New clip from the all-star martial arts film ‘Death Fighter’

Death Fighter | DVD (Sony Home Entertainment)

Death Fighter | DVD (Sony Home Entertainment)

The DVD for Death Fighter is finally available from Sony Pictures Home Entertainment! Previously known as White Tiger, this all-star martial arts actioner stars Matt Mullins (Mortal Kombat: Legacy), Cynthia Rothrock (Yes, Madam), Don “The Dragon” Wilson (Martial Arts Kid) and the late Joe Lewis (Force: Five).

When an American cop (Mullins) witnesses his mentor’s (Lewis) murder in a trade deal gone wrong, he finds himself on the wrong side of the law in Thailand. But despite the bounty on his deal and pressure to leave the country, he teams up with an ex-military mercenary (Wilson) out to settle a score of this own to bring the killers to justice. Their quest for vengeance brings them face-to-face with a band of notorious criminals (Rothrock) who vow to take them down if the jungle’s natural elements don’t kill them first.

Filmed over 3 years ago, Death Fighter is directed by Toby Russell (Death by Misadventure), a name closely associated with low budget martial arts and Hong Kong film – at least to die hard enthusiasts. The film also features fight choreography by Kazu Patrick Tang (Rocky HandsomeBKO: Bangkok Knockout). With this said, fans should expect off the wall, Hong Kong-style action.

Check out an exclusive clipsfrom the movie, featuring Mullins and Wilson:

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King Hu’s ‘Legend of the Mountain’ to peak with a 4K release

"Legend of the Mountain" Chinese Theatrical Poster

“Legend of the Mountain” Chinese Theatrical Poster

Kino Lorber is teaming up with UK distributor Eureka Entertainment to release a 4K digitally restored, 3-hour director’s cut of King Hu’s 1979 classic film Legend of the Mountain.

The plan is for both companies to screen the classic at festivals/limited engagements, followed by a Blu-ray & DVD release in 2018.

Legend of the Mountain stars Sylvia Chang (Slaughter in San Fransisco), Hsu Feng (A Touch of Zen), Tien Feng (Monk’s Fight), Ng Ming Tsui (Fist of Fury), Tung Lam (The Delinquent) and Shih Chun (Dragon Gate Inn).

A Trailer is currently unavailable online – instead, we offer you the Trailer for A Touch of Zen:

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Gun Woman (2014) Review

"Gun Woman" Japanese Theatrical Poster

“Gun Woman” Japanese Theatrical Poster

Director: Kurando Mitsutake
Writer: Kurando Mitsutake
Cast: Asami, Kairi Narita, Noriaki Kamata, Matthew Floyd Miller, Dean Simone, Tatsuya Nakadai
Running Time: 86 min.

By Z Ravas

It’d be easy for detractors to label 2014’s Gun Woman another case of low-budget sleaze – after all, Japanese AV turned action star Asami spends most of the film’s climax stark naked and drenched in blood – but director Kurando Mitsutake is far too savvy a filmmaker for that. Since 2009’s Samurai Avenger: The Blind Wolf, the writer/director/occasional-actor has managed to accomplish the seemingly impossible: he’s kept Japanese action cinema alive through a series of micro-budgeted movies that hold appeal for both grindhouse aficionados and martial arts buffs alike.

While the more recent Karate Kill might be said to be Mitsutake’s strongest effort to date, and makes one salivate at the possibility of the filmmaker being granted an even bigger budget to realize his outsized ambitions, there’s no denying that Gun Woman is the movie that put Mitsutake on most genre fans’ radar. For that reason, and others, it’s worth taking a look back at Gun Woman, which is conveniently streaming on Netflix.

At first brush, Gun Woman’s plot may sound overly familiar: after a brilliant Doctor’s (played by Into the Sun’s Kairi Narita) wife is murdered before his eyes by the insane son of a Japanese business magnate (in a positively unhinged performance from Noriaki Kamata), he swears revenge. Crippled himself in the attack, the Doctor has no choice but to look for aid in realizing his ambitions, and thus kidnaps a homeless, drug-addicted young woman (Asami, who broke into the mainstream with several Sushi Typhoon efforts) to train as the perfect assassin. If you think the writers of La Femme Nikita might be looking to sue after hearing that synopsis, rest assured that Mitsutake lampshades the fact early on by having a side character remark, “What is this, some kind of Japanese manga or Luc Besson film?” It’s a tacit admission from the filmmakers that they know their material owes a creative debt to the great action movies that have come before, and also tells the viewer to lighten up and enjoy the ride.

And what a ride it is. Most of the movie comprises of Asami’s lengthy training sequences, which involves a good deal of psychological torture since the Doctor transforms Asami into a killing machine against her will. The dynamic between these two characters is quite interesting, if not disturbing: the Doctor may have saved Asami’s life by forcing her to kick her drug habit, but by fashioning her into the instrument of his own revenge, he continues to put her in harm’s way again and again. For her part, Asami begins to develop a bit of Stockholm Syndrome – it’s fairly fascinating stuff as, even if it’s not exactly Oscar-worthy material, the characters are far more ambitious than your standard micro-budget B-Movie.

