Archive for August, 2013

The Protector 2 has a new trailer! Featuring Tony Jaa and Marrese Crump!

Posted in Jeeja Yanin, Kazu Tang, Marrese Crump, Panna Rittikrai, Prachya Pinkaew, RZA, Tony Jaa on August 29, 2013 by Michael S. Moore

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I was already pumped for this film, and I’ve heard from some people who saw the first trailer that there was too much CGI. There was some, but I trust Panna Rittikrai to pull off some amazing non-CGI fights, and that’s the message this trailer looks to deliver here.  The CGI is probably simply an enhancement for the 3D aspect of the film. I trust the filmmakers, so I have faith there won’t be too much of it. Besides,  with Jeeja Yanin, Dan Chupong, and Patrick Kazu Tang aboard, I doubt this will be anything less than awesome. Kinda reminds me of the Jackie Chan/Yuen Biao/Sammo Hung classics.

So watch the trailer below and sound off in the comments (as if I have to ask you to watch!)

 

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Review: A Force of One (1974)

Posted in Bill "Superfoot" Wallace, Chuck Norris with tags , on August 27, 2013 by Michael S. Moore

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Starring Chuck Norris, Bill “Superfoot” Wallace, Jennifer O’Neill

Fight Choreography by Chuck Norris and Aaron Norris

Directed by Paul Aaron

Chuck Norris always brings a lot of images of a tough guy karate kicking (or throwing his patented spinning backfist) at some poor schmuck who spins helplessly away. Of course, Chuck’s claim to fame revolves around two things: Walker Texas Ranger and getting his ass handed to him by Bruce Lee in Way of the Dragon. Outside of those things, his films haven’t been good, at least with the one’s I’ve seen to this point. So is A Force of One, his fifth film, the one to break the mold?

Nope, and it isn’t because of Chuck himself. I’ll get to that.

A Force of One finds a task force of police officers trying to break up a drug ring, and the film begins as two of these officers follow a teenager on a skateboard , one they think is actually a drug delivery boy, to a sporting good store. Later that night the two cops break into the store only to be killed by a masked assailant using martial arts. One of the detectives, Mandy (O’Neill) has the idea that her fellow cops were killed by someone skilled with their hands. With the blessing of her mumble mouth boss, she goes to see Matt Logan (Norris) a champion karate master who is getting ready for his biggest fight against Sparks (Wallace). Eventually Matt Logan agrees to help the police officers by training them in martial arts, but Logan’s snooping around brings the bad guys take him and his family out, and of course Logan won’t allow that to happen, and must face corrupt cops, drug dealers, and the mysterious killer in order to save what family he has left…

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A Force of One really needed to live up to its title. Namely, it needed more, much more Chuck Norris. He’s the reason to see the film, and the film treats him as if he’s a guest star for the first hour of the film. What we are subjected to is boring cops we could care less about, half of whom get murdered off. Their acting is just terrible, except for Jennifer O’Neill, and she’s passable at that. Her boss, well, I couldn’t understand half a word of what he said. He rambled and mumbled crap I just couldn’t understand. Hell, it didn’t look like Norris understood a word he said either. The story is unexciting, and there are no real thrills or suspense in the movie. I blame the shoddy direction and poor cinematography.

The fights are okay, but nothing imaginative or worth really getting into. The one good fight was really ring fight between Norris and Wallace, and really gave both men a chance to showcase their patented moves, which they do and do well. They get one final fight at the end, but this fight committed two of my cardinal sins: the fight was mostly slow motion and was shot at night with too many shadows hiding the moves.

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All in all I just can’t recommend this film. Chuck has actually done better films, but this one just has no fun whatsoever.

Kiai-Kick’s Grade: 4

The film had some decent ideas, but poor acting that WASN’T Chuck’s and characters I could care less about brought everything down. I barely want to call it a Chuck Norris movie.  That would require the star to actually be in the film.

