Sunday, April 20, 2008


Written by Puño Estupendo

Flash Point reunites the team of director Wilson Yip, writer Kam-Yuen Szeto, and action-star Donnie Yen in a follow up to their 2005 collaboration S.P.L.: Saat po long (released here in 2006 and given the title Kill Zone). Though S.P.L. garnered positive attention and was a fairly good watch, Flash Point kind of falls a little bit shorter with its accomplishments. It doesn't fall short through any fault of the cast but more from just an overall lack of originality.

Donnie Yen plays the on-the-edge detective who has Internal Affairs all over him because of his rough-house tactics. He gets the collars but a majority of his arrests end up with the bad guy in the hospital, thus giving the whole department a black eye. Even by Hong Kong action standards, this premise has been done only about a gazillion times and isn't even particularly done well here. With Yen's character currently investigating a trio of Vietnamese crime lord brothers, it becomes kind of a poor man's Infernal Affairs. Yen has a man on the inside who has been undercover for years and is a trusted lackey by the Vietnamese bosses. This goes into a subplot revolving around the undercover agent's problems, but still just comes out as a tired rehash of other films.

But let's cut to the meat and potatoes here. What you watch a film like this for is the action and the entire cast delivers pretty well. Yen also serves duty as the Action Director and expands nicely on the mixed martial arts style he started using on S.P.L. I found the fighting to be that much more exciting given the kind of unoriginal plotline. If anything, I easily could have handled a couple more action scenes with this. The submission and take-down moves that come from the use of mixed martial arts (M.M.A.) are given a great intensity and flurry to them by Yen's presentation. All sorts of aerial moves, and very quick punches and grabs, combine to get your heart rate going at a good pace. Donnie Yen is definitely onto something with his embrace of this style of fighting and it should pay off much heavier in films to come. It has the traditional gun play that permeates the genre, but the hand-to-hand stuff is where it shines.

Flash Point comes with a second disc of supplemental material that is almost more entertaining then the movie itself. Interviews, making-of's, and deleted scenes concentrate heavily on the fighting without all of that boring plot stuff getting in the way. Nothing dynamite on here but still worth watching for the insight to the fight training and choreography.

As a cop thriller/action flick, Flash Point is just kind of middle of the road. The action itself is where the true entertainment lies here and I have a feeling Donnie Yen hasn't even hit his stride with his new style yet. I think it's quite possible that if he gets the chance to keep bringing this to the screen the way he wants to, there might be something really awesome coming our way soon.

Thursday, April 10, 2008


Written by Musgo Del Jefe

After 5 Fingers Of Death, 36th Chamber Of Shaolin and The 5 Deadly Venoms, The Magic Blade typifies all that is right with the Wuxia genre of the mid-Seventies. Just a few years after Bruce Lee brought the genre to new heights, the Shaw Bros. pushed the genre forward with high quality sets, lush cinematography, and classic fights with a talented crew of actors and actresses.

The film stars two very familiar faces to fans of Hong Kong films. We first meet our hero Fu Hung-Hsueh (Ti Lung). You'll recognize the young, Ti Lung from many other Shaw Bros. films and especially from his career role in John Woo's A Better Tomorrow. Fu meets up with Yen Nan-Fei (Lo Lieh). Lo Lieh seems to have been in every Shaw Bros. film ever made - including a memorable role in 36th Chamber Of Shaolin. The two talented swordsmen restart a fight of a previously unfinished duel. During their fight, Yen is attacked by a Master Yu. Fu's life is saved by Yen and the two put aside their differences to stop Master Yu from acquiring the deadly weapon called the Peacock Dart.

The Wuxia genre had a huge influence on the Western genre. In this movie, the Western genre pays the Wuxia genre back. From the original fight onward, the movie plays out like a classic Spaghetti Western. Both Fu and Yen wear ponchos like Clint Eastwood in A Fistful Of Dollars. The cities that our heroes travel through are bare and dusty like the classic Western village. The swordsmen carry their weapons like the classic gunfighters would going into a High Noon showdown.

