Say what you like about William Shakespeare, but there is simply no getting away from the fact that, for better or worse, he had a fairly profound influence on contemporary culture. Indeed, not to be confused with Geoffrey Chaucer, Guy Fawkes or Sir Walter Raleigh, the hand of The Bard can be detected all over the place. After all, were it not for the scourge of Eng. Lit. classes everywhere, The Kids From Fame would not have sung of Desdemona. Nor would there be a Rentaghost! Or Hamlet Cigars. Or Shakespeare's Sister... Need I go on? Indeed, while the United States may have had Jerry Springer and her Gong Show, Britain would be forced to make do with such impenetrable, verbose, garbage as Much Ado About Nothing, The Two Gentlemen of Verona, Love's Labour's Lost, and stuff like that. These "comedies" being only about half as funny as The Krankees. Yet, despite being a fairly famous playwright, it was in the world of film that Shakespeare truly shone. In fact, he was writing screenplays three centuries before the age of Louis Le Prince and his magic lightbox trickery. Indeed, interestingly, he ended up with over a thousand film credits to his name. As a result, by the early twenty-first century, William Shakespeare had assembled a body of work that would eclipse even the prolific Ernesto Gastaldi. At various times his Juliet would be paired with both a Tromeo and a Gnomeo. He would write science fiction, such as Forbidden Planet and Hamlet A.D.D, and he was even responsible for the occasional rom-com such as 10 Things I Hate About You! Not only that, but he also wrote adult oriented films. These included The Secret Sex Lives of Romeo and Juliet and A Midsummer Night's Cream. The latter starring Nina Hartley. After all, all Shakespeare really needed, was someone a bit more modern to make something interesting. This, he got, with Motocrossed! Because salvation, here, would come in the shape of director, former stuntman and motocross racer Steve Boyum. He would, in a moment of inspiration, take Twelfth Night and add dirtbikes. The result? Motocrossed! No, Really! Shakespeare actually wrote a dirtbike movie! Motocrossed stars Alana Austin. It was one of a number of motorcycle movie roles upon her resumé. She would appear in both Motocross Kids, from 2004 and Supercross, 2005. Alana also play a minor part in The Santa Trap and a walk-on for the pilot of That '80s Show. Here, however, she plays Andrea. Andrea is fifteen years old, and a twin. She is played by a nineteen year old Alana. Andrea's brother is Andrew. Played by Trever O'Brien, he is a motocross rider. But, unfortunately, he breaks his leg at the start of a race season. He is no longer able to compete. Oh, if only there was someone who looked a little like him! Then... just throwing this out there: what if that person, possibly a girl, could cut their hair? Couldn't they pretend to be Andrew? So, see where this is going? Hmmmm... it's so crazy that it might just work! Yet, as fun as all this sounds, what the film actually advocates here is cheating at sport! Beyond this the film makes the point that not telling dad is not the same as lying. Here again, though, the film is on shaky ground. For Motocrossed, omission and evasion are not, apparently, the same as outright deception. This is a little surprising given that this is a family tale. It seems that the needle on the moralist compass of this Disney Channel Original Movie may need a little re-calibrating. So, anyhow, what other messages are conveyed among all this Freaky Friday-ness? Well, unsurprisingly for a film that eulogises cheating, Motocrossed also seems to promote outright lying. Not only is it, apparently, okay for Andrea to break the rules, but we get watch her tell a bunch of fibs. She lies to referees, lies to her new friends, lies to her father, lies to her brother, lies to... she simply can't help herself. Although, the film does attempt to temper this with an "ahaaa!" moment. For, so we are informed, Andi can refer to Andrew or Andrea! Therefore it's all okay. It's technically neither cheating nor lying. Or something! Even explorations of gender, sexuality and identity are ultimately founded here on a tissue of lies. After all Andrea is now Andrew, so this would have provided an excellent chance to scare the Disney horses by questioning just what it means to be Andrea or indeed Andrew. Instead, we are treated to a preening display of feigned hypermasculinity as Andrea, now almost always in shades, seems to, bizarrely, adopt black stereotypes in order to prove her identity as a newly minted white bloke. Girls, however, seem to love him. And, suggestions of a female intuition aside, this provides opportunity to explore burgeoning sexuality. However, here too, the film fluffs it as it, instead, seeks out cheap laughs. Yet, following a series of Blur-esque Girls and Boys type interactions, a nail polish faux pas and an overenthusiastic man-hug, the underlying message here, it seems, is that it is perfectly okay to be a little bit gay, and to act to the stereotype accordingly, as long as you secretly ain't. If the film does have a positive thing to say, then it is about the roles that society construct for girls. For, despite the fact that there may be a little too much sports footage for the layperson, Motocrossed provides the chance to say: yes girls, you can make it! Even in the male world of boys motorsport. However, anyone who buys this Gregory Girl, girl-power message, would be advised to overlook the example of ITV's Bullseye. In season 5, for example, Sharon Kemp, Lil Coombes and Sandra Lee occupy the bottom three places of the Bronze Bully contest. None score over 200. With 6 darts!
