action, adventure, comedy, fantasy, martial arts, movie, movie review

Flashback Review: April 24th, 2014 Movie – Big Trouble In Little China

big trouble in little china

Ok. I have been a fan of Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson for a long time, both as a wrestler and as an actor. That being said, I will never forgive him if his plans of remaking this movie ever come to fruition. I wish Hollywood would stop with the whole remaking everything possible instead of trying to come up with more original ideas. When it comes to this movie, this is one of those movies that I have always loved watching because it is so ridiculous. Ever since I first saw the trailer, where Kurt Russell’s character knocked himself out, I decided that this was a movie I had to see. I managed to watch it on HBO years ago and every time it came on TV, I would watch it. So of course I had to pick up a copy on DVD so I could watch Big Trouble In Little China whenever I wanted.

The plot: Egg Shen is talking with his lawyer, who asks him if he knows the whereabouts of Jack Burton, but Egg tells him to leave Jack alone, as they were in his debt. The lawyer persists in finding out what happened, as Egg is being blamed for the destruction of a city block in a ball of green flame, and Egg says it was magic, revealing himself to be a sorcerer himself, and starts telling the lawyer what all happened. Some time earlier, Jack Burton is driving his truck, The Pork Chop Express, outside of San Francisco to make a delivery and as it is being unloaded, he gambles outside of the warehouses with his friend Wang Chi and several other people. Jack ends up winning $1148 over the course of the night and as morning breaks, everyone else leaves to start work but Wang convinces Jack to stay for one more bet, offering double or nothing. Wang proposes to cut a bottle in half with a large knife and Jack takes the bet but when Wang goes to cut the bottle, the bottle ends up flying towards Jack, who quickly catches it, citing his reflexes. Jack asks Wang to pay up but Wang says he doesn’t have the money on him and asks Jack to stop by his restaurant later, as he has to go to the airport first, but Jack says he will give Wang a lift, as he wants to ensure he gets paid. At the airport, Wang is there to pick up his childhood sweetheart Miao Yin, who he intends to marry, but as they are waiting for her, Jack notices a woman, Gracie Law, and heads over to talk with her. As they are talking, members of a Chinese street gang called the Lords of Death push by them and Gracie gets nervous about why they are there. Gracie moves away from Jack and spots her friend, another Chinese girl, and calls out to her but the Lords of Death move to grab her. When Jack tries to intervene, one of them pulls out a knife and baton and moves to attack him, allowing a second member to sweep Jack’s legs out from under him. Miao Yin shows up but ends up being grabbed by the Lords of Death, who escape from the airport. A pissed off Jack decides to go after them and Wang tells him that they have a club in Chinatown. After following Wang’s directions through some alleys, they find their path blocked by a funeral procession of the Chang Sing. Jack starts to back up when he notices some other figures approaching and Wang says they are the Wing Kong, the rivals of the Chang Sing. A massive fight breaks out between the two gangs when suddenly, a burst of green fire erupts from the ground and the Three Storms (Thunder, Lightning, and Rain) appear and kill three members of the Chang Sing, before moving forward to continue fighting. Wang tells Jack to get out of there and as Jack drives forward, the Three Storms move out of the way but Jack ends up running over David Lo Pan. Stopping his truck to inspect the body, Jack discovers that Lo Pan is still alive and hsi eyes and mouth suddenly start glowing, temporarily blinding Jack. Wang helps him get away and splashes water on Jack’s eyes to restore his vision when they find themselves approached by the Lords of Death and are forced to run, only to discover that Jack’s truck has been stolen while the Three storms are slaughtering the Chang Sing. Making their way back to Wang’s restaurant, Jack is on the phone with his insurance company about his truck when Wang’s friend Eddie Lee shows up and tells him that the Lords of Death stole his truck. Gracie shows up, saying she feels bad as the reason Miao Yin was taken was because of her and tells them that She was taken to the White Tiger, an illegal brothel the the Lords of Death run. Jack, Wang, Gracie, and Eddie head over to the White Tiger and Jack heads inside on his own, leaving the others waiting outside. As they are waiting, Gracie sees another car pull up and heads over to it, as it is her reporter friend Margo, and she tells her what is going on. Inside, Jack tries to find out if Miao Yin is there when suddenly, the building starts shaking while outside, Wang and Eddie see a giant green cloud over the building. Suddenly, the Three Storms appear, blowing a hole through the roof and they grab Miao Yin, who was being held in a secret room, and fly off with her. Realizing that Miao Yin must have been taken to Lo Pan’s place, Jack and Wang head in there disguised as telephone repair men and attempt to locate her only to be captured by the Rain. Rain tortures them briefly before tying them up and taking them to see Lo Pan, who appears as a decrepit old