Bruce Lee and I (1976)

Bruce Lee and I [李小龍與我] (1976)
AKA Bruce Lee: His Last Days, His Last Nights, Bruce Lee: His Last Days, I Love You, Bruce Lee

Starring Betty Ting Pei, Danny Lee, Wang Sha, Tony Liu Chun-Ku, James Nam Gung-Fan, Wong Man, Ku Wen-Chung, Lee Pang-Fei, Lee Sau-Kei, Wong San, Gam Dai, Pang Pang, Ling Hon, Kong San

Directed by John Law Ma

Expectations: Low.


The Bruceploitation genre is one that consistently surprises, offering as many unique ideas as it does scenes of “Bruce picking his successor” or footage from his funeral. I had heard that Bruce Lee and I was an especially exploitative look at Bruce Lee’s final days through the eyes of his mistress Betty Ting Pei (who plays herself here). In part, this is true; the film opens with a wild sex scene between Bruce and Betty, with Bruce taking regular breaks to smoke pot or take pills from the bedside table. It’s a whirlwind of bodies and drugs, and in the movie it directly leads to his death. Later the film contradicts this — and perhaps that’s the point — but it’s by far the most memorable thing about the movie, so viewers are likely to come away remembering the very thing the film was trying to dispute.

Bruce Lee’s death was sudden and the exact cause of death has always been up for debate. It was officially ruled a “death by misadventure,” which only led to further speculation on the part of his adoring and growing fan base. Bruce died at the home of Betty Ting Pei, which was initially covered up by Lee’s family who wanted to preserve Bruce’s image in the media. Did Bruce and Betty have an affair or were they just good friends? Who knows, and more importantly does it even matter? Despite the salacious opening that basically fuels the legend, Betty Ting Pei’s participation in this film suggests that it’s an attempt to tell her side of the story so we might understand the bond and friendship that she shared with Bruce Lee.

Continue reading Bruce Lee and I (1976) →

Hollywoodland (2006)

hollywoodlandStarring Adrien Brody, Diane Lane, Ben Affleck, Bob Hoskins, Robin Tunney, Kathleen Robertson, Lois Smith, Phillip MacKenzie, Larry Cedar

Directed by Allen Coulter

Expectations: Low.

threestar


I kicked off my run through the Superman films with Superman and the Mole Men, so it seems somewhat fitting that my last review before Man of Steel should come around full circle. Hollywoodland is centered around the death of George Reeves, star of Superman and the Mole Men and the TV series it spawned: The Adventures of Superman. Hindsight reveals this as a landmark series, and as part of the foundation for the superhero genre that now populates our multiplex theaters every summer. At the time, though, things were not quite all wine and roses. Reeves wasn’t especially fond of the Superman role, even though it gave him fame among the kiddos. If we buy into the film’s character being similar to the real Reeves, he struggled and hoped to get more well-respected roles (much like the Jayne Mansfield character in The Jayne Mansfield Story).

Hollywoodland combines two things I generally try to stay away from in film: movies about Hollywood (as in the filmmaking industry, not the city) and celebrity biopics. The film definitely had moments that reminded me why I feel this way, but the narrative is varied and interesting enough to largely sideline these personal issues. The film is definitely too slow and longer than it needs to be, though. First time filmmaker Allen Coulter tries to fight the boredom back with a time-jumping narrative structure, moving between the investigation of Reeves’s death and flashbacks of his troubled life. Sometimes this works well, and sometimes it feels like a crutch used to spice up a slow-moving storyline.

Continue reading Hollywoodland (2006) →

The Jayne Mansfield Story (1980)

JayneMansfieldStarring Loni Anderson, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Ray Buktenica, Kathleen Lloyd, G.D. Spradlin, Dave Shelley, Laura Jacoby, Whitney Rydbeck, John Medici

Directed by Dick Lowry

Expectations: Very low.

onehalfstar


There are many places that I expected the filmography of Arnold Schwarzenegger to take me, but a TV biopic about Jayne Mansfield was definitely not one of them. I’d love to say that it’s a hidden gem, but it’s barely engaging, let alone entertaining. It’s not especially bad or anything, and maybe if I was really into Jayne Mansfield I’d find it more interesting. It’s just so… “TV movie,” which translates to “more often than not boring and hard to get through.” The budget is small, so don’t expect much more than people talking about things about to happen (or that have just happened) and then a slow fade into the next dialogue scene taking place before (or after) another major event. I can’t really hold this against the film anymore than I could be mad at a horror movie for having gore, but it was pretty trying on my patience.

The story here is the basic “starry-eyed unknown becomes a star” storyline, but the interesting aspect of Jayne Mansfield’s story is her untimely death at age 34 and her ability to drive publicity through playing up her sexuality. The film wisely starts on the night of the car crash that killed her, drawing in the audience by showing us a glimpse of where Mansfield was mentally before showing us how she got there. This isn’t especially original, but it’s an effective storytelling device and it works very well here. It also serves to introduce Arnold’s character, setting him up as our narrator (yes, you read that right) as we venture back to an earlier time when Mansfield wasn’t a star.

Continue reading The Jayne Mansfield Story (1980) →




Subscribe via Email!

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 69 other subscribers

Ongoing Series

Top Posts & Pages