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Quick Reviews of Cold Blood (2019), Shaft (2019) and Shazam! (2019)




Just some quick thoughts on these titles. Perhaps when I feel like it I will go in deeper. For now this will have to do.





Cold Blood (2019)




It looked so promising. Jean Reno as an assassin who gets a visit from an uninvited guest. Here I was thinking this was going to be very similar to Leon. Perhaps like a what if scenario and Leon managed to escape and get old. Now that would have been something. Unfortunately Cold Blood is one big slow mess. It's story is all over the place with twists and turns that have no impact whatsoever. Almost everything feels lacking. At least Jean Reno and Joe Anderson do their best to make more out of the crap they have been dealt with. It sadly is not enough.

Gigantic waste of your time. So avoid!




Shaft (2019)




Perhaps a little slow and long for it's own good. But definitely an improvement on the original Shaft featuring Samuel L. Jackson. It's more comedic, more action packed and a whole lot more aware of what Shaft should have been. If you are worried that it may be a little too comedic then let me put your mind at ease. Most of the film is nicely balanced and knows when to joke and when to be serious. I also liked that Richard Roundtree the original Shaft was featured as well and thus making it part of the original franchise.

From start to finish a true blast.




Shazam! (2019)





One of the better DCEU films. But it has quite a few flaws. 

First of all, it's too slow and too long. It takes them too long to get to that moment where Billy Batson realizes what his true power is and comes from. The comedic moments where exactly as advertised. As in exactly the same comedic moments and nothing more. And why they were referencing to Big (with Tom Hanks) is beyond me. I doubt that current generation would make that connection.  Yes, it also had a young boy in a man's body. But that is where the analogy stops. Billy Batson might be young but he has been chosen for a reason. He didn't exactly wish to be a super hero or an adult. It's like they tried real hard to be referencing too pop culture now and in the past so that it would appeal to young and old. I don't think they succeeded in this as I found the story to be far more appealing to kids than it's to adults. Biggest letdown for me was that the action wasn't as thrilling or exciting as I hoped it to be. It's pretty tame compared to previous DCEU films. 

But I can't deny that overall I found myself entertained.




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Review Sudden Death (1995): Die Hard at a Ice Hockey Game!

genre: die hard clones, action, crime, thriller






Sudden Death refers to a ice hockey term where the game ends, the second one of the two teams scores. In this case it also could be interpreted literally. Welcome to Jean-Claude's Die Hard.

Van Damme is the McClane of the story named McCord (really?) and has a background and everything. His background mostly concerns his kids and what they think of him. Essentially the former fireman is heavily traumatized after a kid dies on his watch. Obviously this is something that would deeply affect him. It's not clear if he had been divorced due to this incident or long before. But if this was because of this event then his ex wife is a terrible woman. Especially since she is hellbent to give him constant grief for trying to be a good dad. It's the stepfather who is more understanding than she is. He finally is allowed to take his kids to a ice hockey game. On the day the vice president of the United States of America is visiting. And the same day a large group of terrorists are trying to take over the stadium for their purpose. Their leader is played by Powers Boothe who is having fun playing the bad ruthless bad guy. Actually all the villains in this flick are no joke. Old people. kids, no one is save. If you get in their way you are a goner. 

One of the elements that makes Sudden Death work is the fact that they take their time to set up the characters and events. But once events start happening the action is on. With here and there some short breaks that sometimes shorten the tension. Still because of the emotional component it's not that big of a flaw. The action therefore is exciting. However one thing that bothered me is that it's very obvious that a stunt double is used in the fight scenes with Van Damme. I get that when doing certain stunts. But this was just simple punching and kicking Van Damme is very capable of. It was nice to see McCord make more use of the environment. Even if at times he does seem to be an expert about almost everything. Still it's an element that makes Van Damme very likable. Especially in relation to his kids.

Sudden Death is one of the better Die Hard Clones. It takes it's time to establish the important characters and set up the mood. Perhaps a little too much but once events start happening it's exciting and entertaining. 



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Review Double Impact (1991): Van Damme thought he could get creative.

genre: action, martial arts, crime





In my opinion one Van Damme is more than enough but he himself thought different and wanted to play a double role. He wanted to show the contrast in his work. Basically to display his skills as an actor. Probably as a writer too since he also contributed in writing the story. So how did it turn out? Is Double Impact truly double the fun or just one big failure? 

