Nude Nuns with Big Guns

Before we begin, A statement: I both owe Joseph Guzman a debt of gratitude...and a punch in the groin.

While surfing around the interconnected web we call the internet, I stumbled across two things. One: The Cavalcade of Schlock website I'd left in other hands when I moved to New Mexico was now in such a state of disuse, it had actually gone offline for over a week and nobody noticed-and Two: I saw a low-budget sexploitation revenge flick called "Nude Nuns with Big Guns" on Netflix. When a higher power sends a notice as powerful as this, I get the message. After having seen NNWBG, I had to bring the Cavalcade website back, just to talk about it. So for that, Mr. Guzman, I thank you.

Before we get into the details, I'll go ahead and get this out of the way: Yes. The nuns are nude (as are every one of the other 23 women in the picture save three). Yes, two of them do in fact wield guns of the "big" variety. If there's one thing the film gets right, it's truth in advertising. Now to the story, such as there is:

Sister Sarah (Asun Ortega) embarks on a holy path of bloody vengeance (while nude) after being forced into the drug trade (while nude) and prostitution (while nude). Along the way, she rescues another nun (Aycil Yeltan who is also nude), who also happens to be her lover. Along the way she runs afoul of the ultra-rapey biker gang hired to provide muscle for the entire operation.

If imitation is the highest form of flattery, then Robert Rodriguez should be blushing like a school girl. It's as if the director of this picture watched the Mariachi series and said to himself, "You know what these films are missing? Rape. Lots of rape. I can fix that!" and proceeded to do so-only without the kinetic energy, style, or story-telling ability. We've got all the Rodriguez Mariachi tropes on display, down to the gun in the guitar case. Now, I'm not against a good homage here and there, especially considering that much of what Rodriguez does is a tribute to the Grindhouse films of the 70's (like, say...Grindhouse), but he throws in a fun twist here and there. Not so here.

Complaining about misogyny in a sexploitation flick is like jumping in a pool and complaining it's damp, but there are limits. Limits to which this film barrels straight past and then decides, "you know what? Watching this dude rape a woman for five minutes was so much fun the first time, let's do it again, only this time let's have him rape a nun for four minutes of screen time!" The worst bit about this is that there is so much rape in the picture that it has its own musical motif on the soundtrack...which is a ripoff of Cherry Darling's theme from Planet Terror, a movie who's primary theme was one of female empowerment. I am focusing on the rape because a good sexploitation flick (or even nunsploitation-it's a thing, really it is) manages to somehow both exploit the female form while empowering it (see any 70's picture with Pam Grier). Here, the only strong female is Sister Sarah, and even she spends most of the picture being victimized. Not only that, her Mission from God is mostly explained away as insanity brought on by overdose, so the script even undercuts her.

All told, this movie managed to disappoint on all levels. It had sex without excitement, violence without energy, and plodded along miserably from point to point. If you really want to screen this, I'd recommend large doses of tequila and pairing it up with I Spit on Your Grave or Evil Breed: Legend of Samhain for one hell of a miserable evening.

Resident Evil: Extinction

When one gets to the third film of what could be a horror/sci-fi trilogy, certain gimmicks have to be introduced.  These include but are not limited to: the end of the world (the risk of or the actual), deserts or cute critters of some sort.  Not to be outdone, director Russell Mulcahy chocks Resident Evil: Extinction with all three!

The world is good and properly screwed by this third installment and Alice (Milla Jovovich) has taken up Leonard Smalls’ (Randall “Tex” Cobb in Raising Arizona (1987)) mantle as “the lone biker of the apocalypse.”  Hiding from the evil Umbrella Corporation for fear of their turning her into a weapon, hiding from her friends for fear that they will be used against her by Umbrella and hiding from the hordes of zombies, because, well, they smell bad, Alice is wandering around directionless.  Much like this movie.

It’s difficult to determine whether or not the lack of direction helps or hurts this movie.  If it were on purpose, Mulcahy may have been showing through the film the terror and nothingness that awaits us poor survivors of the zombie apocalypse: a life of scrounging for food and praying that there will be a point to any of it.  On the other hand, if it were not on purpose, it just goes to show that the filmmakers had no idea what to do with this installment and said “Screw it, put ‘em in the desert and release the crows!”  I go back and forth.

