Max Zhang and UFC’s Anderson Silva are ‘Made in Kowloon’

"The Man with the Dragon Tattoo" Teaser Poster

“The Man with the Dragon Tattoo” Teaser Poster

Max Zhang – the rising star of The Grandmaster and Ip Man 3 – will once again appear alongside his SPL II co-star, Louis Koo (Wild City), in Made in Kowloon (aka The Man with the Dragon Tattoo), an upcoming action thriller from Fruit Chan (Made in Hong Kong). The film also stars Annie Liu (Hungry Ghost Ritual) and UFC champ Anderson Silva.

Details on Made in Kowloon are thin, but according to AFS, Zhang and Silva will have a match, a la Donnie Yen vs. Mike Tyson in Ip Man 3.

Zhang has many other projects in the works, including The Brink, S.P.L 3: War Needs Lord, as well as an unofficial Ip Man 3 spin-off. As for Koo, well, the guy has a new film every week.

We’ll keep you updated on Made in Kowloon as we learn more. For now, check out a promotional video from Pegasus Motion Pictures, which includes the first footage from Made in Kowloon (via Alejandro Torres):

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Teaser Poster for Max Zhang’s ‘Ip Man 3’ spin-off

"Ip Man 3" Character Poster

“Ip Man 3” Character Poster

Max Zhang – the rising star of The Grandmaster, S.P.L. II and Ip Man 3 – will headline an unofficial Ip Man 3 spin-off directed by legendary martial arts choreographer Yuen Woo-ping (Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon: Sword of Destiny).

Zhang will reprise his role as Cheung Tin Chi from Ip Man 3. Currently, there are no details regarding plot and/or additional casting, but we’ll be sure to fill you in as news arrives.

Zhang has many other projects in the works, including The Brink, S.P.L 3: War Needs Lord and Made in Kowloon. Yuen currently has Miracle Fighters and Hand Over Fist under his belt.

Updates: Here’s a first look at the film’s teaser poster (apparently titled Cheung Tin-chi), courtesy of AFS.

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David Lam is preparing another storm with ‘L-Storm’

LSTORMVeteran Hong Kong director David Lam (Street Angels) is once again firing up another storm in L-Storm, the sequel to 2016’s S-Storm and 2014’s Z-Storm. The first two films followed the predicaments of William Luk Che Lim (Louis Koo), a lead investigator in the ICAC unit (Independent Commission Against Corruption), and his war with naughty organizations.

According to AFS, the cast for L-Storm so far includes Dada Chan (Z-Storm), Jacky Cai (From Vegas to Macau 2), Shek Sau (S-Storm), Janelle Sing (Kung Fu Angels) and Philip Keung (Trivisa). No word if Koo (The White Storm) is attached or not (keep in mind, I didn’t see the last film…).

We’ll keep you updated on L-Storm as we hear more. For now, we leave you with the Trailer for S-Storm below:

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The Yakuza | Blu-ray (Warner)

The Yakuza | Blu-ray (Warner)

The Yakuza | Blu-ray (Warner)

RELEASE DATE: February 14, 2017

Warner Archive is prepping a Blu-ray release for The Yakuza, a 1974 neo-noir gangster film directed by Sydney Pollack (Three Days of the Condor) and written by Paul Schrader (Taxi Driver) and Robert Towne (Chinatown).

In The Yakuza, Harry Kilmer (Robert Mitchum), is a man who returns to Japan after 15 years to rescue the kidnapped daughter of his pal Tanner (Brian Keith) from the clutches of the Yakuza. Once there, Kilmer is forced to enlist the aid of his former lover Eiko’s brother, Ken (KenTakakura).

The Yakuza also stars Herb Edelman (The Way We Were), Richard Jordan (The Hunt for Red October), Keiko Kishi (Kwaidan), Eiji Okada (Ikiru), James Shigeta (Die Hard), Kyosuke Machida (Outlaw: Gangster VIP), Christina Kokubo (Midway) and Eiji Go (Tokyo Drifter).

Special Features:

  • Audio Commentary by Director Sydney Pollack
  • Promises to Keep – Featurette
  • Theatrical Trailer
  • Optional English SDH subtitles

Pre-order The Yakuza from Amazon.com today!

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

Cold War 2 | Blu-ray & DVD (Well Go USA)

Cold War 2 | Blu-ray (Well Go USA)

Cold War 2 | Blu-ray (Well Go USA)

RELEASE DATE: March 7, 2017

On March 7, 2017, Well Go USA will be releasing Longman Leung and Sunny Luk’s Cold War 2 to Blu-ray and DVD. This Hong Kong action thriller stars Chow Yun-fat (Office), Aaron Kwok (Monk Comes Down the Mountain) and Tony Leung Ka Fai (The Raid).

In this sequel to the 2012 Hong Kong megahit, rival police chiefs battle it out both on the streets and at the station, kicked off by a psychotic killer’s desperate escape attempt.

Cold War 2 also stars Waise Lee (A Better Tomorrow), Janice Man (The Midnight After), Charlie Young (New Police Story), Eddie Peng (Call of Heroes), Aarif Rahman (Bruce Lee, My Brother) and Tony Yang Kam Tin (The Crossing).

Bonus Materials Include:

  • A Powerhouse Cast
  • The Story
  • The Three Powers
  • VFX and Action

Pre-order Cold War 2 from Amazon.com today!

