Fantasy

47 Ronin (2013)

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The famous Japanese legend is given a supernatural twist in Carl Rinsch’s story. Despite the film being one of the biggest flops of 2013, the film is actually worth seeing.

In the times of feudal Japan, a young teen is found in the forests of Ako. Thought to be a demon, he is revealed to be half-Japanese, half-Caucasian. Lord Asano, the ruler of Ako, offers the boy shelter and takes him in. As the boy, to be known as Kai, grows, he begins to fall for Mika, the daughter of Lord Asano. However, the romance is verboten due to their differences in both class and race.

Years later, Kai assists Asano’s loyal samurai Oishi in a forest where he believes there is trouble awaiting. Lo and behold, a demon arrives and while many of Asano’s men are hurt in the battle, Kai is able to defeat the demon. Kai has pledged his loyalty to both Lord Asano and Oishi yet still has love for Mika. Meanwhile, Lord Asano is given a visit by a rival, Lord Kira and the Shogun. When a competition is to be held by Asano samurai Yasuno and a behemoth member of Kira’s samurai, Yasuno is out of commission. Kai takes Yasuno’s place and brings disgrace to the house of Asano when his cover is blown. Instead of death, he is beaten mercilessly and even more shocking, Asano learns of the love his daughter has for Kai and shuns her as a result.

Lord Kira, hellbent on taking over Japan, relies on a witch to set up Asano for a trap. Using her powers, the witch puts Asano under a spell to think Kira is raping Mika. However, when Asano attacks Kira, Kira is revealed to be alone and as a result, the Shogun decides that instead of execution, he offers Asano to regain honor by seppuku, a ritualistic art of suicide. The Shogun declares Oishi and the rest of the men ronin (masterless samurai). Kai is also banished. However, Oishi is forced into a pit in an attempt to have his will broken. While Kira wants Mika to marry him, the Shogun gives Mika a one-year grievance period before the wedding. The ronin are also forbidden from seeking revenge for their lord.

A year has passed and Oishi is free from the pit Lord Kira had imprisoned him in. However, instead of having his will broken, Oishi has had only one thing in mind: revenge. With help from his son Chikara, Oishi is set to bring the ronin back together and because of his honor, he decides to get Kai, who has been sold to slavery and forced to fight in the pits of a pirate-like area. What Oishi soon learns is that Kai is no ordinary faithful halfbreed.  He has a dark secret, one that could help the ronin get their revenge on Lord Kira and bring honor back to the fallen House of Asano.

The story of the 47 Ronin is one of the most legendary stories to come out of Japan.  The story is that Lord Asano’s house was fallen to the evil Lord Kira. The loyal samurai of Asano were banished and became ronin. Oishi led the ronin to attack Lord Kira in order to regain honor to the house of Asano. Starting out as a kabuki play, it became one of the first jidai-geki (period films) in the 1910’s and 1920’s. There have been many variations of the story brought to films but none like this. Chris Morgan, writer of the last four installments of the Fast and Furious installments (including next year’s number seven), and Hossein Amini wrote the screenplay based on an idea by Morgan and Walter Hamada. The idea was to take the legendary story and add a twist involving the supernatural. Interestingly enough, the main legend is still there and the supernatural elements involving witchcraft and demons add a nice touch to the story.

Many are wondering what Keanu Reeves is doing in the film. Well, his central protagonist of Kai was created for this version of the film and he proves to be vital to the overall story. However, it is clear that while he is given top billing, this is definitely Reeves and Hiroyuki Sanada’s movie. The veteran Sanada gives out a wonderful performance as the ronin leader Oishi, who overcomes a year of imprisonment with one goal in mind. It is clearly Oishi who is the real leader and star of the film, with Kai as his most trusted ally.

