2015 Martial Arts Movies

NOTE: I’ve revised this post with up-to-date information. Please see that post here.

My third annual preview of martial arts movies will be presented in two installments. Many of the movies in the latter half of the year do not yet have release dates or trailers by January. Ergo, I’m posting the first part now, and will do a revision in mid-summer.

“Martial arts movie” is a bit ambiguous. Almost every action movie features martial arts. The leaked teaser for Ant-Man was pretty much a sequence of Scott Lang (Ant-Man) fighting his way through a corridor to access an elevator. So, does such a movie get included? I’ve opted against putting every action film with a kick in it into this post. Yet, I don’t want to stick to films that feature martial arts cliches (e.g. they killed my master, an evil billionaire is hosting a death match tournament, they killed me and left me for dead, etc.)  I, therefore, use the admittedly subjective litmus test of whether there would be a movie if one took away the martial arts and replaced it with brawling–not just whether it would be a less slick movie with a diminished “woo” factor.

I’ve tried to go as international as possible this year, including Bollywood (using the term colloquially if not precisely) and SE Asian releases in addition to the usual Hong Kong & Hollywood fare.

 

Underdog Kids (January 16): Described on IMDb as: “Inner city kids from a poor neighborhood go up against the undefeated Beverly Hills Junior National Karate Team.” I’ve seen no trailer for this, just a poster:
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Wild Card (January 30): This may be a cheat given what I said above. However, it’s a Jason Statham film, and like the “Transporter” films it probably doesn’t amount to much without the ass-kickery. Let’s face it, you’re not going to see Jason Statham for his extensive acting range.

Dragon Blade (February 19): Featuring Jackie Chan, John Cusack, and Adrien Brody. This is a period piece, and–as you can tell from the casting–is big budget as martial arts flicks go.

Wolf Warrior (March 1) [China]: This looks like more of a shoot-em-up action film than a martial arts film, but some have listed it as a martial arts film and the close quarters action is definitely reminiscent of a martial arts film.

Skin Trade (April): This film stars Tony Jaa and Dolph Lundgren as the good guys and Ron Perlman as the villain. As the title suggests, it’s set around a theme of human trafficking.

Bollywood Dragon  (May 15) [India]: The blurb for this one is: “An English martial arts instructor travels to Mumbai to identify her twin sister’s body, discovering she lived a mysterious life among the criminal underworld and decides to investigate by being her.”
There is no trailer up for this movie as of yet.

The Kickboxer: City of Blood: (May 15): This is a different project than the Bautista / Van Damme / Carano film that was originally titled “Kickboxer” and is now going by “Kickboxer: Vengence,” but there’s no graphic publicity out on it yet. It may not come out as scheduled.

The Transporter Legacy (June 19): Another “Transporter” film, but Ed Skrein plays the role of Frank Martin in this one. As with “Wild Card” it may be a cheat to include it as a martial arts film, but car chases don’t get these movies all the way to watchability.
I haven’t seen a trailer, but there are still photos.
TransporterLegacy

The Boy and the Beast (July 11) [Japan]: This also may be a cheat because it’s an animated film, but martial arts does seem to be a prominent feature of the work. (I believe I included one of the Kung fu Panda movies in one of my past posts, so I think this is fair game.)

Brothers (July 31) [India, in Hindi]: An Indian remake of the American film Warriors. In the American movie, two estranged brothers must fight each other in an MMA bout. (Hence the name of the Indian version, Brothers.) There’s not a proper trailer out, but there is this:

Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon: The Green Legend (August 28): Interestingly, this sequel to an immensely popular film will be released on Netflix and IMAX simultaneously. If this were some risky, low-budget film, going straight to Netflix wouldn’t be at all surprising, but this is the sequel to a movie that was (maybe still is) the highest grossing foreign language film playing in America. If this bold move pays off, it could be the beginning of a new paradigm of movie releases. [Also with The Interview going with an unconventional release owing to North Korean threats and intervention, there maybe a great deal learned about alternatives to a traditional film release.]
CTHD2

The Bodyguard (undesignated Summer release) [China]: Featuring and directed by Sammo Hung.
sammo-hung-740x400

Movies with unspecified release dates:

SPL (Sha Po Lang) II / A Time for Consequences / SPL2: Rise of Wong Po [China]: This Hong Kong film will feature Thai superstar Tony Jaa. (Is he in everything? Have they cloned him, or does he not need to sleep, eat, and poop like the rest of us.)
SPL_II_Teaser_Poster,_Apr_2014

The Chemist: A grain of salt on the 2015 release, please. This is an “assasin-who-can’t-bear-to-kill-his-victim-and-ends-up-protecting-her-instead” film.

