Archive for the Gina Carano Category

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.

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Blu-Ray Review: Kickboxer: Vengeance (2016)

Posted in Alain Moussi, Darren Shahlavi, Dave Bautista, Emmanuel Manzanares, Georges St. Pierre, Gina Carano, Jean-Claude Van Damme, TJ Storm with tags , on November 8, 2016 by Michael S. Moore

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Who’s in this film?

Alain Moussi, Jean-Claude Van Damme, Dave Bautista, Darren Shahlavi, Gina Carano, Georges St. Pierre, TJ Storm, Sara Malakul Lane

The Film:

Alain Moussi now takes over the role of Kurt Sloane, who serves as a fight assistant to his successful karate champion brother Eric Sloane (Shahlavi). When mysterious fight promoter Marcia offers Eric a lot of money and the chance to face Tong Po (Bautista), a Kickboxing Muay Thai champion, Eric accepts, much to the dismay of Kurt. Eric goes to Thailand, and Kurt eventually follows, only to see his brother killed in the ring by Tong Po. Seeking revenge, Kurt tries to murder Tong Po, but with the help of a local cop (Lane) he hides at the home of Eric’s trainer, Master Durand (JCVD). There Kurt learns how to kick a ton of ass and finally is good enough to challenge Tong Po to a duel to avenge his brother…

The Review:

The film pretty much follows many of the beats of the original film, except for the beginning, which I won’t spoil here except to say that we first meet Kurt Sloane in a very dark place. There is a little time jumping, and the story doesn’t really allow me to connect to Kurt’s pain over his brother’s death, because their relationship isn’t touched on very much. Also a little baffling was the romance (sex) Kurt has with Liu, the Thai cop. It seems to just pop out of bloody nowhere, and there is no real resolution to it. Alain Moussi does a good job of playing Kurt Sloane, but doesn’t quite have the charisma that JCVD had in the same role. Speaking of which, JCVD was great every time he was onscreen, and in fact so much so I wish Master Durand was simply THE Kurt Sloane retired to train Kickboxers. JCVD even gets into a few scraps that show he’s still got it, but that’s no real surprise. I wonder now if JCVD being in the film hurts it rather than helps it.

The late, Great Darren Shahlavi, in his final role, is far too underutilized as Eric Sloane. I wish the film had not strayed from the original and kept Eric alive, which would have meant seeing a lot more of Darren. Gina Carano is in the film but is a complete waste. Her character could have been played by literally anyone. Sorry, if I see a prime Gina Carano in the credits of a film, I damn well expect to see her kick someone’s ass. The same can be said for Georges St. Pierre, who does have a few fight scenes, but there is one glaring edit of one of his fights— or some incident—that left me baffled as the film makes no explanation as to how he suddenly has  a broken arm after seeing him fairly healthy not many scenes before. Dave Bautista is okay as a much more menacing and intelligent Tong Po, but in the end he’s nothing more than a standard cookie-cutter baddie. Sara Malakul Lane is a stunningly beautiful woman, but her character doesn’t bring much to the story, except to slow things down too much with a useless side story.

The place where Kickboxer: Vengeance truly surpasses the original are the fight scenes, which many, and well shot and edited, and really gives Alain Moussi a chance to shine, but in the wake of Muay Thai films like Ong Bak or The Protector, some of it feels a little derivative. The best fight in the film, to me, is the fight between JCVD and Moussi. JCVD has better choreography here than I’ve ever seen this side of No Retreat, No Surrender.

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The Picture:

It’s a fantastic blu-ray transfer, as nearly all newer films are nowadays, and the colors pop appropriately.

Extras:

The only extras is the usual photo gallery and a commercial behind the scenes. The behind the scenes shows a lot of surface stuff, and doesn’t really go into the actual making of the film. In other words, incredibly disappointing. I would’ve loved to see a BTS of the fight choreography sessions (especially since Larnell Stovall and Emmanuel Manzanares of LBP Stunt Chicago are involved), not to mention maybe more interviews of JCVD or shots of him on set. Heck, even a trailer would have been nice. There were a hundred ways they could have gone with extras, and they really dropped the ball here. I also would’ve liked to hear the actors talk about the late Great Darren Shahlavi and what it was like to work with him.

