Well Go USA is finally releasing Haofeng Xu’s highly-anticipated, award-winning martial arts film The Final Master(read our review) on DVD, Blu-ray and On Demand on July 25, 2017.
Xu made a name for himself by penning the screenplay for Wong Kar-Wai’s The Grandmaster. But it was 2011’s The Sword Identity, his directorial debut, which showed Xu’s true talent. Then came his acclaimed second film, 2012’s Judge Archer (aka Arrow Arbitration).
Xu’s trend in both films was presenting the martial arts in a less stylized and more realistic manner, perhaps not unlike the 2007 Japanese film Black Belt or David Mamet’s 2008 MA-themed Redbelt.
Xu’s knack for realistic hand-to-hand combat in The Final Master is sure to please. The upcoming movie stars Liao Fan (Black Coal, Thin Ice, Chinese Zodiac), Song Yang (The Sword Identity), Jia Song (On His Majesty’s Secret Service), Li Xia (The White Dragon), Huang Jue (Founding of the Party) and Chin Shih-Chieh (The Brotherhood of Blades).
Director Dante Lam (Unbeatable) might just be the hardest working man in Hong Kong cinema. The filmmaker has been reliably turning out hard-hitting films that have helped expand the scope of the action/thriller genre in Hong Kong – his most recent film, Operation Mekong, is currently making waves, and now, Lam has yet another creamy trick under his sleeve: Operation Red Sea.
Operation Red Sea is an upcoming actioner that stars Zhang Yi (Brotherhood of Blades 2), Huang Jingyu (Drug War) and Du Jiang (Mr. High Heels).
According to the official synopsis (via Variety), “the Jiaolong Assault Team, one of the special forces of the world’s largest military force, People’s Liberation Army, is given a potentially fatal assignment, leading a small eight-man unit to evacuate Chinese residents from a North African republic in the throes of a coup d’état.”
Operation Red Sea hits theaters later this year. Don’t miss the promotional footage below:
This time around, Wolf Warrior II will feature Olympic gymnast Zou Kai, Celina Jade (Skin Trade), Hans Zhang (Youth Never Returns) and Frank Grillo (The Grey), who will be playing a mercenary commander who goes head-to-head with Wu’s character.
For Wolf Warrior II, which takes place in a war-torn African country, Wu aims to topple the original. He enlisted Hong Kong veteran Jack Wong (SPL II) and Sam Hargrave (fight coordinator for Blood and Bone) for the action. Hollywood heavies, The Russo Brothers (Captain America: Civil War), were also brought in to help elevate the action.
South Korean writer/director Lee So-Youn (The Uninvited) is back with more thrills and chills with Bluebeard, a new film that’s getting a Blu-ray & DVD release on August 15, 2017 from Well Go USA.
When a doctor learns a murderous secret from a sedated patient, he finds himself in the middle of an unsolved serial murder case. As dismembered bodies start showing up close to home, the doctor races to solve the riddle before the killer realizes what he may know.
Now, another never-before-filmed Kurosawa screenplay, Silvering Spear, has been acquired by Jinke Entertainment from Kurosawa Production Co. for a big screen adaptation. The film will be the first of nine, un-filmed screenplays purchased by Jinke.
According to THR,“Silvering Spear tells the story of a samurai named Ishigaki Jyube who demonstrates remarkable marksmanship while living during the Warring States period, a turbulent time in Japan’s history. Ishigaki Jyube searches for a way to utilize his special talents, while not exploiting them for personal gain.”
Silvering Spear is scheduled to shoot next year. Stay tuned for details.
On July 4, 2017, Well Go USA will be releasing the Blu-ray & DVD for Bitcoin Heist (aka Sieu Trom), a Vietnamese action film directed by Ham Tran (Hollow), who is perhaps best known for his editing work on the martial arts gems, The Rebel and Clash.
In Bitcoin Heist, hackers have become the bank robbers in the new world of crypto-currency. In order to catch the most wanted hacker, The Ghost , an Interpol special agent assembles a team of thieves to plan the ultimate heist. But as any good criminal knows, there is no honor among thieves.
Bitcoin Heist stars Kate Nhung (Sut), Thanh Pham (She’s the Boss), Petey Majik Nguyen (The Lost Dragon), Suboi, Jayvee Mai The Hiep (Sword of the Assassin), Lam Thanh My (How to Fight in Six Inch Heels), Veronica Ngo (House in the Alley) and Teo Yoo (Codename: Jackal).
