Tag Archive: Ludi Lin


Review by C.J. Bunce

At one level you know exactly what to expect when you select a movie based on a video game.  Any film worth its production costs needs to bring general audiences into the world, the director and writers need to then build that world, establish heroes, fight battles, provide over-the-top action and effects, and the hero(es) must achieve some kind of goal.  The stakes are high, often the fate of the entire world.  And that rarely leaves room for character development.  Entries include Tomb Raider, Assassin’s Creed, Resident Evil, Warcraft, Monster Hunter, Prince of Persia, Rampage, Sonic the Hedgehog, and a slew of Pokémon movies, and they go back decades to the original concept film Tron, which had a video game at its center that players didn’t get to play until after the movie.  Lesser rated entries include movies like Hitman, Max Payne, Doom, Street Fighter, and In the Name of the King.

This year’s big-budget release Mortal Kombat, both a remake and a reboot and adaptation of a series of martial arts fantasy games going back to 1992, leans heavily into Asian action movie culture.  It arrives in a growing marketplace for API and AAPI films, in a year including Raya and the Last Dragon, Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings, and Snake Eyes: G.I. Joe Origins.  

So where does Mortal Kombat land in comparison?

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Kung Fu pic

Review by C.J. Bunce

Put away what you remember (if anything) about the 1970s Kung Fu television series.  You didn’t really watch the series for David Carradine, did you?  If you were like most of the viewers, you probably showed up for the martial arts.  CW Network’s new reboot of Kung Fu is for that same audience, but it also casts a wider net.  Wednesday night Olivia Liang showed up to take the new series, CW’s Kung Fu, by storm.  You can compare it to the similar-vibed, live-action Mulan, some of your favorite recent martial arts series that have the same dramatic beats like Wu Assassins, or you can compare it to series like Charmed, Smallville, Stargirl, or Riverdale.  Fans of all these shows will get a kick out of the ease at which the CW has brought a young Chinese-American hero into our must-watch DVR queue with college student-turned-Shaolin warrior Nicky Shen.  She’s a completely modern, updated Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and she brings with her an interesting supporting cast while pulling some intrigue into the story via elements of classic Chinese mythology and history.  It’s fantasy, and its supernatural, and there’s swinging kicks and swordplay you’re not going to want to miss.

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Kung fu 2

When you can take the affidavit from my hand, you are ready.

Not everything gets done right the first time.  Take the 1970s television series Kung Fu.  Based at least in part on an idea from martial arts legend Bruce Lee, the series was the #1 show in the U.S. in 1973.  But casting David Carradine over Lee seems nothing short of lunacy in hindsight.  While Lee’s heirs later continued his vision in Cinemax’s The Warrior, the series that became Kung Fu is getting a reboot, a re-imagining, or a redo next month as Olivia Liang takes the lead role as Nicky Shen in CW’s Kung FuWell-timed to follow the success of the similar-vibed live-action Mulan and some of our favorite recent martial arts series like Wu Assassins, the series follows a Chinese American college student who travels to China and is taken under the wing of a Shaolin master.  She returns to San Francisco with a new purpose.  Nicky looks like a superheroine in the first trailers for the series, which makes the CW network of Arrowverse fame a good place to air the series.  The new series also seems to have the slow-motion martial arts effects the original Kung Fu was known for (the same later used in the Six Million Dollar Man).

Check out some great first trailers for the series below.  Continue reading

It’s a question that goes back to Doom, if not before:  Why make movie adaptations of video games?  Easy answer:  “Why not?”  Or “easy money.”  So why are so many so lackluster, in story, and often in production values?  The triumphs mark the exceptions, from Tron and Tron: Legacy to the Resident Evil series, and a fine enough effort by Angelina Jolie and Alicia Vikander in two efforts to get a Tomb Raider film series to take hold, for starters.  Then there’s Assassin’s Creed, Warcraft, Street Fighter, Wing Commander, and worse (at least Prince of Persia: Sands of Time had some fun in it).  Often listed among the worst of them all is 1995’s Mortal Kombat, a film that couldn’t be saved even by casting Cary Hiroyuki-Tagawa as the charismatic villain or casting an ex-Bond girl (Talisa Soto).  It’s those same characters and apparently plot that will get a retry this spring with the big-screen reboot Mortal KombatHowever this movie features leads of the stellar martial arts marvels The Night Comes for Us and Wu Assassins, and the special effects are light years ahead of the prior films.  Check out the first trailer for the movie below.

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