New Teaser for Yuen Woo-ping’s ‘Thousand Faces of Dunjia’

"The Thousand Faces of Dunjia" Teaser Poster

“The Thousand Faces of Dunjia” Teaser Poster

Yuen Woo-ping (True Legend, Ip Man 3, Crouching Tiger, Hidden II) is currently putting finishing touches on The Thousand Faces of Dunjia, a remake of Miracle Fighter, a supernatural kung fu film he directed in 1982.

Lending a hand will be Tsui Hark (The Taking of Tiger Mountain), who is on board as producer and writer. The film stars Aarif Lee (Kung Fu YogaBruce Lee, My Brother), Ni Ni (Love Will Tear Us Apart), Da Peng (Jian Bing Man) and Zhou Dongyu (The Taking of Tiger Mountain).

The original – which starred Leung Kar Yan (Five Shaolin Masters), Yuen Cheung-yan (Once Upon a Time in Shanghai) and Yuen Yat Chor (The Postman Srikes Back) – follows a kung fu master who learns special skills from a pair of priests to defeat an evil magician.

According to FBA: Yuen says that aside from sharing the title of the film, the remake will tell an entirely new story. He said that if the original film was meant to present an alternative form of wuxia film, the new film intends to redefine it.

The Thousand Faces of Dunjia releases domestically on December 15th, 2017.

Updates: Check out a New Featurette/Teaser, followed by an earlier Featurette.

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New Battles Without Honor and Humanity (1974) Review

"New Battles Without Honour & Humanity" Blu-ray Cover

“New Battles Without Honour & Humanity” Blu-ray Cover

Director: Kinji Fukasaku
Writer: Koichi Iiboshi, Fumio Konami
Cast: Bunta Sugawara, Hiroki Matsukata, Nobuo Kaneko, Tomisaburo Wakayama, Tsunehiko Watase, Kunie Tanaka, Noboru Ando, Seizo Fukumoto, Reiko Ike, Ryuji Katagiri, Takuzo Kawatani, Yoko Koizumi
Running Time: 98 min.

By Kyle Warner

When Toei’s Battles Without Honor and Humanity came to a close in 1974 with Final Episode, audiences still in love with the series demanded more, and the studio was more than happy to oblige. Over the next three years, Toei and Battles director Kinji Fukasaku gave fans the New Battles Without Honor and Humanity trilogy. I hadn’t realized this before, but the ‘New’ trilogy began the very same year that the original series ended – Final Episode hit theatres in June 1974, New Battles 1 released in the final week of December that same year. To be honest, despite being a big fan of the original series, I knew very little about the New Battles films beyond the fact that director Kinji Fukasaku returned with a cast of familiar actors. For a long time, the New Battles trilogy has been out of reach for those in need of an English-friendly release. But that’s now changed with the new release of the New Battles Without Honor and Humanity trilogy on DVD and Blu-ray in the US and UK. So, over the next couple weeks, I’m going to be making my way through the trilogy and giving opinions on the films as I go.

Unlike the intricately plotted original series, as I understand it, New Battles is a trilogy of standalone films. It seems only the first film in the trilogy, simply titled New Battles Without Honor and Humanity, is connected to the original series (more on that in a sec). The second film takes place in the 60s and the third film takes place in the 70s, each of them decades removed from the post-war chaos that made up the original series.

In New Battles Without Honor and Humanity, our Battles lead Bunta Sugawara is back, but he’s not playing the Hirono character. Here, Sugawara plays Miyoshi, an all-new character that’s stepping into the gangland warfare between yakuza in post-war Japan. Miyoshi is very similar to Hirono, except for the fact that he seems less cool under pressure. While Hirono goes unseen and unmentioned in New Battles, the film does nonetheless fit into the story sometime post-Final Episode… I think. Or it could be that this film exists in a weird sequel alternate universe of the original series, a place where Fukasaku remixes the greatest hits of his five film series. The film’s status as a sequel, a reboot, or a spin-off is difficult to pin down.

You’re going to see some familiar Battles characters in this film. Nobuo Kaneko is back as the red-nosed, cheapskate yakuza boss Yamamori. But things get a little hazy after that. Kunie Tanaka is back as Yamamori’s gutless right-hand-man, but he’s no longer called Makihara, this time he’s Gen. Aoki, the yakuza in colored sunglasses and highest ranking subordinate in Yamamori’s crime family is back, this time played by series newcomer Tomisaburo Wakayama (Lone Wolf & Cub). Thing is, Aoki was originally known as Sakai in Battles, and was played by Hiroki Matsukata (13 Assassins). In this film, Matsukata plays the enemy of Aoki, a new character named Seki, which despite sounding a bit like Sakai is nonetheless definitely not Sakai because now Sakai is Aoki. Got it? It’s… kind of odd.

New Battles Without Honor and Humanity takes ideas from the original five films, scrambles ‘em up, and pastes them together into a new story. Screenwriter Fumio Konami (Female Prisoner Scorpion #701) is a capable fill-in for writer Kazuo Kasahara, who left the series after Police Tactics, when he felt the series story was done (studio and director apparently disagreed with him). Though much of the content feels very familiar (I’ve grown so tired of Yamamori’s whimpering), for the most part it moves with enough energy and anger that I wasn’t too bothered by repeating some of the notes of earlier, better Battles films.

