‘The Crow’ reboot has just lost another wing!

"The Crow" Japanese Theatrical Poster

"The Crow" Japanese Theatrical Poster

Relativity Media’s remake of Alex Proyas’ 1994 cult classic The Crow has been in ‘development hell’ for over 3 years now. The project has burned through numerous directors, including Juan Carlos Fresnadillo (28 Weeks Later) and F. Javier Gutierrez (Before the Fall). Today, we can add one more filmmaker to that list: Corin Hardy (The Hallow).

Hardy – who was supposed to be well into production on The Crow this month – was axed by producer/entrepreneur, Dana Brunetti. Reasons are unknown, but dismissing Hardy was one of the first moves Brunetti made after being hired to reorganize Relativity Media after its much publicized bankruptcy (via THR).

The film is also going through some legal issues. According to Collider: “Edward R. Pressman Film Corporation, the producer of the original film, filed papers in bankruptcy court, papers intended to deny Relativity rights to sequels, prequels and remakes. Now that the lawyers are involved, who knows how long it will be before we see The Crow again, if ever.”

Still, Relativity’s CEO Ryan Kavanaugh remains confident: “With Dana coming aboard, we are giving him full creative rein. We want him to be able to reboot The Crow under his vision and guidance. We are optimistic he will create the best package for such an iconic franchise.”

James O’Barr, the creator of the The Crow graphic novel – and consultant for the reboot – has been vocal about the project throughout its pre-production process: “We’re not remaking the movie, we’re readapting the book. My metaphor is that there is a Bela Lugosi Dracula and there’s a Francis Ford Coppola Dracula; they use the same material, but you still got two entirely different films. This one’s going to be closer to Taxi Driver or a John Woo film, and I think there’s room for both of them – part of the appeal of the Crow comics after all is that they can tell very different stories after all,” O’Barr added. Mind you, this was a couple of directors ago.

Over the years, many actors – including Bradley Cooper, Mark Wahlberg, James McAvoy, Tom Hiddleston, Normal Reedus, Luke Evans and Jack Huston – were once attached to the project, but for one reason or another, dropped out or moved forward with other projects. Currently, the reboot has zero actors attached to the project.

Many fans of the original film who still mourn the tragic loss of star Brandon Lee feel that this is a franchise best left in our memories. Sounds like they’re getting their wish.

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Lu Yang sharpens up for ‘Brotherhood of Blades 2′

"Brotherhood of Blades II" Chinese Teaser Poster

"Brotherhood of Blades II" Chinese Teaser Poster

Director Lu Yang is getting ready to shoot Brotherhood of Blades 2, the follow up to his 2014 wuxia action film (read our review). The “sequel” is actually rumored to be a prequel, according to reports that date back to 2014.

So far, Chang Chen (Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon) is the only star returning from the original. He’ll be joined by Yang Mi (The Bullet Vanishes), Zhang Yi (Beijing Love Story) and Xin Zhi Lei (Impossible), via AFS.

The original Brotherhood of Blades 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.

Stay tuned for more updates!

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Andre Morgan and Etan Cohen refuel ‘Cannonball Run’

"Cannonball Run 2" Japanese Theatrical Poster

"Cannonball Run 2" Japanese Theatrical Poster

Just recently, it was announced that Keanu Reeves (John Wick) would be starring in an upcoming Cannonball Run-esque film called Rally Car, a Chinese/American co-production centered around a race across China. But now, it looks like Cannonball Run itself is in the process of being remade/rebooted.

According to Deadline, the new version of Cannonball Run – to be written and directed by Etan Cohen (Get Hard) – is being spearheaded by producer Andre Morgan (Man from Hong Kong), who has been making movies at Warner Bros and Golden Harvest since Enter the Dragon in 1973.

The original Cannonball Run franchise consisted of three movies – produced in 1981, 1984 and 1989 (the 3rd film was titled Speed Zone aka Cannonball Fever) – where known for their car-related stuntwork, as well as their all-star cast which included names like Burt Reynolds, Frank Sinatra, Roger Moore, Dean Martin, Richard Kiel, Michael Hui, Sammy Davis Jr, Dom DeLuise, John Candy, Eugene Levy, Brooke Shields and many more.

To Asian cinema fans, the first two Cannonball Run films are mostly remembered for the inclusion of Jackie Chan, who was fairly unknown to most Americans in the early 80s.

We’ll keep you posted on Cannonball Run as we hear more. Stay tuned!

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Johnnie To will unleash more triad violence in ‘Election 3′

"Election 3" Teaser Poster

"Election 3" Teaser Poster

Johnnie To (Fulltime Killer, Office), one of the most diverse directors in the world, is currently wrapping up the script for Election 3, the 3rd part of his popular triad series.

To has been brainstorming Election 3 since 2013 (it was originally planned for 2015), so we can only expect another solid story that dovetails into The Godfather-esque levels of criminal scheming and machinations.

According to THR, To is considering whether Louis Koo will return: “The script is rather long right now; I haven’t decided which section will be used… If I use the later section, Koo might not be in it.”

Election 3 is expected to shoot in 2018. Stay tuned!

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More kung fu awaits with Yuen Woo-ping’s ‘Hand Over Fist’

"Magnificent Butcher" Hong Kong Theatrical Poster

"Magnificent Butcher" Hong Kong Theatrical Poster

There’s just no stopping director/legendary choreographer Yuen Woo-ping (Magnificent Butcher). Hot on the heels of his recent high profile projects – Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon: Sword of Destiny and Ip Man 3 – Yuen is getting ready to start yet another martial arts project titled Hand Over Fist.

According to THR, Hand Over Fist is the tale of a 600-year-long feud between ancient rival kung fu masters that draws modern Hong Kong protagonists into the action. No further details are available at this time.

In addition to Hand Over Fist, Yuen also has his hands busy with Miracle Fighters, a remake of a supernatural kung fu film he directed in 1982. As for Yuen’s Vigilantes: The Lost Order (his The Matrix meets Wall Street flick)… let’s just say it’s put on hold indefinitely, which is probably a good thing.

We’ll keep you updated on Hand Over Fist as we hear more!

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Jarhead 3: The Siege | Blu-ray & DVD (Universal)

Jarhead 3: The Siege | Blu-ray & DVD (Universal)

Jarhead 3: The Siege | Blu-ray & DVD (Universal)

RELEASE DATE: June 7, 2016

Universal presents the Blu-ray & DVD for Jarhead 3: The Siege, an action film directed by William Kaufman (One in the Chamber).

Starring in sequels to earlier theatrical titles is becoming a habit for martial star Scott Adkins (Close Range). First was Undisputed 2 and Undisputed 3 (another sequel is currently pending), then came Green Street 3: Never Back Down, and just recently, it was announced that he’d be doing a Hard Target 2.

Now, Adkins is back at it with Jarhead 3: The Siege, a similarly themed, but unrelated sequel to the first two Jarhead movies. This one revolves around a group of Marines who must protect a US Embassy in the Middle East when it suddenly comes under attack from enemy forces.

Judging from the newly released trailer to Jarhead 3: The Siege, those looking for Adkins to show off his fighting ability may be left disappointed – because it looks like it’s more about gunfights and explosions than weaponless action – but then again, you’ll never know what the full movie has to offer.

Jarhead 3: The Siege also stars Charlie Weber (Vampires Suck), Tom Ainsley (Versailles), Erik Valdez (Paint It Black) and Dante Basco (Blood and Bone). | Trailer.

Pre-order Jarhead 3: The Siege from Amazon.com today!

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Rambling Guitarist, The (1959) Review

"The Rambling Guitarist" Japanese Theatrical Poster

"The Rambling Guitarist" Japanese Theatrical Poster

Director: Buichi Saito
Writer: Gan Yamazaki
Cast: Akira Kobayashi, Ruriko Asaoka, Sanae Nakahara, Nobuo Kaneko, Jo Shishido, Misako Watanabe, Kyoji Aoyama, Mari Shiraki, Hiroshi Nihon’yanagi, Yuzo Kiura, San’emon Suzuki, Hyosuke Kanbe, Tsuneo Katagiri
Running Time: 78 min.

