play… and it’s all or nothing. Hong Kong legend Corey Yuen (The Transporter, Righting Wrongs) will be providing the film’s choreography Watch the trailer!

Pre-order Wild Card from Amazon.com today!

Posted in DVD/Blu-ray New Releases, Martial Arts Titles | 5 Comments

First poster for Liam Neeson actioner ‘Run All Night’

"Run All Night" Theatrical Poster

"Run All Night" Theatrical Poster

Liam Neeson is teaming up with filmmaker Jaume Collett-Sera (Unknown, Non-Stop) for a third time in Run All Night, an action-thriller about an aging hitman who is forced to take on his former boss while protecting his family. The film hits theaters on April 17, 2015.

Run All Night also stars Genesis Rodriguez, Joel Kinnaman, Boyd Holbrook, Ed Harris, Vincent D’Onofrio and Common. The film’s screenplay is written by Brad Ingelsby (Out of the FurnaceThe Raid remake).

Since 2008′s Taken, Neeson has been in high demand as an action hero, bringing him to the likes of Eastwood and Bronson. He was even set to star in Kim Ji-woon’s The Last Stand in the lead role that eventually went to Schwarzenegger. With the box office success of Taken 3 in the air, it’s safe to assume that we can expect a few more years of Neeson kicking ass!

Updates: Check out the first photos for Run All Night: 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | First trailer.

BREAKING NEWS: Check out another alternative poster!

Posted in News | Leave a comment

‘The Raid 2′ director has a ‘Blister’ on his finger!

"The Raid" Japanese Theatrical Poster

"The Raid" Japanese Theatrical Poster

Back in March of 2014, director Gareth Evans (The Raid 2) told Crave: “I don’t have any plans to do The Raid 3 within the next two or three years so I’m going to take a break from that franchise for a bit… I want to do some some things outside of Indonesia for like two films, then come back to Indonesia and shoot The Raid 3. I have another one I want to shoot with him first. Still in the action genre and it’s something that [Uwais] needs to train for for a fair amount of time.”

There’s a possibility that Evans is talking about Blister, a film with Raid 2 stars Iko Uwais and Yayan Ruhian, that’s apparently in pre-production phase, as hinted by his latest tweet (via FCS).

Evans describes Blister as his take on “the contemporary American gangster story with echoes of The Wild Bunch.” This remark should come as no surprise, since Evans expressed his love for the Sam Peckinpah classic in our interview with him back in December of 2013: “Peckinpah invented action cinema, the editing style, cinematography, fluidity – everything I’ve stolen has been from him,” said Evans. Along with Wild Bunch, Evans cites Jackie Chan’s Armor of God and John Woo’s Hard Boiled as the three movies that have have influenced him the most.

We’ll keep you updated on Blister as we hear more. Stay tuned!

Posted in News | Leave a comment

The Divine Move | Blu-ray & DVD (CJ Entertainment)

The Divine Move | Blu-ray & DVD (CJ Entertainment)

The Divine Move | Blu-ray & DVD (CJ Entertainment)

RELEASE DATE: March 17, 2015

CJ Entertainment presents the Blu-ray & DVD for The Divine Move. Filmmaker Jo Bum-Gu goes against the grain of his last movie Quick, by giving us a more gritty, less humorous, non-cgi approach. No blockbuster explosions or vehicle stunts here… just some dirty hand-to-hand combat. Read our review.

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

Pre-order The Divine Move from Amazon.com today!

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

Tsui Hark to direct ‘Journey to the West’ sequel!

"Journey to the West" Japanese Theatrical Poster

"Journey to the West" Japanese Theatrical Poster

Stephen Chow (Shaolin Soccer) and Tsui Hark (Young Detective Dee: Rise of the Sea Dragon) are reportedly in talks to collaborate on a sequel to Journey to the West: Conquering the Demons. This time around, Hark will take over directing duties, while Chow will produce. Shu Qi, Wen Zhang, and Huang Bo will return for the sequel. Joining them this time around is Vicky Zhao (14 Blades).

The original, which was directed by Chow (read Paul Bramhall’s review), centered on Tang Sanzang, a Buddhist trying to protect a village from three demons, his emerging feelings for Miss Duan, the demon hunter who helps him repeatedly, and Sanzang’s transformative encounter with the Monkey King.

Production is set to begin once Chow wraps up The Mermaid. Stay tuned for more updates!

