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JPFMovies is back!

As many of you know, JP passed away on July 16, 2019. I didn’t give a lot of thought to JPFMovies at the time, beyond putting it on my to do list to circle back to when I was ready. A few days ago I finally returned to the site to check on it and renew the domain, and discovered that the domain had expired. Luckily, the wonderful team at WordPress Help was able to recover the site for me. I plan to keep the content up–this site was a labor of love for JP, writing these reviews was one of his greatest joys, and it would have broken my heart to see it disappear. There will be new reviews, occasionally, from JPF family and friends.

But right now I am beyond thrilled and relieved just to have the site back up.

If you’re someone who knew and loved JP, please take some time to go back and read his reviews. Or have a JPF film fest, watch some of his favorites, and reread the reviews. Add comments if you want. He would have loved that.

-Bonnie

 
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Posted by on January 7, 2020 in Movie Reviews

 

Bruce Campbell at his best: Army of Darkness (1992)

Hello again JPFmovie fans today we are going to take a look at another film from the 1990’s:  Army of Darkness.  This movie was the third installment of the Evil Dead franchise and stars none other than Bruce Campbell—who also was its co-producer.  Army of Darkness has become a cult classic with such lines as “this is my boom-stick” “you primitive screw-heads” “give me some sugar baby” and more.  One of the interesting things about Army of Darkness is that you don’t have to watch the first two Evil Dead films to enjoy it and feel like you are missing out something.

 

Ash Williams (Bruce Campbell) is transported to the Middle Ages, and captured by Lord Arthur’s men, who suspect him of being an agent for Duke Henry, with whom Arthur is at war. He is enslaved along with the captured Henry, his gun and chainsaw (that takes the place of one of his hands) are confiscated, and he is taken to a castle. Ash is thrown in a pit where he kills a Deadite and regains his weapons from Arthur’s Wise Man. However, the only way that Ash can return to his time is through the magical Necronomicon Ex-Mortis.  He makes a couple of mistakes in his quest for the book which causes an all out war with the undead.  Using knowledge from textbooks in his 1973 Oldsmobile Delta 88 and enlisting the help of Duke Henry, Ash successfully leads the medieval soldiers to victory over the Deadites.

 

There are some very memorable Three Stooges-type moments, complete with sound effects (pops, zings, and so forth). There’s eye-poking, headshaking, and other slapstick standards. What makes these moments especially bizarre — and effective — is that most of the time, Larry, Curly, and Mo are represented by ghouls and animated skeletons.

 

Every ounce of fat has been trimmed from this production. It’s a comic book brought to life, with no time for characterization, exposition, or subplots. Army of Darkness moves with breakneck speed, but its direction is straight, so there’s little chance of anyone getting lost on the way. No matter what your opinion is of the movie, you’re unlikely to be bored. The special effects are of a hit-and-miss variety. The skeleton and creature effects are superb and look much more expensive to produce than they were.  Where else can you find this kind of theater?  Not many places I can tell you that.  Watch it!

 
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Posted by on June 29, 2019 in Movie Reviews

 

Ok JPFmovie fans here is Part 2 of Heaven and Earth (1990).

In part one of the Heaven and Earth review we talked about how equally matched these 2 warlords were.  Now we are going to look at what is probably a pretty authentic recreation of the battle formations used during that period of Japanese history.

Kenshin’s “Winding Wheel” vs. Shingen’s “Crane.”

We briefly discuss to the “Winding Wheel” employed by Kenshin and Singen’s “Crane” technique.  According to Japanese historian Stephen Turnbull the “Kuruma gakari” (wheel) this formation, drawn like a spiral, envisages successive units of an army being brought against the enemy ‘as the wheel winds on’.  It is famously described in the Koyo Gunkan as being the formation adopted by Uesugi Kenshin for his dawn attack against Takeda Shingen at the fourth battle of Kawanakajima in 1561. It is essentially an idealized representation of a tactical move that replaces tired units by fresh ones without breaking the momentum.

Singen’s The Woodpecker pecks at the tree, and the vibrations scare the insect out so he can eat it. Kansuke (a Singen General) suggested sending a garrison up the mountain by a round-about route late at night to “peck” at the Kenshin’s troops in the early hours, flushing them down to the plain below where the bulk of the Takeda forces would be waiting!

The plan was approved, and troops went up the mountain, however when they arrived, the Uesugi, whether through having guessed the maneuvers or from having been tipped off by spies, had moved down the opposite side of the mountain in the darkness, and positioned themselves on the plain where the Takeda would not be expecting them for a another few hours.  This did not help Takeda’s cause at all.

