Director David Lam (Street Angels) and superstar Louis Koo (The White Storm) are back with S-Storm, the sequel to 2014’s Z-Storm. S-Storm follows the further predicaments of William Luk Che Lim (Koo) – a lead investigator in the ICAC unit (Independent Commission Against Corruption) – and his war with naughty organizations.
S-Storm features a mix of new and returning stars that include Julian Cheung (Flying Daggers), Vic Chou (Detective Gui), Ada Choi (Fist of Legend), Dada Chan (Z-Storm), Janelle Sing (Kung Fu Angels) and Bowie Lam (The Most Wanted).
Female Prisoner Scorpion: Beast Stable is a very different movie from the two that came before it. Meiko Kaji’s Matsu the Scorpion is on the lam after having narrowly survived her prison escape in Jailhouse 41. Wanted posters with her face are all over the city streets, warning that she is a dangerous fugitive. We join Matsu on the subway, sitting silently by herself while those around her read newspapers with her face on them. Detective Kondo (Mikio Narita) and his partner notice Matsu and slowly approach. Just before they’re ready to grab her, out comes the Scorpion’s blade. She fights them off and runs for it, but not before Kondo handcuffs himself to her. Matsu rushes out of the subway car and the doors close on Kondo’s arm. The Scorpion doesn’t hesitate before she starts chopping away on the detective’s right arm, soon hacking it off and leaving him screaming inside the subway car as it pulls away from the station. Matsu runs off, covered in blood and still attached to the severed limb, passing by frightened bystanders who look confused enough to possibly be unwitting extras to one of the most violent opening sequences in cinema.
Unlike the first two films, where 99% of the characters wanted Matsu dead in some way, Beast Stable grants her a friend in the hooker Yuki (Yayoi Watanabe, who was also in #701: Scorpion). It’s not a perfect friendship, though. Things get off to a weird start when Yuki first meets Matsu chewing on Detective Kondo’s severed arm in the shadows of a graveyard that’s lit exclusively by neon lights of nearby bars. Yuki takes Matsu to her place, where Matsu meets Yuki’s sex-starved, brain-damaged older brother, a man whom Yuki defends and alternatively plots to kill totally depending on the day. There’s no shortage of sleaze and uncomfortable character interactions as Matsu settles into a routine of life in the shadows, working as a seamstress to pay her rent, and defending her friend Yuki.
All is going relatively well until a moment of violence against a yakuza lands Matsu at the feet of her new employers, who in addition to running a legitimate business also force women into prostitution on the side. They’re ready to beat her and let her go, but then the boss’s wife recognizes Matsu the Scorpion from the time she spent in prison. Reisen Ri (aka Reisen Lee) plays the cruel boss lady Katsu over the top, complete with crazy dresses and ugly makeup that make her look like a drag queen, plus violent animal pets and a very stagey villain’s laugh. Seeing her chance at putting the Scorpion in her place, Katsu drugs her and throws her into a cage of ravens. (This sequence isn’t nearly as frightening or as weird as I imagine they planned it. The birds mostly ignore Meiko Kaji.) Of course, Matsu soon escapes her cage and vows revenge. The increasing body count attracts the attention of the one-armed Detective Kondo, who starts closing in on Scorpion looking to exact personal revenge more than to serve the law.
Female Prisoner #701: Scorpion and its immediate sequel Jailhouse 41 were fast-paced thrillers filled with violence, madness, sleaze, and political commentary. Beast Stable is more of a slow-burn, more character-driven. This may not be the ‘crowd pleaser’ that the first two films were, but it does give Meiko Kaji some of her most interesting acting moments in the series. Beast Stable explores some of Scorpion’s softer edges, and though it’d be going too far to call her ‘vulnerable’, she does let her guard down at times. Hell, she even cries at one point. It is an excellent dramatic performance, again performed mostly silent. And I enjoyed the quieter moments which allowed Matsu to stand beside a friend and have a beer. It’s a nice evolution for the character, and serves as a reminder that she wasn’t always a violent antihero.
Yayoi Watanabe is good as Yuki. Though she’s a hooker caught in an incestuous relationship with her brother, she’s also the most ‘normal’ character in the film. Mikio Narita (Zatoichi and the Chess Expert) is surprisingly reserved as the villainous Detective Kondo. And Reisen Ri nearly steals the show as the campy villain Katsu.