“A Better Tomorrow” International Theatrical Poster
Felix Chong, the co-director of Donnie Yen’s The Lost Bladesman, will be re-teaming up with his frequent collaborator Alan Mak (Infernal Affairs) for an upcoming Hong Kong action film titled Project Gutenberg (previously known as Unparalleled). Chong is directing a script he co-wrote with Mak.
According to Variety, the story sees Hong Kong police hunting a gang of exceptional currency counterfeiters. Through a gang member (Kwok) whom they extradite from Thailand, the police find themselves on the trail of the gang’s shadowy mastermind (Chow).
Jack (Chan), a world-renowned archaeology professor, and his team set out on a grand quest to locate the lost ancient Indian treasure of Magadha when they are ambushed by a team of mercenaries and left for dead. Using his vast knowledge of history and kung fu, Jack leads his team on a race around the world to beat the mercenaries to the treasure and prevent an ancient culture from being lost forever.
Co-starring with Chan are Lay Zhang (of the K-pop group EXO), Miya Muqi (Tomb Robber), Aarif Rahman (Bruce Lee, My Brother) and Indian film stars Sonu Sood (Arundhati) and Ileana D’Cruz (Happy Ending).
“Opium and the Kung Fu Master” Chinese Theatrical Poster
AKA: Lightning Fists of Shaolin Director: Tong Gai (Tang Chia) Producer: Mona Fong Cast: Ti Lung, Chen Kuan Tai, Robert Mak, Philip Ko Fei, Lee Hoi San, Tang Chia, Lau Leanne, Ku Kuan Chung, Alan Chan, Ma Chao, Yuen Wah, Yuen Bun, Wong Wai Tong Running Time: 86 min.
By Chris Hatcher
Knowing one could be blacklisted in many kung fu cinema circles for making the following statement, here goes nothing: I have always been somewhat underwhelmed by the great Ti Lung.
Now before you reach for the torches and pitchforks, hear me out: I’m aware of Lung’s prowess for dramatic acting… he won the 1986 Golden Horse Best Actor Award for John Woo’s exceptional A Better Tomorrow and the 1999 Hong Kong Film Best Supporting Actor Award for The Kid; I know about his roles as a street-tough brawler in blood baths like Vengeance and The Duel, both of which have merit for fans of director Chang Cheh’s early hack-n-stab formula; and I know his leads in The Delightful Forest and The Blood Brothers exemplify his commanding on-screen presence. So what exactly is my issue with Ti Lung, you might ask?
Let me answer that question with a follow-up question: Where is Ti Lung’s signature film that showcases the best fight choreography of his career while also delivering on the other qualities that made Lung great in the eyes of his fans?
Whether it’s mundane action in an otherwise high-quality film like Avenging Eagle or all-around misfire like Cheh’s Ten Tigers of Kwangtung, many of Ti Lung’s films failed to hone in on his technical skill as a martial arts superstar. The Heroes (aka Story of Chivalry) had some decent action and highlighted Lung’s skill fairly well, but the fights fell a bit on the slow side; The Kung Fu Instructor practically put me to sleep with its humdrum stick fighting scenes; and Shaolin Prince, though outrageously entertaining, focused more on Lung pulling off wire work feats than impressing with his fighting style. In short, Lung has been involved in WAY too many generic battles for a star of his stature.
Well, I’m happy to say I finally found the answer to my question with a recent first-time viewing of Opium and the Kung Fu Master, an excellent film by Tang Chia that highlights all of Lung’s best traits – dramatic thespian, rugged fighter, good screen presence – and tops them off with a truck load of the technically-driven fight choreography I’ve always wanted for him. Opium gives us more of the brilliance of Lung’s brief but fantastic hand-to-hand fighting in Shaolin Temple (aka Death Chamber); more of the speed he demonstrated in the fierce weapons play of The Deadly Breaking Sword; and more of a reason to become a Ti Lung fan some 33 years after his heyday. Better late than never I always say.
My initial thought while viewing Opium was, “How did I miss this one after all these years?!” The likely reason spawns from once hearing it was a sequel to Ten Tigers of Kwangtung and immediately dismissing it without further research. That was my mistake because Opium is not a sequel to that snoozer, but merely a telling of how the leader of the Ten Tigers overcame an opium addiction to rescue the town he had sworn to protect. Lung portrays the Ten Tigers leader in both films (though differently named in each).
In this particular story, Lung’s Tieh Chiao San is a kung fu master and militia adviser who garners the utmost respect from his students and local townspeople. His presence strikes fear in the hearts of criminals as witnessed in an opening skirmish with Golden Cat (played by the excellent Philip Ko). The brief encounter puts Lung in a light I’ve rarely seen as every strike and block is delivered with a ferocity that signals greater things to come in the fight department. (Finally… signs of the Ti Lung the old school kung fu world needs AND deserves!)
