Fist of Fury (1972)

Now You Hear This!  I Will Accept Punishment For the Lives I Took!

I told you it was coming.  Don’t act like I didn’t.  After watching two Chen Zhen-based movies, I felt like it was necessary to complete the series (at least so far as I care too) by watching today’s movie; the first Chen Zhen movie and the basis for Fist of Legend that I reviewed already.  I was also inspired to watch this movie because it stars quite possibly the most famous actor in the genre and I think I’ve only ever seen one of his movies before and a movie based on his life.  No better time than the middle of the resurgence of my love for the martial arts movie genre – that had been lying dormant for some years now – to review today’s movie.  And so I bring you my review of Fist of Fury (also known as The Chinese Connection), written and directed by Lo Wei, and starring Bruce Lee, Nora Miao, Riki Hashimoto, Robert Baker, Tien Feng, Paul Wei, Feng Yi, Hwong Chung Hsin, and Han Yin-chieh.

Chen Zhen (Bruce Lee) returns to the Jingwu martial arts school to marry his fiancée, Yuan Le-erh (Nora Miao), to find that his master Huo Yuanjia has died of some illness.  Soon after, some Japanese martial arts students show up at Jingwu to taunt the Chinese students, calling them weaklings.  Chen Zhen does not take this well.  He shows up at their school and beats them all down, including their sensei.  In retaliation, the Japanese attack Jingwu and demand that they hand over Chen Zhen.  Chen Zhen goes into seclusion temporarily as he figures out his next move.

I didn’t expect it, but I was pretty disappointed by this movie.  It’s exactly the type of movie that so many other things have mocked in the past.  It’s like watching Kung Pow!: Enter the Fist if the movie wasn’t in on the joke.  The movie is abound with odd choices in cinematography that have been mocked for so long.  Things like quickly jutting the camera in on people’s faces to show their surprise, over the top performances, oddly timed music stings, terrible dubbing, and lots of unnecessary hand gesturing.  The story of the movie was not altogether different from Fist of Legend that I already reviewed, but with all the unintentionally goofy things going on around it, I couldn’t really take it seriously.  It was the same stuff as the remake.  It hates Japanese people, it’s about revenge, and it’s about punching people in the face.  But the action was also pretty lackluster.  I feel like I still definitely want to give Bruce Lee a chance, but nothing he did in this movie impressed me for anything other than his speed.  The fight choreography really wasn’t that impressive.  Wanting to make the character superhero-esque, he defeated most of the enemies with little more than a strike.  Jet Li did a much better job in his movie, especially in the part where he was fighting the Japanese sensei.  Bruce Lee did it because the Japanese made fun of him and, though he won the fight pretty handily, he did have a few moments when he didn’t seem like he was the dominant one.  When Jet Li did it, he did it to find out if the sensei could’ve beaten his master when he was in good health, and the way he performed in the fight showed him to be the clearly dominant one.  All of the rest of the fight scenes were far inferior in this movie as well.  Bruce Lee has style and speed that is impressive, but they just weren’t technically complicated enough to impress.  And with some of the action, it was just ridiculous.  The superhero things that Chen could do weren’t limited to simply beating people in one strike.  He was also able to lift up a rickshaw with a person inside it as an intimidation tactic and turn two people into mannequins as he was spinning them around before throwing them at their compatriots.  They probably thought these things were cool and impressive back when the movie came out, but they just seemed goofy to me.

As was already hinted at, none of the performances in this movie manage to impress.  Bruce Lee was able to perform all of the stone-cold ass-kicker requirements, but the acting parts seemed over his head.  Take, for instance, when he had to cry over the coffin of his departed master.  He spazzed out so hard that it was not just over the top, but laughably so.  Even some of the stone-cold ass-kicker parts didn’t work because of how thin the line between confident badass and asshole is.

I found Fist of Fury sadly disappointing.  I can forgive the goofy and clichéd cinematic techniques that are so common in older Asian movies if the martial arts are super cool, but they weren’t that impressive either.  Bruce Lee is really fast and pretty good at being a badass, but the choreography of the fights wasn’t that impressive when compared to some other martial arts movies I’ve seen come out since this one.  This movie isn’t a bad movie but, given the choice, I’d stick with the remake, Fist of Legend with Jet Li.  The stories are very similar, but the action is much better in the remake.  Fist of Fury gets “To think, I was going to ask you to be my wife…” out of “I feel dizzy; so dizzy.”

Let’s get these reviews more attention, people.  Post reviews on your webpages, tell your friends, do some of them crazy Pinterest nonsense.  Whatever you can do to help my reviews get more attention would be greatly appreciated.  You can also add me on FaceBook (Robert T. Bicket) and Twitter (iSizzle).  Don’t forget to leave me some comments.  Your opinions and constructive criticisms are always appreciated.

The Mysteries of Pittsburgh (2008)

Money That Comes From Numbers, Whores, Protection, and Cigarette Smuggling.

