"KEEP BUSTIN'."

Posts Tagged ‘Bruce Lee’

Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood

Wednesday, July 31st, 2019

THIS IS A FREE RANGE SPOILER REVIEW. THE SPOILERS ARE NOT KEPT IN CAGES. THEY JUST RUN ALL OVER THE PLACE, INCLUDING THE FIRST COUPLE SENTENCES. SEE THE MOVIE FIRST.

ONCE UPON A TIME… IN HOLLYWOOD is an odd and beautiful movie from… Quentin Tarantino. It’s undeniably one that only he could or would make – it’s even in his now-trademark ‘wish-fulfilling rewrite of a historical atrocity’ mode – but it’s different. It’s not as mean and angry as the last three, or as carefully plotted as any of them. It’s sort of a hang out movie, a day-in-the-life of two friends, and a gentle tale of surviving a mid-life crisis, wrapped in a love letter to Los Angeles of the late ’60s, and to the then-fading leading men of the ’50s, with a chaser of gruesome violence. The fun kind, though. The cathartic kind.

Throughout his career, Tarantino has shown his affinity for cool shit like spaghetti westerns, blaxploitation movies, kung fu and crime novels. Here’s where he says “Fuck it, I also like old cowboy shows and procedurals and stuff.” When the guy who makes film exhibition and criticism a major element of his WWII epic does one that’s actually about the Hollywood film industry, obviously he’s gonna go buck wild. The amount of detail he puts into the fictional career of TV star Rick Dalton (Leonardo DiCaprio, two episodes of The New Lassie) – to the point of needing a narrator to talk us through each entry from his Rome period – reaches the level of sci-fi world building. And of course Tarantino, being Tarantino, gives us a soundtrack that drips the sixties without one whiff of Creedence, Dylan, the Doors or Hendrix. Admittedly “Mrs. Robinson” is in there somewhere, but he leans more Deep Purple, Vanilla Fudge and Paul Revere & the Raiders. One of the few I knew was the Neil Diamond song. (read the rest of this shit…)

Ip Man 3

Thursday, January 28th, 2016

tn_ipman3I’ve watched and enjoyed all the movies made about Ip Man so far, but IP MAN 3 is the first one I’ve seen on the big screen. A really big screen at a multiplex with only four other people in the audience. I feel like I should send AMC a thank you card.

After three years Donnie Yen returns to what has become one of his greatest roles, the real life Wing Chun grandmaster Ip Man, most famous here as a guy who taught Bruce Lee. Director Wilson Yip (SPL/KILL ZONE) and writer Edmond Wong (DRAGON TIGER GATE) also return, but the great fight choreographer Sammo Hung has been replaced by the also great Yuen Woo Ping. The weird thing about that is that Yuen did Wong Kar Wai’s rival Ip Man movie THE GRANDMASTER.

Part 2 took place in the early ’50s, with Ip Man and his family moving to Hong Kong, where he set up a Wing Chun school. Now it’s ’59 and he’s still living humbly in a small apartment with his wife (still played by Lynn Hung) and youngest son. We don’t really see him teaching anymore but apparently he is because he still has all his fiercely loyal disciples, and he’s getting into trouble with the wife and the kid’s school (math and reading type school, not fighting) for always working too late.

Once again this story involves a public challenge by another martial arts teacher trying to prove superiority over the local legend. This time it’s not a different style against Wing Chun, it’s a guy saying that he has pure Wing Chun and Ip Man is peddling some bullshit watered down autotune Wing Chun. This guy shouldn’t be fuckin with Ip Man, but he’s a sympathetic enough character that I didn’t initially realize he was gonna be the antagonist. (read the rest of this shit…)

Bruce Lee’s 75th

Friday, November 27th, 2015

tn_bruceleebruceleeiconI should be back on Monday with my review of CREED, but I didn’t want today to pass without acknowledging what would’ve been Bruce Lee’s 75th birthday. Among his many contributions, consider that pretty much anyone who starred in a martial arts movie in the past, say, 35 years got started after seeing a Bruce Lee movie. So if it weren’t for him I wouldn’t have nearly as many reviews on here.

