The Man with the Iron Fists the directorial debut of music artist RZA is clearly a love letter to all of the Wu Tang frontman's passions. An old school kung fu movie infused with hip hop beats and a comic book aesthetic Iron Fists rarely makes a lick of sense but it's a collage of imagination — and that earns it a few points. Like a cinematic version of the backyard games we all used to play RZA casts himself as a Chinese town's resident badass who teams up with a cowboy to take down an army of ninjas assassins. The freeform style allows him to run wild rarely providing actual thrills but resulting in an action movie overflowing with heart. Bloody bloody heart.
The manic script for Iron Fists written by RZA and Eli Roth (Cabin Fever Hostel) interlocks a handful of colorful characters with varying degrees of success: The Blacksmith (RZA) a freed slave who hopes to earn enough bucks to whisk his love prostitute Lady Silk (Jamie Chung) away from the Pink Blossom brothel; Madam Blossom (Lucy Liu) the brothel's owner (and local mobster); Silver Lion (Byron Mann) a murderous gangster out to overtake the city with the help of his magical metallic underling Brass Body (Dave Bautista); Zen Yi a.k.a. The X-Blade (Rick Yune) whose father was killed at the hands of Silver Lion and now seeks revenge; and Jack Knife (Russell Crowe) a mysterious British gunslinger taking residence at the Pink Blossom who may have ulterior motives. Iron Fists bounces between the plot threads without much worry — you never really know who is doing what or why. But if characters say what they're thinking with conviction then beat the daylights out of their opponent it's supposed to suffice. More often than not it does.
What Iron Fists lacks in coherency it makes up for in absurdity. RZA pumps up the volume on every element of the film from costumes that shoot daggers to flamboyant overacting evildoers to Jack Knife taking the goriest route to defeat an enemy (in this case using a knife gun to rip up a heavyset man's insides). Taking a page from mentor Quentin Tarantino's book anything can happen in this Eastern martial soap opera and everything does happen. It's money shot after money shot the rapid pace reminiscent of channel surfing — likely the way most kung fu fans stumbled upon the type of films that inspire Iron Fists back in the '70s and '80s.
Not every moment pops — unlike Liu and Crowe RZA doesn't exactly light up the screen when given the freedom to go crazy. Blacksmith is a muted mumbling character who doesn't throw himself into a fight the way a kung fu movie demands from its lead. Behind the camera the fight scenes are choreographed similarly to how the movie is structured: randomly with the occasional inspired moment. But the inventiveness of the mechanics keeps Iron Fists working. A scene with two twins using contortion to throw and kick and punch their way through hoards of bad guys is a joy. Seeing Crowe (obviously not an expert in martial arts) lay down a few moves is pure fun too.
The Man with the Iron Fists isn't as expertly crafted as Tarantino's Kill Bill but it has more mind-boggling oddities. RZA unleashes his passion into the film so even when the story or action isn't working something else on screen is.
In true straightforward comic-book style TMNT starts with a brief backstory (without the laborious explanation on why four turtles and a rat become human-like in the first place) and then launches into the heart of the movie. After the defeat of their old arch nemesis The Shredder the Turtles—fun-lovin’ Michelangelo (Mikey Kelly) tech guru Donatello (Mitchell Whitfield) hotheaded Raphael (Nolan North) and pragmatic leader Leonardo (James Arnold Taylor)--have grown apart as a family. While Leo is off honing his craft the turtles no longer fight crime--except Raphael who still fights crime under the pseudonym Nightwatcher. Struggling to keep them together is their rat sensei Master Splinter (the late Mako). But strange things are brewing. Tech-industrialist Max Winters (Patrick Stewart) is amassing an army of ancient monsters to apparently take over the world. With the help of old allies April O'Neil (Sarah Michelle Gellar) and Casey Jones (Chris Evans) the Turtles finally come together as brothers to fight the good fight and once again face the mysterious Foot Clan who have put their own ninja skills behind Winters' endeavors. As opposed to hiring just A-list actors TMNT is a nice eclectic mix of veteran voice-over artists who give the Turtles their voices and regular actors such as Gellar Stewart and Evans. Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon’s Ziyi Zhang also gets in on the action providing the voice of the Foot Clan leader Karai who was once an enemy of the Turtles but now sees the value in what they do. Of course there isn’t a Robin Williams or Ben Stiller to laugh with but Kelly is pretty funny as Michelangelo who has had to resort to entertaining kids at birthday parties as “Cowabunga Carl ” a clown-for-hire in a “fake” turtle suit. It will all depend on whether those ninja-fightin’ pizza-eatin’ giant turtles still have a monetary appeal but methinks a new TMNT movie franchise has been born. The comic book was created in 1984 by Peter Laird and Kevin Eastman as a spoof to the superhero stories and quickly took off into merchandising heaven with a toy license and then a television series. The original 1990 live-action movie used state-of-the-art animatronics but somehow felt static and fake. Since the last TMNT movie in 1993 the whole Turtle phenomenon has sort of fallen off the radar at least in the U.S. so the time was ripe for a renovation. Using the innovative CGI we know and love this new TMNT--created by a team of animators from California and Hong Kong under the watchful direction of Kevin Munroe--gives the Turtles not to mention all the otherworldly monsters they have to fight a realistic look and feel. With this kind of freedom the film can focus on the action which is the best part of the TMNT lore. Though the demographics may skew male ages 8-11 (as well as those 8-to-11-year-old boys who loved it back in the day and are now grown men) TMNT is just your basic supercharged animated fun.
