HK and Cult Film News's Fan Box
Friday, December 21, 2007
Thursday, December 20, 2007
Balls of Fury DVD Review
“This movie looks vile”-Noted Sci-Fi Film Author Bill Warren on seeing the trailer for the movie in a post at Classic Horror Film Board.
Film: Despite this pronouncement from Bill Warren, Balls of Fury is an excellent comedy about an evil international ping-pong/crime syndicate, even more so when you consider the people behind the film. First, you have Thomas Lennon and Robert Ben Garret of Reno 911 as the writing team for this film and Garret directing it. Lennon is a huge martial arts movie fan and his script for The Pacifier was actually originally written with the hope of Jackie Chan being in it.
The film is actually a wonderful parody of Enter the Dragon replacing Kung Fu with ping pong and boasts a hilarious cast and ample cameos (Reno alumni, comedians, Robert Patrick, Jason Scott Lee and even Shang Tsung aka Cary Hiroyuka Tagawa ). James Hong stills the show though as the blind master who much teach Randy Daytona (played by Dan Fogler) the skills of ping-pong along with Hong Kong and American starlet Maggie Q. Hong is a joy to watch as much as he always is and shows that Big Trouble in Little China was not his final word on the martial arts genre (or at least that most Americans know). I would say if you’re even just a fan of James Hong it’s a reason enough to buy this film. Martial arts fans should also check the film out as it truly is a wonderful and loving tribute/parody of Enter the Dragon and other classic Martial Arts training films, and even James Bond (look for a parody of the electro-game from Never Say Never Again). Fogler’s character is not so much a Bruce Lee initially but the prodigal son who must truly become a master. George Lopez although I’ve never seen or plan to see his sitcom is very funny too and acquits himself quite well. Christopher Walken is somewhat of a you love him or hate him and even if you love him you can still sometimes hate him. Luckily Walken does an ok job, but one can’t help but wish James Hong (who Garret mentions his role as the teacher was specifically written with him in mind) had been playing a dual role as teacher and evil master. Still Walken does fine with his role nonetheless. The film is a slam bang laugh and action fest that will appeal to fans of comedy, martial arts films, Reno 911, and heck anyone who can enjoy a great action comedy. Balls of Fury is defiantly a comedy you’ll watch more than once.
Video: The video is 16X9 anamorphic widescreen and in its original aspect ratio of 1:85:1. The movie is by and large a bright and colorful film, which is accurately represented in the transfer. The compression seems fine and no digital or source defects were apparent during our watching of the film.
Audio: The DVD comes with a Dolby Digital 5.1 mix in both English and French and serves perfectly fine, there are no examples of hiss or audio defects. The mix is powerful for the action scenes with the right amount of punch and separation and works for any comedy gags that depend or are enhanced by sound.
Extras: Although the film lacks a commentary track there are still some decent extras on the disc. One is an alternate ending that is a very nice follow up on a running gag in the film. There are also numerous deleted scenes which feature more of Robert Patrick. There is a 13 minute making of feature, which actually has an interview with Jason Scott Lee (who is rocking a look that Ari the original Jason Voorhees has) and clips from Dragon: The Bruce Lee Story, James Hong, Cary, Maggie, and others. There is a lot of mention of the kung fu side of the film which is very nice. There is a also a parody feature of about the life of a “ball wrangler” It’s a cute five minute short about the person who must take care of all the balls on set.
Overall: Balls of Fury is a wonderful action/comedy from some of the geniuses behind Reno 911 and comes to DVD (and HD-DVD) with some great features and excellent a/v quality. The only possible complaint would be a lack of a cast/crew comedy track, but Universal puts together an excellent DVD, that fans should pick up.
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“If Charles Dickens were alive today, if he lived in Utah and was raised by a castrating nun, if he learned to hate women almost as much as he hated life, if he admired B-grade horror movies, and – most importantly – if he suffered from massive brain damage, he might have written the screenplay to SILENT NIGHT, DEADLY NIGHT.”
Robert S. Cauthorn
The Arizona Daily Star
Ah, good ol’ SILENT NIGHT, DEADLY NIGHT. My first exposure to the series came from renting the first sequel that I didn’t really care for and the fifth installment which all I can remember was having a really cool sex scene with invading demonic toys straight out of a Full Moon picture. The film has attained quite a cult following throughout the years; the first 20 minutes are full of all kinds of sleaze any sicko would want in his holiday stocking-
*a bat-shit crazy grandfather
*a robbery and shootout complete with a goofy bullet hole in the forehead
*an attempted rape and throat slashing
*a pair of titties
*a vicious nun giving meaning to the word “naughty”
*beatings of young children
*a crude drawing of Santa with multiple stab wounds and a decapitated reindeer
*a teenage sex scene
*another pair of tits
When the local mom-and-pop video store next to my grandparents house were liquidating their VHS titles a few years back, the oversized VHS release to the film was priced at $50 since it was considered a “collector’s item”. I personally never really cared much for the SNDN series, the ultimate Christmas movie in my opinion would have to be Stuart Jackson’s YOU BETTER WATCH OUT aka CHRISTMAS EVIL, available in two great editions from Troma and Synapse. Anyways, Anchor Bay released SNDN and its sequel back in October of 2003 . AB/Starz have recently reissued just the first film onto DVD again with the same extras, minus the sequel and its supplements. This DVD review is for the first film, but contains information on the extras for the second film for collectors.
