Last week, two short films made their way onto the Internet, one in a more conventional way, the other I had to find it in more “unconventional” ways. Basically what I’m trying to say is that for as much as I hate the Internet, I also love it for the scum that it is. Both films are nostalgic trips to say the least, one is more of a traditional fan film, while the other is a sugar-coated PCP trip-out of a film that is all that is 80s and all that is insanity. Let’s start with the more traditional of the two.
Predator: Dark Ages – Lore
It’s been tough times for Predator the past 10 years or so. Sure, we got the underrated “Predators” which injected some life back into the lore and mythology of “Predator” but other than that we’ve gotten crap like “AvP: Requiem.” Like I said, it’s been tough. And like so many lost franchises that have lost their way, it’s usually takes a dedicated group of fans and filmmakers making a short film to show studio executives that people still care about a bastardized franchise. Enter, “Predator: Dark Ages.” Now, I’m not going to come out and say that “Dark Ages” is going to usher in a new era of “Predator” films, but what we have here is a nice little piece of lore.
“Dark Ages” is the story of a group of roughneck knights during The Crusades, including a Templar Knight, a female tracker, two meat sacks, and a Muslim scholar, essentially every character trope of the 80s action film. The church has asked Thomas, a battle-tested Templar, to hunt down a beast that has been killing without a reason. Thomas and his group are teamed with Sied, a Muslim scholar, who knows more than he is letting on to stop the killer.
Needless to say, Thomas’ team is wiped out one at a time leaving only himself and Sied to fight the Predator, which ends in a very interesting way. The End.
Clocking in at just under 30 minutes, “Dark Ages” packs in enough action, story, and sense of dread to keep you engaged for its entire run time. While I would have appreciated a little more back-story on Thomas and Seid, especially Seid who seems like he’s been studying the Predators for a while, dating back to his time in Jerusalem. If you’re a fan of the original “Predator” you will get a kick out of the opening sequence when Thomas and his group show up on horseback, blatant fan service, and of course how can I forget the music; Alan Silvestri would be proud.
This bring me to the second part of this double-header, and this one is a doozy…..
Kung Fury – Bananas
Do you like Kung-Fu? Do you like dinosaurs that talk? Do you like Viking Babes with machine guns? Do you like Hitler doing karate? Do you like ninjas? Do you like synth music? Do you like Nazis being murdered? Do you like giant golden eagles fighting dinosaurs? Do you like Miami? Well, if you don’t; get the F*CK out of here and kill yourself because you’re obviously reading the wrong review from the wrong site.*
So “Kung Fury” where does one start, first, if you haven’t seen it, click HERE and watch it….we’ll wait…..okay, we’ve waited long enough.
In “Kung Fury” the mean streets of Miami are awash with killer arcade machines and the return of Adolf Hitler, who is also a kung-fu master. The only man who can stop his is the baddest cop on the force; Kung Fury. Together with Hackerman, Fury is sent back in time to stop Hilter before he is able to harness the full power of the ancient art of Kung Fury. Along the way Fury meets female Vikings, Thor, a talking T-Rex, and has words with his talking car.
If you were to take “Miami Connection,” “Hobo With a Shotgun,” “Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon,” put them in a room and let them all have a three-way, you might get a general idea of how bananas this film is. Of course, this is nothing new, the 80s is enjoying a great resurgence of interest lately, from horror flicks like “The Guest” and “It Follows” to video games like “Hotline Miami” and “Blood Dragon” people still love the 80s, and for good reason; the 80s are awesome.
David Sandberg does his best Michael Biehn impression as the title character, and Jorma Taccone, from Lonely Island fame, hams it up big time as the kung fuhrer – Adolf Hitler. The violence is over-the-top, the 80s references are awesome, and if it wasn’t for a little film called “Back to the Future” I’d say this is the most realistic take on time travel to date.
“Kung Fury” is well worth your time, and why not just double feature it with “Predator: Dark Ages” to get your nostalgia fill in just under an hour.
*We at Simplistic Reviews do not want you to kill yourself, we want you to understand that these films are incredible and not watching them would be a great disservice to yourself. We love you, thnx, byeguys.