I literally have no idea what today’s movie is about.  I’ve never seen it before and I know only a few of the people involved in the movie.  I have even less idea how the movie got itself into my Netflix queue.  But it was there and I wasn’t paying attention, so it managed to reach the top.  And, because I have nothing else to say about how I got involved with this movie, I bring you my completely random review of The Mysteries of Pittsburgh, written and directed by Rawson Marshall Thurber, and starring Jon Foster, Sienna Miller, Peter Sarsgaard, Nick Nolte, Mena Suvari, and Omid Abtahi.

Art Bechstein (Jon Foster) is the son of some fancy mob guy named Joe Bechstein (Nick Nolte).  His father wants to give him a job after summer and his graduation from college.  Art goes and starts working at a book store, where he subsequently starts having sex with his supervisor, Phlox (Mena Suvari).  While attending a party with his friend Mohammed (Omid Abtahi), he meets Jane (Sienna Miller) and they go out to a diner together.  The next day, Jane’s boyfriend Cleveland (Peter Sarsgaard) shows up and the three start hanging out together.  Then we have another hour of the tumultuous relationship between Jane and Cleveland, the confusing relationship between Art and both Jane and Cleveland, and problems with Cleveland’s mob job going sour.

I’ve figured it out!  The reason this movie was in my queue was that, back in the early stages of Netflix, I didn’t know how to find pornography on the internet for free.  That being the case, I would try to find nudity – especially of the celebrity variety – wherever I could.  Mena Suvari gets naked in this movie, thus I put it on my Netflix queue and forgot about it.  I probably would’ve been safer just getting a subscription to Mr. Skin or something.  I really should go through my Netflix queue and clear out some of my bad decisions.  Nowadays, I can find that stuff on the internet for free without sitting through an entire movie.  And what makes it worse is that this was not a good movie.  The real mystery of Pittsburgh is what this movie is about.  It’s beyond me.  Either that or it’s just dumb and confusing.  It’s just about how a guy spent his summer.  In typical fashion, some unconventional things happen to him along the way, but none of it’s particularly interesting.  And the movie’s also really slow moving and kind of mopey.  It just got annoying.  It also seemed a little pretentious.  Every time you put a shitty punk band in your movie and act like they’re the greatest thing ever, you’re either pretentious or hipster.  Additionally, I could never figure out what type of movie they were trying to make here.  If it was a comedy, it wasn’t funny.  If it was a drama, it wasn’t poignant.  If it was an action movie, it was way off.  The closest thing I could think of was a romantic comedy, but it was just as confused about that.  Hell, the main character couldn’t even figure out if he wanted to fuck Jane or Cleveland.  He just did both instead.  So if you want to see them try to turn fucking into love making with mood lighting and sweet music on both a gay and a hetero relationship within the span of about five minutes … well then you’re weird.

The performances in this movie didn’t do much for me either.  Jon Foster was either producing no emotion, or he was not succeeding at trying an emotion.  He was just mopey all the time.  Sienna Miller only impressed with her hotness.  I couldn’t tell if Peter Sarsgaard’s character was a douche or an asshole.  There’s a chance he was both.  He was smug and irritating but somehow charmed the main character into going gay.  You’ll haveta romance me more than that.  I don’t respond to douchebags.  On a positive note, Mena Suvari does indeed get naked in the movie, but it was pretty brief.  It was not much more than you can see by Googling the images.  And I had to sit through an hour and a half to see it.  Her character was pretty cute in the movie, but also bordering on stupid and usually surpassing on annoying.

The Mysteries of Pittsburgh only helped me to realize that I need to clear out a lot of my Netflix queue.  The story was slow, boring, and mopey and the performances never impressed.  It’s not awful, it’s just boring.  The only thing that piqued my interest was Mena Suvari naked.  Instead of watching it, Google it if you want to see it so bad.  You can skip this movie.  The Mysteries of Pittsburgh gets “Snooze for boobs” out of “You want pie, man?”

Let’s get these reviews more attention, people.  Post reviews on your webpages, tell your friends, do some of them crazy Pinterest nonsense.  Whatever you can do to help my reviews get more attention would be greatly appreciated.  You can also add me on FaceBook (Robert T. Bicket) and Twitter (iSizzle).  Don’t forget to leave me some comments.  Your opinions and constructive criticisms are always appreciated.

Fist of Legend (1994)

It’s a Good Fist If It Wins.

I’ve been on a real martial arts movie kick recently.  One of my recent reviews led me to this one, but I was also hesitant going in.  Recently, I’ve taken issue with a lot of the martial arts movies I’ve been watching being too story driven and neglecting to put martial arts into their movie for long stretches at a time.  So, when a recent review made me think that I should check out this movie, I was worried that it would share the same problems.  I decided I would watch it if, and only if, the front of the box did not have the word “story” on it.  When the front of the box only had two reviews – “Incredible fight scenes” and “Awe-inspiring” – I was cemented into the movie.  This movie is Fist of Legend, written by Gordonn, Lan Kay-toa, and Kwong Kim-yip, directed by Gordon Chan, and starring Jet Li, Chin Siu-ho, Billy Chow, Yasuaki Kurata, Shinobu Nakayama, Toshimichi Takahashi, Jackson Liu, Ada Choi, and Paul Chun.

