Archive for the Dan Inosanto Category

Review: I Am Bruce Lee (2012)

Posted in Brandon Lee, Bruce Lee, Cung Le, Dan Inosanto, Diana Lee Inosanto, Gina Carano, Robert Wall with tags , on February 12, 2012 by Michael S. Moore

Starring Bruce Lee, Brandon Lee, Shannon Lee, Linda Lee Cadwell, Dan Inosanto, Diana Lee Inosanto, Cung Le, Gina Carano, Manny Pacquiao, Robert Wall, Gene LeBell, Ed O’Neill, Mickey Rourke, Taboo, Kobe Bryant, Reginald Hudlin, Teri Tom, Jon Jones, Ray “Boom Boom Mancini”, Daniele Bolelli, Dana White, David Tadman, Dr. Paul Bowman. Richard Bustillo, Paul Rodriguez, Stephan Bonnar

Directed by Pete McCormack

“Water can flow or it can crash. Be water, my friend.”

-Bruce Lee

I Am Bruce Lee is a documentary that follows the life–and death–of Bruce Lee, cinema’s greatest martial arts star, and one of the greatest martial artists who ever lived. There have been other documentaries done over the years about Bruce, so how does this one stack up?

I’ll say it’s probably the best one yet, with one slight problem I’ll touch on shortly. The film really starts with slam bang intro that mixes scenes from Bruce’s films along with sound bytes from some of the stars being interviewed, and it will really get one salivating to see Bruce Lee’s films brought back to the big screen (you listening, whomever holds those rights? If Blade Runner and Star Wars can get rereleased in theaters, why not Bruce?). Then we go into Bruce’s life, and the film does a great job of going step by step through Bruce’s tumultuous time in China to his difficulties in America to when he met Linda and things started falling into place, but not without hard work and sacrifice.

The film then traces the TV shows he was a part of, some of which I had never heard of and wall thrilled to see scenes of, to his departure to China and his surprise at how popular the Green Hornet (or the Kato Show, as it was called there.) was, to his involvement–and problems–with Lo Wei (Jackie Chan would have his own set of problems with Lo Wei years later), to the success of The Big Boss, his other films in China, his matchup with Chuck Norris (I wonder why he wasn’t interviewed for this?) and his eventual death, which becomes the most affecting moments in the film as we see, maybe for the first time, what it meant to not just the fans, but to the people who were closest to Bruce.

Pete McCormack does a great job conducting the interviews and getting the maximum affect interspersing them among footage of Bruce Lee’s screen test, and his only real interview on the Pierre Berton Show, along with video footage in Bruce’s backyard to just pictures from his life before stardom hit. The scenes from all of Bruce’s films are done just right, and are fantastic to see and make perfect sense regarding the discussion or comment at that moment. The interviewees are people who are really Bruce Lee fans, and most are martial artists themselves, and they do a great job.

The only part of the film that rubbed me the wrong way came at about the midpoint of the film. A semi-debate started about whether Bruce was the Father of MMA or not. One side, notably those close to Bruce, are iffy and don’t seem to be comfortable even talking about it, but aren’t really convinced that he is. Dana White and the UFC group profess that he is, Gene LeBell definitely believes in fact that HE is the father of MMA rather than Bruce, and a lot of UFC fight footage is shown. This is a jarring moment that really pulled me out of the film, wondering why this was there. I then remembered that Spike TV helped produce this, and they promote many UFC events, so that explains that, but that is a discussion/debate that needed to be elsewhere, not in a documentary about Bruce Lee, regardless of how popular the MMA style is to today’s fight fans. Maybe MMA fans like it, but I found myself checking my watch at that point. When the film returns to Bruce’s life, it felt like coming back from a commercial break.

For those who are well-versed in Bruce Lee’s life there isn’t anything here that may be new to them, but to those who don’t know as much will find it a rich and exhilarating film. There were things I didn’t know, like the fact that Bruce and James Coburn had tried to location scout for The Silent Flute, eventually to be made by David Carradine, but the film was dropped because no locations could be found, and it was great to see the photos of Coburn and Bruce scouting the locales. I also didn’t know that Bruce had become a big child star in Hong Kong before he was forced to leave to America because of his problems after beating up the son of a police chief. I was aware he had made films as a child, but I didn’t know that he was a very famous child star, so there was an extra treat when the Kato Show came out and people could see the grown up Bruce Lee. I was also unaware of just how much the Manson murder spree affected him.

My personal, most affected moment of the film was after Bruce Lee’s death, and when Dan Inosanto and Richard Bustillo starting talking about it, you could really feel the shock and pain as they recount when they had heard about it and their feelings that day and both men looked as if they went right back to that moment and the hard days afterward. You may as well have tossed them both into a time machine and dated it July 20th, 1973. That is the moment that was driven home to me that while we think of Bruce Lee the martial arts savant, his family and friends were utterly crushed as they lost a husband, father, friend, and master.

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

Final Grade: (9) Overall, I am Bruce Lee delivers on its title. It is hard-hitting, philosophical, excellent even in its imperfections, emotional in its punches and always dancing around, and is fantastic fun to watch on the big screen, just as the man himself.

