Tag Archives: Martial Arts

The Karate Kid part II, American movie (1986)

When I grew up as a kid there was a movie that always made me feel good. It is one of my favorite childhood movies and it’s called the Karate Kid. I watched this film at a time where attending school was a very dark place for me. I was bullied nearly every day, and here was a film where the same thing was happening to this young boy called Daniel. But guess what? He not only managed to gain respect and grow as a person, but he also beat his bullies in a brilliant way. It gave me hope that eventually everything can be beaten if you just put your mind to it. I will always be grateful to the movie for providing me a sense of relief and escapism in what was quite frankly a time in my life that I don’t like to look back on very often. Three years later the sequel came out. And it blew my young mind away again, but this time also for a few other reasons.

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FINISH HIM!!!!!!

The second part of the Karate Kid literally starts where the first part ended. Daniel has just won the All-Valley Karate Tournament and prepares to go home with his teacher mr. Miyagi. Once outside the pair see Daniel’s rival from the first movie being accosted by his own sensei John Kreese. Luckily Miyagi intervenes just in time, proving that you should never hold a grudge for too long. Six months later mr. Miyagi receives a letter from his lost love in Okinawa, Yukei, telling him his father is very ill. Daniel is eager to find out who Yukei is, and he soon hears the story behind the reason for his old master’s departure from Japan all those years ago. Yukei was apparently arranged to marry a man named Sato, who was mr. Miyagi’s best friend. But when he fell in love with her, Sato challenged him to a fight to the death. Unwilling to enter into such a duel, Miyagi left Japan, leaving behind a heartbroken Yukei. Having no choice now but to go to Okinawa and his dying father, he departs in all haste, with Daniel travelling with him. Upon their arrival though, both master and student are about to find out that some people can hold a grudge for a very long time……

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Honestly I would have included only pictures of Kumiko, but I guess I did not want to be too obvious.

This movie is very dear to me. It’s my number one go to movie whenever I feel down or depressed. Somehow it never fails to lift my spirits. There are two things this film did besides the general feel good atmosphere it manages to create. The first is that it introduced me to Asian culture, more specifically the culture of Japan. I loved the many customs we as an audience get to experience through this film. One of the scenes that really still brings a smile to my face is the tea ceremony between Daniel and his love interest in this movie: Kumiko. It is a wonderful custom to observe, and it is also incredibly romantic. With this movie my interest for Asian culture in general started to take shape, a fact that continues to this day. The second thing it did was give me my first movie crush. I was absolutely mesmerised by the beauty of Kumiko, played by a young Tamlyn Tomita. In my young mind she was the perfect woman, and I completely fell in love with her. Ah teenage love can be so strange at times.

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Ice, Ice, baby…..

From an acting point of view there are some great roles that I think are worth mentioning. First up is Pat Morita, as mr. Miyagi. I think his role in this second part was even better than in the first movie, as in this film the spotlight is somewhat more on his story instead of focussing all the attention on Daniel. It gives us a few wonderful scenes, most notably the ones between him and Sato and his love Yukei. Sato played by Danny Kamekona is the perfect adversary for Miyagi. His gravelly voice is terrific, and he also manages to create a humanity to his character in a great way. Lastly we have Sato’s nephew Chozen Toguchi, played by Yuji Okumoto, who eventually becomes Daniel’s opponent. He is a particular breed of nasty, and you will come to hate him over the course of this film. Some of the things he does still gets my blood boiling after all these years, and it is only a big compliment to Okumoto’s acting, that he manages to invoke such a feeling.

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Okay, sorry, just one more…..