Posted in Asian Titles, DVD/Blu-ray New Releases, Martial Arts Titles, News | Tagged | 8 Comments

Is Scorsese directing Jamie Foxx in a Mike Tyson Biopic?

"Ip Man 3" Teaser Poster

“Ip Man 3” Teaser Poster

There’s no doubt that Mike Tyson’s (Ip Man 3) tumultuous life story would make an interesting biopic. And with the possibility of a filmmaker like Martin Scorsese (Goodfellas) attached, we may have another Raging Bull in our hands (Or not. I mean, Raging Bull is that good).

According to Jamie Foxx (Django Unchained), who is apparently playing the former champ, a pending film about Tyson is very much alive. When SR asked Foxx for an update about the project – and about Scorsese’s involvement – Fox replied: “That is a go… yeah, he’s attached, and it’s — Mike Tyson’s life is one of the most amazing American stories.”

Sounds good to us. But before Scorsese steps back into the ring, he still has the Robert De Niro/Al Pacino gangster flick The Irishman to complete (currently in pre-production); not to mention the The Devil in the White City, a thriller about H.H. Holmes (with frequent collaborator Leonardo DiCaprio as the title character) which is most likely higher in priority. In other words, don’t hold your breath.

Whatever the case may be, we still have the real Tyson to look forward to in the upcoming films Kickboxer: Retaliation (with Jean-Claude Van Damme) and the curious Chinese flick, Chinese Salesman (with Steven Seagal).

If you happen to be hungry for a Tyson biopic right here, right now, there’s always 1995’s Tyson, starring Michael Jai White (Skin Trade).

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New Trailer for the Muay Thai actioner ‘Broken Sword Hero’

"Legend of the Broken Sword Hero" Teaser Poster

“Legend of the Broken Sword Hero” Teaser Poster

World-renowned Muay Thai kickboxer, Buakaw Banchamek (Yamada: The Samurai of Ayothaya), stars in Legend of the Broken Sword Hero, an upcoming martial arts epic from actor/director, Bin Bunluerit (Bang Rajan).

Legend of the Broken Sword Hero (or “White-teethed Thong Dee”) follows the adventures of Thong Dee (Banchamek, in his first leading role), a legendary fighter with unparalleled skills of Muay Thai and sword fighting skills.

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

Watch the newest trailer for Legend of the Broken Sword Hero below (via Alejandro Torres‎):

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Deal on Fire! Kickboxer: Vengeance | Blu-ray | Only $9.99 – Expires soon!

Kickboxer: Vengeance | Blu-ray & DVD (Image Entertainment)

Kickboxer: Vengeance | Blu-ray & DVD (Image Entertainment)

Today’s Deal on Fire is the Blu-ray 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.

Order Kickboxer: Vengeance from Amazon.com.

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Operation Chromite (2016) Review

Operation Chromite | Blu-ray & DVD (Sony)

Operation Chromite | Blu-ray & DVD (Sony)

Director: John H. Lee
Producer: Lee Man-hee
Cast: Lee Jung-jae, Lee Beom-soo, Liam Neeson, Jin Se-yeon, Jung Joon-ho, Park Chul-min, Kim Byeong-ok, Jon Gries, Choo Sung-hoon, Kim Sun-a, Kim Young-ae, Park Sung-woong, Sean Dulake
Running Time: 111 min.

By Kyle Warner

I’m sort of fascinated by the Liam Neeson career shift post-Taken. Though he played action heroes pre-2008 (Star Wars and Darkman, for example), after Taken Neeson became Hollywood’s go-to actor for action movies requiring a middle-aged lead. Maybe it’s because Neeson doesn’t instantly remind viewers of earlier iconic action roles the way a Stallone or Schwarzenegger might. Or maybe it’s just that Neeson has finally found a star role that audiences respond to and which he can refine across multiple films—the gruff voice, the icy glare, and a believable talent for breaking the bones of men half his age (director Jaume Collet-Serra deserves some of the credit for perfecting the Badass Neeson image). Neeson’s smart enough as an actor to know that the tough old guy isn’t the only sort of part he should be playing, though, and he continues to pick a few surprising roles that most of us probably never saw coming—like making fun of his tough guy persona in The Lego Movie, playing a talking tree creature in A Monster Calls, and now co-starring in a Korean-based CJ Entertainment production as General Douglas MacArthur.

Operation Chromite is based on a true story. In 1950, after North Korea invaded and claimed much of the land beyond the South Korea border, UN forces led by Gen. MacArthur were mobilized to defend South Korea from the Northern aggressors. MacArthur, one of America’s most revered war heroes, had negotiated peace in partnership with Japan’s Emperor Hirohito just five years before. After a failed bid for the White House, Gen. MacArthur was entrusted by the UN and President Truman with deescalating the Korean War before things got any worse. MacArthur thought that the best way to accomplish that goal would be to charge the occupied city of Incheon from the sea. However, a well-defended beach put odds of success at 5,000 to 1. In order to ensure victory, MacArthur worked in coordination with South Korean spies who were sent into Incheon to weaken the defenses before the landing parties arrived.

