ActionFest Roundup: The Good, The Bad and the Weird and 14 Blades

As I mentioned in last week’s Worst of Netflix column, last Saturday saw me heading up to Asheville for ActionFest, the first film festival devoted exclusively to action movies.

The big draw–aside from getting to see a bunch of new and classic action movies at a theater that served hummus–was an appearance by actor/martial artist/semi-professional Internet punchline and one-quarter of the writers of Justice Riders, Chuck Norris, who was going to get the festival’s first-ever lifetime achievement award for his contributions to Action Cinema. It should be noted that the award was going to be presented by festival organizer Aaron Norris, Chuck’s brother and another quarter of the Justice Riders authorship, and while that might seem like a pretty strong case for nepotism, let’s be real here: If you don’t think Lone Wolf McQuade deserves an award, then you and I will never be friends.

Unfortunately, Chuck and his Action Jeans didn’t make it to ActionFest until Sunday, which means I missed both him and WFMU favorites The Reigning Sound, who played the awards dinner. But even without Chuck, getting a VIP pass for a day at the show was far from a wasted day, as I got to see a couple of new flicks.

 

 

First up was Kim Jee-Woon’s The Good, the Bad and the Weird, a South Korean western that was totally awesome.

Of course, it oughtta be; when you name your movie after one of the ten best movies ever made, you’d better make sure you do your best to live up to it. But then again, there’s not much else Kim could’ve called it, as it’s exactly what it says on the label: A South Korean version of The Good, the Bad and the Ugly, to the point where I can’t even remember the main characters’ names because I spent two hours and ten minutes just straight-up thinking of them as Blondie, Tuco and Angel Eyes.

It’s not quite a remake, but far more than an homage, so in my head, I’ve been referring to it as a remix: The same characters–a taciturn bounty hunter, a wild-eyed bandit and a stone-cold killer playing both sides against each other–and the same plot elements–three factions out to get a hidden treasure–but spun together in a whole new way that’s as valid as the original. There’s a notable influence from Tarantino, as Kim’s basically attempting to do the same for the Leone western that Kill Bill did for the kung fu revenge picture. He even uses the same version of “Please Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood” to score one of his action scenes.

But what’s really interesting about the movie is that there’s not really an attempt to modernize the action as opposed to the storytelling. There’s no fancy Hong Kong style John Woo-ish gunplay, and aside from one fun scene involving a shootout in a factory that inexplicably features both chains on pulleys and a 20s-era diver’s helmet, there’s not a lot of wirework. Instead, Kim goes old school with it, setting up scenes where dudes just shoot each other, blending humor in with the action for a great experience that also ensures that very few gags get lost in the translation.

But while Leone was the master of small-scale action (really, who else can get away with just having three dudes staring at each other for six minutes, even with an Ennio Morricone score), Kim just keeps building on things, going bigger and bigger and throwing a gang of barbarians and the Chinese army into the mix for the climactic chase scene. And the final shootout between the three leads (which you know is coming from the second you see the title) is the exact opposite of Leone’s, but very entertaining on its own.

It’s a great, great time, and from what I understand, it was making its “regional premiere” at ActionFest, which explains why Amazon only looks to have the South Korean version. But I absolutely loved it, and while I can’t see myself watching it over and over and over again like i do with …and the Ugly, it’s well worth picking up or putting at the top of your Netflix queue.

 

 

Thanks to the eight-hour round trip to Asheville, I only really had time to watch two movies, and since RoboGeisha vs. Frankenstein Girl (yes really, it’s from the makers of Machine Girl) wasn’t playing ’til midnight, the other was Daniel Lee’s 14Blades. It was playing opposite Raging Phoenix, a Thai film where Yanin Vismistananda (the star of 2008’s Chocolate) played a woman who combined martial arts with the latest hip-hop dance moves.

This normally would’ve caused me to bolt for the theater, leaving only a dissipating cloud of Chris Sims-shaped dust, but 14 Blades promised Donnie Yen and Sammo Hung, and that was pretty much that. In retrospect, though, I really should’ve gone with Raging Phoenix.

