For a long time, those in the know only referenced Sir Run Run and Runme Shaw as the kingpins of Hong Kong and Taiwanese filmmaking. No matter the poorly dubbed and obscenely edited examples of the brothers’ work, Shaw studios became the bellwether for an entire home video revolution. Think about it. Before the advent of the VCR and specialist distribution companies, the works of artists like Jackie Chan, Bruce Lee, and Gordon Liu were left to dingy drive-ins and The Late Late Show, if they were shown at all. With cable and the sell through title came a market desperate for product and companies willing to release anything to make a profit. Thus, the martial arts movie came into its own. Today, it’s considered the standard bearer for action, adventure, period piece polish, and good old fashioned ass-kicking.
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For live action features, there is no city like Paris. The bistros. The sidewalk cafes. The bakeries filled with baguettes and croissant. The nightclubs with their exotic can-can dancers. Every cliche in the cinematic book. Fimmakers from Woody Allen to innumerable French auteurs like Renoir and Chabrol love the gorgeous city of light. It exudes elegance and romance. It offers stunning locations and famous landmarks. It’s a backdrop with a bounty of available angles and approaches. It’s also an easy symbol, shortcut for emotions otherwise needing explanation or examination. Of course, not every genre finds the town as tantalizing. While cartoons occasionally visit the banks of the River Seine (it’s the home to Pepe Le Pew, after all), most pen and ink offerings avoid the city.
The bad movies. That’s all anyone ever wants to talk about. Manos. Mitchell. The audacity of taking on a pseudo classic like This Island Earth. The creative constitution it must have required to endure the aesthetic horrors of Time of the Apes, The Castle of Fu Mancho, or Attack of the the Eye Creatures. But there remains so much more to Mystery Science Theater 3000 than Arch Hall Jr., Coleman Francis, and Merritt Stone. As a matter of fact, one of the first things critics latched onto where the sensational skits, in between bits that often commented directly on the film being shown. Yet there were also times when the material was merely “inspired” by the work being presented, said muse mutated into wit that transpired the sloppy celluloid circumstances. It’s these boffo blackouts that deserve reconsideration and concentration. SE&L, confirmed MiSTies, will highlight 10 of the best forays into funny stuff the Satellite of Love and its occupants ever attempted.
They say that violence solves nothing. They also argue that might makes right. Apparently, the notions of conflict and its brutal byplay are at odds with each other - just like those both for and against such sentiments. Indeed, when it comes to the movies, ending things in a hail of gunfire has been a creative go to move. From the moment we saw The Great Train Robbery and its weapon aimed directly at the audience to today’s reliance of shaky cam chaos to create a sense of “being there,” bullets and the devices which deliver them have become the exclamation point on any action effort. Indeed, the genre seems to be built on the notion of bigger and badder, from the accent on increased bloodshed to the attempt to turn such aggression into a thing of (questionable) beauty.
They say that funny men always want to play dramatic. They also argue that the serious actor always longs to be the buffoon. Stretching the sentiment out even further, leading men always long to break free of the handsome hunk mode and play down and dirty. Similarly, the heavy hopes for the day when they can look at a script and not see their name associated with the diabolical, the destructive, and the dead. So in the professional pecking order of Hollywood, anyone with solid commercial clout confirms these feelings by fiddling with their well established big screen personas. A laugh getter turns tender, or terrifying while the strong silent type struggles to make an ass out of himself. It’s called avoiding the typecast. It also means some interesting names have translated their talent into a turn at being the bad guy.
// Moving Pixels
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