Now some might argue how mediocre the fight scenes in this movie look. Certainly we are not watching a Jet Li or Jackie Chan movie here. The fights only serve to create some extra tension, in what is otherwise a really great and heartwarming film. I can’t express through words alone how much I still enjoy seeing this movie, even though it is now 31 years old. Both parts 1 and 2 are the ultimate feel good experience and are a perfect watch for whenever you just want to feel like you can take on the world again. It probably won’t please everyone, cynics might certainly point out the many flaws this film probably has, but I just love this movie to death. If you have never seen this one, I do recommend watching part 1 first. That movie establishes the relationship between mr. Miyagi and young Daniel, and to skip that would be to miss out on a lot of things. And remember to relax: wax on, wax off.

I give the Karate Kid part II a 10 out of 10 score.

 

Merantau, Indonesian movie (2009)

I was introduced to the martial arts movie genre, by watching old Jackie Chan movies. Really, the guy is amazing, and whether or not you like his movies, I don’t think anyone can dispute his skills. Pretty much every martial arts movie I watched in those early days, had it’s origins in Hong Kong. However as my interest in those movies grew, I slowly began to discover that there were other countries that also made some very high quality martial arts films. Indonesia is one of those countries, and it turned the genre upside down with the phenomenal movies The Raid, and The Raid 2. The star from those two films is a man named Iko Uwais. One of the things I tend to do when I really like something is to find out as much as I can about it, or in this case the actor. To my surprise Netflix had one of Iko’s earlier movies on offer, and it turned out to be a hidden gem.

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Take it to the bridge….

In Merantau, Iko plays the role of the young man Yuda who is an expert in Silat, a form of martial arts. Yuda lives with his mother and his older brother in the peaceful  countryside. One day however Yuda leaves his home to go on his Merantau, which can best be described as a kind of journey to seek out experience and succes. His plan is to teach Silat to the children of Jakarta, and become a better man by doing so. When he arrives in the city, he soon discovers that things are very different from the countryside. What’s more while enjoying a relatively peaceful meal, his wallet gets stolen by a young boy. Yuda gives chase, and manages to catch the would be thief. Not long after the boy’s sister, Astri, appears who is found arguing with her boss Johnny. When Astri is struck in the face by Johnny, Yuda comes to her aid. From this point on things are beginning to go very wrong. A ruthless human trafficker called Ratger, will stop at nothing to get Astri back, and the only one standing in his way is Yuda. But Yuda finds himself outnumbered as Ratger has an enormous amount of henchmen at his disposal, that soon give chase. Will Yuda be able to save Astri, or will his efforts be in vain?

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Don’t look into his eyes unless you want to be brainwashed. 

This movie is a fine example of a film that I expected absolutely nothing from, but which turned out to be an enormous surprise. I thought this would be a fairly standard action flick, with maybe one or two good fight scenes, but not much more on offer. I was completely wrong. The biggest surprise to me in this film, was the amount of touching moments it contained. Yes, this is an actionmovie, but the story itself, while nothing really unique, contains some genuine heart. This is in part because of the amazing chemistry between the two lead actors. Iko really shows that besides martial arts he can also act and his scenes with Sisca Jessica who plays Astri, are some of the best parts of this film. The villain of this movie is played by Danish actor Mads Koudal, and he does a great job in portraying a pretty psychotic human trafficker.

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She does have a second eye beneath her hair, no worries. 

But ofcourse a martial arts movie stands or falls with it’s fight sequences, and it is also in this department that it truly shines. We have some seriously amazing fight choreagraphy on display here, and it is hard to pick a favorite scene. Iko sometimes seems to be made of rubber the way he manages to twist his body in almost impossible positions. With all the positive things on offer the movie does lose a bit of credibility near the end. There is one scene in an elevator that really goes way over the top, and is completely unbelievable. But that one scene wasn’t enough to spoil the film though. For everyone who is a fan of martial arts movies, and wants to experience something slightly different from what this genre usually has to offer, I recommend seeing this one. It is a high speed train ride that never lets up, but also doesn’t forget to put some heart into the storyline.

I give Merantau a 8 out of 10 score.

