Tag Archives: war

Jet Li’s Fearless

In what was meant to be Jet Li’s last Wushu epic, Jet Li busts out all the big guns for this film. Although he has made other films that feature his style of martial arts, it goes without saying that movies like The Warlords, The Forbidden Kingdom, and the Expendables (soon to be followed by a second) aren’t exactly focused around Li’s stunt action coordination or anything of the sort. I would argue that War, the movie with Jason Statham that followed this film, was a bit focused on Li’s destructive power of those around him, although the movie questions his identity. In either case, it wasn’t meant to be Jet Li’s last film, just his last display of his martial art’s competence.

In this film, based loosely on Huo Yuanija’s life as a martial artist, this movie follows Jet Li as Huo and his fights to bring back honor and national pride to a broken country. With the Western imperialism and Japanese pressure, Huo fights those foreign invaders in symbolic battles that show off the strength of pride that the Chinese people hold. If it came down to Jet Li’s acting to represent honor for China in this film, it may not hold as much meaning. I was just a bit thrown off by Jet Li’s acting in this movie. It seemed forced and comical at times, but it didn’t matter when he closed his mouth and pounced on some ass with his destructive moves.

Jet Li at his finest.

The movie starts off at a martial arts display tournament in which Huo must defeat 4 competitors from 4 different countries. Using weapons and hand-to-hand combat, Huo fights back the attackers in order to defend his country. Before the fourth battle commences, a flashback to Huo’s life before takes place. For 2/3’s of the movie. Huo remembers when he was a child, being instructed by his father Huo Endi (Colin Chou) and how honorable he was. His father would take him downtown to the battles that took place in raised rings between fighters in the town. In this particular fight, Huo’s father is defeated and Huo finds his resolve to never be fearful and always to win and gain honor.

You’ve impressed me.

This mentality almost becomes Huo’s downfall when he won’t allow the attacking of one of his disciples to be delegated in a civil, non-violent manner. Quin Lei (Chen Zhihui) the rival martial arts master defies Huo and his newly found hubris and fights to the death versus him. With his ruthless manner, something not encouraged by his father, Huo kills Lei and retreats into the countryside to really reevaluate just what it means to participate in martial arts. (I left something out there, watch to find out.) Learning mercy and the righteous path, Huo finds himself in a position to fight for the honor of China.

This film has a lot of moving parts that really present a historical piece that is actually one of my favorite genres. Huo is a real person, and these events of his life weave a very compelling story. The fact that he fights for the honor of China at the end is a stab at those countries that would dare impose themselves on others, as the fights suggest. The tribute at the end to the dojos that are dedicated to Huo and his principles is a nice ending for the film and the events that

Some of my favorite weapons fighting.

transpire.

The fight scenes in this movie are really what stand out though. The rings that these men fight in are very stylistically stunning. Especially the fight between Huo and the man who beat his father’s son, is ridonkulous. The poles and camera angles that effortlessly flow through the fight scene really caught me by surprise. I always knew that Jet Li was a phenomenal fighter and stunt actor, but this movie really pulled out all the stops. His penchant for stunts and choreography, especially the weapon related fights show a lot of discipline and knowledge that I admire. Not being a martial arts expert myself, I’ve seen enough martial arts and have read up enough about it to know Jet Li has got his shit in order.

This big white dude shows up far too often in martial arts films…

The success this film had and the amount of good reviews it is given are just, but I felt, as some others have, that the film had its down moments that kinda left it at middle of the road. Yes, it didn’t have the acting oomph that would’ve elevated it to Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, but it was well above some of the straight to DVD martial arts films that’re out there. The story itself is inspiring and films like this are what make me wanna be a director. I’d equate it to a Cinderella Man type of film with the action and drama equalling each other out.

