A Fighter’s Blues (2000)

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Andy Lau’s 100th film shows a once broken man who finds himself on the verge of redemption.

After serving a fifteen-year sentence in prison, former kickboxer Mong Fu has been released. He decides to look for his one-time love, Pim Nanthasiri, an aspiring documentarian. However, he has learned the sad news that Pim was killed during the making of a documentary in the Golden Triangle. Fu learns that he has a daughter, Ploy, who is staying at a local orphanage run by Sister Mioko. However, Fu can’t bear to shake the memory of the night he killed local champion Chart Chai.

Despite his demons, he and Ploy slowly begin to bond. He even begins to warm up to Sister Mioko. However, at a national match where Ploy is cheering on, Fu has been spotted by Chart Chai’s former trainer, who tells everyone about Ploy’s father killing Chart Chai. An embarrassed Ploy denounces her father, who remembers that fateful night again and decides he must settle it once and for all. He has learned that Chart Chai’s trainer has trained six-time champion Tawon and in an effort to settle things, Fu challenges Tawon to a match in the ring.

Black Mask director Daniel Lee took the reins on this film, which he co-wrote with Cheung Chi-Sing and Lee Hau-Shek. The film is actually a kickboxing version of films such as Raging Bull where a fighter at the top of his game falls hard and seeks redemption. However, in the case of Andy Lau’s Mong Fu, the film opens with his release from prison and his quest for redemption.

It is clear why Andy Lau is one of the best actors in Hong Kong. In this film, he plays a broken man who is looking for both forgiveness and redemption if not anything else. While he has lost someone close to him, in the form of Pim, played in flashbacks by Thai actress Indira Jaroenpura (who has a bit of a resemblance here to Karen Mok), he learns of his and Pim’s daughter Ploy. Newcomer Apichaya Thanatthanapong, in what looks to be her only film role, does quite well in the role of Ploy, who has her doubts but eventually warns up to her long lost father.

Japanese actress Takako Tokiwa brings some great support as Sister Mioko, who runs the orphanage where Ploy stays until Fu enters both of their lives. While Lau trained in Muay Thai for his role, the film does feature some real-life Muay Thai champions. Samart Payarakoon, a veteran who retired from the ring in the late 80’s, plays the ill-fated Chart Chai while Niruj Soasudhcart plays the current six-time champion Tawon, who Fu challenges as a means to find redemption and forgiveness within both the Muay Thai community and within himself as well. Ridley Tsui’s experience as action director comes well into play in the in-ring fights.

A Fighter’s Blues is a really good film where it’s not about the fights, but about the drama. Andy Lau shows why he is one of Hong Kong’s great talents. His role is impressive both in and out of the ring while trying to find himself in the process.


China Star Entertainment Group presents a Teamwork Motion Pictures Limited production. Director: Daniel Lee. Producers: Andy Lau, Derek Yee, and Catherine Hun. Writers: Daniel Lee, Cheung Chi-Sing, and Lee Hau-Shek. Cinematography: Venus Keung, Sunny Tsang, and Thomas Yeung. Editing: Azrael Chung.

Cast: Andy Lau, Takako Tokiwa, Apichaya Thanatthanapong, Indira Jaroenpura, Dickens Chan, Calvin Poon, Kowit Wattanakul, Samart Payakaroon, Niruj Soasudchart, Ekachai Waritchaaporn.


Opus of an Angel (2018)


A doctor at the end of his rope gets the lesson of a lifetime in this riveting indie drama from Ali Zamani.

Stephen Murphy is at the end of his rope. Reeling from failure of saving a life during his job as a cardiologist to losing his family in an accident, it has been a full year and Stephen decides to go for one last tour of everything he has been through with the thought of ending his own life by the day’s end. However, on this particular day, he will soon experience something and someone he never imagined may make him think twice about his decision.

Early in the morning, things don’t go as planned as he finds himself still reeling from the tragedy that plagued him a year ago. That is, until he notices Maria, a young blind girl who got lost during a class trip. An attempt to call her mother fails and learning she lives in Santa Monica, Stephen decides to reluctantly take Maria with him on his journey and to perhaps find her mother. As the day progresses, a special bond slowly begins to form between the two and as Maria begins to open Stephen’s eyes, he begins to slowly realize that life is precious, making him think twice about doing what he had originally set out to do.

