Murder Unincorporated (1965) Review

"Murder Unincorporated" Japanese Theatrical Poster

"Murder Unincorporated" Japanese Theatrical Poster

Director: Haruyasu Noguchi
Cast: Jo Shishido, Yoko Yamamoto, Kon Omura, Yumiko Nogawa, Eiji Go, Daizaburo Hirata, Hiroshi Cho, E.H. Eric, Kanbi Fujiyama, Tonpei Hidari, Hiroshi Hijikata
Running Time: 85 min.

By Kyle Warner

Before the Nikkatsu logo even hits the screen, one of Murder Unincorporated’s characters directly addresses the audience. “Hey, you!” he shouts with a snarl. “If you don’t laugh when you see this movie, I’m going to execute you!” So… that’s a first! And since I’m alive to type this, that means I laughed. Sometimes I felt stupid for laughing, because this is one dumb movie, but oh well. I figure laughter is a fine indicator that a comedy’s doing its job correctly.

You must understand one thing about Murder Unincorporated before we go any further: this film is out of its damn mind. Apparently conceived by highly-caffeinated madmen, the film’s comedy is mostly made up of dumb slapstick and screwball madness, styles of comedy that have fallen out of favor with modern audiences. While I certainly would prefer a clever script over slapstick comedy, that doesn’t mean I dislike slapstick and screwball hijinks on screen. But just the same, a movie like Murder Unincorporated can’t help but feel a little dated today.

In the film, the legendary assassin Joe of Spades has returned and marked a criminal syndicate for death. The criminals immediately call the assassin agency, who send dozens of weirdo assassins over to audition for the job of protecting the clients and killing Joe of Spades. Some of these assassins are pretty normal but most of the others are cartoony caricatures, each with their own peculiar methods of killing. One man is a baseball nut, one kills with poetry, another claims to be the grandson of Al Capone, one is 006 (the boss of 007)… they’re all crazy idiots and they’re somehow viewed as the best of the best. The situation actually would’ve made for a good action movie setup even without the comedy, but Murder Unincorporated has zero intention in playing things straight.

Stepping in and out of the mix is Jo Shishido (Danger Pays), who seems awfully interested in the particulars of the hitmen’s jobs. We can naturally assume that Jo Shishido is Joe of Spades (the actor’s own nickname was ‘Joe the Ace’, after all) but the film plays things pretty close to the chest in regards to the story’s central mystery. The only clue the hitmen have for identifying Joe of Spades is that the killer has a mole on the sole of his foot—which, as you may expect, leads to many zany mishaps.

Shishido may dominate the poster artwork and be the most recognizable face in the film, but he’s not really the star of the picture. In a film full of idiots, Kon Omura’s Konmatsu is King. The comedian Omura (Gamera vs. Guiron) was apparently well-known in Japan at the time but remains mostly unheard of in the West. A rubber face and impeccable comic timing make him the star of Murder Unincorporated, here playing bumbling hitman Konmatsu as someone so daft that even the other idiots in the room are left awestruck by his bold stupidity. Sure, sometimes Omura’s Konmatsu is annoying to the extreme, but I dare say that if you can’t like his character, then you probably won’t like the film.

Director Haruyasu Noguchi, who’s responsible for one of Japan’s worst one-off kaiju films Gappa the Triphibian Monsters, was certainly not one of Nikkatsu’s best talents but he’s made something fun and fairly unique here. Fast-paced and quirky, it’s an entertaining little diversion.

It’s always difficult to figure whether a screwball comedy is going to appeal to a large audience. Even the Marx Brothers’ Duck Soup, often considered the reigning screwball masterpiece, isn’t for everyone. If I were to try to narrow down what Murder Unincorporated resembles, I’d say it’s something close to Masahiro Shinoda’s Parade of Killers and Jun Fukuda’s Ironfinger, with some of the braindead goofiness found in a Wong Jing picture. If you like any of those things I just mentioned, this movie might be for you. Certain other audiences will view this film like it’s an annoying kid acting out for attention, and that’s understandable. Murder Unincorporated isn’t the sort of thing I want to watch all the time, but my first viewing was an enjoyable one.

Kyle Warner’s Rating: 7/10

About this release: Murder Unincorporated is the third film of Arrow Video’s new Blu-ray/DVD release Nikkatsu Diamond Guys Vol. 2Murder Unincorporated is packed onto one Blu-ray disc with the two other films, Tokyo Mighty Guy and Danger Pays. It’s an amusing collection of films, showing a sillier side of Nikkatsu that’s remained largely unseen by Western viewers. Danger Pays is my favorite from the set, and without a doubt has the most replay value of the three films. All films look and sound good on Blu-ray. The package includes a booklet with new writing from Japanese film experts Stuart Galbraith IV, Tom Mes, and Mark Schilling.

For special features we get trailers for the films, promo galleries, and two video essays by Jasper Sharp that look at Diamond Guys Jo Shishido and Akira Kobayashi. The video essays total about 20 minutes and are an enjoyable, informative look at the stars and how their careers grew at Nikkatsu. It’s a nice release for three obscure pieces of classic Japanese cinema.

The films are full of energy and quick-witted charm, with colorful characters and likable star turns from Jo Shishido, Akira Kobayashi, and Ruriko Asaoka. There’s no word of a Nikkatsu Diamond Guys Vol. 3 yet but I’m hoping it’s in the works, because I’d love to see more of the lesser-known films by these stars. If you’re interested in this DVD/Blu-ray, you should know that it’s a limited release of 3,000 copies. The release is region free.

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Well Go USA swings in Derek Yee’s ‘Sword Master’ in August

"Sword Master" Chinese Theatrical Poster

"Sword Master" Chinese Theatrical Poster

Well Go USA has just announced the theatrical release for Derek Yee’s (Shinjuku Incident) Sword Master on August 19th.

This upcoming film is a remake of Chor Yuen’s Death Duel, a 1977 Shaw Brothers film that Yee starred in during the height of his acting career.

As with the original, the remake is an adaptation of Ku Lung’s Third Master’s Sword (literal title). The film, which will be shot in 3D, is being produced by Tsui Hark (Taking of Tiger Mountain).

Sword Master stars Kenny Lin Geng-Xin (Young Detective Dee: Rise of the Sea Dragon Sea Dragon), Peter Ho Yun-Tung (The Monkey King), Jiang Yi-Yan (The Bullet Vanishes) and Jiang Meng-Jie (Kung Fu Man).

The 1977 film is about a renowned swordsman (Yee) whose position in the martial world is lofty. The constant challenges and myriad enemies he faces compels him to fake his death and pursue a quiet life with a beautiful woman (Candice Yu).

Don’t miss the trailer for Sword Master.

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The ‘Man From Nowhere’ is now from Hollywood

"The Man from Nowhere" International Theatrical Poster

"The Man from Nowhere" International Theatrical Poster

Back in 2012, we reported that Dimension Films was setting up a U.S. remake of the 2010 Korean action thriller The Man From Nowhere. It’s now 2016 and we’ve just received word (via Deadline) that New Line are the new owners of the film’s remake rights.

In Lee Jeong-beom’s original film, Won Bin (Guns & Talks) played an ex-secret agent who raced against time to save his little girl neighbor after she was kidnapped by a vicious drug ring.

Time to speculate who’s going to end up in the lead role: Jason Statham seems the obvious choice, but his film Safe is already too similar in premise. Plus, if they’re sticking true to the original, The Man For Nowhere calls for a younger actor and one who can undergo a physical transformation just by cutting his long hair.

Any recommendations? Justin Bieber anyone? As always, stay tuned for more updates!

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Interested in a ‘Snow Girl and the Dark Crystal’ sequel?

"Snow Girl and the Dark Crystal" Theatrical Poster

"Snow Girl and the Dark Crystal" Theatrical Poster

A sequel to Peter Pau and Zhao Tianyu’s 3D fantasy Zhong Kui: Snow Girl and the Dark Crystal is officially in the works. There’s currently no info on who’s returning, but we’ll keep you informed as we learn more (via AFS).

