Friday, July 31, 2009
Wednesday, July 29, 2009
As a trilogy, the Ninja films were unrelated to each other - with the only constant being actor Sho Kosugi, who played a different role in each one. And while Enter the Ninja (1981) and Revenge of the Ninja (1983) were straight-forward action films with crime elements, Domination brought the series to a supernatural conclusion. Domination 's lengthy, action-packed opening follows a ninja assassin as he makes an early morning attack on a group of men at a private golf course. This attack quickly turns into a full-blown massacre as nine-irons are a pale match against ninja stars and the unknown assassin leaves a trail of bloody bodies out on the green as the local law shows up by foot, car, and helicopter to give this ninja a taste of police hospitality. While ninjas are supposed to be all about stealth, taking on the world seems to be this ninja's style. He's the Sarah Palin of ninjas - he's going maverick! And that approach kind of/sort of works until the police unload about 80,000 rounds of ammo into him. Still, this dude proves his awesome ninja cred by continuing to elude the police by burrowing his bullet-riddled body under the ground under the cover of a smoke bomb. That's advanced ninja technique right there!
This resourceful - but soon-to-be-dead - martial arts master gets lucky by coming across Christie Ryder (Lucinda Dickey), a young telephone repair worker on a pole out in the middle of nowhere. Christie is unmistakably modeled after Jennifer Beals' character of 'Alex' in Flashdance (1983). Whereas Alex had a blue-collar day job as a welder while being a dancer at night, Christie performs what is generally considered "man's work" for the telephone company and is an aerobics instructor on the side. When Christine goes to offer the wounded ninja some assistance (FYI: never approach a wounded ninja), he hypnotizes her and gives her his sword before dropping dead. At the police station, she's informed that this ninja had assassinated a "very important scientist" (by the way, most movies would've made a whole subplot about who this scientist was - what project he was working on, and who hired the ninja to kill him - but Domination drops the matter completely after just that one line) and on her way out, Officer Billy Secord (Jordan Bennett) takes the opportunity to hit on her ("Rough day, huh?"). At first, he gets turned down but like a determined stalker, he refuses to take 'no' for an answer and soon he's attending her aerobics class. What Secord doesn't know, however, is that there's another man in Christie's life - the ninja who's possessing her soul. This fitness queen is about to find out that you haven't had a real workout until you've been possessed by a ninja!
Christie eventually allows Secord to visit her apartment and what a first visit it is as she showers as he waits for her and then comes out dressed only in a towel. But if you think that's moving fast, once she gets changed, Christie straddles Secord on her couch and pours a can of V-8 down her chest because nothing says sex like a can of 100% vegetable juice! Christie's a health nut and she doesn't believe in being bashful about it. Thanks to this bold move, not only is Secord saved the embarrassment of later slapping his head and saying "I coulda had a V-8!" but he goes on to have a passionate relationship with Christie. Still, the ninja sharing her soul is busy making Christie hunt down the cops that killed him with these scenes of Christie cornering her prey carrying an element of '80s slasher movie-style kills - the best of them being Christie's triple-kill hot tub massacre of a cop and his two lady friends.
Eventually Sho Kosugio enters the picture as Yamanda, a fellow ninja looking to drive the evil ninja out of Christie (a flashback lets us know that Yamanda's got an old score to settle) but not before the ninja assassin uses Christie to launch another free-for-all brawl with the law - and not before veteran character actor James Hong (Big Trouble in Little China) is called upon to diagnose Christie's condition and gets more than he bargained for, leading to a scene of Christie strapped with a harness around her waist (a common precaution in dealing with the possessed, apparently - safety first!) and literally spinning head over heels over and over in a ninja-induced fit so extreme that Christie may later want to incorporate this move into her aerobic routine. It's a moment so silly, it belongs in a Zucker Brother's film.
With scenes like the above, the horror elements of Christie's possession go unfulfilled - even though one scene references Poltergeist (1982), with Christie getting sucked into a closet full of light. But saying no to Domination is like saying no to a sundae. A ninja sundae, at that. Director Sam Firstenberg was the go-to guy for '80s ninja action with this, Revenge of the Ninja, American Ninja (1985), and American Ninja 2: The Confrontation (1987). But this entertaining genre mismash of ninja action, supernatural thriller, and light romance is the best of the bunch. I give it four out of four ninja stars.
Sunday, July 26, 2009
Friday, July 24, 2009
Wednesday, July 22, 2009
Tuesday, July 21, 2009
Friday, July 17, 2009
Initially I had put in the tape simply as a quality check but after just a minute I was compelled to keep watching. By the time Mike and Heather approached that Godforsaken house in the middle of the woods during Blair Witch's final moments, I was in a full-on cold sweat and in trying to sleep afterwards I experienced something I never have with horror films - a genuinely restless night. There was something about the movie that I couldn't be blasé about. It wasn't the hype - the first trailer hadn't even premiered and I didn't have a computer at the time so I was out of the loop when it came to the film's internet campaign - it was just about the movie itself.
Sunday, July 12, 2009
In the case of Ed Wood, I can pinpoint my reluctance to explore his films to the first place that I discovered them - Michael and Harry Medved's 1980 book The Golden Turkey Awards, a 'celebration' of bottom of the barrel cinema that is credited for giving Wood's 1959 opus Plan 9 from Outer Space its reputation as the worst film ever made. Reading The Golden Turkey Awards was the first time I was introduced to the ironic school of film appreciation in which fans revel in a filmmaker's ineptitude and incompetence. In the case of Wood, there's a whole legendary oeuvre of films to mock, deride, and snicker at. Even as a kid, though, that perspective on movies turned me off. I love more than my fair share of so-called "bad" films, but I've always gone into them with the sincere hope that they'll be good. I never use the term 'guilty pleasure' to describe something I like and I bristle when people qualify their enjoyment of a film with the cop-out of "it's so bad you have to love it!" That's a half-assed way to embrace something and that doesn't appeal to me. So early on, Wood's inclusion in the Medveds' book tainted his work for me. After reading The Golden Turkey Awards, it seemed like to be a part of the cult of Ed Wood meant being a party to douchery.
Wood's personal story, though - with his indefatigable ambition and mad dreamer's persistence - is one I love. And I suspect if I had encountered his work on my own I might've embraced it and probably resented its eventual enshrinement in the annals of underachievers. But the heartfelt entries in Cinema Styles' Ed Wood Blog-a-Thon are proof that when it comes to appreciating Ed Wood, it doesn't have to be about snarkiness. I should probably take it on myself to further my experience with Wood's films but it seems too late for that now. My interest is in the future, for that is where you and I are going to spend the rest of our lives.
Saturday, July 11, 2009
...And just because after a week of inactivity, I've got to break out of my rut, here's the trailer for 1982's The Beast Within - a film that remains the last word in were-cicada cinema. It's too bad that the kind of hyperbole seen in this trailer has gone out of style ("...Even YOU may not survive!"), because I think every horror movie ought to be sold this way.
On a side note, if there's anything freakier than Paul Clemens flaring his nostrils (at 0:42 sec), I don't want to know about it.