Tuesday, August 20, 2013

First Blood

Before mass hysteria within the pop culture realm decided it was a great idea to make fun and jokes at Sylvester Stallone's expense, he was a respect actor who saw torture within his eyes and his trembling voice. In Rocky we saw an underdog fighting for his one shot to prove he was strong enough emotionally and physically to go the distance with Apollo Creed. The world saw Stallone as a man with depth, character and integrity. And it's those gifts that he portrayed in the tortured soul of John Rambo in 1982's 'First Blood'. While the 3 sequels of the original 'First Blood' are very violent and very much action films, 'First Blood' will forever be a drama with elements of thriller and action. John Rambo is a young man who has been through so much in such a short amount of time, who has had to do a lot of growing up because of the horrors that he has seen in Vietnam, This is truly a sad story of a man who is just misunderstood, a man who is unfairly treated by narrow minded simpletons.

Here is the run down. John Rambo who is trying to track down his friend from the Vietnam War only to discover he died of Cancer. Clearly devastated he walks into the local town and gets picked up by  Sheriff Teasle who warns him that people like him don't belong in his quiet, boring town, so he drives him out of town and leaves him there, yet Rambo just immediately walks back in the direction he just came. Infuriated, Teasle then arrests him. Once at the police station it is pretty damn evident, that these depraved cops have nothing better to do than humiliate, and degrade Rambo which is giving him flashbacks of what he went through in Vietnam. And then finally Rambo snaps, kicking the absolute shit out of cop in sight and escaping the station and stealing some random guy's motorbike with pure style. Rambo then lures Sheriff Teasle and his cop squad into the forest and then the real hunt begins.

Sylvester Stallone is just perfection as John Rambo. No one could breath life into this character. He is so raw, gritty, broken, and all he wants is some peace in his life. He endured hell on earth while serving in Vietnam, and it's those hellish experiences which have stayed burried deep within his psyche and boiled over into his whole being. The charatcer of John Rambo doesn't talk much for majority of the film, he doesn't need to. Those sad eyes tell a tale of pure sadness and horror, what he has seen, he can never unseen, those horrors don't just live in his nightmares when he sleeps, they are there with him every day, never leaving his mind; all it takes is a trigger. I have sad in previous Stallone films, that he is a man with such a huge amount of depth, and his eyes just convey such a deep and personal story no matter what his roles may be. You can see that Stallone definitely can understand the character of John Rambo, and what he is really about. Stallone is definitely one of the most underrated actors out there. He has the ability to make the viewer experience a roller-coaster of emotions, he wants you to live and breathe the character with him, and that explains why I am always a blubbering like a baby whenever I watch 'First Blood'. It physically hurts my chest when I see him reliving all the awful experiences over and over again, 'First Blood' is just way more than any movie.

Brian Dennehy portrays the arrogant, narrow minded Sheriff Teasle, who would rather hunt, and kill a Vietnam War Hero than admitting he was wrong in the first place for even approaching him in the beginning and assuming John Rambo was up to no good. You can't help but love Brian Dennehy because you just love to hate Teasle. He is such a scumbag who abuses his power, and no one has ever kicked him off his self appointed pedestal until now, and all Rambo had to do was not listen to a word he said. Dennehy was really on the money with this portryal and he just makes you despise his character regardless of any emotional journey he may go through during the film. If all you want to do is slice his throat open with Rambo's knife whenever you see Teasle on screen, I think he did his job.

Jerry Goldsmith did a magnificent job of producing the musical score for 'First Blood'. The opening music just sets the tone for the film, it conveys the sorrow and bad memories that lie within John Rambo and how how they continue to affect his life on a daily basis. The musical score spoke volumes, and really added raw emotion to the film. Jerry Goldsmith composed a perfect musical score which also proves he was also in tune with the character of John Rambo, he brought out his hell, his experiences, his flashbacks out through the music, and I believe that was a lot of the glue that held the film together.