The first film – starring Chen Kun (Young Detective Dee), Li Bingbing (Detective Dee & the Mystery of the Phantom Flame), Winston Chao (The Soong Sisters), Yang Zishan and Bao Bei’er - was released last year by Well Go USA as Snow Girl and the Dark Crystal.

City on Fire’s Kyle Warner criticized the original for its heavy reliance on substandard CGI to tell the story (read the full review).

Stay tuned for more updates regarding the sequel.

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Well Go USA chills out Chow Yun-fat’s ‘Cold War II’ in July

"Cold War II" Chinese Theatrical Poster

"Cold War II" Chinese Theatrical Poster

First-time directors Longman Leung and Sunny Luk scored a major hit a few years ago with their Hong Kong cop thriller Cold War. The duo managed to attract a big name cast, including Tony Leung Ka-Fai and Aaron Kwok, to the film based on the strength of their screenplay. Well, every good crime saga deserves a sequel, which is why Cold War II is right around the corner!

This time around, Chow Yun-fat (Office), who reportedly called Cold War one of the best Hong Kong films since Infernal Affairs, joins the gang.

Cold War II also stars Aaron Kwok (Monk Comes Down the Mountain), Tony Leung Ka Fai (The Raid), Kenny Wong Tak Bun (Fire of Conscience) and Tony Yang Kam Tin (The Crossing).

Until then, watch the film’s 1st trailer, as well as the new character trailers for Aaron Kwok (watch), Chow Yun-fat (watch) and Tony Leung Ka Fai (watch).

Updates: Well Go USA will be releasing Cold War II in theaters on July 8th (coinciding with the film’s Chinese premier). Check your local listings for times!

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‘Lone Wolf and Cub’ English language adaptation awakens

"Lone Wolf and Cub: Baby Cart at the River Styx" Japanese Theatrical Poster

"Lone Wolf and Cub: Baby Cart at the River Styx" Japanese Theatrical Poster

After four long years, an English language, live-action adaptation (in other words, remake) of Koike Kazuo and Goseki Kojima’s manga Lone Wolf and Cub: Final Conflict is back from the dead.

The upcoming Lone Wolf and Cub film is being produced by Steven Paul (Tekken: Kazuya’s Revenge) of SP International Pictures. “I have been a huge fan of the property for many years and can’t tell you how excited I am to have the opportunity to embark on this journey,” Paul told Variety.

So far, no details have emerged regarding potential directors, stars or writers for the project.

Back in 2012, it was reported that Kamala Films had secured the rights to Lone Wolf and Cub: Final Conflict with plans for Fast Five director Justin Lin to tackle the property. David and Janet Peoples were attached to write the script (the duo have films like Blade Runner, Unforgiven, 12 Monkeys to their credit).

In the past, Lone Wolf and Cub was adapted into four stage plays, a TV series, and most popular of all, a samurai film anthology released in the West as Shogun Assassin. Sam Mendes’ gangster film, Road to Perdition, was also said to be heavily influenced by Lone Wolf and Cub, according to Novelist Max Allan Collins.

Stay tuned for more updates regarding the Lone Wolf and Cub English language adaptation.

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Cityonfire.com’s ‘Kill Zone 2′ Blu-ray Giveaway!

Kill Zone 2 | Blu-ray & DVD (Well Go USA)

Kill Zone 2 | Blu-ray & DVD (Well Go USA)

Cityonfire.com and Well Go USA are giving away 3 Blu-ray copies of Kill Zone 2 (read our review) to three lucky Cityonfire visitors. To enter, simply add a comment to this post and describe, in your own words, this video.

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

The Blu-ray for Kill Zone 2 will be officially released on July 19, 2016. We will announce the 3 winners the following day.

CONTEST DISCLAIMER: You must enter by July 19, 2016 to qualify. U.S. residents only please. We sincerely apologize to our non-U.S. visitors. Winners must respond with their mailing address within 48 hours, otherwise you will automatically be disqualified. No exceptions. Contest is subject to change without notice.

Posted in News | Tagged | 27 Comments

Well Go USA hires Sammo Hung as a ‘Bodyguard’

"The Bodyguard" Chinese Theatrical Poster

"The Bodyguard" Chinese Theatrical Poster

Well Go USA will be releasing Sammo Hung’s The Bodyguard (aka My Beloved Bodyguard) on VOD on August 2; then to Blu-ray & DVD on September 6, 2016.

It has been over 17 long years since Sammo Hung has directed a movie (since 1997′s Once Upon A Time in China and America), but now, the Hong Kong legend is back – both as star and as director – in The Bodyguard, which was previously known as Old Soldier.

The Bodyguard (read our review) features a cast of well-known names that include Zhu Yuchen, Li Qinqin, Feng Jiayi, Jacqueline Chan, Andy Lau, Hu Jun, Feng Shaofeng, Eddie Peng, Song Jia, Tsui Hark, Karl Maka, Dean Shek, Yuen Biao, Yuen Qiu, Yuen Wah, Yuen Ting, Yuen Po, Tony Leung Ka Fai and Song Jia.

The Bodyguard follows a retired bodyguard (Hung) who has settled in the dark and unknown corner of the world where China, Russia and North Korea meet. Suffering from the beginnings of dementia, the bodyguard is befriended by a young girl whose life is threatened when her father (Lau) falls in with the local crime world. When the girl and her father disappear, the bodyguard must call upon his long forgotten skills to save the life of his young friend.

If you haven’t already, be sure to check out the film’s trailer.

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Mozu: The Movie (2015) Review

"Mozu" Japanese Theatrical Poster

"Mozu" Japanese Theatrical Poster

Director: Eiichiro Hasumi
Writer: Go Osaka, Kosuke Nishi
Producer: Mamoru Inoue, Akira Morii
Cast: Hidetoshi Nishijima, Takeshi Kitano, Teruyuki Kagawa, Yoko Maki, Yusuke Iseya, Tori Matsuzaka, Hiroki Hasegawa, Fumiyo Kohinata, Sosuke Ikematsu, Atsushi Ito
Running Time: 116 min.

By Paul Bramhall

Takeshi ‘Beat’ Kitano is easily one of the most recognizable faces in Japanese cinema, directing a number of movies that are rightfully considered masterpieces. When he acts, it’s usually also in his own productions, so whenever news emerges that Kitano is set to appear in a movie other than his own, it usually draws plenty of interest. From an eye-patched hitman in Gonin, to the teacher in Battle Royale, to a raging Korean immigrant in Blood and Bones, all are roles which once seen, are difficult to imagine anyone other than Kitano playing. 2015 then was rather special, at it didn’t just provide one movie with Kitano in a role being directed by someone other than himself, but two. One was the dark drama, While the Women are Sleeping, while the other came in the form of a spin-off movie from a popular TV mini-series, Mozu – The Movie.

Interestingly, main actor Hidetoshi Nishijima is also the star of While the Woman are Sleeping, and has worked with Kitano before, featuring in his 2002 production Dolls. In Mozu – The Movie Nishijima and Kitano are pitted against each other, as Nishijimi plays the role of an exhausted cop still trying to get over the recent death of his wife and child, believed to have been murdered on the orders of a mysterious figured called Daruma, played by Kitano. Unfortunately the movie does itself no favors, thanks to providing precisely zero information for those that haven’t seen the TV mini-series (which itself was based on a book, written by Go Osaka). All we get is an opening which see’s Nishijima moodily sat in a semi-lit bar, one in which he’s the only customer, as he drunkenly drops in and out of consciousness while thinking about his murdered loved ones.

