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Martial Arts

El Rey Way of the Turkey photo
El Rey Way of the Turkey

El Rey Network has a 72-hour kung-fu movie marathon for Thanksgiving weekend

2nd Annual Way of the Turkey
Nov 13
// Hubert Vigilla
As the resident kung fu movie dork at Flixist, it pleases me to announce that you can spend your Thanksgiving weekend watching 72 hours of kung fu movies. This is what the pilgrims crossed the ocean for, guys. The El Rey Netw...
Ip Man 3 teaser trailer photo
Ip Man 3 teaser trailer

The first teaser trailer for Ip Man 3 just punched you repeatedly in the face

Donnie Yen vs. Mike Tyson
Nov 13
// Hubert Vigilla
Here it is: a US teaser trailer for Ip Man 3, the latest installment in the badass wing chun series starring Donnie Yen. Despite the presence of Sammo Hung in Ip Man 2, the sequel was a step down in general quality from ...
Donnie Yen in Star Wars photo
Star Wars just got a little more badass
Prepare to sing the Ewok celebration song, folks: Donnie Yen will appear in Star Wars: Episode VIII and possibly Star Wars: Rogue One. Reports suggest Yen, who completed Ip Man 3 with Mike Tyson not too long ago (though ...


Jackie Chan and Owen Wilson will reteam for Shanghai Dawn

I don't know karate, but I know ka-razy
May 15
// Hubert Vigilla
As Coming Soon noted yesterday, MGM is finally moving forward with Shanghai Dawn, the sequel to Jackie Chan/Owen Wilson films Shanghai Noon (2000) and Shanghai Knights (2003). As Flixist EIC Matthew Razak said in our staff em...


The estate of Bruce Lee doesn't want him in Ip Man 3

The CG Bruce Lee is now unlikely
Apr 02
// Hubert Vigilla
Just last week we reported that production on Ip Man 3 is underway, featuring Mike Tyson and a CG Bruce Lee. While Iron Mike is a lock, it seems that the Donnie Yen sequel has hit a snag with CG Bruce Lee (aka Marshall Law fr...
Kung Fu Fest NYC photo
Kung Fu Fest NYC

NYC's Old School Kung Fu Fest 2015 has so many ninjas

You don't even know
Mar 24
// Alec Kubas-Meyer
The folks over at Subway Cinema head up the annual New York Asian Film Festival, my favorite of all the year's festivals, and I'm always excited to see what else they cook up. Last month, we brought news of their efforts to f...

Ip Man 3 will feature Mike Tyson and a CG Bruce Lee

So... will this Donnie Yen sequel be partial schlock or total schlock?
Mar 24
// Hubert Vigilla
Ip Man 3 (or Ip Man 3D) has been in the works for a while, but the Donnie Yen sequel started shooting today in Shanghai. With the start of production comes news of some really bizarre stunt casting. According to The Hollywood...

The Cult Club: The Last Dragon (1985)

Mar 23 // Hubert Vigilla
The Last Dragon begins at the end of our hero Bruce Leroy's (Taimak) primary martial arts training. His name's really Leroy Green, but he's such a Bruce Lee wannabe that people call him Bruce Leroy. His teacher sends him on a quest to find Master Sum Dum Goy in order to achieve the golden glow, a kind of spiritual martial arts perfection that allows a true master to generate light from his or her body (i.e., going Super Saiyan). During this quest, Bruce Leroy is challenged to a duel by the hulking Sho'Nuff (Julius J. Carry III) and winds up embroiled in a kidnapping/music video extortion scheme involving TV host Laura Charles (Vanity) and Napoleonic arcade tycoon Eddie Arkadian (Chris Murney). Though Bruce Leroy goes on his quest alone, there's a Wizard of Oz vibe in his journey for Sum Dum Goy, making The Last Dragon the second NYC-based Wizard of Oz movie I can think of (the other is The Wiz). It makes the New York of the film a kind of fantasy setting, one that features roving gangs of costumed goons like Sho'Nuff and his posse (who wouldn't be out of place in The Warriors), and jive-talking Chinese dudes at a fortune cookie factory who, like Bruce Leroy, simultaneously subvert ideas of black and Asian identity (more on that later). The coming-of-age angle in The Last Dragon is equally fascinating. Despite his skill as a martial artist, Bruce Leroy is basically a socially inept nerd. He's spent his life dedicated to a niche interest, so much that he doesn't have an identity outside of Bruce Lee idolatry. You get the sense that he's lived entirely in his own head with little social interaction outside of his family and the dojo. When he meets Laura Charles and begins to have feelings for her, delayed puberty hits him like a spinning back kick to the gonads. (This is what David Cronenberg described in his audio commentary for The Fly as "the sexual awakening of a nerd.") Bruce Leroy's younger brother, Richie (Leo O'Brien), is more than happy to oblige his older brother with some birds-and-bees talk, which is another one of the film's switcheroos when it comes to character expectations and outward appearances. The primary narrative scaffolding for The Last Dragon is the arc of classic kung fu movies. There are the outward nods, of course, like Bruce Leroy in a the yellow Game of Death tracksuit or Sho'Nuff's red glowing hands a la King Boxer/Five Fingers of Death by director Chung Chang-Wha. (Both the Game of Death tracksuit and a sound cue from King Boxer/Five Fingers of Death would make appearances in Quentin Tarantino's Kill Bill films.) But the structure of the kung fu movie is more important than the garnish. A lot of kung fu narratives, broadly, depict a hero on some kind of journey, a refusal or failure to meet a specific challenge, the escalating repercussions of this failure, a recognition of one's own faults (sometimes in the face of imminent defeat), and an act of problem solving that leads to triumph. The ultimate victory is the problem-solving moment, like when Jackie Chan gives up being macho and learns to love the feminine form of drunken boxing in the original Drunken Master, or when Bruce Lee metaphorically destroys his own ego in the hall of mirrors in Enter the Dragon, or when Gordon Liu creates a new weapon and wants to go beyond the 35th chamber in The 36th Chamber of Shaolin. Bruce Leroy's problem-solving moment is also the culmination of the Wizard of Oz fairy tale and the coming-of-age story: Bruce Leroy's got to grow up and be Leroy Green, his own man, forging his own identity unique from Bruce Lee, becoming his own master just like the heroes in kung fu films, and finally participating in the world outside. Bruce Leroy's journey is so internal, which makes Sho'Nuff the perfect villain for the film. Calling himself The Shogun of Harlem, Sho'Nuff is martial arts badassery externalized with no philosophical grounding. For Sho'Nuff, martial arts is a way to do things, but not a way of life that invites self-reflection or self-discovery. That tends to be a distinguishing characteristic of lots of martial arts villains, whether it's a heavy played by Hwang Jang Lee or those goons from The Cobra Kai. They're proficient in a fighting style, but limited by the idea of the style as an end in itself (i.e., "My tiger claw can beat your snake fist technique!" Nevermind that the hero has one-upped the baddie by combining snake style and crane style by the end). The Bruce Leroy/Sho'Nuff difference is made all the more apparent in the casting. Taimak is a real martial artist, and according to Wikipedia has black belts in in Karate, Jeet Kune Do, Wing Chun, Hapkido, Jujutsu, and Tae Kwon Do. Carry, by contrast, had no martial arts background at all, but damn if he doesn't look like a supreme bad ass. (Carry even looked awesome as Lord Bowler, a supporting character in the Bruce Campbell vehicle The Adventures of Brisco County, Jr., which aired for a single 27-episode season on Fox in the early 90s.) The most external part of Bruce Leroy's character calls attention to racial stereotypes and cultural identity, which even today seems pretty novel. Here's a young African-American man who lives in Harlem in the 80s, but he dresses like a coolie and speaks in a measured, contemplative, downright Buddhist tone; he even eats popcorn with chopsticks. The jive-talking Chinese guys I mentioned earlier are essentially the guards of Master Sum Dum Goy's fortune cookie factory. They make their first appearance in the film dancing in Chinatown with a massive boombox. The trio makes fun of Bruce Leroy's outfit and demeanor before dismissing him. It's a meeting of two different stereotypes that are upended, which calls into question, even in a small way, what it means to "act black" or "act Asian." Bruce Leroy is "acting Asian" yet seeing "blackness" reflected back to him in the guise of three Chinese guys, who are probably experiencing a similar and inverted moment of reflection. This cultural identity issue isn't just in that first scene with the Chinese characters. Later in The Last Dragon, Bruce Leroy tries to change his voice and "act black" in order to disguise himself and infiltrate the fortune cookie factory. He does this by mimicking his younger brother Richie, repeating the lines "Hey, my man, what it look like?" in different ways, including a Michael Jackson falsetto. (Just think of the complicated racial/cultural implications there.) The characters at the fortune cookie factory don't buy the act, but they think they can use Bruce Leroy's blackness in order to learn how to play craps properly, as if all black people know how to shoot craps. [embed]219059:42295:0[/embed] In another scene that comes earlier, one of the Bruce Leroy's students, Johnny (Glen Eaton), wants to exploit his Asian-ness as a martial artist by essentially "acting more Asian." Johnny claims he wants to take the art of fighting without fighting (another Bruce Lee nod) one step further. "I mastered the art of fighting without knowing how to fight," Johnny says. "You see, people are afraid of oriental dudes. Give them a little move, a little scream, and lots of attitude." Johnny makes like Bruce Lee with a stance and a scream, then he gets kicked in the head. Being a true martial artist takes work and isn't just about what people see on the outside, and maybe the same can be said about becoming yourself completely, whoever you are. These little moves and little gestures in The Last Dragon acknowledge that our cultural identity is far more fluid than fixed. Who we are isn't necessarily predetermined by outward signifiers because there's a certain ability to define oneself in a way that feels comfortable and also authentic. It's about personal identity as the three-section staff, the 36th chamber, beating Mr. Han in the hall of mirrors. Or, maybe thinking about it another way, it's like Bruce Lee put it: Be like water making its way through cracks. Do not be assertive, but adjust to the object, and you shall find a way around or through it. If nothing within you stays rigid, outward things will disclose themselves. Empty your mind, be formless. Shapeless, like water. If you put water into a cup, it becomes the cup. You put water into a bottle and it becomes the bottle. You put it in a teapot, it becomes the teapot. Now, water can flow or it can crash. Be water, my friend. [embed]219059:42275:0[/embed] Next Month... Alec Kubas-Meyer and I discuss Salo, or the 120 Days of Sodom (1975). Banned in several countries upon release, Pier Paolo Pasolini's Salo is one of the grandaddies of extreme cinema and consistently on lists of the most disturbing movies ever made. Salo is notorious for its graphic violence, sexual depravity, depictions of coprophagia (i.e., feces eating), and pervasive sadism. But is it art? PREVIOUSLY SHOWING ON THE CULT CLUB Tromeo and Juliet (1996) Samurai Cop (1989) El Mariachi (1992) Six-String Samurai (1998) The Warriors (1979)
Cult Club:The Last Dragon photo
Kiss my Converse!
The Last Dragon is a sort of time capsule. It's so era-specific with its plot elements--early music videos, a Soul Train analog, arcade culture, grindhouse cinemas, a song by DeBarge--that it couldn't be anything but an 80s m...


