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Broken Sword Hero (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)

October 23, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

 “Broken Sword Hero” is an entertaining historical/martial arts film based on Thailand’s noble hero, Phraya Phichai.  How a troublemaker teen would become a well-renown fighter but also how he would become the loyal general of King Taksin the Great.  Fast-paced and a lot of fun to watch, “Broken Sword” is recommended!

Images courtesy of © 2017 Sahamongkolfilm International Co. Ltd. All Rights Reserved.


TITLE: Broken Sword Hero

FILM RELEASE: 2017

DURATION: 122 Minutes

BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition (16:9 widescreen), Thai DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1, Subtitles: English

COMPANY: Well Go USA Entertainment

RATED: N/A

RELEASE DATE: October 31, 2017


Directed by Bin Bunluerit

Produced by Somsak Techaratanaprasert, Tanit Jitnukul, Bin Bunluerit


Starring:

Buakaw Banchamek as Thongdee

Phutharit Prombandal as Taksin

Somsin Maneewan as Ramyong

Nantawut Boonrubsub as Cherd

Vannapoom Songsuparp as Boonkerd

Chutirada Junthit as Mauylek

Phutarit Prombandal as Rueang

Jaran Ngamdee as Khru How


Buakaw Banchamek is a Thai welterweight and Muay Thai kickboxer. First film role was in Muay Thai Warrior (2010) directed by Nopporn Watin.


In Thailand, Phraya Phichal Dap Hak is a national hero that served under King Taksin and helped repel the Burmese and reuniting Siam (Thailand).  Known for his boxing style who was unafraid to take anyone on, the heroic character’s life is the main story of “Broken Sword Hero”.

Starring Buakaw Banchamek, the Thai Welterweight Muay Thai kickboxer, the film marks Buakaw’s first major lead role in a film (his fourth film overall).  The film also stars Phutharit Prombandal, Somsin Maneewan, Nantawut Boonrubsub, Vannapoom Songsuparp, Chutirada Junthit, Phutharit Prombandai and Jaran Ngamdee.

And now the film will be released on Blu-ray and DVD courtesy of Well Go USA in October 2017.

The film begins with a young man named Joi (portrayed by Buakaw Banchamek) being pursued and running for his life, meanwhile cracking a smile while being chased.

The film then goes back to when Joi was a boy and being chased by a group of kids.  A boy named Cherd is the son of an important leader and often Joi is bullied by the kids, but he is not afraid to fight back.

One day he goes to his uncle to teach him Muay Thai but the uncle tells him to go to his father, who is a championship fighter but Joi explains his father won’t teach him.  We then see Joi’s father comes to him and is upset at his child and he takes his child and his family to pray for Joi because he gets into a lot of trouble.

We then see Joi finding a training area and starts to train on his own and then he starts throwing rocks towards Cherd and his friends, which prompt him to be chased again.  And as they try to fight and beat up Joi, Joi manages to outfight them.  And when he goes to fight a young Cherd, he punches him and Cherd falls back and hits his head on a rock and starts bleeding.

We then learn of the troubles that Joi gets into and as a teenager, the same situation.  And once again, he causes trouble for Cherd (portrayed by Nantawut Boonrubsub) and we see them chase after Joi, who once again beats up Cherd.  But now Cherd goes to his uncle and his men to go capture and punish Joi.

Not wanting to cause problems for his family, Joi leaves home and finds hopefully a new home where people are trained to fight Muay Thai.  And as Joi learns, everyone in the village has black teeth (from eating Betal Nut) and because Joi has white teeth, he is given the name Thongdee.

Meanwhile, Cherd and his uncle and his men go to the village where Thongdee is training and they ask for Joi.  The village leader tells him there is no Joi and immediately Cherd’s uncle starts threatening the village.  But Thongdee comes out to let himself be captured but on one condition, they leave the people and the village alone.

But when the uncle doesn’t, he has his men burn the village down and this leads to Thongdee and the villagers fighting for their life.

While Thongdee and the villagers are able to turn Cherd and his uncle away, they vow revenge and want Thongdee dead.

Meanwhile, Thongdee plans to visit another village to be come a better fighter.  While walking, he sees a family and their guards being terrorized by Burmese.   Ramyong (portrayed by Sornsin Maneewan) fights for her life to protect her mother and her brother, while many of their guards are being slaughtered by the Burmese.  And as it looked as if Ramyong is about to be killed, she is rescued by Thongdee who takes out many of the Burmese, who then escape.

Greatful to Thongdee for saving her life, this chance meeting with Ramyong would set Thongdee on his mission to become a better fighter but also a path that will set his destiny.

And as Thongdee is trained and takes on even more powerful fighters, he is joined by a young man named Boonkerd (portrayed by Vannapoom Songsuparp) and Mauylek (portrayed by Chutirada Junthit) who follow Thongdee who learns a lesson of determination, courage, loyalty, life and what his true destiny may be.


VIDEO:

“Broken Sword Hero” is presented in 1080p High Definition (16:9). Picture quality is fantastic, close ups show great detail.  A lot of the shots are outdoors, so the film has great vibrancy, detail during closeups and more.  The film looks great in HD and I didn’t notice any artifact or banding issues.

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“Broken Sword Hero” is presented in Thai 5.1 DTS-HD MA. Dialogue and music is crystal clear, as with action sequences which utilize the surround channels quite well.

Subtitles are in English.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Broken Sword Hero” comes with no special features.


When I first saw a trailer for “Broken Sword Hero”, I automatically thought it would be another martial arts film.

Afterall, most Thai films brought to the US are martial arts driven and I was expecting something banal.  After watching “Broken Sword Hero”, I quickly discovered that this film was much more and much better than I expected.

The first half of the film no doubt packs a lot of action but also a lot of humor.  But then I started to learn than this film was so much more and that it revolved around the history of Thong Dee Fun Khao, who would become the loyal soldier of King Taksin the Great and that he would become a noble hero, who remained loyal to his king and would be known as Phraya Phichai Dap Hak.

The film details the story of how a troublesome boy named Joi would become Thongdee and later Phraya Phichai but it’s the journey that will captivate people.

With the main protagonist being portrayed by popular Muay Thai fighter Buakaw Banchamek, we see amazing fight choreography and magnificent fight scenes full of punches, high kicks and more!

But watching how this film evolves and how Thongdee evolves around the people around him.

As a person not so familiar with Thai culture, I thought it was interesting to see how many villagers had black teen and led me to spend the night researching Thai culture, Phraya Phichai and King Taksin.  But also discovering what the title “Broken Sword Hero” meant.  The title which revolves around Phraya Phichai who fought with a sword (dap) in each hand until one was broken.

While one can’t expect fighter Buakaw Banchamek to become a talented actor overnight, fortunately the film doesn’t have to rely on Buakaw’s spoken dialogue but mainly Buakaw the fighter.  Using his skills to take on various challengers.  And because Buakaw is a true fighter, no need for a stunt actor, ever kick and punch looks convincingly natural and it helps to have a talented fighter in this action film.

Picture quality and lossless audio are great but there are no special features, so this is a barebones Blu-ray release.

Overall, “Broken Sword Hero” is an entertaining historical/martial arts film based on Thailand’s noble hero, Phraya Phichai.  How a troublemaker teen would become a well-renown fighter but also how he would become the loyal general of King Taksin the Great.  Fast-paced and a lot of fun to watch, “Broken Sword” is recommended!

 

God of War (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)

October 22, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

“God of War” is a fascinating, action-packed film with wonderful costume design, well-planned war scenes and showcasing a part of history during the Ming Dynasty but also to showcase a few of China’s well-known heroes who fought valiantly against these pirates.  But it’s more for the fans of action films and not for those who are looking for a deep storyline.

Images courtesy of © 2017 Bona Entertainment. All Rights Reserved.


TITLE: God of War

FILM RELEASE: 2017

DURATION: 129 Minutes

BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition (16:9 widescreen), Mandarin DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1, Subtitles: English

COMPANY: Well Go USA Entertainment

RATED: N/A

RELEASE DATE: October 17, 2017


Directed by Gordon Chan

Written by Frankie Tam, Maria Wong, MengZhang Wu

Produced by Gordon Chan, Paul Cheng

Associate Producer: Hing-Ka Chan, Shirley Lau

Music: Shigeru Umebayashi

Cinematography: Takuro Ishizaka

Edited by Ki-Hop chan

Art Direction by Alfred Yau

Costume Deisgn by Emi Wada


Starring:

Wenzhuo Zhao as General Qi Jiguang

Sammo Kam-Bo Hung as General Yu Dayou

Yasuaki Kurata as Commander Kumasawa

Regina Wan as Lady Qi

Keisuke Koide as Lord Yamagawa

Timmy Hung as Chen Dacheng

Michael Tong as Lou Nan

Yue Wu as Yang Chao


During the 16th century, pirates rule the Chinese coastline, pillaging the small villages and terrorizing the citizens. When maverick leader Commander Yu (martial arts legend Sammo Hung) enlists the help of a sharp young general (Vincent Zhao), they devise a plan to defeat the pirates. A violent clash of wit and weapons will decide who will rule the land in this sweeping historical epic from veteran action director Gordon Chan.


In China, Gordon Chan has a long career of films which he has written, directed and produced.

Known for popular films such as “Fist of Legend” starring Jet Li, “Thunderbolt” starring Jackie Chan and “Painted Skin” starring Donnie Yen, Chan has also directed numerous films such as “Beast Cops”, “2000 AD”, “Painted Skin”, “The King of Fighters” and many more.

Chan’s latest film is the 2017 Chinese historic war action film titled “God of War”, a film inspired by the history, especially around Qi Jiguang, a military general during the Ming Dynasty wo hled the defense of coastal regions against wokou pirate activities in the 16th century.  Regarded as a hero in Chinese culture, Qi is also known for writing military manuals Jixiao Xinshi and the Record of Military Training based on his experience as an educator and defensive planner in the Ming military forces.

