Archive for the Richard Norton Category

Cornered and Michael S Moore at the Action On Film Festival 2015!

Posted in Dennis Ruel, Emmanuel Manzanares, Gui DaSilva, Michael Moore, Richard Norton, Vlad Rimburg with tags on September 24, 2015 by Michael S. Moore

Whew! I only spent 3 days in Monrovia, California for the Action On Film Festival, but I had memories to last a lifetime and met so many wonderful people! The festival is held at the Krikorian theater, and let me tell you, its a beautiful theater! The days were hot ( not nearly as hot as Texas was!) but it was just gorgeous outside:

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AOF is in its 11th year, and there are a LOT of films shown, and its a testament to festival creator Del and Theresa Weston that so many filmmakers attend the show! Del is a personality, one so big how could he NOT create a thing like AOF? Such a good guy! He welcomed me with open arms literally the moment I arrived!

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I literally got off the plane early Friday morning, and after a small jaunt to Venice Beach ( hey, it was my first time in Los Angeles) I went to the festival and the whirlwind began! I finally met Kely McClung (Blood Ties) a longtime facebook friend, and now a friend for real, plus his makeup artist Nadia, who will be working with Kely on a short film called Loop. Kely was at the festival as his feature film Altered was showing (it was really good!) I also met a lot of wonderful actors, actresses, directors and producers!

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Left to Right: Kely McClung, Michael S Moore, Actress Jodie Lee, Makeup Artist Nadia Berchtold, and actor Robert Factor.

Saturday Night saw a lot of action, culminating in the screening of UnLucky Stars! My review can be found here, and it was just as much fun watching it a second time around! Unlucky Stars now has distribution, so hopefully you’ll all be able to see it soon! I was finally able to meet the cast and crew, and I was stoked! These are guys I’ve been pounding the drums for nearly since Kiai-Kick’s inception, and here they were! A great group of guys:

Left to right: Vladislav Rimburg, Sari Sabella, Michael S Moore, Emmanuel Manzanares, Dennis Ruel, and Gui Dasilva

Left to right: Vladislav Rimburg, Sari Sabella, Michael S Moore, Emmanuel Manzanares, Dennis Ruel, and Gui DaSilva

If you’re new to the website and don’t know their work, here are a few things to watch:

DAMN RIGHT. I also met Bryan Sloyer, who is becoming quite the filmmaker himself!

So the screening went well, and afterward who should we see in attendance? None other than RICHARD NORTON! (Twinkle Twinkle Lucky Stars, Mad Max: Fury Road, China O’Brien and so many more!) Such a gentleman and very humble, but the man is a legend of martial arts cinema!

Richard Norton is so cool he gets his own toplight!

Richard Norton is so cool he gets his own toplight!

There were some truly great short films, like Battle of Wills by David Noh (awesome story and ending!), Wrath of God, and The Real Miyagi, about Karate Master Fumio Demura, was tremendously good. I can’t recommend that documentary enough.

I had to leave Sunday night, but my experiences were once in a lifetime. Or was it? Now that Cornered has shown, I have already started work on my next/first feature film. What is it? Well…

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So I’ll see you next year, right?

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Review: Forced Vengeance (1982)

Posted in Chuck Norris, Richard Norton with tags , on January 2, 2012 by Michael S. Moore

Starring Chuck Norris

Fight Choreography by Aaron Norris

Directed by James Fargo

Chuck Norris stars as Josh Randall, a military vet now working for Sam Paschal, a Jewish casino owner in Hong Kong. Josh does work getting folks who owe Sam money to pay up. In most other films a character like this would be the villain, but here he’s the good guy. He has a smoking hot girlfriend Claire, who lives with him on a boat, and life seems to be good. And then once you remember this is a Chuck Norris film called Forced Vengeance, you just wait for things to head south, and they do really fast as Sam’s son David tries to make a deal to merge the casino with a local casino baron and member of a secret organization called Osiris. When Sam refuses, of course he and his son are killed, and Randall finds he has to protect the only other owner, Sam’s daughter Joy. Randall and Joy, along with Claire find themselves on the run until an ambush causes Randall to go on the attack, and now he’ll have to kill his way to the leader of Osiris to stop them once and for all.

Forced Vengeance plods along at the beginning until Sam and David are killed, then the film moves faster, but you’ll have to deal with bad acting until them. Chuck is…well, Chuck, and he’s not a good actor but he has a screen persona that works well in this. The women are there mostly for eye candy, and work well for that, but they don’t anything else but run around with Chuck bra-less and scream a lot. The villains are cookie cutter and the steps they take to kill Joy and Randall doesn’t seem to match with their ambitions.

