Disc Covering: “Undisputed III: Redemption,” from MMA to action hero.

Disc Covering: “Undisputed III: Redemption,” from MMA to action hero. (photo)

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Direct-to-DVD action movies are like porn. Nobody’s watching for the clever dialogue or nuanced characters. They want the money shots: well-staged, well-performed fight sequences. If they deliver in that department, everything else is gravy.

“Undisputed III: Redemption” has a lot of gravy. Rich, manly gravy.

Literally, the only women who appear in this film are the ones tattooed on the chests of the actors. These guys are tough. How tough? So tough they make their own Bengay out of wildflowers they pick while out on chain gang duty. That’s right: these guys are so manly they make picking wildflowers butch.

These manly dudes are prisoners from around the world, assembled at Gorgon Maximum Security Penitentiary in the Republic of Georgia for an elimination martial arts tournament squarely in the tradition of great Fight-To-The-Death Movies. Since each of the combatants have their own unique fighting style — capoeira, kickboxing, boxing, and so on — it’s sort of like the adaptation of “Street Fighter” that fans of the video game never got.

Wait, you’re telling me there was a “Street Fighter” movie in the mid-1990s? No, there wasn’t. It never happened. It. NEVER. Happened.

06082010_undisputed2.jpg“Undisputed III: Redemption” (2010)
Directed by Isaac Florentine

Tagline: “One deadly tournament. A last fight for freedom.”

Tweetable Plot Synopsis: The villain of “Undisputed II” gets his own movie where he has to beat seven deadly fighters (and one bad knee) in a prison MMA tournament.

Salable Elements: Returning “Undisputed 2” star Scott Adkins, once again playing Russian prisoner and self-proclaimed “most complete fighter in the world” Uri Boyka; the connection to the increasingly popular world of mixed martial arts; the burgeoning “Undisputed” brand, with its promise of testosterone-y prison fight movies.

Biggest Success: The indisputably entertaining fight sequences, particularly any of the ones that feature Adkins and the film’s main heavy, Columbian juicer “Dolor” (Marko Zaror). “Undisputed III”‘s fights — directed by Isaac Florentine, shot by Ross W. Clarkson, and choreographed by Larnell Stovall — are definitely worth the price of admission, or whatever the equivalent expression would be for a rental (the film earned Best Choreography and Best Director awards at the inaugural Action Fest earlier this spring).

Adkins, in particular, glowering and speaking in a convincing (enough) Russian accent, has the onscreen intensity and athleticism to become a legitimate big screen action hero; it’s easy to imagine ranking him with Jason Statham in a few years as the premier action stars of this generation (and hot damn, it would be a lot of fun to see them in a movie together).

Biggest Failure: Though the martial arts sequences in “Undisputed III” are a lot of fun, they suffer from one big drawback, and it’s something that’s infected a lot of action movies of the last decade: way too much use of slow-motion footage. Certainly, slo-mo has its place in fight scenes — it can help you savor the pure visual poetry of the bodies in motion onscreen — but it also takes away from your ability to appreciate the athleticism on display in its raw form.

06082010_undisputed3.jpgThe nice part about DTV action movies is that they’re not burdened by movie stars who need stunt doubles who need to be shot carefully to maintain the illusion that Movie Star X can actually accomplish Movie Stunt Y. “Undisputed III” is anchored by guys like Adkins and Zaror, who don’t need any post-production help to pull off their impressive moves.

So why not let their fights run without post-production help? Adkins and Zaror don’t need slo-mo and speed ramps to make their scenes work, but here they are anyway. Action films like “Undisputed III” that star true athletes work best with a vérité approach: documenting the remarkable feats of their stars. Their physical abilities are all the special effects anyone could ever need.

Best Moment: A theme of improvisation and adaptation runs throughout the film; appropriately so, for a movie made as cheaply and quickly as “Undisputed III” almost certainly was. I was particularly fond of how that idea made its way into Boyka’s training regimens. At the beginning of the film, he’s still recovering from a knee injury suffered in “Undisputed II.” To get back into fighting shape, he puts himself on the “Rocky IV” training plan: strengthening his leg with homemade gym equipment made of wood, rope, and archaic farm implements.

Later, Boyka and his American counterpart Turbo (Mykel Shannon Jenkins) are forced to endure brutal sessions on a chain gang, so the two turn the backbreaking labor into a backbreaking workout (throwing rocks, for example, is a great way to build explosiveness in your arms and back). Apparently, modified slave labor is the way people in Russia like to exercise.

06082010_undisputed4.jpgSpecial Features: Other than a digital copy that you can copy to your iPod on the Blu-ray edition, none whatsoever. There isn’t even a trailer. There isn’t even a scene selection page! It’s a disc fit for the cruel deprivation of the Russian prison system.

Worthy of a Theatrical Release: Not quite — the production values outside the ring are fairly low, and some of the acting from the supporting cast is pretty brutal — but a lot of the participants, particularly Florentine and Adkins, deserve a bigger budget, a better script and a chance to make the leap to the silver screen. In the meantime, they should be proud of what they accomplished with “Undisputed III”: some damn fine action porn.

For Further Viewing: Watch Adkins train for his role as Weapon XI (a.k.a. Deadpool after he got his mouth sewn shut) in “X-Men Origins: Wolverine.” If Reynolds is too busy making Sandra Bullock movies to man the Deadpool spinoff, they should give Adkins the part. Just let him speak this time.


