Danny Trejo Sherrybaby

Our official review of Machete Kills is pretty negative. Rightfully so, it’s a major disappointment following the purposefully cheesy yet still politically relevant first film. This time it’s all just silly, kind of like an Austin Powers movie for the Latino audience instead of 13-year-old boys — though the 13-year-old boys may still be the best audience for this. I want to recommend it solely for Demian Bichir, though, because he is a pleasure to watch every second he’s on screen. Maybe it’s just how great he is relative to the rest of the cast and movie, but I’d give him another Oscar nomination for this. If you think that’s ridiculous, you haven’t seen the movie (because that is ridiculous).

If you don’t see Machete Kills, no big deal, even if you won’t know what’s going on when Machete Kills Again… In Space arrives. This week’s gateway recommendations have nothing related to any spoilers in the movie. Most are just better films starring parts of the sequel’s ensemble. I also almost thought about including Star Wars, not because I think any of you haven’t seen it but because I think you’d want to clean yourself in the form of a re-watch after seeing all the bad references here. Seriously, even if we’d never had 35 years of parodies, copycats, fan films and other works derived from and informed by Star Wars, the allusions here would still feel stale.

The following ten selections are worth checking out whether you bother with Machete Kills or not.

Blackstar Warrior

It’s only appropriate to start off with a fake trailer, since Machete Kills is the follow-up to a movie originating from a fake trailer. We can only hope that somehow, despite the chances being zero, that this too will find its way to feature. Possibility is slim because it’s a Star Wars fan film with a blaxploitation tone and focus on Lando Calrissian. There are tons of reasons this won’t become one of Disney’s planned spin-offs. But it shows us what a racial exploitation sci-fi film should look like: more cool than corny. Director Matt Haley apparently did kind of spin this off into something else, a TV pilot that basically took the premise and removed all the lawsuit-triggering direct Star Wars stuff. It wasn’t picked up. Watch a promo for that here, and watch the whole short film/fake trailer below.

Moonraker

Because the plot of the Machete sequel makes it more like a spy film and also involves a sci-fi angle, it’s going to force you to think about the movie that sent James Bond into space. But there’s more. The villain in Machete Kills — played by Mel Gibson and his cape — has a plan similar to that of Hugo Drax in Moonraker. If only Michael Shannon also showed up as Richard Kiel. Or if Marko Zaror‘s henchman had metal teeth. What you’ll find by watching or re-watching this lesser 007 film in the wake of the lesser Machete movie is that it now doesn’t seem so awful.

Available on Amazon Streaming

Mandrill

Speaking of Marko Zaror, what a weirdo he is in Machete Kills. But kudos to Robert Rodriguez for casting him, even if he didn’t showcase the guy’s skills that well. As in the case of the Fast and the Furious movies, this proves to be a good introduction to a martial artist in giving him his first real English-language role. Now to go back and see where he comes from. I don’t know if it’s his best movie, but Mandrill is the most logical one of his Chilean action movies to highlight because it too is a James Bond knockoff/tribute. And it’s the only one we’ve written about on FSR. At the 2009 Fantastic Fest, where it won Best Feature Film and Best Actor for Zaror, our own Brian Salisbury gave it a very favorable review.

Available on Netflix Instant (as are Kiltro, Miragmen and Undisputed III: Redemption) and on Amazon Streaming

Sherrybaby

Danny Trejo is, of course, totally awesome. It’s great to watch him in bad but enjoyable action stuff like Machete and Con Air and Predators. He’s not really thought of as being a great thespian so much as a badass who really looks like he’s been through it all. And that well-worn image also works for his recovered addict in Sherrybaby. It’s his best and most dramatic performance as the mean-looking yet very caring Dean, who cooks for and bathes and tries to help Maggie Gyllenhaal’s Sherry, to no avail.

Available on Netflix Instant and Amazon Streaming

Don’t Tempt Me

As I said, Bichir is really the one to see in Machete Kills, but that’s not surprising because he’s a terrific actor. I’ll recommend almost anything he’s in. The series Weeds, Soderbergh’s Che, in which he plays Fidel Castro, and even Savages, which I understand that I’m in the minority in loving. Obviously there’s also his must-see Oscar-nominated performance in A Better Life, too. You should see all of it. But I’d like to spotlight one of his popular and award-winning roles from before he made his way into American TV and movies. In the Spanish film Don’t Tempt Me he plays a boxer whose soul is being fought over by an angel (Victoria Abril) and an agent of Hell (Penelope Cruz). He’s overshadowed by the two actresses as well as Gael Garcia Bernal as the manager of Hell, but he’s still a standout as the oblivious brute whose moral identity is wavering. It’s not a great movie, no, but all of the main players, including Bichir, are worth watching. Bichir won a special MTV Movie Award for Best Bichir in a Film, where he beat his own brothers as well as himself.

Available on Amazon Streaming and Hulu Plus

The Smurfs

You know who’s not surprisingly annoying in Machete Kills? Sofia Vergara, even with boob guns and Rodriguez’s signature strap-on penis pistol. But you know what’s surprisingly not annoying? The first Smurfs movie, in which Vergara is relatively tame. Or maybe she just seems that way next to the very hammy Hank Azaria playing Gargamel and the even hammier Tim Gunn.

Available on Amazon Streaming

Twister

You don’t have to watch the entire movie, though it’s probably been a while and if you watch it then you can consider my idea that it’s basically a His Girl Friday remake. What you do need to watch is the opening sequence to see Alexa Vega as the 6-year-old version of Helen Hunt. I’m not trying to make you feel bad for looking at Vega’s cleavage and naked butt cheeks in Machete Kills. Just want you to see how far she’s come. Not looking like Helen Hunt, that’s for sure.

Available on Amazon Streaming

The Accountant

Another actor who’s a delight to watch every second is Walt Goggins. Unfortunately, he’s only in the Machete sequel for a short amount of seconds. There are a number of great roles of his to recommend to make up for that — personally I love him best in the underrated Shanghai Noon. But instead I’d like to highlight the film that won him an Oscar. Not for acting but producing. He does also act in The Accountant, which is written and directed by his friend and fellow actor Ray McKinnon, who also appears as the title character. They won the Academy Award for Best Live-Action Short in 2002.

Available on DVD from Amazon or in lesser quality in six parts on YouTube:

Dick Tracy

No cast links are to credit for why I recommend this underrated comic strip adaptation. But it is because of Lady Gaga‘s appearance in Machete Kills. She’ll always remind me of Madonna, who — spoiler alert — also plays a character who hides her face behind a mask as Breathless Mahoney and The Blank. From what we can tell in her first real movie role, Lady Gaga is like 1000th the actress that Madonna was. And Madonna was never that great either.

Available on Amazon Streaming

Boom in the Moon

There’s not a great reason for me to include this movie, which is considered by some to be the worst of all time. But I was trying to think of Mexican sci-fi films and this came up due to one section involving a rocket ship. While it is from the low point in his career, this is Buster Keaton and I’d never ever hate a Buster Keaton movie. Especially one where he has a beard. And blasts off towards space only to crash back into Mexico, which he mistakes for an alien planet. I can’t find any of that stuff, but I do love the scene below of him trying Mexican food for the first time almost as much as anything in his best films.

Available on VHS from Amazon


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