We’ve got two very unlikely martial arts flicks heading towards screens next year, both centered around gentleman that have always had a clear love for the form, but don’t necessarily belong at the center of such a film. Regardless, 2012 will be the year of a major kung-fu release and an outright blockbuster Samurai epic starring rap-star RZA and Keanu Reeves respectively. We’ve covered both The Man With The Iron Fists and 47 Ronin before, but there are now a few minor updates for both, as well as some cool pictures from the set of the later.

The Man With The Iron Fists

The small amount of new details we have for this film come from actress Jamie Chung, who you’ve likely seen in films like Sucker Punch and The Hangover II. She stars as “Lady Silk” alongside Russell Crowe, Pam Grier, Lucy Liu, and RZA himself in Iron Fists, and she recently coughed up a small status update for the film in an interview with Collider.

The most substantive bit she dropped is that the film may be looking at an August release. Apparently the film is locked and RZA is working on the soundtrack (which I assume will take a little longer than on most films, since he’s so intimately involved), though it didn’t get there without the director pitching a dual-movie scenario being released from his four-hour cut. Fortunately it seems producer Eli Roth reminded him that he’s not yet Tarantino, and that a single hour-and-a-half long cut is the way to go.

47 Ronin

New news is scant from the blockbuster Samurai flick that stars Keanu Reeves and will be distributed in 3D by Universal, but we do have a nice set of new pictures from a Russian movie site. They’re mostly smile-for-the-camera shots next to make-up trailers and such, but they do a nice job of showing off the very elaborate costume work- some beautiful stuff. As for Keanu? He doesn’t blend in all that badly (that weird Chinese, Lebanese, Hawaiian, Canadian thing he’s got going makes his racial origin indeterminate enough), and he’s definitely looking more weathered than usual, but it’s still going to be tough to escape that feeling of “playtime” with him stuck in the middle of all these other legit Asian actors.

You can also see the frighteningly complex Arri Alexa 3D-rig they’re using to shoot the film. As far as I can tell D.P. John Mathieson is shooting 3D for the first time here, but he was the cinematographer on films like Gladiator and Kingdom of Heaven, so probably the right guy to bring the 3D format into period combat epics.

Here’s the latest synopsis for the film, which is the debut of director Carl Rinsch and features Hiroyuki Sanada (Sunshine), Tadanobu Asano (Thor), and Rinko Kikuchi (Brothers Bloom, Pacific Rim)…

Kai (Reeves), an outcast who joins Oishi (Sanada), the leader of the 47 Ronin. Together they seek vengeance upon the treacherous overlord who killed their master and banished their kind. To restore honor to their homeland, the warriors embark upon a quest that challenges them with a series of trials that would destroy ordinary warriors.

I’m sure we’ll start hearing more about both of these projects early next year, perhaps with trailers to come sooner rather than later.

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(47 Ronin info via Latino Review)