Bear in mind, this all plays out against the backdrop of a demented villain who wouldn’t be out of place in a Toxic Avenger movie or one of Takashi Miike’s most off-the-wall pictures like Fudoh: The New Generation. Many viewers will no doubt balk or be offended by Gun Woman’s cadre of necrophiliac baddies (yes, you read that right), but – in contrast with other films of similar ilk such as Hobo With a Shotgun – I never felt like Kurando Mutsutake was wallowing in and celebrating the depravity of his rogues gallery. Rather, the script goes to great lengths to make you despise its cast of demented degenerates, such that you can’t wait to see Asami take them out. Mission accomplished.

Once Asami becomes, well, the Gun Woman (bear in mind this is a taut and fast-moving flick at 86 minutes so it doesn’t take long), and is unleashed on Noriaki Kamata and his bodyguards, the bullets fly and the bodies drop. While the climax is certainly smaller scale than the extended finale of Karate Kill, it’s no less impressive to watch Asami go up against goons who tower over her diminutive size, especially when she’s so, well, vulnerable. The movie goes to great lengths to justify why Asami has to enter the bad guy’s complex wearing only her birthday suit. Of course, the reasoning is rather ridiculous but – what can you do? Its a creative decision that certainly got people talking and, surprisingly, Mitsutake and his team do such a good job choreographing the ending sequence that, after awhile, you just kind of forget that Asami is fighting evil with nary a stitch to wear.

Okay, so Gun Woman isn’t exactly high art. It’s still a dynamite example of what can be accomplished by a team who is passionate about independent filmmaking and high-octane action. Asami delivers a performance that radiates both vulnerability and steely-eyed determination at once, and she acquits herself extremely well during the fight sequences for someone who has no formal martial arts training. I have no doubt team behind Gun Woman will continue to craft bigger and better films, but this is the effort that put them on the map – and rightly so. If low-budget exploitation cinema gets your blood running hot, you have a new friend in Kurando Mitsutake.

Z Ravas’ Rating: 6.5/10

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Deal on Fire! 36th Chamber of Shaolin | Blu-ray | Only $7.31 – Expires soon!

36th Chamber of Shaolin Blu-ray (Dragon Dynasty)

36th Chamber of Shaolin Blu-ray (Dragon Dynasty)

Today’s Deal on Fire is the Dragon Dynasty Blu-ray for the 1978 Shaw Brothers classic 36th Chamber of Shaolin (aka The Master Killer), directed by Liu Chia-Liang (Executioners from Shaolin) and starring Gordon Liu (Eight Diagram Pole Fighter).

Considered one of the greatest kung fu films of all time, 36th Chamber of Shaolin (read our review) is about a young man (Liu) who learns Shaolin kung fu so he can avenge his family and friends, who were killed by Manchu henchmen.

Order 36th Chamber of Shaolin from Amazon.com today!

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Well Go USA is bringing Gordon Chan’s ‘God of War’ home

"God of War" Chinese Theatrical Poster

“God of War” Chinese Theatrical Poster

On October 17, 2017, Well Go USA is bringing the battle home with the Blu-ray & DVD for God of War, a period actioner directed by Gordon Chan (Thunderbolt) that stars Sammo Hung (14 Blades) and Vincent Zhao (The White Haired Witch of Lunar Kingdom).

During the 16th century, pirates rule the Chinese coastline, pillaging the small villages and terrorizing the citizens. When maverick leader Commander Yu (Hung) enlists the help of a sharp young general (Zhao), they devise a plan to defeat the pirates. A violent clash of wit and weapons will decide who will rule the land in this sweeping historical epic from veteran action director Gordon Chan.

God of War also stars Wan Qian (Butterfly Lovers) and Yasuaki Kurata (Legend of the Fist), who is sharing his screen with Hung for the first time since Millionaire’s Express 30 years ago.

Stay tuned for Pre-order information.

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Newest Trailer for Aaron Kwok’s remake of ‘A Hard Day’

"Peace Breaker" Chinese Theatrical Poster

“Peace Breaker” Chinese Theatrical Poster

Aaron Kwok (Monk Comes Down the Mountain) is going to have one heck of a day in Lien Yi-Chi’s Peace Breaker (aka Perpetrators), a Chinese remake (read our recent feature Made (& Remade) in Asia) of the 2014 Korean thriller, A Hard Day. Wang Qianyuan (Brotherhood of the Blades) co-stars.

If Peace Breaker is anything like the original, here’s what you can expect: In a 24 hour period, a detective (originally played by Lee Sun-Hyun) receives a divorce notice from his wife; next, his mother passes away; he then becomes the focus of a police investigation; to make matters worse, on the way to his mother’s funeral, he commits a fatal hit and run…

Peace Breaker gets a domestic release on August 18, 2017. Watch the film’s Newest Trailer below:

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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).

Broken Sword Hero stars World-renowned Muay Thai kickboxer, Buakaw Banchamek (Yamada: The Samurai of Ayothaya). The film follows the adventures of Thong Dee (Banchamek, in his first leading role), a legendary fighter with unparalleled skills of Muay Thai and sword fighting skills.

There’s definitely more to the plot, but when you have a bunch of guys running around doing some Muay Thai sh*t, what else left is there to say?