Review: The Guillotines (2012)

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , on August 15, 2013 by Michael S. Moore

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Starring Haung Xiaoming, Ethan Juan, Li Yuchun, Shawn Yue Jing Boran

Fight Choreography by Lee Tat-Chiu

Directed by Andrew Lau

There is a remake bug that’s started going around in regards to martial arts films, and here is a remake of one of the classics. It’s actually not so much a remake as a reimagining/reboot. Andrew Lau (Legend of the Fist) directs this film, so does this film stack up to the original?

The film opens as we meet Wolf (Xiaoming),a rebel who is on the run with some of his men, known as Herders, but unfortunately they are attacked by the Emperor’s guards, the Guillotines, led by Musen (Yuchun), daughter of the man who put the Guillotines together. He right hand man is L (Juan). They are able to capture Wolf, but Wolf reveals that L will kill him, and soon. This allows Wolf to act with confidence, as no moment he fears death since he knows the exact time he will die. Sure enough the Wolf escapes, and the Emperor dispatches the Guillotines to bring him in, but things are complicated since Wolf kidnapped Musen during his escape. The Guillotines’ brotherhood is ultimately to each other, not to the Emperor, nor to the people. An order by the Emperor turns the Guillotines into wanted men, hunted by both the Emperor and the rebels. Faced with death from all sides, The Guillotines trust the only thing they have left…each other.

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This is a slickly made film. The production budget can be seen onscreen for sure. The story is okay, but not great. I suppose it’s a matter of taste, but the most fun in the film is the opening, which features exactly what you want to see: heads and arms being lopped off with those cool blades. After that opening, you don’t get any more of those scenes. The main draw of the film is over and done with, as if the story decided that the concept of the Guillotines is only worth the first 5 minutes of the film. After that we get something more akin to what you’d see in a samurai film. This is not a martial arts film, basically an CGI effects film with wirework. It all looks great, but in no way does it improve on the original Chen Kuan-Tai film. Firstly, the fun is gone in place of a more serious story. I may be biased, and I probably am, but I want to see a film where guys are losing their heads in cool ways. I also want a hero who doesn’t spend eighty percent of the film crying. CKT never really cried, he just kicked some ass. I waited for that “I’m-done-crying-and-emoting-and-now-I’m-gonna-get-some-head-chopping-revenge” moment and it never came. The film is excellent on a technical level, always pretty to watch, and there is a story there, but it never really clicked with me. The acting was well done, except for all of that damn crying. I haven’t seen so much crying in a martial arts film since Best of the Best. At one point I just wanted to kick the characters and yell for them to man up and fight, not cry until you get killed, and then keep crying as you die.

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As for the martial arts, there really isn’t any. The opening has as much as you’ll see, so there isn’t much to say about it.

This review is particularly biased since I just watched the original Flying Guillotine, and loved it for the campy Shaw Brothers film it was. Compared to that film this one doesn’t stand nearly as tall, but by no means is it a bad film. Audiences familiar and unfamiliar with the original may really like this one, but I just couldn’t dig it. I’ll revisit the film at some point and see if I feel any differently.

Kiai-Kick’s Grade: 6

A glossy, well produced and directed film that sits in the shadow of the original. No real martial arts to speak of, so if that’s what your looking for, you may want to look elsewhere.

Review: The Flying Guillotine (1975)

Posted in Chen Kuan-Tai, Norman Chu on August 12, 2013 by Michael S. Moore

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Starring Chen Kuan-Tai, Ku Feng, Frankie Wei, Norman Chu

Fight Choreography by Hsu Erh-Niu

Directed by Ho Meng-Hua

The Shaw Brothers was my gateway drug into martial arts films, as I’m sure it was for many fans like myself. I’m not sure which was the first Shaw Brothers film I ever saw, but this one was the most memorable. A crazy weapon, kung-fu, and a great performance by the legendary Chen Kuan-Tai.

