Saturday, April 21, 2012

Dragons Forever (or Love is a Conveyor Belt of Warmth)

Three Stooges + Awesomazing Kung Fu = 
This movie!!!

So, after watching Shaolin a couple of weeks ago, we realized we hadn't yet touched on much of the super awesome greatness of Jackie Chan. Feeling entirely remiss in our tributary duties, we immediately picked the most readily available Jackie Chan movie, that was not Rush Hour, and got to work. Thus we discovered "Dragons Forever", the last film (so far) starring The Three Brothers; Jackie Chan, Sammo Hung and Yuen Biao.

Now, if you've never seen a Three Brothers movie and haven't the faintest idea what we're talking about, these three guys attended acting school together and liked it so much they decided to make some films, resulting in some pretty fabulous Kung Fu movie mojo. Hung also directed the film, which has bad-guy appearances from Yuen Wah (Kung Fu Hustle) and kickboxer Benny Urquidez. aka - He knows what he's doing.

This film is craziness filled with craziness that begins about 30 seconds after hitting the play button. So since there were practically no opening credits we're going to follow suit and just jump right in, shall we?

The players (and the first 20 minutes of the film):

Our hero is Jackie Lung (Jackie Chan, who in the subtitles of our version is called Johnny, but everything else I can find calls the character Jackie, so we're going with that), a smooth-talking lawyer (or so he thinks) who does a pretty fantastic job of defending big businessmen types who have obviously actually done something wrong. He's good at his job, but doesn't seem to think much of his clients. And he's a ladies man. Or... again, so he thinks. He represents....

Mr. Hua (Yuen Wah), one bad dude who won't think twice before having you shot. He owns Hua's Chemical Works, some kind of nondescript factory that does who knows what (give you three guesses). This factory is pumping out toxic chemicals that are poisoning the water of a nearby fish pond owned by...

Miss Yip (Miss Yeh in our version... seriously, whoever wrote these subtitles just made them up as they went along...), an unmarried 40-something trying to keep her family's fishery afloat. She refuses to settle out of court, wanting only to see the factory shut down. Miss Yip's key witness for her case against Mr. Hua's factory is...

Her fancy and beautiful geologist cousin, Nancy Lee, who has spent years abroad studying poisoned water, apparently. And who wants nothing to do with Jackie Lung and his invitations to lunch.

Jackie's friend Luke (Sammo Hung), a fight instructor turned weapons dealer who will hand you a machete, still be able to kick your assets aaaaaaand  be entirely hilarious while doing it. Jackie hires him to woo Miss Yip and get her to sell the fish pond to end the dispute with his client for a sizable monetary reward.

And Jackie's other friend Tim (Biao Yuen), who is all around a rather eccentric and shady kind of fella, being that he's some kind of criminal-for-hire who keeps fish in tubes and likes to jump over furniture in absolutely ridiculous ways. Jackie hires him to plant a bug in Miss Yip's house. Pay attention to this dude... he's got the slickest moves we've ever seen and think his own films will definitely merit some awesome future reviews. Yes... yes, I think they will.

The year is 1988 and, as anyone who grew up during that time knows, the year is OBVIOUS because the men's cell phones are almost as big as the women's shoulder pads. The music sounds like it just may have been stolen from a Charlie Chaplin film. Aaand, we're pretty sure Sammo Hung had just coined some kind of Chinese term for a booty call.

... And now we have the basis for the next 80 minutes of pure entertainment.

SO, Luke moves in next door to Miss Yip, and via super technologically advanced headgear is able to listen through the wall to spy on her for Jackie. He overhears a conversation between Miss Yip and Nancy about how badly Miss Yip needs a boyfriend.

I had to watch this move on repeat...

While he's listening in, he happens to hear Tim breaking in to plant his bug... because honestly, while his acrobatics look great, Tim is not very covert. Not that I don't wish I could dive behind a couch like that... seriously, who doesn't? Not knowing who Tim is or that Jackie hired him, Luke catches Tim in Miss Yip's apartment, and an entirely awesome exchange of Wushu sticky hands proportions ensues, ending in a vase of gladiolas meeting Tim's head. The ladies have Tim arrested and Luke is deemed a hero.

Jackie, not knowing what went down at Miss Yip's, bails Tim out of jail and sends him on his way. At the police station, he runs into the "fish ladies" and finally gets Nancy to agree to have dinner with him. And is a dork the whole time. I've never seen such an epic date-making fail.

But there's a bigger epic fail!!! 
 The actual date...

Which turns out to be entirely hysterical. Jackie has Nancy over to his apartment, where he has strategically hidden a CasioTone under the couch in permanent "demo" mode for atmosphere. While he's trying to be suave, which is not working out so hot, Tim and Luke both show up at Jackie's apartment, and he hides them in his bedroom to keep Nancy from seeing them and figuring out his plot. Of course Luke still thinks Tim is a burglar, Jackie doesn't have time to explain, and misunderstandings abound. Closets explode, beatings ensue, and Nancy is abruptly ejected from Jackie's apartment, oblivious, bewildered, and no closer to getting Jackie to help her fishy cousin's case.

