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

Monday, March 30, 2009

Kickboxer 5 (1995)

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I think everyone knew it was only a matter of time before I hit this bad boy up. I was avoiding it, and I'm sure you were hoping I wouldn't go there. In all actuality, for a film completely sauteed in wrong sauce, this could've been worse: it could've been National Treasure or the new Indiana Jones.

Kickboxer 5 is a movie with little to no coherency. Mark Dacascos is a champion kickboxer who never does any kickboxing. Anyway, his protege, who does, wins a belt, and then is told by some dudes working for a South African that the belt is void unless he joins their new federation. If you don't join, you die. Dacascos kills one of the guys after they kill his protege, and the South African gets some dude out of jail who also knows martial arts to kill Dacascos. That plan backfires when he takes the money and runs back to South Africa, and it only gets worse when Dacascos goes too, and the two crash the South African's casino night.

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Thirteen or so years ago this movie seemed like utter crap, and even though it still is, the years have been good to it, at least in my estimation. Sure, it's ludicrous, predictable, and hella cheesy, but it has a certain sense of charm that we seldom see in today's bad actioners. Maybe I'm just getting nostalgic for mullets and bowl cuts, and anyone reading this should probably bear that in mind; but am I wrong for taking this over the new Indiana Jones?

I don't know who cast Dacascos as a kickboxer, or what Dacascos thought when his agent called to tell him he'd be playing a kickboxer, but he was no kickboxer. Even someone with the most rudimentary knowledge of martial arts like me could tell that. I'm assuming Sasha Mitchell was too knee deep in Step By Step to want to do this, and if I'm Dacascos a payday is a payday, so I'd take it-- and it's not like he wasn't any good either, he was great-- he was just entirely wrong for this role. And it wasn't funny like Connery playing an Egyptian Spainiard with a Scotish accent.

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His partner is played by a dude named George Meed. The name may mean something to the more experienced bad movie watchers among you, but mostly he's only done bad TV shows and soap operas. As far as films covered here, he starred and co-wrote I Am Omega, which reunited him with Mark Dacascos. In that one he was a baddie, and we only saw the tip of his martial arts iceberg; but here he definitely kicks some ass. I wonder if he kicks ass on soap operas too.

This idea of killing fighters who won't join a fight league is beyond ludicrous. There's no way in hell the people writing this were serious. I refuse to believe that. I like silly just as much as the next guy, and I thought this was definitely funny, but come on, have a modicum of self-respect. Is this an action film or a parody of an action film?

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You may have noticed that I mentioned the new Indiana Jones movie in here. Quite a few posts ago, when the film first came out, I vowed that I would never spend any money on it, because I saw it simply as a cash grab. I then proceeded like a dumbass to buy the Indiana Jones Whopper at Burger King. Anyway, my roommate rented the film, and I watched some of it with her. There was one scene early on where Harrison Ford throws gun powder in the air, and it flies in the direction of some thing they want to find. I did what any self respecting person seeing that would do: I laughed out loud. My roommate got mad, and I asked her, because she's a Lost fan, if she was upset that I was making fun of it because it looked like a Smoke Monster. Here's the point I'm getting at: Kickboxer 5 might be ridiculous, but it's really no more ludicrous than some of the crap we're sold in the mainstream that people eat up. Which do you think is sillier, Mark Dacascos as a kickboxer that doesn't kickbox, or a Smoke Monster?

You can get this on Netflix through their Watch Instantly service, and I think that's the best way to see this, especially if you can view them on a TV. It's plenty bad and plenty fun to watch, but if you spend more than a dollar on it, you'll feel ripped off.

For more info: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0110256/

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Against the Dark (2009)

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I'm sure everyone here who's been rockin' with the DTVC for some time know that I've been trying to get my hands on this movie for a while. Netflix had some trouble with its availability. I guess everyone wanted to know what a Steven Seagal vampire filck would be like.

Against the Dark is an I Am Legend style ripoff about a group of people trying to escape through a hospital before the vampire/zombie/mutant people can eat them, and before the generator shuts down and locks the security doors. At the same time, a group of former soldiers called The Hunters, led by Seagal, are sweeping through the hospital looking for survivors. At the same time as that, Linden Ashby is trying to keep military higher up Keith David from ordering the Air Force to bomb the hell out of the place before Seagal and his crew get out on time.

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This sucked. First off, total Seagal bait-and-switch. He's not the focal point, despite what the cover may tell you. The people trying to escape are the focal point. That means Seagal isn't in the film much until he meets with the group at the end. Ugh! I was looking for vampires at raves. I was looking for Seagal as a sword wielding vampire slayer. I wanted him to take out Dracula, or someone like him, at the end. Instead I got this sack-of-asscrack identity crisis that didn't know if it was a gross horror film or an action film or a sci-fi film or a samurai film; and didn't know if it was I Am Legend or just loosely based, and how loosely based it should be.

It was a shame, because there were some cool elements that could've been built upon. First, the I Am Legend theme in and of itself wasn't horrible, just the execution. Much of the film was this group of people walking around and almost getting attacked. There was also this samurai film element with Seagal dispatching the vampires/zombies/mutants with his sword in a style reminiscent of the genre. I know tons of people do remakes of Yojimbo, but it would've been cool if they could've taken some of those elements and blended them with the I Am Legend elements. Imagine the group approaching Seagal to help them fight the vampires and protect them as they try to get to a safe zone. But he's the reluctant hero, and it takes some convincing. What if they really shook it up and went Seven Samurai and had Seagal lead a group of warriors to protect people besieged by the mutants.

