Film Review : Return of the Dragon (1972)

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IMDB Score – 7.3
Rotten Tomato Score – 100%
Netflix Watch Instant

Directed By – Bruce Lee
Starring – Bruce Lee, Chuck Norris, Nora Miao, Ping Ou Wei, Chung-Hsin Huang, Tony Liu, and Jon T. Benn

A man visits his relatives at their restaurant in Italy and has to help them defend against brutal gangsters harassing them.

Okay, I’m going to have to admit something here. This is the first time, in my life, that I watched a Bruce Lee film from start to finish. You can now take the time to yell at me through your screen because I most certainly deserve it. The thing is, I haven’t really been into film my entire life. I first started getting into movies in high school and by then the television was so flooded by MTV crap that reruns of old Kung Fu movies just wasn’t readily available. I’ve known about the story behind the man and the events surrounding his death, as well as his sons death, but just haven’t been able to sit in front of the tube and watch his films. Hopefully now that most of them are available on Netflix, I’ll be able to view most of them. However, I must say, this movie was really bad.

Hear me out.

Did I enjoy the film? Hell yeah. Was it horribly dubbed, acted, written, and shot? Hell fucking yes it was. Oh my god was it bad. I didn’t expect Scorcese but my god it was like ever single film that ever parodied any Kung Fu movie. I guess that’s why the parodies exist. I just didn’t expect them to be so spot on. The dub over was so comically bad that I had trouble holding in my laughter throughout the course of the film. Have you ever seen “Kung Pow: Enter the Fist”? That’s one of my childhood movies that I know every line to. I remember thinking that they must have found the worst Kung Fu movie to parody cause there is no way films like that actually existed but I think this may be worse. Every line from any character was dubbed over like they were trying to make it sound horrible

I FUCKING LOVED IT.

Seriously. It was like a bad bad movie mixed with amazing Kung Fu from the legend himself. I wish I had gotten drunk while watching it because it would have made it that much better. By the way, watching a whole film amazed me more than watching a few youtube clips of Bruce Lee. The man was just a lightning bolt and seemed to have super human physical ability. The nun chuck scene and the final fight with actual Chuck, Chuck Norris, were both amazing and it was great to see them in the actual film rather than on the internet. I could have watched those two fight all day and the way Bruce Lee kicked the living shit out of the most inept henchmen every assembled left me in stitches. It was a blast.

This is going to be hard to rate because the movie from a film nerds point of view was a piece of shit, but from an entertainments point of view was amazing. Just watch it if you haven’t already because it’s a lot of fun.

1/5 Film rating
5/5 Fun rating



Film Review : Out of the Furnace (2013)

IMDB Score – 6.9
Rotten Tomato Score – 52%

Starring – Christian Bale, Woody Harrelson, Casey Affleck, Willem Dafoe, Forrest Whittaker, Zoe Saldana, and Sam Shepard
Directed By – Scott Cooper

When Rodney Baze mysteriously disappears and law enforcement doesn’t follow through fast enough, his older brother, Russell, takes matters into his own hands to find justice.

Today I sat down to watch on of the most anticipated films of last year that ended up being one of the most disappointing films according to critics. Written and directed by the man that gave us the bleak and heartbreaking “Crazy Heart”, “Out of the Furnace” stars Christian Bale as a blue collar working Pennsylvania man trying to do right by his family. Scott Cooper is a talented filmmaker. I really ended up enjoying “Crazy Heart” when I sat down to watch it a year or two ago and was pretty excited when I heard of this film coming out. The cast he put together is pretty incredible as we have the majority bring Oscar nominees and two of them being winners in Bale and Whittaker. Reading about the film before hand led me to learn that some of the film takes place in the Ramapo hills that blanket northern New Jersey. Being that I’m from these exact hills, it made me even more interested. I do however need to get something off my chest…

While not a negative on the film, the portrayal of the “Jackson Whites” that live in this area of New Jersey is pretty insane. I have personally worked with and around these people for years and have never felt in danger, ever. Are there some bad eggs? Are there bad eggs in every culture and town? I rest my case. I just wanted to point that out seeing as I have first hand experience of what living in that area, up until last month that is, was like. Back to the film…

I ended up really enjoying the movie. I did have problems but for the most part it was a gorgeously shot character study (for the most part) that only really fell apart near the end. As a writer, I know how hard it is to carry out a great idea until the finish. I’ve always had trouble ending papers and stories with a nice bow so I’m more lenient on things that can’t hold it together the whole way through. Would it have been better? Sure, but it doesn’t mean I didn’t enjoy what led up to the disappointing ending which took place in the film. For one, the acting in the film is pretty stellar. I won’t call it my favorite but Christian Bale put on one hell of a performance. There is a scene in the film with Zoe Saldana on a bridge that is one of the most heartbreaking scenes and bits of acting I’ve seen in the last year or two. Casey Affleck just continues putting everything into his roles and he’s becoming one of my favorite supporting actors. I don’t know if he’s ready for a leading role but the kid is a dynamic actor who keeps impressing me in the films he’s in. Harrelson plays a despicable villain very well and Willem Dafoe is just amazing in everything he does. The only real problem with the cast I had was with Forrest Whittaker who continues to be as inconsistent as ever. His great roles are amazing and everything else, including this, is just horrible. I don’t know what kind of accent he was going for but it just came off silly and really took me out of the film whenever he was on, which lucky for me was very little.

