Choreography 101: Why Did Jackie Chan Speed up His Fights?

By:

Matthew J.R. Kohler

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For forty years, Jackie Chan has been appearing in iconic action films, from being a random stuntman in Enter the Dragon to being a leading man in Hollywood films such as Rush Hour.  Yet, the biggest question remains for this great action star: Why speed up the fights?

Sped-up.

Once you notice it, you can never go back.  All of a sudden, I realized how many of Chan’s fights are sped up.  How?  Let’s take regular motion of a car or a man walking in one of his films.  They walk at a brisk pace, but you can see them move step by step.  In some of Chan’s films, such as Police Story 2, Chan’s fight scenes kind of blur together and look more like a Charlie Chaplin stunt comedy short.

In other films, Jackie Chan has demonstrated how quick he can be or how precise his movements are.  Police Story and Legend of the Drunken Master are perfect examples of that.  Police Story has not only some of the best action pieces, but also my personal favorite.

Non-sped-up.

The action pieces have quick movements with tight editing.  That way, the action moves smoothly.  Whereas in Police Story 2, we see only brief moments of smooth action, which are marred by jarring, sped-up action, making it very difficult to watch.

During the 80s, Chan filmed 21 movies.  Considering that Police Story 2 came out in the late 80s, it’s understandable that he was burning out, since he usually gives it his all with the fight scenes.  Even though most of his action pieces stepped up his game, he had some missteps during these years, Police Story 2 and Armour of God being the most prominent ones.  He almost killed himself in Armour of God, and brutally injured himself and his stunt performers in Police Story 2.  That said, there is no way the fight scenes of those films didn’t suffer in quality.

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Could he have put too much effort into them?  I think so.  And as a result, Chan had to take it easier, by fighting at a slower pace during filming.  Not wanting to disappoint fans with a slower speed, he sped up the fights in post-production.

Jackie Chan is one of the greatest martial art stars, no doubt.  His crazy action scenes and stunts, and his personality, make him such a memorable performer.  Although, I wish Chan took a step back and relaxed a bit during those years for his sake and for his art.  His fans know how much he worked to perfect the action.  Even sped up, however, those scenes are still better than most fight scenes that America has produced in the last forty years.  (By the way, American fight scenes are usually sped-up; look out for my blog coming soon on this topic).

Don’t Believe the Hype: Summer Movies

By:

Matthew J.R. Kohler

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Because most of the movies look dreadful this summer, I decided to clump them all into one big article to share why I think you shouldn’t go to the movies.  While commercials try really really hard to get you to the theatres, I feel that instead they are attempting to keep me from the theatres.  I mean, name one blockbuster this summer that isn’t a remake, sequel, or something we have seen a million times in the last five years.  Yup, I can’t think of anything.

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 2

Hey look, it’s 1990 all over again!  Apparently, the remake didn’t suck enough to kill the franchise, so we needed a crappier one to do the job.  In a time when media is not trying to be offensive, the new Turtles film sure does a good job of being just that to true fans of the source material.  Not only does the film not take itself seriously, but also everything looks so out of place and fake I would just rather watch the 90s live action show (and that is saying a lot).

Independence Day 2

We’ve been waiting twenty years for this…well not me, or you, but…I guess Hollywood has?  Not every movie needs a sequel.  Independence Day is a standalone film.  It has a beginning, middle, and end.  Who cares about what happens next?   For some odd reason, they don’t know how to end things in Hollywood.  Maybe the spaceship in the first one should have hit Hollywood instead of the White House.

Finding Dory

Pixar has a good track record when it comes to sequels (Toy Story 2 and 3, Monster’s University).  But, this is a spinoff movie that hasn’t seen a lot of commercial time on Disney’s main stations.  That, to me, means trouble because usually Disney boasts about how awesome their new movie is.  Sigh.

Star Trek Beyond

How do we make something cool?  I know, we play Beastie Boys in the trailer; they were anti-establishment back in the day, and rebelliousness is the tone we want to give to a Stark Trek movie.  We all know the trailer was godawful, and the premise sounds all too familiar.  It’s like the filmmakers can’t make anything new and exciting and just have to look back to the original series.  Remember Indiana Jones?  That was an original take on something we’ve seen a million times.  But who needs creativity when you have name brand recognition and hundreds of millions of dollars?

2016 seems to be offering the least promising summer of movies I have seen in several years.  Hopefully, one of these years,  the movies that come out will generally be more original.  That way, I’ll actually feel like I’m in present day, and not some past decade.

Top Ten Moments That Make Me Believe in the X-Men Franchise

By:

Matthew J.R. Kohler

10.) The Cast of Characters

It’s usually hard to cast a superhero character.  X-Men succeeded at this with most of the original cast and its reboot cast.  Have you ever heard anyone say that Hugh Jackman or James McAvoy were miscast?

09.) The reason they are fighting

X-Men is one of the few superhero series that has a strong reason for the action.  Unlike most Marvel films, X-Men is straight forward.  Magneto wants to protect the mutants through violence and Professor X wants to protect mutants by protecting humans.  Each film built on this idea.

08.) It’s more than action

The best X-Men films are dramas first and action movies second.  Look at the first two films and First Class.  The climactic moment in First Class is not dozens of superheroes and super villains attacking each other, but simply three people standing, and one of them screaming.  By the way, I love this!

07.) The Villains are Bad!

Stryker, Kevin Bacon, and Stryker!  All of these characters are just bad people.  None of them have any redeemable characteristics.  Both experimented on mutants.  In their movies, you want them to get their comeuppance.

06.) Nightcrawler was epic!