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

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

Confidential Assignment (2016) Review

"Confidential Assignment" Korean Theatrical Poster

“Confidential Assignment” Korean Theatrical Poster

Director: Kim Sung-Hoon
Writer: Yoon Hyun-Ho
Cast: Hyun-Bin, Yu Hae-Jin, Kim Ju-Hyeok, Jang Young-Nam, Yoona, Park Min-Ha, Lee Hae-Young, Lee Dong-Hwi, Kong Jung-Hwan, Jeon Kuk-Hwan
Running Time: 125 min.

By Paul Bramhall

It’s been interesting to watch the portrayal of North Korean characters develop since the beginning of the Korean wave in the late 90’s. Back then, while still commercially appealing in their nature, movies like Shiri and J.S.A. portrayed the South’s north of the border counterparts as characters with their own internal conflicts and personalities. Since then, mainstream Korean cinema has largely resorted to using North Korea as an origin for agents with their own hidden agendas, usually played by good looking young actors, crossing into the South to perform undercover missions. This particular trend peaked in 2013, which gave us the bombardment of Commitment, The Suspect, and Secretly, Greatly.

Out of all the mainstream movies to use the undercover North Korean agent trope though, for me the one that did it best was 2010’s Secret Reunion. Essentially a buddy movie in the guise of a North vs South tale, director Jang Hoon cast Song Kang-ho as a detective, that gets fired after a mission to catch a North Korean spy goes horribly wrong. During the same mission, another North Korean agent escapes, played by Kang Dong-won, but ultimately finds himself stranded in the South. They both briefly glimpse each other, and when their paths cross by chance six years later, neither believes the other recognizes them. Circumstances ultimately lead them to form a private detective agency together, with both of their intentions to steal information from the other. The end result was a surprisingly effective action comedy, and in more ways than one, 2016’s Confidential Assignment uses an identical template in the hope of recreating the same winning formula.

Thankfully director Kim Seong-hoon tweaks the plot of Secret Reunion enough to make Confidential Assignment an entertaining piece of action comedy in its own right. Yoo Hae-jin, who after years of playing supporting roles is finally enjoying his second co-starring role in as many years (the first being Luck.Key), plays a clumsy middle aged detective, that finds himself ordered to unofficially pair with a North Korean detective. His counterpart is played by Hyeon Bin, who before becoming a popular romantic lead in both TV dramas and movies, was the co-star in 2004’s taekwondo movie Spin Kick. Hyeon’s character is part of a North Korean delegation attending a North & South government meeting, however secretly both are after a North Korean agent who’s gone rogue, and is hiding out in Seoul. The crux is that neither are completely honest with each other, with both having their own ulterior motives for getting to the rogue agent before the other.

There should be no mistake that Confidential Assignment is as commercial a movie as they come, clearly created to appeal to as broader audience as possible with its mix of hard hitting action for the guys, Hyun Bin to attract the female demographic, and comedy that’s suitable for the whole family. As a result, it’s difficult to argue that it feels like anything other than a by-the-numbers thriller that we’ve seen plenty of times before. The production is Seong-hoon’s sophomore effort, having previously directed the 2012 musical drama My Little Hero, and may not be the obvious choice to helm an action comedy, but the direction is confident, and the pace remains brisk throughout. Indeed it’s the pacing of Confidential Assignment which is one of its biggest strengths, as despite the potential for melodrama never being far away, thankfully Seong-hoon resists the decision to ever delve into it.

Instead, the focus is kept squarely on both the action and the comedy. Much like Kang Dong-won ends up moving in with Song Kang-ho in Secret Reunion, the same plot device is used here, as Hae-jin ends up inviting Hyeon to stay with his family in their homely Seoul apartment. There was no doubt that Hyeon would have little more to do in Confidential Assignment than look handsome and deliver the action, but he has a likable presence, and is never overwhelmed by the more experienced Hae-jin. A comedic highlight comes when Hae-jin fits him with a GPS ankle bracelet, usually reserved for sex criminals, explaining that it’s what all South Korean detectives wear in order to discreetly identify each other. However when Hyeon spends some time alone at a viewpoint overlooking the city, he’s approached by another man also wearing one, who proceeds to excitedly ask him what he’s into, leading to a hilariously played out misunderstanding.

His action scenes, of which there are many, also provide a convincing sense of physicality and excitement. From a thrilling foot chase through the streets of Seoul, that ends with him clinging onto a moving car, to a one against many fist fight, which sees a unique use of a toilet roll. He also gets a couple of one-on-one throwdown against a towering Kong Jung-hwan, which under the guidance of martial arts team members Choi Tae-hwan and Kim Tae-hwan, deliver a satisfyingly visceral level of punishment. Hae-jin understandably takes a back seat when it comes to the action, however one particular scene is noteworthy thanks to its hilarious nature, when he also finds himself up against a group of attackers, and frantically attempts to figure out how Hyeon had used the toilet roll from an earlier fight.

Confidential Assignment’s other big plus is the chemistry between Hae-jin and Hyeon. The pair form a convincing onscreen bond, from their initial hostility towards each other, to the gradual trust that, while never becoming completely unconditional, develops enough for them to gain a mutual respect of one another. We may have seen Hae-jin’s struggling family man detective a hundred times before, and Hyeon’s wardrobe is clearly fashioned from the Won Bin Man from Nowhere look (at one point Hae-jin’s wife asks him if he only brought the one black suit with him), but their portrayal of their characters is still convincing.