Help fund The Old School Kung Fu Fest 2015 in NYC

There will be ninjas this year--NINJAS!
Feb 24
// Hubert Vigilla
We here at Flixist love the people at Subway Cinema. Not only do they put on the New York Asian Film Festival (NYAFF) and the New York Korean Film Festival, they also hold a great showcase of classic martial arts movies here ...
OH MY GOD photo
Since its unveiling, I've thought that Star Wars: The Force Awakens has looked cool, but J. J. Abrams movies always look cool, so I wasn't sold on the whole thing. I knew I'd see it eventually, and it will undoubted...


Tony Jaa leaves kickboxer to be replaced by Van Damme

You were upset for part of that title then got really excited
Dec 02
// Matthew Razak
Reboots are better when the aging star of the original show up. It's  fact. I think. Maybe not. However, the Kickboxer reboot is definitely made better by he fact that Jean-Claude Van Damme will be showing up in it....
Alec's Kickstarter photo
Whether you want to or not
Sometimes a particularly scathing review is met with some version of "Oh yeah? Let's see you do better." While I don't think it's a valid non-argument, it's an interesting thought. But if you have ever felt that way after re...

Kickboxer remake photo
Kickboxer remake

Kickboxer getting remade with kickass dudes

Kick! Punch! It's all in the mind!
May 14
// Nick Valdez
Normally I'm not fond of remakes or reboots, but when it seems like the newer version might be an improvement over the original, I don't really mind. The original Kickboxer was part of a long line of "Jean Claude Van Damme ki...
The Raid Remake photo
The Raid Remake

Director Patrick Hughes thinks the US remake of The Raid is really interesting

We'll see.
Apr 17
// Alec Kubas-Meyer
The upcoming remake of The Raid may be kind of unnecessary, but it's happening anyway, and now director Patrick Hughes (The Expendables 3) has let loose a few details about his next project. "We have a really, ...

Review: The Raid 2: Berandal

Mar 28 // Alec Kubas-Meyer
[embed]217269:41228:0[/embed] The Raid 2: BerandalDirector: Gareth EvansRelease Date: March 28, 2014Country: IndonesiaRating: R  First, a history lesson: The Raid wasn’t supposed to happen. Director Gareth Evans wanted to make a prison-centric gang film called Berandal (which means “Thug” in Indonesian), also starring Iko Uwais, but although they produced a pretty awesome teaser (a fight scene in a bathroom between Uwais and a whole bunch of baddies), production halted when they realized that there simply wasn’t enough money to make whatever it is that the film was supposed to be. So instead, Evans and his team made The Raid, a film with one primary location that was complicated only in its stellar choreography. The film was a massive success, and Evans got the money he needed to make the Berandal he had always dreamed of. For the purposes of this review, I’ll be referring to the original film as The Raid and this film as Berandal. I will be doing some direct comparisons a lot. If you haven’t seen The Raid, go fix that immediately, come back, and then salivate at the thought of just how much better this film is. You can just look at the run time and know that you’re in for something epic. While the original concept may have focused on a prison gang, Berandal goes so much further than that. This isn’t The Raid in a prison; there is a big world out there, and plenty more people for Iko Uwais to punch. Berandal gives him the chance. In fact, Berandal is like the anti-Raid, because that film’s simplicity was kind of the point. You knew from the beginning who the characters were, what their goals were, and what the stakes were. Everything made perfect sense and there were no real surprises. The single location and linear timeline made everything extremely easy to follow. You could just sit back and enjoy what you were watching. Berandal is not that. Berandal is a big, epic, reasonably interesting crime story, and as with any big epic crime story, it’s complicated. Two hours after the chaos of the first film, Rama (Iko Uwais), his injured comrade, and his traitorous boss meets a cop who tells him some bad news: he messed with the wrong guys, they want him dead, they will kill him, and remember that wife and kid of his? Yep. Them too. But the cop is willing to keep him safe if he’ll join an undercover operation, get in with an Indonesian crime syndicate, and help take down the corrupt cops that allow them to thrive (specifically Reza, brought up in the end of The Raid as the traitor who backed Tama and his operation). But Rama doesn’t want to be a part of this operation. Until he finds out his brother has been brutally murdered by Bejo, a new face to the seedy underworld and a man with aspirations of grandeur. Then he wants revenge and joins the underworld, to the detriment of every person who had ever thought being a gang member might be an intelligent career path. I didn’t have that much trouble following the film after the first fifteen or so minutes. The opening scenes go through three different time periods with no real indication of what is when, which makes it somewhat difficult to manage, especially compared to The Raid. But once it gets into it, the intrigue and betrayals and layers of characters and tensions and histories aren’t actually too hard to follow. You just have to pay attention, lest you end up like some of the people at the screening I attended, who were having a pow-wow about who was who and what they were trying to do. At some point, they must have zoned out, and in that moment the film lost them. It's not the most intellectually stimulating story, but it works well enough. If you’ve seen the trailers (and you should, because they don’t spoil anything and are awesome in their own right), you will have some sense of the variety of locations, but it doesn’t really strike you like the film’s first image does. Right then, I was in for something different, something big (as if the 148 minute runtime didn’t clue me in). Where The Raid took place exclusively in tight spaces, Berandal opens with an extreme wide shot of a massive field. There’s green everywhere, something the first film lacked entirely (although the colors are as muted as ever). It looks impressive, but you don’t realize just how vast this location is until a tiny little sedan appears in the lower left corner. Then you realize that the little ant thing digging a hole nearby is actually a human. Then you see a man with a bag over his head pulled from the car and brought towards the whole in the ground. Then you realize that that hole is about to become a grave. And then you think, “Gareth Evans, you have my attention.” As a counterpoint to The Raid, it is literally perfect. In fact, it’s one of the best opening shots in recent memory. And that’s important, because Berandal is the film that proves that Gareth Evans is not just a one-trick pony. The Raid is a spectacular martial arts film, and a completely serviceable narrative one. But simplicity was both a blessing and a curse: In 100 minutes, The Raid rings basically all of the creativity it possibly could out of that one location. But even so: it’s a run-down apartment complex. It makes excellent use of the space, but that run-down apartment is only new and exciting for so long (Evans’ first collaboration with Uwais, Merantau, is a more interesting film to look at due to its variety of colors and locations, even though it’s massively inferior in every other way). Berandal takes the good looks of Merantau and the general quality of The Raid and cranks them both up to 11. With shots ranging from extremely wide to extremely close and with a color pallete that would impress Kubrick, there is always something exciting to look at. The violence is stunning (and stunningly graphic). The Raid pulled few punches; Berandal pulls none. That opening scene ends with a point blank shotgun blast to the side of someone’s head, but it doesn’t cut until after the face has started to disintegrate. If you can’t stomach gore, Berandal is going to hurt you, and it’s going to hurt you badly. Remember in the opening scene of the first film when Tama, the ultimate target of their operation, hit that dude with the hammer? No you don’t, because the camera whip-panned away from the action as he struck. To make up for that one moment of hidden violence, Berandal gives you a young villainess who fights exclusively with a hammer. Actually, two of them. Her and her aluminum bat-wielding buddy make for some of Rama’s more colorful opponents in the film, showcasing their own prowess on subway trains and sidewalks, each taking on hordes as big as any found in The Raid. Also in the cast is Yayan Ruhian, who played Mad Dog in the first film, which is... problematic. While he is presented differently, my first thought when I saw him was, “Seriously?” I didn’t even consider that he might have been playing a different role, because that makes no sense. His near-invincibility in The Raid was almost comedic, and I wondered if somehow he had recovered in the two years that Rama was in prison. And because of his dumb beard, I couldn’t even see if there was a scar on his throat or not representing the lightbulb that (supposedly) took him out. That he has a name doesn’t help, because obviously “Mad Dog” isn’t a name. So why is he in the movie at all? Well, because he’s one of the fight choreographers, along with Uwais. Having him play a part, then, makes it a lot easier for them. Also, he’s generally awesome. I can totally understand wanting him to be there, but my mind took the return of Mad Dog to a dozen places that the film didn’t end up going, because it wasn’t Mad Dog. Considering the bushy hair and beard, people who haven’t seen The Raid as recently (or as frequently) as I have may not even notice, but for those who do, here’s your warning. But as odd as it was that Ruhian played a role, I’m certainly glad he worked on the film. He is a fantastic martial artist, and clearly one of the best fight choreographers working today. As a team, he and Uwais are basically unstoppable. Berandal proves that, because the scale of these brawls is beyond belief. The first fight in the film, less than 15 minutes in, pits Rama against at least a dozen random guys in a bathroom stall (it’s a recreation of the original Berandal trailer, actually, though a hell of a lot cooler). Even though it’s relatively short, the bar is already raised; none of the one-on-many fights in the original film can match it. And then it gets better. And bigger. And crazier. In fact, the scope of these fights is so massive that there isn’t a real one-on-one fight until the last battle of the entire film (the last shot of the trailer sets it up). It takes place two hours and fifteen minutes into a two and a half hour movie, and it is every bit as awesome as you would hope (imagine Jaka vs. Mad Dog on steroids and you’ll still have no idea). But it’s not all buttercups and rainbows, because Berandal has seams where its predecessor does not. Perhaps it’s because I never saw The Raid in theaters and cuts were hidden by the smaller picture, but I noticed a lot more little editing quirks to make certain strikes work in the sequel. I don’t mean that every other move I saw some missing frames or anything like that. It’s important to note, though, that I was also looking for mistakes. I wanted to pull back the curtain and see how these shots were done. I wanted to see the master at work. Some of these cuts were tiny, slight shifts of the action by maybe an inch (of a theater screen), but they’re there. If you aren’t looking, though, I can’t imagine you’d see them. It’s almost certainly a consequence of Berandal’s most impressive aspect: the length of its shots. There aren’t any shots quite as long as, say, Oldboy’s hallway fight (although one moment during the absolutely massive prison fight certainly had shades of that), but there are times where the camera just keeps on rolling. And it was sometimes in those shots that I saw those tiny cuts. Mistakes are made during long takes, and just as reel changes were masked in Alfred Hitchcock’s Rope, many long takes nowadays are composites of multiple shots. It seems plausible that the shift from one take to another could be the reason for some of this jumpiness. The reality is that the use of weapons like hammers and knives that pierce through dozens of people means that some of what you’re seeing has been digitally altered, adding gore or non-retractable blades or what have you. But that does nothing to take away from the brilliant choreography, shot composition, or performances. So many of the things that Evans and his team pulled off in this film boggled my mind. There are shots that I can’t explain, moves that make no sense, and entire scenes that should not work but do. And in those moments, you understand that Berandal is in a class all its own. Honestly, there never could have been a film like Berandal before now. Like Gravity, it is a showcase for what the digital revolution has allowed filmmakers to do. Gareth Evans couldn’t have made Berandal when he tried a few years back. Nobody could have. But now it’s been made, and we’re in a new era, a post-Berandal world where the bar has been set so astronomically high that anyone hoping to match it should probably just give up and do something else with their life. So, Mr. Evans, you have my attention. Let’s see what you’ve got planned for The Raid 3. Mike Cosimano: While I don't agree with Alec that Berandal is the best action movie ever made, it's certainly up there. For a movie where so many people are getting bludgeoned, stabbed, kicked, shot, and otherwise murdered, I consider it a high compliment that I never got tired. Most action movies with this amount of brutality are just exhausting. But Gareth Evans knows how to space out the punching and let the film breathe. It's a lesson filmmakers of every genre could learn. Sometimes you have to give your audience a chance to process what they've seen.And there's a lot to process in Berandal. Every scene is expertly crafted, right down to the dialogue. I'm really looking forward to drooling over high-def screenshots once this flick hits Blu-Ray. If my press junket hadn't told me about Evans' filmography beforehand, I would have bet actual cash that he was an old pro.  I saw this movie a couple weeks ago, and I've had a difficult time getting it out of my brain ever since. Alec was dead on with his assessment of the opening scene. It's gorgeously shot and immensely memorable, but that's a fair descriptor of the whole film. When you see it, go with friends and make sure you've got a bloc of time freed up afterwards for digestion. You'll be yelling at each other excitedly for a couple hours at the very least, slowly realizing that you just saw an instant classic. 89 - Exceptional
Raid 2: Berandal Review photo
Everything a sequel to The Raid could and should be
I will admit that I have not seen every movie that has ever been made. I have not seen every action film, martial arts film, or even all of the most revered of the action and martial arts films. I’ve seen my fair share,...

