Archive for the ‘Action’ Category

Speed 2: Cruise Control

Monday, July 21st, 2014

tn_speed2I never watched SPEED 2 before. When I decided the day had come I actually got excited about it for a minute. Wait, so there’s a studio blockbuster in the DIE HARD or UNDER SIEGE type of subgenre that I haven’t seen? What was I waiting for? I mean, I know it was almost unanimously hated, and that it was an early example of the PG-13-sequel-to-R-rated-action-movie, but when has that stopped me before? I am an individual with an open mind and an open heart. I am ready to welcome SPEED 2 into the hospitality of my mental space.

I thought. But the mob was right on this one. SPEED 2 is pretty sucky. It’s the SPEED 2 of SPEED sequels.
(read the rest of this shit…)

Speed

Thursday, July 17th, 2014

tn_speedDo you guys know about SPEED? It’s like GRAND PIANO with a bus! An L.A. public bus that requires the very precise driving of not going below 50 mph or it will blow up. Even if it went through a school zone it could not slow down to avoid crunching the little ones under its wheels. That’s fucked up! I mean they don’t run into that problem in the movie but jesus, bad guy mastermind, think of the children.

It’s no mystery to us, this is the work of bomber-for-ransom Dennis Hopper (TICKER), who in a pre-bus sequence tries a similar job on an elevator full of Patrick Bateman types, but is foiled by Jeff Daniels (BLOOD WORK) and his young gum-chewing sidekick Keanu Reeves (MAN OF TAI CHI). This was after POINT BREAK but before THE MATRIX, so Keanu as the lead in a big action movie was still a new notion to the world. But what are you gonna do, the Jeff Daniels character gets shot and taken off the streets, it’s just not in the cards for it to be a kickass Jeff Daniels vehicle. I’m sorry.
(read the rest of this shit…)

Invincible (2001)

Monday, July 7th, 2014

tn_invincibleI saw this old issue of Asian Trash Cinema that had an interview with Ching Siu-Tung, veteran martial arts choreographer, prolific wire-fu practicioner, Jackie Chan Chinese Opera schoolmate, and director of Steven Seagal’s weirdest movie (BELLY OF THE BEAST). Of course the interview covered alot of his most legendary work: he directed the SWORDSMAN trilogy, EXECUTIONERS and NAKED WEAPON, he was stunt coordinator for A BETTER TOMORROW II and action director for HERO. But I was even more interested in the weird little tidbits I’d never heard about his brief flirtations with Hollywood after THE MATRIX exploded and Yuen Woo Ping was all booked up.

The craziest one was a story about “the director and producer” of SPIDER-MAN coming to Ching, unhappy with how their action scenes were coming out, and wanting him to redo them. Of course it never ended up happening, he seems unclear why and doesn’t go into details. But it’s an intriguing story. Raimi was always up on the Hong Kong guys, he executive produced HARD TARGET after all. It makes sense he would know about the top wire-fighting guy and think of him for a movie about a guy swinging on webs.

(read the rest of this shit…)

Transformers: Age of Extinction

Thursday, July 3rd, 2014

tn_trans4For God’s sake don’t take this as high praise, but TRANSFORMERS: AGE OF EXTINCTION is the most legitimate movie in the TRANSFORMABLES saga so far. Not too legit to quit while they’re ahead, but competent in ways the others weren’t, and overall much less annoying. The downside: less crazy. Michael Bay has earned an expectation of escalating preposterousness and headscratching whatthefuck moments in each chapter, but this time he verges on tasteful, at least by the standards of his filmography. Only mild racism, no leg humping, only one scene with a hero threatening an old lady with a baseball bat. Robot hyenas with fur and a trigger happy fat Transformer with the voice of John Goodman seem kinda tame after the robot baby factory on the moon, Robot Heaven and peeing and farting robots of previous chapters. And we’ve gotten acclimated to the robot beards. He’s gotta go further than this if he wants to shock us.

And guess how he did it? I cannot fucking believe I’m typing this, but Michael Bay – the George Washington of the cinematic movement that forced me to invent the Action Comprehensibility Ratings system – has made a movie with genuine action clarity.