Despite being inebriated, Nishijima happens to stumble across a traffic accident, which turns out to be a kidnap attempt of a diplomat from a made-up country called Penam, and her autistic daughter. He manages to save the daughter, and packs her off to his private detective friend, played by Teruyuki Kagawa. At the same time, an office building is held to ransom, involving low budget CGI explosions and terrorists screaming in an irritatingly high pitched fashion, seemingly to distract from the kidnap attempt. Some nonsense is also revealed about images of Daruma, the character Kitano plays, being inserted into people’s minds by a shady organization. Coherency and logic don’t appear to be high on the agenda for Mozu – The Movie, with none of what’s happening onscreen given much explanation or reason. Throughout all of this trauma, Nishijima remains completely poker faced, decked out in his uninspired salary man style white shirt and black tie, ensuring his character remains as uninteresting and dull as possible.

Events proceed in a way which see’s things going from bad to worse. The autistic daughter is effectively portrayed as a walking zombie, incapable of any type of human interaction or communicating beyond grunts and shrieks. Chocolate proved that it’s perfectly possible to have an autistic main character, and Jija Yanin imbued the role with plenty of nuance and personality traits, but not so here. In a scene which is particularly awkward, it’s explained that she’s mentally handicapped, and then in the same conversation, there’s a completely meaningless and throwaway line added in which a point is made of her only being half Japanese. Because of course, in a country were mental health is still a relatively taboo topic in mainstream media, it’s important to point out that such a character couldn’t possibly be 100% Japanese.

As a result of acting as her guardian, ultimately Teruyuki Kagawa’s own daughter gets kidnapped, and is whisked away to the fictional South East Asian country of Penam. Nishijima and Kagawa follow the abductors trail in hot pursuit, however when they finally land in the Penam, it turns out to be Manila in the Philippines. We’re not supposed to know that of course, but the hundreds of jeepneys driving down the streets, the road signs that have suburbs in Manila written on them, and just the general fact that people are speaking Tagalog, kind of give it away. Why they chose to pass off Manila as some made-up Asian melting pot is beyond me. It’s a city which is recognizable in much the same way Hong Kong or Kuala Lumpur are, but perhaps it’s portrayal as a safe-haven for criminal masterminds led the overly-sensitive Japanese studios to call it by a different name. Throughout all of this drama and country hopping, Nishijima’s facial expression has still yet to change, and he hasn’t once thought to change out of his white shirt and black tie combo.

Their jaunt in the Philippines at least allows the budget to afford some real explosions, and there’s even some hand to hand combat thrown in, but it all seems so lifeless and droll, that it’s hard to get excited about. The script doesn’t help, which takes itself far too seriously. Characters who’ve only been onscreen for a couple of minutes proclaim wince worthy lines such as, “Why do we do what we do?” Other times, it actually has characters explaining through dialogue what’s happening onscreen. In one scene Nishijima fires a gun into the air, in order to get himself arrested, knowing the corrupt cops will take him to their boss that he’s been trying to track down. This is exactly what happens, and when they drop him in front of the boss, he’s asked why he fired a gun in order to get himself arrested. Nishijima then explains that he wanted to get himself arrested, as he knew he’d be taken to the boss. Seriously, we know, it just happened onscreen, it’s like they mixed up script notes with character dialogue.

In between the dual running plots of attempting to rescue Kagawa’s daughter while protecting the autistic daughter of the diplomat (the plot point of Kitano’s image being inserted into people’s minds is never mentioned again), it’s revealed that the organisation behind the kidnap attempt is also the same one responsible for the death of Nishijima’s loved ones. What are the chances? It turns out that this organisation is seemingly the secret power that keeps Japan running the way it does, and they all report to a mysterious ‘Sensei’, who must be kept alive at all costs. The Sensei and Daruma of course turn out to be the same person, Kitano, who is shown to be a bald headed heavily scarred old man on his death bed, desperately in need of several internal organ transplants, of whom the autistic child is the closest match.

Despite the bulk of Mozu – The Movie taking place in Manila, I mean Penam, late in the movie the action eventually moves back to Tokyo. One of my biggest problems with the plot comes once proceedings re-locate back to Japanese soil, as an event takes place which effectively makes the whole Philippines set segment null and void. It would be a spoiler to go into any further detail, but as a viewer it’s incredibly frustrating when an event plays out that renders the past hour of what you’ve watched all but pointless. It feels like an insult to the audiences intelligence, and effectively means that an almost 2 hour movie could have been told in half the time, but then I guess they wouldn’t have been able to justify a feature length movie if that was the case.

The other big problem is Kitano, or should I say, lack of. Despite appearing so prominently on all of the promotional material for Mozu – The Movie, he clocks in a total screen-time of less than 10 minutes. During the Tokyo premiere of the movie, the man himself spoke up in his usual sardonic manner – “I went into the dressing room not knowing a thing. They had me wear a bald wig and made me up to look badly scarred. I was thinking they could have gotten anyone to do that.” Whether sarcastic or not, his remarks are on point, as his character appears for such a brief amount of the runtime, hardly conveying any impact at all, that it could just as well have been played by any other ageing Japanese actor. Needless to say, for those going into Mozu – The Movie for Kitano’s presence, it’ll be best not to bother.

However even with the expectations of a Kitano movie aside, there’s not much left to recommend. Everything about Mozu – The Movie smells like a quick cash-in on a popular TV series, a cash-in which successfully saw the many salary men and housewives who watched it put the movie at number one on its opening weekend in Japan. It’s a problem that plagues Japanese mainstream cinema, in that quick cash-in’s do exactly that – bring in the cash. There are plenty of other TV shows that have spawned feature length movies – SP: Security Police, Unfair, and Bayside Shakedown – to name just a few, and rarely do they stray far from their TV roots, often feeling like extended versions of a TV episode. However as long as there’s still an audience which will fill out the theaters, this kind of safe, unexciting, TV friendly cinema is here to stay.

Paul Bramhall’s Rating: 2/10

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Cityonfire.com’s ‘Chronicles of the Ghostly Tribe’ Blu-ray Giveaway!

Chronicles of the Ghostly Tribe | Blu-ray & DVD (Well Go USA)

Chronicles of the Ghostly Tribe | Blu-ray & DVD (Well Go USA)

Cityonfire.com and Well Go USA are giving away 3 Blu-ray copies of Chronicles of the Ghostly Tribe to three lucky Cityonfire visitors. To enter, simply add a comment to this post and describe, in your own words, this video.

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

The Blu-ray for Chronicles of the Ghostly Tribe will be officially released on July 5, 2016. We will announce the 3 winners on July 6, 2016.

CONTEST DISCLAIMER: You must enter by July 5, 2016 to qualify. U.S. residents only please. We sincerely apologize to our non-U.S. visitors. Winners must respond with their mailing address within 48 hours, otherwise you will automatically be disqualified. No exceptions. Contest is subject to change without notice.

Posted in News | Tagged | 15 Comments

The East and West collide in Pan Anzi’s ‘For a Few Bullets’

"For a Few Bullets" Chinese Theatrical Poster

"For a Few Bullets" Chinese Theatrical Poster

The wild west just got a whole lot wilder according to For a Few Bullets (an obvious nod to Sergio Leone’s 1965 classic, For a Few Dollars More), an upcoming action-comedy by Pan Anzi (The Palace).

For a Few Bullet stars Kenny Lin (The Taking of Tiger Mountain), Zhang Jingchu (Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation), Liu Xiaoqing (Mojin: The Lost Legend), Kenneth Tsang (Angel Terminators) and recording artist, Tengger.

According to SD, For a Few Bullets is about a professional thief who teams up with a special agent to protect a national treasure. | Trailer.

Updates: Watch the newest trailer (via FCS).

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The Priests: Exorcism | DVD (CJ Entertainment)

The Priests: Exorcism | DVD (CJ Entertainment)

The Priests: Exorcism | DVD (CJ Entertainment)

RELEASE DATE: September 6, 2016

Jang Jae-hyeon’s “Korean version of The Exorcist,“ The Priests (read our review), will be arriving to DVD on September 6, 2016, courtesy of CJ Entertainment, America.

The film, which has been retitled to The Priests: Exorcism, stars Kim Yoon-seok (The Thieves) and Kang Dong-won (Kundo). The two play a pair of priests who hope to exorcise what they believe to be an evil spirit possessing the body of a young girl in a coma. Also in the cast are Park So-Dam (Veteran) and Lee Hyo-Je (Hidden Time).

