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Archive for the ‘War’ Category

The Ministry of Ungentlemanly Warfare

Wednesday, April 24th, 2024

THE MINISTRY OF UNGENTLEMANLY WARFARE is the new Guy Ritchie picture, and that title sounds like some Matthew Vaughn KINGSMAN type fantasy-secret-agency shit, but it’s a real thing, based on a true story. They say that at the beginning of the movie but I thought, “Yeah, uh huh, ‘true story,’ thanks Guy Ritchie,” so I was surprised when at the end they showed pictures of the real people. Oh shit, you were serious?

Yeah, of course it’s heavily fictionalized, but not as much as I’d assumed. The main characters are at least named after specific real people who really were on a WWII-era British special ops mission called Operation Postmaster, in which an undercover agent from the Special Operations Executive (SOE) threw a party on the Spanish island of Fernando Po to distract German officers and Spanish merchants while commandos snuck into neutral territory and stole the ships they used to deliver supplies to the Axis powers. (read the rest of this shit…)

Guy Ritchie’s The Covenant

Tuesday, September 19th, 2023

GUY RITCHIE’S THE COVENANT really is the official title of Mr. Ritchie’s 2023 Afghanistan War action drama. You know – in the tradition of LEE DANIELS’ THE BUTLER. The backstory is they were gonna be straight forward and call it THE INTERPRETER, but then they decided to get a little pompous and change it to THE COVENANT, but that meant they had to add the GUY RITCHIE’S to distinguish it from Renny Harlin’s warlock movie THE COVENANT. That’s okay, this is one he can be proud to put his name on. It’s a good one.

Let me tell you this. A few years ago I hit my breaking point with War On Terror films. I felt like even when they weren’t pro-war or militarism propaganda they were still perpetuating our complacency on this unending war. Then we finally pulled out of Afghanistan, so that sort of changed the ethics of using it in action movies, but I still wasn’t anxious to revisit the topic. When I started seeing trailers for these new Jake Gyllenhaal and Gerard Butler movies where they’re a soldier trying to get their interpreter to safety I thought “oh jesus, this how they’re gonna keep milking this thing?”

So I’m thankful to the Action For Everyone podcast and others that have kept praising THE COVENANT and KANDAHAR and explaining why they’re more interesting than I assumed. I don’t know about that second one, but I’m glad I didn’t go with my initial plan to skip THE COVENANT. (read the rest of this shit…)

Saving General Yang

Thursday, May 4th, 2023

It wasn’t until 2013, a full seven years after directing FEARLESS (and four years after not directing BLOOD: THE LAST VAMPIRE), that Ronny Yu released another film. In interviews he credited the hiatus to only being offered horror scripts in the U.S. “I don’t want to do this kind of thing anymore,” he said. Instead he wanted to “learn more about my Chinese roots.”

Written by Yu with Edmond Wong (DRAGON TIGER GATE, IP MAN 1-4, MASTER Z) and Scarlett Liu Shi-Jia, SAVING GENERAL YANG is based on The Generals of the Yang Family, a famous set of stories about a real military family that lived early in the Song Dynasty. (I didn’t figure this out while watching, but EIGHT DIAGRAM POLE FIGHTER comes from the same story, as do THE 14 AMAZONS and several other films.)

Adam Cheng (SHAOLIN AND WU TANG, ZU WARRIORS FROM THE MAGIC MOUNTAIN, SEVEN WARRIORS) plays the titular General, and this is the story of his seven sons (deliberately cast with hearthrob actors, many of them pop stars) coming to rescue him during a battle. But in the opening scene he’s at home, about to whip Sixth Brother Yanzhao (Wu Chun, 14 BLADES) and Seventh Brother Yansi (Fu Xinbo of the boy band BoBo) for “breaking Family Law.” (read the rest of this shit…)

All Quiet on the Western Front (2022)

Monday, February 13th, 2023

See, this is why I continue being a best picture completist – it gets me to watch some good movies I was planning to skip. This year when they announced the ten nominees I had already seen six of them and was planning to see another three. ALL QUIET ON THE WESTERN FRONT is the only one I’d had no desire to see. In fact I’d been hoping it wouldn’t get nominated, and felt a little resentment that according to my self-imposed rules I was gonna have to watch it.

