If there’s one thing you can count on in the world of video games it’s that if something is successful, there will be copies. With the massive success of Street Fighter II, it was no surprise the market was flooded with fighting games, each with their own unique additions to help differentiate them from their competitors. For Mortal Kombat it was the gore and fatalities, Virtua Fighter took fighting games into 3D, and for DOA: Dead Or Alive, it was a blisteringly fast fighting engine and boobs. So many boobs.
Actor and filmmaker Alexander Nevsky’s return to the screen now brings us the first official trailer for Red Prophecies, presented first over at JoBlo on Wednesday. Development and production span several years with principal photography commencing in Moscow prior to the pandemic, before shooting in Los Angeles under Covid-safe regulations this past summer.
Martial arts star Gary Daniels has a batch of projects coming in the new year. As of this week, one of them now includes the latest directorial offering from director Asif Akbar for the new film, Astro, which managed to secure financing at the American Film Market in Santa Monica this week.
Astro, according to THR, casts Daniels in the new sci-fi about a billionaire whose private space exploration program and its arrival back to Earth includes a kidnapped alien from a newly discovered planet. It’s a little difficult to tell what kind of film this will be judging by the report but with Daniels front and center, perhaps the action fans will have something to look forward to here.
Akbar wrote the film along with Bernard Selling with cameras set to role in infamously cited alien conspiracy locale, Roswell, New Mexico where financing for the film was secured in addition from Film Life Factory and financiers in Hollywood, India, Bangladesh; Other filming locations will be in Asia and Los Angeles.
Production for the film will also include Jonathan Lipnicki, Louis Mandylor, Michael Pare and Eric Roberts as will Bollywood star Omi Vaidya, Marshal Hilton, Orson Chaplin, Spice Williams-Crosby, Max Wasa, Gianni Capaldi, Luke Crosby, Christopher Showerman, Sean O’Bryan and Courtney Akbar. The film is slated for a 2017 release in addition to at least one other U.K. prospect which includes Vengeance from hit action director Ross Boyask.
It’s a tricky thing trying to cast a martial artist for a major role in a movie. It’s the kind of thing you don’t take lightly and it depends on what kind of film you’re going for to help execute your vision, and there definitely is one here in Jon Mark Nail’s latest feature effort, Eyes Of The Roshi. Is it the vision you would expect? Well, again, that’s entirely up to you, although there are critiques worth noting should you choose to look this title up when it’s released.
On its face, the film is pitched as a nod to the cinematic style of the Coen Brothers and Quentin Tarantino, telling of an epic saga of tragedy, vengeance and redemption with a few doses of philosophy and spirituality to boot. We eventually meet Adam, thickly-accented Vientnamese-American drifter with extraordinary fighting skills whose pacifistic nature is often challenged by chance confrontations with troublesome people. One such incident near the top of the film sets off as a catalyst as our protagonist finds himself taking on a ruthless businessman, a bounty, and a mysterious, and a facially-scarred Vietnamese man who advances the release of a American prisoner still seething with a lust for blood.
We’ve seen this plot in similar movies and television dramas over the years, something which doesn’t really take way from this film, to be honest. It’s fun to watch some of these characters evolve and it was interesting to see the film’s star, Adam Nguyen take on a role almost in the vein of Kwai Chang Kane; Nguyen’s is a character that prefers a quiet, simple life with friends and honest work while learning how to use things like lawnmowers and trucks, and of course, Raja Yoga; His training scenes are hugely impressive given his specialty as a real-world Yoga master and Karate-do expert, and so they do him great favors when showcasing his craft.
That said, I can’t say the same for much of the action sequences. Some of the choreography is nice to watch, but the fights in general don’t live up much to the film’s expectations as a martial arts picture. Most of the editing made it none too impressive as it’s largely used as a tool for directors to help bypass an actor’s inability to perform action themselves, even here as Nguyen puts his best foot forward for someone in his sixties, sans the screenfighting experience of thesps like Jackie Chan, Kwan Tak Hing, or even the late legend himself, Bruce Lee, for all the film’s earlier hype. Hence my initial point at the top of this review, which now brings us to the next issue, the acting.
