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Mike Leeder’s Action Digest #28: The news-stories you’ve missed…

Returning from his sacred pilgrimages, epic quests and intense casting-calls, Mike Leeder is finally back with his action digest to give you the nod on movie news you may have missed…

A Better Tomorrow Rebooted?

Better TomorrowsJohn Woo’s original A Better Tomorrow made Chow Yun-fatt a superstar and introduced the world to the idea of ‘gun-fu fighting’ and helped coin the term ‘heroic bloodshed‘, as the code of chivalry as the swords of the past were updated for the modern world. A Better Tomorrow was based on an earlier movie True Colours of A Hero, and saw Woo bringing his views on friendship and brotherhood to the screen. Elements of the relationship between Chow Yun-fatt’s character and Ti Lung’s character were based on Woo’s then friendship with Tsui Hark (with Woo as Ti Lung and Tsui as Chow Yun-fatt) and Chow Yun-fatt’s relationship with Director Ringo Lam (City on Fire).

A Better Tomorrow was a huge success and spawned countless imitators and an official sequel A Better Tomorrow 2, and a prequel A Better Tomorrow 3: Love & Death in Saigon which told of the origins of Chow Yun-fatt’s Mark (“Mark Gor”/Brother Mark) and certain iconic aspects of his character. There’s often been talk of a further chapter in The Better Tomorrow series and Tsui Hark had spoken of a possible female driven reboot of the series.

2010 saw Korea make an official reboot with Song Hae-seong’s A Better Tomorrow.Stephen Fung (Into the Badlands) who is currently in post on The Adventureres (in itself inspired by John Woo’s Once A Thief), has long been attached to a re-imagining of True Colours of a Hero the movie that inspired A Better Tomorrow.  Now Little Big Soldier director Ding Sheng  is currently working on a remake which bears the working title of A Better Tomorrow 4, starring Darren Wang (Railroad Tigers), Ma Tianyu (Surprise) and Wang Kai (Railroad Tigers) as the Mark “Gor‘ character.

Wong Jing did his own take on A Better Tomorrow with the mid 90s Return to a Better Tomorrow which saw Ekin Cheng, Lau Ching-wan, Michael Wong and Chingmy Yau donning trenchcoats and weilding double guns in a stylish but substance free take on the story.

The Complete Billy Jack Collection

Billy Jack CollectionJuly 2017 will see Shout Factory releasing a 4 disc Blu-Ray set for The Complete Billy Jack Collection, starring the late Tom Laughlin, The franchise began with The Born Losers, introducing the ex-Green Beret and half Native American Indian who fights injustice with his beliefs and his Hapkido skills. The collection will include The Born Losers, Billy Jack, The Trial of Billy Jack and Billy Jack Goes To Washington. (No word yet on special features but we’d love to see Laughlin’s lost Eastern Western The Master Gunfighter and the unfinished Return of Billy Jack included!).

Laughlin was very much a Hollywood maverick, he made the movies he wanted to make, the way he wanted to make them and endured his own successes and failures without making excuses for either. Laughlin had spoken of plans for a further Billy Jack adventure for many years before his death, and at one point Keanau Reeves name was attached to a potential remake.

George Lazenby: Becoming Bond (or: ‘This Never Happened to the Other Fella!’)

Becoming BondHe may have only ‘officially’ played James Bond 007 in one film, On Her Majesty’s Secret Service but the legend of George Lazenby is stranger than any fiction. The former Australian mechanic became the new James Bond following a world wide search for someone to step into Sean Connery’s shoes, with only a Fry’s chocolate commercial to his credit and a lot of bravado, bluff, confidence and luck driving him forward. He gave one hell of a performance in OHMSS but in a move that shocked the world, turned his back on 007, declaring Bond had had its day and the world was changing and he was moving on.

Was it the best decision to make? Perhaps not and the next few years saw Lazenby appearing in the likes of Soldier of Fortune then heading to Hong Kong where Bruce Lee and Raymond Chow signed him up for a multi-picture deal. However, Lee’s passing saw Lazenby playing the villain in Stoner, Queens Ransom and Brian Trenchard Smith’s classic Man from Hong Kong opposite Jimmy Wang Yu. Lazenby has appeared in all manner of film and tv series, subsequently playing very James Bond’ian characters in everything from The MasterNever Too Young  To Die and – of course – Return of The Man from Uncle (where he played the tuxedo clad driver of a pimp’ed out Aston Martin DB6 with the personalized JB number plates).

Lazenby has spoken of his choices, most revealingly in the documentary Everything or Nothing which celebrated 50 years of James Bond, and saw George speak openly about the bad advice he was given and the decisions he made that affected his career. Now Lazenby’s life and story is the subject of the Hulu original documentary Becoming Bond which takes an in-depth look at the decisions he made.

Karate: The Empty Hands

Hong Kong actor/director Chapman To (Infernal Affairs) is the director of The Empty Hands, originally announced as Karate. The film tells of a young woman whose only wish is to sell her father’s Karate dojo when he dies, but discovers that 51% of the business was left to one of his worst pupils. The film stars Stephy Tang ( Anniversary), Yasauki Kurata ( Fist of Legend), To himself and Steven Au who as a Kyokushin Black Belt trained Tang for the role.

Herman Yau: A Return to Cat 3

Director & Cinematographer Herman Yau has a cult following around the world due to some of his first works as a director such as Taxi Hunter, The Untold Story & Ebola Syndrome. And since those early days he’s become an acclaimed director with such projects as From the Queen to the Chief Executive, Whispers & Moans, Ip Man: Legend is Born, Sara, Nessun Dorma and the upcoming Shock Wave with Andy Lau. Now Herman Yau returns to his Cat 3 roots, announcing: “Ebola Syndrome was made in 1996. After 20 years, we come back to the same genre with The Sleep Curse.”  The film reunites Yau with one of his most prolific leading men, Anthony Wong Chau-sang who played the lead in Yau’s Cat 3 trilogy and Ip Man: The Final Fight.

Here’s a teaser:

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