Category — action
Last week’s Game of Thrones episode, The Mountain and the Viper, featuring Prince Oberyn [Pedro Pascal]’s pre-climactic proficiency with the blood spear during combat with “the Mountain” Gregor Clegane [Hafþór Júlíus Björnsson] vaguely reminded me of IOC favorite Lau Kar Leung‘s Legendary Weapons of China (1982), which features a similar weapon. And since everyone knows that here at the isle we love us some good kung fu, and everyone should know that kung fu doen’t get any gooder than in LKL’s Shaw Brothers films, we thought we’d revisit a scene from said movie. A pioneer of action filmmaking who got his start choreographing under director Chang Cheh and worked his way up to creating some of the most vibrant and perennial films of the genre [incl. Eight Diagram Pole Fighter, The 36th Chamber of Shaolin, Dirty Ho, Heroes of the East, Shaolin Mantis and everything that’s ever influenced anything], LKL’s plots spring from a core belief in the peaceful way of the warrior, espouse respect for one’s enemy and convey the martial artist’s goal of attaining spiritual excellence through personal mastery. Having said all that, let us not forget that his flicks are also a feast of first rate acro-combatic pyrotechnics, especially when the director steps in front of the camera, as he does here with brother Lau Kar Wing, a fine director and choreographer in his own right. Watch the pair face off using the 18 weapons and muse on the fate of Oberyn: Think Lau would ever taunt an opponent when he’s down? That’s not the Martial Artist’s way – which is what this legendary filmmaker, the embodiment of Kung Fu, spent his life trying to teach: humility in victory. Which incidentally will also help keep your eyes where they belong – inside your head.
June 7, 2014 No Comments
Now here’s a few somethings you don’t see every day: 1.) giant monsters working together in a complicated tactical formation, 2.) the same tail-skating you see in common lizards in nature, but this time on a grand scale, and 3.) gleeful fist-pumping enthusiasm from a legendary kaiju. Unquestionably one of the lowlights from the entire franchise, the above scene comes from Jun Fukuda‘s 1973 Gojira tai Megaro. Notice the subtle way robot Jet Jaguar invites Godzilla to take another flying drop kick at Megalon. And notice that for some reason the kaiju are battling atop the World Trade Center in the US release poster, no doubt to tap into the popularity of producer Dino De Laurentiis‘ King Kong (1976).
Excited yet? Check out the poster and feast your eyes on the increase in creature scale:
March 17, 2014 No Comments
An alien from planet Krypton crash lands on Earth and is raised by a couple from Kansas who protect him from the world as he matures into one of the most powerful beings in existence: the whole of Earth is no doubt familiar with Superman‘s origin story by now – whether from comic books or film, odds are you’re aware of Kal-El/aka Clark Kent/aka Supes. So in launching Man Of Steel  director Zack Snyder has taken a risk tackling the iconic character and risking Super-franchise fatigue from the get go. But with the guidance of Legendary Pics producer Christopher Nolan, screenwriter David S. Goyer and composer Hans Zimmer, he manages to add a few twists to Jerry Siegel & Joe Shuster beloved Superman mythology, creating a film that – while not exactly fresh – is nevertheless chock-full of a vibrant confidence and plenty of tentpole swagger to justify the relaunch of a once proud franchise. Moments of bad dialogue and heavy-handed (unavoidable) exposition aside, Man Of Steel gets so much correct that it should have no problems ushering in a new flock of fans. Huge scope, high stakes and grand action sequences make this pound for pound the most entertaining Superman film to date – though NOT the BEST FILM – that’s undeniably Richard Donner & Christopher Reeve‘s Superman . I’m just saying this film is a huge tentpole that will easily step on a lot of this season’s blockbuster hopes with its huge red boots. This is no small feat when you consider the franchise was near death following the last attempt at a reboot, Superman Returns . The interesting thing about Man Of Steel is its unusual narrative, loaded with flashbacks that could have been a mess but instead mirror the fractured mind of a person… um, alien… who is lost and confused, a Stranger in a Strange Land. And it works; the structure IS Superman. The minds behind Man Of Steel were smart not to try to emulate the earnestness we associate with the John Williams anthem-ed classic, instead creating a character that is larger than even the filmmakers themselves. And their interpretation works. Aided by a truly remarkable performance from Henry Cavill, there’s a ton of emotion on top of two tons of action, creating a character who’s accessible despite his super-humanity. He’s just plain likable; the ultimate boy scout, lonely and lost, a tortured soul who happens to go by the name of Kal-El from Krypton. Cavill fills the larger than life role with great poise, and while there’s no red underwear on display (sorry ladies), rest assured the dude looks a’ight in that S suit. And the supporting cast is super tight too: Kevin Costner brings irascible heart to protective foster parent Jonathan Kent, Michael Shannon (Boardwalk Empire, Take Shelter, and the classic Michael Shannon Reads the Insane Delta Gamma Sorority Letter video short) brings his notorious crazy eyed intensity to self-righteous heavy General Zod, while Antje Traue steals the show as Faorah-Ul, an instant classic badass! And the action sequences!?!? Exactly what you’d expect if Supes was real: mass destruction courtesy of pissed-off Kryptonians, with Metropolitans (residents of Metropolis?) caught in the crossfire. So much carnage it’s almost another in the line of apocalypse films. And since with huge scope comes huge cost you’ll find yourself snickering at some in-your-face-product-placement in all that smoldering rumble! In short, I had a damn good time, and hope DC Comics uses this as the bar when they attempt the inevitable sequel. So if you’re tired of superhero flicks I’ve got bad news for you: if they continue to be this bold and adventurous they’re here to stay.