COF’s Paul Bramhall calls The Priests “a refreshingly straight forward horror movie, which is successful in being both suspenseful and delivering a few jump in your seat moments.” If you haven’t already, don’t miss the its trailer.

Pre-order The Priests: Exorcism from Amazon.com today.

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

Two ‘A Better Tomorrow’ remakes in the works?

"A Better Tomorrow" Japanese Theatrical Poster

"A Better Tomorrow" Japanese Theatrical Poster

If Song Hae-Seong’s 2010 Korean remake of A Better Tomorrow wasn’t enough, get ready for John Woo’s seminal gangster classic to get remade again two more times.

According to AFS, A Better Tomorrow has two remakes in the works: One with Stephen Fung (who is also working on a Once a Thief remake) directing; the other with Ding Sheng (Little Big Soldier) directing. Apparently, Sheng’s version – titled A Better Tomorrow 4 – is closer to production (a teaser poster has been released for it already).

We’ll keep you posted as we hear more. In the meantime, watch Johnnie To’s A Hero Never Dies. It’s one heck of a “remake”.

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Rampage 3: President Down | DVD (Sony)

"Rampage 2: Capital Punishment" Japanese Theatrical Poster

"Rampage 2: Capital Punishment" Japanese Theatrical Poster

RELEASE DATE: September 6, 2016

Sony Pictures Home Entertainment is unleashing the DVD for Uwe Boll’s Rampage 3: President Down (aka Rampage 3: No Mercy) on September 6, 2016.

In the first Rampage (2009), Bill (Brendan Fletcher) goes on a hometown killing spree. In Rampage 2: Capital Punishment (2014), Bill terrorizes a TV station. Now, he’s back for Rampage 3: President Down – and judging by the film’s title – Bill has once again upped the ante!

Boll (Alone in the Dark) has definitely made some horrendous movies in the past, but if you’ve seen any of the Rampage films – or even Assault on Wall Street – Boll has proven himself to be a competent “action” filmmaker (Note: if you call the Rampage franchise anything but an action film, then you’re taking it all too serious).

Let’s put it this way: If John Woo (Hard Boiled) is the master of the heroic bloodshed film, then Boll is the master of making flicks about people goin’ postal. I can honestly say that Boll’s aforementioned action thrillers are better than anything filmmakers like John Moore (A Good Day to Die Hard), Simon West (The Expendables 2) and Len Wiseman (Total Recall remake) are pumping out in theaters. Way better. And as a bonus, Boll has balls.

Don’t miss the film’s latest trailer – (the film’s first trailer is also available) and while you’re at it, seek out Rampage and Rampage 2. You’ll be glad you did.

Pre-order Rampage 3: President Down from Amazon.com today!

Posted in DVD/Blu-ray New Releases, Other Notable Titles | 1 Comment

Film Movement releases Sim Sung-Bo’s ‘Sea Fog’ on DVD

Sea Fog | DVD (Film Movement)

Sea Fog | DVD (Film Movement)

Sea Fog, the debut film of Sim Sung-Bo (writer of Memories of Murder), is heading to DVD on August 2, 2016, courtesy Film Movement.

Sourced from the 2007 stage play of the same name, Sea Fog (aka Haemoo) is the story of a Korean fishing vessel and the thrilling events the crew members face while on their deadly journey. The film is based on actual events.

Sea Fog stars Kim Yun-Seok (The Chaser), Park Yoo-Chun (Dance Subaru), Han Ye-Ri (Kundo), Lee Hee-Joon (The Unjust) and is produced by Bong Joon Ho (The Host, Snowpiercer). | Trailer.

Pre-order Sea Fog from Amazon.com today!

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Danger Pays (1962) Review

"Danger Pays" Japanese Theatrical Poster

"Danger Pays" Japanese Theatrical Poster

AKA: Danger Paws
Director: Ko Nakahira
Cast: Joe Shishido, Ruriko Asaoka, Hiroyuki Nagato, Arihiro Fujimura, Eiji Go, Bokuzen Hidari, Kojiro Kusanagi, Torahiko Hamada, Daizaburo Hirata, Toyoko Takechi, Zenji Yamada
Running Time: 82 min.

By Kyle Warner

Danger Pays is an odd little movie. It shifts from wacky comedy to violent action at the drop of a hat. You wouldn’t know it at first, but the opening credits theme song is a pretty good indicator of what to expect from the film that follows. While the lead singer treads into dark territory with lyrics like, “Who is going to kill me?” the chorus, which sounds like an office party doing a crazy business cheer, cries out, “Danger’s where the money is!” Right after that song, we get a violent carjacking before settling into screwball territory. Tonally, this film is all over the map, but in a strange way that becomes part of its charm. Danger Pays is willing to do just about anything to get a laugh, while also not sacrificing what Nikkatsu Studio’s did best, which was delivering fast-paced action movies. It’s a dark comedy wearing the unassuming suit of a mainstream caper.

When a government shipment of watermarked paper for the treasury department is carjacked by crooks intent on making counterfeit money, Tokyo’s underworld knows that Japan’s expert counterfeiter (Bokuzen Hidari) will soon be in high demand. Hoping to make some money as an unsolicited middleman to arrange the Expert’s services, conman Glass-Heart Joe (Jo Shishido) hurries over to the airport to swoop up the old counterfeiter as he returns to the country. However, Joe’s not the only one who had the bright idea to make a quick buck, as his rivals Slide-Rule Tetsu (Hiroyuki Nagato) and Dump-Truck Ken (Kojiro Kusanagi) also show up at the airport to pick up the Expert. It’s then that the crooks appear and abduct the Expert, thus beginning a game of give-and-take as everyone races to acquire the Expert’s services and make a big payday.

Danger Pays is a movie that’s just chockfull of colorful characters, ably performed by a likable ensemble cast. Slide-Rule Tetsu played by Hiroyuki Nagato (Shinjuku Incident) is obsessed with math and the odds of every situation, constantly referring to the slide-rule in his pocket for all his important decisions. The Kojiro Kusanagi (The Warped Ones) character Dump-Truck Ken is the brute of the antihero trio, at one point torturing a bad guy by threatening to crush him with his dump-truck’s hydraulics. Joe Shishido’s performance is one of the actor’s goofiest, but he also taps into a level of charm that’s usually reserved for Japan’s more suave leading men. As Glass-Heart Joe, Shishido’s performance is part Cary Grant, part Peter Sellers, and I think fans will get a kick out of it. (I did.)

There are a few other important players without whom the movie wouldn’t be the same. Bokuzen Hidari (Seven Samurai), an actor ‘gifted’ with one of the saddest faces in the world, is lovely in his comic role as the Expert. When the crooks force him to make the counterfeit plates for them, his only request is that his working space be a “messy, noisy, and erotic place.” Ruriko Asaoka (Tokyo Mighty Guy) is a delightful addition to the cast, here playing a high-strung judo aficionado who’s happy to be part of the action even though she’s inexperienced in the criminal underworld. I’ve often seen Asaoka in dramatic roles, but seeing her in this it’s clear that she has a gift for comedy, as she gives the film some of its best laughs. Even the film’s villain (Torahiko Hamada, The Thick-Walled Room) brings some laughs to the proceedings, despite being one of the only characters that plays things straight the whole time.

As noted, Danger Pays is not afraid to get tough and bloody. The opening carjacking has enough blood to warrant it an R-rating before the stars of the film ever show their faces. Later, the violence actually borders on becoming gross, as one gag has blood dribble out of a corpse’s mouth and drip down Ruriko Asaoka’s neck. It’s surprising how much violence they fit into this, a film which is otherwise quite silly. This strange shift in tone will bother some viewers. Personally, I thought it added something to Danger Pays’ arsenal, and helped set it apart from other comedies of the time. Despite the general goofiness, I consider it something of a dark comedy. These are characters obsessed with money and guns, they kill each other in order to get what they want, and all the while the film around them mixes gallows humor with the sort of screwball comedy that was so popular in the 60’s.