Posted in News | Leave a comment

Killers (2014) Review

"Killers" Japanese Theatrical Poster

"Killers" Japanese Theatrical Poster

Director: The Mo Brothers
Writer: Takuji Ushiyama, Timo Tjahjanto
Cast: Kazuki Kitamura, Oka Antara, Rin Takanashi, Luna Maya, Ray Sahetapy, Ersya Aurelia, Epy Kusnandar, Mei Kurokawa, Denden, Motoki Fukami, Tara Basro, Dimas Argobie
Running Time: 137 min.

By HKFanatic

Killers generated a great deal of buzz as soon as it was announced. Not only does the movie represent the first time the Indonesian and Japanese film industries have collaborated on a thriller, but movie also boasts a co-production credit from Gareth Evans, hot off the massive success of The Raid 2.

Furthering the connection between the two films, Killers borrows two supporting actors from that martial arts sequel – namely, Kazuki Kitamura and Oka Antara – who serve as headliners here. In the director’s seat are The Mo Brothers, two filmmakers who have generated buzz in their own right thanks to the horror film Macabre, as well as Timo Tjahjanto’s co-directing credit with Gareth Evans on V/H/S 2 – their segment literally being the only good sequence in an otherwise mediocre film. The final bait for Killers was its stylish teaser trailer that promised plenty of “the old ultra-violence.” Now the film has arrived in limited theatrical release and various On Demand platforms, thanks to North American distributor Well Go USA.

It’s not by happenstance that I quoted Stanley Kubrick’s A Clockwork Orange earlier, as Killers has more in common with that feature than the Silat acrobatics of The Raid series. Although steeped in an often unsettling brutality, The Raid: Redemption and its sequel do, at the end of the day, offer audiences escapist entertainment. When Killers immediately opens with a scene of stomach-churning misogynistic violence, in which Kazuki Kitamura bashes a helpless woman over the head with a hammer, it’s clear that The Raid star Iko Uwais isn’t waiting around the corner to save the day. We’re in much more disturbing territory here.

Killers offers something of a dual narrative. While a handsome and well-dressed serial killer (Kitamura) stalks the streets of Tokyo in his fancy car, searching for his next victim a la Patrick Bateman in American Psycho, a disgraced journalist (Oka Antara) begins a slow descent into madness in Jakarta, Indonesia. What unites these two disparate murderers? The internet, of course! You see, Kitamura has a habit of filming his homicidal deeds and uploading them to the world wide web. Something of a closet fan of these videos, Antara follows suit and films his first kill after he’s pushed to the edge by two thugs. The fact that Antara’s birth into a killer occurs inside of a taxi cab isn’t his storyline’s only similarity to Martin Scorsese’s classic Taxi Driver; the frantic shootout that occurs inside the vehicle also brings to mind a similar scene in 2010′s I Saw the Devil.

As our two ‘protagonists’ begin to chat over the internet, Kitamura becomes something of a twisted mentor figure to Antara, pushing him along the path to kill – and kill – again. The effectiveness of these scenes is somewhat diminished by the fact that the two actors are forced to communicate in broken English, and that Antara typically acts like he has no idea what Kitamura is talking about, since his precarious mental state seems to suggest he’s not entirely in control of his actions.

While many reviews for Killers have argued that The Mo Brothers have a great deal to say about individuals’ disconnect from violence in the age of social media, as well as filmgoers’ relationship with onscreen depictions of violence, I wouldn’t recommend searching for profundity in Killers. It’s wild to think it’s been nearly 20 years since Funny Games, and while technology has certainly changed a great deal in the intervening years, I didn’t feel that Killers had anything new and more interesting to convey than Michael Haneke did in his memorable thriller. The Mo Brothers do share Haneke’s love of toying with the audience, however; a sequence in which two cops bicker in the foreground while Kitamura’s latest victim struggles to get their attention in the out-of-focus background is a particularly cruel joke.

Considering this is Merantau Films’ follow-up to The Raid 2 one would expect a high degree of polish as far as the production values are considered. And while the film is well-acted and stylishly photographed, the special effects and choreography leave something to be desired. No one would mistake Killers an action movie, but there is one sequence in which Antara has to evade over a dozen bodyguards in a narrow hotel corridor. I was utterly baffled when he somehow appears to crowd-surf over the lot of them, all without any of them managing to wrench his gun out of his hand. It’s moments like these that take the viewer out of the reality of the movie – and considering Killers’ weighty 134 minute runtime, these moments have the opportunity to add up.