After beating the stuffins out of one another, and completely disgusted, the three very bruised and sad looking men head out to the bar for what the subtitles say is tea, but looks enough like 2% milk that I am now wishing I had a bag of Oreos handy.

Again, with the flying kicking thing!
And yes, both that guy's knee
and face got it on this one.
While Jackie tries to smooth things over with his friends, Mr. Hua (who has never met Jackie despite their legal relationship) shows up at the club. One of Hua's men recognizes Jackie and insists on introducing them. Jackie pretends that Tim and Luke are his associates (because that would just be a cracker-jack legal team) and they chat about the case for a moment before a group of rival bad dudes shows up and tries to take out Hua and his posse. Jackie and friends defend Mr. Hua in epic fashion (though mostly just to save their own butts) and are immediately pegged by the rivals as some kind of dream team/elite bodyguard force.

So now that Jackie has established himself as a force to be reckoned with (pffffft... ha ha ha), Hua's enemies obviously want him out of the way. But since he's oblivious to that, he's decided to try another date with Nancy. So he sticks her in a speedboat, in which he has again strategically hidden the CasioTone, and takes her out to lunch on a cruise ship. But it's a trap! Don't ask us how, but somehow Hua's enemies know that Jackie has chartered the whole ship and have planted their own people as the ship's crew. They attack Jackie and chase him about the boat in a display of generalized Jackie Chan finery and choas and intense feats of acrobatics that include so many broken things we forgot to count. Nancy, having been in the restroom the whole time, has again missed all of the excitement and has no idea what is going on when Jackie whisks her off the boat without any lunch.

Luke is having horrible luck with Miss Yip, having asked her out again and being turned down flat. Though why I'm not entirely sure, because Sammo Hung is just too dang cute. But he tells her when and where, and she insists she won't show up. Witch. Especially since he is obviously smitten and no longer in it for the money.

Best Guy trick E-V-A-R!!!

Come time for the date, he is waiting for her at the restaurant when she shows up to spy on him, to see if he's for real. He catches her spying, and chases her down the street with a bullhorn. Which in my book is the Chinese equivalent of the final scene of 'Say Anything' and increases the cuteness factor of this film by about one hundred fold. She finally gives in, and they head off for dinner together.

And now for the Piece De Resistance...

What's an 80's movie without a montage? Here we're treated to a completely adorable love montage of Jackie/Nancy and Luke/Miss Yip dates, set to a soundtrack that we can only hope is a tragic victim of the subtitle translator. Otherwise love really is a conveyor belt of warmth... and we don't even know what to say about that. Nor do we know what any of the characters said during the montage, because someone felt the silly lyrics translation was far more important than any dialogue possibly could be.

So the couples appear to be at least pretty fond of each other now... but it doesn't seem to be helping anyone's legal case, and no one really seems to care. Luke does ask Miss Yip to sell the fishpond, but it seems more like a legitimate plea for her to run away with him, complete with a really freaking adorable song and dance that I would have said yes to in a heartbeat. And, after we stopped giggling. Miss Yip informs Luke that anyone she marries would inherit the fishpond, but he doesn't seem to care much. Ahhh... love.

Meanwhile, Jackie and Nancy are juggling produce and knives in Nancy's kitchen when Tim shows up in an off-the-wall attempt to kill Nancy so she won't sue him for breaking into her house the first time. Luke and Miss Yip return home as Jackie is throwing Tim out of the house, and Tim (being all worked up like he is) blurts out the entire plan, bug, wooing and all, in front of the ladies. Entirely pissed off, both women storm into the house and slam the door. Then Jackie, Luke and Tim do an awesome Three Stooges Kung Fu routine in the parking lot, which pretty much makes the whole film worth watching.

(We recommend fast fwd to the 8:30 minute mark to see the REALLY good stuff.)

The next day, Luke stands in front of Miss Yip's car so she'll stop and then tells her he loves her. She then proceeds to beat him in the head with a wrench (1:54 seconds in the clip below), which I guess makes her feel better, because she immediately feels bad for busting his head open in s gooshing blood manner and thus asks him to help them figure out what is going on at Hua's chemical factory.

Arriving back at Miss Yip's house, they run into stone-washed 80's Denim Jackie (3:20 in the clip below), who they blow off. They also run into Tim (3:40 in the clip below), who has broken into their house again to ask that they drop the charges from when he broke in the first time. Nancy tells him she's not going to sue him, and he and Luke (who are now best friends, having decided that Jackie is the jerk who started the whole mess) run off to investigate Hua.

