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Wednesday, 31 August 2016

Retro Review: Police Story (1985) #JackieChan, #Hongkongcinema

Police Story (Ging Ghaat Goo Si)
Cast: Jackie Chan, Brigette Lin, Maggie Cheung, Chor Yuen, Charlie Cho
Genre: Martial Arts Action 
Hong Kong Box Office Gross: $26,626,760 

Plot: A kung fu policeman must protect a female witness (Brigette Lin) from a Hong Kong drug lord for whom she used to work for

'The Rush Hour Movies Have Nothing On This Film'

Martial arts stars don't come any bigger, better and well known as Bruce Lee and the eventual successor to the throne, Jackie Chan, whose success and impact didn't just pave the wave for the next generation of action stars such as Steven Segal, Jean-Claude Van Damme, Jet Li, Jason Statham and others besides. It also propelled martial arts movies to a higher status, making it a well-known action sub-genre in the movie world. 

Jackie Chan demonstrates that as well as being a fantastic martial arts movie star and stuntman, he can also do a great job behind the camera as a director, as proven in this movie.

Police Story is one of my beloved martial arts movies of mine, as well as one of my all-time favourite movies, ever. Oh, and it is also my favourite Jackie Chan Movie, unparalleled. Yes even over Rush Hour. Whilst it is heavy at times with the humour, the action and fighting scenes are what really makes this movie exceedingly memorable. 

An action-packed film set in contemporary 1980s Hong Kong, this was a huge change of direction for Chan who first made his mark with period kung-fu classic, Drunken Master (which still kicks ass today) during the 1970s. It was dubbed a gritty Hong Kong version of 1987's Lethal Weapon, which is odd given Police Story came out 2 years prior to it. 

I have seen and read one comment from a user on who called this film one of the worst he has done and that the action is awful. I beg your pardon? Awful as in Jackie Chan jumping and hanging and dangling outside a bus with a walking stick, whilst a madman drives around the town? Awful as in when he does a flying roundhouse, windmill kick on the floor on one of the bad guys that sends him spinning and flying into glass? Awful as in when he slides down an electric pole slide in a shopping mall with electric sparks injuring his hands? The fact that Jackie and the other actors hurt themselves and almost risked their lives, is a sheer testament to their efforts & all for the sake of art that ought to be lauded. 

The action in this movie is relentless, frenetic, pulsating and so over-the-top that unfortunately became subdued and watered down in Jackie's inferior Western efforts later on: the camera doesn't switch to another angle when he performs his moves and tricks and that his style incorporates inanimate objects and less so with guns. I got an adrenaline rush just by watching the incredible fights, moves and bone-crunching kicks and punches landed by Jackie as Kevin, as well as by the villains. The mall fight has to be seen to be believed and is literately one of the best 10 mins or so in an action movie, bar none. It is action all the way with plenty of stunts, moves and people running about; quite frankly it is chaotic but in an entertaining and watchable way. Though I was concerned in seeing the females being beaten up pretty badly; with one nearly getting a Black eye & of whom smashes into some glass and another gets kicked down a moving escalator. It was brutal and not a pleasant sight to behold.

The humour may be grating on some people - the pie in the face being one of them - but it definitely helps further distinguish himself from Bruce Lee and notably gives him a style on which to base his skills upon. And Jackie Chan has a certain likeability factor about him too as a celebrity star that draws fans towards him. 

The Police Story series is much more serious in tone, but for some of the light-hearted scenes and tongue-in-cheek dialogue and operates more as an action flick, in contrast to the Lucky Stars movies. 

It's Jackie Chan in the prime of his career, and this movie pretty much all but consolidated his status as a worthy successor to Bruce Lee. 

Final verdict:

If I were to recommend another Jackie Chan movie for other people to watch and who are eager to see more of his earlier work, I'd definitely state this film for the record. 

Police Story is THE quintessential Chan action movie that despite its age, this is the superior representation of everything Jackie Chan stood for when it comes to martial arts cinema, especially in the 1980s and why he later became a worldwide name through his arrival Stateside, after all the hype and success he has had in his native country - only to make that transition in the West; it's high- octane action galore, backed up with incredible stunts and fight work to keep it fresh and relevant and talked about, as a martial arts classic for millions of years to come. 

For the definitive Chan movie, this is undoubtedly the complete package here and that's by getting by the goofy humour. And an admirable Hong Kong movie classic where you get to see a masterclass in Kung Fu action. Arguably, both Drunken Master and Police Story showcase the absolute best of Jackie Chan's talents.  

If you've seen Rush Hour and thought Jackie Chan was at his sheer best, you ain't seen nothing yet. Not until seeing Police Story that is.