My favourite scene would have to be the ending, it is just pure honesty and tragedy, a fallen hero struglling to come to terms with what his life is after his hellish ordeal. It is the first time throughout the film, where we learn how he really feels, what he thinks, what stays in his mind, the things people have put him through during and after the Vietnam war have shaped him, and therefore having trouble adjusting to normal life. He feels he is still stuck in the war, people will not let him forget what they thought that war was about, and instead of been treated a hero who endured so much pain for his country, he was cast aside, spit on, and banished by society. John Rambo lost his friends to a war which didn't need to happen, and he feels he is going to be paying for it for the rest of his life. When he breaks down crying and falls to the floor, it is incredibly hard to watch, because you feel the pain, you feel like your heart is going to burst out of your chest, it just hurts. It is heartbreaking to see a man so broken up inside, he doesn't know who he is, what his purpose is, so when he does break down you can see that is years of bottled up supression of frustration, sorrow, anger. John Rambo is just a man, and all he wanted when he walked into that town was something to eat, and they took away a basic right of any human being away from him, just because of the assumption made about what kind of person he was. So here is a link for the video for the final scene, if it doesn't pull at your heart strings, well then I am disgusted god dammit! Pssst make sure you highlight it so you can see it! 

'First Blood' is a tragic story of a man trying to get a grip on reality with close minded people standing in his way. Sylvester Stallone is an absolute treat to watch in this, and his portrayal of John Rambo is timeless, and it is this role which will go down as one of cinema's most iconic roles of all times. If you haven't seen 'First Blood', you have been living under a rock, so you need to finish reading this review, grab several Cherry Coke's and you need to buy the film and watch it ASAP. I have found 'First Blood' to be one of those kind of films that I need to watch to have a good cry, now I know majority of women would do that with trash like 'The Notebook', but since I have more male chromosomes than most women, I think it's perfectly acceptable. Now forget what the haters of action films say about Stallone and his portrayal of Rambo, because all they see are the muscles and the explosions. But since the readers of my articles are intelligent life forms you should watch 'First Blood' for the brutality, the depth, the horror and the dark beauty surrounding John Rambo.

Anonymous People

I have seen several drug related documentaries now, and a lot of them have shown you what addicts will do to get money for their next hit. They will explore why they got into the drugs, and you can see the psychological and physical effects of drugs and alcohol. But what anonymous people does is show you what happens when you want to be sober. People tend to think that being a drug addict or an alcoholic means you have to be living in poverty, and that you are living with the homeless and 'scum' of the earth. But that just isn't true. An addict can be a neighbour, they can be a work collegue in an expensive business suit, they can be a partner, a family member. No matter how beautiful you may appear to be on the outside you could be completely ugly and empty on the inside and you need drugs to feel that hole inside you. I am not a drug taker, and I am not a heavy drinker, but I know what it is like to live with someone who has an addiction and it isn't pleasant. It's an exceptionally hard thing to deal with. Drug and alcohol addictions are something that can hurt and destroy a family so easily, but they are so wrapped up in themselves to even care or notice. 'Anonymous People' is about giving ex-addicts their voice, letting people know their story and finally understanding within themselves that it is nothing to be ashamed of.

There is a lot of stigma attached to drug and alcohol abuse, and if you haven't actually gone through it yourself or been close to someone who has, I don't think you can understand it. And even when you are getting rehabilitation ex-addicts are not getting the support they deserve. Sure there are some people who don't want help who want to keep taking drugs and alcohol, but we shouldn't have the mentality that they are beyond help. But you have got to want to help yourself. And even if you do help yourself, who will support you? 'Anonymous People' explores how society deals with drug and alcohol abusers, and how the government and the health system is sweeping it all under the carper and not dealing with the fact that there are more and more users and addicts in the US than ever. It isn't a problem that isn't going to go away, it's here to stay. And now there are more different ways to get a fix, I mean people are using Bath Salts to get some kind of buzz.

'Anonymous People' is a thought provoking documentary, which will make you look at this issue and it may change how you feel towards addicts since you are now realising that they have a voice too. It also might give you a closer insight into how society treats addicts who are trying to get help, and how there is a lack of support. Being an addict isn't like suffering from Cancer. With Cancer you have treatment, operations, to make sure the Cancerous cells leave your body, and you have to keep up with constantly going back to the doctors and hospitals for regular check ups to make sure it doesn't come back. You are given that support, they recommend councelling for you and your family, you are invited to fundraiser and charity events, you are encouraged to share your story, but it's a different side for rehabilitating drug and alcohol abusers. You go through your programs and at the end you are pretty much told good luck and sent on your way, knowing full well you are forever going to have this devil of temptation on your back. Even having groups like Alcoholics Anonymous is insulting. Why should alcoholics and drug users stay quiet? Why don't we want to hear their stories? They have gone through hell too, so maybe we could learn something; and from 'Anonymous People' you certainly do.

