March 23rd, 2009

CARNIVAL OF BLOOD (1970) * ½

Carnival of Blood was Burt (Rocky) Young's first movie.  He plays Gimpy, a scarred, hunchbacked carnie who works on Coney Island assisting the dart thrower.  People who end up having a run-in with the duo inevitably end up getting killed later on.  Is Gimpy the killer, or is it his slightly unbalanced, bug-eyed boss who has a mother fixation?  You figure it out.

 

This flick originally played on double bill with Curse of the Headless Horseman, which is also from director Leonard Kirtman.  It's not very good and is downright boring in some spots, but the gore is fairly decent.  (It's a fuck of a lot better than Curse of the Headless Horseman, that's for sure.)  There is a cool scene where a couple goes through a haunted house and end up being decapitated.  Then another girl gets stabbed in the stomach under the pier.  The best kill though comes when an extremely annoying woman gets her eyes and tongue ripped out in an alley.  We also get a pretty funny scene where the teddy bear obsessed killer stuffs his bears with human guts.

 

The gore scenes, when they finally do come, are a lot of fun.  Mostly though, the movie is just long scenes of Gypsy fortune telling and people trying to pop balloons with darts in hopes of winning a teddy bear.  There's also a horrendous musical score that literally put me to sleep too.  Carnival of Blood will probably be too dull for most viewers to handle but since I'm a huge Rocky fan, it was fun for me to see Uncle Paulie making his screen debut.  He's clearly better than any of the other amateurish cast members and it looks like he took his role very seriously.  While Young went on to do the Rocky movies, Kirtman went on to do porn, directing such titles as Princess Seka, Inside Desiree Cousteau, and Tongue n' Cheek

 

AKA:  Death Rides a Carousel.

GOOD GUYS WEAR BLACK (1978) **

Chuck Norris stars in this tepid action flick that doesn't do a good job at showcasing his strengths; namely Kung Fuing the Hell out of people.  After a cool title sequence, we see Chuck's platoon getting ambushed in Vietnam.  Years later, he returns home and becomes a professor who wears likes to wear black turtlenecks.  Pretty soon, Chuck finds out that someone is bumping off all of his former Nam buddies and he teams up with a sexy reporter (Anne Archer) to find out who's doing the bumping.

 

Ted (Beneath the Planet of the Apes) Post's flat direction looks more in tune with a TV movie or something than an honest to goodness chopsocky flick.  Most of the action scenes suffer from a really cheap look (especially the Vietnam sequences) and often look blurry and/or dark.  The great supporting cast (which includes James Franciscus, Dana Andrews, and Jim Backus) is completely wasted and are given very little screen time.  The worst crime the movie commits though is that it's just plain boring.  It also takes FOREVER for action to heat up.  I mean Chuck doesn't even show off his Kung Fu prowess until about 70 minutes into the movie.  What's up with that?  Chuck would later pull off the whole bitter Nam vet thing much better in Missing in Action.

 

You can get a couple laughs from some of the film's glaring ineptness.  Like the opening titles that proudly proclaim, "Chuck Norris IS John T. Booker!"  Like the filmmakers meant for this to be the first in a series or something.  Also there's a great scene at an airport where Chuck's mystery assailant's identity is painfully obvious to everyone BUT Chuck.  (The dude just has on a wig and phony beard.)  There is one amazingly ludicrous scene that just has to be seen to be believed though.  It comes when Chuck drop kicks a guy through the windshield of a speeding car.  If the flick had two or three more inspired scenes of carefree nuttiness, it might've been worthwhile.

 

Chuck naturally gets the best line in this one when he says, "Everything went wrong by the numbers... and that takes planning!"

 

AKA:  Black Fighter.

MORTAL KOMBAT (1995) ***

Mortal Kombat is one of the best movies based on a video game ever made and will probably remain the best version of a big screen MK movie that one could hope for.  (In a PG-13 format that is.)  It's got everything a MK fan could want:  Kano acting like an asshole, Scorpion saying, "Get over here!", Sub Zero freezing people, Shang Tsung saying "Flawless Victory!" and "Finish Him!", Reptile's cameo, Goro kicking ass, Johnny Cage doing a "Friendship" (leaving his autograph) on Scorpion, etc.  It's all here.  I think everybody out there who likes the game likes the movie.

 

All of the performances are spot on.  (Well, for a movie based on a video game anyway.)  Christopher Lambert makes for a perfectly cheesy Rayden.  Lambert gets a lot of incredibly over-the-top lines including, "You're a coward, sorcerer!" and his deadpan delivery (and misplaced French accent) is hysterical.  Although he doesn't fight during the tournament (he mostly just hangs back and chills), he's still pretty cool.  ('95 was a great year for Lambert.  Not only did he appear in this but he also starred in the underrated samurai vs. ninja bloodbath, The Hunted.)  Linden Ashby makes for a great Johnny Cage and his cocky wiseass attitude fits the character perfectly.  As the villainous Shang Tsung, Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa really seems to be having the most fun as he chomps down on the scenery like it's nobody's business. 

