Alright gang, I know it’s almost February of 2020, but I still have a Best of 2019 post or two I want to get out before moving on! I’ve already covered old and new horror films, but I saw a lot of other flicks this year that I at least want to say a few words about. So, I’m going to do exactly that and run down a whole slew of movies and just say a few sentences about what I dug! LET’S. GET. INTO IT!
Happy New Year everyone. I decided to celebrate by compiling a series of lists celebrating my favorite films and shows of 2017. Sounds like pretty standard stuff, right? Yup, totally. However, these lists will include not just new films from last year, but new-to-me ones that I enjoyed. This one celebrates the glory of big screen blockbusters, most of which I saw on the small screen because, you know, kids.
First off, I’d just like to reiterate how much I enjoyed Gareth Edwards’ Godzilla (2014) and San Andreas (2015) from director Gary Peyton. I had a great time watching both of those movies earlier this year and highly recommend checking them out if you’re looking for big budget disaster fare. I also had a silly amount of fun watching Vin Diesel in 2015’s The Last Witch Hunter helmed by Breck Eisner. I think this will make a great weekend movie tune-in type of movie.
I was a huge fan of Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning’s Guardians Of The Galaxy series which came out of the Annihilation events, though apparently I never wrote about it here on UM (though I did review a trade collecting the first issues of the original series). The mix of comedy, action and cosmic threats made for a thoroughly entertaining series that seemed perfect for the big screen, even if characters like Star-Lord, Rocket Raccoon, Groot, Drax, Gamora, Mantis and Cosmo were completely unknown to a larger audience.
When the actual film version was announced, I was shocked, but excited. I got even more jazzed when Slither director James Gunn was revealed as the captain of this ship. Throw in a stellar cast including Chris Pratt, Zoe Saldana, Dave Bautista, Bradley Cooper, Vin Diesel, John C. Reilly, Benicio del Toro, Glenn Close, Lee Pace, Djimon Hounsou, Karen Gillan, Josh Brolin and Michael Rooker. Of course, I rarely see movies in the theaters anymore, so it took until last weekend for me to see the film which everyone loved. I almost never say this — just look at my initial review of Cabin in the Woods — but this is a movie that lived up to the hype.
I won’t bother going into the film’s plot, because I assume you’ve all seen it, are waiting to see it or have no plans to see it. I will say that I was shocked at how little of the film was spoiled for me going in. I realized as we put the film on — yes, I watched this with my wife and 3-year-old daughter who also both loved it — that I knew very little about the actual story. Sure, I knew about the dancing, the team-up element, the adorable mid-credit sequence and the cheer-worthy post-credits sequence (from my daughter and I, at least), but as far as the actual story went? I was in the dark and that was delightful.
A lot of people credit this film for being funny as well as action packed and that’s a dead-on assessment. Even after watching the flick three times in four days (like I said, the kid fell in love), I still found myself laughing at Groot, Drax and Rocket. But this isn’t just a fun adventure. There’s also a lot of heart. That opening scene is ROUGH, especially if you’ve lost someone close to you. And if Rocket’s drunken monolog doesn’t hit you hard, there’s something wrong with you. On top of all that, the film is packed with clever ideas. Introducing the adult version of your hero with a dance number on an alien planet? Awesome. Rocket’s plan for getting out of the prison? Genius. The way these wildly unique characters fight on their own and together? Fantastic.
I do have three complaints about the film, though, but only two of them are valid. First, I really disliked that moment in the beginning where Quill says he forgot about the alien woman. I also don’t like how Drax called Gamora a whore towards the end, which makes very little sense. I was primed to see both of these flaws because of the people I follow on Twitter, but I agree that they didn’t need to be there and could have easily been changed. The third complaint is that it took me a while to get used to the different versions of these characters, specifically Gamora. In the comics I’ve read Gamora is a ruthless warrior with little compassion. In this version she’s a lot more human which works perfectly for this story, but took me some time to get used to.
We had such a fun time watching this film that I feel compelled to buy it and add it to my collection. That hasn’t happened with a new film since…Man Of Steel I think. Going even further, this movie got me excited for what’s going on in the Marvel Studios films leading into both Avengers: Infinity War. The Guardians have to be involved right? They’ve just gotta be!
I love The Man With The Iron Fists on two related levels. First and foremost, this is a capital A awesome movie that doesn’t take itself too seriously and revels in the grime and grit of old school Hong Kong action movies but upgrades everything from the fight scenes and weapons to the quality of the actors and shooting. The second level that I dig about this movie is that it’s clearly RZA (who directed, co-wrote with Cabin Fever and Hostel’s Eli Roth and also starred in) making one of his dreams come true. I don’t know much about him, but I do know that the Wu-Tang member loved these kinds of movies as a kid and eventually proved to people with money that he could do one himself. I think anyone who has a creative streak in them or a longtime fandom for a particular genre can relate to that idea.
For what it’s worth, I watched this movie on Blu-ray which looked awesome and went with the extended cut. I’m not sure what made it different from the theatrical one, but figured I should put that out there.
The story itself revolves around a town called Jungle Village that’s got all kinds of misfits and killers hanging around. RZA is the blacksmith in town and helps build some wild weapons for all the different animal-themed factions. There’s a lot of gold coming into town, plenty of betrayal and backstabbing and a war is brewing between the different groups. Meanwhile, Russell Crowe’s Jack Knife has rolled into town and seems to be a good guy. He teams up with RZA as well as Rick Yune’s Zen Yi who sports a knife suit.
I should note that most of the story details of this film are pretty rote. Raise your hand when you read something unique. RZA is in love with a prostitute who says she wants to run away with him. He believes her and sacrifices his moral integrity by making weapons for terrible people to further his own agenda. That doesn’t go so well, he gets attacked and winds up developing iron hands for himself that he can control thanks to his chi. That last part probably raised some hands which exemplifies an interesting aspect of the film, as cool as it looks and as rad as the fight scenes come off, the most unique aspects of this film revolve around the weapons. Just about everyone wields (or is) a weapon that I haven’t really seen on screen before (or at least not done in such a way) that they make already engrossing fights all the more interesting. I was working on something while watching this movie and found myself transfixed every time a fight scene kicked off.
And that’s what this movie’s all about at it’s core: cool fight scenes with rad weapons. If you’re looking for something with a little more depth, this isn’t your movie, but if you want to see Russell Crowe shoot a guy in the head with a knife gun or two fighters use ice skater-like moves to kill dudes, give The Man With The Iron Fists a watch.