New Nasty

Whips, Chains and Hand Sanitizer

Turn On The Full Season Of Neurotica At IFC's Comedy Crib

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Jenny Jaffe has a lot going on: She’s writing for Disney’s upcoming Big Hero 6: The Series, developing comedy projects with pals at Devastator Press, and she’s straddling the line between S&M and OCD as the creator and star of the sexyish new series Neurotica, which has just made its debut on IFC’s Comedy Crib. Jenny gave us some extremely intimate insight into what makes Neurotica (safely) sizzle…


IFC: How would you describe Neurotica to a fancy network executive you met in an elevator?

Jenny: Neurotica is about a plucky Dominatrix with OCD trying to save her small-town dungeon. 

IFC: How would you describe Neurotica to a drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?

Jenny: Neurotica is about a plucky Dominatrix with OCD trying to save her small-town dungeon. You’re great. We should get coffee sometime. I’m not just saying that. I know other people just say that sometimes but I really feel like we’re going to be friends, you know? Here, what’s your number, I’ll call you so you can have my number! 

IFC: What’s your comedy origin story?

Jenny: Since I was a kid I’ve dealt with severe OCD and anxiety. Comedy has always been one of the ways I’ve dealt with that. I honestly just want to help make people feel happy for a few minutes at a time. 

IFC: What was the genesis of Neurotica?

Jenny: I’m pretty sure it was a title-first situation. I was coming up with ideas to pitch to a production company a million years ago (this isn’t hyperbole; I am VERY old) and just wrote down “Neurotica”; then it just sort of appeared fully formed. “Neurotica? Oh it’s an over-the-top romantic comedy about a Dominatrix with OCD, of course.” And that just happened to hit the buttons of everything I’m fascinated by. 


IFC: How would you describe Ivy?

Jenny: Ivy is everything I love in a comedy character – she’s tenacious, she’s confident, she’s sweet, she’s a big wonderful weirdo. 

IFC: How would Ivy’s clientele describe her?

Jenny:  Open-minded, caring, excellent aim. 

IFC: Why don’t more small towns have local dungeons?

Jenny: How do you know they don’t? 

IFC: What are the pros and cons of joining a chain mega dungeon?

Jenny: You can use any of their locations but you’ll always forget you have a membership and in a year you’ll be like “jeez why won’t they let me just cancel?” 

IFC: Mouths are gross! Why is that?

Jenny: If you had never seen a mouth before and I was like “it’s a wet flesh cave with sharp parts that lives in your face”, it would sound like Cronenberg-ian body horror. All body parts are horrifying. I’m kind of rooting for the singularity, I’d feel way better if I was just a consciousness in a cloud. 

See the whole season of Neurotica right now on IFC’s Comedy Crib.


The ’90s Are Back

The '90s live again during IFC's weekend marathon.

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Photo Credit: Everett Digital, Columbia Pictures

We know what you’re thinking: “Why on Earth would anyone want to reanimate the decade that gave us Haddaway, Los Del Rio, and Smash Mouth, not to mention Crystal Pepsi?”


Thoughts like those are normal. After all, we tend to remember lasting psychological trauma more vividly than fleeting joy. But if you dig deep, you’ll rediscover that the ’90s gave us so much to fondly revisit. Consider the four pillars of true ’90s culture.

Boy Bands

We all pretended to hate them, but watch us come alive at a karaoke bar when “I Want It That Way” comes on. Arguably more influential than Brit Pop and Grunge put together, because hello – Justin Timberlake. He’s a legitimate cultural gem.

Man-Child Movies

Adam Sandler is just behind The Simpsons in terms of his influence on humor. Somehow his man-child schtick didn’t get old until the aughts, and his success in that arena ushered in a wave of other man-child movies from fellow ’90s comedians. RIP Chris Farley (and WTF Rob Schneider).



Teen Angst

In horror, dramas, comedies, and everything in between: Troubled teens! Getting into trouble! Who couldn’t relate to their First World problems, plaid flannels, and lose grasp of the internet?

Mainstream Nihilism

From the Coen Bros to Fincher to Tarantino, filmmakers on the verge of explosive popularity seemed interested in one thing: mind f*cking their audiences by putting characters in situations (and plot lines) beyond anyone’s control.

Feeling better about that walk down memory lane? Good. Enjoy the revival.


And revisit some important ’90s classics all this weekend during IFC’s ’90s Marathon. Check out the full schedule here.


Get Physical

DVDs are the new Vinyl

Portlandia Season 7 Now Available On Disc.

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GIFs via Giffy

In this crazy digital age, sometimes all we really want is to reach out and touch something. Maybe that’s why so many of us are still gung-ho about owning stuff on DVD. It’s tangible. It’s real. It’s tech from a bygone era that still feels relevant, yet also kitschy and retro. It’s basically vinyl for people born after 1990.


Inevitably we all have that friend whose love of the disc is so absolutely repellent that he makes the technology less appealing. “The resolution, man. The colors. You can’t get latitude like that on a download.” Go to hell, Tim.

Yes, Tim sucks, and you don’t want to be like Tim, but maybe he’s onto something and DVD is still the future. Here are some benefits that go beyond touch.

It’s Decor and Decorum

With DVDs and a handsome bookshelf you can show off your great taste in film and television without showing off your search history. Good for first dates, dinner parties, family reunions, etc.


Forget Public Wifi

Warm up that optical drive. No more awkwardly streaming episodes on shady free wifi!



Internet service goes down. It happens all the time. It could happen right now. Then what? Without a DVD on hand you’ll be forced to make eye contact with your friends and family. Or worse – conversation.


Self Defense

You can’t throw a download like a ninja star. Think about it.


If you’d like to experience the benefits DVD ownership yourself, Portlandia Season 7 is now available on DVD and Blue-Ray.