Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Ninja Checkmate

Ninja Checkmate
AKA Mystery of Chess Boxing (1979) film review

I finally get to review this highly acclaimed film. Let me say that while I thought it was good, there are some areas that wasn't to my personal taste. The villain of this film is called The Ghost Face Killer who is quite memorable mostly because of the role more so than what the actor brings to the table in my opinion. He is ruthless master of the feared Five Elements Kung Fu. Back in his younger days the Ghost Face Killer was a tyrant so a couple of Kung Fu masters unite to dethrone him. Now he is exacting revenge by going after the Kung Fu masters one by one and killing them. He leaves a trademark plate behind which looks like a small crest emblem type thing. The main character's dad was one of the Kung Fu masters and he gets killed by Ghost Face Killer. So now he wants to get revenge and joins a Kung Fu school. There is some humor here, but basically as the newbie he is getting bullied. I understand they are trying to make it light hearted so there is comedic scenes here but overall I can't say that I enjoy school bully stories like this. Anyways the one saving grace for our main character is that there is a cook master at the martial arts school who teaches him. And eventually the main character becomes pretty much the best guy in the school. And when he is finally standing up to the senior student bully, the master of the school shows up and finds the Ghost Face Killer plate that the main character was holding on to. So, the school master mistakes our main character as a spy and kicks him out. The main character then learns from the chess playing Kung Fu master and learns what he needs to know. Together they defeat the Ghost Face Killer with Kung Fu moves based off of chess and also because they understand how The Five Element Kung Fu works, which is basically like a rock paper scissors, earth absorbs water, gold cuts wood, this type of thing. I guess the title has Ninja in it because there are some incredible acrobatics in the fight scenes. And any kind of mystery here to me has more to do with the Five Elements Kung Fu. You have to know the formula to stand a chance. Solid old school Kung Fu flick that is hard not to like.

Saturday, February 22, 2014

King of the Kickboxers

King of the Kickboxers film review

If you say that this is a ripoff of the JCVD film Kickboxer, well it's hard to argue against that. There is a lot of plot similarities going on here. However don't be so quick to dismiss this, there are some really cool martial artists showing their super talent, and the rest of the film has some unintentionally hilarious scenes. Loren Avedon does a great job as the lead, I was worried that a Tae Kwon Do expert like him was going to have some trouble facing Kickboxers and making it look real after all he is traveling to Thailand home of the Kickboxers to avenge his brother's death. When he plays drunk to save the girl named Molly shows that even the smaller fight scenes are still enjoyable and fun to watch in this film. And when he goes to a Muay Thai academy and acts like an A-hole, he is put in his place by the talented Ong Soo Han, in a short but sweet fight. The film really picks up when Loren encounters super hobo Keith Cooke from the Mortal Kombat films. Keith Cooke becomes his memorable mentor and helps him train to fight the main villain none other than Khan played by Billy Blanks. Khan talks like he has some kind of speech impediment, but he is very memorable as this role, in fact I heard that Khan was the character that was used to create DJ from Super Street Fighter. The training scenes are awesome, and I have to say that I liked every fight scene in this film, and the last fight where they dressed in traditional Thai theatre clothes complete with masks and Kriss swords, fighting in a bamboo Thunder dome was not disappointing even with the noticeable stunt double for Loren. The fight scene starts off kind of acrobatic, Khan uses his trademark triple kick (double ear slap kick, kangaroo kick, and jump spin kick) which did seem a bit ridiculous but hey it's still kind of cool. If you think the kicks sound a bit silly, wait until you see how Loren trains to block them involving logs! This is easily one of the most memorable 90s martial arts action flicks for me, and before I go, I have to mention not to miss the triple side kick by Keith Cooke. Highly recommended, although the sequel, seems to be totally unrelated to this one, and looks like it was made 10 years before this one with a lower budget. Sadly stay clear of that one.

TC 2000 martial arts action science fiction flick

TC 2000 film review by Wmpyr

For those that are fans of straight to video martial arts action films from the 90s, and if you like some science fiction to go with it, you want to add this to your collection. The surface world is a brutal place, environmentally hazardous, there are people living there that look homeless, the mandatory ruthless gangs are also there as well. TC are elite trackers that act and look like swat riot police, they work for the underworld, they fight off gangs that try to steal their food supplies. Legendary Tae Bo creator, Billy Blanks is Jason Storm, TC elite tracker who basically gets framed, his partner is a daughter of an important scientist. She gets shot and made into a cyborg. Bottom line the chief who is called the Controller uses a gang from the outworld called the Breakers to launch a surface world cleansing when it was not needed. At the end of the day Billy Blanks is able to stop the launch with the help of Bolo and the cyborg TC2000X who was on the side of the bad guys until she had total recall at the very end.

It's an over complicated plot for this kind of film, don't worry about it, there is plenty of action. At the beginning you already see the martial talent when Billy is able to do a jump off the wall kick in a confined tunnel looking place. Thankfully we also have a tracker vs guard tension, when Billy has an unfriendly sparring match with Mathias Huhes that ends in a brawl. I thought it was funny that Bolo is named shumai a dimsum dish. We get to see Bolo fight someone even larger than him, and Bolo use the chi punch, when the big guy hides behind a non fighter and Bolo punches through him. Basically it's the transferring of force through an object to hit a target, like JCVD did the Dim Mak in the film Blood Sport.

Jalal Merhi is the leader of the gangs called the Breakers, he plays Nikki Picasso, as the name suggests he looks like a weird artsy fartsy guy who looks like a guardian angle to me. His crew looks like a mix mash of madmax looking apocalyptic barbarian invaders, one of them has a spinning Bowie style blade on his hand. Bolo gets a 2nd fight scene once again with another huge guy that looks like one of the tag team members of demolition from the old school WWF. This one is a total pro wrestling match, until Bolo starts to use his kicking and ends the fight when he holds the hand of a kid, I think it was implied that he borrowed the chi from the kid to power up his kick.

Billy quits his job because he suspects foul play and the goons come after him in his apartment, but Billy escapes via the ventilation duct and now becomes a fugitive. He is now in the surface world, faces some goons lead by Rat Face as a welcome party, one of them has double nunchakus. he takes them out with a kangaroo kick you might recognize from King of the Kickboxers. Then we get to see TC 2000X, she gives a demo where she flips on to the stage like Cat Woman in Batman Returns and then takes out a few karate guys in a demo. She should have looked something like a female Robocop mixed with Daryl Hannah Replicant, but instead she looks like a dominatrix fitness girl.

Back to Billy wandering about in the surface world, Bolo is having an underground fight surrounded by a crowd that looks homeless, and the prize being a bag of water. Bolo toys with his opponent and you get to see his classic looking away in the middle of the fight faint move. The opponent pulls a knife and Billy helps out Bolo. Then of course we get the mandatory martial arts training sequences with Bolo and Billy.

Towards the end, there is a free for all fight, in which Bolo vs the spinning blade guy which turns into a long pretty even match, until bolo disarms him, and finishes him off with tiger claws which is a nice homage to the film Tiger Claws in which he played the villain. And then we get to see Mathias vs Bolo, basically it seems like in this film Bolo gets all the tough one on one fights. It's pretty impressive to see Bolo using some fairly acrobatic moves throughout this film especially when you consider his size. Billy gets the multiple opponents but looks crisp in doing so. Mathias hides behind a steel door and this is where Bolo uses the chi punch once again and gets the win. So overall it's a overly complicated if not confusing story mixed with good martial arts action, awesome martial artists, and considering the budget, a very cool futuristic world that we get to see glimpses of here and there, that makes this a classic.