It’s not that 14 Blades was bad, but it brought absolutely nothing new to the table. It was essentially a new Shaw Brothers movie, with all that entails: A hero with an unbeatable new item or technique (in this case, a rectangular box spring-loaded with–you guessed it!–fourteen swords, each made to kill a different kind of enemy) is betrayed by and must fight a crooked Ming Dynasty government official, while traveling the countryside with a woman who inexplicably falls in love with him despite the fact that he literally kidnaps her and threatens her with death. I’ve seen this movie, and if you’ve watched more than three kung fu films from the past 30 years, you’ve seen it too.

But again, for what it is, it’s not bad. There’s some awesome action and some great ideas–Donnie Yen grabbing a falling leaf and throwing it so hard that it acts like shuriken is awesome, I don’t care what year it is–but its fatal flaw is a lack of ambition. You’d think a movie where Donnie Yen was carrying 14 swords, each designed to kill a different kind of criminal, would see him actually using all of them to kill said criminals, but it doesn’t. It’s just the same old thing, no matter how good he is in it.

Also, Sammo Hung’s only in it for maybe ten minutes total and does not bust out his sweet Dragons Forever moves.

So that’s what I saw. Well, not entirely: I also caught 20 minutes of a new movie starring “Stone Cold” Steve Austin, but as it revolved around him being an amnesiac who spoke fluent Spanish and Russian, I bailed to write a few Solomon Stone pages in the VIP lounge where they were doing back-to-back-to-back showings of Delta Force and Missing In Action, because that’s the most Action Age thing I could possibly do.

But it was a good time nonetheless (as was the stunt show in the parking lot that featured a guy with an actual jetpack), and I’m looking forward to seeing if they keep their promise to bring it back next year, when I’m putting my money on the Lifetime Achievement Award going to Jackie Chan.

Special thanks to Zack Smith for getting me up there as a VIP.

Justice League: Crisis On Two Earths

 

 

The newest DC Animated feature came out this week, and as it largely revolves around Batman kicking an evil Batman in the face, I was picked to review it for ComicsAlliance! Before you click over, though, keep in mind that while I try to keep things a little vague to preserve the fun of seeing it, there are spoilers, so if you’re the kind of person who worries about that sort of thing, go buy it first and then come back for the review. And if you’re the kind of person who doesn’t care about spoilers, go buy it anyway, because it is highly entertaining.

For the spoilerphobic among you, here’s a few brief thoughts: For 95% of it, Crisis on Two Earths is an excellent blend of Grant Morrison and Frank Quitely’s JLA: Earth 2–one of my favorite JLA stories–with the Justice League Unlimited universe. Great cameos, fantastic action, and pure fun. The other 5%, though, is a bit of characterization so off that it almost breaks the whole thing, but it’s still very enjoyable and well worth seeing.

So go! Watch! Read! And try to feign surprise when I get all self-righteous once again about the nature of a character that I don’t own!

The Worst of Netflix: Psychic Wars

 

 

I’ve read an awful lot of movie summaries over the years, but I’ve never seen one quite like the sentence Netflix uses to try to entice viewers into watching 1991’s anime “classic,” Psychic Wars:

When brilliant surgeon Ukyo Retsu removes a cancer from a mysterious old woman, he doesn’t realize that the cancer is a 5,000 year-old demon.

This is, without question, the single best high concept that I’ve ever seen on Netflix.

The Worst of Netflix: Psychic Wars, new today on Heavy.com.

Dracula Week: Dracula’s Soul Brother!

As I’ve already established with my look at his myriad apperances in comics, Dracula’s status in the public domain is one of the best things about him. With such an iconic work to set his origin, the fact that anyone can do a story about him makes him one of the most perfect characters ever created, as he’s constantly being reinvented by creators who take the bits that they like and fashion him into their ideal version so that he can or be blown up by super-heroes in new and exciting ways.

And that, of course, means movies.

According to the Wikipedia, Big D’s been the subject of over 200 films, starting with Nosferatu and the 1931 Bela Lugosi picture that defined him for modern pop culture, and going all over the place from there. But there is only one franchise, one cinematic juggernaut inspired by the Lord of Vampires, that is rad enough to be featured on the ISB.

I speak, of course… of Blacula.

