Thursday, June 18, 2015

Junesploitation Day 18: Kung-fu!

Street fighters duel in a blast of death!

69 comments:

  1. Yuen Woo-ping's DREADNAUGHT (1981, 91 min.) in 35mm at NYC Anthology Film Archives' 'This is 35mm' Retrospective for the first time.

    Slashers and masked killers were the rage in the early 80's, so it makes sense that Asian filmmakers would jump on this trend. Though closer to a horror spoof than an actual slasher (think kung-fu version of "Student Bodies" or "Saturday the 14th") there's no mistaking the slasher influence on the kabuki make-up, fucked-up trauma and stalking behavior that 'White Tiger' (Yuen Shun-yee) exhibits as he goes about beheading poor animals (on camera!) and chasing timid 'Mousy' (Yuen Biao) all over town. It's a good thing that 'Mousy' has been trained by his family into the art of laundry-fu, which Master Wong Fei-Hung (the amazing Kwan Tak-hing) correctly identifies as the 'Eagle Claw' technique when he considers taking Mousy in as a student.

    "Dreadnaught" is actually two or three different stories mixed together (school rivalries, cartoony police procedural, etc.). It's all one big excuse for the director of "Drunken Master" and fight choreographer of "Kill Bill" to stage some sweet martial arts stunts, fight choreography and dance. It says something that, in a movie in which there are a handful of kick-ass fight scenes, the standout scenes involve characters dressed in lion costumes fighting while dancing. "Dreadnaught" is available on YouTube, so feel free (16:17 to 26:18 has the lion costume scene). It's not as immaculate and blemish-free as the 35mm print that I saw, but hey, we can't all live and work in NYC. :-D

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  2. I'm gonna git you Sucka: I was signed ppon for this but I wish it had more kung fu because the exploitation parts were sometimes dull and nowhere close to the coolness of some of them so fails a bit in the attempt to recapture the spirit. Also, if you are English, using git in your title like that is ridiculous. The crazy in some parts was more what I wanted!

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    1. Do you mean the cultural differences between Brits and Americans were such that you didn't get the jokes in "Sucka"? Or you got the jokes, but you just didn't find them funny?

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    2. I got the jokes. I didn't find them funny. Example: 'Cramps!' Me: I am not amused

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    3. I was simply reffering to the word git with cultural differences. Not the film itself.

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    4. "fuckin' around in the office. We were flickin' paper clips at each other and one of the damn fools hit me in the eye!" I love this movie!

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  3. The Fearless Hyena (1979)

    Jackie Chan in one of his earlier vehicles back when he was still trying to shake off people wanting him to be the next Bruce Lee. This flick has all the trappings of an old kung fu film (exaggerated sound fx, bad dubbing) as well as a few I hadn’t seen before such as music from other more famous movies being used in the soundtrack and Jackie dressing up as a mentally challenged man I think as well as a flirty woman. As for the sound fx there is quite the liberal use of looney tunes cartoon sounds when Jackie is getting beaten or beating somebody up. You also get your long takes of very cool choreographed action scenes and a dispatching of a bad guy that’s just rough. Check this out if you want to see goofy Jackie just focusing on his kung fu and warming up for Drunken Master II.

    8 Word Review (In Preparation for SMM)

    “Best chopstick fu I have seen all Junesploitation”

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  4. KILL ZONE aka SPL: SHA PO LANG (2005)
    I personally feel I coulda used this yesterday for Icons because of Donnie Yen (he's been one of my all-time favorite martial artists since I saw Iron Monkey in the late 90s), but today is the best day for it.

    Sammo Hung is in this as well -- and kicks much ass -- along with Simon Yam, who is also a seriously bad motherfucker (don't believe me? Check out John Woo's Bullet In The Head, where he basically plays the Chow Yun-Fat role and is awesome at it).

    This is a dark movie featuring characters with...shaky morals, let us say, but it's hard to say you don't understand the motivation.

    The action is brutal and the fights are simply wonderful. Fans of Hong Kong action are urged to seek it out!

