Archive for the ‘martial arts’ Category

The Dollar Store Movie Experience

I have a problem. Many in fact. Today, however, I’ll discuss just this one. I have a vice. I cannot for the life of me stray from purchasing movies. Thankfully this habit won’t result in my being destitute (unless the wife tires of me) as I purchase said films from a location whose doors open under the bold font legend of “Everything is a Dollar”. Can you see why I might have the problem that I do?

In an attempt to make a dent in my movie collection, for I have quite a few piles perilously close to toppling over, I’m all for marathon viewing (if I’m given the opportunity to do so) and a few words on what assaults the retinas. What say we begin with a varied genre assault in the retinas?

Assassination (2015) South Korea


A promotional poster

Writer – Dong-Hoon Choi, Ki- Cheol Lee

Director- Dong-Hoon Choi

Runtime – 139 minutes

Wellgo USA


Treachery, double-crossing, espionage and determination to the cause. Set in the 1930’s against the backdrop of Japan’s take-over of Korea this film showcases atrocities and the dedication of the people to get out from under Japan’s rule. Stunning performances, lavish, elegant production values with attention to detail, smart writing and top-notch directing make this a fantastic way to spend the better part of an evening. Honestly, this is the best value for a single dollar I believe I’ve ever received. If you’re up for Subs (you need to pay attention to), an epic story rife with historical context and plenty of excellently choreographed action; this is a must see!

Trailer courtesy of Fresh Movie Trailers


Honeymoon (2014) USA


Writer – Phil Graziadei, Leigh Janiak

Director- Leigh Janiak

Runtime – 87 minutes



A newly-wed couple heads to the woods to celebrate their Honeymoon. Yes, it’s a cabin, of sorts, stop me if this sounds familiar. They’re happy and it shows, horny too but that’s to be expected. Then one night an incident happens, much in a similar vein to that which earned the original Evil Dead its “Nasty” moniker and status. The “incident” and visuals are left to the imagination though there’s definitely something amiss. Paul (the husband) played by Harry Treadaway suspects the same. Bea, Rose Leslie, is acting strange, rather odd to be certain. But what exactly is going on? Who’s responsible? Are there alien forces at work, Bigfoot, ‘Nessy’ with breathing apparatus and a high-powered torch? What exactly is going on?

Trailer courtesy of Arrow Films

There are plenty of questions here to answer. One thing though is that this is a quality production. Honeymoon shines with an ominous aura and a potent uncomfortableness. A low budget shocker for sure, a little slow at times but there’s a payoff close to the finale which is grisly and unexpected. Overall, this delivers though might deter a few viewers based on its approach and pace.


Big Bad Wolves (2013) Israel


Written and Directed by Aharon Keshales and Navot Papushado

Runtime – 110 minutes


United Films

From the film’s opening you get a sense of style, panache. Everything even down to the facial expression of the actors (in this case children playing hide and seek in an abandoned house) is sublime, top notch. The soundtrack adds another element yet to make one immediately fascinated.

Trailer courtesy of Movieclips Indie

The film continues in much the same fashion. A serial killer is on the loose, a victim’s father is on the prowl and a cop has a good idea of who’s to blame. As it happens their suspect is one and the same. Their lives become entangled, one thing leads to another and torture becomes the name of the game. Add delicious dark humor and you have a film which Tarantino hailed as “…the film of the year”. Quite honestly, I tend to agree, this has all the makings for a classic with an ambiance few films attempt but rarely achieve and should not be missed. Sure, it has Subs but it only makes you want to pay more attention, and for a feature of this caliber one shouldn’t mind in the slightest.


