Archive for the Cung Le Category

Scott Adkins + Marko Zaror+Cung Le = Savage Dog Trailer! (2017)

Posted in Cung Le, Marko Zaror, Scott Adkins on January 28, 2017 by Michael S. Moore

Oh yeah. This is my jam! Scott Adkins in a period piece? Yes! Scott Adkins and Marko Zaror in a Undisputed rematch! Yes!  One of them vs. Cung Le? Yes! Keith David? Oh hell yes! I don’t know much about fight choreographer Luke LaFontaine, but here’s hoping he brings the goods. I have a few worries about martial arts films in 2017, but this makes me optimistic. Check out the trailer below, and let me know what you think! By the way, Keith David makes anything better.

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Review: The Grandmaster (2013)

Posted in Cung Le, Tony Leung, Yuen Woo Ping with tags , on October 21, 2015 by Michael S. Moore

grandmaster3

Starring Tony Leung, Zhang Ziyi, Cung Le, Elvis Tsui, Lau Shun, Lo Mang, Yuen Woo-Ping, Zhang Jin

Fight Choreography by Yuen Woo-Ping

Directed by Wong Kar-Wai

When news came that another Ip Man film not starring Donnie Yen was being made, I had to roll my eyes. Much like Wong Fei-Hung everyone has to have their own take on Ip Man. Most have been okay to really good, but none have come close to the quality of the Wilson Yip/Donnie Yen series. Now toss in Wong Kar Wai, a prolific and one of the most talented filmmakers..well, anywhere, and I thought this was on the road to greatness.

But along the way Wong Kar-Wai decided to take a detour.

The film starts off by showing a rain-soaked fight between Ip Man (Leung) and a legion of gentlemen led by Iron Shoes (Le). After Ip Man tears ass through them we learn of his early years learning Wing Chun, and then his marriage and life with Cheung Wing-Sing. Ip Man’s life seems to be going peacefully until The Northern Boxing GrandMaster Gong Yutian arrives, challenged the southern schools to find their own Grandmaster, as he is retired and has made his son Ma San the Northern Grandmaster. The southern masters agree that Ip Man should represent them, and things get complicated when Gong Yutian’s daughter Gong Er (Ziyi) arrives, and Ip Man finds his heart may be going to her, but arrival of the Japanese and his flight to Hong Kong threatens to undo the perfect life he’s made for himself, and Gong Er must deal with a treacherous brother and ailing father in order to protect her family’s martial arts legacy. But how much is that worth to her?

the grandmaster

My issue with the film, and maybe it is a matter of expectation, is that it’s a little deceptive, and maybe not in a good way. I went into this thinking I was watching a Ip Man film. But from a  narrative perspective that’s not really the case; this film is really about Gong Er and her family. The Grandmaster title isn’t referring to Ip Man, but rather Gong Er. Ip Man is nothing more than a supporting character. This is not to say that Tony Leung doesn’t do a good job, because he does. He’s stoic as Ip Man, but at the same time conflicted. Zhang Ziyi is also excellent as Gong Er, a strong woman who was unfortunate enough to not be born a man, at least in her father’s eyes. The issue here is that the film takes a narrative turn away from Ip Man to follow Gong Er, and then jumps back to Ip Man toward the end, pretending as if the previous hour we had been watching an Ip Man film the entire time. Did Wong Kar-Wai simply decide that Gong Er was a more fascinating character to follow? I felt that there was a whole Ip Man film left on the cutting room floor, and with Wong Kar-Wai’s reputation, I wouldn’t be surprised if that was actually the case. I have to admit, however, the film is absolutely gorgeous to look at. It almost looks as if it could have been a black and white film, in the way that the camera plays with the shadows and golden skin tones, contrasted by the opening of the film in a rainstorm that never looked so good.

grandmaster

The fights are solid, though it had more wirework than I was comfortable with, but one was a big notch above the rest: Gong Er versus her brother Ma San at the train station. It was a cinematically gorgeous fight, and with the train passing by it added a layer to the composition of the visuals. Zhang Ziyi and Zhang Jin do excellent work here. Yuen Woo Ping still has a great big bag of tricks in his tool belt, but aside from looking beautiful, it just felt like something was missing.

Wong Kar Wai’s film asks the question “What is Kung-Fu?” but I’m not sure he knows the answer. Maybe that’s the point.

