Toy Commercial Tuesday: Super Mario Bros. THE MOVIE!

Even as a kid, I knew there was something off with 1993’s Super Mario Bros. movie. I don’t remember being super excited about it coming out — not like I was for Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles a few years earlier — but I do remember being confused by the tiny headed lizard dudes and, well, everything else.

These days, I’m happy the movie exists because it gave us Ertl action figures based on Bob Hoskins, John Leguizamo, Dennis Hopper AND Fisher Stevens. What other movie can say that? More importantly, what accent is this kid trying to do?

Awesome Aussies: Not Quite Hollywood (2008) & Dead End Drive-In (1986)

I watched a lot of documentaries last week, but my favorite one by far was called Not Quite Hollywood. It documents the history of Australian film, sticking mostly to bawdy comedies, horror movies, skin flicks and other grindhouse fair, aka all kinds of movies that I would dig. The doc did a great job of getting what seemed like all of the big names in the industry into the movie and then a series of other people who brought in all kinds of color from film critics who hated these movies to American stars like Jamie Lee Curtis who appeared in some of the movies and even Quentin Tarantino who is just a really big fan of these movies. If nothing else, Not Quite Hollywood acts as a checklist for movie fans of a lot of flicks you might not have heard of if you’re around my age. The few that I had heard of were, of course, Mad Max, Patrick (which I hadn’t seen, but the ending gets spoiled in the footage shown), The Howling 3 and BMX Bandits (which I have seen). After watching the movie, I checked out the Wiki page for a full list and then checked it against Netlflix. Unfortunately, movies like Stunt Rock, The Man From Hong Kong and Death Cheaters don’t seem to be available. In fact, the majority that I looked up aren’t Mad Max, Dead End Drive-In and a few others are rentable by disc while Patrick is on Instant. So, keep an eye out for reviews of those in the coming days/weeks.

But, aside from being a watchable checklist, NQH also does an awesome job of giving viewers a true sense of the scene. These dudes weren’t really looking to make high art, they wanted to show some boobs, get some blood splatter, crash some cars and kick some ass. The movies were mostly designed to be shown in drive-ins around the world and the people who made them make no pretense about it. Budding filmmakers should take the time to give this a look for some dos and don’ts when it comes to filmmaking as these guys were mostly working on low budgets.

One of my favorite parts of the movie is when everyone’s talking about this movie called Mad Dog Morgan. They brought Dennis Hopper in to star as the titular character and then nearly everyone in the doc goes on about how much of a drunk ass the guy was. Just causing trouble and not worrying about continuity between shots and being generally drunk. Then, Hopper actually pops up and owns up to it! It’s great. I’m also a big fan of seeing Tarantino get really excited and talk about these movies, many of which he not only claims as inspiration but explains what parts of them he used in some of his movies.

Of all the rad movies I saw clips of in NQH, the one that intrigued me the most was Dead End Drive-In and luckily it’s one of the few available for rent. The plot, as it was explained in the documentary was that the government basically took a drive-in and turned it into a concentration camp for bad kids. They’re given food vouchers, live in their cars and have a steady stream of movies playing on the screen. It’s kind of like a much smaller Escape From New York and instead of an ultra bad ass like Snake Plissken, our hero goes by Crabs. See, he and his girlfriend went to the drive-in to watch some flicks. While there, the cops steal his tires and they’re stuck there. The next day Crabs gets the rundown from the drive-in operator who tells him he’s there for a while, whether he likes it or not.

Unlike just about everyone else, though, Crabs doesn’t like it and start planning on how to bust the hell out of what some of us might call a filthy paradise. I’ll be honest, I was working on Toy Fair coverage while the movie was on and, thanks to some of the thicker accents and my split attention, I missed some of the smaller details, but overall the plot is pretty simple and a ton of fun culminating in a giant car chase within the confines of the drive-in. There’s also some cultural commentary in there as some Asians are bussed in to parallel the camps the US set up for Japanese Americas during WWII. The subplot might seem a bit weighty for such a seemingly silly movie, but I liked the attempt and the visceral reaction it got from most of the other internees, though not Scab. It’s what sets him apart from his fellow dirtballs and really does make him the hero of the movie, as if he needed more reason than living so long with such a terrible nick name.

