New Trailer for Orlando Bloom/Simon Yam actioner ‘极致追击’

"S.M.A.R.T. Chase" Theatrical Poster

“S.M.A.R.T. Chase” Theatrical Poster

Charles Martin, who is perhaps best known for directing episodes of the UK TV series Skins, is starting his film debut with a bang with S.M.A.R.T. Chase (aka Smart Chase: Fire & Earth), a British-Chinese actioner with an all-star, international cast that includes Orlando Bloom (Pirates of the Caribbean), Lynn Hung (Ip Man 3), Simon Yam (Mrs K) and Xing Yu (Kung Fu Jungle).

In S.M.A.R.T. Chase, a washed-up private security agent has to escort a valuable Chinese antique out of Shanghai but is ambushed en route.

S.M.A.R.T. Chase releases domestically on September 30, 2017. Until then, check out the film’s Newest Trailer below:

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Prison | Blu-ray & DVD (Well Go USA)

Prison | Blu-ray & DVD (Well Go USA)

Prison | Blu-ray & DVD (Well Go USA)

RELEASE DATE: September 19, 2017

On September 19, 2017, Well Go USA will release the Blu-ray & DVD for Na Hyeon’s South Korean thriller Prison (read our review), starring Han Suk-Kyu (Tell Me Something) and Kim Rae-Won (Gangnam Blues).

After a fatal accident, Yu-gon, a former police inspector, is sentenced to a prison he once helped fill. Once inside, he discovers the entire penitentiary is no longer controlled by the guards, but by a crime syndicate that breaks out at night, using their prison sentences as the perfect alibi to commit intricate heists. Looking for revenge against the system that placed him inside, Yu-gon joins the syndicate…

Pre-order Prison from today!

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Kara Hui and Anthony Wong get ‘Stained’ while in action

"Stained" Promotional Poster

“Stained” Promotional Poster

Kara Hui (Wu Xia, Mrs K), the martial arts icon famous for appearing in Shaw Brothers films like My Young Auntie and Eight Diagram Pole Fighter, is back in action with Stained, an upcoming Fox mini-series directed by Patrick Kong (72 Tenants of Prosperity).

The upcoming series also stars Hong Kong heavy Anthony Wong (Ebola Syndrome, The Sleep Curse) and Tse Kwan Ho (Full Strike).

According to VarietyStained is filmed entirely in Hong Kong. It features five one-hour episodes each inspired by real-life crimes that happened in the territory over the past five years and which had caused a sensation in the city.

Stained is scheduled to be broadcast globally later this year on SCM, Fox Networks’ Asia-wide Chinese movie channel. It will also be available to subscribers on Fox+. Until then, don’t miss the Trailer for Hui’s latest, Mrs K (read our review):

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Deal on Fire! Ultimate Chuck Norris Bundle | Blu-ray | Only $38.95 – 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 $7.79 a movie – only thing on earth who can top this deal is Chuck Norris himself!

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Cartels | aka Killing Salazar | Blu-ray & DVD (Lionsgate)

Cartels | aka Killing Salazar | Blu-ray & DVD (Lionsgate)

Cartels | aka Killing Salazar | Blu-ray & DVD (Lionsgate)

RELEASE DATE: September 19, 2017

On September 19, 2017, Lionsgate will be releasing the Blu-ray & DVD (the film is currently available via VOD) for Keoni Waxman’s Cartels (aka Killing Salazar). The film stars Steven Seagal (Contract to KillEnd of Gun), MMA’s Georges St Pierre (Kickboxer: Vengeance) and Luke Goss (Tekken).

In Cartels, (read our review), an elite team of DEA agents are assigned to protect a drug lord and take refuge in a luxury hotel while they await extraction. They soon find themselves at the center of an ambush as the drug lord’s former associates launch an explosive assault on the hotel.

Stay tuned for pre-order information.

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

Rage | aka Anger (2016) Review

"Rage" Japanese Theatrical Poster

“Rage” Japanese Theatrical Poster

Director: Sang-il Lee
Writer: Shuichi Yoshida, Sang-il Lee
Cast: Gou Ayano, Satoshi Tsumabuki, Mitsuki Takahata, Hideko Hara, Ken Watanabe, Kenichi Matsuyama, Aoi Miyazaki, Chizuru Ikewaki, Mirai Moriyama, Suzu Hirose, Takara Sakumoto, Pierre Taki, Takahiro Miura
Running Time: 142 min.

