Wednesday, December 30, 2009
I wanted to acknowledge the passing of Dr. Death Steve Williams. He died of throat cancer after a pretty long battle with it and after a 27 year long professional wrestling career that spanned the globe.
While I was not a huge fan as a kid due to somewhat lack of exposure for me personally watching in NWA and WWF, (he was bigger in the UWF) I did become a fan of his rough mixed with amateur style later in my tape days viewing matches from his U.S. stuff but particularly his matches in Japan.
Another wrestling legend gone way too early.
Saturday, December 26, 2009
Friday, December 25, 2009
Well, another week has passed with not a creature stirring on the ol' blogaroo here. Real life and some annoying internet issues kept me from watching and reviewing more wrasslin films during the week of Xmas - i'm gonna back date a couple entries though to cheat. Shhhh... it'll be our little secret.
Not wanting to miss the holiday, I am veering slightly off the path to review a fantastic little film in the spirit of the holiday... It's not really a wrestling film, but I really could not pass this up:
Original Title: Santa with Muscles
Director: John Murlowski
Writer: Jonathan Bond, Fred Mata, Dorrie Krum Raymond
An evil millionaire (Hulk Hogan) gets amnesia and then belives that he is Santa Claus.
How can you not automatically be into a movie after reading that synopsis? After losing valuable minutes of life thanks to one single Romantic Comedy shitburger, it's so good to know that there are films like Santa with Muscles out there that restore my faith in film.
If you don't love the story here, you may just lack a heart. With three writers, how could a story possibly be bad, you know?
Hulk Hogan), who is like a giant child, running from cops just because he can. He changes clothes at a shopping mall into a Santa outfit, but takes a large fall in a trash chute, hitting his head when he lands, which gives him amnesia. Of course. Luckily when he awakens, there is a mall elf Lenny (Don Stark - yes... the next door neighbor from That 70s Show) there looking for a Santa Claus.
Lenny convinces Blake that he is actually Santa Claus after stealing Blake's wallet, excited that he can now be rich thanks to all the cash and credit cards inside. Blake goes along, does the Santa thing, beats up two thugs stealing a donation jar, then leaves to save an orphanage after seeing a sign for it.
Ed Begley Jr.), who wants to get to the valuable electric quartz crystals found in catacombs underneath the chapel there. Awesome!
What ensues is a wild and wacky back and forth as Frosts' scientist crew constantly tries to outsmart Santa who is now living at the orphanage as well.
The story is sweet and totally believable, aided most definitely by amazing special effects and a masterful directorial hand from Murlowski, known for other strong films such as Marlowe (aka Cop Dog) and the amazing straight to video Ri¢hie Ri¢h's Christmas Wish. Along with hilarious one-liners, edge of your seat action, and terrific performances, Murlowski's job really almost seemed easy... a sure-fire hit wrapped up with a pretty red bow!
It's difficult for me to pick the strongest actor here, but trust me when I say just naming this all-star cast is sufficient to make your panties damp.
He does a fantastic job comedically with Don Stark throughout the entire film, in particular scenes of them making fun of one another's pajamas or Stark saying to Hogan "you aren't gonna hug me now, are you?" after Stark swings in from the rafters. So fucking funny!
They play so well off of one another... it's very strange that they did not work together again after this. Hogan would go on in wrestling world to be the surprise leader of the NWO organization in WCW, so possibly he was just tied up there and missed any further windows.
Hogan also is very natural and sweet with the three orphans. You may recognize them... especially the chick from That 70s Show and that other kid with freckles and big ears. You can really sense the love and respect that they have for Blake. A touching scene with Elizabeth (Aria Noelle Curzon) and Blake/Santa where she kisses his cheek, and it appears that Hogan makes cumsies in his trousers.
Hogan must have been able to see into the future and gaze directly at Curzon's present day rack to look so excited at her kissing him there.
Ed Begley Jr. isn't too far off from every character he ever plays anywhere, which is A-OK with me as he is just hysterical. It was a very smart choice by the writers to make him germ phobic, as his talking through television screens, constantly cleaning, and wearing a haz mat suit adds much to his already multi-faceted character. I couldn't think of a better choice for a villain in this role.
You will love to hate Begley's Frost and his henchmen Dr. Vial the chemist (LOL!), Dr. Watt the master of electricity (LOL!!), Dr. Flint the geologist (LOL!!!), and the phenomenal Steve Valentine as Frost's personal physician Dr. Blight.
You may remember Valentine from his groundbreaking role as Photographer in Spider-Man 3.
