Tuesday, 28 April 2009

The Cheap-Arse Film Review #30- "I'M STILL WAITING FOR YOU."









PRICE: 50p

(See, this is what happens the second I try to apply some order and professionalism to what I do. For those that don't know, I have a Facebook Fanpage, where I post links to new reviews, send out messages to members, get feedback, all that good stuff. It's a laugh, and on my more arrogant days I like to think it's helping me reach a few new people. About a week ago, I decided that, as well as using it the way I was, I could also make it informative and maybe build up some more interest by putting a list of upcoming reviews on there, rather than have each new installment be a surprise. So that's what I did, along with the dates people could expect to see them.

And as soon as I did that, everything went tits up. The first, as you can clearly see, is that this review is going up late. This is totally my fault for being bloody-minded and stubborn- I've had my busiest and most fun week in a very long time, travelling around, seeing friends, hearing great music, all that good stuff. I knew it was coming up, and I also knew I wouldn't have alot of free time on my hands, but I somehow convinced myself that I'd be able to do everything I planned and still squeeze this in. Well, suffice to say, I was wrong, and I should have just realised this was going to happen and made mention of the possibility at the end of the last review. Then, after I blew the deadline, it turned out I couldn't even cover the movie I planned to! This is one of the most overused phrases on The Internet, but I can't think of any other way to describe this as than an Epic Failure. In my defence though, the movie wasn't my fault- I was going to review a flick called "El Chupacabra," but that went out the window because, to put it bluntly, the bastard thing wouldn't play. I tried it in my 360, I tried it in me PS3, I tried playing it through my laptop, I even had a go with this little portable DVD player I own that only plays American DVDs to see if it was a Region 1 disc in disguise, and each time I got Sweet Fanny Adams. No obvious reason why either, the disc has practically no scratches on it. I can only assume it came out of the factory defective, and is probably the reason the guy I bought it from was selling it for a quid in the first place. So for the first time since I started this, a movie ended up being binned without me watching so much as a frame of it.

And to top everything else, thanks to a shelf deciding to spontaneously fall off the wall whilst I was away, my entertainment set-up currently looks like this...

I like how the Wii looks all scared and confused, the 360 looks like it's protecting it, and the PS3 is off to the side as if it doesn't give a fuck about either of them.

Anyway, enjoy)

I think it's time for a Useless Top 5.

Do you think it's time for a Useless Top 5?

It's Time for a Useless Top 5.






Of all the movie-related lists I have (and I have alot, believe me) this one lives more-or-less in a constant state of flux. The only two constants are Drew and Alyson, the other three spots change on a monthly, or sometimes even weekly, basis. For instance, Isla Fisher was in there recently, until I realised not even she could could ever get me to sit through "Confessions of a Shopaholic." This list also deals with solo performances only, there are various combinations that could probably get me to sit down in front of anything. I'm convinced that one day the devastating one-two punch of Anne Hathaway and Kate Hudson will be enough to make me give "Bride Wars" a go. God help me.

The newest edition to the above list is Anna Faris, and I think she'll probably be around for a while, maybe even becoming another mainstay. I think she's wonderful, and my appreciation of her grows with each movie I see her in. There are very few women who could get me to willingly sit through a movie called "The House Bunny," for example (although, to be fair, this was during my nightmarish trip to Scotland that I've detailed elsewhere, so by that point I guess I could just chalk it up to a desperate need to be entertained by something, anything...), and whilst I wouldn't quite say I liked it... actually, I didn't like it even slightly, I can't even pretend I'm going down that road. It's a terrible and, in many ways, terrifying movie. Utterly horrendous. But I still enjoyed Faris' work on it. She's very likable (actually, I'm almost tempted to say she's too likable, because there's a very good chance any young girls watching this would think she's cool, and if I had a daughter who though that, I honestly don't know what I'd do) and she's a hard worker, to the point that you could almost see her trying to wring some humour out of the awful script they had her reading from.

And, yes, she's pretty. Very pretty. Oh fuck it, she's drop-dead gorgeous. I wanted to hold off on talking about her looks as long as possible, because it seems to be the first thing everybody else instantly latches onto. Not just with her either, but with any funny woman who looks halfway decent and knows her way around a one-liner. At first I thought it was just a slightly sexist reaction, but the more I think about it, I suspect it might be a bit more complex than that. I have a theory (again with the theories!), that people like myself, who believe themselves to be... not that physically-pleasing to other people, we've convinced ourselves that all we have to offer is our personalities. However, in an interesting side-effect of this, I think we also believe (sometime so subconsciously that we don't even know we're doing it) that anybody even slightly better looking than us cannot possibly have anything going for them beyond that. I mean, what I'm suggesting here is nothing new. Jesus, "The House Bunny" is built around this concept, and very little else. But I honestly think it's time we put this idea to bed for a while and embraced the fact that human beings are more complex on both a physical, intellectual and spiritual level than we can possibly comprehend. Failing that, can we at least admit that it's possible that good-looking people can be funny and interesting, and not-so-attractive people also have it in them to be horrible human beings?

Wow, as tangents go, that was a doozy. Let's lighten the mood with a very brief BOX REVIEW! Well, the front cover art is a bit of a rip-off of the style of one-sheet "Scream" made popular, but at least here the people featured appear to have been taken directly from the movie, and not that photoshoot-style thing where everybody's standing against a black background staring into the camera all serious. Also, I find it interesting that Faris' image is used, but her name isn't given top billing. That doesn't bode well for her chances of surviving to the end, nor does it bode well for my hopes for how much she'll be in this. Finally, and I think this the funniest aspect of the whole thing, we're told that this movie is, "IN THE TRADITION OF "I KNOW WHAT YOU DID LAST SUMMER."" Isn't that cute? The people who made this thought we might not know what they were shamelessly ripping off.

The movie begins, and we're told that it's Valentine's Day thirteen year ago (wow, an occasion usually associated with happiness and an unlucky number! they're really not holding back). We're at one of those Lover's Lane places where couples drive to in order to hook-up, which is what the first two people we meet are indeed doing. They're both in the driver's seat, she's straddling him, her bra comes off (first breast sighting: 0:54, beating out "Cheerleader Massacre" by a whopping five seconds), and they're about to take things further (after the guy romantically asks the woman if she wants to "do it"), when a car pulls up behind them. The woman is initially startled and wants to stop, but the guy talks her back around, saying whoever it is in the other car, they're there's for the same reason. Sound logic, and really, if you're going to be getting up to this sort of thing in public, you shouldn't be a jittery as she's being. It's enough to make her recommence with the face-sucking, but then the guy gets out of the other car, and that's the final straw. They're getting ready to leave, when we see a hook scratch against one of the windows, and then seconds later, boom, it's burst through the car's roof.

I was going to rant about this, about how hard it would be to essentially punch your way inside a car, but then I noticed it was a soft-top, so I'll let it slide. However, that doesn't excuse the fact that I think a hook is one of the stupidest weapons regularly used in these types of movies. It looks cool, I'll grant you that, but that's the only thing it has going for it. Let's compare it to, say, a Dagger. A nice long Dagger. With that, you have the pointy end you can stab things with, plus the sharp edges you can slash people with. Now let's look at a hook- yes, it's got a pointy end, but other than that, it's pretty much just a blunt instrument. And the pointy end is all curled around, so the only way you can stab anybody is to slash forwards. There's no variety to what you can do. And the real kicker is the fact that your victims can easily grab hold of the thing! As I was watching this attack scene, watching the hook flail around and the two teens scream and fail at being able to open a car door, I kept thinking, "GRAB THE HOOK! GRAB THE HOOK AND HOLD HIM IN PLACE! BOTH OF YOU GRAB THE HOOK AND PULL DOWN WITH ALL YOUR WEIGHT! GET IT AWAY FROM HIM! HELL, YOU'LL AT LEAST SEPARATE HIS SHOULDER OR SOMETHING!" But of course they don't, and somehow the hook manages to cut the dude's face a little bit before the get out of the car and start doing that thing where they're crying and falling over as they're running, which makes sense at the end of a horror movie, but at this point in the proceedings it just feels like a gross overreaction (I've only just realised what a total arse that last sentence makes me sound like. "HOW DARE THESE PEOPLE BE DISTRAUGHT AT SOMEBODY TRYING TO KILL THEM!"). In their desperation, they go up to another car, intending to ask the people inside for help, only to find them dead already. Okay, so, when did the killer do them in? As far as we can tell, he showed up in his car and started attacking the first two almost instantly. Is he The Flash?

The place is now swarming with ambulances and police, with one of the officers turning up with his young daughter, her reading him what she's written in a Valentine's Day card she intended to give her mother. Do kids give their parent's Valentine's Day cards traditionally? I never did. My Mum used to send me a card. She tried to hide the fact that it was from her by signing it with question marks, but it was obvious who it was from, and when I was 12 I asked her to stop, my logic even at that age being I'd rather receive none than one from my Mother. So... where was I? Oh yeah, the killings. The officer gets out and, after being told to leave by a guy who turns out to be a therapist, inspects one of the bodies to discover it's (DUN DUN DUUUUUN) is wife. He has a breakdown, which is understandable when you take into account the fact that not only is she now dead, but she was also cheating on him. Surprisingly, they then seemingly find the person responsible for the killings in the surrounding vegetation, a guy with an eyepatch named Ray, who apparently the shrink was trying to help, saying he's built up an "extreme non-parafilic sexual attachment" for the officer's wife, who he worked with. And whilst all this is going on, we see the little girl get out of the care and put the card on her mother's body. Aw.