This would be director Shunya Ito’s last entry in the series. He made his directorial debut with #701: Scorpion and wanted to branch out. Ito’s three Scorpion films came back-to-back-to-back. All other future films in his career would be more spread out, with only eleven more films over the next 40 years. Though still best remembered for his Scorpion films, Ito remembers in an interview that a Toei executive considered never releasing the original film, likely because of its questionable content. Ito was the head of the studio’s union at the time and he ultimately prevailed, which is something the studio really should thank him for because the films became big successes both financially and critically. Future Ito films would invite a different kind of controversy. 1985’s Gray Sunset was a popular film in Japan and was selected to represent the country in the Best Foreign Language Film category at the Oscars, despite the rest of the world heaping praise upon Akira Kurosawa’s Ran. (Ran was nominated for four Oscars and won for Best Costume Design, which is a rare level of recognition for a foreign film in an American awards show. Gray Sunset didn’t make the cut for Best Foreign Language Film and has been largely forgotten about outside of its native Japan.) Ito’s 1998 film Pride was a biopic about Prime Minister Tojo, which presented the man in a positive light. Though a box office success in Japan, critics (especially those of other Asian countries) accused the film of historical revisionism, saying Ito whitewashed Tojo’s role in the war and ignored the country’s human rights crimes. Ito defended his film and tried to explain his intentions but, with the exception of a documentary about filmmaking, he would not make another feature film for over a decade.
Ito’s first two Scorpion films had some strong, angry political commentary. Beast Stable has considerably less on its mind. One new theme that Beast Stable explores is motherhood. Motherhood is something that horror likes to return to often but Beast Stable finds some strange new territory in the theme. One disturbing sequence finds two abortions happening at the same time in two different locations. One is sad, the other is terrifying. It’s horrific stuff, and reminds me of the chestburster scene in Ridley Scott’s Alien – and on that note, seeing a similar sequence to the chestburster playout in a real-world situation helps me better understand how/why women reacted so strongly to Alien in 1979.
This is not my favorite Scorpion film but it does feature one of my favorite moments, as we later return to the abortionist’s sterile, white operating room and witness blood spraying onto the walls. There’s no characters at first, no sign of who is bleeding to death, just the sight of blood spray on white. It’s a trippy revenge fever dream.
Beast Stable hits Blu-ray for the first time in the West from Arrow video as part of their new box set. Again, the picture quality is rather disappointing. I don’t think it’s as blue looking as the first two films. But it’s pretty rough looking. Deep blacks appear to flicker at times. To put it simply, it doesn’t look like a Blu-ray. Again, this is all based on the print that Toei provided, so one is forced to assume that this was a case of poor source materials and not a Blu-ray transfer gone wrong. Still, it’s too bad. Features on the disc include an appreciation from critic Kat Ellinger who praises Japanese exploitation cinema, a visual essay from Tom Mes about the career of Meiko Kaji, and an archival interview with Shunya Ito on working with Kaji, in which Ito admits he didn’t want Kaji in his movie because he so disliked her in Wandering Ginza Butterfly. I enjoyed the Meiko Kaji career spotlight the most, because it allowed me to learn more about the career of one of my favorite actresses, who has made many films that remain unavailable to me and others (after the 70’s Kaji did a LOT of TV work).
This would be director Shunya Ito’s last Scorpion film and he ends the story with a stylish, satisfying finale. But this wouldn’t be the last Scorpion film for Meiko Kaji, who would return to the role in director Yasuharu Hasebe’s 701’s Grudge Song. Beast Stable is the quietest of Ito’s Scorpion films; less savage, more brooding. Though not my favorite entry in the series, it does give us one of Kaji’s best performances and a villain you love to hate in Reisen Ri, making it an essential chapter for fans.
Outlaw Gangster VIP Collection | Blu-ray (Arrow Video)
Today’s Deal on Fire is for Arrow Video’s Blu-ray for the Outlaw Gangster VIP Collection.
In 1968, acclaimed director Toshio Masuda (Rusty Knife, Tora! Tora! Tora!) and rising star Tetsuya Watari (Tokyo Drifter) teamed up for Outlaw: Gangster VIP, a gritty yakuza yarn based on the writings of real life ex-gangster Goro Fujita
The series offers up a depiction of the Japanese underworld that was unprecedented in its realism and its sympathetic portrayal of its protagonist as a man haunted by his past, unable to escape a life of crime. The success of the initial instalment spawned five sequels, continuing the story of the lone wolf “Slasher” Goro and his quest for redemption
The films presented a new kind of realism and violence that would prefigure Kinji Fukasaku’s Battles Without Honor and Humanity series, with their winning combination of brutal violence, gang warfare and sweeping romance, these films make for a unique and unforgettable viewing experience
The set includes six films in the Outlaw series released for the first time in the west: Gangster VIP (our review), Gangster VIP 2 (our review), Heartless (our review), Goro the Assassin (our review), Black Dagger (our review), and Kill! (our review).
