Archive for October, 2013

Review: Karate Bull Fighter (1977)

Posted in Sonny Chiba with tags , on October 30, 2013 by Michael S. Moore

Karate Bear Fighter 1

Starring Sonny Chiba, Yumi Takigawa, Yutaka Nakajima, Masaaki Yuhara

Fight Choreography by Sonny Chiba

Directed by Kazuhiko Yamaguchi

So we have now come to the last film in the Sonny Chiba Matsutatsu Oyama series (It’s actually the second in the series) and now, after having defeated the Bull in the previou film, Oyama still travels around Japan challenging schools and beating their masters soundly, most recently a master named Ryudoji, whose men try to attack Oyama later to their own dismay and mortal pain. He then runs into a friend he once served with who is now a gangster, and Oyama takes a job as a mob enforcer. This brings him into contact with a Oyama impersonator named Kozuro, and befriends him and his lady love Sumiko, who works at the local tea house. Oyama also meets an old master who tries to teach Oyama a lesson in his rod fighting style. Things go south as Ryudoji takes a liking to Sumiko, and as all baddies do, attempts to rape her while she is serving him one night, and she winds up falling out of a window to her death. Kozuro tries to take his revenge, but is no match for the karate master and is also killed, leaving Oyama to avenge them both, which he does, crippling Ryudoji, drawing the the ire of his brother, who plots his revenge against Oyama. Meanwhile Oyama travels to Mount Daisetsu near Hokkaido to bury his friends’ remains, and meets a little boy named Rintaro and his Father, who is injured while chopping down a tree, and to help pay for their medical bills Oyama agrees to fight a bull in hand to hand combat. This gets printed in the papers, and Ryudoji’s brother now knows where Oyama is. If the bear doesn’t kill Oyama, someone else will…

Karate Bearfighter Sonny Chiba

Finally. This film, more than the other two I’ve reviewed, has Sonny Chiba goes nuts in the only way he can. The other stars do a good job, but this is Sonny’s film through and through, and we get the bonus of seeing the real Masutatsu Oyama performing a kata with his students at the opening of the film. The story is interesting, and broken up into two parts, the parts with his friends Kozuro and Sumiko, and then Hokkaido and his relationship with Rintaro. Both carry a level of weight to it, with the exception of one of the silliest moments seen in a martial arts film since kung -fu gorillas: Oyama’s fight versus a bear, which is obviously a man in a suit, and is just as silly as you’d think it would look.

Karate Bear Fighter 2

The fights here are the best in the series, to me, as they feature the Sonny Chiba Fist Strike of Mortal Pain. That’s right, Sonny Chiba kills a lot of guys, and as he does in his other films, this fist strike is incredibly painful-looking and provides the person struck with it a merciful death from the intense pain that was just inflicted. Not to mention the blood flows fairly steadily in this one.

The fights throughout are entertaining if short, and even the final fight is well done. It really is the most “Sonny Chiba” of this film series.

Kiai-Kick’s Grade: 8

This is the best of the Sonny Chiba Masutatsu Oyama Series, featuring old school Sonny Chiba fights. Not to be missed!

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Review: Best Of The Best 4: Without Warning (1998)

Posted in Phillip Rhee with tags , , on October 28, 2013 by Michael S. Moore

BOB 4 Philip Rhee

Starring Phillip Rhee, Ernie Hudson, Tobin Bell, Chris Lemmon, Paul Gleason

Fight Choreography by Simon Rhee

Directed by Phillip Rhee

The circle is now complete. We have reached the end of the Best of The Best series, that saw Tommy Lee (Rhee) go from a tae kwon do champion to an underground fighter, to a crusader for civil rights, and now Tommy Lee finds himself…fighting the Russian mob.

