Archive for March, 2013

Kiai-Kick Book Look: American Shaolin

Posted in Matthew Polly on March 28, 2013 by Michael S. Moore

American Shaolin

Just some thoughts on the brilliant book by Matthew Polly published in 2007, a story about how the author himself went to study kung-fu at the Shaolin Temple in the early 90’s, and what he learned there about the people, and more importantly, about himself. What most interests me is his look into Chinese society beyond what we see/hear in the news and movies. I chuckled to myself as I read about his first experiences once he arrives at the Temple versus his initial expectations, which were/are exactly the same ones I would’ve had in his stead. Through Matthew’s writings I felt a window open into something I really thought I had a handle on, which was that of Chinese culture. While movies can hint at some things (it might help if I actually watched a few non-martial arts film Chinese movies, for a small, small start) there is far, far more to Chinese culture than what I realized. The social graces were at first alien to me, but as I read the book it began to make sense, and eventually, thanks to Matthew, understood the logic of it all.  The monks he trains with are both touching and funny men that you’ll wished you could meet. Some of the monks he mentions in the book have been the focus of other documentaries since American Shaolin was published, so I urge you to seek them out.

Matthew Polly

Matthew’s prose is smooth and easy to read (according to him, he had a lot of help with this) and the stories flow from one to the next with ease. He is able to describe people, places, and things vividly, and has an overall entertaining prose. He is really self-effacing, always humorous, and his sense of humor at himself and his situations are communicated loud and clear. I nodded many times through the book, laughing at Matthew even as I could see that yes, I probably would have done or reacted the same way if I had been in those situations. You get a feeling of genuinely getting to know Matthew as the story unfolds. Maybe that feeling is why I’m referring to him by his first name in this review.

Matthew’s personal journey ends with a realization that I myself had discovered not long ago: Regardless of what religion you believe, one thing they all share is that there is and will only ever be one Matthew Polly, in that body. Only one Michael S Moore, in this body. I have to strive to be the best I can be, for there will never be an incarnation of myself in this form ever again, and there will always be a list of things I–we–can improve on. Matthew has written a second book, “Tapped Out” which is a look at the world of MMA. While I’m not really into MMA at all, I may give the book a try, if only to see what’s up with Matthew nowadays, and what trouble he can get himself into/out of now!

As an open comment to Matthew, if you ever find yourself in Austin, Texas let me know. I’ll invite you to hang out with my kung-fu brothers and sisters and have a kick-ass kung-fu movie night! I’ll make sure there are plenty of cans of Coke!

Kiai-Kick’s grade: What else? 10

Take thee to Amazon and buy this book posthaste! A great read, and a great look at life in China through the humorous eyes of  Matthew Polly!  You can purchase the book here.

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Review: Project A 2 (1987)

Posted in Hoi Sang Lee, Jackie Chan, Maggie Cheung, Wai-Man Chan, Wang Lung Wei on March 26, 2013 by Michael S. Moore

Project A 2

Starring Jackie Chan, Maggie Cheung, Bill Tung, Rosamund Kwan, Mars, Ken Lo, David Lam, Wang Lung Wei, Hoi Sang Lee, Wai Man Chan

Fight Choreography by Jackie Chan

Directed by Jackie Chan

Project A 2 picks up what seems like moments after the close of Project A: The leftovers of Sam Pau’s men wash up on Hong Kong’s shore, angry a Dragon Ma (Chan) for killing their leader, and vow revenge, but first they have to find Dragon Ma. Meanwhile the police are concerned that there is too much crime in many of their districts, and believe that Inspector Chun (Lam) a cop who seems to always make busts when the media can see it, is somehow connected. The Police Commissioner (Tung) sends in Dragon Ma to pose as a transfer to Chun’s men, but just as Ma thinks he’s got a bead on Chun, he finds that he’s way in over his head when  Chinese revolutionaries are being hunted by the Emperor’s men, and Ma finds himself trying to keep a book that contains the locations of the various rebel cells away from the Emperor’s agents. Of course, mayhem will ensue…

ProjectA2 Wai Man Chan

The story here is simple but a lot of fun. Jackie Chan, is, well, Jackie Chan, and there is nothing wrong about that! Maggie Cheung once again shows her early chemistry opposite the craziness around her, and Rosamund Kwan is as game as she always is. The bad guys were good as well, and who doesn’t love Bill “Uncle Bill” Tung? Jackie continues to show his growth as a filmmaker as his shot compositions–and editing choices–have evolved since the previous film. The biggest problem with this film is that Sammo Hung and Yuen Biao aren’t present to reprise their roles. If you’ve seen the original Project A, you’ll miss them here, but it’s good to see Shaw Brother stalwart Hoi Sang Lee (The 36th Chamber of Shaolin) and Wai Man Chan (Gallants, Five Element Ninja)

