Uncle Jasper reviews: Hard Target (1993)

Starring Jean Claude Van-Damme, Lance Henriksen, Yancy Butler, Wilford Brimley, Kasi Lemmons, Arnold Vosloo, Willie C. Carpenter

Directed by John Woo


To the seasoned viewer of early 90s action films there are only two things wrong with Hard Target. One, there are like twenty dudes trying to kill Van Damme at any given moment and Al Leong is not one of them. Two, the painfully obvious musical selection “Born on the Bayou”, which could have made any scene in this film infinitely more awesome, is not played until the end credits. Despite these two obvious flaws, the movie was a pleasant experience to return to since I had last viewed it over 15 years ago.

Hard Target is forever cemented in history as the film that brought John Woo to Hollywood. Language barriers as well as unfamiliarity with the Hollywood system were obvious concerns. The brass over at Universal Pictures were apparently shitting themselves so badly over letting John Woo take the reins of this film that they hired producer Sam Raimi to babysit the production. Woo was working in horrendously stifling conditions, being given only two months to shoot the film, and was relentlessly hounded by studio execs to go easy on the violence, which ironically is the very reason he became such a desired Hollywood import in the first place.

Continue reading Uncle Jasper reviews: Hard Target (1993) →

Uncle Jasper reviews: Choy Lee Fut (2011)

Choy Lee Fut [蔡李佛] (2011)

Starring Sammo Hung, Yuen Wah, Sammy Hung, Kane Kosugi, Stephen Wong, Dennis To

Directed By Tony Law and Sam Wong


Like a German tranny after one too many drinks, Choy Lee Fut looks decent enough on the surface to get with. That is, until you get a little too close and realize beard stubble and the lingering scent of Vitalis underneath all of that pretty blush. I was pretty excited about this film when I first heard of it. I had convinced myself that the movie would do for the martial art of Choy Lee Fut what Ip Man did for Wing Chun. 90 minutes and about 500 ham-fisted, lip-bitingly bad clichés later, I have realized that unfortunately is not the case.

Sammo Hung stars alongside his son Sammy Hung for the first time IN MOTION PICTURE HISTORY! For shits and giggles, Kane Kosugi is thrown into the mix. I last saw Kane as a nine-year old ninja-in-training in his dad’s film Pray for Death. That was about 25 years ago but Kane still looks like that cherub-faced little kid toting around a plastic ninja sword while being threatened with a blowtorch by the mafia. Sammy is able to keep the train wreck moving forward well enough, but he desperately lacks the charisma and breadth of his legendary father (who shows up long enough for a Budweiser and a pat on the back).

Of all the characters in the film, Yuen Wah’s is the only one that carries more personality and screen presence than a block of wood. I was looking forward to seeing him and Sammo share the screen again after so many years, but their single fight scene is too short, too boring, and dripping in orange-tinted CGI that looks like it was ripped from the PlayStation 2 game God of War. Simply lame. I’m surprised that they even managed to round up the two heavy-hitters for this film, but paychecks will do funny things I guess.

Ex Jackie Chan stunt team leader Sam Wong, knowing that his movie is littered with shitty, uninspired choreography attempts to save it with confusing and bewildering editing that left me reaching for a roll of Tums when all was said and done. Even worse, most of the film meanders around in the realm of cut-and-paste melodrama and cheesy forced relationships to the point that there is very little time left for any Choy Lee Fut… Not a good idea when that is the name of your fucking film.

Also, what’s up with Sammy cradling his iPhone 3G and stroking its smooth, glassy surface like it was his first-born? I’m well aware that Apple shamelessly pimps its products out at every opportunity, but the product-placement here is especially blatant and should be condemned.

With that said… don’t forget to click the banner to the right and bring us some money.

Uncle Jasper reviews: Ninja Vengeance (1988)

Ninja Vengeance (1988)

Starring Craig Boyett, Janet Pawlak, David Lord, Steven K. Hayes

Directed by Karl R. Armstrong


In this actioner, a heroic ninja biker kicks the stuffing out of a villainous Texas sheriff and stops him and the KKK from bullying a black resident.

Holy Shit… Now that’s a plot synopsis!! In fact, that’s all it took for Ninja Vengeance to pull me by the ears and command my full attention. I mean, who can argue with a premise like that, right?

Unfortunately, a lot of the problems with Ninja Vengeance stem from its admittedly badass premise being mauled by piss-poor execution. I’m sure the filmmakers felt all honorable and shit by making their hero a crusader against the KKK, but the question begs… why not a black dude as the ninja? Surely that would make more sense, and make the vengeance all the more “vengeful”.  I’m reminded of a movie like No Retreat, No Surrender, which was great fun but had the same cringeworthy curse of the token black character serving no real purpose but to pump up the white hero. In this case the film goes a step further by actually killing off the black guy in order to motivate the lead character. Am I the only one that squirmed a little bit by the sex scene between the ninja and the black guy’s female friend? Did they just kill off the black dude in order to have these two get it on?

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Uncle Jasper reviews: Rock ‘n’ Roll Nightmare (1987)

Rock ‘n’ Roll Nightmare (1987)
AKA “The Edge of Hell”

Starring John Mikl Thor, Jillian Peri, Teresa Simpson, Frank Dietz, Lara Daans

Directed By John Fasano


I remember back when I was a springy young kid of about ten my mom would occasionally babysit for some lady she used to go to church with. I don’t remember much about the brother and sister except they were extremely well-mannered, a little creepy, and ultra-religious. Sometimes I would come home from school only to see them sitting up straight on my living room sofa, hands folded softly in their laps, nodding attentively to whatever gibberish my mom happened to be spouting out at the time…. Very well-mannered kids.

