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Posts Tagged ‘Chuck Norris’

Return of Kung Fu Trailers Of (2017) Blu-Ray Review

Saturday, March 11th, 2017

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Stars – Angela Mao, Bolo Yeung, Don Wong, Chang Yi, Chuck Norris

Released by Severin

Reviewed by Steven Ruskin

This is the sequel to the popular trailer collection Kung Fu Trailers of Fury just as the title tells you. Many of these may not be familiar and that is part off the kick in this fun trailer compendium. This is not the expected cascade of Shaw Brothers releases that were popular on TV screens on weekend afternoons in the eighties. Every city and town seemed to have its own home grown program or a syndicated version of Kung Fu Theater on TV. There are a few that you’ll recognize such as the Chuck Norris film and some with Angela Mao Ying but for the most part these are lesser known titles. Quite a few are not from Hong Kong. Several are made in Taiwan. All of them are full of explosive fight scenes and the requisite over the top sound effects.

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For me it was more fun to watch them with the commentary by Ric Meyers, Frank Djeng, Greg Schiller and Ric Stelow. 134 minutes of trailers is a lot to get through on your own.  Right at the start Meyers states that rather than try to give you every fun fact about everyone on screen like he attempted in the last one he wanted this to be more of a free for all. He asks the others guy to interrupt him whenever they wish. There is a lot of talk about which stars had real Kung Fu skills on display. We get to hear who made a career out of these films. Ric Meyers tells a fun story about running into a guy he recognized from these pictures as a waiter in a restaurant. H said he worked there now because it paid better. One of the guys gives us an easy way to see if a film was actually shot in Hong Kong by checking the license plates on the cars. Hong Kong plates all have two letters followed by four numbers. At one point there is a cartoon trailer that gets the treatment from these fellows. While it is not the rowdy free for all Meyers called for it is still a lot of fun. The trailers are a hoot and these guys really know their stuff.

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Here is the full listing of original trailers :
Thunderbolt, Tellow Faced Tiger, Kung fu Master Named Drunk Cat
Invincible Super Guy, Invisible Terrorist, Shaolin Invincible Sticks
Bruce and the Iron Finger, Snuff Bottle Connection, Story of Chinese gods
Along Come the Tiger, The Owl, Two in Black Belt, The Young Avenger
The White Hair Devil Lady, The Super Kung Fu Fighter, Killer from Above
Kung Fu Killers, Guy with Secret Kung Fu, Bloody Mission
Revenge of the Shaolin Kid, The Thundering Mantis, Shaolin Hero Chang San Feng
The Bomb-shell, Black Guide, One Way Only, The Old Master
The Big Leap Forward, Gambling for Head, Silent Romance
Itchy Fingers, Crazy Horse and Intelligent Monkey, The Legendary Strike
The Instant Kung Fu Man, Dragon and the Tiger Kids, Avenging Boxer

The trailers are drawn from films released between 1973 and 1984.

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Video – 2.35:1
A collection of trailers like this has the varied degrees of quality you’d expect. Any blemishes are entirely forgivable.

Audio – Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo
The garish sounds of the trailers come across fine. The classic fighting effect blare jarringly from the screen just like you want. The commentary track frequently turns off the volume of the trailers as they talk so you can follow the conversation more easily.

Extras – Commentary with writer Ric Meyers (FILMS OF FURY), Frank Djeng (NY Asian Film Festival), Martial Arts Instructor Greg Schiller and Ric Stelow of Drunken Master Video

On a scale of Poor, Fair, Good, Excellent, Classic :

Blu-Ray – Good

Movie – Good / Excellent

Kung Fu Trailers of Fury (1972-1983) Blu-Ray Review

Sunday, February 28th, 2016

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Actors – Bruce Lee, Chuck Norris, Jackie Chan, Sammo Hung, Jimmy Wang Yu