IMAGE: A disclaimer opens the first film stating it was taken from two different print sources. While the film looks perfectly fine for the nature of its budget and age, the re-inserted gore footage looks as if it was taken from an ‘80s one-inch videotape with a strange filter over the image. It appears Anchor Bay could no longer find actual film footage of the extra gore, similar to Anchor Bay UK ’s release of RAZORBACK. Hopefully, someone will find the footage stored in some film lab one day.
Compared to the first film, the sequel looks great with no problems I could see.
AUDIO: Standard mono. Nothing special. Although I would like to point out the effective late ‘80s synth score composed by Michael Armstrong in the sequel.
EXTRAS: I was rather disappointed by the extras for the first film. There isn’t a single theatrical trailer, television or radio spot to be found! For a movie which gained its notoriety by its marketing campaign, Anchor Bay certainly dropped the ball in this respect. Other than that complaint, there is a nice 36 minute phone interview with the film’s director, a sparse collection of 20 still images (posters, VHS covers, newspaper ads), and “Santa’s Stocking of Outrage”, a collection of review blurbs from critics and concerned parents.
Surprisingly, the extras for the second film are far more interesting than the first! We have the film’s theatrical trailer, the screenplay (!), 43 still images (hilarious behind the scenes footage, storyboards, newspaper and marketing ads), and audio commentary with writer/director Lee Harry, writer Joseph H. Earle, and actor James Newman. I haven’t listened to the commentary in over three years, but I do remember it being very informative and entertaining. I recall the three participants wondering the whereabouts of the latest killer Santa, Eric Freeman. I’d like to say this fan won’t be satisfied until Anchor Bay or another company track Eric Freeman and Robert Brian Wilson down, force them to don bloody Santa suits, and give an on-camera interview about the two films.
Overall: If you don't already have Silent Night, Deadly Night and want to see the film, the new Anchor Bay/Starz disc would be a perfect opportunity to get the film.
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Can anyone name a movie that Yuen Woo Ping is involved in that contains nothing less than superb action choreography? The man’s name was in the 70s Kung fu movie boom synonymous with great martial arts action, and now there is no difference. This reviewer, as a great fan of Yuen and his brothers Yuen Cheung Yan, Yuen Hsin Yee and Yuen Yat Chor, was very surprised and pleased to find out about the film Revenge of the Shaolin Master. A 1978 Taiwanese production, its fight choreographers are credited as Yuen Woo Ping and Yuen Cheung Yan. While this is not surprising in itself as at the time the two brothers were working in Taiwan and Hong Kong together as a team, the main actor cast as lead certainly is. This is none other than Dorian Tan Tao Liang (aka Delon Tan, Delom Tan and my fave variation Delon Tanners) one of the most well-regarded kickers and indeed Martial Artists ever to grace the screen. Tan was peaking at this time, dividing it between Taiwanese and Hong Kong productions, with other classics such as The Hot, The Cool and the Vicious and The Himalayan. The Yuen clan, though yet to begin work on Woo Ping directed movies, were proving their action directing and stuntmen talents to all and sundry with movies such as Born Invincible and Broken Oath. The pairing of choreographers and star set me salivating, and to my fellow Kung Fu movie cohorts I am pleased to say: This one don’t disappoint.
There are few old skool movies whose consistency of action is constant and thrilling. Secret Rivals 2 springs to mind, as does Dance of the Drunk Mantis. Both choreographed by Yuen Woo Ping, of course. Revenge of the Shaolin Master, by virtue of its non-stop high quality action, is in that elite class. The ability to conceive of a plot and narrative that allows for constant action is a tough ask.
As anyone familiar with Hong Kong and Taiwanese cinema of the late 70’s knows, the idea of script re-writes did not cross film-makers minds. In many productions the plot was made up as the shoot went on. This means the action in quality productions grew organically out of the plot, with a feeling of cohesion and outcome of characters actions meaning they must fight. The problem with this is that it can be a hit and miss affair, as plotlines can suffer and formula is relied on. Unfortunately this is the case to an extent with Revenge of the Shaolin Master, but it has the talent on show to rise above it.
