‘Everly’ helmer makes Steven Yeun go kill crazy in ‘Mayhem’

"Mayhem" Theatrical Poster

“Mayhem” Theatrical Poster

On December 26, 2017, Image Entertainment will be releasing the Blu-ray & DVD for Mayhem, a thriller that may serve as the perfect companion piece to the recent The Belko Experiment, a Battle Royale-esque tale where blood-soaked survival makes its way into an office environment.

Joe Lynch, the director of the underrated action flick, Everly, returns with the story of a virus that infects a corporate law office on the day attorney Derek Cho (The Walking Dead’s and Okja’s Steven Yeun) is fired after being framed by a co-worker. The infection is capable of making people act out their wildest impulses. Trapped in the quarantined office building, Derek is forced to savagely fight for not only his job, but also his life.

Mayhem also stars Samara Weaving, Dallas Roberts, Claire Dellamar, Kerry Fox, Caroline Chikezie and Steven Brand.

Expect a Trailer to be popping up soon. Until then, here’s the Trailer for Lynch’s overlooked action flick, Everly:

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Mitsuki Koga is on the hunt for Seiji Chiba’s ‘Ninja Hunter’

Ninja Hunter | Blu-ray & DVD (Funimation)

Ninja Hunter | Blu-ray & DVD (Funimation)

On November 14th, 2017, Funimation will be releasing the Blu-ray + DVD combo for Seiji Chiba’s Ninja Hunter, a 2015 martial arts flick starring Mitsuki Koga (Bushido Man: Seven Deadly Battles).

Tao, a ninja from the Iga clan, wakes up in a cave surrounded by dead bodies, including a beautiful female ninja. Suffering from amnesia, he can’t remember how or why he’s there, or if he’s the one responsible for this massacre. As Tao fights various other ninja, he begins to piece together his memories with their stories. But instead of solving the enigma, a web of betrayal unfolds.

Ninja Hunter also stars Mei Kurokawa (Killers), Masanori Mimoto (Alien vs. Ninja), Kentaro Shimazu (Bushido Man: Seven Deadly Battles) and Kazuki Tsujimoto (Azumi).

Pre-order Ninja Hunter from Amazon.com today!

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Jackie Chan blows sh*t up in the Newest ‘Foreigner’ Trailer

"The Foreigner" Chinese Theatrical Poster

“The Foreigner” Chinese Theatrical Poster

Perhaps Jackie Chan (Police Story 2013) is taking a page from Liam Neeson’s playbook and realizing that, even at the ripe age of 62 years-old, there’s no reason he has to retire from a life of action. That would explain why the concept for the actor’s next, project The Foreigner, sounds so much like a movie Charles Bronson might have starred in his heyday.

In the film, Jackie Chan plays a humble restaurant owner who is pushed to violence after a band of terrorists take his daughter’s life in an attack. The movie is based on Stephen Leather’s 2008 novel The Chinaman.

Directing The Foreigner is everyone’s favorite 007 filmmaker, Martin Campbell (Casino Royale). Co-starring with Chan is former James Bond himself, Pierce Brosnan (Tomorrow Never Dies, No Escape). According to TW, Brosnan will play a former IRA member-turned-government official. The project will unite Campbell and Brosnan for the first time since 1995’s Goldeneye.

The Foreigner also stars Charlie Murphy (’71), Katie Leung (Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix), Simon Kunz (GoldenEye) and Roberta Taylor (Green Street 3: Never Back Down).

In addition to The Foreigner, Chan currently has many movies on his agenda, including The Civilian, Chinese Zodiac 2, Five Against a Bullet, Bleeding Steel and Journey to China. And don’t miss our reviews for his latest films, Railroad Tigers and Kung Fu Yoga.

The Foreigner is expected to hit U.S. theaters on October 13, 2017.

Updates: Watch the film’s New Trailer below:

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Tiger Chen leaps in time in a New Trailer for ‘Kung Fu Traveler’

"Kung Fu Traveler" Teaser Poster

“Kung Fu Traveler” Teaser Poster

Looks like Tiger Hu Chen (Monk Comes Down the Mountain) will be giving Jean Claude Van Damme’s Timecop a run for its money in an upcoming movie that sounds like it’s another concept that meshes martial arts and time traveling into one complete package.

The Yuen Woo-ping protege who made his starring debut in Keanu Reeves’ Man of Tai Chi is joining forces with Wang Zhi (Drug War) in Zhang Xianfeng’s upcoming sci-fi action film, Kung Fu Traveler, which opens domestically on September 21, 2017.

Another film Chen will be involved with is Triple Threat, an Expendables-type actioner also starring Tony Jaa (Skin Trade) and Iko Uwais (The Raid 2).

Updates: Watch the new Trailer for Kung Fu Traveler below:

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Well Go USA has a killer release with ‘Memoir of a Murderer’

"Memoir of A Murderer" Korean Theatrical Poster

“Memoir of A Murderer” Korean Theatrical Poster

Well Go USA continues to kill the competition with their upcoming release of the highly-anticipated thriller, Memoir of a Murderer (not to be confused with Bong Jun-Ho’s similarly titled Memories of Murder) from director Won Shin-Yeon (The Suspect).

Based on the novel by Kim Young-Ha, Memoir of a Murderer involves a former serial killer with Alzheimer’s who fights to protect his daughter from her psychotic boyfriend. The film stars Sol Kyung-Gu (Public Enemy), Kim Nam-Gil (The Pirates), Seol Hyun (Gangnam Blues) and Oh Dal-Su (Tunnel).

A U.S. release date is still pending, but we expect it to to coincide with the film’s domestic release date in September. Until then, don’t miss the film’s killer Trailer below:

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Arrow Video announces ‘Seijun Suzuki: The Early Years. Vol. 1’

Seijun Suzuki: The Early Years. Vol. 1 | Blu-ray (Arrow Video)

Seijun Suzuki: The Early Years. Vol. 1 | Blu-ray (Arrow Video)

On November 28th 2017, Arrow Video is releasing the 4-disc Blu-ray + DVD set for Seijun Suzuki: The Early Years. Vol. 1 – Seijun Rising: The Youth Movies. Read the official details below:

Making their home-video debuts outside Japan, this diverse selection of Nikkatsu youth movies (seishun eiga) charts the evolving style of the B-movie maverick best known for the cult classics Tokyo Drifter (1966) and Branded to Kill (1967).