What I love about this is the fact that it is very different to what we usually see on screen when it comes to documentaries on addicts. It has a lot of depth to the topics, and it explores them in a lot of different avenues that I didn't even think they would discuss. The fact that this documentary has set out on a different journey and exposed addicts as just normal people trying to get over their demons and get on with their lives is just insightful. It's awesome that they give addicts the benefit of the doubt, they let their voice be heard, and no longer should they have to feel ashamed of their past. At the end of the day we are all human, and we are entitled to make mistakes, as long as we move forward for the better and learn from the mistakes, then that is what is important. The interviews with some of these addicts, just prove how much strength we as people can have, it is quite remarkable.

I would definitely recommend this documentary for everyone. It is a real eye opener, and it made me feel a lot more empathetic, and some of their points were very valid. It is an emotional ride, which will open your eyes and hopefully your mind to something you haven't fully understood in the past. Addicts are people just like you and me, and it's about time they were given proper support, we need to stop the relapsing, and stop the narrow minded views. Just because you haven't experienced it, and it hasn't affected your perfect world, doesn't mean it can't hurt someone else and change their life.  

Monday, August 19, 2013

The Decline of High Caliber Actors and Accepting Mediocrity as Greatness.

Every year more and more classic actors are dying, some before they have reached their peak, some who have worked in the business for many decades and are seen as a high caliber actors. It's these actors with such class, versatility, heart and depth which are getting old, and even though they are still very active, it's going to be a sad day when we wake up and realise that true quality has died. When I realised that Robert DeNiro had just turned 70 it made me think back to his roles in 'Cape Fear', 'Goodfellas', 'Taxi Driver'.  It was these roles which were so iconic, not just for him but for the film industry. Will the film industry continue to have such a high class of actor to follow DeNiro? I highly doubt it. I am not automatically writing off actors with a semi decent talent, but you either have the heart, strong mind, and soul to really bite into the role you are given, which you will live and breathe, or you don't. I think nowadays we accept mediocrity in acting and praise it as AMAZING. At the end of the day prestigious awards don't mean anything, because we constantly see actors winning awards because it's either politically incorrect if they do not win the award, or there is buzz around the film which is generated by media in terms of internet forums, magazines, online publications, and the actions of these particular actors. As film viewers we are all bias about who our favourite actors are because it's our personal taste. For example I am more likely to see a film with Stallone in it rather than a film containing Megan Fox. Are we slowly losing the high level of talent to the inevitable fate of death or is the upcoming talent just taking a while to find their feet? Or are we as film viewers so nostalgic that we cannot let go of the classics?

Cinema has come along way since the silent film era, so many films have been shaped by times, events that our society has lived through. Films have flourished because they have been made at the right time for all the right reasons, while some were left behind. There are many actors which I only discovered several years ago which made me sad, because when I finally got around to seeing their films and loving them, I just wished I could have viewed them earlier. Film is so broad, it's got many twists and turns, many alleyways and avenues, but everything goes full circle and everything is somehow linked. Actors from different eras have come and gone, some were more famous than others, and some were very underrated. Being underrated to this day still happens. Sometimes it's the choices the actors make for themselves in terms of what films they want to attach their name to, sometimes the direction they are given isn't the best, or sometimes they just get overlooked completely because Hollywood has a flavour of the month because of the actors private life. It's actually quite a shame that actors get recognition because of what is going on in their private life. For example there could be a health issue, surrounding them and because their story has intrigued readers, film lovers, and film companies,  feel if they cast these actors, viewers will be able to relate to them more, and what do you get from that? More seats sold at your local theater and more session times which equals more cash to line the studio's pockets.

As a culture we are so invested into their private lives than their films that it is starting to seem more important for them to be a Celebrity rather than an actor.  We allow mediocrity because we are used to it, we are used to zero challenges in film.  I am not saying that certain genres are dumb because the plot is simple, to the point, knows exactly what it is, because let's face it, Action films are the most honest genre. You may think I am being bias, and yeah maybe I am a little, but with an action film you know what you are getting, and if you happen to get a few surprises along the way, that is just a bonus. Critics, film viewers and film companies do not mind being slanderous to the action genre because of the self aware cheesy acting, however you will not have companies slandering a film like 'My Sister's Keeper' despite it's terrible cast and acting, because it is a film about Cancer. I watch a lot of films, and it just saddens me to see where the film industry is going. While there are some actors now which you can see the direction they are heading, and it gets you excited for them, you can't help but wonder if  one day they too will become mediocre because it will be more of an advantage to them Are we as an audience too embarrassed to say we like an actor or a style of film because it's adventurous, different, honest or just purely there for your entertainment? Viewers and critics claim they want to see a film with credibility, a strong story line and narrative, but get so mixed up in rich visuals, a best selling soundtrack, and flavour of the month actors that they couldn't tell you what a strong narrative is.

