Fan Bingbing joins Jason Statham for the hunt in ‘Meg’

"Wild Card" Japanese DVD Cover

"Wild Card" Japanese DVD Cover

Meg, Warner Bros.’ giant prehistoric shark movie starring Jason Statham (The Transporter, Wild Card), just gained two more stars: Jon Turtletaub (Last Vegas) and Fan Bingbing (The White Haired Witch of Lunar Kingdom).

The monster movie concerns the threat of a Megalodon, the titular Meg, who terrorizes people off of the coast of China.

Since this is a Warner Bros. production, this marks a major studio lead for Statham, who hasn’t led a major studio film in quite a while, or at least one of this stature. He recently co-starred in Furious 7, but Meg will be his highest profile-leading role for certain.

It’s not often that action stars tackle creature features either. A fairly recent example that comes to mind is Legendary, the DTV monster movie in which Scott Adkins and Dolph Lundgren tackle a giant lizard. As for Statham, I highly doubt that he will be using any martial arts moves on the monster, although he will most likely resort to his charisma and intensity, as well as some weapons training to take down the creature. Martial arts fans will naturally find themselves attracted to this project simply for Statham’s involvement.

Originally to be directed by horror auteur Eli Roth (Cabin Fever, Hostel), the film will now be directed by Jon Turtletaub (National Treasure). As Turtletaub is a much different director than Roth, I would expect Meg to adhere more closely to blockbuster adventure than creature feature horror. While it would have been neat to see Roth homage Jaws and possible Jaws rip-offs, as he is a huge fan of B-horror, Turtletaub is probably the safer bet for guiding a blockbuster to box office success.

Meg is currently aiming for a 2017 release date. Principal photography and production will begin later this year in China and New Zealand.

Stay tuned for more updates on this one.

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Deal on Fire! Red Belt | Blu-ray | Only $8.93 – Expires soon!

"Red Belt" Blu-ray Cover

"Red Belt" Blu-ray Cover

Today’s Deal on Fire is the Blu-ray for Red Belt, directed by David Mamet (Homicide) and starring Chiwetel Ejiofor (12 Years a Slave). It’s a film that City on Fire can’t recommend enough – read our review!

A fateful event leads to a job in the film business for top mixed-martial arts instructor Mike Terry (Ejiofor).

Red Belt also stars Max Martini (Pacific Rim), Alice Braga (Predators), Randy Couture (The Expendables), Rodrigo Santoro (300), Joe Mantegna, Tim Allen and a special appearance by Dan Inosanto (Game of Death).

Order Red Belt from Amazon.com today!

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Outlaw: Goro the Assassin (1968) Review

"Outlaw: Goro the Assassin" Japanese Theatrical Poster

"Outlaw: Goro the Assassin" Japanese Theatrical Poster

AKA: Gangster VIP 4
Director: Keiichi Ozawa
Cast: Tetsuya Watari, Chieko Matsubara, Asao Koike, Jiro Okazaki, Kei Sato, Tatsuya Fuji, Shoki Fukae
Running Time: 87 min.

By Kyle Warner

The Outlaw series dabbles in many genres over the span of its six films. They’re yakuza thrillers, romantic dramas, and action movies with noirish antiheroes. Hell, director Toshio Masuda views the original Gangster VIP as a youth picture. The fourth film, Outlaw: Goro the Assassin, plays like an epic tragedy painted on a film noir’s canvas. It’s gritty and mean and hopeless, often striking out at the ones most deserving of a happy ending. It’s also the best film in the series since the first one.

In the opening, Goro and his friend take out a rival yakuza boss. His buddy is badly wounded in the fight and they’re both sent to jail. Though Goro is eventually released, his friend dies in prison and is buried in the prison cemetery because no family ever comes to claim his body. Vowing to keep his word to his friend, Goro searches for the sister who never visited her dying brother, a search that takes him far from home and into the path of the vengeful gang he’d fought those years ago.

In the search for the dead man’s sister, Goro meets many other women who are in some way impacted by the yakuza. That seems to be the theme here: the cruelty the yakuza inflict on their own men and how they hurt the women in their lives. In addition to the missing sister, there’s Chieko Matsubara’s hotel receptionist (another new character for Chieko) who is hounded by yakuza, plus a young hostess who’s viewed as an untapped “money tree” for her yakuza friend, and dozens of other women who are exploited by the yakuza and tricked into sexual slavery in the red light district.

Goro the Assassin is essentially an indictment of the yakuza and their immoral practices. These men aren’t outlaws so much as they are a cancer in human form, corrupting and/or murdering everything they touch. The victims are often innocent in this chapter, left scarred and bloody because they got too close to the yakuza world. “Why are all yakuza like this?” Goro wonders aloud at one point when the treachery becomes almost too much to bare. And at another point one of the women says something to the effect of, “All yakuza would be better off dead,” a sentiment that the film strongly suggests to be true.

It’s after watching film four where I’m forced to reanalyze the Outlaw series. Gangster VIP and Gangster VIP 2 were closely tied together but the films that followed them seem to be more like ‘episodes’ in Goro’s life. Perhaps it would be incorrect to call them prequels or sequels in the typical sense. With zero ties to the other films and a constantly reshuffling cast, every Outlaw film (with the exception of Gangster VIP 2) stands well on its own. You could watch Goro the Assassin without ever watching the three films that came before it. Same goes for Outlaw: Heartless. And I’m willing to bet the same can be said about the remaining films, Black Dagger and Kill! (But we’ll just have to wait and see.) It’s worth remembering that Outlaw is based on the written work of former yakuza Goro Fujita. This film again opens with a reminder that none of the story is based on truth and characters are all fictional, but of course we know that Goro Fujiwara was a stand-in for Goro Fujita, so fact and fiction likely blend together often in this series. I’ve never read Fujita’s books (I don’t think they’ve ever appeared in English) but I’m left to wonder if his stories were sampled from for the sequels instead of being directly adapted, thus lending to the series’ episodic nature after Gangster VIP 2.

By film four, Tetsuya Watari has settled into the role of Goro to the extent that you forget you’re watching an actor. This is the best I’ve ever seen from Watari. At first considered Nikkatsu’s new Yujiro Ishihara, Watari was now beginning to make a name for himself and step out from Ishihara’s shadow. Watching the Outlaw series, you can basically see the young leading man grow into a more formidable acting talent. Playing opposite Watari is once again Chieko Matsubara. I had some complaints about her casting in the previous film where she played an overly-familiar love interest. I have less to complain about this time around. Though I still might’ve preferred a different actress in the role, Matsubara’s new female lead at least stands out enough from the parts she’d previously played in the series. Here she’s more self-confident and less naïve about how the world works. Like Watari, Matsubara is really good here, giving us the most believable character she’s played in the series so far.

Returning to directing duties is Keiichi Ozawa, who’d previously made his directorial debut with Gangster VIP 2. In the short time since making that film, Ozawa’s apparently figured some things out and brings us a stronger directorial vision with Goro the Assassin. Though his skills filming action do not match what Toshio Masuda did with the original Outlaw film, Ozawa finds nice depth in the drama and elevates his gangster pic to a tragedy. I didn’t think much of what Ozawa did in Gangster VIP 2 but he might’ve redeemed himself with this film. From here on, the series belongs to Ozawa and I’m curious to see how he closes things out.

I thought Goro the Assassin was really solid. I’m putting it a notch below the first film, which featured better action and visual style. That being said, Outlaw: Goro the Assassin may feature some of the series’ best drama, thanks in large part to the work of the performers and a dark screenplay. A great sequel and just an all-around good film.

Kyle Warner’s Rating: 7.5/10

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Scorsese, De Niro and Pacino reload for ‘The Irishman’

"Goodfellas" Japanese Theatrical Poster

"Goodfellas" Japanese Theatrical Poster

After circulating to buyers for several years, Martin Scorsese’s upcoming mob picture, The Irishman, was finally picked up by the newly founded STX Studios for international rights (for an astonishing $50 million).

According to Deadline, The Irishman has been adapted for the screen by one of the best screenwriters working today — Steve Zaillian (Gangs of New York) — from the Charles Brandt book I Heard You Paint Houses, which is the deathbed story from mob hitman Frank “The Irishman” Sheeran about the disappearance and death of the former Teamsters union boss Jimmy Hoffa.

Variety reports that The Irishman will reunite Scorsese with Robert De Niro for the first time since 1995’s Casino. It will also mark his first collaboration with Al Pacino. Joe Pesci may join the project, but the actor is not yet attached, according to sources.

We’ll keep you updated on The Irishman as we hear more.

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Clones of Bruce Lee, The (1980) Review

"The Clones of Bruce Lee" Theatrical Poster

"The Clones of Bruce Lee" Theatrical Poster

AKA: Death Penalty on Three Robots
Director: Joseph Kong
Producer: Dick Randall, Chang Tsung Lung
Cast: Dragon Lee, Bruce Le, Bruce Lai, Bruce Thai, Jon Benn, Bolo Yeung, Alexander Grand, Kong Do, Cheng Kei-Ying, San Kuai, Steve Mak Fei-Hung, Tam Bo
Running Time: 90 min.

By Paul Bramhall

I have a confession, and I’ll admit that it’s one that won’t be popular. Not only am I a Bruceploitaiton fan, but I usually find the Bruce Lee clone movies to be more entertaining than the Little Dragon’s own output. While I respect the man and his martial arts, who doesn’t, if you were to make me choose, then I’d say give me Dragon Lee vs. Casanova Wong in Enter the Invincible Hero, give me Bruce Le vs Hwang Jang Lee in Bruce Strikes Back, or give me Bruce Li vs Philip Ko Fei in The Gold Connection. For me all these movies serve up more entertainment and repeated viewing value than Bruce Lee’s tragically short filmography, but who knows, there could be some Bruce fans out there who disagree.

It’s fair to say that the number of ‘Bruceploitation’ movies, as the genre fondly came to be referred as, could well reach into triple figures, as almost every country in Asia spawned its very own Bruce Lee-alike. From Hong Kong, to Korea, to Thailand, to the Philippines… in the late 70’s and early 80’s productions trying to cash in on Bruce Lee’s popularity, with actors that vaguely resembled him, were everywhere. In that respect, it’s really a numbers game, if you have 100 movies but only 10% of them are worth a watch, that’s still double the amount of productions Bruce Lee starred in, so it’s important to keep things in perspective.