Chen Zhen (Jet Li) is at a school in Japan when a bunch of karate students burst in and demand he leave because he’s Chinese.  They get violent with people in the class, but Chen Zhen doesn’t get involved until they almost get violent with Mitsuko Yamada (Shinobu Nakayama), a girl who is smitten with him.  After whooping on the students, their sensei, Funakochi Fumio (Yasuaki Kurata) comes in and apologizes for their behavior, then tells Chen that he’s just learned that Chen’s master, Huo Yuanjia, has lost a match against a Japanese master and died in the aftermath.  Chen leaves for Shanghai immediately.  Upon his return, he hears that Huo was not in the best of health when he competed in the fight.  He goes to the Japanese dojo and easily defeats Ryoichi Akutagawa (Jackson Liu).  Now knowing that there was no way this guy could’ve beaten his master, he has Huo’s grave exhumed and, with an examination of Huo’s liver, finds that he was poisoned.

This is exactly the type of martial arts movie I wanted to watch.  Does that mean that I’m going to stop reviewing so many martial arts movies?  Not just yet.  I feel like I need to also watch the Bruce Lee version of this movie first.  But that’s not to say that I wasn’t satisfied by this remake of that movie; I just feel like I need to see more Bruce Lee movies.  But this is what I mean by a good martial arts movie.  There’s a story to be sure, but the focus is on the martial arts.  They scarcely went 10 minutes in this movie without some good fight scenes.  Still, I’ll talk about the story first.  It’s okay.  Martial arts movies tend to suffer from having no overlying storyline, or in the very least a fairly confused one.  I guess you could say the overlying story of this movie was the problems between China and Japan, but they lost track of that a few times.  They lost their attention on that main story with the investigation of Huo’s murder, which then drove them into Chen getting framed for murder, which then led to Chen leaving the Jingwu school because they wouldn’t accept his Japanese girlfriend Mitsuko, which leads to a Japanese master challenging him, which leads to the Japanese challenging Jingwu … Oh wait a second.  Don’t we hate those Japanese guys?  Back on track!  And then 15 minutes later the movie’s over.  It’s become a big question in my head about how these movies go over in Asia.  I’m sure the Chinese are all about it, but this movie (and Legend of the Fist: The Return of Chen Zhen) are mostly a big “Fuck You” to the Japanese.  Almost every Japanese person in these movies is either completely inept or entirely evil.  Japanese people must hate these movies.  I imagine it’s akin to how German people feel watching Holocaust movies.  The evil ones are poisoning people, framing people for murder, and trying to beat our hero to death while the inept ones are the peons in the dojo that run up to Chen Zhen and say, “Take your Chinese shoes and get out of here!”  Yeah, good one, bro.

So the story isn’t the greatest thing ever, but does it need to be?  In a martial arts movie?  Hell no!  A martial arts movie (as I’ve said before) is way more fun if it’s martial arts first, movie second.  You can cross a line in the opposite direction, like in Tony Jaa movies, where the story was thought up after they put on an exhibition of all the crazy things Tony Jaa can do.  This movie hits the sweet spot.  The story is fine, but the martial arts are great.  As I already mentioned, they barely go 10 minutes in the movie without getting some faces all nice and punched.  The movie used a not uncommon style with their main character where he’s a nearly indestructible character because of his skill until they reach the end of the movie.  Here, he’ll be challenged by the boss battle at the end, but he’ll overcome it, and usually with something someone off-handedly mentioned earlier in the movie.  But earlier in the movie, no one was really a challenge for Chen Zhen.  He beats the shit out of a classroom full of karate students, even more of them in a dojo, and then he beats up their master.  I liked the fight with the karate master too, because Chen Zhen was so much better than him that he kept just knocking him down and getting right up in his face.  In the fight with Huo Ting-en, he started moving a little more like the man who made the character famous: Bruce Lee.  It was mainly just his stance that reminded me of Bruce Lee, but it was still cool.  There really wasn’t very much to complain about when it came to the fights in the movie.  In the first fight of the movie gives away that the table he was supposed to fall through was fake by landing on a chair first and breaking the table with his hands before falling through it.  They PROBABLY should have not allowed this into the movie, but it didn’t distract that much.

I can’t say there’s generally much to say about the performances in this, or any other, martial arts movie of this kind.  They’re probably not intended to blow your mind.  Jet Li is the only person that makes any kind of impact here.  He’s really good at this role, but it also just required him to be pretty stone-faced and bordering on emotionless for the movie.  It makes his character seem more badass, but also doesn’t get him any props in the acting department.  He’s fantastic at the action though, mainly because he’s still well in his prime in this movie.  He’s so fast that you can barely catch him on camera half the time and his stunts are fantastic.

