Electric Boogaloo: The Wild, Untold Story of Cannon Films (2014)

2016 #28
Mark Hartley | 102 mins | TV (HD) | 16:9 | Australia, USA, Israel & UK / English | 18 / R

The director of Not Quite Hollywood, a documentary on Ozploitation movies that I bought on DVD at some point and haven’t got round to watching (and which shares a “The Wild, Untold Story of __” subtitle), turns his attention to a similar kind of thing from a different continent: the output of Cannon Films, the studio renowned for producing a slew of cheap but surprisingly successful B-level genre movies throughout the ’80s.

My main takeaway from the film was a massive list of films I now want to see: Inga, Joe, The Apple, House of the Long Shadows (a PG horror movie!), The Last American Virgin, The Wicked Lady, Enter the Ninja, Revenge of the Ninja, Ninja III: The Domination, Sahara, Breakin’, Breakin’ 2, Bolero, Invasion U.S.A., Lifeforce… Even though the talking heads in the documentary keep saying how awful all of these movies are, the film makes them look awesome. I mean, not “award-winning” awesome, or even “genre classic” awesome, but like magnificently trashy fun.

As a film, Electric Boogaloo is relentlessly, insanely fast-paced to begin with, and though it does settle a smidge, it still rockets along, which keeps things engrossing and very watchable. There’s an excellent array of talking heads — not many you’ll’ve heard of (unless you’re a Cannon aficionado, perhaps), but they were there, they lived it, and they have first-rate insights into the craziness. Craziness like the story of the competing Lambada movies, which ended up being released on the exact same day. I mean, you’d think one Lambada movie would be more than enough, but two, competing… If you wrote it in a fiction, the audience would laugh at the ridiculous contrivance of it, but it happened. Elsewhere, there’s a chunk where they just slag off Michael Winner for a bit (awesome), and director Franco Zeffirelli describes them as the best producers he ever worked with and the only ones he ever liked. Like I say, you couldn’t make it up.

Documentaries can be hard films to assess from a “film criticism” perspective — you can get lost down lots of blind alleys about the merits of archive footage or talking heads or reconstructions or structure or whatever other variables there are. Some reviews of this film have done that, which I find a little inexplicable because I thought it was very well put together. Plus, generally speaking, if you’ve got a good story and you’ve told it well, I’m satisfied, and I think most viewers are too. This viewpoint means assessing the quality of a documentary becomes more concerned with the subject matter than the documentarian’s skill as a filmmaker, but unless you’re a student of the documentary as a genre, that story (and if it’s told effectively, rather than the issue of if its telling is effective) is all that really matters.

Which is a really roundabout, film-theory-ish way of saying that Electric Boogaloo has a bizarrely fascinating story to tell, and does so in an immensely entertaining manner. In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if it’s actually a lot better than the films it’s about.

4 out of 5

Turbo Kid (2015)

2016 #64
François Simard, Anouk Whissell & Yoann-Karl Whissell | 93 mins | Blu-ray | 2.35:1 | Canada & New Zealand / English | 15

I’ve observed before that the ’80s seem to be everywhere in film these days, and here’s another example: Turbo Kid is in every respect an homage to low-budget ’80s genre fare.

Set in the future year 1997, after an unspecified apocalypse has devastated the world and made water a rare commodity, orphaned teen The Kid (Munro Chambers) survives by scavenging junk and enjoying the comic book adventures of BMX-riding superhero Turbo Rider. The Kid encounters and accidentally befriends the quirkily obsessive Apple (Laurence Leboeuf), who is promptly kidnapped by agents of water-controlling maniac Zeus (Michael Ironside). While escaping the kidnappers, the Kid stumbles across the remains of the real Turbo Rider, including his energy gauntlet weapon — perfect for rescuing his new friend and living his dreams.

All of which is semi-incidental, because the point of Turbo Kid is not this storyline, but the genre and era elements that have been used to build it, and the stylistic elements that have been cribbed to execute it. I can’t cite many specific points of reference, because I’m not au fait enough with the kind of cheapo, grindhouse-y, watched-on-video-by-’80s-kids genre films that the film’s trio of writer-directors are riffing off (beyond the obvious “Mad Max on BMXs”, one reviewer’s observance of which is regularly featured on the film’s posters and DVD/Blu-ray covers), but the general feel of those kind of films is certainly evoked. It’s there in the bonkers plot; the bizarre characters, like a kick-ass arm-wrestling-champion cowboy (Aaron Jeffery); the post-apocalyptic world that’s just a quarry somewhere; and the very gory practical special effects. Very, very gory. Gleefully, perversely gory. It’s so over-the-top that it’s not genuinely disgusting, of course, but it’s certainly over the top. Way over the top. At times, inventively, hilariously over the top.

