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Archive for the ‘Martial Arts’ Category

Snake Eyes: G.I. Joe Origins

Tuesday, January 4th, 2022

I had been pretty excited for SNAKE EYES: G.I. JOE ORIGINS, but I was skeptical about director Robert Schwentke (R.I.P.D.) so when it came out and everybody said the action scenes were unwatchable I put off seeing it. I don’t know if the tempering of expectations helped, but catching up with it on video I found it was pretty much the enjoyable studio b-movie I had been hoping for.

Maybe there’s a better word for that, but it’s a category I appreciate: mainstream studio theatrical releases with huge budgets compared to the DTV stuff we love, but without any expectations of either being giant hits or critical successes. Unpretentious, crassly commercial movies, sometimes seemingly out of touch with what is considered cool at the moment, all generally seen as lowbrow also-rans, whether or not their creators had higher aspirations. Stuff like non-FAST Vin Diesel movies, most of the video game and/or Milla Jovovich movies, fantasy sword guy movies, Rob Cohen and P.W.S. Anderson movies. I know not to hold them to my normally stringent artistic standards and just hope for a satisfying mix of pretty cool, kinda stupid, hopefully excessive in some goofy way, maybe in some ways better than most people were gonna give them credit for. (read the rest of this shit…)

The Matrix Revolutions

Thursday, December 16th, 2021

When the second half of the 2-part MATRIX sequel begins, our hero Neo and antagonist Agent Smith are both displaced from their regular realities. Smith has somehow transferred his computer-program-consciousness into the organic human body of Bane, only survivor of the destroyed Nebuchadnezzar, now in the sick bay of the Hammer next to comatose Neo, whose mind is trapped in a purgatorial subway station in a virtual world separate from The Matrix.

Yeah, the sequels get complicated. We learn that programs inside The Matrix are regularly deleted, but some try to escape that fate. The subway is a black market means of smuggling exile programs in and out of the Matrix or the Machine City (01?) mainframe. This is all overseen by the Merovingian, with the subway itself operated by his employee The Trainman, a scary dude played by Bruce Spence, a.k.a. the Gyro Captain in THE ROAD WARRIOR and Jedediah in MAD MAX BEYOND THUNDERDOME. (read the rest of this shit…)

The Matrix Reloaded

Wednesday, December 15th, 2021

THE MATRIX RELOADED may have been the most highly anticipated but immediately rejected sequel of my lifetime. I’m not just excluding PHANTOM MENACE for being a prequel – whatever happened in the rest of the world, I honestly didn’t experience many people hating it until months later, at least. With RELOADED it was pretty instant.

It was the only MATRIX movie I reviewed upon release, so you can click here to see my kinda dumb, mostly still applicable 2003 thoughts on the matter. I seemed to be fielding a backlash against the original MATRIX movie as well as people hating RELOADED, but it was only the latter I found myself feeling I had to defend over the years.

I do think I partly understand why people were disappointed. THE MATRIX ends on a perfect note of letting us imagine what’s next in the “world where anything is possible.” Any definitive answer of what happens next has a hard time competing with the electric feeling of not knowing. Especially when part 1 was a carefully constructed machine of concept, explanation and payoff, while part 2 kind of wanders through a labyrinth of tangential notions and questions before it gets to the battle it’s been promising. And it cuts off in a cliffhanger well before said battle. (read the rest of this shit…)

The Matrix

Monday, December 13th, 2021

THE MATRIX is, I continue to believe, one of The Great Movies. It absolutely holds up today, and also it reminds me so much of then. I will always remember what it felt like when this was a new movie, and our entire understanding of the MATRIX story. When we all imagined where it would go next, and then we we had a couple years enjoying or rolling our eyes at all the movies obviously influenced by it, whether that means corny outfits and techno music or that brief, glorious window when Hollywood actors could be convinced to spend months preparing for action scenes with the great Hong Kong choreographers. But mostly I like to remember what it felt like to be surprised by it. Going in wondering if it would be good and then coming out knowing it was this.