 

Director Paul Anderson (who would later go on to direct and/or produce several other movies based on video games such as Resident Evil), films all the fight scenes in an energetic manner and keeps them fresh by cleverly incorporating the settings into the fights.  Unfortunately, I gotta take off a star for not being as gory as the video game.  (It is PG-13 after all.)  We do get a couple good "Fatalities" though.  Overall, it's not quite a "Flawless Victory", but it's still one heck of a good time.

MORTAL KOMBAT: ANNIHILATION (1997) **

Apparently, Christopher Lambert had better things to do than to star in his ho-hum sequel to the hit Mortal Kombat.  It's funny how Lambert will do something like Highlander 2, but he won't star in Mortal Kombat 2.  Weird.  Anyway, his replacement is James (The Warriors) Remar, who is even more woefully miscast as Rayden than Lambert was.  That's OK because in my book, a woefully miscast James Remar is better than no James Remar at all.  (Besides, Rayden FINALLY fights this time out and even gets to do his patented "Superman" move too.)

 

Lambert isn't the only person from the first film who didn't bother showing up for Annihilation.  Also failing to return to their roles is Bridgette Wilson as Sonya and Linden Ashby as Johnny Cage.  I guess Ashby's absence isn't all that surprising since Cage gets annihilated in the very first scene!  I can imagine THAT call to his agent.  "Hi, we'd love to have Linden come back for MK 2... And the good news is, he'll only have to work for one day... OK, so it'll be more like one hour... OK, so it will be more like ten minutes.... WHAT?  We can't pay him THAT much!  He'll only be on the set for ten minutes!  We can get a heck of a lot better actors who are more than willing to appear in a Mortal Kombat movie for only two minutes of screen time...  Like who?  Uh... how about... Chris Conrad!  Yeah Chris Conrad?  Who's he?  Uh... you know, the love interest from The Next Karate Kid...  Hello... Hello?  They hung up!  [BUZZES HIS SECRETARY]  Uh... Bonnie, can you get me Chris Conrad's agent on the line?"

 

Even though there's only TWO returning actors from the original movie, I've got to give Annihilation props for starting off EXACTLY where the last film ended.  It's rare when a movie does that.  Shit, they didn't even do that in Return of the Jedi.  Anyway the plot has Shao Khan (Brian Thompson from Cobra) coming through the portal of Outworld and trying to take over the world.  It's up to the Mortal Kombatants Liu Kang (Robin Shou), Kitana (Talisa Soto), and Rayden (Remar) to stop him and kick anybody's ass that gets in their way.

 

Mortal Kombat:  Annihilation's fatal flaw is it's overall tone.  What made the original MK flick work was that it more or less felt like a real movie.  Annihilation doesn't feel like a movie, it feels like an extended episode of Mighty Morphin Power Rangers.  What works in a video game doesn't necessarily work in a movie and characters like Smoke, Cyrax, and Jax just look straight up goofy when they are removed from the game and placed into the cinematic world.  Characters like Motaro (Centaur dude) and Sheeva (Four-armed lady) should've been fun, but their appearances carry no weight and they just look stupid.  Another thing that kicks the movie in the groin is the pathetic CGI monsters.  They make the shitty FX in Spawn look like ILM material.  Also, all the fight scenes are marred with incredibly silly looking special effects and obvious stunt doubles.  Luckily, those stunt doubles are pretty spectacular and include such soon-to-be-famous action heroes like Ray (Darth Maul) Park and Tony (The Protector) Jaa.

 

Remar makes it through the flick without cracking a smile, which is admirable under the circumstances.  Thompson also puts in a memorable turn as the main hammer-wielding baddie as well.  But it is Musetta Vander who steals the movie as the hot as Hell Sindel.  Dressed in purple spandex and sporting a mean camel toe, Vander is easily the best looking chick in the movie.  (There are a lot of hot chicks in brightly colored spandex in this flick, actually.)  Sure, the flick slows down to a crawl at many points, but any part where Musetta's just standing around looking dead sexy is alright by me.  There's also an actor named Litefoot in this movie.  (So named because he's light on his feet I suppose.)

 

Say what you will about the directing stylings of Paul Anderson in MK 1, he looks like Orson Welles compared to this flick's director, John Leonetti.  He was the cinematographer of the first film and while he's good at the action stuff, he can't shoot a straight dialogue scene to save his life.  I know you don't see Mortal Kombat movies for their dialogue scenes, but it's pretty rough going when the movie is filled with such groan inducing lines like, "Do not underestimate the power of the human spirit!"

 

Shou later starred in such video game movie fair like DOA:  Dead or Alive and Street Fighter:  The Legend of Chun Li.