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Roller disco! "Gay Karate Man!" Horny Koreans! Butt lollipop! An evil twin! BATTLETRUCK! Tex Hula's random movie days IV: The Quest For Peace

Aloha yall,
Tex Hula
 
 
Every Monday I pick a random movie I've never heard of to watch and review. Here's my latest batch.
 
 
SKATETOWN U.S.A. (1979)
 
 
 
 
 
Thoughts before watching: I could've sworn I'd seen this before. I knew it wasn't ROLLER BOOGIE with Linda Blair. I remember seeing something on television with Leif Garrett and roller disco. After a quick look at IMDB, it turns out I was thinking of a two-part episode of CHIPS titled "Roller disco." So maybe I haven't seen this.
 
 
Skatetown Skatetown
Goin' round and round
Skatetown Skatetown
Goin' round and round
This is the opening theme of SKATETOWN U.S.A., and I've had this damn song stuck in my head all day. I finally got it out, but I don't know when my next outbreak might occur. I've been infected with the disco herpes.
 
 
If you've ever dreamed of a movie that teams up Chachi, Marsha Brady, and Horshack, here it is. It has a cast filled with B-list television stars from the '70s like Flip Wilson, Ruth Buzzi, Marty Langston (The unknown comic), Billy Barty (DR. SHRINKER), and Judy Landers (B.J. AND THE BEAR). Murdered Playboy playmate Dorothy Stratten makes a cameo, as well as character actor Sydney Lassick (SILENT MADNESS), becoming the first actor to make a second appearance on random movie days. And introducing Patrick Swayze.
Another 70's icon working behind the scenes to help motivate the actors: Cocaine. 
 
 
SKATETOWN U.S.A. is the hottest roller disco rink in some unspecified part of California. They have a DJ with a giant, white afro who shoots lightning from his fingers to make skaters magically appear in the rink. Tonight they're holding a roller disco dance, and the winner gets the prize of a thousand dollars. Richie (Scott Baio) is coaching his friend Stan (Greg Bradford, Baio's co-star in ZAPPED), who is a roller skater from the valley, new to this rink.
A group of leather-clad skating hooligans, led by Ace (Patrick Swayze) are also out for the top prize. Ace's top minion is Frankey (Ron Palillo, WELCOME BACK KOTTER'S Horshack). They're the least intimidating group of tough guys ever put on film.
 
 
During the qualifying round of the competition, Patrick Swayze's Ace does a routine that can best be described as an S&M leather daddy's display of dominance on wheels. He rips off his belt and begins snapping it around like a whip while he skate dances. This gives a whole new meaning to that ROAD HOUSE quote, "pain don't hurt."
Not one to be outdone, Stan does a skating routine to The Village People's Macho Man, with handstands and skating on top of a skateboard. 
So it's Ace facing off against Stan in the finals.
 
 
SKATETOWN U.S.A. was written by original Michael Meyers, Nick Castle. I can't imagine that script being more than twenty-five pages. The movie is mostly footage of people roller skating around a rink, followed by a music performance on the Skatetown stage, there's even a stand-up routine by The Unknown Comic. Interspersed through all this are random little bits with the "characters." Most of these scenes are corny, Dad joke moments. 
The movie works best as just being a time capsule piece. It's a huge slice of seventies nostalgia. Any movie with Billy Barty on roller skates can't be bad.
And it has a pretty amazing soundtrack. I don't really like disco, but I know most of the songs that were in this. It even has a few non-disco tracks like Cheap Tricks, I Want You To Want Me. I'm willing to bet the soundtrack did better than the movie, since it has a hit song from The Jacksons sung by Michael Jackson, Shake Your Body Down To the Ground.
SKATETOWN U.S.A. never had a VHS or disc release, and that's most likely due to the fact that the cost of licensing all the music far outweighed the demand for the movie. Too bad, we could've seen cash grab VHS tapes with only a picture of Patrick Swayze with a tagline like, "Before he danced dirty. He skated dirty."
 
