Monday, May 28, 2012

The Karate Kid Part II (1986)



This film seems like an odd choice to pull double-duty. Any double-duty, but especially the two jobs of pulling me back to posting about bad movies and holding a spot as Memorial Day post.

Let me explain the first part. Briefly. This movie is another bit of nostalgia. A call from the past when anything that had something to do with karate was automatically awesome. It didn't hurt that the main character is an inept kid who's more goofy than kick-ass. Really, just watching Daniel LaRusso stand is a lesson in how not to carry your posture. He holds himself awkwardly slack-jawed and crooked throughout the film, taking up shelter in his clothes like a homeless man wrapping himself in bed-sheets.

But he's my Ralph Macchio. He's the Daniel LaRusso from the time before I was old enough to be Daniel, yet I could see that's where I was headed.

More importantly, though, this film compelled me to post on Memorial Day specifically. Strange, you say? Let me expound upon my reasoning:

This film completely represents America and all of its freedom. It packages everything that our troops have fought for in just under two-hours of running time. 

Perpend:

First, it represents our freedom to make absolutely any piece of crap that we want. The film still exists. Any self-aware culture would have wiped it from the slate long ago. Erased its existence with a governmental decree denying all knowledge and setting dark-suited men with slicked hair to the task of disappearing those who dared mention it in casual conversation.

"I keep getting jobs because I can erase your memory of how bad my films are. You might remember my partner, Nic Cage. But if not, we're doing our job right."
Secondly, this film captures our economic model while pandering to the people who will stoop to watch it. See, it's not enough to simply tack a "Part Two" onto a sequel, knowing that those who enjoyed the first will have a demand for the second. The filmmakers instead chose to re-hash almost every story-cue from the first film and basically feed us the same meal on a bed of rice.

Here we, again, get Daniel LaRusso sucking at karate and then becoming triumphant.

Awesome!!!
Now wait just a minute...
And again we get an emotional center of Mr. Miyagi grounding us with his heart-felt performance while Daniel LaRusso annoys the ever-living piss out of the entire audience and gets the girl.

Seriously, the kid doesn't close his mouth throughout the entire film.
Essentially, it's more "fish-out-of-water" with LaRusso substituting the "water" of New Jersey (LaRusso moves with his mother to California in Part One) with "America" in the second (as they move the action to Okinawa, Japan). One could have only hoped for the more appropriate sequel, "Daniel LaRusso in Space" instead of what we got.

So, basically, the movie convinces its audience that it is something new while giving us the exact thing that the previous version mostly already provided (See: any technology gadget "upgrade" of the past 7 years, romantic comedies, or government officials as further evidence).

If that's not American, then I don't know what is.

And finally, "The Karate Kid Part II" appropriates another culture for the entertainment of Americans. To be fair, the movie doesn't create laughable situations at the expense of Japanese culture. But it does use the unfamiliar setting, customs, and cultural standards to wring-out whatever use we can from it. The situations in the film generally don't represent opportunities to learn about the "others," but instead offer Americans a chance to see how different they are in some instances (fighting for honor to save a village, tea ceremonies) while illustrating similarities as punctuation (the inclusion of a rock-and-roll music club blasting Elvis).

If there's anything that Americans do best is amalgamate other cultures into what works well for them (See Cinco De Mayo, Toyota SUVs, and the horrid, vapid Godzilla film that made millions at the box office).

But really, the thing to focus on is that America hasn't been LaRusso's wimpy under-dog from the first film for quite a while. We live in a different American Century - American Century Part II. Where it's all about getting our hands-dirty in some other parts of the world by showing that we have what it takes to save little girls during hurricanes.

He's hydrating and saving that child...at the same time.
With that said, this film does a few important things that the first didn't. It gives Miyagi time to shine (seriously, that guy could act). It has a stronger emotional-center than just rooting for some stupid kid who's a dork and overcomes the odds. And finally, it is obviously AMERICA.


