The Karate Kid (2010)

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When one thinks of the words “remake” or “reboot”, they generally think that we’re in for a ride towards a downward spiral. However, the long awaited remake of the 1984 action-drama The Karate Kid is just living proof that not all remakes are bad.

When Sherry Parker is transferred from Detroit to Beijing, China, for work, she takes her 12-year old son Dre with her. At first, Dre is unsure about his new home. However, he meets Meiying, a young violinist and student. Dre feels a sudden attraction towards her. However, he soon finds himself an enemy in local bully Cheng. Cheng is an expert in kung fu and nearly takes out Dre.

As Dre dreams to learn kung fu, he finds a local school run by Coach Li. However, upon learning that Cheng is one of the students, Dre decides that he wants to go home. As Cheng and his friends constantly pick on Dre, Dre finds an unexpected ally in Mr. Han, the maintenance man at his apartment building.

When Han and Dre confront Cheng and Coach Li, Han decides that the two kids will settle their score at the local tournament in one month’s time. Promising that Cheng and his friends will not touch Dre until then, Li gives Han face. Han decides that the only way Dre will succeed is to stand up for himself. Han decides to teach Dre the art of kung fu.

For those who have seen the original 1984 film with Ralph Macchio and the late Pat Morita, you know where the film leads. However, there does stand out some interesting differences. Notably, instead of “wax on-wax off”, there is a defensive move involving Dre taking off his jacket. In a fascinating scene, Han and Dre go to the Wudang Mountains where Han was a student. Dre sees a woman trying to somewhat fend of a cobra by using the Crane Style of kung fu, a nod to the famous “crane kick” of the original.

For his lead star debut, Jaden Smith does well for a brash cocky 12-year old who tries to get attention by bragging only to learn some life lessons himself as he studies kung fu from Mr. Han. The relationship between Dre and Mr. Han is definitely like that of Daniel and Mr. Miyagi in the original film. However, Mr. Han’s backstory is quite an upgrade from Miyagi’s war torn past. As Mr. Han, it is clear that this is Jackie Chan’s best Hollywood performance ever. Definitely going the route from his drama SHINJUKU INCIDENT (2009), Chan is more than happy now to do not just his typical action film that everyone expects, but be able to handle the dramatic side very well as he does here.

Under the supervision of Jackie Chan Stunt Team leader Wu Gang, Smith, who has already studied martial arts, gets to showcase what a film fighter he is. Should he continue to practice, we may see a future action hero in the long run when Smith becomes an adult. The same goes for Wang Zhenwei, who without a doubt impresses as bully Cheng. The 15-year old Wang is quick and agile. We could be looking at the next Jet Li or Wu Jing after seeing him in this film.

While some complained of the long running time of 138 minutes, it all makes sense in a way. The film blends action, the mother-son relationship, the student-teacher relationship, and the puppy love romance angles very well and strong. That is why The Karate Kid is definitely one of the best remakes to come out. If you haven’t seen it, doesn’t matter if you like martial arts or not, you need to see it.


Columbia Pictures presents an Overbrook Entertainment production in association with China Film Group and Jerry Weintraub Productions. Director: Harald Zwart. Producers: James Lassiter, Will Smith, Jada Pinkett Smith, Ken Stovitz, and Jerry Weintraub. Writer: Christopher Murphey; based on the original 1984 film written by Robert Mark Kamen. Cinematography: Roger Pratt. Editing: Joel Negron.

Cast: Jaden Smith, Jackie Chan, Taraji P. Henson, Han Wenwen, Yu Rong Guang, Wu Zhensu, Wang Zhenwei, Wang Zhiheng, Jared Minns, Lu Shijia, Zhao Yi, Zhang Bo, Luke Carberry.


The Next Karate Kid (1994)

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Before she became a Million Dollar Baby, Hilary Swank was The Next Karate Kid in the final installment with the late Pat Morita returning as Mr. Miyagi. However, the same thematic story applies as the young teen faces bullies and learns about herself in the process.

When Mr. Miyagi goes to an event celebrating Japanese fighters in the USA during World War II, he meets Louisa Pierce. Louisa is the widow of Miyagi’s former commanding officer. When the two become friends, Miyagi learns about Louisa’s rebellious granddaughter Julie, who is going through problems of her own.

