Review: Chuck Norris vs Communism

Director: Ilinca Calugareanu
Screenplay: Ilinca Calugareanu
Starring: Irina Margareta Nistor, Ana Maria Moldovan, Dan Chiorean
Country: UK, Romania, Germany
Running Time: 78 min
Year: 2015
BBFC Certificate: TBC


Chuck Norris vs Communism is the perfect companion piece to a documentary I reviewed only a few weeks ago, Electric Boogaloo: The Wild, Untold Story of Cannon Films. Whereas the latter revelled in poking fun at the low budget trashy output of Cannon Films in the 80’s, the documentary I’m reviewing here shows how some of those films and other similar titles from the era helped inspire a revolution.

Romania fell under Communist rule after WWII. In 1965 Nicolae Ceaușescu came to power and remained the party’s leader for almost 25 years, developing an autocratic control over the people. As Romania moved into the 1980’s, its foreign debt hit an incredible $10 billion and Ceaușescu pushed forward extreme austerity measures that shattered the economy and impoverished the population (the Conservatives in the UK should take note of that). In a desperate bid to keep the public on his side, he imposed a nationwide cult of personality – using propaganda and mass media to create an idealised, heroic depiction of himself.

Part of this process, alongside Ceaușescu’s general tight grip on the population, involved extreme censorship. The national television network was stripped down to just one channel, showing only two hours of content a day (all strictly positive towards the country and Ceaușescu). Films were practically banned, particularly those from outside Romania (I believe a few select titles which promoted the right values were allowed to be shown if they passed the strict censors). Whilst the rest of the world was enjoying the VHS boom, video players/recorders couldn’t be purchased in the country and the public were forbidden to enjoy the cascade of blockbusters coming out of Hollywood at the time.

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Cinecast Episode 356 – Bearfucker

 
Welcome to the time-discombobulated episode of the cineast. First things Last: Kurt’s son number one, Willem joins in for a detailed discussion of Edge of Tomorrow, with emphasis on details and minutiae. It’s tucked at the end of the show. Andrew and Kurt discuss the specifics of the new Rowthree design before getting into the 1984 project with taciturn Chuck Norris and side boob, but slapped in between Gamble joins in for a lighter-on-the-spoilers discussion of the Tom Cruise movie, so we can Live. Die. Repeat. There is a bit of a love-in for the action stylings of Neil Marshall as he helms the penultimate Season 4 episode of Game Of Thrones with an eye for continuity and geography at Castle Black. Finally there is a Watch List where Kurt & Gamble debate (again) the merits of Orange is the New Black. Also: Roger Dodger, Rango, Full Metal Jacket, Blade Runner and Deathproof. So grab your G.O. juice and your copy of Italian Vogue and hop into the fray.

As always, please join the conversation by leaving your own thoughts in the comment section below and again, thanks for listening!

 


 

 
 
Full show notes are under the seats…
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Blu-Ray Review: Chuck Norris Double Bill

As mentioned in my Pentathlon review, Anchor Bay are capitalising on the forthcoming release of The Expendables 2 by re-mastering and re-releasing a handful of choice titles by some of its stars. Two of these releases are the High Definition debuts of a couple of early Chuck Norris films, A Force of One and The Octagon. Although they are being released separately, I thought I’d treat you all to a double bill of Chuck. After all this is the man who counted to infinity – twice (sorry, couldn’t resist).

A Force of One

Director: Paul Aaron
Screenplay: Ernest Tidyman
Starring: Jennifer O’Neill, Chuck Norris, Clu Gulager, Ron O’Neal, Eric Laneuville
Producer: Alan Belkin
Country: USA
Running Time: 90 min
Year: 1979
BBFC Certificate: 15


One of Chuck Norris’ early starring roles and a relatively big success at the time, helping forge his star status, A Force of One is more notable for the talent behind the scenes. Bizarrely, for such a standard action movie, the film is written by Ernest Tidyman, the man responsible for the scripts of some cast iron classics like The French Connection, Shaft and High Plains Drifter.

