Monday, September 7, 2009

Kung Fu Movies

Ong Bak: The Thai Warrior (2003) - Great fights and far more story than your average martial arts movie. The main character's grifter sidekicks steal the non-fight scenes. The first, a man from Ting's village who flunked out as a monk. The second a young street-smart girl who dreams of going to college. Surprisingly deep and poignant characters for an action flick like this.

The plot: A small village is cursed after the head of their Buddha statue is stolen, and young Ting must travel to Bangkok to retrieve it.

Favorite Parts: Thailand! This movie brought back great memories of one of my favorite places in the world. In neither of my trips to Bangkok did I witness any slow-mo fight sequences, but this movie was still truly Thai. Fantastic job of capturing the contrast between old-world Thailand characterized by traditional village life and and new-world Thailand, greed, fight clubs and disdain for the superstitions of the past.

Loved it! Ong Bak: The Thai Warrior makes me want to take five more trips to Thailand.

Say it ain't so, Joe

Okay, so that quote was about the White Sox instead of the Cubs, but it's close enough. Here's my first look at the legendary Wrigley Field.

And here's my view for the next three hours as my wife and I waited in the rain until they decided to call the game. Say it ain't so!

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Kung Fu Movies

Horror Holiday (1979) - This movie shows up on the B-side of the Snake in Monkey's Shadow DVD, and it sure lives up to its B-side status. No dubbing this time. Instead, we get badly translated subtitles. You'll love the challenge of guessing what the words hanging off the edge of the screen say.

The Plot: Our hero has a stomach ache and slips into a Hong Kong airport restroom, and while inside his stall, a man is attacked by a gang of four. After our hero's, um, rumblies pass, he comes out of his stall and almost walks past the blood-soaked man lying right outside his stall -- I guess he didn't see him -- when the dying man grabs his ankle and asks him to pull a roll of film from a secret compartment in his heel. No James Bondsian microdot here. Fuji 35mm by the looks of it.

Cheap-ass film or not, the bad guys want it back by any means necessary.

Favorite Parts: The henchmen. The main villain is bespectacled and rather normal looking in his Mao jacket, but his three henchman are truly special. The first guy wears hot pants and a "Let's Get Physical" headband. He also sports enough makeup to shame Olivia Newton John. Henchman number two thinks he's the Asian Che Guevara. Straggly beard, cigar, red beret and combat boots. The third wears a track suit which seems rather ordinary until you find out this swashbuckler carries a sword!

Other dandies: a car chase where everybody drives the speed limit, and an action sequence on a bus that surely inspired the makers of Speed.

Because I had to wait 41 minutes for any Kung Fu, I can only give Horror Holiday a three, one for each henchman.

Friday, July 3, 2009

Kung Fu Movies

Snake in the Monkey's Shadow (1979) - Great, great, great! Movies don't get any more low budget than this. The picture was grainier than a granola bar. So grainy that my nice new HDTV and Blu-Ray couldn't even handle its low-budget-iliciousness. I had to watch it on my laptop.

The plot: Young fish monger gets humiliated by a pair of privleged brothers and must convince a teacher to school him in the art of kung fu so that he can exact revenge.

Favorite Parts: Check out this classic dialogue from an early scene. One of the bad guys, a master of the snake style, sets out to prove his superiority by killing all the kung fu masters he can find.

Today, he confronts a fighter who is trained in the monkey style, and with a sneer, he says, "Today you're gonna die."

And how does the monkey style fighter respond to such a bold and cruel threat?

"It's obvious. You'e conceited."

Oh snap! In your face, Snake Style!

Loved it! Snake in the Monkey's Shadow earns five snakebites.

Monday, June 29, 2009


Beneath the Planet of the Apes (1970) - What the hell? Where's Charlton Heston? After the first five minutes he disappears until the end of the movie! Dammit, I need Hesty swagger. Hesty 'tude. I feel like I just bit into a ham sandwich with no hammy overacting in the middle.

Damn you all to hell!

The Plot: This simian sequel focuses on a second astronaut who arrives in the future and must find Taylor (Heston) to solve the mystery of the Forbidden Zone where a race of radioactive mutants worship a giant, golden phallus, um, I mean nuclear missile.

Favorite Parts: Monkeys on horses!

The true stars are the apes. Lots and lots of apes. For the apes, I give Beneath the Planet of the Apes three bananas.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Colorado Book Awards

Congratulations to Carol Berg for taking the genre fiction prize! Sorry as I am to report I didn't win, at least it went to a gracious and deserving writer.

And hey, my wife and I got to spend a weekend in Aspen!

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Kung Fu Movies

Drunken Master (1978) - Not to be confused with 1994's The Legend of Drunken Master. This low-budget (okay zero-budget) classic has some of the most annoying dubbing I've ever heard, but even that can't keep Jackie Chan's charm down.

The plot: A very young and very mischievous Jackie Chan gets in trouble and is sent away by his father to learn from his drunkard uncle.

Favorite parts: Um, the fights. Duh. Jackie Chan is a rare athlete. All I can do is watch and be awed by his amazing skills. Plus the film has a timeless message - all your problems can be solved with jugfuls of booze.

Okay so let me ask you a question. Is it just me, or do all of you experience Jackie Chan movies the same way I do?

  • Stage 1 (the "groaner" stage) - This is when the slapstick humor and ridiculously stilted dialogue makes you shake your head and groan.
  • Stage 2 (the "give in to the sweetness" stage) - This is when, despite your better judgement, Jackie begins to win you over, the same way an overly sentimental Hallmark brings tears to your eyes after half a bottle of wine.
  • Stage 3 (the "kick his ass, Jackie!" stage) - I'm Jackie's now.
Drunken Master earns five jugs of whatever wine he's drinking.