Though MacArthur is important to the story, the film primarily focuses on the South Korean spies. Assuming the identity of North Korean troops, Lt. Jang (Lee Jung-Jae) leads his men into the lion’s den in search of maps that might reveal where the mines are hidden off the Incheon coast. Standing in his way is the volatile North Korean Col. Lim (Lee Beom-Su), who begins to suspect Jang almost right away.

Though billed as a war movie, Operation Chromite also has much in common with men-on-a-mission spy flicks. The South Korean spies know that they’re only one wrong step away from being revealed and consequently murdered. The bodies of those who dared to stand up to the North are given public executions and left on display in the streets to frighten the civilians. When Col. Lim sits Jang down and questions his views on religion and Communism, he’s essentially giving Jang a life-or-death quiz. Ideology can get you killed.

Lee Beom-Su (The Anarchists) is great as the film’s chief antagonist. Col. Lim represents the danger of absolute belief. Lee Beom-Su plays Lim as a little unhinged, though I thought it a more interesting character than most North Korean villains seen in film today. As Col. Lim’s nemesis, Lee Jeong-Jae (Assassination) gives a strong, reserved performance as Lt. Jang. I expect that Jang’s character probably plays differently for Korean audiences—whether he is viewed as a patriotic hero, or if the role is felt to be hero worship, I do not know. This American’s opinion is that Jang is the best character in the film and Lee gives the best performance. He’s cool and confident without ever feeling like a caricature.

The Korean supporting cast is decent, though their characters are underwritten. Actress Jin Se-Yeon (Enemies In-Law) plays a woman who views South Koreans as traitors before the North’s violence forces her to reassess how she sees the world. It’s a good part but she could’ve used more screen time to better sell her character’s arc.

Most of Liam Neeson’s screen time is devoted to poorly written dialogue scenes in cramped spaces shared with subpar American actors. (Neeson, who might have only 20 minutes in the film, only really shares one scene with Korean lead Lee Jeong-Jae.) At first, Liam Neeson gives the film a cool international quality. Few foreign action movies are able to secure an A-list Hollywood star, so this is big. And Neeson looks the part, too; he chomps on that wooden pipe, he pulls up his pants too high, and he commands his men with unquestioned authority. But the English dialogue script, credited to a different writer from the rest of the film, is oh so bad. Neeson gets to say some lines that probably read as inspirational—and who knows, maybe MacArthur even said a few of ’em—but they all feel out of place, either because of the way they’re delivered or where they fit into their respective scenes. Neeson and the supporting English cast try their best to make it work but sometimes the results are just plain silly.

Where Operation Chromite excels is in the action scenes. The powerful sound design really ups the impact of the shootouts and the clear editing keeps things moving at a brisk pace. Some set pieces defy realism and take on an almost Indiana Jones adventure quality but I thought that added to the entertainment value of the picture. Operation Chromite is not a fact-driven historical recreation, it’s a historical action movie, and I think director John H. Lee (A Moment to Remember) makes that clear from very early on. Our heroes get bloody, sacrificial deaths and the villains go down in droves of bullets and/or fiery explosions. It’s loud and sometimes dumb, but I think it hits the desired mark for a wartime action movie.

Though the Korean parts of the film are not without flaws (under developed characters and overly sentimental sendoffs), there is a distinct difference in quality between the two different sections of the film. The American side of things has Liam Neeson saying some unintentionally funny stuff while waiting around to finally get into the fight. The Korean side of things is a well-executed, patriotic actioner about the self-sacrificing heroes who saved South Korea from Communist rule (big surprise: North Korea hates the movie). I tend to think that the film would’ve been better off with a dramatically reduced role for MacArthur and the UN, since that’s where most of the film’s flaws originate. It’s a strange movie for Liam Neeson at the height of his newfound popularity. But again, I still don’t know what to expect from Neeson in the new stage of his career. He apparently simply enjoys taking on odd and unexpected roles amongst all the kidnapping thrillers. It’d be cool if he made another foreign film in the future, hopefully with a better script.

Kyle Warner’s Rating: 6.5/10

Posted in All, Korean, News, Reviews | Tagged , , | 5 Comments

Details on ‘Drive’ helmer’s Yakuza spy flick ‘Avenging Silence’

"Only God Forgives" Japanese Theatrical Poster

“Only God Forgives” Japanese Theatrical Poster

Director Nicolas Winding Refn (Drive, Only God Forgives) may be a little too “style over substance” for most viewers, but nobody can deny that the filmmaker has their full attention when he announces a new project.

Refn is currently gearing up for The Avenging Silence, a feature film about a former European spy who accepts a confidential mission from a Japanese businessman exiled to France to take down the head of the most treacherous Yakuza boss in Japan – If this description doesn’t doesn’t peak your interest, then you’re stuck in 2 Fast 2 Furious land.

At one point, Refn expressed an interest to direct a James Bond film (there were even reports that he had met with 007 producers); obviously, a deal never came to fruition, but The Avenging Silence may be the next best thing – if not better. In fact, Bond veterans Neal Purvis and Robert Wade (Casino Royale, Skyfall) wrote the script. Refn himself describes it as “a big extravagant action film” that’s inspired by Ian Fleming‘s Dr. No and William Burroughs‘ Nova Express. With these elements, combined with Refn’s unconventional method, the possibilities are exhilarating.

