Very Japanese in the way the Legendary pictures movies are not. People may claim that Godzilla is hardly in those other movies but this movie is mainly meetings. The director’s experience on Neon Genesis Evangelion comes through as the monster is dealt with as if it is a natural disaster and then a military threat with combined arms tactics used.
I didn’t really see enough to do a “worst” part of the list. A lot of these are ones I saw at MIFF but the Raid movies and the Night Comes for Us are from other times and Netflix.
The Raid: Redemption (2011) / The Raid 2: Berandal (2014)
Truly epoch-making action cinema. Even if you do not watch Asian action cinema at all you would have watched something that has been influenced by these two movies. I keep seeing other stunts and fight choreography that has been borrowed from this film. Cecep Arif Rahman in John Wick 3 not being defeated on screen was due to the amount of respect Keanu Reeves had for the actor.
“When they are shooting it is like two dogs fighting over a bone, but as soon as the camera stops it is all smiles and backslaps.” – the director on whether the stars of the movie had a “knock down” clause like the Rock and Jason Statham.
Takes the action of the Raid films and kicks it up one notch further adding more gore and painful to watch violence. The Operator could do her own film easily. Also, when in doubt pop that collar!
The Act of Killing (2012) / The Look of Silence (2014)
When Errol Morris and Werner Herzog decide to jump on board as producers, you know it is something important and it was. At the Q&A for the first documentary I took 19 pages of notes, people asked question in Indonesian.
The second film was actually meant to be made first but was shut down by the army so they went to interview the perpetrators of the violence instead.
I have gone more towards South Korea this decade even though I don’t often get the opportunity to see movies from that country outside of film festivals or special screenings. There is a stated goal from South Korea’s government for them to make quality cinema and spread their culture overseas they want to win all the awards. This is not in any sort of order other than by year.
It only just came out but is pretty much ruling all at this point. If it wins the Academy Award for Best Picture Song Kang-Ho can run around with his underpants on his head and still get roles.
Still don’t know how they are going to follow this up? I would like to see a parallel story following the high school baseball team from the other carriage. You can watch the prequel Seoul Station but it is not really necessary (I saw it on a double bill with this movie.)
More of a disappointment they could not decide if this wants to be an action movie or a historical drama. Everything stops dead when it switches styles. By all accounts Kingdom is everything this movie is not.
OK, this a cheat since it is an Australian director in director but gets special mention due to the director not telling the people from Stop CSG Sydney that she was making a communist propaganda movie. Doubly so since her and the tour guide director criticized at the Q&A the director of the Red Chapel for deceiving their North Korean hosts.
Legend of the Fist: The Return of Chen Zhen (2010)
If you are a fan of Donnie Yen and martial arts movies I would still recommend this movie, otherwise you might want to wait for “Detective Dee and the Mystery of the Phantom Flame” that looks a lot better (and it was). http://hkmovies.timchuma.com/returnofchenzhen.htm
The Flying Swords of Dragon Gate (2011)
While not essential viewing compared to some of Tsui Hark’s earlier work, it is still a lot better than the super serious historical Chinese epics or all the “Happy Birthday China” movies that seem to be coming out at the moment. http://hkmovies.timchuma.com/flyingswordsdragongate.htm
The Mermaid (2016)
Supposedly the biggest box office of the year in the world, why do I not care about any of the characters or story at all?
Bleeding Steel (2017)
Some of these actors should have just asked if they needed the money this much. I am ashamed to watch it.
L Storm (2018)
Not bad, just adequate, but movies have to do a lot more than just be OK these days. Louis Koo’s hair is indestructible as it even survives getting electrocuted and his suit is always immaculate. https://blog.timchuma.com/2018/08/l-storm-2018/
Starring: Muhammad Khan, Raditya Evandra, Rianto, Sujiwo Tejo, T. Rifnu Wikana, Whani Darmawan
A young boy Juno (Muhammad Khan) is abandoned by his father in a central Java village and is looked after by a string of shithead adults until he finds his own way in the world. The stories are narrated by the adult Juno (Rianto) based on his real experiences and have some strange scenes of violence and surrealism.
The teenage Juno is played by Raditya Evandra and ends up working as a tailors’ assistant and falls for a fighter.
He ends up with a group of Lennger dancers in a remote village as they have been pushed out of the cities and only perform in the villages. A local political candidate wants the group to perform and takes a shine to Juno, wanting him to perform as special ceremony for good luck. The Wurok of the dance group decides to take Juno as his Gemblak, a young male lover giving magical powers.
The memories of my body refers to the trauma and violence of being human. All people have some trauma in their lives and there is always violence. “It’s just like life, you’ve got to take the funny with the tragic.”