Despite my fondness for the genre, one of its most infamous entries had eluded my viewing for many years, the notoriously titled The Clones of Bruce Lee. I’m not sure why it managed to escape me for so long, considering that for a fan of Brueploitation, it has a dream cast. Instead of only getting one Bruce Lee-alike, you get three in the starring roles, with Koreans Dragon Lee and Bruce Lai, and Hong Kong star Bruce Le. It’s a movie which is so overloaded with Bruceploitation, that it even has Thai Bruce Lee-alike, the imaginatively titled Bruce Thai, playing a non-clone role (he plays the local contact once the action moves to Bangkok), not to mention the instantly recognizable Bolo Yeung from Enter the Dragon.

The plot for The Clones of Bruce Lee is well known, but to cover it very briefly, when Bruce Lee dies in hospital, the British Secret Service enlist a scientist, played by John Benn (the mafia boss from Way of the Dragon), to use his body and attempt to clone the departed star. Many of these productions paid little attention to being respectful or tasteful, and The Clones of Bruce Lee is no different, so we have real footage of Bruce Lee’s funeral, and shots of Bruce in the casket, mixed into the plot. Benn succeeds, and doesn’t produce just one clone, but three! In one of many bizarre moments, he ritualistically names them Bruce Lee 1 (Dragon Lee), Bruce Lee 2 (Bruce Lai), and Bruce Lee 3 (Bruce Le). The British Secret Service use them to complete missions around the world to assassinate corrupt movie directors and scientists, until Benn himself goes mad, and attempts to use the clones for his own evil means.

Such a synopsis sounds like exploitation gold, and with a three-for-the-price-of-one triple threat of Bruce Lee-alikes tearing up the screen, what could possibly go wrong? Unfortunately, almost everything does. Despite its outlandish premise The Clones of Bruce Lee somehow manages to succeed in being an incredibly dull affair, thanks to a severely disjointed plot (yes, I’m criticising a Bruceploitation movie for having a disjointed plot), and even more so, incredibly repetitive fight action.

To elaborate a little more on the disjointed plot, the main reason for this is that apart from the opening and closing scenes, the clones as a trio don’t appear together at all. After being brought to life by Benn, Dragon Lee is sent on a mission to kill a movie director, who’s using his production company as a front for smuggling illegal gold. This essentially leads to a third of the movie becoming a Dragon Lee flick, as he battles the director’s lackeys and a pair of hitmen (amusingly played by two gweillos). Then once he’s done, Bruce Le and Bruce Lai are told to go to Thailand and find a mad scientist, who’s concocted a formula that turns human skin to steel (cue a bunch of Thai extras in their underwear, covered in cheap gold paint). Their mission in Thailand makes up another third of the movie, with the remaining third consisting of the opening and closing scenes.

Despite not being a cut-and-paste production, the style of editing that Godfrey Ho became notorious for, which consisted of editing scenes from two movies together, and then attempting to dub them into a coherent story, there are times in The Clones of Bruce Lee when you’d swear it was. Dragon Lee’s mission is particularly dull, and the choreography frustratingly leans towards him utilising the mantis fist, rather than unleashing with the kicks that he was known for. Bruce Le and Bruce Lai don’t fare much better, with a mission that consists of almost 90% fighting. The routine goes – get closer to the bad guys lair, group of lackeys come out of nowhere and surround them, fight and proceed a little closer, until another group of lackeys appear and surround them, repeat. This is fine, it’s a kung fu movie after all, but the fight action is ridiculously simple and repetitive, with Le constantly jumping into the air to deliver mini flying kicks that look like they wouldn’t hurt a leaf.

For what consolidation it is, for the fan of exploitation cinema there’s some gloriously random female nudity in the Thailand segment. In a scene which has Bruce Thai and Bruce Lai (wearing a pair of swimming briefs that practically redefine the word ‘brief’) taking a stroll to the beach, Lai spots a man ogling at a bevy of naked women frolicking in the sand. When Lai enquires as to what they’re doing (even though it’s quite apparent – they’re rubbing sun cream on themselves in slow motion), Thai tells him that they’re “just playing around”. Sure enough, the girls are giggling away and proclaiming that they have everything they need except a man. When they spot the admirer who’s been checking them out from afar, they chase after him on the beach, before all falling into the water together. Who is the man? Why are all the girls naked? What’s the connection of the scene to the rest of the plot? Nothing.

The finale eventually brings all three clones back onscreen together, as Benn decides that he’s going to use the strongest of them to help him rule the world, so orders them to fight each other to the death. This results in the exciting prospect of a clone vs clone match, as Dragon Lee and Bruce Le get to face off against each other, but it turns out to be as dull as the rest of the action. Indeed the most energy any of the performers seem to put into the fights, is in the shapes they pull before breaking into a pose. It’s a sad day when the best fight action in a kung fu movie involves only one character being onscreen. Dragon Lee also gets to face off against Bolo, which should have been another dream match-up, especially considering that Lee did most of his work in Korea, so the Bolo showdown was a rare opportunity. But once again it fizzles out quickly.

Low budget old school kung fu movies such as this tend to live and die on the quality of their fight scenes, so to see a cast, which includes the likes of Kong Do and Cheng Kei-Ying, being involved in such sloppily executed choreography is a shame. From seeing participants hesitate before throwing a punch or kick, to bizarre choices such as when Dragon Lee breaks out his famous 1-stick nunchuck, proceeds to whirl it around for a few seconds, then inexplicably throws it away and starts fighting. Director Joseph Velasco and producer Dick Randall would go on to churn out much more entertaining movies, with the likes of the previously mentioned Bruce Strikes Back, but here there’s very little to recommend both to lovers of the kung fu genre or to fans of so bad it’s good cinema.

Having now watched The Clones of Bruce Lee from start to finish, it’s easy to understand why many consider it to be a more entertaining movie to read about than it is to actually watch. There’re many unanswered questions about the production, not least the year of release. Hkcinemagic lists 1977, while the Hong Kong Movie Database lists 1980, with the Korean Movie Database pinning it down to 1981, that’s 3 potential release date in 5 years! (Note for this review we’ll go with the Hong Kong Movie Database) Release dates aside, the disappointment of having such an amazing cast of Bruceploitation talent, and managing to make an under 90 minute runtime seem like such an endurance test, are perhaps indicative that in this case, as the expression goes – too many clones spoil the broth.

Paul Bramhall’s Rating: 4/10

Posted in All, Bruceploitation, Chinese, News, Reviews | Tagged , , , , , , , | 9 Comments

Exclusive: Interview with martial arts star Tony Jaa

I recently had the pleasure to conduct an interview with Tony Jaa (Ong Bak, Skin Trade), one of the stars of the upcoming Kill Zone 2 (also known as SPL II: A Time for Consequences), which in and of itself is a spiritual sequel to 2005’s modern martial arts classic, Kill Zone (SPL). As someone who has seen the film, I can’t say enough good things about it, as it is one of the best Hong Kong productions in years. It even matches the artistic highs of Infernal Affairs and the original SPL. Therefore, it was a great opportunity to lob some questions at Tony in order to learn more about the film as well as his experience making it. We also discussed his breakout hit Ong Bak, and the upcoming blockbuster sequel, XXX: The Return of Xander Cage.


Tony Jaa is getting ready to demolish the room in "Kill Zone 2"

ZACH NIX: Many critics and fans of martial arts cinema state that the original SPL (Kill Zone) was a response from Hong Kong cinema to Ong Bak’s breakout success in 2003. How does it feel to finally come full circle and star in the spiritual sequel to the film that was more or less a response to your breakout hit?

TONY JAA: The original SPL was great, I think it was an original expression of action and martial arts. With the quality of the cast, I don’t think it was a reaction to Ong Bak, I think it was unique in its own right.

ZN: Did you feel that there were any expectations or challenges that came with tackling the follow up to SPL?

TJ: Any time you follow in the foot-steps of a really good movie the pressure is there to live up to the standards already in place.

"Ong-Bak" International Teaser Poster

"Ong-Bak" International Teaser Poster

ZN: Through the usage of a cell phone app, your character, Chatchai, is able to over come the language barrier that prevents you from communicating as easily with other characters in the film. Was there a similar language barrier in real life on the set at all, and were you able to communicate easily with your co-stars Max Zhang and Wu Jing?

TJ: I speak English fairly well these days, as does Max. Wu Jing is still brushing up on his English, but can express himself rather well. Whatever might have been missing vocabulary was made up for in camaraderie.

ZN: Kill Zone 2 gives martial arts fans several dream match ups to drool over. How was it filming the several fight scenes that you have against Wu Jing, as well as the final three-way fight with Max Zhang?

TJ: We are all very friendly, so frankly we had a lot of fun on set. During breaks from shooting we hung out together and had a lot of laughs.

ZN: Now that you have Kill Zone 2 under your belt, could you see yourself participating in any more Hong Kong productions?

The emotional side of Tony Jaa in "Kill Zone 2"

The emotional side of Tony Jaa in "Kill Zone 2"

TJ: For me it is always about the story and whom I am working with. I am very open to another Hong Kong production.

ZN: With the release of last year’s Skin Trade and Furious 7, as well as next year’s XXX: The Return of Xander Cage, you have made quite a transition in to English language productions. How has it been moving from Thai martial arts films to big budget Hollywood productions?

TJ: I enjoyed these films and the people I worked with. I made a number of new friends who I continue to stay in regular contact with. The Hollywood budget gives a lot of flexibility in how a film is shot. I still enjoy Thai martial arts, so I hope to find a center point between both places.

ZN: You are currently filming XXX: The Return of Xander Cage with its titular star Vin Diesel, but also Donnie Yen, who was the star and orchestrator of SPL. I have to ask, since you and Donnie are two of martial arts cinemas most beloved performers. Do you two fight or thrown down with one another in the film?

Tony Jaa with Donnie Yen on the set of "XXX: The Return of Xander Cage"

Tony Jaa with Donnie Yen on the set of "XXX: The Return of Xander Cage"

TJ: You will have to watch the movie.

ZN: As a fan of action films myself, I was curious if you have any favorite action or martial arts films that you like to watch?

TJ: I really think that Enter the Dragon is unique.