Limited Edition Box Set (3000 copies) containing all six films in the Outlaw series, available with English subtitles for the first time on any home video format
High Definition digital transfers of all six films, from original film elements by Nikkatsu Corporation
Original uncompressed mono audio
Newly translated English subtitles
Audio commentary on Outlaw: Gangster VIP by Jasper Sharp
Visual essay covering the entire series by Kevin Gilvear
Original trailers for all six films
Extensive promotional image galleries for all six films
Exclusive gatefold packaging featuring brand new artwork by Tonci Zonjic
Booklet featuring an interview with director Toshio Masuda by Mark Schilling, plus new writing by Schilling, Chris D and Kevin Gilvear
This definitely never happened to the other fellas…
Sony is offering James Bond star Daniel Craig $150 million to reprise his role as 007 for two more of the popular franchise’s films. “Daniel’s the key for a seamless, safe transition as far as Sony and Bond bosses are concerned, and they’re prepared to pay a king’s ransom to make it happen,” a source told Radar.
Months ago, sources told Daily Mail: ‘Daniel is done – pure and simple – he told top brass at MGM after Spectre. They threw huge amounts of money ($99m) at him, but it just wasn’t what he wanted,’ said the source. Another source told the Mail that ‘executives had finally agreed to let the actor go after growing tired of his criticism of the franchise.’
Despite the fact that Craig has openly stated that he’d rather ‘slash his wrists’ than play Bond for a fifth time (this was said shortly after Spectre wrapped production), he never did make it 100% official.
From both a critical and financial point of view, if Craig leaves the franchise, it’ll be on high note: 2012’s Skyfall has gone on to become the most successful James Bond film of all time, grossing over $1 billion worldwide. Last year’s Spectre, which drew in a lesser audience, plus mixed reviews, took in $879.2 million worldwide. Even though Spectre wasn’t a massive success, it was still a success.
If Craig is done, the big question is: Who’ll be playing Bond? Idris Elba (Beasts of No Nation), Michael Fassbender (Jobs), Damian Lewis (Homeland), James Norton (War and Peace) and Tom Hiddleston (The Avengers) remain firm favorites. Also, Jamie Bell (Snowpiercer) is supposedly talking with producers.
The next big question is: Who’ll direct the next Bond film? Considering Sam Mendes (Skyfall) reluctantly returned for Spectre, a new director is most likely on the radar. Endless names including Danny Boyle (28 Days Later), Edgar Wright (Hot Fuzz), Christopher Nolan (Interstellar), Ava DuVernay (Selma), Tom Hooper (The King’s Speech), Denis Villeneuve (Sicario) and David Fincher (Gone Girl) have been making rounds on internet rumor sites. Martin Campbell (Goldeneye, Casino Royale) is also a favorite fans are hoping to see return to the director’s chair, but he says: “I’ve had enough of Bond. [laughs] I’ve done it twice.”
Personally, I’d still like to see Quentin Tarantino take a stab at directing a Bond movie. Not only would he do something totally out of the ordinary, he also knows how to film great pieces, as proved in films like Inglorious Basterds and Django. In fact, very few people know that Tarantino was so close – yet so far – to directing Casino Royale. In 2004, the he went public with a desire to make Casino Royale as a period piece, set in the 1960’s, filmed in black and white, with Pierce Brosnan in the lead role. After being shot down as a directorial prospect by EON, it is now revealed that Tarantino tried to secure the rights to the book himself. “It would have been my James Bond film and not a Cubby Broccoli Bond film and I would have done it with Pierce Brosnan,” said Tarantino. (via mi6-hq.com).
As for Craig: He’s wrapping up a 20-part TV series called Purity. Mirror reported that MGM was even willing to push Bond 25 back, which would allow Craig to complete the series. Craig can be seen next in Steven Soderbergh’s Lucky Logan, a heist film, which releases next year.
We’ll keep you updated on this story as we hear more. Stay tuned!
