Tuesday, August 31, 2010

The Film Connoisseurs First Anniversary! (Plus Ten Kung Fu Movies You Should See Before You Die!)

 That’s right my friends! It’s been one whole year since this blog started and here we are! Bigger and better than ever! Currently we enjoy the company of 118 readers! I want to thank those of you who read and comment on a regular basis. J.D., Shaun Anderson, Carl, Neil Fulwood, Venom5, Johnny Thunder…and to all those of you who don’t comment but read anyways, I know there’s a lot of you out there. But anyways, it’s been a blast talking movies with you guys, and reading your own blogs, which I must say have helped me grow as a movie buff, ahem, Connoisseur I mean. Many blogs out there are simply awesome, very well written and thought out articles. Very informative, we certainly have a wealth of information on movies out there!

So anyways, I promise to continue writing my movie reviews and articles, I hope you guys have been enjoying them. If there is any way in which I can improve the blog or my writing, let me know and I’ll work on that. If there are any requests for reviews or articles, I aim to please you guys, so comment and let me know.

So, since I don’t want to just make this post about The Film Connoisseur turning one year old, I’ve decided to give you guys my TOP TEN KUNG FU MOVIES YOU SHOULD SEE BEFORE YOU DIE. I’m not an expert on Kung Fu movies (that would be Venom5 over at Cool Ass Cinema) but I have seen some pretty decent Kung Fu movies in my time. I have a couple of old school Kung Fu classics, a couple of more contemporary choices. But my main purpose is to try and mention some of the best ones I have seen. I’m sure there are a lot of good ones out there that I won’t mention, but hey, I love suggestions! I’m talking to my readers out there, if you know of an awesome Kung Fu movie that I just got to see, please mention it.

So, I leave you with these Top Ten Kung Fu Movies, they are in no particular order, and I’ve included some new ones along with some old classics. Make sure you check some of them out! And thanks for reading!

Master of the Flying Guillotine (1975)

Ever wanted to know where the Street Fighter video game came from? Search no further! Master of the Flying Guillotine was a primal influence on that game. All the same basic ideas are there, even the premise, of a tournament of fighters from all across the world is here. Heck, even some of the fighters are the same! Example: Do you guys ever remember a character from the Street Fighter video game called Dahlsim? The character that was from India and stretched his arms and legs to punch and kick? Well, a very similar character makes an appearance on this legendary Kung Fu flick! Immediately I said “Aha! So this is the movie those guys molded their game after!” But aside from the Street Fighter connection, this movie is awesome on its own. It’s essentially a revenge flick (like many Kung Fu flicks are) about a Master who wants to avenge the death of his two favorite pupils. His favorite weapon? The flying Guillotine! A contraption that he throws over your head and then decapitates you with! Trust me; this one is worth checking out!

The 36th Chamber of Shaolin (1978)

If you ask me, this one is the top Kung Fu movie ever, but I’ve a long way to go with Kung Fu movies before I make that assumption. Still, this one has to be around the top five ever. It’s the story of a young boy who decides to travel to the legendary Shaolin Temple in order to become a Kung Fu master. He needs to learn Kung Fu quick if he is to protect his home town from an evil tyrant who has enslaved his people. But in order to do that, he must first pass through the 35 Chambers of the Shaolin Temple. Each chamber shows him a different lesson in Kung Fu. I love that whole sequence where they are training him from chamber to chamber, each one a new challenge, each one pushing him further on his way to becoming a Kung Fu Master. The display of martial arts on this film is amazing, the weapons, the story, everything just gels perfectly for me making it one of the best Kung Fu movies for me. Highly recommend this one! Also, if you enjoy this one, I recommend checking out its sequel Return to the 36th Chamber of Shaolin (1980). It’s a bit different in tone; it has a bit of comedy infused into the story, but trust me, that isn’t a bad thing. This sequel is every bit as good as the original.