The Boy Who Came Back (1958) marks the first appearances of “Nikkatsu Diamond Guys” and regular Suzuki collaborators Akira Kobayashi and Jo Shishido, with Kobayashi cast as the hot-headed hoodlum fresh out of reform school who struggles to make a clean break with his tearaway past. The Wind-of-Youth Group Crosses the Mountain Pass (1961) is a carnivalesque tale of a young student who hooks up with a down-at-heels travelling circus troupe. Teenage Yakuza (1962) stars Tamio Kawaji as the high-school vigilante protecting his community from the extortions of mobsters from a neighbouring city. The Incorrigible (1963) and Born Under Crossed Stars (1965), both based on Toko Kon’s novels about young love, represent Suzuki’s first films set in the 1920s era later celebrated in his critically-regarded Taisho Trilogy.

Limited Edition Contents:

  • Limited Edition Dual Format Collection [3000 copies]
  • High Definition Blu-ray (1080p) and Standard Definition DVD presentation
  • Optional English Subtitles
  • New introduction to the films by critic Tony Rayns
  • 60-page illustrated collector’s book featuring new writing by critic and author Jasper Sharp

Pre-order Seijun Suzuki: The Early Years. Vol. 1 from Amazon.com today!

No Trailers are available for the set’s titles, so here’s the next best thing:

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‘Rebel’ and ‘Clash’ actress’ directorial film gets a U.S. release

"Tam Cam: The Untold Story" Vietnamese Theatrical Poster

“Tam Cam: The Untold Story” Vietnamese Theatrical Poster

Cleopatra Entertainment, the company that recently unleashed the Kazakhstan spectacle, Diamond Cartel, now brings us Tam Cam: The Untold Story, Vietnam’s action-packed answer to Cinderella. The film is getting a limited theatrical release in September, followed by a DVD release in November.

Tam Cam: The Untold Story marks the directorial debut of Veronica Ngo (House in the Alley), who is mostly known for her work in the acclaimed Vietnamese martial arts features The Rebel and Clash with Johnny Tri Nguyen. She was also featured in Yuen Woo-ping’s Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon: Sword of Destiny with Michelle Yeoh and Donnie Yen.

In addition to directing the film, Ngo also co-stars alongside Huu Chau, Isassc, Jun, Ninh Duong Lan Ngoc, Son Thach, Loc Thanh, Ngoc Trai, Ha Vi and Will.

Ngo will continue her exposure to Western audiences when she appears in the highly anticipated Star Wars: The Last Jedias well as David Ayer’s upcoming thriller, Bright, with Will Smith.

Don’t miss the U.S. trailer for Tam Cam: The Untold Story below:

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Doberman Cop (1977) Review

Doberman Cop | Blu-ray & DVD (Arrow Video)

Doberman Cop | Blu-ray & DVD (Arrow Video)

Director: Kinji Fukasaku
Writer: Buronson, Koji Takada
Cast: Sonny Chiba, Janet Hatta, Eiko Matsuda, Masaru Shiga, Tatsuo Endo, Hideo Murota, Koichi Iwaki, Takuzo Kawatani, Hiroki Matsukata, Ryuji Katagiri
Running Time: 90 min.

By Kyle Warner

An Okinawa girl’s been murdered, the latest in what appears to be the work of a serial killer. She was strangled and then her apartment was set on fire, making any positive identification unlikely. The Tokyo cops are stumped, so they call in an Okinawa cop who knows something about the supposed victim. Yes, that’s right, this looks like a case for… Doberman Cop. Sonny Chiba enters frame to the tune of Japanese rock & roll. He’s dressed like a country farmer with a tattered old hat. He’s carrying an angry pig over his shoulder. He’s all wonder and uncertainty, a fish out of water in the big city. This is our hero, as you’ve rarely seen him before.

Chiba’s Detective Kano is a bit unorthodox, to say the least. When he arrives in Tokyo, he offers his pig to the Police Chief in thanks. The Chief doesn’t want it, but Kano insists. The pig meanwhile is screaming and kicking and biting as it attempts to get free of the men pushing it back and forth. Finally able to convince Kano that the pig is unwanted, the pig then becomes Kano’s pet for the rest of the picture.

Kano is there to help solve the murder of the Okinawa girl, who the people have identified as Yuna Tamashiro. Kano doesn’t believe it’s her; he knew Yuna very well, plus Yuna’s priestess mom says she feels that her daughter yet lives, and Kano throws down some seashells that he says prove she’s still alive. As a result, the Tokyo cops think he’s an idiot. But when he saves the singer Miki Haruno (Janet Hatta) from a knife-wielding maniac by rappelling down a 40 story building (with no net!), the cops reassess Kano. He’s not just an idiot, he’s a madman.

The rest of the film continues on this course: the cops search for the serial killer, Kano searches for Yuna who he believes to still be alive, and the singer Miki (with her ex-yakuza manger, Hiroki Matsukata) keep turning up in both storylines. It’s a mystery wrapped in an exploitation film fueled by action and gifted with a dark sense of humor. I could complain that some plots are resolved long before the others, but I’m not in the mood. I enjoyed the hell out of this film.

Chiba is great as Detective Kano. He’s called ‘Doberman Cop’ only once and ‘Tarzan Cop’ far more frequently, but perhaps that title wouldn’t sell the same (worth noting: the film is based on a popular manga series from the period). I enjoyed his more wide-eyed performance, as it made for a nice change from his usual hissing, karate kicking, steely-eyed badass. To be sure, Chiba still beats the living hell out of people (“my arms are like iron and my legs are even stronger!”), but there’s an added dose of comedy because everyone underestimates him all the time. Plus I liked seeing him carrying around a pig like it’s a puppy. It’s a good role and it’s a shame that the movie didn’t make more money at the time of its release to warrant seeing a sequel.