The fight choreography is not too imaginative, and has no flow or any real complexity. Aaron Norris keeps things simple, and even the best fight toward the end between Chuck and a nameless thug is pedestrian at best. I take that back. The best fight is a fight we never really see as Chuck fights a guy that we only see as their silhouettes near a neon sign. Most American fight choreography of the early 80’s were like that, but there are still ways it could’ve been done better. Little did anyone in the United States know that at the time Jackie Chan and Sammo Hung were redefining what fight choreography was and could be.

Forced Vengeance is a mediocre film that doesn’t seem to aspire to be anything more. It isn’t even a good showcase for Chuck Norris’ skills.

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

CHOREOGRAPHY: (3) Barely passable, but then again I’ve never been a fan of Aaron Norris’ fight choreography.

STUNTWORK: (5) The stuntmen don’t really have to do much here. They take a few spills, but not much more than that. Their stuntwork matches the film’s ambition.

STAR POWER: (7) Chuck Norris, and that’s it. Still potent, however. It must be the moustache. Richard Norton has a small role, but no martial arts.

FINAL GRADE: (5) Forced Vengeance is an average film that has no ambition except to be a by the numbers action film with Chuck Norris as the star. Chuck is the only thing quality about this film.

Review: China O’Brien (1990)

Posted in Cynthia Rothrock, Keith Cooke, Richard Norton with tags , , on October 20, 2011 by Michael S. Moore

Starring Cynthia Rothrock, Richard Norton, Keith Cooke

Fight Choreography by Roberta Chow and Roy Horiuchi

Directed by Robert Clouse

1988 saw two new faces light up martial arts films in the USA—Jean-Claude Van Damme and Steven Seagal. Both were fresh faces after years of basically just Chuck Norris, and dozens of ninja films in the 80’s. Robert Clouse, director of Enter the Dragon, thought it might be time to introduce some English-speaking new blood. Working with Raymond Chow and Golden Harvest, they decided to export Cynthia Rothrock and Richard Norton, both of whom had become stars internationally due to their HK films like Twinkle, Twinkle Lucky Stars, Shanghai Express and Above the Law. Clouse has always tried to recapture the magic of Enter the Dragon, but has never been able to, and doesn’t come close to it here, but does make an entertaining low budget film. (I’ll never be able to quite forgive him for Game of Death, a joke of a film that should never have seen the bloody light of day.)

The film opens as title character China O’Brien (Rothrock), a cop and martial arts instructor is challenged by a student named Termite (A remnant of the 80’s where every black dude was named for everything except a human f***ing being. There wasn’t a black dude named, oh, Bob, for instance. But whatever. The 80’s is full of poor judgments like that. This film capsulized most of them) to a fight to prove that martial arts can work in the real world. He leaves the dojo only to get his ass kicked in the alley right outside. Maybe, just maybe knowing martial arts may have saved him from such an ass-whooping, proving once again how Karma is a bitch.

Anyway, China goes to the designated alley to meet him, only to find dudes there that are NOT his friends. She fights them off in a fun scene that shows how HK fashions of the 80’s doesn’t work so well in the USA, and in the end she shoots one of the gangbangers, who happens to be a kid. She resigns from the police force and returns home, which is a small town in which her father is sheriff, but she soon discovers that things have gone downhill since she left, and the country white dudes she left behind have been replaces by douchy country white dudes with pot bellies who think they can fight and work for organized crime. She does have a friend/boyfriend teacher Matt (Norton) who is also presumably from the same town but strangely has an Australian accent. She is also helped by Dakota, China kicks a little ass here and there until her father is killed, and she decides to run for his office and is challenged by one of Barlow’s men, and after they rig the polls and try to steal ballot boxes it leads to a final fight for control of the town. A really small town. Suffice to say:

China O’Brien and Friends: 1 Country Boys: -1

If you love seeing small town dudes getting their asses kicked, then this film will be your nirvana. The story is hokey, and the acting sucks, but that kinda adds to the charm of this. Cynthia has to actually portray…warmth and love here, which is not what she had been asked to provide in any of her HK films. She may not have been used to it, and the same goes for Richard Norton, but when it comes time to kick ass, the film does it fairly well. Now there isn’t any fights versus any other good martial artists, but nevertheless it’s fun. The line reading is tone-deaf, but as Robert Clouse was deaf as well (no joke, he actually was), it’s all good, I guess. The fights are well done, and for the most part keeps up with the Hong Kong style of choreography and speed. Keith Cooke has no screen presence whatsoever, but is good in his fights, with blazing fast speed on his kicks, but overall he isn’t given much to do.

