Contract to Kill (2016) Review

"Contract to Kill" Japanese DVD Cover

“Contract to Kill” Japanese DVD Cover

Director: Keoni Waxman
Writer: Keoni Waxman
Cast: Steven Seagal, Russell Wong, Jemma Dallender, Mircea Drambareanu, Sergiu Costache, Ghassan Bouz, Toma Danila, Andrei Stanciu, Camillo Aviles
Running Time: 90 min.

By Paul Bramhall

Steven Seagal. What can you say? In 1990 he was Hard to Kill, in 2003 he was Out for a Kill, in 2008 he flipped the Kill Switch, a year later he was Driven to Kill, he started off 2016 by Killing Salazar, and to round off the year, he received a Contract to Kill. Both of the 2016 movies mentioned were collaborations with who appears to have become Seagal’s go-to director in recent years, Keoni Waxman. Quite how the pair came to form such a partnership is a mystery. With Seagal’s reputation for being difficult to work with, Waxman has made more movies with Seagal than any other director he’s worked with. Kicking off with 2009’s The Keeper, up to and including Contract to Kill, Waxman has been the man in the director’s chair for 9 of Seagal’s features, as well as handling 8 episodes of the short lived TV series True Justice (many of which were paired up and further passed off as movies).

It’s incredible then, that out of the close to 20 productions they’ve worked on together, not one of them manages to be even slightly entertaining. For those that have done the math, you’ll probably realise that during some years they must have cranked out more than one title. This is never truer than in the case of 2016, when apart from Contract to Kill and Killing Salazar, they also made End of a Gun together. But Seagal didn’t stop there, in fact these productions represent less than half of his output for the year, with his hefty presence also gracing such titles as Sniper: Special Ops, Code of Honor, The Asian Connection, and The Perfect Weapon. You’d think that must make Seagal one of the hardest working actors out there today, until you actually see one of the productions, and realise just how little effort he seems to be putting into each one.

Despite the above criticism, I confess to being a Seagal fan. I can’t help it. It’s rare that a studio would have that much faith in a martial artist, with zero acting experience, that they’d make him the star of a movie without bothering to test the waters with supporting or bit roles first. But that’s exactly what happened with Seagal, when at 36 years old he appeared on the big screen out of nowhere as the main character in 1988’s Above the Law (or indeed the title character for its UK release, re-titled Nico). What made him even more unique was that his selling point was his proficiency in Aikido, a defensive martial arts style from Japan, that many considered to be a fools task to try and make appear exciting onscreen. In fact the only notable movie to feature the style before Seagal’s arrival was the 1975 Japanese movie, The Defensive Power of Aikido, which saw Sonny Chiba’s younger brother Jirô Chiba in the title role.

However Seagal was no fool, and throughout the 90’s he proceeded to throw, break, and snap a countless number of thugs in a string of classic action movies. The 00’s weren’t so kind. Apart from a brief theatrical resurgence with the movies Exit Wounds and Half Past Dead (and an odd role in the Korean movie Clementine), the decade was mostly defined by his bloated weight, and omnipresent leather trench coat. His movies became bizarre, often being doubled by someone half his size, and even stranger was the frequent voice doubling, usually performed by someone ‘trying’ to sound like Seagal. If the 00’s were all about the trench coats, then the post-2010 era will most likely become known as the era of the orange-tinted glasses. It’s hard to tell exactly when the trench coats finished and the orange-tinted glasses started, however what I can say with confidence is that in Contract to Kill he isn’t seen without them. Bear in mind he even has a sex scene, in which the girl gets naked and he remains fully clothed, which includes the glasses staying in place.

Contract to Kill is truly bottom of the barrel filmmaking in every way. The plot, for what it’s worth, has Seagal as a ‘re-activated’ agent out to stop a group of Islamic terrorists from entering the U.S., which he does by putting together a kind of Z-grade version of Ethan Hunt’s team from Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol. Russell Wong, who’ll be familiar to action fans as Jet Li’s adversary in Romeo Must Die (and to a lesser extent, Tony Jaa-clone Mike B’s 2009 movie The Sanctuary), plays a drone expert who joins Seagal’s team, along with British actress Jemma Dallender. Apparently Dallender and Seagal’s characters used to be in a relationship, hinted at by Seagal mumbling that he still wears the Rolex that she gave him, but what exactly her area of expertise is we never know. Seagal is just bringing her back into his team to “do what she does best.” I imagine that’s being the only actress available that agreed to get naked and felt up by Seagal.

Speaking of his mumbling, it’s a real problem here. In one scene he’s interrogating a suspect, and switches from English to Spanish to Arabic. The problem is his tone is so incomprehensible it sometimes took me a few seconds to realize he’d switched back to English again. Other times the end of his sentences seem to trail off, almost out of boredom, and sometimes the dialogue in the script runs for so long with no punctuation, that you can hear him running out of breath mid-sentence. For those who like to hear Seagal talk, they’ve certainly come to the right place, as the whole movie is ridiculously exposition heavy, with Seagal sometimes talking for what felt like minutes at a time, explaining everything that’s going on to the most minute detail.

When he isn’t talking, an awful lot of time is spent on Wong and his drone. Well, let me rephrase that to just his drone. Waxman must have spent a significant portion of the budget on buying a drone, as a disproportionate amount of time is spent on shots of it. We watch it taking off, when it’s in the air we’re subjected to constant cut-away shots of it and its annoying whirring, and we always get to see it land as well. If the movie is ever re-titled, Steven Seagal and the Drones would be a suitable candidate, if he doesn’t relaunch his music career first. Some of the drone scenes also contribute to Contract to Kill’s complete lack of coherence, for example in one night scene Wong sets up the drone to spy into a meeting the terrorists are holding in a hotel. The drone is of course supposed to be an inconspicuous way of doing this, however as soon as it takes off it lights up like a Catherine wheel. Maybe the lights come as standard for night flying.

My other favorite scene that makes no sense belongs to Dallender, who gets dressed up in an elegant and sexy cocktail dress to get up close to the terrorists in the hotel. The scene is set up just like Paula Patton’s scene from Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol, complete with Seagal talking to her through an ear piece. However she then proceeds to enter the hotel reception, dressed to the nines, and just stands there watching the terrorists talk outside the elevator. That’s it. I mean if she wanted to blend in, surely it would have been easier to wear a t-shirt and jeans. Contract to Kill is full of nonsensical plot points and scenarios such as these, and that’s not even mentioning the exploding plane, a previous act of terror that the extremists carried out, which is shown so many times in flashback I lost count. It’s even inserted into the final scene, were it has no context whatsoever, other than to remind us that we’ve seen it several times before.

When it comes to action Contact to Kill also sadly falls flat, almost as if Seagal is determined to undo all of his hard work at making Aikido look like a legitimate screen-fighting technique. We’re subjected to the usual hand locks and wrist throws, and at the 85 minute mark, with just a few minutes left to go, we’re given a brief dose of Seagal brutality, but it’s all too little too late. I’ll give credit for at least one moment of unintentional hilarity, which took place when Seagal offs the final bad guy, at which point Dallender laughs, hops over the corpse, and gives Seagal a hug. Seriously. With movies like A Good Man, Sniper: Special Ops, and Code of Honor, playing Special Ops agents seems to be Seagal’s current flavour of the month. However even more so than his never-ending stream of former CIA agents, his characters in these movies are completely bland and interchangeable, which also perfectly sums up the movies themselves. Contract to Kill is no different.