While there are those who will complain that the virtually all Japanese cast speak English, one can only guess is to bring a style similar to those of graphic novels and to attract an international audience, the Japanese cast speak English. However, the ensemble Japanese cast is top-notch in their roles. Tadanobu Asano plays it very sly as the evil Lord Kira while Battle Royale and One Missed Call actress Ko Shibasaki does quite well as Mika, the lovelorn daughter of Asano who is in love with Reeves’ Kai. One can’t help but love Rinko Kikuchi. She is definitely a great talent who gives out one of her best performances here as the evil witch who uses her powers to help Lord Kira achieve his power. She even has a lustful inclination towards Kira, forcing her Mika into some sort of submission with dangerous threats. In his limited screen time, legendary Cary Tagawa makes an impact as the Shogun while one has to give kudos to debut actor Takato Yonemoto in his role of the likable Basho. The former hospital worker and film buff plays one of those characters one would just like to pal around with.

The action scenes are nicely done as well. Where to begin in terms of the hard work the cast pulls off in the frenetic action? Tsuyoshi Abe, a veteran martial artist and stuntman, served as sword master while the collaborating team of Nikki Berwick, Stephen Oyoung, and Zhang Peng served as the film’s fight choreographers. These three are definitely veterans in the stunt field and their hard work pays off here. One can’t help but praise Reeves into the hard work he tends to bring when it comes to action scenes. As if he does well performing unarmed combat in films, he pulls off some handy swordwork with his fellow cast members and the battle sequences get better as the film progresses, leading into a nicely shot final battle sequence.

So the question is if the film is decent, why did it flop? Perhaps bad timing a lack of decent promotion?  Whatever the case is, this reviewer recommends a rental and possible buy for Carl Rinsch’s 47 Ronin. It is not that bad at all with the supernatural elements adding a nice touch to a legendary story with a stellar ensemble cast. Even more, one cannot underestimate the hard work of Keanu Reeves in terms of performing action. Maybe after all these years, has he finally found his calling? Only time will tell. Nevertheless, definitely rent this film.

WFG RATING: B+

Universal Pictures presents a Mid Atlantic Films/H2F Entertainment/MPC/Stuber Productions film. Director: Carl Rinsch. Producers: Eric McLeod and Pamela Abdy. Writers: Chris Morgan and Hosseini Amini; story by Morgan and Walter Hamada. Cinematography: John Mathieson. Editing: Stuart Baird.

Cast: Keanu Reeves, Rinko Kikuchi, Hiroyuki Sanada, Ko Shibasaki, Tadanobu Asano, Min Tanaka, Jin Akanishi, Masayoshi Haneda, Hiroshi Sogabe, Takato Yonemoto, Hiroshi Yamada, Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa, Togo Igawa.

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2047: Virtual Revolution (2017)

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A bounty hunter finds himself torn between his job and the fate of the world in this sci-fi film that blends elements from Blade Runner and The Matrix.

It is the year 2047. Ninety percent of the world has been known as the Connected. The Connected are the citizens who find their daily live in a virtual reality. Nash is a local bounty hunter who also is one of the Connected. His virtual world comes in the form of medieval times. On top of that, Nash is still reeling for the death of his girlfriend Helena. When Nash learns that there have been deaths in the virtual world, he has been assigned to find out who is responsible.

The ones responsible are a band known as the Necromancers. It is unclear why the Necromancers are killing in the virtual world but Synternis Corporation wants answers. As Nash begins his investigation, he finds himself beaten on some occasions but after successfully getting rid of some of the Necromancers. However, when a chance encounter with the leader of the Necromancers reveals something he never imagined, Nash finds himself conflicted between what truth is real and what truth is fiction. His decision may change the fate of the world as we know it.

From the mind of Guy Roger-Duvert comes this film that is highly influenced by sci-fi classics with a dash of French-flavored sci-fi epics that in its 92 minute running time starts out rather confusing but soon finds its meshing in the second half of the film. The film starts out like Blade Runner with the character of Nash, played by Mike Dopud, narrating the tale about a revolution but begins with how 90% of the world is now living through virtual reality and it has caused the non-connected to live virtually like thugs.

Jane Badler, star of the hit 80’s mini-series V, stars as Dina, Nash’s handler and leader of the Synternis Company, who just wants one thing and that’s to ensure Nash does his job. It may seem at first that Nash’s only ally in the investigation is hacker Morel, played by French actor Maximillien Poullein while Kaya Blocksage plays the leader of the Necromancers, whose confrontation with Nash leads to our hero having to make a choice.