I am now psyched to hear that there are two other versions of the film, two of them depicting a more developed love/rejuvenation plot with Michelle Yeoh and a THAI BOXING SCENE. I wish they had included that in the theatrical version. My favorite form of fighting is Thai Boxing/Muay-Thai fighting. It’s one of the only forms that could take out Jet Li and I guess that’s why they were afraid to include it. I would still love to see a fight between Tony Jaa and Jet Li. Hell, Tony Jaa and anyone. Other than getting a bit of a boner over these martial arts masters, I thought this movie was very positively geared towards the Chinese community that Jet Li and director Ronny Yu were representing. It’s a great

Thank you Jet Li and Ronny Yu, for making a movie China can be proud of.

message to all those action stars from non-Asian countries. Back the hell off, we have pride, and that pride will stomp all over you. That message and this film deserves a 8.1 out of 10.

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Underworld: Awakening

Where’s Michael? Where is Michael Corvin?

You may be wondering that yourself after you see Underworld: Awakening in theaters (if it still is…) The second I saw this movie was in development WITH KATE BECKINSALE, I got really excited. This beautiful English goddess needs no introduction. The face and star of the Underworld series ( I won’t include Rise of the Lycans) comes back with a more violent and sexy force in this movie. And, at 39 years of age, Beckinsale is looking wonderfully sexy and vibrant, despite the whole vampire/death dealer thing.

I would say this tagline of this movie is “Where’s Michael?” because it is the most classic line from the trailer. Yelling in the face of some unfortunate human, Selene just wants to know where her lover is. Is that too much to ask?

Where is Michael?

Apparently it was too much to ask to get Scott Speedman to return in this film. From the first moment you see him, you know something’s up. He seems CGI, and, in fact he is. Shown for an entire 30 seconds of screen time, Michael goes from badass hybrid to invisible hider. The original purpose of the film is to find him, but it becomes complicated.

This scene was sexy.

Here’s some context. The war raging on for centuries between the Vampires and Lycans has a new contender. The humans have entered the battle and have learned the weaknesses to decimate both sides. In a terrible twist of fate, Selene and Michael are captured and are being held in a laboratory under cryogenic (?) freezing for over 10 years. (Was it 10? The number was a bit fuzzy…) Upon being released by some unknown third party, Selene awakens to a world she is unfamiliar with. All that remains with her is her ability to kill, and kill well.

After some romp stomp destroying of some lab guards, Selene begins to get her wits about her. Realizing she is not in a position of advantage, she begins her quest in finding Michael. This is complicated by what she perceives to be visions from Michael’s own eyes being projected to her. She follows them and what she finds is a young girl. A hybrid young girl. With things thrown out of whack and nothing as it appears, Selene and the last of the vampires must fight in a world where there enemy is no longer the Lycans, but what would appear to be a lesser subspecies. Us.

Time to lace up.

I gotta hand it to the creators of Underworld. You take a 6 year break from Evolution with Kate and come back just as hard as the original 9 years before this one? You have to know some die hard fans are gonna watch it regardless. Me being one of those die hard fans of Beckinsale and everything Underworld really helped out. The first one becoming a cult classic solidifies any future work on Underworld and makes it all the more interesting when, yes, they suggest a 5th one. Bring it on.

There's some violence for ya.

I really gotta say though, this one hit hard with the violence. There’s really not a big break between action scenes, but some of the action scenes really drive the plot in an unusual way that I haven’t seen in many action movies. Removing the fight scenes from the plot is a way to entertain without bogging down the stylized violence, but this movie said, “Eh, why can’t we have both?” And I agree. There are plenty of successful action movies out there that can balance what the genre promises with a bit of good storyline. And the Underworld series is one of those.

But yes, there are throat slashing scenes, lots of bullet holes through Lycan carcasses, and, really, not a lot of sympathy for the Lycans in general. In a

The last hopes for the Vampires.

series that kind of set up this idea between supernatural being unity, Lycans vs Vampires probably won’t die anytime soon. With hybrids and the humans as the common enemy, I expected some teamwork, but this movie takes it in a direction that makes sense as well without the Vamycans combine. Although, as anyone knows who has seen this series, humans shouldn’t be a threat to these races, but it happens. I guess if Van Helsing can do it… Others can.

I love that suit. And those guns. Everything.

