Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Junesploitation Day 24: Martial Arts!

When just getting even is not enough!

38 comments:

  1. Operation Condor 2: The Armour of the Gods (AKA Operation Condor for USA release) (1991)

    Quick Thoughts: Jackie Chan stars as Asian Condor (great name!) who goes on a search in an Indiana Jones homage to find Nazi gold that was hidden in the desert at the end of World War II. Since this is a Jackie Chan film the characterizations are very broad and the story isn't the most layered but the question you have with a Chan film is- Does Jackie do cool action scenes that are also funny? The answer is yes.

    While he has made better films (Drunken Master 2 is my fav) this may be the best looking of all the movies he has ever directed and it shocked me that the movie is over 20 years old cause it looks fresh from the 21st century. I saw this in theatres during Jackie's reintroduction to America (Rumble in the Bronx, Rush Hour) and its just as much fun now as it was then.

    8 Word Review:
    He's so cool his character name's always Jackie.

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  2. JOURNEY OF THE DOOMED (1985) on DVD for the first time. Trailer

    What's a struggling once-great studio like Shaw Bros. to do when their martial art movie producing heydays grind to a halt in the mid-80's? As "Journey of The Doomed" proves, you cast as wide a net as possible trying to appeal to everybody under the sun, pleasing absolutely nobody. The movie's feudal setting and story are old-school: the illegitimate daughter of a prince, who lives and works in a brothel, is pursued by the hired goons of other royal siblings wanting to keep her existence from upsetting the kingdom; humble fisherman steps up to protect, romance and fight for the princess.

    So far so good, but then the soundtrack, a syrupy 80's concoction of love tunes, comes up during the abundant softcore T&A scenes abundant. The movie stops cold 2/3's of the way so that we spend a good 20 minutes watching our lead couple on the run build a shack in the woods, try their hand at married life and grow apart when a mute deaf girl comes between them. Shockingly bad and infrequent action/fight scenes (except for a massacre of naked women by other women that comes early and isn't bettered by anything afterward) are sloppily-performed by a cast filled with mostly 20-something bad actors (like the kid student from Bruce Lee's "Enter The Dragon," all grown-up... mulletsploitation!). Did I mention the laser-blasted hypnotic rays the evil henchman uses to brain-wash a female opponent (via a rapey suggestive illusion) into doing his bidding?

    It all leads to an explosive ending that seems to belong to an "Excalibur"-type medieval movie and it's also the one true jaw-dropping moment in "Journey of the Doomed"... 10 seconds before the Shaw Bros. trademark freeze frame final shot comes up. I won this DVD at a giveaway during a martial arts retrospective at NYC's Anthology Film Archives, and after seeing it I wish I hadn't spent the subway fare it took to get me there. :-(

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  3. Merantau (2009)

    Naïve young man from the provinces leaves his family behind to experience the “big city”. Due to his strong headed do-goodery, he gets caught up in big city shenanigans which inevitably lead into some pretty sweet martial arts activity. It’s the first collaboration between Iko Uwais and Gareth Evans who will go on to be more badass (The Raid) and more epic (The Raid: Redemption) in their later projects. However Evan’s knack for interesting camera placement and carefully attuned editing definitely comes through here. Now this may be more about the personal baggage that I bring to the movie than the movie itself, but the familial relationships really played for me. I actually think I’ll return to this more often than I will return to The Raid.

    Oh, and did I mention the really, really sweet martial arts to be found here?

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    1. I liked this movie!!! It was fascinating watching it after seeing both Raid movies.

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  4. Master of the Flying Guillotine (1976)

    This was good solid fun.
    Part Street Fighter II, part stereotypical kung fu movie, part Mortal Kombat, part Wu Tang Clan video, part Kill Bill, all Goodness.
    Time has been very kind to this movie due to the multiple Super Cool pop culture staples from the pat 20 years which have been influenced by it.
    Have you ever wondered how you could take a mans head off while standing 20 meters away while throwing a frisbee on a string? Well look no further kids, have I got the movie for you!
    This seemed to be an exercise in how to keep something interesting and fun on the screen as much as possible without the movie appearing ridiculous. Each character's appearance, their fighting style, each fighting arena/location, were all different and interesting, with productions moto clearly being "Not Boring".