The rest of the cast is pretty solid. Hiroki Matsukata (13 Assassins) is great as the slimy ex-yakuza talent manager. Eiko Matsuda (In the Realm of the Senses) is a lot of fun as the stripper who falls in love with Kano and his pig. The stressed out strip club manager played Takuzo Kawatani (Empire of Passion) also makes for some nice bits of comedy. And Hotshot, a street bike gang member played by Koichi Iwaki (Silver Hawk), is a good unlikely ally for the out-of-town cop. The majority of the rest of the cast are Kinji Fukasaku and Toei regulars, all performing admirably in the chorus of chaos that the director frequently creates. The weak link is Janet Hatta (Proof of the Man), who doesn’t put much into her performance. Her character is supposed to be doped up in multiple scenes, so perhaps that explains her overly understated performance. But in a film full of high strung characters, Hatta’s Miki stands out in the wrong way.

Doberman Cop arrives on Blu-ray for the first time in the US from Arrow Video. The movie looks nice, sounds good, and comes with a little over 30 minutes of new special features. You get interviews with Japanese film expert Sadao Yamane, screenwriter and frequent Fukasaku collaborator Koji Takada, and another sit-down with Sonny Chiba as he talks about his career. Each interview subject is entertaining and informative. I only wish they were longer interviews.

After watching Wolf Guy earlier this year, I gave up trying to predict what to expect from the obscure entries of Sonny Chiba’s filmographyGoofier than most Kinji Fukasaku films but no less gritty, Doberman Cop is an odd little movie; a more thoughtful, character-driven, intricately plotted story than you’d ever expect it to be. It’s a culture clash action comedy with a pig and a dash of Dirty Harry. And I love that such a thing exists. Some won’t enjoy the competing tones, but if it gets its hooks into you just right, hold on because you’re in for a ride. Me, I had a blast.

Kyle Warner’s Rating: 8/10

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‘Creed’ star leads the Hollywood remake of ‘A Bittersweet Life’

"A Bittersweet Life" Korean Theatrical Poster

“A Bittersweet Life” Korean Theatrical Poster

Back in 2012, it was reported that Albert Hughes, one half of the Hughes Brothers (Book of Eli), was tapped by Fox to remake the 2005 Korean film A Bittersweet LifeNow, 5 years later, Fox has switched up directing duties to Jennifer Yuh Nelson (Kung Fu Panda 2-3) and signed Fruitvale Station and Creed star, Michael B. Jordan, to take over the role originally played by Lee Byung-hun (Master).

According to Deadline: 21 Laps Entertainment’s Shawn Levy (Stranger Things), Dan Levine (Arrival) and Dan Cohen (Fist Fight) are producing in conjunction with CJ Entertainment, the latter of which made the original film.

The original A Bittersweet Life was a breakout hit for director Kim Jee-woon (The Age of Shadows), who has since become internationally known in the wake of I Saw the Devil. The film revolved around a mob enforcer (Lee) tasked with keeping an eye on his boss’ mistress.

We’ll keep you you updated on the remake as we learn more.

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New Trailer for John Woo’s highly-anticipated film ‘Manhunt’

"Manhunt" Teaser Poster

“Manhunt” Teaser Poster

After years making Hollywood films and big budget Chinese epics like Red Cliff and the recent The Crossing, John Woo, the man behind action classics such as A Better Tomorrow, The Killer, Bullet in the Head and Hard Boiled, is finally making a return to the genre that made him an internationally acclaimed director with Manhunt.

Manhunt is a remake of the 1976 Japanese classic action thriller (starring the late Ken Takakura), which tells story of a man who is accused of multiple crimes and trying desperately to clear his name.

The remake, which obviously follows the same theme, is about a prosecutor, played by award-winning Chinese actor Zhang Hanyu (The Taking of Tiger Mountain), who is framed for robbery, rape and multiple murders and sets out on a difficult solo mission to clear his name. Japanese heartthrob actor and singer Masaharu Fukuyama (Suspect X) plays the detective chasing Zhang’s character (via Variety). Ha Ji-Won (Sector 7) and newcomer Qi Wei also star.

Updates: Manhunt will premier at the 74th Venice Film Festival, which runs on Aug. 30 to Sept. 9. Watch the film’s New Trailer below:

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Female Fight Squad (2016) Review

Female Fight Squad | DVD (Lionsgate)

Female Fight Squad | DVD (Lionsgate)

AKA: Female Fight Club
Director: Miguel A. Ferrer
Cast: Amy Johnston, Cortney Palm, Rey Goyos, Sean Faris, Dolph Lundgren, Shaun Brown, Levy Tran, Folake Olowofoyeku, Michelle Jubilee Gonzalez, Jeanette Samano, Briana Marin, Chuck Zito
Running Time: 90 min.

By Z Ravas

Hot on the heels of Lady Bloodfight’s Netflix debut, Lionsgate has released Amy Johnston’s other martial arts film, the movie formerly known as Female Fight Club, via On Demand services. Unfortunately for fans of the talented stuntwoman-turned-actress, this movie fails to deliver exactly what its title promises: there may be plenty of women in the cast, but there is precious little fighting to be had during its 95 minute runtime. It’s hard to say exactly where the production went wrong, but when hulking Swede Dolph Lundgren is the highlight of a movie that’s supposed to be about female empowerment, you know you’re in trouble.

Female Fight Squad starts out promisingly enough: Amy Johnston plays a troubled young woman who has fled her violent, street fighting past in Las Vegas to live the quiet life of an animal shelter worker in Los Angeles. It’s in these scenes that Johnston is at her most likable: it’s easy to relate to her passion for animals, and the affection she shows to a three-legged dog who remains unadopted is touching. However, when some shady dog fighters show up to the animal shelter looking for their pitbull, Johnston is forced to throw down; the resulting beating she delivers to the two much larger men ends up on YouTube thanks to the shelter’s security cameras, and all of a sudden Johnston finds herself in the fighting world spotlight once again. Her sister, played by Courtney Palm, arrives on her doorstep with some bad news: she’s deep in debt to a shady promoter (Rey Goyos), and the only way out is for Johnston to train her sister’s team (the titular Female Fight Squad) and earn back the dough in the ring.