I could go on and on about the acting here. I mean, if you're also going to pack Ed Leslie (Brutus the motherfuckin Barber Beefcake) and Clint Howard in a hysterical Sheriff role only rivaled perhaps by Jackie Gleason's Sheriff Buford T. Justice on top of this already star-studded cast, you have a sure hit on your hands. I was completely blown away.
It's a crime against baby Jesus himself that this does not have a proper DVD release. My only complaint is that at an hour and a half, Santa With Muscles is just not long enough.
If Santa With Muscles was a Tuesday-night stripper at a bar with no cover charge, I'd pay for 7 consecutive lap dances.
Merry late-Christmas, fuckers!
Score: 9.75 / 10
Wednesday, December 23, 2009
Original Title: Just Another Romantic Wrestling Comedy
Director: Kim Sky, Evan Seplow
Writer: Kim Sky
A Jewish man falls in love with a wrestling princess and it's a "no holds barred" quest for her love.
This fucking movie simultaneously sucked my will to live and almost killed wrestling film theme month before it even began! I have seen better shot and acted porn.
Before I get into it much, I wanted to post one of the best reviews I have ever read on IMDb:
i watch this movie many months ago, i LOL. many happy times, there is wrestling and funny Jewish guy. Shababamm is so crazy funny- i love him the best. the big girl Chyna is so bad funny. watch this movie- you like it so much, my children loved it more. my children love wrestling, they tell everyone about the movie. April Hunter is the sexiest mother in the world of movie business, we see her wrestling shows as much as we can. my boys totally love her. she was so pretty and her husband look like Magnum, Tom Selleck. the Japanese man is so cute and strong. i think the director did a good job, she talked at the screening of the film, she cried saying how much work she put. Shababamm was at the screening, he's so handsome, big smile. The Jewish guy was there too, he was so nice, he signed a poster for my son.
It's obvious from the beginning that someone in some suburban nowhere got a camera that was a little nicer than the handicam you use to film the neices and nephews opening xmas gifts, rounded up some washed up wrestlers and no name actors, and made this mess. There's this odd and poorly animated cartoon that opens the film with a bird in a yarmulke shitting on a statue. Anyone who may have watched the first Transformers Beastmasters show may recognize the shitty 3D artwork on display that would have been groundbreaking maybe in 1991.
The actors in the film must be loosely called that. Right from the beginning, we can see what direction thewe're going in as soon-to-be parents and star wrestlers Rocco and Diamond Piedra (Don Frye and April Hunter) are in the "hospital" (someone's bedroom) comedically acting Diamond's labor while giving birth to their daughter Sandy Gold Piedra (evntually played as an adult by Nicole Brier.) Frye and Hunter both are very unconvincing throughout being lovey toward one another and in some broader comedic moments that only come off as awkward.
Frye is much better just standing there looking tough as he does as a G-man in Michael Mann's Public Enemies from this year.
It should be noted that I was immediately thinking with April Hunter's near-manly figure that she probably doesn't even have a period much less the ability to get pregnant. She's no Chyna, but definitely way too ripped.
Chyna is in the movie too. She plays Roxanne, the girlfriend of one of the main villains. I'm fairly certain judging by her performance that this was a time in her life where she was dealing with her drug addiction problems. She looks like a total mess here. Couple that with zero acting ability and you have a microcosm of the trainwreck that is this movie.
I could go on and on about the poor acting. There's the overly-gay Robert John (Selassie Amana) who evidently likes every male out there except for our "hero" the stereotypically Jewish Marty Shalom Weinstein (Aaron Fiore.) Both actors are over the top in their comedic acting and very annoying...
And both really are borderline offensive in their characterizations. Of course the homosexual Robert John loves fluffy clothes, wears pink, comes on to almost every guy in the film, and moves around like Lamar from Revenge of the Nerds. And of course the Jewish guy loves money, wears a yarmulke, and has a middle name of SHALOM! Really? It's like a 6th grader wrote down the ideas for these characters in a wrinkled spiral notebook.
In defense of the movie, these one dimensional characters are very reminiscent of the characters in professional wrestling. The difference between the two is that the characters in pro-wrestling are not given an hour and a half to be developed in dramatic and comedic scenes. The good guy/bad guy thing in wrestling works a bit better in its context. But I will say that if a wrestler was made gay like Robert John (poor Adrian Adonis), or if there was a stereotypical Jewish wrestler, both would deserve multiple dramatic rolls of the eyes.