Not that you’d notice though (by the look of his filmography, his quality quickly waned). A Force of One plays it safe in terms of Norris’ character by casting him as Matt Logan, a karate champion (which he in reality he was of course). He is integrated into a detective story about several cop murders in a rather ridiculous fashion though. Somehow the murdered officers’ colleagues come to the conclusion that they were killed by karate experts, so they go to Logan to help train them in the martial art as well as fill them in on anything that might lead to the capture of the villains. Logan is busy training for a title fight, but several personal links to the crimes draw him ever closer and he eventually vows to bring the killers to justice himself. That ‘justice’ being kicking their asses of course.

I kind of enjoyed this, but I’m not sure why. The performances are uniformly bland and lifeless, as is much of the film. Other than the strange integration of karate into the storyline, the plot is generic and uninteresting. The dialogue makes a few attempts at wisecracks, but none are particularly witty and the actors ruin any chance of them getting even close. Yet despite all of this I quite happily sat through the whole thing without any clock watching or longing for the fast forward button.

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Trailer: Expendables 2

We skipped the ‘trailer for the trailer’ earlier this week and waited for the goods on The Expendables 2. If this franchise continues to bring on new and old cast members, I cannot imagine what the 3rd or 4th entries are going to look like. As it stands, this trailer shows you want you want to see: A shot or two of each of the principle cast members, most of them either looking badass or shooting off one liners (or in the case of Jason Statham, both). Also, it seems by bringing in Con Air and Tomb Raider director Simon West, it looks like there is a bigger flair for set-pieces and vehicular carnage.

Do we know what the movie is about? Hell no. Do we want to see Chuck Norris, JCVD, Sly, Arnie and Bruce Willis (and Dolph Lundgren, Jet Li, Scott Adkins, Nan Yu, etc. etc!) all in the same movie. Yessum.

ACTION FEST!!!!!!!!!!!! 2012!!!!!!

It will be a bit of a Canadian invasion of Asheville’s ActionFest 2012, as RowThree folks – the Mamo boys, and no shortage of other Toronto movie peeps – travel down south for movies, mayhem, and meals! (Oh the meals we shall partake of! Asheville has damn good eats.)

But let us keep the focus on the films: Highlights include Swedish black-comedy, Headhunters (Kurt’s Review), Bobcat Goldthwait’s bullet-laden satire of the US of A, God Bless America (Kurt’s Review), Danny Trejo kicking but as a surly senior vigilante, Badass, the recent Canadian hockey dramedy, Goon and Peter Chan’s martial arts epic, Wu Xia.

The festival, which runs April 12-15, has recently debuted their trailer online (see below) and announced a some of their line-up (tucked under the seat).

ActionFest will also honoring legendary stuntman Mickey Gilbert (Ben Hur, The Wild Bunch), MMA goddess turned actress Gina Carano (Blood and Bone, Haywire) and fight choreographer J.J. Perry (Warrior).

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Cinecast Episode 208 – It’s Gonna Be Ass-Tastic!

 
 
Welcome to another edition of the Cinecast, wherein the boys talk a little Joe Wright and Super-Spy-Assassins with the weekend release of Hanna. There is no Gamble on the show today, but in order to properly plumb the depth and nuance of Your Highness, we bring in a mystery guest. Then it is on to Kurt’s 3 days in Asheville, NC watching action films and stunt folks from around the world ply their trade at ActionFest. A recap of some of the highlight titles (from Bangkok stunt-reel filmmaking to white knuckle mountain climbing thrillers and Mixed Martial Arts Kumite) along with plans to revisit next year. DVD and netflix picks round out a show that is on-target and efficient, but a tad on the foul-tongued side. Fair warning.

As always, please join the conversation by leaving your own thoughts in the comment section below and again, thanks for listening!


 
 

 

To download the show directly, paste the following URL into your favorite downloader:
http://rowthree.com/audio/cinecast_11/episode_208.mp3

 
 
Full show notes are under the seats…
Would you like to know more…?