Kiai-Kick’s Grade: 6

The Grandmaster is a gorgeous film to look at, and Zhang Ziyi does a great job as Gong Er, and Tony Leung lights up the screen as Ip Man. If only Wong Kar Wai knew which movie he wanted to make.

Review: The Man With The Iron Fists (2012)

Posted in Andrew Lin, Chen Kuan-Tai, Corey Yuen, Cung Le, Daniel Wu, Gordon Liu, Grace Huang, Leung Kar Yan (Beardy), Lucy Liu, Rick Yune, RZA with tags , on November 3, 2012 by Michael S. Moore

Starring RZA, Rick Yune, Russell Crowe, Lucy Liu, David Bautista, Jamie Chung,Byron Mann, Cung Le, Daniel Wu, Gordon Liu, Chen Tai Kuan, Leung Kar Yan (Beardy), Grace Huang, Andrew Lin, Dennis Chan, Pam Grier

Fight Choreography by Corey Yuen

Directed by RZA

The Wu Tang Clan is without a doubt one of the best hip hop groups of all time, basing their music on their love of kung fu films, and even their names professed their love for the genre, all taken from kung-fu films: RZA, GZA, Ghostface Killah, Ol’ Dirty Bastard (ODB), Method Man, Raekwon, Masta Killah, and U-God. The 36 Chambers, of course taken from Gordon Liu’s 36 Chambers of Shaolin, is considered one of the greatest hip hop albums of all time, and even some of their music videos show off Shaw Brothers inspired kung fu fight scenes. So of course when word came that RZA was making his own kung-fu film excitement spread among his fans due to his love and pedigree. With an assortment of current and old school stars, we now have The Man With The Iron Fists.

The film follows the exploits of three heroes: Blacksmith (RZA), an escaped slave that came to the small town of Jungle Village in China after his ship crashed, and becomes a renowned weaponsmith, who hopes to make enough money to buy prostitute Lady Silk (Chung) whom he is in love with from Madame Blossom, who runs one of the best whore houses in China.

The second hero is Jack Knife (Crowe), a vulgar British man who arrives to Jungle Village, waiting on a shipment of gold to arrive sent from the Emperor.

The third hero is Zen Yi (Yune), son of Gold Lion (Chen), who is the head of the Lion Clan, who comes to Jungle Village to avenge the murder of his father at the hands of his lieutenants Bronze Lion (Le) and Silver Lion (Mann) and Poison Dagger (Wu).

Jungle Village is soon overrun with men who arrive to attempt to steal the gold shipment when it arrives, and the Lion Clan succeed in doing so, killing the Gemini Clan who had been sent to protect the convoy. The Lion Clan is also joined by Brass Body (Bautista), a man who can actually turn his skin into actual brass, so weapons have little effect on him. The Emperor, enraged at the theft, sends his soldiers with a new weapon from America: The gatling gun, with order to raze the village to the ground if the villagers don’t turn the gold over to the soldiers. Now Blacksmith, Jack Knife and Zen Yi must enter the Blossom and face the Lion Clan, the prostitutes who are far more deadly than they seem, and a metal man in an attempt to get their revenge and save the town at the same time…

A football analogy may best describe this film: That of a wide receiver jumping up in the endzone covered by two cornerbacks and makes a spectacular catch only to have the ball slip through his fingers just as he’s touching down. This film has a lot of problems, but also has quite a few things that the RZA did do really well. The cast was well chosen with the exception of one cast member. Russell Crowe was actually really good as the crude, rude Jack Knife (the character was modeled after the late ODB), Lucy Lui also does a fine job as Madame Blossom, bringing a lot of personality and deadly beauty to the role. Cung Le is also very good as baddie Bronze Lion, and the list of supporting characters is just awesome: you have the great Gordon Lui, Beardy, and Chen Tai Kuan all looking great to see on screen again. Special recognition to Grace Huang and Andrew Lin as the Gemini Twins. They had a short amount of screen time but were two of the most interesting characters in the film, that I really wanted to see more of, and seeing Dennis Chan (Kick boxer) and Pam Grier rounds things off nicely. Daniel Wu was miscast as the main villain as Daniel doesn’t know much in the way of martial arts and it shows, but he can look menacing. I wish they had gotten someone like a Yuen Biao or Lo Meng or hell, why not Wang Lung Wei to play his part. Rick Yune does fine job with the action but his acting is very one-note, but of all the cast members, one sticks out as the worst, and it brings the film down a lot.

