Paying Mr. McGetty

Released: September 2017

Director: Michael Baumgarten

Run Time: 86 Minutes

Not Rated

Distributor: Traditionz Entertainment

Genre: Action/Comedy

R. Marcos Taylor: Tyrell
Don “The Dragon” Wilson: Shota Kabu
Anita Clay: Meena
Alissa Schneider: Cecelia
Jonathan D. Lee: Vinnie
Wade Williams: Rocco
Forbes Riley: Mrs. R.
Paul Logan: Low-Gunn

Comedies are hard to review.  Why?  A lot of the time, how funny a movie is depends entirely on who is watching it and what their sense of humor is.  I tend to be very, VERY picky about the comedies that I watch.  But I don’t review them.  What I find to be funny isn’t going to be the same for anybody else, and trying to describe a joke to someone is not something I’m very good at.  When you throw in comedy with another genre, I tend to bring that up, because it’s part of how the film works.  Whether it’s a horror comedy, dramatic comedy, or action comedy, the humor has to fit the situation.  That’s where the comedy works best.  One-liners and zingers aren’t really that funny to me.  But for the comedy to work in those genres that I mentioned, the other part of that equation has to work just as well, otherwise you end up with a very lopsided experience.  For today’s review, I present to you, Paying Mr. McGetty, and upcoming action-comedy starring the legendary Don “The Dragon” Wilson and R. Marcos Taylor.

The film opens as Tyrell, a laundry delivery man, wakes up to a phone call from his girlfriend, only to find that he’s in bed with a beautiful blonde woman.  Don’t you just hate it when that happens?  Leaving the hotel with the lady, somebody takes a picture of the two and sends it to a local mobster.  The mobster decides to send the best hitman he knows, Shota Kabu, to deal with Tyrell.  After encountering Shota, Tyrell tries to run away.  With most comedies, the humor usually comes from some forced and awkward exchanges.  I don’t like that in my comedies.  I don’t mind awkward situations, but when they’re forced, they become even more awkward.  If it’s awkward to watch, you did something wrong.  Thankfully, for Paying Mr. McGetty, it never goes that low with the humor.  The humor also isn’t crude, like you see in some movies.  The story here works because of the characters.  The best movies, whether it’s comedy, action, or drama, are character-oriented.  It is the characters that propel the story forward.  The action and humor are natural consequences of that.  I actually enjoyed the story in this film, it’s actually rather engaging.

While a lot of the side-characters in Mr. McGetty are fairly disposable, the main characters are what make the movie so damned endearing.  My hat is off to R. Marcos Taylor as Tyrell.  He’s clearly having a lot of fun playing a guy who is having a VERY bad day.  His character’s frustration is palpable and understandable, and yet that’s part of where the film’s humor comes from.  You can tell the character wants to tell people off, but he doesn’t, because he’s got a girlfriend that he’s trying to support.  Don “The Dragon” Wilson plays the assassin Shota Kabu.  This guy is clearly not somebody you mess with, as he takes out his first target in the film with absolute ease.  While the character seems like a villain at first, we actually get to see this guy think about the job he’s been assigned.  Over the course of the film, we find that Kabu is not without a sense of decency or honor.  An assassin with a heart of gold?  Seen it before, but still, that also adds to the film’s humor.  When we see Tyrell try to run, we see Kabu just calmly walk after him.  Seeing him actually maintain a pace with Tyrell’s “running” is rather funny.  One of the sidecharacters, Rocco, puts on a facade of being this hard-ass gangster, but when Tyrell knocks him out with one punch, I had to laugh.  The characters are pretty decent, even though Wilson and Taylor are the front-runners.

While I knew about Don Wilson’s background as a martial artist, I was clueless about R. Marco Taylor’s background.  This guy’s got quite a repertoire.  In addition to being a stuntman, he’s got experience in Karate, Tae Kwon Do, Muay Thai, Hapkido, Capoeira, Kung Fu, Boxing, Judo, and Ninjitsu.  That’s very impressive.  The action film definitely takes advantage of his particular background.  When he goes up against Wilson, however, it’s pretty one-sided.  Later, he takes on a would-be robber and eventually teams up with Wilson’s character for the final fight of the film.  The fight choreography is surprisingly really good.  It’s a blast watching “The Dragon” work, but I was surprised at how good Taylor was.  The fight sequences were pretty entertaining.