X2 is probably the greatest X-Men movie.  One reason is the opening scene that introduces a new character…Nightcrawler.  Nightcrawler was one of the best parts of that movie.  And you know what…it left me wanting more.

05.) When Toad Actually Mattered

Toad is a small character in the first film, but boy did he shine in the final action scene!  He faced the entire X-Men (besides Wolverine) and held his own.  Toad was made special for that reason.  Also, he was given great energy by Ray Park who at that point was a fanboy favorite thanks to his turn as Darth Maul.  It’s awesome to see how such a minor character brought so much fan service.

04.) Magneto!

Magneto might be one of the best villains created by Marvel, so it’s almost impossible for them to get him wrong.  Not only did the great Ian McKellen play him, but he was also played by the brilliant Michael Fassbender.  Both actors brought new ideas to Magneto, which has made the character endure through all of these years.

03.) The tone is perfect

For the most part, the franchise is dead serious, but every once in a while they slip in a joke.  The best of the X-Men series has been a breath of fresh air because most superhero films now are more about making jokes than telling a thought-out story.

02.) It has a purpose

When “X-Men” first started in the comics, the idea was based on the African American movement with Malcom X (Magneto) and Martin Luther King Jr. (Professor X).  In 2000, Bryan Singer used these characters to talk about a new topic—homosexuality.  The franchise started with a fresh take.  As a result, this is one of the few superhero franchises that has brought relatable topics to the mainstream audience.

01.) The reboot was a success

First Class was amazing!  This scene explains it all.

Will Apocalypse X out the X-Men Movies?

By:

Matthew J.R. Kohler

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The X-Men franchise has had its ups and downs.  One of its major downs is that for some time the movies haven’t quite hit the mark with the mainstream audience.  “X-Men” is one of Marvel’s most prolific comic book series, featuring some of the most popular characters in the Marvel universe.  So why is that not reflecting in the box office anymore?

Back in 2000, the first live-action X-Men movie was released, and it was a smash hit with critics and at the box office.  This film told not only the fans, but also the mainstream (and, of course, Hollywood) that superhero movies were here to stay (for a long time).  X-Men and its sequel, X2, (along with competitors Spider-Man 1 and 2) comprised a major breakthrough in the superhero genre.  These films captivated the comic book lovers by staying true to the source material, while also appealing to the everyday person.  The first X-Men movie started the ball rolling, and X2 (again, with help from the first two Spider-Man movies) made that ball score some serious cash for Hollywood.  In other words, X-Men was a viable franchise.  Then came the letdown.

X-Men: The Last Stand might be more than a title, it might actually be Fox saying, “Hey, this is the last time these characters will be relevant.”  It was bad enough that Bryan Singer (who directed the first two) did not direct this, but Fox really stuck it to the fans by hiring Brett Ratner as Singer’s replacement.  You know him, right?  He’s the guy who freely admitted to knowing nothing about X-Men.  Not surprisingly, The Last Stand was a disappointingly bad film.  At that time, I had never seen so many mistakes from a comic book film in my life.  The biggest reason it is a letdown is for its lazy treatment of the source material, “The Dark Phoenix Saga”.  This was a heinous crime.

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Despite the trilogy (miserably) ending, Fox was intent on punishing us for giving us two great X-Men movies by also giving us X-Men Origins: Wolverine.  The movie is, of course, about Wolverine, but who asked for this?  The first three movies dealt with Wolverine’s past and present problems.  I guess the main draw of Origins is that you get to actually see it, because Fox believed that the fans’ imagination is as blank as theirs.  The movie looked like it had a budget that was half that of the first two X-Men movies, as evidenced by the infamous CG Wolverine claws, and pretty much every special effect looking like it got lost on its way to a PS2 game.

All momentum for X-Men was stifled thanks to two horrendous films, and it never came back.  After taking a couple years off from killing their fan base, Fox decided to reground the series.  Thus, we were given First Class.  It is an excellent film, and might be my favorite of the entire series.  But for how great this film was, sadly the box office didn’t reflect that.  The movie made as much as Last Stand’s opening weekend.  After two horrid films, was it any wonder to Fox that not enough people were interested in the franchise anymore?  Alas, First Class was the start of bringing the fans back.  So, the next logical step was to…erase The Last Stand?

We all know Last Stand sucks, but until I saw Days of Future Past, I had never seen a film that has the sole purpose of erasing a past film.  Watching DOFP was like watching another prequel from George Lucas, whose intent was to erase the bad moments of the prequel trilogy.  Say what you will about Lucas, but at least he knows they suck and is willing to admit it.  Fox just said, “Please don’t buy the third one” and treated DOFP as the third one instead.  Well, I guess that worked, but we really didn’t need it to.  In a lot of fans’ minds, First Class was a fresh start that didn’t need any of the original cast in a sequel.  In Fox’s mind, though, Wolverine needed to be a part of it.  Otherwise, it wouldn’t make money, because obviously his absence (save for a 5-second cameo) was the reason First Class failed, and his major presence is what made Last Stand and Wolverine such monumental successes.  Days of Future Past was the first X-Men movie to receive a mixed response.  A lot of people believed it to be a great film, but a lot of others, who were expecting to see the old and new X-Men unite, felt let down that it was just another Wolverine movie.  One thing is for sure, though: the buzz didn’t reach the heights of the first two, nor did it innovate anything.

Flash forward to present day.  Like Last Stand, the title X-Men: Apocalypse can be taken to mean the end of the franchise.  If not, then the box office numbers for it sure do.  Last Stand and Wolverine butchered this once-great franchise, and as long as each new movie affiliates with those, nobody will care.

Ahhh…good times.