It isn't just the actors fault though that we are accepting mediocrity. When you see a film that is glossy, bright, colourful, spectacular and just overall extravagant, you become so enthralled with what your seeing, because it's the first time your eyes have been treated to such an amazing visual feast. And at times that is a great thing to experience, but there are times that is done purely for the fact they needed to attach a big name to the project and they want you to be distracted from the overrated acting. It's not exactly rocket science, but it seems as though visuals are a huge life saver for a big scale production. And now with Blu Ray DVD's it seems it's more evident that people are willing to shell out the thirty bucks for a film with glossy visuals and zero substance. And if that is what you like, that's fine, but don't kid yourself into thinking that it's a brilliant film because of the acting. There are some masterpieces which do have it all when it comes to the script, direction, story, visuals etc, and it's those films which people will always remember. But there are a lot of films which are just filler, a quick buck and are disguised as future classics.

To be a great, powerful actor, you need the intensity within yourself to capture the audiences attention to the point they cannot look away. Intensity can be subtle but effective, or it can be so over the top it feels like you are getting hit with a sledgehammer. Either way it works for all the right reasons. Some of the most intense actors are method actors and actors who are known not just for the silver screen but also for the stage. You have to possess an extraordinary talent to be consistently amazing on stage. You have to practice to the point that you are living the characters life, so when you are on stage, the audience isn't even there, the script you have  memorised is embedded into your brain, heart, flesh, just your whole being. What will happen when the Ian Mckellen's of the film industry die? John Giulgud and Laurence Olivier are now playing Hamlet and Richard III in their own theater heaven, but even though they are no longer with us, their legacy will remain. Their achievements will never be erased.

When we look at actors today that are making a big name for themselves, do they have what it takes to have their  achievements so concrete and set in stone? Are we going to have another Brando? McQueen? Olivier? Pacino? Will we have actors portraying such iconic roles, that the film industry and pop culture will be vastly effected by it? Sure I do believe that there are talented actors that are making a name for themselves and I do believe they can reach that same height that DeNiro has, however the amount of actors that will reach that height, will be a lot less. It is so easy to be an actor these days compared to the hard work you had to put in all those years ago. It seems as if you can be on a reality TV show and then just get a semi good agent and get a film role. The lack of talent is actually astounding, but what is even more surprising is that they get good roles given to them. But hey if you have an active Twitter account, a blossoming love life which intrigues magazines and their readers, then you have a better chance of getting constant work, than someone who is a struggling actor working two jobs and actually studying to be an actor.

I think back to a lot of books that I have read and documentaries that I have seen on the film industry and I know there is one thing for certain, there is no privacy anymore. It's the private life which defines their profession and their acting roles. For example if there is an actor who has come out as homosexual they are now known as John Smith 'gay actor'. But why should them being gay affect their job? If I was gay it's like saying Jade Lindley 'gay casual sales clerk', yet that isn't the correct job title, so why is it so important to attach any kind of label about the actor to their job? The same thing could be said about Lindsay Lohan and how the words 'troubled actor' or 'troubled former child star' go hand in hand in every article. Why are we letting the private lives define their job? Oliver Reed is a perfect example of a scapegoat in the film industry. He was by several accounts loud, brutally honest, uncaring, and just overall a bit of a prick who enjoyed his alcohol a little too much. But that is how people remember him now, they do not recall him in such films as 'Oliver!' or 'Burnt Offerings'. Yet nowadays you can have nude photos circulating, a sex tape that sees the light of day, you can also make racist and Anti-Semitic comments, and you can still get a big pay check, a reality show, and constant work in the industry. It just becomes more and more clear to me, that a lot of these actors are more than fine with just pissing on the path that was created for them. I am not saying all classic actors are saints, because they were not. But we are coming to the end of the classic actors who could be alcoholics, drug users mentally and psychologically unstable and they were still coherent enough to show the world how to convey emotion and be completely believable.

