Screen Junkies » actionfest 2011 http://www.screenjunkies.com Movie Reviews & TV Show Reviews Wed, 06 Aug 2014 16:57:44 +0000 en hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.3.1 ActionFest Review: The Heir Apparent: Largo Winch http://www.screenjunkies.com/movies/movie-review/actionfest-review-the-heir-apparent-largo-winch/ http://www.screenjunkies.com/movies/movie-review/actionfest-review-the-heir-apparent-largo-winch/#comments Mon, 25 Apr 2011 16:04:08 +0000 Fred Topel http://www.screenjunkies.com/?p=208772 Winch is no competition for James Bond but you can see why the French enjoy him.

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Largo Winch is a Belgian comic book character, a globe traveling rogue who has many adventures. The latest film version played at ActionFest with subtitles, and a little native English. Winch is no competition for James Bond but you can see why the French enjoy him.

Largo (Tomer Sisley) returns to France from South America when his adopted father, Nerio (Miki Manojovic), is murdered. He has no interest in corporate affairs, but he is going to stop an evil takeover of his Winch International. Mrs. Ferguson (Kristin Scott Thomas) is the CEO who tries to reign in Largo’s wildcard ways.

The action is obviously smaller scale than a big American production, but it keeps its energy moving. Largo has a few cool moves, but you realize a foot chase is really just extended takes of guys running, and then Largo jumps on a bus. A rooftop fight has some dangling over the edge, but otherwise just fighting.

The only sequence with real momentum is a car chase that builds from smashing and bumping to losing the brakes and ultimately Largo having to pull his partner Kaplan (Gilbert Melki) from a near miss. The action is well done, except for the cliché shakycam.

Largo does things his own way, which means insisting on hotwiring a car even when Kaplan has the keys. The corporate plot gets a little slow and boring. Maybe the comic books have an equal balance, but it feels like they’re padding out the story because they can’t have all the bus jumps and car flips they really want.

One thing the French do better than Bond is the womanizing. They do not cut out Largo’s sex scene with Lea (Melanie Thierry). Lea must be the Largo Girl (Largirl?) and it is a full R-rated topless bodies grinding against each other in the moonlight scene. But, that’s not really significant to the entertainment value. I’m always amused by the teases in the Bond movies, but it’s one thing that makes Largo Winch distinctly European.

This movie is two and a half years old and I’ve only heard of it now, but they’re making another one. I wouldn’t race out to see Largo save Winch International again, but maybe success will make the films bigger. It’s also just a cool name. Largo Winch. That goes well on a marquee. Now they just have to back it up.

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ActionFest Review: Bangkok Knockout http://www.screenjunkies.com/movies/movie-review/actionfest-review-bangkok-knockout/ http://www.screenjunkies.com/movies/movie-review/actionfest-review-bangkok-knockout/#comments Sun, 17 Apr 2011 23:31:37 +0000 Fred Topel http://www.screenjunkies.com/?p=207470 The story is the perfectly simple thriller in the vein of 'Saw'.

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The Thai filmmakers have reall taken on the mantle of Hong Kong cinema now that Jackie Chan and Jet Li have gone American. Yeah, they still go back and make Chinese language films, but the Thais are doing the crazy moves that went unchecked in the Hong Kong movies of the ‘80s. Even without Tony Jaa, Bangkok Knockout is full of pure wild thrills.

A stunt team calling themselves “Fight Club” wins an audition to work on Mr. Snead (Speedy Arnold) in America. They end up drugged and wake up in a warehouse and their friend Joy is kidnapped. It turns out Mr. Snead runs a gambling ring where his wealthy clients bet on which of the Thai stuntmen will survive his house of traps and fights with bosses.

The story is the perfectly simple thriller in the vein of Saw with a sick motivation for the villains. There’s a tournament bracket of sorts, who will win each round, and a time limit. Not that we necessarily know how many bosses there will be or how much time is left, but we know at some point they’re going to beat every fighter in the house to get out.

Pod, the leader of Fight Club, Parkours around the walls. Ed flies around a cage as he battles his opponent. Fern can fight for herself too. The warehouse gives them plenty of tires and metal rods to fling. It would be nicer if they built a pretty set and then destroyed that, but it’s okay. Use what you’ve got, and a warehouse is easy to film. Maybe next time.

The bosses are crazy characters including a cross-dresser and at armored up warrior. You’ll see oil ignite a boss on fire and he keep fighting. Take that Maniac Cop 2. The climax under a moving truck is a real wow moment.

The English speakers are laughable as they struggle with the language, and characters like Sampong are just annoying as they whine and blubber on. It’s the Thai equivalent of the seat cushion kid in Rumble in the Bronx.

I love movies that are just showcases for fights and stunts. What a unique spectacle that film can capture gifted artists on display. There are lots of other movies that do other things, whether articulate stories or emotional journeys. Those are great too, but Bangkok Knockout takes us on a visceral journey.