By Kyle Warner

The Rambling Guitarist is a film that has very clearly taken some notes on what was popular at the time in Hollywood. What begins as an Elvis-inspired drama about a musician on the road quickly spins into a gangster thriller. There’s also traces of a western in there somewhere. Thrown together, you get a lot of competing ideas for a 1 hour and 17 minute film, but somehow it keeps things together and manages to be a pretty entertaining (if overly familiar) bit of old-fashioned cinema.

Akira Kobayashi (Proxy War) plays a cool Elvis kind-of-guy named Taki. The ‘rambling guitarist’ of the title, he drifts into a small seaside town with nothing but a guitar to his name. After a silly barroom brawl affirms that Taki is also something of a badass, he pays his debt to the ruined bar owners by playing his guitar and entertaining customers. Though Taki claims he doesn’t want to stick around, he apparently quickly changes his mind when the local crime boss sees potential in him and hires him to do collections.

Here’s when the film shifts gears. At the start The Rambling Guitarist seems tailor-made for Akira Kobayashi, giving him a chance to play a mysterious musician who drifts into town, sorts out justice, and romances the pretty girl (Ruriko Asaoka). The dramatic shift in tone and direction happens gradually enough, but before long The Rambling Guitarist and its main character seem entirely different from what we saw in the opening moments. Crime boss Akitsu (Nobuo Kaneko) has great ambitions for his town. Akitsu wants to build an entertainment complex by the sea and the only thing standing in his way is a fishery that refuses to sell. Akitsu has no qualms that his own sister lives and operates out of the fishery and makes it his mission to destroy her business so that he may swoop in. By this time, Taki has become an enforcer for Akitsu, but he’s still basically a decent guy at heart. His relationship to Akitsu becomes strained the more he learns of his boss’ dirty dealings and things get even more complicated when Taki’s past comes back to haunt him.

It’s a simple film. It takes us exactly where we’d expect. The fun comes from the actors, basically all of whom turn in good work. Akira Kobayashi is more believable as the guitarist than as the sharpshooting gangster but overall I enjoyed his character. Ruriko Asaoka (Incident at Blood Pass) shows some range as the love-struck Yuki who grows up a lot by the end. Nobuo Kaneko plays a similar slime ball criminal to the one he played in Battles Without Honor and Humanity—it’s a role he excels at. And Jo Shishido (Massacre Gun) plays a man from Taki’s past that can’t quite place how he knew Taki before, but we can tell it has Taki worried. Shishido and Kobayashi have some good scenes together. The boyish Kobayshi contrasts well with the rough Shishido, who looks even rougher than usual here with an ugly scar cut across one of those puffy cheeks of his.

The film, like its central character, drifts in and then drifts off again right about the time we thought we were beginning to know them better (it appears that there would be sequels, though, including titles like The Rambler Rides Again and Rambler in the Sunset). The Rambling Guitarist is slight but it manages to tell a complete story with entertaining characters crammed into its 77 minutes. Though the film may not stick around long enough or have enough new ideas to leave much of an impression, I enjoyed the movie and would consider giving it another spin in the future.

A note on the release: The Rambling Guitarist is the third film of Arrow Video’s new Nikkatsu Diamond Guys Vol. 1 Blu-ray/DVD set. The three films (the others being Voice Without a Shadow and Red Pier) are all put onto a single Blu-ray disc (the three films are then split between the 2 DVDs also included on the set). Now, I cannot tell you for certain if there was any issue with compromised video due to the three films sharing one disc, but I’m going to guess not. Each film is around 90 minutes long and the special features are brief; I’ve seen big studio releases put more content onto one disc before. The films look pretty good. I thought Red Pier looked a little beat up at times but that’s more likely due to the source materials. Voice Without a Shadow looks fairly excellent and The Rambling Guitarist (the only color film in this set) looks good for its age, with colors that really pop.

For special features we get two brief visual essays from Jasper Sharp, who gives us some background info on the Diamond Guys, in particular Hideaki Nitani and Yujiro Ishihara. They’re short videos but Sharp knows the subject well and fans should enjoy getting the extra info on the stars. Also included with the set is a booklet with a set of essays from Stuart Galbraith IV, Tom Mes, and Mark Schilling. I really enjoyed this set. I thought that Red Pier was rather dull but the other two films were entertaining, especially Seijun Suzuki’s Voice Without a Shadow. Also included on the set are trailers for the films to be included in Nikkatsu Diamond Guys Vol. 2, and if the trailers are any indication, Vol. 2 looks to be going for a much lighter tone. In Vol. 2 we should expect to see Tokyo Mighty Guy, Murder Incorporated, and Danger Paws. I’m happy that they’re already planning a second volume. I enjoyed this one and welcome a chance to see these lesser-known films starring some of Japan’s greatest stars.

Kyle Warner’s Rating: 6.5/10

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Harrison Ford and Spielberg re-team for ‘Indiana Jones 5′

"Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom" Japanese Theatrical Poster

"Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom" Japanese Theatrical Poster

As of late, Harrison Ford has definitely been on a roll reviving some of the most iconic characters he has ever played. In 2015, he brought back Han Solo in Star Wars: The Force Awakens. 2018 will see the return of Rick Deckard in Blade Runner 2. Now – after years of rumors, it’s official: Disney has just announced that Ford, along with Steven Spielberg, will be returning as Indiana Jones in 2019.

The official press release is as follows:

Indiana Jones will return to the big screen on July 19, 2019, for a fifth epic adventure in the blockbuster series. Steven Spielberg, who directed all four previous films, will helm the as-yet-untitled project with star Harrison Ford reprising his iconic role. Franchise veterans Kathleen Kennedy and Frank Marshall will produce.

“Indiana Jones is one of the greatest heroes in cinematic history, and we can’t wait to bring him back to the screen in 2019,” said Alan Horn, Chairman, The Walt Disney Studios. “It’s rare to have such a perfect combination of director, producers, actor and role, and we couldn’t be more excited to embark on this adventure with Harrison and Steven.”

Famed archaeologist and explorer Indiana Jones was introduced in 1981’s Raiders of the Lost Ark – one of AFI’s 100 Greatest American Films of All Time – and later thrilled audiences in 1984’s Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, 1989’s Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, and 2008’s Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. The four films have brought in nearly $2 billion at the global box office.

So,what’s next? Ford returning as Jack Ryan? Only time will tell. We’ll keep you updated on Indiana Jones 5 as we hear more.

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Cityonfire.com’s ‘JCVD 5 Movie Collection’ Blu-ray Giveaway! – WINNERS ANNOUNCED!

Jean-Claude Van Damme Collection | Blu-ray (Mill Creek)

Jean-Claude Van Damme Collection | Blu-ray (Mill Creek)

Cityonfire.com and Mill Creek Entertainment are giving away 3 Blu-ray copies for the Jean-Claude Van Damme 5 Movie Collection to three lucky Cityonfire visitors. To enter, simply add a comment to this post and describe, in your own words, this clip.

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

The Blu-ray for Jean-Claude Van Damme 5 Movie Collection will be officially released on March 15, 2016. We will announce the 3 winners the following day.

CONTEST DISCLAIMER: You must enter by March 15, 2016 to qualify. U.S. residents only please. We sincerely apologize to our non-U.S. visitors. Winners must respond with their mailing address within 48 hours, otherwise you will automatically be disqualified. No exceptions. Contest is subject to change without notice.

Winners: Matthew Essary, Micheal Kelley and James Lohmann.

Posted in News | Tagged | 22 Comments

Herman Yau and Andy Lau team up for ‘Shock Wave’

"Firestorm" Chinese Theatrical Poster

"Firestorm" Chinese Theatrical Poster

In addition to the recently announced The Sleep Curse – and the soon-to-be-released Mobfathers – Hong Kong filmmaker, Herman Yau (The Woman Knight of Mirror Lake), has yet another project on the horizon: Shock Wave, a $23 million dollar action movie that will pair the director up with Andy Lau (Shanghai 13, Switch).