With that, Johnston heads back to her old stomping grounds, reconnecting with both the owner of her former gym (portrayed by Chuck Zito, veteran stuntman, actor, and former president of the New York chapter of the Hell’s Angels) and an old flame, played by Never Back Down’s Sean Faris. She trains her sister’s fighters, including some charismatic actresses like Levy Tran, although the ‘training’ mostly involves Johnston dropping them to the mat with a well-placed kick or two. The investment Johnston makes into teaching them ends up feeling like a waste of both her character’s time and the viewer’s time, however, as the Female Fight Squad fails to stand a chance against the current street-fighting champ Claire the Bull (stunt performer Michelle Jubilee Gonzalez).

Female Fight Squad commits two cardinal sins of the direct-to-video action movie genre: there is precious little fighting, and director Miguel A. Ferrer wastes too much film on an over-the-top bad guy (Goyos) whose misjudged performance seems to be trying to channel a Nicolas Cage level of quirkiness. There’s an early encounter between Johnston and Goyos in a library, in which his Goyos expresses his fondness for crafting bird houses as his way of offering a home for broken things. This comes across as a metaphor for his underground club, one that might reveal something about this character’s psychology and his desire to cultivate female fighters. Only the metaphor is completely undone later when Johnston arrives at Goyos’ warehouse and finds a bunch of birdhouses strewn about – a silly image that couldn’t make the villain seem any less threatening. Another moment sees the actor trying to glower menacingly while eating an ice cream bar on top of a freezer stuffed full of body parts. To describe this character as ridiculous would be an understatement.

It must be said Dolph Lundgren is not in the movie much, but he makes the most of his small turn, portraying Johnston’s tough-as-nails father serving a prison term for a murder he may or may not have committed. He gets one fairly hard-hitting fight scene in jail that might be the highlight of the movie – perhaps tellingly, it’s the one scene from Female Fight Squad that Miguel A. Ferrer includes in his director’s reel. Dolph even makes a winking joke about his character having a Masters degree in Chemical Engineering (spoiler: Dolph has one in real life). His role continues the trend of Johnston’s characters having martial arts-trained fathers, a nod to the actress’ own dad. Chuck Zito serves as another paternal figure in the movie, and his Sylvester Stallone-esque fighting coach offers some much needed warmth to the movie.

The problem with Female Fight Squad is that it fails to show us just what Johnston can do. Her turn in Lady Bloodfight, along with her stunt work in movies like Suicide Squad and Deadpool, proved that Johnston possesses formidable fighting skills, but the action scenes in Squad are frustratingly brief and few and far between. It must be said that the fighting on display is captured in a fairly respectful manner – free of choppy editing or claustrophobic framing – and I’m sure budgetary and time constraints played a part in the lack of martial arts work. It may be worth pointing out that this is director Miguel A. Ferrer’s debut feature, and his previous credits primarily include short films and music videos. Everybody has to start somewhere, but at this point the direct-to-video world is a crowded market filled with some fairly quality and action-packed titles. As such, I can’t recommend this film to anyone but Johnston’s most ardent fans, those who will be content just to witness the actress in another starring role. For my part, I consider myself along those fans – and while I don’t regret watching Female Fight Squad at all, I have to be honest and say I walked away from the movie disappointed. Here’s hoping that Amy Johnston is allowed to shine with her supporting turn in Jesse V. Johnson’s upcoming comic book adaptation Accident Man.

By Z Ravas’ Rating: 4/10

Posted in Asian Related, News, Reviews | Tagged , , | 2 Comments

Mark Dacascos’ ‘Ultimate Justice’ finally hits DVD in October

"Ultimate Justice" Theatrical Poster

“Ultimate Justice” Theatrical Poster

On October 3, 2017, Sony Pictures Home Entertainment is releasing the DVD for Martin Christopher Bode’s Ultimate Justice, the long-awaited, all-star actioner led by martial arts sensation, Mark Dacascos (Drive, Brotherhood of the Wolf).

Ultimate Justice tells the story of a team of former Special Ops elite soldiers, whose friendship was forged in battle and years after they thought they had lain down their weapons for good, they are drawn back into action when the family of one of their own is threatened, friendships and loyalties are tested, battlelines are drawn, and Ultimate Justice will be served.

Ultimate Justice also stars Matthias Hues (No Retreat, No Surrender II), Brandon Rhea (Infernal Affairs 2), Mike Moeller (One Million K(L)icks), Matthis Landweher (Kampfansage), Mike Leeder (Pound of Flesh), Wolfgang Riehm (Atomic Eden), Henry Mueller, Yasmeen Baker and Martin Baden.

Pre-order Ultimate Justice from Amazon.com today!

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The Adventurers (2017) Review

"The Adventurers" Theatrical Poster

“The Adventurers” Theatrical Poster

Director: Stephen Fung
Producer: Andy Lau, Stephen Fung
Cast: Andy Lau, Shu Qi, Zhang Jingchu, Tony Yang, Jean Reno, Eric Tsang, Sha Yi, You Tianyi, Zhang Yiqun
Running Time: 107 min.

By Paul Bramhall

Much like the classic 1989 triad movie, Casino Raiders, 2017’s The Adventurers opens with Andy Lau being released from prison after serving his time. However The Adventurers is not a remake of Casino Raiders, nor is it a remake of Ringo Lam’s 1995 production of the same name, which also starred Lau. Instead, director Stephen Fung’s latest production is a re-imagining of John Woo’s Once a Thief. The same scorn that comes with any news of a John Woo title being re-made was largely spared for The Adventurers, most likely due to the fact that for many, Once a Thief was a surprisingly light and breezy effort from the master of heroic bloodshed. Made in-between Bullet in the Head and Hard Boiled, even today many fans dismiss it as an anomaly in Woo’s filmography, despite its many strengths.

