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Author, Teacher, Screenwriter


Monday, June 09, 2008

Kung Fu Panda (2008)

Kung Fu Panda (2008)

Anyone who has ever seen a Sammo Hung martial arts film will slide right into "Panda" without a murmur. The story of a chubby slacker who dreams of kung fu glory, who discovers unsuspected grace within his ungainly form, is pretty much laid out by the time the opening credits roll. The only question is: what is the journey? And in DreamWorks' production, voiced by Jack Black and Dustin Hoffman as "Shifu", the wise martial rodent, the answer is: pretty good. Not bad. Amusing. I watched Jason's face, and he was energized and riveted. On the other hand: not completely rivet. He DID remember to ask to go Potty in the middle of the film. That might mean something, but I'm not sure how to quantify it. The potty meter: to what degree does a film change the average statistical probability of a child going to the bathroom within any given 90-minute stretch of time..?

Oh, well. Dustin Hoffman turns in a TERRIFIC performance. The 3-D animation is good. Jack Black is Jack Black, and the fight scenes, especially one on a bridge, are actually exciting. I'll give it a "B".
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I'm a big fan of the Japanese Manga killing machine "Golgo 13", a strip that has been running for forty years. There were two Golgo movies: "The Professional" and "Queen Bee." "Professional" is great, brutal, sexy, and ahead of it's time with computer animation that looks pretty bad these days. Oh well. It has a great fight scene in an elevator, though, an environment that hasn't been overused. "Diamonds Are Forever" (where Sean Connery tusseled with his judo instructor. Nice.), "Trouble Man" (a little-known blaxploitation film with Robert Hooks as a pool-hustling, wealthy conflict resolution specialist who is also a karate expert. If Jim Kelly could act, he would have done a movie more like this.), and "Golgo" all take advantage of the confined space, implied time pressure (elevator moving between floors) and inherent drama of a passenger conveyance bottling-up life and death gymnastics. Great stuff. I've always thought that, all things considered, "From Russia With Love" is the best fight scene EVER. It was well choreographed, acted, there was plenty at stake, both actors had real charisma, the filmmakers had built it up since the opening scenes of the movie, takes place in a confined space, there was a beautiful unconscious woman at risk, both actors were athletes willing to get bruised up, the sound and appearance of motion intensifies the subjective violence a la "Eisenstenian Montage" where images coming from the right are met by a swinging camera coming from the left. Wow. THAT was a great scene.

I've seen bunches of superbly choreographed action scenes (the bridge sequence in "Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom" redeemed an otherwise disappointing film. It ROCKS.) but that one works best for me.

Question of the day: what is your all time favorite movie fight or action sequence, and why?

31 comments:

Steven Barnes said...

"Dan Moran

Possibly this isn't what you meant, but I find it a cheery prospect my own self....
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Don't take this the wrong way, because in general, I want to see you happy. But this case, I am very much hoping you will be crying in your beer."
############
Down below, Dan Moran commented from his side of the room, and Frank rebutted from his. People, you look elsewhere on the Web. You know what's going on out there. Whatever flaws this forum might have, I LOVE the fact that we can discuss things that are tearing our nation apart, and preserve a modicum of courtesy...let alone affectionate play. Thank you.

Dan Moran said...

From Russia With Love probably wins out. (I just got that in high def. Gorgeous.)

Still, the fight in the last Bourne movie was simply amazing. I'd really have a hard time picking between the two.

Dan Moran said...

Oh, Frank is a good guy. So's pretty much everyone else posting regularly on this blog. I don't agree with Frank about a lot of stuff, but anyone who judges people by their politics is missing out on a lot of good people. Most people have their parents' politics and it says very little about who they are as people.

Anonymous said...

just wanted to say that Jet Li's " fist of legend" and all the "Bourne" movies had some of the best fight sequences i have ever seen. just a thought. this is my first time leaving a comment but i really enjoy your blog, your insights are amazing, introspective, and very informative. thanks for share your energy with us.

AlanL said...

I got through Horton Hears A Who with two four year olds, my son and his friend, with only one pee break early on. First time in a cinema for both of them. Pretty good going, I thought, but I have no basis for comparison.

Anonymous said...

Best fight scenes...hmmmm?

