Archive for November, 2010

Indie Kick! Review: Charity Hurts (2010)

Posted in Andrew Thatcher, Reviews with tags , , , on November 29, 2010 by Michael S. Moore

Starring Andrew Thatcher, John Tsoutis

Fight Choreography by Andrew Thatcher

Directed by Andrew Thatcher

Charity Hurts works from a very simple, but very human premise: We all want to do our part to help society and those in need. Dammit to hell, however, when charity workers show up to ask us to donate money, bothering us when we’re always in the middle of something. So many can come up sometimes it seems that they must all work for the same company, and in this film, they do.

The film opens by showing us just how serious charity workers are by flame throwing (is that a phrase?) a guy to death for refusing to pay his charity bill. There is some phone banter that’s pretty amusing here, and points out why the term “talk to the hand” doesn’t really work that well over the phone, and for even mouthing that phrase earned that guy a flamethrower to the face for damn sure. We then meet Jason Jones, a young guy who finds himself dealing with charity worker after charity worker, saying no to all of them, even to one who comes into his home saying he is the president of one of them, until a pair of female workers decide that the best way to get him to give is to take it from him by force, leading to the first fight of the film, which is easily the weakest of the entire film. The choreography is somewhat weak in this part, most likely due to the inexperience of the two women fighters.

After beating up both girls and going to the so called president’s house to dish out an old school ass kicking, Jason finds out that the charities are being run by the mob, and more specifically by mob boss John Scaglioni (Tsoutis). Jason takes it upon himself to stop Scaglioni once and for all, and must make his way through wave after wave of Scaglioni’s men to get to the big man himself. Along the way he meets a gung-ho cop who evidently hasn’t watched enough action movie cops to know what his fate would be, and a great assortment of baddies with varying levels of intelligence…

This film, written, edited and directed by Andrew Thatcher is cheesy fun at its best. Never mind the nonexistent production values and cheesy effects, which actually adds to the experience not unlike a Troma film (there’s a kill involving a tree branch and another using a 10 foot pipe that would make Lloyd Kaufman proud). The fights get steadily better as the film goes on, and the final fight versus Scaglioni is the best of them all, reminding me in places of Jackie Chan and Sammo Hung films such as Wheels on Meals and Dragons Forever. While the film has a simple premise, make no mistake that it’s full of action from start to finish, and a ton of humor in between. This film may not have worked if it had been played seriously, but Andrew and crew knew better, and made sure that the laughs and chuckles kept coming throughout the film. One of my favorite bits involve what the Employee of the Month for the charity workers gets: pretty much lap dances from three beautiful ladies, not to mention the oldest henchman in the world watching them, who has a standing heart attack, and quickly recovers in seconds to keep watching! Little pieces of humor like that keep the film sailing right along.

Charity Hurts is ambitious and fun, and further proof that you don’t need a Hollywood budget to make a decent martial arts film. All you need is a good premise, good choreography, and-perish the thought-good martial artists! I look forward to seeing what Mr. Thatcher and company come up with next!

To get a copy of the film you can contact Andrew here: http://charityhurts.wetpaint.com/

NEXT: Ninja Month kicks off with American Ninja!

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Review: Project A (1983)

Posted in Dick Wei, Jackie Chan, Reviews, Sammo Hung, Yuen Biao with tags , on November 11, 2010 by Michael S. Moore

Starring Jackie Chan, Sammo Hung, Yuen Biao, Dick Wei, Mars

Fight Choreography by Jackie Chan, Sammo Hung, and Yuen Biao

Directed by Jackie Chan and Sammo Hung

I love pirate stories. Adventures on the high seas, crazy swordsplay, and just about everyone looks like they’re having a blast making it. Jackie Chan takes his cohorts and crazy stunts and puts them to work in Project A, and yeah, they all had a blast doing it, even the poor bastards that got jacked up.

