February 1st, 2014

MAN OF TAI CHI (2013) *** ½

Keanu Reeves makes his directorial debut with a doozy of a Kung Fu flick. It’s one of the best chopsocky films of the 21st century and the best Kung Fu flick since The Raid. The film is Reeves’ love letter to the genre, made with genuine heart and the skill of a veteran action director. Man of Tai Chi features some of the best fight scenes I’ve seen in a long time (the choreography was by Yuen Woo Ping) and also contains what is probably Reeves’ best performance of all time.

In short, it feels like Keanu’s apology letter for 47 Ronin.

Tiger Chen (a stuntman from The Matrix, playing a character named “Tiger Chen”) spends his time practicing Tai Chi with his master. He competes in a tournament using Tai Chi as a fighting style and catches the eye of a sleazy rich guy (Reeves) who runs a top secret Pay Per View fighting tournament. He has a meeting with Tiger and hires him on the spot.

Tiger: “What happens if I lose?”

Keanu: “You’re fired!”

Keanu then puts Tiger into a series of increasingly challenging fights with varying opponents. Tiger earns money from fighting to save his decrepit Tai Chi temple from some greedy real estate developers. But eventually, Tiger’s master becomes wise to his changing demeanor and warns him he’s going down a dark path. Of course, it all leads to a big fight between Tiger and Keanu.

I have to tell you, Man of Tai Chi is a blast to watch. It’s a simple story, told with conviction that hits the right notes. But it’s the way that Keanu hits those notes that makes all the difference. He understands the genre and is able to breathe life into old clichés and make them seem fresh.

My favorite scene comes when Tiger fights his master. No words are spoken between the two before the fight. Tiger just runs inside the temple and the two start fighting. There’s no dialogue exchange and there doesn’t need to be. Tiger knows he’s perverting his master’s teachings and in a fit of guilt and rage wants to show his master up. The master is full aware of what Tiger has been doing, and is more than willing to take him down a peg. It’s a great moment, made greater by the fact that the emotion is in the fighting, not the dialogue.

And it has to be said that Reeves has never been better in front of the camera. He should direct himself more often. His line deliveries are flat as ever, but since he’s playing a slick, manipulative, and calculating villain, it totally works. Not since Terry Silver in Karate Kid 3 have we had a villain this despicable. And if you know me, and you know my insane love for Karate Kid 3, you know that there is no praise higher I can bestow.

The film has one major debit that contains a big spoiler, so if you don’t want the film spoiled, please stop reading now. During the big match at the end of the film, it is revealed that Tiger’s opponent is none other than Iko Uwais from The Raid!!! Normally, this would be a cause for celebration (heck, I cheered when he showed up), but the thing that sucks is that by this point in the film, Tiger has given up fighting. Iko comes after him with a few punches and kicks, and yet Tiger straight up refuses to fight him; resulting in a disqualification. It’s more than a tad disappointing. The great fight between Keanu and Tiger in the next scene takes some of the sting out of it. But really, you can’t bring Iko Uwais out and NOT let him kick some ass. Other than that, this is one heck of a good Kung Fu flick.

THE 7TH ANNUAL VIDEO VACUUM AWARDS: THE TECHNICAL AWARDS

Every year, Hollywood gives us so many kinds of movies (both good and bad) that many of them slip through the cracks. With so many different genres out there, some films go overlooked. The Video Vacuum Technical Awards hope to correct that by celebrating the best (and worst) films in categories not found on the official Video Vacuum Awards ballot.

So without further ado...

WORST COMEDY
SPRING BREAKERS

WORST HORROR MOVIE
FRIGHT NIGHT 2

WORST SEQUEL
FRIGHT NIGHT 2

BEST REMAKE
EVIL DEAD

WORST REMAKE
FRIGHT NIGHT 2

BEST MOVIE BASED ON A TV SHOW
THE LONE RANGER

BEST SKINAMAX MOVIE
SEXY WIVES SINDROME

BEST KIDS’ MOVIE
MONSTERS UNIVERSITY

BEST TRAILER COMPILATION
BLOOD OF 1000 VIRGINS

THE 7TH ANNUAL VIDEO VACUUM AWARDS: AND THE WINNERS ARE…

Okay folks, it’s time for the 7th Annual Video Vacuum Awards. We had a highly competitive field this year which yielded several tight races in various categories. In the seven years of holding this award ceremony, I can honestly say these were some of the toughest decisions I’ve made in the history of the event.
But enough of my yacking, let’s boogie:

