Blu-Ray Review: Drunken Master

Director: Woo-Ping Yuen
Screenplay: Hua-An Hsi, See-Yuen Ng
Starring: Jackie Chan, Siu Tin Yuen, Jang Lee Hwang, Dean Shek, Linda Lin, Kau Lam
Country: Hong Kong
Running Time: 111 min
Year: 1978
BBFC Certificate: 15

Regular readers will know I love martial arts movies. My interest in the genre began back when I was a kid and I saw a cut version of Enter the Dragon on TV (nunchucks weren’t allowed to be shown in films/TV in the UK back then). I was already a fan of action movies, but the athleticism of the hand to hand combat blew me away. For some reason though (possibly because at the time I watched nothing but obvious classics and anything that got 5 stars in mainstream magazines like Empire) I didn’t think to delve further into the genre to find more titles that elicited such excitement. When I was 17 though, The Matrix came out and once again I found myself amazed by martial arts on film and not long after I finally picked up an old classic of the genre, Drunken Master. Well, as much as I enjoyed the other two films I mentioned, Drunken Master truly made my jaw drop. From then on there was no satiating my appetite for kung-fu movies and there still isn’t. It truly opened the doors to classic kung fu films for me and the film will always hold a special place in my heart because of it. Plus, few martial arts movies have bettered it in terms of action these near 40 years on. So, of course when Eureka announced Drunken Master was to be added to their prestigious Masters of Cinema label, I practically jumped for joy.

The film’s lead character, played by the incomparable Jackie Chan, is the Chinese folk hero Wong Fei-Hung. Still an arrogant teenager, his martial arts skills are pretty good, but he’s not quite the master he is set to become in later years and wastes his talents on goofing around, picking street fights and making unwanted advances on young women. After getting into trouble one too many times, his father Kei-Ying (Kau Lam) sends him away to be set straight by his uncle, who’s nicknamed Beggar So (Siu Tin Yuen). This master of the 8-Drunken Genii kung-fu is notorious for crippling his students, so Fei-Hung tries his best to escape, but ends up having to endure So’s brutal training regime. When both of them are humiliated though and Fei-Hung discovers the true strength of drunken boxing, the young master must prove himself against the highly skilled assassin Yim Tit-sam (Jang Lee Hwang).

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Cinecast Episode 427 – Stretching the Bubblegum

Was it the weather or is it the shitty inconvenient way films are released in theaters these days? Or does it depend on your geography or disposition? Or a little bit of everything? In short, we didn’t get to the “main releases” (of boats in storms or feminist westerns) this week and instead opted for some VOD experimentation with Vincent Cassell in Partisan. A solid film with problems is the verdict. The Watch List is fairly eclectic this week but a whole lotta witchin’ going on. From Winona Ryder to Vin Diesel, we cover the gamut. Andrew and Kurt also spend some time in the kitchen cooking up some spaghetti westerns before heading to Southeast Asia for a thriller and some kung-fu. Like a snake in the eagle’s shadow, there is no escape for the good the bad or the ugly; there most certainly will be blood inside Llewyn Davis.


As always, please join the conversation by leaving your own thoughts in the comment section below and again, thanks for listening!




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Cinecast Episode 275 – Flaming Zemeckis

Continuing with another week centered around an interesting title to talk about, Corey Pierce from CriticalMassCast joins us for a (SPOILER!) filled discussion on structure, themes and mouth-feel of Looper. Corey explains the ‘Rule of Awesome’ when it comes to these types of movies, and whether or not to nitpick. Kurt obsesses about the visual queues in the film and Andrew contemplates Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s adoption of Bruce Willis’ body language. We move on to grading homework, wherein Matt Gamble joins us for colour commentary and general merriment. The Watch List has Corey giving a mini-review of The Perks of Being a Wallflower, while Kurt falls down the Kubrick rabbit hole with visual essays both good and bad. Micro-discussions on The Fountain, Christopher Guest, Electric Cars, The Game, Alan Rickman and Compliance ensue.