From the director he said the movie was made in just two weeks. It is also banned in six cities in Indonesia and has a theatrical cut and a festival cut. There is an issue currently with Islam from the Middle East coming in to the country and winning out over the local beliefs.
Before September 11 there wasn’t the fanatical Muslim beliefs and there was even a LGBITQ Quran school before it was shut down by hardliners. There is a claim that LGBITQ is a western concept and did not exist in the country before, there are at least five gender on Java and on each island it is different.
There were not many questions from the audience, but there were good ones. One was about how LGBTIQ people are being treated as it used to be if they kept it secret they wouldn’t be treated badly. The director said there has been some incidents, but he wanted to open a discussion.
The dancer from the movie is doing a performance in Melbourne coming up so hopefully it has a lot of people attend.
I thought the movie was very well shot considering it was made in such a short time. It seems very naturalistic and the performances are very rough and unpolished. I did like seeing the same boom box that Juno carries around everywhere each time he moves.
The setting of the movie seems to be some-time around the 1980s but it does have the post-Suharto era included. A reference to the anti-Communist purge of 1965 is in the film also.
A great story and more of a character study and a big showy movie. Is perfect if you want something slower and more arthouse after the endless stream of superhero movies of the past few years.
Featuring: LA Bastard, Courtney Barnett, Cable Ties, Sukhjit Khalsa, Girls Rock! camp participants
I wondered why the audience seemed so excited for this movie when I was in the audience, it turned out that most of the participants of the Girls Rock! Camp over the past few years were in attendance along with their parents and the counsellors from the camp.
The film makers had heard of the Girls Rock! Camp for young teenage girls wanting to get into music was coming to Melbourne and manage to convince the people running it to film the first intake. They had done a pre-screening of the applicants to choose a couple of them and found a few others on the day as there were 50 people involved and it would have been too much to follow them all.
I am a big fan of music and in particular women musicians the point that I get made fun of for going to see them all the time. Fuck off! I like them more as they don’t have half the bullshit the men have with their bands and do not feel the need to live the infamous Rock and Roll lifestyle. A lot of them get better after they have kids as they have more experience. I have been seeing some musicians for so long now their kids have started their own bands.
Back to the documentary and they did choose some unique individuals such as Zeiro (pronounced Zero) who has their own thing going on and is gender fluid. The concept is described for people who do not know what it is by Zeiro. That is a lot to put on a teenager and it is handled well.
Some strong themes are handled such as mental illness and suicide and they don’t shy away from discussing it.
The drummer got a big cheer by saying Alien was “that feminist movie” and Sigourney Weaver would agree with her.
During the Q&A Jacinta Parsons revealed that one of the participants in the documentary was her daughter, which bought cheers from the audience especially when she had to interview her.
There were some performances by Courtney Barnett, LA Bastard (I missed that gig it was their last one) and Cable Ties. The camp was structured around all the participants forming bands, writing a song and doing a showcase gig at the end of the week.
I did enjoy the animation throughout the documentary that showed some things that couldn’t really be filmed such as the voices one of the participants had in their head. Also Zeiro’s fears were illustrated about the plane crashing into the venue and everyone dying.
There was a strong positive vibe at the screening due to the participants being in the audience and cheering when they saw themselves on screen. I believe it should be shown in schools for young people wanting to express themselves in music.
After the screening there was a live performance downstairs with a supergroup named BARK with the five main participants from the movie who had written a song “No Time for Quiet” and rehearsed over the past month.
The film had been produced over three years and the film makers have come to know the participants very well and have become quite close. Two the people in the documentary are now volunteers at Girls Rock! And one is working as a sound tech in the music industry and playing in bands.
Featuring: Cheng Pei-pei, Sammo Hung, Cynthia Rothrock, Richard Norton, Billy Blanks, Brian Trenchard-Smith, JuJu Chan, Jessica Henwick, Mike Leeder, Don “The Dragon” Wilson, Michael Jai-White and many more
Kung Fu demonstration before the premiere
I was looking forward to this documentary as I have been a fan of Hong Kong cinema and Kung Fu movies for a long time. I would not call myself an expert but I have had a site on them for almost 20 years (http://hkmovies.timchuma.com ) For a long time I did not know anyone else I could talk about them with, which is why I set up the site and the only other person I knew who had a movie review site said I should put them on my own site.
I had not heard of the director before and he is not on any of the discussion groups I am on even the one that actual film makers and writers read and post to. Some of the people interviewed in the documentary are though and that’s the main thing.
The documentary starts around the time of the riots in Hong Kong in the 1960s which is eerily prescient. The anger from society carried over into the cinema of the time and more violent cinema from Shaw Brothers studio was a result.