Despite how much time we spend with our titular killers, The Mo Brothers never make the mistake of glamorizing them. It’s understood that these are two very sick individuals, and while Antara has our sympathy in the beginning, it quickly becomes apparent that he is losing his mind. Even when he does a good deed, such as when he inadvertently rescues a captive boy from a child predator, it feels like a ‘happy’ accident. This begs the question: do we really want to spend over two hours in the company of these two psychopaths? Killers invites you to wallow in the darkest corners of humanity; it’s a nihilistic work with nary a ray of hope. Some viewers may be drawn to the idea of a movie that makes Seven look like an episode of the Care Bears, but uneven pacing and the language barrier between the leads keep Killers from truly taking off – not to mention the sometimes substandard production values. Still, the film’s greatest sin may be that it fails to stand out in a crowded genre. There are simply too many quality entires in the Asian thriller genre to wholeheartedly recommend Killers, unless you absolutely have to see the latest release from Merantau Films.

HKFanatic’s Rating: 5.5/10

Posted in Indonesian, Japanese, News, Reviews | Tagged , , , , | 1 Comment

Deal on Fire! The Expendables 3: Unrated Edition | Blu-ray | Only $10 – Expires soon!

The Expendables 3: Theatrical & Unrated | Blu-ray & DVD (Lionsgate)

The Expendables 3: Theatrical & Unrated | Blu-ray & DVD (Lionsgate)

Today’s Deal on Fire is the Blu-ray for The Expendables 3, which includes the never-before-seen unrated edition of the film – featuring more action, more explosions, more fights – and a higher body count – everything fans have come to love in the franchise!

Extras: Documentary; Featurettes: “New Blood: Stacked and Jacked” and “The Total Action Package”; Extended Scene; Gag Reel; Unrated Edition (131 minutes); and the Theatrical Version (126 minutes).

Order The Expendables 3 from Amazon.com today!

Posted in Deals on Fire!, News | 5 Comments

New set photos featuring cast and crew of ‘Crouching Tiger 2′

"Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon" Japanese Poster

"Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon" Japanese Poster

Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon II: The Green Destiny will be premiering simultaneously on both Netflix and IMAX theaters on August 28, 2015. Yuen Woo-ping (True Legend) is directing, with a script by John Fusco (The Forbidden Kingdom), which will be based off the fifth book in Wang Du Lu’s Crane-Iron Pentalogy – the same source material Ang Lee used for the original film. Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon II will be headlined by Donnie Yen (Kung Fu Jungle) and Michelle Yeoh (Yes, Madam).

Other stars include Nicholas Tse (As the Lights Go Out), Harry Shum Jr. (Revenge of the Green Dragons), Jason Scott Lee (Dragon: The Bruce Lee Story), Veronica Ngo (The Rebel), Chris Pang (Fist of the Dragon), Darryl Quon (Arrow), Roger Yuan (Once Upon A Time in Vietnam) and Eugenia Yuan (The Drummer).

Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon II will continue to revolve around Yu Shu Lien (Yeoh). “This was an opportunity to explore a lifelong passion I’ve had for Wu Xia, and if there wasn’t continuing source material, I would never have gotten involved,” says Fusco.

Updates: Photos of Donnie Yen preparing himself for the sequel. | First official photos from the production, featuring Donnie Yen and Michelle Yeoh.

It has been confirmed that Vietnamese actress, Thanh Van Ngo (The Rebel, Clash and Once Upon a Time in Vietnam), will play the part of Mantis in Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon II. Here are some photos of her on set with Bey Logan.

BREAKING NEWS: More details (and new photos: 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 ) have emerged regarding Veronica Ngo’s (aka Thanh Van Ngo) character. According to vnexpress.net, Ngo will play the part of an assassin named Mantis, the right hand woman of the film’s main villain, Iron Crow, played by Roger Yuan. The article also hints that her fight scenes are performed beautifully, which isn’t exactly a surprise if you’ve seen her work in The Rebel or Clash. Better yet, check out her 2014 Showreel (Warning: Footage may cause you to fall in love). Thanks to ngoisao.net and vnexpress.net for the photos.

Posted in News | 32 Comments

Target, The (2014) Review

"The Target" Korean Theatrical Poster

"The Target" Korean Theatrical Poster

Director: Yoon Hong-seung
Writer: Jeon Cheol-Hong, Jo Seong-Geol
Cast: Ryu Seung-Ryong, Yu Jun-Sang, Lee Jin-Wook, Kim Seong-Ryeong, Jo Yeo-Jeong, Jo Eun-Ji, Kim Dae-Myung, Jang Jun-Nyung, Yeom Ji-Young, Lee Hyun-Wook
Running Time: 98 min.

By oneleaf

Life is good for medical resident Lee Tae-joon (Jin Wook-Lee). He’s expecting his first child with his beautiful wife, Jung Hee-joo (Yeo-jeong Jo), a psychiatrist, who works at the same hospital. Also, the two have just moved into a new apartment together. To put it simply, Lee couldn’t be happier.

