Well, this was one for the record books – perhaps the most balanced, consistent, exciting Extravaganza, with an exceptional ratio of gasps, laughs, and cheers.
It started with the introductions, beginning with the man who helped start it all – Frank Djeng, the Tai Seng Entertainment “Master of Remaster.” Sadly, Tai Seng, that pioneering distributor of all flicks Asian, is no more, but Frank is better than ever, and his “flying fingers of DVD” made the clips run smoothly for the first time since … well … since he was last at an Extravaganza.
Next came my veteran co-hosts, the Comedy Film Nerds, Graham Elwood and Chris Mancini, accompanied for the second year by their website columnist Neil T. Weakley. They’ve got their movie, Ear Buds: A Podcasting Documentary (www.earbudspodmovie.com), playing at film fests around the world, and were readying their annual Los Angeles Podfest Festival (www.lapodfest.com).
After that, it marked the return of Eric Jacobus, the “king of YouTube Kungfu,” (www.youtube.com/user/stuntpeople), who made time in his busy schedule to sneak peek a clip from his latest film, Blindsided (which, he revealed to me later, they finished editing on the last day of Comic Con). Look for its launch on a website near you later this year.
Eric didn’t come alone. He brought with him Clayton J. Barber, Blindsided’s director/co-writer, and a fight coordinator/stuntman on almost a hundred films, including Creed, Fast 8, and John Wick: Chapter Two. He told us of his adventures in the screen stunting trade, which perfectly set up our last-but-not-least guest of the evening.
That was none other than James Lew, one of the true greats, whose acting, stunt, and fight coordinating career started with the Kung Fu TV series way back in 1974, and continues, stronger than ever, with Luke Cage, exploding onto Netflix September 30th. James graced us with a sneak peek of the new Marvel Studios series, which inspires me to remind all that we’ll be honoring James again at this November’s Urban Action Showcase in New York City, celebrating the 30th anniversary of Big Trouble in Little China.
Suitably prepped, it was then time to start the show! And what else does a movie extravaganza start with but coming attraction trailers … specifically three selections from the Severin Films DVD Kung Fu Trailers of Fury (ironically, a bunch of us recorded the audio commentary track for Kung Fu Trailers of Fury Volume II the very next day).
Of all the diamonds-in-the-rough on the DVD, I chose to tenderize the crowd with the gasp/laugh-inducing Kung Fu Vs Yoga (not, NOT, to be confused with Jackie Chan’s up-coming Kung Fu Yoga movie), followed by the eye-rolling splendor of One Armed Chivalry Against One Armed Chivalry, and finally the “ewwww!”-inducing accupuncture-in-the-eye silliness of Chinese Kung Fu (where we answered the oft-asked trailer question of “What is Chinese Kung Fu?” with cries of “Not this!”). To get ’em all, just go here: https://severin-films.com/16323-2/.
And what comes after the trailers? Why, the opening credits, of course. So I showed just that from the latest crazed Wong Jing “everything-AND-the-kitchen sink” flick From Vegas to Macau III (aka The Man from Macau III), featuring guns, fists, kicks, swords, lasers, explosions, planes, cars, boats, romance, gambling, dances, songs, kids, adults, and, of course, transforming comic-relief robots. It all went to show just how stuffed with entertainment-value modern Chinese films have to be to serve their more than 25,000 movie theaters. Although not presently set for U.S. release, you can score a DVD at www.yesasia.com.
To bring that sentiment home, I next showed a climatic sequence from Monkey King 2, the superior sequel to the original Monkey King epic starring Donnie Yen. This time the legendary Sun Wukong of Journey to the West fame is essayed by Aaron Kwok, and his nemesis, the succubus White Boned Demon, is beautifully embodied by Gong Li. Filmko Entertainment released it in select U.S. theaters (I saw it at the glorious AMC Empire 25 on 42nd Street in New York City), but you can revel in its fantasy glory at www.yesasia.com.