    Thaiboogersploitation!

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  5. Enter the Dragon (1973)

    Holy cow, Bruce Lee is the man! Had I not lost a little bit of interest in the last fifteen minutes I would say that I positively loved every second of this. Not that the final act isn't fun, I just check in and out when he's taking on a hundred guys at a time. I was much more into it when he was sneaking around that amazing island fortress a la James Bond and showcasing his philosophical and (dare I say it?) spiritual style of fighting during the tournament. John Saxon and Jim Kelly are an amazing team, and the way Han runs that island is crazy fun. I don't even care how detached the reasoning of the British recruiting Bruce is, this was the most fun I've had watching a movie all month. Thanks Junesploitation!

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  6. Sister Street Fighter (1974, dir. Kazuhiko Yamaguchi) In-name-only sequel to the Sonny Chiba classic finds the tiny Etsuko Shihomi taking on a drug gang while searching for her brother. On a narrative level the movie is not very good, but narrative probably isn't the reason people watch this kind of thing. A fight breaks out every five minutes or so and Etsuko Shihomi is a lot of fun to watch as she beats the shit out of a lot of colorful henchmen. Director Yamaguchi shoots the movie with a lot of energy, which keeps the fights lively and makes the time pass. It's not nearly as good a movie as Street Fighter, but it's a pretty fun variation.

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  7. I have mentioned more than once on here that I am waiting for Patrick to give 'The Perfect Weapon" the Heavy Action treatment. Just in case anyone wants to see this classic, I just found out that it's on YouTube! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=j0klmld8vQw

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  8. Riki-Oh: The Story of Ricky (1991)

    I don't know, man. I get why this has a reputation as a fun midnight movie kinda thing, but I just found it numbing. Ricky is a super-powered young man in prison for killing a crime lord and while I guess it's a martial arts movie there's not a whole lot of martial artistry. Every fight scene is pretty much this: Ricky squares off with an opponent, a punch or kick is thrown and Ricky tears several vital organs out of his opponent. Again and again. It's very over-the-top, it plays like a highlight reel of Mortal Kombat fatalities in live action, but I never found any of it fun. It struck me sort of as an Asian Machete Kills, but at least the plentiful gore effects were practical. Your mileage may vary, but for me it was a repetitive, overstuffed mess.

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    1. I think we need to get a flat together so we can sell our story as a modern day odd couple. Don't worry, I'll be the messy one.
      I found Riki-Oh to be a lot of fun. It really commits to being what it is.

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    2. In all fairness, I may have liked it more on another day. I just wasn't in the right mood for it today, I think. I'll still be the Felix to your Oscar, even though Oscar gets all the best lines.

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  9. Big Trouble in Little China (1986)

    John Carpenter keeps piling on the crazy in this homage to chop-socky flicks. The problem is, things get SO crazy that the film becomes unmoored. Hell, even a Beholder from D&D shows up at the end. Kurt Russell (who at times seems to be channeling his inner John Wayne) is at his charismatic best as the prototypical American action hero – his job is to alternate between being overwhelmed and being awesome, and Kurt excels at both. To put it bluntly, Jack Burton deserves a better movie.

    And what exactly was the point of the opening scene with Jerry Hardin?

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    1. The first time I watched this I liked it a lot but thought it was messy fun. Then my second viewing was in the cinema with the coolest crowd. Every line played to laughs or cheers. I was grinning from ear to ear even though I was having a really bad day. This viewing won me over and have quite a large affection for it now!

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    2. One of the greatest films ever. I was lucky enough to have seen this in the theater when it came out. I loved it then as a kid and I love it even more now.