Things take an unexpected turn when ex-mercenary Baek Yeo-hoon (Ryu Seung-Ryong) shows up in the ER with gunshot wounds. He falls under Lee’s care – hours later, an assassin makes an unsuccessful attempt on Baek’s life.

The next day, Lee is brutally attacked in his apartment by an unknown assailant and his wife, Jung, is kidnapped. Lee later receives a call demanding that he take Baek to an undisclosed location ub exchange for his wife – otherwise, she will be killed.

The color palette of The Target is beautiful to look at, which is not surprising since it’s helmed by Yoon Hong-seung (Death Bell), a stylish director known for his work on music videos for various pop groups in Korea. The Target – a remake of the French action thriller Point Blank (2010) – is his sophomore outing as screenwriter and director.

Ryu is well-suited for the role of Baek, a world-weary ex-mercenary seeking a simple life that becomes shattered when he becomes “the target” of unknown sinister forces. The audience feels his anger and fear, yet he’s always in control, regardless of the unfortunate circumstances. His potent portrayal of Baek’s disposition of calm resolve in the face of imminent danger is the film’s high point.

There’s a considerable amount of violence in the film, but none of it is gratuitous, with very little bloodletting seen on screen. There’s even a short female-to-female, hand-to-hand combat sequence in tight quarters that made me want more.

The Target is quite a ride. It’s suspenseful, well-timed and nearly unrelenting from start to finish. For the most part, the action sequences are well-choreographed. Ryu does a good job of maintaining a stoic composure without breaking stride. In one scene, he walks into an office and single handedly takes out a handful of bad guys using nothing but his bare hands. It’s actually hard to believe that not a single shot is fired by one of these guys, who basically just waited their turn to fight him.

Especially gratifying is the final shootout at the police station where almost everything in sight – chairs, desks, partitions, etc – are shot to pieces as bullets fly from every conceivable angle while an SUV plows head-on through the front door.

I did find the pace of the film somewhat erratic. From the outset, it takes off frenetically by having one chase/shootout after another. Suddenly, it veers off into some character development for the leads; then for almost half of the film, everything slows down, and finally picks up again.

Another weakness is the film’s lack of character development for the non-leads. Yoon has expended most of his energy for the action pieces, but neglects to encompass more characterization for the supporting characters. A good start would be to explore the dark side of Song (Yu Jun-Sang), the film’s ever-grinning shifty eyed villain.

Overall, The Target is a satisfying action flick that has a few flaws, but still manages to deliver.

Recommended.

oneleaf’s Rating: 6/10

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

First trailer for ‘Samurai Cop 2: Deadly Vengeance’

"Samurai Cop 2: Deadly Vengeance" Poster

"Samurai Cop 2: Deadly Vengeance" Poster

25 years ago, they joined forces to take on the Yakuza in Samurai Cop (1991), now Detective Frank Washington (Mark Frazer) and Joe Marshall (Matt Hannon) are teaming up once again in Samurai Cop 2: Deadly Vengeance, which will be directed by Gregory Hatanaka (Violent Blue). This time their mission is to solve a series of assassinations being committed by a secret group of female vigilante killers.

The original Samurai Cop (1991), directed by the late Amir Shervan (Killing American Style), is a cult classic that found a whole new audience during its midnight theatrical circuit and film festival re-release. Its resurgence prompted producers Rich Mallery and Gregory Hatanaka to start production on a sequel!

In addition to its returning stars (including Gerald Okamura and Robert Z’Dar), Samurai Cop 2: Deadly Vengeance will also include Mel Novak (Game of Death), Bai Ling (The Crow), Tommy Wiseau (The Room), Mindy Robinson (American Slaughter), Shawn C. Phillips (Aliens vs Titanic), Joe Estevez (Lockdown), Laurene Landon (Maniac Cop), Kristine DeBell (The Big Brawl) and adult film stars, Kayden Kross and Lexi Belle.

Updates: Watch the film’s first trailer, thanks to Paul Bramhall.

Posted in News | 2 Comments

Dog Soldiers | Blu-ray & DVD (Shout Factory)

Dog Soldiers | Blu-ray & DVD (Shout Factory)

Dog Soldiers | Blu-ray & DVD (Shout Factory)

RELEASE DATE: June 23, 2015

Shout! Factory presents the Blu-ray & DVD for 2002′s Dog Soldiers, directed by Neil Marshall (Centurion, The Descent).

A routine military exercise turns into a nightmare in the Scotland wilderness. Starring Sean Pertwee, Kevin McKidd and Emma Cleasby. You can expect a load of supplemental features that will be included in this cult action/thriller! Watch the trailer.

