Kiju Yoshida: Love + Anarchism | Blu-ray & DVD (Arrow Video)

Kiju Yoshida: Love + Anarchism | Blu-ray & DVD (Arrow Video)

Kiju Yoshida: Love + Anarchism | Blu-ray & DVD (Arrow Video)

RELEASE DATE: April 11, 2017

Back in November 2015, Arrow Video released Kiju Yoshida: Love + Anarchism Blu-ray & DVD Boxed set in the UK, but now, the company is finally bringing the set to the U.S. for a April 11, 2017 release.

The work of Kiju Yoshida is one of Japanese cinema’s obscure pleasures. A contemporary of Nagisa Oshima (Death by Hanging, In the Realm of the Senses) and Masahiro Shinoda (Pale Flower, Assassination), Yoshida started out as an assistant to Keisuke Kinoshita before making his directorial debut at age 27. In the decades that followed he produced more than 20 features and documentaries, yet each and every one has proven difficult to see in the English-speaking world.

This collection brings together three works from the late sixties and early seventies, a loose trilogy united by their radical politics and an even more radical shooting style. Eros + Massacre, presented here in both its 169-minute theatrical version and the full-length 220-minute director’s cut, tells the parallel stories of early 20th-century anarchist (and free love advocate) Sakae Osugi and a pair of student activists. Their stories interact and intertwine, resulting in a complex, rewarding work that is arguably Yoshida’s masterpiece.

Heroic Purgatory pushes the dazzling cinematic language of Eros + Massacre even further, presenting a bleak but dreamlike investigation into the political discourses taking place in early seventies Japan.

Coup d’etat returns to the past for a biopic of Ikki Kita, the right-wing extremist who sought to overthrow the government in 1936. Yoshida considered the film to be the culmination of his work, promptly retiring from feature filmmaking following its completion.

Limited Edition Blu-ray Contents:

  • Limited Edition Blu-ray collection (3,000 copies)
  • High definition digital transfers supervised by Kiju Yoshida
  • High Definition Blu-ray (1080p) and Standard Definition DVD presentations for all films
  • Uncompressed Mono 1.0 PCM Audio on all films
  • New translated English subtitles on all films
  • Yoshida …or: The Explosion of the Story a 30-minute documentary on Eros + Massacre with contributions from Yoshida and film critics Mathieu Capel and Jean Douchet
  • Introductions to Heroic Purgatory and Coup d’etat by Yoshida
  • Newly-filmed discussions of Eros + Massacre, Heroic Purgatory and Coup d’etat by David Desser, author of Eros Plus Massacre: An Introduction to the Japanese New Wave, recorded exclusively for this release
  • Scene-select commentaries by David Desser on all three films
  • Heroic Purgatory theatrical trailer
  • Coup d’etat theatrical trailer
  • Limited edition packaging featuring newly commissioned artwork by maarko phntm
  • Illustrated 80-page perfect-bound book featuring new writing on the films by David Desser, Isolde Standish (author of Politics, Porn and Protest: Japanese Avant-Garde Cinema in the 1960s and 1970s) and Dick Stegewerns (author of Kiju Yoshida: 50 Years of Avant-Garde Filmmaking in Post-War Japan)

Pre-order Kiju Yoshida: Love + Anarchism from Amazon.com today!

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First Trailer for John Woo’s highly-anticipated ‘Manhunt’

"Manhunt" Teaser Poster

“Manhunt” Teaser Poster

John Woo, the man behind action classics such as A Better Tomorrow, The Killer, Bullet in the Head and Hard Boiled, is finally making a return to the genre that made him an internationally acclaimed director.

After years making Hollywood films and big budget Chinese epics like Red Cliff and the recent The Crossing, Woo is going to remake the 1976 Japanese classic action thriller Manhunt (starring the late Ken Takakura), which is the story of a man who is accused of multiple crimes and trying desperately to clear his name.

According to AD (via Kevin Ma), Zhang Hanyu (The Taking of Tiger Mountain), Ha Ji-Won (Sector 7) and newcomer Qi Wei are starring in the project. Masaharu Fukuyama (Suspect X) is currently in talks to join as well.

The film will be set and shot in Japan; and feature Chinese, English and Korean dialogue. Media Asia is distributing the film with an attached release date set for a 2018 release (via Martin Sandison).

Updates: Watch the film’s 1st Trailer, which may or may not be legit for the public (via Alejandro Torres).

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Deal on Fire! The Heroic Ones | Blu-ray | Only $6.50 – Expires soon!

