Deal on Fire! Dragon | aka Wu Xia | Blu-ray | Only $9.99 – Expires soon!

Dragon (aka Wu Xia) Blu-ray & DVD (Anchor Bay)

Dragon (aka Wu Xia) Blu-ray & DVD (Anchor Bay)

Today’s Deal on Fire is the Blu-ray for 2011′s Dragon (aka Wu Xia), directed by Peter Chan (Comrades, Almost A Love Story).

In this loose remake of 1967′s One-Armed Swordsman, Liu (Donnie Yen) is a villager whose quiet life is shattered when he saves a man from two notorious gangsters. He comes under investigation by a detective (Takeshi Kaneshiro), who is curious on how Liu single-handenly took on the gangsters.

Dragon (read our review) also stars Jimmy Wang Yu, Tang Wei, Kara Hui and Yin Zhusheng.

Order Dragon from Amazon.com today!

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

Michael Biehn returning in Neill Blomkamp’s ‘Aliens’ sequel

"Alien" Japanese Theatrical Poster

"Alien" Japanese Theatrical Poster

Writer-director Neill Blomkamp (District 9, Elysium and the upcoming Chappie) took to Instagram to confirm that his next movie will be an Alien (aka Alien 5) film.

This exciting news comes weeks after Blomkamp shared some “personal” concept art for an Alien movie that had been running around his mind. The artwork – featuring the return of both Ripley (Sigourney Weaver) and Corporal Dwayne Hicks (Michael Biehn) – was a warm welcome to fans of the franchise, especially given the acclaim Blomkamp has received for his influential work.

Updates: According to sources, Blomkamp’s Alien sequel will basically ignore Alien 3 and Alien: Resurrection: “I want this film to feel like it is literally the genetic sibling of Aliens, so it’s AlienAliens and then this film,” said the director.

BREAKING NEWS: According to FM, Michael Biehn has confirmed that he’s set to reprise the role of Corporal Duane Hicks from 1986’s Aliens in Neill Blomkamp’s as-yet-untitled Alien sequel.

Posted in News | Leave a comment

Blind Woman’s Curse (1970) Review

Blind Woman’s Curse | Blu-ray (Arrow Video)

Blind Woman’s Curse | Blu-ray (Arrow Video)

AKA: Black Cat’s Revenge
Director: Teruo Ishii
Writer: Teruo Ishii, Yoshitada Sone
Producer: Hideo Koi
Cast: Meiko Kaji, Hoki Tokuda, Makoto Sato, Hideo Sunazuka, Shiro Otsuji, Toru Abe, Tatsumi Hijikata
Running Time: 85 min.

By Kyle Warner

Teruo Ishii was an incredibly prolific filmmaker, directing nearly fifty movies in the 1960s alone. Referred to in Japan as “the King of Cult”, Ishii dabbled in many genres: he made exploitation films such as the Joys of Torture series, a large collection of gangster pics like Female Yakuza Tale, and also some horror films like the controversial Horrors of Malformed Men (which I believe is still banned in its native Japan). His 1970 film Blind Woman’s Curse could almost be described as a sampler platter of the themes and styles he worked with throughout his career. Blind Woman’s Curse is a very strange film – part yakuza revenge tale and part grotesque horror show – but it’s a whole lot of fun to watch.

In the stylish, slow-motion opening sequence, female yakuza Akemi Tachibana (Meiko Kaji) and her gang raid a rival’s stronghold. As she’s striking down the rival’s boss, her sword accidentally swipes across the eyes of the old man’s female underling. The woman goes down screaming and out of nowhere a black cat appears to lap up the blood that gushes from her eyes. Tachibana goes to prison for her crimes, but the prison bars are the least of her worries – she believes she has been cursed by the cat: “A black cat that loved the taste of blood.” Three years later and Tachibana’s out of prison. She reforms her gang, now mainly operated by women she met in prison, all of whom are decked out with the same dragon tattoo. Tachibana’s problems multiply as a new rival wants her turf… and her past comes back to haunt her.

The story really gets interesting when a blind swordswoman enters the picture. The blind woman resides in a grotesque theatre-based freak show, and is aided by a crazy hunchback and an evil black cat. From her theatre, the vengeful swordswoman plots against Tachibana, and the hunchback picks off members of the Tachibana crew one by one, cutting the dragon tattoos from their backs as trophies.

It’s an interesting mix of genres and for the most part it succeeds in throwing competing styles into the same story. However, some scenes stand out so much that they seem to belong to an entirely different movie. There’s just so much going on in Blind Woman’s Curse – so many unique visuals and crazy ideas – that perhaps we shouldn’t be surprised when some of it doesn’t make that much sense. What’s frustrating, though, is that the film doesn’t allow all of its various themes and plot points to reach a satisfying conclusion. Is something truly supernatural going on or is it just made to seem that way? Did all of our heroes survive the final battle? You’re not likely to notice this until after the film is finished – during the film you’re gonna be having too much fun with the nonsense on screen – but in the hours or days after holes in the film may seem to develop. I really enjoyed the film, but the execution can be a bit messy.

At the center of it all is Meiko Kaji. The film came out as she was beginning her steady rise to fame and Kaji puts forth a strong performance as the center of the film’s ensemble. It’s actually a warmer character than most US fans would expect from her, but you can see the traits that would later find their way into more well-known roles such as Lady Snowblood, Female Convict: Scorpion, and Wandering Ginza Butterfly in the years to come. In the 1970s Meiko Kaji would become one of the most popular and highest paid Japanese actresses, so it’s interesting to watch Blind Woman’s Curse and see some of that star power as it first started to present itself.

There are also some fine comedic performances from Hideo Sunazuka (Godzilla vs. the Sea Monster) and Ryohei Uchida (Shadow Hunters). Uchida’s character is a real oddball – he plays a foul-smelling gangster that goes around in a bowler hat, jacket, and red loincloth. I think Uchida’s exposed backside receives more close-ups than his face does. It’s stupid, cheap comedy, but somehow it feels right at home in a movie like this.

Blind Woman’s Curse can also be seen as a film that helps represent the ending of an era. The film industry in Japan had been incredibly successful in the 50s and early 60s, but by the end of the 60s ticket sales were steadily declining. Much of this was thanks to the rise in TV productions in Japan –why go to see a movie when you can stay at home and see some of the same stories on TV for free? Major studios like Daiei were folding while other studios were forced to make fewer movies on smaller budgets. Nikkatsu, the studio behind Blind Woman’s Curse, went in a different direction. Starting the year after Blind Woman’s Curse, Nikkatsu changed its entire production model and moved towards almost exclusively filming Roman-Pornos (or pink films). Much of the talent that had been groomed at Nikkatsu – including Meiko Kaji – wanted no part in this change and quickly jumped ship, joining other studios instead. In recent years Nikkatsu has gotten back to producing films for general audiences again and has a hand in such films as Yakuza Apocalypse, Tokyo Tribe, and Killers.

Blind Woman’s Curse arrives on Blu-ray thanks to Arrow Video. Film buffs in the US should definitely be excited that Arrow has chosen to cross the pond and release Blu-rays stateside. Similar to Shout! Factory and Criterion, Arrow uncovers gems from years past and gives them the care they deserve, with great picture and interesting extras. Blind Woman’s Curse is now 45 years old and it looks absolutely excellent on Blu-ray. For extras we get a commentary from Japanese film expert Jasper Sharp, a trailer for Blind Woman’s Curse, four trailers for the Stray Cat Rock series which Meiko Kaji starred in, and a booklet with an essay on the film from Midnight Eye’s Tom Mes. Jasper Sharp’s commentary is very informative, lending lots of information about Ishii, Kaji, and the state of Nikkatsu at the time of the production. I enjoyed listening to it. Sharp also mentions that the film was once known to some foreign audiences under the title of The Haunted Life of a Dragon-Tattooed Lass — which is such an awesome title that I’m shocked they changed it.

Blind Woman’s Curse is often strange and sometimes nasty, but Ishii’s colorful style is infectious, giving the viewer plenty of shocks and laughs along the way. The film’s many bizarre ideas don’t always connect to make a cohesive whole, but it’s a fun film experience and one you won’t soon forget.

Kyle Warner’s Rating: 7/10

Posted in Japanese, News, Reviews | Tagged , | Leave a comment

‘I’m Not Bruce’ moves forward despite unsuccessful funding

"I Love You, Bruce Lee" Japanese Theatrical Poster

"I Love You, Bruce Lee" Japanese Theatrical Poster

Looks like documentarian Mark Hartley may have some furious competition ahead of him. Hartley’s first film, Not Quite Hollywood: The Wild, Untold Story of Ozploitation! (2008), examined the deranged side of Australian cinema; his second, Machete Maidens Unleashed! (2010), explored the tropical storm of some of the most wackiest movies produced in the Philippines; and his latest feature, Electric Boogaloo: The Wild, Untold Story of Cannon Films (2014), reminded us how an insanely productive B-movie company was responsible for corrupting our childhoods with sex ‘n violence (as Paul Bramhall states in his review).

Now, the upcoming I’m Not Bruce, a documentary that centers on “Bruceploitation” flicks – a sub-genre that had actors mimic the look, style, and mannerisms of martial arts legend Bruce Lee – is currently in the works by filmmaker Nickolas Nielsen (Critical Fumble).

I’m Not Bruce promises to uncover questions like: Why did they make so many knock-off movies imitating Bruce Lee? How did these projects come to fruition? What’s their story? And most interesting of all, Nielsen is planning to locate Bruce Li (The Chinese Stuntman), Bruce Le (Mission Terminate), Dragon Lee (Enter Three Dragons), etc., so we can finally meet the real clones as they reflect on their infamous careers.

The producers are aiming for a December 2015 release. Until then, you can help fund I’m Not Bruce by visiting its Kickstarter page – or by simply spreading the word about this ambitious project. Until then, be sure to check out our extensive list of Bruceploitation reviews.

