Tag Archives: Martial Arts

Election: Chinese Gangsters

After a long hiatus, I’m back with a vengeance (hopefully) after some getting back into the swing of things here at college. This is my senior year, and this blog better take off, or I’m gonna be an English major out roaming the streets like a drifter. That’s kind of a joke and kind of not… Anyways…

I don’t remember this movie that clearly, but if I watched it, I like to give a little bit of an impression on it. From what I remember, Election is a Chinese movie about the election of a gang member to lead a sect of the Triads. It’s Lok (Simon Yam) versus Big D (Tony Leung Ka-Fai), and the stakes are high. The old ass bastards of the Triads select the member to lead the gang for two years, and the world is a changing. With Lok’s commitment to hard work and Big D’s commitment to bribes, it all comes down to who sides with who.

There’s some inter-gang fighting, some martial arts, and a whole lot of dramatic dialogue (from what I remember). The movie was a bit dark, but certain parts lagged when it came to moving the film along. It really didn’t stand out to me, and that’s probably why it hasn’t stuck in my head these last two months. I’ll probably just leave it at that. It premiered at the Cannes Film Festival, and I’m sure it was a good movie, as most foreign films are. The ending was memorable, and it was cool to see a foreign perspective on the Triads instead of an American one.

Just wish I could remember more… 6.7 out of 10.

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Ip Man 2: The Grandmaster Returns

I was happy to sit down and watch the second Ip Man after having watched the first, enjoying the story with interspersed martial arts fight scenes throughout. With more of a focus on story over choreography, this one didn’t catch my attention as much as I would have liked. It wraps up like Cinderella Man and makes you feel all good inside, but I didn’t have any of those jaw dropping moments. Let’s just get to the plot, shall we?

In this one, Ip Man (Donnie Yen reprises his role) has moved to Hong Kong after beating back the Japanese years before. He has plans to start his own martial arts school, but no disciples seem to be interested. With money problems and a

Two masters goin’ at it.

suppressive British government, Ip Man must maneuver his way through life, following his principles and maintaining a happy family. But it’s not all easy going for the Ip Man.

I really was surprised how this film focused more on story rather than substance. It had all the elements of a triumph of the will story without all the fight scenes and technique. My impression of Wing Chun from this film is one of precise and calculated moves, more than the clever and wily style of other martial arts styles. There aren’t flashy kicks or the use of elbows or knees, it is all more in the quickest

Donnie Yen, as refined as ever.

way to take someone out. I do appreciate that though. Donnie Yen shows off how quick he can be in a flurry of punches I’ve never seen demonstrated in a Kung Fu movie before. I give him his due for that.

The acting is just as good in this film as in the last. But I’m talking more about the Chinese actors than the English speaking ones. Although I’m pretty sure that Brian Burrell is living my dream of being a white man from America living in an Asian country. My country of choice, though? Thailand. Gotta give it up for the Muay Thai and Thai food. (Volcano chicken all the way.) But anyways, the English speaking actors (with as few of them as there probably are in China) just took things over the top and need to work on delivery. This is a common problem though in foreign films, so I don’t blame them too much. They were better than some.

I do appreciate the message the Ip Man films send to a wider audience than just China. The oppression felt in China has

I gotta get me one of those…

been quite prevalent in the last 100 years by foreign countries and bigger world powers. It has been a triumph over the bully in the last century, and China knew how to depict that. I give props to Wilson Yip for doing a good job in that department. I feel for the Chinese in this film and the way that most people look down on Chinese martial arts. Hell, martial arts in general. But I’m pretty sure, other than stamina, that any martial arts expert could take out a boxer with the right moves. Like me and all the other martial arts enthusiasts out there, I appreciate martial arts in all its capacity. Asia will always dominate in my heart.

Dope.

In a different twist I wasn’t expecting in this film, I was touched more than inspired to do martial arts. The music was good and uplifting, the cinematography wasn’t bad, and the Wing Chun kept it brief and brutal. Not much to complain about, but I still do love the fight scenes from the first movie more. 7.4 out of 10.


