Jet Li – Expendables week

Besides the previously mentioned The Expendables and The One, Jet Li has quite a few movies available on instant Netflix. Strangely, while I have seen plenty of Jet Li movies including those above, I have yet to see the ones below. Ocean Heaven is not an action film. My guess for best would be The Warlords.

Swordsman 2 (1991) – Not rated

“Action and fantasy combine in the sequel to the 1990s film The Swordsman, featuring a new cast headed by Jet Li as Blademaster Ling Wu Chang. Chang and his fellow martial arts students engage in battle with the Highlander clan, led by the supernatural Invincible Asia. Co-directed by genre masters Stanley Tong and Ching Siu Tung, this film’s original Chinese title is Xiao Ao Jiang Hu Zhi Dong Fang Bu Bai.”

New Legend of Shaolin (aka Legend of the Red Dragon 1994) – Not rated

“Hong Xiguan (Jet Li) mastered kung fu at a Shaolin temple while still a boy and then later joined rebel forces to oust oppressive rulers. When his cover is blown, the opposing forces kill all but one member of Xiguan’s family, his son. Having wandered China fending off evil and protecting the weak, Hong and son now join forces with a young woman (Chingmy Yau) to protect the Shaolin temple from invaders. Many fast-motion, high-octane brawls ensue!”

Dr. Wai in the Scripture with No Words (1996) – Not rated

“Dr. Wai (Jet Li) and his trusty assistant, Pao (Takeshi Kaneshiro), encounter many obstacles in their search for “The Scriptures with No Words.” Along the way, they meet the lovely but deadly Yu Fung (Rosamund Kwan), a top agent for the Japanese.”

Jet Li’s Fearless (2006) – Not rated

“Jet Li stars as real-life martial arts legend Huo Yuanjia — a world-class Chinese fighter who dreams of continuing his father’s legacy — in this action-packed historical drama set at the turn of the 20th century.”

The Warlords (2007) – Rated R

“After emerging as the sole survivor in a battle between revolutionary troops and the Qing army, wounded Qing Gen. Ma Xinyi (Jet Li) is nursed back to heath by lovely peasant Lian (Jinglei Xu) in this epic Hong Kong blockbuster. After he recovers, Xinyi swears blood brotherhood with bandits Cao Er-Hu (Andy Lau) and Zhang Wen-Xiang (Takeshi Kaneshiro), and the trio wages a seemingly impossible campaign against the revolutionaries.

Ocean Heaven (2010) – Not rated

“With the kind help of friends and neighbors, widower and aquarium worker Sam Wong (Jet Li) shares a contented life with his autistic 22-year-old son, David (Lunmei Kwai) — until Sam learns that he has a terminal illness that will soon leave David orphaned. Now, the doting father begins a quest to ensure that his boy will be loved and cared for after his death. Xiao Lu Xue directs this touching drama.”

Jason Statham – Expendables week

Sylvester Stallone’s idea for Expendables was great but thankfully he didn’t leave it at 90s action stars. Jason Statham, current king of the B action movie, is Stallone’s co-star and wingman. Netflix has a fair selection of his on instant, even if most aren’t top notch.

Snatch (2000) – Rated R

“While transporting a pinched 84-karat sparkler to his stateside boss, a gangster stops off in London and inadvertently triggers a slew of fateful events that wends through the worlds of bookies, pawnshops, bare-knuckle boxing and swine.”

Snatch is less an action film than a caper film. Guy Ritchie directs a great cast here but the accents are thick just as in Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels. Ritchie isn’t above making fun of this though as Brad Pitt steals the movie as a completely unintelligible character.

Ghosts of Mars (2001) – Rated R

“Two hundred years in the future, a squad of tough-as-nails cops led by Natasha Henstridge and Pam Grier are dispatched to a remote mining outpost on Mars to bring back a deadly criminal named Desolation Williams (Ice Cube). But they get more than they bargained for when they have to fight off an army of miners who’ve been possessed by an unspeakable, ancient evil in this sci-fi thriller directed by John Carpenter. Jason Statham co-stars.”

