Author Signing in LA: The Ultimate Guide to the Martial Arts Movies of the 1970s

BOOK COVER-not the backWhen we think of Fant-Asia films, it’s that genre of Hong Kong martial arts film made during the 1980s up to the mid-‘90s, which uniquely combined elements of sex, fantasy, sci-fi and horror with high-flying wire work and over the top martial arts choreography.  But of course most folks who have been watching these sort of films for decades now know that the foundation for these movies originates from what the Chinese call the  wuxia pian, martial chivalrous-hero film, the first genre of martial arts movies created during the 1920s in Shanghai. This genre really took off in the 1970s and took some interesting twists and turns during that decade, things that are discussed throughout my recently published book The Ultimate Guide to the Martial Arts Movies of the 1970s
This weekend I have a book signing in the Los Angeles area, of which I would like to invite all cinefantastique fans to attend this event where it would be my pleasure to meet and greet my fellow Fant-Asia/martial arts film buffs and of course sign my book for you. 
Saturday, December 11, 2010, 2:00 pm, at Dark Delicacies; 3512 W. Magnolia Blvd., Burbank, CA  91505 
FromDavidTadman-3To me and other martial arts film fans like auteur Quentin Tarantino, when it comes to martial arts cinema, the 1970s is the most important decade for the genre. Apart from kung fu films becoming an international phenomena and being brought to the masses, the 1970s had major breakthroughs in wuxia movie fight choreography and filmmaking. As it turns out it is also the decade where we saw the rise of the genre’s most influential actors/directors that even most Americans today have heard of such as Bruce Lee, Jackie Chan, John Woo and Yuen Woo-ping. Of course to old school martial arts film fans this list would include the likes of the Five Venoms, Sonny Chiba, Chen Kuan-tai, Jimmy Wong, David Chiang, Ti Lung, Wang Lung-wei, the Liu brothers and hundreds more. In fact, over 20 countries cumulatively made >2150 martial arts films during the 1970s. Can you list these 20 countries? 
But the main impetus for writing my just published coffee-table book, The Ultimate Guide to the Martial Arts Movies of the 1970s, goes way beyond this, it was literally a matter of life and death. 
When I was 16, my doctor told me I’d be dead in five years due to the deadly effects of the lung/digestive disease cystic fibrosis (CF). At that time I was taking 30 pills/day and in the hospital every three months. After watching Bruce Lee’s Fists of Fury I went from being depressed and waiting to die, to wanting to live and learn what Lee was doing. 
As I began practicing martial arts, I read about Qigong and how weak dying children in ancient China would learn this skill and become strong heroes of China. So I moved to Taiwan, found a teacher and five months after learning Qi and to this day, I’ve been off all medication and therapies since. To show my health improvement was not superficial, in 1986 I walked 3000.2 miles across America, 26 miles/day, 4.1-4.5 mph pace. 
If not for kung fu film, martial arts and Qi, I would be dead. 
Craig-With Jackie Chan 1992The Ultimate Guide is also a book born out of 20 years in the film industry that includes being the first American regular stuntman in Chinese kung fu films and TV in Taiwan in the 1970s (token white dude that got my butt kicked in by a different Chinese kung fu star every couple of months), learning fight choreography from Jackie Chan, being Sam Raimi’s fight choreographer, being a fight directing apprentice on Sammo Hung’s Martial Law, and on a unique front I was a dubber of Chinese kung fu films…yes, those badly English-dubbed films that became an integral part of American pop culture in the ’70s and ’80s (always a fun and interactive topic of discussion at film festivals). 
During an intense eight-month period I watched over 600 martial arts films and wrote on 500+ movies. Each review, or as I say “martialogy” (biology of a martial arts film), features a concise plot summary, behind-the-scenes reel and real history, fight statistics, insights into martial arts choreography and style, and many surprising factoids. For example, did you know that the real Five Venoms only did three films together?  
When I started my video collection back in the 1970s (up to 5,000 films now with 1200 on betamax) it bothered me that I would buy three different titled films starring different actors only to find out that it was the same movie. Thus the second part of this comprehensive book has a definitive index of over 2000 actors/directors/fight choreographers and their aliases, and a complete list by country of every single martial arts film made during the 1970s along with all of their alternative English titles. Furthermore, the Chinese film titles are in Chinese with English translations. 
Of great interest to martial arts film fans and book collectors, the book contains 150, never before published color photos from 150 Shaw Brothers kung fu films from the 1970s. Additionally, each martialogy includes fight statistics that tells the reader how many fights each film has and how much time in minutes and seconds is dedicated to actual martial arts fighting and training sequences i.e. Fights for the Buck. 
Craig-GordonLiuThe Ultimate Guide to the Martial Arts Movies of the 1970s is in essence a book on Asian history, martial arts history and martial arts cinema history. The development and secrets of Hong Kong’s wild and wooly fight choreography and wire-fu styles are also succinctly revealed not via research but from my hands-on experience learning these techniques during my tenure as a stuntman/actor/fight choreographer in the Chinese kung fu film and TV industry. From this we see the amazing progenitors of Fant-Asia films come to life, where in 1977 we see the first real martial arts horror film of all time take Asia by storm, a movie that rivals any of the Universal horror films of the 1950s. 
I hope to see you all at Dark Delicacies on Saturday, where my wife will be handing out free Qi Twigs, a root she found that helps one’s qi glow, ergo one’s health. You’ve got to try them to believe them.

