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Posts Tagged ‘Michael Jai White’

Full Contact (1993)

Monday, March 7th, 2022

This is not a review of the 1992 Hong Kong FULL CONTACT starring Chow Yun Fat and directed by Ringo Lam. It’s a review of the 1993 American FULL CONTACT starring Jerry Trimble (THE MASTER, TERMINATOR WOMAN) and directed by Rick Jacobson (BLACKBELT, BLACK THUNDER, DRAGON FIRE, Ash vs Evil Dead). There’s no specific reason why FULL CONTACT has to be the title for this one, so they should’ve gone with something else, but they did not. And we need not stress about that which we cannot control.

It’s a movie I bought on VHS years ago – I think it must’ve been when I was doing “The Super-Kumite,” my tournament of tournament fighting movies. But the team I assigned it to must’ve been out of contention, so I never watched it.

But it happens to be one of the early movies of Michael Jai White, back when he was still Michael White. After THE TOXIC AVENGER PARTs II and III he had tiny parts in TEENAGE MUTANT NINJA TURTLES II: THE SECRET OF THE OOZE (uncredited), TRUE IDENTITY, UNIVERSAL SOLDIER, and then this. So I chose this to be another tangent in my TOXIC AVENGER review series. (read the rest of this shit…)

The Toxic Avenger Part III: The Last Temptation of Toxie

Wednesday, March 2nd, 2022

“I don’t have a life. I have a half life!”


I’ve discussed in the previous TOXIC AVENGER reviews how I watched THE TOXIC AVENGER and THE TOXIC AVENGER PART II over and over again in my teenage years and that they helped form my weirdo sensibilities. I remember that all very vividly. The part I did not remember is that THE TOXIC AVENGER PART III: THE LAST TEMPTATION OF TOXIE came out the same year as part II! It doesn’t seem that close together in my memories. I guess time passes slower in the mind of a high schooler.

I did not like this one as much, so I didn’t watch it as many times, and all I remembered was thinking it was funny that he gets to fight and kill the Devil. Many of our great franchises such as ROCKY and THE FAST AND THE FURIOUS have not yet been able to face off with Satan. Toxie already got to do it in part III. Good for him. (read the rest of this shit…)

The Toxic Avenger Part II

Monday, February 28th, 2022

THE TOXIC AVENGER didn’t catch on right away. Troma had trouble finding many takers, but the Bleecker Street Cinema in Greenwich Village showed it as a midnight movie and it was so successful they ran it for more than a year. This secured a cult reputation that helped it become an actual hit on video. But according to the book All I Need To Know About FILMMAKING I Learned From THE TOXIC AVENGER by Lloyd Kaufman and James Gunn, Kaufman never really considered a sequel until a misinformed buyer approached him at the 1987 Cannes Film Festival to secure the German rights to the sequel and he just went along with it.

(Like most of that book I suspect that story is exaggerated, but we know at least that they didn’t rush one into production. In Prince terms, part I is the year of PURPLE RAIN, part II the year of BATMAN. Entirely different eras.)

THE TOXIC AVENGER PART II (1989) picks up where THE TOXIC AVENGER left off, sort of, with the city of Tromaville now peaceful and happy thanks to the Toxic Avenger’s crime fighting. Melvin now has the last name Junko instead of Ferd (no explanation), is nicknamed “Toxie,” and is both played and voiced by Ron Fazio (BASKET CASE 2), except in some scenes where he’s played by John Altamura (“Muscle Man,” YOUNG NURSES IN LOVE) before he was fired for allegedly being a pain in the ass. Toxie’s blind girlfriend Sara is now named Claire (also no explanation) and is played by another musician, Phoebe Legere (MONDO NEW YORK, KING OF NEW YORK). In narration, Toxie explains how he became a “hideously deformed monster hero of super human size and strength” and that the people of Tromaville now enjoy “dancing in the streets, tattooing, manufacturing orange juice, exterminating vermin (this is literally referring to cockroaches and stuff, not Toxie stuffing mops in people’s faces), and watching excellent movies,” which of course is illustrated by a marquee saying “TROMA FILM FESTIVAL,” even though they presumably live in a world where Troma’s best movie does not exist. (read the rest of this shit…)

Rogue Hostage

Tuesday, September 7th, 2021

Like many people of an older persuasion, my first impression of Tyrese Gibson was twenty years ago when he starred in John Singleton’s BABY BOY. At the time it had a mixed reception, but I thought it was a good companion piece/followup to BOYZ N THE HOOD, and this R&B singer or whatever he was, he was good in it. (For a long time I thought he had started as a model, but now I’m thinking I had him mixed up with Tyson Beckford?) It has some laughs in it, but it’s a dramatic role. He goes through quite a bit.