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ActionFest Review: Fightville http://www.screenjunkies.com/movies/movie-review/actionfest-review-fightville/ http://www.screenjunkies.com/movies/movie-review/actionfest-review-fightville/#comments Sun, 17 Apr 2011 23:25:32 +0000 Fred Topel http://www.screenjunkies.com/?p=207466 A documentary that articulates the nuance and grace of MMA.

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Well, it’s finally happened. A movie may have gotten me into MMA. It wasn’t Never Back Down or Redbelt, and it certainly wasn’t Randy Couture in The Expendables. I’d seen some of the real matches but the footage captured in the documentary Fightville actually articulated the nuance and grace of the format.

In Lafayette, LA, Gil Guillory runs a local MMA circuit at rodeos. He’s always looking for new talent, to shake up the routine or because many fighters don’t keep fighting for long. Dustin and Albert are two rising fighters that directors Michael Tucker and Petra Epperlein chronicle. According to mma news and rumors, Dustin Poirier would end up signed to the UFC.

Whether they’re in the gym or in the cage, the cameras get really close to the fights. That’s definitely a zoom lens in the cage and you can still see the wire, but it shows you what’s going on at a more intimate level. The fact that it’s so intense even in training and sparring is indicative of the thrilling technique.

Trainers and promoters share fight philosophy in the beginning of the film. They have some statistics that prove MMA fights are safer than boxing, by the weight of the gloves alone. Also safer than rodeo or NASCAR, judged by how many fewer incidents of brain damage are suffered in MMA than the aforementioned sports.

Dustin and Albert each come from aggressive backgrounds where sports fighting seems the healthiest outlet for their energy. Watching them train holds up with cinema’s best training montages. Flipping semi tires looks like some IronMan work and Dustin’s diet is grosser than Rocky’s raw eggs.

While Dustin seems destined to be a star, Albert gets distracted by a breakup. When they spar, Dustin just has his way with Albert. The coach, Colin, even tells Albert earlier to admit he’s not fighting, but Albert can’t quite do it. So it’s a valuable lesson. You also learn about Gil’s business. It’s a struggle to put on these shows and the arena event he’s planning will make or break his business.

Like any great doc, Fightville gets the audience inside the world and intimate with the characters. It ultimately doesn’t matter that it’s about MMA. It’s a moving portrait of a specific world, but it happens to be the most popular new sport so it’s a great way in.

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ActionFest Review: Tomorrow When The War Began http://www.screenjunkies.com/tv/review-tv/actionfest-review-tomorrow-when-the-war-began/ http://www.screenjunkies.com/tv/review-tv/actionfest-review-tomorrow-when-the-war-began/#comments Sun, 17 Apr 2011 23:19:59 +0000 Fred Topel http://www.screenjunkies.com/?p=207462 See what happens when you keep delaying the Red Dawn remake? Australia went and made their own.

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See what happens when you keep delaying the Red Dawn remake? Australia went and made their own. Based on the John Marsden book, the directorial debut of screenwriter Stuart Beattie is modest, but at least it’s done. I saw it at ActionFest and it’s already opened in Oz.

When seven teenagers go on a weekend camping trip, they come back to find their neighborhood invaded by a (vaguely Asian) army. Their parents have been rounded up and taken prisoner, so it’s up to the kids to defend their home.

There’s Ellie (Caitlin Stasey) the leader of the camping trip, Robyn (Ashleigh Cummings) the young good girl, Homer (Deniz Akdeniz) the showoff, Fiona (Phoebe Tonkin) the insecure beauty, Kevin (Lincoln Lewis) the coward, Lee (Chris Pang) the quiet one and poor Corrie (Rachel Hurd-Wood) the one who has so little character she just asks questions when they need exposition.

Telling the story from the teens’ point of view is one way to moderate the action and it makes narrative sense. You see a jet battle only as it flies overhead and you hardly see any soldiers. There’s one really extended chase sequence in a truck with dune buggies and the finale at a bridge is explosive.

They’re learning on the go, grabbing a gun off a downed invader, making an inventory list. They keep making careless mistakes like falling asleep on watch or turning off their walkie talkies so they can’t hear that the enemy is approaching. They also solve all their relationships through battle. Kevin steps up, Homer takes it seriously, Robyn loses her innocence. And man, oh man, wait until you see the character transition Corrie makes. Yeah, I’m being sarcastic.

They probably had a lot of book to cram into a movie, but every time I’ve found a movie adaptation narratively unsound, it’s come straight from the books: Harry Potter, Da Vinci Code. Only movies like The Notebook actually enhance their source material with the power of cinema. The first film is probably only a calling card to let them make the rest of the books, and those will be the real movies.

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ActionFest Review: ‘Bail Enforcers’ http://www.screenjunkies.com/movies/movie-review/actionfest-review-bail-enforcers/ http://www.screenjunkies.com/movies/movie-review/actionfest-review-bail-enforcers/#comments Sat, 16 Apr 2011 00:02:07 +0000 Fred Topel http://www.screenjunkies.com/?p=207409 If you’re ever at ActionFest, and they’re showing Bail Enforcers, and Trish Stratus is there to present the film, I highly recommend you take advantage of that opportunity.