Pound of Flesh: Jean-Claude Van Damme. The blurb says: “A man’s heroic attempt to help a woman in distress ends up with him waking up the next day without a kidney and plotting his revenge.”
PoundofFleshMovie

Kickboxer: Vengence: Featuring Dave Bautista, Jean-Claude Van Damme, and Gina Carano.

The Martial Arts Kid: As the unimaginative title (generic knock-off of the alliterative “Karate Kid”?) suggests, this is low budget. It features past martial arts competitors like Don Wilson and Cynthia Rothrock.
MartialArtsKid

Ultimate Justice [Germany]: The blurb on IMDb reads: “A team of former elite soldiers are drawn back into action when the family of one of their own is attacked.”
I haven’t seen any publicity for this movie yet.

The Monk (Summer) [China]:This movie is based on a popular Chinese novel entitled Dao Shi Xia Shan (A Monk Comes Down the Mountain.)
I’ve seen no graphic publicity on this one, and the novel has apparently not been translated to English, so I don’t have much to tell you.

Unlikely 2015 Releases:

Stan Lee’s Annihilator: IMDb has it listed for an unspecified 2015 release. If so, those involved are better at keeping secrets than anyone else in Hollywood.

Showdown in Manila: Featuring Mark Dacascos. It’s supposed to begin filming early in February, so a release this year is unlikely. It’s said to be like “The Expendables.” I assume that means that it’s a big cast of past super-stars, but it might just mean that it sucks badly.

Robot Karateka Threat Underwhelming

Worried that Terminator-like robots may kick humanity out its pole position among sentient beings? You can sleep well tonight. A news report today suggests that the Karate Kid’s kicking dominance is not yet under threat by Robo-karateka.  In other words, Ralph Macchio can still out kick the state of the art karate robot. The Cobra Kai’s plans to achieve world dominance via a fleet of Karate androids have been thwarted for the time being.

 

2014 Science Fiction Movies

Here’s the 2014 slate of sci-fi films. I didn’t include superhero films (because I did a post on them yesterday) nor did I include those that might be best classified in other speculative fiction genres (e.g. horror, supernatural, or fantasy.)

WELCOME TO YESTERDAY; February 21st

If you don’t think teenagers are safe to drive cars, imagine the chaos they’d create in a time machine.

DIVERGENT; March 21st

This is based on one of the popular dystopian Young Adult (YA) novels of late. I’m not saying that it’s just like the Hunger Games trilogy or Maze Runner–both of which also have movies coming out in 2014–but it’s clearly the subgenre du jour. In this YA dystopia, people are divided into five classes by testing, but some are divergent–defying classification.

UNDER THE SKIN; April 4th (US, previously released elsewhere)

An alien seductress lures hitchhikers into her van with nefarious purpose (and maybe lollipops.) Moral: if Scarlett Johansson tries to pick you up in a serial killeresque van, think twice; and then get in because it’s Scarlett-freakin’ Johansson.

EARTH TO ECHO; April 25th

Kids discover an alien. It sounds a lot like ET.

THE SCRIBBLER; May 1st
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Supposedly based upon the graphic novel of the same name, which would make this about a girl with multiple personality disorder who partakes in an experimental treatment called the “Siamese Burn.”

GODZILLA; May 16th

The latest attempt to revive Godzilla–using CGI to make him bigger and uglier than previously imaginable.

EDGE OF TOMORROW; June 6th

Like Groundhog Day but with guns and explosions.

THE PURGE 2; June 20th

Sequel to the movie about a dystopian future in which all laws are set aside for a short period once a year.

DAWN OF THE PLANET OF THE APES; July 11th

This one takes place after the escape shown in the last PotA movie (w/ James Franco) and a pandemic and war that followed, but before humanity is completely enslaved by the damn, dirty apes.

JUPITER ASCENDING; July 25th

A nobody Earthling, played by Mila Kunis, turns out to be the most important woman in the Universe. Naturally, lots of people want her dead.

THE GIVER; August 15th
200px-The_Giver_Cover
Based on the popular YA novel. One person’s utopia is another person’s hell.

RESIDENT EVIL 6; September 12th
Resident_Evil_6_box_artwork
Wow! They’ve made six of these? Way to milk it. Just kidding. I’m sure it will be novel and interesting.

MAZE RUNNER; September 19th
mazerunner
Another YA dystopian adventure. Lord of the Flies meets Hunger Games?

INTERSTELLAR; November 7th

A huge Christopher Nolan film about interstellar travel.

MOCKINGJAY, Pt. I; November 21st
Mockingjay
The first part of the third book in this trilogy, because why make three movies based on three, thin YA novels when you can make four movies based on three, thin YA novels.

HOME; November 26th
200px-The_True_Meaning_of_Smekday_cover
This film is supposedly based on the above book. It’s about an 11 year old who must survive on her own after her mother is abducted by aliens.

