• Tag Archives martial arts
  • Canister X Movie Review #135: Power Rangers (2017)

    Power Rangers 2017Power Rangers (2017)
    Written by John Gatins
    Directed by Dean Israelite
    Runtime 124 min.
    4 out of 5

    Sixty-five million years ago, when dinosaurs ruled the Earth, a war raged between Rita Repulsa and the Power Rangers. All the Rangers were killed—except one, who in a last-ditch effort defeated Rita and hid the power coins should she rise again. Now, Rita has returned and five accidental friends discover the power coins and must learn to work together as a team before Rita captures the Zeo Crystal and destroys all life on Earth once and for all.

    Like most of my reviews, this one is written upon first impression—in this case, the same night I saw it at the theatre—and, man, this was a cool movie. Power Rangers is a guilty pleasure of mine and I’ve seen most of the entire saga. To find out it was hitting the big screen again and was to be done in a more serious manner—instead of an extension of the TV show—made my inner fanboy squeal with delight.

    This is an origin story, so we get the personal backgrounds of Jason (Dacre Montgomery), Billy (R.J. Cyler), Zack (Ludi Lin), Trini (Becky G.), and Kimberly (Naomi Scott), as well as how they found their place on the Power Rangers team and, ultimately, as friends. What I particularly liked was a glimpse into Zordon’s (Bryan Cranston) and Rita Repulsa’s (Elizabeth Banks) origins. It was a cool twist on the Rangers mythos that I thought was clever.

    The movie is a bit of a slow burn in terms of so much origin building before Power Ranger action, but once the team gears up and heads out, it’s good times, with loads of martial arts and mech excitement. The zords rocked, and the Megazord was reminiscent of Pacific Rim in terms of its operation.

    On the visuals, the SFX were great. In terms of style, they were a touch too mechanical for my liking, but that same mechanical extreme also made sense in this morphin’ world and the alien tech used for the Rangers. Same with the Rangers’ costumes. Very Iron Man-like but, again, it makes sense for the world they inhabit. They certainly couldn’t have fought in tights. The only other option, I suppose, would have to have given them their “tights,” but modern day Superman- or Batman-style, that whole “armory fabric” thing.

    The flick is perfectly set up for a sequel, and given the few sequences we see at the end, doors were left open for a certain favorite character as well as a certain base of operations.

    I should also add we were treated to a couple fan-favorite cameos, which made me cheer despite how brief it was seeing them.

    If you’re lookin’ for a morphin’ good time, Power Rangers is a great all-ages movie despite one or two bad words (I mention this for the parents). Like the TV show, the movie is filled with heart and good old-fashioned moral values.

    Go go, Power Rangers!

  • Canister X Movie Review #126: Ninja Assassin (2009)

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    Ninja Assassin (2009)
    Written by Matthew Sand and J. Michael Straczynski
    Directed by James McTeigue
    Runtime 99 min.
    5 out of 5

    Raizo (played by Rain), an orphan, was taken to a secret ninja training camp run by the Ozunu Clan when he was just a boy. After years of harsh, even deadly, training, Raizo was brought up to be the greatest ninja of the clan, even one who would one day take it over as leader.

    While a child and through his growing-up years, he befriends Kiriko (Anna Sawai) and she is just as strong-willed as he is except where he lacks feeling, she has a heart and doesn’t agree with all the clan teaches. When Kiriko tries to escape, Raizo sees what it truly means to be a member of the Ozunu Clan and from then on follows his own path to take the clan down.

    Enlisting the help of a Europol agent, Mika Coretti (Naomie Harris), together they try and bring the clan to justice. However, not is all what it seems and the Ozunu Clan has plans of their own. Led by Raizo’s brother, Takeshi (Rick Yune), the two are hunted, and only after the swords stop slicing and the blood cools will a victor be decided.

    This movie is hardcore, man. There’s really no other word for it. Total and utter blood-soaked craziness that reminded me of Mortal Kombat (the game). I was just waiting for a low, ominous voice to say “Fatality.” Awesome.

    The kung fu in this flick is intense, especially the swordplay. Those bladed fights were among some of the best I’ve seen, right up there with the stuff in Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. Rain looked brilliant, his body and demeanor as hard as steel. More than once was I reminded of Bruce Lee in Enter the Dragon with the way he moved. The flashback sequences also worked well and really added to Raizo’s back story and firmly cemented us in his psyche so we know why he fights the way he does, why he’s on the path he’s on, and what motivates him as a ninja. Well done.

    What I especially liked in this movie was the ninjas’ mystique and their power, namely the part about them being one with the shadows and the paranoia those being hunted had with the dark. The idea of always keeping the lights on and bright was a great way to play this up. The ninja-morphing with the shadows was also cool, giving the impression that these guys, after all that training, have become something more than human.

    This is just one crazy bloodbath of a movie. Non-stop action. Amazing sword battles. Cool enough story to string one fight scene to the next.