With The Adventurers, director Fung doesn’t so much opt for a straight up remake, but rather takes many of those strengths from the original, and uses them to craft a thematically similar tale for a modern audience. Replacing the trio of thieves which consisted of Chow Yun Fat, Leslie Cheung, and Cherie Chung, is Andy Lau, Yo Yang, and Shu Qi. Notably, The Adventurers was the last movie that Lau completed before suffering a serious pelvic injury, when he was thrown off a horse while shooting a commercial in Thailand during January 2017. It also marks the first time for Stephen Fung and Shu Qi to work together since tying the knot in September 2016. Despite being billed as a remake of Once a Thief though, the influence which looms largest over The Adventurers is Tom Cruise’s latter day entries in the Mission: Impossible series, with Lau’s suave thief armed with an array of gadgets and devices to assist him in pulling off a heist.

Indeed for those familiar with Hong Kong cinema, just like Lau spent most of the late 80’s and early 90’s as a triad youth, so in recent years he seems to be constantly cast in roles which see him as a kind of Chinese 007. From Switch, to Mission Milano, and now The Adventurers, his character is one that’s been seen many times before, and brings nothing new to the table in his latest outing. The same could be applied to Shu Qi, who’s sassy thief feels equal parts the identical character she played in 2005’s Seoul Raiders, mixed with Jeon Ji-hyeon’s cat burglar from Korea’s The Thieves. However what can’t be argued is that both Lau and Qi have charisma to spare, and Fung seems to know it, sometimes allowing proceedings to coast along based solely on the fact they’re onscreen together. As a result, Taiwanese actor Yo Yang often seems to fade into the background, as he struggles to bring the same level of screen presence that his older co-stars effortlessly pull off.

The Adventurers certainly marks the biggest production Fung has worked on to date. After making his directorial debut with 2004’s Enter the Phoenix, here he’s back in the director’s chair for the first time since Tai Chi Zero and Tai Chi Hero, made 5 years earlier. The direction is confident, and the French locales are taken full advantage of, providing plenty of gorgeous backdrops (complimented by a seemingly permanent blue sky) for the trios thieving shenanigans to take place against. The casting of Jean Reno is also used well, here starring in his 2nd heist flick of 2017 (the first being the local French production Family Heist), as a weary cop determined to prove that Lau hasn’t gone straight since being released. He even gets behind the wheel for a car chase through the streets of Cannes, which for many will no doubt bring back happy memories of John Frankenheimer’s classic, Ronin.

However for all the gloss and high production values that The Adventurers comes with, as events progress through its 1:45 hour runtime, certain cracks begin to show that are difficult to be ignored. The real plot can essentially be described as Lau trying to figure out who it was that sold him out 5 years earlier, leading to his incarceration, after stealing a piece of jewellery that would allow for a priceless necklace to be complete. However it’s rarely the focus of what’s taking place onscreen, with large swathes of screen-time given to Jean Reno and Zhang Jing-Chu, who plays Lau’s estranged fiancé (and who also played his wife in Switch), and Lau and his teams plans to steal a component of the necklace from a Chinese wine merchant, played by Sha Yi.

The significant downside of this is that, while The Adventurers opens strongly and maintains a brisk pace throughout, by the time the finales comes around, the stakes don’t feel any higher than they were at the beginning. Somewhere along the way the task of building up tension, and making sure that there’s something truly meaningful on the line, was lost amongst the pretty scenery, impressively rendered CGI robotic spiders, and Mission: Impossible style sleights of hand. Going hand in hand with this issue, is the fact that none of the characters really develop from the time they’re introduced. Sure there are the standard double crosses and (blatantly telegraphed) reveals that are expected from the genre, but Lau in particular is missing any real arc that allows us to feel that we’ve shared a journey with him.

Of course the same could be said for plenty of Hong Kong action movies from the golden age, however they were usually bolstered (the original Once a Thief included) by outlandish set pieces and high impact stuntwork, factors that often made even the sloppiest storyline forgivable. While The Adventurers isn’t sloppy, it does make several stumbles, and the fact that there are no standout action scenes to punctuate the runtime makes them all the more glaring. Once a Thief may not have contained Woo’s trademark blood squib filled bullet ballets, but it still provided plenty of his undeniable flair for action. In 2017 Fung may have a high enough budget for decent CGI and a polished look, but that flair is missing, and the lack of any real set piece to hinge everything on makes the final stretch feel a little plodding. Fung needed a Burj Khalifa, or even a pack of razor sharp playing cards and a fishing rod, but things stay a little too restrained.

It is worth mentioning that, with large portions of The Adventurers being spoken in English, the majority of the cast acquaint themselves very well with a language that isn’t there own. There are no cringe inducing moments such as those found in Bounty Hunters and Lupin the Third, with Zhang Jing-Chu in particular delivering her lines almost as if she was a native speaker. I think the last time English was so competently used in a Hong Kong movie was most likely Ringo Lam’s Undeclared War from 1990. It’s also a pleasure to see Andy Lau and Jean Reno pointing a gun at each others heads, in a scene that recalls the finer moments of the heroic bloodshed genre, performed by a pair of actors who have played so many iconic roles in the last 30 years. Unfortunately, due to some inexplicable storytelling logic, Reno’s cop is completely absent from the finale. How great would it have been to see Leon himself unloading some clips in a HK action movie?

With that being said, if expectations are kept fairly low, there’s still plenty to enjoy in The Adventurers. Fung’s latest effort is far from being a bad movie, its real crime is that it’s unremarkable and average. During the 80’s and 90’s John Woo was an innovator when it came to action cinema, and directors are still copying the type of action found in his movies to this day. The main issue with The Adventurers isn’t that it’s a remake, it’s that so much of its inspiration comes from Hollywood movies, rather than creating its own distinct style. There was a time when people would watch Hong Kong cinema because it delivered something Hollywood didn’t, so to see productions now copying the very industry we once celebrated it being different from, is sadly a painful truth. The Adventurers real goal is that it aspires to be a Hollywood style heist flick, and for me at least, its biggest problem is that it’s successful in doing so.