Other potential sci-fi releases of unknown date and quality:



THE ZERO THEOREM; no US release date set; the UK release is supposed to be in March

It’s about a man trying to solve a theorem, but with all sorts of craziness in the mix.



MAX STEEL; based on a line of toys (promising.)
SPACE STATION 76; that 70’s sci-fi movie.
GLIMMER; more teen time travel [shudders]

2014 Superhero Movies

Here’s an overview of the upcoming year’s superhero movies.

 



I, FRANKENSTEIN; January 24th

Frankenstein’s monster may not the usual superhero, but it’s based on a graphic novel and the demon-battling premise seems heroic enough.



ROBOCOP; February 12th

This is also one you might not think of this as a superhero movie, I include it because there was a Marvel comic based on the movie and if Iron Man is a superhero…



CAPTAIN AMERICA: THE WINTER SOLDIER; April 4th

The second Captain America installment and the third of the five Marvel Phase II films. After taking on some high level conspiracies, Captain America finds himself battling his old sidekick’s villainous alter ego, i.e. The Winter Soldier.



AMAZING SPIDERMAN 2; May 2nd

The sequel finds Spiderman facing Electro and–to a lesser degree–Rhino.



X-MEN: DAYS OF FUTURE PAST; May 23rd

As the confusing title implies, this is a time travel story in which events in the past must be changed to avert a grim future. Wolverine is sent back to affect this change.



TRANSFORMERS 4: AGE OF EXTINCTION; June 27th
220px-Transformers4_Teaser_Poster
OK, this is more a toy movie than a superhero movie, but cars that turn into robots seem super in my book. That’s not to say there isn’t a better than average chance the movie will stink.



GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY; August 1st
220px-Guardians_of_the_Galaxy_logo
It’s still early. There’s no trailer out as of this posting.



TEENAGE MUTANT NINJA TURTLES; August 8th
No trailer or images out, and little is known except this is about as ridiculous a premise for a movie as is imaginable.



BIG HERO 6; November 7th
Big_Hero_6_logo
This is an animated Marvel project. A robotics prodigy and his creation team up with amateur crime-fighters to put an end to a nefarious plot.

2014 Martial Arts Movies

[My 2015 Martial Arts Movies post can be visited here.]

Here are some of the known or suspected martial arts movies for the new year.

 

RAZE; January 10, 2014

A film to appeal to guys who make the RAARRW noise when they see two girls get in a fight, but to the extreme.

I, FRANKENSTEIN; January 24, 2014

OK, this is better labeled sci-fi as it’s based on the premise that Shelley’s monster lived into the future. However, I heard that Aaron Eckhart spent six months learning Kali for the film, so I’ll throw it in the pot. (Also, all martial arts films are cross-genre anyway.)

ENEMIES CLOSER; January 24, 2014 (US release)

A Jean-Claude Van Damme film in which two enemies must come together to avoid being killed by a common enemy.

SPECIAL ID; The Chinese release was in 2013, but there may be a US release in March 2014

This is a 2013 Donnie Yen action film that was not released in the US, but may be soon.

JOURNEY TO THE WEST; March 7, 2014

For those who liked Kungfu Hustle (and who didn’t) this one should appeal. It’s a period piece, but with the same kind of humor and visual affects as Kungfu Hustle.

THE RAID 2; March 28, 2014

This is a sequel to the 2011 Indonesian film produced by Gareth Evans.

ICEMAN; April 3, 2014

The latest Donnie Yen film. It’s about an ancient Chinese warrior who is unfrozen and kicks ass in the modern age.

TEENAGE MUTANT NINJA TURTLES; August 8, 2014

Another attempt to capitalize on the inexplicable popularity of this cartoon. But I’ll give it a chance.

THE MONKEY KING; September 14, 2014

A new play on the popular Chinese folk tale.

Indonesian Snake Massage

A Python, but no massage

A Python, but no massage

What could be more relaxing and luxuriating than laying on a massage table and having pythons heaped upon one to slither and writhe their way around one’s body? Many people might answer that question with replies like, “being set on fire”, “a prostate exam”, or “a pop math quiz.” Yet, some people dig this unusual form of therapy, and are willing to pay big bucks for it.

If you’ve traveled in the third world, you know that there are ever new and innovative attempts to bilk tourists out of cash. However, there has to be something to a weird idea for it to really take hold. Consider the ubiquitous Southeast Asian “fish massage.” I’ve tried it. It isn’t really a massage, but it does involve fish–namely little fish that eat away one’s dead skin cells to exfoliate and tickle at the same time. I don’t know if the fish massage does much good, but it feels weird, has some novelty to it, and is a good way to both get off one’s feet and experience ten minutes without someone trying to sell one something else odd and questionable.