But during the Ming Dynasty, there was a lot of corruption and many Chinese officials actually had relations with the pirates and benefited from piracy.

The film begins with the Chinese trying to rid of the Japanese samurai warriors turned pirates who teamed up with Ronin to fight against approaching Chinese armies.  And because the Japanese had artillery, the Chinese forces were vulnerable.

While Chinese General Yu Daiyou (portrayed by Sammo Hung) was a prominent figure, he was unable to defeat the Japanese pirates, so their leader wants to infuse new blood.  So, he must team up with General Qi Jiguang (portrayed by Vincent Zhao), who will now be the new leader and together they would come up with strategies to face and defeat the pirates.

But General Qi Jiguang knows that he does have the weaponry nor the military to defeat the Japanese pirates, so he asks his leader to allow him to recruit and train a new army.

Meanwhile, Commander Kumasawa (portrayed by Yasuaki Kurata) has allied with ronin who just want women and gold.  Unruly and disrespectful these ronin are, samurai Lord Yamagawa has a problem with how these Ronin behave and treat women and behave like savages.

But Commander Kumasawa reminds them that as pirates, their mission is to help the Daimyo become more powerful and acquire weapons to make Japan even more powerful.  But Yamagawa is reminded that they need the Ronin to fight the battle and as part of the Matsura Clan they must defeat the Ming Court.

With the odds against them and not having the defenses to withstand the weapons of the Japanese, General Qi Jiguang requests to train and grow his army and to make his soldier’s prepared against the attack from the Japanese pirates.  But can he improve defenses and most of all, he can draft miners and farmers to fight against the pirates?


VIDEO:

“God of War” is presented in 1080p High Definition (16:9). Picture quality is fantastic, close ups show great detail, especially of the many soldiers in armor.  There are no major artifacts during my viewing of the film, nor banding issues.  If anything, colors are cool and the film looks great in HD!

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“God of War” is presented in Mandarin 5.1 DTS-HD MA. Dialogue and music is crystal clear, as with action sequences which utilize the surround channels quite well.

Subtitles are in English.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“God of War ” comes with a “making of” featurette and a theatrical trailer.


I have watched many films about China vs. Japan, especially during the period of World War I and World War II, but one part of history that I’m not quite aware of in history is of Japanese samurai and ronin that were involved in wokou piracy in order to destabilize the Ming Court and also to purchase more weaponry to make their Daimyo and Japan more powerful.

Because this was a collaboration between Chinese and Japanese actors including music composition by Japanese composer Shigeru Umebayashi (“House of Flying Daggers”, “2046”, “In the Mood for Love”), it had a different vibe, as many anti-Japanese films tend to have an anti-Japanese sentiment, but this film goes to show a perspective of both sides.

On the Chinese side, General Qi Jiguang had challenges of trying to get the necessary forces to grow and also train to fight against the pirates as moral was low and they were literally outpowered.  He pleaded but Commander Hu wouldn’t allow it until someone reported his commanders misdeeds, allowing him to grow his force but losing a promotion.

The film does go into how both Yu Dayou (portrayed by Sammo Hung) and Qi Jiguang portrayed by Wenzhuo Zhao) were put in terrible situations due to the high level of corruption in the Ming government.  Despite the sacrifices both men made, Yu Dayou in reality was framed on false charges and imprisoned for not providing any bribes.  While Qi Jiguang was slandered that he colluded with the pirates.

In the film, Qi Jiguang was reinstated but unfortunately, Yu Dayou was not given the merit and in the reality, died of frustration.  But in the film, Yu Dayou was more pleased that Qi Jiguang would lead and continue the battle against the pirates.

The film also featured Qi Jiguang and his relationship with his wife Lady Qi (portrayed by Regina Wan), wanting to be there for her husband and be there in battle alongside with him.  Not strong enough to tell his wife “no” and even his own soldiers admonishing him about it.

I wasn’t sure if this was accurate, so I had to do some research on the subject and there are numerous stories but not sure what is fact or fiction.

The film also shows the perspective of the Japanese pirates, samurai and ronin working together to destabilize the Ming Court and terrorize villages and steal weapons.  These pirates looked at it as a mission to make Japanese strong and wealthy.  But thinking that firearms would be their saving grace, they were unaware that Qi Jiguang would grow his forces but most importantly, figure out forms of defense to protect them from rifle fire.

If anything, the film shows us the battle between forces led by Qi Jiguang against the forces of primary antagonist, Commander Kumasawa.   And very cool fighting scenes between both forces leading to its conclusion.

The only problem is that the film just ends with a scene that doesn’t make any sense.  I could have ended a minute earlier but I can’t sidestep this final scene and will need to spoil it, but to be perfectly honest, it’s really not a spoiler.  Most people who watch it will think it’s an unnecessary addition of a scene to lead into the final credits.

The final scene is something I interpret of how things don’t end well with Qi Jiguang and his wife.  If you do research on the history of Qi Jiguang (and I need to add that what I’m going to write about is not on the film but perhaps may help you understand that final scene), you find out that Qi Jiguang was not happy with his wife and had affairs with other concubines.  One source that I read is that his friend and colleague wrote that Qi Jiguang was a henpecked husband and his wife was strong-willed and overbearing.   Another problem for the couple is that despite giving birth to sons, none of them survived.  So, he turned to concubines in order to have one.

He had one, his wife found out and was going to kill him with a sword but when he cried and she felt bad for him, she allowed him to keep one son.  But the boy ended up dying and she had enough and she left him, took all her savings and he died soon after.

People may look at Lady Qi to be cruel but considering the circumstance, I saw her as an independent woman that was strong-willed and not so subservient compared to how women were portrayed during that era.

So, that final scene is possibly a reaction of a wife fed up.  It wasn’t necessary for the film and most people not familiar with Qi Jiguang and Lady Qi and are watching those final seconds may not understand why it was even added.  But it’s part of Chinese history, and a nod to Qi Jiguang and his wife that things didn’t exactly end with a happy ending.

Overall, “God of War” is a fascinating, action-packed film with wonderful costume design, well-planned war scenes and showcasing a part of history during the Ming Dynasty but also to showcase a few of China’s well-known heroes who fought valiantly against these pirates.  But it’s more for the fans of action films and not for those who are looking for a deep storyline.

 

L.O.R.D.: Legend of Ravaging Dynasties (a J!-ENT DVD Review)

September 25, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

“L.O.R.D.: Legend of Ravaging Dynasties” is a major step for China in creating a fantasy/adventure CG animated film that looks awesome.  The problem is, too many characters are squeezed into 118 minutes that the storyline is hampered by it.  It may get a little confusing, so it may be a film that one will watch more than once.  Still, “L.O.R.D.: Legend of Ravaging Dynasties” has its own charm and cool, stylish visuals that make it work watching.

Images courtesy of © 2017 Lionsgate. All Rights Reserved.


DVD TITLE: L.O.R.D.: Legend of Ravaging Dynasties

YEAR OF FILM: 2016

DURATION: 118 Minutes

DVD INFORMATION: 2:39:1 widescreen, English 5.1 Dolby Digital, Subtitles: English SDH, Spanish

RATED: Not Rated

COMPANY: Lions Gate

AVAILABLE ON: September 26, 2017


Directed by Jingming Guo

Line Producer: Xu Xiaoling

Co-Produced: Qin Zhou

Music by Yuki Kajiura, Ronald Ng

Cinematography by Randy Che


Starring:

Fan Bingbing as Guishan Lian Quan (Disciple to the Fifth Degree)

Kris Wu  as Yin Chen (Lord to the Seventh Degree)

Cheney Chen as Qi Ling (Disciple to the Seventh Degree/Lord to the Zeroth Degree)

William Wai-Ting Chan as You Ming (Lord to the Second Degree)

Amber Kuo as Thalia (Lord to the Fourth Degree)

Yun Lin as Tianshu You Hua (Disciple to the Sixth Degree)

Mi Yang (Disciple to the Second Degree)

Roy Wang as Cang Bai Shao Nian

Yikuan Yan as Guishan Feng Hun (Lord to the Fifth Degree)

Duo Wang as Qi La (Lord to the Third Degree)

Aarif Rahman as Ni Hong (Disciple to the Fourth Degree)


Supernatural warriors clash with dark forces of evil in this electrifying fantasy-adventure. In a distant time, seven lords who wield powers beyond imagination share dominion over a world. But when one lord falls from grace, the others must summon all their magic to stop an epic war that is ravaging the land – and threatening the order of the universe.


In 2016, the Chinese computer animated motion capture action fantasy film “L.O.R.D.: Legend of Ravaging Dynasties” was released in theaters.

Directed by famous author Guo Jingming, the film stars Fan Bingbing (“Iron Man 3”, “X-Men: Days of Future Past”, “My Way”), Kris Wu (“xXx: Return of Xander Cage”, Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets”, “Mr. Six”), Cheney Chen (“The Great Wall”, “Tiny Times”), William Wai-Ting Chan (“Triad”, “As the Light Goes Out”), Amber Kuo (“Au revoir Taipei”, “Keeper of Darkness”), Yun Lin (“The Mermaid”, “Journey to the West: The Demons Strike Back”) and Mi Yang (“Gorbaciof”, “Painted Skin: The Resurrection”, “The Bullet Vanishes”).

And now the film will be released on DVD courtesy of Lionsgate.

The film begins with an introduction to the Odin Mainland which is separated into four countries with soul masters protect their own country utilizing their own soul powers.  And the most powerful, seven of them are known as Noble Lords (Dukes).

The film begins with a busboy named Qi Ling (portrayed by Cheney Chen), when the jovial young man goes to work at the inn, he sees a group of spirit warriors at the inn who came from the capital to the area to hunt a spirit beast.