Miami Connection – Friendship
Being born in the early 1980s, I really missed out on that grand decade of acid-wash, cocaine cowboys, and mustaches. Even though the early 1990s were simply an extension of the late 80s, I really wasn’t cognizant of what the 80s had to offer until I was much older. Once a decade of ridicule, the 80s have come back in a big way. Between styles that hipsters are co-opting for their own gain, the revival of new wave pop, and of course the film “Drive,” the 80s are back; at least in spirit of course.
Aside from the fashion, the 80s had no lack of action films. For every “Die Hard” there was another “Surf Nazis Must Die.” For every “Predator” there was a “Krull.” The list goes on and on when it comes to cheesy 80s action films. However, there was another constant in action films from the 80s; and that would be friendship. From “Tango and Cash” to the bond between Riggs and Murtaugh in “Lethal Weapon,” where would the action genre be without a great friendship? This brings me to the forgotten classic from 1987, “Miami Connection,” a study in how not to make a movie, but at the same time, the exact way every movie should be made.
“Miami Connection” is at heart a film about friends playing in an awesome band, “Dragon Sound,” practicing Tae-Kwon-Do, chasing girls on the beach, and helping one of their own find their long last father. There’s a minor subplot about ninjas that sell cocaine, but never mind that…..because it makes NO SENSE! If you’re going into “Connection” looking for anything that doesn’t fit a stereotype, you better return your VHS to your local Blockbuster Video. However, if you want to experience the 1980s in all its glory there is no better way to celebrate the decade you’re either trying to relive or forget than with this masterpiece.
The story behind “Connection” is nearly as entertaining as the film itself with star Y.K. Kim nearly bankrupting himself trying to make his masterwork The Korean immigrant, and Tae-Kwon-Do master with no film experience whatsoever, decided to make a film, which at the time was considered a slap in the face to the industry, had to wait nearly 25 years to receive the credit that he thought he deserved back in 1987. While that credit is entirely ironic, since “Connection” is really a schlock-fest cashing in films like “The Karate Kid,” any credit it better than no credit at all.
What sets “Connection” apart from other action dribble from the 80s is it’s earnest and sincere message. Hell, during the closing credits a message pops up essentially saying “The only way to obtain world peace is through the elimination of violence;” a cheesy message that could only be said in decade that also introduced into our lexicon “Peace in the Middle East.” I just love the irony that the only way to stop violence is with violence to start. But hey, the day you’re in a pop-synth band playing the keytar shirt-less fighting cocaine-dealing ninjas from Miami, you might feel the need to be a little violent as well.
Bottom line, “Miami Connection” at heart, is a film about the bond of five orphans who are fed up with “stupid cocaine” looking for a friend’s long-lost father, while playing some awesome music and fighting ninjas in Orlando. What could be better? Well, a lot, but it wouldn’t be as rad as “Miami Connection.”
Fun Fact: The song “Friends” was used in the retro-grade spin-off to “Far Cry 3;” “Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon,” starring 80s hunk, Michael Biehn.
Also, make sure to check out Slaughter Film’s live “riff” of “Miami Connection” on September 6th at midnight (so technically, September 7th) through this link, Click here dummy!
Kill Bill – Feet
After the brilliance of “Jackie Brown” and showing his critics that he wasn’t just an exploiter of violence, our old friend, Quentin Tarantino, stood up, brushed the dirt off of his shoulders, straightened his tie, and said “Guess what motherfu*cker, I’m going to do an old-school kung-fu flick now! What!”
Of course that’s not what he said, but it would have been bad-ass if he did nonetheless. After all the accolades of both “Pulp Fiction” and “Brown,” Tarantino decided to work on his first pet project. A true genre film that centered around one woman and her blood-thirsty quest for revenge against a group of assassins that tried to murder her on her wedding day. That movie(s) is “Kill Bill” or as I like to call it “Uma’s Got Some Hammertoe.”
*I will be reviewing these films (Kill Bill Vol. 1 and 2) as one film. Sure, I could split it up into two reviews and make you wait for the second one just like QT made us wait in the theaters, but since it’s the holiday season, I’ll do you guys a solid.