There are a couple of issues that I had with the film, though.  The film, which runs at 86 minutes, feels longer than that at times.  I think it lingers on some scenes for too long.  There are also a couple of characters that really irritate me.  Mrs. R is probably the biggest offender.  I wanted to see Taylor just tell her off so many times throughout the movie.  Also, there a couple of scenes that involve a group of hitmen that kind of went nowhere.  We learn about these characters, but we don’t see them do anything, and as quickly as we are introduced to them, they disappear until the end of the film.  I would have loved to learn more about this organization that Shota Kabu apparently belongs to.

Overall, though, I was pleasantly surprised with Paying Mr. McGetty.  It’s got a surprisingly thoughtful story with some well-rounded characters.  The humor is genuinely funny and the action sequences are pretty good.  The negatives definitely bring it down a little bit for me, but honestly, I could think of worse things to spend an hour and a half on.  So, yeah, I’m giving this one a pretty solid recommendation.  I would love to see Don Wilson and R. Marcos Taylor team up for something else.  Those two work very well together.

Final Recommendation: Don’t wake up in a bed with a strange woman who may or may not be the daughter of a local mobster.  Also:  Where the hell was Mr. McGetty while all of this was going on? 8/10.

The Importance of the Independent Film

What is an independent film, you ask?  Strictly speaking, an independent film is a movie that has been made without the backing and distribution of major film studios.  Independent movies are also often low-budget and are not necessarily as “refined” as a major studio production.  You also have to take into consideration that indie film makers tend to have to work day jobs in order to support the film that they are making, even though sometimes they can get financed from one of several smaller movie studios.  The idea of the independent film goes all the way back to the early days of the Edison Trust.  The Edison Trust was formed in 1908 and was comprised of all the major studios that existed at that time.  The Trust had a monopoly on all the production and distribution of movies.  As a result, many film-makers either refused to participate or were rejected by The Trust.  The folks that refused to join the cartel were considered “independent.”  It didn’t last long, with the Supreme Court essentially cutting off the head of the snake in 1912 and 1915.  All patents held by The Edison Trust were canceled.  During this time,  a number of film makers had banded together to form the first movie studio systems.  These led to the creation of some of the big studios that we see today:  MGM, Paramount, Warner Bros., 20 Century Fox and RKO Pictures.

Now, I touched briefly on the history of independent films, because I feel it’s important to point out where all this comes from.  There’s a lot more that happened between 1908 and 1950, but I want to focus more on why the independent film is so important to the film industry, at least in my opinion.  I’ve heard people refer to indie movies as a genre, when it is clearly not a genre at all.  The indie film is more of a mindset and philosophy than a genre.  When film-makers feel pressured or constrained by the major movie studios, they try to find other avenues of financing and distribution.  This one of the reasons why film festivals are so vital.  The Canne and Sundance Film Festivals give independent film-makers a chance to have their movies or short films put out there for people to see.  That’s not to say that a major film studio like Paramount won’t pick these up, because sometimes they do, and that’s not always a bad thing.  Having the recognition of a major studio can have a very positive effect on the film-maker and the people involved with his/her film.  It also allows audiences outside of these festivals a glimpse at some of these “unsung heroes” of cinema, so to speak.

So, why is the independent film important in TODAY’S world?  The answer is simpler than you would think:  Technology.  While the film festivals that I mentioned are still important, the advent of social media today actually makes it a lot easier for indie film makers to get their films out to the public.  YouTube, Vimeo, Amazon, Netflix, Facebook, and Instagram are all tools that are available for indie film makers to utilize.  You don’t even have to be super-rich or famous to get your stuff out there.  I’ve seen a lot of short films and small movies over the past 6 years that have been really good.  With social media, you can buck the system, and you don’t have to really adhere to the rules of the major movie studios or the MPAA.  Now, you might not get your film into theaters, but movie theaters are becoming less and less relevant as time goes on, with the advent of online streaming.  Why go to a movie theater, when you can stream the movie from the comfort of your own home?  That’s not to say that big-budget movies and movie studios are evil.  Not at all.  They just have a very different mindset.  They are more focused on the business side of things.  It’s not wrong, but I feel that the quality of some of these big movies don’t justify the enormous price tag.  Look at independent movies like Weapon of ChoiceRoad To Hell, The Evil Dead, Donnie Darko, and The Terminator.  These films prove that you can have a compelling and decent movie without the backing of somebody like, say, 20th Century Fox.