Now, in addition to the couch jumping, I would also like to learn to navigate halls like Tim... very stealthy. He and Luke run around the factory in entirely conspicuous clothing taking pictures without aiming their cameras.

(Starting at 4:20 seconds in the clip shown below. And trust me... this one is entirely cool)

OK, so... despite the fact that they are able to determine that Hua is making heroine, we firmly feel that we can state without misgivings that they both suck at recon duty. They are almost immediately found out, and Luke is captured by Hua's henchman (Benny Urquidez) and shot full of heroine, only after standing in the middle of the "production catwalk" like a giant lummox. Tim escapes, utilizing his wicked moves, in order to get help.

Now, we have to take a moment here to discuss our late great discovery of Mr. Benny 'The Jet' Urquidez. He appears at the end of this scene and you will UNDBOUTEDLY say, "OOOOOOh... THAT GUY!!!" And honestly, though he may have a funny last name, and we could absolutely blow off his contributions to this film by just referring to him as "that guy with the excessive cheekbones and eyeliner" and move on... but that honestly wouldn't do this absolute tough guy ANY justice.
Oh "80's", how you could manage to take a perfectly brutal
guy and reduce him to questionable gender neutrality...

During our research we found that this man has (supposedly) earned black belts in nine different martial arts and has an impressive (if not controversial) karate record of 63-0 with 57 KO's in title defenses. How much of this is true we're not exactly sure, as different resources report different records, but one thing is for certain - this guy is a certified bad-ass. His Momma was a bad-ass... his Daddy was a bad-ass. So just accept it, he could kill you with a wink of his nearly indiscernable eyelashes, were it not for all that eyeliner.


So while Benny is pumping Luke full of drugs, Hua's hearing is underway and Nancy is testifying on Miss Yip's behalf. During his cross-examination, Jackie gets Nancy to admit on the stand that she loves him, and he withdraws from the case based on a conflict of interest. And again with the CasioTone, presumably hidden under the defendant's table.

As everyone is leaving the courthouse, Tim shows up to let them know that Luke has been captured. Jackie, Nancy and Tim rush to the factory to find their friend. Hua arrives at the factory at the same time as our heroes and hollers out a very cliche 'Get them!!' that begins an over-the-top final battle. Jackie and friends deliver some serious beatings, break at least 11 different panes of glass and 3 spines, fashion nunchucks from microphone (the 50 second mark in this film clip), and smash a ridiculous number of faces. Of course it all comes down to Jackie, Benny and Hua, during which someone went waaay overboard with the punching noises, and Jackie is almost squished by falling narcotics before quite literally ripping his shirt off and displaying the biceps of death. Mr. Hua has his moments... in a martial arts meets Groucho Marx kind of way... before Luke takes him out with a poisoned needle, causing him to invent the Zombie stance (which is an epic fail) before he dies a terrible twitchy death. And poor, misguided Benny gets creamed too. The guys get the girls, and the movie abruptly ends with police sirens and more conveyor belts of warmth.

Full of one-liners, goofiness and a whoooooole lotta punching, we couldn't help but love this film. The storyline is not very plausible, and some of the acting is less than stellar, and you really just have to forgive the 80's for being what it was... but it's so very entertaining! We couldn't believe the gem we had found! I'm still completely puzzled as to what Dragons have to do with anything, but I guess we can just forgive the title too.

Dragons Forever is currently available for instant viewing on Netflix, and can probably be found at your local brick and mortar as well. 'Til next time, may love be your conveyor belt of warmth. Whatever that means.

~The Mavens

Friday, April 13, 2012

The Purple Hooded Ninja...
Because "The Purple Hooded Man" doesn't sound as fierce.

This week we have chosen to go waaAAAaaay back in the annals of Martial Arts Movie history to review a little known early Japanese film, The Purple Hood Man/Purple Hooded Ninja. Which is the correct name? I have no idea, and so most of the signs, credits, and part of the dialogue are out of my grasp. However, because the "History of the Ninja: 10 pack" box set calls it "The Purple Hooded Ninja"...this is what we're going to go with.

Now, this is a significantly older film and there isn't much information on it with regard to its exact date of production, who stars in it, who directed it, etc. HOWEVER, after significant searching we were able to ascertain that this is the 1958 production of "The Purple Hooded Man", starring Katakoka Chiezo, Satomi Kotaro, and Tsukigata Ryunosuke... none of whom we are familiar with, and was directed by Onishi Hideaki.

MJ and the dueling Ninja's of sweetness
Now, before we get too far in this week's installment of Punch In the Neck, we need to warn you that generalized goofiness unfolded, and we started watching the film on a mega sugar high as a result of the Ninjalicious Ninja cupcakes we put together.

After about two or three of those bad guys, we had to crack out the Ninja-stashery unit (aka, Gladware), and house our army of sweet, sweet Ninja until another day.