Immediately, the land starts freezing and many people are frozen to death and are killed.  While many in the inn are killed, the female spirit warrior is targeted by a huge white lion with wings who has the power to freeze and control the elements.

Meanwhile, Yin Chen, the Silver Priest (portrayed by Kris Wu) working for the Lord of the Seventh is ordered by the Silver Priest (portrayed by Roy Wang) to take in a disciple. Lady Knox (Talia), Duke of the fourth, is ordered to work with the Duke of the Second to hunt down the Duke of the Fifth, Guishan Feng Hun (portrayed by Yikuan Yan) and his disciple, Guishan Lian Quan (portrayed by Fan Bingbing) for treason.

We then see Guishan Feng Hun running away with a blonde individual and then fighting against himself (a body double that came out of a mirror).

The film then goes to Qi Ling awakening and being taken in by Yin Chen and is told that he was brought back from the dead and that he will now become trained as his disciple.


VIDEO & AUDIO:

“L.O.R.D.: Legend of Ravaging Dynasties” is presented in 2:39:1 and is presented in English 5.1 Dolby Digital. The original mandarin dialogue is not included and thus, if you are looking for information on this film, you will notice the names used in the English release versus the Chinese release differ.  For the most part, picture quality is good as it gets on DVD. It’s amazing to look at it because, for example, fans of Fan Bingbing know how she looks and to see a CG version of her is pretty cool.  The motion capture and how the characters look are really well-done, some may feel very video game like but for the most part, the picture quality and animation is very good.  The soundtrack features quite a bit of action and utilizes the surround channels fairly well!

Subtitles are in English SDH and Spanish.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“L.O.R.D.: Legend of Ravaging Dynasties” comes with no major special features.


“L.O.R.D.: Legend of Ravaging Dynasties” is no doubt an ambitious project showcasing China’s CG animation.  While Japan and Korea have been the focal point for years, it’s good to see a film showcasing how far China has come in CG animation and “L.O.R.D.: Legend of Ravaging Dynasties” looks great!

But like a video game, graphics are only a part of it and a storyline is important.  While “L.O.R.D.: Legend of Ravaging Dynasties” is a film that I found fun, humorous and action-packed at times, there are too many characters that may confuse viewers.

The film starts off with Qi Ling and then we are introduced to the Lord of the Seventh, Yin Chen.  But then we are introduced to Tianshu You Hua of the Sixth and then we find out that Thalia of the Fourth and You Ming are after Guishan Feng Hun of the Fifth and his disciple Guishan Lian Quan.

Confused?

Yeah, it can get confusing. So, I wouldn’t be surprised if one watched this film multiple times.

I mention video game because in some ways, it reminds me of a JRPG (Japanese role playing game) like “Final Fantasy”, where you start off with an initial character and then the game branches to introduce many other characters.

Where RPG’s have many hours of gameplay with relationships to build upon, movies don’t have that luxury (unless they are built upon a series or comic book preceding the film).

Think of series of warring states or leaders and can you imagine “Game of Thrones” being limited to 118 minutes?  “L.O.R.D.: Legend of Ravaging Dynasties” is a film that tries to introduce too many characters and what is considered a primary character for the first half of the film, may not be the primary character of the second half of the film.  The film starts off showcasing Qi Ling (Cheney Chen’s character), but somehow the film ends up being more about Guishan Lian Quan (Fan Bingbing’s character).

While I can’t deny that I enjoyed the film for its visual presentation and action, especially to see Fan Bingbing in CG.  If the film was made into a trilogy or even a two-parter, perhaps the story could have been fleshed out a bit more and character dynamics would come into play more efficiently.

As for the DVD, picture quality looks great as it can on DVD, although I wished it was released on Blu-ray.  Audio is good as the English dub is crystal clear including the film’s action sequences but I admit that I was hoping for special features, which there are none included.

Overall, “L.O.R.D.: Legend of Ravaging Dynasties” is a major step for China in creating a fantasy/adventure CG animated film that looks awesome.  The problem is, too many characters are squeezed into 118 minutes that the storyline is hampered by it.  It may get a little confusing, so it may be a film that one will watch more than once.  Still, “L.O.R.D.: Legend of Ravaging Dynasties” has its own charm and cool, stylish visuals that make it work watching.


 

Iron Protector (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)

September 4, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

“Iron Protector” is a martial arts film that shows us that Yue Song is a total package when it comes to starring, directing, producing, writing and editing his own films.  Featuring exciting martial arts choreography, “Iron Protector” is a popcorn martial arts film worth watching!

Images courtesy of © 2015 Beijing Yue Song Film and Television Culture, Co. All Rights Reserved.


TITLE: Iron Protector

FILM RELEASE: 2016

DURATION: 90 Minutes

BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition (2:35:1), Mandarin DTS-HD MA 5.1, Subtitles: English

COMPANY: Well Go USA Entertainment

RATED: N/A

RELEASE DATE: September 5, 2017


Written and Directed by Yue Song

Produced by Yue Song, Kong Lingcheng, Liu Chengguo, Guo Tingting 

Associate Producer: Liu Yanming, Yang Jun, Li Changhai, Shi Bingjie

Music: Derek Zhao

Cinematography: Jingfang Chen, Xing Gu


Starring:

Yue Song as Wu-Lin

Yu Xing (Shi Yanneng) as Jiang Li

Wai-Man Chan

Colling Chou

Li Yufei as Feifei


After the death of his clan master, Wu-Lin leaves the village for the City of Stone-cold to protect the daughter of the richest family in the city, Fei-Fei. When the city s most dangerous gang attempts to kidnap Fei-Fei, Wu-Lin is forced to fight them alone and discovers an even more sinister power is taking over the city.


In the search for a new martial arts hero, one willing to take on the risky stunts and bone-break risks, China has found a man who not only is willing to step up as a martial arts fighter and take on risky stunts but also a man who knows how to direct, write, produce and edit a film.

Yue Song has not been around all that long and the one film he was known previously for was “The King of the Streets” and now, he’s back with his second film “Iron Protector” (a.k.a. “Super Bodyguard”), which will be released in Sept. 2017 courtesy of Well Go USA Entertainment.

The film begins with Wu Lin doing splits with a child and the public watching him.  The kid tries to distract Wu Lin with ice cream and even peeing on the street.

But when a group of thugs go after a man, they run into the child, causing him to cry and also upset Wu Lin (since they ran over the ice cream the boy gave to him).  As Wu Lin confronts the punks of who stepped on his ice cream, they try to attack him but he easily beats them.  The older man named Jia-Shan Li offers him money, but Wu Lin is not so interested.

As Wu Lin goes back to the area he was working on his splits, several cars park around him and out comes a man who confronts him.  The man happens to be Jiang Li (portrayed by Xing Yu), who was a fellow apprentice with Wu Lin and both learned martial arts together.

But when Wu Lin was chosen to become the successor of the “Iron Feet”, Jiang Li who tried to steal the iron feet was cast out of the martial arts training area.

But now with the death of his master, Wu Lin decided to visit the City of Stone and visit his old friend.  But when Jiang Li sees Wu Lin still wearing the iron boots, he becomes jealous.

Meanwhile, Wu Lin gets a job in the city from Jia-Shan Li, the older man he saved earlier and that is to become a bodyguard for his daughter Feifei (portrayed by Li YuFei).

Feifei is irritated that her father has sent a bodyguard that is always with her 24/7 and she does all he can to be rude and annoying to get him to leave but Wu Lin intends to stick with his job to protect her.

But one day, Feifei is kidnapped by a group of thugs but what happens when Wu Lin find out that the person responsible for the kidnapping is his friend Jiang Li.


VIDEO:

“Iron Protector” is presented in 1080p High Definition (2:35:1). A lot of shots indoors but for the most part, picture quality is good, outdoor scenes are vibrant.

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“Iron Protector” is presented in Mandarin 5.1 DTS-HD MA.  Dialogue and music is crystal clear, as with action sequences which utilize the surround channels quite well.

Subtitles are in English.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Iron Protector” comes with the following short featurettes: The Chase, the Final Battle, Training, Stunts and Fighting Highlights and a trailer.


Back in the day, Jackie Chan and many other action stars and stuntmen, would partake in action sequences that were risky, dangerous and literally leave people with broken bones or concussions.

While the practice still continues, these risky stunts practiced by the main stars of a film is still commonplace in Asian cinema back then but now more stunt actors and actresses are utilized and minimizing the danger experienced by the main talent and practicing safety is becoming more common place in Asian martial arts films.

But there are people who still feel the original way of having the main talent fight, take part in their own stunts and putting themselves in harms way is still important.

While Jackie Chan still practices this to a lesser degree today, he still does a lot of his stunts.  But in terms of hardcore action and willing to go through many risks, Yue Song has emerged as an action star willing to carry out the practices of martial arts films of yesteryear, and literally putting himself in harms way.

And this is a true Yue Song film which he directs, writes, produces and edits but also stars in.

“Iron Protector” is strictly a martial arts popcorn action film.  The story does have a bit of banality as two men, who grew up together as brothers and trained in martial arts but jealousy broke them apart.

Yue Song’ character of Wu Lin has practiced martial arts with excessively heavy iron boots and doesn’t intent to stop using them until his tenth year.  Meanwhile, his old friend Jiang Li, who was literally kicked out of their martial arts training, ended up being a crime boss, pitting these two men against each other.

Meanwhile, Wu Lin tries to protect his client’s daughter, Feifei, a stubborn, spoiled, stuck-up and rude young woman.  She does all she can to get away from Wu Lin, but he has been good at tracking her.

But when he finds out his friend Jiang Li and his gang of thugs have kidnapped FeiFei, one can expect an explosive battle between the two men.

