Are Action Movies Ruining Martial Arts?

In New York Magazine, Kyle Buchanan laments the decline of the modern action movie:

…Actors often brag about how much Krav Maga or karate or capoeira they had to learn for their roles, but to judge from the onscreen world of modern action movies, that kind of skill set is hardly rare: A built-in understanding of martial arts is instilled in everyone, be they hero, villain, or mere henchman. (Fortunately, heroes always get to fight off bad guys who somehow know the exact same form of martial arts they do.) Too often, it seems like movies grind to a halt for obligatory hand-to-hand combat with low stakes and little invention, as though the screenwriter typed, “A fight breaks out,” and the director left it up to the second unit and fight coordinator to fill three minutes.

With little in the way of stakes, a sameness in presentation, and no blood or bruises, martial arts have turned action scenes into dance scenes…Gone are the days when a fight might involve a gun, a makeshift weapon, or a hit that actually hurts.

Mr. Buchanan misremembers the history of violence in cinema. Continue reading Are Action Movies Ruining Martial Arts?

Martial Arts Movies of 2010: The Best, and the Rest

Last year was a good year for martial arts movies. With more than two dozen releases to theater and DVD, few people will have the time and interest to screen them all–myself included! Rather than writing a review for each, I have decided to simply list those you cannot afford to miss.

The Best

Bodyguards and Assassins
Winner: 2010 Hong Kong Film Award, Best Film

Bodyguards and Assassins [IMDB rating: 6.9/10]
Starring Donnie Yen, Nicholas Tse, Cung Le

Continue reading Martial Arts Movies of 2010: The Best, and the Rest

All Red Ninjas Are Evil!

Clayton Prince is: The Black Ninja

Reviewer Mark Pollard says:

THE BLACK NINJA is one of those “should have” films. It should have been marketed as the no budget, amateur project that it is, rather than as a potentially gratifying B-grade exploitation piece in order to keep expectations to a minimum. It should have been a short film, omitting overlong dialogue while making better use of limited resources. It should have been campier. A vigilante ninja clad in black while riding a Kawasaki Ninja motorcycle should not be taken seriously. Finally, it should have had nothing to do with ninjas to begin with since the martial arts action is miserably weak. And last but not least, it should have never been made.

Continue reading All Red Ninjas Are Evil!

The Religion of Inception

Inception

There are seventy thousand Jedi knights in Australia. Four hundred thousand in England and Wales. In New Zealand, Jedi is the second most popular religious affiliation, ahead of Judaism, Islam, Buddhism, and most everything else. So concluded the official 2001 census in each of these countries.

It is unclear how many respondents were serious about their Jedi faith, but their governments did not take them seriously. Tallies were ignored or reclassified, and citizens were threatened with fines for providing “false or misleading” information.

So it is forbidden. Religions may not originate in movies–at least not in movies of Star Wars mediocre quality. But with the unprecedented critical and commercial acclaim of the hit film Inception, some of the formerly irreligious are reportedly inspired to worship again. Continue reading The Religion of Inception

Alluda Majaka, South Asian Wuxia Blockbuster

Alluda Majaka was the first Indian film in history to earn more than 2 million rupees. Starring Chiranjeevi–the Desi Chuck Norris–Alluda Majaka thrilled audiences with its gritty, no-nonsense action sequences.

Continue reading Alluda Majaka, South Asian Wuxia Blockbuster

2009 Review: The Best Kung Fu Movies

Jeeja Yanin, Raging Phoenix

Raging Phoenix

[Yesasia] [IMDB]
I would love to cite Raging Phoenix as the first awesome martial arts film with a female lead. I would love to do that. But its choreographers and writers conspire against me.

Raging Phoenix is the story of a young female rocker (played by Jeeja Yanin) who gets caught up in a ruthless kidnapping ring. Women are abducted off the streets of Thailand, drugged, and taken to a secret laboratory hidden within a Temple of Doom, which is in turn hidden within a metropolitan sewage system. Naturally, the women’s tears are harvested there, to concoct a patent medicine for eccentric billionaires.

Only one force is strong enough to thwart the kidnapper’s plans: a small group of drunken vigilantes who learned to combine Muay Thai boxing with stylish hip-hop dance moves. Continue reading 2009 Review: The Best Kung Fu Movies

Real-Life Ninja Assassin Threatens Journalist

Rain as 'Ninja Assassin'

If you have to choose between seeing Ninja Assassin and Red Cliff this weekend, I recommend the latter–even if this abridged US release is not quite as good as the original 4-hour Chinese version. (Curious John Woo fans can order the longer cut of Red Cliff on DVD today.)

Fantastic tales about Ninja clans and other secret fighting societies are depressingly common in the martial arts world. These legends are used for marketing and entertainment purposes; repeated often, but rarely taken seriously.

Benjamin Fulford wants to be taken seriously. Formerly the Asia-Pacific bureau chief at Forbes Magazine, Fulford spent years reporting on the highest and lowest echelons of Japanese society, from politicians to Yakuza gangsters. Continue reading Real-Life Ninja Assassin Threatens Journalist

Ong Bak 2 Review (with Exclusive Video Previews)

Tony Jaa in 'Ong Bak 2'

Warning: This post contains spoilers.

With more than two years spent in filming and production, Ong Bak 2 presents Thai martial arts star Tony Jaa’s attempt at an action masterpiece. Jaa shares writing and directing credits, in addition to his leading role as the slave-turned-rebel-hero Tian Continue reading Ong Bak 2 Review (with Exclusive Video Previews)

Ip Man Goes to Hollywood

Donnie Yen as Ip Man

Grandmaster Ip Man—the man who ushered Wing Chun kung fu out of obscurity, and presided over the instruction of a young Bruce Lee—is the subject of a exciting new Hong Kong biopic. Action star Donnie Yen portrays the petite but powerful Ip in early adulthood, as wealthy playboy and martial arts fanatic. Continue reading Ip Man Goes to Hollywood