Special mention should also go to Kim Joo-hyeok, who plays the rogue agent that everyone is after, and acts as the villain of the piece who we should all be rooting against. His character is perhaps the most interesting, as his decision to go rogue was largely based on seeing through the North’s cult of personality based regime, and realising that he could make it rich in the South. While his motivations are not necessarily the reason for him being the villain (anyone who realises that the North’s regime is an illusion should surely be considered a character worthy of our sympathies), his villainy comes in the form of the ruthless way he chooses to make his escape to the South. While these complexities aren’t explored in any particular depth, and nor should they be in a piece of popcorn entertainment such as this, it does give an interesting slant to proceedings.

This also leads into the other interesting element that Confidential Assignment presents the audience with. Unlike so many other similar productions, were the character from the North usually chooses to stay in the South, here it’s never questioned that Hyeon will go back home after the mission is complete. In that regard, he completes his mission to find the rogue agent, and stays true to the regime, returning back to Pyongyang once it’s complete. While in the movie itself the fact is not presented as a big deal, I don’t think I can recall another production in which a similar scenario is presented, and the North doesn’t become the over-arching super villain at some point. Even Secret Reunion decides to go down this route by the end, with Dong-won’s North Korean agent successfully defecting to the South. If anything, Confidential Assignment is the complete opposite, ending with a scene of Hae-jin and Hyeon together in Pyongyang.

While it’s easy to pin the success of Confidential Assignment on the chemistry between Hae-jin and Hyeon, that wouldn’t be entirely fair. At the end of the day, Seong-hoon has looked to craft an entertaining action comedy, and to that end the final product delivers both funny comedy and exciting action, which is exactly what it was aspiring to do. While it’s certainly never going to be considered a classic, as a brisk piece of popcorn entertainment, you can certainly do a lot worse.

Paul Bramhall’s Rating: 7/10

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

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

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

RELEASE DATE: October 3, 2017

There can never be enough Asian gangster flicks, and Gao Xixi’s The Game Changer, an upcoming period actioner, is no exception. On October 3, 2017, Well Go USA is releasing the film on Blu-ray & DVD.

The Game Changer is about gang wars in Shanghai in the 1930’s. The movie is an adaptation of Shanghai Bund, a TVB series that has been compared to The Godfather.

The film 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).

Pre-order The Game Changer from Amazon.com today!

Posted in Asian Titles, DVD/Blu-ray New Releases, Martial Arts Titles, News | Tagged | 2 Comments

Jennifer Garner up for ‘Taken’ helmer’s female ‘John Wick’?

"John Wick" Japanese DVD Cover

“John Wick” Japanese DVD Cover

Charlize Theron’s Atomic Blonde better brace herself, because there’s another unstoppable killer on the way. Pierre Morel, the director of 2008’s Taken, is tackling Peppermint, an upcoming female-centric actioner. And word on the street is that Jennifer Garner (Elektra) is currently in talks to play the title character.

According to Deadline, Peppermint is a high-action revenge thriller, with a premise likened to John Wick and John Wick 2, only with a female protagonist. When her husband and daughter are gunned down in a drive-by, the heroine wakes up from a coma and spends years learning to become a lethal killing machine. On the 10th anniversary of her family’s death, she targets everyone she holds responsible, the gang that committed the act, the lawyers that got them off, and the corrupt cops that enabled the murderous incidents.

In addition to Peppermint, there’s another female John Wick spin-off in the works that will based off Shay Hatten’s script for Ballerina (read about it here).

Updates to follow. For now, say hi to this female assassin:

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Shock Wave (2017) Review

"Shock Wave" Chinese Theatrical Poster

“Shock Wave” Chinese Theatrical Poster

Director: Herman Yau
Writer: Herman Yau, Erica Lee
Cast: Andy Lau, Jiang Wu, Song Jia, Philip Keung, Ron Ng, Wang Ziyi, Felix Wong, Shek Sau, Liu Kai-chi, Cheung Chun-kit, Louis Cheung, Babyjohn Choi, Felix Lok
Running Time: 118 min.

By Martin Sandison

Superstar actor/singer Andy Lau (The Great Wall, God of Gamblers) has had one of the most enduring careers of any Hong Kong celebrity, and he keeps going strong. Despite the setback of his injury while filming a commercial earlier this year (he fell off a horse), Lau is almost fully recovered and will continue to make movies soon. His latest film, Shock Wave, is a high budget, Hong Kong/Mainland co-production that boasts a good performance from Lau and some bombastic action set pieces.

Lau stars as Cheung Choi San, a member of the Bomb Disposal Unit in Hong Kong. Seven Years previous, Cheung had solved a case involving a criminal called Blast (Jiang Wen, A Touch of Sin), as he had gone undercover with his gang. However, Blast managed to escape and swore revenge. As Cheung climbs the ladder in the unit, Blast begins his retribution by holding hostages and planting bombs in the super-busy Cross Harbour Tunnel.

Having the biggest budget he has worked with (allegedly $23 million US), director Herman Yau (The Sleep Curse, Untold Story) really lets rip with the set pieces in Shock Wave. In fact, a set was built to approximate the Cross-Harbour Tunnel, which the film utilizes to great effect during the last 20 minutes. There are tense moments, superbly creative action and solid acting in this section of the film, although there is a tendency to fall into the trap of overwrought melodrama. Yau utilises all of the tricks and camera innovation he can, with visually pleasing results. There is even some extreme violence thrown in, such as an arm being ripped off by a speeding car, which will please fans of Yau. One tracking shot, which moves through an entire tunnel during a gunfight, had me in raptures.

