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.


The Karate Kid Part III (1989)

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Ralph Macchio ends his tenure as the Karate Kid in this third installment of the film, where friendship turns to hatred. However, with a chance at redemption, the bond between a student and teacher lasts forever.

Arriving back from Okinawa, Mr. Miyagi and his student/friend Daniel Larusso learn that the apartment building has been sold. Meanwhile, Daniel’s mother has returned to New Jersey to tend to her brother, who is ill with emphysema. Daniel stays with Mr. Miyagi and at the same time gets a sense of heartbreak when his girlfriend Kumiko gets a job with a dance troupe.

Daniel is invited to retain his title at the All Valley Tournament. However, he declines to compete. Someone is not happy with that decision and that is Sensei John Kreese. Seeking revenge, he enlists the aid of an old friend, chemical businessman Terry Silver, who promises that Daniel will fight in the tournament. To achieve this, he hires Mike Barnes, a champion whose reputation as a “bad boy” has achieved him notoriety.

Daniel and Miyagi open up a Bonsai shop and for Daniel, he finds a new friend in Jessica, who works at the pottery store next door. When Jessica tells Daniel that she is reuniting with her ex-boyfriend, Daniel finds himself content and the two become friends. When Mike attempts to force Daniel to fight, Daniel has no other option. However, Miyagi refuses to teach Daniel this time. Daniel finds himself a new teacher in Terry, who is himself an expert martial artist. Daniel soon learns that with his new skills comes a price and it is up to Miyagi to help his student prepare for the fight of his life.

Three years after their adventure in Okinawa, Daniel and Miyagi return in this really dramatic installment of the film. Ralph Macchio plays Daniel as a more mature person, who lets his anger get the best of him at times of need. Being practically forced into a situation he cannot get out of, he becomes a target of the revenge seeking coach whose top student he defeated in the original film. Pat Morita returns as Miyagi and gets a performance that comes close to his 1984 Academy Award nominated performance of the original. He cares about Daniel and while he offers not to teach him, he does try to help him and finally realizes what has happened.

While Martin Kove returns as Sensei Kreese, it is Thomas Ian Griffith that makes more of an impact in his film debut. The future screenwriter/actor makes an impressive debut as Kreese’s longtime friend and corporate executive Terry Silver. He makes Daniel suffer during training and while Daniel is under the impression he is trying to be tougher, it is more of seeing how far Daniel will go to finally learn that everything comes at a price. This time, Daniel’s new nemesis comes in the form of future soap opera star Sean Kanan, a black belt in karate who brings it as new bully Mike Barnes. He is truly the bad boy of karate and it shows to good effect.

The Karate Kid Part III is a fitting conclusion to the original series. Miyagi would return in 1994 with The Next Karate Kid, in which he takes in a female student. However, seeing Daniel and Miyagi in their last adventure together is quite good.


A Columbia Pictures production. Director: John G. Avildsen. Producer: Jerry Weintraub. Writer: Robert Mark Kamen. Cinematography: Stephen Yaconelli. Editing: John G. Avildsen and John Carter.

Cast: Ralph Macchio, Pat Morita, Robyn Lively, Martin Kove, Thomas Ian Griffith, Sean Kanan, Jonathan Avildsen, Christopher Paul Ford.

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.

Throw Down (2004)

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Johnnie To returns to the martial arts genre and melds it with his use of action-dramatic storytelling with this tale of a ex-judo champion on a road to rediscovering himself amidst the chaos that surrounds him.

Nightclub owner Sze-To spends his days gambling and drinking while performing at nights in his club. However, when a mysterious stranger, Tony, arrives, Sze-To’s true past is about to catch up with him. Sze-To was a former judo champion known as the “Judo Golden Boy”. However, as he prepared for a competition with fellow judoka Kong, Sze-To mysterious disappeared and his life took a downfall from his gambling and drinking.

Tony is a fellow judoka who spends his time challenging various experts and he wants to challenge Sze-To. Meanwhile, a young woman named Mona is attempting to start a career in Hong Kong as a singer. She meets Sze-To, who gives her a job at the nightclub while Tony is given a job as a saxophonist, on the promise that Sze-To will eventually accept his challenge.