In the movie, Bunta Sugawara’s Miyoshi is fresh out of jail at a time when Yamamori’s crime family is beginning to split apart. Aoki is ambitious and looking to supplant his boss and he doesn’t even try to make his plans a secret. Upon release, Miyoshi is approached by both Aoki and Yamamori, each asking him to join their side and help eliminate the other. Miyoshi takes his time deciding. At some points, I thought he might be planning a Yojimbo maneuver of having the two sides operate against one another to his benefit. But Miyoshi, unlike Yojimbo or even Bunta Sugawara’s Hirono, isn’t a decisive man of action. He’d much rather sit back and watch both sides crumble instead of getting his hands bloody.

The supporting cast makes the movie. Though I question why they cast Wakayama in a part that was already filled by a capable actor, I don’t deny that Wakayama brings some nice intensity to the film. Kunie Tanaka has some good comedic moments as his cowardly gangster tries to act beyond his abilities. Jo Shishido (Branded to Kill) has a minor, frankly strange part as a yakuza dying of syphilis in the brain, whom Aoki unleashes on his enemies like a rabid dog. And Reiko Ike (Cops vs. Thugs) has a role as a Korean woman who falls in love with Miyoshi but then begins to think she’s just there to be an attractive human shield. The scenes between Bunta Sugawara and Reiko Ike are very good and one wishes that there had been more of them.

In the original series, director Kinji Fukasaku sought to remove the chivalrous armor the yakuza wore in cinema and reveal them as the greedy, backstabbing thugs the real-world knew them to be. In New Battles, Fukasaku is still pursuing that aim, but I feel he goes even further here by making the yakuza look like fools and then laughing at them. At one point, a gangster reaches into his pocket for a harmless item of importance, and every character within sight freaks out, screams, and falls over themselves thinking that he’s going for a gun. And in moments of action, the yakuza who pride themselves in being ultimate badasses instead look like frightened children playing war. That there’s still a good deal of bloodshed might cancel out some of the laughs in the audience, but I think the message is clear that Fukasaku views these guys as idiots who act tough but don’t know how to back it up.

The movie may underwhelm with a been there, done that sort of plot, but Fukasaku and his cast are pros at this sort of film by now, and even the more pedestrian moments of New Battles stick in the viewer’s head long after the film is over. New Battles Without Honor and Humanity is at its best when the shit hits the fan and the characters take to the streets in panic-stricken terror. As a yakuza film, I liked it. As a follow-up to the masterful Battles Without Honor and Humanity, I find it more difficult to figure out. Maybe I’m trying too hard, though. As suggested by Fukasaku biographer Sadao Yamane on the disc’s special features, it’s probably best not to view New Battles shortly after the original series, because then you get too hung up on trying to connect the dots (and, for my part, you get frustrated when the dots refuse to connect). The first New Battles is not everything I was hoping for after years of anticipation, but there are still two films left in the trilogy and I can’t wait to give them a look.

Kyle Warner’s Rating: 6.5/10

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New Teaser Trailer for Tsui Hark’s 3rd ‘Detective Dee’ film

"Detective Dee: The Four Heavenly Kings" Teaser Poster

“Detective Dee: The Four Heavenly Kings” Teaser Poster

In 2018, the third film from the Detective Dee series, titled Detective Dee: The Four Heavenly Kings, is coming your way from series’ director, Tsui Hark (Double Team). This time around, Dee (Mark Chao) is forced to defend himself against the accusations of Empress Wu while investigating a crime spree.

In addition to Mark, returning cast members from Young Detective Dee: Rise of the Sea Dragon include Kenny Lin, William Feng, Ma Sichun and Carina Lau. New cast additions include Ma Sichun (A Rain Cloud in the Sky) and Ethan Juan (The Assassin).

Detective Dee: The Four Heavenly Kings releases domestically on July 27, 2018. Thanks to AFS, enjoy the Teaser Trailer below:

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Ip Man 3’s Max Zhang joins Sly Stallone for ‘Escape Plan 3’

"Escape Plan" Japanese Theatrical Poster

“Escape Plan” Japanese Theatrical Poster

A sequel to Mikael Håfström’s Escape Plan, the 2013 prison/action flick starring Sylvester Stallone and Arnold Schwarzenegger, is currently in post-production.

In the follow up, titled Escape Plan 2: Hades, Stallone will reprise his role as security expert Ray Breslin, who uses his skills to test out the reliability of maximum security prisons. Unfortunately, Schwarzenegger (or his character) will not be turning.

Escape Plan 2: Hades co-stars Dave Bautista (Kickboxer: Vengeance), Jaime King, Jesse Metcalfe, Wes Chatham, 50 Cent and Huang Xiaoming (Ip Man 2League of Gods).

Steven C. Miller (Marauders, Extraction) is taking over directing duties for Håfström. Miles Chapman (Road House 2: Last Call) is once again in charge of the screenplay.

Updates: Escape Plan 2 hasn’t even been released, but pre-production has already begun for Escape Plan 3: Devil’s Station. According to Variety, Sylvester Stallone and Dave Bautista will be joined by martial arts star, Max Zhang (SPL 2, Ip Man 3). For the franchise’s third outing, John Herzfeld (2 Days in the Valley) will be directing.

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Broken Sword Hero | Blu-ray & DVD (Well Go USA)

Broken Sword Hero | Blu-ray & DVD (Well Go USA)

Broken Sword Hero | Blu-ray & DVD (Well Go USA)

RELEASE DATE: October 31, 2017

On October 31, 2017, Well Go USA is releasing the Blu-ray & DVD for Broken Sword Hero (aka Legend of the Broken Sword Hero), an upcoming martial arts epic from actor/director, Bin Bunluerit (Bang Rajan).