ZN: I interviewed Scott Adkins (read the interview) last year, and asked him whom he would love to work with in the future. He mentioned you first, and stated he would love to develop a project with the two of you. Would you like to work with Scott as well, and have you two talked about any sort of future collaboration?

TJ: We are friends, and Scott is nothing short of amazing. I would always welcome a chance to work together.

ZN: On a final note, do you have any career goals or aspirations at the moment?

TJ: Keep doing what I am doing. Thanks for the interview Zach. Best Wishes, Jaa…

I’d like to thank Tony Jaa, Well Go USA, and Alexandra Drapac for making this interview happen. Kill Zone 2 can be seen in U.S. theaters, or on V.O.D., starting May 13th. It will also be released on Blu-ray and DVD come July 16th.

Posted in Features, Interviews, News | 6 Comments

New trailer for Mark Dacascos’ all-star ‘Showdown in Manila’!

"Showdown in Manila" Theatrical Poster

"Showdown in Manila" Theatrical Poster

Martial arts star Mark Dacascos (Drive) is getting ready to unleash Showdown in Manila, an Expendables-esque movie that he not only stars in, but also directs.

The upcoming film marks the second directorial project for Dacascos, following his unreleased, Russian-produced debut feature, Changing Lives. Andrzej Bartkowiak (Romeo Must Die), who worked with Dacascos in 2003′s Cradle 2 the Grave, is producing.

The film also stars Casper Van Dien (Starship Troopers), Matthias Hues (No Retreat, No Surrender II), Cynthia Rothrock (Shanghai Express), Olivier Gruner (Nemesis), Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa (Perfect Weapon), Monsour del Rosario (Bloodfist 2), Don “The Dragon” Wilson (White Tiger), Alexander Nevsky (Black Rose), Tia Carrere (Showdown in Little Tokyo), Iza Calzado and Monsour del Rosario. | First trailer.

In addition to Showdown in Manila, Dacascos has several projects in pre-production/post-production status, including Ultimate Justice, Operation Rogue, Beyond the Game and Maximum Impact.

Updates: Watch the new trailer for Showdown in Manila (via FCS).

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Office (2014) Review

"Office" Korean Theatrical Poster

"Office" Korean Theatrical Poster

Director: Hong Won-Chan
Writer: Choi Yoon-Jin, Hong Won-Chan
Producer: Lee Sung-Jin, Choi Yoon-Jin
Cast: Ko Ah-Sung, Park Sung-Woong, Bae Sung-Woo, Kim Eui-Sung, Ryoo Hyoun-Kyoung, Lee Chae-Eun, Son Soo-Hyun, Park Jung-Min, Oh Dae-Hwan
Running Time: 111 min.

By Paul Bramhall

The English language poster created for Office when it was invited to Cannes came with the slogan – ‘He murdered his family, and then came back to work.’ The line effectively sets up expectations for a straight forward worker-pushed-over-the-edge slasher movie, and had it been directed by anyone other than Hong Won-chan, there’s little doubt that’s what it would have been. Won-chan is the man behind the screenplays for the likes of The Chaser, The Yellow Sea, and Confession of Murder though, and if those productions prove anything, it’s that he’s not a writer to create a straightforward tale of A to B.

It’s surprising then, that for his directorial debut he made the decision to direct not from his own script, but from a screenplay by Choi Yoon-jin. Won-chan stated himself in an interview that, while elements of the script appealed to him, it was far too much of a straight forward horror movie for his own tastes, so decided to turn it down. Thankfully the producer was on his side, and gave Won-chan free reign to rewrite it into a story he’d be happy to tell. The end result of this decision makes Office a difficult beast to categorize, and that’s not a bad thing at all. One part slasher movie, one part psychological horror, one part police procedural, one part office politics thriller, somehow all of these elements come together to deliver a gripping 110 minute debut feature.

Proceedings begin as we follow a solemn looking salary man, played by Bae Seong-woo, back home from his late finish in the office. Upon arriving home to his wife, mother, and handicapped son, after quietly eating dinner he takes a hammer out of the drawer, and proceeds to beat them to death with it. It’s a brutal scene, and one which is made more effective in the way it inter-splices images of the surrounding identical tower blocks between the blood splattered thrusts of the hammer. Soon a police investigation is underway at the office he worked at, led by a detective played by Park Seong-woong (who also featured in the excellent The Shameless, released the same year), who takes a particular interest in the young intern, played by Ko Ah-seong.

Ah-seong will most likely be recognizable to audiences for her iconic roles in two of Bong Joon-ho’s most well-known movies. She played the girl who is whisked away by the monster in 2006’s The Host, and would also re-team with Song Kang-ho for Joon-ho’s English language debut with 2013’s Snowpiercer. With Office her role as a nervous, socially awkward intern could well be considered her most mature to date. Despite being largely treated like a slave by her seniors, it’s revealed that her relationship with Seong-woo was a friendly one. However the real question is, does she know more about why he acted the way he did, and more importantly, does she know where he is?

Although largely confined to a single location – the office floor – the cinematography of Park Yong-soo successfully imbues the confined spaces with an effective level of atmosphere. Aspects like the cubicle walls of the workers, the stairwell, and even the bathroom are all lensed in such a way that, when they change from corporate surroundings that we take for granted, to areas in which death could be just around the corner, the difference in tension is palpable. It’s fair to say that if you’re someone who’s usually the last to leave your own office at night, this movie may make you think twice about being the last person to clock off.

One of the biggest strengths of Office though is not just the sense of impending doom that it conveys so well, but just as much it’s how the ensemble cast interact with each other. The office dynamics between each of the employees rank up just as much tension as the murderous intent of their hammer wielding colleague. There’s a battle of the sexes for who will get a promotion between two supervisors, an office romance between another pair, a boss who treats everyone with such a level of disdain it’s a shock he still has any staff, and most significantly, the introduction of a new intern. As a surrogate for the audience, Ah-seong is pulled back and forth between all of them, while the whole time trying to deal with her biggest concern of if and when she’ll be made permanent.

A significant differentiator that sets Office apart from being just a standard slasher flick is the psychological element that’s introduced into the script, most likely thanks to Won-chan’s input. A number of the office workers become paranoid that their former colleague is after them, which leads to a number of scenes in which the reality of what’s being witnessed is questionable. Is Seong-woo really looking to kill off those he felt did him wrong, or is it just the imagination of those that have been left behind?

Despite the other genres that have been brought in to make Office what it is, thankfully Won-chan doesn’t betray the fact that in its original form, most likely it would have made for an entertaining B-movie slasher, and the runtime is interspersed with some suitably bloody moments. One particular scene that takes place in the office bathroom succeeds at being both nail bitingly tense, and delivering a satisfyingly bloody payoff. For anyone that’s been in a situation where they wish they could make one of their co-workers just disappear, Office should provide a suitably healthy dose of wish fulfillment.

While the strained relationships between the employees of the company may seem somewhat far-fetched for some viewers, for many Koreans the scenarios presented in Office present a very real picture of the daily workplace. In a country which has the longest working hours in the world, and is ridiculously competitive while still being bound by the Confucian principles of those who are eldest should get promoted first, the Korean salary man has many a reason to be suffering from high stress levels. The way in which Office mixes the everyday interactions of working life, with the danger of knowing a killer could potentially be nearby, serves to provide an almost constant underlying tension to the events unfolding onscreen.

If Office has any criticism that could be leveled against it, then it’s the soundtrack. Made up of a kind of static like interference, the repetitive nature of the sound marks it as the productions weakest link. While effective at first, the lack of variety in its tone means that in the later parts of the movie, the initial unsettling impact that it had has entirely dissipated. However this is a small gripe in what’s overall a welcome addition to a genre that’s often overlooked, or treated as throwaway cinema fodder. Korea has made a successful habit of merging different genres together in the past, often those which seem completely at odds with each other, and seeing a horror movie merged with elements of psychological thriller and workplace politics proves to be a compelling viewing experience.

As a debut Office is remarkably assured and confident in its execution, and hopefully will result in Won-chan deciding to take on one of his own scripts for his next feature. It also can’t be denied that, in a genre that often has the female playing the hapless victim, it’s refreshing to see a production which gives us a female protagonist that, by the closing credits, turns out to be as far from being a simple damsel in distress as you can imagine. If you’re looking for a horror movie that delivers more than just blood splattered thrills, then a trip to the Office comes strongly recommended.

Paul Bramhall’s Rating: 8/10

Posted in All, Korean, News, Reviews | Tagged | 4 Comments

Chronicles of the Ghostly Tribe | Blu-ray & DVD (Well Go USA)

Chronicles of the Ghostly Tribe | Blu-ray & DVD (Well Go USA)

Chronicles of the Ghostly Tribe | Blu-ray & DVD (Well Go USA)

RELEASE DATE: July 5, 2016

Well Go USA presents the Blu-ray & DVD for Chronicles of the Ghostly Tribe, starring Mark Chao (Young Detective Dee), Yao Chen (Firestorm), Rhydian Vaughan, Li Chen, Tiffany Tang, Guangjie Li and Daniel Feng.

What does a dragon corpse, a hidden palace, an exhumed mummy and some bizarre fossils have in common? They’re all part of Chronicles of the Ghostly Tribe, an ucpoming thriller directed by Lu Chuan (City of Life and Death).

Chronicles of the Ghostly Tribe is based on Zhang Muye’s best-selling novel Ghosts Blows Out the Light, which revolves around a group of tomb raiders and their mysterious adventures in ancient tombs.

Pre-order Chronicles of the Ghostly Tribe from Amazon.com today!

Posted in Asian Titles, DVD/Blu-ray New Releases, Martial Arts Titles | 6 Comments

Code of Honor | Blu-ray & DVD (Lionsgate)

Code of Honor | Blu-ray & DVD (Lionsgate)

Code of Honor | Blu-ray & DVD (Lionsgate)

RELEASE DATE: July 5, 2016

Lionsgate presents the Blu-ray & DVD for Steven Seagal’s Code of Honor, written and directed by Michael Winnick (Guns, Girls and Gambling).

Code of Honor also stars Craig Sheffer (A River Runs Through It), Helena Mattsson (Iron Man 2), James Russo (Once Upon A Time in America), Louis Mandylor (The Quest), Griff Furst (The Green Lantern) and Rafael Petardi (Freezer).