The acting in this movie was fine, but not the main focus/intent of the creators. Kate Beckinsale, instant loveable classic. At her age, looking that good, the mist rolling over her naked body. Chills. Stephen Rea kind of came out of left field for me. One of the most experienced actors in the movie, his villainous nature came as strange. One, because he’s one of those self-absorbed, nerdy villains without the ridiculously gothic quality of say Bill Nighy or Michael Sheen. Two, his son Quint (Kris Holden-Ried) had an English accent in this movie and Stephen Rea as his father, Dr. Jacob Lane, didn’t. Those little nuances can bother a person.

I mean, at some points in the film, there were accents when there didn’t have to be, and others were there should have been (I guess). Beckinsale sounds wonderfully elegant as Selene with her British accent, but with Eve (India Eisley) it came off as awkward. An 18 year old girl portraying a 12 year old girl (it was close) with an English accent, in a city that I feel was in America,

I just have to include this shot. Chills.

seemed out of place. But the girl did her job, despite some of her only experience coming from The Secret Life of the American Teenager (utterly horrid).

That was also something that struck me as odd with Theo James in this film. As with some other British newcomers to the silver screen, David (Theo James) showed a slight potential as a relatively important character in this film. Bringing back the classic whips from the last scene in the original Underworld, he delivered his lines with a British accent, in an altogether unconvincing way. Charles Dance as his father, Thomas, one of the last remaining bastions of the Vampire dynasty, did a fair job, but he wasn’t a Bill Nighy type of character. He made his mark though.

You did okay, Theo.

Before I wrap this up, just wanted to throw a little shout out Wes Bentley’s way. This guys was a simple character who released Selene from her cryogenic sleep and got none of the credit. I’ve admired Wes Bentley ever since American Beauty (…and Ghost Rider) and I feel he is an underrated actor. So I would like to give him a nod in this uncredited role in Underworld, even though he was dropped out a window.

It's about to get heavy.

So, all-in-all, Underworld: Awakening did justice to the Underworld series. There was a great deal of action, although no Michael, and a plot that satisfyingly gave a chance for an Underworld 5. A fabulous twist that I didn’t see coming progressed the overall plot and left me falling in love with Selene all over again. I would agree with IMDB’s rating of this movie of a 7 out of 10, but, as a huge fan, I’d bump it up to a 7.7 out of 10. Nice job.


Darksiders: Puzzles and Death… and the Apocalypse

Ever since I saw the trailer for this video game, I had wanted it. I had no idea what to expect. Would it just be a hack and slash game with complete and utter destruction? Would it be a game of skill or button mashing? What it turned out to be was not what I expected.

Okay, look. I didn’t have the traditional childhood. I didn’t have a Nintendo and have a chance to play all the amazing Mario and Zelda that was out there. So big surprise to me when an Xbox 360/PS3 game comes out that is identical in its gameplay to Zelda.

Link?

It’s really a mixture of the fighting style of God of War and the puzzles of Zelda, but I was thrown off in the first place by the puzzles. Basic day in the life of Darksiders for me? Hey, here’s a block you have to move/portal you have to create. Find a way across without dying. Go. Needless to say I invested a lot of time viewing the walkthroughs online to figure this game out. Scoff if you will, it doesn’t detract from the satisfaction and action of this game.

Basic plot: You are War, one of the four Horsemen of the Apocalypse. You come to Earth because the seals have been broken and all out war has begun to take place on the planet. There are angels fighting demons, zombies, creatures, you name it. What War gets sucked into doing is representing the Scarred Council on Earth in what I would call restorative justice.

Quite big. Sure you can swing that?

So you start out the game with a bit of firepower. You have your gigantic sword, Chaoseater and a bit of hellish power, Chaos. This stuff can summons pikes from the ground, turn your skin to stone, summon hellfire, all sorts of cool trick War picked up off the street. As the game progresses, you gain access to other various items and weapons that kick even more ass. This gives you access to various areas you didn’t before and also contributes to an arsenal that mixes it up when beating the baddies.

