Birth of Dragon : Good Action / Bad Plot

I am reviewing this film as a martial artist and a fan of Bruce Lee’s. Having trained Kajukenbo 4 years or so, and having met grandmasters there who told first hand accounts of having trained with him, I can attest that this film has a somewhat inaccurate depiction of Lee. I also read Lee’s street fighting technique books and his book Tao of Jeet Kune Do. The martial arts kicked ass in this movie. There are killer stunts throughout, and awesome fight choreography. The actors deserve credit for their techniques. Lee was much more spiritual than what was depicted in the film. This film makes him look like megalomaniac. and a thug.

Nobody cares about the middle aged, abused white guy who wants to get with the human trafficked Chinese restaurant worker. Therein lies the problem with this film. Had it just relied on the story of Bruce Lee, and been more respectful to him, and would have been solid. But the subplot involving Lee’s annoying student kills the film’s credibility, and makes it not as watchable.

One bright spot of the film was the part where Lee’s challenger, a Shaolin monk from China, shows him a point about not knowing his own limitations and capabilities well enough. Know thyself, and know thy enemy is a concept the film embraces. The monk also brings a theme of humbleness to the film. There are some positive attributes to the film.

If you are a martial artist , see the film strictly for the action scenes involving the Lee and the monk character. You will see some really good Wing Chung and Jeet Kune Do. Their respective acting performances were pretty strong as well. Unfortunately, the rest of the film is a bit hokey.

St. Ives: A Bronson Classic

Whenever you’re looking for quick action fix, you can’t do any better than a 1970’s or a 1980’s Charles Bronson film, but for different reasons. The 1970’s films like “Death Wish,” “The Mechanic,” and “Hard Times” are genuine classics, whereas the 1980’s films like “Death Wish 2,” “Death Wish 3” and “Kinjite: Forbidden Subjects” are so-bad-they’re-good. “St. Ives,” a 1976 film I just watched, falls into the former category. It has a “Chinatown” film noir feeling that I really like, and the music is appropriate for the time.

The cast includes John Houseman, Jacqueline Bisset, Maximallian Schell, and also Jeff Goldblum and Robert Englund as hoods. Bronson plays Raymond St. Ives, a crime reporter and ex-policeman who is hired by the nefarious John Houseman to retrieve five stolen ledgers. Many deaths ensue, and Bronson ends up spear-heading a robbery to get revenge for a job gone wrong. My favorite scene in the movie is the first, in which Bronson is being confronted and accused at gunpoint, which throws us into the narrative right away because we want to know why he’s in trouble. This film is classic 1970’s cinema because it combines action, conspiracy, and a detective story. The director, J. Lee Thompson, made “Cape Fear” and “The Guns of Navarone,” as well as 8 other Charles Bronson films. This is probably the best one. If you’re looking for a classic 1970’s Charles Bronson experience look no further than “St. Ives”!

Kidnap : Soccer Mom Fury

Usually when I go to see a Halle Berry starring role film, I am just hoping to see some tits. Usually I don’t get to see any tits, and going into this – yes I had a hunch this movie might stink. So I went next door to the pub and had a 9 percent Imperial Stout first and told the ticket seller I was hoping to make it through the whole film but was had my doubts it would be possible. I was surprised though. Kidnap is better than you would think. Here’s the short version of plot, its not that complicated, so see if you can follow. You will see why its not going to be Oscar nominated, though it may win some razzies:

a) man steals kid b) mom chases man to get kid back c) mom kills perps. one by one and takes kid back.

Not to be redundant but for more insight, here is the long version of the plot:

Someone messes with her kid, trying to kidnap him. Halle Berry goes vigilante style on the white trash couple perps in her red mini-van. The whole movie is basically one big long high-way cat-and-mouse car chase. It compares to a badass black momma version of Taken. Get drunk and go see it!

 

Anabelle Sucks

 

OK, so the original “Annabelle” sucked pond water, but “Annabelle: Creation” got good reviews, so I decided to check out. It fucking sucks too! With a lame poster like this, who could go wrong:

They could not think of a better cliché , so instead the opening scenes were the only good scenes in the picture, as they detail the sad (and based on fact) story of a family that has a tragic accident involving a little girl named Annabelle. Where have I seen this before? Well like a thousand other movies (because its supposedly based on a true thing!). Well -so far, so good. But then we get this “Little Orphan Annie” bullshit about the bereaved family letting an orphanage of little Catholoc girls shack up in their luxurious (and creepy) estate which makes no sense. We also get a plot that exploits the disability (polio) of a little girl, including a creepy lift to the upstairs of the house. The little girl unlocks a door she’s not supposed to and soon the jump scares and “Exorcist” and “Conjuring” rip-offs begin. At no point is the orphanage, led by a nun who’s not very bright, ready to pack up and leave despite many terrible things happening. Geez. What’s wrong with the nuns these days??