So, with the plot established, we jump forward a thirteen years to the "present day," where we once again met up with the girl from the previous scene, now in her late teens, along with the rest of the cast. As usual with these kinds of films, I'm not really going to try and remember any names, due to the stockness of all the characters involved. I will however be giving them all little nicknames, if for no other reason than it'll help me keep track of who's been bumped off. For instance, the first time we see the girl again, she's sitting on some steps reading a book, wearing glasses with her hair in this weird, cornrows-looking style. I think I'll just call her The Nerd and keep things simple. The school bell rings, and kids start entering the building around her. She only pays attention to two of them though- that being a blond jock with an absolutely amazing haircut that doesn't seem to move naturally even once during this entire thing (I shall call him "Haircut"), and his friend, who you just know is going to be a twat, partly because he's slightly hostile to The Nerd, but also because the clothes he's wearing just make him out as a jerk. Sometimes you can tell things just by looking at people, right? Anyway, he's "Jacket," due to the black suit jacket he's wearing over a V-Neck T-Shirt (see?). During a brief exchange between them, we find out that Haircut's mother works at the school (we later find out she's the principle), and will be giving a lecture in Health Class later that day. It's going to be one long condom joke, isn't it?

The rest of the meat gets introduced fairly quickly- we have a horny couple furiously making out ("PDA Boy" and "PDA Girl," respectively), a slightly dorky teen boy in a Hawaiian shirt and one of those bead necklaces ("The Weird One") a cheerleader, played by Faris ("The Cheerleader")(seriously, I'm not trying to win any awards for originality with any of these), and Haircut's girlfriend, who everybody seems to either hate or be a little bit afraid of. I think I'll call her "She-Hulk." They talk about meeting up later for a party... or maybe an orgy, somebody says something about clothes coming off and nobody seems to find this at all strange. I'm lucky I could hear him say that that at all really, because I noticed in this scene how shitty the sound recording and editing is- sometimes characters just sound mumbly, and then there are times when I can see lips moving and, I swear, no sound is coming out. And I'm watching this on my laptop with headphones on and the sound turned all the way up. Anyway, Haircut realises he has to dump She-Hulk, telling this to Jacket, who's exactly the wrong person he should e revealing these things too, as he obviously quite likes She-Hulk (I have to say, these little nicknames make writing about this movie alot more fun), and she also at least has a passing interest in him. So what does he do? He does what any respecting dick would do, he tells the girl the second he gets the chance, and she Hulks up and practically Rugby tackles Haircut into a swimming pool.

They both end up in The Principle's office after this incident, which allows the movie to make a few revelations about their parentage, and also tie things a bit more to the set-up of the movie. We discover, for instance, that She-Hulk's father is the Shrink from the beginning of the film, and also that the officer from the beginning is now the town's Sheriff. There's something a little bit off about The Shrink, as he seems quite distant confrontational and just a bit... creepy. He also meets The Nerd (who's become instant BFF with The Cheerleader) and tells her how much she looks like her mother, which you don't need a degree in psychology to realise might be the absolute worst thing you could say to somebody whose mother was brutally murdered. At this point, I was confused (and little did I know it'd get worse from here...), because all of this behaviour is classic of a character it's later revealed is the killer himself, but in a previous scene, we're shown The Shrink working with Ray, who he has chained up to a chair, trying to get him to admit to killing the Sheriff's wife and the other guy. And then when Ray later escapes, he kills an orderly (I'm not really sure how, but his foot appears to have been ripped off), and writes something on the wall in the dead man's blood, which are not the actions of a reasonable man who's been stitched up. Oh, and what is it he writes on the wall? What could this evil, insane killer want to communicate with the rest of the world? Perhaps "I'M STILL WAITING," as an ominous, cryptic warning about what his intentions are now that he's free? No, he writes "PRISON FOOD SUCKS." PRISON FOOD SUCKS. There's also a newspaper clipping with She-Hulk in it on one of is walls which The Shrink is only just now noticing, even though it must have been there for a while.

From this point on, we get one main plot and one sub-plot. The main plot involves the kids (even The Nerd, who's going with The Weird One so he can win some kind of bet) attempting to go to the party they were talking about earlier, but then seemingly having their lives put in jeopardy by a cruel prank- She-Hulk wants to get revenge on Haircut for dumping her, so she tells The Weird One to make sure he brings him to Lover's Lane that night, so he could catch her getting it on with Jacket. Strangely, Jacket picks the moment they're in the car together to suddenly think hooking up with his best friend's ex might not be the best thing in the world to do, and she literally has to remove her top and violently question his sexuality before he'll continue. And in the already-discussed-to-death tradition of these kinds of movies, sex and lust is quickly followed by murder and pain, as when the rest of the kids show up, they discover their mutilated bodies dumped outside the car, and are then themselves attacked, with PDA Guy getting a good slashing and being left for dead as his friends peel away in the car, crashing the thing and ending up taking refuge in a abandoned house (don't you just love how there's always one house around that nobody appears to live in that's easy to break into?).

The Subplot involves The Nerd and Haircut's parents, The Principle and The Sheriff, searching the town for both them and the killer. I think I like this plot a little bit better than the main one, partly because the actor that plays The Sheriff seems to be having fun with his role and not taking things to seriously, but also because we get to see more fun stuff during their scenes- The Principle punches out a drunk teen aged girl who has the balls to insinuate her son might be getting his rock's off at Lover's Lane, and when they reach The Shrink's house, it's all fun and games, as we see glimpses of the killer in mirrors before he seemingly disappears into thin air (so he is magic?), and they find a wonderfully-fake looking Dog's head in the fridge. See? This is fun. Good, trashy fun. It's not hard to do. But sadly we have to return to the kids regularly, where everything's all super-serious and everybody's always shouting or crying. There is one nice little bit, though, where they're about to put The Weird One's leg in a splint. The Nerd tells The Cheerleader to distract him, and when all her verbal attempts to do so fail on account of the fact that she doesn't know him very well, she just lifts up her top. It's funny, and the reaction of the two guys is priceless, but then they go and spoil it when, after The Weird One passes out from the pain of having is bone reset, Haircut drops the line, "Your body's a knockout." Because he passed out, you see?

Following this, DRAMA! The Nerd and Haircut, who've had issues with each other the entire movie, finally shout out their problems, with the revelation that his dead father was the person The Nerd's mother was caught cheating with. Actually, it's not a revelation to the viewer, we've been aware of this for quite some time, but it is a revelation to Haircut, which, I'm sorry, I don't buy for a second- they live in what's been presented to us as a very small community, full of people who are constantly gossiping about each other and in each other's business. There's no way, no way, you could have kept something this big from him for this long. Not without either locking him in the cellar or investing in a constant stream of hypnotic mindwipes. The off-shot of all this is the fact that what is supposed to be an emotional scene ends up making one of the main characters look like a bit of an idiot. Plus, there's further nonsense from The Nerd's side of things- she's the one who's been the most hostile of the pair throughout, but during this exchange she reveals that she doesn't and never has believed her mother was having an affair. So, if you don't believe that, why are you giving this poor kid a hard time? YOU HATE HIM FOR SOMETHING HE PLAYED NO PART IN THAT YOU DON'T THINK HAPPENED ANYWAY! Am I the only person who sees the insanity in that?

Thankfully they stop talking for a while so we can get a bit more of the distracting action in- The Nerd and Haircut go outside to find a car, leaving the still out-cold Weird one and the reasonably scared-to-death Cheerleader alone in the house, where they're sacrificed. It's during these sequences that it becomes very obvious that there's more going on here than we first thought, as The Cheerleader runs away from the killer to a small upstairs bedroom, only to be killed by somebody under the bed. So, unless he really is magic like I joked about earlier, this makes it clear that there are two killers, the logical explaination being that Ray is working with somebody else. Remember, that's the logical explaination. There's also the film's lone memorable and fairly uncomfortable kill during this bit, as The Weird One finally comes around to find one of the killers looming over him. Unable to move, he's reduced to begging for his life, uttering such pathetic pleas as, "I only wanted to get laid," as the killer runs his hook all over his body, before violently stabbing through both his legs (we're ever shown the knife going through the wood under the table), before being left to bleed out.

After a surprisingly tense sequence where The Nerd and Haircut hotwire a car with one of the killers in the barn with them, they return to the house to pick up their friends, only to discover they're too late. It's here that we get the first and last truly awesome moment in this movie- one of the killers returns, and Haircut, now seeking revenge for the death of his father, decides he's going to kill him. Not with a knife or a gun or anything like that. No, completely on the fly, he's come up with the design for a DEATHTRAP! And it's ingenius- it involves filling the house with gas and taping a match to the bottom of a door, so that when that door's open, it's lit and the whole house goes ka-blooey, which is exactly what happens. Of course, the movie's not over yet, because there was about fifteen minutes of screentime left on the disc, so I thought this would be the moment where they let their guard down, and we found out who the second killer was. And I was half-right, because as they're driving along, they find the body of She-Hulk laid out in the road, who's not as dead as she was before. It was obvious at this point that she was one of the killers, and sure enough, as soon as they arrive back at Lover's Lane and The Nerd gets out of the car, she starts attacking Haircut with a hook (and yes, I have wondered where she could have possibly been keeping that thing).

And then the movie starts taking the piss.

