Man of Tai Chi

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Every year that goes by without a Special Achievement Academy Award given out at the Oscars is another year where it feels like cinema isn’t moving forward. Of course, cinema is moving forward. The last such award was received way back in 1996 by John Lasseter for making the first feature-length computer-animated film (Toy Story), yet things have changed and progressed in those 18 years in a multitude of ways, just maybe nothing so noticeably groundbreaking as that. Animation has instead improved gradually. So have computer-generated visual effects, and the truly important advances of the latter do tend to get recognized with the Scientific & Technical Academy Awards. Plus, unlike the early years of the Special Achievement Award, there’s actually a permanent visual effects category again. In fact, most of the areas that the award has honored in the past now have their own category. But the special Oscar doesn’t have to be just for visual effects, sound effects and sound editing, as it mostly has been. The purpose of the award is, according to the Academy, “for an outstanding contribution to a particular movie when there is no annual award category that applies to the contribution.” That can be any number of elements that go into moviemaking, from stunts to casting to catering. And the “outstanding contribution” doesn’t need to be anything game-changing. The three “unsung heroes” spotlighted this week by Variety — Lone Survivor stunt coordinator Kevin Scott, Inside Llewyn Davis animal trainer Dawn Barkan and Her video […]

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I’ve always been far more partial to action accomplished via choreography than with CGI shenanigans. There’s a place for both, obviously, but I’m more impressed by the agile movement of bodies than I am by the placement of pixels. Unfortunately, fight scenes unassisted by CGI or wire-work are becoming a bit of a rarity these days. That said, there’s still plenty of fun to be had with action scenes, big or small, that are created with the aid of technology or that eschew fisticuffs all together for exciting gunplay or vehicular hijinks. This year’s best action films are a mix of all of the above and include both domestic and international movies. What’s not included? Movies featuring superheroes. It wasn’t an intentional slight, believe me, but when it came time to rank which films offered up the most legitimately exciting and visceral thrills the thirteen below beat out the likes of Iron Man 3, Man of Steel, and others. Remember, this isn’t a ranking of movies but of the action in the movies, meaning while these aren’t all necessarily great films they do represent the best action to have hit screens this year. To that end, keep reading for a look at our choices for the Best Action Movies of 2013.

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Welcome back to This Week In Discs! If you see something you like, click on the title to buy it from Amazon. Silent Night, Bloody Night Jeffrey Butler has arrived in the small town his family called home to check out the house he’s inherited, but someone else has gotten there first! That someone is Butler’s lawyer, who’s arrived to finalize a deal and maybe squeeze in some infidelity with his sexy squeeze in an upstairs bedroom, but his coitus is interrupted by the discovery that someone else has gotten there first! That someone has an ax. This low budget slasher premiered in the early ’70s, and while CodeRed apparently released a restored version as a double feature a couple months ago this new DVD from Film Chest is my first glimpse of the movie. It suffers from low budget woes, some serious ones at times, but if you can get past them you’ll find a fresh little tale that offers some genuinely creepy scenes alongside an interesting script. Again, it’s cheap as hell, but there’s a lot to love here for horror fans. [DVD extras: None]

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Ender

The first weekend of November is hallmarked by a continuing wave of prestigious Oscar contenders and pockmarked by the chaff that studios are still dumping into a handful of contractually obligated theaters. How else do you explain Last Vegas and Dallas Buyers Club landing on the same week? Beyond those we’ve got a boy vying to be the last starfighter, a pair of biopics that look difficult to swallow and a ton of limited releases that show promise. Get up off your knees, reach for the stars, and check out the trailer-ized list of movies coming out this weekend.

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Expectations are a funny thing, but while it’s never fun to go into a movie excited only to leave it a disappointed and broken man (I’m looking at you Nightbreed: The Cabal Cut) it’s an absolute delight to enter a theater anticipating very little and then exit it smiling, happy, and already excited to see the film again. Enter Keanu Reeves‘ directorial debut, Man of Tai Chi. Yeah, I was surprised too. Chen Lin-hu (Tiger Hu Chen) is a blue collar delivery man who spends his free time training his tai chi skills at a remote temple alongside his master, Yang (Yu Hai). Chen is participating in a national televised tournament, and while Master Yang doesn’t approve of tai chi being used for fighting Chen sees it as an opportunity to spread the word on a dying form of martial arts. It works, albeit not quite how Chen envisions it, and he soon receives an offer to join Donaka Mark’s (Reeves) corporation as a fighter. The wins and big payouts start almost immediately, but when the truth of Donaka’s business model is revealed Chen is forced to re-evaluate his position with the company.

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Man of Tai Chi

Just when we were already reveling in the trailer for  Keanu Reeves’ latest venture on the big screen, 47 Ronin, Reeves is gifting us with an even bigger project to sink our teeth into. Feast your eyes on the trailer for Man of Tai Chi, Reeves’ directorial debut and what looks like an even bigger and better fight movie than Ronin.

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Man of Tai Chi

There are many film festivals on the long, slow path to awards season (a march that begins a mere five months after this year’s Oscars), yet in a season full of festivals all touting potential awards winners, Fantastic Fest stands out from the crowd. Austin’s own beloved festival, with its focus on genre flicks and cult films, is a few steps off the beaten path. Today comes the initial lineup for Fantastic Fest, which offers a hearty blend of Bollywood, gooey horror, and crime stories from all over the world. Keanu Reeves‘ directorial debut – Man of Tai Chi – will also be making an appearance, along with Reeves himself. The film stars Tiger Chen as a martial artist competing in an underground fight club run by Reeves’ character. Robert Rodriguez‘s Machete Kills will open the festival. The newly announced list of films can be seen after the break.

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Mark L. Mann‘s narrative feature debut, Generation Um…, shows the fun and terror that evolves out of someone getting his first camera. In the movie, John (Keanu Reeves) steals a video camera, turning him into a guy who enjoys filming squirrels and his two friends falling apart. Basically, he’s the worst indie filmmaker walking the streets of New York, which is saying a lot. It’s a movie that relies more on mood, a feeling that Mann created on 16mm running around New York streets and a claustrophobic apartment. He wasn’t the only one in control of the camera, though. Within the film we John’s own footage, which Reeves shot himself. According to Mann, that footage allows the introverted John to express himself. We spoke with Reeves and Mann about the character’s internalization, filming on 16mm and more:

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What is Movie News After Dark? It’s a nightly movie news column and link collector that is tired of explaining itself to you, quite frankly. Drew McWeeney at HitFix got the scoop this evening on a big story, in which Harry Potter director David Yates and screenwriter Steve Kloves will be re-teaming to do a multi-film version of Stephen King’s epic The Stand. The hope here is that Yates can give it that Deathly Hallows scope, something the work of Stephen King has long deserved, but never really received. With The Dark Tower on the ropes, this could become a new fixation for King fans.

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