Psychopaths (2016) USA


Writer/Director – Mickey Keating

Runtime – 85 minutes

Glass Eye Pix

Dizzying, brutal and surreal this feature showcases the essence of famed serial killer Earl Starkweather as it permeates a surrounding radius following his execution. It doesn’t help that an accident has resulted in a local insane Asylum inmates sudden lease on freedom.  There are kills aplenty here but also enough artsy moments to have many want to run for the hills. Part art (stage performance fair), part music video (albeit experimental in tone) and part horror this is certainly a polarizing viewing experience. Ashley Bell steals the show with a stunning portrayal of a schizophrenic, both sides of which are in constant combat for control. Another role worthy of note is Jeremy Gardner’s “Cop”. An authority figure with a feral dark side which rises to surface when an eruption of violence hits too close to home. “Blondie” portrayed by Angela Trimbur is a fantastic example of an individual with a hidden dark side which one would never guess. Only three of the characters here which make this feature rather an interesting watch. A folksy, vintage, rock soundtrack lends the film a antiquated edge which borders on Grindhouse in instances.

Trailer courtesy of UHM Upcoming Horror Movies

Overall, this is quite the slab of depraved, intriguing and different celluloid boasting a myriad of elements which work in its favor though an overall feel which may turn some away before its finale.


Power Kids (aka Force of Five) 2009 Thailand


Writers- Nonont Kontaweesook, Napalee, Nontakorn Thaweesuk, Piyaros Thongdee

Director- Krissanapong Rachata

Runtime – 77 minutes

Sahamonkolifilm International

A Maui Tai teacher cares for five youngsters, one of which, the youngest, is deathly ill. Their adventures result in their youngest siblings ending up in the hospital. Incidentally, at the same time a US ambasador visits as too a militia group with various demands. The kids are soon caught in the “crossfire”. With their brother at risk they scheme to resolve the situation by any means necessary. This means plenty of gymnastic high-flying face-kicking (Tony Jaa style) action with a ton of dumb looking criminals firing machine guns wily-nily.

Although this is dubbed and there’s a cultural gap the film still manages to tug at the heartstrings and provides a few laughs depending on, naturally, the viewers demeanor and willingness to subject their senses to non-Hollywood action affairs. The choreography and action are commendable with a myriad of note-worthy epic fight scenes, many doused in humor, standing out to steal the production.

Trailer courtesy of incredibly Strange Movies

Overall, a somewhat light-hearted way (bearing in mind my usual genre of choice is brutal horror/comedy) to waste close to 80 minutes. Admittedly I’m not so sure about the credits scene where the children are caned, (I’m guessing it’s a common practice where the film was produced?) but that goes to show one of the cultural differences I was referring to earlier.


C’mon, there’s gotta be something here?

Have fun exploring, digging through, the piles of forgotten gems within the dusty shelves of the Dollar Stores. I know I do. Until next time, happy viewing.


Scorching the Retinas – First Love

First Love (2019)

first love poster art

Writer – Masa Nakamura
Director – Takashi Miike
Runtime – 108 minutes
Well Go USA Entertainment
Hanway Films
Recorded Picture Company

Takaschi Miike has made over one-hundred films. The “Centennial” was recently marked by his Samurai epic Immortal Blade. His work blankets many a genre, ranging from the bizarre (Visitor Q) to Crime epics (the Dead Alive trilogy, Ichi the Killer), Samurai features (overflowing with homage to the classics 13 Assassins is a must watch) to Yakuza films with many others scattered in between, one cannot seriously forget the cult hit Audition. In instances Miike’s films even veer toward the family friendly arena. First Love, the film in question here, is must definitely not of that variety (obviously parenting styles vary dramatically, let’s just say this isn’t a film I’d let my youngest lay eyes upon anytime soon).

(Trailer courtesy of Well Go USA Entertainment)

In typical Miike fashion First Love commences on the “slow burn” train introducing quite brilliantly the myriad of the film’s most important characters, the antagonists the protagonists (who change places on a constant rotation) in turn, their relationships to each (in many cases there isn’t, until much later in the film) and the films realistic, every day, locations.

first-love locations

Here we see a spot of greenery in Tokyo as well a troubled girl and a boxer

Among the characters; the Yakuza, the Chinese Triad, a “troubled” girl who is forced to pay off her father’s debt, a promising boxer who has suddenly become unable to fight and a dirty cop. Somehow and in riotous fashion their paths collide. As one might assume, as this is a crime/gangster film of sorts drugs are involved and the majority of the film revolves around those involved trying to get their hands on the case within which the powder resides. With wrongful accusations and fingers being pointed, on assumptions not facts, paths cross at an alarming rate climaxing in the film’s final showdown which takes place in a hardware superstore (of sorts).

