Review: DragonWolf (2014)

Posted in Kazu Tang with tags on January 21, 2015 by Michael S. Moore

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Starring Patrick Kazu Tang, Johan Kirsten, David Polivka, Guk Srisawat Stephen Thomas,

Fight Choreography by Patrick Kazu Tang

Directed by Raimund Huber

DragonWolf is another feature from the gents that brought us Bangkok Adrenaline, a low budget but fun little movie with some decent fight scenes. The question is did they make that jump to the next level?

They tried, but fell flat on their faces.

The film follows two hitmen, Mozart (Tang) and his childhood friend Marcus (Kirsten). Both seem to want to kill each other, and flashbacks fill in the blanks as to why (its about a girl). Both men work in the town of Devil’s Cauldron for Brutus, the most powerful gangster in town, who has grown tired of their little war as it is hurting his businesses, and looks for them to settle things. Neither man heeds this warning, and continue to fight, with Marcus using hired killers to do his dirty work. Before long both men crash into each other, and face off in a duel to death, little knowing they are pawns in someone elses’ game…

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The story here is laughable, filled with characters I just couldn’t get into, and whatever pacing the film has suffers from far too many flashbacks that are designed to pique interest, but really try to hide the weaknesses of the overall plot. The acting here is simply…pedestrian. Actually, its some of the worst acting I’ve ever seen. There are no-budget films that have shown better acting. Johan Kirsten is monotone, and Patrick Kazu Tang just sleepwalks through the film. The less said about the second in command the better (that’s how he’s listed in the credits). The rest of the actors range from terrible to oh-my-god bad.

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The fight choreography is simplistic and slow, with the exception of the next-to-last fight with the two Russians, and a fight between Mozart and three hitmen. These fights are better, but only by a bit. The rest is slow and the camerawork seems to lack any dynamic movement. The final fight features some of the most unimaginative sword fighting I’ve ever seen in a martial arts film, which is criminal. I expected better from Patrick Kazu Tang, and he let me down here big time.

Kiai-Kick’s Grade: 4

A barely mediocre film that is further betrayed by a terrible script and worse acting. I recommend you all skip this dreck, but if you have to:

Now available from the good folks at WellgoUSA.

Farewell to Darren Shahlavi. We’ll miss you, mate.

Posted in Darren Shahlavi on January 20, 2015 by Michael S. Moore

Darren Shahlavi

This is just not the news I wanted to wake up to. The great, and very kind-hearted Darren Shahlavi has passed away. I know he was a favorite of some of you on this website, and a favorite of mine as well, so this news…is just terrible. I’ll have more to say later, but for now I send my condolences to Darren’s family.

Thanks to Mike Leeder for the news.

Review: Rope-A-Dope 2: The Return of the Martial Arts Mafia (2015)

Posted in Dennis Ruel, Edward Kahana Jr., Eric Jacobus, Freddie Poole with tags , on January 13, 2015 by Michael S. Moore

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Starring: Eric Jacobus, Dennis Ruel, Edward Kahana Jr, Shaun Finney, Lucas Okuma, Thomas Tan, Allen Quindiagan, Ashley Short, Darren Holmquist, Eric Nguyen, Bridger Fox, Brandon Daranouvongs, Jason Jiho Kim, Leonard Zhang, Alain Bloch, Ken Quitugua

Fight Choreography by Eric Jacobus, Pete Lee, Shaun Finney, Dennis Ruel, Clayton Barber

Directed by Pete Lee and Eric Jacobus

Rope-A Dope was one of the best martial-arts-anything of 2013, and actor and stuntman Eric Jacobus and The Stuntpeople return for another round. Could they recapture what made the original short so fantastic? Would they be able to “take it to the next level’?

F***K YEAH.

After a brief recap of the original (put to the tune of Magic Clap, which I happen to be listening to right now) we find that the city is about to honor the Dope (Jacobus) for defeating the Martial Arts Mafia in the previous film. Of course the Dope still has no concept of time, and finds himself running late. Meanwhile, Den (Ruel) the leader of the gang in the previous film, finds that just like the Dope, he too is repeating the day once he takes a knockout hit. What ensues is a hilarious back and forth and both try to one-up the other, leading to a knockdown-dragout finale…

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Both films, but this one even more than the first, remind me of the Jackie Chan-Sammo Hung—Yuen Biao films of the 80’s (hear that, Eric Jacobus? Remake Wheels on Meals or Twinkle Twinkle Lucky Stars!) from the way its filmed and edited, to the music, which absolutely rocks. Eric is at his best when he’s doing the funny stuff, and here the comedy works, with no dialogue, meaning everything has to be read on Eric’s face to see what he’s thinking, and he succeeds here, as does Dennis Ruel, who returns and is able to get in on the comedy in a way he wasn’t able to last time, and he’s great here too!