Updates: The Bad News: The documentary did not reach its Kickstarter goal (only $2,344 of $96,000 was pledged); The Good News: Director Nickolas Nielsen is still moving forward with it! In addition to already-filmed interviews – with Leo Fong (Killpoint), Deborah Dutch (Bruce Lee Fights Back from the Grave), Andre Morgan (producer of Enter the Dragon) and Mel Novak (Game of Death) – Nielsen is currently wrapping up an interview with Martin Kove (Karate Kid). We’ll keep you updated on I’m Not Bruce as we hear more. We definitely commend Nielsen for his continued dedication to making the documentary happen!

Posted in News | 10 Comments

Jason Statham poses solo in the new ‘Spy’ poster!

"Spy" Teaser Poster

"Spy" Teaser Poster

Jason Statham (Parker) will be starring alongside Melissa McCarthy (The Heat) in Spy, formerly known as Susan Cooper, an upcoming action-comedy directed by Paul Feig (Bridesmaids). The film also stars Rose Byrne, Jude Law, Bobby Cannavale, Curtis “50 Cent” Jackson, Peter Serafinowicz, Miranda Hart, Allison Janney and Morena Baccarin. It hits theaters on May 22, 2015.

The thought of Statham doing an “action-comedy” with McCarthy isn’t as odd as you think. We’re obviously used to all the testosterone-filled movies he currently does, but let’s not forget that he wasn’t always the action star that he is today. In films like 1998′s Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels and 2000′s Snatch, it was more of his comedic performance that ultimately caught Hollywood’s attention.

Updates: New Red and Green Band trailers for Spy.

BREAKING NEWS: Check out one of the latest posters featuring Jason Statham.

Posted in News | Leave a comment

Strike of Thunderkick Tiger (1982) Review

"Strike of Thunderkick Tiger" Korean Theatrical Poster

"Strike of Thunderkick Tiger" Korean Theatrical Poster

AKA: My Name is Twin Legs
Director: Park Woo Sang
Writer: Raymond To
Producer: Thomas Tang
Cast: Charles Han, Casanova Wong, Bak Min Wong, Han Jee Ha, Peggy Min, Lisa Lee, Billy Yuen, Alfred Ma, Chan Taiyun, Dragon Lee, Phillip Leung, David Kao
Running Time: 85 min.

By Paul Bramhall

The Korean old-school kung fu movie is without doubt the most bastardized genre out there. To this day, the number of legitimate releases of old school Korean kung fu on DVD, which contain the original Korean language track, original title sequence, with an uncut run time, equate to a grand total of zero. Robbing the western world of its chance to see these Korean movies in their original format usually comes down to the man named Godfrey Ho. A Hong Kong filmmaker who became legendary in the 1980’s for creating the ‘cut and paste’ movie – usually involving purchasing the rights for low budget Thai or Filipino movies, re-dubbing them, and splicing in newly filmed ninja footage in an attempt to create a whole new movie.

When Ho wasn’t busy with his cut and paste jobs, his production company Asso Asia Films, which he ran along with Joseph Lai and Tomas Tang, was also in the habit of purchasing overseas distribution rights for Korean movies. While the Korean productions would usually escape the fate of being cut to pieces and inserted into other footage, the alternative wasn’t much better.

The typical case would see a new opening sequence inserted over the original one, replacing the actor’s names with English pseudonyms, adding a whole new title, and using a fake director’s name. The plots would then be re-dubbed, usually in a bizarre mix of heavy cockney, stiff upper lip English, and straight-out-of-a-western American. It may sound like a potent combination, but it worked, the companies policy of aiming specifically for the English language market at bargain prices saw their made over (or perhaps ‘under’ is a better term) flicks become distributed far and wide.

Skip forward to around 35 years later, and it’s these versions that remain as the only available options to check out Korea’s entries into the kung-fu genre. Strike of Thunderkick Tiger is one such example. Originally released in its native Korea in 1978 under the title My Name is Twin Legs and directed by Park Woo-sang, Asso Asia got their hands on it and released it in 1982, with a credit sequence which lists the director as Henry Wong.

What’s interesting in the case of Strike of Thunderkick Tiger, is that it appears to be a Korean production filmed at least partly in Hong Kong. During the 70’s Hong Kong productions often filmed in Korea due to the wider variety of choices when it came to filming locations, something that the small island of Hong Kong and its New Territories couldn’t compete with, however it’s unusual to see the scenario reversed. At first I thought the scenes of Hong Kong must have been another cut and paste job, but scenes when a vehicle with HK number plates arrives to pick up a character, along with another on the famous HK Star Ferry, confirm that it was definitely filmed there.

While it’s safe to say the dubbing of the movie gives it a plot which strays from the original version, one thing that can’t be denied is that – when approached with the right mindset – a lot of entertainment can be had from the reworked scripting. So here we have three main characters, Snake, Monkey, and of course, Thunderkick Tiger. Snake is played by the legendary Casanova Wong, best known for his roles in the Sammo Hung classics The Iron Fisted Monk and Warriors Two. Monkey is played by Wong Bak-min, and the Thunderkick Tiger is played by Han Yong-cheol, who became better known as Charles Han.

Han worked almost exclusively in Korea, and never attempted to break into Hong Kong, and as such not as many fans are aware of him as his contemporaries like Casanova and Hwang Jang-lee. However at 6 feet tall, a Tae Kwon Do expert, and usually found adorned in some dapper 70’s threads, even in the heavily dubbed and altered versions of his movies that we’re left with, it’s easy to see the guy had plenty of charisma and screen presence. Combine that with his impressive height, and when he unleashes his kicks, it’s a pleasure to watch. Amusingly, in the dub it’s explained that he once had both of his legs broken, and as a result when they healed they became much stronger than an average persons legs. If you’re going to watch this movie, you have to accept that this makes sense.

The plot, for what it’s worth, involves a bag of stolen money that all three characters are after. Yes, it’s like a kung fu version of The Good, The Bad, The Weird. The guy who originally stole the money died, but not before depositing the money in the bank, and putting the account details in a Rubik’s Cube, which he left with his niece who keeps the cube in her bra. I can’t imagine it’s particularly comfortable, but no one seems phased when she takes it out. Eventually of course things come to a head, but not before plenty of fist and kicks are thrown.

Special mention must go to Casanova Wong’s performance, as it alone is almost enough reason to warrant giving Strike of Thunderkick Tiger a viewing. Wong’s vicious gangster is gay, and spends part of the movie running around in a blue leotard and black tights. Yes you read that right. If the immediate assumption is that it must have been written in as part of the new dub, the fact that he has a ‘partner’ who wears a layer of white makeup with red lipstick, and likes to mimic everything that Wong does, confirm that his character was always intended to be played that way. At one point Wong even kisses him on the cheek, before yelling at him to put more lipstick on! It certainly stands out in Wong’s filmography as his most unique role, but thankfully it plays no part in affecting his fighting performance.

For a 1978 Korean movie, the fight action is particularly impressive for those looking purely for their kung fu fix. The benefit of these Korean flicks is that almost all the performers are usually Tae Kwon Do experts, rather than trained screen fighters that the Beijing Opera Schools produced in HK, so as a result we’re always treated to plenty of high power kicking. In Strike of Thunderkick Tiger many of the fights are ridiculously under cranked, however ultimately it doesn’t take away from them. This applies particularly to the finale, which momentarily presents us with the unique scenario of 3 characters all going at each with equal ferocity, before segueing into a more traditional 2-on-1.

There’s also plenty of one versus many throw downs throughout, usually involving Han dishing out his thunderkicks to a bunch of hapless goons, but it all makes for an entertaining watch, his single legged multiple kick being of particular note. Throw in musical cues which range from A Clockwork Orange to Korea’s own Miss, Please Be Patient, and Strike of Thunderkick Tiger is a worthy entry into the old school kung fu genre. What gives the movie its Korean identity more than anything else though is its closing moments, which feature a twist that, despite all the goofy dubbing and nonsensical events which have just taken place, manage to provide a dramatic punch to the chest that only Korean cinema is, and it appears always has been, capable of.

Paul Bramhall’s Rating: 6.5/10

Posted in Korean, News, Reviews | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Chow Yun Fat takes on Stephen Chow, Jet Li and Aaron Kwok in the fight for Lunar New Year box office supremacy in 2016

"From Vegas To Macau II" Chinese Theatrical Poster

"From Vegas To Macau II" Chinese Theatrical Poster

Since its release during the Lunar New Year holiday in China, Chow Yun Fat’s From Vegas to Macau 2 (aka The Man From Macau 2) has earned over RMB900 million at the box office, well exceeding its predecessor’s RMB600 million. So it should come as no surprise that there will be a third film in the franchise.

It has just been officially announced that From Vegas to Macau 3 will be filmed this year with a budget of RMB200 million, and some parts may be filmed in Vegas. The film will join a crowded line-up at the cinemas during the Lunar New Year period in 2016, which already includes:

- Stephen Chow’s Mermaid, his latest film since Journey to the West 3D

- Jet Li and Huang Xiao Ming’s 3D Investiture of the Gods, an adaptation of the classic Chinese fantasy novel that features gods, demons, spirits and humans

- Aaron Kwok and Gong Li’s Monkey King: White Bone Fiend, the sequel to Donnie Yen’s Monkey King, only without Yen who is busy with other projects.

Which one of these Chinese blockbusters are you most looking forward to seeing?

Posted in News | Leave a comment

Ran (1985) Review

"Ran" Japanese Theatrical Poster

"Ran" Japanese Theatrical Poster

AKA: Chaos
Director: Akira Kurosawa
Writer: Akira Kurosawa, Hideo Oguni, Masato Ide
Producer: Serge Silverman, Masato Hara
Cast: Tatsuya Nakadai, Akira Terao, Jinpachi Nezu, Daisuke Ryu, Masayuki Yui, Kazuo Kato, Peter, Hitoshi Ueki, Jun Tazaki, Mieko Harada, Yoshiko Miyazaki, Norio Matsui
Running Time: 160 min.

By Kyle Warner

Throughout Akira Kurosawa’s illustrious career the director often adapted classic literature from overseas and transformed the stories into tales about Japan. Some of his favorite writers that he took the most inspiration from were Shakespeare, Dostoevsky, and Maxim Gorky, but it’s the Shakespeare adaptations that made for the most interesting films. Kurosawa did away with Shakespeare’s words but kept the tragic plots largely intact. Shakespeare’s Macbeth became Throne of Blood, a film about a samurai that commits murder in order to chase destiny. Hamlet was an inspiration for The Bad Sleep Well, a drama about a businessman carefully plotting his revenge against the executives responsible for his father’s death. King Lear would become Ran, Kurosawa’s final Shakespeare adaptation, which transformed the tragedy into a samurai epic.