Sunday, August 21, 2011

Deathstalker (1983)



Deathstalker is a Roger Corman Barbarian film that followed in the awe-inspired wake of the Schwarzenegger Conan films. This wasn't a rare thing at the time. Especially in Italy for some reason. Much like they did with the western, the Italians churned out a boat-load of knock-offs.

But this film, is Pure America. How can I say this? Well, there are 10 quantifiably separate boob-shots in this movie. That's right. In the name of online journalism, I counted them (and even took a screenshot of each to mosaic them all together for you).




The hero of this film is a would-be rapist (though, technically she didn't say "no," she didn't say "yes" either) recruited by a once-king who's been thrown out of his own castle by his former magician.


Our Hero

Oh, and to make sure you know the evil magician is evil, there's this scene where he feeds some kid's eyeball to his muppet.


A balanced diet for any muppet

But seriously, no one's watching this movie for the plot. It's all about the boobs and the sword-slashery. Mr. Corman gets the sword stuff out of the way early by having our hero go to the Yoda-cave where he fights a giant troll and wields his light-saber of justice.


You thought I was kidding?

With his magic sword in-hand, the hero recruits his own band of miscreants to the quest he has only-kinda-sorta taken up. One such mal-content is the Yoda-guy who turns into an old sage once he's exposed to light. Another is a sword fighter with the fashion sense of an 80's teenage girl.


This doesn't seem like it would be very effective armor

The final member of the guild is a topless she-warrior. Because, remember, boobs and swords. Why not put them together?


I'm not complaining, but this also doesn't seem like very effective "armor"

At some point, Mr. Corman decided there wasn't quite enough sword-slashing boobery and figured he'd transform one of the magician's henchmen into a woman to get just a smidgen extra. If the following scene weren't odd enough, keep in mind while you're watching it that our hero ends up half-penetrating this guy before he turns back to his henchman-form.


video


Out of nowhere, there's a tournament where everyone fights to be heir to the magician's throne. But really the magician plans on killing the winner so that all the most powerful warriors of the land are dead and he can rule unopposed. (Again, we're not here for the plot) At the end of the tournament, Bruce Lee, er, I mean the Deathstalker-hero-rapist is the victor. Even over his little fashion-buddy (but only after some homo-erotic Fight Clubbing....on the bed).


video


Then it's just a matter of killing the magician and taking the trophy-princess. (But first, we need another Star Wars derivative)

video


After having time to play with both boobs and his magic sword, our hero rightfully chooses boobs. Just like any true American Barbarian would.

Friday, August 5, 2011

Knowing Yin Helps You Recognize Yang

Look, I don't review good movies. I've tried. It just doesn't work because I'm a cynical jerk who is much more comfortable making fun of things because the world has beat me into a pulpy muck of criticism and sardonic insight.

So just go see these movies:

1. Hescher (2010)

Available on DVD 9/13/11

2. Hobo With a Shotgun (2011)

Available on Netflix Instant and DVD

3. 13 Assassins (2011)

Available on Netflix Instant and DVD

4. Super (2010)

Available on DVD 8/9/11

5. Cyrus (2010)

Available on DVD

Monday, July 11, 2011

The Mysterians (1957)



This is a film that has a message. That message might be a little bit about illegal aliens. But it is mostly about Pre/Post War Occupation of Japan. On a basic level, it's about some "other" stepping into your backyard and setting up shop.

They always dress so strangely
Those "other" arrive and you don't want them there. After all, you're not trying to go to their home and set up a new home down the street from where they live. So it's a little bit about isolationism too. They probably even (at some point) want to inter-mingle with your women too. So it's also a little bit about race purity relations.

But this film doesn't tackle these issues like some pansy liberal who figures that everyone will play nice in the end. No, this movie sees the invaders for what they truly are, for their obvious intentions...and then shoots lasers at them for it!

This is for all the people who are more like me than you are!!