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Seagal is almost 58 years old. I say that because in this film, he doesn't do much except wield a samurai sword, while another guy on his team does most of the fight scenes. Is Seagal slowing down? I can't say I necessarily blame him if he's almost 60. Here I am complaining how I'm turning 30 next week, when he'll be 58 nine days later. Not only that, but he did his first film, Above the Law, when he was 37. Wow, so I still have seven years left to start my own career as an action movie star.

I never thought I'd say this, ever, but I'm about to: The Asylum version was better. I Am Omega, the Mark Dacascos film based on I Am Legend, was better than this film. That's bad, because the thing with The Asylum is they actually try not to try. They put in the extra effort to care less. You know your film really missed the mark if it was worse than a The Asylum picture. I guess the one thing this film had going for it was that no dead guy's head was shoved in a woman's crotch. Stay classy Asylum.

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This movie has Keith David in it, who you may remember from, among other things, The Chronicles of Riddick. I bring that up because I love that movie. I love Vin Diesel's quotes in it: "Stay on my leg when I cut fence, or die here", "It's been a long time since I smelled beautiful", and of course "You made three mistakes. First: you took the job. Second: you came light. Four man crew for me? Fuckin' insulting. And third: you guessed it, empty gun rack." Anyway, I bring this up, because my roommate watches Lost, and she thought Chronicles was ridiculous. Now I'm not saying it wasn't, but anyone who takes seriously a show that had something in it called a "Smoke Monster" has no right to call anything anyone else watches ridiculous. Am I right about that?

I needed to get the warning out on this bad boy ASAP. I just watched it this evening, and was so disappointed. You can rent it, but just know what you're getting into. We're talking limited Seagal, bad I Am Legend ripoff, and total identity crisis leading to paralyzing inactivity at points of the film. Just not what I personally wanted from what was sold to me as a Seagal vampire flick.

For more info: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1194271/

Paranoia 1.0 aka One Point O (2004)

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This movie's been in my instant queue for sometime now, and my sincerest apologies to my good friends, the ladies at Bruce's Angels (a link to which you can find in the section titled Other Great Sites) for not getting to it, or any other Bruce Payne film, sooner. As far as I can tell, Steal was the last Payne film I did, which was back on November 5. Too long.

Paranoia 1.0 has Jeremy Sisto as a computer programmer living in the near future. He's been receiving these odd empty packages, and is naturally very suspicious. He suspects his neighbor, Bruce Payne, but later rules him out. As he grows more suspicious, he finds himself becoming sick, and the only thing he wants is Farm Fresh Milk. The plot thickens.

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I actually liked this movie. It had that Brazil/Flowers for Algernon type of future, where things aren't that different, but they're definitely not the same. We don't know how far in the future it is, we don't know what the world is like beyond this apartment complex, but yet we can kind of relate to it. There was a grocery store that Sisto kept going to that was really cool in that Radiohead "Fake Plastic Trees" yet darker kind of way. The whole thing was this Neo Noir crossed with Cyberpunk, sprinkled with a dash of Bruce Payne: and it all worked for me.

All except one thing. Yep, Payne's rockin' the fake Brooklyn accent again. Why? Why does anyone do this? What is it about his real English accent that makes film makers want to screw it all up and have him talk in this abomination? Okay, forget that for a second. I once made a bold claim that Bruce Payne never plays anything but baddies. For the most part I was right about that statement, but here he plays, not exactly a baddie, but not a goodie either-- more like a random. As you can imagine, that makes me even more upset that he's sporting the fake accent, because his character was pretty cool otherwise.

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You're probably wondering how good Jeremy Sisto is as the protagonist. Considering the type of movie it is, not bad. Like the rest of the movie, except for Payne's accent, it worked. A buddy of mine at work and I were talking about Punk'd episodes, and Jeremy Sisto's came up. It's not bad. If you go to MTV.com you can see it. He gets a silly field sobriety test. I don't see how that's getting Punk'd, though. I mean, having someone impersonate a police officer takes the prank aspect out of it for me: you're not stupid if you're just doing what you think a police officer is telling you. "Oh my God, you looked hilarious trying not to be arrested! Why did you do all that stupid stuff?"

This film also has Lance Henriksen and Udo Kier. Henriksen plays a maintenance man who knows more than he seems, and Kier plays Sisto's neighbor who's working on a robot. The two have acted in over three hundred films combined, and this film and the biopic Modigliani, released the same year, were the only two films they were in together. Just thought I'd put that out there.

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Though this was filmed in Romania, it was co-produced by the Icelandic Film Corporation. According to imdb, they haven't produced anything since 2005, which would be sometime before their economy collapsed. If you haven't read that Vanity Fair article on what happened to them, you should. It's pretty insane. In one instance, one of their banks bought up shares in a British company, and when the company went to them about visiting Iceland to tell them how the company was doing, they were totally uninterested. That makes me wonder if they even knew they were funding this picture. Did they just throw money at it because someone asked? If so, where was I to get in on some of that dough. What're we gonna do with you, Iceland?

This is actually a legitimately solid film in my opinion. I don't just mean for DTV. I think this is one of those hidden gems you find on the shelf at the video store. I admit, I only originally picked it up for Bruce Payne, and he's not in it that much, and when he is, he has that horrible fake accent; but in spite of all of that, everything else was really good.

For more info: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0317042/

Monday, March 23, 2009

Cyborg 3: The Recycler (1994)

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After seeing parts one and two, I knew I needed to see this one to complete the trilogy. The first one is really just timeless; the second one has two Oscar winners; but this third one lists the man, Evan Lurie. I was stoked to give it a look see.

Cyborg 3 takes place however long after part two, and now Angelina Jolie's character is played by Simone from Head of the Class. She's preggers, which is a big deal, considering she's a cyborg and all. The other issue is that humans and cyborgs aren't getting along, and there's these Recyclers who capture cyborgs, kill them, and sell the spare parts. A particularly bad one, Richard Lynch, gets wind of Simone from Head of the Class, and he chases her to Cy Town, the cyborg free town. Now the busted up cyborgs take a stand against Lynch and his baddies, fighting for their lives and a peaceful existence.