Without throwing spoilers around wily-nily, much like t-shirts from a cannon (designed for such purpose) at a ballgame, I’ll remark upon what makes First Love such an enjoyable watch.

First Love suited Yakuza

May I introduce the clean suited rank and file of the Tokyo Yakuza

Somehow, Miike has managed to blend brutal underworld Yakuza shenanigans with that of a darkly humorous nature which lends the film an air of relatable reality. After all, not all carefully laid plans go accordingly and such is the case here. Criminals (usually the same one each time time) blunder into situations predicting the outcome only to have all manner of calamity slip into the mix. Of several standout scenes (the whole film blazes with a quality which is mesmerizing) one includes a kidnapper with deviant penchants finding his come-uppance when his face meets a high heeled foot rather the aroma, he wished his nose to bath in (this will make sense upon watching). Another includes the abrupt dispatching of an elderly roommate who just happened to walk in upon a scene involving sedation and duct tape.

First love yuris dad

Strike a pose. Vogue.

The “troubled girl’ mentioned above, Yuri, adds to many of the films “funnier” moments. She suffers from hallucinations and believes her abusive father is following here. Obviously, that isn’t the humorous part. Moments of levity exist as her companions realize she’s disappeared and choose to chase after her throughout the film, in fact many of the reasons why the film takes such turns is the cause of her visions and her reactions to such. One scene finds her listening to music and snickering as she sees her Father dance along to the tunes in her head.

First Love kick to the balls

How dare you want to sniff my panties

Although the film shines with standout moments, of which there are plenty, the dialogue is top notch serving up quotes aplenty in situations ranging from the absurd to the harrowing and horrific. Character portrayal and the acting showcased here is superbly executed, a staple I’m glad to report which exists in all of the Miike features I’ve previously enjoyed. The film flows at a beautiful pace and stays from confusing/hard to comprehend realms even taking into account the vast coverage (and exploration) of characters and their paths in order to pull the story line to its conclusion.

The soundtrack is in need of mentioning and in typical Miike fashion fits wonderfully adding depth where it’s needed and tension where appropriate. Even the sudden inclusion and interruption by maniacal jazz elements (which might first appear odd and out of place) heightens the sense of the chaotic experience.

*** Local Caption *** Hatsukoi, TAKASHI Miike, Japan/GB 2019, V'19, Features

May I have your attention shoppers. Shit is about to go down in aisle B1.

Much like any gangster feature this one is also expectedly bloody, though it doesn’t glorify violence by depicting in unflinching detail the brutality taking place. Rather it handles it in a classy manner, many nodding towards the director’s adoration of remarkable historic and fiction-based samurai epics from years past. The action/fight scenes are tight, choreographed as not to be too fantastically outside the realm of possibility and are directed perfectly straying from lengths which might make the more jaded upon us salivate in excitement. The film even features ‘set pieces’ to expand upon the boxers back story to reiterate that he isn’t a superhero but rather an innocent bystander pulled into a situation which is wildly unfolding around him.

first love poster (japanese silk art print)

In conclusion, because I believe I could waffle on about what makes this film do damn watchable at great lengths, First Love is a film which demands respect, is more than worthy of the acclaim it’s garnering and is a must watch. A blurb on the films cover (courtesy of Indiewire) states “violent, hilarious and violently hilarious” A statement I wholeheartedly agree with though only wish were my words.

tichashi miike


In closing, do not be like me. Don’t let this be a film you place on a shelf and forget about.  It warrants eyes upon it and pronto. Bathe in the mastery of Miike. He’s, simply put, a genius of his craft.