When his family is killed in a drive-by shooting, Robert Sikes (Seagal), a former special-ops operative, vows to rid his city of every last criminal. Sikes’ former protégé, FBI agent Porter (Sheffer), with help from a witness (Mattsson), tries to find his vigilante friend before the police—or the maniacal mobster Romano—are able to. | Watch the trailer.

Pre-order Code of Honor from Amazon.com today!

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

Aaron Kwok is having ‘A Hard Day’ in ‘Perpetrators’

"A Hard Day" Theatrical Poster

"A Hard Day" Theatrical Poster

Aaron Kwok (Monk Comes Down the Mountain) is currently hard-at-work on Perpetrators, a Chinese remake of the 2014 Korean thriller, A Hard Day. Wang Qianyuan (Brotherhood of the Blades) co-stars.

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

Updates: Here’s the first look Kwok in Perpetrators (via AFS), which is currently shooting in Malaysia.

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Outlaw: Heartless (1968) Review

"Outlaw: Heartless" Japanese Theatrical Poster

"Outlaw: Heartless" Japanese Theatrical Poster

AKA: Gangster VIP 3
Director: Mio Ezaki
Producer: Kaneo Iwaib
Cast: Tetsuya Watari, Chieko Matsubara, Ryohei Uchida, Koji Wada, Hiroshi Nawa, Isao Tamagawa, Eiji Go, Ryoji Hayama, Fumio Watanabe, Kaku Takashina, Asao Uchida
Running Time: 92 min.

Kyle Warner

For me, Outlaw: Heartless is a difficult film to figure out. Viewed purely on its own terms, it’s an entertaining crime pic with a cool antihero leading a cast of interesting characters. But viewed as the third film in the Outlaw series of gangster movies… it’s kind of odd. It also might be a prequel. Or maybe not? More on that later.

In Japanese cinema, it’s not uncommon for actors to reappear in subsequent films playing different characters. That happens here in a most peculiar way. In the first two films, Chieko Matsubara played the main character’s love interest, a naïve and rather clingy young woman named Yukiko who doesn’t want to return home. In Heartless, Chieko Matsubara plays the main character’s love interest, a naïve and rather clingy young woman named Keiko who can’t return home. Though they’re given different names and slightly different backstories, they’re basically the same character played by the same actress and given the same role in the story. It’s bizarre. I’ve seen sequels that attempt to give us ‘the new girl’ which is basically Love Interest 2.0 but they’re usually (always?) played by different actresses. And I’ve seen sequels where the actor returns in a different part, but that part is often a big changeup from the one they played last time. I’ve never seen anything quite like this before and some part of me feels like they broke an unwritten rule. I mean, when Chieko Matsubara showed up in the film, I naturally thought, ‘Oh good, Yukiko’s back! You know, I’m starting to like her.’ Only then the film makes it clear that she’s not Yukiko, she’s someone named Keiko, a girl that we’ve never met before. Now watch as she acts just like Yukiko as we reboot the romance that was finally starting to get somewhere. It’s so strange to me.

Outlaw: Heartless has a more negative view of the yakuza world than the first two films did—which is something, considering Gangster VIP and VIP 2 don’t exactly celebrate the criminal lifestyle. The yakuza of Heartless are… well, heartless. They’re bastards who attack sick women, betray close confidants, and care little for the bonds of family. Goro (Tetsuya Watari) is a different breed. In a moody opening scene, Goro is sent to collect money from a downtrodden yakuza that is holding onto a bundle of money to help his sick wife. While Goro would prefer to threaten and perhaps rough up the guy to get what he wants, the thugs with Goro have no issue stabbing the man to death. With his dying words, the yakuza asks Goro to take his wife to Yokohama. Goro agrees to do so, but not before pissing off the gang he was working for, thus making him a marked man. When he makes it to Yokohama with the sick woman in tow, Goro bumps into an old friend (Ryohei Uchida) and meets a young woman (Matsubara), and the two attempt to convince him to give up the yakuza life and go straight. (Ryohei Uchida is another notable returning actor playing a different part. But unlike Matsubara, Uchida is given a very different role to play. Uchida was the villain of Gangster VIP 2 and in Heartless he’s the friend that Goro’s trying to keep at an arm’s length so that he doesn’t get hurt. Uchida plays both villain and reliable friend quite well.)

Though Goro means well, he brings death and destruction wherever he goes. Goro begins to understand this and tries to distance himself from his friends, even going so far as offending them in hopes that they won’t want anything more to do with him. Though he makes an attempt of going straight, old enemies follow him everywhere and he has a tendency of pissing off yakuza wherever he goes.

Outlaw: Heartless could’ve lifted its story directly out of a Zatoichi film and transplanted it into 1950’s Japan without skipping a beat. Goro is essentially the modern equivalent of the wandering swordsman antihero of so many Japanese film series. That’s not to say it’s a been-there-done-that kind of story, though. With the exception of needlessly trying to reboot the love interest role, the story of Heartless feels rather fresh, especially compared to Gangster VIP 2 which sought to repeat the success of the first film by doing it all over again. There’s a small-town quality to Heartless that I liked, which is partly thanks to taking the story from Tokyo to Yokohama. And I enjoyed how one good deed leaves so many dead by the end (one of the film’s best lines refers to using a bundle of cash to pay for all the funerals). Though colorful and fast-paced, Heartless is the most downbeat Outlaw film so far.

The film also works as a standalone effort. Actually, considering my issues with the Chieko Matsubara character, perhaps Outlaw: Heartless works best as a standalone. Though it never makes it abundantly clear either way, Heartless seems to be a prequel. It makes no mention of the stories from the first two films and seems to depict Goro as a man who’s still figuring himself out. If it is indeed a prequel, then it’s a prequel in the way that Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom is a prequel—yes, it may have happened first, but it doesn’t seem to have an impact on the overarching story either way.

Outlaw: Heartless is the only film in the series directed by Mio Ezaki. I must confess that I’m totally unfamiliar with the director. He seems to have done most of his work in TV. However, just because he’s unknown doesn’t mean he’s unskilled. Ezaki makes good use of color throughout the film, which is something I’ll always cheer for in this, the age of desaturated film. It’s no accident then that the film’s big action finale takes place in a paint warehouse, with overturned paint cans spilling everywhere, splashing the brawling men in all the colors of the rainbow. It’s a sequence reminiscent of the finale in Akira Kurosawa’s Drunken Angel, a black and white film that also had its yakuza slipping through paint as they fought to the death. The effect is more striking here thanks to the color photography, though it ends up looking much the same as Kurosawa’s early classic as the colors mix together and turn into a gray muck.

I have some issues with Outlaw: Heartless. The fact that the film decided to make a spiritual clone of Yukiko and cast the same actress in the role just bugs the hell out of me. I don’t get it. But other than that it’s a pretty good film! So, I’m torn on how to rate this thing. I know that others will be more forgiving to the film’s peculiar casting decision, just as I know that others will be even more confused than I was… Ah hell, I’m throwing up my hands and giving it a 7. Far from perfect and sometimes downright baffling, Outlaw: Heartless is still an entertaining film that I’d be happy to watch again.

Kyle Warner’s Rating: 7/10

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Deal on Fire! Tekken | Blu-ray | Only $9.49 – Expires soon!

"Tekken" Blu-ray Cover

"Tekken" Blu-ray Cover

Today’s Deal on Fire is the Blu-ray for Tekken, a martial arts action/adventure, based on the hit video game about a young man who is driven by nothing more than vengeance to defeat the world’s most elite fighters in the greatest tournament ever known and become the “King of Iron Fist”.

Tekken directed by Dwight H. Little (Rapid Fire) and stars Jon Foo (Rush Hour TV series), Kelly Overton (CSI: NY), Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa (Tekken 2: Kazuya’s Revenge), Ian Anthony Dale (The Hangover), Tamlyn Tomita (The Karate Kid, Part II), Luke Goss (Hellboy II: The Golden Army) and Gary Daniels (Zero Tolerance).

Order Tekken from Amazon.com today!

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Amy Johnston and ‘The Raid’ stars enter ‘The Gate’!

"The Raid 2: Berandal" Poster

"The Raid 2: Berandal" Poster

Kathryn Bigelow… move over! Kellie Madison (The Tank) is directing and producing a teaser pitch for a TV series called The Gate, a supernatural saga chronicling the epic battle between good and evil starring Amy Johnston (Lady Bloodsport), Yayan Ruhian (The Raid and The Raid 2), EMC Monkeys (stunt team), Malay Choeung Kim (Die Fighting) and Xin Sarith Wuku (Death Mist).

Madison has crafted a compelling tale of an angel that comes into her power to battle against the forces of darkness. Madison has an arsenal of credits that speak powerfully to her mastery of the craft, including Project Imagination’s The Caul and Open Road Films’ The Tank. “We have assembled a world-class team dedicated to the success of this series,” says Madison.

Madison’s team includes Amy Johnston (Unlucky Stars), a professional martial artist who was a prominent stunt performer in Captain America: The Winter Soldier; George Billinger, Director of Photography/Camera Operator well known for his stunning work in War of the Worlds, Terminator and many other blockbusters; and last but not least, the amazing Indonesian martial artists, Yayan Ruhian (The Raid) and Cecep Arif Rahman (The Raid 2).

Updates: You can now watch the action packed short film for The Gate here. Fingers are crossed that this will be developed into a series or possibly even a feature film.

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Steven Seagal will NOT be doing ‘Expendables 4′…

"Expendables 4" Japanese Theatrical Poster

"Expendables 4" Japanese Theatrical Poster

Despite Expendables 3′s box office belly flop two years ago – possibly due to the film’s online leakage, according to Lionsgate – Sylvester Stallone has been secretly working on the 4th installment.

After the fan backlash of Expendables 3′s PG-13 rating, Stallone stated that he’s going back to making the next installation R-Rated: “If I do another one it’s going to be a lot bloodier… hardcore R.” He added (via Crave): “I believe it was a horrible miscalculation on everyone’s part in trying to reach a wider audience, but in doing such, diminish the violence that the audience expects. I’m quite certain it won’t happen again.”

The fact that the recent release of Marvel’s Deadpool became the third R-Rated movie to cross $300 million domestically (The Passion of the Christ and American Sniper are #1 and #2, respectively), making Expendables 4 R-Rated is practically a done deal. There are rumors that suggest the 4th film will start filming in the fall of 2016.