In addition to starring, Lau will also produce. Here’s what Lau told THR: “The project is very much a Hong Kong-style action thriller, so I decided to produce and star in an important role in the film… previous films like Firestorm are the staple of Hong Kong cinema, belonging to one of the most important genres in our output. I hope to reach new heights with the Hong Kong action genre and the cops-and-robbers genre with this film.”

According to THR, Lau will play an undercover explosive ordnance disposal bureau officer who becomes the protégé of a criminal specializing in bombs and then tries to capture him.

Shooting begins in April with a 2017 release date. Stay tuned!

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Deal on Fire! Man of Tai Chi | Blu-ray | Only $7.99 – Expires soon!

Man of Tai Chi | Blu-ray & DVD (Anchor Bay)

Man of Tai Chi | Blu-ray & DVD (Anchor Bay)

Today’s Deal on Fire is the Blu-ray for 2013′s Man of Tai Chi, the directorial debut of Keanu Reeves (John Wick), who also stars in this action-packed homage to classic kung fu films.

The film features action choreography by martial arts legend, Yuen Woo-ping (Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon II).

Man of Tai Chi also stars Karen Mok (Fallen Angels), Tiger Hu Chen (Monk Comes Down the Mountain), Iko Uwais (The Raid, The Raid 2) and Simon Yam (Wild City, Cross).

Order Man of Tai Chi from Amazon.com today!

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Invincible Obsessed Fighter (1982) Review

"Invincible Obsessed Fighter" Korean Theatrical Poster

"Invincible Obsessed Fighter" Korean Theatrical Poster

AKA: Mu-rim Beggar Warriors
Director: Kim Jung-yong
Writer: Youn Suk-Hoon
Producer: Godfrey Ho, Tomas Tang
Cast: Elton Chong, Mike Wong Lung, Leung Ting, Chan Lau Lei, Fei Wan, Chu Gei Yuen, Gam Yung Yuen, Cheung Chit
Running Time: 85 min.

By Paul Bramhall

This 1982 Korean production is right up there with Magnificent Wonderman from Shaolin when it comes to awesome movie titles. In fact, in an alternate reality I hope there’s a crossover movie called Magnificent Wonderman from Shaolin vs. Invincible Obsessed Fighter, if there is I’d be first in line to watch it. Like just about every old school Korean kung fu flick that made it to western shores, the original title is of course entirely different, and in this case it was released in Korea as Mu-rim Beggar Warriors. Not quite as awesome, but certainly far from terrible.

Invincible Obsessed Fighter was directed by one of the most well known names from the Korean kung fu movie scene of old, Kim Jung-yong. This was the man behind everything from early Casanova Wong movies such as Four Iron Men, the Dragon Lee and Chang Il-do starring Bruce Lee’s Ways of Kung Fu (which also gave a certain Won Jin his movie debut), and the original Arahan. Alas, for better or worse, Jung-yong is also the director responsible for most of Elton Chong’s movies.

It’s hard to imagine a kung fu star who divides fans more than Elton Chong. For some his presence in a movie is even more unwelcoming that Dean Shek, while others buy into his hyper energetic comedic style. Describing an Elton Chong movie is tough work, but I guess if I had to, I’d say imagine the Three Stooges combined with Tom and Jerry, then proceed to crank everything up to 11. His movies will either have you rolling with them, or will have given you a headache and have you reaching for the stop button within the first 5 minutes. My first Elton Chong experience was Magnificent Natural Fist, and I ended up falling into the latter category. I still haven’t gone back to watch the rest of it.

However Invincible Obsessed Fighter had my curiosity, some said it was even more insane (perhaps they meant inane?) than Magnificent Natural Fist, and that the fight action was the best out of any of his movies. It’s these types of discussions that almost always lead me to watching the movie in question, and so it came to be the case here.

From the word go Invincible Obsessed Fighter declares its intentions loud and clear – fights, and lots of them! Like in Magnificent Natural Fist, they’re defined by the wild undercranking and enthusiastic falls from the performers. However what was immediately apparent is that, regardless of the undercranking, there was some pretty intricate and powerful exchanges taking place. Kicks come thick and fast, with bodies flying everywhere, and the manic energy that’s so grating in other efforts by Chong, here somehow translates to an entertaining spectacle of raw fighting goodness.

Almost all of Chong’s movies are low budget affairs, and so essentially live and die based on the talents of the cast. Judging by the skills on display of regular Chong co-star Mike Wong, it’s safe to say that those talents were going to be put to good use here. Of course, the poor production values are inescapable in various scenes, such as the small market place set, and even the dubbing seems to be low budget – at one point a bandit is clearly supposed to tell the villagers that their town is now under his control. However in the dubbing, instead he yells, “From now on this place is under control!” By missing one word the whole context of the statement is completely changed!

Thankfully the dubbing redeems itself in other areas, Wong’s character is amusingly called Fat Ho, whose fighting technique is called the 8 Chopper Fist. As childish as it may be, there’s something undeniably funny about watching the head villain demand his lackeys to go out and find Fat Ho. There’s also a random Ghost Fighter introduced into the plot, who abruptly diverts the movie into some Kung Fu Zombie themed territory, as scenes of him practicing black magic and stuffing live maggots into his mouth lend a supernatural feel to proceedings. However with such a manic pace it all somehow works, and gives us a highly entertaining fight scene between Chong and the Ghost Fighter, who acts like some kind of super powered white haired zombie.

Despite my reservations about attempting to sit through a whole Elton Chong movie, it turned out that every fight scene was entertaining, and one was never more than 5 minutes away. It’s never really clarified exactly who the Invincible Obsessed Fighter is, but either way, Jung-yong certainly seems obsessed with cramming in as much fight action as possible. It’s a credit to him, and also Mike Wong’s choreography skills, that none of the action begins to get dull, a criticism I’ve levelled towards other fight filled films such as Monkey Kung Fu. If you’re going to have characters constantly throwing down, you need at least some reason for them to do so that the audience can connect with. I’m not sure Invincible Obsessed Fighter has that, however the fact that its non-fighting scenes move along at just as much of a manic pace as the fight themselves, ensures that it always feels like a lot’s happened by the time the next fight kicks off.

The fight scenes themselves carry that same kind of intense energy that can be found in the likes of the previously mentioned Kung Fu Zombie. There’s a Looney Tunes inspired level of violence to them, being executed by some high level martial arts practitioners, that makes them a joy to watch. There are a couple of instances when Chong grabs the foot of whichever bad guy he’s fighting, and makes him kick the back of his own head with it. This type of physical comedy is universal, and to watch it being performed with such wild abandon, combined with the undercranking, somehow makes it all come together in such a way that it’s difficult not to enjoy, despite its silliness.

What’s also notable is some of the camera work during the fight scenes, which often have Chong facing off against groups of opponents. Jung-yong probably took notes from Sammo Hung’s The Prodigal Son made a year prior, because the camera occasionally performs some aesthetically pleasing tracking shots around the performers as they fight. This really adds to the choreography, in comparison to the camera just being static, and captures some great movements from Chong and co.

From the 1 hour mark it becomes almost non-stop fight action, and there’s a lot to enjoy. Chong intercepts people mid-flying kick, throws in Michael Jai White’s trademark flying kick/superman punch combo, and builds up to an epic 10 minute one on one against the villain played by Bi Un. What I particularly liked about the finale is that Chong is inflicted with a foot injury before it starts, that unlike many kung fu movies, which would conveniently forget about whatever ailment the hero is suffering from, goes on to play a significant part during the fight itself. It’s an intricate and kick heavy ten minutes, which at one point has blood splattered all over the camera in an inventive point of view shot, and throws in an absurdly over the top series of finishing moves which will definitely raise an (intentional) laugh.

Elton Chong will remain an acquired taste, but for those who like their kung fu cranked up to levels of Looney Tunes style violence, while still being able to appreciate the skill and talent of what’s going on, Invincible Obsessed Fighter manages to strike that balance. Whether it aimed to do so is debatable, but it’s probably the most accessible of Chong’s filmography, so if you’re going to check him out, you know where to start.