Then there’s the score, which is of course all ’80s synths, in a similar style to the score of The Guest. Unfortunately, the score is often indiscriminately applied, like someone composed a generic ’80s score and then slapped it on with minimal regard to what was occurring on screen, meaning some moments fly past without the requisite emphasis. But perhaps this was deliberate — I can well believe that’s what cheapo efforts of the era did, and doing it here is a deliberate reference. This is a bit of a problem with the whole film: points where you can’t be sure if it’s being deliberately wonky or poorly-done as part of the homage, or if there’s some tweaking required. The pace could certainly do with some attention, especially early on. It’s only 93 minutes long, but it would be even better if it was only 85.

However, when it’s on form, there’s a lot of fun to be had with Turbo Kid. I imagine its greatest admirers will be those who lived through and enjoyed the era it’s acting as tribute to, but it’s also entertaining for those who have a broad-strokes familiarity with that period. Although some tightening and polishing would make it even more effective, viewers happy to indulge in its self-consciously retro mindset should find enough to like, and may also consider this score a little harsh:

3 out of 5

Turbo Kid is available on Netflix UK from today.

The New-Look Monthly Update for June 2015

Say hello to the new-look, bigger-than-ever 100 Films monthly update! Well, partially new look — much is the same, but there are some exciting new regular categories, and image-header-things. I had some ideas; I’ve introduced them all at once. (They excited me, anyway.)

First new regular: a contents list!


What Do You Mean You Haven't Seen…?

Just one WDYMYHS film watched this month (so I’m still two behind) — it’s Martin Scorsese’s beloved boxing biopic (that I should’ve watched in 2013 but failed to), Raging Bull. I would make a brief comment on what I thought of it, but we’ll come to that in the Arbies…


June's viewing

Kingsman#75 Changing Lanes (2002)
#76 Kingsman: The Secret Service (2015)
#77 The Expendables 3 (Extended Version) (2014)
#78 Ladyhawke (1985)
#79 Now You See Me (2013)
#80 The Interview (2014)
#81 Safety Not Guaranteed (2012)
#82 Superman vs. The Elite (2012)
John Wick#83 Rush (2013)
#84 Whiplash (2014)
#85 Meet the Robinsons (2007)
#86 Before Dawn (2012)
#87 The Guest (2014)
#88 Raging Bull (1980)
#89 John Wick (2014)
#90 Fury (2014)


Viewing Notes

  • Meet the Robinsons is the 47th official Walt Disney Animated Classic, and the 39th I’ve seen. 15 to go…
  • I have a whole new format and I make this entire section look pointless with one “oh, by the way” bit of trivia, which is less than I normally have to say here, I feel. Ah well, what can you do?


Analysis

2015 continues apace with 16 new films watched this month. That smashes the June average of 7.14 — indeed, reaching #90 singlehandedly drags it up over a whole film, to 8.25. It’s the highest June ever, which also means it’s the 8th month in a row to beat last year’s equivalent (June 2014 had 11). It’s the 13th month in a row in which I watched more than 10 new films, and is tied with January as both the highest month of 2015 and the third-highest month ever (also tied with May & August 2010). That means that, at 2015’s halfway point, its monthly average is exactly 15.

Most excitingly of all, however, is that I’m now all but guaranteed to reach #100 in July. I’d have to fail my ten-films-per-month goal not to, and I’ve been doing really well with that so have plenty of incentive not to let it slip. More on what reaching #100 in July ‘means’ next month (hopefully!)

Over in Prediction Corner: assuming I uphold my ten-per-month minimum, this year will reach at least #150, which would be my best year by some 14 films. In other words, we should know if 2015 is a new Best Year Ever by November at the latest. (Unless I mess up ten-per-month but then still pass 136 in December, of course.) Meanwhile, in the world of averages… well, we’re halfway through the year, so such a prediction would see my tally exactly double, clocking in at a quite extraordinary 180. (Extraordinary for me, anyhow — stow it, you “365 films in a year” people!)

