The Direct to Video Connoisseur

I'm a huge fan of action, horror, sci-fi, and comedy, especially of the Direct to Video variety. In this blog I review some of my favorites and not so favorites, and encourage people to comment and add to the discussion. If you click on an image, it will take you to that post's image page, which includes many more pics from the film and other goodies I couldn't fit in the actual review. For announcements and updates, don't forget to Follow us on Twitter and Like our Facebook page. If you're the director, producer, distributor, etc. of a low-budget feature length film and you'd like to send me a copy to review, you can contact me at dtvconnoisseur[at]yahoo.com. I'd love to check out what you got.

Announcement

Announcement

Hi everyone, it's been a while since I checked the page, and I wanted to make a few announcements.

First and foremost, it appears a dubious site has claimed the old url, meaning any link in any review that goes to the old mattmovieguy url is corrupt. I'm in the process of trying to remove them all, but it's a lot! It's best not to click on any link without hovering over it first to make sure it doesn't have mattmovieguy in the url.

Second, it appears since my last trip to the blog, Photobucket has decided to charge for third party hosting, meaning none of my images are appearing anymore. That's simply an aesthetic issue, but still annoying.

Thank you all for your patience, and again, hopefully this will all be fixed soon.

--Matt

Thursday, May 31, 2007

Timestalkers (1987)

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Klaus Kinski is one of the greatest actors ever. He's in the DTVC Hall of Fame as much for his philosophy on making movies, as he is for the movies he did. By all rights he's a better actor than people we usually associate with the craft like Daniel Day Lewis or Robert DeNeiro, but he's not as choosy in terms of the roles he took. He did movies based on how quickly he could shoot his scenes and get paid. The result of this is when his films are duds, which they usually were based on his selection crieria, we don't mind as much as when an actor who takes himself more seriously has a bad picture.

Timestalkers has Kinski as a scientist from the future who's gone back in time to the Old West to kill another scientist's ancestor. Lauren Hutton plays that scientist's daughter, sent back to stop Kinski. William Devane plays a history professor in the 1980s who suspects time travel is possible, and Hutton recruits him to help her find the Kinsk-inator. Cliff Claven is Devane's buddy in the military. In the end, Devane and Hutton go back in time to save the day.

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Other than Kinski, no one in this film fits their roles. Devane is too Nighttime Soap Opera to be believable as a gunslinging history professor. Lauren Hutton is way too 70s supermodel to be believable as a scientist's daughter, who's a scientist in her own right, coming from the future to save the day. Cliff Clavin is way too Cliff Clavin to be believed as a military officer. What this does is make the film feel a little off kilter in the scenes where Kinski's not there to rescue everyone with his solid acting prowess.

This lack of believability in the cast led to what I like to call the Destro Effect. The Destro Effect comes when the bad guy is cooler than the good guys, and hence forcing us to root for the bad guy to win. It never failed for me growing up and watching G.I. Joe. I was always so pissed when Destro was vanquished. I was equally pissed when Devane took out Kinski in this one. Ten Devanes aren't worth one Kinski.

Kinski is fantastic in this, as he is in everything. In the beginning, he's positively badass as a dude in the Old West hunting down another gunslinger. In 2586, he's positively the man, taking the stereotypical "everyone wears the same outfit" idea of the future, and making the clothes his own with the rolled up sleeves and unbuttoned collar. It's just so Kinski, and yet so great. He has this way of standing out, while at the same time fitting into the movie perfectly. They could've flipped the script and had him be a good guy, and it still would've worked.

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This whole movie was built on the frail foundation of one poorly conceived premise. I'm not talking about the science of time travel: I don't really care about that. The issue was Kinski's plot to kill the other scientist's ancestor. It made no sense. Why not go back in time 50 years, and kill the scientist himself as a child? If a scientist is smart enough to develop a device that allows humans to travel through time, you'd think he'd come up with a smarter plot to get rid of his rival.

This movie isn't so bad. In terms of the Kinski factor, he's in it enough to make it good. It's got plenty of material to work with if you rent it with some friends to make fun of on a movie night. You could probably find it to buy for like a buck or two at a used video store. I'm not sure if it airs on TV anymore, despite the fact it was initially aired on TV in 1987.

For more info: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0094154/

Mindwarp (1990)

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I'm a huge Bruce Campbell guy, as I can imagine anyone who watches the kind of movies I do is as well. His new Old Spice commercials are, as Billy Ocean once said, "Simply Awesome". The theory is that as long as he's in a movie, it can't go wrong.

Mindwarp takes place in the future. The ozone layer's been destroyed, and the well-off have holed themselves up in these nice indoor cities where they partake in some virtual reality device called Infinisynth. It's so hot, humans have stopped procreating, turning instead to the fantasy worlds in their mind. One girl's had enough, and she says she wants out. She's accused of killing her mom, and is banished. On the outside, she's saved by Bruce Campbell, falls in love with him, then is taken prisoner by these baddies that look disgusting. They're led by the chick's dad, a dude who also split when he'd had enough Infinisynth. The twist at the end will surprise no one.

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I guess theories were made to be broken, and this one does that. The Anything's Good With Bruce Campbell movie theory is thus disproved with Mindwarp. I watched some of this with my dad, and even we both laughed at the scenes of Campbell attacking the gross baddies, but it just wasn't enough. Even with Campbell as this film's only redeemable quality, the movie was too gross and stupid to dig.

I thought going in it was a sci-fi movie, but it's more along the lines of a horror film. There's tons of gore and destruction. But it's not funny like Bad Taste or even the Campbell classic Evil Dead. A kid gets his eye plucked out and then sent into a grinding machine so everyone can drink his blood. I'm not sure if I'm supposed to think that's awesome or hilarious, but it was just weird and gross.

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The twist left something to be desired in terms of continuity. I'm sure you can guess what it is just by reading the plot synopsis: her whole adventure's apart of Infinisynth. Here's the problem: they make a huge stink of telling us that people can only use Infinisynth for so long, and have to take a break to eat and exercise and whatnot. Sounds good to me, but her escapade outside the city yet within Infinisynth was over the course of multiple days. So either she woke up after her first night with Campbell to realize she'd never left, or she's dead. I don't mind that they had her hooked up to the machine and in her fantasy state for multiple days; I do mind that the movie felt they were so smart that they had to tell us she needed to take periodic breaks, and then just drop it for the convenience of the plot.

This is not worth it, even for the Bruce Campbell. Maybe see it if you're a Campbell Completist, but even then you'll be sorely disappointed. This is too gross and depraved to be worth anyone's time.

For more info: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0100152/

Saturday, May 26, 2007

Wake of Death (2004)

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I've seen a lot of Dolph Lundgren and Jean-Claude Van Damme movies in my time. What's interesting about both actors is their calling cards in their films. In every Dolph film, he's shot in the left arm. It doesn't fail. In every Van Damme movie, he shows off his buttcheeks. Again, it doesn't fail. I think it's very telling.

