"I'll just get my gear."

Posts Tagged ‘Al Leong’

Showdown in Little Tokyo

Wednesday, August 25th, 2021

“Y’know – this is a weird part of town.”

August 23, 1991

SHOWDOWN IN LITTLE TOKYO is a movie I have long enjoyed (here is a pretty dumb review of it I wrote 13 years ago). It’s a buddy cop movie starring Dolph Lundgren (between COVER UP and UNIVERSAL SOLDIER) and Brandon Lee (between LASER MISSION and RAPID FIRE), so any possible deficiencies are easily overcome by their great charisma and the unrepeatable novelty of their team-up. Watching it in the context of these other ’91 movies it does seem slightly primitive; it’s a Warner Bros. movie, but the budget was $8 million, which is less than DOUBLE IMPACT – or even non-action stuff like DEAD AGAIN, THE COMMITMENTS, BINGO, RETURN TO THE BLUE LAGOON and LIFE STINKS – let alone the new state-of-the-art represented by POINT BREAK and TERMINATOR 2. Fortunately it’s in the capable exploitation hands of director Mark L. Lester (STEEL ARENA, CLASS OF 1984, FIRESTARTER, COMMANDO, CLASS OF 1999), so it has heavy doses of The Good Shit. He always gives you something extra.

Just as MYSTERY DATE has its two leads getting into trouble with gangs in Chinatown, this is about two guys fighting a Yakuza drug ring in L.A.’s Japanese district. In this case that’s in their job description as members of the LAPD Asian Crime Taskforce. Dolph’s Sergeant Chris Kenner gets the kind of introduction all his characters deserve: he single-handedly raids an illegal fighting circuit by climbing through a skylight, swinging into the ring on a rope and saying, “Haven’t I told you this is illegal, and it pisses me off?” Then he’s announced as the new challenger and has to fight the guys in the ring. (read the rest of this shit…)

Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure / Bill & Ted’s Bogus Journey

Wednesday, July 21st, 2021

BILL & TED’S EXCELLENT ADVENTURE (1989) is one of those beloved comedies you take for granted. I hadn’t seen it in 20+ years, so I was kinda afraid it might not hold up. It’s kind of hard to put your finger on why it works so well, and it would be hard to explain why it’s funny if somebody asked. I’m not sure if you had to be there or not.

Don’t get me wrong – there’s a pretty straight forward comical premise: what if a couple of dumb guys got a hold of a time machine and recruited actual historical figures to help with their history test? But for the most part that’s not really what’s funny about it. It’s the particular personalities of the dumb guys, and the reasons they have access to time travel.

Bill S. Preston Esquire (Alex Winter, DEATH WISH 3) and Ted “Theodore” Logan (Keanu Reeves, THE NIGHT BEFORE) are a Californian version of what we used to call “rockers” and some regions called “heshers” – guys whose lives center around heavy metal and/or hard rock. In the wild you’d expect them to have longer hair and leather jackets, smoke lots of pot and drink lots of beer, but Bill and Ted mostly just idolize Van Halen, talk about “babes,” and laugh at the number 69. They have a band called Wyld Stallyns, which features only the two of them on guitar, an instrument neither of them knows how to play. Still, their worst fear os for the band to be broken up if Ted fails his history test, in which case his dad (Hal Landon Jr., ERASERHEAD), who is a police captain and wears an NRA jacket while off duty, will ship him off to Oats Military Academy in Alaska. (read the rest of this shit…)

Double Dragon

Tuesday, April 6th, 2021

DOUBLE DRAGON (1994), loosely based on the video game series, is a sci-fi fantasy action kids movie from the director of THE RETURN OF BRUNO and the producers of NATURAL BORN KILLERS. I do not personally consider it to be a good movie, but upon this rewatch I found it somewhat enjoyable on the strength of its specific only-in-the-‘90s strain of complete inexplicability.

It stars Mark Dacascos (a year after ONLY THE STRONG, a year before KICKBOXER 5 and CRYING FREEMAN) and Scott Wolf (the same year Party of Five started) as martial artist brothers, Alyssa Milano (in the window between Who’s the Boss? and EMBRACE OF THE VAMPIRE) as the leader of a vigilante group, and Robert Patrick (who had only done FIRE IN THE SKY and two T-1000 cameos since T2) as an evil gang leader/businessman obsessed with obtaining an ancient Chinese medallion that would give him super powers. It takes place in the cyberpunky post-The-Big-Quake New Angeles in the futuristic year of 2007, with all the satirical billboards and colorful street gangs that implies. (read the rest of this shit…)

The Replacement Killers

Monday, September 7th, 2020

I try not to be too set in my ways, which is a good reason to rewatch a movie years later and see if you respond differently than the first time around. So something told me it was time to revisit something from those heady days when the emerging international popularity of Hong Kong action cinema fired peak John Woo and Chow Yun Fat out of a cannon aimed at the heart of Hollywood. I’m not sure what kind of a cannon shot them so that Woo landed in 1993 and Chow not until 1998, but life is a mystery. Anyway, they exploded and in the case of Chow, we were mostly disappointed and then happy that he didn’t stick around that long, because Hollywood clearly didn’t know what they were doing with him.