Paul Bramhall’s Rating: 1/10

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1st Poster for Yuen Woo-ping’s ‘Miracle Fighters’ remake

"The Thousand Faces of Dunjia" Chinese Teaser Poster

“The Thousand Faces of Dunjia” Chinese Teaser Poster

Now that Yuen Woo-ping (True Legend) has finished duties on Ip Man 3 and Crouching Tiger, Hidden II, one of his next gigs is The Thousand Faces of Dunjia, a remake of Miracle Fighter, a supernatural kung fu film he directed in 1982.

Lending a hand will be Tsui Hark (The Taking of Tiger Mountain), who is on board as producer and writer. The film will star Aarif Lee (Bruce Lee, My Brother), Ni Ni (Love Will Tear Us Apart), Da Peng (Jian Bing Man) and Zhou Dongyu (The Taking of Tiger Mountain).

The original – which starred Leung Kar Yan (Five Shaolin Masters), Yuen Cheung-yan (Once Upon a Time in Shanghai) and Yuen Yat Chor (The Postman Srikes Back) – follows a kung fu master who learns special skills from a pair of priests to defeat an evil magician.

According to FBA: Yuen says that aside from sharing the title of the film, the remake will tell an entirely new story. He said that if the original film was meant to present an alternative form of wuxia film, the new film intends to redefine it.

The Thousand Faces of Dunjia is currently in production for a 2017 release.

Updates: Check out the film’s first Teaser Poster, courtesy of AFS.

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Harrison Ford is back in the 1st Trailer for ‘Blade Runner 2049’

"Blade Runner" Japanese Promotional Poster

“Blade Runner” Japanese Promotional Poster

Filmmaker Denis Villeneuve (Sicario) will soon start shooting Blade Runner 2049 (aka Blade Runner 2), which has a theatrical release date set for October 6, 2017.

This sequel to the ground-breaking 1982 science fiction classic, which will take place some years after the first film concluded, has Harrison Ford returning as Rick Deckard. Ryan Gosling (Drive), Dave Bautista (Kickboxer: Vengeance), Robin Wright (State of Grace), Barkhad Abdi (Captain Phillips) and Jared Leto (Suicide Squad) will co-star.

Ridley Scott, director of the original, is serving as one of the film’s producers and writers. Hampton Fancher, who also worked on the original, is back on board as screenwriter. Michael Green (Green Lantern) is co-writing.

According to Scott (via Variety), Ford loves the screenplay: “I sent him this (script) and he said, ‘Wow, this is the best thing I’ve ever read,’ so it’s very relevant to what happened (in) the first one.” Scott continued: “I’m not just doing a sequel with lots of action and see how far we can go with the special effects because you can’t really. Blade Runner kind of landed on a somehow very credible future. And it’s very difficult to change that because it’s been so influential with everything else.”

Updates: Watch the film’s first Teaser Trailer below:

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Deal on Fire! Ultimate Chuck Norris Bundle | Blu-ray | Only $40.49 – Expires soon!

"Ultimate Chuck Norris Bundle" on Blu-ray

“Ultimate Chuck Norris Bundle” on Blu-ray

Today’s Deal on Fire is the Blu-ray set for The Ultimate Chuck Norris Bundle.

This creamy, The Cannon Group-filled Blu-ray package contains some of Norris’ best titles of the 80s: 1984’s Missing in Action, 1985’s Missing in Action 2, 1986’s The Delta Force, 1983’s Lone Wolf McQuade and 1985’s Code of Silence.

Works out to be about $8 a movie – only thing on earth who can top this deal is Chuck Norris himself!

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Lee Byung-Hun’s thriller ‘Master’ hits U.S. theaters in January

"Master" Theatrical Poster

“Master” Theatrical Poster

CJ Entertainment USA is giving Cho Ui-Seok’s Master a limited theatrical release on January 6th, 2017. This upcoming South Korean thriller stars Gang Dong-won (The Priests), Lee Byung-Hun (I Saw the Devil) and Kim Woo-Bin (Friend 2).

An intellectual crime investigation team goes after company Won Network. The company is involved in a massive fraud case. Kim (Gang) is the leader of intellectual crime investigation team. He is smart, charismatic, aggressive and bold to lead the intellectual crime investigation team. President Jin (Lee) is the president of Won Network. Park (Kim) is the Section Chief of Won Network. He is the brains behind Won Network.

Catch the film’s U.S. trailer below:

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James Bond’s connection with Asian and Martial Arts Cinema

"The Man with the Golden Gun" Theatrical Poster

“The Man with the Golden Gun” Theatrical Poster

Being an avid James Bond fan, as well as a writer for City on Fire, I’ve put together a list of Bond titles that are relevant with Asian and martial arts cinema. Whether it be ninjas, samurai, kung fu masters – or just well-known Asian talent  – there’s definitely a connection between 007 and the types of films that are usually covered here at City on Fire. Of course, considering the impact Bond films have had on cinema in general, none of this should come as a surprise.

Dr. No

Even in the first James Bond film, hints of Asian film culture were already evident. 1962’s Dr. No has Bond (Sean Connery) up against the titular villain, Dr. No (Joseph Wiseman), who was 1/2 German and 1/2 Chinese. Surrounded with his deadly Asian henchmen, Dr. No was committed to terrorizing the world with his atomic-powered radio beam. The 1973 Bruce Lee martial arts classic, Enter the Dragon, is considered by many, somewhat of an unofficial remake of Dr. No – in fact, critics have referred to Enter the Dragon as “a remake of Dr. No with elements of Fu Manchu”.

You Only Live Twice

Back in 1967, it was one heck of a gamble for Western movies to feature a prominent Asian cast, but as time went by, there was definitely a demand (similar to the recent rise of online casino and rise of people who look to play bingo), so in a way, You Only Live Twice was a look into the future. Samurai warriors aside, the film served as one of the first major appearance of the ninja in a Western pop culture; and unless you were a fan of Japanese cinema, these masked assassins (and their cool assortment of weapons) were relatively unknown back then. Additionally, the film features popular Japanese actor, Tetsuro Tamba (Harakiri), as well as Akiko Wakabayashi (King Kong vs. Godzilla), Mie Hama (Counterattack of King Kong) and Tsai Chin (who would later make a cameo in 2006’s Casino Royale) in supporting roles.

Goldfinger

1964’s Goldfinger has one of the most memorable, if not THE most memorable, villains of all time: Oddjob (played by real-life Japanese weightlifter/professional wrestler, Harold Sakata). This abnormally strong assassin is armed with his trademark razor-edged bowler hat, which is similar to the “Flying Guillotine” weapon that was popular in many kung fu films. Sakata himself would go on to make appearances in a couple of martial arts titles: 1977’s Death Dimension (with Jim Kelley and George Lazenby) and 1982’s Bruce Strikes Back (with Bruce Le and Hwang Jang Lee) where he practically reprises his role as Oddjob.