 

Eliminators, American/UK movie (2016)

Straight to dvd movies are a category of films that don’t make it into cinemas for all kinds of different reasons. It could be due to a lack of budget, a limited interest, negative reviews, well….you get the idea. Especially in the horror and action moviegenres, these films are brought out on quite a regular basis. Being a fan of both genres, I buy a lot of these mostly B-movies as some of them are enjoyable enough. Scott Adkins is an action star that really has been making a lot of these movies, and pretty much never disappoints. One of his latest films is the one I am about to review.

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In Eliminators, Adkins plays the role of Thomas, a former federal agent who has been living in protective custody together with his young daughter. One night his house mistakenly gets invaded by a group of thugs. Thomas manages to fight them off, but in so doing gets seriously injured. When he wakes up in the hospital, he finds himself handcuffed and his daughter taken from him. The police accuse him of murder, and the local news media have extensive coverage of him on television. This eventually catches the attention of the man he has been hiding from. Soon, one of the most dangerous assassins in the world is sent to kill Thomas. But Thomas will stop at nothing to survive and find his daughter. The hunt is now on, and a dangerous game of cat and mouse begins in the streets of London….

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Anyone who has seen movies with Scott Adkins pretty much know what to expect. Some decent fight scenes, a few gunbattles, and a pretty entertaining ride along the way. In that regard Eliminators is basically the same. The story for this movie is ofcourse not an Oscar winning script, but has a nice twists that I at least did not expect. But ofcourse one watches these movies for the action, and Eliminators does not disappoint on that front. Adkins always manages to give a nice performance with his martial arts, and as an actor he certainly isn’t bad either.

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The rest of the cast does a pretty decent job as well. Former wrestler Stu Bennet plays the part of the menacing assassin and does so convincingly enough. This results in some highly entertaining fight sequences between him and Adkins. All in all this is a film that you will enjoy if you like movies in the style of the early Jean Claude van Damme flicks. If you keep your expectations low enough, and like B-grade action films, you will get enough of a kick out of this one, to satisfy your action fix.

I give Eliminators a 7 out of 10 score.

Special Features Presents: Action Movies of the 80’s

The other day I was sharing comments with fellow blogger Hermione Flavia from Wildfiremovies . Now before I get into that, I first want to give a big shout out to her blog. If you love movies as much as I do, then one thing you should do is check out her blog and subscribe. She is an award-winning filmmaker and screenwriter, and her movie reviews are seriously topnotch. From classics movies, to action films and horrormovies, there is almost no end to the movies featured on her blog. Not only that, she is also one of the kindest persons you will ever talk to, so really what are you waiting for: press on the link provided above and subscribe.

Now we were talking about how lately we spent a lot of time in the past and feeling nostalgic, and how so many great action movies were made in the 80’s. This is pretty much how the idea for this post came about. Now I have focussed myself only on the non-science fiction action movies of that era. I might at sometime in the future do a follow up for those kind of films, but right now I am simply going to stick to the good old fashioned normal 80’s action flicks. So grab a seat, take a drink and some popcorn, and let us travel back in time to the wonderful 80’s.

Rambo: First Blood (1982)

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I have seriously lost count on how many times I have seen this briljant action film. Starring Sylvester Stallone as Vietnam veteran John Rambo, this movie is simple in it’s story telling, but incredibly effective. When John returns home to visit an old friend, the local sheriff thinks off him as a drifter, and tries to force him to leave town. It is not long before things escalate into violence, and the small town becomes a warzone. Stallone is absolutely amazing in his role, and the movie eventually spawned three sequels. The original movie is still the best though, featuring terrific action sequences, a dark atmosphere and the brilliant score of Jerry Goldsmith.

Beverly Hills Cop (1984)

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Beverly Hills Cop is one of the greatest action comedies ever made. Starring Eddie Murphy as the loudmouth cop Axel Foley, the numerous comedy scenes featured in this film, are even now still every bit as funny as back then. Axel is a cop in Detroit, but pursuing a murder case eventually ends up in Beverly Hills. Meeting two local cops, the three of them set out to find out the truth about the murder. Murphy steals the show in the leadrole, and could not have been cast any better. Featuring great action pieces mixed with perfectly timed comedy, this is also one of those movies that will never get old.

