July 3, 2014 progress: 3 movies
1) The Next Karate Kid (1994)
If the Karate Kid, Part III was an unnecessary coda to the franchise, this film (released only four years later) is an even worse idea: a reboot with a (gasp) female fighter.
Miyagi travels to Boston and finds himself once again mentoring a troubled youth: the granddaughter of one of his old war buddies, Julie Pierce (Hilary Swank).
He becomes her guardian and takes her to a Buddhist monastery where she learns the true nature of karate and uses it to combat her enemies at school.
There’s a weird subplot involving an injured hawk (which the filmmakers hammer home as a symbol for Julie’s broken spirit). The film ends with the hawk flying free, symbolizing Julie’s new-found self-confidence.
Pat Morita earned an Academy Award nomination for his work as Mr. Miyagi in the original Karate Kid, but he didn’t know when to walk away, playing Miyagi in three more films (at least two too many). I’m sure the films provided a comfortable income, which I suppose is the point of any career, but it doesn’t command respect.
The main reason to watch this is to see Hilary Swank before she became a two-time Oscar winner. If she can establish a critically successful career after starring in a glorified TV movie like this, there’s hope for struggling actors everywhere.
The other reason to watch is Michael Ironside, who continues the series tradition of comically evil big bads. He plays Colonel Dugan who leads the Alpha Elite, an exclusive security fraternity at Julie’s school. Supposedly, Mr. Ironside is a method actor; the thought of him staying in character as Colonel Dugan between takes cracks me up.
What the hell is a security fraternity? Why is a paramilitary organization allowed to roam the school?
It’s fun to see Walton Goggins in a small role as a member of the Alpha Elite. I’m a huge fan of his work in The Shield and highly recommend the series if you haven’t seen it.
The first film in the series is a classic. This film is a classically bad film, a pathetic attempt to extend the life of the franchise.
2) Battle of the Year(2013)
Speaking of bad movies, this film by Benson Lee is a fictionalized retelling of his earlier documentary, Planet B-Boy. Both films focus on b-boying, which is apparently the modern equivalent of breakdancing.
Every year since 1990, there has been an annual b-boying tournament known as The Battle of the Year. In this tournament, teams (or crews) from around the world compete in a choreographed competition. The United States has not won in fifteen years.
In this film, Jason Blake (Josh Holloway) is recruited to coach a Dream Team of b-boyers to reclaim the title for the US. Rapper Chris Brown plays one of the members of the team; Brown has charisma, but he’s not a particularly effective actor.
How did Josh Holloway not parlay his success as Sawyer on Lost into more lucrative and respectable work. Lost went off the air in 2010. Three years later, he’s playing the lead in a film about b-boying?
This film is a cross between Remember the Titans and Stomp the Yard (which also featured Brown): this is not a compliment. Perhaps one day, b-boying will become a favorite pastime of millions of Americans. Perhaps the annual Battle of the Year will one day rival the Super Bowl as a premiere sporting event. Maybe then, someone can make a decent film about it.
3) Summer Stock (1950)
In her last MGM musical, Judy Garland plays Jane Falbury, who’s engaged to the stiff Orville (Eddie Bracken) and lives a quiet, idyllic life on her farm in the Midwest, until her sister Abigail arrives with her theater friends looking for a place to rehearse. Abigail is engaged to the director of the troupe, Joe Ross (Gene Kelly). Reluctantly, Jane agrees to let them use her farm for a rehearsal space and soon finds herself falling in love with Joe, who encourages her to participate in theatrical performances.
It’s a fun, “putting on a show” musical in the tradition of Babes in Arms,which featured Garland and a young Mickey Rooney.
In many ways, this film was a transition for MGM. Garland was on her way out, while Kelly was on the rise. In a few short years, Gene Kelly would be headlining the Oscar-winning An American in Paris (1951) and starring in the definitive musical from the studio: Singin’ in the Rain (1952).
Like most MGM musicals, this film is an excuse to watch the stars perform song and dance numbers. In that regard this film does not disappoint. It features a wonderful musical number by Garland: ““Get Happy” and several by Kelly, including one involving a newspaper and a creaky board.
Eddie Bracken was comic perfection in the Preston Sturges films The Miracle of Morgan’s Creek (1944) and Hail the Conquering Hero (1944). He’s very funny as Jane’s uptight fiancée Oliver. To younger audiences, he’s best remembered as the proprietor of Wally World in National Lampoon’s Vacation (1983) and the owner of a toy store in Home Alone 2: Lost in New York (1992).
This is one of the better MGM musicals; it’s a great source of exposure to Judy Garland’s career outside of The Wizard of Oz and a good introduction to Gene Kelly.