Archive for martial arts

Bryan Sloyer has a trick up his sleeve with The Magician! (2017)

Posted in Amy Sturdivant, Bryan Sloyer, Jay Kwon, Jerry Quill with tags , on March 23, 2017 by Michael S. Moore

Directed by Bryan Sloyer

Fight Choreography by Bryan Sloyer.

Starring Jay Kwon, Jerry Quill, Amy Sturdivant, Bryan Sloyer, Kiera O’Connor, Katie O’Donovan, Kyle Potter,  Trevor Logan, Andrew Franklin, Narayana Cabral, Allen Quindiagan, Yoshi Sudarso, Mark Miscione, Graham Hooper, Lee Chesley, Yavuz Topuz, Armand Rabanal, Nick Krawiec, Jonathan Wong Just Vancho

 

Bryan Sloyer does it again. He’s really growing as a filmmaker/stuntman right before our eyes. I think it’s only a matter of time for this guy to get a feature film, and I would be the first in line for it! This film, takes place in a single room, but I guarantee you can’t take your eyes off of it. The camera work is tremendous, particularly with the “magic” tricks the fighters pull off. Major props to all involved! The action is fluid despite the camera cuts, and has a great flow. Such an original way to approach a fight scene. I need to watch this again. So you do. Click, watch, pick up jaw, repeat.

 

Kiai-Kick’s Grade: 10

It’s that good, everyone. Sloyer keeps on raising his own bar. And it’s a glorious thing to see.

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Review: Above The Law (1988)

Posted in Steven Seagal with tags , on January 13, 2017 by Michael S. Moore

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Starring: Steven Seagal, Pam Grier, Henry Silva, Sharon Stone

Fight Choreography by Steven Seagal

Directed by Andrew Davis

In 1988  martial arts films were going strong, with Jackie Chan, Sammo Hung, Jet Li, Michelle Yeoh ruling the roost. And in the USA we had…an aging Chuck Norris. And that was it. When would another martial artist step forward for America? Enter two films: Bloodsport and Above the Law, the latter of which introduced the world to the martial arts style Aikido and its practitioner, Steven Seagal.

Steven Seagal plays Nico Toscani, a Chicago cop who used to be special forces CIA who got sick of it after witnessing a man being tortured by maniac CIA operative Zagon (Silva) and quits in the middle of the op, because in the 80s you could do that. Now a detective along with his partner Jax (Grier) he gets involved in a drug ring run by Zagon and a group of CIA operatives who are plotting to kill a US Senator who is investigating their clandestine operations (whew!). But when they go after Nico’s family and church, Nico dispenses his own brand of street justice, because as he says “you think you’re above the law. but you ain’t above mine.” Hell yeah 80’s action!

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This film not only made Seagal an action star, but also cemented the style of films he would make: small scale urban justice films, not unlike the Death Wish movies. Seagal is pretty one-note here but does have that elusive on screen charisma. Henry Silvia is, well, Henry Silvia, an always dependable actor when you need a baddie you can hiss at. Pam Grier is okay but she needed to be more than the “put-upon” partner as well as the woman that needs to be protected despite the fact she’s a cop too. This is Pam god****mn Grier. She’ll deliver your dick in a jar to your girlfriend. Surely she could have been presented as more that what she was. Sharon Stone is also in the film in a small role as Nico’s wife, but she doesn’t do much except spending the film trying to get Nico to give up, which means she’s and incredibly annoying character whenever she’s on screen. Andrew Davis does a great job directing here, and his future films Under Siege and The Fugitive would further cement him as a solid film director.

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The opening scene, where Seagal shows off how Aikido works in a dojo is one of the best fight scenes in the film. It really does a great job showing audiences not familiar with the style a little of how it works. The next best fight scene is later in the film, where Seagal takes on a group of thugs in a grocery mart. You can tell the floors are rubber, and many of the moves shown in the beginning are repeated here, but now in a practical setting, but it’s still good. The one thing I didn’t like that will become a staple of many of his movies is that Seagal never fights anyone of a similar skillset, so there is no real challenge. Henry Silva basically gets what I call Getting Seagaled (TM): where the bad guy gets beaten and tossed around like a rag doll, not providing any challenge to the hero whatsoever and dies easily.

Kiai-Kick’s Grade: 8

A good film that shows off the style of Aikido well and gives a strong introduction to a new action hero, and would become a template for the majority of the films in his career. Pam Grier is wasted here, however.

Kiai-Kick’s Holiday Gift Guide 2016: Arrow Video!