Stallone also mentioned the possible addition of Jackie Chan, who has been linked to the franchise since the original Expendables: “We’ve always wanted to use Jackie Chan. The only reason we didn’t is because there really wasn’t a part big enough for him, because we had so many actors. But in the next one, we are going to reduce the actors, and let’s just say, expand the screen time of each star.”

In addition to Chan, other names – such as Dwayne Johnson, Hulk Hogan, Christopher Lambert, Jean Reno, Pierce Brosnan, Donnie Yen, Steven Seagal, Jack Nicholson, Clint Eastwood, Hulk Hogan, and even Manny Pacquiao – have been considered for the franchise (see our updates regarding Expendables casting here).

Updates: During a recent Reddit AMA (Ask Me Anything), Steven Seagal was asked if he’d be down for Expendables 4; Seagal simply replied: “I will not be doing Expendables 4.” No reason was implied or given. His answer is logical, given that he has a handful of many projects he’s currently working on, including Contract to KillEnd of a GunCypher, Four Towers and his first directorial project in 22 years, Attrition. Seagal can be seen next in one of the following, forthcoming titles: The Asian ConnectionKilling Salazar, Perfect Weapon and Code of Honor.

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Bodyguard, The (2016) Review

"My Beloved Bodyguard" Chinese Theatrical Poster

"My Beloved Bodyguard" Chinese Theatrical Poster

AKA: My Beloved Bodyguard
Director: Sammo Hung
Cast: Sammo Hung, Jaqueline Chan, Andy Lau Tak-Wah, Zhu Yuchen, Jack Feng, Li Qin Qin, Yuen Biao, Yuen Wah, Tsui Hark, Karl Maka, Dean Shek, James Lee Guy, Tomer Oz, Yuen Qiu, Feng Shaofeng, Hu Jun, Eddie Peng
Running Time: 99 min.

By Martin Sandison

The Bodyguard is Sammo Hung’s first directorial feature since 1997’s Once Upon a Time in China and America, which easily makes it one of most highly anticipated Hong Kong films of recent years. I was lucky enough to attend Udine Far East Film Festival (absolutely worth a pilgrimage), where Sammo received the Golden Mulberry Lifetime achievement award right before the audiences eyes. The ceremony was followed by The Bodyguard’s European premier on the closing night – a real treat for those who attended!

Sammo plays Ding, an ex-army officer and bodyguard who is retired and living in the suburbs. He discovers he has the early signs of dementia, which the film deals with very sensitively. His landlord, Park, (Li Qin Qin) has a romantic interest in him, and his neighbour’s (Andy Lau) daughter, Cherry, (Jaqueline Chan Pui Yin) sees him as the Grandfather she never knew. When Lau’s character gets involved with some gangsters after stealing a case of precious jewellery, Ding must rediscover his martial arts skills to deal with the gangsters.

It’s no joke to say Sammo’s performance in The Bodyguard is one of his best. But don’t be mislead by many of the film’s trailers, which pushed the action to the fore. With the exception of three standout action scenes, The Bodyguard is really a low key drama. The other film that immediately sprang to my mind in a similar vein was Heart of the Dragon (1985), wherein Sammo played a mentally disabled brother to Jackie Chan’s tough cop. That film was made at the height of Sammo’s powers, but didn’t feature him performing any action. The Bodyguard is a much more mature piece of filmmaking than Heart of the Dragon, with the nuances of Sammo’s performance plain to see; especially in comparison with the rather bad taste of Heart of the Dragon.

The Bodyguard features many touching moments that are played out subtly, without the over emphatic soundtracks that plague many Hong Kong films. In fact, Sammo says very little throughout the film, but his facial expressions and body language create a wonderful picture of a man near-broken by his past, which he is forgetting bit by bit. When his character divulges what he remembers of his past, Sammo’s reactions are on point. The result is heartrending and emotionally honest.

The limitations of age meant Sammo had to change his action style. With the realistic implications of his character’s old career, we see this change. The first fight is short and to the point; whereas the second is the centrepiece, which has his character taking on a roomful of guys. Immediately, you can see this adaptation; instead of wider shots with more than a few exchanges, most shots are very short and the camera is very close in. Some viewers may be a little disappointed by this, I certainly wasn’t: The pin sharp editing, the conviction of the attacks and the brutal bone breaking are a feast for the eyes. There are some brilliant ideas that reflect the old age of Sammo’s character: One where he elevates his legs and throws an opponent, and the next shot shows him in pain. It’s this human aspect to the film that really marks it above many other martial arts movies, and reflects Sammo’s genius.

Fans will be delighted to see cameos by Yuen Biao, Yuen Wah, Tsui Hark, Karl Maka and Dean Shek. Despite none of them doing any action – not to mention their limited screen time – it’s great to see them all share the screen with some good laughs to be had in their exchanges. Andy Lau, one of the producers of the film, is his usual charismatic self in a supporting role (look out for a great chase involving his character). Feng Jia Yi appears as the head gangster and does a good job of conveying his character’s evildoings.

Problems with the film are some of the supporting cast don’t match Sammo, especially Li Qin Qin. Overall, the film also takes a while to get going, however, these are minor faults that don’t detract from a very well rounded movie.

The Bodyguard really is a triumphant directorial return for one of the legends of Hong Kong cinema. Its moral compass, superb action, Sammo’s great performance and its delicately portrayed subject matter mean I will revisit it time and time again.

Martin Sandison’s Rating: 8/10

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Arch Angels | Blu-ray & DVD (Section 23)

Arch Angels | Blu-ray & DVD (Sentai Filmworks)

Arch Angels | Blu-ray & DVD (Sentai Filmworks)

RELEASE DATE: July 5, 2016

Sentai Filmworks presents the Blu-ray & DVD for Issei Oda’s Arch Angels, a 2006 action/fantasy based on 1987′s Warau Michael, a manga written by Izumi Kawahara.

Arch Angels revolves around a group of misfit high school students who become infused with super powers.

The film stars Juri Ueno (Kung Fu Kun), Megumi Seki (Sword of Desperation), Airi Taira (20th Century Boys: Chapter 1), Yusuke Iseya (13 Assassins) and Rinko Kikuchi (Pacific Rim).

Pre-order Arch Angels from Amazon.com today!

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

‘Big Bad Wolves’ drop out of Bruce Willis’ ‘Death Wish’ remake

"Death Wish 3" Japanese Theatrical Poster

"Death Wish 3" Japanese Theatrical Poster

It’s official: Bruce Willis will be starring in the upcoming Death Wish remake. The film will be helmed by Aharon Keshales and Navot Papushado, the duo responsible for the 2013 cult favorite, Big Bad Wolves. Filming is said to begin this summer.

The original Death Wish (1973), directed by Michael Winner, involved a New York City architect (Charles Bronson) who becomes a one-man vigilante squad after his wife is murdered by street punks.

Director Joe Carnahan (Smokin’ Aces) was once attached to the remake, but reportedly dropped out of the project because he did not agree with Paramount-MGM’s push to cast Willis in the lead role. Gerardo Naranjo (Miss Bala) was then considered, but a deal never materialized.

Back in 2006, Sylvester Stallone expressed interest in his own remake: “Instead of the Bronson character being an architect; my version would have him as a very good cop who had incredible success without ever using his gun. So when the attack on his family happens, he’s really thrown into a moral dilemma in proceeding to carry out his revenge.”

We’ll keep you updated on this project as we hear more.

Updates: According to Deadline, Aharon Keshales and Navot Papushado, the duo responsible for the 2013 cult favorite, Big Bad Wolves, have dropped out of the project due to creative differences. There are rumors that suggest Eli Roth (Knock Knock) will be taking over directing duties.

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Poster for Wilson Yip’s ‘Storm Riders 3′ is dark and gritty!

"The Storm Riders 3" Teaser Poster

"The Storm Riders 3" Teaser Poster

Back in 1998, Andrew Lau’s The Storm Riders took Hong Kong cinema by storm. The wuxia fantasy weaved lush cinematography with impressive special digital effects, which, for the time, were comparable to what Hollywood’s biggest studios were churning out.

Even its storyline – based on Ma Wing-shing’s comic series, Fung Wan – was intriguing enough to “check your brain at the door” without guilt.

The Storm Riders was king at the box office, edging out headline productions such as Jackie Chan’s Who Am I? and Chow Yun-fat’s U.S. debut The Replacement Killers. In 2009, a sequel, titled The Storm Warriors, was made by The Pang Brothers (The Eye), but unlike the original, it failed to impress the masses.

Now, news has surfaced that a third Storm Riders movie is in the works with Ip Man 3′s Wilson Yip at the helm. So far, the only actor attached to the film is Louis Koo (SPL II: A Time for Consequences). There’s no word if Ekin Cheng (Full Strike) and Aaron Kwok (The Monk Comes Down the Mountain), the stars of the first two films, are returning, but we’ll keep you in the loop as we hear more.

Updates: Added the new, gritty poster for The Storm Riders 3 (via AFS).

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Cityonfire.com’s ‘Mojin: The Lost Legend’ Blu-ray Giveaway! – WINNER’S ANNOUNCED!

Mojin - The Lost Legend | Blu-ray & DVD (Well Go USA)

Mojin - The Lost Legend | Blu-ray & DVD (Well Go USA)

Cityonfire.com and Well Go USA are giving away 3 Blu-ray copies of Mojin: The Lost Legend to three lucky Cityonfire visitors. To enter, simply add a comment to this post and describe, in your own words, the video.

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. Additionally, you must ‘Like Us‘ on cityonfire.com’s Facebook by clicking here.

The Blu-ray & DVD for Mojin: The Lost Legend will be officially released on May 3, 2016. We will announce the 3 winners the following day.

CONTEST DISCLAIMER: You must enter by May 3, 2016 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: Nick, Sharon Walsh and Matthew.

Posted in News | Tagged | 25 Comments

Outlaw: Gangster VIP 2 (1968) Review

"Outlaw: Gangster VIP 2" Japanese Theatrical Poster

"Outlaw: Gangster VIP 2" Japanese Theatrical Poster

Director: Keiichi Ozawa
Producer: Kaneo Iwai
Cast: Tetsuya Watari, Chieko Matsubara, Izumi Ashikawa, Eimei Esumi, Jukei Fujioka, Shoki Fukae, Joji Hidehara, Seishiro Iwate, Meiko Kaji, Hatsuko Kawahara, Ichiro Kijima, Toshizo Kudo, Kayo Matsuo, Hideaki Nitani
Running Time: 97 min.