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If you’re ever at ActionFest, the all action movie film festival, and they’re showing Bail Enforcers, and Trish Stratus is there to present the film, I highly recommend you take advantage of that opportunity. I can’t imagine watching Bail Enforcers any other way.

Jules Taylor (Stratus) leads a team of bounty hunters, along with Chase (Boomer Phillips) and Ridley (Frank J. Zupancic). When their latest rundown offers them a $100,000 bounty in exchange for his release, Jules ends up fighting mob boss Hal Lambino (Joe Rafla) and his muscle Ruby (Andrea James Lui) just to claim the bounty on Mario (Enrico DiFede)

It would be pointless to analyze any technical mistakes. We all know how movies are supposed to look so we can recognize any problems with framing or continuity. Bail Enforcers has some real fights in there and they are, quite frankly, moments of awesomeness.

Jules fights a musclebound bail dodger in a gym using all of her WWE moves. High flies off a weight bench, takedowns and head locks are thrilling in a real world context. Her fight with Ruby in an ambulance makes great use of the tight space. With Ruby in a skimpy nurse uniform and Jules in a hospital gown, the battle is a hot, leggy match of even talents. Lui has moves and she’s fast too. Their final confrontation gives them more space but equally brutal throwdowns.

As an action heroine, Stratus has a delightful attitude. She’s having fun, still playing big like there may be an arena of 10,000 watching. Phillips gets a few funny lines in a massage parlor scene, but his outtakes are even more outrageous. Lui is the real discovery here. An sketch comedian, Lui has a future as a badass hero, sexy villain, anything she wants to play.

Whether Bail Enforcers secures distribution on DVD or a midnight movie release, you’ll know exactly what kind of movie it is. If you’re looking for that kind of experience, Stratus has made sure you’ll be Stratusfied. Her word, not mine, but it’s the most accurate way to describe the Staratusfaction of Bail Enforcers.

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ActionFest Review: ’13 Assassins’ http://www.screenjunkies.com/movies/movie-review/actionfest-review-13-assassins/ http://www.screenjunkies.com/movies/movie-review/actionfest-review-13-assassins/#comments Fri, 15 Apr 2011 23:41:01 +0000 Fred Topel http://www.screenjunkies.com/?p=207398 I knew when I saw it this was something special, but it kind of took me two viewings to process it all.

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13 Assassins played in Toronto and Fantastic Fest. I saw it in SXSW, but it took me until ActionFest to finally review it. I knew when I saw it this was something special, but it kind of took me two viewings to process it all.

Lord Naritsugu (Goro Inagaki) is torturing his servants, shooting arrows into kids and amputating women. Someone’s got to take this guy down. It’s up to lord Shinzaemon (Koji Yakusho) to assemble a team of samurai. He’s got 13, Naritsugu has 200, so it’s a samurai 300 with better action and tougher odds if you do the math.

The big battle is what everyone is going to remember about 13 Assassins and it is in essence the movie. For 30 straight minutes, Shinzaemon’s assassins plan comes together and tears apart the opposing army of 200. With a booby trapped stronghold, strategic tactics and badas fighting, the film’s battle is one for the cinematic ages.

At one point they set bulls on fire and send them trampling after the enemy. This is obviously a CGI effect, because you can’t light a bull on fire and then expect him to hit his mark. Even though it looks like an effect, the idea is so awesome it’s worth showing on film. That may be inhumane of the heroes too, but it’s awesome.

Hioki (Sosuke Takaoka) is the super badass of the 13. Koyata (Yusuke Iseya) is the 13th they pick up on the road, a hunter who twirls some rocks as a cool counterpoint to the other 12 swordsmen. You get to know each character through scenes of training and backstory, but they distinguish themselves the most during the battle.

Even though 13 Assassins builds up to a conclusion that totally overshadows everything else, you want to spend two hours in this world and watch them plan. Takashi Miike creates the tone of Kurosawa with blood and contact. I got a little lost in the clans and politics but the characters and moments are universal.

It’s all about the little details, like a kid peeing in the street to punctuate the tension. The preparations and initial battles set a stage. A sword gets stuck in the samurai’s enemy. Duels interest other duels. 13 Assassins is an epic masterpiece.

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ActionFest: Michael Jai White Says Hollywood’s Afraid To Make ‘Black Panther’ http://www.screenjunkies.com/movies/movie-news/actionfest-michael-jai-white-says-hollywoods-afraid-to-make-black-panther/ http://www.screenjunkies.com/movies/movie-news/actionfest-michael-jai-white-says-hollywoods-afraid-to-make-black-panther/#comments Thu, 14 Apr 2011 22:32:46 +0000 Fred Topel http://www.screenjunkies.com/?p=207196 I'd be more afraid of pissing off Michael Jai White.