Martial arts choreography was well-done and Yue Song has no doubt given audiences a chance to see China’s new martial arts hero in action but also from the end credits and the special features, to see how many times he put himself at risk.

As for the Blu-ray release, picture quality is good, lossless audio is much better and special features that are quite short but gives an idea of how challenging it was to shoot these stunt scenes and how badly Yue Song was hurt

Overall, “Iron Protector” is a martial arts film that shows us that Yue Song is a total package when it comes to starring, directing, producing, writing and editing his own films.  Featuring exciting martial arts choreography, “Iron Protector” is a popcorn martial arts film worth watching!

 

Black Butler the Movie (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)

September 4, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

“Black Butler the Movie” is a film inspired by the popular and anime and manga series.  But the film is it’s own storyline that is different from the story we are familiar with by Yana Toboso.  If you love action mystery films, then give “Black Butler the Movie” a chance.

Images courtesy of © 2014 Kuroshitsuji Film Partners. All Rights Reserved.


TITLE: Black Butler the Movie

FILM RELEASE: 2014

DURATION: 120 Minutes

BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition, Dolby TrueHD Japanese and English 5.1, Subtitles: English

COMPANY: Funimation

RATED: TV MA

RELEASE DATE: May 2, 2017


Based on the manga by Yana Toboso

Directed by Kentaro Ohtani, Kei’ichi Sato

Produced by Shiho Matsuhashi


Starring:

Hiro Mizushima as Sebastian Michaelis

Ayame Goriki as Shiori Genpo/Kiyoharu

Yuka as Hanae Wakatsuki

Mizuki Yamamoto as Rin

Tomomi Maruyama as Akashi

Takuro Ono as Takaki Matsumiya

Louis Kurihara as Jay the Undertaker

Ken Kaito as Arihito Genpo

Chiaki Horan as Erika Genpo


Black Butler the Movie is inspired by the hit anime series Black Butler, this live-action adaptation brings an all-new story featuring a familiar demon butler doing what butlers do best: helping their masters seek revenge. The Black Butler is back-and there’s an all-new mystery to be solved. It’ll take one hell of a butler to figure it out!


In 2006, mangaka Yana Toboso (“Rust Blaster”) began working on his second manga that year for Square Enix’s “Monthly GFantasy” magazine. The series nown as “Kuroshitsuji” (Black Butler) would receive a large fanbase due to its bishounen characters.

By 2008, “Black Butler” would receive an anime adaptation and later, a live action film.  The popularity of “Black Butler” has led to a musical, drama CD’s, toys, a video game and books have been released in Japan.

With the live action film version directed by Kentaro Ohtani and Kei’ichi Sato, it’s important to note that this film is not about Ciel Phantomhive, the protagonist of the anime and manga series but focuses on a female character named Shiori Genpo who dresses as a boy.

The film stars Hiro Mizushima (“Beck”, “Drop”, “Kamen Rider Kabuto: God Sped Love”), Ayame Goriki (“L.DK”, “Angels and Demons”), Yuka (“Reincarnation”, “Hakuba no Ohjisama”, “Akumu chan”) and Mizuki Yamamoto (“Sadako vs. Kayako”, “The Kirishima Thing”, “I Am a Monk”) and more.

The film is set in a parallel world where the world is split into two major powers.  The West which is ruled by the Queen and the East.

The Queen uses operatives known as the Queen’s Watchdogs to investigate situations that cause concern and with many deaths.  Bodies have been found mummified and found along with these bodies is a card of a demon.  And this time, the Queen’s ambassador Anthony Campelle, was found mummified in his car, become the eighth death of a person involved in a case called “Devil’s Curse”.

We then see a warehouse in which men are stuffing women into crates.  The men’s leader questions one of the women on how she has photos of desiccated bodies but when she doesn’t tell him, he keeps kicking her.

Not long after, footsteps can be heard and a man in a butler’s uniform appears in the warehouse and reveals himself as a devil’s butler for the Genpo family.  The girl gives an order to kill them all and when the butler pulls out a butter knife, all the men start laughing.  But immediately, the butler starts killing them all and showing his quick moves.  When the leader threatens to kill the girl, he tells the butler to drop the knife or else she dies.

The butler drops the knife and is shot in the head.  When the crime boss thinks he has won, the girl tells her butler to stop kidding around and then sure enough, the butler arises.  As the girl tells the crime boss to give him details of the bodies, he refuses and he is killed.

The girl removes her wig and she is revealed to be Earl Kiyohara Genpo, a Queen’s watchdog.

We learn that the girl is really Shiori Genpo (portrayed by Ayame Goriki), the daughter of the heir of the Funtom Toy Corporation.  Her parents Arihito Genpo (a Queen’s Watchdog) and his wife Erika were killed when she was younger and when she was about to be killed, she made a deal with the devil to give her soul up once she gets her revenge on the people who killed her parents.

This contract with the devil, Sebastian Michaelis (portrayed by Hiro Mizushima), a demon with special abilities that he uses to help his master, Shiori Genpo but once she gets her revenge and finds out who is responsible for killing her parents, she will die and her soul will belong to him.

And because Shiori disappeared at that time, in order for someone to claim the Genpo Funtom Toy Corporation fortune, only a son can be in the line to obtain the fortune, so Shiori must disguise himself as Earl Kiyoharu Genpo, the bastard son of Arihito Genpo.

And serving her is Sebastian and a clumsy maid named Rin (portrayed by Mizuki Yamamoto).

The Earl and Sebastian uncover clues and with the help of her aunt, Hanae Wakatsuki (portrayed by Yuka), she is able to infiltrate the club of the wealthy along with Rin.  But while investigating, she is held captive by Shinepi Kujo, the CEO of Episilon Pharmaceuticals, the host of the party.

Kujo is then seen telling a hooded figure about Necrosis, a poisonous new drug developed.  It makes people experience euphoria and then they start bleeding from their nose, ears and eyes and they then go through desiccation.  Only two red capsules can cancel the effects of the Necrosis poison.

Will Sebastian be able to save the Earl and Rin?  And what will their investigation uncover about Devil’s Curse?  And will the Earl learn who is responsible for her parent’s death?


VIDEO:

“Black Butler the Movie” is presented in 1080p High Definition. A lot of shots indoors but for the most part, picture quality is good, outdoor scenes are vibrant.

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“Black Butler” is presented in Japanese and English 5.1 Dolby TrueHD.

Japanese soundtrack is well-done but I also watched the film with English subtitles and with FUNimation onboard, one of the major positives is they have excellent voice talent utilized by the company and the English dub is well-done.

Subtitles are in English.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Black Butler the Movie” comes with a trailer.

EXTRAS:

“Black Butler the Movie” comes with Blu-ray and DVD.


When it comes to live-action adaptations of popular manga and anime series, sometimes instead of a faithful adaptation, we get something complete different and only a few elements from the series incorporated into the story.

With “Black Butler the Movie”, we have a film that has elements of the manga/anime series but for the most part, it’s a film with a different story and a different young protagonist.

Still, I have learned to understand that differences happen, as they do with superhero films in America and hope that we have a storyline that is entertaining.

“Black Butler” is a film that had potential to be something more. I was fine with actress Ayame Goriki as a protagonist and playing something different and not Ciel Phantomhive (the protagonist of the anime and manga series) and was thrilled that Sebastian and Rin play a major role in the film.

But with so much story written by mangaka Yana Toboso, it makes you wonder why they couldn’t create a film utilizing those stories.   While I felt the action scenes were well-done, I felt the overall storyline was lacking and the film was more of a popcorn action film with and the storyline that people fell in love with in the manga and anime was not well-realized for the film.

Still, I’m not going to say it’s a terrible film.  Unlike “Attack on Titan”(especially the second part) which writers strayed away from the original source material and the old ’90s “Street Fighter” film or the terrible “Dragon Ball” film, “Black Butler the Movie” was not that bad.  Different, yes.  Not a great script, yes.  But thanks to the action and the performance by Ayame Goriki and Hiro Mizushima, as well as the small, clumsy performance of Mizuki Yamamoto as Rin, made the film worthwhile.

As for the Blu-ray release, picture quality is very good and you get a solid lossless soundtrack with both the Japanese and English dub.  There are no special features but a trailer.

Overall, “Black Butler the Movie” is a film inspired by the popular and anime and manga series.  But the film is it’s own storyline that is different from the story we are familiar with by Yana Toboso.  If you love action mystery films, then give “Black Butler the Movie” a chance.

 

Shin Godzilla (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)

September 3, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

Hideaki anno and Shinji Higuchi’s “Shin Godzilla” is marvelous Godzilla fan and manages to capture everything and more of the original film’s action, chaos and suspense along with political intrigue, humor and more!  I have to say, next to the original 1954 film, this is my favorite Godzilla film yet!

Images courtesy of © 2016 Toho Co., Ltd. All Rights Reserved.