Hot Fuzz: Guns a Blazin’

This movie may hold its place solidly in British Comedy, but this movie has one of the best final action sequences of all time. As a kid I fantasized after watching The Matrix, Lord of the Rings, etc. about busting in on some thugs and being strapped to the teeth. You know that scene I’m talking about:

I’m one of those guys who can make the auto gun noise with my mouth and dived onto my bed while shooting two finger guns through the air. I love all action movies and guns, swords, and martial arts really get my blood flowing. When you have an homage/spoof/comedy movie like this that lets out the little kid in you who fantasized about riding into town on a horse and lighting up the bad guys, you have come to the right spot.

You may not have come to the right spot if you don’t like a bit of British humor… or at least 2 hours of it. If you’re anticipating the final showdown and you have to wade

The Sandford Police Service.

through two hours of well crafted action jokes and situational comedy, that might kill it for you. Not for me.

So this is another in the Cornetto Trilogy from Edgar Wright and Simon Pegg, and they just keep getting better. Their next one on the list to end the trilogy is “The World’s End”. Maybe more zombies? Who knows… All I know is that they are fantastic. For the childhood that I had where Star Wars, action films, cartoons, and sci-fi knowledge was a everyday thing, this hits home. Very close to home. And I loved it.

Heaven’s fallen Angel.

Simon Pegg plays Police Officer Nicholas Angel (No. 777, if you didn’t get it already). He is the best on the force in London (he’d rather I say “police service” because it comes off as less aggressive) and is making all the other officers look bad. With the recommendation of all three superiors (Cameos by Martin Freeman, Steve Coogan, and Bill Nighy), Nicholas says goodbye to his former GF (played by Cate Blanchett in a white CSI outfit) and heads to Sandford Gloucestershire. (A fictitious name for a police situation town when running drills/scenarios.)

When Nicholas comes to Sanford, he is blown away by the life of the small town chum. The police station sees no action and Sanford is considered the safest town in England. Headed by Constable Frank Butterman (Jim

Friends forever.

Broadbent) and his son Danny (Nick Frost), Nicholas stumbles upon a bunch of “accidents” that could be nothing short of murders. Who is he to suspect? And who is he to trust? And finally, who is he gonna shoot up first?

I saw this movie in theaters after falling in love with Shaun of the Dead, I had to see it the first weekend out. I about died laughing every 15 minutes of the movie (usually more often). This movie has a lot more punchlines per minute than Shaun had, but every bit just as good. They watched over 150 action films to get the script to be just right (insert their own British flavor and Bam!). This movie went to great lengths to be successful, and rightly so. It delivered on all movie going levels. Entertainment. To the extreme.

There are a lot of great British actors in this movie as well. Obviously the buddy buddy duo of Nick Frost and Simon Pegg. You’ll never see two other actors onscreen who seem like they’re two best friends doing exactly what they wanna do.

Lunch. Dat. Shit.

They are living their dream making these movies. As I mentioned before, my idol Steve Coogan had a small part beside Martin Freeman (Tim from the Office) and Bill Nighy, the funniest old British man. The Andes as they were referred to, Paddy Considine (you might recognize him as Ross from The Bourne Ultimatum) and that great famous son, Rafe Spall. He lost a lot of weight and did some growing up to play the other Andy in this film, and I loved him.

This movie has the wit and fast cuts you’d expect from an action film. All the guns, action, and cheesy action comedy (combined with some really clever comedic work) make this one of the best comedies of the 2000’s (right beside Shaun). You won’t see comedies this entertaining and perfect come along that often, and also featuring a former James Bond, Timothy Dalton. It looks like a lot of fun was had with this film (with plenty of homages to other films) and it really is a laughable thrill ride with slangin’ guns. Perfection in a barrel. 9.7 out of 10.