The film will have selected showings again on February 15th. You can check the listings of their showtimes here: http://www.iambruceleemovie.com/

Advertisements

Review: Game of Death (1978)

Posted in Bruce Lee, Dan Inosanto, James Tien, Robert Wall, Sammo Hung, Yuen Biao with tags , , , , , , on October 8, 2010 by Michael S. Moore

Starring Bruce Lee, Dan Inosanto, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar,

Robert Wall, Sammo Hung, Yuen Biao, Kim Tai Jong, James Tien

Fight Choreography for Bruce Lee’s fights by Bruce Lee

Fight Choreography for everyone else by Sammo Hung and Yuen Biao

Directed by Robert Clouse

Let’s get one thing cleared up first: Game of Death is not Bruce Lee’s last film. That moniker belongs to Enter the Dragon, and to that film alone. Game of Death could be best described as a compilation/tribute/b-sides album. The film compiles memorable scenes from Bruce’s earlier films, new scenes shot by a bunch of fake Bruces (Yuen Biao being one of them) and the final fights that feature the actual Bruce Lee.

Was it a good tribute to Bruce? In a small way.

Was it a grab for more cash after the success of Enter the Dragon? Hell yes.

Bruce Lee–or actually his body doubles–stars as Billy Lo, a martial arts film star who is filming a scene with Chuck Norris (archived scenes from Way of the Dragon) when a light from above crashes on the ground near him, stopping production. During these scenes you see Bruce from behind only, and I just knew this was gonna be a long film. I almost died laughing when they would show Bruce speaking to different people from behind, and then Bruce’s reaction shots would be clipped scenes from his other films. Anyway, some douchy fight promotor who works for some shadowy company called the Syndicate wants Billy to fight in the ring, and Billy slaps the guy away. Shit, the real Bruce would’ve slapped the guy through the door. During this scene they had the audacity to actually superimpose a cut out of Bruce’s head on the actor’s body!

Anyway, we then cut to the Meeting of Evil Villians, where the same douchy promotor and his lackeys played by Robert Wall (what’s the deal with him being Bruce’s bitch?) and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar decide to beat Billy into signing the contract. Billy goes out to dinner that night with his girlfriend played by Colleen Camp, when he gets ambushed by some of douchy’s men. This first fight of Fake Bruce is exactly what you would expect-badly shot scenes of a guy trying to pretend to be Bruce, but isn’t even close.

This brings me to what would be common theme in this film until you get near the end: Billy gets his ass kicked. A lot. WTF?! Okay, I can accept a lot of things, but the sight of a couple of hired thugs beating up someone who is supposed to be BRUCE LEE just kills me. I’m surprised Bruce not only didn’t roll around in his grave at this, but didn’t outright punch his way back to the land of the living so he could smack Robert Clouse around for a second, telling him what the hell, man?! There is not one scene, in any of Bruce’s films, where anyone—and I mean no one—kicks his ass. Yeah, some guys get their shots in, but Bruce NEVER LOSES. It’s not boring, that’s just Bruce. He doesn’t lose. And who would be equal to him for him to lose to? Nobody, that’s who. And yet in several fight scenes with Fake Bruce, he gets his ass owned by everyone, hell even Robert Wall. He punches and kicks these thugs, and they get right back up. If Real Bruce hits them, they ain’t gettin’ back up.

Before long Billy is shot on the set of his film, but isn’t killed, and with the help of an old friend stages what has to be the absolute worst scene ever filmed, lacking in any amount of taste whatsoever. Any respect I might’ve had for Robert Clouse died right at this moment. Billy fakes his own death, and the funeral scenes were ACTUAL FOOTAGE OF BRUCE’S FUNERAL. That takes some balls, but holy shit that was a dung pile of bad decision making to allow it into a fictional film.

Not long afterward I was able to briefly set aside my disdain by watching a fight between Robert Wall and Sammo Hung, which was actually well done—no where near Sammo’s normal quality—but well done nevertheless. It allowed Sammo to show off some fancy moves before Robert Wall kicks his ass, and then in turn gets his ass killed by Fake Bruce following this fight. I’ll say this for Mr. Wall, he always looks great getting his ass kicked.

Soon Billy’s girlfriend is kidnapped by Douchy, and Billy frees her and goes after Douchy and his boys, and here is where Real Bruce returns for the final fights between himself and Dan Inosanto, nunchuck to nunchuck, a fight with another karate master, and the crowning moment, the fight between Bruce and his real life student NBA superstar Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. Each fight is great in it’s own way, and the fight with Kareem is fantastic, a study of fighting while facing a great size disadvantage (it could be argued both ways) and Kareem does a great job here.

After that we go back to Fake Bruce and he has to fight Douchy, in a fight that tries to make Douchy feel like a threat, but his isn’t, and is weakly killed and the film thankfully ends. This is really a horrid film, but I get what they wanted to do. They tried to honor the memory of Bruce and to make sure that audiences would feel that absence would make the heart grow fonder, and at least in this film, it succeeds.

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

CHOREOGRAPHY: (4) Sammo tried his best to choreograph fights the way Bruce would’ve, but without the secret ingredient of Bruce, none of it works. Sammo’s fight with Robert Wall was the best non-real Bruce Lee fight in the entire film.

BRUCE’S CHOREOGRAHY: (8) For what there was, was terrific. The fight with Kareem was a classic. The last we would ever get from Bruce.

STUNTS: (3) Not much here. Some good acrobatic here and there, but that’s about it.

STAR POWER: (8) There really was a lot of star power from the martial arts world here. Too bad that power was used in this film.

FINAL GRADE: (4) Only the Bruce fights, because they are classic, keeps this film from getting a lower grade that this. Unfortunately the success of this film would spawn the legion of fake Bruces to follow, and an insipid sequel.