Dollar Store Movies – Immortal Demon Slayer

Dollar Movies Header

Immortal Demon Slayer (aka The Tales of Wukong)
Writer – Hai Huang, Hezai Jin, Chi-Kin Kwok, Fan Wen Wen, Henri Wong
Director – Derek Kwok
Runtime – 123 minutes


Welcome to yet another movie piece. A slab of scribbles in which I waffle on about my viewing experiences with a movie I’ve plucked from my collection featuring various films picked up at the insane price of a single dollar. Obviously, there’s not much you can do with a dollar these days. Perhaps a candy bar, a bargain priced burger (you’ll need a few cents for tax depending on where you live), a taco, small fries or a thimble full of the fizzy stuff. Hardly enough to sate any appetite. So, what of celluloid purchased for the same price?

(Trailer Courtesy of YouTube Movies)

In this instance I couldn’t resist. I’m a sucker for fantastical martial arts mayhem and subtitles and that’s exactly what the cover to this film promises. The accompanying text alludes to what many might know as the mystery surrounding The Monkey King. I vividly remember a series on British television in the early eighties with much the same premise which, though rather silly, was thoroughly entertaining. In recent years, actually the last twenty years or so, there have been a slew of entries in much the same arena. But what of this? Honestly, I’m not one to compare this film with the myth/folklore it’s based upon. Instead, I’ll merely talk of the film itself.

immortal demon slayer art

From the very beginning IDS offers luxurious, extravagant set pieces and costumes ranging from suits of armor to spectacularly decorated ensembles one might expect to see in The Hunger Games. There’s no doubt, even this far in, that this is a lofty budgeted affair. But it gets better. The main characters, a mischievous “Princess” (played by Ni Ni) and Sun Woking (who some might think of as The Monkey King), played by both Eddie Peng and Eddie Pang, are introduced within no time within a scene which opens the eyes and sets the bar high for the remainder of the film.

Immortal Demon Slayer setup 4 fight

Dust swirls and bodies bounce from one side of the screen to the other amidst a myriad of high wired stunts and video game styled fighting antics. Although fast and furious there’s little crimson on display keeping this at a somewhat playful level for most to enjoy. The film progresses blossoming wonderfully on the backstory of the main characters and the reasoning as to why they are the way they are. In this case there’s trouble in the Heavens, a power struggle, control issues and a debt to be settled but there’s a whole ton more than that which I will refrain from elaborating upon.  Rather than spoil any potential viewers enjoyment, I will comment on why I believe this film works.

immortal dragon slayer why dos it work

So, tell me O Wise One what makes this… watchable?

IDS (an abbreviation to save digit fatigue) boasts a fluid story line, in fact a myth which many might wish to explore further. The film sports characters one can relate to, probably not at first but as they develop and the film rolls out they begin to take on more human characteristics as opposed to the enigmatic Immortals they are portrayed as. Humor is used expertly as well as lightening the mood it works to bring many of the main characters ‘down to earth’. Obviously, one of the films major draws is its action, of which there is plenty, and brilliant choreography. Fluid, fast paced and often surprisingly inventive it will please those newcomers fascinated by the genre and those who frequently dwell in what it has to offer. Larger than life the on-screen antics frequently run into the fantastical boasting wizard-like gymnastic moves and weapons of a dazzling amorphous nature wielding continent shattering might.

immortal demon slayer weapon

Cor blimey! That’s big!

However, IDS isn’t all about conflict, unearthly weaponry, fate/destiny and revenge. It also touches upon heart break, human emotions, the perils of being Immortal, overcoming obstacles and the power of determination and dedication. Add to that scenic views which are breathtaking, backdrops which are stellar and special effects of the highest quality you have a film which delivers in every aspect. The soundtrack is grandiose, fits and adds just the right amount of emotion where it’s needed. Although there might be one or two scenes which some might find a little ‘sappy’.

immortal demon slayer a sappy moment

What. I needed something to punch and he was there!