Very rarely does a film become heartwarming to a point where it will both make one, realize the joys of life itself and two, even make the viewer shed a tear by the end. This film succeeds in both and it is all part to the great performances of lead actor William McNamara and the film’s breakout star, Kaylynn Kubeldis.

McNamara’s Stephen is seen as embittered and broken when we first see him. Small flashbacks throughout the film lead up to how the film starts. It answers the question as to why does Stephen want to end his life. In the span of a day, he had gone from a loving family man and successful cardiologist who was given the hand of tragedy both professionally and personally. With the shot of the noose in the opening of the film, it is clear that Stephen’s intentions are well known. However, he does go on what he calls his “final journey” clearly finding only the negative aspects of life coming into his head rather than that of any positivity, including a bickering couple on a bus with threats of domestic violence.

Newcomer Kaylynn Kubeldis, the film’s real breakout star, is terrific in her film debut as blind girl Maria. Kubeldis, who is blind in real life, has such great chemistry with McNamara as we see this “grinch” slowly begin to warm up not only to Maria, but life in general. While things don’t start out great for the duo, it is when Stephen slowly begins to warm up to Maria in the same vein Cindy Lou Who and the spirit of Christmas warmed up the Grinch’s heart a few sizes up. The Macguffin of the film is Maria’s small angel pendant, in which she always fears of losing it, prompting Stephen to help on various occasions.

While there are a few scenes that are mostly filler, it is apparent and noteworthy to say that the film really is about the evolutionary bond between Stephen and Maria to the point where they can be seen as a sort of adopted father-adopted daughter relationship. The kind that should be seen rather than the horror stories you read in the papers. When everything is revealed as to why Stephen has become so embittered, Maria is the conscious if you will that helps him become a better man.

A really feel good film/drama about one man’s final journey becoming a journey of redemption and faith, Opus of an Angel truly stands out and the reason to see this is because of newcomer Kaylynn Kubeldis, who is truly a star on the rise.


An AZ Films Production. Director: Ali Zamani. Producers: Zeus Zamani, Levon Davis, and Naz Tliachez. Writer: Ali Zamani and Shahram Zargari. Cinematography: Brian Vilim. Editing: Sean Horvath.

Cast: William McNamara, Kaylynn Kubeldis, Cindy Pickett, Sofya Skya, Lee Kholafai, Roberto “Lil’ Rob” Flores, Jamison Newlander, Don DiPaolo, Marisa Lopez.

Korean Hit Film “I Can Speak” Coming to the U.S. on October 6

Korea’s current box office champ I Can Speak will make its way to the United States on October 6 from CJ Entertainment.

In a small town, Ok-boon is known as the Goblin Granny,  a feisty, elderly woman who combs through the town for any sign of trouble. Over a span of 20 years, she has filed over 8,000 complaints to the district office. Seen as a headache, Min-jae, a young government official who is a stickler for the rules is brought in to control the Goblin Granny. Tensions rise, but when Ok-boon finds out that Min-jae is fluent in English she begs him to teach her. What starts as a simple relationship between an eager student and a begrudged teacher, surprisingly evolves into a deep friendship. As Min-jae gets closer to his new friend, he slowly finds out why the Goblin Granny is so interested in speaking English and the serious problems she is facing.

Na Mun-Hee and Lee Je-Hoon star in the comedy-drama directed by Kim Hyun-Seok. The film was released in its native South Korea on September 21 and currently is the #1 film there.


Dim Sum Funeral (2008)

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A group of siblings get more than what they get bargained for in this touching dramedy from director Anna Chi.

When Mrs. Xiao passed away, her housekeeper Viola is tasked with notifying her four children. All four have been estranged from both her and each other. Only son Alexander is a doctor who has been having issues in his marriage to ex-Miss Taiwan Cindy. Oldest daughter Elizabeth is still grieving over the loss of her son, thus forcing her to separate from American husband Michael. Middle daughter Victoria is a real estate agent while youngest daughter Mei Mei is a martial arts film star in a lesbian relationship.