Posted in Sho Kosugi with tags , on December 15, 2016 by Michael S. Moore

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Okay, so Arrow is a company with a LOT of old school films, some box sets and many more items of interest for B and C movie lovers of all kind, but there are two Blu Ray films I just gotta point out revolving around one person: Sho Kosugi.

Pray For Death

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Pray for Death is one of my favorite films of his, and when you add in a ninja bicycle, you’ve struck gold! You can read my review of the film here, but to see it in a pristine blu-ray format is an added bonus, with some pretty decent extras, and Arrow has it!

Bonus Materials

  • High Definition Blu-ray (1080p) presentation from a transfer of original elements by MGM
  • R-rated and Unrated Versions
  • Optional English SDH subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing
  • Brand new interview with star Sho Kosugi
  • Archive interview and Ninjutsu demonstration with Kosugi from the film’s New York premiere
  • Original Theatrical Trailer
  • Reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Matthew Griffin

Rage Of Honor

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Yeah. More Sho Kosugi here, but not nearly as good as Enter the Ninja or Pray for Death. It has its moments, but it’s still a very, very silly movie. I’ll be reviewing it soon, but if you need that extra Sho Kosugi fix, or are just a completist, then I can recommend this blu ray, but as a movie? A double feature with Miami Connection along with Bourbon, Vodka and pizza will make one hell of a movie night!

Bonus Materials:
– High Definition Blu-ray (1080p) presentation from a transfer of original elements by MGM
– Optional English SDH subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing
– Sho and Tell Part 2: The Domination – brand new interview with star Sho Kosugi on Rage of Honor and the later stages of his film career
– Sho Kosugi Trailer Gallery: Enter the Ninja (1981), Revenge of the Ninja (1983), Pray for Death (1985) and Rage of Honor (1987)
– Reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Matthew Griffin

 

Next up: Of course I’ve saved the Best for Last!

LBP Stunts presents: Blind Date!

Posted in Amy Sturdivant, Emmanuel Manzanares with tags , on December 11, 2016 by Michael S. Moore

Emmanuel Manzanares directs Amy Sturdivant (Queen) and Thelkla Hutyrova in another great action short. Just watch rinse and repeat!

Kiai-Kick’s Holiday Gift Guide 2016: Shout Factory!

Posted in Angela Mao, Bruce Lee with tags , on November 25, 2016 by Michael S. Moore

Hey all!

Between working in local news and finishing El Gato Negro: Prey, It’s been a really busy time, but I’m still here, and I’ll still have plenty of reviews on the way, but over the next week or so I’d like to point out some goodies that would make excellent Christmas presents/stocking stuffers for the discerning martial arts film fan! I’ll actually be taking this company by company, and we’ll start with films first, so the first distribution company up is…

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These guys are always good about getting out some of the more obscure cinema out there, and they have an interesting group of martial arts films, but there are two I want to point out:

The Angela Mao Ying Collection

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Angela Mao is one of the classic women of martial arts, and there are 6 films in this DVD set:

When Tae Kwon Do Strikes

Broken Oath

The Himalayan

The Tournament

Stoner

A Queen’s Ransom

I can’t speak for every title, but Broken Oath and When Tae Kwon Do Strikes are gold, and you should own this for those films alone! But I have a feeling the other films in the set are MORE than worth the $35.00 price tag. 10 hours of Angela Mao kicking all kinds of ass. It’s light on extras, with only trailers, but this is still money well spent, and you can get it here.

 

  The Bruce Lee Premiere Collection

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While there is one other set (available only in the UK) I may point out later, this is one of the few Bruce Lee Collections on Blu Ray. I shouldn’t have to point out the importance of these films, and the immense entertainment value they’ll bring! Four films are featured here, with links to my reviews:

The Big Boss 

Fists of Fury

Way Of The Dragon

Game of Death

It’s Bruce Lee, and he’s cool for any present, so you can trust it! Keep in mind you won’t see Enter The Dragon in most sets, as that’s a Warner Brothers film, and not part of Golden Harvest!

Bonus Features

    • Audio Commentary With Hong Kong Film Expert Mike Leeder
    • Featurettes – Return to Pak Chong: The Big Boss Revisited, Remembering Fist of Fury And Game of Death Revisited
    • Interviews With Tung Wai, Gene Lebell, Yuen Wah, Sammo Hung, Simon Yam And Wong Jing
    • Game Of Death Outtake Montage, Bloopers, Deleted Scenes
    • Alternate Openings And Endings
    • Theatrical Trailers, TV Spots, Still Galleries…And Much More!

You can order this here!

(I would also recommend checking Amazon as well for both films!)

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.