Missing in Action (1984)

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Now for every good movie, there usually also is a bad one. Missing in action is an action movie that is so bad, that it is actually good and fun to watch. Ofcourse cashing in on the succes of Rambo, this movie starred Chuck Norris in the role of James Braddock. Believing that there are still POW’s being held in a prisoner camp in Vietnam, Braddock returns to the jungle to try and free them. The movie is filled with cliches, bad acting and cheesy oneliners. But honestly that is what makes this B-movie so much fun to watch. Chuck would reprise his role two more times in the sequels that followed this one, and those are every bit as bad. Seriously, what is not to love about that?

Commando (1985)

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Now, not featuring any Schwarzenegger movies in this post would ofcourse be a big mistake. After the enormous succes of Conan and the Terminator, Arnold was definitely on a roll. In Commando he plays the role of John Matrix, a Black Ops Commando who is happily retired and now lives with his daughter (a very young Alyssa Milano). But when his daughter is kidnapped by criminals, John begins his personal war to bring his girl back safely. With an over the top bodycount, and such classic oneliners as ” Don’t disturb my friend, he is DEAD-tired” this is one of Arnold’s best. Yes, the action is completely crazy, and at times completely unrealistic, but man is this movie a lot of fun to watch.

Cobra (1986)

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Back in the 80’s Schwarzenegger and Stallone were not exactly the best of friends, and both tried to outdo each other with bringing out numerous films. Cobra is a brutal Stallone movie, where he plays the role of the tough as nails cop Marion Cobretti. In this film he has become the protector of a witness, who is being chased by a murderous cult in order to prevent her from testifying. Crime is a disease, and he is the cure was this movie’s tagline, so you pretty much know what to expect. Lots of shooting, chases and fight scenes, make this film a wonderful addition to Stallone’s already impressive action resumé.

Lethal Weapon (1987)

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This movie is one of my own personal favorites. This fantastic buddy cop movie, eventually resulted in three sequels which were every bit as fun as the original. Mel Gibson plays the role of the completely crazy cop Martin Riggs, who has to partner up with the close to retirement Roger Murtaugh played by Danny Glover. At first they hate each other’s guts, but eventually a close friendship develops, while they are on the hunt for a brutal gang of drug smugglers. With seriously fantastic action sequences combined with great humor, this movie is a roller coaster ride from start to finish. An absolute must see for every action junkie out there.

Bloodsport (1988)

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This movie pretty much introduced the world to the “Muscles from Brussels”, mister Jean Claude van Damme. This movie has a very simple storyline, where van Damme plays Frank Dux, a martial artist who has set off to compete in a lethal tournament in Hong Kong. The acting is terrible, but you take that for granted as the action choreagraphy for this film’s incredible fight sequences, is the reason why you need to watch this movie. Brutal martial arts fights, with deadly consequences result in a movie that is not for the faint of heart. One of Van Damme’s oldest, but also one of his best movies.

Above the Law (1988)

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In Above the Law another martial artist is introduced to the world, the man called Steven Seagal. Above the Law (also known as Nico), sees Seagal playing the role of a Vietnam veteran turned cop, that uncovers a sinister CIA conspiracy. Seagal is not known for his acting skills (I at times seriously wondered if this man had any facial expressions, no offense), but his martial arts skills were formidable. Sadly, these days Seagal is but a shadow of his former self, and plays mainly in (very bad) B-movies. Luckily we will always have his classic movies to look back on, and for an introductory film, this one was highly enjoyable.