Retro Review: Three Men & A Little Lady (1990)

Three Men & A Little Lady
Cast: Tom Selleck, Steve Guttenberg, Ted Danson, Nancy Travis, Christopher Cazenove 
Genre: Comedy
U.S Lifetime Gross: $76 million 

Plot: Peter (Tom Selleck), Michael (Steve Guttenberg) and Jack (Ted Danson) live with Jack's ex-girlfriend, Sylvia (Nancy Travis) & her daughter, Mary (Robin Weisman), whom the guys have raised since infancy. Sylvia is pursuing a career on Broadway where she meets director, Edward (Christopher Cazenove) & quickly falls in love with him. When Sylvia breaks the news that she's engaged & preparing to move to England, the guys realise that Edward may not have her and Mary's best interests at heart 

'Three Men, A Little Lady And Terrible British Cliches'

Three Men and a Little Lady is one of those sequels nobody asked for, nor required a sequel, yet the producers and director thought 'we might as well take advantage of the first film's success and make another'. 

The follow-up to the 1987 movie sees Mary's three dads living in domestic bliss, along with Sylvia. Mary has now become a 5- yr- old who lives with her mother, Sylvia. She announces to Peter, Jack and Michael that she is going to get married to a director from Britain and move to England permanently with Mary. They take the news well - that is until Mary tells them later on what a jerk he really is.

Peter, Michael and Jack make a transatlantic trip all the way to the UK - or as it was known in 1989 as England or London to be more exact, to prevent Sylvia - played by an American Nancy Travis (they could've went all out casting a British actress but instead opted for someone who could easily put on a fake accent and pass themselves as British) - marrying some 'toff', who in turn loathes Mary, as well as preventing their adopted daughter, Mary from being sent to boarding school. This potential story-line would have been better, had it acted as an additional subplot for Mary and her fathers going there to explore the culture and getting a better understanding of the British way of life. But no - rather instead this movie obviously mocks the (or be it our) culture and everything associated with it; even though it is a comedy and we shouldn't take everything to heart, there is something in the cliches and stereotypes that borders on xenophobic to the extent that it is almost irritating. 

I know it is a movie and all, but these British characters depictions - as fictional as those depictions are- are still nationalities of people; that fictional part of London that when some people outside of the UK see this probably think all British people are like this in real life. When in reality, that is not how it is. 

I take issue with all the British characters were either toffs, stereotypes as posh- speaking, old, tea drinking, stuck-up, good-for-nothings, and oddballs, and were dumb or obnoxious. And London today is lot more cosmopolitan, city-based. In fact, I will debate that the countryside setting is not London-like. Then, of course, the film descends into cringe territory with the daddies rapping scene that made my ears bleed (& there I thought MC Hammer was corny), the sentimentality going into overboard during and throughout the movie and so-called childish humour that comes across as not being humourous when Mary asks what a penis is. Though the acting performances but for the young actress playing Mary range from substantial to good, the humour itself, particularly when it delves into responsibility and attachment is not exactly funny - and I don't mean it in a ha-ha-ha, really funny type of way but it's not highly amusing for a so-called comedy/romantic comedy to be. Its production values are also very TV sitcom-ish.  

With the opening montage of Mary as a baby then growing up to be the girl she is, why not make a movie based around that and of her development and her relationship with her dads and mother and build that around the father and her mother in their coming together as a couple? Instead of throwing in the plot device that they have to travel across England. The relationships aspect also felt hollow and false; it didn't feel genuine to me to the point it made me wince at times, and its depiction was so typically cliched. 

The whole thing just reeked of cookie-cutter-ish. 

The film feels dated, is so blase and tries to be hip and cool as exemplified in one scene where they try to rap. And the stereotypes and cliches as awful as they are are proof how tiring this whole script feels. If this movie had been made in Britain and in place of the British cliches there were American ones, people in America would be upset. 

But one aspect where this film has one advantage over the prequel is the fact that Mary is a little girl, and no longer a baby and with this, the story builds around her, her living situation with her non-biological 3 dads and her mother.

The romance angle with Michael and Sylvia is both hollow and laborious. 

Three Men and a Little Lady is really more about One Man, A Woman but with 2 Men & a Little Lady on the side; Steve Guttenberg and Ted Danson - so-called integral actors in the first movie - are practically sidelined in this follow-up and pretty much play second fiddle, or be it are overshadowed. The ending is predictable and as expected, and yet despite some of the worst British stereotypes and bad cliches I've seen on screen, one annoying child character and the movie's cringe-inducing factor, it is at best okay.

Final Verdict:

Both films Three Men and a Baby and a Little Lady deserves to be remade with an actual British actress playing Sylvia.  

If you enjoy this film a lot, so be it - I won't hold that against you. But I believe this sequel would have been far more enjoyable and less cringing, minus the awful and embarrassing British stereotypes and terrible cliches. 