Lau, as usual, is more than convincing in his role as a moralistic cop. Wen is inventively savage and charismatic as the villain, and steals every scene he is in, especially towards the end of the film. Felix Wong does a good job as Superintendent Chow, Lau’s superior (he is perhaps best known as playing Fishmonger Tsan in the classic Drunken Master 2, where he goes toe to toe with Jackie in a memorable fight). The Westerners in the film suffer from the usual problems, e.g terrible voice acting and stilted performances. Unfortunately, the romantic subplot involving Song Jia (Red Cliff, The Bodyguard) is outrageously cheesy and doesn’t do the film any favours.

A problem with Shock Wave is one we’ve all heard before: it panders to Mainland China. The message of the film being “Chinese cops are great! Don’t challenge them or you’re f*cked!” Saying that, there are some moments in the film wherein the patriotic stuff does work, whether you like it or not. They’re too spoilerific to mention here.

Ultimately, Shock Wave misses out on being a classic, but it’s certainly not a failure. It looks like this is the kind of movie we’ll see come out of Hong Kong and the Mainland more often – and that’s certainly not (really) a bad thing.

Martin Sandison’s Rating: 7/10

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Legend of Bruce Lee: Volume Three | DVD (Well Go USA)

Legend of Bruce Lee: Volume Three | DVD (Well Go USA)

Legend of Bruce Lee: Volume Three | DVD (Well Go USA)

RELEASE DATE: October 3, 2017

On October 3, 2017, Well Go USA is releasing the 3-disc DVD set for Legend of Bruce Lee: Volume Three, a 2008 martial arts series that centers around the legendary Bruce Lee (Volume One and Volume Two are currently available).

Legend of Bruce Lee: Volume Three continues where Volume Two left off. The series stars Danny Chan (Shaolin Soccer and Ip Man 3) as Bruce Lee, Michelle Lang, Gary Daniels (Zero Tolerance), Ted Duran, Natalia Dzyublo, Wang Luoyong, Hazen McIntyre, Ray Park (Star Wars: Episode I), Tim Storms, Micheal Jai White (Falcon Rising), Traci Ann Wolfe, Mark Dacascos (Drive) and Ash Gordey.

Pre-order Legend of Bruce Lee: Volume Three from Amazon.com today!

Posted in Asian Titles, DVD/Blu-ray New Releases, Martial Arts Titles, News | Tagged | 2 Comments

‘Star Wars: The Last Jedi’ to feature ‘Rebel’ star Veronica Ngo

"Star Wars: The Last Jedi" Teaser Poster

“Star Wars: The Last Jedi” Teaser Poster

J.J. Abrams’ Star Wars: The Force Awakens, the continuation of the original Star Wars trilogy created by George Lucas, was a massive success for Disney, hitting the $2 billion global box office mark. Likewise can be said about Gareth Edwards’ spin-off, Star Wars: Rogue One, which surpassed the $1 billion mark. But now it’s time to put our geek-focus on Star Wars: The Last Jedi, which has writer/director Rian Johnson (Looper) at the helm.

Returning cast members include Mark Hamill, Adam Driver, Daisy Ridley, John Boyega, Oscar Isaac, Lupita Nyong’o, Domhnall Gleeson, Anthony Daniels, Gwendoline Christie, Andy Serkis and of course, the late Carrie Fisher. New cast members include Laura Dern (Jurassic Park) and Benicio Del Toro (Sicario), who’ll be playing one of the film’s key villains.

But if there’s one new cast member we’re extra excited to see in Star Wars: The Last Jedi, it’s Vietnamese filmmaker, actress, singer and model, Veronica Ngo Thanh Van (House in the Alley). To Western audiences, the multi-talented star is mostly known for her work in the acclaimed Vietnamese martial arts features The Rebel and Clash with Johnny Tri Nguyen, not to mention a minor role in Yuen Woo-ping’s Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon: Sword of Destiny with Michelle Yeoh and Donnie Yen. But in her Native country, she’s practically a household name.

In Star Wars: The Last Jedi, Ngo will portray Paige Tico, a gunner in the Resistance. We’re not sure how much screen time she’ll have, but if this action figure (click here for photo) is any indication, we’re expecting more than a “blink or you’ll miss” appearance.

Ngo continues the trend of Asian action stars appearing in the new wave of Star Wars films. In 2015, The Raid stars Iko Uwais and Yayan Ruhian had cameos in Star Wars: The Force Awakens; then in 2016, Ip Man’s Donnie Yen and Let the Bullets Fly’s Jiang Wen were predominant co-stars in Rogue One: A Star Wars Story.

In addition to Star Wars: The Last Jedi, there’ll be another ‘Paige’ turned in her career: Ngo will also have a role in David Ayer’s upcoming thriller, Bright, with Will Smith, which opens a week after Star Wars: The Last Jedi’s December 15, 2017 date.

