Trailer for the Thai-US-UK horror flick ‘M.I.A.: A Greater Evil’

"M.I.A. A Greater Evil" Theatrical Poster

“M.I.A. A Greater Evil” Theatrical Poster

The Amityville Horror meets Apocalypse Now? That’s the vibe we’re getting from Abishek J. Bajaj’s supernatural thriller, M.I.A.: A Greater Evil. This upcoming Thai-US-UK co-production is written by Peter Alan Lloyd and stars Valerie Bentson (Bad Genius), Lamou Vissay (Truy Sat), Mark Matula and Sahajak Boonthanakit (Hard Target 2).

When a group of college students embark on an expedition looking for gold in the jungles of Vietnam, their dreams unravel when a detour leaves them lost and wandering. Tensions mount, as echoes of the Vietnam War follow their every step through the battle-ravaged jungle. Will they find a way out, or will they become the latest victims of a savage and bloody war?

A release date has yet to be announced, but you can check out the film’s Trailer below:

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Wolf Warrior 2 (2017) Review

"Wolf Warrior 2" Theatrical Poster

“Wolf Warrior 2” Theatrical Poster

Director: Wu Jing
Producer: Wu Jing
Cast: Wu Jing, Celina Jade, Frank Grillo, Yu Nan, Zou Kai, Hans Zhang, Wu Gang, Ding Hai-Feng, Chun Yu Shan Shan, Yu Qian, Shi Zhao-Qi, Diana Sylla
Running Time: 120 min.

By Paul Bramhall

While fans of Asian action cinema were understandably left underwhelmed by Wu Jing’s sophomore feature in the director’s chair, with 2015’s Wolf Warrior, one point that couldn’t be argued was its massive success in Mainland China. Armed with a subtle-as-a-hammer nationalistic script, and a super patriotic main character in the form of Jing’s titular Wolf Warrior, said elements were all that was needed for Chinese audiences to bring in the box office, and with it, an inevitable sequel. Just 2 years later, that sequel is here, and Jing once again is front and centre – starring, directing, and even contributing to the script.

Wolf Warrior 2 loses the likes of Scott Adkins and action director Nicky Li, but it arguably gains more than it’s lost, with a significantly bigger budget, and a wealth of overseas action talent on-board to make sure said budget is made good use of. Replacing Adkins as the (naturally) foreign villain is Frank Grillo, most recognizable as Brock Rumlow from the Captain America sequels, however Grillo isn’t the only Marvel connection. His team of mercenaries also consists of Heidi Moneymaker (the stunt double for Black Widow), Aaron Toney (the stunt double for both Black Panther and Falcon), and the action is choreographed by Sam Hargrave (the stunt double for Captain America, and villain from Unlucky Stars).

Just like the original, Wolf Warrior 2 opens strongly, with Jing fending off a group of pirates attempting to board the container ship he’s travelling on, via some sleekly filmed underwater-fu. The scene acts more as a display of the technical proficiency than anything else, as the camerawork follows Jing both in and out of the water, giving a masterclass on how Captain Phillips could easily have been a 5 minute short film. However unlike Wolf Warrior, the sequel wisely chooses to build on the opening action sequence, rather than trail off into monotony. It’s revealed that Jing’s lover, played by a returning Yu Nan in a brief cameo, was killed in action. With only a uniquely marked bullet to go on, believed to have originated in Africa, Jing’s once decorated military man has become a lonesome drifter, travelling around Africa in search of the one responsible for her death.

Making matters personal is one of the key things that Wolf Warrior 2 gets right, as unlike the first, it actually gives the audience (at least, the non-Chinese audience) an opportunity to care about his mission. Of course he’s still a shining beacon of integrity, confiscating pirated pornographic DVD’s from his African kid buddy, beating the locals in a drinking game, and showing off his chiselled torso in a soccer match on the beach. Indeed in many ways Wolf Warrior 2 could be considered a vanity project for Jing, however thankfully it remains restrained enough to never cross over into Ballistic Kiss territory.

Proceedings get complicated though when the latest town he’s in gets attacked by rebels, which plays out onscreen as a frantically shot city siege, providing the first of many bombastically lengthy set pieces. Jing attempts to navigate a group of civilians through the besieged streets amongst gunfire, RPG’s, and murderous attackers, in a thrilling sequence that’s right up there with the type of combat on display in the likes of Black Hawk Down. Of course though, this is Asian action cinema, so there are some entertainingly OTT moments, such as Jing stopping an RPG mid-flight with just his bare hands and some wire mesh. A close quarters combat scene that takes place in the confines of a grocery store also gives a strong indication that, if ever a Wolf Warrior vs John Wick crossover movie were to be announced, I’d be first in line to see it.

What’s perhaps most refreshing about the action scenes though, is that the vast majority of them are performed with practical effects. While it’s true to say that CGI blood and the occasional CGI explosion both rear their ugly heads more than once, all in all it’s fair to say they’re kept to a minimum. The sequel also learns its lesson in regards to the gunplay. While Jing’s intentions with the Wolf Warrior series are clear, in terms of them being heroic tales of the Chinese military, his calibre as a martial artist was disappointingly cast to one side in the original and barely utilised. Wolf Warrior 2 rectifies this, while still realistically acknowledging that the threat of a gunshot is always present, allowing Jing to get into various brief but intense hand-to-hand showdowns.