At this time, there is no set production date, nor is there a lead attached (if Refn decides to recruit Ryan Gosling for a third time, we’ll take it). What is available is an extended plot synopsis (via The Playlist).

If you’re sensitive to minor spoilers, you may want to skip it:

The spy was one of the leading spies in Europe. An injury inflicted to his vocal cords during a failed mission six years ago left him mute, forcing him to leave his profession. Now, six years later, he is sought out and put on confidential assignment by a former Yakuza, now a retired Japanese businessman in exile in France, to track down and kill the head of the most dangerous Yakuza family in Japan.

Afraid of flying, our spy anonymously boards a cargo ship headed for Tokyo. An onboard explosion sinks the ship and our spy finds himself washed ashore on a life raft in southern Japan. As a mute, our spy must silently journey through Japan seeking 4 clues – symbolizing conquest, war, famine, and death – which will guide him to the unknown location of the Yakuza boss.

Meanwhile, the Yakuza boss, known for his 2004 mass slaughter of Yakuza members who had turned against him, is believed to be plotting to reenter the Japanese underworld after living in his own surreptitious world in the mountains, void of all technology. This way of life becomes an obsession for the Yakuza boss. Rumors spread that he had committed suicide years ago but escaped prisoners from his hidden camp told stories of his plan for a comeback. Now rival Yakuza families suspect he is forming a master plan to return, a plan that unburies the most infamous story of Yakuza betrayal.

Our spy finds himself on an existential journey through Japan in search of pieces to the puzzle that will lead him to a confrontation with the ultimate Yakuza boss in a terrifying conclusion.

We’ll keep you posted on The Avenging Silence as we hear more. In the meantime, Refn directed the first episode of Les Italiens, a noir series about a squad of French/Italian policemen working in Paris’ famous Quai des Orfevres headquarters. An announcement for the the show’s airing should hit soon. Stay tuned.

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A ‘Natural Born Killer’ joins the ‘Han Solo’ spin-off film

"The Empire Strikes Back" Japanese Theatrical Poster

“The Empire Strikes Back” Japanese Theatrical Poster

Disney’s untitled Han Solo spin-off movie continues to take shape with the addition of Woody Harrelson (Natural Born Killers). Harrelson is rumored to be playing somewhat of a mentor to Alden Ehrenreich (Hail, Caesar!), who’ll be playing the young, sarcastic, reckless smuggler made famous by Harrison Ford.

Additional cast members include Donald Glover (The Martian) as a young Lando Calrissian, previously played by Billy Dee Williams in The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi. Emilia Clarke (Game of Thrones) is also part of the cast in an unspecified role.

According to Deadline, the untitled Han Solo spin-off will be directed by Phil Lord and Christopher Miller (The Lego Movie) and written by Lawrence Kasdan (Star Wars: Episode V-VII)  and Jon Kasdan (In the Land of Women). The film will focus on Solo’s days before he linked up with the rebel alliance.

The untitled Han Solo movie, which shoots early this year, has a scheduled release for May 25th, 2018. Stay tuned!

Posted in News | 2 Comments

Enter our ‘Train to Busan’ Blu-ray Contest! – WINNERS ANNOUNCED!

Train to Busan | Blu-ray & DVD (Well Go USA)

Train to Busan | Blu-ray & DVD (Well Go USA)

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

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

Train to Busan will officially be released on January 17, 2017. We will announce the 3 winners on that date

CONTEST DISCLAIMER: You must enter by January 16, 2017 to qualify. U.S. residents only please. We sincerely apologize to our non-U.S. visitors. Winners must respond with their mailing address within 48 hours, otherwise you will automatically be disqualified. No exceptions. Contest is subject to change without notice.

WINNERS: Chad H, Jason W, and Lee.

Posted in News | Tagged | 45 Comments

Assassination Classroom (2015) Review

"Assassination Classroom" Japanese Theatrical Poster

“Assassination Classroom” Japanese Theatrical Poster

Director: Eiichiro Hasumi
Writer: Yusei Matsui, Tatsuya Kanazawa
Cast: Ryosuke Yamada, Masaki Suda, Maika Yamamoto, Seika Taketomi, Mio Yuki, Miku Uehara Kanna Hashimoto, Seishiro Kato, Kang Ji-Young, Masanobu Takashima, Kippei Shiina, Kazunari Ninomiya, Wakana Aoi, Mirei Kiritani
Running Time: 110 min.

By Paul Bramhall

There’s a painfully transparent trend being followed by the studios when it comes to mainstream Japanese cinema that’s emerged in recent years, and it’s one that can best be described as follows – 1. Pick any popular sci-fi infused manga series. 2. Adapt series into two movies, shot back-to-back, and release within a few months of each other. 3. Enjoy profit. We’ve already seen the likes of Gantz (2010) and Gantz – Perfect Answer (2011), Parasyte – Part 1 (2014) and Parasyte – Part 2 (2015), and Attack on Titan – Part 1 (2015) and Attack on Titan – Part 2 (2015). While all of the productions listed have their high points, they also all suffer from bloated runtimes, such that they seem to struggle under their own weight to justify why there’s 2 movies instead of 1.