Until then, here’s Ngo’s Showreel below. As you’ll see, “The force is strong with this one”…

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Tag (2015) Review

"Tag" Japanese Theatrical Poster

“Tag” Japanese Theatrical Poster

Director: Sion Sono
Writer: Yusuke Yamada, Sion Sono
Cast: Reina Triendl, Mariko Shinoda, Erina Mano, Yuki Sakurai, Maryjun Takahashi, Sayaka Isoyama, Aki Hiraoka, Ami Tomite, Mika Akizuki, Makoto Kikuchi
Running Time: 85 min.

By Z Ravas

In 2015, Takashi Miike, a filmmaker known for his ceaseless work ethic, eased his output to a relaxed –  by his standards – two movies a year. For his part, Love Exposure and Cold Fish director Sion Sono seemed determined to pick up the slack. That same year, Sion saw his name attached to no less than six – count ’em, six! – features. While some critics have accused the Japanese auteur, known for his commitment to extreme cinema, of spreading himself a little too thin, I imagine that most die-hard Sono fans will find plenty to enjoy with 2015’s Tag.

Likely owing to its slick, commercial visuals and winsome cast of Japanese schoolgirls, Tag is one of the few recent Sion Sono movies to achieve wide distribution in North America; in fact, you can even queue it up on Netflix. The plot, based on a novel by Yusuke Yamada, is about a Japanese teenager named Mitsuko who finds herself trapped in the day from hell, almost like Bill Murray in a plaid skirt (how’s that for a visual?). On a school field trip, she is forced to watch as a mysteriously violent wind slices her schoolmates in half – and that’s before the ten minute mark! Things only grow stranger from there as a desperate and on-the-run Mitsuko joins up with a group of young strangers who insist she’s been their beloved classmate all along. Soon enough, Mitsuko finds herself in a fight for her life against powerful, reality-hopping forces… and fight she will.

To say much more beyond that would spoil the fun, though rest assured plenty of bullets are fired and bodies split in half before the credits roll. The plot, as wild and careening as it is, seems to take liberal influence from mind-bending storylines like The Matrix and Total Recall, as well as the generous schoolgirl body count of Battle Royale. But there’s also a surprisingly tender romance/friendship at play between Mitsuko and her newfound classmate Aki, the kind that wouldn’t be out of place in a well-done indie drama, and the dream-like atmosphere of the entire production is aided greatly by Sion Sono’s liberal use of the 11-minute instrumental post-rock song “Pure as Snow (Trails of the Winter Storm)” by Japanese band MONO.

If Tag has a weakness, it’s in its stop-and-start pacing. The movie doesn’t seem to have much of a story to tell once Mitsuko figures out what’s behind her sudden Alice in Wonderland-like existence, as though the tale is all wind-up and no pitch. As such, there are times when it feels like Sion Sono is spinning his wheels in order to ensure the film’s runtime hits the measly 85 minute mark – perhaps most noticeable during the myriad of sequences in which Mitsuko fearfully runs away from the wind as though she’s starring in a Japanese schoolgirl remake of The Happening.

Despite some admitted lulls, Tag’s highs are just about as deliriously high as anything in Sion Sono’s oeuvre. Fans of the filmmaker should know what they’re in for – and know that they’re in for a good, wild time. He’s one of the few living directors who could dream up a scene in which a pig-headed man jump-kicks a marathon-runner, and have it entirely make sense in the context of the plot. Tag appears to want to say something about the nature in which women, particularly young women, are exploited by the Japanese entertainment industry for the pleasure of a male populace… but mostly it’s another launchpad for Sono’s delirious imagination, and in that regard it does not disappoint.

Z Ravas’ Rating: 7.5/10

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Lee Byung-Hun and Kim Yun-Seok hide in ‘The Fortress’

"The Fortress" Korean Theatrical Poster

“The Fortress” Korean Theatrical Poster

From the acclaimed filmmaker behind Silenced and Miss Granny comes The Fortress (aka Namhansanseong), the newest feature from South Korean director Hwang Dong-Hyuk (My Father). Based on the novel by Kim Hoon, this epic thriller stars Lee Byung-Hun (Master), Kim Yun-Seok (The Chaser) and Park Hae-Il (The Host).

In 1636, the Qing dynasty attacks Joseon. King Injo (Park) and his retainers, including Choi Myung-Kil (Lee) and Kim Sang-Hun (Kim), hide in the mountain fortress city of Namhansanseong. They are isolated from the outside. Meanwhile, Choi Myung-Kil insists that they enter into negotiations with the Qing dynasty, but Kim Sang-Hun proposes that they keep fighting (via AW).

The Fortress releases domestically in September 2017. Catch the film’s latest Trailer below:

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Ip Man: Season 1 | Blu-ray & DVD (Cinedigm)

Ip Man: Season 1 | Blu-ray & DVD (Cinedigm)

Ip Man: Season 1 | Blu-ray & DVD (Cinedigm)

On October 10, 2017, North American entertainment company Cinedigm will be releasing the Blu-ray & DVD set for Ip Man: Season 1, a 2013 Chinese television series starring Kevin Cheng (The Woman Knight of Mirror Lake) as the the legendary grandmaster of Wing Chun.

The Wing Chun grandmaster Ip Man (Cheng) spends all his life in pursuit of the authentic martial arts realm. Gaining enlightenment throughout his childhood and adolescence, Ip Man undergoes a transformation and becomes a kung fu legend, ascending to the highest ranking of martial arts. After fleeing to Hong Kong, Ip Man deliberately keeps a low-profile, but he is inevitably engaged in conflicts.