Die Hard (1988)

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To not include this movie, would seriously be a sin. One of the best action movies ever made, it made Bruce Willis an action star overnight. In Die Hard he plays police officer John McClane, who accidentally is caught up in a hostage situation during a Christmas party in a huge skyscraper building called Nakatomi Plaza. His wife is amongst the hostages, and McClane take the fight single handedly to the terrorists. Not a good way to spend the holidays. This movie is simply put: brilliant. Great acting, wonderful oneliners, and very imaginative action sequences make this movie a must watch for any movie lover. The sequels that followed were also very enjoyable, except for part 5 which was absolute garbage.

Black Rain (1989)

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Black Rain is a movie that might not be known by everyone, but is definitely worth checking out. Directed by Ridley Scott (yes, that guy), it stars Michael Douglas in the role of New York City cop Nick Conlin. When he and his partner arrest a Yakuza member, they eventually end up in Japan. It is not long before they get caught up in the dark and criminal underworld of this unfamiliair country. Black Rain is a very dark but fantastic movie, and features a great storyline and incredible tension that is combined with spectacular action sequences. Michael Douglas pretty much never disappoints and also does a more than decent job in this movie.

Final Thoughts

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And that brings us to the end of this post, which I now realise has become my longest one to date. I know that this list is by no means complete. A lot of other great action movies were made back in the 80’s and maybe one day I will do a follow up to this post. I had a lot of fun writing this, and it was great to revisit a few of these classic films.

And now it is over to you guys and girls. Did any of your favorites make the list? Were any of them missing? Let me know in the comments section below. As always thank you very much for reading, and see you on the next post!

Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon: Sword of Destiny,Chinese/American Movie (2016)

Sixteen years ago the original Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon was released and it became a worldwide phenomenon. The movie, directed by Ang Lee, became one of the highest grossing foreign language films ever made. It received the Oscar for best foreign language movie, and if there had been any justice in the world, it should have won the Oscar for best picture as well. Alas, that was not to be, but nevertheless the incredible fantasy martial arts epic earned it’s place in movie history. To my big surprise and delight this year a sequel has been produced and made by Netflix. When the first trailer arrived for it my delight turned into horror though. The actors all of a sudden spoke English and this pretty much detracted from the mystique of the original movie. More on that later though, let’s first find out what the story of this sequel is about.

It has been eighteen years since the swordswoman Shu Lien had last been seen. She has lived pretty much in solitude after the death of her beloved Li Mu Bai. The land has changed a lot since then, and a ruthless warlord under the name of Hades Dai, rules with an iron fist,and wants to bring his new order of martial arts to the lands. To do so, he needs the Sword of Destiny, which is now located in Peking, after the death of Li Mu Bai. Shu Lien understandably wants to keep the sword safe, and comes out of seclusion in order to travel to Peking. There she is joined by a group of men and women, who are also trying to protect the Sword. One of the men is someone she knows very well….As the battle for the Sword begins, so too begins the battle for Shu Lien’s soul.

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What can I say about this sequel. Perhaps it is best to start with the things that this movie does do well: the Martial Arts sequences. There are some seriously impressive fight scenes, that almost any lover of Martial Arts films will enjoy. Michelle Yeoh, who returns to reprise her role from the first movie, is still a striking and beautiful woman. One would almost forget that she is now 54, which ofcourse is by no means old, but for all the fight sequences she is performing it is even more impressive. A great addition to the cast is one of my favorite Martial Arts stars Donnie Yen, who we will soon get to see in the new Star Wars movie. His moves are absolutely amazing, most notably in a scene on a frozen lake.

Unfortunately the rest of the movie falls short. The English dialogue is at times really horrid, and I truly wonder who made the decision to this. Why make a sequel to a foreign language movie, and have your entire almost all Chinese cast speak English ? I could overlook this though, were it not for the fact that the story also is a true letdown. Where the original had a touching and heartbreaking story, this film feels hollow. What remains is a shallow movie, with some spectacular fight sequences, but that ultimately pales next to the original movie. This is a real shame, as they really had a chance, especially with this cast, to turn it into something so much better.

I give Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon:Sword of Destiny a 5 out of 10 score.