Of course, Golden Cat escapes and reports the trouble with Tieh to his master, Yung Feng (Chen Kuan Tai). Cat wants to deal with Tieh, but Yung quickly reminds him why they’re here… for opium. More specially, to open a local opium den and earn bank while ruining the lives of people they hook on the drug. Throw in a couple of business partners played by Ku Kuan Chung and Lee Hoi San and the foursome make for a pretty damn good troop of villains.
Screenwriter Ying Wong could have kept his story as simple as local hero takes on drug gang, but instead throws in the interesting twist of depicting Tieh as one of the town’s opium addicts. Tieh tries to convince his blind instructor (played by choreographer/director Chia) and head student (Robert Mak) that he only hits the pipe every now and then, but it eventually becomes clear that his skills are eroding. A brief pole fighting sequence with Master Yi (Chia) and a lesson with Gua Su (Mak) lead to questions of whether Tieh’s habit is slowing him down (which is somewhat amusing considering Lung looks fantastic in both encounters!).
The big reveal, however, comes when Yung challenges Tieh to a public showdown after Su sets fire to the opium den in an act of retribution. Yung’s dual spears versus Tieh’s Tie Sin Fist is lightning fast and extraordinary to watch. But as the fight wears on, with Yung goading Tieh as his skills begin to wane, we see the full effects of opium abuse in a weak man who’s unable to steady his sword due to the shakes. And those shakes bring tragic consequences, delivering one of Opium’s best all-around scenes and giving the film a quasi-Rocky complex in the sense of portraying a fallen hero who must find a way to climb back to the mountain top (because we all know redemption is coming).
All in all, Opium and the Kung Fu Master is a powerhouse of action with strong contributions from everyone starting with Lung. I can’t stress enough how exceptional he looks, especially in the frenetic rice house scene where he swoops in to take on Philip Ko and a band of thugs. It’s one of my favorite bits of action complete with Robert Mak challenging Ko’s cool tiger claw in an acrobatically rousing clash. From speed to timing to power, Lung’s every move looks sharp and deliberate and I couldn’t have been more pleased. The legendary Chen Kuan Tai is also very much on point each time he takes up his spears.
Speaking of Mak, he really gets to show off his talents in this one via some great encounters with Ko and Lee Hoi San. And, he demos another nifty lion dance to boot (just like in Martial Club). I liked Mak in Martial Club, but I really loved his overall performance in Opium.
Hands down, Lung’s weapons and hand-to-hand technique are faster and more dynamic in Opium than in any other film of his career. But as powerful as his fight scenes are to the action, it’s Lung’s immensely intense portrayal of a man coming to grips with his addiction that proves equally powerful. From sacrificial deaths to woeful suicides, characters die unexpectedly at every turn with opium the root cause, and Lung takes these occurrences to heart in wonderfully dramatic fashion. You can see the conviction in his eyes each time a cautionary warning about Tieh’s opium habit leads to tragedy; it’s truly heartbreaking.
By the time Tieh begins the long journey to kicking his habit, regaining his superior kung fu (there’s an excellent pole training sequence with Master Yi), and restoring his stature, Lung is in full-on drama mode. There are some familiar episodes of melodrama that come with the old school territory, but most of the dramatic moments are genuine and effective. And though Lung has played high-stature characters many times over, I would go as far as to say none come close to resonating as strongly as Tieh Chiao San due to the levels of tragedy and high drama taking place throughout the story. It’s part of what admirably separates Opium from other kung fu tales.
I suppose the man to thank for the wonderful balance of action and drama is Chia, whose credits as a director include the aforementioned Shaolin Prince and the magnificent Shaolin Intruders. Opium was his third and final film in the director’s seat, and it was fitting (though unexpected) for Chia to choose a historical subject like opium abuse in China as his directorial swan song. Watch all three of his films back-to-back-to-back and you’ll quickly understand why Opium is considered the tame one; the action scenes in his other two films are insanely death-defying! It’s truly a shame Chia didn’t helm more projects over the course of his long choreography career.
My only real complaint about Opium and the Kung Fu Master (and it’s somewhat of a big one considering I was ready to give this film a 9.5 rating out of 10) is that the film’s finale felt rushed and serves as little more than an exercise in proficiency. And that’s really all I can say about it; it’s proficient.