Final Thoughts:

If you loved the film, or even if you just liked it, you’re going to be disappointed by the lack of extras here. It’s as bare bones as you can get. Here’s hoping the sequel will fare with better extras, ones that fans of martial arts film enthusiasts can get behind.

My original film review score stays the same: 6.5.

Kiai-Kick’s Blu Ray Score: 4

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Not even Gina Carano can save the lack of extras here.

 

Review: Kickboxer: Vengeance (2016)

Posted in Alain Moussi, Darren Shahlavi, Dave Bautista, Emmanuel Manzanares, Georges St. Pierre, Gina Carano, Jean-Claude Van Damme, Larnell Stovall, TJ Storm on September 12, 2016 by Michael S. Moore

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Starring Alain Moussi, Jean-Claude Van Damme, Dave Bautista, Darren Shahlavi, Gina Carano, Georges St. Pierre, TJ Storm, Sara Malakul Lane

Fight Choreography by Larnell Stovall

Directed by John Stockwell

This is a particularly difficult film to attempt to review objectively; it’s a remake of the original, with many of the story beats the same, and still stars the main actor now in a supporting role, plus has one of the cheesiest/best dance scenes in the history of ever. Plus, I really liked the original, if for nostalgia’s sake.

Alain Moussi now takes over the role of Kurt Sloane, who serves as a fight assistant to his successful karate champion brother Eric Sloane (Shahlavi). When mysterious fight promoter Marcia offers Eric a lot of money and the chance to face Tong Po (Bautista), a Kickboxing Muay Thai champion, Eric accepts, much to the dismay of Kurt. Eric goes to Thailand, and Kurt eventually follows, only to see his brother killed in the ring by Tong Po. Seeking revenge, Kurt tries to murder Tong Po, but with the help of a local cop (Lane) he hides at the home of Eric’s trainer, Master Durand (JCVD). There Kurt learns how to kick a ton of ass and finally is good enough to challenge Tong Po to a duel to avenge his brother…

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The film pretty much follows many of the beats of the original film, except for the beginning, which I won’t spoil here except to say that we first meet Kurt Sloane in a very dark place. There is a little time jumping, and the story doesn’t really allow me to connect to Kurt’s pain over his brother’s death, because their relationship isn’t touched on very much. Also a little baffling was the romance (sex) Kurt has with Liu, the Thai cop. It seems to just pop out of bloody nowhere, and there is no real resolution to it. Alain Moussi does a good job of playing Kurt Sloane, but doesn’t quite have the charisma that JCVD had in the same role. Speaking of which, JCVD was great every time he was onscreen, and in fact so much so I wish Master Durand was simply THE Kurt Sloane retired to train Kickboxers. JCVD even gets into a few scraps that show he’s still got it, but that’s no real surprise. I wonder now if JCVD being in the film hurts it rather than helps it.

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The late, great Darren Shahlavi, in his final role, is far too underutilized as Eric Sloane. I wish the film had not strayed from the original and kept Eric alive, which would have meant seeing a lot more of Darren. Gina Carano is in the film but is a complete waste. Her character could have been played by anyone. Sorry, if I see a prime Gina Carano in the credits of a film, I damn well expect to see her kick someone’s ass. The same can be said for Georges St. Pierre, who does have a few fight scenes, but there is one glaring edit of one of his fights— or some incident—that left me baffled as the film makes no explanation as to how he suddenly has  a broken arm after seeing him fairly healthy not many scenes before. Dave Bautista is okay as a much more menacing and intelligent Tong Po, but in the end he’s nothing more than a standard cookie-cutter baddie. Sara Malakul Lane is a stunningly beautiful woman, but her character doesn’t bring much to the story, except to slow things down too much with a useless side story.

The place where Kickboxer: Vengeance truly surpasses the original are the fight scenes, which many, and well shot and edited, and really gives Alain Moussi a chance to shine, but in the wake of Muay Thai films like Ong Bak or The Protector, some of it feels a little derivative. The best fight in the film, to me, is the fight between JCVD and Moussi. JCVD has better choreography here than I’ve ever seen this side of No Retreat, No Surrender.

