Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Naked Fist aka Firecracker (1981)

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Tagline:

She'll blow you away!

Back of VHS:

A young American woman travels to the Orient to find her sister. Don't under-estimate her powers... she's seductive, she's beautiful and she'll make you think you're in heaven... but if you stand in her way, she'll use her best weapon against you... her NAKED FIST.

Movie Review:

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A few days ago I picked up a large haul of tapes on eBay from a dottery old guy that didn't know what he was selling. There was a lot of junk in there (Wild Things 2, Dracula 2000, and some Tom Hanks movies) but among the trash was some actual good trash. PM Entertainment movies, war action movies, bad horror and this little gem. I hadn't heard of it before but the cover sold me straight away. The title alone will get me added to 'not safe for the workplace' lists.

The story is basic. Jillian Kesner travels to the Philippines to find out what has happened to her sister who went missing when writing a report on the local drug cartel (In fact she was at an underground fight shown at the beginning of the movie and taking snaps of the brutality before getting hauled off by some Filipino's). No sooner than Kesner gets off the plane and arrives at her motel then she is attacked by robbers in her room. Luckily she is in her underwear at this point which makes it easy to dispatch the would be villains with some of her level-five black belt Karate training.

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Kesner leaves to look for her sister at a bar. The bar man hasn't seen her in weeks and has been holding a message for her. As he goes to get it a bar fight breaks out to which Kesner feels obbliged to involve herself in. This movie may have come out in 1981 but it's more like 1974 with the Hong Kong style martial arts on display, complete with chop-sockey sound effects. Kesner is a great fighter and is aided in this battle with the beefcake bar man and a random Bruce Lee clone. There is no rhyme or reason to this fight but it's hilarious all the same. The bar man shares the message with Kesner and develops photos she had taken, identifying a local bad guy Chuck Donner (played by Darby Hinton with a great moustache).

Ken Metcalfe, a recurring name in Filipino exploitation movies, both writes and stars in Naked Fist, though his role isn't huge. He plays the part of the drug overlord and underground fight club owner Erik who orders Chuck around and gets angry at failed attempts to get his stolen drugs back. Kesner fakes interest in joining his tournaments in the hope of finding out more about her sister but gets in various troubles along the way, all resulting in fighting. She even beats up a snake.

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There's so much gold in Naked Fist and at 77 minutes run time it never really goes bad. We get a bit of gun play as well but the fights rule supreme here. The highlight of the movie is when Kesner in a long dress and high heels is on the street and gets attacked by thugs (of course). The fight goes on as usual until one thug tears her dress off and she keeps fighting in her lingerie again! Just when you think it couldn't get better, one of the thugs cuts her bra off from the front and in a very Carry On moment, the twins pop out - and yet still she keeps fighting! Naked Fist was seriously made for sixteen year old boys and I thank the director for that. Pay special attention in the background of the 'bra removal' scene in the warehouse to a box with the label "Rack Master". Bahaha!

And would you take a look at that cover. I thought I was in for some kind of Conquest style fantasy movie, what with the vulture perched on a concrete fist and the wall of fire. I get that they are trying to symbolise that Kesner will take you to hell with the pummelling she dishes out but still, they need not have gone to the effort. The title Naked Fist and the gratuitous side-boob artwork suckers you in enough as it is.

I only just realised now that Jillian Kesner was in Inferno aka Operation Cobra playing the blonde bombshell cougar Jasmine. I better go back and tag her in that. She's also been in Raw Force (1982) with Cameron Mitchell, one I will be checking out for sure. Finally, look out for the final payoff scene. Easily one of the best and most abrupt endings in cinema. No walking into the sunset for Kesner here. Highly recommended!

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The Video:

Solid enough for VHS, though night time scenes were pretty garish with dark blue overtones. Also my tape was squeaking as it played; my cat was very interested in the noise. Still what do you expect for a 28 year old tape. Runtime 77 minutes.

Sourced From:

Roadshow PAL VHS for about 50c in a bulk lot off eBay.

The whole movie:

Still don't believe me? Well normally you could watch the trailer but I didn't find one. What I did find was the whole movie for stream and for download! I'm sure the copyright owners (if there actually are any!) won't mind, but if a DVD does come out one day I urge you all to buy a copy. You need Divx Web Player to watch this.

More Screens:

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Monday, November 22, 2010

Machete (2010)

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Tagline:

They just messed with the wrong Mexican.

Movie Review:

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Post #50!

Well I made it to my fiftieth post and what better way to celebrate than with, in my opinion, one of the two best action films of the year. In August we were lucky enough to have The Expendables, an all star action-movie ensemble cast extravaganza. I loved every minute of it and have seen it three times now. Putting all the old action movie stars, and some new ones, together in a movie could have failed miserably but I was extremely happy with the final product. And seeing Dolph back on the big screen was a thing to behold. Now in November (two months after the US, unfortunately) we finally get to see if Machete can hold it's own against the big boys of action.