To balance the Chinese ethereal with the all-too-real, next came an eye-bulging sequence from Wild City, noted Hong Kong director Ringo Lam’s first film in nearly ten years – made as something of a defiant fist shaking at what Hong Kong cinema has become under the pragmatic watch of the new Beijing-centric administrators. Filmed on Hong Kong streets, seemingly without the knowledge of many bystanders, it was raw, exciting, and cheer-inducing. You can see it for yourself thanks to the great Well Go USA (www.wellgousa.com/wild-city).
Since we were back to the modern day, I thought we’d get the blood pounding with a macho, fist-and-muscle MMA scene from Never Back Down: No Surrender, the latest DVD/download from director/co-writer/choreographer/star, Black Dynamite himself, Michael Jai White. This one is all over the place, so grab an eyeful at your favorite dealer (knowing that it’s a Sony Home Entertainment release).
With the blood lust reinstalled in the audience, then came the brutal, bone-pulverizing, kung-fu/muay thai agony of Kill Zone 2 (aka SPL 2) — pitting Wu Jing and Tony Jaa against hordes of thugs led by the seemingly unstoppable/unkillable wushu wunderkind Max Zhang. Go directly to www.wellgousa.com/kill-zone-2 for a beatdown you won’t soon forget.
Finally it was time for the “War of the Bodyguards.” Two Chinese movies were made with that title, one by the legendary old school master Sammo Hung, and a brand new one by eager Chinese upstart Yue Song. I had a clip from both films, so in true “who-would-win-in-a-fight” fashion, they went head to head next.
Sammo’s film was changed to My Beloved Bodyguard, and the amazing man used everything he’s learned in his more than fifty year career to fashion the back-breaking fights, including ground fighting and the grip-based foundation of judo, Chin-na. You can see for yourself when, reportedly, Well Go USA releases the heart-felt effort in August.
Last I heard from the writer/choreographer/director/star himself, Yue Song’s The Bodyguard may be acquired for U.S. distribution by Well Go USA too. Happily, with All Rights Entertainment’s permission, we got to show a foot-stomping, head-whomping scene, after the whole flick’s triumphant American premiere at the New York Asian Film Festival.
Well Go USA also allowed us to spotlight Ip Man 3, the latest martial arts mayhem starring Donnie Yen. There were so many great fight scenes in this throwback thriller, it was hard to choose which one (or two) to show, but you can see them all by going to www.wellgousa.com/ip-man-3.
That sequed nicely to a clip from The Final Master, by my favorite kung-fu filmmaker of the moment, Xu Haofeng. This amazing movie by the best-selling author, kung fu scholar, and avant-garde director is repeatedly engrossing, and the Extravaganza crowd got to marvel at the moment when Chinese kung fu came to a literal and figurative crossroads. United Entertainment Partners released in in the U.S. (thanks again AMC Empire 25), and, as soon as a DVD distributor is decided upon, I’ll let you know. Meanwhile … yesasia.com anyone?
Time was running out, so what else could I wrap up the 19th extravaganza with but a “skiddoosh” from my main Ailuropoda melanoleuca, Kung Fu Panda 3. As you may have heard (I’ve been shouting it loud and often enough), the third installment of Po’s adventures is a delightful return to exceptional form after the frustratingly kung-fu-less, misconceived, missteps of fist-and-anger-driven “Martial Arts” Panda 2. Watch it with all speed, or watch it again asap. The DreamWorks release is available in the very air around you even as you read.
And, with that, the 19th Annual San Diego Comic Con Superhero Kung Fu Extravaganza came to a close. Thanks everyone who attended, (and maybe even thanks to the many who asked me for the remainder of the con “are you doing your show this year?” Check your schedules, people!), and if you liked it (maybe even if you didn’t), let the Comic Con staff know you’d like a 20th Anniversary Edition. With your, and their, help, see you next year!