I’ve been posting these regular monthly updates for over five years now, and in all that time they’ve been very much focused on numbers and stats — how many films have I watched, how does that compare to the past, what does it suggest for the future, etc. And that’s fair enough — as progress reports, it’s kinda their point to report my progress. But I’ve decided it’s about time to introduce some opinion into the mix, to liven things up a bit. So I proudly present…


The Arbies
The 1st Monthly Arbitrary Awards

So named because what I watch in any given month is pretty arbitrary, so the pool of contenders is a total whim rather than a genuine competition. Plus, each month two of the five categories are going to be arbitrarily chosen, just to compound the point. You’ll get the idea as we go along.

That’s Arbie on the right, by-the-way. In case that wasn’t obvious. (Turns out Arbie is also the name of the mascot of the Royal Bank of Canada. I don’t think anyone’s going to get us confused though, so on I go.)

For June 2015, the awards go to…

Favourite Film of the Month
I watched a number of very good films this month, several of them strong contenders for my year-end top ten, but when it came to the crunch there was a clear winner here: as anyone who read my review yesterday likely suspects, it’s The Guest.

Least Favourite Film of the Month
Although there were a couple of weak and/or disappointing movies amongst my viewing this month, and some I certainly liked less than this winner (or, rather, loser), for the greatest discrepancy between “expectation” and “what I actually thought of it”, this goes to Raging Bull.

The Most ’80s Soundtrack You’ve Ever Heard
Most months The Guest would have this sewn up, but oh no, not when Ladyhawke’s around. Can you imagine anyone doing a fantasy movie without a Howard Shore-esque orchestral epic soundtrack nowadays? Me either. In the ’80s, on the other hand… well, they sure did love their synthesisers.

Most “Oh, I Didn’t Know They Were In It” Cameo Appearance
If all you’ve seen of John Wick is the Keanu Reeves-centric posters, it’s probably riddled with moments such as these. Me, I somehow knew most of them, so this award goes to Jason “should’ve played James Bond at some point” Isaacs popping up in Fury as some kind of commander for a little bit. The Blu-ray has nearly an hour of deleted scenes; to my surprise, “the rest of Jason Isaacs’ role” doesn’t seem to be among them.

The Audience Award for Most-Viewed New Post of the Month
Because if I didn’t limit it to new posts, this would be Harry Potter every month (across 2014 and 2013 (the year they were first published), my reviews of Philosopher’s Stone and Chamber of Secrets accounted for 33.5% of all my page views).
This month: thanks primarily to being retweeted by a Keanu Reeves fan twitter, the victor is Man of Tai Chi.


from around the blogosphere…

I am shockingly bad at getting round to reading other people’s blogs, and when I do it’s often in fits and starts (as anyone who’s ever received half-a-dozen ‘likes’ from me on things they posted a month ago can attest). In the interest of being a better human being, then, I thought I’d start collating particularly interesting pieces from elsewhere and share them here, for whatever that’s worth.

There’s no particular rhyme or reason to my choices, just a handful of pieces that struck a particular chord for me this month. For one thing, there’s a pair of coincidently-thematically-similar pairings from the same two blogs. One of those is up first:

1976, the year it all started… @ the ghost of 82
ghostof82 tackles the emotions of what makes us love movies in the first place, through his own experience with Jaws in ’76.

Jurassic Park (1993) @ Films on the Box
Mike touches on a similar topic from a different angle: how films that are cinema-defining for a generation can appear to those outside said generation.

Evangelion June 22, 2015 @ Heather Anne Campbell
Monday 22nd June 2015 was “Evangelion Day”, the day on which the first episode of anime series Neon Genesis Evangelion takes place. In this write-up, Heather Anne Campbell explains what the series means to her and, in the process, outlines some of the reasons it’s so good and has endured for so long.

Ten of the Best – Noir Directors @ Ride the High Country
Whenever I read Colin’s blog I come away with a raft of new films I want to see. You can only imagine how many got added to my list after this well-considered overview.

Miracle Mile (1988) Review @ Cinema Parrot Disco
Who doesn’t love stumbling across something they’ve never heard of that turns out to be right up their street? No idea if I’d like Miracle Mile, or even if/when I’ll have a chance to see it, but table9mutant’s review has me suitably intrigued. And is it just me or are the ’80s everywhere at the minute?