The fight choreography made me flashback to the best days of Jackie Chan and Sammo Hung (Note that I keep going back to them. There’s a damn good reason why) with fast and complex choreography that makes sure to take note of the smaller movements (for instance, The Dope using the cane to get himself back up during the final fight) which may seem unimportant, but something would be missing without them. It’s these scenes that hearken back to the JC/SH days of yore. They put importance on the little moves, not just the flashy ones, that give every fight its own personality and energy, and The Stuntpeople know this and made sure to do the same.

Rope-A-Dope 2 is, simply put, one of the best martial arts shorts I’ve ever seen, and anything else coming out in 2015 has a long road to reach the heights of this film. Jacobus and The Stuntpeople will win a lot of awards this year, and it will be so well deserved. So this should be no surprise:

Kiai-Kick’s Grade: 10

It just doesn’t get better than this. Watch. Jaw Drop. Rewind. Repeat.

Eric Jacobus is back with Rope-A-Dope 2! Watch now!

Posted in Dennis Ruel, Eric Jacobus on January 12, 2015 by Michael S. Moore

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The first Rope-A-Dope blew so many of us away, and now Eric and crew return! My review will be up tomorrow, but in the meantime, turn your speakers up and watch Eric and crew rock it!

 

Danny Trejo, Marko Zaror, and Michelle Lee…The Green Ghost!

Posted in Arnold Chon, Freddie Poole, Marko Zaror, Michelle Lee with tags on January 6, 2015 by Michael S. Moore

Filming near Austin, Texas right now is the latest film with Danny Trejo, and it looks to be really, really something. For starters, Michelle Lee (Mileena from Mortal Kombat: Legacy, Pacific Rim, Clandestine) is in it:

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oh, and this guy:

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That’s right. The great Marko Zaror also stars, and the film also appears to have a bevy of martial and parkour artists. The fight choreography is by Arnold Chon (Pirates of The Carribbean, Blood and Bone, Black Dynamite) and Freddie Poole (Ride Along 2, Ant-Man, Argo, Rope-A-Dope 2) I don’t know what the story is about, who the good guy/bad guys are, but rest assured I’m gonna try to find out. IMBD has a synopsis of the story, but things can change, and it may be different now that what’s up there.

They’ll be hangin’ around the Austin area for a few weeks, so I hope to talk to some of the stars and crew more in depth as production gets underway!

PS. I’m not in the film. I would be probably be the coffee boy to the director. Or the guy to answer the question: Where the hell is Lockhart, Texas?!

 

Review: Clandestine Episode 1 (webseries)

Posted in Amy Johnston, Gui DaSilva, Michelle Lee with tags , on January 2, 2015 by Michael S. Moore

Clanestine

Starring: Marshal Hilton, Amy Johnston, Reuben Langdon, Aaron Toney, Michelle Lee, Gui DaSilva, Jimmy Chhiu, Christopher Rivas

Fight Choreography by Brendon Huor

Directed by Haile Lee & Christopher C. Cowan

First, the episode itself:

So after quite a while of waiting, we finally have the first episode of Clandestine, featuring members of the Thousand Pounds stunt team, a group this site has followed for a while. I was excited to hear about Clandestine, a martial arts web series that was Kickstarted, and rife with great talent across the board. So how did Episode 1 turn out?

I am intrigued, but wished there was more martial arts (but I would say that about anything not named The Raid). In the first episode we are introduced to the world of Clandestine, and we follow the leader of the Lion Clan, Elliot Dural, as he is called to a meeting with the other heads of the rival clans who have kept peace for quite a while. He attends the meeting with William, who I assume is his son(?). Of course at the meeting things don’t go according to plan, and the group is ambushed, and it appears that any further talks of peace are destroyed…

The production values are quite good here, particularly with the costumes and special effects. The acting is decent but just a tad stilted. The camerawork is quite good, but if you follow Thousand Pounds, that’s just par for the course. The story moved along at a good pace for a first episode, and there is some fighting at the end, but I felt a few characters would have been better served with a little more screen time, if only to build sympathy for them when they get killed (dang, couldn’t we get a little more screen time for Michelle Lee?). The little fighting there is does whet the appetite for what’s next, so it did its job! The best job this episode did was to make me want to see episode 2! Well done, ladies and gents, well done.

Episode One of Clandestine is great, and can only get better once Amy Johnston shows up next episode!

Kiai-Kick’s Grade: 8.5

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