Monday, January 18, 2010

Nah Nah Nah Nah Hey Hey Hey...Goodbye

Some movies stick with you when you see them as a younger person. Doesn't make them good, but there was just something that leaves an imprint on your memory. In some cases, this would be known as a "scar". In other cases, it might be known as a wistful remembrance of days past.

The film today would be considered more of a lobotomy.

Kiss Daddy Goodbye has been knocking around in my head for a good 20 years, I think. I have no real idea when I first saw it. I just remembered the kids and the bikers and the dead daddy. I couldn't remember the title and just never gave it enough brain power to research it. Still, I saw scenes in other films now and then that would spark a memory.

Recently, while researching another film, I noticed a review of this film. I thought, "Oh, it's that movie," and promptly forgot it again. Then, one night in a drunken bit of net surfing, I looked for it with a passion. I didn't recall the title, which means I must have seen it under one of its other titles like Caution, Children At Play or Vengeful Dead or Revenge Of The Zombie, which sounds like the title I saw it under. And there it was.

There is just something fun about kids with special powers and has-been stars of days past struggling to find work. Throw a zombie and some bikers into the mix and you have the basic elements for prime pizza-munching fodder. Let me introduce you to just such a film.

Kiss Daddy Goodbye is the brainchild of Ronald Abrams and Patrick Regan...and Alain Silver.......and Mary Stewart. That everybody? Yeah, I think so. If not, they can claim their cookie later because I forgot them. Moving on. Patrick Regan directed the film. To save money, he cast his two children, Nell and Patrick III, as the main moppets, Beth and Michael. Amazingly, they landed Marilyn Burns from Texas Chainsaw Massacre for a starring role, and former pop idol Fabian puts in a performance as a deputy who is trying to figure out just what the hell this movie is about.

Just what IS it all about? New deputy Blanchard who gets to work a nice coastal area where the friendly inhabitants flash bare boobs at him. He introduces himself to the local store owner, who points out both the local real estate agent who special orders booze and gripes about the bikers trashing his properties and the local recluse, Guy Nicholas, who has twins.

As the deputy lingers inside the local store to get the gossip, Mr. Nicholas takes his groceries out to the car, only to find his kids using their psychic powers to retrieve a Frisbee the boy threw across the busy highway in an effort to show his frightfully cute, though beaver-toothed, sister who has the real power. He forgets she can look cute and whine, but she does that later. Dad drives the children home and tells them to hide their powers because they will be taken away and have needles stuck in their heads. This is how the viewer will feel around 40 minutes into this film, so consider this to be a sub-textual warning.

The sheriff finally leaves with a gut full of coffee and a head full of insight about the area folk only to see the bikers the real estate agent fussed about. They look like the usual dirty, dusty, unshaven types you would expect to see on Harleys in the 60s and 70s. Never mind Harleys were mostly bought by Yuppies who wanted to feel "tough" during the stock booms in the 80s. This is a movie. You want reality, watch American Idol.

Sorry, had to choke back some vomit there.

Back to our family, we realize Mom checked out some time back. She must have read the script and decided death was a better route. Still, we get to see the twins use their talents to put away the groceries. What a wonderful way to utilize such a gift. Maybe the dad can have them weed the garden later, but for now, they have to get dressed up because the social worker who checks up on their homeschooling is coming around for her monthly review.

While the family attempts to look normal, the group of scruffy bikers spies the hot tub and decide they will help themselves to its charms. Oddly enough, the dad, who couldn't tell the difference in a motorcycle engine and a car engine, takes exception to this choice and decides he needs to pack a gun to have a chat with the friendly folk. I guess having the kids make the water boil or something like that would be out of the question. Yeah, confronting 4 people while wielding a cheap handgun is much better than hiding in the house and using psychic powers to run the dirt bags away. Well, it might work if you are Bruce Willis. Daddy doesn't fair so well. In fact, he gets knifed and shot for his trouble.

The kids watch Daddy get snuffed, but do they twitch one little synapse to help him out? Nope. Guess Daddy's brainwashing worked a little too good. I just wonder if his last thought was, "Why aren't you doing something, you little bastards?" The world may never know.

The schoolmarm doesn't ride to the rescue because her Porsche breaks down while heading up to the house to check in with the kids. This allows our rugged deputy to flirt with the helpless female. Ah, yes, what would a movie be without some sort of love story thrown in? A lot shorter and more fun, that's what. So we now have two government employees awash in testosterone and estrogen while Jodi and, wait, that's a different show with a creepy brother and sister. Anyway, the kids are left to their own devices with a dead father and a hot tub full of biker stink.

