2013 Friday B-Movie Picks

My Friday B-Movie picks from the Blog

Heroes of the East
It's Chinese Gung Fu squaring off with Japanese martial arts in this 1970s Shaw Brothers martial arts classic! This film stars Gordon Liu and group of actual Japanese martial arts masters recruited for this film. The fights are a real treat to watch. Three Section Staff vs. Nunchuka & Tonfa. Katana vs. Gim Sword. Sai vs. Butterfly Swords. Spear vs. Spear. Karate vs. Chinese Drunken God style Gung fu. Judo vs. Chin Na. How does this come about? Well, a young Chinese martial arts student has an arranged marriage with a young Japanese girl who is also skilled in her country's martial arts, including Ninjitsu! The fun continues from there.

My Young Auntie
Going with another 1970s era Shaw Brothers Kung Fu classic. My Young Auntie is the story of a young martial arts student who marries her dying Master, at his request, in order to keep his fortune out of the hands of his evil younger brother. She delivers the will and deeds to her new nephew, who happens to have a son about her age. He is going to college in Hong Kong and returns in time to join in the fun. Interesting mix of East meets West, with the college students' love of all things western (fancy dress, dancing, music, European saber fencing,...) being introduced to the new Auntie, who is a bit old fashioned. This gives the film conflict on two levels. The first being between the Third (and only surviving) Uncle and the rest of the family over the deceased Master's fortune, and the second being the culture clash between old fashioned, yet young, second aunt, and her great nephew (who is about the same age as her) and his college friends. It's the Shaw Brothers, so the fight sequences are great. This film also has singing, dancing and more than its share of humor.

National Lampoon's The Legend of Awesomest Maximus
National Lampoon is back in the spoofing biz.  In this one they take on Troy, The 300Gladiator and a bit of Braveheart thrown in for flavor.  They go for the cheap gag line every chance they get, which is what makes this spoof awesome!  Plus they cracked open the piggy bank for the budget and sprang for topless actresses.  So there is plenty of scantly clad, bare breasted, hot young blonde women in the film.  This isn't a beer and pretzels movie, it's a six pack and ribs movie.  They had fun making this movie, and you should relax and enjoy watching it.

A nice SciFi action flick starring Bruce Willis, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Emily Blunt (actually not in a RomCom!) and nicely played role by Jeff Daniels ("Kid, I'm from the future. Trust me, go to China.") Some folks found the time looping a little hard to follow, but it wasn't too difficult for those of us who have been watching Doctor Who for the better part of 30 years. For the most part, the acting really helped this flick shine. The story itself was interesting, and it was fun to watch the characters grow when presented with both their past and their future. Definitely worth a rental and popcorn.

It's back to Mega-City One and the world of Judge Dredd. This time it's with SciFi fan Karl Urban in the lead role instead of Stalone. Urban played this role much truer to form. As in the Comics, you never see Dredd's face. He always wears the helmet. It's gritty, dark, nasty, and a lot of fun to watch. The bad guys are bad, the good guys are damn harsh, but fair. In all, a fun ride for fans of gritty SciFi action films.

Live Free or Die Hard
This is the fourth Die Hard film, or the saga of John McClane, a man who keeps ending up in the wrong place at the wrong time. This time, it's fighting rouge Cyber White Hats gone extremely black. Plenty of action, lots of gun fu and even some movie kung fu supplied by Maggie Q. Justin Long plays the cyber-geek sidekick who really doesn't want to be involved the whole thing. For B-Movie bonus points, Mary Elizabeth Winstead plays McClane's daughter Lucy. She has been in another B-Movie pick, Scott Pilgrim vs. The World.

Sky High
Going back to 2005 for another Mary Elizabeth Winstead flick. Sky High is the nickname for a floating high school where the children of superheros, super villains and their respective sidekicks to learn the trade of their parents. It's a fun, light hearted flick that combines teen angst and super powers. It has a good cast which includes B-Movie SuperStar Bruce Campbell, Dave Foley, Lynda Carter, and Kevin Heffernan as Ron Wilson, Sky High Bus Driver. Oh ya, Kurt Russell is in it too. He plays the father of the protagonist, the uber-superhero of the era. Which provides a whole new level of angst to his son, who has to try to live up to his parent's reputation as the top of the superhero food chain.

Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter
It's a Mary Elizabeth Winstead Hat Trick. In this historical horror/fantasy flick she plays Mary Todd Lincoln. A taller, less crazy, and definitely better looking Mary Todd Lincoln than would be historically accurate. As an escapist action flick, not bad. Good special effects, excellent cast, and it follows the Bond rule of the villain makes the movie. In this case, the vampires are very nasty indeed.

