Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon: The Sword of Destiny (2016) Review

Sam Kench and Tara Hartnett review the Netflix made sequel “Crouching Tiger, hidden Dragon: The Sword of destiny” starring Michelle Yeoh and Donnie Yen and directed by Yuen Woo-Ping.


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The Raid: Redemption ~ Jumping Off Point Review

the raid redemption movie review

the raid redemption movie reviewMembers of the Newfound Film Making Club review the movie The Raid: Redemption.

SUMMARY: A S.W.A.T. team becomes trapped in a tenement run by a ruthless mobster and his army of killers and thugs.

Director/Writer:  Gareth Evans

Stars:  Iko UwaisAnanda GeorgeRay Sahetapy

WARNING: This video contains profanity

 

Donnie Yen Double Feature (Legend of the Fist: The Return of Chen Zhen/Flashpoint)

legend of the fist

Donnie Yen is a well accomplished Hong Kong action star. He has made many acclaimed action films such as Ip Man and Hero. He’s among the ranks of Jackie Chan and Jet Li yet I had never before seen a full Donnie Yen film. I’ve made it my mission to see a handful of Donnie Yen films. I had already seen most of Ip Man before so I decided to start with Legend of the Fist: The Return of Chen Zhen and then go on to watch Flash Point.

First off is my review of Legend of the Fist: The Return of Chen Zhen. The title seems very cliche and legend of the fistuninspired. “Legend of the Fist” Very bland and it doesn’t do a whole lot to separate itself from other action movies. However the 2nd half of the title is a bit more interesting. “The Return of Chen Zhen” Chen Zhen is a character that has been in many martial arts movies being played by a number of accomplished martial artists including Jet Li and was first played by Bruce Lee in the Chinese Connection. So Chen Zhen is definitely a character worth noting. The “Legend of the Fist” bit is making more sense now isn’t it? The character has always been associated with a fist, as a trademark.

Donnie Yen has many connections to Bruce Lee. He cites Bruce Lee as an influence, he played Bruce Lee’s teacher in Ip Man, and he has reprized multiple roles previously played by Bruce Lee. He has played Chen Zhen in Legend of the fist as well as the TV series Fist of Fury. Bruce Lee made a movie known in America as Fists of Fury, but the original title was Big Boss. Donnie Yen made a movie called Snow Wolf, but the original title was The New Big Boss.

All these connections make Donnie Yen the obvious choice for the role of Chen Zhen. He even throws in some iconic Bruce Lee high pitched yelling into his fighting. It’s definitely toned down, but it’s still there.

Legend of the Fist: The Return of Chen Zhen opens with one of the coolest action opening scenesequences I’ve seen in a long time. The beginning of the movie has Donnie Yen killing Germans in WWI. They have lots of men and lots of guns. He is just one man, with 3 knives. He sprints and parkours through gun fire and slashes them to pieces in an action sequence that will have you verbally exclaiming.

Now after that incredible opening action sequence, the rest of the film is a bit of a disappointment. It’s definitely not bad, just slower. There are other action scenes, and while they do not surpass the opening fight, they are all still awesome. the only problem is that the connecting bits between action sequences is not incredibly interesting. The film has a decent plot, but it feels the need to reiterate everything that is going on in between each scene.

It’s a shame that the movie peaks with it’s opening scene, as the rest of the movie seems even more slow and monotonous in comparison. The other fights are all legend of the fist 2nd fightsuperbly choreographed and executed. The action is fast and brutal. This is the kind of movie where you wish they swapped a couple of expositional scenes with a few more action sequences.

The final fight at the end of the movie is a little mixed. It begins as Donnie Yen fighting a large group of Japanese soldiers and then boils down to a one on one fight between him and the final villain. The group fight is awesome. Donnie Yen showcases incredible speed and kicks an average of 3.5 people in the face each time he leaves the ground, which is quite often. Unfortunately the one on one fight is a little disappointing. The fight isn’t bad by any means, but it lacks a certain flair, and ends up lowering the final fight.

Legend of the Fist: The Return of Chen Zhen has good action, but terrible pacing. I would almost say that this is the kind of film where you should skip to the good parts. If you watch Legend of the Fist you’ll probably have a good time, but you may be a little bored at parts.

Flash Point (Not to be confused with the sub par TV show of the same name.)flash point poster

Flash Point is not strictly a martial arts movie. It also has it’s fair share of gunplay. At times Flash Point can seem like a John Woo movie, which is a good thing. I got a real Hard Boiled kind of vibe off of Flash Point. There are a number of small similarities between the two films. I wonder if it was an inspiration.

Flash Point, much like Legend of the Fist, opens with a an action scene. In Flash Point the action is very short. It’s only about a minute and a half long, but it sets the tone and style of the movie. It is shot in one continuous dolly shot and looks great.