Back in the seventies a trip to the British newsagent would have been an essential part of the education for any would-be young explorer. Because, among the weekly copies of Krazy, Beano, Dandy, Beezer and Topper, there was also far more action oriented fare. So, if girls had Bunty, Mandy, Jackie, Misty and Tammy, then boys would have the pocket Commando War Comics, Eagle, Tiger, 2000 AD and Roy of the Rovers. With a heady mix of football, sleuthing and war, junior adventurers were introduced to heroes such as Jimmy of City, Dan Dare or Judge Dredd. But, it wasn't all Fleetway and D.C. Thomson. Because, there were also plenty of American offering from the like of Marvel or DC Comics. Indeed, through a well oiled publishing machine that could set Gramsci's ghost whirling in his grave, it was the United States that introduced us to Captain America. Also to horror comics and the likes of Wonder Woman, The Incredible Hulk, The Silver Surfer and Supergirl. While these comic strips were fairly interesting to British readers, their adverts were compelling. Because, for us, like those little waxy comic strips that wrapped Bazooka Joe gum, they would provide us with a window on the lives of other kids, elsewhere in the world. Indeed through the promise of banana fingered baseball gloves, x-ray spectacles and freeze dried sea monkey pets, we felt a little closer to our exotic, and excitable, transatlantic brothers and sisters. Through these comics, the pre-internet world felt, to us, like a slightly smaller place. Indeed, it was through American comics that British kids got to learn about Mac. You see, introduced in comic strip form, Mac was the subject of a popular advertising feature. Mac, it seems, was just your average kid. All he wanted to do was hang out, at the beach, with his chick. But, alas for Mac, there is a bully there and he kicks sand in his face. Yet, to quote The Specials, poor Mac can Do Nothing. He is beside himself. He doesn't know where to turn. Luckily for Mac, help is at hand. It comes in the lumpy, chiselled, shape of Charles Atlas; a man so big he was named after a book. Of maps! Anyhow Charles, as the advert modestly informs us, was awarded the title of the world's most perfectly developed man. Indeed, not only perfect, but perfectly poised to help keep the huskies from walking off with everything. Eh? What the fu.... huskies!? Well, erm, it's in the ad! Anyhow, for a small fee, Mac could have an ironhard chest, slimmer waste, tireless legs and even a magnetic personality. As promised, he could become the hero of the beach. All without springs, weights or pulleys! So how could he do it? How could this little man take on the bully of the beach? Simple! All he had to do was, like a determined little Amidar, paint a fence. Oh ...and wax a few cars, sand some decking, catch a fly with some chopsticks, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera. Indeed, this may not even look like training. But, looks can be deceptive! It must work! After all, this is what Mr Miyagi claimed. And he was from the east! He was, therefore, blessed with Yoda-like insights. So, anyhow, who is this Miyagi fellow? Well, played by Pat Morita, he is a handyman-cum-guru (Fnar! Fnar!). And, like all the Okinawa Miyagis, he only knows about two things: fish and karate. He also tends bonsai, which he helpfully differentiates between banzai, and he has a wind-chime that looks a little like an owl. He was, also, just what Daniel needed at that point in time! Because Daniel, who is played by Ralph Macchio from Crossroads, is in danger of losing his Ali, a Dokken haired cheerleader played by Elisabeth Shue, to William Zabka's leg-sweeping narcissist: Johnny. This is because The Karate Kid is, pretty much, the cinematic adaptation of the old Charles Atlas ad, give or take, with a little trembly, Agadoo-esque, martial arts, as practised by the spindly Macchio. Unsurprisingly, there is a bit of Rocky in The Karate Kid. After all, It was directed by Rocky's John G. Avildsen. Indeed, the film, by coincidence, is a lot like Rocky. The two films share a number of themes. However, unlike Rocky, Daniel is an unlikely champion. For, despite spending hours standing, like Jethro Tull's Ian Anderson, one-legged upon a log, he doesn't look like a winner. "Get him a body bag, yeah!!!", shouts one especially enthusiastic heckler. They don't rate Daniel! Daniel, after all, possesses none of Stallone's hemorrhoid cluster physique. Nevertheless, The Karate Kid is Rocky-like. For example, it has themes such as deference to elders and the wisdom that comes from experience. It is also about working hard, playing by the rules and getting along. Structured around an Enter the Dragon meets Dodgeball type martial arts tournament, The Karate Kid is a film clearly designed to tickle the sweet spot of eighties American audiences. The film was, just like the cars at Casa Miyagi's refinery based dojo, incredibly polished. It was from an age that produced the likes of Ferris Bueller's Day Off, Weekend at Bernie's, Pretty in Pink, Weird Science and Back to the Future. Like so many films of this era, The Karate Kid reminded audiences that, in America, anyone can make it. America can make it! This is further underlined with a score that reminds viewers that, group-hug America, "you're the best". The Karate Kid champions the outsider. It celebrates competition. So, while, in reality, social mobility had, across the west, already began to go into reverse in the wake of the oil crisis, the film, in essence, eulogises the ideals of the blue collar conservative. Albeit wrapped within the liberal veneer of a John Hughes-esque class themed romance. In the world of Karate Kid, trying hard leads to success. Especially when your opponent is willing, despite extensive training, to knock themselves out by running head-first onto your foot.