Robert Clouse does a good job of making sure the action is front and center, and the film keeps it coming. The best fights are the bonfire fight, where Richard Norton and Keith Cooke really get to kick some serious ass, and then the fight in the high school weight room, where China beats the crap out of the same guy with a do-rag like ten times.

China O-Brien lets its B-movie flag fly high, and even though it was never the success all were hoping it would be, Cynthia Rothrock and Richard Norton would becomes fixtures of many B-movies for the 90’s until Jackie Chan and Jet Li showed up and booted Seagal and JCVD to B-Movieville.

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

CHOREOGRAPHY: (7) The fights are well done and more or less polished, not reaching the heights of her Hong Kong work, but is a hell of a lot better than her American output after this.

STUNTWORK: (2) Boy, did these guys ever suck. Their reactions were laughable, not acting realistically or even over the top with their reactions to being hit. That actually makes it kinda funny though.

STARPOWER: (7) Cynthia Rothrock would begin her reign as B-movie action queen, and Richard Norton would be in most films with her, but they will never ascend any higher. Keith Cooke’s career never takes off.

FINAL GRADE: (7) The cheese flows like a river here, and the acting is terrible, but the action is fun to watch, but be warned. 80’s fashion is in full effect here!

Review: Shanghai Express aka Millionaire’s Express (1986)

Posted in Cynthia Rothrock, Dick Wei, Hwang Jang Lee, Lam Ching Ying, Richard Norton, Sammo Hung, Shih Kien, Wai-Man Chan, Wang Lung Wei, Yasuaki Kurata, Yuen Biao, Yuen Wah with tags , , , on July 5, 2011 by Michael S. Moore

Starring Sammo Hung, Yuen Biao, Yuen Wah, Lam Ching Ying, Hwang Jang Lee, Yukari Oshima, Richard Norton, Cynthia Rothrock, Dick Wei, Shih Kien, Richard Ng, Yu Wang, Wang Lung Wei

Fight Choreography by Sammo Hung

Directed by Sammo Hung

Sammo, a fan of many westerns, had always wanted to do one himself, and decided to call on damn near every star at the time to be in his kung-fu/western mashup. The film was designed to be another Sammo Hung/Jackie Chan/Yuen Biao team up, but alas Jackie wasn’t able to be in it due to scheduling conflicts, but never mind that. Everyone and their brother is in this film, and Jackie being in the film would have robbed someone else of screen time, especially two newcomers, but more on them later.

Sammo plays Cheng, a thief, opportunist and sometimes pimp with big plans for his small hometown of Hanshui, plans the town is unaware of. He had to leave Hanshui after a series of good deeds gone bad, or bad deeds that had a somewhat noble purpose, depending on your POV. Well, Hanshui ran him out of town, but he has a plan to return and open up a casino/ secret brothel, but since Hanshui is a no where town with nothing more than a train track not far away, he had to do something to get the customers in, and has plans to blow up the train tracks just when the Shanghai Express, a train full of wealthy passengers, will pass, making them stay in the town to spend their money there. Captain Tsao (Biao), the former fireman now the law offical thanks to some of his not-too-smart comrades who decided to use a fire to rob a bank (Lam Ching Ying, Yuen Wah and others), knows Cheng and vows to break up whatever scheme he’s running…

Meanwhile a group of bandits that include Dick Wei, Cynthia Rothrock and Richard Norton plan to rob the train near Hanshui in an effort to help a mob family secure documents being smuggled out of China by Japanese operatives….

Also, Master Wong (Yu Wong) and his son, the great Wong Fei Hung, travel in the same car with rival Master Sek (Kien) and his son.

And…the group that robbed the bank in Hanshui plan to use the train to get away with the town’s money.

AND…quite a few more stories that will all come together in Hanshui, leading to a slam bang finale that features some fantastic fight choreography and some genuinely funny moments. Admittedly, the comedy can be hit or miss depending on whether you like the slapstick comedy that was pervasive in Hong Kong in the 80’s. Personally, most of it worked for me, especially the Richard Ng stuff. That guy is crazy funny:

He plays a lecherous douche who bounces between his wife and his mistress, both of whom are on the train. He has some fantastic stunts where he “trots” on the train cars, jumping from one to another with ease, and does the same later on the roof of a three story casino. His facial expressions are hilarious to watch.

The stunts are thrilling to watch, such as a series of impressive fire fighting stunts by Yuen Biao culminating in a jump from the top of a 3 story building to the ground…and lands on his feet. Wow. He really does get to cut loose, and Sammo lets everyone have their moment in the sun, from the comedians to the fighters. I have to give Yuen Wah and Lam Ching Ying credit-they were really game to become the two idiots they play. No fighting for them, but it’s still great to see them playing different roles than what I would normally see from them. Now, in a changeup from most of my reviews, because there are so damn many, let’s look into individual fights, eh?