On Her Majesty’s Secret Service

Especially for the time, 1969’s On Her Majesty’s Secret Service displays the franchise’s most inventive, hard-hitting action sequences – similar to what we’d see in a John Woo flick years later. In one example, Bond (George Lazenby) is seen sliding belly-down a snowy hill while simultaneously shooting a high-powered machine gun at his enemies. A few years after his one and only outing as 007, Lazenby would join Hong Kong’s Golden Harvest studios and star in a handful of Chinese productions with the likes of Angela Mao (Enter the Dragon) and Jimmy Wang Yu (The Man from Hong Kong) – one of the projects, Game of Death – would have paired him up with Bruce Lee, but due to the latter’s untimely death, the project was put on the back burner (only to be finished a few years later with a Bond-esque credit sequence and a soundtrack by John Barry, who scored most of the Bond films). The most popular, 1975’s Man From Hong Kong, which has Lazenby as a villain, is essentially a James Bond copycat starring Wang Yu. Lazenby also appears in the aforementioned Death Dimension, not to mention the 1977 comedy, Kentucky Fried Movie, which is largely made up of an Enter the Dragon spoof titled A Fistful of Yen, which showcases Grand Master Bong Soo Han (Force: Five) and Evan C. Kim (Megaforce).

Man with the Golden Gun

Thanks to films like 1973’s Five Fingers of Death (aka King Boxer) and the explosion of Bruce Lee, the popular “kung fu craze” was alive and strong in the 70s. This era even influenced Carl Douglas’ to record the song “Everybody was Kung Fu fighting,” which became a major hit. So Bond producers strategically cashed-in on the “Chopsocky” mania and made sure 1974’s The Man with the Golden Gun was heavily infused with some kung fu/karate action. In one fight scene, Bond (Roger Moore), who realizes he doesn’t stand a chance against Charlie Chan You Lam (The Secret Rivals, Part II), takes Bruce Lee’s Enter the Dragon advice: “Never take your eyes off your opponent, even when you bow,” which results in Bond’s victorious escape. The film also stars Soon-Teck Oh (the villain in Chuck Norris’ Missing in Action 2) and Yuen Qiu (Kung Fu Hustle, Dragon Claws).

Licence to Kill

1989’s Licence to Kill, featuring Timothy Dalton as Bond, marked the return of ninjas, which we haven’t seen in a Bond film since You Only Live Twice, 22 years earlier. Although the ninjas (technically, they’re Hong Kong narcotic agents, which doesn’t really make sense) show up for a short amount of time; the sequence can be seen as either memorable or out-of-place, depending on one’s taste. The ninjas are played by Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa (Mortal Kombat) and actress/model Diana Lee-Hsu.

Tomorrow Never Dies 

In this 1997 Bond flick, Hong Kong action star, Michelle Yeoh (In the Line of Duty), joins forces with Bond (Pierce Brosnan) to take on an evil media mogul (Jonathan Pryce). Because Yeoh’s character – a Chinese secret agent who knows kung fu – isn’t your typical damsel in distress, she’s highly regarded as one of the most unforgettable Bond girls. Not only is she a real “co-star” alongside Brosnan, she also gets a chunk of action-packed screen time, courtesy of Hong Kong-based stuntmen, most notably, Philip Kwok (Five Deadly Venoms). 

But wait, there’s more…

The James Bond franchise’ association with Asian Cinema doesn’t stop within the 007 films themselves. The late Richard Kiel (“Jaws” from 1977’s Spy Who Loved Me and 1979’s Moonraker) played a similar character in Tsui Hark’s 1984 action caper Aces Go Places 3 (aka Mad Mission 3: Our Man from Bond Street), a Hong Kong production that stars Sam Hui (Naughty! Naughty!), Karl Maka (Skinny Tiger, Fatty Dragon), Sugiyama Tsuneharu (an Oddjob wannabe), and get this: Sean Connery’s brother, Neil (Operation Kid Brother) as “Mr. Bond.” Kiel would also team up with Jackie Chan in Golden Harvest’s all-star 1984 comedy Cannonball Run II (the first Cannonball Run film, which also stars Chan, includes Roger Moore, who portrays a Bond-like character).

To be continued…

I can sit here and make connections between Bond movies and Asian/martial arts cinema for days (I didn’t even mention all the Bond knock-off films made in Japan and Hong Kong in the 60s), but for now, I’ll end it here.

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Jackie Chan and Arnold Schwarzenegger ‘Journey to China’

"Dragon Blade" Japanese DVD Cover

“Dragon Blade” Japanese DVD Cover

Jackie Chan (Dragon Blade) and Arnold Schwarzenegger (Maggie) will be appearing (emphasize on the word “appearing”) in Oleg Stepchenko’s Journey to China: The Iron Mask Mystery (aka Viy 2), an action adventure flick that’s being hailed as “Russia’s biggest-budget co-production ever”.

According to THR, the film is set in the 18th century and focuses on the adventures of English traveler Jonathan Green (Jason Flemyng), who is assigned to draw a map of Russia’s Far East. However, his travels eventually bring Green to China.

Journey to China: The Iron Mask Mystery is a sequel to 2014’s Viy, the highest grossing Russian film of all-time. The film hits theaters in 2017.

Updates: Watch the film’s trailer below. Keep in mind that it doesn’t feature Jackie Chan or Arnold Schwarzenegger (via SA).

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Saving Mr. Wu (2015) Review

“Saving Mr. Wu” Theatrical Poster

“Saving Mr. Wu” Theatrical Poster

Director: Ding Sheng
Writer: Ding Sheng
Cast: Andy Lau, Liu Ye, Wu Ruofu, Wang Qianyuan, Lam Suet, Zhao Xiaoyue, Vivien Li, Cai Lu, Yu Ailei
Running Time: 106 min.

Kyle Warner

Andy Lau walks out of a nightclub, signs autographs, and waves to his fans. The onscreen text reads, ‘Mr. Wu, Famous Movie Star.’ (I laughed, though I can’t really explain why.) Soon we learn that famous movie star Mr. Wu is known for playing cops and used to perform concerts in years past. It’s as if Andy Lau (Firestorm) is getting a chance to play a thinly-veiled version of himself. And though ‘The Andy Lau Story’ might’ve made for an entertaining film in its own right, in actuality Lau is playing a dramatized version of real-life actor, Ruofu Wu, who in 2004 was abducted by men posing as police officers and held for ransom.

In the film, Mr. Wu leaves the nightclub and is heading to his car when he’s intercepted by men in police uniform who begin to question him. They tell him that his car’s been involved in a hit-and-run. Wu and his associate argue this, then there’s some disagreement about whether Wu’s Hong Kong driver’s license is even legal in Mainland China. It’s at this point, when the civilian knows the law better than the cop, that Wu and his associate begin to question the cop’s legitimacy. Before they know what’s happening, guns are drawn, Wu is handcuffed, and the actor is thrown into the back of a waiting car.

It’s a crime of opportunity. The kidnappers are well-equipped men with enough experience in abduction for ransom, but they seem to pick their targets at random. They simply saw Wu’s fancy car and decided he’d be the target for the night. When it turned out that Mr. Wu was the car’s owner, they couldn’t back out. Quite the opposite, as their leader Zhang puts it: “How could we not kidnap a movie star standing right in front of us?” They demand a ransom and unless Wu’s able to organize a payment within 24 hours, they will execute him.

The film bounces back and forth between the kidnappers, the abducted Mr. Wu, and the cops on the case. It also shifts between the time before the kidnapping, during the incident, and after a key arrest is made. Writer/director/editor Ding Sheng used flashbacks to flesh out the story of his previous film Police Story: Lockdown and while I liked that movie I thought the flashback structure didn’t help the story. So it’s interesting that the non-linear storytelling structure of Saving Mr. Wu is actually one of the film’s finest achievements. Details unfold in the order that best befits the story being told, and if that means jumping back weeks in time to better understand our characters then so be it.