No sooner does this happen, then The Nerd is accousted by aother figure in a hood and forced into a car, where we find out it... The Shrink. Again, this wasn't really a surprise, as we'd cut back to The Sheriff and The Principle as they investigate The Shrink's ouse to find that he has a shrine of sorts to the Sheriff's dead wife (have I mentioned that the Sheriff and the Shrink are half-brothers yet during this? Well, they are. Not that it has any real baring on the script in any way), so at that point it wasn't as great a jump to assume that he's also obsessed with his daughter. And they also explain away what I thought was a masive lapse in logic at the beginning by saying he killed both the other two and then had them planted on the scene. But other than that, everything just becomes so confusing. For a start, why are he and his daughter even going on this killing spree now? She mentions something about him promising to help her get revenge on Haircut and allhis friends for him dumping her. Is that it? Teenage jealousy and fear of abandonment? Was the fact that Ray escaped just a coincidence? And whilst we're on that subject, what about Ray? Was he actually a killer? Was it him that attacked the other couple at the start? Or was it the Shrink in a convolted attempt to cover his tracks? And if so, what was Ray doing at the scene? Did the Shrink just bring him there and tell him, "Stay?" And then, just as I come to terms with he fact that he's got really nothing to do with anything that's been happening, HERE COMES RAY! And he kills She-Hulk, seemingly for revenge! And then I remember there was a random killing in a gas station earlier, which also resulted in a cop being butchered and his squad car being stolen, which would have made no sense if it had been done by either the Shrink or She-Hulk. Then there was the craziness at the Shrink's house, and the dog's head in the fridge. So... there've been three killers running around this whole time, one of them just off doing his own thing, completely disconnected to the plot? What was the point of that? Somebody, please, WAT IS HAPPENING!?

Things don't go on too much longer from here, as the Sheriff shows up and shoots his half-brother, who then rises from the grave for one last scare, before being killed by one of his own hook (and where are they getting these from, anyway? I can just about buy one, but three?). The sun comes up, all the lies have been revealed, and it looks like everything's going to be alright. And then we se the kids get into a squad car thats door is closed by a hooked hand, and they pull away, presumably to be slaughtered. I'd rathe than then a sequel. On the plus side, Ray drives very well for a hopelessly insane lunatic with one hand. Props for that.

This movie is total mess almost from beginning to end, that finally caved in on itself towards the end. Yes, it had a plot twist that caught me off-guard, but it wasn't playing fair. With a good twist, it surprises you, but then when you look back, you see all the signs leading up to it and you're like, "OF COURSE!" With the twist at the end of this one, you're just desperately looking back to try and see where it came from. Yes, there were hints, some of them no very subtle at all, but it just doesn't make any sense. I know I over-analize things alot of the time whilst doing this, but I don't think that's the case here, I truly believe nobody could watch the last fifteen minutes of this movie and really have a clue what is going on. I don't know how anybody could write a script with this many holes in it and consider it a finished piece of work.

There were a few other mild complains, such as a couple of continuity errors- for one, only a few minutes after being thrown into the pool, Haircut is shown sitting in his mother's car completely dry. Even his hair has magically gone back into place. Then there's the fact that the movie can' decide how old it's main protagonists are- a very big deal is made of the fact that both The Nerd and Haircut were four years old when the first tragidy occured, which, since that happened 13 years ago, wold make them both 17, right? Well, during the scenes where the Principle and Sheriff are looking for the pair of them, she tells one of the people they stop to question that he son is 16. It's a little thing compared to some of the other problems here, but it's something somebody really should have caught. And finally there's the fact that the Shrink somehow manages to survive being at the very point of a house explosion and end up with little more than some burns on his face. Surprisingly though, for a film that seemed to trumpet a very specific lack of originality on the front of the box, this isn't really a rip-off of "I Know What You Did Last Summer" beyond both those movies having killers with hooks. It's just another example of a slasher with absolutely no ideas of its own to bring to the table. Infact, I can think of only one good thing to come out of this- in one of the most recent issues of Arena Magazine here in the UK, there's a feature on Anna Faris, where they talk about this movie. It's not mentioned by name, but it's discribed as a slasher movie so terrible, it put her off playing it straight from that point forward.

Thank the Lord for small mercies.



Two movies, some train tickets, a really shit homemade Hip-Hop CD and a broken Wiimote. I guess it's true, you can tell alot about a person by going through what they throw out.

Until Wednesday, I'm The Cheap-Arse Film Critic, and death is the only adventure you have left!

Sunday, 19 April 2009

The Cheap-Arse Film Review #29- "HELP! I'M A FISH."









PRICE: £1.00


I mean, seriously, it's great isn't it? I think titles are often overlooked by filmmakers with regards to getting bums in seats. Sometimes all I have to do is hear what something's called, and I'm there. I was like that with "Lesbian Vampire Killer," I knew nothing about it other than the title, but I couldn't wait to see it. Then I saw the trailer and all that desire went away, but that's beyond the point. With this one, the title was all it really had going for it, what with the box art looking so generic and uninspired. It's fun to read, it's even more fun to say (I can't help but yell the "HELP!"), and it tells you pretty much all you need to know about the flick before you've even put the disc in your player. A bit like Ben Affleck's directorial debut, "I Killed My Lesbian Wife, Hung Her on a Meat Hook, and Now I Have a Three Picture Deal at Disney" (I assume it's not autobiographical).

I didn't realise this until it was pointed out to me, but this has the honourable distinction of being the first animated film I've written about since I started this. I don't actually know why that is, because I love animated movie, and have been known to be the only adult in a cinema not accompanied by an adult to enjoy one on the big screen (and yes, I do get funny looks. Once a woman point-blank told her children not to sit next to me and eyed me in a manner that makes my blood run cold to this day thinking about it. She was ready and more then willing to kill me at a moment's notice). I just hadn't really found anything that looked interesting to me until I stumbled across this. Considering it's the first example of it's medium that will get my usual once-over, I think it's appropriate that it's a little bit different than the usual fair. For a start, it's animated mostly in the traditional, hand-drawn style, which was quickly dying out even back when this was first released (late 2000). It's also not an American production, but rather a Danish one, put together by Denmark's respected "A. Studios" and originally released as "Hjaelp, jeg er en fisk" (that's as close to the original title as I can type. The "a" and "e" in "hjaelp" are supposed to be joined up, but I don't know how to do that, so sod it), which got a release over here with a new English voice track almost a year after it's debut in it's home country, and didn't get a North American release on DVD until 2006.

Okay, with that useless trivia out of the way, onto the film.

Following some white text on a black background and the logo appearing in all its shiny (and even that's cool- it's shaped like a fish, and it's been designed in such a way that the dot of the exclamation point also doubles up as an eye and the "H" looks a bit like a mouth), we get to see some fish swimming around in the ocean, presented in the customary CGI that all hand-animated films felt they needed to employ the second the technology became available, that always looks out-of-place and never ages well (hello, the ballroom dancing sequence in "Beauty and The Beast"). This doesn't look great either, but I still quite like it, as it's got this quirky, stylised, almost cell-shaded look to it, and I think it's fared better than a film that's nearly a decade old really should (wow, I just realised I wasn't quite 17 when this first came out. That's sobering). Then suddenly we're in the bedroom of a young boy named Fly who's about to go fishing (geddit? Fly? Fishing? Fly fishing?), until he finds out his parents are going out for the night, meaning his aunt and cousin Chuck (fat, genius, you know the drill) have come over to babysit his little sister Stella, and that he's expected to stay at home and keep Chuck company. Of course this doesn't last, as the second his Aunt is asleep, Fly bribes Chuck into going fishing with him and Stella. So far everybody fits into their stereotypes nicely- Fly is impulsive and brash, Chuck is intellectual and cowardly, and Stella is, well, pretty much just a toddler. There's very little depth to the characters, but then there's not supposed to be, there's only supposed to be enough to make it obvious they've Learnt A Valuable Lesson by the end.

The fishing trip starts fairly uneventfully, with Fly (and God is that an unnatural name for a character. You wouldn't believe how many time I've put "Fry" down instead and had to go back and edit it once I noticed. And all for a joke that's not even that funny) accidentally catching a Sea Horse that Stella instantly falls in love with and names Sasha, before tearfully returning to the ocean. Deciding the traumatic event is a sign they should call it a day, they go to leave. ONLY THE TIDE'S COME IN! AND THERE'S NO WAY OFF THE LEDGE THEY'RE ON! NOTHING CAN SAVE THEM NOW, EXCEPT... A HIDDEN DOOR IN THE ROCKS!!!!! And of course, this door leads then to the workplace of Professor Mac Krill (geddit? Mac? Krill? Mac Krill?)(at least he's voiced in this version by Terry Jones, so they get bonus points for a Python). His reveal is actually fairly well done- as they wander around looking at all his experiments and artifacts, including a half-fish, half-mouse happily munching on some cheese and a toy Californian Fly Fish hanging from the ceiling that Fly proclaims to be "great looking" (thank you, Troy McClure), he comes lurching at them from the shadows, only to have the light turned on and be shown as a kindly-looking and eccentric (read: completely insane) scientist, who for some reason instantly starts telling these children he's only just met that he's created a potion that turns people into fish, in order to save humanity when the Polar Ice Caps melt and The World becomes flooded (hello, Al Gore). Actually, he doesn't tell them this so much as he does sing them this. Now, I've mentioned before that I love musicals, and I do, but the songs in this film (and mercifully there are only two of them sung by the cast, the rest are just bland upbeat pop played over the top of whatever's going on) are not very good. This one in particular is awful, with Jones trying to save it by being all wacky, but it's no good. At least it's mercifully short. The best part of it is when he says the name of the potion that turns people into fishes is (wait for it...) Fish Potion. That's it. They weren't even trying to be clever or creative. It's Fish Potion. FISH POTION. And it's kept in a bottle with a big fish on it, so there's absolutely no mistaking it for any other kind of potion he'd have lying around.