One night at the club, Sze-To is besieged by a loan shark he stole money from, fellow shareholders of the club, and his former teacher Master Chang. Mona is besieged by her agent, who only plans to exploit her. Tony is exploited by goons he had challenged and defeated. The night turns into chaos when all those involved with the trio begin to pick a fight. However, Kong, who has wanted to have that long awaited match with Sze-To also arrives at the club and takes out all who stand in his way.

When Tony challenges Kong, his arm is dislocated and devises a way to counter Kong’s attacks. Meanwhile, Sze-To begins to evaluate his life after his master dies in a competition. He soon begins a road to discovering who he truly is, accepting both challenges from Tony and Kong to prove he still has the spirit of judo within him.

Johnnie To shows that he truly an auteur in Hong Kong cinema. While he started out doing martial arts films in the 1990’s, he is more known for his work with his trademark style of action and exhilarating dramatic storylines. With this film, he melds the genre he first started with (martial arts) and the genre he works with now (modern action/drama) into one of the most exhilarating films of the millennium.

While To could have picked any style of martial art to focus on, one can’t help wonder what To was thinking when decided to focus on the martial art of judo. Judo is a Japanese art that consists of mainly throwing your opponent, hence the name of the film. Hollywood legend James Cagney used this style of martial art in his World War II-set piece Blood on the Sun while legendary director Akira Kurosawa focused on the art in his 1943 classic Sanshiro Sugata, which is referenced in this film by Master Chang’s mentally challenged son Jing.

Let’s start with the cast and their performances. Louis Koo delivers a knockout performance as Sze-To, a man going through a downward spiral due to his constant gambling and drinking at the nightclub he owns. One would never think Sze-To was a former judoka until young fighter Tony arrives. Aaron Kwok delivers an interesting performance as Tony. Reasons behind as to why he challenges Tony may seem one way, but the truth is revealed towards the finale. Kwok and To have worked with each other before in the 1993 film The Barefooted Kid. Veteran To cast member Cherrie Ying gives one of her best performances as Mona, a young woman who just wants to be famous. Her subplot truly drives the film and becomes somewhat of a catalyst for the road Sze-To must embark on to rediscovering himself, whole Mona attempts to make a better life for herself as well. As for Tony Leung Ka-Fai, he doesn’t offer much dramatic wise, but action wise, his few scenes show lots of impact.

The action in this film is well done. Choreographed by To’s veteran stunt coordinator Yuen Bun, the art of judo truly stands out here. The cast trained in the art prior to the film and they look simply great. Aaron Kwok is perhaps the stand out of the cast and he uses a combination of throws and a scissor leg/armbar technique to choke out his opponent. He also knocks down the club’s bodyguard in friendly bets before entering the club. While Louis Koo doesn’t really fight until the final half-hour, he does well too and this would come in handy a few years later when he studied a bit of mixed martial arts with Donnie Yen’s stunt team for Flash Point. As mentioned, Tony Leung Ka-Fai just makes an impact on the screen when he arrives. The finale, pitting Koo and Leung, takes place in a grassy field, perhaps a tribute to some of the greatest martial arts film over time.

Throw Down truly marks Johnnie To’s return to the martial arts genre without losing his style for modern action and drama. Great performances and exhilarating judo fights make this a worthy martial arts film.


China Star Entertainment and One Hundred Years of Film Co. Ltd. Presents a Milkyway Image (HK) Ltd. Production in association with Sil-Metropole Organisation Ltd. Director: Johnnie To. Producers: Johnnie To and Stephen Lam. Writers: Yau Nan-Hoi, Yip Tin-Shing, and Au Kin-Yee. Cinematography: Cheng Siu-Keung and To Hung-Mo. Editing: David Richardson.

Cast: Louis Koo, Aaron Kwok, Cherrie Ying, Tony Leung Ka-Fai, Jordan Chan, Eddie Cheung, Calvin Choi, Jack Kao, Lo Hoi-Pang, Jimmy Wong, Hung Wai-Leung, Lu Ching-Ting, Ronald Yan.

Shaolin Temple Strikes Back (1981)

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The talented Chen Shan and Mark Long headline this pretty decent film from director Joseph Kuo.