TITLE: Shin Godzilla

FILM RELEASE: 2017

DURATION: 120 Minutes

BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition, 2:35:1 aspect ratio, Dolby TrueHD Japanese and English 3.1, Subtitles: English

COMPANY: FUNimation

RATED: TV 14

RELEASE DATE: August 1, 2017


Directed by Hideaki Anno and Shinji Higuchi

Written by Hideaki Anno, English adaptation by Sean Whitley

Produced by Yoshihiro Sato, Masaya Shibusawa, Taichi Ueda, Kazutoshi Wadakura

Executive Producer: Akihiro Yamauchi

Chief Producer: Minami Ichikawa

Line Producer: Kensei Mori

Music by Shiro Sagisu

Cinematography by Kosuke Yamada

Edited by Hideaki Anno, Atsuki Sato

Casting by Tsuyoshi Sugino

Art Direction by Yuji Hayashida, Eri Sakushima

Set Decoration by Akira Sakamoto, Toshiaki Takahashi


Starring:

Hiroki Hasegawa as Rando Yaguchi

Yutaka Takenouchi as Hideki Akasaka

Satomi Ishihara as Kayoko Ann Patterson

Ren Osugi as Prime Minister Seiji Okochi

Akira Emoto as Ryuta Azuma

Kengo Kora as Yusuke Shimura (Deputy Chief Cabinet Secretary)

Mikako Ichikawa as Hiromi Ogashira (Deputy Director of Nature Conservation Bureau)

Jun Kunimura as Masao Zaizen (Integrated Chief of Staff)

Pierre Taki as Saigo (Combat Leader)

Kyusaku Shimada as Katayama (Minister of Foreign Affairs)

Ken Mitsuishi as Kozuka (Governor of Tokyo)

Shingo Tsurumi as Yajima (Joint Staff Deputy)

Kimiko Yo as Reiko Hanamori (Defense Minister)

Takumi Saito as Ikeda (Tank Captain)


In Shin Godzilla, when a massive, gilled monster emerges from the deep and tears through the city, the government scrambles to save its citizens. A rag-tag team of volunteers cuts through a web of red tape to uncover the monster’s weakness and its mysterious ties to a foreign superpower. But time is not on their side—the greatest catastrophe to ever befall the world is about to evolve right before their very eyes.


With the US release of the 2014 film “Godzilla”, many wondered when Japan would produce another “Godzilla” (Gojira) film.

And sure enough, in December 2014, Toho announced that they would be making new Godzilla film and directing the film would be renown anime director Hideaki Anno (“Neon Genesis Evangelion” TV show and films, “Kare Kano”, “Nadia: The Secret of Blue Water”, “Cutie Honey”) and also renown anime and sci-fi writer/director Shinji Higuchi (“Neon Genesis Evangelion” TV series, “Hidden Fortress: The Last Princess”, “Casshern”, “Attack on Titan” and director of visual effects for the “Gamera” trilogy).

The film was released in Japan in July 2016 and received critical acclaim from Japanese critics and was a box office success and the highest grossing live-action Japanese film of 2016 and the highest-grossing Japanese-produced “Godzilla” film ever made.  The film would win seven awards out of eleven nominations for the 40th Japan Academy Prize including “Picture of the Year” and “Director of the Year”.

The film stars Hiroki Hasegawa (“Attack on Titan” films, “Why Don’t You Play in Hell?”), Yutaka Takenouchi (“Long Vacation”, “With Love”, “Oba: The Last Samurai”), Satomi Ishihara (“Attack on Titan” films, “Sadako 3D”), Ren Osugi (“Fireworks”, “The Twilight Samurai”, “Audition”), Akira Enomoto (“Zatoichi: The Blind Swordsman”, “Dr. Akagi”, “The Eel”), Mikako Ichikawa (“Memories of Matsuko, “Rentaneko”, “Cutie Honey”), Kimiko Yo (“Departures”, Cafe Lumiere”) and many more.

And with the original “Godzilla” film being inspired by nuclear devastation and the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombings, “Shin Godzilla” would be inspired by the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster after the 2011 Tohoku earthquake and tsunami.

And now “Shin Godzilla” is available on Blu-ray and DVD courtesy of Funimation.

“Shin Godzilla” begins with the Japanese Coast Guard investigating an abandoned yacht on Tokyo Bay, not long after the boat is destroyed and the Tokyo Bay Aqua-Line is flooded.

As politicians try to ascertain the damage and if it is an underwater volcano causing the damage, Deputy Chief Cabinet Secretary Rando Yaguchi (portrayed by Hiroki Hasegawa) has a theory that it may be a creature.

But his superior Hideki Akasaka (portrayed by Yutaka Takenouchi) and other senior politicians tell him to not talk such nonsense.

Not long after, the Japanese Prime Minister Seiji Okochi (portrayed by Ren Osugi) is told that a tail is showing up in the ocean and then people start to believe Rando’s theory of a creature.

As the creature is moving towards Tokyo, boats start crashing all around causing panic in the Shinagawa area.  As the Japanese Prime Minister tries to get professional explanations if the creature can come to land, Hiromi Gashira (portrayed by Mikaki Ichikawa), the Deputy Director of Nature Conservation Bureau believes the creature can come to land but once again, the higher ups don’t believe her and the Prime Minister goes on television to tell the public that they are handling the problem and to not worry as the creature will not be able to come onto the land.

But after his press conference, he is given news that the creature has made it onto the land and is causing widespread damage and many casualties.

What is spotted is a red-skinned creature crawling on ground and it has gills.  But not long after, the creature goes through its second transformation and is now able to stand on its hind legs.

As the politicians try to strike plans to stop the creature and find ways to evacuate civilians, problems happen within the politicians because there is no such policy on how to deal with a creature and the use of deadly weapons with civilians nearby, leads the Prime Minister to not want to use any force.

Meanwhile, Yaguchi and his team must find a way to research the creature and Hiromi Gashira theorizes that the creature is energized through nuclear fission due to the high ratings of radiation nearby.  But once again, no one believes her until they see readings that confirm her suspicions.  Concerned, the United States send Kayako Ann Patterson (portrayed by Satomi Ishihara) to work with the Japanese government.

And what she presents is research from a zoology professor named Goro Maki, who has studied mutations caused by radioactive contamination and theorized that there would be a creature.  Inside the abandoned yacht (presented earlier in the film) was notes left by Maki but the group are unable to decipher what Maki left behind.

The U.S. has called the creatured “Godzilla”, naming it after Maki’s research and in Japan, the name in kanji is “Gojira”. But in agreement, Japan and U.S. must work together.

And when the creature returns, not only is it much larger but now it’s making its way back to Tokyo.  The Prime Minister sends the Japanese Self-Defense Force to mobilize the creature but each weapon they use, it has no effect on Godzilla.

With a priority of protecting civilians and defeating the creature, will Japan (and the U.S.A.) find a way to defeat Godzilla?  And what happens when the United States believes the only way to defeat Godzilla is to nuke the creature in Tokyo?  Which would be catastrophic for Japan.


VIDEO:

“Shin Godzilla” is presented in 1080p High Definition (2:35:1 aspect ratio). The film utilizes a lot of visual effects and for the most part, the film looks incredible.  From the way Godzilla was created, to the destruction of areas in Tokyo and the visual effects.  Picture quality is fantastic!

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“Shin Gozilla” is presented in Japanese and English 3.1 Dolby TrueHD.   I have to admit that I was surprised that the film was 3.1 instead of the usual 5.1 but dialogue and music is crystal clear through the center and front channels and great use of LFE during the more catastrophic and heavy artillery action scenes.

Japanese soundtrack is well-done but I also watched the film with English subtitles and with FUNimation onboard, one of the major positives is they have excellent voice talent utilized by the company and the English dub is well-done.

Subtitles are in English.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Shin Godzilla” comes with the following special features:

  • Godzilla vs. the Nerds – (33:05) A Funimation interview with Funimation Brand Manager Paul Fruge II and Matt Frank (comic book artist for “Godzilla” comics for IDW), Ben Cortez (Funimation Digital Video and massive Godzilla fan) and Eric Tipton (Funimation Marketing Dept and huge Godzilla fan).

EXTRAS:

“Shin Godzilla” comes with a slipcase, the Blu-ray, DVD and an UltraViolet HD code.


I grew up watching “Godzilla” and I have reviewed many “Godzilla” films.  And with each film, there are things I have come to appreciate, other things that I found a bit cheesy but in the most part, my favorite has always been the original 1954 film directed by Ishiro Honda.

Last year, while traveling to Japan, I was able to watch part of “Shin Godzilla” but due to long hours in the plane and not having much sleep the night before, I watched the film in pieces, trying to keep myself awake.  But I was out and I figured, I’ll catch it whenever it is released on Blu-ray.

And sure enough, Funimation has released “Shin Godzilla” on Blu-ray in August 2017 and I have watched it probably five times already, that is how much I enjoyed this film.

When there was discussion of a reboot, at first I was skeptical because each reboot, there were things I liked and things I didn’t and for the most part, many films strayed from the original and became tokusatsu films that I was watching more for the battles and whoever Godzilla would take on.

I missed the deep storyline, the political and scientific strategy employed of the original film but with “Shin Godzilla”, while it has elements of the original, directors Hideaki Anno and Shinji Higuchi were able to craft an amazing “Godzilla” film that goes beyond destruction, but a film that features a lot of layers, from the political obstruction, the decision making of Japan’s Prime Minister and their leaders, the intervention of the United States and other allies.  There is a lot going on this film, complexities that I knew very well that Anno and Higuchi were capable of taking on, considering I am a big fan of “Neon Genesis Evangelion”.

While the film features two renown directors, you have a lot of veteran talent from Ren Osugi, Akira Emoto, Kengo Kora and one of my favorite TV drama actors, Yutaka Takenouchi.  The film also has a lot of talent such as Hiroki Hasegawa, Mikako Ichikawa, Satomi Ishihara and while each of these characters has their own purpose, especially Hasegawa’s character of Rando Yaguchi and Satomi Ishihara’s Kayoko Ann Patterson.  They are considered more of a cog in a well-oiled machine of players that all contribute to a team working to find a solution in trying to stop Godzilla from causing more destruction.

Fail in finding a solution, the United States with the go-ahead of the U.N. is going to drop a nuke on Tokyo in order to stop Godzilla, especially as the monster poses a threat to the West Coast.

What I love about this film is how it uses current events, like the original “Godzilla” did after World War II and seeing the effects of the the nuclear bombs detonated on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, “Shin Godzilla” uses data after the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Reactor situation after the 2011 Tohoko Earthquake and Tsunami and as many Japanese have a no-confidence feeling towards the company hiding the true results from the public, the film goes one-step to show that others are responsible for hiding the fact that a creature was feeding on nuclear waste dumped in the ocean.

