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Archive for April, 2019

R.I.P. John Singleton

Tuesday, April 30th, 2019

Instead of posting a review today I want to write a little bit about John Singleton, who died yesterday after complications from a stroke.

If you weren’t of age in the early ’90s, I don’t know if you could ever quite understand it, but John Singleton was enormous. A few years earlier Spike Lee had exploded into the pop culture consciousness, a singular voice, a revolution out of New York, making an arty black and white movie on credit cards with a jazz piano score by his dad, then making bigger and better movies with studio backing, showing the promise of a new generation of black filmmakers.

And Singleton, already, was that promise. More than a decade younger than Lee, he made BOYZ N THE HOOD at 23. Practically a kid. As I seem to have mentioned every time I ever wrote about him over the years (see links below), he was nominated for a best director Oscar the first time out, the first black director to do so, and to this day the youngest person. He became an inspiration not just for black directors, but anyone young, outside of the system and wanting to tell a story about where they come from. (read the rest of this shit…)

Avengers: Endgame

Monday, April 29th, 2019

THIS IS AN ALL SPOILER REVIEW. Duh.

It’s hard to review a movie like AVENGERS: ENDGAME. I don’t think there’s much point in reading about it before you’ve seen it, or in seeing it if you haven’t seen most of the IRON MAN, CAPTAIN AMERICA and AVENGERS movies, at the very least. This is a giant event movie but it’s not working on the traditional level of a movie. It’s more of a movie/comic book crossover/TV series hybrid. Some mad king becomes a show runner and spends all his nation’s capital trying to make the biggest season finale in history.

So I’m assuming you’ve seen it, and we’ll discuss some stuff about it. And the review will be as long and all-over-the-place as the movie. (read the rest of this shit…)

Drive

Thursday, April 25th, 2019

Unless you count an IMDb listing for an unreleased movie called SIRENS OF THE DEEP (2000), the final (so far) feature film directed by Steve Wang is the 1997 under-the-radar Mark Dacascos action romp DRIVE. Dacascos (ONLY THE STRONG) plays Toby Wong (a RESERVOIR DOGS reference?), reformed Chinese assassin on the run from a corporation trying to reclaim the advanced strength-and-acrobatics-enhancing implant they put in him. Attacked in a bar, he commandeers lonely divorcee Malik (Kadeem Hardison, DEF BY TEMPTATION) and his car, and the two end up becoming buddies, driving around the L.A. area trying to avoid a team of mercenaries led by redneck Vic Madison (John Pyper-Ferguson, who’s also in the Nicolas Winding-Refn movie called DRIVE) and his personal Bob the Goon, Hedgehog (Tracey Walter, CYBORG 2), who when not shooting at them hang out in a mobile home like Justified villains. Vic has long hair, wears a bolo tie and sunglasses seems too proud of his rock ‘n roll cowboy look. I was so relieved when he switched to pony tail and tactical gear. (read the rest of this shit…)

Guyver: Dark Hero

Wednesday, April 24th, 2019

“I prefer the second one because the first one I had no control over the content. I got into big fights with the producer because he wanted to make a kids film and I wanted to keep the tone of the original anime. In the end, the film turned out like crap in my opinion. I did GUYVER 2 on my own for less than 1/4 the budget of the first GUYVER, but in exchange, I had total control of the film.” –Steve Wang to Nerd Society, 2009

GUYVER: DARK HERO (a.k.a. THE GUYVER 2) not only improves on the Tokusatsu-inspired martial-arts-‘n-monsters fun of director Steve Wang’s earlier work, but does it with vastly improved cinematic storytelling and the confidence to take itself seriously. This is a legit sci-fi/martial arts movie that starts as a dark super hero vigilante story, veers into weird ancient alien alternate history, and builds to a bunch of monster battles that are kinda like Power Rangers except the monsters might get their eyeballs poked out or cough up a bunch of blood. I’m not saying an R-rated version of that is subversive, I’m just saying it’s fun to watch. (Note: stunt coordinator Koichi Sakamoto was and would continue to be a director, producer, writer and choreographer on Power Rangers shows for 20 years.) (read the rest of this shit…)

Kung Fu Rascals

Tuesday, April 23rd, 2019

Hello, friends. This week I’m focusing on a pretty obscure topic: the films of Steve Wang. He’s a Taiwanese-American FX artist who worked on movies like PREDATOR, MONSTER SQUAD and GREMLINS 2, and in the ’90s he directed a few martial arts related b-movies. That makes him relevant to my interests. I remember Film Threat Magazine making a big deal about him back in the day, and writing about ’90s comic book movies inspired me to revisit his work. Yesterday we looked at GUYVER (1991), the manga-based monsterfest he co-directed with fellow makeup genius Screaming Mad George.