(read the rest of this shit…)

Samurai Cop

Tuesday, June 24th, 2014

tn_samuraicopA Japanese gang called The Katana Gang is on a rampage, so the LAPD call in a specialist.

“So they call him Samurai, huh?” asks the gang leader Fujiyama when he hears about this long-haired Fabio-lookin motherfucker played by former Sylvester Stallone bodyguard Matt Hannon.

“Yes,” explains right hand man Yamashita (Robert Z’Dar). “His real name is Joe Marshall. They call him ‘Samurai.’ He speaks fluent Japanese. He got his martial arts training from the masters in Japan. He was brought over here from the police force in San Diego to fight us.”

This being 1989, the year after ABOVE THE LAW, might have something to do with that backstory. The poster, which has nothing to do with the actual content of the movie, is definitely going for a MANIAC COP vibe. I think there’s some LETHAL WEAPON influence here too, or at least it’s trying to follow the formula of the white cop with loyal black partner who’s kind of bemused at how far the white guy goes over the line in his enforcement of the law. Samurai and his partner Frank (Mark Frazer, MICROWAVE MASSACRE) have alot of weird, sometimes racially uncomfortable banter about what their boss is gonna do to his “charcoal black ass” and stuff like that.

still_samuraicop5

The chief is pretty funny, he’s always angrier than necessary. I like when he yells to one of his employees “You, motherfucker, I’ll see you in hell! Leave me alone! Get a job!”

(read the rest of this shit…)

American Samurai

Monday, June 23rd, 2014

tn_americansamuraiHow the fuck does a guy become an American samurai? Well, in the case of Drew Collins (David Bradley, AMERICAN NINJA 3-V) when he was a baby he and his parents were traveling in a small plane that crashed into a tree, only he survived, and then he was raised by an old Japanese guy named Tatsuya (John Fujioka, ZATOICHI IN DESPERATION, AMERICAN NINJA, AMERICAN YAKUZA). Finders keepers, you know?

Basically it’s exactly like Superman, except being a white man in Asia doesn’t give him super powers. But he does really good in his sword training anyway. I’m not clear why his adopted father was a samurai swordsman in the 1980s, I suppose it’s kind of along the lines of being a civil war buff. In related news I would like to see a Cannon movie called JAPANESE BLUEBELLY. (read the rest of this shit…)

She Shoots Straight

Monday, June 16th, 2014

tn_sheshootsNote from Vern: I’m working on a write-up of the Cinefamily Seagalogy event, but for now please enjoy this review of an obscure Hong Kong gem thanks everybody.

SHE SHOOTS STRAIGHT (aka LETHAL LADY) is an action vehicle for Joyce Godenzi, who stole the show as the Vietnamese double agent in the classic EASTERN CONDORS. She had been in a bunch of movies before this, but I believe this is her only starring vehicle. Today she’s known as the wife of Sammo Hung (who has a supporting role in this), but it should be noted that she didn’t marry him until 1995, so that’s not why she gets a movie, it’s not because of nepotism. Actually, it’s probly because she was Miss Hong Kong, 1984. But I’m glad they thought of doing that because she is incredible.

Here she plays Mina, a supercop who recently got a promotion and also married her handsome co-worker Tsung-Pao (Tony Leung, the one from A BETTER TOMORROW 3).

And you’d think she’d be happy as a clam on Zoloft but she’s got this problem that now she’s got a gaggle of sisters-in-law who are fellow cops who all hate her. They’re worse than the sisters in THE FIGHTER. They’re jealous of her success at work, they try to undermine her authority, disobey her commands, embarrass her. They whine about her getting all the credit for an operation where she clearly deserved the most credit. If they were honest with themselves they would acknowledge that she was the one who slid down the side of a parking garage, jumped onto a moving cab, climbed through a bus, jumped out the other side onto the moving getaway car, got shot at and rolled off and almost run over by a motorcycle which she then commandeered and chased the car literally through a wall of fire, drove over it, ducked a bullet, skidded out the bike and jumped off so the car would hit the bike, flip and roll without hurting the princess. Yeah, the sisters helped, but Mina did the Jackie Chan shit. Plus, the attack happened when most of you ladies were in the bathroom. (read the rest of this shit…)

In the Blood

Thursday, June 5th, 2014

tn_inthebloodI heard so much trash talked about Gina Carano vehicle #2, IN THE BLOOD, that I was scared off from watching it on VOD. And it’s true that there’s plenty wrong with it, especially as a followup to Steve Soderbergh’s HAYWIRE.