As always, please join the conversation by leaving your own thoughts in the comment section below and again, thanks for listening!



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Action Fest Line-Up Teased.

This is likely to be my first festival Roadtrip of 2011, a mere dozen hours or more from Toronto to Asheville, North Carolina, where the worlds first film festival dedicated to action movies, the aptly titled ActionFest, is kicking off its sophomore year with a collection of strange and unusual ways for people to be punched, thrown off of buildings and shot. Co-founded and operated by Chuck Norris’ stuntman brother, Aaron and programmed in 2011 by Midnight Madness and TIFF programmer, Colin Geddes, expect it to be stretching the boundries of what you think of as an action movie while paying homage to the classics (Cannon, Golan-Globus we still heart you!) and the stunt folks behind the mayhem. The festival runs April 7th-10th.

ActionFest 2’s Opening Night film on Thursday, April 7th is Ironclad, an epic, blood-soaked account of a brutal castle siege starring Paul Giamatti, James Purefoy, Derek Jacobi, Brian Cox, Charles Dance and Jason Flemyng.

Other confirmed new titles include:

Little Big Soldier — a new period action film written by and starring Jackie Chan;
Hobo With A Shotgun — the hot Sundance selection starring Rutger Hauer;
Super — vigilante madness starring Rainn Wilson, Ellen Page, Kevin Bacon and Liv Tyler;
Bangkok Knockout — Thai action from the stunt team and filmmakers of Ong Bak;
Outrage — a gritty and violent new Yakuza thriller from the legendary Takeshi Kitano;
Bunraku — a surreal fist-and-sword epic starring Josh Hartnett, Demi Moore, Woody Harrelson, Kevin McKidd, and Ron Perlman;
Machete Maidens Unleashed — the titillating story of 70s exploitation films from the Philippines.

The full lineup will be announced on Monday, March 22nd, followed by the screening schedule.

More details from the Action Fest Press Release (Stunt Show! Stunt Show!) are tucked under the seat.
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Cinecast Episode 171 – Spiffed Up Stuffy Stuff

Waxing (on, and off) nostagic this week with glossy summer product. Two remakes from the heady cheese days of the 1980s dominated the multiplex last weekend: Will Smith Jr. in The Karate Kid and flying tanks in The A-Team. Contrary to what we say in the show it does not get very “spoilerific” at all; if you are over 30, these two films are more or less beyond that (your mileage may vary). Gamble has a quick take on the upcoming weekends behemoth Toy Story 3, from the perspective of someone (perhaps the only one) who didn’t like Toy Story 2. Kurt talks at length on The Duplass’ brother’s Cyrus which also opens this weekend in a few cities. Furthermore, in an ongoing behind-the-curve look at pop-cultural phenomenon LOST, Kurt continues to moan about the bad drama and stalling nature of the narrative, but does praise the heck out of the Season 2 closer and the Season 3 opener (there are *spoilers* ahoy in that conversation, be warned). Rounding out the show are DVD picks, a few other tangents – anyone up for Chinese cultural imperialism, or Communism vs. Fascism in 80s trash? How to parse TV awards shows? Ron Mann’s choice of having comic book authors read lengthy portions of their books on screen? Fashion Fan Boys? Oh, and another round of the piracy, file sharing, copyright debate ensues.

As always, please join the conversation by leaving your own thoughts in the comment section below and again, thanks for listening!

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ALTERNATIVE (no music track):

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Review: Robin-B-Hood

Director: Benny Chan
Screenplay: Jackie Chan, Benny Chan & Alan Yuen
Producers: Benny Chan, Jackie Chan, Willie Chan, Solon So & Zhonglei Wang
Starring: Jackie Chan, Michael Hui, Louis Koo, Charlene Choi, Biao Yuen
Year: 2006
Country: Hong Kong
BBFC Certification: 15
Duration: 134 min

I wanted to squeeze this review in before I went to Cannes (off tomorrow, can’t wait!) as it’s released next week here in the UK. Robin-B-Hood is marketed as Jackie Chan’s true return to the Hong Kong action comedies he became famous for in the 80’s and 90’s, and for the most part it delivers this, but it’s no Project A or Police Story.