Paul Bramhall’s Rating: 7.5/10

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

New trailer for Mark Dacascos’ actioner ‘Ultimate Justice’

"Drive" UK DVD Cover

"Drive" UK DVD Cover

Martial arts star Mark Dacascos (Drive, Brotherhood of the Wolf, Only the Brave) is back in action with a new thriller titled Ultimate Justice. The upcoming film will be backed by Mike Leeder’s Silent Partners, the production company also responsible for the recent One Million K(L)icks.

Ultimate Justice, tells the story of a team of former Special Ops elite soldiers, whose friendship was forged in battle and years after they thought they had lain down their weapons for good, they are drawn back into action when the family of one of their own is threatened, friendships and loyalties are tested, battlelines are drawn, and Ultimate Justice will be served.

Joining Dacascos will be Matthias Hues (No Retreat, No Surrender II), Matthis Landweher (Kampfansage) and Mike Moeller (One Million K(L)icks), who will also be handling the fight choreography. The film also stars Sandra Bertalanffz, Wolfgang Riehm, Wing Tsung Sifu Henry Mueller, Yasmeen Baker, Martin Baden, Brandon Rhea and of course, Mike Leeder (Pound of Flesh) himself.

Updates: Watch the first trailer for Ultimate justice (via Paul Bramhall).

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Travolta joins the “Over 50” action club with ‘I Am Wrath’

"Face/Off" Japanese Theatrical Poster

"Face/Off" Japanese Theatrical Poster

The newest trailer for I Am Wrath, the latest actioner from director Chuck Russell (Eraser, The Scorpion King) and star John Travolta (Face/Off), has just arrived and gives us a first look at the film’s gritty action and Taken-esque plot. After Stanley Hill (Travolta) witnesses his wife’s death at the hands of a group of thugs, he expects for the police to capture the men who took his wife from him. When the officers fail to bring the assailants to justice, Hill and his old friend Dennis (Christopher Meloni) decide to take matters into their own hands and go after the criminals themselves.

Although I Am Wrath’s plot is an amalgamation between Death Wish, Taken, and John Wick, it’s nice to see Travolta join in on the “Over 50” action genre that stars Liam Neeson and Denzel Washington have had cornered for the last couple of years. However, I Am Wrath looks to tackle far grittier territory than most of Neeson or Washington’s films, as Travolta looks to be fully committing to a vigilante role that will allow him to show his acting chops and rack up a kill count along the way. Think early 90s Steven Seagal in both tone and content, and you’ve got I Am Wrath, more or less Travolta’s answer to one of contemporary action cinema’s most popular sub-genres.

The film, which also stars Christopher Meloni (Man of Steel), Rebecca De Mornay (Runaway Train), Amanda Schull (Nikita T.V. Series), and Luisa Da Silva Jr. (Dragon Eyes), premieres on VOD on April 15th and than in theaters on May 13th. Get a gander at some of the shootouts and hand to hand combat in the newest trailer now.

Posted in News | 4 Comments

Mermaid, The (2016) Review

"The Mermaid" Chinese Theatrical Poster

"The Mermaid" Chinese Theatrical Poster

AKA: Mermaid
Director: Stephen Chow
Cast: Deng Chao, Lin Yun, Show Luo, Zhang Yuqi, Kris Wu, Lu Zhengyu, Fan Shuzhen, Li Shangzheng, Bo Xiaolong, Pierre Bourdaud, Ivan Kotik, Kong Lianshun, Bai Ke, Chiu Chi Ling, Tin Kai-man, Tsui Hark, Wen Zhang, Yang Neng
Running Time: 94 min.

By Ningen

Liu Xuan is a rags-to-riches Tony Stark-type flirt who has everything he could ever need, with the exception of a conscience. After pulling his latest land-grab, he teams up with fellow rich asshole Ruolan to murder the local sea life with sonar. The purpose? Artificially boost the economic value of the area to potentially make it ripe for tourist and housing deals. But unbeknownst to him, he’s also contributed to the massacre of a school of mermaids who plot to retaliate by killing him. The method? Catfish (Sorry, couldn’t resist) him with a female mermaid by the name of Shan, who poses as a human to get close to him.

As with Journey to the West, Stephen Chow once again chooses to be behind the camera for this picture. Though unlike Journey to the West, the production values are a lot higher and the story-line’s a little more focused and relatable. So I should appreciate it more, right? Well, the answer is yes and no.

The Mermaid’s definitely a message movie that goes down a lot less annoyingly than, say, Avatar. But at the same time, it’s a lot more gruesome than the typical Stephen Chow movie. So, if you’re expecting it to contain his trademark slapstick humour with a little bit of over-the-top violence thrown in, then you might be disappointed. Chow does not hold back in his depiction of the fishes being slaughtered, and the film rightfully earns its R rating because of that. The comedy’s also more satiric in tone, with Liu Xuan’s skirt-chasing antics being scrutinized in particular.

Personally, I don’t totally care for the lead character, even when he does change his colors a bit. He’s more akin to the wheeler-and-dealer you’d see in a Hollywood movie which places heavy emphasis on accounting, dropping stock, and trading and selling shares. I mean, he’s a little more noble than the soulless hunters with harpoons who work with him. But he still tries to resolve his problems with money in some form or another, and it makes The Mermaid come off more corporate than intended.

But as usual for a Stephen Chow movie, the female characters are played by attractive, but assertive, actresses who steal the show from the male lead. In some ways, they’re the main reason to see the film, because the male performers are sidelined into roles with a caricatured bent. You almost wish they were given longer scenes with Li Xuan to expand his one-note persona.

So, overall, The Mermaid is great, if you’re looking for the Chinese answer to a Hayao Miyazaki movie. But if you really just want a fun Stephen Chow movie, it might better to wait until he stars in one again.

Ningen’s Rating: 7/10

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Xiao Zheng’s ‘Papa’ hits U.S. theaters on March 18!

"Papa" Chinese Theatrical Poster

"Papa" Chinese Theatrical Poster

On March 18, 2016, United Entertainment Partners (The Final Master) is releasing Xiao Zheng’s Papa, a new Chinese film that was shot mostly in Los Angeles. The film is a remake of the 2012 Korean film of the same name.

Papa stars Yu Xia, David Wu, Song Zuer, Yang Zi, Dennis Oh, as well as cameos from American talent, such as Macy Gray and Emily Kinney.

Here’s what you can expect from the plot: A bumbling Chinese talent manager, Huang, travels to L.A. to retrieve his singer who fled to elope mid-tour. Instead of retrieving his singer, his futile attempts land him an arranged marriage, five adopted kids and an angry boss demanding his investment back. In his quest to reclaim fame and fortune, Huang learns an important lesson in what it means to be a family…

Papa will be getting a North American limited release on March 18th, so check your local listings. Until then, be sure to catch the film’s new trailer.

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Sniper: Special Ops | DVD (Lionsgate)

Sniper: Special Ops | DVD (Lionsgate)

Sniper: Special Ops | DVD (Lionsgate)

RELEASE DATE: May 3, 2016

Lionsgate presents the DVD for Fred Olen Ray’s Sniper: Special Ops, starring the one, the only, Steven Seagal (Above the Law).

This time, Seagal teams up with pro-wrestler/actor Rob Van Dam (Black Mask II: City of Masks). Also appearing are Tim Abell and Dale Dye. Despite its title, the film is not related to the existing Sniper franchise.

In Sniper: Special Ops, a Special Ops military Force, led by expert sniper Sergeant Jake Chandler (Seagal), are sent to a remote Afghan village to extract an American congressman being held by the Taliban. The rescue mission is a success, but Jake, separated after a firefight with the enemy, stays behind to help an injured soldier. | Watch the trailer.

Pre-order Sniper: Special Ops from Amazon.com today!

Posted in DVD/Blu-ray New Releases, Martial Arts Titles | 9 Comments

Deal on Fire! Dragon: The Bruce Lee Story | Blu-ray | Only $8.99 – Expires soon!