Do they call for help? Do they run across fields of heather looking for the neighbor's house? Nope. They sit around the body and talk about what to do next. They talk in such a languid fashion that you suspect that just outside camera range they are poking Daddy with sticks. After a while, they levitate their parental unit and float him into the house where they proceed to use some paint and a book on ancient rites to make the corpse look like someone who dropped too much acid at last year's Burning Man.

The real estate agent, who has been knocking back a few cocktails from cans, decides it is time to put a strong-arm act on our Parent Of The Year. Not quite sure what it is all about, but it provides filler, I guess. He shows up mostly skunked and proceeds to yell at the kids and tell them they had better get Daddy out to the living room pronto. The kids shrug and the little boy goes to get Daddy. The little girl tells the drunk, "I don't think Daddy's gonna be in a good mood. I think you'd better get out." Truer words have rarely been spoken. Daddy comes in and manhandles the jerk until he has a heart attack and dies. Daddy was definitely NOT in a good mood. The kids load the body into the drunk's car and mentally push it right into the lake.

At this point, the film just kind of wanders about with the kids playing hide and seek with their dead dad every time someone comes around. The dad, mostly likely directed by after-death anger or the little boy, who probably likes setting fire to ants with a magnifying glass, proceeds to do in the bikers while the kids play Atari games with their minds. Oh, and the deputy and the social worker go to bed with each other. Fabian plays cold fish to Marilyn Burns, who does a bang-up job of being sexy and aggressive.

The final insult comes when the whiny kids decide they are done with Daddy and think it is time for him to take a dirt nap; they have him dig his own grave. No respect for the dead. Not a bit.

The ending...well, they try to wrap things up, but you just have to see how things turn out on your own as I would not want to give away the suspense. Not that there is much, but the camerawork definitely improves at the end of film. That's something to look forward to. Trust me, you may need that small saving grace to help you through the film.

Okay, I've given it a hard time, but it is fun, in its own fashion. At least it keeps moving along, even if it doesn't make much sense. However, I'm sure the cuteness the kids use to bluff their way along will lose it's charm somewhere after the decision to dump the dead realtor in the drink. Just tell yourself that you are there so you can say you saw every movie Marilyn Burns ever made.

For those who care, the commentary on the version I bought was interesting, but only from the production standpoint. Endless chatter about short ends and camera angles, but some times more interesting than the movie, especially during those long breaks between the action.

I'll leave you with a last view of our little-buck-toothed vixen. Too bad I can't share with you her whiny voice.
And if you don't mind a bit of French, you can at least SEE the film in action, but the voices are nothing like the real thing. VERY NOT SAFE FOR WORK!!!!!!!

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Hangin' With The Cosbys-Ninja Style

Every once in a while, you run across one of those movies that really make you stop and think, "What the hell was THAT all about?" Not that you don't follow the story or that the movie itself makes no sense; you just cannot quite put your finger on why it was made or what the filmmakers were trying to do. A prime example of this kind of film is Blood Freak, which has been called a Christian, anti-drug gore/monster movie, among other things. You have no idea if the filmmakers were dead serious about some of it, all of it or none of it, and if it was a comedy in disguise, the filmmakers played it so straight that the joke is truly on all of us who have seen it.

The film this time around is almost the same type of thing, but to a far lesser degree. Nothing can be as weird as Blood Freak. Our film today is The Black Ninja. And we are not talking the other weird movie with the same name that had Chris Kelly with badly-spliced together footage from an old martial arts film and a more modern film that had ninjas who looked like Power Rangers. Nor is it the OTHER film called by the same name that came out in the early 80s.

Our version of The Black Ninja stars Clayton Prince, whom you may know from many classic roles in The Cosby Show, Hanging With The Homeboys or as "Seaweed" in the original Hairspray. He plays criminal defense attorney Malik Ali, one of the most sought-after lawyers in the Philadelphia area as he can get any criminal off no matter how guilty the scumbag is. But do we get introduced to him right off the bat? Oh hell no! We get to see three street thugs threaten the safety of some utterly generic, and apparently incredibly STUPID, woman who wanders into a section of town I wouldn't enter in broad daylight with enough weaponry to make Rambo green with envy. As they offer to help themselves to her ample sexual charms, some douche bag in a black outfit shows up and ruins what could have been a very interesting opening to a rough porn film. He kicks, slaps and boot-plants these jokers like they have no idea how to defend themselves. They scurry away to an abandoned building and think they are safe. Our "hero" then takes an obviously illegal explosive device (a concussion grenade from the look of it) and tosses it into the building where the rambunctious fellows ran. They escape in time to avoid seeing an obviously cheap mock up of building (which looks little like the real building) explode. Not only is the fellow in black a bully, but he is also a terrorist.