Wake of Death has DTVC Hall of Famer Jean-Claude Van Damme as a bouncer whose wife and in-laws are murdered by the Triad crime boss whose daughter Van Damme's wife took in after she showed up on a ship of illegal immigrants. In the Wake of that Death, he kills a bunch of other people to get his revenge. Not a bad deal.

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This film gave me headache, and I have one man to blame for this: the director. He was so hung up on these MTV music video/car commercial style edits and jump cuts that they made me sick to my stomach. He ruined any of the good bad action in this film. He was like the grandmother who just can't let her daughter take care of her new baby. Someone should've gotten a hold of him and told him to stop, but like the overbearing grandmother, everyone was afraid of the backlash if they said anything.

The director also pulled a bad action no-no: he gave us some sweet action at the very beginning, then shut it down for a half hour of other crap. Considering the movie's 90 minutes long, that's too much inactivity. I think the director was suffering from an over-inflated ego, and he forgot he was doing a paint-by-numbers Van Damme action vehicle.

The action was solid-- what I could see of it. Had this been done by a better director: one who understands his or her audience, this could have rivaled some of Van Damme's early 90s stuff. All right, maybe not that good, but enough to be entertaining. He kicked a lot of ass, shot a lot of people, and blew up his share of cars. It was a solid effort.

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This movie also had Tony Schiena, who was in The Merchant of Venice as Leonardo. He's a solid martial artist, but he's underused in this. He gets his ass kicked by Philip Tan at the end, and Tan slices the hell out of him. Luckily Schiena stabs him in the crotch, and that kills Tan. I'm not sure how it works either, but it's the kind of thing that would be hilarious if the director didn't throw all these jump cuts in it.

This film is just not quite worth it. It's not as bad as In Hell, by any stretch, but it's not as good as Desert Heat or Derailed. I'd rent it before you buy it to see if you like it. I thought it was a tad too gruesome to make fun of (between Van Damme's family's slaughter and the dude who gets tortured with a power drill), and it wouldn't be my first choice if I wanted a bad action night with a Van Damme film.

For more info: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0367478/

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Midnight Kiss (1993)

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I saw this listed in my program guide, and thought it might be a documentary on Lou Gramm's hit song "Midnight Blue", not to be confused with Icehouse's "Electric Blue". I was wronger n' wrong on that one. Maybe I should've read the writing on the wall since the movie was aired on Sci-Fi.

Midnight Kiss is about a vampire who's killing women in LA. The problem is, the police don't know vampires exist, so they have no idea what's going on. An embattled policewoman finally gets her shot working homicide, and she's assigned the case, only to find out she has to work with her ex-husband-- the guy who gave Ginger Lynn Allen the dry hump in Mind, Body, and Soul. Anyway, she bumps into the vampire on her way home one night, he bites her, and she starts turning into a vampire too. After going to her local library, she finds out she's got to kill him before she fully turns in order to save herself. Is it too late?

This movie had no identity. It was either a sexy suspense thriller with too much gore, or a gory horror film with too much sexy suspense. There's a reason why that's bad: the horror fans get way too little action to keep them satisfied, and the sexy suspense thriller people wish they'd just watched another Shannon Tweed film on Skin-a-max. And for people like me, I wish I'd just watched both.

The female lead was hot in a very early nineties kind of way. She had this big permed hair, and she usually wore baggy shirts and not-so-flattering jeans. Then she'd wear a mini-skirt or leather pants, and it'd be like whoa. Kind of like in high school when there was that girl who you never really thought about, but then her softball coach made the team dress up on the days they had road games, and after that you couldn't stop thinking about her. You couldn't do that kind of thing today, where we have movies and TV shows with even the geeky people looking hot.

This was marketed as a vampire movie with a sexual element, meaning the vampire is suave and women dig him, only to get bitten. There was none of that in here. The vampire looked like a stunt double for the lead singer of Ugly Kid Joe, and he never seduced his women, instead beating the crap out of them and biting them. He lived in a nasty apartment, dressed like Sebastian Bach of Skid Row, and had gross nails.

In terms of Lou Gramm's "Midnight Blue", there was none of that in here, unfortunately. There also wasn't any of Icehouse's "Electric Blue" either. "Electric Blue" was the only major hit here in the US by the Australian group Icehouse, formerly known as Flowers, and it was actually co-written by John Oates of Daryl Hall and John Oates fame. For more info on them: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Icehouse_%28band%29

Don't watch this movie. If it's on at 3am, and you're awake, you should try to break your old high score in Homerun Derby on Wii Sports. If you don't have a Wii, then I'd try reading a book. I heard Faulkner's written some good stuff.

For more info: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0107571/

The Defender (2004)

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Being a huge Dolph Lundgren guy, I'm always on the lookout for his next picture. When I saw this one on imdb, it sounded like a good deal: Dolph Lundgren in his directorial debut. Not only that, but my favorite TV personality, Jerry Springer, plays the president. That just seemed like the coolest concept to me.

The Defender is about Dolph Lundgren as Lance Rockford, a CIA dude who was captured and tortured in the Gulf War. Later, he has to accompany a women who's very Condy Rice-ish to Romania to meet a secret dude. The secret dude is actually the terrorist they've been hunting, and the deal is he has to be kept alive and hidden, because if he's killed or captured, he becomes a martyr. At the same time a coup is planned by some dudes called The Patriot Group. What does one have to do with the other? It's all explained in a big twist.

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This movie isn't bad. Dolph's a good director, which I can't imagine is any surprise, since he seems to be good at everything. His character name, Lance Rockford, is sufficiently Tank Concrete enough for me. For some reason, and maybe Dolph's in on the joke too, but even when he's the film maker, he still has the requisite shot in the left arm. The guy can't make it out of any movie without being shot in the left arm. It's his calling card.

Springer delivers as the president, but he's not in the movie too too much. He and his Secretary of State have snuffed out this coup plot, and the majority of the movie is spent with him in these quick five minute clips grimacing about the fate of the country. Then the payoff: he arrests a bunch of plotters and tells them "You've messed with the wrong country, and you definitely FUCKED with the wrong president!" It's the kind of line in a movie that makes you do the Tiger Woods post 30-foot birdie putt fist pump. Yes!

The female lead is split into two roles. Shakara Ledard is supposed to take the hotty half, and she's good at it, especially when she's flirting with Dolph asking if she could be Minnie Mouse to his Mickey when they go to Disney World. The other woman is the Condy Rice one, and though she's not as hot as her real life counterpart (Condy is the bomb), she has some of the elements, like the big boots and... well, I guess that's it. Maybe when this Administration is over in 2008, Dolph and the real Condy and make a film together. A guy can dream, right?

