Trailer Time: The Expendables, August 2010?

Hi all…

This falls into the “holy shit” category of casting. I’d not heard of The Expendables until this week and now I have to admit I’m looking forward to it. Even if it stinks, it’s going to be fun to see this cast together.

“Who’s in it?” you might ask…

And if that’s not enough, there also seem to be cameos from Bruce Willis and Arnold Schwarzenegger.

Here’s the trailer:

Basically if you’re looking for a movie filled with testosterone, this movie is it. Written and directed by Stallone, I think this film has the potential to kick some serious butt.

Here’s the synopsis:

Expendable: capable of being sacrificed in order to accomplish a military objective.

THE EXPENDABLES is a hard-hitting action/thriller about a group of mercenaries hired to infiltrate a South American country and overthrow its ruthless dictator. Once the mission begins, the men realize things aren’t quite as they appear, finding themselves caught in a dangerous web of deceit and betrayal. With their mission thwarted and an innocent life in danger, the men struggle with an even tougher challenge – one that threatens to destroy this band of brothers.

Barney Ross (Sylvester Stallone) is a man with nothing to lose. Fearless and void of emotion, he is the leader, the sage and the strategist of this tight-knit band of men who live on the fringe. His only attachment is to his pickup truck, his seaplane and his team of loyal modern-day warriors. His is a true cynic who describes what he does as “removing those hard to get at stains.” The team behind him is made up of Lee Christmas (Jason Statham), former SAS and a savant with anything that has a blade; Yin Yang (Jet Li), a master at close-quarter combat; Hale Caesar (Terry Crews), who has known Barney for ten years and is a long-barrel weapons specialist; Toll Road (Randy Couture), a skilled demolitions expert and considered the intellect of the group; and Gunnar Jensen (Dolph Lundgren), a combat veteran and an expert in precision sniping who struggles with his own demons.

When the mysterious Church offers Barney a job no one else would take, Barney and his team embark on what appears to be a routine mission: overthrow General Gaza (David Zayas), the murderous dictator of the small island country of Vilena and end the years of death and destruction inflicted on its people. On a reconnaissance mission to Vilena, Barney and Christmas meet their contact Sandra (Giselle Itie), a local freedom-fighter with a dark secret. They also come to learn who their true enemy is: rogue ex-CIA operative James Monroe (Eric Roberts) and his henchman Paine (Steve Austin). When things go terribly wrong, Barney and Christmas are forced to leave Sandra behind, essentially giving her a death sentence. Haunted by this failure, Barney convinces the team to return to Vilena to rescue the hostage and finish the job he started. And to perhaps save a soul: his own.

Are you interested yet? I know I am… Look for it sometime in August 2010!

–Fitz

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DVD Review: The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor

Hi all!

In August 2008, Brendan Fraser and Rob Cohen brought the latest chapter of The Mummy franchise to the big screen with The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor. Instead of heading back to Egypt, Rob Cohen and Stephen Sommers have set the picture in China. This time Rick O’Connell (Fraser), Evie O’Connell (this time played by Maria Bello), and their son Alex (played by Luke Ford) and his Uncle Jonathan (Evie’s brother, played by John Hannah), are thrust into the mid 1940s where an ancient, cursed Emperor (Jet Li) comes back to life to reclaim his empire. (You can read my original review here.)

Along the way, we meet Zi Juan (the always amazing Michelle Yeoh) and her daughter Lin (Isabella Leong), and the Emperor’s right hand man and Zi Juan’s lover, General Ming (played by Russell Wong). And if the amazing cast wasn’t enough, we’re thrust into a world where the Terra Cotta Warriors of Xi’an come to life to serve their ancient Emperor and retake their world.

Though the script wasn’t great, it did have a number of fun things about it. I really liked the Yeti guardians of Shangri-la and the special effects were amazing, as you would expect in a film in The Mummy franchise. Be sure to watch to see if the Yeti score a field goal during the battle near Shangri-La!

Unfortunately, though I like Maria Bello and think she’s an excellent actress, she was given the impossible task of replacing Rachel Weisz in the role of Evie. Somehow it just never worked for me, though Bello did give it her all.