    Ninja Assassin is the definition of a martial arts flick.

    Yeah, go check it out. Definitely.

  • Canister X Movie Review #48: Iron Monkey (1993/2001)

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    Iron Monkey (1993/2001)
    Written by Tsui Hark
    Directed by Yuen Woo-ping
    Runtime 90 min.
    4 out of 5

    Like Robin Hood, the Iron Monkey robs from the rich and gives to the poor, but instead of wielding a bow and arrow and sword, he wears a mask and uses martial arts weapons instead.

    By day, Chinese doctor Yang Tianchun (Rongguang Yu) is a physician caring for the poor and rich alike, but at night he’s the Iron Monkey, a high-kicking do-gooder assisting those in need who are suffering beneath the rule of the corrupt governor.

    Meanwhile, Wong Kei-Ying (Donnie Yen) and his son Wong Fei-hong (Sze-Man Tsang) come into town. Soon after, Wong Kei-Ying is captured on suspicion of being the Iron Monkey after being observed in battle. His son is arrested as well. In an effort to clear himself, he offers to capture the real Iron Monkey, his son being forced to remain in prison to ensure his compliance.

    Soon Wong Kei-Ying and the Iron Monkey meet and, after going toe-to-toe with no victor, form an alliance that will rescue Wong Fei-hong from prison and bring down the evil governor once and for all.


    This movie kicks some serious wa-hoo-hoo and I’m not just saying that because of the awesome kung fu sequences, but because of it’s fun presentation of a classic story—Robin Hood—through the lens of Chinese culture, martial arts and fast-paced action.

    Quentin Tarantino brought the flick over to the West and I’m glad he did. I’m 99% sure I went to the theatre to check out this gem and it soon got a place in my DVD collection once it hit store shelves.

    What can I say? The fight sequences are over-the-top—wire acts, crazy fast kicks—but those are what make kung fu movies great and give the fight performances that supernatural feel that can’t be obtained otherwise.

    The superhero fan part of me had never seen a kung fu superhero movie, and when I compare it to the Western version of martial arts techniques that we get in our own superhero flicks, sadly, we come up short every time. I mean, this crazy, fast-paced over-the-top form of fighting is one of the main reasons The Matrix became so popular.

    There is lots that goes on in this movie storywise, everything from the simple rob-from-the-rich-to-feed-the-poor angle to Wong Kei-Ying’s tense relationship with his son, to commentary on oppression and what’s fair and what isn’t, to comedic moments, tear-jerking moments, to adrenaline-fueled action—it’s a full experience, something that Quentin Tarantino said in an interview on the DVD that is common in Chinese cinema but not really over here in the West. I think we need to learn a thing or two about moviemaking from our Chinese friends instead of compartmentalizing everything into genres and niches.

    If you love folk heroes like Robin Hood, or are a superhero fan, Iron Monkey should definitely be on your watch list.

  • Canister X Movie Review #29: Elektra (2005)

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    Elektra (2005)
    Written by Zak Penn, Stuart Zicherman and Raven Metzner
    Directed by Rob Bowman
    Runtime 97 min.
    2.5 out of 5

    After coming back from the dead and trained in the deadly art of Kimagure, Elektra Natchios is a killer-for-hire. Upon receiving her new contract, she goes up against a band of ninja assassins known as The Hand, who are also after the same target: a young martial arts prodigy with a potential for greatness. Elektra’s past meets her present as she seeks to protect this young prodigy while also facing demons of her own.


    I was in the minority of people who liked Daredevil, in which Jennifer Garner also played Elektra. When I heard she was getting her own spin-off movie, I was really excited because, while I’m not an expert on the Elektra character, I know enough to know that a film version would be awesome. We didn’t quite get that with this flick, but that’s not to say it was utterly terrible. However, what audiences expected and what they got were different things.

    Let’s see . . . I was happy that Elektra sported her famous red costume in this as opposed to the black one in Daredevil. Though technically totally impractical in real life, having her very-similar-to-comic-book-costume on screen was cool for fanboys and fangirls alike and, no, not for the reason you’d think. Just something about seeing a comic book character “as they are” on screen brings a thrill.

    The fighting sequences were not bad and Hollywood’s version/perception of the martial arts is always interesting as they tend to add all sorts of legend and mystique to them as opposed to their reality.

    They got the gist of the character but didn’t get hardcore into it, and it was clear this was just a way to cash in on the Daredevil movie that came out a couple years before. A solid story of Elektra’s assassin exploits—even if you want her to fight mercenaries with a similar agenda—would’ve been a great help, but this flick seemed more introspective and slower paced versus something that should’ve been geared toward the action-and-suspense genre (i.e. a high profile target, like a president or something, then have that person tie into Elektra’s mythology. Set her on the run while also giving her history and what it’s like to be someone who was supposed to be dead, some in-costume Daredevil universe cameos, and you