It seems to me there are alot of people who know of Bruce Lee but haven’t actually sat down and watched his whole movies, and I think they could benefit from them. The bad news is he didn’t live long enough to make very many true starring vehicles, the good news is that makes it easy to catch up with. It’s not like getting into Sun Ra or Frank Zappa or something. I’ve even considered making an instructional pamphlet about it called SO YOU HAVEN’T SEEN A BRUCE LEE MOVIE…

In lieu of that, let me share the links to my reviews of Bruce’s movies, in case you haven’t read them.

THE BIG BOSS, a.k.a. FISTS OF FURY, is the first real Bruce Lee vehicle, and an early example of some of my favorite badass cinema techniques.

FIST OF FURY, a.k.a. THE CHINESE CONNECTION, is his only historical period piece type deal. It has many great and iconic scenes, though does suffer from some serious nationalism. (It has also been remade, including by Jet Li as FIST OF LEGEND.)

ENTER THE DRAGON I bet you’ve heard of. Great movie.

WAY OF THE DRAGON, a.k.a. RETURN OF THE DRAGON is my personal favorite Bruce Lee movie, the only one he directed, and the one where he kicks Chuck Norris’s ass in a textbook-great martial arts duel.

GAME OF DEATH has the iconic fight against Kareem Abdul Jabbar in the yellow and black jumpsuit, but it’s actually a horrible exploitation of Lee’s death and unfinished work-in-progress. You can watch it or not, but be sure not to miss BRUCE LEE: A WARRIOR’S JOURNEY, the documentary that explains the movie he was really trying to make and then reconstructs all of the scenes he shot (the best fights he ever did). There’s also a GAME OF DEATH II which is less morbid and more fun than the first one, but only has a little bit of obviously recycled Bruce footage. It’s mainly about his character’s brother.

Bonus points: MARLOWE, the ’60s take on the Raymond Chandler character starring James Garner has a couple great scenes with Bruce as the villain’s henchman.

Game of Death II

Wednesday, September 16th, 2015

tn_godiibruceleeiconGAME OF DEATH II is a weird proposition. How the hell do you make a sequel to Bruce Lee’s unfinished final movie and pretend he’s still the star? It’s like if they tried to figure out how to keep Paul Walker in FURIOUS 8. It’s a little different because some of the best fights Lee ever shot were for GAME OF DEATH and they didn’t bother to use all the footage in the first one. But I guess they thought it would be cheating to use that stuff. Instead they took a bunch of his closeups from ENTER THE DRAGON and cut them into scenes of a lookalike always shown either from the back or at a distance. Lee’s character Billy Lo is worried about his brother being too into sex and not enough into practicing kung fu. He finds his kama sutra and leaves him a letter and a Jeet Kun Do manual to counter its harmful influence.

Also Billy talks to his master, who tells stories about his youth, illustrated with clips from Chinese movies Lee made at 6 and 15. Instead of letting you figure it out (like Soderbergh using clips from POOR COW as flashbacks in THE LIMEY) they use onscreen text to tell you, breaking any illusion that this is the character Billy Lo, famous movie star who faked his death. In the younger one he’s picking on an old man, headbutting him in the gut, pointing a gun at him and saying he’s gonna kill him. Weird. (read the rest of this shit…)

Chinese Gods (Bruce Lee in Animation)

Tuesday, June 4th, 2013

tn_chinesegodsSpeaking of weird animated martial arts videos, this week for my column on Daily Grindhouse I investigated a weird VHS tape I found of a 1976 animated movie purported to have Bruce Lee in it. Or a cartoon of him. It’s called CHINESE GODS, aka THE STORY OF THE CHINESE GODS. Bruce has a third eye and he fights a nine-tailed fox lady and that sort of thing. You know how it is.

CHINESE GODS on Daily Grindhouse

Dragon: The Bruce Lee Story

Wednesday, May 26th, 2010

tn_dragonWe here in Seattle are very proud of Bruce Lee. We claim him as our own. He’s one of our icons like Jimi, Cobain, and… well, I’m not gonna say Sir Mix-a-lot. I don’t know. Quincy Jones?

