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Revenge of the Ninja: a film review

Revenge of the Ninja is one of those films that you either understand or you hate. If you can grasp the decade in which it was made and understand what martial arts had become, you will actually enjoy the campy nature, funny one-liners, and bad post-production dialogue editing. The fact MGM rolled the dice and funded such a film was a surprise, but made sense giving that no major production houses were getting involved in what are essentially exploitation films. They just wanted a fair grab at some money in a niche market, and who can blame them for that? The other companies were staying out of it for the most part, perhaps even for good reason.

After the seventies, people wanted more and more, and these kind of kung-fu, bloody, rated-R films were going to small theaters, matinees in the cities, and drive-ins. These were never critically acclaimed films, but were tons of fun. You go to see films like these to enjoy insanity, and basically say “No way!” or “What was that?” to your friends every five minutes. This is one of those films that is so bad, it’s good. It’s also truly violent and gritty in a way we don’t really get anymore in modern action films.

First of all, you need to have a certain kind of humor when watching this film. Made in 1983, Revenge of the Ninja stars Sho Kosugi who was in over 15 martial arts films, hilariously, most of them have “death”, “ninja”, or “kill” in the title. Go figure. Are you surprised? This film was shot on the West Coast, under Philippine influence, about the way of the Chinese. Besides this film, which he is known best for, he also starred in 1985’s Pray for Death and more recently, 2009’s Ninja Assassin.

If you enjoy ridiculous murders and fights which are actually very well choreographed, these films are must sees if you’re looking for a 90-minute romp of entertainment. These movies are not total crap. All these movies are meant to be exactly what they are: envelope-pushing entertainment. Rarely will you get creative camera angles, original stories, or good special effects. That’s not what these kinds of films are about. They are about shock, awe, fighting, and over-the-top deaths.

Produced by Canon Films in 1983, Revenge of the Ninja ran 90 minutes in length and made a pathetic $509,000 on just 93 screens in its opening weekend. It’s scattered run that year — jumping from venue to venue — collected just over $13,100,000. It’s available in DVD and as of this writing (August 2011) is available on Netflix’s instant view and streaming service.

I’m going to know run through a list of what is featured in this movie and I will leave it up to you whether or not you see it. But you have to admit, no other movie on the planet has all of these things. Trust me:

  1. Stereotypes Italians, gays, blacks, Chinese.
  2. Breasts. Through wet t-shirts and just completely out. All fake, btw.
  3. Random rip-off of first-person slasher scene from Halloween for no reason.
  4. Old, balding men with mustaches in very short gym shorts wrestling in a hall where there is definitely not enough room by a brick wall.
  5. Forced, out-of-place conversations after a sparring match to keep the plot moving with exposition.
  6. A Native American hired thug dressed in Indian attire with braided hair. He wields axes and tries to scalp our protagonist.
  7. Huge 9-foot jumps over walls – clearly off of trampolines.
  8. Rich, white guy is the antagonist, trained as super ninja.
  9. Grandmother who can kick some serious ass. Impossible considering her age. But funny to watch.
  10. A fight scene that immediately has you laughing as Sho Kosugi approaches a make-shift, rip-off of the Village People for information. Stereotypes include a gay cowboy with a mustache and cowboy hat. A Spanish biker with a jean jacket, a black dude with short shorts wearing a headphone radio with antennae and mustache wearing roller skates, yes, roller skates, and a Japanese, fat skinhead wearing a leather jacket with a huge red and white rising star on his t-shirt, just in case you didn’t understand his stereotype. This group of four men are met for the first time by the protagonist and the audience at a children’s playground where they are all sitting on a picnic table laughing and drinking beer. Real hardcore.
  11. Characters, many of them, having no common sense or lapses in judgment due to a poorly written script.
  12. A pint-sized child fighting a full-grown woman and winning.
  13. People’s hands getting cut off. Great effects.
  14. Ninja’s spitting out spikes and blades into baddie’s faces. Actually kind of sick thanks to the gratuitous zoom ins.
  15. The bad ninja apparently carries around two, yes, two mannequins of himself in case he needs a diversion on a roof. Where he keeps these is anyone’s guess. Maybe his ass.
  16. Kid distracting a bad guy by pointing up and saying “Hey! Look! Superman!” and that shit actually works.
  17. Holding breath in hot tub for two minutes in full ninja hear and knowing exactly when to pop out.
  18. Joe Pesci wannabe.
  19. Actually good stunt work, especially when Sho is chasing down the van!
  20. Streams of blood spraying 15-feet in final kill scene.

So there you have it. Without a doubt, boys may enjoy this more than girls and you really gotta watch it in groups. DVD is here.

MH

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83rd Annual Academy Award Predictions

I love a good story. I love a good movie. And more movies than you may think are based off of novels. See how uninspired Hollywood grabs the good through another medium?

There are a few reasons for this: for one thing, the story is already written in a novel and usually is overflowing with content. With what is basically a huge “treatment,” a production company will then get a screenwriter (or team of them) to adapt the work for the screen. Characters can be lost, dialogue changed, and whole scenes deleted or added, but, one would hope, with such substantial source material a sweet screenplay would be written up with all the good stuff from the book, right? Not always.