The sequel is more about Peter and Sylvia and Sylvia's romantic false lead, who himself hates children.

Nonetheless, if I had the choice, I'd rather listen to the song by Boy Meets Girl 'Waiting For A Star To fall' that features on the motion picture soundtrack over and over again, rather than be forced to sit through this movie. 

Whatever charm the prequel had, is completely lacking in Three Men & A Little Lady.


Tuesday, 30 August 2016

Retro Review: Eraser (1996) #Schwarzenegger

Cast: Arnold Schwarzenegger, Vanessa L. Williams, James Caan, James Coburn
Genre: Action Thriller 
Worldwide Lifetime Gross: $242.3 million 

Plot: John 'The Eraser' Kruger (Arnold Schwarzenegger) is the top gun in the US Marshall Witness Protection Scheme: he erases their past and deals with their future. His latest assignment is whistle-blower Dr Lee Cullen (Vanessa L. Williams) who has evidence against a major arms corporation that is selling weapons to terrorists with the collusion of rogue enemy agents within, but there is danger nearer home to Kruger, from within his department 

'Entertaining Action Thriller, Which Also Marks Arnie's Last Best Movie'

Eraser is another in the line of Arnie's successful box office smashes, despite the negative reviews it received. U.S Marshall John Kruger, who also goes by the alias of 'Eraser' has to protect Lee Cullen, a senior executive who works for Cyrex. When Lee discovers her company is selling sophisticated high tech equipment to Russia, the agents are killed and they set out to target her next. As John, Arnie is the good cop amongst all the bad and corrupt cops, who along with Lee are both framed & the pair must survive as fugitives. 

This has the feel and spirit of an '80s action movie, whilst retaining the look of the present day '90s. It is your typical Arnie popcorn flick: big explosions, special effects, Arnie taking on the bad guys and winning & huge stunts galore. 

Eraser came towards the end of his hugely successful run as an action movie star for 2 decades. Ultimately, for me, this was and is Schwarzenegger's last best movie. Compared to many of his other action movies, the plot and the movie has a lot of depth and the dialogue is a lot better than Raw Deal, Commando which were great Arnie classics, whilst the action is as good as - if not better than True Lies. The movie whilst is generic and conventional with the fights, gun shots and explosions has some nice twists and ends with a bang and in a predictable fashion. In one of the latter action sequences right towards the end of the movie, Arnie as John Kruger even looks like the other John, being John Matrix from Commando. The plot and the plot twists drive the film forward in place of scenes where there aren't as much action in them. Although with action movies, fans of Schwarzenegger's movies don't care about the story as much but tune in for the action sequences more so than anything else. Which this film has an abundance of. 

The movie's line 'You've been erased' ought to join the rankings of 'I'll Be Back'.

Vanessa L. Williams is rather good in her role as Lee Cullen; she's a great performer no matter what role she is given, who also doubles up as a love interest for Kruger. She gives credibility to a role that is usually approached by most writers as the female support, who doesn't do much and has rubbish lines by playing a damsel-who-is-not-in-distress and manages to kick butt. James Caan is so evil and nasty. The performances all-round are good, there is intrigue and tension at times, violence and whilst it won't win brownie points as a revolutionary action sci-fi flick, it does have a few unexpected scenes and surprises. There were moments however where the story did drag and it wasn't as strong - only to revert back to my attention when Arnie had screen-time. 

The ending was a nice surprise and I smiled throughout that after evading justice at the courts, the bad guys got their just desserts when a train ploughed through the limo they were trapped in. 

Final Verdict:

Eraser may not be Arnie's finest hour, but this is still an entertaining and action -packed movie, like many of others he has done. It's essentially more plot and story-driven than many of his predecessors and marked the last true Arnie movie from the last two generations that was good. 


Monday, 29 August 2016

Retro Review: Forget Paris (1995)

Forget Paris
Cast: Billy Crystal, Debra Winger, Joe Mantegna, Cathy Moriarty, John Spencer
Genre: Romantic Comedy
U.S Lifetime Gross: $33, 177, 694

Plot: Waiting at the restaurant for their married friends Mickey (Billy Crystal) and Ellen (Debra Winger) to arrive, a group of friends share a story of Mickey & Ellen's relationship with Andy (Joe Mantegna) and Liz (Cynthia Stevenson), a soon-to-be-wed couple. When NBA referee Mickey travels to Paris to bury his father, the casket is lost by the airline. The employee tasked with helping Mickey is Ellen. The incident brings them together, but a number of things threaten to pull them apart

'A Pleasant & Peculiar Romantic Comedy That Functions More Like A Comedy'

Mickey is an NBA referee, who calls out player Patrick Ewing and tosses Kareem Abdul-Jabbar out of a farewell game. Whilst in Paris tending to his father's burial, he meets Ellen who helps him to bury him -only to be told by the airline that they had lost the body. Mickey becomes upset and Ellen feels sorry for what happened. They then later meet up at a cemetery, then one thing leads to another after Mickey stays over at Ellen's & the pair share a romantic bond. Whilst all these seems pleasant and nice enough as it is, unfortunately, it is not very compelling and engaging enough to be worthwhile. And that, despite being amiable and likeable, is what prevents it from being a great rom-com. 