The film begins with Tan playing an upright man Lin Chan Hu, who has the task of escorting food and money to refugees across the border, by order of the magistrate. They are ambushed by bandits, and the goods are stolen. The Chief of the town Chi Chu (played by the creepy Choi Wang) comes to the conclusion that Chan Hu has set up the ambush, and he is captured but released for lack of evidence soon after. Meanwhile Chan Hu’s father dies of old age, and an inspector working for Chin Chu, Sha (played by Taiwanese actor/martial artist Chiang Fu Jian) encounters Chan Hu’s sister, Feng Yi (Lau San). It is revealed that Sha and Chan Hu have friends in common in the shape of an old uncle, and the two meet there in the midst of a fight with Chin Chu’s men. Chan Hu is eventually captured again and witnesses the murder of his mother and fianceė by Chin Chu. He escapes thanks to Feng Yi. Chan Hu and Sha discover that Chin Chu and his brother (played by the ever-excellent Lung Fei) were setting up Chan Hu and they are both taken to a desolate beach. They must fight to the death to discover who is the better fighter. Chen Sing’s cameo is at this point, as the Marshall, and what a cameo it is. Watch the shock ending to find out what’s next! The twists and turns of the plot are evident, and at times obvious, but engaging.
Joe Law Chi, a veteran director in the Kung Fu genre, directs the film. He has a reasonable ability to weave plotlines around the action, but his directorial style at times is not suited to the subject matter. The screen seems to go dead at times without the action, and he also directed the roundly derided Invincible Kung Fu Trio, known to be one of the worst Kung Fu films involving major stars ever made. However, there are some nicely framed shots and good uses of crash zooms between cuts and scenes. What really impresses is the way the action is integrated into a complex plot, and the build up of rage which Tan’s character feels reflecting in the fights.
At this time the Yuen clan’s ability to film intricate old skool action was at its peak, and here we get an unbelievable mix of leg techniques, open hand kung fu and weaponry. The rhythm and tempo of the fights is up there with the best, while the editing apart from a couple of shots is not a frame out. Chiang Fu Jian, who plays the inspector, had a short career in movies. His other credits include Thundering Mantis and Shaolin Legend, but here he gets to show off his action chops at an incredibly high level. In his first fight he shows off great arm lock techniques, while in the mid section his spearplay is timed to the second combined with nice legwork, and in the end fight to the death his hand techniques come to the fore with maximum effect. Lau San who plays Tan’s sister also had a short career, with other titles of note including Kung Fu from Beyond the Grave and 18 Bronzegirls From Shaolin (!). Here her martial arts abilities are given a great showcase, and she performs some kick and punch combinations with grace and authority. Choi Wang, a veteran of Shaw Brothers and many other company’s films, is supremely creepy as the main villain and gets a magnificent knock down and drag-out fight with Chiang Fu Jian. To see Chen Sing go into weapon-wielding action with Lung Fei is a joy to behold, if the fight is a little on the short side.
Now to Tan the man. As one of the most prolific performers of the old skool, it is very difficult to pick a best martial arts performance. For me, having seen more than half of his output, this IS his best. Every aspect of his open hand martial artistry is tested to the extreme. In the most complex fight in the film he takes on four spearmen. This scene contains some of the most fancy footwork ever seen on screen, including Tan’s logic-defying ability to keep his left leg of the ground for up to a dozen kicks. The criticism of Tan not using his right leg much is supported by the movie, but in some moves he finishes off the opponent beautifully with his right. The end battle contains powerful examples of his hand forms and exceptional bootwork. In most of his films there is no concentration on his hands, but here we get combinations of them and his legendary legwork. Its all testament to the genius of the Yuen Clan, to make mercurial Martial Arts movies which stand the test of time.
Revenge of the Shaolin Master is exactly what old skool greatness is all about; a movie with an understandable plot and action scenes of the highest quality that never fails to entertain, no matter how many times you watch. The Taiwanese locations are very easy on the eye, especially the opening scenes among the mountains and the ending on a desolate beach surrounded by crags. Despite the soundtrack being typically unoriginal, it adds drama to a number of scenes. The majority of the cast, in Martial Art terms, never looked this good in other productions and Tan the man is at his supreme best. While the Yuen clan and Woo Ping in particular would go on to bigger and better things, in terms of pure choreography this is up there with classics such as Legend of a Fighter. A must for fans of any of the aforementioned persons.
Wednesday, December 19, 2007
Tuesday, December 18, 2007
Ironside may not be able to walk, but he's still got the keenest mind on the force and is a terrifically dynamic individual. Raymond Burr plays him as a gruff, tenacious man with a keen intellect who doesn't mince words or suffer lawbreakers, while earning the undying respect and affection of his team. Burr has a field day with the character, aptly portraying the difficulties that a big, tough, self-sufficient man has in dealing with and triumphing over his disability.
The guest cast regularly features other notable actors and familiar faces such as Joseph Cotten, Burgess Meredith, Troy Donahue, Ricardo Montalban, Charles Aidman, Johnny Seven, Andrew Prine, Don Stroud, Margaret O'Brien, Dane Clark, Clu Gulager, Ralph Meeker, Peggy Ann Garner, and Anne Baxter, among many others. Good performances and sharp scriptwriting keep things consistently interesting.
Monday, December 17, 2007
Porfle joins the team with his review of The Last Legion coming to DVD this Tuesday!