It was after mom went to her room, leaving my brother and myself with the fresh-faced siblings, that shit would start to get weird real quick. See, according to them, they were knee-deep on the front lines of an ongoing epic battle of ultimate good vs. the most ultimate of evils. They spun bone-rattling tales of how their house was infested with evil spirits. But that was just the tip of the iceberg, they swore up and down that their mom was a top-secret leading practitioner of white magic. Deceptively paunchy on the surface, she was actually locked in an ongoing battle with Satan himself and his horde of demon minions. I knew it was all true of course, because they had actually laid eyes on these vile creatures of the netherworld firsthand. Their recollections of their mom’s first battle with the devil rattled me to the point of etching tiny crosses onto the wooden posts of my bunk bed for added protection. I had damned well believe in God now, I feared. Because according to these creepy-ass kids, Satan was fighting my mom’s friend in her kitchen on a daily basis and might come after friends of the family next. The real kicker in these eyewitness accounts however, was their odd description of the lord of darkness… this wasn’t your typical red horned, pitchfork wielding Satan. No. According to them he was very skinny and had a body “made out of black sticks”.

Continue reading Uncle Jasper reviews: Rock ‘n’ Roll Nightmare (1987) →

Uncle Jasper reviews: Wheels on Meals (1984)

Wheels on Meals [快餐車] (1984)

Starring Jackie Chan, Yuen Biao, Sammo Hung, Lola Forner, Benny Urquidez, Pepe Sancho, Keith Vitali, Richard Ng

Directed By Sammo Hung


To say that Wheels on Meals was one of the most formative viewing experiences in my history of moviegoing would be a gross understatement. Let me rewind the clock for a moment and plop you back into the (very) early ’90s. Collecting cult video was a very social experience back then. There were no such thing as torrents, which reduce finding even the most elusive film to a minor task of a Google search and a few simple mouse clicks. Some films, and even entire genres, were simply the stuff of legend. If you didn’t have proper connections you had two choices. 1) Improve your network of fellow obscure video collectors in hopes that one of them had the tape you’re looking for, or 2) Expect to pay out the ass for a muddy print of the film you wanted, copied onto a blank TDK tape. Back then greedy convention vendors or cult zine mail order sellers could get away with peddling 12th generation pan-and-scan dubs of rare Japanese laserdisc prints or elusive Hong Kong action fare for like 40 bucks a pop. These were your options. So when you finally caved in and threw down the cash for your washed out copy of Meet the Feebles, you were gonna bust out repeat viewings of that film like there was no tomorrow just to get your money’s worth.

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Uncle Jasper reviews: Bruce Lee vs. Gay Power (1975)

Bruce Lee vs. Gay Power [Kung Fu Contra as Bonecas] (1975)

Starring Adriano Stuart, Dionísio Azevedo, Maurício do Valle, Nadir Fernandes, Edgard Franco, Célia Froes, David Neto, Armando Paschoallin, Helena Ramos

Directed by Adriano Stuart


Wow. So it’s really come to this? Going into Bruce Lee vs. Gay Power I knew two things. One… it is infeasible that this film could possibly live up to its legendary title, and two, there is no way a lack of subtitles would keep me from reviewing a film titled Bruce Lee vs. Gay Power. Talk of this extremely rare and elusive movie had been kicked around for years in cult film circles, gaining an almost mythic status along the way. Every now and then, some rabid fan would dish out a sketchy eyewitness account about spotting it in some dingy Brazilian flea market or something, while others doubted its existence altogether. Indeed, Bruce Lee vs. Gay Power became chalked up as a product of obscure lore, much like a Bigfoot or Loch Ness Monster, a mystery that perhaps would never be solved.

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Uncle Jasper reviews: Executioners from Shaolin (1977)

Executioners from Shaolin [洪熙官] (1977)

Starring Chen Kuan-Tai, Lily Li Li-Li, Lo Lieh, Wong Yu, Kong Do, Cheng Hong-Yip, Gordon Liu Chia-Hui

Directed by Lau Kar-Leung


Another month, another film from the Shaw Bros Shaolin cycle… Except this time we have Shaw’s other prolific director at the helm. While many associate the Shaolin cycle with Chang Cheh, Lau Kar-Leung inherited the mantle in this stellar 1977 effort, which further chronicles the life of Chinese folk hero Hung Si-Kwan, played as usual by the magnificent Chen Kuan-Tai. But this film differs greatly from the concise, historical-based efforts of Chang Cheh, who placed the focus on patriotism and brotherhood against the occupying Manchu forces. Lau Kar-Leung, ever the cinematic ambassador of Chinese martial arts, instead shifts the focus to Hung Si-Kwan’s development of his renowned style, Hung Gar kung fu.

Let’s face it. Lau Kar-Leung made films for kung fu nerds. (This review will also be geared towards that crowd, so don’t feel too bad if a lot of this technical / historical gibberish leaves you scratching your head.) Don’t get me wrong, the classic revenge tale that this film tells can be appreciated by even your most casual movie fan, but to really reap the benefits of what Executioners has to offer it helps to understand some of the finer points of kung fu styles and martial technique. Hung Gar is comprised of both tiger and crane techniques. The tiger being a powerful external style based primarily on brute strength while the crane relies more on deft movements and pinpoint accuracy. Executioners from Shaolin tells what I’m assuming is a mostly fictional tale of how the tiger and crane styles became united under one banner.

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