Forget Paris doesn't function like a traditional rom-com, but more like an episode of a TV sitcom series; it's nice and pleasant enough but nothing really spellbinding or anything that blows you away. But it definitely makes a nice change of pace and direction from What Harry Met Sally. It operates in a different way. The way it is structured is in a fashion that is similar to Woody Allen's Annie Hall, for instance. You see the relationship developing between an NBA referee and customer service airline manager coming together, only to see it go through a rocky period and later redeeming itself in the end. To see a couple fall in love, only to see their relationship go through a series of issues is a good change to the conventional,' boy- meets- girl, boy- and- girl has feelings for each other and boy- and- girl- fall- in- love' formula. You have Debra Winger excelling at the dramatic parts, but who is not so sufficient at comedy, and vice-versa with Billy Crystal who is stronger in the comedic aspects as he is okay in the dramatic parts. Debra Winger looked comfortable in the rom-com role here, which is a role she doesn't play very often. Billy Crystal, who has dabbled with When Harry Met Sally has played the rom-com role before and based on his performance here, it seems he is familiar with how the sub-genre operates. When you have these two opposite types of actors onscreen together, they each bring qualities that compensate for one another's weaknesses. They both have okay chemistry on screen and are surprisingly well-matched & plausible. 

Other than Tom Hanks, Billy Crystal is your go-to romantic male lead, who doesn't fulfil the necessary requirements, stereotype or image of what he should look like. He's not a heart-throb type with huge muscles, but he has qualities that are endearing and makes you want to fall in love with his charm, sense of humour and personality. 

Forget Paris isn't really a romantic comedy in its approach and when it tries to be it doesn't quite work out as well, but when it is perceived as a straight -on comedy, which it does so, it is brimming with some interesting accounts of love and that it takes a lot of effort for 2 people to make it work, in the long run. 

It has tiny moments that are amusing, light and frothy, but not saccharine and cheesy. Seeing the trials and tribulations of Mickey and Ellen is at times interesting - yet nice. The script itself, however, is under-cooked and duly in need of some more work and some parts of the film but for some of the comedy, felt flat and were not very memorable. & I literately cannot stress this point enough so many times when I review comedy movies and romantic comedy movies and say they need to be at most sufficiently amusing. Forget Paris needed to have 2 or 3 more interesting scenes and be way funnier, although I was hoping with Billy in the movie, he would inject much more of the humour. If you have a comedian playing the protagonist or love interest in a rom-com, it's essential I reckon to have their comedic talents utilised (or if their brand of humour is really wacky and OTT to have it toned down). Seeing this is a film about love, romance and in the context of comedy. Yet that doesn't seem to be the case here. 

Also, the fertility treatment segment I must admit wasn't good and the moment where Ellen drops a bomb by telling Mickey she is already married, I felt that the timing of that announcement happened way too soon, that she could've mentioned this halfway through or during the last third of the film. This would've then brought more tension to the story and made it more interesting. The on again/off again part of their relationship did become a bit tiresome as well. 

Some critics noted the idea of telling Mickey and Ellen's story in flashback by their friends is a weak gimmick; I for one found it an interesting and innovative way of narrating a story in a rom-com, and as it doesn't make it any less or more predictable. Plus, it makes it stand out more. Billy Crystal directed, wrote and starred in this movie, and I must say, he gets an 'A' for effort. 

By the end of the film, it's less of a case of Mickey and Ellen being in love, figuring out what's more important in each other's lives and more of love prevailing in the end, which is an important message to take from the movie. The moment when Ellen and Mickey reconcile and kiss on the basketball court was lovely. 

Forget Paris isn't entirely forgettable as a rom-com, but the script ought to have yielded so much more. 

Final Verdict

It may lack the charm, familiarity and razzmatazz of When Harry Met Sally, but Forget Paris is still a relatively cute rom-com, which whilst it won't blow many people's minds, - there is a very Woody Allen-esque feel to it for fans of romcoms or people who do not necessarily enjoy romcoms -, this is an interesting - yet peculiar movie to watch. I liked the fact that it is not a clone of When Harry Met Sally and it doesn't try to be. 