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  5. Fist of Legend (1994, dir. Gordon Chan) (First Time Viewing): More like “Pissed” of Legend! Because I was pissed at how boring this was (sorry Mark Ahn). The historical melodrama stuff really didn’t work for me. I won’t complain about the fights though. Jet Li in his prime is always awesome, and his kung-fu is strong. I greatly preferred Jet Li’s Fearless over this as to me it was more wildly entertaining. Maybe Junesploitation fatigue is kicking in..

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    1. No worries, Matt. When I re-watch this, I only go to the fights anyway.

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  6. The Prodigal Boxer: The Kick of Death (1972, dir. Yang Ming Tsai)

    Fang Shi Yu (Fong Sai Yuk, who seems to have a different backstory in every movie they make about him) is having a cricket fight with some guy. The guy is losing, so he says" I want compensation! You're going to have to pay me for that cricket!" When a friend agrees, Fang kicks the friend in the face, then kills the first guy and walks away laughing! The guy's kung-fu teachers show up at Fang's house to take him to the cops, but he's out picking another fight! His kung-fu expert mom tries to fight them off. They kill Fang's dad and beat up his mom. He spends the next few years training under his mom to get revenge. In the end he wins by wrapping his ponytail around a guys spear and spinning it around back at him. Pretty boilerplate-y. The long-ass trailer.

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  7. The Big Boss (1971)

    Bruce Lee makes funny faces, is uncomfortable around girls, and kills tons of anonymous baddies with his feet. The dubbing is bad, but I am a sucker for any movie in which injured people are thrown (or in this case, kicked) into pools/fountains. I hadn't seen a Bruce Lee movie before and now wish to see the others!

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    1. Check out Fists of Fury, and Enter the Dragon.

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  8. Snake in the Eagle's Shadow (1978)

    Woo-Ping Yuen offers an unbeatable ratio of action scenes to not-action scenes (it feels like there's more of the former), and when you add his balletic choreography to Jackie Chan's expressive face you get a combination of excitement and humor that can't really be found anywhere else. There's a fantastic ethic here of humility and kindness over pride and arrogance with some brief moments of satire pointed at the aristocracy. There's not much story (although the fight scenes are always grounded) and there's a bit less character than in his Drunken Master (which came out the same year), but it's still a fun and exciting adventure with a few laughs and tons of action. A must for all Jackie Chan fans.

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  9. The 36th Chamber of Shaolin (1978)

    The RZA was right about this one. Two hours of solid martial arts action in glorious ShawScope. As Gordon Liu goes through 35 levels of training with Shaolin monks to become a master, the movie builds character through action and does so very well (for further detail on that go read Mark Ahn's excellent column from earlier today).

    While this may be in the running with Romero's Dawn of the Dead for silliest looking fake blood in cinematic history, it never feels goofy. There's an earnestness and sincerity in the storytelling that I really appreciate, and it helps that it's in service of wall-to-wall exciting and well-choreographed martial arts. Really great stuff.

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  10. Kung Pow: Enter the Fist (2002)

    The career-crowning achievement by Steve Oedekerk, the acclaimed writer of The Nutty Professor and Bruce Almighty and writer-director of Ace Ventura 2.

    Oedekerk's concept: take an existing kung fu movie from the 1970's, digitally insert yourself into the movie (replacing the main character), shoot a few additional scenes, redub the movie with weird voices and ridiculous dialogue (doing most of the voices yourself) and add in a couple of CGI creatures, including a kung fu cow.

    It's ridiculously bonkers and a whole lot of fun. Highly recommended. Just don't watch the trailer, it highlights the CGI-heavy scenes and shows almost none of the best stuff, the redubbed old footage.

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    1. This is a good choice. I haven't seen it since it came out but I remember thinking it was extraordinarily funny. Makes me want to see it again.