Extra Bits:

The film was dedicated to Darren Shahlavi, and I was really happy to see they did that.

Yes, we are treated to JCVD’s original bar dance again, along with a side by side of Alain trying the same thing during the closing credits. Sorry, but JCVD STILL wins that dance-off, Alain!

What else did this film need? Stan Bush. No, really. Stan Bush for the win.

Kiai-Kick’s Grade: 6.5

Kickboxer: Vengeance has its moments, but reminds me too much of the original, but JCVD shines in a limited role. Alain Moussi grew on me as the film went on. Any chance we see Sasha Mitchell in Kickboxer: Retaliation? I hope so.

RLJ Entertainment has acquired Kickboxer: Vengeance!

Posted in Alain Moussi, Darren Shahlavi, Dave Bautista, Gina Carano, Jean-Claude Van Damme on March 15, 2016 by Michael S. Moore

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So this is really good news, as now we for sure will get to see Kickboxer: Vengeance on select big screens! Seeing JCVD in the film is a good thing, and with Dave Bautista on board, as well as the late great Darren Shahlavi (we miss you, man!) and the many talents on board I think this is going to be a fun film. The real key is whether star Alain Moussi can fill JCVD’s shoes. Here is the announcement below:

RLJ ENTERTAINMENT ACQUIRES “KICKBOXER: VENGEANCE”

 Jean-Claude Van Damme Returns to Star in the Reboot of the Cult Classic

 

LOS ANGELES, March 15, 2016 – RLJ Entertainment (NASDAQ: RLJE) has acquired all U.S. rights to the highly anticipated KICKBOXER: VENGEANCE.  Co-Written by Dimitri Logothetis (Stephen King’s Sleepwalkers) and Jim McGrath and directed by John Stockwell (In the Blood, Blue Crush), the film features the return of Jean-Claude Van Damme to the franchise (Bloodsport, Kickboxer) and a bevy of professional athletes including newcomer Alain Moussi (X-Men: Days of Future Past) Dave Bautista (Guardians of the Galaxy), Gina Carano (In the Blood), Georges St-Pierre (Captain America), and Cain Velasquez (Term Life).  The film was produced by Logothetis along with Nicholas Celozzi (The Lost Angel), Ted Field (The Last Samurai, Jumanji), Allen Knudson, Samuel Cory Timpson and Rob Hickman (who also orchestrated the majority of the financing on the film).

RLJE plans to release KICKBOXER: VENGEANCE in theaters and On Demand later this year.  Mark Ward, RLJ Entertainment’s Chief Acquisitions Officer, made the announcement today.   

“Fans of Jean Claude Van Damme have been waiting for a long time for this reboot of the Kickboxer franchise,” said Ward.  “The film delivers more action and an amazing ensemble of fighters from Dave Bautista to George St-Pierre to Cain Velasquez and Gina Carano.   Fans will not be disappointed.”

“There is a spectacular beauty in martial arts films that audiences have been deprived of for a significant period of time.  Making KICKBOXER: VENGEANCE has been a priority and passion of mine for several years and I’m thrilled to be able to partner with RLJ Entertainment to bring this genre back to theatres,” said producer and writer Logothetis.

An update to the 1989 classic film KICKBOXER, KICKBOXER: VENGEANCE follows the story of Kurt Sloane (Alain Moussi), who travels to Thailand to avenge the death of his brother at the hands of Tong Po (Dave Bautista).  Kurt trains with the legendary Master Durand (Jean-Claude Van Damme) until he is ready to take on Tong Po in a brutal fight to the death.

Jess De Leo, Senior Vice President of Legal and Business Affairs for RLJ Entertainment along with Ward negotiated the deal with Logothetis, Field, Brian O-Shea, and Mike Weber on behalf of the film.

RLJ Entertainment previously released its theatrical titles under the Image Entertainment brand, which RLJE purchased in 2012.  Recent RLJ Entertainment releases include The Rewrite with Hugh Grant and Marisa Tomei, written and directed by Marc Lawrence; The Cobbler with Adam Sandler, Cliff “Method Man” Smith, Ellen Barkin, Melonie Diaz, Dan Stevens, Steve Buscemi, and Dascha Polanco, written and directed by Academy Award® nominee Tom McCarthy; Blackbird staring Academy Award® winning actress and comedian Mo’Nique , Isaiah Washington , and Julian Walker, directed by Patrik-Ian Polk; and the critically acclaimed Bone Tomahawk starring Kurt Russell, Patrick Wilson, Matthew Fox and Richard Jenkins, written and directed by S. Craig Zahler.