In the King Lear role is Lord Hidetora (Tatsuya Nakadai). The story of Lear has an aging king that decides to live out his final years in peace and divide his kingdom among his three daughters. In Ran, Hidetora is a samurai lord with three sons, but the basic idea is the same. Hidetora believes that one son acting alone can be defeated but three united together are unbeatable, a point he attempts to illustrate when he passes along a bundle of three arrows from son to son. His eldest son Taro (Akira Terao), the man who is set to inherit the most from his father, is unable to break the three arrows. The middle son Jiro (Jinpachi Nezu) is also unable to break the arrows. The youngest son Saburo (Daisuke Ryu) struggles with the arrows at first, then breaks them over his knee. Saburo argues that his father is a senile old fool that cannot possibly understand what he’s setting in motion. Saburo’s older brothers scold him for questioning their father, but Saburo persists. In the end, Lord Hidetora disowns the disrespectful Saburo and banishes him into exile. Of course, we soon learn that Saburo, though blunt, was speaking the truth. Taro’s wife Lady Kaeda (Mieko Harada) is the daughter of one of Hidetora’s vanquished foes. Now that Lady Kaeda and her husband are in a position of power previously occupied by Hidetora, she manipulates Taro into a feud with Hidetora, which leads the old lord to leave the castle. Hidetora angrily stomps off to Jiro’s castle, but Jiro is ambitious and believes he can supplant his older brother – his father will find no shelter here either. It’s worse than Saburo warned him it would be, as ambition and vengeance drives the two brothers to war, which in turn drives Hidetora towards madness.

In Kurosawa’s earlier years he had directed many pictures about heroes. With Ran he deconstructs the hero, makes it into something misleading and cruel – even Hidetora, who we feel sympathetic for, is a warlord that killed mercilessly in his time. Ran is a very cynical film about the violence that men do to one another in order to get what they want. Thousands of people are asked to die for the vanity and greed of powerful men and women. In the big battle sequences where Kurosawa had previously showcased courage and resourcefulness, he now showcases blood, death, and pitiless tactics. The film’s finest moment involves Taro and Jiro attacking the castle in which Hidetora is residing. It’s a striking sequence where the sound effects and dialogue are muted and we only hear Toru Takemitsu’s amazing score. The sequence finds Hidetora losing his mind within his castle as it burns around him. Kurosawa’s production actually built the castle from the ground up only to burn it down. The sequence could only be shot once, making it all the more impressive as hundreds of extras charge past the camera, flames burn, arrows fly, blood is shed, and Tatsuya Nakadai goes crazy at the center of it all.

I’m not always the biggest fan of Tatsuya Nakadai (though let’s be clear, he’s done some incredible work over the years). Occasionally I find his performances too calculated, like he’s showing off his acting muscles instead of giving us a character of flesh-and-blood. His performance in Ran is sometimes criticized for being over-the-top, but I don’t really see it that way. He begins the film as a proud samurai lord and is eventually reduced to a madman, a shadow of his former self. At the time Nakadai was only in his fifties but under makeup he successfully plays the part of a man about thirty years older. The makeup grows more exaggerated as the film progresses, making him appear ghost-like in the final act. His performance is certainly high-strung, but personally I consider it to be among his very best.

The other most notable performance comes from Mieko Harada. Her Lady Kaeda is perhaps the best of Kurosawa’s villains and must rank as one of the best female villains in all of Japanese cinema. Though the men she beds with like to think they are in control, it’s actually Lady Kaeda that’s pulling the strings and making them go where she wants. It’s a great character and a great performance.

Behind the scenes Kurosawa is joined by talents both old and new to him. Kurosawa’s one of those directors who always had a big hand in writing his screenplays, but knew it was best to bring in other co-writers to keep him honest (his 1990 film Dreams was written by Kurosawa alone and it suffers for it). His co-writers for Ran, Hideo Oguni and Masato Ide, had both worked with the director before on previous films, but here he works with famed composer Toru Takemitsu for the first time. It’s a strange score which features both Japanese flutes and a dreamlike new age quality. Music has always played an important part in Kurosawa’s films and Takemitsu’s score for Ran is one of the finest for any of his films. Joining Kurosawa as assistant director is Ishiro Honda, the director of such kaiju classics as Godzilla, Mothra, and Rodan. Honda retired from directing after 1975’s Terror of Mechagodzilla, but he had always been a good friend of Kurosawa’s. In his later years Honda became Kurosawa’s chief assistant director and valued confidant onset, something Kurosawa apparently needed in the rapidly changing landscape of filmmaking.

The previous 20 years had been rough for Kurosawa. His 1965 film Red Beard was the ending of an era both creatively and thematically. He suffered a falling out with both longtime leading man Toshiro Mifune and longtime composer Masaru Sato. Red Beard also went way over schedule and over budget, which upset the studio. Kurosawa then went to make movies in America. His first US film was to be the thriller Runaway Train. However, snowstorms pushed the production back, and Kurosawa was constantly at odds with the American financial backers, and was supposedly unwilling to give up the control he was used to in Japan. Kurosawa left the project. Runaway Train was eventually filmed in 1985 by director Andrei Konchalovsky (Tango & Cash), using unknown portions of Kurosawa’s original screenplay. Kurosawa then went to film the Japanese segments for 20th Century Fox’s Tora! Tora! Tora!, but this too ended in failure. Despite working two years on pre-production for the war film, Kurosawa was fired just two weeks after shooting began and was replaced by Kinji Fukasaku (Battle Royale) and Toshio Masuda (Rusty Knife), while Richard Fleischer (Soylent Green) would stay on to direct the American segments. Fans are always hopeful that one day Kurosawa’s filmed scenes from Tora! Tora! Tora! will be discovered in a vault somewhere, but it’s reasonable to believe that they are either lost or destroyed.

Rumors began to spread from Fox that Kurosawa was mentally unstable and his work methods had a perfectionism to them that bordered on madness. The rumors followed Kurosawa back to Japan where he now found it nearly impossible to raise the money for future projects. Japan had always been strangely ambivalent towards Kurosawa. His films were viewed as too “Western” by some in the Japanese viewing public. And though his movies were often successful financially, he was not thought of as a national treasure while he was still alive the same way that Ozu and Mizoguchi were. Instead of turning to the producers and to young talents in the Japanese film industry after his failure in America, Kurosawa turned to old-school masters like himself and formed the production company Yonki-no-Kai Productions (Club of the Four Knights) with directors Masaki Kobayashi (Harakiri), Kon Ichikawa (The Burmese Harp), and Keisuke Kinoshita (Twenty-four Eyes).

The first Yonki-no-Kai film would be Kurosawa’s 1970 drama Dodes’ka-den, which turned out to be such a financial failure that Yonki-no-Kai Productions only produced one other film before disbanding. Akira Kurosawa would attempt suicide the following year by slitting his wrists and throat. He survived, but now he was further ostracized from the Japanese public. His next film Dersu Uzala would be made in Soviet Russia in 1975 (and would end up as the only film he made outside of Japan). After that Kurosawa returned to Japan again. The 80s would prove to be a more successful decade for him than the 70s had been, but it was not thanks to the Japanese studios willing to give him another shot. In 1980 he made the historical epic Kagemusha only after longtime admirers George Lucas and Francis Ford Coppola stepped on as producers and were able to convince 20th Century Fox to help finance the film. And despite writing Ran around 1975, Kurosawa was unable to acquire funding for the project until 1984 when French producer Serge Silberman offered to help get the picture made (as such Ran is considered a Japanese/French co-production). With a budget of $12 million, Ran would become the most expensive Japanese film made at that point. Considering all of this, the fact that Ran was made at all is something of a miracle… but the fact that Ran is a brilliant film should come as no surprise. No director before or since made so many consistently entertaining films about the samurai world as did Kurosawa. But it’s more than just a piece of entertainment. Kurosawa has said that “Hidetora is me” which is understandable when you stop to consider that this is a film about an old man who has lost his place in the world and is besieged by ambitious youth who want to remove him in some disrespectful manner. It’s a samurai historical epic, it’s a Shakespeare adaptation, and it’s the work of an artist that’s putting his life on screen behind the veil of storytelling.

Kurosawa would go on to make three more films, but Ran is his last true masterpiece. Despite this, the Japanese were mostly unimpressed when it was first released. It was generally well received by critics but only barely earned enough to make back the money spent on the production. When award season rolled around, Ran was not even nominated for Best Picture in Japan’s Academy Awards. For the Oscars, each country is allowed to submit one film to represent them for the Best Foreign Language Film category. Japan did not submit Ran, but rather Shunya Ito’s Gray Sunset. Disturbed by this, American filmmakers (led by longtime fan Sidney Lumet) campaigned on Kurosawa’s behalf to get Ran nominated for as many Oscars as possible. Ran was nominated for four Oscars, including costume design (which it won), cinematography, art direction, and Best Director: Akira Kurosawa. Gray Sunset did not make the shortlist for Best Foreign Language Film and has since faded into almost complete obscurity; meanwhile in the thirty years since its release Ran’s reputation has only grown and the movie is now commonly thought of as one of the greatest epics ever made, as well as one of the best Shakespeare adaptations ever put to film.

Ran is available on Blu-Ray from Lionsgate as part of their StudioCanal Collection line. If I’m to be perfectly honest, the picture quality is far short of what the colorful film deserves. The bright scenes look good and there’s plenty of detail on screen, but the dark scenes are way too grainy – distractingly so. Ran had previously been available on DVD from the Criterion Collection, but that DVD is now out of print. The StudioCanal Blu-Ray does look better than the Criterion DVD, but it’s not a huge improvement. Sadly unless new source materials are discovered this may end up being the best the film will ever look.

It’s my opinion that Akira Kurosawa is the best director of all time. He made so many brilliant films that even some of his less successful attempts might’ve been considered masterworks in most other director’s filmographies. Kurosawa worked as a director from 1943 to 1993. It’s difficult to pick a favorite among his more active first three decades, but if you look at the films he made from 1970-1993 the pick should be an obvious one: Ran, a historical epic of the highest order.

