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36th Chamber 12/8

Welcome to Inside Kung-Fu’s new Entertainment Section named for the Liu Chia-liang classic 36th Chamber of Shaolin (US: Master Killer).
In that kung-fu masterpiece, priest San-Te (Gordon Liu) mastered all of the Shaolin Temple’s 35 chambers of training, and was asked which he would want to teach in. He responded with the creation of the 36th chamber: which was the rest of the world outside the temple walls.
So, for the last 25 years I’ve been doing the same for martial art movies — spreading the word outside studio walls through this magazine, books, TV shows, movie consulting, DVDs, and seminars at colleges and pop culture conventions all over the planet.
Now, finally, I have a 36th Chamber all my own. Let’s get started!

RIC’S REPORTS

Dateline America — two of the U.S.’s most renowned martial artistes have announced their next projects.
As the TV ads bleat: “the critics agree!”, but in this case it’s absolutely true: the latest Rambo was one lean, mean fighting machine – a nifty work o’art from the mind of Rocky himself, Sylvester Stallone.
The worldwide boxoffice and DVD sales were so sweet that production company Nu Image wanted more from the Italian Stallion, and Sly replied with a script for The Expendables, an all-new “A-Team-ish” project about a group of exceptional mercenaries taking on a South American dictator.
Stallone has gathered a real A-Team of actors to fill the roles, starting with The Transporter himself, Jason Statham. At the time of this writing Jet Li was in deep discussions to join the cast, and now there’s even talk that the original Punisher, Dolph Lundgren, has signed on.
If all this comes to pass, it’ll be the best bunch of action stars since Arnold’s Predator and a double reunion (Jason and Jet after The One and War, while Sly and Dolph battled in Rocky IV)!
Stallone will co-star and direct as well, with Rambo executive producers Boaz Davidson and Danny Dimbort also reuniting for the picture. It all promises to be a rip-snorter to say the least.

Meanwhile the aikido ace himself, Steven Seagal, has taken a breather from all his fun ‘n’ furious direct-to-DVD features (the latest being Kill Switch, with three more in the ’09 pipeline) to add “reality TV lead” to his resume. Prepping for a 2009 premiere is Steven Seagal: Lawman, a “non-fiction” series for the A&E channel.
According to reports, Seagal has been temping as a fully commissioned deputy with New Orleans’ Jefferson Parish County Sheriff’s Office for nearly twenty years, up to and including the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina in 2005. The show will follow Seagal’s real life exploits, on and off the Bourbon Street beat.
“I decided to work with A&E on this series,” Seagal reported, “because I believe it’s important to show the nation all the positive work being accomplished here in Louisiana.”
If this effort proves fruitful, maybe another titanic TV teamup could be created. Anyone want to see the return of “Walker Texas Rangers” starring Chuck Norris and Steven Seagal? Now that would be a partnership made in martial arts paradise.

Dateline Asia: with both Donnie Yen and famed cult director Wong Kar-wai prepping bio-pics about Bruce Lee’s teacher Yip Man, several other “heavenly kings of kung-fu Cantowood” have announced their future plans.
Universally renowned kung-fu choreographer Yuen Wo-ping held a press conference to announce True Legend, a movie showcasing Beggar So, a beloved Chinese folk hero who Yuen originally made internationally famous via Drunken Master. There, his own father, Simon Yuen Siu-tien, played So, who taught great kung-fu to the young Wong Fei-hong, played by Jackie Chan.
The new production features Andy On, who fought Jackie in New Police Story, Sammo in Dragon Heat, and Wu Jing in Fatal Contact. Meanwhile singing superstar Jay Chou plays Beggar So’s sifu, after having graced such other hits as Initial D and Kung Fu Dunk.
But the man who will follow Yuen’s late father in the leading role is none other than Vincent Zhao Wen-zhou, Jet Li’s replacement in the Once Upon A Time In China series, who, most recently, made a name for himself in such great television series as Book and Sword, The Storm Riders: Wind and Cloud, and Seven Swords.

Meanwhile the man made famous by Drunken Master, the Chan man himself, is not resting on his laurels. Having finished filming on a local thriller called The Shinjuku Incident (which is being prepped for a 2009 premiere), Jackie is dividing his attention between The Spy Next Door, an American, family-friendly, adventure comedy (directed by Brian Levant, the man who brought us the live action Flintstones), and his own project, Junior Soldiers, which he plans to write, produce and star in.
Described as a “road movie in period costume set during the Qin dynasty,” it is set for a 2010 release. You can read more about it, and much more, here as production carries on.

RIC’S PICKS [RicPicks logo]

DVD
Speaking of the Chan man, if you haven’t picked up Dragon Dynasty’s first 2009 release, don’t delay. As of this writing, it’s scheduled to be Supercop (a.k.a. Police Story 3), the triumphant teaming of Jackie and Michelle Yeoh, who was returning to film after a half-decade marital retirement. Hopefully, this special edition version is burning up the shelves, but with the current worldwide economic outlook, it’s anyone’s guess.
In any case, it was supposed to hit the streets on January 13, complete with interviews with co-stars Chan and Michelle Yeoh as well as director Stanley Tong. Let’s hope it made it because Dragon Dynasty has already released Police Story one and two, so this would wrap up the trilogy in a style befitting the groundbreaking quality of Chan’s cinematic achievement.

While we wait breathlessly to see if Supercop survived, Magnolia Home Entertainment has already offered Mercury Man, a cross between Ong-Bak: Thai Warrior and Spider-Man…almost literally.
The producers, director, and stunt coordinator for the milestone film that introduced super muy thai master Tony Jaa to the world now sets its sight on superhero actioners. But rather than being bitten by radioactive arachnids, a noble Thai fireman is pierced with a power-giving amulet, setting him on the road to mayhem when faced with forces who want all that superness for themselves.
It’s frantic, frenetic, funky, fiery fun, complete with a “making of” doc, and the director’s audio commentary. If you’ve never tried spicy Thai cinema, this may be the dish that’ll whet your appetite.

TV

Even if Thai fare isn’t to your taste, you can still get your fill of martial arts on two stations: Saturday mornings on ABC and anytime on the Voom Networks’ Kung Fu HD cable channel.
Believe it or not, the best place (still!) for solid stances and terrific technique is Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers, now titled Power Rangers: Jungle Fury. Now almost entirely produced in New Zealand, the creative team give some noticeable nods and wise winks to hopping “gyonshi” vampires as well as the legendary 5 Deadly Venoms in their latest tale of young, costumed, martial art protectors who save the world from malicious, magnifying, monsters every … single … week.
Then, things really opened up on Kung Fu HD once the Voom Network made a deal with Celestial Pictures to show more than thirty remastered, widescreen Shaw Brothers classics (both subtitled and dubbed) in addition to the best samurai and wushu wonders.
Now, in addition to the best of Jackie, Bruce, Michelle, Sammo, Toshiro Mifune, and Zatoichi, you can see Liu Chia-liang, Gordon Liu, Lo Lieh, Ti Lung, David Chiang, Jimmy Wang Yu, Alexander Fu Sheng, and many others in their absolute glory.
None of these movies have ever looked better, and with Voom’s 24/7 schedule you can savor the tiniest details over and over again.