Following this, The Professor is about to use the potion on himself, before he remembers he needs the Antidote (which comes in a square bottle and also has a picture of a fish on the side, only this one has a red cross over the top of it). Whilst this is going on Stella takes a sip of the potion and seemingly starts tripping off her balls- everything starts distorting, there's a smashing glass effect for seemingly no good reason, and she staggers around for a second, disorientated and seemingly in more than a little bit of discomfort, before collapsing (and it's worth mentioning that seeing this happening to a small child, even a cartoon one, is more than a little bit disturbing). The others reenter the room and see that she's disappeared. They start to look for her, with Fly instead finding what he describes as a "strange looking fish." Strange-looking? It's a Starfish with pig-tails wearing a pink skirt! He shows it to Chuck, who says he need to get it into salt water before it dries out (he also misses the unusual traits of hair and clothing this sea creature exhibits). Fly then throws it out the window just as Chuck checks the video camera to see footage of Stella turning into it. Cue them all now sailing around in a tiny boat during a ferocious storm, seemingly sifting through the entire ocean in attempt to find her. Realising this is pointless, Fly and Chuck take the potion themselves, turning into (surprise surprise) a Californian Fly Fish (still wearing his baseball cap) and a Jelly Fish (still wearing glasses) respectively. They now have two days to find Stella, before they're trapped as fish forever.

The action now mostly takes place under water, and again the film's a little bit clever with this section of the film. Instead of just having all the creatures be able to talk, they actually make them acquiring this ability into a plot point- the boat Fly and the others were sailing on ends up sinking, and the Antidote goes down with it, opening as it does so and ending up being drank by a Clown Fish and a Shark (who has an Australian accent, which at first lead me to assume they were ripping off "Finding Nemo," until I realised the English-speaking version of this film came out a good two years before that movie did, which is... interesting), causing them to evolve and develop the ability to speak. You see, since the Fish Potion turns humans into fish, that Antidote would have the reverse effect. The Clown Fish is named Joe, the main villain of this film, and he's voiced by Alan Rickman. I love Rickman's voice, I don't know how he does it, but he somehow manages to sound dignified and sleazy all at the same time. He's like a Victorian gentleman who's secretly wearing lady's stockings under his britches. And he's in full swing here, livening up what is a fairly bland script with a his marvelously lecherous delivery. Most of the voice acting in this movie is utterly forgettable (whoever does the voice for Chuck is especially guilty of this), but Rickman has nothing to be ashamed of.

After Chuck and Fly find Stella (which seems to happen in about five minutes) and the Sea Horse Sasha (ditto), they begin to worry about what they're going to do now, since as far as they know The Professor went down with the boat and the Antidote is lost. They then stumble across some more talking fish, and after the initial shock, they get on the bus with them (the bus is actually a whale with the number 88 pained on it's face) and are taken to the place where Joe is creating his new society of intelligent fish, which is housed inside a massive sunken tanker. Visually this bit of the film is easily the best- it's surprisingly dark and dystopian, and maybe it's just me, but I thought there was something a bit Third Reich about it all. The crossed-out fish symbol on the bottle has now been appropriated by Joe as a symbol of what he's preaching, and once the three of them get inside the hall, they see him selling addressing row-after-row of fish at what looks, well, very much like a rally. Christ, even the fact that he's trying to make these creatures genetically superior to others of their kind fits in with what I think I'm seeing.

Of course this is a children's film, so he's not going to be in front of them ranting and raving. Instead, he starts singing another song about how he can improve their lives. This one is better than the one from earlier, I'll say that much, but I can barely remember anything about it without first watching that scene back, so it's not what you'd call memorable. There also flaws in the presentation, because Joe is telling the crowd that he can make them more human, whereas they already look more human than any other fish I've ever seen, with large expressive eyes and mouths bent into adoring smiles. An annoying moment of inconsistency. Fly tries to make a grab for the bottle, but Chuck screams at him not to drink it, as they're at the bottom of the ocean and would drown. Realising these three know what the stuff he's using is, Joe has them captured and attempts to get them to make more for him, as he's running low, only to become displeased when they say they have no idea how it's made and have them locked up in a cage until they remember. I'd have no problem with this little development, were in not for one small thing- ONE OF THE CHARACTERS IS A JELLY FISH! HE'S AN INVERTEBRATE! HE'S GOT NO SPINE! HE SHOULD JUST BE ABLE TO SQUEEZE THROUGH THE BARS NO PROBLEM! But he doesn't do this, leading me to believe he must be the first Jelly Fish in existence to have achieved something close to solidity. Instead, they escape with the help of Sasha, who tricks the crab guarding them (all the crabs that drink the potion become soldiers and somehow grow helmets, which I thought was wacky but fun), before making a break for it.

So now the kids are in trouble, as they don't have the Antidote and they apparently only had twelve hours left before they have to spend the rest of their lives as fish. This film's strength is also up their with it's biggest weaknesses- it's really short (the box says 76 minutes, but really not including credits it's just under 70), so it moves at a brisk pace and doesn't outstay it's welcome, but at the same time it's sense on time and pacing is completely thrown out of whack. I mean, how have these events taken a day-and-a-half? How long were they looking for Stella? How long were they in that cage, for that matter? It doesn't help that we occasionally return to the surface world to see their parents looking for them, and up there all this seems like it's happening in a single night. But I guess the only reason they threw that in was to add a ticking clock to their mission and try to get a bit of dramatic tension going, and in the end decided drama was more important than logic. Fly says they can make their own potion, seeing as all the ingredients are under the sea, and when Chuck says they don't know what was in it, Fly reveals he does, as he remembers the words from the song The Professor sung earlier. Wow, they managed to tie that terrible song into the plot. That almost makes it worthwhile. They collect the ingredients, which mostly consists of them mutilating underwater wild life, with the last one being the ink of an octopus. Sadly, the only reason the octopus was scared in the first place was due to the arrival of Joe, he shark friend and an army of crabs.

It's around this time that a mini civil war breaks out amongst the ranks of the supposedly intelligent fish, as both the shark and and of the crabs start to make cases for why they should be in charge. The crab tries to improve his standing by drinking more of the potion and becoming more evolved. Not wanting to give up the potion they've just created without a fight, Fly refuses to let go, only to be struck hard by the crab and... OH MY GOD HE'S BLEEDING! And not from a cut either, like you sometimes see in these films, blood is actually oozing out of one of his gills, implying horrible internal injuries. That's... really rather shocking! They're saved by what at first looks like a tornado (and even the movie is aware enough to have one of it's characters ask if it's possible for tornadoes to exist under water), sucking up and/or scattering all the other fish around them, which is quickly revealed to be The Professor and Fly's Dad (who've now met up) pretty much hoovering the ocean in an attempt to find them. This seems like a brief reprieve however, as Fly is now seemingly at Death's door, and they have approximately 12 minutes before they're out of time. Even Fly, who has been portrayed throughout this movie as a hopeless optimist, has given up hope.

And so it's Chuck's turn to prove he's worth a damn and save his friends from eternal damnation (sorry about that, I think I turned into Frank Miller for a second there). He remembers that The Professor had a spare bottle of Antidote in his lab, and comes up with a plan that involves them getting there through one of the many metal pipes he has tapered out into the ocean, flooding the place and opening the bottle, all in six minutes. It's all going well, and many aspects of the plan itself are fairly ingenious, including a balloon to cushion them from hitting anything and using the evil piranhas to block one of the filters and flood the joint. Sadly, Joe had been in hot pursuit the whole time and fowls things up for them, seemingly making off with the Antidote. As Chuck is dealing with the piranhas, knocking them all out one-by-one with a single punch (see? SOLIDITY!), Fly decides to, and I quote, "Use my brain for once," and heads off after Joe. He uses his fatal flaw, that being his need to be more intelligent, against him by asking him questions he doesn't know the answers to, leading to him drinking more and more of the Antidote and continue mutation until he's this grotesque parody of a human. Fly's final question? "Can a human breathe under water?" The answer in no (obviously), and Joe's lifeless body floats silently back down the pipe.

So they've got the Antidote, they're about to drink it, when suddenly their parents burst into the room and all the water starts rushing out. Chuck and Stella manage to drink some and become human again (they're also somehow wearing clothes), but we don't see Fly do so, and when the smoke (or rather water) clears, he's nowhere to be found. Chuck starts frantically looking for him, finding the lifeless body of a fish that looks to be him. This scene is actually quite emotive, with Chuck trying to create a new potion on the fly (no pun intended), as his parents and The Professor tell him it's hopeless, and somewhere amongst all this Chuck's mother somehow steps on the fish. There's a squishing sound-effect and everything. Literally one second after this happens, Fly is revealed to be human and pretty much fine, his battered insides somehow translating into only being a broken leg. I found it unintentionally humourous how quickly they went from ultimate despair to Happy Happy Fun Times. It's like they were saying, "Okay, I think we may have gone too far with the Aunt stepping on him, show he's alright before the kids start crying." And what was the other fish, you ask? It was the toy from the beginning of the movie. Continuity! So now everything's alright, the kids have a new found respect and love for each other, The Professor has turned his research equipment into a collection of water slides, and perhaps most bizarrely of all, Stella is reunited with Sasha again (after tearfully saying goodbye to her again), then Chuck and The Professor perform an experiment on her to make her half a real Horse, that Stella rides around on as everybody laughs. Yay playing God! Yay horribly-mutated abominations! YAAAAAAAAY!

Once again, I find myself torn over what to do with a movie I've just watched. There were some good things about it. The animation started off looking a little bit ropey, but by the end it looked really good. There are some clever ideas scattered around too. But overall, I didn't really enjoy it all that much. It wasn't for me. And that's just it- it wasn't for me. This movie clearly wasn't made with the intention of entertaining 26-year-old men. It was made to be a fun romp for children. And this isn't like some of the family films I've watched where I've struggled to see how anybody could enjoy them, I could definitely see young kids, from say six-to-ten years old, liking this. And I'm not sure I have it in me to punish a film simply because I'm old. It's like...

... forgive me if I lose it, this has been building up for a while...