And the result is Godzilla.

And no, this Godzilla is not like anything from the past.  He’s deadlier, more calculating and prepared for attacks from the nuclear laser beams emanating from its mouth and its scales throughout its body to other abilities which one will have to watch the film and see.

I also liked the fact of how the film handled the transformation of Godzilla, from its bug-eyed amphibious form to the monstrous creature it would become.

The amount of destruction and the visual effects utilized no doubt makes this film looking “Godzilla” film yet.  And has become my favorite of the many “Godzilla” films.

Picture quality is fantastic on Blu-ray and its Japanese and English 3.1 DolbyTrue HD soundtrack is crystal clear with its dialogue (in Japanese and a well-done English dub) and wonderful musical score by Shiro Sagisu (known for his work on the recent “Evangelion” and “Berserk” animated films).  And you also get a entertaining featurette as American “Godzilla” fans discuss all things Godzilla.

Overall, Hideaki anno and Shinji Higuchi’s “Shin Godzilla” is marvelous Godzilla fan and manages to capture everything and more of the original film’s action, chaos and suspense along with political intrigue, humor and more!  I have to say, next to the original 1954 film, this is my favorite Godzilla film yet!

 

Kung Fu Yoga (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)

August 4, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

Filmmaker Stanley Tong’s long-awaited reunion with Jackie Chan happens to be a co-production between China and India. Featuring a talented cast, cool action scenes, a lot of humor plus Bollywood dance choreography, “Kung Fu Yoga” is entertaining and so much fun!

Images courtesy of © 2017 Sparkle Roll Media Corporation. All Rights Reserved.


TITLE: Kung Fu Yoga

FILM RELEASE: 2017

DURATION: 107 Minutes

BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition (2:35:1 aspect ratio), 16:9 widescreen, Mandarin and English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio, Subtitles: English and Chinese

COMPANY: Well Go USA

RATED: Not Rated

RELEASE DATE: August 8, 2017


Directed by Stanley Tong

Written by Stanley Tong

Executive Producers: Jackie Chan, Sailesh Pathak, Joe Tam

Producer: RJonathan Shen, Barbie Tung, Wei Wang

Co-Producers: D Wu, Huixia Zhang, Sunny Sun, Lin Hong, Jili Chen, Cici Chen

Associate Producer: Jia Fu, Mingyu Peng, Hong Qin, Jingwei Wang, Jianhong Yu

Music by Nathan Wang

Cinematography by Wing-Hang Wong

Edited by Chi-Leung Kwong

Casting by Adam Alzoubi

Production Design by Ying-Wah Cheung 

Art Direction by Ying-Wah Cheung, Ranjit Singh

Costume Design by Phoebe Wong


Starring:

Jackie Chan as Jack

Disha Patani as Ashmita

Amyra Dastur as Kura

Aarif Rahman as Jones

Miya Muqi as Nuomin

Sonu Sood as Randall

Paul Philip Clark as Max

Yixing Zhang as Xiaoguang

Yuxian Shang as Circe

Jiang Wen as Jiang Wen

Eric Tsang as Jianghua

Guoli Zhang as Jonathan


Jack (Jackie Chan), a world-renowned archaeology professor, and his team are on a grand quest to locate a lost ancient Indian treasure when they are ambushed by a team of mercenaries and left for dead. Using his vast knowledge of history and kung fu, Jack leads his team on a race around the world to beat the mercenaries to the treasure and save an ancient culture in this breakneck action-comedy that reunites Chan with acclaimed director Stanley Tong (Rumble in the Bronx, Supercop).


In 2017, a collaboration film with Taihe Entertainment and Shinework Pictures featuring a collaboration between China and India.

The film reunites with legendary action star Jackie Chan with director Stanley Tong (“Police Story 4: First Strike”, “Rumble in the Bronx”, “Supercop”) and would star Disha Patani, Amyra Dastur, Aarif Rahman (“Cold War”, “Young Bruce Lee”, “Cold War II”), Miya Muqi (“Tomb Robber”, “The Monkey King 2”, “The Kapil Sharma Show”), Sonu Sood (“Dookudu”, “Happy New Year”, “Dabangg”), EXO-M popstar Yexing Zhang (“Ex-Files 2”, “Go Fighting: Royal Treasure”, “Oh My God”) and Eric Tsang (“Infernal Affairs” films, “The Accidental Spy”).

The film begins with a CG historic tale of how the Magadha treasure was lost in Tibet.

The film then introduces us to Jack (portrayed by Jackie Chan), a well-known professor of archaeology at the Terracotta Warriors Museum in Xi’an.

He is visited by a young Indian professor Ashmita (portrayed by Disha Patani) who wanted to share with Jack a map that has lived on through her family.  Needing Jack’s help to use the map in hopes to find the treasure, he agrees to help her.

Jack is joined by his assistants Nuomin (portrayed by Miya Muqi) and Xiaoguang (portrayed by Yixing Zhang) and Ashmita with her assistant Kyra (portrayed by Amyra Dastur).  Jack also gets his friend’s son, Jones Lee (portrayed by Aarif Rahman) to join.

But as they start to look for the treasure, so is another man, Randall (portrayed by Sonu Sood).

Can Jack, Ashimita and team prevent the real treasure from getting into the wrong hands?


VIDEO:

“Kung Fu Yoga” is presented in 1080p High Definition. Featuring close-ups with very good detail, the film looks very good and some scenes that were quite vibrant with the color pallette. I didn’t notice any major artifacts, banding or issues with picture quality during my viewing of the film.

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“Kung Fu Yoga” is presented in Mandarin and English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio. Dialogue and music is crystal clear and surround channels utilize ambiance and action sequences through the surround channels.

Subtitles are in English.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Kung Fu Yoga” comes with the following special features:

  • Best of Both Worlds – (3:40) A featurette about the China/India film co-production.
  • The Dynamic Duo – (2:38) A featurette of the reunion of filmmaker Stanley Tong and actor Jackie Chan.
  • The Making of – (21:40) A featurette of the making of “Kung Fu Yoga”.  Interviews with cast and crew.
  • Jackie Chan Featurette – (2:34) A featurette showcasing Jackie Chan performing his own stunts and dancing for the film and more.
  • Bloopers – (3:23) The fun that took place in “Kung Fu Yoga” including outtakes.
  • Bollywood Dance Featurette – (3:12) The making of the Bollywood dance scene.
  • Trailer

EXTRAS:

“Kung Fu Yoga” comes with the Blu-ray and DVD version of the film.


Jackie Chan has almost done it all.  Action roles, comedy roles, dramatic roles, pop singer, enka singer, you name it, he’s done it or not afraid of giving it a try.

For Stanley Tong’s latest action film “Kung Fu Yoga, we have a co-production between China and India and I think it’s safe to ask, will Jackie Chan do some “Bollywood dancing”?  And with a collaboration of talent from both countries, that is a definite “yes”!

Jackie Chan takes on a Indiana Jones type of character.  Chan as a professor named Jack and his team decides to work together with young Indian professor Ashmita and her assistant to find the lost Magadha treasure in Tibet.

The team manages to find a diamond artifact but a man named Randall (portrayed by popular Indian actor Sonu Sood) is also after the treasure.

And so it’s a race against time but also Jack, Ashmita and team try to get to the treasure and prevent Randall from getting it.  But Ashmita (portrayed by actress Disha Patani) also carries a secret of why she collaborated with Jack.

I have to say that having watched a plethora of Jackie Chan films from his earliest to present, among his present films within the last few years, I ahve to say that “Kung Fu Yoga” is one of the most entertaining and fun films that I have watched.

Sure, a lot of people often wonder if Jackie Chan should be doing martial arts films at 63-years-old but watching “Kung Fu Yoga”, sure you’re not going to see the same Jackie Chan from the ’70s, ’80s or ’90s but he’s still agile, shows that he still has that fighting screen presence and action-star persona today.

In fact, Jackie Chan takes on new action with this latest film which includes him and actress Disha Patani actually having to swim in frigid waters and also having to do numerous Bollywood dance routines.

Is “Kung Fu Yoga” destined to be a classic Jackie Chan film?  Probably not, but considering how Jackie Chan continues to show that at his age, he still can take on action roles but also take on something new and different is quite fantastic.

Especially when the film features a reunion between him and renown martial arts director Stanley Tong and what best than the two to collaborate on this Chinese/Indian co-production shot in several countries.

Dubai royalty was so thrilled with Jackie Chan filming in the country that the royalty allowed for major action sequences (especially a chase scene) to be filmed, so seeing a closure of major roads and the limitless use of expensive cars to be used in the film.

But it’s a film that worked well because of its cast.

The casting of this film does not disappoint!  Up-and-coming Indian film actress Disha Patani plays the main female lead, popular young actress Amyra Dastur, while famous and award-winning Indian film actor Sonu Sood, best known for playing villain roles, plays the primary antagonist.

The film also stars pop star Lay (Yixing Zhang) of EXO-M, actress and famous Yoga instructor Miya Muqi, musician and popular actor Aarif Rahman, who is quickly becoming an action star to probably look out for in the near future.  And of course, what action film would it be without Eric Tsang, who also stars in the film.

And to make sure that the Bollywood dance was authentic, the choreography for the film is courtesy from one of the best film choreographers from India, Farah Khan.

So, this film has a lot of talent, a lot of action scenes, a lot of humor and yes, the Bollywood dancing!  And also, breathtaking scenes from Dubai, Iceland and India.

It’s something you don’t usually see and it’s something new that one will watch to see how Jackie Chan does with the collaboration.  And because this is a Stanley Tong film, one can watch the special features and see these talents really get into their action roles, but also some getting a bit hurt (nothing too bad, that we have been used to seeing at the end credits of a Jackie Chan film).