Ken Yasuda, former college pitcher AND body builder, plays another villain in the film, Monster, and I can't believe anyone would ever hire his guy to act. It's painfully obvious he still hasn't mastered the English language and his acting is as dry and wooden as a cigar store Indian. He's obviously there only for his look, but I am sure that a better actor with a similar build could have been pulled out from some alley somewhere.
This motherfucker can't even do the Hogan crab pose flex convincingly.
And seeing him in the ring was really bad as he he no pro wrestler. He can only hit, miss, get hit, and lift Chyna above his head.
Sky's story and direction are so fucking terrible here. The film goes on and on and on and on and I just wanted it to end. The comedic elements in particular will invoke more than a few sighs of exasperation. Despite the awkwardly delivered lines from the shit actors I have mentioned already, there are even random little things thrown in there that seem to be for kids or something. For example, as Marty Weinstein is jogging one morning, there is a goddamn flaying saucer that rises out of the corn.
What the shit?? Why???
Also keep an eye out for tooth/eye twinkles, hazy sparkles on a famous stylist, even a breaking of the fourth wall as we see a writer changing the story with a "fat lady that sings" tied up in the background.
You know what? I'm done with this. I am writing more here than this garbage deserves. The script is poor. The direction is poor. The acting is beyond poor. The WRESTLING is poor. Jesus, can't you give me something??
Avoid at all costs. One of the worst films I have seen in quite some time
Score: 1.25 / 10
Tuesday, December 22, 2009
While watching Calamari Wrestler, I couldn't help but think about a strange wrestling promotion in Japan called Dramatic Dream Team, or DDT. Many of the matches they put on seem to be comedy matches that poke fun at American pro-wrestling. There are wrestlers that perform, but there are also inanimate objects that are contestants in matches as well.
At one point a folding ladder was awarded the championship belt when it fell across the champion and a pin was counted.
Anyway, seeing a rubber squid wrestling made me think of this. Here's a couple matches to show you the fun.
One of the wrestlers in this bout is an inflatable love doll... and it looks a lot like Undertaker from WWE!
And this one was really funny to be when I saw it the first time. One of the wrestlers here is INVISIBLE!
Monday, December 21, 2009
Original Title: Ika resuraa
Director: Minoru Kawasaki
Writer: Minoru Kawasaki, Masakazu Migita
By the same director from Crab Goalkeeper and Executive Koala Minoru Kawasaki, this surreal plot revolves around a professional wrestler who, after developing cancer, becomes a giant squid-like creature. While he finds some success in the ring, he craves respect outside it.
Well, this review is a long time coming it seems. I haven't gotten off my ass in a week now. I know all of you were held over well with the Rikidozan matches I posted here, yeah? So instead of a tearful visit to an unloved blog, you instead get a tearful blurry match or two from the 1950s. So yay me!
So where was I? I'm getting distracted easily lately. Oh, yes, Calamari Wrestler.
Here we have an obviously rubber suited squid (Osamu Nishimura) who may or may not be a strange reincarnation of a former national pro-wresting hero Kanichi Iwata, who steals a belt from another wrestler Koji Taguchi (Akira). Koji is being pushed by the wrestling promoters to be the next savior of professional wrestling in Japan... to bring it back to the forefront. But the squid wants a title shot and respect of the promoters as well as love of the fans.
Kana Ishida plays the love interest of the film. Yep, that's all she gets. She is that lame.
We're not here for the direction and storytelling either I suppose. Although, the construction of the film is what keeps it from being a failure. Calamari Wrestler knows that it is a budget-restricted silly mess of a film. I have seen Japanese television programs better produced than this. But Minoru Kawasaki takes what little is is given here and creates a sarcastic, funny, and intentionally cheap production.
Kawasaki doesn't try to hide the fact that the squid is just a guy in a rubber suit. He doesn't try to hide the fact that the wrestling matches have no audience, as we get panned out shots of action figures falling over in a miniature ring surrounded by a stationary audience. Because of this, the stiff performances by essentially the entire cast in a way fit in to it all.
I could reveal some plot points foe the sake of a longer review, but honestly they aren't really worth it. The film broke down a little for me when they start explaining the origins of the squid and such. The love story that develops is good for some laughs, but that's about it. And the ending I can best describe as being very Japanese in its feel. See the film and you'll know what I mean here.