Fist of Legend is dope.  The story’s pretty basic and goes off on several tangents throughout the movie, but who cares what the story’s like in a martial arts movie?  Not me!  The action is fantastic every time it happens, and it’s spread so evenly throughout the movie that you never wait long for some more ass-kicking goodness.  Not the greatest movie ever, but a whole lot of fun, especially if you like martial arts movies.  You should definitely check this movie out.  I already own it on DVD, so you find out where you can get it yourself!  Fist of Legend gets “If it works, it’s a good one” out of “Does the rock have as much energy as an opponent would?”

Let’s get these reviews more attention, people.  Post reviews on your webpages, tell your friends, do some of them crazy Pinterest nonsense.  Whatever you can do to help my reviews get more attention would be greatly appreciated.  You can also add me on FaceBook (Robert T. Bicket) and Twitter (iSizzle).  Don’t forget to leave me some comments.  Your opinions and constructive criticisms are always appreciated.

Seven Samurai (1954)

Find Hungry Samurai.

My roommate Richard doesn’t make requests like the general public does.  His version of a request is usually grabbing me and saying that we should watch a movie.  He knows that I need to review one movie per day until I no longer want to and uses that to make me watch movies that I wouldn’t generally watch, and he uses it to get his requests taken care of much quicker than everyone else that I just get to when I feel like watching their movie.  And, because it’s Richard, it usually means that I’ll be watching a movie that is about as old as my mother.  My mother was about four when today’s movie came out, but – in an interesting change of events – it’s also a movie that I may be interested in because I love martial arts movies.  And I’ve never seen a movie made by the very famous director of today’s movie, so it’s something I felt like I needed to do.  And, at the end of that long winded way to introduce a review, I present my review of Seven Samurai, written by Akira Kurosawa, Shinobu Hashimoto, and Hideo Oguni, directed by Akira Kurosawa, and starring Takashi Shimura, Isao Kimura, Toshiro Mifune, Seiji Miyaguchi, Yoshio Inaba, Daisuke Kato, Minoru Chiaki, Kokuten Kodo, Bokuzen Hidari, Kamatari Fujiwara, Yoshio Tsuchiya, and Keiko Tsushima.

A tiny farming village is being continually ransacked by a marauding band of bandits.  They come back just after the harvest and take the greater majority of their food, returning the next year to do it again.  The villagers finally get sick of it and decide that they should go and hire a group of samurai to fight off the bandits.  The problem with this is that they have no money so they’ll have to find samurai that will work for food.  In town, they’re unsuccessful in recruiting samurai.  They witness a samurai named Kambei Shimada (Takashi Shimura) rescue a child from a thief and ask him if he’d help them.  He accepts and that causes another samurai named Katsushiro Okamoto (Isao Kimura) to join their cause as well, as he was impressed by Kambei’s rescue of the child and wants to follow him.  Kambei decides they will need at least seven samurai to defend the village, so he sets about the task of finding other samurai willing to join the cause.  They’re able to get Gorobei Katayama (Yoshio Inaba), Shichiroji (Daisuke Kato), Heihachi Hayashida (Minoru Chiaki), Kyuzo (Seiji Miyaguchi), and Kikuchiyo (Toshiro Mifune).  Then, they set about their task.

I found this movie to be a chore.  It was like the Japanese version of Spartacus.  It’s super long, it moves really slow, but overall I’d have to give the movie a certain degree of credit.  Coming in at 3 and a half hours, it’s a real commitment to start watching this movie but, if you can make it through, it winds up as a pretty good epic war movie with a pretty good amount of emotion infused in it.  But, because it was so slow moving, it was hard for it to keep my attention on it.  The movie starts by laying it on thick with the sob story of the farmers.  This turns into an uneventful search for samurai willing to help them.  Then it’s a whole lot of planning to defend the village, and just dealing with the strained relationship between the farmers and the samurai.  When the fighting finally starts, it’s pretty easy to keep your attention on the movie, but that doesn’t happen until nearly three hours into the movie.  The action – when it finally happens – is satisfying, but it tends towards building tension and ending the action quickly.  Like when Kyuzo is fighting another samurai.  They stand ready for battle for a while before they finally run at each other and the battle is finished in one strike.  It’s kind of the Japanese version of an old west quick draw contest.  Another issue I took with the movie was either to be blamed on the age of the movie or the cultural differences.  There were more than a few instances in the movie where I was unclear about what was even going on.  Their semi-constant talks about millet, for instance.  The villagers weren’t able to eat rice because they were saving it to feed the samurai.  They were instead eating something called millet.  I had no idea what millet was.  Granted, rice farming was not in my ancestry as far as I know, but I had to look up what millet was to understand what was so bad about this.  I also didn’t understand the townspeople and their reaction to the samurai.  They sent these guys out to find samurai to help their village for no money and just food.  When they found seven samurai willing to work nearly for free to save their village, they all shut themselves in their houses and hid from them.  At this point, were I the samurai, I would leave these stupid assholes to their own devices.  Apparently, they think these samurai (even though they’re extremely philanthropic) are going to rape the shit out of their lady folk.  I can get behind that … and their ladies!  BOOYAH!  Speaking of that, I noted that Kurosawa seemed to rather enjoy filming characters kneeling down on the floor from behind so that their butt was the only thing on camera.  So I guess Kurosawa was an ass man.  Later in the movie, it’s revealed that the farmers have a collection of armor and weapons that they’ve collected from murdering and robbing fleeing samurai in the past, I got confused again.  If these people are so good at killing skilled warriors, how have they not been able to take care of their bandit problem in the first place?  But, as I said, it’s still a pretty good movie if you can make it through.  I doubt I’ll ever want to watch it again, but I’m okay with the fact that I’ve watched it once.  I did get bummed out by the look of the movie though.  It occurred to Richard and I that this movie would look amazing if it had been in color, so it was a pretty big bummer that it was in black and white.  Black and white movies can’t ever really make it to visually interest me, so it’s that much more disappointing when you can tell the landscapes would be beautiful and lush wilderness scenes.

