Archive for the Ernie Reyes Jr. Category

Review: Rush Hour 2 (2001)

Posted in Ernie Reyes Jr., Jackie Chan, James Lew, John Lone, Ziyi Zhang with tags , on July 26, 2011 by Michael S. Moore

Starring Jackie Chan, Chris Tucker, Ziyi Zhang, John Lone, Don Cheadle, Alan King, Roslyn Sanchez

Fight Choreography by Jackie Chan

Directed by Brett Ratner

Rush Hour was a massive American success, one that had, until this point, eluded Jackie Chan, who had moderate hits with his HK imports. Teaming him up with Chris Tucker, a loudmouth comedian who is both funny and annoying in equal measure turned out to be gold at the box office. So what’s new with the sequel?

Actually, more of the same, except worse.

Rush Hour 2 picks up not long after Rush Hour, and we once again join Lee (Chan) and Carter (Tucker), and the tables are turned, with the duo being in Hong Kong instead, for a little bit. Carter is on vacation, and is a bit upset that he’s been nothing but helping Lee with his cases, but things change when there is a bombing at the American embassy, and Lee is tasked with checking out the Triads and his father’s former police partner Ricky Tan (Lone) who may be involved. What they find is that the Triads are working with an American billionaire to launder fake money at a new casino in Las Vegas. Along the way they team up with a beautiful FBI agent (Sanchez) and face off with Tan’s right hand woman Hu Li (Zhang). The film takes them from Hong Kong, Los Angeles and then Las Vegas, leading to a showdown at the Red Dragon Casino.

The story is serviceable, but unlike Rush Hour, the comedy pushes the story to the side. That is because Chris Tucker is given a much bigger part than Jackie Chan, you know, supposedly the star of the film. Of course, this is because Brett Ratner had an agenda to make Chris Tucker a bigger star, and both this film and its sequel supports this thought, giving more and more screen time to Chris Tucker. This is done by actually having Tucker have actual action scenes, the place where Chan is supposed to dwell, and therein lies the problem. With the Shanghai films, Owen Wilson is content–and smart enough–to share the screen with Chan, not attempt to upstage him. Not so much here. And in this the film is a complete failure, because what was the last film anyone has seen Chris Tucker in not named Rush Hour?

For Jackie Chan and martial arts action fans, the fights are far below the standards of what we expect from a Jackie Chan film. Yes, there are some cool single moments, like Chan’s escape from the guards at the casino leading to his dive through a teller window, and the fight up the bamboo scaffolding in Hong Kong, but the fights are too short and don’t allow for Chan’s full inventiveness to come to the fore. This is Ratner’s (who claims to be a fan of Police Story 1 and 2. Guess he never really paid much attention to the mall fight at the end of Police Story 1) take on martial arts films, than American’s cannot maintain their excitement at watching a fight scene longer than 2 minutes. That may be true for many USA films, but when you have inventive fight choreography, you can keep that excitement. Yuen Woo Ping, Jet Li, Jackie Chan, Bruce Lee and Donnie Yen have been doing it for years, and it’s never hurt a film any of them have ever made.  My personal take is that Brett Ratner is nothing more than a studio hack, working for whomever on whatever project that has a name (Red Dragon, X-Men 3) because he is known for bringing his films under budget, but his films take no chances and rarely has much creativity or style. He also commits a cardinal sin of insulting his audience by staging many of the “outtakes” rather than actually having them come from some flub that truly happened.

This is also a film of missed opportunities. You have Ziyi Zhang in the film, and you relegate her big action scene to a fight versus Chris Tucker? Who the hell wants to see that? I think many were waiting for a big fight scene versus Jackie Chan, and it never happened. You have Ernie Reyes Jr. in the film, and what the hell does he do? He RUNS AWAY from Chan and Tucker, and leads them to the Triads, and that’s his lone scene. Hell, he had a bigger part fighting Dwayne Johnson (The Rock) in The Rundown.

James Lew, an always dependable stuntman and fight choreographer has a scene that lasts like 3 seconds. Jackie kicks him in the face and that’s it. The best fight in the film is Jackie Chan versus Don Cheadle. Don was a big Jackie Chan fan, and wanted to put his best foot forward. He spent months learning his Chinese, not just to say his lines, but to get the inflections and dialect correct. He also came in having learned some martial arts in anticipation of his fight scene with Jackie Chan, and really impressed Chan and the other stuntmen with how quickly he took to the fight choreography.