After getting paid $28 million to NOT sing, Mariah Carey is now in talks with several major labels to get paid to sing. According to Reuters, several industry sources say that Carey, recently released by EMI's Virgin, has been canoodling with RCA, Island Def Jam and Elektra and is certainly a bankable recording artist. EMI has shown other poor judgment in letting artists go, as the Wallflowers were jettisoned just prior to their multiplatinum album in 1996, and Shaggy was given the heave-ho only to have one of the best-selling albums of 2000. Ah, good times.
In the battle for late-night television supremacy, The New York Times reports that ABC (having already nabbed football commentator John Madden from Fox) is going after CBS' David Letterman. If Dave jumps to ABC, that would sound the death knell for Ted Koppel's Nightline. Of course, CBS may agree to let Dave go if ABC promises to take The Ellen Show and Family Law off its hands, as well.
Jennifer Lopez is on top again! (We like the idea of Jennifer being on top.) J.Lo is queen of the music charts this week, as her remix album bested Linkin Park, Alan Jackson and Kirk Franklin.
After a 14-year lay-off, Madonna will once again tread the boards of live theater. The pop diva is to lead the cast in London's West End play "Up for Grabs," which premieres May 23. British citizens were heard to comment, "I don't care if she lives here, marries Guy Ritchie in a castle and appears in a London play; that still doesn't make her a citizen of the realm!"
It doesn't take an Old Testament Bible to know that Luke Perry returns to television this Sunday on Showtime's Jeremiah. Jeremiah takes place in the God-forsaken future (unlike Jeremiah the prophet, who lived in the God-forsaken past), when the planet's inhabitants have few resources and have to scrounge for whatever they get. Which largely describes Luke Perry's career since he left Beverly Hills 90210.
Fox, the network that brought you Who Wants to Marry a Multimillionaire?, sinks to a new low with Celebrity Boxing. The first few bouts will feature "the battle of the bad girls" (Amy Fisher vs. Tonya Harding) and Brady Bunch's Barry Williams (Greg Brady) vs. Partridge Family's Danny Bonaduce (Danny Partridge). We couldn't make up material this good. We're just waiting for Alex Trebek and Pat Sajak to rumble in the ring together.
More from the world of late-night television: Jay Leno's in trouble for a joke he made about a South Korean delicacy. Leno quipped that disqualified South Korean speed skater Kim Dong-sung "was so mad he went home and kicked the dog, and then ate him." Former South Korean prime minister Kim Jong-pil was so outraged that he called Jay Leno "ill-mannered." Apparently ABC prizes manners above all else, which must be why it's going after Letterman and not Leno.
The TV ratings for the Grammys this year hit a six-year low, Reuters reports. Although it dominated Wednesday night ratings, the Grammy show's 19-million-viewer average was still at least 6 million lower than each of the past three years. CBS has allegedly said it will pay for J.Lo to get a new dress for next year's show.
Paul McCartney is setting off on a new "Long and Winding Road" as he starts a 20-show, 19-city North American tour over the course of eight weeks. Reuters quotes McCartney as saying he is "chuffed" to start the tour, his first since 1993. We have no idea what that means, but we like how it sounds.
In a case of music's musical chairs, two former Destiny's Child members are suing the current members of Destiny's Child for making disparaging remarks about them on the current album by Destiny's Child. Confused? So are we.
Rebellious punk group Sex Pistols' acerbic version of "God Save the Queen" is being re-released to mark the current British monarch's 50th anniversary on the throne. (Help her, someone! She's sat down and she can't get up!) Of course, the highlight of the song is lead singer Johnny Rotten snarling, "God save the queen, she ain't no human being"--or is that just a recent quote by Prince Charles?
Continuing on the royal theme, the Queen's teenage grandson, Prince Harry, has been cleared by British police on charges of marijuana use. Prince Harry had no comment on the matter, though for some unexplained reason it appeared he was holding his breath.