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Los Angeles Streetfighter (1985)
What a movie! It's no wonder that martial arts movies have for years been stereotyped as crap, this movie is the archetypal example. Still, it's great fun. If you want to see a movie where the heroes have thick accents to accompany their less-than-stellar acting, this is the one. Very little plot-wise makes sense, but this may be one of the few films that deals with the predicaments of Asian-American youth in any way, not that it does so realistically. Jun Chong is great as FOB leader Young and Phillip Rhee is amusing in an early performance. The sequence in the liquor store featuring the thug with the giant flute is simply classic! How did these people think to include such things?!? To the film's credit, the fight sequences are actually well done, and karate legend Bill Wallace adds a touch of class with his presence, though I wonder what he was doing in this movie. If you can find this movie anywhere, do watch it. It will encourage you to make a film of your own.
Right to remain silent!
This movie used to play on TV every once in a while, and its production values are more big-screen than small. The story is standard cop fare, but the pacing in impeccable. Some familiar faces (Robert Vaughn, Leslie Nielsen) are present, and the performances overall are more than adequate.
This movie is hard to find (it exists on VHS) but if you happen to catch it on TV, give it a watch.
Death Dimension (1978)
Return to the REAL
Yes, this movie is one of the many children of the Bruce Lee era, but honestly, it is one of the most entertaining.
Everything from the sets to the story reek of cheapness, but it's all good. Jim Kelly has great fighting skill and the mere presence of Bond alumni George Lazenby and Harold Sakata is enough for the film to warrant a look.
The story -- concerning a fiendish plot to "freeze-bomb" the world -- is absurd, but the elements that populate it -- kung-fu, hot chicks, and grunting henchmen -- combined with great locales and a goofy soundtrack, make it a doozy.
If you expect Enter the Dragon, you won't get it with Death Dimension a.k.a Kill Factor, but this movie is still some great fun. Look for the senseless closing frame; it seals the deal.
The Human Tornado (1976)
Yes this film is great
Rudy does it again with this hot off the streets follow up to Dolemite. This entry is filled with the requisite Rudy Ray Moore raunch, humor and martial arts. Rudy eludes a crazy red-neck sheriff in this movie that also features an infamous scene where Rudy dives down a steep hill. See it for laughs and for a brain-blasting hit of Blaxploitation magic.
Fun action B-film in the Grand 1980's one man army tradition. It's great to see Marvin Hagler as an "actor". The story itself is pretty typical. A lone-warrior "Shane" type deal, but it's in a fun setting, and the action is hot. See this movie and reminisce about what B-action movies used to be like.
Violent, but somehow effective
Fleshburn is a violent revenge story starring minor action hero Sonny Landham. The story really doesn't really break any new ground in terms of its structure, but it does incorporate a strange, spiritual element in its central conflict, and uses a Native American villain in a non-typical, not-so-stereotyped way.
The action in the film is intense, as it emphasises the psychological trauma of those involved in the peril of being stranded out in the desert by the Landham character, as opposed to a lot of gunplay or explosions. Fleshburn is something a bit off the beaten track, for those who want a look at a different action-type film.
Just too Sweeet!
This is one in a long line of blaxploitation films made during the 70's that were designed as money making vehicles. Most of them are simply terrible, but Melinda is actually a cool one.
Its basically a revenge tale, but it is chock full of melodrama and excitement. The story is an overdone one, but the films' cheapness actually benefits it. The settings seem authentic and the movie actually manages to capture some street life in it.
Admittedly, the acting is not excellent, but somehow the film manages to be entertaining in a "ghetto" way. Don't go out of your way to see it, though.
John and the Missus (1987)
A touching film
John and the Missus is a simple,touching and heartfelt story based on the novel of the same name by director, star and writer Gordon Pinsent. Concerning the trials and tribulations of a small mining community on Canada's east coast, the film contains beautiful scenery and excellent performances by all of the cast.
At times very tragic, the film manages to also convey feelings of hope when its characters must deal with the prospect of abandoning their lifelong community.
The film is metaphorically as well as visually rich, and is far superior to many films of exponentially higher budgets. A very potent human story, highly recommended.
Interesting morality tale
Utu is quite a good film. Having said that, it is quite possible that we have seen it before in other settings.
Utu is unique in that it is one of the few films available in North America dealing with the Maori culture of New Zealand. Other than that, the film is basically an anti colonial sentimented film which could have taken place almost anywhere else in the world where colonialism was experienced.
Utu still manages to pack a punch in the very earnest way the main character sets out to rid his country of the white invaders. Utu, meaning revenge, is the basic theme of this story. The colonial army in the film pillages Maori villages. The Maori corporal who quits the army to fight against it seeks revenge. The story is simple, yet compelling.
The film examines imperialism in a light not uncommon to stories of this nature, but it is better in the sense that it does not try to gloss over the anger of the natives by arming them conveniently with western values. That is a crime many movies are guilty of. The level of violence in the film is typical by genre standards, and it actually lends itself to the films raw emotion. This one's worth a look.
Year of the Dragon (1985)
Greatest Triad flick this side of the Pacific
Year of The Dragon is a controversial picture at best and has been subject to debate over its presumed racist themes. This gangster flick centers around a Vietnam-vet cop (Mickey Rourke) and his Triad adversary (John Lone), and is probably more thematically correct in terms of the gangster depictions than most Hong Kong flicks of the same nature. The movie has many residual sentiments from Vietnam and this is personified through Rourke's racist character. The film itself not necessarily racist as it is more of a reflection of the defensive nature of people when confronted with change in their environments. As a gangster picture, this film shines and is also one of the best developed cop pictures of the eighties. The action, while well staged, is overshadowed by the dramatic tension which never lets up. If you've missed it, see it.