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Review: The Man with the Iron Fists

Review by Mike Gallagher

Take one part famous rap artist, one part kung-fu action, a dash of Quentin Tarantino and you get The Man with the Iron Fists.  A hyperstylized martial arts film, The Man with the Iron Fists is the directorial debut of Wu-Tang Clan leading man, Rza (AKA Robert Diggs) and hopes to pay homage to old school kung-fu movies with a modern flair.

The movie follows a lone blacksmith, played by Rza himself, who lives in a gang torn Chinese village in the 19th century.  Here, the various gangs constantly fight and kill in a never ending power struggle.  Because of his renowned skills, the blacksmith is forced to make elaborate weapons for the ruthless killers.  The only way he can cope with this is by working to earn the freedom of his lover, Lady Silk, a prostitute at the local brothel.  One day, two members of the Lion gang, Silver Lion and Bronze Lion, kill their leader, Gold, and take over the clan.  The two use the Lions to start an all out war with the other clans and the country itself, forcing the blacksmith once again into the struggle, but this time, with Gold Lion’s son Zen-Yi and a British cowboy named Jack Knife (Russell Crowe), he vows to fight back to protect the village and the woman he loves as the man with the iron fists.

Now I am not very well versed in the kung-fu film genre, so I don’t have much to compare The Man with the Iron Fists to, but what I can say that it is one of the more unique films I have seen in a while.  The movie’s strongest point easily comes from the cast of over the top characters, each with a distinct look and even more distinct ways of fighting people.  There is a guy who fights with a suit made of knives, a pair of twins who take turns beating up their foes using each other as the weapons and several others that provide the chaos that is the film’s energized fight scenes.

All the brutal fights do however raise an issue.  These fights get bloody – really bloody.  You will see heads chopped off, guys turned into fruit punch fountains, and a guy at the wrong end of a gun powered knife.  I normally don’t mind violence in movies, but there were parts where even I was shocked.

Another problem with this movie is with its lackluster acting.  Much of the actors came off rather bland and while I could forgive Rza for not doing so well because he isn’t an actor by trade, but even veteran actress Lucy Liu, who plays the unofficial queen of the town, couldn’t seem to fill her roles well and it falls flat.  Fortunately, there are a few exceptions.  Russell Crowe plays the character Jack Knife, a soldier looking for a killer in town.  He carries a knife/revolver hybrid and isn’t afraid to use it.  He is sarcastic and bit of a jerk, but he has fun at what he does and it really shows in Crowe’s acting.  Another notable role is Byron Mann as Silver Lion who gives a performance that is so bad its good.  Silver Lion is this extremely campy villain who has a special kind of comic book style of evil to him.  His lines are over acted and he looks ridiculous, but this is what make you like him.

Much like the acting, the plot of the film also suffers.  In between the high octane bloodbaths, there is a plot going on with what is suppose to be character development, but it isn’t handled very well.  Characters will share maybe two scenes together and they are best friends all of a sudden.  There was even a time when a major character dies and I found myself not really caring because there wasn’t much time put into them.  It also comes off as taking it’s self too seriously.  Its hard to make people take a movie about a guy with iron hands fighting bad guys, so what they should have done was make it even more over the top and campy.  By embracing the inherent silliness of the movie, it could have come a lot farther.

Overall, The Man with the Iron Fists is worth a watch if you like your kung-fu action.  The fights and the crazy characters in them won’t disappoint in the slightest, but everything else will.

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TEFS Podcast Episode 177: Wreck-It Ralph, Flight


Jeff and Erin make their return to the podcast as we have reviews of Wreck-It Ralph and Flight. Plus, news, mailbag, recommendations and a whole lot more. Subscribe on iTunes by clicking the logo on our main page or stream it HERE.

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TEFS Podcast Episode 167: Sinister, Argo, Cloud Atlas


On this Halloween spectacular Jay reviews the new horror film Sinister while Juan reviews the less frightening Argo and Cloud Atlas. Plus, our top 5 scares moments that actually happened to us. Subscribe on iTunes or stream it right HERE.

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Review: Wreck-It Ralph

 

Review by Mike Gallagher

*Note From Editor Mark Pezzula: I’d like you to give a nice warm welcome to Mike Gallagher, who brings his first TEFS review to us this week with Wreck-It Ralph. Hopefully Mike will continue to write reviews for TEFS in the future, but if you’re looking to check out more of his work right now, click this link and enjoy!

 

It terms of an entertainment medium, video games are still relatively young when compared others such as movies or television.  However, gaming has also seen many changes and advancements; from the 8-bit days of Pac-man to the super hit Street Fighter 2 all the way up to the shooter oriented gaming landscape we have today.  Wreck-It Ralph seeks to pay homage to the changing world of video games while still giving us a great Disney style treat in the process.