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This film has some critiques of the Bush Administration's foreign policy weltanschauung. They think a more multilateral approach to achieving our goals is the right way. As a former PoliSci major, I don't turn to bad action films for my political discussion, so I'm not sure I care either way what the film makers think. What I can say is I'm glad I wasn't inundated with their political points of view (a la Hunt for Eagle One). The messages I took away are: even if you don't like your president's policies, it's extremely un-American to overthrow him with a coup; and, Jerry Springer would make a great president.

This is worth a good rental, and for Dolph fans a purchase at $10 or less. The Springer factor is great, the action is pretty solid, and Dolph plays a dude named Lance Rockford. What more do you need?

For more info: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0402127/

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

National Lampoon Adam and Eve (2005)

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My buddy and I caught this on one of the Encore channels late one night. We figured the name National Lampoon would mean funny, and we were looking for a comedy.

National Lampoon's Adam and Eve is about a college dude named Adam (Kirk Douglas' grandson), who digs music and lives at a flop house type frat with some kooky characters that make up a who's-who of teen angst movie extras. Adam meets Eve (Emmanuelle Chaquiri), who's ridiculously attractive, but also a virgin and waiting for the right time for her first time. They fall in love, but Adam can't get any. After being rebuffed again despite an elaborately romantic scheme, he gets drunk and sleeps with a hot blond skank that's after him. Thinking he picked up gonorrhea from her, he has to come clean to Eve at the same time Eve is ready to do it. 13 of the final 15 minutes of the film are spent with them split up, with the second to last minute being her giving him another chance, and the final minute being them about to have sex.

I'm not all together sure what the film makers wanted me to think of this film. Is it a romantic comedy? Is it a madcap romp in a frat with a dude finally growing up? Is it about what guys and girls take from relationships? Is it simply made to annoy the piss out of me?

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The premise is fairly understandable: Emmanuelle Chaquiri is so attractive that it would be hard to date her and not have sex with her. After that, this film has no identity. The kooky friends are extremely forgettable, yet the film makers seem to think they're cooler than that. One of them is the technical whiz kid from Fast and the Furious. He plays some chain smoking guy that's supposed to be really cool, but is just a dork who's not that funny and was better as the wuss who gets shot up by Asian dudes.

To show us how cool he is, he hooks up with Eve's friend; and if that wasn't bad enough, later we're forced to listen to her describe in gory detail during a banal conversation with Eve all the things he did to her. I'm assuming the banal conversation that sparked the horrific description of their tryst was an attempt to dull some of the testosterone in the film with a female point of view, but it just made the women look dumber yet more self indulgent than the dudes in the frat discussing whether or not you should stand to wipe your ass.

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In terms of funny, this wasn't. It had it's moments, but they were so far and few that I didn't have the energy to laugh at them when they came. How this got the name National Lampoon is beyond me. The guys at the frat paled in comparison to other Lampoon movies. It should've been called National Lampoon Ultra Light, because it tasted like water. That reminds me of the worst scene in the movie: a girl drinks gonorrhea piss. Adam takes a urine sample (instead of doing it at the doctor's office, like you would in real life) to get tested, and he's carrying it in a keg cup down to the doctor's. A girl stops him and insists on having a sip, thinking it's beer. He lets her, and we're supposed to laugh at that. Oh my god, she drank gonorrhea piss, that's so funny!

If you want to see the hot Emmanuelle Chaquiri, skip this and watch On the Line. At least there, you get her, and the always hilarious Joey Fatone. Don't go near this sack of ass crack. If you spot it on one of the Encore channels, run, as fast as you can from your TV set. Your brain will thank you for it.

For more info: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0391728/

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Beyond the Wall of Sleep (2006)

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My buddy picked this out when we were hanging out one night, because he's a big Lovecraft fan. It's probably not something I would've scooped on my own, but from the cover it looked sufficiently entertaining enough.

Beyond the Wall of Sleep is an adaptation of an H.P. Lovecraft short story about a dude from the sticks with a bunch of growths on his back that turn into a monster or something. I never read the story, but in the movie they have that aspect, with the hick played by Larry of Larry, Daryl and Daryl fame of the old Newhart show. He goes to an asylum, where a young intern takes a fancy to him when he's not experimenting on a chick he has in the basement with her skull open and wires attached to her exposed brain. While the two main doctors at the asylum fight over what to do with the hick, the intern experiments on him with his electrode things. People die horrible deaths, and then this monster, named Amducious, comes out of the guy's back, and dies ten seconds later. End scene.

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The people making this movie padded the film with these dream sequences of kids playing games and what not. It's the same scene over and over, and it didn't make any sense. On top of that, the film makers used these trendy jump cuts and edits that looked more dumb than cool. This isn't Miami Vice, in fact, it's not even Fastlane, and so these film FX look like an attempt to put a bow on gift box with a McDonald's manager tie in it.

One really great highlight was the cameo by Sex Machine from From Dusk Till Dawn. supposedly this guy has a name and people know it, but he'll always just be Sex machine to me. Unfortunately he didn't get a chance to use his crotch pistol in his few scenes. I can't even imagine what he was paid for this role.

You'll notice the picture of the box at the top. This is identical to the one we saw on the shelves at the rental place. There is nothing in the film that has anything to do with that picture. It's like Chad and Trevor in Cave Dwellers, and I'm curious to find out what the scene actually came from. This kind of "who gives a shit as long as it sells more" attitude toward the marketing of these direct to video films is one of the reasons I love DTV so much. You just never know what you're going to get.

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I didn't get the whole Amducious thing. The whole movie, Larry of Larry, Darryl and Darryl fame kept talking about this Amducious, and when we finally see him, he's only there for like ten seconds. Why? That doesn't make for a good movie. I want to see M Docheous kill some people before he dies.

That was just part of a whole convoluted ending that left more questions than answers. Yet this movie was so bad and thought unprovoking, I don't remember what any of the questions were, I just remember thinking "what?" Maybe the studio tried to re-cut it, or the guys who made it had trouble wrapping it up, but it was just stupid.

Again, this may not have been my cup of tea, but my friends who do like this kind of thing hated it too. So I'm not alone. I'd avoid this, especially if you're renting it and it costs new release money.

American Ninja (1985)

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I don't really remember when I first saw this amazing classic. I wasn't that old, I know that. It was one of those movies we really weren't supposed to watch, but did anyway, sneaking over to a friend's house before his parents got back from work and catching it on HBO. Either that, or we'd rent it during a big sleep over night. It's the perfect movie for a ten year old, even if it is a little violent.

The first installment of the American Ninja series introduces us to Joe, the American Ninja, played by DTVC Hall of Famer Michael Dudikoff. Here, he's a mysterious amnesiac with amazing martial arts skills. During a hijacking of a military convoy, he rescues the Colonel's daughter, played by the brunette chick from Weird Science. She's very upset by his rough treatment of her, until she sees his ripped abs, and then she falls in love with him. No one's happy with his heroics when he gets back to base, except for her, and a dude named Jackson tries to kick his ass. He fails miserably, and as a result, he and Dudikoff become fast friends.

