Archive for the Amy Johnston Category

Review: Lady BloodFight (2016)

Posted in Amy Johnston, Xin Xin Xiong with tags , on August 23, 2018 by Michael S. Moore

Starring Amy Johnston, Muriel Hofmann, Jenny Wu, Kathy Wu

Fight Choreography by Xin Xin Xiong

Directed by Chris Nahon

For those of you who have followed my site for quite some time you know how close I follow the work of folks in the stunt community, particularly the shorts they make that in many regards are better than what cinema has been tossing at us. But something really cool is happening: those very same people are now beginning to take their place as actors on screen, directors, producers. No one exemplifies this more than the gentleman behind the John Wick movies, but there are many others, and Amy Johnston is a stuntwoman/actress I’ve been following for quite a while, through her work with the Thousand Pounds stunt team and her work with OG Vlad Rimburg. Amy’s worked her way up the ladder and finally gets her starting role in Lady Bloodfight. So how does she fare?

Lady Bloodfight begins in the past where we come upon a Kumite fought in the past between two women: Wai (Kathy Wu) and Shu (Hoffman). The fight comes to a draw, and both women agree to find other fighters to represent them in a rematch…

Fast forward 5 years or we find various Fighters being invited to the newest Kumite one of which turns out to be Jane Jones (Johnston) whose father disappeared after fighting in the Kumite many years earlier. She finds a mentor in Shu, while street urchin Ling (Jenny Wu) falls under the teachings of the vengeful Wai. Both women, ciphers for their masters, fight their way up the kumite, and eventually to each other…

The story here is pretty simple, but as we know, simple can also be difficult in film world. The film borrows a lot, and in some moments, a little too much from Bloodsport, still the definitive kumite movie. There are some similar character beats, and one particular moment that really irked me but I’ll get to that shortly. The bottom line in regards to the story and character beats is that this is nothing that hasn’t been done before and you’ll see the ending coming a mile away. Which leaves us with the performances, which I am happy to say are pretty good, particularly from the films’ star. I’ll say it a thousand times, Amy Johnston is working toward being the heir to Cynthia Rothrock’s throne, as both an actress and martial artist.

There are some dramatic moments in the film I was pleasantly surprised to see her pull off from an acting standpoint. Muriel Hoffman is good as Shu, Jane Jones’ teacher, but I wish the film had a little more of her as her character felt a bit underserved. Meanwhile, Kathy Wu is excellent as Wai, who seethes with anger in many scenes. The only weak link to me is Jenny Wu as Ling. I just couldn’t get into her character even though they tried to make her “deep”, but her acting just isn’t good enough to elevate her character beyond the limitations of the script.

Okay, there was one moment in the film that really bothered me, so let’s get into it a second. There is a moment where one of the fighters is African American, and a boxer. A boxer. She gets knocked out in one move, which irked me even more, and goes back to a lot of issues with how African-Americans are projected onscreen, and in this case the trope of “we need to show how powerful the fighter/monster/killer is by beating/killing a Black person in one moment” due to old stereotypes of Black virility and physical strength. I would’ve respected the scene had the fighter 1) lasted more than one move and 2) actually knew some other form of fighting outside of boxing. Like Karate, or kung fu, or virtually anything else.

The fights here range in quality all over the place, not so much due to quality, as Xin Xin Xiong (Clubfoot from Once Upon A Time in China) did the fight choreography, but the camerawork and edits don’t show the movements as well as could be done, which is a surprise as director Chris Nahon did an excellent job showcasing martial arts in Jet Li’s best English-language film Kiss of The Dragon. One of the best fights is when Jane Jones goes to get her backpack back from the thugs that stole it. I really can’t remember a fight in the actual kumite that truly stood out, as many of them involving Amy kind of did a wash-rinse-repeat to the cadence in each fight: Jane does ok at first, starts to get beaten up badly, bleeds more blood than I think a human body has, gets angry, remembers her training and proceeds to beat the tar out of the opponent.

Kiai-Kick’s Grade: 6

Lady Bloodfight isn’t a bad film, but it is filled with a few missed opportunities (poor fight editing, storyline) that could’ve made it a good to great martial arts film. But it does showcase Amy Johnston as a great talent deserving of a better film.

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Scott Adkins, Michael Jai White and Amy Johnston! The Trailer for Accident Man Is Here!

Posted in Amy Johnston, Michael Jai White, Scott Adkins on November 28, 2017 by Michael S. Moore

I had no idea this film was in production, so Shame. On. Me. However, we have been blessed with a trailer and hot damn does this look great! A Undisputed 2 rematch between Adkins and White? Amy Johnston vs. Adkins (she’s moving on up!). This is mana from heaven, folks, and I intend to be there eyes glued and popcorn ready! Here it is:

 

Does that not look badass? I just said “Hell Yeah!” as I watched this ten times. This film kicks its way right to your TV on February 6th, 2018! Here’s hoping we get a limited theater release beforehand!  Make it happen Sony!