Kenshin’s tactics for so effective that they broke through Singen’s lines and were able to personally attack the Takeda himself who received some cuts until some of his bodyguards were able to come to his aid and help fight of Kenshin himself as well as other in cadre.

The battle was costly for both sides.  a costly battle for both sides. Kenshin had lost 72 percent, or roughly 12,960 men, while Shingen, although taking 3,117 enemy heads as trophies, had lost 62 percent, or 12,400 men. In one of the largest battles ever fought in Japanese history, the “Crane’s Wing” formation, when executed by well-disciplined troops, could only temporarily stop that of the “winding wheel.”

Once again, these two rivals managed to fight to a stalemate—nothing ever being settled between the two they even died within months of each other.

The JPFmovie staff all recommend this film.

 
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Posted by on June 9, 2019 in Movie Reviews

 

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Two equally matched daimyo (warlords) one concerned with heaven the other concerned with earth. Part 1 of the Japanese film Heaven and Earth (1990).

JPFmovies is excited to get back to quality Asian films.  There is a reason Heaven and Earth was Japan’s number one film in 1990: it is one hell of a flick.  Most Japanese films of this genre look at the battle of Sekigahara; for those of you that don’t know this was the bloodiest battle in Japan’s history and finally united the country.  Heaven and Earth, however, centers around the battles of Kawanakajima which was series of 7 battles over 20 years between two equally matched rivals Takeda Shingen and Uesugi Kenshin that lasted until 1564.

Shingen and Kenshin could not have more contrasting leadership personalities and styles.  Kenshin fought wars “to bring peace to his people” versus Shingen who wanted to expand his empire “to the seas.”  Shingen (the more famous of the two) is often portrayed as some sort of liberator treating his people well but in truth, he was a cruel as many of the other warlords of the time-routinely massacring peasants and prisoners of war unlike Kenshin who took a higher road.

One of the main reasons Shingen wanted the lands occupied by Kenshin is because the were very fertile which was a precious commodity in Japan that does not have much agriculture.

Back to the film.  Heaven and Earth also presents the audience with two interesting items.  The first is a letter that survives to this day that Kenshin sends to his allies asking for men, equipment and other items necessary for war.  The second are two very accurate formations from each side:  Kenshin’s “Winding Wheel” vs. Shingen’s “Crane.”  The film does a great job of recreating the relatively complex fighting formations.  The winding wheel was an offensive maneuver allowing units that had become exhausted or depleted to be replaced with a fresh unit, thus enabling the attacker to maintain the force and momentum of the attack. A very carefully organized and complex maneuver, its use indicates that Kenshin’s troops must have practiced it to the point of perfection. Kenshin’s vanguard was commanded by his younger brother, Takeda Nobushige, and as Kenshin’s winding wheel fully engaged the Takeda front ranks, Nobushige was killed in the desperate close combat.

Kenshin’s leading units were mounted samurai, and as the “wheel” wound on, the pressure on Shingen’s force began to tell as unit after unit was driven back from its position. Shingen’s “crane” was an offensive formation and not designed for the defense, but the troops executing it were well disciplined and the formation was managing to hold its own.  The momentum of the “wheel” brought Kenshin within reach of the Takeda headquarters where Shingen had been fervently trying to control his hard-pressed army.  This resulted in a rare face off between the two leaders.  Shingen was personally attacked by none other than Kenshin himself.  Unable to draw his sword in time, Shingen, rising from his camp stool, was forced to parry Kenshin’s mounted sword strokes with his heavy wooden war fan. Shingen took three cuts on his body armor and a further seven on his war fan until one of his bodyguards charged forward and attacked Kenshin with a spear. The spear thrust glanced off Kenshin’s armor and struck his horse’s flank, causing the animal to rear. Several other samurai of Shingen’s guard then arrived and together they managed to drive Kenshin off.

Exciting?  Yes! And by all accounts as historically accurate as one can really get looking back hundreds of years.  Stay tuned for part 2 of the Heaven and Earth review.  Next time we’ll look at the Wheel vs. the Crane too!

 
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Posted by on May 29, 2019 in Movie Reviews

 

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Who ever said that white men can’t jump obviously didn’t see the TV series The White Shadow (1979-1981). A show way ahead of its time breaking the “Welcome Back Kotter” and its idiotic “Sweat-Hogs” mold.