... I love Pixar. I love Pixar. But in many ways, they have alot to answer for, mostly the fact that they've almost single-handedly created a generation of young parents that now think it's their God-given right to enjoy everything their children do. It's like with that film about the talking Chihuahuas that was released last year. I can't remember the title, and I can't be bothered to look it up. Whatever it was called, that film looked awful, I'm not going to say otherwise. And of course The Internet was giddily tearing it a new one in the sarcasting manner that it's known for. However, amongst all the fun, there was a post made by somebody that really got to me. There was a guy on there saying that his son really, really wanted to see this movie. He was asking him literally everyday if he'd take him to see it. And the guy kept saying no, because he thought the film didn't look like something he'd enjoy.


Bullshit. So he wants to see a bad movie. Big deal. Does this guy think his parents enjoyed all the movies he was taken to see as a child? Of course they didn't. I know mine didn't. I mean, yeah, some of them were good- "An American Tale," "Honey I Shrunk The Kids," "All Dogs Go to Heaven," these are movies my parents remember fondly. But those were not the only movies I watched growing up. Sometimes I went to see boring movies about secret agent frogs with French accents. There was one film I watched on video, I think it was called "Pound Puppies & The Legend of Big Paw," that I watched so many times that I can still vividly remember certain scenes, and even lyrics to some of the songs. And that movie was dreadful. It was pure shit. And yet, every time I was at the video shop, and I came to my parents with that in hand, that's what we went home with that night. Because they loved me and they were willing to sit through that just to make me happy. That's what you do with you're a parent. You take your child to the fucking movie about the fucking talking Chihuahuas and you sit there with a fucking grin on your face pretending to have a good time as the small person sitting next to you laughs their head off. And if you're not willing to do that, well I'm sorry, but you're not a good parent.



My disproportionate rage and desire to not be one of those people has seen to it that I show this film more mercy than I have most. This is not going to be the norm, so don't get used to it.

Until next week, I'm The Cheap-Arse Film Critic, and sometimes it's better down where it's wetter, take it from me.

Sunday, 12 April 2009

The Cheap-Arse Film Review #28- "BOTTLE ROCKET."









PRICE: £1.00

I think Wes Anderson, or more specifically his movies, or even more specifically one of hi movies in particular, may have saved me from turning into a total prick.

I goes something like this- a few years ago, I was... angry. I won't go into details as to why, because they're boring and embarrassingly Emo. But I was angry, for quite a while, and because I'm not really the type to jump up-and-down and shout about things, the anger manifested itself in other ways, one of them being to develop a cartoonish sense of my own masculinity (I'd seen "Fight Club" one too many times, basically), and create a whole bunce of rules I had to abide by in order to be a man, one of which was to show as little emotion as humanly possible, because being overly-emotional was a sign of weakness (Christ...). And my big rule was I would no longer allow myself to be emotionally affected by fiction of any kind, because only a fool cared about the fate of people that weren't real.

Enter Wes Anderson. We'll, he'd already entered, I suppose. I'd been a huge fan of his movies ever since I'd seen "Rushmore," which I became interested in when I found out it'd been co-written by Owen Wilson, and was fascinated to find out what kind of movie the laid-back southern stoner dude from "Armageddon" would have a hand in creating. Suffice to say, it wasn't quite the movie I was expecting it to be. But I loved it anyway, and Anderson quickly joined the ranks of my favourite filmmakers, alongside Cameron Crowe and Kevin Smith (wow, that's a shocker isn't it, that a pop culture-obsessed nerd who doesn't know when to stop talking should love Kevin Smith's movies?). I've put this down before, but I saw "The Royal Tenenbaums" in cinemas five times, which is my own personal record (although, if I'm totally honest, three of those time happened when I was stuck on a cruise ship celebrating my sister's Birthday)(I also saw "Monster's Inc." twice whilst I was there). It was neither of those films that brought me out of the wanker hole I was slowly digging for myself, though. The honour belonged to "The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou."

Some people really don't like this movie, but I think it's wonderful, for the exact reason most of them don't- the overwhelming fakeness of the whole thing, symbolising the fact that Zissou is a man with nothing real in his life he can be proud of, that is punctured right at the very end by a wave of pure, unadulterated emotion, brought on by both the man himself's sudden epithany, and the compassion of those around him, some of whom he's treated like absolute shit for the entire film. It was this moment, and the key line of the scene, "I wonder if it remembers me," that got to me. I hadn't cried at a movie for about five years at this point. And I didn't cry here, either. I think it'd be more accurate to say that I burst. I started howling, just bawling like a hungry baby screaming for its mother's tit. Infact, I cried so much, afterwards I was so exhausted I needed a nap! It was hysterical, and I can now look back on it and laugh. But at the time I was more than a little bit confused, because I couldn't figure out what about that scene set me off. I still can't really, and now that I've had a bit of time to think about it, I don't think I want to, because whether it's the entire scene or just that one line, whatever it was... I think it might be Pandora's Box. Best left closed, for the time being at least. Anyway, it's not important, because I came out the other side feeling... better. I distinctly remember thinking to myself, "What a silly sod you've been." It's a cliche, but I guess it's true- better out than in. So I had another reason to love Anderson and his films after that.

(Humourously, because I'm not a man to do anything by halves, since that day I think the pendulum may have swung a little bit too far the other way, because now I find myself getting emotional at the silliest things. I watched the "Garfield Christmas Special" over the Holiday Season, for example, and when it got to the bit where Garfield was sitting on Granny's lap listening to her talk about her dead husband... oh God. And most recently the trailer, the bloody trailer, for Spike Jonze's adaptation of "Where The Wild Things Are" made me go a bit misty, which I blame on their use of emotive music and my own feelings of warm nostalgia whenever I think of that book. Bastards)

Considering the utter gangbang of love the above paragraphs are for the man and his work, you have every right to be surprised by the fact that I've never seen this, his first full-length feature, until now. Well, I always told myself tha I was holding out until a version with decent extras had been released (which apparently is now happening in the US as part of the absolutely fantastic Criterion Collections new Blu-Ray line), but the truth is, I was always a bit scared to watch it, because I'd been told by people who had seen it that there's a very good chance I would't like it, because alot of the things I liked about his other movies aren't present. And I didn't like the thought of not liking a Wes Anderson movie. Not at all. But at some point you've just got to suck it up and be, well, a man, haven't you?

Normally I would make a brief mention of the credits sequence here, but there isn't one in this movie. Seriously. We get "Columbia Pictures Presents," then we get "BOTTLE ROCKET" in black text on a red background, and then we're straight into the story, picking things up with Anthony (Luke Wilson), who it would seem is about to escape from a psychiatric hospital with the help of his best friend, Dignan (Owen Wlison)(incidently, I find it humourous how, in all the movies they've done with each other at this point, I don't think they've ever played brothers), mirror used as a signal, bed sheets tied together to make a rope, the whole deal. However, as it turns out, Anthony signed himself in at the hospital willingly, and has already discharged himself, but didn't have the eart to tell Dignan any of that, as he was so excited about the plan he'd come up with. So out the window Anthony goes, pausing only to say goodbye to his doctor and some of the other patients. It's never really explained in detail why he was there, but he later mentions questioning his own life to such an extent that he ran away and lived in the desert for a period of time. A bit like Jesus. Hey, managed to find a way of tying this into Easter!

It is the next few scenes that the differences people were telling me about become obvious, mostly concerning the dialogue and the way the movie is shot. One of the things I'll accept about Anderson's movies is that they're often not that exciting to look at, most of the time shot in a static, almost storybook way, with the few movements the camera makes being very smooth and controlled. Here, there's a some of that, and it becomes more the norm as the movie goes on, almost as if whilst shooting you could see him decide, "This is how I like doing things," but to me it feels like the camera moves more in this one than it does in any of his other films put together, and it also feels a little ragged in places. Not that that's a bad thing, and it's not a constant distraction (hello, "Bloodrayne 2: Deliverance"), but it felt really odd seeing it in a Wes Anderson movie. Then there's the dialogue. It's not how it's written really, its almost the same as it is in all his movies, that being quirky but not totally out-there and zany, but rather how it's spoken- it's often delievered at a break-neck pace, and alot of the time, especially here at the beginning, there's alot of people talking over each other, which I think is done to better get across both the familiarity the characters have with each other, especially Anthony and Dignan, and also to convey their excitement at what they're planning. Again, it's not a bad thing, it's just different is all.

And speaking of their plan, all is laid out to us over the course of a bus journey- they plan to become criminals, thieves more specifically, putting into use all the things Dignan has learnt from Mr. Henry (James Caan), who he claims is a master thief. He has everything planned out for he and Anthony in the most fine detail (it's later claimed that he planning stretches a good 75 years), in a little notebook. He's even colour-coded the thing using different felt-tip pens, which frankly is something I would do. The first major part of this plan involves then performing a practice burglary, and I was amused to find out that the house the do this with belongs to Anthony's mother. It goes well, all things considered, until afterwards when they's discussing what they've just done and where they can improve, Dignan reveals that he stole Anthony's Mother's diamond earrings, the one thing he had promised he wouldn't, apparently.

This of course means Anthony has to return the earrings, which he does by giving them to is little sister, Grace (Shea Fowler). They then proceed to have a conversation based around a joke that's as old as the hills, that being the substancially-younger sibling that talks like she's 35. I still find it amusing, though. It doesn't crack me up, but it makes me smile, especially when she sighs at the mention of Dignan's name and explains, "I do like Dignan... but he's a liar." He's also a thief, kid. Speaking of Dignan, as this is going on he's interviewing a guy by the name of Bob Mapplethorpe (Robert Musgrave, who was also like Luke and Owen in the original short this is based on, and looks weirdly like what I suspect you'd get if Justin Long and Jimmy Fallon had a son), about the possibility of him being their getaway driver. I feel for Musgrave, because he's got what is really the least fun role to play, that of the slightly whiney wimp who goes through most of the movie being mocked and/or beaten up by his brother. He does a terrible job of selling himself during his interview, claiming they should use him because he's a risktaker, using the fact that he's growing Marijuana in his parent's backyard as proof of this, and when that doesn't seem to be doing it, he offers, "I really want to be a part of this team... and I'm the only one with a car." That somehow proves to be enough.