Statham is not a lead here and this movie is awfully flawed. It is over the top gruesome and filled with plotholes and has a lot of people who can’t act. I did like the idea of a matriarchal society and some of the movie but I definitely can’t recommend it.

The One (2001) – Not rated

“In director James Wong’s sci-fi actioner, Los Angeles police officer Gabriel Yulaw is pursued by a sinister doppelgänger — an escapee from an advanced parallel universe — who’s on a mission to kill the lawman.”

Jet Li is the lead here as you can tell from the picture.

Revolver (2005) – Rated R

“Determined to hustle the crime boss who killed his sister-in-law, gangster and ace gambler Jake deliberately humiliates the kingpin in a private game. But when the mobster calls for Jake’s head, a mysterious duo steps in to save his skin.”

Another caper film from Guy Ritchie, this one is apparently a love it or hate it film. Personally I thought it was a terrible misfire. Other people like that it visually portrays psychological aspects on the screen.

Blitz (2011) – Rated R

“With a serial killer on the loose in London, Detective Brant takes to the case while working out his own aggression with a police-appointed psychiatrist. But when he and his partner corner a suspect, they don’t have enough evidence to apprehend him.”

Blitz is just okay as most of Statham’s movie are these days.

Killer Elite (2011) – Rated R

“This globe-trotting thriller, based on a true story, follows Danny Bryce, a former British special ops tough guy forced to come out of retirement when his mentor is kidnapped by a ruthless criminal. Enraged, Danny has to dodge three top assassins.”

Another film that is just meh in spite of the presence of De Niro and Clive Owen.

Sly Stallone – Expendables week

I really loved the idea behind The Expendables – gather together the action stars of the 80s & 90s and craft a movie around them. You couldn’t do it in the 90s because the salaries for Arnold, Sly, and Bruce were astronomical. Sylvester Stallone revived his Rocky franchise and his Rambo franchise in recent years and created a brand new franchise with The Expendables. They are already planning a third Expendables with Nicholas Cage.

Sylvester Stallone has a fair number of films on instant Netflix. In addition to The Expendables we have:

Rocky (1976) – Rated PG

“When world heavyweight boxing champ Apollo Creed (Carl Weathers) wants to give an unknown fighter a shot at the title as a publicity stunt, his handlers pick palooka Rocky Balboa (Sylvester Stallone), an uneducated collector for a Philadelphia loan shark. Gritty, grim and epic, this crowd-pleasing film won the 1976 Best Picture Oscar thanks to John G. Avildsen’s solid direction and Stallone’s root-for-the-underdog script.”

If you enjoy this, make a day of it and catch Rocky II, Rocky III (Mr. T and Hulk Hogan), Rocky IV (Dolph Lundgren), and Rocky V. Only Rocky Balboa (2006) is unavailable. Obviously the first one is the best one and the quality does go downhill but the first four are fun if you like boxing.

Paradise Alley (1978) – Rated PG

“Three down-and-out brothers struggle to find a way out of New York’s seedy Hell’s Kitchen just after World War II. Cosmo (Sylvester Stallone) is a hustler who tries to “manage” his younger, bigger brother Victor (Lee Canalito) as a ham-and-egg fighter in the ring. Armand Assante, Anne Archer, Kevin Conway, Tom Waits and Frank McRae co-star. Stallone makes his directorial debut and even sings the theme song.”

Demolition Man (1993) – Rated R

“In the violent 1990s, a cop (Sylvester Stallone) catches a relentless killer (Wesley Snipes), and both end up in a cryogenic deep freeze. In the peaceful year 2032, the criminal emerges from his long chill and attacks the now crimeless California. Unable to stop the bloodshed, a “Big Brother” boss (Nigel Hawthorne) defrosts the murderer’s past nemesis, who struggles to adapt to the ways of a new world and a restless new partner (Sandra Bullock).”

Demolition Man is an absolute hoot. Wesley Snipes is delightfully over the top here (and Stallone should put him in Expendables 3). Sandra Bullock has a juicy early role as our leading lady. There are early roles for Rob Schneider, Jack Black, and Dennis Leary. Even Jesse ‘The Body’ Ventura shows up.

The dystopian future shown here is hilarious. Stallone makes a little fun of Schwarzenegger here just as Arnold did in Last Action Hero (same year).