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This was kind of a gross film. Like it was one of those gross futures, where everyone's gross. The cyborgs in Cy Town were all disfigured. The bar Lynch goes to is disgusting. I mean I guess the future was gross in the first Cyborg, but it wasn't that gross. This just seemed like it was gross for the sake of gross. I can never get behind that. Gross has to be done well.

The action was very sparse. Really it was an hour and ten minutes of nothing much, and twenty minutes of a decent shoot out at the end. Evan Lurie had some good fights, but really all that did was make me want to see more of him, and wished I was watching American Kickboxer 2. No movie should make me wish I was watching American Kickboxer 2. I think that's a rule all film makers should live by. I'm not saying I didn't like American Kickboxer 2 (on the contrary, read my review), I'm just saying a movie shouldn't make me want to watch that instead.

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Evan Lurie, as I mentioned above, is in this. He's barely in it, but when he's there he's sweet. He shows off some samurai sword work. He also demonstrates his solid martial arts skills. I just can't understand having a talent like his in a movie like this and barely utilizing it. This was no Operation Cobra, I can say that for it.

Speaking of stars, this movie had quite a few. It had the guy from Gremlins, the aforementioned Simone from Head of the Class, Richard Lynch as the head baddie, William Katt and Michael Bailey Smith as cyborgs with Lurie; and then for good measure, Malcolm McDowell. And Malcolm McDowell seemed like he would be a baddie of some importance, but he's killed off in the first ten minutes. Why? Why would Malcolm McDowell do that? Why would the film makers only have him in it for such a short time? Was he pulling a Kinski, insisting on a role that would allow him some money in a short shooting schedule? Who was his agent? And most importantly, what was it like to have this released the same year as Star Trek Generations? Why didn't Conan O'Brian ask about Cyborg 3 when he had him on the show promoting the Star Trek film?

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The Michael Bailey Smith tags on the blog have been wrong for a while, and I've been meaning to fix them. I didn't have him tagged for the Don "The Dragon" Wilson Fred Williamson flick Whatever it Takes, and I had him erroneously tagged for the Seagal flick Submerged, when in fact he had starred in another Submerged that was made in 2000, and which I haven't covered here. I'm sure there were many Michael Bailey Smith fans out there who were outraged that his tags weren't correct, but those same fans were probably too embarrassed to admit they were Michael Bailey Smith fans to complain to me about it.

Make sure you watch the first two Cyborgs first, and if you feel you must, you can give this a go. The first Cyborg is so good, I have trouble recommending this at all in any connection with it. If you can handle the grossness, maybe it won't be so bad, but I don't know. Let's just put it this way: don't say I didn't warn you.

For more info: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0112765/

Friday, March 20, 2009

Hidden Agenda (2001)

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I've seen this movie like three or four times, and every time I don't pay well enough attention, and I end up missing what the hell it's about. Not that it matters that much, but I needed to find out so I could write a decent synopsis paragraph. So I got it from Netflix recently and hunkered down and paid attention.

Hidden Agenda is a movie starring Francis McDormand directed by Ken Loach that takes place in Ireland. It's pretty much a-- whoops, wrong Hidden Agenda. Sorry. Hidden Agenda has Dolph as a former NSA agent who created a program called Daedalus that hides agents from baddies. He now owns a restaurant that's failing, and in order to make money, the NSA will hire him from time to time to hide another agent. Anyway, some dude who's into the mob for a bunch comes to Dolph for a huge payoff if he's hired. But things aren't what they seem, and Dolph's system appears compromised. It looks as though everyone has hidden agendas.

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This is great, but only for the Dolph factor. Right off the bat he's dressed like someone out of the "Sabotage" video, and he pulls an airport worker out of his car while the guy's eating, and he says "Eat and run." Why he would say that, and what that means, I have no idea, but it's awesome. There are plenty of Dolph fight scenes, which I like, and the final gun fight isn't bad either. All in all solid DTV actioner from Dolph Lundgren-- again.

This is the 27th Dolph film we've covered at the DTVC. That's by far the most of anyone. Of course, that also means we're running out of them. As far as I can tell, I have two more of his older ones: Storm Catcher and Cover Up, and then on June 2nd Direct Contact is released. Wow, to think we've really covered that much Dolph on this site. It really is a beautiful thing when you take in the entirety of it's scope. This isn't the best Lundgren film, but it's not that bad either.

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Recently I covered another spy thriller, Michael Dudikoff's The Silencer, which I wasn't all that enamoured with. Here's what that one lacked that this one delivered: action. Also, I liked the plot of the Dolph film better. The plot twists were less predictable, and the story was better thought out. The Silencer's only real unforeseeable element was the whole J. Edgar Hoover assassination squad, which was borderline slanderous anyway. This film had a really cool twist that was believable and I didn't see it coming. And the film was also able to maintain this plot, yet not get bogged down in it. Plots are good, but we're not talking Bergman here: if you're a DTV scriptwriter, chances are you aren't as good as you think, ergo you need to pad your poor plot skills out with some good fight scenes, and Hidden Agenda did that.

One thing I always found interesting about Seinfeld was how the episode where they all miss each other at the movie theater couldn't be done now in the age of cell phones. They'd just call one another and find out where they're at. This movie has a similar element, in that it too couldn't be made today either. That's because Dolph would have no reason to hide the guy he does in order to make money to save his restaurant-- instead he'd sign up for Gordon Ramsey's Kitchen Nightmares. Can you imagine Ramsey yelling at him? Dolph would probably throw him in the Chesapeake and say something like "Now that's what I call a Boston Tea Party" or "You're fish n' chips".