Sammo Hung Vs Yuen Biao: Wow. This fight would be the showstopper of other, even very good martial arts films, but here it is in the middle of the film, which helps break up the comedy. Sammo and Yuen really bring it, and if you watch the first kick Sammo gives Yuen, that kick almost really took Yuen Biao out. Like really out. These two go at it, and the choreography is excellent here, and you can tell that they are actually striking each other, which is something Sammo demands of all of his action co-stars, but hey, they’re kung-fu brothers, so they know what to expect from each other.

Yasuaki Kurata vs Richard Norton: Yeah, it was really short, and Richard’s end is painful (note to self, never try to kick high on a short girl with sword.) but what was there was gold. Of course Richard says his classic line “Painful?”after he gives Kurata a nasty kick. Great blocking moves in this scene.

Yuen Biao vs Dick Wei: Oh. My. Gosh. This fight was incredible. Yuen Biao and Dick Wei blaze along their fight with pure speed and Yuen’s acrobatic stunts in this fight is stunning to watch. His spin off the balcony is legendary as writ in the scrolls. Wei’s punches were lightning fast and Biao even faster at dodging them.

Sammo Hung vs Cynthia Rothrock:  Yeah, this fight was cool, and it’s no wonder Cynthia became famous in HK cinema after this fight. She hung tight with the big man himself through his fight choreography that had him going from being Sammo to impersonating Bruce Lee. I was disappointed that one of her big kicks was actually done by Yuen Biao as her stunt double, but the rest is fantastic. Sammo really tossed himself around.

Hwang Jang Lee vs Yuen Biao and Sammo Hung: This the most hair-pulling of all of the fights in this film. It barely lasts a minute, when the reality is it was supposed to be the absolute show stopper fight in the film, but had to be cut for the running time.  What’s there was the beginning of something epic that gets chopped to about 30 seconds. Argh! Luckily Hwang does get to jack up a bunch of other guys, but this is still a great opportunity missed.

Yukari Oshima vs a bunch of sad bastards: Yukari showed off her stuff in this fight, and though she isn’t a kendo practictioner she made it look as if she were, and really had a good, if short fight scene.

Also I have to say I loved the fight between young Wong Fei-Hung and Master Sek’s son. Those two kids were great, evoking the classic Shaw Brothers style of fight choreography, and the parents’ response is a funny way to end the scene, as is the train ride where both masters get their shots at each other each time they enter a tunnel. I want to go back and say a thing or two about Richard Norton and Cynthia Rothrock. These films would pave the way for their American B-movies, but they really understood the Hong Kong style of fight choreography and were the few Americans and Australians to do so at the time (There were a few others, but not many. Karen Shepard and Peter Cunningham are some of the others.) They work really well with the Sammo Hung/Yuen Biao/Jackie Chan style of choreography that dominated 80’s HK films from the Golden Harvest camp.

This film is really a sampler kind of film. You get a full plate that has bits and pieces of everyone, and the whole will fill you up, but you wished you had more of this or that. I needed more Hwang Jang Lee and Yasuaki Kurata, and Dick Wei, but that is a small gripe in a film chockablock full of fights, at least in the last half of the film. The first half does contain enough goodwill and comedy to tide you over until then.

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

CHOREOGRAPHY: (9) Sammo does a fantastic job all around allowing everyone to show off their stuff and have their own “moments”. The fighting mixes being fast and fun with being brutal all at once.

STUNTWORK: (9) Fantastic stunts all around. The scene where the train stops is great, and Richard Ng really does a great job, and Yuen Biao takes it up a level with his acrobatics, especially in his fight with Dick Wei. Some of the falls are just down right painful to watch.

STAR POWER: (10) Did you see the cast list I put up there?!

FINAL GRADE: (9) One of the best martial arts westerns of all time, bar none. There aren’t many fights until the end, but the end fights are plentiful and well worth the wait.

Review: The Octagon (1980)

Posted in Chuck Norris, Richard Norton, Tadashi Yamashita with tags , , , on September 13, 2010 by Michael S. Moore

Starring Chuck Norris, Lee Van Cleef, Tadashi Yamashita

Fight Choreography by Aaron Norris

Directed by Erik Karson

The Octagon is a heartfelt story of one man’s quest to live the rest of his life never having to see or deal with that normal affliction many 80’s action heroes had to deal with…ninjas. Okay, so heartfelt is a strong word…but it kinda is. The Chuck Norris love is on full display here, as the film opens with Chuck standing silhouetted in from of a setting sun, talking a lot of nonsensical shit that still won’t mean much later. The film then jumps to a group of lively looking folks walking in the forest toward a village, followed in the brightness of day by ninjas wearing black, because of course they want to blend in with the forest surroundings which makes perfect sense, assuming the person you are following is color blind.