His fights against both Moneymaker and Toney are suitably brutal, and special mention should go to the casting of former WWE star Oleg Prudius. Known in WWE under the name of Vladamir Kozlov, Prudius is a man mountain whose presence is handled much more effectively than the similarly built Jiang Bao-Cheng, who Jing utilised in his directorial debut, Legendary Assassin. For those who balked at the rather awkward use of wires during the fights in both Legendary Assassin and Wolf Warrior, here they’ve also been done away with, which sees a much welcome grounded approach to the fisticuffs that take place. It’s a wise decision by action directors Hargrave and Jack Wong, who most recently worked on Operation Mekong, and brings a distinctly different flavour to the action than Jing’s frequent collaborator Nicky Li.

When the Chinese military decide to evacuate the city, Jing ultimately decides to stay behind to rescue a group of Chinese medical staff, holed up in a hospital several kilometres away. The hospital is home to a doctor played by Celina Jade, whose acting career was kicked off thanks to Jing casting her in Legendary Assassin, and another former military man played by Wu Gang. Jing’s arrival at the hospital is the real indicator that the action is only going to get more and more ludicrous from here on in, and that’s not a detriment. Despite it being physically impossible based on the architecture of the building, Jing makes his entrance into the hospital by driving his jeep through the second floor, in an automotive display that wouldn’t look out of place in a Fast and Furious movie. Gravity be damned.

While Wolf Warrior 2 is clearly all about the action, it’s worth mentioning that for the most part, the African cast are given respectful roles that steer clear of racial stereotypes. If a similar movie was made in Hong Kong during the 80’s or 90’s, there’s little doubt that it would have been a completely different story. Jing himself has also improved as an actor, and his chemistry with both Celina Jade and Wu Gang is effective despite the simplistic script (one line has him declare “Once a Wolf Warrior, always a Wolf Warrior”). The only weak link is the casting of Mainland singer Hans Zhang Han, playing another member of the military holed up in the hospital, who likely appears only to appeal to his fan-base demographic.

Speaking of the script, it’s a relief to hear that the overly nationalistic tones from the original have been dialled back considerably for the sequel. It still feels like the word ‘Chinese’ is spoken in almost every other line (and I think it could be), but it’s nowhere near as prelevant as the frequently threatening tone that Wolf Warrior took on. Here it’s more entertaining than anything else, as you have such lines as “Dr Chen is at the St Francis Chinese invested hospital.” Was it really necessary to include the words ‘Chinese invested’? Of course not, but it does make it kind of funny. It’s ironic then that the closing scene of Wolf Warrior 2 contains a literal example of Chinese flag waving, although to Jing’s credit, there’s a context for why it’s there, making it a smart but sly example of a clip that will no doubt help to bring in the Chinese audience.

Thankfully the promise of a Wu Jing vs Frank Grillo fight isn’t broken, and for those checking in for their confrontation, they’ll definitely be rewarded more than those that checked in for Adkins appearance in the original. It’s a 4 minute knock down drag out affair, that initially has them going at each other while air strikes rain down all around them, providing a visually striking backdrop. It also gets surprisingly bloody, and while some may complain about the quick editing, overall it doesn’t detract from the fight, still allowing the flow to be appreciated. Grillo’s character is thin at best, with no backstory other than he’s an evil mercenary (who at one point is also hinted at liking kids), however he brings an undeniably menacing presence, and proves to be a worthy foe.

In many ways it feels like the review I’m writing for Wolf Warrior 2 is the one that I wanted to write for Wolf Warrior, and while it’s still far from perfect, it delivers where it counts. There’s no need to question if a third one is on the way, as a slightly bewildering post-credits sequence (that’s clearly indicative of Jing still not being a fully rounded director) ends with Wolf Warrior 3 being splattered across the screen. Regardless of the sequences confusing nature, it does its part in preventing the final shot from being of a Chinese passport (you’ll understand once watched). While 2 years ago I grimaced at the prospect of a sequel, Jing has proven with his latest directorial effort that the third time really is a charm, so if we’re going to go for another round of Wolf Warrior action, count me in.

Paul Bramhall’s Rating: 7.5/10

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The Expendables 3-Film Collection | Blu-ray (Lionsgate)

The Expendables Collection | Blu-ray (Lionsgate)

The Expendables Collection | Blu-ray (Lionsgate)

RELEASE DATE: October 3, 2017

Sly and his psychotic gang of mutts are back! On October 3, 2017, Lionsgate Home Entertainment will be releasing The Expendables 3-Film Collection (on 3 Blu-ray discs, plus digital copies). This action-packed, star-studded bundle includes The Expendables, The Expendables 2, and The Expendables 3: Unrated Edition.