OK... so onto this classic Ninja-esque movie of 1950's Japanese finery.

Our film opens in the year 1787. I believe this whole thing is in reference to the end of a famine that ran from 1782-1787. The famine was cause by a volcanic eruption, and ended up causing both wide spread famine, foraging, and cannibalism. True story. The Shogun at the time were pretty much useless, and that's depicted fairly well in this film.

We walk in on a scene where the "Shogun Mantle", if there is one, is being passed on from the recently deceased leader (Lord Owari) to the newly appointed Shogun (Lord Tanuma), aka "Senior Bad-Guy", via the Elder Counsel. Because this is a highly technical Japanese film FILLED with characters with really long names and very fast subtitles. So, we're going to stick with names like "Senior Bad-Guy" and "Banditos".. because that's the cupcakes talkin'.

SO, the new guy gets appointed. Shifty eyed guy to his left states that the death of the "Man Formerly Known As Shogun" was suspicions. Talking/Shouting erupts... we thought FOR SURE there was going to be a "Yo' MAMA" moment just four minutes in. But, the scene closes with the guys wearing enormous shoulder pads. 

Senior Bad-Guy retires to his quarters only to be "bombarded" by the requests of  "the people". (Pesky Greedy Merchants and Commoners that pay your wages...) He is obviously inconvenienced with his job. It really cuts into his laying around time. HOWEVER, he chooses to get up and greet his minions, whereupon they talk generalized business regarding non-specified "stuff and things". Just then, a new character enters named Kaku. Who is this man? Why has he arrived and interrupted this generalized BS session? 

We have no idea at this time. However, he thinks it's a good idea to hold a super, highly secretive conversation with Senior Bad-Guy behind that sliding paper wall. Yes men... the walls are LITERALLY made of paper in this house. And guess what? I'm pretty sure the three merchants heard what you said! You guys are OBVIOUSLY not Ninja.

Insert the next scene with darkly dressed, hooded guys creeping around. They are obviously Ninja. They sneak up on their unsuspecting prey, who is one of the merchants from the previous scene... I think. If this is the case, then Kaku is the gunman...errr... I mean swordsman who does the deed. As they begin to make their slow-motion escape from the victim's home, they meet... (Insert dramatic DUN, DUN, DUUUUUUN...)

(No, not Ninja. Just a man according to him)

Naturally, a fight ensues and the Ninja Banditos are beaten. Of course, rather than saying "RUN" or "RETREAT", they say "WITHDRAW!" What... are you going to the bank next? Purple Hooded Man is left in the courtyard.

The next scene involves and angry mob of Japanese peons begging for their daily rice. Remember, this is at the end of a famine. These folks are hungry. The two merchants who lettered the "No Rice Today" sign sit back and chuckle at their power and the insane profits they've been earning. 

YOU LAUGH NOW DUDES, But just you wait...

Best... Prank... E-V-E-R!!!
 Yes. The Purple Hooded Man totally messes with them and makes it so that they will be awakened at 5AM by the angry, hungry, potentially cannibalistic mob. Well played Purple Hooded Man. Well Played. This naturally pisses the merchants off, and they call for the police to catch the joker and punish him. However, no sooner than the clerk runs off than... (DUN, DUN, DUUUUUUNN)

 Yup. You got it. He lays down the "YOU OUGHTTA BE ASHAMED OF YOURSELF YOUR GREEDY PIG" speech, followed by the command to open the storehouse as the gong in the background strikes 5AM. The merchant gets tied up and the storehouse is emptied by the Peons... I mean Peasants as the Purple Hooded Man holds the house hostage.

Ok. So let's just recap what's going on:
  • Senior Bad-Guy takes over
  • His Banditos are Ninja
  • The People are starving due to famine and corrupt government
  • The Purple Hooded Man is like Robin Hood... except he wears purple.

OK. Let's move forward. The remaining merchants, after nearly peeing themselves over their colleagues losses, have sought out Kaku and his henchmen at a Japanese restaurant, willing to pay them to provide protection at their mansions so that they are not susceptible to the attacks of The Purple Hooded Man. The Banditos collective get up and leave in order to go and protect the mansions, leaving the rice merchant alone with his Geisha, when all of a sudden... (DUH, DUH, DUUUUUUH)

Now, it is by this time that, 10 minutes into the film, that we are beginning to:
1) Wonder why his hero identity isn't obvious by now. He's a man. He's wearing a purple hood. All of the other merchants have been roughed up by the Purple Hooded Man. A little deductive reasoning should clear up any confusion.

2) Realize why he is NOT in fact a Ninja, despite the title on the American release. Whenever he enters a room, he makes a loud "DUH, DUH, DUUUUUH" orchestral sound. I'm just sayin'.

OK. SO, he steals the bribe money offered by the merchants, encites a pretty righteous 1950's sword fight, and flees the scene.