Am I being too nostalgic? Possibly. Am I being too bias? Probably. But do I have a write to be concerned that the acting ability is going down the toilet? As a film lover, I do believe I have that right. I am only twenty five years old, and I cannot convey the amount of jealousy I have for the people who got to experience these classic actors when they were young, up and coming and just surprising the world with their talent. Because now when you see up and coming actors, you see Disney Channel actors getting big roles, which their tiny feet just can't fill. You see constant superhero films which cannot convey the right amount of emotion because they take themselves too seriously and are cold. You see the same mold of how women should look in films and portraying such a pathetic and stupid ideal of women, and not actually bothering to look past their fake boob jobs and see how real women look and act. The film industry has always been fake, I mean it makes sense right, it's about hiring people to pretend to be someone else. But let's face it, everything is so cluttered now, that the film industry just doesn't make any sense. Do I sound bitter? Yeah I would say I do. Is my movie taste impeccable? By no means, I have always admitted I loved terrible films however, I can straight up accept that I like certain films that can just switch off my brain for a little while, and there are hundreds of films that I have watched many times which are like that. But I can also see them for what they are. I don't watch mindless action movies, creature features, and just bargain bin fun and say they are films with strong acting, narrative and direction, but I can get a lot of enjoyment out of it. I don't watch complete turds of film and label them as cinematic masterpieces. I don't kid myself. And neither should other people. There isn't anything wrong with seeing an ambitious blockbusters, or comedies which switch off your brain, because I do it too. I love to switch off my brain and not have to think about what is going on in my life. And that is the joy of film making. I can accept average actors because they can be quite enjoyable, but I just refuse to put them up on a pedestal of greatness because they win an empty award or have a very public private life. I think because we are exposed to so much through the internet, people just start to believe whatever they are told and think it's the word of the Film God...whoever it is. It goes down to mass hysteria, if a lot of people talk about it, it MUST be true.   

Monday, August 12, 2013

Kickboxer - My Flashback

Do you ever go to one of those sale outlet stores that sell really cheap things, like appliances, clothes, candy? I do, I always go in those kind of stores because I know somewhere deep into the store, lurking in the back aisle are the DVD stands. The DVD's people think aren't worthy enough to sell for over $5. The ones who look like the covers have been ripped off the VHS, the films people forget, or the films that the supplier decided to buy rights to because they thought that some loser out there would buy it, and they would make a quick buck. I am that loser. I have found many hidden gems in bargain bins over the years such as 'King of the Kickboxers', 'Shaolin Drunken Monk' and 'Hunt to Kill'. But there is one film I thought I never thought I would see in the bargain bin for $4.99, it was a film I hold so close to my heart, a film which in my opinion is the greatest American Martial Arts film of all time...'Kickboxer'. My reaction wasn't total sadness because when I saw the DVD cover it was an exact rip off of the VHS, which got me thinking is this the original cut version with no dubbing and all scenes intact, I bought it with hopes that it was the Holy Grail I had been searching for. I took it home, settled in bed with a Cherry Coke and turned it on...But I was to be disappointed, AGAIN. And then the reality of the adventure of buying it for $4.99 sunk in. It got me thinking about why was such a great film just tossed aside? Why was this in the bargain bin? Why wasn't this recognised for the violent masterpiece that it is?  Is this a film that the supplier could only get rights to? Or was it a film they knew some loser like me would buy? I felt a little crushed. My love for 'Kickboxer' started a long time ago...get ready...I can feel a flashback coming on...but first the run down.

Here we have two brothers Eric and Kurt Sloane. Eric is a word kickboxing champion and decides that he is finally ready to take on foreign fighters because well he is as he says 'kicking ass wherever he goes'...so he and Kurt go to Thailand to fight their greatest fighter, 'Tiger' Tong Po. Kurt notices straight away from walking into the arena that the fighting style is so different to Eric's, for a start it looks a lot brutal, which plants the seed of worry inside Kurt's head. Once inside the locker rooms, Kurt encounters Tong Po and sees him kicking down a cement pillar as a warm up exercise...that is normal right? Kurt tries to warn Eric but of course his 80's 'Soul Glo' hair-do has seeped through his skull and into his brain and made him think he is actually better than what he is. Eric goes out there and from the moment he is in the ring, Tong Po just slaughters him. These 'doctors' take Eric on a stretcher and leave him outside with Kurt and lock the door so they can't get back in. But lucky for Kurt he encounters Taylor, the Vietnam veteran who is a weapons expert. They take Eric to the hospital and then the waiting begins....and then BANG it's official Eric is paralysed. Kurt's mind is foggy with emotions that he decides he wants to take on Tong Po, and Taylor tells him he isn't good enough to fight him. Kurt then vanishes and walks around Thailand in a form of a montage. Once back in the city he encounters Taylor yet again who says he knows a man called Xian who may teach him the Muay Thai ways. And what do you know, that wisecracking old Xian does teach him the ancient ways and with a lot of discipline with training exercises, montages and incorporating dance with fighting, Kurt proves he is worthy to go inside the ring with Tong Po.  Oh...the flashback is starting...