THE REPLACEMENT KILLERS was significant not only as Chow’s first Hollywood/English language movie, but the directorial debut of Antoine Fuqua, who became a much bigger deal when 2001’s TRAINING DAY won Denzel Washington an Oscar. That kind of gave him the air of an Important Filmmaker for a little bit, but I think now he’s settled in as the type of director who makes OLYMPUS HAS FALLEN and THE EQUALIZER 1 and 2, which is more like the expected trajectory for the director of this one. He came from directing music videos, most famously “Gangsta’s Paradise” by Coolio, but also “The Most Beautiful Girl in the World” by Prince.

Chow plays “John Lee,” who’s pretty much a remix of his character in THE KILLER. He’s an assassin who owes one more hit to L.A. Triad boss Terence Wei (Kenneth Tsang, A BETTER TOMORROW 1 and 2, THE KILLER, SUPERCOP, RUSH HOUR 2). But he’s sent to the home of LAPD Detective Stan Zedkov (Michael Rooker, CLIFFHANGER) and sees the man’s wife and son through the sniper scope and decides he can’t do it. (In a corny touch, Zedkov doesn’t see him but looks right into the scope as if sensing him.) (read the rest of this shit…)

My Science Project

Monday, August 10th, 2020

August 9, 1985

The thrilling conclusion to the teen science comedy trilogy of August 2-9, 1985 is the one I knew even less about than REAL GENIUS. I can say that because all I knew was the picture of aliens I saw in the one page article in my trusty July, 1985 Cinefantastique, but I forgot it said that scene was cut. So I had negative knowledge of what the movie was about.

Like REAL GENIUS, it has a cold open in a military facility to establish what the kids will be dealing with. But this scene is in 1957 when President Eisenhower (Robert Beer, who also played him THE RIGHT STUFF) is dragged out of bed to be shown the UFO the boys captured. He tells them to get rid of it. Cut to 1985.

From that point on it’s closer to WEIRD SCIENCE than REAL GENIUS, because it’s another one about high school kids accidentally unleashing sci-fi craziness in their small town (in Arizona, I think). A major difference from the other two is that the main character, Michael Harlan (John Stockwell, CHRISTINE) is by no means nerdy. I don’t think he’s a popular kid either, he’s just a broody, gruff, kind of dim but basically nice dude who’s not really interested in anything but working on cars. His favorite singer is Bruce Springsteen, he drives a 1968 Pontiac GTO with a huge blower, and when science fiction causes it to break down outside of town he refuses to walk home because he thinks someone will see him and question his mechanic skills. (read the rest of this shit…)

Cage

Wednesday, July 24th, 2019

“Wrestling? I like wrestling. But I don’t like fighting. But I like wrestling!”

Note: Box Office Mojo only lists “1988” as the release date, but IMDb says September 1, 1989. I’m going with the specific one.

The movie CAGE is alot like the character Lou Ferrigno plays in it: brain damaged, childlike, clumsy, well-meaning, and hard not to like. The opening definitely had me concerned, though. In “VIET NAM 1969,” a bunch of army dudes run around in a field screaming and firing machine guns while the keyboards of composer Michael Wetherwax (SORORITY HOUSE MASSACRE) sort of imitate the RAMBO theme. B-movies about the Vietnam War don’t tend to be watchable, in my opinion, so thank God our boys get out of there quick.

Escaping in a helicopter, Billy Thomas (Ferrigno, between his last two Incredible Hulk TV movies) heroically saves his friend Scott Monroe (Reb Brown, UNCOMMON VALOR, ten years after his last Captain America TV movie) by having the strength to one-arm-dangle him under the copter even after being shot in the head with what, judging from the leak it springs in his temple, appears to be an adorably tiny bullet.

(Good makeup effect, though.)

The opening credits are a comically corny rehabilitation montage set to a ballad called “Don’t Let Go” by Jennifer Green. Without sound, Ferrigno and Brown pantomime a series of struggles and minor triumphs, from getting a medal to being frustrated with a puzzle to making it up a few steps. (read the rest of this shit…)

Godzilla (1998)

Tuesday, May 22nd, 2018

“We got approached with GODZILLA, and Dean was really in favor. I said, ‘Are you crazy? Have you seen a Godzilla film? How does the monster look? They put a guy in there.'” –Roland Emmerich

May 20, 1998

Man, LOST IN SPACE was a terrible summer blockbuster, but I was kind of excited to take a look at it because I had skipped it at the time and there was 20 years of curiosity build-up. And there’s another one coming later in the summer that I despised at the time, but it ended up being influential and kickstarting an in-my-opinion-bad-but-oddly-fascinating filmography, so I’m looking forward to finding out how I’ll feel about it now.