 In the next scene, the elder counsel has re-assembled to discuss the problem of...

The Purple Hooded Man!

It was by this time that we actually started taking count of the sheer number of times the title "Purple Hooded Man" was used. By 11:00, his name has been muttered over 9 times. We of course surmised that this automatically qualifies this film to be entered into the "drinking game roster". Why? Because at the 15 minute mark you would be utterly destroyed from the shots. All in all, the title of "Purple Hooded Man" is used 25+ times. 

We're just sayin'...

Now... here is where the whole story takes a dramatic swerve to the left and nearly does a barrel roll off course. The police catch up to one of the Elders, asking what the meeting was all about. There's a reference made to them being made into En-Giri (sliced and dried radishes) if they don't find and arrest the Purple Hooded Man. So,You are now launched high speed into the marketplace where men are gathered at a Kiosk, ogling some paintings of Japanese "beauties" (that's nice talk for nudies). It is here that you are introduced to the famously famous, yet entirely unknown artist Hidemaro. 

Blast forward inexplicably to the home of "Senior Bad-Guy" who is closely observing a Hidemaro painting. He formally requests that the artist be found and brought to him AT ONCE... because he wants the artist and Osen.

WAIT... OSEN??? Who's Osen? 

OH... yeah. To make a long story short, and to move this ridiculously OVERKILL blog along, Osen is the daughter of one of the oil merchants that is being knuckled down on and manipulated by "Senior Bad-Guy". See, if the father won't force Osen into marriage, then "Senior Bad-Guy" will cut a swath of death and burning through his business. Insert a Hot 18th century Japanese tune here and we've got a scene!


 As Osen walks home from her lessons, she meets the amazingly hideous Hidemaro, the artist, who wants to paint her and provide her with her 15 minutes of fame. Being a teenager in the 18th century, OF COURSE she follows him back inside his ramshackled artist lair.

Ultimately Senior Bad-Guy is very pleased with the painting and puts the pressure on Osen's dad to make the marriage happen.

And we now veer back into the marketplace. The Elders have decided to point out that any Ronin not actively working will be banished from the city. You are then introduce to a scheister in the marketplace talking smack and to a young man named Ebizawa Hachiya who has been studying fencing (Do the Japanese fence? Is that what they really call it?) at Kamiya Isshinasai's Hall. As it so happens, "Senior Bad-Guy" and his Banditos plan some sort of ambush at the hall. Could this be an epic swordfight of amazing proportions??? Afterall, in the opening moments of the fight we find out that the marketplace scheister is in fact a Samurai utilizing the Muso-ryu stance. (This fight is TOTALLY going to be sweet... right???)

WHAAAAAA???? (insert gaping mouths here)

What kind of Whuss Ronin shows up for a fight and then quits before things get good??? Not only that, but the Ronin invites the Samurai out for drinks and a good natter. What...the.. CRAP is going on???

OK, so... we're going to expedite the next 20 minutes of the film by saying that things continue to decline, the Purple Hooded Man shows up several times, an oil refinery is burned to the ground and Osen makes a scene in reference to the forced marriage, complete with a "ARE YOU SERIOUS!??!?", an throwing herself on the floor like a three-year-old.

Insert two murders, a marriage proposal, a reverse of choice by Osen as a result of her duty, several more appearances of The Purple Hooded Man, another SOLID Japanese ditty on the old banjo, the discovery of stolen gold bars in hay bales... just all around chaos, drama, and music numbers. 

So have you figured out who The Purple Hooded Man is yet? 

And so we find ourselves nearing the end of the film, fidgeting with want for another cupcake. Senior Bad-Guy has promised his boss (senior to Senior Bad-Guy, but not a bad guy himself) that The Artist will be coming to their super-awesome party to unveil his latest painting, but he hasn't shown up yet, and Senior Bad-Guy is getting nervous. They bring on the dancing girls to stall for a bit (who are actually quite culturally accurate and charming). 

The Artist shows up just in the nick of time wearing a Noh mask and being generally mysterious. He gives an epic speech about the evils of the world, most of which I imagine would have been quite unintelligible even if I spoke Japanese because of the muffly mask. The one point he does make clear though is that Senior Bad-Guy is one corrupt son of a gun, via a portrait of SBG as an Oni, which draws a gasp of shock from the oblivious party-goers. The Artist then whips off his totally excellent and entirely creepy mask, revealing himself as the Samurai, who is ALSO The Purple Hooded Man. WHOA!!!

He takes down SBG in a blaze of glory, and effectively gets himself promoted to a job that seems far less interesting than being the most admired artist in town.

Lessons we learned from this film?