I would say about the first 25% of the film is about Shaw Brothers. It could have easily been a documentary on its own. (The author of a book on the studio wanted to go to the screening but could not make it.
As they say in the film the studio was focussed on making money and they were so successful in the 60s and 70s they were not used to being told no and were slow to change. Their subsequent rejection of both Bruce Lee and Jackie Chan was a result of this. They did try and change in the 80s towards the end of their run with some ground breaking works such as Demon of the Lute and the Boxers Omen but by then it was too late.
After Bruce Lee became famous there were was a flood of Brucesploitation movies and also a ton of Kung Fu films screened in Times Square “There were two genres: kung fu and porn!” Having a cheap form of entertainment easily accessible to young African American youth meant it became very popular amongst them and a lot of the films started screening in double bills with Blaxploitation titles. I wish they had have shown something from the Last Dragon as the theatre scene from that movie is on point.
The influence of the movies on hip hop and breakdancing is explored by one of the artists saying they studied the movies to learn the moves. The original Shaw Brothers movies were operas and comedies. There is a Journey to the West series of movies from the 60s were Pigsy sings about having “waist and shoulder pain”.
They did mention the films of Chang Cheh and had an appearance from one of the Five Venoms. It was very manly and the role of women was almost non-existent in his films which was quite different from Cheng Pei-pei’s work.
Cynthia Rothrock was a welcome addition to the film and I have seen both Yes Madam and Royal Warriors on the big screen. I had not heard of the one with the aliens. She and Richard Norton talked about how tough the stunt work in Hong Kong movies was.
The transition into the star-based rather than film based movies with Golden Harvest is covered with the rise of Jackie Chan. No Stephen Chow though which is strange since he is a huge star in Asia (there is a very short clip of Forbidden City Cop.)
The handover in 1997 and the Asian financial crisis of the late 90s is covered and led to a lot of talent going over to Hollywood to find work. What truly brought Kung Fu into the mainstream is Yuen Woo Ping’s work on the Matrix film as he said he had to train the stars to fight for real.
There is a worldwide reach of Kung Fu reflected in countries that had their own martial arts styles releasing movies that had a big impact such as Ong Bak and the Raid.
I had not heard of them, but an Australian production team from Adelaide apparently makes a bunch of martial arts movies on Youtube. I thought Dick Dale would have screened their work?
The final movie covered is the Kung Fu movie shot in Uganda that they hope will inspire people who grew up in the same circumstances to make their own movies.
While it covers a lot of ground in a short amount of time, I thought the documentary was very informative and I found out stuff I did not even know after more than 20 years of watching Hong Kong cinema. Well worth a watch when it comes out near you.
L-R: Paul Anthony Nelson from Plato’s Cave on RRR FM, Serge Ou, Veronica Fury, Chris Bamford, Ross Boyask
As much as I can remember from the Q&A:
Q – on the cultural influence on Kung Fu
A (Serge Ou) It was originally meant to be just on the influence of Kung Fu in the west but they decided to go further into it. They also explored the link between Kung Fu and hip hop/breakdancing.
Chris Bamford: The film was plotted on 250 post it notes with over 5000 edits in the finished movie.
Q: How much fun was it to edit.
A: It was a dream project to work on. There was over 900 hours spent in the edit suite with still enough material to make it a 4 part mini-series dependant on rights clearances.
The director wanted to show the ferocity of the early kung Fu movies and how watching something like the Raid 2 or the Night Comes for Us today feels like it those early films back in the 1970s did.
Both the director and producer used to watch kung Fu movies on TV with their parents. Genre films are a way of exploring the culture.
Ross Boyask said his gateway films were through Revenge of the Ninja, Commando and American Ninja. Sho Kashugi, Jackie Chan then Bruce Lee.
The ninja movies are related to Electric Boogaloo as the ninja craze is explored in that documentary.
Q: Who didn’t you get?
A: They wanted to go in the side window, not the front door. Did not want the obvious choices for interviews or people who have been heard from before. There were 52 interviewees in the film.
Q to Ross: How would you go about making Kung Fu movies in Australia?
A: Just do it. Watch lots of movies and appreciate the differences. Most actors have some sort of martial arts training these days at least for fitness.
Q: Have you seen Once Upon a Time in Hollywood yet and what did you think about the treatment of Bruce Lee in it?
A: We have not. We hoped to honour Bruce’s legacy with the documentary.
Q: The person hates documentaries but liked this one. “Docutainment”
Q: Will Veronica make a movie?
A: The next project Veronica Fury will be working on will be “Cat Fight” about women fighting in films.
Q: How did you find out about all the cultural influences in the genre?
A: Serge was well versed in the world of kung fu movies. The stories may be simple but they have a universal message that carries across cultures.