Another Weekend of Trash

TrashVHS

My friends and I recently got together for another one of our regular ‘trashathons’ – you may remember I covered the last extravaganza in one of my first posts here at Row Three. Basically consisting of watching as many cheap and cheesy genre titles we can handle in a weekend, our get-togethers have become a quarterly staple that I always look forward to. We’ve watched some really bad films, but we’ve also dug out some real gems in the past, many of which have disappeared completely with the DVD boom. Yes, I’m talking VHS here. Throwing picture quality out the window we’ve been scouring the bins for some long forgotten titles. This time round we didn’t manage to squeeze in quite as many films (we spent hours at a car boot sale purchasing more!) and a few aren’t obscure by any means (only two titles were on VHS this time), but I still enjoyed myself and thought you guys might like to hear what we got up to. Again I’ve dug out some trailers and clips for your amusement.

P.S. Ratings are probably not worth it for most of these titles, but I’m going to give some scores for shear entertainment value, so don’t take them too seriously.

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Bookmarks for April 6-8th

  • 20th Anniversary of the Death of Laura Palmer – How Twin Peaks Changed TV
    “”Twenty years after the influential cult television show began, David Lynch’s sci-fi, absurdist murder-mystery soap opera continues to scare and befuddle legions of viewers. Without it, there would be no ‘Lost’, ‘The X-Files’ or any of the countless serials habitually labeled “quirky” and/or “weird” since the show’s debut on April 8, 1990.”
  • Some Love for Tina Fey: No More Catty Best Friends
    “She makes me laugh, unexpectedly, sheepishly, loudly, thoroughly and consistently. She is, without question, one of the ten best comedians working today. She’s John Belushi doing Joe Cocker. She’s Richard Pryor killing on the mic. She’s Norm MacDonald cracking jokes about O.J. Simpson, Vince Vaughn standing on a diner table and Johnny Carson direct addressing his audience as K-Mart shoppers. I believe in Tina Fey because she makes me laugh, and that’s why, for the first time in my life, I’m going to see a comedy entirely because of its female star.”
  • Slumming it in the movies
    “The history of American indie film happens to be dominated by lowlifes and inarticulates. This is what happens when the godfathers of independent film are John Cassavetes and Melvin van Peebles, both attracted to working-class sparks. Complaining about intelligent guys wasting their talents on “low-lifes” smacks of snobbery, but it also ignores the fact that American indie film is and always has been primarily oriented towards the marginalized, who aren’t going to make movies about themselves, and certainly aren’t about to be the stars of mainstream films.”
  • My Friend Francis, The Commentator (DVD Commentary as Art?)
    “”What you really need—yeah, there it is—what you really need is a filmmaker commentary situation. Straight art, straight cinema—it’s gonna hit you between the eyes too hard. You need a buffer, someone talking, someone intelligent to talk you through the night and the images. And damn if Francis Ford Coppola is not the man to do it. He is. Yeah. In fact I believe Francis Ford Coppola could single-handedly bring anyone through heartache with his combination of DVD commentaries, wine, and pasta sauces. But let’s focus on the DVD commentaries.”
  • Dennis Hopper Blues: The Mix Tape
    “Doctors are more than likely telling Dennis Hopper to take it easy while he battles prostate cancer. It’s not easy to rest comfortably when he’s in court in a divorce battle and now ordered to pay his estranged wife $12,000 a month. Dennis Hopper, fighting until the bitter end. Let’s create a set of music around his situation, his films, etc.”
  • Chuck Norris is Dead. Werner Herzog Killed Him.
    “The San Francisco Guardian recently reported that the hottest new Twitter trend is the “Werner Herzog vs. Chuck Norris” tag, which modifies a Chuck Norris fact to showcase how film director Werner Herzog is infinitely more awesome. A choice example: “Chuck Norris counted from 0 to infinity. Werner Herzog counted backwards from infinity to 0.”

 

You can now take a look at RowThree’s bookmarks at any time of your choosing simply by clicking the “delicious” button in the upper right of the page. It looks remarkably similar to this: