Don't ask why Ninja III: The Domination
begins with a ninja assault on a municipal golf course. Just be
grateful it does. You also may wonder why its sex scene employs a can of
V8: Don't question it. Just lie back and enjoy it.
Tobe Hooper got a raw deal. The director of horror hits The Texas Chain Saw Massacre and Poltergeist didn't deserve to be sent to movie jail for 1985's Lifeforce.
It's a well-crafted, well-intentioned work that was mismarketed and
misunderstood, losing a bundle of money and soon sending Hooper into the
lands of episodic television and direct-to-video features.
There's a theory about remakes that perhaps Hollywood should stop
remaking good movies and instead remake the bad ones, so that they may
be improved. The problem with that theory is one runs the risk of the
remake being bad, too. Case in point: The Philadelphia Experiment.
Mixed-martial-arts fighter Evan Tanner once told the camera that in his
life, “the best is yet to come.” It didn't. Three years ago, at the age
of 37, he was discovered dead in the San Diego desert. To this day,
friends and family debate whether it was a suicide, and the documentary
“Once I Was a Champion” takes a look at his brief life, extraordinary
career and tortured soul.
He was, as director Gerard Roxburgh’s film makes clear over and over, a man of ironies. He’d preach kindness for fellow man, but beat crap out of other people for a living. He became a world champion in his field, yet wanted to become a monk. He found the roundly derided ice-skating movie “The Cutting Edge” to be brilliant, but liked to kick back with a leather-bound edition of “Moby-Dick.” He was a smart guy who made some stupid decisions.
You don’t have to know Tanner’s name, much less even care about the sport of MMA, to enjoy “Champion,” because complicated men and woman make for compelling material, especially those taken before their time. As we learn, Tanner may have sped that process along, downing tequila "like it was Gatorade,” making the inevitable all the more tragic.
“Once I Was a Champion” is currently making the festival rounds. Look out for it. Even non-sports fans like me can appreciate its enigmatic subject and tragic story well-told. —Rod Lott