The film opens as the Navy does whatever it can to capture the deadly pirate Sam Pau (Wei) but with no luck, and their best sailor, Dragon Ma (Chan) is about to take his men and go hunt the pirate the following night. Well, suffice to say the Hong Kong police force are a grand group of whiny bitches who think that there isn’t a use for sailors who chase pirates, because certainly the police can do a better job of capturing them provided they ever actually decide to land their boats. Damn. That night, ’cause they may get killed, Dragon and his posse go to the local bar, full of cops, and Dragon accidentally spills his drink on Inspector Hong, nephew of Captain Chi, head of the police force. Just like any western, a fight ensues, and it’s a fun one, with funny scenes and good choreographed chaos. I love what happens when two cops show up to break up the fight, and find themselves quickly over their heads! After the sailors are released from jail, they meet to go after the pirate, but before they can he blows up their boats. Of course you can’t be a sailor without a boat, and thus the sailors are merged into the police force, and Dragon and his men find themselves under Inspector Hong, and what ensures are Police Academy-style shenanigans (I don’t to use that word often enough) as the men try to revolt against Hong, but he’s too smart for their tricks and turns it against them.

Hong and Dragon soon team up to take out a local gangster who has ties to Sam Pau, and after a failed attempt to capture the hidden criminal in a casino, Captain Chi tries to lay all of the blame on Dragon, and Holy Shit was that not a good idea-for the bad guys. Dragon goes all Ragin’ Jackie and wipes the casino with anyone who stands between him and the gangster. One of the most cringe inducing scenes here involves punching a guy and throwing him off of a two-story balcony were he falls. That in itself is bad enough, but what puts it over the top is that the poor sucker hits a chandelier on the way down, and it spins him around midair so he lands head first! Suffice to say Dragon gets his man, and quits, and runs into his old pal Fatty (Hung, who else?) and the movie really kicks into high gear, and what follows is a fantastic series of fights and stunts, starting from the most painful bicycle stunts ever seen, which turn out to be better than many movie car chases, and culminates in a fantastic one-two as Jackie and Sammo team up to take out the bad guys in a clinic of pinpoint fight choreography and acrobatics. Later Dragon has a drop from a clock tower that is a classic scene of cinema, and one of the most painful falls of Jackie’s career. How he survived this fall is simply amazing. Moreso the fact that he continues the scene after he falls! Let’s see Captain Jack Sparrow try that shit!

Things turn bad for Hong Kong when the British Admiral that was supposed to take over the Navy is waylaid at sea by Sam Pau’s men and taken hostage, and Dragon is able to convince his superiors to reinstate the Navy, and to go ahead with Project A, and I suppose if that doesn’t work they have B, C, and D, so surely one of the would work, but for lack of imagination, they went with A. Soon Dragon, his buddy Jaws (played by early and longtime Chan stalwart Mars, he of the recognizable chin) Inspector Hong and Fatty make a daring raid on Sam Pau’s fortress in an attempt to rescue the hostages, if they can avoid killing each other on the way…

Simply put, this film is a lot of fun. The stunts are great, and the fight choreography is what you would expect from 80’s style Chan films, in other words great. But then, anytime Jackie, Sammo, and Yuen get together is always golden, and Dick Wei always comes correct in any film he does, and gives a really good performance as Sam Pau. Kwan Hoi-San also proves to be a great foil for Jackie as Captain Chi, who is both one step ahead of Dragon and yet one step behind the entire film.

(On a scale of 1-10, 10 being the best)

CHOREOGRAPHY: (8) Good stuff all around from Jackie and Sammo. Their team up fight scene is classic, showcasing what makes each of them great separately, and then how it make them even better together.

STUNTS: (10) Yowza. The stunt crew brought it with this one. Nasty falls, great reaction, and let’s not forget bicycle stunts that look really painful, and of course Jackie’s clock tower fall highlight the great effort these guys put into entertaining us.

STAR POWER: (10) Jackie Chan, Sammo Hung, Yuen Biao and a helping of Dick Wei. Yeah, that’s gold. ‘Nuff said.

FINAL GRADE: (9) Jackie and crew bring the pain and the laughs, which may be a bit dated today, but the fight scenes and stunts are still jaw droppers by even today’s standards. A Chan Classic that’s actually fun for the whole family.