Iron Fist movie goes to Script

IronFist_8Deadline reports that  Marvel Studios has chosen Rich Wilkes (XXX) to write a movie based on Iron Fist,  Marvel Comics  70’s comic book super-powered martial artist.  
Created by Roy Thomas and Gil Kane in 1974, and inspired by the popularity of kung-fu movies, Iron Fist was Daniel Rand, an American boy raised in the mystical city of K’un L’un after his parents were killed on the trip to the fabled place.
Trained in the martial arts, he battled a dragon, soaking his hands in it’s molten heart’s blood, and gained power of the indestructible Iron Fist. (Later stories would retcon the background to make Rand the latest in a series of Iron Fists that existed through the centuries.)
Paired for a time with Luke Cage “Power Man”, Iron Fist has been one of Marvel’s minor characters that has remained popular over the years, currently serving in The New Avengers.
Several years back, there were plans for a middle-sized budget Iron Fist movie by Artisan Entertainment , with real-world martial artist Ray Park (THE PHANTOM MENACE, X-MEN) talked about for the lead.
Now the rights are back with Marvel Studios / Disney, and it may become their second “in-house” comic book property, with a Dr. Strange film already under development.

Jackie Chan Presents Gen-Y Cops

genyposterPart of the title of this sequel to GEN-X COPS (1999) basically summarizes the mindset of this film’s production: “Y”. In other words, why was this film ever made? The sham and shame of GEN-Y COPS’  June 2010, Universal Studios Home Video DVD reincarnation is the blatant title change to JACKIE CHAN PRESENTS GEN-Y COPS, as if Chan is actually part of the film, even though he  had nothing to do with the original 2000 release. But of course as the film starts, one of the beginning captions boldly reads “JACKIE CHAN” then a bunch of other companies followed by “Presents…blah, blah, blah.”
At least when Quentin Tarantino attaches his name as the presenter, he’s a fan of the film and ultimately he cares about it. Such is not the case for Chan and GEN-Y COPS. Chan’s goal behind GEN-X COPS and his NEW POLICE STORY (2004) was to promote young new male talents, not unlike the legendary Hong Kong kung fu film director Chang Cheh did in the 1970s. To Chan, these films weren’t about finding new martial arts talent; they were showcasing cute young men acting innocently rugged and tough. Yet GEN-Y COPS lacks this sensibility (if you can call it sensible) as director Benny Chan, who also directed the aforementioned two films, goes off in some awkward directions that I’m sure kept Chan the man away from the set, even if he couldn’t keep his name away from the credits.
If you think that this blatant misrepresentation of using an actor’s fame is a sophomoric stunt to sell a film, that’s nothing compared to the movie’s mainstay. This would be the elite trio of men – Edison (Edison Chen); Match (Stephen Fung); and Alien (Sam Lee)) – a triumpherant of cops touted to be the best of the best, who take on only Hong Kong’s toughest cases, while looking like bratty kids in their 20s and guffawing and gabbing like a trio of adolescent teens. What would be adding to the grandeur of flummery is that these kids (I mean “young adults”) are speaking with Afro-American English-like dialogue, as if mimicking Caucasian rural kids having a racial identity crisis.