To prove my point, simply look at the Harry Potter Series, Jurassic Park, No Country For Old men, and Never Let Me Go.  I use these examples because they are all different and aI have read these novels. Jurassic Park is way, way different. Whether these are good or bad adaptations will change depending on whose opinion you listen to. The point is that things change from the book, and that’s because it is in a different medium and a new way to tell the story is necessary while simultaneously making you feel what you felt while reading it. Not freakin’ easy. There is now sound to your story, a written score of music, cadence of lines delivered from actors, and cinematography which needs to convey an ambiance.

This year for the 83rd Annual Academy Awards, set for Sunday, February 27th at (8pm East/5pm pacific), several movies (like every year) are adaptations. Most of the best films often are. 127 Hours, The Social Network, and True Grit are this years films which were written by others first then optioned for a film. As you may know, not only is True Grit an adaptation from a book, but it is also a remake from the 1969 version with John Wayne.

The best part, for me anyway, is comparing the two mediums for myself: book vs. film. Everyone has different expectations, and what I think is a flop, you might think is a home-run. And that’s the best part for me–that conversation and comparison. It’s fun!

Below are all the categories and all the nominees. I have “boldened” my predictions for each category. I really believe nearly all of these films deserve their recognition. Great year, 2010! Who are you rooting for? (Comment at the bottom.)

Best Picture

    * “Black Swan” Mike Medavoy, Brian Oliver and Scott Franklin, Producers
    * “The Fighter” David Hoberman, Todd Lieberman and Mark Wahlberg, Producers
    * “Inception” Emma Thomas and Christopher Nolan, Producers
    * “The Kids Are All Right” Gary Gilbert, Jeffrey Levy-Hinte and Celine Rattray, Producers
    * “The King’s Speech” Iain Canning, Emile Sherman and Gareth Unwin, Producers
    * “127 Hours” Christian Colson, Danny Boyle and John Smithson, Producers
    * “The Social Network” Scott Rudin, Dana Brunetti, Michael De Luca and Ceán Chaffin, Producers
    * “Toy Story 3” Darla K. Anderson, Producer
    * “True Grit” Scott Rudin, Ethan Coen and Joel Coen, Producers
    * “Winter’s Bone” Anne Rosellini and Alix Madigan-Yorkin, Producers

Actor in a Leading Role

   * Javier Bardem in “Biutiful”
    * Jeff Bridges in “True Grit”
    * Jesse Eisenberg in “The Social Network”
    * Colin Firth in “The King’s Speech”
    * James Franco in “127 Hours”

Actor in a Supporting Role

   * Christian Bale in “The Fighter”
    * John Hawkes in “Winter’s Bone”
    * Jeremy Renner in “The Town”
    * Mark Ruffalo in “The Kids Are All Right”
    * Geoffrey Rush in “The King’s Speech”

Actress in a Leading Role

    * Annette Bening in “The Kids Are All Right”
    * Nicole Kidman in “Rabbit Hole”
    * Jennifer Lawrence in “Winter’s Bone”
    * Natalie Portman in “Black Swan”
    * Michelle Williams in “Blue Valentine”

Actress in a Supporting Role

    * Amy Adams in “The Fighter”
    * Helena Bonham Carter in “The King’s Speech”
    * Melissa Leo in “The Fighter”
    * Hailee Steinfeld in “True Grit”
    * Jacki Weaver in “Animal Kingdom”

Animated Feature Film

    * “How to Train Your Dragon” Chris Sanders and Dean DeBlois
    * “The Illusionist” Sylvain Chomet
    * “Toy Story 3” Lee Unkrich

Art Direction

    * “Alice in Wonderland”
      Production Design: Robert Stromberg; Set Decoration: Karen O’Hara
    * “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1”
      Production Design: Stuart Craig; Set Decoration: Stephenie McMillan
    * “Inception”
      Production Design: Guy Hendrix Dyas; Set Decoration: Larry Dias and Doug Mowat
    * “The King’s Speech”
      Production Design: Eve Stewart; Set Decoration: Judy Farr
    * “True Grit”
      Production Design: Jess Gonchor; Set Decoration: Nancy Haigh

Cinematography (tough one! I’m picking two!)

    * “Black Swan” Matthew Libatique
    * “Inception” Wally Pfister
    * “The King’s Speech” Danny Cohen
    * “The Social Network” Jeff Cronenweth
    * “True Grit” Roger Deakins

Costume Design

    * “Alice in Wonderland” Colleen Atwood
    * “I Am Love” Antonella Cannarozzi
    * “The King’s Speech” Jenny Beavan
    * “The Tempest” Sandy Powell
    * “True Grit” Mary Zophres

Directing

    * “Black Swan” Darren Aronofsky
    * “The Fighter” David O. Russell
    * “The King’s Speech” Tom Hooper
    * “The Social Network” David Fincher
    * “True Grit” Joel Coen and Ethan Coen

Documentary (Feature)