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  11. One Down, Two To Go (1982) (first time viewing)

    This one turned out to be kind of a cheat. A martial arts tourney is rigged and some guys don't get paid. The martial arts is confined to the first 5 minutes of the movie along with one fight that Jim Kelly gets into (while injured) with a couple of thugs. This would have fit more in the Icons (Williamson, Brown, Kelly, Roundtree) or blacksploitation. Jim Kelly is the one who is cheated and calls in his two friends (Williamson and Brown). It wasn't great, but it was my first foray into blacksploitation and I'm interested to watch some more. Is it just me, or does Fred Williamson just kind of ooze cool? Only thing I didn't really care for was the casual rape scene. The music and the way it was shot made it seem like the guys were cheering on a frat buddy doing something as innocent as a keg stand at a party. Just something about the way it was shot like a throwaway scene, like it was no big deal. Anyway, not great dialogue, but it's a fun little revenge flick.

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  12. THE WOMAN AVENGER (1980)

    Bandits attack a woman and her husband and he is killed. She spends years studying kung fu, then disguises herself as a man to hunt down the bandits responsible. The fight choreography is very dance-like. The villains aren’t trying to hit our heroine, but are merely swinging their fists and weapons around in such a way so that she can look cool jumping around them. Still, the movie is fun, and the training scenes will totally remind you of the Pai Mei scenes from Kill Bill. Also, a lot of people think this movie was the inspiration for the Chun Li character from the Street Fighter games, and I must admit there is a resemblance.

    Accompanying short film: KUNG FURY (2015). Yeah, it’s amusing and impressive for the low budget, but this kind of humor has worn itself thin by know. Maybe I would have liked it more if I hadn’t already seen Danger 5.

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  13. The Last Dragon (1985)

    A young, black man in New York is released by his master into the world where he has to find and learn his final lesson to achieve the mystical "Glow." I've had such a soft spot for this movie since I was a kid. I think it's a lot of fun. It's a mixture of kung fu and blaxploitation with some great music spread throughout. It's silly in a lot of ways, but it never feels like it's making fun of the genres or characters. And the Shogun of Harlem is one of my favorite villains.

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    1. Perfect pick, my friend.

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    2. This one is fantastic. It's one of my most re-watched movies. One of those where I wore out the VHS tape as a kid. When he achieves the "glow" is still one of my favorite movie moments. Nice pick.

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    3. Love this movie. Shonuff the shogun off Harlem is a show stealer. The music during the final fight is awesome.

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    4. Pizza with bean sprouts?

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  14. THE RAID 2 (2014)
    It took all of one viewing for me to realize this was now one of my favorite action movies of all time.

    Gareth Evans is a madman (and brilliant). Iko Uwais defines badass and then some.

    The fight scenes, basically, are why we watch flicks like this. The Raid 2 will kick your ass and take your lunch money.

    You'll still thank it.

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  15. Five Deadly Venoms (1978, dir. Cheh Chang)

    After years of owning this, I can finally check it off the list. Maybe a little slower than I was expecting, but pretty great where it counts. The fights are incredible and there's a surprising amount of blood. The sound effects are pretty silly sometimes, but that's exactly what I want out of a kung fu movie this month.

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    1. "After years of owning this, I can finally check it off the list"

      Man, doesn't that always feel great?! The film I watched tonight I bought last year and sat on it to watch for Junesploitation this year (commitment my friend). I'm doing the same for Cannon day tomorrow and I am going to be so relived to finally check it off. I love it!

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    2. What's the Cannon movie? Spoilers.

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    3. It's not fun, but I have to: Godard's King Lear.

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    4. Haha! Your silence speaks volumes :)

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    5. No! Not on purpose. But also YEESH. I mean, maybe it's great and you'll be able to check it off the list. I will be watching Jennifer Jason Leigh as a cop going undercover at a high school.

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    6. Yeah, I mean that was a FIND as I mentioned before!

      See, I watched "The Young Warriors" for Revenge! and that was Cannon so I planned on knocking out probably the one Cannon film that I have never really wanted to watch. Also, I've been working my way through his filmography since I was a pretentious young man, so to be able to check this one off is great for me!

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    7. Sometimes I use Junesploitation films to challenge myself; yeah it's stupid but sometimes I'm surprised :P

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    8. That's awesome! That's what the month is about!

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    9. Definitely, but when I say challenge myself - I mean watching the most boring Cannon film anyone could pick, haha! That's challenging myself. Mostly though, I try to pick crazy fun shit, but like I said, here's my opportunity to knock out a big for me on my Godard list, and Junesploitation gives me that extra push to finally do it.

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    10. I don't know if you're serious or not about "King Lear," Chaybee, but this is the part about Cannon that fascinates me the most. That among the dreck and starring action vehicles for the Chucks (Bronson and Norris) the studio kept pumping out regularly they found the time, resources and will to be the stop of last resource for such renowned artists like Konchalovsky ("Runaway Train," "Shy People"), Zeffirelli ("Otello"), Schroeder ("Barfly"), Cassavettes ("Love Streams") and Reggio ("Powaqqatsi ") to name a few. I mean, there's a Cannon movie directed by Jean-Luc Godard, for fuck's sake!!! It's the side of Cannon that even many Cannon lovers are unaware of. The "Electric Boogaloo" documentary touches on this briefly, and I'm thankful for that.

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    11. Yep, I was serious. review is up. I saw the Documentary too and thought it was great! In watching it I also didn't realize how many of Cannon films I had seen and not known it was Cannon. The idea of King Lear is super fascinating. That's as far as it goes. The "dreck" is what makes Cannon so incredible fun and why I love that studio so much. I can't imagine there will ever be anything like it again.

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    12. My brain is fried. *Not knowing it was Cannon.

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  16. This one's for Patrick

    Man of Tai Chi (2013, dir. Keanu Reeves) 

    Simple story of a honourable man wanting to make money to help his Master and save his Dojo that starts to get out of control, i don't want to say too much, the story escalates, shot with style, great fight scenes and a nice flair that I really enjoyed,

    Great recommendation, cheers

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  17. Replies
    1. I've tried writing about this movie a couple of times, but I have a hard time finding something particularly noteworthy about it too. It's solid, just not one that sticks in the memory.

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    2. I sat down to try to write about it a couple of times. I couldn't think of anything to say so I thought I would steal Patrick's catchphrase. I agree that it's solid. I like the tone and the silliness. Which one would you suggest that's in the same wheelhouse?

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    3. Wheelhouse as in same level quality? Or in that it's solid, but not noteworthy? I watched it because I was trying to fill out my knowledge of Donnie Yen's filmography, and this kept on coming up as one of his best. There's a decent amount of martial arts movies that are in the same ballpark, but going on the Donnie Yen thing, I really enjoyed Ip Man. Man of Tai Chi is also fun, and more action oriented.

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  18. Counter Destroyer a.k.a The Vampire is Still Alive (1989) Dir. Edgar Jere (only film)

    A girl rents out an old house to write a screenplay about the last emperor of China (which is really interesting because all she does is read a book about that subject). In comes a demon looking guy with Freddy Kruger claws who knows Kung Fu, ghosts haunting the house, a female P.I. who will shoot or poison you in a heartbeat, movie producer thugs, a monk with two bumbling vampire assistants who know Kung Fu (and have vampire teeth from a vending machine), charmingly awful dubbing, an incredible reveal of a corny, frat boy looking movie producer that somehow knows Kung Fu and then spins around a tree and turns into a freakin' Ninja! Hmmm...what else...oh, not only is he a Ninja but later he turns into Robocop! Nope, I'm not bullshitting. Guess what? Not done. Throw in an alien that pops out of the chest of our leading lady possessed by the Freddy-claw demon guy. My brain is exhausted.

    This was a ton of fun. Keep in mind though, if you want legit Kung Fu, this is not that movie. It's more like a weird Godfrey Ho-esque Horror/Kung Fu spoof that makes no sense at all. It's available as a two disc DVD double feature with "Magic of the Universe" which I watched last year and is even more insane! I am really happy to own this as both films are highly recommended.