At the beginning of the film, a giant monster shows up and tears the landscape a new asshole.

This guy

After that dude wrecks some serious shit, the aliens land. They get some scientists aboard (literally, then figuratively), and explain that they're peacemongers who just dropped that giant monster to prove a point about their advanced technology. All they ask for is a small plot of land to keep for themselves and permission to procreate with the local ladies (but only because they have propagation issues). The humans don't go for the proposal and attempt a coalition in order to get the aliens to bugger off...with technology!

I imagine the "conversation" that this movie is having to illustrate its issue would be something like this:

Japan/Movie:
"So, look PostWarOccupyingForces, I dig what you're trying to do here. I like that you've put it out there that you don't want a lot from us. And you've got a great explanation about truly being pacifists despite reigning hellfire down on us just before your arrival. That's very nice of you."





PostWarOccupyingForces/Aliens:
"We've overwhelmed you with science! But only because we want to make sure that we get our 40 acres and a mule. So, no worries. Also, we want to be able to marry your women."







Japan/Movie:
"Thank you. But, um, you have to understand that what we know most clearly about you right now is that recent part where you reigned apocalyptic terror down on us. Admittedly, it's kind of making us a little biased since it only happened, like, not long ago at all. So, yeah, if you could just go ahead and leave us alone. That would be a lot better."




PostWarOccupyingForces/Aliens:
"Our technology will wrap everyone in a warm, frothy cape of awesome and will come with a matching motorcycle helmet of sweet, sweet justice. Also, we don't do wrong things. Ever."







Japan/Movie:
"Well, if you love technology so much, you won't mind if we... *@%$ you with it!!









Pew-pew-pew!!
Or something like that...

Here's another way to look at it:

The Mysterians (1957) appears at first glance to be a fluff sci-fi picture, but, like so many of the time, it is really trying to tell you something...about something.

What is that "something"?

Well, this film that might just look like any another giant monster movie (from the guy who made the original Gojira!), but it's really about a country that lost a war living with the people who beat the crap out of them during that war.

And some other stuff too.....maybe.

Monday, May 30, 2011

Bruce Lee Fights Back From the Grave (1976)



So judging from a this single source, there was some manipulation of the Bruce Lee market after his death.  I mean, the guy in this movie is not Bruce Lee.  His character name is not Bruce Lee.  There is no mention of a Bruce Lee in the film (outside of a beginning sequence).  There's the title, I guess. (edit: apparently this was a thing)

Shameful.

Also (and perhaps more importantly), there isn't any zombie-action like the title implies. Seriously. Hollywood. I hereby trademark the following shit immediately:

Zombie Bruce Lee Fights his way to righteousness:


This movie-idea features a Bruce Lee (the real one, digitally placed on a stuntman's body...or with his face completely obscured by shadows, etc as they would've done in the old days) fighting his way back to life through the Shadow Realm. After he defeats the Shadow King at the end of the first act, Bruce Lee is pulled back into realm of the living and punches his way out of his grave. Then there is a series of sequences which follow the reincarnated Lee as he traces down each of his five former teachers in order to defeat them. They betrayed Bruce Lee by working together to cause his death. 


End trademark.

Anyway, it must be added that there are some additions to the official "horrible dubbing" cannon which truly merit awards for their artistic skill. I mean, these folks put a dubbing together like Jackson Pollack spilt paint onto a canvas. I don't mean that as a disservice. I mean it as a compliment.

video
THAT is quality work.

So, the actual film starts off with the dude we're supposed to take as Bruce Lee (hereafter referred to as Han-Wuk because that's his name in the movie) coming to check up on his money-grubbing kung fu partner/brother here in America. Of course, the brother's dead and Han-Wuk must avenge him. But only after he gets wasted and has a strange encounter with this guy.

video
I'd probably sober up pretty quickly too if some dude with a cape and a hatchet was trying to kill me.