For some, this might be good enough. But after Chia spends an hour and twenty minutes establishing Lung’s character as larger-than-life, breaking him down in dramatic fashion, building him up better than ever for the final showdown, and delivering some really excellent kung fu along the way, I expected a balls to the wall finale! I expected a drawn out confrontation considering Lung had to contend with Ko, San, and Chen! I even got giddy imagining what was to come as Lung made his walk to the center of town.
And then it was over in what felt like the blink of an eye. Proficiently executed and skillfully crafted, but short and workmanlike, nonetheless. All weapons, no hand-to-hand, and not everything I was hoping for in light of all the great fights leading up to this point. My minor issues with Mak and Lau Leanne’s throw-away love story and the continuous hints at Lung’s decline only manifesting in one fight scene were long forgotten. I found myself wishing I could turn back time, reshoot the finale, and set Opium back on its path to near-perfection.
Then I was snapped out of my fantasy stupor by my wife’s calls to take out the trash and quickly found myself back in the real world. After all, we’re talking about old school kung fu cinema here, not ending world hunger. And as far as finding the ultimate Ti Lung showcase was concerned… mission accomplished. So add Opium and the Kung Fu Master to your must-watch list and know you’ll be seeing Lung at his absolute finest!
Despite publicly stating that Ip Man 3 was his last Ip Man sequel, martial arts superstar Donnie Yen (Kung Fu Jungle) never ruled out the idea of revisiting the Ip Man character for a fourth time – but considering Ip Man 3 had somewhat of a swan song-feel to it, fans dismissed the possibility.
Additionally, Yen’s increasing popularity and demand in Hollywood with the recently released Star Wars: Rogue One and xXx: Return of Xander Cage raised the question: Why would Yen backpedal to the Ip Man role again, especially if Ip Man 3 was a perfect closing chapter?
Then in September of 2017, nearly a year after the release of the last Ip Man 3, Yen had this to say: “I want to share this very excited news with you all, my good friend Wilson Yip, who had directed all of my last three Ip Man series, tonight, we have decided to reunite and continue to make our next project together, Ip Man 4! Yes, I-P-M-A-N part 4!”
On March 19th, Yen (via FB) shared the news that production for Ip Man 4 begins in 2018: “Some prefer to call me the IP MAN. Filming begins 2018, I am back!” Yen is also toying with the idea of Tony Jaa (SPL 2) being his next opponent in Ip Man 4 (via HK01).
There was a rumor going around that Jackie Chan would be co-starring with Donnie Yen in Ip Man 4. Turns out, it was false. According to HK Top 10, producer Raymond Wong Pak Ming denied the rumor, but stated the film has already started preparation.
We’ll keep you posted as we learn more about Ip Man 4. In the meantime, Yen can next be seen in Wong Jing’s Chasing the Dragon (aka King of Drug Dealers), where he’s taking on the role of real-life gangster Ng Sek-ho (aka Crippled Ho). And there’s also a Ip Man spin-off in the works, titled Cheung Tin-chi, with breakout star Max Zhang reprising his character from Ip Man 3(rumors suggest that Yen may have a cameo as Ip Man).
Updates: Donnie Yen told OD (via JS ) that Ip Man 4 should start shooting in March 2018. “Director Wilson Yip is getting the script together right now,” said Donnie. “Production should start in March of next year, because that’s when we all have time in our schedules. I’ve saved that slot for Ip Man 4 already.”
Bong Joon-ho (The Snowpiercer), the acclaimed director of the 2006 Korean monster masterpieceThe Host, will debut his latest film Okja on Netflix June 28th
Meet Mija (Seohyun An), a young girl who risks everything to prevent a powerful, multi-national company from kidnapping her best friend – a massive animal named Okja. Following her across continents, the coming-of-age comedy drama sees Mija’s horizons expand in a way one never would want for one’s children, coming up against the harsh realities of genetically modified food experimentation, globalization, eco-terrorism, and humanity’s obsession with image, brand and self-promotion.
Okja also stars Tilda Swinton (The Snowpiercer), Jake Gyllenhaal (Nightcrawler), Paul Dano (Love & Mercy), Steven Yeun (The Walking Dead), Lily Collins (Abduction), Devon Bostick (Regression), Byun Heebong (The Host), Shirley Henderson (Filth), Daniel Henshall (The Babadook), Yoon Je Moon (Fists of Legend) and Choi Wooshik (Big Match).
According to FBA: Yuen says that aside from sharing the title of the film, the remake will tell an entirely new story. He said that if the original film was meant to present an alternative form of wuxia film, the new film intends to redefine it.
The Thousand Faces of Dunjia is currently in production for a 2017 release.