IMDb lists KUNG FU RASCALS as Wang’s second directorial work. According to this old interview, it was filmed right before GUYVER, mostly on weekends, over a period of about ten months, from fall of ’89 to the next summer. But post-production took place after GUYVER, thus the later video release as THE ADVENTURES OF THE KUNG FU RASCALS. (read the rest of this shit…)

Guyver (a.k.a. The Guyver)

Monday, April 22nd, 2019

GUYVER, a.k.a. THE GUYVER is a 1991 sci-fi/martial arts b-movie that I saw back in the day and decided to revisit when I did that Polygon piece on ’90s comic book movies. The idea comes from a manga that had also been turned into anime, which is pretty apparent just from the look of the main character.

Jack Armstrong (STUDENT BODIES) plays Sean Barker, a blandly handsome karate student who finds an alien super weapon hidden in some garbage (much like Stanley finding a magic mask in the river in THE MASK) and it merges with his body, giving him the power to encase himself in bio-mechanical armor and weaponry. We know he’s mixed up in an ancient intergalactic war because of some detailed text and narration that opened the movie. It started by saying:

“At the beginning of time, aliens came to the Earth to create the ultimate organic weapon. They created Mankind. By planting a special gene into man they created the ZOANOIDS — Humans who can change at will into super monster soldiers.” (read the rest of this shit…)

Too Many Ways To Be No. 1

Thursday, April 18th, 2019

TOO MANY WAYS TO BE NO. 1 is a crazy, aggressively stylish 1997 Hong Kong crime movie that I watched because it was recommended to me by Adam in a comment on my LADY OF STEEL review. He said it was recommended to him by a guy at Vulcan Video in Austin, Texas. And now I’m recommending it to you. The circle of life.

This one’s produced by Johnnie To, but directed by Wai Ka-Fai (FULLTIME KILLER, RUNNING ON KARMA, MAD DETECTIVE), his second movie as a director, following PEACE HOTEL.

It’s about this guy named Kau (Lau Ching-wan, POLICE STORY 2) who gets talked into joining some kind of criminal gang. I felt great empathy for him because of this scene where they go have a big meal together, like the gang in RESERVOIR DOGS, but then they walk out without paying. He stands there and looks at the check. Jesus christ, you don’t walk out on a check. Also you don’t leave a huge check for just one person who didn’t offer to pay it to pay. Especially the new guy who doesn’t have that kind of money. (read the rest of this shit…)

On the Job

Wednesday, April 17th, 2019

ON THE JOB (2013) is an earlier movie by Erik Matti, director of BUYBUST, that Filipino action movie I was so impressed by a few months ago. This one is not about martial arts at all, but it shares similar themes of intractable conflict and hopeless corruption in the system. It’s a crime epic about corrupt police taking certain inmates in and out of prison to perform contract killings.

And it primarily takes the P.O.V. of the assassins. We see Mario (Joel Torre, THE BOURNE LEGACY) and his younger, taller, handsomer, dumber protegee Daniel (Gerald Anderson) weaving through a crowded market, shooting a guy, and fleeing. Then Mario goes home to see his wife (Angel Aquino) and law student daughter (Empress Schuck?). He’s like a husband/dad who’s in the military, or a touring musician or something. It’s a treat for him to be home and they wish he would come home more, but they understand. Though it’s ambiguous at first how much they understand. (read the rest of this shit…)

Into the Night

Tuesday, April 16th, 2019

A while back, when I reviewed INNOCENT BLOOD and got into a bit of a John Landis run, I realized I’d never seen his 1985 movie INTO THE NIGHT. Didn’t even know anything about it. I guess you could say it’s kind of a thriller, but of the happening-over-one-night variety, and with some humor. Ed Okin (Jeff Goldblum, DEATH WISH) is a regular boring aerospace engineer guy who’s unhappy and doesn’t know why. He hasn’t been able to sleep for a long time and he feels disconnected from his wife (Stacey Pickren, RUNAWAY TRAIN). Then he starts dozing off at work, getting himself in trouble, so he decides to go home for a nap, and I think we are all familiar with what happens in movies any time somebody goes home in the middle of the day when their spouse doesn’t expect them. It’s just like in TOY STORY how the toys are always having meetings and playing games and shit whenever you’re out of the room. Similar thing with movie spouses when you’re at work. (read the rest of this shit…)

Master Z: The Ip Man Legacy

Monday, April 15th, 2019

MASTER Z: THE IP MAN LEGACY is the new film directed by Yuen Woo-Ping, a spinoff of IP MAN 3, which he was the choreographer for. It will make sense even if you haven’t seen that or the rest of the IP MAN series, though you should see them anyway, because they’re great. Donnie Yen is a producer of this one, but doesn’t appear other than in brief black and white flashes to establish the backstory.

In the tradition of UNDISPUTED II and III, MASTER Z takes the antagonist from the previous film and makes him the hero. Max Zhang (the main henchman from KILL ZONE 2) returns as Cheung Tin Chi, which I guess must sometimes be translated as Zheung, otherwise I have no idea why this is called MASTER Z. He was a younger teacher who defeated the great Wing Chun Grandmaster Ip Man in a public challenge, became legendary himself, but got too big for his britches and was ultimately defeated in a private challenge. Now he’s left martial arts – including turning down what could be well paying gigs as an enforcer – and runs a small grocery store. (read the rest of this shit…)