I have no familiarity with the 1929 novel by Erich Maria Ramarque, the 1930 film version by Lewis Milestone, or the 1979 tv version, so my skepticism was not about being a purist. I just had heard an impassioned argument that it’s a movie with cool battle scenes that turn a powerful anti-war story into some SAVING PRIVATE RYAN shit about heroism and sacrifice. And that didn’t sound like something I wanted to see. (read the rest of this shit…)

The Woman King

Thursday, January 19th, 2023

THE WOMAN KING has an irresistible hook that made it a hit: Did you know there was an all-female military regiment in 1800s West Africa, “THE MOST EXCEPTIONAL FEMALE WARRIORS TO EVER LIVE”? Now that you do, wouldn’t you like to see them kicking ass on screen, fighting off the invading “Europeens,” with Academy Award winner Viola Davis as their badass leader?

For me the answers to those questions were no, I don’t think I did, and yes, of course I would. I meant to see it in theaters, but I missed it. Reviews were mostly positive, but I remember them seeming a little subdued. Maybe I misread them, or maybe they wanted it to seem more like a Very Important awards season type movie to really get behind it. I think it has plenty of substance to it, but director Gina Prince-Bythewood (THE OLD GUARD) doesn’t treat that like the main attraction, and she shouldn’t have to. There’s a precedent for crowd-pleasing historical action dramas winning best picture, but BRAVEHEART and GLADIATOR could pass for highfalutin without having to address any issues, you know? They just had to make a rousing speech about bravery and killing a motherfucker, nobody expected them to say something deep about the world’s problems. (read the rest of this shit…)

Hell Hath No Fury

Thursday, November 11th, 2021

You may know Jesse V. Johnson as the director of such Scott Adkins films as SAVAGE DOG, ACCIDENT MAN, THE DEBT COLLECTOR, TRIPLE THREAT, AVENGEMENT and DEBT COLLECTORS. If not, you ought to. Johnson has become well regarded in our circles for his always good, often great movies with Adkins, but it’s not like he’s helpless without him. The latest and best evidence of that is HELL HATH NO FURY, a scorching little WWII thriller released this week on VOD. It’s not a high flying action movie like he’d do with Adkins, but don’t worry, it’s not trying to do SAVING PRIVATE RYAN at bargain prices either. Within a pretty simple standoff scenario, in a contained location and time frame, it finds great tension, some nasty violence and more substance than I ever would’ve expected.

It stars Nina Bergman (ASSASSIN X, THE BEAUTIFUL ONES) as Marie Dujardin, a French woman of uncertain character. We first meet her in the back of a car with SS officer Von Bruckner (Daniel Bernhardt, ATOMIC BLONDE, NOBODY, SKYLIN3S), seeming to enjoy herself before the car is ambushed by French resistance fighters. Three years later, as the Nazis are leaving town, a mob of locals brand Marie a collaborator, shave her head and plan who knows what for her before some American GIs rescue her. (read the rest of this shit…)

One Shot

Monday, November 8th, 2021

ONE SHOT is the new Scott Adkins joint, and the most heavily hyped and anticipated movie of the moment for those who stay plugged in to “Action Twitter.” I’m sure Adkins would prefer to work in a little higher budget range, but I think having a dedicated and growing following as he continues to make movies like this is a much better outcome than if he had been cast as Iron Fist or some big movie character like we all used to say he should. Instead of a super hero he’s an institution.

This one is not from Jesse V. Johnson or Isaac Florentine, but rising #3 most prolific Adkins director James Nunn (GREEN STREET 3, ELIMINATORS). And as you might guess from the title, yes, it is a movie like ROPE or RUNNING TIME designed to look like it was filmed in one continuous shot. I know there are some who don’t like that approach, so I will say in its defense that it doesn’t come across as flashy or show-offy at all (not that I would see that as a bad thing, personally) and the real time feeling serves to heighten the tension of its siege scenario. And in case you were wondering there is an organic explanation of the title (the protagonists believe they are defending their “one shot” to stop a terrorist attack). (read the rest of this shit…)

Throne of Blood

Wednesday, July 8th, 2020

THRONE OF BLOOD (蜘蛛巣城, Kumonosu-jō, “SPIDER WEB CASTLE”) is an Akira Kurosawa movie from 1957, and the only one I’ve seen by him that has supernatural shit in it. It’s partly inspired by Shakespeare’s Macbeth, which to be honest I don’t remember that well, because I only read it in school, and Julie Taymor hasn’t made it into a movie yet. But even I picked up on it when the Lady Macbeth-like character couldn’t stop scrubbing her hands, thinking they still had blood on them. That guy died 400 years ago, and he still owns guilty hand-washing scenes. Hats off.