When the Manchus plot to take over China, a princess is en route to safety with entrusted military officer General Kong and young officer Lin Tsai-Shin. However, they are ambushed by Manchu general Long Yi, who proceeds to nearly wipe out the entire envoy. The only ones who manage to escape are the Princess and Tsai-Shin. The Princess decides that the only safe place to go at this point is the Shaolin Temple.

At the Shaolin Temple, Abbot Pure Heart welcomes the duo after hearing of their situation. The Princess makes a fateful decision. While hiding out, Tsai-Shin should become a student and train in Shaolin kung fu. At first hesitant, he eventually agrees and becomes Sze-Lin. Sze-Lin soon learns that the training at Shaolin is very different from that of his former martial arts training.

Meanwhile, Long-Yi is setting up to find a way to kidnap the Princess. In a shocking twist, one of the monks at Shaolin actually belonged to Long-Yi’s gang. When he learns that Long-Yi now wants the Princess dead after kidnapping her, he has a change of heart and decides to join the monks in what will culminate into a showdown between the Shaolin Temple and the Manchu Army.

There have been loads of films that involve the Shaolin Temple and their adversaries. Some of the more famous films include Men from the Monastery, Shaolin Temple, and most recently, Shaolin. However, one can’t help but respect filmmaker Joseph Kuo. He has had the knack for showcasing some amazing talent in his films, from Carter Wong to Hwang Jung-Lee.

Here, Kuo once again tackles the Shaolin Temple as the basis for his film. This time, it is a young Ming imperial guard who becomes a new monk and uses his newfound skills to take on the Manchu army, led by the very talented Chen Shan. Chen is truly one of the most underrated kickers in martial arts cinema. Sporting a shaved head with ponytail and fake moustache, Chen pulls off a great performance as the lead villain while Kuo favorite Mark Long takes the reign as part of the heroes as a drunken monk who is revealed to be an old ally of Chen’s, but retaliates for the heroes when he learns that Chen wants the princess dead, giving Long a conscience.

While Chen and Long are given the top billing, it is Lung Siu-Fei, as imperial guard turned monk Sze-Lin who is actually the central character. While from the beginning, the future Sze-Lin does have some martial arts skills, perhaps the princess felt it will not be enough and thus, have him train at the Temple as a new monk to master more to take on the Army. Siu-Fei’s first scenes with Long provide comic relief but then things get serious when Long takes Sze-Lin as a student.

Max Lee, a.k.a. See Fu Chai, takes the reigns as action choreographer. Lee and his stunt team collaborated well, showcasing some amazing Shaolin skills with a nice training scene involving monks using various weapons. In Shaolin Temple fashion, the film ends with a huge battle between the Shaolin monks and the Manchu army. Long, Chen, and Lung truly stand out in this elaborate sequence as there are bound to be many casualties. However, the only disappointment comes towards the tail end of the final battle sequence. As one can only hope one thing is about to happen, it throws a curveball and not exactly a good one at that.

Despite this minimal flaw, Shaolin Temple Strikes Back is actually a pretty good Joseph Kuo film. Kuo knows his talented cast and utilizes their skills in some elaborate battles, led by a great stunt team.


A Kam Production Studios Film. Director: Joseph Kuo. Producer: Joseph Kuo. Writer: Joseph Kuo. Cinematography: Hui Gam-Tong. Editing: Wong Choi-Hing and Chiang Huang-Hsiung.

Cast: Chen Shan, Mark Long, Chiang Nan, Cliff Ching, Chang Chi-Ping, Cheung Yee-Kwai, Lung Siu-Fei, Ga Hoi, Wong Goon-Hung, Suen Kwok-Ming, Ling Sin.

No Tears for the Dead (2014)

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Korean actor Jang Dong-Gun truly makes his mark in the action genre with this tale of redemption and revenge in which he unleashes one of his best performances.

Gon is a Korean-born man who was abandoned by his mother and is raised by Dai Ban, a Triad leader. He has become one of Dai Ban’s top assassins who is known for carrying out his missions flawlessly. That is, until one night, he makes a mistake that is destined to change his life forever. Accidentally killing a young girl in his latest mission, Gon is forced to carry out one last mission before Dai Ban offers to let him go.