Goldeneye - 007 VS 006 in the finale
Great choreography, enclosed space, equally skilled combatants. that fight redeemed many stupid points in the film. "For the confrontation between Bond and Trevelyan inside the antenna cradle, director Campbell decided to take inspiration in Bond's fight with Red Grant in From Russia with Love. Pierce Brosnan and Sean Bean did all the stunts themselves but one take where one is thrown against the wall." -from Wikipedia (I didn't know any of that!)

Gross Pointe Blank - Martin Blank VS rival assassin (Benny 'The Jet' Urqudez - stellar fight! best use of a pen

The Rundown - Beck VS a pro football starting lineup - wasn't quite as realistic as the aforementioned fights, but it's one of the most legitimately entertaining fights scenes around!

Blade - Blade VS a club full of vampires &
Mask of Zorro - Zorro VS a Hacienda full of soldiers
Both are absolute 'Must See!' fight scenes for their entertainment value alone!

They Live! - Roddy Piper VS Keith David - 5 & 1/2 minutes of two man monsters brutalizing each other in an alley!

There are plenty more but I've taken up enough of your time already

Christian M. Howell said...

That's easy. The fight scene with Neo and MeroVingian's(sp)men in The Matrix Reloaded. That was the best choreography I've ever seen and the wire work was unbelievable.

L. R. Giles said...

Maybe this pick is a little too contemporary, but I really enjoyed the Tony Jaa bone-breaking scene in The Protector. If you haven't seen it, check out YouTube: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gsJ5s6CKmog

Steve Perry said...
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Steve Perry said...
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Steve Perry said...

"Best" and "Favorite" aren't the same.

My all-time favorite was Spencer Tracy as the crippled vet taking on Ernest Borgnine, in Bad Day at Black Rock.

I was maybe eight when I saw it, and that stuck in my mind as the most amazing fight I'd ever seen -- a one-armed guy tossing a big bully on his ass. Didn't last but a few seconds, but wow ...

Chris | Martial Development said...

I second the vote for "Fist of Legend", with Jackie Chan's Drunken Master II a close second.

Steve Perry said...

Favorite actions sequences? So many ...

Butch and Sundance has three or four -- the first shootout in the bar; "How good are you?" The Oh, shit! jump off the cliff; the freeze-frame shootout at the end.

Any two minutes in Rustler's Rhapsody, but especially the final shootout -- "I"m not a good guy, I'm a *lawyer!*"

You shot him in the head. How do you feel about that?"

Hans Solo knocking Darth Vader's ship into deep space at the end of ANH (Ep.IV)

Couple scenes from Billy Jack -- cheesy movie, but that inside reap kick to old man Posner's face, and when Billy killed Bernard, the entire audience where I saw it stood up and cheered ...

All of the Our Man Flint and In Like Flint pictures.

The final dance scene from All that Jazz.

Any two minutes of Seven Samurai. The knife scene in Magnificent Seven.

The love scene between Mariel Hemingway and Patrice Donnelly -- action, to be sure ...

I'm not even warmed up. I could go on all day ...

Demon Hunter said...

I'd have to agree with L.R. Giles about the Tony Jaa film, THE PROTECTOR. Although, there were so many awesome fight scenes in that movie, I can't pick just one.

Also, Geena Davis in THE LONG KISS GOODNIGHT, the scene where she was fighting the bald guy with one eye in her kitchen. :*) She used household items to do him in.

Steve Perry said...

Personal Best, that's the Hemingway/Donnelly picture, sorry.

Anonymous said...

Favorite fight scene: Harrison Ford in "Witness" (1985), when he finally gets fed up with the townies' harrasment of the Amish people and defends them. The scene is short and brutal. In real life a punch or kick to the face is devastating, so, once the action starts, a fight hardly ever lasts more than a minute, if you have someone who knows what he or she is doing. Plus, the longer you let it go on, the greater the chance you might get hurt. You want to disable your opponent as quickly as possible. That's the way it is in this scene. Ford is brutally efficient. It's not pretty, but he gets the job done quickly and thoroughly.

Charles S.

Mark Jones said...

One of my favorite fight scenes is Robert Redford's character against the "Postman" assassin in 3 Days of the Condor. The fight is utterly non-cinematic. They slip, they fall, they wrestle around on the floor, struggling desperately in a life-or-death battle. It's ugly, brutal and exhausting.

Mike Ralls said...

I'm tempted to say Indiana Jones vs the uber-swordsmen in Raiders of the Lost Ark.

Josh Jasper said...

All time favorite? I dunno. A few stick out in my mind from recent movies.