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"Think unsexy thoughts! Think unsexy thoughts!"

Michael Jai White can say whatever he wants about Hollywood. Have you seen the size of this guy? Some executive in a suit isn’t going to make him back down. White just made his directorial debut with Never Back Down 2: The Beatdown, which premiered at ActionFest last weekend.

While speaking with the press, the subject of the problematic Black Panther film came up. Djimon Hounsou tried to get the lead in the Marvel Comic movie. He’d done the voice in an animated series. White told an audience panel that he’d like to Black Panther himself. Earlier he’d told the press he knows why Hollywood won’t touch it.

“Everything’s running by fear,” White said. “They think that if you narrow the audience, like if you have an African-American it narrows the audience, which is ridiculous. Action is colorless really and it’s worldwide. Wesley Snipes wouldn’t have been so significant if he didn’t sell overseas and there’s never been an African-American movie that had action that didn’t sell overseas. There’s just so few of them. You’re going to say that Blade wasn’t successful? The Last Dragon? But it’s few and far between.”

Admittedly, Black Panther is trickier than just an African-American action hero. “I would have a couple of theories on something like that. Some people haven’t grown up with Black Panther. There’s a large group of people who are running studios where the word ‘black panther’ meant something completely different, you know. I can imagine that that would have kind of a fearful connotation to someone.”

However, the general trend of limiting African-American actors to “urban” themed movies makes White scoff. “I would resist the whole idea of when you make a movie and it involves anyone black, African-American, not for it to be a crutch. Just somebody happens to be black. It shouldn’t really make a difference but when you’re asking somebody to risk millions of dollars, they find a lot of reason why not to do something instead of making a superior movie.”

White suggests a revolution is coming, one where studios won’t have the say on what movies get made anymore. “I think the day’s going to be coming where the filmmaker doesn’t have to lean on a studio and get private financing to really hit home, to really reach the audiences out there. Studios, to me, they’re decades behind. We’ve got an African-American president but they’re scared to do a movie like this. This is ridiculous.”

Take White’s current project. The series “Mortal Kombat: Legacy” debuted online at Machinima.com with new episodes debuting every Tuesday. “In the same situation with Mortal Kombat, you just have to go out and do it yourself. Kevin Tancheroen, myself, Larnell [Stovall], we went out and shot a concept that now is a reality. We could’ve never expected a studio to come up with that because a lot of the folks that are running things are so separate from the consumer. There may be a time where there’s a new superhero that might be black that’s not in a comic that would hit just as strong because that’s just an interesting image. I think it’s a no-brainer, just people are scared.”

Take it from Michael Jai White. People want to see him kick ass, as Black Panther, Jax or otherwise.

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ActionFest: Trish Stratus On ‘Bail Enforcers’ And ‘Tough Enough’ http://www.screenjunkies.com/movies/movie-news/actionfest-trish-stratus-on-bail-enforcers-and-tough-enough/ http://www.screenjunkies.com/movies/movie-news/actionfest-trish-stratus-on-bail-enforcers-and-tough-enough/#comments Thu, 14 Apr 2011 21:51:13 +0000 Fred Topel http://www.screenjunkies.com/?p=207154 Based on the pictures alone, this movie look awesome.

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ActionFest premiered the first movie starring WWE Diva Trish Stratus. In Bail Enforcers, Stratus plays Jules Taylor, a bounty hunter who uses a combination of Krav Maga and traditional body slams to take down bail dodgers. Director Patrick McBrearty benefited from Stratus’ experience, because she and her costars could choreograph the movie’s fight scenes on the fly.

“I’ll tell you a little secret, the gentleman that I fought in the beginning in the gym, he’s actually a pro wrestler as well,” Stratus said. “This is what wrestlers do. Patrick was nervous because he was like, ‘Aren’t you guys going to get together?’ I’m like, ‘No, this is what we do.’ We produce our own moments out there. We do it live, we do it in one take and we have our go to things that we do and we know when to hit it. So it was kind of cool to bring that out and do it like that.”

Except for a Wrestlemania match involving Snooki, Stratus is retired from the ring. She is currently cohosting “Tough Enough” with Steve Austin, the reality show where the WWE looks for the next Superstar. Or Diva. It’s anyone’s game.

“A girl or boy could win this,” Stratus said. “It’s interesting, we put them in these scenarios where we’re testing their physical strength, their abilities, but we’re also putting them in life lesson scenarios where we want to see if they take the lessons learned on the mat and apply it to the real world scenario because it’s a real all-encompassing job. Obviously the WWE, sometimes you’re on the road for 300 days of the year. You’ve got to love it, you’ve got to eat, sleep and breathe it so it’s definitely a test to have these kids come out and we whoop their butts every single day. Then we send them off to a mansion and see how they hang out with each other and how they all get along and that’s also a test for them as well.”