Born as an idea that Rodriguez had after filming Desperado in 1993, Machete eventually culminated in to a fake trailer sandwiched between Quentin Tarantino's "Death Proof" and Rodriguez's own "Planet Terror"; collectively known as Grindhouse. The idea was sound and although I believe they succeeded, the box office told otherwise. But there was still enough interest in the fake trailer for Machete to convince Rodriguez to take the fans seriously and actually film the thing in its entirety.

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Machete is a different beast entirely to The Expendables. While The Expendables was all about stuffing as many recognisable action (and wrestling) stars into a movie and blowing things up in Madeupistan, Machete is more about one man's fight for vengeance, with a whole fleet of "hey it's that guy!" types in tow. The Expendables had Sylvester Stallone, Jason Statham and Jet Li; Machete has a weathered Danny Trejo, a larger Steven Seagal and Cheech.

We immediately and literally kick into high gear as Machete smashes his car into the wall of a house and begins taking out bad guys with his blade without even making eye contact with them. At one point he chops the hand off a guy who was shooting at him and uses the disembodied hand, still gripping the gun, to kill two other guys. Machete rescues a naked and stoned bimbo but it's a trap and get's shot in the leg for his efforts, then made to watch his wife die by decapitation at the hands of an evil Steven Seagal in drug-lord motif.

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A few years later Machete alone and on hard times joins the daily work gangs to make a living. One day he is picked up by Jeff Fahey in a limousine. Machete expects some gardening or plumbing work but instead is offered $150k to kill a right-wing politician (Robert De Niro) with strong anti-immigration ideals. Machete considers and eventually accepts the money. You know the drill from here if you've seen the fake trailer - Machete is double crossed, Machete turns out to be an ex-Federale, Machete get's revenge.

There is so much gold in Machete I have trouble finding where to begin. Once again I have to turn to the IMDB Parental Guide to summarise some of the best parts of this movie:

  • Machete stabs a man in the stomach, he then uses his intestine as a rope.
  • Machete chops a man's arm off, cuts off his head and slices it in half.
  • Machete injures a man with a weed wacker.
  • Machete makes out with two women in the pool, they are mother and daughter, and you see their breasts for the whole scene.

I can't emphasise enough how cool some of the violence and gore is in the movie. It's slapstick on level with Evil Dead 2, and then some. A guy gets crushed by the wheels of a bouncing car. That says it all really.

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    The only real downsides to the movie, and there aren't many, are basically the same ones I have with The Expendables. Firstly: so much awesome talent and not enough time. I love Steven Seagal and I could not get enough of his ridiculous Mexican accent in this, but he spends the vast majority of the movie behind a laptop and on a screen. This is understandable as he would simply get all his henchmen to do the work, and he does finally come out swinging a samurai sword, but still I would have liked some Seagal Slap-fu. Tom Savini also only has a very minor role as a hitman but I had forgot he was in this at all so was delighted to see him show up.

    The second downside is Jessica Alba. She is a very pretty girl, no doubt about that, but out of all the ladies in Machete she is the one that needs to work on her acting chops a little more. That may sound harsh but up against the display that Michelle Rodriguez put on as the Taco-selling reisistance-running Luz, Alba's law enforcement character was weak by comparison. Her lines were delivered mostly flat and without emotion, whereas I easily believed Luz had been fighting this war for years. I can let it slide however, as many grindhouse movies of old had far, far worse acting on show than Alba.

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    Cheech is brilliant as Padre - I wish all priests were like him - he is a definite highlight. Seagal proves he still has it and also that he can play an over-the-top bad guy, something he hasn't done before (It's great to see him on the big screen again just like Dolph, too). Fahey, De Niro and Don Johnson as the vigilante redneck are all great, and even the Lohan factor couldn't keep the movie down. Despite her negative publicity she's a fine actress. In fact she should play Killer Nun's more often.

    Danny Trejo IS Machete. This could be his typecast for the next twenty years. There is absolutely nobody else that could pull off this role so well. Trejo does some of his best acting with just the cracks and lines in his face. He delivers some cool lines that are bound to become catch phrases and as was said in the fake trailer "He kills the bad guys. He gets the women". Boy, does he ever.

    I was amazed that all the main parts of the fake trailer were used, verbatim, in the final picture. Some isolated scenes would have been easy to include, like Machete sharpening his blade on a stone wheel, but Rodriguez went to the effort of making up Lindsay Lohan to look like the blonde from the skinny-dipping scene in the fake trailer and filming more of it. And of course we still get the awesome scene with Cheech ("God forgives. I don't!") and the finale of the fake trailer Machete on his motorbike with mounted minigun. The inclusion of all these scenes is very important as it shows that Rodriguez both respects his fan base and also stays true to his original ideals for Machete.