As an American action comedy film it works well enough, and came at a good time. It was just released shortly before 9/11, and in the days afterward people wanted to go see something they could use to escape their troubles for a few hours, and this film hit the spot while pretty much every other film was tanking, as they were more serious than what many American’s wanted to see. As a martial arts film, the criteria used on this website, it’s below mediocre. Jackie Chan is relegated more to the background and being Chris Tucker’s sidekick, and the fights are relatively generic, and Brett Ratner’s equally generic style doesn’t help anything. The lack of using his resources (Ziyi, Reyes Jr, Lew, Chan himself) is the most maddening thing of all.

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

CHOREOGRAPHY: (4) Chan isn’t given the chance to use his inventiveness to really cut loose with good fight scenes. The Don Cheadle fight was the best one in the film, and the scaffold fight was a close second. The rest is forgettable.

STUNTWORK: (5) Lots of green screen used for Jackie Chan this time around. He still does some awesome things, but not close to his Hong Kong work, but that’s to be expected doing an American film, I suppose.

STAR POWER: (8)  Chan, Tucker, Zhang Ziyi, John Lone, and Don Cheadle bring a lot of star power to this film. Too bad much of it was wasted.

FINAL GRADE: (5) Still funny, perhaps even more so than the previous film, but there are too many wasted opportunities and agendas at work to make this film stand the test of time.

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Review: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (1990)

Posted in Ernie Reyes Jr., Reviews, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles with tags , , , on December 14, 2010 by Michael S. Moore

Starring Judith Hoag, Elias Koteas, Ernie Reyes Jr, Toshishiro Obata

Fight Choreography by Pat Johnson

Directed by Steve Barron

I’ll just say this up front: I was and still am a fan of the Ninja Turtles. The comic book, not the actual cartoon show, though I did like that as well. Hell no, the comic book is where it’s at. For those only familiar with the cartoon and movies, the comic book is NOT for kids. It’s actually got some hardcore shit. The turtles act like ninjas, don’t really care for pizza one way or the other, and have no problems killing people. Foot ninjas, to be exact, and speaking of them, The Shredder took no shit from anyone, and when all was said and done, Leonardo decapitated the Shredder in their final confrontation, and then burned his body to make sure he wouldn’t be coming back to life or anything down the road. Tell me that isn’t some hardcore stuff right there.

The difference between the comic book and that cartoon show is like comparing The Dark Knight to the Adam West 60’s series. So the question is, would the movie be more like the comic book or the cartoon?

Revisiting this film, I had no idea that Golden Harvest, home to Bruce Lee and Jackie Chan, had produced this film, but from what happens later, I shouldn’t have been surprised. The film starts with the audience being told that a rash of robberies across New York City has got the police stymied, and no one knows what’s going one, but we do see youths across town boosting TV’s, and anything else not nailed down, and delivering it to the Foot Ninjas, who evidently hang out in a white van waiting for them, and It’s a small wonder that the police were never–suspicious of dudes wearing ninja outfits with Spider-Man-like eyes driving around town in a van.

We soon meet April O’Neill, a reporter who believes the Asian community who are saying, “It’s ninjas, assholes!” Since the logic of this is apparent, no one believes April, not even her boss. One night she gets mugged by a group of thugs, and she is saved by the Ninja Turtles, who take out the lights and beat the thugs up, and when the police arrive they are hogtied and bruised. April finds one of Raphael’s Sais, and winds up taking it with her. We then meet the Turtles, Michelangelo, the surfer-dude knucklehead with nunchaku, Donatello, the brains of the outfit who fights with a staff, Raphael, the hothead who carries Sais, and Leonardo, the leader who runs around with 2 katana swords. They are under the tutelage of Splinter, a mutated rat who learned the art of ninja from his master, Hamato Yoshi. Pissed off about losing his sai, Raphael goes to check out a movie and stops some muggers from robbing an old lady. Unfortunately for the muggers Raphael lets them go, and they run right into the hands of Casey Jones, a masked vigilante who beats up criminals with various sporting equipment, in this case a hockey stick. The film started out somewhat kiddie, but Casey Jones makes his scenes a bit more violent than what kids would be used to seeing, but he’s step for step with his comic book version. He gets into a scrap with Raphael, who didn’t really understand what happens when you smack someone in the mouth with a cricket bat.

