How We Score

Fist of Further Explanation: Ratings System to the Face

When I started sketching out the original editorial platform for this blog, I wanted to eschew some of the basic tenets of film reviews: concise writing, focused discussion, and a formal ratings system among them. Because I was interested in covering often silly films, I wanted the latitude to be smarmy, tangential, and contextual. I prioritized creating a "feel" for the movie over the assignment of a static star number.

I've come to realize that this isn't necessarily a great experience for readers, though. When I hit up a new site or blog that reviews films, I want to know what they think is a great watch versus a painful one. I like indexes of film titles where the cream has risen to the top, because chasing down obscure genre films costs time and money (or in some cases, bandwidth). It's really hard to create those separations in quality for readers without a formal system.

Effective immediately, Fist of B-List will use a ratings system customized for the subgenre of Western martial arts b-films. Reviews will use a seven-point rating scale informed by the following elements:
  • Technical qualities (or lack thereof) - Includes editing, dubbing, lighting, visible boom mics, stunt mats.
  • Line delivery - Includes overall acting performances as well as quote worthiness.
  • Plot - Includes the main story but also the unique wrinkles, like Annie’s parents being killed over a piece of plastic pizza.
  • Sartorial Flair - Includes memorable wardrobe choices: turtlenecks, sports jackets, mesh shirts, Canadian tuxedos, Zubaz or Otomix pants, fannypacks, as well as mullets and pompadors.
  • Villains - Includes the main villain as well as the quality of his/her henchmen.
  • Rewatch Value - Will you want to return to a movie again and again because of the sum of its parts?
  • Action - The quality of the fight choreography and stunt work. Includes training montages and strategic placement of cardboard boxes.
Above all, the reason I’m implementing a rating system for reviews is to provide a quantitative framework to contextual and qualitative reviews. Given that I rarely shit-can anything, how is a reader supposed to know whether I’d recommend City Dragon over King of the Kickboxers? (Answer: I wouldn’t...unless you did me wrong.) It will help everyone figure out which movies to skip, which ones to watch on YouTube, and which ones to buy on LaserDisc because they’re worth owning and that format is totally making a comeback any day now. Indexing will be easier for me, and finding the gold standards will be easier for you.

If you're familiar with the site, you'll know that all the items I’ve mentioned are things I usually touch on when discussing a movie anyways. A ratings system will not cause any major sea changes in the review formats; you’ll get the same attention to meaningless details and the same screen caps with borderline amusing word bubbles. The only difference? Every review will now have some variation on the rating below. No visual seemed more fitting, so we’ll call it the Seven-Point Exploding Scale of Zubaz. (Until I get a cease and desist letter, at which point we’ll switch to Seven Point Exploding Scale of Generic Zebra-Print Pants).

Questions? Complaints? Comment below.


  1. About to post this on but for site-users, I wanted to post it here too.

    Fist of B-List!!

    Usually there are two camps of friends. Mates, old school mates, who know how to sit back and watch a stack of kickboxing films. If you ask them about Tarkovsky, they will just tell you they aren't into classical music. When these folk watch a VHS tape, it has nothing to do with irony, they just want to watch a movie.

    But then there's your cinephile friends. Not only do they know Tarkovsky, but they have made several video essays about him, possibly spoiling the magic of his films with their authoritative dissection of his work. You would think this latter group would have the broadest interest in cinema, but not always.

    In the rarefied air of cinephilia, there are blind-spots that amount to entire genres and the dismissal of kickboxing films starring Jean-Claude Van Damme or Loren Avedon is one of the biggest crimes. Nothing represents modern incarnation of the mythical more than a tournament fighting movie. Sure, like anything, at their worst these pictures are unwatchable video-fodder. But at their best, they amount to some of the most transcendent cinema there is.

    Luckily there is one man that understands this and he is one of the rare cinephiles who bridges the said divide. Karl Brezdin has a review website dedicated to straight-to-video martial arts pictures called "Fist Of B-List". Brezdin lovingly guides us through the pros and cons with both frank-critique and hilarious fun. His sophistication allows him to appreciate the ironic goofiness but also embrace the sincere expression in some of the better titles of the genre.

    Its a rare voice in criticism that can take these films seriously as art and expand upon their narrative, technical and even poetic virtues. These are action films and he will eloquently tell you if they deliver the biffo goods or not. Its great to get Brezdin's cut-through analysis and also experience his sense of humour. These are some of the funniest reviews on the internet, often accompanied by a film-still and a Brezdin authored speech-bubble. I laugh during every review!

    As "serious" cinema navel-gazes and appears clueless about its future, is there any wonder when cinephiles stay safely in their bubble, only venturing out for irony, scoffing and poking fun? People forget that the French new wave were most inspired by the down-and-dirty B-pictures from America and this appreciation not-only spawned their own movement but fed back into America and gave us their greatest cinematic decade being the 1970s. Just like the new-wave's appreciation for forgotten B-pictures, some of the wisest cinephiles like Brezdin are highlighting the value of these 80/90s B-pictures as a great source of pleasure, filmmaking aesthetic and poetry.

    Mike Retter

    1. Mike, thanks so much for the kind words -- it made my day!

      I'm glad you've taken some joy in an American stranger losing his mind over the course of seven years by dedicating 1200-word columns to the works of action luminaries like Jalal Merhi, Godfrey Ho, and even MC Kung Fu. All in all, the platform has been great fun in large part due to the connections I've made with readers like yourself! Cheers!

  2. No problem Karl. History will judge this work as being very valuable and ahead of the curve! Recommended titles for review (when you have time..):

    White Tiger
    The Sweeper
    Remo: The Adventure Begins
    Viper (and other Lorenzo Lamas movies!)
    Midnight Man (AKA Blood For Blood .. Lamas!)
    Martial Outlaw
    No Exit
    Savate (martial arts western, stars Olivier Gruner!)
    The Perfect Weapon

    AND .... For some reason I really like Bloodfist 4: "Die Trying" and think the rest of the series can be skipped (just saved you ten hours!). Its an (intentionally) funny film, good cast/performances with mostly very decent fights. The film has some attitude and co-stars the late Cat Sassoon (Angel Fist).

    Oh and on Lamas, lets be fair! The two I have recommended are films I have not seen. But the trailers look INCREDIBLY top-shelf. One IMDB review referred to Viper as having a factory climax that gives Hard Target a run-for-its-money ... I mean ... thats a huge endorsement! Im not going to put you through the Snake eater films - its true he has done some filler.. But remeber Final Impact? thats one of PM's best films in terms of narrative and filmmaking. He also managed to bring some budget to other violent DTV films, like the glossier ones I put in that list. So Lamas may be worth giving some thought/revision! In-fact the two I mentioned are on the top of my DTV watch-list .. So perhaps we will meet next time in cyber-space as more enlightened people ...

  3. Not trying to create a blog within a blog, but can report that: Viper has its moments,but ultimately isnt very well made. Midnight Man (AKA Blood For Blood) on the other hand is really top-shelf DTV with an interesting villain and choice of weapons.


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...