Paul Bramhall’s Rating: 6/10

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They Call Me Bruce? | Blu-ray (Kino Lorber)

They Call Me Bruce | Blu-ray (Kino Lorber)

They Call Me Bruce | Blu-ray (Kino Lorber)

On October 24, 2017, Kino Lorber is releasing the Blu-ray for 1982’s They Call Me Bruce?, a comedy by Elliott Hong (Kill the Golden Goose) that stars Johnny Yune (The Cannonball Run) and Margaux Hemingway (Lipstick).

They Call Me Bruce? is an outrageous comedy caper that takes on the mob, the FBI and just about everything else and leaves you holding your sides with laughter.

This zany film features the celebrated Korean comic Johnny Yune (They Still Call Me Bruce?) as a bumbling Bruce Lee lookalike who secretly dreams of emulating the kung fu king. This loveable klutz finally gets his chance when his job as an Italian chef takes him unsuspectingly into the dangerous world of the mafia. His new bosses send him off across the country delivering what Bruce thinks is Chinese flour, but is really cocaine.

Special features include original Theatrical Trailer (subject to change).

Pre-order They Call Me Bruce? from Amazon.com today!

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‘Raid’ stars kick alien a$$ in the New ‘Beyond Skyline’ Trailer

"Beyond Skyline" Theatrical Poster

“Beyond Skyline” Theatrical Poster

The Raid badasses, Iko Uwais and Yayan Ruhian, will star alongside Frank Grillo (Purge: Anarchy) in Beyond Skyline, an upcoming sequel to Skyline. The upcoming sci-fi actioner will be about a tough-as-nails detective embarks on a relentless pursuit to free his son from a nightmarish alien warship.

Also appearing in Beyond Skyline are Bojana Novakovic, Callan Mulvey, Valentine Payen, Betty Gabriel, Jack Chausse, Kevin O’Donnell, Antonio Fargas (“Huggy Bear” from the original Starsky and Hutch TV series) and Singaporean actress, Pamelyn Chee (Point of Entry).

For those of you who are not familiar with Skyline, it’s that 2010 alien invasion flick that hit the box office jackpot, despite its atrocious reviews from audiences and critics alike.

Visual effects artist Liam O’Donnell – and writer of the original Skyline – will be taking over directing duties for Greg and Colin Strause (aka The Brothers Strause). The sequel is said to take place at the same time of the events in the first Skyline.

No details on who Iko Uwais and Yayan Ruhian will be playing in Beyond Skyline, but let’s just hope they’re kicking ass in some way, shape, or form. According to Variety, producer Greg Strause said he tapped the Uwais and Ruhian because, “We’re showcasing a new kind of alien combat, so who better to collaborate with than the most innovative fight team in the world?”

A domestic release date for Beyond Skyline is still pending. Stay tuned!

Updates: Watch the film’s New International Trailer below:

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Official Bruce Lee biopic shoots in Sept; AR Rahman to score

"Little Dragon" Teaser Poster

“Little Dragon” Teaser Poster

George Nolfi’s Birth of the Dragona fable-based movie about Bruce Lee (portrayed by Wild City’s Philip Ng), will finally be making its way to theaters on August 25th – but Bruce Lee better watch out, because Bruce Lee is coming for him… (wait, what?!)

Bruce Lee’s daughter, Shannon Lee, is currently location scouting in Penang, Malaysia for Little Dragon, which will start shooting in September. According to MMO, a major portion of Little Dragon will be shot there. “We are looking for sites to replicate the 1950s period in Hong Kong when my father was growing up,” Shannon stated at a news conference.

The same source adds that 5,000 people around the world have auditioned for the role of a 17 to 18-year-old Bruce Lee – one of the four shortlisted is a Malaysian actor.

Filmmaker Shekhar Kapur, who helmed Elizabeth (1998) and New York, I Love You (2008), will be directing/co-writing Little Dragon, which is being produced/co-written by Bruce Lee Entertainment, the company operated by Shannon, making the film an official, authorized biopic of martial arts legend Bruce Lee.

According to Variety, Little Dragon is a contemporary dramatization of the 1950s Hong Kong social and political forces that shaped Bruce Lee into both the most famous martial arts star of all time and a significant modern day philosopher. Themes include family disappointment, young love, true friendship, betrayal, racism, deep poverty and an inner fire that threatened to unravel his destiny.

“I always thought that a film about how my father’s life was shaped in his early years in Hong Kong would be a worthwhile story to share so we could better understand him as a human being and a warrior,” said Lee. “I’m really excited that Shekhar will breathe life into the first film from Bruce Lee Entertainment.”

Bruce Lee Entertainment has also enlisted Oscar award-winning composer, AR Rahman, to compose the film’s soundtrack (via CN). Rahman is known for his work on Slumdog Millionaire, 127 Hours and Million Dollar Arm.

Little Dragon will be just one of the many films centering on the life of Bruce Lee. During the 70s, a string of biopics were made that included 1974’s Dragon Story and 1976’s Bruce Lee: The Man, The Myth (both starring Ho Chung Tao); in 1993 came Dragon: The Bruce Lee Story (starring Jason Scott Lee); in 2010, Bruce Lee My Brother (starring Aarif Lee) was produced with the full support of Bruce’s brother, Robert Lee (Lady Killer); and most recently, Birth of the Dragon (starring Philip Ng), a soon-to-be-released, fable-based movie that focused on Lee’s disputed bout with Master Wong Jack-Man was completed.

Little Dragon is expected to be released in late 2018. We’ll keep you updated as we learn more. In the meantime, here’s the Trailer for Birth of the Dragon, which opens August 25th:

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Deal on Fire! Double Impact | Blu-ray | Only $5.22 – Expires soon!

Double Impact Blu-ray (20th Century Fox)

Double Impact Blu-ray (20th Century Fox)

Today’s Deal on Fire is the Blu-ray for Sheldon Lettich’s Double Impact (read our review), starring Jean-Claude Van Damme (Double TeamCyborg) and Bolo Yeung (Diamond Cartel, Clones of Bruce Lee).

Van Damme plays a dual role as Alex and Chad, twins separated at the death of their parents. Chad is raised by a family retainer in Paris, Alex becomes a petty crook in Hong Kong. Together, they join forced to find their parent’s killer.