Released by Severin

Reviewed by Steven Ruskin

A large collection of 35mm trailers was uncovered beneath the stage of a former movie theater in England that showed Asian films. They are in pretty nice shape. Sure there is wear and tear and they very likely never looked all that sharp to begin with. But these are the ones that were shown to hype the upcoming films back in the heyday of Kung Fu movies. The 35mm source gives them a much better look that many trailer compilations but bear in mind that these were not restored at all. They look like they did when you saw them on screen. They are all in Chinese expect for a couple with English voice overs. Severin has loaded them up back to back and let them run. These include many familiar actors to fans of the genre. Some of the films advertised are well known like Way of The Dragon, Enter The Fat Dragon and a host of Jackie Chan titles however most of them are not the big titles that you’d think would be chosen for a trailer retrospective. That only serves to reinforce the vast number of these films that were turned out in any given year then. Since Hong Kong was a British colony then studios were mandated to release their films with English subtitles. That was a huge advantage to those of us that sought these films out in various Chinatowns on VHS and later on DVD.

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There is a nice featurette on the history of Kung Fu movies by Ric Meyers. Meyers will be familiar to anyone who has followed Kung Fu movies. He was one of the first to write about them in the US. He also had a column in Inside Kung-Fu magazine that I used to read. He knows his stuff and is fun to listen to. He retains a nice enthusiasm about the actors, directors, stuntmen and the whole field. While sitting through this many trailers in one shot may seem a daunting task I’d highly recommend trying the commentary track by Meyers and three others. The fact that there is a live audience allows Meyers to be very chatty as if he is watching these with friends. The group never passes up an opportunity to talk about the glut of Bruce Lee imitators that filled the screen after his untimely death. Bruce Li, Bruce Le and a host of others get their due. They remain in awe of Jimmy Wang Yu and how he was able to get so many stars to work with him. The trailers are a non stop fury of great over the top action. I had a blast with this. It’s easy to watch at several different sittings.

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Here are some of the films included in the set -
Ways of Kung Fu, Fists of Bruce Lee, Kung Fu vs. Yoga, Death Blow, Two Champions of Shaolin, Golden Dragon Silver Snake, Daggers 8, Secret of the Shaolin Poles, The Happening, Snake in the Eagle’s Shadow, Story of the Drunken Master ,Chinese Kung Fu Against Godfather, The Invincible Swordsman, Return of Bruce, Bruce Le’s Greatest Revenge, Shaolin Iron Claws, Fast Fingers, Enter the Fat Dragon, My Kung Fu 12 Kicks, Brutal Boxer, Blacklist, The Damned, Bruce’s Deadly Fingers, One Armed Chivalry Fights Against One Armed Chivalry, Way of the Dragon, Hong Kong Connection, Chinese Kung Fu, 18 Shaolin Disciples, The Blazing Temple, Shaolin Wooden Men, The Magnificent Boxer.

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Video – 1.85:1 and a variety for the trailers
Due to the 35mm print source these look better than many other trailer compilations but they are not restored at all. They still look like what you would have seen on the screen at time with a few scratches and dust.

Audio – 2.0 with subtitles offered in English
The sound on the trailers is that typical muddy mix of yells, screams and musical stingers. The commentary sounds fine.

Extras -
A Brief History Of Kung Fu Cinema: Featurette With Experts Ric Meyers and Frank Djeng
Commentary with experts Ric Meyers (Films of Fury), Michael Worth (The Bruceploitation Bible), Martial Arts Instructor Greg Schiller & Rick Stelow of Drunken Master Video
The Way of the Cube- Featurette on the discovery of the original 35mm trailers underneath the stage of a maverick UK cinema

The Brief History of Kung Fu Cinema is well done and definitely worth a look, even for those who know the story. The running commentary for the trailers is recommended. Ric Meyers is very lively and super well informed. He prompts the others to chime in, too. Very enjoyable and for me to best way to watch the onslaught of trailers.

On a scale of Poor, Fair, Good, Excellent, Classic :

Blu-Ray – Excellent (more for the extras and commentary than the condition of the trailers)

Movie – Good

The Expendables 2 Blu Ray Review

Saturday, December 1st, 2012

Stars: Sylvester Stallone, Jason Statham, Jet Li, Jean-Claude Van Damme, Dolph Lungren, Terry Crews, Randy Couture, Bruce Willis, Chuck Norris, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Yu Nan
Director: Simon West
Released by Lionsgate