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I watched this at my apartment with my roommates, and one of them questioned why a guy holding a gun on Dolph at point blank range would shoot and only hit him in the left arm. I had to explain to her that it wasn't the guy who missed, but that Dolph always gets shot in the left arm. Some movies, like Detention, get it out of the way early, while others, like this, squeeze it in at the end. I'm not sure how it works: if Dolph demands it in every film, like his own inside joke; or if it's just a coincidence. But it happens in almost every DTV film of his that he's shot in the left arm. Simply amazing.

If you're working your way through the Lundgren catalog, this is one you should keep till later. You really need to have a sophisticated Dolph palate to be able to appreciate it fully. Put it in the glass, swirl it around, let it breathe a bit, then taste a little of it. Swish it around in you mouth, and enjoy the hints of pear and passion fruit. It's not a 2000 Bordeaux, but it's not a two-buck chuck either.

For more info: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0271543/

The Stoned Age aka Homo Erectus (2007)

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I had my eye on this one for some time mostly because it had Gary Busey and Tom Arnold listed in the credits. It just seemed like a good deal. Of course, I had to know going in, with this being a National Lampoon's DTV, that I could be in for some pain, but I figured the price would be worth it if it was sufficiently Abusive.

The Stoned Age is about some dude living in prehistoric times who thinks outside the box, which makes him an outcast. He's in love with a chick from his tribe, but she loves his alpha male brother. Anyway, the tribe is beaten in a battle with their rival, and the girl is taken, and he goes to save her. Suddenly the movie has no identity and goes on longer than it should.

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This was supposed to be a comedy, and for the first twenty minutes or so, me and my roommates were entertained. Then it got weird. The main character clubs a girl he likes, and she falls off a cliff, and then the tribe eats her. I'm not kidding. And it just gets weirder from there. Towards the end he meets up with some Amazon women, and they clean him in a pool naked, and there's a bunch of nude women with really hairy vaginae all over the place. I just didn't get it. There's a point where someone needs to come in and say "Enough!"

Gary Busey was barely in the film, but when he was, he was great. My roommates didn't think so. Busey freaks them out. The reality is Busey probably freaks a lot of people out. I'm just one of those nutty dudes out there who digs him. Other than the first twenty minutes, which was pretty good, the only redeeming feature of this movie was the few minutes Busey spends on screen, and it's because of this that I devoted all three images from the film to his brief appearance. I think Hallettsville in my instant queue may be my next Busey film for the DTVC. we'll see what happens.

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Tom Arnold also was barely in the film. He played a gay man in the tribe, who is convinced by the main character to come out of the closet, and is then beaten to death and eaten by his fellow tribesmen. I didn't get it. Arnold was funny. He didn't over do the flamboyance at all, which was good. But why it was supposed to be funny that the tribe beats him to death and eats him is beyond me. Maybe it just sounded good at the time. And why didn't Arnold, who is funny-- at least he was here-- step in and say: "fellas, enough!"

My roommates weren't familiar with National Lampoon's horrible DTV reputation like I am. They were like "The people who did Animal House and Vacation did this?" Yes and no. They just seem to put their name to any old kind of DTV crap and trade on their reputation. I mentioned to them the Paris Hilton film National Lampoon's did, and they got the idea. That being said, I am interested in the National Lampoon's Van Wilder: Freshman Year. Maybe I'm just a glutton for punishment.

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I know I brought my roommates up a bit here, but that's because they watched it with me, so they shared in the painful experience. They did, though, have some fun at my expense. There's a character named The Old Fool, who's like in his seventies, and the movie makes a joke that he's "30 years old", something to do with life expectancy in the Stone Age. Anyway, when we watched this, I was only a couple weeks away (now only twelve days!) from my own 30th birthday, and my roommates thought the image of this really old man at thirty was hilarious. Go ahead, laugh it up, fuckers. [Ugh!]

Don't go near this sack of asscrack. If you see National Lampoon's and think "I bet this is funny", don't, and instead think "I read that this was a useless sack-of-asscrack, and I should steer clear of it." Sometimes it's for the best.

For more info: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0484207/

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Best of the Best 2 (1993)

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This is a movie I've been trying to get up for a long time. It's one of those movies that makes me proud to be a connoisseur of DTV video (is that redundant?). Watching it again recently just reinforced how much I love it.

Best of the Best 2 takes place some time after the first one. Phillip Rhee, Eric Roberts, and Chris Penn have all opened a karate school in Las Vegas. Penn has also found his way into an underground fighting ring called The Colosseum, run by Ralf Moeller and managed by Wayne Newton. He's killed by Moeller in a fight, and has his body dumped in the river, but not before Roberts' son witnesses the event and tells Rhee and Roberts. They go after Moeller and Newton, only to have to go into hiding to train to fight Moeller when he sends a hit squad after them. He's salted because Rhee sent his face into a mirror, cutting him badly. Long story short, Moeller catches Rhee, makes him fight him, while Roberts rushes in to help save the day.

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Don't get me wrong here. Though I may call this awesome, and it is, I must stress that it is extremely silly. One of my roommates came in as they were dragging Penn's body from the river, and Rhee says to Roberts "They're calling it an accident!" She burst out laughing. That's what you can expect from this: it's paint-by-numbers, but paint-by-numbers done well. Great martial arts, a fair amount of gunfire, some explosions mixed in, and a plot that didn't get in the way of the action.