Review: Man of Tai Chi

Oct 31 // Hubert Vigilla
[embed]216384:40655:0[/embed] Man of Tai ChiDirector: Keanu ReevesRelease Date: July 5, 2013 (China); September 27, 2013 (VOD); November 1, 2013 (US Theatrical)Rating: R  Man of Tai Chi feels like it could have been made by The Cannon Group, the production company best known for films like American Ninja, Delta Force, Invasion USA, or it's bona fide masterpiece of excess, Death Wish 3. Everything about the movie is so over-the-top and yet deathly serious, like a melodrama concocted by kids of the home video generation while playing with their action figures. This story is straight out of playtime. A good guy martial artist (Tiger Chen) joins an underground fight club run by a bad guy (Keanu Reeves) so he can save his master's temple. Fight! Come to think of it, both Reeves and Chen have the same stiffness and expressionless demeanor of an action figure. It's as if Reeves was able to find his double, the good guy yang to his bad guy yin. As a villain, Reeves seems to relish the role, though he's hard to read here, more so than usual. He's always been the butt of jokes for his flat deliveries and blank stares, and I couldn't tell if he was consciously playing up these mannerisms. Maybe it's self-parody, maybe it's not, but when Reeves says, "You owe me a life!" several times, it's hard not to laugh at the goofiness of the language or the delivery. And yet it sounds cool in theory as a taunt. Or consider the lion roar that had the room in hysterics. Was that the curve of a smile I saw in his lips just before he belted it out? Was that his character's deviousness manifesting in a subtle twitch of the face? Was it an indication that Reeves thought it was goofy too? Did they do 20 takes and that was the best one? Oh, to have been on the set that day. As a filmmaker, Reeves is serviceable for the material, sort of like a more polished version of Menahem Golan of the Cannon Group. Unfortunately, more wasn't done with the film's motion-controlled camera rig. The fights were choreographed by Yuen Woo-Ping, and they're shot well enough, but without the dynamism that the initial proof-of-concept video suggested. What I actually noticed most about these particular fights was a kind of broken rhythm. There's usually a kind of consistent beat to a the fights in most martial arts films, but in Man of Tai Chi, a consistent beat is avoided. That's not a good or bad thing necessarily, just something I noticed. Many spots in the fights are quite well done, but this rhythmic difference made the film feel western in its approach, if that distinction makes sense. Underlying the Cannon Group feel is an earnest story about the corruption of innocence and the struggle for redemption through the alignment of good and evil into an inseparable oneness at harmony with itself. Yes, philosophically, Man of Tai Chi is a totally gnarly Taoist movie more than it is an underground fight club movie. (In pseudo-Taoist fashion, the opposite statement is true as well. Whoa.) Chen deals with numerous concerns about balance in life, what honor means, and the compromises one makes simply to do what is right at the time. Man of Tai Chi also nods at the differences between the two kinds of martial arts practiced in China today: tournament/sports martial arts and the spiritual/traditional side of martial arts. There's also history and progress, youth and age, lethality and grace, and the frustration of holding a day job (our hero is a delivery man, and a really crappy one) while pursuing your true passion in life. Amid all this serious stuff, there's an announcer side character who delivers her lines like she's trying to turn in a bad performance, and there's a third-banana bad guy who has the personality of a teenager from the mid-to-late 90s. It's all so baffling -- so brilliantly, stunningly baffling. Why did I hold back my laughter for so long? Compounding all the weirdness is a secondary narrative that involves Karen Mok and Simon Yam, two veteran Hong Kong actors who are given little to do. Mok's a detective trying to take down Reeves' fighting ring and Yam is her superior who, like all movie bosses, questions her motives and her methods. He's got a point. To do covert surveillance on Reeves, Mok parks across the street from him and his entourage and just kind of gawks at them from the driver's seat. The Mok/Yam portion of the story was likely included to help the film's box office in China. If it was cut from the movie, Man of Tai Chi would have lost nothing save for more strangeness. All the real fun in Man of Tai Chi is with Reeves and Chen. Opponents pop up from out of nowhere in otherwise empty rooms, and there's no in-story explanation why. Chen's style of Tai Chi becomes more aggressive, even in the professional tournaments he participates in. The only thing missing from Chen's shift from good to bad is a Spider-Man 3-style montage with James Brown as a backing track. (At least there's a title card that appears on the screen that reads "Dark Tai Chi Rises." Not a joke.) The big reveal concerning the nature of the underground fight club is hilarious as well, but in that brilliant yet baffling way that makes Man of Tai Chi so enjoyable. "Enjoyable" is the key word because Man of Tai Chi is objectively not very good. In fact, it's sort of a mess, but it's the sort of mess I wouldn't mind watching in a room full of friends who have a soft spot for schlock, or in a packed movie theater that serves booze. What else can be said about a movie that closes many of its scenes with surging industrial/techno right out of the 90s before a smash cut into silence? Or a film that is so thematically on-the-nose that it uses an animated yin-yang as a scene transition? As you probably guessed, they do this about as artfully as a PowerPoint presentation. I wouldn't want it any other way. 
Man of Tai Chi Review photo
The excesses of The Cannon Group are alive and well
Most press screenings are pretty stodgy as far as audience reaction goes, even for comedies. When people laugh, it's often the very polite and quiet kind -- almost private -- a synonym for, "Oh my, how absolutely dr&ocir...

The Raid 2: Berandal photo
The Raid 2: Berandal

First art from The Raid 2: Berandal is already fantastic

With 17 action scenes? YES THANK YOU
Oct 23
// Nick Valdez
The Raid: Redemption is one of the best things to happen to action cinema in a long time. The fact that we're getting more of it makes me excited, and it's now bigger than ever? That's even better! Taking place just two ...