Right off the bat, most of the film’s supporting cast does a requisite job of filling in the blanks and helping to keep the audience engaged, although it’s not until the second half when the stakes finally surmount. Actor Chris Van Cleave lends the film some much needed energy with a robust performance as criminal businessman Hogan Dodd whose stronghold on the town is what either make or break the law, while actress Amanda Dunn gives the film a female lead we can cheer for as her own tragic story of love, loss and infidelity ultimately finds its way Adam’s tale as her savior at just the right time. Eric Roberts lasts just long enough in the role of Booker, a bounty hunter who gets in just a little on some of the film’s dark comedy and conversational levity with co-stars Jonathan Marten as Marty, and Seth Marten who plays Itchy, and apart from this, I honestly wish I could say more given his usual, fierce acting caliber.
Co-star and producer Ethan Marten terrorizes the screen as Carey, a heavily scarred, gristled, brooding, intense and menacing former soldier-turned-hitman with a penchant for music, flossing his teeth, and killing people. Where the story falls on his end is ultimately met with a certain lack of resolve long after the film has already loaded up on so many characters and excess dialogue – the result of a script that tries hard to deliver on the Coen/Tarantino effect and fails almost as much as the musical score does in trying to maintain the film’s edginess in some areas.
Needless to say, in the end, it’s the services of but a handful that lend Eyes Of The Roshi its just dues, but for a film meant to be weighted on its lead actor, what we are left with is a film misses its mark, and all with a principal performance that looks coached at the last minute with every line. Nguyen bodes well with a certain tenderness that serves nicely and genuine on screen, but his acting is almost completely wooden and robotic, and ultimately, a lot more could have been done with a finer-tuned actor, better fight action and editing, and even less filler throughout a story that didn’t try to be three things at once.
Nail, making his feature debut following a string of shortfilms from 2009 and on, prides himself on being bold with ideas, crazy, and unafraid to throw caution to the wind. He says so in his director’s statement, and its a perfectly fine philosophy to live up to and build from, especially in his field. Bearing this in mind, however, it’s films like Eyes Of The Roshi that are worth making exceptions to when acknowledging one’s own Dao as a filmmaker. Throwing caution to the wind doesn’t always have its merits, especially in an age where the martial arts genre has been reduced to a cult niche of fans and the stunt industry still has yet to get its own Oscar category. It’s films like Eyes Of The Roshi you want to cheer on without the struggle of merely supporting its “good parts”.
As an indie-produced crime flick with some mild comedy, R-rated thrills and a contemplative tone, I would recommend it to anyone who loves some solid drama with some good old-fashioned, violence laden with a dose of shock value as the amount of gore in the film’s second half surely comes in handy. Beyond that, don’t count on Eyes Of The Roshi to cater to your needs as a doable crime drama with martial arts as an added spectacle, otherwise you likely won’t believe your own eyes.
If you happen to be noticing a resurgence of B-movie action cinema fandom as of late, no, it’s not all in your head. This is real, and there are several examples out there with titles as far back as 2010 with the release of Sylvester Stallone’s The Expendables, and more and more of these films have been rolling out in some capacity ever since.
Clearly the niche hasn’t disappeared long since the 90’s era of B-movie action cinema glory took hold, and its clearly one that Blizhniy Boy (2007) trio, director Erken Lalgashev and writers J. Stephen Maunder and David Mitchell share a lineage in, as well as a shared interest as so expressed in their latest contribution, Beyond The Game. There aren’t any plot details, but the cast itself is littered with a who’s-who of action veterans with actor and martial artist Olivier Gruner as a psychologically-cracked solider in kill mode who becomes the subject of a survivalist reality show that goes all sorts of wrong, and you can pretty guess where it goes from there.
Save for its likely small-screen delivery, this one is definitely for the audience for whom it is intended. Make note of the names and faces in the trailer and behind-the-scenes featurette below and let the nostagia kick you in the face just once more!