Updates: Check out a New behind-the-scenes featurette, courtesy of AFS:
Today’s Deal on Fire is the Blu-ray for the Payback Time Triple Feature, which will include the following titles:
Blind Fury, a 1989 cult classic directed by Phillip Noyce (Dead Calm, Salt) and starring Rutger Hauer (The Hitcher), Terry O’Quinn (The Stepfather), Nick Cassavetes (Face/Off), Meg Foster (Future Kick) and a special appearance by ninja superstar Sho Kosugi (9 Deaths of the Ninja).
Silent Rage, a 1982 action thriller directed by Michael Miller (Street Girls) and starring Chuck Norris (Yellow Face Tiger, Code of Silence), Ron Silver (Timecop), Brian Libby (The Shawshank Redemption) and Stephen Furst (Animal House).
And last but not least, White Line Fever, a 1975 flick directed by Jonathan Kaplan (Unlawful Entry) and starring Jan-Michael Vincent (Airwolf), Kay Lenz (Death Wish 4), Slim Pickens (The Getaway) and L.Q. Jones (Lone Wolf McQuade).
This Christmas, the public will see Donnie Yen (Ip Man 3) play real-life gangster Ng Sek-ho (aka Crippled Ho) in Chasing the Dragon (aka King of Drug Dealers), a remake of the 1991 Hong Kong gangster movie To Be Number One. The film will be released in North America by Well Go USA on a pending date.
Deadline reports that Yen will play an immigrant in Hong Kong who is caught in the underground world of corrupt cops and ruthless drug dealers, and he becomes determined to become the sole dictator in the drug empire.
According to a reliable source (via Toby Wong from Hong Kong), “Chasing the Dragon is a purely dramatic role for the cast, so don’t expect Donnie Yen to do the martial arts he’s known for. Instead, expect hack and slash action. Donnie is rough housing it. Remember, it’s a triad drama, not Ip Man 3. Don’t worry, action fans will still be happy!”
Two months ago, we reported that Warner Bros. was courting Jordan Peele (director of the sleeper hit, Get Out) to direct the live-action, big screen adaptation of Katsuhiro Otomo’s Akira, which has been in development hell for over 5 years. Turns out, Peele, who is a fan of Akira, wants to concentrate on original content.
Here’s what he told BH.com: “I think [I could do it] if the story justifies it,” Peele said. “Akira is one of my favorite movies, and I think obviously the story justifies as big a budget as you can possibly dream of. But the real question for me is: Do I want to do pre-existing material, or do I want to do original content? At the end of the day, I want to do original stuff.”
Instead, Peele is currently developing Lovecraft Country, a new Horror TV project with producer J.J. Abrams for HBO. Based on a novel written by Matt Ruff, the series, which will take places in the 1950s, “reclaims genre storytelling from the African-American perspective.”
In addition to Peele, a handful of directors, including Albert Hughes (The Book of Eli), Jaume Collet-Serra (Run All Night) and Justin Lin (Star Trek Beyond) have been tied to Akira, but exited due to creative differences (or other unexplainable reasons).
One of the last filmmakers connected 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). Marco J. Ramirez, the scribe who co-showran the second season of Netflix’s Daredevil, was/is also attached as one of the writers. At one point, Leonardo DiCaprio (The Revenant), Jennifer Davisson Killoran (Orphan) and Andrew Lazar (Jonah Hex) were on board as producers.
As far as actors and actresses, 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 loosely attached.
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.
We’ll keep you updated on this story as we hear more.
AKA: Dancing King Director: Cheng Cheh Writer: James Wong Cast: Ricky Cheng Tien Chi, Yang Li-Su, Sun Jung Chi, Yang Guang-Yo, Chen Kuan-Tai, Got Heung Ting, Lui Fong, Dennis Brown, Anita Mui Yim Fong Running Time: 90 min.
By Paul Bramhall
It’s fair to say that legendary director Chang Cheh more than earned his moniker of the Godfather of Hong Kong Cinema, however while his crowning achievements are many, there can also be no doubt that the post-Shaw Brothers era of his filmography can make for some odd viewing. After re-locating to Taiwan and forming his own production company there, Cheh went on to make a number of movies with Taiwanese native and Baby Venoms stalwart Ricky Cheng. After starring in Cheh’s latter day Shaw Brothers efforts, such as Five Element Ninjas and The Weird Man, Cheng would continue to feature in Cheh’s post-Shaw Brothers ventures into the realm of fantasy, such as Attack of the Joyful Goddess and The Nine Demons.