Cop Land (1997) – Rated R

“Following a controversial shooting involving a police officer, a small-town sheriff teams up with a New York City internal affairs investigator and uncovers a possible connection to the mob”

This was one of Stallone’s jabs at drama and it works pretty well. Just don’t watch it expecting an action movie.

Eye See You (aka D-Tox 2002) – Rated R

“Traumatized after witnessing a brutal crime while on the job, FBI agent Jake Malloy (Sylvester Stallone) checks into a rehab clinic for law enforcement officers in the remote wilderness of Wyoming, run by an ex-cop named Doc (Kris Kristofferson). When he realizes that a serial killer is loose in the facility and his fellow patients are being murdered, Jake must set aside his fears and track down the killer before he becomes the next victim.”

The movie with not one but two really bad titles. Eye See You is okay but definitely a lesser offering.

Weekend This ‘n’ That – FREE The Expendables 2 & The Bourne Legacy

* I’m looking forward to tomorrow when I get to catch the last of the summer movies. I have two FREE tickets to The Expendables 2 and one FREE ticket to The Bourne Legacy so I’m going to make a day of it.

* FREE The Expendables 2 tickets are available on select Blu-Rays at Best Buy: Universal Soldier, RED, Red Heat, CopLand, Transporter 3, The Expendables, Rambo, Rambo: First Blood, War, Kickboxer, T-2: Skynet edition, Hostage, Black Mask, Crank, Bank job, and Total Recall (earlier version). The Blu-Rays are currently $10

* FREE The Bourne Legacy tickets are available on select Blu-Rays at Best Buy: Fast & Furious 1-4, Bourne Identity, Bourne Supremacy, Bourne Ultimatum, Scorpion King 2, and The Mummy. I got The Mummy because it was cheaper than the others.

* Speaking of summer movies, the one I missed was Snow White and the Huntsman. Strangely Universal decided, instead of two more sequels with Kristen Stewart, they are going to make a spinoff with Chris Hemsworth’s Huntsman and drop Snow White. Apparently the fallout from Stewart’s affair and her top dollar price fresh off the Twilight series actually had an impact.

* Upcoming FREE movie ticket promos include Sparkle, Finding Nemo 3-D, Taken 2, Skyfall, and The Hobbit.

* Joining the Netflix streaming family this year will be Sweden, Norway, Finland, & Denmark. World domination is only a few clicks away.

* The wonderful Netflix for Kids option on the Xbox 360 and PS3 apparently annoys some people. I’m not sure why the option to turn off wasn’t selectable but Netflix states that the Kids options will eventually disappear if it is not used.

OMG! The Return of the Man in the Hat

Raiders of the Lost Ark returns to the big screen on September 7th. The catch is that we mean BIG screen – it will playing in Imax theaters for one week only. I am old enough to have seen it on the big screen but it would be nice to see it again. Details on participating theaters can be found here.

Raiders of the Lost Ark (or Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark if you must) has been digitally remastered for Imax.

“When I saw the stunning quality of the picture and heard the enhanced sound in an IMAX theatre, I was quite literally blown away and hope that audiences will enjoy the experience as much as I did,” said Spielberg.

What could be better than seeing the original Indiana Jones movie on the big screen?

How about seeing all four Indiana Jones movies? AMC has an Indiana Jones marathon at select theaters on Saturday September 15th. Movies start at 10:30 a.m. Tickets are $25 and each ticket gets you a lanyard and collectible poster. AMC Stubs members get $5 in Bonus Bucks. Participating theaters are listed here. Sadly the closest one to me is in Charlotte – about two hours away.

This brings us to the reason for all the hoopla: The Complete Adventures of Indiana Jones is being released on Blu-Ray on September 18th. Currently Amazon has it for $68.99 which seems quite pricey.

The Adventures of Young Indiana Jones (1992-3) – Rated TV-14

“Excavate the childhood of everybody’s favorite archaeologist with this Emmy-winning, TV series spinoff of the hit movie franchise, alternately starring Sean Patrick Flanery and Corey Carrier as the juvenile Indiana Jones. As young Indy travels the globe in search of adventure and artifacts, he crosses paths with some of the early 20th century’s most notable (and notorious) personalities, including Thomas Edison, Al Capone and Lawrence of Arabia”

While you can’t stream any of Spielberg’s Indiana Jones blockbusters, you can watch The Adventures of Young Indiana Jones on instant Netflix to whet your appetite.