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  19. I also watched The Raid 2 (2014)

    I was exhausted going into this movie, which did not help because as Albert so rightly put it, this movie will kick your ass. The fight scenes were incredible almost like watching dance. I had to turn it into a two parter and it broke up the flow. But this is a movie I really want to return to soon!!!

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    1. Glad you enjoyed it, Lindsay!

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    2. How those fights were staged is almost more mind boggling than how they look on screen.

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    3. I like this a lot more than the first Raid. The first was good but, at least to me, became kind of boring because of the monotonous setting in endless corridors and rooms all looking the same.
      Raid 2 has a simple but effective story and a lot of different settings which made it a lot more interesting to look at.
      And the fights were just insane. Man, it hurts just by watching them.

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    4. I really want to sit down and watch it properly, I remember nothing of the story, but those fights scenes are just insanely perfect!

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  20. Kung Fury (2015)

    I've been hearing a lot about this so I wanted to check it out. It was OK. I did like some of the 80's throwback stuff going on. The 30 minute runtime was about right. It would of been a tough to stick with it if was a full length movie. The highlight for me was Kung Fury's ridiculous fight sequence against hitler's army.

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  21. The Legend of the 7 Golden Vampires (1974)
    Hammer says, "Hey, we like money," and decides to cash in on kung fu.
    It's not good. If you're having a party and this is on in the background, it might reach the level of so-bad-it's-good, but my eyes glazed over watching it solo. The fight scenes are pretty goofy--it looks like there's about a foot between each supposedly landed blow, and the special effects are lackadaisical. I burst out laughing when Dracula is killed (for what, the 17th time in this series?) and his face looks like it's been covered in overcooked eggs.
    But Peter Cushing made a paycheck, so yay.

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  22. Kung Fu Hustle (2004)
    This movie had me at the montage with the dancing gangsters. It's goofy, kind of sweet.

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  23. KUNG FU HUSTLE (2004)
    Here I thought I'd be the only one watching this.

    I have seen few movies (such as the whole of Tarantino's filmography) that are as in love with BEING a movie as this one is.

    For what I want out of a flick -- and a good time -- yes, I would completely call it a modern classic of cinema. I revere it.

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    1. I was so close to watching this, I have watched a couple of times and loved it! But I have already broken my only new movies rule with Icon Day. But such a good movie.

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    2. It really, really is. It is SO GREAT.

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  24. MAN OF THAI CHI (2013)

    As a huge fan of Keanu, I was really impressed by his directing job. Very impressive, especially for a first time! He also completely crushed it as the villain. I really enjoyed this movie a lot. I think much of that, other than Keanu, is due to how likable the Tiger is. And the romance was super cute. As a confident man I don't feel weird saying that. It was SUPER cute.

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    1. Whoops, misspelled Tai. That I do feel weird about.

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    2. That's a stellar fight flick. Seems Keanu was paying attention to the great action directors he's worked with.

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  25. Ip Man (2008)
    Donnie Yen needs to be a bigger star. Jackie Chan, Jet Li, Chow Yun-Fat, Michelle Yeoh, Bruce Lee, Sonny Chiba, they're recognized the world over. But unless you're in the know, unless you're a fan, I don't think Donnie Yen is as well known. And that needs to change. This film and its sequels could very well do it. It's in every Wal-Mart $7 bin, so maybe, with time, he'll garner some credit over here. He's in Blade II. Maybe he's not interested in working within the Hollywood system that often, or anymore. In Ip Man, Donnie plays the same man Wong Kar-Wai's The Grandmaster is about. Fo Shan is a hotbed of kung fu. There are many schools, many grandmasters trying to stake a claim on their chosen style. The problem with being a grandmaster, everyone wants to challenge you to fight and make a name for themselves and their school. When their reputation expands, their school gets word of mouth, and gains students. Grandmasters are continually challenged, and Ip Man is the best of the grandmasters in Fo Shan. If you fight Ip Man, your reputation is assured. You're not going to win against him, but fighting him is the greatest honor you can get, if you can accept the ignominy of defeat. The film turns on a dime early. The Japanese occupy Fo Shan, extract Ip Man and his family from his estate, and evoke martial law. But, just like everyone else, the allure of Fo Shan's reputation as a bastion of kung fu is not lost on the Japanese, and Ip Man finds himself fighting for his country, his family, and his life. If you've seen a Donnie Yen movie before, you know what to expect. For anyone else, the fight choreography is wonderful. See it.