Duel to the Death (1983)

It’s really strange, but many movie buffs and even Kung Fu Fans don’t include this one on their lists of best Kung Fu movies. I honesty don’t get why! This movie is the bees knees. The first ten minutes of this film has ninjas invading a Kung Fu school, trying to steal some sacred scrolls, and its all out Kung Fu action! Samurais vs. Ninjas! What I love the most about this movie is that it covers a huge spectrum of martial arts. In part, Duel to the Death has to do with a tournament that confronts Kung Fu masters vs. Karate masters in a Duel to the Death! We also have ninjas, many of which can disappear at will, transform into giants…I mean this movie is all over the place. And to top it all off, the film ends with an amazing sword fight on top a cliff next to the ocean! Duel to the Death is never boring; it has all sorts of martial arts, including ninjas who use magic. It’s just an entertaining flick all around.

Fist of Legend (1994)

Fist of Legend gives us Jet Li paying homage to Bruce Lee’s Kung Fu classic, Fist of Fury. This Jet Li film is an excellent remake of that film. It is essentially a revenge story, about a student who returns to his Kung Fu school only to find out that a rival school has poisoned and killed his master. That’s when Jet Li decides to do some detective work to try and identify his masters killer, so he can make him pay! If no one talks then he will beat the truth out of them! And that he does! The only difference for me between this film and Bruce Lee’s version is that Jet Li plays the vengeful student with more calm and focus while Bruce Lee portrayed the character with genuine rage. On this version of the story Jet Li displays how much of a martial arts master he truly is! He demonstrates real discipline and sheer ability to kick some ass! If you ask me, then I would tell you that this is without a doubt Jet Li’s best film. With Hero and Twin Warriors (1993) follwing closely behind.

Fist of Fury (1972)

This film is also known as The Chinese Connection. It tells the story of a Kung Fu student who upon returning to his home town discovers that his master has been killed, so he goes on a rampage to uncover his masters killer. What differentiates this one from Jet Li’s remake (Fist of Legend) is that Bruce Lee plays his character with an amazing level of rage. This was something that distinguished Bruce Lee’s films; they had that energy, that intensity to them. One look at Bruce Lee in some parts of this film and you’d swear the guy was going to blow up with hatred. It was this ability that Bruce Lee had to go ballistic, I love that about Bruce Lee’s performances. If you want to see a truly deadly Bruce Lee, then check him out in The Big Boss (1971) on that one Bruce Lee is a brutal killer! But I guess that’s just what made Bruce Lee who he was, that intensity that he displayed with his characters. There is this one amazing sequence in Fist of Fury where he finally captures one of the ones responsible for his masters death. He begins to punch the truth out of the guy by punching him on the ribs and asking “Why did you kill my master? Why? Why? Why?” Now imagine that with every “why?” Lee punches the guy on the ribs until he finally cracks them! That’s intensity right there! There’s some rage for ya! This is one of Bruce Lee’s most memorable performances, even surpassing his performance in Enter the Dragon.

The Legend of Drunken Master (1994)

Jackie Chan is known for being more of a comedian than a martial artist. Well, at least that’s the impression a lot of people are under. But The Legend of Drunken Master is one of the films where he truly displays what a master he is in cinematic martial arts. On this one, Chan is trying to defend historical artifacts that these Chinese thugs are trying to sell to Americans. So in this movie he is basically defending his Chinese heritage, his history. The coolest thing about this movie is that in order to fight properly, Jackie has to fight when he is absolutely drunk out of his skull! So we get to see Jackie Chan kicking ass while chugging down huge amounts of alcohol! This not only makes for some really funny sequences (you don’t know funny till you’ve seen Jackie acting drunk!) but it also makes for an amazing display of martial arts action! One memorable scene has Jackie taking on a gang of hundreds of axe wielding enemies inside of a Chinese restaurant. That fight is very impressive and entertaining. The finale is also jaw droppingly good. Highly recommend this movie if you haven’t seen it. If you think Rumble in the Bronx (1995) is Jackie Chan’s best martial arts film, let me tell ya, you haven’t seen nothing yet!

