The Karate Kid part III (1989, Directed by John G. Avildsen) English 4

Starring Ralph Macchio, Pat Morita, Robyn Lively, Thomas Ian Griffith, Sean Kanan

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(4-Bad Film)

Over the top. Rehash. Drudgery.

Daniel and Mr. Miyagi return to California and open a store selling bonsai trees. Their enterprise is interrupted by Terry Silver (Ian Griffith), a member of the Cobra Kai who was humiliated by the protagonists a year earlier at the Karate tournament. Silver vows revenge and enlists a superstar hotshot to compete against Daniel to reclaim the title. Utterly unnecessary first and foremost. Completely devoid of fun or humor. Daniel is too manic in this entry. The villains are way over the top; in their actions and in their acting. And the love interest, if she can be called that, is more like a friend zone relationship. Pat Morita’s Mr. Miyagi is wonderful as always.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-


The Karate Kid (1984, Directed by John G. Avildsen) English 9

Starring Ralph Macchio, Noriyuki “Pat” Morita, Elisabeth Shue, William Zabka, Martin Kove

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(9-Great Film)

Crowd-pleasing. Rousing. Classic.

A New Jersey boy named Daniel (Macchio) moves to California with his single mother and immediately runs into a gang of bullies. They torment him ceaselessly until the Okinawan maintenance man, Mr. Miyagi (Morita), stands up for him, and offers to teach him karate, in preparation for a massive tournament at the end of the year. Your standard sports film in many ways, The Karate Kid gets over the top by being better than the rest. The relationship and friendship between Daniel and Mr. Miyagi is the heart of the film, and I enjoy the corny ’80s trappings and teen romance.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-


The Karate Kid (2010, Directed by Harald Zwart) English 7

Starring Jaden Smith, Jackie Chan, Taraji P. Henson, Ringo Lam

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(7-Very Good Film)

Exciting. Triumphant. Enjoyable.

Reworking the original’s premise, this time with a younger lead and a foreign setting, The Karate Kid centers around Dre, a 12-year-old boy from Detroit who moves to Beijing with his single mother, and makes enemies with a gang of sadistic kids right off the back. His only friends are Meiying, the girl he has a crush on, and Mr. Han (Chan), a meek maintenance man. Eventually, as the bullying persists, Mr. Han steps in and offers to teach Dre Kung Fu. The deal: the kids will leave Dre alone as long as he shows up for the tournament at the end of the year. As far as remakes go, this one is remarkably successful. Captures much of the joy of the original, and still feels fresh much of the time. The locations are beautiful and are a major reason for this success.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-


Kung Fu Panda 2 (2011, Directed by Jennifer Yuh Nelson) English 6

Voices of Jack Black, Gary Oldman, Angelina Jolie, Dustin Hoffman, David Cross, Jackie Chan, Lucy Liu, Seth Rogen, Michelle Yeoh, Victor Garber, Jean-Claude Van Damme, James Hong

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(6-Good Film)

Retread. Action-packed. Entertaining.

No longer a joke among his peers, Po (Black), the affable panda and kung fu master, enjoys his newly earned reputation as the Dragon Warrior. Troubles brewing once again, however, with the return of Lord Shen (Oldman), an evil peacock responsible for wiping out all of the kingdom’s pandas; all except Po. Kung Fu Panda 2 suffers from inevitable sequel fatigue. It’s not as fresh or exciting as its predecessor. It is, though, beautifully animated and the voice actors once again do stellar work; Gary Oldman, in particular, as Lord Shen.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-


Police Story 3: Supercop (1992, Directed by Stanley Tong) Cantonese 9

Starring Jackie Chan, Michelle Yeoh, Maggie Cheung, Bill Tung, Yuen Wah

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(9-Great Film)

Goofy. Action-packed. Amazing.

