"I got news for 'em. There's gonna be hell to pay. 'Cause I ain't daddy's little boy no more."

Archive for the ‘Martial Arts’ Category

The Guillotines

Monday, March 17th, 2014

tn_guillotinesTHE GUILLOTINES isn’t a remake of MASTER OF THE FLYING GUILLOTINE, but it uses the same concept of the Emperor having an elite squad of ruthless executioners who use the flying guillotine to do his bidding/beheading. If you thought this was a far-fetched weapon when it was a ring of blades that popped out of a collapsible basket on the end of a chain, wait until you see the post-steampunk version.

In the opening we see the Guillotines (or really the team of digital FX artists) demonstrate their skills in Zack Snyderian slo-mo detail. They have ornate metal rings (like that thing Xena threw) that spin on the end of a curved sword that they hold like a jai alai basket. They pose and let it menacingly chunk chunk chunk until they toss it. It can curve around, ricochet and ring around some motherfucker’s collar and then the machinery dramatically clicks and chings for a while before the blades fold and pop out and cut off the head. (read the rest of this shit…)

The Death of Bruce Lee

Sunday, February 9th, 2014

tn_deathofbruceleeIt would be cool if Ron Van Clief was to Lee Van Clief as Bruce Li was to Bruce Lee, but actually he’s just another martial artist who capitalized on the success of ENTER THE DRAGON by starring in a bunch of low budget non-period-piece kung fu movies. The unique thing is that Van Clief wasn’t a Bruce Lee clone, he was more following in the footsteps of Jim Kelly.

(Now where’s the guy who got a bunch of movies ’cause he looked like John Saxon?)

Like Bruce Lee’s greatest victim, Chuck Norris, Van Clief had made his name in competitive martial arts and ran many schools before finding his way into movies. The year after ENTER THE DRAGON he starred in his first movie, and it was called BLACK DRAGON. It’s a nice idea because even if we still had the original Dragon we still might enjoy experiencing a Black Dragon. So he doesn’t so much have to pass as a worthy replacement. It’s a different thing. (read the rest of this shit…)

Royal Warriors

Wednesday, January 29th, 2014

tn_royalwarriorsROYAL WARRIORS is a pretty good 1986 Michelle Yeoh vehicle directed by David Chung (cinematographer of ONCE UPON A TIME IN CHINA) with action choreography by Hoi Mang (YES, MADAM!, NO RETREAT NO SURRENDER).

Michelle, called Michelle Khan at the time, plays Michelle Yip, who at the beginning is visiting Japan and enjoying one of those things where Japanese youths dress up rockabilly style and dance in the street. She happens to be in the way watching a guy play barrels as drums when some gangsters come by chasing a fleeing kid. So when she sees what’s happening she goes after them, stickfighting, climbing on statues and kung fu-ing them before she whips out her badge and we learn that she’s a Hong Kong cop. (read the rest of this shit…)

Man of Tai Chi

Monday, November 4th, 2013

tn_manoftaichibtislMAN OF TAI CHI is a finely tuned new take on my beloved underground fighting subgenre. It’s the directational debut of POINT BREAK’s Keanu Reeves, who gets extra cool-points for starting his directing career just to make a vehicle for a stuntman he met on the MATRIX sequels, Tiger Hu Chen. Reeves brings along MATRIX fight choreographer Yuen Wo Ping and, even better, plays the villain. It’s a Chinese production, set and filmed in Beijing, only partly in English. I guess that’s why I’ve never seen an ad for it and almost missed the fact that it was playing in theaters (it’s been available on VOD and iTunes for about a month).
(read the rest of this shit…)

Ip Man: The Final Fight

Friday, August 30th, 2013

tn_ipmanfinalfight“A scholar and a warrior!”

Hey, you know what, how ’bout another movie about Ip Man? This is the fifth one I’ve seen in as many years. But this is THE FINAL FIGHT, so it’s the last one, at least until IP MAN: A NEW BEGINNING or WES CRAVEN’S NEW IP MAN.

This is from Herman Yau, the director of the least known but still good Ip Man picture, LEGEND IS BORN: IP MAN, and once again with an appearance by Ip Man’s actual son Ip Chun (a consultant on all of the Ip Man movies except THE GRANDMASTER). But this time the attraction is seeing Anthony Wong (HARD BOILED, HEROIC TRIO, INFERNAL AFFAIRS, EXILED, VENGEANCE, everything else) take over the Ip Man role and play him as an old man. In THE GRANDMASTER it ends up when the good old days are over and everybody’s opening kung fu schools left and right. That’s when this is, over a period of years but focusing on the early 60s, around the time Ip Man was giving Wing Chun lessons on the roof of a building. (read the rest of this shit…)

The Grandmaster

Wednesday, August 21st, 2013

tn_grandmasterNOTE: A couple weeks ago I watched Wong Kar Wai’s long-awaited Ip Man movie THE GRANDMASTER on an import DVD. I loved it so much I decided not to post a review until the U.S. theatrical release so more people would be able to see it and discuss it.

Then I saw an ad on TV calling the movie “Martin Scorsese presents THE GRANDMASTER,” talking about “THE MAN WHO TAUGHT BRUCE LEE,” and showing a bunch of fight scenes with an aggressive hip hop soundtrack. There’s an even more extreme one online now that uses the theme from THE MAN WITH THE IRON FISTS.