#1 problem for alot of people: director John Stockwell (UNDER COVER, BLUE CRUSH) isn’t as meticulous about massaging a performance out of veteran fighter, recent actor Carano as Soderbergh was, so there are some pretty stiff line readings. In one scene she even says she’s from “Cuh-NECK-ticut,” not a regionally accurate pronunciation in my opinion. But as a fan of Dennis Rodman, Brian Bosworth, early Van Damme, Daniel Bernhardt, Gary Daniels, Olivier Gruner, early Dolph, etc. this is not a problem to me at all, and seems like kind of a complaint for action movie lightweights.

The main complaint for people of our ilk, that will go unnoticed by normal people, is that the fights are short and over-edited. The hits feel hard, the camera’s not that shaky and most of the framing is okay, but it’s another one hit = one cut movie. Why directors don’t think it’s worth the effort to stage a bunch of moves – or shit, at least two moves – in a row is beyond me, especially since Stockwell is on the public record as having seen and enjoyed HAYWIRE. He seems to take some influence in how to portray Carano as a scary asskicker (even re-using the gag where she calls her betrayer on the guy she just killed’s phone), but little in the clean-as-a-whistle action filmatism that is HAYWIRE’s bread and butter. (read the rest of this shit…)

Raze

Tuesday, May 20th, 2014

tn_razeOne thing that would really help with the class tensions in the world would be if the rich people would stop betting on so many fucking death matches. I don’t even care if the combatants entered the competition by choice (like in BEST OF THE BEST 2) or if they were kidnapped (like in this). Whatever the context, fancy dressed motherfuckers lustily cheering for bloody death in the ring, cage or arena sends the wrong message about the value of the working man’s life. These fighters, there’s usually one or two greedy ones, one or two assholes, but for the most part they’re just human beings in a bad spot. They gotta feed their family or pay back some money so they don’t lose the dojo or the mob doesn’t kill them or whatever. Or in this one they’ve all been abducted along with their kids and moms and stuff who the bosses are threatening to kill if these ladies fail to fight to the death. You gotta have some respect for their situation and cool down with all the gleeful cheering and high-fiving, you know?

RAZE seems influenced by HOSTEL – victims locked in a dingy, windowless sanctum for the entertainment of rich sickos. Instead of being there to be tortured it’s the ol’ “they’re watching the live feed” as the fighters, all women, are forced to beat each other to death. The killing with bare hands is not 100% believable, especially from the girls who’ve never fought before. But it’s not pretty. It’s repeated head-bashings, strangulation, neck snaps, thumbs in eye sockets. Pretty brutal. The actors and stunt women acquit themselves well, but it’s rare that a shot shows more than one hit without cutting, and that’s a problem. (read the rest of this shit…)

Samurai Fiction

Thursday, May 1st, 2014

tn_samuraifictionSAMURAI FICTION is a deeply enjoyable period samurai picture, made in 1998 but shot mostly in black and white, so it looks very classical. Not that it’s trying to pass. It occasionally uses more modern filmatics, like a seemingly endless shot pulling back down a road in front of three running samurai, or a slow motion shot of a girl smiling to represent the protagonist being smitten with her – you can imagine a love song playing over it sarcastically, maybe something in a Carpenters or a Barry White.

They don’t quite go that far, but the score is intentionally anachronistic, echoey electric guitar playing with surf, country and rock ‘n roll styles, later drum machines and synthesizers. I like the idea, and some of it works, some of it is cheesy as hell. The one great musical moment in my opinion is a scene where an old man plays a beautiful rendition of “Swanee River” on a saw. You don’t get that in many samurai movies.
(read the rest of this shit…)