Posts Tagged ‘martial arts’

Dollar Store Movies – Immortal Demon Slayer

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Immortal Demon Slayer (aka The Tales of Wukong)
2017
Writer – Hai Huang, Hezai Jin, Chi-Kin Kwok, Fan Wen Wen, Henri Wong
Director – Derek Kwok
Runtime – 123 minutes

immortal-demon-slayer

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.

8.5

Cult

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.

ultimate-justice-movie-poster

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.

Brotherhood_of_the_Wolf_Film_Poster

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).

Cult

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.

89

ANNA film

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

(Art)

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”).

85
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.

91

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,

Cult

Scorching the Retinas; Crimson Splattered Martial Arts

kung fu cinema

The Night Comes for Us

Every once in a while, a movie comes along which a great many people talk about. A movie which garners quite the buzz that it’s hard not to be intrigued. This is the case here. When I hear the words martial arts, blood, violent and comparisons to Raid 2 my synapses start firing. But is it warranted? Does this have what it takes to keep one’s interest? Is it worthy of all the accumulated hype? I’ll cut this short right here, spoil the review and say yes, yes, yes and YES!

(trailer courtesy of Trailer City)

The Night Comes for Us (2018)
Indonesia
Director/Writer – Timo Tjahjanto
XYZ Films
Screenplay Infinite Films
Runtime – 121 minutes

the night comes for us

 

I’m not going to fib and say that I’m an expert on the genre. Sure, I’ve seen a myriad of films within it and I can rattle off a few titles which I deem “must watch” and even a few others I consider especially “blood thirsty”. I could even name a couple which I personally deem classics and (this is exciting) then even at a stretch, this is pushing the limits, a few actors whose output (probably not all, mind you) is mandatory viewing. Naturally, this is just my opinion, I’m no expert. I just know what I like and I believe I know the difference between a good and not so good film. Back to the film in question. The Night Comes for Us boasts a great deal going for it. The pace is frenzied and relentless, the acting is spot on and the story line is easy to follow. That’s a good start, right? But it gets better. The on-screen action pulls no punches (welcome to ‘pun city’ folks) and is unflinching in both its depiction of violence and the damage given and taken by all combatants involved. More often than not a gang mentality is front and center. One on one only occasionally takes center stage here. Think a video game within which you have to fight your way through hordes to make your way to the big boss. In a nutshell that’s what also transpires here albeit showcasing a higher level of gratuitous bloodshed, an upped ante of limb snapping, lacerations galore, gouging’s aplenty and a requisite soundtrack to accompany making the tableau that much more effective to the point where one might squirm or jump witnessing such well-executed brutality.

(The Butcher fight scene courtesy of oPix nurizal)

Huge props to the stunt people. The feats herein are plentiful, too numerous to keep tabs upon, excellently produced and a wonder to set eyes on.

ouch my fingers

Ouch, my fingers!

There’s a myriad of scenes I wish to mention, I know I should but fear I would run out of space, leaving my prancing digits in need of ice.

 

Throughout the film there is undeniable cinematic wizardry on display. The fight scenes are ungodly and the fighter’s masters of their craft. Several are recognizable, depending on of course your level of submergement within the genre. Iko Uwais, who plays Arian, (The Raid, The Raid 2, Stuber, Beyond Skyline) stands out and is mired in indecision; does he help his friends, or does he ‘bend at the knee’ to the Triads wishes and stay alive and financially thrive (it’s quite the quandary). Joe Taslim, Ito, is another whose role is prominent (his face might stand out on account of his roles in The Raid, Star Trek Beyond and The Fast and Furious 6). The two are old friends but within the time they’ve been separated a great deal has changed resulting in boiling resentment and a grudge which might only be resolved through combat (or so they believe) making for a crimson splattered fight scene which will resonate with fans and be remembered, and remarked upon, for some time to come.

