Bastard Swordsman / Magic Blade

Last night the Hollywood theater hosted a double feature of classic Kung Fu films. The Bastard Swordsman is about an apprentice and an usurper who are both trying to master the Wu Tang’s secret Silkworm Style of Kung Fu, which allows it’s user to basically turn into Spiderman – you can fly around a room, shoot webs out of your hands and envelope yourself into a protective cocoon at a moment’s notice. (That last one is a little less Spiderman-ish, but you get the picture.) The Magic Blade is a about three men who are trying to steal the Peacock Dart, an explosive weapon that can kill fifty men at a time. The two films have their tonal differences – Bastard Swordsman is a gaudy affair while Magic Blade takes place mostly at night and features a disturbing cannibalism scene – but you better bet that a lot of people get punched/kicked/exploded in both movies.

Of the two, I would say that the Bastard Swordsman is more entertaining, at least to my specific preferences. I like when these movies get crazy and Bastard Swordsman is pretty far out there: to master the Silkworm Style a virgin has to accept the yin energy from three women into his body and then hibernate in a self generated cocoon for three days. Magic Blade has it’s moments – one of the villains is named “Devil Grandma” and she’s exactly what you would expect – but it doesn’t reach the same heights of insanity. The Peacock Dart is a pretty wacky MacGuffin, but an explosive weapon in the shape of a bird’s butt is a lot less jaw droppingly weird than a secret manual that will teach you how to absorb the life essence of your mom, your sister and your platonic love into your body so you can shoot lasers out of your fists.

However, I need to make a confession: about halfway through Bastard Swordsman there’s a fight scene between four bandits and a Wu Tang master that takes place on a series of levitating yin/yang pillows, and when I saw that I got a sneaky suspicion that I had already seen the whole movie movie. Later, once we actually got to see Silkworm Style in action my sense of déjà vu became overpowering: that scene is very memorable, and it was already in my memory.

The fact that I was accidentally rewatching the Bastard Swordsman didn’t lessen my enjoyment of the movie, of course, because there’s an inherent novelty involved in watching this sort of action spectacle. No matter how many times you see a classic Kung Fu movie  it’s choreography will still be invigorating because you can’t memorize that sort of frenzied movement. But that realization did lessen my enthusiasm for writing about these movies, because it made me realize that they are the sort of thing that has to be seen to be believed. Reviewing them doesn’t make sense because their reviewable properties are beside the point.

So instead I want to use this space to briefly talk about a part of my Hollywood Theater ritual that wouldn’t fit into a normal review: my typical pre-movie trip to Baja Fresh. You see, the Hollywood sells pizza but their pizza is not good; it’s acceptable at best. There’s a Whole Foods and a few bars nearby, but in terms of quick easy food the best option is a Baja Fresh that’s about a block away, so I go there before almost every 7:30 showing. I’ve been going there so much that I have actually formed opinions on the cashiers.

The lowest on my list is Yessica, who appears to be a manager. She’s fine. She’s polite enough and she gets stuff done so I have no complaints about her. (And yes, her name tag says Yessica, not Jessica – I don’t know if that’s how she actually spells her name or if she’s just trying to tip us off that she wants her name said with the soft Spanish j instead of the hard English j.) I’m glad that Yessica is so efficient, but she’s not that memorable of a person.

Mandy, however, definitely stands out because she’s got goth-y tattoos and overly bleached hair – she looks like she should be working at Hot Topic, so I find it really funny that she ended up at a brightly lit burrito place. One of Baja Fresh’s quirks is that you give the cashier your name when you place your order and when I told her my name was Kirk she started talking with me about the Captain. In return I started talking to her about famous Mandys. (There aren't that many; Moore isn’t in the public eye very much anymore and Patinkin – well, he’s kind of a deep cut.) Then she told me that Mandy is just what her family calls her, but she doesn’t go by that name normally. Then she added that she goes by a different name at every job she works, but then she failed to specify what other jobs and what other names. I was intrigued: is it possible that she really does work at Hot Topic, too?

But look out, Mandy, because Mari is gunning for your spot. About a month ago Baja Fresh started a buy seven get one free punch card system, and when I went in to buy my fifth burrito Mari saw that I put some money in the tip jar and then double punched my ticket so my next one would be free. Last night I went in to cash in my free burrito and when she saw that I left a double tip (might as well since I’m saving on dinner costs) she started my next punch card for me with another double punch. I have two punches on my card for one burrito I didn’t pay to eat. Mari is clearly a teenager that wants to stick it to The Man and I cannot tell you how much that warms my cold little heart.

So who will take the crown as my favorite Baja Fresh cashier? Will it be Yessica, who is surly but efficient? Or Mandy, who is surly and mysterious? Or Mari, who isn’t surly to me, but is definitely surly towards The Man? Who knows? But I do know this: as long as I’m going to the Hollywood at least once a week and that Baja Fresh is the only decent restaurant option around those three women are going to have a lot of chances to compete for my (platonic) devotion.

Winner: Me (particularly on that free burrito thing)

The Bastard Swordsman on IMDB

The Magic Blade on IMDB