After Anthony has a small breakdown over his sister's cynical attitude and his belief that she thinks he's a failure (which causes Dignan to hilariously ask what she's done with her life that's so great), a quick stop of at Bob's family's place, some shooting practice out in a field somewhere which proves to be funny just by virtue of watching these three guys who clearly have never held a gun before fire off a few rounds (Bob is especially hilarious with his tiny firearm)(that's what she said), and a final going over of the plan that almost ends in disaster when Dignan and Bob get into a fight over Bob's insistance in touching the gun because he bought it, they perform their first really robbery, knocking over a book store. Their plan is to get Anthony in there first by saying he forgot his sweater, then having him overpower the guy on the door and get Dignan in, too. Amazingly, this all goes off without so much as a hitch. Okay, not totally- the money has to be stuffed into little bags due to the fact that they don't have any big ones, and despite the fact that he's got a gun pretty much in his face, the clerk has no problems calling Dignan a punk in retaliation for being called an idiot, which causes Dignan to go all meek and and refer to him as "sir" from that point forward. But even with those small details, it's a roaring success, and now all tey have to do is get out of town for a little while and wait for things to cool off.

It's when they leave town and set up home in a dingy-looking motel that things start to fall apart. For a start, Bob recieves word from his brother that he's been arrested for drug dealing and needs him to come home and bail him out, leaving them without a driver, or even a car for that matter. But before that, Anthony finds himself distracted by (what else?) a woman- Inez (Lumi Cavazos, also returning from the short), their sweetly-pretty housekeeper that speaks virtually no English. Their courtship is fast but rather sweet. Anthony first lays eyes on her when he's taking a dip in the pool and she's attending to her duties, and later that day he just starts following her around like a puppy, helping her out as she cleans the rooms. At first she seems to be bewildered by this attention, but eventually she seems to become amused by it, even letting Anthony keep a picture of her sister she had inside her locket (which he asks to keep even after he finds out it wasn't her, as he first thought, which struck me as a very strange thing to ask, even for a character in a Wes Anderson movie), and then seemingly throwing a party for he co-workers in the guy's room.

Over the next couple of days, things really end up in the shitter. Bob's gone, and Dignan ends up getting beaten up when he goes to a bar with Anthony and Inez (who have already kissed and had sex at this point), by a guy who was being friendly to him only a second earlier (sample dialogue- OTHER GUY: "You in the army, yes?" DIGNAN: "No, I just have short hair." Then they both chuckle). At his wits end and desperate to get out of there, Dignan proposes a new plan to Anthony- they use Inez's master key to break into one of the rooms, so they can find car keys and make off with a car. Anthony flat-out refuses to do that, in what I thought was going to be a version of that old sitcom gag where, say, the guy goes, "There's no way I'm ever wearing that chicken suit!" and then in the very next scene you see him in the chicken suit. But no, Anthony put his foot down, and it was never mentioned again.

Realising he's totally in love with her, Anthony decides to try and convince Inez to come with them. Realising there's no way he can communicate this to her alone, he recruits one of her co-workers, Rocky (Donny Caicedo), to translate for him. This is a set-up almost guaranteed to have a couple of funny instances, and I wasn't disapponted, getting two moments that made me laugh out loud- firstly, when Anthony is trying to get across how special she makes him feel, he mentions how much he enjoyed the sex they'd recently had, which causes Rocky to stand there looking all embarrassed, not wanting to repeat what he's just heard, only for Inez to insist and then pull a face that's the perfect representation of, "Oh Christ, I can't believe he just said that to somebody I work with." Then later, when she's refused to go with him, Rocky again translates her rejection. It's obvious what she's trying to say is that he's just passing through, but when Rocky tranlates literally, it comes out as, "You're like paper... trash... like paper floating by, y'know?" Then, when seeing the way Anthony takes being told this, he mutters apologetically, "It sounds better in Spanish."

The next day Inez is given an envelope by Dignan and suddenly has a semi-change of heart, sending Rocky after Dignan to tell him that she loves Anthony. Of course, upon hearing the guy say, "Tell Anthony I love him," he assumes... oh fuck it, you don't need me to tell you what he assumes, it's obvious what he assumes. But there's not even enough time for him to share this piece of information with Anthony, as no sooner are they one the road in a sweet-but-beaten-up convertable of some kind, than the thing breaks down (well, Dignan did just find it abandoned in some alley...), and they get into a fight, partially over whether or not this great sceme of theirs is worth continuing, but mostly due to the fact that Anthony had just given Inez pratically all them money they had left in the world, around $500, in that envelope. He then gets angry when Dignan shouts, "YOU DO NOT GIVE THE HOUSEKEEPER A $500 TIP!" This is the first time their relationship in any way angers Dignan, as the movie had done a good job of not portraying him as, to quote the man himself, "the jealous best friend," so it's not like this is one of many blow-ups. I can also see his point. I mean, yes, you love the girl, but giving someone you love everything you have, everything you may need just to survive, is stupid, there's no other way of putting it. Plus (and oh Christ, how do I put this...), giving a woman you've just had sex with money is not really treating her like you love her. That's treating her like... something else. It gets physical, with Dignan popping Anthony one on the nose and making him bleed (at first I thought he's slashed him across the face with the screwdriver he was holding, which shocked me a little bit because that would have easily been the most extreme example of violence I'd ever seen in a Wes Anderson movie), and they literally go their seperate ways, both of them walking off in different directions.

Seeing as he's the main character, it's Anthony that we follow during this split, as it's shown to us in a montage meant to be the visual representation of a letter he's writing to his sister what's going on in his life right now- he's reunited with Bob, and togehter they're working several jobs and have become productive members of society, even if Bob's dickhead brother takes almost all his money to pay for his legal fees. Anthony seems happy with the way things are going, even if he's still pining for Inez. Which is of course the cue for Dignan to show up again with another plan. However, this time he's bringing his own crew, having reunited with Mr. Henry (it was revealed earlier that Dignan only knew him through his front-business, working as a landscaper, which meant he mowed people's lawns, really). He wants Anthony to come on-board for a job they're planning, and he's initially reluctant. Really reluctant actually, both Dignan and Mr. Henry try to talk him into signing up, and it's only when he sees Bob's brother treat Dignan like scum that he finally agrees. And even then he puts up the stipulation that Bob has to be brought in too, which Dignan agrees to only so his friend will come with him (and the scene where Dignan and Bob make up is hilarious, starting with Dignan offering Bob outside so they can handle their problems like men, saying men don't settle their disputes by hugging, then throwing the towel in when Bob lands one punch and deciding to hug it out with him).

I think I should talk a little about James Caan here. He's so fucking cool, without even trying really. And he's probably the best thing in this movie, even with what is basically a glorified cameo. In his brief time on-screen, they manage to work in a few memorable character traits, the main one being his interest in Oriental culture. He's shown training something they try to pass off as a Martial Art that's really just one man pushing another (that happens to be wearing Tighty Whities and not much else), he puts Bob's brother in a submission hold that looks like something we'd put each other in when we were in Junior School (before proclaiming him a "cocksucker")(as in Mr. Henry calls Bob's brother a cocksucker, not that we called each other cocksuckers in Junior School), and then at the party just before the heist, he's wearing... well, it's supposed to be traditional Asian garb, but the way it looks when he's sitting down, it's just a skirt. He's wearing a floaty patterned skirt with sandles and socks. Amazing.

Of course, with things going so well, Dignan finally tells Anthony what Rocky said to him, and him being slightly quicker on the uptake than his friend puts two-and-two together and realises Inez loves him. I expected him to run off and abandon the job, but instead they reconcile over the phone, andthe robbery of the warehouse goes off as planned.

Well, not quite as planned. Actually, it's a total fucking disaster. Neither Anthony nor the cowardly Bob's hearts are really in it, the safecracker (Kumar Pallana, who caused me to go "YAAAAAAAAAY!" the second I saw him. I mean, I knew he was in this, because Anderson is very proud of the fact that he's been in all his feature-length productions. But still, YAAAAAAAAAY! Also his son Dipak played a book store clerk earlier), can't crack the safe, saying he's lost his touch ("Did you ever have a touch?" Dignan asks), they get discovered by some worker who they sort-of take hostage, and then Bob accidently fires off his gun, causing one of the crew to have a heart attack. Oh, and whilst all this is going on, Mr. Henry is robbing Bob's house, stripping it of practically everything. They make a break for it, but realise they dude who had the heart attack has the keys on him, so somebody will have to go back and get them. Dignan says he will and tells Anthony to run for it, and I can't decide if he was willingly sacrificing himself for his friend, or if he's just an idiot. I could be either. It could be both, in all honesty. So he gets arrested (and beaten up by the cops in quite an excessive manner, I thought), and sent to jail for two years. He doesn't seem to bothered about this to be honest, as when Bob and Anthony come to visit him there's not a hint of bitterness. It's almost as if going to prison may have been part of his plan, as if it makes him a real criminal. That probably is the case, thinking about it. The last scene of the movie involves him punking out (is this still a cool thing to say?) his friends by pretending he has an escape plan all worked out, before walking into the prison in Anderson's trademake slow-motion finish, as his friends look on.

