Fun with Kung Fu

It is rare when a movie finds a sense of balance between satire and a stand alone film. Many films are complete spoofs while movies like Galaxy Quest tell its own story while picking fun at a timeless classic. The Man with the Iron Fists manages to walk along the same line. It gives you best of the kung fu action world while happily making fun of itself the entire time.

This is no Kung Pow. This feature is the love child of RZA. Staring, co-written and directed by the man, it gained the attention of Quentin Tarantino. And it stars big names like Lucy Liu and Russell Crowe because of the dazzling fight scenes and raunchy humor.

In feudal China, the Lion Clan is rebelling against its leader. It seems that the betrayal was caused by the transportation of massive amounts of gold through a small village. The Lion Clan plans to steal the gold and defeat the Gemini Assassins to receive the riches. What they didn’t count on was the leader’s son seeking vengeance, and escaped slave, a British solider and a brothel Madame to get in their way.

RZA and Eli Roth worked for two years on the screen play working out every detail and it shows. The weapons are scary and innovative adding for some kung fu action fun. But if you are looking for detailed historic China, don’t look here. The characters seem as if they would never blend but the tale weaves everyone together. The movie blends together kung fu and hip-hop but like A Knight’s Tale it works. The costumes are not period but neither are the stereotypes. The brothel whores turn out to be the killer Black Widow Clan and Liu’s Madame Blossom is deathly.

The action sequences are stunning. In the kung fu tradition the battles are impossible and graceful. The colors are blended well making it have very sensual appearance. My favorite battles happened to be the ones including women. Watching Liu glide across the ground with her fan was as stunning as the dance scenes from Memoirs of a Geisha.

But the biggest draw is the humor and how the movie subtly makes fun of the genre. No bad dubbing hear, but humorous one liners and injuries nod at the absurdities of the genre.

Need a movie just for fun? The Man With the Iron Fists will awe you with action sequences and humor. Suspend your disbelief and enjoy the ride.

It’s Elementary

Elementary, CBS

The game is afoot! CBS’s newest police procedural takes a Sherlock Holmes spin. The series premier of Elementary aired last Thursday bringing in a very different Holmes and Watson to skeptic fans. Can Elementary hold its own? Watson is a girl?

I, personally, was very excited to see Johnny Lee Miller and Lucy Liu take on the roles of Holmes and Watson. They are both fabulous actors and they bring a lot to their characters. I have always been a Sherlock fan. Jeremy Brett is my favorite Holmes, and Jude Law won me over as Watson. But Miller and Liu carve out a niche in the Sherlock Holmes fandom.

Elementary takes the detective in a different direction. Confronting Holmes’ drug problem head-on, Watson is a sober live in companion hired by Sherlock’s father. As ex-surgeon, Watson herself has a deep, complex past that lends to a more developed character. In order to start again after rehab, Sherlock has been shipped to a crappy apartment building in New York City, and he is doing the same thing he loved to do in England: solve crimes. Watson goes with Holmes while he is consulting for the police department and finds that she loves the investigating herself. The two become a team on more than just a “say no to drugs” level.

As any police procedural viewers are presented with weekly cases, and Sherlock helps solve them. These original cases do not yet copy those of the classic Holmes tales but puts him in new, modern situations. In the pilot, Holmes is confronted with a wife killer who uses an unusual method to kill his wife. Using keen observations, psychological profiling, and leaps of logic, Holmes is able to see things that the police have missed. But this talent comes without a price.

Sherlock is a brash but charming eccentric detective. Miller plays Holmes’ ticks with grace and finesse and viewers marvel over his dedications the same way one marvels at Spencer Read when he comes out with some amazing fact. Holmes will do whatever it takes to get to the bottom of the case including getting verbally rough with a witness. But Miller manages to make you like his Holmes because we can clearly see the driving force: solving the puzzle. With a zeal that puts Gregory House to shame, Holmes’ obsession is the puzzles in the crimes, and now with out the drugs he needs them more than ever.

Liu is the more reserved Watson who has a fiercely independent streak. But she harbors a secret past that Holmes and the viewers are salivating to hear about. She’s not your average happy go lucky Watson. She gives a nice balance of stability while Holmes bounces around the room, while having her own dark side. There is great chemistry between the two and it’s great to watch them work off each other.

It is hard for many people not to compare this with the BBC Sherlock, a drama that was nominated for several Emmys. But the two shows are so different. One is a police procedural while the other is British detective story. As for a comparison, all I can give you is that Elementary has the more likable Holmes while Sherlock has better writing.

Elementary is a joy to watch and gets your brain thinking. It has a unique quirky side that does not diminish the dramatic aspects. It is in fact, my dear Watson, one of the best new shows on television.

What Now? Fall’s New Shows

Every fall networks try to peddle their news shows hoping that they find a wide audience. Often my favorite shows like Dollhouse don’t make it very far, but shows that I abandon after three episodes, like Bones, continue for years. It’s why I like to get into established shows even though each year I try out a few new ones. Here’s my take on the new Fall shows. We’ll see what lasts on what doesn’t.

Best Bets

Elementary

This is by far the show I am most excited about this Fall. This modern day tale of Sherlock Holmes transplants Holmes to New York City and played by Jonny Lee Miller. Fresh out of rehab, he and his live in sober companion become consultants for the police department. But here’s the twist: Watson is played by Lucy Liu and she has a past of her own. These two must overcome their pasts to move forward with their future.

Miller is a fantastic actor and will add so much to the role of Holmes. I really look forward to see the chemistry between him and Liu. But don’t expect to see the two romantically involved. Instead they will have romances of their own that will be complicated by their living situation. I find this a very fresh approach as women and men as co-workers.

Chicago Fire

Jesse Spencer as a fireman.

Well, really I need to say more than that. This Dick Wolf creation (Law & Order) delves into the lives of the Chicago Fire Department. Part procedural, part character oriented, this drama promises to be more than just eye candy. I am excited to see something other than a police procedural, reality TV show, or worn out sitcom this season. Chicago Fire should add flame to a boring Fall season.

WTF?

Revolution

15 years after the world looses electricity a group of survivors try to restore power to the earth. This J.J. Abrams vehicle sounds as interesting as Alcatraz and just as short lived. The show will focus on the quest to turn the power back on, but not on how or why it was turned off.

Millions of questions spring to mind. How can all the power go off? In 15 years why haven’t they used water wheels and such for rudimentary electricity? Why does the preview show someone with electricity? Where did they find all those swords?

I remember when JJ Abrams made good TV and that ended with the third season of Alias. His radical premises may have charmed some, but I have no patience for contrived plots and confusing story lines.

Animal Practice

This comedy about a veterinary practice features an ad that shows vets and techs rushing with an injured dog on a gurney being check our by a monkey. It all goes down hill from there. The show center around a man who works for his ex he now runs the veterinary hospital. On of the cast even told Entertainment Weekly that they knew the show was a long shot. If the cast feels that way, what is the point of the show’s existence?

On the Fence

The New Normal

From the mind of Ryan Murphy comes a semi-biographical tale of two gay men and a surrogate. Add to an already tense situation a racist grandmother and the show has the potential to make a statement. Even though the show presents the liberal and conservative sides of the gay parent argument, the show is already being banned by certain stations. You have two crowds for this show: those that want it gone and those that want it to succeed because of the egalitarian content. This show will succeed or fail not based on the quality of the show, but because of the hype.