The mission takes Gon back to a place he has not seen in many years: Korea. However, he learns that the target is Choi Mogyeong, who happens to be the mother of the little girl Gon had killed. Mogyeong is a risk manager at an investment firm who unknowingly has evidence against her very own boss, John Lee. Like Gon, Mogyeong is in a downward spiral, taking care of her sick mother while indulging in pills and alcohol to ease her pain. Gon ultimately decides not to kill her, unleashing all fury from both John and Dai Ban, who are revealed to be in cahoots. Dai Ban decides to send his top three enforcers, Juan, Alvaro, and Chaoz to Korea to deal with Gon. Meanwhile, Gon finds himself on a road to redemption to protect Mogyeong but will ultimately have to tell her the truth about her daughter’s death.

Jang Dong-Gun is truly one of Korea’s best known faces and while the film did modestly at the box office, this showcases one of the actor’s best action and dramatic performances to date. As Gon, Jang brings a sense of three personalities: the hard-boiled, take no prisoners assassin; the sorrowful man who feels as if he has nothing in the world and since being a kid, shows that emotion through crying; and finally, a man who seeks redemption to make the wrong things right no matter what it takes and no matter what it can cost.

As for Kim Min-Hee’s Choi Mogyeong, she has a striking similarity to Gon as she feels sorrow through the deaths of her both her husband and daughter. Ironically, Gon is the one who set the wheels in motion for Mogyeong, who despite her top position, indulges in pills stolen from a pharmacist friend and alcohol to ease her pain. While she unknowingly has the evidence against her boss, she soon realizes that she is a wanted target and ultimately must rely on the voice of the very man who caused her sorrow to stay alive.

The film definitely has international flavor, with dialogue in both Korean and English. Brian Tee, best known for his role as “DK” in The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift, looks menacing as lead enforcer Chaoz, who seems to have a soft spot for Gon because of their sworn brotherhood. Out of the trio of enforcers, he seems to have the most respect and loyalty towards Gon as evident in some key scenes. Meanwhile, fellow enforcers Alexander Wraith and Anthony Dilio don’t really care about Gon and would rather make his life hell while Kim Jung-Seong’s John goes from slick businessman with a care to menacing psychopath in a matter of minutes. However, it is his right hand man Byun, played by Kim Hee-Won, goes from loyal sidekick to one insane menace when he realizes he could do much better than where he is now and sets some wheels in motion.

The action scenes are a thrill-a-minute. While most of the film consists of guns blazing and explosion, there are some close quarter combat scenes that don’t rely on the dreaded “shaky-cam” effect. In one stunning piece of a major action sequence, Jang pumps bullets into a

goon and when the goon proceeds to reload his weapon, Jang runs full speed at the goon and delivers a flying knee strike that would make Tony Jaa and Iko Uwais proud. The finale itself is quite nicely done with one of the most “predictable yet shocking at the same time” moments of the film.

While it is not as prolific as The Man from Nowhere, writer-director Lee Jeong-Beom truly crafted a very intricate thriller that is driven by an exciting performance by Jang Dong-Gun. Brian Tee actually helps drive the film as well. Definitely worth a rental with a strong option to buy.


CJ Entertainment presents a Dice Film in association with Musa Productions. Director: Lee Jeong-Beom. Producer: Kim Sung-Woo. Writer: Lee Jeong-Beom. Cinematography: Lee Mo-Gae. Editing: Nam Na-Young

Cast: Jang Dong-Gun, Kim Min-Hee, Brian Tee, Kim Hee-Won, Kim Jung-Seong, Dana Lee, Kim Min-Jae, Lee Young-Ran, Anthony Dilio, Alexander Wraith, Rich Ting, Angela Bullock, Kang Ji-Woo

Burnt (2015)

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A once-talented chef struggles with his past demons during his road to redemption in this drama from director John Wells.

Adam Jones was once considered one of the top chefs in Paris as the protégé of restauranteur Jean-Luc. That is, until he started using drugs and earned a reputation for his drive to perfection. Having ruined everyone’s reputation, Adam leaves for New Orleans, where he cleans up and takes a job shucking oysters. He decides to redeem himself by going to London and start over. He ends up reuniting with Jean-Luc’s son Tony, who now operates the family hotel in London, but things at first don’t go as planned. Using all notions of sabotage, Adam reunites with old friend Michel and finds a new chef-de-partie in Helene, who at first resists Adam.