That would be the RZA himself.

He’s really not very good as an actor, and he’s not a martial artist, and that is a bad combination (he did use Marrese Crump as his martial arts stuntman, which causes problems of its own) . For his character to work he had to be good at one or the other. As the film goes on that becomes a problem as he simple can’t pull off the dramatic scenes. This is a role that should’ve gone to a Michael Jai White or Wesley Snipes, men who are good at both acting and martial arts. The RZA gets so many things right, but this one piece of hubris brings everything down as he can’t carry the film in his scenes.

The directing by the RZA is decent, and the production values are top notch, and the music is absolutely fantastic, featuring the Wu Tang Clan at its best, and really fits with the look of the film (showing once and for all that yes, hip hop music in a martial arts film can work if done correctly). The first 30 minutes of the film is absolute top notch, from the old school opening credits to the first fights, but after that the story settles down and becomes a been-there-seen-that affair as nothing new is brought to the table, except gore on the level of Story of Ricky, so this film is not for the squeamish. The climactic fights at the end of the film for the three protagonists is resolved so simply it brings down the level of threat the villains ever had to begin with. The camera work is well done, but another culprit rears its ugly head, one common to American action films: editing, but I’ll get to that as part of my next problem with the film.

That would be the fight choreography by Corey Yuen. Tons of unnecessary wirework, and dammit Corey goes slumming again. I thought Romeo Must Die would be his low point, but he manages to nearly hit that point again. The fight scenes are not very well done. There is no complexity to the choreography, no grace, even for those who know martial arts. This is the biggest sin this film commits. The editing does nothing to help, as it is editing in typical American MTV style quick cuts and extreme close-ups to the point where you can’t see where the hell anyone is at in relation to each other. It is also here that the RZA’s camera work (or that of the 2nd unit director if there was one) really let the film down, as they don’t know how to shoot or follow action very well. This may be due to the fact that things had to be edited to appear as if RZA knew martial arts and to hide his stunt man. If Corey Yuen directed these scenes, then shame on him. Either way this wouldn’t have passed mustard in a Hong Kong production.

I did love the Shaw Brothers-inspired closing credits, though.

Kiai-Kick’s Grade: 6

The Man With The Iron Fists falls short of greatness, but isn’t a terrible movie, and fun may be had if you see it at matinee prices. The RZA’s heart is in the right place, but in the end it’s just an American film pretending to be a Shaw Brothers film.

Review: I Am Bruce Lee (2012)

Posted in Brandon Lee, Bruce Lee, Cung Le, Dan Inosanto, Diana Lee Inosanto, Gina Carano, Robert Wall with tags , on February 12, 2012 by Michael S. Moore

Starring Bruce Lee, Brandon Lee, Shannon Lee, Linda Lee Cadwell, Dan Inosanto, Diana Lee Inosanto, Cung Le, Gina Carano, Manny Pacquiao, Robert Wall, Gene LeBell, Ed O’Neill, Mickey Rourke, Taboo, Kobe Bryant, Reginald Hudlin, Teri Tom, Jon Jones, Ray “Boom Boom Mancini”, Daniele Bolelli, Dana White, David Tadman, Dr. Paul Bowman. Richard Bustillo, Paul Rodriguez, Stephan Bonnar

Directed by Pete McCormack

“Water can flow or it can crash. Be water, my friend.”

-Bruce Lee

I Am Bruce Lee is a documentary that follows the life–and death–of Bruce Lee, cinema’s greatest martial arts star, and one of the greatest martial artists who ever lived. There have been other documentaries done over the years about Bruce, so how does this one stack up?

I’ll say it’s probably the best one yet, with one slight problem I’ll touch on shortly. The film really starts with slam bang intro that mixes scenes from Bruce’s films along with sound bytes from some of the stars being interviewed, and it will really get one salivating to see Bruce Lee’s films brought back to the big screen (you listening, whomever holds those rights? If Blade Runner and Star Wars can get rereleased in theaters, why not Bruce?). Then we go into Bruce’s life, and the film does a great job of going step by step through Bruce’s tumultuous time in China to his difficulties in America to when he met Linda and things started falling into place, but not without hard work and sacrifice.