“Tough Enough” is back after nearly a decade off with an all new production. “Obviously a huge draw is Stone Cold Steve Austin. I think seeing him in this role is something fans haven’t seen yet. He’s really engaging and he’s really riveting and I think that final scene with the bottom three is really good television. The production as well is different from the first ‘Tough Enough.’ It’s a whole other production. They came from ‘The Contender’ as well as ‘The Apprentice’ so a lot of that production people, and you can just tell it’s top notch. So I think that’s the lure and just watching kids vying for their dreams. You see it on ‘American Idol’ and you get these people who are passionate about what they do and they’re going after their dreams. Hopefully one of them will get there.”

Look for more Bail Enforcers at Trishstratus.com. “Tough Enough” airs Mondays at 8 on USA Network.

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ActionFest Review: ‘Little Big Soldier’ http://www.screenjunkies.com/movies/movie-review/actionfest-review-little-big-soldier/ http://www.screenjunkies.com/movies/movie-review/actionfest-review-little-big-soldier/#comments Sun, 10 Apr 2011 23:52:30 +0000 Fred Topel http://www.screenjunkies.com/?p=206385 There’s no ladder twirling, conveyor belt sticking or cashier slot jumping through, but it’s always fun to see Chan move.

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I was really excited to see Jackie Chan’s latest Hong Kong movie at ActionFest. I’ll always order the DVD and see it before its American dub, but to see it in a theater! Little Big Soldier is amusing, but never amazing. There’s no ladder twirling, conveyor belt sticking or cashier slot jumping through, but it’s always fun to see Chan move.

The Soldier (Chan) wakes up on a battlefield strewn with dead bodies. He has a collapsible arrow on his chest plate so he could fake his death and wait out the battle. He manages to capture The General (Leehom Wang) of the Wei army. That could actually make The Soldier look good to his Liang superiors.

Little Big Soldier is basically an antagonistic buddy movie. The Soldier drags The General as a captive, the upper hand shifts, they have to team up to get out of greater danger, etc. All fine, as there’s been much thinner backdrop for Chan’s awesome work.

Chan is intentionally taking a backseat though. He’s designed his character as someone who can’t fight, which has never stopped him from making outrageous scenes of dodging attackers. He’s got moments but usually it’s other soldier fighting while The Soldier and/or The General look on and plan an escape.

When The Soldier has to, Chan gives him some cool skills. He climbs a tree trunk using a cloth. He throws a stone in the air and hits it with another stone, which pays off in a later fight scene. He parries incoming bolos with branches he finds on the ground. His battles with The General are played for bumbling comedy and their bamboo escape is funny.

Those moments are all very spread out. I’ll give Jackie Chan a rest. He’s been killing himself for us for decades, but that’s what Little Big Soldier is. It’s taking break, providing a decent show, but not one for the books.

Of course it wants to have more emotional and historical weight, because Chan really wants to do drama. The bond The General and The Soldier form is sincere and well acted, but typical of buddy movies. The film is about the Wei and the Liang battling before China was unified, and it reveals deep issues in the Wei side. That’s all fine but there are hundreds of other filmmakers and actors who can tackle history and character. There’s only one person who fits through a Vegas cashier slot. And that’s a stunt from an American movie!

We still get the bloopers in the end credits. The film’s most memorable action all had snafus, but there are still a lot of language blunders. Even in Chinese, they include flubbed lines, but at least you see Chan still push himself when he doesn’t quite take a beating hard enough and has to go again.

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ActionFest Review: Never Back Down 2: The Beatdown http://www.screenjunkies.com/movies/movie-review/actionfest-review-never-back-down-2-the-beatdown/ http://www.screenjunkies.com/movies/movie-review/actionfest-review-never-back-down-2-the-beatdown/#comments Sun, 10 Apr 2011 23:46:44 +0000 Fred Topel http://www.screenjunkies.com/?p=206381 The fighting is way more intense and just more entertaining than the original.

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I think Never Back Down is the perfect title for straight to video sequels. It’s a name people may recognize, but they certainly have no attachments to it. It’s just the basic premise of high schoolers getting into MMA. That’s a perfectly good reason to give Michael Jai White his directorial debut and a chance to introduce three new fighters. The very first cut, still temporary, screened at ActionFest.

Moving up to college in Never Back Down 2: The Beatdown, Max (Evan Peters) from the first movie is putting together the next Beat Down tournament. He enlists freshman Mike (Dean Geyer) and hotshot boxer Zack (Alex Meraz). An injury stops Zack from boxing, so instead he trains with Mike, noble poor boy Tim (Todd Duffee) and comic store clerk Justin (Scottie Epstein) at Case Walker’s (White) back alley gym.

The film deals with its character crap in the first act. Mike’s parents split up when his father came out. Mike has the hots for Zack’s girlfriend, Eve (Jillian Murray). Mike sees the rejection as a boxing ring knockout. Tim offers to quit school and work so his mom can pay the mortgage, but mom makes it work by waitressing at a strip club. Why stop there? This is DTV, just have her hit bottom as a stripper!