Project A2-1

The fights are really good here, the best being the restaurant fight that started as free for all brawl but then features a fantastic fight between Jackie Chan, Wang Lung Wei, and Wai Man Chan. The chase scene with Dragon Ma and Chun and the pirates was also a well done mix of comedy, stunts, and fight choreography, as is the finale. What has to be understood here is that this film was made in 1987, and for those of you who follow my reviews, know that the make-up of Jackie Chan’s films changed in the 90’s, where the stunt work started to outweigh the straight up kung-fu fight scenes, and the stuntmen were spared the more jacked-up stunt work (Nasty falls aside). That doesn’t mean the film isn’t fun, because it is, but for those who are into the more fight-heavy Jackie Chan films may be disappointed.

Kiai-Kick’s Grade: 8

A Jackie Chan joint that features fantastic stunt work and creative fight scenes, and is a precursor to Jackie’s 90’s output. A fun sequel all around.

Review: The Quest (1996)

Posted in Jean-Claude Van Damme with tags , on March 18, 2013 by Michael S. Moore

The Quest

Starring JCVD, Roger Moore, James Remar, Abdel Qissi

Fight Choreography by Steven Lambert

Directed by Jean-Claude Van Damme

The Quest is a film that came too little, too late in JCVD’s career. Within a few months after this film was released Jackie Chan would release Rumble in The Bronx in the states, and the Asian wave would begin, capsizing the boats of both JCVD and Steven Seagal, and relegate them to the Direct to DVD bin. The Quest once again brought JCVD back to the world of the tournament fight film that he perfected with Bloodsport…

JCVD stars as Christopher Dubois, a young man living on the streets of New York in 1920 who is a Robin Hood, having the street kids he takes care of steal for their food, and makes the terrible mistake of stealing from a local Italian gangster. Chris steals onto a ship that is attacked by a pirate ship captained by Lord Dobbs (Moore) who strands Chris on Muay Thai island after screwing over the people there, leaving Chris to work for his release. Chris learns the art of Muay Thai fighting, and is reunited with Dobbs, and together they travel to the Lost City to enter into martial arts competition where the prize is a large Golden Dragon. Of course, an array of talented fighters, including Khan (Qissi) will attempt to keep Chris from his goal…

The Quest 2

The Quest represented something new for JCVD, both being behind the directors chair and being in a period film, the latter of which actually fit him just fine. His performance was better than in many of his films, and he seemed pretty comfortable. Roger Moore was great as Dobbs, the scoundrel who cons Chris and then turns into an ally. One of the problems I had was with the very beginning and end of the film, which fast forwarded him to the present as an old man, but it never seemed to go anywhere. They would have been better off just going straight into the story, and the aging makeup wasn’t very convincing. The cinematography was well done, until later in the film, where some tilted camera movements and slow motion for scenes that didn’t required it brought too much attention to the camerawork.

the Quest 3

Once we get to the actual tournaments, it felt just like a replay of Bloodsport. Montage sequence of different fighters duking it out, check. Have a fellow martial arts brother killed in the ring by main bad guy, who is a large dude, check. JCVD helicopter-kicking the big bad guy into oblivion? Cool, but check. Too much felt familiar here to really enjoy it as much as I wanted to.

The fights were well done, probably JCVD’s best since Bloodsport. It was great to see different styles fight each other, and for the most part was well shot, except for a few spots. (I could have done without hearing James Remar commenting incredulously about what the kung fu guy was doing. “ Now he’s a monkey!”. Ugh.) JCVD’s fight with the kung fu guy was pretty good, and JCVD showed he could at least hang somewhat against that kind of fighter. The final fight didn’t have the dramatic tension it should have had, as it seemed to stretch things out dramatically. Abdel Qissi may be a good fighter but doesn’t show it here, leaving JCVD to do the heavy lifting for their fight, or maybe just something with the fight choreography. Most of the other fights in the film were far better.

Kiai-Kick’s Grade: 6

Not the best JCVD film ever, and hearkens back to Bloodsport a little too much, but is a pretty decent film to fire into the player on a Friday night. Better yet, just pop in Bloodsport.

How about a new credit opening for Enter The Dragon?

Posted in Bruce Lee on March 6, 2013 by Michael S. Moore

Ahoy all!

While putting together new content for Kiai-Kick readers (Yeah, it’s been a while, but it’ll be worth the wait) I ran across this and wanted to share it with you all:

An enterprising gentleman named Sky Lee just put Warner Brothers to shame. As a total fan project he reimagined the opening credits of Enter the Dragon, and dammit it looks fantastic. It would be perfect as an alternate sequence (are you listening, Warner Bros?) on a blu- Ray, or even the Blu-Ray menu.

Congrats, Sky. You did a great job! If I can find a way to put you to work for me, by golly I’ll find it! Look at his work below!