In addition to someday wanting to own/run a bar, I now want to open a really rad drive-in. I don’t really get why they’re not very popular anymore. I’d make it kind of an Alamo Drafthouse (and maybe a roller rink) with a variety of different movies, both new and old and some really good food. Anyone want to invest?

Random Double Feature: Enemy Mine (1985) & Rising Son (2006)

I spend most of my days now sitting on my couch with my laptop in front of me and the TV on. I’m usually catching up on the crappy TV shows I missed throughout the week or watching movies I’ve decided to randomly watch. Today is one of those movie days as nothing was on TV this morning. I started off with the sci-fi flick Enemy Mine which I knew nothing about aside from the fact that Dennis Quaid was in it. I figured it would be a big crazy sci-fi movie on a fairly low budget. And it was, it just wasn’t anything like what I thought it would be in the specifics.

In the future, humans are trying to explore the galaxy, but they run into an alien race called Dracs. There’s fighting and all that. Quaid gets shipwrecked on a planet with a Drac and no one else. They start off as enemies, but eventually become friends and learn each others’ languages and culture. I’ll give a SPOILER WARNING now in case you don’t want things ruined for you. Eventually, the Drac (played by Louis Gossett Jr.) tells Quaid he’s with child (they spontaneously become pregnant, but carry their children like a mammal). After giving birth, the Drac dies and Quaid takes care of the little guy only for some scavengers to come, nearly kill him and take the baby Drac away to work in their mines. Once he gets better, Quaid goes and gets his adopted nephew back.

I give the writers and director Wolfgang Petersen tons of credit for going all over the place with this story. It could have been just a man vs. alien story or a man learning to get along with an alien story, but they got the extra few miles with the kid and the relationship and Quaid’s eventual revenge on the scavengers. There’s even a scene at the end with Quaid being honored by the Dracs on their homeworld. I like how, at the end of the movie, it’s not like everything between the two races has been solved and put aside just because two people got to know each other, but it does offer hope that maybe if he can tell his people about the Dracs, they can work something out. I also really liked the sets of the alien world. They didn’t go the Star Wars route and just choose one season/type of climate and just stick to that. It’s a very rich environment that’s fun to watch. Good stuff, highly recommended!

I’ve been on a mini-skateboard movie kick lately. Well, if a “kick” can be described as watching three movies on a subject in 8 months. Anyway, it started off with Lords of Dogtown and then I watched the documentary that was based on called Dogtown And Z-Boys, which I really should have posted about. And now, I just got done with Rising Son: The Legends Of Skateboarder Christian Hosoi, which focused on one skateboarded. Rising Son is the perfect compliment to Dogtown And Z-Boys because Hosoi started skating with those dudes when he was just a kid, but eventually he became one of the greatest skaters in the game only to fall from site thanks to a drug addiction and eventual time in jail. It even has a few of the original Z-Boys in the form of Tony Alva, Jay Adams and Shogo Kubo which was pretty rad. The doc also has some big time skaters like Tony Hawk, Bob Burnquist and a slew of others talking about how influential Hosoi was. Heck, even skateboarder-turned-actor Jason Lee and David Arquette are interviewed (though I think Arquette’s only on screen once). There’s even a contestant from Launch My Line, Louanna Rawls (Lou’s daughter), interviewed because she used to date Hosoi.

So, why is this dude such a big deal? Well, when he was coming up he just started doing all these sick tricks that no one else was doing and really brought skateboarding back into the mainstream after it died off with the Z-Boys crew a few years earlier. He had a swagger that made him a rock star and the talent to back it all up. To be honest, I had never heard of the dude, but then again, I don’t really know much about the history of skateboarding, just what I’ve been learning in these movies. I found the film really fascinating though and it does have something of a happy ending as Hosoi got out of jail, off drugs and is now going around talking to people about his experiences with drugs, skating and God.

One thing I’ve discovered after watching so many documentaries on Netflix is how freaking interesting life can be. On the surface, this story is just another story about a kid who made it big and then crashed, but the interest, along with the devil, is in the details. I think I’d like to try my hand at making a documentary about something, I just need to figure out what it is. Any thoughts?