What happened to Generation Next?!

Posted in Amy Johnston, Gina Carano, Jeeja Yanin, Ziyi Zhang with tags , on May 5, 2017 by Michael S. Moore

Michelle Yeoh has been the standard-bearer for successful female martial arts heroes for decades, followed closely by the likes of Cynthia Rothrock and names like the original hero Angela Mao, Yukari Oshima, Moon Lee, and Cynthia Khan. Year passed, and each one faded into cinema memories as time went on. With the exception of the Wuxia films, there was a noticeable dearth of female action films.

But then things began to change. We were introduced to a new crop of potential action stars: Stateside MMA fighter Gina Carano came out with her first film, Haywire, which was a modestly successful film, and she seemed to be the one to pick up the American mantle left by Ms. Rothrock. Overseas, renewed hope continued in the form of Jeeja Yanin in Chocolate, and Veronica NGO in The Rebel and Clash. Not to miss out we also had Zhang Ziyi making her mark in films like the House of Flying Daggers and The GrandMaster. Toss in Ronda Rousey making her debut in both a Fast and Furious film as well as The Expendables 3 and one would think that female martial arts action cinema would be in good hands.

Until it wasn’t.

Carano, as of this writing, did well with Deadpool but her acting is hampering her. Jeeja Yanin is suffering from two important things: her film choices and the absence of the great Panna Rittikrai as her fight choreographer. Zhang Ziyi was the best thing about The Grandmaster, but it was also Tony Leung’s star vehicle rather than hers. I’m not sure what became of Veronica Ngo, and Ronda Rousey, well, it’s hard to say.

So where do we go from here? Cinema seems to be taking care of it…to a point. Scarlett Johansson had Ghost In The Shell (not a very good film) and we have Wonder Woman coming out soon, as well as Atomic Blonde with Charlize Theron, so women are progressing in action cinema to being more than a damsel in distress. But where are the martial arts stars at? Could Ni Ni pull off being an action badass in Enter The Warrior’s Gate? How about stunt woman Amy Johnston in her film debut Lady Bloodfight? Is she ready to take the next step? Charisma and charm are good, but martial arts skills need to be on point as well. Who else is out there in the world of female ass kickers ready to step up to the plate? We have plenty of male martial arts stars. But we need something more. We need kickass women. Action cinema needs kickass women.

We’re still waiting.

And that’s the problem.

Enter the Warriors Gate is now in theaters, VOD and Digital HD.

The second trailer for Lady Bloodfight is here!

Posted in Amy Johnston, Bey Logan with tags , on April 6, 2017 by Michael S. Moore

We now have the second trailer for Lady Bloodfight, starring Amy Johnston, an immensely talented woman who could very well join the badass ranks with Michael Jai White and Scott Adkins, and this trailer looks much better than the previous trailer, and the idea of a female kumite interests me greatly. If you’ve seen some of Amy’s previous works then you know she’s got the goods. Add to that Chris Nahon, who directed Jet Li’s best American film Kiss of the Dragon and I’m all in.  Check out the trailer below, and get ready for the DVD release in June! Hit the comments section below and let me know what you think!

How about some previs work with Vlad Rimburg and crew?

Posted in Amy Johnston, Brendon Hour, Bryan Sloyer, Dennis Ruel, Emmanuel Manzanares, Jerry Quill, Shawn Bernal, Vlad Rimburg, Vonzell Carter on October 30, 2016 by Michael S. Moore

If you come to this site enough you know how much I love and appreciate the many martial arts stunt people/actors whom I’ve covered over the years. This video pretty much contains my favorite folks, one and all. They are tremendous talents one and all, in front and behind the camera, and it’s badass to see them together at once, even in a previs. My question is, previs for what? Ah, now that’s a question! Amy Johnston, Dennis Ruel, Vonzell Carter, Bryan Sloyer, Jerry Quill, Shawn Bernal, Brendon Huor, and Sam Puefua rock this all the hell out, with exciting choreography by Vlad Rimburg and Emmanuel Manzanares. Really, so much great work went into this. Check it out, and then watch it again. Great work, gang!

My new question for you, Vlad: So when do we get Part 3 Chapter A?

Review: UnLucky Stars (2015)

Posted in Amy Johnston, Dennis Ruel, Edward Kahana Jr., Emmanuel Manzanares, Jose Montesinos, Ken Quitugua, Sam Hargrave, Tony Chu, Vlad Rimburg with tags , , , on February 2, 2015 by Michael S. Moore

Unlucky Stars_1

Starring Dennis Ruel, Ken Quitugua, Jose Montesinos, Sari Sabella, Vladislav Rimburg, Sam Hargrave, Emmanuel Manzanares, Edward Kahana, Steven Yu, Roy Chen, Miguel Padilla, Shawn Bernal, Alvin Hsing, Gui Dasilva, Tony Chu, Andy Le Brian Le, Jimmy Chhiu, Yoshi Sudarso, Amy Johnston and two surprises!