The gay insensitivity may be realistic among teens, but I’m not sure Eve confronting Mike is really addressing homophobia. Although, they’re putting this message in a movie aimed at violent spectators, so maybe that is the way to get positive messages out there. It goes to Katrina for some deeply relevant historical relevance too.

As soon as Case starts training the boys, White’s attitude beats down any of the weaknesses of the script or acting (Sorry, I don’t believe Stacey Asaro knows anything about MMA, as her character of a receptionist ogles cage fights she streams at the office). Case cuts through movie clichés too. Don’t waste time asking his name. Don’t tell him why you want him to train you. Tell him why HE should share his awesome skills.

Justin picks a fight with some thugs who threaten him and it’s a good fight, but revenge is bad. You shouldn’t fight for revenge, and Justin becomes the bad guy. Mike, Zack and Tim have to face him in The Beatdown and it’s intense. All four fighters could have their own action spinoffs.

White finally gets to put on a show when Case takes on a gang of corrupt cops. Handcuffed, he moves and flows with impressive brutality. That scene also puts an internet age twist to the old “incriminating video.” Why reveal it in the climax? Just stream it live!

Never Back Down 2 delivers its promise of a beat down. The fighting is way more intense and just more entertaining than the original.

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ActionFest: Man Sets Himself On Fire, BMX Bikers, And More! http://www.screenjunkies.com/video/actionfest-man-sets-himself-on-fire-bmx-bikers-and-more/ http://www.screenjunkies.com/video/actionfest-man-sets-himself-on-fire-bmx-bikers-and-more/#comments Sun, 10 Apr 2011 23:36:53 +0000 Fred Topel http://www.screenjunkies.com/?post_type=Video&p=206378 Watch the stuntmen do what they do best.

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At ActionFest 2011, I snagged some footage of one of the live shows on my trusty cellphone. These stuntmen are not messing around. John Cann, President and CEO of Action P.A.C. Stunts lit himself on fire, and BMX bikers soared over the heads of audience members. You can check out the footage above and below. Also, click HERE for my reviews of the films playing in the festival.

BMX Bikers


ActionFest Motorcycle Jumps – Watch more Funny Videos

Stunt Fall


ActionFest Stunt Fall – Watch more Funny Videos

And of course a Medieval Battle


ActionFest Medieval Fight – Watch more Funny Videos

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ActionFest Review: A Lonely Place To Die http://www.screenjunkies.com/movies/movie-review/actionfest-review-a-lonely-place-to-die/ http://www.screenjunkies.com/movies/movie-review/actionfest-review-a-lonely-place-to-die/#comments Sun, 10 Apr 2011 17:27:27 +0000 Fred Topel http://www.screenjunkies.com/?p=206368 An impressive hardcore thriller that definitely stands out from the competition at ActionFest.

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A Lonely Place to Die opens by showing you it’s on a real mountain. You see Alison (Melissa George), Ed (Ed Speelers) and Rob (Alec Newman) scaling a face and it looks like it’s really them and it’s really high up. You see Rob winching up his ropes so they’re safe, and an upside down point of view when Ed takes a careless fall. That’s your Cliffhanger opening.

The trio meets up with Alex (Garry Sweeney) and Jenny (Kate Magowan) at a cabin and have some bonding drinking and poker. The defining characteristics are Ed complains a lot and Alex is the group A-hole. The next day, hiking the more foresty terrain, they find a tube sticking out of the ground. It’s a breathing tube for someon buried alive so they dig out a little girl, Anna (Holly Boyd).

The nearest town is 20 miles away, but it’s okay. All they have to do is scale down Devil’s Drop for a shortcut. Only Rob and Alison can make it down the drop so they split up and the other three take the girl. Soon Anna’s kidnappers are after them with sniper rifles.

The mountain climbing is intense. Someone could fall suddenly with no telegraphing or foreshadowing. Falling rocks come really close and you don’t even see where they’re coming from. Alison can’t even shout over the roaring rapids when she’s separated from the group. The sniper rifles are ever present and the shots can come out of nowhere.

The characters talk tech really well. I believe they know what they’re doing. Managing Anna is a dilemma and one tough guy has to climb on a hurt leg at one point. Anyone can go at any time. Well, not Alison because Melissa George is the above the title star, and not Anna obviously, but that’s still four for the picking.

It’s better than Sanctum, because it actually has momentum that someone who’s not an expert mountaineer will be affected by. The character types are just as one dimensional, but at least Alex risks himself for the group when you think he’s just going to be difficult.

Action Film of the year? No, but it’s an impressive hardcore thriller that definitely stands out from the competition at ActionFest.

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ActionFest Review: Films Of Fury Work Print http://www.screenjunkies.com/movies/movie-review/actionfest-review-films-of-fury-work-print/ http://www.screenjunkies.com/movies/movie-review/actionfest-review-films-of-fury-work-print/#comments Sat, 09 Apr 2011 21:16:15 +0000 Fred Topel http://www.screenjunkies.com/?p=206344 Even if this is the final version, it’s still a great highlight reel for newbies and veterans alike.

