Sunday, June 27, 2010

Movie Review - Karate Kid

Karate Kid

Starring: Jaden Smith, Jackie Chan, Taraji P Henson, Zhenwei Wang

Premise: Dre Parker is dragged off to China when his mom gets transferred. When he shows interest in a girl there, he becomes the target of a bully and his passe. Getting beat up and embarrassed several times in public, Dre tries to get revenge on his own rather than go to anyone for help. While successful, this ploy still backfires, and as the bully takes things too far he is saved by Mr Han. Yet in trying to get the bullies to quit by visiting their kung fu teacher, Dre instead finds himself being signed up for a Kung Fu tournament.

Review: When doing some quick research to prep this review, I came across something so basic that I missed it made me have a "I could have had a V8" moment. The original Karate Kid and this new remake neither have to do with the actual art of Karate. Both use disciplines from Kung Fu. Yet in all this time after all the hundreds of Kung Fu movies and other martial arts films I've watched, it never registered. Doh!

Anyway, lol, major kudos in the movie for Jaden Smith, Jackie Chan, and Zhenwei Wang and his passe. Truly lots of good acting was to be had here. Loved to see Jackie Chan pushed to ooze out his talent in more than just martial arts. He had a lot of very subtle touches for expressing the inner things he was dealing with way long before we found out what had wounded his spirit. But the subtlest thing he did was a total homage to Pat Morita and his role of Mr Miyagi in the original Karate Kid. And how did he do that? Watch the way he walks. It's not Jackie's usual way but that of Mr Miyagi's played by Pat Morita. For super fans, a very squeeable moment. lol.

For Zhenwei Wang, who plays Cheng, you can tell how good he is when you see him as himself during the credits. Night and Day folks! Cheng is full of hatred and it so radiated from this kid, it was eerie. Eek! Some great emotional bits from some of his friends too. Stuff that totally transcended the language barrier.

Jaden Smith also did a great job. You can see a lot of his father in this film. He's going places. Even better, I loved how you could see his body change as he progressed in the training. And not just from what was scripted.

The film itself is a little slow at the beginning, but nothing terrible. You do see China as it is, the old and the new. Not a spruced up version for a movie. So the realism was very nice and appreciated. Plus they take us several places which were fun to see like the Forbidden City (I wanted MORE!), the Wall of China, even a cool remote monastery. Some very visually stunning shots.

Because they took longer, they were also able to make this story version quite complex. The amount of sub stories were amazing to me. Yet if you weren't paying attention, they were also easy to miss. The film was quite deep. They handled things like being new to a foreign country, fighting fear, obsessions (many facets of this were explored), the influence of teachers on students and how it truly can shape their students, focusing on a goal, sometimes to the person's detriment, familial expectations and how they can crush our own desires. Also the nuances of what kung fu stands for and how it can be warped. Respect both earned and forced. People's capacity for self destruction. This sucker was chocked full of stuff.

The fights during the tournament and elsewhere were kick-ass. And of course it would not be a true kung fu movie without some Chinese mysticism thrown in, which we got a bit of through some ancient medicine practices and also the cool monastery. We even get some culture thrown in and one of China's more famous legends.

My biggest disappointment was they never tell us if Meiying made getting into the school or not! Argh! I wanna know! (You get a feeling she did from the judges faces, even as the disapproval glared from her teacher, but still. I wanted confirmation darn it!)

The movie won't slap you with awesomeness, but will still nicely satisfy. If you notice some of the hidden gems along the way, even more so.

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Movie Review - Jonah Hex

Jonah Hex

Staring: Josh Brolin, John Malkovich, Megan Fox, Michael Fassbender, Will Arnett, John Gallagher Jr, Tom Wopat, Michael Shannon, Wes Bentley, Jeffrey Dean Morgan

Premise: Jonah Hex chose doing right over friends and country and paid the price. His family killed before his eyes, he's left marked and tied up to live or die at nature's whim. Rescued by Indians when on the verge of death, Jonah returns to the world of the living not quite all back from the dead, revenge and violence all that's left to him. When the government hunts him down and tells him his nemesis is not dead and is after destroying the still blossoming reunited North and South, Jonah sets out after him with a vengeance.