 


Romeo Must Die

In what was considered Jet Li’s breakout American performance, I was a bit disappointed. (I personally though Lethal Weapon 4 really showcased a lot more skills…) The plot is just a crude, urban sampling from Romeo and Juliet. There were minimal stunt/fight scenes. Overall it wasn’t as action packed as the cover had led me to think. I guess I should’ve

An awkward couple?

expected half-assed amounts of martial arts from the director of Exit Wounds, Doom, and Street Fighter. Thanks a lot, Andrzej Bartkowiak…

Let’s just examine the plot to get a what bothers me about this movie. Two warring families. You have the Sing family, led by Ch’u Sing (Henry O). Then you have the black family led by Issak O’Day (Delroy Lindo. He’s that intelligent black man you see in a lot of films as a stock character actor. The smart version of Ving Rhames.) O’Day? What kind of last name is that for a black mafia family? And when have black gangs ever organized like the mafia in the first place? Weird…

This is the second time in a film I’ve seen a guy throwing a girl around…

So yes, I get the two warring families with Jet Li and Aaliyah in the middle. They don’t really love each other at first and you never get that onscreen chemistry from them. Never even a kiss. Just a hug. What I find weird is that they shot the kiss scene (that could’ve been placed anywhere in the film) and they chose to cut it out. Racist anyone? The screeners said it was awkward… Hmm…

Anyways, Jet Li is Han Sing, escaped from a high security prison in Hong Kong. He creatively escapes during one of the cooler fight scenes in the film, but how does he escape the country and make it all the way to Oakland? There is a real lack of police interference in this movie… Aaliyah is a beautiful young actress who (after watching this and The Queen of the Damned) really was taken too quickly from the

It’s all about the shades for Wong.

silver screen. She wasn’t like other R&B actresses onscreen who kinda flaunted their sex appeal. She came across as the cute girl next door you could believe and fall in love with. (Not so much in The Queen of the Damned, but just as good in that movie too.)

A beautiful and tragic young actress.

So Jet Li makes it to Oakland to discover something fishy going on with his father’s gang enterprise. His brother Po (Jon Kit Lee) has been murdered and Han Sing is on the case to find out what happened. (He used to be a police officer. Jackie Chan anyone?) The two star crossed lovers meet (if you can call them lovers) and their families war around them. With some betrayal and only the slightest bit of martial arts, this movie comes to its conclusion: happy ending.

But it wasn’t such a good ride to the happy end. Coming from a 2000 film, the ghetto speak was tired and old. If I had watched it when it had came out, I might be saying something different. But all the dawg’s and yo’s really wore on me… especially when the Chinese gangs used that slang, AND if showed up in

Some of that minimal martial arts.

their subtitle translations for some strange reason… I don’t think they have that kind of slang in the Chinese language…

And how racist this film was! It wasn’t just the speech, it was the music. Sure you have an all star cast doing the R&B hits for all the black gang scenes, but when it comes to cutting over to a scene with Jet Li or someone in the Asian gang, classical oriental music. The clangs and bows of what every person in America hears when they go into a Panda Express. There couldn’t be an infusion or anything more original for both gangs? This movie just seemed like a compare and contrast of races. The only crossover was that some black gang members miraculously knew proper Karate/Wushu form for no reason. Fancy that…

Get your head around that…

The acting was fine and I had no major complaints about that. But for some reason, and I don’t know how to put it into words, Anthony Anderson (co-star of some of the Scary Movies… and Kangaroo Jack…) just rubbed me the wrong way. He wasn’t funny, and seeing him get his ass handed to him by Jet Li just seemed satisfying… Overall though, the whole movie put me in a sour mood. I’ve seen better from Jet Li. This movie is one of those Asian/American films that takes the whole action/martial arts thing for granted. It sickened me a little bit. It was just too dated for me. They should’ve changed the title too… Romeo Must Die? More like A Vague Racist Action Movie About Building A Football Dome. There you go, all fixed. 4.3 out of 10.