1) It is better to be humble and not call yourself a ninja, even if you're pretty sure you are one.
2) It is possible to represent yourself as three entirely different people and have no one recognize you as long as they can't see your mouth.
3) If you try to stand up for justice and help your fellow man, you will be promoted into the most boring position your boss could possibly think of.
4) Ninjas are delicious. Ok, that didn't come from the film, but yum.

As for finding this film.... good luck. Actually, The History of Ninja 10 Pack is available for rental from Netflix (but not online viewing) and can probably be found around Amazon and Ebay. I personally got mine in the $3 bin at Best Buy, and feel that was money well spent given the laughs we got out of this film, and I haven't even seen the other 9 films yet! If you're the serious type, this film probably isn't for you (and nor is this blog for that matter...), but if you enjoy being goofy, or participating in outrageous drinking games, this might just be right up your alley.

Friday, April 6, 2012


Yes... it is THAT amazing.

...An epic two-hour and 20 minutes self assessing, perspective gaining, strength/weakness illustrating tale of awesomeness and woe... and tears. This is NOT a "light-hearted comedy", nor is it your light weight Kung Fu film of good guys, bad guys, "the girl", punching, the hero, and then credits. Rather, this is a weighty film with a strong self convicting message, illustrated beautifully through the semi-fictional biographical story of General Hou Jie, a non-specific Chinese warlord. 

The reason I say "semi-fictional" is that warlords like this existed in prevalence during the Warlord period in China's recent history (1916-1928). 

ROC/ Republic of China Flag
Was General Hou Jie a real person? Likely. His character represents one of the many warlords in the Beiyang Government era. Is he a prominent player in modern Chinese warlord history, with an epic tale of destruction and rebirth? I dunno. We couldn't find any specific information on him. 

NONE-THE-LESS... his life makes for a great story. And this, my friends, is where we begin...

Shaolin is a 2011 release by director Benny Chan starring...

Andy Lau - Starring in over 146 films, beginning in 1982. He's an incredible talent that just ups the bar with each performances

Wu Xing - Having started his career in 2001, after having been a 32nd generation Shaolin monk (FOR REALZ!!), he's starred in over 12 titles, all of which are high action, punching, bone crushing, nose twisting (see our FlashPoint blog), etc. Yeah... THAT guy! We've got serious love for him, so naturally this film is awesome.

Jacky Wu
- Having started his martial arts career at the age of 6, he is NOTHING short of AWESOMAZING! His film career began in 1995, and since that time he has starred in over 24 films... including the most amazing fight scene E-V-A-R with our favorite... Donnie Yen. (swoon^2)

Jackie Chan - Honestly, he is an unrivaled classic. However, he plays a very shocking role in this film. I don't want to spoil it for you here... but your jaw will drop. Having starred in over 111 films since 1962, he's got this one. No worries.

Bingbing Fan - aka, "Oh, that amazingly beautiful woman that ALWAYS plays the trophy wife!" Yup, that's her. She began her film career in 1998 and has appeared in over  31 titles. Beautiful and talented, yes. A butt-kicker? Not normally. However, she lands some pretty sweet blows in this film!

These core folks are surrounded by a very talented cast of "OOooh THAT guy!"actors. i.e., that adorable guy with the perfectly symmetrical facial features (Shoaqun Yu), and that guy that looks like Jet Li, but isn't. (Xin Xin Xiong)

OK, we are NOW almost ready to actually talk about this film. However, we have one last disclaimer for you.
Please be kind... REWIND!!!

NOTE: When deciding to watch this film, don't do as Kelly does. We sat down with egg rolls and Chinese green tea in hand, hit play, and found ourselves 1/2 way through the movie watching a guy get launched a good 40 feet at top speed via flying kick to the face. If you want to know what led up to that epic flying maneuver... start the film from the beginning. We're just sayin'.


Our film opens on a scene of devastation, death, ruin, mud, overcast skies... all around misery. As the camera pans, we happen upon a small band of monks gathering up the bodies of the dead and preparing them for a mass cremation. They are deeply saddened by the state of Dengfeng City and the entire nation which is being torn apart by warlords even as foreign powers are threatening to invade. Their people are starving, will have nowhere warm to sleep in the coming winter, and are being killed daily in battles over territory and pride.

Yeah... we're just two minutes into the film here. We TOLD you this was heavy.

On a particularly dreary day in Dengfeng, opposing warlords Hou Jie and Huo Long have decided it's a good day for chaos and destruction. The warlords lead their armies on a wild rampage through the city, during which Huo Long is mortally wounded by Hou Jie. Knowing he has lost the battle for Dengfeng, Huo Long seeks sanctuary with the monks in the Shaolin Temple. Hou Jie and his lemming, Cao Man, track Huo Long down in the temple (the little mini fight between Cao Man and one of the monks is both impressive AND funny, especially the "I'm just gonna take a nap if that's all you got..." move). The Abbot asks Hou Jie to show compassion, and Huo Long makes one final plea for his life, handing over a map to all of his gold. Hou Jie makes as if he is going to leave, then turns and shoots Huo Long in the back, also injuring the Abbot. In the commotion, Hou Jie defaces the temple's sign, and leaves as the self-proclaimed victor... Albeit the cowardly, gun-wielding, jerk victor.


