The Direct to Video Connoisseur

I'm a huge fan of action, horror, sci-fi, and comedy, especially of the Direct to Video variety. In this blog I review some of my favorites and not so favorites, and encourage people to comment and add to the discussion. If you click on an image, it will take you to that post's image page, which includes many more pics from the film and other goodies I couldn't fit in the actual review. For announcements and updates, don't forget to Follow us on Twitter and Like our Facebook page. If you're the director, producer, distributor, etc. of a low-budget feature length film and you'd like to send me a copy to review, you can contact me at dtvconnoisseur[at]yahoo.com. I'd love to check out what you got.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Pocket Ninjas (1997)

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I was completely shocked to find that this was available from Netflix. We're talking #9 on the imdb Bottom 100, and the film is still in print? On the one hand that sounds really cool, but on the other, I think of all the great Gary Daniels films that aren't in print or available on Netflix, and it irks me that this one is.

Pocket Ninjas has Gary Daniels as a sensei teaching his students how to be vigilante fighters in order to defeat the evil power of Cobra Khan, now embodied in a little kid named Cubby Khan, but originally embodied in DTVC favorite Robert Z'Dar, whose enormous face alone was bigger than that kid. Anyway, the kids go out and fight Cubby Khan's goons, then have some kind of showdown with virtual reality video games.

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This lives up to it's Bottom 100 billing, but that's not exactly a good thing. First off, it's trying to be a parody of martial arts movies, but it's so not funny that it falls flat on its face. The number one rule to a good parody: be better than the material one is mocking, and Pocket Ninjas couldn't deliver on that. Second, it tortures us with these drawn out training sequences with the kid and the baddies that have no point other than hurting our sensibilities and hammering this repetitious synth music into our skulls. Third, we get a healthy dose of annoying kid actors, especially this one with a high pitched voice that was supposed to be our comedic lead, but just made me wish the girl in his group would kick him in the nuts-- over and over. Finally I don't know what was going on with Robert Z'Dar. They were going for some kind of Three Stooges thing, but I found myself with my mouth agape, totally stunned and baffled-- nonplussed, so to speak, not knowing how I was supposed to react. Had the people involved let off the schlock a little bit, and trimmed about five minutes off a lot of their scenes-- which is saying a lot for a film with a 76-minute running time-- this could've been a fun bad movie in MST3K terms. Instead, it was just 76 minutes of extreme tediousness annoying the hell out of me.

The opening credits tell us that this is a "special appearance" by Gary Daniels, but he's in it a fair amount, though some of those are clips from other movies, most prominent, Capital Punishment. He was trying his best here, so you gotta give him an A for effort, but this was a hardcore painfest. It's funny to watch, though, just to see Daniels giving it his best, not betraying the silly dialog, or the outfit, or the scene where he's covered in water (I guess sweating). In the review for Across the Line, we discussed Daniels's trend of doing smaller parts in films with bigger actors so he can rub shoulders with them. I wonder if this film is on his mind every time he takes one of these small roles. I wonder if, during the wrap party, he's deathly afraid someone will bring it up, maybe a practical joke where the scene of him covered in water is plastered across someone's 58" plasma.

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Robert Z'Dar. Yep, showing us his comedic acting skills. Oh, I know, he's a comedic actor when he's playing it straight, what's it like when he's trying to evoke the Three Stooges? In a word, shocking. He's like the guy at the frat party who's like a friend of a friend, and gets really drunk and acts a fool, and you're there trying to not to make eye contact with him, for fear he'll bring his routine to you, and latch onto you, preventing you from making a connection with the girl you've struck up a conversation with. It was uncouth, and perhaps more frightening than any of the baddies he's ever played.

All of the scenes of Tadashi Yamashita are from Capital Punishment, and I guess for that reason he's uncredited. You also have a quick shot of Ian Jacklin-- the guy from Kickboxer 3-- probably also from another movie. How does one do that, make a 76-minute long movie, and use footage from another film? And then, half the scenes they did shoot originally went on too long. I mean, this entire thing is high school kids on YouTube quality, and I know if they had the rights to movies like Capital Punishment that they could splice in, they'd probably make a much better movie.

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This was shot in 1994, but not released until 1997. With that in mind, I'm assuming the female lead, played by Sondi (just the one name, and just the one role according to imdb) is about my age, or maybe a year or two older. Her character, the way she looked, the way she dressed, the way she wore her hair, it reminded me of the girls I grew up with in middle school into high school. People my age probably remember what I'm talking about. Girls back then seldom wore skirts or dresses, usually dressed in slightly unflattering jeans and baggy shirts and sweaters with sneakers. It sounds like a Tom Boy, but these were feminine outfits, all these clothes came from the girls' of the department store section. There was something about those days when a girl that I was so used to wearing jeans and a sweater would come into to school with a skirt on, and though the girl in this movie never wore a skirt, there was something about her clothes that reminded me of those days, where a girl that I always thought was cute would be transformed into something more, just because, for whatever reason, today was a skirt day. It's so weird, because skirts are common on women today, and we really don't think anything of it, but back then, if a girl wore a skirt, it was a big deal.

Okay, so I'm way off track here reminiscing about the early 90s. Pocket Ninjas is enticing, believe me. imdb Bottom 100, Gary Daniels, Robert Z'Dar, and easily available on Netflix. Just be very careful, because you're entering into a 76-minute long painfest, something that will harm your sensibilities, and leave you for hours after with this atrocious, repetitive synth track buried deep in your dome.

For more info: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0107838/

3 comments:

  1. I actually came across thise film at Family Video and since I enjoyed numerous other films on IMDB's bottom 100 list, I figured this one might be enjoyable as well, and it was in so-bad-it's-good way(can't compare it MST3K since as I honestly never watched that show)I acutally did laugh at Robert Z Dar for some reason, at the very least he wasn't nearly as excruciatingly unfunny as say Adam Sandler was in garbage like Billy Madison and The Waterboy, and that actress who played the girl was actually pretty decent, too bad she never got to star in a better film.

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  2. This looks like a tough sit. Even though fan favorites Z'Dar and Daniels are in it, just can't bring myself to rent it.

    Didn't know there was stock footage of Capital Punishment and random Ian Jacklin (probably from American Streetfighter).

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  3. I don't think it's American Streetfighter, because it's Jacklin sans his trademark mullet. There's a pic of it on the image page if you want to check it out. It is a tough sit, and if you have other Daniels films you want to look at first, you'd be understood for leaving this one for last.

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