I think people had a problem with this film due to it’s very bleak and weak script. I can understand that. American movie watchers like to have everything spelled out for them. I just so happen to fall into teh group that can do with a little ambiguity. In teh beginning of the film Christian Bale gets into a car accident and the next scene he is in jail. I can see why this may seem bad because we weren’t told what happened but honestly, can people not figure that out? There were specific shots before the accident that are HUGE clues as to why he is in jail. The ending shot also follows this technique of letting the viewers figure it out for themselves. It wasn’t eve that difficult. People who complained about the weak script just are too lazy to do any thinking. The script had problems, but that wasn’t it. The ending is what kept this film from being great.

The first half of the film was a brilliant character study on blue collar America, getting tossed shitty cards, and trying to keep the ones you love close to you. The second half was a revenge thriller that didn’t come off cheesy but rather just unearned. I didn’t see the need to go down that path and the final encounter between hero and villain was just way to predictable. The film just ran out of steam.

I’m not going to damn a film because of a bad ending. I enjoyed the film. It’s bleak. It’s not very uplifting. Forrest Whittaker has a shit accent. Yet, it is a beautifully shot film with great performances and a first half that is up there with the best of last year. It’s a solid rental.

3.5/5

Recommended Viewing – Snatch, The Hunter, A Single Shot, The Deer Hunter





My Experience with The Raid 2

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Okay, so I had a disappointing night. If you regularly read my work then you’ll notice something is off. My usual set up of details regarding the movie is absent and I titled this in a very odd way. There is a reason for that. Tonight was honestly one of the most disappointing and frustrating nights of movie watching I have ever had. I’m going to start off by getting this out of the way…

I didn’t finish the movie. I walked out. I have only ever walked out of a movie once before (The Informant) and I am still in disbelief that I did. I don’t understand what went wrong. I’m going to try to figure it out in this post but I give you all fare warning, I’m going to spoil, in small ways, the first half of the film. I do however have a favor to ask of you…

IF YOU HAVE SEEN THIS FILM IN IT’S ENTIRETY AND DISAGREE WITH ME THEN PLEASE…PLEASE…COMMENT AND CHANGE MY MIND.

I honestly need you guys to convince me to go back and see the end of the film because I wanted to love this movie so much but I just couldn’t sit in the theater any longer. I left with about an hour left in the film and I need you guys to tell me it becomes badass in that last hour. There just has to be more but I honestly couldn’t take how bored I was any longer. I looked at my phone and realized that I had another hour and change left and I just couldn’t sit there any longer. Now, let me preface the following words by saying I did not think that this is a bad film. There is a huge difference between a bad film and a boring disappointment and “The Raid 2” was that of the latter. Now, let’s get into this so I can flush out the sadness…

So, like many of you, I loved The Raid. I think it is the best action movie since “The Matrix” and is my top five favorite action movies of all time. I didn’t care that the story was lacking or that the acting was amateur at best. I loved the fact that somebody made a balls to the wall fighting film that rarely let up and didn’t bow its head to Hollywood tropes and actually let the villains get away with some evil shit. I loved the fact that one of the main cops dies. I loved that I was rooting for one of the villains during most of the fights. I just couldn’t get enough of the film. So, naturally, when I heard the sequel was finished and that it was two and a half hours long, I salivated. I thought, if this is anything like the first film, but longer, that I would lose my shit. I refrained from seeing trailers in an attempt to go into the film totally blind and get my face rocked off. The podcasts that I listen to praised the film and the small lot of you guys that have seen the film gave positive reviews. I was ready. I just can’t believe I ended up walking out.

So the film starts off about two hours after the first film ended. This is deceiving because it really only takes place in that time period for about ten minutes before we’re thrown into a plot that is so boring and confusing that I honestly didn’t know what the hell I was watching. Our hero, Rama, has now been persuaded into an undercover position in order to protect his family so he spends two years in a prison getting to know the younger son our a local politician/crime boss. What follows plot wise, and takes up most of the film, is a boring and horribly written story that is trying very hard to be compelling but I could honestly give a shit. Where are my fight scenes? Where are my adrenaline filled, blood pumping, boner inducing fight scenes that I was given in the first Raid? I just didn’t get it. By the time I left there were three fight scenes that had moments of glory but ultimately left me unsatisfied in a way that some people experience blue balls. I was being prodded with glorious fight scenes for five minutes only to be left with talking for another twenty. It was an hour and fifteen minutes of tease. I just couldn’t handle it. I had to leave. I was going to fall asleep or worse, completely punch out of the film, so I folded. There wasn’t even any music in the film. Mike Shinoda contributed a hell of a lot to the first film by giving an intense and fun techno score that added to the fun. There was so much silence in this film that I almost fell asleep. The final straw was the fact that the man who played my favorite character in the first film, Mad Dog, was in this movie, as a completely different person. Let me rephrase the fact that this movie takes place in the same universe and directly after the events of the first film. Having the same actor, and having it be obvious, be in the sequel after he fucking dies, is just stupid. I had enough. I left.