THE LAST LEGION (2007) opens with 460 A.D. Rome installing a 12-year-old kid as their exalted emperor simply because he's the last of Julius Caesar’s bloodline. Sounds a bit half-baked to me, but it sorta actually happened in real life--the events in the first part of the movie are loosely based on history, all the way through the part where the Goths move in and kick Rome's ass shortly after Romulus Augustus assumes power. The kid is banished for life to the island of Capri (at which point history loses track of him) along with his teacher and mentor, the mysterious Ambrosinus (Ben Kingsley), who excels in using parlor tricks and sleight-of-hand to convey the illusion of sorcery.
While most of the defeated Romans are scrambling to welcome their new Goth overlords, the Roman military commander Aurelius (Colin Firth) escapes with some of his best guys and plans to rescue Romulus. But they'll need help if they ever hope to retake Rome, and the only remaining legion that hasn't been slaughtered or assimilated by the Goths is in Brittania. There, a new and even more frightening enemy awaits--the dreaded conqueror Vortgyn (Harry Van Gorkum), a golden-masked villain with whom Ambrosinus has unfinished business.
THE LAST LEGION is handsomely mounted, beautifully lit and photographed, with authentic-looking period detail and locations (although the occasional less-than-perfect matte shot or CGI effect may induce a slight cringe). Some of the sets, especially during the Rome segment, are impressive.
Director Doug Lefler populates most of the crowd scenes with actual extras (as many as 1300 in the coronation scene) and only rarely packs the frame with digitally-generated replicants. This gives the film the aura of a more traditional old-style sword epic from the 50s or 60s rather than the unreal hyper-grandiosity of the LOTR films, especially in the gritty final battle sequence between the "last legion" and Vortgyn's hordes at Hadrian's wall in Britannia.
But despite all that, this film isn't quite an epic--more of a "mini-epic"--with a somewhat lighthearted and at times storybook veneer that sets it apart from the more sober and adult-oriented likes of GLADIATOR. This is most evident in the character of Mira (Aishwarya Rai), a lithe warrior woman who runs around mowing down hordes of bad guys single-handledly while managing to look gorgeous the whole time. I haven't Googled whatever form of exotic martial arts she's supposed to be a master of, but apparently it involves the ability to kill all opponents regardless of size or number. Anyway, Rai is a real looker who handles the fight choreography beautifully, and it's fun watching her character in action.
For me, though, the best thing about THE LAST LEGION is seeing how various elements of the story gradually come together to form the genesis of the King Arthur legend. At one point Romulus discovers the "sword of kings", created for Julius Caesar and passed down to his descendants, which we know will eventually become known as Excalibur. The first really literal indication of Arthur's origin comes when Romulus forms his first boyhood crush on a girl named "Ygraine." And, of course, Ambrosinus himself bears a striking resemblance to a certain Arthurian sorcerer.
But the main difference in tone between this and John Boorman's EXCALIBUR, for instance, is the lack of fantasy elements--here, we're shown a relatively plausible basis from which a magical, mystical legend might develop through generations of retelling.
Ben Kingsley plays Ambrosinus with his usual presence and skill. Colin Firth's Aurelius is suitably heroic, although the pep talk he gives his men before the final battle isn't anywhere near as stirring as Theoden's "sword day" speech in THE RETURN OF THE KING or Mel Gibson's wild-eyed rants in BRAVEHEART.
The rest of the cast is fine, including Alexander Siddig of "Deep Space Nine" and THE MUMMY's John Hannah as a duplicitous Roman senator, but it's the young Thomas Sangster as Romulus upon whom everything hinges. He gives an impressively mature and convincing performance, with a physical presence that makes me think of a pint-sized Jeremy Irons or Malcolm McDowell.
The DVD image is anamorphic with an aspect ratio of 2.35:1. Picture quality looks great to me, and I had no problem with the sound as well.
Bonus features include deleted scenes with optional director's commentary, the most interesting being an 8-minute alternate edit of the final battle sequence. There's also a short "making of" featurette, a storyboard-to-film comparison (which I skipped since I couldn't care less about storyboard-to-film comparisons), a theatrical trailer, and a detailed and informative commentary track by Doug Lefler. My favorite, though, is an 11-minute short featuring some intense, in-character stunt performers running through a greatest hits collection of the film's furious fight choreography.
THE LAST LEGION isn't likely to achieve classic status, cult or otherwise, but for fans of the King Arthur legend, sword-and-sorcery, and/or historical drama mixed with lots of action, it's definitely worth checking out.