The film then traces the TV shows he was a part of, some of which I had never heard of and wall thrilled to see scenes of, to his departure to China and his surprise at how popular the Green Hornet (or the Kato Show, as it was called there.) was, to his involvement–and problems–with Lo Wei (Jackie Chan would have his own set of problems with Lo Wei years later), to the success of The Big Boss, his other films in China, his matchup with Chuck Norris (I wonder why he wasn’t interviewed for this?) and his eventual death, which becomes the most affecting moments in the film as we see, maybe for the first time, what it meant to not just the fans, but to the people who were closest to Bruce.

Pete McCormack does a great job conducting the interviews and getting the maximum affect interspersing them among footage of Bruce Lee’s screen test, and his only real interview on the Pierre Berton Show, along with video footage in Bruce’s backyard to just pictures from his life before stardom hit. The scenes from all of Bruce’s films are done just right, and are fantastic to see and make perfect sense regarding the discussion or comment at that moment. The interviewees are people who are really Bruce Lee fans, and most are martial artists themselves, and they do a great job.

The only part of the film that rubbed me the wrong way came at about the midpoint of the film. A semi-debate started about whether Bruce was the Father of MMA or not. One side, notably those close to Bruce, are iffy and don’t seem to be comfortable even talking about it, but aren’t really convinced that he is. Dana White and the UFC group profess that he is, Gene LeBell definitely believes in fact that HE is the father of MMA rather than Bruce, and a lot of UFC fight footage is shown. This is a jarring moment that really pulled me out of the film, wondering why this was there. I then remembered that Spike TV helped produce this, and they promote many UFC events, so that explains that, but that is a discussion/debate that needed to be elsewhere, not in a documentary about Bruce Lee, regardless of how popular the MMA style is to today’s fight fans. Maybe MMA fans like it, but I found myself checking my watch at that point. When the film returns to Bruce’s life, it felt like coming back from a commercial break.

For those who are well-versed in Bruce Lee’s life there isn’t anything here that may be new to them, but to those who don’t know as much will find it a rich and exhilarating film. There were things I didn’t know, like the fact that Bruce and James Coburn had tried to location scout for The Silent Flute, eventually to be made by David Carradine, but the film was dropped because no locations could be found, and it was great to see the photos of Coburn and Bruce scouting the locales. I also didn’t know that Bruce had become a big child star in Hong Kong before he was forced to leave to America because of his problems after beating up the son of a police chief. I was aware he had made films as a child, but I didn’t know that he was a very famous child star, so there was an extra treat when the Kato Show came out and people could see the grown up Bruce Lee. I was also unaware of just how much the Manson murder spree affected him.

My personal, most affected moment of the film was after Bruce Lee’s death, and when Dan Inosanto and Richard Bustillo starting talking about it, you could really feel the shock and pain as they recount when they had heard about it and their feelings that day and both men looked as if they went right back to that moment and the hard days afterward. You may as well have tossed them both into a time machine and dated it July 20th, 1973. That is the moment that was driven home to me that while we think of Bruce Lee the martial arts savant, his family and friends were utterly crushed as they lost a husband, father, friend, and master.

(On a scale of 1-10, 10 being the best):

Final Grade: (9) Overall, I am Bruce Lee delivers on its title. It is hard-hitting, philosophical, excellent even in its imperfections, emotional in its punches and always dancing around, and is fantastic fun to watch on the big screen, just as the man himself.

The film will have selected showings again on February 15th. You can check the listings of their showtimes here: http://www.iambruceleemovie.com/

Review: Tekken (2010)

Posted in Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa, Cung Le, Cyril Raffaelli, Gary Daniels, Jon Foo, Lateef Crowder, Reviews, Roger Huerta with tags , , , , , on February 17, 2011 by Michael S. Moore

Starring Jon Foo, Ian Anthony Dale, Cary Hiroyuki-Tagawa (CHT), Kelly Overton, Gary Daniels, Lateef Crowder, Roger Huerta, Cung Le, Tamalyn Tomita and Luke Goss

Fight Choreography by Cyril Raffaelli

Directed by Dwight Little

Tekken is yet another stab at adapting a fighting video game into a movie in the mold of Mortal Kombat, once again using a relative unknown in the main role and surrounding him with a mix of decent actors and martial artists. Directed by Dwight Little (Rapid Fire) Tekken does a much better job in many areas than MK did.