However as long as the audience is there, it seems that the two-parter is here to stay, and with plenty of manga’s to choose from, 2015 saw its third example of this type of production with Assassination Classroom. Apart from already having a pre-determined part two released in 2016, this live-action feature wasn’t the only interpretation of the tale in 2015, with an anime series also released that was met with a positive reception. As for a live adaptation though, Assassination Classroom proves a trickier beast, after all, how do you transfer a story that revolves around a yellow tentacled alien, which has a permanently grinning bulbous yellow ball for a head, that becomes a homeroom teacher?

Needless to say, such a tale would best be handled by a director known for their ability to handle slightly out there cinema. Miike Takashi would be the obvious choice, however he would have been too busy preparing his own sci-fi manga adaptation, with what would become 2016’s Terra Formars. Sono Sion would also have been a welcome choice to handle such a tale, but again he was preoccupied with massacring as many school girls as possible in Tag. So, with the most likely candidates out of the picture, the directorial reigns ended up in the hands of Eiichiro Hasumi. For those not familiar with Hasumi’s filmography, I guess it’s as good a place to start as any by pointing out he directed one of the worse movies I’ve ever seen, in the form of Mozu: The Movie. Worryingly also from 2015. He’s also behind the big budget disaster flick meets Hallmark Channel TV movie Umizaru trilogy. In short, not the obvious choice.

As with almost any manga series I review, let me put the disclaimer out there that I haven’t read any of them, so I’m not familiar with the source material. Therefore this isn’t going to be a review which compares its faithfulness to the source material. However, in any case, it seems that this adaptation didn’t cause the same level of outrage amongst fans of the manga that, say, the live action version of Attack on Titan had, so it most have done something right. Surprisingly, it does a lot right, and knowing Hasumi’s previous track record, I’m inclined to believe that this is due to the sheer outlandishness of the source material, rather than implying that he’s become a great director overnight.

The plot for Assassination Classroom goes something like this. The alien, named by the students as Koro Sensei, has destroyed 70% of the moon. Why, we don’t know, but now he plans to destroy the planet Earth as well, and he’s going to do it in time for summer break. The alien advises the Japanese government that he’d like to give humanity a chance to stop him from wiping out the planet, so requests to be the teacher of the most challenging class in a Japanese high school. Apart from teaching them the standard school subjects, he’ll also be teaching them the methods on how best he can be killed. The government agree, and so the alien is assigned as their teacher, and the class get armed to the teeth with machine guns and daggers, made of a material that’ll only harm the alien, in preparation for putting their learnings into practice.

It’s been a while since I’ve come across a movie with a plot so ludicrous, and the tone fully embraces the madness of it all. From the moment Koro Sensei introduces himself to the class, cheerfully declaring, “I destroyed the moon and I’ll destroy the Earth next March, therefore, I’ll be your homeroom teacher.” To the daily attendance roll calls, that have him speeding around the classroom calling out names, as an endless stream of bullets are unloaded in his direction from the students, all the while remembering to shout “Here!” when their name is called. The relentless energy that the pace maintains, with minimal explanation as to the reasons behind anything that’s happening, make it a frequently hilarious and joyous viewing experience.

Koro Sensei himself of course is 100% CGI, however he’s integrated perfectly into the environment, with his bright yellow smiling head and rubber like tentacles providing an intentionally manga like appearance. The class themselves consist of a set of students that bring plenty of character to proceedings. The main student is played by Ryosuke Yamada, who plays a shy but smart underachiever that carefully observes Koro Sensei, picking up on weaknesses through little details, and spotting the cracks in his seemingly permanent cheerful appearance.

The most memorable characters though are saved for Korean actress Kang Ji-young, a former member of K-pop group Kara, who plays a constantly horny English teacher, who’s actually Russian (apparently defined by her dyed blonde hair), and enjoys wearing as much tight leather as possible. Her frequent attempts to violently kill the alien are a highlight. Another highlight comes in the form of transfer student STAR, or more precisely, Self-Thinking Artillery Robot. STAR basically looks like a computer server stuck at the back of the classroom, with a full length screen at the front were the robot takes on human form, played by Kanna Hashimoto, and interacts with the class. STAR randomly unleashes anything from mini-guns to missiles, usually in the middle of a lesson to maintain the element of surprise, and quickly endears herself to the rest of the class.

Amongst the chaos, we do get a number of small hints as to the origin of Koro Sensei. There are brief flashbacks to a room on fire and a female teacher seemingly trapped in the wreckage, and it becomes clear that he’s also in the room with her. Most tellingly, when he engages with the government agent that agreed to assign him to the class, played by Kipei Shina (recognizable as one of the main characters from Takeshi Kitano’s Outrage), the agent makes an offhand comment around if the situation they’re discussing took place when he “only had two hands and two feet”. All the hints of course are alluding to what will be revealed in the second instalment, but as a standalone movie, the scenes create a welcome sense of curiosity as to where the alien must have come from, and indeed, is he an alien at all?

As much fun as Assassination Classroom was, a sense of foreboding runs through me regarding the second instalment. In normal storytelling logic, the first instalment of a two part tale should set the stage for what’s to come, as well as establishing characters, with the second instalment delivering the thrills and spills that are normally associated with a saga’s conclusion. John Woo’s Red Cliff is a perfect example of this. However in the case of these manga adaptions that we’re seeing, frequently it seems to be the case that all the fun is crammed into the first part, so as to establish the audiences appetite to invest in watching the second, which turns out to be an exposition heavy chore. The Attack on Titan movies are a perfect example of this. I hope in this case that the conclusion proves to be as fun as its predecessor, but until the day comes when I check it out, for now I can say that Assassination Classroom is a lesson that’s well worth attending.