Based on a real warrior from Thailand’s Ayutthaya period, Broken Sword Hero follows the heroics of legendary military general Thongdee (World-renowned Muay Thai kickboxer, Buakaw Banchamek). From the disparity as a young runaway to the toughest warrior among his people, a legendary fighter with unparalleled skills in Muay Thai and swordplay, fights for the freedom of his people.

Pre-order Broken Sword Hero from Amazon.com today!

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

Alicia Vikander and Daniel Wu raid the jungle in ‘Tomb Raider’

"Tomb Raider" Theatrical Poster

“Tomb Raider” Theatrical Poster

The first Trailer for Tomb Raider, the anticipated reboot of the 2001-2003 film series (based on the highly successful video game franchise) has been released.

Alicia Vikander (Ex Machina) steps into the role of Lara Croft (previously played by Angelina Jolie), the daughter of a missing adventurer, who must push herself beyond her limits when she finds herself on the island where her father disappeared.

Tomb Raider also stars Walton Goggins (The Hateful Eight), Hannah John-Kamen (Ready Player One), Dominic West (The Wire) and Alexandre Willaume (The Last Kingdom). 

Hong Kong cinema fans will welcome the inclusion of Daniel Wu (Sky on Fire), who has a substantial co-starring role. Wu continues the tradition of well-known Asian talent showing up in the Tomb Raider film world. In 2003, both Simon Yam (Mrs K) and Terence Yin (Zombie Fight Club) appeared in Lara Croft Tomb Raider: The Cradle of Life.

Tomb Raider opens on March 16, 2018. Don’t miss the Trailer below:

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Tam Cam: The Untold Story | DVD (Cleopatra Entertainment)

Tam Cam: The Untold Story | DVD (Cleopatra Entertainment)

Tam Cam: The Untold Story | DVD (Cleopatra Entertainment)

RELEASE DATE: November 7, 2017

Cleopatra Entertainment, the company that recently unleashed the Kazakhstan spectacle, Diamond Cartel, now brings us the DVD for Tam Cam: The Untold Story, Vietnam’s action-packed answer to Cinderella.

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.

Pre-order Tam Cam: The Untold Story from Amazon.com today!

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

Vincent Zhao and David Belle are getting a new ‘Tattoo’

"The Blade" Chinese Theatrical Poster

“The Blade” Chinese Theatrical Poster

Martial arts star Vincent Zhao (The Blade, The White Haired Witch of Lunar Kingdom) and parkour founder David Belle (District B13, Brick Mansions) are teaming up for an action film titled Tattoo (via AFS).

Unfortunately, further details for Tattoo are practically non-existent, but we’ll be sure to keep you in the loop as we learn more. In the meantime, Zhao fans have Well Go USA’s forthcoming Blu-ray/DVD release of God of War to look forward to, followed by the highly-anticipated Kung Fu Alliance with Danny Chan, Andy On and Dennis To, which he’s currently wrapping up.

For now, here’s the Trailer for Zhao’s The Blade, a 1995 classic directed by Tsui Hark:

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Linda Hamilton returning for Cameron’s new ‘Terminator’

"Terminator" Japanese Theatrical Poster

“Terminator” Japanese Theatrical Poster

Despite backlash and lukewarm domestic box office returns, 2015’s Terminator Genisys performed well in international markets. In fact, here’s a tidbit you probably weren’t aware of: Terminator Genisys is the second-highest grossing film of the entire franchise (behind only T2: Judgment Day) on a global scale.

With that said, the following news from last January (via Deadline) shouldn’t have come as a surprise: “James Cameron, who regains certain rights to his prized creation The Terminator in 2019, is godfathering a new iteration of the film that might finally get it right in drawing a close in the battle between humans and Skynet. Sources said that Cameron, whose copyright reversion happens 35 years after the release of the 1984 classic, is teaming up with Deadpool director and VFX wiz Tim Miller to direct a reboot and conclusion of one of cinema’s great science fiction tales.”

And Cameron isn’t the only one who is back… on May 20, 2017, it was announced that Arnold Schwarzenegger will be returning for the new Terminator film. “It is back,” commented Schwarzenegger, who revealed that he had met Cameron recently and discussed the project. “It is moving forward. He [Cameron] has some good ideas of how to continue with the franchise,” the actor added, “I will be in the movie.” (via SD)

We’re not sure what “reboot and conclusion” means, but our guess is the Cameron/Miller Terminator film will most-likely take place after T2 and will ignore the rest of them.

Updates: THR reports that Linda Hamilton is returning to the world of Terminator, reuniting with Schwarzenegger and Cameron, the creator of the sci-fi franchise, for the new installment being made by Skydance and Paramount.

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

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

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

RELEASE DATE: November 14, 2017

Well Go USA presents the Blu-ray & DVD for The Villainess from Confession of Murder helmer Jeong Byeong-gil. This upcoming actioner is about a female killer played by Kim Ok-bin (Thirst).

Bloody revenge is at the heart of this stylish, kinetic action-thriller that gives a welcome shot of adrenaline to the classic femme fatale story. Honed from childhood into a merciless killing machine by a criminal organization, assassin Sook-hee is recruited as a sleeper agent with the promise of freedom after ten years of service – and she jumps at the chance for a normal life. But soon enough, secrets from her past destroy everything she’s worked for, and now nobody can stand in her way as she embarks on a roaring rampage of revenge.