By Martin Sandison

As I settled down to watch Rage, my second last film of this year’s Edinburgh International Film Festival, I had no idea what to expect. Director Sang Il Lee’s previous films I had heard of, but had yet to catch. The film I saw was perhaps all the better for it, as I had no frame of reference for the masterful narrative that unfolded before my eyes. Now I can’t wait to see his other films, especially the remake of Unforgiven, as the original is one of my favourite Westerns. Lee attended the festival, and despite my best efforts I couldn’t secure an interview with him. I did, however, have a chat to him at a party and we discussed our favourite Japanese and Korean directors. My introduction was: “I loved your movie”. Now let me tell you why…

A serial killer is on the loose, having perpetrated a double murder. Three seemingly unrelated storylines revolve around this central narrative. In Chiba, Maki (Watanabe, The Last Samurai) is down on his luck, but has helped his daughter Aoki (Aoi Miyazaki, Eureka) get away from a life as a sex worker. She falls for a local man Tashiro (Kenichi Matsuyama, Death Note), but suspects him as being the killer because he is going under a fake name. In Tokyo, in-the-closet businessman Yuma (Satoshi Tsumabuki, The World of Kanako) meets Naoto (Go Ayano, Lupin the 3rd), and the two have a close relationship. But Yuma suspects Naoto as being the killer as he has three moles on his cheek, as the killer does. In Okinawa, Izumi (Suzu Hirose, Chihayafaru) and her sensitive boyfriend-to-be Tatsuya (Takara Sakimoto) stumble upon drifter Tanaka (Mirai Moriyama, Fish Story), and the three become close.

The last paragraph is possibly the longest I have ever written for a plot description, and let me tell you, this film warrants it. So complex, yet so involving, the narrative had me enraptured from start to finish. Although the strands don’t intersect until the end, there is no sense that they really need to, as the themes of the film are so prevalent. These involve the nature of trust in the modern world (none of the characters trust their new friends or partners) and what leads a human to kill. While keeping the viewer guessing as to who is the serial killer, each story is in and of itself very interesting.

Director Lee is himself Zainichi Korean-Japanese, and he has lived and worked in Japan his whole life. This gives him a unique slant on life in Japan, one which is different from his contemporaries such as Kiyoshi Kurosawa (whose film Creepy contains some similarities to Rage). In fact, Lee’s first film Chong was about third generation Koreans living in Japan. He obviously has vested interest in his roots and what it means to be Zainichi, and this creates a very immersive cinematic world. Influences ranging from classic Japanese cinema such as Masaki Kobayashi to the Korean new wave are evident, but Lee rises above them with an original voice.

The acting across the board is nothing less than absolutely fantastic. Watanabe is cast against type as a man with a lot of failings, but who is a very kind hearted soul. Of course, he nails it and proves again he is one of the best actors in world cinema. Tsumabuki is superb as Yuma, a man with swaggering confidence whose laissez faire attitude can get him in trouble. His relationship with Tashiro is wonderfully drawn, with a vast depth of emotion. Izumi suffers the most in the film, and Hirose captures this loss of innocence brilliantly.

Style-wise Rage is strong but not flashy; this serves the themes and storylines of the film and never detracts from them. There are some stand out shots that deserve to be seen on the big screen, but this movie is not about visuals. At times it is a little basically shot, but this actually enhances the performances of the actors.

Both my friend and I commented afterwards that the rape scene in the middle of the film is too long and drawn out, and perhaps didn’t need to be there at all. However, director Lee said in the Q & A afterwards that he wanted to comment on the incidents of rape by American GI’s in Okinawa, which has become a big issue in recent times. After hearing this and considering the rest of the film, I believe it is necessary to appreciate the point the film is making.

Overall, Rage is one of the best films I’ve seen in the last year, and I would urge anyone who is into the drama genre to catch it. There are moments of abuse and violence, but these are few and far between when becoming glued to the screen with the film’s great narratives. A special mention goes to the soundtrack by the legendary Ryuichi Sakamoto (Merry Christmas Mr. Lawrence), that builds to a masterful crescendo come the emotionally fraught ending of the film. Highly recommended.

Martin Sandison’s Rating: 9/10

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‘I Saw the Devil’ writer revisits serial killers in ‘V.I.P.’