A review I read on Coffee, Coffee, and More Coffee had this to say that I thought was a nice point
Kawasaki's films are about outsiders whose sense of integrity is challenged establishment characters with greater financial or political power. A Kawasaski hero is incapable of compromise or being untruthful. Even if some of the more distinctly Japanese aspects of Kawasaki's films are not fully understood by western viewers, one has to love a film where the most unlikely protagonists achieve victory in spite of overwhelming odds.Ultimately what we have plot-wise is nothing outstanding. But as I said, this is the sort of production where the director is obviously aware of his limitations and goes with it. For what it is, it is well done, and that's what made this entertaining.
A film with heart and a nice sense of self-awareness, Calamari Wrestler is worth a watch I would say. It is obviously nothing inspiring to me personally as it took a fucking week and a half to review it, but I'm glad I saw it. I'll definitely be tracking down more of Kawasaki's work.
Score: 6 / 10
Sunday, December 13, 2009
RIKIZODAN VS THE DESTROYER
This is from Dec., 1963, a few days before Rikidozan was stabbed and and eventually died. This match drew the second highest TV rating in Japanese television history
RIKIDOZAN VS. MASAHIKO KIMURA
This is From December, 1954. Kimura, a famous judoka, was Rikidozan's first major feud in Japan. This match is depicted in the film I reviewed. Accounts differ as to what actually happened, but it seems something went on the the match that made Riki "shoot" on Kimura, actually striking him for real with chops, punches, and kicks when he was down.
Saturday, December 12, 2009
Original Title: Yeokdosan
Director: Hae-sung Song
Writer: Hae-sung Song
Genre: Drama, Sport Biography
A chronicle of the life of Korean-born wrestler Rikidozan, who, after being barred from Japanese wrestling because of his ethnic origins, became a sensation in the United States in the 1950s and then the father or pro-wrestling and a national hero in Japan.
After my huge intro a couple days ago, I'll bet you were expecting Body Slam or something, yeah?
Well, I am using Foul King as a jumping off point into the world of pro-wrestling cinema and diving immediately into another Korean wrestling film, this one a serious drama. Serious dramas like Rikidozan, similarly to The Wrestler from 2008, are few and far between. This is due to the fact probably that pro-wrestling really isn't taken seriously (and probably rightfully so) by most people. Usually a serious wrestling story will be one of the shady underside of the sport, like the Wrestler.
This all was for me by far the most interesting aspect of the film. I never knew the details of Rikidozan's rise to fame. Really all I knew about him was that he was known as The Father of Puroresu (Japanese word for pro-wrestling), and that he died from being stabbed. Oh, and I never knew about the ties of early Japanese pro wrestling with the Yakuza!
And I call myself a fan of wrestling? Bah!
Rikidozan was to Japan what Santo was to Mexico or maybe Hulk Hogan was to the United States. Being Korean, he was heavily discriminated against, especially early on as a sumo trainee, and this makes it all the more impressive that he became the hero he did. At times the film implies that he possibly hid his nationality, but I'm not entirely sure how common the knowledge of his nationality actually was. The story is rather well told and straightforwardly presented, except for a love story that was presented between Riki and his wife Aya. But the overall tale of his rise to fame is the real meant and potatoes, and the driving force.
Japan felt trod upon by America after the Second World War, and Rikidozan being successful, particularly against American opponents, really helped to unify Japan and give them pride as a nation again. Maybe the point is over-exaggerated in the film, but you can really see how Riki's timing was key and why he became as huge as he did. The sport was not really known in the country, and through Rikidozan not only was pro-wrestling introduced, but also became very huge there with it catching on as television did also.
The other high point for me was the performance of Kyung-gu Sol as Rikidozan. I've not seen Sol before, but apparently he gained a lot of weight for the role, learned Japanese, and he appears to do all of his own stuntwork in the film. If it was not him taking the backdrops and chair shots, then director Hae-sung Song did a remarkable job masking it. At times he was a bit melodramatic, but I suspect that me just as much the fault of Song's directions as Sol's acting. He's got a great look, and does a really nice job in moments when he is going on his inebriated rampages, or confronting certain individuals in the film.
There are not any other stand out performances, and Sol is on screen a majority of the time, but fans of wrestling might get a kick out of seeing a wrestling appearance by Rick Steiner of The Steiner Brothers fame, and one by Keiji Mutoh, formerly The Great Muta, playing a brief role as Harold Sakata, the man who played Oddjob in Goldfinger!