Reviewed by Steven Ruskin

The Expendables 2 jumps out of the starting gate with a bombastic jolt. Bullets blast and bodies fly while our intrepid troupe of bad ass action stars from the first picture return to form. They shoot a seemingly endless barrage of perfectly aimed bullets. We see the enemy guys fall like pins in a tilted bowling alley. They toss off smart-alec quips often too quickly to be understood or too low in the mix to be heard over the explosions. The CGI is unrelenting. Everywhere you turn, it’s like someone is playing a video game over the movie you are trying to watch. The whole enterprise begins to collapse in a by the numbers action set piece that is poorly staged. They save some guy and take off in their huge albatross of an old plane. Jet Li grabs the guy and they both jump out of the aircraft as their parachute lines trail after them. That’s the last we see of Li.

After another few minutes of plot exposition that nobody pays any attention to we find ourselves in an open field – somewhere. One of the crew is being held with a huge knife at his throat. Stallone and his boys, and one new gal have their guns draw awaiting his signal to fire on an imposing number of bad guys. Then all of a sudden things get fun again. Jean-Claude Van Damme strides in wearing dead of night dark sunglasses. He is cool as ice and threatens to kill the young man with the knife at his throat unless they hand over the McGuffin gizmo they recently retreived. This device will reveal the hidden location of a stash of humongous weapons. Van Damme gets this gizmo, kills the kid and takes off. Now they have a reason to go after him. They’ve got to stop him from getting his hands on those weapons and they really want revenge. This is where the film hits its stride. The CGI excess is forgiven and we settle in for a good hour’s worth of fun action and tough guy, and gal posturing. It took a little while but from this point on this one is better than the first one.

Director Simon West lets us see the hand to hand fights in full view. The choreography is solid with vicious limb breaks, body throws and powerful strikes. Newcomer to the group Yu Nan as an Asian tough gal is given some very nice moves that she pulls off with style. These physical fights give a nice balance and a welcome break to the relentless firepower that drives much of the action. Introducing a woman into the mix also adds a new texture to the proceedings. It also affords some alternative to the pacing. The humor that was lost in those first scenes returns with Chuck Norris’s entrance. He seems to have a good time with his limited by very cool role. Bruce Willis and even Arnold Schwarzenegger make the most of their screen time. They make light of their on-screen reputations and bring the kind of levity and move star camaraderie to the film that you want to see. Stalllone and Statham both have a nice sense of humor that we don’t get to see enough of. There are bits of it however the script and/or direction never seem to coax much of it out of them. Expendables 2 is a nice fun ride once it gets going. It’s better than the first one and delivers just what you’d expect from a crowded tough guy outing. Those still thirsting for a solid dose of star powered action after seeing this should seek out The Dirty Dozen or The Professionals to see how well this kind of picture can be done.

Video –
2.40:1 Once you get past the abundance of CGI, the film looks fine. Exteriors in the battle sites and surrounding field all sport good color and nice definition. The weaponry all features good detail. The gut bucket plane that the Expendable fly around in is nicely designed with good decorations.

Audio –
7.1 DTS HD in English, Spanish 5.1 Dolby and English Dolby 2.0, Subtitles are offered in English and Spanish with English closed captions / SDH. The tracks rocks just as you expect it should. There were times particularly in the beginning sections where the asides from the characters were difficult to hear.

Extras –
Commentary with Director, Gag Reel, Gods of War, On the Assault, Big Guns, Bigger Heroes: the 1980s and the Rise of the Action Film, Guns for Hire: the Real Expendables, Deleted Scenes. The film comes in a cardboard slipcase.

On a scale of Poor, Fair, Good, Excellent, Classic:

Movie – Good

Blue-Ray – Good

Haywire DVD Review

Sunday, May 6th, 2012

Haywire DVD
Stars: Gina Carano, Michael Fassbender, Ewan McGregor, Bill Paxton, Channing Tatum, Antonio Bandreas
Director: Steven Soderbergh

Released by Lionsgate

Reviewed by Steven Ruskin

This is a disappointment. The elements just don’t mix together very well to make a good movie. Soderbergh won an Academy Award for directing Traffic and has made a lot of George Clooney movies. The only film in his background that would seem to suggest he would be suited to make a balls to the walls action film with MMA sensation Gina Carano might be Out of Sight. However that was another George Clooney film based on a terrifically plotted Elmore Leonard book. The script for Haywire written by Lem Dobbs is frankly terrible. It is a jumble of spy film clichés that are very out of date. None of the narrative’s revelations serve to pull you in at all. The dialogue is hopelessly banal. Only Michael Douglas and Antonio Banderas seem to make their lines work, almost by virtue of their wonderful voices and pacing. Poor Gina Carano gets thrust into this mess and has no chance of carrying it.

