February 25, 2006


Those cats were fast as lightning

I've been on a kung fu flick kick (insert cymbal shots as appropriate) lately. Much of this is due to having read through Eos Press' Weapons of the Gods roleplaying game all about wuxia stories. Plus it was an easy thing to read, as the main author, Rebecca Borgstrom, wrote Nobilis and the ongoing not-really-blog Hitherby Dragons. (Of the recent entries, I enjoy the condensed epic heroe's journey of one woman traveling beyond the world with the aid of a speak-and-spell and somewhat damaged Fisher-Price construction toy set to facedown the prototype Fisher-Price Ultimate Evil who was responsible for its destruction. Which answers better than I could why I enjoy the way she writes.)

Some quick reviews of the more recent ones I've seen, both via Netflix and, for those without official Region 1 dvd releases as yet, via...er...let's just say import, shall we?

House of Flying Daggers - same director as the Jet Li vehicle Hero and on balance, I like it much more than the latter. The same ultra-stylized sort of wire fu, oft involving using, well, flying daggers in ways that just casually and beautifully brutalize laws of physics, but it's a far more character-focused film. Exaggerated loves and betrayals and passions. I suppose it's something like opera, only instead of tying all that together with large people caterwauling at each other in Italian, they yell at each other in Mandarin or Catonese while kicking each other in the head. I for damn sure know which style I prefer to watch.

Bride with White Hair - I dug it. Production values at the basement level of the kind of analogical structure that Flying Daggers is the very attic's peak of, if you follow. A lot of the film techniques reminded me of Evil Dead, actually--same sort of odd herky-jerky lowcranked nigh-stop-motion kind of things going on. Also far more cartoonish and downright manic. Plus, featuring aforementioned hair as a deadly weapon, not to mention evil sorcerous Siamese fraternal twins.

Tom Yum Goong - Tony Jaa's latest. I didn't like it as much as I dug Ong Bak, as I found it needlessly darker and a bit more incoherent--in the sense of just not coming together, not in the sense of being at all difficult to follow. One of those flicks that make up for its failings in moments, such as the near-ultimate sequence of Jaa's character muay-thai'ing an endless horde of business-suited stods to beautifully-foleyed snapped bone after destroyed joint, in one of the most unintentionally comic realizations of the "remember, only fight him one at a time, people!" fight rule that martial arts flicks all tend to have at least instances of. But he kicks their asses in a display of sheer ferocity and rage that's lacking in the more heavily-produced and slick numbers.

Seven Swords - kickass. Evil general slaughters villages for their heads, due to some dodgy imperial edict outlawing martial arts knowledge, and there's good money to be made with the bounties. Guess what fate awaits Martial Village? Aforementioned seven swords are received in aid from five warrior-monks from Heaven Mountain, plus the two villagers, unexpectedly deemed worthy by the resident sifu there to get their own freaky impractical blades. Do they deserve them? What a stupid question! The master knows what he's doing! Great movie all around.

Shaolin Master Killer - I very very dimly remember seeing at least bits of this during some late-night Kung Fu Theater watched during formative years. Apparently it's one of the best remembered flicks from the endless stream of badly-dubbed output that Shaw Bros spit out after Bruce Lee made American audiences sit up and realized fight scenes could be more than people trading right hooks at each other while occasionally crashing through pre-sawn tables. Evil general (wuxia staple!) slaughters villagers for merely being suspected of rebellious, one survivor of the pogrom manages to get into Shaolin monastery and learns all their kung-fu over the course of training montages spanning years. He's then booted out for the audacity of suggesting that he'd like to teach outsiders Shaolin kung-fu so they could protected themselves--and of course, exiling him allows him to teach outsiders Shaolin kung-fu so they can protect themselves, while allowing the monastery itself to maintain an appearance of propriety. (Again, a master who knows what he's doing.) He also invents the three-section staff in the apotheosis of his kung-fu. Anyway, I could see why it's the best-remembered of them. Production values and dodgy dubbing and choppy fight editting aside, it was a genuinely good flick.

posted by Gar @ 1:59 PM
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