Kyle Warner’s Rating: 10/10


By Numskull

How best to refer to this Kurosawa classic’s relationship to the Shakespearean play “King Lear”? Well, Shakespeare is little more than a glorified, romanticized hack whose plays were based on well-known (in his day) stories that he himself did not create, so…”adaptation”? No. “Translation”? Nay. “Recreation”? I think not. I suppose “interpretation” will suffice, though I’m sure some caricature of an English professor with a stick up his ass could come up with something more accurate while chewing me out for daring to speak ill of the biggest sacred cow in all of literature.

Anyway… this is one of Kurosawa’s last films, and perhaps it’s no coincidence that he chose the theme of the elderly passing the reins or the banner or the (fill in the metaphor) down to the next generation. Lear’s equivalent character in Ran is 70-year old warlord Hidetora Ichimonji, hauntingly portrayed by venerable actor Tetsuya Nakadai, a veteran of several earlier Kurosawa films. No daughters has he… just a trio of sons named (eldest to youngest) Taro (Akira Terao), Jiro (Jinpachi Nezu), and Saburo (Daisuke Ryu). As is the case in the play, the two older offspring give their dad a verbal blow job when it’s time to divvy up the territory, and only the youngest speaks the truth. Hidetora, too prideful to see through Taro’s and Jiro’s flattery, banishes Saburo. He then finds himself unable to adapt to life on a lower rung of the ladder of power, and Taro and Jiro, ungrateful swine that they are, refuse to treat him with the dignity and respect he believes he is due. His world turned upside-down, Hidetora succumbs to madness while his violent rise to power in a half-forgotten past comes back to bite him on the ass.

As Shakespearean tragedies go, King Lear has one of the highest body counts… possibly THE highest. It therefore comes as no surprise that Ran has no shortage of bloodshed, both referred to in the past tense and displayed to us through an unflinching lens. A gruesome siege an hour or so into the film is turned into a thing of perverse beauty by the expert cinematography by Takao Saito and the absence of dialogue and sound effects; Toru Takemitsu’s musical score is the only aural component. As is to be expected for a film bearing the “epic” label, the visuals aim to impress; there are some choice shots that do a fine job in showing the majesty of both Japan’s man-made structures and its untamed countryside.

Outstanding amongst the supporting characters are Taro’s vicious, conniving wife, Lady Kaede (Mieko Harada), and Hidetora’s irreverent but fiercely loyal jester/nurse, Kyoami (played by an actor credited only as “Peter”). He provides the only comic relief in this grim tale but also displays wisdom unusual for one of his standing, dispensing gems such as “In a mad world only the mad are sane”, “If the rock you sit on starts to roll, jump clear…or you’ll go with it and be squashed”, and my personal favorite, “Man is born crying. When he’s cried enough, he dies.” There was a six year gap between the two times I watched this movie, but that particular quote stayed with me for the whole period.

Age (and a failed suicide attempt) did nothing to dull Kurosawa’s talent. This is a film that keeps your attention securely wrapped around its finger from its tranquil opening shots to its heart-wrenching final image.

Numskull’s Rating: 8/10

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

Listen to the ‘Dragon Blade’ theme song by Jackie himself!

"Dragon Blade" Korean Poster

"Dragon Blade" Korean Poster

Daniel Lee’s Dragon Blade, a period piece starring Jackie Chan, sees a Roman Legion getting caught up in an adventure in China where they cross paths with a Chinese hero played by Chan. They are forced to join forces to battle an even greater foe that threatens the whole world. The film also stars Adrien Brody, John Cusack, Choi Siwon, Lin Peng and Wang Tai Li.

Film Business Asia: “Cusack plays a Roman General who teams up with a former military commander (played by Chan) to protect the western border; Brody plays the villain who is in pursuit of Cusack’s character.”

Dragon Blade is helmed by Daniel Lee, a veteran Hong Kong filmmaker, mostly known for 1994’s What Price Survival, 1996’s Black Mask, 2010’s 14 Blades, and most recently, 2011’s White Vengeance.

Updates: Pack of new posters ( 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 ) | Latest poster from AFM, featuring all three male leads. | First trailer. | 2nd trailer. | Chinese theatrical poster.  | Korean theatrical poster.

BREAKING NEWS: Listen to the film’s theme song. It is sung by none other than Jackie himself, and the title translates roughly to ‘Heroes of the Desert’. – Thanks to Sam the Man

Posted in News | 7 Comments

Jacky Cheung and Nick Cheung are about to raise ‘Helios’

"Helios" Chinese Theatrical Poster

"Helios" Chinese Theatrical Poster

Coming to Hong Kong theaters on April 30th is Helios, an action-thriller directed by Longman Leung and Sunny Luk, the duo behind Cold War.

Helios sports a Chinese/Korean ensemble cast that includes: Jacky Cheung (As Tears Go By), Nick Cheung (Unbeatable), Shawn Yue (Motorway), Wang Xueqi (Bodyguards and Assassins), Janice Man (Nightfall), Ji Jin-hee (H), Choi Siwon (A Battle of Wits), Yoon Jin-yi (We Are Brothers), Josephine Koo (Shanghai Story), Feng Wenjuan (The Last Tycoon) and Chang Chen (Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon).

Here’s a brief plot: South Korea’s most wanted criminal Red Bandit uses the uranium stolen from North Korea to make a mobile nuclear bomb, which is scheduled to change hands in Hong Kong in the next 6 hours.

Updates: Click here to watch the newest trailer, courtesy of FCS.

Posted in News | Leave a comment

Sammo Hung does some serious damage in ‘The Bodyguard’

"The Bodyguard" Theatrical Poster

"The Bodyguard" Theatrical Poster

It has been 17 long years since Sammo Hung has directed a movie (1997′s Once Upon A Time in China and America), but now, the Hong Kong legend is back in the director’s chair with Old Soldier, an action film about a thief (Firestorm’s Andy Lau) who finds himself wanted by U.S. and Russian law enforcements. Starring alongside Lau is Sammo Hung himself, Yuen Qiu, Karl Maka, Dean Shek, Yuen Wah and Tsui Hark.

Old Soldier’s lead role was recently linked to Jackie Chan, but due to scheduling conflicts (and his son’s recent drug arrest), he declined and Lau stepped in. Old Soldier would have been the first time Hung would be directing Chan since 1997′s Mr. Nice Guy.

Updates: Due to cast changes, looks like Old Soldier now has a new title, a different plot and a starring role by Sammo Hung himself. Here’s the scoop according to Film Combat Syndicate: The film is now titled The Bodyguard and its story follows a retired bodyguard (Hung) who has settled in the dark and unknown corner of the world where China, Russia and North Korea meet. Suffering from the beginnings of dementia, the bodyguard is befriended by a young girl whose life is threatened when her father (Andy Lau) falls in with the local crime world. When the girl and her father disappear, the bodyguard must call upon his long forgotten skills to save the life of his young friend.

Filming for Sammo Hung’s The Bodyguard has wrapped up, thanks to the Sammo Hung: Action Movie Legend blog (via Film Combat Syndicate) for the scoop. The film has a possible release date for summer 2015.

BREAKING NEWS: In the first still from the film, it looks like Sammo’s done some serious damage to a bunch of guys, and that’s just awesome. – Thanks to Sam the Man

Posted in News | 4 Comments

Cyprus Tigers (1990) Review

"Cyprus Tigers" Chinese DVD Cover

"Cyprus Tigers" Chinese DVD Cover

Director: Philip Ko Fei
Producer: Philip Ko Fei
Cast: Simon Yam, Conan Lee, Philip Ko Fei, Collin Cheung Chi Tak, Robin Shou, Joey Wong, Shikamura Yasuyoshi, Winston Ellis, Sophia Crawford, John Ladalski
Running Time: 87 min.

By Martin Sandison

Ask a Kung Fu movie fan about the greatest actors to come out of the golden age and the name Phillip Ko will surely arise. One of the most prolific and recognizable faces of Kung Fu cinema, Ko appeared in hundreds of films of varying quality. And yes, he was an extra in Enter the Dragon and tells the tale of Bruce Lee fighting that guy on set. Ko has said that two films are his best: The Loot and The Challenger. Two of the greatest Independent Kung Fu movies, these films are a must watch.

Through the 80’s and 90’s Ko became a director and producer, while still appearing in his own films. One of these is Cyprus Tigers. Filmed around the same time as Killer’s Romance, both star Simon Yam and both were filmed partly in Europe (London and Cyprus, of course). Killer’s Romance is a heroic bloodshed film loosely based on the Manga Crying Freeman, featuring some extreme violence. Cyprus Tigers meanwhile is a mash up of comedy, gunfights and martial arts which is in the tradition of HK film-making, crazy and uneven in tone.

Cyprus Tigers features so many of the stars of lower budget HK action films of the time it’s ridiculous. Simon Yam was not a huge star at this point, and had appeared in some action films such as the classic Bloodfight, one of my personal favorites, and dodgy category 3 films such as Hong Kong Gigolo. In Cyprus Tigers Yam plays a good natured cop called Dick, the leader of the ‘Cyprus Tigers’ a bunch of HK cops who have relocated there. Love him or hate him, Conan Lee is a good Martial Artist and did appear in one of the all time greatest Kung Fu movies Ninja In the Dragons Den. He plays ‘Climax’ (?!) a sex-mad cop with good Martial Arts chops. Ko himself plays King Wu, a criminal who appears to be a good guy at first. Winston Ellis an African American plays Black Spot, one of Ko’s minions.

This was his first Hong Kong film, and he followed it up with a small part in Operation Condor, one of Jackie’s best 90’s efforts. Robin Shou plays Yau Gin, a Japanese criminal. Shou is famous for playing Liu Kang in the Mortal Kombat movie, and had faced off against Donnie Yen in Tiger Cage 2, one of my favorite fights ever. Luk Chuen, also the action choreographer, plays another Japanese villain. He had been around the block, also choreographing the Shaws masterpiece Killer Constable. Sophia Crawford has a small part as Wu’s minion, looking great as ever, the time when she was it seemed in every lower budget HK production! Even the great John Ladalski gets a tiny part, he’s only on screen for a matter of seconds. He also appeared in Bloodfight, training Yasuaki Kurata, and numerous other Ninja and HK movies. Finally the lovely Joey Wong appears as Yam’s girlfriend, radiating beauty and grace despite the low brow tone of the plot.