Of course, Bruce was born in San Francisco, raised in Hong Kong, filmed his movies in Hong Kong. He only lived here for about 5 years. But I think it’s fair to say they were important years. Any biography of Bruce mentions that he studied philosophy, right? Well that was right here at our University of Washington. He actually majored in drama, so give us partial credit for his acting too. He started his first kung fu schools here. He met his wife here. He married her here. When he died his family still lived here, so he’s buried here, and so is Brandon. We still don’t have a Bruce Lee statue, but Linda and Shannon Lee are trying to build The Bruce Lee Action Museum here. So we got a legitimate claim, I think. We are a Bruce Lee town.

That’s why it’s so embarrassing that some dumb motherfuckers dropped the ball and got us completely erased from this biopic. (read the rest of this shit…)

Bruce Lee: A Warrior’s Journey

Tuesday, May 25th, 2010

tn_warriorsjourneybruceleeiconIt just occurred to me that there’s a Fred Williamson movie I could’ve reviewed to go from GAME OF DEATH to DEATH JOURNEY to WARRIOR’S JOURNEY. But we don’t got time for word games. Let’s get rollin.

There are a whole lot of documentaries and TV episodes about the short life of Bruce Lee, so why did we need another one in 2000? Well, because this was the uncovering-King-Tut’s-tomb of Bruce Lee documentaries, created by John Little, a bodybuilding expert who is also considered one of the world’s foremost authorities on Bruce Lee. Little went through the archives and studied notes, sketches, outlines and footage to find out what Lee’s plans were for his unfinished movie GAME OF DEATH and what footage was shot that wasn’t used in the fake-beard version that was released (the Graverobber’s Cut). He shows through interviews and archival business how Lee’s career and evolving martial arts philosophy were all leading up to what would’ve been his masterpiece, a movie where he teaches all his ideas but through some of the best fight scenes ever constructed. Then Little unveils what was made of GAME OF DEATH, edited together with the takes Lee planned to use (luckily he wrote all this down!) (read the rest of this shit…)

Game of Death

Tuesday, May 25th, 2010

tn_gameofdeathbruceleeiconMan, I hadn’t seen GAME OF DEATH in a long time. I forgot it was this ridiculous. It’s known for the yellow jumpsuit (homaged in BERRY GORDY’S THE LAST DRAGON, SHAOLIN SOCCER, KILL BILL VOLUME 1, etc.) and his fight against Kareem Abdul Jabbar while wearing it. But that’s only 11 minutes at the end, taken from the unfinished movie Bruce started directing before he took the opportunity to star in ENTER THE DRAGON. The other 90% is a bunch of filler bullshit trying to stretch those scenes out to feature length, with an entirely different plot that sleazily exploits the mystery surrounding Lee’s death.

But you know what, some of Lee’s friends and students are in it, so they must’ve approved. For example, Chuck Norris. Oh wait, that’s just clips from WAY OF THE DRAGON. Well, what about Kareem Abdul Jabbar? Oh wait, that’s some other tall black dude in sunglasses, because Kareem didn’t want to take part in the new scenes. (read the rest of this shit…)

The Loose Canon: Way of the Dragon (aka Return of the Dragon)

Thursday, May 20th, 2010

tn_wayofthedragonThere are a few people walking the earth, or in our memories, who are so good at what they do, so unique in their talents, that we almost mistake them for gods or super heroes. You could be born a prodigy and practice all your life, striving for excellence with every breath you take, and still not match Muhammad Ali, James Brown, Mozart or Michaelangelo. It takes more than training, more than talent. It takes a whole lot of both of those things, plus a drive to be the very best, plus… something else. If we knew what that something else was then everybody would dance like Michael Jackson.

Well, I think we can all agree that Bruce Lee is one of those individuals. (read the rest of this shit…)

Fist of Fury

Friday, April 23rd, 2010

tn_fistoffuryFIST OF FURY aka THE CHINESE CONNECTION is Bruce Lee vehicle #2. This one is a period piece with much higher production values than THE BIG BOSS. Bruce comes into town wearing a white suit (looking like today’s pretty boy Korean pop stars, to be honest) and discovers that his master has just died. Bruce is playing the fictional character Chen Zhen, student to the real historical figure of Huo Yuanjia, who has become fictionalized in movies and legends. (For one version of Huo Yuanjia’s life story see FEARLESS, where he’s played by Jet Li.)

It’s ironic that this story comes out of speculation over Huo Yuanjia’s death, because speculation about Bruce Lee’s own death would pretty much become its own subgenre. But that’s later. (read the rest of this shit…)