He's bailed out of jail by some strange rich guy. This doesn't really strike him as odd. But the rich guy wants him to find a woman. This woman.

video
Apparently, she is so enthralled by his exposed man-chest that she is unable to run away.

He turns the rich guy down, but obviously finds the girl anyway. Conveniently, the girl knows some insider information about the kung fu partner/brother's final visitors. The two of them hit it off and he stays with her. They become partners in his search because she knows what they look like.

video
It's like the Power Rangers of enforcer gangs.  But seriously, a cowboy!?! WTF.

Along the way, we get interesting scenes such as this one.

video

When there is some kung fu in this movie, it's fairly decent. The problem (as with most kung-fu movies) is that it takes an excrutiatingly long time to get to it. Finally, this happens...

video

...and the party gets started.  The main character fights his way through the Power Rangers gang until he eventually gets to the big boss. With a twist!

The movie is pretty boring by almost any standard. Thankfully, there was the occasional bit of weirdness (see the videos above) and some decent action like this:

video

Overall, it's a pretty horrible film that's only made tolerable by some "great" dubbing, decent fighting, and strangeness (like how the main character carries a box with his brother's picture on it around his neck for the first third of the film).

Yep, just tied around his neck like that
Just don't try to tell me that this guy:



Is this guy:

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

King Kong Escapes (1967)



I'm sure you've heard of King Kong. The classic film (1933) was a milestone of cinematic history.

According to Eli Cross, he was only 3 ft tall
If you were the makers of this film and you had that kind of cinematic connection, why in the world would you burn that bridge in the first five minutes of your film?

See, the characters in this movie know that Kong is a giant monkey (he's really an ape, but I doubt you came here to pay pedantic attention to taxonomy). But no one even mentions that the giant gorilla they're discussing is just like the one that climbed the Empire State Building and fell to it's death.

With headlines like that, how could anyone NOT know?
Instead, they all treat Kong like a Chupacabra. He's a half-heard myth that no one's ever confirmed, but apparently one that warrants scientific research and an expedition.

Apparently, scientists are big on studying illustrations of mythical creatures
Luckily, no one is constructing a robotic mock-up of the Chupacabra in order to make it dig for Element X from rocks underneath the North Pole. That's what the bad guys in this movie are doing.

But with Kong instead of the Chupacabra.

Step 1 - Illustration
Step 2 - Blueprint alignment
Step 3 - Mecha-Kong
Like most Japanese Giant Monster Movies, the plot of this film has a peculiar logic all its own. If you've never seen one, King Kong Escapes is fairly representative of the loosely threaded narrative that holds together all manner of nonsense.  I'll do my best to walk you through it...

The bad guys are after a variation of Unobtanium (Element X) with their Mecha-Kong. The good guys, on the other hand, are just doing some science. They've commissioned a submarine to bring them to a tropical island in the hopes of finding their Chupacabra oil.

Sadly, not a Redshirt among them
Luckily, they bring along a doctor blonde bombshell who can use her brain to help solve the problem falls into peril and must be saved by the slumbering Kong.

And by "slumbering" I mean "probably stoned"
Of course, the Kong falls for her and a huge battle to save her from dangerous stuff ensues for the rest of the movie.

"I wrestled a snake for your love" could totally be a Johnny Cash song

When the Mecha-Kong eventually breaks down during his digging, the bad guys figure maybe the original would be better at mining.

It makes perfect sense when you think about it. I mean, what else could they possibly do in that situation.

A little known trait of the giant ape is its ability to dig

And of course, they make the Mighty Kong obey their bidding with a bit of disco ball hypnotism...

video

By the time the good guys are captured and brought to the evil lair, the bad guys have hypnotized and voice-activated Kong into digging for them. That plan doesn't last though. So, the three good guys are imprisoned in order to make them manipulate Kong into more digging.