If you’ve been following this review, you’ll notice that this film is not content with putting little girls in jeopardy, but has decided to double down and put a little disabled girl in jeopardy. Its a movie about whatever it will take to fill seats and sell popcorn basically. After a while, it becomes simply a succession of jump scares. You can go take a leak at any point in this film and you won’t miss anything. Go refill that $7 soda. When this happened, the packed audience became more entertaining than the movie. Dozens of cries of “aw hell no!” as well as predictions of what was going to happen provided the entertainment the film itself was lacking. It was one of those crowds where there is a really low IQ going on, and you have to duck and hide on the way out.

So although the film is slightly better than the first “Annabelle,” it still comes down on pandering to the audience rather than telling a good story. Its like sex with a fat chick, not very good!

Horror fans are advised to skip it and wait for “Stephen King’s It,” which generated more creepiness and atmosphere in a two-minute clip before the film than both “Annabelle” films combined. I have no idea why the crowd applauded loudly at the end. My cash would have been better spent at the racetrack frankly.

Instant Justice = Instant Fun

Ready for an hilarious bad action movie experience? Check out “Instant Justice” starring Michael Pare and Tommy Kiitaen. Neither of these actors need a huge introduction because Pare starred in “Eddie and the Cruisers,” “Streets of Fire,” “The Philadelphia Experiment,” and “Bad Moon,” while Kitaen was in “Bachelor Party” and “Witchboard.” Pare plays a Marine named Younglood (shades of the Rob Lowe classic from around the same time) whose sister is killed as part of a modeling/prostitution scam run by drug dealers.

Pare infiltrates the criminal underworld in the movie and will stop at nothing to avenge his sister’s death. Tawny Kitaen plays the love interest and potential victim, who apparently showers fully clothed and wants to run off with Youngblood if he’ll stop thinking about vengeance. All of this involves all little gratuitous nudity (not Tawny), drug use, car chases, shootouts, and bad acting. Pare is a poor man’s Stallone, but he has his moments, Tawny is hot with priceless bad ’80’s hair, but she’s not a great actress. The director used a fake name and was never heard from again. This film is definitely so-bad-it’s-good.If you enjoy bad ’80’s action, be sure to get “Instant Justice” from 1986 on VHS!

Dark Tower – A Solid Fantasy Film

Our other staff writer underestimated how good this film is. The film adaptation of Stephen King’s Dark tower is a towering masterpiece. Elba is awesome as the gunslinger and takes the role seriously. Also, he does some good dead-pan humor. He plays a fantasy western version of a Knights Templar. His guns were ‘forged from Exacalibur’.

McConaughey is also strong as the man in black, who can be thought of as the false prophet in a Biblical sense. The man in black bears a striking resemblance to the Randall Flagg character in the Stand, another apocalyptic Stephen King masterpiece. Unlike other modern hits like Harry Potter, this movie the Dark Tower warns against the use of occultist magic.

The most obvious occult symbols in the film are the dark tower itself (Tower of Babel/ WTC parallels are obvious from the NYC skyline shots being ominously shown over and over again), and the portal itself (CERN parallels). Just as in the stories Firestarter, there are tons of insinuations to the MK Ultra program (unveiled by the Church committee in the 70s in Congress and the victims were paid reparations), in which the government takes kids who have psychic abilities and abuses them and does experiments on them. In the Dark Tower the government keeps trying to seize the kid character in the film to do just that.

This movie is considered a fantasy. But it is not. It is Stephen King’s coded way of warning us of several things:
a) magic and occultism are dangerous and help to bring about the Anti-Christ (the Man in Black), by opening portals for demons to enter our world through.
b) the government kidnaps and experiments on people who are psychic (Firestarter with Drew Berrymore this occurs throughout the film, also in this film they try and get the kid for his psychic abilities, and its done through mental health or foster care)
c) The falling and rebuilding of the World Trade Center has some sort of strong connection to the occult, and King quite possibly predicted the fall of the Twin Towers in his first volume from 1982.

King started writing in the early 1970’s. At that time there was a strong mistrust of government. From the Gulf of Tonkin, to the Church committee, to Cointelprolo Operation, the government had gone and lied to the public while doing some really evil things. Stephen King clearly picked up on this. Many of his works exhibit an anti government paranoia. Not just Firestarter (where George C. Scott acts super creepy almost sexual intonations towards Drew Berrymore), but in the Dead Zone the Martin Sheen character was set to become a fascist dictator set on nuking the world. Lawnmower Man had ‘the Shop’ too. Or in the Stand, where small pox virus breaks out of a government lab, killing off most of the globe’s population. Only to be saved by the ‘Hand of God’ at the end. Stephen King himself is the visionary, and much of what he warns us about is directly from the bible.

This newest film of Stephen King’s is the clearest indication and proof yet that King believes (and is right) that Christian prophecies are fulfilled beyond anything that could be considered coincidence. The fact that the book dealt with apocalyptic towers in NYC way back in 1982 is a blatant example of how human history and future has been coded into biblical prophecy, and cleverly deciphered, reinterpreted, and laid bare for keen observers of pop culture to use as a tool to heighten their intellectual awareness.

Another notable simulacra throughout the film and the book the characters say ‘I shoot with my mind not my hand’. This echoes Infowars.com slogan ‘there is a war for your mind’ just a little to closely to be coincidence. There is also a line that repeats throughout regarding virtue (or lack thereof) about ‘Having forgotten the face of your father(s)’, which likely relates to the Founding Fathers and how America has abandoned its original principles.  As you watch the film see what examples you can find as a viewer in terms of occultism. They are plentiful.