"V.I.P." Korean Theatrical Poster

“V.I.P.” Korean Theatrical Poster

Park Hoon-jung – the director of New World, Tiger: An Old Hunter’s Tale and writer of I Saw the Devil – returns to the dark world of sadistic killers in V.I.P, an upcoming South Korean noir/thriller about the son of a high-ranking North Korean official who is suspected of committing serial murders around the world.

V.I.P. stars Jang Dong-Gun (No Tears for the Dead), Kim Myung-Min (Man of Vendetta), Park Hee-Soon (The Age of Shadows), Lee Jong-Suk (Hot Young Bloods) and a supporting role by Swedish actor, Peter Stormare (John Wick: Chapter 2, Kill ‘Em All).

V.I.P. will see a domestic release in August of 2017. Don’t miss the film’s Trailer below:

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Romano, Pesci, De Niro & Pacino for Scorsese’s ‘Irishman’

"Goodfellas" Japanese Theatrical Poster

“Goodfellas” Japanese Theatrical Poster

Martin Scorsese’s (The Departed) upcoming Robert De Niro/Al Pacino mob picture, The Irishman, will finally start production in August of this year, with a Netflix release date pending in 2019.

According to DeadlineThe 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.

The Irishman will reunite Scorsese with De Niro for the first time since 1995’s Casino. It will also mark the director’s first collaboration with Pacino. De Niro and Pacino will be playing the roles of Frank ‘The Irishman’ Sheeran and Jimmy Hoffa, respectively.

There are reports suggesting that The Irishman will use Benjamin Button-esque special effects, which will be applied to flashback scenes making De Niro and Pacino appear younger looking.

Don’t expect Goodfellas, implies Scorsese (via TI): “I think this is different, I think it is. I admit that there are – you know, Goodfellas and Casino have a certain style that I created for them – it’s on the page in the script actually. Putting Goodfellas together was almost like an afterthought, at times I was kind of rushing, I felt I’d already done it because I’d played it all out in terms of the camera moves and the editing and that sort of thing. The style of the picture, the cuts, the freeze-frames, all of this was planned way in advance, but here it’s a little different. The people are also older in The Irishman, it’s certainly more about looking back, a retrospective so to speak of a man’s life and the choices that he’s had to make.”

Updates: Funny guy Ray Romano has joined The Irishman. Ray will play Bill Bufalino, a Teamster lawyer with ties to the mob (via THR). News of Ray’s involvement comes a day after production announced the inclusion of Joe Pesci (Goodfellas). Stephen Graham has also joined the production as Genovese mob cappo Tony “Pro” Provenzano. Bobby Cannavale and Harvey Keitel are attached to the project, but have not been officially confirmed.

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Bluebeard | Blu-ray & DVD (Well Go USA)

Bluebeard | Blu-ray & DVD (Well Go USA)

Bluebeard | Blu-ray & DVD (Well Go USA)

RELEASE DATE: August 15, 2017

South Korean writer/director Lee So-Youn (The Uninvited) is back with more thrills and chills with Bluebeard, a new film that’s getting a Blu-ray & DVD release on August 15, 2017 from Well Go USA.

When a doctor learns a murderous secret from a sedated patient, he finds himself in the middle of an unsolved serial murder case. As dismembered bodies start showing up close to home, the doctor races to solve the riddle before the killer realizes what he may know.

Bluebeard stars Cho Jin-Woong (The Handmaiden), Shin Goo (The Foul King), Kim Dae-Myung (Inside Men) and Lee Chung-Ah (The Good, the Bad, the Weird).

Pre-order Bluebeard from today!

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

The answer is violence in the ‘Wolf Warrior II’ U.S. Trailer

"Wolf Warrior II" Chinese Theatrical Poster

“Wolf Warrior II” Chinese Theatrical Poster

On July 28th, the sequel to Wu Jing’s Wolf Warrior is exploding its way to U.S. theaters courtesy of Well Go USA. Wu (SPL II) is once again starring and directing.

This time around, Wolf Warrior II (read our review) will feature Olympic gymnast Zou Kai, Celina Jade (Skin Trade), Hans Zhang (Youth Never Returns) and Frank Grillo (The Grey). Yu Nan (The Taking of Tiger Mountain), who starred in the original, reprises her role.

