February 7th, 2014

NINJA 2: SHADOW OF A TEAR (2013) ***

Casey Bowman, the great white Ninja (Scott Adkins) is back! One night, he goes out to get some candy (and seaweed) for his pregnant wife. When he comes home, he finds her dead. He then goes out for revenge and gets his good friend (Kane Kosugi) to help him.

Ninja 2: Shadow of a Tear is sort of a lateral move for the series. It’s a much more of a traditional, stripped-down, cut-and-dry revenge flick than the cheesy (but highly enjoyable) original. Ninja 1’s fights were cool because it transplanted the Ninja action into an urban setting (like the epic subway fight). Most of Ninja 2’s fight scenes take place in a dojo or in Burmese jungles, so it lacks that novelty. And since the plot is mostly revenge-driven, it doesn’t involve the weirdo little touches the first movie had (like the bizarre cultists), which was something I missed.

But every time I started to criticize Ninja 2, returning director Isaac Florentine would rustle up another wholly satisfying action scene. Florentine reminded me of an eager cook that keeps bringing out a new dish for you to try. If you don’t like that one, give him five minutes and he’ll whip you up another one.

And Florentine offers up some pretty cool too. Adkins cuts people’s hands off, sticks them with Ninja stars, and generally kicks the crap out of everybody. Since he doesn’t have his chest of antique Ninja weapons like he did in the original, Adkins is forced to make some homemade Ninja weapons in this one, which was pretty cool. Florentine presents the fight scenes crisply, and they are enhanced by the solid choreography and camerawork.

Scott Adkins once again proves he is The Man in this movie. His strong screen presence and no-nonsense demeanor drives the film. I especially dug the scene where he is forced to smoke meth out of a light bulb, but was still able to kick some serious ass.

I’m a sucker for revenge movies, and Ninja 2 is a good, not great one. While I did miss some of the comic book touches from the original, Part 2 dives in headfirst with the action and never looks back. The plot never slows down, and the pacing never flags, and that’s something you rarely see nowadays, so for that; I’m grateful. To Adkins and Florentine, I say, bring on Ninja 3! (But not before Undisputed 4.)

Best dialogue exchange:

Kosugi: “A man who seeks revenge must first dig two graves!”

Adkins: “I’m going to need much more than that!”

PLEASURECRAFT (1999) **

Today. we’re going to kick off Skinamax-A-Palooza with this sci-fi skinflick from Surrender Cinema. Since it’s a late ‘90s sci-fi skinflick, you just know there’s going to be some Virtual Reality sex scenes. And if you’re into that sort of thing, you may get some enjoyment out of Peasurecraft. But you know you’re in trouble when the Virtual Reality sex scenes are better than the Reality Reality sex scenes.

A deep space shuttle called “Prometheus” (no, Michael Fassbender is nowhere in sight) is carrying some mysterious cargo. As it turns out, their “cargo” is actually three hot alien babes. The captain lets them out of their cage and before long; they’re having sex with the crew.

Brandy (Testing the Limits) Davis is pretty good as the main temptress. She has a nice little striptease where she wears a cheerleader outfit. The other gals in the cast don’t really make much of an impression, but that’s mostly because the sex scenes are for the most part, lukewarm.

I will say that the Virtual Reality I Love Lucy sex scene is pretty funny. I just wish it stayed in black and white during the entire scene. The other Virtual Reality sex scenes are OK, but most of the ones that take place in the “real world” are pretty uneventful. And speaking of uneventful, much of the stuff in between the sex scenes is rather dull too. One scene rips off Wrath of Khan. And while it’s not exactly funny or anything, it’s at the very least, memorable. That leads me to conclude that Pleasurecraft is at its best when ripping off other movies and TV shows. When it’s doing its own thing, it’s decidedly less interesting.