Review: Ip Man: The Final Fight

Sep 20 // Hubert Vigilla
[embed]215911:40340:0[/embed] Ip Man: The Final Fight (Jip6 Man6: Zung1-gik6 Jat1 Zin3 | 叶问:终极一战)Director: Herman YauRating: PG-13Country: China (Hong Kong)Release Date: March 22, 2013 (China); September 20, 2013 (US limited) Much like The Legend is Born, The Final Fight operates in the mold of the old-fashioned biopic. The movie chronicles about 20 years in the life of an older Yip Man. It's the post-war period, however, so the oppression of the Imperial Japanese isn't bearing down on the country or on the film. The dread of annihilation is gone and the reactionary nationalism in many films about the Sino-Japanese conflict has been swapped for unbridled nostalgia. The Hong Kong of this time seems idyllic even though there's brimming social unrest. Workers call for rights on the job, and it feels at home with the bustle of rickshaws, the brightness of the cheongsams, the flutter of old love songs. In some ways I found it hard to think of this as a sequel to The Legend Is Born. There's little continuity between Dennis To's portrayal of a young Yip Man and Wong's take on the older Yip Man. To's young Yip Man was noble but lacking in personality. Compare that to Donnie Yen in the Wilson Yip films: a badass chivalric Wing Chun machine with leading man charisma. What Wong brings to Yip Man is gravitas. This is Yip Man by way of Yoda and Morgan Freeman. He's a sage to numerous Wing Chun students in the film, and selfless to a fault like most noble cinematic heroes. "A warrior and a scholar!" a character declares after hearing one of Yip Man's poems in the newspaper. Wong isn't really known as a martial artist. He went on a diet (the real Yip Man was very skinny) and trained in Wing Chun for a year prior to taking this role. The fights in the movie are fewer than The Legend Is Born, and yet they feel more invigorating. The choreography by Xiong Xin-Xin (Once Upon a Time in China 3) stresses a cleanness and groundedness of movement that's free from overt wirework or near-superheroics. It's stylized fighting that feels more real than the young Yip Man film. The fights may also be interesting since it's Wong doing so much of it himself. He looks comfortable as he goes from move to move, dishing out flurries of punches to the chest with the occasional high kick to the jaw. It's as impressive as Daniel Day Lewis doing MMA in a stovepipe hat and a beard. My first exposure to Anthony Wong came in a much different Herman Yau film from 1993 called The Untold Story: Human Meat Pies. I'd seen Wong before in Hard Boiled, but I always noticed him after The Untold Story. Wong played a ruthless psychopath who murders people, chops up their bodies, and puts their flesh in the pork buns he sells at his restaurant. (The film was allegedly based on an actual crime in Macau.) The Wong sections of the film are inhumane, particularly when we see what he did to the previous owners of the restaurant. This bleakness is off-set by the goofy detectives in the film, though it's not as bad as the bumbling cops from Last House on the Left. Every Wong movie I see is measured against this role. What Wong's shown over the years, aside from staggering productivity (he has 174 acting credits on IMDb), is versatility. He can play a sociopath, a suave criminal, a wizened older cop, and a goon, and he'll fully inhabit these parts. With Yip Man, there's something fascinating about what Wong is doing, even in the still moments where he's lost in thought and about to smoke a hand-rolled cigarette. There's a scene where Yip Man and his wife are together. She's come to Hong Kong from Foshan, and there's a dignified giddiness to Wong's performance when he's with her. They've been living apart for a long time, and it's one of the few sequences of The Final Fight where Yip Man isn't in Yoda mode. The couple are in bed and it's cold, and Yip Man's students bring up a comforter for them. It's a kind of Capra moment. Yip Man and his wife turn toward each other with eyes locked. Yip Man hasn't been this happy in a long while. It's so old-timey and might have been schmaltzy if Wong wasn't so good. Wong is the real strength of The Final Fight, and as long as he's on screen there's something worth noticing. Where the film falters is its looseness, which might be a consequence of the post-war setting. Without the Imperial Japanese as an obvious foil and without Yip Man as a symbol of Chinese persistence in the face of an outside force, there's almost no conflict that drives the film. In some ways it works since it's about the winding down of Yip Man's life, and yet it's a little off. Matters of plot and proportion are the ultimate difficulty of biopics -- too much plot molding doesn't feel like real life, too little feels like the narrative is meandering. There's a fight against the head of a rival martial arts school (played by Wong's Infernal Affairs co-star Eric Tsang) which reveals character rather than builds conflict. It's more like a tussle between two righteous men with mutual respect, which has an interesting payoff in a quiet scene following another fight. Eventually a sideplot involving a criminal in Kowloon Walled City drives the last half (really the last third) of the story, but it feels forced. Whereas The Legend Is Born is too rounded with its plot and ties its slew of fight scenes together with a bow of movie intrigues (i.e., sibling rivalries, love triangles, double crosses, betrayals), The Final Fight begins to droop and its last action scene feels perfunctory. The Final Fight is an admirable effort that adds a new take on Yip Man even if it doesn't quite work. I actually can't wait to see what Tony Leung (another Hong Kong great) brings to Yip Man in Wong Kar Wai's The Grandmaster, or more accurately, what part of himself he'll reveal in the guise of Yip Man. On the note of other Yip Mans, I think the third Donnie Yen/Wilson Yip Ip Man film (whenever it comes) will take place at some point in this post-war period as well. How will they handle this this era without a handy conflict? Will Yip Man become a social crusader, a warrior against water rationing? Will this social unrest become integral to the plot rather than part of the film's historical garnish -- Wong Fei-Hung meets Woodie Guthrie? Whatever happens, it'll be tough to match Wong's grace as a guiding force.
Ip Man Final Fight Review photo
Anthony Wong and the many faces of Yip Man
In the review for The Legend Is Born: Ip Man, I mentioned how the character of Yip Man seems to be turning into the new Wong Fei-Hung. Here's a real-life historical figure who's suddenly become an idealized version of the rea...

Review: The Grandmaster

Aug 22 // Hubert Vigilla
[embed]216244:40600:0[/embed] The Grandmaster (Yut Doi Jung Si | 一代宗师)Director: Wong Kar WaiRating: PG-13Country: China (Hong Kong)Release Date: August 23, 2013 I write "seems" because I haven't watched the 130-minute Hong Kong cut of The Grandmaster, the official director's cut of the film. (I haven't seen the 115-minute international cut either.) There's a lot that can happen in 22 minutes. I skimmed a recent piece by David Ehrlich on that details all of the differences between the longer cut and the US release. It's spoiler heavy, but just looking at the bolded text, there are plenty of shuffled scenes, nixed story elements, and truncated sequences that break the architecture of the original movie. Before checking out the Ehrlich piece, I could still tell where some of the changes were. The Grandmaster is guided by Ip Man's overt narration, and every now and then some English text appears for transitions and explanations. Certain moments feel choppy, others feel like the proportions are off, some feel misplaced, and the coda is just strange; the tape is visible, the movie is sticky with glue. What I want from a Wong Kar Wai film is sumptuousness, emotion, and observation, as found in his previous movies like In the Mood for Love, Happy Together, or Chungking Express. It's still there in this version of The Grandmaster, but it's been heavily compromised. It says something about Wong's gifts as a filmmaker that this compromised material still shines and still has moments that are undeniably breathtaking, and yet these glowing bits are like neon arrows pointing out that 22 minutes worth of lacunae. If you look at the marketing that Weinstein did for The Grandmaster, it made the film seem like a chop socky movie. It's a fundamental misunderstanding about the material and how to sell it. This is not a standard martial arts movie. The Grandmaster, as it ought to be, is an art house martial arts movie. There's incredible action in the film, but it's more daring and much headier than its arty wuxia forebears like Ang Lee's Couching Tiger, Hidden Dragon or Zhang Yimou's Hero. Yuen Woo-Ping's fight choreography is still remarkable, but it's the way that Wong Kar Wai stages, shoots, and edits the action that makes it transcendent. The fighting goes beyond visceral spectacle and becomes something spiritual, metaphysical. When Ip Man twists to throw a punch, Wong cuts to a close-up of his hat brim soaked with rain, the water arcing away in slow motion. We don't see his body, but we know the motion his body makes simply from the motion of the water. Ip Man twists again and his shirt sleeve will send water off in a spearing jet. The speed and strength of that strike are there in the motion of rain and cloth, and it's never distracting. These disturbances are extensions of action. Before a punch nearly connects, Wong focuses on the little push of air on fabric that precedes the blow. More disturbance, more extension of movement; the punch is more than just a punch. This poetic way of presenting the fight scenes gets at the heart of The Grandmaster. For a martial artist, the martial arts is more than just self-defense. It's a way of life. To commit yourself wholly to a craft or an art means mental discipline, the formation of a personal philosophy, a means of comporting yourself to the world that aligns with the craft or art. The physical motions are repeated until they're internalized; any movement is the expression of that person's whole being. That may be the subtext in other martial arts films, but it is expressed with such remarkable sweep in The Grandmaster. It's the idea of what Ip Man represents as a martial artist that's most important to the movie rather than Ip Man himself as a historical figure. The same goes for Zhang Ziyi's character Gong Er. Though previous Ip Man films were only about Ip Man, The Grandmaster is as much about him as it is Gong Er. (This explains why the movie was at one time going to be called The Grandmasters.) The first half involves duels between Northern-style martial artists and Southern-style martial artists, exploring ideas about differences in style and what these mean to those who care about such distinctions. When Gong Er and Ip Man eventually duel, the scene is as much about pride in mastery as it is about the seduction of mastery--you can be great and be admired for it, and you can be great to win a person's admiration. There's a kind of love that blossoms while they're battling each other and it continues after Gong Er returns to the north. The second half of The Grandmaster shifts from Ip Man's home in Foshan to post-WWII Hong Kong. The streets are filled with martial artists, many of whom are teachers or have mundane day jobs that are still somehow expressions of their inner skill. Many of the movie's side characters, however briefly they appear, could carry their own feature films. While in Hong Kong, Ip Man tries to find out whatever happened to Gong Er. This is one of those breaks in the narrative I wasn't expecting, and it will probably throw off a lot of audiences given how much it subverts the conventions and expectations built into many action films and martial arts films. Gong Er becomes the driving force that reveals a lot of the philosophical machinery that probably inspired Wong to make a martial arts movie in this way. I imagine the transition is smoother in the longer cut of the film. With Gong Er, there's an exploration of gender roles, veneration of parents, obligations to future generations, and the importance of maintaining a legacy or tradition. Again, it's the idea of extension, where the fights means more than just beating someone physically. These high stakes for the martial artists are heightened by the way that Wong treats his locations, emphasizing verticals and horizontals. The enclosed spaces of Foshan are lush in color, the dark streets of Hong Kong have a sense of mystery. I mentioned that this feels like a mythic iteration of Ip Man. More than Leung's performance, it's the writing and the locations that are key in establishing this mythological feel. These spaces and their moods are inhabited by characters who seem like the figures of legend. They embody ideas and ideals, they fight over primal and yet fundamental human concerns, they are known by certain deeds or identified by the objects that they carry which are extensions of their personalities. The mythic feel reaches its peak during the final fight, which is the stuff of classical myth and legend, but charged with potent concerns that are at once unique to the characters and universal. The stakes are high, the emotions raw, and the characters are fighting for more than just honor. Behind them rushes a potent metaphor for time, both the past and the future, because what they're fighting about has everything to do with matters of extension through time. It's hard to score The Grandmaster because it's so compromised a work. Every great scene hints at the brilliance of a scene that's not in the film, and knowing that Wong changed the sequence of certain scenes makes me feel like I've been reading a novel with chapters in the wrong order. The fighting in martial arts movies is so much about rhythm and motion, and both are disrupted in this cut of the film. What The Grandmaster offers is a flawed vision of something greater. This is a beautiful punch, but mostly just that; I know there's supposed to be more to it.
The Grandmaster Review photo
The flawed US cut hints at a masterpiece on the meaning of the martial arts
While Donnie Yen kicked off the Ip Man craze back in 2008, you could argue that Wong Kar Wai was partially responsible. Wong had announced his own Ip Man film prior to the Yen picture even being conceived, but it took ages to...

Yet another case of Harvey Weinstein's scissorhands
Wong Kar Wai's long-in-the-making Ip Man film The Grandmaster finally hits the US next week, and it will be about 20 minutes shorter than the Hong Kong version of the film. Wong was in attendance at a special screening of The...