The Villainess also stars Shin Ha-Kyun (Big Match), Sung Joon (Pluto), Kim Seo-Hyung (The Berlin File), Jo Eun-Ji (The Target), Lee Seung-Joo (The Whistleblower), Jung Hae-Kyun (Missing You), Park Chul-Min (The Pirates) and Son Min-Ji (The Legacy).

Pre-order The Villainess from Amazon.com today!

Posted in Asian Titles, DVD/Blu-ray New Releases, Martial Arts Titles, News | Tagged | 3 Comments

Newest (and most violent) Trailer for ‘Chasing the Dragon’

"Chasing the Dragon" Theatrical Poster

“Chasing the Dragon” Theatrical Poster

Later this month, the public will finally see Donnie Yen (Ip Man 3) play real-life gangster Ng Sek-ho (aka Crippled Ho) in Chasing the Dragon (aka King of Drug Dealers), a remake of the 1991 Hong Kong gangster movie To Be Number One. The film will be released in North America by Well Go USA on September 29th.

Yen will play an immigrant in Hong Kong who is caught in the underground world of corrupt cops and ruthless drug dealers, and he becomes determined to become the sole dictator in the drug empire (via Deadline).

Chasing the Dragon also stars Andy Lau (Switch, Shanghai 13), Philip Ng (Zombie Fight Club), Michelle Hu (Once Upon a Time in Shanghai), Kent Cheng (Run and Kill) and Philip Keung (Full Strike).

Wong Jing (Mercenaries from Hong Kong) co-directs Chasing the Dragon, along with renowned cinematographer Jason Kwan (As the Light Goes Out, Helios).

According to a reliable source (via Toby Wong), “Chasing the Dragon is a purely dramatic role for the cast, so don’t expect Donnie Yen to do the martial arts he’s known for. Instead, expect hack and slash action. Donnie is rough housing it. Remember, it’s a triad drama, not Ip Man 3. Don’t worry, action fans will still be happy!”

Updates: Watch the film’s New Trailer below (followed by Well Go USA’s Trailer):

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Outrage Coda | aka Outrage: Final Chapter (2017) Review

"Outrage Coda" Japanese Theatrical Poster

“Outrage Coda” Japanese Theatrical Poster

Director: Takeshi Kitano
Writer: Takeshi Kitano
Cast: Beat Takeshi, Nao Ohmori, Ken Mitsuishi, Ren Osugi, Tatsuo Nadaka, Ikuji Nakamura, Toshiyuki Nishida, Hakuryu, Sansei Shiomi, Hiroyuki Ikeuchi, Pierre Taki
Running Time: 104 min.

By Matija Makotoichi Tomic

Even before he would go on to direct his senior citizen “yakuza” comedy Ryuzo and the Seven Henchmen, easily his least memorable effort, Kitano said that the producers wanted him to make another Outrage movie. With Outrage Beyond being his first sequel and a notable box office success earning twice as much the original did, Outrage Coda was a logical move (at least to a producer’s logic) that would complete the first trilogy of this filmmaker’s career. It’s been five years since his slightly weaker, more dialogue, less action Outrage sequel was released, still feeding the fans with a nice pile of yakuza bodies scattered around Tokyo. The first Outrage surprisingly turned out great considering that the plot was just wrapped around a thrilling number of imaginative cold blooded executions devised beforehand. All this considering, it was reasonable to expect that the final chapter of Kitano’s warring yakuza clans saga should be every bit as violent, with the needed amount of blood, bullets and bakayaro’s.

Not to say that it isn’t, but Outrage Coda is a slow burner that fails to ignite. Similar to its predecessor, it’s more about the spark that started the fire than it is about delivering the juicy stuff. This time that spark is S&M loving yakuza named Hanada, of Hanabishi family. During his visit to South Korea’s Jeju Island, he wanted to enjoy some unconventional service provided by two hookers, not knowing most of the restaurants and hotels on Jeju Island are owned by the powerful boss Chang. When hearing about girls being beaten-up and mistreated, Kitano’s character Otomo pays Hanada a visit demanding two million yen for compensation. Hanada’s decision however was not only to avoid paying, but also to kill the guy in charge of collecting the money. In yakuza code this means all hell could break loose if the situation is not handled properly, and of course, it isn’t.

After ten full years, first Outrage marked Kitano’s return to yakuza eiga. As a filmmaker who basically reinvented the genre in the 90’s, his new yakuza title lacked the emotional depth or the strength of his older movies. Same goes for Outrage Coda. While perhaps not as slick and stylish as the first in the series, the final chapter delivers more black suits and cars, as well as more yakuza mugs exchanging places on the hierarchical ladder of power. Judging from the opening scene, one would never say so, as we see Kitano sitting by the sea, with his sidekick-to-be quietly fishing next to him. By the looks of this it seems this new Outrage is taking a stroll down nostalgia lane to deliver something more in the vein of author’s 90’s classics. As it turns out soon enough, it’s not. It follows the same Outrage formula, but does manage to be slightly different again.