Paul Bramhall’s Rating: 8/10

Posted in All, Japanese, News, Reviews | 1 Comment

Cynthia Rothrock unleashes kung fu mayhem in ‘Fists of Fury’

"Fists of Fury" DVD Cover

“Fists of Fury” DVD Cover

Martial arts film legend Cynthia Rothrock (The Martial Arts KidRighting Wrongs) is hosting Fists of Fury, a new, butt-kicking documentary by Charles Band and Full Moon Entertainment.

Synopsis: Class is in session as your seductive sensei, Cynthia Rothrock, gives you the hardest hitting lessons of your life! Courses include a study on the greatest ‘Martial Arts Movie Masters’, ‘Deadliest Weapons”, and the many failed attempts at recreating the ‘Magic of Bruce Lee’. Will you earn your cinematic black-belt or get tossed on the pile of failed students? The only way to find out is to find and feel the Fists of Fury!

Fists of Fury features 109 minutes of hard-hitting footage and some of the greatest clips in martial arts entertainment. Don’t miss the film’s promo below (via Mike Leeder):

Posted in News | 1 Comment

Dongju: The Portrait of a Poet (2016) Review

"Dongju: The Portrait of a Poet" Korean Theatrical Poster

“Dongju: The Portrait of a Poet” Korean Theatrical Poster

Director: Lee Joon-Ik
Writer: Shin Youn-Shick
Cast: Kang Ha-Neul, Park Jung-Min, Kim In-Woo, Choi Hong-Il, Choi Hee-Seo, Shin Yoon-Joo, Min Jin-Woong
Running Time: 110 min.

By Martin Sandison

The Glasgow, Scotland leg of the 16th London Korean Film Festival appealed much more to the arthouse community, with three films being shown. Dong-Ju: Portrait of a Poet was easily the most interesting. A biopic of one of Korea’s most enduring poets, this story is strong with emotional resonance and performances from its relatively unknown actors.

The film’s depiction and story of Dong-Ju is very significant for Korean audiences, as his poetry became a voice for the revolution after the second World War, and symbolised Korea’s escape from oppression. The film depicts his life from being an idealistic teenager to his imprisonment by the Japanese (who had occupied Korea) for being involved in the revolutionary movement.

Dong-Ju: Portrait of a Poet employs a flashback and flashforward narrative, very effectively, with time frames becoming intermingled. The interrogation of Dong Ju by a Japanese officer is the centrepiece, revealing much about his life. His cousin Mong-Gyoo, a revolutionary at heart, is really the cause of his imprisonment. Despite the obvious affection they have for each other that is well-observed in the movie, I came to feel negatively about his character. Perhaps this shows how effective the movie is, as it is an unflinching portrayal of Dong-Ju and Korea at the time. Along the way the story involves many other characters such as two girls who admire and even love Dong-Ju for his gentleness and beautifully written poetry, and through one he gets to meet his hero, a fellow poet. This scene is very revealing, as his hero (whose name escapes me) advises him not to be a poet because of the coming problems in the world. The implication that even an expression as pure as poetry cannot make an impact in times of war is beautifully put across and interesting, considering the impact that Dong Ju’s poetry had on Korean consciousness.

Director Lee Joon-Ik is known for period movies like Blades of Blood, the subject matter and style of which could not be more divorced from Dong-Ju. He handles the black and white aesthetic with grace, and there is no shot that shouldn’t be in there. Lead actor Kang Ha Neul as Dong Ju is at turns melancholy, driven and intelligent in his outlook. His depiction of the development of his subject is great, with his awkwardness as a teenager giving way to a sureness of self. He is known for his TV work and comedy movies, and here proves his range. As Mong-Gyoo, Park Jeong-Min excels also as a troubled revolutionary with a fire in his belly.

Despite being pretty low budget, the film makers create a believable world, with the set and costume design especially proving this. The film is not without its faults, with some scenes falling flat and without the requisite drama to keep the viewer interested. The end of the film conveys how Dong-Ju and Mong-Gyoo were in fact imprisoned in the same place, but the reveal is so without dramatic power that it is an anti-climax. Also as one who has little knowledge about the Japanese occupation of Korea, the film requires more than a little of this to fully understand what is going on; perhaps showing it resonates more for a local audience.

Dong-Ju: Portrait of a Poet is a film of great relevance and heart, and is definitely worth your time.

Martin Sandison’s Rating: 7/10

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Exterminator 2 | Blu-ray (Shout! Factory)

Exterminator 2 | Blu-ray (Shout! Factory)

Exterminator 2 | Blu-ray (Shout! Factory)

RELEASE DATE: April 25, 2017

Shout! Factory presents the Blu-ray for Exterminator 2, a 1984 cult classic directed by Mark Buntzman and starring Robert Ginty (Exterminator).

John Eastland (Ginty), the man who turned New York into a war zone in 1980’s Exterminator, is back with a vengeance! This time, the flamethrower-wielding vigilante takes on the sinister Drug Lord X (Mario Van Peebles) and his army of thugs.