Saturday, December 15, 2007
Even more impressive and unexpected, the writers manage to drop some moral ambiguity in the story. The "Dark Seekers" of the movie are described as mindless, cannibalistic killing machines, but when Neville captures one for experimentation purposes, you can see a look of bitter hatred on the face of another Seeker who cannot chase after the catpured Seeker because of their vulnerability to sunlight. And it's that Seeker's quest for vengeance that drives the last half of the plot. The Seeker learns from the trap Neville uses and exploits his knowledge of Neville's habits to trap the hero. There are clear signs of intelligence. And then there are the signs that Neville, slowly losing his grip on sanity, has become irrationally hateful of the Seekers. He performs cruel, life-threatening experiments on dozens of them in search for a cure. Much like John Wayne's character in THE SEARCHERS and Comanches, Neville feels that living as a Seeker ain't livin' at all and you're better off dead. He hesitates to shoot deer and lions to get fresh meat for survival, but he won't hesitate to brutally murder Seekers. What makes this more interesting is that Neville's love for Bob Marley's music is a major part of his character, as Bob Marley tried to stomp out hatred and racism with peace and love via reggae. "Bring light to the darkness." How ironic would it be if the darkness was his hatred rather than their existence and the light was understanding and acceptance? That's what the original novel was about (though without the Bob Marley analogies), and it's an interesting theme that is well told through subtle hints.
The last act sadly becomes conventional. It gets all explodey and turns into a SIGNS-esque evaluation of religious faith. The thematic disconnect is jarring, and the ending gets a little too happy. This doesn't ruin the rest of the movie, but it was disappointing after the great first two thirds. Still, two thirds of a great movie was far more than I expected, and as much of a badass as Charlton Heston is, I have to put this movie above OMEGA MAN. I just wish the movie stuck to its guns like the original PLANET OF THE APES.
Also, of note:
Can we all agree now that CGI is not inherently better than practical effects and that mediocre effects do not make a movie bad?
Two factual errors I noticed:
In the cable news interview that kicks off the movie, there's an item on the crawl saying the Patriots beat the Giants for the second time in the 2009 season 23-7. Interconference scheduling in the NFL is on a 4-year rotation (each division in one conference plays all the teams in a division of the other conference each year). The AFC East (Patriots) plays the NFC East (Giants) this year, 2007. Therefore, the next such season that the Patriots would play the Giants during the regular season is 2011. And that's only one game. The second game would have to be the Super Bowl, the only other time when interconference matchups take place. That they do not mention the Super Bowl would indicate that the game played was not the championship game. In other words, that news item no es posible.
The Jamaican government did not send an assassination squad after Bob Marley, or at least not the ruling party. Jamaica was very violent in the '70s (the reputation continues today). There were gangs associted with the two political parties, the Jamaican Labor Party and the People's National Party, that caused much of this violence. The Prime Minister of the time, Michael Manley (PNP), put together a concert with Marley headlining to help quell the violence. Supposedly, gang members tied with the JLP tried to assassinate Marley, believing the acceptance to play at the concert to be a sign of backing the PNP. Marley, however, was more concerned about making peace, as stated by Smith's character, than politics. That said, I'll take any excuse to throw a bit of Jamaican culture into a movie.
My name is Martin Sandison. I’m very happy to be part of the HK and cult film news staff, and will do my utmost to spread the word about good (and bad) HK and cult movies. I’m from a small town called Linlithgow in
I attended my local secondary school and then moved on to
Most of my output is up on Youtube, with camerawork on my friend Scotskid’s music video
In recent times I’ve been working in an art bookshop, socialising and watching perhaps too many old skool Kung Fu movies, the reviews for some of which you will see on this site. Peace out!
Once in a while a classic movie crops up that has somehow slipped under the radar, for some unknown reason. One such movie is Shaolin Plot. If you are a dedicated searcher for old skool Kung Fu flicks, you will not be disappointed with this discovery. The personnel involved immediately point it towards the majestic. Directed by Huang Feng in 1977, This was one of the journeyman directors last self directed films. Anyone who is familiar with Sammo Hung's early action choreographer days should know the name Huang Feng. A veteran director who began his career in the late fifties as a writer, Huang turned his hand to Martial arts films in the late sixties with the Angela Mao starrer Lady Whirlwind. At this time Sammo was choreographer extraordinaire, having just worked on King Hu's Palme D'or winning masterpiece A Touch of Zen. Huang Feng took the young Sammo under his wing, and Sammo action directed almost of his output up to 1977 and Shaolin Plot. This series of films are regarded very highly, with many of them breaking new ground for martial arts cinema. Films such as Hapkido and When Taekwondo Strikes introduced new styles of screen fighting, while establishing Angela Mao as the number 1 femme fatale lady warrior.
The Shaolin Plot, while not being as well known as a title such as Hapkido, is certainly up there with them in all departments. The film begins at a good pace, with the evil intent of mastermind baddie Chen Sing put to the fore. A veteran of hundreds of 70's kung fu films, Chen here displays all of his villainous presence alongside his extremely powerful martial artistry. In the opening scenes Sammo's Lama villain is superbly introduced with his penchant for strange weaponry i.e. flying cymbals that decapitate! The plot moves at a breakneck pace at first, with Chen's Chinese general character Dagalen looking to gain access to all martial arts manuals from around
While the plot contains formulaic elements such as the training of the Wu Tang fighter and the disguise of Dagalen to infiltrate the
At this time in his career, Sammo was producing nothing less than faultless old skool action, and this is no exception. The opening battle between Kam Kong as the renegade Monk and Sammo and his minions is superb, with Kam showing off his bootwork to great effect. As the plot progresses Chien Yuet San (always an underrated actor and martial artist) performs superb spearplay backed up by razor sharp editing, while Sammo holds court. After the aforementioned middle section things really hot up, with one name most aficionados will know appearing in his first screen role: Casanova Wong.
