Young People (1972)

youngpeople_6Young People [年輕人] (1972)

Starring David Chiang, Ti Lung, Chen Kuan-Tai, Agnes Chan Mei-Ling, Irene Chen Yi-Ling, Wu Ma, Chin Feng, Lo Dik, Wong Chung, Bolo Yeung, Sze-Ma Wah-Lung

Directed by Chang Cheh

Expectations: Very interested, but I don’t know what to expect.

threehalfstar


Young People is a movie that I can see a lot of people hating, especially those who notice the combo of Chang Cheh directing Ti Lung, Chen Kuan-Tai and David Chiang in the lead roles and expect a heroic struggle of martial brotherhood. Young People is definitely not that, although oddly enough it is about brotherhood (or at least working together). Different doesn’t necessarily mean bad, but as an offbeat musical comedy from 1972, it’s pretty much exactly the type of movie that will put a lot of people off. For me, it brought huge smiles to my face throughout. There were a couple of groans, I can’t lie, but for the most part I smiled.

The story of Young People is quite loose and free-flowing in an effort to reflect the young people of its title. At a college in Hong Kong there are three clubs: the Music & Dance club, the Sports club and the Martial Arts club. David Chiang plays Hung Wai, the head of the Music club; Ti Lung plays Lam Tat, the captain of the sports club; and Chen Kuan-Tai plays Ho Tai, the leader of the martial arts club. Each student is like a star among their fellow club members, garnering respect and admiration, but the other groups do not return the favor. They tease one another and fight for ridiculous, petty reasons. Y’know… like young people do. So the “story” involves each of the three clubs competing in a tournament, only each club is unable to win on their own.

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White Men Can’t Jump (1992)

whitemencantjump_4Starring Wesley Snipes, Woody Harrelson, Rosie Perez, Tyra Ferrell, Cylk Cozart, Kadeem Hardison, Ernest Harden Jr., John Marshall Jones, Marques Johnson, David Roberson

Directed by Ron Shelton

Expectations: High. I love basketball.

threehalfstar


It’s going to be hard for me to justify my high rating of White Men Can’t Jump, as I can definitely identify some aspects that you could call flaws. But the greatness of the film comes in just how entertaining it is in spite of these issues. This is a movie that will definitely not win everyone over, as its success hinges pretty heavily on your enjoyment of the leads, the ’90s, trash talking and the game of basketball. I happen to be a fan of them all so White Men Can’t Jump was basically preaching to the choir with me.

Billy Hoyle (Woody Harrelson) is a man in search of a future, floating along the best he can by making money with his basketball skills. He meets Sydney (Wesley Snipes) on the court, and when Billy bests him with ease, Sydney thinks the two of them might have a shot at running hustles around town to make some quick cash. So that’s what they do, and that’s the bulk of White Men Can’t Jump. Outside of the relationships that Billy and Sydney have with the women in their lives, there’s not much else to the movie.

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Raw Iron: The Making of Pumping Iron (2002)

rawiron_1Starring Arnold Schwarzenegger, Lou Ferrigno, Mike Katz, Franco Columbu, George Butler, Joe Weider, Bill Grant, Ken Waller, Reg Park, Ed Corney, Matty Ferrigno, Liev Schreiber, Sylvester Stallone, Bud Cort

Directed by Dave & Scott McVeigh

Expectations: Moderate.


I’m not in the habit of reviewing DVD extras, but this one seemed juicy enough considering I’ve covered all the other Arnold-related bodybuilding films. I’m hesitant to rate it, though, as it’s hard to really quantify its quality as a film. In any case, I really enjoyed watching it, and I think any big fan of Pumping Iron or Arnold would enjoy it too. So a definite thumbs up, but I’m going to forgo the stars this time.

There were over 100 hours of footage shot for Pumping Iron, so Raw Iron takes a different approach to the “Making of” documentary. Instead of simply gathering a bunch of people to talk to the camera and tell their stories, Raw Iron actually tells its story through deleted footage from the film. These scenes were kept in the vault until Raw Iron‘s release for Pumping Iron‘s 25th anniversary. This deleted footage is mostly great, too, from an unused sub-plot with Arnold trying to teach Harold and Maude‘s Bud Cort how to pump up in the gym, to the film’s bodybuilders posing on top of a Malibu mountain while listening to Arnold pontificate about “the pump.” It’s great fun to see all this unused footage.