The weakest part of Saving Mr. Wu is the police characterizations. They’re a force to be reckoned with (thankfully without ever devolving into hero worship), but they’re never developed into individual characters. The lead cop gets a phone call from his wife about his son and… that’s it. The son is brought up once more in order to add some drama right before the cop runs into danger but that’s just lazy character development. However, while none of the cops ever make much of an impression individually, their part to play in the story as they track down the kidnappers is often interesting and exciting. I didn’t know this until after the film was done but Ruofu Wu, the actor whose ordeal inspired the film, actually has a supporting part as one of the cops on the case.

Saving Mr. Wu is at its best when focused on the interplay between the abducted and the abductors. Wu utilizes his acting abilities to control his emotions and ultimately try to take command of the entire situation. It’s one of Andy Lau’s best performances in years, allowing him to show a wide range of emotions with total believability.

As the lead kidnapper Zhang, Wang Qianyuan (Brotherhood of Blades) nearly steals the show from superstar Andy Lau. Zhang is quite the character. His criminal tactics are cold and efficient but he’s also something of a lunatic. He never goes anywhere without a hand grenade and collects guns like he’s preparing for a war. Wang Qianyuan is the best thing about the movie—it’s a star-making performance. He never goes for the easy stuff that you see other film villains employ. It’s a smart, intense acting job.

The back-and-forth plays for leverage between Wu and Zhang reminded me of the Paul Greengrass film Captain Phillips, especially in the second half where Tom Hanks was surrounded by increasingly desperate kidnappers. It’s an actor’s showcase for Wang and Lau.

As Mainland China’s film industry continues to expand, it will need more auteurs to elevate at least certain pieces of China’s cinema above the mainstream, government approved blockbusters that seem designed by a computer program more than living, breathing filmmakers. It will need more people like Ding Sheng. Now, Ding Sheng ain’t perfect, but what I like is that he seems to learn from the missteps made on previous films. And he consistently gets strong work from his lead actors, at least some of whom are old-school favorites from the days when Hong Kong movie-making was at its best. I think Saving Mr. Wu is Ding Sheng’s best film so far; a blend of China’s arthouse dramas and its potboilers, with two excellent performances from its lead actors.

 Kyle Warner’s Rating: 7.5/10

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Seagal has a ‘Contract to Kill’ Islamic extremists in February

Contract to Kill | Blu-ray & DVD (Lionsgate)

Contract to Kill | Blu-ray & DVD (Lionsgate)

On February 28th, Lionsgate Home Entertainment will be releasing Steven Seagal’s latest film, Contract to Kill, on Blu-ray & DVD. This time around, the legendary action star is taking on Islamic extremists an drug dealers, simultaneously.

Contract to Kill (read our review) is directed by Keoni Waxman (End of a Gun), the writer/director/producer who has helmed several movies with Seagal (End of Gun).

In Contract to Kill, a Special Agent (Seagal) is called back into action when the CIA stumbles upon evidence that a group of extremists is planning to join forces with a drug cartel. He assembles a team of operatives – including Russell Wong (Romeo Must Die) – and devises a daring operation to turn the two groups against each other in an explosive confrontation.

In addition to Contract to Kill, Seagal has a handful of films that he may or may not be working on (he’s hard to keep track of) that include, AttritionChina SalesmanCypherGunfighter, Under Siege 3Four Towers and Above the Law 2. His most recently released film, Perfect Weapon, just hit shelves last week.

Watch the trailer for Contract to Kill below:

Warm your doggies with the coolest fashion from Frank and Beanz!

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Sword Master (2016) Review

"Sword Master" Theatrical Poster

“Sword Master” Theatrical Poster

Director: Derek Yee
Producer: Tsui Hark
Cast: Kenny Lin Geng-Xin, Peter Ho Yun-Tung, Jiang Yi-Yan, Jiang Meng-Jie, Norman Chu, Edward Ku
Running Time: 105 min.

By Paul Bramhall

There have been a handful of Shaw Brothers re-makes over recent years. Some of them have resulted in successful reinterpretations of the source material, such as Daniel Lee’s 2010 production 14 Blades, a pulpy re-imagining of Secret Service of the Imperial Court, and Peter Chan’s Wu Xia from 2011, which took its inspiration from One Armed Swordsman. Of course others have arguably missed the mark completely, most notably Andrew Lau’s 2012 jumbled effort The Guillotines, which was based on The Flying Guillotine. However no one has been bold enough to take on one of the many Chor Yuen directed productions, usually based on writer Gu Long’s novels set in the martial arts world. No one that is, until the arrival of Sword Master.

Based on 1977’s Death Duel, the man stepping up to the daunting task of remaking such a well-known classic, is in fact the star of the original, Derek Yee. While many modern day audiences know Yee as the director behind such gritty slices of Hong Kong cinema as One Night in Mongkok, Protégé, and The Shinjuku Incident, it’s important to remember that he was also very much an active player in the Shaw Brothers studio. When director Chor Yuen went through his phase of adapting Gu Long novels from the mid-70’s to the early 80’s, Yee was a regular sight in many of them, even playing the lead in the likes of Full Moon Scimitar and Descendant of the Sun.

Sword Master marks the first time both for Yee to attempt a remake, and his first foray into the wuxia genre, however the production definitely comes with the right talents behind the camera. In the producers chair is Tsui Hark, one of the few directors in the world who’s successfully found ways to innovatively use 3D technology during action sequences. Most likely due to Hark’s involvement, the action direction is in the capable hands of Yuen Bun and Dion Lam. Bun has frequently worked with Hark in recent years during his forays into 3D action filmmaking, and you can certainly see him honing his craft when witnessing the progression of the action in the likes of the Detective Dee series, through to the likes of The Taking of Tiger Mountain. He’s one of the few choreographers from the golden era who’s found peace with modern technology, and the same can be said for Dion Lam, who also handled the action in League of Gods, from the same year.

As far as plot goes, for anyone who is even vaguely familiar with the Shaw Brothers adaptions of Gu Long’s novels, you’ll know that things tend to get convoluted very quickly, while somehow still maintaining an acceptable level of coherency. That’s also the case here, so to avoid filling up the next 5 paragraphs with a plot synopsis, I’ll try and keep it short. Events open on a snow covered bridge spanning a frozen lake, as 2 swordsman face off against each other. It’s certainly difficult to think of a more appropriate way to kick off a wuxia movie. One of the swordsman is played by Peter Ho, sporting a tattooed face which almost makes him look like a wuxia version of The Crow, and his only desire is to be the best swordsman in the land, for which he needs to defeat the legendary Third Master.

The role of the Third Master is the character that Yee played in Death Duel almost 30 years prior, and here his shoes are filled by Kenny Lin, who’s left his identity behind and seeks a life of solitude, with his own family declaring him dead. The rumours of his death quickly circulate and throw the martial arts world into disarray, with his ambitious and power craving bride-to-be, played by Jiang Yi-Yan, demanding proof of his death. Away from the chaos, Lin takes on the job of an errand boy in a brothel, and while there begins to fall for the charms of a naïve prostitute, played by Jiang Meng-Jie. However when Lin is sighted by a former adversary, he has to deal with Ho’s fame seeking swordsman, a spurned bride-to-be, and threats from multiple clans that seek to overthrow his family as the leaders of the martial arts world.