 

ABOUT RLJ ENTERTAINMENT

RLJ Entertainment, Inc. (NASDAQ: RLJE) is a premier independent owner, developer, licensee, and distributor of entertainment content and programming in primarily North America, the United Kingdom, and Australia. RLJE is a leader in numerous genres including feature films and urban with distinct content via its owned and distributed brands such as Acorn (British TV), Acacia (fitness), and Athena (documentaries). These titles are distributed in multiple formats including broadcast television (including satellite and cable), theatrical and non-theatrical, DVD, Blu-Ray, digital download, and digital streaming.

 

Through Acorn Media Enterprises, its UK development arm, RLJE owns all rights to the hit UK mystery series Foyle’s War and is developing new programs. RLJE owns 64% of Agatha Christie Limited, which manages the intellectual property and publishing rights to some of the greatest works of mystery fiction, including stories of the iconic sleuths Miss Marple and Poirot.

 

RLJE leverages its management experience to acquire, distribute and monetize existing and original content for its many distribution channels, including its branded digital subscription channels, Acorn TV, AcaciaTV, and UMC – Urban Movie Channel, and engages distinct audiences with programming that appeals directly to their unique viewing interests. Through its proprietary e-commerce web sites and print catalogs for the Acorn and Acacia brands, RLJE has direct contacts and billing relationships with millions of consumers. For more information, please visit www.RLJEntertainment.com

Blu-Ray Review: In The Blood (2014)

Posted in Gina Carano with tags , , on June 2, 2014 by Michael S. Moore

 

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Starring Gina Carano, Luis Guzman, Stephen Lang, Danny Trejo, Amaury Nolasco, Cam Gigandet, Treat Williams, Ismael Cruz Cordova

Fight Choreography by Ben Bray

Directed by John Stockwell

American films have been looking for “the next big thing” for a while, particularly in the world of martial arts films. As MMA is the popular martial art in the US, it only makes sense that a star might come from those ranks. Gina Carano appears to have it all: she’s a successful fighter with a built-in fan base, she has model looks, and a good personality. The intangibles are whether she can act ( that can be developed. Just look at JCVD) and whether she has that “something”. I first saw her in Blood and Bone, and she looked great onscreen. Then she did Haywire, and now comes back with this film, and she’s looking like she getting the hang of things.

In The Blood stars Carano as Ava, a young woman who is getting married to Derek Grant (Gigandet), a man who comes from a wealthy family. Ava was raised by her father Casey (Lang, in a VERY short role) and taught how to fight. Casey was an outlaw, and raised Ava with his warped principles. One night he is killed by some former “associates” and in turn young Ava kills them. Somehow Ava isn’t caught, but it caused her to spiral into drugs. It’s at a narcotics anonymous meeting that she meets Derek, and once they are married, against the wishes of his father Robert (Williams) they take off on their honeymoon in the Carribean islands. While there they meet Manny (), a young man who lives on the island and knows where to go for a good time. Ava and Derek form a rapport with Manny immediately, and they take off to a club on the island owned by Big Biz (Trejo) and afterward they go zip-lining. During a particular zip line, Derek falls, and is injured, but after he is loaded in an ambulance, the ambulance, with Derek disappears. Ava desperately searches for Derek, but must deal with an uncaring police chief (Guzman) and finds herself descending deeper into the dark heart of the island, where corruption, drugs, money and guns are the weapons of choice, and Ava must turn into the daughter Casey raised her to be if she expects to find her husband or avenge his death…

