Legendary Ragnarok and Roll

Legendary and Ragnarok are currently available on instant Netflix

Legendary

 

Legendary (2013) – Rated PG-13

A cryptozoologist assembles his team for an expedition to China’s hinterland, where a primeval monster locals call the “Shocate” is believed to roam.”

One Line Review: This movie is Legen- wait for it- awful.

Poor Scott Adkins. He is a very hard-working world-class athlete and martial artist. He is also a passable, if somewhat wooden, actor. He is fairly good-looking and, due to his athleticism, has quite a body. In the past, this would have added up to him being an action star, which is what he is trying to become. Unfortunately the Van Damme/Seagal/Norris era is long over (as Schwarzenegger is finding out to his detriment).

This doesn’t stop Adkins from trying. He bounces back and forth between small roles in Hollywood productions and starring roles in cheap overseas productions. Legendary is one of his starring roles. He plays a cryptozoologist along the lines of Denise Richards’ scientist from The World is Not Enough.

He acts alongside fellow B-movie action star Dolph Lundgren and an Asian supporting cast. Obviously, Adkins and Lundgren have an obligatory fight scene. Unfortunately there isn’t much else for Adkins to do and Lundgren just mugs his way through the film.

The CGI is pretty awful, just a smidge above an Asylum production. It would seem Legendary is a misnomer. Forgettable would be a much better name.

Ragnarok

 

Ragnarok (2013) – Rated PG-13

An archaeologist sets out to find a link between an ancient shipwreck and the Viking apocalypse known as Ragnarok, only to make a chilling discovery.”

Ragnarok is a film with a very intriguing premise. Many films start with a small investigation that widens in focus to something far larger than the investigators had surmised. This is a subplot of films like Deep Impact and 2012 and somewhat a staple of the private eye genre (Chinatown, The Two Jakes). Ragnarok actually starts out as an investigation of something far larger and ends up narrowing in focus.

Ragnarok is not great and you will have to read subtitles but it is far, far better than Legendary while running along similar lines. The nordic scenery is quite nice and the setting somewhat unique. The CGI is a step up from Legendary and is fairly decent.

Ragnarok tries to be both an adventure film and a monster movie. It doesn’t really succeed as either but is a passable waste of time. Part of the problem stems from its attempt to be family friendly. It succeeds but what American family is going to watch a subtitled film together?

Orgasm Ninja Germ Z Inc 2 – Electric Boogaloo

Germ Z, Orgasm Inc., and Ninja 2 are currently available on instant Netflix

Germ Z

 

Germ Z (2013) – Not rated

A meteor knocks a satellite to Earth near a small town, infecting military responders and residents with a germ that turns them into cannibals.

I hate to say it but there’s not much to say here. This is a competently done very low budget film. Unfortunately it apes George Romero’s The Crazies far more than The Crazies remake did. There is the problem. The Crazies remake is fantastic, updating the original and significantly improving on it. Germ Z not only does not improve on the Romero film, it doesn’t match it. Maybe you’ll enjoy it if you haven’t seen either version of The Crazies or any of the [REC] films or the American remake Quarantine…

Orgasm, Inc.

Orgasm Inc. (2009) – Not rated

Orgasm Inc. is a funny and sobering look inside “big pharma” and the marketing campaigns associated with a pill for female sexual dysfunction.”

As long as you aren’t offended by frank talk of female sexuality, I highly recommend this revealing look into horrific pharmaceutical practices. Orgasm has a lot of humor to offset its damning indictment of the pharma industry.

Ninja 2

 

Ninja 2 (2013) – Rated R

When his pregnant wife is savagely murdered, martial arts master Casey Bowman seeks retribution against the brutal drug lord behind the killing.”

Well I think you know whether you want to watch this movie or not. If you enjoyed Scott Adkins kicking, punching, and slicing his way through Ninja, then you will enjoy this movie. There is the usual rationale for the violence and there is plenty of martial arts on display here. Scott Adkins may not be a great thespian but he is a wonderful martial arts performer.

The Expendables week – Rest of the Cast

Well time to wrap up the week. I’ve covered Stallone, Statham, Li, Lundgren, Van Damme and Willis. The Expendables 2 also has Chuck Norris, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Randy Couture, and Scott Adkins but Netflix only has a few streaming titles for each of them.