We then are whipped to some of the most laughably bad opening credit animations ever created. Not THE worst, but, as you can see from the included screen shots, this film is basically telling you they spent their budget on these bad animations and that this film is a comic book, at best. Already we are being told what to think. Not only do we have no confidence in the filmmakers and find the guy in black to be a spoilsport, but now they try to control how we should look at this film. I'm already finding myself not happy about this turn of events.

Moving from Cartoon Cheesefest 2003, we find ourselves watching a crime being committed, with a sneaky man stealing keys, shutting down lights and ultimately assaulting a poor single woman in her home. Wait. I remember reading this was a comedy. So...rape is comic fodder? I must remember this for my stand-up career when I do a show for the women at Vassar; they'll be ROLLING in the aisles.

Yet ANOTHER transition to a courtroom where we finally meet dapper Malik Ali. Behind the final credit of the opening credits. The one that reads, "Written & Directed by ME". I'm NOT kidding. The image you are seeing has not been Photoshopped. An amazing display of hubris, overweening pride, with many thanks to both Strangers With Candy and former New York mayor, Harold Washington. Then the attorney proceeds to trash his client's intelligence to achieve a victory that only Matlock could envy. Okay, so we have a comedy...maybe.

On to what has to be one of the best scenes in the movie. A lovely Asian reporter is commenting on the events of the courtroom and interviews Ali and Pooky, his client, as they exit the courthouse. Pooky, when asked his opinion, says, "Damn, girl, you fine. You got any black in you? You want some?" Okay, we have a comedy.


For the next few minutes, we bounce back and forth from the film showing us political commentary to romantic hints to more action as the Black Ninja does his glorious moves in a lovely repetition of three times, which you saw in the opening scene and you had better get used to it. Apparently the filmmakers read Twain and his belief that nothing sticks in the mind unless it is repeated 3 times. I don't think he meant 3 times in succession, but what the hell, right?

Are we even close to the real story? Do we have a hint? Where is the stank of the story?

Here it is. We get the back story of Malik as he talks to his new obvious love interest, Dr. Tracey Allen, whom he has saved from attacks before. Now, as a client, he bares his exposition as he explains how he defended Shinji Hagiwara, an obvious psychotic killer, and how he stole all of Hagiwara's money to defend the nutcase. Shinji does not take kindly to this and slaughters the good lawyer's family in return. We see images of the slaughtered family and of Shinji writing a message in the son's blood on a mirror. Eh, comedy...anyone,!

The obviously disturbed psychologist (what kind of patients does she deal with?) stops the interview and sends Malik on his way. Within minutes, she is harassed by armed thugs sent by Tony Fanelli, who killed a cop and the good doctor happened to be a witness, although you would be hard pressed to find her in the flashbacks, but who am I to doubt anybody? Still, the good doctor, who seems more tightly wrapped than a generic tampon, just happens to have a print of the Marx Brothers on her office wall. Hmmmm. Are we to believe she has a comedic side we aren't seeing, or are the filmmakers just flailing about to find some decoration? Don't look for subtext. This film isn't that deep.

The Black Ninja jumps to her rescue...again. So much for strong female characters in this film, huh? Our hero (okay, do I really need to maintain an aura of secrecy over who The Black Ninja really is?) goes after the lead assassin Mr. Fanelli uses. With a few well-placed punches, the gunslinger coughs up his boss and his address. Meanwhile, the good therapist is arrested for the murder of the assassin's sidekicks, and she immediately calls Malik Ali. Not sure, but isn't this a conflict of interest? Oh, wait, this is a movie and reality has no place here.

Next we get some happy bonding with the female doctor and the sleazy lawyer. But he has a heart of gold. Oh, wait, he is...but the good doctor doesn't know, so we won't say anything yet. And we get to see a bit of rather obvious over-dubbing as we meet Pooky again as he is being locked in a cell with a massive cross-dressing sex freak called Frenchy. Despite the subject matter of the movie, the filmmakers decided it was important not to do anything that would net them anything worse than a PG rating. A marketing ploy no doubt, but it isn't like it got them anywhere as I don't think this has received airplay beyond a few UHF and alternative digital channels.