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As you can imagine, the hijacking was planned by the Colonel and his sergeant in order to funnel weapons to an arms dealer, who is supported in his endeavor by a master ninja and his myriad trained underlings. Only the master ninja and Jackson understand how good Dudikoff is, and so Jackson helps him while the master ninja tries unsuccessfully to kill him. Finally a mysterious bald Japanese man who looks like Gabe Kaplan gives Dudikoff his memory back and a whole bunch of ninja equipment, so he can beat the baddies, save the girl, and win the day.

Dudikoff's American Ninja is what we in the biz call a five tool hero: he's a great warrior, great driver of trucks and crotch rockets, has a genius level IQ, has amazing power over women, and practices magic. The magic part may not be clear, but it simply means he can make bullets miss, cause cars that hit trees head on to explode... that kind of stuff. Today, film makers try to make us take their movies more seriously, so they may remove one or more of those tools. It's kind of too bad really.

This film was made in 1985, and nothing in the film reflects the times more than the Colonel's daughter. Played by the brunette chick from Weird Science, she's a throwback to a time when women wore baggy tops, skirts and dresses that went below their knees, and overly feathered hair. I'm not saying I like the way women dressed then better than now or vice-versa, but I am saying it doesn't matter what women wear, men will still find them hot. I think that's an important point: women and gay men decide what women wear, not straight dudes.

Ninjas were everywhere in the 80s. As a kid, ninja was behind fireman and baseball player on my list of things I wanted to be when I grew up. If I wasn't watching a movie with the Coreys in it, I was watching something ninja, or playing ninja video games. This movie just added to the ninja mystique. In the opening scene, the army dudes are easily beating the armed hijackers, but when the ninjas show up, with their no guns and prehensile chains, the American military was no match. It was like the ninja could do anything.

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As an adult, this film is pure silliness, and I think that makes it all the more enjoyable. Dudikoff as the guy with no past who has amnesia and doesn't know why he has such great skills; the master ninja shooting lasers out of something on his hand; how quickly the female lead changed her attitude toward our hero once she saw the abs; and more than anything else, the sheer volume of explosions and gun shots, most of which Dudikoff avoids. The plot is simple, doesn't get in the way, and is sufficiently stupid.

I'm not sure it gets much better than this classic. If you're a fan of bad action, you need to have this in your collection. It's like being a fan of Fellini, and not having La Strada. You shouldn't have to pay more than $10 for it, and I think it may be boxed with part 2. Renting it isn't enough, you have to own this bad boy.

For more info: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0088708/

Jungleground (1995)

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I found this movie along with Terminal Rush down in Boston, and figured I'd get them both. I'd already seen it a while before, but vaguely remembered it. I could only recall that it had DTVC Hall of Famer Rowdy Roddy Piper and it was hot. I think that's an accurate description.

In Jungleground, our man Piper plays a street toughened police vice squad dude who works in a nasty area of a Canadian city called the Jungleground. While attending his homegirl's (Stargate: Atlantis' Torri Higginson) showcasing of her sculptures, the dude from DaVinci's Inquest, who's also a fed, calls him out to the Jungleground to do stuff. A drug sting goes bad, and Piper's captured and taken to Valhalla, a place run by the major Jungleground gang, the Ragnarocks, and their leader, Odin. Odin decides to send Piper out into the streets, followed by a group of his boys to hunt him. If he makes it to his girlfriend by dawn, she lives. If he doesn't, they both die. What do you think happens?

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This is a Canadian movie, so when people apologize, they're "sourie", when they sell cocaine, they store it in "begs", and when a guy announces he's gay, he's "oot". Also, this is a who's-who of Canadian actors, meaning if you watch Stargate on Sci-Fi, you'll see a lot of people you know. I seldom watch the show, so I only recognized Torri Higginson, who's in all the Atlantis ones.

Piper is the bomb in this film. He shows off his too-sweet pecs. He gives baddies wrestling moves like suplexes and knees to the head. His running is hilarious. I'm not sure if the character is supposed to have injured his leg early on, but he has this half limp, which when coupled with his grimace and pumping clenched fists, makes for great rewinding material. This may not be his best role, but it's up there.

I liked Torri Higginson as Piper's homegirl. A lot of action films have these women for their heroes that are rather helpless, and when they suddenly become resourceful to help the hero win, it seems ridiculous. This chick is smart and down-to-Earth, and makes sense as the woman Piper's character would want to spend his time with. On the other hand, when she helps defend the apartment at the end of the movie with a machine gun, it's looks pretty dumb. I guess you can't have it all when you watch a bad action film made in Canada.

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The action in this is pretty solid, bordering on silly. Piper's girl wielding a high powered weapon is just one of them. In another, Piper sneaks in on some baddies defending the bridge home, and as he grabs them one by one, it looks like one of those Three Stooges episodes set in a haunted house where a werewolf grabs everyone but Curly. Maybe that's what they were going for. This film has plenty of great explosions and hand-to-hand fighting, though, which is even better with Piper's wrestling skills.

There's one important note I must make. I bought a DVD copy of this released by Blast Films. My version had the last 5 to ten minutes clipped off. I was pretty annoyed. I'm not sure if all of them are like that, and the version of Terminal Rush I bought from them was fine, so I don't know. I'd just be careful buying one from them.

This film is worth spending money on. You won't be displeased renting it or buying it used. It's a solid $5 action movie, with Piper, crazy explosions, and plenty of Canadian accents to mock. It's 90 minutes of pure fun. How can you go wrong with that?

For more info: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0110215/

Monday, May 21, 2007

Groom Lake (2002)

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I don't remember how I got wind of this film directed by and starring William Shatner, but I did, so I thought I'd keep my eye out for it. I eventually saw it on Sci-Fi, which wasn't a bad deal.

Groom Lake is about a young couple who travel out to the desert to spend the rest of their time together, because the girl is dying. They end up in a small town, where the two are caught up in the paranoid town members anti-alien sentiments, and Shatner and his buddy Dick Van Patten's attempt to help an alien get home from a military base. The girl is captured by Shatner when he thinks she and her boyfriend were spying on him, and the boyfriend must team up with one of the paranoid villagers to rescue her. Then they find out Shatner's the altruistic one, while the paranoid villager kidnaps the alien to take into to town so he can make himself famous, right as Van Patten's about to prepare the alien ship for take off. In the end, the alien makes it, and before he goes, he tells the girl that she's not dying, but moving onto something better when her human form goes.

