Tag Archive: Tzi Ma


Kid detective

Adam Brody has been a high point of two recent fun genre flicks.  In Shazam! he was the grown-up superhero version of sidekick Freddie.  And in Ready or Not he was the brother-in-law that gave Samara Weaving’s bride a chance at survival in a crazy mansion of killers.  In his next movie, last year’s late pandemic year theatrical release The Kid Detective, the former Gilmore Girls and The O.C. actor plays Abe Applebaum, once a kid detective in the style of Encyclopedia Brown, he’s now a 32-year-old has-been, not cutting it as an adult detective.  Unfortunately, what could have been something clever, fresh, and new, ends up pitifully bad–a film that can’t decide what it wants to be, a humorless experimental film that might have made a good effort as a film school project.  It’s streaming now on Starz and other platforms.

Continue reading

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.

Continue reading

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

Review by C,J, Bunce

With a brief pandemic year appearance in theaters that only netted box office receipts that were a third of the film’s costs, followed by a high-cost home release via Disney, at last Mulan has made it to the masses via home streaming platforms.  The welcome result: one of the best Disney live-action films in a long stream of remakes of classic Disney tales, and a truly inspiring story of heroism and girl power.  Performances by a top-notch cast deliver iconic, compelling characters, led by young actress Yifei Liu, director Niki Caro, and an elaborate production that will take audiences back 1,500 years to medieval China.  The effort delivers a strong message and a folk tale adaptation without a hitch, a film of sprawling scenery, martial arts action, and favorite Asian actors providing memorable performances.

Continue reading

Adam Brody has been a high point of two recent fun genre flicks.  In Shazam! he was the grown-up superhero version of sidekick Freddie.  And in Ready or Not he was the brother-in-law that gave Samara Weaving’s bride a chance at survival in a crazy mansion of killers.  In his next movie, the former Gilmore Girls and The O.C. actor plays Abe Applebaum, once a kid detective in the style of Encyclopedia Brown, he’s now a 32-year-old has been, not cutting it as an adult detective.  But despite the title, The Kid Detective, arriving in theaters this weekend, is not a kids’ movie.  Some theaters on the East Coast are offering $50 full-theater rentals and AMC has a $99 deal, or you can always wait for the home release likely coming soon.

Continue reading

We’ve seen Disney go back to the well as the norm lately, with a host of live-action remakes of animated movies from the “vaults.”  Ticking off the list so far have been Aladdin, Cinderella, The Jungle Book (twice), and Pete’s Dragon, with Beauty and the Beast, Lady and the Tramp, the second take on The Jungle Book, and The Lion King remakes really more CGI than live-action, with a few centered on classic villains, including two Maleficents and one Cruella.  What other animated Disney films will audiences see adapted to the real world in the future?  So far news of pre-production has been mentioned for The Little Mermaid, The Hunchback of Notre Dame, Lilo & Stitch, Pinocchio, Peter Pan, The Sword and the Stone, yet another take on The Jungle Book, and spin-offs including Tink, Rose Red, and Prince Charming.  With more than a dozen live-action remakes of animated Disney movies in production, it’s a surprise to see a preview for one that looks like it could have been a standalone live-action film from the get-go.  Utilizing the production designer of The Lord of the Rings movies, Disney has upped the ante for Mulan.

Based on the 1998 animated Oscar-nominated film, which was based on a Chinese folk legend of a young heroine who posed as a boy to fight for her people (The Ballad of Mulan), with a lot of influence from Jin Yong’s heroine Huang Rong in Legends of the Condor Heroes, next year’s Mulan replaces roles voiced in the animated film that included Eddie Murphy, Harvey Fierstein, Donny Osmond, and Miguel Ferrer, instead showcasing a legion of Chinese and Chinese-American actors and a film steeped more in traditional Chinese folklore.  In the title role is Yifei Liu (also known as Crystal Liu) an actress who has grown up with roles in wuxia stories, starring in Return of the Condor Heroes, and appearing with Jackie Chan and Jet Li in John Fusco’s Forbidden Kingdom.  In the first trailer for Mulan (below) we meet her father, played by Wu Assassins and The Man in the High Castle’s Tzi Ma.  Other key cast members include Jason Scott Lee (Dragon: The Bruce Lee Story, Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon: Sword of Destiny) as Bori Khan, Gong Li as the Cyclone Mei-inspired witch Xian Lang, Rogue One’s Donnie Yen as Commander Tung, M*A*S*H and Star Trek’s Rosalind Chao as Hua Li, and Chinese mega-action star Jet Li as The Emperor.