The performances in this movie were either really small, or really big.  The comparisons are best shown by contrasting the two samurai Kyuzo and Kikuchiyo.  Kyuzo was the consummate professional type, very quiet and seemingly devoid of emotion.  Kikuchiyo, on the other hand, was completely manic and over the top.  He was quick to any kind of extreme emotion on one side or the other.  Such is the performances of most everyone in the movie.  They’re either relatively emotion-free or they’re over the top.  Almost all of the villagers were over the top, but over the top depressing.  They were the very definition of sad sacks.  I had to semi-constantly stop Richard from slitting his wrists every time they were on camera.  They weren’t as depressing once the samurai arrived, but they were annoying at how they were being kind of shitty to the samurai, apparently forgetting that the samurai could kill the whole lot of them pretty easily.  The most manic was definitely Toshiro Mifune as the aforementioned Kikuchiyo.  But, near the end of the movie, I found it pretty difficult to take him seriously near the end of the big battle because he changed into armor that had his butt cheeks exposed.

I didn’t hate Seven Samurai, but I can’t say I enjoyed the time I spent with them either.  I lack the attention span to get a lot of enjoyment out of such a slow moving story.  It’s a good story and one that takes it’s time building the relationship between the audience and the characters, but the slow pace of the movie made me lose interest midway.  If you have the willpower to make it about three hours into the movie, the climax is pretty satisfying, but it takes a lot to get there.  Even though it doesn’t sound like it, I actually recommend this movie.  It feels like a movie I needed to watch, and you probably should too.  Seven Samurai gets “This is the nature of war” out of “Danger always strikes when everything seems fine.”

Let’s get these reviews more attention, people.  Post reviews on your webpages, tell your friends, do some of them crazy Pinterest nonsense.  Whatever you can do to help my reviews get more attention would be greatly appreciated.  You can also add me on FaceBook (Robert T. Bicket) and Twitter (iSizzle).  Don’t forget to leave me some comments.  Your opinions and constructive criticisms are always appreciated.

Legend of the Fist: The Return of Chen Zhen (2010)

The Chinese People Are Not Sick Men of the East!

Drewchum shows himself to be a racial stereotype yet again by suggesting that I review yet another martial arts movie.  Being somewhat disappointed in the last one I watched had the opposite effect of what I expected by making me want to watch more martial arts movies to find the really cool ones instead of wanting to avoid them because they’re boring nowadays.  The combination of that and this movie’s availability on Netflix streaming lead me to decide to review this movie post haste.  And that leads me to my review of Legend of the Fist: The Return of Chen Zhen, written by Andrew Lau and Gordon Chan, directed by Andrew Lau, and starring Donnie Yen, Kohata Ryu, Shu Qi, Anthony Wong, Huang Bo, Akira, Zhou Yang, and Yasuaki Kurata.

In World War 1, Chen Zhen (Donnie Yen) joins the Allies to fight the Germans in France.  When his friend Qi Tianyuan is killed in battle, Chen rushes in and singlehandedly defeats a large group of German soldiers.  He then decides that he will return to China and assume the identity of Qi Tianyuan so that no one would know that Chen was not dead after the events of Fist of Legend, back when Chen was still Jet Li.  Back in Shanghai, he befriends a businessman named Liu Yutian (Anthony Wong) and becomes his partner at the nightclub he owns.  He also has a budding romance with the nightclub singer, Kiki (Shu Qi).  But, more importantly, he’s part of an underground resistance movement whose goal is to take China back from the Japanese that are occupying it.  The main thing that Chen Zhen does to participate is to dress up like Kato from the Green Hornet and beat up Japanese evildoers.  But the Japanese Colonel Chikaraishi Takeshi (Kohata Ryu) has some sinister plans to cause unrest in China that only Chen can stop.

