SHAMO is a weird 2007 manga adaptation that I stumbled across on DVD and gave a chance because it’s from Cheang Pou-soi, the excellent director who later did MOTORWAY and SPL 2: A TIME FOR CONSEQUENCES. This one’s basically an evil version of a karate competition movie. It has many of the beloved traditions of the format, with an underdog finding a mentor, training hard, and getting an unlikely shot in a crooked sports organization. But this is not a good person – he’s introduced as a kid who snapped and murdered his parents, he learns to fight in juvenile detention, he seeks acceptance but not redemption, he gets his way by behaving very dishonorably, including to his loyal friends. I know some people would hate it for that, but to me it makes it a compellingly uncomfortable viewing experience. (read the rest of this shit…)
Archive for the ‘Sport’ Category
You know I love the CREED movies and the ROCKY movies. ROCKY V is easily the weakest of all of them, and I even like that one. I don’t expect there ever to be another one as impressive as CREED, a miraculous rebirth by a brilliant director who deeply loved Stallone’s movies and evolved them into something new, so I enjoyed CREED II for what it was. I was thrilled that it brought back Dolph Lundgren as Ivan Drago and let us care about him the way I always wanted to. As I wrote in my review at the time, “He was a human specimen in ROCKY IV, and now he’s a human.”
CREED II is a solid sequel, but CREED III is a truly great one. It’s the directorial debut of Michael B. Jordan, and being populated only by characters from the CREED part of the series it stands more on its own, less on our nostalgia and good will. It follows the ROCKY sequel template in that it checks in with Adonis Creed (Jordan) at a new stage of his career and life, catches up with his family, introduces a new rival, and builds up a conflict that will result in a big match wrapped up in personal meaning. To his credit, Jordan also introduces a bit of stylization in the fight scenes that stands out from the others in the series. But most importantly he tells a story that genuinely has things to say about life and relationships that to me is as exciting as any of the boxing. (read the rest of this shit…)
“This ain’t about money anymore.”
DIGGSTOWN, released August 14, 1992, is a pretty entertaining meat and potatoes movie, with the meat being a sports movie and the potatoes being a con movie. It’s directed by Michael Ritchie (PRIME CUT, FLETCH) and written by Steven McKay (between HARD TO KILL and DARKMAN II: THE RETURN OF DURANT) based on the novel The Diggstown Ringers by Leonard Wise.
James Woods (BEST SELLER) stars as Gabriel Caine (no relation to RAISING CAIN), a master manipulator doing time in a Georgia prison for selling counterfeit art, now making money on the side helping other prisoners escape. When he’s released he heads to nearby Diggstown with a complicated scheme targeting unofficial ruler of the town John Gillon (Bruce Dern, THE DRIVER). Gillon was once the manager of local boxing legend Charles Macom Diggs (Wilhelm von Homburg, DIE HARD, NIGHT OF THE WARRIOR). Now he manages the small boxing venue Diggstown Arena, but makes enough money to buy his his son Robby (Thomas Wilson Brown, the neighbor kid in HONEY, I SHRUNK THE KIDS) a ’56 Corvette. (read the rest of this shit…)
A LEAGUE OF THEIR OWN (which opened against BOOMERANG on July 1, 1992) is a very nice and pleasing mainstream period sports comedy-drama from director Penny Marshall (JUMPIN’ JACK FLASH). It’s a fictionalized version of one of those true life historical events you hear about and think “Yep, that’s a movie” because it reads so much like a high concept movie pitch: during WWII, when so many American men were sent to fight overseas, some enterprising baseball executives started the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League to keep the sport in the public eye. Though they endured all manner of sexist indignities (like being forced to wear skirts and pretend to fit various feminine stereotypes) they also were good at what they did and took their shot to show it off.
Geena Davis (FLETCH) and Lori Petty (CADILLAC MAN) star as Dottie Hinson and Kit Keller, small town Oregon sisters who run a dairy and play catcher and pitcher on a softball team. One day a scout named Ernie Capadino (Jon Lovitz*, THREE AMIGOS) attends a game and wants Dottie to try out for the A.A.G.P.B.L. She’s happy with her life and uninterested, but agrees to go if he’ll give Kit a shot too. (read the rest of this shit…)
“I’m sorry. I’m sorry for what I said to you that day in the condo.”
Okay, we have now come to the one “Wait— what?” of the Raimi filmography. His MUSIC OF THE HEART. We saw him completely switch up his style for his last movie, A SIMPLE PLAN, and it was obviously very different and more “normal” than anything he’d done previously. But it wasn’t totally out of the blue for him to make the leap from horror to dark suspense thriller. It had some overlap with the crime films by his friends the Coen Brothers, and it had a great role for Bridget Fonda, who had previously done a cameo in ARMY OF DARKNESS.