Pre-order Dog Soldiers from Amazon.com today!

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

Brotherhood of Blades (2014) Review

"Brotherhood of Blades" Chinese Theatrical Poster

"Brotherhood of Blades" Chinese Theatrical Poster

Director: Lu Yang
Writer: Chen Shu, Lu Yang
Producer: Terence Chang, Wang Donghui, Ling Hong
Cast: Chang Chen, Cecilia Liu Shi Shi, Wang Qianyuan, Ethan Li Dong Xue, Ye Qing Nie Yuan, Zhou Yi Wei, Chin Shih Chieh
Running Time: 106 min.

By Kyle Warner

There’s a line in Jean Renoir’s The Rules of the Game that goes a little something like, “The awful thing about life is this: everyone has their reasons.” It’s a simple concept, but so true, and I wish more people writing villains would keep it in mind. I believe director Lu Yang understands Renoir’s sentiments as he paints all the characters of Brotherhood of Blades in various shades of gray. No hero is without sin and no villain does evil without cause. Everybody’s doing what they feel they must in order to survive, even if that means a few people get hurt along the way. So often in these sorts of films we are treated to a sneering villain, one who is clearly evil because his performance and dialogue would allow him to be nothing else in the world. And while Brotherhood of Blades is full of villainous characters, they all have their reasons.

In the 1620s, the Eunuch Wei (Chin Shih Chieh) was seen as too powerful to continue his reign, and the Emperor asked him to step down. Even with Wei now removed from power, his influence was still felt far and wide, and so begun a manhunt for his closest followers who were known as the Eunuch Clique. Tasked with detaining or killing the Eunuch Clique are three Imperial Assassins (played by Chang Chen, Wang Qianyuan, and Ethan Li Dong Xue,). When finally they are sent to eliminate Wei himself, one of the assassins makes the mistake of letting Wei talk. Instead of assassinating Wei, he takes Wei’s bribe of gold and delivers a burnt corpse to the officials, one whose identity cannot be readily identified. Suspicion grows and soon it seems like everyone the three assassins knows is out to kill them.

With Brotherhood of Blades, I expect you’ll come for the action but you’ll stay for the story. This is a complex historical drama full of backstabbing, secrets told behind paper walls, and the bloody consequences of telling one lie too many. It’s the sort of action film where more is accomplished (or brought to ruin) with a sideways glance and a lie than most films manage with a series of explosions ripping through a city street. It’s a subtle, stylish script, brought to life by great direction and some nuanced performances.

The three Imperial Assassins at the center of the story are like brothers, so when one of them takes Wei’s bribe and betrays their masters it’s interesting to see how the three respond. You can sense how much they mean to each other, even while this transgression threatens to collapse the brotherhood they have built.

Chen plays the man who took the bribe, but he did so with the best of intentions. Chen does a good job playing the conflicted character, detailing his hero’s fall from grace both physically and emotionally. Wang and Li, who play the other members of this Brotherhood, are also quite good. Qianyuan Wang is the senior member and takes the betrayal as a personal slight. I liked the way Wang conveyed so much with only the use of his eyes. I’m not familiar with the actor, but I’m taking notice now. Dong-xue Li plays a man with a dark secret, but he’s also the most innocent of the three. Li’s character endangers the film the most as he goes through young love, but the actor never lets these scenes hinder the story in any way.

Perhaps most impressive is Cecilia Liu Shi Shi, who plays Chang Chen’s love interest. Liu’s character is a courtesan in a high-priced brothel and Chen’s trying to buy her freedom. In many movies, this would have been a weak character — the hooker with a heart of gold, if you like — but Liu and the writers manage to make her into something more. Despite Chen’s devotion for her, Liu is in love with someone else, and no big dreams or promises of freedom are going to change her mind. The moments between Chen and Liu are my favorite parts of the film. There’s a quiet but determined stillness to them that I like, as two characters who want very different things are forced to do a dance of manners for fear of disappointing the other person. Strong female characters are rare in these sorts of films. And I don’t necessarily mean women who can kick ass (Liu does not play such a character here). I mean layered, complete female characters with wants and needs of their own that don’t exist solely to enrich the male hero’s character development. Shishi Liu is superb in the role.

While the film’s script and performances are the strongpoints, the action is pretty good, too. Brotherhood of Blades opts for a more handheld approach to its camerawork, which makes the fight sequences more in-your-face and visceral. As a tradeoff, we don’t get shots that truly wow the viewer, but I don’t think action fans should have much to complain about. Still, keep in mind that Brotherhood of Blades is a drama first and an action film second: remember that and you should find a lot to enjoy here.