All in all, if you’re wishing to experience a dazzling display of the surreal and the fantastical slathered in mythical themes blanketed in force of nature back flipping, spinning, high -kicking action it doesn’t get much better than this. Naturally, you have to have the patience and willingness to read SUBS while watching in order to be able to enjoy this (although I’m sure there’s a dubbed version available).  I enjoyed IDS from start to finish and honestly didn’t look at my cell phone once, either for the time or to check anything, that’s a sign of a good film, right? And this is! Make time for this especially if you’re in the market for a spot of ‘light-hearted’ escapism.



Scorching the Retinas – Dollar Store Movies; Ultimate Justice

Dollar Movies Header

It’s Dollar Movie Time! Up for discussion this week is another I’ve picked up at an ungodly cheap price at one of my many favorite establishments.

Ultimate Justice (2017) Germany

ultimate justice movie

Writers – Marcos Theiss, Mike Leeder, Nicola Nauen.
Director – Martin Christopher Bode
Runtime – 94 minutes
Vision Films
International Film Partners
Silent Partners

Heavily dubbed and channeling the success and interest sparked from the Expendable films this features the talents of Mark – yes, I am the same; the Iron Chef – Decascos and a motley crew of assorted action film star look-alikes. There’s a fellow who looks like Dolph Lundgren and several others who will most definitely get those wheels a spinning. Ironically though this was produced in Germany, not the Eastern bloc (typically Bulgaria) where prices are significantly lower to shot than in Hollywood.


Nope, not “The Expendables”

Money, mercenaries and bad guys are what gets this feature rolling from the get go. Naturally, there are explosions aplenty, firepower to spare and sufficient gunshot wounds to make any emergency room attendee at New York General (yes, I’m sure that’s not the name. But you get the idea) wince. What isn’t expected however is the early on made for television emotion and suitable (piano tinkering) soundtrack to match.

(Trailer courtesy of Fantastic Movie Trailers Universe)

Following the cordite smoke high energy introduction and the feely/touchy bits the film transforms (again) into more a social get together to settle a revenge score. Cue a montage in which several larger than life characters are introduced (in their own environments) righting specific social wrongs via their special attributes and skills (it all sounds a bit cliché, it’s been done before but it highlights the films choreographers skill and some of the casts talent in swinging their limbs about wildly with maximum effect). Now the team is assembled, within no time seriously, the research begins. So just who deserves the stern ‘talking off’?

ultimate justice fkn ouch

Dammit, sorry I ate the last one. Forgive me FFS!

Apparently, the collective’s leader has been robbed, his wife has been touched more than just a little inappropriately and his pride as well the majority of his torso has been bruised significantly.  If only it were as easy as all that though. With money and hired “killers” being involved there’s bound to be the highest bidder gets ‘the action’ scenario, and there is. But enough about possible spoilers. The film features enough fight scenes to please the casual viewer probably not the hardened martial arts fan to be honest, the action isn’t bad (it introduces up and comer Mike Möller for all those wishing that on screen heroes weren’t so […um] larger than life), better than most in fact, certainly better than the majority of features bearing the same budget and sports a somewhat family friendly over the top Jackie Chan feel most certainly not the crimson, bone crunching kind witnessed within “The Raid Redemption”, “The Iron Protector” or “The Night Comes for Us”. The fighters exchange damage rather than merely dishing it out one sided, to give this a relatable everyday person edge rather than a superhero type nothing can touch me vibe.

ultimate justice you don't have to break

You shouldn’t have to twist many arms to watch this!

The accompanying soundtrack is of the type most commonly heard within RPG platform games, a bit of a cop out if truth be told. At times the approach fits, in others it appears a tad cliché. With all that being said however the film flows well. Sure, the acting isn’t terrific, it appears some ‘actors’ have been chosen more for their athletic abilities rather than acting chops but “Ultimate Justice” manages to hold the attention. Honestly, it gets to be a mite predictable towards the end but it’s pretty much mindless fun overall if truth be told and worth a watch if lower budget over flowing with beat-em’-up action, with minimal story line, non-Hollywood affairs are your penchant.