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ActionFest got the second ever screening of the movie based on Hong Kong movie expert Ric Meyers’ book, and it’s a different cut than the first. Still a work print, Meyers solicited feedback at the screening. Even if this is the final version, it’s still a great highlight reel for newbies and veterans alike.

The documentary chronicles the Kung Fu movie and as such, shows highlight clips from the greatest movies. You may have seen some. You may discover cool titles to add to your Netflix queue. Somehow, even though I know most of this from just watching Hong Kong movies for the past 15 years, I enjoyed the recap. It would certainly sell anyone on checking out the originals.

An animated character, a video store clerk who “trains” a bullied weakling on martial arts films, hosts Films of Fury. The animation looks cheap, and the idea is sort of dumbing down the material, but the narrator (Yuri Lowenthal) actually does convey what’s cool and beautiful about the films. The audience was really into the narrator’s comments, so I guess I’m just a snob. The animated explanation of David Carradine in “Kung Fu” is well done.

The story of Kung Fu cinema begins with Wong Fe Hung and makes a vital correlation between musicals and martial arts. It even credits the Bond movies for pioneering proper martial arts on film. Frank Sinatra and James Cagney look ridiculous, on their own or by comparison.

They acknowledge that all the early kung fu movies were all the same (guy fighting in a field to avenge their master.) Side by side comparisons show what Tango & Cash and Bad Boys II “homaged” from Police Story.

In 81 minutes, directors Andrew Corvey and Andrew W. Robinson are able to touch on most of the famous Hong Kong figures. Die Hards may notice the omission of Yuen Biao and Yuen Woo-Ping is only mentioned in other artists’ sections, but it goes all the way to Cynthia Rothrock, Steven Seagal and Kung Fu Panda.

Due to the time constraints, some choices had to be made. Drunken Master is shown as Jackie Chan’s breakthrough but they have to skip Snake in the Eagle’s Shadow. The film finally answers my big question about the hole in Jackie Chan’s head. It’s sealed with plastic. Simple, but no one ever said that in the 15 years I’ve studied Chan. They just say “hole in head.”

I’m definitely going to read Meyers’ book (also on kindle, or he’ll sign it for you at www.ricmeyers.com) for the full details. Just from the movie clips, I’m going to check out The Five Venoms, Five Elemental Ninjas, Challenge of the Masters, Eight Diagram Pole Fighter, Executioners from Shaolin, Legendary Weapons of China, Come Drink With Me and the three Shaolin Temple movies Jet Li did. It’s also nice to be reminded just how fast Chan was in Legend of Drunken Master and how glorious the calligraphy scene was in Magnificent Butcher.

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ActionFest Sneak Preview: Weapon http://www.screenjunkies.com/movies/movie-news/actionfest-sneak-preview-weapon/ http://www.screenjunkies.com/movies/movie-news/actionfest-sneak-preview-weapon/#comments Sat, 09 Apr 2011 07:35:43 +0000 Fred Topel http://www.screenjunkies.com/?p=206346 ActionFest premiered two scenes from the upcoming movie Weapon, starring Scott Adkins and Jean-Claude Van Damme.

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ActionFest premiered two scenes from the upcoming movie Weapon, starring Scott Adkins and Jean-Claude Van Damme. This is monumental to some fans. Adkins has displayed impressive feats in unexpected straight to video titles like Undisputed III and Ninja. Van Damme hasn’t gone theatrical in a while, but trust me, you’d want to see these guys go at it.

The first scene delivered just that. Roland Flint (Adkins) and Brazil (Van Damme) meet in a burnt out factory and fight. Brazil swoops down from behind Flint like Batman. Their hands fly in tight quarters, then they wield metal poles out in the open. Of course it’s a dirty old factory because those are easily available for shooting, but it’s a real old school/new school fight. Van Damme is able to move at Adkins’ speed.

They’r fighting over a contract and form a reluctant alliance. Flint has a connection to the target Polo, and he doesn’t even want a share of the contract. It’s personal. Van Damme still speaks with that accent, the one that’s been called Canadian in more than one movie’s exposition.

The next scene is not a fight but Flint comes in on a target who actually has a remote controlled gun in his office. Flint has the remote and he blasts the guy’s computer. He even shoots an outline around his target, but when he gets the information he wants, Brazil shoots the guy in the back.

It turns out Flint wanted the guy alive, and Brazil didn’t know that. They have a banter much like Will Smith and Jeff Goldblum’s “We need to work on our communication” riff from Independence Day. The important part is, Brazil suggests they take some of the guns from the office. I trust they’ll be used later in the film.

This is the first footage ever shown from Weapon, so look for the full Weapon experience later this year on DVD, Blu-ray, VOD and whatever new streaming technology gets invented by then.