For those who have seen Peter Chan’s Wu Xia, the above may sound familiar, as that movie concerned itself with Donnie Yen’s clan member who also gives up his identity for a peaceful life. However those comparisons really only hold up on paper, with Sword Master very much being a different type of production. Indeed out of all the recent Shaw Brothers remakes, it’s arguably Yee’s effort that recaptures the atmosphere of that era of filmmaking the most. In many scenes the surroundings are created by CGI, however the look and feel is not going for realism, just like the many studio bound sets of the Shaw Brothers could never be mistaken for a real outdoor setting. Instead they create a fantastical and mythical setting, one which provides an appropriate backdrop for the lonesome swordsmen and lovelorn swordswomen to muse on their fates and the meaning of it all.

Indeed the script for Sword Master could have come straight out of a Shaw Brothers wuxia. Characters whimsically dwell on what it means to be the best, reminisce on lost love, and deliver such wonderful lines like “I sharpen my blade on talkative men’s throats.” Both Yee and Hark penned the script, along with Chun Tim-Nam, who has worked with both directors before, penning the likes of Seven Swords and The Shinjuku Incident. The dialogue and story are arguably Sword Master’s biggest strengths, ensuring characters motivations and personalities are fully fleshed out, and notably drawing some surprising laughs from a sharp sense of wit occasionally on display.

Old school fans will no doubt appreciate the inclusion of Norman Chu as the father of Lin, which also makes him the only returning cast member from the original. At over 60 years old he cuts a commanding figure, and provides a welcome link to those movies that came before. For those who hope to see him in action, the good news is that he also throws in some slicing and dicing for good measure. While we’re on action, as mentioned previously the expectation that having Yuen Bun and Dion Lam on-board comes with thankfully doesn’t disappoint. Purists will no doubt cry foul at the CGI enhancements, however these are also likely the same purists who complain that the action in the Shaw Brothers wuxia’s is too flowery and stylised. Amongst the shots of flowing material and CGI projectiles, Bun and Lam have crafted some solid swordplay that delivers the goods.

When Norman Chu yells to “Get into formation!” It almost felt like it was the first time hearing this line in such a context since watching movies like Shaolin Intruders and The Emperor and his Brother. The merging of the old-school action style created with modern day filming techniques is never going to please everyone, however if this is the direction that wuxia action is going to take, then it stands as a worthy update and homage to what’s come before. From one-on-one sword duels, to clan vs. clan attacks using a variety of weapons, all of the action scenes are choreographed to a high level, with the performers moving both to avoid real weapons and CGI ones that would be added in post. To perform against an attack that’s not there, and then seamlessly carry on performing choreography against those that are there, is a skill in itself, and shouldn’t be written off as technology doing all the work.

All things considered, Sword Master isn’t just an imitation of the era its source material is from, instead Yee’s movie feels like a bold reimagining of how the wuxia genre can still work using modern technology. If the Shaw Brothers wuxia’s charmed with their sets and elaborate costumes, 90’s wuxia’s wowed with their elaborate wire work and set pieces, then wuxia from this era will hopefully be defined by its strong storytelling and CGI infused action. Let’s hope that for other filmmakers, Sword Master sets the bar.

Paul Bramhall’s Rating: 8.5/10

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Well Go USA’s ‘Beyond Redemption’ hits Blu-ray in February

Beyond Redemption | Blu-ray & DVD (Well Go USA)

Beyond Redemption | Blu-ray & DVD (Well Go USA)

On February 7th, 2017, Well Go USA will be releasing Beyond Redemption to Blu-ray & DVD. This upcoming actioner stars Brian Ho (Marco Polo), Osric Chau (Killing Poe) and Hong Kong cinema great, Eddy Ko (Heroes Shed No Tears).

Beyond Redemption is directed by veteran Hong Kong actor/stuntman Bruce Fontaine (Armour of God II, Once Upon a Time in China, Big Bullet), so we’re expecting to see some of that Hong Kong-style action that comes with Fontaine’s territory.

Beyond Redemption follows a weary undercover cop who must maintain his cover while trying to save the daughter of a notorious Triad Boss from becoming collateral damage in a sting operation gone wrong.

The film also stars Linna Huynh, Tony Towe, Don Lew, Paul Wu, Johnson Phan, Vicky Huang, Darren E. Scott, Patrick Sabongui and Youtube stars Peter Chao, The Chengman and Leenda Dong.

Bonus Materials Include:

  • “Hallway Fight”
  • “Mauler Opening Fight”

Don’t miss the first trailer for Beyond Redemption below:

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Eliminators (2016) Review

"Eliminators" DVD Cover

“Eliminators” DVD Cover

Director: James Nunn
Producer: James Harris
Cast: Scott Adkins, Wade Barrett, Daniel Caltagirone, James Cosmo, Mem Ferda, Ty Glaser, Olivia Mace, Stephen Marcus, Bruce Johnson, Sean Cronin, Richard Carter
Running Time: 94 min.

By Zach Nix

British martial artist and actor Scott Adkins has had a busy year in 2016. He appeared in numerous supporting roles, whether it be within low budget direct to video efforts (i.e. Jarhead 3: The Siege, Home Invasion) or theatrical blockbusters (The Brothers Grimsby, Criminal, Doctor Strange). He also starred within arguably the most anticipated direct to video release of the year, Hard Target 2, the ‘in name only’ sequel to John Woo’s classic original. With all of that work under his belt, Adkins could have stopped there and called it a fruitful and successful year.

However, it appears that Adkins has one last trick up his sleeve for 2016, as he has arguably saved the best for last. His latest direct to video (DTV) release, Eliminators, is easily his best action vehicle of the entire year. While Hard Target 2 may have been the blockbuster DTV event that all action fans were pumped for, Eliminators is the underrated sleeper hit of the year, seemingly coming out of nowhere. Adkins previously worked with the film’s director, James Nunn, on the well-received Green Street 3: Never Back Down. And while that film introduced viewers to Nunn’s abilities as a director of low budget action, it’s clear that he has now joined the ranks of DTV cinema’s finest with Eliminators, one of the most affective DTV actioners in quite a while thanks to an engaging story, genuine tension, and fantastic action sequences.

The plot is fairly straightforward, at least from DTV standards. Adkins plays Thomas, a single father to his younger daughter. After a group of thugs break into his house and threaten he and his child’s life, Thomas has no choice but to kill the men in self-defense. When Thomas’ name and face are plastered all over the news after the incident, his worst fears are realized, as his identity and whereabouts are made public to his former enemies whom forced him into witness protection. Thomas is than placed into a race against time as he must retrieve his daughter and fight off a deadly assassin, Bishop (Stu Bennett), sent by the man whom killed his wife.

Produced by the prestigious WWE studios (it’s nice to see Adkins finally do one of theirs), Eliminators is a nice blend of family drama, witness protection gone wrong, and Terminator-styled cat and mouse chases. It’s all well-paced too, as the family element is introduced first in order to invest viewers in Adkins’ plight before he is plunged into a nearly non-stop showdown against Bennett’s menacing prowess. Nunn crafts some solid tension amidst the two’s chase across London and throws obstacle after obstacle at Adkins once he escapes from police custody.