We then cut to a rich old guy leaving his mansion in a limo only to get shot like 15 times point blank by assassins, who aligned with the ninjas. We then meet Scott James (Norris) a karate champion, who goes on a night out on the town with a pretty yet vapid woman named Nancy. He takes her home, and dammit, before he can charm her into the sack with that moustache of his, ninjas attack. Now, to this point I thought this film might be autobiographical, but alas it wasn’t. But it would be fun if it were. What occurs during this fight, and after, and throughout the whole damn film is hearing Chuck’s inner monologue, which is his voice speaking in a whisper for no damn reason. Does an inner monologue have a whisper? Any time ninjas are around, that monologue goes off like some sort of damn ninja-spider sense kind of thing.

To get back to the moment at hand, they do jump Chuck, and he makes them pay, but they do kill Nancy, and to be honest, he must really not have cared for their date too much as he didn’t seem too broken up about her getting stabbed to death. In fact he seemed kinda relieved.

Actually, how the hell did he know they were ninjas other than his ninja sense? They looked like a bunch of douchebags wearing black clothes that looked like those makeshift Halloween costumes you make when you find out you’ve been invited to a party at the last second and rifle through your closet to put something together.

The next day James goes to see an old mercenary friend named McCarn played by Lee Van Cleef, who seems to only exist in this film to tell James to watch his ass, and to shoot a few bad guys in an attempt to protect James. Meanwhile, and throughout the first half of the film we are treated to really weak scenes of ninjas trying to train the new douchba-I mean recruits on how to be ninjas. I’m not sure the guys teaching them know how to be ninjas, but at least they dress like them.

We then meet another rich lady named Justine who was related to Nancy (I think) who tries to get James to help save her from the ninjas, but what she doesn’t realize is that James knows that the ninjas were trained by a childhood ninja classmate named Seikura, who dreams of ninja domination. Just as all ninjas do, I think.

Soon, after an inexplicable car chase that must have been left on the cutting room floor from Smokey and the Bandit, he goes back to see McCann and realizes that McCann knows about the ninjas too. Back at the ninja ranch, once French dude figures out that while being a ninja is cool, training to be one actually sucks ass. He tries to leave, but a well placed shuriken in the back of his neck says otherwise in a hilariously bad acting scene as he dies. Jeez, I know it was this guy’s only scene, but damn, dude!

James then attends a merc rally in an attempt to be recruited so he can get to them from the inside, and who should turn up but Richard Norton (City Hunter, Shanghai Express) as one of the recruiters. Of course this doesn’t work, and Justine winds up getting killed, and his buddy CJ kidnapped by the ninjas, and James goes to free him, but must go through the ninja maze known as the Octagon to meet Seikura for one final duel…

Ugh. I know this film helped start the ninja craze of the 80’s, but our standards must have been low back then. Chuck acts like Chuck, and the story here is truly insipid, and the side stories with his friend AJ make no sense. The ninjas look like they are on a pledge drive for as much urgency they portray. The story plods along, as we get varying behind the scene things going on that really go nowhere and don’t really matter. Not to mention the fact that while James is the hero, he doesn’t save a damn person. Pretty much everyone he tries to save dies. Not a great track record for a hero, but since this isn’t a great film, that shouldn’t be an issue.

Oh yeah, and hearing Chuck’s internal monologue is truly headache inducing.

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

CHOREOGRAPHY: (4) Chuck pretty much fights everyone with the same trademark moves he uses in every fight. The best fight in the film isn’t against Seikura, but against his second in command, which is a great fight until the end of it. The rest is Chuck fighting a bunch of guys who really don’t know how to fight. It’s obvious Aaron Norris never watched a damn asian martial arts film, or else he’d know how much his choreography sucks.

STUNTS: (3) Meh. What weak stunts there are is combined with horrendous acting, which makes this almost a Troma flick. Actually Troma flicks have better stuntwork. No offense to Lloyd Kaufman.

STAR POWER: (6) Chuck Norris and not much else. Look out for Ernie Hudson (Ghostbusters, The Crow) in an early appearance, and of course martial artist Richard Norton, who made better films with Cynthia Rothrock.

FINAL GRADE: (4) If anyone wondered why Chuck Norris is such a movie icon, they won’t find it out here. A terrible ninja movie that takes itself way too seriously for the story they present.