Ode to Kung Fu

For hump day we have a throwback-This is a post I put up on an old site a few years ago that now is long gone.  It has a couple of updates and I know everyone is looking for a good movie marathon day from time to time.  Here are some suggestions!


Clarification:  Before sending me hate mail, let me explain…I recognize that Kung Fu is culturally a Chinese film term and does not encompass all Martial Arts.  I also recognize that Chinese epics without much Kung Fu are technically just beautiful movies.  When I was growing up, TBS in Georgia would run old Bruce Lee movies and later some Chuck Norris.  Back then, all martial arts movies were called “Kung Fu” so I use that term affectionately as a call back to my childhood, not incorrectly by accident and not as a slight to any school of martial arts.  This also, I realized, outs me as a martial arts movie uber-nerd, of which I cannot deny.  So be it.


This week I decided while watching one of the below that I needed to do a better job of telling folks about these movies.  I don’t think there’s a huge section of society that’s running out to grab these at Redbox or looking them up on Netflix but I am suggesting that there SHOULD be.  I have written before on movies and my love of foreign films but this is a genre where I think Hollywood consistently misses its mark.  There are so many different ways to depict it from the stylized CGI versions to the furious fist to foot fighting and luckily fabulous combinations of those.  I have even included a couple of “epics” simply because they are so beautifully shot and have great story lines.  I hope you find something new to watch and if I lure you over to this genre, all the better.


1.       Donnie Yen – (Cantonese film) He gets a category all by himself because I am just OBSESSED with his movies. They are equal parts old Bruce Lee movies and new CGI Fx that produce highly entertaining movies.  One of my favorites, loosely based on the story of Bruce Lee’s master is Ip Man and its sequel Ip Man 2.  My understanding is that the second is not related to any true events but I recommend it because of the scene where all the Master’s compete.  Sammo Hung, a legend, is also pretty damn fantastic in this.  Also recommended is Donnie’s Legend of the Fist, equally stunning movie IMHO.  Not really sure why studios opted to do the Ip Man story again, but without Donnie, it’s a mistake I think.


2.       Kung Fu Hustle – (Cantonese film) It doesn’t matter how much I watch this one; I laugh hysterical, enjoy the music and continue to be interested in the story line.  Really, who doesn’t love an old lady that can whip someone’s ass with a cigarette hanging from her lip?  Pure entertainment.


3.       The Ong Bak Trilogy – (Thai film) Tony Jaa is amazing and I hope this pushes him into the genre more and more.  What he can do is ridiculous and a great ambassador for Muay Thai.  I am sure if he keeps putting secret messages in his films to Spielberg; maybe someone will notice other than me?  I believe a key factor in this series is that Tony grew up with elephant experience and his passion comes across in these movies.  This trilogy is also a brilliant time capsule for the Thai film industry as from the first to the last you can see the evolution which really, by the end, produces a film I believe could rival Hollywood productions.  Really, really excited that US audiences will likely get their first look at him in the next Fast and Furious.


4.       Wushu – (Mandarin film) I just loved this movie.  It showcases some of Sammo Hung as well as lets you follow the lives of this group of students from their initial meeting to young adulthood.  You learn about the different styles of fighting and see them effectively portrayed in competition.  This is a great way to introduce your kids to both kung fu and foreign films!


5.       Red Cliff – (Mandarin film) This is a beautiful epic by someone you should recognize as a film buff, John Woo.  I suggest seeing the original as it is intended in part one and part two rather than the “theatrical version” which condenses the two into one disc.  It cuts out some of the best story lines and takes away from the director’s vision.  It is a lot to sit through but if you are a fan of history and epics, this does a great job telling this particular story.


6.       Curse of the Golden Flower – (Mandarin film) Also a beautiful epic, this film contains one Jay Chou which I predict will be one of the new Hollywood anointed action stars.  (You probably will recognize Jay from The Green Hornet).  While it’s deserved, I think you will find his foreign film work better.


7.      Little Big Soldier – (Mandarin film) This was the movie we watched this week that prompted this post. Jackie Chan is well-known, for many reasons, and I believe this is one of his best.  I have found for the most part that I also prefer Jackie’s foreign work just like Jay.  I am not sure how Hollywood messes that up but this movie was just great.  It was infused with Jackie’s trademark humor and great fight choreography.  The story just sneaks up on you.  I wasn’t expecting the ending that I got but it was well worth it.  Make sure that you watch the credits where Jackie puts his hilarious outtakes.


8.      Sukiyaki Western Django – (Japanese film)  I wasn’t sure what to expect going into this but was pleasantly surprised by the movie.  I would describe it as a mash-up between West Side Story, The Good, The Bad and The Ugly with some kick ass sword stuff thrown in for good measure.  A cameo by my favorite director, Tarantino, doesn’t hurt.  If you aren’t familiar with the spaghetti western genre, this is a good place to start.


9.       The Warriors Way – (New Zealand film)  This was a surprise to me.  I hadn’t heard much about this movie and was blown away when I saw the trailer in the movie theater.  I am a big fan of blending stylized martial arts with westerns, to me it just works, and the addition of big names like Geoffrey Rush and Kate Bosworth makes this a must see.  On a side note, I wish Kate would eat a sandwich, just saying.


10.   Ninja Assassin – (US film)  My only US entry and a bloody movie.  If you have a weak stomach, this is probably not for you.  My family, however, saw this on a holiday no less…lol.  I think the actor here, Rain, is another potential for a breakout into US action films.  He’s just superb and worth a look.


11.   Storm Warriors – (Cantonese film)  Last but certainly not least.  This movie is loved and hated for the same reason, its use of CGI.  Much like the Matrix and Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon did to advance the use of Fx; I do believe this movie pushes it even further.  If you are not a fan of CGI in movies or stylized Kung Fu in general, this series is probably not for you, but if you take a deep breath and enjoy the story, it can be amazing.  I saw this before the others in the series and it stands alone as a fabulous movie.  How many sequels can you say that of?  Right.


So there you go.  You have plenty to work on this weekend.  I would love to hear from you on what are your favorites and if you watch any of these, what did you think?


Peace and chicken grease!


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