This 1991 production most likely gave Jackie Chan the inspiration for Twin Dragons (1992).

Order Double Impact from Amazon.com today!

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Death Fighter | aka White Tiger (2017) Review

"Death Fighter" Theatrical Poster

“Death Fighter” Theatrical Poster

Director: Toby Russell
Writer: Lawrence Riggins
Cast: Matt Mullins, Don “The Dragon” Wilson, Cynthia Rothrock, Chiranan Manochaem, Joe Lewis, Jawed El Berni, Gigi Velicitat, Yuhkoh Matsuguchi, Prasit Suanphaka, Wirat Kemklad, Mark Gerry
Running Time: 88 min.

By Z Ravas

The movie once known as White Tiger, now titled Death Fighter, has seen a long and winding road to release. I say this primarily because the film represents the last appearance by Joe Lewis, Karate Champion and friend of Bruce Lee, before his untimely death… in 2012! Reportedly, filming on Death Fighter wrapped shortly before Lewis’ passing, but various production lawsuits and the lack of a distributor kept the film on the shelf for years and years. Fortunately for fans of martial arts, any behind-the-scenes strife doesn’t show in the finished product: I’m happy to report Death Fighter is an appreciable throwback to the action movies of old, pitched somewhere between classic Hong Kong martial arts cinema and Cannon Video guilty pleasures like American Ninja or Delta Force.

As the story opens, FBI Agent Michael Turner (played by Matt Mullins of Blood and Bone and Mortal Kombat: Legacy fame) is on vacation with his girlfriend in Bangkok, Thailand. Only, his girlfriend can’t get his attention to save her life. That’s because Michael’s ulterior motive for the trip is to help his longtime mentor at the FBI, portrayed by Joe Lewis, track down a notorious gold smuggler and human trafficker named Draco, who operates somewhere on the Thai/Burmese border. It’s barely ten minutes into the movie before Matt Mullins and Joe Lewis raid one of Draco’s shady warehouse dealings, with Mullins facing off – ever so briefly – against martial arts veteran Cynthia Rothrock and newcomer Jawed El Berni (Ninja: Shadow of a Tear, The Viral Factor). Even Joe Lewis gets in a few licks – I should mention here his character is not in the movie for very long, but I have a feeling his loyal followers will be pleased to see him in action just the same.

After Mullins finds himself temporarily defeated and no closer to stopping Draco, a local police chief puts him in touch with Don ‘The Dragon’ Wilson’s Bobby Pau, an ex-Special Forces member turned mercenary and alcoholic. While Wilson is at first reluctant to join forces with the hotheaded American on a quest for revenge, he eventually agrees and drafts his pal Otto (played by newcomer Prasit Suanphaka) for good measure. It’s here that the pace slows somewhat, with the trio making their way through the jungles of Thailand before stopping in the village of a local doctor, portrayed by Thai television actress Chiranan Manochaem.

Fortunately, this village serves as the backdrop for one of the film’s biggest action sequences, and from here on out Death Fighter’s momentum rarely lags. After a few outings that were said to disappoint fans (namely Hard Target 2), fight choreographer Kazu Patrick Tang puts his full talent on display, planning intricate battles for each member of the cast. Matt Mullins showcases some devastating flying kicks that would even make Undisputed’s Uri Boyka duck, while Don the Dragon Wilson and Cynthia Rothrock acquit themselves well considering their age, as both were nearly 60 at the time of filming. Surprisingly, it’s Prasit Suanphaka as Otto who impressed me the most: despite being no taller than five feet, he fights with an unrelenting speed and ferocity that brings to mind The Raid series’ Yayan Ruhian. IMDB tells me Suanphaka still doesn’t have another credits to his name, but I would happily watch anything he does next. Female lead Chiranan Manochaem acquits herself well during action scenes, especially since I don’t believe she has any formal training.

The movie builds to the kind of finale you’d hope for, with Matt Mullins and Jawed El Berni squaring off in a rematch that delivers. Even if Russian baddie Draco ends up being more of a wannabe Scarface rather than a credible villain, it doesn’t spoil the fun. Fortunately, the fight choreography is captured in medium shots and free of the kind of fast cutting that so often cripples low-budget action movies like this. There’s probably a reason the martial arts are filmed with such reverence here: director Toby Russell, while having few narrative movies to his credit, was responsible for the infamous 1994 documentary Cinema of Vengeance, which sang the praises of Hong Kong filmmaking and for years was the only place I’d ever seen any footage of heroic bloodshed favorite My Heart is that Eternal Rose. Clearly, Russell studied those Hong Kong moviemaking techniques with a close eye, and he incorporates that style here, only with the updated and hard-hitting feel of Panna Rittikrai’s films such as Born to Fight and Bangkok: Knockout.

And while the storyline is mostly a serviceable framework designed to set up a bunch of fight scenes, it’s worth noting that this is the most charismatic I’ve ever found Don ‘The Dragon’ Wilson onscreen. His acting here has the natural ease of someone who’s spent more than two decades in front of the camera. Wilson appears genuinely invested in his role of a down on his luck mercenary prone to the drink, and his more lively performance contrasts nicely with Matt Mullins’ smoldering anger. Then again, maybe that smoldering wasn’t from anger: it must have been hotter than hell when they shot Death Fighter in Thailand, as there are several scenes where the actors’ faces appeared to be drenched in sweat, even outside of the jungle.

It’s not often a movie can sit on the shelf for five years and still feel like a breath of fresh air upon release. It’s also rare that a direct-to-video action title delivers the goods. Death Fighter accomplishes both. No matter who you’re a fan of in the star-studded cast, you should find plenty to enjoy with this film. If you’ve found yourself saying “They don’t make ’em like they used to” as of late, here’s one they did.

Z Ravas’ Rating: 7/10

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Kill and Kill Again | Blu-ray (Scorpion Releasing)

Kill and Kill Again | Blu-ray (Scorpion Releasing)

Kill and Kill Again | Blu-ray (Scorpion Releasing)

RELEASE DATE: October 3, 2017

On October 3, 2017, Scorpion Releasing is delivering the Blu-ray for 1981’s Kill and Kill Again, the follow up to 1976’s Kill or Be Killed. The film is directed by the late South African cult favorite, Ivan Hall (Funeral for an Assassin).