In the series, Sylvester Stallone, Arnold Schwarzenegger and Jason Statham join forces with Mel Gibson, Mickey Rourke, Wesley Snipes, Harrison Ford, Jet Li, Dolph Lundgren, Chuck Norris, Jean-Claude Van Damme, Antonio Banderas, Gary Daniels, Scott Adkins and many more legends and rising stars in these epic adventures.

Pre-order The Expendables 3-Film Collection from Amazon.com today!

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

Well Go USA steals Stephen Fung’s ‘Once a Thief’ remake

"The Adventurers" Chinese Theatrical Poster

“The Adventurers” Chinese Theatrical Poster

Well Go USA has nabbed The Adventurers (read our review) for a North American theatrical release. The upcoming actioner is a reworking of John Woo’s Once a Thief, the 1991 Hong Kong classic about art thieves, famously played by Chow Yun Fat, Cherie Chung and Leslie Cheung.

For the remake, Stephen Fung (Gen-X Cops) is at the helm of an all-star international cast that includes Andy Lau (The Bodyguard), Shu Qi (The Assassin), Tony Yang (Cold War 2), Jean Reno (Leon: The Professional), Eric Tsang (Jian Bing Man) and Zhang Jingchu (Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation).

After his recent release from prison, infamous thief Cheung Tan (Lau) plots a heist with his partners Xiao Bao (Yang) and Ye Hong (Qi) to steal precious jewels in Europe, while French detective Pierre (Reno), who has been hot on Cheung’s trails for many years, must capture this gang of thieves on one draft.

The Adventurers hits domestically on August 11, 2017, followed by a North American release on August 18.

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Hana-Bi | Blu-ray & DVD (Film Movement)

Hana-Bi | Blu-ray & DVD (Film Movement)

Hana-Bi | Blu-ray & DVD (Film Movement)

RELEASE DATE: September 19, 2017

On September 19, 2017, Film Movement Classics is releasing the Blu-ray & DVD for Takeshi Kitano’s crime drama, Hana-Bi (aka Fireworks). For the first time in America, this acclaimed classic – directed, written by and starring Kitano (Outrage, Beyond Outrage) – has been fully restored in beautiful HD.

Former police officer Nishi feels responsible for the shattered lives of his loved ones. His partner Horibe has been crippled in a disastrous stakeout, a colleague is shot dead by the same villain, and his own wife has a terminal illness. In debt to a yakuza loanshark, Nishi conceives a bank robbery to provide for his partner, help the dead cop’s widow, and take one last holiday throughout Japan with his wife and share a final taste of happiness.

Hana-Bi also stars Kayoko Kishimoto (Oshin), Ren Osugi (Dead or Alive), Susumu Terajima (Helter Skelter), Tetsu Watanabe (Shin Godzilla) and Hakuryu (Beyond Outrage).

Bonus Features:

  • New HD Remaster
  • Commentary by film writer for Rolling Stone magazine, David Fear
  • Making-of featurette
  • Collector’s Booklet, featuring essay by film writer, Jasper Sharp; cast and crew credits; chapter breaks; stills
  • Optional English subtitles

Pre-order Hana-Bi from Amazon.com today!

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

Deal on Fire! Legend of the Drunken Master | Blu-ray | Only $6.38 – Expires soon!

"Legend of the Drunken Master" Blu-ray Cover

“Legend of the Drunken Master” Blu-ray Cover

Today’s Deal on Fire is the Blu-ray for Legend of the Drunken Master, directed by both Lau Kar-leung (Martial Club) and Jackie Chan (Police Story).

Unfortunately, this version is the slightly cut, English-dubbed (by Jackie himself) Miramax’d edition of Drunken Master II, but there’s no denying the greatness of this masterpiece regardless of its presentation.

When the British government is discovered smuggling precious Chinese artifacts out of the country, Wong Fei Hung (Chan) uses his uniquely outlandish style of “Drunken Boxing” to fight the conspirators.

Order Legend of the Drunken Master from Amazon.com today!

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Here’s the potential Bond 25 directors on the short list…

"Casino Royale" Japanese Theatrical Poster

“Casino Royale” Japanese Theatrical Poster

Ever since the release of 2015’s Spectre, the state of the James Bond franchise – as well as its current leading man – has been more or less in limbo, but as of a few days ago, James Bond is getting ready to suit up for his next mission.

According to the official 007 website, James Bond will return to US cinemas on November 8, 2019 with a traditional earlier release in the UK and the rest of the world.

Bond 25, the next adventure in the long-running action franchise, will be written by Neal Purvis and Robert Wade, long time collaborators and writers on previous Bond films including Casino Royale, Quantum of Solace, Skyfall and Spectre. The film will be produced by Michael G. Wilson and Barbara Broccoli. Additional details regarding distribution, including international release dates, the film’s cast and director, will be announced at a later date.

Although currently “unofficial”, Craig is back, at least according to TNYT (via Collider): “Two people briefed on the matter, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to avoid conflicts with Eon and MGM,” say that Craig is coming back, and since the Times is pretty trustworthy publication (as opposed to DanielCraigShouldAlwaysBeBond.com), I’m willing to put my faith in their reporting that the actor will make his fifth appearance as Bond in the upcoming sequel.