Dragon: The Bruce Lee Story | Blu-ray (Universal)

Dragon: The Bruce Lee Story | Blu-ray (Universal)

Today’s Deal on Fire is the Blu-ray for 1993′s Dragon: The Bruce Lee Story, directed by Rob Cohen (The Fast and the Furious). Jason Scott Lee (Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon: Sword of Destiny) stars in this unforgettable glimpse into the life of the legendary Bruce Lee.

Dragon: The Bruce Lee Story is presented in 1080p with DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 surround. Features include: Commentary with Rob Cohen, Archival Introduction, The Making of Featurette, Behind-the-Scenes Reel, Jason Scott Lee Screen Test, Bruce Lee Interview/Photographs, Storyboards, Production Photographs and Theatrical Trailers. | Watch the trailer.

Order Dragon from Amazon.com today!

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Schwarzenegger’s ‘Legend of Conan’ isn’t dead yet!

"Conan the Barbarian" Japanese Theatrical Poster

"Conan the Barbarian" Japanese Theatrical Poster

For the last few years, Legend of Conan (aka King Conan or Conan the Conqueror) – the proposed ‘true’ sequel to 1982′s Conan the Barbarian – has been in an off again/on again status by Universal. The film was most likely pushed aside, numerous times, due to “higher priority” projects (i.e. Terminator Genisys) that involve the series’ returning star, Arnold Schwarzenegger.

Over the years, City on Fire has collected news updates regarding the development Legend of Conan. Here’s what we learned in the process:

1. Schwarzenegger will return to the title role and the movie is “100% happening,” says Frederik Malmberg, Paradox Entertainment’s President and CEO.

2. Legend of Conan will ignore both 1984′s Conan the Destroyer and 2011′s Conan reboot that starred Jason Momoa. It will pick up exactly where John Milius’ 1982 movie ended, focusing on an older Conan who has survived countless wars and bedded even more women as he searches for his life’s final battle.

3. Chris Morgan will serve as both producer and screenwriter for Legend of Conan. His credits include Wanted and Fast Five: “We think this is a worthy successor to the original film. Think of this as Conan’s Unforgiven,” says Morgan. Andrea Berloff (World Trade Center) is also one of the writers.

4. During a Q&A screening of 2013′s The Last Stand, Arnie explained that Universal admitted ‘the previous regime has missed the boat’ and they wanted to produce a serious action movie with a top director and top writers: “[Universal] finally came forward and said, ‘You’re absolutely right. The previous regime has missed the boat here. We want to pick it up. We’re going to buy the rights and we’re going to be serious about it and make a quality film with an A-director and with A-writers and so on. And we want you to participate in this. We want you to star and you to play Conan. We’re going to take a story where Conan is at that age so it’s totally believable and you’re not looking like a 30-year old action guy.”

5. Paul Verhoeven (RobocopTotal Recall) has expressed his love for 1982’s Conan and he has openly stated that he’s interested in directing Legend of Conan if given the chance.

6. Fredrik Malmberg, one of Legend of Conan’s producers, had this to say: “We want to polish up the script, specifically about the characters…” He adds: “A lot of directors have come fourth and expressed interest… we have been in touch with old great names and new fresh faces. We’re excited about finding the right guy for that.”

7. Schwarzenegger has supposedly invited Shankar (Anniyan, I) to direct Legend of Conan. Shankar is known for directing high budget Tamil films (he’s considered the pioneer of vigilante movies in Tamil).

8. Chris Morgan, Legend of Conan’s producer/co-writer told TAF: ”We plan nothing more than to immerse ourselves in the world Milius envisioned from Robert E. Howard’s unforgettable stories and Frank Frazetta’s stunning artwork. I can’t give specifics (nobody likes a spoiler!), but know we are honoring the locales, the religions and the traditions of the ’82 film.” He also mentioned that three characters are returning from the first Conan movie.

9. “…I’m sitting on the throne for years and years – decades, and then all of the sudden, the time comes when they want to overthrow me. So that story WILL be told and that movie WILL be done,” said Arnold.

10. After all these years, Legend of Conan is moving forward. Just recently, Schwarzenegger (via The Arnold Fans) mentioned that he will be soon meeting Shane Black (the director of the upcoming Predator movie) to discuss a possible role (as Dutch?). And he also said this: “There’s also a meeting coming up soon about Conan, about the project moving forward.”

As always, we’ll keep you posted as we hear more.

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Office | aka Design for Living (2015) Review

"Office" Chinese Theatrical Poster

"Office" Chinese Theatrical Poster

Director: Johnnie To
Writer: Sylvia Chang
Producer: Johnnie To, Sylvia Chang
Cast: Chow Yun-fat, Sylvia Chang, Eason Chan, Tang Wei, Wang Ziyi, Lang Yue-Ting, Cheung Siu-Fai, Tien Hsin, Wallace Chung Hon-Leung, Stephanie Che Yuen-Yuen, Timmy Hung Tin-Ming, Mickey Chu Kin-Kwan, Mimi Kung Chi-Yan

Running Time: 117 min.

By Martin Sandison

Just after the Berlin Film Festival finished, the Glasgow Film Festival began. In 2012, the highly reputable Glasgow event screened a sold out show of The Raid that I went to – with Gareth Evans and Iko Uwais in attendance. On the very same day this yearSPL II: A Time for Consequences blew my mind for the second time, while the surreal musical comedy Office deflated me.

Office is written by, produced, and starring the legendary Sylvia Chang (Yellow Faced Tiger). Chang began her career back in the early 1970’s starring in kung fu bashers with the likes of Jimmy Wang Yu (The Tattooed Dragon) and Yasuaki Kurata (The Flying Tiger). In 1978, she directed her first film for Golden Harvest, Once Upon A Time. She also became a hugely popular singer while creating a burgeoning acting career.

The multi-talented Chang then acted in theatre productions in the 1980’s, and in 2008, she created the play Design for Living, which eventually became Office. It’s a real vanity project for Chang, one that threatens to take off into something spectacular, but ultimately fails to deliver despite some great elements. Office is directed by the ever-busy Johnnie To (A Hero Never Dies), and serves as a welcome ‘spin’ for him. The film also marks the reunion of Chang, To and Chow Yun-fat, for the first time since 1988’s All About Ah Long.

The plot follows two new starts at a huge office design company, as they climb the ladder and navigate the colourful and quirky world the film creates. All of the characters come from the business world, and their interrelations fuel the narrative. The two young upstarts are played respectably by Nick Wangwhose role in the interesting The Bullet Vanishes stood out for me – and Lang Yue Ting, who appeared in Johnnie To’s Blind Detective.

I was annoyed that the film was marketed as “a Chow Yun-fat film,” when he only has a bit part and isn’t involved in the song numbers. That indefinable Chow Yun-fat-feeling permeates every scene he’s in, and made me wish he was in the film more. He plays the chairman of the company, while Chang is the CEO. There is certainly some chemistry in their brief scenes together, but the male actor who gets most screen time is Eason Chan (he’s in one of my all-time favourite Hong Kong movie titles: Golden Chicken). Although he’s a decent actor, the lack of interesting motivation for his character means I really wasn’t concerned about what would happened to him. The same cane be said about Tang Wei (from Ang Lee’s taboo-breaking Lust, Caution and Peter Chan’s Wu Xia with Donnie Yen), who plays one of Chan’s love interests.

This is where Office fails: investment in character. Also, a lot of the comedy falls flat, with only a few moments when I tittered. On the plus side, the first half an hour is beautifully constructed and draws you in to a visually superb universe. This is not only due to To’s roving camerawork, but also to the set and production design, which is breathtaking. It’s some of the best I’ve ever seen on a Hong Kong film, no joke. The sets are as pivotal and arguably more important than the characters who inhabit them.

There is a boring mid-film lull where not much is happening. Here, too much time is spent on subplots and the songs become grating with their Cantopop leanings. The opening numbers are well done and are complimented by the aforementioned positives, with some superb long takes and beautiful cinematography.