The independent film is import because it forces the film-makers to get really creative in terms of not only their content, but in how to distribute it as well.  It also shows that even with all these big-budget movies, it’s not necessarily as compelling.  All you really need is a camera, maybe some actors, a few bucks, and the will and passion to create.  THAT’S what draws me to independent movies.  Sometimes the drive and desire to create something is far more important than making money.  Money is important for independent movies, but it’s not the driving force.  Money isn’t everything, and it shouldn’t be everything.  Anyway, that’s my take on the whole independent movie thing.  I tend to find independent movies far more interesting than the crap that’s being pushed into theaters these days.

The Martial Arts Kid

Released: September 2015

Director: Michael Baumgarten

Not Rated

Run Time: 103 Minutes

Distributor: Traditionz Movie 1, LLC.

Genre: Action/Family

Don “The Dragon” Wilson: Glen
Cynthia Rothrock: Cindy
Jansen Panettiere: Robbie
Kathryn Newton: Rina
Matthew Ziff: Bo
T.J. Storm: Coach Laurent Kaine
Chuck Zito: Frank

Growing up in the 80’s and 90’s, I got really into martial arts movies, starting with Enter The Dragon.  It is easily one of the greatest Kung-Fu movies of all time.  I really got into the action movies starring Arnold Schwarzenegger, Sylvester Stallone, Carl Weathers, Jean-Claude Van Damme, Chuck Norris, and Steven Seagal.  It was a testosterone-fueled decade.  The 90’s wasn’t much different.  During the 90’s, I began watching some of the smaller martial arts flicks with actors like Yuen Biao, Richard Norton, Sammo Hung and Cynthia Rothrock.  To my great regret, there were some martial arts actors whose movies I have completely missed out on.  Don “The Dragon” Wilson is one of those actors that I completely overlooked.  Hopefully, I can start watching more of his stuff, because with The Martial Arts Kid, I actually like what I see.

The film opens as a bunch of kids, led by a youngster named Robbie, are trying to outrun the cops.  After getting tackled in front of his grandmother, Robbie is sent to live with his aunt Cindy and uncle Glen in Florida.  Shortly after, he befriends a girl named Rina before he’s clobbered by her boyfriend, Bo.  He’s attacked again during his first day of school, and almost attacked again near Cindy’s cafe.  After seeing his aunt give the guy a whoopin’, he decides he wants to learn that stuff.  So, he decides to visit his uncle’s dojo and is allowed to begin training.  It’s a story that’s been told a million times over, and yet for some reason, it feels real here.  Now, a lot of us have had issues growing and had turbulent teenage years.  I was no different.  The story here feels like I’ve been there, because I have.  I got picked on when I was in school.  I was bullied and made fun of.  So, my parents and I decided that I needed to take some self-defense classes.  So, I enrolled in what is known as the United Studios of Self Defense.  It was a mixed style of martial arts, combining elements of kung-fu and karate.  So, when Robbie attends his first class, I know exactly what he’s dealing with.  You’re surrounded by strangers, you have no idea what’s going on until someone shows you the way.  So, The Martial Arts Kid brought back memories for me.  That’s not a bad thing.  These were good memories that I had.  I didn’t complete my training, but I learned a great deal from my experience.  So, in a way, I see some parallels to my life.  It’s ultimately a pretty heartwarming story.  I really liked it.