Back in May of 2016, sources told DM: ‘Daniel is done – pure and simple – he told top brass at MGM after Spectre. They threw huge amounts of money 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.’ And let’s not forget that Craig stated that he’d rather ‘slash his wrists’ than play Bond for a fifth time (he said this shortly after the release of Spectre).

Then in April 2017 (via PS), it was reported that Bond producer Barbara Broccoli has all but persuaded Daniel Craig to play 007 for the historic 25th movie in the series. Daniel’s talks with Barbara were going in the right direction. They have a script — screenwriting duo Neal Purvis and Robert Wade [who’ve penned several Bond movies] are writing and they’ll go into production as soon as Daniel is ready to commit.” The source added, “Plus, Barbara Broccoli doesn’t like Tom Hiddleston, he’s a bit too smug and not tough enough to play James Bond.”

While Broccoli was waiting for Craig’s answer, the media was having a field day about who’d 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) was supposedly talking with producers.

The other biggie is: Who’ll be directing Bond? Everyone from Drive’s Nicolas Winding Refn (who is currently working on Avenging Silence, his own take of a spy flick after turning down Spectre) to Guy Ritchie (who penned last year’s similarly themed The Man from U.N.C.L.E.) have been attracted to the idea. Other filmmakers who have expressed interest include Christopher Nolan (Dunkirk) and Chad Stahelski (John Wick: Chapter 2). Even Edgar Wright (Baby Driver) has been the subject of some reports.

From both a critical and financial point of view, 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.

For now, Craig is 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 in August.

Updates: According to the reliable crew at Deadline, here are the potential Bond 25 directors that are on the short list: Yann Demange (’71), Denis Villenueve (Arrival) and David Mackenzie (Hell or High Water). Pick one.

Related articles: James Bond’s connection with Asian and Martial Arts Cinema

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Master | Blu-ray & DVD (Sony)

Master | Blu-ray & DVD (Sony)

Master | Blu-ray & DVD (Sony)

RELEASE DATE: September 5, 2017

On September 5, 2017, Sony Pictures Home Entertainment is releasing the Blu-ray & DVD for Jo Eui-seok’s Master (read our review), a South Korean thriller starring Lee Byung-hun (The Age of Shadows), Gang Dong-won (The Priests) and Kim Woo-bin (Friend 2).

Jin Hyun-pil (Byung-hun) runs ‘One Network Inc.’, a company with an extensive network covering Korea. The chief of the Intellectual Crime Investigation team, Kim Jae-myung (Dong-won), suspects One Network’s involvement in a fraud case of unprecedented scale. Kim tracks down the company’s IT architect and brain, Park Jang-gun (Woo-bin), and attempts to persuade Park to hand over Jin’s secret ledger in exchange for a plea bargain. Feeling the police close in on him, Jin moves operations out of Korea. Kim nonetheless continues his investigation into Jin. 6 months later, news about Jin’s death stirs the country once again.

Pre-order Master from Amazon.com today!

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

Lionsgate developing a female ‘John Wick’ spin-off

"John Wick" International Theatrical Poster

“John Wick” International Theatrical Poster

We’re not sure why John Wick is the poster boy for action movies these days (to quote Paul Bramhall: “Hong Kong cinema has been doing it for ages”), but it certainly deserves the credit for re-igniting that over-the-top, intricately choreographed shoot ’em up action trend that’s not going to die anytime soon.

In addition to Atomic Blonde – as well as Peppermint (and to a lesser extent, Proud Mary) – there’s another female-centric actioner in development that’s apparently going to be a part of a John Wick cinematic Universe.

Up and coming writer, Shay Hatten, recently sold Lionsgate his script for Ballerina, which involves “a young woman raised as an assassin who must hunt down the other assassins that murdered her family” (via THR). The studio’s plan is to fine tune the story so it fits within the John Wick franchise (Ares from John Wick 2 starring Ruby Rose perhaps?).

We’ll keep you updated on Mrs. John Wick as more news becomes available. For now, we leave you with the Trailer for 1996’s Beyond Hypothermia, because promoting Asian film is our #1 priority.

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Kung fu actioner ‘Son of Shaolin’ to get a ‘Dope’ director?

"Son of Shaolin" Book Cover

“Son of Shaolin” Book Cover

Director Rick Famuyiwa (Dope) is in talks to helm Son of Shaolin, a martial arts film based on the graphic novel of the same name created and written by Caanan Whit and Jay Longino (who also penned Jackie Chan’s Skiptrace).

Son of Shaolin is a kung fu epic set in the back alleys and subway tunnels of Harlem, New York. Kyrie, an aspiring street artist who is struggling to make ends meet, learns that he is the last living descendant of a secret sect of ancient Shaolin Elders. Confused and unsure of where to turn, he finds a father figure in the mysterious Master Fong. Fong trains Kyrie in martial arts in anticipation of an attack from Red Fist, a relentless killer who has already murdered the rest of Kyrie’s bloodline (via Amazon).

Last year, there were reports that Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson (The Rundown) would be showing off some new kung fu skills as one of the film’s stars, but recent reports suggest that he’s only producing the film (via THR).