Rurouni Kenshin Part I: Origins | Blu-ray & DVD (Funimation)
RELEASE DATE: November 1, 2016
Funimation presents the Blu-ray & DVD for Keishi Ohtomo’s Rurouni Kenshin Part I: Origins (aka Rurouni Kenshin, read our review), starring Takeru Satoh (Goemon), Emi Takei (Ai to Makoto), Kofi Kikkawa (Sword of Desperation) and Yu Aoi (Space Pirate Captain Harlock).
When the sadistic drug lord Kanryu threatens the beautiful kendo instructor Kaoru, Kenshin can no longer stand idly by. Together with his street fighter comrade Sanosuke, Kenshin sets his sights on a showdown with Kanryu and his deadly henchmen. | Part II is also available.
Kickboxer: Vengeance (read our review), a remake/reboot of the 1989 Jean-Claude Van Damme cult classic, is currently kicking hard on the big screen. Its sequel, Kickboxer: Retaliation, has already been shot. Today, news arrives that the third film in the series, titled Kickboxer: Syndicate, is in the works.
According to Variety, producer Rob Hickman (Kickboxer: Vengeance) says that Kickboxer: Syndicate is lined up to shoot in February. There are no other details, but we’re certain that Alain Moussi will return as Kurt Sloane.
If Jackie Chan’s upcoming Skiptrace isn’t your cup of tea, then maybe Railroad Tigers – his other forthcoming movie – is something you can look forward to.
The period actioner reunites the legend with director Ding Sheng (Little Big Soldier, Police Story 2013) for a 3rd time. The film also stars Xu Fan (A World Without Thieves), Edison Huang (Gentle Bullet) and Koji (Color War).
According to THR, Railroad Tigers is set in wartime China in 1941 and features Chan as a railroad worker who leads a team of freedom fighters who use their knowledge of the train network to disrupt Japan’s wartime engine and steal food for the starving Chinese population. Railroad Tigers will be hitting Chinese theaters in December 2016.
Updates: Deadline reports that Well Go USA Entertainment has acquired U.S. distribution rights for Railroad Tigers. A North American release date is pending. Until then, don’t miss the film’s recent teaser trailer below:
On November 8, 2016, Wild Eye is releasing the DVD for The Search for Weng Weng, a documentary that investigates the life of Weng Weng (aka Ernesto de la Cruz), a forgotten icon of Pinoy exploitation cinema who starred in the films For Y’ur Height Only, The Impossible Kid and D’Wild Wild Weng.
Join Andrew Leavold’s personal quest to find the truth behind its dwarf James Bond superstar Weng Weng, who took the movie world by storm in the 1970s, and who has since become a viral internet sensation. He is listed in the Guinness World Records as the shortest adult actor in a leading role.
There was some early discussion that Jackie Chan (Dragon Blade) and Steven Seagal (Above the Law) would be teaming up with Jason Statham (Blitz) for a period project titled Viy 2: A Journey to China, a sequel to 2014’s Viy, the highest grossing Russian film of all-time. It would have marked the first time the three action icons would share the screen together.
We now have word from SCB that Chan may not be appearing in Viy 2: “Sadly it seems that the production had to be happy with working with JC Stunt Team and never managed to finalize an agreement for Jackie to be in the movie as well.” According to the same source, Chan visited the set on the last day of shooting. But hold on…
According to some recent information from the industry-connected Mike Leeder (Pound of Flesh), Viy 2 hasn’t finished shooting in China: “There’s a big sequence set to be shot for the next month or so, that’s set in a prison and Chan is still attached to the project; supposedly Chan will be back and fourth between this and Bleeding Steel. Statham was attached, but schedule delays lead to clash with Meg, the giant shark movie. Seagal was briefly attached and then Stallone’s name was discussed, but supposedly now it will be the former governator himself, Arnie, playing the prison warden,” says Leeder.
To give you a little background information about Viy 2, here’s some news that was originally reported by AAG (during a time when Seagal was still attached): The original Viy, directed by Oleg Stepchenko, is a dark fantasy/adventure film set in the early 18th century starring Jason Flemyng. Despite mixed reviews and a troubled production, the film was a major commercial success. The film caught the eye of Chinese producers who wanted a wuxia inspired sequel. Steven Seagal will also star in the film which is big news for action fans as this will mark the first time Jackie Chan and Steven Seagal are involved in the same movie. Actress Yao Xingtong who previously co-starred with Chan in the 2012 reboot of CZ12 is said to have a major leading role in the movie.