Kung Fu Hustle (2004)

Kung Fu Hustle was my introduction to Stephen Chow’s unique brand of comedy. What’s awesome about this movie is that in many ways it is like a Jackie Chan movie, mixing Kung Fu action with comedic elements. You don’t only get amazing Kung Fu action (enhanced with CGI) but you also get to laugh while watching it. The cool thing about Stephen Chow’s Kung Fu movies is that he embraces that fantasy side that many Kung Fu flicks have. Some Kung Fu movies have more fantasy then others. Some will only go as far as showing characters jumping impossible heights with a single leap. Others will have their characters walk on water. But some, some go really out there with their fantasy elements. Chow’s Kung Fu movies take Kung Fu and bathe it in huge amounts of fantasy. His Kung Fu masters are indestructible super heroes, who will cause huge amounts of destruction, and are extremely powerful! An example of this is when Stephen Chow’s character flies so high through the air that he reaches the heaven’s and sees one of his gods floating around the clouds. The main character on this film (played by Chow himself) is a street bum/hustler looking to move up in the crime world. He wants to join the “Axe Gang” a group of thugs that terrorize every neighborhood they come across. That is until he discovers who he really is. If you enjoyed this one, do yourself a favor and check out Shaolin Soccer as well. It's just as awesome, and creative as this one.

Curse of the Golden Flower (2006)

This for me is the most majestic of all these movies. I think remember seeing an extra feature on the dvd where they mentioned that this was one of the most expensive Chinese movies made up to that point, and if you see this film, it shows. It looks beautiful, the temples, the castles, the wardrobe, everything evokes royalty and riches. Curse of the Golden Flower revolves around a gargantuan family feud between a king and his sons. This is the story of a king and his troubles while trying to rule his country. It is especially difficult to do so when everyone is trying to betray him left and right! Wife, sons, servants…everyone is a backstabber here. Is the father an evil tyrant? Should the son be the ruler and over take his father? What will be the destiny of the nation? And who will rule? This movie is the true definition of epic, thousands of extras, beautiful sets and great performances! You will grow to hate Chow Yun Fat, or will you? This movies ending will have you twisting your perceptions of him!

Shogun Assasin (1980)

Shogun Assasin is the film that Quentin Tarantino salivated over and watched a couple of hundred times just before he started writing the script for his Kill Bill films. Actually, there was a compilation of films he watched. Thriller: A Cruel Picture (1974) and Lady Snowblood (1973) being two of the most important influences on the Kill Bill films. Shogun Assasin is one of the bigger influences on Tarantino. That story of revenge, of nothing stopping you until you have finally quenched your thirst for justice. It’s that kind of movie in which something so evil, something so wrong has been done to you that you have no choice but to go out and seek out righteousness. In this case, it’s the story of a Samurai who is hunted down by his own Shogun. You see, the Shogun has grown paranoid and sees the Samurai as a threat to his reign! So he sends out his ninjas to kill the Samurai. The Samurai puts up a good fight and survives, but the ninjas still manage to kill his wife! So he is left alone with his child. What’s a Samurai who’s been betrayed by his own Shogun left to do but go out for revenge? This film has buckets of blood guaranteed to be sprayed all over your t.v. screen. It’s the kind of movie that has copious amounts of sword fights and decapitations, plus it’s just a great revenge picture. In its original form, Shogun Assasin was really two movies! The movie we know as Shogun Assasin is actually a compilation of the best moments of two of the Lone Wolf and Cub films! In order to distribute the film for American Audiences, they changed the title to Shogun Assassin and it was edited down to one film. But rest assured, Shogun Assasin contains the bloodiest moments from the two films it comes from. It basically cut the fat out of the two other movies and gave us the best of them.

Hero (2002)

Jet Li has made many martial arts films in his life time, I could do a whole blog post simply devoted to his best films. But I need to mention this one here because along with Fist of Legend, Hero is one of his best films. Its one of his most beautiful looking films as well. A lot has to do with the films director Yimou Zhang, who also made House of Flying Daggers (2004) (which is a more romantic martial arts flick) and Curse of the Golden Flower. The colors in these films are amazing. Pure eye candy. But what I love the most about this movie, besides the awesome Kung Fu sequences is that it’s a story about the common man vs. the evil empire. It’s about one man doing everything necessary to get close enough to the evil ruler to annihilate him. Defective governments need to be taken out! But, like many a rebellious films, sometimes the powers that be end up being too powerful. But the idea of the film is, be free or die! A lot of these Kung Fu movies are about evil governments, bad kings, and the common man preparing himself to go up against them, even if it means death. So this is the basic spirit behind this film, and its one of the reasons I love it so much.