The acting is surprisingly pretty strong across the board for what is basically a family film.  At least with The Martial Arts Kid, they managed to get real martial artists for a lot of the big roles.  Don “The Dragon” Wilson is a name that should be familiar to anyone who watches martial arts movies as much as I do.  Like me, you didn’t need to watch his movies to know who he is.  This guy is the real freaking deal.  He’s won MULTIPLE world kick-boxing championships and his final record is 72 wins, 5 losses, 2 draws, and 47 wins by knockout.  There aren’t many martial artists out there with that kind of a record, period.  He comes across as very likable in this movie.  His character, while somewhat reluctant, begins teaching Robbie.  Jansen Penattiere is a real surprise here.  He comes across as a genuine teenager with genuine issues, and it’s hard NOT to relate.  T.J. Storm plays a rival teacher, and is pretty intimidating.  I have a confession to make about Cynthia Rothrock:  When I was younger, I had the biggest crush on her.  She was beautiful and she kicked some serious ass.  She’s still gorgeous and she still kicks ass.  She’s absolutely fantastic.  Like Don’s Glen, Cindy is a very likable person.  She’s the kind of gal that you would love to have as an aunt.  So, yeah, the acting is pretty good across the board.

Action-wise, it’s pretty decent.  It is a bit of family film, so the fight choreography couldn’t be too violent.  A leg or two is broken, but it’s never gratuitous.  It’s not really that kind of a movie.  The Martial Arts Kid has a message that it’s trying to get across about the proper use of martial arts.  It should be used for the right reasons.  That’s a message that is universal across every single style.  The use of the camera is pretty decent, so we can see what’s going on.  No wires are used, so that’s a definite plus.  Actually seeing Don Wilson in action is pretty cool.  His is not the most flashy or elegant of styles, but it does prove to be effective.  Cynthia Rothrock’s style is certainly flashier, as she’s still very flexible and can do that scorpion kick with ease.  The movie is never boring either.

The film definitely has a sense of humor, although it’s more family-related kind.  Still, the movie gets points for actually succeeding at that.  That being said, the movie does have a few rough spots.  The beginning of the film was kind of rough and the introduction to Glen was a little heavy-handed.  Now, a lot of people would accuse this movie of having teenage drama.  Well, that’s because teenagers are often dramatic.  Some of the bullies are kind of just there to be scummy.  There’s also some blatant sequel-baiting that I really don’t like.

Overall, I have to say that I’m impressed with what was achieved here.  This is a movie that I think anybody could watch.  What I personally watch it again?  I wouldn’t say no.  I kind of prefer super, ultra-violent martial arts flicks, but The Martial Arts Kid has some real heart.  It portrays the martial arts with the utmost respect, except for MMA, I think that angle could have been handled a bit better, but the message gets across.  Is it realistic?  Not particularly, but you know what?  What martial arts movie is?  It’s actually very refreshing to see a movie about martial arts that’s as much about family as it is about the art.  For my first movie watching Don “The Dragon” Wilson in action, I’m going to have to find more of his stuff.  I can honestly say that I can recommend this one easily, particularly to families.

Final Recommendation:  It makes you want to sign up for a class or two.  8.5/10


Released: April 1989

Director: Albert Pyun

Rated R

Run Time: 86 Minutes

Distributor: MGM Studios/Cannon Film Group

Genre: Action/Science Fiction

Jean-Claude Van Damme: Gibson Rickenbacker
Deborah Richter: Nady Simmons
Vincent Klyn: Fender Tremolo
Alex Daniels: Marshall Strat
Dayle Haddon: Pearl Prophet
Ralf Moeller: Brick Bardo

The 80’s were a very interesting time when it comes to movies.  We had a lot of fantastic movies like Raiders of the Lost ArkThe Terminator, The Road Warrior, and Aliens among others.  On the flip-side, we had lots of bad movies as well, most of them courtesy of the infamous and now-defunct Cannon Film Group.  They gave us some serious crap like Breakin’ 2: Electric Boogaloo, a vast array of ninja movies, and a whole slew of Chuck Norris movies.  As bad as most of the movies they gave us, they also managed to produce some memorable and decent movies like Highlander and Masters of the Universe(that may be debatable to some, but I loved the hell out of it).  In 1988, Cannon gave us our first real look at up-and-coming action star Jean-Claude Van Damme in a martial arts movie called Bloodsport.  While it wasn’t particularly accepted when it was released, it quickly became a cult classic, and is generally regarded as one of the better martial arts movies of the 80’s.  Because of that particular break-out role, Van Damme’s career really took off.  In 1989, he starred in a little science fiction film called Cyborg.