In hindsight I thought that the story was pretty serviceable. It actually starts out real well. Then the twin angle gets introduced and we see two Van Damme's. One who seems a bit too happy and cheery who is named Chad. And one named Alex who is all serious and tough. It's a contrast alright. But one that has impact and convince us that Van Damme can act? Not in the slightest. It's just Van Damme with different haircuts and clothes. However I was willing to go with it. Cause what I was truly was hoping to see was a difference in combat style. There is some difference but so negligible and a wasted opportunity if you ask me. If Van Damme had exaggerated Chad's cheeriness and Alex's toughness. For example have Chad goofing all the way and still rock to shock and horror of Alex that would have been funny and cool. 

Double Impact features a few Hong Kong names you probably will recognize like Bolo Yeung and Philip Chang (Hard Boiled). It makes sense for them to be there. Only I wished they would have used them more prominently. The fight between him and Chad for example is very disappointing. Actually this brings me to the real problem of Double Impact. At the start the action looked promising. But then as the film continues it never delivers. The action is adequate but never truly exciting or exceptional. In hindsight the opening scene contains the best action sequence. The pacing also is a problem. It's too slow and long winded. And just when you think they are about to end they drag on the finale even longer. Normally (as long as the action is good) I applaud that. Here it's just tedious and boring.

Double Impact used to be a favourite of mine. But now I simply don't think it's that good. It's not that bad either but certainly not warranted of the title Double Impact. So definitely not double the fun. It's not a failure neither. Although you will have to be in the mood to find it entertaining.



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Review Time and Tide ak.a. Shun liu ni liu (2000): Tsui Hark shows he is still a master of action!

genre: Gun fu, bullet ballet, action






Like with most of Tsui Hark movies the plot is almost impossible to follow but I will try although very briefly. 

Tyler (Nicholas Tse( has a one night stand with a lesbian cop and manages to impregnate her. She doesn't want anything to do with him however that doesn't stop him from taking responsibility and joins a team of bodyguards under management of Uncle Ji (Anthony Wong). The money he earns goes to Ah Jo (lesbian cop) which he secretly shoves under her door. On of his operations he encounters Jack (Wu Bai) and his pregnant fiancee. There Jack demonstrates how skilled he is and helps stop an assassination attempt. Turns out that the people behind this attempt are former partners of Jack who want him to either join or be killed. Naturally Jack doesn't want to be involved.

Most of the film involves Jack and Tyler dealing with the assassins. Jack a little more competently than Tyler. Jack is very effective fighting his old comrades in arms. Most of the time in gun battles but from time to time also hand to hand combat. The gun battles are the most impressive. I have to admit. It's not always easy to follow what is going on exactly but the choreography and the way the action is shot is incredibly exciting. Especially when the big battle occurs where Jack is rappelling down a rope while being shot at. Somehow the camera is following him and manages to show you the size of the area the battle is taking place in. It's impressive. 

Tonally Time and Tide starts out as a comedy but then gradually shifts to serious and thrilling action. Although it's filled with moments that will make you scratch your head. Overall Time and Tide is incredibly entertaining from start to finish. It should serve as an example to show directors that it is still very possible to be inventive and creative in the action genre.





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Filmography Tsui Hark






These are all the titles Tsui Hark was involved in as a director, writer, producer and actor otherwise it would have been too big of a list. And as you can see it's quite extensive already. Do consider this a work in progress since it will definitely take a while to watch and review all of his titles. 




Year Title Functioned as

Director Writer Producer Actor
1979   The Butterfly Murders Yes No No No

1980

 We're Going to Eat You

Yes

Yes

No

No
1980
 Dangerous Encounters   of the First Kind
Yes Yes No No
1981
 All the Wrong Clues for   the Right   Solution
Yes Yes No No

1982

 Aces Go Places

No

No

No

Yes
1982
 Yi jiu ling wu de dong   tian
No No No Yes

1983


 Zu Warriors from the   Magic Mountain

Yes

No

No

Yes

1983

 Aces Go Places 2

No

No

No

Yes
1983  Search for the Gods Yes No No No
1983  Wo ai Ye Laixiang No No No Yes
1983  All the Wrong Spies No No No No
1984  Shanghai Blues Yes No Yes Yes
1984  Aces Go Places 3 Yes No No Yes
1984  Run, Tiger, Run No No No Yes
1985  Kung Hei Fat Choy No No No Yes
1985  Working Class Yes No Yes Yes
1985  Heart of Dragon No No No Yes
1986  Peking Opera Blues Yes No Yes No
1986  Spirit Chaser Aisha Yes No Yes No
1986  A Better Tomorrow No No Yes Yes
1986  Happy Ghost III No No No Yes
1986  Righting Wrongs No No No No
1987  Final Victory No No No Yes
1987  A Chinese Ghost Story No No Yes No
1987  A Better Tomorrow II No Yes Yes No
1988  The Big Heat No No Yes No
1988  Roboforce No No Yes No
1989  
 