The Cutter (2005) – Rated R

“When a kidnapping rescue mission goes horribly wrong, Detective John Shepherd (Chuck Norris) escapes his guilty conscience by trying to save an aging diamond cutter, Issac Teller (Bernie Kopell), who’s been abducted by an unknown madman. With the help of the Issac’s niece, Elizabeth (Joanna Pacula), Shep unravels his mysterious past … only to find that the cutter perfected his craft years earlier as an Auschwitz inmate.”

The only Chuck Norris streaming on Netflix is not one of his better ones. It is a rather generic shoot ’em up, beat ’em up. For Chuck Norris fans only.

The Terminator (1984) – Rated R

“In the post-apocalyptic future, reigning tyrannical supercomputers teleport a cyborg assassin known as the “Terminator” (Arnold Schwarzenegger) back to 1984 to snuff Sarah Connor (Linda Hamilton), whose unborn son is destined to lead insurgents against 21st century mechanical hegemony. Meanwhile, the human-resistance movement dispatches a lone warrior (Michael Biehn) to safeguard Sarah. Can he stop the virtually indestructible killing machine?”

The Terminator is a classic for a reason. James Cameron is actually able to turn Arnold’s limited acting range into a positive. Arnold is fantastic as the unstoppable killing machine and is still a good thrill ride. Look for future Aliens stars Lance Henriksen, Michael Biehn, and Bill Paxton (sporting a Mohawk).

Conan the Destroyer (1984) – Rated PG-13

“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 not as good as the first Conan, Conan the Destroyer is a more family friendly version. It suffers from too much Dungeons & Dragons influence and some rather bizarre casting (Wilt Chamberlain? Grace Jones?).

The Scorpion King 2 (2008) – Rated PG-13

“Employing an all-new cast, this action-driven prequel to The Scorpion King tells the heroic tale of young Mathayus (Michael Copon) and his relentless quest for justice against an evil and powerful villain, King Sargon (Ultimate Fighting champ Randy Couture). Mathayus faces heart-stopping tribulations during his adventurous, odds-defying trajectory toward his ultimate destiny: becoming the formidable warrior king of an ancient desert empire.”

Wow Universal’s reboot of The Mummy with Brendan Fraser was a lot of fun. It made buckets of money so they made two sequels which were nowhere near as good. Here comes the bizarre part. Universal then went and made a prequel to the second film, The Scorpion King starring Duane ‘The Rock’ Johnson. The Scorpion King 2 features Randy Couture instead of The Rock. There is even a Scorpion King 3 with Dave Bautista.

Ninja (2009) – Rated R

“An American studying the ancient martial art of ninjutsu in Japan finds his training put to the test when he’s summoned by his sensei to return to New York for a dangerous mission: protect a chest containing the weapons of a legendary ninja.”

Yet another one of those competing movie idea, Ninja came out the same time as Ninja Assassin. Ninja Assassin was originally titled Ninja and starred Korean pop sensation Rain. If you like Ninjas or Scott Adkins then you’ll enjoy this.

Assassination Games – Half the Van Dammage

 

Assassination Games (2011) – Rated R

“The indestructible Jean-Claude Van Damme returns to big-screen mayhem in this light-’em-up action thriller, with rival assassins joining forces to dismantle a global drug cartel operating in league with the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency.”

I could just say Van Damme and leave it at that but there is actually quite a range of quality in Van Damme’s films. I always loved the tagline for Double Impact – “Twice the Van Dammage!”. Timecop is a blast as is the goofy Hard Target (currently available on instant Netflix) but then you have Knock Off.

My best friend Pat wanted to see Knock Off for Van Damme and I liked director Tsui Hark so off we went. It was so bad that I wanted to walk out about 15 minutes in. I didn’t want to ruin Pat’s good time so I just sat through it. When it was over, Pat turns to me and says, “that was so bad I wanted to walk out but I thought you were enjoying it.” Augh! An hour and a half of my life that I’ll never get back.

