It Came From Netflix!| Kung Fu Killer (2014)



And the winner for “Best Title for a Movie Ever” is….

If nothing else, that is an amazing title. Seriously, look at it! If there’s a movie that will make you sit down and watch it immediately, no matter what your doing, it’s a movie titled Kung Fu Killer. It’s exactly the type of title you need Don LaFontaine  intoning over the trailer.

Released as Kung Fu Jungle in its native Hong Kong for some ungodly reason, Kung Fu Killer is exactly the movie you get when you mash-up a modern-day martial arts film with the route serial killer narrative you’ve seen in every cop show ever made.  It’s Law and Order: Special Fists Unit; Criminal Martial Arts Minds; CSB: Crime Scene Bludgeoners. Okay, that last one kind of sucked.

The film stars Donnie Yen, martial arts superstar and one of the frontrunners in the “You Still Got It!” school of aging badasses (see also: Denzel Washington, Liam Neeson and Samuel L. Jackson). He plays Hahou Mo, a martial arts master serving time after accidentally killing a man during a brawl. When a man named Fung (Baoqiang Wang) starts killing people in relation to mastering the fighting styles of boxing, kicking, grappling, weapons and qi, Mo gets the cops (headed by one miss Charlie Yeung) to get him out so they can catch this….Kung Fu Killer.

(Dear God, I love that title! I want to date this. I want to have sweaty, filthy, obscene pig sex with it until it calls me daddy.)

The fight scenes in the film are all incredibly over the top. Not to the point of the Raid movies, mind you, but still over the top. The kicking fight, for example, is the first fight we see the killer go one-on-one with somebody, and it takes place on a giant skeleton replica the victim is working on. The final fight, in which Yen and Wang do battle on the highways of Hong Kong is probably the highlight of the whole enterprise, with both me going all out a trucks and cars speed by. It’s a real sight to behold, and makes me hope that Wang ends up with his own movie one of these days (Unless he has already; I’m not all that knowledgeable on the careers of Hong Kong film actors).

The actors do the game best with the material they’re given, which if were being honest, isn’t that much to begin with. When I said this was a route serial killer plot, I wasn’t joking; you got your driven mad by the death of a loved one (Wang’s wife died of cancer), the clues he leaves behind being of historical significance (the swallow pendants he leaves behind as an honor/insult to his opponents), obsession with classical music (in this case the a Chinese opera whose name I’m blanking on right now) and general unhinged ethical code. It says a lot that Baoqiang Wang can still sell the hell out of the demented serial killer thing even if its ground so well tread that it has become a three lane highway.

The rest of the cast are all uniformly good, carrying their stock characters with the charm and talent of seasoned pros. There’s also a bit of Cameo Bingo going on, and I’m pretty sure you could fill a whole card if you knew your former martial arts stars. Teddy Chan directs the whole thing with minimal flourish, basically understanding we’re here to see what he’s filming, and not how he’s filmed it.

Overall, you get exactly what you want out a film called Kung Fu Killer. Go forth and watch it yourselves.


It Came From Netflix!| Robin Hood (The Disney Version)



Oo-de-lally, Oo-de-lally, golly what a movie! (Not really)

After a week’s vacation and technical difficulties, we now return you to your regularly erratically scheduled blog post.

Somewhere, on some astral plane unknown to mortal man, some form of cosmic scorekeeper is chronicling every single adaptation of the legend of Robin Hood. Let us raise a glass to that poor creature now, for it must be a most taxing task.

But let’s not dwell on that right now. Released in 1973, the Walt Disney animation house’s version of Robin Hood was given a tepid reception upon release. Having just recently watched it, I can see why. It’s not a terrible movie in any respect, no…But it is an oddly middle of the road production for a company with the prestige of the Disney corporation.

There’s really not that much to recap for the story, since said story is already burned into the cultural psyche. But, for those of you who have no idea what I’m talking about: Robin Hood (a fox voiced by the recently departed Brian Bedford) lives in Sherwood forest during the Third crusade, robbing from the rich and giving to the poor with the aid of his best friend Little John (Phil Harris yet again giving voice to a bear). They particularly love robbing Prince John (a meek lion voiced by Peter Ustinov), hated ruler of England while Richard the Lionheart is off killing Saracens and Moors and other family friendly things.

From there we get the usual: romance with Maid Marian (a vixen voiced  by Monica Evans), a shooting contest that’s actually a trap for Robin Hood, singing of merry tunes, fighting the Sheriff of Nottingham (Pat Buttram with the southern drawl turned up to eleven). It all ends with a prison break and a wedding between Marian and Robin.

One of the things I noticed during this, my first ever viewing of the movie(other than the large amount of Southern accents present in Medieval England), was just how oddly cheap everything feels. Robin, Little John Alan-a-Dale and Friar Tuck are there, but the rest of the Merry Men don’t even get a mention, probably because it would cost too much to animate them. Walking animations seem to be reused (the most glaring of which is  a walking animation that was used for the sheriff during two different scenes). The whole thing feels like a small affair as well, with a cast of probably only twenty or so characters, with only half getting speaking roles.

Oddly, this kind of smallness also works in the film’s favor. It makes the whole affair feel like very good made-for-TV movie…which, given the fact that this was a theatrical release in ’73, sounds a lot like damning with faint praise, really. The voice cast are strong enough personalities to carry the film, with Little John, The Prince and Sir Hiss (Terry-Thomas) being the MVPs of the entire thing.  And the ending is actually engaging, with the prison break/burning castle set providing some tension, at the very least.

For what it’s worth, Robin Hood works. Yes, it’s quite deeply flawed and somewhat generic in execution, but I can safely say that A. you won’t feel you time extremely wasted by watching it, and B. it’s a better Robin Hood movie than Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves. That’s something at least.

Crap, now I just feel like I’m being an asshole to Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves. I don’t hate that movie, I just think that the Disney version work better.