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The Comeback (1980)

thecomeback_1 The Comeback (1980)
AKA Total Rebuild

Starring Arnold Schwarzenegger, Tom Platz, Frank Zane, Dennis Tinerino, Boyer Coe, Mike Mentzer, Samir Bannout, Roger Walker, Roy Callendar, Ken Waller, Tony Emmott, Chris Dickerson, Casey Viator, Ed Corney, Roy Duval, Danny Padilla, Bill Pearl

Directed by Kit Laughlin

Expectations: Moderate.

twohalfstar


The Comeback is a short film that caught a choice moment in the history of Arnold Schwarzenegger. Just a few weeks before filming for Conan the Barbarian began, on the precipice of true Hollywood stardom, Arnold decided that since he was already pumped up for that barbaric role, he’d challenge himself to prepare for a Mr. Olympia competition in only eight weeks. Most of the competitors train for at least a year to compete in this competition, but Arnold had six wins under his belt already (the sixth was the one featured in Pumping Iron), and he had the cocky, self-assured attitude to go with the accolades.

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Pumping Iron II: The Women (1985)

MPW-27944Starring Rachel McLish, Bev Francis, Carla Dunlap, Kris Alexander, Lori Bowen, Lydia Cheng, Steve Michalik, George Plimpton, Randy Rice, Clark Sanchez, Steve Weinberger

Directed by George Butler

Expectations: Moderate. This will be an interesting re-watch, as I saw this a bunch of times growing up.

threestar


Like the competitors it portrays, Pumping Iron II: The Women is a slimmer version of its male counterpart. It successfully replicates the struggle of the previous film, between one “good & honest” bodybuilder and one “villain” bodybuilder. In reality, I’m sure it was much less emotionally charged than it appears at times in the film, and because of the fictionalizing done in Pumping Iron I was constantly watching for similar instances in this film. Due to this, Pumping Iron II actually feels even more fabricated and questionable as a documentary, but that shouldn’t discredit it, just like the previous film.

The film focuses mostly on four of the competitors, but two are clearly the stars of the show. There’s Rachel McLish, at the time the most successful female bodybuilder and responsible for bringing a lot of attention to the sport for females. She has something of a more defined model look, which is to say that she maintains her feminine physique while achieving quality muscle tone. She was the crossover star of the sport, perfect for magazine covers to interest all who gaze her way.

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Pumping Iron (1977)

pumping_ironStarring Arnold Schwarzenegger, Lou Ferrigno, Matty Ferrigno, Victoria Ferrigno, Mike Katz, Franco Columbu, Ed Corney, Ken Waller, Serge Nubret

Directed by George Butler & Robert Fiore

Expectations: High.

threehalfstar


Pumping Iron is a great document of a sport once regarded as a weird subculture reserved for those crazy enough to devote their lives to pumping iron. While watching the film I couldn’t escape the similarities to Perfect, depicting people’s desire to achieve perfection through working out. I did some research and found that this isn’t too far from the truth, as Pumping Iron‘s success in 1977 helped to popularize the sport and facilitate the rise of the commercial gym, leading to the fitness craze of the 1980s. And of course, it’s also the film that catapulted Arnold Schwarzenegger to stardom. He may have appeared in a couple of roles prior to its release, even winning a Golden Globe, but none of it compared to the power of Pumping Iron (which would later be eclipsed by Conan the Barbarian as Arnold’s true breakout role).

Even though Pumping Iron depicts the 1975 Mr. Olympia competition where Arnold competed for his sixth straight title, it’s not quite the raw, honest documentary it appears to be on the surface. Some of the scenes were specifically filmed to “fill narrative holes,” such as the Ken Waller football scene where he plots to steal the shirt of Mike Katz. In fact, the competition footage had already been shot and the directors came up with this scene to enhance the drama and the rivalry between two bodybuilders who were actually good friends. This makes me wonder if the touching scene in the locker room showing Katz’s crushing despair, and his subsequent, reserved happiness after hearing that Waller had won, is a fabrication also. Katz seemed incredibly genuine in that moment, though, asking the cameraman (or himself) the contemplative question of how it must feel to win. Even if this is a fake (which I don’t think it is), Katz’s intense passion to win the competition is palpable and honest.

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Invictus (2009)

Starring Morgan Freeman, Matt Damon, Tony Kgoroge, Patrick Mofokeng, Matt Stern

Directed by Clint Eastwood

Expectations: Low.


Another one I had been avoiding. I love Clint Eastwood, but I usually find his directorial efforts to be fairly slow and plodding. There are exceptions, but as a rule, his films are understated and meditative. This is fine, I’m just rarely in that kind of a mood so I tend to avoid his films unless I have a great interest in the subject matter. This was the case with Invictus, but I’m glad I dived in because this is a really good film.

Morgan Freeman is the definite star of the show, inhabiting the role of Nelson Mandela with ease. Freeman is recognizable as both himself and Mandela in the role, skillfully blending the two personas into a memorable screen performance that never feels like one. He gives a powerful speech early in the film on why the team name should remain the Springboks, proving why Freeman received an Oscar nomination for the role. Matt Damon is also great in his scenes, but he tends to fade into the background as a lot of his scenes are without dialogue on the Rugby field. When Damon is on-screen, his subtle performance feels natural and believable. The film is essentially broken into two halves with Freeman leading the charge in the first half of the film, and Damon taking over once the World Cup action begins.

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