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Kickboxer: Vengeance – when his brother is killed in an underground deathmatch by the brutal Tong Po, a young fighter plots his revenge with the help of a master fighter (JCVD). I love martial arts movies and despite what you’ve read elsewhere this is a solid remake. First off; there’s shitloads of fighting – as in every five minutes, fight fight fight. There’s all the punches, all the kicks, a homoerotic rain fight, workmen walking through fights with panes of glass… there’s even a couple of street / marketplace fights that remind you of something like Ong Bak. Director John Stockwell clearly knows and respects the ancestry of this film; retaining key markers like the training montages, and bringing back key cast members; he even throws in some gratuitous boobs… however, most of the cheesier elements have been dropped and the story is more (Tong) po-faced. Just when you think they missed out the infamous car crash drunk dancing scene our new lead pays his respects with some truly horrendous Van Damme jivin’ during the end credits. Casting-wise, the new lead (Moussi) isn’t much of an actor, but what he lacks in charisma he makes up for with some high end fighting/action/stunt prowess; Batista doesn’t have a whole lot to do, although he’s a larger-than-life baddie; meanwhile JCVD steals all of his scenes with his cheeky acting chops, legendary moves, and unbelievably shredded torso. My only real niggle was the weirdly flashy subtitles clearly aimed at people who don’t read subtitles!. There’s a lot of misplaced nostalgia for the original Kickboxer: it’s ultra-80s, it hasn’t aged well, didn’t actually contain much fighting or action, and was basically a showcase for JCVDs moves. Kickboxer Vengeance however is a worthwhile and respectful remake that’s short on acting but crammed full of action. A sturdy modern martial arts movie.

Score: 7/10

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White House Down 01 Channing Tatum, Jamie Foxx, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Jason Clarke, Richard Jenkins, James Woods, Joey King, Nicolas Wright, Jimmi Simpson, Michael Murphy, Rachelle Lefevre. Lance Reddick, Roland Emmerich,

White House Down: a group of mercenaries storm the White House leaving an aspiring Secret Serviceman as the President’s – and America’s – only hope. They’ve only gone and made “Die Hard in the White House”, again! It’s easy to confuse this with Olympus has Fallen, but in a duel for the oval office this one wins hands-down, mostly due to the entertainment-factor; it’s the true embodiment of the term ‘action romp’. Everything that can do so, explodes during big set pieces that punctuate the movie, and is generously littered with laughs too – by the end I was even guilty of a few fist-pumps. I’d go as far as saying that it’s the kind of movie that – at least on paper – we should all hate: big, loud, dumb, derivative, but the director seems to know this, and fully embraces it – cheesing everything up to 11. The only real downside is that it’s a tad on the long side (for the kind of film it is). If you want a cheesy 80s/90s big-budget one-man-army taking on waves of despicable henchmen, look no further. Fly this DVD up your flagpoles, ‘MURICA!

Score: 8/10

White House Down 02 Channing Tatum, Jamie Foxx, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Jason Clarke, Richard Jenkins, James Woods, Joey King, Nicolas Wright, Jimmi Simpson, Michael Murphy, Rachelle Lefevre. Lance Reddick, Roland Emmerich,

JAPANORAMA - Metal Lord BANNER JAPAN-O-RAMA.jpgBig Man Japan 01 Hitoshi Matsumoto, Riki Takeuchi, Ua, Ryūnosuke Kamiki, Hiroyuki Miyasako, Daisuke Miyagawa, Shion Machida, Daisuke NagakuraBig Man Japan (大日本人 Dai Nipponjin): every time a monster appears and threatens the nation, ‘Big Man Japan’ is called upon to fight it off. A mockumentary superhero movie like no other, this is part monster-fighting CGI and part humdrum, everyday issues of an off-duty superhero – wage concerns, pension problems, the effects on your family – all quite quirky and different. There’s a few really gutsy / interesting lines, one in particular about Japanese people not being “anti-American”, but being brought up ‘a little bit like that’ – very interesting, and something that’s very rarely addressed in other movies. There’s a streak of very bizarre – absurd – humour that runs through the movie. There’s not a lot of laugh out loud moments, (mostly very, very low-key, mumbly, superdry dialogue) but when they pop up, they are really funny. The films looks like it’s heading towards a classic showdown, when it – for no apparent reason – changes into an Ultraman / Power Rangers type TV show spoof; which doesn’t really match the rest of the movie and feels like a stupid way to end it. The premise is completely brilliant, but instead of doing it justice, the film feels like it’s concentrating more on it’s genre-ending message that Japan doesn’t really want to tolerate any more monster movies.

Score: 6/10

Big Man Japan 02 Hitoshi Matsumoto, Riki Takeuchi, Ua, Ryūnosuke Kamiki, Hiroyuki Miyasako, Daisuke Miyagawa, Shion Machida, Daisuke Nagakura

The Condemned, Stone Cold Steve Austin, Vinnie Jones, Masa Yamaguch, Emelia Burns, Manu Bennett, Dasi Ruz, Marcus Johnson, Nathan Jones, Rick Hoffman, Robert Mammone, Tory Mussett

The Condemned: ten of the toughest death-row prisoners from around the world are dumped on a remote island for 30 hours – the last person standing wins their freedom. Sound familiar? The plot is essentially Battle Royale, right down to the explosive jewelry. Leading man “Stone Cold” Steve Austinis pretty stale, but as an ex-wrestler, expectations weren’t massive – I can’t believe there’s not a single stone cold stunner, fan-appeasement FAIL! Vinnie Jones (and most other people) are laughably typecast  and/or wooden, 2D, flat characters. A few other things to mention: lots of bad RAWK / Nu Metal songs; a piss-weak attempt to add a morality angle to the story; and some forced lines about kewl stuff like the internetz, bloggerz, and gamerz!!! The only real positive is that because it’s a WWE and Lionsgate film, the bad taste / violence etc is more than you’d expect. As a brain off, mindless, plotless, characterless, action film, The Condemned is alright – but there’s absolutely nothing that stays with you after the fireworks.

Score: 2/10