The Shatty factor was a tad lacking in this. You can kind of feel him in the film when he's not on screen, and I guess that's all right, but it's not as cool as seeing him on screen, delivering lines in his classic pausing style. I'm surprised, considering the high regard with which he seems to hold himself, that he didn't put himself in the film more. I mean, it's his film.

The female lead, played by Amy Acker, is hot. For a good chunk of the film, Shatty Shatty Boom-ba-Latty has her wearing these tight vinyl pants with a snakeskin print on them. It makes no sense, for a woman whose seems to be really down-to-Earth, to be wearing pants like that on a long road trip; but I looked at that as a little Shatner touch, and I can't complain about it. I never really watched the show Angel, but I guess Acker was a mainstay on that show. Not a bad deal.

As far as the actual movie goes, it's a pretty silly alien invasion film, except for one really odd scene. The Acker's bopyfriend drives them out into the desert to camp, and he flips their Suzuki off-roader with some bad driving. He leaves her to go get help, and while he's gone, she's sexually assaulted by some townsfolk. I guess the idea was they were stripping her down and groping her to see if she was an alien or not, but it was kind of disturbing, especially for a girl who was terminally ill. It was completely out of place and left a bad taste in my mouth.

Other than that scene, this wasn't so bad. I think Shatner was going for the 50s sci-fi tribute with a little Descartes and Nietzsche thrown in. If it had more Shatner in it, it would've been even better. It was pretty nondescript, with nothing special other than the Shat in it, or if you're a Buffy/Angel fan, Amy Acker. Otherwise, you'd have more fun watching MST3K's Prince of Space or Invasion of the Neptune Men.

You should do what I did on this one, and catch it on Sci-Fi the next time it's on. It's too blah to spend any money on it, even for the Shatner Factor. I probably wouldn't TiVo this either: just see it if you're up when it's airing and you're not doing anything else. Maybe while you're writing a paper at 3am.

For more info: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0270393/

In Hell (2003)

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I got wind of this film when I looked up Jean-Claude Van Damme on imdb. Even though it was going over the same territory as Death Warrant, I considered it when I saw it had Lawrence Taylor, the greatest linebacker in NFL history. He was great in his Wrestlemania appearance, and I was stoked about this one. There was also a great cast of That Guys, which usually makes a film like this entertaining.

In Hell has DTVC Hall of Famer Van Damme as a dude whose wife is murdered in Russia, where he was sent to work from their home in Louisiana. The killer is set free by a crooked judge, and Van Damme kills him for retribution. Van Damme is sent to prison, where he's forced into fighting and becoming a nut case. He makes his usual group of misfit friends and puts up with his usual group of detestable baddies and prison guards. He fights, then he and the philosopher psycho played by Taylor plan Van Damme's escape.

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This film was not a bad action movie, but rather an attempt at a serious drama. As you might expect, when film makers try to veer from the bad action genre without legitimate film making abilities, we're left with a product that's stupid and depraved. I knew it was going to be bad when a young American boy is taken into another cell and raped by one of the Russian baddies. We know that kind of thing would happen in real life, and maybe in the properly done indie film it would work, but in this sack of ass crack it's just dumb and disturbing.

Van Damme plays a dude who doesn't know martial arts. I didn't know that going in, and it killed the film for me. He roundly gets his ass kicked for the first hour of the film. It was annoying as all hell. When he finally does kick ass, he bites a guy's neck. This is again something that, when I see it in a Troma film, it works, but when I see it in this, it's just weird and ridiculous. Van Damme doesn't act, he does martial arts. He needs to be kicking these guys' asses, not the other way around.

Lawrence Taylor was a waste in this. He did these voice over narrations that were stupid. He played a philosopher psycho with a bad past that just didn't work. We have no idea why he's in a Russian prison. We also have no idea why he's killed all his former cell mates except Van Damme. Just dumb, and a waste of Taylor. If he was in my film, I'd have him with his cross earring, a flat top haircut with a fade, and a sweatshirt with the sleeves cut off. I'd probably give him a massive gun and have him shoot the shit out of everything, and then use his patented fumble producing tomahawk chop to disarm a baddie. That would've ruled.

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This film was just a complete waste. Death Warrant was way better. In that one, when the Sandman is thrown by Van Damme into the furnace, and he comes out on fire, then stops, drops, and rolls to put himself out, it's purely amazing. That one two-minute scene aced this entire film in my mind.

Don't go near this. If you're a Van Damme fan, you'll be disappointed. It's not worth the 90 minutes of your life. This movie is so depraved, it'll make you sick. It's not even worth watching to mock. I'd say skip this, and have a Van Damme nostalgia night with Death Warrant.

For more info: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0339135/

The Punisher (1989)

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This was one of the movies I watched as a kid that made me appreciate the art form of the bad action film. Between DTVC Hall of Famer Dolph Lundgren, Oscar winner Louis Gossett jr., and the sheer volume of violence and bloodshed, it's a perfect ten in my book. The makers of the '04 version tried to make their film equally as pornographically violent, while distancing themselves from this amazing predecessor. What we got was a grimacing Thomas Jane, a disturbingly bad scene where Tucker from Flash Forward had his piercings ripped out, and the perpetually bad John Travolta reprising his role as the bad guy from Battlefield Earth. Ridiculous.

This version of The Punisher stars Dolph as the Marvel hero Frank Castle, who sees his family blown up by a mafia placed car bomb. Dolph survives, but only Louis Gossett jr. suspects this, as a vigilante known only as the Punisher starts gunning down mob members. When the Yakuza moves into town, the Punisher has to work with his old target dummies to take them down too.

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According to imdb, 91 people were killed in this film (http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0098141/trivia). I knew there were a lot, so I wasn't surprised by that. The violence, though, is done in a sort of Robocop way that's more awesome than hard to watch (as opposed to a Hills Have Eyes, or Touristas per se). This is bad action at it's finest, and leaves many wondering why the '04 version was even made, let alone made so poorly with a template like this to work from. The mowing down of 20 ninjas at once is way better than Keanu Reeves beating up a bunch of karate dudes in The Matrix. He also crashes through a casino ceiling and mows down a bunch of people there at the beginning of the film, which is how the newer version of Ocean's 11 should have been. I mean, if you're going to remake a movie that had dudes like Sinatra, Dean Martin, and Cesar Romero, why do what Soderberg and Clooney did, when you can do what Dolph did.

This is one of two films where Dolph works with Oscar winner Louis Gossett jr., the other being Cover Up. I'd like to see more of these collaborations. Dolph needs more guys with moustaches to co-star with, and why not have it be the best. I mean, what else is LGJ up to nowadays anyway?

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This is also Dolph's second dealing with the Yakuza, the other being Showdown in Little Tokyo. If I have on complaint with this film, it's that they, unlike Showdown, didn't cast Cary Tagawa as the head baddie. It was a missed opportunity that would have made a great film like this a Casablanca type.

