The Young Master


Viewed – 22 February 2021 Blu-ray

Hong Kong Theatrical Cut

It’s strange how one remembers some movies. It turns out this is a completely different movie than what I thought I’d watched a numbers of years back. That movie was Dragon Lord and not this 1980 break-out hit for Jackie Chan and his first with studio Golden Harvest. Despite my mistaken identity I chose to settle into this regardless. Chan plays a martial arts student who’s school is involved in a Chinese dragon dance contest and loses when his brother fakes an injury only to join the rival school and win the contest. Disgraced by his former master, Chan’s brother is outcast. Chan himself whilst attempting to locate his brother gets mistaken for a wanted criminal and has to prove his innocence, leading to a final confrontation with a recently escaped martial arts master.

fight through the pain…

The story is rather messy, feeling patched together, like how scenes can follow on from one another and feel unconnected like there are bits missing. Yet coming to this I wasn’t expecting a great story, but was hoping for good action … and well, in this respect the movie delivers. There’s a decent bunch of kung-fu encounters, including a fun fight involving paper fans, a street brawl with Chan disguised as an old man, and an extended final encounter that’s particularly memorable. The kung-fu is shot expertly too, brilliantly edited and with great camera work that showcases the skill on display. It’s of the dance-like style of fight choreography but I still appreciated it. Casting, with an appearance by Chan regular Yuen Biao (Wheels On Meals) is good too with a few recognisable faces, and Hwang In-shik as the main villain is one hell of a fighter. Just a shame the plot is so all of the the place, as an easier to follow story would have added a great deal of substance to the fights. As it stands, watch this for the brilliant martial arts on display, not so much the story.

This special edition release from 88 films comes in deluxe packaging, has a detailed booklet, a poster, art cards, specially commissioned cover art, and several versions of the movie – the ‘theatrical Hong Kong cut’, a slightly shorter ‘export cut’, and a third version called the ‘extended export cut’ – with restored 2k transfers, restored audio in dubbed English or original language with subtitles (the export cut is English dub only). Add to this plenty of extras, with interviews, featurettes, alternate scenes and two commentaries. Great stuff for collectors. Maybe not one of Chan’s best – but still worthwhile for kung-fu fans.

Verdict:

(the movie) Good

(the Blu-ray) Recommended

Bill and Ted Face the Music


Viewed – 05 February 2021 online rental

This wasn’t a movie I thought we’d ever see. More or less 30 years since the last one, actor Keanu Reeves has certainly separated himself from that late eighties ‘dude’ persona. This has best buds Bill (Alex Winter) & Ted (Reeves) now middle aged and having not made the big time like they were destined, and haven’t made the ‘song to unite the world’. So when Kelly, the daughter of old time traveling friend Rufus, turns up to tell them that things haven’t turned out well in the future, Bill & Ted learn they have to come up with that song in 72hrs before the fabric of reality tares itself apart. At the same time, daughters, Billie (Brigette Lundy-Paine) and Theordora (Samara Weaving) decide to help by travelling back in time to bring together the ultimate band, using notable figures from history.

Dude, we grew old…

It’s a ridiculous story that borrows the plots from both Excellent Adventure and Bogus Journey, which means its kind of chaotic. Thankfully, Reeves & Winter jump back into their roles with ease and their dude banter will always be funny. Considering they have a time-travelling phone booth, the ticking clock plot device makes no sense whatsoever, yet as the dudes bump into different versions of themselves … there’s still fun to be had. As for the daughters of Bill & Ted – their adventure of recruiting music figures is a missed opportunity, with the choice of grabbing Jimi Hendrix, Louis Armstrong and Mozart, followed up with grabbing some cave woman drummer, a no name rapper and a flute playing Japanese woman (??) … surely there’s far more notable figures they could have chosen? Also Lundy-Pain is doing the most cringe-worthy bad-impression of a young Keanu Reeves it’s painful.

On paper this must have looked like a great idea, and at times it is entertaining, mostly down to Reeves & Winter, but the writing is weak and the plot lacks anything even remotely new or clever. As a ‘can they still do these characters?’ experiment it kind of works, but as a worthwhile sequel, not so much.

Verdict: Poor

Update


Well what have I been up to lately? For starters I’m still really enjoying PlayStation 5, and am currently loving Immortals: Fenyx Rising, an unashamed, yet highly polished Breath of the Wild clone, that uses Greek mythology to give the game its own identity outside of comparisons to Nintendo’s masterpiece. I also got my hands on Hitman III, this time for Xbox One X, and had forgotten just how fun and absorbing that franchise can be.

Hitman III

TV-wise, I recently finished Tin Star, the crime drama starring Tim Roth, and although I feel season 1&2 were superior in story and depth, the Liverpool set final season was really enjoyable, rather bizarre ending aside. I’m also still watching The Fall with Gillian Anderson (who, by the way was great as Margaret Thatcher in the latest season of The Crown), and just finished season two. I’m also watching WandaVision, Cobra Kai (TV bliss!) and to a lesser extent The Handmaid’s Tale.