To Gibson’s great fortune, it was Singleton who was directing the first sequel to THE FAST AND THE FURIOUS when Vin Diesel decided he didn’t want to do it and a new co-lead was needed. So he swooped in to play Roman Pearce, childhood friend of Brian O’Connor (Paul Walker) who blames him for his prison bid for car theft but reluctantly accepts an undercover job with him to gain his freedom (an obvious rewrite of where Dominic Toretto would’ve ended up if he’d been in the movie). The two characters do some bickering, but at that time Roman was a serious action guy, a type Gibson would also play in WAIST DEEP, some TRANSFORMERSes, DEATH RACE and LEGION. He collaborated with Singleton again on FOUR BROTHERS and with pre-TOKYO DRIFT Justin Lin on ANNAPOLIS but was not one of the FAST crew invited back for part 4.

Eight years after 2 FAST 2 FURIOUS, when Roman finally returned in FAST FIVE, Diesel was back in the central role, so Tyrese got to riff and be silly. Other than saying grace in FURIOUS 6 and monologuing about sacrifice (while flying a space hooptie) in F9, he has mainly remained comic relief for four subsequent FASTs. (read the rest of this shit…)

Take Back

Tuesday, August 3rd, 2021

TAKE BACK (2021) is a halfway decent DTV action movie, not a great one. The main thing holding it back, I’d say, is an approach to action similar to a Liam Neeson movie; Gillian White (whose name is listed last on the cover, but she’s the actual star) seems like a badass and has a couple good head kicks and stuff, but they move the camera around like they got something to hide. In one scene she actually turns off the lights and then kills a bunch of guys in the dark, which would be a good gag if there were more parts where we actually did get to see her.

Nevertheless I enjoyed this movie and there are several things that are novel about it. So I am here to praise those things.

Gillian White (“Hey Lover” video by LL Cool J featuring Boyz II Men) plays Zara Roland, a successful lawyer living out in a desert town in the Coachella Valley with her husband Brian (Michael Jai White, “Where I Belong” video by Busta Rhymes featuring Mariah Carey) and stepdaughter Audrey (introducing Priscilla Walker). They’re the kind of couple that celebrates their 4th anniversary by sparring at the dojo where Brian teaches. He holds the pads and Zara punches the hell out of him. (read the rest of this shit…)

Mortal Kombat: Legacy I & II

Thursday, March 11th, 2021

There’s a new MORTAL KOMBAT movie about to enter our realm, and it’s crazy to think they’ve been developing this thing for over a decade! It made me want to journey back to the beginning of that process and revisit what happened when director Kevin Tancharoen tried to reimagine the fighting tournament game turned movie series.

Tancharoen was on the mixing stage at Warner Brothers when he heard talk about hopes to restart the series. He thought there was a way to put a new, gritty spin on it, and wanted to try. One problem: the only movie he’d directed was a glossy musical, the 2009 version of FAME. He was much more established as a choreographer for Britney Spears than as a filmmaker. He knew they weren’t gonna fuckin believe he was the guy to bring back MORTAL KOMBAT unless he showed them. (read the rest of this shit…)

Batman: Soul of the Dragon

Thursday, January 28th, 2021

I don’t normally review Batman cartoons (I think the only time I have before is the Suicide Squad one, ASSAULT ON ARKHAM), but I think you will agree that this one falls into my jurisdiction. In fact, it’s so weirdly specific to my particular areas of interest that during the ‘70s-inspired opening credits montage with funky theme song, after seeing the names Mark Dacascos and Michael Jai White, Mrs. Vern turned to me in disbelief and said, “Did they make this only for you?

Yeah, actually, it seems they did, so thanks, guys!