Things are never over for these warlords... Much like the game of RISK, you win territory just to have it immediately threatened and recaptured. So, as Hou Jie heads to his victory jaunt, he runs into another warlord, Song Hu, who is Hou Jie's sworn brother. A tense conversation ensues between the men regarding the sharing of the spoils from Dengfeng, Song Hu mentions the possibiility of an arranged marriage between their kids, Hou Jie is left a little uncomfortable, then goes on his way.

In the midst of all this mess, the British try to weasel their way into the mix by offering Hou Jie automatic weapons in return for allowing them to build their railroad through Dengfeng city. He doesn't so much like that idea, and turns them away, embarrassing Cao Man (whose hair just keeps getting a little more emo with every scene) in the process.  He then instructs Cao Man to deliver an invitation to Song Hu and his family to discuss the arranged marriage of their children that he didn't appear to want 10 minutes ago, apparently in an attempt to keep Song from accepting advanced weaponry from those brutish British.
Stages of Hair: a) military, b) Emo Rising, c) Quasi-Emo, d) Emo is Born
One heart-wrenching family scene later, Hou Jie decides to flip the script and turn his invitation into a trap where-upon he will CRUSH General Song and his family. The families sit down for dinner in slow motion, which is universal film language for "something terrible is going to happen", and begin discussing their futures. Song tells Hou Jie in a moment of generosity that there is no longer any need for them to fight over Dengfeng city, since all of the spoils will be left to their children anyway. And now Hou Jie feels pretty stupid, right? Not as stupid as he does two minutes later when someone delivers a note to Song letting him know there is an ambush planned.

D'OH!!!! YOU HEEL!!!

In a moment of panic, Hou Jie shoots Song in the chest, only to find moments later that he has also been betrayed by the increasingly emo Cao Man. Assassins descend on the restaurant with orders to kill everyone inside. But... Oh wait! With his dying breath, Song sits up and shoots one of the attackers, allowing Hou Jie to escape! Now you KNOW he feels salty.

In some incredibly tense scenes full of terrible horror and despair, Hou Jie and his wife barely escape with their lives, but his daughter is severely injured. He brings her to the Shaolin monks, who despite his previous disrespect for life and their temple, attempt to save his daughter, but quickly find that she is beyond their help. Hou Jie's daughter dies in the temple (insert crying moment here), and her mother immediately whigs out on Hou Jie (wouldn't you?) blaming him for her death with all his pillaging and generalized jackassery. He, on the other hand, blames the monks (because that makes perfect sense...) and lashes out that them in a pitiful display of more jackassery. Because he hasn't learned his lesson. Yet. The monks easily bring him down with their awesome sticks of awesomeness, and set him aside to sleep it off for a few days.

Life just gets worse for Hou Jie when he wakes up and wanders away from the monastery, falling in a hole in the middle of a field (HA!). Wait... whose that guy manning the hole? That's not... can it be?  DUDE! It's Jackie Freakin' Chan! Well, ok... it's Wudao, the temple cook (but it's Jackie Chan!). Wudao keeps him in the hole for a few days for good measure (he feeds him, of course) and then brings him home. You can tell they're going to be friends, because when he gets him home, Wudao says to Hou Jie, "Here's a bowl of noodles. By the way, do you wanted your daughter buried, or cremated? 'Cuz when you're done with those noodles you may have to light a bonfire."

Seriously. Regular friends tell you that your butt is in fact fat in those pants your wearing... so yeah. Only a true friend could be THAT real and raw with you regarding your dead child.

So Hou Jie has his daughter cremated, his wife has already left the temple, and now he has a lot of spare time on his hands, what with having his career in highly specialized jackassery blow up in his face. So he thinks, and he thinks, and he thinks and thinks, and gets some crazy awesome advice from Wudao. Finally feeling like the dirt bag that he is, Hou Jie decides to become a monk and chops off all his hair (that hair part doesn't go so hot). Most of the monks don't want to let him in, but the Abbot decides to show Hou Jie the compassion he lacked and allows him to stay, assigning him to Wudao to assist with the cooking.

Jackie Wu and his all sorts of awesome.
You ready for the cuteness? 'Cuz this gets about as cute as a martial arts movie can. If you can't feel the smile forming on your lips and the gladness in your heart as Hou Jie comes to understand just how wrong he has been and learns the beautiful ways of these Shaolin monks, you either weren't paying attention for the first hour, or you are completely heartless. If you're a sap like MJ, you'll tear up a little, and feel all shivery with goodness. The monks, seeing the obvious change in his heart, come to accept Hou Jie, teaching him everything he wants to learn... including how to be a totally righteous kung fu fighting dude.
Far too heart warming for words.
No, really. It is.

