There have been two proud moments in my getting-close-to-20-years of writing about action movies when a truly special one appeared inconspicuously in the DTV market and I was the first person I’m aware of to point to it and say holy shit you guys, check this out. One was John Hyams’ UNIVERSAL SOLDIER: REGENERATION, which later gained attention from some of the more respectable critics thanks to its great and very arty followup UNIVERSAL SOLDIER: DAY OF RECKONING. The other is BLOOD AND BONE, directed by Ben Ramsey (LOVE AND A BULLET). I do think it has grown something of a following, but not the credit it deserves as a perfect showcase for an under-recognized star in peak form, or as a stone cold classic of its genre. Like another Michael-Jai-White-starring DTV favorite, UNDISPUTED II: LAST MAN STANDING, BLOOD AND BONE isn’t even available on region A Blu-Ray. What the fuck, video industry? Too badass for hi-def?
The ten year anniversary of BLOOD AND BONE is coming up next year, so I’m giving the rights-holders and the gatekeepers a heads up. I want to see a cool, respectful collector’s edition Blu-Ray with added extras and a painted cover and shit. I want to see theatrical screenings. I am positive this will play great with audiences. Make it happen. A parade would be cool too, but that’s negotiable. (read the rest of this shit…)
THE CONTRACT is an animated tie-in to LOVE AND A BULLET. It’s easily the least essential part of the Ben Ramsey catalog, but its existence is what inspired me to revisit the other ones. I mean, people don’t usually know what I’m talking about if I mention LOVE AND A BULLET, so how is there a cartoon? I had to find out.
Well, it’s only 35 minutes long and its’ very crude, sub-television level animation. The credits say it was done by Elliott Animation, Inc., a Toronto based company founded by a former background painter from the Droids cartoon. They do all kinds of work for TV now – their main show seems to be Total Drama Island – but this was done as nine circa-early-2000s webisodes, so it’s Flash-type characters in front of pixelated backgrounds.
But it does have Treach and some of the other actors from the movie, making it seem much more legit. And it’s written by Ramsey and Kantz, so it has the same type of dialogue as the movie. In fact, the same dialogue in many cases! For some reason this is not a prequel or an additional Malik Bishop adventure, like what happens when he runs off with Mylene at the end. No, this is an abbreviated version of the same basic story told in a different, cheaper looking medium, with some of the same scenes, conversations and narration (re-recorded, I believe). (read the rest of this shit…)
LOVE AND A BULLET was one of the movies that made me believe in DTV when I reviewed it for The Ain’t It Cool News 16 years ago. I include that link only for historical purposes – it’s a poorly written review and I randomly refer to co-writer/co-director Kantz as a “clown.” I honestly didn’t mean anything by it, I just thought it was funny to have hostility toward some guy for no reason. It never occurred to me that the people I was writing about might read the reviews, and I hadn’t yet learned the lesson that shit like that can get you a wrestling challenge. Apologies to Kantz, whether or not he saw it. I have no reason to believe he is a clown.
At the time Ain’t It Cool had run a bunch of my reviews of movies I’d seen at SIFF, and a few at preview screenings, plus these DTV or DTVish ones I’d gotten VHS screeners of:
THE BIG HIT is a 1998 action-comedy with enough good qualities that I have a soft spot for it. Alot of the humor is too broad for me, but that’s okay. I saw it when it was in theaters, and returning to it 20 years later it’s interesting as a time capsule, a Polaroid of a specific moment in movie and pop culture history. It was a time when:
-New Kid On the Block brother, laughing stock rapper and underwear model Mark Wahlberg was suddenly a cool actor after having starred in BOOGIE NIGHTS the year before. This was his first movie released post-Dirk Diggler, but it had been shelved since 1996. At the time, most people still derisively called him Marky Mark. It’s so early in his career that he has a song on the end credits (“Don’t Sleep”).