A lot happened since the time the first Chairman shared his concern with boss Ikamoto being a little too close with his sworn brother Murase. Without fresh (re)watching, potential viewers might find following the plot a heavy task. Sanno family has weakened and is now almost out of the picture, while Otomo is slowly taking central stage along with the spotlight. Which means more of Beat Takeshi’s shooting and shouting, along with some of his usual, impossible-not-to-enjoy, stone faced violence delivery. Together with Nao Ohmori, unforgettable Ichi of Ichi the Killer fame, he takes on the task of cleaning up the mess in his own way, this meaning yakuza bodies being gunned down in slow motion and Kitano making sure there’s no more Outrage sequels in a self-referential scene that has Sonatine written all over it.

Perhaps it wouldn’t be fair saying Hisaishi’s soundtrack is missing, his collaboration with Kitano included five movies only. Among them some of the very finest, with maestro’s minimal touch giving one of a kind, killer atmosphere. Keiichi Suzuki had the ungrateful role of stepping into his shoes, but did well, signing the soundtrack for all three Outrage films.

Displaying its director’s immaculate, experience-gained filmmaking skills, Outrage Coda is a movie you’ll love more or less depending on whether you’re more fond of the series’ first or second part.  With all the fun cramped into the final third, there’s more dialogue-over-action quality here then some will be willing to tolerate. I have no real reason to say Outrage Coda is anything less than a good movie, it’s just one of those that you won’t regret watching, but still will not get much from it. Having the Outrage trilogy completed and out of the way, it will be interesting to see just what is Kitano planning on doing next.

Matija Makotoichi Tomic’s Rating: 7/10

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

Deal on Fire! Kundo: Age of the Rampant | Blu-ray | Only $9.99 – Expires soon!

 Kundo: Age of the Rampant | Blu-ray & DVD (Well Go USA)

Kundo: Age of the Rampant | Blu-ray & DVD (Well Go USA)

Today’s Deal on Fire is the Blu-ray for the South Korean film Kundo: Age of the Rampant (read our review). This action/martial arts film stars Ha Jung-woo (The Chaser) and Kang Dong-won (The X), and is directed by Yoon Jong-bin (Nameless Gangster).

1859. The last days of the Joseon Dynasty, where the wages of greed bring poverty and death. A pack of bandits – calling themselves Kundo – rise against the tyrants, stealing from the rich and giving to the poor. In an era where status is decided by birth, this band of thieves risks their lives for honor, in the name of the poor and oppressed. But for one man, a debt of bloody revenge is owed to the aristocrat that robbed him of his family and his name.

Order Kundo from Amazon.com today!

Posted in Deals on Fire!, News | 1 Comment

Scott Adkins and Johnny Strong are ‘Sinners and Saints’

"Close Range" is also available for purchase.With a handful of projects currently under his belt – including the highly-anticipated, all-star martial arts extravaganza Triple Threat – Scott Adkins (Savage DogHard Target 2, Eliminators, Close Range) is without doubt, one of the most active action stars in the business. To prove this statement even more, a new project that teams him up with Johnny Strong (Daylight’s End) has been revealed: Sinners and Saints: Vengeance, a standalone sequel to 2010’s Sinners and Saints.

According to TAE: William Kaufman (Sinners and Saints) will again direct the film, which centers on a New Orleans police detective (Strong) who sets off for Russia in search of the syndicate enforcer who killed his partner. With the help of an old war buddy (Adkins) and the enforcer’s own kidnapped lover, they pave a path of bloody retribution throughout the mean streets of Moscow.

Sinners and Saints: Vengeance begins shooting this winter in Bulgaria. Until more news arrives, watch the Trailer for the 2010 original below:

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Super Bodyguard | aka Iron Protector (2016) Review

Iron Protector | Blu-ray & DVD (Well Go USA)

Iron Protector | Blu-ray & DVD (Well Go USA)

AKA: The Bodyguard
Director: Yue Song
Cast: Yue Song, Xing Yu, Li Yufei, Collin Chou, Chan Wai Man, Shang Tielong, Xu Dongmei, Yang Jun, Li Changhai, Jiang Baocheng, Yuan Wu
Running Time: 90 min.

Kyle Warner

Iron Protector, aka The Bodyguard, aka Super Bodyguard, is the sophomore effort of filmmaker and star Yue Song. I didn’t see his debut, The King of the Streets, and cannot comment on how far he’s come in front of and behind the camera in the four years between films. But I will say that he still has a long way to go.

Iron Protector is a modern day wuxia superhero movie which makes an attempt to recreate 90’s Hong Kong camp in a story about a guy with iron shoes. Our hero, played by Yue Song, is introduced to us doing a wicked split in the middle of a city square. We join Song as he’s being taunted by a bratty kid who’s pissing in public and teasing him with ice cream. Bad guys bust through, make the kid cry, and trample the ice cream cone. Song corners the bad guys, says something about ice cream (the only intended laugh in the film that I actually liked), and proceeds to kick ass. When justice is done, he meets the man the bad guys meant to kill. Then cars pull up and it’s like, hell yeah, Round 2. But instead, out steps Xing Yu, here playing an old buddy to our hero Yue Song. There’s hugging, there’s bizarre drinking habits, and there’s discussion about Iron Feet and Iron Fists. Seems Xing Yu is running a (likely criminal financed) bodyguard company and he offers our hero a job protecting the old man he saved. But really, who the old man wants to see protected is his daughter, played by Li YuFei.

Cue the camp! Our hero and our leading lady hate each other at first. He’s bored by her immaturity and she’s always looking for ways to get him in trouble. It’s like fingernails on a chalkboard. The two grow closer together when her life is threatened and our kung fu hero has to throw people through walls in order to save her. Their romance is solidified during a montage on the beach that’s filmed like a sappy music video. It’s hilarious but it’s not supposed to be. The montage even fits a bit of kung fu and some driving lessons in there to signify their growing attraction to one another. Our martial arts film has taken a brief detour into a romantic comedy for the deranged.