It’s very unfortunate that Office does not succeed in a lot of ways, as there is so much to recommend it for. The aesthetic construction at times is fully immersive, but is let down by poorly drawn characters. It’s still worth a watch though.

Martin Sandison’s Rating: 6/10

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Steele Justice | Blu-ray (Kino Lorber)

"Steele Justice" Japanese Theatrical Poster

"Steele Justice" Japanese Theatrical Poster

RELEASE DATE: May 3, 2016

Kino Lorber presents the Blu-ray for 1987′s Steele Justice starring Martin Kove (Karate Kid, Rambo) and Soon-Tek Oh (Missing in Action 2).

Steele (Kove) is ex-cop and Vietnam vet who is determined to bring down Kwan (Oh), a rich and powerful drug lord.

Robert Boris’ Steele also stars Sela Ward (Gone Girl), Ronny Cox (Robocop), Bernie Casey (Under Siege), Shannon Tweed (Electra) and Irene Tsu (Comrades: Almost a Love Story). | Trailer.

Pre-order Steele Justice from Amazon.com today!

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Is Schwarzenneger returning to ‘The Predator’ franchise?

"Predator" Japanese Theatrical Poster

"Predator" Japanese Theatrical Poster

While the original Predator may have its share of cheesy one-liners, it’s regarded by most as a modern action classic. It’s a movie that many consider Arnold Schwarzenneger’s strongest effort, a movie that would most likely be called John McTiernan’s finest hour if it wasn’t for a little film called Die Hard.

Still, even more surprising than the fact that Hollywood would touch the sacred cow of Predator is the news that none other than Shane Black will be directing the film. Before he made headlines for writing and directing Iron Man 3, Black was a talented writer who rose to fame on the strength of scripts like Lethal Weapon and The Last Boy Scout.

Alongside his meteoric rise as a screenwriter in the late Eighties, Black actually had a small supporting role in the original Predator as the character Hawkins; this blink-and-you’ll-miss-it part was apparently a way for the producers to try and coax Black into polishing the script for Predator, a task which he repeatedly refused. All these years later, the Predator story appears to be coming full circle, as Black will co-write – along with Fred Dekker (Iron Man 3) – the treatment for the new Predator before directing the film itself.

Black has confirmed that the new Predator film, titled The Predator, is actually an “inventive sequel” and not a reboot. Now we’re left to speculate if the film will treat the events of Predator 2 (let alone 2010′s Predators) as canon or ignore everything except the ’87 original. Producer John Davis says that The Predator will “reinvent a franchise.” A “genius” draft of the script is complete and was written by Black and his writing partner, Fred Dekker (Iron Man 3).

The real question is: what modern actor could possibly step into the combat boots made famous by Arnold Schwarzenneger – let alone the other musclebound roles ably filled by Carl Weathers, Jesse Ventura, and Sonny Landham? Considering that most of today’s stars are cast to be pretty rather than buff, it’s most likely that this new Predator will look and feel radically different than the original.

The film has a release date set for March 2, 2018 (a new promo poster). Production details are still pending. Stay tuned!

Updates: There’s a possibility that Arnie may be reprising his role as Dutch in the next Predator film. Here’s what he told The Arnold Fans: “I haven’t talked with him (Black) yet but I’m going to meet with him for lunch sometime soon. Just as soon as I’m finished with this (Arnold’s Sports Festival) and The Apprentice and all this stuff. But I will get together with him. If there is any news, we’ll of course let you know right away. There’s also a meeting coming up soon about Conan, about the project moving forward.”

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Kingdom of Blood | aka The Four III | DVD (Lionsgate)

Kingdom of Blood aka The Four III | DVD (Lionsgate)

Kingdom of Blood aka The Four III | DVD (Lionsgate)

RELEASE DATE: May 3, 2016

Lionsgate presents the DVD for Gordon Chan’s Kingdom of Blood (aka The Four III)… once again, retitled by the studio, just as they did with Lawless Kingdom (aka The Four II).

Explosive hand-to-hand battles and the dazzling spectacles of ancient China bring to life this thrilling epic saga. Follow Emotionless, Coldblood, Iron Hands, and Life Snatcher as they work to save the empire. Kingdom of Blood stars Chao Deng, Yifei Liu, Anthony Chau-Sang Wong, Collin Cho and Ronald Cheng. | Watch the trailer.

Pre-order Kingdom of Blood from Amazon.com today!

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Ip Man 3 | Blu-ray & DVD (Well Go USA)

Ip Man 3 | Blu-ray & DVD (Well Go USA)

Ip Man 3 | Blu-ray & DVD (Well Go USA)

RELEASE DATE: April 19, 2016

Well Go USA presents the Blu-ray & DVD for Wilson Yip’s Ip Man 3 (read our review), starring Donnie Yen (Kung Fu Jungle) and Mike Tyson (The Hangover). This highly-anticipated conclusion of the Ip Man saga features fight choreography by the legendary Yuen Woo Ping (Kill Bill Vol. 1, Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon).

When a band of brutal gangsters led by a crooked property developer make a play to take over the city, Master Ip (Yen) is forced to take a stand.

Bonus Features Include: Making of Featurette, Interview with Donnie Yen & Mike Tyson and Behind the Scenes.

Ip Man 3 also stars Lyn Hung (Ip Man), Zhang Han (The Taking of Tiger Mountain), Max Zhang (The Grandmaster), Patrick Tam (Purple Storm), Karena Ng (Kung Fu Angels), Kent Cheng (Flash Point), Louis Cheung (Legend is Born – Ip Man), Leung Kar Yan (The Postman Strikes Back) and Danny Chan (Shaolin Soccer) as Bruce Lee. | Watch the trailer.

Pre-order Ip Man 3 from Amazon.com today!

Posted in Asian Titles, DVD/Blu-ray New Releases, Martial Arts Titles | 32 Comments

Rage of Honor (1987) Review

Rage of Honor | Blu-ray (Arrow Video)

Rage of Honor | Blu-ray (Arrow Video)

AKA: Way of the Ninja
Director: Gordon Hessler
Writer: Robert Short, Wallace Bennett
Producer: Don Van Atta, Sunil Shah
Cast: Sho Kosugi, Lewis Van Bergen, Robin Evans, Richard Wiley, Ulises Dumont, Gerry Gibson, Martín Coria, Ned Kovas, Lilian Rinar, Hugo Halbrich
Running Time: 98 min.

By Zach Nix

After tearing up the streets of Los Angeles in Pray for Death, director Gordon Hessler and martial arts star Sho Kosugi reunited to crack down on drugs and destroy South America in the process with Rage of Honor, the lesser of their two collaborations. Whereas Pray for Death worked as a fun ninja take on the Death Wish formula, Rage of Honor tackles every action genre popular at the time and comes out a mish-mashed mess of a film in the process. Equal parts miscellaneous cop thriller, James Bond rip-off, Rambo: First Blood Part II, and ninja film, Rage of Honor is anything but focused or singular. It’s no doubt unintentionally hilarious, and charming for nostalgic martial arts fans, but Rage of Honor offers up little more than trademark Kosugi action.

Shiro Tanaka (Sho Kosugi), a federal agent, earns the chagrin of the mob when he busts them for drug trafficking. When his partner investigates into the matter further, the mob captures and kills him. After Tanaka barely escapes with his own life, he throws his badge to the curb and decides to go after the mob on his own terms in order to avenge his partner’s death. The stakes are further raised when Tanaka’s wife is kidnapped by the enemy, thereby leading him to the jungles of South America in an all out war against the mob and corrupt federal agents.

Although Kosugi is well known for his ninja centric films, Rage of Honor is a rare film of his with minimal ninja elements. It’s clear that Kosugi and Hessler wanted to reach a broader audience with the film as opposed to the niche crowds with a taste for ninja action. It’s also evident that the two wanted to ape the success of the James Bond films by decking out Kosugi in a tuxedo and placing him into more gun centric action scenes. Their desperation for foreign and blockbuster appeal is most apparent in the film’s ridiculous location changes, as the film makes a jump from the urban city to the jungles of South America for no natural reason other than to shake up the setting of the action sequences. I would put money down that Hessler thought that if they shot footage in front of a massive waterfall, than people would think that the film was “large” in scale, even though it isn’t.