 

 

Long-time ISB readers will probably recall that I have an intense love for Blaxploitation movies, but even among those, Blacula is awesome. I mean, dude’s name is Blacula. BLACULA. That is the best name for anyone ever. If Batman had been named Blacula, Wertham would’ve been too scared to write Seduction of the Innocent, and that is a fact.

For those of you who aren’t familiar with the gist, the original radio ad from 1972 sums things up pretty well:

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The short(er) version: Mamuwalde is an African prince who gets on Dracula’s bad side because the latter–as established in both Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Marvel Comics–is crazy racist. Thus, he throws up the horns (really) and curses Mamuwalde to become Blacula, which somehow makes them “soul brothers,” because Blaxploitation radio spots are awesome.

He eventually shows up in the present (well, the present of 1972) and dies, and that brings us to the subject of tonight’s post: The 1973 sequel, Scream Blacula Scream! Why go with the sequel instead of the original? Two words, folks:

 

PAM GRIER

 

After Fred “The Hammer” Williamson, Slammin’ Pam is probably the most iconic star of the Blaxploitation era, starring in flicks like Coffy, Sheba Baby and the unforgettable Black Mama/White Mama (“A thousand nights without a man! A thousand reasons to kill!”), which led to a role in Tarantino’s Jackie Brown, as his obsession with the ’70s makes pretty much everyone else seem like a piker. Here, she stars as Lisa, whose leadership of a group of voodoo enthusiasts is challenged by this guy:

 

 

This is Willis, and in addition to being one of the snappiest dressers in cinema history, he’s desperate enough for cult leadership that he decides it’s a good idea to purchase Mamuwalde’s bones from a local mystical artifacts dealer and resurrect them with his voodoo powers.

This, as we’ll soon see, is the second worst life choice made in this movie.

The voodoo works–as voodoo tends to do in Blaxploitation movies–and thus…

 

BLACULA LIVES AGAIN!

 

…and he promptly snacks on the fashion-conscious Willis, who quickly learns the downside of undeath once he looks in a mirror:

Willis: Hey man I don’t mind bein’ a vampire and all that shit, but this really ain’t hip! I mean a man has GOT to see his face! Shiiiiit!

After you get past the pretty rude way that he repays Willis for resurrecting him and his bitchin’ ‘stache–a common look among 70s vampires, apparently–the thing you’ll notice about Blacula is just how good William Marshall is in the role.

It’s not that surprising–Marshall was an accomplished stage actor who was called “the greatest Othello of our time” by the London Sunday Times–but this is the sequel to a Blaxploitation horror movie. He could’ve gotten by with a lot less (or a lot more; if he wanted to go for the all-out scenery chewing route, nobody would’ve blamed him) but he plays it with a note-perfect craftsmanship that’s striking.

When he threatens to rip out Willis’s heart for disobedience, his matter-of-fact statement is genuinely sinister, and when he’s introducing himself to Pam Grier at a party as an expert in African art–thankfully going by his real name rather than “Alucalb”–he comes off as effortlessly charming.

Plus, his delivery is fantastic. It’s worth a rental just for this scene:

 

 

Pimp: Your bread, man, all of it! Or are we gonna have to become anti-social and kick your ass?

Blacula: I’m sorry, I don’t have any… “bread” on me, and as for “kicking my ass”… I’d strongly suggest you give it careful consideration before trying.

And then Blacula backhands him through a plate glass window. I love this movie so hard, you guys.

Of course, it’s not all defenestrating pimps and macking on Pam Grier so that she uses her voodoo powers to remove his curse, there’s also murder. I mean, he is a vampire after all. Of course, the police are blissfully unaware of this fact, and so when bloodless cadavers, they immediately assume that it’s our friendly local cultists sacrificing people for their rituals.

Now look. I’m not the world’s greatest detective or anything, but even if you don’t believe in vampires, when corpses start showing up drained of blood, you might want to check out the new guy who just arrived in town and who is currently rocking a black cape with a red satin lining. Just sayin’.

Eventually, the police do tumble to the fact that a Blacula is in their midst, and they set about hunting him, armed with actual stakes from a white picket fence…

 

 

…in what is either great symbolism about the Man using a literal piece of the American dream to hunt down a black man who only wants to be freed of the curse he’s been suffering from for generations, or the workings of a cheap prop department. It could go either way, really.