The virtual reality sequences are nicely handled and provide a lot of action.  Nash’s world of virtual reality is that of medieval hero Swal, played by martial artist and stuntman Emilien De Falco but in one pivotal scene, he does take the avatar of a female futuristic warrior named Kate, played by Petra Silander. The lines between the real world and virtual reality do bring a sense of confusion at times but the second half helps smooth things over and brings quite an interesting ending.

2047: Virtual Revolution is not a bad indie sci-fi, but is clearly a middle of the road film. If you can get past the confusion of the real world and virtual reality, then stick around for the second half to get a full understanding of the film.

WFG RATING: C+

Wild Eye Releasing presents a Lidderdalei production. Director: Guy-Roger Duvert. Producer: Guy-Roger Duvert. Writer: Guy-Roger Duvert. Cinematography: Cyril Bron. Editing: Sylvain Franchet.

Cast: Mike Dopud, Jane Badler, Jochen Hägele, Maximillien Poullein, Kaya Blacksage, Petra Silander, Emilien De Falco, Nicolas Van Beveren.

Sakurai Joins “Fantastic Beasts” Sequel

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Gellart Grindelwald is getting a heck of a henchman in the upcoming sequel to Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them.

Japanese-Danish born actor David Sakurai, who recently appeared on Marvel’s Iron Fist and the Japanese martial arts action film Karate Kill, has signed on to join the cast of the upcoming sequel. Sakurai will play the role of Krall, one of the ambitious and sulky henchman of Grindelwald. Grindelwald himself will be played by Johnny Depp.

Jude Law has signed on to play the young Albus Dumbledore while Eddie Redmayne will return as series protagonist Newt Scamander. David Yates is also returning to direct the film.

The film opens in 1927, a few months after magizoologist Scamander helped to unveil and capture the infamous Grindelwald in the first installment. As he promised he would, Grindelwald has made a dramatic escape and has been gathering more followers to his cause. The only one who might be able to stop him is the wizard he once called his dearest friend, Albus Dumbledore. But Dumbledore will need help from the wizard who had thwarted Grindelwald once before, his former student Scamander.

As for Sakurai, he will next be seen in Stoic, starring Antonio Banderas and is currenly filming the sequel Unbroken: Path to Redemption, starring Samuel Hunt.

More as this develops.

H/T: Deadline

Enter the Warrior’s Gate (2017)

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2016, EuropaCorp/Fundamental Films

Director:
Matthias Hoene
Producers:
Luc Besson
Mark Gao
Writers:
Luc Besson
Robert Mark Kamen
Cinematography:
Maxime Alexandre
Editing:
Audrey Simonaud

Cast:
Mark Chao (Zhoo)
Ni Ni (Princess Su Lin)
Dave Bautista (Arun the Cruel)
Sienna Guillory (Annie Bronson)
Uriah Shelton (Jack Bronson)
Francis Ng (The Wizard)
Kara Hui (The Mountain Spirit)
Ron Smoorenburg (The Black Knight)
Zha Ka (Brutus)
Luke Mac Davis (Hector)
Dakota Dudley (Travis)

A video gamer enters a world he never imagined in this film from the writers of the Transporter franchise that combines action and fantasy with touches of comedy.

Jack Bronson is not having a great home life. With being bullied by a small extreme sports group led by Travis and his mother’s failing career in real estate has led to a foreclosure of their house. Jack’s only thing to make him calm, is gaming, where he plays as the Black Knight, a warrior in a game that involves him having to save a princess. When he is given the gift of a chest by store owner Mr. Chen, Jack is about to be part of something never he never imagined.

When a mysterious warrior named Zhoo, a bodyguard to Princess Su Lin, arrives from within the chest that night, Zhoo mistakes Jack for being the Black Knight, his video game character. When Zhoo learns the truth, he is unhappy but entrusts Jack to watch Su Lin. At first, Su Lin and Jack seem to get along well but when a group of Barbarians arrive to kidnap Su Lin and return to the chest, Jack follows them and ends up in ancient China. Zhoo informs Jack that Su Lin has been kidnapped and forced to marry the Barbarian leader, Arun the Cruel. Jack soon finds himself with Zhoo on the adventure of a lifetime. Will he be able to rescue the princess or will it be too late for the young gamer?