The year is 1993, I was 5 years old and I took a trip down to my local video store with my older brother. As you can imagine I never got first choice of the movies, I had to watch whatever my brother wanted. Sometimes having my brother choose what we watched didn't work out because I would either be so bored I would end up playing outside, but this particular day would change the course of my life. My brother rented a film called 'Kickboxer', I remember thinking to myself 'What is with the random colourful glass on this man hand wraps', but judging aside I rolled with it. After buying a dollars worth of cola bottles which bought you a lot back in those days, we went on our way home to indulge in what would eventually be one of my favourite films of all time.  Needless to say the film was a roller-coaster for me because one minute I was fired up, then sad, then scared because of Tong Po but then I would fire up again, I learnt new words watching this film one of which was the word rape...yes I was confused as hell as what that word meant for a year or so. But that aside, I walked away from this film just in complete amazement. I remember trying to tell my friends at school about the film, and since boy/girl germs were around back then I wasn't allowed to talk to the boys, so I had to explain the story line to a bunch of girls; they were not impressed. In my life I have moved to a lot of different places, which meant a lot of different memberships at different video stores, and a common occurrence that happened as majority of these video stores was that the clerks and I were always on a first name basis and secondly they all commented on how much I rented 'Kickboxer'. 'Kickboxer was my safety blanket, it made me feel invincible. I went to an all girls school, and let's face it a girl like me didn't stand a chance there, so every week of twelfth grade I rented 'Kickboxer' every week(no exaggeration) and would watch that in a double bill of 'Enter the Dragon'.

'Kickboxer' is a magnificent American Martial Arts films, and I do believe it's an acquired taste. I have found you either love this more than 'Bloodsport' or you don't. And well I do. I think the story behind this is far more grittier than 'Bloodsport' and well it's a story based around revenge, and I am sure the readers of my stuff know by now, that I have a lot of love  for revenge stories. I think 'Kickboxer' really shows off Van Damme's acting chops and should be commended for it. I mean sure there are montages in this film, but you can't take away the fact that he is really giving it the old college try in terms of his acting. And some of you may laugh at me for saying this but he really is one of my favourite actors as well as martial artists. I do believe he is very well rounded and can actually possess a lot of emotion with his acting. He is a man out for revenge, and he looks like a pretty pissed off guy who would love nothing more than to rip Tong Po's heart out. It was believable. I know some of you may be thinking I am reading too much into this film, and you can think that, but I know this film isn't going out to win Oscars, so I can see the effort that went into all aspects of the film, and I think everyone played their parts perfect . Sure this film is a little over the top, but what American Martial Arts film aren't? I mean majority of what happens in these films do not happen in real life, but if any of you do know of any underground fighting tournaments of any kind that are happening I would love to know about them.