The film begins during the Ching Dynasty, and Yung Cheng is the Emperor, a cruel man who would do anything to make sure even the slightest thought of rebellion against him is squashed. This includes two unfortunate government officials who try to defend a scholar who broke the law trying to teach the uneducated. The emperor decides to have both popular officials killed, but needs a way to have it done that doesn’t come back on him and cause the people to rebel. Xin Kang (Ku Feng) is ordered to come up with a way to kill them. After some colorful thinking, he comes up with, and you guessed it: The  Flying Guillotine, an spinning disk attached to a chain that once thrown, can wrap around the head of a target and with a simple pull chop the head clean off. The emperor, impressed by his new beheading device, (once he sees it in action, taking off the head of a dog!) orders Xin Kang to teach his twelve best personal guards, as they would never betray him. Enter Ma Teng (CKT), a loyal guard who quickly figures out that yes, he does work for a douchebag. Man quickly becomes the best of the guards at using the Guillotine, and after a few kills questions the fact that all the men killed were good men. After the death of a friend, Ma Teng escapes the compound, but is harassed by his former friends. Time passes, and Ma Teng takes a wife and has a child, but the Guillotines finally catch up to him. Ma Teng must now kill them all to ensure his family’s safety…

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This movie is really a campy film. The effects are laughable, the beheading scenes downright hilarious, and without a doubt this is a terrific film. Chen Kuan Tai gives a great performance as the guard with change of heart, and his fight scenes are great. Ku Feng quickly becomes sympathetic as the leader, a man who wishes to serve his emperor but not understanding the douchebag his boss actually is, until it’s far too late. The story moves at a good pace, and the moments before the Guillotine strikes are well done and lend an air of suspense to many scenes. My favorite kill doesn’t actually involve the Guillotine itself, but CKT throwing a sword. It’s one of those “ Oh no he won’t! Oh shit, he did!” .  

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The fights are well put together, and mixes up the combat with the guillotine strikes well. One of the better fights was actually the scene were Ma escapes the Guillotine compound. Another good tussle involves Ma versus two guillotines as his future wife plays music to cover up the sounds of Ma’s fight so the local officials don’t intervene. The end of that fight and the use of the guillotine was really well done. The entire end sequence was just a series of well put together fights. There isn’t really one absolute standout fight, but many small (but good) ones, but it’s all wrapped around the concept of the guillotine, and so the whole is greater than the parts.

I will say this: Norman Chu has one of the best death scenes ever. No one has a better look of ‘awe mixed with pain as he dies’ than Norman Chu.

Kiai-Kick’s Grade: 9.5

The Flying Guillotine is an absolute classic Shaw Brothers film that allows Chen Kuan-Tai to cut loose and kick ass with one of the best kung-fu weapons ever!

NEXT: Is the remake of The Flying Guillotine better than the original? Here comes the Guillotines!

Review: The Hunted (1995)

Posted in Christopher Lambert, Yoshio Harada with tags , , on August 9, 2013 by Michael S. Moore

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Starring Christopher Lambert, Jone Lone, Yoshio Harada, Yoko Shimada, Joan Chen

Fight Choreography by Tom Muzila

Directed by J. F. Lawton

The 80’s and 90’s saw martial arts films in the USA going ninja crazy. So much so a lot of new films starring good folks like Sho Kosugi and others came and went, but the mystique of the dark clad assassins have always tickled the fancy of Americans. Around the mid-90’s the ninja craze was already fading, but not before an overlooked film would wind up being the best of the American ninja films.

Three words: Bullet. Train. Sequence. More about that later.

The film begins as we meet Paul Racine (Lambert) a computer tech executive from New York who is attending a business meeting in Tokyo, and while hanging out at a bar meets Kirina (Chen), a beautiful woman that Racine takes out and has a fabulous night, and after he leaves Kirina’s apartment, she is ambushed and marked for assassination by the ninja Kinjo (Lone) of the Makato Clan. No one has seen Kinjo’s face, but Kirina defiantly requests to, and he obliges her as this is his last kill, but Racine returns to her room unexpectedly, and is badly injured by the other ninjas, but not before seeing Kinjo’s face, and seeing Kinjo behead Kirina.