Phillip Rhee was better here than in part 1. His martial arts skills are off the hook. He has one scene when he and Roberts are taking out a Ralf Moeller hit squad, and this guy has a gun on him. So he disarms him by twisting his wrist, and he's got the guy arm, and he's saying to him "do you want to shoot me now? Huh? Do you?" That being said, I was unimpressed with the scene where he's captured by Moeller's goons. I know I tend to give Seagal a hard time because his characters seem to be omnipotent, but at the same time, it's annoying to see a hero so awesome relegated to wuss status so easily by a few armed men. The same armed men he took out just as armed however many scenes before. We as movie watchers would've believed it just as much if he'd not been captured, but instead infiltrated the fight the way Schwarzenegger did in Conan, or Bernhardt did in Bloodsport 3.

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This film makes the rather dubious claim that it's introducing us to Ralf Moeller. I was suspicious, so I looked him up. Not only was he in Cyborg, but he also did Universal Soldier. Why would they make a claim like that? They must've thought he'd be the next Schwarzenegger. If you listen, he even sounds like him sometimes. I think even as a poor man's Arnold, he's not quite there, if you consider his work on the Conan series. Could you see him now trying to drum support for a gubernatorial campaign? "Help me get special interests out of Sacramento." It just sounds better when Arnold says it.

Chris Penn is killed off here, and unfortunately, they don't bring him back as a twin brother or something later on. I guess it had to happen, I was just disappointed when it did. Penn is no longer with us in real life, but he left behind quite a legacy in the film world. His imdb bio is interesting, because it fluctuates between big screen blockbusters to DTV actioners starring Don "The Dragon" Wilson. I'm not sure who his agent was, or if he just owed a lot of people during his career, but you'd think he'd've been able to turn one or two of those bigger movies into something where he didn't have to do the bad ones anymore.

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Wayne Newton plays a definite heel here. I'm not sure I care too much about that. He very easily could be a heel in real life. One thing I do know is that his birthday is two days after mine, so he and I are both Aries. As is Steven Seagal. I wonder if there's anything to this zodiac stuff, and if so, if Newton, Seagal, and I all have certain personality traits in common. Maybe the three of us could go on a picnic this summer and find out. I'd like that.

This is a good time. If you love bad action, you'll love this. It's got everything you could want, without being bogged down too much in the stuff you don't. You're best bet is to slap it on your Netflix queue.

For more info: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0106393/

Monday, March 16, 2009

The Silencer (1999)

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I hadn't seen a Michael Dudikoff movie in a while, so I watched this one on my computer using the watch it instantly function on my Netflix account. I chose this one among a few Dudikoff options because it had the shortest running time. It's weird how with books, length isn't too big of an issue, but with movies, running time is a big deal. Sure, if the movie's great, it can be three hours. But for the most part, I want to be in and out in less than 90 minutes. Is that so wrong?

The Silencer is kind of a trip. Dudikoff plays an assassin working for some secret right wing organization that the FBI wants in on. They send a rookie in undercover as another assassin to infiltrate them, only for him to be used by them as a patsy in the shooting of a senator. That's when things get weird, and Dudkoff feels bad for the undercover agent and wants to run away with this teacher he's been hooking up with. It just gets worse when the movie suggests J. Edgar Hoover had his own hit squad in the FBI, and that he ordered the assassination of JFK. I smell libel suit.

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Wow. This movie was not only a boring sack of asscrack, but it also made the outrageous claim that J. Edgar Hoover killed John F. Kennedy. How does that even work legally? Is it just so ludicrous it would be impossible for Hoover's family's suit to be taken seriously? Can one just say something outrageous like that and qualify it with a "what if"? It's a slippery slope at best, and I'm sure the people who made this movie wouldn't appreciate me making a film saying they ran a cult that eviscerated young children while rocking out to the Gin Blossoms, but what's to stop me if I qualify it with a "what if"? Cue the "Allison Road".

Dudikoff's character had immense potential as that spy/hitman in the Le Samourai mold, but the usage of him was a complete waste. Total lack of action, but not broken up with the kind of stylized imagery that the other film I mentioned was. What would've been better would've been some kind of adversary for him to deal with; say he falls out of favor with the baddies over a job he doesn't want to do, and they send this other cat in to take him out. We action fans dig that kind of thing much more than these boring actionless conspiracy yarns.

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One of the best things to do while watching a movie is to use this deep, goofy voice to talk for any animals you see, like a cow saying "Gee, it's Dolph Lundgren. Maybe I can get him to autograph my copy of He-Man." Anyway, this film had one of my favorite animals, the manatee, and it was great watching them swim around in the background while two of the main characters carried on in some desultory inanities. I loved saying things like "Hey, wasn't Michael Dudikoff supposed to be in this movie." I just wish they had been in the movie some more.

I love Michael Dudikoff. In terms of Hall of Famers, he's probably one of the least known, and you really have to be a fan of DTV to be familiar with his work. Most of his films are two-word titles: Fugitive Mind, Virtual Assassin, Bounty Hunters, Gale Force, Soldier Boyz. His work in the American Ninjas is probably some of the best DTV stuff ever committed to tape. The problem is: he hasn't made a film since 2002. Even Miles O'Keefe is more current than that. That makes it tough for me to justify posting his movies when there are newer films out there that need to be reviewed too. Come on, Duds, get out there and give us a new picture.

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Recently in the news it came out that Dick Cheney may have commissioned assassinations that reported directly to him. First off, I bet that dude who gave his frank opinion to the former VP at that ski lodge is glad he got off with just getting arrested. But the second thing that comes to mind for me is the possibility that thirty years down the road the next Michael Dudikoff will star in a similar movie where Dick Cheney is implicated in something sinister, the way J. Edgar Hoover was here. Sure, it may be an assassination or something like that, but I hope someone has the bollocks to make a film suggesting Dick Cheney runs a cult that eviscerates young children while listening to the Gin Blossoms. Cue "Hey Jealousy".