Fantasia Review: Bushido Man

Jul 29 // Hubert Vigilla
[embed]216160:40506:0[/embed] Bushido Man (:ブシドーマン)Director: Takanori TsujimotoRating: TBDCountry: JapanRelease Date: June 8th, 2013 (Japan) Some martial arts movies have a few choice fights and lots of filler in between. In the case of Bushido Man, the film is mostly fights with brief breaks for the goofy story that ties them all together. Our hero is Toramaru (Mitsuki Koga), a stoic martial artist on a quest to become a great fighter. To do this, he must best various champions who are skilled at different sorts of combat. The film starts at the end of his quest as he returns to his master (Yoshiyuki Yamaguchi) and recounts his battles throughout the country. Bushido Man doesn't really mess around. Writer/director Takanori Tsujimoto knows that people go to action movies for the action, and maybe realizes how unforgiving some people can be of low-budget action movies. And so the film does its best to deliver with as much energy and variation as it can. There's hand-to-hand combat, a fight with katanas against a blind swordsman, one scene with staffs, a nunchaku duel, a knife fight, and so on. Each of these fights is given its own personality and is built on its own sets of genre cliches. There's a spirit of subversion and inversion throughout Bushido Man, and its first signs come around the three-minute mark. We start out with august music and in a setting that appears to be feudal Japan. Turns out Bushido Man is actually set in a madcap version of modern-day Japan, with Toramaru wandering city streets in traditional samurai garb. Later, we learn that it's not quite the modern-day Japan we expect, keeping everything just a bit off balance and wackier as a result. This is a cartoon world, or maybe a world of genre conventions meant to be sent up. Another major inversion comes from Toramaru's fight prep. Rather than observe his opponents from afar or watch video of them in action, he gets to know who they are and how they fight by eating their favorite meals. As he tells his master what he ate, his master tries to guess who that person is and what the food says about them personally. It sets up a strange pattern of flashbacks, meals, and fights. Tsujimoto's careful not to rely solely on repetition, however. Like a string of good jokes told in succession, the comedy comes from surprises and riffs on the familiar with callbacks to previous gags. The nunchuck fight is the third duel in Bushido Man, and I thought I knew where it was going. Tsujimoto even seems to telegraph the scene's punchline in an obvious way. The scene ends totally unexpectedly, which makes the whole fight funnier and the unrealized-yet-telegraphed punchline hilarious. As with the shifts in setting, the shifts in humor keep the film fresh, and the variation was enough to keep me laughing. By the final battle or so, Bushido Man lets loose into low-budget action anarchy and intentionally funny schlock. The fight choreography was handled by Kensuke Sonomura, whose previous credits as action director include Noboru Iguchi's insane revenge tale The Machine Girl and an anthology film called The Women of Fast Food (Shin onna tachiguishi retsuden). (I haven't seen the latter, but I think I need to based on the title alone.) Sonomura's choreography isn't overdone and plays well with the weapons, performers, and the different moods/rhythms of each scene. The opening two fights (hand-to-hand and staffs) have an old school Hong Kong feel to them, though the katana fight feels like something out of a modern-day take on the chambara film, and the knife fight like something out of a yakuza movie. Each of the styles could have probably carried their own films, but they're all shoved together well in this film. Bushido Man is slim at 88 minutes, so it never overstays its welcome. It's a strange and constantly adapting little animal, which actually suggests the underlying pattern beneath all of this subversion. While genre cliches get goofed on for their comedic potential, Bushido Man maintains something that's inherent in many classic martial arts films: the hero learns lessons from each fight and must combine what he's learned in order to win in the end. Given, Toramaru's ascent into potential mastery is a bizarre one, and at a certain point during the last fight of the film I couldn't stop laughing because of the glorious excess. This path to greatness is full of food and screwball antics, and it may be lost on those who weren't raised on a steady diet of Shaw Brothers movies and samurai flicks, but this is a movie with surprising rewards. Even when it seems to close like a spoof, there's a coda to Bushido Man with a philosophical note that many serious martial arts movies aspire to and sometimes miss, maybe because they take themselves too seriously.
Bushido Man Review photo
Eat! Pray! Fight! Fight! Fight! Fight! Fight! Fight! Fight!
There's something about low-budget action movies that's full of real fighting spirit. With so many budget constraints, the films are usually infused with added energy and creativity. (Lacking that, there's always gratuitous g...

Tony Jaa's big comeback
After many delays, after lots of doubt, here it is: our first look at Tom Yum Goong 2 (The Protector 2) starring Tony Jaa and directed by Prachya Pinkaew. And it's darn nice for a first taste. Lots of 80s and 90s-style Hong ...

This movie looks tough as hell
Martial arts superstar Donnie Yen has been keeping busy. He's got The Monkey King and Iceman 3D coming out soonish, there's the Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon sequel shooting next year, and there's still talk about Ip M...

NYAFF Review: The Legend Is Born: Ip Man

Jun 27 // Hubert Vigilla
[embed]215910:40314:0[/embed] The Legend Is Born: Ip Man (Young Ip Man | Ye Wen Qian Zhuan | 葉問前傳)Director: Herman YauRating: TBDCountry: China (Hong Kong)Release Date: June 24, 2010 (China) One of the things that immediately struck me about The Legend is Born is the number of actors in it who appeared in the Yen/Yip Ip Man movies. Sammo Hung (who was in Ip Man 2) plays the master of the Wing Chun martial arts school, with Yuen Biao as his disciple/protege. Dennis To was in both Ip Man and Ip Man 2. The same goes for Louis Fan (star of the cult masterpiece Riki-Oh: The Story of Ricky); in The Legend is Born, Fan is Ip Tin-chi, Yip Man's brother in arms, though he played the Northern bandit in the Yen movies. Even Yip Man's dad, actor Chen Zhihui, had a part in that first Donnie Yen film. (I also noticed a brief role for Jiao Xu, the young star of Starry Starry Night, one of my favorite movies at last year's New York Asian Film Festival.) Part of me wonders if some of this casting was a wink to the audience, though it may have been based more on klout and ability. I think the film does a bit of martial arts fan service since its opening fight involves Hung and Biao duking it out with blindfolds on. The two actors can still move well, which makes me wish they'd do a reunion film with Jackie Chan. Yau also offers some fan service with a cameo appearance by Ip Chun, the real-life son of Yip Man, who gets to shine in a fight scene against the much younger To. The Legend Is Born zips through Yip Man's teenage years and young adulthood in the early 1900s. He and Ip Tin-chi are brought up learning Wing Chun, and they make fast friends with a young girl at the school named Li Mei Wai (portrayed as an adult by Rose Chan).  Mei loves Yip Man, who doesn't love her back; Ip Tin-chi loves Mei but she just sort of tolerates him. The love triangle becomes a kind of love quadrangle once Yip Man leaves for Hong Kong and meets Cheung Wing-shing (Huang Yi). She's the aristocratic daughter of the Lieutenant Governor, and of course her dad doesn't want his own flesh and blood dating that kung-fu riffraff. I mentioned that the film plays like an old-fashioned biopic, and it became most apparent to me in the scene where Yip Man and Cheung Wing-shing first meet. They're both in an outdoor market and happen upon a gramophone. They lock eyes and the film makes it seem like they're destined to be together. As we hop from event to event and from year to year, bits of Yip Man's life fall into place neatly and purposefully, without the loose ends of real life. I picture the screenplay written with bullet points instead of paragraph breaks. Each scene is about shoving the plot ahead or a life lesson learned, whether it's a new way to do Wing Chun or a declaration of personal philosophy, which in this film veers equally at nationalism (impossible to avoid when it comes to Chinese/Japanese relations in this period) and proto-globalization. The Legend is Born features a fight every 8-10 minutes, which is why it's reminiscent of an old-fashioned martial arts film. Yip Man stops a con man and they fight. Yip Man plays field hockey and it leads to a fight. Yip Man returns to Wing Chun school and there's a fight as a demonstration of what he learned. Yip Man has dinner and kapow. There's also a masochistic training sequence/montage that feels like it's straight out of a classic late 70s/early 80s period martial arts film. Instead of Wong Fei-Hung, Butcher Wing, or Beggar So, it's Yip Man, who seems like he's joining those other historical figures as a new cinematic folk hero. Like the martial arts films of old, there's also rigid concern for the purity of a martial arts school's ways, though the hero must combine skills and adapt rather than remain conservative in order to win in the end. The fights aren't as mind-blowing as the ones in the Donnie Yen films. It's impossible not to compare them since the bar is so high -- The Legend Is Born deals in volume since it can't top Ip Man with innovation or intensity.  I think this may simply be because Yen brings a physicality and a knowledge of action direction that isn't on display here. Even though veteran director Sammo Hung appears in the film, he wasn't in charge of fight choreography. That role fell to another veteran, Tony Leung Siu-Hung (another Ip Man alum), who does a more than serviceable job. Dennis To is similarly good as a fighter. He moves well, and I want to see a few more of his movies to peg the personality of his body language. Yuen Biao has a way of doing things that's all his own in the same way that there's a unique fighting style for Jackie Chan, Sammo Hung, Bruce Lee, and Donnie Yen; a few more movies and I may figure out what To's up to. I'll give The Legend is Born credit on this point: one of the flaws of Ip Man was that Donnie Yen was invincible and no one really posed a threat to him; and one of the biggest flaws of Ip Man 2 was that the boxer he faces in the end is an artificial threat who is merely stronger and not a better or more skillful fighter. (The inevitable solution for the Ip Man 2 fight is something that the character would have thought of immediately in the first Ip Man.) The Legend Is Born does at least force Yip Man to be better than his opponents. Combining fighting styles and surpassing your teachers is a hallmark of the classic martial arts film, and it's something that seems to be missing a lot in the martial arts movies of today. Blending the old-fashioned biopic and the old-school martial arts movie is quaint. Think Drunken Master mixed with The Life of Emile Zola in that respect. And yet The Legend Is Born ultimately feels thin and hokey. It's not a particularly deep or realistic portrayal of the young Yip Man, and it's garnished with lots of artificial dramatic hubbub. Not only is there a bland love story, but it's a film with double crosses, political intrigues, sibling rivalries, and betrayals. By the end, it's like a Douglas Sirk kung-fu movie without the Sirk irony. We get an incredibly dark resolution followed by a chipper closing scene, which is such a peculiar note to end on. This weekend I'll be reviewing Ip Man: The Final Fight, Yau's follow-up to this film which focuses on the older Yip Man as played by the venerable Anthony Wong. We'll see how this film functions as a precursor/companion piece. But taken on its own, The Legend is Born is so brisk and light, almost to a fault, and feels more like reading the CliffsNotes than the novel. As a portrait of the cinematic idea of Yip Man, it works and entertains from quick scene to quick scene. It's a nice chopsocky throwback, but it's also shaky as a coherent biopic. Maybe to enjoy it fully, it shouldn't be considered the latter. [The Legend Is Born: Ip Man will screen on Saturday, June 29th. Director Herman Yau will be in attendance. For tickets and more information, click here.]
Ip Man Legend Born Review photo
Is Yip Man becoming the new Wong Fei-Hung?
Ip Man starring Donnie Yen and directed by Wilson Yip is one of the best martial arts films of the last 10 years. It cemented Yen's reputation as a major star, and it began a craze for Yip Man films. Wong Kar-Wai has bee...

The Raid 2 info photo
Hell yeah.
Did you know that The Raid: Redemption director Gareth Evans co-directed a short for the upcoming V/H/S/2? It's true, and it's freaking awesome. It's by far the best part of either V/H/S film, so I was extremely excited when ...

