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M. JONES "mj1001" (uk)

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Enter The Dragon (Special Edition) [DVD]
Enter The Dragon (Special Edition) [DVD]
Dvd ~ Bruce Lee

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Still a classic, 12 July 2007
Bruce Lee's first fully English spoken film is perhaps the most famous martial arts film ever. 'Enter the Dragon' is THE film that introduced western audiences to martial arts cinema - much in the same way that John Woo's 'The Killer' introduced us to Hong Kong action cinema.

A Shaolin monk, Lee, is approached by the British government who ask him to infiltrate a drug lord Han's operation. To do so, he enters the annual tournament that Han holds each year on his island retreat. Not only has Han disgraced the Shaolin temple, but his henchman Ohara is responsible for the death of Lee's sister. For Lee, it's as much a personal mission as anything and he'll take out anyone who gets in his way to acomplish it.

Despite having to share screen time with Americans John Saxon and Jim Kelly, it's still very much a showcase for Lee's extraordinary skills. Not only does Lee show off his physicality, but he also exudes coolness by only saying what needs to be spoken. While Saxon and Kelly provide light relief as tournament entrants, Lee proceeds to investigate Han's operation and polish off all the baddies before the cavalry arrives.

Next to 'The Big Boss', it's probably Lee's most violent film with plenty of bone-crunching action to be had before the fantastic showdown between Lee and Han in the classic 'hall of mirrors' scene. Despite getting more Bruce for your buck with 'Way of the Dragon' for instance, this plays like a greatest hits album - all his signtaure moves are present and correct.

Not only does the action deliver in spades, but the acting is just right. While Lee plays it cool, Han hams it up and Kelly delivers the one-liners with ease. Not only that, but the score is excellent. One of the most memorable elements of 'Enter the Dragon' is the awesome theme tune which gets the film off and running. The production values and budget obviously mean that this is more polished that Lee's earlier films and despite a corny plot that owes alot to James Bond, the pace of the film ensures you'll be hooked.

With so many memorable moments and fantastic fight sequences, 'Enter the Dragon' is the best of Lee's films. It's just a shame that 'Game of Death' was never completed and that Lee's life was cut so tragically short.

Way of the Dragon (Special Collector's Edition) [DVD]
Way of the Dragon (Special Collector's Edition) [DVD]
Dvd ~ Bruce Lee

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Highly watchable directorial debut, 12 July 2007
After two successful films, Bruce Lee ended his partnership with director Lo Wei and decided to direct his own film. The difference is huge and the result is 'Way of the Dragon'!

Once again Bruce Lee is the fish out of water, arriving in Rome to help out a family restaurant, which is being threatened by gangsters. Expecting his uncle, the restaurant staff are disappointed by the arrival of Tang Lung, a seemingly naive country boy. However, their doubts are laid to rest when Tang Lung quickly dispatches the gangster's heavies, leading to a showdown between Lung and top karate expert Colt (Chuck Norris).

As with 'The Big Boss', the build-up is slow and only shows glimpses of Tang Lung's skill. However, the slow-start is made more enjoyable by Bruce Lee's quirky humour which the film opens to. Instead of a big opening for an action film, we see Lung arrive in Rome, struggling to cope with the language barrier and bumbling around. It's these little touches, not to mention the massively camp henchman, that make 'Way of the Dragon' more enjoyable than Lee's earlier films.

But of course the action is the key thing and I'm glad to say that there's plenty, and its all great. This time, Bruce handles two nunchukas instead of one and takes on Chuck Norris in the colosseum during two iconic film moments. This film is probably the best paced out of Lee's three Hong Kong films and the most well-known.

The plot may be paper-thin and some of the acting wooden, but the fight sequences are hard-as-nails.

The Big Boss [1971] [DVD]
The Big Boss [1971] [DVD]
Dvd ~ Bruce Lee
Offered by westworld-
Price: £9.65

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The Big Break, 11 July 2007
This review is from: The Big Boss [1971] [DVD] (DVD)
Bruce Lee roared onto the big screen in 1971 when he made his first film (as an adult), 'The Big Boss'. Much like other kung-fu flicks, it's more a showcase of the star's talents rather than an example of good filmmaking.