The movie unfolds not unlike many other Wuxia films and not too far from the Kill Bill formula. Master Yu exists unseen in the shadows. He dispatches assassin after more deadly assassin to steal the Peacock Dart and ultimately to kill our heroes. After finding the Peacock Dart, they acquire the typical damsel in distress (played by the atypical beauty, Ching Li). Our heroes eventually get separated. That allows a romantic relationship to develop between Fu and our damsel.

The plot does not go off in any wild, crazy tangents. The assassins' attempt to get the Peacock Dart only serves to slow down the march towards a final battle between our heroes and the evil Master Yu. Throw in an unusual amount of blood for a Shaw Bros. film and a short but exploitive lesbian scene that seems out of place. But out of place is what makes these films stand out over other films of their day. There's a killer named the Devil Grandma and there's a battle on a life-sized chess board. The final showdown is quick by today's standards of "final showdowns" but it brings nice closure to the story.

Viewed as a return of the Western traditions to Eastern cinema, The Magic Blade is a complete package. The two foes become reluctant partners against a greater evil. The sword battles are equivalent to gun fights. The restaurants even double as the Western saloon. And what better tradition than the lone gunman (or two gunmen in this case) against the evil Boss and his never ending henchmen.

There are limited bonus features on this disc. The biggest is the Original Mandarin soundtrack with English subtitles. I've watched these movies for years with the same painful English dubbed soundtrack, so it's tempting to watch it that way again for nostalgia, but hearing the original language is a revelation. The sound effects and score are not buried like they are in the dub version. The disc also includes trailers for 16 other Shaw Bros. classics, so get your pen and paper ready to start your next shopping list.

Monday, April 07, 2008


Written by Hombre Divertido

Take George Clooney as star and director, add the youthful and funny John Krasinski from The Office, and throw the beautiful and talented Renee Zellwegger into a movie about professional football in 1925, and it would seem like a recipe for success.

Get ready to send this unfunny, confused, convoluted, shallow, mess back.

Normally a review would include a description of the plot of the film being reviewed, but since this film has no idea what it wants to be, it is difficult, if not a waste of time, trying to explain it.

What would have made for a good film would have been the simple premise of a football team struggling to make it in the early years of professional football. Introduce us to some interesting and outrageous characters on the team. Bring in the suave Clooney as the seasoned veteran, the young rookie Krasinski, and have Zellwegger as the love interest of both guys. Show some humorous antics as the members of the team try to fit in off the field. How hard could that be? Seemed to work pretty well in Bull Durham and Slapshot to name two successful sport-themed films.

Apparently it was harder than one would think. We get no insight to anyone on the team other than Clooney and Krasinski, and even their characters are one-dimensional. There is very little actual football in the film, and the football scenes that are there are horribly choreographed and directed. The film gets bogged down in storylines that have nothing to do with football in 1925. In other words; the film has far too little to do with leatherheads!

There are storylines regarding Krazinski’s character being a war hero based on a story that has been exaggerated to the point of no longer being true, and Zellwegger’s character, a young reporter, trying to break the big story and expose Krasinski for a fraud. There are holes in the plots and neither storyline really goes anywhere.

There is absolutely no depth to any of the storylines or characters, no chemistry between any of the stars, and even the make-up is bad as they actually manage to make Zellwegger look bad in numerous scenes. The filmmakers finally try to resort to basic slapstick to get some laughs, but by then it is far too little too late. This is one hour and fifty-three minutes of pain.

The best scene in the movie consists of Stephen Root (Another underutilized comedic talent in this dud), who plays one of many poorly developed supporting characters in the film, discussing one of the football games and makes reference to it being boring. One cannot help but laugh at the ironic reference to the film itself.

Recommendation: NO! This will be one of the worst films of the year.