Another story-heavy martial arts movie.  I’m bummed out by the state of the martial arts genre.  I know that this character and this story are probably really important to the Chinese people, but I’m a white dude.  I just want to see spectacular fights!  The story is pretty solid, but not enough of what I want.  It’s all about the Chinese trying to win back China from the oppressive Japanese.  It’s a story of the underdog rebellion, and there’s a little bit of love story and a betrayal as well.  But the rebellion side of the story was a lot more talking about what they were going to do instead of actually doing it.  They start off with a really cool action scene in the middle of World War 1.  Then you don’t get much of any action for a good long stretch of time.  When Chen Zhen first becomes the Masked Warrior, he whoops a good few asses in a pretty brief, but pretty awesome fight scene which included not only cool martial arts, but a few bits of him jumping over the car in a cool way.  Then, not much of anything for a long stretch of time.  It’s not until the point when Takeshi challenges Chen Zhen to try to save more people on his death list than he can kill that the movie starts picking up, but that’s almost at the end.  I will grant that the final fight of the movie is epic in its awesomeness.  It’s an homage to the movies that preceded it as Chen Zhen once again walks into a dojo full of Japanese people, whips all of their asses, and then defeats their sensei.  The problem with this movie was not the action but the lack of it.  So much sitting around and talking about what the next move is.  Just make it!  And the whole relationship with Kiki part – though it does have a few moments of emotional impact – mostly just seemed to be a long waste of time.  You have to watch a lot of her singing and hanging out with people in the nightclub and vaguely flirting with Chen Zhen before you have to start watching them dating.  Then there’s a bunch of that before they start getting some emotional impact out of it, but I was already well into bored by that point.

The performances were mostly fine in this movie.  Knowing that Donnie Yen was jumping into a role that was made famous by Bruce Lee, I was looking for things that he did to be more similar to Bruce Lee.  Most of the early fights never really struck me as that similar to Bruce Lee, but he really reminded me of Lee in the final fight and I appreciated that.  Shu Qi was relentlessly cute for the greater majority of the movie, which makes it that much more painful when the ending comes about.  Kohata Ryu did not work for me as Colonel Chikaraishi Takeshi.  He may have been able to fulfill the action side of the movie as well as the Japanese side of his character, but all of the lines he delivered were done so in a very wooden fashion and I found him boring more often than not.

Legend of the Fist: The Return of Chen Zhen was pretty disappointing for me.  The story of the movie was good, but was really slow moving and focused more on the relationship between Kiki and Chen Zhen, and the planning of the rebellion, than on the actual execution of the rebellion.  I will say that the action, and especially the final fight, tended to satisfy me more often than not.  I would say this movie is worth watching, but expect it to move pretty slowly until the end of the movie.  If you’d like, you can check it out right now on Netflix streaming.  Legend of the Fist: The Return of Chen Zhen gets “Great … if you skip to the last half hour” out of “MAKE MORE FACE PUNCHING!!”

Let’s get these reviews more attention, people.  Post reviews on your webpages, tell your friends, do some of them crazy Pinterest nonsense.  Whatever you can do to help my reviews get more attention would be greatly appreciated.  You can also add me on FaceBook (Robert T. Bicket) and Twitter (iSizzle).  Don’t forget to leave me some comments.  Your opinions and constructive criticisms are always appreciated.

The Fly II (1989)

Something Odd is Happening to Me and I Don’t Know What It Is

I was looking through my older reviews today when I realized that I had unfinished business to take care of. Nearly a month ago I reviewed a movie that was a remake of a movie I reviewed a few days later, but I neglected to review the sequel to the remake that came out three years later. Though the original movie didn’t resonate with me, I somewhat liked the 1986 remake, so it stands to reason that I should also review the sequel, but I didn’t want to do too many of the same kind of movie in a row. The days I put it off led me to forget about it until I saw my original review and was reminded of my duty. And so I bring you my review of The Fly II, written by Mick Garris, Jim Wheat, Ken Wheat, and Frank Darabont, directed by Chris Walas, and starring Eric Stoltz, Daphne Zuniga, Lee Richardson, John Getz, Frank C. Turner, Ann Marie Lee, Gary Chalk, Harley Cross, and Jeff Goldblum.

The biggest loose end left by the first movie was the pregnancy of Veronica Quaife by Seth Brundle before he became the gruesome fly creature that he died as. They tie up that umbilical cord by having her give birth at the beginning of the movie and quickly die. That’ll take care of that pesky inability to get their actors to return for the sequel! The baby is named Martin and is not the most usual child there is: he ages faster, doesn’t sleep, and has a photographic memory. Anton Bartok (Lee Richardson) takes the boy in to study him at Bartok Industries. At age five, he already looks like a 20 year old man. For his birthday, Bartok gives him his own bungalow to sleep in and the opportunity to continue his father’s work on the Telepods he had been working on. Martin gets to work on them and thinks he has a breakthrough, but wants to try it out on some living organism. He finds a cactus belonging to another Bartok employee named Beth Logan (Daphne Zuniga), and the two become friends, and later more than just friends. But, since Martin has reached maturity, his father’s dormant genes start to take effect and he starts changing.