Young migrant worker Cheng arrives in Thailand to start a job at an ice factory with other Chinese. It seems like everyday there's a punch-up between the Chinese workers and the Thai foremen, and when two men discover drugs in the ice, they are killed. It falls on Cheng to investigate his "brother"s disappearance but he is quickly overwhelmed by the hospitality of his employers and loses focus. Realising his mistake, Cheng decides to take revenge and confront... The Big Boss.

This is Bruce Lee's first and most bloody kung-fu film. The way in which characters are killed off is very violent and even macabre, with the ice factory playing a big part. What the film is most memorable for is the device of having it's star do very little for half the film. Cheng had made a promise to his mother never to get into trouble, meaning he simply stands by and takes his knocks without retaliation. Its a great idea and teases the audience until he finally snaps into action, unleashing his powerful kicks and punches.

What's great about the film is that it has a pulpy, trashy quality with its silly "erotic" moments and hokey visuals. In one sequence, a man is knocked through a wall and his outline remains. Another occasion sees the title character throw his birdcage up onto a branch while he fights Cheng. It's so daft that it's actually quite funny and adds to the charm.

Another reason the film works is because it improves throughout. The fight scenes are actually pretty poor to begin with (with Lee not fighting) and later on, each set-piece involving Cheng is better than the last. The final showdown between Cheng and the Big Boss is fast, violent and quite lengthy. Also, the fight is rather symbolic with newcomer Lee taking on the veteran kung-fu actor - becoming more of a passing-the-baton moment.

The one slight problem I have with the film is that the cantonese soundtrack (which is better than english of course) has a different score. The english dubbed version has an awesome theme tune which you might miss if you're used to it. But at least you have the option to watch either. Also, the Bey Logan commentary (which ISN'T on the platinum edition) is worth the purchase and is very insightful and relaxed.

On the whole, The Big Boss is very watchable and apart from some slow sections is a great breakthrough film for its star.

A Better Tomorrow - 2 Disc Ultimate Edition (Limited Steelbook) [1986] [DVD]
A Better Tomorrow - 2 Disc Ultimate Edition (Limited Steelbook) [1986] [DVD]
Dvd ~ Waise Lee
Offered by Disc-uk
Price: £13.74

7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars It all started here...., 2 July 2007
'A Better Tomorrow' is where it all started for John Woo's now-signature style of filmmaking. Without this film, there would never have been 'The Killer', 'Hard Boiled' and who knows what else. Bringing the classic themes of brotherhood, redemption and loyalty to the modern day setting of Hong Kong, John Woo has made a film that will appeal to both fans of quality drama and action enthusiasts.

Ti Lung stars as a criminal named Ho, who along with his best friend Mark (Chow Yun Fat) are well-respected and live in luxury. Ho's younger brother Kit is a police officer in training who is unaware of his brother's illegal lifestyle. But when Ho is betrayed and sent to prison, Kit learns the truth and when their father is killed by Ho's associates, Kit disowns his brother.

Upon his release, things have changed for Ho and his best friend is now a down-trodden cripple while Kit is a successful detective who still wants nothing to do with Ho. Very soon, Ho is drawn back into the criminal life and the loyalties of all three men are about to be pushed to the absolute limit.

The dynamic relationship between the three lead characters is utterly believable and is what makes the film work. By the end of the film, you are so anxious to see if the brothers can be reunited and you'll even shed a tear or two. But let's not forget that this is a John Woo film - the action sequences are entertaining but compared to his later films, they are quite static. The trademark dual-pistols makes its first appearance and Chow Yun Fat cements his long-standing relationship with Woo.

My one criticism of this disc, however, is the soundtrack. The audience has been short-changed, by having the original score replaced with modern library footage. At certain times, you'll hear the music from films like 'Speed' and 'Forrest Gump', which have pretty distinctive tunes! Admitedly, the use of those scores do actually fit the drama very well and certainly don't ruin the film - but they still stand out and it's distracting. According to Bey Logan (who does the excellent commentary for this disc), you can actually send off to the manufacturers to have the original soundtrack re-inserted - whether this applies today, I'm not sure.

If you're unsure about 'A Better Tomorrow' and haven't seen it before, your best bet is to approach it as a thoughtful and engrossing drama WITH action rather than a straight-up action thriller (which it is sometimes considered).