BEST DIALOGUE

AND THE NOMINEES ARE…

ESCAPE PLAN for “YOU HIT LIKE A VEGETARIAN!”
JACKASS PRESENTS: BAD GRANDPA for “THEY USED TO CALL ME JIZZY GILLESPIE!”
KICK-ASS 2 for “I’M GOING TO WIPE MY ASS WITH YOUR FACE!”
MONSTERS UNIVERSITY for “I HAVE AN EXTRA TOE… NOT WITH ME, OF COURSE!”
MOVIE 43 for “IT’S LIKE A CORNFIELD DOWN HERE. I KEEP EXPECTING SHOELESS JOE JACKSON TO WALK OUT!”

AND THE WINNER IS…

KICK-ASS 2 for “I’M GOING TO WIPE MY ASS WITH YOUR FACE!”

BEST SCENE I COULD NOT MAKE UP

AND THE NOMINEES ARE…

THE MUTANT CABBAGE PATCH RAPE SCENE from THE LORDS OF SALEM
MACHETE IN SPACE from MACHETE KILLS
THE DUCK RAPE from RETURN TO NUKE ‘EM HIGH VOL. 1
THE QUAALUDE SCENE from THE WOLF OF WALL STREET
AMERICA DROPPING THE A-BOMB ON THE WOLVERINE in THE WOLVERINE

AND THE WINNER IS…

THE QUAALUDE SCENE from THE WOLF OF WALL STREET!

BEST 3-D EFFECT

AND THE NOMINESS ARE…

3-D NINJAS in G.I. JOE: RETALIATION
3-D SEVERED HEAD in THE HOBBIT: THE DESOLATION OF SMAUG
3-D ARROW in THE HOBBIT: THE DESOLATION OF SMAUG
3-D CHAINSAW (HURTLED TOWARD THE SCREEN) in TEXAS CHAINSAW 3-D
3-D CHAINSAW (SLOWLY PUSHED TOWARD THE SCREEN) in TEXAS CHAINSAW 3-D

AND THE WINNER IS…

3-D SEVERED HEAD in THE HOBBIT: THE DESOLATION OF SMAUG!

BEST DEATH

AND THE NOMINEES ARE…

A CHICK CHAINSAWED IN HALF LENGTHWISE in EVIL DEAD
THE BALLS IN THE VISE SCENE in I SPIT ON YOUR GRAVE 2
THE LAWNMOWER DEATH in KICK-ASS 2
THE GUTS IN THE HELICOPTER BLADES in MACHETE KILLS
DEATH BY BLENDER in YOU’RE NEXT

AND THE WINNER IS…

THE GUTS IN THE HELICOPTER BLADES in MACHETE KILLS!

BEST FIGHT SCENE

AND THE NOMINEES ARE…

NINJA ZIPLINE JUBILEE in G.I. JOE: RETALIATION
ROCKY VS. RAGING BULL in GRUDGE MATCH
THE BARREL SEQUENCE in THE HOBBIT: THE DESOLATION OF SMAUG
MOTHER RUSSIA VS. TEN COPS in KICK-ASS 2
SUPERMAN’S SMACKDOWN OF GENERAL ZOD IN THE CORNFIELD in MAN OF STEEL

AND THE WINNER IS…

THE BARREL SEQUENCE in THE HOBBIT: THE DESOLATION OF SMAUG

BEST COMIC BOOK MOVIE

AND THE NOMINEES ARE…

BULLET TO THE HEAD
IRON MAN 3
KICK-ASS 2
MAN OF STEEL
THE WOLVERINE

AND THE WINNER IS…

MAN OF STEEL!

BEST SEQUEL

AND THE NOMINEES ARE…

FURIOUS 6
G.I. JOE: RETALIATION
IRON MAN 3
KICK-ASS 2
MACHETE KILLS

AND THE WINNER IS… MACHETE KILLS!