Raging Phoenix: Passion in Drunkeness

In one of the more visually stunning and passion filled Muay Thai martial arts films I’ve seen, Yanin Vismistananda performs far better than I could have expected. As the leading heroine in Raging Phoenix (AKA, Jeeja Due Suai Du), Yanin shows more heart and courage (with some more brutal and flashy moves) than she did in Chocolate (although I love that movie). Panna Rittikrai does it again with some amazing stunt coordination in this one.

Deu (Yanin: also spelled Dew for some reason…) is a down and out on her luck drummer in a punk band. She has scummy boyfriends and is constantly being fooled. (She’ll say this at length in the movie.) With trust issues and an appetite for the drink, Deu gets herself in some trouble. After being chased down in a parking structure, Deu

She is both pretty and deadly.

gets away by chance with the help of a devilishly good looking and bearded Thai man (He’s also in Bangkok Knockout. I didn’t know he was one of Panna’s main boys, but Pod is in this one too… Review coming much later). He turns out to be called Sanim (Kazu Patrick Tang) and he’s good at taking down thugs with bladed kangaroo legs.

Look at that handsome man. Who wouldn’t fall for that?

With bringing her back to their hideout, Sanim encounters some unexpected collateral. Deu meets Pig Shit (Nui Saendaeng) and Dog Shit (Sompong Lertwimonkaisom), two fellow fighters with an agenda. What Deu becomes so fascinated with is a drunken style of fighting (made up for the film) known as Meyraiyuth. With montage scenes and lots of drinking, Deu and the gang take on the Jaguar Gang, a bunch of thugs looking to kidnap women just like Deu for nefarious purposes.

What I liked most about this movie was the interesting new style of fighting. Called Meyraiyuth, this badass feet of fury technique is actually an infusion. Mix classically ballin’ brutal Muay Thai finishing moves with a Capoeira dancing style that allows you to outwit your enemy and you can easily evade attacks with a lot of trauma. There are some great fight locations and a lot of newly

Pretty dope, right?

invented kicks and finishing moves that always surprise me in these Muay Thai action films. When you see one of these you expect the same old stuff, but Panna Rittikrai always has something new up his sleeve.

This was news to me too.

The acting was fine in this one, with the exception of a few actors. But that’s not what these movies are about, right? It’s about the artful technique of martial arts. It’s got the word “arts” right in there. Who cares about the plot and talking if the fans aren’t there for that? There were some cheesy CG effects and one or two strange other things, but the movie held its own as a story of love, loss, and the channeling of pain into what you do with your life. Yanin “Jeeja” sold it and it all worked out in the end.

And the end is what I wanna talk about. I’m used to these Muay Thai films with the main hero busting down hundreds of guys with lethal finishing moves, one right after the other. But this movie focused on a handful of major fighters taking on their counterparts in some long, well developed fight scenes. And that’s what makes the end so brutal. In her pain and despair, Yanin channels death into her palms and  DESTROYS the main villain. She absolutely does some of the best, most lethal moves I’ve ever seen that are actually doable in the realm of physics. I was welling up with tears with the impassioned music and the fists ripping across the screen. That doesn’t happen often, but I know when I’ve found a new favorite fight scene. So, with that in mind, I give Raging Phoenix a lethal 7.6 out of 10.

That’s a beauty. Right to your face.


Kenichi: The Mightiest Disciple

I’m a huge sucker for anime that involves martial arts. Heck, for anything that involves martial arts. I dream about one day becoming a disciple of a certain martial arts form, but that day may be behind me (my only training was trying lethal moves out on my sister, in a joking manner of course). But the adrenaline and inspiration that martial arts injects into me makes me feel like I can do anything. And a character like Kenichi: History’s Mightiest Disciple proves it.