When the siblings get together, things start out troubling. They learn that their mother had wanted a traditional Chinese funeral, which lasts for a week. However, as they learn more about their mother, the group slowly begin to realize they may not have known their mother as they say they have. To them, their mother always treated them poorly, this causing the split. When an old friend of Mrs. Xiao, pianist and tai chi expert Chow Lin comes for the funeral, he slowly begins to brighten the group up. Along the way, secrets and revelations may do the one thing this family has needed all along: bring them together.

When it comes to Asian-American films, it becomes a meshing of traditional values combined with modern day issues. This film, written by Donald Martin, is a very beautiful dramedy that has Chinese traditional values in terms of a funeral being held while the film is set in Seattle. The ensemble cast is great in the film as we see their characters learning to overcome their personal struggles by doing the one thing they should do as a family, support each other.

The name Bai Ling may be a turn-off to some viewers, but it is safe to say she actually gets a great role her as the girlfriend of martial arts film star Mei Mei. Despite only having one bad line in the film, she brings the support to her partner as Dede quite well. Steph Song struggles with being typecast in martial arts films and is happy with her relationship as Mei Mei. She gets perhaps one of the most shocking revelations in the film with her being the youngest of the siblings. Ling and Song do have a hilarious moment when it is revealed that Mei Mei and Dede want to have a baby and they attempt to find a donor in a young monk played by Curtis Lum.

Julia Nickson brings an emotional performance as Elizabeth, a journalist who has been having an on-and-off relationship with estranged husband Michael. Her character is reminiscent of Janet Jackson’s character in Tyler Perry’s Why Did I Get Married with both characters dealing with loss and separation. Rumble in the Bronx and Black Mask co-star Francoise Yip’s Victoria and Talia Shire, in a welcome role as housekeeper Viola, attempt to serve as the “glue” holding the bond between the siblings with Veronica dealing with one small issue in which she blames her mother. The mother herself is played by Lisa Lu, a veteran of both Hollywood and Hong Kong films.

Finally, Chang Tseng does bring a touch of class to the role of Chow Lin, an old friend of Mrs. Xiao’s who is one of China’s most respected pianists and is also a Tai Chi expert. In his opening scene, he provides a hilarious scene after having a big American breakfast. He also connects well with Veronica’s son as they play a funny face game. Of course, there is a predictability when it comes to his character and why he has arrived but the final act of the film brings a twist that could either break or keep the bond together.

Dim Sum Funeral is a great look at a Chinese-American family overcoming their personal struggles together during the traditional mourning of their mother. A terrific ensemble cast, some laughs, some tears, and the great twists all make this worth a watch.


Reel One Entertainment presents a Dim Sum Productions Film. Director: Anna Chi. Producer: Jeffrey Lando. Writer: Donald Martin. Cinematography: Michael Balfry. Editing: Karen Porter.

Cast: Bai Ling, Steph Song, Talia Shire, Russell Wong, Kelly Hu, Julia Nickson, Lisa Lu, Francoise Yip, Chang Tseng, Adrian Hough, Valerie Tian, Issah Brown, Curtis Lum.

Best of the Best (1989)

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1989, The Movie Group/SVS Inc.

Robert Radler
Phillip Rhee
Peter E. Strauss
Phillip Rhee (story)
Paul Levine (story and screenplay)
Doug Ryan
William Hoy

Eric Roberts (Alex Grady)
Phillip Rhee (Tommy Lee)
James Earl Jones (Frank Couzo)
Sally Kirkland (Catherine Wade)
John P. Ryan (Frank Jennings)
John Dye (Virgil Keller)
David Agresta (Sonny Grasso)
Chris Penn (Travis Brickley)
Tom Everett (Don Peterson)
Simon Rhee (Dae Han Park)
James Lew (Sae Jin Kwon)
Master Ho Sik Pak (Han Cho)
Ken Nagayama (Yung Kim)
Dae Kyu Chang (Tung Sung Moon)

“A team is not a team if you don’t give a damn about one another” is the tagline for this underrated martial arts drama about five members of the United States karate team, who must endure both professional and personal obstacles to unite as they prepare for a competition with a team from Korea.