Don’t misunderstand, Extinction has a lot going for it, not the least of which is the sexiest pile of corpses I’ve ever seen. (Yeah, I said it.  Find a cuter corpse pit and we’ll talk.)  Building off the ending of Resident Evil: Apocalypse (2004), Alice has gone full-Tetsuo (Akira 1988).  These powers come in hand when Claire Redfield’s (Ali Larter) convoy of survivors is attacked by a murder of zombie crows.  That’s right, zombie crows.  In one of the most metal moments in film history, Alice destroys them using her brain and fire.

Also, helping the film are above average zombie make-up and a heaping helping of Day of the Dead (1985) references.  After five years, the zombies are looking a little worse for wear and the effects team did a wonderful job of showing that decomposing flesh and the sun do not mix.  Meanwhile, Dr. Isaacs (Iain Glen) works in an underground Umbrella facility with the foolish notion of domesticating the zombies into a viable workforce.  Care to guess how that goes?

Like most third films, Extinction does not stand well on its own.  However, within the series, it is not a bad installment and sets up a great ending that does actually continue into the fourth installment.

Resident Evil: Apocalypse

In order to make a good horror movie sequel, the filmmakers must abide certain rules and conventions.  None of which are more important than the underlying rule: More.  And with More comes the equally important: Bigger.   Happily, for action/horror junkies like myself, Alexander Witt understood these rules and delivered the wonderfully over-the-top Resident Evil: Apocalypse.

Picking up from before the previous installment left off, Witt shows the audience how the Umbrella Corporation’s T-Virus spread and devastated Raccoon City leading up to Resident Evil’s (2002) climactic cliffhanger.  Joining (the finally named onscreen) Alice (Milla Jovovich) are a motley crew of actors that continue the first film’s tradition of English people pretending to be American including Sienna Guillory doing a disturbingly-accurate Jill Valentine impression, Oded Fehr being the man, Thomas Kretschman from the five year period in which he was the ONLY working creepy German in film, and Zach Ward playing a Russian…  Riiiiiight.

Their mission, should they choose to accept it, is to rescue Umbrella scientist, Charles Ashford’s (Jared Harris) daughter from the quarantined Raccoon City, kill as many zombies as possible in the process, evade and/or stop Nemesis, a monosyllabic hulking monster who uses a minigun but only when he’s tired of using his rocket launcher, and, just so things are not too easy, escape an impending nuclear missile strike.

Witt and screenwriter/producer Paul W.S. Anderson like to pack as much as humanly possible into a sequel.  Luckily, they have more money to do so than the first film and they waste not one penny.  Right from the beginning, the scale of this sequel dwarfs the first film by focusing on an entire town, using primarily exterior shots to contrast the claustrophobic Hive, and inundates the audience with large action sequences.  Within the first eleven minutes, we get car crashes, zombie executions and delightfully ridiculous helicopter stunts.

And all that’s before Alice destroys three Licker monsters in a church with a motorcycle, bullets and sheer badassery.  Upping the ante from merely being tough, Alice now officially has superpowers!  You see the T-Virus, which at least kills everything and at most turns every human it infects into a hideously deformed creature of superhuman size and strength, simply made Alice hotter, better, faster, and stronger.  One could cry foul but this clearly falls under the “ What’s Good for the Goose is not Good for the Main Character” clause of science fiction/horror writing.

Aside from the larger scale of the film, Resident Evil: Apocalypse exceeds as a sequel for its greater sense of fun, for lack of a better word.  Resident Evil was a very “serious” movie.  Apocalypse on the other hand cannot take itself too seriously if only because at different points Alice runs down a building with no thought to gravity and feels conflicted about destroying a her friend who has now mutated into a horrible creature.  It’s silly and Witt embraces this aspect by giving us gallows humor, creepy zombie children eating a grown woman, Grand Theft Auto references, and, because you’ve been good little boys and girls, Zombie Strippers.

Bitch Slap

When the only thing your movie has going for it is cast members from Hercules: The Legendary Journeys, you have a problem.

Bitch Slap should have been great and instead it fails miserably. It gets bogged down in places, misses the point in others, and ultimately fails in it's homage to the genre that spawned it.

The plot jumps back and forth in time, the present filmed in a real desert somewhere, and the past filmed in front of a green screen. Green screen can be pretty smooth. In this movie however, it appears as though most of action takes place in front of a Geocities website and nobody bothered to match the lighting.

The story starts out with three absurdly hot women, Hel (Erin Cummings) is the ring leader, Trixie (Julia Voth) is the wide-eyed innocent and Camero (America Olivo) is the tough talking lesbian ass kicker who enjoys assaulting men in the goodies. Seriously, it’s like how she shakes hands: crushing or pinching or clamping some guy’s wedding tackle. It’s absurd and a little disconcerting.