I can’t say I took a liking to this movie. It drags in the beginning and ends in a really goofy way. So much of the early part of this movie is just about watching Martin grow up and the early stages of his relationship with Beth. That’s definitely what I want out of my sci-fi horror movies. It doesn’t start becoming science fiction until about halfway into the movie when he starts degenerating into a fly. It sticks with that until about ten minutes from the end when it tries to become a horror movie, but it gets itself up to slasher film at best. None of the story really made much of an impact on me. It seems as if Bartok has lost the motivation for the development of the Telepods. They made sense as a super-fast means of conveyance, but Bartok tells Martin that he wants these things developed for how they’ll help surgery by making it so we won’t have to cut people open anymore. I realize they deconstruct and reconstruct matter, but they still don’t make much sense to me as a surgery assistant. If that were the case, it wouldn’t be saying that the only way to separate Martin from his fly genes is to sacrifice another person. They do other things to try to satisfy fans of the previous movies, like having John Getz come back in the movie. But when he says that the situation cost him “an arm and a leg” because he had those disintegrated by Brundlefly in the first movie, it caused me severe pain in my gonads with the corniness of the joke. After Martin has turned into a vaguely fly-like creature, Bartok starts ordering all of his security personnel to capture Martin instead of killing him because he needs to study him. They react to these orders by immediately grabbing machine guns, even as an announcement is blaring through the building that it’s to be captured and not killed. I understand because of the danger involved. Even though the Fly is really flimsy and slow-moving, it can spit acid that will melt someone’s entire face right off … or give you an irritating chemical burn on the top of your hand. Not sure how it decides which one to use when. And, after all of that, they go for a really stupid, cheesy, “happy” ending. Everything works out well for our intrepid heroes at the end of the movie. I’m sure they probably felt like the ending of the first movie (where everyone seemed either dead or wishing they were) was too depressing, so they had to make this one end well for the heroes, no matter how stupid or corny it is.

Three years of technological advancement did nothing for the look of this movie. Some things looked better, some things looked much worse. The dog creature that resulted from it getting turned inside out was much less convincing than the baboon from the first movie, and just looked goofy when they made the mistake of showing the whole body. And what made it worse was that it didn’t make sense. How would the dog still be alive if it was turned inside out? The baboon died. That’s what happens to creatures when they’re turned inside out. Speaking of dogs, the dog that the guards sicced on the fly creature was never trained to act like he wanted to kill something. When it saw the Fly, it barked but still clearly looked happy and playful. The fly did cause some good violence near the end of the movie, but I was already far too bored to be brought back around by this point. When the Fly vomits on the guys face, the melting was about a midway point between the face-peeling scene in Poltergeist and the face-melting scene in Raiders of the Lost Ark. It was pretty cool. The scene where the guy got his head crushed by the elevator was also pretty brutal, but not nearly as convincing, unless I’m unaware of the fact that the human head is a thin crust of skin filled with blood like a blood-filled water balloon.

I also can’t say I liked any of the performances in this movie. Eric Stoltz was the only one that did anything that I liked. For the majority of the movie, he just came off as annoyingly naïve and wooden. The part of what he did that impressed me was when he was starting to turn into the Fly. At first, he was just acting really weak and running goofy, like an old man. But right before he was going to go into a cocoon, he seemed like a completely different person. He was really kind of dark and malevolent. If this was indeed him still, it was a pretty drastic change in performance. Daphne Zuniga didn’t do anything that impressed me, but she did capture my attention. Granted, that was almost completely because I was trying to figure out where I recognized her from. When I realized she was Princess Vespa in Spaceballs, I lost interest in her again. At least until she had sex with Eric Stoltz. My problem with this was that, even though he appeared to be a 20 year old guy, let us not forget that he was actually only 5 years old when they had sex. That makes you a pedophile, Zuniga!

If I was too vague by saying I didn’t like most of this movie by talking about not liking its individual parts, let me be more clear by saying this is not a good movie. It is, however, the sequel to a good movie. This movie spends the majority of the movie being really boring, only getting interesting in the last half hour of the movie, and even then not being that interesting. Most of the special effects looked cheesy, and most of the performances were more cheesy. But none more cheesy than the ending of the movie. That takes the cheese. You can skip this movie, even though it’s available to stream on Netflix at your convenience. The Fly II gets “You can’t walk … and you’re getting worse” out of “Oh my God!  There’s something wrong!”

Let’s get these reviews more attention, people.  Post reviews on your webpages, tell your friends, do some of them crazy Pinterest nonsense.  Whatever you can do to help my reviews get more attention would be greatly appreciated.  You can also add me on FaceBook (Robert T. Bicket) and Twitter (iSizzle).  Don’t forget to leave me some comments.  Your opinions and constructive criticisms are always appreciated.

Big Trouble in Little China (1986)

I’m a Reasonable Guy, But I’ve Just Experienced Some Very Unreasonable Things

Today’s movie is one that I guess I’ve seen before.  I’m basing that mainly on the fact that I already reviewed it on Netflix.  But, if it’s true that I’ve seen this movie before, I could tell you nothing about it.  So when Jake was trying to get a handle on my movie tastes and suggested it, I was more than happy to oblige.  It took me a little bit of time to finally receive the movie from Netflix, but now I have and I can see what I actually think of Big Trouble in Little China, written by W.D. Richter, Gary Goldman, and David Z. Weinstein, directed by John Carpenter, and starring Kurt Russell, Dennis Dun, Kim Cattrall, Suzee Pai, James Hong, Carter Wong, Peter Kwong, James Pax, Victor Wong, Donald Li, Kate Burton, Al Leong, Gerald Okamura, and Jerry Hardin.