Still haunted by the death of her parents, she finds herself rebelling against those close to her. However, at school, she finds herself bullied by a high school group led by Ned. The only thing she finds solace in is her care for an injured eagle named Angel. When Miyagi tries to get through to Julie, it comes with failure until Miyagi sees Julie nearly hit by a car. Julie does a jump on the hood and Miyagi is stunned to learn she studied martial arts.

To help her cope with her anger, Miyagi decides to train Julie in karate. However, when Ned causes Julie to get suspended from school on a bogus charge, Miyagi decides to take Julie to a monastery. There, Julie begins to go through the change from angst to friendly. At the same time, she begins to learn more karate and forms a bond with Miyagi that delves beyond student and teacher, but as friends.

Upon her return to school, everyone sees that Julie has changed, including new student Eric. Eric has had eyes for Julie since he first met her but his association with Ned and his coach in Army training, Dugan, forced him out of the picture. However, Eric admitted he left the group because of their no holds barred policy and Julie goes to the prom with Eric. That night, a confrontation leads Julie to do what is right, even if it means taking on Ned once and for all.

Just when people thought they would never see the witty maintenance man and karate teacher Mr. Miyagi, he returns. Five years after his final film with Ralph Macchio as Daniel LaRusso, the late Pat Morita returns as Miyagi in this new adventure. This time, he finds a new student in a rebellious teen girl who has angst within herself and shows it towards others. Replacing Macchio as the student is future Academy Award winner Hilary Swank in one of her first roles.

Swank does pretty well in the role of “Karate Kid” Julie. Like many protagonists, Julie starts out as angst-ridden with tragedy still in her heart. Not knowing how to cope, she lashes out. However, it is after she goes to a monastery that she changes both in her manner and in her training. Judging from what we see here, it may have been in fact a precursor for Swank’s Oscar win for MILLION DOLLAR BABY a decade later.

While Miyagi and Julie have that chemistry, it seems like that is all the movie has in terms of its good points. The secondary characters, including school bully Ned and Julie’s love interest Eric take a backseat to Miyagi and Julie. The reason why the original Karate Kid worked was that we got a feel for the characters, including the Cobra Kais. However, the problem with this film is that they attempt to make it a gender reversal of the original film. Sadly, it falls flat in terms of secondary character emphasis and even the fight scenes seem a little subpar comparing to the original trilogy.

Only see The Next Karate Kid if you liked the originals and seeing Mr. Miyagi continue his wit with a new student. Otherwise, it is best to stay away.


A Columbia Pictures production. Director: Christopher Cain. Producer: Jerry Weintraub. Writer: Mark Lee; based on characters created by Robert Mark Kamen. Cinematography: Laszlo Kovacs. Editing: Ronald Roose.

Cast: Pat Morita, Hilary Swank, Chris Conrad, Michael Ironside, Constance Towers, Arsenio “Sonny” Trinidad, Michael Cavalieri, Walt Goggons, Jim Ishida, Rodney Kageyama, Seth Sakai, Eugene Boles.

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.

Almost Friends (2017)

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A man reflects on his life as he comes face to face with some new challenges, including a possible shot at love, in this dramedy from filmmaker Jake Goldberger.

Charlie Brenner was an aspiring chef who was on his way to make it big when he made a mistake. No longer having the passion to live his dreams, Charlie finds a job as an assistant manager in his hometown’s movie theater and is living life only when he is with his best friend Ben, who is awaiting the results of his bar exam. Charlie lives with his mother, stepfather, and little brother. He also has eyes for Amber, a young woman who works at the local coffee house he always goes to, but is afraid to ask her out.

Amber has a bit of a complicated life herself. Her roommate Jack is somewhat of a deadbeat. She has a boyfriend, Brad, who is a track star. However, Amber has dreams when she plans to move to New York. Things go from bad to worse for Charlie when his father returns to town, with potentially ulterior motives. As Charlie and Amber begin to bond, the complications in their lives may prevent them from even becoming real friends, much less a romance. Will these two be able to overcome their life obstacles and at least become friends?

For his third film, filmmaker Jake Goldberger brings what can be said to be real issues in a small town in terms of his characters having big dreams and being able to overcome their personal issues to attain those goals. While the primary focus is on an unmotivated young man who slowly begins to see the light, he finds himself in a series of constant ruts, while there are a few subplots involving other characters with the same notion in mind.