Sh-Sh-Shark Week

Last year I covered a bunch of related films for shark week. While Netflix still has a lot of shark movies, they are almost uniformly bad. Not a single Jaws movie is available and neither are Deep Blue Sea, Open Water, Open Water 2, or the Reef. Still if you must celebrate shark week:

2-Headed Shark Attack (2012) – Not rated

“Terror takes a ghastly form when a gigantic two-headed shark sinks a ship full of students, and the survivors wash up on a tiny atoll. But just when the kids think they’re safe, a tsunami sweeps them back into the deep to face the twin jaws anew.”

I’m guessing that it’s not rated because they couldn’t get anyone to sit through it from beginning to end.

Shark Attack in the Mediterranean (2004) – Not rated

“After his wife’s horrific death, helicopter pilot Sven Hansen (Ralf Moeller) moves to Mallorca, where he encounters the giant shark that killed his beloved. Fueled by revenge, Hanson teams with a pretty biologist in a terrifying battle with the vicious man-eater. Danger lurks just beneath the calm blue waters of the Mediterranean in this action-packed German feature. Julia Stinshoff and Oona-Devi Liebich co-star.”

Ditto.

Mega Shark Versus Giant Octopus (2009) – Not rated

“After a series of mysterious disasters occurs in the Pacific, from the disappearance of a plane to the destruction of an oil rig, a group of scientists discovers that a secret military mission has unearthed a prehistoric shark and a giant octopus. When the government learns of the existence of the menacing beasts, the team of scientists is tasked with formulating a plan to destroy the phenomenal creatures. Lorenzo Lamas and Deborah Gibson star.”

See above.

Mega Shark vs. Crocosaurus (2010) – Rated R

“When the prehistoric warm-water beast the Crocosaurus crosses paths with that cold-water monster the Mega Shark, all hell breaks loose in the oceans as the world’s top scientists explore every option to halt the aquatic frenzy. Swallowing everything in their paths — including a submarine or two — Croc and Mega lead an explorer and an oceanographer on a wild chase. Eventually, the desperate men turn to a volcano for aid.”

Wow Mega Shark vs. Giant Octopus was so cheaply made that they went and made a sequel.

Shark Night (2011) – Rated PG-13

“A weekend of island beach-house debauchery turns into a hellish nightmare for a group of friends when one of them loses an arm in a vicious shark attack. Worse, the pals soon discover that the waters are infested with dozens of the toothy predators.”

Marginally better than the lousy films above but only marginally.

* Final Note: If you own a Blu-Ray player, consider splurging on the brand new blu-ray of Jaws. Universal did an amazing restoration job on it (unlike a number of their recent releases). Amazon has it for $18 and Best Buy has a Digibook version for $25 (through Saturday). Seriously Jaws is so much better a shark film than any of the Netflix offerings.

Creature

The recent movie Creature is currently on instant Netflix. This is not to be confused with the 1984 movie Creature which is also available on instant Netflix.

One Line Review: Generic young folk eaten by sub-generic alligator man – stupidity ensues.

Creature (2011) – Rated R for bloody violence and grisly images, some sexual content, graphic nudity, language and brief drug use.

“A group of friends partying in the wilds of Louisiana get into a fight for their lives when a beastly half-man, half-alligator that locals call Lockjaw comes searching for food — and for a new bride!”

“Blood is blood”

Okay Creature is certainly among the most generic of titles but a creature feature is my favorite type of horror movie. It is from first-time writer and director Fred Andrews. He starts with the obvious gotcha – an attractive young lady getting nekkid. She goes the full monty before going swimming in the bayou. Do people actually swim in the bayou? Anyway she appears to be eaten by an alligator shortly after.

We are then introduced to our half dozen meat on the hoof young folks – just passing through on their way to The Big Easy. Creature stars Mehcad Brooks, last seen as Eggs in True Blood. Here he plays Niles. Serinda Swan (Zatanna in Smallville) is Emily. Of course they all purposely sidetrack to find Lockjaw – the titular creature.