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    3. Oh boy, I've had this unwatched on the shelf for awhile now - didn't know enough about it to know what category it might fit in so looks like I'll be watching it tonight!

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    4. Sol - I would die to be you right now. There are a handful of movies I would love to experience for the first time again - this being one of them. Die Hard being number 1.

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  10. The Bride with White Hair: I was very excited about this film as it sounded awesome. There are some really great bits about it, mostly the bride of the title, her and her hair, when fighting, totally made this film for me. The DVD was not very good quality on the laptop so I want to try and see if I can watch it on the TV on a bigger screen at some point. Even though the film has it's rough patches and cheesiness I would say they do put effort into actually having some real characters there. I want to give it another go to see if I like it that bit more the next time as I think the way I watched it wasn't right for the type of film it is. It is definitely worth the watch though!

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  11. Gymkata (1985) – First Viewing:

    A gymnast must compete in a deadly obstacle course while being hunted by armed ninjas. His only weapon? The power of gymnastics! Using gymnastics as his martial art (along with conveniently placed equipment like parallel bars and a pommel horse), he defeats waves and waves of henchmen all the while flipping and spinning around. This is seriously one of the craziest movies I’ve ever seen. Highly recommended just for utter insanity.

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    1. Pommelhorseploitation!! Love this movie.

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  13. Kung-Fu Hustle (2004) 4th viewing

    I have mentioned before that I am a lucky lucky man to be marrying a woman who is a big time Horror Film fan but who also allows me to pick most of the films we watch and she is generally open to anything. Martial Arts movies are way up there with movies that she just cannot get into and has no interest in seeing. She didn't even remember watching "The Raid" together! So, in her honor, trying to keep her invested in going through Junesploitation with me (which she has been awesome with btw) I figured I would pick a martial arts film that I thought she would enjoy. I'm glad I did because she loved it! She caught so many of the homages to movie/cartoon references and we were having a blast watching this. Also, after this being my 4th time seeing this, I have now moved it into my top 250 favorites of all time. I picked up on so much more this viewing and was also able to pay attention to more detail. The 5.1 experience is one of the best on Blu-Ray and I swear, this should have been released NOW when shooting in 3D was hip again because this would have been in the top 5 3D movies ever. Such an homage to sooooo many genre's, great characters, great acting and great laughs. If anyone hates this movie they are simply a curmudgeon.

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  14. Man of Tai Chi (2013)

    A young man, who desperately wants to prove that Tai Chi can be powerful, gets recruited by villain Keanu Reeves to participate in some underground fighting.

    I really liked this. The fight choreography was super good, the development of the main character was interesting, and I even liked Keanu Reeves. Also, a cameo by Iko Uwais!!!! I definitely yelled "RAMA!" at the TV. Now all I want to do is watch The Raid 2...

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    1. Ha ha! Yelling "RAMA!" at the TV! Great!

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    2. I was legit excited to see him in another movie.

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    3. I was so jacked for a Rama - Tiger Chen brawl but they cut it off way too soon.

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    4. Every guy just Googled Angela for knowing who Iko Uwais is :) You peaked my interest in seeing this now. I love that you wrote you "even liked Keanu" that's unheard of unless it's Johnny Utah.

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    5. Or Jack from Speed...

      Also, a real Rama - Tiger Chen fight would have been so amazing!

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    6. After everything I've read people say about this movie, "Rama!" is the first thing that really makes me want to see it! :)

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  15. KILLER METEORS (1976)

    When I read a plot description, “Jackie Chan fights meteors,” I got all excited. But “meteors” is just what the bad guys call themselves. The plot was ridiculously convoluted, with tons of characters and subplots to keep track of, and none of them especially interesting. That’s too bad, because there’s hardly any fighting or action. I guess they were more going for “historic heist caper” than “awesome action.” Pretty dullsville.