Freddie Highmore once again shows why he is truly a great talent, this time as Charlie, an aspiring chef who only uses his skills at home and not in some fancy restaurant. That’s because an incident resulted in Charlie feeling like he lost everything, yet he still has his family and friends, notably best buddy Ben, played by Haley Joel Osment, and Heather, played by Rita Volk. While Ben is there as Charlie’s confidant and at times the only reason why he even goes out anymore, Heather is a reliable friend too and is part of the film’s major subplot which involves a possible relationship with Jack, the deadbeat roommate of lead female character Amber.

Odeya Rush’s Amber may seem like a character who has it all but like Charlie, she has her own set of complicated matters, thus making it easy at first for these two to get along quite well. While Amber’s relationship with Brad seems to look good, there is something under the surface that could jeopardize that part of her life as it not so much Charlie, but something else. Highmore and Rush have some pretty good chemistry together and it helps drive the film and in a way, the two attempt to help each other get through their personal issues. Jake Abel’s Jack seems like a moocher until Charlie helps him get a job at the movie theater and it is there that Jack begins to aspire to get quite a few things: an actual relationship with Heather and the big candy bar in a crane game machine in the theater.

Marg Helgenberger helps bring Charlie to a grounded effect as his mother with Chris Meloni playing Charlie’s returning dad, who seems to be shady while attempting to help Charlie with his issues as well. It is like Charlie’s dad somewhat means well but he isn’t going to get the award for “father of the year”.

Almost Friends is a pretty good look at dreams and what people will go through to achieve those dreams, even if it means overcoming the odds in their personal lives. Some great performances from the young cast really drive this film as one to check out.


Gravitas Ventures presents a Let It Play/Animus Films production. Director: Jake Goldberger. Producers: Tony Lee, Jim Young, and Alex A. Ginzburg. Cinematography: Jeremy Mackie. Editing: Julie Garces.

Cast: Freddie Highmore, Odeya Rush, Haley Joel Osment, Marg Helgenberger, Christopher Meloni, Jake Abel, Rita Volk, Taylor John Smith.

The film will be coming to theaters, On Demand, and Digital HD on November 17.

The Family That Preys (2008)

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Lifelong friends learn to live life while their families go through turbulent issues in this drama from filmmaker Tyler Perry.

Alice Pratt and Charlotte Cartwright have been friends for thirty years. Alice is a simple woman who owns a diner and raises two daughters, Pam and Andrea. The former works with Alice at the diner while the latter works for Charlotte’s company. Andrea’s husband Chris works at the same company as a construction worker as does Pam’s husband Ben. Chris has aspirations of forming his own company, but does not know that his wife is having an affair with Charlotte’s son William, who is married to Jillian.

While Alice and Charlotte decide to go on a cross-country road trip in order to live life, the lives of their families is turned upside down. Charlotte has hired Abby Dexter as the new chief operating officer, a job meant for William. When word gets out of William and Andrea’s affair, Chris confronts both parties and to make matters worse, William is planning to take his own mother out of the corporation. However, Charlotte reveals a secret to Alice that could alter everyone’s lives forever, both personally and professionally.

Back in 2008, when people thought about Tyler Perry, it was all about Madea, his iconic character. However, when in 2007, he adapted his stage play Why Did I Get Married?, which didn’t feature the character and was hailed as a very good film as well as Daddy’s Little Girls, his first original screenplay that was not based on his plays. He follows the latter-up with this original film that is emotionally driven thanks to the performances of its cast.

The film’s central plot of two lifelong friends and the turbulent connection between their families and businesses really delves into a range of emotions between the characters. The focus is on lifelong friends Alice and Charlotte, polar opposites played by Alfre Woodard and Kathy Bates. Alice is the simple diner owner who raises two daughters who are themselves polar opposites. Charlotte is the high-driven corporate owner whose son is truly like her.

Woodard and Bates are great to watch as they are proof that opposites attract when it comes to friendships. Their road trip shows exactly how these two are willing to make the most of their friendship by trying different things, from Alice going to a country-western bar to Charlotte getting “baptized” in a lake. The same can’t be said for their kids. If anyone is the most level-headed of the children, it is Taraji P. Henson’s Pam, who only wants Alice to be happy and is happy with her marriage to Ben, played by Perry himself. Rockmond Dunbar’s Chris is a man with big dreams and will go through anything to try to get his business off the ground.