A day or so later Racine is visited by Sensei Takeda (Harada) and his wife Meiko (Shimada), Takeda himself a swordman and a modern samurai. He is looking to protect Racine from Kinjo, who is sure to come after him, but Takeda has other ideas for Racine, and for Racine to survive, he must learn the way of the sword and navigate his way through an ancient way of Japanese life that many had thought was long gone…

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This is one of the few American films that, in regards to ninjas and samurais actually feels…right. Christopher Lambert is at the top of the marquee, but make no mistake this is actually a Yoshio Harada film, as his presence just dominates the screen whenever he’s there. John Lone is also great as Kinjo (even though he is Chinese) and brings a great deal of menace, and performs his fight scenes well. The story itself is well told, and moves at a good pace. There isn’t many slow moments, but the film never forgets to inject a little humor, and the good news is that it’s not at the expense of Japanese culture. The cinematography is okay but nothing exceptional, but Lawton does have one sequence to rule the all:

The Bullet Train Sequence.

This is a scene where Takeda, protecting Racine, starts at one end of the train, where on the other end, ninjas are making their way to the back, killing every single human being between them and Racine, meaning we get to see ninjas wiping out passengers by the dozens. It’s a tense scene, and once Takeda makes his way to them, you cheer when he starts slicing and dicing ninjas. It’s a great sequence and the camerawork does exactly what it needs to, and it’s not editing in quick cuts like so many American martial arts films tend to do. The sword fighting is well done here, and last exactly as long as each confrontation should, which as in many samurai films, is begun and ended quickly.

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The other set pieces are well done, particularly the final fights including the Kinjo vs. Takeda fight, which is shot well, and gives a sense of space between the actors fighting, something overlooked in many swordfighting films. Once Christopher Lambert takes over, it all goes out the window for some deus ex machina moments in order for Lambert to become victorious.

Kiai-Kick’s Grade: 9

The bullet train sequence is one of the best “ninja” moments in the history of ever. A great film that is easily the best of the American ninja film genre.

Barrio Brawler and Hit Girls at the Action On Film Festival in Monrovia, CA August 17-25

Posted in Jose Montesinos, JuJu Chan, Maria Tran with tags , on August 8, 2013 by Michael S. Moore

Some of you may not be familiar with the Action On Film Festival. It’s a festival exclusive to the world of, you guessed it, martial arts and action cinema. Of course they will show other genres of film, but Action reigns supreme. If it’s for you, and you live in a place close to Monrovia, CA, then you owe it to yourself to check it out. Some of the very folks I like to promote on this website will have films there. Who, you might ask? Well…

 

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Barrio Brawler

 

 

Dang right. Here’s your chance to catch this film in the theaters, and I tell you it’s well worth your time. Here is my review, and the trailer below:

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For the long-timers on this website you’ll remember Maria Tran from her Quest for Jackie Chan documentary she was making, and a film I reviewed on this website, Maximum Choppage.

Here she teams up with beautiful Hong Kong Actress JuJu Chan (she has multiple projects on the way, and she just had a film come out with the legendary Yuen Wah) Maria’s a cool lady and this should be pretty good.

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Here’s a synopsis:

Two mismatched killer assassins, sexy elite barbie Pixie Ho (Juju Chan) and hot-tempered, tomboy partner Charlie Vu (Maria Tran) are reaching breaking point in their tag team partnership. The mismatched duo must look past their differences when they take on an unusual undercover school girl assignment and take down the son of a multi millionaire, playboy Michael Huang – their former primary school crush. But will this be their last assignment? 

You can check out the Action On Film Festival Website here.

Of course there will be many, many, MANY more… I’ll post some of the more interesting ones as I hear about them!