Sunday, 2 March 2014

Banished Blog Tour - Guest Post by Liz de Jager - My Favourite Action Movies

Last month I posted my review of Banished by Liz de Jager. I have known Liz for a few years, after she took me under her wing when I first started blogging, and pretty much became my Yoda/Mr Miyagi/Splinter/Patches O’Houlihan/Gandalf/etc. 

Having sat in many a London eatery listening to Liz's trials and tribulations on the road to publication I couldn't wait to get my hands on a copy, and now I'm really honoured to be hosting Liz for the final stop on the Banished blog tour. Liz and I are both huge fans of action films and we also share similar tastes (we'll watch, and usually enjoy, pretty much anything as long as the action is turned up to 11), and so it was a no brainer when we were talking about a topic for this guest post. So it is over to Liz to tell us about her favourite action movies, and how they influenced her writing (warning: some of the clips contain violent scenes, but hey - it's a blog post about action movies!):

My Favourite Action Movies by Liz de Jager

I am a big fan of action movies. I blame my dad and my brother, basically. I was inducted into the cult of martial arts movie at a very young age. I remember crying endlessly when I heard Bruce Lee had died.  My brother mourned him for months. 

Since moving to the UK in 2000 my husband and I have been dedicated film goers and dvd / bluray buyers and we like taking chances on the movies that get 2 star or 3 star reviews because we’ve learned not to trust the ‘sophisticated’ palates of those folks who do review movies as invariably these people want things we might not be so keen in i.e. movies without explosions. 

I looked through our massive dvd collection and started pulling dvds out.  I thought: I’d write a blogpost of about five favourite movies. No. I pulled out over fifty DVDs.  (And will have to restack them later again, my poor back).

Martial arts movies and Westerns were my staple diet growing up. Jackie Chan, Steven Segal and Bruce Lee and the gods forgive me, Jean Claude Van Damme too.  All the Ninja movies? I’ve watched them.  And loved them, utterly.

Most folks, when they visit my tiny house, assume that the martial arts movies belong to my husband. They’d be wrong.  Thanks to the relatively inexpensive dvds available here in the UK my collection has sprouted.  These are some of my favourite martial arts movies:


Jade Warrior
Red Cliff
14 Blades
Mulan (not the decrepit Disney version)
Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon
The Legend of the Shadowless Sword
The Duel
The House of Flying Daggers
Shogun Assassin
Seven Samurai
Curse of the Golden Flower
The Banquet
Seven Swords

I’m not including any of my Bruce Lee movies in this, because basically, take it as a given: these have to be part of your life because they are cinematically engaging and they star Bruce Lee. Netflix also has a great selection of martial arts movies which they rotate, some of them very hard to come by.

The other action movies I adore and watch on a regular basis either on dvd / when they’re on TV for any reason at all:

The Raid & Dredd

Basically both The Raid and Dredd have peripherally the same premise: it’s attack the block with guns.  But it’s two very different movies.  The Raid is slower, with a lot more hand to hand combat.  There’s a fight sequence in The Raid that just blew my mind.  It’s four on one against our hero, Rama. 

It’s just superb.  In Dredd, the sequences are tough and fun and the one-liners are great.  I especially love Dredd as it was partly shot in South Africa and the opening taxi chase scene…I know exactly where it takes places.

Die Hard – all of them, yes even the fifth one, mostly for Jai Courtney who we will be seeing in the new Divergent movie out this year.  Jai I think is an action hero in the making.  But basically, the first Die Hard is our go-to movie to watch at Christmas, right Hans?

Jack Reacher – I am a big fan of Lee Child’s books and was VERY unhappy when Jack Reacher got cast and Tom Cruise got the leading role.  He’s not a big guy.  Jack Reacher is a big guy.  However, Cruise fills the screen really well and there are some epically bone-crunching fight scenes in Jack Reacher, specifically showing how difficult it is to swing a weapon in an enclosed space in the bathroom / house fight sequence.

Taken – Liam Neeson’s outstanding and utterly over the top movie that has one of the best fight sequences I’ve ever seen…set on a boat cruising the Seine in Paris.  Just great stuff.

District 13 and the sequel District 13 Ultimatum

These two movies – urgh, love it so much. Created by Luc Besson (one of my favourite and craziest writers / directors / movie producers) are so much fun and very socially aware. The free-running (parkour) scenes are INCREDIBLE.  It’s because of this that I made the one character in Book 2 – Vowed – be a free runner of sorts.

Here’s a scene from the first one -

Pacific Rim

Huge ridiculous fangirl of Guillermo del Toro and a huge ridiculous fangirl of mecha and kaiju thanks to a steady diet of Robotech and Godzilla movies growing up.  PR has some insane fight scenes between monsters and robots but, it also has a great sequence between Beckett and Mako Mori where they have a bout to see how drift compatible they are.  There’s also a punch up between Beckett and Jack and ouch, it looked like fun.

From Dusk till Dawn

It has to be on this list – huge influence of my misspent youth.  George Clooney is superb in this and basically the fight sequence when they get to the bar against the vampires for the first time is utterly splendidly gory and perfect.