Also, remember when I said that resurrecting Blacula was the second-worst life choice in this movie? Well, this guy called Blacula “uppity.”

 

 

And yep. That’s actually worse.

Eventually, the cops break in on the ritual and ruin Blacula’s chances of getting his curse removed, and when Blacula–as you might expect–goes banana, Pam ends up staking the voodoo doll, destroying Blacula for the second and final time by virtue of taking the doll from mint-on-card to a good-minus.

But still, the legend lives on, both in Mamuwalde himself–who was apparently mentioned in Anno Dracula, which makes me want to read it even more than a recommendation from Jess Nevins–and in the legacy that he’s given to this man:

 

Jefferson Twilight: Blacula Hunter

 

Truly… he is Blaculawesome.

 


 

BONUS FEATURE: If You Seein’ What Ain’t…

 

While I like the radio spots for Blacula and Scream Blacula Scream a lot, one of the all-time greats comes from director William Crain’s lesser known Blaxploitation horror flick, Dr. Black and Mr. Hyde, which bursts from the speakers with a series of over-the-top rhymes that would make even Dolemite proud:

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Super-strong, supernatural and super bad.

“I Feel Like a Witness to a Cheericide.”

What, you thought I was kidding?

 

 

Yes, last week saw the release of the fifth installment of everyone’s favorite cheersploitation franchise, Bring it On: Fight to the Finish. And as the Internet’s foremost Bringitologist, I figured I should spread the word to the masses, and I’ve got to admit: This is the best Bring It On movie since Bring It On 3: All Or Nothing.

That may sound like damnation with faint praise to the Non-On-Bringers among you, but the fact is that All Or Nothing (also known as Bring It On: The One With Hayden Panettiere) is far and away the best of the straight-to-video sequels. None of them, of course, are anywhere near as good as the original (which thanks largely to Jessica Bendinger’s script, is, you know, an actual movie) but All or Nothing is definitely better than In It To Win It and well ahead of Bring It On Again. And on the first viewing at least, Fight to the Finish is pretty comparable.

And apparently someone at Universal agrees with me, as you can buy a three-pack with Bring It Ons 1, 3 and 5. They call it the “All-Star Pack” (as opposed to my beloved “Cheerbook Collection,” which included 1-4 and stickers), but they might as well have just called it Bring It On: Just The Good Ones.

So what sets Fight to the Finish apart? For one thing, it actually looks like a film, which is a nice step up from In It To Win It, which had the look of an ABC Family Original Movie. And for another, it opens up with a group of Latino gangstas doing a routine set to a dance mix of “Lean Like a Cholo.”

 

 

This alone would be enough to make it the best of the sequels, even if it didn’t include a scene where a cheerleader says this:

 

 

Well it made me laugh.

But that’s not to say that Bring It On Cinco (the working title that I still prefer to the more generic one it ended up with) is without its faults. It’s pretty well riddled with ’em, chief among them being that the protagonist is the most unlikeable person in the entire movie.

 

 

The plot is essentially All Or Nothing done in reverse, which isn’t too much of a surprise since this one was cowritten by All Or Nothing screenwriter Alyson Fouse, re-teaming with Elena Song, with whom she cowrote In It To Win It. In that one, upper-class Britney had to deal with losing her wealth and social status at an affluent high school when she transferred to Crenshaw Heights, but here, Lina (Christina Milian) goes through the opposite when her mother marries a rich guy and she moves to a palatial estate, transferring from East LA to the much nicer Malibu Visa High.

And she is a total dick about it.

Admittedly, if there’s one thing we’ve learned from the Bring It On franchise thus far, it’s that cheerleaders at poor schools are better and truer friends than the fake-ass busters of the rich neighborhoods, but considering this is Bring It On 5, I’m pretty sure that this kind of metafictional thinking didn’t influence the script all that much. Instead, we’re given a girl who thinks that suddenly having a ton of money and going to a school without the occasional drive-by is the worst thing that’s ever happened to her, and she takes out her frustration by being an incredible jerk to her new stepfather and adoring stepsister. She never really acts like a hero, and is more the protagonist by default, mainly by virtue of the fact that the camera is pointed at her more than it’s pointed at anyone else.