But for the love of God, where did FOR LOVE OF THE GAME come from? The answer he always gives is about the only answer possible: he likes baseball, he liked the script, he wanted to try something different. I knew that was what it was but I always figured it would be worth watching some day. “Some day” came 22 years after it was released (now), and I’m actually surprised that the only Raimi I noticed in it at all was Ted Raimi in a cameo as the doorman at a party. I figured there would at least be some cool shots of baseballs flying. The premise is that maybe-about-to-retire Detroit Tigers pitcher Billy Chapel (Kevin Costner, SIZZLE BEACH, U.S.A.) reflects on his failed relationship while trying to pitch a perfect game. You’d think there would be some attempt to experiment with different ways to show a pitch on film, as THE QUICK AND THE DEAD did with gun duels. But it’s not that kind of party. (read the rest of this shit…)
Well holy shit. I’ve taken my sweet time getting to all three of Jamaa Fanaka’s PENITENTIARY movies, but they’ve all lived up to my hopes. If you’re not familiar, they star Leon Isaac Kennedy (LONE WOLF McQUADE) as Martel “Too Sweet” Gordone, a man who is unjustly incarcerated but becomes a legend in the prison boxing circuit. I’m sure it’s an inspiration for the UNDISPUTED series, but Fanaka’s world is angrier, dirtier, and much, much weirder.
Released in 1979, PENITENTIARY was actually the third movie Fanaka made while attending UCLA. Unlike other directors considered part of the L.A. Rebellion film movement, he was more attracted to Hollywood than to political statements, so he made straight up lurid and entertaining blaxploitation movies. But racism, cruelty and injustice are central to his stories.
PENITENTIARY II (1982) brings the action into the outside world, and it’s a little slicker and more expensive, so it features Mr. T and Ernie Hudson.
But PENITENTIARY III (1987) is a Cannon Film. It is not fucking around. It would be an exaggeration to say that Cannon did to the PENITENTIARY series what they did to THE TEXAS CHAIN SAW MASSACRE with part 2, but there’s definitely a hint of that sort of unhinged insanity. We find Too Sweet still a free man, competing as a legitimate boxer, when his corner man is paid off to put something in his water. (That he looks over his shoulder nervously and then just openly pours something into the water in front of an audience without anyone noticing is one of many goofy touches.) (read the rest of this shit…)
I don’t have the attachment many people I know have to the KARATE KID movies. But I’m kinda into their mythology, especially after my recent dip into the more over-the-top b-movie villainy of part III. So I excitedly took advantage of a free window (until September 11th) to watch the ten half-hour-ish episodes in the first season of the premium Youtube series Cobra Kai.
Even in today’s gold rush for nostalgic i.p. this seems like a too-good-to-be-true sequel scenario, especially for my interests. Ralph Macchio – now actually older than Pat Morita was in the first movie! – returns as Daniel LaRusso, but so does William Zabka as part 1 nemesis Johnny Lawrence, and even though Macchio gets top billing, Zabka is treated as the underdog hero, like Iceman Chambers in UNDISPUTED II, or like I wanted them to do with Martin Kove’s villainous sensei John Kreese after seeing him down and out in the opening scenes of KARATE KID III. Broke, washed up, divorced, drinking Coors all day, still listening to Ratt and wearing Van Halen t-shirts, Johnny attempts to re-open the Cobra Kai dojo in a strip mall next to a vape store. But he’s so bad at salesmanship he ends up having only one student, a nice kid named Miguel (Xolo Mariduena, Parenthood) who tempers some of his worst tendencies while being empowered by his macho tough love and “strike first, strike hard, no mercy” philosophy. (read the rest of this shit…)
INDIANA JONES AND THE LAST CRUSADE was not the only part 3 on offer for Summer of ’89 – there was also John Avildsen’s THE KARATE KID PART III. And as Mrs. Vern pointed out to me, the series kind of follows the same pattern as Indy: there’s the popular first one, the second one goes off in a different direction (bringing him to Japan), and then the third one plays it safe by being closer to part 1, with Cobra Kai, John Kreese and the All-Valley Karate Tournament. And then of course both series also have a much later, unpopular part 4 and a pretty enjoyable remake starring Jaden Smith.
I think PART II had an okay reception, and this isn’t supposed to be an apology for it like LAST CRUSADE was for TEMPLE OF DOOM. But it’s kinda funny to me because PART II’s trailer narrator said, “No more tournaments. No more cheering crowds. This time… the combat… is real.” Of course there’s no more tournaments and crowds and shit, that wasn’t real combat at all, that was for babies, and only a complete coward would make another movie about that kind of sissy bullshit. We have moved well beyond that nonsense and fuck you if you even think for one second that– oh, what’s that? We’re doing tournaments and cheering crowds again? Oh, cool! Welcome back! (read the rest of this shit…)
CREED was a perfect movie, a miracle that unexpectedly resurrected the ROCKY series. CREED II, coming from a different director and writers, cannot match it. But it’s a solid continuation of beloved characters from both the original series and the new one that brings them to new places in life, with some boxing, training montages and dramatic music in between. Kinda like ROCKY II.
And of course there are other parallels. Adonis (Michael B. Jordan, RED TAILS) becoming champ, getting married and becoming a father, and also being embarrassed to be seen by the media while coming out of the hospital all beat up. But he doesn’t get a tiger jacket, so it’s not a remake of ROCKY II. Mostly it’s a direct sequel to CREED and ROCKY IV.
Before they ever even announced a CREED II, you and I and everybody else were dreaming of the same thing: a sequel where Adonis meets the man who killed his father in the ring, Ivan Drago, and has to fight his son. It’s one of those things that’s so obvious that they sort of had to do it. If the sequel was about anything else, no matter how exciting, you’d just think “Yeah, but why not Ivan Drago?” (read the rest of this shit…)