Despite Adam’s attempt at redemption, he still finds himself at odds with rival restauranteur Reece and in addition, two goons show up and expect Adam to pay a debt from his former drug dealer. When Adam gets his team, including Helene, Michel, ex-con Max, and up-and-comer David, Tony lets Adam open a new restaurant within the hotel, called Langham’s. As Adam’s reputation begins to improve, so does his relationship with Helene and Tony, the latter who can see Adam may still have that perfectionist attitude in him, but sees he has become somewhat more respectable. When Adam and Tony decide to go for a Michelin star, everything truly comes to a head. Will Adam be able to achieve his dream or will his past demons catch up to him?

There is something along the lines of meshing cinema and food that has a theme involving redemption within the chefs. It takes various methods, such as reinvention, attitude, and more for the central character to finally see the light, which allows them to unleash their culinary beauty on screen. In this film, screenwriter Steven Knight and director John Wells took a story from Michael Kalesniko involving a one-time premiere chef whose drug addictions and drive for perfection nearly destroyed him, which becomes the catalyst for his long road to redemption.

Bradley Cooper brings the central character of Adam to light as the driving force of the film. Here, we see Adam at both his best and his worst. At his best, Adam impresses the dining crowd with his food, but at his worst, he is at the level of say a Marco Pierre White, or without saying a level up from a Gordon Ramsay in terms of attitude. The two major players in terms of supporting Adam are Helene, a young sous chef who forges an on-off relationship with him, played by Sienna Miller; and Tony, the hotel manager who despite not being happy with Adam at first sees the potential of him returning to what he should have been doing. Tony is like a “big brother” to Adam and Daniel Brühl really plays the role quite well.

Omar Sy, Riccardo Scamario, and Sam Keeley make the most of their roles as Adam’s staff in the kitchen while Uma Thurman and Emma Thompson also take advantage of their cameos as a food critic and Adam’s therapist respectively. Matthew Rhys does quite well as Reece, a rival to Adam who has a revelation of sorts that at first ups the ante in their rivalry, but a shocking discovery merely brings more of a respectful attitude between these two. Alicia Vikander makes the most of her limited time as Adam’s ex Anne-Marie (who is also Tony’s sister) who may not see Adam on one level, but soon becomes close to him on a level that even he never expected.

Burnt is quite an interesting look at a chef whose climb to the top of the mountain is marred by demons, but helps lead him on a true road of redemption. Bradley Cooper truly is the driving force of the film with the supporting cast making the most of their roles, notably Sienna Miller, Daniel Brühl, and in a turn of events, both Matthew Rhys and Alicia Vikander. If you look culinary films, this is one to give a shot to.


The Weinstein Company presents a 3 Arts Entertainment/Double Feature Films production in association with PeaPie Films. Director: John Wells. Producers: John Wells, Stacey Sher, and Erwin Stoff. Writer: Steven Knight; story by Michael Kalesniko. Cinematography: Adriano Goldman. Editing: Nick Moore.

Cast: Bradley Cooper, Sienna Miller, Daniel Brühl, Riccardo Scarmario, Omar Sy, Sam Keeley, Henry Goodman, Matthew Rhys, Alicia Vikander, Uma Thurman, Emma Thompson, Lexie Benbow-Hart.

Female Fight Squad (2017)

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Amy Johnston goes on a road to redemption in this indie fight film from director Miguel A. Ferrer.

Rebecca “Bex” Holt was once an underground fight champion who has decided to leave that world behind her. Her father Sam has been imprisoned as he was framed for a murder he may or may not have committed. Now working in an animal shelter, Rebecca is forced to use her skills when she confronts two men who plan to find a dog for their illegal dog fighting ring. The fight has gone viral, prompting Rebecca to get a visit from someone she never expected.