And ultimately for me it comes down to the fact that Emperor Han (played by the always amazing Jet Li) was a cursed Terra Cotta Emperor, not really a mummy. This is a sticking point for me. There are hints at the end of the movie that there may be another Mummy movie that leads us to Peru, where actual mummified remains were found. So hopefully if there is another one (and after the success of Tomb of the Dragon Emperor it’s most likely going to occur), they’ll actually go with mummies again.

The 2-Disc Deluxe Edition of The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor includes a ton of great extras that really show the care and work that went into the movie. 89 days of shooting in Montreal and China was quite a monumental process, involving the creation of enormous sets and elaborate costumes, as well as detailed and amazingly rendered special effects.

Disc 1 includes the movie as well as a Digital Copy of the film (instructions are included on the inside of the DVD case), feature commentary with Director Rob Cohen, and a number of Deleted and Extended Scenes.

Of the Deleted and Extended Scenes, I have to say I’m puzzled as to why some of these didn’t make it into the finished film.

  • “Secret Lovers” provides a missing link between the finding of the Oracle Bones and the fact that General Ming and Zi Juan’s affair did not remain secret for long (Emperor Han had spies everywhere).
  • “General Ming’s Death” was a bit gruesome, and I can see why they cut it a bit for the film. Being drawn and quartered by horses is not a good way to go.
  • The “Conversation in Shanghai” was another scene that I thought could have stayed in the movie to flesh out the relationship between Alex and his parents.
  • It was pretty obvious why “Night in the Himalayas” was cut from the movie, as it was a bit awkward with Fraser and Bello and Lin and Alex (though the scene with Jonathan and the yak was pretty funny!).
  • “Tea Time: Yang & Choi” was another easy decision to cut, though it was interesting to see the relationship between General Yang and Choi in a different light.
  • “Motorcycle Grenade Toss” was fun, but frivolous. It’s always nice to see more things explode.
  • “Female fight in Cog Room” showed a bit more of the battle between Lin, Evie, Choi, and General Yang in the final fight, but it duplicated other parts of the fight unnecessarily.
  • “Emperor Reassembles” was just plain cool. Why they left that scene out of the final movie is beyond me.
  • “Jonathan & Maguire at Club” was another extraneous scene, basically adding to Jonathan’s exit from the club at the end of the film.

Disc 2 has all the juicy extras in this 2-DVD set.

  • “The Making of The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor” provides a great process of making this movie, from constructing enormous sets in Montreal and the start of 89 crazy days of shooting until they wrapped filming in China. The indoor and outdoor sets in Montreal and China were unbelievable, as well as the army of cameramen, stunt men, craftsmen, costume designers, and on and on. One of my favorite parts of this feature was seeing Fraser and Bello practicing with the many guns used in the picture. It looked like a lot of fun.
  • “From City to Desert” focused on the shooting done on sets in Montreal, indoors and outdoors, as well as in China in enormous outdoor sets as well as on these amazing street sets in Shanghai. Rob Cohen’s enthusiasm as a fan of China can be easily seen as he talks about not only the creation of the sets, but the reasons behind why they shot certain scenes here or there. Quebec has a huge movie community and is very film friendly. And the Chinese were very accomodating with huge numbers of designers and access to both remote and in-city locations.
  • “Legacy of the Terra Cotta” was a discussion of some of the history behind the scenes. For instance, I learned that it took 700,000 workers 30 years to build the Terra Cotta warriors.
  • “A Call to Action: The Casting Process” discusses some of the casting decisions behind this movie. With such an amazing cast, it was easy to build characters around them. And to hear the cast members discussing each other was also great. New villains and new heroes mixed with the old. What more could you ask for?
  • “Preparing for Battle with Brendan Fraser and Jet Li” covered Fraser, Jet Li, Michelle Yeoh, Maria Bello and Luke Ford all getting ready for their fight scenes (of which there are a lot of them in the film!). The battles at the Emperor’s tomb, the museum, Shangri-La and the sequence at the Great Wall at the end are all extremely well staged and choreographed. It helps to have actors skilled in physical activities such as dance, martial arts, or firearms, but all of the actors appearing in the movie put in a ton of hard work and training to make sure they could make it look as real as possible without harming themselves or others.
  • The “Jet Li: Crafting the Emperor Mummy” feature told the story from the point of view of the special effects artists involved from Rhythm & Hues Studios and Digital Domain. The creation of the living terra cotta look for the Emperor was very cool, as it showed that like everything else in movie making, it was a long process filled with ups and downs before they settled on the look seen in the film.
  • “Creating New and Supernatural Worlds” looked at the set design, artwork, costumes, and the many thousands of little touches that went into adding depth to every scene. Literally it was an amazing army of talented and skilled artisans that turned the director and art director’s sketches into a reality where the actors could interact and feel like they were really in the scene.