With his father dying, Johnny Hondo is summoned to the hospital. Johnny is a soldier; his dad a general. However, if Johnny were expecting a vote of confidence then, on this day, he would be sorely disappointed. "Johnny, I want you to do what Ross tells you.... the mission. I know there is no chance that you will succeed. None!". Father reaches for the revolver that is stashed beneath his hospital bed. "This", he explains, "has served me well". At this point, the old man may as well suggest that his son, upon return, purchases some agricultural real estate. The mission, as it transpires, takes Johnny to Afghanistan. While there, he must recover a yellow school bus. Sound familiar? A school bus in a war zone? Well, it should ring a bell! Because Afghanistan: Last War Bus is a sequel. Indeed, it repeats the formula from the original, Vietnam based, Warbus. Albeit with a different cast. And a different bus, erm, probably. Nevertheless, on the whole, this is a film in the same ballpark. Think Rambo, think The Gauntlet. It's that sort of thing. Yeah, it's a bloke film! You see, women don't play much of a role in Afghanistan: Last War Bus. Soldiers, townspeople, etc... all men! So, to paraphrase James Brown, this is a man's world. Indeed, very much so. However, there are a few seconds of cool niqab girls-with-guns action to, briefly, break up the sausage-fest. Still, mustn't grumble too much! Because, for all the male bonding stuff going on, the film does have plenty going for it. Not least the presence of a few cult favourites. You see Johnny Hondo is played by the one, the only, iconic and brilliantly awful Mark Gregory! That's right! Only Mark fucking Gregory. Mr. Trash himself! You know, Trash? Bronx Warriors? Nope? Well, he was also in a series of First Blood meets Billy Jack films: The Thunder Warrior trilogy. Anyhow, surprisingly, he is pretty good in this. It seems as though, over the course of the decade, Gregory had upped his game somewhat. Indeed, he certainly seemed, here at least, to possess a confidence that was so lacking in his early roles. He even manages to lose that ever-so-tiptoed walk. Instead, like a man with a mission, he strides purposefully into the action. So, erm, who else? Oh yeah! Bobby Rhodes, the star of both Demons films, is in this! Not, of course, to be confused with Bernie Rhodes, the subject of Special Aka's Gangsters. That song, by the way, was inspired by by Prince Buster's Al Capone which opens with a line states that guns don't argue! Bobby, here, would agree. They don't! Nor, too, do rocket launchers. Anyhow, also in the cast, we find the prolific John Vernon. He adds a touch of class, and experience, to proceedings. The result, though, is nonsense from start to finish. But, it's nonsense in a good way. Because, despite the film coming in for some real harsh criticism in some quarters, this is very much in brain-holiday territory. You are not going to learn anything about the Soviet occupation here. Nor anything about the role of women in late seventies and early eighties Afghanistan. You see, veteran scribe, Dardano Sacchetti, isn't out to make a Chuck Norris-esque propaganda piece. He sidesteps that particular tiger trap. So, here, agenda is largely put aside. Yet, despite sitting, largely, upon the fence, the film does have a Cold War setting. This is underscored by the addition of a female agent, played by Savina Gersak. Here she rocks a rocking Brigitte Nielsen look. This is as seen in communism vs capitalism boxing-fest, Rocky 4! Oddly, and inappropriately, though, she chooses to wear stiletto heels in a combat zone! But, don't bother wasting time dwelling on this point that much. After all, Savina is only in the film for a few seconds. She is more of an adjunct to the central premise. This is because: the star is Hondo! Hondo is a one man war. He is prepared to take on all comers. Russians, Mujahadeen, fellow Americans who betray him. It's all the same to Hondo! He is an equal opportunities killing machine. Because this is a world of killing for fun. For here, we are talking about Macaroni combat in its purest and silliest. This is simply bad-ass bread and butter for those who enjoyed Inglorious Bastards, 5 For Hell, Double Target or Commando Leopard. So, if you dig those, you'll probably dig this. After all, this is pretty much the required tone for this material. We are not talking about Apocalypse Now here. Nor Beach Red or All Quiet on the Western Front. We are talking about a film about a war being waged from a yellow school bus. So, what if a bus against The Red Army is implausible? Like, whatevs! Because from the slow motion explosions to the obligatory A-Teamesque, pimp my ride, mechanics montage, this is a tsunami of silly brilliance. Squared! It's obvious that director Pierluigi Ciriaci wants you to have fun with this. So just as long as you have a tolerance for dialogue that mostly consists of "look out!", "get down!" or "arghhhhh" then you, my friend, will have a blast. Besides, among all the exploding barrels and sandbags the budget even stretches to a couple of Jeeps and a helicopter. Oh, and a tank! One tank. If you are gonna bother being all po-faced about it, for example wondering why Johnny Hondo chooses to disguise himself as John Motson, or whatever, then you are better off looking elsewhere. After all, there is far more serious Cold War themed stuff out there. Police Academy: Mission to Moscow maybe.