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Bloodsport (1988)
The true story of an American ninja.
Filmmaker(s): Newt Arnold

U.S. soldier Frank Dux has come to Hong Kong to be accepted into the Kumite, a highly secret and extremely violent martial arts competition. While trying to gain access into the underground world of clandestine fighters, he also has to avoid military officers who consider him to be AWOL. After enduring a difficult training and beginning a romance with journalist Janice Kent, Frank is given the opportunity to fight. But can he survive?

No Bruce Lee Bruce Lee invented a genre; Jackie Chan invented a genre; Sly Stallone invented a minigenre, all with various approaches to personal combat. But these guys deeply understood how film works so they could tap the relevant pressure points. Van Damme did not invent...


Published December 1, 2022
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Juwanna Mann (2002)
The only way he can stay pro, is to play (like) a girl.
Filmmaker(s): Jesse Vaughan

A basketball star is booted out of the NBA when his on-court antics go too far, so he poses as a woman and joins the WUBA.

Tootsie Got Game One of the most disturbing trends in film is how we have started manufacturing “special audience” films. They used to have their own lives, their own autheticity. Here we have a mindless copy: “Tootsie” plays basketball. This goes beyond dumb and stereotypical —...


Published December 1, 2022
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Joan of Arc (1948)
Greatest of all spectacles!
Filmmaker(s): Victor Fleming

In the 15th Century, France is a defeated and ruined nation after the One Hundred Years War against England. The fourteen-year-old farm girl Joan of Arc claims to hear voices from Heaven asking her to lead God's Army against Orleans and crowning the weak Dauphin Charles VII as King of France. Joan gathers the people with her faith, forms an army, and conquers Orleans.

Burned Alive I wonder if there is anyone who can view this film with any sort of fondness today. Everything about it is false, with no element one can point to for relief. Yes it has Ingrid, but as wooden as a pike. Yes it has a...


Published December 1, 2022
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The Jazz Singer (1980)
His story will make you cry. His music will make you sing. His triumph will make you cheer.
Filmmaker(s): Richard Fleischer

Jess Robin dreams of a career in popular music, but his father, Cantor Rabinovitch, forbids it, insisting Jess live as a traditional Jew and inherit his position at the synagogue. With the help of friend and professional musician Bubba, Jess gets a chance to go to Los Angeles and have famous singer Keith Lennox record one of his songs. Defying both his father and his wife, Jess leaves New York to pursue his dreams.

No Jazz I like to see remakes, because in many cases you experience two films at once: the film you are watching of course, and the one you recall. Usually that prior one is pretty good. In this case, it IS pretty good, and historically important...


Published December 1, 2022
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By Any Means Necessary: The Making of ‘Jason X’ (2002)

Cronenberg Chronicles This little feature was made to promote the movie and is included on the DVD. It shows a real problem in filmmaking. The actual movie was dumb, made for dummies. The dynamics behind how it was designed and to some extent executed is a matter...


Published December 1, 2022
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Jacob’s Ladder (1990)
The most frightening thing about Jacob Singer's nightmare is that he isn't dreaming.
Filmmaker(s): Adrian Lyne

After returning home from the Vietnam War, veteran Jacob Singer struggles to maintain his sanity. Plagued by hallucinations and flashbacks, Singer rapidly falls apart as the world and people around him morph and twist into disturbing images. His girlfriend, Jezzie, and ex-wife, Sarah, try to help, but to little avail. Even Singer's chiropractor friend, Louis, fails to reach him as he descends into madness.

Basement Steps When a film plays with the narrator’s credulity, and if it is essentially cinematic then I am predisposed to like it. This film has the additional benefit of some competent actors. Plus, we all like to dump on government lying during the Nixon era. I...


Published December 1, 2022
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I’ll Cry Tomorrow (1955)
The frank, revealing story of Lillian Roth's life! Best-seller now a film sensation.
Filmmaker(s): Daniel Mann

Deprived of a normal childhood by her ambitious mother, Lillian Roth becomes a star of Broadway and Hollywood before she is twenty. Shortly before her marriage to her childhood sweetheart, David Tredman, he dies and Lillian takes her first drink of many down the road of becoming an alcoholic.

Drunk on Acting I love movies. I love getting caught up in the all the cinematic flows that filmmakers know how to weave. But the things I value and study in film are the things that are cinematic. Some movies aren’t movies. They’re distributed and displayed as...


Published December 1, 2022
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I Robot (2004)
One man saw it coming
Filmmaker(s): Alex Proyas

In 2035, where robots are commonplace and abide by the three laws of robotics, a technophobic cop investigates an apparent suicide. Suspecting that a robot may be responsible for the death, his investigation leads him to believe that humanity may be in danger.

Bladewalker Some day, probably soon, we’ll become overtly offended — evolved — when special effects are used to paper over multidimensional weaknesses. Some day, probably far off, we’ll refuse to watch mugging celebrities in the place of actors. Some day, there will be more to stories...


Published November 30, 2022
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Alexander (2004)
The greatest legend of all was real
Filmmaker(s): Oliver Stone

Alexander, the King of Macedonia, leads his legions against the giant Persian Empire. After defeating the Persians, he leads his army across the then known world, venturing farther than any westerner had ever gone, all the way to India.

The Borrowed Cyrus and Darius knitted together the largest empire known before or since. Their method was innovative, to allow local control preserving the culture and gods. What they added was infrastructure: roads, a universal set of laws (the first case law) weights and monetary system. The...


Published November 30, 2022
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Cube Zero (2004)
Every nightmare has a beginning.
Filmmaker(s): Ernie Barbarash

A young programmer whose job is to watch over the reality-warping Cube defies orders to rescue an innocent mother trapped in one of its rooms.

Watchers I was one of the enthusiasts of the original. It seemed a clever solution to one of filmdoms most persistent challenges: how to stage drama. Noir is our most basic cinematic model. The core of noir is a universe where capricious fate toys with human destiny...


Published November 26, 2022
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