I did have hopes. I had come to respect Keanu Reeves’ taste in movies after SPEED and, say what you will, JOHNNY MNEMONIC. I liked BOUND and it was exciting to see directors like that doing a sci-fi movie. And then a day or two before it came out I heard something about there being kung fu in it? So it wasn’t completely out of the blue that it was good. But I don’t think I was expecting something that a couple decades later would still be thought as highly of as the fucking MATRIX is. (read the rest of this shit…)

Rurouni Kenshin Part III: The Legend Ends

Thursday, December 2nd, 2021

I’m still catching up with these RUROUNI KENSHIN movies. I really recommend RUROUNI KENSHIN PART I: ORIGINS (2012), and I watched RUROUNI KENSHIN II: KYOTO INFERNO (2014) a while back and then this one. I got caught up and didn’t finish that review until now but I wanted to finish before I watch this year’s final two installments.

RUROUNI KENSHIN PART III: THE LEGEND ENDS (2014) continues from the cliffhanger of part II, in which our no-longer-believing-in-killing samurai hero Kenshin (Takeru Satoh, SAMURAI MARATHON) had leapt from the pirate ship of aspiring-Japan-conqueror Shishio (Tatsuya Fujiwara, BATTLE ROYALE), failed to save his pacifist sword master friend Miss Kaoru (Emi Takei, TERRA FORMARS), and washed ashore on some beach, to be discovered by a mysterious dude. But the story slows down for a while, correctly judging that part II has earned the filmatists our trust and the right to take a breath and dig into the characters and the melodrama for a while. (read the rest of this shit…)

Guardian Angel

Wednesday, December 1st, 2021

GUARDIAN ANGEL is a 1994 Cynthia Rothrock joint from PM Entertainment, directed by Richard W. Munchkin (RING OF FIRE) and written by Joe Hart (REPO JAKE, STEEL FRONTIER). It’s not one of the better crafted Rothrock pictures, but it’s a worthwhile grade of ridiculousness.

Rothrock stars as Christine McKay, who’s working as a cop when we first meet her. And she’s at a great place in her life. Staking out a public park undercover as “lady standing next to ice cream truck,” she shows off her engagement ring to her partner and confesses that she never thought she’d marry a cop. Then the shit goes down: two groups totaling around 25 people show up at the park to discuss a counterfeiting transaction.

McKay makes the very questionable choice to run by herself toward these gangs firing her gun in the air. The sound causes them to start fighting and shooting at each other. She personally beats the shit out of several of them before backup arrives. (read the rest of this shit…)

Hydra

Monday, November 29th, 2021

HYDRA (2019) is a modest Japanese crime movie that I enjoyed for its simplicity. It begins harshly, with a very efficient killing and disposal of a guy in a public restroom. The very human detail that the victim can’t stop peeing as he’s stabbed and dragged from the urinal to a stall ups the disturbing factor by about 150%. And that’s before we see a man wearing tight swimming trunks (Takashi Nishina, GAMERA 3: REVENGE OF IRIS) so he can chop up the body and then hose himself off before giving a few chunks as treats to his piranhas. Seems like he’s got the process down pat.

They have a whole system, because this is some kind of organization that murders crooked cops. Reading other people’s reviews maybe this is a vigilante anti-corruption kind of thing, but I got the impression from the dialogue that it was more like a coverup, getting rid of the guys who go so far they become liabilities. (read the rest of this shit…)

double feature: VAMPIRE EFFECT and TSUI HARK’S VAMPIRE HUNTERS

Wednesday, November 24th, 2021

You know how it is – sometimes the mood hits you for a little martial arts/horror combo, specifically the type found in Hong Kong vampire movies from the early 2000s, so you check out two of them. At least that’s how I dealt with the problem. The first one in my double feature, VAMPIRE EFFECT (2003) credits Dante Lam (BEAST COPS, THE STOOL PIGEON) as director and none other than Donnie Yen (HIGHLANDER: ENDGAME) as “co-director” and “action director.” Unsurprisingly, the action is the best part.