The United States team consists of Virgil Keller, a devout Buddhist; Sonny Grasso, a Detroit-based fighter who uses his Italian heritage to try to get women; Travis Brickley, the bigot of the bunch; Tommy Lee, a taekwondo instructor; and Alex Grady, a former champion who is on the verge of making a comeback after suffering a career-threatening injury years ago.

Coached by the very tough Frank Couzo with the help of spiritual coordinator Catherine Wade, the five fighters spend three months in training and throughout the course, endure major encounters not only outside of their training, but internally as well. The most connected of the team are Alex and Tommy, who practically form a brotherly-type bond as both endure personal obstacles that they may or may not be able to overcome when it is time to go to Korea for the competition. Travis plays an integral part of the plot as well. As the racist member of the bunch, he uses typical Asian stereotypes to try to tap into Tommy’s head without much success. He nearly gets everyone in trouble as well at a local bar when he is caught with someone else’s girlfriend and the fact he is a loudmouth doesn’t bode well with anyone he crosses.

Even though Eric Roberts, James Earl Jones, and Sally Kirkland received top billing for this film, it’s clear that Phillip Rhee is one of the true stars of the film. The character of Tommy is perhaps the most tortured of the team members. Rhee, who also came up with the story and produced the film, gives out a great performance as Tommy happens to be likable on the outside, but has a deep feeling of anger on the inside. When he learns that his opponent will be Korea’s team captain, Dae Han Park, played by Phillip’s real-life brother Simon Rhee, he begins to have recurring nightmares when ten years ago, his brother David was killed by Dae-Han in a tournament held in Los Angeles. Tommy finds solace not only in Alex, but uses his martial arts as a way to handle the fear that he has to endure.

What helps boost the film not only in terms of the film’s dramatic element of understanding the fighters are the intense training each team endures. While the United States fighters rely on modern technology and weight training to get their bodies stronger, the Korean team resort to modern traditional methods such as practicing during the snowy winters and running in the snow as well as hitting the trees while in the snow. Aside from Simon Rhee as Dae Han, the film also features legends James Lew and Grandmaster Ho Sik-Pak as members of the Korean team with tae kwon do legend Hee Il Cho as the coach.

Most of the martial arts action takes place during the qualifiers for the team as well as the climatic tournament sequences. Simon Rhee made the stars look impressive and it wouldn’t be a surprise if Phillip helped his older brother train some of the more non-martial artists of the cast, such as Eric Roberts, Chris Penn, and John Dye. One standalone fight scene takes place at a bar in which the team takes on the likes of stuntman Kane Hodder and other stunt guys.

The tournament sequences are the highlight of the film as the Rhee brothers and film crew acknowledge the respect of tae kwon do as not only a martial art, but a sport as well. The film was made shortly after competitive tae kwon do was made into an official Olympic sport in the 1988 Seoul Games. As a matter of fact, the tournament takes place and is shot in the famous city. The finale of the film highlights a major twist that shows what kind of level makes a film of this caliber a success.

Best of the Best proved to be a hit film and Eric Roberts, Philip Rhee, and Chris Penn returned for Best of the Best 2 in 1992 with Rhee starring and directing in two more installments as Tommy Lee in 1995 and 1998, the latter also marking Rhee’s final film to date. Simon Rhee returned for an appearance in the second installment but helped little brother out as stunt coordinator and fight choreographer for all four films.

Best of the Best is perhaps one of the most underrated martial arts films to come out of the late 80’s, with its somewhat breakaway from the norm of the genre and some rousing performances from the ensemble cast.



REVIEW: Elaan (2005)

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2005, Venus Films

Vikram Bhatt
Ganesh Jain
Ratan Jain
Robin Bhatt
Vikram Bhatt
Pravin Bhatt
Kuldip K. Mehan

Mithun Chakraborty (Baba Sikander)
Rahul Khanna (Karah Shah)
Arjun Rampal (Arjun Srivastav)
Amisha Patel (Priya)
John Abraham (Abhimanyu)
Lara Dutta (Sonia)
Chunky Pandey (Salim)
Madan Joshi (Kantilal Shah)
Miling Gunaji (Aftab Sikander)
Prithvi Zutshi (Sameer Sikander)
Ritu Shivpuri (Anjali Shah)

Five unlikely heroes form an unexpected alliance against the terror of one criminal mastermind in this 2005 revenge thriller from Vikram Bhatt.