Creature gets a tiny boost from two horror veterans. Sid Haig is Chopper and Pruitt Taylor Vince (Walking Dead, Constantine) is Grover, two of our locals. Vince has two scenes and the director just lets Sid Haig be Sid Haig, this is not a plus for this film.

Here is part of my problem with movie portrayals of cannibalism. They invariably show someone gnawing on a raw arm or leg. When was the last time you went out and butchered a cow and ate a haunch of it raw? Ever had a fish without it being gutted or scaled? Anyway I digress but this subject does come up in Creature. As does a fair amount of incest.

Apparently if you don’t pay attention in the bayou, you can quickly be covered in tarantulas. I did not know this. Even though one of our group gets bitten, his companions feel he should just walk it off and they continue to explore. With friends like these…

The set up and events are so by-the-numbers that the only things that could save this would be stylish direction, good special effects, and/or an awesome monster. Sadly none of these are present and the monster is pretty bad. Let’s see – the young folks go off to camp (for no apparent reason) and of course drink alcohol, smoke weed, and have the premarital sex.

There is almost enough sexual content and nudity here to qualify as a 90s Skinemax title. The monster doesn’t look much better than the one in 1959’s The Alligator People and that one had Lon Chaney.

Ultimately it is not as awful as I had heard but it is pretty bad and not really worth watching.

People Watch: Wow in spite of Creature bombing at the box office, several of the leads got regular television roles. Mehcad Brooks is now Terrence King in Necessary Roughness. Serinda Swan can be seen as Erica Reed in Breakout Kings. Dillon Casey is Sean Pierce on Nikita. Poor Lauren Schneider – since Creature she has been cast as ‘Hot Girl’ in an episode of Stretched and ‘Hot Girl’ in the movie Gus (I’m not making that up).

Netflix for Kids & Some Movies You Might Have Missed

* Netflix just recently made an update to their Xbox 360 software enabling their new “Netflix for Kids” option. Even though I don’t have a child in the appropriate age range, it is a very neat set up. Netflix for Kids is designed for ages 12 and under. Rango still shows up so it will go through at least PG in terms of ratings. I loved the first category – it is simply pictures of children’s characters (Rugrats, Elmo, Spongebob, etc.) and all you have to do is select one to begin playing.

* While I was busy doing The End is Nigh week, a number of interesting films showed up on instant Netflix.

Bullhead (2011) – Rated R

“Tortured by his past and despairing of his stultifying present life, Belgian cattle farmer Jacky becomes entangled in a violent web of deceit involving local mobsters and determined policemen after he uses illegal growth hormones on his herd.”

Margin Call (2011) – Rated R

“An all-star cast shines in this engrossing drama about a critical 24-hour period at a high-profile investment bank in the early days of the 2008 financial crisis, when young analyst Peter Sullivan (Zachary Quinto) uncovers information that could destroy the firm. When he alerts upper management to the precarious position of their risky investments, an emergency meeting is held to decide if they should alert clients or abscond with the profits.”

Warrior (2011) – Rated PG-13

“Set in the violent world of mixed martial arts combat, this gritty drama follows two brothers at war with each other, who have pursued separate lives. But preparation for a championship bout soon leads the siblings back into each other’s paths.”

Immortals (2011) – Rated R

“In Ancient Greece, King Hyperion searches for a powerful weapon that will free the bloodthirsty Titans and enable them to overpower the gods and enslave mankind. Unable to interfere directly, the gods choose a champion to defend them: Theseus.”

The Devil’s Double (2011) – Rated R

Dominic Cooper stars as Uday Hussein — Saddam Hussein’s depraved, decadent elder son — and as Latif Yahia, the army lieutenant forcibly drafted to be his body double, in this drama based on Yahia’s autobiographical novel.”

Albert Nobbs (2011) – Rated R

“Having for decades disguised herself as a man while working as a butler in a posh 19th-century Dublin hotel, a woman calling herself Albert Nobbs reconsiders her charade when a handsome painter arrives on the scene.”