Docu Triple Feature: Planet B-Boy, Cool School & American Movie

Have I mentioned before how much I love dance movies? If not, I do. I even watch a few dance shows in the vein of America’s Next Best Dance Crew (new season starts soon!). So, when I came across Planet B-Boy (2007) in the Netflix instant watch queue, I added it. Like most of the 330 movies currently on my queue, I added it a while ago, but didn’t get around to watching it until recently. One of the things I love about the instant watch feature is that it opens me up to documentaries I probably wouldn’t have otherwise heard about.

Okay, so here’s the deal with Planet B-Boy. It starts off telling a little bit of the history of break dancing and b-boy culture, how it started in the US and has branched out to what seems like every country in the world and about how the crews compete now. The main thrust of the movie follows several break dance crews as they compete in the big break dance competition for the whole world. You get everything from the kid who’s doing this even though his parents don’t understand to a little French kid who is on a mostly black dance crew. When you see them walk up, it looks like a joke or a gimmick, but the kid’s got moves.

Not only do you get wrapped up in the dance competition, but also some of the individuals from the different crews. It’s a great little movie that feels as much like a sports competition than a simple dance off.

I’m also a fan of art. Not a big huge fan. I’ve never really studied it or anything, but I’m fascinated by the creative process in general, especially when it means taking a blank canvas or a lump of clay and doing something so cool with it. The Cool School (2008) takes a look at the burgeoning modern art scene in LA in the late 50s through the 60s. I had a lot of fun with this, learned a lot and don’t really remember a ton, but I know it was a fun watch. See, all these artists really saw themselves as these counter culture rebels, and they were. It’s just kind of funny to think about how powerful this scene and the very similar one like it going on over in New York really were revolutionary. Can you think of anything like that now? Is it because everything under the sun has been done (and recorded) or is it that we’re not really pushing ourselves as youths anymore? And how does Twilight play into all this?! Okay, I’m getting riled up.

Cool School focuses on not just the scene, but most of the artists, participants and hangers on who were around for it, which was something I really liked. A lot of times you watch something like this and it’s a lot of secondary and tertiary figures or songs and daughters talking about people. Heck, they even got Dennis Hopper to appear with another guy and talk about the artists like me and my friends talk about comics. It was pretty cool, especially considering that after a few people fell out of the group, left or died, it all kind of fell apart. This one’s definitely worth a look if you’re interested in art, culture or stories about what a group of compatriots can do with a little money and a lot of freedom.

Sweet Christmas, American Movie(1999) is not the kind of movie you should watch when you’re feeling down about yourself and wondering whether you should give up on your dreams. Or maybe it is. It’s about that dude there on the left in the poster. He’s been a dreamer all his life and wants to make movies. The problem is that he’s got no money, is heavily in debt and has a drinking problem. But none of that will stop him from making his movie…or at least finishing the short film he started years prior.

The reason I watched this movie today is that I remembered seeing it at the video store and never had an idea what it was about. Sometimes my choices come down to something that simple. Thanks to my current emotional state and unemployment this flick really hit me, especially because the dude on the left can’t imagine how anyone resigns themselves to living a boring life working in a factory or something and not doing something great. The simple fact of the matter that he doesn’t seem to grasp is that not everyone can be a movie director and every city needs a garbage man. But damn, you’ve got to appreciate and admire his dogged determination to get his creation out there. I wish I had that kind of drive. Maybe I do and I just haven’t figured out what that drive is for. Anyway, enough soul searching, everyone who’s ever had a creative impulse to do anything and either given up or not, this is the movie for you. Oh, plus the dude on the right is funny every single time he speaks, though unintentionally. Good, no great, stuff!

Live Blogging Dennis Hopper’s Space Truckers (1996)

Inspired by the Dennis Hopper list I already mentioned for Topless Robot, I just had to watch all of Space Truckers. It’s definitely ridiculous and (I’m hoping) tongue-in-cheek, but worth a look, especially if you’re drinking with your buddies.

*30 seconds in and the effects are already more convincing than Spirit.

*Pretty good killer robot attack scene.

*”You astonish me.” [Heh, I have NO idea what this refers to.]

*Ooh, double cross.

*It really is a space truck, looks like a Transformer.

*Zero grav mustarad and hot dog, that’s goofy but a great way to apply condiments.

*Hauling Square Pigs.

*The space truck chair looks like an amusement park ride.

*Magnetic floor, extra arms, they really had fun with this. He looks like Doc Ock.

*Yup, those are square-ass pigs, probably have space pig flu.