Tony Jaa Box Set (Warrior King, Ong Bak) [DVD]
Tony Jaa Box Set (Warrior King, Ong Bak) [DVD]
Dvd ~ Tony Jaa
Offered by Fulfillment Next Day
Price: £17.95

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Heavy-duty, bone-crunching action!, 22 Jun. 2007
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
The four disc box-set includes the collector's editions of Tony Jaa's two big films (so far) 'Ong Bak' and 'Warrior King'.

'Ong Bak' is the simple story of a village that loses it's sacred statue when it is stolen by Bangkok hoods. Young Muay Thai student Ting volunteers the recover the statue in order to save the village from a drought. In order to do so, he teams up with a villager's son who is a hustler in the city. It seems the statue has fallen into the hands of a gangster who runs a bar, staging fights between some pretty tough fellas. Before long, the restrained Ting is forced to unleash his deadly arsenal of Muay Thai boxing on a series of increasingly brutal bust-ups.

Jaa is a masterful athlete and his exploits in 'Ong Bak' are nothing short of amazing. His fighting style is quite different and fresh, while his stuntwork is death-defying, including a lengthy chase involving barbed-wire hoops and busy market stalls. As with Bruce Lee's films, the slow-start teases the audience with glimpses of Jaa's ability until the time comes for hell to break loose. With a running time of around 100 minutes, about 20-30 is devoted to the plot... which tells you just about all you need to know concerning how much action you get for your money!

Warrior King is a less successful affair which virtually copies the storyline, replacing a statue with a pair of elephants! But you needn't worry because Dumbo, this ain't! There's a simple charm to this premise, that sees Jaa kicking more backsides to find his beloved "brothers". However, as the film goes on (slow-burning once again) there are other elements thrown in that complicate the story, resulting in a mess.

Some characters have no relevance whatsoever while others' agenda's are completely unexplained. This may be an action film, but whereas Ong Bak offered a breather in between fights, Warrior King becomes difficult and sometimes dull viewing...... until the action arrives. And my-oh-my is the action worth the wait!

Instead of hiding Jaa's talents this time (what would be the point?) there is some early action by way of brief scuffle at a party and a boat chase. Later on, our hero travels to Sydney where he encounters an extreme-sports gang that involves Jaa taking out roller-skaters and quad bikers in a fantastic sequence.

The highlight for many will undoubtedly be a one-take scene in which Jaa fights though four floors of a restaurant. The camera follows him the whole time and its a memorable set-piece. Also, as with Lee's films (again) we get to see Jaa take on a series of fighting masters until he comes across the big western opponant twice his size (Game of Death anyone?). Be warned, if you don't like the sound of bones breaking then you may wish to skip the awesome scene where an angry Jaa takes out around 30 blokes with more snaps and crunches than I care to remember.

While Ong-Bak is the better film, Warrior King is more creative when it comes to the fights. Either way, both films are fantastic throwbacks to the days when martial arts flicks could still provide the WOW factor... although here, they also induce winces and "ouch"'s from the viewer!

Apocalypto [DVD] (2006)
Apocalypto [DVD] (2006)
Dvd ~ Rudy Youngblood
Price: £2.31

8 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Utterly fantastic!, 21 Jun. 2007
This review is from: Apocalypto [DVD] (2006) (DVD)
If you want a film that tries to be accurate, objective and informative then Apocalypto isn't the film for you. Instead, if you want a gripping, immersive action thriller them take a seat and enjoy one of the best films this year.

Apocalypto is a winner and it succeeds in its opening minutes by drawing us straight in with characters one can root for. With plenty of humour, we are introduced to a peaceful Mayan village where out hero, Jaguar Paw, lives with his pregnant wife and child. The village is carefree and happy, making the first 30 minutes very enjoyable and hooks us in. Then, things take a horrible turn when another tribe appear and attack the village, taking as many prisoners as possible and killing the rest.

Jaguar Paw is also captured, but not before he manages to hide his wife and kid in a deep cave nearby. From here on in, its going to be a tough ride for our hero. The villagers are tied up and taken to a city made up of stone monuments and temples. When it appears that the villagers are to be sacrificed, Jaguar Paw manages to flee his captors, kicking off one of the best sustained pusuits in cinema history.