The collaborative duo of Luc Besson and Robert Mark Kamen have produced both really good films but at the same time, perhaps due to the pressures of distributions, very unnecessary sequels (Taken 2 and 3 and Transporter 3 anyone?) However, with both of their most-well known franchises becoming adapted into television series, it was time for something a little different. Perhaps the target for this film is for a younger audience as well as their Chinese audience. Nevertheless, this collaboration between Besson’s EuropaCorp and Mark Gao’s Fundamental Films is a mixed bag of goodies under the helming of Matthias Hoene, the director of the recent cult classic Cockneys vs. Zombies.

The film meshes gaming with elements of the 2008 film The Forbidden Kingdom, with its central theme of a young gamer who ends up in ancient China through a portal but unlike the 2008 film, it is more about teaching and learning cultures all within a story involving the rescue of a princess at the hands of a barbarian leader. What is interesting is that we are introduced to Ni Ni’s Princess Su Lin when she appears in the modern world, where she learns things are not as they seem. It’s a true case of culture shock, one in which she gladly takes in stride. As for Uriah Shelton’s Jack, he learns a thing or two about how kingdoms worked and learns to stand up for himself with few moves by lead Mark Chao, who plays the soldier Zhoo, who is so loyal and adds unintentional comic relief when he threatens the same brand of punishment for disobeying him or Su Lin.

While Dave Bautista’s Arun the Cruel is perceived as the deadly leader of the Barbarians who wants Su Lin as his bride so they can rule under his iron fist, Besson and Kamen wisely add a touch of comic relief showing a side no one would expect from this villainous character. However, when a messenger would inform Arun of something major happening, when Arun means one thing, his buffoonish henchman Brutus, played by Zha Ka, would kill the messenger. This would lead into some funny conversations between the ruler and his right hand man. Hong Kong acting veteran Francis Ng also brings a bit of comic relief as the Wizard, who is responsible for Jack getting into the entire adventure to start. Look out for martial arts legend Kara Hui, who recently retired from action films, in an extended cameo as the “Mountain Spirit” along with Ron Smoorenburg in the opening of the film as Jack’s avatar, the Black Knight.

Don’t expect anything spectacular from the action of the film. If you’ve seen many of the Chinese period action pieces, then you know what to expect. However, this does not discredit the film as a movie about a young man’s coming of age through a journey he never expected to even enter and how this adventure would change his life forever.

Enter the Warrior’s Gate is quite a fun adventure that is more geared towards a younger audience but still is quite a journey full of culture clashing and some comic relief in the vein of the villain and his henchman, and a coming of age tale for a young gamer who goes on the adventure of a lifetime.

WFG RATING: B

EuropaCorp and Fundamental Films will be releasing this film on May 5 in select theaters as well as VOD and Digital HD.

“Masters” Reboot Set for 2019

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By the Power of Greyskull! It now looks like the long developed reboot of He-Man and the Masters of the Universe is finally getting some steam.

Sony has announced a release date of December 18, 2019 for the film, which unlike the 1987 Cannon Films that starred Dolph Lundgren as He-Man and Frank Langella as Skeletor, will be more faithful to the 1980’s cartoon based on the Mattel toy line. So we will get to see Prince Adam and Cringer, who with the Power become He-Man and Battlecat.

McG was at one point attached to direct the film, but he has withdrawn and at the time of McG joining the film, Kellan Lutz of The Twilight Saga, was in talks to play Adam and his powered alter ego. However, that may look unlikely now with McG’s departure. What has been confirmed is that David S. Goyer will be writing the screenplay as a search for a director is underway.

More as this develops…

H/T: ScreenRant

General Leia Will Not Be in “IX” After All

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The news a little while back of Carrie Fisher‘s General Leia appearing in Star Wars Episode IX posthumous was met with some fan cheers when Fisher’s brother Todd saying he gave LucasFilm Ltd. permission to bring the footage.

However, this past weekend, the news was officially shot down from LucasFilm’s Kathleen Kennedy, who told ABC News that Todd was a bit confused. Kennedy has said that while Leia was to have a very vital part of Episode IX, her death was a shocking blow and as a result, she and director Colin Trevorrow are currently at work on a revised script. Here’s what Kennedy said in the interview:

“Sadly, Carrie will not be in nine… but we will see a lot of Carrie in eight. [Todd Fisher] was probably confused because we finished everything in ‘Eight,’ and Carrie is absolutely phenomenal in the movie. We’re so happy that we were able to complete shooting in the summer. Unfortunately, Carrie passed away.