Soon April meets the Turtles after Raphael saves her, but Splinter is captured when the Foot attack their home while the Turtles are away. The Turtles go to stay at April’s, and one of the best fights in the film take place here, starting first with Raphael fighting the ninjas on the rooftop of April’s building. Good fight Choreography to be had here, as Raphael pulls off fighting techniques not unlike what you would see Jackie Chan or Sammo Hung do, but since Golden Harvest produced this, I can’t be too surprised. The fight then goes into April’s living room, and one of my favorite scenes in the film is here, where one ninja who is really good with nunchaku gets into a my-skills-are-better-than-yours nunchaku twirling match with Michelangelo. The reaction of the Foot ninja and especially those around him is great, like the ninjas “oooh” and “ahh” after Michelangelo’s twirling, like to say to their boy, “You gonna let him punk you like that? Show yo’ shit, fool!”

The Turtles, with the help of April and Casey Jones, escape to a farmhouse outside of town, where the team recuperates, sees Splinter like some sort of Obi-Wan Kenobi ghost figure, and bond with each other and with April and Casey. Soon they decide it’s time to go back and kick some ass, and asses do get kicked rather well in some great fight choreography. The final fight vs Shredder is the best, and gets rid of any funny stuff to concentrate on the fight. His fight with Leonardo is the best of them, and Splinter ends it all beautifully.

And yep, that’s the great Sam Rockwell (Iron Man 2, Moon, Galaxy Quest) as the leader of the thugs.

The film falls in between Turtles lore, funny like the cartoon, but the fights are serious much like the comic book. The fights are well done, and I know a martial arts consultant was brought in, presumably to help with the fight choreography, and I suspect it was someone within Golden Harvest’s camp. The fights nearly have a Dragons Forever flavor to it. This may be the best stuff Ernie Reyes Jr has done outside of The Rundown, which is kinda sad. So many failed expectations many of us had for him, but I’m saving that rant for another day, coming soon. As for the film, it’s a good introduction to the world of martial arts for kids, even thought it’s pretty dated.

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

CHOREOGRAPHY: (8) Surprisingly well done here. They were fluid and fun, and it couldn’t have been east for the martial artists in the turtle suits to perform those great moves!

STUNTS: (8) The ninja stuntmen took a lot of falls in this film, and some acrobatic flips after getting kicked that were well done.

STAR POWER: (9) Teenage. Mutant. Ninja. Turtles.

FINAL GRADE: (8) The first film is a great mix of martial arts and comedy, everyone involved did a great job for the time it was done in. It satisfies the kids and the comic book geeks alike, and is a surprisingly good ninja film!

Review: The Last Dragon (1985)

Posted in Ernie Reyes Jr., Taimak with tags , , on April 15, 2010 by Michael S. Moore

Julius Carry The Last Dragon

Starring Taimak, Vanity, Julius Carry III

Fight Choreography by Torrance Mathis

Directed by Michael Schultz

There have been many ripoffs of Bruce Lee films, and very few of them paid the master any real homage, which is still the case to this day (Dragon: The Bruce Lee Story notwithstanding), but one of the best came from a place no one would have thought: Motown Productions under the production of the famous Berry Gordy.

Not that you wouldn’t have noticed. The film opens with a cool song-well this is Motown, so if nothing else you would think the movie would have some kickass music-and at least for me, it does. If you don’t like Debarge, then I can’t help you. Go watch Rapid Fire or something. The song plays over Taimak doing different martial arts moves, just to show you his skill level. I had never heard of him before this film, and I wondered to this day why he never did much else movie-wise. In this film he plays a guy named “Bruce” Leroy Green, and in another nod to Bruce, comes across as the country bumpkin. As stated many times, those guys are badasses, one and all. After his demo is over, his master takes a shot at him with an arrow to test his skills. Since he shot the arrow to the side of him I assume he was testing his ability to keep the arrow from hitting someone else. What a douche. Why not train Leroy to keep the arrow from hitting him? Wait, catching bullets in his teeth would be much safer, and more practical since city folk usually don’t attack with bows and arrows. So I take that back.

After the arrow scene, his master tells him that he’s reached the final level, where you can attain The Glow , some light that makes your hands glow like light sabers, and can create sparks when you hit someone else who can do it. That’s so cool I expect my teacher to teach me that. Really. I believe in that shit. Soon Leroy’s master sends him out to find some old Chinese guy who can help him find it.