Kate, Rebecca’s younger sister, is in debt for $150,000 to a notorious fight ring promoter named Landon Jones. Sam, calling from prison, urges Rebecca to help Kate. Rebecca returns to her family gym, where he is greeted by family friend Zeke and ex-boyfriend Kyle, who has become a police officer. Rebecca trains Kate’s team for an upcoming tournament against Landon’s champion Claire “The Bull”. However, when Rebecca learns the reason for the debt as well as learning that after the tournament, Kate is brutally beaten, Rebecca must return to a world she never imagined going back to but now has ulterior motives.

It seems like martial artist turned stuntman and actor Amy Johnston needs to find a project that will allow her to really showcase her stuff. While one can consider Lady Bloodfight as a stepping stone, despite its lackluster fights, it has a good storyline. The same can be said for her second lead role in a film, this indie fight film that relies less on MMA-style fighting but resorts more to an Americanized-version of perhaps that very film.

It’s not that the film is completely bad. Once again, the film does have a good story. However, in the martial arts film genre, a filmmaker must mesh a good story with some fight scenes worth seeing. And Johnston is truly the best fighter in the film, even if she has to lose against an apparently more superior fighter, and the word “apparently” is really stressed.

More on the action later, but as mentioned, the script, co-written by director Miguel A. Ferrer and Anastajza Davis, brings a sense of redemption for Johnston’s Rebecca, aka Bex, a legend in underground fighting who had left the world in order to tend to animals in need. She finds herself immersed back in the world of fighting when she becomes the trainer for a group of fellow fighters including younger sister Kate, played by Cortney Palm. The reasoning behind the debt is one that will make you feel sympathy for Kate as it involves her young daughter Lily.

Rey Goyos seems to ham it up as notorious fight ring promoter Landon Jones, who not only likes to build bird houses in his free time, but tends to use some bird analogies at times as well. Never Back Down’s Sean Faris makes the most of his role as Kyle, the police officer who was once a romantic interested to Bex and somewhat rekindles it. It would have been cool considering his past films, to have seen him throw down, but sadly, it never happens. Dolph Lundgren makes the most of his time as Sam, Bex and Kate’s father, who even gets his own fight scene in prison with Chuck Zito being the “father figure” to replace Sam and provides a bit of comic relief.

The fight scenes are quite lackluster for the most part, due to the all too familiar problem with close-ups and cutting. However, as mentioned, Johnston can sell a fight and does so in two throwdowns against Michelle Jubilee Gonzalez, as Landon’s champion Claire The Bull. However, when Johnston does finally let loose, she proves to be a vital fighter. In other words, it is clear that Amy Johnston has the tools to become the next big female fight film star. Here’s hoping Amy will get to finally show what she can really do in the upcoming Accident Man with the likes of Scott Adkins.

Female Fight Squad suffers from the same issue as Lady Bloodfight: good storyline but less than impressive fights. However, it is safe to say these two are just mere stepping stones as Amy Johnston truly can prove she can fight and sell a fight as well. Let’s hope Accident Man will let her unleash her true skills on screen.


Cineville presents a FFC Productions/Tadross Media Group production in association with Parkside Pictures. Director: Miguel A. Ferrer. Producers: Michael Tadross Jr., Sonja Mereu, Frederic Demey, and Carl Colpaert. Writers: Miguel A. Ferrer and Anastazja Davis. Cinematography: Kristoffer Carillo. Editing: Yvan Gauthier.

Cast: Amy Johnston, Cortney Palm, Rey Goyos, Dolph Lundgren, Sean Faris, Chuck Zito, Michelle Jubilee Gonzalez, Shaun Brown, Levy Tran, Folake Olowofoyeku, Jeanette Samano, Briana Marin, Lexy Kolker, Boni Yanagisawa.

TRAILER: Goon – Last of the Enforcers

Doug Glatt is back and he’s taking all comers in this long awaited sequel to the hockey comedy which brings back Seann William Scott in the titular role.

After one too many injuries, hockey enforcer Doug Glatt is forced to give up his aspirations of going to the big show and settle into a buttoned down career as an insurance salesman at the urging of his pregnant wife Eva. However, Doug can’t resist the siren call of the Highlanders, so he sets course to reclaim his former glory.

Returning alongside Scott for this new installment are Alison Pill, Jay Baruchel, Kim Coates, Marc-Andre Grondin, and Liev Schreiber. Wyatt Russell plays Glatt’s new rival in the film along with T.J. Miller as a hilarious sports anchor.