There's no hiding that Mel Gibson likes his violence. But in contrast to Passion of the Christ, its presented here with a lot more to offer besides. The hero and his fellow villagers are all likeable characters and his quest to get back home is utterly engrossing from to start to finish. His enemies, Holcane warriors, are also very effective and brutally determined. The two key villains are played very well indeed and are completely hateful characters.

Essentially, this is a two-part film; one, being the terrible ordeal of the villagers and their horrific journey, the second part is a fantastic chase which incorporates elements of 'Last of the Mohicans' and 'Predator' among other things. Poison darts, snakes and all sorts of tactics are used in a series of heart-pounding set-pieces as Jaguar escapes. This isn't for the squeemish; it contains a number of heads and hearts being thrown around aswell as a gory attack by a real jaguar! The pace is relentless and there's not one dull moment in the film.

Apocalypto is definately one of the best films this year and well worth checking out if you haven't already.

Hard Boiled (Collector's Edition) [DVD]
Hard Boiled (Collector's Edition) [DVD]
Dvd ~ Chow Yun-Fat
Price: £6.28

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars What action films are all about, 15 Jun. 2007
This and 'The Killer' were the two breakout films that got John Woo noticed in Hollywood and its not hard to see why. In an era of action films ruled by Schwarzenegger, Stallone and Van Damme, it was John Woo who breathed new life into the genre with his own brand of coolness.

'Hard Boiled' is, on paper, a conventional thriller about a reckless Hong Kong cop who is out for revenge against a gun-smuggling ring. Along the way, he encounters an undercover cop already on the case who he eventually partners up with. Although the story is pretty ordinary, lacking the emotional drama of 'The Killer', the action is non-stop and represents Woo at the top of his game.

Once again, Woo delivers awesome shootouts and insane stuntwork in a relentlessly entertaining action flick. In fact, you can break the film down into a series of set-pieces which include a eyepopping shootout at a teahouse and a bloodsoaked 40 minute finale inside a hospital. The standout moment of the film is a one-take action sequence that follows the two men through the hospital and is nothing short of amazing.

Chow Yun Fat returns as the hard-boiled cop and Tony Leung is his undercover ally. Both men exert coolness throughout the film and their scenes together are always entertaining. 'The Killer' is may have a better storyline but as far as action goes, you can't get any better than 'Hard Boiled'.

The Killer [DVD]
The Killer [DVD]
Dvd ~ Yun-Fat Chow
Offered by TwoRedSevens
Price: £12.02

1 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Shock horror: An action film with a good story!, 15 Jun. 2007
This review is from: The Killer [DVD] (DVD)
When John Woo arrived on the Hollywood scene, we were all quickly wowed by the bombastic action of films like 'Broken Arrow' and 'Face Off'. Then his output became a little bit mundane with the so-so 'M:I2' and 'Paycheck'. But alot of people forget that John Woo made films before Hollywood and his best works are from that time. One of them... 'The Killer'.

It's the story of an assassin named John (Chow Yun Fat) who accidently blinds a nightclub singer, Jennie, during a hit. Feeling tremendous guilt and shame, John approaches her as a stranger and offers to pay for a cornea transplant. But to pay for it, he needs to do one last job... but when has 'one last job' ever been an easy one?

Meanwhile, a determined cop on John's case also tries gets close to Jennie in order to catch him. But he soon realises that John is an honourable man and the pair team up to fight John's treacherous Triad employers.

'The Killer' is a great film for two reasons. Firsly, it stages some fantastic action sequences complete with Woo's classic trademarks. Also, it has an excellent storyline with strong themes of honour, redemption and brotherhood. The two lead characters are played extremely well and make a good team but there is also a good turn from the actor playing John's friend, a retired assassin who needs a chance to prove himself. The central romance is also rather touching and the ending will certain have an effect on you long after seeing the film.

While the action may not be as relentless, creative or as full-on as Woo's later film 'Hard Boiled', it still gets the adrenaline going and throws in one or two inspired moments.