The story picks up years after the previous film, and Tommy Lee has had and lost a wife since then, and has a daughter named Stephanie to support now, being a martial arts teacher as well as teaching martial arts to the local police department. Things start to go awry when the daughter of an old friend is murdered by group of Russian mafia led by Lukasz Slava (Bell) who are looking for a disk that contains the specs to print out counterfeit money. Things get even more complicated when his police friend Jack Jarvis (Lemmon) turns out to be working with the Russians and tries to kill Tommy, but is accidentally killed by Tommy instead, and Tommy Lee must go on the run from both the Russians and Jack’s vengeful partner Detective Gresko (Hudson) and try to live long enough to defeat the Russians and save his daughter…

BOB 4

This was a fun film, moreso than the over done “Tommy Fights Racism” theme of the previous film. The acting was much better than the previous film. I’m unsure how a series like this keep getting actors like Ernie Hudson and Tobin Bell (who wouldn’t really become known until the Saw films, but still) but they do, and the series is all the better for it. Philip Rhee’s acting is a little better here, meaning it’s barely passable, but that’s not why we watch his films, is it? I’m still of the opinion that he didn’t have the charisma to be a star, but he does better here than in any of the previous films save the first. Ernie Hudson plays a good jerk of a detective who doesn’t believe in martial arts in a day where everyone uses guns. Tobin Bell makes a good villain, probably the best of this series. Cold and unforgiving, he’s a good foil for Phillip Rhee. Paul Gleason has a small part in this film, and it was a shame he didn’t get more to do.

BOB 4 3

The fights here are more of the Steven Seagal variety, meaning that only the hero has any real martial arts skills. This also means we get a lot of fights seeing Tommy Lee abuse a bunch of Russian hitmen with fantastic kicks and punches they can’t do anything about…until Tommy Lee gets captured and makes his escape, and similar to what happened to Jet Li in Kiss Of The Dragon, he runs into the wrong room of a group of Russian thugs practicing Escrima stick fighting, and that’s what ensues, and is a great choreographed fight, one of the best of the series. The fight goes from Escima to fencing versus Escrima, and the Russians give to Tommy nearly as good as they get (it’s as if the baddies were hiding their martial artists in this one room the entire film. The plan must’ve been to use them to defeat Tommy Lee should he ever find his way into this particular room, one of about twenty in the mansion.)

The film ends similarly to Die Hard 2, but that’s no bad thing, actually. We need to bring back more one-liners before the baddies blow up. Be sure to watch the closing credits and catch Phillip Rhee going through a Randori (free form practice) using some of the stuntmen.

Kiai-Kick’s Grade: 7

This is a really good Friday/Saturday night film full of ridiculous fun and over the top action, featuring some of Phillip Rhee’s best fighting onscreen. 

Eric Jacobus and Company return with Rope-A-Dope! (2013)

Posted in Dennis Ruel, Eric Jacobus, Lorenz Ruwwe with tags , , , , on October 19, 2013 by Michael S. Moore

Rope A Dope

Eric Jacobus (Mortal Kombat: Legacy Season 2 and Death Drip) returns with Dennis Ruel (Barrio Brawler) and Lorenz Ruwwe (Future Boss) in story about a guy who is stuck in a time loop ala Groundhog Day and must relive the day each time. Each time involves him kicking the ass of a gang of martial arts thugs. This really shows just how funny Eric Jacobus can be, and I hope his next feature film is something funny (the darkness of Death Grip made it difficult to really like, at least for me). Dennis Ruel looks great here as well. Once again I have to congratulate the Stunt People for turning out another gem, and I’m counting the days until Eric Jacobus and company decide to make another feature film. Watch this fantastic short below, and then watch it again.

 

Indie Kick Review: The Miller’s Tale (2013) and Sins of The Dragon! (2012)

Posted in Joey Corpora, Kale Sweeney, Shannon Lee Haines with tags , , , on October 15, 2013 by Michael S. Moore

I always love it when I can bring some attention to a new stunt team, or director, or actor, in the hopes that Hollywood, or someone, will take notice and give these fine folks work! Such is the case with Director Joey Corpora and Platypus Underground, whose short film Sins of the Dragon was runner up in the best fight choreography category at this year’s Action On Film Festival, and was an official selection at the 2013 Near Enemy Film Festival and 2013 Fright Night Film Festival.