crazy white man bobby

Another who stands out is ‘White Man Bobby’, played by Zach Lee, on account of his crazed demeanor. Not to mention that his false foot falls off in an early scene which made me laugh even though I knew it wasn’t appropriate and wasn’t intended to add dark humor to the film itself.

girl fight

The film isn’t without surprises however. The “fairer” (it’s in quotation marks, please don’t comment with vitriol) sex also manage to widen the eyes and heighten the senses within scenes of high velocity combat one might not predict based on that which they might have already seen within the genre. I won’t ruin it suffice it to say that the characters here are on much the same pedestal as the ‘Hammer girl’ in The Raid 2 though get significantly more screen time in which to bludgeon, slash, shot and stab their way through various foes.

hammer girl

Excuse me Sir but you appear to have a little something,. Here, let me help.

A testament to human endurance and the highest caliber of fight choreography this delivers to sate both discerning and casual fans. Even a great many, I will state without reservation, who rarely visit the genre. The effects, much like the fighting, are also outstanding. There isn’t merely crimson on offer here there’s trauma resulting from chopping, dicing, stabbing, gunshots and high velocity flesh and blunt instrument contact. Truthfully this trumps many a film I’ve seen in the horror arena in terms of gore and brutality and the sheer amount shown in unflinching detail. Staying on topic TNCfU (obviously an abr.) ironically sports occasional passages of synth which bring to mind European cult affairs in which on screen, over the top, carnage is a staple ingredient but let us not forget; “You can’t kill what’s already dead.”

confused zombie

Confused zombie says “Huh”

 

A quote towards the end of the film, in a show stopping finale, that’s been utilized ad nauseum in a certain genre as to be beaten to death as much as, as, the genre in question itself (to not put so fine a point on it.)

 

Four words will help to summarize the storyline (without me running into diatribe lengths); Triads, Honor, Respect and Friendship. And that’s about all one needs to know. Don’t let assumptions get in the way of your enjoyment here; this overflows with bone crunching action, plenty of it and an unrelenting flow of crimson and thus will satisfy both fight fans and gorehounds alike. I believe this likely won’t be rivaled any time soon and I for one can’t think of anything which comes even remotely close.

Set this before your peepers, I’ve kept this brief as not to spoil the enjoyment, you can thank me later. Did I mention this was first adapted into a graphic novel, and to quote wikipedia “Tjahjanto confirmed he was working with Indonesian artist hub Glitch Network to adapt his original screenplay into comic form”. I, for one, can’t wait.

the-night-comes-for-us

Comments, thoughts, concerns, suggestions? (Yes I know I’ve added more than the normal amount of gifs in this one, and even a few nods to metal and horror, you’re welcome) Feel free to drop me a line. Until then, your slave to the extreme (in audio and visual form),

Cult

 

Scorching the Retinas 

kung fu cinema
The Crippled Avengers (1978/1981 in the US)
(aka Return of the Four Deadly Venoms)
Hong Kong
Director – Cheh Chang
Writers – Kuang Ni, Cheh Chang
Runtime – 105 minutes
Shaw Bros Films
Dragon Dynasty 

 
 Once again Cult has left me with a template. I’m sure he was about to tackle this himself as I spied him watching this film with one of his offspring, giggling like a loon. Father and Son bonding deserved of Kodak capture, those ever fleeting slices of time one never considers a big deal until it’s too late. So, you might be thinking this makes me sound like somewhat of a voyeur. It’s true. I’m in the house, undetected. A position which often presents quite the varied tapestry of human nature to absorb. But, as hard as it is to believe, I’ve been there. Raising a family. Obviously, it was eons ago. And the world was unrecognizable compared to what it is today. No iPhones, no gaming platforms, no television and no social media. If you were hungry it wasn’t as if you could walk to the freezer and rip open a container. Get this. You had to catch your own food (and this wasn’t because supermarkets were on wheels, they didn’t exist yet) And it sucked! As much as one hates fast food it sure beats having to run down a mammal, catch it, gut it, clean it and carve it up for consumption. Not to mention finding a suitable location to store the leftovers for later. It’s exhausting! 
You’ll have to excuse me. I’m meandering, wildly, from the topic at hand. 