However, the ninja elements still found a way to creep into the picture, and in the most hilarious of ways as well. For example, Kosugi may play a federal agent, but he still carries around ninja weapons and dresses in all black like a ninja. His varied arsenal includes not only spiked knuckles and a samurai sword, but even exploding ninja stars! I highly doubt those are regulation approved. The mob and government even use ninja assassins throughout the film, which is even more ridiculous. I understand why assassins would dress up like ninjas if it was a part of their fighting style and strategic to their assassination, but why would the government send soldiers in broad day light to kill Kosugi in ninja outfits? It’s absolutely hilarious, and one of the film’s funniest elements. Despite Kosugi’s attempt to get away from the ninja genre, the stuff still found a way into his wannabe Bond film.

In comparison to Pray for Death, arguably the greater of Hessler’s Trans World Entertainment productions, the exposition at the beginning of the film is especially rushed. The film moves into the plot far too quick and spends no time establishing Kosugi’s character before throwing him into the mix of the plot. At least Pray for Death gave you an idea of Kosugi’s character, down to his characteristics, motivations, and ambitions, before making him go ninja on his enemies. That minor attention to character made Pray for Death’s B-movie proceedings far more affective and compelling. Unfortunately, Rage of Honor offers nothing but B-movie fluff, as the film never takes the time to stop and give you a sense of Kosugi’s federal agent.

Another shame about Rage of Honor is that its plot is overly complex and completely ridiculous. Hessler and his screenwriters took what could have been a simplistic cop thriller about revenge and overly complicated it with double crosses and ever shifting villains. One minute Kosugi is fighting the mob responsible for killing his partner, and the next he’s in South America fighting Indigenous tribes with a crossbow while trying to save his wife. What the heck is going on? Imagine if Sylvester Stallone’s film Cobra suddenly shifted into Rambo: First Blood Part II, and you would have Rage of Honor. By the way, the grossly simplistic design of the Indigenous tribesmen in the film is especially racist and offensive to Indigenous persons. The action sequence in which Kosugi fights off several of them within the jungle also serves the plot in no way. However, part of this inane plot and unnecessary madness adds to the charm of the film. There’s definitely no denying that Rage of Honor is a mess of a narrative, but there is also no denying that the film is over the top in all areas and as entertaining as “so bad, it’s good” films can get.

While this inferior entry in Kosugi’s personal canon offers up next to no story, it still features the over the top action that Kosugi fans find nostalgic and eat up like junk food. The film may feature the most action of any Kosugi film to date, as Kosugi himself participates in a martial arts fight or shootout nearly every 10 minutes. Despite the film’s wonky plot and dull character interactions, Rage of Honor makes up for its inanity with more action than you thought was possible for a 1980s action film. A shootout early on in the film features some hilariously awesome acrobatic gun-fu in which Kosugi leaps through the air on trampolines while gunning down mobsters. Even the grand finale, which is set within the jungles of South America, features an insane amount of action, as Kosugi goes up against helicopters, ninja assassins, and a warehouse full of henchmen. By the time a once believed to be deceased character shows up for no other reason than to fight Kosugi again, you’ll probably find yourself laughing silly. Still, ninja fans eat this B-movie action up like candy, and those with a sweet tooth for it will find nothing but glee in Hessler’s schlock-tastic martial arts action sequences.

Rage of Honor comes to Blu-ray courtesy of Arrow Video U.S. While their previous Pray for Death disc looked fantastic, the transfer for this Kosugi flick pales in comparison. It is possible that the source for the film was weaker than the one available for Pray for Death, so take the transfer for what it is and be thankful that it is at least watchable.

The supplements on the disc are absolutely fantastic and range from an interview with composer Stelvio Ciprani, part two of Kosugi’s all-inclusive interview on his career, and a featurette on the history of ninja cinema. The short but sweet featurettes on Ciprani and ninja cinema are welcome additions and help inform one better about the film and its context in the history of action cinema. The interview with Kosugi picks up where the previous one left off as the ninja star delves more into his career as an actor post-Cannon’s Ninja Trilogy. He also covers films from the latter part of his career such as Black Eagle, Ninja Assassin, and a supposed future collaboration between Kosugi and his son Shane. If you were ever curious about Kosugi’s opinion on Jean-Claude Van Damme and the Wachowski Siblings, than check this one out. Action fans are definitely going to want to get their hands on this release if only for the fantastic supplements that reveal interesting personal stories about Kosugi and the history of his short lived but memorable career.

Although I mostly disliked Rage of Honor, your opinion of the film will most likely depend upon your own personal preference. If ninja action and B-movie thrills are your cup of tea, than Rage of Honor will more than please you with its non-stop action and ridiculous story. However, if you are like myself and prefer a slightly more defined protagonist and a legitimate story to go with your B-movie thrills or low budget action, than stick with Hessler and Kosugi’s previous collaboration, Pray for Death. All in all, Arrow’s release provides some absolutely stunning supplements that compliment a flawed, but highly entertaining action film that all action fans should revisit if only to see Kosugi play a federal agent whom dispatches his enemies with exploding ninja stars. Both of Arrow’s recent releases for Kosugi’s Trans World Entertainment films would make for a fantastic double feature as well.

Zach Nix’s Rating: 5/10

Posted in All, Asian Related, News, Ninja, Reviews | Tagged , | 1 Comment

Herman Yau’s ‘The Mobfathers’ will make you an offer you can’t refuse…

"The Mobfathers" Chinese Theatrical Poster

"The Mobfathers" Chinese Theatrical Poster

Before Herman Yau (Taxi Hunter, Ip Man: Legend is Born) goes back to the horror genre with his recently announced The Sleep Curse, the cult filmmaker will first deliver triad goodiness with The Mobfathers, an upcoming Category III crime flick.

The cast includes Chapman To (Initial D), Gregory Wong (Iceman), Kathy Yuen (Shinjuku Incident), Philip Keung (SPL 2: A Time of Consequences) and Yau’s frequent partner-in-crime, Anthony Wong (The Untold Story).

The Mobfathers releases in Chinese theaters on March 31. Until then, don’t miss this recent featurette. A full trailer is expected soon!

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9 Deaths of the Ninja (1985) Review

"9 Deaths of the Ninja" Theatrical Poster

"9 Deaths of the Ninja" Theatrical Poster

Director: Emmett Alston
Writer: Emmett Alston
Producer: Ashok Amritraj
Cast: Sho Kosugi, Brent Huff, Emilia Crow, Blackie Dammett, Regina Richardson, Vijay Amritraj, Lisa Friedman, Kane Kosugi, Shane Kosugi, Bruce Fanger, Sonny Erang, Ken Watanabe
Running Time: 94 min.

By Jeff Bona

After a string of successful martial arts films (Enter the Ninja, Revenge of the Ninja and Ninja III: The Domination) for The Cannon Film Group, Sho Kosugi, the main face of the 80s phenomenon known as the “ninja craze,” hooked up with Crown International Pictures to make the campy cult classic, 9 Deaths of the Ninja.

Just like The Cannon Film Group, Crown International Pictures was primarily known for their exploitation film output. Crown, however, was a lot more “independent” than Cannon; meaning, their films were a few notches up in the B movie department (or would that be a few notches down?). With titles like Orgy of the Dead (1965), Blood Mania (1970) and Galaxina (1980) in Crown’s catalogue, it’s easy to see why 9 Deaths of the Ninja is closer to “drive-in” territory than his previous films.