As mentioned above, the core of “Bill” is a revenge film, wrapped in a Shaw Bros. movie, encased in a Shakespearean tragedy, tied up with a nice bloody bow. You can take Tarantino’s three previous films and throw them out the window; “Kill Bill” is a love letter to a by-gone era of 1970s chop-socky karate flicks that members of the Wu-Tang Clan were getting high to back in the early 1990s. (side note: RZA of the Wu-Tang Clan was the music supervisor for Vol 1.)
Across a four-plus hour epic, if watched back-to-back, Tarantino takes us on a blood-spattered journey with The Bride, our protagonist, as she extracts revenge the best way she knows how; with a samurai sword crated by Hattori Hanzo and the Five-Finger Exploding Heart Technique taught to her by Pai Mei, the mysterious karate master. If you grew up in the golden age of karate movies, watched “The Green Hornet” or were “Protectin’ Ya Neck” with the Wu back in 1993, Tarantino creates a world that you can still put in the same universe as “Pulp Fiction” and “Jackie Brown” but fashions it in a way that makes it seem other-worldly.
The plot is simple, but its the way that Tarantino weaves this revenge yarn that’s the treat. Told through a series of flashbacks and his trademark non-linear format, we see The Bride training with Pai Mei, learn how to walk again starting with just one wiggle of one toe, her vengeance on the Deadly Viper Assassination Squad, and finally her face-off with Bill himself. Oh, I almost forgot; plenty of Uma Thurman feet through both films. No need to head over to your local adult video store if you love feet, because Tarantino shares your tastes.
I know I might be selling this movie short, and I’m withholding a ton of information, including plot twists, but my recommendation is to stop reading this review, go out and buy “Kill Bill” and enjoy it for all it’s worth. Thurman’s turn as the killer bride is good, but its funny how she all but fell off the face of Hollywood after what you might call her magnum opus. One of David Carradine’s last roles as Bill is almost as iconic as his turn as Caine in “Kung-Fu,” and the fight scenes, as over-stylized as they are, are extremely fun to watch with plenty of arterial spray. Chill…..have a pill, and watch “Kill Bill.”
Fun Fact: If you want to get creative you could call “Fox Force Five,” first mentioned by Mia Wallace in “Pulp Fiction,” as a precursor to the Deadly Viper Assassination Squad. There was a Black fox, Asian fox, French fox, and two American foxes. Coincidence?
The Raid: Redemption – Overkill
The days are pretty much over where you get old-school action movies that say “Screw the story, we don’t need a plot, let’s just kick people in the face, shoot them in the head, and break necks!” Sure, we have “The Expendables” but there hasn’t been a good foreign action flick in quite a while…..OW!!!…..geez…..sorry, I just got kicked in the face by “The Raid: Redemption.”
The premise is simple; an elite group of Indonesian cops are sent to a building in the slums of Jakarta where a vicious drug dealer resides and shit hits the fan, and by shit hitting the fan I mean, in honor of Joe Bob Briggs, Glock-fu, Baton-fu, Army Knife-fu, sniper rifle-fu, fluorescent light-fu, machete-fu, and hammer-fu. The action is non-stop, except when the director decides to slow things down and try and incorporate an extremely thin plot. Just throwing it out there but the director, Gareth Evans, is also Welsh (take that for what its worth).
The fight choreography is great (the film uses Pencak Silat as the main fighting technique). Yayan Ruhian, who portrays “Mad Dog,” acts as the choreographer of all the fights in the film and there are plenty of “Oh Shit!” moments. The one issue I do have is the liberal use of CG blood. It’s not as bad as some movies (The Devil’s Rejects comes to mind) and its hidden pretty well, but it does show up from time to time.
All in all, “The Raid: Redemption” is a fine “film” and an excellent exercise in the resurrection of the modern kung-fu movie…….owwwww……stop kicking my face!!!
Fun Fact: The roots of the martial art Pencak Silat can be traced back to Java and Sumatra in the 7th Century.