Chances are that you’re checking out Iron Protector to watch a guy with iron high tops kick ass and not because you wanna know if our hero will ever know love again after being betrayed in the past. I’m here to tell you that the action is… okay. There’s a stunt where Yue Song hurtles himself through the windshield of a moving vehicle that was very nice (and scary). But the fights aren’t special. We have to go 45 minutes into this 90 minute film before a fight sequence made me sit up and take notice (this sequence has villains put cartoonish leg locks on our hero and some Andre the Giant-looking guy throws him around like a ragdoll. It’s fun).

Director Song is too focused on showing contact with each blow that he cuts at almost every opportunity. Punch, cut, kick, cut, guy flops on floor, cut, punch, cut, man flies through wall, cut. It’s brutal, yes, but is it exciting? I didn’t think so, however opinions may vary on this. The problems with editing extend to dramatic scenes as well. It gets so bad in a couple spots that I was not always clear about what’s going on where and why. Example: there’s a bizarre cutaway to James Bond posters on the wall at some point, and that’s cool because, yay, James Bond, but I don’t even know whose wall these posters appear on. It’s maddening.

There is one sequence where Song is chasing people who’ve kidnapped Li. Song hops across rooftops like Tom Cruise or Jackie Chan are wont to do. I believe it’s Song the whole time, but I can’t be certain it’s him because the cameras never get close enough and the editing leaves the door open for stunt double switches. If director Yue Song really wanted to show off what movie star Yue Song was capable of, you’d think he’d have put the cameras in the right places. The end credits reveal plenty of blood, broken bones, and likely a few concussions, so I have no doubt that the cast put it all on the line. But because of sloppy cinematography, editing, and directing, much of that daring is lost on the viewer.

There is an entertaining, ridiculous sequence near the end of the film where Yue Song fights 50+ men singlehandedly that I think captures what he was trying to do better than the rest of the film. In this sequence, Song the director allows Song the movie star to do some fairly impressive stuff, and even fits in some weird, borderline Kung Fu Hustle-level moves just for fun. In so many ways, Iron Protector is like a kung fu superhero origin story, and it’s here that you see that more than almost anywhere else. But even this enjoyable action sequence suffers from poor filmmaking choices.

Oh, I really tried to like this one, guys. However, between the unintentional laughs, the poor editing, and messy direction, I just couldn’t. There might be a future for Yue Song as a leading man, but he needs to learn some things on other people’s film sets before returning to the director’s chair. He may not be the next Bruce Lee—that’s setting the sights too high, Yue—but he’s not without potential. With Iron Protector, I think director Yue Song failed the actor Yue Song; he was too close, too invested in his movie to notice how it was going wrong. Because of the film’s unintended laughs and anything goes attitude, Iron Protector has already earned some fans, and may become an accidental cult classic in the kung fu film world.

Side-note: I’m not one to hold a film’s trailers against a movie, because I know that the filmmakers aren’t always responsible for how a studio decides to market their movie. But I feel the need to touch on the boastful claims found in various Iron Protector trailers. The previews for this movie claim there are no visual effects or camera tricks utilized (there’s wire work and wire removal galore), it claims to revolutionize the art of kung fu (umm), it says it’s the coming of the new Bruce Lee (haha, okay, never heard that one before), and Iron Protector also boasts that it is “the best kung fu movie of the last 20 years.” That’s… a lot to live up to. And again, I would usually laugh it off and move on. It’s just that writer/director/choreographer/star Yue Song’s previous film, The King of the Streetsalso claimed to be the best martial arts film of the past 20 years. So, um, maybe it’s not the case of a studio overhyping a movie this time? This in no way figures into my views on the film overall, but I felt it worth noting since a film’s trailer is what draws many viewers to a particular film.

Kyle Warner’s Rating: 5/10

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

Atomic Blonde | Blu-ray & DVD (Universal)

Atomic Blonde | Blu-ray & DVD (Universal)

Atomic Blonde | Blu-ray & DVD (Universal)

RELEASE DATE: November 14, 2017

Universal presents the Blu-ray & DVD for David Leitch’s Atomic Blonde (read our review), a thriller that can essentially be called “the female version of John Wick”. The movie was previously known as The Coldest City, the title of Antony Johnston’s 2012 graphic novel, from which the film was based.

In Atomic Blonde, Charlize Theron (Mad Max: Fury Road) plays Lorraine Broughton, an undercover MI6 agent who is sent to Berlin during the Cold War to investigate the murder of a fellow agent and recover a missing list of double agents.

Atomic Blonde also stars James McAvoy (Split), John Goodman (The Big Lebowski), Til Schweiger (Inglourious Basterds), Eddie Marsan (The World’s End), Sofia Boutella (Kingsman: The Secret Service), Toby Jones (Captain America: The First Avenger) and Daniel Bernhardt (Logan).

Special Features:

  • Digital Copy of Atomic Blonde
  • Deleted/Extended Scenes
  • Welcome to Berlin
  • Blondes Have More Gun
  • Spymaster
  • Anatomy of a Fight Scene
  • Story in Motion with Optional Commentary by Director David Leitch
  • Feature Commentary with Director David Leitch and Editor Elisabet Ronaldsdottir

Pre-order Atomic Blonde from Amazon.com today!