Of Japan’s great directors, Ko Nakahira remains one of the most difficult for me to figure out. His masterful debut, Crazed Fruit, remains his finest film. With Crazed Fruit, Nakahira is credited for helping to create the Japanese New Wave film movement, something of a parallel to French New Wave. After that stunning debut, though, the idea of what made a “Nakahira film” was impossible to determine, as he worked across basically all genres and even did a couple films for Shaw Bros. in Hong Kong. As an artist, he was something of a chameleon. Danger Pays and the late-career pink-action Rica movies are about as different from Crazed Fruit as you can get. Passing away too soon at age 52, Nakahira undoubtedly had many more strange and colorful films to share with us. Even so, much of his filmography remains largely unseen by the Western world, so there is still much to discover, and Danger Pays is a good example of such a discovery.

Danger Pays is an oddball of a film that’s not likely going to appeal to all viewers—it’s potentially too goofy for the hardcore action fans, and too violent for those just hoping for a silly comedy. Speaking for myself, I had a good time. The cast is fun and director Nakahira infuses his movie with boundless energy. The one thing you can never accuse Danger Pays of being is a lazy film. This film works tirelessly for every laugh and shock, so even though not all of it works there’s still something to admire about how hard it tries.

Kyle Warner’s Rating: 7/10

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

"The Bodyguard" Chinese Theatrical Poster

"The Bodyguard" Chinese Theatrical Poster

RELEASE DATE: September 6, 2016

Well Go USA will be releasing Sammo Hung’s The Bodyguard (aka My Beloved Bodyguard) to Blu-ray & DVD on September 6, 2016.

The Bodyguard (read our review) features a cast of well-known names that include Zhu Yuchen, Li Qinqin, Feng Jiayi, Jacqueline Chan, Andy Lau, Hu Jun, Feng Shaofeng, Eddie Peng, Song Jia, Tsui Hark, Karl Maka, Dean Shek, Yuen Biao, Yuen Qiu, Yuen Wah, Yuen Ting, Yuen Po, Tony Leung Ka Fai and Song Jia.

The Bodyguard (read our review) follows a retired bodyguard (Hung) who has settled in the dark and unknown corner of the world where China, Russia and North Korea meet. Suffering from the beginnings of dementia, the bodyguard is befriended by a young girl whose life is threatened when her father (Andy Lau) falls in with the local crime world. When the girl and her father disappear, the bodyguard must call upon his long forgotten skills to save the life of his young friend. | Trailer.

Pre-order The Bodyguard from Amazon.com today!

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Justin Lin to direct Warner’s live-action ‘Akira’?

"Akira" U.S. Theatrical Poster

"Akira" U.S. Theatrical Poster

Warner Bros. is currently courting Justin Lin (Star Trek Beyond, Finishing the Game) to direct the live-action, big screen adaptation of Katsuhiro Otomo’s Akira, which has been in development hell for over 5 years.

The story of Akira involves a secret military project that endangers Neo-Tokyo when it turns a biker gang member into a rampaging psionic psychopath that only two kids and a group of psionics can stop.

Throughout the years, many names such as Keanu Reeves, James Franco, Garrett Hedlund, Robert Pattinson, James McAvoy, Andrew Garfield, Chris Pine, Michael Fassbender, Justin Timerlake, Joaquin Phoenix, Keira Knightley, Kristen Stewart, Ezra Miller, Alden Eherenreich, D.J. Cotrona, Logan Marshal Green, Toby Kebbell, Richard Madden, Rami Malek, Michael Pitt, Paul Dano, Alden Ehrenreich and Ken Watanabe (we’ll stop here) have all been considered for roles. Some have dropped out, others are still attached.

A handful of directors, including Albert Hughes (The Book of Eli) and Jaume Collet-Serra (Run All Night) have been tied to the film, but exited due to creative differences (or other unexplainable reasons).

One of the last filmmakers attached to Akira was Christopher Nolan (The Dark Knight), who was supposedly involved (along with Nolan’s brother, Jonathan, who at one point was hired to re-write the script for Akira). Marco J. Ramirez, the scribe who co-showran the second season of Netflix’s Daredevil, is also attached as one of the writers.

There’s no word if Leonardo DiCaprio (The Revenant), Jennifer Davisson Killoran (Orphan) and Andrew Lazar (Jonah Hex) are still keeping their roles as producers.

We’ll keep you updated on Akira as we learned more. Stay tuned.

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Trailer for Dante Lam’s ‘Operation Mekong’ is pure violence

"Operation Mekong" Teaser Poster

"Operation Mekong" Teaser Poster

Operation Mekong, a new actioner from director Dante Lam (Unbeatable), is finally hitting Chinese theaters later this year. The upcoming film stars Lam’s frequent collaborator Eddie Peng (Rise of the Legend), Zhang Han Yu (Special ID) and Joyce Feng. Louis Koo (SPL II) was previously attached, but was replace by Peng, due to scheduling conflicts.

According to JS, Set in Thailand, Operation Mekong tells the true story of the Mekong River massacre that occurred on October 5, 2011, during which two Chinese cargo ships were attacked by gunmen. All 13 crew members were killed, and their bodies were dumped into the river.

Look for Operation Mekong later this year. Until then, don’t miss the film’s violent trailer (via Paul Bramhall/FCS).

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Blood Child | aka Five Fingers of Steel (1982) Review

"Blood Child" DVD Cover

"Blood Child" DVD Cover

AKA: 5 Fingers of Steel
Director: Vincent Leung
Producer: Law Ga-Foo
Cast: Hwang Jang Lee, Yen Shi Kwan, Kwan Yung Moon, Lee Yi Yi, Yuen Mao, Chu Tiet Wo, Chan Lau, Lau Hok Nin, Liu Hok Ming, Pak Sha Lik, Chan Fei Lung, Ching Chu
Running Time: 87 min.

By Paul Bramhall

While Blood Child without doubt belongs in the category of being an old-school kung fu movie, there’s also a few elements to it that undeniably set it apart from being just another cookie cutter fight fest. A pre-credit sequence opens with the scene of a mother, played by Lee Yi-Yi, sat on the doorstep of a dwelling as she cradles her new born baby. It’s immediately apparent that somethings wrong, and when a passer-by enquires as to if she’s ok, her lack of response and glazed expression prompt him to check on the wellbeing of the child, only to discover that it’s been stabbed to death.

After the credits finish, proceedings open a year earlier, as we learn how events transpire to lead to such a traumatic opening. The dark tone set by such a gruesome early reveal makes Blood Child engaging from the beginning, a rare feat in the old-school kung fu genre, as we’re invested in how Lee Yi-Yi came to be incoherently sat there, cradling a murdered baby in her arms. The movie was directed by Vincent Leung, his first and last time in the director’s chair. Leung worked mainly as an editor, with over 160 productions to his name from the mid-60’s, all the way through to the millennium. However while he’d also direct the 1994 Jet Li documentary, Shaolin Kung Fu, he never returned to directing feature length productions outside of Blood Child.

It’s a shame, as he gathered an enviable group of kung fu talent to appear onscreen together. Yuen Miu and Yen Shi Kwan play brothers, with Miu set to marry Yi-Yi. Yuen Miu is probably the least known of the ‘Seven Little Fortunes’, the same Peking Opera School troupe that the likes of Jackie Chan, Sammo Hung, and Yuen Biao were a part of. He worked mainly as a choreographer and stuntman, so Blood Child provides a rare opportunity of witnessing him performing his own choreography in a lead role. Shi Kwan is one of the most familiar faces of kung fu cinema, featuring in everything from The Master Strikes to Iron Monkey, and his name is usually a guarantee of kung fu goodness. Interestingly this wouldn’t be the last time that Miu and Shi Kwan would work together, as they’d also collaborate over 10 years later on Yuen Biao’s Kick Boxer.