Chronicle is just brilliant – a slow burning movie about what would happen if you suddenly woke up one morning and you had superpowers, you and some of your mates.  What would you do? It’s superb because it feels real, yes there is shaky-cam, but that’s just how the story develops and it allows the director some interesting leeway towards the end.  Dane de Haan is superb in this and the fight sequence at the end between him and his erstwhile best friend…is cringeworthy and incredibly sad and poignant.


Do I even have to mention Leon? It is the granddaddy of action movies.  Filmed in 1994, it’s another Luc Besson movie.  It stars Jean Reno as the titular Leon and a very young and tiny Natalie Portman as Mathilda.  This movie had a great influence on me writing Banished.  Mathilda’s hair is basically Kit’s hair at the start of Banished and Kit’s Uncle Jamie is a bit Leon, only more talkative and possibly a lot more unpleasant if given half a chance to show it.

Starship Troopers

Just…watch the trailer, it is insane.

It is also one of the most progressive movies of its time because it shows unisex showers in the cadets’ training sequence – something you would never get away with these days and the thing is, the camera never lingers and it is never gratuitous.  The movie is also quite the commentary on how governments mess with your brain and perception of what happens in places where you have to rely on reports filtered through third parties.

Reservoir Dogs

Gory, brilliant dialogue.  The ear scene.  All of it.

Ronin & From Paris With Love

We’ve had this conversation on Twitter in the past about which car chase / car race scene is better.  The one in Ronin or the one in From Paris With Love?

You decide:


From Paris With Love

The Bourne Movies

All four of them – but my favourite scene has to be in the first Bourne movie (Bourne Identity) when Jason is sleeping rough in the park near the bank and some cops come over to move him on and they get a bit handy.  It’s the first time we see Jason actively react to something and thus far we’re not entirely sure who he is or what his training is. And then, bam, in 5 seconds flat he’s taken out two armed cops!


Stylistically Drive has to be one of the most beautifully shot movies.  The soundtrack is also perfect.  It’s a slow burner and you’re never quite sure what to expect of the driver but when it comes to the fight sequence in the lift, you have NO doubt who this guy is.  And you definitely want to cross the street when you see him. 

13th Warrior

This movie always just makes me want to write.  The music is evocative and beautiful. Antonio Banderas is great and the Norsemen are all supremely grouchy and perfect.  The fight scene towards the end, between the village, the Norsemen against the Venn? Muddy and awful and perfect. 

Brotherhood of the Wolf

I am a big fan of Mark Dacascos.  I love his movie Only The Strong as well as his turn as The Crow in the TV show.  In Brotherhood he plays Mani, a Native American who travels to France alongside his friend Chevalier Gregoire de Fronsac.  Fronsac has been tasked by the King of France to hunt down the mysterious Beast of Gevaudan.  And obviously, shenanigans happen.  One fantastic fight scene is between Mani and these wild insane French hunters and it is epic.  Sadly, I can’t link to the trailer as there’s quite a bit of nudity!!

Dog Soldiers

A bunch of Brit soldier go on manoeuvres in the forest.  They stumble across a weird killing site…and then they’re attacked…by werewolves.  I love this movie so much for so many reasons.  It’s the group of soldiers who are superb to watch, the action is non-stop and when there’s no action it is so tense! Also, I really like Spoon. 


This movie.  Grim and dark and shot in some of the coldest places in Britain.  A bunch of Romans fight behind enemy lines in an attempt to stay alive.  It also stars Michael Fassbender who underwent an incredible ordeal filming this, along with his fellow cast.  The action is fast and furious and it’s very physical and a bit unpleasant too.

Night Watch

A Russian actioner written and directed by Timur Bekmambetov.  The action is crazy as can only be done by Timur Bekmambetov.  The forces of dark and light fight for control over our world.  It has vampires and shape changers and it’s utterly crazy and I adore it.  It’s action movies on meth, basically.

Crying Freeman

Oh, Yo the Potter – another Mark Dacascos starring movie.  I obsessed about this movie for years.  Basically Mark’s character becomes this lethal assassin who is seen to kill a bunch of Yakuza gangsters by an artist.  Shenanigans ensue.  And epic fight sequences. Swords, katanas, slow motion explosions.  Loads of love for this movie and one I’m about to rewatch as I’ve not seen it in an age. This based on the Crying Freeman manga and anime.

The Losers

I love the graphic novels by Andy Diggle and Jock so when they announced they were doing a movie of The Losers…well, I was dubious.  But, if you take each thing as a standalone, then it works.  The movie stars Zoe Saldana amongst others and her fight sequence with Jeffrey Dean Morgan in a hotel room is bonecrunchingly excellent.  The whole movie is fun – thank heavens it came out before The Expendables – with the added sass delivered by Chris Evans as Jensen.  This is one of my favourite scenes. EVER.



I have so many more movies to share but maybe I hold that over till another day.  I’ve gone on long enough and I hope you’ve enjoyed my selection I’ve presented.

Banished is packed full of action – and a lot of the fighting was tried out (I have the bruises) to see if it would work in real life and what it would be like to throw or kick things in a certain way.   I didn’t want to have my characters do things and not personally know how it felt. 

Obviously I do not condone punching people in the head or pulling a knife or a sword on anyone ever, and I ask you to bear in mind that Banished, like all the movies I’ve mentioned above is merely fiction.  Except for the part where monsters are real.  That part is true. 



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