 
Afterthoughts: After watching this I checked out director William A. Levey's IMDB page. After this, he didn't direct a movie until five years later, MONACO FOREVER. After clicking on it, I saw Jean-Claude Van Damme has fourth billing playing, "Gay Karate Man."
I immediately went to YouTube to see if I could find footage of, "Gay Karate Man." I was not disappointed.
 

 

 
 
It's obvious what I have to do now. First Monday double feature!
 
 
MONACO FOREVER (1984)
 
 
 
 
This is the cheap cash grab video I was talking about. Jean-Claude Van Damme's scene above is his only time in this. I'm not sure this can even be considered a movie since it has a running time of only twenty-nine minutes. That was a blessing actually.
 
 
If you watched the above clip, you might think this is a French film, but it was actually filmed in Los Angeles. 
Michael is an American jewel thief, and a linguistic expert in Monaco, who just pulled off a successful jewel heist. After being kicked out of bed by two unsatisfied ladies, he begins wandering the countryside. After his encounter with "Gay Karate Man," he meets a female American photographer, who also happens to be a jewel thief. They begin courting and stealing jewelry off of locals.
Also, Sydney Lassick shows up for a brief scene playing himself asking for directions. His third random movie appearance. 
Throughout this, Michael has flashbacks to his time as a Nazi soldier. (Really? The "hero" is a homophobe, a thief, and a Nazi?) During one of these scenes, he has sex with a Nazi officer or secretary. I'm not sure what she is. After their post-coital brief conversation, they both look directly into the camera and say, "That's all, folks!". Umm, what?
 
 
This is just weird, amateurish, incomprehensible bullshit. Why did they make the guy a Nazi? It was pointless.
If this movie were called "Gay Karate Man," and had JCVD driving the countryside, having adventures, and the main villain was the homophobic, jewel thief, Nazi. I would be on Amazon ordering a copy right now.
One good thing about this short: the thought of rednecks plucking this VHS out of the bargain bin at Wal-Mart expecting a Van Damme actioner, and watching it with the family does give me a bit of a laugh.
 
 
SEX IS ZERO (2002)
 
 
 
 
Thoughts before watching: A blurb from IMDB on the DVD cover is never a good sign. That might be taken from a user review.
 
 
The movie opens with The Go-Go's We Got The Beat, (one of several nods to FAST TIMES AT RIDGEMONT HIGH), and I was sold. Sunjong University is gearing up for the big national aerobics and karate competitions, which look like the only things going on academically at this campus. All the male characters are in the karate competition, all the females in the aerobics.
Eun-sik is a nerdy freshman prone to getting into accidents and being caught in embarrassing situations. He falls head over heels for Eun-Hyo, a senior and best member of the aerobics team. College stud Sang-Wook also has his eyes on her and dumps his girlfriend to get with her. Heartbroken, yet still determined, he still tries to win her over even though she constantly catches him in awkward situations like masturbating, or licking hot sauce off a poster of a bikini model.
 
 
 
 
The filmmakers are clearly influenced by American teen sex comedies. They subtly give props to movies like FAST TIMES AT RIDGEMONT HIGH, and PORKY'S, but it mostly tries to be like one of its contemporaries like AMERICAN PIE, or ROAD TRIP. It goes for the gross-out humor that was popular at the time. At one point a couple of guys fry a freshly whipped up batch of jizz in a skillet just to see what would happen. Then make a fried jizz, rat poison sandwich that Eun-Sik accidentally eats.
Also, a girl is vomiting outside a club after partying too hard, has her hair held back by the guy who has a crush on her. Realizing what a great guy he really is, she plants a post-vomit, stringy wet drool kiss on his mouth.
You get the point. It's immature, it's goofy, and I was having a great time with it. Then the third act happens. I really want to talk about the third act of this movie, so I'm going to be going into heavy spoilers for SEX IS ZERO. Skip to the next review if you don't want to hear the end of a seventeen-year-old movie. I'm also going to have to spoil another 80's teen sex comedy. Proceed with caution.
Spoilers ahead. 
 