Information on this movie is still very dodgy, but we’ll see what happens…
AKA: A Man with Seven Faces Director: Kim Seon-gyeong Writer: Yoon Sam-yook Producer: Kim In-dong Cast: Chang Il-do, Choi Min-kyu, Kwon Il-soo Running Time: 94 min.
By Paul Bramhall
I confess to having a soft-spot for kung fu movies that have grammatically challenged titles, and Blood of Dragon Peril is definitely up there with the best of them. “Blood of what?” you may ask, well, Dragon Peril of course. It’s almost like the distributors had a hat full of words vaguely related to Asian action cinema, and pulled out three at random on the instruction that they’d have to make a title out of the choices they end up with. In many ways it’s a practice that’s most likely still going on today, with many an Asian movie getting ridiculous re-titles for the US market, however at least they pay more attention to the grammar now than they did back then.
Thankfully, Blood of Dragon Peril isn’t the movies original incarnation. It was one of the countless Korean martial arts movies picked up by Godfrey Ho and his IFD Films crew, and given the re-title and dubbing procedure that all of their acquired movies were subjected to, in order to make them sellable to overseas markets. The original title is A Man with Seven Faces, which not only makes more sense grammatically, but also has a much closer connection to the story. So, for those hoping to see some perilously bloody dragon slayings, this is not the movie for you.
The man in the director’s chair is Kim Seon-gyeong, who was also responsible for the Casanova Wong kick-fest Magnificent Wonderman from Shaolin, made a year later, as well as many other early Korean kung fu movies which featured the likes of Wong and Hwang Jang Lee. Unfortunately in the credits he’s listed under the moniker of Rocky Man, re-named along with just about everything else in the movie. Unlike many of Seon-gyeong’s other efforts though, which have a tendency to be a little out there even in their original versions (this was the guy who directed a handful of Elton Chong movies after all), Blood of Dragon Peril comes with a fairly serious storyline, which looks to have been adhered to with the English dub. While this was standard practice with much of Hong Kong’s output, Korean cinema wasn’t so lucky, with many of the movies being cut and dubbed into completely different storylines than what’s presented in their original versions.
Chang Il-do stars in a tale set in Japan occupied Manchuria. Having had his family subjected to much suffering at the hands of the Japanese, which led to the suicide of his martial arts instructor father, and his brother been driven to insanity, Il-do decides that the best thing he can do is become a member of the Japanese Imperial Army. His role as a Korean working for the Japanese sees much scorn put on his family by the rest of the village where they live, and he’s equally not fully trusted by the Japanese authorities, thanks to his family background and ethnicity. However with the appearance of a mysterious vigilante, who becomes known as the Doll Bride Mask, due to hiding their face behind said mask, Il-do sees a chance to gain recognition both in the eyes of the Japanese army, as well as from his family, if he’s able to catch the masked man.
Chang Il-do became most well-known during the short period were he found himself being sold as a Bruce Lee clone, although admittedly it didn’t help that he actually was a Bruce Lee clone in The Clones of Bruce Lee, which had him cast under the name Bruce Lai. The majority of Il-do’s movies have very little to do with Bruceploitation though (save the likes of Enter Three Dragons), and he’s more well remembered for starring alongside fellow Koreans like Kwan Yung-moon in Return to the 36th Chamber, and Dragon Lee in Dragon Lee’s Ways of Kung Fu. Just like his Korean co-stars, Il-do’s martial arts of choice was Taekwondo, and he was able to match kicks with the best of them. Sadly much like Kim Tai-jung, Il-do passed away far too early, having died in 2015 at the age of 64.
Blood of Dragon Peril is one of the few chances to see him in a role that has him front and center of proceedings, and he plays the part well, spending almost the whole runtime decked out in a sharp white suite (although I’m pretty sure this wasn’t standard uniform for Japanese agents at the time!). It also wouldn’t surprise me if it’s actually Il-do behind the mask of the Doll Bride Mask character, who performs in all of their fight scenes while wearing the mask, although there is some high level acrobatic flips that take place when it definitely would have been a stuntman. With that being said, Il-do isn’t the only established martial artist in the cast, and for those who are familiar with the Korean kung fu movie scene, there are plenty of recognisable faces to be found – from Choi Min-kyu (it would be easier to list the Korean kung fu movies that this guy isn’t in), to Kwon Il-soo.