Stay tuned for updates regarding the movie. The graphic novel for Son of Shaolin releases on September 26, 2017.  For now, here’s the real son of Shaolin…

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Taming the ‘Savage Dog’: 10 Questions for Marko Zaror

zaror

With the upcoming theatrical and VOD release of Savage Dog in August, at COF we were given the opportunity to provide the Dragon from Chile – Marko Zaror – 10 questions about his experience working on the movie.

Since initially beginning in the industry as a stunt double for the Rock in 2003’s The Rundown, Zaror really got action fans attention when he headlined the martial arts actioner Kiltro in 2006. Made in his native Chile, the pairing with director Ernesto Espinoza would prove to be one that’s built to last, as they’d go onto make Mirageman, Mandrill, and Redeemer together.

Zaror has several productions in the pipeline which he’s set to appear in, but for now, all eyes are on Savage Dog, helmed by stuntman turned director Jesse V. Johnson.  Without further ado, check out his thoughts below –


"Savage Dog" Theatrical Poster

“Savage Dog” Theatrical Poster

Question #1: Savage Dog provides a re-match between you and Scott Adkins, after going head to head in Undisputed III: Redemption from 2010, what was it like working together again 7 years later?

Marko Zaror: It was great, as we always wanted to work together again after Undisputed III: Redemption, and the cool thing about Savage Dog is that because it’s a totally different type of movie, we were able to create and play with different techniques.

#2: For those who say they’ve already seen both you and Adkins fight each other before, what would you say are the main differences, and what do people have to look forward to, from your pairing in Savage Dog?

MZ: Savage Dog is a much more realistic type of movie, and also a movie that is set in a different era, so this gave us the challenge to do a totally different type of fighting style. Also my character uses a knife, so this was already a big element that made us co-create a fight scene that feels really different to what audiences have seen before.

undisputed-3

Scott Adkins and Zaror face off in Undisputed III: Redemption.

#3: Jesse V. Johnson is also a stuntman on top of being a director and writer, how would you say that influences his directing style in terms of you also being a physical performer?

MZ: Because of the fact he’s also a stuntman, he truly understands the time that’s needed to be able to accomplish a good action scene. Also in regards to the camera work and stunts, he is able to be really specific about what he wants, and if he feels like he needs to show how he envisions a stunt to look like, for example hitting the ground a certain way, he will just show you by doing it himself!

#4: In your collaborations with director Ernesto Espinoza, you usually choreograph the fight scenes yourself. What are the main differences from your perspective, between doing your own fight choreography, and taking direction from another fight choreographer?

"Redeemer" Japanese Theatrical Poster

“Redeemer” Japanese Theatrical Poster

MZ: In Savage Dog Jesse wanted me to come up with ideas and apply the techniques that I wanted to use for the character. In that regard I’ve been lucky to work with really good choreographers that let me give my input on the vision and ideas for the scenes.

#5: Were you or Scott Adkins able to incorporate any of your own ideas into the fight you have in Savage Dog, and if so what?

MZ: Went I was doing research for my character I really liked the French style of Savate, so I studies a lot of Savate footage in order to understand how the character will fight and movie. When I told Jesse, he really like the idea and we went for it!

#6: The last time you worked with Espinoza was on 2014’s Redeemer, do you have any plans to work together again in the near future?

MZ: Yes, we are always working on ideas, and actually there is a good chance we be making a movie together soon.

Machete 1.jpg

With Danny Trejo, Robert Rodriguez and Alexa PenaVega promoting Machete Kills.

#7: You’ve now worked in the U.S., India, and of course your home country of Chile. What for you are some of the biggest differences between the industries, and what are some of the learnings you’ve taken from each one?

MZ: Working in Chile is always a challenge, because everything that we have done with Ernesto is the first time it’s done over there. So basically we have to be really creative to accomplish what we want, and I have to be really involved in all the processes of the movie, from pre-production all the way through to post.

In my work in the U.S.A. and India, I’ve been a part of big productions were my only role is to be my character, so there is a big difference. But in terms of movie making, I believe it’s a universal language that once you are on a set, no matter what the language or which place you’re in, the logistics and methods are similar.

Two of Zaror's biggest influences are in this photograph from Enter the Dragon.

Two of Zaror’s biggest influences are in this photograph from Enter the Dragon.

#8: Who are your biggest influences as a martial artist?

MZ: Bruce Lee and Jackie Chan.

#9: If you could have a screen-fight with any action movie star, dead or alive, who would it be and why?

MZ: Bruce Lee for sure! But if we’re talking about those who are alive, it will have to be Donnie Yen.

#10: What can we look forward to next from Marko Zaror, and is there any release date locked in for The Green Ghost?

MZ: No release date yet for The Green Ghost, but I’m guessing this year. Also I’m looking forward to The Defenders which will air next month, were I have an appearance in one episode. But what I’m really excited about is for the Robert Rodriguez movie Alita: Battle Angel, that will premiere next year!

Thanks again to Marko Zaror, Paul Bramhall, and the entire gang at Katrina Wan PR for getting this interview together. 