June 20, 2013 No Comments
Most franchises fizzle out, lose steam or simply get run into the ground. In some rare cases – I’m looking at you Harry Potter – they actually get better and better as they approach the end of their saga. The Marvel run (separated chronologically into “Phase 1″ and “Phase 2″) shows no sign of dissipating as it aims for the upper echelon of comic book cinematic history. Simply put, Iron Man 3 is a solid chapter in Tony Stark’s arc, that rare third installment that’s strong enough to stand alone and smart enough to mine the past. But you’re one of the critics who hated Iron Man 2 (2010). You ask me, “Hey Rockie, what makes this IM so special?” Well, look no further than the film’s director – Shane Black, who’s has been a consistent Hollywood talent for decades, the man who pioneered blending hard R action with hard R humor like some crazy sleazy alchemist. His scripts for the Lethal Weapon films (directed by Richard Donner) still impress with their seamless blend of action and character, and my personal favorite – The Last Boy Scout (1991) – is a sublime marriage of Black’s WTF? loaded script with Tony Scott‘s slick direction. And who knew that his directorial debut, the underrated Kiss Kiss Bang Bang (2005) would be a hint of things to come – as he then joined up with Robert Downey Jr. for a voiceover-fueled neo-noir and now does so again, on a much grander scale. Over the course of Black’s IM3, as Tony Stark has to dig deep to conquer his problems, we get a glimpse of that sardonic, action-packed, character-centric humor that made Black a millionaire screenwriter. When we meet Stark he’s reeling from the New York attack that took place in The Avengers, manically struggling to juggle his Mach suits and personal life, and feeling vulnerable and exposed. He’s a man with a lot of gadgets who’s in constant need of human support: whether from his constantly put-upon girlfriend Pepper Potts (Gwyneth Paltrow), complete strangers (he teams up with a small boy in whom he sees a lot of himself), or the hilariously named Iron Patriot (Don Cheadle), a militarized version of Stark himself. When a new terrorist threat (The Mandarin – an instant classic thanks to Sir Ben Kingsley and some clever writing) invades the defenses of the President Of The United States (what the William Sadler!?), Tony’s arrogant hubris bubbles over – a theme intrinsic to the Iron Man series and character. Not only does Stark have the Mandarin to deal with but also AIM – a group of scientists led by Guy Pearce – which IM3 ushers into the Marvel film world for no doubt future fun. All this – and the steady array of innovative Mach suits concocted by the brains behind IM3 – makes for a wonderful mix of action/adventure which will dazzle and amaze. There are some great supporting roles on display, including Rebecca Hall, adding some twitchy-face action, and the underrated James Badge Dale (check him out in my personal fave The Grey) as an explosively scene-chewing henchman. And have I mentioned this film is hilarious, with well-placed humor nicely balancing the action out? I have? Ok. Point is I loved Iron Man 3 because it manages to do everything right, taking elements of part one (the prototype tech and ‘geez, I hope this works’ shenanigans), elements of part 2 (‘A God Can Bleed!’), and introducing us to new elements (War Machine/Iron Patriot), all while managing to entertain and never stalling in the process. And by turning Stark into a humbled human this installment has made him into an even greater hero, one you actually care about. It’s a solid “Phase 2″ kick-off with Shane Black proving he’s the man for this (and other) job(s). Hey Marvel: more like this please!
May 8, 2013 No Comments