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  26. Heroes Two (1974)
    Ip Man had been sitting idly on my Netflix Instant queue, so I thought enough was enough, I had to see it. I wasn't disappointed. Well, only in myself, for waiting so long.
    I've also got literally 70 Shaw Brothers movies on my DVR from El Rey Network. I chose to watch Heroes Two. It's Alexander Fu Sheng as Fong Sai-Yuk, fighting to defend the Shaolin cause. Throw a rock and you'll hit a movie about Fong Sai-Yuk.

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    1. Oops. More like throw a rock and hit a movie about Wong Fei-Hung.

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  27. Fist of Legend 1994

    I believe this is a remake of chinese connection. It stars jet li. The action is great although it appears they use sped up camera techniques; however it doesnt take away from the clarity of the fight scenes which are great. Its on Netflix so I recommend checking it out if u have the service. If your like me and don't like reading your movie don't worry it's dubbed.

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  28. TNT Jackson

    Starring my girlfriend Jeanne Bell, TNT Jackson exemplifies the Corman produced, Philipino action flicks of the '70's. Bell is cool and hot at the same time and does a great job when she's not in a fight sequence. Problem is, this is a Kung fu movie. Pretty much all the fight scenes are unintentionally hilarious although one inventive scene features Bell fighting in the nude while intermittently flipping off the lights to keep her opponents off balance. Worth a go especially if you find a version better than the budget Mill Creek disc that I've watched three times now.

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  29. Ip Man (2008) First Viewing:

    I am happy to see that someone else had watched this! YAY! Thanks Mike! I was second guessing that I knew my Kung-fu. HAHA

    This is not a genre that I am overly familiar with, but that being said, I was transfixed start to finish with every fight scene! Donnie Yen is incredible and I will be seeking out more of him!

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  30. Ip Man 2 (2010):

    And this one is even better!! GEEZ! Not only are the fight scenes better than I could have imagined, but this is all based on a true story. Double win!

    As it turns out I am becoming a fan of the genre. All thanks to Junesploitation!

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    1. Now you've got me doubly excited to see this. I'm thinking I'll just blind buy it if I find it in the bin at Wal-Mart. Along with the first, of course.

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  31. Man of Tai Chi (2013)

    Is it a problem that I was rooting for Keanu and against the police? But how could you not with Keanu's fantastic villain laugh? Great fight scenes, Keanu Reeves is really fun to watch, but the movie overall kind of bored me. I enjoyed it, but I just felt very detached and disinterested.

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  32. Will use a real profile soon, wanted to add a few critical action film suggestions:

    Drunken Master II (NOT the altered American version)

    Dragons Forever (trio of Jackie, Sammo, Yuen)

    Five Element Ninja (AKA Chinese Super Ninja) - Jesus H Christo, this must be seen. It took some years, but I finally got the remastered OAR DVD from Celestial. Chang Cheh's most violent and glorious Martial Arts film, also notable for the late year of release.

    Ong Bak II (kind of nutty, but the fights are amazing)

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  33. Police Story (1985)

    You just gotta love Jackie Chan. You just gotta love Jackie Chan even more when the name of his character in his movie is Jackie Chan.

    This was the start of a golden run in Jackie's Hong Kong movie career after he failed to break into the American market around the same time. As expected, nothing groundbreaking in terms of plot her but some ridiculously action set pieces and stunts that are just mind boggling-ly crazy. Looking forward to doing a rewatch without the horrible horrible dubbing but man this movie is fun.

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