The White Shadow had the potential for really cliched premise for a show: a former NBA player forced to retire because of a knee injury returns to his old high school which is not the place it used to be. The school’s principal just happens to be his former roommate from Boston College and talks him into taking the job of basketball coach at their high school alma mater.  But there is a catch, these kids are tough and the times (and the kids) have changed and not for the better.

It’s tired story that has been overdone, like the White Shadow’s very popular contemporary “Welcome Back Kotter” for example, but “The White Shadow” was so much more than a Kotter redux. Produced by Bruce Paltrow (Gwyneth’s Paltrow’s father) and MTM productions (the same folks who brought you “Mary Tyler Moore” and “Rhoda”), this wasn’t simply a basketball version of the insanely popular WBK.  The White Shadow was serious.  For the first time a prime time network show was centered around teenagers (black and Hispanic teens to me more precise) that didn’t reduce the characters into caricatures.  Everyone had their own complicated personality which saw the world as shades of grey rather than the often over simplified black-white or good vs evil typical of then network TV like WBK.  If you think about it, for all of the Sweat-hogs’ tough talk, the audience never saw those chumps get into a fight.  There have been a lot of stupid things forced down the throat of the America public, but “Welcome Back Kotter” is one of the dumbest.

Instead the “White Shadow” brought a real gritty reality to prime time television and showing the audience that modern teenagers didn’t live the life of Reilly and that the kids living in the ghetto are constantly bombarded with outright dangerous influences. From gangs to point shavings to drugs to high school prostitutes and even a member of the team getting gunned down in a liquor store before the city championship, if you were a Carver High graduate, you’ve pretty much seen the entire gambit of human misery. And it would’ve been easy for the writers to go the complete opposite way of like Kotter kids and make each episode a weekly “After School Special” about the danger du jour. They didn’t do that.

Unfortunately, The White Shadow didn’t garner the high ratings it deserved but the show received marked critical acclaim and paved the way for later more realistic dramas such as Hill Street Blues, St. Elsewhere and My So-Called Life.

Fun fact: The show originated from (coach) Ken Howard’s own experiences as a high school basketball star at Manhasset High School on Long Island.  Howard was one of the few white basketball players at the school and the only white player in the starting lineup and had been nicknamed “The White Shadow.”

When the JPFmovies staff acquired the DVD’s they were not easy to find, but given today’s availability of virtually any show ever made if you want to see something groundbreaking which themes and gritty techniques are still used today give The White Shadow a look, chances are you won’t regret it.

 
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Posted by on May 17, 2019 in Movie Reviews

 

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As promised here is the “original” late 1990’s La Femme Nikita cable TV series that actually died and them came back to life like the ladies in the shows.

The followup to the film Point of No Return, La Femme Nikita the late 1990’s basic cable TV series appearing on USA differs from the original film version in one fundamental aspect: Nikita (Peta Wilson) is innocent she was just in the wrong place at the wrong time.   Section One sets Nikita up to be accused of murdering a police officer and sentenced to life in prison where she supposedly commits suicide and is brought into Section One.  Like in the original film though Nikita will be killed (or “canceled”) if she fails to comply, she is forced to carry out the organization’s ruthless methods of fighting terrorism, while attempting to keep her moral integrity intact. This personal struggle becomes the primary conflict of the series.  A key scene in both the film and the series involves Nikita’s first assignment—to murder a VIP in a crowded restaurant. Although the Nikita of the television series eventually does become, by necessity, a ruthless killer, in the television version of this first mission she uses her ingenuity to avoid having to kill the VIP (whereas the film versions of the character complete the assignment). However, despite the machinations of others in power around her, Nikita retains her compassion and humanity.

La Femme Nikita was the number-one drama on basic cable channel USA Network for its first two seasons.  It had been “green-lighted” by the network’s founder and “cable network pioneer” Kay Koplovitz and nurtured by former USA Network president Rod Perth, a “key player” in its development.  However in 2000 it was canceled but its dedicated viewers mounted an extensive fan campaign to revive it and were successful!  These fans sent in over 25,000 letters and the network made a truncated 5th season.  According the JPFmovies research staff, such a resurrection happened only a couple of times once when Firefly was canceled after one season but due to fan demand the network made a full-length film an Family Guy which was brought back after three years on the shelf.

The LFN original series was not bad for its time and given the fact that it was brought back from the dead does tell you something about it.  If you do decide to take a look at it, watch for the ruthless character Madeline—she is as cold as it gets and she is another one you love to hate.

 
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Posted by on May 5, 2019 in Movie Reviews

 

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