Tag Archives: Martial Arts

Kung Fu Theater: Shaolin vs. Lama

This year’s pride parade got a little…out of hand.

  • Title: Shaolin dou La Ma
  • Year: 1983
  • Availability: There is a commonly available, English-dub only DVD on the market.

As a Kung Fu fan, I have a truly tremendous pool of material that lies before me. The modern form of the industry has gone through no less than EIGHT distinct “periods” in the 50-odd years it has existed, and as mentioned, some of the studios and directors were remarkably, terrifyingly prolific, putting out near to a dozen films per year for decades. And this is compounded by the immensity of the “Shovel-ware” subdivision, as I like to call it: the quick, made-on-a-buck schlockfests that were put out in the industry’s prime to make a quick profit with as little effort as possible.

Although entertaining in a sense, you generally want to avoid these. You’ve seen them; terrible actors, awful martial arts featuring men flailing at each other stiffly in some sad facsimile of combat, and occasionally whipping out plastic “weapons” to assault the air with. Pretty much, the quintessential “chop socky” flicks that, to this very day, relegate the Kung Fu flick to niche status in the eyes of the general public.

There are telling signs: improper use of a camera, leading to everyone being slightly off-center. Terrible, repetitious dialogue in both English AND Chinese. Bad sets, costuming, fighting, it all just looks terrible. And look out also for a generic (well, more generic) title: any combinations of “Master”, “Shaolin”, “Temple”, “Monk”, “Killer”, “Vs.”, “Fighter”, “Deadly”, “Bloody” and “Bruce Lee” are all big red flags. The best of these tend to be hilarious in their way, and the worst are awful, boring affairs that will just hurt to look at.

“Bruce Lee: Big Red Flag” ironically also the name of an energy drink, coming to you this fall…

But, what happens when those red flags are wrong? What happens when, despite all the signs saying the piece should be terrible, it in fact turns out amazing? It still has all those terrible pieces, sure, but it manages to be amazing in that one, all-important way, and pulls itself up to where its flaws become charm points, and it’s strengths colossal victories? Oh, it can happen, dear readers. It can happen… Continue reading

Kung Fu Theater: Bloodsport

Jean Claude Van Damm: kicking Chinese people in the throat since 1988

The “American Martial Arts Flick” is certainly a unique creature. It exists as an imitation of its China-born brethren, and is typically held in far lower regard by the general fandom. However, if one were to delve into the world of these misfit animals, they would find a fanbase there just as loyal as the legions of the Hong Kong faithful. And you might even find yourself growing a certain fondness for them as well, if you give it a chance. The way I see it, the American breed can almost be seen as the “store brand cereal” of the Martial Arts world. They lack mascots, uniqueness, and generally cannot recreate the combination of taste and texture that makes “Lucky Charms” and the like so popular. But in tasting it, you understand why there are fans of it, as the cereal has it’s own unique charm.

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Kung Fu Theater: Gallants (2010)

Yeah, these are our heroes. AKA the coolest old people you will ever see.

Note: This review will contain minor spoilers. Nothing you couldn’t see in the trailers, but if you want to be completely surprised by what you see, then don’t read until after you have watched the film.

There’s an old, very popular saying :”You can never go home”. For those who are extremely thick or just don’t want to think too hard about it, the quote is (for my purposes) talking about the unstoppable march of time, and how no matter how much we might want to return to certain periods in our life, we cannot, and must simply accept that.

Even sadder, this refers to the mundane as well as the temporal. In gaming, I’m sure everyone reading this has had the experience of trying to play an old favorite, anticipating a repeat of that glorious initial rush, and were crushed to find that their rose tinted memories were nearly incommensurable with what was before them. Sure, it was probably still fun, but was still a mere shadow of the ecstasy they once provided.

This proves true of movies as well. For the purposes of this review, let us talk about how it affects Kung Fu flicks. Now, it is true, Kung fu movies actually can weather the test of time better than most. Good action choreography is still good whenever it’s watched, and the classic stories and character types still provide just as much joy as they did in the lost days of yore. But despite the well aged aesthetics, the soul that was so paramount to these movies, that impalpable enthusiasm and spirit, faded with the mid-80’s.

So what does this have to do with Gallants? Because, of all it’s many achievements, the best thing it did for me is showing that, even though you can’t go home permanently, you can still visit a lost time, if only for a few hours.

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