Now, the management staff was kind enough to give me a pass to return and I do plan on revisiting and finishing the film. I ask you though to please help me get back there sooner. Does the film get better? Is the last half hour an incredible display of fighting badassery that I missed because I’m a snobby asshole? Please let me know in the comments because my disappointment was just too much to handle tonight.

I will post a full review if I ever return to this film. Please help me do so.

Classic Review : Sands of Iwo Jima (1949)

IMDB Score – 7.2
Rotten Tomato Score – 100%
Nominated for four Oscars including Best Editing, Best Sound, Best Writing, and Best Actor (John Wayne)

Directed By – Allan Dwan
Starring – John Wayne, John Agar, Forrest Tucker, Wally Cassell, James Brown, Richard Webb, and Adele Mara

A dramatization of the World War II Battle of Iwo Jima.

My Netflix dvd queue is a funny machine. I had about 13 films in front of this but every single one of them wasn’t available when it was time to ship out so I was surprised when this came in the mail. I honestly forgot all about it but was eager to sit down and watch an old film as it’s been way too long due to all the films from last year that I’ve been cramming in my face. There are so many older films that I’m finally going to be able to sit down and watch now that my Netflix queue is starting to get older and this pleases me. I’d rather watch bad film from the 40s than a bad film from last year any day. “Sand of Iwo Jima” ended up being a completely patriotic cookie cutter of a film but when you’re watching John Wayne and his infinite manliness, it doesn’t really matter.

The film follows a group of soldiers through boot camp to the…well…sands of Iwo Jima. John Stryker is the leader of this group, played by the manliest man of all men, John Wayne. Stryker is kind of a mix between drill instructor Hartman from “Full Metal Jacket” and Tom Berenger from “Platoon”. The men don’t like him. He is tough as nails and don’t take no shit from NOBODY! You had plans to get laid over the weekend? I don’t think so! Looks to me like your bed is a little uneven. That will be a revocation of your weekend pass soldier. Seriously, this exact scenario played out in the film. Wayne, who would later go on to earn his first Oscar nomination for the role, was made to play this character. He takes nobodies shit and dishes out punishment. He ended up giving one of the performances of his career as we follow Stryker through his bouts of alcoholism, regrets, anger, and acceptance. The films co-star, John Agar, plays one of the privates who claims to be an intellectual and finds his Sargent deplorable. What plays out for the next two hours is a cookie cutter production of every single war cliche that has ever happened. Yet, with this being a mere four years after WWII ended, it’s obvious that this film was made as a symbolic power fist in the air for America, and for that I can put up with it.

One cool aspect of the film is that they spliced a lot of great real footage from Iwo Jima and other pacific battles into the film. If you know what you’re looking for, you can spot the actual footage which is always an interesting watch. I’ve always been interested in the years we went to war and the film shed more light on what it was actually like to run up those beaches into a hail of gunfire. Due to the time of its release, you’re not really getting anything gritty or brutal. The men who get killed on screen just kid of fall down or do that clutching to the chest as they slowly let gravity bring them to the sand. Like I said, cliche and cheesy. It was however a great display of acting from Wayne and a much needed break from the glitter and glamour of films released this year.

2.5/5

Suggested Viewing – The Longest Day, Bridge on the River Kwai, Band of Brothers: The Pacific



Film Review : Man of Tai Chi (2013)

IMDB Score – 6.0
Rotten Tomato Score – 71%

Directed By – Keanu Reeves
Starring – Tiger Hu Chen, Keanu Reeves, Karen Mok, Simon Yam, and Iko Uwais

A young martial artist’s unparalleled Tai Chi skills land him in a highly lucrative underworld fight club.

This was crap.

I don’t really know another way to put it. I pretty much hated it. This film marks the first time Keanu Reeves has ever been behind the camera and while the camera work is promising and occasionally impressive, the end result of his labor is a complete corn fest that seems like it was written by a 8th grader who likes karate. It’s a B level script that makes sense but takes the same generic story arcs from every bad American TV show and terrible 80s kung fu movie. We have one of the following…

1. Ambitious but naive protagonist that falls down the wrong path only to see the error of his ways
2. A gritty detective that will stop at nothing to avenge the death of an innocent, EVEN IF IT MEANS THROWING THE BOOK OUT THE WINDOW.
3. A villain who is never ever seen fighting who just so happens to be the hardest fight of all.
4. A comic relief henchman who likes American slang and rap music.
5. A disappointed master.

It all just felt so silly. If this was all just an homage to old fashioned kung fu movies and not to be taken as a serious attempt at a film then I owe Mr. Reeves an apology. Somehow I don’t don’t think that was the case. Tiger Chen happens to be an excellent and legendary martial artist so the impressive fight scenes were enough to keep my attention but just not enough to keep this film from spoiling. This also might just be the worst acting role from Keanu Reeves. He’s comically bad. The whole thing was comically bad. Maybe I didn’t get it.

No, I got it. It was bad.

1/5