If you’re a fan of The Mummy franchise, this 2-Disc Deluxe Edition DVD set of The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor is a must have for your collection! Even if you didn’t like the film all that much (like I didn’t), the extras are worth it.

–Fitz

p.s. Pick up The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor at Amazon!

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DVD Review: Fist of Legend (1994/2008)

Hi all…

It was my pleasure recently to watch Fist of Legend in its Two-Disc Ultimate Edition from Dragon Dynasty. This 1994 film starring Jet Li and Chin Siu-Ho teams them with a brilliant fight choreographer, Yuen Wo-ping (who also choreographed Tai Chi Master and The Matrix), for a brilliant combination of story and martial arts prowess. As if that weren’t enough, this movie is also a tribute to Bruce Lee‘s classic movie The Chinese Connection.

[rating:4/4]

Before I get into the plot of this great story, I would be remiss if I didn’t talk a bit about the history that sets the stage. In 1937, the Imperial Japanese Army (IJA) invaded and attacked China. They started with Beiping and Tianjin, then reinforced and attacked Shanghai, eventually taking it after a hard fought battle with the Chinese. Over the next few years, fighting continued and horrible losses were suffered on all sides.

Fist of Legend - Box ArtWhen the United States dropped Fat Man and Little Boy on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, it was the beginning of the end for Japan.

Fist of Fury begins with Chen Zhen (Jet Li), a Chinese student in Japan, discovering that his Master Huo back in Shanghai had been defeated by the Japanese in a challenge. Chen Zhen headed back to Shanghai to investigate his master’s death.

Over the course of the story, we see Li always trying to do what’s best for his Master’s school and for China. This puts him squarely in the sights of the Japanese, who do their best to make his and his friends’ lives very difficult. Eventually, Chen Zhen sacrifices himself to avoid further bloodshed.

As a martial artist, Jet Li is among those at the top of my list. Bruce Lee will always be #1. Jet Li is #2. And Jackie Chan is #3. All three are amazing to watch. And this movie solidifies Jet Li’s position as the greatest living martial artist of our time for me.

Fist of Legend - Jet Li

Where else can you see Jet Li fight blindfolded during one battle, fight with a belt against an opponent with a katana, and hardly break a sweat until the final battle of the movie? He was at the top of his form for this film (not that he isn’t now, but he’s not doing this type of movie any longer).

And unlike Tai Chi Master, there is no obvious wire work done. Most of the amazing fight choreography is simply that — amazing choreography with a cast of unbelievable martial artists.

Fist of Legend - Jet Li Flying KickThis two-DVD set will be available on Tuesday, September 9. The discs include:

  • Commentary from Hong Kong Cinema Expert Bey Logan
  • An interview with director Gordon Chan
  • An interview with Japanese Action Legend Kurata Yasuaki
  • A screen fighting seminar from the Kurata Action School
  • Commentary from director Brett Ratner and critic Elvis Mitchell
  • A set of five deleted scenes

It’s jam-packed with martial arts movie goodies. And, this is the unrated version at 103 minutes. If you are a martial arts movie fan or a fan of Jet Li’s, this movie is a must have for your collection!

Get your copy on September 9, 2008!

It gets a solid 4 out of 4 for me.

–Fitz

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