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ActionFest Review: Machete Maidens Unleashed http://www.screenjunkies.com/movies/movie-review/actionfest-review-machete-maidens-unleashed/ http://www.screenjunkies.com/movies/movie-review/actionfest-review-machete-maidens-unleashed/#comments Fri, 08 Apr 2011 21:22:42 +0000 Fred Topel http://www.screenjunkies.com/?p=206232 Focuses on the wave of films set in the Philippines and it’s ultimately the same story as any Roger Corman bio, but it’s a fun highlight reel.

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Documentaries about B-movies can be great because you get to see all the best parts. The stories from behind the scenes are way more entertaining than the results of those stories. Machete Maidens Unleashed focuses on the wave of films set in the Philippines and it’s ultimately the same story as any Roger Corman bio, but it’s a fun highlight reel.

Maybe it’s a reflection of the subject matter, but most of the clips in Machete Maidens Unleashed did not make me want to see many of the films. Director Mark Hartley’s Ozploitation doc Not Quite Hollywood did and most Corman retrospectives do. Only Black Mama, White Mama and Woman Hunt seem like they may be worth watching the whole movie, and Big Bird Cage looks kind of funny.

In the ‘70s, the Philippines offered an inexpensive place to shoot, jungle locations, experienced stunt and explosives technicians and plenty of actors. So a lot of Corman movies shot there and Edgar Sinco Ramero made a few of his own too. Hartley got big names to speak, including John Landis, Joe Dante, Pam Grier briefly and even R. Lee Ermey!

The documentary itself is energetic, with Jamie Blanks score pumping through clips and soundbites. Stories of the marketing are more ingenious than the cost cutting productions. An up chuck cup is William Castle-esque, and a warning buzzer for the scary parts would be a public service if the movie were actually scary.

Even with the descriptions, clips of some intestines, decapitations and cheap monsters are hardly salacious. There are plenty of booby clips too. The discussion of a feminist movement shows the actresses are good sports, and the segment has nonstop nudity. The Cover Girl Models tag line is hilarious.

There are a few old stories retold. We know about the Ebony Trailblazer Award and the reused shot of the exploding helicopter. Hartley covers the production of Apocalypse Now with all the Hearts of Darkness issues we know, but that was a monumental production for the region.

The film ends with the rise of the blockbuster, which is covered in all of these documentaries. That is old news but it the end of every story. Once good special effects movies started coming out, they couldn’t get away with the knockoffs. I missed this film at Fantastic Fest so I’m glad I got to see it at ActionFest. It didn’t do any damage to my Netflix queue but it’s a good highlights reel.

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ActionFest Review: Ironclad http://www.screenjunkies.com/movies/movie-review/actionfest-review-ironclad/ http://www.screenjunkies.com/movies/movie-review/actionfest-review-ironclad/#comments Fri, 08 Apr 2011 20:54:11 +0000 Fred Topel http://www.screenjunkies.com/?p=206208 The action is gory and bloody with great kill shots, and Paul Giamatti as the evil King John of England.

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Ironclad will not be the best movie at Actionfest. Having already seen Hobo with a Shotgun, Super, Outrage, Bellflower and Bunraku, I can tell my fellow attendees you have great treats to look forward to. Well, not Bunraku. Ironclad’s better than that but I’m hopeful for Little Big Soldier, Bangkok Knockout and Tomorrow, When the War Began too.

For an opening night film, Ironclad certainly has the caliber Paul Giamatti as the evil King John of England. Brian Cox as Baron D’Albany in kick-ass role. James Purefoy as the Templar knight Thomas Marshall delivering violent beatdowns. Kate Mara as princess Isabel. Sir Derek Jacobi as Cornhill, who lends his Rochester castle to the resistance. Even Charles Dance as Archbishop Langton in a few expository scenes.

The film is about the aftermath of the Magna Carta, where King John didn’t make good on his contract to stop raping his kingdom’s women and other political treachery. The Knights Templar have to step in and take a stand. Pretty simple premise, which is action bliss, and the political context gives it neither weight or dignity.

The action is gory and bloody with great kill shots like heads chopped in half and crushed under catapults. It’s all shaky cam and quick cuts so you only see close up flashes of action. It’s “real” with the violence and disorientation, but there’s no momentum. You don’t see any of the choreography. When John starts firing catapults, you barely see the destruction. It’s like the boulder whizzed past where the camera was pointed and some debris still flies out the corners of the frame.

The knights talk medieval enough to be a little bit hard to understand, but at least they don’t ramble on about honor and glory. You definitely get the double entendre when they talk about using protection in a brothel. Because they’re talking about their swords, get it?

In between battles there are some moments, like Isabel playing with a sword and ultimately falling for Thomas. John gets a magnificent evil freakout that Giamatii just relishes. It feels like a first time film and would be forgivable for a genuine first timer, but Johnny English has directed before and produced enough to know the business. If you get production value and an A-list cast together, you’ve got to get your act together.

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