Mulan is directed by Niki Caro, who you may know as the director of the fantastic and inspiring McFarland USA, among other award-winning films.  Clearly this is not going to be a shot-for-shot remake as we’ve seen with past Disney efforts.  Costumes were designed by Bina Daigeler (Volver, Grimm), and the music was created by the prolific film composer Harry Gregson-Williams.  The rich production look is courtesy of Grant Major (The Lord of the Rings, King Kong, The Meg, X-Men: Apocalypse, Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon: Sword of Destiny).

Take a look at this fantastic, exciting new trailer for Mulan:

Continue reading

Review by C.J. Bunce

Start with the obvious comparison: Marvel’s Iron Fist.  If you were disappointed with that series, get ready for what you probably wanted.  It’s called Wu Assassins, and the ten episodes of the new direct-to-Netflix series arrived late this past summer.  Wu Assassins weaves so much into its ten very different chapters of its storytelling, you’ll quickly find it’s not only an American attempt at a wuxia martial arts heroes show–it bends the genre into a supernatural, urban fantasy story with characters on the brink of their unique brand of apocalypse, with several Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Grimm parallels.  And lots of lots of great hand-to-hand fight scenes.  This may not measure up to being the next Buffy or a top Chinese tale like Legend of the Condor Heroes, but as a watch-alike, it far surpasses the Buffy spinoff Angel, as well as most of the Marvel Netflix series.  If Netflix can pull together series like Wu Assassins, especially with absolute writing freedom and without the need to rely on some existing brand like DC or Marvel (or anything Disney), then its future is secured.

The world of Wu Assassins begins in our world today, as we meet Kai Jin, played by 36-year-old Indonesian actor and burgeoning martial arts pro, stuntman, and fight choreographer Iko Uwais.  Kai is a young master chef who wants to own his own food cart in San Francisco’s Chinatown.  This is a Chosen One story, and Kai is introduced to a world where the Chinese philosophy of wuxing is interpreted to rely on human masters of the elements of this world (wood, fire, earth, metal, and water) who can exist both in this realm and a supernatural otherworld.  In the middle of an already difficult life, Kai is tapped as the Wu Assassin and he is told by a bellwether and instructor from the otherworld named Ying Ying, played by Celia Au (Lodge 49, Iron Fist, Gotham), that he must kill the Fire Wu, who just happens to be Kai’s adoptive father, known by most as Uncle Six.  He’s not just any dad, as Uncle Six, played masterfully by the scene stealing Byron Mann (The Expanse, Arrow, Smallville, Dark Angel), is also the head of the Chinese crime family, the Triads.

Kai’s Buffy-esque band of friends includes a restaurant owner named Jenny Wah (Li Jun Li, The Exorcist, Quantico), her drug-adled brother Tommy (Lawrence Kao, Sleepy Hollow, The Walking Dead), and Kai’s oldest friend Lu Xin (Lewis Tan, Iron Fist, Deadpool 2), who is a suave up-and-coming thief of high-end cars.  Spliced into the story is a San Francisco cop played by The Vikings queen Katheryn Winnick, a badass on a motorcycle who knows her own street fighting and inadvertently witnesses the magic of the otherworld while undercover trying to bust gang activity at China Basin.  These lead characters are just the beginning, as the series packs in a few seasons’ worth of ideas, and all of it is great fun.

Continue reading