Their father, played by Chu Tiet Wo, has recently opened a courier business, and takes on a job to escort a shipment of gold. If there was ever a sign of foreboding disaster in the old-school kung fu genre, it’s usually when the good guys agree to escorting a priceless item, on a route which is guaranteed to involve an ambush in a forest. This is of course, exactly what happens, it would be a crime if it didn’t. After Golden Harvest producer Ng See Yuen’s frequent visits to Korea in the 70’s, by the time the 80’s came around it was pretty much a guarantee that, if a kung fu movie needed some high calibre kicking action, it was likely to be delivered from the boot of a Korean. Blood Child provides us with one of Korea’s finest, with the bad guy role going to Kwan Yung-moon.

Yung-moon was particularly busy in 1982, with his role in Blood Child being one of six productions that he’d feature in, including the likes of such classics as Ninja in the Dragons Den and Dragon Lord. Yung-moon isn’t the only Korean import in ‘Blood Child’ though. After laying waste to the couriers, a fight against Miu ends up in Yung-moon kicking him off the top of a cliff. This being a kung fu movie of course, being kicked off the top of a cliff doesn’t guarantee certain death. Events transpire that see Miu being discovered and nursed back to health by a kung fu master, living a solitary existence in the forest. The master is played by Hwang Jang Lee, perhaps the most famous of all the boot masters who populated the golden age of kung fu cinema. Like Yung-moon, Hwang was exceptionally busy in the early 80’s. Between 1980 – 1982 alone he featured in 21 productions, ranging from Bruceploitation flicks, Shaw Brothers productions, local Korean movies, and even making his directorial debut.

While Yung-moon and Hwang don’t actually make their appearances until the 30 minute mark, the calibre of kung fu talent involved ensures that even those clocking in purely for their presence won’t be left wanting. While Hwang is also credited as an action choreographer, he actually only has a single fight scene (more on that later), so it’s a safe assumption to say that most of the fight action was handled by Miu. There’s an instantly recognizable feel to the choreography, which tends to be the case with any action that’s provided courtesy of a Yuen clan member, in that the moment the first fight breaks out, the speed and intricacy of the movements are a joy to watch. In a pre-wedding celebration, Miu, Shi Kwan, and Tiet Wo end up facing off against a group of lackeys led by Lau Hok Nin and Lin Ke Ming. The fight constantly segues between one-on-one exchanges to one-on-multiple opponent showdowns, and the fluidity combined with the amount of chorography taking place onscreen at the same time is a reminder of just how special this era was.

When Yung-moon does appear, his presence isn’t wasted, with plenty of his ferocious kicks being dished out to whoever is unfortunate enough to be in the way of them. What I particularly liked about the fight scenes that Yung-moon features in, is that the moment his adversary manages to get one kick or punch in against him, he manages to look genuinely enraged. Sure nobody is here for these guys acting talent, but small touches like a change in facial expression during a fight scene, only go to prove just how much of a high level performers like Yung-moon were operating at. He also makes a suitably hateful villain of the piece, and mid-way through viciously rapes Lee Yi-Yi in a prison cell, resulting in her becoming pregnant with his child.

During these scenes Blood Child takes on a suitably darker tone, as learning that Yi-Yi is carrying his child, she’s kept prisoner in Yung-moon’s property, during which she’s constantly beaten by the housekeeper and attempts suicide. When she finally gives birth, events take a turn that almost send the movie into horror territory, as Yung-moon forcibly takes the baby from her, and realises she’s given birth to a deformed monstrosity. Sent into a murderous rage, we learn how Yi-Yi came to be sat outside the house at the beginning of the movie. However her misery is far from over, as Yung-moon and his weasel like assistant, effectively played by Chan Lau, arrange for her to be framed for the murder of her own child.

These scenes play out in stark contrast to those with Hwang Jang Lee, who we learn also has a vendetta against Yung-moon for some misdemeanour he did in the past. Hwang is amusingly introduced into the plot via a scene which suddenly cuts away to him running full speed towards the camera, before he launches into a flying kick against a fully grown tree, one which sends it toppling to the ground. In fact all of Hwang’s scenes have him either kicking trees, or thrusting his fingers through hanging coconuts (this scene is likely what provided the movie with its English title, Five Fingers of Steel, although technically it should be ten). It’s worth noting that the coconut setup is constructed exactly the same as John Liu’s bottle kicking training in Secret Rivals, so I couldn’t help but feel what a waste of Hwang’s kicking talents it is to have all these hanging coconuts, but for him to only poke them with his fingers. Thankfully though he does eventually unleash his kicks, so for those that wants to see some Hwang vs coconut action, you’re in the right place.

Eventually events culminate that see Miu and Shi Kwan team up to take on Yung-moon, who’s constructed an elevated wooden platform in the middle of a field, seemingly for no other reason than to have Lee Yi-Yi tied to a pole in the middle of it. As expected, the pair take a complete licking on the receiving end of Yung-moon’s kicks, until that is, Hwang Jang Lee makes a late in the day entrance into the fray. Blood Child can be considered unique in the way that, especially during this era, Hwang had a habit of suddenly showing up in final scenes as the bad guy, so to see a movie in which he suddenly shows up as the good guy is a rarity. This briefly results in a three way team up with Miu, Shi Kwan, and Hwang taking on Yung-moon, but it quickly becomes a Yung-moon vs Hwang showdown.

What’s surprising, is that the face-off between a pair of revered Korean boot-masters somehow doesn’t feel as epic as it should. For a start, once they’re left to face off against each other, the scene repeatedly cuts away to Miu and Shi Kwan attempting to untie Yi-Yi from the platform, while being hindered by Chan Lau attempting to stop them. The sound effects of the fight frustratingly play on in the background, but you can’t see it! However even during the fight itself, Hwang mostly utilises the Eagle Claw technique, choosing to scratch Yung-moon to death rather than kick him. Don’t get me wrong, the fight has plenty of kicks, but they’re often framed as stand-alone cut-away scenes, rather than part of the flowing choreography in one of their exchanges. Considering what both Hwang and Yung-moon are capable of, it would have been great to see them really go to town on each other with their boot work, but for some reason it just doesn’t happen that way.

That said, Blood Child really belongs to Miu, Shi Kwan, and Yung-moon, and despite the minor let down of the final fight, there’s enough action crammed into the rest of the runtime to satisfy those looking for some shapes based goodness. To see the least well known member of the ‘Seven Little Fortunes’ onscreen in a lead role is more than enough to recommend a viewing, and for everyone else, you have Hwang Jang Lee kicking coconuts.

Paul Bramhall’s Rating: 7/10

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Jason Statham’s ‘Mechanic’ sequel gets an explosive trailer

"Mechanic: Resurrection" Theatrical Poster

"Mechanic: Resurrection" Theatrical Poster

The Mechanic (Jason Statham) thought he’d escaped his former deadly life and disappeared. But now somebody’s found him, and kidnapped the woman he loves. Neither one of them will get out alive unless he completes a diabolical list of assassinations of the most dangerous men in the world…

Statham is reprising his role as Arthur Bishop in the upcoming Mechanic sequel, Mechanic: Resurrection, which is being helmed by Dennis Gansel (The Fourth State).

Mechanic: Resurrection boasts and all-star cast that includes Jessica Alba (Sin City), Tommy Lee Jones (Rolling Thunder), Michelle Yeoh (Police Assassins), Yayaying Rhatha Phongam (Lupin III) and Natalie Burn (The Expendables 3).

Mechanic: Resurrection’s current target release date is set for August 26, 2016. Don’t miss the film’s first trailer!

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Corey Yuen’s ‘No Retreat, No Surrender’ to hit Blu-ray

"No Retreat, No Surrender" American Theatrical Poster

"No Retreat, No Surrender" American Theatrical Poster

Old school martial arts fans, rejoice! We’ve just gotten word that Kino Lorber will be releasing No Retreat, No Surrender on Blu-ray later this year. The upcoming Blu-ray will include the International cut (with extra scenes and alternate music) and the rarely seen “New World” U.S. cut (alternate opening sequence and soundtrack), as well an interview with the film’s lead, Kurt McKenney.