Review: I got pretty excited when I heard this movie was coming. I'd read some of the DC comics for Jonah Hex years and years ago. The distinct disfigurement of Jonah's face was as memorable as Harvey Dent's in Batman. So I really liked that they worked real hard to keep that signature look, including the Confederate hat and coat as well. For even more fun, at the beginning, they switch to cartoon mode to cut back on the horror of the brand placed on his face and make surreal his close brush with death and the birth of the man he then became.

Jonah doesn't come back untouched from stepping into the other side. Supernatural elements now crop in as he is always dogged by crows and he's gained the ability to bring the dead back to life just enough to talk to them. Some really neat rules and scenes on the talking to the dead ensue. Was a lot of fun when he dug up his friend Jeb (Jeffrey Dean Morgan (uncredited role)) and the latter tries to fight him every time his body is brought back. Some very nice flip-flops between live and dead body in these scenes.

Great shootouts and fights. Even an element of James Bond and Wild Wild West as technology way past what was available at the time makes a showing. Johan even has his own Q. Malkovich makes a great bad guy and Megan Fox a sexy spitfire, who sees the man beneath the scars.

Some great effects, some cool mystic stuff, wonderful surreal scenes, standard old bad west doggie-dog set up. So nothing too surprising, yet all the support cast did an awesome job. So a neat cool romp with loads of action and some massive, and I mean massive destruction scenes!

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Chuck Wendig flashfic Challenge - I Wanna Do Laser

Earlier this week, Chuck Wendig from Terrible Minds issued a flashfic challenge. Here is my reponse to said challenge!



“I wanna do laser. I WANNA do LASER!”

You’d think being a 22nd century babysitter would be an easy job. What with all the advances in technology, medicine, etc. Well you’d be wrong. In the old days they never had to deal with babies who’d had intelligence enhancing nanos applied in vitro. Or the fact you could train them to be war mongering little heathens to guide your missiles and other costly war making equipment faster than computers. But there you go.

Not that it hadn’t cropped up its own plethora of issues, and therefore a greater need for us. Who knew maturity, and not just intelligence, helped ingrain good behavior patterns and judgment? And tantrums? You’ve never truly experience one till you’ve seen one of these ‘special’ kids go at it, spewing higher mathematical logic as to why they should have one extra cookie or two despite orders to the contrary.

“Laser! Laser! LASER!”

I dodged right as a half empty bottle of formula followed the screamed demand. I don’t think my drill sergeant ever expected my combat training to come in handy in just quite this way.

The two year old rattled his US Army Issue Crib and opened his mouth to prepare to screech at the top of his lungs. The sound buffer fields on the rest of the ten cribs in Unit 38 wouldn’t be able to handle the strain. The little bastard had used his enhanced smarts to figure out the modulation frequency of the fields and knew just what pitches to use to get past it.

And I’d just gotten the rest of the little ‘darlings’ to go to sleep.

Last time Mortimer did this it took hours to calm the rest of them down, the little shit! Combat pay wasn’t worth that – ever! I grabbed a green stuffed toy and sprinted the few feet to his crib.

“Now, Morty, who’s a good boy? Who’s about to get a good boy present and be allowed to sleep with Mr. Tentacles?” I tried to smile, but I was pretty sure it came out more like a grimace. I’d rather been in a locked room with lit stick of dynamite than here.

The half drawn breath stuttered and sputtered out. “Misseh Tencles?” Mortimer’s eyes grew wide as he spotted the toy. You’d think since he could modulate his voice to override the sound buffer fields he could talk normally, but no. None of the military scientists had an explanation for this either. Personally, I believed they all did it on purpose. Worked great when trying to sway female personnel to their side, something about ingrained mothering instincts. It meant shit duty for the rest of us.

“Yeah, that’s right, Mr. Tentacles. Just for you. I know how you love, Mr. Tentacles.” This was the tenth one I’d had to requisition this month. The kids were tough on the buggers. Sweat gathered at my brow. Just a few more weeks and I’d be out of the rotation. I just had to survive till then and then I’d be out. I shook the green stuffed octopus trying to make him look more enticing.

Mortimer’s lower lip quivered. “No laser?”