When the stars of Cheh’s movies from both past and present got together for the movie which was to secure his retirement, 1984’s The Shanghai Thirteen, that technically should have put a cap on both Cheh’s career as a director, and at least opened up news paths for Cheng to pursue. But old habits die hard, and Cheh soon found himself with the money he made from The Shanghai Thirteen, which was supposed to be for his retirement, being used to make another production. Notably he’d go on to make a further six movies, one of which was another retirement flick in the form of 1990’s Hidden Hero, before finally wrapping up with Last Ninja in China from 1993. But perhaps the movie he made directly after The Shanghai Thirteen can be considered a candidate for the oddest of his career, with the appropriately titled Dancing Warrior.
Once again Cheh would put Cheng in the lead role, and Dancing Warrior would mark the last time the pair would work together, before Dung Chi-Wa became Cheh’s actor of choice for his final movies. Their last collaboration together has been a title I’ve been curious about watching for the longest time, purely because the plot descriptions floating around on the net sound about as far away from a Chang Cheh movie as humanly possible. A dancer who dreams of making it big moves to New York to pursue his dream of appearing on Broadway. Really? This is a Chang Cheh movie? The guy who specialises in heroes majestically embracing their heroic deaths in a deluge of balletic slow motion and blood-letting, usually impaled by more weapons than any normal human could realistically withstand, has a movie under his name about a dancer pursuing the American Dream!?
Having now watched it, I can safely state that yes, indeed he does. What’s perhaps more surprising is that, far from being Cheh’s version of Mismatched Couples, Yuen Woo-Ping’s breakdancing movie from the same year with a fresh faced Donnie Yen, Dancing Warrior is more closely described as Cheh’s version of Flashdance. Like the first half of the title suggests, if The Fantastic Magic Baby can be considered Cheh’s go at a full blown fantasy adventure, then Dancing Warrior is his crack at directing a dance inspired musical. Of course, Cheng’s alcohol loving dancer also happens to be a kung fu expert, but the fact almost seems to be thrown in out of obligation, and perhaps more significantly, let’s Cheh provide a finale that delivers what’s expected. But more on that later.
As with almost anything Cheh did, particularly from the Venoms era onwards, subtlety is not the order of the day here. Proceedings open with Cheng made up as a clown in a Hong Kong TV studio, where he’s a backing dancer for a talk show. However when the shows arrogant host (a cameo by James Wong, who also wrote the script) shows up late, he ends up storming out, and basically spends the first 10 minutes of the movie dancing around the streets of Hong Kong in clown makeup. There’s something mildly infuriating about watching it. I mean, he even goes to a bar and gets drunk as a clown, and no one bats an eye lid, and then bumps into a car being driven by Chen Kuan-Tai, turning in a bizarre cameo. When finally a policeman shows the first sign of reality, and asks him to show some ID, he prances about acting as a mime for what feels like an eternity, in what’s clearly supposed to be a comical sequence, but serves to be anything but. Cheh has never been good at comedy, and nothing changed towards the end of his career.
Dancing Warrior also plays its part in the topic that rears its head during many a Chang Cheh discussion – the recurring theme of homoerotic bonding between the male characters of his tales. While Dancing Warrior is still a few years before the slow motion rolling around on the floor embraces found in Slaughter in Xian, it perhaps presents a solid argument that Cheh was indeed a straight guy, just with a rather overzealous approach to bromance. Cheng has a female love interest throughout the movie (a latter day Cheh movie that features no female betrayal!), played by Yang Li-Su, which leads to an amusing scene of Cheng being introduced to her male dance instructor. The two guys mutual love of dance leads to a scene in which they take to the floor in a nightclub together, which, at its most bizarre, has Cheng leaping into the arms of the awaiting instructor, a kind of all male version of a Dirty Dancing number. Misguided yes, but also weirdly innocent.
Indeed the word misguided could also be applied to Cheng’s dance loving bumpkin character. Shakespeare once said the world’s a stage, and that’s how Cheng views it. He just wants to dance, and at a moment’s notice he frequently does – in the street, in a restaurant, during a kung fu class, in the club, the list goes on. Whenever he does break into dance, it’s not just for a couple of seconds, but for the duration of a whole song. While Cheng’s physical dexterity is impossible to debate (many fans are of the opinion Cheh chose him as a lead due to his physical talents rather than his looks – difficult to argue), watching him constantly jump over tables, over-energetically tear up a dance floor, or have a dance off in a club that looks like an aerobics video gone wrong, does get a little tiresome.
