"KEEP BUSTIN'."

Archive for the ‘Martial Arts’ Category

Wheels On Meals

Tuesday, July 9th, 2019

WHEELS ON MEALS is the 1984 Hong Kong action classic starring Chinese opera bros for life Jackie Chan, Yuen Biao and Sammo Hung (also director), fresh off of WINNERS AND SINNERS and PROJECT A. Jackie and Biao star as Thomas and David, dorky cousins who live together in Barcelona, sharing a bedroom that has separate doors right next to each other for no reason other than a visual gag. In the opening we see them getting up, working out and practicing on kung fu dummies, so that when they’re amazing fighters through the rest of it there’s a foundation for it. (But we never see them practice again.)

Sammo plays a guy named Moby, who’s introduced sporting shades and a perm that almost looks like jheri curls. He’s working (without pay) for a sleazy p.i. (Herb Edelman, a.k.a. Dorothy’s ex-husband Stanley on Golden Girls) who leaves town to hide from a gambling debt and leaves Moby in charge, causing him to strut around town dressed like he’s in the “Smooth Criminal” video, whisper-bragging to everyone that he’s “Acting Chairman of Matt’s Detective Agency.” He also takes a case to find a woman from an old photograph (oh my god this could turn into THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO) and it seems like all he really knows how to do is look for some guy named Fatso to ask him about it. (read the rest of this shit…)

John Wick Chapter 3: Parabellum

Friday, May 17th, 2019

I don’t want to raise anyone’s expectations too high. I know some are saying JOHN WICK CHAPTER 3: PARABELLUM is fun but lesser, and that could very well end up being the conventional wisdom. In my mind, though, it’s more than that. It’s an outstanding achievement, a new action classic that outdoes the excellent CHAPTER 2 in both garish spectacle and elaboration on the strange mythology of this secret world of elite assassins.

Like all JOHN WICK movies, it’s full of things you never knew you needed to see, things that are ludicrous, but treated with knowing seriousness, increasing their level of awesomeness. For example, you know that cliche where a character you like gets shot and drops to the ground and you have to wait and hope for the reveal that they were saved by a bullet proof vest? That happens with a dog.

And what about John Wick walking through a desert, but dressed like John Wick? If James Bond goes out into the desert – hell, even if Batman does – he wears different gear. But there is no Desert Action John Wick. When he treks through Moroccan sand dunes he wears the same suit and tie we just saw him wearing in a New York downpour. I suppose maybe he cancelled his debit card when he came back and doesn’t know how to buy new clothes without access to his usual services. But I think it’s more because he’s an icon. That’s his uniform. That’s John Wick. And because director Chad Stahelski knows it’s surreal to see this guy in drastically different settings across the world without changing his blood-stained clothes. (read the rest of this shit…)

Alien Agent

Thursday, May 16th, 2019

ALIEN AGENT is a 2007 made-for-Sy-Fy collaboration between Mark Dacascos and director Jesse V. Johnson. For Dacascos it might’ve been the type of quickie affair he could do for fun and profit between hosting Iron Chef America and appearing in occasional higher profile movies like CRADLE 2 THE GRAVE* and CODE NAME: THE CLEANER. For Johnson it was definitely a gig for hire, his fifth movie as a director but still a learning experience a decade before he started dominating the low budget action world with SAVAGE DOG, ACCIDENT MAN, THE DEBT COLLECTOR and TRIPLE THREAT. So it’s not a career best for either, but it’s a scrappy, entertaining little cheapie with some pleasingly odd touches stirred through the humble sparseness of its production.

Dacascos plays Rykker, a guy who drives around acting like a fed, even flashing a badge, but then steals a police car and sleeps with his tie on in a closed church. He seems to be in an ongoing one-man guerrilla war against a gang of leather-jacket-wearing thugs led by a hot tattooed badass lady named Isis (Amelia Cooke, SPECIES III). In truth they’re all aliens from the same dying planet, and Rykker is sort of a conscientious objector trying to stop Isis’s group from enslaving the human race. Apparently they used to date, and they seem to still kind of like each other, but he believes their people can find an uninhabited world to colonize, and she thinks that’s not enough of a sure thing, so they fight. (read the rest of this shit…)

Kickboxer 5: The Redemption

Monday, May 13th, 2019

“He’s a butcher. A madman. His charm and intelligence make him more dangerous than a cobra.”