No joke, this is an animated movie set in the 1970s, based in the DC Comics universe but taking most of its template from kung fu movies. Its spy movie opening and funky, wah-wah heavy score are clearly homaging ENTER THE DRAGON, and there’s definitely some Jim Kelly/Blaxploitation influence in there, but its flashback structure mostly splits between an old school kung fu training movie and a getting-the-band-back-together type story. Two of my favorite plot structures in one. (read the rest of this shit…)

Welcome to Sudden Death

Monday, October 12th, 2020

WELCOME TO SUDDEN DEATH is Michael Jai White’s new… addition to the SUDDEN DEATH franchise? I had heard it was officially a sequel to the 1995 Jean-Claude Van Damme DIE-HARD-alike directed by Peter Hyams, but I didn’t notice any continuity connecting them. It’s just a rehash of the same premise. So you could call it a remake, but since it doesn’t use any of the same names I suppose it is in the spirit of rehash DTV sequels like HOLLOW MAN 2, THE MARINE 2, WILD THINGS 2, THE BUTTERFLY EFFECT 2, KINDERGARTEN COP 2 and I’LL ALWAYS KNOW WHAT YOU DID LAST SUMMER.

White plays Jesse Freeman, ex-special-ops guy who has a new job as a stadium security job after rehabilitating from some shrapnel he got after escaping torture and kung-fu-ing insurgents overseas. His wife (Sagine Sémajuste) thinks he’s away from the family too much, so he brings his worshipful daughter Mara (Nakai Takawira, Young Simone Biles, THE SIMONE BILES STORY: COURAGE TO SOAR) and unimpressed son Ryan (Lyric Justice) with him when he works the opening game for the Phoenix Falcons. You know, of the National Basketball League. (read the rest of this shit…)

Profiles in Badass #2: Michael Jai White

Thursday, September 3rd, 2020

Hello! I’m periodically rolling out these Profiles in Badass columns from earlier this year that I’m sure many of you didn’t see in their original presentation behind a pay (and arguably ethics) wall on Rebeller. They’re written for a more general audience than outlawvern.com, so they might be pretty basic to some of you, but I think I did a good job putting a finger on the greatness of my various subjects.

For this one it’s important to know that Rebeller was owned by Cinestate, producers of Dragged Across Concrete, and I knew they’d want me to mention MJW’s part in that movie. But I have, you know, complicated feelings about it. They swore they wanted a diversity of viewpoints, and I figured this was a good opportunity to test their sincerity, so I didn’t hold back. To their credit I got no complaints, and the editor later mentioned that he liked me “trolling” them like that when I was arguing with him about something else. Anyway, I’m proud of this one.

(read the rest of this shit…)

Ballistic

Tuesday, February 25th, 2020

BALLISTIC (no relation to ECKS VS. SEVER) is a 1995 DTV joint that I bought after seeing it on Michael Jai White’s filmography, right before his breakout role in TYSON, and after the Don “The Dragon” Wilson movie RING OF FIRE 3: LION STRIKE. He’s thirteenth-billed on its IMDb page so I figured he’d just be standing with his arms folded behind the bad guy in one scene, but I was intrigued enough by the rest of the cast to order a copy on VHS.

The star is Marjean Holden (SILENT NIGHT, DEADLY NIGHT 4: INITIATION, Sheeva in MORTAL KOMBAT: ANNIHILATION) as Jesse Gavin, who seems to be a prostitute in the opening scene, until it’s revealed that she’s undercover. She’s trying to bust some limousine-riding creep after selling him a bag of coke, and has to break off her heels to chase him down an alley.

During the pursuit she accidentally pulls her firearm on an old timey stereotype of a bag lady (Rosie Taravella, flight attendant on a three-parter of Who’s the Boss?), allowing the bad guy to sneak up on her and knock the gun out of her hand. When she’s done beating him up, the homeless lady is holding the gun, covering her, and helps carry the unconscious suspect in her shopping cart, before declaring “You know what you are, sweetie? You’re ballistic!”

Unfortunately we already saw the title fired onto the screen earlier, we don’t get it there, but the awkwardly titular dialogue is still appreciated. (read the rest of this shit…)