The 36th Chamber of Shaolin [Blu-ray]The 36th Chamber of Shaolin Master of the Flying GuillotineDuel to the Death


Liam [Less Than Three Film] said...

Happy birthday!

I have seen a shockingly low number of kung fu flicks. Out of your list, I've only seen one (Kung Fu Hustle). Must change that.

venoms5 said...

Happy Birthday, Francisco! Mine's coming up on the 17th I think.

Great list! I only got to skim over it, but plan on reading it from start to finish when I get home tomorrow.

That pic of the guillotine is from the original FLYING GUILLOTINE from '74, though. You should definitely check that one out! It was a huge grindhouse classic back then. The FG they use in MASTER OF FG aka ONE ARM BOXER 2 looks like a beanie with some rubber blades along the edge to me. Still an outrageous movie, though. The Shaw Brothers contraption looked like the damn thing could really work! What's most shocking is that the weapon was a real creation way back then.

Hey, man, when you get a free couple days check out the Sins of Celluloid 5: Asian Exploitation article I did. There's some great stuff there if you haven't seen some of them. One of them has what has to be the most outrageous weapon ever created for a movie. I meant to mention it in your excellent and exhaustive weapons article, but forgot. You'll know it when you see it.

Fred [The Wolf] said...

Congrats on your first year! Looking forward to the next one!

And I don't talk about them much, but I do love me a good Kung Fu movie. My uncle used to have me watch them with him since he was a huge Bruce Lee fan. I've actually seen most of these. Fist of Fury is freakin' awesome. And I love Kung Fu Hustle, Hero, and The Legend of Drunken Master. Never seen Master of the Flying Guillotine though. Definitely need to change that.

Bryce Wilson said...

Congrats on your anniversary (and great list).

The blogosphere is a happier place with you in it.

Franco Macabro said...

@Liam: All worth a watch my friend, and all a Kung Fu good time!

@Venom5: Im defenetly making an effort to check out Flying Guillotine! I'll be checking out your article on Sins of Celluloid, sounds like a good read! And that goes for all my readers as well, want to learn more about Kung Fu Movies, head on over to Cool Ass Cinema! (A link to this excellent blog is on the blog post above)

@Fred: Once you see it, you'll instantly know why its so highly regarded by myself, an awesome movie in deed!

@Bryce: Thanks for the kind words Bryce, same to you!

Unknown said...

Congrats on your anniversary! Very, very cool indeed. I thoroughly enjoy your posts even if I don't respond to every single one of 'em.

As for your list of Kung Fun films, I certainly would agree on many of these and also add 2 personal faves:

THE STREET FIGHTER - no, not the Van Damme abomination but the classic Sonny Chiba film - what a badass he plays in this film as he crushes skulls, rips out throats and um, ahem, people's privates.

Also, FIVE FINGERS OF DEATH. I would love to have the "Iron Fist" as a super power!

Shaun Anderson [The Celluloid Highway] said...

Many happy returns on your first anniversary, and a thoroughly absorbing and interesting post to mark the milestone. It's been a pleasure reading your work, and collaborating with you, and look forward to many more in the future.

Crowley said...

Pues muchísimas felicidades y a seguir dando guerra muchos años más.
Un saludo

Franco Macabro said...

@J.D.: You are absolutely right, Street Fighter is an awesome movie, Chiba's fighting techniques are wild and all over the place, it's a breath of fresh air from the uber choreographed fights we normally see in Kung Fu movies.

I've yet to see its sequels though.

@Shaun: Let's starting planning that next collaboration!

@Crowley: Gracias mano!

HorrO said...

Congrats on the anniversary! I just had mine in August. Keep up the great work.

Franco Macabro said...

Thanks Horro! And congrats on your anniversary as well!

Mr. Fiendish said...

pretty solid list, but yes you should include Five Fingers Of Death. I would have also included Dirty Ho, which is my favorite kung fu flick ever.