Cheng’s dancing prowess eventually captures the eye of a businessman who invites him to New York to continue his training there. However, in the first sign of Dancing Warrior being a Chang Cheh movie, it turns out to be a trick, and the businessman actually wants Cheng to be part of an underground illegal fighting tournament. Of course, Cheng just wants to dance, so refuses and ends up performing a Monkey King routine in Central Park to get by from the donations he’s given. It’s here where he’s spotted by an African American kung fu teacher played by Dennis Brown, in his one and only movie appearance, and the pair strike up a friendship. Brown correctly guesses that Cheng also knows kung fu, and the pair strike a deal – Cheng will teach his students, on the basis that he’s allowed to use the kung-fu studio for dance practice. Plenty of cringe worthy kung fu and Broadway style dance routine infusion ensues, until Brown himself becomes embroiled in the illegal fighting.
It’s this plot development that provides us with what every Chang Cheh fan has been waiting for, a 7 minute 3-on-1 fight finale that sees Cheng taking on a villainous boxer played by Yang Guang-You (complete with hidden blades in his knee and elbow pads) and his two lackeys. It’s one of the most unique finales in Cheh’s filmography, in that it essentially takes the same technique he used 15 years earlier for Vengeance!, which has Ti Lung’s frantic teahouse fight juxtaposed with his Peking Opera performance, and applies it to a stage musical instead. So while Cheng fights off his opponents in reality, the scene frequently cuts to him, bare chested and in a long haired wig, dancing on a garishly coloured stage while fending off costumed attackers who look like rejects from Cats. Part of the fight is even set to a song, but dare I say, it works, giving way to one of the most bizarre closing shots you’re likely to see.
Like his fellow Shaw Brothers director Lau Kar Leung, Cheh never really seemed at home with movies based in a contemporary setting, a theory which is further backed up by the fact that, out of the 94 times he sat in the director’s chair, only a handful of them were modern day based. The last time Cheh directed a contemporary actioner was 1977’s Chinatown Kid, which interestingly also set itself Stateside, although instead of New York it was San Francisco. At least this time though, despite Cheh’s dwindling budgets, Dancing Warrior does in fact feature location shooting in the Big Apple. More so than any of his other contemporary outings, it’s Dancing Warrior which feels the most out of time, almost as if the New York being portrayed onscreen is a version of the city which only exists in Cheh’s head. It may not contain the supernatural elements from the likes of Heaven and Hell and Attack of the Joyful Goddess, and is supposedly grounded in reality, but make no mistake, once watched you’ll realise Dancing Warrior is just as much of a fantasy. Only with more, well, dancing.
“Blade of the Immortal” Japanese Theatrical Poster
Takashi Miike’s (13 Assassins, Terra Formars) live-action movie adaptation of Hiroaki Samura’s manga, Blade of the Immortal, has been acquired by Magnet Releasing for North American distribution. A 2017 release date is pending (via Deadline).
This upcoming period samurai film stars Takuya Kimura (2046), Hana Sugisaki (Mozu: The Movie), Sota Fukushi (Library Wars), Hayato Ichihara (Yakuza Apocalypse), Erika Toda (Goemon), Ebizo Ichikawa (Hara-Kiri: Death of a Samurai), Tsutomu Yamazaki (As the Gods Will) and Min Tanaka (The Eternal Zero).
Here’s a rough idea of what to expect, according to Amazon’s manga description: “A cursed, seemingly immortal warrior aids a young girl in her quest for revenge, as the students of a brutal new sword school tear a bloody path across Japan. Samura’s storytelling tour-de-force also won Japan’s Media Arts Award, several British Eagle Awards, and an Eisner Award, among other international accolades. Intense and audacious, Blade takes period samurai action and deftly combines it with a modernist street idiom to create a style and mood like no other work of graphic fiction.
On August 1st, Funimation will be finally releasing the Blu-ray & DVD for Shin Godzilla (aka Godzilla: Resurgence), the recent Japanese reboot of the Godzilla franchise by Japan’s Toho Company.
It’s a peaceful day in Japan when a strange fountain of water erupts in the bay, causing panic to spread among government officials. At first, they suspect only volcanic activity, but one young executive dares to wonder if it may be something different… something alive. His worst nightmare comes to life when a massive, gilled monster emerges from the deep and begins tearing through the city, leaving nothing but destruction in its wake…
Director: Herman Yau Writer: Erica Li, Lee Sing Cast: Anthony Wong, Jojo Goh, Gordon Lam Ka-Tung, Michelle Wai, Mak Kwai-Yuen, Chye Yang, Pearlly Chua, Yip Ching-Fong, Bryant Mak Ji-Lok Running Time: 102 min.
