Cradle 2 the Grave (2003)

Reviewed by Simon Drake

Directed by Andrzej Bartkowiak
Starring Jet Li, DMX, Mark Dacascos and Tom Arnold

BMM keywords Offensive stereotypes, Christian propaganda, Gratuitous lapdancing. Mark Dacascos.

    After stealing some black diamonds a professional thief (DMX) and a Hong Kong secret agent (Li) have to team up because the diamonds are the key to a weapon of mass destruction that evil Mark Dacascos has kidnapped DMX's kid as a ransom for.

What's wrong with it?

    It's a production that just screams 'Star's ego' from every pore. DMX posturing away like he's in another 'bling bling' rap video. Jet Li beating up anyone who looks at him in a funny way (cool sunglasses optional) and Mark Dacascos swanning around in a rather sharp snake-skin suit looking (and sounding) like some kung fu Derek Zoolander. It's all rather ludicrous.
    The plot is a load of old cod, and the script is dire with huge chunks of racism and homophobia thrown in for good measure. Plus, once again, Jet Li's 'fu' skills have been degraded by some ropey wirework and an editor with an itchy snipping finger.

What's right with it?

    That said, the fight scenes are passable and the quad bike chase is quite good (especially as it has a rather amusing voiceover from an unseen news presenter who clearly fancies himself as something of a social commentator "this sort of thing leads to an increase in vandalism" he says as a quad bike leaps a gap between two buildings).
    Both the leads, while not great, acquit themselves well on screen and Jet Li laying the smack down is always worth a view.

How bad is it really?

    Pretty much on a par with Romeo must Die and Exit Wounds, fine if you like that sort of thing...Dull if you don't.

Best Bit?

    Jet Li's character has to partake in an 'Ultimate fighting' competition and ends up using the midget commentator as a weapon.

What's up with...?

Ratings:

Production values Fair, some stunt sequences work better than others. Jet Li dropping down from floor to floor on the outside of a building being a high point compared to the messily edited Jet vs. Mark scrap. 14

Dialogue and performance The script is rather dull, punctuated occasionally by some racist jokes and the odd pontificating about stealing being okay if you do it to keep your daughter off the streets and feel really guilty about it whilst wearing a huge fuck-off diamond encrusted Crucifix that Mr T would deem to ostentatious. Jet Li still seems to be struggling with the English language, DMX just poses, Mark Dacascos just sneers and Tom Arnold's just shit. 18

Plot and execution The plot's just an excuse for rap stars to play with fake guns and Andrzej Bartkowiak still hasn't managed to show off Li's martial arts prowess to the west despite several attempts. He seems insistent on teaming Jet Li with a rapper and editing all his cool moves into the bin. 14

Randomness Nothing too bad, if you can get over Black diamonds being the next Duracell batteries and some pointless characters...And Mark Dacascos. 10

Waste of potential Jet Li's talents still haven't really found an American market sadly and it's doubtful that Cradle 2 the Grave will do much to change that. Maybe if Mr Li wants some success Stateside he should give Owen Wilson a call. 16

Overall 72%

*

Hell comes to Frogtown (1984)

Reviewed by Simon Drake

Directed by R.J Rizer and Donald Jackson.
Starring 'Rowdy' Roddy Piper, Sandahl Bergman and Rory Calhoun.

    A nuclear explosion has rendered most of the male population sterile so anyone with a high (read: existent) sperm count is put to work repopulating the human race.
    Sam Hell ('Rowdy' Roddy) is an extremely sterile man (so we're told!) so he's sent into the wastelands of America to rescue (and impregnate) the most fertile group of woman on Earth that have been captured by the mutant ruler of Frogtown, Commander Toady. Sam goes into battle with a pair of explosive underpants; a rather natty bright pink ATV, a gun-toting feminist and a sexy nurse called Dr Spangle.
    When they get to wastelands they meet a random plot wench and in a tender scene where Sam and Dr Spangle realise they love each other when they look into each other's eyes...despite that at the time Sam is having sex with a drugged teenager!
    Spangle and Sam ditch the others and head into Frogtown with Spangle disguised as a slave girl (leather bra/Neck chain etc) for no readily apparent reason other than to see Sandahl Bergman in as few clothes as possible.
    They stop off at the nearest amphibian strip club and hook up with a slave-trading frog wearing a fez who knocks out Sam and takes Spangle to Commander Toady. Sam awakes and has to escape torture, shagging a giant frog and a chainsaw induced groin injury to rescue the woman he loves...And the hundred women he has to!

What's wrong with it?

    It has high levels of misogyny and plenty of ego flattery for 'Rowdy' Roddy, seeing as within a few minutes of meeting him all the females get naked and thrown themselves at him (despite looking like a buffed version of Steve Irwin: Crocodile Hunter without the charisma...and a worse mullet).
    The production is rather shabby, what with the 'futuristic' desert landscapes and dilapidated oil refinery sets seen in every low budget post apocalyptic sci-fi flick. Not only do the mutant frogmen look like velociraptors gone to seed they are so bloody hammy, anyone would think that it was Jeremy Irons and Bruce Payne beneath the rubber costumes.