Speaking of baddies, I love the characters in this game. Seeing as this game goes all biblical all over everyone’s asses, It’s a fun and easy way to learn a little bit of Old Testament. And then toss around those characters like rag dolls. I mean, come on, you are War, the most severely destructive of the Apocalypse Bros. The only characters you really don’t see are God and Satan. Even though they may be pulling the strings, all the demons and angels suffer for it.

I would also like to mention that this game reminds me of a game I played for XBox a while ago that focused on Spawn killin’ some angels and demons. It was great.

Weapon moves and combos in this game are great. The game has the “item store” quality to it where you go and collect upgrades based on the amount of carnage you incur. You gain health, armor, and Chaos as you find hidden chests throughout and that always makes for a great replay value when you didn’t find them all. (One reason I want to play again is to find all the Abyssmal Armor pieces, giving War an all new look.)

Only drawback. I took months, spread out, to play this game. I picked it up from Gamestop and took an inordinate amount of time beating it. Why? Some of those puzzles are so vague, there’s no definite way without the help of a game guide to beat them. If there wasn’t the internet, I would have never finished this game. And I don’t think it’s a intellectual issue. It was all about going with the 5 second cutscenes that tried to reveal everything at once for you to utilize to move forward. Not helpful.

War = Complete Badass

But hey, you get a badass steed and frolic through the blood and gore of the battlefield that was our home. I guess if you truly loved Darksiders, wait another year and you might find you can be an active participant in it when 2012 rolls around. Maybe you’ll even get a little glimpse of war.

Oh, and another thing. The voice actors in this film were great. Liam O’Brien (done an amazing amount of work in both anime and video games), Mark Hamill (amazing what he can do with his voice, he’s the Watcher), Phil LaMarr (always great, MadTV prepared him well), Moon Bloodgood (interesting voice actor choice), Troy Baker (RIDICULOUSLY GOOD), J.B. Blanc (great accent as Ulthane), and Fred Tatasciore (his list of video games and anime is so extensive. He’s everywhere.).

So definitely check this game out. It’s worth a play and who knows, maybe you’ll learn how to survive the apocalypse. Or maybe you’ll have a great time running train as War. 8.6 out of 10.


Rush Hour 2: Chris Tucker Returns

So right after watching the first Rush Hour, I was like, “Let’s spark up the next one.” These movies are great and I need to watch them all in pretty rapid order. I mean, come on, it’s Chris Tucker. And you may be postulating, “What if the movie was called Traffic Jam and it starred Jet Li and Chris Rock?” Well I hear what you’re saying friend, but then we’re talking about a movie that’s not funny in which people die quite quickly. Call it Traffic Jam if you’d like, I’ll still go for Rush Hour 1-3.

So, basic plot. Detectives Carter (Chris Tucker) and Lee (Jackie Chan) have teamed up again, except this time, it’s different. (Straight out of the trailer, right?) This time, Detective Carter is on vacation, right where the last one dropped off, in China. Good old Hong Kong. But while there, a bomb goes off on U.S. soil at the local American Embassy, and somebody sinister is to blame. Detective Lee takes on the case, pulling along the constantly, yet hilariously bitching and moaning Carter as they cavort through the streets of Hong Kong (and later Las Vegas) in search of those no good hoodlums.

Now this movie is a step up in acting in comparison from the last movie. Chris Tucker and Jackie Chan are golden. We lose Tom Wilkinson as Juntao, but we gain John Lone as Ricky Tan, the triad boss and former friend of Detective Lee’s father (although I would find it hard to believe that Lee and Tan are actually closer in age than would be Lee’s father…) I didn’t realize how great

John Lone

John Lone really was. He’s been in War, (shortly after RH2) The Last Emperor, Year of the Dragon, and even a remake at the start of his career as a bit piece in King Kong (Chinese cook, 1976). Now that’s a great career if you ask me, especially The Last Emperor, that movie’s fantastic.