The original title is TWINS EFFECT, because it stars a pop duo called Twins, made up of Charlene Choi and Gillian Chung. But nobody knows what that is here and there are no twins in the movie, so I guess this is our equivalent to when Germany changed ROVER DANGERFIELD to ROVER & DAISY. And this is another one of those pop star vehicle movies that doesn’t really have an equivalent here exactly. I mean, you don’t see Tegan and Sara doing a vampire movie. So far.

Choi stars as Helen, a heartbroken young woman who, while grieving a breakup, hits it off with a vampire prince named Kazaf (Edison Chen, GEN-X COPS 2: METAL MAYHEM) who’s enjoying a glass of blood in a fancy restaurant. She doesn’t realize what he is, even though she has some knowledge of such matters because her brother Reeve (Ekin Cheng, YOUNG & DANGEROUS) is a vampire hunter. (read the rest of this shit…)

The Swordsman

Monday, November 22nd, 2021

THE SWORDSMAN is a 2020 Korean film about a swordsman. Color me intrigued. (Seriously. I like swordsmen.) I wonder what’s up with this swordsman that makes him THE swordsman?

Actually there’s a bunch of swordsmen in THE SWORDSMAN with one that I assume is the titular swordsman but another one you could make an interesting if not totally convincing argument for. The main one is Tae-yul (Lee Min-hyuk), “the best swordsman in Joseon,” who in the prologue (while being played by Lee Min-hyuk) refuses to stand down from protecting the king (Jang Hyun-sung, SHIRI) when the other top officials have decided to topple him in a rebellion. The secondary swordsman is Min Seung-ho (Jung Man-sik, THE YELLOW SEA), an older military official who, to get to the king, challenges Tae-yul to a duel in which Tae-yul’s sword shatters, sending shards into his hand and eyes. At that point the king stops the fight and agrees to step down.

Unspecified years later, Tae-yul (now Jang Hyuk, VOLCANO HIGH) is a recluse living in the mountains with his teenage daughter Tae-ok (Kim Hyun-soo, THE FIVE). He periodically has problems with his vision, and a monk tells them to go get a special herb from a trader he knows named Hwa Seon (Lee Na-Kyung, BATTLE FOR INCHEON: OPERATION CHROMITE) or he’s gonna go blind. (read the rest of this shit…)

Never Back Down: Revolt

Wednesday, November 17th, 2021

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: I want them to keep making these franchise western martial arts movies until the cows come home. And how ya gonna get a cow back on the farm after they’ve seen KICKBOXER: RETALIATION? So I’m glad they’re keeping the prestigious NEVER BACK DOWN brand name alive with NEVER BACK DOWN: REVOLT, which came out on Blu-Ray, DVD and digital file download licensing transaction this week. It isn’t connected to the characters or events of the other three, and it’s a very different tone, but Never Backing Down doesn’t belong to any one team of filmmakers or DTV sequelizers. It belongs to the whole world of people who aspire to never backing down (in a good way). And that world apparently includes director Kellie Madison (THE TANK) and screenwriter Audrey Arkins (ELYSE), who bring us a different take on underground fighting movies, this time with all women fighters.

Anya (Olivia Popica, “Receptionist,” FANTASTIC BEASTS 2: FAREWELL TO THE FLESH) is a Chechen immigrant in London. She lives with and supports her brother Aslan (Tommy Bastow, The Crossing), a small time MMA fighter, while studying (and working as a janitor) at a nursing school. But one day her stupid brother and his stupid trainer get her into some shit – Aslan is supposed to throw a fight, but doesn’t (we got a regular Butch Coolidge on our hands here, guys) and when he’s assaulted by the thugs of kingpin Julian (James Faulkner, ATOMIC BLONDE) Anya jumps in to defend him, catching the eye of lusty fight recruiter Mariah (Brooke Johnston, ACCIDENT MAN, ). (read the rest of this shit…)