Kill Zone
A tale of bloody revenge staring Donnie Yen and Sammo Hung. A group of cops get tired of a mob boss (Hung) walking despite their best legal efforts to take him down. So they step outside the law. Great fight scenes by Donnie Yen, including the final battle with Sammo Hung. Hung is still quite spry despite his age and size. The fight between him and Yen was like watching a bear battle a leopard. A really bad ass bear in this case, with really fast paws.

Django Unchained
Yet another tale of bloody revenge from Quentin Tarantino. He takes on the old American West this time. Django (the D is silent) is a slave rescued by a German bounty hunter, because he can identify three men worth a lot of money dead or alive. The Good Doctor (the German bounty hunter, played by the Oscar winning Christoph Waltz, is also a dentist), finds dead is easier to deal with. He and Django hit it off and become partners. Together they go off to free Django's wife Brunhilda from the Candyland Plantation in the deep, deep South. Much death and destruction follows. Not much a spoiler, this is a Tarantino movie after all. I say check it out, and I'm pretty sure Joe-Bob Briggs would agree.

Ganster Squad
A decent B movie with good guys, bad guys, gun play and a fair amount of your basic 'beat-the-crap-out-of-each-other fu. It does leave you making unfavorable comparisons to much better movies, such as LA Confidential. Oh well, get it as rental, fire up the popcorn and make book on the following, was Sean Penn's fake nose a left over prop from Dick Tracy? Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone were good as the pretty couple eye candy. Josh Brolin was so square jawed, he could star in a Noir version of The Middleman. The best acting was actually done by the rest of the Gangster Squad who played their cardboard cutout characters with a delightful twinkle in their eyes.

The Last Stand
Arnold Schwarzenneger is back. He's in his mid-sixties and makes no bones over being old. He even uses it as a punch line in the movie. The movie was actually pretty good. A bit silly on the plot line, but come on, it's a Schwarzenneger action movie. Some good actors in as well. Forest Whitaker as the FBI agent who loses the bad guy in the first place. I couldn't help but think not catching Van Damn in Bloodsport typecast him in this type of role. Also filling out the good actor round up was Luis Guzman as the senior Deputy and Harry Dean Stanton as the gruff old farmer. Oh ya, Johnny Knoxville was in the movie too, more as comic relief, which he as pretty good at. It was a fun flick, with elements of comedy, action and a wee bit of drama. Fire up the popcorn and enjoy.

Since it July 5th, I will once again go with the 1972 film version of the Broadway musical 1776. Based on the Broadway play, it tells the tale of getting the resolution on Independence passed through the Continental Congress in the summer of 1776. William Daniels is quite good as John Adams, but it is Howard Da Silva as Benjamin Franklin who steals the show. The sets and costumes are first rate as well.

A Good Day to Die Hard
Yes, there really is a fifth Die Hard film. Another chapter in the saga of John McClane, a man who keeps ending up in the wrong place at the wrong time. He bonded with his daughter while fighting cyber-terrorists in the last film. This time he travels to Moscow in order to help out his son, who he thinks is in really deep trouble. Little does NYC Detective McClane know just how much trouble John McClane, Jr. is really in. This adventure gets us a Bond worthy car chase in downtown Moscow, a bunch of fire fights, and the required Die Hard plot twists. A good addition to the series.

Lay the Favorite
Nice little comedy with some decent star power in the way way of Bruce Willis, Vince Vaughn, and Catherine Zeta-Jones. You don't see much of Zeta-Jones, but what you do is good eye candy with more than a phone in acting. The movie is based on the book by Beth Raymer, and the movie appears to follow the book fairly faithfully. A fun flick, well worth the rental fee. Oh, bonus casual upper torso nudity by That 70's Show alumni Laura Prepon.

Justice League: The Flashpoint Paradox
One of my kids told me about this one. A deliciously dark alternate history story that starts with a good deed. Events ripple out from that change up and down the timestream and the Flash ends up in a rather nasty universe. One of the best parts was the effect on the Wayne family. In this timeline, it's Bruce who is killed, not his parents. Thomas Wayne becomes a very dark and deadly Batman and the shock turns Martha Wayne into the Joker, his arch nemesis. The Flash works to find the cause of the timeline change and set things right. It's hard road, but the Speedster is ready to run it.

I admit that I'm OK with missing this one in the theater. It was worth the rental as a B movie though. It's one of those flicks where it looks like the actors had more fun making it than the audience did watching it. Good special effects and some decent acting by the leads. Don't worry about the plot holes, just sit back, enjoy your home made popcorn and let yourself be entertained.

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