This film is pleasant, inoffensive and nice and though it's amusing, it's not as amusing and funny as I'd have liked it to be and as well structured as it is, it does feel a little too lightweight. The casting was interesting, but the script should have been a whole lot better. 

To sum it up in 2 words: it's nice. 


Sunday, 28 August 2016

Weekend TV Movie Review: G.I Joe: The Rise of Cobra, Film4 (2009)

G.I Joe: The Rise of Cobra
Cast: Channing Tatum, Marlon Wayans, Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje, Dennis Quaid, Ray Park, Joseph Gordon Levitt, Christopher Eccleston, Sienna Miller, Lee Byung-Hun 
Genre: Military Science Fiction Action 
Worldwide Lifetime Gross: $150, 201, 498

Plot: Armed with the latest in military & spy technology, the team of elite soldiers known as G.I Joe travel around the globe to wherever their services are needed. In their latest assignment, General Hawk (Dennis Quaid), Duke (Channing Tatum) & the rest of the G.I Joe team take on Destro (Christopher Eccleston), a corrupt arms dealer, & fight the growing threat of the mysterious Cobra organisation

'G.I Joke'

Live- action movies based on video games and Saturday Morning cartoons are rarely any good. Every time someone from Hollywood takes something, they dismantle it completely and completely ignore everything that made it memorable and great, especially for fans who grew up with those properties in the first place. G.I Joe: The Rise of Cobra, alongside the sequel, is one classic case of where the director has no idea of how it ought to be conceived, but rather instead on relying on flashy visuals to make up for everything else that is so poor. 

I have seen far worse movies than G.I Joe, but nothing could prepare me for the sheer disappointment and annoyance this movie's impression had left on me after seeing this effort. 

My comments on this film are based solely on my experience of being exposed to the G.I Joe animated series, and so I am comparing and contrasting both of them.

Based on a Saturday morning cartoon by the same makers of Transformers, Hasbro - who were also responsible for the toy line & known in the UK as Action Force, the script was penned by writers, who have had little to no exposure to the original animated series. I wasn't actually a massive follower of the cartoon when it aired in the early 80s. In fact, I was more of a Thundercats fan, but I was well aware that G.I Joe existed on TV. The all-black leather outfits on the G.I Joe members, but for Snake Eyes in this movie, look ridiculous & awful. The heavily armoured accelerator suits worn by Ripcord and Duke as they ran around the streets of Paris were clunky and beyond horrible - I don't know who the directors were trying to appeal to, but it certainly isn't towards the fans and viewers who grew up with cartoons like G.I Joe back in the 1980s. 

Stephen Sommers's direction has ruined what should have been a faithful rendition to the cartoon; he momentarily discarded everything associated with the original series and the original source material and went all hardcore, sexy, and yet making all the characters - make that the protagonists characters- dress and look the same with costume designer, Ellen Mironjnick's miserly all-black leather attire. Sommers has taken liberties with the franchise, and not in a good way. This is not the G.I Joe I remember as a child of the 1980s. 

The film's story based on a kids franchise that was one of the few well-known cartoons of the 80s is drivel: it consists of flashbacks with no actual details given as to what is at stake. Instead of telling a story from the start, we get scenes of characters shooting and hitting each other, poor dialogue & writing throughout and the Snake Eyes and Storm Shadow ninja rivalry reduced to a mere joke and with no real build-up or tension. & the reliance on one-line corny jokes, courtesy of Marlon Wayans as Ripcord didn't fly with me.

But the final straw of this film was The Baroness being romantically involved with the main protagonist and after being the main baddie, she falls for Duke (Channing Tatum) in the end. I've seen plenty of plot twists during my day, but this one was beyond ridiculous. In the actual canon, Duke never had a thing for The Baroness in the animated series, and there were no hints that implied such a thing. 

Pretty much everyone else but Joseph Gordon Levitt- who I thought made an interesting Cobra Commander, Ray Park as Snake Eyes and Lee Byung-Hun as Storm Shadow- were all severely miscast for me personally. I was worried at first about Joseph Gordon-Levitt as the antagonist, because he doesn't strike me as someone who'd play that role, but he did well here. Sort of. Unfortunately, the same cannot be said about the rest of the casting: Sienna Miller was woeful (should've got Kate Beckinsale instead IMO), yet her character was written woefully. Ripcord wasn't African- American: if they had to cast Marlon Wayans as a member of G.I Joe, why couldn't it have been someone like Doc or another Black G.I Joe character? Y'know, someone of the same ethnicity as Marlon. Also, I don't know what Dennis Quaid was doing here unless he badly needed the pay cheque. As good a casting as he was, Ray Park as Snake Eyes especially was wasted in this film: I understand the role required a martial arts- based actor, and though he looked terrific as Snake Eyes (but for those horrible plastic lips through the mask), I always saw him as a Gary Daniel's type, where he would get spoken word action hero roles. But with him not saying a word, you know you have a turkey of a movie on your hands when one of the very few characters remains mute throughout - & stands out as one of the better characters as well.