By Kyle Warner

Outlaw: Gangster VIP 2 catches up with our gangster protagonist Goro Fujikawa (Tetsuya Watari) as he rides a train out of Tokyo to reunite with the woman he sent away at the end of the first film. The train takes him to a snowy town in the country, as far from the buzzing metropolis as you can get, and Goro makes a strong attempt at going straight and working a normal job. But he needs money to help a friend and his job doesn’t provide reliable income, so he’s forced to return to the yakuza life, taking him back into the city.

It’s too bad that the film so readily returns to the sort of scenarios that populated the original. In the first act of Gangster VIP 2, the film suggests a very different sort of story, one with less action and more character drama set against a snowy backdrop. (Some of the shots immediately call to mind Watari’s wanderer of Tokyo Drifter, who also traveled to the snowy countryside to escape his rivals.)

When Goro returns to the world of the yakuza in order to get the funds and help a friend, he loses himself and forgets his purpose. His friends go forgotten as well, their condition taking a turn for the worst when he fails to come to their aid. There’s something compelling about the idea of the yakuza lifestyle being like an addictive drug—that, when you reconnect with it, you abandon your friends and your original goals. But Goro becomes less interesting in VIP 2 as he develops into a character that doesn’t know what he wants, drifting through life and only acting when loyalty and morals dictate that he must.

In many ways, Goro’s the least important part of the film’s plot, which again returns to the theme of friends who find themselves on opposing sides in gang warfare. At the center of the plot is a Romeo and Juliet love story between a low-ranking yakuza and the sister of the rival boss. Ryohei Uchida (Blind Woman’s Curse) and Hideaki Nitani (Voice Without a Shadow) chew up the scenery as the leaders of the two rival gangs, while Meiko Kaji (Stray Cat Rock) makes a good impression in her small, early role as the sister/lover stuck in the middle of the two gangs.

Another welcome addition to the cast is Kunie Tanaka (Battles Without Honor and Humanity), who plays an underachieving yakuza with a grudge against Goro. Tanaka’s his usual squirmy, sweaty self and I think his character is one of the best parts of the film. He’s the forgotten antagonist, holding no alliance to either of the warring yakuza clans, acting only for himself. It’s a part similar to that of Tomorowo Taguchi’s in Rainy Dog, though not nearly as dark.

Thankfully the sexism found in the first film is toned down here, allowing women to be individual characters instead of plot devices or solely existing to motivate the men. Chieko Matsubara returns as Goro’s kinda-sorta love interest (it’s almost more of a big brother/little sister relationship at this point) and she gets more to do than simply acting as the naïve, doe-eyed virgin.

After the greatness of the first film, I would’ve liked it if Toshio Masuda returned to the director’s chair for the sequel, but that didn’t happen. Stepping in for Masuda is one of his assistant directors from earlier films, Keiichi Ozawa. In his directorial debut Ozawa doesn’t show Masuda’s flair for filming action. Whereas the knife fights of the first film occasionally inspired awe, here they just felt like a hundred other similar brawls seen in Japanese films. Ozawa’s drama lacks subtlety, with one death scene going so far as to have a ray of Heaven’s light shine down on the dying character before they pass away. Ozawa would return to direct three more films in the series, so I’m hoping he improves with more experience.

The film doesn’t simply stick to a formula like some sequels, it reuses some of the same beats, shots, and acting moments from the first film. Gangster VIP 2 even attempts to recycle the style of the original’s finale by splitting the action between two competing sequences—I loved the effect in the first film, but here it doesn’t really work.

The fact that Gangster VIP 2 teased a totally different vision in the opening act makes the remaining hour of the film all the more disappointing… It’s really not a bad film, it’s just a lazy one.

Kyle Warner’s Rating: 6.5/10

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King Hu’s ‘Dragon Inn’ and ‘A Touch of Zen’ get new trailers

Janus Films, an affiliate of The Criterion Collection video-distribution company, has released brand new trailers for King Hu’s two classic martial arts movies: 1967′s Dragon Inn and 1971′s A Touch of Zen.

A Touch of Zen and Dragon Inn will be hitting big screens – in a new, beautifully restored 4K digital transfer, created from the original negative – on April 22, 2016 and May 6th, 2016, respectively.

Criterion will be releasing a 4K Blu-ray of A Touch of Zen on July 19, 2016. A similar Blu-ray release for Dragon Inn has yet to be determined, but we’ll be sure to keep you updated when this changes. Until then, catch all-new trailers for both A Touch of Zen and Dragon Inn, courtesy of Apple.

Posted in News | 2 Comments

Deal on Fire! Pound of Flesh | Blu-ray | Only $9.67 – Expires soon!

Pound of Flesh | Blu-ray & DVD (Entertainment One)

Pound of Flesh | Blu-ray & DVD (Entertainment One)

Today’s Deal on Fire is the Blu-ray for Pound of Flesh, directed by Ernie Barbarash (Assassination Games).

In Pound of Flesh (read our review), a man’s (Van Damme) heroic attempt to help a woman in distress ends up with him waking up the next day without a kidney and plotting his revenge.

The film co-stars Kristopher Van Varenberg (Enemies Closer), Darren Shahlavi (Ip Man 2), John Ralston (Degrassi The Next Generation), William B Davis (The X-Files) and Charlotte Peters.

Order Pound of Flesh from Amazon.com today!

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Emperor of the Underworld (1994) Review

"Emperor of the Underworld" Korean Theatrical Poster

"Emperor of the Underworld" Korean Theatrical Poster

Director: Hwang Jang Lee
Writer: Im Seung-su
Cast: Dragon Lee, Hwang Jang Lee, Lee Jin Young, Kim Mi Young, Hyeon Kil Su, Jeong Wu Hyeok, Hwang Chun-su
Running Time: 87 min.

By Paul Bramhall

If there was ever a genre that could be described as having little to no exposure outside of its native country, then it’s the 90’s Korean action movie. Compared to the likes of Hong Kong and Japan’s own action cinema output during the same decade, Korea’s equivalent remains shrouded in mystery. It’s a shame, as there’s plenty of action gold to be found, however it’s a country whose film industry had little to no attention paid to it before the release of Shiri in 1999, which broke through internationally thanks to its Hollywood style aesthetic. Unfortunately, even at the time of writing more than 15 years on, only a fraction of Korean movies released before 1999 (in any genre), have made their way to DVD.

As it stands, many of the action movies that came out during the 90’s received a release on Korean VHS, and that’s it. To confound matters even further, a significant number of them didn’t receive a theatrical release, instead going direct-to-VHS, and often such titles aren’t even listed on the notoriously difficult to navigate Korean Move Database. Much of the reasoning behind this is that the action genre was treated much the same as Japan’s equivalent in the 70’s. Karate movies were quickly filmed productions, often featuring heavy doses of exploitation, and were never made with the thought that there’d be an audience who’d want to check them out several decades later.

Many of Korea’s own action output in the 90’s could be considered to fall into the same category. During the 80’s erotic film became hugely popular, and the end of the decade coincided with many of the Korean stars, who’d been busy delivering their boot work in the Hong Kong kung fu movie boom of the 70’s and 80’s, returning home. Hwang Jang Lee, Casanova Wong, and Dragon Lee – a trio of instantly recognizable names to any kung fu cinema fan – were all back on Korean soil in the 90’s, and all of them made their final film appearances during the decade while working in Korea. With period movies long gone out of fashion, the gangster flick quickly became the go-to genre for some Taekwondo style action. Fedora hats, oversized shoulder pads, and bulky suits came to define the 90’s Korean gangster flick, which often served up fight scenes and nudity in equal measure.

It could be said that 1994 was a year of particular significance. Casanova Wong, the star of such Hong Kong classics as Warriors Two and The Master Strikes, would make his last screen appearance in, as well as directing, the violent gangster flick Bloody Mafia. Hwang Jang Lee, who needs no introduction, would also mark his last significant screen appearance, in a movie which, like Casanova Wong, he’d also direct, titled Emperor of the Underworld. It’s worth noting that many sources list the 1996 Korean movie, Boss, as Hwang’s final movie appearance, and while this is true, his screen-time clocks in at barely a minute, with a role that’s purely dialogue.

Hwang had directed himself before, most memorably playing the clean shaven good guy in Hitman in the Hand of Buddha in 1981, and as the conflicted anti-hero a couple of years later in Canton Viper. Emperor of the Underworld though marks the first time he doesn’t cast himself as the lead, instead opting to take the villain role. The lead goes to another familiar face from the world of kung fu cinema, Dragon Lee. Both Hwang and Lee had worked together before, on both the likes of old school Korean kung fu movies such as Secret Ninja, Roaring Tiger and 5 Pattern Dragon Claws, as well as in another 90’s action movie, the second installment of The Nationwide Constituency trilogy.

The plot for Emperor of the Underworld is straight forward stuff. Lee is a marine who has a reputation for getting the job done, shown in a pre-credit sequence that has him storming a criminal hideout, decked out in all black fatigues with machine gun in hand. Any movie that starts off with Dragon Lee armed with a machine gun has already earnt instant favour with me. However once he’s discharged, he finds himself stalked by the police. It turns out they want to infiltrate a violent gang, one that’s working in conjunction with some evil Japanese property developers, and Dragon Lee seems to be the guy for the job. He agrees to take on the mission, on the condition that his friend is released from prison so that they can work together. However when it turns out that their former colleague, a girl Lee used to be close to (played by So Bia, an actress who was known for the erotic movies she starred in during the 80’s and 90’s), is also working for the gang, the situation gets complicated.

Despite the simplistic plot, it’s told effectively, and it’s refreshing to see a Dragon Lee movie being told entirely poker faced from start to finish. Despite being over 15 years since the peak of his career in movies like Enter the Invincible Hero, he’s still instantly recognizable and in great shape. Several lackeys end up on the receiving end of Lee’s fists during the run time, and at one point, for no other reason than to intimidate a group of thugs who are threatening him, he flips a stationery car over with his bare hands. The scene is so random that it’s difficult not to appreciate. I’m also unsure if it was an intentional homage or not, but when he’s first discharged from the army, he visits a nightclub to meet his old colleague, carrying a rucksack of his belongings slung over his shoulder. I’ve personally lost count of the number of Dragon Lee movies I’ve seen, which have him wandering the countryside with nothing but a rucksack slung over his shoulder! It’s like it was his permanent prop.