Also, she’s apparently a good enough cheerleader that her new school makes her captain after she practices one routine with them for literally less than one minute, but that might have more to do with the fact that all of the school’s good cheerleaders have defected to an independent squad.

Which brings me to my next question about this thing: An independent cheerleading squad? Can you do that? I mean, I know that cheerleading is a sport on its own and all that (and I know this because the Wikipedia article for Cheerleading used to have that sentence with six citations, because someone wanted to be! Defensive! B-E! Defensive!) but isn’t it sort of rooted in, you know, cheering for something? A cheerleading squad with nothing to cheer for seems like it might be the saddest thing ever, but I guess it’s possible. If any of you reading this are cheerleaders, let me know.

Aw, who am I kidding? Of course none of you are cheerleaders. That’s why you’re reading a comics blog.

Anyway, the non-school squad (the Jaguars), are led by Avery…

 

 

…who is portrayed as the villain, despite the fact that forming an independent cheer squad after you’re cut from the school’s is exactly what the heroine of Bring It On Again does.

I’d try to figure out the mechanics, but I was more worried about the fact that Avery’s villain motivation seems to be based entirely on the fact that Lina is dating her brother (a guy who struck me as the love child of Jason Bateman and Jimmy Olsen), which mostly plays out in a scene where she hassles him at the pool in her bikini and at a party where she tries to distract him from wooing Lina by slutting up the dance floor.

Oh, and after Lina’s team beats Avery’s at the Big Cheer Competition (spoiler warning!), Avery immediately throws herself into her brother’s arms for comfort, leading our two romantic leads to end the movie with one of them with an armload of someone else.

Straight up: This thing’s got more incestuous subtext than Cruel Intentions.

As to how Lina manages to beat the Jaguars despite their renowned Jaguar Skills (Hoooooooo!), that’s the source of another bit of consternation. In order to train her new squad, Lina somehow engineers the transfer of two of her old squadmates to Malibu Vista, with absolutely no explanation of how they got there. There’s the suggestion that Lina’s stepdad arranges it and that Lina invites them to live in his house without asking, which is just rude, but how this happens isn’t really addressed, other than a deleted scene (and yes, I watched the deleted scenes) where the girls fake a drive-by shooting to convince him to let Treyvonetta go to MVHS.

The only time that it’s ever brought up beyond that is when the subterfuge is found out and the girls are expelled due to the machinations of Avery’s personal Iago, Kayla, who gives us the single best line of this (and possibly any other) film:

 

 

Despite those (admittedly major) flaws and the fact that the franchise once again rejects the nonstandard, Rocky-esque climax of the original, it’s still pretty well-written, well-acted, and it was nice to see Nikki SooHoo show up, as her role in Jessica Bendinger’s Stick It makes her the first ever actress to star in two movies of the Bring It On family. So yes, it’s certainly enjoyable as direct-to-video Bring It On sequels go.

Which basically means that it’s enjoyable for me and Dr. K.

Movie Review: The Machine Girl

When the trailer for The Machine Girl hit last year, I got an email from a friend of mine almost immediately telling me that it was something I needed to see. Then I got an email from an ISB reader along the same lines.

Then I got another. Then a comment. Then another email.

Then the trailer got on Attack of the Show, and I got more emails, each one telling me that while this I’d probably heard of it already, they couldn’t let this one slide without making sure I was aware that there was a movie coming out that combined Japanese Schoolgirls, Machine-Gun Arms, the Flying Guilloutine, and Ninjas dressed in Adidas jumpsuits.

Putting what that says about my somewhat dubious reputation in Asian Cinema aside for the moment, I’m happy to report that Machine Girl finally arrived this week from Amazon…

 

 

…and it is crazy awesome.

Long-time ISB readers might recall that while I have a general distaste for What If stories, there are a couple of premises–like What If Conan Was The Mack and What If Sgt. Fury Fought World War II In Space–that hook me. And as it turns out, “What If The Punisher Was A One-Armed Japanese Schoolgirl Who Went On a Blood-Soaked Rampage of Vengeance” is also a good one.

Unless you’re talking about the Mangaverse Punisher, I mean, because man. That thing is dire.