Movies Silently’s Top Ten Talkies @ Movies Silently
Talking of, a) recommendations, and b) the ’80s, silent cinema doyenne Fritzi took a detour from her regular stomping ground with this list (technically from last month, but rules were made to be bent). Any list of favourites that includes Mystery Men is a good’un in my book, but the aforementioned ’80s recommendation is her #2 choice, medieval fantasy Ladyhawke. As you may’ve noticed above, it even managed to find its way to the top of my “must watch” pile (a rare feat). Full review in due course, but for now suffice to say I very much enjoyed it. I even thought the score had its moments.

RIP Christopher Lee @ Films on the Box
Finally, the second pairing I mentioned, on a sadder note. First, Mike pays fitting tribute to one of the great screen icons.

Remembering the Music of James Horner @ the ghost of 82
Last but not least, a personal tribute to composer James Horner.


Reviews


Archive Reviews


5 Iconic Music Themes

Film music has changed a lot down the years, but it’s been a pretty constant important element. Plenty of it is forgettable background noise, but some stands out so much it becomes famed in its own right. I recently re-watched the original Star Wars trilogy, inspiring this month’s top five: three film themes — plus two from other mediums — that, to me, are some of the most iconic of all.

  1. Doctor Who by Ron Grainer
    Doctor WhoDiddly-dum diddly-dum diddly-dum ooo-weee-ooo… For generations of British children, that’s the sound of Saturday night adventure. I guess to some people it’s just a children’s TV theme, but they’re wrong: it was a genuinely pioneering, important example of burgeoning electronic music (honestly). As a composition it’s surprisingly versatile: Delia Derbyshire’s original arrangement is still chillingly unsettling 52 years on; Murray Gold’s 2005 version (arguably perfected in the Series Four version) is an equally-perfect orchestral blockbuster.
  2. Star Wars (Main Theme) by John Williams
    Star WarsDooo-dooo dododo-dooodo dododo-dooodo dododo-doo… You could probably fill this list twice over with John Williams compositions — Indiana Jones, Jaws, Superman, Jurassic Park, more recently Hedwig’s Theme from Harry Potter, and so on — but undoubtedly the most iconic of them all is his main theme to George Lucas’ space-fantasy saga. Running it a close second is the same series’ Imperial March, perhaps the greatest villain’s theme ever. All together now: dum dum dum dum-dudum dum-dudum…
  3. James Bond Theme by Monty Norman
    Casino Royale teaserDang da-dang-dang da-da-da dang da-dangdang da-da-da daa-daa da-da-daa… A 53-year-old surf rock tune should by all rights be horribly dated, but I guess true cool endures. While the version used in the films has barely changed, there are an abundance of variations for trailers, etc. My personal favourite is the one created by Pfeifer Broz. Music for the Casino Royale trailer in 2006. The climactic use of a choir is one of those “how did it take someone 43 years to think of this?!” moments.
  4. The Fellowship Theme by Howard Shore
    FellowshipDooo-dooo dododooo, do-do-doo do-do-doo do-do-doo do do doo… The only one here that isn’t a title theme, but it’s indelibly part of the Lord of the Rings franchise — it has no reason to appear in The Hobbit trilogy, but I spent most of those eight hours missing it. It reoccurs throughout the trilogy (of course it does), but perhaps the purest version can be found in The Ring Goes South from the Fellowship soundtrack. “Only Peter Jackson and Howard Shore can make 9 people walking past a rock look epic.”
  5. The Secret of Monkey Island by Michael Land
    The Secret of Monkey IslandDoo-doo dodododo-doo do-do-do-doo… I’m certain this will be less familiar than any of the above to most people but, honestly, to me (and, I think, many other people who played the LucasArts games) it’s as iconic as anything else I’ve mentioned, including all of those other John Williams ones. The original was rendered in the style of its era — a digital MIDI thing — but it endured throughout the series and was transformed into some lusher orchestral versions. Try the version from the 2009 special edition, for instance.

I’m already full of incredulousness at myself for leaving out Indiana Jones. Or Back to the Future. Or Mission: Impossible. And it may’ve been composed by committee, but I love the main theme from Pirates of the Caribbean (find it cleanly in the first film’s He’s a Pirate). And if we’re allowing TV themes, what about Games of Thrones? I mean, this is pretty much what I hear every time I watch the show. And also… oh, we’ll be here forever. What are you favourites?


Next month…

#100! Probably. Hopefully.