BFF Review: Dragon Girls

Jun 05 // Hubert Vigilla
[embed]215732:40190:0[/embed] Dragon Girls (Drachenmädchen)Director: Inigo WestmeierRating: TBDCountry: GermanyRelease Date: TBD Had director Inigo Westmeier stayed on the scale of spectacle, Dragon Girls would have been a mesmerizing visual display, thanks both to the crowds and to Westmeier's own cinematography. There are more than 20,000 students enrolled in the Shaolin Tagu Kung Fu school, and it seems like they're all there together in some of the crowd shots. Not only are the masses beautifully overwhelming, but Mestmeier understands how to move his camera during several small-scale martial arts scenes. In a sequence that shows a girl training with a jian (Chinese sword), Westmeier's camera swoops up and down and to the sides to emphasize the dynamism and athleticism at play. But spectacle isn't the whole story, especially for the students, which is why Dragon Girls takes time to paint intimate portraits of a handful of female students, though three in particular. They're each of different ages and abilities -- it's obvious from the slouch and half-hearted kicks that one of them just doesn't want to be there -- though their backgrounds are all similar: they come from impoverished families who have no other choice but to send them off to kung fu school in hopes that they'll learn some valuable skill. The girls live at the school and don't see their parents for several months. Their lives are devoted to kung fu and nothing else. There's a major focus on dichotomies throughout Dragon Girls, which shows cultural ideals in harmony and in tension. Admittedly, I think some of my own western perspective is a source of this tension. There's the ideology of the collective at the school which stresses discipline, but there's also the will of the individual which is tamped down. Even the trainers are under rigid control by the school, which all seems like a function of instilling pure obedience to large institutions, whether they be a kung fu academy or the government. There's also a dichotomy concerning these large kung fu schools which are functions of the state and the Shaolin monasteries which are spiritual places. (Fittingly, there's a Shaolin monastery next door to the school.) The fundamental dichotomy at work in Dragon Girls may simply be one of fantasy and reality. Each of the girls says that they were allured by the idea of kung fu school because of the superheroism of kung fu movies, particularly the flying swordsmen in the wuxia genre. They talk about being so good at kung fu that they can fly, or the possibility of dragons. It's the stuff of dreams. In reality, they train all day with 20-minute breaks for meals. The food is so bad at times that American school lunches seem Michelin-worthy by comparison. They shower only twice a week. They're bruised and scarred, though they show off their marks with pride like Quint and Hooper in Jaws. They're also subject to beatings from their trainers and each other, and sometimes brutal ones. There are some unexplored questions that come from watching Dragon Girls. We're told about trainers running away from school in addition to the students, for example, though no former trainers are interviewed. I also wondered if globalization and rapid development in China has affected enrollment or practices at these schools. The big question in my mind is what happens to the children in these schools that don't make it as martial artists. What options are open to them after getting out, and what skills do they learn other than how to take and administer beatings? Does it simply look good on a resume? Maybe the endurance and the discipline is as key to success as the vain, childlike belief in flight. The pressure to succeed in a kung fu school is mind-boggling. The father of one of the girls tells her that he won't come to visit her unless she places first for her age group. Given, he's many kilometers away, and travel is probably expensive. The situation is sad for everyone, but it's maybe the only possible option available. Despite my western POV on all this, the perseverance on display is inspiring given the circumstances, especially from people so young. Theirs is a strength I dream of having one day. Dragon Girls screens Thursday, June 6. For tickets and more information, click here.
Dragon Girls Review photo
Kung fu meets Charles Dickens
One of the first shots of the documentary Dragon Girls is part David Lean and part Busby Berkeley. From a high angle we watch as thousands of children run in ordered rows and columns with their arms out, stopping on a di...


Trailer: Iceman 3D

Donnie Yen gets thawed out in this remake of a Yuen Biao film
May 22
// Hubert Vigilla
Donnie Yen is going to have a crowded 2013, with three films coming out this year: the big-budget fantasy movie The Monkey King, the crime/martial arts yarn Special Identity, and Iceman 3D, a remake of the enjoyable 1989 fil...

Check out new photos for Wong Kar Wai's The Grandmaster

They are full of martial artistry, lol
May 21
// Liz Rugg
Wong Kar Wai's The Grandmaster has had a long and bumpy road to production, but it's finally coming to US theaters this summer. While opinions have been relatively lackluster about the film since it's international debut at t...
Yuen Woo-ping will direct Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon II - The Green Destiny
Donnie Yen and Michelle Yeoh are set to star in the sequel to Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, which is currently titled Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon II - The Green Destiny. Shooting will start in March 2014 with legendary f...