This 1986 cult martial arts classic is noted for being one of the first U.S. productions by Hong Kong action director, Corey Yuen (Yes, Madam), who would later find bigger fame in America choreographing Lethal Weapon 4 (1998) and Kiss of the Dragon (2001).

No Retreat, No Surrender is perhaps best known for giving Jean-Claude Van Damme (The Hard Corps) his first starring role. The film also features an all-star martial arts cast, including Peter Cunningham (Righting Wrongs), Timothy D. Baker (Bloodfist II) and the late Kim Tai-chung (Tower of Death), once again, as “Bruce Lee”.

We’ll post more details about No Retreat, No Surrender as we hear more. Until then, here’s the film’s classic trailer.

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Sun Honglei has a particular set of skills for a ‘Taken’ remake

"Taken" Korean Theatrical Poster

"Taken" Korean Theatrical Poster

According to AFS, a Chinese remake of 2008′s Taken is on the way, with Sun Honglei (Drug War) replacing Liam Neeson as the father with a very particular set of skills.

Oddly enough, news of the Taken remake comes only a week after it was announced that Honglei would star in a remake of Ryoo Seung-wan’s Veteran, playing the lead role originally performed by Hwang Jeong-min (The Wailing).

The original Taken, which was helmed by Pierre Morel (From Paris with Love), followed a retired CIA agent (Neeson) who travels across Europe to save his kidnapped daughter.

As always, we’ll keep you updated as we hear more!

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Dwayne Johnson to do kung fu action in ‘Son of Shaolin’?

"The Rundown" Japanese Theatrical Poster

"The Rundown" Japanese Theatrical Poster

Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson (The Rundown) may be showing off some new kung fu skills in Sony’s Son of Shaolin, an upcoming film based on a soon-to-be-published graphic novel created and written by scribe Jay Longino (who also penned Jackie Chan’s upcoming film, Skiptrace).

According to Deadline, Son of Shaolin is a contemporary kung fu story that intertwines Shaolin mythology with many of the current issues faced by teens growing up in a gentrifying neighborhood.

With over 10 high profile movies in the works – including a remake of Big Trouble in Little China – Johnson is officially the busiest action star in Hollywood.

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Tracking the Dragon | DVD (MVD Visual)

"Fist of Fury" Chinese Theatrical Poster

"Fist of Fury" Chinese Theatrical Poster

RELEASE DATE: October 25, 2016

It’s been 43 years since the passing of Bruce Lee, yet the spirit of the martial arts icon is more powerful than ever. In addition to George Nolfi’s upcoming Bruce Lee biopic, Birth of the Dragon, as well as a Chinese film titled Double Dragon, a new Bruce Lee project is headed your way.

On October 25, 2016, MVD Visual will be releasing a new, 100-minute Bruce Lee documentary titled Tracking the Dragon on DVD.

Bruce Lee expert John Little (A Warrior’s Journey) tracks down the actual locations of some of Bruce Lee’s most iconic action scenes. Many of these sites remain largely unchanged nearly half a century later. At monasteries, ice factories, and on urban streets, Little explores the real life settings of Lee’s legendary career.

This film builds on Little’s earlier short, Pursuit of the Dragon, to present a comprehensive view of Lee’s work that will change the way you see the films. In such pivotal films as The Big Boss, Fist of Fury, The Way of the Dragon and Enter the Dragon, Lee staged the elaborately choreographed action sequences that revolutionized the martial arts field. They took on a mythic status and it is mindboggling to see how he expertly built traditional locations into his story lines to give them added dimension.

No one has ever taken on the task of finding what remains of this Bruce Lee’s world. The revelations are nothing short of astounding for fans of Bruce Lee, martial arts, and action movies.

Pre-order Tracking the Dragon from Amazon.com today!

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

Watch the new trailer for ‘Jack Reacher: Never Go Back’

"Jack Reacher: Never Go Back" Teaser Poster

"Jack Reacher: Never Go Back" Teaser Poster

Back in 2012, actor Tom Cruise drew plenty of criticism when he was cast in Christopher McQuarrie’s Jack Reacher as Jack Reacher, the popular character created by novelist Lee Child. Reacher is known for being a 6’5″ brute of a man, an ex-soldier who could physically dominate any opponent.

While Cruise is no stranger to action thanks to the Mission: Impossible series, many Lee Child fans balked at the casting of Cruise due to his pint-sized stature – enough to start a Facebook group called “Tom Cruise is not Jack Reacher.”

However, the proof, as they say, is in the movie. Jack Reacher grossed over $80.1 million in North America and $138.3 million in other countries for a worldwide total of $218.3 million, against a budget of $60 million. To top it all off, the film met with a mostly positive reception.

With that said, it should be no surprise that a sequel, titled Jack Reacher: Never Go Back, is hitting theaters on October 12, 2016. This time around, Cruise is teaming up with his Last Samurai filmmaker Edward Zwick, who is taking over directing duties for McQuarrie.

In the sequel, Jack Reacher returns to the headquarters of his old unit, only to find out he’s now accused of a 16-year-old homicide.

Jack Reacher: Never Go Back also stars Cobie Smulders, Robert Knepper, Aldis Hodge, Danika Yarosh, Patrick Heusinger, Holt McCallany, Jason Douglas and Sue-Lynn Ansari. | 1st Trailer.

Updates: Watch the film’s newest trailer.

Posted in News | 1 Comment

Thrilling new trailer for zombie-filled ‘Train to Busan’

"Train to Busan" Korean Theatrical Poster

"Train to Busan" Korean Theatrical Poster

Well Go USA Entertainment has announced its acquisition of North American rights to Train to Busan, a South Korean film that revolves around a zombie outbreak.

The upcoming thriller, directed by Yeon Sang-ho (The King of Pigs), follows a group of survivors – led by The Suspect’s Gong Yoo – who attempt to escape their town city by catching a train to Busan, hence the film’s title, Train to Busan.

However, there seems to be a shade of controversy surrounding the film’s creative origin. Filmmaker Arne Venema claims Train to Busan has been ripped off from a treatment he submitted to a film fund in Busan, 2 years ago.

Venema had this to say on Facebook:

“A year or two ago I submitted a treatment package to a film fund in Busan, Korea. The treatment was a horror film which focused around people going to a football game and then getting attacked on the train back by zombie like hooligans. We (Derrick Fong, who was the DP to be, and I) went as far as shooting promotional material. While Tony Salvaggio and myself wrote a very detailed outline/treatment, character descriptions, etc. The feedback we received from that very treatment was initially very positive telling us that the idea was very original, as well as exciting and at the time was very close to being funded; HOWEVER, the committee (which had some known producers and directors on it) later decided it wasn’t looking for exploitation films that year, and wanted to go for a more art house type film instead. Today, Mike Leeder shows me this trailer and it pretty much is the film I wrote. They even went as far as calling the film Escape from Busan. Never submitting anything again to a fund.”

Even Leeder, a well known actor, casting director and producer – particularly in the Asian/martial arts film scene – wrote this comment: “This [trailer] looks suspiciously like a project young Arne Venema submitted to the Asian Cinema Funding programme at Busan a few years back.

If the above is true, here’s hoping Venema gets the proper credit he deserves.

Well Go USA’s North American release date for Train to Busan is still pending. For now, don’t miss the film’s trailer.

Updates: Watch the film’s newest trailer (via FCS).

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Stranger from Shaolin | aka Fist of Flying Tiger (1977) Review

"Stranger from Shaolin" Chinese Theatrical Poster

"Stranger from Shaolin" Chinese Theatrical Poster

AKA: Wing Chun Warriors
Director: Tony Liu Jun Guk
Writer: Ni Kuang
Cast: Cecilia Wong Hang Sau, Sun Jung Chi, Thompson Kao Kang, Bruce Lai (Chang Il-do), Tony Liu Jun Guk, Chan Lau, Lee Ye Min, Wong Kwok Leung, Bruce Cheung Mong, Baak Wong Gei, Kwon Il-Soo, Baek Hwang-Ki
Running Time: 94 min.