The most entertaining thing in Blood of Dragon Peril is of course the character of the Doll Bride Mask. It’s certainly one of the more unique entries in the world of kung-fu characters, and contrary to what the name suggests, it’s clear from the start that it’s not a woman. The mask also marks the movie as distinctly Korean, its white appearance with red dots marked on the cheeks and forehead making it resemble a cross between the Five Venoms meets Michael Myers from Halloween. The fact that it makes the character remain eerily expressionless during the fight scenes adds to the mysterious nature of his intentions. We never really know if he just wants to cause as much trouble for the Japanese as possible, like any good freedom fighter should, or is there something more to his agenda?
It’s not really a spoiler to reveal that it turns out to be the latter, and the twist behind who’s behind the mask is surprisingly effective, however it’s frustrating on two accounts. One is that, even though this movie came first, having watched Magnificent Wonderman from Shaolin before viewing Blood of Dragon Peril, exactly the same plot twist is used in both productions, which is somewhat of a disappointment for those expecting something more original. Secondly, the reveal takes place very late in the game, so late in fact that the movie is almost over when it happens, which results in an action filled, but ultimately rather anti-climactic finale. Despite these gripes though, the Doll Bride Mask makes plenty of appearances before the finale, and every one of them delivers plenty of the expected boot work that became synonymous with Korea’s kung-fu movie output.
In fact the whole movie could essentially be boiled down to – Japanese commander sends a bunch of agents to capture the Doll Bride Mask, agents and Doll Bride Mask get into a fight which sees the agents defeated, dedicate a few mins to developing the plot a little further, then cut back to a scene of the Japanese commander sending more agents out to capture the Doll Bride Mask. I swear someone mentions the “Doll Bride Mask” at least once every couple of minutes, so much so that by the time the credits roll, the character’s name will be ingrained on your brain. Despite such a basic plot structure, it works well enough within its short run time, while also delivering a consistent stream of above average fight action.
Amongst the many group scuffles the Doll Bride Mask (now I feel like I’ve written it too many times) gets into, there’s also a couple of nice one-on-one exchanges, including an intense face-off between Chang Il-do and Choi Min-kyu. Il-do even gets to mix things up a little, showing off some weapons work in the finale which sees him brandishing two steel hoops. However what may be considered most surprising for fans of Korean kung fu movies, is the almost complete absence of any goofy wire-work, a factor which I watch these movies for as much as to see some high quality boot work. Seon-gyeong’s choice to go down the straight and narrow with Blood of Dragon Peril is an admirable one, and is backed up by a decent story which stays surprisingly serious throughout. However just like the lack of any goofy wire-work, at the end of the day it just feels like something is missing to give it a full-fledged recommendation.
Shout! Factory has recently announced that they’ll be releasing restored, 4K versions of Bruce Lee’s films, starting with The Big Boss (1971) andFist of Fury(1972). Oddly enough, they’ll be released as their North American titles, Fists of Fury (ak The Big Boss) and The Chinese Connection (aka Fist of Fury) – using original U.S. theatrical artwork.
The titles are being marketed as “Collector’s Editions,” but according to Shout’s website, extras are in progress and will be announced at a later date.
If you’re not familiar with 4K digital technology restoration, here’s the breakdown: it has around four times more resolution than the common 1080p and produces a clearer picture. Technically, you’ll need a 4K TV and a 4K Blu-ray player to get the most out of 4K disc. For these releases, they will be a standard Blu-ray made from a 4K master, so you will not need a 4K Blu-ray player.
Both Fists of Fury (pre-order) and Chinese Connection (pre-order) will be available on December 6th, 2016. We’ll keep you updated on this series as we hear more. Also: Be sure to read about import versions of Bruce Lee’s 4K masters here.
Tak Sakaguchi rose to fame with the 2001 cult favorite Versus, a movie that managed to combine the low-budget charms of Evil Dead-like horror with blistering martial arts and gunplay. The actor later scored another cult hit with Battlefield Baseball, but has most recently hitched his wagon to the Sushi Typhoon production company.
In April of 2013, new broke out that Tak was retiring from acting, which left an unknown fate for his recently announced role in Death Trance II, not to mention a long-rumored sequel to Versus.
In late 2014, Cityonfire.com was contacted by director Yuji Shimomura (Death Trance) with breaking news that Tak was out of retirement to make Re:Born, which the actor calls his “very last” and “most superb” action movie:
“After I retired, I found myself having a passion for action that was still smoldering inside of me. After a conversation with action director Yuji Shimomura, I wanted to thrive one more time and create the very last and most superb action movie with my utmost power and passion for the sake of a closure to my entire career. I am convinced that I have to give my very best one last time. That is how I feel about this project. I didn’t realize how many people chose to support a person like myself until after I retired. I hope this movie will be satisfying enough for them to feel absolutely alright for me to go. This is for them.”