The film begins sometime in the future, where large multinational corporations pretty much take over the world and run things. This group is known as the Iron Fist, which really should have set off warning bells in a bunch of folks, but for whatever reason didn’t. The United States is ruled by the Corporation Tekken, whose CEO, Heihachi Mishima (CHT), holds a tournament once every few years, the King of the Iron Fist Tournament, or Tekken, ‘cause the name sounds badass. Outside of Tekken City itself is known as the Anvil, where the majority of people live day-to-day, and the gangs rule all (kinda like Detroit. Just kidding, Detroit-ians!) Here is where Jin Kazama (Foo) works as a courier for the resistance, delivering high-tech equipment he’s probably had to steal, but he’s good at martial arts and parkour, so he usually survive his excursions, in a job that doesn’t sit well with his mother Jun (Tomita) who wants her son to think of other things besides earning enough money to live in Tekken City. Her wishes will fall to dust when she is killed in a Jackhammer raid by Heihachi’s son Kazuya (Dale), an ambitious man who feels his time has come to take over the company, and holds a dark secret.  Jin, with the help of fight manager Steve Fox (Goss) enters the tournament in order to fight his way to Heihachi and Kazuya, so he can take his revenge, but standing in his way is the current champion Bryan Fury (Daniels) a half-cyborg who hides this fact so he cannot be disqualified from the ring, and uses his superior body to mow his way through all opponents. Soon Jin finds that there is much more at stake than his thirst for revenge, as an entire nation looks to him for salvation…

Tekken succeeds in many respects where MK failed by having all of the fights be traditional martial arts contests, with no special effects and few wires. They didn’t feel the need to make sure each character pulls off their signature moves from the game, and while the game story is simply there to give some background between fights, Tekken does a good job of adapting that story within the context of a film.

Jon Foo does a good job as Jin. If you’ve seen him in his fight versus Tony Jaa in The Protector (he was the swordsman in the temple fight) you know he’s good, and he doesn’t disappoint. His acting starts off clunky, but improves as the film goes on. His acrobatics is fantastic, and he brings his all to each fight scene, of which he has many. He’s still a young man, and I expect greater things from him down the road. He’s got the looks and the martial arts skills and acrobatics. He just needs the right starring vehicle.

CHT is his royal evilness as always, and it’s funny that he’s played the main villain in the two major fight video game adaptations, this and Mortal Kombat. The man likes his video games! Gary Daniels does a great job as the arrogant jackass Bryan Fury, and even at his age can still bring the goods. Between this and the Expendables it’s been a pretty good run lately for Daniels. Cung Le also stars in what I believe is his first film, and he does a good job in a limited appearance. He’s currently working on his first full-on martial arts film, and his appearance here bodes well for that film. Luke Goss brings a cynical edge to the film as Steve Fox, and Ian Anthony Dale is a menacing Kazuya.

My lone problem with the film is that there are still too many actors who play fighters who in reality don’t know any martial arts. While Dale plays a good Kazuya, he doesn’t know any martial arts, but he is the dramatic final fight of the film, and the most disappointing.  The women are all there merely as eye candy, and none of them seem to know anything, even though Cyril Raeffaelli (District B-13) does a good job making them look as if they do. Dammit, since Cyril did the choreography, would it have been too much to ask for him to be a fighter in this film?  Lateef Crowder is showing up everywhere nowadays, but can he not get his ass kicked in every film he appears in? Here, Undisputed 3 and The Protector, he just gets owned, even thought he does get to pull off some awesome capoeira moves.

Tekken does a much better job in many respects than Mortal Kombat, but still suffers from having too many characters that need to have their “scenes” and the film has moments where are some quick-cut edits of fights, which drives me insane! Other than that, a fun b-movie style fight film.

(on a scale of 1-10, 10 being the highest)

CHOREOGRAPHY: (8) Cyril does a good job with everyone, especially during the Jin versus Rojas fight, and the fight between Jin and Bryan Fury. He does an even better job with the non-martial artists. He could have had even more elaborate fights if not for that.

STUNTWORK: (7) They did a good job, especially making a lot of folks look good.

STAR POWER: (7) Jon Foo, Cung Le, CHT, Gary Daniels, Luke Goss, Lateef Crowder and more really prop this film up. Jon may be poised for great things, and the same can be said for Cung Le and Roger Huerta. This grade could go up in the future.

FINAL GRADE: (7) A bit better than Mortal Kombat, this is a fun b-movie film that does a good job adapting a video game, which is an accomplishment all on its own. The sky’s the limit for Jon Foo.