The final product is made all the better thanks to the film’s showcase of quality DTV action, courtesy of both Adkins’ prime physical abilities and Nunn’s affective direction. There are almost no signs of DTV cinema’s worst crimes, save for a few moments of silly digital green screens on computers or hand held devices and an instance or two of digital sounding text along the bottom of the screen. With the level of production value and quality action on display here, it’s still a shock as to why Adkins is not headlining mid-budgeted theatrical releases, let alone why DTV directors are not graduating to the theatrical big leagues.

Fans of action cinema may notice the connective tissue between Eliminators and other well-regarded action features if they look carefully enough, or if they have seen as many action films as I have. The opening scene is very reminiscent of Adkins’ own Universal Soldier: Day of Reckoning, in which he and his family is assaulted by masked figures. Thankfully, Adkins’ family is not brutally murdered this time, and he actually gets to kick some ass and fight back this time.

This same scene also rings similar to John Wick in which some young punks mess with the wrong person whom has a dangerous past, which thereby sets them off on a crime filled journey against their former employers and enemies. The initial set up of the film is also similar to David Cronenberg’s A History of Violence in which an act of burglary messes with a person’s new found identity and life. All of these recognizable themes and plot points turn Eliminators into a nice melting pot of previously successful action films.

It’s nice to see Adkins star in a film set in his own native country, but it’s a shame that he still has to put on an American accent. I understand that the creative choice is meant to make Adkins’ character seem like an outsider to where he lives, but I just wish that Adkins could let his natural voice let fly. I’ve stated before how wonderful it is to hear Statham let loose his full-fledged British accent in British productions like The Bank Job and Redemption. Therefore, it’s about time that Adkins gets his chance to do so, let alone within a film set in London.

As far as Adkins’ characters come, Thomas is a decent one, very much along the lines of Hard Target 2’s Wes Baylor or Ninja’s Casey Bowman. He’s a strong, dedicated, and honorable man, whom every viewer will admire, but a far cry from the multi-layered complexity of Undisputed’s Yuri Boyka. Action stars like Adkins typically play two kinds of characters, variations of themselves or completely unique and complex individuals that are fairly unlike them. The unique and complex ones are typically the ones that become the most iconic, but there’s nothing wrong with enjoying a shameless action vehicle where the star essentially plays themselves, as Adkins does here.

The rest of the supporting performers are quite good, especially on the villain front. Bennett, also known by his wrestling name Wade Barrett, gives a Terminator-like performance as an unstoppable assassin whom gives Thomas a run for his money. Bennett, previously unheard of and unseen by me, is a surprisingly reliable screen performer, thanks to both his imposing voice and physical stature.

And while Bennett is the main physical villain of the film, the heavy dramatic villain of the film goes to Cooper, played by James Cosmo of many cinematic epics like Braveheart and Troy. His character is especially complex, as he is a gangster whom ‘loves’ his granddaughter, yet wishes for Thomas to be nothing but dead, even though he is her father. Cosmo’s performance in the final few scenes of the film is very affective and helps elevate an otherwise genre-infused thriller a few dramatic notches higher. He also lives in a neon-lit house that looks like something out of Suspiria or a Nicolas Winding Refn film, it’s a neat artistic choice.

Eliminators could have settled for technically sound but repetitive action that would have resulted in a decent or mediocre genre effort. However, what makes its action sequences so affective is how varied and lengthy they are. I am a huge fan of variety, and Eliminators features numerous different types of action sequences in different settings and locales that produce a different experience each time, ranging from one on one throw downs to shootouts with multiple performers. One such notable fight is a throw down between Adkins and two local guys inside of a gondola atop London. It offers up a different opponent for Adkins to fight in between his repeated bouts with Bennett and results in a ‘how did they pull that off’ kind of sequence.

There are also two fights between Adkins and Bennett, which is what most action films will be writing and talking about. Their first is clearly the superior, as it occurs after a solid amount of build-up, while the second sort of pops up out of nowhere. There is also a solid body count on both sides of the coin here, with Adkins killing a nice handful of assailants and Bennett dispatching poor innocents here and there. While on the note of violence, I have to say that some of the deaths of innocent people in this movie really bummed me out. I know that innocent people die in lots of action movies, but it repeatedly happened here all throughout, and to small supporting characters too who clearly didn’t deserve it. All in all, Eliminators is jam packed with action sequences, some more memorable and inventive than others, but all rock solid.

Here I was, thinking that I knew what my top action films of 2016 list would look like, and out of nowhere comes Eliminators, quickly wiggling its way onto the list. While James Nunn was previously unknown to me, his name is now synonymous with the likes of Roel Reine, John Hyams, and Isaac Florentine, as he knows action, but also has a nice handling on character and story, with room for improvement here and there. Next time a DTV joint by Nunn pops up, such as the currently in development The Marine 5, I’ll know to get excited and not simply wait for the finished product, as Nunn knows his stuff.

As for Adkins, Eliminators is one of his absolute best films. It may not feature the dramatically compelling character work of the Undisputed films, or the sheer B-movie action of Ninja: Shadow of a Tear, but what it does offer is a sleek, streamlined, assassin-showdown picture that is nothing but simplistic and affective action entertainment. It’s clearly a one-off, and not designed for sequels, but Eliminators is easily Adkins’ crowning achievement of the year, as well as the best DTV actioner of 2016.

Zach Nix’s Rating: 8/10 

Posted in All, Asian Related, News, Reviews | Tagged , | 9 Comments

Deal on Fire! Wolf Warrior | Blu-ray | Only $7.38 – Expires soon!

Wolf Warrior | Blu-ray & DVD (Well Go USA)

Wolf Warrior | Blu-ray & DVD (Well Go USA)

Today’s Deal on Fire is the Blu-ray for Special Force: Wolf Warrior (aka Wolf WarWolf or Warg) an action/martial arts flick directed by, and starring Wu Jing (SPL, SPL 2).

The film (read our review) also stars Scott Adkins (Universal Soldier: Day of Reckoning), Kevin Lee (Pound of Flesh), Deng Ziyi (Pay Back), Sona Eyambe (Zombie 108), Kyle Shapiro (Dragon Blade), Samuel Thivierge (In the End) and Nan Yu (The Expendables 2).

A sequel is currently in production. Jacky Wu Jing (SPL II: A Time for Consequences) is once again starring and directing.

Order Wolf Warrior from Amazon.com today!

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Nick Cheung tackles gangster genre for next directorial film

"The White Storm" Theatrical Poster

“The White Storm” Theatrical Poster

Hong Kong actor/filmmaker Nick Cheung (The White Storm) is stepping out of his comfort zone by making a gangster-themed movie called Diya Cao, which will serve as his 3rd directorial project. You may recall that his first two features – 2014’s Hungry Ghost Ritual and 2015’s Keeper of the Darkness – were both horror genre films.

According to AFS, Diya Cao (meaning “Low Pressure Tank”) starts filming in early 2017. There’s currently no word if Cheung will also be starring, but if his work on Hungry Ghost Ritual and Keeper of the Darkness are any indication, we expect Cheung to be in front of the camera as well.

We’ll keep you updated as we hear more. Until then, here’s the trailer for Cheung’s 2nd directorial film, Keeper of the Darkness:

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Bounty Hunters (2016) Review

bounthunters

“Bounty Hunters” Theatrical Poster

Director: Shin Tae-Ra
Producer: Raymond Wong
Cast: Lee Min-ho, Wallace Chung, Tiffany Tang, Jeremy Xu, Karena Ng, Fan Siu-Wong, Yang Mi
Running Time: 105 min.