In a sort of sublime homage, GEN-Y COPS is a cross between Tsui Hark’s female robot romp I LOVE MARIA (1988) and ROBOCOP 2 (1990), except that the American-made RS-1 killing machine goes awry with “d-roid” rage at the hands of inventor Kurt (Richard Sun), who uses the bashing bot for bad because Kurt feels he was debased by the FBI.
genycops-1Combine the Gen-Y lads with some Gen-XY cops (yes, females); mix in black and white, good and bad FBI agents; then add one Achmed, a Middle-Eastern baddy who wants the android avenger to destroy the infidels – and we have a recipe for stereotypical characters and an archetypical ending that reeks of low budget, weak script and eked out action.
From the action director of Jackie Chan’s PROJECT A II (1987), Nicky Li Chung-chi, one would expect that 13 years later he would be a better fight choreographer. Unfortunately, 13 is an unlucky number in the West, and in a film choc full of Westerners, it’s lucky for us that GEN-Y COPS has only 11 fights with a total screen time of 2 minutes and 38 seconds. Hmm, does this sound action packed to you?
Apart from shooting the fights from close angles – an attempt to hide that the handful of cool techniques and kicks are wire-enhanced – Li and his fight choreography crew made the fights “last longer” by shooting them at 24 frames per second (normal camera speed). If Li had shot them at the typical, Hong Kong fight speed (18–22 frames per second), each fight would have been even shorter.
With a running time of 109 minutes, the DVD can be viewed in English or Cantonese. Including closed-captioned for the hearing impaired, the single disc also has English, French and Spanish subtitles. Bonus materials include Talent Files (all about Jackie Chan), Theatrical Trailers, a “Making Of” documentary, and Deleted Scenes.
Perhaps if this movie was a 1950/60s Disney Film wherein we expected over the top teen-adult characterizations from the likes of Kurt Russell, Dean Jones and Hayley Mills, GEN-Y COPS might have garnered a foul ball home run, landing in a limbo where there exists a sort of Jackie Chan-esque “50-year old virgin in front of females” kind of mentality. But alas poor Yoric, this Hamlet is a cinematic omelet with egg on its face. Thank God for no GEN-Z COPS.
JACKIE CHAN PRESENTS GEN-Y COPS (2000). Directed by Benny Chan. Written by Chan Kiu-ying, Felix Chong, Bey Logan. Action direction by Nicky Li Chung-chi. Cast:  Stephen Fung, Sam Lee, Edison Chen, Maggie Q, Christy Chung, Rachel Ngan, Richard Sun, Paul Rudd, Mark Hicks, Jude Poyer, Anthony Wong, Reuben Langdon.

Alien vs. Ninja trailer!

It seems that the age old “Ninja vs. Pirate” debate will have to be put on hold, due to a late entry in the Battle Royale of Awesomeness – Aliens! A concept many never thought would happen – or honestly never thought of period – is coming soon in the Japanese Sci-Fi Slicefest ALIEN VS. NINJA. Unfortunately, unless you live in Japan, you’ll just have to sit back and dream as the film hasn’t acquired a U.S. distributor yet. Until that day arrives, watch the trailer and be content in the knowledge that something like this is out there, waiting to be seen.
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Twilight: Eclipse, The Last Airbender & Predators on The Cinefantastique Podcast 1:21

