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Great Scenes – LEGENDARY WEAPONS OF CHINA

18 เจ้าอาวุธมหาประลัย

Last week’s Game of Thrones episode, The Mountain and the Viperfeaturing Prince Oberyn [Pedro Pascal]’s pre-climactic proficiency with the blood spear during combat with “the Mountain” Gregor Clegane [Hafþór Júlíus Björnssonvaguely 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 HoHeroes 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.

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June 7, 2014   No Comments

Great Scenes – LADY IS THE BOSS

I recently went to see RZA‘s Man with the Iron Fists (2012) hoping for a glimpse of that old Shaw Brothers magic I love so well – and though it was undoubtedly watchable, I was disappointed that besides for a fantastic title sequence and the brief presence of Chen Kuan Tai and Gordon Liu, it seemed to be missing the LOVE I expected to see from a genre fan and Wu-Tang man. So like an addict I ran home and popped in the nearest Lau Kar Leung flick, Lady is the Boss (1983) – by no means a great film save for this amazing ending, which features the director’s company (many of them his students) referencing the hits in a medley of manic action. We get Venom Sun Chien kicking formal ass (in bow tie) against perennial monk Gordon Liu, escalating into more self-referential goodness when Mad Monkey Hsiao Hou bursts on the scene with some insane acrobatics. And watching the ending, in which Sifu Leung faces off against Wang Lung Wei, I realize why I love these movies so much – because they feature actual ACTING, moments of reality where actors react to wounds, or hesitate before taking a new strategy, or reach for a nearby dumbell to use as a weapon – which give the fighting a realism rarely seen in modern martial arts, where everything’s choreographed to the point of boredom and directors have to turn to indulgence like slo-motion, ridiculous split screen, or over-the-top gore to maintain our interest. No thanks. I’ll take LKL and the Brothers Shaw anyday.

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November 20, 2012   2 Comments

Great Scenes – LEON

There are many fine performances in Luc Besson’s unhinged tale of a hit man with a heart of gold. Jean Reno strikes a perfect balance of nonchalant brutality and childlike vulnerability as the film’s titular “cleaner” and Natalie Portman pretty much set a bar for performances from child actors that wouldn’t be cracked until Lena Leandersson wreaked bloody havoc across the screen in Let The Right One In. However, it is Gary Oldman’s role as corrupt DEA agent Stansfield that really made the movie shine. Popping pills and rocking out to Beethoven, Oldman redefined drug-feuled scenery chewing in a manner that would make Dennis Hopper uncomfortable. While it is true that every time he stepped in front of the camera Oldman delivered a display of unhinged genius, it was the kill-crazy rampage he brought down on Matilda’s family that was his master stroke. Besson’s camera seems to be fleeing from his psychotic death march as he jerkily blasts his way through the hallways of a cramped NYC tenement building, raining buckshot and classical music upon all who stand in his way. Of particular note is the highly realistic looking shotgunning of the woman in the bathtub, which stands as a testament to the fact that, when he is not disappearing up his own ass, Besson is one of the best action directors in the business.

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July 28, 2011   No Comments

Great Scenes – RAISING ARIZONA

 

A simple diaper run becomes one of the greatest chases ever put on the silver screen in the Coen brothers’ classic comedy ‘Raisng Arizona’.  Hi, played to perfection by a unpredictable Nic Cage, is a felon who’s very familiar with prison life.  A repeat offender who not only marries the cop (the bat shit crazy Holly Hunter) who took his mug shot, he also kidnaps an infant from a wealthy family in the hopes of one day raising a family.  After stopping at a local corner store for some Huggies, Hi falls into old habits when he tries to get the diapers for free using the classic gun/panty hose combo. This, of course, is where things go south.  From here, we are strung along like a rag-doll by the brilliant camera work of then-cinematographer, Barry Sonnenfeld and the solid action directing from the Coen brothers.  Layers of action and comedy peel away with a perfect effortlessness that even most pure action films can never hope to achieve. As chaotic as it gets, the audience will never get lost in the action, and believe me, it gets chaotic. A remarkable kitchen sink of a chase scene, Hi’s run is for the ages.  It’s pure madcap bliss.  Enjoy.

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July 4, 2011   No Comments

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