What's right with it?

    It doesn't take itself very seriously I suppose. And the fact that Sam Hell is a totally lame hero and is always saved by the women takes the rather smug look off his face.

How bad is it really?

    It has a few moments of fun, but sadly most of the film has an unpleasant sexist feel thereby tainting the whole affair.

Best bit

    A pro-pregnancy poster reads "Condoms no...The future is in your hands!"

What's up with...

Ratings:

Production Values Pretty half arsed. The frogs look lame, the stunts aren't too great and there are about two sets 18

Dialogue and performance Let's face it, nobody's coming through this with an Oscar. Roddy Piper makes a rather smug hero and Sandahl Bergman makes a rather annoying female love (!) interest. The frogs are so over the top and hammy it is just irritating. 15

Plot and execution A patchy affair, I'm guessing the makers wanted to go for an Indiana Jones meets Evil Dead feel. But it didn't really work. 14

Randomness It sort of makes sense for the first half then gets bogged down in trying to get as many scantily clad women with guns in one place as possible...Regardless of making no sense to the storyline. 14

Waste of potential My hopes weren't high when I saw this, however I was hoping for some cheesy sci-fi crapola in the vein of Ice Pirates or Zone Troopers. But sadly it didn't have the goofy fun and endearing crapness of those. 12

Overall 73%

*

Troll (1985)

Reviewed by Simon Drake

A Charles Band Production
Starring Noah Hathaway, Shelly Hack and Sonny Bono

    You know they say that moving house is the second most stressful thing in your life (the first being marriage), if that is so then spare a thought for the poor Potter family. Within an hour of moving into a new apartment building the neighbourhood troll living in the basement possesses their daughter and then they find out that their neighbour is Sonny Bono.
    The Potters deal with the fact that little Wendy has suddenly started screaming in tongues, trashing the new apartment and trying to eat human flesh by assuming she's been drinking too much coke. But young Harry Potter (hey!) suspects that this is more than attention deficit disorder and begins to investigate, and soon this ordinary young boy is thrown into a world of fairies, witches and trolls.
    We find out, thanks to the plot witch on the top floor, that former Prince (or should that be the artist formally known as...) Turok is back from the fairy realm as a troll. He clearly had some botanical training there as he's giving each apartment a garden makeover slowly turning them into a part of the fairy universe by growing ivy all over the walls. Only the Potters apartment stands in the way of Turok taking over the Universe.
    So young Harry has to face his fear and do battle with the forces of darkness to save the ones he loves...

What's wrong with it?

    Firstly the Troll of the title...man it looks silly. It just scuttles around waving its glowing green ring around like that little guy from Masters of the Universe with his "cosmic key".
    Secondly the plot involves a troll giving apartments a 'Groundforce' style garden makeover.
    And thirdly it has the audacity to try and pass off rubber sock puppets as a 'special effect'

What's right with it?

    It can never be said that Charles Band takes his film productions seriously, and Troll does seem to have its tongue firmly in its cheek. The acting as a whole is quite good by which I mean everyone can emote and clearly realise they aren't doing Shakespeare at the Old Vic. The little girl as Wendy Potter and Harry are both good for child actors, and Michael Moriarty as Harry Potter Snr seems to be enjoying himself, especially gurning his way through an air guitar solo.
    There is even a quite amusing postmodern bit where young Harry suspects his sister has been possessed as he keeps watching fragments of 'Pod people from Mars' on TV (the cast of which seems to consist of Albert and Charles Band is a variety of unconvincing and extremely silly wigs hamming it up "That's not your girlfriend anymore Bobby...She's now a POD PERSON FROM MARS!")

How bad is it really?

    It has all the hallmarks of your usual Charles Band production, ropey second hand effects, a cast made up of grinning B movie actors, members of their family and future sit com stars (in this case Julia Louise Dreyfuss from Seinfeld) and a silly streak a mile wide.

Best bit?

    Harry Potter Snr opens his apartment door to reveal the fairy kingdom in his hallway, the kindly plot witch who's now been turned into a tree stump for reasons I won't explain now, informs him:
    "Keep your door closed as Turok can't take over if he can't get in!"
    "What's going on?" asks Mrs Potter
    "I dunno...But I'm doing what the stump says"

What's up with...?

Ratings:

Production values Typically (and endearingly) cheap. The garden apartment shots and stop motion creeper vines are quite good though. 13

Dialogue and performance The script has a few nice lines and is pretty well handled across the board. 6

Plot and execution A troll does Changing Rooms...Only with marginally more credibility. 15

Randomness - Once you get past the Sonny Bono gestating gherkin and assorted singing sock puppets the story pretty much follows its fairly ropey premise to the end. 4

Waste of potential Harry Potter takes on a former Prince turned Troll doing home improvement to take over the universe, I would think they got as much mileage as they could out of the idea...except maybe more Quidditch. 4

Overall 42%