NYC: Jackie Chan is in town June 10th and June 11th

May 13 // Hubert Vigilla
The Film Society of Lincoln Center & New York Asian Film Festival AND Hong Kong Economic and Trade Office New York in association with Asia Society announce THE JACKIE CHAN EXPERIENCE Jackie Chan in person on June 10 and 11 including presentation of the Star Asia Lifetime Achievement Award and Jackie Chan Retrospective (June 23-27) New York, NY, May 13, 2013-The Film Society of Lincoln Center and New York Asian Film Festival announced the details today for a rare series of appearances by international film icon, Jackie Chan on June 10 and 11, followed by the largest retrospective of his films ever held in North America (June 23-27). On the occasion of the release of Chan’s 101st film, CHINESE ZODIAC (2012), the Film Society of Lincoln Center and New York Asian Film Festival will honor Jackie Chan, the director, and celebrate his 40-year-career in film. During that time, Chan has re-invented how action is filmed, with innovations in editing, choreography, and story-telling influencing filmmakers at home in Hong Kong, and overseas in Hollywood. Chan belongs to a list of motion picture titans that includes Charlie Chaplin, Jacques Tati, and Buster Keaton. Each of these artists controlled every aspect of their movies - from the conception, to the filming, to the editing. Each of them created a unique genre based around their onscreen persona, and each of them made movies that weren’t so much filmed stories as total cinematic experiences. With that in mind, the New York Asian Film Festival, the Film Society of Lincoln Center, and the Hong Kong Economic and Trade Office in New York will host An Evening with Jackie Chan and present him with the Star Asia Lifetime Achievement Award on Monday, June 10, followed by an onstage Q&A, and a special premiere screening of his newest film, Chinese Zodiac. A press conference with the film legend will take place on Tuesday, June 11 The events at Lincoln Center are made possible thanks to the generous support of the Hong Kong Economic and Trade Office in New York, which celebrates its 30th anniversary this year with three-week long tribute to creativity in Hong Kong cinema (including Jackie Chan Retrospective and the Hong Kong films selections at the 12th New York Asian Film Festival). We are deeply grateful for their vision and dedication. Separately, Jackie Chan will have a second appearance at a special screening supported by the Asia Society at its auditorium, on the evening of June 11. Additional support is provided by The Kitano Hotel,, Fortune Star, American Genre Film Archive (, Warner Brothers, and Manhattan Portage. JACKIE CHAN APPEARANCES (June 10 & 11) AN EVENING WITH JACKIE CHAN INCLUDES A PREMIERE SCREENING OF CHINESE ZODIAC AND PRESENTATION OF THE NYAFF STAR ASIA LIFETIME ACHIEVEMENT AWARD AT THE FILM SOCIETY OF LINCOLN CENTER Walter Reade Theater (165 West 65th Street, between Amsterdam Avenue and Broadway) A screening of Jackie Chan’s 101st movie, his massive blockbuster, Chinese Zodiac, in a newly edited 107 minute version he’s prepared for North America. Setting box-office records when it was released in China, the screening will be preceded by the presentation of the New York Asian Film Festival's Star Asia Lifetime Achievement Award and an onstage Q&A with Jackie Chan. Monday, June 10 at 7:30PM CHINESE & ENGLISH LANGUAGE PRESS CONFERENCE WITH JACKIE CHAN Hong Kong Economic Trade Office New York (115 East 54th Street, between Park Avenue and Lexington Avenue) To participate in this press conference, please RSVP to Ted Geoghegan for English-language media, and Melissa Ng/Stephanie Chow for Chinese language media. Tuesday, June 11 at 11:00AM A NIGHT WITH JACKIE CHAN AT ASIA SOCIETY Asia Society (725 Park Avenue, between East 70th and East 71st Streets) Screening of DRUNKEN MASTER 2 preceded by an onstage Q&A with Jackie Chan. Tuesday, June 11 at 6:30PM THE JACKIE CHAN RETROSPECTIVE (June 23-27) All screenings will take place at the Film Society of Lincoln Center (West 65th Street between Amsterdam and Broadway). Visit for more information. ARMOUR OF GOD (1986) 97min digital projection Director: Jackie Chan Country: Hong Kong After doing a serious police drama set in Hong Kong, Jackie Chan had the urge to do something lighthearted and international, and so ARMOUR OF GOD was born. A two-fisted, three-footed, ten-knuckled adventure flick, Chan does Indiana Jones, playing a pop star turned treasure hunter Asian Hawk, who takes on a Euro-cult of psychotic monks in an effort to rescue an old friend’s kidnapped girlfriend. It’s a heady blend of his signature style and exploitation trends (including a beat-down by a bevy of blaxploitation beauties), in which Jackie took a life-threatening fall while performing a stunt that halted production for months and required emergency surgery. To this day, he still bears the hole in his head. But that’s all right: this movie was worth it. ARMOUR OF GOD 2: OPERATION CONDOR (1991) 106min digital projection Director: Jackie Chan Country: Hong Kong One of Hong Kong’s great out-of-control productions, AOG2 went way over budget and way over schedule as Chan and company hopped around the globe indulging Chan’s desire to top himself. Which he does. The result is the biggest and most complex Jackie Chan movie to date, with Asian Hawk’s quest for a cache of Nazi gold resulting in a succession of gigantic setpieces and intricate action, including one of cinema’s great car chases, the destruction of an entire hotel, and a final battle in a wind tunnel. This is the kind of movie that has you goggle-eyed from start to finish. CHINESE ZODIAC (2012) 107min digital projection Director: Jackie Chan Country: Hong Kong In his 101st movie, Chan resurrects his treasure-hunting Asian Hawk character from the Armour of Godfranchise and delivers an action spectacle that has broken box-office records in China. Reported to be his final “large-scale action picture” CZ kicks off with Chan being hired to steal 12 antique bronze sculptures, representing the animals of the Chinese zodiac, and repatriate them to China. Like a Saturday afternoon matinee, this colorful, kinetic flick is a live action cartoon for grown-ups, offering manic action scenes, hidden islands, pirate gangs, and funky gadgets galore. Cut down by about 20 minutes by Chan himself for the North American market (trust us, you’re not missing ANYTHING), this is the king of the pop-and-lock saying goodbye to the blockbuster movies that made him famous in funtacular style. CITY HUNTER (1993) 105min 35mm Director: Wong Jing Country: Hong Kong Directed by Hong Kong’s King of the Box Office, Wong Jing, CITY HUNTER is packed with insane action and ridiculous comedy. The disappearance of a newspaper tycoon’s daughter brings Chan’s easygoing private sleuth and his lovelorn sidekick (Joey Wang) onboard a luxury cruise liner that soon becomes the target of a gang of hostage-taking terrorists. Wong spins this DIE HARD-on-a-boat scenario into a series of outrageous set-pieces, including a deadly card game and a self-referential movie-theater brawl that finds Chan imitating the moves of an onscreen Bruce Lee. Eventually, it goes so far over the top that you can’t even see the top anymore, climaxing with the legendary STREET FIGHTER tribute beat down between Chan and Gary Daniels. DRUNKEN MASTER 2 (1994) 102min 35mm Director: Lau Kar-leung & Jackie Chan Country: Hong Kong Filmed at the peak of Chan’s prime, sixteen years after his breakout turn in Drunken Master, this transcendent pairing of classic Shaw Brothers director Lau Kar-leung and Jackie Chan resulted in what many claim to be the greatest martial arts film ever made. In this take on the legend of Wong Fei-hung, Chan shares the screen with the great Ti Lung and also Anita Mui, who almost steals the show as his motor-mouthed stepmother. The plot revolves around Fei-hung’s attempts to foil a foreign syndicate trafficking in ancient Chinese artifacts, but the film’s jaw-dropping kung-fu sequences need little explanation. Lush, opulent, and made with no consideration for budget or schedule, it took three months just to shoot the final action scene. LITTLE BIG SOLDIER (2010) 95min digital projection Director: Ding Sheng Country: Hong Kong The best Jackie Chan movie since 1994’s Drunken Master 2, this is the film in which Chan finally proves he’s a real actor, not just an action star. At 56 he can’t do the death-defying stunts anymore, so in LBS he trades super-sized spectacle for small-scale combat and his best script ever (it took 20 years of development to reach the screen). Set in ancient China, it centers on a farmer (Chan) who’s drafted into the army and winds up accidentally capturing the enemy general. If he can get his unwilling captive back home he’ll earn his freedom, the only catch being that he’s thousands of miles from safety. It’s a heartbreaking and hilarious escapade, and Chan’s camera-ready charisma has never been put to better use. MIRACLES (aka MR. CANTON & LADY ROSE) (1989) 127min digital projection Director: Jackie Chan Country: Hong Kong If you ask Jackie Chan which movie he’s most proud of directing, he always names this shimmering 1920s gangster fantasia, a remake of Frank Capra’s Lady for a Day set in a storybook Hong Kong that recalls like Damon Runyon’s New York. Chan plays a nice-guy country bumpkin who inherits the top crime king position from a dying mafia boss. With the fast feet, quick quips, and sudden reversals of Hollywood’s great screwball comedies, it also features a diva turn by pop star Anita Mui, Hong Kong’s answer to Madonna, except she can actually act. POLICE STORY (1985) 101min 35mm Director: Jackie Chan Country: Hong Kong Jackie’s first contemporary cop thriller, in which he played a hot-tempered inspector framed for murder by a vengeful drug lord, proved that he was willing to pull out all the stops—from carrying out a bit of slapstick with two telephones to trashing an entire shopping mall. A breathless adrenaline rush full of twisted bumpers and broken ribs, and with what might be a record-high ratio of broken glass per minute, POLICE STORY is viewed by many as Chan’s greatest achievement and a milestone in the Hong Kong canon. Premiering in the U.S. at the 1987 New York Film Festival, it’s been much imitated, but nothing beats the original. POLICE STORY 2 (1988) 101min 35mm Director: Jackie Chan Country: Hong Kong As dark and sobering as POLICE STORY 1 was light and playful, this sequel is all about the consequences of action. Chan begins the film demoted to traffic duty after his mall-destroying misadventures in Part One. He finds himself unable to protect his girlfriend (Maggie Cheung) from danger, he can’t track down the bad guys to fight them, and his archenemies are more interested in their cancer treatments than in revenge. The spectacular stunts and killer set-pieces are still there—including a climactic duel with a deaf-mute bomber set in a fireworks-laced warehouse—but POLICE STORY 2 feels more like a deconstruction of the cop thriller than anything else Chan’s ever made. POLICE STORY 3: SUPERCOP (1992) 95min 35mm Director: Stanley Tong Country: Hong Kong Teaming up with Stanley Tong, one of his most reliable collaborators, Jackie turned in this stunning capper to his Police Story trilogy and re-launched the career of Michelle Yeoh in the process. In this installment, intrepid cop Ka-Kui goes undercover with a dangerous drug lord—a set-up that finds Chan breaking a henchman out of prison, posing with an invented family, and finally dangling from a moving helicopter. The action shifts from Hong Kong to Thailand to Malaysia, culminating in a climax spanning rooftop, sky and train that ranks as one of Chan’s finest extended set-pieces. The film was released in the US in a dubbed, recut version titled simply SUPERCOP, featuring a pow-wow, no-holes-barred theme song by the seminal New Wave rock band Devo. PROJECT A (1983) 101min 35mm Director: Jackie Chan Country: Hong Kong A team-up with his Chinese opera school brothers Sammo Hung and Yuen Biao, this cops-versus-pirates actioner was the movie that transformed Jackie from a martial arts star into a director of transcendent physical comedy. One of the first action movies to be set in colonial Hong Kong, PROJECT A is the first of Jackie’s films to be spiced with outrageous stunts, including a jaw-dropping bicycle chase and a 50-foot fall from a clock tower (inspired by Harold Lloyd’s hour-hand dangle in SAFETY LAST!) that was so terrifying it took Jackie three days to work up the courage to attempt it. PROJECT A 2 (1987) 101min 35mm Director: Jackie Chan Country: Hong Kong A meticulously crafted Swiss watch of mistaken identities, espionage, and colonial intrigue, PROJECT A 2 may be Jackie’s greatest accomplishment as a filmmaker. Chan keeps four separate subplots whirling through the air with the greatest of ease, while leaving time not just for intense action and groundbreaking stunts, but for some extraordinary non-action filmmaking. No comedy director has ever topped the intricacy of the famous nine-minute scene set in a two-room apartment that takes the conventions of French farce and turns them up to 11. SNAKE IN THE EAGLE’S SHADOW (1978) 98min 35mm Director: Yuen Wo-ping Country: Hong Kong This is where it all began. Chan teamed with director Yuen Wo-ping (later to serve as action director on CROUCHING TIGER, HIDDEN DRAGON) for this kung fu comedy about a bullied young man working as a janitor at a martial arts school who learns to fight back against his tormentors using a kung fu technique known as “Snake’s Fist”. Soon, the novice starts to develop a strategy of his own—fittingly, since SNAKE IN THE EAGLE’S SHADOW also found Chan himself arriving at what would become his inimitable, career-defining style. The film became Jackie’s first box-office hit, and the first movie to introduce the world to his innovative brand of action-comedy. (NOTE: dubbed in Mandarin with English subtitles projected live during the screenings) THE YOUNG MASTER (1980) 106min 35mm Director: Jackie Chan Country: Hong Kong Jackie’s directorial debut was the idea showcase for his martial arts prowess and that of his co-stars—among them his “little brother” from Chinese opera school, Yuen Biao, who appears here alongside Jackie for the first time, and Korean super-kicker Hwang In-Shik. Opening on a high-stakes lion dance competition and closing on a ferocious showdown between Chan and Hwang, THE YOUNG MASTER found Jackie exploring the thin line between kung fu as performance and as life-or-death combat. His first movie for Golden Harvest, the studio which would become his home for the next 20 years, it’s arguably his greatest pure martial arts film. PUBLIC SCREENING SCHEDULE SUNDAY, JUNE 23 12.30pm SNAKE IN THE EAGLE’S SHADOW (1978) 98min 2.45pm THE YOUNG MASTER (1980) 106min 8.00pm DRUNKEN MASTER 2 (1994) 102min MONDAY, JUNE 24 1.15 pm MIRACLES (1989) 127min 4.00pm POLICE STORY (1985) 101min 6.15pm ARMOUR OF GOD (1986) 97min 8.30pm ARMOUR OF GOD 2 (1991) 106min TUESDAY, JUNE 25 1.30pm CITY HUNTER (1993) 105min 3.45pm MIRACLES (1989) 127min 6.30pm PROJECT A (1983) 101min 8.45pm PROJECT A 2 (1987) 101min WEDNESDAY, JUNE 26 2.15pm THE YOUNG MASTER (1980) 106min 4.30pm LITTLE BIG SOLDIER (2010) 95min 9.15pm CITY HUNTER (1993) 105min THURSDAY, JUNE 27 2.00pm DRUNKEN MASTER 2 (1994) 102min 4.15pm POLICE STORY (1985) 101min 6.30pm POLICE STORY 2 (1988) 101min 8.45pm POLICE STORY 3: SUPERCOP (1992) 95min FILM SOCIETY OF LINCOLN CENTER Founded in 1969 to celebrate American and international cinema, the Film Society of Lincoln Center works to recognize and support new directors, and to enhance the awareness, accessibility and understanding of film. Among its yearly programming of film festivals, film series and special events, the Film Society presents two film festivals in particular that annually attract global attention: the New York Film Festival which just celebrated its 50th edition, and New Directors/New Films which, since its founding in 1972, has been produced in collaboration with MoMA. The Film Society also publishes the award-winning Film Comment Magazine and a year-round calendar of programming, panels, lectures, educational and transmedia programs and specialty film releases at the famous Walter Reade Theater and the new state-of-the-art Elinor Bunin Munroe Film Center. The Film Society receives generous, year-round support from Royal Bank of Canada, Jaeger-LeCoultre, American Airlines, The New York Times, Stonehenge Partners, Stella Artois, the National Endowment for the Arts and New York State Council on the Arts. For more information, visit and follow #filmlinc on Twitter. ABOUT NYAFF & SUBWAY CINEMA The New York Asian Film Festival (NYAFF) is North America’s leading Festival of popular Asian cinema, which the New York Times has called " of the city's most valuable events..." Launched in 2002 by Subway Cinema, the Festival selects only the best, strangest, and most entertaining movies to screen for New York audiences, ranging from mainstream blockbusters and art-house eccentricities to genre and cult classics. It was the first North American film festival to champion the works of Johnnie To, Bong Joon-Ho, Park Chan-Wook, Takashi Miike, and other auteurs of contemporary Asian cinema. The Festival has been produced in collaboration with the Film Society of Lincoln Center since 2010. The 12th NYAFF will take place June 28 - July 14, 2013 at the Film Society of Lincoln Center’s Walter Reade Theater and Japan Society. For more information, visit, and follow @subwaycinema on Twitter (#nyaff13) ABOUT HKETONY Set up in 1983, the Hong Kong Economic and Trade Office, New York (HKETONY) is the office of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region Government tasked to promote and strengthen the economic, trade and cultural ties between Hong Kong and the 31 eastern states of the USA. Celebrating its 30th anniversary this year, the HKETONY continues to play the important role as a bridge between Hong Kong and the U.S. and support various promotional events, such as dragon boat festivals and film festivals, to enhance cultural ties with major cities on the east coast. For more information, visit ABOUT ASIA SOCIETY Founded in 1956 by John D. Rockefeller 3rd, Asia Society is a nonprofit nonpartisan educational institution. Through exhibitions and public programs, Asia Society provides a forum for the issues and viewpoints reflected in the work of leading Asian and Asian American artists and thinkers. Asia Society is located at 725 Park Avenue (at 70th Street), New York City. Asia Society box office: or (212) 517-ASIA For more information, visit
Rumble in Manhattan with The Film Society and The New York Asian Film Festival
Oh damn, fellas! Jackie Chan is going to be in New York City on Monday, June 10th and Tuesday, June 11th. This appearance is thanks to the Film Society of Lincoln Center, the New York Asian Film Festival, and the Hong Kong Ec...