The Shield : Series 2 [DVD] [2004]
The Shield : Series 2 [DVD] [2004]
Dvd ~ Michael Chiklis
Offered by Ansells
Price: £14.99

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Strike Team Returns!, 13 Jun. 2007
Although 'The Shield's first season was a benchmark in TV history, the second season improves on it with a much more confidence. Last time, we saw Vic and the Strike Team getting into all sorts of scrapes but this time they've got a plan... to rob the Armenian mob!

After inadvertantly placing his family in danger in season one, Vic is now living alone and has hired a PI to track down his wife and kids. With his marriage ending and his autistic kids needing treatment, Vic is in dire need of money and it's going to take more than skimming off the top to do it. Here, in episode one, the writer's have already started to build the motivation for what will eventually take place but more on that later.

There's a new criminal in town named Armadillo, a real villain who likes to torch his competition alive and abuse young girls. Meanwhile, Aceveda and Vic form an "alliance" which Claudette is less than happy with when it intrudes on her work. Danny finds her life turned upside down when she shoots an Arab man and Julian fails to support her. This season shows a lot more structure to it compared to the more episodic first season and the conclusion is brilliant.

When the Strike Team stumble upon an Armenian laundering operation, Mackey decides to 'let it go' and come up with a plan to rip it off. This is the crux of the season and will even shape the events of future seasons. The team are about to get dirtier than ever and despite Vic's justification of how the Armenian's make their money, we all know that sooner or later it will come back on them, a feeling felt in the season finale.

What's interesting about this particular season and most controversial, is the episode 'Co-Pilot'. Essentially a second pilot episode and a prequel to the series, he are introduced to the first day at the Barn. We see the characters meet for the first time and how the Strike Team got into their crooked ways. Although it breaks up the season and feels randomly placed, its a fascinating watch and just adds to the richness of the season.

Season one set the backdrop, now season two builds on it with great aplomb.

The Shield - Season 1 [DVD] [2003]
The Shield - Season 1 [DVD] [2003]
Dvd ~ Michael Chiklis
Offered by HarriBella.UK.Ltd
Price: £12.99

5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The best show on television, 13 Jun. 2007
Within its opening minutes, 'The Shield' sets the tone of the entire series. While new Captain David Aceveda works the media with promising statistics and outlines his proposals to make Farmington safer, Vic Mackey's strike team is chasing down a young hood and dispensing some rough justice.

This is 'The Shield', one of (if not the best) shows on TV. Based on the Rampart scandal, the series centres on a 'Strike Team' that operates in LA's Farmington district. Taking their lead from Vic, the street-savvy group do whatever is necessary to keep the streets quiet, while making a little of bit of profit on the side. But Captain Aceveda suspects Vic of being corrupt and uses an undercover cop to help take Mackey down.

With its provocative subject matter and less-than-clear-cut characters, there is lots to appreciate about 'The Shield'. Vic Mackey himself is one of the best TV characters ever, being both dispicable in his methods but ultimately noble in his cause. In order to protect his team and preserve his career, Mackey will do anything even if it involves murder. How can you root for someone who would blackmail a gay colleague or steal drugs? The show doesn't have the answers, but lets the audience decide for themselves.

The first season doesn't have as strong an arc as the later seasons, but the priority here is setting up characters and relationships between them. Individual storylines range from turf wars to rape cases, with the strike team ducking and diving in the middle, trying to stay out of Aceveda's firing line.

But other characters on the programme are just as interesting. The partnership of Dutch and Claudette is one of the best double-acts I've seen. While Dutch is the best detective in Farmington, he knows it and his ego sometimes takes over, while Claudette is the most upstanding character on the show, providing the voice of reason. Elsewhere, there are beat cops Danny (tough and aggressive) and Julian (struggling to come to terms with his sexuality). Finally, there is Aceveda who is the ultimate hypocrite, willing to forget his ethics and turn to Vic whenever it suits his political ambitions.

The dynamics within the 'Barn' are brilliant and thats before we've even taken to the streets, where the visceral action take place. Its hard not to get a rush from the frenetic camerawork and in-your-action that 'The Shield' does so well. What's more, during the proceedings there's always time for humour, especially during an episode where the Strike Team keep a basketball player under house arrest in order to make money from the bookies.

If you haven't seen 'The Shield', then its time to get aquanted because from here on it even gets better!

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