Baba Sikander is a criminal mastermind who has held the elite of India hostage. Along with his two brothers and right hand man Salim, he forces rich businessmen to give them ransoms or they will kill them for non-payment. One well-known businessman, Kantilal Shah, is the latest to feel Sikander’s threat and it is his adopted son, Karan, who convinces his father not to pay the ransom. When Kantilal agrees, he and four bodyguards are later gunned down and Baba escapes to Italy, where he goes into hiding.

Vowing revenge by bringing Baba to justice, Karan knows Italy has no extradition law to India. Instead, he decides to form a team to bring the crime lord back to India. He brings in a suspended police officer, Arjun Srivastav, and Abhimanyu, a former associate of Baba who is serving time in prison after Baba framed him. Upon arrival in Venice, Abhimanyu reconnects with his girlfriend Sonia with the intention of getting out of the whole deal. However, after he and Sonia are kidnapped by Baba’s men, Arjun and Karan rescue both of them and Abhimanyu, realizing his mistake, decides to join them as does Sonia. Add reporter Priya, who has been getting a story on Karan’s crusade, and the five form a team who will do anything to ensure Baba Sikander is brought to justice.

Bollywood cinema is truly one of the hottest genres in cinema today. They may be known in general form for its musical numbers as well as sometimes very long running times. This 158-minute film is mainly an action thriller that can slowly becomes a buddy action film with five unlikely heroes who must stop a dangerous criminal mastermind who doesn’t necessarily do more than order his men around. However, what better way for the five to bond in this film than with the usually required musical and dance number and that’s exactly what happens. However, including this, there are only four musical numbers and they are interspersed from the first to the second hour with the “bonding sequence” to wrap the musical numbers up.

The band of heroes are well played by the ensemble cast. Rahul Khanna’s revenge seeking Karan is not looking to kill the mastermind Baba, but rather bring him back to India for justice. One would expect Karan to kill Baba for killing his father in the name of revenge in the usual action movie. However, Karan is a respectable businessman with morals and refuses to take the vigilante route. He truly wants justice for the death of his father.

Arjun Rampal, coming off his role in the James Bond-ish Asambhav, once again shows his chops in the action department as suspended cop Arjun, who is a single dad who despite having a hot temper, has a heart when it comes to his daughter. John Abraham, who a year prior, starred as the villain of the first Dhoom film, plays Abhimanyu as an anti-hero who started his career working for Baba only to want revenge for his now former boss’s betrayal. Ultimately, a pivotal moment forces him to change his tune to full hero status.

Amisha Patel’s Priya starts out as an annoying reporter who actually highlights the first musical number that eventually leads to her becoming a member of the team and Karan’s eventual love interest. Lara Dutta rounds out the heroes as Sonia, Abhimanyu’s long-suffering girlfriend who at first is reluctant to reunite with him as she has become a famous performer. However, out of respect for him, joins him on the mission leading to a reconciliation between the two.

Mithun Chakraborty truly is evil in the role of the villainous Baba Sikander, who pretty much has the elitist part of India under his iron fist through his ultimatum: pay or die. He doesn’t have much in the action department until the end and delegates his organization, including his brothers, to do the dirty work for him. Even his introduction in the film, which starts before the opening credits, instills the fear his character conveys in the film, telling the viewer that he has India hostage and will not let it go anytime soon.

Abbas Ali Moghul designed some pretty exciting action sequences that involves lots of firepower and in the case of Abraham, some nicely shot fistacuffs. Granted, they are not in the vein of the flashy style we are used to in various martial arts films, but they still hold up quite well. The firepower and chase scenes are reminiscent of something seen in a James Bond or even, an 80’s action thriller, which take away the musical numbers and it has the feel of an 80’s Cannon movie feel to an effect.