The next big chunk of the movie sets up the story. The story is actually rather cliche. There’s an undercover cop, a girlfriend in danger, a loose cannon cop who takes the law into his own hands, a bad guy above the law. It’s all been done before. The only slightly different thing is that instead of following the undercover cop whose girlfriend gets kidnapped, we follow his partner played by Donnie Yen. Not many movies do that, most films have you follow the center of the conflict. I think it was a smart move.

Flash Point has an interesting set of characters. The character development is done well and each character has a unique personality, which is something that a lot of action films don’t bother with. At times we follow both the good guys and the bad guys. Wison Yip the director does a very good job with the film. He brings a definite style and tone to the film that doesn’t take itself too seriously. There is a good lighthearted tone that welcomes comedy into the action.donnie yenb

Most of the acting is good, with one really terrible performance that sticks out. There is a woman who plays a cop in an action scene. She has not been in the movie before now, so this is our introduction to her. People start shooting. She’s in cover with another cop. She’s supposed to be either terrified or caught up in the action, but instead she’s smiling away. She is obliviously happy while being shot at, and the movie tries to bring tension when she dies. She get’s killed and it’s supposed to be dramatic and rage fueling, when really, it was her own fault she died, and the audience doesn’t even know her before it happens. I don’t even think she has a name. Just one poorly acted scene. You can’t introduce someone in the same scene you kill them off and expect there to be a dramatic payoff.

The relationship between the undercover cop and his girlfriend is a big part of the movie. The entire final fight scene happens because of them. The problem is that I don’t really buy their relationship. Maybe it’s the writing or maybe they just have poor onscreen chemistry, but I didn’t feel the passion that was supposed to have fueled this suicidal charge at the end.

The action in this film is great. Donnie Yen is also the action director and he brings incredible action sequences to Flash Point. There are some great chase and fight flashpointsequences. Two in particular stand out. The first is a parkour chase through the city that leads to a one on one fight in a market. Both aspects of this scene are awesome and well performed by both men.

The final sequence of the film makes the movie. The best scene in the movie is the two part action scene at the end. Where Legend of the Fist opened strong, Flash Point closed strong. A movie needs to open strong and end even stronger. I think Flash Point succeeded more in this aspect.

The film ends with a two part action sequence. The first part is a John Woo-esque shootout between Donnie Yen and all the bad guys. The shootout is very well done and this is where I  started to notice the very well done camera angles and pans. The camera work may not be important to the casual film viewer, but it does play an important role in the effectiveness of any movie. The shootout showcases some awesome sniper rifle work which again makes me wish that there were more sniperflash point gunfights in movies. True we do have some films about snipers like Shooter or Sniper, but there is always room for more. One of the main villains dies in one of the coolest on screen deaths from any film during this shootout.

Start spoiler * He is blasted into the air and skeet shot several times with the sniper rifle as he falls down onto the roof of a car. Awesome. * End spoiler

After the gunfight it’s down to Donnie Yen and one of the main villains. No guns now just fighting. This fight is incredible. It’s long varied and brutal. The actors take some impressive falls and daring full contact hits. This fight is the highlight of the whole film. I would say that most of the film is not quite there but this final fight makes the movie worth watching.

In closing I would say that neither of these movies are bad at all, but they’re not that great either. They both have great moments, but fail to deliver a consistently great experience throughout. Both films tend to drag, but the action is showstopping. I enjoyed Flash Point more than Legend of the Fist. If you’re going to watch one, then I would say, go with that one.

 

Ong Bak Movie Review ~ by Sam

Director: Prachya Pinkaew

Starring

Ting: Tony Jaa

The title “Ong-Bak” is referring to a stone Buddha head, which is what gives the main character a reason to go on a path of destruction. Someone steals Ong Bak and Tony Jaa, the main actor, needs to retrieve it before the yearly festival or else the village will be cursed. He doesn’t actually want to fight when he has the chance because it is seen as immoral in his village.

The full title is Ong Bak: The Thai warrior the movie as you can probably guess, is Thai made. Supposedly Taiwanese movies have a very particular style of direction and comedy, that can be found here, I guess.

Besides the quest to retrieve the Ong Bak the plot also contains a sub plot of a man who was originally from the village who over a complete story arch re-discovers his pride for his heritage. The main plot really just serves as a way to move from fight to fight and from chase to chase.

The action is handled extremely well. there is a genuine fight club in the movie which serves little other purpose than to add a few extra fights to the movie. The fight club is a location that is visited a few times, and like many great movies when you are done with a location destroy it. The final fight consists of the main character taking down three increasingly difficult enemies and the last completely destroys the entire club. Now that I think about it all of the locations are destroyed after using them, for the most part.

