The Man with the Iron Fists (2012)

the_man_with_the_iron_fists_2012Starring RZA, Rick Yune, Russell Crowe, Byron Mann, Lucy Liu, Dave Bautista, Jamie Chung, Cung Le, Daniel Wu, Zhu Zhu, Gordon Liu Chia-Hui, Andrew Ng, Grace Huang, Andrew Lin, Chen Kuan-Tai, Leung Kar-Yan, MC Jin, Pam Grier, Jon T. Benn

Directed by RZA

Expectations: Low, but hopeful.

twohalfstar


The Man with the Iron Fists is a strange movie, without a doubt. But I don’t think it’s bad; it’s more oddly misguided than anything else. What’s weird is that it feels this way based almost completely on how much RZA gets right in his homage to the classic kung fu films of the Shaw Brothers. Yes, “right.” The sets are magnificent and recapture the opulence of Shaw sets beautifully, the wirework is delivered with top-notch Hong Kong skill, and the story is filled with the wide range of colorful characters that any good wuxia demands. The weapons are suitably eccentric, and the battles are all well choreographed (by Corey Yuen), too. If you didn’t know any better, you might think that The Man with the Iron Fists was actually a Chinese production. RZA actually managed to resurrect the spirit of classic kung fu films, but — and this is where the “strange” comes in — the lens we experience all this classic kung fu goodness through is that of modern American filmmaking.

So because the film has so much good working for it, the bad sticks out and demands to be reckoned with in more apparent and frustrating ways than would otherwise be noticeable. The choice to film primarily in English is an expected one, but, at least for me, many of the actors sounded more like ’70s kung fu dubbing than actual actors in a scene. This could be bad acting, poor direction, or it could be by design. If it is intentional, that’s one hell of a bold choice for an unproven, first-time director making what is essentially a large-scale vanity project, but I wouldn’t be surprised if this was true. I’m sure RZA grew up watching the dubs that made their way to the States in the ’70s, and as a result has a nostalgic fondness for them. No matter what the reason, though, it’s off-putting, especially to someone like me that has never really grown fond of those iconic dub jobs.

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Escape from L.A. (1996)

escape_from_la_poster1Starring Kurt Russell, Georges Corraface, Steve Buscemi, A.J. Langer, Stacy Keach, Michelle Forbes, Cliff Robertson, Peter Fonda, , Valeria Golino, Pam Grier, Bruce Campbell

Directed by John Carpenter

Expectations: Moderate. I remember not liking and liking this one.

twohalfstar


I’ve never watched the two Escape films in such close proximity before, and I think this is why I never really got what Escape from L.A. was going for. I always found it a chaotic, spastic piece of fun, but all of its nuances were completely lost on me. Coming at it with a full head of Escape from New York definitely helped the film, and it made for a much more enjoyable experience than I remember it being the last time, but it still doesn’t make up for all the flaws that this one holds. It’s unfortunate in this way, because when this film is good, it’s really good fun.

1998
In the late 20th Century, hostile forces inside the United States grow strong. The city of Los Angeles is ravaged by crime and immorality. To protect and defend its citizens, the United States Police Force is formed. A presidential candidate predicts a millennium earthquake will destroy L.A. in divine retribution.

“Like the mighty fist of God, Armageddon will descend upon the city of Los Angeles, the city of sin, the city of Gomorrah, the city of Sodom, and waters will arise and separate this sinful, sinful city from out country.”

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Uncle Jasper reviews: Bucktown (1975)

Starring Fred Williamson, Pam Grier, Thalmus Rasulala, Tony King, Bernie Hamilton, Art Lund, Tierre Turner, Carl Weathers

Directed By Arthur Marks


On paper Bucktown seems like a blaxploitation fan’s dream come true. Fred Williamson, Pam Grier and seasoned genre filmmaker Arthur Marks on all accounts should make for a potent combination. Maybe I expected too much from that stockpile of talent, because unfortunately the film ends up being merely adequate in large part due to the silly ass plot that would be feasible in maybe the Holy Crusades or Feudal Japan, but not so much in 1970s Missouri.