man. Lo Pan asks Wang about Miao Yin, and Wang realizes that Lo Pan intends to marry Miao Yin in order to appease the God of the East, then sacrifice her in order to remove the curse that he was inflicted with. Suddenly, Lo Pan sees Gracie, Eddie, and Margo on the monitors and he has Jack and Wang taken away, while Thunder ends up capturing the others. Jack and Wang are taken to a cell but Jack manages to free himself and Wang, then quickly pretend to be tied up again when Thunder enters with Eddie. Jack jumps onto Thunder, holding his knife to his throat, while Wang helps Eddie down and they go to leave when Thunder suddenly starts expanding, sending Jack flying off of him and into one of the wheelchairs he and Wang were tied to. Jack goes rolling backwards down the hall, knocking out some Wing Kong fighters that were coming to deal with them, and Wang and Eddie quickly lock Thunder in the room and head out after Jack before Thunder gets free. The three go looking for Gracie and Margo and find them locked in cages along with several other girls and as Wang and Eddie deal with the guards, Jack frees all of the women. When Thunder arrives with more Wing Kong warriors, they all make a run for it, diving into a pool of water and making their way through the sewers. After climbing back up to the warehouse that Jack and Wang first entered, they go to leave only to find their way blocked by more Wing Kong warriors but Jack and Wang manage to deal with them. Jack and Wang create a distraction so they cna lead everyone past the front guards but Gracie ends up being captured by a strange, orange furred monster. Outside, Jack and the others find Egg and Wang’s uncle Chu waiting for them in Egg’s tour bus and the manage to get away but realize that Gracie is missing. Gracie is taken to the room where Miao Yen is being held and Lo Pan approaches her and uses his powers to mesmerize her, just as Miao Yin is, as Gracie has green colored eyes like Miao Yin. Back at Wang’s restaurant, Egg shows up with the surviving members of the Chang Sing and they head out with Jack and Wang to stop Lo Pan, making their way through the underground sections of the city and deep under the earth towards Lo Pan’s temple. Meanwhile, Lo Pan has the Three Storms initiate the test for Miao Yin and Gracie, both of him pass, and he has them prepared to be married to him to appease the God of the East, then will sacrifice Gracie and keep Miao Yin for himself. Jack and the others reach Lo Pan’s temple and encounter a beholder, which Lo Pan uses to watch for intruders. Seeing what the beholder sees, Lo Pan taunts Egg Shen until Jack shoots at the beholder, driving it away. Jack and the others reach Lo Pan’s office, wondering where everyone is, and after finding the secret elevator, Egg gives everyone a magic potion to help them in the upcoming battle. They take the elevator down and see Lo Pan in the midst of the wedding ceremony and Egg tells them all to wait until the wedding is completed, as Lo Pan would be mortal and able to be killed. When they spot the wounded beholder nearby, Wang stabs it with his sword but Lo Pan sees them and has the Wing Kong attack them. Wang and the others rush to meet them while Jack ends up knocking himself out briefly before joining the fight. As Wang fights with Rain, Egg uses his magic to save Jack from Thunder, then begins battling Lo Pan. Their battle ends in a stalemate and Egg leaves with Miao Yin and Thunder, while Lightning attempts to seal the door behind them, then leaves himself. Wang manages to kill Rain then chases after Miao Yin, while Gracie, having snapped out of the trance, gets Jack and the go after him, dealing with the orange furred creature in the process. Taking the elevator back to Lo Pan’s office, Jack and Gracie end up kissing before the doors open, and they go looking for Miao Yin. They find Lo Pan talking with her and Thunder and Jack approaches them, joined by Wang. Jack and Wang attack Thunder and Thunder ends up chasing after Wang, leaving Jack to deal with Lo pan. Jack throws his boot knife at Lo Pan but misses and Lo Pan lets go of Miao Yin and picks up the knife. Complimenting Jack on the knife, Lo Pan throws it at him but Jack manages to catch it and throw it straight back, embedding the blade in Lo Pan’s head and killing him. Jack then goes to help Wang, who returns to the room with Thunder in tow and when Thunder sees Lo Pan’s body, he begins swelling up and ends up exploding. Thunder appears and Jack and the others run away, getting help from Egg to escape while Egg ends up killing Lightning by dropping a statue on him. Making their way through Lo Pan’s building, they find Jack’s truck and get in, driving through the warehouse doors and getting away, as Miao Yin and Wang kiss. Back at Wang’s restaurant, Jack, Wang, Gracie, Miao Yin, Egg, Eddie, Margo, and Chu are celebrating their success and Egg leaves, telling Jack he had promised himself a vacation when he finally defeated Lo Pan. Wang hands Jack a check for triple the money he owed him, saying he earned it and Jack approaches Gracie and talks to her about selling his truck and settling down. She offers an alternative of his getting a bigger truck with a sleeper compartment big enough for two and he says he will think about it, then leaves. As Jack heads down the road, he is talking on his CB about his experiences, unaware that the orange furred creature had stowed away underneath his truck.