So, what’s makes this a film which

crippledavengers

One of the films many titles

 appeals to the likes of me, one might ask. Well, I’ll gladly tell you. The feature in question is based in a time that’s centuries removed from our own, in a location that’s somewhat familiar, but only because of the over-abundance of celluloid in the same arena as this. 

In regards to the story, a local mob boss is visited by a three members of a rival clan. He enters the scene to find his wife and son sans limbs. This is particularly gruesome for martial arts celluloid, especially from around this time frame. He avenges their unfortunate predicament by vanquishing his foes, but that doesn’t help the fact that his son remains arm-less. He vows to teach his son the ways of Kung-Fu and also promises he will have appendages which are far superior to what he had before. Skip forward a few (days, months, years? It’s not too clear). The son and his dad are dicks, and use any excuse to terrorize the local small township with their significant entourage and undisputable might. Certain individuals, though, have had enough and aren’t in any mood to bow down to a tyrant. A blacksmith loses the ability to use his mouth (which got him into the predicament) another his hearing, another fellow loses his sight, and yet another his legs (…”got no legs, don’t come running to me”) the last his sanity (via an inventive skull crushing technique) though not in any way his ass-kicking abilities. These four band together and seek out the tutelage of a Master in order to seek revenge. For they’ve been wronged, and true to the words of the Immortal Dee Snider collectively they aren’t “gonna take it, anymore!”
ironarms

my arms are better than yours!

Please excuse the fact that I’m not about to mention any names. Honestly, this is for several reasons. I can’t speak, write and communicate in any other way in Mandarin or Cantonese and those eyebrows. I’m surprised there hasn’t yet been a film in which ‘they’ terrorize children at night or better yet a small farming community ignorant to the ways of world outside of their fields, livestock and crops. But this film isn’t all about crazy, nightmare inducing facial hair. It has so much more going for it than just that.
The gymnastics and flexibility of those involved is mind boggling, the weapon play eye-opening and the humor (for this is a film basted in slapstick and sprinkles of gallows humor) works. Even though the film is cultures and centuries apart from that in which we now reside I’ll admit my stony features cracked several times and Cult and his offspring were having quite the giggle fest.
laughing moron

Stop laughing at me

Naturally the gent who acts like a adolescent (the same gent who had his skull crushed) lends the film the majority of its levity, though a great deal of other moments are strangely found within conflict scenarios. Moments in which one combatant teases another until it’s too late and he cannot any longer. A sense of camaraderie is sported throughout and shows the films heroes forming quite the unique friendship. Priceless moments include the blind, deaf and dumb guys finagling everyday situations much like Pryor and Wilder in a personal favorite of mine ‘See no Evil, Hear no Evil’. Another includes various training rituals which showcase the warriors abilities even sans certain senses. The scene that stands out most for me however, was the one in which a strongman bests all with his (uhhh) strength only to be taken down by the fellow with the Iron legs, and to think he was warned beforehand too.
CrippledAvengers_Poster_PRINT_24x18
As far as martial arts films go (compared to those made around the same time) this is a standout. It’s obviously not too serious though does have a story line, much like any other in the same genre, based around retribution, vengeance and revenge. And also spends a great deal of its length showcasing the growing relationship between those ‘wronged’ their training and the need to rise above both anger and the situation. The fight scenes though a tad gymnastic in tone are still vivid, exciting and inventive. That bloke with the Iron arms get gang-banged it submission, did I just ruin it (poop!) And with that, I’m out. I can hear the alarms going off and the little one stirring, it’s time to make myself scarce.
Until next time I place my far malformed digits upon the keyboard.
B-