What surprised me more that I had forgotten about was that Ziyi Zhang is in this film. With all the movies she’s been in, I feel like she must be the pride and joy of China (besides Jackie Chan). But Ziyi is great as Hu Li, the badass woman who takes no crap and destroys Chris Tucker. I actually would love to take a second to recap her amazing career:

Ziyi Zhang. Yes.

1. Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (Ridiculously good)

2. Rush Hour 2 (Great, reviewing it currently)

3. The Warrior

4. Hero (She’s worked with Jackie Chan AND Jet Li)

5. House of Flying Daggers (SO visually appealing)

6. Memoirs of a Geisha (Award winning)

7. Even TMNT (Voice acting at its finest)

So yeah, I would definitely think that Ziyi Zhang is a big deal. Her fighting is great and she’s really beautiful. Definite Top 10 actresses in my book.

We also have the amazingly gorgeous Roselyn Sanchez, the Puerto Rican goddess who has done her fair share of acting. She plays the sassy, no

Roselyn Sanchez. Puerto Rican Goddess

nonsense undercover agent with a smokin’ body, Isabella Molina. Although she doesn’t come in until later, this woman definitely lights up the screen.

Again, this movie is classic, suave, and full of Chris Tucker in a robe. What more could you want, I’ll throw something your way, sir. Comedy. And Chris Tucker has it all. Black comedy, situational quips and humor, observational comedy, rapport, slapstick. He’s got all that shizz on lockdown. Talk about your A-list comedian. The buck stops here with Chris Tucker.

Only the best.

I really feel like Brett Ratner and Ross LaManna have done it again with the sequel to a great movie. The moves and stunts this time are tighter, faster. Chris Tucker has picked up some moves. The Chinese girls are hot, spicy even. Ziyi Zhang brings a new kind of evil to the screen. The plot thickens and then disperses. And I can’t wait for the next one. 7.7 out of 10.

 


Brothers (2009)

So through this movie, it has come to my attention that Tobey Maguire is a good actor. Don’t get me wrong, the Spider-Man movies are fantastic. SM3 was a little off, but Sam Raimi is an amazing director, actually my favorite. Watch the Evil Dead movies and you’ll know why. But it is because of the movie Brothers that I have come to see Tobey Maguire as a respectable and capable actor.

So, this movie is about two brothers. Obviously, thus, the plural. One brother Sam Cahill (Tobey Maguire) is a respected captain in the United States Marines, and is about to deploy on his fourth tour over in Afghanistan. His brother Tommy (Jake Gyllenhall) was just released from prison a short time before Sam heads overseas. This leaves Sam’s wife, Grace (Natalie Portman) to tend to her children and keep her spirits up. Of course this can’t be the whole movie, something bad has to happen.

This comes in the form of Sam “dying.” From here Grace must deal with the pressures of life on top of the loss of her husband. And Tommy is there to pick up the pieces. But that’s not all. And I need not say anymore to ruin it.

The acting, I must say, made the movie. Good cinematography that displayed the emotions of the characters, but it really all came together in the characters in the Cahill family. Tobey Maguire was fantastic, definitely worthy of the Golden Globe he was nominated for. His performance towards the end really speaks to the brutality of war and torture and what death and violence can do to a person. Jake Gyllenhall’s performance brought the sensitive side to the movie, in complete opposition of his brother. Natalie Portman (my favorite actress, crush since Star Wars) is fantastic and really plays a mother in grief and distress well. But I’m gonna tell you who stole the movie.

Bailee Madison, Sam Cahill’s oldest daughter was a fantastic actress in this movie. (And she’s actually in a new horror movie I am interested in seeing, Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark) Her performance alone was the dramatic and plot lynchpin of the entire film. When she cried because she lost the father she knew and loved, I cried too. Her anger and defiance of her father, at such a young age, and to understand what happened, was breathtaking. Along with this, the role change at the end of the movie that’s shown is worth watching. Great acting, shoddy visual work that was barely noticed, and great family dynamic brought this movie together to make for a great film about family and what it means. Definitely an 8.8 out of 10.

Here’s a clip from the movie and interview with Tobey Maguire for a sense of just what his role is and how he portrays the character he does.