When Carrie passed away in December that was a huge blow for all of us, and it caused us to sit with Colin to really think where we were headed with ‘Episode IX’. Carrie was a significant part in that story – that was something she very much wanted and something we very much wanted. But given the circumstances, we would not carry on with that.”

However, there is a slight possibility that while Kennedy confirmed Carrie will not appear in “Episode IX”, there may be some unused footage from The Force Awakens and the upcoming The Last Jedi that may be laying around, thus confirming Todd Fisher‘s recent report. But for now, it’s best to take that with a grain of salt.

Meanwhile, look for the late Carrie Fisher as General Leia in Star Wars: The Last Jedi this December.

H/T: Dark Horizons

TEASER TRAILER: Star Wars – The Last Jedi

It has arrived…the teaser trailer to the long awaited eighth installment of the Star Wars saga.

In The Last Jedi, Rey (Daisy Ridley) has found the long lost Jedi warrior Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill), who begins to train Rey in the ways of the Jedi. We also get to see shots of villain Kylo Ren (Adam Driver), a comatose Finn (John Boyega), and heroic pilot Poe Dameron (Oscar Isaac) and BB-8. However, Luke gives the final word as to why the new film is promptly titled The Last Jedi.

Star Wars: The Last Jedi, directed by Rian Johnson, will be released in December by Disney and LucasArts.

Alvarez to Take on the “Labyrinth”

A while back, there had been rumors of a reboot to the 1986 Jim Henson cult classic Labyrinth with Nicole Perlman to script the film. After Perlman denied her involvement with the film, it looked as if there was not going to be a reboot, but that’s all changed.

TriStar Pictures is developing a new story within the universe of the original film, a method similar to the upcoming Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle starring Dwayne Johnson and Kevin Hart, where it’s not so much a remake or reboot, but rather a “do-over/spin-off”.

Fede Alvarez (left), director of the acclaimed horror films the Evil Dead remake and Don’t Breathe, has been hired to direct the film and co-write the script with Jay Basu. Lisa Henson will be serving as a producer on the film. One thing that is confirmed about the new film is that it will not have the Goblin King Jareth, immortalized by the late David Bowie (right) in the original film.

Both Alvarez and Basu are working together on The Girl in the Spider’s Web, the adaptation of the fourth book in the Lisbeth Salander series. After completion of that film, which is scheduled to begin production this fall, the duo will them work on Labyrinth.

More as this develops…

H/T: Dark Horizons

Law is Young Dumbledore in “Beasts” Sequel

The sequel to the hit spin-off prequel to the Harry Potter saga, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, will not only have Johnny Depp as the villain, but fans will get to see a young future Hogwarts headmaster named Albus Dumbledore.

Jude Law (left) has been cast to play the young Dumbledore, who was played in the original saga first by the late Richard Harris and then Michael Gambon (right). In the sequel, Dumbledore will be at Hogwarts as the Transfiguration professor. Eddie Redmayne will be returning to his role of Newt Scamander in the sequel with David Yates taking the helm once again.

More as the sequel to Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them develops…

H/T: MSN

TRAILER: Enter the Warrior’s Gate

Matthias Hoene‘s fantasy adventure Enter the Warrior’s Gate is arriving to the United States on May 5 and the U.S. trailer is here.

Epic fantasy-adventure meets martial arts action in this thrilling film written by Luc Besson & Robert Mark Kamen. After a mysterious chest opens a gateway through time, teen gamer Jack (Uriah Shelton) is transported to an ancient empire terrorized by a cruel barbarian king (Dave Bautista). Jack will need all of his gaming skills as he battles to defeat the barbarian, protect a beautiful princess, and somehow find his way back home. Mark Chao, Ni Ni, Francis Ng, and Ron Smoorenburg co-star in the film.

Enter the Warrior‘s Gate will be released in theaters and VOD on May 5 from EuropaCorp and Fundamental Films.