Anyway, back to Machine Girl: It’s not just one of the most mind-shatteringly bloody action movies I’ve ever seen, it’s also one of the most educational! So let’s get to it:

 

 

The movie opens with a kid being bullied into playing William Tell by a gang of older students, who while away the afternoon throwing knives at the apple on his head until a be-sailor-suited young lady shows up and orders them to knock it off. This is Ami Hyuga (played by Minsae Yashiro in her first acting role), and as it turns out, her brother was bullied to death by these same students.

Jimmy Hopkins remains unavailable for comment.

What follows is an opening sequence that I’m pretty sure is exactly what Louis Le Prince had in mind when he invented the motion picture camera in 1888: The lead nogoodnik pulls a knife on her, but Ami whips out a kama, jumps ten feet in the air, and cuts his freakin’ hand off

 

 

…then tells him to stop crying and man up. After all, she’s lost an arm, too, and she does just fine. Though to be fair, that’s mostly because she replaced it with a Gatling gun. Thus, Ami expends more rounds than were fired in the entire works of Mickey Spillaine, and we learn tonight’s first lesson:

 

Lesson #1: Playing with knives is all fun and games until someone shows up to shoot you in the face eighty-nine times.

 

Once that’s dealt with, cut to flashback to show how Ami got to this lowwwwwly state. See, once, she was a normal high school girl, complete with the standard-issue lesbian best friend. Sadly, tragedy strikes before we can get down to any good ol’ fashioned yuri action, and–as previously mentioned–Ami’s brother Yu and his best friend Takeshi are murdered by…

 

 

Sho Kimura, the tough-guy heir to a line of–I kid you not–Hattori Hanzo Yakuza Ninjas led by his parents, Wolverine and the Pin-Up Girl:

 

 

After her brother’s death, Ami is… inconsolable, and when she finds a diary listing his tormentors, she sets off to accuse one of them. Unfortunately, she does this first thing in the morning, and the kid’s parents respond by attacking Ami with a golf club and then deep-frying her arm.

 

 

 

Lesson #2: In Japanese culture, accusing someone of murder over breakfast is a major social faux pas, and often results in tempura.

 

And that’s just the beginning of the trouble with Ami’s left arm, as her next move is to make a direct assault on the Kimura household, which ends with her arm being chopped off at Mrs. Kimura’s request. Fortunately, she’s able to choke out a henchman with her thighs–like a much more alluring Riggs from Lethal Weapon–and make her escape, stumbling around the city following visions of her brother that will lead her to the edge she needs to take on the Yakuza Ninjas.

 

Lesson #3: Massive, untreated blood loss is really no big deal, probably because the human body contains around eight gallons of blood stored under high pressure.

 

Said edge comes from Takeshi’s parents, Suguru and Miki< who are similarly bereaved by the loss of their son. They also happen to be mechanics who used to be in a biker gang and have advanced training in combat medicine, which comes in handy for the recently unarmed Ami. Also beneficial: Suguru is an expert at creating weapons that can be attached via stump, and Miki, true to her name, is so fine she blows my mind:

 

 

Lesson 4: Tired: MILFs. Wired: JMILFs.

 

Initially, Miki blames Ami for her son’s death, but after they settle their differences by arm wrestling–really–Miki decides that it’s time for all good men to come to the aid of the party and sets about hooking Ami up with a montage while her husband gets to making her a new hand… from steel.

 

 

Whoops, sorry. Wrong blood-soaked action movie replacement hand.

Anyway, this is about where the movie starts to get crazy. Before Suguru can finish Ami’s machine gun, the garage is attacked by a trio of ninjas wearing red Adidas track suits…

 

 

…known as the Junior High Shuriken Gang. He manages to finish up the replacement arm, but only just before he’s neatly quartered by a hail of shuriken, which leads Ami to give us futher instruction. Here comes the science:

 

Lesson #5: It is possible to shoot a man with a machine gun in such a way that it strips all the skin from his bones without breaking them.

 

You don’t have to believe me, people: That’s physics.

Anyway, Miki and Ami capture one of the Kimuras’ thugs and, after a scene where we learn that it’s possible to have thirteen nails driven into your face and come through none the worse for wear, find out where they’re hiding and head off to the final confrontation.