I don't really know what the people who kept telling me I might not like this were on about. Yes, if I'm honest, as it stands right now after a couple of viewings, this is probably my least favourite Wes Anderson film. And it has flaws, the biggest being the fact that there's literally no story whatsoever. I won't pretend otherwise, I know this review doesn't feature the most detailed plot breakdown I've ever done, but believe me when I say I didn't really have much to work with. It's just a bunch of stuff happening, then a bunch more stuff happening. But I still enjoyed it, it was fun and quirky, there was wit and charm, and some, if not all, of the trademake Anderson storytelling techniques. Where I had the most fun though was watching one of my favourite directors slowly become the fimmaker he is today, as he discovered seemingly on the fly what he was and wasn't good at, and discovering his style as he went. It's beautiful, really.


Almost beautiful enough to bring a tear to the eye.

Until next week, I'm The Cheap-Arse Film Critic, and I just wanted to say I'm sorry I threw rocks at you that day.

Sunday, 5 April 2009

The Cheap-Arse Film Review #27- "THE KARATE KID, PART III."









PRICE: 50p

We all have a contradiction or two to our natures, it's what makes us interesting. Or annoying. Take your pick. I have a couple of big ones. For a start, I'm very into order, lists and everything being in its right place, but at the same time I can go Caveman at the drop of a hat, usually when I'm unhappy. Another is, I'm a pretty opinionated guy (you're shocked, I can tell), but I will often find myself agreeing with things and opinions I actually don't, for no other reason then to live a quiet life. This is very high on the list of things I hate about myself. But the big one, the one that confounds even me is the fact that I consider myself a pretty gently, placid guy... and I love fighting.

Now, when I say I love fighting, that doesn't mean I like nothing better of a weekend than to dress up in my best clothes and go out trawling the streets looking for a good ruck. I wouldn't do that even if I could, which I can't for a multitude of reasons. But I love watching it, something about it always got my blood pumping. I couldn't get into any sport that didn't have some form of combat involved with them. I really didn't like Football for example, and whilst I say I do now, and would even go so far as to say I support West Ham (it's character building if nothing else), in truth there's always this niggling suspicion at the back of my head that I only watch it because it's another excuse to go down the pub. Whereas give me a boxing match, or an MMA fight, or something obscure off one of those fringe sports channels, and I'm happy as Larry, even if I have to stay up until Stupid O'Clock in order to indulge.

I've never been that into fighting movies, though. I like a good action film, but I'm not counting them. I mean films like the "Kickboxer" or "Bloodsport" series. I could just never be bothered with them. At first I thought it might be a case of simulated fighting versus actual fighting, but then I remembered I love professional wrestling, and that's simulated violence disguised as actual violence (actually, I think most of the time it would be better described as actual violence diguised and simulated violence disguised as actual violence, but this is not a discussion to be getting into here...). There's only two fighting-based franchises I've followed in an way over the years, and those are the "Rocky" movies, which I don't think you have to like boxing to enjoy, and the "Karate Kid" movies. And of those two, "Rocky" probably takes the top spot, because whilst I watched every installment of that saga excitedly and will still willingly watch them if I find them on (yes, even the fifth one), I could never really muster the same level of excitment about the other "Karate Kid" films. I mean, the fact that I've not seen the third one until now should tell you everything you need to know. I saw "The Next Karate Kid" before I saw this. Think about that.

I think alot of it had to do with the fact that I didn't really think the sequels were needed. Take the first "Rocky" movie, for example. I understand that the movie was all about believing in yourself and proving you belonged and were somebody, and that the message it was putting across was made all the more powerful by the fact that he didn't win the title (OMGSPOILERZ!). I know, respect and love all this. It's amazing storytelling. But, if I'm honest... I wanted to see him win. I loved that character so much that I wanted to see him achieve his dream. I think everybody did. So with "Rocky 2," you had a reason to WATCH, to see if he could do it. With the first "Karate Kid," Daniel wins the tournament (OMGSPILERZAGIN!!!), and that's it. Instant gratification. No reason to come back even once. But come back I have.

We first find ourselves in flashback land, as the opening credits for this movie occur over a montage, explaining the history Daniel (Ralph Macchio) and Mr. Miyagi (the late, great Pat Morita) have with the Cobra Kai, a rival karate dojo, and its sensei, Johnny (Martin Kove). It's a decently-done effort, but it's a little bit patchy and leaves out some things you'd expect to see. For example, we see Johnny make his infamous "Sweep the leg" decree, but then we don't actually see the leg being swept, nor do we see Mr Miyagi healing Daniel backstage following its devastating effects. We do however see the brief scene from the beginning of the second one where Miyagi humiliates Johnny in front of his students, getting him to punch through two car windows and then making it very obvious he could kill him, before deciding not to. It's this, coupled with Johnny's violent distain for his student's failures that presumably landed him where we see him when the film picks up properly, that being the head of a dojo with no students. For a brief moment, he cuts a quite sympathetic character as he listens to an answering machine message from the organisers of this year's karate tournament, who presume he won't be entering.

And this continues when he goes to meet his friend, war buddy and the owner of his establishment, Terry Silver, played by Thomas Ian Griffith (who I am convinced is an evil alternate reality version of Paul Rudd), walking in on him kicking the shit out of two dudes during a spot of karate sparring. He has his bags packed and is ready to chuck the whole thing in, but Terry doesn't want to hear it, telling him he owes him his life several times over and pretty much doeasn't expect a penny for him, instead offering to pay for him to go on vacation to Tahiti that very second. So far I was really surprised by this portrayal, as it seemed to geared towards humanising Johnny and making him less of a cartoon. Of course the moment I start thinking something is the second it usually flies out the window, and sure enough, in the next scene, as Terry's driving him to the airport he swears to him that he's going to devote all his time and resources (of which he as alot of, as the movie establishes very quickly that he's a very rich man, dealing dubiously with the chemical industry), to destroying Daniel and Miyagi, proclaiming, "I'm gonna make them suffer, and suffer, and when I think they've suffered enough, then I'm gonna start with the pain!" It's the kind of thing you'd expect a super-villain to say, and as the movie goes on, it becomes obvious that that's pretty much what Terry is.

He drops Johnny off at the airport, and as he enters the terminal, who should we see walking the other way but Daniel and Miyagi, returning from their adventure in the Japan! What a coincidence! I want to talk a little bit about Ralph Macchio before I continue with this thing. It's often said that this guy's career was blighted by the Curse of the Babyface, and in nowhere else is that proven more accurate than this film. Within continuity, it takes place about a year after the events of the first one, but in reality that came out in 1984, whereas this one came out in 1989, five years later. And he's not aged a day. Not one. He looks exactly the same as he did in flashback at the beginning. And looking at recent pictures of him I found, he still pretty much does. Well, that's en exaggeration, but the fact is he's two years shy of is 50th Birthday, and I personally think he could pass himself off as being in his mid-thirties (in many ways I'm envious, because I'm in my mid-twenties, and when I recently asked a woman to guess how old I was, she put me at 32. I blame it on being fat). None of this is what blew my mind, though. No, what succeeded in doing that was when I looked up information on both Macchio and Thomas Ian Griffith and discovered that... they're practically the same age. Infact, it gets better- Macchio, playing a kid young enough to just be starting college, is five months older than Griffith, playing a guy old enough to have fought in Vietnam. Five. Months. Older.

Back to the movie, Daniel and Miyagi's homecoming doesn't go quite as they hoped- Daniel discovers his mother, who he wanted to surprise with his return, has had to leave town to care for a sick elderly relative (a plot device that exists for no other reason than to write her out of the movie, which I'm totally fine with, as she's a terrible actress), and Miyagi finds himself in enforced retirement when his building has been sold. He's of course saddened by this turn of events, but Daniel decides to try and cheer him up by helping him realise his dream of opening a Bonzai store, buying the lease to a building in a "developing" (read: shit) area of town, with the money he had saved to pay for his college education, which is a sweet thing for him to do, but I can't help but think of the spasm his mother will have when she finds out. It almost makes me wish they'd bring her back just so we could have that scene. Almost. Miagi is touched by this, and after some initial reluctance agrees to open the store, with his only stipulation being that Daniel adds his name to the lease.

As this is going on, we get updates on Terry and the plan he's formulating. Over a telephone conversation with Johnny in Tahiti as he's getting rubbed down by two women, he reveals he intends to somehow convince Daniel to let him train him for the upcomng tournament, where he'll beat the shit out of him virtually without him knowing it, thus weakening him and sending him into the fight ready to be humiliated. He has a tool (both figuratively and literally) for that too, in the form of Mike Barnes (Sean Kanan), "Karate's Bad Boy," who he brings in especilly for the task with the promise that he'll be a 50% partner in all the new schools Terry intends to open. It was originally supposed to be 25%, but he gets Terry to double his offer by threatening to walk. Mr. Silver would be hopeless on "Dragon's Den." The only way I can think to describe Barnes is that he's fucking psychotic, marching around shouting at things he doesn't like, threatening to either hurt or just outright kill people at almost every turn. Then again, he fits in well with the company he keeps, as Terry assigns him henchmen (one of whom is named Snake)(SNAKE!), who only seem to exist to derive joy from his bastardly behaviour. Terry himself is also starting to seem slightly unhinged, as in the phone scene he debuts his laugh, which becomes his trademark as the movie goes on. Sometimes it's loud and booming as it is here (where it's also accompanied by him yelling, "I LIKE THAT!!! I LIKE THAT JOHNNY!!!" like some S&M freak when Johnny says he wants him to make Daniel's knuckles bleed), sometimes it's a small chuckle, but it's always full of bad intentions and accompanied by a sadistic glint in the eye.