The Last Airbender (2010), The Twilight Saga: Eclipse (2010)

It’s a double-dose of photodramatic discussion, disputation, and dissention on this week’s episode of the The Cinefantastique Horror, Fantasy, and Science Fiction Podcast, as Dan Persons, Steve Biodrowski, and Lawrence French take on romantic vampires, macho werewolves, and elemental airbenders. Does THE TWILIGHT SAGA: ECLIPSE deliver? Can the post-production 3-D conversion process add depth to M. Night Shyamalan’s live-action adaptation of the Nicolodean animated series? And what’s King Kong doing on the back lot of Universal Studios Hollywood? These and other questions are answered with lightning rounds of rapier wit and incisive analysis. Plus: an interview with Nimrod Antal about directing the upcoming PREDATORS.


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The Last Airbender

The conversion process needed here was not to add 3-D to the images, but to add depth to characters and a story that barely qualify as one-dimensional.

The Last Airbender (2010)The dialogue has all the breath of a collapsed lung. The tone is as fluffy as a fallen souffle. The performances are as tabular as a well-sanded board. The action has all the bounce of a deflated tire. The story extends like an outstretched, horizontal plane, without features or variation to break the monotony. In short – resorting to the cliche my thesaurus and I have been studiously avoiding, even though it perfectly encapsulates the film – THE LAST AIRBENDER is, from beginning to end, as flat as a pancake. And the post-production 3-D conversion only underlines the planar qualities of M. Night Shyamalan’s latest disappointment: dingy and dark when viewed through the polarized lenses, the optical process not only fails to immerse you in the fantasy world on screen; it very often provides not even the minimal illusion of depth. Sad to say, the  conversion process truly needed here would have begun in preproduction – not to design the film with 3-D in mind, but to add some depth to characters and a storyline that barely qualify as one-dimensional, let alone two.
THE LAST AIRBENDER (based on the cartoon series AVATAR: THE LAST AIRBENDER) is set in a world divided between four nations, each representing one of the primal elements: Earth, Air, Fire, and Water. Each nation has “Benders,” individuals capable of controlling their nation’s element. There is supposed to be an Avatar, who controls all four, bringing balance to the world; unfortunately, he has been missing in action for 100 years, allowing the Fire Nation to rise up, attempting to gain dominance over the others. Out hunting one day, Katara(Nicola Peltz) and Sokka (Jackson Rathbone) find Aang (Noah Ringer) buried under the ice. He turns out to be the epynomous Last Airbender, who ran away from home a century ago when he learned that his destiny would prevent him from having a normal life. Only trained in bending his own nation’s element, he must now master Earth, Air, and Water. However, Prince Zuko (Dev Patel), banished from the Fire Nation by his father, knows that the only way to regain favor is to return with Aang as his prisoner.

The Last Airbender (2010)
Noah Ringer as Aang

THE LAST AIRBENDER proceeds with all the choppy rhythm and incoherent storytelling of a film that had been ruined in post-production. (Yes, I’m thinking of you, JONAH HEX.) Apparently pitching his film to fans of the cartoon, Shyamalan makes little or no effort to involve newbies or even explain why they should care; he just throws them into the middle of the Four Nations and lets the story unfold, without bothering to structure it in a meaningful way.
Speaking in simple sentences that suggest a third-grade grammar book, characters walk in and out of scenes almost aimlessly; incidents happen, but the action seldom registers, because scenes are clipped before they have any impact. Instead, a narration is plastered on to explain what’s happening (as if the over-obvious dialogue were not enough). But nothing much needs explaining because nothing much is happening.
Shyamalan presents all of this in a style that suggests his approach to LADY IN THE WATER distilled down to its purest form: we’re supposed to view the film with child-like wonder, accepting its simple-minded simplicity as some kind of innocent purity; to expect anything more is to betray your adult cynicism. Unfortunately, when you attempt to create something child-like, you run the risk of being childish.
Shaun Toub steals the show as Uncle Iroh
Shaun Toub steals the show as Uncle Iroh