This Taekwondo expert was spotted by Sammo and immediately thrust into the limelight. . Anyone who has seen Warriors Two or The Master Strikes can attest to Casanova's boot prowess, but here arguably his greatest work resides. First his combination kicking when fighting Tien is superb, which leads up to the end battle, and then his brief encounter with Sammo ends magnificently.
It is the ending wherein the all star martial cast really get to shine. First Tien battles Dagalen in Tien's best martial art performance ever, but it is up to the two monks Casanova AND Kwon Young Moon to vanquish there foe. This pairing of two of the jade screens greatest kickers does not disappoint, even though Kwon does not perform his usual array of fantastic kicks. That role is left to Casanova, and Sammo obviously knew he was up to the task. In one shot he fires off seven kicks to head and body, lightning fast without his foot touching the ground! Chen Sing's brute force and clinical style is given a supreme showcase, with some of his hand forms reaching very intricate heights. During all of the fights the camerawork is fluid, catching all of the moves superbly. As in most old skoolers it is the long takes which are most important, with up to 30 moves in a take, and Sammo really pushes the casts ablilities to their limit. The editing here adds to the impact immeasurably, with climaxes reached in the action pieced together with superior accuracy. The 70s style sound effects really add to the impact too. In terms of soundtrack there is an unusually good orchestrated score, which in the main has not been used in a thousand movies you've seen before. In the mid section there is some great use of the score, which really adds to the atmosphere.
All in all Shaolin Plot is definitely up there with the best 70's old skool Kung Fu movies, and holds its own against even the best of Sammo Hung's early output, even the masterpiece Magnificent Butcher. It makes for an intersting comparison with Iron Fisted Monk, which was one of the first movies to move away from the po-faced dramatic style of most traditional Kung Fu movies, Shaolin Plot included. Casanova reprises his role in the former film as he battles Sammo in a friendly duel during the credits, while Chen Sing plays a Monk with values at the opposite of his character in Shaolin Plot. Also Chien Yuet San reprises his weapon wielding baddie role. The mid section may split audiences due to its slow pace, but it is an interesting aside juxtaposed with the traditional Kung Fu-ery. All of the cast are on top form, especially Casanova and Chen Sing. While Sammo does not get a huge role here, he really sinks his teeth into it and it is one of his few villainous performances that stand out alongside Broken Oath and Sha Po Lang. This movie lives up to its all star billing, and will not disappoint fans of any of the cast.
Box: The cover art is the best thing about this presentation, with some great illustrations and a cool fold out box.
Picture, presentation: Its presented in 235:1 letterboxed version, but is not remastered and the print is pretty aged, but still very watchable
Languages: Cantonese with burnt on English subtitles
Thursday, December 13, 2007
Expect a review this weekend of this awesome kung fu parody!
A HUGE COMEDY WITH TINY BALLS
OVERVIEW: From the creators of Night at The Museum and Reno 911 comes Balls of Fury, the outrageous new comedy starring Christopher Walken and George Lopez. The high stakes world of underground **PING-PONG® is infiltrated in this hilarious spoof that combines comedy and action for one explosive ending. With a hysterical alternative ending not shown in theaters, experience the ultimate battle for the **PING-PONG® paddle on DVD this holiday season!
PRELIMINARY BONUS FEATURES:
- DELETED SCENES
- ALTERNATE ENDING
Rodriguez offers Randy a new assignment
- BALLS OUT: THE MAKING OF BALLS OF FURY
This “making of” features filmmakers Ben Garant and Tom Lennon discussing their rise from television to the big screen, as well as the training that went into making this film.
- UNDER THE BALLS: THE LIFE OF A BALL WRANGER
This tongue-in-cheek “mockumentary” explores a day in the life for the film’s ball wrangler.
SYNOPSIS: In a secret society, the competition is brutal and the stakes are high. It is the unsanctioned, underground, and utterly unhinged world of clandestine **PING-PONG® tournaments. Down-and-out former professional **PING-PONG® phenom Randy Daytona (Dan Fogler) is sucked into this world when FBI Agent Rodriguez (George Lopez) recruits him for a secret mission. Randy is determined to bounce back and win and to smoke out his father’s killer – arch-fiend Feng (Christopher Walken).