The first half of the movie is based around the cops bumbling around on the beach and getting in to scrapes in a comedic manner, while the second half features them going against Ko who is trying to get hold of plates for laundering money and is much more serious. The movie starts as it means to go on, with equal parts intentional and unintentional humor and solid action. The version I watched has burnt in subtitles that go over the edges of the screen, meaning the dialogue is hard to follow. Not that it matters, the subtitling is so bad. Some choice ones from the opening scene are: ‘Men look at your bottoms’ and ‘look he has climax every day’.

The first half is that cheesy comedy so prevalent in HK movies at the time, with the funniest sub plot featuring Yam being forced at gunpoint to take off Lee’s clothes. Of course the villains are filming it and it becomes a porno VHS, and Lee goes all over town buying up copies. Some of the bad taste humor leaves a nasty taste in the mouth, especially when involving Ellis as Black Spot; it’s bordering on racism.

The action hots up around the middle of the film, and some of it is of a high standard. Lee battles Ellis in a fight which features some nifty handwork, and the centerpiece of Yam vs Ko lives up to its billing. It’s good to see Yam performing a lot of the Martial Arts himself, despite being doubled for a couple of crazy stunts. One involves him being kicked into the air and with the aid of wire-work spins twice and lands on a table, with inventive editing meaning everything is clear despite there being a lot of cuts.

Unfortunately while the movie has some great action and is entertaining, it suffers from too much cheesy comedy and bad plotting. I mean seriously the contrasting tones are so extreme it’s like you’re watching three different movies at once. As it features so many actors they jostle for attention, with little room for good or developing characterizations. Ko directs in a pretty bland manner until the action kicks in, basically the main reason to watch the movie.

Overall it’s a lackluster effort, but worth checking out for some vintage fun if you like that kind of thing.

Martin Sandison’s rating: 5/10

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

Matt Damon and Andy Lau climb Zhang Yimou’s ‘Great Wall’!

"House of Flying Daggers" Chinese Theatrical Poster

"House of Flying Daggers" Chinese Theatrical Poster

Acclaimed filmmaker Zhang Yimou (Hero, House of the Flying Daggers) is preparing to direct Great Wall, a 15th century period flick revolving around the origin and construction of the Great Wall of China. For those expecting a bland historic lesson, think again. Great Wall is being described as a “fantasy epic,” as well as an “action blockbuster” by Zhang himself.

According to Variety, this is what Zhang had to say about Great Wall: “It is an action blockbuster…The story is very important, and I have to do a lot of preparation for the various cultural elements in the film. Then comes the visual effects and action, which I like a lot. It’s very different from my last film.”

Update: According to Deadline), Matt Damon will be starring in Zhang Yimou’s Great Wall. | The film will be Zhang Yimou’s first English-language film. The action epic, with a budget of $135 Million, is scheduled to start shooting in February 2015, with a potential 2016 release date. Also, Bryan Cranston (Breaking Bad) is in talks to join the cast.

BREAKING NEWS: Legendary Pictures has announced the principal cast for their upcoming The Great Wall, a Chinese co-production described as “the largest film ever shot entirely in China for global distribution.” Cast lineup includes Matt Damon, Pedro Pascal (Game of Thrones), Willem Dafoe (John Wick), Andy Lau (Infernal Affairs), Jing Tian (Special ID), Zhang Hanyu (The Assembly), Eddie Peng (Rise of the Legend), Lu Han (Miss Granny), Lin Gengxin (Young Detective Dee), Zheng Kai (The Running Man), Chen Xuedong (Tiny Times 3), Huang Xuan (Blind Massage), Wang Junkai, Yu Xintian and Liu Qiong. The Great Wall will be globally released in 3D by Universal Pictures on Friday, November 23, 2016, with the Chinese market opening during the 2016 holiday season.

Posted in News | 1 Comment

Deal on Fire! Ong-Bak Trilogy | Blu-ray | Only $13.49 – Expires soon!

"Ong-Bak Trilogy" Blu-ray Cover

"Ong-Bak Trilogy" Blu-ray Cover

Today’s Deal on Fire is the Blu-ray for Tony Jaa’s Ong-Bak Trilogy. This 3-disc collection includes 2003′s Ong-Bak, 2008′s Ong-Bak 2: The Beginning and 2010′s Ong-Bak 3.

The original Ong-Bak broke new ground when it was released in 2003. According to The Raid 2 filmmaker Garath Evans: “Tony Jaa is a phenomenal talent. Ong Bak was a major announcement to the industry and to audiences that the martial arts genre was back.”

Order the Ong-Bak Trilogy today!

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

Don’t you dare f-ck with Steven Seagal’s ‘Code of Honor’!

"Absolution" Japanese Theatrical Poster

"Absolution" Japanese Theatrical Poster

After all these years, Steven Seagal is still hard to kill! In addition to Cypher, the Aikido master has another project that’s already brewing. According to recent press release from Premiere Entertainment Group, production has commenced for Seagal’s Code of Honor, an upcoming action-thriller written and directed by Michael Winnick (Guns, Girls and Gambling).

“We’re excited to bring this action-packed film together under the direction of Michael Winnick,” said Ryan Noto, President of Premiere Entertainment. “Steven Seagal has huge worldwide appeal, and we’re confident that this film will generate word of mouth among fans and general audiences alike.”

Code of Honor is the story of a special forces colonel who has recently returned back home from the middle east after going on terminal leave. He quickly realizes his home town has disintegrated into a violent degenerate world run by murderers and narco-terrorists. After little deliberation he decides to covertly enter the shadow world and do what he does best. Almost no one can stop him, but an old teammate tries.

Code of Honor also stars Craig Sheffer (A River Runs Through It) and Helena Mattsson (Iron Man 2). We’ll keep you updated as we hear more, so stay tuned!

Posted in News | Leave a comment

XLrator Media to release Sion Sono’s ‘Tokyo Tribe’ this Fall!

"Tokyo Tribe" Japanese Theatrical Poster

"Tokyo Tribe" Japanese Theatrical Poster

XLrator Media (Close Range) has acquired North American distribution rights to the street-gang/martial arts action/hip-hop musical epic Tokyo Tribe, which premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF). The company will release the film in Fall 2015 on its “TURBO” action label.

Tokyo Tribe is written and directed by Sion Sono (Cold Fish, Love Exposure, Guilty of Romance), whose previous film Why Don’t You Play in Hell? won TIFF’s People’s Choice Midnight Madness award.

Tokyo Tribe stars Ryohei Suzuki and Young Dais and is based on the manga by Santa Inoue. It was produced by Yoshinori Chiba, Kinya Oguchi and Nobuhiro Iizuka.

“Audiences have never seen anything like Tokyo Tribe and will be blown away by its originality, energy, and mind-blowing action and musical sequences that pay homage to everything from Quentin Tarantino to Scarface to West Side Story,” said XLrator Media CEO Barry Gordon.

In a futuristic, alternate Tokyo made up of ghetto slums and nightclub playgrounds, territorial street gangs rule the city. The opposing factions – each with their own distinctive style — control different neighborhoods and crossing territorial lines leads to riots and rumbles. When a megalomaniacal gang leader tries to invade the other gangs’ turf, the city explodes into an all-out war.

The deal was negotiated by XLrator Media’s Barry Gordon with XYZ Films’ (The Raid 2) Nate Bolotin for Nikkatsu Corporation. Until it hits theaters this fall, don’t miss the film’s trailer!

Posted in News | Leave a comment

Vengeance of an Assassin (2014) Review

"Vengeance of an Assassin" Theatrical Poster

"Vengeance of an Assassin" Theatrical Poster

Director: Panna Rittikrai
Writer: Wichit Wattananont
Producer: Somsak Techaratanapraser
Cast: Changprung Chupong, Nantawooti Boonrapsap, Ping Lumprapleng, Ooi Teik Huat, Nui-Kessarin Ektawatkul
Running Time: 99 min

By oneleaf

Natee (Changprung Chupong) and Than (Nantawooti Boornrapsap) are orphans raised by their parent’s friend (Ping Lumprapleng). Never knowing their parents or how they died, the two boys had always wondered who was responsible for their murder. The pursuit of vengeance is the centerpiece of Vengeance of an Assassin, the last film by Panna Rittikrai before his untimely death at the age of 53 (from complications associated with acute liver and kidney failure).

Rittikrai started his career in 1979 as a physical trainer for Bangkok actors. Inspired by Jackie Chan and Bruce Lee, he later started his own stunt team, PNP Stunt Team (Muay Thai Stunt Team). He appeared in countless films throughout the 80s, but it was Gerd Ma Lui (1986) that gave him his first directorial feature.

In addition to being the mentor to Tony Jaa (Ong-Bak), JeeJa Yanin (Chocolate) and Dan Chupong, Rittikrai was the main instrument that launched all three of their film careers. But to most, Rittikrai will be remembered for his groundbreaking choreography work in the acclaimed Ong-Bak (2003) and Tom-Yum-Goong (2005), both of which starred Jaa.

Vengeance of an Assassin reunites Rittikrai and Chupong from their Born to Fight (2004) collaboration. The film opens with a very unusual sequence of men screaming, kicking and punching each other while trying to maneuver a soccer ball in a dusty industrial warehouse. At one point, while the men are going at it in slow motion, they try to kick a ball in a small body of water, which appears out of nowhere. It makes absolutely no sense, but is fun to watch. Maybe Rittikrai was experimenting with some of his shots?

Vengeance of an Assassin mixes gunplay with hand-to-hand combat. Some of the firefights feel out of place. On numerous occasions, camera placement is at odds with what’s transpiring on screen. One such sequence involves an unknown figure entering a restaurant while opening fire on men. The scene, which was filmed with the camera pointing up-below the waist from the assailant’s viewpoint (shot to hide the identity of the assailant), felt more like a video game than a movie, which left me with an unpleasant viewing experience.