The backstory to 9 Deaths of the Ninja is an interesting one. In 1981, Emmett Alston, a filmmaker known for New Year’s Evil (1980), was tapped to direct Cannon’s Enter the Ninja, but barely into production, Alston – along with the Enter the Ninja’s original star, karate expert Mike Stone – was fired by producer Menahem Golan, who took over directing duties, leaving Alston deranked to second unit director. Stone’s termination was for his lack of any decent acting ability (he was replaced by Django’s Franc Nero), yet he remained on the project as the film’s advisor and stuntman. Alston’s demotion is a mystery, but judging from Golan’s reputation for being an extreme “control freak,” creative differences undoubtedly played a factor.

4 years later, Alston would find ninja retribution with 9 Deaths of the Ninja, a film he not only directed, but also wrote. In addition, he – along with prolific producer Ashok Amritraj (Double Impact) – secured a deal with the ultimate ninja actor himself, Sho Kosugi. Oddly enough, Cannon’s Golan and Yoram Globus served as executive producers, which may explain Kosugi’s involvement. Whatever the case, this was Alston’s movie and he was determined to make it the way he wanted to, which is exactly what he did.

9 Deaths of the Ninja follows the adventures of Spike Shinobi (Kosugi), Steve Gordon (Brent Huff) and Jennifer Barnes (Emilia Crow); a trio of secret service agents who are sent on a mission to the Philippines to rescue a group of American hostages (amongst them, Kosugi’s real-life children, Kane and Shane) by a bunch of goofball terrorists, headed by Alby the Cruel (Blackie Dammett) and Honey Hump (Regina Richardson).

9 Deaths of the Ninja is certainly the red-headed stepchild in Kosugi’s filmography. Even Kosugi himself fails to mention its existence in interviews, which is a damn shame, because it’s arguably his most entertaining feature when viewed from a “so bad, it’s good” perspective.

Despite being an American production, 9 Deaths of the Ninja feels like a cheaply-made, third-rate Asian film. Its acting, pacing, editing – and pretty much everything else – is rough around the edges. In fact, it’s a few hairs away from being as outlandish as a Cirio H. Santiago (Future Hunters) flick; and it doesn’t help that 9 Deaths of the Ninja was shot in the Philippines with extras made up of mostly Filipino talent. To top it off, Kosugi’s voice is dubbed (to be fair, all of Kosugi’s movies at this point were dubbed by another actor, but 9 Deaths of the Ninja takes the cake for having the crudest voice work).

What makes 9 Deaths of the Ninja interesting is that it’s essentially Kosugi being Jackie Chan: he’s playful, he’s humorous, he makes funny faces – and like Kojak – he has a habit of sucking on lollipops, which he keeps tucked into his accessory belt next to his throwing stars. During one particular fight scene, Kosugi barely proves victorious after being held down and punched in the testicles by a gang of midget assassins. And just a heads up for some of you ladies (and maybe even some of you guys): 9 Deaths of the Ninja is the only chance for you to see Kosugi wearing speedos.

Kosugi must be a huge James Bond fan. Not only does 9 Deaths of the Ninja have a pre-credit action piece, it also has a 007-like credit sequence that shows a shirtless Kosugi swinging his ninja sword while a pack of sexy ballet performers dance around him. The scene is topped off by a poorly produced Bond-esque love song that’s not exactly Shirley Bassey or Carly Simon. There’s even a Richard Kiel-like villain, not to mention an appearance by former tennis player (and brother of the film’s producer), Vijay Amritraj, who, a couple of years earlier, co-starred in the actual Bond movie, Octopussy (1983). Kosugi would play around with yet another Bond-esque title sequence with Pray for Death, which was also released in 1985.

9 Deaths of the Ninja is often referred to as a parody, which I find completely false. Sure, the film never takes itself serious, but it’s not an exaggerated imitation of any particular character or movie, either. It’s basically a corny ninja flick that’s very light-hearted, despite its R-rating (which is probably more for the brief nudity than the violence). As with all Kosugi movies, the action is spotty, but there’s definitely some slick martial arts moves to be found.

9 Deaths of the Ninja was the last film Kosugi would appear in that had any connection to Golan or Globus. At one point, he was attached to American Ninja (the role eventually when to Michael Dudikoff), but due to creative differences, Kosugi signed a new deal with Transworld Entertainment to start production on Pray for Death (1985), followed by Rage of Honor (1987). As for Alston, the director, he went on to make Tigershark (1987), a film that re-united him with his fellow Enter the Ninja-firee, Mike Stone.

At the time of writing this review, 9 Deaths of the Ninja is the only Kosugi film – produced at the peak of his career – that hasn’t made its way onto Blu-ray. Considering the film’s original negatives are probably hidden in someone’s attic in Manila, I wouldn’t hold your breath. But don’t let a bad DVD transfer stop you from witnessing Kosugi’s most wackiest hour.

Jeff Bona’s Rating: 6/10

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First look at Scarlett Johansson in ‘Ghost in the Shell’

"Ghost in the Shell" Anime Theatrical Poster

"Ghost in the Shell" Anime Theatrical Poster

Rupert Sanders (White and the Huntsman) is currently filming DreamWorks’ live-action adaptation of Ghost in the Shell, based on Masamune Shirow’s manga/and anime by Mamoru Oshii of the same name.

Ghost in the Shell follows the exploits a female cyborg cop who hunts a mysterious and powerful hacker called the Puppet Master.

The film will star Scarlett Johansson (Lucy), Michael Pitt (Funny Games), Pilou Asbæk (A Hijacking), Sam Riley (On the Road), Beat Takeshi Kitano (Beyond Outrage), Juliette Binoche (Chocolat), Kaori Momoi (Sukiyaki Western Django) and Rila Fukushima (The Wolverine).

Ghost in the Shell – along with Robotech and Akira – is one of the many live-action anime/manga projects in development by Hollywood studios.

Ghost in the Shell has a release date set for March 31, 2017.

Updates: Click here for your first look at Johansson’s character.

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First trailer for Takashi Miike’s ‘Terra Formars’

"Terra Formars" Japanese Theatrical Poster

"Terra Formars" Japanese Theatrical Poster

Takashi Miike’s (13 Assassins, Graveyard of Honor) live-action movie adaptation of Tachibana Kenichi (illustrator) and Sasuga Yu’s (author) manga, Terra Formars, is set for a April 29, 2016 Japanese release date.

This “man vs. mutant cockroaches” sci-fi action/thriller stars Hideaki Ito (Sukiyaki Western Django), Emi Takei (Rurouni Kenshin), Tomohisa Yamashita (Close Range Love), Takayuki Yamada (Gantz II: Perfect Answer), Shun Oguri (Lupin the Third) and Kane Kosugi (Tekken 2, Zero Tolerance).

Here are more plot details, according to Amazon’s manga description: “In the late 26th century, overpopulation on Earth is reaching the breaking point, and humanity must find new frontiers. The terraforming of Mars has taken centuries but is now complete. The colonization of Mars by humanity is an epoch-making event, but an unintended side effect of the terraforming process unleashes a horror no one could ever have imagined…”

Updates: Watch the film’s first trailer.

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Three more Golden Harvest DVDs from Warner!

"The Blade" DVD Cover

"The Blade" DVD Cover

On March 1st, 2016, Warner released three more Golden Harvest movies under their Warner Archive DVD Collection line: Tsui Hark’s The Blade (1995), Peter Chan’s He’s a Woman, She’s Man (1994) and Ching Siu-Tung’s A Terra-Cotta Warrior (1990).

The first wave, released late last year, consisted of Pedicab Driver (1989), Blade of Fury (1993), Big Bullet (1996) and Downtown Torpedoes (1997).

Note: As with all Warner Archive Collection titles, these movies are manufactured using DVD-R recordable media. According to Warner, DVD-Rs burn data patterns on an ink layer of the DVD. With traditional stamped DVDs, data patterns are molded within a texture layer of the DVD. So what does this mean? DVD-Rs are more sensitive to prolonged exposure to direct sunlight (so no leaving the DVD upside down on the dash board of your car). Also, unless you have a really old DVD player, DVD-Rs will play fine on standard DVD players.

Although exact details are limited, we’re assuming that all titles are anamorphic widescreen and in their original Chinese language with English subtitles.

All titles are currently available to order at Amazon.com.

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