I’ll give this a 6


For other Mark Decascos treats try tracking down (1997) “Drive” directed by Steve Wang and the cult hit “Brotherhood of the Wolf” (2001) which, you guessed it, features both Mark’s martial arts skills, subtitles and a four legged, fanged, creature also intent on a career in genre cinema. He also starred in the most recent “John Wick” installment (part 3).


Scorching the Retinas – The Hunt (Quick Review)

The Hunt (“A rapid get this done before it’s time to pay” review)

The hunt-poster

The Hunt (USA) 2020
Director – Craig Zobel
Writers- Nick Cuse, Damon Lindelof
Runtime – 89 minutes
Blumhouse productions, White Rabbit

I’ll make this quick. I don’t have much time, I’m squeezing in a few minutes of scribbling following the screening while the wife gets a Pedi/Mani (nope, I’m out! No one touches my feet!)

Commencing with a grandiose soundtrack reminiscent of epic features of yore The Hunt starts off on a great footing, I’m excited already. Cut to the first scene – a luxurious aircraft in which a collective of well-too-doers (whatever that means; in short people with money and positions of esteem) are busy “subduing” someone who has apparently “woken up too early”. The mind spins, the word “Hostel” comes to mind, an ‘unfortunate’ is dragged back into the cargo hold and the movie continues.

Trailer courtesy of amazingMOVIEtime

Cut to a wooded area and a small, varied, assortment of confused individuals awakening with bits (I believe that’s the term) attached to their mouths. Yes, this seems uncomfortable enough, but it gets worse.

The Hunt the crate

But I can’t find one that’s vegan!

The appearance of a crate boasting varied weapons raises a few eyebrows whilst the sudden whizzing of bullets shreds said eyebrows and sinuous attachments into naught but crimson clouds. The frantic group soon find their bearings, a small fence and come to the realization that most have already been picked off.

Unlike most, The Hunt starts at an adrenaline spiked pace and rarely let’s up. Several characters have been introduced (but don’t get attached. Whoops!) as well their flaws. But those running still only have only the slightest inkling as to why they are in the situation. To make matters worse they have no clue as to where they might be.

The Hunt

But…I’m American!

Ingenious twists and turns (otherwise known as Red Herrings) aid the narrative in its flow and in little time the viewer has a better understanding as to what is in fact transpiring.

Who to trust, who can you trust and why should one? Many questions exist with one thing being plainly obvious; someone is having fun at the expense of another. The reasons as to why this is the case is carefully intertwined in a myriad of factors including conspiracy theories, the court of public opinion, stereotypes and numerous ideologies. One might immediately think ‘Class Warfare’; rumors exist that the films original title was “Red State versus Blue State” which have since been dispelled, whether they held merit, or not. Delicious dialogue interactions throughout might make the viewer ponder upon all manner of opinions and reasoning.

The Hunt reserved for the boudoiur

mmm…hhrrrr…mmmhhhh (and assorted other garbled mumbling)

Without ruining that which might already have been depicted in the trailer I’ll state that the characterizations here are humorous, varied, familiar and often surprising given that which many characters boast.

The Hunt is rooted upon the foundations laid down by such ‘classics’ as “Manhunt” (which I’ve just covered here), “Turkey Shoot”, “Hostel” and numerous others whose titles escape me at present while also boasting dialogue interactions which put one in mind of Tarantino- esque affairs.

Turkey Shoot movie

The action is top-notch (including more than merely the atypical cat n’ mouse scenario one might expect) the tension well-crafted aided by an excellent score/soundtrack and the scenarios which unfold vaster in scope than that depicted in many a similarly themed feature before.

For those who might be on the fence (check first. It might be electrified) this contains enough grisly explosions, gouging, shootings and unflinching brutality and even numerous surprisingly well-choreographed fight scenes to sate. Though, thankfully, it doesn’t sink into OOT realms which would glorify or put one in mind of a Cult Italian or Troma production. Occasionally, the unflinching factor is turned down.