THE LAST AIRBENDER’s one glimmer of an interesting sub-plot pertains to Prince Zuko, who hopes to regain his honor by capturing Aang. Dev Patel is a bit strained in his effort to convey the prince’s wounded pride and desire for redemption, but at least he’s trying, which is more than can be said for the rest of his young co-stars. Patel is certainly helped by being teamed with the excellent Shaun Toub as Zuko’s Uncle Iroh. Shoub is the only one who gives a fully engaging performance; he’s lucky enough to be playing the only character with some shading: he’s a member of the Fire Nation, but his commitment to certain principles overrides his nationalism, and he shows admirable concern for his banished nephew. It’s a deep sign of what’s wrong with THE LAST AIRBENDER that the titular character is much less interesting than his chief antagonist.

VISUALS, MARTIAL ARTS & 3-D

One of the film's cute but sadly underused creatures
One of the film's cute but sadly underused creatures

THE LAST AIRBENDER features glossy production values and special effects that look great in the trailers, but overall the visual design falls short. Ringer, with his bald head and tattoos, does not cut a striking figure as the Avatar. Seychelle Gabriel looks simply weird with her albino white hair as Princess Yue. At least the creature designs are nice; unfortunately, the creatures are underused, pasted onto scenes like decoration. The exception is the Dragon Spirit (voiced by FRINGE’s John Noble), who makes a dignified impression in only a small amount of screen time.
The martial arts sequences, when they finally arrive, offer a brief respite from the story’s tedium. The concept of different elements combating each other (e.g., fire blocked by earth or doused by water) is well realized on screen, and the use of CGI and slow-motion to enhance the battles is effective, but the actual choreography soon grows repetitious. After watching Aang do his little dance to bend air for the fourth or fifth time, you begin to wonder why his opponents never strike before he has completed his routine. Like BLOOD: THE LAST VAMPIRE, this is a sad case of a film whose fight scenes work better in isolation; viewed as brief, separate clips on the Internet, the special effects and action – such as Aang’s run across the couryard in the middle of battle, with water spouts freezing around him -ignite a sense of anticipation that the film itself cannot satisfy.
In any case, THE LAST AIRBENDER’s visual qualities are marred by the last-minute addition of 3-D (the film was shot 2-D and converted in post-production). This is the worst 3-D I’ve seen in years, adding nothing of interest to the film. Much of the footage still looks flat, and the 3-D glasses darken the image, taking some of the sparkle out of what should have been pristine visuals. You will find yourself tempted to remove the specs and watch the film without them – which means you might as well save yourself a few dollars and see the flat version.

CONCLUSION

Since THE SIXTH SENSE (1999), Shyamalan’s career has been on a downhill slide, briefly interrupted by SIGNS in 2002. Till now, however, even his weakest films showed some glimmer of his previous talent; it was as if he was caught up by the ego and expectations that come with blockbuster success, and he was trapped into trying to recreate that winning formula. THE LAST AIRBENDER offered hope – a change in direction, working from pre-existing material that could reinvigorate him with the opportunity to do something new and different, a full-blown fant-asia style adventure that left the spook-show stuff behind in favor of epic vistas, colorful creatures, and archetypal heroes and villains. Instead, he has delivered his most disappointing film to date – an empty bauble that could have been handled by any Hollywood hack.
And in the worst tradition of summer blockbuster’s, THE LAST AIRBENDER is a shameless attempt to launch a franchise, whether we want one or not. Not only is the film sub-titled “Book One: Water,” there is also an obvious hook for a sequel placed before the closing credits. After sitting through this installment, however, it is hard to imagine anyone breathlessly anticipating “Book Two.”