    * “Exit through the Gift Shop” Banksy and Jaimie D’Cruz
    * “Gasland” Josh Fox and Trish Adlesic
    * “Inside Job” Charles Ferguson and Audrey Marrs
    * “Restrepo” Tim Hetherington and Sebastian Junger
    * “Waste Land” Lucy Walker and Angus Aynsley

Documentary (Short Subject) (simply haven’t seen them)

    * “Killing in the Name” Nominees to be determined
    * “Poster Girl” Nominees to be determined
    * “Strangers No More” Karen Goodman and Kirk Simon
    * “Sun Come Up” Jennifer Redfearn and Tim Metzger
    * “The Warriors of Qiugang” Ruby Yang and Thomas Lennon

Film Editing

    * “Black Swan” Andrew Weisblum
    * “The Fighter” Pamela Martin
    * “The King’s Speech” Tariq Anwar
    * “127 Hours” Jon Harris
    * “The Social Network” Angus Wall and Kirk Baxter

Foreign Language Film

    * “Biutiful” Mexico
    * “Dogtooth” Greece
    * “In a Better World” Denmark
    * “Incendies” Canada
    * “Outside the Law (Hors-la-loi)” Algeria

Makeup

    * “Barney’s Version” Adrien Morot
    * “The Way Back” Edouard F. Henriques, Gregory Funk and Yolanda Toussieng
    * “The Wolfman” Rick Baker and Dave Elsey

Music (Original Score)

    * “How to Train Your Dragon” John Powell
    * “Inception” Hans Zimmer
    * “The King’s Speech” Alexandre Desplat
    * “127 Hours” A.R. Rahman
    * “The Social Network” Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross

Music (Original Song)

    * “Coming Home” from “Country Strong” Music and Lyric by Tom Douglas, Troy Verges and Hillary Lindsey
    * “I See the Light” from “Tangled” Music by Alan Menken Lyric by Glenn Slater
    * “If I Rise” from “127 Hours” Music by A.R. Rahman Lyric by Dido and Rollo Armstrong
    * “We Belong Together” from “Toy Story 3″ Music and Lyric by Randy Newman

Short Film (Animated)

    * “Day & Night” Teddy Newton
    * “The Gruffalo” Jakob Schuh and Max Lang
    * “Let’s Pollute” Geefwee Boedoe
    * “The Lost Thing” Shaun Tan and Andrew Ruhemann
    * “Madagascar, carnet de voyage (Madagascar, a Journey Diary)” Bastien Dubois

Short Film (Live Action) (simply haven’t seen them)

    * “The Confession” Tanel Toom
    * “The Crush” Michael Creagh
    * “God of Love” Luke Matheny
    * “Na Wewe” Ivan Goldschmidt
    * “Wish 143” Ian Barnes and Samantha Waite

Sound Editing

    * “Inception” Richard King
    * “Toy Story 3” Tom Myers and Michael Silvers
    * “Tron: Legacy” Gwendolyn Yates Whittle and Addison Teague
    * “True Grit” Skip Lievsay and Craig Berkey
    * “Unstoppable” Mark P. Stoeckinger

Sound Mixing

    * “Inception” Lora Hirschberg, Gary A. Rizzo and Ed Novick
    * “The King’s Speech” Paul Hamblin, Martin Jensen and John Midgley
    * “Salt” Jeffrey J. Haboush, Greg P. Russell, Scott Millan and William Sarokin
    * “The Social Network” Ren Klyce, David Parker, Michael Semanick and Mark Weingarten
    * “True Grit” Skip Lievsay, Craig Berkey, Greg Orloff and Peter F. Kurland

Visual Effects

    * “Alice in Wonderland” Ken Ralston, David Schaub, Carey Villegas and Sean Phillips
    * “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1” Tim Burke, John Richardson, Christian Manz and Nicolas Aithadi
    * “Hereafter” Michael Owens, Bryan Grill, Stephan Trojanski and Joe Farrell
    * “Inception” Paul Franklin, Chris Corbould, Andrew Lockley and Peter Bebb
    * “Iron Man 2” Janek Sirrs, Ben Snow, Ged Wright and Daniel Sudick

Writing (Adapted Screenplay)

    * “127 Hours” Screenplay by Danny Boyle & Simon Beaufoy
    * “The Social Network” Screenplay by Aaron Sorkin
    * “Toy Story 3” Screenplay by Michael Arndt; Story by John Lasseter, Andrew Stanton and Lee Unkrich
    * “True Grit” Written for the screen by Joel Coen & Ethan Coen
    * “Winter’s Bone” Adapted for the screen by Debra Granik & Anne Rosellini

Writing (Original Screenplay) (Can’t pick one!)
 
    * “Another Year” Written by Mike Leigh
    * “The Fighter” Screenplay by Scott Silver and Paul Tamasy & Eric Johnson;
      Story by Keith Dorrington & Paul Tamasy & Eric Johnson
    * “Inception” Written by Christopher Nolan
    * “The Kids Are All Right” Written by Lisa Cholodenko & Stuart Blumberg
    * “The King’s Speech” Screenplay by David Seidler

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