For Wolf Warrior II, which takes place in a war-torn African country, Wu aims to topple the original. He enlisted Hong Kong veteran Jack Wong (SPL II) and Sam Hargrave (fight coordinator for Blood and Bone) for the action. Hollywood heavies, The Russo Brothers (Captain America: Civil War), were also brought in to help elevate the action.

Don’t miss the film’s New U.S. Trailer below:

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Fantasy and martial arts collide in ‘Legend of the Naga Pearls’

"Legend of the Naga Pearls" Theatrical Poster

“Legend of the Naga Pearls” Theatrical Poster

Ready for a heavy dose of fantasy-infused martial arts action? If so, then Yang Lei’s Legend of the Naga Pearls is right up your alley. This upcoming film stars Darren Wang (Railroad Tigers), Crystal Zhang (The Founding of an Army), Sheng Guansen (City Monkey), Simon Yam (The Midnight After) and Xing Yu (Call of Heroes).

After being defeated by humans centuries ago, the Winged Tribe has lost their ability to fly. Seeking vengeance, a royal descendant of the tribe has begun searching for the magical Naga Pearls, which he plans to use to destroy the humans. When the legendary pearls fall into – and out of – the hands of Heiyu, a wily human street punk, he must join a team of unlikely heroes as they race to prevent the destruction of their people in this magical fantasy adventure.

Legend of the Naga Pearls is getting a U.S. release from Well Go USA on August 25th, 2017.

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Hide and Seek (2013) Review

"Hide and Seek" Korean Theatrical Poster

“Hide and Seek” Korean Theatrical Poster

Director: Huh Jung
Writer: Huh Jung
Producer: Kim Eui-Sung
Cast: Son Hyun-Joo, Jeon Mi-Sun, Moon Jeong-Hee, Jung Joon-Won, Kim Soo-Ahn, Kim Ji-Young, Kim Won-Hae
Running Time: 107 min.

By Paul Bramhall

It’s always refreshing when an Asian horror movie is released that doesn’t revolve around long haired black ghosts or tormented spirits, so when director and screenwriter Huh Jung made his debut with 2013’s Hide and Seek, it came as a welcome addition to the genre. The hook was simple yet terrifying, posing the question of what if someone else was living in your property other than just you, but you had no idea? While it’s not an idea that’s never been used before, Kim Ki-duk’s 2004 production 3 Iron notably used the same concept but with romantic trappings, the decision to use it as a basis for a horror movie was an undeniable stroke of genius.

The opening of Hide and Seek sets a deliberately creepy tone. Taking place in a dreary and dilapidated port side town, we follow a smartly dressed young woman as she makes her way home late night from the office, briskly walking past the rows of parked trucks and the sleeping drivers within. The apartment block she’s staying in has clearly seen better days, its stained walls and criss-crossing concrete structure providing a distinctly foreboding feel, as it becomes apparent that she lives there. Upon arriving in her apartment, she soon notices some of her belongings aren’t in the same place she left them. Convinced that it’s her weird next door neighbour that’s been creeping around in her place, she promptly goes to confront him, furiously banging on his front door and demanding he come out, but all to no response. However when she returns to her own apartment to cool off, it’s soon revealed that she’s not alone.

It’s a textbook opening of how to immediately get an audience’s attention, and it works perfectly. The brief sighting of a figure, their head covered by an old motorcycle helmet, decked out fully in black, effectively plugs into the primitive fear of a stranger that could be hiding in the very place we feel the most safe. After the unsettling opening, we’re introduced to the principle characters of the piece. Son Hyun-joo (The Phone) and Jeon Mi-seon (Mother) play husband and wife along with their two kids, who have re-located back to Seoul from America, and now live in one of the Korean capitals modern apartment complexes. It’s a world away from the run down environment of the opening, and the cinematography does a stellar job of conveying the bright and clean contemporary look of their home.

However despite the contrast in environments, Jung keeps an almost constant sense of underlying tension. While they appear like the perfect nuclear family, it soon becomes apparent that Hyun-joo has a serious case of OCD. It’s never overtly stated, but rather conveyed in seemingly throwaway shots, such as his insistence on turning every can in the fridge label forward, and Mi-seon casually mentioning if he’s been taking his pills, all of which play their part in hinting that not everything is as idyllic as it seems. The plot really kicks in though when Hyun-joo receives a call that his brother, who’s recently been released from prison, has gone missing. The police found Hyun-joo’s number scrawled in a notebook in the apartment he was residing in, along with a note stating that he’s going to disappear for a while, and as expected, the apartment is the one next door to the woman we follow in the opening.