Opening in a future where the world has been devastated by a plague, Cyborg follows pirate-killer Gibson Rickenbacker as he discovers a cyborg, Pearl Prophet, needs help getting to Atlanta.  After being ambushed by pirates led by the mysterious and violent Fender, Pearl is taken captive.  Gibson decides to follow them, because he has a personal vendetta against Fender.  The story is less Terminator and more Mad Max.  While the story isn’t particularly original, it’s not actually terrible.  My issue with the story, however, is that there are certain characters that I would have loved to learn more about.  Fender, in particular, is one character that I would love to learn the history of.  We do know, through flashbacks, that Fender did some really terrible things to Gibson.

For a Van Damme movie, Cyborg has a pretty serious mean streak.  The level of violence in this movie is really unlike anything that I’ve seen from those kinds of movies.  From what I’ve been reading, the director was forced to cut some of the more violent material to get down to an R-rating.  That makes me very curious about what was cut.  If there’s an issue with the action in the film, it has more to do with the camera-work than the actual violence itself.  Make no mistake, some of the violence in this movie isn’t particularly enjoyable, and I don’t think it was meant to be.  While the action is pretty solid across the board, I found that some fight sequences were marred by an unnecessary amount of edits.  It jumps from one angle to another too quickly.  That kind of editing tends to make things a little more confusing than they need to be, but the overall action is pretty hard-core and I found myself pretty engaged with it.

While the film’s focus was supposed to be about Pearl, the cyborg, I found myself more interested in two particular characters:  Gibson and Fender.  Gibson, in particular, because he’s haunted by the memories of what Fender did to him several years prior to the film’s events.  Fender on the other hand, is a complete mystery.  This guy is the leader of a band of pirates and is almost superhuman in terms of strength.  As far as I’m concerned, Fender is one of the coolest and most interesting villains that Van Damme has gone up against.  Make no mistake, the character is pure evil.  He enjoys killing and he enjoys the chaos of the world.  I’m curious as to what made him that way.  If he’s human, he’s unnaturally strong.  If he’s a cyborg of some kind, it would explain some things, but not others.  We just don’t know.  On one hand, that’s frustrating, but on the other hand, I enjoy the mystery.  The acting is kind of…meh across the board.  Again, this is Van Damme’s movie through and through.  While I wouldn’t say his acting was the greatest, his screen presence was phenomenal.  The same could be said for Vincent Klyn, who played Fender.  The guy’s physique and overall look was enough to be extremely intimidating, but his physical presence was amazing.  While Klyn would be remembered most for his role in Cyborg, he would get some roles later on.

The visuals for the film were surprisingly not terrible for a low-budget sci-fi flick.  Some of the backgrounds and matte paintings are pretty interesting.  However, the one thing I didn’t particularly care for was when Pearl revealed herself to Gibson.  The animation and design of that particular sequence may have been acceptable back in the 80’s, but now, it’s just downright freaky.  I look at that and I’m somewhat repulsed.  It doesn’t last very long, but stuff like that you can’t get out of your head.  Aside from that, the production values on the movie were decent.  It certainly felt like a post-apocalyptic movie.

Overall, while I wouldn’t say this is the greatest science fiction movie ever made, it is by no means the worst.  It’s got some really good things going for it:  Jean-Claude Van Damme’s performance and presence as well as a particularly strong and memorable villain.  It also has some pretty decent action sequences that hit really hard.  Even though some violence may have been cut to get the film down to an R-rating, they still really pushed the envelope.  Cyborg is without a doubt one of Albert Pyun’s best movies.  It’s one of the movies that I grew up with and I love the hell out of it.  It’s not without it’s problems, which are fairly obvious, but I have to give credit where it is due.  Cyborg is one of the most interesting sci-fi movies I’ve ever seen.  Would I put it up against the likes of The Terminator or Mad Max?  Not really, but I think it stands well enough on its own.  I’ve been hearing rumors and conjecture that there’s a director’s cut out there somewhere.  I hope I really get to see that version at some point in my life, if it exists.  At the end of the day, though, what we have here is a solid little action film that’s one of Van Damme’s more interesting roles and one of the best villains in cinema as far as I’m concerned.

Final Recommendation: Beware of bloodthirsty pirates that wear dark sunglasses and chainmail.  8.5/10.