To make future posts a bit more varied, and to increase the movies I am watching without the need to review ‘everything’ … I’ll be grouping some opinions together in updates like this. Two movies I’ve seen recently, are The Philadelphia Story, the 1940’s comedy drama with James Stewart, Cary Grant & Katherine Hepburn – a charming comedy of errors, revolving around a wealthy socialite’s impending wedding and how a local magazine want the scoop. The story wasn’t up to much but the banter and chemistry between the leads was fun, and child actress Virginia Weidler often stole the show. Verdict: Good.

The Birds

The other movie I watched recently was Alfred Hitchcock’s The Birds, starring the lovely Tippi Hedren. I’d never seen this but of course I had heard a lot. Well… it was instantly likeable due to the characters and quirky interactions, that although goes on for a good hour before we get any ‘bird action’ … yet when things do occur, Hitchcock’s direction is first class and very effective – especially the climactic bird’s attack on the house. An acclaimed classic worthy of it’s reputation. Verdict: Recommended.

That’s all from me for now.

Craig.

Fighting With My Family


Viewed – 21 December 2020 Netflix

The sport of Wrestling has ever really appealed. The most exposure I ever had to it was seeing Big Daddy lay the smack down on World of Sport when I was a kid. However it has to be said, the sports movie has often been surprisingly great, and this little gem is no exception. The true story of the rise to fame of female wrestler Paige, who from humble beginnings with her wrestling obsessed family in Norwich, gets plucked by a coach who sees something special in her and gives her a chance to try out for a place in the WWE.

Florence Pugh, who first caught my eye in the unsettling Midsommer is great here as is her support cast including Vince Vaughn and Nick Frost. I especially enjoyed the bond Paige has with her brother and how it gets tested through the course of the story, leading to some quite heart-wrenching moments. It’s also laugh out loud funny in places, helped by a sharp script from Stephen Merchant (who also directs).

As a rise-to-fame journey, yeah it’s cliched with a believing in one self ark and a coach / mentor who’s tough yet secretly a nice guy … but that’s not always bad if it’s handled as well as this. A highly entertaining, well acted and feel good experience I couldn’t wait to talk about. A must see.

Verdict: Essential

An American Werewolf In London


Viewed – 31 October 2020 Blu-ray

Director John Landis’ 1981 classic remains one of my all-time favourite movies. It’s the perfect balance of horror with comedy and also works as a particularly tragic love story. it also has (still) the best werewolf transformation ever commuted to film, and in this age of CGI overdose I doubt it will ever be beaten. Telling the story of David, an American backpacking in England with his friend Jack, who following a strange encounter with the locals of the ‘slaughtered lamb’, wonders onto the moors, and gets attacked by a werewolf. Sometime later he awakens in a London hospital and begins to have strange dreams and visits from beyond the grave warning him he’s destined to become a hairy beast next full moon.

Beware the moon…

The setup is stuff of horror legend, and is a sort of loose remake of those classic werewolf movies from the 1950s, given a modern twist that still works today, almost 40 years later. The fact the effects work still stands up is very much down to the sheer skill of makeup wiz Rick Baker (who got an Oscar for his trouble). Jenny Agutter is here as a (particularly attractive) nurse who befriends and quickly falls for David and her relationship with the would-be monster is convincing and quite touching. It’s also a snappily paced ride, skilfully jumping from one event to the next, and when it’s funny (the bumbling cops, Jack’s deadpan line-delivery “Have you ever talked to a corpse? It’s boring!”) it never feels out of place. The same goes for when it delivers the horror – somehow it just all works. The music should also get a special mention, with each song title having some mention of the moon, and they are all delivered memorably. This is Landis’ best movie, the tone, those classic sequences (the tube station scene) and a simple concept brilliantly put together makes for not just a great horror movie – but one of the ‘great’ movies.

The Blu-ray limited edition I picked from Arrow Video is a collector’s dream. Housed in a hard case and with specially created artwork, a fold-out poster, art cards and a detailed booklet – that’s just the start. The movie, although grainy boasts a new restoration and is in great shape – with impressive detail along with good colour vibrancy and depth in dark scenes. The soundtrack in a choice of the original mono and 5.1. DTS Master Audio has clear dialogue and especially showcases the music cues. Surrounds also come alive during the climactic Piccadilli Circus sequence. Extras consist of two commentaries; one from actors David Naughton and Griffin Dunne, and the other with filmmaker Paul Davis. Add to this several making of/behind the scenes featurettes and interviews with John Landis and Rick Baker, story boards, outtakes etc and this is one impressive package.

Verdict:

(the movie) Essential

(the Blu-ray) Essential