Life is cheap in the world of KICKBOXER. Every time the hero doesn’t do a sequel, he gets unceremoniously murdered. It happened to Kurt Sloane (by way of a lookalike) in KICKBOXER 2, and now it happens to David Sloane (through the medium of silhouetted double) in KICKBOXER 5. David (offscreen) refuses to join a new South African kickboxing league, and they have him beaten to death. At least he manages to break the leg of one of his attackers (Tony Caprari, TARZAN AND THE LOST CITY), who will be on crutches for the rest of the movie.

Also worth very little in this series: subtitles. Maybe THE ROAD HOME has legitimate interpretations, and THE ART OF WAR could apply to pretty much anything, but THE AGGRESSOR was a headscratcher and THE REDEMPTION has no practical plot application. Maybe that’s where the American distributors got the idea to rename THE RAID.

But if we follow my usual rule of going by what it says on the opening titles, it’s just THE REDEMPTION, no KICKBOXER in the title at all. And for what it’s worth, the fake David Sloane smashes that title with a flying kick. (read the rest of this shit…)

Kickboxer 4: The Aggressor

Thursday, May 9th, 2019

The time has finally come to return to the original KICKBOXER series. We’ve had fun with the new ones, KICKBOXER: VENGEANCE (2016) and KICKBOXER: RETALIATION (2018). And of course we know and cherish the 1989 original in which Jean-Claude Van Damme as Kurt Sloan clashes with the psychotic Muay Thai champion Tong Po, who had paralyzed his brother in the ring. KICKBOXER 2: THE ROAD HOME (1991) has both Sloan brothers gunned down and introduces a third, previously unmentioned brother named David (Sasha Mitchell) to bring back the family tradition of defeating Tong Po for revenge. That’ll teach him to murder.

I admit I had somewhat forgotten KICKBOXER 3: THE ART OF WAR (1992), but it mixed it up in a fun way by having David and mentor Xian go vigilante and rescue young women from sex traffickers while in Rio for a championship match.

KICKBOXER 4: THE AGGRESSOR (1994) brings back part 2 director Albert Pyun (CYBORG) and opens with a 4-minute clip show as David recaps the events of parts 1-3 in a letter from prison. Much more time seems to have passed in the story than the two years between direct-to-video releases. Since we last saw David Sloan he apparently fell in love, got married, opened a martial arts school, worked for the DEA “trying to bring a major dealer to the U.S. for trial,” but got busted for killing the guy. “It was him or me. Tong Po saw to that,” he explains, if that counts as explaining. (Other times he says Tong Po framed him.) (read the rest of this shit…)

Lady Snowblood: Love Song of Vengeance

Wednesday, May 1st, 2019

Recently Kazuo Koike passed away of pneumonia at the age of 82. A legendary and prolific manga writer, Koike’s comics were the basis of several movies I’ve reviewed: HANZO THE RAZOR: SWORD OF JUSTICE, LADY SNOWBLOOD, THE DRAGON FROM RUSSIA, CRYING FREEMAN, and most famously the LONE WOLF AND CUB series (for which he was also a screenwriter). I love his stories, which often combine interesting historical detail with colorful pulp concepts, and are always centered on characters who live casually, confidently extreme lives. Though some are hired killers and outlaws bitter toward a society that has betrayed and rejected them, they live by codes of honor that frequently lead them to fighting for the oppressed against the cruel and the corrupt. This is definitely the case in LOVE SONG OF VENGEANCE, the only sequel to LADY SNOWBLOOD. Criterion released the pair as a set a couple years ago and this sad occasion finally inspired me to pick it up. (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…)