Posted in Features, Interviews, News | 4 Comments

Deal on Fire! The Complete Lady Snowblood | Blu-ray | Only $22.97 – Expires soon!

"The Complete Lady Snowblood" Blu-ray Cover

“The Complete Lady Snowblood” Blu-ray Cover

Today’s Deal on Fire is for Criterion Collection’s The Complete Lady Snowblood collection, which includes Lady Snowblood (1973) and Lady Snowblood: Love Song of Vengeance (1974).

A young woman (Meiko Kaji), trained from childhood as an assassin and hell-bent on revenge for her father’s murder and her mother’s rape, hacks and slashes her way to gory satisfaction.

Rampant with inventive violence and spectacularly choreographed swordplay, Toshiya Fujita’s pair of influential cult classics Lady Snowblood and Lady Snowblood: Love Song of Vengeance, set in late nineteenth- and early twentieth-century Japan, respectively, are bloody, beautiful extravaganzas composed of one elegant widescreen composition after another. The first Lady Snowblood was a major inspiration for Quentin Tarantino’s Kill Bill saga, and both of Fujita’s films remain cornerstones of Asian action cinema.

Features include: New 2K digital restorations of both films, with uncompressed monaural soundtracks on the Blu-rays; New interviews with Kazuo Koike, the writer of the manga on which the films are based, and screenwriter Norio Osada; Trailers; New English subtitle translations; plus, an essay by critic Howard Hampton.

Order The Complete Lady Snowblood on Amazon.com today!

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Special Edition for Albert Pyun’s JCVD flick ‘Cyborg’ coming…

"Cyborg" Japanese Theatrical Poster

“Cyborg” Japanese Theatrical Poster

U.S. label Scream Factory (subsidiary to Shout! Factory) has announced that they’re working on a Special Edition Blu-ray release for Cyborg, a 1989 actioner from cult director Albert Pyun (The Sword and Sorcerer, Nemesis) that stars martial arts sensation Jean-Claude Van Damme (Death Warrant).

Cyborg takes place in a post-apocalyptic America, where a plague has wrecked the world and only a female cyborg (Dayle Haddon) has the key to finding a cure. But there’s a problem: the most powerful gang (headed by Vincent Klyn) in the wastelands will do anything they can from seeing the scientists succeed in saving the world. Read Kyle Warner’s full review.

So what kinds of features will this Special Edition include? Only time will tell. Perhaps they’ll throw in Pyun’s director’s cut of the film (aka Slinger), which has only been available in foreign markets. We’ll keep you updated on this release as we hear more. Until then, enjoy the film’s classic Trailer:

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Valhalla Rising (2009) Review

"Valhalla Rising" Japanese DVD Cover

“Valhalla Rising” Japanese DVD Cover

Director: Nicolas Winding Refn
Director: Nicolas Winding Refn, Roy Jacobsen
Cast: Mads Mikkelsen, Maarten Stevenson, Gordon Brown, Paul Rhys, Andrew Flanagan, Gary Lewis, Gary McCormack, Alexander Morton, Jamie Sives
Running Time: 92 min.

By HKFanatic

Back in 2009 accomplished Danish director Nicolas Winding Refn, the great Dane behind such artistically unique efforts like crime drama Only God Forgives and the visually thrilling The Neon Demon, tackled the fantasy drama feature Valhalla Rising.

He is without a doubt a director with a unique style and someone whom never shies away from artistry and experimentation which is always prominent on screen no matter what he produces. So, what exactly would he pull out of the bag for when he decided to turn his attentions to some 11th-century fantasy adventure?

Valhalla Rising stars Mads Mikkelsen (Casino Royale, Hannibal) as One-Eye, a Norse warrior who along with a young boy and a group of Christian Norsemen head across the seas in search of the Holy Land.

It’s a concept that could have quite easily ended up in the wrong hands and suddenly become an all-out action and adventure farce. But thankfully it didn’t.

And it’s certainly a film that split opinion from both audiences and critics alike. If you weren’t lucky enough to catch this first time around it’s definitely an artistic effort that deserves revisiting.

It manages to bring a fresh approach to the typical clichéd look and style of Norse-themed movies that many cinema-goers are now so familiar with. It’s a popular theme which already influences a number of TV shows and games such as Valhalla slot.

But with audiences relegated to more mainstream franchises such as Thor, which continues to enjoy huge box office success, a lot of the more human and deeper themes of Norse mythology seems to have been somewhat lost in more recent times, so it’s great to see movies like this still being made.

The movie was sandwiched between Refn’s two directorial efforts of the Bronson biopic, starring a very different looking Tom Hardy, and of course his highly praised cool crime adaptation Drive, which starred Ryan Gosling.

So it seemed that 11th-century Scandinavia for an unusual choice for the rising director. However, he manages to expertly piece together a beautiful cinematic experience that really drills down into aspects of humanity and raw emotion, something that is rarely explored to any great extent in this mythological subgenre of filmmaking.

The plot itself and the characterisations are purposely left unclear enough for viewers to draw their own conclusions. It’s an experience, a life journey, something that can be interpreted in numerous ways and one that will stay with you for quite a while after the end credits roll.

