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Review: Gintama (2018)

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , on March 7, 2018 by Michael S. Moore

Starring Masami Nagasawa, Masaki Okada,

Fight Choreography by ?

Directed by Yuichi Fukuda

Gintama is an adaptation of a popular Japanese anime and manga about a world in which aliens took over the Earth during the Edo-period, and all swordsmanship has been outlawed. Enter Gintoki and his friends, who are set out to recover a powerful sword that may be able to swing the balance of power once recovered, but find that the mission is far more dangerous than they believe, and they aren’t the only ones looking to possess the sword, and must ultimately defeat the serial killer wielding it…

At least that’s what I think they are trying to do. It’s really hard to tell, partly because this film is really, really bad.

The performances are okay, but even if they weren’t they are the least of this film’s problems.

I’ll admit up front I’ve never seen the anime, so I don’t know how accurate it is. Truthfully it shouldn’t matter. Films should be able to stand on its own two feet, and not dependent on having read or seen anything else (unless it’s part of another film). This film has a group of silly, unfunny characters, an unlikable hero, unnecessary and 4th wall breaking that is really not funny save for one, and only one scene that evokes a Miyazaki film, and tries way too hard to stage scenes and moments right out of the anime, which comes off looking silly.

Someone thought this was a good idea.

There was potential in the story, but too many times the film want to be the Naked Gun of live-action manga films, but first you need to have more successful ones before doing that. The film is mostly a comedy, and there isn’t as much action as you’d think, and what is there isn’t very good, despite being glossed over with special effects. At no level does this film work, not as a comedy and not as an action film.

Kiai-Kick’s Grade: 2

I nearly gave this film a 0, but fans of Gintama may get more out of it than I did. If you want an offbeat batshit crazy Japanese film, I’d suggest Tokyo Tribe instead.


Review: SkinTrade (2014)

Posted in Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa, Dolph Lundgren, Michael Jai White, Tony Jaa, Uncategorized on January 15, 2018 by Michael S. Moore

Starring Dolph Lundgren, Tony Jaa, Michael Jai White, Peter Weller, Cary Hiroyuki-Tagawa, Selina Jade, Ron Perlman

Fight Choreography by Dain Hristov

Directed by Ekachai Uekrongtham

After the debacle that was Ong Bak 3 Tony Jaa started doing the Tony Jaa World Tour, and this was another film made while he is/was transitioning away from Prachya Pinkaew and legendary Panna Rittikrai, who had already passed away. Jaa joined this film with martial arts stars Michael Jai White and Dolph Lundgren, and one would expect an action packed fisticuffs classic. I’m sorry to say that doesn’t quite happen here.

Dolph Lundgren stars as Nick Cassidy, a New York cop who is hot on the heels of the Serbian mafia led by Viktor Dragovic (Perlman) and his sons. After Nick kills the youngest son of Viktor during a raid, Viktor attacks Nick and his family, killing his wife and presumably his teenage daughter. After Nick recovers from his injuries he seeks out Viktor and follows him to Thailand, with the somewhat help of FBI agent Reed (MJW) and runs afoul of Bangkok cops Tony and his partner Nung, the latter of whom is killed by an agent of Viktor and frames Nick, causing Tony to go after Nick with a vengeance, but both men discover a human smuggling operation run by Viktor and quickly put aside their differences in order to stop Viktor once and for all…

Human Trafficking of any kind is a touchy subject for even a serious film, and for an action film it HAS to get it just right, and this film really botches things here. Only women are shown being trafficked, and none of them even have much of a dialog in the film, and merely exist to give Lundgren and Jaa a reason to stop fighting each other and going after the bad guys.  Ron Perlman is grossly underused here, and not allowed to create a compelling character. Viktor is just another cackling villain here, which is a waste of his talents, which is sad, as there could have been something more there in relation to his sons. Dolph, is well, Dolph. He’s the requisite action star going out for revenge. Ditto the same for Tony Jaa. Michael Jai White is there but doesn’t really leave much of an impression. The film drives on, but there are no real standout scenes, either with characters or with cinematography or even action, which for a film like this is criminal.

