Once Upon a Time in China 2 (1992)

Once Upon a Time in China 2 (1992)

Starring Jet Li, Donnie Yen, Rosamund Kwan, Max Mok, Zhang Tielin, David Chiang, Hung Yan-Yan, Yen Shi-Kwan

Directed by Tsui Hark

Expectations: High. I haven’t seen it in a while and I’m really looking forward to the Jet Li / Donnie Yen fight.


So back when I started this site in April, I wrote up some of my thoughts after revisiting one of the classics from my youth, Once Upon a Time in China. I’ve wanted to get down to business and watch the much-loved sequel since then, but only recently got around to it. Wow, I gotta say… this one is even better than the first. It’s possible that I feel this way because I recently watched the original and I had less of an adjustment period, but whatever, Once Upon a Time in China 2 is a damn pleasing film.

While the recently reviewed Ip Man was set during the Second Sino-Japanese War, Once Upon a Time in China 2 takes place just after the First Sino-Japanese War. Taiwan has been handed over to Japan and outside influence is getting stronger. The White Lotus clan is angry that Westerners have come to China and brought all their nasty wares with them. They wish to kill the foreigners and rid the land of everything related to them. Led by the Immortal Kung (Hung Yan-Yan), they are ultra-nationalists and will stop at nothing to achieve their goals.

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Re-Animator (1985)

Starring Jeffrey Combs, Bruce Abbott, Barbara Crampton, David Gale, Robert Sampson, Gerry Black

Directed by Stuart Gordon

Expectations: High. I’ve been building this movie up in my head for years.

On the general scale:
twohalfstar

On the B-movie scale:
fourstar


Distributed by Empire International, Re-Animator is one of the hallmarks of 1980s horror cinema. Finally watching it after all these years of build up was something of an event and one that I truly enjoyed, even with my high expectations. Based on a little known story called Herbert West–Reanimator by H.P. Lovecraft, the film is so much more than the simple Frankenstein re-telling I expected it to be. Apparently Lovecraft wrote the story as a parody of Mary Shelley’s classic tale and while the filmed story differs quite a bit from the original, it can still be seen as a slight parody re-telling.

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Uncle Jasper reviews: The Pink Angels (1971)

The Pink Angels (1971)

Starring John Alderman, Tom Basham, Robert Biheller, Jackson Bostwick, Karen Bouchard, Dan Haggerty, Joe Hansen, Bruce Kimball, George T. Marshall, Henry Olek

Directed By Larry G. Brown


I do not claim to be an expert on homosexual outlaw biker gang movies, but if Pink Angels is any indication, I can safely say that they are an acquired taste. Pink Angels is sometimes on uppers, sometimes on downers, but almost always stoned to the bone. It’s really difficult to put a finger on a film that paints its characters as twisted, stereotypical caricatures while at the same time elevating them as weird, but cool, counterculture icons. I can’t tell if this film was made to protest, embrace, document, or lampoon gay culture. All I know is that despite its sloppy mediocrity there is definitely some kind of bizarre, rogue force looming beneath the surface, trying desperately to say something worthwhile.

The film is very loosely strewn together by a main plot which attempts to follow the bikers as they make their way down the coast, freaking out squares, cops, and the military on their way to a drag-queen convention in Los Angeles. Nothing is that simple in the world of cinema vérité though, as the film careens off course about a dozen times, working all kinds of bizarre tangents, subtle (and not so subtle) innuendo, and pointless exploitation into the mix. If there’s one thing I can guarantee with Pink Angels, it’s that you will never know what it’s going to throw at you next. One moment we have the fellas squirting bottles of mustard and ketchup at each other during an impromptu food fight at a highway fast food restaurant, and at the next we have a gay man raped by a sex-crazed woman and left to fend for himself in his underwear on the side of a road. Whew!

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I Shot Jesse James (1949)

Starring Preston Foster, Barbara Britton, John Ireland, Reed Hadley, J. Edward Bromberg, Victor Kilian, Tom Tyler, Tommy Noonan

Directed by Samuel Fuller

Expectations: Moderate. Wasn’t expecting too much from Fuller’s first movie.


Samuel Fuller’s directorial début is a character drama masquerading as a western. It features a lot of western conventions, but it’s all window dressing as far as I’m concerned. Fuller’s cinematic motives are to examine the tortured nature of Robert Ford, making the film not so much about the actual shooting, but about how it shapes Ford’s life following it and how he deals with the disgrace and pressure it adds. This makes for quite the interesting film and a fantastic début from the criminally underrated director Sam Fuller.