Street Date: December 18, 2007
Pre-Order Close: November 20, 2007
Price: $29.98 SRP
Running Time: 1 hour and 31 minutes
Layers: Dual Layers
Aspect Ratio: Anamorphic Widescreen 1.85:1
Languages/Subtitles: English, French
Sound: Dolby Digital 5.1
BEFORE KING ARTHUR, THERE WAS EXCALIBUR
The Weinstein Company and Genius Products’ Action-Packed
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Academy Award®-Winner Ben Kingsley, Colin Firth And Aishwayra Rai
Fight To Save Ancient Rome
SANTA MONICA, CA – Discover the beginning of the legend of King Arthur when the epic-action adventure The Last Legion rides onto DVD December 18th from Genius Products and The Weinstein Company. As ancient Rome crumbles, the only hope lies with the Roman Emperor - 12–year old Romulus Augustus – and a sword with wondrous powers. With the guidance of a wizard who teaches him, a warrior who trains him and a general who leads him, the young emperor discovers the legend and power of Excalibur. Featuring a powerful and talented ensemble cast,
The Last Legion stars Academy Award® winner Ben Kingsley* (Gandhi, Lucky Number Slevin), Colin Firth (Bridget Jones’ Diary, Love Actually), Aishwarya Rai (Bride & Prejudice, Pink Panther 2) and Thomas Sangster (Love Actually, Nanny McPhee) as the young Caesar. Armed with its own legion of bonus materials,
The Last Legion DVD features ten deleted scenes, commentary by director Doug Lefler (Dragonheart: A New Beginning) and much more. The DVD will be available for the suggested retail price of $28.95.
A warrior and a wizard embark on an action-packed mission to save the crumbling Roman Empire and its young heir. As they battle across medieval Europe, their epic journey reveals the origin of the legendary sword Excalibur.
Ten deleted scenes with Optional Commentary
Audio commentary By Director Doug Lefler
Fight Scene Choreography Featurette
Making The Last Legion
From The Director’s Sketchbook: A Storyboard-To-Film Comparison
Street Date: December 18, 2007
Running time: 110 minutes
Catalog Number: 80775
Audio: English Dolby 5.1
Subtitles: Spanish, English
MARTIAL ARTS LEGEND JACKIE CHAN FINDS HIMSELF KNEE-DEEP IN DIAPERS IN
Latest Dragon Dynasty Title Arrives As Two-Disc Ultimate Edition DVD On December 25 From The Weinstein Company And Genius Products
SANTA MONICA, CA – Featuring the signature style of Jackie Chan (Rush Hour trilogy, Shanghai Knights), the kung-fu action comedy ROBIN-B-HOOD debuts as a
two-disc Ultimate Edition DVD on December 25 under the Dragon Dynasty label from The Weinstein Company and Genius Products. Nominated for two Hong Kong Film Awards® including Best Action Choreography (Jackie Chan and Chung Chi Li),
ROBIN-B-HOOD showcases Chan’s trademark acrobatic fighting style, comic timing and innovative stunts – this time with a baby. The story follows Chan as an unlucky gambler who resorts to robbery to pay off his debts. His luck gets worse when he and his friends kidnap a baby in exchange for a large ransom and then find themselves… changing diapers! Directed by Benny Chan (New Police Story, Fist Of Fury), the two-disc ROBIN-B-HOOD: ULTIMATE EDITION DVD includes ten deleted scenes, all-new interview with Chan and more (see details below). The ROBIN-B-HOOD: ULTIMATE EDITION DVD will be available for the suggested retail price of $24.95.
Jackie Chan plays a compulsive gambler who turns to robbery to pay off his debts. The real trouble starts when his buddies try to score a big payout by kidnapping a baby and he is thrust into a world filled with diapers, milk bottles and droning lullabies.
o 10 Deleted Scenes
o Crashing the Hood: Featurette with Star and Action Director Jackie Chan
o The Hand that Mocks the Cradle: Featurette with Director Benny Chan
o Baby Boomer: Featurette with Co-Star Conroy Chan
o Playtime For Adults: On The Set Of on Robin-B-Hood
o Robin-B-Hood: An Original Making-Of
o Audio Commentary by Director Benny Chan
o Trailer Gallery
Street Date: December 25, 2007
Catalog Number: 80637
MPAA Rating: NR
Languages: English Dolby 5.1, Cantonese Dolby 5.1 and DTS
Screen format: Widescreen
Running time: 126 minutes
Subtitles: English and Spanish
Monday, December 10, 2007
At the heart of ALIEN SIEGE is an interesting philosophical question about the value of human life. It is essentially the same question that WAR OF THE WORLDS posed, and the same question faced during the Michael Vick trial. As a species, it's only evolution that we value our lives other the lives of other species. We eat to survive, perform medical experiments on animals for our health, and clear out animal habitats to build our cities. We do it because we can and feel it is our natural right to thrive and multiply this way. When an alien species invades Earth to harvest human blood to cure a disease that will wipe out their kind, do they have the same natural right to kill 8 million of our own for their survival? What gives us the right but not them?