 
FAST TIMES AT RIDGEMONT HIGH is my favorite teen sex comedy. SEX IS ZERO gives it respect and pays homage.
THE LAST AMERICAN VIRGIN is my second favorite teen sex comedy. SEX IS ZERO steals its entire third act. In all fairness, it could be taking the ending of LEMON POPSICLE, which THE LAST AMERICAN VIRGIN is a re-make of, and was very popular over-seas. But seeing how the filmmakers have a pretty good knowledge of American sex comedies, I suspect it's the former. If you haven't seen THE LAST AMERICAN VIRGIN, do yourself a favor and go watch it. Stop reading right now if you haven't seen it.
Sang-Wook gets Eun-Hyo pregnant. When she tells him, he dumps her. She calls on Eun-Sik because she needs someone to take her home from the abortion clinic. Eun-Sik thinks it's a date, so he grooms up while doing his hair he doesn't have any hair gel left, so he uses strawberry jam. While he's at the abortion clinic with Eun-Hyo, a pesky bee is circling his head. Please movie no. Don't bring your zany hi-jinks into an abortion clinic.
After the abortion Eun-Sik consoles Eun-Hyo in a motel.
 
 
Eun-Hyo preforms at the aerobics/karate competition. Afterward, in a very disturbing scene, Eun-Sik finds her in a bathroom stall hemorrhaging blood. He rushes her to the hospital. In another disturbing scene, Eun-Hyo's mother comes to visit her in the hospital and begins beating her and calling her a whore. 
Eun-Sik comes back to the hospital to find her and Sang-Wook back together. He walks away crying. That's where THE LAST AMERICAN VIRGIN had enough sense to end things. SEX IS ZERO is going to keep going.
Eun-Hyo comes back to Eun-Sik, catching him lick the hot sauce off the poster, and reveals she's his true love. Then it ends with wacky shenanigans ensuing once more.
 
 
The ending to THE LAST AMERICAN VIRGIN was somber, painful, and heartbreaking. The ending to SEX IS ZERO is upbeat and tries to be fun.
I'm not upset they stole the ending to one of my favorite movies. It does bother me though they botch it so badly. Here it comes across as jarring and just weird. 
The first two-thirds of this movie I was having a blast with. I wish it would've just stuck with that tone. 
 
 
Afterthoughts: SEX IS ZERO would outgross TITANIC at the South Korean box office. It would become South Korea's highest grossing comedy. Of course, a SEX IS ZERO 2 would soon follow.
Well, since my last double feature was technically a movie and a short film. Why not?
 
 
SEX IS ZERO 2 (2007)
 
 
 
 
Thoughts before watching: I'm just curious to see if they can stick the landing this time.
 
 
Eun-Sik and Eun-Hyo are breaking up. The actress playing Eun-Hyo just shows up for a brief cameo scene. Ha Ji-Won who plays Eun-Hyo, became a highly successful South Korean actress after the first SEX IS ZERO, she would go on to playing the lead role in the popular TV drama DAMO: THE LEGENDARY POLICE WOMAN. She ain't got time for this.
Cut to several years later, Eun-Sik is with a new girl, Kyeong-Ah, a girl with a dark past. Kyeong-Ah also has a rich lawyer ex-boyfriend that's trying to get back with her. And that's the plot.
 
 
The first SEX IS ZERO was influenced by American teen sex comedies. That was part of its charm. There's only one movie SEX IS ZERO 2 is influenced by, the first SEX IS ZERO. 
Instead of aerobics this time, it's a swim team. Instead of a fried jizz, rat poison sandwich, Eun-Sik eats a lollipop that was shoved up a freshman's butt. Lines from the first movie are repeated. Scenes from the first movie are re-enacted.
In SEX IS ZERO, Eun-Sik is stuck on a ledge of the college with a couple of perverts while in his underwear. In SEX IS ZERO 2, a girl is stuck on a hotel balcony with a couple of perverts while she's in her underwear.
 