 
Wreck-It Ralph follows the story of Ralph (John C. Reilly) who lives in a virtual world where video game characters are living beings who treat their roles in games like jobs and are free to interact with each other when the arcade closes.  Ralph’s job is to live up to his name sake and wreck stuff in the game Fix-It Felix, while the hero, named Felix (obviously), fixes them.  Ralph unfortunately is always treated like the bad guy, even when he tires hard to be nice to everyone.  After 30 years of this, Ralph has had enough and he decides to prove himself the hero by game jumping, a forbidden act in his world, to win a medal from the hot new game, Hero‘s Duty (a reference to today‘s popular military games).  This causes a whole slew of problems from glitches to a virus-like alien swarm that threatens the very existence of the arcade leaving Ralph to prove himself a hero and stop it.

 
The biggest draw Wreck-It Ralph provides for older viewers such as myself is it’s various references to video game history.  Gamers will have a fun time getting to see their favorite characters hang out and interact with each other.  Appearances include Pac-Man, Sonic the Hedgehog, my personal favorite, Zangief from the Street Fighter series, and much more.  It’s the video game equivalent of Who Framed Roger Rabbit and was my favorite aspect of the film.

 
Wreck it Ralph also provide some of the best voice acting I’ve heard for an animated movie as each of the main characters feel like an extension of the actor providing the voice.  John C. Reilly makes a perfect tough, but loveable, Ralph and Jack McBrayer’s role as Felix doesn’t feel too far off from his Emmy nominated character Kenneth Parcell of 30 Rock.  But perhaps the best of the cast would be Jane Lynch as she shines forth in her role as the no nonsense space marine, Sergeant Calhoun.  Calhoun, who teams up with Felix to find Ralph, seems to be a duplicate of Jane herself as she has the same cynical delivery she is known for and it doesn’t hurt that the two bare a resemblance to each other either.

 

The animation here is topnotch and it rivals the very best of Pixar.  The characters are life like and fluid in their motions, with the notable exception of the older 8-bit arcade characters (who move with a jerky style – much like an 8-bit video game – a nice little added detail).  The constant change in gaming worlds also gives us something new to look at and each is great in their own way.  The dark and grim world of Hero’s Duty will bring to mind games like Halo or Call of Duty to mind, while the sweet and bright world of Sugar Rush, a Mario Kart style game that serves as the main setting of the film, reflects the more family oriented games you find on the Wii.

 

The plot of the film, while very good, dose have some faults to it.  Despite the video game back drop, it is still a very much a Disney kid’s film.  The plot is cute and colorful, but is very formulaic at times, especially at the film’s climax.  There are a few predictable twists and turns that a careful viewer could figure out much early than the filmmakers may have wanted.

 
Wreck-It Ralph represents the changing attitude towards games as an entertainment medium.  Much like film and even comics that have been taking over the silver screen lately, games have had some challenges to overcome to be fully accepted.  We are now reaching a turning point in these challenges and are on the verge of seeing games reach the level of film in terms of artistic expression.  The fact that the likes of Sonic, Q*Bert, and other classic gaming icons are included in a Disney movies is a testament to this.   Much like Ralph fighting for social acceptance, games too are nearing the end of a journey for legitimacy and I for one am excited for the new possibilities that await.

Now I can say that Zangief is both my favorite video game and Disney character. That’s the magic of Disney.

 

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TEFS Podcast Episode 175: The Sessions, Lovely Molly, Pitch Perfect, Mea Maxima Culpa


This week we have a whole bunch of mini-reviews including The Sessions, Lovely Molly, Pitch Perfect and Mea Maxima Culpa. Plus, some news, mailbag, recommendations and more. Subscribe on iTunes by clicking the logo on our main page or stream it HERE.

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TEFS Podcast Episode 174: Looper, End of Watch

On this week’s mini-episode Juan reviews Looper and End of Watch. Plus, Juan and Jay discuss some current news topics, answer a couple of your mailbag questions and give some weekly recommendations. Subscribe on iTunes by clicking the logo on our main page or stream it HERE.

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The Lone (and Overblown) Ranger Trailer

Hollywood’s first $260 million Western, The Lone Ranger, features Johnny Depp wearing a bird on his head. He also talks in the most stereotypical ‘Injun’ speak this side of John Singing Rock. Depp once said this:

“The whole reason I wanted to play Tonto is to try to [mess] around with the stereotype of the American Indian that has been laid out through history or the history of cinema at the very least.”

I have no idea how playing a racist caricature is “messing around” with Native American stereotypes, unless what we see in the actual film is a performance from Depp so over the top it can be interpreted as nothing other than a scathing critique of every ethnic character Hollywood’s whitewashed over the years. Maybe Depp is onto something and his Tonto will end up being a wild, subversive piece of performance art. Or he just has his head up his own butt. That’s my bet on it.

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