Right at the heart of the movie is of course our lead One-Eye, played by the excellent Mads Mikkelsen. He truly manages to grip the audience and what makes his performance even more impressive is that his character is actually mute and therefore doesn’t utter a word through the movie.

It’s just his on-screen presence that manages to make such a difference here. Coupled with the incredibly visceral imagery we’re treated to it’s a visually stunning piece of work.

HKFanatic’s Rating: 8/10

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Asura: The City of Madness | DVD (Sony)

Asura: The City of Madness | DVD (Sony)

Asura: The City of Madness | DVD (Sony)

RELEASE DATE: August 29, 2017

On August 29, 2017, Sony Pictures Home Entertainment is releasing the DVD for Asura: The City of Madness, directed by Kim Sung-Su (The Flu, Musa: The Warrior).

Detective Han (Jung Woo-Sung of The Divine Move), who for years has been secretly doing dirty work for the corrupt mayor (Hwang Jung-Min of A Violent Prosecutor), is now pressured by a ruthless prosecutor (Kwak Do-Won of The Wailing) to cooperate in his investigation against the mayor.

Feeling trapped, Han persuades his young partner Sunmo (Ju Ji-Hoon of Along With The Gods) to take over his work for the mayor, but things start to get tangled in unpredictable ways.

Pre-order Asura from Amazon.com today!

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‘Transporter Refueled’ helmer shows Mark Dacascos ‘The Way’

"Drive" UK DVD Cover

“Drive” UK DVD Cover

French filmmaker Camille Delamarre – best known for directing Brick Mansions (a remake of District 13) and The Transporter Refueled (a reboot of The Transporter) – has teamed up with martial arts star Mark Dacascos (Brotherhood of the Wolf, Drive) for The Way, a new action series that involves ninjas (isn’t that all you need to know?).

The Studio+ original series also stars Gabriella Wright (The Transporter Refueled), Jimmy Jean-louis (Tears of the Sun), Andrew Cooper (The Royales), Alex Martin (Transporter: The Series) and Sam Redford (The Hurt Locker).

If you’re looking for actual Dacascos movies, don’t fret, because a releases date for Sony’s Ultimate Justice is right around the corner (and hopefully we’ll see an official release announcement for Showdown in Manila and Maximum Impact soon).

The first episode of The Way is currently available to watch (French website) followed by further episodes that can be unlocked with a subscription. Check out the series Trailer below (via Mike Leeder):

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Deal on Fire! Kung Fu Killer | Blu-ray | Only $9.10 – Expires soon!

Kung Fu Killer | Blu-ray & DVD (Well Go USA)

Kung Fu Killer | Blu-ray & DVD (Well Go USA)

Today’s Deal on Fire is the Blu-ray for Donnie Yen’s Kung Fu Killer (aka Kung Fu Jungle).

Kung Fu Killer (read our review) follows a top-notch kung fu instructor (Yen) who is imprisoned for accidentally killing a man. But when a deranged killer (Baoqiang) begins targeting the best martial artists in Hong Kong, it’s up to Yen to stop him!

This high-octane, martial arts thriller reunites Yen with director Teddy Chen (Bodyguards & Assassins), as well as Wang Baoqiang (Iceman Cometh 3D).

Order Kung Fu Killer from Amazon.com today!

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First Teaser Trailer for the martial arts actioner ‘Triple Threat’

"Triple Threat" Teaser Poster

“Triple Threat” Teaser Poster

Well Go USA Entertainment has acquired North American rights to Triple Threat (aka Makeshift Squad), an upcoming action film by Jessie V. Johnson (Savage Dog) that’s best described as a martial arts-themed Expendables (via Deadline).

The anticipated movie features an ensemble cast of international action stars that includes Tony Jaa (Skin Trade), Tiger Chen (Man of Tai Chi), Iko Uwais (The Raid 2, Headshot), Michael Jai White (Falcon Rising), Scott Adkins (Eliminators), UFC Champ Michael Bisping (xXx: Return of Xander Cage), Celina Jade (Skin Trade), Jeeja Yanin (Chocolate) and Michael Wong (Z Storm).

Here’s what you can expect from the film’s plot, according to THR: After a billionaire’s daughter becomes the target of a mercenary cartel. Her only protection are two down-on-their-luck fighters and a third who has vowed revenge against the others. Jaa, Uwais and Chen are the protagonists, while American thespians Adkins, Bisping and White are the villains.

Look out for a U.S theatrical release in early 2018.

Updates: Watch the film’s 1st Teaser Trailer below:

Please visit our sponsor, Frank and Beanz Doggie Apparel.

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Director Jesse V. Johnson wants Scott Adkins to ‘Pay Up’

"Eliminators" Japanese DVD Cover

“Eliminators” Japanese DVD Cover

As fellow COF writer Paul Bramhall points out in his recent review for Savage Dog, action filmmaker Jesse V. Johnson (The Last Sentinel) seems to have found a new muse in the form of martial arts sensation Scott Adkins (Eliminators).