Saturday, April 05, 2008

There Will Be Blood (Two-Disc Special Collector's Edition)

Written by Puño Estupendo

Very few times in my life have I actually agreed wholeheartedly with Oscar nominations let alone Oscar winners. After watching the two-disc DVD set of director Paul Thomas Anderson's There Will Be Blood, Daniel Day-Lewis' win for Best Actor not only seems like a rare case of the award going to the right man, but also leaves me bewildered as to why this film didn't blatantly sweep the statues up entirely. Not only does Anderson prove without any doubt that he is one of the best filmmakers working today, but he's coming close to solidifying his place as one of the best of all time.

Day-Lewis plays an independent oil man at the turn of the 20th century named Daniel Plainview, who lacks neither ambition nor intelligence. He has charisma when he needs it and a single-mindedness that seems to insure his success. A young man named Paul sells some information to him about a town he comes from, Little Boston. Paul assures him that there is oil there and that the land can be had on the cheap, particularly the Sunday Ranch, which Paul's family owns.

Plainview travels up to the Sunday Ranch and a story of greed and guile, church and business, success and tragedy plays out. This is a true American portrait reflecting the ruthless ambition which offends us on certain levels, but reminds us that our country couldn't have been built without it. This is the crux of the film for me. Though it seems like you should naturally want to damn Plainview, hate him for some of the things he does, you also have to deem him a necessary evil at times. Though he takes advantage of situations and people, he is a catalyst where there was nothing. It's a "for better and for worse" situation, and it plays out brilliantly.

Equally brilliant is the cinematography (which won the film's second Oscar) and the sound. A surprisingly perfect fit is an eerie score by Radiohead's Jonny Greenwood. If I had heard the music separately, I would have never figured it to work, but it does more than just work. It blends with the story and compliments it at every turn.

The only disappointment here is with the second disc, the extras. Not much to say because there's not much there. You get a 15-minute slideshow of reference material just in case you didn't realize how authentic the movie is. There's a couple of trailers and a couple of deleted scenes, really kind of underwhelming as far as a second disc of extras goes. One thing of interest is the inclusion of a silent film from 1923 which gives a breakdown of the oil business in the early 1920's which I found to be perfect for inclusion with this film.

I have intentionally left many of the story details out because it would probably fall short in description anyway. What I am trying to say is that this is damn well a perfect film, but I figured I had to write more than "This movie is perfect and you should see it".

To be clear though, that last statement sums things up pretty well.

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Father Knows Best: Season One

Written by Hombre Divertido

Long before The Brady Bunch and even before Leave it To Beaver there was Father Knows Best. On April 1st, Shout Factory released Season One in a four-DVD set, and surprisingly for a show from this era, it is the extras that make this set worth having.

In October of 1954, CBS brought the show from radio to television, and for nine years America tuned in to see the exploits of the Anderson Family, though only the first six years were original episodes. The show ran in primetime for three years consisting of reruns. Jim Anderson (Robert Young) was an insurance salesman and a big kid at heart, Margaret Anderson (Jane Wyatt) was the voice of reason and the perfect mom, Betty “Princess” Anderson (Elinor Donahue) was the oldest child and typical teenager, James “Bud” Anderson Jr. (Billy Gray) was the all-American boy, and Kathy “Kitten” Anderson (Lauren Chapin) was Daddy’s adorable little girl.

CBS actually cancelled the show after the first season due to poor ratings, and it is clear why when watching these episodes. The chemistry was just not there, and the interaction between characters seemed forced and awkward. Luckily, an outpouring of fan support not only brought the show back, but to an earlier time slot where it would grow and eventually flourish.

There are some fun episodes here including “The Motor Scooter,” which deals with getting “Bud” his first motorized mode of transportation; “Football Tickets,” which revolves around Jim’s promise to one of the kids; and “Close Decision,” which is about procrastination and parenting. As in most of the episodes, the comedy writing does not properly display the talents of the actors and seems more reminiscent of the radio show. The parenting messages are a bit contrived as the relationship between the parental characters was still being established and thus not yet comfortable from a viewing perspective.