I'm not sure what that is by her feet, but you probably shouldn't step in it
Turns out, the bad guys need the Energon because it's powerful enough to help them take over the world (yep, that's as specific as it gets), but the lady-bad-guy has a change of heart because one of the good guys is sexy enough to convince her she's doing evil.

Who could resist?
Once Kong escapes to Tokyo, the only way to get some little fake buildings to crumble in this movie is to send Mecha-Kong after him.  And the Final Showdown is set...

Epic.
Meanwhile, the good guys make a daring escape under fire.

Is he firing a road flare?
They swim their way back to Tokyo.  Finally, Kong has to save the blonde from Mecha-Kong one last time and then he conveniently swims home in order to close out this batshit crazy plot.

At least they left out the question mark

Lesson learned: When given the option, always opt for Chileans over hypnotizing King Kong to do your mining for you.  (what? too soon?)

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Skyline (2010)


First of all, if you start in with the alien-action, don't jump backwards to tell the story behind the characters who will just end up as fodder if you can't at least make the audience give a shit about those characters.

You're fighting an uphill battle with this group
Thankfully, I am not a completionist, so watching the movie at home let me skip through the part where it's a story about a movie effects guy from Kansas, or someplace, and his successful LA-buddy wants him to move to LA.You are supposed to care. His LA-buddy is unfaithful. You are supposed to care.  Kansas-guy's girlfriend is pregnant. You are supposed to care. Kansas-guy isn't quite ready for the responsibility. You are supposed to care.

This part lasts about twenty minutes, and it feels like it runs for three sleepless days. Not just a regular three days and nights without sleep though. Three sleepless nights spent wearing those things from A Clockwork Orange on your eyes.

This is not how I want to feel when I watch a film.  Not even a bad one.
It might be something straight out an early Bret Easton Ellis novel.  Except this story absolutely terrible and only similar because they're both about rich people in LA.

Moments before the Sentinels from The Matrix attack by shining blue lights into people's eyes
The middle thirty minutes of this film is spent on showing the reactions of people to things happening to them. We see their reaction to an earthquake. We watch their grimacing faces as they see pictures of the alien ships. And finally, we see their best attempts to look worried.

"Did you just feel that? The ground shook. In LA. Weird."
"Holy crap! There is something baffling happening off-screen!"
"There's something scary over there. You'd be scared too if you could see it. Just trust me."
Maybe this was all a strategy.  This might have been some elaborate strategy to get the general public to spend an inordinate amount of their movie-going money on a Roger Corman movie. Like some sort of studio proof that if even the crappiest movie has fairly decent special effects and a HUGE amount of money spent on the advertising campaign, it will pull in a number one box-office spot and a hundred million dollars.

If only Corman had been able to put a trailer on one of those Summer Blockbusters.
Unfortunately, it is painfully obvious that the movie takes itself way too seriously for this theory to hold water. Much like Season of the Witch, I could have gotten behind the film if it had decided it was going to be more Mars Attacks and less Independence Day.

Still the only time Sarah Jessica Parker was funny
Deep down, the movie is really about being a spectator (maybe a spectator of spectators?). It is more generally about the ultimate choice we all have to either sit back where we can watch safely and it's boring but we're alive or to go out of the parking deck and possibly get stepped on and eaten in the process.

He chose poorly.
But what is it trying to say about us, the audience, that we end up sitting in a chair, watching a group of people wait until the last twenty-five minutes to finally decide to get out of the hotel room and actually contribute to the movie they're in.

Original title of this movie: "Watching People Who are Looking at Things"
Once they finally get out of that hotel room, the film moves on to the old "false ending" trope. You know the type. It started back in the 80's when the bad guy just had to be shot somewhere to die the first time. But you had to shoot him in the head to kill him for real and end the movie. It's a cheap trick when you do it once. It's just plain sloppy when you put five of them in a single movie like this one did.

Or maybe it was six. I lost count.

Ultimately, it's a glaring irony that the aliens in this movie eat brains because the movie doesn't have any.