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

Watch a suspenseful clip from Ryuhei Kitamura’s ‘Downrange’

"Downrange" Theatrical Poster

“Downrange” Theatrical Poster

When director Ryuhei Kitamura hit the scene in 2000 with his low budget zombie kung fu hybrid, Versus, critics were quick to announce the arrival of a new talent on the Japanese movie scene, and it was easy to see why. Versus had a certain energy about it that belied its humble budget, and it was great to see Japan once again returning to the fight movies that guys like Sonny Chiba and Yasuaki Kurata had made famous during the 70’s.

However, given access to bigger budgets and brought into the fold of the Japanese studio system, Kitamura seemed to lose his creative voice in the movies that came out after, whether it be mis-fires like Alive, or trying to put his own spin on one of Japan’s most recognizable icons with Godzilla: Final Wars. In the late 2000’s he decided to leave Japanese shores and head to the US, during which time he made Midnight Meat Train and No One Lives, both serviceable horror thrillers, before finally returning once again to Japan with the 2014 release of Lupin the Third.

But now Kitamura is back in full-on Midnight Meat Train/No One Lives mode with an upcoming, English-language horror flick titled Downrange, which is being described as “a minimalist thriller with maximum tension.”

Currently in production, Downrange stars Kelly Connaire, Stephanie Pearson, Rod Hernandez-Farella, Anthony Kirlew, Alexa Yeames and Jason Tobias. It’s penned by Joey O’Bryan, who is known for writing Fulltime Killer and co-writing the upcoming martial arts extravaganza Triple Threat.

According to AITH, here’s what you can expect from the film’s plot: Six college students who are carpooling cross-country when one of their tires blows out on a desolate stretch of country road. Getting out to fix the flat, they quickly discover that this was no accident. The tire was shot out. With their vehicle incapacitated, the group is pinned down and mercilessly attacked by an unseen assailant as they desperately attempt to find a way to escape.

Downrange is expected to release early next year. As always, we’ll keep you updated as we hear more. Be sure to also read about Doorman, Kitamura’s upcoming actioner starring Katie Holmes (Disturbing Behavior) and Jean Reno (The Adventurers).

Update: Watch a New Clip from Downrange below (followed by its Trailer):

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Hiyah! Martial Arts in the Action Movie Mainstream…

"Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon" Theatrical Poster

“Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon” Theatrical Poster

Martial arts film are near and dear to many people’s hearts. The focus on tightly scripted and choreographed fight scenes brings pure thrills and excitement to the screen, something most other genres can’t match. While action films are common they never quite reach the same plateau of a good martial art film. A typical action film will have explosions, guns fights and a few punches but martial arts action is a lot more intimate and a lot more personal.

Kung fu fights in film can be between dozens of fighters or a one-on-one. Regardless of what it is, you get a tightly made scene. The main actor will work closely with everyone involved so that every punch, kick, throw and attack is perfect. There’s a lot of skill and finesse with such scenes than you wouldn’t find in a typical action movie, with the work going further to create a stronger fight.

It’s easy to fake shooting guns and throwing punches in a movie, but you can’t fake genuine martial arts skill. This is of course why martial arts are seen less and less in western cinema, as there are fewer people trained in it, meaning they can’t bring it to the screen and those who watch can’t appreciate it it as much. While martial arts films have had prominent periods in the West, they currently aren’t a thing, which could be attributed to the popularity UFC and similar combat sports. Mixed martial arts is focused more on swift, simple, brutal techniques while martial arts goes for style and prolonged fights, so films will follow this trend. An audience wanting to see more CGI action also decreases the odds of one-on-one fights being filmed.

Martial arts is the emphasis on the fight while streamlined action films focuses on other things. Martial arts films will feature the personal fight at the forefront with both hero and villain using their lifelong honed skills to battle the opponent. A Hollywood action film will go for variety, with it’s character battling against their enemies, in various ways, I.E. fistfights, guns, explosions, jumping from heights, car chases, etc. While a kung fu flick can and will contain these elements, it goes for a more cerebral focus, but can lose the flavour and simplicity an audience desires.

It’s safe to say that martial arts films are huge success in Asia. Most of their biggest stars, even dramatic actors will have such combat knowledge that they will use in many types of film. While Bruce Lee, Jackie Chan, Donnie Yen and Jet Li are household names to a western filmgoer, they don’t have the same appreciation and have never achieved the same recognition as they do in their homelands. Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon was a huge success across the world and received numerous awards in the West, even a Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film. Compare that to a film like Kung Fu Hustle, which was popular worldwide, never gained any real major acclaim, despite it doing so in it’s native Hong Kong and China.

An absence of kung fu action can be seen in other mediums. Martial arts films can be passed by in games such as mobile slots (yes, online gambling). Western video games very rarely feature kung fu or karate styles. Sleeping Dogs was an example, but focused as much on gunplay and driving as it did hand-to-hand combat. Fighting games are common, but often more concentrate on over the top techniques rather than any grounded martial arts, with Tekken and Virtua Fighter being some more realistic examples.

Martial arts films will always be beloved, but when or if they’ll be a hit again in the West could be anyone’s guess.

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Bitcoin Heist (2016) Review

Bitcoin Heist | Blu-ray & DVD (Well Go USA)

Bitcoin Heist | Blu-ray & DVD (Well Go USA)

Director: Ham Tran
Producer: Estela Valdivieso Chen
Cast: Kate Nhung, Thanh Pham, Petey Majik Nguyen, Suboi, Jayvee Mai, Lam Thanh My, Teo Yoo, Veronica Ngo
Running Time: 110 min.

