The Trailer for Birth of The Dragon…and my thoughts.

Posted in Bruce Lee, Philip Ng with tags on September 21, 2016 by Michael S. Moore

First, watch the trailer (if you haven’t already seen it):

Philip Ng looks great as Bruce, and I’d love to see him play the role…in a Bruce Lee film. By that I mean a film that is 100% actually about Bruce Lee. The problem here is Hollywood, as it usually is. Instead of a film that gives us a real life story that is amazing in itself, we get a whitewashed version of it, with Billy Magnussen as Steve McKee (based on Steve McQueen) who has a side plot that has a Romeo and Juliet flair to it. Which is really baffling because the story at hand is already much more interesting. Why can’t we just let the film star Philip Ng and Wong Jack Man? Why is it necessary to have a white guy star in any Hollywood film when the main story is about someone of another race? I keep going back to this video below, from Last Week Tonight:

*Sigh* So here we are again. Now have I seen this film yet? No. Will I? For the purposes of this website, yes. Bruce Lee is/was one of the greatest martial arts alive, and if you wanted to get a white person in there with a side story, how about his actual wife Linda Lee? As for Mr. Magnussen, he may be a fine actor but most people don’t know him any more than they do Philip Ng, so him being in the film won’t give it any more box office, so the “money” explanation won’t work.

The thing that will sell this film is Bruce Lee. His name, to this day, even among mainstream audiences, gets their attention, and a well told BRUCE LEE story will get them to the theater. His world is ours. It doesn’t need a white guy to “navigate” audiences through that world, and Bruce Lee has explained kung fu in such simple terms that anyone can understand, because that was the point. Bruce Lee introduced Kung-Fu to the western world, and was its greatest ambassador. So far, going by this trailer and comments the director and writers have made, they failed to understand this simple concept, and that gives me pause that this film will be very good.

IF, and I say IF there is a “stand in for us” character needed, why not make him African-American (since “Black” movie theaters were the places where kung fu films were shown and flourished the most in the USA)? Or, in a bolder move, make him Chinese-American? Say someone who doesn’t know much about Kung Fu and that side of their own culture? ( I still think a Bruce Lee film needs to be only about Bruce Lee. Say what you want, but Dragon, The Bruce Lee Story got that part right).

The bottom line is this: Hollywood still believes, even with proof to the contrary, that actors of color can’t open a film to good/big box office. This idea will change and this has already begun, but we still have a long ways to go.

Bruce_Lee_Pic_1

“To me, the extraordinary aspect of martial arts lies in its simplicity. The easy way is also the right way, and martial arts is nothing at all special; the closer to the true way of martial arts, the less wastage of expression there is.”

–Bruce Lee

Maria Tran Presents Police Story: Girl Force!

Posted in Maria Tran with tags , on September 19, 2016 by Michael S. Moore

Maria Tran, whom I first became aware of in the film Maximum Choppage, has a film career as an actress/stunt woman that is growing bigger and bigger, and now she comes to us with a short film that pays homage to the Jackie Chan Police Story series! She does a good job capturing the style of comedy on display in those films, and adds a little sci-fi flair of her own towards the end! Maria is forging her own path through international film industry, and it’s only a matter of time before she works with some of the big titans, like Jackie Chan. Oh wait? She has?! Well I’ll be…

Review: Kickboxer: Vengeance (2016)

Posted in Alain Moussi, Darren Shahlavi, Dave Bautista, Emmanuel Manzanares, Georges St. Pierre, Gina Carano, Jean-Claude Van Damme, Larnell Stovall, TJ Storm on September 12, 2016 by Michael S. Moore

kbv4

Starring Alain Moussi, Jean-Claude Van Damme, Dave Bautista, Darren Shahlavi, Gina Carano, Georges St. Pierre, TJ Storm, Sara Malakul Lane

Fight Choreography by Larnell Stovall

Directed by John Stockwell

This is a particularly difficult film to attempt to review objectively; it’s a remake of the original, with many of the story beats the same, and still stars the main actor now in a supporting role, plus has one of the cheesiest/best dance scenes in the history of ever. Plus, I really liked the original, if for nostalgia’s sake.

Alain Moussi now takes over the role of Kurt Sloane, who serves as a fight assistant to his successful karate champion brother Eric Sloane (Shahlavi). When mysterious fight promoter Marcia offers Eric a lot of money and the chance to face Tong Po (Bautista), a Kickboxing Muay Thai champion, Eric accepts, much to the dismay of Kurt. Eric goes to Thailand, and Kurt eventually follows, only to see his brother killed in the ring by Tong Po. Seeking revenge, Kurt tries to murder Tong Po, but with the help of a local cop (Lane) he hides at the home of Eric’s trainer, Master Durand (JCVD). There Kurt learns how to kick a ton of ass and finally is good enough to challenge Tong Po to a duel to avenge his brother…