I went back through the other nine Dudikoff posts, and I couldn't find a movie as bad as this one, except for maybe Gale Force. That one had the issue of too little Dudikoff. Here, it was a Dudikoff in a movie idea marinated in wrong sauce. I guess my Dudikoff posts are meant for a very small group of my overall audience, because I don't know of many people outside of me that need a service like the one I provide to help me know which Dudikoff movies to rent when I see them at the video store. I think I'm the only one who sees Dudikoff and says "I gotta get that."

For more info: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0262002/

Saturday, March 14, 2009

The Last Sentinel (2007)

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I first saw this on Sci-Fi a couple years ago. It was advertised as a Katee Sackoff picture because she was one of their big stars while on the new Battlestar Galactica. Flipping through channels that same night, I came across a movie that had Don "The Dragon" Wilson in it, and figured, this looks like a good deal. Then they go to commercial, and I realize I'm on the Sci-Fi channel, this is the movie with Sackoff they advertised, and in fact it was really a D "The D" Dubs film repackaged as a Sackoff feature to get the fanboys on board. Nice work, Sci-Fi, you know where your bread is buttered.

The Last Sentinel is a post-apocalyptic actioner that mixes together Star Wars, The Terminator, The Omega Man, and Cyborg into this mish-mash of a story where Wilson is the lone survivor of an engineered group of soldiers looking to fight a bunch of mindless droid cops that have gone beyond their programming to try and wipe out humanity. Katee Sackoff is part of a rebel group living underground that Wilson happens upon, and he tries to teach her how to fight so she can help him fight them. He makes it to some central nervous station that shuts down most droids, but the elite ones survive, and he has one big showdown of a samurai fight with one at the very end.

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This was pretty bad. But it was plenty good to make fun of. The action was pretty crappy. Don's fights were poorly choreographed and kind of slow and klunky. The bullets and laser beams sounded like people doing their impressions of Star Wars sound effects. Not only that, but this film didn't have an original thought from start to finish. Even the cuts from scene to scene were Lucas style, which he took from Kurosawa. I don't think a scene goes by that you can't make fun of.

But does that make it worth the price of a rental? Depends on what you're looking for. As far as Donny goes, this was nowhere near as awesome as Operation Cobra. Everything that made that great, this movie lacked. Katee Sackoff is kind of naked, so the fanboys will probably like that. It had a couple of gross scenes, most notably when Bokeem Woodbine dies, and Wilson takes this thing out of his eye. The eye looked like it was made out of some kind of rubbery material, and it was all gooey and nasty. Blah.

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No matter what the cover or Sci-Fi tells you, this is a Don "The Dragon" Wilson film. Sackoff's in it for a fair amount, but not as much as Wilson, and I don't think she has any scenes without him. As a Wilson film, it was pretty rough. On imdb it's listed as his last film, and I hope that changes, because he needs at least one more to leave us on a good note. Wilson doesn't work as a military man, he works as a martial arts expert fighting his way out of impossible situations with only his wits and his hands and feet. The last fight scene with the droid was even kind of pedestrian. It was the director's homage to Kurosawa and samurai films, but really it just wasted Wilson.

I have friends who watch the new Battlestar Galactica, but for some reason it just doesn't work for me. Part of it is the lack of Dirk Benedict as Starbuck. I'm not complaining that Katee Sackoff shouldn't play Starbuck because she's a woman, I'm complaining that she isn't Benedict. For me that role is meant for only one person. I guess after this season they're done with the show, so I wonder what's next for her. Maybe she'll play Faceman on a remake of The A-Team that acts as a critique of the Bush Administration's War on Terror.

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Jerry Trimble was listed as being in this, so I was excited when I watched it again to see what he did in it. He's actually only in it for one five minute scene. What a waste. He should've been the droid Wilson fought at the end of the movie. Steven Bauer from Scarface is also in the film for a grand total of one scene. What's the deal here? Don't these guys have better agents? At least Bokeem Woodbine was in it a little more.

This will show next Saturday at 3AM on Sci-Fi, so if you're up then doing whatever you'd be doing at that time, this is probably a good bet. Renting it is another story. I'd think even as a fanboy you'd be hard pressed to enjoy yourself. Sure, there's plenty to make fun of, but you can just as easily tape it and make fun of it with your friends and save yourself the money and the hassle of returning the rental.

For more info: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0758762/

Prairie Fever (2008)

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When we last left Kevin Sorbo, I was still trying to get the bad taste out of my mouth from the God-awful Walking Tall 3. It was a very bad scene to say the least, and Sorbo's DTV career was looking rather inauspicious. But I still loved him from Hercules and that Stouffer's macaroni and cheese commercial, so it was only a matter of time before I gave him another chance. Let's see what e did with it.

Prairie Fever is a western that has Sorbo as a disgraced sheriff who has turned to the bottle after fatally shooting his wife in a hostage crisis. In order to pay off his bar tab, he agrees to take three crazy mail-order brides to the train in Carson City. On the way he meets a woman he saw earlier in a bar that was playing poker. She had been traveling the country scamming people with Lance Henriksen, and she decided she'd had enough of him, and she bolted, and he chased her. As they travel, they all grow closer, and have to deal with problems like Henriksen, Don Swayze, and one of the brides' husband and his brother.

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This was pretty iffy. Not much action at all, and pretty slow moving: I was excited when I saw it had an 80 minute running time, but when I thought I was 30 minutes in and checked the display counter only to find I was only at 7 and a half, I realized I was pretty bad off. But that being said, it was kind of nice, especially when we learned the brides weren't really crazy, they just each had situations that traumatized them. The last twenty minutes were pretty decent, but there was just a bunch of nothing going on before it that was hard to sit through.