Fight Choreography by Vladislav Limburg

Directed by Dennis Ruel

LBP Stunts Chicago. The Stuntpeople. Vladislav Rimburg. Dennis Ruel. Emmanuel Manzanares. All of these names have been spoken of ad nauseum on this website since its inception in 2010. I’ve championed their fight choreography and work in short films, citing that the Powers That Be in Hollywood should let these guys take the reins choreographing and directing big—or at least modestly budgeted— action films. Now action man and director Dennis Ruel (Rope-A-Dope 1 and 2, American Brawler) finally brings these talents together to pay homage to the Jackie Chan/Sammo Hung/Yuen Biao films of the 80’s, particularly the Lucky Star series of films. This is a tall order, and a major ambition where the talent involved could fall flat on their faces.

So did they?

Nope. Unlucky Stars hit the ground, flipped, kicked, and punched their way to cinematic awesomeness.

The story starts as we meet the major players, but for much of the film we follow Private Investigator Ken Champaco (Quitugua) and his new partner, newly unemployed Josh Whitman (Ruel) as they try to track down Peruvian Action star Tomas De La Cruz (Montesinos), who is working in San Francisco and owes money to bookie and wannabe gangster Sam (Hargrave) whose father Carl (wait ‘till you see who it is. I won’t spoil it.) is one of the most dangerous men in Los Angeles. Meanwhile, Cruz has a crazy fan in wannabe action star Sameer Yousef (Sabella) who unwittingly gets involved in the shenanigans, and David Palatnikov (Rimburg) a down and out stuntman simply looking for his next job. Toss in a crazy Celebrity Action Rehab reality show, a sadistic torturer (Bernal), one gonzo bounty hunter named Stan (Yu), and a bit of wrong-place, wrong-time moments that come together to compel Ken and Josh to becomes unlikely heroes…if they can survive the craziness around them…

Unlucky Stars _2

Unlucky Stars lives up to its name and goal. Sammo Hung would be proud, as this film is exactly the kind of film he would’ve tossed Yuen Wah, Richard Ng, and Eric Tsang into. While the story contains a lot of characters to follow, it ties their separate stories perfectly into the main narrative confidently. The comedy moments work for me, in a world where martial arts dominates…well, everything.

Every moment flows smoothly from one piece of insanity to the next, and the action is never far behind, even in small moments. The acting is great, and not a sour note in the bunch. Dennis Ruel and Ken Quitugua are great together as the investigative duo (very much a Jackie Chan/Yuen Biao pairing), and Vladislav Rimburg hits every note as the Sammo Hung-inspired Palatnikov, and Sam Hargrave is charming and funny as the bad guy Sam, and Sari Sabella is hilarious as the dimwitted, hapless Sameer, and brings a natural innocence to the character. It’s obvious that everyone worked their asses off and had a ton of fun doing it, and it shows onscreen.

Yes, this moment reminds me of a little movie called Dragons Forever!

Yes, this moment reminds me of a little movie called Dragons Forever!

This film is made for those of us who love martial arts films, particularly those made in the 80’s. See if you can find all of references. Everything from Y. Kurata Sushi to Golden Harvest Investigations to so much more (the opening of the film tells you exactly what you should expect) you’ll re-watch the film to catch the small things you’ll miss the first time. Even the final fight is an ode to the final fight between Sammo Hung and Richard Norton in Twinkle,Twinkle Lucky Stars, right down to the suspenders. There are not one, but two special guest stars, and I won’t spoil them, but one appear at the end of the film, and may hint at what may happen in the sequel (?).

The fights are as fantastic as you would want them to be, and there are so, so many good ones, from the church fight that brings out so many talented stuntmen/actors like Gui Dasilva and Tony Chu (this scene has my favorite character, an homage to the great Yuen Wah. Cigar included.) to the fight both inside and outside of the Celebrity Rehab house, and the terrific finale at a factory which contains a great fight between Rimburg and Hargrave. Sam Hargrave (Captain America: The Winter Soldier, The Avengers) goes through some fantastic falling stunts as he bounces himself off of a LOT of metal objects.

There isn’t enough good things I can say about UnLucky Stars. It lived up to the faith I had in the talent involved. This movie was made for me and all of you who love HK martial arts cinema like me. So my final grade is…

Kiai-Kick’s Grade: 10

Amazing action talent plus a great story that serves as a love letter to the Lucky Stars film series, and to 80’s HK action cinema as a whole. Not to be missed!