Big Trouble In Little China met with mixed reviews from the critics on it’s release but has since received more positive results, holding an 82% rating on Rotten Tomatoes. The critical consensus on the site is, “Brimming with energy and packed with humor, Big Trouble in Little China distills kung fu B-movies as affectionately as it subverts them.” 20th Century Fox hired James Carpenter to direct the movie and rushed it into production, as they wanted to release it before a similarly themed movie, The Golden Child, came out. This fulfilled Carpenter’s wish to direct a martial arts movie but the mixed reviews from the critics left Carpenter disillusioned with Hollywood and influenced his decision to return to independent film making. The movie was a box office bomb, only earning $11.1 million off of a reported $25 million but has since become a cult classic.

This movie is so fantastically ridiculous to watch and so much fun as a result. Kurt Russell was great as Jack Burton, while Kim Cattrall (Gracie), Dennis Dun (Wang), and Victor Wong (Egg) were also good. The story was interesting, trying to mix a martial arts movie with a fantasy/sorcery movie and it made for an interesting blend of styles. I also loved how Jack was trying to make sense of everything that was going on before finally just accepting it, while Wang was struggling with the fact that all of the stories and fairy tales he was told as a kid were coming true. The special effects were pretty cheesy at times but a lot of the fight scenes were decent and helped make them enjoyable. This really is a fun movie and one that is worth watching if you are in the mood for some not so serious entertainment.

Rating: 4 out of 5

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comedy, horror, movie, movie review, sci-fi

March 17th, 2018 Movie – Tremors

tremors

Some of my favorite movies are the ones that come out in theaters but absolutely bomb, then manage to find new life when it hits video. Granted, that doesn’t mean that every one of these movies is something I will enjoy, as there are some absolute bombs that I have no real desire to watch, but some like today’s movie just scream right out at me. I remember seeing the trailers for this movie and thinking that it was something I would absolutely enjoy. Of course, the main thing I remember from the trailer was them always promoting Reba McEntire, as this was her theatrical debut. So let’s have some fun with today’s movie, Tremors.