Miller

The Miller’s Tale

This short is about a young woman (Haines) who takes a wrong turn cutting through a Silk Mill and meets a group of thugs eager to rearrange her face, but she has other plans. Shannon Lee Haines makes for a good female protagonist, and the thugs are appropriately dispatched in somewhat gory ways (particularly Kale’s final death scene). Kale does a good job with his fight scenes and his facial expressions as his men are take out in terrible ways. I love that they don’t take themselves too seriously, and that they are having fun. The fights here are really well done and the choreography was great. The cinematography has good scene compositions. There were a few issues with sound and ADR work, but experience , time, and the proper tools will improve that. I would have liked the movements to be a bit faster, but all in due time. This group is only just getting started.

Dragon2

Sins of the Dragon

Sins of the Dragon is a really ambitious film that traces the journey of Kunri (Sweeney) and his best friend/partner Kaia (Haines) as they travel across the land in search of Caligo, an assassin who, with his band of rather incompetent ninjas, search for the Dragons, powerful martial arts masters with superhuman abilities. Caligo can kill these masters and take their powers unless he’s stopped. Kunri seeks revenge on Caligo, and nothing will stop him. As they journey they run into obstacles like slavers, and lots and lots of ninjas (nothing is quite as satisfying as watching ninjas die. Unsure why that is…). The humor in this film is nice, especially with the slavers. Sweeney and Haines are good in their fight scenes, but the ninjas didn’t react very well to their hits and “deaths”, and that kept the fights from looking  more convincing. The final fight between Caligo and Kunri was well done, and had the speed I was missing from the other fights. Frankenfield and Sweeney turned in a heck of a final fight.

 

Kiai-Kick’s Grade (for both): 8

 

I took some time and watched some of their other short films, which you can find on their website here. They were also good, and the fight choreography is getting better and better, and I’m really fond of their humor. I wouldn’t put Platypus Underground quite in the same class as The Young Masters, LBP Stunts Chicago or The Stuntpeople…yet. I DO think they are heading in that direction, and will get there sooner than you think. They have big aspirations, and I can’t help but admire their gusto and confidence in which they pursue it. They are definitely a group worth looking out for. Give these guys a budget for a short film, and…well, let’s see what they do, eh? I think we will find out shortly (hint).

And now for something different…

Posted in Michael Moore with tags , on October 12, 2013 by Michael S. Moore

Police Story2

Hey all.

I first just wanted to say “thanks” to everyone who checks out this website in a regular basis.  Before the 2014 is over, there will definitely be a change, and that will affect things here, but how much, I’m not sure. My Journey started in 2007 with a short film I wrote and directed, and discovered that I loved doing both. After another short I decided to go back to school and study filmmaking, and now I am transitioning from being a martial arts film critic to being someone who makes films. I intend to concentrate on martial arts films, but I’ll direct other things as well. I have new page devoted to my journey from 2007 to the future, and you can go to my new blogsite here: Michael S Moore Productions (That’ll change at some point) . Your comments, as always, remain important to me, and on that site more than ever. I eventually want to make the films you want to see.

How does this affect things here? Well, I’ll still be reviewing movies and indie films as always, but as you can already see, I won’t be reviewing as many per week/month as I used to, but rest assured I WILL be reviewing all I can. You guys keep me going, and I want to do well by you. I hope my reviews have helped you make decisions on films, and more importantly I hope it led a discovery of a new film or talent. There’s a lot of them out there.

Thanks!

Michael S Moore

P.S. If anyone wants to submit a review on this site for a film I haven’t reviewed yet, please shoot me an email to kiaikicks@gmail.com .

Review: Mortal Kombat Legacy Season 2

Posted in Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa, Eric Jacobus, Larnell Stovall, Mark Dacascos, Michelle Lee, Samantha Jo with tags , , , , on October 7, 2013 by Michael S. Moore

Mk S2 Kitana

Starring Mark Dacascos, Cary Hiroyuki-Tagawa, Michelle Lee, Eric Jacobus, Casper Van Dien, Ian Anthony Dale, David Lee McInnis, Samantha Jo, Dan Southworth, Eric Steinburg, Brian Tee