I watched the Sorbo interview after, and he talked about how he liked the project because it seemed like a nice movie with a positive message that people could enjoy watching. I can see that, and I can get behind that. There were two problems though. One, even with a short running time, there wasn't enough material to keep a viewer from getting bored. It would've worked cut in half as an episode in a TV series. The second thing was that the cover and description make us think we're getting more of an action movie, and it didn't deliver on that at all.

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I liked Sorbo here, and it definitely fit him better to play this flawed, yet good and comedically off-beat character as opposed to the brooding ready to kill character he played in Walking Tall 3. Going back to his comment about him wanting to make positive movies with positive messages, I'm totally behind that, but Walking Tall 3 wasn't that at all. I don't see how cutting a woman's thumbs off squares with that concept. I'm not going to lie, I'd rather see him do these westerns than try the overly serious sack-of-asscrack ever again.

I didn't get the Don Swayze part at all. He played a dude after Sorbo for revenge because Sorbo put him away a while before. He pretty much looks like Splinter from Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. He just didn't seem that threatening, and when he was threatening to Sorbo's character, it made me respect Sorbo's character that much less. In one scene he and his partner are chasing after Sorbo's mule-drawn carriage. Any self-respecting hero would just park his carriage, get down, and pistol whip anyone that looked like that. There are plenty of Canadian character actors that feature in Dolph Lundgren movies and Stargate episodes that would've been perfect for that role, and would've looked sinister enough.

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This also has Dominique Swain. I hadn't really seen her in anything since the Shawn Mullins video "Lullaby". At that time, both her and he were touted as the next big things. I don't know what happened to her, but I'm assuming in his case he could only do the Lou Reed thing so many times before people just decided to listen to Lou Reed instead. I still hear "Lullaby" on the local pop station, forever relegated to 90s one-hit-wonderdom with the likes of "Life is a Highway", "Breakfast at Tiffany's", and "She's so High".

This was a much better effort from Sorbo than Walking Tall 3, but really anything that didn't involve cutting people's thumbs off and Mexicans as drug dealers was going to be better. This is just too slow going to really recommend it. It was more like the first episode of a syndicated TV series with Sorbo at the helm. That's the reality of things right now: he hasn't shown yet that he has the leading man qualities that a Dolph or Seagal or even a Daniel Bernhardt do. We'll see what happens.

For more info: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1160018/

Moving Targets (1998)

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I think there's really never anything wrong in indulging in a Miles O'Keefe film from time to time. He's really my guilty pleasure. The thing is, his movies are usually so bad-- and that's saying quite a bit if I can't handle them, you know?

Moving Targets has Miles as a crime boss whose attorney has an incriminating 3 and a half inch floppy that he plans to use as an out card to leave the underworld. Miles has other plans and has him shot by a sniper while in police custody. He goes to the attorney's wife to get the floppy, but she lies and says she doesn't have it. She goes to the police after she's almost killed too, and is protected by a potentially lesbian detective who Miles has also targeted for assassination. Can they survive long enough to get the floppy to the courthouse to finally bring down Miles' reign of terror?

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Why do I put myself through these films? This was so bad. The end scene had the lawyer's wife and the detective in a burning house, only on the inside it just looked a little smoky; but from the outside it looked like a blazing inferno. Another great thing was how in 1998 e-mail was just becoming mainstream, along with other things on the Internet, so they'd joke about them like they were so current. The worst part was when the lawyer's wife would joke about the lesbian detective's sexuality by using the adjective dyke, like talking about her "dyke clothes". It looked like they might introduce some element of sexual tension between the two, but I think they were afraid to go there fully.

The whole Miles O'Keefe thing I think comes from initially seeing him as Ator on MST3K. After that a buddy and I would scoop up anything we saw that had him in it, and it's just grown from there. The result has been a slew of amazingly bad films that in some cases are pure gems, and in others, like this one, are a tad hard to watch. Even so, Miles is one of those cats I can't see on screen without a huge smile popping up on my face. His voice, the way he delivers his lines, his facial expressions: the whole thing just works. Is he the first name you think of when you hear DTVC Hall of Fame, probably not. But there's a certain unique charm in seeing him in a movie that you just don't get from some of the other DTVC stars.

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Burt Ward is in this, and it was one of the reasons why I picked it up. Of course, I didn't recognize him, forgot he was even supposed to be in the movie, then captured my images of it, put the DVD in the mailbox, and went about my business. When I went to write the blog and looked it up on imdb, I saw his name and was like "damn it!". So there's no pic of Burt Ward here because I am a complete moron. The old Batman is one of my all time faves, so I was especially excited to see Robin again after all the years, and it hurts now to write this and know I didn't recognize him. Even crazier, on his imdb bio, it says he was born in 1946. Why is that a big deal? That's only five years before Seagal. He looked way older in 1998 than Seagal does now.

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One thing I loved was the use of the 3 and a half inch floppy. We had a conversation with a friend a couple weeks ago who said he had some old stuff on floppies, but he didn't have a floppy drive in his computer. So we're like, why don't you just get one? First he seemed to think his expansion drives wouldn't take one. What? So we explained that they did. Then he thought they'd be really expensive, and his logic was that turntables are really expensive now too. What? even more. I think those "Who's on First?" conversations are funny when you see them on TV, but to be in the midst of it is really vexatious.

This movie is strictly for the Miles O'Keefe fan. If you're not one of those, don't go near this. It has absolutely nothing for you. It's not a fun action movie. It's not worth your time. If you do love Miles, you'll get a kick out of him in this. I wouldn't go so far as to call it quintessential Miles, but it's good.

For more info: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0154901/

Monday, March 9, 2009

30,000 Leagues Under the Sea (2007)

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The Asylum is back, and this time they've enlisted a DTVC Hall of Famer, Lorenzo Lamas. This is big. Even if Lamas is a lower level on the HOF totem pole, he's a Hall of Famer nonetheless. We ain't talkin' no C. Thomas Howell or William Katt here. This is the frickin' Renegade, Reno Raines.