Crap. “Now, Morty, you got to fry the insurgents yesterday. It was someone else’s turn today. There’ll still be plenty there to fry up when your shift comes again. You’re very well aware of the mandates on the child labor laws.”

His little face screwed up into a pout but he didn’t say anything. He knew I had him. I slipped the toy through the bars knowing better than to gloat. The little buggers liked to hold grudges. Private Dexter had found all his bank accounts frozen after blowing his top at one the little ‘dears’. No one ever figured out how they got away with it, and the rest of us just didn’t want to go there.

His small, brown, calculating eyes rested on me as he grabbed the toy and hugged it with his little chubby arms. Every survival instinct inside me screamed. He was up to something and I probably wasn’t going to like it.

“Wanna beard.” He said it real low, staring at me intently.

Total sore loser. “I gave you a toy, Morty. It’s going to have to be enough, okay?”


Damn the General and his Christmas party idea. The Old Man had put on a red suit and beard and freaked the kids. They’d thought him an insurgent. Facial hair was still frowned on by the brass, so they’d never seen anyone on our side with a beard before. Once we explained and they calmed down, they’d laughed and laughed until their little faces turned red. Especially after the startled General took it off to show them it was fake. I should have known it’d come back to haunt me. “You don’t need a fake beard. You really don’t.”

His face closed up tighter than a bunker. He wasn’t going to let this one go. Why the hell not though?

“Morty, please…”

He opened his mouth and took in a deep lungful of air. Suddenly the fact he didn’t need it didn’t mean a thing to me anymore.

“Okay! Okay! You win. Just let me go see if I can find the blasted thing.” This was going to go on a report somewhere, I just knew it. Some jerk in security was laughing his ass off at my expense right now.

Luckily the party had only been a few days ago so the bins hadn’t yet been sent to permanent storage. I grabbed the thing and brought it back. “Happy now?”

Mortimer shoved the beard on his face and grinned at me through the white bristles. He jammed the octopus’ head through the beard as well so it hung from it. “My beard come so Fat!” The little guy grinned from ear to ear then yawned sleepily.

I might just get through this. I hoped.

The End.

(P.S. Wasn't gonna do the challenge. Busy. Behind. Thinking how the heck do I do a story on "I wanna do laser"? Walked to the girl's room and the cretive muscle flashed me a picture. So there I went... Creativity is a mysterious thing.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Movie Review - The A-Team

The A-Team

Staring: Liam Neeson, Bradley Cooper, Jessica Biel, Quinton Jackson, Sharlto Copley, Gerald McRaney, Brian Bloom, Maury Sterling

Premise: Two US rangers meet two others through fate as an op in Mexico goes sour. Eight years later, the four have become an elite combat unit -an Alpha Team. They go ahead an take on a missions they've been told to stay away from, they find themselves set up to take the fall when it all goes fubar back at the base. When they are given an opportunity to escape from high maximum security military prisons, they take it and go off to try to clear their names.

Review: First off, this movie was AWESOME! I watched the A-Team back in the day, and despite the needed suspension of disbelief, it was always a fun and entertaining TV show. The movie remake is all it was and more!

It also gives us something we never did get in the TV series - the A-Teams' actual origin. Even better, we get to see how the four met in the first place. We see how high they rose within the military, and then the crime they got labeled for and how they escaped prison. Fan dream come true!

When the first news of the film started coming from Stephen J Cannel's Twitter account, I wasn't sure if they could pull it off. I need not have worried. They pulled it off an more. And weirdly enough, it's the little moments that totally take this movie from just a ton of fun to great. Plus all the little quirks of all the characters are there. We even see how they got some of them. They may not have been the original actors, but they gave them true life. Even better, we have sideline plots for BA and Face, giving the movie unexpected depth.

If you go see it, make sure to STAY TILL THE END OF THE CREDITS! There's some awesome fan service there with a couple of cameos. And I loved the way they did it. Priceless! Even better are the bits with music and even video from the original show that get snuck into the film. The folks who made this movie obviously loved the show. Kuddos!

So if you enjoy action, a good time, some off the wall hi-jinks, and loved the original series for the fun it was, this movie is totally for you!

Rating: ****3/4
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