and and jet li

The Season of Kicksgiving

Kicksgiving is nearly here! I thought I’d do a little rundown of my journey to becoming a kung-fu movie fanatic and offer some recommendations if you’d like to become one too.

I watch too many movies. This has been true for most of my life. I’ll watch just about anything, and exceptions to this tend to be specific. However, action and, by extension, martial-arts movies were a blindspot for me until a few years ago. I never put much thought into it at the time, but in retrospect, I think I avoided them because I had a narrow view of the genre, informed by less-than-stellar representatives. While it still holds that films that act as conservative power fantasies are spectacularly uninteresting to me, now I know for a fact that that describes only a small fraction of what the genre has to offer.

It started with Arnold. Total Recall (1990) is a movie I liked from my childhood. Then The Fifth Element (1997). Yeah, I was that person: I defended my beloved genres all while playing the it’s-not-really-an-action-movie game every time I liked an action movie.

My significant other is an action movie enthusiast but never gave horror films a chance. I am a horror movie enthusiast that never gave action films a chance. We schooled each other. He showed me Commando, Fist of Legend, The 36th Chamber of Shaolin. I showed him Suspiria, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Fright Night. I’m now a die-hard Shaw Bros fan. He’s now a Dario Argento devotee.

Then I started watching kung fu movies voraciously at The Hollywood Theater and on the El Rey Network. (FYI: El Rey does a Way of the Turkey Kung Fu Marathon now on Thanksgiving weekend!) Shaw Brothers films in particular captured my attention. Learning the folkloric ropes of wuxia movies was fascinating. (Wuxia means “martial heroes” and usually refers to period stories about martial arts legends of China.)

The theatrical staging, bright and bold costuming, and pacing of Shaw Brothers’ wuxia movies are reminiscent of traditional hollywood musicals. Swap out the songs for sword fights. Not always tho, sometimes there are songs too.

From my perspective as an American, it took me off guard how many woman-led kung-fu movies are out there. There’s so much variety to the women in kung-fu movies and that variety is almost always valued in the film. Women can be powerful, villainous, dainty, coarse, naive, religious, iconoclastic, antisocial, goofy, cunning, horny, and any of combination of the above. In other words, women are people not plot devices. It’s no wonder Cynthia Rothrock went to Hong Hong to be a movie star, while Hollywood slept on her.

Kung-fu movies can be harder to get into for Westerners because, honestly, plot summaries and home-video packaging can be very misleading for a lot of Chinese/Hong-Kong releases. Take literally any Jackie Chan movie from the 1970s or 80s as an example.

DVD Cover:

Actual Star of the Movie:

So, here’s a few recommendations on where to get started if you’re new to and interested in martial-arts movies. BELOW THE JUMP:

Keep reading

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Romeo Must Die {Aaliyah’s first big screen role} is released 17 years ago today {March 22, 2000}.

It is Andrzej Bartkowiak’s directorial debut with fight choreography by Corey Yuen. This film stars Jet Li, Aaliyah, Isaiah Washington, Russell Wong, Delroy Lindo, Henry O, Anthony Anderson and DMX. RMD had a budget of $25 Million but successfully grossed $91 Million worldwide and made it to the #2 movie on US charts.

The film’s setting is Oakland, California, but other than a few establishing shots, film production was entirely in Vancouver, British Columbia. The original ending of the movie was of Aaliyah and Jet Li’s characters kissing; a scene that did not test well and was ridiculed by the urban audience at a pre-release screening. Jet Li stated they filmed both {with and without the kiss} and dediced against the kissing scene because it was “somewhat strange and awkward” for Han to have witnessed his father’s suicide and then to come out and kiss someone. The studio modified the ending with Aaliyah giving Jet Li’s character a tight hug instead – did they walk away holding hands? — . According to a Filipino American director Gene Cajayon, “Mainstream America, for the most part, gets uncomfortable with seeing an Asian man portrayed in a sexual light.”


“I tried to play a trick on Jet, but it didn’t quite work. We were supposed to kiss and hug in the last scene. Right before we kissed, I put in these really disgusting false teeth and tried to shock him, but he is so focused, he didn’t crack a smile!” Aaliyah says on a failed attempt to prank her costar on the set of Romeo Must Die. “He didn’t flinch until the camera shut off and then he laughed. He liked it, but I felt like such a fool. I planned it for the whole movie and then, I couldn’t pull it off”.


Aaliyah enjoyed wearing her fake teeth on the set and pranked many of her costars on the set. Even off the set, she would wear her fake teeth and prank her best friend Missy Elliott. “One time, she put these big fake teeth in her mouth, the kind you get at a joke shop, and she came into my room and started doing the scenes from Romeo Must Die. Her personality was very playful, but she was also equally caring and compassionate” – Missy Elliott shares on her fondest memory of Aaliyah with this false teeth.


Jet Li was asked what his reaction was when he found out Aaliyah died. His response: “She was a very sweet girl and she was very charming. When she was on the set, she brought a lot of energy; she made everyone happy and would sing all the time. I was in China working on Hero and I heard the terrible news, we lost a best friend. She is still living in a lot of people’s hearts.”  When Jet Li was in New York being interviewed on the TODAY show. He commented “I have some memories of this very beautiful city … but it still makes me think about Aaliyah. She was such a talented girl and some locations when you pass by every day, you still think about her”.

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this part is really interesting. katara does some kind of healing waterbending on jet’s head and it unlocks his memories brainwashed by the dai li. it reminds me of how amon used bloodbending on people’s heads to block their bending, like we’re basically seeing different cases of waterbending people’s brains, bridging the physical and the mental. plus it kind of points to healing being one step removed from bloodbending, which would make a lot of sense

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Jackie Chan vs Jet Li aka what a fight between 2 Kung Fu masters look like.

Also, Jackie Chan has a rhythm to his choreography and even the best martial artists have trouble picking it up but according to Jackie? It took showing Jet Li watching him one or two times to get it. 

And then they started the fight choreography, the fight went on so fast they were told to slow down.