Where the hell is all of this going? I don't know and I've seen it twice now. Okay, quick trip through more plot developments to get to more fun stuff.

Malik/Black Ninja keeps psychologist locked up to protect her. Finally gives in and bails her out. He saves her again. She realizes Malik is The Black Ninja (slow, girlfriend, very slow). Ninja Boy goes out to find out more about the plans to kill the good doctor while telling her to stay in his secret hideout. She leaves hideout and the Red Ninja kidnaps her.

Thank God for The Red Ninja. This movie was going nowhere until he shows up and proceeds to gnaw scenery like a starved rat. His over-the-top performance actually makes you believe this film MIGHT be a comedy. Or is he just overacting? Still, his bug-eyed looks and smarmy expressions make this role one of the best for the entire film. And the actor, one Yuki Matsuzaki, has gone on to better things, unlike most of the rest of the cast. Check out the two lovely screen caps shown here.

So, his treatment of The Black Ninja's new love interest provides motivation for the rest of the movie. This includes a ridiculous bit of padding about a diamond theft that does nothing for the story.

Do I need to hold your hand to make it clear how this movie plays out? I'm not gonna give it away, but, really, do you need me to paint a picture? I will tell you that there is one interrogation on a toilet seat that fans of bathroom/fart humor will find so wonderful that they may need to visit the toilet themselves. Honestly, you have to see it to believe it.

Ultimately, the question is this: What the hell IS The Black Ninja? I have no idea. Is it boring? Heck no. Is it worth watching? Definitely. You will be tossed from side to side, from serious action flick to comedy to social commentary, and the damned thing never sticks to one and it never seems to know what it is in the end. But it DOES entertain, even if on the level of "How stupid can they get with this next scene?" Even on that level, you will not be disappointed.

Biggest overall complaint is that it appears they took a movie shot on 35mm film and gave it an awful transfer over to a video print for easier distribution. The thing just looks plain ugly and grainy. But then, given the movie does not seem to have any sense of what it it, MAYBE they shot it so it would look so ugly. Nah, they couldn't be that crafty.

Now, for the downside. If you go to the trouble of buying this film, which it is worthy of if you can score it for less that 6 bucks, you may be tempted to watch the "making of" featurette on the disc. Do so ONLY after watching the film at least once. I will not go into detail, but I will say that the "making of" film is actually better in many ways than the actual film and may just have you feeling a touch awkward for laughing AT the film instead of laughing WITH the film.

But don't listen to it. Even though it isn't as utterly stupid as the Chris Kelly Black Ninja, this is seriously dopey movie that deserves an audience that with laugh both at and with it.

Monday, January 4, 2010

Definitely NOT the university I went to

This time around, as you can see from the confusing array of covers and poster art for this movie, we are back in 80's slasher territory. Do I have a fondness for this stuff? Not really. The old stalk and kill thing just became boring after 10 or more of these things. You were then utterly dependent on an inventive method of slaughter and/or a very compelling killer, as most of these turds left the ending open for a sequel. Even by the end of the 80's, everyone in their right mind had had enough of this stuff. Still, they kept making them and still do. They even remake them some times. It's enough to make a respectable fan of schlock hang his or her head and cry.

Enough of my bellyaching and let's move on to the feature at hand. Girls Nite Out (and, yes, that is the way they spell it) is one of those slasher films that zipped through the theaters on its way to a VHS release and then...obscurity. The fine people at Media Blasters, under their "Guilty Pleasures" imprint, saw it as their duty to pluck this movie from the dung heap and release it, letter-boxed no less. Given the movie sports a copyright of 1982 but was not released until 1984 speaks highly of the enthusiasm the various distributors of the day had for this movie. I'm thinking it may have been an act of mercy, or some diabolical scheme to take 4 bucks away from movie theater patrons, en masse, that got this film released. Mercy for whom, though?

We start with a mental hospital where a nurse walks in on some "resident" hanging himself. Not sure how he rigged his body to drop like that, but it gives you a little hope as people start dropping within the first three minutes. Keep that thought as you wade through a montage (what were they thinking in the 80s?) of basketball, cheerleaders and a very, very horny mascot in the silliest bear suit ever. Not cute and not ugly...just plain silly. Things to take note of: We only see one side of the "stadium". The "stadium" for this UNIVERSITY is smaller than courts in high schools with graduating classes of less than 30. The camera pretty much just shows the home team, so you have to wonder if they are playing against themselves.