The film is also heavily reliant on CGI effects and almost every scene was presented in a way to give something 'cool' for the audience to look at. But nothing to back it up. 

This is far from what one would call it real American heroes. 

And, but for the special effects, fighting, scenes with Cobra Commander, everything else was just plain boredom. Take away the effects and fight scenes, and you have yourself one really boring movie. I suppose however that had it not been for the G.I Joe name, this would have been beyond acceptable and at most, satisfactory for a typical action movie. 

The title itself, 'The Rise of Cobra' could have delved a little bit more on the origins of the Cobra members such as Destro, Cobra Commander besides The Baroness and how and why they chose to become evil. Instead of some thought being put in, everything about this film seemed to be shoehorned in, with little thought given and no regards to the fan-base and the original source material. Then again, this movie was made to appease general movie audiences, who don't have a problem with it, rather than fans of G.I Joe. Nonetheless, for a movie that has characters that are memorable to fans, that in itself, is a huge mistake. 

By playing into the hands of general audiences, G.I The Rise of Cobra backfired - big time. 

I cease to see the day when we will get an overly decent & ultimately resolute live-action movie based on a Saturday Morning Cartoon property, but for now, I wouldn't hold my breath.

This was corny as hell. 

Final Verdict:

This mindless drivel and underwhelming film is another case of all hype, no substance. 

Non-existent narrative, some stupid plot twists, lots of unimpressive performances & a wooden movie throughout and one that tries to exert humour yet it ultimately fails and is boring in most places, G.I Joe may have been the Rise of Cobra indeed, but it is also a downfall for the franchise. 

When you have a live- action movie based on a cartoon series - and yet that film completely discards the original source material and instead has miscast actors in its place, has no narrative and which feels completely wooden, then quite frankly you have a complete and utter disaster in the making. Consistency-wise, G.I Joe: Rise of Cobra fails in every single respect.

If you don't care about the film being non-faithful to the cartoon series and eager to see an action movie, then by all means, watch G.I Joe

But for me, Go, Joe? No....

*score last updated: 8 July 2017*


Saturday, 27 August 2016

Retro Review: My Lucky Stars (1985) #JackieChan, #Hongkongcinema

My Lucky Stars (Fuk sing go jiu)
Cast: Sammo Hung, Jackie Chan, Yuen Baio, Eric Tsang, Richard Ng, Charlie Chin, Chiang-Lin, Stanley Fung, Sibelle Hu, Hui-Zhong 
Genre: Action Slapstick Comedy 
Lifetime Gross: $30, 748, 643 (Hong Kong) 

Plot: A corrupt Hong Kong cop flees to Tokyo, Japan to join his fellow mobsters whose headquarters are secretly built under an amusement park. Two cops, Ricky (Yuen Biao) and Muscles (Jackie Chan) travel there to apprehend him, but Ricky is kidnapped. Muscle goes into hiding and asks to send in his friends nicknamed the five Lucky Stars to rescue him 

'A Cross Between The British Carry On Movies & Kung Fu Action'

Hong Kong cinema used to be huge during the 1970s and 1980s, and with the latter was made even more popular in its native homeland thanks to production company, Golden Harvest who have churned out hits such as Winners and Sinners to Police Story. My Lucky Stars is a comedy sequel to the first movie, Winners and Sinners and of which became the most successful and lucrative movie in the franchise. It was released at a time where Jackie Chan and Sammo Hung were about to peak in their careers in the mid-1980s. 

My Lucky Stars isn't really a Jackie Chan movie, even though he does get screen-time, but rather it's an ensemble cast movie featuring some of the biggest names in Hong Kong cinema and TV during the 1980s. 

The general plot in this film is very difficult to follow (& my level of Cantonese is not very good, however in hearing it and reading the English translation at the same time, I can understand it - hey I am a British born Chinese & I consider English to be my first language); actually, all the Lucky Stars movies lack having an actual plot, but once you get all the humour, silly slapstick and jokes, it pretty much makes sense. It's all about the characters, the situations they find themselves in, as silly and humourous as they are, and how with Jackie Chan they come to together to foil the bad guys, rescue Ricky and for the pair of them to bust a bent cop, who has stolen some gems. 