Feeling a bit lost, Leroy does what many of us do in the same position; go to the local movie theater and watch Enter the Dragon. This entire sequence sets the tone for the rest of the film, and you either go with it or not. This scene is classic, starting with a guy copying Bruce when he politely steps on Bob Wall’s face by doing the same to a boom box that some knuckleheads break dancing in the aisles brought with them, in a move that in real life would have gotten their asses kicked. Then we enter the villain Shonuff, played with gusto and charisma by the late Julius Carry III, and every line that escapes his mouth is pure gold. This guy hates Leroy, who seems to be unaware that, at least to one of Sho’s men, he stands between Shonuff and total supremacy. Of what I wasn’t sure, but it must have been important, ’cause Shonuff wants to fight Leroy however he can. This leads to a fight in the theater when a bunch of guys who think they can take Shonuff try to do so. I don’t know if Julius Carry knew any martial arts before the film, but his acting sells every single move, no matter how simple. (Keanu Reeves, take note.) In retrospect the fight was typical 80’s American style, but it’s all about Shonuff. And it works.

The Last Dragon

We then meet the secondary villain, Eddie Arcadian, basically a poor man’s Danny Devito, a promoter and gangster who is trying to get his girlfriend’s music video on a popular dance show hosted by the beautiful Laura Charles (Vanity). We then are show scenes at the show, and are treated to an Debarge song. Eddie really must love that annoying-ass girlfriend of his, as he’ll murder, kidnap, and assault people all in her name. Leroy soon meets Laura on the streets after an attempted kidnapping by Eddie’s men, all of whom look like guys who have had their asses kicked in Steven Seagal films. A decent (for the 80’s) fight scene that shows off Taimak’s skills. During the save Leroy drops the token his master gave him.

Oh yeah, before I forget, look for William H. Macy (Fargo) as Laura’s producer.

Soon Eddie does capture Laura and subjects her to the music, which is akin to waterboarding. Soon Leroy shows up to save her, a bit late since he had to run home to get his ninja outfit, but whatever. Once again he beats up the bad guys and saves Laura. Little does he know that Shonuff has gone to his family’s pizza place, and like many old school films, trashes the place looking him. Of course this scene is there for Leroy to doubt his personal vow not to fight since he is a man of peace, nevermind the asses he just kicked-twice. Ungrateful bastard put a piece of ass in front of saving his Dad’s place. Well, it was Vanity, so he scores a man pass for that one.

Vanity The Last Dragon

Since Eddie has been “pwnd” twice by Leroy he decides to hire Shonuff, and every bad guy lackey that William Sadler, Alan Rickman and Henry Silva passed on. While this is happening Laura takes Leroy to the studio where she shows him a music video she put together of Bruce Lee movies, and scores a kiss from a very awkward Leroy. Soon Laura is kidnapped again, and Leroy has to go save her again, and fights leftovers from the Road Warrior. Soon he’s joined by his students, which include then-child martial arts phenom Ernie Reyes Jr, who may have been about seven or eight, and gets to show off his stuff in a scene that is probably the best martial arts shown in the film.

The final battle battle between Leroy and Shonuff is filled with cool music and while not a great fight scene, the actors sell the face off well (Anyone in the Matrix films not named Colin Chou, take note). You’ll be humming the music here for days. Leroy gets the girl, the bad guys get beaten, and all is well in the world again, at least until the remake with Samuel L Jackson as Shonuff comes out. Argh.

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

CHOREOGRAPHY: (5) Typical 80’s American fight choreography, not very impressive, but not outright horrible.

STUNTS: (3) Not much to speak of here. Passable, but nothing to write home about.

DIRECTION: (7) Not bad. The camera doesn’t do any quick cut editing, and in some frames look very much like a Bruce Lee flick. The music puts this over the top.

STAR POWER: (8) As much as Taimak was the star of the film, this movie rests on the acting of Julius Carry, who creates one of the most memorable martial arts villains since Mr. Han. Every single line from his mouth is quotable gold.

FINAL GRADE: (9) Why a nine? Because this film isn’t one you watch for great fight scenes. You watch for the film itself, with the great music, a memorable villlain, and a film that epitomizes the 80’s.

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