Of course the whole plan is built around Daniel agreeing to take part in the tournament, which at this point doesn't seem likely to happen, since for some reason he seems to need Miyagi's permission to take part and the old man won't give it. There are a few issues that come with this permission slip thing, but I'll deal with the one that's brought up in this scene, that being the change in rules that Daniel tells Miyagi about- rather than fight in the entire tournament, the defending champion only has to fight once, in the final. I can see why they did this, because this way they don't have to shoot alot of tournament stuff and can just get straight to the final, but it's stupid on several levels. For a start, no legit tournament that takes itself in any way seriously would work this way, because putting a dude who's had to win several fights to get where he is against a guy that hasn't had to break so much as a sweat just isn't fair. Then there's the fact that this set-up makes the villain, in a strange way, seem more heroic than our supposed protagonist, because he's had to work his arse off to get where he is.

In any event, Miyagi says no, and attempts to distract Daniel by, for all intents and purposes, pimping him out. He sends him over the pottery store next door to get pots for the trees, where he finds a girl moulding clay. Her name is Jessica, and she's played by Robyn Lively, who lovers of shit eighties teen movies will know from "Teen Witch" (which I'm very ashamed to say I've seen), and lovers of quality television will know from "Dougie Howser, MD," "Twin Peaks," and more recently "30 Rock." She pretty much throws herself at Daniel the second he walks through the door (she herself admitting she "came on pretty strong" in a later scene), making plans to meet up with him later that night. However, when they meet again, she cools things off almost instantly, saying she's got a boyfriend she's been having problems with that she's decided to give another chance, and will be moving away to be with him pretty soon. I thought this would just be a hurdle in the path of them eventually getting together, but surprisingly they don't, they just become plutonic friends, and Daniel seems more than okay with it. And it's quite nice to see a relationship between a man and a woman presented on screen that's in no way sexually-driven, something unexpected and different, especilly in a movie aimed at a teen audience.

She soon learns that hanging around with Daniel might not be good for her health though, as not once but twice are their get-togethers ruined by Barnes and his crew showing up to violently demand Daniel sign the entry form they have and enter the tournament. See, in an earlier scene, Daniel had come round to Miyagi's way of thinking and burned the form, which was witnessed by Terry, who had snuck into Miyagi's place in order to dig up information on him to use to gain his trust. What with the tournament being the main component of his plan, Terry instructs Barnes to terrorize Daniel until he signs. Which is the second problem I have, as it was established before that it was Miyagi's signature that was needed, but now the movies expects us to forget that and go along with the idea that Daniel needs to sign it, ignoring questions like if that was the case, why didn't he just sign it himself to begin with? As continuity mistakes go, this is amateur-hour bullshit, especially for a production like this. The first time they show up at Miyagi's store, Snake (SNAKE!!!!!) does most of the talking, alternating between sneering and smirking, only for Barnes to step in and insist he enter the tournament, then flip out and have to be restrained when Daniel tells him to fuck off. The second time they show up (and both of these happen when the place is supposed to be closed, which begs the question, why don't they just lock the bloody door?) they interrupt a pleasent meal between Daniel and Jessica, where he gives her Maccaroni & Cheese "11 out of 10" (dude, it's Mac & Cheese, the most idiot-proof food in the world. I could make Mac & Cheese, and my idea of being fancy is putting mayo on something). This times things get violent, with them smashing up the store, Daniel getting beaten up, and Jessica actually getting kicked in the stomach. Miyagi himself has to show up and save the day, throwing the little shits out and into Barnes' convertable, where he start doughnutting and screaming about how this isn't over. Yes, that's perfectly rational. Miyagi then says at least they didn't take any of his stock, since it wasn't there (nice attitude there. "A young girl just got assaulted, but at least my business is fine!"). However, once he and Daniel get home, they discover the Bonzai have been taken by Barnes and his goons, who left the consent form behind in their place. It's worth mentioning that the trees had seemingly been left on a table ouside Miyagi's place, and therefore were never all that safe in the first place.

Bummed out about the damage and the loss of stock, Daniel decides to help Miyagi make up financially for all he's lost. However, he decides to do this in a very questionable way, that being to dig up and sell the Bonzai tree Miyagi had brought with him from Japan. In an earlier scene, Miyagi had told him about this tree, that it was worth thousands, and that he had planted it in "The Devil's Cauldron," a sort-of bowl-like mountain area that filled up with water when the tide came in. Daniel and Jessica scale down the rock-face to retrieve the tree, only for it to be dropped into the salt water below, which is apparently poison for the roots. They retrieve it and go to make their way back up, only to find their ropes have been pulled up by Barnes and company. Their offer- sign to compete, and they'll throw the ropes back down, otherwise they'll leave them there to drown. With little other choice, Daniel relents and signs, and the bad guys amazingly prove to be good for their word, tossing the ropes back down and even helping pull the pair up. They make their nasty pints back by snapping Miyagi's tree down the middle though, which was a predictable-but-still-dastardly touch. Daniel shows Miyagi the tree and tells him what happened, and for a second there appears to be a crack in the old man's Zen-like attitude, but the he composes himself and accepts Daniel's apology, though he still refuses to train him for the tournament, much to Daniel's dismay.

Which is where, finally, Terry's plan kicks into high gear. He had introduced himself to Daniel and Miyagi earlier, claiming he'd come to apologise for Johnny's actions, and that the man himself had passed away of a broken heart due to the failure of his school. He slimes his way into Miyagi's affections by using information about his military background he'd discovered, before setting his sights on Daniel, praising him to the moon. The seeds of trust are then totally sown when he "saves" Daniel from an attack by Barnes, making it as easy as possible so he'd look irresistable as a trainer, which is what he becomes to Daniel following Miyagi's refusal. I have to say, it's quite a sight seeing Daniel in a Cobra Kai uniform. There's something just fundamentally wrong about it. Over the course of their trainning sessions, Terry slowly lets the friendly, cuddly act slip and he becomes more aggressive, as do the things he teaches. There's not much technique to it, all he's really having Daniel do is punch, kick and elbow a wooden dummy to the point that he injures himself and (as Johnny asked) makes his knuckles bleed. Miyagi at first heals Daniel's injuries with magic healing powder (don't look at me like that, that's what it is), but as time goes on and distance grows between them, Daniel starts usng it himself without permission. "Hope confusion end soon, Daniel-san," he says sadly at one point, "Miyagi heart empty without you." AWWWWWWWW.

His confusion and confliction about the new methods he's being taught does indeed come to an end soon, as whilst he's out at a dance club with Jessica (the band performing there being fronted by one of the most sorry examples of an eighties fashion victim I've ever seen. Hello, white turtle nuck and polka-dot blazer!), spending time with her before she leaves the next day, Terry gets some dude to hit on her, causing Daniel to punch him in the face, breaking his nose without even thinking and appalling his friend, who storms out. Personally I would have left before then, just after he claimed, "I'm so thirsty I could drink a horse." Seriously, WAT? Anyway, Terry tries to sel it to him that what just happened was a good thing, that it proved he'd developed killer instincts and was now doing these things without even thinking, but Daniel is nothing but ashamed of himself and insists on making things right with all the people in his life. He makes peace with Jessica before she leaves (and she really does leave. I thought she might return for the tournament, but nope, she's just gone), and Miyagi as well, before going to he Cobra Kai dojo to respectfully tell Terry that he won't be training with him anymore.

Which is the exact moment the film turns into a nightmare, as Terry not only has Barnes there with him, but also Johnny, back from beyone the grave/Tahiti, to terroize and physically destroy this kid. This parts really makes no sense. Think about it- what were Johnny and Barnes doing there? Logic would seem to say Terry had them come, but how could he have been so sure Daniel was going to show up? And what if he hadn't? What would they have done then? Gone out to dinner? It's ludicrous movie logic, saved only by the three men themselves. Put bluntly, they're... evil. Johnny even growls like a beast at Daniel when he jumps out at him. "ARRRRRGH! ARRRRRGH!" And the laughing. Dear God, the laughing. Even when Miyagi shows up to hand them all their arses, even when you take into account the fact that this great plan is technically a total failure, they're still laughing, cackling, about all the awful things the've done and are going to do. THEY KNOW THEY'RE EVIL. AND IT AMUSES THEM.

Into the final straight now, as Miyagi has agreed to train Daniel, and we find ourselves at the tournament. It's almost like the writrs knew they fucked up a little having Daniel only have to fight one match, because they then show Barnes employing dirty tactics in his encounters, teeterig on the edge of disqualification before winning, thus making him appear as un-noble as possible. They then have him kick the shit out of Daniel for most fo their scrap. I don't know how the scoring in karate matches is done, and I doubt this is all that faithful to them anyway, but they way it seems to work is Barnes would get a point, before then doing something underhanded and having that point taken away from him. Of course this leaves the door for Daniel to make a comeback, which he does following the rest period, confusing Barnes by waving his arms around a bit, then catching him with a throw and gaining a point. Strangely, this one point is enough for him to win the match. Me no understand. The he and Miyagi celebrate as the bad guys slink off, presumably back to Hell.

Mots of this movie had a very "going-through-the-motions" feel about it. The direction is unexciting, most of the performances just there (with the exception on Morita, who's so good he could make an Alien Ant Farm video watchable), and in truth, alot of the time it's quite boring. Except when the bad guys are on the screen. Then, it comes alive. They say all heroes are only as good as their villains, ad that's totally the case here. Griffith, Kove, Kanan, this is their movie, and they save it with their gloriously over-the-top antics. I tell you, after watching this, I'd rather be a Cobra Kai. It looks like so much fun, and who knows, one day maybe I'd get to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with my sensei and chuckle demonically about the misfortunes I've brought down upon others. And also maybe I'd get to sweep the leg.



When it was good, it was really rather dull. But when it was bad, it was wonderful.

Until next week, I'm The Cheap-Arse Film Critic, and I want Tong Po! GIVE ME TONG PO!