Jung deserves credit for weaving together a tale with a number of both openly conveyed and indirect sub-plots, and for a debut director he balances them all with a level of confidence that belies his relative lack of experience. Apart from the most obvious question of whether Hyun-joo’s missing brother is the murderer, as an audience we feel equally invested in knowing why Hyun-joo developed OCD, why was his brother in prison, and why does Hyun-joo seem surprised that he’s been released? The casting of Hyun-joo was a smart choice, in a performance that makes him both a believable husband and father, while also portraying the nuances of someone who it gradually becomes increasingly clear is harbouring some dark secrets. He may not be a familiar name, but he’s played the lead in a countless number of mid-budget productions, and is always a reliable presence.

Almost as much of a character as the actors in Hide and Seek, is the dilapidated apartment building that the brother lives in. Hyun-joo and his family initially go there together, looking as out of place in the neighbourhood as a steak in a vegan restaurant. While initially disgusted by what they find in the filthy abode, Hyun-joo’s personality soon sees him sticking around to try and root out the answers he’s looking for. Eventually he meets with another family living there, a shabby looking mother and daughter who are initially welcoming, but upon learning that the man Hyun-joo is looking for is his brother, violently scream at him to leave and make his brother “stop peeping” at them. The suggestion that the woman wasn’t the only target for the mysterious masked figure ups the ante considerably, and Hyun-joo’s discovery of strange markings under each door buzzer only cranks things up even more, especially when the same markings appear in his own apartment block.

Jung crafts some wonderful scenes of terror into the tight 1 hr 45 min runtime. One of my favorites of which has the mysterious figure knocking on the door of Hyun-joo’s apartment, knowing that only the two kids are at home, which draws its suspense from the natural urge anyone has to open the door in such a situation. With their mother on the phone, the more she tells them to ignore it, the more frantic the knocking becomes, until the door is almost being pounded off the hinges, all the while with the kids sitting right in front of it. It’s executed perfectly, with the camera angle looking up at the door from the kid’s perspective, knowing that some unseen terror is just on the other side of it.

However, as much as it pains me to say it, Hide and Seek throws in a twist about two thirds of the way in, which simply beggars belief. There has been so much build up for most of the movie – flashbacks to Hyun-joo and his brothers past, the revelation that his brother had been enquiring into who the true owner of Hyun-joo’s property is, the daughter constantly feeling under the weather after visiting the apartment, and even a homeless guy who attempts to abduct the kids. Part of the appeal of all these separate elements is waiting to see how they’ll fit together, but in Hide and Seek, they don’t. Almost everything implicated in the bulk of the movie is simply ignored, and it randomly becomes like a Korean version of Dream Home.

My only theory with this is that Jung must have started his story backwards, knowing how he wanted to end it, then looked at how he could incorporate in as many red herrings as possible to throw the audience off the true nature of what’s happening. However the huge problem with this is that, what turn out to be the red herrings are actually the most interesting parts of Hide and Seek, so for them to suddenly be revealed to have no bearing on the conclusion is a deflating experience. The finale also decides to throw logic out of the window. A big part of the creepiness that permeated the old apartment building was its state of disrepair and age, making it feel perfectly plausible that someone could move between the units without being noticed. That could never work in Hyun-joo’s modern security monitored abode, however Jung’s script wants us to believe that it could.

This stretches into the final shot of Hide and Seek, one which is clearly telegraphed thanks to the character it involves being completely absent from a prior sequence that, for all intents and purposes, should have seen them involved front and center. While knowing what you want the final shot of your movie to be is all well and good, you at least need to respect filmmaking logic in order to arrive at it, and here it’s completely ignored. The other fatal error is the key point that, not knowing who’s behind the mask is one of the scariest elements about the mysterious figure, so revealing the identity naturally dissipates that terror of the unknown. When the twist does come, the identity is immediately revealed, and the nature of the reveal renders any sense of fear null and void.

These elements make Hide and Seek a frustrating experience, as for the best part of an hour it’s a remarkably strong and genuinely scary effort, but it serves as proof that one bad decision can unravel everything that’s come before. Still, there’s enough good in Hide and Seek to mark Jung as a director to keep an eye on, and in 2017 he’ll release his sophomore feature in the form of The Mimic, which sees him sticking with the horror genre. For now though, to go back to an earlier reference, Hide and Seek is like ordering a well done steak, only for you to get half way through eating and find the rest is only rare. It’s still a steak, but it’s not what you wanted.