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  16. The Pai Mei Trilogy

    Executioners from Shaolin (1977)
    Shaolin Abbot (1979)
    Clan of the White Lotus (1980)

    Out of the six movies the character of Pai Mei is in (including Kill Bill,) these are the three where he's played by Lieh Lo. Wow, I didn't know what I was getting into here... people always go for the balls with this guy! Luckily, Pai Mei can either suck his genitals inside his body, or he's a full-on eunuch (it never really seemed clear to me which,) because characters are constantly grabbing for his crotch, and then looking shocked and surprised that there's nothing there. Before the opening credits of the first movie were over, Pai Mei is dragging the abbot of Shaolin temple around by his foot using only his groin! When his enemies aren't attacking his vitals, they're going for his eyes, and are also always shocked to discover his eyelids contain muscles more powerful than their fingers! The first movie is a very engrossing multi-generational story which Pai Mei hangs over menacingly. You're always aware of him as the insurmountable obstacle that the characters spend the entire movie preparing to attempt confronting; despite the character being given limited screen time, he's always the topic of conversation, much like the shark in Jaws. A character in this installment literally spends twenty years preparing for a duel with him, and still doesn't beat him! The disappointing, stripped-down second installment reduces him to little more than a greedy local crime kingpin, and the third suddenly changes him into the classmate of the slain Pai Mei out for revenge, despite him being identical to Pai Mei in every respect. I don't think it spoils anything to say that this guy dies in every movie I've seen him in. In fact, in part three he dies before the opening credits have ended! The first movie is essential viewing, but you can skip the sequels unless you're a hardcore kung-fu nut.

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  17. The Grandmaster (2013)

    Watching this film was a great relief, after Sex & Fury (1973). After a short while, I realised that the director, Wong Kar-wai, also made In the Mood for Love (2000). I never got to see the entirety of that film, but the cinematography made a definite impact upon me, and the similarities are apparent in this epic. It's a truly beautiful film.

    The score was quite interesting, as well. At one point, it reminded me of Beethoven's style (it would be fair to say that I love classical music a bit more than film). The slow, intervening scenes worked well alongside the score. Yet, my point about the music's interesting nature should be emphasised here. It's not like anything from any Western film I can recall, at the moment. For this, I like it.

    There are several issues that I'd like to highlight, though. The use of slow motion at times can be incredibly annoying. It truly seems pointless in some of the scenes it's used. This "issue" becomes apparent very early in the film. Also, the theme of imperialism is highly criticised (and understandably so). However, I had the thought during my viewing that, as in Wilson Yip's Ip Man film series, that the Japanese were somewhat demonised. Not to the same extent, but demonised nonetheless. Lastly, while the film's called The Grandmaster and is based on the real life Yip Man, he appears mostly as a secondary character. I don't understand the point of this.

    Overall, The Grandmaster was a great film to watch. The story's somewhat weak, but the direction and cinematography is beautiful. That is putting aside the amazing fight scenes.

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  18. Big Trouble in Little China (1986)

    John Carpenter, Kurt Russell, trouble, that guy that played every Asian villain in the 80s - these are a few of my favourite things! How I managed not to see this in the past 28 years I have no idea but boy am I glad I did. So wonderfully weird and wacky - and one of my favourite Russell performances - loved the hell out of this thing and I know I'll watch it a lot in the years to come.

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    1. If you have the DVD the commentary with Carpenter and Russell is one of the best ever recorded. Very entertaining with Kurt Russell laughing his head off through most of it #Laughsploitation.

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    2. Nothing like a commentary track to get me to rewatch a movie I just saw - I've got the blu and I'm pretty sure it's on there so will give that a watch/listen soon - thanks for the tip!

      Chaybee1 - I know what you mean about being jealous of people who get to watch a classic for the first time - um, here's hoping you suffer a traumatic head injury that erases your memory of BTiLC so you get that chance again?

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  19. Man of Tai Chi (2013)

    Keanu Reeves needs to direct all the movies.

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