In terms of the Dolph factor, I know when we first heard of this film, my friends and I were a little sceptical of him sporting a black-dyed dome. It didn't really matter, though, when he's hanging from the ceiling spraying a crowd of illegal gamblers with myriad bullets. I didn't mind him straying from his classic blond hair for one picture, especially with him doing such a faithful portrayal of one of my favorite comics.

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From what I've been able to find out, this film is out of print due to the crummy '04 version being in the market. If this is John Travolta's doing, it's just another reason to be pissed at Quentin Tarentino for creating this monster also known as the post-Pulp Fiction Travolta. Sure, he was great in Saturday Night Fever, but after that, not so much, and we shouldn't be subjected to his crummy Punisher when there's a great one out there with a real mensch like Dolph in the lead.

If you can find this film used, buy it. It's a must have for any action collection. It's a classic along the lines of Robocop, The Terminator, and Bloodsport. It wasn't a major theatrical release in the States because New World Pictures went bankrupt (ibid). If you've never seen this before, you can't honestly call yourself an action fan (just like you can't call yourself a Red Sox fan if you've never heard of Mike Greenwell-- but I digress). So if you like bad action and haven't seen this, you need to go out right now and find this. You won't be disappointed.

For more info: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0098141/

Future War (1997)

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My buddies and I first saw this classic on MST3K. Being a big Bernhardt fan from his work on the Mortal Kombat show and the Bloodsport movies, the film was particularly special. But it's also sufficiently ridiculous to make a solid MST3K episode.

Future War is about neither a war or the future. It's about these cyborgs that have enslaved the human race in the future, and Bernhardt plays one that's escaped. For some reason the cyborgs go back in time to take slaves. Also, there's a big ship that's in play. The cyborgs use dinosaurs as trackers when a slave escapes. Bernhardt, in escaping the dinosaurs, falls into the clutches of a drug user turned nun who tries to help him. He learns English quickly and recruits her and her teen gang to give their lives to save his from the dinosaurs. In the end Bernhardt heroically saves the day.

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This film is a work of beauty. I'm still not exactly sure what the film makers were going for, and I think that makes it all the more endearing. The dinosaurs are extremely hilarious. I don't know why they're there, what they're doing, or how they kill people. Also, when they die, they explode into a cloud of dust. I'm surprised the Christian Right doesn't use this film to refute the dinosaur's existence. If they all explode into clouds of dust when they die, then how do paleontologists find their bones?

The cyborg chasing Bernhardt is sweet too. He's got this big, doughy face, and looks more silly than imposing. His two main modes of attack on Bernhardt are his arm, which shoots a collar that attaches itself to Bernhardt's neck and restricts his movement; and his superhuman strength, which he uses to throw Bernhardt through stacks of empty boxes. He also indiscriminately kills other people, which gives the movie a slasher film element.

This may be Bernhardt's best role. He's extremely believable as the human slave who becomes fluent in English in a day or two, and can out fight large, plastic dinosaurs. When some investigators cut out this large tracking device from the back of his neck, you can really see in his face just how absurd it is. He can also stab dinosaurs with a knife, leave the knife in it, then have it magically reappear in his hand.

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This film has a tribute to the Bunuel classic Viridiana. It has the soon-to-be nun who takes in a bunch of riff-raff that no one else believes in, and gives them a chance at a better life. I'm wondering if the film makers had trouble reconciling Bunuel's ending, where the riff-raff take advantage of the woman's largess by destroying her late aunt's nice house, and two of them almost rape her; because here the riff-raff performs admirably as they give their lives to the dinosaurs and cyborgs so Bernhardt can save the day. On the other hand, they may be making the statement that that's all the poor are good for. Maybe I'm just reading too much into this by finding a connection between this and the greatest Spanish director of all time, and really the film makers just thought the idea of a nun with a sordid past was hot.

You could probably buy this for like $5 on DVD. Do it. You won't be disappointed. Whether you're a novice or a pro at mocking films, this is a must have. If you can get the MST3K version of it, do that too. They did a great job, as they always do, in making a silly film even better. You just can't go wrong here.

For more info: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0113135/

Timecop: The Berlin Decision (2003)

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I think I caught this film on the Sci-Fi channel. I don't really remember. I only watched it because the original Timecop, which had DTVC Hall of Famer Jean-Claude Van Damme, was pretty hilarious, and I was hoping this would be equally as funny.

Timecop: The Berlin Decision stars Jason Scott Lee as a timecop working 20 years after the Van Damme movie. There's a baddie who's escaped prison and is going back in time to eliminate all the current timecops' ancestors, which would in turn kill them. The bad guy was in jail to begin with, because he went back in time to kill Hitler, and the whole thing was a disaster. So Scott Lee has to visit all his ancestors and stop the baddie from offing them, and eventually he makes it to the late 90s, where his dad is teaching a younger version of the baddie in a college course on time travel. After an awkward fight scene where Scott Lee pummels the younger baddie, who doesn't know how to fight yet, everything ends all right.

As a huge Highlander: The Series fan, I'm used to good period sets and clothing and what not. Timecop: TBD falls somewhat short of the Highlander standard. They look all right, but they also look like they were done on a weak budget. I'd say worse than the sets and the outfits, was how bad Scott Lee seemed to stand out in each scene. The timecop agency doesn't do a good job of making their agents blend in, and I'm surprised any mission ever succeeds.

With Jason Scott Lee in a movie, I'm expecting some nice martial arts action. I didn't get it here. Now I'm suck with a substandard bad action film, with nothing to root for. If I'm a film maker, and I've just got word that we've signed Scott Lee to the picture, I'm rewriting the thing to include some major fight scenes. It just makes sense. As Wilford Brimley would say, "It's the right thing to do."

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The Timecop franchise has not only spawned the films, but also a TV show. If you ask me, the whole thing's kind of a wasted property. As in this film, they really don't do anything cute with the idea of time travel. Everyone's done the "let's kill Hitler" thing. Why don't they go back and find out if Shakespeare was really gay? Or if Abe Lincoln was gay? Or the Knights Templar? What if they offered time travel vacation packages where Cubs fans can go back and watch their team win a World Series? I'd love to see one where a guy plans to go back and fill Al Capone's vault right before Geraldo opens it, and Jason Scott Lee has to stop him, because the respectability Geraldo would gain from that would cause an apocalyptic catastrophe ten years later. I can't imagine I'm the only one who'd want to see that.

I'm not sure what to tell you about this film. Absolutely don't buy it or rent it. Maybe watch it when it's on TV, but only if you've got nothing better going on. It's not that bad, but it's just not that good either. It's just a whole lot of blah.

For more info: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0318763/

Friday, May 18, 2007

Frostbite (2005)

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This film popped up on ON Demand when my buddy and I were looking for a good comedy after 1 o'clock in the morning. Based on it's runtime (under 90 minutes), we figured we'd give it a try. Also, we're big Ski School fans, so there was a history there.