The action scenes are not bad but a bit repetitious
The action scenes are not bad but a bit repetitious

THE LAST AIRBENDER (July 1, 2010). Written, produced and directed by M. Night Shyamalan. Cast: Noah Ringer, Dev Patel, Nicola Peltz, Jackson Rathbone, Shaun Toub, Aasif Mandy, Cliff Curtis. Seychelle Gabriel, Katharine Houghton, Keon Sim, Isaac Jin Solstein, Edmund Ideda, John Noble.
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Universal Soldier: Regeneration – DVD Review

click to purchase
click to purchase

First off, let’s not try to pretend that UNIVERSAL SOLDIER: REGENERATION is anything more than something for the boys-with-toys set to get off on. Director John Hyams (Peter Hyams’ son) makes little effort to mask this fact. He’s a big fan of mixed martial arts – he even directed a documentary on the subject – and it definitely shows. The man also hired MMA fighters as actors (Andrei ‘The Pit Bull’ Arlovski and Mike Pyle to name a couple), so right off we kinda know where this project’s mindset lies.
The story goes like this: Liberation fighter commander Topov (Zahary Baharov) is trying to liberate the fictional territory of Pasalan. To achieve his ends, he and his team take over a nuclear power plant and its nearby town. They rig the plant with explosives and Topov makes his demands – the imminent release of all 227 political prisoners currently held captive, along with the complete independence of Pasalan – claiming that if these demands are not met in full he will blow up the plant, “generating an explosion causing a radiation cloud 100 times stronger than the atomic bombs dropped on Japan.”
To make matters worse, there’s a new, improved model of UniSol out there on the bad guy’s side – thanks to renegade Dr. Colin (Kerry Shale) – who’s kicking butt on those brought in through the U.S. military to stop the terrorists and their smashing machine. There are four of these new generation UniSols on the good guy’s team, but they’re no match for the robotic ueber UniSol (think TERMINATOR with real flesh & bone).
Meanwhile, Luc Deveraux (Jean-Claude Van Damme) and a Dr. Sandra Fleming (Emily Joyce), who is somehow reminiscent of a Japanese anime character, are simply trying to mind their own business as they attempt to reintegrate Luc into society through a privately funded program (which we learn nothing about). But of course, no matter how hard the two try to pull poor Luc out of his connection to the Universal Soldier program, the “theys” out there drag him back in.
Dolph Lundgren & Jean-Claude Van Damme - together again
Dolph Lundgren & Jean-Claude Van Damme - together again