Truck driver Jack Burton (Kurt Russell) arrives in San Francisco to gamble with his friend Wang Chi (Dennis Dun).  He then accompanies him to the airport to pick up his fiancée Miao Yin (Suzee Pai).  While at the airport, he also meets Gracie Law (Kim Cattrall) who is there to pick up her friend.  Even though she shuts down his advances, he still jumps in to help when Gracie’s friend is attacked by a Chinese street gang called the Lords of Death.  Unable to take Gracie’s friend, they take Miao Yin instead, with the intention of selling her as a sex slave.  Jack and Wang go to find her and get caught in the middle of a turf war that is then interrupted by 4 Mortal Kombat characters: three Raiden lookalikes named Thunder (Carter Wong), Rain (Peter Kwong), and Lightning (James Pax), and a Shang Tsung lookalike named Lo Pan (James Hong).  They take Miao Yin because her green eyes mean that she can be sacrificed to break Lo Pan’s curse and give him physical form again.

I’m charmed by this movie.  It’s aged, to be sure, but it’s aged fairly well.  The story of the movie is equal parts goofy and fun, but at least it’s intentional on both counts.  It includes many familiar parts, but it’s really hard to call this movie very typical.  We’ve seen the damsel in distress movies before, we’ve seen the hapless hero triumphing over the ancient evil, and we’ve seen martial arts movies.  Put them all together and they can become extremely silly and campy, but make themselves an entertaining little cult hit.  Most of the moments that were intended to be funny were kind of slapsticky in action scenes, but they never felt like they were trying too hard.  I thought a couple of the lines in the movie were pretty clever too.  There was one part in the movie when Gracie said that she couldn’t go into a location because her face was too recognizable to the bad people and later, when she was saying she couldn’t come into another location, Jack said, “I know.  There’s something wrong with your face.”  Some of the dialogue didn’t work for me, just because a lot of them seemed to throw exposition in rather bluntly.  Some of the characters actually decided it would save time to throw their personality profile from eHarmony in with their introduction, like when Gracie said, “You know I’m always sticking my nose where it doesn’t belong,” just to get it out of the way.  It’s nice to be able to figure out the characters quickly, but it makes the dialogue clunky.  It didn’t happen that often though, and the rest of the dialogue was fine.  And the look of the movie actually holds up pretty well.  The visual effects would be lackluster by today’s standards, but this movie was made in 1986, and they’re pretty interesting by those standards.  There was a lot of magic going on in the movie from lightning that characters would ride into a scene to light coming out of people’s eyes to two wizards battling by shooting light at each other that clashes and then turns into a scene of avatars doing battle for them.  All of it worked pretty well.  The supernatural creatures they created were pretty interesting as well.  There was a floating ball of eyes that seemed right out of Dungeons and Dragons, and some troll creature that looked like Rahzar from the Ninja Turtles movie.  I don’t know how they allowed the close ups on Gracie’s eyes through.  She was supposed to have green eyes for the role and Kim Cattrall has brown eyes.  Being no particular Kim Cattrall fan, there’s only one way that I would have that information: the really obvious contacts.  Computer graphics probably weren’t good enough or cheap enough at the time to fix that in post, but there’s another option: not showing a close up on her eyes!  I wasn’t paying that close of attention until you forced me to.  The action was kind of hit and miss with me.  There were plenty of action scenes in the movie, but the actual fist fight parts weren’t that convincing or interesting.

None of the performances in the movie really seemed to require too much out of the actors, but they were performed well.  Kurt Russell did an acceptable job as the cocky but none too bright hero.  Dennis Dun did a fine enough job delivering some humor and a good deal of the martial arts for the movie.  James Hong did a good job as the bad guy in the movie, but I just can’t hear his voice anymore and not think of Po’s father from Kung Fu Panda.  And it’s hard to be scary when you’re saying, “Noodle, don’t noodle.”

Big Trouble in Little China isn’t what I’d call a good movie.  Its story is a combination of basic ideas, it features aging graphics, and some of the dialogue is a little blunt.  But the movie still manages to be fun with a good amount of action, some clever dialogue, and overall silly fun mood.  I’m comfortable saying this movie is worth a watch.  It’s a classic cult movie and it holds up fairly well.  Big Trouble in Little China gets “May the wings of liberty never lose a feather” out of “Ol’ Jack always says … what the hell?”

Let’s get these reviews more attention, people.  Post reviews on your webpages, tell your friends, do some of them crazy Pinterest nonsense.  Whatever you can do to help my reviews get more attention would be greatly appreciated.  You can also add me on FaceBook (Robert T. Bicket) and Twitter (iSizzle).  Don’t forget to leave me some comments.  Your opinions and constructive criticisms are always appreciated.