 A Better Tomorrow III:   Love & Death   in   Saigon
Yes Yes Yes Yes

1989

 The Killer

No

No

Yes

No
1990
 Fight and Love with a   Terracotta Warrior
No No Yes No
1990  The Swordsman No No Yes No
1990  Spygame No No Yes No
1990  A Chinese Ghost Story II No No Yes No
1991
 Once Upon a Time in   China
Yes Yes Yes No

1991

 The Raid
No Yes Yes No
1991
 A Chinese Ghost Story   III
No Yes Yes No

1991

 King of Chess
No No No No
1991  The Banquet Yes Yes No No
1992  Twin Dragons Yes Yes No No
1992
 Once Upon a Time in   China II
Yes Yes Yes No

1992

 The Master
Yes Yes Yes No
1992  Swordsman II No Yes Yes No
1992  New Dragon Gate Inn No Yes Yes No
1992  The Wicked City No Yes Yes Yes
1993  Iron Monkey No Yes Yes No
1993  The East Is Red No Yes Yes No
1993
 Once Upon a Time in   China III
Yes Yes Yes No
1993  Green Snake Yes Yes Yes No
1993
 Once Upon a Time in   China IV
No Yes Yes No
1994  Burning Paradise No No Yes No
1994  The Lovers Yes Yes Yes No
1994
 Once Upon a Time in   China V
Yes Yes Yes No
1995  The Chinese Feast Yes Yes Yes No
1995
 Love in the Time of   Twilight
Yes Yes Yes No

1995

 The Blade
Yes Yes Yes No
1995 – 1996

Wong Fei Hung Series


Yes


Yes


Yes


No
1996  Tristar Yes Yes Yes No
1996  Shanghai Grand No No Yes No
1996  Black Mask No Yes Yes No
1997
 Once Upon a Time in   China and   America
No No Yes No

1997

 Double Team
Yes No No No
1997  

 A Chinese Ghost Story:   The Tsui Hark       Animation
No Yes No Yes

1998

 Knock Off
Yes No No No
2000  Time and Tide Yes Yes Yes No
2001  The Legend of Zu Yes Yes Yes No
2001  Old Master Q 2001 No No Yes No
2002  The Era of Vampires No Yes Yes No
2002
 Black Mask 2: City of   Masks
Yes No Yes No
2003  1:99 Shorts Yes No No No
2004  Xanda No Yes Yes No
2005  Seven Swords Yes Yes Yes No
2005 –2006

Seven Swordsmen


No


Yes


Yes


No
2006  The Warrior No No No No
2007  Triangle Yes Yes Yes No
2008  Missing Yes Yes Yes No
2008  All About Women Yes Yes Yes No
2010

 Detective Dee and the   Mystery of the   Phantom  Flame
Yes No Yes No

2011

 A Simple Life

No

No

No

Yes
2011
 Flying Swords of Dragon  Gate
Yes Yes Yes No
2011  The Great Magician No No No Yes
2013  Sheng dan mei gui No No Yes No
2013
 Young Detective Dee:   Rise of the Sea   Dragon
Yes Yes Yes No
2014
 The Taking of Tiger   Mountain
Yes Yes No No

2016

 The Mermaid

No

No

No

Yes
2016  The Bodyguard No No No Yes
2016  Sword Master No Yes Yes No
2017
 Journey to the West: The   Demons Strike   Back
Yes Yes Yes No
2017
 The Thousand Faces of   Dunjia
No Yes No No
2018
 Detective Dee: The Four   Heavenly   Kings
Yes No Yes No

TBA

Baat Bou Bun

Yes

No

No

No








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Review Double Team (1997): Worse than I remember but action wise it rocks!

genre: action, science fiction






Dennis Rodman is an acquired taste. For some Jean-Claude Van Damme is as well. But whoever thought it was wise to team these two up deserves to be shot.