The place where this film SHOULD shine is in the action scenes, but even here they drop the ball. The choreography is uninspiring, as the Dolph vs. Jaa fight is only slightly better than Dolph’s fight vs Jet Li in The Expendables. The fight that should have been the standout, Jaa vs MJW, isn’t as good as it could have been, but this is attributed to camerawork and editing. I’ll never understand why some directors feel the need to have the actions scenes chopped to hell, and editing in quick cuts. It NEVER makes the fight more exciting to watch, and doesn’t allow us the audience to marvel at the martial arts we are watching. MJW and Tony Jaa perform their fights just fine, and parts of it look terrific as one would expect, but the editing just slices and dices it up and doesn’t make the fight feel urgent, and after all of that it ends too quickly.

SkinTrade should have been a martial arts classic, but a number of poor directing and editorial decisions ruin the film. And with all the talent assembled that’s a crying shame.  It should’ve been an action classic.

Kiai-Kick’s Grade: 4

Such great talent is wasted in this film. I’ll hold out hope for a proper Tony Jaa/MJW film. Such a disappointment. 




Mark Dacascos makes his directorial debut! Showdown in Manila!

Posted in Uncategorized on November 27, 2017 by Michael S. Moore

I have to say it’s about time! Mark has been around film long enough, and I’m curious to see what he’s like as a film director, and how he chooses to film fight scenes! I’m looking forward to this one! Check out the press release below…



LOS ANGELES, CA – November 15, 2017 – ITN Distribution has acquired North American distribution rights to the action thriller SHOWDOWN IN MANILA starring international action star Alexander Nevsky (Black Rose). The film marks the directorial debut of Mark Dacascos (Marvel’s “Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.”,  “Hawaii Five-0”) with a screenplay by Craig Hamann (My Best Friend’s Birthday, Boogie Boy).  SHOWDOWN IN MANILA also includes Casper Van Dien (Starship Troopers, Sleepy Hollow), Tia Carrere (True Lies, Wayne’s World) and Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa (Hachi: A Dog’s Tale, Memoirs of a Geisha). ITN will release the film in theaters January 19, 2018, with a Digital and On Demand release to follow on January 23, 2018.

The film follows private detectives Nick (Alexander Nevsky) and Charlie (Casper Van Dien) who live and work in Manila. A murder investigation leads them to the jungle camp of an international terrorist called The Wrath. Not trusting the police, Nick and Charlie assembly a team of daredevils to walk straight into the Wrath’s lair and fight an army of his goons.

Nevsky is a former Mr. Universe and an established movie star in Russia. He is based in Los Angeles and his credits include Black Rose, Undisputed, Treasure Raiders, Somewhere and the upcoming film Maximum Impact. Nevsky represents Russia as a member of the Hollywood Foreign Press Association.

SHOWDOWN IN MANILA is produced by Nevsky through his production company Hollywood Storm and is executive produced by Andrzej Bartkowiak (Romeo Must Die) and Alexander Izotov (Moscow Heat).

Review: Savage Dog (2017)

Posted in Cung Le, David No, JuJu Chan, Marko Zaror, Scott Adkins, Uncategorized with tags on August 29, 2017 by Michael S. Moore

Scott Adkins and Marko Zaror have a really, really bloody rematch! And Keith David!!


Starring Scott Adkins, Marko Zaror, Cung Le, Keith David, Juju Chan

Fight Choreography by Luke LaFontaine

Directed By Jesse V Johnson

Savage Dog is a period film set shortly after the French Indochina War in 1959 tells the story of Martin Tillman, an Irishman and displaced soldier, spending his days as a prisoner of Von Steiner, a sadistic jailer who pits Tillman into a series of martial arts fights with various opponents for money. When not fighting, Tillman spends his time in prison being visited by a local flower girl, Isabelle(Chan). When pressured by a British government official, Steiner releases Tillman, but since Tillman is still a wanted man, he chooses to hide out at a local bar run by Valentine(David) and also the home of the flower girl, where a romance blossoms, but as it happens in action films, Steiner brings Tillman back, but when Steiner and his henchmen go after his love, Tillman goes on a rampage to ensure Steiner never bothers anyone ever again…

It’s nice to see Scott Adkins and Marko Zaror leave their comfort zones and do a period film, and the production values looked great on what had to be a small budget. The story is well done, with, for a change, the villain Steiner being a more well rounded character, with his own motivations, and surprisingly, regrets. Scott Adkins is good here, but, from an acting standpoint, isn’t much of a stretch from most of the characters he plays. The same goes for Marko Zaror, but he is actually a more chilling villain here than in his other bad guy roles. He’s a real bastard here, and I want to see more of him in this mode. Keith David is KEITH MOTHERFU&@!ing DAVID! He’s the spice that makes ANY film better, and he brings his patented coolness here as both the star and narrator. He’s so cool he gets to dispense with a solid rule of cinema that isn’t supposed to be broken. But he can do that, ’cause he’s Keith Motherf&%^!ing David. Cung Le is okay here, but his character gets to real development until his final lines in his fight with Adkins. It made me wish the film had done more than mention his viscous general’s backstory.