The hunt fkn ouch

Fkn’ ouch!

The result of some actions are left to the viewers imagination, seriously when it’s that obvious one doesn’t need to see it in glorious technicolor, this is a nice touch (as too, for me, the exquisitely delivered grisly bits). The result is a feature which could well be placed in either the thriller, action or horror genres comfortably.

The enigmatic/mysterious factor is played well to the point that one of the main characters isn’t unveiled until well into the second act. The main character isn’t unveiled until deep into the first, keeping the viewer on their seat wondering if they are in fact going to perish as quickly as the others (whoops. Spoiler alert!) In regards to the main character; She (probably not as huge a spoiler as the others before it?) is portrayed brilliantly, kudos to Betty Gilpin for such a strong Femme Fatal portrayal which is sure to be remarked upon for years to come, retains a mysterious aura (what’s up with all this ‘mystery’ amidst such unrelenting bloodshed and carnage?) and truly doesn’t show her cards until the film’s final act/stanza (call it what you will).

the hunt femme fatale

In short, I need to get this wrapped up, (it’s time to pay) without dropping any more spoilers. I’ll gladly state this was fun from start to finish though admittedly a little predictable in places. However, the pace so fluid, the characters so enjoyable, and the dialogue refreshing (even that concerning “Grilled Cheese sandwiches”) though often doused in dark humor, as to make one not linger upon such things.

The Hunt how to make a good grilled cheese

Lets not concern ourselves with cheese

In conclusion, and because it’s time to break out the wallet for yet another Anniversary gift, give this a chance before you write it off as just yet enough survival feature. The Hunt is vastly entertaining, smirk inducing, often thought provoking and most importantly fun! And has earned my stamp of approval.

Fun fact;

The most dangerous game book

Because no movie review is complete…without the picture of the book it’s based upon.

Heavily influenced by Richard Connell’s short story “The Most Dangerous Game”, “The Hunt” now nestles amidst a myriad of others (including “The Pest”, “Hard Target”, “Surviving the Game” and “The Eliminator”) with much the same premise (imagine that!) for those whose penchants run to binge watching similar features, film comparisons (be it scene by scene or otherwise) and/or discovery of  directors whose works remain relatively unknown.



Scorching the Retinas; Short, Blunt and “Brootal” Reviews (the first)

kung fu cinema

Because I can’t always find the time to muse, in detail, upon what I watch here’s a shorter, more to the point approach on a trio of films, martial arts related, I recently soaked my senses upon.
Iron Protector (2016)
Director/Writer – Yue Song
Runtime – 90 minutes

Iron Protector movie art

Originally titled “The Bodyguard” the filmmakers decided to change its name, to “Super Bodyguard” (then “Iron Protector for the overseas market) to spare confusion with another released, of the same name, produced in the same year by Samo Hung.

This is, I’m pleased to say, everything the blurbs on its box promise. This is martial arts of the highest order, hyper-violent video game in nature, showcasing plentiful brutal bone snappin’ action and legendary high flying (wire gymnastic) antics. Slathered in humor and humility with a backstory drenched in the evils of corruption versus family bonds (in short, two close brothers separated as their Master, not parents, begins to notice their true nature). This isn’t exactly original but it is undeniably stylish and captivating from start to finish especially for those who prefer their face-kicking action fast, frantic, akin to that of an animated hyper-kinetic affair and sporting a superhuman stamina level.

(trailer courtesy of Film Combat Syndicate)

Highly recommended for fans of early Jackie Chan craziness, The Raid (and the sequel) and The Night Comes for Us.


ANNA film

Anna (2019)
Writer/Director – Luc Besson
Runtime – 119 minutes


With a trailer that plays out like many others (recently; Le Femme Nikita, Columbiana and Hanna) Anna might not turn many heads when it comes to grabbing the initial attention from watching it alone. In fact, it appears much like many of the other films from out of the Luc Besson stable. What makes it slightly different however, is that it includes and combines spy as well Femme Fatale elements.