This is a great set for a history lesson on family-themed television shows, even if the first season may not have been their best. What makes this set so much fun are the extras. Usually when putting together the DVD set of a show from 1954, there is not a lot of material, but extras were found and made to round out this collection. Along with the twenty-six episodes, you get “Daddy’s Girls,” a pleasant and informative feature consisting of all-new interviews with Elinor Donahue and Lauren Chapin, lending their insights into the show as well as their experiences during the casting process. To hear of how Ms. Donahue’s rebellious nature during that period in her life impacted the show, makes this feature well worth watching.

Also included in the bonus material are “Home Movies”. Narrated by Robert Young’s grandson Bill Proffitt, these movies consist of not only footage of Young’s real-life family, but also footage from the set of Father Knows Best. The footage is great fun, and though the narration is amateurish, Mr. Proffitt possesses a nice quality that comes from being emotionally attached to what we are watching.

Another interesting piece of bonus material is an episode entitled “24 Hours in Tyrantland.” The U.S. Department of the Treasury, as a way of encouraging people to buy savings bonds, produced this special episode. It was never broadcast, but was shown in schools, churches, and for civic groups. The message is a bit heavy-handed, but it is a full-length episode, and certainly interesting and reflective of the times.

Probably the best extra in the set is the pilot episode of Window on Main Street, which aired on CBS for one year from October 1961 until September 1962. Robert Young had left Father Knows Best after becoming tired of the role he had played on both television and radio, and wanted to try something different. Along with his producing partner, Eugene B. Rodney, he produced this interesting show. Though not well received, it has a charming format that is ahead of its time. This episode also contains the original commercials that are great fun to see.

Recommendation: For a true fan of the show, these episodes may not bring back the fond memories you are looking for, simply due to the fact that the show had yet to really hit its stride, but the extras makes this set worth having for both the fan of the show, the fan on classic television, or someone looking to explore the early years of the medium.

Tuesday, April 01, 2008


Written by Fumo Verde

Bachelor Party 2: The Last Temptation. And let’s fucking hope so, I have just about had enough of Hollywood trying to re-cut and re-hash old shit. Bachelor Party with Tom Hanks had just enough “over the top” humor to make it funny, plus they had a decent script. Bachelor Party 2 lacked that key ingredient. Instead they used every stale old joke and boring cliché they could find and it still didn’t work. I guess the studios feel that if they put enough naked hot girls in the flick no one will give care that they just dropped twenty bucks in the theater, but that don’t fly to well on DVD. Sure, one could use the slow motion on the DVD player, but if you going to use it for purposes other than regular viewing, I suggest Spanky’s Porn Shop in Santa Ana.

Here’s the skinny on the flick: Ron meets Melinda in a museum and after two whole months they decide to get married. Melinda is super rich and amazingly, her father Ron. Yeah right; a mega-wealthy guy with a hot daughter (and Sara Foster is hot!) is just going to let some lonely number-cruncher marry his daughter. The old guy also has a daughter named Autumn, who is married to Todd. Todd doesn’t like Ron and thinks Ron will take over his post in the family business, which could be selling vibrators considering all the ones we saw in this flick.

Todd decides to throw Ron a bachelor party down in Miami Beach, but his ultimate plan is to get Ron to cheat and capture it on film so he can show Melinda. Ron and his buddies go along for the ride and screw everything from recovering sex addicts to shoe buffers. All Todd had to do was answer Ron’s cell phone and tell Mel that her husband-to-be is like the First Fleet when it pulls into port. She comes down, and after a dramatic golf-cart chase, love finally triumphs in the end.

No matter how much weed I smoked, this film didn’t go anywhere and with lines like “let’s have a pizza and fuck,” it’s easy to see why. Were the writers on strike when this was jotted down on the pieces of paper they call a script? Ridiculous. I can’t say the acting was top shelf, but how could it be with such a piss-poor script. At least I knew that it would soon be over, but there went another eighty minutes of my life I can’t get back.

