Tuesday, September 27, 2011

FLICKS OF THE WEEK: September 11-17, September 18-24


Executioner is the second Sonny Chiba film that I've seen and from those two entries I can safely say that I'm really looking forward to diving into the rest of his filmography. The film plays out like a man on a mission flick, where a disgraced cop hires a rag tag group of street toughs, all with their own unique skills and personalities, in order to take down the Tokyo drug ring that ended his police career. The film has an interesting mixture of dark comedy and violent action, provided by the cast of hired hands assigned to take out the drug kingpin and his underlings. Sonny Chiba plays the rogue character of Ryuichi Koga, who like many of his other counterparts, signs up just for the money.

The character of Koga is a great anti-hero figure and Chiba gives him enough charisma and violent skill to make him a memorable character among this rather diverse cast of misfits. The end raid on the drug dealer's headquarters is magnificent in the chaotic way things escalate and progressively get worse and more challenging for the underdog main characters. The film was a fun little escape of insanity and that was all I asked for. Viva Chiba!

Deathstalker 2 is just so damn ridiculous, that you have to allow yourself to sit back and enjoy the absurd show in order to make it from beginning to end. Having basically nothing to do with the first movie in the series, part two introduces us to a new and sassier Deathstalker played by John Terlesky. This time Deathstalker must team up with an undercover princess to help overthrow an evil sorcerer who has banished the princess and replaced her with a clone. Of course, Deathstalker is destined to vanquish the evil sorcerer, while at the same time reclaim the princess' rightful place on the throne and in his bed. Terlesky may have the athletic ability to play the character of Deathstalker, but his physical presence pales in comparison to Rick Hill's original imposing figure.

With that said, the film is actually pretty fun if you set aside any correlation with the first film and just take it for what it is. In fact there are some pretty interesting scenes and locations in this film, like the creepy green lit graveyard filled with shuffling decomposing zombie figures and the cheesy Amazon village centered around a wrestling ring that looks straight out of the old WWF slobber-knocker days. Even with its faults, Deathstalker 2 has a certain charm to it. Just don't get your hopes up.

The Warrior and the Sorceress is a rough re-imagining of the Japanese film Yojimbo, but done with a Roger Corman-like sensibility. The film stars David Carradine as the lone warrior Kain, a wanderer who stalks the barren landscapes of the planet Ura in search of fortune and the means to which he can obtain it. Arriving at a village where civil war has broken out between two factions over the control of the town's only water source, Kain decides to pit each group against each other in order to benefit from their dilemma. Carradine does a commendable job as the sword for hire, hardly speaking throughout the film and rather playing the role of Kain as an observer.

What is really interesting about this film is the insanely warped world that the filmmakers have created on this fictitious planet of Ura. We've got nudity abound provided mostly by the alluring Maria Socas, a tentacle monster that is anything but scary, a fat man with a telepathic pet lizard, a sword that can cut through anything but is never explained how it does such a feat, a throng of lizard faced slavers with a thirst for revenge, and a stripper with two pairs of breasts. Yeah it gets a little wacky. The Warrior and the Sorceress is a B movie that at least keeps you entertained and in wonder at what crazy things they'll throw at you next. Check it out for the curious.

Topping off my fantasy triple feature is the film Barbarian Queen, a far more subdued movie then the previous iterations of the sword and sorcerer genre. In this film we follow a rag tag group of amazon warriors lead by the fearsome Ametha, played by the equally fearsome Lana Clarkson, as she attempts to take revenge for the ransacking of her village. With the tagline of, "No man can touch her naked steel", you get the impression that you're about to witness some kind of adventure porno hybrid or something, but thankfully the film attempts to steer into more respectable territory.

The quality of the acting and locations aren't as inspiring as one would hope, but the rather catchy reoccurring score by James Horner of all people, does lift up the film from its less then stellar origins. In the end, I felt that Barbarian Queen was a decent enough flick, but rather forgettable in the long run. Still it wasn't a bad way to spend an evening.


Magnificent Warriors is an outstanding action adventure flick that stars the amazing Michelle Yeoh in one of her most entertaining films to date. The film has been described as being the female version of Indiana Jones, with the inclusion of the main character's whip and the exotic locale, and I can see the similarities, but Dr. Jones has never kicked this much ass and in such a hyper kinetic style. Michele Yeoh plays Fok Ming Ming, an airplane pilot who is assigned a very important mission to extract a prince from a Japanese controlled Chinese village. The stunts and choreography are stupendous, showcasing Yeoh's amazing athleticism and martial arts skill.

The cast is also rather remarkable having Richard Ng, Tung-Shing Yee, and Chindy Lau all having rather susbtanstial parts that display their own individual talents. Richard Ng especially shines in his comedic role, playing the clumsy and accident prone Paulina Wong. The film was just remarkably entertaining, giving me the perfect fix of Hong Kong action that I require.

The Prodigal Son is something of a Hong Kong masterpiece. Directed by the legendary Sammo Hung and starring two of cinema's most iconic martial arts masters, Ching-Ying Lam and Biao Yuen, the film just exudes class and charm. The story is a rather simple one as it follows a young supposed martial arts expert by the name of Leung Chang, played by Yuen, as he comes to find that his perfect fight record has been staged by his overprotective father. Fearing for his sons safety, Leung Chang's father has paid off every combatant who has ever challenged his son, resulting in his legendary but false fighting prowess. Having one day been defeated by an opera performer, played by Ching-Ying, who refused to accept the father's bribe, Leung Chang does everything in his power to have his better as his master.

There are many comedic aspects to this film and seeing that it is a Sammo Hung production, that comes as no surprise. The fighting styles on display are of the highest quality and the personalities of the large array of characters are quite well played. Sammo even gets into the action, playing Ching-Ying's fat brother and constant adversary. The training sequences are also very memorable, making for a highly charged final fight between Yuen's Leung Chang and the opportunistic and egomaniac Ngai Fei, played by the always consistent Frankie Chan. The film is just a master work and if you're a fan of Hong Kong Cinema and martial arts in general, then you owe it to yourself to see this film. Great work Sammo and company.

OSS 117: Panic in Bangkok is an exceptional French Eurospy film that rounds out my viewings of the amazing Agent OSS 117 series of movies. If you're a fan of the earlier James Bond films, then you have to see these movies. In this entry, Hubert Bonisseur de La Bath, AKA Agent OSS 117, must stop a diabolical scientists who has created a virus capable of decimating the world's population. Kerwin Mathews takes on the role of the unbeatable secret agent and he does a remarkable job in making it look as fun as all hell. Mathews brought his A game in this film, putting on the charm and charisma that catapulted him into another starring role in the sequel, OSS 117 se dechaine.

His portrayal, much like the other remarkable actors that have taken on the role, is cool and collective, always resulting in Hubert coming out on top no matter what forces are up against him. It really is just a blast watching this larger then life secret agent thwart the bad guys and win the day, not excluding the lush and lavish locales that 1964's Thailand provides. If you're looking for a film that has a fun factor of ten, then you really don't need to look any further then an OSS 117 film and Panic in Bangkok is right up there with the best of them.

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