Jackie Chan returns as Chan Ka-Kui, a talented cop always ready for action. Here, he teams up with Interpol Inspector Hana (Yeoh), in an effort to infiltrate a powerful drug lord named Chaibat’s operation, and put him behind bars. This involves Chan breaking Chaibat’s brother out of prison in order to gain his trust, and later he and Inspector Hana are hired as Chaibat’s muscle. Slightly more serious in tone than some of Chan’s other work, there’s still plenty of room for comic misunderstandings and physical humor, but mainly this fantastic action flick comes down to its stunts. Chan and Yeoh are tremendous. The final twenty minutes is one jaw-dropping stunt after another including Yeoh barely holding on to a bus on the fritz, or driving a motorcycle up a hill and onto a moving train, or Chan falling from a helicopter onto a train’s compartment full of porcupines. The trademark end reel wherein all the goofs are shown only highlights how dangerous the work was and how incredible it is that they pulled it off.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-


Armour of God (1986, Directed by Jackie Chan) Cantonese 7

Starring Jackie Chan, Alan Tam, Lola Forner, Rosamund Kwan, Božidar Smiljanić

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(7-Very Good Film)

Frenetic. Action-packed. Fun.

Jackie Chan plays the Chinese Indiana Jones, roped into helping his ex-best friend and the girl that came between them. To save her, the two have to locate and bring in pieces of armour collectively known as the armour of God in exchange. They trace the treasure to an evil underground cult hidden in a monastery. Like the best of Jackie Chan’s movies, Armour of God is light on plot and heavy on action. He’s amazing, and his fight late in this picture against evil fembots is a standout.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-


The Next Karate Kid (1994, Directed by Christopher Cain) English 5

Starring Hilary Swank, Pat Morita, Chris Conrad, Walter Goggins, Michael Cavalieri, Michael Ironside

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(5-Okay Film)

Tired. Silly. Unexciting.

Not quite as bad as I imagined it would be, The Next Karate Kid is mainly just completely unnecessary. Daniel LaRusso has moved on, and this time around, the legendary Mr. Miyagi (Morita) teaches the troubled, rebellious, Julie Pierce (Swank).  Swank is an engaging heroine, and Mr. Miyagi is an all-time great film character, but this story is awfully small, and the filmmakers attempt to make up for it with trumped up drama (the bullying borders on sexual assault) and silly training scenes (one especially dumb one involves Julie babysitting). They also turn Mr. Miyagi into whatever the equivalent of “the magic negro” is for Asian people.  It’s entertaining for most of its run-time, but can’t overcome the dumb moments, or the incredibly weak ending.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-


Kung Fu Panda (2008, Directed by Mark Osborne and John Stevenson) English 8

Voices of Jack Black, Dustin Hoffman, Angelina Jolie, David Cross, Ian McShane, Seth Rogen, Jackie Chan, Lucy Liu, James Hong, Randall Duk Kim

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(8-Exceptional Film)

Bright. Exciting. Appealing.

Kung Fu Panda is one of Dreamwork’s best films. If you’ve fantasized about being a great ninja warrior, Kung Fu Panda is all the more appealing. It follows the unlikely hero, Po (a panda voiced by Jack Black), as he attempts to fulfill the prophecy that announced him (overweight and out of shape) as the dragon warrior of legend, destined to defeat the fearsome Tai Lung (a snow leopard). The animation is inventive and vivid, and the vocal performances, especially among the leads-Black, Hoffman, and McShane-are first-rate. At times, Dreamworks delivers big name casts at the expense of character building, but here the cast do great work.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-


Twin Dragons (1992, Directed by Tsui Hark and Ringo Lam) Cantonese 6

Starring Jackie Chan, Maggie Cheung, Nina Li Chi, Teddy Robin Kwan

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(6-Good Film)

Goofy. Action-packed. Fun.

Twin brothers, Ma Yau and Bok Min (both played by Chan), are separated at birth and go on to dramatically different lives. One becomes a world famous composer. The other is a low rent racer who gets mixed up with a local gang. Their lives intersect, as do their love interests, lounge singer Barbara (Cheung) and socialite, Tong Sum (Li Chi). It’s a great setup for some physical comedy and misunderstanding, which this film is full of. Chan is a marvel, and though the film doesn’t boast his best work, it does have an incredible finale in a car garage with the star facing off against a gang.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-