The plot: In the former mining town of Perfection, Nevada, Valentine “Val” McKee and Earl Basset are working as handymen for the small tiny community, doing odd jobs to try and earn a living. As they are heading back into town, they see Rhonda LeBeck, a seismologist student, out in the desert and stop to talk to her. Rhonda asks them if they know of any drilling or blasting going on in the area, as she has been getting some strange readings from the seismographs, and they tell her no but say they will ask around to see if anyone else might know. As they go about their tasks for the day, Val complains about what they are doing and says they should just leave. When the hose on a septic pump burst, dousing them in the filth, Earl takes it as the last straw and decides they should leave. The two pack up their belongings and start to make their way out of town when they notice Edgar Deems apparently stuck on a electrical tower. Thinking he got drunk and climbed up the tower and is too scared or drunk to climb back down, Val climbs up the tower to get Edgar down only to discover that he is dead. Bringing the body to Jim Wallace, the local doctor, they ask what killed him and Jim says Edgar died of dehydration, and Val and Earl wonder what could have caused Edgar to stay up on the tower long enough for that to happen. Elsewhere, a shepherd named “Old Fred” is working out on his field when he notices his sheep acting nervous. Looking around, he doesn’t see any predator close by so he continues to work in his field only to be attacked by something underground. As Val and Earl pass by Fred’s place, the notice the bloody sheep pen, as something has killed all of his sheep, and go looking for Fred only to find his severed head in the ground underneath his hat. Val and Earl head back to Perfection, warning two construction workers as the pass by them, but while one of the workers gets nervous, the other one says they are messing with them and goes back to using a jackhammer when the jackhammer suddenly breaks through the ground and strikes something, which lets out a roar as blood oozes up from the ground. The creature makes it’s way through the earth, dragging the jackhammer, and the worker who was caught in the hose, along with it and as the second worker goes to help his friend, he ends up caught in a landslide that blocks the road. Val and Earl return to town and try to use the phone at Walter Chang’s store to call the authorities but when it isn’t working, they decide to drive to the nearest town and alert the authorities only to find the only road out of town blocked by the landslide. Finding a bloody helmet by the rocks, Val and Earl decide to leave only for their truck to temporarily get stuck before Val is able to work it free and they head back to town. When they get there, everyone wonders what is going on when a little girl named Mindy discovers a strange snake-like creature wrapped around the truck’s rear axle. Val says that must have been what they were stuck on and Burt Gummer, a survivalist that lives in the town, says that it would take more than just the one worm to stop their truck, indicating there might be more out there. That night, Jim and his wife Megan are out by the frame of their home when their generator suddenly sinks into the ground. When Jim goes to investigate, he is attacked and killed and Megan gets into their car only to have the creatures drag the car under ground. Back in town, the townsfolk discuss what they should do, as the town is effectively isolated due to the surrounding mountains they decide to send Val and Earl on Walter’s pack horse to Bixby to get help. As Val and Earl ride off, they stop by the Wallace’s only to find the buried car and realize they are both dead. The continue out of town only for Earl’s horse to get attacked by the creatures and when Val shoots one of them, they discover the creatures are actually the tongues of a giant slug-like creature. The creature chases after Val and Earl but when the jump a concrete drainage ditch to get away, the creature slams into it and ends up killing itself. Rhonda shows up, having detected seismic activity in the area and as they examine the creature, Rhonda says that her readings indicate that there are 3 more creatures out there. Deciding to get Rhonda’s truck and head back into town, Rhonda notices the seismograph getting a reading just as another creature attacks them. The three make it up onto some nearby rocks and Val and Earl notice one of the tongues is just a stump and realize this is the same creature that grabbed their truck earlier. With “Stumpy” keeping them trapped on the rocks, they are forced to stay the night out there but the next day, they use some nearby poles to pole vault across the rock outcroppings until they reach Rhonda’s truck and manage to get away. Heading back into town, they try to tell everyone that they have to leave and head up into the mountains, as the “Graboids” (as Walter decided to name them) attacks have them on a course right to the town. Suddenly, Melvin, a teenager that has a penchant for causing trouble, screams out and they find him up on a sign post, just as a Graboid bursts up from the ground. Val and Earl tell everyone to get inside and stay quiet but then runs outside to rescue Mindy from being eaten. As Earl and Rhonda go to help him, they see another Graboid approaching and Rhonda gets ensnared in some barbed wire fencing. Val goes to help her, hitting the Graboid with a pick