James Ryan is back as Steve Chase, four-time World Martial Arts Champion. Chase is hired to save Nobel Prize winning chemist, Dr. Horatio Kane, from the hands of a demented billionaire named Marduk and his martial arts army. Steve enlists the aid of four martial arts experts, and is accompanied by Dr. Kane’s daughter, Kandy (Anneline Kriel). En route to Marduk’s stronghold, they are ambushed, but finally make it to the fortress, only to be put in an arena to fight for their lives.

Kill and Kill Again also stars Ken Gampu (American Ninja 4: The Annihilation), Norman Robinson (Kill or Be Killed) and Stan Schmidt (Kill or Be Killed).

The film is notable for being the first live-action feature to use visual effects known as “bullet-time,” a term that would later be popularized in The Matrix franchise.

Special Features:

  • New Remaster from the original interpositive
  • Audio interview with star James Ryan
  • On-camera interview with writer John Crowther
  • Isolated music track from the original 3 track Mag sound
  • Original Theatrical Trailer

Pre-order Kill and Kill Again from Amazon.com today!

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Lady Bloodfight (2016) Review

Lady Bloodfight | DVD (Lionsgate)

Lady Bloodfight | DVD (Lionsgate)

AKA: Lady Bloodsport
Director: Chris Nahon
Writer: Bey Logan, Judd Bloch
Cast: Amy Johnston, Muriel Hofmann, Jenny Wu, Kathy Wu, Jet Tranter, Mayling Ng, Sunny Coelst, Rosemary Vandebrouck, Lisa Cheng
Running Time: 100 min.

By Z Ravas

Ever wonder what happened to Chris Nahon? After helming Kiss of the Dragon – what many fans consider to be one of Jet Li’s best English-language films, if not the best – way back in 2001, the filmmaker chose to keep a relatively low profile rather than capitalize on his potential as a martial arts director. He reemerged a full eight years later with the dubious anime adaptation Blood: The Last Vampire, but that endeavor didn’t seem to live up to the potential of the Blood license nor Nahon’s abilities as an action stylist. That’s precisely why I was so curious to sit down and watch last year’s Lady Bloodfight once it made its way to Netflix. Had time weakened Nahon’s talent behind the camera – or was I about to witness the French filmmaker’s triumphant return to the world of bone-crunching kung fu action?

There was another reason to be excited about Lady Bloodfight: the film represents the headlining debut of Amy Johnston, a stunt professional who has more than paid her dues over the years. In addition to her stunt work on movies like Captain America: Winter Soldier (in which she doubled for Scarlett Johansson’s Black Widow), Suicide Squad, and Deadpool, Johnston is a trained martial artist whose passion for the pursuit no doubt dates back to her childhood (her father was a kickboxing champion). I had high hopes that Johnston might shine in her first turn as a female lead. Even the presence of Bey Logan on writing and producing duties wasn’t enough to damper my enthusiasm.

(Okay, hey, I don’t mean to knock Logan, as the man has been closely associated with Hong Kong cinema for almost as long as I’ve been alive, but I think we all heard the horror stories that came out of his 2010 effort Blood Bond: Shadowguard.)

So, after all that fanfare, how is Lady Bloodfight? In a word, I found it perfectly entertaining. The plot is simple enough, in fact it’s more or less borrowed wholesale from the 1988 Jean-Claude Van Damme classic Bloodsport – actually, the film’s original title was Lady Bloodsport, until someone in the production likely wised up and realized they were headed for legal trouble. Amy Johnston stars as a young woman named Jane who travels to Hong Kong in order to take place in an ancient martial arts tournament known as The Kumite (sing it with me: KUMITE! KUMITE! KUMITE!). Jane wants to test her mettle in the ring, naturally, but she also longs to find out what happened to her father, who mysteriously disappeared after nearly winning the Kumite many years ago.

It’s a little puzzling that Lady Bloodfight never actually addresses why all of the fighters in this particular Kumite are women – the viewer is left to wonder, is there a separate Kumite for men and women each year? Regardless, it doesn’t really matter, as the classic ‘fighting tournament’ story structure is deployed in effortless fashion. Jane goes on a personal journey as she is taken under the wing of a wise instructor (Mariel Huffman), befriends a sassy Australian gal (the charming Jet Tranter), and squares off against a fierce Russian fighter (Wonder Woman’s Mayling Ng in quite a bit of makeup) so terrifying she could make Bolo Yeung cry ‘uncle’ in the ring… seriously.

I’m sure most by now most readers are asking: how are the fights? They’re serviceable. Nothing here matches the classic, Hong Kong-style grace and fluidity of Kiss of the Dragon, making me wonder if Corey Yuen wasn’t behind the camera for the action scenes in that movie, but nor are they a choppy, rapidly edited Bourne-esque jumble either. Instead, Chris Nahon splits the difference, landing somewhere between the clear cut style you’d hope for in a martial arts movie of this ilk and a more flashy, Hollywood-esque mode. The action scenes make it quite clear that Amy Johnston knows her stuff, but I suspect we won’t really see her full onscreen capabilities until we see her in stuntman-turned-director Jesse V. Johnson’s Accident Man later this year.

Surprisingly, it might be the storyline that held my attention the most in Lady Bloodfight. The movie is actually invested in Jane’s character and her journey to discover just what happened to her father, and Johnston delivers a commendable performance. Her teacher, Shu, has her own path to take as she seeks to reconcile – or defeat – her rival (Jenny Wu) and her rival’s pupil (Kathy Wu). Refreshingly, few of the characters in the movie are out-and-out right villains, except for the aforementioned Russian Svietta (whose baddie looks like she was raised by Ivan Drago and Bond villain Jaws), and each has their own particular motivation. Lady Bloodfight likely won’t transform Amy Johnston into a martial arts icon overnight the same way Bloodsport did for Van Damme, but this certainly seems the beginning of a promising career in front of the camera.

Z Ravas’ Rating: 6.5/10

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