As for the Blu-ray release, picture quality is fantastic and outdoor scenes are vibrant.  Lossless audio features crystal clear dialogue and music and also surround channels utilize ambiance and action scenes very well.  There are also numerous special features included.

Overall, filmmaker Stanley Tong’s long-awaited reunion with Jackie Chan happens to be a co-production between China and India.  Featuring a talented cast, cool action scenes, a lot of humor plus Bollywood dance choreography, “Kung Fu Yoga” is entertaining and so much fun!

 

Bitcoin Heist (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)

July 25, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

I love the fact that Well Go USA Entertainment has chosen to release this Vietnamese action film to the US and Ham Tran’s “Bitcoin Heist” is an enjoyable action/heist film that I hope paves the way for more Vietnamese cinema to be released in the US.  Recommended!

Images courtesy of © 2016 Old Photo Films LLC. All Rights Reserved.


TITLE: Bitcoin Heist

FILM RELEASE: 2016

DURATION: 1116 Minutes

BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition, 16:9 widescreen, Vietnamese 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio, Subtitles: English

COMPANY: Well Go USA

RATED: Not Rated

RELEASE DATE: July 4, 2017


Directed by Ham Tran

Story by Anderson Le, Scott Nguyen, Ham Tran

Exec. Produers: Ben Tsiang, Jean Tsien, Chao-wei Chang, Hsiao-ming Hsu

Producer: Ruby Chen

Co-Producers: Guan-ting Yue, Jing Liu

Editors: Jean Tsien, Bob Lee

Music by Tristan Leral

Cinematography by Cong Minh Trang

Edited by Ham Tran


Starring:

Kate Nhung as Dada

Thanh Pham as Phuc

Petey Majik Nguyen as Jack

Suboi as Vi

Jayvee Mai The Hiep as Luhan

Lam Thanh My as Linh

Veronica Ngo as Ky

Teo Yoo as Thomas


Hackers have become the bank robbers in the new world of crypto-currency. In order to catch the most wanted hacker, The Ghost , an Interpol special agent assembles a team of thieves to plan the ultimate heist. But as any good criminal knows, there is no honor among thieves.


Far often, we have seen companies release Asian action films from Hong Kong, China, Japan, Korea, Thailand and we are seeing an influx of films coming from Indonesia and the Philippines.

But recently we are seeing companies start to look at action cinema from other countries for release in the United States and Well Go USA has chosen to release “Bitcoin Heist” from Vietnam.

Directed by Vietnamese-American director Ham Tran, “Bitcoin Heist” is an action heist film that has Hollywood action flair and top notch quality that will hopefully pave the way for more Vietnamese cinema to be released in the U.S.  The film was written by Anderson Le, Scott Nguyen and Ham Tran.

The film stars Kate Nhung, Thanh Pham, Petey Majik Nguyen, Suboi, Jayvee Mai The Hiep, Lam Thanh My, Veronica Ngo and Teo Yoo.

For those not familiar with “Bitcoin”, it is a cryptocurrency with a digital payment system.  Transactions take place without any banks or intermediary, and many people have gone to bitcoins to protect their currency from high inflation, taxing or confiscation.  And because of that, while embraced by many companies, many shun it because of its use for illegal activity.

The film begins with a young man named Phuc (portrayed by Thanh Pham) playing chess in the prison courtyard with a gangster and explaining to his opponent of the bitcoin credit system.  Phuc wins against the gangster.

Fastforward and Phuc is being pursued by Vietnamese police led by Dada (portrayed by Kate Nhung), who is trying to take down a ring of international money laundering through bitcoin transactions.

Phuc is being paid by the mysterious Ghost, an IT finance operator managing his bitcoin accounts.  While Phuc and his bodyguard are trying to outrun the police and trying to close on a bitcoin deal, the two split up and Dada pursues Ghost while her boss pursues his bodyguard.

Dada manages to capture Phuc but his bodyguard, trying to get a smartphone with the bitcoin information fixed, walks into a smartphone repair shop owned by Vi (portrayed by Suboi) and her brother Bi.  But when Bi transforms the bitcoin credits from the bodyguard’s phone to his account, he is beaten and shot, and as she is about to shoot vi, police come in time to shoot the bodyguard to death.

Because of the death of an innocent and the failure of the mission, Dada, who happens to be the daughter of the police chief, is forced to resign.  But secretly, she has been taken back on again as an undercover copy whose job is to form a gang of criminals which include Phuc, a thief magician named Jack Magique (portrayed by Peter Majik Nguyen), a thief named Luhan (portrayed by Jayvee Mai The Hiep) and his young daughter Linh (portrayed by Lam Thanh My) and Vi (who wants to avenge her brother, Bi who is laying in a coma) in hopes to bring Ghost down.


VIDEO:

“Bitcoin Heist” is presented in 1080p High Definition. Featuring close-ups with very good detail, the film looks very good as a lot of the scenes were shot outdoors. I didn’t notice any major artifacts, banding or issues with picture quality during my viewing of the film.

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“Bitcoin Heist” is presented in Vietnamese 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio. Dialogue and music is crystal clear and surround channels utilize ambiance and action sequences through the surround channels.

Subtitles are in English.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Bitcoin Heist” comes with no special features.

EXTRAS:

“Bitcoin Heist” comes with the Blu-ray and DVD version of the film.


While Asian cinema and group heist films are common, there is something to be said about Ham Tran’s “Bitcoin Heist” that separates itself from similar, banal heist films.

A Vietnamese film with production flair and stylish presentation, “Bitcoin Heist” features a collection of characters, each quite different from each other but yet manage to capture your attention.

A group of thieves led by undercover police officer Dada, the film features bitcoin thief Phuc and together they find a group of thieves that are quite fun to watch.

You have the magician Jack, a man from Dada’s past, often called “Magic Jack” in which he continuously reminds people it’s “Jack Magic” (for those who don’t understand the joke, “Magic Jack” is a popular voIP device that allows people to make unlimited calls without the phone bills and popular among many people of various Asian ethnicities).

You have Vi, the blue haired young woman who wants revenge for her brother being shot.  But the most interesting characters is the older Luhan, father of the chirpy and young teen, Linh.

It’s an odd group but how they managed to plan their efforts with hopes to pull off a major heist on the mysterious Ghost, is rather fascinating and fun.

But just when you think the film has the humor and action as other similar Asian films, you have a twist that takes the characters out of the humor and fun and putting them in a most dark place that I didn’t see coming, but made the film even more entertaining, as you learn what these characters are doing, is quite risky and their lives may be at stake.

The Blu-ray features wonderful picture quality and great lossless audio but unfortunately no special features, so it’s a barebones Blu-ray release.

Overall, I love the fact that Well Go USA Entertainment has chosen to release this Vietnamese action film to the US and Ham Tran’s “Bitcoin Heist” is an enjoyable action/heist film that I hope paves the way for more Vietnamese cinema to be released in the US.  Recommended!

 

Railroad Tigers (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)

June 11, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

Sure, it’s a Jackie Chan action film but it pales in comparison to past Jackie Chan action films. And despite the visual effects and budget that went into this film, it’s also not one of Ding Sheng’s best. For those wanting a popcorn action film and are Jackie Chan film loyalists, then “Railroad Tigers” may be to your liking.

Images courtesy of © 2016 Beijing Sparkle Roll Media Corporation. All Rights Reserved.


TITLE: Railroad Tigers

FILM RELEASE: 2016

DURATION: 125 Minutes

BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition, 16:9 aspect ratio, Mandarin DTS: X, Mandarin 2.0 Stereo, Mandarin DTS Headphone: X, English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio, English 2.0 Stereo

COMPANY: Well Go USA

RATED: Not Rated

RELEASE DATE: June 20, 2017


Directed by Ding Sheng

Screenplay by Alex Jia, He Keke, Ding Sheng

Produced by Jackie Chan, Zhao Lei, Maofei Zhou

Executive Producer: Jackie Chan, Qin Hong, Jianhong Qi, Zhong-Lun Ren, Joe Tam

Co-Executive Producer: Lv Peng, Wang Peng

Co-Producer: Yu Liang, Wang Sen

Associate Producer: Zhang Miao, Tianyun Wang

Music by Zai Lao

Cinematography by Yu Ding

Edited by Ding Sheng

Production Design by Ligang Feng

Costume Design by Cao Yangui, Wang Yi


Starring:

Jackie Chan as Ma Yuan

Zitao Huang as Da Hai

Jaycee Chan as Rui Ge

Kai Wang as Fan Chuan

Hiroyuki Ikeuchi

Ping Sang as Da Qui

Alan Ng as Xiao Qi

Fan Xu

Darren Wang as Da Guo


In this action-comedy caper harkening back to Jackie Chan s classic Hong Kong films, a railroad worker (Chan) and his ragtag group of freedom fighters find themselves on the wrong side of the tracks when they decide to ambush a heavily armed military train filled with desperately needed provisions. Unarmed and outnumbered, they must fight back against an entire army using only their wits, in a series of a dazzling set pieces and action scenes rivaling anything seen on the big screen.


Filmmaker Ding Sheng has had several collaborations with action legend, Jackie Chan.

From the films “Little Big Soldier” and “Police Story: Lockdown”, Sheng and Chan reunite once again for the action film “Railroad Tigers”.

And now “Railroad Tigers” will be released in the U.S. courtesy of Well Go USA.

The film revolves around a group of Chinese resistance fighters during a time when Japan is occupying China.

Ma Yuan (portrayed by Jackie Chan) is responsible for a group of individuals (a.k.a. Railroad Tigers) who cause problems for the Japanese army.  They hijack trains, steal supplies and they don’t have any major purpose but just to steal supplies.

But keeping an eye on Ma Yuan and friends is the the tough and cold-hearted Japanese captain, Yamaguchi (portrayed by Hiroki Okeuchi) who is in charge of finding out who has been stealing supplies.