Back in 2011, Synapse Films released an Unrated Director’s Cut of Exterminator on Blu-ray, so now that we’ve come full circle, it’s time to set some sh*t on fire!

Pre-order Exterminator 2 from Amazon.com today!

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Never Too Young To Die | Blu-ray & DVD (Shout! Factory)

Never Too Young To Die | Blu-ray & DVD (Shout! Factory)

Never Too Young To Die | Blu-ray & DVD (Shout! Factory)

RELEASE DATE: April 11, 2017

Shout! Factory presents the Blu-ray & DVD for Gil Bettman’s 1986 cult classic, Never Too Young To Die, starring John Stamos (Full House), Vanity (The Last Dragon) and Gene Simmons (Runaway).

A top secret agent is murdered, so his estranged son – a high school gymnast – teams up with his dad’s attractive female partner to stop the psychopathic hermaphroditic gang leader who killed him and now plans a major terrorist attack.

Never Too Young To Die also stars George Lazenby (A Queen’s Ransom), Peter Kwong (Big Trouble in Little China) and Robert Englund (A Nightmare on Elm Street).

Pre-order Never Too Young To Die from Amazon.com today!

Posted in DVD/Blu-ray New Releases, News, Other Notable Titles | 2 Comments

Don’t watch the New Trailer for ‘Rings’ if you want to live

“Rings” Theatrical Poster

“Rings” Theatrical Poster

Brace yourself for Rings, a new chapter in the beloved Ring horror franchise (originated by Koji Suzuki and Hideo Nakata in 1998’s Ringu and last seen in the recent Sadako vs Kayako, aka The Ring vs The Grudge).

In Rings, a young woman becomes worried about her boyfriend when he explores a dark subculture surrounding a mysterious videotape said to kill the watcher seven days after he has viewed it. She sacrifices herself to save her boyfriend, and in doing so makes a horrifying discovery: there is a “movie within the movie” that no one has ever seen before…

Rings is directed by F. Javier Gutierrez (Before the Fall) and produced by Guillermo del Toro (Hellboy). The film stars Laura Wiggins (Hard Drive), Johnny Galecki (The Master Cleanse), Aimee Teagarden (Scream 4) and Vincent D’Onofrio (Full Metal Jacket).

The film hits screen on February 3, 2017. Until then, don’t miss the film’s newest Trailer:

Posted in News | 4 Comments

Watch the new U.S. Trailer for Jackie Chan’s ‘Railroad Tigers’

"Railroad Tigers" Theatrical Poster

“Railroad Tigers” Theatrical Poster

If Jackie Chan’s recent Skiptrace wasn’t quite your cup of tea, then maybe Railroad Tigers will better suit you. This 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).

In Railroad Tigers (read our review), a railroad worker (Chan) and his ragtag group of freedom fighters find themselves on the wrong side of the tracks when they decide to ambush a heavily armed military train filled with desperately needed provisions. Unarmed and outnumbered, they must fight back against an entire army using only their wits, in a series of a dazzling set pieces and action scenes rivaling anything seen on the big screen.

Railroad Tigers is being released in the U.S. by Well Go USA Entertainment on January 6th, 2017.

Updates: Watch the film’s newest trailer below:

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Search for Weng Weng, The (2013) Review

"The Search for Weng Weng" Promotional Poster

“The Search for Weng Weng” Promotional Poster

Director: Andrew Leavold
Writer: Andrew Leavold, Daniel Palisa
Cast: Edgardo ‘Boy’ Vinarao, Don Gordon Bell, Rez Cortez, Imelda Marcos, Bobby A. Suarez, Marrie Lee, Imee Marco, Dolphy, Maria Isabel Lopez, Teddy Co
Running Time: 92 min. 

By Paul Bramhall

I can’t speak for anyone else, but for me, my first exposure to the 007 styled Filipino midget action star, Weng Weng, was when home video label Mondo Macabro released his 1981 action movie For Your Height Only, packaged with the Bruce Le flick Challenge of the Tiger, on DVD back in 2005. It’s one of those movies that really defies being able to do justice to with words. The bizarreness of watching a 2’ 9” primordial dwarf decked out in a sharp white suite, seducing ladies, jumping off the top of buildings, and getting into kung fu fights with the bad guys, amounts to 90 minutes that are difficult to look away from, even if you’re not really sure why.

However even at the time of the DVD’s release, information on exactly who Weng Weng was, and what became of him, was based purely on hearsay and rumours. Some sources said he’d declared himself the living incarnation of God and was leading a cult in the Philippines, others said he’d become a real life secret agent for the Philippines government, and others claimed he’d become a stand-up comedian that married an adult movie star. It was all urban legend, and the truth was, nobody actually had any idea who this mysterious Filipino midget was, other than a curiosity that starred in a handful of action movies and then disappeared as quickly as he’d arrived.

As it turned out, there was one person in the world who got so curious about discovering the truth of who Weng Weng really was, that he decided to do something about it. That man was an Australian gentleman by the name of Andrew Leavold, known down under as the guy behind Australia’s largest cult video rental store – Trash Video. Leavold’s store opened its doors in 1995, before finally closing shop in 2010, and in its 15 years of operation housed a selection of world cinema weirdness from every imaginable corner of the globe. Out of all of the titles stored under Trash Video’s roof though, it was Weng Weng that piqued Leavold’s curiosity the most, and in 2005 his odyssey began, booking a trip to the Philippines armed with nothing more than a Mini-DV camera and his enthusiasm.