Those characters are in the form of 5 trusted- yet bumbling crooks and ex-cons, and Sammo Hung's character begins recruiting the old gang: Rawhide, Dandy, Herb & Roundhead, namely the 'Lucky Stars', along with a cop, Barbara (or be it Miss Woo) played by Sibelle Hu, whose mere presence catches their beady eyes and they, in turn, become infatuated with her. The Lucky Stars crew act like a bunch of horny, perverted boys, who think of nothing but to bed her. The manner that this is presented in the film will either make you laugh and smile, - or annoy the heck out of you. The second act of the film consists of comedy scenes that are very slapstick and bawdy in its approach and are outlandish. 

The scene where the guys take it in turns by tying themselves up to the female cop for fun is highly amusing, you will be in a fit of giggles. It is almost akin to what you will see in say in Benny Hill and a British Carry On movie starring Sid James, Barbara Windsor and Kenneth Williams. Things such as pouring itching powder or whatever in someone's briefs when they are asleep, the kidnapping/hostage scene and Sibelle Hu's character about to go to bed when she realises there is something lurking underneath the mattress - which turns out to be Sammo Hung and co, who were really mucking about & acting immature are just three examples of this. The pranks and farce humour are caricatured as being downright silly, low-brow and bordering on absurdity, but yet it's still funny - that's if you don't mind this type of comedy and humour. If you can get by some of this, then you will enjoy this movie a lot. 

Some of the jokes work, whereas there are some that don't hit you over the head, rather you need to get the joke by understanding the English context or translation of it first, for it to make sense. Therefore, some of the cultural jokes in this film may fall flat on non- East Asian viewers. 

The comedy is the essential element provided by the Lucky Stars of Rawhide, Dandy, Herb & Roundhead, whereas the fighting and action scenes are second nature - these are mostly dominated by Muscles (Jackie Chan), Ricky (Yuen Baio) & Kidstuff (Sammo Hung); there are in total just 3 prominent fight scenes. The fight scenes especially are terrifically choreographed and well executed; glass is shattered, bad guys flying about getting their arses handed to them, it's the quality one would come to expect in Hong Kong cinema. One of the scenes features a showdown between Sibelle Hu and Nischiwaki Michiko, and their encounter is quite a spectacle. 

Would the film be a whole lot better with more scenes featuring Jackie Chan? Of course - he lights up the screen whenever he kicks ass and unleashes his fury of moves. Still, although there are some parts of the movie that could have been improved, this is still a funny martial arts comedy film, nonetheless. 

Final Verdict:

Those going into this film expecting this to be a typical Jackie Chan dominated martial arts flick - especially after looking at the region 1 DVD cover, will need to be aware that this is not the case, as he plays more of a supporting or cameo role to the other actors. My Lucky Stars isn't therefore, A Jackie Chan film per-se, but it is still a good movie to watch for the other cast members and their respective characters, as well as for some of the other action and humour. 

The heavy reliance of comedy over action, as well as the lack of Jackie himself, may be a potential deciding factor for some fans of martial arts movies and Jackie Chan movies.

If you are into goofy, farce and low-brow humour and don't mind some fun, at the expense of some daftness and stupidity thrown in, in addition, to say fewer Kung Fu fights, then My Lucky Stars will appeal to you. 

I for one enjoyed it very much. 


Thursday, 25 August 2016

Retro Review: Big Trouble In Little China (1986)

Big Trouble in Little China
Cast: Kurt Russell, Kim Cattrall, Dennis Dun, James Hong, Victor Wong  
Genre: Fantasy Action 
Worldwide Lifetime Gross: $11, 100, 100

Plot: A hard-boiled truck driver, Jack Burton gets caught in a bizarre conflict within & underneath, San Francisco's Chinatown. An ancient Chinese prince and & Chinatown crime lord has kidnapped a beautiful green-eyed woman, who is the fiancee to Jack's best friend, Wang. Jack must help Wang rescue the girl before the evil Lo Pan uses her to break the ancient curse that keeps him a flesh-less & immortal spirit

'Affectionate Parody Of Chinese Martial Arts Films Done Right'

1986 saw the releases of Chinese-based action comedy movies in The Golden Child with Eddie Murphy and Big Trouble in Little China and both movies shared some similarities: ridiculous plots, dated special effects, Chinese protagonists and antagonists and mythical Chinese powers. Oh, and both movies starred Victor Wong and James Hong, respectively, who both square off as Egg Shen and Lo Pan in this John Carpenter Classic. 

Appropriately set in San Francisco's Chinatown - San Francisco, California known for having the largest Chinese community outside of China and Hong Kong in the world - Big Trouble in Little China is beset with ancient Chinese mythology, sorcery and kung fu mixed with comedy, some elements of parody, as well as acrobatic flips and special effects. 