-Hong Kong cinema had invaded Hollywood. John Woo had already done HARD TARGET,BROKEN ARROW and the Once a Thief tv show, Ringo Lam had done MAXIMUM RISK, Tsui Hark had done DOUBLE TEAM. Chow Yun Fat had starred in THE REPLACEMENT KILLERS, and Jet Li would soon be the villain in LETHAL WEAPON 4. So here we have Kirk Wong (director of CRIME STORY starring Jackie Chan) bringing a little bit of Hong Kong flair to the action in THE BIG HIT. Wahlberg practices on a kung fu dummy, and in his hidden weapons cache we see enough bladed weapons to stock a Shaw Brothers movie (plus a three-section-staff ala8 DIAGRAM POLE FIGHTER).
Last month I ran an interview that david j. moore, author of the upcoming book World Gone Wild: A Survivor’s Guide To Post-Apocalyptic Movies, did with Jesse V. Johnson. Now he sent me an interview with Ben Ramsey, who has been an important figure in my appreciation of DTV because his first movie LOVE AND A BULLET I described as “SURPRISINGLY UN-BAD” in 2002, and for a while considered one of the more impressive DTVs (I’ll have to revisit that some day). In 2009 he earned his place in the hall of fame by directing an all-time DTV/martial arts classic, BLOOD AND BONE. In this interview he talks about making BLOOD AND BONE, why Hollywood is afraid of the DTV stars we love, and how one of my other favorite under-the-radar martial arts stars was supposed to be in BLOOD AND BONE. (read the rest of this shit…)
DRAGON’S BALLS: EVOLUTION is the weird story of a young misfit named Goku (Justin Chatwin, the guy who everybody thought ruined WAR OF THE WORLDS by not dying) who has a strange hair do and on his 18th birthday finds out that he has to collect 7 (seven) magic dragon’s balls before the eclipse, or an alien guy named Piccolo is gonna resurrect another guy that’s gonna somehow destroy or conquer the world or whatever. That’s why Goku’s grandfather (Randall Duk Kim, “the Keymaker” from the MATRIX sequels) taught him martial arts and magic “airbending techniques” such as using his ki energy to light torches. I’m not clear though why the grandpa waited until the shit went down to explain what was going on. I guess this kid got his John Connor style childhood’s worth of training, but it seems like getting a head start on collecting dragon’s nuts wouldn’t be a bad idea when the entire earth is at stake. I like the earth. (read the rest of this shit…)
Ladies and gentlemen (although, let’s be honest, mostly gentlemen around here), Michael Jai White has arrived. He has officially gone from “promising” to fully formed action icon. He has earned the right to just be referred to as MJW and have everybody know what it means. It doesn’t matter that Hollywood hasn’t figured out to build movies around him like they do with Jason Statham, that Sly didn’t think to make him an Expendable, that Marvel Comics hasn’t lined up some super hero for him to play. He’s sick of waiting so he’s just taking it.
I believe come this Fall many of you will agree with me on this, and even for those already on board his status in your internal action hero rankings will be elevated. In October you’ll get to see him in the very entertaining blaxploitation homage BLACK DYNAMITE, where he gets to show both his badass presence and his previously untapped comedy chops. That’s a long time from now but you’ll only have to wait until September 15th to see him in a serious DTV action vehicle called BLOOD AND BONE. (read the rest of this shit…)
Hey folks, Harry here with that damn Outlaw Vern chiming in on LOVE AND A BULLET, which is… I believe an inane Reese Witherspoon Romantic Comedy that will make you weep, laugh and cheer. Awwwww, it’s an Outlaw Vern sort of film, he gets touchy feely like that. And he’s dead right about the coming civil wars of Comic Traditionalists and Revisionists and the deaths upon the fields of dishonor! I tell ya, TWO TOWERS has nothing on it! hehehe
Did you notice how Mel Gibson’s Jesus movie was really controversial in the talkbacks until you mentioned Superman? Man I don’t think I’ve ever seen the newsies so worked up. I think in about 20 years when this generation of “geeks” is in power we will see comic book fundamentalists controlling governments around the world the way religious fundamentalists do today. Trying to force their Superfriends morals on everybody else. Some nutty congressman from the Utility Belt will get them to hang up the X-Men letters page in schools and courthouses. It’ll be an interesting time. (read the rest of this shit…)
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