For full disclosure, I contributed to the Kickstarter campaign that was set up to complete post-production on The Search for Weng Weng in 2013, however in no way profit from its release. My photo is in the end credits though – for approximately a fraction of a second. I was lucky enough to watch one of the first rough cut screenings of The Search for Weng Weng, which Leavold hosted on the Sunshine Coast in Australia during May 2013, playfully titled the Rough as Weng’s Guts version. Appropriately, it was shown in the basement of an old vintage store, which housed the remnants of Trash Video’s VHS collection. The sound mix had yet to be completed, so Leavold narrated the documentary in person armed with a microphone, and the runtime was still a little flabby around the edges. However it was clear to see that his journey had unearthed plenty of Filipino action cinema gold. The final version was released a little over a year later, and came in as a much leaner (and audio friendly) experience than those initial early screenings.

The Search for Weng Weng kicks off at the beginning of Leavold’s first trip to Manila, spanning what would become a 7 year journey of attempting to get to the bottom of what became of the Philippines greatest midget action star. In many ways, the time it took to complete Weng Weng’s story results in a finished product that feels just as much about Leavold’s mission to discover the truth, as it does the truth itself. This really works in The Search for Weng Weng’s favour, as it allows the audience to share Leavold’s joy as he manages to glean each new slither of information on Weng Weng’s life, none of which is ever just handed to him on a plate. From the opening scene, which sees one of his very first engagements in Manila addressing an audience of film industry folk in a cinema, his enthused requests to meet up with anyone that may have information on Weng Weng are met with a blanket of blank and bemused expressions.

It’s only after the engagement when Leavold is dejectedly strolling through the parking lot, that an unassuming gentleman asks him what he’s doing there with a camera. The gentleman happens to be Edgardo ‘Boy’ Vinarao, who casually mentions that he was the editor on most of Weng Weng’s movies, and just like that, the real journey begins. Like most things in life, Leavold’s chance encounter with Vinarao proves that the combination of luck and good timing is everything, and we’re soon following the director down into the rabbit hole of long forgotten Filipino action cinema. From sitting in on monthly gatherings of old-school stuntmen in shopping mall coffee shops, to hanging out with Imelda Marcos in her mansion to celebrate her 83rd birthday, Leavold’s delight and bewilderment at where his journey takes him is one that’s shared as the audience.

Anyone who is even vaguely familiar with Filipino action movies will no doubt get a kick of out of witnessing the sheer number of interviews contained within The Search for Weng Weng’s 90 minute runtime. For some, it would be their last, such as Bobby A. Suarez, the director of such B-movie classics as Cleopatra Wong and The One Armed Executioner, who sadly passed away in 2010. Cleopatra Wong herself is also interviewed, the still very much active Marrie Lee. Through the conversations Leavold has with the various members of the industry past and present, we not only get an insight into what Weng Weng was really like, but we also get a window into what it was like to work in the Filipino action movie industry back in the late 70’s and early 80’s.

The serious business of discovering the truth behind what became of the pint sized star is never forgotten though, and the more that gets uncovered, the more the initially quirky journey into the annals of Filipino movie history becomes a tale that seems destined to have a tragic ending. It would be a spoiler to reveal Weng Weng’s fate here, however Leavold does indeed follow his curiosity through to the end (for 7 years no less), eventually tracking down Weng Weng’s brother and learning the unequivocal truth behind what became of one of the Philippines smallest stars. It’s a credit to the way The Search for Weng Weng is edited that, even when the reality of Weng Weng’s short but memorable career is revealed, it never takes on a tone of self-pity or misery, instead choosing to focus on the brighter moments in his life.

One particularly amusing tale has the daughter of Imelda Marcos recalling how the first Manila Film Festival, which took place in 1982, was set to put the Philippines on the map as a country capable of making serious arthouse cinema on par with the rest of the world. However once it opened, the only movies that the many overseas distributors and buyers were interested in were those that starred Weng Weng, and most of the serious dramas that they’d intended to show off to the world were overlooked or ignored. Amusing as it is, it stands as proof that Weng Weng was indeed a bonafide star at the time his movies were being released, and was even invited to Cannes the same year as the Manila Film Festival, gracing the red carpet just as stars do today.

The time spent debunking the myths around Weng Weng is also far from time wasted. Did he really become a secret agent? Was he really considered a religious figure who people worshipped? As with so many urban myths, the claims in most cases only turn out to be half-truths, however when it comes to a 2’ 9” primordial dwarf who’s obsessed with kung fu, the remaining half is just as wild and entertaining as you’d expect. The same could be applied to The Search For Weng Weng as a whole, it’s an unknown journey into the unexpected, which is never anything less than entertaining, constantly propelled forward by Leavold’s unabashed enthusiasm to discover the truth, no matter how long it takes. When he does, the final product is one that not only serves to satisfy people’s curiosity about what became of Weng Weng, but also serves as a fitting tribute to his life.

Paul Bramhall’s Rating: 8/10

Posted in All, Asian Related, Documentary, Filipino, News, Reviews | Tagged , | 2 Comments
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