Other problems in the movie was the use of CGI that didn’t match the surrounding scenery. Case in point was a scene on a speeding train where the the landscaping on both sides of the train look unreal and blurry. The color scheme of explosions didn’t match either. The compositing and rendering of images were so off that I couldn’t believe what I was looking at. Furthermore, when guys are fighting, it appears as if they’re on stationary platforms because they had no issues balancing themselves on a speeding train. These embarrassing visuals are not something you would expect from an experienced filmmaker like Rittikrai. It’s safe to assume that his health problems had something to do with the film’s careless post-production effects.

The martial arts combat, however, does not disappoint. One of the more exciting examples is Chupong’s fight with Nui-Kessarin Ektawatkul. This sequence takes place inside another warehouse where cables, pipes and anything within reach are used as weapons. What amazes me most is how Ektawatkul was able to go ballistic while wearing a sexy, sleeveless dress that didn’t seem to hinder any of her movements.

Another engaging action piece involves the elder Ooi Teik Huat versus a group of bad guys. He quickly disarms them with a rapid fire succession of punches, low kicks, throw downs and take downs. He’s not much of an actor, but his skills are stunning. My jaw literally dropped when I witnessed the exchanges on screen. So next time you see an older gentleman doing his morning Tai Chi routine, you might want to cancel your scroffs.

The star of the film, no doubt, is Chupong, but I find Boornrapsap’s physical ability more entertaining. Being younger and more acrobatic, his 360º kicks definitely steal the show. One such frenetic scene involves him exchanging punches and kicks through several glass panes, as shards of glass scatter every which way between the two combatants.

The bare-bones plot, disjointed script, bad CGI and other flaws shouldn’t be a deterrent to enjoying Vengeance of an Assassin. Being Rittikrai’s last project, action enthusiasts should embrace this important piece of Thai action cinema. R.I.P. Ah Gjan (“Teacher” in Thai) Panna, you will be sorely missed.

oneleaf’s Rating: 6/10

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

Admiral: Roaring Currents | Blu-ray & DVD (CJ Entertainment)

Admiral: Roaring Currents | Blu-ray & DVD (CJ Entertainment)

Admiral: Roaring Currents | Blu-ray & DVD (CJ Entertainment)

RELEASE DATE: April 28, 2015

CJ Entertainment presents the Blu-ray & DVD for Admiral: Roaring Currents, a South Korean box-office hit directed by Kim Han-Min (War of the Arrows).

Admiral: Roaring Currents depicts the Battle of Myeongryang, which took place October 26, 1597. The historical event involved Admiral Yi Sun-Shin (Old Boy and I Saw Devil’s Choi Min-Sik), who had only 12 ships under his command, against the Japanese navy which had over a hundred ships (led by Ryoo Seung-Ryong of The Target). Watch the trailer

Pre-order Admiral: Roaring Currents from Amazon.com today!

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

Francis Ng and Simon Yam get ‘Two Thumbs Up’

"Two Thumbs Up" Teaser Poster

"Two Thumbs Up" Teaser Poster

Two Thumbs Up is an upcoming action comedy that stars two of Hong Kong’s top leading men, Francis Ng and Simon Yam. The supporting cast include Leo Ku (Hot Blood is the Strongest), Patrick Tam (Beast Cops), Mark Cheng (Election 2) and Philip Keung (Unbeatable).

The film is produced by Soi Cheang (Motorway) and directed by first-time director Lau Ho Leung (screenwriter for Kung Fu Killer, 14 Blades and Painted Skin).

Official synopsis: Lucifer and his gangsters dress their minibus to resemble a police vehicle, and pose as policemen for a robbery. Police Officer Chui sensed “criminal intent.” Without police orders, he investigates these gangsters. At the robbery the gangsters engage in a gunfight against the real criminals, who kill randomly. Lucifer and his men are infuriated. They may wear police costumes and use toy guns, but their passion is real. Sensing their righteous passion, Chui decides to side with the impostors and their 16-passenger EU vehicle. Lucifer and his men re-discover the bond they felt when they used to battle together. Finally, Chui, Lucifer and the gang defeat the criminals, showing Chui that anyone can be a hero, and righteousness resides within us all.

The film’s full trailer has arrived, and judging by it, Two Thumbs Up looks like a really fun film. It is due to be released in Hong Kong cinemas on April 2.

Posted in News | Leave a comment

Kaos pushes Kane Kosugi and Jason Patric to the ‘Maxx’

"Tekken 2: Kazuya's Revenge" International DVD Cover

"Tekken 2: Kazuya's Revenge" International DVD Cover

Will the team that brought us the horrendous Tekken 2: Kazuya’s Revenge redeem themselves? The answer is in the hands of Maxx, an upcoming action film that reunites director Wych Kaosayananda (aka Kaos of Ballistic: Ecks vs. Sever fame) and martial arts star Kane Kosugi (Coweb). Appearing opposite Kosugi is the unexpected addition of Hollywood star, Jason Patric (Narc, Speed 2).

Details on the project are limited, but according to FCS, Maxx is described as a “driven character action-adventure filled with the usual tropes of classic Bond with nudge to Showtime series, Dexter.”

Maxx is set to begin production in a few days. Until then, be on the lookout for Kaosayananda’s Zero Tolerance, which will hopefully see the light of day in the U.S. Stay tuned!

Posted in News | Leave a comment

White Haired Witch of Lunar Kingdom, The (2014) Review

"The White Haired Witch of Lunar Kingdom" Chinese Theatrical Poster

"The White Haired Witch of Lunar Kingdom" Chinese Theatrical Poster

AKA: The White Haired Witch
Director: Jacob Cheung
Writer: Kang Qiao, Wang Bing
Producer: Don Yu Dong, Huang Jianxin
Cast: Fan Bing Bing, Huang Xiao Ming, Vincent Chiu, Shera Li Xin Ru, Wang Xuebing, Du Yiheng, Nicholas Tse, Yin Zhusheng
Running Time: 103 min.

By Kyle Warner

Liang Yusheng’s popular wuxia novel Baifa Monu Zhuan has been adapted for television and film multiple times since its debut in the 1950s. The adaptation you’re most likely familiar with is Ronny Yu’s crazy 1993 film The Bride with White Hair starring Brigitte Lin in the title role and the late Leslie Cheung as her lover. It was a popular film upon its release and it has become something of a cult classic in the years since. While I’m not the biggest fan of The Bride with White Hair I did enjoy how it mixed kung fu, romance, fantasy, and horror into one package without the stitches coming undone. Now writer/director Jacob Cheung Chi-Leung (Battle of the Warriors) brings us his adaptation of Yusheng’s novel, 2014’s The White Haired Witch of Lunar Kingdom. Compared to The Bride with White Hair, Jacob Cheung’s film is relatively tame and seems more geared towards a wider audience. Cheung does without much of the horror and fantasy elements of Ronny Yu’s film, but somehow his White Haired Witch does come undone, thanks mostly to too much going on and too little effort given to make it all feel worthwhile.

In the waning years of the Ming Dynasty, corruption runs rampant and the people are suffering. The vigilante hero Jade Raksha AKA Lian Nishang (Fan Bingbing) and her band of heroes protect the weak from the tyrants. Elsewhere in the story, the new leader of the Wudang, Zhuo Yihang (Huang Xioaming), is tasked with bringing medicine to the ailing Emperor. When the pills are switched with poison and the Emperor dies, Yihang is the prime suspect. Circumstances and action sequences pull Nishang and Yihang together. Though initially they do not trust one another, they slowly fall in love and join forces to challenge the corrupt men of power who threaten the land and its people.

White Haired Witch is both an overplotted and underwritten film. The script is just chockfull of characters, subplots, and political intrigue that could’ve easily been edited down to better focus on the heart of the story… However, there seems to be an inner conflict about just what the heart of the story actually is. I would believe it to be the romance between our two heroes. And while Fan Bingbing and Huang Xioaming have the most screen time, the film’s true focus seems to be elsewhere, resulting in a rather jumbled story. Over the course of the film we are treated to two frame-up assassinations, an assortment of factions with their own heroes and villains, and a small helping of history thrown in amongst the fiction. It all makes for a very bloated and frequently confusing film. Too often I was left wondering who a character was and what his motivations were. Over time I figured it out: some of these characters are just simply there. They don’t all have a purpose. They’re just extra pieces to an already crowded puzzle.

White Haired Witch feels underwritten because while the film is always busy with new things to do and people dying left and right, it somehow manages to seem empty. A large number of the supporting characters are introduced with their names and titles printed on the screen. I’ve generally never been a fan of this method of character introduction. It asks the viewer to remember characters and factions so that the screenwriter doesn’t need to bother so much with character development. Some of these characters may be well-known to either fans of the book or those with knowledge of this part of Chinese history, but for other viewers they’re just names and faces. Similarly, the film throws in a bit of history involving the “Case of the Red Pills” which involved the fatal poisoning of the Emperor. The Red Pills fit into the plot well enough, but it still feels like an underdeveloped footnote in the story.

Perhaps the most disappointingly underwritten part of the script is our two heroes. She’s gorgeous, he’s handsome, and they stare at each other longingly, but that’s not enough to make for a believable romance. The tragic love story should’ve received more care than it does here. When inevitable heartbreak occurs, the moment is hollow. There’s no chemistry here, no fire, just pretty people and CGI spectacle.

Fan Bingbing is good in the title role. She’s gorgeous but she doesn’t get by on looks alone. She brings a cool intensity to her character, making her White Witch both intimidating and alluring. Vincent Zhao also puts in a good performance as one of the film’s central villains and his skillset brings more believability to the action. Huang Xiaoming’s less impressive as Zhuo Yihang. Instead of emoting he does his best to appear dashing and handsome in every scene, reminding me a bit of a lovesick puppy that’s just begging you to love him back.

Much of the swordplay featured in the film is aided by wirework and CGI. While I prefer more visceral, old-school martial arts, I’m not opposed to CGI-infused action sequences in a martial arts movie. When done right, CGI and wires can make for very graceful action. Sadly, that’s not what we get here. Thanks to choppy editing, the choreography has no elegance to it. The action is serviceable, but it’s never all that impressive.