By Kyle Warner

Before we get to talking about what kind of movie Bitcoin Heist is, I’m going to start off the same way that the film does by attempting to explain what bitcoins are. Bitcoins are a digital currency with no central repository and no national fingerprint. It’s a peer-to-peer exchange system with a public digital ledger that all users are expected to help maintain. Bitcoins are encrypted and untraceable, as far as I understand, and are a favorite form of currency on the Dark Web for hackers and all manner of other secretive professions.

Bitcoins are flashy, mysterious, and new to the general public. And we’re just starting to hear more about Ransom Ware and the Dark Web this year in the news. All three of these new internet-based concepts figure into the Vietnamese thriller Bitcoin Heist. And in that respect, I gotta give writer/editor/director Ham Tran (Journey from the Fall) some credit, because his Bitcoin Heist makes pretty good use of the new tech to tell his story. With the exception of perhaps TV’s Mr. Robot, I’m unaware of other dramas that have featured the tech so prevalently for storytelling purposes. It’s the sort of thing you can imagine Hollywood could’ve gotten on top of, thrown an A-List movie star on the poster, and called it ‘topical’ and ‘timely.’

In Bitcoin Heist, a dangerous Dark Web millionaire known as the Ghost is being tracked by Detective Dada (Kate Nhung). She manages to catch the Ghost’s accountant, Phuc (Thanh Pham), but not without getting into a shootout that claims the lives of multiple officers and suspects. The police chief – who is also Dada’s dad – takes her badge and gun, saying it was a meaningless sacrifice considering Phuc will only get 8-12 months of jail time for his offenses. Dada doesn’t accept this and goes into Jack Bauer Mode. She throws Phuc into the trunk of her car, tortures him, and then sets about a plan to use him to get the Ghost. But in order to accomplish her plan, Dada needs a crew.

Round up the usual suspects! Let’s see, there’s a magician named Magic Jack played by Petey Majik Nguyen. Oh wait, no, I’m sorry, that’s Jack Magique (enjoy that, it’s the film’s most reused joke). There’s a hacker played by Vietnamese music star Suboi. And there’s a conman played by Jayvee Mai The Hiep, who also brings along his ten-year-old daughter, played by Lam Thanh My, who specializes as a cat burglar. Most the team is forced into joining Dada’s plan against their will, but they’re soon good pals and willing partners in the effort to prove the identity of the Ghost.

The film’s tone is kind of wonky. It’s a goofy ultra-mainstream movie one minute (there’s a ten-year-old girl on the team and only her father thinks twice about enlisting her to rob from a murderous millionaire!), a shoot ‘em up bloody actioner the next (some dude gets gutted in a butcher shop!), and a standard heist thriller the next (more on that in a second). What begins as a fairly tech-heavy thriller about shadowy figures on the Dark Web and secretive bitcoin wallets soon becomes just another run-of-the-mill heist thriller. The gang attends a party hosted by the man they believe to be the Ghost (Teo Yoo). Jack Magique performs his act, Dada is his lovely assistant, the conman plays a waiter, the hacker tries to get into the mansion’s system, and the ten-year-old kid attempts to get past a laser grid like she’s Tom Cruise.

Here’s the thing: as heist thrillers go, Bitcoin Heist isn’t bad. But it’s so dang familiar to what’s come before that I think I would’ve already forgotten all about it had I not been enlisted to write this review. You’ll find the smudgy fingerprints of Ocean’s Eleven, Mission: Impossible, and The Italian Job all over this movie. It’s also fair to say that Bitcoin Heist has a few things in common with the (awful) Now You See Me series, which saw master magicians doing unbelievable, CGI-powered magic tricks to steal from the bad guys. Bitcoin Heist also uses a magic show to pull of its heist, but at least Jack Magique exists in the real world. He might even be a real magician, I don’t know. And sure, Jack’s magic tricks probably play better before a live audience – you can only watch so many card tricks in a movie before you start checking the clock – but at least you’re not asked to turn your brain off when he’s on stage.

I enjoyed the performances. It’s a fun, lively cast. The highlight, to me, was the relationship between the conman and his daughter who he’s regrettably roped into a life of crime. I find a cop who’s forcing a kid and her dad to perform a dangerous heist to be a bit despicable from a character development standpoint, but at least that kid and her dad are a likable pair. Also among the cast is Veronica Ngo (The Rebel), who has a small role in the earlier parts of the film. It would’ve been nice if she’d stuck around longer, but alas, the galaxy far, far away awaits.

As these movies are prone to do, Bitcoin Heist is full of twists and unexpected betrayals. Not all of them register in a believable way. The final act, which unfolds weeks after the rest of the film, takes forever to play out and begins to feel like a mini-sequel that’s been tacked onto the film. Characters can lie to each other, but viewers who know these movies can see there’s an extra trick in the works, and Bitcoin Heist takes too long to deliver on its long windup.

I’ve seen this sort of movie done better before. I’ve also seen it done worse. I don’t think of Bitcoin Heist as a bad film. It’s simply unremarkable, middle-of-the-road entertainment.

Kyle Warner’s Rating: 5.5/10

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Jackie Chan is no ‘Foreigner’ to action in the New U.S. Trailer

"The Foreigner" Theatrical Poster

“The Foreigner” 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 Newest Trailer below:

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