 
 
 
Aside from the butthole lollipop bit, there aren't any gross-out jokes in this. It tries to be a more mature, romantic comedy. Which is fine, please do something different. But it keeps falling back to the original like a safety net. Repeating the same things because they don't want to get out of the audience's comfort zone. 
There's also a third act that deals with serious issues. But, it really doesn't have much impact on the plot; it just feels like it's there because that's what the first movie did. 
This movie is the equivalent of THE HANGOVER PART II, just a lame rehash of the original.
There's not going to be a SEX IS ZERO 3 with any of the original cast returning. But if they make a SEX IS ZERO: THE NEXT GENERATION, I'll be down to watch it.
 
 
JACK BE NIMBLE (1993)
 
 
 
 
Thoughts before watching: I don't care if I find out there's a JACK BE NIMBLE 2, I am not doing another double feature for awhile.
 
 
Set in New Zealand, a young mother gives her fraternal twin children up for adoption after suffering a mental breakdown. Dora goes to live with a wealthy family in the city, while Jack is sent to a rural family with a physically abusive father, a mentally abusive mother, and four creepy foster sisters that like to stand around lined up by height.
 
 
 
 
As they reach their late teens, they miss each other and aspire to find each other again one day.
Dora begins manifesting psychic powers. She can hear dead people's voices. The problem is they don't shut the hell up and threaten to drive her mad. She meets an older psychic that teaches her how to control the voices and harness her powers.
Meanwhile, Jack (Alexis Arquette, BRIDE OF CHUCKY) is badly scarred both mentally and physically from the abuse at the hands of his foster family. After one particularly violent attack, Jack shows them a project he just finished in his metal shop class. A candle powered box, that rhythmically flashes lights. This puts his foster parents into a hypnotic trance, which he uses to make them commit suicide in inventive ways. After that, he heads to the city, with hypno-box in tow, to find his sister.
Dora uses her powers to pinpoint Jack's location, and the two are reunited. They go to find their birth parents, but is Jack going to make them pay for abandoning him? 
His creepy foster sisters, however, are heading to the city in an old model pick-up to get their revenge on him.
 
 
This is a really strange, but really good gothic horror flick. It's a lost gem, and I highly recommend it. Even though I don't think it's for everyone.
Several plot devices are never explained, and to a casual viewer might seem a little ridiculous. The Hypno-box, for example, seemed a little too out of place at first. After thinking about it, Jack's powers might have manifested at the same time as his twin sister's. The Hypno-box is used with his powers. I'm just assuming. The movie never even acknowledges Jack has powers. Maybe the movie is leaving things open for audiences to speculate and use their imaginations. Or maybe I'm just filling in the movie's plotholes for it. 
Also, the two main leads give amazing performances. Especially Alexis Arquette. I've seen her in quite a few movies but always playing bit parts. She goes from cowering in fear from her abusers to full-on rage, and emotional breakdowns in-between. I doubt you could ever get a performance with this much range from her brother David.
 
 
Finding movies like this makes this project worthwhile.
 
 
BATTLETRUCK (1982)
 
 
 
 
Thoughts before watching: Nevermind that shit, here comes BATTLETRUCK!
I'm about to cheat on my random Monday movie rules. After I wrote my Monday review, I randomly selected a movie for next week. It was BATTLETRUCK. I have never been more excited for a Monday movie. It's Wednesday, screw the rules, I'm watching BATTLETRUCK.
I'll consider this a bonus movie, and watch a different movie Monday.
 