If Rodman wasn't in this film it would have increased the entertainment value tenfold. His attempt at comedy and trying to be a genuine action star is awful.  And the constant referencing to him being a basketball player just isn't funny. His weirdness should have worked with Tsui Hark's style of direction. Turns out that Rodman is even too weird for Tsui Hark. Let that sink in for a minute. Tsui Hark is easily one of the wackiest and strangest film makers in the world.

Van Damme however is perfectly solid as the lead. He doesn't kick and punch as much as you would expect him too nevertheless he does kick ass in major ways. Only using guns and acrobatics instead. The energetic and hyper kinetic style of Tsui Hark blends real well with the way he moves. And it's something he would continue in Knock Off (also directed by Tsui Hark) and already started doing in John Woo's Hard Target and in Maximum Risk (directed by Ringo Lam). Naturally in some scenes it's obvious that it's not Van Damme himself doing the stunts. But that doesn't matter in the slightest since the stunt people did a very good job of making look everything look good and spectaculair. 

Mickey Rourke might not have a super big role he still makes his presence count whenever he is on the screen. The emphasis is now more on his physique and boxing than his acting chops but I have to admit that Mickey in this film looked great. In hindsight it does look like there seemed to be more plot concerning him that was cut for some reason. If not then that should have been the story. Rourke as a not entirely bad antagonist who wants revenge for his son should have had more importance than the whole Colony (think tank) thing. Although even that seemed like something that had more significance initially. It's not uncommon for Hark to lose focus or forget about complete plot lines in favour of the spectacle. I am fine with that.

Double Team is slick, stylish and action packed. There are moments that can be highly entertaining and there are moments that are incredibly cheesy and bad. But overall it's quite entertaining if you don't get bogged down by Dennis Rodman and his antics.



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Review Showdown in Little Tokyo (1991): All kinds of bad!

genre: action, martial arts, crime







Back when this came out I loved this film. Especially since it was advertised as the first film with Brandon Lee. son of Bruce Lee. Naturally this wasn't his first. Still I do think this was the one that gave him a lot of notoriety. But it was also a film that featured many of the elements that I loved in an action film. However, now after having viewed it again after many years, I think Showdown in Little Tokyo is quite bad.

Actually to be honest, I never truly thought it was super good. But it had it's charm. And a lot of that charm was due to Brandon Lee's charisma and chemistry with Dolph Lundgren. While I didn't have problems with Dolph Lundgren himself I did have trouble with his role compared to how Brandon Lee's character was portrayed. Johnny (Brandon Lee) is supposed to be an American of Japanese decent who knows nothing of his own culture except martial arts. Kenner (Lundgren) on the other hand knows everything. Sure he was born and raised in Japan but that doesn't automatically mean you get exposed to everything. Johnny's mother is briefly discussed. She was the one who gave him the option to do either flower arranging or martial arts so that he would soak in some of his culture.  Like that would have been the only thing a mother would teach her son. I am sure the mother would have exposed him to all kinds of traditions and rituals he would have picked up on. He might not have always understood them or perhaps not even agree with them. But to blatantly not know or deny their existence? Come on. That is beyond preposterous.  

Not to mention the fact that most of the Asians in this film aren't even Japanese. While on some level I understand that perhaps they just looked for people who could portray them. It's an aspect of Hollywood that remains to be puzzling and infuriating. On the one hand they are trying their hardest to appear progressive and politically correct. But on the other hand don't really give a damn. That being said it is something I can overlook. Next to the racial element there is also a very sexist attitude. Women are being regarded as objects. One could argue that this is only the case when it's the Yakuza concerned. However Lundgren's character is guilty of it also. I am not even referring to the scene where he flirts with an older Japanese woman. Because the woman was very able and quick to shoot him down. It's the scene with Tia Carrere's character who is about to commit suicide. It's something she chose to do but was denied since Kenner intervened. The same Kenner who implied to Johnny that he had to be respectful of these kinds of rituals and traditions. Sure I get it. It's the typical damsel in distress thing that was heavily featured in most of the films back then. Still they at least could have tried to have Tia Carrere portray a real character and not some glorified piece of meat. 

You know what all of the above could have been forgiven if the action still holds up. Unfortunately this is not the case. It's the type of action that entertains while it lasts but is not something that remains enjoyable at multiple viewings. Especially then you will notice a lot of quick cuts and editing choices that stand in the way of showing martial arts goodness. Even the shoot em up moments are terrible. There isn't a single action scene that is memorable. Not one. So that should tell you something. 