Will the python massage (no, that is not a euphemism, innuendo, or a phrase from bad erotica) survive? I believe it will. Why? Because behind every insane idea there are drunk backpackers with Type-A personalities challenging one another to “go for it.”

The Force of Nature

This video begins on the peaceful banks of a river in a nondescript Japanese town. The first minutes of footage is unremarkable except that the water level is quite low, but as it might be in dry season or low tide. Then there is a shrill siren and an urgent warning by loudspeaker–events that will replay periodically throughout the video. Twenty-five minutes later, the camera is fixed on throngs of people trapped on a rooftop across the river. Dawn slinked in and it would be too dark to see these rooftop refugees, but they are silhouetted by the glow of the fires that rage in the background. In the footage in between, one sees houses and ships being carried by the water as if they were a child’s toys washed away by an overturned bucket of water–but brown, debris-laden water that is roiling and churning. Eventually, we see the river reverse its flow.

Someone posted this on Facebook yesterday. I watched all 25 minutes of it. Who watches 25 minutes of shaky, hand-shot home movie? Not me, normally, but I was compelled by the force of nature. They say that one of the things that differentiates humans from even our closest primate brethren is that humans routinely achieve the identical physiological state emotionally from remembering tragedy as from experiencing it first hand–or sometimes even through being exposed to them remotely.

I thought about this force of nature, at first in the literal sense–a pedestrian bridge swept away and freighters swept up a normally unnavigable river. Then I wrote the first 1,000 words or so on a short story entitled The Ghost Ship Onryō that was inspired by watching the tsunami and remembering the news stories it triggered. The story is quite dark, as matched my mood for much of yesterday. Such is the force of nature, to compel me to change my plans and to morph my emotional state through ripples that continue to expand years after the event.

TODAY’S RANT: Viral Video Advertising

I recently saw this posted on Facebook. I, being a doofus, believed I had stumbled upon the black box recording that would show archaeologists the moment it all went sour for the human race– the dawn of the rise of the apes. As soon as our self-aware brethren learn to take our technology and use it against us, we are surely doomed. Being damned dirty, the apes will own humans. [Participle dangle intended.]

Of course, I felt compelled to do a Snopes check because– believe it or not– sometimes people put things on the internet which are fake. I know, I know, hard to believe.

It turns out the video is a piece of viral advertising for the next Planet of the Apes movie. “Lesser” primate use of technology is still about right here:

Viral advertising is the latest craze. One leaks intriguing footage onto YouTube and doesn’t label it or say what it is.  Then you hope a bunch of schmucks fall for it, and they will– because that’s the defining characteristic of we schmucks. It’s tautological.  This kind of video will stick in one’s mind and get more media attention than would a regular trailer.

The problem is that movie-makers have the ability to make really convincing fakes. (That’s what they do.) My well-read reader will certainly have heard of the Orson Welles War of the Worlds incident. People who didn’t hear the beginning of the broadcast, which was formatted like a news bulletin, freaked out about the alien invasion. Some people jumped out windows (why, I have no idea. I don’t think they thought the value of that through.) Some people fled to Canada (assuming, of course, that the aliens wouldn’t be interested in that icy wasteland.)

My problem with all this isn’t that people are duped; it’s the “boy who cried wolf” effect. One day when we’re under attack by aliens, apes, or artificial intelligence, people are going to be like, “Dude, that’s a really convincing looking ray-gun… NOT!”

2013: The Year of Post-Post-Apocalyptic Sci-fi

If the sci-fi movies of 2013 reflect a zeitgeist, then we’re shifting from a people who think bad things await the Earth to a people who think we’ll have to abandon the planet altogether. That’s a prevailing theme in the upcoming big box-office movies of the genre. In <em>Oblivion</em>, Tom Cruise plays a drone repairman who at least believes himself to be one of the last people on the planet. In <em>After Earth</em>, Will Smith and his son (in character and real life) return to an Earth devoid of humanity. In <em>Elysium</em>, not everyone has left Earth, but everyone who is anyone has.

There are still a few of the traditional dystopian visions in which some dire fate confronts humanity on Earth. World War Z is a movie adaptation of Max Brooks’ novel that brought the Zombie back to life (admittedly bad pun intended.) It features Brad Pitt battling an ever expanding horde of “fast zombies.” Pacific Rim envisions giant alien monsters coming through a dimensional portal at the bottom of the ocean, and the giant robots humanity creates to battle them. The movie adaptation of Orson Scott Card’s novel Ender’s Game, while largely about the training of the genius Ender Wiggin, also imagines an Earth in peril from an alien threat. Even the new Star Trek movie at least partially abandons frolicking in deep space in favor of confronting an evil genius who threatens Earth.

Oblivion


Star Trek Into Darkness

After Earth


World War Z


Pacific Rim


Elysium


Ender’s Game