These ads gave me a laugh, because as great as the fights are in the movie the emphasis is on characters and metaphors and beautiful imagery, and it’s as much about Zhang Ziyi’s Gong Er (a fictional character, I believe) as a biography of Ip Man. I was excitbtisled to see it on the big screen, but dreading the possibility of an audience angry at the long breaks between punching.

What didn’t occur to me is that maybe the breaks aren’t that long anymore. It turns out the U.S. theatrical cut is a Weinsteinized version that’s 22 minutes shorter. David Ehrlich of film.com explains that the new cut was done with the participation of Wong, and details all the things he noticed that were cut out. I won’t spoil whether or not he likes the new version, you’ll just have to read his article Kung Foolish: How The American Cut of ‘The Grandmaster’ Ruins a Masterpiece to find out for yourself.

I still plan to see it, but based on Ehrlich’s list it sounds like half of the themes and scenes I talk about in this review aren’t even in the movie anymore. So fuck it, here is my review of the 130-minutes-including-credits Suitable-For-The-Entire-World-Except-For-America-Because-How-Could-They-Ever-Understand-It Cut. (read the rest of this shit…)

The Super-Kumite Finals: The Kumite (2003)

Tuesday, August 6th, 2013

tn_Super-Kumitetn_kumiteTHE KUMITE is the stupid American title for the 2003 Hong Kong film also known as STAR RUNNER. Thankfully there is a tournament in it, but if you’re wondering, it’s called “Star Runner,” not “The Kumite.” The word “kumite” is never used in the movie, unless you count the BLOODSPORT trailer they included on the DVD. Also, the guy in the cover is not the hero, that’s the guy he has to beat at the tournament. And the tagline “To die is an honor” has nothing to do with the movie at all. Nobody dies.
(read the rest of this shit…)

The Super-Kumite finals: Bare Knuckles

Monday, August 5th, 2013

tn_bareknucklestn_Super-Kumite“I’m not interested in champions of the ring. I’m interested in champions of the heart.”

When I found BARE KNUCKLES I wasn’t sure it would even be watchable. It’s recent (2010), I’d never heard of it, it’s not from an established action star or director, and the box mentions serious matters: “Women will go to extreme lengths for those they love, and single mother Samantha Rogers is no exception, being the sole provider for her daughter Mila, a child in need of special care.” That kinda sounds like a recipe for an indie drama about a fighter that’s not really about fights. Then I put it in and the menu and opening credits both of terrible fonts and music, and they put the obviously bogus claim “inspired by a true story” right after the title. This just looks like amateur hour from the get go.

What I’m saying is BARE KNUCKLES was an underdog. A Cinderella story. Cinderella Man, but with a lady… and it makes us all proud. It’s a little ragged and cheesy at times, but it’s a really likable take on alot of the genre tropes, feeling a little different without ever reinventing anything. (read the rest of this shit…)

The Super-Kumite: Extreme Challenge

Wednesday, July 31st, 2013

tn_extremechallengeEXTREME CHALLENGE (2001) is a movie that didn’t come up in any of my extensive internet searches for fighting tournament movies, but I happened to come across it in the Hong Kong section of the video store. Another victory for human browsing. This is a Hong Kong production, a Golden Harvest presentation even, but it’s in English (non sync). Director Tung Wei was usually more of a stuntman and choreographer. He did action direction for HERO and appeared onscreen in HARD BOILED (which character is “Foxy”?) (read the rest of this shit…)

The Super-Kumite: Dragon Fire

Wednesday, July 31st, 2013

tn_dragonfiretn_Super-KumiteRound 2, Bout 2, Red Fist Club vs. The Men From Hong Kong

When I started The Super-Kumite I was alot greener than I realized, a soft-handed hayseed fresh off the turnip truck, walking through the streets of Manila wearing my Hard Rock Cafe t-shirt, just askin to get my bag stolen. It was naive, but I assumed at least this BLOODFIST series, which always impressed me by having 8 installments on the shelf, was gonna stick with being about fighting tournaments. They have this whole mythology of the Red Fist Club and their Ta-Chang tournament, they have a star who was a real life kickboxing champion, of course they’re gonna keep exploring that, is what I figured. But that’s not how it works in the real world.

BLOODFIST 2 (which I will review separately) continues the story of Jake and his treacherous mentor (or actually the same guy playing basically the same character but with a different name because I think maybe he died at the end of part 1), and it has a great premise where the best fighters of various styles are tricked into coming to Manila, then abducted and forced to fight on an exotic private island. It should be a tournament – his own reworking of the Ta-Chang – but instead it’s just gladiator-style matches. Fun movie, but not eligible for The Super-Kumite. And from what I’ve read it looks like none of the other BLOODFISTs have tournaments until the last one, the Dragon-less BLOODFIST 2050. So that’ll be the round 3 movie if we get that far. In searching for a round 2 substitute I found out that in 1993 director Rick Jacobson (BLOODFIST VI and VIII) directed two different BLOODFIST rehashes (both using basically the same script?). I ordered the one starring Jerry Trimble (FULL CONTACT) but it hasn’t shown up yet, and I was able to rent the other one, DRAGON FIRE. (read the rest of this shit…)