Wednesday, April 24, 2013
It took over ten years, but television finally took advantage of the soap-operatic epic of Terry Goodkind's SWORD OF TRUTH novels, which provided one of modern fantasy's most powerful femmes formidables, Kahlan Amnell, examined here.
The series, produced in part by Sam Raimi and Robert Tapert of XENA fame, provided a loose adaptation of the book's continuity. Naturally, since television shows need stories that give some sense of conclusion at the end of each forty-something minutes, storylines tended to focus on the "D&D" aspects of the books' premise-- how a Mage appoints heroes to the office of the Seeker, what range of powers are commanded by the faith of "Confessors" to which Kahlan belongs, and so on.
That said, Bridget Regan-- an American actress, and one of the few regulars on the series who did not hail from the vicinity of the show's Ne Zealand shooting-locale-- does an excellent job overall, both in her combat-scenes and in stories about the emotional turmoil of her romantic situation ith the titular Seeker.
Friday, April 12, 2013
Though Chuck Bartowski was the central character of the NBC comedy-adventure series CHUCK, arguably two of Chuck's support-cast-- his "handlers" Major John Casey and Sarah Walker-- became as integral to the show's dynamics as the nebbishy star of the show.
To sum up the particulars of the show quickly, computer-nerd Chuck finds himself propelled into the world of spy games and international terrorism when his college roommate, himself a spy, downloads the merged databases of the CIA and the NSA into Chuck's brain, thus making Chuck a vital asset to both agencies. Chuck becomes even more valuable when he learns how to tap into the skill-sets encoded by the database, allowing the former nerd to become an expert at defusing bombs, fighting in any martial-arts style, and so on.
Both NSA agent John Casey (Adam Baldwin) and CIA agent Sarah Walker (Yvonne Stahovski) become Chuck's handlers, initially protecting Chuck from other agencies. Eventually the three of them, as well as the show's other supporting characters, form an independent troubleshooting agency.
Within the sphere of the Femme Formidable, Sarah was much in the vein of characters like Emma Peel, albeit with a much harder edge, which may seem ironic given the strong comedy element of the series. Even John Casey, also touted as a badass, was played for more humor than Sarah. Of course the principal reason for this was that Sarah was constituted to be the romantic element in Chuck's life. However, throughout the series her skills with fighting and shooting were always portrayed as being on the same level as any other professional's, and only rarely was she in the position of the "damsel in distress." The photo above shows one of Sarah's many kickass fights, which were in themselves one of the show's main attractions. In the last season Sarah even became merged with Chuck's database temporarily, so that during that time she became a literal "super-spy" in the same vein as the star of the show.
The film DOA: DEAD OR ALIVE may not be among the best American-made martial-arts flicks, but its title is certainly the most repetitive in any genre.
I have nothing to say about any permutation of the DEAD OR ALIVE videogame, since as I've noted earlier I don't follow that form of entertainment. But I did find that the 2006 film adaptation of the game was goofy if derivative fun, and obviates one of the biggest criticisms of the game by featuring female fighters whose breasts are (comparatively) real.
Since I don't have a lot to say about the place this lightweight flick holds in the history of Femmes Formidables, I'll content myself with reprinting my observations from my film-review of same.
"Corey Yeun, veteran of several Jet Li/Hong Kong actioners, directed this vid-game adaptation, partly filmed on a famous Hong Kong movie set in Heng Dian, China. However, while the three actresses are all adept at the fighting-stunts given them, it's quite evident that none of them are capable of the extreme athletics of the best HK cinema battles. Frankly, even the big warehouse battle of CHARLIE'S ANGELS: FULL THROTTLE is superior to any of the fights in DOA. This may be one reason the film approaches the girls' battles with a comic tone, though not to the extent of ridiculing the central heroines. Devon Aoki probably gets the best single battle, fighting a huge muscular opponent who attacks her in her hotel, while Pressley gets the most amusing battle: battling it out with her own dad (a Hulk Hogan-like wrestler) in order to prove her abilities. Finally it all winds up with a big multi-character battle in which villain Eric Roberts, souped up by his miracle device, nearly beats all of the heroines. He's rather comically beaten when his device is simply removed (too cheap to spring for an implant, guy?) and Aoki kills him by blowing up his entire island."
Sunday, March 17, 2013
Where possible I generally try to list a femme formidable's first appearance in any medium before moving on to secondary appearances. However, the subject I've chosen for 2005 first appeared in a Japanese "light novel," which to my knowledge has not been translated and probably won't be in the near future. Since there will be other cases where I'll have no knowledge of the first medium-- as with video games-- this will be one place where I feel justified in leapfrogging over the original media-appearance, and going to the only version currently available: an anime adaptation.
While typing nationalities is generally a no-no, I don't think it unfair to state that certain nationalities excel in particular departments. For whatever reason, Japanese popular entertainers of the 20th and 21st centuries excel at creating scenarios of extreme sadism, sometimes for the purpose of slapstick comedy. BLUDGEONING ANGEL DOKURO-CHAN is one example of this trend.