Hyeon-gu Kim, but so much of the direction here is heavy handed and a little sappy. While Rikidozan's relationship with his wife Aya may have been important in reality, the focus on it at times may have you rolling your eyes. It was almost as if Song couldn't decide how important it was as it fades in and out of the story, and sometimes it seemed very awkward and unrealistic. I suppose it can be said that the focus on the marriage could give another human anchor to a man who became a legend, I just think it could have been handled much better. There are some scenes in there outside of the relationship scenes that had me huffing as well, but I suppose this was being made for a broad Japanese audience as a wide-release here would be handled as well.
Ugh, a fucking flowery bike ride? Really?
Another element, one that seemingly led to Rikidozan's early death, that wasn't properly covered in the film, was his developing paranoia due to his drug abuse. It is touched on from time to time by Song, but never presented properly I don't think. One minute he is fine, then the next he thinks someone is trying to kill him when a flower pot falls from a home and almost hits him.
I did really like the set pieces - the older buildings and dirt streets of pre and post-war Japan looked great.
Great stuff despite the flaws. The wrestling scenes are cool to see, but I just wish the dramatic elements weren't as corny at times as they were.
Score: 6.75 / 10
Thursday, December 10, 2009
Well, instead of doing a whole theme month again, I've just decided to roll into another series of films sharing a common theme, this time being PRO-WRESTLING.
Yes, wrasslin has officially come to Assorted Loaf!
For those that may not know, pro-wrestling holds a special place in my heart. One of the earliest "sports" I ever watched (college basketball and Major League Baseball being the others), it hooked me early and has stayed with me. While I don't keep up today like I used to, just the memories I have of the magical 1980s is enough to keep the flame burning.
I know it's ridiculous, but something about it to this day remains intriguing to me. From the over the top stories, to the in=ring performances, to the backstage politics and real life personalities, I still to this day search out information and older matches. (YouTube is a fantastic resource for anyone wanting to learn more about Japanese pro-wrestling in particular.)
Professional wrestling in cinema has its ups and downs... but mostly downs. But that's what I am here for. Most of the films I will cover will be American, but I suppose that is fitting since the sport has been largely an American invention and convention for so long. The highest quality professional wrestling may be in Japan now, but the heart and soul of it all, the glitz and glamour and sequins and gloriously hairy (now waxed!) chests will remain here at home.
So enjoy my holiday gift to all my loyal and new readers...
Tuesday, December 8, 2009
Original Title: Banchikwang
Director: Ji-woon Kim
Writer: Ji-woon Kim
Genre: Comedy, Action
Dae-Ho is an unproductive bank clerk who is late to work every morning and the object of his manager's frustrations. He was a fan of TV wrestling as a child, but can't get out of a headlock. He finds a local wrestling trainer and through a series of events eventually starts to train. He is slowly transformed as he begins his second job as the cheating villain wrestler known as the Foul King. He starts to stand up for himself in odd ways that are not really in his own best interest. Events get out of hand as conflicting influences come together.
And what better way to end than a film about pro-wrestling??
Really, the film uses pro-wrestling more as a backdrop and vehicle for showing a common salaryman's issues with confidence and the doldrums of life, and how he attempts to overcome them.
Kang-ho Song is really fantastic again here as the bank clerk Dae-ho. (I apologize in advance for leaving out other actors as they are not properly listed on the IMDb site, and I am too lazy to research further heh). Song displays his slapstick/physical humor side in this film, but still has some nicely done dramatic scenes as well.
I felt the editing of the film was a definite strong point. There are some scenes that are just cut very well, particularly the wrestling stunts. Either Song took some nasty bumps in the ring, or Kim did an outstanding job subbing in stunt doubles at just the right times. There is a fantastic scene where Dae-ho as Foul King stabs an opponent in the shoulder with a fork. In a closeup over the opponent's shoulder, the "wound" is very briefly off camera as Dae-ho strikes, then comes back into frame with the fork protruding out. It looked really great and fucking painful!
Dae-ho being a rule breaker to mask his lack of wrestling ability adds to the humor of the film as well. This is often the case in real life as you can see certain wrestlers still today that rely on gimmicks such as weapons, deathmatches, etc. to get over with audiences. He is frustrated in his wrestling life also that rule breakers end up on the losing side of things, but is determined and almost trains himself to be stronger, more agile, more confident, and more skillful. Where Dae-ho is late for his miserable job everyday, he waits outside the gym before the sun even rises to practice his back-drop.
I may like this film more because of my bias in enjoying professional wrestling, but I think it's solid and can be enjoyed by just about anyone into a more physical type of comedy.
It's not perfect, but better than many, many, many wrestling films!
Score: 6.75 / 10