 
Goddamnit. Twenty minutes into this movie, and I realize I've seen it before. I usually don't like to go to IMDB before I watch a movie, but I gave it a quick check. Sure enough:
 
 
WARLORDS OF THE 21ST CENTURY (1982)
aka BATTLETRUCK
 
 
 
 
Thoughts before un-pausing: I've seen it. I rented it from a convenience store by my Grandparent's house. Now I'm breaking two rules on my random movie days. It's alright, this is just a bonus movie. I can barely remember any of what I've seen so far.
 
 
Another kiwisploitation movie. A Roger Corman produced New Zealand take on the 80's post-apocalyptic craze.
The world is blasted back to the stone age thanks to a thermonuclear war over the depleting oil reserves. A crazed former colonel of the wars, Straker, travels the land in his futuristic BATTLETRUCK, (actually an eighteen-wheeler with its frame modified to look futuristic). Straker and his band of raiders hunt down makeshift communities and do the usually implied raping (it's PG rated), and pillaging. During one of his conquests, he orders his daughter Corlie to execute an innocent man. Instead of obeying, she flees into the desert pursued by Straker's raiders. Once they catch her, a mysterious man on a futuristic motorcycle comes to her rescue.
 
 
 
 
The mystery man is Hunter, (Michael Beck, who would star in one of my favorite futuristic motorcycle movies MEGAFORCE the same year as this), takes Corlie to his refuge. Hunter's home is a wind-powered chicken farm where he uses chickenshit to make methane to fuel his bike.  Corlie wants to stay with Hunter, but he's not having it. He's too much of a loner, living alone, doing loner things, for an attractive woman to cramp his style. So he delivers her to the community of Clearwater where his friend Rusty (Pixar mainstay John Ratzenberger) lives.
 
 
Corlie adapts to life in Clearwater and becomes a trusted member of the community. All that is ruined one day when she hears the approach of BATTLETRUCK. She rushes to Hunter for help. Hunter decides that this is the moment for sexy time. Really? Now?
Their post-coital bliss is interrupted by the arrival of BATTLETRUCK. Corlie and Hunter escape. The chicken farm is laid to waste.
Eventually, Straker captures Corlie, and the residents of Clearwater ban together to build Hunter an armored vehicle to take down BATTLETRUCK once and for all.
 
 
 
 
Umm, thanks, guys. You shouldn't have.
 
 
At first, I thought this was another rip-off of THE ROAD WARRIOR. Then after looking it up BATTLETRUCK and THE ROAD WARRIOR were released just months apart. Both films were in production at the same time, even vying for the same crewmembers. That doesn't mean someone didn't read George Miller's screenplay and rush this into production.
They both use the same framework, but that's a story device that's been used in countless westerns. I couldn't reach a definite conclusion whether it was a rip-off or not, but really it doesn't matter.
 
BATTLETRUCK is a good movie. A better way to describe it: it's an adequate movie. The PG rating really shows. Straker's bloodthirsty, ruthless marauders are PG bad guys using PG language. Also missing is a sense of fun. This movie takes itself way too seriously.
I do like how it uses western elements. Horses are utilized, bad guys are headed off at the pass, and at one point the hero has to have an arrow pulled out of him.
James Wainwright's Colonel Straker is also a highlight. He sleeps locked up in BATTLETRUCK at night, so his men don't kill him in his sleep. At points when he's terrorizing a new community, he manages to out-Neagan Jeffery Dean Morgan.
But the main villain of the movie is BATTLETRUCK. Menacingly rushing down the highway, chasing Hunter in his little armored Volkswagen Beetle is straight out of Spielberg's DUEL. BATTLETRUCK even gets its own epic villain death. A more satisfying one than the Green Goblin truck in MAXIMUM OVERDRIVE had.
 
 
Out of all the post-apocalypse movies of the '80s, this is one of the better ones. That's because they were mostly God-awful. (Thanks Italy.)
One of my favorites would be WORLD GONE WILD. With Michael Pare and Bruce Dern against a cult of Charles Manson worshippers led by Adam Ant. That's some good cheese.
 
 
Mahalo pardners,
Tex Hula
 
 
 
 
 
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