Now this part really has to be seen to be believed, and honestly, I don’t want to ruin it for anybody. I will, however, note that it involves:

 

 

A team of Grieving Parent/Super-Villains

 

 

Bisection via Chainsaw

 

 

A Master of the Flying Guillotine

 

And of course…

 

 

Mrs. Kimura’s Drill Bra

 

Eventually of course, good (well, goodish) wins out over Evil, revenge is gotten, and while the end of the movie offers an uplifting message of hope that wraps things up nicely, I’ve got to say: This could be the start of the next great movie franchise, and I know exactly where to go with it next.

I mean, really: Ami’s a stone-cold one-armed killer at this point, but she’s still a high school student, and when high school students get out of line, there’s only one girl they can send. I think you know what I’m getting at here, folks:

Machine Girl vs. Yo-Yo Girl Cop!

And seriously: Guitar Wolf’s gotta do the soundtrack.

Bring It On Week: Cheersploitation As a Genre

Despite the fact that I’ve been doing my best to spread the word this week, it looks like there are still a few of you out there who are laboring under the mistaken impression that Bring It On is not a good movie. Clearly, this is not the case. Heck, Bring It On isn’t even the worst movie in the great Heirarchy of Cheersploitation Cinema.

See, it goes like this: At the center, you’ve got Bring It On, which is actually pretty well-written and a lot sharper than it had to be. Below that, there are the sequels: All Or Nothing, which revisits the themes of the first movie and dares to show that people of all races are endowed with equal spirit; In It To Win It, in which star-crossed lovers borrow liberally from West Side Story; and of course, Bring It On Again, which is terrible. These aren’t necessarily good by any stretch of the imagination, but in true Exploitation style, they succeed by going after their target market with an aggression that’s unmatched. Seriously, In It To Win It even includes a step-by-step guide to two full cheer routines, and no, I have not tried them in my bedroom, thank you for asking.

Beyond those, at least for my purposes, you’ve got everything else. In last night’s post on Armagideon Time, ISB Cheerfiliate Bitterandrew mentioned Gimme an F and The Pom Pom Girls.

And of course, if you’re looking for fare that doesn’t actually pre-date my birth, the cheerleading/heist picture Sugar and Spice and lesbian coming of age epic But I’m a Cheerleader are only slightly less well-known than than the BIO tetralogy. Even an ancillary title like the gymnastaganza that is Stick It has an entry in the Journal of Bring It On Studies, what with the fact that it’s screenwriter Jessica Bendinger’s follow-up and,coincidentally, virtually the exact same movie.

And yet, it’s Bring It On that stands out above all of them, and so I’m still a little mystified by the folks that think it’s a bad cheerleading movie. The only thing I can think of to explain this is that you guys have never actually seen a truly awful cheerleading movie.

And in that case, allow me to enlighten. Ladies and gentlemen, I give you…

 

CHEERLEADER NINJAS

 

The more sharp-eyed among you might notice that I neglected to include the usual handy Amazon link for this one, and that’s because it is, without question, one of the worst movies I have ever seen in my life.

And yes, I know what you’re thinking: “But Chris! Cheerleaders and ninjas?” and I know. Believe me, I know. There are even kicks to the face and an honest-to-God bear-fight in this thing, but its awfulness is such that it destroys the joy of these things and leaves only pain.

Here’s what the friendly folks at Netflix have to say about this gem:

 

When a cluster of religious women wrongly accuse the local high school cheerleaders of producing and disseminating porn over the Internet, the girls must try to reclaim their reputatsions. The Happy Valley High pep squad soon discovers that unbeknownst to them, they’ve been used as pawns in an Internet sex scheme. Armed with newly minted kung fu skills, the girls set out to clear their names.

 

That is, essentially, the plot, but it leaves out one major detail, so if I can suggest an alternate summary…

 

In this 96-minute “film” that somehow escaped being outlawed under the Geneva convention, writer/director Kevin Campbell vents his burning hatred for humanity through the medium of fart jokes. It is the enemy of everything good and decent in this world, and will rob you of the ability to feel true happiness. From hell’s heart, he stabs at thee… For hate’s sake, he spits his last breath at thee. Rated R.

 

And that’s being charitable. But perhaps I ought to back that up a little.