I feel I must also comment on the costume design, which is top-notch and very cool (and has apparently won an award or two). Costume design, like set design, makeup, hair, and lighting, usually goes unnoticed unless it’s truly awful or very impressive. With Brotherhood of Blades, I’m happy to say that everyone brought their A game.

Brotherhood of Blades has the looks of a wuxia action film, but it works best as a complex character drama. The story is tightly written, the direction is stylish, and the acting is excellent. It’s a great movie.

Kyle Warner’s Rating: 8/10

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

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

"Masquerade" Blu-ray Cover

"Masquerade" Blu-ray Cover

Today’s deal on Fire is the Blu-ray for Masquerade starring Lee Byung-hun (I Saw the Devil) and Ryu Seung-Ryong (War of the Arrows).

Amid national chaos and fear for his life, King Gwanghae (Lee) orders his councilor Heo Kyun (Ryu) to find a body double. He hires Ha-seon (also Lee), a peasant who bears a perfect resemblance to the King. When the King collapses from a mysterious poison, Ha-seon reluctantly becomes a King. Now, he must save his country from collapse, avoid assassination, and pull off the biggest masquerade in history.

Order Masquerade from Amazon.com today!

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

‘John Wick’ duo to helm Chris Pratt’s ‘Cowboy Ninja Viking’?

"Cowboy Ninja Viking" Graphic Novel Cover

"Cowboy Ninja Viking" Graphic Novel Cover

Funny action man, Chris Pratt (Guardians of the Galaxy), is set to play the lead in Universal’s adaptation of A.J. Lieberman’s graphic novel, Cowboy Ninja Viking. To give you an idea of what to expect, here’s Amazon’s description to the graphic novel:

“It started with Dr. Sebastian Ghislain: rogue psychotherapist/covert op/DJ. Tasked with creating a counter-intelligence unit, he turned to those long thought useless to society… patients with Multiple Personality Disorder. These agents became known simply as Triplets. Misguided? Yeah. Impractical? Sure. But did it work? Absolutely not. Now someone has located each Triplet and created a band of ridiculously disturbed, but highly effective assassins. Our only hope? A Triplet known as Cowboy Ninja Viking!”

Updates: Variety reports (via FCS) that David Leitch and Chad Stahelski, the duo behind John Wick, are in early talks to direct Cowboy Ninja Viking (World War Z’s Marc Forster was previously attached). We’ll be sure to keep you in the loop as we hear more.

Posted in News | Leave a comment

Hit-Girl spin-off film by ‘The Raid’ director Gareth Evans?

"The Raid" Theatrical Poster

"The Raid" 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.

Posted in News | 4 Comments

No Tears for the Dead | Blu-ray & DVD (CJ Entertainment)

No Tears for the Dead | Blu-ray & DVD (CJ Entertainment)

No Tears for the Dead | Blu-ray & DVD (CJ Entertainment)

RELEASE DATE: February 17, 2015

CJ Entertainment presents the Blu-ray & DVD for No Tears for the Dead (read our review) directed by Lee Jeong-beom (Man from Nowhere).

A hit man (Jang Dong-Gun from The Warrior’s Way) traumatized from accidentally killing a young girl during a job is given the mission to eliminate her mother, and begins the ultimate fight to save her life. The film also stars Kim Min-hee (Helpless), Brian Tee (The Wolverine), Kim Hee-won (Man from Nowhere) and Kim Joon-seong (Innocent Blood). Watch the trailer.

Pre-order No Tears for the Dead from Amazon.com today!

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

Angel Terminators (1990) Review

"Angel Terminators" International DVD Cover

"Angel Terminators" International DVD Cover

Director: Wai Lit
Writer: Yeung Gei
Producer: Georges Lai
Cast: Sharon Yeung Pan Pan, Kenneth Tsang, Carrie Ng, Michiko Nishiwaki, Alan Chui Chung San, Kara Hui Ying Hung, Cheng Yuen Man, Dick Wei
Running Time: 91 min.

By HKFanatic

Here’s a full admission: I love “girls with guns” movies. Back in the late 80′s and 90′s, this sub-genre of Hong Kong action cinema saw women like Moon Lee and Cynthia Khan kicking and shooting their way to stardom. These ladies always gave just as good as their male counterparts such as Chow Yun-fat and Jackie Chan, and probably had to try even harder to prove themselves in the male-driven field of action cinema.

