Archive for the ‘Reviews’ Category

Kiss of Death (Shaw Brothers)

Wednesday, April 16th, 2014
tn_kissofdeath

This came out the same year as ENTER THE DRAGON, so the face-slashes might not be an homage

KISS OF DEATH is a 1973 Shaw Brothers production, but not a period martial arts movie like what they’re mostly known for. The director, Meng Hua Ho also did CAVE OF THE SILKEN WEB and OILY MANIAC. This one is a contemporary urban story about a lady (Chen Ping) who, one night walking home from her job at the textile factory, gets gang-raped by five street thugs, and now she wants revenge.

Don’t worry, it doesn’t get I SPIT ON YOUR GRAVE graphic about it, but of course everything to do with the attack is very unpleasant. I was actually shocked by a scene where she is surprised by blood dripping down her legs. Most movies about sexual assault don’t bother depicting the ugly details of the physical aftermath.

But it turns out not to be what I thought it was. (read the rest of this shit…)

The Raid 2

Monday, April 14th, 2014

tn_raid2THE RAID 2 has alot of what made THE RAID an instant classic:

1. Incredible fight performances and choreography by Iko Uwais (returning as silat-practicing rookie cop Rama, now undercover as “Yuda” [weirdly that was also his name in MERANTAU]), Yayan Ruhian (as a new character named Koso, since his great villain character Mad Dog eventually gave in and died) and a whole bunch of other great martial artists.

2. Action scenes crammed with fast, unrelenting brutality including many, many, many stabbings, headshots, bodyparts smashed through walls, slit throats, broken bones, etc.

But there’s one thing that’s really different:

(read the rest of this shit…)

Bad Ass 2: Bad Asses

Thursday, April 10th, 2014

tn_badass2“Let’s go get those sonofabitches.”

BAD ASS 2 is the sequel to a DTV movie I almost forgot about, the one where they bought the life story rights to a mentally ill Vietnam vet who punched out a guy in a racial incident on a bus in a famous Youtube video and turned him into a heroic vigilante played by Danny Trejo. For part 2 they ditch the true story claims, but do have one in-joke reference to the video (a guy pronounces “ambulance” weird). The adventures continue for Trejo’s character Frank Vega, so I guess he’s Buford Pusser for the internet age.

This is three years later and Vega is settled in to a more normal life training boxers, with one particularly promising student Manny (Jeremy Ray Valdez) who is “almost like a son” to him and is about to have his first pro fight tomorrow. This will shock you to your very core and make you question everything you’ve ever believed, but the kid has gotten involved with some drug dealers who say he’s stealing and they murder him but the cops aren’t gonna do anything so Vega has to track them down and, I don’t know, trick them into getting on a bus so he can punch them, or whatever he does. (read the rest of this shit…)

Need For Speed

Tuesday, April 8th, 2014

tn_needforspeedNEED FOR SPEED is based on a video game I guess, but it seems like a THE FAST AND THE FURIOUS sequel from an alternate timeline where TOKYO DRIFT never happened, or a weird idea for a gritty reboot of the SPEED RACER licensed trademark franchise property.

It’s another story that takes place among characters who think of nothing but car racing. There are signs of relationships in their pasts and futures, but women seem to be only a side interest for both the hero and the villain. The hero barely hides his sadness that his ex-girlfriend is with the villain now, yet we barely see her with her new man, she shows no sign of affection toward him and it’s unclear, to me at least, whether her diamond ring means they’re married or engaged. And it doesn’t seem like it really matters anyway because… cars. (read the rest of this shit…)

Captain America Meets The Winter Soldier

Saturday, April 5th, 2014

tn_captainamerica2Okay, bad news first: CAPTAIN AMERICA TOO is pretty much Marvel’s post-action movie. It has a good action movie type of plot: Captain America finds out his agency S.H.I.E.L.D. is compromised, has to go on the run, has to figure out who he can trust and operate without his usual resources to uncover and defeat a vast conspiracy. He has to fight two different legendary warriors, both with some “just how badass is he?” buildup, and one of them even played by the great UFC champion Georges St-Pierre. The Captain gets continually chased and attacked by a crew of headset and vest wearing soldiers led by Frank Grillo of WARRIOR and THE GREY. There are many, many fight and chase scenes involving different fighting styles, fun acrobatics, various forms of transportation (motorcycle, SUV, robotic wings, helicarrier), weapons, super strength, super parkour, colorful technologies, interesting locations, clever gimmicks, epic destruction, badass dialogue and good character and plot motivation. Everything you want in a great action movie except… (read the rest of this shit…)

Sabotage

Thursday, April 3rd, 2014

tn_sabotageBListen all y’all, SABOTAGE is a great vehicle for Arnold Schwarzenegger right now. It’s a good mix of what you expect from him and what you don’t. It’s a movie that benefits from his Huge Movie Star presence. He can just walk in and the legendary badass backstory of his character, DEA squad leader John “Breacher” Wharton, manifests physically before our eyes. He can strut and bark commands and joke and you fully believe that his unruly team of trained killers – even big Joe Manganiello, who towers over him – respect, fear, and look up to him like he’s their dad.