Although this anime boasts 50 episodes (and OVA’s to come), it is rather simple and extols the teachings and techniques of martial arts. Kenichi “Weak Knees” Shirahama (Josh Grelle) is just what his nickname suggests. Picked on all the time at school and always outcasted, Kenichi joins the school’s Karate Club in order to become stronger. After being

Kenichi and the masters of Ryozanpaku!

threatened by the biggest kid in the club, Kenichi is worried for his life. And his alien looking friend Haruo Niijima (Todd Haberkorn) confirms this.

Until one day when Kenichi’s entire life changes. Rescued by a new transfer student to the school, Miu Furinji (Carrie Savage), Kenichi discovers a way to fight back against all those bullies. Joining the Ryozanpaku dojo, Kenichi becomes the sole disciple and strongest hero by story’s end.

Miu, the boob action in the show. Pretty ridonk fighter though.

What I liked most about this show, other than the martial arts, is the sensei’s of the dojo. There’s Hayato Furinji (R. Bruce Elliott), the wizened leader of the gym who is basically unstoppable. Although he’s not around, he supports Kenichi and his granddaughter Miu. There’s Shio Sakaki (Christopher Sabat) the drunken comedy and Karate master. His punches are fierce and so is his standoffish personality. He likes Kenichi like a father (although he already has one) and pushes him to do better.  Apachai Hopachai (Sonny Strait) is the dumb guy in the group. He’s lovable and friendly, but he doesn’t know his own strength. Always kicking Kenichi into the atmosphere, he loves calling out his name when he performs Muay Thai (my favorite. Period.) Shigure Kosaka  (Trina Nishimura) is the weapons expert of the group. She doesn’t talk much, but makes up for it with quick sharp wit with her blade. Kensei Ma (Vic Mignogna) is an interesting old man. Bald and brazen, he brings the pervert aspect into the anime. Always taking pictures, he still finds time to teach Kenichi Chinese Kenpo (softer martial arts). And last but not least, Kenichi’s main teacher, Akisame Koetsuji (Kent Williams). His intelligence and artful technique pervade every aspect of his life. He can usually be seen forcing Kenichi to tow him around on a tire attached to a string through the city streets.

The Shinpaku alliance!

And there are far more characters than that that add spice to this show. As I mentioned before, Niijima is a wonderfully slithery character. His art of running away never fails, and his PDA never fails on recon. Todd Haberkorn brings a wildly raucous character to life with his evil alien features. And then there’s Ragnarok. Considered all to be Kenichi’s arch rivals, Kenichi must defeat them in order to keep from dying (or anything else terrible). One of my personal favorites is Hermit (Eric Vale) this solemn and quiet character has a masterful technique and an iron will. Eric Vale does a wonderful job as usual as a character who never gives up with a great dramatic voice. Jerry Jewell plays a ferociously sinister character I can’t really talk about, but he’s worth waiting for. And J. Michael Tatum does a voice I didn’t recognize at first with Ikki Takeda, the boxing beauty with shiny blue hair.

With all of these wonderful Funimation voice actors and so many characters, nothing could be better. And then you get down to all the fighting. Although some of it may be unrealistic and come with explosions of light and unheard of power with your fists, the technique is there. I’ve learned more from watching Kenichi than I have from anything else. I know moves, fluid techniques, and trick moves too. I know their names and why they’re significant, I might as well have just

Niijima and his wonderfully alien good looks.

watched a Discovery Channel show on it. And from so many different countries! China, Japan, Thailand, and any other Asian country that may have been mentioned. This show displays a sort of U.N. like congregation of the wonders and majesty of martial arts and brings them together in one wonderful show.

This show may floor you.

The plot is simple and straightforward, pulling no punches (pun-ch intended). Kenichi must systematically defeat and conquer enemies and his fears in order to become the best. What more of an archetypal story do you need? Throw in a whole lot of comedy, boobs, and amazing fighting technique, Kenichi: The Mightiest Disciple is one of the best shounen out there. Get some of that kick ass. 8.3 out of 10.