Overall this is a film that was good back in the day but hasn't aged well one bit. I mean I went on from loving it do almost disliking it with a passion. I said almost. Because Brandon Lee's charm still is winning. Not one I can recommend! If you want a real good action flick with Brandon Lee in it then watch Rapid Fire. It's far superior on so many fronts and very underrated!






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Review Lionheart a.k.a. Wrong Bet a.k.a. A.W.O.L. (1990): One of Van Damme's best titles!

genre: martial arts, action, drama






Without a doubt one of Van Damme's best titles. Why? Since next to good action it has a good story. Nothing complicated or complex mind you. It's simple but effective.

Lyon is a soldier in the French Foreign Legion. After word gets out to him that his brother is badly wounded (burned alive) he tries to get a leave of absence which they blatantly deny. Not having one inch of sympathy. He then decides to desert them  and flee to the U.S. to visit and help his brother. Unfortunately he did not come in time. While having failed his brother he wants to do whatever he can to take care of his niece and sister and law that are left behind. Helene (the sister in law) is angry at him for not being there when he was needed and refuses his help even when she desperately needs it. Most of course is her grief speaking. But also because she blames him for the fact that his actions forced the brother to be out on the streets. As it turns out this is not true at all and Lyon tried to get him away from any bad activities so that he could focus on his future. She even says that he should have let him go to jail. To which Lyon replies that he would not have survived it. All I take from this is that right from the start Lyon has a big heart and tried to do whatever he could to take care of people he considers family. Hence why he is called Lionheart.

This might give you the impression he is a pushover. But he is not. Far from it. He is a force to be reckoned with, especially in combat. His skills get recognized and appreciated by Joshua (Harrison Page) who takes him under his wing. If Harrison Page might seem familiar then you probably know him from Sledge Hammer! where he plays the captain. He introduces him to Cynthia played by Deborah Rennard who organizes fights which are illegal BTW. It's never clarified if this is the only thing she does or that it's just a very lucrative side activity. It doesn't matter much since it's obvious that she can live off it. Through Cynthia Lyon can provide for his family so he accepts whatever fight she wants him to be in. While he is doing this he also has to avoid capture by two MP's from the French Foreign Legion who are determined to take him back and punish him accordingly. One of these MP's is played by Michel Qissi (Tong Po in Kickboxer, Bloodsport and Terminator Woman). 

This brings me to the fights and action. Clearly what most people tune in for. The martial arts is solid. The choreography is slick and stylish enough and at times it does seem to depict what an organized street fight would look like. But it's the emotional component that give the fights that extra edge and make them more compelling.

As far as I am concerned this is a classic. It remains strong after multiple viewings and shows that Van Damme does have it in him to do more acting wise when given the chance. So a must watch for sure!



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Review Maximum Risk (1996): Ringo Lam's American debut!

genre: action, thriller, crime







Maximum Risk was Ringo Lam's American directorial debut similarly how Hard Target was John Woo's American debut. Back then I joked that it was quite funny how three of the greatest director's (John Woo, Ringo Lam and Tsui Hark) of Hong Kong cinema kept ending up with Jean-Claude Van Damme. Like it was an initiation of some sort. If they could achieve succes with him then they could achieve succes with anyone.

In that respect Maximum Risk is quite decent. It's filled with action, intrigue and drama. Maybe even one or two memorable sequences. However it's also one that is a little too bogged down by the plot. The mystery that is predictable to a tee and never gets deep enough. Van Damme has a twin he never knew existed. And apparently his brother was involved with the Russian mafia. It is bit of a shame since it does promise a whole lot. Unfortunately on that front it never delivers. Although you will hardly get the chance to since the entertaining action will distract you constantly. It's not the kind you would expect from Jean-Claude Van Damme. Apart from one big fight it's mostly stunt and chase work. I can't quite put my finger on it. But it's very effective and yet at the same time perhaps also could be considered a little average. 

The plot could have worked tough had Van Damme been a better actor. The whole twin thing would have been more interesting if he had managed to make the two brothers completely different. Instead it's just Jean-Claude with a different hair cut. The love interest Natasha Henstridge does what she can. But she is not given that much to do. The villains of the story are as generic as they come. Another area where they could have improved things on. 

Overall it's a very entertaining action thriller while it lasts. But nothing more and nothing less.




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