And speaking of Ho's, where's the other Ho's? No not that, I mean the Godfrey Ho, China's greatest cheese-tastic chop socky filmmaker? What, no Ho's? for shaaaaame

Franco Macabro said...

I also thought about including Five Deadly Venoms, but I find that one to be a bit boring, even if it does have an awesome opening, and an awesome climactic battle, everything else in between is snoresville!

What Ho movies should I have included man?

Mr. Fiendish said...

plenty of awful ones, but Robo Vampire, Golden Ninja Warrior, Ninja Strike Force, Ninja Thunderbolt, and his masterpiece, Devil's Dynamite

Of course I'm kidding, these movies are bloody awful, it's not like I'm comparing them to Hero. However, they are cheesy and very entertaining.

Franco Macabro said...

Thanks for recommending them Beto, the titles sound golden. I'm sure theres plenty of fun in those movies.

Just saw one this weekend that I wish I had included on this post called RETURN OF THE ONE ARMED SWORDSMAN...holy shit, that movie was freaking AMAZING! Defenetly forms part of my Top Five Kung Fu movies EVER! I'll be reviewing it this week...

venoms5 said...

You gotta tread carefully, Fran when you approach Godfrey Ho's "work". As long as you know it's gonna be crap going in, you should be fine.

RETURN OF THE ONE ARMED SWORDSMAN is good, but I don't like it as much as the original. It's more of the action film that the first film isn't. It's the first appearance of genre fave Ti Lung.

The third movie, NEW ONE ARMED SWORDSMAN is a favorite of many and has a ton of gore in it. It was released here to theaters as TRIPLE IRONS.

I Like Horror Movies said...

Nice Franco, big congrats on the 1 year! Just think, in 4 more years we can all be celebrating your 5 year!

Franco Macabro said...

You didnt like Return of the One Armed Swordsman that much? Seriously? I just saw the first one and thought it was a bit slower than the second one which in comparison is action packed from beginning to end, which is why I loved it so much!

But I'll get more into those movies when I write a review for them this week, all I can say is Chang Che (the director) is a new hero of mine!

I need for ya to give me a top five Chang Cheh movies man, he made so many it is hard sometimes to know which ones are the good ones.


venoms5 said...

I did enjoy RETURN, just I appreciated the first movie much better. I've been watching these since I was 5 and one time I would have definitely preferred the second and third over the first movie. But now, I think the first is the best overall in terms of story, characterization and design. The other two I like as well. The third movie seems to have been made out of spite in response to the ugly situation surrounding Wang Yu's departure from Shaw Brothers. He wasn't the most agreeable person to be around as well as having ties with Triads.

KID WITH THE GOLDEN ARM is on my 'Ten Worst Chang Cheh Movies' list. It's a favorite of many, but it's inferior compared with his earlier work and even some of the movies he was doing at the time. I reviewed the film itself as well. It does have some good points which I pointed out in the review. I think you'll like it, Fran. It's just not a movie I hold in high regard although I do occasionally pop it into the DVD player. The recent Media Blasters DVD is the one to get. It's a very colorful movie.

Franco Macabro said...

I'm checking out your review for KID WITH GOLDEN ARM, thanks for the info Venom!

George Beremov [Nebular] said...

Congratulations on your first year anniversary! :) Your blog is simply fantastic, and one of my personal favorites. Keep up the great work! I'm so glad to meet other martial arts lovers like myself. Couldn't agree more about "10 Kung Fu Movies You Should See Before You Die" - you've mentioned one of the best films in this genre, with Zhang Yimou's "Hero" being my most favorite. I would add "Crouching Tiger", "House of Flying Daggers", "Iron Monkey" and "The Legend /Fong Sai Yuk/". I was about to ask you.... do you mind if I put your banner on my blog? :)

Franco Macabro said...

Yup, Im a Kung Fu nut, but I've still a lot of old school Kung Fu to see. Actually, thats what I've been doing these past few days, if you notice, I've posted reviews for two more Kung Fu movies: Return of the One Armed Swordsman which is simply awesome, and Return to the 36th Chamber of Shaolin.

Expect a couple more on the next few days, cause Im planning on seeing more!

Thanks for the kind words and sure, no problem with linking my blog! Thanks again!


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