The film tells the story of three down-on-their-luck thieves (Jackie Chan, Michael Hui & Louis Koo) who take on a well paid job that ends up with them having to take care of a kidnapped baby. Meanwhile the police are on their tail (headed by Jackie’s old friend the great Yuen Biao) as are some bailiffs after Jackie’s debts and the gangsters who are trying to get their hands on the baby to prove it’s heritage as grandson to their boss. Alongside this the characters all have their various relationship problems which are eventually solved through looking after the baby.

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Have Martial Arts films achieved Porn Status?

ragingphoenixSince the Thai’s have taken over the martial arts mantle from large art-house Chinese pictures (despite Donnie Yen/Wilson Yip‘s attempt to bring a more free-form wrestling approach into the genre in Hong Kong) I have had some concern. Tony Jaa brought the house down during the North American premiere of Ong Bak, the main western introduction to Mui Thai as the main thrust of a martial arts film. The story was flimsy enough to string some truly jaw-dropping fight sequences together and the picture was successfully marketed and sold in France, Canada, The United States and elsewhere in the world. But Jaa seems to lack the charisma of Bruce Lee, or the playful spirit of Jackie Chan, or heck, the gravitas of Jet Li. And the screenwriters in Thai populist cinema leave a lot to be desired. Case in point were two of the big followups to Ong Bak pushed internationally, Born To Fight and Tom Yum Goong. With increasingly silly and nonsensical plots there is the temptation to just fast forward to ‘the good parts’ and skip all the extraneous plotting and story. Particularly in the incomprehensible Tom Yum Goong case, or its shorter even less coherent American cut titled The Protector. Albeit there were 3 or 4 stunning set-pieces contained there-in, notably a lengthy single take staircase brawl which is a technical marvel, you take it in from all angles and drool over the scene, but after it is done, the urge to fast forward returns as soon as anyone starts speaking. Um, you, know, like in the pornos.

A couple years on and we were introduced to a slender and talented young girl named Jija Yanin burst on the scene with Ong Bak director Prachya Pinkaew setting up the ‘story’ of a young girl with Asberger’s Syndrome who becomes an autistic super-fighter. The story pushes ludicrousness to a place where there ought to be a new word. Sure the action sequences are fab and many stuntmen look to be damaged in the making of the film (apparently the Thai seal of approval is the abuse taken by the ‘extras’ who are the fighting-fodder for the heroine to really kick around). That film was for no apparent reason titled (in its English language release, Chocolate and while sure, I had a good time watching it on a huge screen with over 1000 enthusiastic fans, the storytelling probably hit a new low for bad plotting and reliance on high-concept (Yes, even more than Jet Li’s The One).

All this is a ridiculously lengthy pre-amble to the latest Thai Action entry starring Jija Yanin called RAGING PHOENIX. Here, and I kid you not, all the fighting and action sequences are done to hip-hop dance styles. Is there a reason for this? I don’t know, because the trailer is not subtitled. I’m guessing it is no more compelling or thoughtful than the Asbergers idea in Chocolate. Will I be getting the urge to tap the fast-forward button to get to the next dance style? Probably.

Trailer **Updated with English Subs, yea, like you need them** is tucked under the seat.

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Cinecast Episode 106 – Some Familiar Territory


Episode 106:
Going back over some films that we have mentioned before, but this time with a little more depth; including talk on Slumdog (which gets a bit spoiler-y), JCVD, and Milk. And new tangents on villains and 80’s TV shows. Of course the DVD picks are here and few things more.
Thanks again for listening!

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