The nightclub scenes are also notable, purely for the fact that the music playing in the background, an American rap song, has some of the most obscene lyrics I’ve ever heard in a movie (or anywhere). It became a little difficult to concentrate when Lee was having a serious conversation with his old friend, when all you can hear in the background is the rapper distinctly announcing that he was “gonna put my d*ck in your behind.” I’m sure some MC Hammer would have been much more suitable.

Hwang Jang Lee himself doesn’t make an appearance until the 55 minute mark. Playing a former colleague who feels heavily indebted to the gang boss, he agrees to become the chief enforcer. When events transpire that see the gangsters retaliating against Lee and his colleague by killing their mentor, it’s time to serve up some 90’s style Korean action movie revenge. The lead-up to the finale somewhat echoes the finale of A Better Tomorrow 2, as Lee leads a funeral march with the coffin of his mentor up to gates of the gangsters mansion, in which Hwang Jang Lee and the other gang members are wining and dining on the front lawn. Thankfully as well as bringing the coffin, they also brought along a machine gun, in a scene which perhaps has the record for number of bullets fired without managing to hit a single solid object.

The showdown eventually culminates in a face-off between Dragon Lee and Hwang Jang Lee, which has them going at it on the lawn, in a pond, and finishing off in one of Korea’s many mud flats. For anyone that’s seen the Korean flick Rough Cut, it’s a possibility that the idea for that movies similar ending, which has the two main characters slugging it out on a similar mud flat, came from here. Like any good Dragon Lee movie, he ends up shirtless, and covers himself in mud, using it’s slipperiness to deflect Hwang’s lethal kicks. While it’s easy to argue that the choreography of the fight, and the action as a whole in Emperor of the Underworld, is far from matching that of the pairs work at their physical peaks, it’s never anything less than entertaining.

Best of all (or worse, depending on how you look at it), is that whenever Lee gets involved in a fight, he immediately switches to Bruceploitation mode – flicking his nose, staying light on his feet, and breaking out Bruce’s famous facial expressions whenever he hits someone. It’s almost as if he doesn’t know how to fight any other way, it’s simply become ingrained. Far from being detrimental to the story though, the scenes remind us that we’re watching a Dragon Lee flick, and how much we would have missed it if there hadn’t been a single nose flick in sight. These types of production can never be considered anything more than B-movies, a fact that’s no doubt contributed to securing their obscurity, but Emperor of the Underworld sets out to do exactly what it says on the tin – deliver a tale of macho gangsters and people being punched. I only wish there was more of them to choose from.

Paul Bramhall’s Rating: 7/10

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Live-action adaptation of Sega’s ‘Shinobi’ moves forward…

Sega's "The Super Shinobi"

Sega's "The Super Shinobi"

Back in 2014, Variety reported that video game developer Sega hired film director/producer, Evan Cholfin (The Garlock Incident), to adapt a number of video game titles into live-action and animated movies. Some of the titles potential titles included Altered Beast, Streets of Rage, Shinobi, Rise of Nightmares and Crazy Taxi.

“With his impeccable taste and experience developing and producing entertainment in nearly every format imaginable, Evan is the unique executive to revitalize and canonize our partners’ brands by working with Hollywood to create stories that will last for centuries,” said Stories president and CEO Tomoya Suzuki, who will help oversee the projects.

Today, we’ve received conflicting word (via Collider) that producer Marc Platt (Scott Pilgrim vs. the World) and his production company Marc Platt Productions have teamed up with Stories International, Inc. – the production division of SEGA Group and Hakuhodo DY Group – to adapt the high-priority Shinobi franchise as a feature film.

“We love the Shinobi games and believe that the world of ninjas has never been properly explored onscreen. We now have the opportunity to do just that. With Shinobi, we hope to make a film that honors the essence of the games and brings this fascinating world to life for moviegoing audiences,” Platt explained.

Whether it be Cholfin or Platt, one thing still stands: we’d love to see Joe “Shinobi” Musashi on the big screen. Stay tuned!

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Outlaw: Gangster VIP (1968) Review

"Outlaw: Gangster VIP" Japanese Theatrical Poster

"Outlaw: Gangster VIP" Japanese Theatrical Poster

Director: Toshio Masuda
Writer: Kaneo Ikegami, Reiji Kubota
Cast: Tetsuya Watari, Chieko Matsubara, Mitsuo Hamada, Tamio Kawaji, Kyosuke Machida, Kayo Matsuo
Running Time: 93 min.

By Kyle Warner

There are a huge number of classic Japanese films that most the world hasn’t seen yet. So it’s always great when a home video distributor like Arrow, Criterion, Eureka, and others rediscover some forgotten gem and show it to the world. And that’s exactly what’s happened here, as Arrow Video releases the Outlaw Gangster VIP series for the first time for viewers in the US and the UK.

Gangster VIP is relatively unknown to most film fans in the West. I knew very little about it other than it starred Tetsuya Watari, who is best known as the singing gangster of Seijun Suzuki’s Tokyo Drifter. The first film opens with a disclaimer that everything that follows is fiction and none of the characters are based on any real people. That’s not 100% true, though. The Outlaw series follows Watari’s gangster Goro Fujikawa, a loner that’s partly based on real-life criminal Goro Fujita. After living as a gangster, Goro Fujita wrote novels about the yakuza, and the Outlaw series is a semi-autobiographical version of his life story (he would also write the novel on which Graveyard of Honor is based). I’m sure that there is a great deal of fiction in Fujita’s retelling of his life, but there’s no doubt some truth in there, too.

The film opens with a prologue set after WWII as young Goro struggles through a life of poverty. When doctors ignore his begging, Goro helplessly watches sickness take the lives of his mother and sister. After he’s caught stealing food, Goro’s taken to a boy’s home where he befriends the somewhat older Sugiyama. Time passes and the boys grow into men, soon finding themselves on opposing sides of a yakuza conflict. Goro stabs Sugiyama and is sentenced to three years in prison. When he’s released from jail, Goro plans to go straight, but within 24 hours he’s stabbed another yakuza and he’s back in trouble all over again. His next victim survives but he’s a high-ranking member of the treacherous Ueno gang, the same clan that his old friend Sugiyama pledged loyalty to, and the Ueno clan isn’t going to let Goro get off easy. Though Goro tries to stick to the old yakuza way, his rivals aren’t playing by the same rules. At one point Goro apologizes by chopping off his pinky (a common way for yakuza to apologize for some unforgivable offense), only to have his dead friend’s badly beaten corpse dumped onto the floor as thanks.

Nikkatsu was typically known for its ‘borderless action’ films, hyper-stylized action movies. (Hong Kong’s ‘heroic bloodshed’ action movies would’ve fit right in with what Nikkatsu was churning out in the 1960s.) Gangster VIP’s kind of yakuza drama isn’t Nikkatsu’s regular cup of tea, but I think that everyone handles the concept and the themes wonderfully. In addition to being a yakuza drama, director Toshio Masuda (Red Pier) brings some of that ‘borderless action’ style to the film, filling it with bright colors, unpredictable action, and a welcome dash of humor.

Tetsuya Watari gets to show some range in the role of Goro. The actor could’ve easily let his rogue be super cool, like a gentleman among murderers and morons, but it’s a more honest portrayal than that. The character lacks a heart of gold—Goro’s too cynical, thinks the world’s too rotten—but he’s basically decent. Watari plays him as an oafish thug who’s ultimately redeemed by his fierce loyalty and a need to set things right (I guess the internet would call him a Chaotic Good?). Another highlight of the cast is Mitsuo Hamada (Iron King), who plays Goro’s friend and a hopeless believer in the yakuza code until it asks him to sacrifice too much.

On the negative side of things, I found Gangster VIP’s depiction of women rather weak. There are four major female roles in the film: one’s a hooker, one pleads her ex to beat her because she’s sorry she moved on, one latches onto a perfect stranger like a goddamn remora, and the only woman with some actual depth is basically put in the position of repeatedly reminding the characters that yakuza suck. Maybe weak depictions of women are to be expected from a genre that occasionally looks like male fantasy wish fulfillment, but that doesn’t mean I gotta like it.

Director Toshio Masuda’s film takes on certain operatic qualities in the later stages. In two grand sequences, Masuda splits the film’s narrative, letting two important, contrasting scenes play at the same time. The film’s finale is done this way and actually mutes the action while the background scene is played at full volume. The result is insanely cool. Masuda was well-liked by Nikkatsu for his fast pace and his quality filmmaking—he was the most reliably bankable director the studio had—but he’s not often considered one of classic Japanese cinema’s most stylish filmmakers. One film doesn’t change my mind about how I view Masuda on the whole, but this is a very stylish effort, full of moments that made me sit up and take notice.

The film ends rather ambiguously but we already know that the story would continue. There were six Outlaw films in total and all are include in the new Blu-ray/DVD set from Arrow Video. Since this is my first time viewing the films, I’m going to follow the special feature’s advice and not watch some extras that are said to contain spoilers just yet. Full thoughts on the set and its features will be included in the review for the final film, Outlaw: Kill! As far as the first film’s audio and visual, I can say that I thought the audio was great and the picture quality was… pretty good. It’s not a failing on Arrow’s part, but the print does show some age with flashes of blue crossing the screen a couple times during the movie. It doesn’t happen often, though, and it didn’t take away from my enjoyment of the film.

I started off this review by talking about uncovering forgotten gems and that’s exactly what I think this film is. Gangster VIP is a stellar example of the yakuza film genre and I can’t wait to dive into this set and watch all the remaining films.

Kyle Warner’s Rating: 8/10

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Bruce Le wraps up his ‘Braveheart meets First Blood’ film

"Enter the Game of Death" Korean Theatrical Poster

"Enter the Game of Death" Korean Theatrical Poster

Two years ago, Bruce Le (aka Huang Kin Long), cult martial arts star of Mission Terminate and Bruce Stikes Back, made his 7th directorial feature, Eyes of Dawn (a redux of his 1992 film, Comfort Women) – a drama about women who were forced into sexual slavery by the Imperial Japanese Army in occupied territories during World War II – starring Cheng Pei-pei (Golden Swallow), her daughter Marsha Yuen (Pound of Flesh), Kenneth Tsang (A Better Tomorrow) and Le himself.

