The Lego Ninjago Movie (2017)

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A big-screen outing for the Lego Ninjago characters, which can be found in the long-running TV series, Lego Ninjago: Masters of Spinjitzu, and its associated merchandise. If you’re not aware of the Lego Ninjago franchise, then that’s probably because you’re not eight years old. The story concerns the evil Lord Garmadon who is thwarted by the Five Element Ninjas (a nice nod towards Chang Cheh) in his attempts to take over the land of Ninjago. This family-friendly animation follows the sleeper hit The Lego Movie and its follow-up, The Lego Batman Movie, which wrapped its positive message in an exhaustive succession …

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Chasing the Dragon (2017)

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Glamourised rags-to-riches story of infamous Hong Kong drug baron Ng Sek-ho, better known as Limpy Ho due to his pronounced limp and use of a walking stick. Hong Kong isn’t short on well-known gangsters, but Ho is probably the closest thing the territory has to a Pablo Escobar figure; a known criminal who profited from the burgeoning economy in British-ruled Hong Kong during the 1960s and 70s, who bribed an already corrupted police force, dined with dignitaries and met the Queen. His nefarious activities resulted in a 30-year jail term before dying an old man in 1991. Since then, his …

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The Tournament (1974)

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Barnstorming Angela Mao Ying vehicle made at the height of her powers at Golden Harvest. Following their success dabbling in the Korean arts for Hapkido and When Taekwondo Strikes, director Huang Feng and fight choreographer Sammo Hung turn their attention to a different foreign martial arts style for this one: Muay Thai kickboxing. This involves actually jetting off to Thailand to film some local colour as well as taking in a few competitive kickboxing bouts, while the rest of the film is completed on the same studio lot back in Hong Kong. Like their previous films, a rich stream of …

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The Invincible Kung Fu Trio (1978)

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Cheap but spirited Taiwanese kung fu film centred around the three Shaolin patriots Hung Hei-kwan (Li Chung-chien), Fong Sai-yuk (Meng Fei), and Luk Ah-chai (John Liu). The film follows in the wake of Chang Cheh and Lau Kar-leung‘s seminal Shaolin series at Shaw Brothers. Like those films, this does its own myth-making, pitting the trio of rebels against a Pai Mei figure played by Kam Kong. The evil abbott is shown to be a master of the internal wu tang systems. He sleeps in a cave, tears off the face of one of his lackeys (just for the hell of …

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Kingsman: The Golden Circle (2017)

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Tedious sequel full of hyperactive hijinks and crass humour. If this working class spin on the James Bond formula had any charm to begin with, then it was built around the central master-pupil relationship between Colin Firth and Taron Egerton. Firth is confusingly resurrected for the sequel, despite being quite convincingly offed in the first film. By bringing him back (a honkingly obvious commercial decision), all sense of jeopardy goes out the window. But the film constantly blurs the boundaries between fantasy and reality to such an extent that nothing here carries any weight whatsoever, which is certainly not an …

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Jailbreak (2017)

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Jailbreak forms part of a cultural renaissance in Cambodia following the slow rebirth of its local film industry after years of political upheaval, war and bloodshed. Interestingly, although this multilingual film is proudly and predominantly spoken in the Khmer language (with moments of French and English), it has taken a mostly European-trained crew – including Italian-born director, Jimmy Henderson, and UK-based stunt performer, Jean-Paul Ly – to put Cambodian action cinema on the map. The country’s lack of cinematic infrastructure does little to dampen the creativity or enthusiasm shown on screen, and the team do a fantastic job on a …

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Assassin’s Creed (2016)

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Director Justin Kurzel reunites his Macbeth cast of Michael Fassbender and Marion Cotillard for this disjointed sci-fi action yarn based on a video game – which has never been a phrase to fill anyone with confidence. The scenes that feel most like a computer game are actually the best parts of the film; namely the free-running flashback fight sequences across 15th century Spanish rooftops. These are all atmospheric, slick and punchy. They tell of a dedicated band of ninja-like assassins who seek to restore order in Spain at the height of the Inquisition, who covet the so-called sacred ‘Apple of …

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Kung Fu Yoga (2017)

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“I love Indiana Jones,” says Jackie Chan‘s character, Professor Jack Chan (yes, really), who is “China’s greatest archeologist”. At the behest of an undercover Indian princess (Disha Patani), Jack is recruited to recover the lost treasure of Magadha, believed to be the birthplace of Buddhism and a site of significant historical importance in the development of Chinese-Indian relations. At times, the film’s script sounds more like a public information film, referencing things like the ‘one belt, one road’ policy, as if Jackie Chan fans have much interest in China’s cross-border trade agreements. Even the title suggests a union, of sorts, …

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Dirty Ho (1979)

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A note-perfect kung fu film from Lau Kar-leung which is character-driven, full of remarkable fight choreography and great fun. In shades of Henry IV Part 2, Gordon Liu plays one of the Emperor’s 14 sons, Wang, a successor to the throne, who shuns the royal life in favour of sampling China’s cultural delights: art collecting, wine-tasting and the study of kung fu. He travels incognito and bores the girls at his local brothel, where he takes a shine to the thieving young local boy, Ho (Wong Yu). Lau leaves the reason for Wang’s affection for the boy open to interpretation. He …

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The 18 Bronzemen (1976)

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The formerly wooden guardians of Shaolin’s inner sanctum turn bronze (or, rather, bald men in gold body paint) in this modestly budgeted kung fu film from Joseph Kuo. It’s a great gimmick to disguise an otherwise routine period-set political pot-boiler. The image of the 18 bronzemen is now somewhat iconic (in geek terms), despite the fact the titular guards are criminally underused, given adequate airtime in the first half of the film only to disappear completely and never return. Once their guard is broken, skull-busting disciples Carter Wong and Yee Yuen leave the temple with vengeance in mind, hunting down …

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