36th Chamber 2/09

Here we are, the third installment of Inside Kung-Fu’s new Entertainment Section — named in honor of Liu Chia-liang’s classic 36th Chamber of Shaolin — where, like “Master Killer” San-te before me, I try to bring kung-fu out from behind exclusive walls to the wild, weird world.


Dateline America:
The buzz is growing, and not just for the new movie version of The Green Hornet either (first it seemed dead, but now it’s back to life, although, as of this writing, no new boss has been named following the stepping down of “Kato” Stephen Chow from the director’s chair … although that famous “Kung Fu Hustler” is now plotting his own movie with a wish list of Jack Black and Anne Hathaway). No, the biggest buzz remains with The Expendables, writer/director/star Sylvester Stallone’s new project.
First pics surfaced of Stallone with mass mercenary tattoos — the man looking far more ripped and ready than any 60+ filmmaker has any right to be. Then the cast list kept growing by impressive leaps and thrilling bounds. Now, in addition to Sly and previously announced co-stars Jet Li, Jason Statham, and Dolph Lundgren, comes newly awarded winner Mickey Rourke, previous Oscar winners Ben Kingsley and Forest Whitaker, mixed martial artist Randy Couture, and maybe even Sandra Bullock — who last fought alongside Sly in Demolition Man many moons ago (memorably evoking the then-esoteric name “Jackie Chan” in one of her most oft-quoted lines).
For dedicated action lovers, the proposed 2010 release date can’t come fast enough.

Dateline Asia:
Speaking of the Chan man, Jackie is already hard at work on his next two films. As his latest Asian offering, the dramatic Shinjuku Incident is opening foreign film fests, filming has already begun in China on Junior Soldiers (a.k.a. Big Soldier, Small General). Jackie has revealed that the story is set in the Qin Dynasty, and he’s the general of the title, who vies for the love of a girl (and the use of a horse) with a grunt played by Wang Lee-Hom (who was last seen in Ang Lee’s sexy, controversial Lust, Caution).
Chan fans are hoping that it’s a return to kung-fu form for the acknowledged master, especially since Jackie has collected and trained seven “kung-fu stars of tomorrow,” who he has dubbed the New Seven Lucky Stars, in honor of the original Seven Lucky Stars (a.k.a. the 7 Little Fortunes), which included such wushu greats as Sammo Hung (Dragons Forever), Yuen Baio (The Prodigal Son), and Yuen Wah (Eastern Condors). The new lucky stars have also been promised to play important parts in Junior Soldiers.
Meanwhile, closer to our home, superstar Will Smith has made it official. He will produce, and his son Jaden will star in, a Chinese-influenced remake, reboot, and/or reimagining of The Karate Kid, set in China, and co-starring Jackie as the Mister Miyaki-type guy. Out on a publicity tour for the worldwide release of Seven Pounds, “Big Willie” was heard to ask BBC DJ’s if they thought fans would be upset if they changed the title to The Kung-Fu Kid. Hey, Mr. Smith, I know at least one publication that would be very happy if you did. And please, make it more like Kung Fu Panda and less like Forbidden Kingdom, okay?


In the wake of BCI’s closure, taking with them fifteen Shaw Studio titles scheduled for 2009 release, other brave DVD distributors rush in to keep audiences happy.
Sony serves the Steven Seagal squads with Against the Dark, the aikido master’s first foray with cutting edge zombie vampires. Naturally, his decapitating sword skills are as sharp as his flying fists and feet in this post apocalyptic gorefest snappily directed by first-time director Richard Crudo (who was promoted from cinematographer on Seagal’s previous direct-to-DVD thriller Pistol Whipped). Joining Seagal on the flesh-eaters’ hunt is American Gladiator Tanoai Reed, the striking Skye Bennett, and fan fave Keith David.
Meanwhile Dragon Dynasty continues to establish its legacy as the best U.S. kung-fu DVD distrib with their release of the two-disc Ultimate Edition of Jackie Chan’ s (now where have I heard that name before?) Supercop, and the remastering of Jet Li’s The Enforcer (not to be confused with the Clint Eastwood “Dirty Harry” film of the same name). No, this one was originally called My Father is a Hero, and will always be a tragic-comedic hoot featuring pint-sized powerhouse Tse Miu as Jet’s martial-art-minded son (who’s even used as a whirling dervish yo-yo at one point in the frenzied film). As usual with Dragon Dynasty, the disc includes some welcome extras, including interviews with Tse Miu, as well as veteran villain Ken Lo (Legend of Drunken Master) and HK producer/writer/schlockmeister Wong Jing (Naked Weapon, Sex and Zen, Sexy and Dangerous, et al).
Wong’s presence, since he’s a man who never saw a swath of skin he didn’t like, is a nice seque to the arrival of Pink Eiga, a new company who’s following the lead of such dedicated pioneers as AnimEigo by bringing the wildest, craziest, and most influential Japanese cult classics to U.S. TVs. In the tradition of Media Blasters’ Tokyo Gore Police comes Pink Eiga’s S&M Hunter (the hit of this year’s Texas Fantastic Fest): a serene little sizzler in which a whip-master mercenary is sent after a violent girl gang, and all hemp breaks loose. It has to be seen not to be believed.
You can find all these films on the web and wherever fine DVDs are sold.