The wrenches in the film are truly Andrea and William, who are nothing more than money-grubbing schemers who will do whatever it takes to get to the top, even if it means total betrayal towards their own families. Having an affair, Andrea plans to eventually leave Chris for William to stay at the top while William plans to have the board retire his mother so he can completely take over the company. Of course, if you have seen any of Perry’s films, chances are you will know how this will turn out for this scheming couple. Kudos goes to Sanaa Lathan and Cole Hauser for playing these two characters with slyness and deceit.

The Family That Preys helps solidify Terry Perry as not only an underrated director, but quite the storyteller. An ensemble cast really drives the emotions in this film about families and friendships.


Lionsgate presents a Tyler Perry Studios production. Director: Tyler Perry. Producers: Reuben Cannon and Tyler Perry. Writer: Tyler Perry. Cinematography: Toyomichi Kurita. Editing: Maisie Hoy.

Cast: Alfre Woodard, Kathy Bates, Sanaa Lathan, Rockmond Dunbar, Cole Hauser, Taraji P. Henson, Tyler Perry, KaDee Strickland, Robin Givens, Sebastian Siegel

Highmore Looks for Rediscovery in “Almost Friends” Trailer

Freddie Highmore is on a road to rediscovering himself in the trailer to the upcoming indie drama Almost Friends.

Once a promising young chef, Charlie is now an unmotivated twenty-something who lives at home with his mom and stepfather while working at a small movie theatre and living vicariously through his best friend, Ben. His life takes an unpredictable turn however, when he finds himself falling for local barista Amber. Problem is, Amber has her own distractions- her mooching roommate, a track star boyfriend, and steadfast plans to move to New York City. On top of that, Charlie’s estranged father unexpectedly re-enters his life just as he begins to take a long, hard look at where he’s going and who he wants to be. With conflict after conflict piling on, will Charlie reach his tipping point or will he finally find the path forward?

Odeya Rush, Haley Joel Osment, Marg Helgenberger, and Christopher Meloni co-star in the film from filmmaker Jake Goldberger.

Gravitas Venturas released Almost Friends in theaters, VOD, and Digital HD on November 17.

Massacre at Central High (1976)

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The new kid at school gets even with bullies and everyone else in this pretty interesting B-movie from Dutchman Rene Daalder.

David is the new kid at Central High School. There, he runs into an old friend, Mark. Mark has joined up with a trio of bullies, Bruce, Craig, and Paul. The three guys spend their time bullying guys like librarian Arthur and local boy Spoony. When David stops the trip from raping students Jane and Mary, the bullies want Mark to tell David that to get along, he must go along.

However, when Mark catches his girlfriend Theresa skinny-dipping with David one night, Mark tells his friends that David won’t comply. When the bullies finally retaliate by crushing David’s leg under his car, David can no longer use his outlet of anger by running. He sets off a plan to destroy the elite once and for all. After dispatching of Bruce, Craig, and Paul, David thinks all will be okay at Central High. Despite his friendship with Mark, who learns that truth about that fateful night and how David couldn’t make advances at Theresa out of respect for Mark, David soon learns that he faces a bigger problem at Central High when the student body begins to completely act like big shots. He decides something must be done.

This is quite an interesting take of a high school terror flick. What writer-director Rene Daalder did was craft a story about an “avenger” if you will who wanted to make things right only to create an even more deadly monster. The story pretty much is about power and who should have that power as well as how loyalty can have its ups and downs. As the new kid, David is conflicted at first with stopping the trio of bullies only because he has an old friend who has joined their little clique. It is clear that while Mark has joined with this group, he more or less doesn’t go to the extreme as much as the other three. However, a misunderstanding and assumption not only puts a strain on their friendship but ultimately sets David off.

Derrel Maury and Andrew Stevens churn out decent performances in the role of the embittered best friends who are the driving force of the film. The trio playing the bullies are also quite good showing why they are the power elite. The only flaw in the film and that is not truly at fault is the performance of Kimberly Beck, who makes her film debut as Mark’s girlfriend Theresa. When Mark informs her of the death of one of the bullies, she brings a more wooden reaction rather than one that would have her concerned. Perhaps it is because the character of Theresa, while in love with Mark, really doesn’t care much about the bullies.