Assassination Games falls smack in the middle. Jean Claude Van Damme seems much more relaxed on screen lately. He has been doing a lot of movies with other actors. Here he shares the action spotlight with Scott Adkins. Adkins is a very physical actor who can really sell the martial arts scenes. He was a lot of fun as Yuri Boyka in the Undisputed series.

The director does make good use of the industrial settings in eastern Europe. I’m not sure I would praise the cinematography but I did like the bleak cement look to everything in the film.

There are a fair number of adequate action sequences, none are stunning but all are competent. The best is actually a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it moment where Adkins and Van Damme simultaneously attempt an assassination. Most of the violence is gun related but there is just enough hand-to-hand to please the martial arts crowd.

Those points would add up to a pretty good movie but the final action sequence is telegraphed and not very good, the script needs a lot of work, none of the villains are compelling, and everyone besides Van Damme and Adkins is basically an extra.

If you’re a Van Damme or Adkins fan then by all means watch it. If you’re a martial arts fan who has run out of other movies then watch it, otherwise skip it. By the way Van Damme and Adkins will both be joining everyone else in the action genre (Stallone, Schwarzenegger, Willis, Norris, Statham, Li, Lundgren, Crews, Couture, and newcomer Liam Hemsworth) in The Expendables 2. That just leaves Steven Seagal for the inevitable The Expendables 3.

Lazy Weekend Musings – Actionfest Wrap-Up

Well it looks like I could talk about Actionfest for another solid week but this is supposed to be an instant Netflix blog. I apologize for giving the rest of the films short shrift but it is better than not mentioning them at all. Some of the other films I saw at Actionfest:

WATCH: Vengeance (2009) – NR – Not rated but contains a lot of bloody violence.

“Today, Costello (French music and film icon Johnny Hallyday) is a skilled chef. Twenty years ago, he was a cold-blooded killer working for the mob. But when a horrific tragedy befalls the family of his daughter (Sylvie Testud), Costello returns to his old ways. Journeying from France to Hong Kong, our culinary hero prepares to serve up revenge on a host of bad guys in this bloody tale from acclaimed action director Johnnie To.”

Johnnie To is an excellent action director. Vengeance is an excellent but flawed revenge film. There is an amnesia angle that is hinted at in the first act and mentioned in the second that goes into overdrive in act three. It provides both the best moments in the film and the most logical holes. Still this is a wonderful action and revenge movie. Put it in your Netflix queue.

WATCH: The Good, The Bad, The Weird (2008) – NR – Not rated but also has plenty of bloody violence.

“On a train crossing the Manchurian desert, an unlikely trio — good bounty hunter Park Do-won (Woo-sung Jung), bad gangster Park Chang-yi (Byung-hun Lee) and weird train robber Yoon Tae-goo (Kang-ho Song) — unite to find a treasure maps promised loot. Racing through the unforgiving landscape, they stay one step ahead of rivals and the Japanese army. Ji-woon Kim directs this Sergio Leone-inspired adventure.”

My understanding is that this is the largest-grossing Korean film surpassing The Host. It is a wonderful “western” epic with Mongolia filling in for the American West/Mexico. Instead of the focus being on The Good (as in The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly), The Good has the least amount of screentime. This movie runs on a bit too long (it could have used tighter editing) but it is quite a bit of fun. The ending is especially good. Put this in your Netflix queue too.

WATCH: Undisputed III: Redemption (2010) – Rated R for brutal, bloody violence and pervasive language.

“Isaac Florentine is back to direct the third film in the Undisputed series, this time following Uri Boyka (British martial artist Scott Adkins) inside the toughest prison in the world to watch him do battle in one of the most lethal competitions known to man. Staying alive is high on Boykas list, but he is also determined to clear his name against the wrongful charges that put him behind bars in the first place.”

Okay how could I not like this film? At Actionfest I got to meet the director Isaac Florentine, the fight choreographer Larnell Stovall, and the actor/martial artist Marko Zoror who plays the villain. Truthfully the story is almost groan-inducingly silly. Normally the holes in the script would sink this film but Isaac Florentine keeps the focus squarely on the action and moves quickly past the exposition. The fight scenes are simply incredible and I am hopeful that Marko Zoror can break through to theatrical movies and not be relegated to DTV martial arts.