Trailer: The Grandmaster

It's in English this time!
Apr 23
// Liz Rugg
Wong Kar-Wai's The Grandmaster has been stuck in production and post-production h-e-double-hockey-sticks for about three years now. While we can hardly say at this point whether or not the movie will be worth the wait, we ca...

Poster and pics for Keanu Reeves's Man of Tai Chi

Reeves's directorial debut will feature fight choreography by Yuen Woo-ping
Apr 15
// Hubert Vigilla
It's been a little while since we've heard anything about Keanu Reeves's directorial debut, Man of Tai Chi. Last report we had featured a proof-of-concept video for the Iris motion-controlled camera system, which will ought t...

Tony Jaa & Dolph Lundgren team up for A Man Will Rise

Jaa is also directing the film
Apr 12
// Hubert Vigilla
Tony Jaa is gearing to make a comeback after a few years away from the silver screen. His new film shooting right now is called A Man Will Rise, which co-stars Dolph Lundgren, Conan Stevens, David Ismalone, and Jakkrit Kanokp...

NYC: Old School Kung Fu Fest, April 19-21

Apr 08 // Hubert Vigilla
[embed]215309:39921:0[/embed] OLD SCHOOL KUNG FU FEST PROGRAM SCHEDULE Lau Kar-wingTHE ODD COUPLE1979, 97 min, 35mm There are 18 different weapons in Chinese martial arts, and in this flick someone's gonna get stabbed with every single one of them. Sammo Hung and Lau Kar-wing play elderly martial arts masters who duel each year to decide whose technique is better, but they always end in a draw. Now they've each taken a student (also played by Sammo Hung and Lau Kar-wing) leaving it to the younger generation to duke it out. Problem: their students get kidnapped by an old enemy (played by the inimitable martial arts mimic, "Beardy" Leung Kar-yan). Solution: both masters team up to kick maximum butt with maximum weaponry. A face bomb of comedy kung fu as well as serious, old school action, it's the opening and closing movie of the Old School Kung Fu Fest because it is, quite simply, the alpha and omega of martial arts movies. Truly unbeatable. –Fri, April 19 at 6:15 and Sun, April 21 at 9:15.   Gordon LiuSHAOLIN AND WU-TANG1983, 89 min, 35mm The movie that inspired the Wu-Tang Clan's first album is a blast of hardcore, old school mayhem. Gordon Liu (bald-headed brother of Lau Kar-leung) was ticked off that the sequel to his landmark 36TH CHAMBER OF SHAOLIN was played for laughs, so he headed to Taiwan where he directed, choreographed, and starred in this "real" sequel. A brutally authentic ode to Shaolin Fist and Wu-Tang Sword, Liu plays a student of Shaolin, and his buddy, the charming Adam Cheng, is a student of Wu-Tang. Their masters refuse to teach the Manchu prince their moves, so the prince manipulates the two schools into combat, counting on killing the winner. Then: everybody fights! Shot with the scale and scope of a Shaw Brothers production, this movie is an avalanche of action with its stars unleashing the beast in scene after scene of blistering combat. –Fri, April 19 at 8:30 and Sat, April 20 at 2:00.   Law KeiTHE DRAGON LIVES AGAIN1977, 95 min, 35mm WARNING: Watching This Movie Will Destroy Your Brain!!!!! Four years after Bruce Lee died, everyone was cashing in on his legend with look-a-like films, but this is the most notorious Brucesploitation movie of them all. Bruce Lee is dead, but his adventures aren't over. He arrives in Hell where he must fight Dracula, Clint Eastwood, and the Godfather in order to come back to life. Fortunately, Popeye is there to lend a hand. Bruce Lee is played by Bruce Leung (KUNG FU HUSTLE) but even his genuine skills can't stop the madness. Beginning with the corpse of Bruce Lee getting an erection (Don't worry – it's just his nunchakus!) and ending with him flying away as the cast waves "Goodbye!" you cannot unsee this movie. You will laugh! You will cry! And you will scream as the spirit of Bruce Lee kicks his way out of your stupid skull! –Fri, April 19 at 10:30 and Sun, April 21 at 1:00.   Cheung Gin-gatSHAOLIN TEMPLE AGAINST LAMA1980, 85 min, 16mm. Print provided by the Taipei Economic and Cultural Office New York. Taiwan's indie kung fu films eschewed slick sets and smooth camera movements to shoot on location with urgent handheld cameras wielded by operators who were constantly freaking out. In this flick, Tibet's evil Black Lamas (you know they're evil by the skulls in their hair) decide to wage war on Shaolin Temple while wearing costumes that would put Bootsy Collins to shame. The Lamas manipulate a righteous Tibetan prince to be their proxy face-breaker in a war with the hard-hitting Shaolin monks, and what ensues is a whirlwind of non-stop mayhem spiced with a whiff of funky incense. Never content to show two men fighting when it could show 20, this film is a psychedelic throwback to a time when kung fu movies were allowed to pull out all the stops and do absolutely anything as long as they kept your eyes glued to the screen. –Sat, April 20 at 4:00 and Sun, April 21 at 7:15.   Wai LitANGEL TERMINATORS1990, 91 min, 35mm B-movies always have to try harder, and this girls-with-guns flick gets an A++ for (intense) effort. Shot in 1990 but not released until two years later, it's an undiscovered grindhouse joyride full of bare-knuckled stars: Lau Kar-leung acolyte, Kara Hui; the "lady Jackie Chan" Sharon Yeung, whose career never caught fire; Japanese back-breaker, Michiko Nishiwaki; the sultry Carrie Ng; angry white boy, Mark Houghton; and everyone's favorite bad guy, Dick Wei. They all turn in blistering action work in this mile-a-minute rampage through exploitation heaven. Two lady cops and one gangster's ex-girlfriend endure drug addiction, theme park shoot-outs, having their heads shoved in toilets, kicks to the face, terrifying high impact falls, and major concussions to prove that women are 10 times better than men. No subtitled prints of this movie exist, so we're subtitling this one live in a twice-in-a-lifetime celebration of high caliber girl power. –Sat, April 20 at 6:00 and Sun, April 21 at 5:15.   SECRET SCREENING – ONE SHOW ONLY!!!! We can't tell you the title of this rarely-seen martial arts movie, but trust us: you want to see it on the big screen. In the early 80s, big studios were trying anything to attract audiences, so this flick mixes three genres and then adds plenty of crack: you've got your wandering swordsman movie, your gore film, and a sexploitation shocker. The result is a whacked-out, hyper-gothic version of "The Monkey's Paw", full of occult dungeons, human face frisbees, wild plot twists, swinging swordplay, and naked demon ladies having kung fu freak-outs. –Sat, April 20 at 8:00.   Titus HoRED SPELL SPELLS RED1983, 93 min, 35mm Career-minded Hong Kongers with no respect for tradition go to Borneo to shoot a TV segment and wind up violating the tomb of the Red Dwarf Sorcerer, who returns the favor by violating their bodies from beyond the grave with scorpions, killer trees, and even more scorpions. Scorpions attack! Scorpions get smashed! Scorpions crawl out of pustulent blisters! Never released on DVD, this unhinged rarity makes BOXER'S OMEN look like Walt Disney as it flings shovelfuls of objectionable content in your face, from busty women in see-through t-shirts, to the slaughter of a LOT of real pigs, to a slew of outrageously nasty deaths. Technically it's not an action film, but there's no way we could not show this gore-soaked hayride! Truly dangerous movies make you doubt the sanity of the people who made them. In RED SPELL SPELLS RED there is no doubt: these filmmakers are insane. –Sat, April 20 at 10:00 and Sun, April 21 at 3:15.
Check out Gordon Liu, Lau Kar-wing, and a secret screening at Anthology Film Archives
If you live in New York and are a fan of old school kung fu movies, you need to head to Anthology Film Archives next weekend. From April 19-21, the team behind the New York Asian Film Festival is putting on the Old School Kun...

NYC: See Miami Connection for free on April 12th

Mar 29 // Hubert Vigilla
[embed]215189:39887:0[/embed] Wasted Cinema Presents: Miami ConnectionFriday April 12, 7:00PMLegends6 W. 33rd Street
Partake in the Citizen Kane of Florida-based taekwondo movies
Rediscovered by Drafthouse Films, Miami Connection is the kitschy action gift that keeps on giving: the best VHS action movie you never rented at the videostore when you were a kid. I mentioned in my review that the ideal way...


New G.I. Joe: Retaliation clip brings the ninja action

Snake Eyes vs. Storm Shadow, plus mountainside badassery
Mar 21
// Hubert Vigilla
No matter what happens with G.I. Joe: Retaliation, there's at least going to be this scene in which ninjas totally ninja out and do ninja things. You know... they should really just do a Snake Eyes movie, or maybe just a har...
It promises to be very different from 1993's Dragon: The Bruce Lee Story
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Wong Kar-wai may do sequel to The Grandmasters

Star Tony Leung would not return; film cut by 15 minutes for international release
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// Hubert Vigilla
After two years of development, three years in production, and some release delays, Wong Kar-wai's The Grandmasters finally opened in China, Hong Kong, Taiwan, and Singapore last month. It's the director's biggest hit by far ...

Trailer: Journey to the West

Jan 30 // Hubert Vigilla
Stephen Chow's latest film looks goofy as hell in the best possible way
Of the two Monkey King movies coming out this year, I think I'm looking forward to Stephen Chow's Journey to the West more than the one starring Donnie Yen. (It might be because of my love of all things Stephen Chow and my o...


Trailer: Commando - A One Man Army

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I've mentioned before that one of the big holes in my film knowledge is movies from India. Apart from a few Satyajit Ray movies and the work I caught at the South Asian International Film Festival, I'm mostly ignorant about ...

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