axe and he has her take her pants off so she can get free and they run back to Walter’s store. Val tends to Rhonda’s wounds and they try to figure out their next move when the coke machine suddenly starts squeeling and Val, Earl, and Walter rush to unplug it only for a Graboid to burst out from the floor and kill Walter. Val, Earl, and Miguel climb up to the roof of the store while Rhonda, who had been knocked out the window, climbs up the nearby water tower, and they yell for Nancy, Mindy, Nester, and Melvin to get on the roofs of their homes, or the outhouse in Melvin’s case. Meanwhile, Burt and his wife Heather return to their home after trying to hunt down the Graboids and Heather notices the people on their roofs. Burt uses his radio to contact the store and Val grabs the CB radio and warns Burt about the Graboid being underground just as one heads towards Burt’s house. When the Graboid bursts into their basement, Burt and Heather begin shooting at it and Burt finally manages to kill it with an elephant gun. Val warns him about their being two more Graboids so Burt and Heather head up to the roof of their house. Val asks if he can get to his truck and get help but a second Graboid shows up at the Gummer’s house and disables their truck. Meanwhile, Stumpy begins attacking the foundations of the various buildings, managing to knock Nestor off of his mobile home and kill him. Earl comes up with the idea of using the nearby bulldozer to make it to the mountains, thinking the Graboids wouldn’t be able to stop it, and they could drag an old semi trailer behind them to carry everyone to safety. Miguel starts up Walter’s tractor to serve as a decoy and Val starts running for the bulldozer but when the tractor gets knocked over, Val is forced to stop as the Graboids appear near him. Earl, Miguel, Rhonda, and Melvin start shouting out to try and get the Graboids’ attention, with Rhonda knocking loose a pipe from the water tower. As the falling water from the tower draws the Graboids towards her, Val is able to reach the bulldozer and use a chain to attach the trailer to it, then heads towards the town to rescue everyone there. They then pick up Burt and Heather, who bring several weapons and supplies with them, and they start heading towards the mountains. As they get near the mountains, they notice the Graboids doing something in the distance only to end up falling into a pit that the Graboids dug. Burt uses a pipe bomb to try and attack the Graboids but when it explodes, they notice the sound of the explosion drove off the Graboids. They decide to head for some nearby rocks, using another pipe bomb to keep the Graboids at bay. When they get there, tempers start to flare between Burt, Val, and Earl as they argue over the fact that they are stuck on the rocks. Burt has an idea on using pipe bombs like fishing lures and manage to kill one of the Graboids. When they go after the second one, Val sees that it is Stumpy and wants to kill it himself but Stumpy spits out the bomb, which lands in the bag containing Burt’s other bombs. As everyone takes cover from the explosion, Val, Earl, and Rhonda end up off the rock and star tto head back only to be cut off by Stumpy. Burt and the others try to get Stumpy’s attention but Val realizes he isn’t falling for it. Holding up one of the pipe bombs that he had grabbed before the explosion, Val heads for the nearby cliff, with Earl and Rhonda following after him. As Stumpy chases them, Val lights the pipe bomb and throws it past Stumpy so that when it explodes, it causes Stumpy to blindly charge forward away from the blast, and end up running off the cliff and falling to his death. Some time later, the residents are working to get their lives back on track and Rhonda is preparing to lead up the study of the Graboids and as she leaves, Val, pressured by Earl, runs after her and kisses her and the two embrace.

Tremors met with mostly positive reviews from the critics, holding an 88% rating on Rotten Tomatoes. The critical consensus on the site is, “An affectionate throwback to 1950’s creature features, Tremors reinvigorates its genre tropes with a finely balanced combination of horror and humor.” Despite the good reviews, the movie was barely a hit at the box office, earning $16.6 million off of an $11 million budget. However, it more than tripled it’s box office gross in home video rentals and sales, which helped it spawn 4 sequels, with a 5th one being released in May 2018, and a short lived television series.

This is such a fun movie to watch and probably a guilty pleasure for a lot of people. The acting was good, with Kevin Bacon (Val) and Fred Ward (Earl) doing a good job in their roles. I also have to admit that Reba did a pretty decent job in her acting debut but I don’t think she warranted all of the hype that she was given in the trailers. The story was an absolute throwback to the giant monster movies of the 50’s form the setting in a small/isolated town in the desert to the distrust of the government. The Graboid design was actually pretty good and definitely unique but some of the effects regarding the Graboid were a little less than stellar, like some sub par blue screen work and the final seen where Stumpy falls off the cliff and dies. It could be considered a high budget B-movie (which would probably be an oxymoron) and might not be up for everyone but it is definitely worth giving a shot.

Rating: 4 out of 5

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