But let’s talk about what really matters; the Skinamax Statistics. We have: 3 Virtual Reality sex scenes (1 Solo Girl Baby Oil Rubdown, 1 Guy on Girl I Love Lucy sex scene, and 1 Solo Girl Cheerleader Striptease), 1 Girl on Girl on Girl scene, and 4 Guy on Girl scenes. So all together, we have eight sex scenes in an 82 minute running time. That means we get a sex scene every ten minutes or so. That’s not exactly a strong way to start off Skinamax-A-Palooza, if you ask me.

Director Franklin Vallette went on to direct U.S. Seals 3.

IT CAME FROM THE THRIFT STORE: JUDGMENT (2001) **

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Judgment is a Christian what-if thriller, so the trailers before the film are all for faith-based films. We get trailers for Revelation (starring Jeff Fahey and Nick Mancuso), Tribulation (starring Gary Busey and Nick Mancuso… again), and Left Behind (starring Kirk Cameron). Then the movie begins.

And as it turns out, all those Nick Mancuso movies are all related. Judgment is actually part four of an ongoing Christian series where Mancuso plays the Devil. I haven’t seen the other films in the series, but from what I gather, Mancuso is Satan and he’s taken over the world and turned it into some sort of God-hating society.

Corbin Bernsen stars as a lawyer named Mitch who is defending a Christian resistance leader (played by Leigh Lewis) for being a “hater”. Mancuso has already decided the chick must pay for what she did, so the trial is just for show for the people. Bernsen is instructed to stick to the script, but somewhere along the way, he finds a conscience and decides to actually help his client. Instead of placing the blame on Lewis, he says that her God is responsible for her actions. He then decides to put God himself on trial, which opens up a big old can of worms.

I’m not up to up speed on these Christian movies. I saw Omega Code 1 & 2, but that’s about it. The whole idea of putting God on trial is pretty lame, but no dumber than most movies I watch. I’m not going to just sit here and bash this movie for being a Christian flick. That would be too easy. And besides, it moves at an acceptable pace and remains more or less watchable throughout; that is until the protracted (and disappointing) finale rolls around.

Bernsen delivers a solid performance, goofy premise notwithstanding. But most of you out there will probably want to see it because Mr. T co-stars as a Christian freedom fighter who sits around and watches TV and says things like, “God helps those who help themselves!” and “If they want fire and brimstone, they’re gonna get it!” Note that Mr. T is only wearing one chain around his neck in this movie. That means he’s “acting”.

AKA: Apocalypse 4: Judgment. AKA: O.N.E.: One Nation Earth.

Next week’s Thrift Store flick: Act of Piracy starring Gary Busey!

RIOT (1997) **

On Christmas Eve, Los Angeles is plagued by citywide riots. During the chaos, some gang members kidnap the daughter of a British ambassador and hold her for ransom. A former British soldier (Gary Daniels) is sent into the city to find her and bring her back alive.

Riot gets off to a decent enough start. I liked the scene where Gary Daniels and Sugar Ray Leonard got into a bar fight with a belligerent softball team. The thing is, the film peaks pretty early on and kinda circles itself for an hour or so. Although the action is OK, a lot of it gets repetitive after a while. I mean, the scene where Daniels fights the softball team was pretty good, but twenty minutes later he’s fighting a hockey team! And while the parking garage car chase finale isn’t bad, it feels like it belongs in another movie.

The supporting cast is solid, but underutilized. Leonard is likeable as Daniels’ buddy and the pair makes for a solid duo. However, his screen time is limited and he gets killed off pretty quickly. Charles Napier is quite good as the guy who sends Daniels off on his mission, but he isn’t given a whole lot to do. And while Patrick Kilpatrick’s villainy is always welcome, the contrived plotting kinda ruins his whole character (the IRA instigated the riots as a diversion to kidnap the ambassador’s daughter).

The film is a good showcase for Daniels’ talents. Every ten minutes he’s Kung Fuing somebody, so there’s that. And he gives a better than average performance, so indiscriminate fans of the man will probably enjoy it.

AKA: Night of Terror.

Comeuppance Reviews featured this one a while back: http://www.comeuppancereviews.com/2010/12/riot-1997.html

As did Direct to Video Connoisseur: http://www.mattmovieguy.com/2010/02/riot-1997.html