Paul Bramhall’s Rating: 5/10

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Deal on Fire! Ninja III: The Domination | Blu-ray | Only $9.97 – Expires soon!

"Ninja III: The Domination" Blu-ray Cover

“Ninja III: The Domination” Blu-ray Cover

Today’s Deal on Fire is the Blu-ray for 1984’s Ninja III: The Domination, directed by Sam Firstenberg (American Ninja).

This 3rd sequel to Enter the Ninja and Revenge of the Ninja teams Lucinda Dickey (Breakin’) with the legendary Sho Kosugi (9 Deaths of the Ninja). The film also stars David Chung (Missing in Action 2: The Beginning) and James Hong (Big Trouble in Little China).

Ninja III: The Domination is arguably the most memorable of the unrelated Ninja Trilogy, due to its wacky “The Exorcist meets Ninja” premise and bloody “Ninja goes postal” opening sequence.

Pre-order Ninja III from today!

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‘Ju-on’ (aka ‘The Grudge’) is getting a reboot of the remake…

"Ju-On" Japanese DVD Cover

“Ju-On” Japanese DVD Cover

Producer Roy Lee is back with more Asian remake antics with a reboot of Takashi Shimizu’s The Grudge (2004), which itself was a remake of Shimizu’s own Japanese horror film, Ju-on: The Grudge (2002).

Lee is responsible for producing English language remakes of countless, high-profile Asian titles, including The Ring, The Departed, My Sassy Girl, Old Boy, Drug War and the upcoming Death Note and a possible Battle Royale.

According to Deadline: Nicolas Pesce, who is known for the critically acclaimed The Eyes of My Mother (2016), has been set to rewrite and direct the reboot. Other noted producers for the reboot include Sam Raimi (Hard Target) and Taka Ichise (Dark Water), who produced nearly every Ju-on/Grudge project to date.

2002’s Ju-on: The Grudge (there were two direct-to-video productions before it) revolved around a vengeful spirit that pursues anybody who dares enter the house in which it resides. The film spawned several sequels (including the recent “The Ring vs The Grudge” thriller, Sadako vs Kayako) and the aforementioned 2004 U.S. remake starring Sarah Michelle Gellar.

Until more news arrives, enjoy the Japanese Trailer for original Ju-on:

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Fist of Unicorn | aka Bruce Lee and I (1973) Review

"Unicorn Fist" Chinese Theatrical Poster

“Unicorn Fist” Chinese Theatrical Poster

AKA: The Unicorn Palm
Director: Tang Ti
Cast: Unicorn Chan, Meng Hoi, Gam Dai, Kitty Meng Chui, Yasuaki Kurata, Wang In Sik, Tong Dik, Mars, Lily Chen, Tina Chin, Chow Siu Loi, Goo Man Chung, Alexander Grand, Tai Yee Ha, Tong Kam Tong, Paul Wei, Ji Han Jae
Running Time: 82/90 min.

By Jonathan Mitchell

Fist of Unicorn (also known as Bruce Lee and I and The Unicorn Palm) is a film noted for its minimal, but direct, association with Bruce Lee rather than for the quality of the film itself. The only movie to have been choreographed by Lee apart from his own starring vehicles, Fist of Unicorn features Unicorn Chan in the leading role. Chan was Lee’s closest friend, and as children they had performed together in films like Kid Cheung. (The viewer will recognize him as “Jimmy”, one of the waiters in Lee’s self-directed The Way of the Dragon.) Here, Chan portrays a reluctant hero who resorts to violence only after his opponents have spilled innocent blood. Despite the fact that they were staged by Bruce Lee, the fight scenes bear no resemblance to his other work and Lee does not appear onscreen… at least not in the original version of the film.