The fights here…Let’s get to that.

I’m not gonna lie, it’s brutal. Like they watched the The Raid 2 and said “Hold my beer.”

The blood flows like a river in this film, and I have to admit I’ve never seen the like. You know, like watching a guy get shot with a shotgun in the face point blank. Twice. Or even what Scott Adkins does to Marko Zaror at the end…I can safely say I’ve never seen an action star at ANY level do what he does! It was shocking, but really hearkens back to the title of the film.

The fights are technically well done toward the beginning, but with the exception of a quick fight with stuntman/actor David No, I was really marking time until we get to the main event: Scott Adkins versus Cung Le and Marko Zaror. The Cung Le fight is short, but Le acquits himself well here as the choreography matches his strengths as a martial artist but not at the expense of having Adkins take the petal off the gas, so to speak. It’s a good fight that’s only marred by how cheaply the film ends it, but now we come to the true event, the Undisputed 3 rematch between Adkins and Zaror, and it’s great. First with weapons, both men show why they are awesome, moving fast but their movements are precise, and that knife Marko had…I would NOT want to get stabbed with that sucker. But then the weapons go away.

And then it gets REAL.

The director knows what you want. The fight choreographer knows what you want. Scott Adkins and Marko Zaror sure as HELL know what you want. And they made sure you get it! The fight is everything I was wanting it to be. So help me they put on a clinic in beautiful kicking of every kind. And the music with the furious violin playing during it? Holy hell they hit the sweet spot. The fist work was well done, and the fight lasted exactly as long as it needed to given the story and characters.

Bravo, Jesse V Johnson. Bravo. Now do it again!

Kiai-Kick’s Grade: 8.5

One of Scott Adkins’ best films. Marko Zaror establishes himself as a great villain, and Keith David does Keith David things. Bring on the sequel!

Review: Snow Girl and the Dark Crystal (2015)

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , on August 14, 2017 by Michael S. Moore

“No gelflings here, bro.”

Starring Li Bingbing, Chen Ku, Winston Chao

As many of you know, I’m not the biggest fan of wuxia films. I mostly prefer my martial arts films like my phones: Wireless.  Having said that, there is fascinating thing going on with those films: they are becoming a giant special effects extravaganza, not unlike many superhero films today. So how does Snow Girl fare given this new light?

In a word, I’m still not really impressed. Maybe even less so than I was of the genre before.

Snow Girl tells the story of Zhang Kui (Chen Ku), protector of the town of Hu, and is tasked by a Lord of Heaven, Daioxin,  to steal the Dark Crystal, a vessel from Hell that has imprisoned the souls of the populace and may cause the end of the world if activated. Zhang succeeds, causing the Demon King to unleash the Snow Girl to get it back. To prepare Zhang to defeat the Snow Girl Daioxin trains Zhang to harness his energy to turn himself into a powerful creature. Of course the moment Zhang meets the Snow Girl everything becomes much, much more complicated…

The story has moments where I was engaged, but by the third act I knew what was going to happen, and there were some dull stretches here and there. The acting in the film is pretty good, and Li Bing Bing does some particularly good work here, but the effects are the real star of the film, and unfortunately that’s a mixed bag. Most of it is really good, but the moments where we have CG monsters fighting made me feel like I was watching a video game being played, and I immediately checked out of the film during these really LONG sequences. It doesn’t help that the CG animation looks exactly like that, and not realistic at all. The final fight ends with one of those “so if the hero could do this the whole time then WHY DIDN’T HE?”. This is, for me at least, the most irritating kind of climactic finish.

The martial arts are kept on the down low here, except for one brief fight toward the end, which is nothing to write home about but adequate. It really could have used more of this and less of the CG monster fights. The ending of the film is jarring, as I didn’t really understand what Zhang was doing at the end and what it meant.

Kiai-Kick’s Grade: 5

I’ve seen way better Wuxia films, and this one was definitely mediocre. I’d rather revisit Zu, Warriors from Magic Mountain, or the Storm Riders.

Review: Operation Mekong (2017)

Posted in Eddie Peng, Uncategorized with tags , , on June 7, 2017 by Michael S. Moore