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The story here gets off to a slow start, and seems stilted, particularly in the early scenes with Carano and Gigandet as they are shown doing all the lovey-dovey stuff, but after Derek disappears, the film kicks into high gear as an action thriller. Carano is sure handed in her action scenes and her general bad-assness, but she comes off really flat during the vacation scenes. She just doesn’t quite look comfortable yet with quiet, “nice” scenes. However, when ass-kicking or intimidation is called for, she’s great. Luis Guzman (Traffic, The Land Stand) is great as the chief who may not be what he seems, and Danny Trejo (Machete) is great to see as Big Biz, but I wish he had been in the film more. The same could easily be said for Stephen Lang (Avatar, Tombstone) who is absolutely terrifying as Casey (in a good way). Ismael Cruz Cordova does a great job as Manny, a young man who is more than what he appears to be, and Amaury Nolasco (Transformers, Justified) is great as the drug dealer Silvio who runs the island. I won’t say anything more as the story has a pretty good twist toward the end that changes things for Ava. Once again, just like Haywire, Carano is surrounded by excellent talent. Director John Stockwell (Into the Blue, Blue Crush, Turistas) does a good job shooting the film, for the most part. I thought the somewhat digital look gave the film more immediacy as things get more hellish. 

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The fights are okay, but I’m still not entirely convinced that traditional MMA can work in film. I think a hybrid version, like what Donnie Yen has done with Special ID, Flashpoint, and Killzone works best, but what is on display here is pretty decent. I had some issues with the fights are they came close to becoming the Bourne “shaky cam” fights, but avoided it for the most part. The gunplay was actually good here, and Gina looked convincing as she blasts quite a few bad men into oblivion. 

BLU-RAY/ EXTRAS: The blu-ray transfer of the film looks great. There isn’t much in the way of extras here except for a making of video. It’s okay, but I wish they could have added more.

Kiai-Kick’s Grade: 8

In The Blood is a tense action thriller that proves that Gina Carano is here to stay as she tears her way across the Caribbean in a film full of action, suspense, and danger. I had a lot of fun with this.

 

Gina Carano returns to kick ass with In The Blood! *Updated with Trailer!*

Posted in Gina Carano with tags on February 19, 2014 by Michael S. Moore

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*Now we have the trailer! Looking really, really, good, Ms. Carano! See for yourself:

The original story is below!

Gina Carano performed admirably for a first film debut in Haywire and the last Fast and Furious film, and while I really wanted her to be the next Wonder Woman (I’m sure Gal Gadot will do fine) alas, it wasn’t meant to be, but today we get word that her newest film, In the Blood, will be released in theaters on April 4th, 2014! Here’s the press release with the announcement:

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Anchor Bay Films, in a joint distribution with Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment, will unleash IN THE BLOOD simultaneously in theaters, On Demand and on iTunes on April 4th, 2014. IN THE BLOOD stars former MMA Fighter/Action Star Gina Carano (Fast and the Furious 6, Haywire) along with an ensemble cast, Cam Gigandet (Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn – Part 2), Luis Guzman (We’re the Millers, The Taking of Pelham 1, 2, 3), Amaury Nolasco (Rum Diaries, TV’s “Prison Break”), Ismael Cruz Cordoba (TV’s “The Good Wife”), Treat Williams (TV’s “Chicago Fire”), Stephen Lang (Avatar) and Danny Trejo (Machete).  The film was directed by John Stockwell (Blue Crush, Into the Blue) and was written by Bennett Yellin and James Robert Johnston.

Gina Carano stars as Ava, a trained fighter with a dark past. When her new husband (Cam Gigandet) vanishes during their Caribbean honeymoon, Ava uncovers a violent underworld of conspiracy in the middle of an island paradise. Armed with a deadly set of skills, Ava sets out to discover the truth – and to take down the men she thinks are responsible for his abduction, one by one.

IN THE BLOOD was produced by Raymond Mansfield and Shaun Redick, of Movie Package Co., and Cash Warren, and executive produced by Lee Portnoi, David R. Arnold, Nicola Horlick, Andrew Mann, Glenn M Stewart, Stefan Sonnenfeld, Luillo Ruiz, James Gibb and Belly Torres.  The film was financed by The Way We Roll Productions and MICA Entertainment.

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Looking forward to seeing a trailer! Having Luis Guzman and Danny Trejo is already a win in my book, and Stephen Lang is nothing short of awesome! In the meantime here’s some stills from the production for your viewing pleasure. I’m really rooting for Gina on this one! Click on the pics below to embiggen!

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