The series also stars Cecilia Han (The Golden Doll), Chrissie Chau (12 Golden Ducks), Yu Rong-Guang (Police Story 2013), Yuen Wah (The Bodyguard), Bruce Leung (The Dragon Lives Again) and Leung “Beardy” Kar-Yan  (Shanghai 13). Ip Man’s real sons, Ip Chun and Ip Ching, serve as the martial arts consultants on this series.

Ip Man: Season 1 is currently available for pre-order at Amazon.com. Don’t miss the series’ Trailer below:

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Steven Seagal and Fan Siu Wong team up for ‘Attrition’

"On Deadly Ground" Theatrical Poster

“On Deadly Ground” Theatrical Poster

Steven Seagal (Above the Law) is currently shooting Attrition, a Kurosawa-esque project that Seagal wrote years ago. At once point, Seagal was attached to helm the project (it would have been his first directing gig since 1994’s On Deadly Ground, 22 years ago), but directorial duties were switched over to Mathieu Weschler, the filmmaker behind Covert Operation (aka The Borderland).

Hong Kong cinema fans will be delighted to learn that Fan Siu Wong (Riki-Oh: The Story of Ricky) and Yu Kang (Wu Xia) are part of the all-star cast that also includes Vithaya Pansringarm (Lupin the Third, Only God Forgives), Rudy Youngblood (Apocalypto), James P. Bennett (Swelter), Cha-Lee Yoon (Plan B, One Million K(l)icks) and Bayra Bela (Netflix’ Marco Polo).

Attrition is said to be about Axe (Seagal), a warrior who’s in search of a missing Thai girl who possesses mythical powers. “I’ve written something called Attrition, which kind of reminds me of a [Akira] Kurosawa movie. I’m hoping to make that soon, maybe in China, maybe in Hong Kong, maybe in Thailand. We’ve got a lot of great offers out there. We’re going to be getting real busy this year,” Seagal told JoBlo in 2015.

Seagal is producing Attrition along with Bey Logan (Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon II) and Philippe Martinez (Wake of Death).

Updates: Download the Full Press Release for Attrition, available in .PDF format. The file contains photos from the production, including the first stills of both Seagal and Fan Siu Wong in action.

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

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

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

RELEASE DATE: September 5, 2017

On September 5, 2017, Well Go USA is releasing the Blu-ray & DVD for Iron Protector, which is better known as Super Bodyguard (Well Go USA most likely changed its title to avoid confusion with Sammo Hung’s The Bodyguard).

Iron Protector is a new martial arts movie directed by and starring Yue Song (King of the Streets). Song plays Wu-Lin, who chooses a dark path to seek for revenge, and take the law in his own hands. Wu-Lin is not just a regular man, he is the successor of an ancient, once powerful Chinese clan, the “Iron Feet”.

The film also stars Wrath of Vajra’s Shi Yanneng (aka Xing Yu) and Special ID’s Collin Chou.

Pre-order Iron Protector from Amazon.com today!

Posted in Asian Titles, DVD/Blu-ray New Releases, Martial Arts Titles, News | Tagged | 14 Comments

Deal on Fire! Chuck Norris: Total Attack Pack | Blu-ray | Only $10.31 – Expires soon!

Chuck Norris Total Attack Pack | Blu-ray (MGM)

Chuck Norris Total Attack Pack | Blu-ray (MGM)

Today’s Deal on Fire is the Blu-ray set for MGM’s Chuck Norris: Total Attack Pack. This 4-disc collection includes some of the best titles from Norris’ filmography:

Lone Wolf McQuade (1983), starring David Carradine and Barbara Carrera; Missing in Action (1984), starring James Hong; Code of Silence (1985), starring Henry Silva; and The Delta Force (1986), starring Lee Marvin and Robert Forster.

(All that’s really missing is 1974’s Slaughter in San Francsico with Don Wong)…

Order the Chuck Norris: Total Attack Pack from Amazon.com today!

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Kill ’em All (2017) Review

"Kill 'em All" Japanese DVD Cover

“Kill ’em All” Japanese DVD Cover

Director: Peter Malota
Producer: Rafael Primorac
Cast: Jean-Claude Van Damme, Autumn Reeser, Peter Stormare, María Conchita Alonso, Daniel Bernhardt, Kris Van Damme, Mila Kaladjurdjevic, Paul Sampson, Kieran Gallagher, Peter Organ, Eddie Matthews
Running Time: 96 min.

By Kyle Warner

Stunt performers and fight coordinators are awesome individuals that go largely underappreciated by far too many film fans. I tend to think that may not be the case at City on Fire, but the point remains. These men and women know their stuff and they make our movies better with their often unsung contributions. However, when asked to step into the role of actor, writer, or director, sometimes these stunt specialists aren’t always up to task. Kill ’em All is the directorial debut of stuntman and fight choreographer Peter Malota. Malota is not well known to me, but he’s been involved with multiple Jean-Claude Van Damme movies over the years both behind the camera and in front of it, with collaborations such as The Quest, Nowhere to Run, and Double Impact. Those films, which featured JCVD in his prime, showcased good (sometimes great) action and stunt work, so I have no reason to doubt Malota’s abilities in his original field. But a good storyteller he is not.