The Writer director also has a co star role and he also serves as the comedic relief. The director really showcases the action and the awesomeness of the protagonist. There is a chase through back alleys that represents this fact. The chase is hilarious as well as awesome, and really shows off the physical prowess and amazing jumping capabilities of the protagonist. I love how the director does the action. There is a little difference that makes a big difference; something amazing will happen, something so cool that you want to rewind it and watch it again and the movie beats me to it with instant replay’s from different angles and slow-motion, sometimes they show the same shot up to 6 times, the movie knows when something is so cool that you want to see it again.

This movie was great, low on plot content, but it was designed to be that. This a great martial arts action movie, that could have started a great fhttps://greencarbon2112.wordpress.com/wp-admin/post-new.phpranchise. They attempted the franchise but it didn’t do so well. I have not yet seen the 3rd one and I’m not sure that I want to, seeing as the second one was so awful. 

13 Assassins Review ~ by Sam


I saw 13 Assassins as part of the Red River Theatres’ Extreme Series in Concord, NH. This review contains spoilers.

13Assassins is set in Feudal Japan at the turn of the century. It is the story of a horrible man who abuses his power as the Shogun’s brother and kills, tortures, slaughters, maims, disfigures, and does other things to people for entertainment.

In the very beginning of the movie he beat and rapes a woman and when her husband comes he acts like nothing happened and then cuts the man’s head off, and forces the wife to slit her throat. The purpose of this is character development and also to make you hate the antagonist. If that didn’t make you hate him enough you also see him shooting a family that is tied up with arrows. He shoots them in places they won’t die so it hurts more. The last one to die is a little girl.

But perhaps even worse than that if you can believe it, is what he does to this one nameless girl. He cut off both her arms and legs, and then uses her as a play thing. One of the protagonists finds her almost dead in the mud during a storm. Later on you find out that she also had her tongue cut out. You really want to see him die after what he’s done and the whole movie is about killing him.

The movie shouldn’t really be called 13 Assassins. It should be called 13 Samurai. I think I might know why they didn’t call it that though. There is already a movie titled The 7 Samurai. They probably didn’t want to get them confused. The head Assassin goes around recruiting other warriors to go into battle with him. He makes them give their lives to him. The Samurai’s wish is to die in battle serving their master.

This is where I started to notice the movie’s lack of music. Aside from a couple music cues here and there, there isn’t really any music in the movie. I think this makes it much more dramatic and suspenseful. There are often very long takes of a single shot of dialogue, or just complete silence. The movie is made to seem old and is in the style of old Samurai films. The movie is spoken entirely in traditional Japanese and written that way too.


They end up with 12 Assassins, not 13. It could be hard telling them apart sometimes because they wore the same outfit. This is where I realized that the movie was a lot like 300. In 300 there are 300 Spartans going to war against over 100,000 Persians. The Spartans don’t expect to win but they expect to show their pride and actually win in the long run. In 13 Assassins its 13 men against over 200. Both movies have a small well-trained force against a larger but less skilled force. In both movie’s both sides have a clear leader.

The Assassins set up traps in a city where they intend to fight off the enemies and kill the antagonist. They slow down their enemies by stopping them from crossing a bridge. Afterwards the man who stopped them commits Hara Kiri, which is a form of suicide for Samurai.

They find their 13th member trapped in a net in the woods. He despises the idea and standard of samurai but wants to help them. This character becomes the comic relief. I find that weird even without that character there were still parts that were supposed to be funny. They are actually pretty funny, but it’s just a little odd because the movie is otherwise very dark in tone.

The entire 3rd act of the movie is the battle in the city. This part is officially the longest battle ever committed to film. During the battle many enemies die as well as 11 of the Assassins. The villain leaves with 2 soldiers and his personal bodyguard. They are stopped by the 2 remaining Assassins, the leader and his nephew. There is a one on one showdown between the Assassin leader and the body guard. They are actually brothers. They have some dialogue while they fight and the Assassin wins with a dirty move, which I though was odd. He accepts this, then his head is cut off. The nephew deals with the remaining enemies off-screen while the leader goes after the villain. He actually kicks the head of the man that just sacrificed himself for him. The Assassin leader lets himself get stabbed through the stomach, so he can die can die with honor. But not before killing the guy he’s after. He stabs him and they pose, swords through each other. The villain almost starts crying. He falls in the mud and tries to cry away while saying he’s afraid of death. He has no care about human life, except his own. He says it was the most entertaining day of his life, and then has his head chopped off then the leader dies.

A few more things to say, the sound effects are amazing which makes the next more true. All of the violence in the beginning of the movie is off-screen or implied. For example, the movie starts with a man committing Hara Kiri. All you can see is face and shoulders. The amazing sound effects adds to the implied violence. People leave the movie thinking they saw horrible things when they really were just made to think that. A lot of movies do that, like Scarface or early Quentin Tarantino movies.