"The Heroic Ones" Blu-ray Cover

“The Heroic Ones” Blu-ray Cover

Today’s Deal on Fire is the Blu-ray for 1970’s The Heroic Ones, directed by Shaw Brothers filmmaker, Chang Cheh (Chinatown Kid), aka “The Godfather of Hong Kong Cinema.”

Led by patriarch Li Ke Yung, a powerful warrior in his own right, the family’s 13 sons are charged with freeing the capitol city from a rebel leader. Two of the brothers, Shih (Ti Lung of Legend of the Bat) and Li (David Chiang of Duel of the Iron Fist), take the lead, battling enemy forces with their formidable kung fu skills!

Order The Heroic Ones from Amazon.com today!

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The History of Chinese Martial Arts Film: The 7 Essential Titles

"Wong Fei-Hung: Duel for the Championship" Chinese Theatrical Poster

“Wong Fei-Hung: Duel for the Championship” Chinese Theatrical Poster

List-making is an interesting but challenging exercise in distillation, especially when you’re whittling down the history of an entire genre to just a handful of movies. Obviously, the following is not a comprehensive “best of” list: it overlooks many directors and performers who have made significant contributions to the Chinese martial arts film. But each of these movies represents a milestone in the development of a genre which continues to evolve and still commands an enormous audience.

These are the trendsetters, the shapers of an art form… the films which are the essence of their type.

1. The Story of Wong Fei-hung, Part 1 (1949)

For all intents and purposes, this is where the genre begins. Playing the role of real-life hung gar instructor/acupuncturist/Cantonese folk hero Wong Fei-hung (1847-1924) in a series of films which lasted until the early 1970s, Kwan Tak-hing became a star. In contrast to the wholesale slaughter which has become a hallmark of martial arts movies, the Wong Fei-hung series emphasized forbearance. In the Chinese fighting arts, wu de, or the martial code of conduct, is of vital importance: the character wu literally means “stop fighting”. It is this point that Kwan Tak-hing wished to convey to his audience. This movie’s subtitle, Whip Extinguishes the Candles, is a reference to Wong’s demonstration of his skill with the chain whip (one of kung fu’s “soft” weapons) in the final scene.

"Trail of the Broken Blade" Chinese Theatrical Poster

“Trail of the Broken Blade” Chinese Theatrical Poster

2. Trail of the Broken Blade (1967)

In 1967, the conventions of the Chinese martial arts film were still being established. Its most popular subgenre was the heroic swordplay film, well exemplified by Trail of the Broken Blade.

Critics don’t think very highly of this movie (almost unanimously they prefer The One-Armed Swordsman, made a few months later by the same director and star), but it was the prototype for nearly every subsequent Chang Cheh film… and for just about everything else, since Chang was so widely imitated.

All the elements of his formula are here: a stern, chivalrous hero who faces seemingly impossible odds; a supervillain who resides at the center of an impregnable fortress, and whose henchmen wield an array of exotic weapons; and, of course, messy stomach wounds. This film was a groundbreaker, genre history be damned.

Trail

"The Chinese Boxer" Chinese Theatrical Poster

“The Chinese Boxer” Chinese Theatrical Poster

3. The Chinese Boxer (1970)

Having exhausted the potential of heroic swordplay, Wang Yu (now a matinee idol of the first order) parted company with Chang Cheh and set about making his own movies. The Chinese Boxer (aka Hammer of God) was the first “basher”, as the hand-to-hand fighting films of the early 1970s are now commonly called, and from here on out the swordplay film declined in popularity.

In terms of plot, the bashers were fundamentally the same as the sword-fighting movies, but had a much more overtly macho vibe: in The Chinese Boxer there’s no trace of the stylized delicacy which had characterized the swordplay subgenre.

The action looks pretty raw by today’s standards, but it’s bloody and there’s a lot of it. As the ruthless, chestnut-haired karateka with whom Wang squares off in the film’s climax, Lo Lieh began his long reign as the archvillain of Chinese martial arts movies.

"Enter the Dragon" Japanese Theatrical Poster

“Enter the Dragon” Japanese Theatrical Poster

4. Enter the Dragon (1973)

Wang Yu was a superstar in Asia, but Bruce Lee became a worldwide sensation. This, his fourth and final film, made the biggest splash internationally.

Lee himself choreographed the fight scenes, which were designed to showcase his speed and accuracy, and chose Shih Kien – a veteran of the Wong Fei-hung films – to portray the villain. Angela Mao, the greatest female kung fu movie star, has a small but very memorable role as the sister of Lee’s character. (John Saxon and Jim Kelly, Lee’s American co-stars, received prominent billing but were just along for the ride.)

