Black Dynamite

I’m going to level with you guys:  Black Dynamite may, in fact, be the greatest movie ever made, and thus, the following review will not do it any sort of justice.  Much like The Matrix (1999), no one can be told what Black Dynamite is, you have to see it for yourself.

Directed and co-written by Scott SandersBlack Dynamite is a hilarious movie, and the parts that aren’t funny are totally badass...and the parts that aren’t badass, are even MORE BADASS.  Yeah, it's like that.  A send-up of the Blaxploitation films of the '70s, it could easily be compared to Keenan Ivory Wayans’ I’m Gonna Git You Sucka! (1988) .  But while Wayans’ film is also rooted in the Blaxploitation genre, it's really in the style of the Zucker Bros. parodies like Airplane! (1980) and The Naked Gun (1988)Black Dynamite on the other hand, turns Blaxploitation conventions and clichés up to 11, goes beyond mere parody, and in turn becomes the purest Blaxploitation film ever.

Michael Jai White stars as the titular Black Dynamite, the baddest mofo in the history of bad mofos.  When he isn’t running his nightclub, pimping hos, avenging his brother Jimmy’s death, protecting the weak, or simultaneously sexually satisfying three women at once; he does what he does best: TAKE IT TO THE MAN! This time, though, he's got his work cut out for him.  In under 90 minutes, Black Dynamite has to clean up the streets, exact bloody vengeance, protect a foxy female force for change in the community, thwart a government plot to shrink black mens’ pride and joy and, as mentioned above, stick it to The Man.  While it’s a good thing Black Dynamite also just happens to be “the greatest CIA agent the CIA ever had in the history of the CIA,” it's fortunate he'll also have some help from an assortment of a few of the goofiest of Black militants and baddass pimps (including Arsenio Hall and Bokeem Woodbine)!

The driving force behind the whole picture is Michael Jai White.  It was his vision and utter commitment to badassery that makes this film a sheer joy to watch.  You’ve loved him in such films as Spawn (1997)Universal Soldier: The Return (1999) , both The Toxic Avenger II (1989) and III (1989) , and The Dark Knight (2008) .  Can we all just agree that he’s the man already?  Or at the very least, can you all go out and watch the highly underrated Thick as Thieves (1998)?  It's also directed by Scott Sanders, and is the best low-budget crime flick I've seen that didn't have a "written by Elmore Leonard" credit. However, you should definitely check out Black Dynamite first...

...and do not interrupt his Kung Fu.

Forbidden Zone

Before his incredible collaborations with Tim Burton, before developing a cult-favorite band new wave band with such hits as Weird Science and Dead Man’s PartyDanny Elfman was part of a musical theater group called The Mystic Knights of the Oingo Boingo.  I do not have words to explain just how strange they are so here’s a clip from The Gong Show

Danny’s the one wearing a rocket.

After having watched that, it should come as no surprise to you when I say that when these people decided to make a feature length movie, they created one of the most disturbing things ever captured on film.

Forbidden Zone is nominally about the Hercules family after they moved into the former residence of a heroin dealer named Huckleberry P. Jones, which is exactly what I plan to name my first child, regardless of gender.  The basement of the house features a doorway to “The Sixth Dimension,” a land of utter madness.

After having watched this movie several times, I have come to the conclusion that the Sixth Dimension is-in fact-HELL.  Frenchy Hercules (Marie-Pascale Elfman) decides to check out the Sixth Dimension and finds, among other things: King Fausto (Herve Villechaize) , a few torture chambers, a frog person, some concubines, The Princess (who never puts a shirt on), the Kipper Kids, a number of cross-dressers, and Danny Elfman  himself as Satan... doing a Cab Calloway impression.

Still with me?

This movie doesn't have a plot so much as a bunch of connecting segments between musical numbers, which consist of original songs by the Mystic Knights, and older 40's-style recordings to which the cast lip-syncs.  Admittedly, I am a big Danny Elfman/Oingo Boingo fan, so I may be biased, but I really love the music in this picture. This was the first film Danny ever scored.

The film’s director, Richard Elfman (Danny’s older brother), made Forbidden Zone with almost no money, and it shows.  He shot the film in black and white not for artistic reasons, but because he couldn't afford color.  The sets, predominantly two-dimensional Cabinet of Dr. Caligari-esque paintings by  Marie.  Most of the cast were not professional actors and yet were encouraged to ham up their performances as much as possible.  Furthermore, at any given moment, the film switches to animation a la “Monty Python.”

These factors contribute to the movie’s overall charm, which it has in loads.  It’s just hard to notice that charm, as the film offends the senses on almost every level. To begin, there are more bodily fluids, nudity, and/or sexual situations here than most porn films. As the director explains on the commentary track, “I love to put people in their underwear. Be they beautiful, young ladies or mature gentlemen playing 12 year old boy scouts.” There are also situations that he claims are not meant to be racist, but come off-well...let's just say the film begins with Huckleberry P. Jones being played by a white man in blackface.  Amusingly, Forbidden Zone has also been criticized for being anti-Semitic, despite the Elfman clan being Jewish.

Forbidden Zone is a semi-animated nightmare that keeps me up at night whenever I watch it.  After just watching it now, I am still flabbergasted. While I can't recommend it highly enough, I can never seem to get anyone to watch it.