Much of "Shoot 'Em Pu" which is nonstop gun fu, and amazing.

The fight scenes in the second Matrix movie, both the one in the Merovingian's mansion, and the highway fight scene, especially Morpheus facing off against the agent with nothing but a Katana.

The end fight scene in The One with Jet Li. That man has an amazing grasp of cinematic fighting.

Anonymous said...

The hallway fight in Oldboy.

AF1 said...

Return of the Dragon--Bruce Lee vs. Chuck Norris in the Roman Colosseum.

Great setting, and great back and forth action between 2 all-time greats.

eric said...

Eastern Promises:
The sauna fight. Getting stabbed hurts--Viggo made me feel the pain.

No Country for Old Men: The pit-bull. Wow. Just wow.

Raising Arizona: The fight in H.I.'s trailer. Actually there are three outstanding action sequences in this movie. The chase; the trailer fight and the climactic fight between H.I. and Smalls. These scenes play with the audience's perception of what a fight scene should be, and twist it in unexpected ways. The way Nicholas Cage uses his hands--scraping the ceiling in the trailer fight and grasping the pavement as he is being dragged from under his car in the climactic sequence is just brilliant.

Anonymous said...

Maybe it is because of my kali/jkd background, but i believe that brandon lee's first fight scene in rapid fire is actually quite well done. i also think that the brawl in on the waterfront is in the top three film fights ever.

shawn

Anonymous said...

Maybe it is because of my kali/jkd background, but i believe that brandon lee's first fight scene in rapid fire is actually quite well done. i also think that the brawl in on the waterfront is in the top three film fights ever.

shawn

Sean said...

following Steve Perry's "2 minutes" rule... any 2 minutes from Remo Williams the Adventure Begins (the first time I had seen a book series/heroes I loved actually on film)

and a scene in "The Born Losers" starring Tom Laughlin as Billy Jack where Billy fights a group of bikers in a parking lot and somehow spins a guy around, grabbing both his hands from behind and pulls both of the biker's arms out of their sockets. Good times man, good times.

Aaron said...

I'm with you on the train fight in "From Russia With Love". Possibly the most exciting fight sequence I've ever seen.

For sheer "holy crap, did they really just pull that off", I'd have to go with the climactic brawl between Jackie Chan and Benny Urquidez in "Dragons Forever".

The Lee/Norris fight in "Return of the Dragon" is breathtaking.

For a knife fight, Tommy Lee Jones and Benicio Del Toro are wonderful in the big fight at the end of "The Hunted". First time I've been in a theater full of Army guys hissing and wincing every time a hand gets cut. Just brutal.

And "Grosse Pointe Blank" still blows me away. Covers all the ranges I can think of, and the pen, man. Love the pen.

Aaron Stultz

Anonymous said...

Grosse Point Blank, sure, from Russia with Love, sure, but-
There's an forties flick where a priest gets hassled by a drunk and just one shot of the priest's hand taking a roll of dimes from a drawer, a punch sound, one dime rolling out under the door . . .

Anonymous said...

The no-frills hand-to-hand sequence in Saving Private Ryan with Mellish and the German soldier that ends up slowly knifing him to death while telling him to be quiet and accept it. Brutality Meet Poetry.

Ethiopian Infidel said...

The Chase scene in the 3rd Shaka Zulu episode, where, impaled with a spear, Shaka swims rapids and scales a sheer cliff! This part of the series attempted to recall Shaka's genesis and rise to power from a magic-imbued African perspective and triumphs magnificently, casting the Chase both in the world-wide Hegira mythos of the Anointed One in Flight and creating a spectacular image of a riped ebony Titan performing Herculean labors!

Brother OMi said...

thanks for the review. my babies want to see it

I am a fan of Golgo 13... i still have those two movies on VHS...

Darrin Kemp said...

Favorite fight scenes:Donnie Yen v. Sammo Hung Sha Po Lung(Killzone)
Bruce Lee v. Chuck Norris Return of the Dragon.
Jackie Chan v. Benny Urquidez Wheels on Meals.
Jackie Chan v. Benny Urqudez Dragons Forever.
Jet Li v. Mike Lambert Unleashed
Bruce Lee v. Bob Wall Enter the Dragon.
Jackie Chan v. Whang In Sik Young Master.
Aubry Knight v. Warrick Street Lethal lol :) (please bring back aubry and promise)