So then: Cheerleader Ninjas–not to be confused with George Takei’s upcoming Ninja Cheerleaders–was released in 2003, looks like it was shot in 1981, and is… awful. Just awful.

The story, such as it is, follows the adventures of three high school cheerleaders who appear to be in their mid-thirties, led by Angela (as played by Angela Brubaker) and Angela’s Breasts (as played by Kira Reed):

 

 

Like it says in the summary, these gals find themselves posted on “The Internet,” which, despite the fact that this film was made in 2003, is represented by what appears to be Netscape 4.0 and a bunch of posters. For some reason that’s not made clear, this angers a local contingent of Catholic mothers–one of whom is played by what appears to be the youngest woman in the film–and they decide to respond by contracting a hit with a squad of Catholic Schoolgirl Ninjas.

Yeah, that’s right: This movie has Catholic Schoolgirl Ninjas vs. Cheerleader Ninjas, and it is still horrible. That’s the kind of thing you have to actively work to screw up, and yet, here we are. For this portion of the film, though, you can lay the blame mostly at the feet of one man:

 

 

This is Stephen (as played by Someone’s Drama Teacher), and he is probably the most offensive gay stereotype in the history of film. You remember the gay guy from Con Air, who takes the first opportunity to put on a dress and then when the plane crashes at the end, he comes out of the wreckage and starts talking about how hot all the cops are? Stephen makes that guy look like Anderson Cooper. Seriously, there’s a five minute sequence where he does nothing but watch smoke coming out of a man’s ass.

To be fair, the filmmakers–or as they’re more commonly known, “the perpetrators of the abomination”–aren’t really going for anything that should be taken even remotely seriously. It’s obvious from the start that they’re trying to pull off something more like a Zucker Brothers picture than anything else, but manage to fail spectacularly on virtually every level, replacing the snappy charm and memorable lines of a flick like Airplane! with fart jokes and the addition of “wacky” sound effects to every single scene. And when I say “fart jokes,” I mean that this is the only avenue of comedy pursued in the movie.

Just imagine the famous campfire scene from Blazing Saddles, only an hour and a half long, completely unfunny, and played while you were being stabbed in the face.

What? Oh, right, the plot. So the girls have questions about this whole “Internet” thing, and so they turn to the most convenient souce of information: Nerds.

 

 

And brother, if you don’t think this leads to a series of truly stomach-turning Shatner impressions, then you haven’t been paying attention. So, you know. Lucky you.

Anyway, the nerds agree to help the girls, and despite the fact that I’ve watched this thing one and a half times, I have no idea how they go about it. It might help if the movie was actually edited with something other than a lawnmower, but at this point, I’m really not sure. Suffice to say that the cheerleaders get beaten up by the schoolgirls, and then decide to go learn karate from a guy whose name I didn’t catch…

 

 

…so let’s just call him Ted Nugent’s Hippie Cousin.

This, incidentally, is also where you’ll find the only funny joke in the entire movie–and to be honest, it might just be the delerium setting in after the last forty minutes–when Angela is practicing with her Katana and accidentally murders a very rare bear:

 

 

Once that’s done, the Cheerleaders fight the Schoolgirls for a fourth time… and then a fifth time… and then a sixth time, until they finally use the power of “the Internet” to turn into giant kaiju-style robots, and–no.

You know what? I’m done. Because if I force myself to watch it for one more second, my brain’ll explode out of sheer spite.

But there’s a lesson to be learned here, and that is this: Bring It On might not be the best movie out there, but come on: It’s a hell of a lot better than this cheertrocity.

 


 

TONIGHT’s BRING IT ON WEEK CHEERFILIATES

 

Whew. After that cheerplosion of spite, it’s probably better to get back on track with something we can all be happy about: More content from the ISB’s Cheerfiliates!

First up, Erin Palette combines the two things that the Internet was made for: scantily clad women and jokes about cats.

And secondly, the ISB’s favorite little stuffed animal, Bully goes all out to become the Head Cheerfiliate! Not only has he adopted a special Bring It On Week header, but given us two great posts: An explanation of how the Rancho Carne Toros are just like the X-Men, and an extended fumetti sequence on Torrance Shipman: Master of Timing. Congratulations, Bully! You’re at the top of the pyramid!