kbv

The film pretty much follows many of the beats of the original film, except for the beginning, which I won’t spoil here except to say that we first meet Kurt Sloane in a very dark place. There is a little time jumping, and the story doesn’t really allow me to connect to Kurt’s pain over his brother’s death, because their relationship isn’t touched on very much. Also a little baffling was the romance (sex) Kurt has with Liu, the Thai cop. It seems to just pop out of bloody nowhere, and there is no real resolution to it. Alain Moussi does a good job of playing Kurt Sloane, but doesn’t quite have the charisma that JCVD had in the same role. Speaking of which, JCVD was great every time he was onscreen, and in fact so much so I wish Master Durand was simply THE Kurt Sloane retired to train Kickboxers. JCVD even gets into a few scraps that show he’s still got it, but that’s no real surprise. I wonder now if JCVD being in the film hurts it rather than helps it.

kbv2

The late, great Darren Shahlavi, in his final role, is far too underutilized as Eric Sloane. I wish the film had not strayed from the original and kept Eric alive, which would have meant seeing a lot more of Darren. Gina Carano is in the film but is a complete waste. Her character could have been played by anyone. Sorry, if I see a prime Gina Carano in the credits of a film, I damn well expect to see her kick someone’s ass. The same can be said for Georges St. Pierre, who does have a few fight scenes, but there is one glaring edit of one of his fights— or some incident—that left me baffled as the film makes no explanation as to how he suddenly has  a broken arm after seeing him fairly healthy not many scenes before. Dave Bautista is okay as a much more menacing and intelligent Tong Po, but in the end he’s nothing more than a standard cookie-cutter baddie. Sara Malakul Lane is a stunningly beautiful woman, but her character doesn’t bring much to the story, except to slow things down too much with a useless side story.

The place where Kickboxer: Vengeance truly surpasses the original are the fight scenes, which many, and well shot and edited, and really gives Alain Moussi a chance to shine, but in the wake of Muay Thai films like Ong Bak or The Protector, some of it feels a little derivative. The best fight in the film, to me, is the fight between JCVD and Moussi. JCVD has better choreography here than I’ve ever seen this side of No Retreat, No Surrender.

Extra Bits:

The film was dedicated to Darren Shahlavi, and I was really happy to see they did that.

Yes, we are treated to JCVD’s original bar dance again, along with a side by side of Alain trying the same thing during the closing credits. Sorry, but JCVD STILL wins that dance-off, Alain!

What else did this film need? Stan Bush. No, really. Stan Bush for the win.

Kiai-Kick’s Grade: 6.5

Kickboxer: Vengeance has its moments, but reminds me too much of the original, but JCVD shines in a limited role. Alain Moussi grew on me as the film went on. Any chance we see Sasha Mitchell in Kickboxer: Retaliation? I hope so.

Iko Uwais returns in Headshot Teaser!

Posted in Iko Uwais, Sunny Pang with tags , on September 7, 2016 by Michael S. Moore

So what’s Iko’s answer to The Raid 2? How about Headshot, which is not directed by Gareth Evans, but looks the hell as if it were. The film is showing at TIFF this year, and Entertainment Weekly has the teaser and synopsis:

The film finds Uwais playing a nameless man who wakes up in a hospital with severe head trauma, not knowing who he is or what happened to him. Assisted by a student doctor Ailin (Chelsea Islan), who nicknames him “Ishmael” after the character in Moby Dick, he recovers and tries to regain his memory. But Ishmael’s past catches up to him, in the form of Lee (Sunny Pang), a drug lord and gang boss whose tentacles reach deep into the police and the penal system. When Ailin is kidnapped and Ishmael sets out to get her back, he finds himself pitted against an array of skilled fighters who may have been his former colleagues.

Yes, yes yes. This looks like a winner, folks! Iko is gonna be four for four (Man of Tai Chi doesn’t count)!  Also starring Sunny Pang and Julie Estelle! This can’t get here fast enough!

Showdown at the Dojo starring Master Ken!

Posted in Matt Page with tags , on August 30, 2016 by Michael S. Moore

Master Ken

For those in the know, Enter the Dojo is a spoof of the McDojos meets The Office, starring Matt Page as Master Ken, the creator of his style Ameri-do-te, and it’s hilarious! I did a Q & A a few years ago you can revisit here. Master Ken now gets his own ballbusting short film, which you can watch below! The fight scene is pretty good, and Matt Page proves he can handle himself! I’m all for more Master Ken short films in addition to the regular show! C’mon Amazon, Netflix! Get on this!

Fight Of The Day: Philip Kwok, Chiang Sheng and Lu Feng: The Magnificent Ruffians

Posted in Chiang Sheng, Lu Feng, Philip Kwok with tags , on August 20, 2016 by Michael S. Moore

Philip Kwok Week concludes with a some fantastic staff work vs. Lu Feng with help from Chiang Sheng in The Magnificent Ruffians. Next month we’ll devote a week to another one of the Venom Mob, so you’ll see Philip Kwok a lot more. Thanks to Bobthem00 for the vid!