The movie was Le’s first film project after a 20+ year absence from show business. Fortunately, his comeback isn’t about to stop there…

According to Impact’s Mike Leeder, Le is currently in post-production on a wartime adventure best described as a Chinese Braveheart meets First Blood, which tells the true story of a Chinese commando who rages a one-man war against Japanese forces on the border with Russia during WW2. In addition to directing, Le also has a small part in the film. Furthermore, Le is revisiting the Comfort Women scenario in a TV series that will begin production in June with casting both in China and Internationally.

But to kung fu fans, the most exciting news involves Le’s “dream” project: ”In the last ten years, I have been thinking about making a very big kung fu movie, full blooded martial arts action… I would really like to make a big sized co-production between America and China, my dream project is to make something that would be worthy to be called Enter the Dragon 2. That’s something I have been working on for some time, making preparation for the last few years. I know to make a movie that delivers on those elements will be a lot of work but its what I think I have to do,” Le told Leeder.

Le isn’t lying about this “very big kung fu movie.” During Paul Bramhall’s coverage at the 2014 SENI Strength & Combat Event in London, the legendary Hwang Jang Lee (Invincible Armour) mentioned the possibility of reuniting with Le: “We made a few movies together in Europe. Actually he called me just last month, he asked if I want to be in a new movie with him. I said, sure, let’s see.” Is there a connection? Only time will tell.

Stay tuned for information regarding all of these projects.

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Prequel to Tsui Hark’s ‘Taking of Tiger Mountain’ in the works

"The Taking of Tiger Mountain" Chinese Theatrical Poster

"The Taking of Tiger Mountain" Chinese Theatrical Poster

A prequel to Tsui Hark’s The Taking of Tiger Mountain is currently in development. According to AFS, there’s a possibility that Hark is returning to the director’s chair. Casting details are in progress.

2014′s The Taking of Tiger Mountain (read our review), an action epic based on the real life story of an incident during the Chinese Civil War, involved a communist reconnaissance team soldier who disguises himself to infiltrate a local gang of bandits.

The film starred Zhang Hanyu (Bodyguards and Assassins), Gao Hu (The Man From Macau), Tong Liya (Journey to the West), Kenny Lin (Young Detective Dee) and Han Geng.

We’ll keep you posted as we hear more.

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First visual of Newt in Neill Blomkamp’s ‘Aliens’ sequel

"Alien" Japanese Theatrical Poster

"Alien" Japanese Theatrical Poster

Back in March of 2015, writer-director Neill Blomkamp (District 9, Elysium) announced that his next movie would be an Alien (aka Alien 5) film. This exciting news came soon after Blomkamp shared some “personal” concept art/photos for an Alien movie that had been running around his mind.

The artwork – featuring the return of both Ripley (Sigourney Weaver) and Corporal Dwayne Hicks (Michael Biehn) – was a warm welcome to fans of the franchise, especially given the acclaim Blomkamp has received for his influential work.

Blomkamp’s Aliens sequel would basically ignore Alien 3 and Alien: Resurrection: “I want this film to feel like it is literally the genetic sibling of Aliens, so it’s AlienAliens and then this film,” said the director. Both Weaver and Biehn confirmed that the will be reprising their roles as Ripley and Corporal Duane Hicks, respectively. The character of Newt, now 27-years-old, will return, although it has not been made clear if Carrie Henn will be reprising her role.

Ultimately, Blomkamp’s Aliens sequel was put on hold in an effort to avoid colliding with Ridley Scott’s Prometheus/Alien continuation, Alien: Covenant.

In a recent interview (via LFF), Weaver shed some light regarding Blomkamp’s Alien sequel: “Ridley asked Neill not to make our Alien ’til after Alien: Covenant/Prometheus 2. [Ridley] wanted his movie to shoot and be released first. But it’s an amazing script, and Neill and I are really excited about doing it. We’re doing other things until we can get going on that. I’d be really surprised if we didn’t do it, because it’s such a great script, and we love working together. So, it’s just going to take a little bit longer to get out to you, but it’ll be worth the wait.”

As always, we’ll keep you updated as we hear more. Stay tuned.

Updates: To mark “Alien Day,” Blomkamp shared concept art of Newt. It’s obviously modeled after Carrie Henn (who played Newt in Aliens), but it’s still unclear on whether or not she’ll be reprising her role.

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Mercenaries from Hong Kong (1982) Review

"Mercenaries from Hong Kong" Chinese Theatrical Poster

"Mercenaries from Hong Kong" Chinese Theatrical Poster

Director: Wong Jing
Writer: Wong Jing
Cast: Ti Lung, Michael Chan Wai Man, Candice Yu On On, Nat Chan Pak Cheung, Lo Lieh, Ngaai Fei, Philip Ko Fei, Wong Yu, Johnny Wang Lung Wei, Yuen Wah, Lee Hoi San, Aai Dung Gwa, Cheng Miu, Cheung Gwok Wa, Ko Hung, To Wai Wo
Running Time: 90 min.

By Matthew Le-feuvre

Known for his affable personality as well as an eccentric reputation for having “fingers in many pies” pursuits, Wong Jing began his steadfast career at the Shaw Brothers’ prominent movie town enclosure, learning the logistics of a machination that was, essentially, built upon committment, self opportunity and the ability to present original concepts within a studio production collectively. And, like most of his peers, he excelled himself as a notable scriptwriter and 2nd unit director prior to being exclusively upgraded to a full directing credit with casino/gambling sensations: Challenge of the Gamesters (1981) and Winner Takes All (1982); both pictures – unreleased in the western hemisphere – featured the late, sorely missed Wong Yue; stalwart ‘Shaw’ contractee, Chen Kwan Tai; and the rather underrated, long redundant Patrick Wu, as principal stock players.

In addition to producing or working over the years with highly ranked A-listers – such as Jackie Chan, Jet Li, Simon Yam and Michelle Yeoh – Jing maintained a collaborative and personal friendship with quirky funnyman, Lolento Chan (The Magic Crystal), himself a regular participant of whatever production Jing is currently involved in. However, no stranger to the art of performance – giggles aside – this spirited filmmaker has also delighted in gracing the jade screen with truly demented Hitchcockian-type cameos (ala Twin Dragons (1992), playing an inffectual faith healer), yet contemporary audiences are probably more familiar with Jing’s controversial and extremely viscreal 90′s features: The Naked Killer (1992) and The Last Blood (1991), although both City Hunter (1992) and the wire-fu laden Last Hero in China (1993) had been designedly toned down at a time when age restricted categories were systematically endorsed; these alternative, but no less enjoyable popcorn distractions, were/are still endulgent enough to satisfy even the most hardened of cynics.

Indeed, Jing’s world of ‘make believe,’ often surrealist approach is ebulliently crafted in a way the great Tsui Hark or even the nihilistic John Woo may wince with envy or applaud with competitive enthusiasm. In equal designation, technically, these resourceful, gifted and innovative visionaries basically retain a similar celluloid style: multiple quick edits and an inordinate bodycount are two personalized touchstones that tends to inspire audience appreciation, but can simultaneously infuriate critics for lack of realism or originality. Nevertheless, after continued exposure absurdity becomes championed by escapism in its purest form, which is why a film like Mercenaries from Hong Kong might have struggled either commercially or (in) dealing with censorship issues if had it been released following the wake of John Woo’s A Better Tomorrow (1986) sequence or Ringo Lam’s City on Fire (1987).

Mercenaries from Hong Kong is bloody, gritty and extremely fast-paced, as one would expect from a Hong Kong picture. Jing’s unappologetic third foray behind the camera dispenses with storyline subtleties or complexities from the outset. Either by choice or tactful administration, he also limits himself from using over elaborate production values, special effects or convoluted dialogue seemingly by steering directly to the crux without pretension or stylized self glorification as Mercenaries from Hong Kong opens to a rock orientated soundtrack and unusual close-up shots of a heavily tattooed enforcer Luo Li (Ti Lung), rigorously weight-training for a solo revenge assignment against a triad-linked drug dealer, who’d previously and intentionally hooked Li’s niece to heroin dependency.

In a scene blatantly lifted from Andrew V. McClagen’s political action hybrid The Wild Geese (1979), featuring then-James Bond sensation, Roger Moore: Li force-feeds his target with his own narcotics, thus inducing death. Barely escaping, Li options (as anyone would do!) to go underground as he discovers a contract has been circulated for him, via a prevailing triad fraternity.

Conveniently at this juncture, Li is approached by a mysterious lady named, Hei-Ying (Yvonne Yu), whose tycoon father had been murdered by an assassin, Na Wei (Philip Kao). Ying propersitions Li to (A): hunt down Wei, (B): kill him and (C): retrieve an audio tape containing top illicit business deals which is in Wei’s possession. In return for Li’s services, Ying offers the luxury of both money and freedom if he journeys to the treacherous jungles of Cambodia to fulfill his mission. Agreeing with her terms, Li assembles a special team of former army comrades comprising of Lei Tai (Lo Lieh), a sniper trained soldier who desperately needs capital for his daughter’s kidney transplant; Hong Fan (Wang Lung Wei), a driving ace; conman/cabaret nightclub performer, Curry (Wong Yue) and womanizing explosive expert, Blanche (Lo-Lanto Chan). Together, after confronting numerous obsticles, both in Hong Kong and Cambodia, the mercs reach their objective where Na Wei is being protected by a guerrilla army that discreetly trades opium for weapons or medical supplies. Posing as smugglers they gain entrance, capture Na Wei and learn all isn’t what it appears to be. Suspicion, dissension, duplicitousness and sacrifice ensues at an untold price.

Verdict: Motifs of brotherhood, loyality and naturally, betrayal, are all quinessential elements which one favourably reconciles with, despite the fact of being proverbially generic, either erswhile or in contemporary terms. However, solid performances (especially from Ti Lung) and consummate fight choreography including very few explosive set pieces, otherwise reinforces Mercenaries from Hong Kong from plummeting into total obscurity. Although at intervals, reprehensible and horrifically violent, but never commonplace, this slice of exploitational cinema, perspectively, is an unique exploration into military bravado and criminal machiavellianism.

Matthew Le-feuvre’s Rating: 8/10

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