Action hero Olivier Gruner is a pretty sizeable body of work in a number of direct-to-video beat-em-up action thrillers for a little over a few decades now, headlines mainly by the cult classic, Nemesis, and films like Savate, The Circuit trilogy, and much more. On Friday, the multifaceted action star also got his day in the spotlight with his latest solo directorial debut in the form of the new film, Sector 4: Extraction, a thrilling new military action flick that pits Gruner as a one-man army on a rescue mission against ruthless Al Queda operatives.
Tommy and Gary are criminals engaging in grand thefts in order to make ends meet. They are opportunists and have no fear. After a routine robbery goes awry, the friends are forced to put their criminal activity behind them. As Tommy’s relationship flourishes with his new girlfriend Scarlet, his economic hardships become obvious. Scarlet soon proposes a notion that will make all their money troubles vanish – the heist of a half a million dollar painting. With just a short window of opportunity, Tommy and Gary design an ambitious plan, one that will ultimately determine their fate.
It’s been a while since I have been able to go to the movies enough to review anything on the site. However, I was recently offered a chance to screen director Prince Bagdasarian‘s latest multi-nominated, multi-award winning heist thriller, Abstraction, and I could not resist. It took a few weeks because of my own obligations but I finally got around to seeing it. And overall, I was genuinely pleased at its delivery.
The relationships between our main characters are taken through varying dynamics as the bond of friendship is tested with each moment, and the romances that happen along the way. For example, the initial appearances of characters, Tommy, Gary, and Sean (Hunter Ives, Richard Manriquez and Sam Puefua) show us their unique friendship bonded by a history of some pretty bad behavior where trust is an only option, which ultimately solidifies their bond. That trust is almost automatically put to the test when one of them is caught by the cops following a fumbled robbery job for their boss, Marlon (Alfred Rubin Thompson). Some time passes as two of our main characters make their getaway following a toxic pay day and choose to lay low and out of the crime business long enough for things to settle, that is, until a beautiful woman named Scarlet (Korrina Rico) walks into their lives, which changes everything.
The friendship between Tommy and Gary often gets testy as they both share polarizing character traits, which leaves you wondering just how it is they get along, especially with Gary’s own questionable motives from time to time despite his loyalty. It’s the driving force of the entire film which makes it all the more enjoyable along the way, in addition to the three-way drama that occurs with Scarlet in the mix.
The action does picks up a few times throughout the film, from the first scene that briefly introduces actor Manu Intiraymi in some fisticuffs with Puefua who shows off his own skills as a bonafide stuntman on top of his acting. We also get to see a raging, shotgun-blasting Eric Roberts, and some pretty awesome chase sequences that build up a little more toward the end of the film. And though there are just a few small plot holes in some scenes, they don’t take away from the film, and after all is said and done, the drama finally unfolds, we know who all the players are, and all the hands are dealt.
With Abstraction, we are presented with a great line-up of characters, and an excellent formula for just the kind of intensity, drama, suspense, tragedy and thrills that filmgoers can look forward to in a crime picture. The music and visuals illustrate a perfect foundation for what the concept of the film really is, highlit by the depths of our emotions when we perceive what we think is, as opposed to what they really are, and the feelings they trigger.
For his first feature-length film, Bagdasarian does a terrific job from start to finish, showing he knows what it takes to put a great film together with great performances that will keep you entertained and guessing until the closing act. Definitely worth a look when it is finally released on VOD and DVD later this year.
Abstraction is written, produced & directed by Prince Bagdasarian and stars actor Hunter Ives, actress Korrina Rico, actor and producer Richard Manriquez and actress Natalie Victoria, with Sam Puefua, Ken Davitian, Manu Intiraymi James Lewis, Alfred Rubin Thompson and Academy Award® Nominee Eric Roberts rounding out the cast.
Feel free to read my interview with the director by clicking HERE, and for more information on Abstraction, visit the official website.