Strong performances from Luke Evans, Sasha Luss (who convincingly portrays an assassin who’s pulled from every angle until close to breaking), Helen Mirren (a hard ass apathetic boss) and Cillian Murphy lead the cast and the somewhat predictable story which has been rehashed several times before but it’s the brutal action and frenetic eye-widening combat throughout which save the day not to mention that unlike most it’s actually somewhat relateable. A scene in a restaurant is one of the first to show the genius level choreography, it doesn’t play out as one might think (especially the main character) but remains one which the viewer will want to play again and again.

(Trailer courtesy of Film Trailer Zone)

Admittedly, I have favorites from the Besson stable (which include the obvious sci-fi entries) this doesn’t quite reach that elevated level but comes within a hairs breadth, based on the fact that it appears somewhat of a rehash of a story which has been produced many times over with only slight deviations each time. Nevertheless, I recommend it especially for those who enjoyed the newest John Wick entry (“Parabellum”).

Executioners from Shaolin (1976)
Written by – Kuang Ni
Directed by – Chia-Liang Liu
Runtime – 101 minutes

Executioners from Shaolin

Admittedly, whenever I see Dragon Dynasty or Shaw Brothers on a DVD case, I become intrigued. This had both, you can imagine my excitement.

The opening credits are a tad silly; a pair of priests dooking it out against an empty backdrop (save for a red, instead of a green, screen). For some ungodly reason a ‘nut-shot’ doesn’t suffice and only leads the “deliverer” into a world of unimaginable hurt blessed by a soundtrack of broken bones.

A soundtrack slathered in ominous drums and a slight Gothic nature makes for a grandiose audio backdrop for archers, swordplay, assorted amounts of dubbing tomfoolery and more than the expected amount of claret to make an instant impression. A cavalcade of impressive ‘forms’, creature derived styles and over-enthusiastic sound effects add to the non-stop action approach. This is certainly nothing like the silliness I used to enjoy as an irresponsible, impressionable, brat many moons ago, this appears more polished, although it does contain fair amounts of effective humor, albeit juvenile at times, which I can fully appreciate now (especially the juvenile parts!) Surprising bedroom themed shenanigans might turn a few heads and change many a preconceived notion of what the genre offered in decades previous.

(Trailer courtesy of YouTube Movies)

Revenge/to Avenge is the backbone of the story, as is the case with a great many in this genre. Unlike most, however, this adds a little history (of the region and the unrest at the time among the people) and depicts the progress of the main characters, Hong Xiguan, and his family as he trains (also his son, for some reason disguised as a girl throughout the movie) in order to, one day, be good enough to beat he who murdered his teacher. Legendary Lily Li plays Yung-Chun and beats most everyone who even insinuates, because she’s a lady, that her Kung-Fu is inferior.

A slew of standout scenes includes a dinner table Father and Son skirmish, the initial Priest (Pai Mei) confrontation and the inability if Hong to ‘break the knees’ of the bride in the bedroom in order to consummate the marriage and the unintentional destruction of the backyard when boisterous ‘training’ gets out of hand. However, it’s the humor in the final scene which steals the film when inexperience meets the skills and wisdom of a true Master. I won’t ruin the ending, I’ve tried my best to keep spoilers at a minimum, I will mention that the willingness to experiment and veer from the traditional course went a long way towards achieving the ultimate objective.

Annoyingly enough the film climaxes mid fight leaving me wanting more. All in all, though this is a damn sight better than I imagined it would be and is a fantastic jumping on point for anyone interested in exploring the cinematic world of the Brothers Shaw. Highly Recommended.


Please note that this (DVD) copy is a 2003 re-release with a tidied-up print, brighter colors and bolder subs (I can’t read or understand Mandarin, or Cantonese so it helps out a great deal).

Until next time I chose to lay digits upon keyboard in appreciation of celluloid,