The basic plot is simple albeit thoroughly bizarre. Male high school student Sakura Kusakabe finds himself forced to live with an "angel" named Dokuro Mitsukai. She tells him that in the future he's destined to invent a serum that will retard aging in females, so that the feminine gender will become dominated by "Lolitas." Dokuro is initially sent to kill Sakura, but she decides simply to live with and monitor him instead. However, she frequently teases him sexually, and then punishes him for his reactions by clubbing him into bloody rags with her magical spiked bat "Excalibolg." Following each execution, she brings him back to life none the worse for wear, though Sakura apparently retains his memories of every destructive experience.
There's absolutely no depth to all of this psycho-slapstick, in contrast to some of the more psychologically insightful moments of URUSEI YATSURA or the more recent LOVE HINA. Its main virtue lies in the artists' ability to come up with new scenarios of absurd torture, so it may prove rather repetitive even for lovers of this sort of weirdness.
Wednesday, February 6, 2013
I probably wouldn't do a post on the 2004 CATWOMAN film if 2004 hadn't been such a dub year for femmes formidables-- especially since I haven't yet found time to do a post on the first live-action film Catwoman. But it's at least of minor significance that this was the first cinematic work to feature Catwoman as the main character.
I chose the above photo of Halle Berry's Catwoman in her "proto-cat" costume because it would have improved the film by 20-30% had the filmmakers gone with these not-very-catlike outfit, rather than the raging horror they did use. I'm sure any and all readers are sick of seeing it, but just with a view toward equal time, here it is again:
The film's many defects have been rehearsed so often that I hardly need add to the chorus, though I was particularly averse to the idiocy of having Sharon Stone play a villain who was semi-invulnerable but couldn't fight her way out of a catbox. There was one half-decent scene in which the Catwoman in her proto-outfit beats some thugs with caporeira moves, but at one point the maleness of the stunt double is evident, so that rather spoiled the effect.
The only other thing I can semi-praise is that the basic idea of a line of Catwomen passed down from the cult of Bast or whatever-it-was was a clever way to get around the fact that this and any future Catwoman scripts couldn't count on bringing back either actress Michelle Pfeiffer or the character she played in BATMAN RETURNS. I still wouldn't mind seeing the basic idea used for another Catwoman film, as long as absolutely no one else associated with the film came on board again.
Tuesday, January 29, 2013
Without a doubt Beatrix Kiddo, central character of KILL BILL Parts 1 and 2, was the most notable femme formidable to debut in 2003.
In large part the character derives from the cinematic version of the manga character Lady Snowblood, discussed in this post. In contrast to the manga series, which emphasizes Snowblood's career as a professional assassin prior to setting her on the road to revenge, KILL BILL barely touches on Beatrice's assassin-career. Like the 1973 film the narrative action concentrates entirely on the revenge theme.
There are still significant differences, however. The Snowblood character becomes an assassin because of her parents' ill-use by exploitive criminals, individuals who care nothing about her or her family. We don't know how Beatrix becomes an assassin, though there's a minor suggestion that she may have been brought into the trade because of her romance with Bill, master of a gang of mostly female assassins. One scene from KILL BILL PT 2 shows Bill and Beatrix comporting themselves as lovers just before Beatrix seeks training from Bill's old kung-fu mentor Pai Mei. However, when she becomes pregnant with Bill's child, Beatrix decides that she wants out of the assassination game, and fakes her death to escape Bill's influence. But he tracks her down, and after letting his other female assassins beat the crap out of Beatrix, Bill attempts to blow her brains out. She survives to pursue revenge-trail on the persons who had been nearest and dearest to her (with the likely exception of Elle Driver, a female assassin who clearly envied Beatrix's relationship with Bill).
Since the spectacular martial-arts scenes of the first film have been lauded by thousands before me, I won't bother repeating that mantra. The second film places less emphasis on action, devoting more time to a character study of the dysfunctional relationship of Bill and Beatrix, not to mention incorporating writer-director Quentin Tarantino's meditations on the nature of heroism.
Sunday, December 30, 2012
Lara Croft remains the best known action-heroine created for an American videogame. However, the zombie-killing game RESIDENT EVIL has one superior distinction: that it spawned the most financially successful film-series to come out of a game-franchise. Five Resident Evil films have come out as of this date, and all have starred the heroine created for the first film, the zombie-fighter Alice, consistently played by Milla Jovovich.
Following BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER it became more common for monster-fighters to be more than a little monstrous themselves. Alice begins her heroine-career as an employee of the Umbrella Corporation, an institution responsible for unleashing a plague of zombies upon the world. Alice turns against the Corporation and attempts to help ordinary people menaced by the subhuman creatures. She's originally just a highly skilled mortal but exposure to the zombie-virus enhances her strength and skills to phenomenal levels, at least in some of the movies.
Most of the other characters, whether continuing presences or one-shot types, are largely forgettable, so Alice would seem to be the character responsible for selling the film-series to its fans.