On to the character set ups. We have "Maniac" who is depressed because he was dumped by a girl. There's his best buddy, Teddy, who is the basketball star (in his own opinion) of the team, and has no concept of women thinking he is a philandering jackass, which he is. There's the oversexed guy in the bear suit who goes by Benson. He is apparently banging his second cousin, who just so happens to be in a long-term relationship with Pryor, the overweight and very paranoid (but with good reason) guy everyone on the team picks on. Then there are the girls. We have Lynn, who is dating Teddy, and she is far too tolerant of his fooling around. Leslie, who is banging Benson, but is telling Pryor that his suspicions are all in his head. There is Dawn, the girl Teddy spends the bulk of this movie trying to lay. And, last but not least, Lunch Lady, no, the Student Union burger place lady by the name of Barney and she thinks Teddy is just the most wonderful little guy in the whole school.

You are introduced to other people but they are quite obviously fodder for the psycho killer or are there to provide exposition, over and over and over, so we shall not discuss them at any length.

More things you should know about this movie: Mike Pryor is played by David Holbrook. Hmm, that name seems familiar. Could he be? Might it be true? Can this person who can't even deliver a line without screaming it actually be related to Hal Holbrook? Sad truth is, yes, David is the son of Hal. But wait, that isn't the corker. I guess it was a package deal because dear old dad plays Mac, the head of campus security whose daughter was killed by the wing-nut who offed himself at the beginning of the film. To make matters worse, they actually have a scene with them together. Now, Hal has done some questionable movies in his time, but this hit new lows and it could only be a sacrifice of his time (which, according to what I could find, amounted to one day's work and his work was spliced into the film and it shows, oh baby, does it show!) that landed his kid a part in this movie. THIS movie! You gotta give respect to a man willing to throw himself into a pile of crap for his kid.

Where were we? Oh, yeah, the story.

Guy in the nuthouse kills himself. College kids are concerned with sports, a party after the big game and the big sorority scavenger hunt on the next night. We introduce the characters, both big and small, even the gruff security guy who only shares the screen with a handful of folks, but oddly enough, only one college student. Cut to the big party, which is called a 50s costume dance in one scene and only one person takes that to heart. The rest just dress up in various silly costumes. Now we get the interplay between characters that set up possible killers. Is it "Maniac" who still pines for the girl who dumped him? Is it the sweet doormat of a girlfriend of Teddy who catches him eye-raping Dawn? Is it Mark Pryor, whose girlfriend is boffing the school mascot and who screams everyone is a whore before storming out of the party? Is it the giggly "full-figured" gal who just wants to be loved? Is it the campus stoners who have cooked away their brain cells? Could it be Mac, who, after brooding those many, many years has finally had it with these slutty college kids?

Ah, but in classic slasher tradition, we get the back story about how Dickie Cavanaugh went bonkers many years ago and killed his girlfriend for cheating on him, and how they locked him away in the insane asylum. Not that any of that matters, because we saw him hanging, and then we saw two guys burying him at his twin sister's request. Unfortunately, the two guys didn't get to finish burying him because someone killed them with a shovel.

We have a killer on the loose. We have lots of tension amongst the characters. We have ample motivation for most of these people to flip out and start killing...well, ample for a slasher flick, anyways. Drop the list of possible psychos by one as Benson, he of the silly bear suit, takes a few knife thrusts to the chest. The killer swipes the suit in question, rigs up some Freddy claws using some steak knives and dons the bear suit. Insert your own puns here, like "the killer was loaded for bear" and stuff along those lines.

Put the film on auto-pilot and watch as the coeds are killed in a fairly tame assault. Stalk and kill, stalk and kill, lather, rinse, repeat. Lack of blood, lack of coed nudity and lack of fun other than seeing a person in a bear suit attack people and you have a good chunk of the running time. I'll spare you the ending, but let me just go on record as saying you really should not look at the back of the DVD case or even look at the main menu if you don't want the movie ruined for you. I know there are basically zero moments of excitement in this film, but you don't give away the ending on the case or on the menu. Shame on you, Media Blasters.

I know that after all my comments, one would think I disliked Girls Nite Out. Actually, no. Sure, it stinks, but it managed to keep me wondering, "How the hell are you gonna stretch thing out any further?" Surprise! They did! However, I do not recommend a second viewing within less than one year. You'll be wondering how you sat through it the first time.

Last thing to check out: The trailer. I'm linking it here, so I hope it stays. It is on the DVD as well. It was made when they finally released the film 2 years AFTER it was made, so they used some skanky actress who shows more skin in the trailer than you see in the entire film and try to give the film a sexy angle. Completely misleading, but worth checking out.