In the film’s final moments Leslie Cheung’s song from The Bride with White Hair plays over the onscreen action. Though obviously meant as a respectful nod to the popular film and its star, the song forced me out of the movie for a moment as I realized with absolute certainty that I’d rather be watching Ronny Yu’s film instead. Still, fans of The Bride with White Hair may want to give this film a try for curiosity’s sake if nothing else. It features many of the same central ideas and lead characters, but it’s a wildly different movie (villainous Siamese twins are nowhere to be found in Jacob Cheung’s film, just for example). Based on what I’ve read, White Haired Witch is closer to the original material of Yusheng’s book. However, White Haired Witch serves as proof that the more faithful adaptation is not always the better one.

When The White Haired Witch of Lunar Kingdom debuted in Chinese theatres it was given the 3D treatment. For those interested, White Haired Witch arrives on Blu-Ray from Well Go USA with only the 2D version of the film included on the disc. Like most Well Go USA Blu-Rays, White Haired Witch features excellent picture and sound. We also get about 20 minutes of behind-the-scenes material. Much of those 20 minutes are little more than puff pieces for promotional purposes, but there was one interesting segment about how Huang Xiaoming was filming an action sequence on wires when his wire snapped, dropping him about ten feet. He suffered a severe foot injury which required surgery. Huang eventually returned to the set in a wheelchair. While he recovered, they filmed Huang in a tall chair so that it looked as though he was standing next to his co-stars. I learned this information after watching the film and I am half-tempted to rewatch certain sequences to see if the trick can be detected… but ultimately I don’t care that much.

Jacob Cheung’s White Haired Witch isn’t an awful film – it keeps up a fast pace and there’s enough talent in front of the camera to make the thing watchable. But thanks to a poor screenplay and some lacking visuals, it’s not a terribly interesting film, either. White Haired Witch might be fine as a diversion on some rainy night, but overall I found it to be an incredibly underwhelming film experience.

Kyle Warner’s Rating: 4.5/10

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

Trailer arrives for Carrie Ng’s directorial debut ‘Angel Whispers’

"Naked Killer" Chinese DVD Cover

"Naked Killer" Chinese DVD Cover

Angel Whispers is the directorial debut by Carrie Ng Ka Lai, successful Hong Kong actress who starred in films such as Naked Killer, City on Fire, Call Girl ’88 and more recently Pang Ho Cheung’s Aberdeen and Nick Cheung’s Ghost Rituals (another directorial debut by an actor).

Co-directed with Shirley Yung, also a first-time director, Angel Whispers was the winner of a HK$150,000 prize at the Hong Kong Asia Film Financing Forum last year. It tells the story of a group of female sex workers faced with a mysterious killer.

Don’t miss the film’s suspenseful trailer!

Posted in News | Leave a comment

Everly | Blu-ray & DVD (Anchor Bay)

Everly | Blu-ray & DVD (Anchor Bay)

Everly | Blu-ray & DVD (Anchor Bay)

RELEASE DATE: April 21, 2015

Anchor Bay presents the Blu-ray & DVD for Everly. Directed by Joe Lynch (Wrong Turn 2: Dead End), Everly is an action/thriller centered on a woman (Salma Hayek) who faces down Japanese assassins sent by her ex, a mob boss, while holed up in her apartment.

Everly features action sequences staged by Akihiro “Yuji” Noguchi (Black Belt). The film also stars Jennifer Blanc, Togo Igawa (47 Ronin), Caroline Chikezie, Masashi Fujimoto (Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance) and Hiroyuki Watanabe (Karate-Robo Zaborgar). Watch the trailer.

Pre-order Everly from Amazon.com today!

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

Girl at My Door, A (2014) Review

"A Girl at My Door" Korean Theatrical Poster

"A Girl at My Door" Korean Theatrical Poster

Director: Jeong Joo-ri
Writer: Jeong Joo-ri
Producer: Lee Jun-Dong
Cast: Bae Doo-Na, Kim Sae-Ron, Song Sae-Byuk, Kim Jin-Gu, Son Jong-Hak, Na Jong-Min, Gong Myung
Running Time: 119 min.

By Paul Bramhall

Korea has arguably been producing the best movies to come out of Asia for the last 15 years, however one criticism of the industry has always been the lack of lead roles for women, outside of romantic comedies and flower vase roles in male dominated thrillers. In what’s still considered to be a male dominated society, the issue is confounded further by the lack of female directors. While directors like Shin Su-won and Bang Eun-jin are exceptions to the rule, there’s no doubt that the Korean film industry could be even stronger if it embraced the large amount of female talent that’s out there.

With A Girl at My Door, first time director and scriptwriter Jeong Joo-ri will hopefully be a name that can be added to the expanding pool of female directors active in the industry. Joo-ri’s talent had a notable hand to guide it, which came in the form of Lee Chang-dong. Chang-dong, the director of such masterpieces as Green Fish, Oasis, and Secret Sunshine, was Joo-ri’s teacher at the Korea National University of Arts, and he clearly had enough confidence in his students ability that he came on board as producer for her debut.

A Girl at My Door also gives us a female-centric story, which is headlined by Bae Doo-na and Kim Sae-ron. Doo-na is no doubt one of the most recognizable faces in Korean cinema, having caught audiences attention with her roles as the quirky girlfriend to Sin Ha-gyoon’s mute in Park Chan-wook’s Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance, to the crossbow wielding family member in Bong Joon-ho’s monster movie The Host. Understandably Hollywood came calling, and most recently she’s starred in the Wachowskis’ (of The Matrix fame) blockbusters Cloud Atlas and Jupiter Ascending.

Sae-ron has equally being making a name for herself as one of the busiest child actors in Korea. While readers here will most likely recognize her as the kidnapped girl Won Bin goes on a mission to rescue in 2010’s The Man from Nowhere, she’s been in plenty of drama series’ and movies in-between. While in The Man from Nowhere Sae-ron was just 9 years old, 4 years later and she’s now a teenager, and very much looking to be one of the brightest female acting talents in Korea.

In A Girl at My Door Doo-na plays a police captain who, in the opening, we learn has been transferred to a new post in a remote seaside town. As she drives into the town on a bright summer’s day, she inadvertently runs through a puddle, dousing a scruffy and tattered looking girl by the roadside with water. The girl is played by Sae-ron, and as Doo-na stops the car to check if she’s ok, instead of speaking they wordlessly stare at each other, before Sae-ron dashes off into a field. It’s worth noting that Sae-ron’s character is called Do-hee, which is also the name of the movie in Korean, and from that first meeting between the two characters, the ominous tone which you can’t quite put your finger on is set.

It’s established from the word go that proceedings are going to revolve around the relationship between Doo-na and Sae-ron’s characters, and Joo-ri shows an assured hand at constantly feeding small hints of information about both of their characters as the movie progresses. This isn’t a type of movie which spoon feeds the audience, and it’s all the better for it, as with each part of their history that’s revealed, we gain a greater understanding of their actions, which makes it a highly rewarding experience to watch. That’s not to say things move at a fast pace, if anything the opposite is true, however there’s never a moment when proceedings feel slow or dull, as every scene and frame is there to add something to the fabric of the story being told.

When it’s revealed that Sae-ron’s character is living with her highly abusive step-father and his elderly mother, who abuse her both physically and verbally on a daily basis, Doo-na’s police captain eventually ends up taking Sae-ron under her wing, allowing her to stay at her home. However when the step-father’s mother is found dead, seemingly by accident, things begin to get complicated. The step-father is played by Song Sae-byeok, and in a refreshing change from the comedic roles he’s most well known for, here he comes across a constantly drunk brute, always seething with anger. Feeling harassed from the sudden attention off Doo-na’s police captain, both because of the abuse, and what appears to be his hiring of illegal Indian immigrants to help run the towns fishing fleet, he begins to do his own research as to the reasons behind her transfer.

A Girl at My Door is a decidedly difficult movie to market, while for international audiences it will most likely be touted as a murder mystery, the event is really only a device in which to frame the relationship that develops between Doo-na and Sae-ron. It’s the effect that they both have on each which forms the heart of the movie. Both characters are essentially broken, Doo-na from whatever it was that led to her being transferred to such a remote town, and Sae-ron from the years of abuse she’s being suffering after being abandoned by her mother. While Doo-na’s story arc is thoroughly addressed, to go into any details of it would be to spoil some of the movies finest moments.

Joo-ri shows the influence of her teacher in many of the scenes, with plenty of visual metaphors to enjoy for viewers who are looking for them. Perhaps one of the best being the image of a trail which is overgrown with vines and bushes, with Sae-ron’s house at one end of it, and the vast expanse of the ocean at the other. The direction the characters go along the trail, from the beginning to the end of the movie, being a meaningful representation of their mindset. While the story may seem like yet another entry in Korea’s genre of dark family dramas, this would be misleading. A Girl at My Door is actually about the hope that two people can bring to each other, and while neither of the two leads are given an easy time throughout the movie, their efforts are ultimately rewarded, and as a result, so are the audience.

Paul Bramhall’s Rating: 8/10

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

Donnie Yen’s English-language ‘Noodle Man’ cooks in July!

"Flash Point" Chinese Theatrical Poster

"Flash Point" Chinese Theatrical Poster

Don’t let the silly title fool you: an upcoming film called Noodle Man might just represent Donnie Yen’s return to Hollywood cinema. Action fans are more than likely aware that Donnie made inroads into the American movie industry back in the early 2000′s, lending his talent as an action choreographer to pictures such as 2000′s Highlander: Endgame and 2002′s Blade II.

Yen also served as a supporting actor in those films, as well as a few others such as Shanghai Knights, before he returned to his roots and re-ignited his Hong Kong acting career with 2005′s S.P.L. (AKA Kill Zone). With Yen more popular than ever as both a performer and action director, many American fans have asked the question: will Donnie Yen ever return to Hollywood before he becomes too old to be a viable screen star?

With Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon: The Green Legend revealed to be an English-language production, as well as premiering straight to Netflix, the answer appeared to be “yeah, sort of.” But now Hollywood Reporter is reporting on a new Hollywood film called Noodle Man. The movie is set to arrive from actor-turned-director Daming Chen, who helmed the 2011 Chinese remake of What Women Want, and will star Yen in the role of a former Chinese cop who retires to New York City and opens his own noodle shop after his partner is murdered. Fifteen years later, the very same same drug kingpin who killed Yen’s partner walks into his Chinatown noodle shop…and the quest for revenge begins.

Updates: Sources say the Noodle Man may start shooting in 2015, and Robert De Niro (Goodfellas) and Al Pacino (The Godfather) are attached as co-stars.

BREAKING NEWS: According to HK Top Ten (via DiP), Noodle Man starts shooting in July, after production wraps on Ip Man 3.

Posted in News | 4 Comments

Killer Constable | aka Lightning Kung Fu (1980) Review

"Killer Constable" Chinese Theatrical Poster

"Killer Constable" Chinese Theatrical Poster

AKA: Karate Exterminators
Director: Kuei Chih-Hung
Writer: Sze To On
Producer: Run Run Shaw
Cast: Chen Kuan Tai, Gam Biu, Ha Ping, Keung Hon, Kong Do, Ku Feng, Kwan Yung Moon, David Lam Wai, Lee Chun Hwa, Jason Pai Piao, Walter Tso, Dick Wei, Yuen Wah
Running Time: 92 min.

By Matthew Le-feuvre

Released in the closing years of the Shaw Brothers reign, Kuen Chia Hung’s arresting socio-politically charged actioner confidently reintroduced the interesting, if not debatable, abstraction of misplaced loyalties for the crux of a generous travelogue adventure. Although previously, and obviously, examined by filmmaking giants: Chang Cheh, Liu Chia Liang and Sun Chung; therefore what else could be said, or more appropriately, visually expressed?!

For very few critics it was a tired formula that harkened back to a pioneering decade where local superstars – David Chiang and Ti Lung – were (screen) struggling against corrupt administrations; and/or Tartar influenced monarchies, forfeiting their many incarnations for the sake of national identity. However too hardened Hong Kong audiences, it was an alternative universe where the daily grind of employment could be put aside for a few hours, even though the apprehension of a spiralling economy loomed like an inevitable sunrise. Worse still were the afterthoughts of Thatcher’s impending tense negotiations with mainland China over the prospective future of the colony. This reality was always a favoured metaphor for aspiring screenwriters and filmmakers to exploit, yet shielded their personal concerns behind traditional values.

Indeed, no stranger to controversial themes dealing with either occult imagery (i.e. The Killer Snakes, The Boxer’s Omen), underdog aspirations or ideologies of the criminal classes as overtly depicted in Kuen Chia Hung’s earlier seminal masterpieces: The Teahouse and its highly anticipated follow-up Big Brother Cheng. It was these pictures that started a long association with its leading actor, Cheng Kwan Tai – an unglamourous, if not stoic personality in the Charles Bronson mould who (was) catapulted to international recognition playing the doomed streetfighter-turned-syndicate boss for Chang Cheh’s brutal morality tale: The Boxer from Shantung.

In due course, Tai furthered his career with reprised epitomizations of Shaolin/Hung Gar folkhero Hung Xi Kwan for the aforementioned Cheh and Liu Chia Liang. Yet prior to his extensive affiliation with the Shaw Brothers, Tai – also a former fireman, – had already established a legitimate tournament background where he invariably demonstrated his mental and physical prowess as a ‘Monkey’ stylist competitor. It is not fully known ‘how’ and ‘where’ Tai became involved within the HK film industry: an invitation, the lure of fame or rich rewards perhaps?! He did, like the majority, entered this exhausting profession as a stuntman – reliable and resolute – generally meeting an unbefitting end-at the hands of either Wang Yu or (soon-to-be contemporary) David Chiang.

Killer Constable afterall wasn’t so much a departure for Tai, but more of a welcomed reunion into that cycle of pictures which, in formative terms, manufactured and celebrated his star status. He projected a majestic, brooding and ofttimes, an intensity other leading actors’ simply lacked; few surprisingly did not retain proper martial arts qualifications, often relying on locally trained Peking opera debutants to perform intricate movements that on first viewing defy both the mechanics of grace and the physics of gravity.

Tai, on the other hand did not opt to sell himself as a showman of inordinate strength, nor did he confine his versatility to elaborate spectacles or generic fighting falsehoods: namely improvisation or overly rehersed circus routines. Instead, he was notably tenacious, exerting authentic techniques and in some cases ‘vulnerability.’ Hung Xi Kwan, for example, was a very human depiction(s); a passionate character whose emotions fueled members of his inner circle into total committment, eventhough their collectiveness for political liberation appeared conflicting, especially in Cheh’s classic Heroes Two (1974).

Here, for his third and final collaboration with Hung, Tai’s performance – bordering on the psychotic – as ruthless Ching loyalist Ling Tien Ying, is quite the antithesis: sinister, morose and absent of humanity. Nevertheless, while peers’ and village-folk subjects have deified him beyond the physical extension of Judge, Jury and Executioner, Ling’s intrinsic self-confidence and, equally, unparalleled skills as an official bounty hunter are so well respected, none question his resolve until the royal treasury is expertly looted by a select number of Han patriots.

It is up to this juncture of the first act where Hung’s epic scope diversifies into a fascinating pursuit-type picture with Ling energetically rampaging across countryside farm lands, imperial coastline vistas and treacherous Han-occupied landscapes where (much to the repulsion of his morally-divided assemble), one by one, Ling instinctively apprehends and methodically tortures each suspect involved in a travail of learning the ring leader’s identity (as played by stalwart character actor, Ku Feng). As the body count rises on both sides, the ethics of right and wrong becomes increasingly blurred, giving Ling the opportunity to curb the pressures of duty and compliance while awakening personal reflection and self analysis during a chance encounter with a lonely blind girl, who maybe potentially linked to the Han rebels?

Verdict: Although a loose reworking of The Invincible Fist (1969) – starring Lo Lieh and David Chiang in his lead debut – as it stands, Killer Constable, on occasion, is not an easy watch. Moments of grandiosity are overshadowed by melding alleged historical events with sullen melodramatics, however the real beauty is within the film’s iconography, Ling’s broadsword for instance – a weapon of true elephantine proportions – amputates limbs and other body parts with nimble ease. Tellingly, another profound and underrated classic from the Shaws’ vast film depository.

Matthew Le-feuvre: 9/10

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

Derek Kwok and Henri Wong unleash a ‘Full Strike’

"Full Strike" Chinese Teaser Poster

"Full Strike" Chinese Teaser Poster

Within just a few years, Derek Kwok Chi Kin has firmly established himself as one of Hong Kong’s best young directors. His latest feature is Full Strike, which is a co-directorial effort just like his previous films Gallants (co-directed with Clement Cheng) and Journey to the West (co-directed with Stephen Chow).

This time, he partners with Henri Wong, director of Hardcore Comedy and visual effects supervisor of films including Ip Man, Ip Man 2 and Kwok’s own As the Light Goes Out.

The film stars Ekin Chen (Young and Dangerous), Josie Ho (Dream Home) and Ronald Cheng (Vulgaria). It is a badminton tournament drama and tells the story of a hot-tempered, former badminton player whose encounter with four ex-gangsters inspires her to make a return to her favorite sport.

Full Strike’s full trailer looks like heaps of fun, and you can check it out here.

Posted in News | Leave a comment

Walker Texas Ranger: Complete Collection | DVD (Paramount)

Walker Texas Ranger: Complete Collection | DVD (Paramount)

Walker Texas Ranger: Complete Collection | DVD (Paramount)

RELEASE DATE: May 12, 2015

Paramount presents the Walker Texas Ranger: Complete Collection 52-disc DVD set, starring Chuck Norris (Slaughter in San Francisco).

Texas Ranger Walker (Norris), one of the last old-fashioned heroes in the West, is a protective friend but a relentless foe who will stop at nothing to bring a criminal to justice. Think of it as the unofficial follow-up to Lone Wolf McQuade.

Pre-order the Walker Texas Ranger: Complete Collection from Amazon.com today!

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

Third trailer for ‘The Avengers: Age of Ultron’

"The Avengers: Age of Ultron" Theatrical Poster

"The Avengers: Age of Ultron" Theatrical Poster

In Joss Whedon’s The Avengers: Age of Ultron, The Avengers reassemble to battle the sentient robot known as Ultron. Cast members include: Robert Downey, Jr., Chris Hemsworth, Mark Ruffalo, Chris Evans, Scarlett Johansson, Jeremy Renner, Samuel L. Jackson, Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Elizabeth Olsen and James Spader. The film hits theaters on May 1, 2015.

Updates: Actor Morris Chestnut (Under Siege 2: Dark Territory) has fueled internet rumors that he may be auditioning for the role of the popular Marvel superhero Black Panther for Avengers 2. | According to dramafever.com, Korean actress Kim Soo Hyun (7th Grade Civil Servant) has joined the cast. | Teaser trailer. | First trailer. | Second trailer. | TV Spot.

BREAKING NEWS: Watch the third trailer!

Posted in News | 2 Comments

‘Raid’ star Iko Uwais and UFC’s Ronda Rousey are on ‘Mile 22′

"The Raid" Japanese Theatrical Poster

"The Raid" Japanese Theatrical Poster

Indonesian martial arts star Iko Uwais (The Raid 2) and UFC’s Ronda Rousey (The Expendables 3) are on board to appear in Mile 22, an action-thriller produced by Peter Berg (Lone Surviver).

According to Variety (via FCS), Mile 22 explores the relationship between a CIA officer (Rousey) and an Indonesian police officer (Uwais) forced to work together as they confront violent political corruption.

“I am a huge fan of what Gareth Evans and Iko did on both Raid films and I’m very excited at the possibility of working with Ronda and Iko to create a film in the spirit of this new wave of combat cinema emerging from Indonesia,” Berg told Variety.

In case you missed it, Uwais will also be appearing in Beyond Skyline, Star Wars: The Force Awakens (in some shape or form), and hopefully, an upcoming Gareth Evans (The Raid) flick titled Blister – not to mention The Raid 3, a few years from now.

As for Mile 22, we’ll keep you in the loop as we hear more. Stay tuned!

Posted in News | Leave a comment