Just as disconcerting is how the three are fetishized at every possibly opportunity. The first time it works as a joke, but only the first time. It might as well just have text "Hot Girls Are Really Hot" flashing on the screen every five minutes for the rest of the movie. Another sin this movie commits is making sex scenes tedious and boring. If I see two you women engaging in salacious acts, and I start looking at my watch, you have somehow failed as a director.

It's like somebody thought if they just point a camera at a series of things, they suddenly become a movie. This lack of understanding ruins almost the whole movie. This film is a series of excuses for amazingly crude references to female anatomy (chutney tube, grabber, gash, cooterlicious, tuna city, etc.) and to get the three female leads wet, in several senses.

They’re trying to find some diamonds, and some nanomachines. Yes Nanomachines rear their ugly, microscopic heads once again. Turns out Hel is a spy, handled by super-spy Pheonix (Kevin Sorbo!) who wants to bring down Gauge (Michael Hurst)  who looks too much like Sean Pertwee and Alan Tyduk had a kid to be threatening.

In fact, most everything seems it's there to distract you from the bad parts of this film. There are cat fights, water fights, nudity, bright light shining out of a lady’s lady parts (no, really) a scarred and mohawked crust punk with Turret’s Syndrome plus a low-rent knock off of Gogo Yubari from Kill-Bill.

There’s gore and violence and boobs and such, but what’s the point? Bitch Slap is an incoherent mess, like a lot of the films that inspired it. The last insult is quotes from ancient history sprinkled here and there, in the futile hope of adding some gravitas.

This movie demands to be seen with friends and drinks, really that's the only way to take it. I regret seeing it sober and by myself, and probably should have watched Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill! instead. So should you.

Yo-Yo Girl Cop

Movie titles are very important.  Sure, most audiences know something about the plot or the actors involved in a movie before they start getting interested; but, there are some titles that just grab an audience before they know anything else, like : Yo-Yo Girl Cop. Even if you do not enjoy the not-so-subtle art of playing with a yo-yo, you have to admit that it’s a catchy title.  Which is important since the movie has little else going for it.

Released in 2006, Yo-Yo Girl Cop is the third in a series of films based on a television series based on a manga series called Sukeban Deka (“Delinquent Girl Detective”).  Each version features a young girl fighting crime undercover in Japanese high schools armed with only a metal yo-yo and congenital badassery.

The latest installment is no different as we follow Saki Asamiya (or Asamiya Saki, if you want to be formal), the next generation’s delinquent, as she is recruited by the Japanese police to infiltrate a high school which is the focus of an ongoing movement for teenage immolation.  Which, for the folks playing at home, brings our “Stolen Ideas from Better Movies” count to 3: La Femme Nikita 21 Jump Street and Blood: the Last Vampire.

When it comes to teenage suicide (and now for the requisite “don’t do it”….Damn you, Heathers !), pills and razors are for wimps. These guys strap bomb-vests to themselves and go running for the nearest populated area!  Apparently, it’s also a group activity.  Taught how by the resident villain’s website, “Enola Gay.”  While watching the teenagers working their chemistry sets to create the explosives and wiring together the timers and vests, I was struck by how, even in the arena of juvenile delinquency, Japanese teens are still more educated and innovative than Americans.  There has to be some way we can close this gap, America!

Remember that awesome title I mentioned in the beginning?  You’d think there’d be wall-to-wall yo-yo action.  In fact, there are only about 4 real scenes of intense yo-yo violence.  The bulk of the movie is devoted to Japanese teenagers crying about bullying in their high school and deciding that blowing themselves up is the only answer.  Well, that and robbing a bank.  It turns out that the bombing movement was a smokescreen to rob a bank, which brings us to 4: Die Hard!  However, towards the end, there is a sequence when Asamiya fights the “evil” Yo-Yo Girl and it, as a much more prolific internet commentator named Chris Sims has pointed out, “is the entire reason this movie was made.”  In some movies(Casshern ), one scene of exquisite violence is more than enough to justify its existence, Yo-Yo Girl Cop is not one of those movies.

There are some fun points: a girl explodes in the first 3 minutes; the “shaky-cam” technique is used to demonstrate some incredible sandwich-eating choreography; goofy yo-yo fighting; and, Tak Sakaguchi.  However, the story is too bogged down in teen melodrama to be exciting.  Maybe if they’d try to bring Tom Smothers out of retirement…