Oh! Oh! And insert completely adorable scene of Hou Jie training with a little boy from the temple, and the Abbot telling Wudao that even though he sees himself as only a cook, everyone has a greater purpose, and now we feel totally gooey and melty inside.

Watch their faces. The fear is PRICELESS!

So, cut to Cao (because you knew the "good-times" high couldn't last long), whose emo hair is now apparently impeding both his vision AND his judgement, because he's made a deal with the British allowing them to build their railroad. OH, and remember that flying kick Kelly accidentally started at? Yeah, that's here, when the other warlords try to walk out of a meeting with Cao and his new foreign friends. He will apparently not be taking crap from nobody.

 When Hou Jie hears of Cao's plans, he heads out to investigate, only to find that Cao is actually forcing the people of Dengfeng to dig up ancient relics to be given to the British in exchange for guns and ammunition, and then killing them to keep his ulterior motives a secret. As he investigates, Hou Jie is recognized, and it is only a matter of time before it gets back to Cao that he is alive and well.

Then there is more crying in a touching scene where Hou Jie is formally accepted into the order of monks and given the religious name Jingjou, or Pure Enlightenment (Akk! Can't stop the tears!). Then Cao, because he ruins everything in this movie, rides his horse into the temple with about a billion of his men looking for Hou Jie, who gives him a good hard well-deserved smack across the face. TRUST ME... even I felt better after watching that.

Hou Jie then surrenders to Cao in an attempt to create enough of a diversion that the other monks will more easily be able to rescue the remaining "railroad workers" before they are killed. BUT, in a twist of fate we find out that Cao, dastardly man that he is, has captured Hou Jie's wife and plans to kill her in front of him for kicks.


Hou Jie tells his wife he knows how wrong he was (oh God... make it stop...) while the monks successfully save the missing villagers AND steal Cao's treasure.


Oh, and they rescue Hou Jie and his wife at the last second in an amazing feat of Shaolin excellence. So Cao is officially having a terrible day now. Then there's more crying (Seriously, this film does not quit) the monks are escaping Cao's headquarters, their senior brother Jingneng (Jacky Wu) becomes trapped inside and is brutally murdered by Cao in an extremely brutal, but oddly "EAT IT CAO" sort of way.

Back at the Shaolin temple, the Abbot has been tied up and is being guarded by Cao's army...

And now for MJ's hands-down favorite scene in the film:

Some children from the temple attempt to bring food out to the Abbot and the other villagers, and the guards begin shooting at them. Just when these boys turn on their most adorable charm and it looks like they are going to get through... an officer shoots a guard who has accepted a bun from one of the children, and they are forced to unleash the cutest temple-kid fury ever in the history of ever!!! (Little bald temple monk babies running all over brutally kicking butt!!) Their tiny little martial arts skills are incredible. Aaaaaand adorable.

And then there's the Jackie Chan bit that we don't want to spoil for you but we know you will thoroughly enjoy, especially the noodle thing.

Perhaps one of the funniest lines in the movie.
So the Abbot is freed, and the remaining monks return home with the missing villagers. More crying (how many boxes of tissues is that now?), and as they mourn the loss of their elder brother the monks decide that it would be best to evacuate the temple and the surrounding city. Hou Jie asks Wudao to lead the people away from the temple, and they begin their evacuation just as Cao and his crazies (The English included) show up and begin blowing the temple to smithereens.

An epic battle rages on the grounds of the temple, and Cao (who now looks like he hired Prince's stylist and wardrobe people) and Hou Jie have the ultimate showdown between good and evil. You will see 3 of the most incredible death scenes EVAR ('splosions! Spinny swords! Crushiness!AAAAAAaaa...), a British general speaking with an entirely undefinable accent that is most definitely not British, and enough emotional baggage to keep you sobbing in a curled up mess on your floor for at least a week!

In the end, EVERYTHING is pretty much destroyed, Hou dies in an epic death scene not soon to be forgotten, Cao becomes enlightened as to his generalized jackassery, and you just about unravel over the whole mess. Between the final resolution, the sobbing Chinese refugees, the soundtrack, and Jackie Chan's final sentence, you will be deeply moved with all of its haunting beauty, and parallels, and ...   

No, we're not being overly dramatic.

So to recap, this movie is SAD. Beautiful, wonderful, most definitely worth watching, but terribly, terribly, gut-wrenchingly emotional and sad. And best yet, it's available for instant viewing on Netflix, so you can torture yourself again and again, like we did. Now if you'll pardon us, we just need to go brew another pot of tea, apply a cold compress and cucumbers to our puffy eyes, and contemplate life for a bit. Uff dah.

Yours pathetically,

The Mavens