Gunslinger is Just OK

So “The Dark Tower” movie from Stephen King’s great novels is finally here, so how is it? Well, it’s very entertaining. It moves quickly and has good action and special effects. Matthew McConaughey is great as Walter, the Man in Black, and Idris Elba is excellent as Roland the Gunslinger. This is a stripped-down action movie based on the books, and it works fairly well. Tom Taylor is just OK as Jake Chambers, but he’s likeable enough. The good news is that because a new story has been concocted for this movie, all of the books are still waiting to be filmed. A TV series is planned for 2018 with Elba that will attempt to adapt the books faithfully. As a result, this movie works as an appetizer for better things to come. It is a fun fantasy action thriller, and I do recommend it. Bring on the series; this movie is a good start!

Cherry 2000 Is the Future

One of the best films about androids is one that flew in under the radar, 1987’s “Cherry 2000.” This unheralded gem is about a man (David Andrews) who loves his devoted android girlfriend, a Cherry 2000 (played by the stunning Pamela Gidley). When she is accidentally destroyed due to exposure to water, he will stop at nothing to seek out another one. The newer models of droids, you see, are inferior, and sex between humans is a litigious mess (as Larry Fishburne shows us in a cameo as a lawyer). He ends up having to cross a desert wasteland to find one, with the help of sexy tracker-bounty hunter Melanie Griffith, and doing battle with such desert vagrants as GROIN Hall of Famers Tim Thomerson and Brion James. Will he find a Cherry 2000? Will he get it on with Melanie Griffith? Tune in and find out!

This film has a lot of things going for it. First of all, the director, Steve DeJarnett, is a visionary who co-wrote “Strange Brew” and wrote and directed the 1989 Anthony Edwards classic “Miracle Mile.” Secondly, the score by Basil Poledouris ranks as one of his best. Thirdly, there is a ton of action and some PG-13 sex. Fourth, Pamela Gidley and Melanie Griffith are very sexy and deliver good performances. Lastly, the plot seems to genuinely reflect the way things are going in the future. This film, unbelievably, went straight-to-VHS but quickly acquired a cult following when HBO showed it 24-7. It made a big impact on this reviewer as a child, and I like it even more today. Perhaps a remake is in order. In the meantime, I recommend you pick this flick up on DVD or Blu-ray, because it’s a great one!

All Eyez on…

Rather bored with what is on Netflix, I decided to go to the local cinema and check out two films with interesting subject matter. The first film, “Beatriz at Dinner,” stars Salma Hayek and John Lithgow and is a dark satire about how two strangers from wildly different ethnic and economic backgrounds end up meeting and clashing at a fancy, uncomfortable dinner at a mansion. Hayek plays a hard-working Mexican lady having a very bad day, and Lithgow plays a Donald Trump-like real estate mogul. Both actors bring shadings to their characters so that they are more complex than you might expect. Hayek subtly suggests that her character may be TOO good for this world, and Lithgow’s character, though clueless and boorish, makes a real attempt to connect with and understand her. This is a strange film and at first I wasn’t sure if I liked it, but after about half an hour of reflection I figured out that I really liked it. It’s short, unpredictable, and has real sting. I’ll not soon forget it.

“All Eyez on Me” is the new Tupac biopic, and it’s interesting though uneven. It covers, though it rarely reflects on, the tragic life of Tupac Kapur, mentioning his family connections to the Black Panthers, his success as Hamlet in school, his struggling but sincere mother, his trouble with the law, his friendship with Jada Pinkett Smith, his tumultuous tenure at Death Row Records, and his tragic and mysterious death. This is way too much for a 140-minute film to cover,, and as a result parts of it come off better than others. I did appreciate, however, the demystification of the gangster lifestyle. The last third of the movie is a trip through Hell, and the filmmakers deserve credit for depicting it frankly. Overall, however, this film is not good enough to recommend. Although a good attempt has been made, the film just doesn’t work. Very few characters are portrayed in-depth, and as a result the film becomes confusing. The actor playing Tupac is OK but not great. Still, if the subject matter interests you, you might want to check it out.

In conclusion, although I only liked one of these two indie films, they are both a nice break from summer Hollywood fluff. I hope interesting indie films continue to get wide releases because they can be worthwhile. “The Beguiled” is an another example that I will review soon.

Cult Classic : Barbarians

If you enjoy bad but fun sword and sorcery B-films, then Cannon Films’ 1987 romp “Barbarians” is for you. In it, two twin barbarians (played by the Razzie-nominated David and Peter Paul) who have been manipulated to kill each other instead face off against the great Richard Lynch. This film, which is from the director of “Cannibal Holocaust,” features good production values and music by Pino Donaggio. More importantly, it appears to have inspired the “Golden Axe” video game series, with many scenes resembling the games and the twin brothers frequently wielding axes. The “Barbarian Brothers” can’t act but are really something,This movie can be found on a double bill DVD with Lee Majors and Cornel Wilde in “The Norseman.” Good times!