By Matija Makotoichi Tomic

The name Tony Liu Jun Guk should be well known and celebrated among the fans of kung fu movies. His 1974 directorial debut The Black Dragon introduced Ron Van Clief as the new afro-american martial arts movie star, spawning two sequels in the same blacksploitation/martial arts movie manner. Hell’s Windstaff (1979), also known under the far less cool title The Dragon and the Tiger Kids, is without any doubt one of the best independently produced kung fu films ever made, and Tiger Over Wall (1980) should easily find its place in any serious collection. Tony Liu Jun Guk’s work was recognized and that same year he became a member of the Shaw Brothers family. I believe I don’t have to name all the classics he directed while working for the Bros., starting with the fantastic fu piece The Master (1980). Somewhere between his Black Dragon films and his best known independent hits, Tony Liu Jun Gukdirected this little kung fu classic.

During the Qing dynasty, Manchus are trying to clean the south of China, especially Kwangtung and Fujian where most of the rebels are located. They bring in kung fu experts and order them to eliminate kung fu schools. Rebels are hiding in temples and learning kung fu in hope they’d be able to restore the Ming dynasty one day. While the evil lord Kang is gathering troops for his attack, Yim Wing Chun trains hard so she could revenge the death of her family, but also help defending the Shaolin.

Shaw Brothers script master Ni Kuang wrote the screenplay and Tony Liu Jun Guk (credited as Tommy Loo Chung) turned it into a movie with the help of Chun Jo-Myuong who worked on the movie as cinematographer. Sources say this was the only time he was taking up the role of a director, though his name can’t be seen in the opening credits. As we all know, kung fu movies were often inspired by actual historical events and characters, but the authors never cared much about the facts. Those so-called “facts” are actually legends and oral history so there’s usually more than one version to every story. It seems that Ni Kuang followed that same recipe of enriching real stories with fiction since there’s no mention of Yim Wing Chun training in Shaolin Temple for any reason, least of all revenge.

Also, Shaolin don’t take female students, but Ni Kuang made that possible by making her character dress up as a man. He even went so far as to credit Yim Wing Chun as the founder of the style, though it was only named after her. The oral history of the Ip Man branch which is the closest to the film’s story says it was buddhist nun Ng Mui who founded the style by combining what she learned by observing the snake and crane fight with shaolin kung fu. She later passed on the knowledge to Yim Wing Chun, who learned kung fu to fight the local warlord who forced her into marriage. There is a buddhist nun in the movie and she takes Wing Chun as her student. Altough her name is not revealed, it is only possible that it’s Ng Mui. In the movie, Yim Wing Chun trains with the legendary Fong Sai-Yuk and Hung Hsi-Kuan, another shaolin hero seen in many kung fu films. The famous monk San Tak (San Te) is their teacher.

Yim Wing Chun: Teacher San, if you don’t let me enroll in the temple, then as soon as I leave here, I intend to jump off a cliff!

San Tak: Go on! You’ll find a cliff two miles away. It’s very high so use it then and solve all your problems.

Of course, Wong Kwok-Leung cannot match the masterful performance of Master Killer, but he fits the role well. After demonstrating forms on pole with twigs, San Tak says how that pole will become famous in years to come and how all students will want to learn it. He’s talking about the wooden dummy of course. Again, it was Ng Mui who’s said to have created the wooden dummy as we know it by combining the 108 dummies (one for every move) into one. Ni Kuang added a samurai sent by the Japs to serve under the Qing court, and a taoist priest who’s gathering kung fu experts to help fight the Shaolin. This indicates Wudang was included in the attack on Shaolin. There is a story saying Wudang disciples sided with the Qings in attempt to locate and eliminate San Te, but other than that, this is the first time I’ve heard the rivalry between the two schools went this deep.

Tony Liu Jun Guk plays a minor role here as Mr. Ho, keeper of the abandoned Buddhist Temple whose family has been killed by the Qings. Taking on a role in his own films, even if just a cameo, will in a way become almost a trademark for this director, peaking with his role in The Lady Assassin (1983) as the cold blooded japanese fighter wearing red lipstick. Unfortunately, Mr. Ho’s snake fist was not good enough to challenge the evil Kang, white haired villain with the lethal Manchu queue. He is of course, eagle claw master who attained higher level of skill by drinking children’s blood thus revitalizing his whole physique. Kang also mastered the golden bell shield which makes him immune to any weapon attack. In the role of lord Kang is Thompson Kao Kong, and his performance is on the level. Chan Lau is the taoist priest, and Cecilia Wong is brilliant as Yim Wing Chun.

By combining the Ming – Qing conflict with the inevitable revenge plot, Ni Kuang opens much space for action. That’s where Yen Shi-Kwan and Leung Ting come in. Action is not great, faster and better performed choreography can be seen in some of the 1976. kung fu films, but it’s pretty solid. Most of the fights were shot wide and often in long takes. Leung Tin was a real life wing chun master, so what we’re getting here are authentic wing chun forms showcased by Cecilia Wong through three elaborate training sequences. She learns the basics by training in the well at Shaolin Temple and then later on trains on a wooden dummy, practices with butterfly swords and works hard on her one inch punches. Finally, there’s another display of wing chun forms and training with rattan rings. Yim Wing Chun uses what she learned  in the final fight which, for some unknown reason, changes locations and seasons. The sandy coast of the river gets suddenly covered with snow, and then later on replaced by a valley surrounded with rocks.

Stranger from Shaolin can’t compete in the same league as the genre’s finest. It looks and is cheap, but far from being without it’s qualities. What makes it interesting and even important in a way is the fact that it is, as far as I know, the very first kung fu movie that portrayed wing chun! It will take another year for Sammo to direct the first of his two classics regarded today as some of the finest examples of wing chun style on film. Though Stranger from Shaolin isn’t that great, it deserves to be kept alive.

Matija Makotoichi Tomic’s Rating: 7/10

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There’s no resisting Kim Jee-woon’s ‘The Age of Shadows’

"The Age of Shadows" Theatrical Poster

"The Age of Shadows" Theatrical Poster

Kim Jee-woon’s (I Saw the Devil) The Age of Shadows (aka Secret Agent) will finally see a release date in September of 2016 in Korean theaters (we assume a company like Well Go USA is on top of it).

Set in the late 1920s, the film follows the cat-and-mouse game that unfolds between a group of resistance fighters trying to bring in explosives from Shanghai to destroy key Japanese facilities in Seoul, and Japanese agents trying to stop them (via SD).

The Age of Shadows stars Song Kang-Ho (Snowpiercer), Gong Yoo (The Suspect), Han Ji-Min (The Fatal Encounter), Um Tae-Goo (Veteran), Shin Sung-Rok (The Prison), and Seo Young-Joo (Moebius).

The Age of Shadows will mark the 4th collaboration between Song (Snowpiercer) and Kim. The two previously worked together in The Foul King (2000), The Quiet Family (2002) and The Good, The Bad, The Weird (2008).

We expect a trailer to pop up soon. Until then, stay tuned!

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Will this new gangster flick be a ‘Game Changer’?

"The Game Changer" Chinese Theatrical Poster

"The Game Changer" Chinese Theatrical Poster

There can never be enough Asian gangster flicks, and Gao Xixi’s The Game Changer, an upcoming period actioner, is no exception. The Game Changer is about gang wars in Shanghai in the 1930′s (supposedly based on The Bund, a TVB series that has been compared to The Godfather).

The Game Changer stars Huang Zitao (The Railroad Tigers), Wang Xueqi (Monk Comes Down the Mountain), Peter Ho (The Monkey King) and South Korean actress Choo Ja-hyeon (Bloody Tie).

The Game Changer will be hitting Chinese theaters this year. If you’re a fan of gangster flicks, you don’t want to miss the film’s first trailer (via AFS), which promises a good balance of drama and shoot ‘em up action.

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