Chanbara Beauty (a.k.a. OneChanbara, Bikini Zombie Slayers, Bikini Samurai Squad, お姉チャンバラ): straight to DVD zombie-fest based on a hack-and-slash video game centered around action-girls. The four titles and heartbreakingly dubious synopsis say more about the film than any review could, but if you still want to find out if this is any good… It’s always refreshing seeing headstrong, empowered, female action leads unleashing industrial-sized cans of whoopass, grabbing here gender by the balls and proving to everyone that women in modern cinema are no longer… oh, wait… is she wearing a fluffy bikini? Never mind!! Rule one of making a live-action adaptation of any game/manga is instantly broken: don’t do it with shit CGI and no physical effects!!! Made in 2008, looks like something cheap from 1988. Stylistically, it’s topped off with a shitty grey-washed out filter – rendering the movie devoid of almost any colour. The action direction is confusing: too dark, too shaky – and the non-action scenes are long, frequent and boring filler / padding. To cut this review short, I can’t remember the last time that hacking up zombies last felt so boring and arduous. I doubt that even fanboys of the computer games (which I’ve never played) could find any redeeming features in this stinker.
Sharktopus: S-11 (50% shark, 50% octopus. 100% Deadly!) is a mutant military experiment gone wrong that escapes, unleashing a killing spree down the Mexican coast. Almost every montage of establishing shots are beyond naff, and look stolen from Joe Blogg’s home video camera. Despite a wacky premise, the story never goes anywhere interesting – and more disappointingly – it contains not a single original idea; ditto the script. The deaths are soft, and get very samey after the first few – splash splash, blood blood, scream scream… it just chugs along and after an hour I was dangerously low on interest. The only thing this has over most other b-movies is an insane level of skin on show; I wouldn’t doubt if this was the biggest employer of sexy extras in 2010, and a notable boost to the bikini industry sales figures – you’ve got to applaud the cinematographer for his efforts… Sharktopus is just like the title suggests; cheap, schlocky, and scraping the barrel for ideas – it’s crammed with bad acting (even for a B-movie), a high body count, buckets of blood and a dull, shirtless hero… so it ticks all of the boxes, yet its rigid adherence to the standard B-movie formula is what kills it off.
[Below is a tiny sample of the bikini gals that get a line – or scream]
Almost forgot about Sharktopus there
The Descendants: with his wife in a coma and a complex real-estate deal on the horizon Matt King has to hold his dysfunctional, crumbling family together. Despite the ukuleles, sandals, crazy shirts and knockout scenery this isn’t just heartache in Hawaii; it’s very down-to-earth and there’s not a whole lot of glamour. Even though there’s no single major traumatic scene, the entire film plays as a long, touching human drama – you don’t even know the wife, but every time the characters speak of her, it just gets you right there…Clooney‘s good, really good – and Matt is a well-written, complex, character – but I would argue that it’s not much above what he’s done in other films recently. The older daughter (Woodley), didn’t really need the “must be wearing bikinis / skin-tight clothing” clause in the contract, she could act like a boss. Robert Forster was also spellbinding and only the comic relief surfer friend felt a little out-of-place – but he was necessary. Unassuming, and maybe a little too chilled out, The Descendants places the emphasis on family and love, and although it doesn’t pull any fancy tricks or big punches through the 110 minute runtime, only heartless people could leave the cinema unshaken – I for one was uncharacteristically emotional when I walked out. A fantastic, modest, bittersweet human drama.
The Toxic Avenger: when nerdy gym cleaner (S)Melvin is pushed in to a vat of toxic waste, he gets transformed in to a fugly ping tutu wearing superhero that cleans the streets of crime. This is basically the one film/franchise that is keeping the Troma video label alive and kicking… and with good reason. The comedy is great, and clearly influenced by Brooks / Nielsen, but with a ‘shoxploitation’ / comedy violence twist. The overall attention to detail and SFX are outstanding for a cheap film (very smart editing too), and there’s a ton of inventive gore, epitomized by the car head-crushing scene. Not a single section of society / public / animals are safe from ridicule or violence – everyone gets offended and/or killed off in Tromaville. In classic schlock/b-movie style there’s a lot of nudity and groping going on in this town, a midget being tumble dried, limbs being ripped off, body parts being deep-fried. The Toxic Avenger is great fun to watch, and should be a pre-requisite for all film fans, particularly b-movie lovers & aspiring film makers. It’s also worth hunting down the Director’s Cut for the extra gore-factor.
The Toxic Avenger Part II Review