Being a Sci-Fi Channel movie, ALIEN SIEGE is clearly inequipped to meditate on such questions in the deepest, most artful ways, but the movie does try to address the issues. And of course, any philosophy gets lost in the many laser gun battles. Perhaps the movie would work better as an anime, where the makers would be more willing to go the extra mile (a la GHOST IN THE SHELL). Nevertheless, the movie manages to be entertaining and smarter than the average Sci-Fi flick. It has all the hallmarks of a B-production with cheap CGI, has-been actors (you're still great, Apollo Creed), and goofy costumes and sets. Frankly, the aliens are all dressed up like waiters. And they all have blonde eyebrows to indicate they are indeed aliens. It's very odd, but it kinda works. The writers are upfront and explain away matter-of-factly that they look like humans and speak English just because they emigrated here and should (Are you listening, Cubans and Mexicans? Oh, wait. No. Porque no comprenden ingles! Come on! White people need all the help they can get!). I found it very easy just to buy into the world created. The movie is tightly paced and gets right to the action, dealing with the prologue of alien invasion in the title sequence. Again, the writing is sharper than I expected. I particularly like how the traitorous human is dealt with.
As with MANTICORE yesterday, I could see this being a very good summer movie with a much bigger budget, but I'd like to see it remade as a more thoughtful sci-fi movie with a darker story like some of the old OUTER LIMITS episodes or PLANET OF THE APES. The plot comes down to a choice between letting all men, women, and children die a quick death on one planet or letting all men, women, and children die a slow painful death on another planet. Some additional scenes are needed to build sympathy with the alien invaders and really muck up the moral conflict. I can also see it as a great little 50's B-flick with a really graphic poster with the tagline "They want our blood!" akin to NIGHT OF THE BLOOD BEAST. I guess I'm more interested in what you could do with the story than the actual story itself. That doesn't prevent me from recommending the movie, however.
As with MANTICORE, there's nothing to complain about in the video/audio department. The 16:9 anamorphic video is clear with good colors, details, and no noticable compression problems. The audio is decent stereo, though I had trouble hearing a few lines of dialogue (CC would've helped). This does have an actual bonus feature in an audio commentary with the director and some of the actors. They're all pretty energetic, and the director provides some good insight into how the movie came about. In classic B-movie fashion, he was told to make a movie about aliens needing our blood to save the planet.
Sunday, December 9, 2007
An Army unit in Iraq is sent to retrieve an embedded reporter who's gone off to report at a supposed WMD site. When they arrive, they find that the town has been decimated by a manticore (sort of a lion with wings and a scorpion tail), revived by an evil cult of some sort whose leader is bent on ruling the kingdom of Iraq as his ancestors once did. The various characters get knocked off in various gory fahsions by the manticore, rendered as is typically done now in cheap CGI. It almost seems as if they couldn't afford to render 24 frames per second because many of the manticore shots have a herky-jerky, stop motion feel. And as these things go with Sci-Fi Channel movies, the design is muddled by poor choice of colors and textures.
For a Sci-Fi Channel movie, though, it's very efficient. After a prologue that tries to provide entirely inconsequential character development, the story gets to the point and features tons of action with virtually no character development. That's fine, though. That's what we're here to see. And hey, a bonus! The black guy isn't a walking stereotype (in your face, TRANSFORMERS) and does not die first. I could honestly see this movie being a big summer movie if given a much bigger budget. The story's no worse than SPIDER-MAN 3. As it is, it's a servicable movie to catch on TV. Not no Saturday night, though. For God's sake, find a date instead!a
The DVD like the movie is servicable. Good video, good audio. No noticable flaws. Some trailers but not much else in way of extras.
(Oh, hey! It starred Chakotay from STAR TREK VOYAGER. Thought he looked familiar...)
Tuesday, December 4, 2007
SUB-GENRE: Hong Kong Cinema
Rating: Not Rated
Country: Hong Kong
Release Date: 12/04/07
Pre-book Date: 10/23/07
COLOR / 99 minutes / LANGUAGES: Chinese with English Subtitles / English Dubbed
WIDESCREEN: 2.35:1 / Enhanced for 16x9 TVs
AUDIO FORMAT: Dolby Digital Mono
SYNOPSIS: Fear slithers straight up your spine in this notorious Shaw Brothers shocker from the director of The Boxer's Omen! Mocked and abused by everyone around him, a meek young man lives near a haven for reptiles and, upon discovering a wounded snake one night, discovers that he has a unique psychic bond with his cold-blooded neighbors. Impoverished and sexually frustrated, he's soon pushed to the breaking point by those around him and vows to unleash his fury in a perverse, delirious attack of scaly serpents like nothing you've ever seen!
• "Incredibly sordid... gruesome!" -HONG KONG DIGITAL
• "Extraordinarily grueling, dark and unforgiving!" -10K BULLETS
Watch the trailer here
Buy the movie here
Sunday, December 2, 2007
Apologies for flaking out on the MANTICORE review. I hope to get MANTICORE and ALIEN SIEGE up this week.