Anna (2019)

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Confused spy film from writer-director Luc Besson which owes a huge debt to Atomic Blonde, devised as a showcase for Russian model Sasha Luss who makes her starring-role debut following an appearance in Besson’s earlier Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets. As secret agent Anna operating in Moscow after the fall of the Soviet Union, Luss gets to wear many guises, not to mention costumes and hairstyles. She starts as an orphaned drug addict sporting a look of bedraggled ‘heroin chic’ before being picked up by Luke Evans to join a Russian intelligence agency where she is trained …

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Dark Phoenix (2019)

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This empty spectacle marks an underwhelming end to 20th Century Fox’s association with the X-Men film franchise, following Disney’s $71.3 billion acquisition of the company in 2019. For all its CGI-laden thrashing and crashing, the film lacks the heart, humour and excitement of previous instalments, and feels more like a contractual obligation than an attempt to move the franchise forward. Its more female-centric storyline could be viewed as new territory for these films, but in a culture where Marvel’s Avengers movies and Disney’s Star Wars and live-action retellings of its classic fairy tales have already helped to pave the way for greater …

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We Die Young (2019)

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A 14-year-old boy, Lucas (Elijah Rodriguez), acts as a drug runner for the head honcho of a Hispanic drug cartel operating out of Washington D.C. – a mere 20-minute ride from the greatest seat of power in the land, but seemingly oblivious to the horrors going on in its own backyard. Gang life is robbing kids of their innocence, so when his younger brother is admitted into baseball camp, Lucas does everything he can to get the boy out of trouble. Slightly tangential to this is the character of Daniel (Van Damme), a mute war veteran with PTSD who is …

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Paradox (2017)

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Glossy, sobering action film with a strong central performance from Louis Koo, who picked up Best Actor at the Golden Horse Awards for his efforts. It’s a Chinese Taken with Koo playing a single dad policeman whose daughter is nabbed while visiting a friend in Thailand. He buddies up with Wu Yue to investigate, who gets his own subplot involving his pregnant wife and police chief father-in-law, who is also involved in another subplot about the upcoming mayoral elections and a governmental aide who is trafficking organs through his gangster connections who also seems to be involved in the sex …

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Shadow (2018)

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Shadow (2018)

Zhang Yimou’s return to the wuxia film is also a massive return to form; a delicate, deceptive and deadly tale of warring states which seemed to sneak onto streaming services without much fanfare, in stark contrast to the reception received for the co-produced Chinese-American flop, The Great Wall, which featured Matt Damon fighting a swarm of giant lizards. There is not a single CGI monster in sight in this film – thank god – but there is plenty of what fans of Zhang Yimou’s breakout wuxia successes like Hero and House of Flying Daggers will find more familiar; plotting and subterfuge, romance …

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KFMG Podcast S04 Episode 46: Jason Tobin

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“To work on a really good TV show in a fantastic role – and, on top of that, to have crossed paths with Bruce Lee [and] play some small role in his legacy – is an absolute dream come true.”

As a lifelong fan of Bruce Lee, the chance to play a starring role in HBO’s Warrior TV series – based on a story by the late kung fu movie star and executive produced by his daughter, Shannon Lee – was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. And he relishes every scene in his role as Young Jun; the entitled, violent, and arrogant heir to Chinatown’s Hop …

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Iron Fists and Kung Fu Kicks (2019)

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Fast-paced, star-studded and thorough account of the global reach of kung fu cinema. This Australian documentary looks mostly at the genre’s influence in the west, using the rise of Shaw Brothers in Hong Kong in the 1960s as its starting point; a time of broiling political and youthful unrest which found a certain kinship in the hippy protestations of Hollywood’s counterculture. Using a virus analogy, the trend is shown spreading from the New York grind-house into African-American communities, 1970s blaxploitation films, hip-hop and breakdancing. In France, Sebastien Foucan explains how Jackie Chan‘s stunts influenced free-running and later its more stylistic …

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KFMG Podcast S04 Episode 45: Terrence J. Brady

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“Shaw Brothers had so many incredible talents, but Alex was someone that people loved very dearly.”

Alexander Fu Sheng would have celebrated his 65th birthday on 20 October 2019. A poster-boy for Shaw Brothers’ unique brand of high-octane martial arts action films throughout the 1970s and early 80s, Fu Sheng died tragically young at the age of 28 in a car crash on his way to a night-shoot. Like Bruce Lee before him, his young death immortalised him as another tragic martial arts film star, taken too young at the height of his powers. However, unlike Lee, Fu Sheng is largely …

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The Avenging Eagle (1978)

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A terrific doubleheader starring Shaw Brothers mainstays Ti Lung and Fu Sheng in one of the best examples of post-modern wuxia cinema and, particularly, its links to the western. Sun Chung’s direction provides a refreshing tonic to Chang Cheh‘s more broody, righteous potboilers, providing full-bodied characters, quirks, great performances, and a truly original vision. His great use of tracking shots, jump cuts and slow motion display new and creative ways of negotiating around the confines of Shaw Brothers’ stifling Movietown studios.

Ti Lung plays Chi, one of 13 orphans trained from a young age to be an absolute bastard by his …

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The Eight Diagram Pole Fighter (1984)

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A near-perfect kung fu film, this wrought, embittered battle for justice is very much the zenith of Lau Kar-leung‘s extraordinary filmmaking talents, and pushes the form into new realms. It tells the story of the noble, pious, pole-fighting Yang family soldiers; they have the respect of the people, but are seen as a menace to the governing Mongol government who see them as a threat to their plans for wide-scale invasion. An ambush is set-up by the traitorous Pai Mei and five of the seven Yang family brothers are slain, causing their master to take his own life. They die standing …

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