By Paul Bramhall

In 2016 China continued its mission to create a watchable Hollywood style action blockbuster, and this time they’ve called in some help to back them up. Bounty Hunters is produced by Hong Kong based Raymond Wong, and perhaps sensing that leaving such a blockbuster in local hands could result in something that resembles a sequel to Switch, the directorial reigns have been given to Korean Shin Tae-ra. The director behind such middle-of-the-road Korean action comedies like My Girlfriend is an Agent and Runway Cop, Tae-ra may not be a hot ticket to success, but his background does make him an obvious choice to helm a globe-trotting action adventure.

Tae-ra isn’t the only Korean influence in Bounty Hunters though, with Lee Min-ho also coming on-board as co-lead alongside Chinese actor Wallace Chung. Min-ho is known for his handsome looks, and in most of his career has arguably been cast in many a Korean TV drama because of them, which has resulted in him having a huge fan-base not only locally, but also in China. However his previous movie role, as the lead in 2014’s Gangnam Blues, proved him to be more than just screen candy, with a convincingly gritty performance that also allowed him to show off his action chops.

As mentioned Min-ho is paired with Wallace Chung, and in Bounty Hunters they play a pair of slacker bodyguards. Both used to be agents for Interpol, but due to the usual story of a mission gone wrong, they were dismissed, and now run their own agency to provide their services to those who need protection. The pair are hired to protect an informant, who has information on a terrorist responsible for blowing up hotels across Asia, however when things go wrong and the informant is compromised, they end up in the cross-hairs of a pair of female bounty hunters, played by Tiffany Tang and Karena Ng. Oh, and their gay butler played by Fan Siu-Wong.

If that last line seems a little out of place compared to the rest of the plot description, then let me further adjust expectations, that it’s the last line which represents the tone of Bounty Hunters more than anything else written. It may not reach the towering badness of Switch (and none of the actors have apologised yet for appearing in it), however this has more to do with it having a marginally shorter run time than anything related to the move itself. Bounty Hunters is the kind of bad movie that only China seems capable of making, the type of bad movie ear marked by the ridiculously high budget that’s been thrown at it, and the ridiculously low level of talent tasked with making it.

Illogical decision making and incoherent story telling are the orders of the day, built around a script that was probably written on the back of a coaster by a chimp. At one point Min-ho and Chung check into a hotel room with the informant, and find a cake waiting for them on the table. Identifying that it’s a bomb, instead of attempting to dispose of it, they simply leave it in the room and calmly vacate the hotel, leaving it to go off and wipe out who knows how many innocent lives. There are countless more examples. As they’re witnessed with the informant, the pair end up as suspects behind the bombings, however not once do they ever run into any cops or law enforcement during the whole run-time. This might be 1% plausible if they remain in Hong Kong, however the fact that they then then travel unhindered to Tokyo in Japan, Incheon and Jeju Island in Korea, and Bangkok in Thailand, doesn’t just demand that you leave you brain at the door, it assumes you never had one if the first place.

Let’s talk about Fan Siu-Wong. He must have had a gun held to his head to appear in this, either that, or work must be really scarce for talented martial artists in 2016. Siu-Wong has long been one of the most underrated martial arts stars of Hong Kong cinema, and never really got the break he deserved, partly due to what he blames on his decision to star in 1992’s hyper-violent Story of Ricky. While this may be true, whatever movies he does appear in are usually brightened up by his kung-fu skills and likeable presence. Not so here. In the role of Tang’s heiress characters gay butler, he has precisely zero action scenes (unless you count displaying some shapes work to open motion sensor curtains). Instead, he’s reduced to being a personal fashion assistant to Min-ho and Chung when they go on a shopping trip, acts as everyone’s waiter, and pines after Min-ho.

Min-ho himself doesn’t fare much better. It becomes apparent from the moment the movie starts that he’s there to bring in his large female fan-base, and little else. His job is to look pretty, and to that end he performs it well. Even when he’s been involved in a high impact car crash, he emerges out of it with cuts that look pretty. To ensure a tone of glaring predictability is maintained, a romance develops between Min-ho and Tang, which brings the male and female bounty hunters together. The pair share a scene tied up and locked in the trunk of a car together, clearly trying to recreate the similar scene of sexual tension that George Clooney and Jennifer Lopez performed so well in Out of Sight. However they have a non-existent chemistry, and instead the scene is embarrassing and awkward to watch, even more so than the rest of the movie.

As a villain of the piece, Chinese actor Jeremy Xu is an irritating failure. Sporting orange hair and suit shorts, his reasoning behind blowing up the hotels relates to his rich parent issues, and is about as threatening as he sounds. That is, not at all. His character talks a lot, jumps and screams even more, and constantly refers to the explosions that he watches from nearby vantage points as ‘fireworks’. No matter how much of the script is taken up by his inane ramblings though, the fact is orange hair and suit shorts don’t amount to a worthy villain, and it’s impossible to ascertain how anyone involved in the production thought otherwise.

There is action in Bounty Hunters, it is after all an action comedy, and most of it goes to Min-ho, most likely for no other reason than no appeal to the audience that are watching it for his presence. The action scenes are brief, but manage to maintain a degree of competency. One particular sequence has him taking on a room full of suited attackers, which thanks to some camera trickery gives the illusion of being filmed in a single shot, and the usual wire-assisted high kicks are present and accounted for as well. Tang doesn’t fare so well, as she cuts such a slight figure that it’s impossible to believe there’s any degree of power behind her blows, with it instead falling upon the stuntmen to make their reactions and falls look convincing.

As a comedy, it fares much worse. The scenes that involve characters speaking English invoke laughter for all the wrong reasons, thanks both to the actor’s delivery and the lines themselves, which have blatantly been written by a non-English speaker. However the intentional comedy is a write off. Several scenes aim to derive their laughs from the use of a stun gun, usually involving one of the bounty hunters threatening to use it, in a way that will have the others being caught in its range. However watching a group of grown-ups having spasms and twitching on the floor in a ‘comedic’ manner wasn’t funny in the first scenario, so when the same joke is recycled for a second time, it’s just lazy. The procrastination that takes place in these scenes, almost as if Tae-ra is imagining the audience settling down from their side splitting laughter before delivering the punch line, is equally as painful to watch.

The problem with these big budget Mainland China movies is that, even if every review reaches the same conclusion that they’re terrible, local audiences still flock to see them. It happened with Switch, and it will happen here as well. Lee Min-ho is in it, so that factor in itself brings a built-in guaranteed audience. It’s a smart business case which will likely ensure a return on investment, but as a legitimate piece of filmmaking it’s a soulless exercise, as incompetently made as it is glossy. For those wondering what kind of movie would have a final scene that contains Fan Siu-Wong attempting to French kiss Lee Min-ho while straddling him, then you’ve come to the right place, for everyone else, steer well clear.

Paul Bramhall’s Rating: 2/10

Posted in All, Chinese, Korean, News, Reviews | Tagged , , | 1 Comment

The hunt for Filipino martial arts begins with ‘Blood Hunters’

"Blood Hunters" Promotional Poster

“Blood Hunters” Promotional Poster

With Erik Matti’s Buy Bust and Pedring Lopez’ Breach in early stages of production, a new film titled Blood Hunters is definitely a taste of what’s yet to come in the world of Filipino martial arts cinema.

“My main motivation in doing Blood Hunters is to improve the appreciation of Filipino martial arts. We have to change people’s perspective about it,” prizefighter-turned-filmmaker Vincent Soberano (Police Story: 2013) told MB, who also stars in the film.