But life for Ma Yuan and friends change when they discover a Chinese soldier named Daguo (portrayed by Darren Wang) who is badly injured.

Ma Yuan hides the soldier from the Japanese and when nursing him, they discover that he has a major mission and that is to blow up a bridge that the Japanese army uses to deliver reinforcements and carry supplies to other locations for the Japanese military.

Ma Yuan and friends decide to assist Daguo in getting the mission accomplished, but they have only four days to do it and it’s not going to be easy while Yamaguchi and a sadistic Japanese assassin after them.


VIDEO:

“Railroad Tigers” is presented in 1080p High Definition (2:35 1 aspect ratio). Featuring close-ups with very good detail, the film looks very good as a lot of the scenes were shot outdoors. I didn’t notice any major artifacts, banding or issues with picture quality during my viewing of the film.

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“Railroad Tigers” is presented in Mandarin DTS: X, Mandarin 2.0 Stereo, Mandarin DTS Headphone: X, English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio, English 2.0 Stereo.  Dialogue is crystal clear and surround channels utilize environment ambiance, trains going on the tracks and action sequences that utilize the surround channels.

Subtitles are in English.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Railroad Tigers” comes with the following special features:

  • Director’s Featurette– 2:52 a sample of the films directed by Ding Sheng and interviews with the filmmaker, Jackie Chan and crew about the film.
  • The Dangers of Shooting – (2:35) With a short amount of time and 300 people on crew to device the sets in -20 celcius weather, the dangers of shooting this kind of film. especially with a train is is high.
  • The Making of – (21:11) Filmmaker Ding Sheng, Jackie Chan and crew discuss the making of the film.  Scenes shot during production and featuring behind-the-film shots.
  • VFX Featurette – (3:50) A featurette about the making of the visual effects to make the film’s action scenes look authentic.
  • The Characters – (3:09)  A featurette about the various characters in the film and how unique they are.  Interviews with the cast.
  • Trailer – Featuring the theatrical trailer and International Trailer versions.

EXTRAS:

“Railroad Tigers” comes with a slipcover, Blu-ray and DVD.


On paper, “Railroad Tigers” sounds like a fascinating film.  A film starring father and son (Jackie Chan and son Jaycee), a film starring former EXO music artist Zitao Huang, a big budget war-era action film and for the most part, an action film starring action legend Jackie Chan, who reunites with filmmaker Ding Sheng.

For the most part, the film should be exciting and entertaining and with a lot of expectations being high for a Jackie Chan action film, unfortunately “Railroad Tigers” is not one of his best, nor one of his most memorable.

If anything, for me, it seems like a big budget film used to showcase father and son together and also showcase pop star Zitao Huang into films.

But should anyone be surprised?  You are not going to get the same Jackie Chan that one saw in the ’70s, the ’80s, the ’90s and even the 2000s.  He is a versatile actor that still manages to show us that he can still do action films but similar to other older action stars, may it be Jean-Claude Van Damme, Bruce Willis, Harrison Ford, Steven Seagal, Sylvester Stallone, etc., there is only so much you can expect Chan to do at age 63.

But even at 63, Chan still shows us that he can still do action and “Railroad Tigers” doesn’t disappoint when it comes to action.

But the pacing and the storyline itself is problematic.  Aside from watching a group of individuals fight against the Japanese army and literally go on a suicide mission to blow up a train to prevent the Japanese from using the trains to transport their army or supplies, the film doesn’t do a good job of utilizing characters outside of Jackie Chan all that well.

The film probably works in bringing together Jackie and his son Jaycee together on the big screen.  Considering that Jaycee Chan’s music and acting career could have been over after being busted for drug possession in 2014 and spent 148 days in detention.  Newspapers in China have been focused on the estranged relationship between the two but the film no doubt is a good sign of reconciliation and the industry giving Jaycee a second chance (which is typically rare).

And the surprise was seeing pop star Zitao Huang in an action film.  Also, being in the public eye for shocking fans by leaving the popular South Korean/Chinese Pop group, EXO, but having bounced back and showing that he can succeed as a music star in China and also as an actor.

So, in some ways, “Railroad Tigers” is like a film of second chances.  But despite the talent-filled roster in this film, it doesn’t make the storyline any better.  Sure, it’s a Jackie Chan action film but it pales in comparison to past Jackie Chan action films.  And despite the visual effects and budget that went into this film, it’s also not one of Ding Sheng’s best.

Overall, for those wanting a popcorn action film and are Jackie Chan film loyalists, then “Railroad Tigers” may be to your liking.

 

Sky on Fire (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)

June 1, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

Ringo Lam films are known for its action-packed scenes and for popcorn action fans, “Sky on Fire” has plenty of it.  But if you are wanting a comprehensive story to go along with the action, unfortunately the film is hurt by a convoluted story involving too many characters and scenarios.

Images courtesy of © 2016 Skyman Development. All Rights Reserved.


TITLE: Sky on Fire

FILM RELEASE: 2016

DURATION: 100 Minutes

BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition, 16:9 aspect ratio, Mandarin 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio, Subtitles: English

COMPANY: Well Go USA

RATED: Not Rated

RELEASE DATE: June 6, 2017


Directed by Ringo Lam

Written by Ringo Lam

Music by Dave Klotz

Cinematography by Man Lung Choi

Edited by David M. Richardson


Starring:

Hsiao-chuan Chang as Jia

Daniel Wu as Chong Tin-Po

Simon Yam

Amber Kuo as Jane

Zhang Ruoyun as Ziwan

Leon Lai

Ka Tung Kam

Jingchu Zhang as Gao Yu

Fan Guangyao as Wing-cheung


In this driving, non-stop action thriller, the chief security officer at a top-secret medical facility finds himself caught in an explosive battle when a young thief and his accomplices steal a groundbreaking curative medicine. After discovering the true origins of the medicine, the officer must decide whom he can trust to protect the cure from falling into the wrong hands and prevent an all-out war from bringing the city to its knees.

Famous for his dedication to realism and his use of practical effects, Ringo Lam is known as one of the most acclaimed action directors of all time. Now, teaming up with emerging superstar Daniel Wu (AMC s Into the Badlands), Lam s latest opus Sky on Fire promises to take the filmmaker s craft to a whole new level, with operatic gunfights and a twisting plot that will be immediately familiar and immensely satisfying to any fan of Hong Kong action cinema.


Filmmaker Ringo Lam is an action director known for martial art films such as “Full Contact”, “Twin Dragons”, “City on Fire”, “Full Alert” and Jean Claude Van Damme films “Maximum Risk” and “Replicant”.

Creating HK action films throughout the ’80s and ’90s, Lam would explore comedy and darker storyline in the 2000s.  But with his latest action film “Sky on Fire”, Lam makes his return to the hard-hitting action type of films that he is best known for.

The film stars Daniel Wu (“New Police Story”, “One Night in Mongkok”, “Warcraft: The Beginning”),  Hsiao-chuan Chang (“The Laundryman”, “Prince of Tears”, “Girlfriend Boyfriend”), Amber Kuo (“Au revoir Taipei”, “Love”, “Keeper of Darkness”).

In the film we are introduced to several characters. Tingbo (portrayed by Daniel Wu) is a security guard who is mourning his wife’s death from cancer.   We are also introduced to a trucker named Jia (portrayed by Hisago-chuan Chang) who is trying to help his sick sister Jane (portrayed by Amber Kuo) who traveled to Kowloon in hopes for Jane to get experimental stem-cell cancer treatment.

We are then introduced to a character flashback at the company where Tingbo works and see Professor Lee dying in a fire while a his female counterpart, Ko Yu (portrayed by Zhang Yingchu) is devastated by Lee’s death.  We learn that Tingbo works for Tang (portrayed by Fan-kuang Yao), a man who cares about nothing but profit and wants to use Professor Lee’s research to make money from stem-cell to create a mega drug for big profits.

Tang hires rival security guard Wolf (portrayed by Li Haitao) to prevent Professor Lee’s son Ziwan (portrayed by Zhang Ruo Yun) who is seeking revenge against him for the death of his father.

But when Jia and Jane are refused for a meeting for stem-cell research, they steal a lab van with a scientist and Ziwan joins them on a ride.

And Tingbo, is he a man who will support his crooked boss or the people fighting against him?


VIDEO:

“Sky on Fire” is presented in 1080p High Definition (2:35:1 aspect ratio). Featuring close-ups with very good detail, the film looks very good as outdoor scenes are colorful and vibrant. I didn’t notice any major artifacts, banding or issues with picture quality during my viewing of the film.

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“Sky on Fire” is presented in Mandarin 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio. Because the heavy amount of action in this film, the film utilizes the surround channels and LFE very well. Frenetic action throughout the film, “Sky on Fire” has an action-driven lossless soundtrack.

Subtitles are in English.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Sky on Fire” comes with no special features but a trailer.


I have enjoyed past Ringo Lam films in the past and while I am thrilled to see the filmmaker’s return for a modern action film, unfortunately this film tries to incorporate a several storylines that involve too many characters and the result, we have a confusing story that is further all over the place due to the film’s action-packed storyline.

I kind of liken the film to a summary film that we see from Asian TV dramas.  As Asian TV dramas will have several episodes, there is sometimes a summary episode which takes bits and pieces from each episode to make one episode to get people caught up.  In this case, “Sky on Fire” feels like we have bits and pieces of people’s lives that we don’t know why certain situations are happening.  This happens to frequently that you may find yourself confused by watching this film.

In some ways, I found the film an ode to older (not so popular) Hong Kong action films with plenty of action and sketchy character development.

Overall, Ringo Lam films are known for its action-packed scenes and for popcorn action fans, “Sky on Fire” has plenty of it.  But if you are wanting a comprehensive story to go along with the action, unfortunately the film is hurt by a convoluted story involving too many characters and scenarios.

 

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