Unicorn Chan plays Lung, a drifter in search of room and board. He befriends Tiger (Meng Hoi), a bald, garrulous adolescent who persuades his widowed mother to give Lung a job as a fixup man. One day, mischievous Tiger incurs the wrath of some thugs employed by Mr. Wong, a wealthy weapons trafficker who runs the town. Lung refuses to fight, but receives some welcome assistance from a martial arts instructor (Ji Han-jae, the hapkido fighter from Bruce Lee’s Game of Death, in a brief cameo role). Meanwhile, Mr. Wong’s stuttering son (Gam Dai, Lee’s comic foil in Way of the Dragon) has developed a crush on a young woman (Kitty Meng Chui) who belongs to a troupe of wandering acrobatic performers. The thugs, led by veteran Hong Kong movie villains Yasuaki Kurata and Hwang In-shik, slaughter the entire troupe except for the woman, who barely escapes with her life. Lung finds her, and she takes refuge in the home of Tiger’s mother. When Mr. Wong’s hired goons come to call, they kill the mother and kidnap Tiger and the young woman. Thus begins a series of lengthy fight scenes in which Lung squares off against the bad guys. Having dispatched a small army of thugs, Lung defeats a Russian karate expert (Alexander Grand, who regularly portrayed Caucasian villains in low-budget Chinese martial arts films) before the mysterious Mr. Wong finally emerges. He’s played by the film’s director Tang Ti — best known as “Smiling Face” in The One-Armed Swordsman —and the final confrontation ends with Mr. Wong dead and Lung, apparently, mortally wounded.

The preceding was a summary of the original Chinese-language version of the film. When the folks at Sing Hui Film Company were preparing Fist of Unicorn for international release, they had a trick up their sleeves: they had secretly filmed a few seconds of Bruce Lee on set (despite the fact that he had expressly declined to appear in the film at all), and this wobbly footage was added to international prints of the movie. But that wasn’t all. The filmmakers appended a prologue which revealed that Mr. Wong had murdered Lung’s parents when Lung was a boy, and in which Unicorn Chan shared screen time with a Bruce Lee double filmed from behind. In the ensuing years, there has been some controversy regarding Chan’s involvement in this fiasco. Was he a willing participant in Sing Hui’s efforts to exploit his best friend’s star power, or not? The embarrassing, poorly edited scene to which I have just referred should lay any doubts permanently to rest. Chan knew what he was doing, and understood the filmmakers’ intent. (Not surprisingly, Lee filed a lawsuit against the company.) The English opening credits in the international version of Fist of Unicorn are a sight to behold: Chan is billed as “Sheau C. Lin” (a mangled romanization of his stage name, Hsiao Chi-lin) while Yasuaki Kurata becomes, for some unfathomable reason, “Tsant T.B. Jau”.

With its standard revenge motif, a stolidly righteous hero and almost cartoonishly unpleasant villains, this is a by-the-numbers kung fu film in every sense. (An eerily surreal scene in which Mr. Wong’s stammering son realizes that the “woman” he’s been romancing is actually a man in drag is handled with unexpected cinematic flair. The discovery is made off-screen: the viewer sees nothing but the curtain drawn around the son’s bed suddenly billowing in a phantom breeze as he gasps in horrified surprise. It’s as though Tang Ti were channeling King Hu or Akira Kurosawa, but the inspiration was fleeting; the rest of the film plods along artlessly.) The fights themselves are competent but not extraordinary. The most interesting thing about them is that, with the exception of a few punches aimed directly at the camera, they fall well within the boundaries of traditional Hong Kong choreography. Because the rapid-fire style in which Bruce Lee staged the action scenes in his own movies was not suitable for Fist of Unicorn, he opted for a more conventional approach, and the ease with which he shifted gears speaks to his capacity for adaptation (a key element of his martial philosophy).

Fist of Unicorn was released on DVD (on the disreputable VideoAsia label) in 2003, and the disc is still available. It contains the original Mandarin version, with burned-on English subtitles, as well as the English-dubbed international version with the extra footage; both prints are heavily battered, but watchable. Unicorn Chan died in a car accident in 1987, having never broken the big time. It’s bitterly ironic that one of the few films in which he managed to secure a starring role was responsible for setting in motion the unsavory phenomenon of Bruceploitation — even before Lee’s untimely death!

Jonathan Mitchell’s Rating: 4/10

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Well Go USA is talkin’ to Song Kang-Ho’s ‘Taxi Driver’

"A Taxi Driver" Korean Theatrical Poster

“A Taxi Driver” Korean Theatrical Poster

South Korean superstar, Song Kang-Ho (The Age of Shadows, Snowpiercer), is back in A Taxi Driver, an upcoming film from director Jang Hun (The Front Line) that Well Go USA is releasing to theaters on August 11th.