The killings of the bullies are quite inventive for its time frame. From an electrocuting during hang gliding to one diving into an empty pool, it is the rash of murders in the second half that makes it more interesting in that David resorts from going inventive to just a series of explosions. While this may seem somewhat a ho-hum effort on David’s part, the place of a small bomb in a hearing aid can be seen as more or less, interesting. The reasoning for David’s rash of killings is simple: bringing order to chaos.

Massacre at Central High may seem like a horror film and in some aspect it is, but it is more about what happens when chaos ensues to bring order and the result is even more chaos. A cult film favorite today but sends a message about high school violence in an interesting manner for its time frame.


An Evan Pictures Production. Director: Rene Daalder. Producer: Harold Sobel. Writer: Rene Daalder.  Cinematography: Bertram van Munster. Editing: Harry Keramidas.

Cast: Derrel Maury, Andrew Stevens, Kimberly Beck, Robert Carradine, Ray Underwood, Steve Bond, Damon Douglas, Rainbeaux Smith, Lana O’Grady, Dennis Kort.

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.


A Fight for Honor (1992)

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A young woman learns a lesson about the true nature of the sport she loves in this feature directorial debut of Texas-based martial arts instructor Sam Um.

Three years after beginning her training in the martial art of taekwondo, Crystal Lundgren has lost a recent tournament, which has left her depressed. Her mother and friends discourage her from continuing her training. Her mother wants Crystal to live life as a teenager. However, she is still loyal to her training and a chance encounter will change her life when she meets local pizza delivery boy Min-Suk Kim, who also is training in taekwondo from his grandfather.

Crystal realizes that her master only cares about winning competitions and in addition, she finds herself constantly harassed by classmate Bobby, who will not take no for an answer. When she accidentally hits Min-Suk with her car, which damages his bike and results in his losing his job, Crystal is sorry but learns about Min-Suk’s grandfather. At first, the grandfather refuses to train her due to her previous reasons for the martial art. However, seeing potential in her, the grandfather takes her in as a student along with Min-Suk’s friend David. The trio soon begin training for an upcoming tournament.

Sam Um, a Texas-based taekwondo and Gongkwon Yusul instructor, is perhaps best known today as the instructor of country music legend Willie Nelson, who earned a 5th-degree black belt from Um a few years ago. During the wake of the B-movie martial arts circuit that reigned on home video, Um took a chance and created his first film, a Karate Kid-like tale that could be said to be a precursor of the 1994 sequel The Next Karate Kid.

It is clear that the film doesn’t have any big names, but all local actors. However, in a brief appearance, the only “big name” is that of Bill Johnson as Crystal’s first taekwondo instructor. Johnson is known for his replacing Gunnar Hansen as the chainsaw-wielding killer Leatherface in the 1986 film Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2. Here, Johnson plays it straight as a teacher who only cares about winning trophies and clearly doesn’t know the meaning of martial arts. The film’s true focus is on three characters, Crystal, Min-Suk, and their teacher, Min-Suk’s grandfather.

M.G. Lee, who also served as executive producer, plays the grandfather quite well. He clearly knows the true spirit of not only taekwondo, but martial arts as a whole and teaches both Min-Suk and Crystal, the latter more as her values in training are not what she had thought. C.K. Kim and Stacy Lundgren make the most of their roles as the students, especially Lundgren, whose character cares more about martial arts than what her mother and friends expect out of her. As expected, Min-Suk and Crystal slowly form a tight bond that blossoms into a romance much to the chagrin of bully Bobby, a former classmate of Crystal’s whose constant harassing comes from the fact he wants to date her, but she is not attracted by his arrogant ways. On the other hand, Min-Suk is more level headed and determined to keep his training going along with friend David, the comic relief of the film, played by Stephen Wong.

The martial arts action, choreographed by Um, is a meshing of basically TKD used for self-defense on the streets along with what to expect in martial arts tournaments. Lee and Kim actually look quite good in their skills while Lundgren, bless her soul, looks like she took up the training for the sake of the film. She does try her best but thankfully the tournament sequences bring a sense of what is seen in Olympic Taekwondo, so Lundgren’s skills are ultimately forgivable.

In the end, if you like films like The Karate Kid, then it is safe to say that A Fight for Honor is a family style locally shot film that showcases the spirit of martial arts with a decent effort from its local talent in front of the cameras and filmmaker Sam Um, who would make one more film with his legendary student, 2007’s Fighting with Anger.