On the plus side the film looks tremendous. Soderbergh working under the pseudonym
Peter Andrews shoots a very classy looking film. During one of the first chase scenes he flips from color to black and white, from sweeping movements to still frames and creates a giddy contemporary looking montage that is a joy to behold. Probably the best realized sequences in the film are the lovely scenes of Gina Carano running across the European rooftops. She runs with a passion and leaps from point to point with a grace and determination. This is no double so Soderbergh lets us stay right with her, only moving back to cut to overhead shots so we can appreciate the panorama of her trek. Watching those scenes is a heady joy.

The main reason people will grab this disc is to see the action and fight scenes. The action, referring to the gunplay and car chases was average. Only one bit with Gina driving a car backwards through the snow covered back roads is saved by the gorgeous cinematography. The main draw here and the only reason this film got made is the attraction of seeing Gina Carano bring her MMA muscle to the fore in some thrilling hand to hand fights. There are at least four main encounters. The first one in a restaurant shoe horns too many wrestling moves in to completely work. Ms. Carano definitely has a go-for-it quality and she brings a genuine intensity to all of her fight scenes. There is a very pretty battle set on a beach under a glistening sunset. Very pretty. The moves though just don’t connect all that well. The one scene though that truly delivers is the fight between Michael Fassbender and Gina. They are dressed to the nines. As they walk down the hotel hallway Gina takes her high heels off and as soon as they enter the huge hotel suite he sucker punches her and the fight is on. This is the one sequence where fight choreographer J.J. Perry and his team truly shine. They smash each other into mirrors, glass cases, and flat screen TV’s. Every available piece of bric-a-brac is cracked across their bodies and heads. This fight moves! They work through the hallway, crash over a sofa, spill into walls and finally Gina grabs his neck in her powerful legs and applies a familiar MMA move that chokes him into semi consciousness. The final coupe de grace is delivered by the traditional pistol shot through a pillow held over his face. It’s a few minutes of probably everything one hoped this movie would be. That the fight is done in spiffy evening clothes adds a nice touch. Gina comes across as such a tomboy that it’s a kick to she her so dolled up yet still dishing it out. Kudos, J.J.! This is the best scene in the whole film.

Too much of the rest is made up of spies and agents whispering Barcelona like it was a secret code. We see an endless array of people racking back the slide on pistols and automatic weapons. We see Gina Carano run a lot. There is a plethora of scenes of her blasting down streets. This was truly a job for a B movie director who really knows how to put together action sequences and make stars look cool. Those first four Steven Segal films had just the right combination of cool fights, witty lines and cold hard stares. Chuck Norris, Cynthia Rothrock, Jean Claude van Damme, and many others have made a truckload of fun films. These cheap B movies are much harder to make than it looks. Here an Academy Award winning director takes a beautiful and photogenic MMA star and gives us one great scene out of 93 minutes.

Video – 2.40:1. This is a stunning looking film. Soderbergh as a DP has an incredible talent. Black levels are deep and lustrous. Colors are strong when they need to be and washed out to whatever degree has been decided. The whole film looks as though everything was done on purpose to give each scene exactly what was called for. It is impressive to see how good this DVD looks. As is so often the case, it is down to the source material. Soderbergh has controlled the lighting so well it’s exquisite looking.

Audio – Dolby Digital 5.1 English. Subtitles available in English and Spanish. Closed captioning. This is a nicely done soundscape. Whenever Antonio Banderous speaks his voice teases the subwoofer into appreciative support. The action scenes are strong but do not rock the house.

Extras – Gina Carano In Training lets us see how her fight scenes were choreographed in advance and trained. We also see her shoot guns and play war with the boys. She comes off so much more natural here than in the actual film. The Men Of Haywire lets us see the talent that surrounds her in the film.

DVD – Excellent

Movie – Fair