I think this here is the perfect approach to Old Man Arnold: not making self-deprecating jokes like in the okay THE LAST STAND, but just being Arnold while proudly rocking a thick stripe of white hair around the edges. Yeah, I’m 66, who the fuck cares? I’m Arnold. Are you gonna be Arnold when you get to be my age?
(read the rest of this shit…)

The Great Killing

Wednesday, April 2nd, 2014

tn_greatkillingRecently I had a stressful week I knew would be spent largely in hospital waiting rooms, so I thought real hard about what kind of movie I could rent that would be comforting to me if I ever got home to watch it. I could’ve gone for a movie I’ve already seen a million times and love, like DIE HARD or something. For some reason my heart said “old samurai movie.”

I don’t know for sure what it is about these things that they appeal to me so much. In a way they’re difficult: I’m completely ignorant of the historical periods depicted, and I have a hard time keeping track of some of the character names and terminology. But in another sense they’re simple. The heroes are always working from a code. They explain the code and then they struggle to follow it, even though they’re living in a dishonorable world, working in a dishonorable system. For them there’s no choice but to follow the code, because they know anyone who doesn’t is an asshole. And then there’s a big sword fight.

There’s usually alot of quiet moments in these movies, rarely an overbearing score, and there’s the simple black and white imagery. Kinda calming to me. So I chose to soothe my soul with a movie about the great killing, and I’m afraid that’s as in “the huge killing,” not “the really good killing.” (read the rest of this shit…)

The Protector 2 (Tom Yum Goong 2)

Monday, March 31st, 2014

tn_tyg2bHow can the same shit happen to the same elephant twice?

The first thing that jumped out at me in TOM YUM GOONG 2 was the amount of digital effects. Part of what made us fall in love with Tony Jaa’s movies ONG BAK and TOM YUM GOONG a decade or so ago was that they were refreshingly organic. All real stunts, very few visual effects, for the most part not even using wires. So it’s jarring to suddenly see him dodging obvious digital cars and motorcycles, ducking a digital subway, running from a digital explosion. Of course all movies are fake, but that’s more of a low budget version of a DIE HARD type of action than a Thai style, where we’re used to seeing real guys get knocked off of real trucks and get back up for real.

By the way, who’s the sorry motherfucker who found it necessary to introduce green screens to the Thai film industry? There’s this whole great sequence of Jaa fighting motorcycles on a rooftop, and I’m sure most of the stunts are real, but because the background is clearly fake you start questioning the whole thing. They even use green screens for his closeups when he’s holding onto the top of a car. I guess we’re past the days when Thai stuntmen were the crazy motherfuckers who would do anything. They must’ve finally gotten a union. (read the rest of this shit…)

Chinese Zodiac

Wednesday, March 26th, 2014

tn_cz12To be frankly honest I haven’t kept up with the modern Jackie Chan pictures, unless you count THE KARATE KID, which I don’t. I had to really think about it to remember that LITTLE BIG SOLDIER (from 2010) was the last one I saw, and it looks like you’d have to go back pre-RUSH HOUR (to ’98′s WHO AM I?) to get to another non-American one I’ve seen.

But 2012′s CHINESE ZODIAC just came out on video here, and he directed that one, they were making a big deal about it possibly being his last full-on action movie, so maybe it’s a good one to reacquaint us with why we love Jackie? (read the rest of this shit…)

The World, the Flesh and the Devil

Friday, March 21st, 2014

tn_worldthefleshTHE WORLD, THE FLESH AND THE DEVIL, which I never heard of until I picked up the Warner Archive dvd box abandoned sideways on top of the Post-Apocalypse section at Scarecrow Video, is an early take on the LAST MAN ON EARTH type of concept. It’s from 1959, making it the earliest one I know of, and it’s based on a book other than I Am Legend. Actually it’s apparently based on two things, The Purple Cloud, a 1901 novel by M.P. Shiel (H.G. Wells was apparently a fan!) that sounds like it has very little in common with the movie other than a last-man type concept, and a story called “End of the World” by Ferdinand Reyher (which I can’t find much information on).

Harry Belafonte plays Ralph Burton, an inspector who gets trapped alone in a collapsed mine. He’s down there a long time and goes stir crazy talking and singing to a radio that never talks back (he assumes it’s broken). Eventually he gives up on anyone rescuing him but is luckily able to dig his own way out of the rubble. (Shoulda tried that before, I guess.) (read the rest of this shit…)