While originally not connected to the “Extreme Asian Cinema” series, I’ve decided to post this little interlude of martial art movie reviews; cool martial arts are pretty extreme after all. Over last weekend, I saw the Jet Li movie “Fearless,” and this past summer, I also indulged in a few other martial art extravaganzas (Jet Li’s Unleashed, Tony Jaa’s Ong-Bak, and Iron Monkey). Let’s take a look at them.

Fearless (http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0446059/)

fearless

So this isn’t actually Jet Li’s last movie, but it’s still pretty sweet so you should check it out anyways! In the vain of Zhang Yimou’s “Hero,” “Fearless” is a “China is awesome!” movie filled with spectacular fight choreography. Jet Li’s kicks and punches haven’t been better, and since the dialogue isn’t in english, you don’t have to laugh when Jet Li speaks! While the subtitles to the film weren’t completely accurate, they work pretty well. The movie does have a middle section of pure narrative, lacking in any sort of corporal punishment for a good 15-20 min. This change in pace was a bit of a turn off, but the movie rebounds back with spirit till the end. All in all, a tight package of Jet Li doing what he does best. Check it out!

Ong-Bak: The Thai Warrior (http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0368909/)

ong bak

Have you ever seen a guy jump through a small ring of barb wire? Or how about a running slide under semi-trailer truck? Tony Jaa is all the rage now, and if there are such things as extreme martial art stunts, then Ong Bak would be a great example of it. Muay Thai fighting is really a feast for the eyes; it’s different from what I’ve been used to seeing as Tony Jaa seriously takes into account knees and elbows just as much as his fists and feet. The fighting is crazy and the pace of the movie is very quick. A plot is pretty much disregarded for this film and is only existent for the sake of giving Tony Jaa a reason to get brutal. And get brutal is what Jaa does best. Stunts galore, this movie is the definition of the martial arts flick. Don’t expect a storyline at all, but check it out still. The stunts are well worth it.

Both flicks:

3.5-4 kicks and punches out of a brawl of 5

Next time: Extreme Asian Cinema continues! Prepare for the Kung-fu cinema conclusion coming soon.

Three… Extremes (http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0420251/)

Three Extremes

I didn’t like “The Ring,” and I don’t get why people think it’s frightening. I don’t find a girl crawling out of a television to be that scary. However, I’ve heard that the asian original “Ringu” is pretty creepy. I checked out Ju-On (never saw “The Grudge”), and I’ll have to say that asian horror flicks are a bit creepier than the American knockoffs. While Ju-On wasn’t the scariest gorefest I thought it would be, it was quite creepily dreadful. Enter “Three… Extremes”: three short horror films compiled into one full length feature. This film surveys the horror from Hong Kong, Korea, and Japan, and provides a chilling experience at the same time. Each short is strange and twisted in its own way and has no relation to the other films. Packaged together, they provide fast paced scares along with slow growing apprehensive fear.

While I’m not going to give you the stories (you can find them here), I wanted to mention something about asian horror in general. In my humble opinion, asian horror is irrational and nonsensical terror. I find them to be creepier than most Hollywood slashers as they depend on genuinely scary stories rather than cheap thrills and pop-out-and-make-you-jump tricks. Although I enjoy being scared genuinely, the american viewer in me sometimes becomes troubled by the irrational storylines and the interpretive nature of asian horror. BUT I’ve realized that the lacking of resolutions and the plotholes actually make the movies more lasting for the viewer. Many a time after seeing an asian horror film, I’m still thinking and trying to figure out exactly what the hell happened. Maybe it’s poor movie making, but maybe it’s genius because the movie becomes lasting in your memory.

If you saw it already: I liked “Dumplings” the most, but I liked “Cut” also. “Box” – not so much.

3.5 delicious dumplings out of 5

This past summer, I explored a niche genre which I had never really been exposed to before. I’m gonna call it extreme asian cinema because the movies consisted of all asian flicks, and these movies were not of the “Hero,” “House of Flying Daggers,” or “Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon” style, nor were they the past award winning Gong Li dramas. These cult movies mostly consisted of horror and extreme Tarantino-esque violence, and for the most part, are works of style over substance. I have yet to finish a FULL survey of these films (Takashi Miike movies and more horror), but I intend to continue watching and perhaps rewatching films within this genre. After this past summer’s experience, I gained some new favorites (and other nonfavorites) that I am happy to share with you. Without further ado, extreme asian cinema part 1…

Battle Royale (http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0266308/)

BR

Imagine this: you are on an island, and in order to survive, you do not need to make fire or find a water source. Instead, you need to kill everyone you see on the island. Now imagine your highschool class is with you. I bet there are some people you would love to massacre, but then what about your best friend or perhaps your sweetheart? Well, throw in some highschool drama and random weapons like pistols, knives, crossbows, tasers and grenades and you’ve got yourself “Battle Royale.” I know, I know – I was thinking “Man that sounds f*cked up!” the first time I heard about it too. I was skeptical about gaining any sort of enjoyment from this flick to say the least, but upon watching, I got into it; it grabbed me and wouldn’t let go. Of the handful of cult extreme asian films that I watched this summer, you have to check this one out.

“Battle Royale” is actually really interesting and complex. Not solely a gorefest of sadistic adolescents massacring one another, the film throws in the previously mentioned high school drama, making this film a lot more interesting to watch. You get to see the kids that stand alone, the kids who band together, the tragic lovers, the crushes, the heros – this film has it all. Throw in spoonfuls of betrayal and confusion and you have “Battle Royale.”

While “Battle Royale” may not appeal to all viewers, it’s definitely worthy of a viewing. It’s the type of pulp that garners substantial interest and is deserving of it. I think this is some necessary viewing; Tarantino fans et al, check it out.

4 exploding collars out of 5 (exploding collars? you’ll understand when you see it)

Back to School Blues

September 20, 2006

So here I am, back at school. I haven’t had much time to update lately, but I will promptly get back into it. Damn you school, damn you.