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Uncle Jasper reviews: Ip Man 2 (2010)

Ip Man 2 [葉問2:宗師傳奇] (2010)

Starring Donnie Yen, Sammo Hung, Lynn Hung, Huang Xiao-Ming, Fan Siu-Wong, Gordon Lam Ka-Tung, Darren Shahlavi, Kent Cheng, Lo Meng

Directed By Wilson Yip


The original Ip Man was a bona fide classic, and a successful attempt at elevating the famous teacher of Wing Chun kung fu to folk hero status. Now he can join the ranks of Wong Fei-Hung, Fong Sai-Yuk, and Hung Si-Kwan by having endless films and cash in attempts made that peddle bogus, fictionalized accounts of his life and rape his good name for some of that good ol’ box office cheddar. I guess those are the perks that are in store for folk hero cardholders. And what better place to begin the shameless plundering than in the original’s much-inferior sequel, Ip Man 2. Ip Man 2 was a little better back when it was known as Rocky IV, and even then it wasn’t that great. We have Donnie Yen returning as Rocky Balboa, Sammo Hung as the aging martyr Apollo Creed, and overacting meathead Darren Shahlavi as the murderous boxer Ivan Drago.

Remember how classy Simon Yam was in the original Ip Man? Looking all Howard Hughes and shit in his fancy dinner jacket and business suits? He even played a big part in saving the Ip family from death by smuggling them into Hong Kong. Well in Ip Man 2, he’s been reduced to a jabbering retard with a voracious appetite for roast duck. In fact, Ip Man 2 is rather good at taking the carefully developed characters of the original and either reducing them to bit parts or tossing them to the wayside all together with brief appearances that are instantly forgotten. I would have preferred to not see them at all this time around if it meant preserving the integrity of the original.

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Ip Man (2008)

Ip Man [葉問] (2008)

Starring Donnie Yen, Simon Yam, Lynn Hung, Hiroyuki Ikeuchi, Gordon Lam Ka-tung, Chen Zhihui, Fan Siu-Wong, Shibuya Tenma

Directed by Wilson Yip

Expectations: High.


Ip Man is a rare breed of kung-fu film. It is the type of film that could easily crossover into mainstream popularity, excellently introducing new viewers to the world of Hong Kong cinema through its stellar fights, performances and high production values. Winner of the Hong Kong Film Award for Best Film, Ip Man successfully takes the style of early 90s Hong Kong movies into the 21st century by featuring little to no computer enhancement, instead focusing on and trusting in the skill of its stars. The film succeeds on multiple levels and achieves everything it attempts to convey on-screen. This is a kung-fu epic similar in scope and tone to Once Upon a Time in China, and thoroughly recaptures my interest in the genre.

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Trancers 6: Life After Deth (2002)

Starring Zette Sullivan, Jennifer Capo, Robert Donavan, Timothy Prindle, Jere Jon, Jennifer Cantrell, Ben Bar, James R. Hilton, Kyle O. Ingleman, Gregory Lee Kenyon, Douglas Smith

Directed by Jay Woelfel

Expectations: Low.

On the general scale:
twostar

On the B-Movie scale:
threestar


Trancers 6 is quite the surprising little movie. Instead of simply being the cash-in I expected it to be, it was pretty damn entertaining and loosely fits into the Trancers time line fairly well. Let’s not mince words here though, Trancers 6 is not for the average viewer. Most people will look at this film with disgust and hurl an endless stream of insults at it. This film is not for them though. It is for the tired, the hungry, the huddled masses of Trancer fans who waited eight long years between installments. By all accounts, the series was over and should have never been resurrected, but thanks to Zette Sullivan’s fun performance, a ridiculous story and some incredibly funny special FX, we’ve got a mostly fun movie on our hands.

In the future, a TCL chamber operator sees into the past and witnesses Jack Deth’s daughter getting murdered. Jack Deth has a daughter? Yes, apparently the kid Helen Hunt has with her in Trancers III was Jack’s. Who knew? Anyway, just like in the first couple of Trancer films, the technician sends Jack Deth down the line to inhabit the body of his ancestor/offspring and save her/his life in the process. Tim Thomerson does not reprise his role, but in one of the most audacious scenes in recent memory, the TCL technician converses with Jack via a television screen playing scenes from the previous Trancers films. What makes this so funny is that Jack’s hair noticeably changed throughout the series, so each response from Jack features a new hairstyle and setting. Boy, that Jack Deth sure gets around. It’s shameless, but I loved it.

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