No, it’s not a remake of the 1976 Martin Scorsese classic Taxi Driver (nor is it a remake of the David Chiang film). This Taxi Driver is based on the true story of Korean taxi driver and his adventures with a German reporter during the violent Gwangju Uprising.

A Taxi Driver also stars Thomas Kretschmann, Yu Hae-Jin (Veteran) and Ryoo Joon-Yeol (No Tomorrow).

Watch the film’s Trailer below:

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Takeshi Kitano returns for Round 3 in ‘Outrage: Final Chapter’

"Outrage: Final Chapter" Japanese Theatrical Poster

“Outrage: Final Chapter” Japanese Theatrical Poster

Takeshi Kitano (Mozu: The Movie) is back for another dose of Yakuza brutality (the first film did for dental offices what Jaws did for the beach) in Outrage: Final Chapter (aka Outrage 3 or Outrage Saishusho), the follow up to Outrage and Beyond Outrage.

Once again, Kitano is writing, directing and starring. Other returning stars include Toshiyuki Nishida (Sukiyaki Western Django), Sansei Shiomi (Crows Zero), Tatsuo Nadaka (Onnagai), Ken Mitsuishi (Kaidan), Ikuji Nakamura (Shin Godzilla), Yutaka Matsushige (Crows Zero) and Hakuryu (The Good, The Bad, The Weird).

Outrage: Final Chapter (read our review) will be released domestically on October 7th. Don’t miss the film’s New Trailer below:

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JeeJa Yanin kicks in with Tony Leung for ‘Europe Raiders’

"Europe Raiders" Theatrical Poster

“Europe Raiders” Theatrical Poster

If you’re fan of Tokyo Raiders (2000) and its sequel, Seoul Raiders ( 2005), then get your stylish gadgets ready for Europe Raiders, which is once again directed by Jingle Ma (Silver Hawk). It should also be mentioned that this 3rd entry of the series is produced by Wong Kar-wai (The Grandmaster), which is a departure from the arthouse-style projects his name is usually associated with.

In Europe Raiders (aka Paris Raiders), Tony Chiu-Wai Leung (Hard Boiled) reprises his role as a detective who wears a jacket full of neat toys and a mean umbrella. This time around, Leung is joined by Kris Wu (xXx: Return of Xander Cage), Tiffany Tang (The Storm Warriors), Du Juan (Lost in Hong Kong), and last but not least, Thai martial arts sensation JeeJa Yanin (Chocolate).

Europe Raiders is getting a domestic release later this year. Until then, here’s a blast to the past with the original Trailer for Tokyo Raiders:

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A Korean language remake of ‘Drug War’ is brewing

"Drug War" Japanese Theatrical Poster

“Drug War” Japanese Theatrical Poster

In addition to the English language remake of Drug War in development (read about it here), South Korea will also have their own version of the 2012 Johnnie To film of the same name.

The Korean remake will star Cho Jin-woong (A Hard Day), Ryu Jun-yeol (A Taxi Driver), Kim Joo-hyuk (Say Yes) and Cha Seung-won (Man On High Heels), with Lee Hae-young (The Silenced) in the director’s chair (via KJD).

The original Drug War – which starred Louis Koo, Sun Honglei, Crystal Huang and Wallace Chung – revolves around a drug cartel boss who is arrested in a raid and is coerced into betraying his former accomplices as part of an undercover operation.

Keep it here for more updates. In the meantime, here’s the Trailer for the original film:

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Blood flows in the New Trailer ‘Brotherhood of Blades 2’

"Brotherhood of Blades 2" Theatrical Poster

“Brotherhood of Blades 2” Theatrical Poster

Lu Yang is getting ready for more slicin’ and dicin’ in Brotherhood of Blades 2, the follow up to the filmmaker’s 2014 wuxia actioner, Brotherhood of Blades. The sequel will get a theatrical release domestically on August 11th, 2017.

In Brotherhood of Blades 2, Chang Chen (Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon) returns alongside Yang Mi (The Bullet Vanishes), Zhang Yi (Blood of Youth) and Xin Zhi Lei (Impossible), via AFS.

The original Brotherhood of Blades (read our review) told the story of three guards who are sent to hunt down a eunuch politician, only to find themselves in the middle of a deadly conspiracy.

Updates: Watch the New Trailer below.

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