A Master Films Production. Director: Sam Um. Producer: Sam Um. Writer: Sam Um. Cinematography: Phil Curry. Editing: Sam Um

Cast: M.G. Lee, C.K. Kim, Stacy Lundgren, Shannon Sedwick, Stephen Wong, Mark Kay, Bill Johnson, Daron Edwards, Cindy Wood, Kira Meissner.

This title is out of print but was available on VHS from York Home Video.

Handsome Devil (2017)

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2017, Breaking Glass Pictures/Treasure Entertainment/Bord Scannán na hÉireann/the Irish Film Board/TFE

John Butler
Rebecca Flanagan
Robert Walpole
John Butler
Cathal Watters
John O’Connor

Fionn O’Shea (Ned Roche)
Nicholas Galitzine (Conor Masters)
Andrew Scott (Dan Sherry)
Moe Dunford (Coach Pascal)
Michael McElhatton (Headmaster Walter Curly)
Ruairi O’Connor (Weasel)
Mark Lavery (Wallace)
Jay Duffy (Victor)
Jamie Hallahan (Spainer)
Amy Huberman (Nathalie Roche)
Ardal O’Hanlon (Dan Roche)

An outcast, a transfer rugby player, and a new English professor all look for acceptance in this Irish coming-of-age tale from filmmaker John Butler.

Ned Roche is a sixteen-year old teen whose father and stepmother send him to a boarding school with a reputation for the sport of rugby. However, Ned is gay and this instantly makes him an outcast amongst his classmates. Weasel is the lead bully and rugby player who makes Ned miserable as much as possible. Ned at first feels a sense of relief when he is given his own room. However, when a transfer student, Conor Masters, arrives at the school and is a known rugby player, Ned is unhappy when Conor becomes his roommate.

At first, Ned and Conor do not get along. However, after learning of Ned’s habit of using lyrics of obscure songs to pose as essays, which angers new English professor Dan Sherry, Conor is impressed. Ned soon learns he and Conor have more in common than they expected. The two form a bond and even go as far as starting a two-person band. However, when rugby coach Pascal gets wind of their new bond, the rugby obsessed coach as well as the other players see Ned as a threat and decide to go to great lengths to break this new bond between an elite and an outcast.

From writer-director John Butler comes a film that brings stereotypes yet breaks from the norm when it comes to certain subjects and meshes it with perhaps a dose of the 1999 film Varsity Blues in terms of its theme of obsession of a sport. The film does have a central theme of acceptance as it pertains to not only two of the students but in some aspect, the English professor having to feel his own brand of acceptance when some of the school administrators do not agree with his methods, notably when he supports the bond between central characters Ned and Conor.

Fionn O’Shea is great to watch as Ned, who not only is the outcast, but our film’s narrator. Because he is different let alone his lack of even liking rugby, he is seen as the loner. What’s worse is that lead bully Weasel uses all negative stereotypes against LGBTQ people against Ned and it is as if Ned has to constantly tell Weasel and others that stereotypes not only not phase him but he could care less about what his tormentors think of him.

Nicholas Galitzine is great as the complement to Ned, transfer rugby player Conor, who finds the love of his sport as a means of escape from his personal issues. Conor is known to have a violent past, which resulted in his transfer. As noted by co-star Andrew Scott’s professor, Ned seems to have a “persecution complex” against the elite until he learns that he and Conor’s love of music amongst other things truly form a bond between the two. However, what many may expect will be quite shocked to learn that this breaks the norm as they become platonic friends, which draw the ire of the obsessed rugby coach and the headmaster, who only care about getting the team into the finals of a current tournament.

Andrew Scott’s Professor Sherry acts merely as a bridge not only between Ned and Conor, but in the midst of everything, he is a bridge between the students and the school administrators. Sherry feels like the students are not whom they want to be, but what they are expected to be in terms of the school. Despite resistance, especially from the rugby-obsessed coach, who is perhaps the nuttiest coach since Jon Voight’s football-obsessed Bud Kilmer in Varsity Blues, Sherry proves himself to be a more open-minded individual who gets through not only to Ned and Conor, but someone very surprising in the start of the third act.

In the end, Handsome Devil is a great Irish coming-of-age film that may delve in negative stereotypes from the tormentors, but this is truly a film about acceptance between the most unlikeliest of buddies in a sport-obsessed boarding school.


Breaking Glass Pictures will be releasing the film in select theaters and on VOD on June 2.