Enter the Dragon is marred only by Lee’s distressingly gaunt appearance; just thirty-two years old, he died before the film was released. Even now, rumors abound that his death was the result of foul play.

"36th Chamber of Shaolin" Chinese Theatrical Poster

“36th Chamber of Shaolin” Chinese Theatrical Poster

5. The 36th Chamber of Shaolin (1978)

Originally an action choreographer for Chang Cheh, Liu Chia-liang began directing his own films in 1975. This is his masterpiece, and the progenitor of an international Shaolin craze.

Gordon Liu plays San Te, a real-life Buddhist monk who takes methodical revenge on the Manchurian general (Lo Lieh) who murdered his parents. Following his showdown with the general, San Te trains a new generation of revolutionaries at Shaolin Temple.

Upon its release in the United States, the movie was luridly retitled The Master Killer: ironic, since most of its 115-minute running time is devoted to authentic martial arts training scenes. Nearly all of the fights take place in the film’s final half-hour, showcasing a mixture of hand-to-hand combat and clashes between weapons like the three sectional staff and the double broadswords.

"Drunken Master" Japanese Theatrical Poster

“Drunken Master” Japanese Theatrical Poster

6. Drunken Master (1978)

Directed by Yuen Woo-ping, this is Jackie Chan’s second (and best) comedy kung fu adventure, and the one that spawned 1978’s other martial arts movie fad. (A few of the drunken boxing films, like Snake in the Monkey’s Shadow, are pretty good despite being knockoffs.)

Simon Yuen, father of the director and another alumnus of the Wong Fei-hung films, portrays Chan’s elderly, wine-quaffing instructor; Korean kicking maestro Hwang Jang-lee plays the bad guy.

This is worlds removed from the Jackie Chan with whom American audiences got acquainted in the 1990s, and his brand of slapstick comedy can grate on the nerves if you’re not in the mood for it, but Drunken Master allows you to see a superstar in the making. After this film, Chan could—and did—write his own ticket, assuming full creative control as had Wang Yu earlier in the decade.

"Shaolin Temple" Japanese Theatrical Poster

“Shaolin Temple” Japanese Theatrical Poster

7. Shaolin Temple (1982)

The first kung fu film to be shot in mainland China and Jet Li’s cinematic debut, Shaolin Temple is essentially an alternate version of The 36th Chamber of Shaolin (but set in an earlier historical period). It had the distinction of renewing China’s interest in its own martial heritage after years of cultural repression under Mao Tse-tung, and the fast, vigorous choreography reflects the popularity of sport wushu on the mainland during the early 1980s.

Liu Chia-liang supervised the shooting of a few scenes in Hong Kong, but Chang Hsin-yen’s Shaolin Temple represented the emergence of a new style which resembled the Hong Kong films only superficially. It gave birth to a sequel, Kids from Shaolin, as well as vastly inferior imitations like The Shaolin Brothers.

The history of Chinese martial arts movies didn’t come to a screeching halt in 1982, of course. Their development continued at a steady pace, from Jackie Chan films like Project A (1983) and Police Story (1985) through Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (2000), director Ang Lee’s revival of the heroic swordplay film. Critical recognition of the genre as a legitimate art form was belated, but today critics and mass audiences alike understand what we kung fu movie fanatics have known all along: that these films represent one of the greatest achievements in world cinema.

Posted in Features, News | 5 Comments

Wolf Guy | Blu-ray & DVD (Arrow Video)

Wolf Guy | Blu-ray (Arrow Video)

Wolf Guy | Blu-ray (Arrow Video)

RELEASE DATE: April 4th, 2017

On April 4th, 2017, Arrow Video will be releasing the Blu-ray & DVD for 1975’s Wolf Guy (aka Wolfguy: Enraged Lycanthrope), a multi-genre flick directed by Kazuhiko Yamaguchi (Sister Street Fighter: Hanging by a Thread) and starring the one, the only Shinichi ‘Sonny’ Chiba (Hiroshima Death Match).

Shinichi “Sonny” Chiba is a martial arts “manimal” in the ultra-70’s, 100% bizarre mixture of horror, action and sci-fi that is Wolf Guy, one of the rarest and most sought-after cult films produced by Japan’s Toei Studio. Based on a manga by Kazumasa Hirai (creator of 8 Man), and never before released outside of Japan, it’s a genre film classic waiting to be discovered and a completely unclassifiable trip into phantasmagoric funk.