Frostbite is about this dude and the girl who has a crush on him who go to this snowboarding school he was admitted into. Once there, he finds out it's run like a military academy, and is expelled for not being conservative enough. He meets the ragtag group of kids that hang out at Traci Lords' coffee shop, and with the inspiration of the guy that played Kramer's lawyer on Seinfeld, they win back the mountain from the Evil snowboarding school.

This film was pretty much dick and fart jokes and Three Stooges style humor. But it was done really well. The main character had a pretty solid delivery style that worked in all the funny scenes. I'd say this was almost a parody of another comedy Out Cold, but an homage to the classic Ski School. That's just kind of the way the jokes fell.

There's a blind real estate agent in the film, and they spare no expense in working in crude jokes regarding his impairment. My favorite was when the main character left Traci Lords' coffee shop, tasted his coffee, didn't like, and dumped it aside, splashing the blind man in the face with hot coffee. It sounds horrible, but it was oh so funny.

As in many films of this genre, boobs were everywhere. There was no shame in how often they showed them. Maybe it's a guy thing, but I'm okay with that. Traci Lords' boobs, however, even though they're mentioned a lot, are not shown. There are a few cracks made in reference to her past work in Gentlemen's Cinema, which is interesting, because the majority of people born after like '83 wouldn't get those jokes. I was kinda under the impression the 18-34 demographic was their target, so that cuts out a chunk of it. Maybe it was a little something special for us oldies.

The final race scene was a little lacking. I think they were mocking final race scenes in similar movies, especially with the baddies sporting spiked bats and whatnot without attempting to conceal them. As opposed to other parts of the film, I'm not so sure I'm okay with that. The final race is the parody. You can't parody the parody. Just the same, there was a cute twist with the blind guy and our hero that was kind of cool.

The Kramer's lawyer element finished the film off for me. He was perfect, spitting out conspiracy theories and general observations with the same style of delivery he used on Seinfeld. In one he said Kurt Kobain killed Courtney Love, then cut off his dick, got fake boobs, and now lives as her. In another he says he taught Jim Morrison how to snowboard in 1989. More movies should have him in them. Not him, per se, but his character as Kramer's lawyer.

I'd go with this bad boy if you're pouring through the ON Demand free movie lineup after 1am looking for a comedy like we were. You could rent it if you're in the mood for the same deal, but I'm not sure many movie stores are open that late. Don't buy it. It's not exactly good enough for that kind of commitment.

For more info: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0431074/

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Street Trash (1987)

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My buddy and I used to watch this show called Buzz and Tony's Drive-In Reviews. I think that was what it was called anyway. And I think it was on Comedy Central, too. Anyway, we loved it, and this was one of the movies they reviewed. It took some doing, but we managed to track the fucker down, and it lived up to the beauty we imagined from seeing it on the show. It's now a classic among my friends.

Street Trash is about this subculture of hobos living in a junkyard. The community's run by a tyrannical Vietnam vet who kills people with a sharpened human bone, even though the junkyard's owned by a gross fat man. There's a dude living there who's kind of a scam artist that gets by on his wits and street smarts. His younger brother takes a shine to the secretary of the guy who owns the junkyard, and they form a bond. While all of this is going on, a liquor store owner finds a bunch of this old booze called Viper stashed away behind some other stuff. He sells it for a buck a bottle to the hobos. The catch is, the stuff makes you melt. It's pretty ridiculous. After some doing, the girl and the younger brother fight off the tyrant and free the junkyard to make it a safe place for hobos.

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This movie is amazingly great campy horror. It's up there with Bad Taste, only Bad Taste is more fun and Street Trash is a little more depraved. The special FX and types of deaths are right in line, though. So is the film quality.

One clip shown on Buzz and Tony's was the famous Penis Toss. In it, a guy is taking a leak behind a bus, he pees on the tyrant by accident, so the tyrant rips his dank off, and throws it. The guy chases after it, and the rest of the hobo community plays keep away. How can you not love a Penis Toss?

Another great scene is the death on the toilet. A bum gets his hands on some viper, and he drinks it while sitting on a toilet. As he melts, he tries to grab the chain for help, and he starts to flush himself. It's absolutely disgusting yet sweet at the same time. I dug it the most.

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This is a genre of horror that's always kind of appealed to me more than the Saw Part Deuxs and the Hostel 666s. I mean, you can't get any sicker than a Penis Toss, yet their brand of brutality is so much more fun than the new kinds. The problem is, I seem to be in the minority, so the big studios greenlight more Saws and these guys are lucky if a studio like Troma will pick them up. Then guys like me have to search like a dog to find them.

There's a new special edition DVD of this movie. I'd say buy it. My friends and I went years with just the copies we bootlegged from the one we found at a rental store. $20 is a little on the expensive side, but if you're a fan of campy horror like Bad Taste and Evil Dead, it's a $20 well spent.

For more info: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0094057/

No Safe Haven (1987)

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I found this film in the used section of a video store for $1.99. I scooped it without hesitation, if only for DTVC Hall of Famer Wings Hauser. It's not everyday you get a deal like that.

No Safe Haven is a film from a Wings Hauser screen play. In it, he plays a CIA agent whose family is murdered by a drug syndicate. He returns from his post in Honduras on a mission of revenge. He kills a lot of people, then goes down to the Bayou and finds an arms dealer who's teaching the trade to his young son. The guy equips him heavily for a final showdown in Bolivia with the head baddie. Bolivia, of course, is the Safe Haven that the title explains to us is not so safe. There's No Safe Haven from a Wings Hauser hell bent on revenge.

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My friends were a little worried going into this. It's essentially a Bruce Penhall Spike TV level actioner that just happens to have Wings in it. In the opening scene, Renegade's Branscombe Richmond tries to gun down some dude, and spays the area with bullets. Since this is an uncertain method, he just kills a lot of innocent people and the dude gets away. So Branscombe and his homeboy give chase, and the guy hops in a cement truck. When the truck hits another car, it explodes, like when you use the tank in Grand Theft Auto. Eventually the guy's luck runs out, and he hits a charter bus, which makes and even bigger explosion. It was so hilarious, my friends were in.

The hilarity does slow a bit after that. Wings' revenge killings are pretty sweet. In one he sets a guy on fire and throws him out a window in a skyscraper. His final confrontation with the big baddie is worthy of any Bruckheimer action film. Wings loads the guy's place with C4, confronts him for the face to face killing, then escapes as the place is demolished. Good job.

I know some people are curious why Wings is in the DTVC Hall of Fame, especially since this is only his second film in here. I'm working on rectifying that, believe me. One thing that makes Wings a great DTV action actor is his uncanny ability to be both a heel and a hero convincingly. Yet at the same time, in whatever he does, he's still Wings. He's also got a pretty extensive DTV career that we can't overlook. He's paid his dues.