*”That’s not how you throw a punch in zero gravity, this is the recommended technique.”

*Stephen Dorf and Debbi Mazar (Empire Records!!!!)

*Even with all these space effects, they can’t make it look like George Wendt is punching Hopper

*Space bar brawl!

*Bathroom lady robot secret passage – crazy.

*Anti grav lingerie!

*His computer sounds like annie potts

*”It’s black rock!” – Lost tie-in!!!

*Zero g strip “tease” – looks ridiculous.

*Boarded by pirates.

*”Is he talking about my dick?”

*”Is this your dick?” “No.” “That one’s mine.” – weird.

*Woah, this guy’s a crazy cyborg with a cyborg butt, he looks kind of like Metallo.

*Haha, pull cord penis like lawn mower.

*Everyone on the crew is gonna bone Debbi? Ew.

*They’re spending a LOT of time being captured.

*The killer robot is a dick! and he looks kinda like ROM.

*How are there 30 minutes left? I’m already sleepy-drunk.

*The robot activation scene actually looks pretty cool.

*His plan is to actually crash the truck full of killer robots onto planet Earth hoping the reentry will fry them? Not a great plan Dennis.

*Oh okay, he could parachute to safety, no worries.

*And the president of the world is…an old guy? It seemed like they were making a big deal of him, but I don’t recognize the guy.

Riding Hella Dirty: A Hell Ride (2008) Review

2008-11-07
4:53:29 am

Here’s what you need to ask yourself to figure out if you’d like Hell Ride. Do you like Quentin Tarantino and the movies that he likes? Does the idea of a movie with Larry Bishop, Michael Madsen, Vinnie Jones, David Carradine and Dennis Hopper sound awesome? Does the idea of amoral bikers doing whatever they want wherever they want bother you? If the answers were yes, YES and hell no, then Hell Ride is the movie for you.

It’s by no means a great movie, but writer, director, lead and classic motorcycle movie dude Larry Bishop definitely loves what he’s doing and it permeates the film. Everyone involved really feels like they’re having fun, even when spouting off some fairly ridiculous dialogue (the fire for sex metaphor goes on WAY too long).

There’s a cool back story to this movie that’s related in the behind the scenes featurette on the DVD. Not surprisingly, Quentin is a big fan of Larry Bishop’s biker flicks and told him it’s his destiny to make the best biker flick of all time. Having not seen any of the others, I can’t compare, but it’s a cool backstory. Bishop picked up the proposition and ran with it. And I’ve got to give it to the guy for getting a very impressive cast together. Aside from the guys mentioned above, there are about 100 sexy ladies and Eric Balfour who some of you might remember as Jesse from the first few episodes of Buffy.

The plots probably a little more complex than it needs to be with plenty of flashbacks and all that, but it ends up working int he end and would probably have made a lot more sense if I wasn’t so tired when I started watching it last night.

So here’s the deal, Bishop leads a gang with Madsen and Balfour as his numbers one and two. Hopper’s a part of their crew too. Bishop and his boys run up against another gang with Carradine as the head and Vinnie Jones as the street leader (or something like that). Bishop’s character is also trying to make good on a promise he made to a woman who got killed 30 years ago.

I’ll be honest, I missed a lot of the plot and got the basics from the extra features on the DVD which was helpful, but I still really enjoyed the movie. There’s a lot of just dudes being badass which I appreciate. You definitely won’t see another movie like this. I was also impressed with the age of the leads. Not counting the women, you’ve got Bishop whose birthday isn’t posted on IMDb, but he was making biker movies in the 70s (he’s also Rat Packer Larry Bishop’s kid!), Madsen is 51, Jones is 43, Balfour’s the baby at 31 while Carradine and Hopper are both 72. You probably won’t get a cast like that in any other movie this year. And man, they’re all bad dudes in this flick. And not just cool, but morally all over the place.

Madsen does his usual thing. Hopper’s actually less crazy than you’d expect if you’ve seen some of his other weirder work like that nutty Crow sequel he was in where he played a gangsta pimp. What happened to that guy? Carradine gets kind of a different role than he has in Quentin’s movies. And Balfour does a great job as the new kid who’s having fun but also working hard to prove himself. And they all look great together on screen, almost like a superhero team.

It’s fun stuff. Not brilliant film making, but definitely a freaking fun movie.