Elaan makes good use of its cast with some pretty nifty set pieces. The sporadic musical numbers that make up the first to second hour might be a notable annoyance but we are talking Bollywood cinema here, so in this case, it’s perfectly acceptable.



Venus Movies, the production company behind the film, has also set up the movie to view for free on YouTube. Click here for the YouTube version, which has English subtitles.

The End of the Tour (2015)



The true story of a five-day interview between Rolling Stone writer David Lipsky and author David Foster Wallace (1962-2008) showcases one of Jason Segel’s best performances to date.

The film starts in 2008 New York City, where writer David Lipsky receives word that author David Foster Wallace had died. Shocked by this turn of events, Lipsky finds his old box of cassettes and so begins a lengthy flashback that changed both the lives of Lipsky and Wallace.

In 1996, David Foster Wallace was a small town college teacher who had written a novel entitled “Infinite Jest”, which had garnered major rave review. David Lipsky, who had just started out at Rolling Stone, is fascinated by the novel after reading it on the recommendation of his girlfriend, Sarah. Lipsky manages to convince his editor to do a piece on Wallace.

Lipsky makes the trip to Indiana and meets Wallace, whose eccentricity intrigues the budding writer. As Wallace prepares to make the final stop of his book tour in Minnesota, the bond between Lipsky and Wallace goes from very insecure to one that strengthens until a misunderstood incident and certain questions that are forced by the editor risk the potentially close bond between the interviewer and the famous author.

Many have hailed David Foster Wallace as one of the greatest influential American authors of the last two decades with his second novel, “Infinite Jest” as his greatest work. For those unfamiliar, the film is set in a North American dystopia and revolves around many topics of interest. What David Lipsky attempted was to see how close the novel was to Wallace’s view of his own life and how did he see both reality and fantasy in his interview for Rolling Stone magazine back in 1996. The title of the film indicates that this interview was taken at the tail end of the book tour for the novel.

Jesse Eisenberg seems to be getting better with his recent roles and here, he plays David Lipsky as both a seasoned writer in the film’s opening and ending and as a budding writer whose outlook on not only writing, but his life as a whole changes within the span of five days. As for Jason Segel, he personifies Wallace perfect as he almost looks unrecognizable as the eccentric creative writer who tends to question what reality is and what is life all about, all while we learn that Wallace has suffered from depression, which is depicted a bit in the film.

The film more or less isn’t just about an interview, but to quote the classic film Casablanca, it is about “the beginning of a beautiful friendship”. Sure the bond between Lipsky and Wallace may seem somewhat like a roller coaster because Wallace has his views on interviewers and how he feels they can manipulate their pieces and it’s clear he shows that at first towards Lipsky. However, as the film progresses, it is clear that despite his outspoken views about manipulation, Wallace truly sees something in Lipsky and this is clearly seen through their love of tobacco and smoking, junk food, and love of action films. They talk briefly about Die Hard and go to the movies with two of Wallace’s female friends to see Broken Arrow and they rave while the girls are disgusted by the film. Some of the guys’ conversations when comparing loneliness to various topics truly makes one feel like we are seeing a depiction of how anyone can have a talk and it is clear that both Eisenberg and Segel don’t act forced, but smoothly go with the flow as two newfound friends who truly are just having a simple talk that lasts five days, even when it’s clear Lipsky has tape recorder in hand.

In conclusion, if you get a chance to see perhaps one of the best biopics in cinema today, then that film is The End of the Tour. Jesse Eisenberg and Jason Segel truly breakout in perhaps both of their best performances which truly makes this a great independent feature.


A Modern Man Films production in association with Anonymous Content and Kilburn Media. Director: James Ponsoldt. Producers: Ted O’Neal, David Kanter, Mark C. Manuel, Matt DeRoss, and James Dahl. Writers: Donald Margulies; based on the novel “And of Course You End Up Becoming Yourself” by David Lipsky. Cinematography: Jakob Ihre. Editing: Darrin Navarro.

Cast: Jesse Eisenberg, Jason Segel, Anna Chlumsky, Mamie Gummer, Mickey Sumner, Joan Cusack, Ron Livingston.