Baruchel makes his feature film directorial debut on the film from a script he co-wrote with Jesse Chabot.

Goon: Last of the Enforcers will be released in theaters and Digital HD on September 1 from Momentum Pictures.

Ant-Man (2015)

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Marvel’s “tiniest” superhero has arrived and is a fun film thanks to the performance of its lead star.

Scott Lang is a small-time thief who has been having major issues. After getting caught so many times, he finds himself unable to take care of his young daughter. In addition, he finds himself in constant battle with his ex-wife and her new boyfriend. Desperate to make money for his daughter, Scott pulls off a heist with his friend Luis and others. In the heist, Scott finds a suit and snatches it. The suit will change Scott’s life forever.

When Scott tries on the suit, he learns he is now the size of an ant and decides to return the suit. However, he is busted the police and put in prison. He meets the man who owns the suit, Dr. Henry Pym, a former scientist from S.H.I.E.L.D. who was forced out of his own company after his former protégé Darrin Cross created a similar suit, the Yellowjacket. Pym, much to the chagrin of his daughter Hope, decides to take Scott under his wing and train him to use the Ant-Man suit properly. As they train, Cross’ intentions are revealed, eventually forcing Ant-Man and Yellowjacket to get into battle, thus turning Scott into something he never imagined.

Marvel Studios’ takes on the likes of Captain America, The Hulk, and Iron Man have been successful. So when it was first announced, the idea of an Ant-Man movie was quite a shock. The character was created by Stan Lee, Larry Lieber, and Jack Kirby and made his debut in 1962 with Hank Pym originating the suit. The character of Scott Lang was created by David Michelinie and John Byrne and debuted in 1979. For this live action adaptation, both the original and the second Ant-Man are featured with Paul Rudd taking the role of Lang and Michael Douglas as Pym.

Rudd, known for his comic genius in films like The 40 Year Old Virgin and This is 40, meshes a serious and comic performance in the role of Lang. Lang truly cares about his daughter and will do whatever it takes for her, even stealing. Much of the comic relief when it comes to Rudd happens during his training to hone his newfound skills, in which at times, he gets a beating from Evangeline Lilly’s Hope. As for Douglas, he brings his old school approach to the role of Pym, who feels betrayed on all accounts before seeing Lang as the one who could bring him a sense of redemption.

There are cameos from other Marvel Cinematic Universe characters such as Anthony Mackie’s Falcon from Captain America: The Winter Soldier, Hayley Atwell as Peggy Carter, and John Slattery as Howard Stark, the dad of the hero Iron Man himself. While all three are cameos, it is Mackie’s Falcon who gets in one some great action in his first meeting with Ant-Man, which leads into an end credit sequence that also has two more MCU characters in the fray.

The visual effects and action are truly fun to watch. Rudd’s first scene in the Ant-Man suit is a trip as he is in the bathtub the size of an ant and he is truly scared as heck. The battles between Ant-Man and Corey Stoll’s villainous Yellowjacket are quite a hoot and using new technology can make object not only shrink but grow. In one of the funniest parts of the action, look for a “special” appearance by Thomas the Tank Engine and in a very unexpected manner. Rudd would reprise the role in Captain America: Civil War and will return in 2018’s Ant-Man and the Wasp.

Ant-Man is a fun Marvel action film with some a great performance by Paul Rudd along with Michael Douglas and Evangeline Lilly giving wonderful support.


A Marvel Studios Production. Director: Peyton Reed. Producer: Kevin Feige. Writers: Stan Lee, Larry Lieber, Jack Kirby, David Michelinie and John Byrne (original characters); Edgar Wright and Joe Cornish (story and screenplay); Paul Rudd and Adam McKay (screenplay). Cinematography: Russell Carpenter. Editing: Dan Lebental and Colby Parker Jr.

Cast: Paul Rudd, Michael Douglas, Evangeline Lilly, Corey Stoll, Michael Peña, Judy Greer, Bobby Cannavale, Abby Ryder Fortson, Anthony Mackie, David Dastmalchian, Tip “T.I.” Harris, Wood Harris, Hayley Atwell, John Slattery.