The action begins when Duke (Fred Williamson) steps off a train in Bucktown, Missouri to claim his recently deceased brother’s estate, which includes his flashy red-light district nightclub. Told that he must stay in town 60 days before the estate can be properly turned over, Duke decides to wait and tend to the business before selling it. All is not well in Bucktown however, as Duke soon finds out. The entire municipality is being strong-armed by a gang of corrupt police officers who extort cash from local businesses, solicit prostitutes, and participate in illegal gambling rings. Not to mention that they are racist as fuck. Seriously, even by typical genre standards these guys hurl out the most hateful, redneck slurs this side of the battle of Gettysburg.

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Uncle Jasper reviews: Scream Blacula Scream (1973)

Scream Blacula Scream (1973)
AKA Blacula II, Blacula Is Beautiful, Blacula Lives Again!, The Name Is Blacula

Starring William Marshall, Don Mitchell, Pam Grier, Michael Conrad, Richard Lawson, Lynne Moody, Janee Michelle

Directed By Bob Kelljan


I have to admit I was pretty nervous about gearing down to review Scream Blacula Scream, 1973’s follow up to the surprise horror-blaxploitation hit, Blacula. I was almost certain I’d have to go through the motions and crank out the typical “Shoddy, uninspired sequel to surprisingly good b-movie” review.  Luckily that isn’t the case here. William Marshall turns in a performance that is every bit as classic as the original. And well, this time we have Pam Grier along for the ride… and she does voodoo! And Blacula kicks the shit out of pimps! But let’s not get too far ahead of ourselves here.

This time around, the elder of a cult of voodoo practitioners lies dying and passes her own son up by naming Lisa (Pam Grier) her successor. The son (played here by Richard Lawson), understandably pissed off to no end, swears revenge on that “skinny, jive-ass bitch”. Now, in most circles revenge would entail taking sharp keys to your enemies’ car, or throwing eggs at his house. But in the world of voodoo, revenge consists of buying the bones of Blacula from some old man with a necklace made out of tiger teeth and resurrecting him by sacrificing a dove and drinking its blood… Yeah, you don’t want to mess with those voodoo guys. Thinking that the ritual didn’t work, the son pops open a Coors and sulks in his living room, only to have Blacula pop out of nowhere and feast on some of that sweet, red nectar.

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Uncle Jasper reviews: Friday Foster (1975)

Allow me to introduce my buddy, Uncle Jasper. He’s gonna chime in from time to time with a review, so give him a big welcome. First up, Friday Foster with Pam Grier!


Starring Pam Grier, Yaphet Kotto, Carl Weathers, Scatman Crothers, Eartha Kitt and Godfrey Cambridge

Directed By Arthur Marks


I admit it, by the end of this movie I had no fucking clue what was going on… Some convoluted plot about a bunch of white dudes in afro wigs conspiring to take out all of the nation’s black leaders. But my God, if the merit of a film lies in its ability to entertain, then this is a masterpiece in the same league as Dolemite and Fantasy Mission Force.

Look, all you need to know is that Pam Grier has never looked better and Yaphet Kotto has never been more charming. I swear to God, every time he flashed that goofy-ass gap-toothed grin of his I kept thinking how much he resembled a black Ernest Borgnine. He and Pam make an awesome duo and I would have loved to see them share the screen more often. Scatman Crothers is somewhere in there as a pervy priest, and the black dude from The Love Boat is great as the neighborhood pimp (“You have to admit… my shit is HEAVY!!” he tells Pam). Somewhere in the middle you have Eartha Kitt as an over the top fashion designer and Carl Weathers backing a delivery truck into some effeminate dude in a phone booth, crushing him to death. Whew! What a cast they rounded up for this one! It plays like the Grand Hotel of 1970s black cinema.

This film would be one of Pam’s last for American International. It is nowhere near as raw as Coffy and lacks the urgency of Foxy Brown, but it would be silly to even compare them. The point of this movie isn’t to provoke outrage, it’s a party movie that just wants us all to look good and have fun. I’m not saying that Friday Foster is the superior film, but Pam does have a little more breathing room here and it’s nice to see her in the arms of a suave millionaire for a change instead of being hog-tied and raped by some drunken hillbilly.

This movie has enough car chases, rooftop fights, machine guns and titties to overcome any shortcoming it may have in terms of plot. In fact, this film stares plot straight in the face and laughs at it. Anybody willing enough to not take it too seriously will be greatly rewarded.

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