The dialogue is snappy and witty in places too, though some of Jack's lines do feel a tad corny & make you want to go 'd'oh!'. The film feels more like one of those C-grade American martial arts movies from the 1980s and 1990s. Jack Burton is the bumbling, would-be macho hero: cocky, stubborn and accident-prone but still a bad-ass (of some sorts) and lead protagonist, who gets upstaged by Wang and is played for laughs. Yet he is thoroughly persistent and tough still. Kurt Russell shows his comical side in this role who goes about it, as if he is John Wayne and has some amusing one-liners, along with that John McClane of Die Hard - vest and that he ultimately tries so hard to be heroic. I think making Jack the bumbling hero made the film fun to watch throughout

Big Trouble in Little China succeeds as an action-comedy film because it relies on fantasy and sorcery and fun, instead of being a typical, chop-socky, martial arts B - movie. It parodies and contradicts martial arts films, as well as action movies which are dominated by the White guy saving the world, whilst the Asian sidekick just tags along for the ride. Speaking of which, this reminds me of the Green Hornet and Kato, but here in Big Trouble, that role is reversed. 

Notably, there are some plot holes: for instance when the guards start shooting at the left side of the bus and it starts speeding away, it appears undamaged and when they shoot at the other gang members with guns, there doesn't seem to be any blood. 
Kim Cattrall puts in an effective performance as Jack Burton's love interest, Gracie Law, who doesn't want to be rescued, and yet ends up being rescued and she has some good lines. Dennis Dun is brilliant as the unlikely hero-to-be, who has a cool, calm demeanour and still kicks ass, & echoing traditional Hong Kong movie heroes that display wushu fighting -like skills, in contrast to the John Wayne-ish, and vain, Jack. Eddie, Wang's friend works at the restaurant, and Margo acts as Gracie's friend. Victor Wong plays the Mr Miyagi role and helps Jack, Gracie and Wang who succeed against Lo Pan. & lastly, one of the greats of Asian- American cinema, James Hong (Wayne's World, Kung Fu Panda, Seinfeld) gives a memorable performance as villain, Lo- Pan whose deed is to marry a girl with Green eyes, in order to make him immortal and more powerful. 

The special effects are pretty good, the visual effects are impressive and the action is terrific. John Carpenter (Halloween, The Thing) really excelled in capturing the feel of Hong Kong martial arts movies and his old-school and traditional approach to film-making is so creative and unique, it really energises the film and helped reignited the martial arts genre. Because of this, I'm glad that Carpenter infused the horror aspect into this film, as it works wonders. One example of this is the eyeball monster thingy, who is very grotesque looking. 
The film is very stylish looking and evolves as it progresses.

The performances all-round are just spot-on: everyone in this movie is great especially the supporting cast, the characterisations are well portrayed and each one is different in their own ways; that and John Carpenter's direction gave this film its own identity & its own style that other movies of this type have tried and unsuccessfully mimicked.  

It is the type of film that doesn't make you want to go 'wow' and makes your jaws drop - and yet it is an Asian-style, action fantasy fest that pays homage to traditional kung fu movies and movies, which deals with ancient Chinese mythology & spirituality, but is also very tongue 'n' cheek. There is also that adventure and teamwork element of Indiana Jones where the protagonists have to work together to achieve a common goal, which in this movie, is to rescue Wang's fiance. Big Trouble in Little China should also be acknowledged for being one of the earlier Hollywood mainstream movies to feature Asian-Americans, or more specifically, in this case, Chinese Americans, in predominant roles. I have to also give credit to this film for the inclusion of Chinese Cantonese - which was a staple dialect in many Chinese-based movies, both in Hong Kong and in Hollywood cinema featuring Chinese-American characters during the 1980s and 1990s, which is a rarity nowadays, as it is being subsequently replaced by Mandarin. 

As they'd say, ''It's all going down in China town'', or something along the lines of that. 

Final Verdict:

Big Trouble in Little China is not Die-Hard in Chinatown, and just by looking at the cover alone, those assuming that this is the type of action film they are going to expect from it, are clearly misled. Unlike Die Hard, this is an action-comedy and has humour in small doses and is very well-written. People will complain that this film is too '80s and too dated- but this was made in the 1980s and in honesty, not a lot of Big Trouble has aged. 

This is tongue-in-cheek, yet at times silly take on martial arts movies, that also doubles up as a Chinese fantasy and mythological film; and alas, is one of the best ever fusions of action, comedy and horror. 

It's a film that you have to either suspend your disbelief for..... or just go along for the ride, enjoy the heck out of it and all the wackiness that happens throughout it as well.

Great performances, along with great direction supplemented by over-the-top thrills by John Carpenter, this is a worthy addition to not only Asian American film, but also technically speaking, Asian cinema as a whole. Big Trouble in Little China is truly one of the most underrated movies of the 1980s that - regardless of any remake- rightly deserves its plaudits as a one-of-a-kind, cult classic for many, many years to come.


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