Ever since watching She Shoots Straight, perhaps the pinnacle of the genre, I’ve been dying to see more “girls with guns” flicks. Unfortunately, these films are still criminally rare in the United States. If you’re lucky, Netflix might still have a few of them in circulation near you, although they’ll undoubtedly arrive on an out-of-print Full Screen DVD from Tai Seng (remember them?). Given such slim pickings, I was more or less forced to rent Angel Terminators, a film that is by no means considered a standout of the genre.

Considering the high production values showcased in Hong Kong movies like Hard Boiled or just about any Jackie Chan film, it’s easy to forget that there were still plenty of shoestring productions made on the island during its 90′s heyday. Angel Terminators is the kind of under-funded action film that relies on stuntman putting themselves in harm’s way in order to make up for its obviously low budget. The script is a bit slapdash and hard to follow, with our villain (Kenneth Tsang of The Killer and Police Story 3: Supercop, among countless other films) getting more screentime than the protagonists and a disconcerting number of scenes in which women are urinated on. Yes, it happens more than once. But if you can get past the bad lighting, jumbled storyline, and misogynistic streak, then Angel Terminators has some amazing action scenes, which once again prove that nobody does it better than Hong Kong.

The opening scenes tease us with the presence of the amazingly talented and lovely Kara Hui, a veteran of Shaw Brothers films like My Young Auntie. Don’t get too attached, though, as Kara promptly disappears from the film until the climax. That’s strike one against the movie, as far as I’m concerned. In her stead is actress Pan Pan Yeung, who certainly knows how to throw a kick but is slightly lacking in screen presence. Either that, or her performance was hampered by the terrible 80′s-style haircut she was saddled with.

Yeung was trained in martial arts since the age of six, so she is definitely a woman of action, but there’s a depressing subplot which involves the bad guys getting her hooked on heroin. It’s another example of the film’s sadistic heart that has its female characters tortured and humiliated, when we the audience just want to see them stand up and kick ass. Fortunately, the ending makes up for it when Kara Hui and Yeung team up against the legendary Dick Wei. The two women manage to make him look like a wimp, even though we’ve seen the talented fighter give Yuen Baio and Sammo Hung a run for their money.

Remember that scene in The Dark Knight when Batman lands on top of a van and all the windows shatter upon impact? There’s a scene like that in The Angel Terminators, except it’s just Pan Pan Yueng landing on a car, which is hilarious since you know she’s probably light as a feather. There’s another scene where Yueng is literally dangling from the window of a moving car while firing away at the bad guys. Crazy moments like this make Angel Terminators worth watching for fans of “girls with guns” flicks. The film flirts with Category III-style exploitation, but thankfully never follows that road to its end (except for all the golden showers). If you just want to see some amazing fight scenes and stunts from 90′s-era Hong Kong, and you don’t mind a cruddy DVD picture, then you could have a worse time of it than renting this film.

HKFanatic’s Rating: 6.5/10

Posted in Chinese, News, Reviews | Tagged , , , , , | 6 Comments

Taking Manhattan (1992) Review

"Taking Manhattan" Chinese Theatrical Poster

"Taking Manhattan" Chinese Theatrical Poster

Director: Kirk Wong
Producer: Eric Tsang
Cast: Carrie Ng, Lui Chi Yin, Andrew Chan Gwan, Jeff Lee Tak Wing, David Lea, Connie Cabret, Alana Jerins, Michael Lewis, Angelo Lopez, Jaclyn Ngai, Benny Nieves, Theresa Quinn, Anthony J. Ribustello, Janice Sanders
Running Time: 85 min.

By Paul Bramhall

It’s common knowledge that many Hong Kong directors have, in the past, tried their hand at making a movie in an English speaking country. Philip Ko brought Simon Yam to London for his 1990 Crying Freeman adaptation Killer’s Romance, Corey Yuen explored the grimier side of Canada for his 1993 flick Women on the Run, and of course most famously, Stanley Tong brought Jackie Chan to Vancouver, I mean the Bronx, for his 1995 hit Rumble in the Bronx.

Not to be outdone, director Kirk Wong also took a crack at making a film in the States with his 1992 production Taking Manhattan. Wong has an eclectic but solid resume as a director, which kicked off with his 1981 debut The Club, a movie of which star Chan Wai Man humbly declared “Without doubt the best gangster film to come out of Hong Kong.” Wong went on to direct bold mis-fires such as the Flash Future Kung Fu, which attempted to mix the science fiction and kung fu genres together, to gangster epics like Gunmen, which saw disagreements with producer Tsui Hark result in a brave but inconsistent piece of filmmaking. By the 1990’s Wong seemed to have found his feet directing gritty crime thrillers, scoring hits with both the Jackie Chan starring Crime Story, and Organized Crime and Triad Bureau, with everyone’s favorite cop Danny Lee.