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    There have been some nay-sayers about the strong political agenda Machete raises. I have to plead ignorance on this. I know very little about Mexico and so-called illegals in America; it's not something that really gets reported on in Australian news. I only know what I've seen in this and other TV shows and movies - obviously not trustworthy sources of information - that all Mexicans are lazy drug dealers and/or working as maids in hotels filled with white people. That would be like saying all Australians own pet kangaroos and live on a diet of beer (well.. that last part is quite accurate). So I see this as I would any other action movie; a required plot to get us from explosion A to explosion B. And on that front it excels. I didn't take my eyes off the screen for a second. The Senator's campaign videos were a hoot too.

    Honestly they are very different movies, but if the choice were between The Expendables and Machete I would have to give my final vote to Machete. It's non-stop action, it's hyper-violent, there's plenty of boobs and tonnes of laughs. The Expendables was a great homage to 80's action. Machete is pure grindhouse.

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    Trailer:

    Posters:

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    Saturday, November 20, 2010

    Turbulence 2: Fear of Flying (1999)

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    Tagline:

    They took the wrong flight to cure their fear.

    Back of DVD:

    After an otherwise routine take-off, a violent episode of turbulence rips through the massive plane leaving passengers and crew disabled and a sadistic terrorist (Jeffrey Nordling) in control of the plane. As the terrifying flight unfolds, a nerdy aircraft engineer (Craig Sheffer) and the group's aspiring flight attendant (Jennifer Beals) make contact with an air traffic controller (Tom Berenger) in a desperate attempt to regain control of the plane.

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    Movie Review:

    I'll say off the cuff that I've not seen Turbulence. It stars Ray Liotta and received Razzie nominations for "Worst Actress" and "Worst Reckless Disregard for Human Life and Public Property". So with that ringing endorsement, I present to you the sequel Turbulence 2: Fear of Flying.

    After a false start - a scared guy on a plane opens the hatch only to reveal to the audience that it's just a demonstration plane on the ground - we finally get on with the real flight proper, which happens to be filled with people who have a fear of flying. We see footage of some guys hands assembling what must be a bomb; the evil music playing in the background tells us this. We get a quick introduction to the passengers as they chat to each other before take-off and we are meant to believe that the sketchy-looking foreigners that get on the plane last are the obvious terrorist plot device for the movie.

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    One by one, starting with the co-pilot, passengers start falling unconscious. Blame is quickly pointed at the sketchy foreigners, and like something out of Murder on the Orient Express a corpse is uncovered in the cupboard. Plenty of "What the hell is going on here?", "There are innocent people on this plane!" and "God help us." type lines abound. We're in by the books, made-for-TV land here folks.

    Seen Passenger 57? Seen Executive Decision, or even the Michael Dudikoff rip-off, Executive Command? Then you've seen this. Turbulence 2 is pretty stock standard stuff. A mixed bag of flyers - cocky guys, annoying teens, old bats with heart problems - trying to not get killed by the crazy terrorists, occasionally trying to overthrow them with help from the cabin crew, and the smart guy who knows planes but has never flown one (Craig Sheffer), easily hacking into the communication system to talk with ground control who just happens to be Tom Berenger who has to help him land the plane. Oh and the terrorist has enough biological weapons stored in the cargo hold on the plane to take out a city block. Turbulence 2 was so tedious I've been putting off actually writing the review. This should have been review number 43 or something but here we are at 49, the sun is shining outside and I'm finally typing this up.

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    That last line sounded pretty damning. Look, it's all right I suppose and if it was on TV again I would sit through it. But Christ is this an average movie. Nothing exciting really happens. The plot twist in the middle is obvious from the beginning. All the actors (a bunch of "that guy from the other thing" actors) do an acceptable, though completely uninspiring job. And poor Tom Berenger. He is SO BORED in this and it's a relief at the end of the movie when he finally leaves the tower and walks onto the tarmac. I could almost see the cue cards he was reading from, because he surely didn't try to memorise these lines, especially the endless technical jargon. Just another paycheck eh Tom. I guess Jeffrey Nordling isn't bad as a terrorist but he isn't manic enough. These movies only work when you get someone like John Malkovich playing the bad guy in a completely over-the-top fashion.

    Theres about half a dozen false scares by using the old turbulence in bad weather plot device, if that wasn't obvious enough from the movie's name, that provide a few attempts for passengers to overpower the terrorists. That's about the limit of the action unfortunately, combined with a couple of gunshots and the death of one guy by Nordling who has knives literally up his sleeve. The Navy get involved somehow and are given orders to shoot the plane down with unconvincing CG missiles shot from a stock footage navy vessel. With the use of only two interior locations, and simulating turbulence by shaking the camera and filming people stumbling around the plane ala Star Trek, I estimate this movie's budget at a quarter of a million dollars - most of which went to the "star" Tom Berenger's fee and paying for the stock footage.

    You've seen this. Maybe not with the title Turbulence 2: Fear of Flying, but you have and you know it, and you've seen it done far better. Nothing to see here, move along.

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    The Video:

    Reviewed the deleted R4 disc that has a bit soft but generally pleasing 16:9 picture and adequate sound. Runtime 97 minutes.

    Sourced From:

    Another $2 bargain from a closing video shop.

    Trailer:

    More Screens:

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