R.I.P. Carlo Rambaldi 1925-2012

Iconic special effects artist Carlo Rambaldi has passed away in southern Italy at the age of 86. Rambaldi won two Oscars for his work – one each for Alien and E.T. the Extraterrestrial. Although such classics as Alien and E.T. are not available, three of Rambaldi’s films are currently on instant Netflix.

Silver Bullet (1985) – Rated R

“When a sleepy town is terrorized by sadistic murders, the locals conclude that the culprit is a werewolf. But only Marty, a 13-year-old boy in a wheelchair, is brave enough to try to track down the mysterious beast.”

Rambaldi created the werewolf suit for this movie.

Conan the Destroyer (1984) – Rated PG

“While on a quest to retrieve a magical gem, muscleman Conan vanquishes mortal and supernatural adversaries with help from his ham-fisted sidekick, a wacky wizard, a fierce woman warrior and a gigantic bodyguard. But there’s a traitor among the ranks.”

While I enjoy Conan the Destroyer for the hilarious miscasting, Rambaldi’s design for Dagoth was a lot of fun.

Planet of the Vampires (1965) – Unrated

“Italian horror maestro Mario Bava (Black Sunday) provides lots of creepy atmosphere for this cult chiller, which became a major influence for later science fiction and horror films. Barry Sullivan leads the European cast as Capt. Markary, commander of a space rescue mission whose members fall prey (one by one) to zombie-fying possession by alien entities. The film was also released as Demon Planet, Planet of Blood and Terrore Nello Spazio.”

An early film for Rambaldi. He worked on the models in this one.

Crack in the World – After The End is Nigh! week

Okay The End is Nigh week has overstayed its welcome (eight days do not a week make) but I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the granddaddy of the natural disaster movie, Crack in the World, which is currently available on instant Netflix.

One Line Review: Important historically but only for fans of 60s science fiction.

Crack in the World (1965) – Not rated

“To access a cache of geothermal energy buried deep inside the Earth’s crust, a team of scientists (led by Dana Andrews) decides to detonate an atomic device … despite one doctor’s (Kieron Moore) dire warning that doing so could prove deadly. Now, as a result of their actions, Earth’s surface has begun to crack, and everyone on the planet could perish. Andrew Marton directs this scientifically improbable sci-fi classic.”

“You mean, the world will come to an end?” – “The world as we know it yes. As a cloud of astral dust, it will continue to move within the solar system.”

Okay the science here is just as bad as the science in our modern versions but the public also knew a lot less about science then. Also we apparently cannot stop turning to nuclear weapons to solve our problems. Long before the planting of nuclear weapons in trenches in 10.5, long before detonating nuclear weapons to take out rogue asteroids in Deep Impact and Armageddon, we use them to penetrate a pesky layer of the earth’s crust in Crack in the World. I’ll let you guess how well that works based on the title.

Our lead scientist, Dr. Stephen Sorenson, is played by the ever reliable Dana Andrews (Curse of the Demon, Frozen Dead – two other films where he played doctors). Janette Scott (Day of the Triffids, Paranoiac) plays his better half, scientist Dr. Maggie Sorenson. Janette’s Triffid co-star Kieron Moore is Dr. Ted Rampion. Noted character actor Alexander Knox (The Vikings, The Sea Wolf) rounds out the cast as Sir Charles Eggerston.

How will the love triangle work out? What is the mysterious disease that Dr. Sorenson has? Can X-Ray treatment be beneficial? Can atomic weapons fix the damage caused by atomic weapons?

In a precursor to Category 7’s constant mispronunciation of ‘mesosphere’, here we have a scientist unable to pronounce ‘seismograph’.

Crack in the World uses a lot of stock photography to good effect. Mind you the sub bouncing around in lava was bit much. I love the atomic references – you just don’t hear that word much any more. The telephones are out of this world. Protective glasses means quick, bring out the red cellophane.

Crack in the World is very dated and does not make much sense but is still a fine example of 60s science fiction.

Addendum: Shortly after this movie (1967), Janette Scott retired before the age of 30 for thirty years. If you don’t know her but her name is familiar, she is mentioned in one of the lyrics from The Rocky Horror Picture Show.