Taking Manhattan could be argued as being made in his transitional period, his previous movie was Gunmen and his next would be Crime Story, which makes the circumstances around its production all the more interesting. It’s worth noting that Wong made the movie essentially as an English language picture. All of the cast appear to be either native English speakers, or at the very least are fluent, with the exception of Carrie Ng. She plays the wife of the lead, and is the only character whose scenes are spoken in Cantonese, which amount to roughly 10% of the movie. With that being said, Taking Manhattan is exceptionally difficult to find in its original form, with almost every available release only featuring the dubbed Cantonese track. This was mainly due to distributor Paragon getting cold feet, at the prospect of marketing an English language movie onto a Hong Kong audience, at the time of its release. For the purpose of this review, the version being reviewed is the original with English language dialogue.

The story of Taking Manhattan puts it firmly into the gangster genre. After a bomb blows up the team mates of a New York city cop played by Lui Chi-Yin, he’s suspended by his superior, played by Alena Adena. Setting up a hot-dog stall with his wife, who’s recently arrived in the US from Hong Kong, Chi-Yin is happy to lead the simple life, even if it involves being harassed by feisty New York hookers who call him “Bruce”. However it’s soon revealed by Adena that the only purpose of his suspension was to take him off the map, allowing him to go undercover and penetrate the gang behind the killings, led by a gangster played by Andrew Chan. Chi-Yin reluctantly agrees, and after being taken under Chan’s wing, a game of cat and mouse ensues, with the audience never being sure exactly who is the cat and who is the mouse.

There are those who believe that Wong only really came into his own as a director with Crime Story, which was made in 1993, however Taking Manhattan arguably proves he had found his style several years before. While Taking Manhattan wasn’t released until 1992, it was actually filmed in 1990, and while we can only speculate, it’s probably safe to assume it sat on the shelf for 2 years because none of the distributors knew what to do with a Hong Kong produced English language gangster movie. Indeed it’s interesting to consider who Wong was aiming for as an audience, the story and themes all seem to indicate he was in fact looking for a US audience, with Carrie Ng being there simply so it could be marketed in Hong Kong with a known actress. Even today, over 20 years after its original release, it’s Ng who is all over the cover of the DVD releases, with main characters Chi-Yin and Chang nowhere to be seen.

The movie itself is in fact a superior example of the gangster genre, and still holds up today. Chang in particular steals the show with a truly psychotic performance as the homosexual gangster Chi-Yin falls in with. Imagine a Chinese guy with the voice of an angry Michael Caine, the demeanor of a Goodfellas era Joe Pesci, and the hair of a Hard Boiled Tony Leung. Chang chews the scenery with gusto in whatever scene he’s in, littering the screen with one of the dirtiest tongues I’ve heard in a long time. When this guy insults you, he goes the distance, even if it’s to Puerto Rican gangsters twice his size. He really does an outstanding job of coming across as an unpredictable ball of rage and nastiness.

Chi-Yin does an equally good job as the undercover cop eager to keep his family out of harms way, and through both of their performances a credible amount of tension and suspense builds up to a satisfying finale. While Taking Manhattan clearly didn’t have the same budget as the US productions filming in New York at the same time, cinematographer Walter Gregg captures the feel of the city well, and the often frantic camera work serves its purpose in creating a sense of excitement and desperation. Throw in the score which is a mix of electric guitar and synthesizers, like many Hong Kong movies made in the early 1990’s (Full Contact comes to mind in particular), and all of the elements combine to give the movie a unique look and sound of its own.

What’s interesting about Taking Manhattan is that it’s essentially an English language gangster movie with Asian leads, which for this reason alone makes it a rarity. The fact that it also happens to be a well put together piece of gritty filmmaking just makes it all the better. In an era when movies like Revenge of the Green Dragons, released as recently as 2014, take the same concept and still can’t get it right, Wong’s picture stands up as a tightly constructed and nicely executed example of the gangster genre. It’s a shame that the original version is so difficult to track down, and it’s a real injustice to Wong’s vision as a director. Just like similar cases were people have discussed if it really matters that a few seconds were cut from the US release of The Raid 2, or if we should be bothered that Celestial’s version of The Chinatown Kid completely changes the ending – when it comes to asking if it makes much of a difference that Taking Manhattan can’t be seen in its original language, the answer should be exactly the same – yes, it certainly does.

Paul Bramhall’s Rating: 7.5/10

Posted in Chinese, News, Reviews | Tagged , | 6 Comments