Kill ’em All is a confusing, poorly paced action movie based around the mystery of a hospital bloodbath and the nurse who survived it. Nurse Suzanne (Autumn Reeser, The Arrangement) is called in for questioning by the FBI. Agent Holman (Peter Stormare, Fargo) doubts her story – for some reason? – and Suzanne decides to start from the beginning, retelling how her skeleton crew hospital took in multiple victims from an apparent assassination attempt all at once. One of them is Philip (Jean-Claude Van Damme), who is sporting a concussion and bleeding from a bad cut on his arm. Suzanne is tending to her patients when a Russian with a gun (Daniel Bernhardt) walks in, shoots the ceiling, and demands to know, “Where is he?!” No one knows who the hell he’s talking about. Nor should they. Dude just shows up with a gun, asks a vague question, and kills people who can’t give him a satisfactory answer. Thing is, I didn’t know who he meant either. I assumed he was talking about JCVD, because well, when a bad guy asks “Where is he?” in a JCVD movie, it’s natural to assume he’s talking about our favorite Muscles from Brussels. But nope. The angry Russian goes over to a dead guy on a gurney, pulls back the sheet, and reveals his recently slain brother. Ahhh. Okay then. Next thing you know, Van Damme draws his gun (because apparently patients who are the survivors of assassination attempts are not disarmed when put under medical care) and he goes out into the hall to deal with the angry Russian. These characters with only the vaguest of motivations shoot at each other in the hospital lobby and Suzanne sticks close to Van Damme because at least he’s not shooting at the ceiling and asking stupid questions. But wait, hold up. Peter Stormare’s FBI guy doesn’t believe this crap so we gotta jump back to the FBI interrogation room. Suzanne says that’s how it happened, the FBI asks why they should believe her, and the audience screams GET ON WITH IT ALREADY. But before we can jump back to the hospital, let’s now explore the backstories of the assassins who are here to kill Philip via a series of flashbacks, with each flashback given its own exact date that seems important at first but I guess not…?

It’s a mess. There is such a thing as trying to do too much. At the core of the story is an assault on a hospital where JCVD must fight off assassins, each of them known for their particular method of murder, while he works his way to the fifth floor where an injured diplomat sleeps in a hospital bed. If the movie wanted to be all about that, we might’ve had something here. But instead, the movie goes every which way. The constant jumping back to the FBI room can be tolerated, if only because Peter Stormare is easily the most entertaining thing in the movie. But the flashbacks are a tiresome bore. One goes as far back as 1981 to show JCVD’s Philip as a child (the kid is all of 12 years old. Which begs the question: is JCVD supposed to be 48 years old in this movie?). There are a few unexpected twists at the end—some of them truly bonkers—and I’d almost give it credit for deciding to go in that direction, if not for the fact that one such twist is so obviously lifted from a far superior film.

As Philip, Jean-Claude Van Damme is… elsewhere. He looks incredibly tired. An argument could be made that he’s too old for this sort of role but I’m not ready to go there because it’s clear that the movie would’ve sucked just as much with someone like Scott Adkins in the lead. Van Damme’s character barely speaks, but when he does speak the script gives him some real doozies. There’s this quiet moment during the hospital mayhem where Philip and Suzanne sit down in a break room to talk. He says to her, “You seem like the type of girl I would like to walk with you in the woods and listen to the birds. Plus, you’re intelligent.” And yes, in addition to being an outrageously bad line, it’s also (one must assume) a flubbed delivery. But who wants to read a line like that twice, right?

The lame dialogue extends to other sections of the film, too. Suzanne, a survivor of bloody mayhem, recounts her story like a drunk novelist crafting a poor first draft (hey, I’ve been there, too). A character that you’d think would be shaken by what she’d endured instead slips into flowery prose like she’s attempting to impress. When Stormare’s FBI agent yells at her to get to the point, I acknowledge that he’s a jerk, but damn if I’m not on his side anyway because this dialogue was meant for the garbage can.

Peter Stormare is the best part of the movie, though that’s admittedly not saying a whole lot. I think he must’ve just come off the set of John Wick Chapter 2 – it’s the same beard, same slicked back hair, it might even be the same suit. I don’t for one second buy him as an FBI Agent but he’s fun. And though he doesn’t get much to say, Daniel Bernhardt makes for an intimidating villain. It’s like a more dramatically invested take on his bodyguard character from John Wick, a heavy who disappeared into the background too much in that film but makes for a standout in Kill’ em All.

The action is average. The film’s wretched editing ruins the thrills. JCVD’s son Kris Van Damme shows off some nice kicks. I don’t believe he says a word in the film but he’s impressive in his fight with his father. Autumn Reeser’s Suzanne has a fight with a femme fatale assassin (model Mila Kaladjurdjevic) but the action is far too brief to hold a lasting memory. The best is saved for last when Van Damme and Bernhardt face off. Not sure if fans will consider it worth the wait but it is a fine fight and both performers pull off a few good moves.

The film is obviously working on a small budget. I don’t hold that against it, but nor do I think that’s reason enough to forgive its many shortcomings. It’s an above average cast for a direct-to-DVD feature but they’re largely wasted on a horrible script and awful pacing. Waste of a cool title.

Kyle Warner’s Rating: 3/10

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