Review: Circle of Iron aka The Silent Flute (1978)

Posted in Bruce Lee, David Carradine, Reviews with tags , , , , on November 3, 2010 by Michael S. Moore

Circle of Iron is based on a story created by Bruce Lee and James Coburn that gives a physical manifestation of Bruce’s Zen philosophy. Unfortunately Bruce died before it could be made, and David Carradine, and I still don’t know who the hell named him the keeper of All Things Bruce, acquired the rights to the story and made it into this film. Did he do Bruce proud?

Not exactly, but it is a train wreck with immense potential given the right creative forces (i.e. not Carradine). The story takes place in a fantasy world where everyone practices martial arts wearing the crappiest clothing ever, and our hero inexplicably wears a loincloth the entire film. I hate to say it, but only Tarzan could rock the loincloth. Of course women out there may think differently. I’ll leave that to you. Now I say inexplicably because at least one character actually questions this, when he could wear a perfectly good pair of pants. He doesn’t really answer, which is kind of his attempt to be badass, but his White Snake hairdo proves to cancel out any badassness he may have.

I refer to our hero Cord (Cooper), who enters a martial arts tournament in an attempt to win the right to find the warrior Zetan, and to defeat him in battle and take his Book of All Knowledge, which may show Cord how to sew his own f*ing pants. The first fight here is straight out of the David Carradine Can’t Fight For Shit book, which would permeate through the entire film. The fighting is slow and the shoddy camera work doesn’t do anyone any favors.

Cord loses the fight because he got a little overzealous and kicked his opponent when he was down, but he says screw you guys, I’ll go anyway, which begs the question why the hell a tournament was needed at all. Cord follows the winner of the tournament, and the soon finds himself alone after the Monkey Tribe tears the winner up, and all Cord can do is to assist the poor guy into committing seppuku. Cord then takes it upon himself to meet the challenges necessary to get to Zetan, and along with way meets a Blind Flute player (Carradine) who may have the keys to getting past he challenges if only Cord would stop long enough to listen, the Monkey King (Carradine again) who shows Cord a different style of fighting (don’t worry, it’s still the same old patented Carradine inside crescent kick), Death itself (Carradine yet again) and Chang-Sha, a travelling warlord (Yes, Carradine again)

Can Cord learn the various lessons they have to teach in time to face Zetan? What will he do with the book if he should win it?

This movie really isn’t good because it has an uphill fight with the shitty production values and lack of a real martial artist playing the main part, which is yet another infuriating practice that Hollywood hasn’t yet put to rest, though Jeff Cooper gives a good effort. He plays Cord with the right amount of arrogance, and he does a good job, loincloth and all, of bringing Cord down when he finds that he doesn’t know as much as he thinks he does. The film really follows the Zen/Buddhist philosophy the whole way, but the bad fight choreography and bad camera work really undermines this effort. Carradine is a pretty good actor, and plays all of the parts very well, but his fighting is lacking, as always. Once again he still makes his living off of Bruce Lee’s ideas, which really sticks in my craw, and always will. The story is a bit slow in places, but picks up when it needs to. This could have been something special if there was better production values and fight choreography.

As it stands, it’s a cheesy look into the philosophy that Bruce practiced in his everyday life, and the journey to try to maintain it…

(On a scale of 1-10, 10 being the best)

CHOREOGRAPHY: (2) The main character, a martial arts fighter, is played by someone who doesn’t know any. The fights are all badly shot and the choreography is, well, shit.

STUNTS: (3) The stuntmen never really had much to do, since the film concentrates so much on Cooper and Carradine.

STAR POWER: (8) Eli Wallach? Christopher Lee? Roddy McDowell? What magic mojo did Carradine cast to to get this kind of talent to be in this? Impressive, nonetheless.

FINAL GRADE: (4) I am a bit torn here. On one hand, it is crappy, with poor martial arts and productions values so shitty I could have made this film, but the ideas and story beats are really good. Despite the low grade, I actually do recommend this to martial arts film fans as it is an interesting look into Bruce’s life philosophy and ideas, and if any film deserves to be remade, it’s this one, but let’s leave the loincloths at home…