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As I mentioned above, this film has Branscombe Richmond of Renegade fame. He's always interesting for me, because on Renegade, he played this wisecracking sidekick to Reno, aka DTVC Hall of Famer Lorenzo Lamas; yet in most of these action movies, he plays a sinister heel. It's very difficult for me to reconcile the two. I first got to know him as Bobby Six-Killer, and I'd like to see him go back to that well more often. He needs to drive a Winnebago more too.

If you're as lucky as me and see this for $1.99, don't hesitate. You won't be sorry. I'm not sure I can say that if you pay more, so I wouldn't recommend it. This is a quality rental for a bad action movie night too. You really can't go wrong with it.

For more info: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0093639/

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Silver Hawk aka Fei Yang (2004)

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I first caught this film late at night on Encore Action. I had some friends over, and they were ready to leave, but watched the first five minutes with me. It was way too silly for them, but they knew full well that I would be watching it, and the next day I told them how it was.

Silver Hawk is an interesting take on Batman, set in a futuristic Asian metropolis called Polaris City. Michelle Yeoh plays a rich socialite by day who dons the costume of Silver Hawk to fight crime by night. A childhood friend from her martial arts school is the police detective charged with stopping her vigilante justice. At the same time, this Evil Baddie has usurped this technology that reads people's minds and can control them, and has inserted it into this extremely popular cell phone ear piece. He plans to take over the world like this, and Silver Hawk and her new boy toy/police detective must stop him.

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I couldn't in good conscious call this simply a Batman rip-off because it does some really interesting things with the paradigm. It would be like calling Apocalypse Now a rip-off of The Heart of Darkness; only Apocalypse Now was good, and this was a fun, yet bad action movie. It was definitely infinitely better than that atrocious Catwoman movie Halley Barry did.

Speaking of Halley Barry, Michelle Yeoh is ten kinds of hot in this. According to imdb, she's over forty (http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0000706/), but the character she was playing was about fifteen years younger. Just the same, she kicked tons of ass too. I don't remember exactly, but I don't think she was ever in the position of the preening damsel in distress in this either. The whole thing worked for me.

There were a lot of things that didn't work, though. One of them was the student of the guy who invented the mind control chip. He kept tagging along behind the cop friend, and was a member of the Silver Hawk fan club, a la Buckeroo Bonzai. He was always in the way and whining and annoying the cop, which annoyed me the viewer too. He was like Dane Cook to Dennis Rodman in Simon Sez. He was a hard pill to swallow.

The martial arts was two parts solid and exciting and one part silly Crouching Tiger FX. I think it was meant to be fun, but it looked ridiculous. I'm tired of all this flying around and shit. It worked in Bon Jovi's "Livin' on a Prayer" video, and that's about it.

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The bad guy was weird. He had bionic arms. As a take Batman, the bad guys have got to be better. I'd say maybe a female Joker or a Catwoman was needed instead. That's one of the problems in making a good use of the Batman paradigm: the original had the best villain's gallery ever. Ask Moon Knight and it's lack of consistent success for Marvel if you don't believe me. In fact, all successful comics have great villain's galleries: Spiderman, X-Men, Batman, even Lex Luthor in Superman. If they make another Silver Hawk, I hope they rectify this.

This film is worth a rental. If you're into Asian chicks, it's worth buying, because Michelle Yeoh is amazing looking in it. Her martial arts are great too. I liked it as a bad, yet fun action movie. For me TiVoing it when it's on Encore Action again is the best bet.

For more info: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0357894/

Red Scorpion (1987)

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I found this at a Bull Moose Music in the used DVD section with another Dolph gem Cover Up. My friends and I watched it and loved it, having no clue about the history behind it. It was the Dolph/Brion James/silliness factor.

Red Scorpion has our hero, DTVC Hall of Famer and fave Dolph Lundgren, as a dude sent by the Soviets to work under cover in Angola and snuff out a rebel leader. He fails, and the Soviets try to kill him. He passes out in the desert, and a tribesman helps him. He rejoins the rebels and leads them to victory against the Soviets.

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As you may already know, this film was written and produced by the infamous Jack Abramoff. On the one hand it makes sense, because it's so politically motivated and anti-Soviet. On the other it doesn't, because it's hard to fathom a man like Abramoff is that much of an ignoramus. The film is stupidly anti-Soviet. It depicts the Soviets as these demon like souless inhumans who are carrying out a campaign of genocide in Africa. Not Stalin's Soviets, but Gorbachev's. This was like bad 50s propaganda, and it came off as silly. (On a side note, this film is the blue print for the Hunt for Eagle One films.) My friend told me he read in Al Franken's book that Abramoff shot this in apartheid South Africa. If that's true, is it any surprise?

I love the idea of Dolph as a Russian. He's done it in many roles, and it never seems to get old. I'm sure it started with his role in Rocky IV, but I think he's played more Russians than Swedes. I get that it sounds weird to have him play a former Swedish special ops dude or something, but to me that would make it all the more fantastic. Maybe I should contact his people and pitch that for his next role. Swedish special agent Sven Frostenheimer!

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Brion James is great in this. I don't know if they said "play a Soviet heel" or "do the guy you did in Armed and Dangerous"; or if they said the former, and he did the latter; but I was waiting for John Candy to pop in and help Dolph out. Instead I had to settle for M. Emmett Walsh. Both actors played their parts well in the rah-rah Abramoff theater, but I want to believe Brion did it with a wink-wink and a nudge-nudge, and M. Emmett was Abramoff's homeboy. Maybe I only want to believe that because M. Emmett annoyed me so much.

I don't really know if there are any particularly memorable scenes in this. Dolph being tortured by the Evil Soviet dude was kind of funny. He was being pierced with big needles, and then he somehow broke his handcuffs and strangled the guy with his chains. This scene also dealt with a very interesting element of the Soviet torture: the stenographer who records the confession. Dolph didn't do anything to her as he left the torture room, and I'm assuming it was Abramoff's attempt to make Dolph redeemable.

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Dolph is plenty beefy in this role. In the African heat he tends to not wear a lot of clothes, so prepare yourselves ladies (and guys too). It's movies like this that make you wonder why Treat Williams ever plays the lead role in an action film. Sorry I'm pickin' on you Treat. I have to assume M. Emmett Walsh's character loathed Dolph so much because he was both jealous and obsessed with Dolph's manness. It's weird that the only American in Abramoff's film was such a tool, but on the other hand, he was a part of what Abramoff and his cronies term The Liberal News Media, so I guess it's not so odd.

This is worth buying for so many reasons. First and foremost, the Dolphage. Second, the Abramoff aspect. Finally, Brion James is great for the few scenes he's in it. You should be able to find it used for like $5-$7, and that's not a bad deal. It's like having a slice of Dolph and a slice of history.

For more info: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0098180/