GODZILLA has neither of those factors going for it. I thought it sucked then and it has not grown better or more interesting. Director Roland Emmerich (WHITE HOUSE DOWN) has gone on to make fairly successful (but widely mocked) FX movies, often in the disaster genre. The only significance to this one is that it deflated his premature ascension to blockbuster-A-list after the still-befuddling-to-me smash success of INDEPENDENCE DAY in 1996. TriStar Pictures managed to build up fevered anticipation with a series of teasers that kept the design of the monster a secret. I remember one used the scene where the fisherman runs down the dock as Godzilla’s spikes tear through it. The tagline “SIZE DOES MATTER” simultaneously promised thrilling spectacle and giggled “ha ha, you get it, because of penises.”

I was skeptical on account of my belief in the auteur theory. I was one of the rare wet blankets who hated ID4 (which stands for “Independence Day takes place partly on July 4th”) and as much as I wanted to see a cool modern Godzilla movie I didn’t think this guy had the skills to do it. On May 20th most of the world ended up agreeing with me. (read the rest of this shit…)

Steele Justice

Tuesday, May 23rd, 2017

“Steele left this buried in my chest 12 years ago. I swore one day I would return it to him.”

STEELE JUSTICE is one of those special action movies that is serious but feels more like the parodies of action movies than you realized was possible. Martin Kove – the KARATE KID bad guy and valuable supporting player in movies like DEATH RACE 2000, RAMBO: FIRST BLOOD PART II, BARE KNUCKLES and BEYOND THE RING – actually gets to play the hero of this, and it’s one for the record books.

I’m sure you’re already making some assumptions about what kind of a movie would be called STEELE JUSTICE, so I would like to go ahead and verify the following points for you:

1) Yes, his name is John Steele

2) Indeed, he is a Vietnam vet

3) You are correct, he is also an ex-cop (fired)

4) You bet your ass there’s a title logo made of steel letters that clanks onto the screen (read the rest of this shit…)

Lethal Weapon

Tuesday, December 24th, 2013

tn_lethalweaponFirst of all, I would like to extend my deepest and most profound apologies for the first time I wrote about LETHAL WEAPON and fixated on Mel Gibson’s Swayze-esque hair and David Sanborn’s Smooth Cop Jazz saxophone. I know my comments hurt alot of people and put alot of negativity into the world, and that is something I simply never wish to do. I would especially like to apologize to Gibson’s hair stylist Paul Abascal, who not only did hair on many Swayze, Stallone and Willis (?) classics, but also went on to direct PAPARAZZI and the reshoots of PAYBACK. I know now it was a different time and place that cannot be held to a newer era’s standards of taste and style. In the years since that review I have changed alot, I have learned, I have grown as a man, as a critic and as a spiritual being. I have looked at pictures of JCVD in HARD TARGET and realized Mel’s mullet coulda been worse. So to get ready for Christmas I decided I was ready to try LETHAL WEAPON again.

It’s hard to separate LETHAL WEAPON from the litter of movies it spawned. In the sequels Murtaugh (Danny Glover, PREDATOR 2) and Riggs (Mel Gibson, MAD god damn MAX) are great buddies and there’s wisecracking and everything and I mix it up in my mind with the cliches of interracial buddy movies. But really the first LETHAL WEAPON is not about race and it’s pre-buddy. It’s about the formation of their buddyship. It’s about this regular working family man cop who, on the day after his 50th birthday, is forced to be partners with a younger crazy guy. Like, not just a loose cannon, a guy that we’ve actually seen wake up in his trailer, put a gun in his mouth and start crying and almost pull the trigger. While watching Bugs Bunny cartoons. He’s been suicidal since the death of his wife in a car accident, even has a special hollow point set aside for the job. (read the rest of this shit…)

Rapid Fire

Wednesday, July 22nd, 2009

tn_rapidfireAlthough THE CROW is what most people remember Brandon Lee for, it was this 1992 urban martial arts picture, his next to last starring role, that made the most serious attempt to turn him into an action icon. It positions him to continue his father’s legacy but in the context of American action of the early ’90s. John Woo and Jackie Chan movies were catching on huge here at that time, and this movie took plenty of influence from the shootouts and choreographed fights that excited us from those.

But it starts out on a Bruce Lee note. The opening credits have Brandon Lee in a white tank top like his dad sometimes wore, doing martial arts in front of a black void. His character is raised in Hong Kong, and sometimes speaks Chinese, and is living in the shadow of a father everyone admires. In an interview included on the DVD Lee mentions that the movie was written specifically for him, which isn’t surprising. (read the rest of this shit…)