Guest Blogger - Paul's 31 Action Films You Should See This Summer -- Part 2
Here is the second installment of my friend Paul's 31 Action Films You Should See This Summer! In this one he explores Asian film and forced me to add many of the movies to my Netflix.
First, I'm not including it in the list, but you should see Letters From Iwo Jima as soon as possible. Clint Eastwood continues to prove he is one of, if not the, best director in the world with this amazing and touching masterpiece about the struggle of the Japanese soldiers who fought on Iwo Jima.
Okay, moving along...today's theme is influential Asian films --Film VII
Seven Samurai (Shichinin no samurai) - 1959
Directed by Akira Kurosawa, starring Takashi Shimura, Toshiro Mifune, Seiji Miyaguchi.
Why You Should See It - Considered by many to be the birth of the modern action movie, as well as one of the greatest films ever, Seven Samurai should be required viewing for any fan of cinema. Kurosawa uses elements such as slow motion, flawed heroes, reluctant heroes, and even anti-heroes in this film to show his audiences that true samurai were real people who, despite following their codes, were fallible and had the ability to feel sorrow. Of course, later action films would lift these themes. Later films would also lift the concept of a group of heroes banding together to protect the weak, which Kurosawa admitted to lifting from the films of John Ford. At 3 1/2 hours, it is a long movie, and the majority of action occurs in the incredible last 45 minutes, but the wait is worth it. Plus, you can enjoy the acting of two of my favorite actors, Shimura and Mifune.
Best Action Sequence -- The final battle between the samurai and villagers against a roving band of marauders.
One-liner -- "I'm Heinachi Hayashida, a fencer of the Wood Cut School."
Yojimbo (1961) -- Directed by Akira Kurosawa, staring Toshiro Mifune and Tatsuya Nakadai.
Why You Should See It -- If you've seen A Fistful of Dollars, you've already seen it...kinda. Sergio Leone's Western is almost an uncredited direct, shot for shot remake of Yojimbo, which didn't please Kurosawa very much. And, while Clint Eastwood made "The Man With No Name" his own, creating one of the most iconic and influential action heroes ever, the foundation of the character lies with Mifune's portrayal of Sanjuro Kuwabatake, the titular yojimbo (bodyguard). Mifune portrays the hero as the ultimate, cranky cynic. Sanjuro comes to a small Japanese village and pits two rival gangs against each other for his own personal gain. Sanjuro is a scheming, manipulative, and brilliant master of death, but you root for him, just the same. Especially when he's up against a lunatic like Nakadai's Unosuke.
Best Action Sequence -- The final duel between Sanjuro and Unosuke.
One-liner -- "I'm not dying yet. I have to kill quite a few men first."
Sword of Doom (Dai-bosatsu tôge) (1966) -- Directed by Kihachi Okamoto, starring Tatsuya Nakadai and Toshiro Mifune.
Why You Should See It - Because Nakadai and Mifune reunite! That, and if you've ever wanted to see a remorseless, sociopathic samurai, then this film is for you. Nakadai plays said sociopath, Ryunosuke Tsukue, and kills on a whim, leaves his wife and family, and continuously struggles to find his equal in swordsmanship. Mifune plays that equal, Toranosuke Shimada, who plays the honorable samurai who wants to help Ryunosuke see the light. Does he succeed?
Best Action Sequence -- The final scene, where Ryunosuke faces a countless horde of samurai who are trying to kill him.
One-liner -- "Study the sword to study the soul, you fool... an evil mind makes an evil sword."
PS - The background from my blog comes from this film.
Kill! (Kiru) (1968) -- Directed by Kihachi Okamoto, starring Tatsuya Nakadai and Etsushi Takahashi
Why You Should See It -- You ever wonder what would happen if somone combined a jidaigeki (samurai period piece, and the phrase where George Lucas came up with the term Jedi) and a spaghetti western (which was heavily influenced by Kurosawa)? Well, this here is your answer. The lead characters, one an ex-samurai and one an ex-farmer, struggle with what it means to be a samurai, and the film, through several conventions of the spaghetti western, explores and parodies the popular concepts of the samurai way of life. The two characters become swept up in a struggle between seven samurai (sound familiar?) who have holed up in hiding after killing a chancellor in order to bring about a reform and those loyal to the fallen chancellor.
Best Action Sequence -- The death of the chancellor and the siege on the seven samurai's hideout.
One-liner -- "A sword isn't a sickle."
Game of Death (1978) - Directed by Robert Clouse and Bruce Lee, starring Bruce Lee, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, and Dan Inosanto.
Why You Should See It -- Because you'd be witnessing one of the most bizarre films ever, a bizarre film that ends with a heaping helping of ass-kicking. Game of Death began as Bruce Lee's masterpiece, a film that Lee envisioned as a statement on his beliefs on martial arts and the superiority of Jeet Kun Do. Lee gathered several of his students (including Inosanto and Abdul-Jabbar), as well as masters of other martial arts, and filmed the series of fights that would close the movie. Then Lee stopped filming on Game of Death to shoot Enter the Dragon. Unfortunately, Lee died before he could finish Game of Death. Several years later, the studio hired Clouse to create a new storyline with stand-ins for Lee, as well as cobbling together footage from Lee's previous films, in order to finish the film. The result is a laughably bad film that is an affront to Bruce Lee's film...but if you fast forward to the end, you can see, in my opinion, the greatest martial arts duels of Bruce Lee's career. Lee faces off with his main pupil, Inosanto, in an incredible nunchuck battle, then Lee faces a master of Aikido, and, finally, Lee fights Abdul-Jabbar in a fight of pure spectacle. If you don't want to sit through the crap, check out the ..ary Bruce Lee: A Warrior's Journey.
Best Action Sequence -- The Bruce Lee fights at the end of the film.
One-liner -- "You lose Carl Miller!"
PS -- You'll totally see where the idea of The Bride's yellow jumpsuit came from if you see this film.
Once Upon A Time In China (Wong Fei Hong) (1991) -- Directed by Tsui Hark, starring Jet Li, Biao Yen, and Rosamund Kwan.
Why You Should See It -- If you thought The Matrix was the be all and end all of martial arts/wire fu films, I'm ecstatic to burst your bubble. Once Upon A Time In China is the real deal. Jet Li stars as the legendary Wong Fei Hong, martial artist and doctor, who protected the lower classes against the Chinese government and malevolent foreign prospectors. Li has the martial arts chops, of course (he was a national kung fu champion in his teens), and the choreography of Woo-ping Yuen, who would also choreograph The Matrix, Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, Kill Bill, and Jet Li's Fearless combine to create one of the greatest kung fu epics ever.
Best Action Sequence -- The final battle. You'll never look at ladders the same way again.
One-Liner -- " No matter how good our kung-fu is, it will never defeat guns."