The two things I came away from with this little adventure are: bad guys are always named Todd, and I have found a new way incorporate naked girls and golf. Sure, there were a lot of topless girls, but I have the Internet and one does not need to shell out hard-earned cash for boobs.

Extras, really, you want to know, really? The gag reel is funny, but most gag reels are. I could not bother with the commentary track.

On this April Fool’s Day, only a fool would spend money to see this. I would even pass it up if comes out on HBO. Happy Fool’s Day from a mighty fool himself.


Written by Fantasma el Rey

Did you know that Dr. Dolittle’s daughter, Maya can speak to animals just like her dad? Did you know that they even made a Dr. Dolittle 4? Do you care? I don’t, not really, but I gave it a spin after agreeing to take part in a prank exchange of likely bad movies for April Fool’s Day and found an interesting element. That’s right, just one.

The fourth installment of the Dr. Dolittle franchise has Eddie Murphy two films gone and Kyla Pratt taking the lead as his daughter Maya. In Dr. Dolittle: Tail To The Chief we find young Maya lending a helping hand to the tree-hugging President of The United States (Peter Coyote) to deal with his rebellious dog, Daisy. The First Dog is going through a crisis and is lashing out like a wild teenager and disrupting meetings and dinners. The Prez is out of solutions and calls in the big dog, well the next best thing, big dog’s daughter. Little does Maya know that she will end up bringing a family together and saving the Rainforest.

After a brief stay at the White House, they are all off to the President’s vacation estate and that’s where all the usual hi-jinks begin. Maya does her best but Daisy won’t give in and stop her evil ways which are usually followed by tired exit lines such as “See ya, wouldn’t want to be ya.” Yeah, they come across like that snotty sitcom pre-teen that you want to kick. Daisy even turns the rest the animals on the estate against Maya, another plot point seen before. Yet our heroine doesn’t give up, and after a pep talk on how our greatest thinkers and heroes all failed at some point, she valiantly pushes forward. Eventually she gets through to Daisy, who confides in Maya her reasons for acting out. While the Prez talks to Maya he keeps beginning his sentences with “Did you know,” which she then uses in her speech to the animals of the compound. Yes, both times it gets annoying and will pop up from time to time throughout the movie.

Maya also gets into the head of the President’s teenage daughter who is disgruntled as well about the change in life style due to being the first family. The young women find they have much in common and become fast friends and along with the handsome young intern manage to foil a plot to destroy the rain forest. One of the animals stumbles on to the wicked plan and informs Maya who with her new friends is able to alert the President in time to save the day. What a saga! And all neatly rolled into an hour and a half that manages to end with every one out on the dance floor shakin’ what their mama’s gave ‘em.

As for me I found Dr. Dolittle: Tail To The Chief to be simply like the rest of the movie sequels that continue far too long, trying for the same lame laughs that we see over and over again in film and television. The movie has talking animals doing and saying cute things that are meant to be funny but weren’t, and well-to-do teenagers acting out with someone to set them straight. The same kids that find the majority of Disney television shows funny may get some giggles here as well. I give credit to Twentieth Century Fox for making an effort to put out good-hearted and clean-storied films for our young. If kids come away with an interest in the Rainforest and exotic animals, then something good was achieved.

Speaking of exotic animals the DVD contains an all-too-short featurette concerning the location on which the movie was filmed: a unique place run by the Mountain View Conservation Society. The Canadian-based society’s focus is endangered animals and breeding them properly for re-release back into their natural habitat. Lemurs and giraffes run the grounds along with birds and large hyena like wild dogs. You can check their web site for more info on tours and other interesting facts. I had a better time there than with the movie.

The remainder of the DVD extras are quick featurettes on the actors working with animals and how they feel about that. So go check the website and skip the flick, unless of course you’re a big Dolittle fan, in which case you’ll be glad to know that another film is supposedly in the works.