BEST COMEDY

AND THE NOMINEES ARE…

JACKASS PRESENTS: BAD GRANDPA
GRUDGE MATCH
MONSTERS UNIVERSITY
THIS IS THE END
THE WORLD’S END

AND THE WINNER IS…

THE WORLD’S END!

BEST MOVIE STARRING AN EXPENDABLE

AND THE NOMINEES ARE…

ESCAPE PLAN
G.I. JOE: RETALIATION
GRUDGE MATCH
HOMEFRONT
PARKER

AND THE WINNER IS…

ESCAPE PLAN!

BEST ACTION MOVIE

AND THE NOMINEES ARE…

ESCAPE PLAN
FURIOUS 6
IRON MAN 3
MACHETE KILLS
MAN OF STEEL

AND THE WINNER IS…

MACHETE KILLS!

BEST HORROR MOVIE

AND THE NOMINEES ARE…

CARRIE
EVIL DEAD
I SPIT ON YOUR GRAVE 2
CURSE OF CHUCKY
YOU’RE NEXT

AND THE WINNER IS…

YOU’RE NEXT!

BREAST ACTRESS

AND THE NOMINEES ARE…

MELISSA JACOBS in SEXY WIVES SINDROME
KYLEE NASH in SEXY WIVES SINDROME
CHRISTINE NGUYEN in SEXY WIVES SINDROME
MARGOT ROBBIE in THE WOLF OF WALL STREET
SHERI MOON ZOMBIE in THE LORDS OF SALEM

AND THE WINNER IS…

MARGOT ROBBIE in THE WOLF OF WALL STREET!

BEST ACTRESS

AND THE NOMINEES ARE…

ALEXANDRA DADDARIO in TEXAS CHAINSAW 3-D
GRETA GERWIG in FRANCES HA
JULIANNE MOORE in CARRIE
CHLOE GRACE MORETZ in KICK-ASS 2
KATEE SACKHOFF in RIDDICK

AND THE WINNER IS…

JULIANNE MOORE in CARRIE!

BEST ACTOR

AND THE NOMINEES ARE…

JIM CAVIEZEL in ESCAPE PLAN
LEONARDO DICAPRIO in THE WOLF OF WALL STREET
CARLOS ESTEVEZ in MACHETE KILLS
TOM HIDDLESTON in THOR: THE DARK WORLD
THE ROCK in FURIOUS 6

AND THE WINNER IS…

CARLOS ESTEVEZ in MACHETE KILLS!

BEST DIRECTOR

AND THE NOMINEES ARE…

JUSTIN LIN for FURIOUS 6
ROBERT RODRIGUEZ for MACHETE KILLS
MARTIN SCORSESE for THE WOLF OF WALL STREET
ZACK SNYDER for MAN OF STEEL
JEFF WADLOW for KICK-ASS 2

AND THE WINNER IS…

ROBERT RODRIGUEZ for MACHETE KILLS!

WORST MOVIE

AND THE NOMINEES ARE…

BLUE JASMINE
ONLY GOD FORGIVES
THE PURGE
SCARY MOVIE 5
SPRING BREAKERS

AND THE LOSER IS…

SPRING BREAKERS!

AND NOW THE MOMENT YOU’VE ALL BEEN WAITING FOR…

BEST MOVIE

AND THE NOMINEES ARE…

ESCAPE PLAN
FURIOUS 6
MACHETE KILLS
MAN OF STEEL
THE WOLF OF WALL STREET

AND THE WINNER IS…

MACHETE KILLS!

Machete Kills winds up being the big winner for the night with six wins. The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug and The Wolf of Wall Street are in second with two wins apiece. Thanks again folks for all the support you show me. See you all at the movies!

And just in case you’re wondering, here is a list of the films that have won the most Video Vacuum Awards:

1. Rambo, Piranha 3-D, and The Expendables 2 (7 awards each)
2. My Bloody Valentine 3-D and Machete Kills (6 awards each)
3. Grindhouse, Busty Cops Go Hawaiian, and Final Destination 5 (5 awards each)