Media: “Audition” video (Part 1) for Re:Born featuring Tak in some intense sparring action. | Footage (Part 2) of Sakaguchi getting in shape. | 3rd chapter of promo footage (Part 3). | New “training” footage (Part 3.5) featuring supervision from Tak’s one and only master, Yoshitaka Inagawa, who has established the “Zero Range Combat” technique. “Tak mastered it in months when one does in years,” says Inagawa, who will be handling the film’s action choreography. | 1st teaser trailer.
Deadline reports that Cinemax has given a pilot order for Warrior, a project based on unpublished writings by the late Bruce Lee, which were recently discovered by his daughter, Shannon Lee.
Justin Lin (Star Trek Beyond, Finishing the Game) is attached to produce and possibly direct. Jonathan Tropper, co-creator of Banshee, is penning pilot.
Warrior tells the story of a young martial arts prodigy, newly arrived from China, who finds himself caught up in the bloody Chinatown Tong wars. The story will be set against the backdrop of San Francisco’s Chinatown in the aftermath of the Civil War.
If you’re not familiar with 4K digital technology restoration, here’s the breakdown: it has around four times more resolution than the common 1080p and produces a clearer picture. Technically, you’ll need a 4K TV and a 4K Blu-ray player to get the most out of 4K disc. For these releases, they will be a standard Blu-ray made from a 4K master, so you will not need a 4K Blu-ray player.
We’ll keep you updated on the remaining 4K Bruce Lee releases as we hear more. Stay tuned! Also: Be sure to read about Shout! Factory’s upcoming release of Bruce Lee’s 4K remasters here.
Director: Michael Baumgarten
Producer: James Wilson, Cheryl Wheeler-Duncan
Cast: Don “The Dragon” Wilson, Cynthia Rothrock, Jansen Panettiere, Kathryn Newton, Matthew Ziff, T.J. Storm, Brandon Tyler Russell, R. Marcos Taylor, Chuck Zito, Nassim Faras Lahrizi, Kayley Stallings, Robert Peters
Running Time: 103 min.
By Jeff Bona
Don “The Dragon” Wilson (Bloodfist) and Cynthia Rothrock (Shanghai Express) are back to doing what they do best in The Martial Arts Kid, a coming of age, martial arts-themed tale directed by Michael Baumgarten (The Guest House).
The Martial Arts Kid follows a rebellious teenager named Robbie (Jansen Panettiere) who, under the recommendation of his grandmother, moves to Florida to “clean up his life” by living with his Aunt (Rothrock) and Uncle (Wilson). Once there, Robbie immediately finds himself in more trouble when he stumbles upon a beautiful girl named Rina (Kathryn Newton of Paranormal Activity 4), whose boyfriend, Bo (Matthew Ziff of Kickboxer: Vengeance), decides to make Robbie’s life a living hell. But with the strong mentorship of his Aunt and Uncle, Robbie overcomes his problems by discovering martial arts, which leads to self discipline, a stronger spirit and a greater consciousness of himself – oh, and to finally defend himself and kick the living sh*t out of Bo as well.
If you want to get the most out of The Martial Arts Kid, know this before diving in: It’s a PG-rated teen drama fused with martial arts action and has the words “family” and “message” written all over it. That’s not to say there isn’t a good amount of ass kicking – there definitely is – but if you’re wishing for puddles of blood, dismemberments and high body counts, you’ll be left disappointed. I mean, come on… it’s called The Martial Arts Kid.
Before it was even completed, The Martial Arts Kid was being criticized for ripping off movies like The Karate Kid and to a lesser extent, No Retreat, No Surrender. Without doubt, it’s very similar to the aforementioned films, but it stands on its own for having a much deeper focus on the true meaning martial arts, which is something you wouldn’t find in a mainstream flick starring Ralph Macchio or Jaden Smith. Besides, if you’re looking for pure originality, you’re living in the wrong era.