Blood Hunters, which recently won Best Short at the Cinemax HBO Action Film Competition and the Urban Action Showcase & Expo, involves a squad of ruthless demon hunters who take on Aswang, a breed of supernatural beings from Negros Island in the Philippines.

Blood Hunters also stars John Arceo (Amok), Janice Hung (Wansapanataym) and Taekwondo Olympian-turned-Makati Congressman Monsour Del Rosario (Techno Warriors, Bloodfist II).

Hopefully Blood Hunters will pop up in some way, shape or form for the rest of the world to see, but until then, take a silip at this trailer:

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Operation Chromite | Blu-ray & DVD (Sony)

Operation Chromite | Blu-ray & DVD (Sony)

Operation Chromite | Blu-ray & DVD (Sony)

RELEASE DATE: January 24, 2017

John H. Lee’s (71: Into the Fire) South Korean actioner, Operation Chromite, is exploding its way to Blu-ray & DVD on January 24, 2017, courtesy of Sony Pictures Home Entertainment.

Operation Chromite stars Lee Jung-jae (Assassination), Jin Se-yun (Enemies In-Law), Lee Beom-su (The Divine Move) and Liam Neeson (Taken), who portrays General Douglas MacArthur.

According to THR, Operation Chromite is the codename for the Battle of Incheon that took place on Sept. 15, 1950, shortly after the Korean War broke out on June 25. It was a surprise attack in which U.N. forces landed in the South Korean harbor city to drive out the North Koreans, and is recognized as a turning point for U.N.-backed South Korea against the communist North. Operation Chromite will focus on eight Korean war heroes.

Pre-order Operation Chromite from Amazon.com today!

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

New Chinese Trailer for ‘Rogue One: A Star Wars Story’

"Rogue One: A Star Wars Story" Japanese Theatrical Poster

“Rogue One: A Star Wars Story” Japanese Theatrical Poster

Releasing on December 16, 2016 is Star Wars: Rogue One (aka Rogue One: A Star Wars Story), which will be the first theatrical Star Wars spin-off.

In a time of conflict, a group of unlikely heroes band together on a mission to steal the plans to the Death Star, the Empire’s ultimate weapon of destruction. This key event in the Star Wars timeline brings together ordinary people who choose to do extraordinary things, and in doing so, become part of something greater than themselves.

Star Wars: Rogue One is directed by Gareth Edwards (2014’s Godzilla) and is based on a screenplay written by John Knoll, Chris Weitz (Cinderella), Gary Whitta (The Book of Eli) and Christopher McQuarrie (Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation).

The film stars Felicity Jones (The Theory of Everything), Riz Ahmed (Nightcrawler), Diego Luna (Blood Father), Ben Mendelsohn (Killing Them Softly), Forest Whitaker (Bloodsport), Donnie Yen (Ip Man 3), Jiang Wen (Let the Bullets Fly), Mads Mikkelsen (Hannibal) and the voice of Alan Tudyk (Firefly).

During a recent Reddit AMA (see photo), when asked his thoughts on being involved with Star Wars and how Rogue One will compare to the other movies, Donnie Yen replied with: “I think it’s really flattering to be the first Chinese actor in the Star Wars universe and I have full confidence Rogue One will do extremely well, because the force is with me.” Yen also promised the New York Daily News that he’ll do more than just pilot an X-Wing in the film, leading fans to believe he’ll display his martial arts prowess over the course of Rogue One.

Media: Teaser Trailer. | Celebration Reel. | TV Spot. | 1st Trailer. | 1st International Trailer. | 2nd Trailer. | TV Spot 2 | “Together” TV Spot | 2nd International Trailer | IMAX Poster. | 3rd International Trailer | “Hope” TV Spot. | Featurette. | “Jyn & Cassian” TV Spot. | Dream TV Spot. | Trust Trailer. | Effects Featurette. | “Worth It” TV Spot. | 4th International Trailer.

Updates: Watch the new Chinese Trailer below:

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Make Your Own Fun Movie Bingo Night

bingo

Last weekend I went to see a movie at the theatre with some friends. It wasn’t a new movie, yet there were a good number of us, mostly couples. When we got in, this particular theatre was quite dank; I felt they needed to let in some fresh air.

It’s great when you can relax and watch a movie, but when you consciously have to breathe, it can ruin a movie. So, for the sake of Gina, who by the way was enjoying the movie, I sat it out and saw it to the end. When it ended, it was a relief to finally get some fresh air outside.

Gina kept talking about cliché moments in the movie and we laughed about it. While we were getting milkshakes, I suddenly had an idea for our next movie night. Why not play movie bingo at home? We could use movie clichés. I told Gina about it and she liked the idea. She suggested some free bingo sites with no deposits; a list of top sites that could give us information for our homemade bingo.

So here it goes. This weekend, this is what we are going to do:

To start with, Gina will get the refreshments. I usually have a problem with eating in the dark- perhaps, that’s why my movie theatre game is so bad. But with home movie-watching, I can adjust the lighting to the perfect shade. Not too dark, not too bright.

While Gina gets the popcorn, crisps, chocolates and some soda, I’ll visit a few bingo sites and download a bingo game card. Or I can make some myself.

How to Play

Movie bingo is quite easy. Both of us get a card (the downloaded one). Each card is filled with pictures of actions that usually happen in movies- the clichés. They may include; a romantic dinner, a couple in the shower, a car chase, a hospital scene and so on. Of course, the clichés will depend on the type of movie you are seeing.

Anytime we see one of these things occur in the movie, we mark it off. Placing plastic tokens on the square makes it easier to reuse. The first person to yell BINGO! (horizontal, diagonal, or vertical) wins. The winner also gets chocolate.

There are bingo game cards for action movies, romantic comedies, adventure and more. You can either make the pictures yourself (if you are a Warhol), or simply download from here or a bingo site.

bingo2

This weekend, it’s my turn to pick a movie, so I am going with something more like action. I know, it’s cliché. But since this game is all about clichés, I might as well indulge.

You can play it too. Invite friends; the more the merrier. Additionally, if nobody’s driving, you can spice it up by making a drinking game out of it. Each time your cliché image comes up, take a swig- that sort of thing.

I can hardly wait. I haven’t decided on a movie yet, but I am thinking John Wick. It’s one of my favourites. What do you think?

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The Handmaiden | DVD (Sony)

The Handmaiden | DVD (Sony)

The Handmaiden | DVD (Sony)

RELEASE DATE: January 24, 2017

From visionary director Park Chan-wook (Old Boy, Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance) comes The Handmaiden, a film adaptation of Sarah Waters’ 2002 novel, Fingersmith.

The Handmaiden will be getting a DVD release from Sony Pictures Home Entertainment on January 24, 2017 (unfortunately, no Blu-ray release is listed).

The Handmaiden is a gripping and sensual tale of two women – a young Japanese Lady living on a secluded estate, and a Korean woman who is hired to serve as her new handmaiden, but is secretly plotting with a conman to defraud her of a large inheritance.

The Handmaiden stars Kim Min-hee (No Tears for the Dead), Kim Tae-ri (Little Forest), Ha Jung-woo (Kundo: Age of the Rampant), Kim Hae-sook (Helios), Cho Jin-woong (Assassination) and Moon So-ri (Oasis).

Pre-order The Handmaiden from Amazon.com today!

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