By Martin Sandison
After this year’s Udine Far East Film Festival screening of The Sleep Curse – and before my scheduled interview with its prodigiously talented director, Herman Yau – I bumped into the great man outside the theatre. I told him that I’d never seen a film like the masterful Untold Story before; he thanked me and said that Tai Seng’s U.S. DVD release was the only uncut version ever released; I told him I would seek it out. Fellow COF reviewer (and kung fu brother), Matija, and I, suitably had a few drinks before the midnight showing of The Sleep Curse. The movie reunites Untold Story star Anthony Wong with Yau, and I felt privileged and excited that this was the uncut showing (10 seconds has been cut for the Asian release) – on top of this – we were watching it in the company of Mr. Yau.
Wong stars as Lam, a neurologist who specialises in sleep problems. He is taken on by an old flame, Monique (Jojo Goh), to help cure her elder brother’s extreme insomnia. Seeing that her brother is under a type of black magic, Lam decides to visit a medium and work out his own past to further his work. Thus, the narrative flashes back to WW2, wherein Lam plays his father Lam Sing, who is a translator working with the Japanese during the occupation of Hong Kong.
The beginning and end of the film are very strong, with a great aesthetic that exudes creepiness and brings back the style of the Untold Story. The opening showing the insomniac is depicted in grainy home video footage (this part of the film is set in 1990) and is suitably creepy and powerfully edited. Wong’s character, while not as brilliantly drawn as his psychotic intensity in Untold Story, or as disgustingly manic as in Ebola Syndrome, is a combination of fierce anger and barely concealed psychosis. It’s the kind of performance that Wong can portray in a heartbeat, yet it contains huge amounts of pathos. He shows his range yet again with the depiction of Lam, although the narrative falters a bit in the middle. It’s unfortunate. Those expecting the unrelenting nature of the previous two films will be a little disappointed, as the middle section is without extremity or real horror; it’s more a of a creepy ghost story.
Gordon Lam Ka Tung, who is having something of a career renaissance, gives a performance that elevates the WW2 section of the film, playing it with a veteran’s knowing grace. His character Chow Fook is the real villain over Lam Sing here, and it’s an interesting change of pace in the film. Last year, Lam also starred in Yau’s drama Nessun Dorma, and recently won the best actor award for Trivisa. Doh puts in decent shift. Her only previous credit was Struggle, notable for featuring the late, great Fung Hark On.
Erica Li’s script threatens at the beginning to be something truly great, but falters a little once the narrative switches, but is redeemed towards the end. Li has worked with Yau a lot, most recently on the closing film of Udine FEFF Shockwave, and also scripted one of my favourite Stephen Chow films The King of Comedy.
Yau comes with such a great pedigree as a director and cinematographer (he has worked in the latter capacity on some notable Hong Kong films of the last 20 years, including Tsui Hark’s all star, Seven Swords), that you would expect his return to extreme horror to be atmospherically filmed with some moments to make the audience squirm. On both counts, the film succeeds, but there’s something missing. Maybe it’s the fact that no Hong Kong director can really recreate their masterful films of the 80’s and 90’s in style and joyous abandon. The Sleep Curse actually doesn’t aim for a recreation, rather a reinvention, and Yau himself said that it’s about the evil that men do – the WW2 part of the film reflects this, with its ideas of latent forced prostitution.
The Sleep Curse builds up to a seriously disgusting and over-the-top ending that will have those viewers who loved Yau’s earlier films in raptures; rest assured, these scenes are just as horrendous as the worst in Untold Story. Despite not capturing the otherworldly greatness of that film, if you are a fan of extreme cinema, check The Sleep Curse out.
Action legends Jackie Chan (Police Story 2013) and Sylvester Stallone (Bullet to the Head) are joining forces for Ex-Baghdad, an $80M budget, Iraq-based thriller to be directed by Scott Waugh (Need for Speed) and written by Arash Amel (Erased).
According to Deadline, here what’s you can expect from the film’s plot: When a China-run oil refinery is attacked in Mosul, Iraq, a Chinese private security contractor (Chan) is called in to extract the oil workers. He learns, however, that the attackers’ real plan is to steal a fortune in oil, and teams up with an American former Marine (Stallone) to stop them.
Ex-Baghdad will mark the 1st time Chan and Stallone will be working together in a full feature. The two previously shared limited screen time in 1997’s An Alan Smithee Film: Burn Hollywood Burn. There have been numerous attempts by Stallone to feature Chan in The Expendables series, but now that Stallone has left the franchise indefinitely, Chan’s involvement is unlikely.
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