I really did enjoy Van Damme's portrayal of Kurt Sloane because he has a huge heart. If he didn't he wouldn't have been able to go on this conquest of revenge and justice for his brother. You see him make a genuine change in character throughout the film, because he starts off as more of a shy kind of guy who is semi okay at martial arts, but he listens, he lives and breathes everything Xian is teaching him about Muay Thai. It isn't just about the physicality and the skill it's about the heart and mind that you possess to take you all the way. And Kurt does reach that high level that Xian wanted him to reach. I also found that Kurt is a lot less naive as he is learning about himself with this new training, it is crazy how some things like that can change you and give you a new perspective on things. Now you can't leave out Michel Qissi's performance of Tong Po. For such a long time I thought that Tong Po was a real person, but when I discovered IMDB in my early teens I realised Tong Po was fictional...I won't lie, I was slightly disappointed. But either way you cannot help but love Tong Po as a character. I mean look at him he is freakin' scary. I think what added to his menacing quality that he had was the fact that he didn't speak much, he didn't need to, he let his martial arts skill do the talking. Even now when I watch 'Kickboxer' I just feel worried of what Tong Po could do if you bumped into him in an alley way, late at night in the dark...it's a scary thought isn't it. Tong Po is a great martial arts villain, who totally stands out and any American Martial Arts film fanatic could never forget Qissi's portrayal. I would even say it's that good, it rivals Bolo's portrayal of Chong Li in 'Bloodsport'. And lastly you cannot talk about 'Kickboxer' without mentioning Dennis Chan's portrayal of Uncle Xian. I loved the duality of his character because one minute he is a wisecracking old man with life lessons lying underneath his jokes, and then he would switch and be completely serious and a no nonsense kind of guy. You can see just  by looking at Xian he has seen and experienced some shit, so while he does take a serious approach at times, he does learn to laugh at the world in his own unique way.

The fight choreography in 'Kickboxer' is amazing, and I definitely think it is one of Van Damme's finest work. However if you do not remember the original cut of the film then you would have missed out a lot of the parts of the final fight between Kurt and Tong Po. I love the fact that this was so violent, and it was violent in a B grade movie kinda way. The fight scenes weren't glossy. Sure there are parts where there is a slow motion part or two when you see the impact of Van Damme's graceful helicopter kick, but otherwise I would say the fighting isn't sleek in the well polished way. It is beautifully choreographed but in a rough, and very violent way. The music is brilliant because Stan Bush graces his talents in the opening credits with his hit 'Streets of Siam'. That song alone sets the tone for the entire film. The musical score by Hertzog was nothing short of superb. Because while at times it can be very soft and it is something you can meditate to, it can also fire you up because the music totally hits your core. It's truly inspiring music.

'Kickboxer' is a film which tattooed in my brain, I can't tell you how many times I have seen it, but I know it line for line and scene for scene. If you wanted me to perform this in a Shakespearian style play I could do it. So when this FINALLY got released on DVD in Australia back in either 2008 or 2009, I was happy, one of the happiest days of my life when it came in that red box at work. I held it in my arms and made it clear that this DVD was going to have a safe home on my 'Most Watched Movies Shelf'...I took it home and realised something straight away, Eric was dubbed...badly. I then also noticed that scenes were cut out, and certain frames from scenes were cut out, but then they took away several things which disgusted me more than anything. The final fight is approaching and there was a scene where Tong Po dipped his hands in the box of broken glass which were then stuck to his hand wraps, and then licked the glass just to show how badass he was...yeah well that got taken out. And then I realised something else...the fight was cut up so much it wasn't like the original any more. It felt out of sync, it didn't flow as well as the original cut, my heart sank. I felt like I had been cheated out of being able to experience a film it was originally intended to being viewed. To this day the closest thing I have found to the original is the Supreme Edition that a guy has made and put on Youtube.  'Kickboxer' is a highly influential film in my life, it shaped a portion of my taste in film, it supported me when I was getting bullied, it entertained me for so many hours and 20 years on that film still manages to blow my mind. The original cut might be out of my reach right now, and while it is harder to capture than Carmen Sandiego, I know I will find it, and I will be able to enjoy it the same way I did all those years ago on VHS.

If it wasn't for Jean-Claude Van Damme, I wouldn't have been into these films, and I wouldn't have the passion for film that I have today, so thank you so much for being in 'Kickboxer' and showing me how awesome and timeless films can be. 

Thursday, August 1, 2013

The Beast

Horror films these days lack a lot of heart, and are just out to make a quick buck. There are a few horror films which do stand out from the back but do you know why films like 'The Conjuring' and the Hammer Horror remake of 'The Woman in Black' do stand out? It is because they are retold in the classic horror manner. No matter what sub genre of horror you are interested in, whether they are ghost stories, Giallo or Splatter, when they have classic elements they just above the rest. When watching the short film 'The Beast', I could't get the original Universal Monsters out of my mind. It just had a classic feel, sure the story is something that has been used before but this was rehashed in a fresh way. You can always make films with a very familiar story with classic elements and a new direction. But unfortunately most people would rather make a horror film with zero heart, narrative and story because it makes them a quick buck.