Fight Choreography by Larnell Stovall

Directed by Kevin Tancharoen

Kevin Tancharoen took the internet by storm several years ago when he made a low budget short film Mortal Kombat: Rebirth and starred Michael Jai White, Matt Mullins, and Lateef Crowder that rebooted the Mortal Kombat series into a much darker, more violent property than the feature films ever were. The short film was a success, finally displaying a good martial arts fight scene and still retaining what made Mortal Kombat great. The powers that be at the WB were impressed, and rightly so. They gave Tancharoen the funds and resources to make a Mortal Kombat webseries. Bringing back Michael Jai White and Matt Mullins, along with Jeri Ryan and Darren Shalavi as Kano, matched together with the fight choreography of Larnell Stovall, and they had an online hit. The Mortal Kombat universe was successfully rebooted for a new generation.

So now we have Season 2. How did it fare this time around?

Mk S2 Lui Kang

The answer is…not nearly as good.

The series starts with the first appearance in the series of Liu Kang (Tee), the hero of the last tournament, now a violent drifter after the death of his fiancee at the hands of a group of thugs. His brother Kung Lao (Dacascos) comes to tell him that he will fight in the tournament, but Liu Kang, his soul darkened by revenge, wants nothing to do with the tournament or his brother. Meanwhile, Princess Kitana (Jo) is coming to terms with the revelations she discovered from last season about her true heritage, while Sub-Zero tries to reason with Skorpion about the attack on his family from last season. All of this at the backdrop of the tournament itself….

MK Season 2 Skorpion

So, let’s first get to the things I didn’t like. The stories overall were ok, but not nearly as good as last season, especially since Michael Jai White, Jeri Ryan, or Darren Shahlavi and their characters are absent, as we get an entire new group whose stories I could care less about, especially that of Kenshi. The story of how he got his sword is weak, and I could’ve done without knowing anything about him. Casper Van Dien doesn’t bring much of anything to the role that Matt Mullins couldn’t have done, and his fight scenes were unconvincing, unlike with Matt, who is a real martial artist. The Mileena/Kitana storyline didn’t follow through from last season with any real weight. The biggest disappointment I had with in regards to the Sub-Zero/Skorpion storyline, arguably the best of season 1, and it is here that I send a criticism straight to Kevin Tancharoen for not standing on the table and keeping their story in Japanese with English subtitles (maybe he did try to argue for it), which completely took me out of the scenes in Japan. I would ask anyone to watch the Season 1 Episodes and Season 2 and tell me a large piece of authenticity wasn’t lost. Tack onto that how their story ends this season, and it was infuriating, especially if you’re a Sub-Zero fan.

MK S2 Shang Tsung

Now for what I liked. Cary Hiroyuki-Tagawa as Shang Tsung. CHT is always great, and even more so here, once again playing the badass of the MK universe, and his line readings are as awesome as ever. Mark Dacascos was also cool as Kung Lao, even if he didn’t get much to do in this season. I liked the Liu Kang story more than I thought I would, and it was a refreshing new take on the hero of earth realm. I won’t ruin the surprise the final episode has in story for Liu Kang fans, but it will make Season 3 really interesting. Also, and this goes into the like and dislike category, Eric Jacobus as Stryker. I thought he did a great acting job, much better than many of the other stars, and his fight with Liu Kang was short, but very good. What I didn’t like was that he didn’t get an episode establishing his character, unlike virtually everyone else. Hopefully next season will fix this (and they keep Eric in the part, and not try to replace him like they did with Mullins. You listening, Warner Brothers?)

The fight scenes were pretty good, the best being Kenshi versus Ermac and Kitana versus Mileena. Everyone did a fantastic job here. I was a bit disappointed in the Skorpion/Sub Zero fight. I can’t put my finger on it, but it wasn’t as good to be as the Season 1 meeting between the two ( I realize Sub-Zero was Quan Chi in season 1, but still…)

Kiai-Kick’s Grade: 6

It was hard to care with so many cast members from Season 1 gone, and the Skorpion/Sub-Zero story was disappointing. I think there are some good seeds planted for Season 3, but it’ll require better storytelling that what’s on hand here. The fights kept this score from being lower.