Two generals, Washizu Taketoki (Toshiro Mifune, HELL IN THE PACIFIC) and Miki Yoshiteru (Akira Kubo, GAMERA: GUARDIAN OF THE UNIVERSE), are headed back to their boss Lord Tsuzuki (Hiroshi Tachikawa, FIGHTING ELEGY) at Spider Web Castle after a glorious victory in battle. But, like a horror movie, the woods seem to have changed, and they’ve gotten lost. Then they spot a strange all white ghosty type person (Chieko Naniwa, SANSHO THE BAILIFF) just kinda sitting there in the woods glowing. And when that happens, I mean you basically got a choice of running away or walking up to it and seeing what the deal is. They choose B. (read the rest of this shit…)

Da 5 Bloods

Tuesday, June 16th, 2020

DA 5 BLOODS is Spike Lee’s new Vietnam War joint that happened to be produced by Netflix, so when our current global nightmare thwarted theatrical release they didn’t have to delay it, they just put it right onto their service, making it one of Pandemic Summer’s biggest blockbusters in my opinion. For now this is our James Bond and our Top Gun (I won’t say Wonder Woman, because it’s very male oriented).

Like so many of Lee’s movies, it finds interesting ways to visually connect history to the present. Think of DO THE RIGHT THING’s showcasing of the photos and quotes of Dr. King and Malcolm, MALCOLM X’s coda of real people (including a newly freed Nelson Mandela) saying “I am Malcolm X!,” or BLACKKKLANSMAN’s montage with the murder of Heather Heyer, the real David Duke and the president’s other Very Fine People in Charlottesville. Following in that tradition, DA 5 BLOODS opens with historical footage and photos establishing Those Uncertain Times of the Vietnam era.

Muhammad Ali explains his refusal to kill people who haven’t done anything to him on behalf of people who have. To the tune of “Inner City Blues,” we see black soldiers in Vietnam, whitey on “Da Moon,” Black Panthers, Malcolm, Martin, Kwame Ture, Angela Davis. We alternate between brutality in Vietnam and at home: burning monks, the Kent State shootings, the street execution from that famous photo, police clubbing protesters at the DNC, the children burned with napalm. When the war ends and this volley of fast-speed documentary turmoil subsides, the frame stretches and contracts to widescreen, and Saigon dissolves to modern tourism-friendly Ho Chi Minh City, where four of our titular quintet meet up in a hotel lobby, hugging and hand shaking, sipping the first of many fruity umbrella cocktails, in a present that will repeatedly bleed into the past. (read the rest of this shit…)

1917

Monday, January 27th, 2020

I’ve never been a war movie guy. I’m not actively against them like when I was young and rebellious and thought they were propaganda, but I don’t seek them out. Of course there are some great ones, but I wasn’t in the market for Sam Mendes, director of AMERICAN BEAUTY and AMERICAN LONE WOLF AND CUB (and producer of Shrek: The Musical) doing his take on DUNKIRK. So when I saw the trailers for 1917 I wasn’t buying.

That is, not until they started playing little featurettes showing off that Roger Deakins (THE MAN WHO WASN’T THERE, JARHEAD, NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN, THE ASSASSINATION OF JESSE JAMES BY THE ETC. ETC., PRISONERS, BLADE RUNNER 2049) is the cinematographer and he did it all in connected long takes. Okay, that I’ll watch. I’m into shit like that.

I thought it was funny that in the interview Mendes says that when they looked at the script they realized that was the way to tell the story – as if there was some way to have written the script not planning that. What are you, a pro-wrestler, you gotta tell obvious lies to make the story sound better? Be honest with me Mendes. (read the rest of this shit…)