The two are currently busy on The Pay Up, an upcoming actioner that’ll mark their 4th feature together (5th if you count 2005’s Pit Fighter). Details for the film are scarce, but it is confirmed that David William No (Mr. Nice Guy) and Louis Mandylor (Martial Law) are also part of the cast (via FB).

Stay tuned for more details about The Pay Up. Until then, fans have Triple Threat and Accident Man to look forward to from the duo (other Adkins upcoming projects include Incoming, Altar Rock and a bit part in American Assassin.)

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Before We Vanish (2017) Review

"Before We Vanish" Japanese Theatrical Poster

“Before We Vanish” Japanese Theatrical Poster

Director: Kiyoshi Kurosawa
Writer: Kiyoshi Kurosawa, Sachiko Tanaka
Cast: Ryuhei Matsuda, Masami Nagasawa, Mahiro Takasugi, Yuri Tsunematsu, Hiroki Hasegawa, Atsuko Maeda, Masahiro Higashide, Takashi Sasano
Running Time: 129 min.

By Matija Makotoichi Tomic

Following the premiere at 2017 Cannes Film Festival, Before We Vanish continued its festival circuit at this year’s 17th edition of Neuchâtel International Fantastic Film Festival. With budget as the one thing that shouldn’t give the organizers any headache, NIFFF had the privilege of welcoming Takashi Miike as the guest of honor this year, with not one, but three of his new movies. Fans have all the reason to look forward to these, while the sequel to Mole Song offers even more wacky action and goofy comedy, Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure and Blade of the Immortal are some of Miike’s best since Lesson of the Evil. As different directors with their own unique style and vision, it may seem there’s nothing to connect the two, but Kiyoshi Kurosawa, just like Miike, had his share of V-Cinema productions before becoming one of the best known Japanese filmmakers today.

In 2016, Creepy was announced as the return of the master – Kiyoshi Kurosawa’s big comeback to the genre that made him famous. After completing Daguerrotype that same year, his first movie shot outside of Japan, Kurosawa returned with another genre piece, this time science fiction. Again, rather than just going by the book, he offers his own unique vision instead; this alien invasion piece is unlike any you’ve seen before.

Though not without his missteps, Kurosawa was able to deliver in any decade despite the change of times, and it’s no different today. Based on a play written and directed by Tomohiro Maekawa, Before we vanish is another fantastic display of Kurosawa’s mastery. It is a story about three aliens that, nested inside their human hosts, prepare for invasion, a story that opens with a bloody family massacre and a cool looking car crash only to continue in a far less exciting tone, as a slow-paced thriller with refined dramatic charge, and a comic flare for good balance.

What makes Before We Vanish unique is, above all, the fact there’s nothing that much scientific or fantastic about it, except the idea and the story itself. Sci-fi fans expecting spaceships, creatures from outer space or tons of special effects could end up quite disappointed since Kurosawa’s apocalyptic vision comes closer to the one seen in his 2001 masterpiece Pulse, only less fantastic. Drive-by audience might find the movie boring and couldn’t be blamed for it, but those familiar with Kurosawa’s body of work will surely appreciate the way how he effortlessly transformed something ordinary into something, well, so extraordinary.

To add just enough spice to it, there are occasional outbursts of action, our teenage aliens taking on special agents that are on to them, or, in one of the best scenes in the movie, Kurosawa’s take on the renowned North by Northwest plane scene, reporter turned “guide” facing the threat from above underarmed. Perhaps these rare exciting moments wouldn’t be as effective had the rest been any more entertaining.

Rather an experience than a memorable slice of cinema, Before We Vanish is all about atmosphere, part of which is the interesting soundtrack seemingly more appropriate for an 80’s Hollywood movie, perhaps something Spielberg would direct back in the days when Dream Factory was still producing magic. Thanks to Kurosawa’s atmosphere build-up and skillful storytelling, two plain looking teenagers and a grown man meeting on the street become three aliens reunited for the first time on Earth, finalizing their invasion plan. The aliens here, using humans as both their hosts and their “guides”, need to learn about Earth before being able to invade. Taking human concepts by a simple touch of the finger is the way to do it.

Before being fully able to understand, they just roam around befuddled, gathering the necessary knowledge. Who better to portrait such a confused character wearing blunt face than Ryuhei Matsuda? This was his first time working with Kurosawa, here without his regular Koji Yakusho, as it was for his two young extraterrestrial pals, Mahiro Takasugi and the great Yuri Tsunematsu in the role of Akira Tachibana. The whole concepts looting idea, often leading into almost philosophical re-examination of basic human conceptions, seems at times naive, but is again quite beautiful in Kurosawa’s delivery. This is best depicted in the scene with Matsuda’s character trying to grasp the human concept of love.

Before We Vanish has Kurosawa written all over it, down to the small touches often present in his films, such as toying with lighting and shadow to accentuate as seen in Creepy, or the interesting slow-motion usage in the simple scenes of characters driving. Unusual, subtle and again, so distantly unique, Kurosawa’s latest directorial vision is undoubtedly a great one. The only question is, how many will see it as such?

Matija Makotoichi Tomic’s Rating: 9/10

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