Oh yeah, just in case you’re dying to know: good ol’ Dolph Lundgren is brought back for this one, too, as a cloned version of sergeant Andrew Scott from the original movie. Now, if you’re a fan of cheesy actions flicks and if you had fun with the first UNIVERSAL SOLDIER, then you’ll get a kick (sorry about the pun) out his bit in this installment. But he’s shoe-horned into the story and brings little meaning to things, as he exits nearly as quickly as he enters.
Now, as with other UNIVERSAL SOLDIER installments (most of which I have not seen), this one won’t exactly win any awards, but it does have a couple of things going for it. One is the hand-to-hand combat action. It’s nicely choreographed and has a thumping “sense” of realism to it, even though it’s preposterous, if that makes much sense. Watching it you don’t feel as though you’re watching stylish cartoon action from, say, the recent G.I. JOE release. Observing these guys is like watching a couple of brick walls smashing up against each other; there’s a visceral, raw quality that’s to its credit.
Another positive aspect is the manner in which Hyams shoots his action. He uses a steadicam most of the time instead of a standard hand-held camera and the audience can actually see what’s going on. In other words, we’re not forced to sit through ADD style camera work and extreme close-ups that make us struggle in futility to decipher the action. I don’t know about you, but this viewer finds little more frustrating than going to watch an action film, and then not being able to tell who is hitting whom, let alone who’s winning.
Peter Hyams (CAPRICORNE ONE, OUTLAND) is also on hand for this one, but he leaves the directing chores to his son while he focuses on his duties as the film’s Director of Photography. John admits that he initially wanted to stay more with a darker, colder look, but his father talked him in to warming things up a bit at various points. Probably a good call, too, because the film is somewhat claustrophobic and takes itself pretty seriously, so something is needed to offer a change of pace in terms of mood and character. After all, this ain’t no SAVING PRIVATE RYAN or SCHINDLER’S LIST.
Although it’s probably better than most of the others in the UNIVERSAL SOLDIER franchise, it does have that issue of taking itself a little too seriously. Van Damme merely looks tired and depressed from beginning to end. And when the script does inject attempts at humor, the jokes comes off as more insipid than anything because of its overall deadly serious tone. There’s a scene in which one UniSol gets a two-inch pipe rammed right through his head, yet he still maintains the capacity to see, think and speak. In the commentary, the filmmakers laugh heartily and exclaim that it is a great moment, but in a supposedly serious film it’s just lame. It belongs in a bad late ‘80’s Arnold Schwarzenegger movie.
Speaking of the commentary, what we have on the UNIVERSAL SOLDIER: REGENERATION DVD is that – with John Hyams and Dolf Lundgren – and a fairly brief making-of doc. The doc is almost surprisingly pleasant to watch. In so many “making-of” features we simply get the talent involved explaining the story and praising each other’s “talents.” But this one actually lets the viewer follow a short while as the team explains its purpose and methods.
The commentary, on the other hand, comes off as a couple of fight fans mainly talking about how cool and physical their fighters-actors are as they go on about the stunt work. Oh sure, there’s an observation now and then about this or that, but those are few, and Dolf even interrupts a discussion about shot coverage and editing to focus on his entrance into the movie; then the two chuckle like school boys during those moments. The commentary really adds to the boys-with-toys vibe of the movie; one feels as if watching something made by jocks with cameras, rather than something from a team interested in being creative and wanting to tell a truly good tale. And frankly, Lundgren comes off a bit mono-syllabic and stoned; he sounds like, well, Rocky Balboa.
Still, at one point Hyams makes an interesting observation about not having that much of an interest in video games, but that his film plays out very much like one because, even though he doesn’t play much, he does like they manner in which games are generally laid out visually. He makes obvious use of that style in REGENERATION.
Comparing the commentary in UNIVERSAL SOLDIER: REGENERATION to that of the original film (with Jean-Claude Van Damme, Dolph Lundgren, Dean Devlin, and Roland Emmerich) suggests that the new team is much more interested in pound and grind instead the craft of filmmaking. (One can tell that the first team just gets off on movies in general.) This isn’t really meant to short change Hyams, who grew up in the business under his father’s wing and graduated from a respected art school. He doesn’t have too many features under his belt yet, so the jury’s still out – although the fact that UNIVERSAL SOLDIER: REGENERATION went straight to DVD says something.
When all is said and done, like TERMINATOR SALVATION, UNIVERSAL SOLDIER: REGENERATION may make for better late night TV viewing on a Friday or Saturday night rather than any rebooting of a franchise.
Jean-Claude & Andrei Arlovski
Jean-Claude Van Damme & Andrei Arlovski

UNIVERSAL SOLDIER: REGENERATION (Foresight Unlimited/Sony Pictures Home Entertainment, 2009; 97 min.) Directed by John Hyams. Screenplay by Victor Ostrovsky. Produced by Craig Baumgarten, Moshe Diamant, and Peter Hyams. Executive produced by Mark Damon and Courtney Solomon. Production Design by Philip Harrison. Art Direction by Rossitsa Bakeva. Special Effects Supervision by Ivo Jivkov. Visual Effects Supervision by Joseph Oberle. Music Composed by Kris Hill and Michael Krassner. Edited By Jason Gallagher and John Hyams. Cast: Jean-Claude Van Damme, Dolph Lundgren, Andrei Arlovski, Mike Pyle, Corey Johnson, Garry Cooper, Emily Joyce, Zahary Baharov, Aki Avni, Kerry Shale, Yonko Dimitrov, Violeta Markovska, Stanislav Pishtalov, Marianne Stanicheva, John Laskowski, Trayan Milenov-Troy, Jon Foo, Danko Jordanov, and Dian Hristov. MPAA Rating: R for pervasive strong brutal violence and some language.