The inclusion of both Don “The Dragon” Wilson and Cynthia Rothrock are obviously the film’s main attraction. Wilson, the 11-time World Kickboxing Champion – mostly known to the general public for his Bloodfist and Ring of Fire films that dominated video shelves in the late 80s/early 90s – feels very “at home” as the Mr. Mayagi-type teacher who leads Robbie in the right direction. Unlike Mayagi (portrayed by the late Pat Morita in The Karate Kid franchise), Wilson applies more of a real-life, father figure approach without all the philosophical mumbo jumbo (at one point Wilson says to his student: “You can wash on, wash off all you want, but you’re not going to be driving any of our cars.”) Wilson’s prior films aren’t exactly masterpieces, but for what it’s worth, he’s certainly at his best in The Martial Arts Kid, both in his non-action and action scenes (courtesy of James Lew, who is currently coordinating fight scenes for Netflix/Marvel original series, Luke Cage).
5-time World Champion in forms and weapons, Cynthia Rothrock – who has also had a successful career in B-movie favorites and Hong Kong action classics – gives the audience exactly what they’d expect from her. She gets to strut her physical ability in a series of injected fight scenes throughout the film. She’ll never be compared to Meryl Streep in the acting department, but Rothrock proves that she hasn’t missed a beat from her China O’Brien days almost 30 years ago.
Although Wilson and Rothrock both get some heavy screen time, the main face of The Martial Arts Kid is Jansen Panettiere, who plays Robbie. The producers couldn’t have picked a better lead. Panettiere is a natural. He’s humble, charismatic and charming. He has a tendency to overact at times, but regardless, the camera loves him. He has that “misfit” look, yet he still manages to capture the whole idol thing without coming across like a pretentious little douche. And he’s not too shabby during his fight sequences either.
The Martial Arts Kid is far from perfect. With some tighter editing, its overall pacing could have been a lot more stable. There’s a few instances that are out-of-place and cringe-worthy, but in the context of being a low-ley project that doesn’t have the big budget backing of a major studio, The Martial Arts Kid delivers what it promises: A family-oriented action movie with a strong, positive message.
The Martial Arts Kid also stars T.J. Storm (Kickboxer: Vengeance), Nassim Faras “Young Dragon” Lahrizi, R. Marcos Taylor (Straight Outta Compton), a cameo by Chuck Zito (Homefront), as well as special appearances from martial arts masters Robert Goldman, Christine Rodriguez, Jeff W. Smith, Olando Rivera and Glenn C. Wilson.
Bullies beware: A Martial Arts Kid sequel is currently in the works and I’m 100% for it.
Back in September 2014, pre-production f0r The Night Comes For Us – an anticipated action film by Indonesian director Timo Tjahjanto of the “Mo Brothers” directing duo (Macabre, Killers) – was halted for unknown reasons. But now, it appears that The Night is indeed coming.
From Timo’s recent Instagram post (via FCS): “Since its out there in the open, yes we are finally resurrecting this one. What hopefully will be a lean and (very) mean kill fest. Thanks to a dear and old friend Gareth Evans for his blessing.”
Not much is known about The Night Comes For Us, other than it will be “a neo-noir hitman thriller.” As of 2014, here’s the information that was gathered up: Joe Taslim (The Raid, Star Trek Beyond) and Julie Estelle (The Raid 2, Macabre) were both attached as the film’s main stars. Gareth Evans (director of The Raid and The Raid 2) was on board as action director, along with Iko Uwais (Merantau, The Raid, The Raid 2), who would handle fight choreography. Even Sony Pictures Classics nabbed North American distribution rights before it was eve shot.
Since it has been two years, we expect some of the above information has changed. But for now, Timo Tjahjanto and Kimo Stamboel are most likely focusing on their forthcoming film, Headshot. In addition, the two are also working on a sequel to Macabre.
We’ll fill you in on The Night Comes For Us as we hear more. Stay tuned.
The Wailing (read our review) involves a local cop investigating a series of violent unexplained murders. When his own daughter falls ill and shows signs of possession, a shaman is called in to assist with the investigation.
Kickboxer: Vengeance | Blu-ray & DVD (Image Entertainment)
RELEASE DATE: November 8, 2016
Image Entertainment presents the Blu-ray & DVD for Kickboxer: Vengeance (read our review), starring Alain Moussi and David Bautista.
Kurt Sloane (Moussi) has always been there for his brother, Eric (Darren Shahlavi), who’s known in the martial arts world as a modern-day warrior. But when the ruthless and undefeated fighter Tong Po (Bautista) brutally ends Eric’s life in a no-holds-barred match in Thailand, Kurt devotes himself to training with a master (Jean-Claude Van Damme) in a quest for redemption… and revenge.
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