Chiba stars as Akira Inugami, the only survivor of a clan of ancient werewolves who relies on his supernatural powers to solve mysterious crimes. After a series of bloody killings perpetrated by an unseen force, Inugami uncovers a conspiracy involving a murdered cabaret singer, corrupt politicians, and a plot by the J-CIA to harvest his blood in order to steal his lycanthropic powers! At the same time, Inugami also discovers the truth behind his family heritage, and that he may not be the last of his kind.

Directed by B-movie genius Kazuhiko Yamaguchi (Wandering Ginza Butterfly, Karate Bear Fighter), Wolf Guy truly is one-of-a-kind, with Chiba in full effect as the part-man, part-wolf, all-karate action hero and a collection of familiar 1970’s Toei actors in support. Violence, action, nudity, real surgical footage, and a psychedelic musical score all work together to create an unforgettable trip to the heights of Japanese cinematic weirdness.

Special Features:

  • High Definition digital transfer
  • High Definition Blu-ray (1080p) and Standard Definition DVD presentations
  • Original uncompressed mono audio
  • New optional English subtitle translation
  • New video interview with actor Shinichi “Sonny” Chiba
  • New video interview with director Kazuhiko Yamaguchi
  • New video interview with producer Tatsu Yoshida
  • Reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Wes Benscoter
  • First Pressing Only: Illustrated collector’s booklet featuring new writing on the film by Patrick Macias and a history of Japanese monster movie mashups by Jasper Sharp

Pre-order Wolf Guy from Amazon.com today!

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

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

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

According to AFS, the cast for L-Storm includ Louis Koo (The White Storm), Julian Cheung (The Suspect), Dada Chan (Z-Storm), Jacky Cai (From Vegas to Macau 2), Shek Sau (S-Storm), Janelle Sing (Kung Fu Angels) and Philip Keung (Trivisa).

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

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The Yakuza | Blu-ray (Warner)

The Yakuza | Blu-ray (Warner)

The Yakuza | Blu-ray (Warner)

RELEASE DATE: February 14, 2017

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

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

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

Special Features:

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

Pre-order The Yakuza from Amazon.com today!

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

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

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

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

RELEASE DATE: March 7, 2017

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

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

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

Bonus Materials Include:

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

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

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

Is Scorsese directing Jamie Foxx in a Mike Tyson Biopic?

"Ip Man 3" Teaser Poster

“Ip Man 3” Teaser Poster

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

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

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

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

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

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

"Legend of the Broken Sword Hero" Teaser Poster

“Legend of the Broken Sword Hero” Teaser Poster

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Today’s Deal on Fire is the Blu-ray for Kickboxer: Vengeance (read our review), starring Alain Moussi and David Bautista.

Kurt Sloane (Moussi) has always been there for his brother, Eric (Darren Shahlavi), who’s known in the martial arts world as a modern-day warrior. But when the ruthless and undefeated fighter Tong Po (Bautista) brutally ends Eric’s life in a no-holds-barred match in Thailand, Kurt devotes himself to training with a master (Jean-Claude Van Damme) in a quest for redemption… and revenge.

Order Kickboxer: Vengeance from Amazon.com.

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Operation Chromite (2016) Review

Operation Chromite | Blu-ray & DVD (Sony)

Operation Chromite | Blu-ray & DVD (Sony)

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

By Kyle Warner

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Kyle Warner’s Rating: 6.5/10

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

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

"Only God Forgives" Japanese Theatrical Poster

“Only God Forgives” Japanese Theatrical Poster

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"The Empire Strikes Back" Japanese Theatrical Poster

“The Empire Strikes Back” Japanese Theatrical Poster

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

WINNERS: Chad H, Jason W, and Lee.

Posted in News | Tagged | 45 Comments

Assassination Classroom (2015) Review

"Assassination Classroom" Japanese Theatrical Poster

“Assassination Classroom” Japanese Theatrical Poster

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

By Paul Bramhall

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Paul Bramhall’s Rating: 8/10

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

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

"Fists of Fury" DVD Cover

“Fists of Fury” DVD Cover

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

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

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

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Dongju: The Portrait of a Poet (2016) Review

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

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

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

By Martin Sandison

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

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

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

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

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

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

Martin Sandison’s Rating: 7/10

Posted in All, Korean, News, Reviews | Leave a comment

Exterminator 2 | Blu-ray (Shout! Factory)

Exterminator 2 | Blu-ray (Shout! Factory)

Exterminator 2 | Blu-ray (Shout! Factory)

RELEASE DATE: April 25, 2017

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

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

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

Pre-order Exterminator 2 from Amazon.com today!

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

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

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

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

RELEASE DATE: April 11, 2017

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

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

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

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

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