Here is the run down. A troubled father( Bill Oberst Jr) takes his son Jacob( Alexander Le Bas) into the words along with Jacobs uncle Douglas( Peter Le Bas) . Not much is revealed at first but it is definite that Jacob has a problem which can only be resolved by taking him into the forrest and tying him to a tree. Before the full moon hits, Jacob asks his dad to untie him so he can pee in the bushes, unsure at first he decides it would be unfair to not let him go. Once Douglas finds out about this he isn't happy, and then Jacob is nowhere to be found...well not in human form anyway. This film was shot amazingly well, the camera angles which were chosen to reflect moods and tones were spot on, and really added a great texture to the visuals. I am also going to compare this short film to what Spielberg did for 'Jaws'. In 'Jaws' you don't see the shark, for the first half of the film, everything is left up to your imagination, and let's face it, your imagination can run as wild as you like, and can create some scary images. In 'The Beast' you don't see the werewolf in full view in the daylight, you see a dark figure, you see close ups of his eyes, you hear him and you see the consequences of Jacobs actions. That to me is just as thrilling and scary as seeing everything in full view because it's all about the mystery, you can let your mind orchestrate the story.

Peter Dukes strikes gold again with 'The Beast', and it makes me so excited to see the finish product of it when it becomes a full length feature film. This is definitely a film which can go far, and I think it will strike the right chord with classic horror fans. Horror is a genre which die hard fans take personally, its a big part of their identity and shapes them as people, most of my friends are horror fanatics, and I can tell you that they would love to see where a film like this goes. I definitely enjoyed the musical score to 'The Beast' because again it had a classic feel to it, and it had a mysterious and menacing quality about it. And sure that might sound dramatic, but these kind of films are not meant to be subtle. All the ingredients just melted together and added different layers which overall shaped the film to its final product. I am so happy that film makers like Peter Dukes exist, because he has so many tricks up his sleeve, his ideas are fantastic, original and authentic, nothing seems fake or forced. I am definitely looking forward to seeing the finished product, and seeing what else Peter can bring to the table to excite the audiences senses.

Here is the video for 'The Beast'. Enjoy!

Little Reaper

I love watching films which have a dark side to them, and I find if you throw in a comedic twist to the darkness, and it's crafted well, you can have such an amazing piece of film on your hands. But let's face it there aren't many that can pull that off to perfection. 'Little Reaper' on the other hand is truly imaginative and it possesses a slight horror vibe with dark comedy, and it is pulled off with ease. You can see the word that has gone into this short film, and after viewing this, I do want to see where it could go. There are many short films out there that cannot suck you in, because they do not develop the characters and they have a very 'beige' narrative. 'Little Reaper' knows exactly what it is and where it is going, and if given the recognition and the time and support, this film could go somewhere. Film maker Peter Dukes has quite a special story on his hands, and there are so many avenues in which he could take this.

The rundown is very simple here we have Little Reaper who is the teenage daughter of the Grim Reaper, and he now wants to give her some responsibility, he wants her to realise she will be following in his footsteps, so she has to do his job for a day; hey it's the only way she will be un-grounded and what teenager wants to be grounded right? She begins her day watching people who are at risk of dying and as they do she doesn't collect their souls because she is too busy on the phone sorting out her social life. It's a very simple premise, easy to follow, and the results of narrative are fun and very enjoyable.  Athena Baumeister portrays Little Reaper and what can I say, she relishes in this role, it was so natural and the father/daughter dynamic between her and her dad the Grim Reaper played by John Paul Ouvrier, was so natural and authentic. You can really believe this relationship exists.

I really enjoyed the score to this film because it reminded me of a Danny Elfman film score, and that music really helped the mood and overall tone of the film. Music is such a powerful thing and if it's used to a point where it can describe the mood of the story and the characters journey, then its definitely successful. While this would be extremely interesting to see if it got made into a live action feature film, I think this would be brilliant to watch in an animated form which is similar to 'Corpse Bride' and 'A Nightmare Before Christmas', because it definitely does have the same aura as those films, but it's original and definitely not a copy.

I thoroughly enjoyed 'Little Reaper', and I really hope that something more becomes of this short film, because it is truly enjoyable, fun, and it has a lot of ideas and a strong sense of direction. It is really exciting seeing such a high bar set for a short film, I hope to see more from the film maker and the actors involved, because they did such a fantastic job, which is definitely well above average.

Here is the video so you can check it out!