You wanna guess what 30 G's is all about? Pretty much the standard adaptation, except Lamas has invented some kind of bubble-izer that makes bubbles in the water that people can live in, and Nemo wants it, so when Lamas and some other people try to rescue a submarine, he captures them and tries to enlist Lamas to help him. If this guy had ever seen Renegade or Snake Eater or Falcon Crest, he'd know not to mess with Lamas; but alas, he didn't, and instead is blown up by the bubble-izer as it hits the Nautilus.

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Man, I don't know what to say. I mean really, what can I say? This is about 90 minutes of sheer goofiness. I watched it on my Roku Netflix TV player after a soccer game, and my buddy was with me looking at stuff on his iPhone. Every now and then he'd look up from what he was doing and laugh. That sums it up. I don't really remember he or I cracking too many jokes about it. The movie just kind of did it for us. Just silly scene after silly scene, and then the credits.

I guess the question is, is that good enough? Part of me wants to say yeah, part of me wants to say no. I've always disliked 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, so to see it in this way where Nemo gets his pretty quickly was good for me. There was a part towards the end where Lamas was being taken to a holding cell, and he dispatches the men taking him there, and I thought we were in for a Die Hard rip-off. I think I would've dug that better. Maybe cut some of the junk at the beginning, have Lamas and his crew captured in the first twenty minutes, then at the half-hour mark just go straight Die Hard and have Lamas Reno Raines style destroying the ship and taking out bad guys on his way. Then he rescues the crew like he did and blows up the Nautilus.

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Speaking of Lamas, it was hilarious to have him as a scientist. He does it in this completely serious manner, as if there's nothing hard to swallow about him being an expert in any scientific field. For me it's even better that this scientific expert is also an expert in martial arts. What would've made it better than that would have been if he could quote Shakespeare the way a cult leader can quote scripture. "As Shakespeare so eloquently put it 'What, is my beaver easier than it was?'"

As far as The Asylum goes, this was a pretty solid effort from them. It had that extreme mailed-it-in quality that can be a tad disconcerting, especially with the CGI and the atrocious acting. When Lorenzo Lamas is the most seasoned thespian in any given scene, the whole thing takes on a YouTube high school video quality. What that did, at least for me and my buddy, was made it hard to make fun of, because all we did was laugh at it. It's like watching Rudy Giuliani on SNL.

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But there's hope. On May 19th, The Asylum, in collaboration with Lorenzo Lamas, is releasing Mega Shark vs. Giant Octopus. If that doesn't sound like the most amazing thing imaginable, I don't know what does. If they can build on the foundation they've established from this film, it should be a first rate stinker of hilarious proportions. I can't wait.

Here's the final analysis: if you're up at 3AM doing a paper or eating pizza or just trying to sober up enough so the bed stops spinning when you lie down, there's a lot worse you could watch than this if it happens to be on Sci-Fi or whatever. If you have Netflix and have unlimited access to watch instantly, you may want to put it in your instant queue for just such an occasion. I have a feeling this Mega Shark thing will be the one you want to get your buddies together for for the bad movie night, not this one.

For more info: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1056026/

Savate (1995)

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Back in grad school, about three years ago, one of my buddies and I were having a conversation about bad movies and TV shows we liked. I talked about Highlander, and he told me how he annoyed his roommates with Walker: Texas Ranger. While we were supposed to be doing research on the PoliSci department computers, he was showing me the entry for this movie on imdb. It looked simply amazing, and I had heard of it. He and his friends loved it, it was like their Showdown in Little Tokyo.

Savate has French action star Olivier Gruner as a dude traveling through antebellum Texas looking for revenge. He runs into Ian Ziering and his hot sister-- the heroine from Warlock III-- and he learns how they're being squeezed by the drill sergeant from Full Metal Jacket into selling their land or paying a hefty tax. One way he can save them is to sign up for some fight tournament in the town. Just so happens the guy he wants revenge against, Marc Singer aka The Beastmaster, has been called into town by the drill sergeant to deal with him, so he can have his cake and eat it too.

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I can totally see why someone would latch onto this gem. Gruner is great as a low-rent Van Damme. I'm not saying he is one now: he was great in Soft Target aka Crooked; but he delivers his lines like a young Van Damme did. He actually does poor man's Van Damme better than Bernhardt does. This also has your run-of-the-mill paint-by-numbers script that hits all its spots, which makes for great heckling. And the sheer volume of cameos and recognizables makes this a can't miss.

On the other hand, this is really bad, and if you can't see the charm in its badness, you could be in for a snoozefest. The fight scenes are not always the best choreographed, the bad Southern accents get difficult to listen to after a while, and the predictability, though good to mock, is still a tad hard on the soul. If you're going to tackle this, make sure you have some like-minded friends around.

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This is the second Gruner film we've covered, and I must say I should be trying to get some more. He's a pretty solid action star. His imdb bio doesn't read like a potential hall of famer, but he could slot himself in on that Jerry Trimble/Evan Lurie level of guys we love. His final fight with Marc Singer wasn't too bad, especially when he stabbed Singer in the eye-- man's game, Gruner. Let's see how his next movie does.

I always got a kick out of 90210 when I was younger, and I still do. I'm just kind of a prime-time drama kinda cat. Don't ask me why, it's not something I can defend legitimately, and I'm plenty willing to be raked over the coals for it. Along with greats like "Donna Martin Graduates!" and "This is Dylan, you know the drill. Beep", I was always a huge fan of Steve Sanders. For me, he was always too ridiculous not to love. Now I'm questioning the validity of that opinion. Ian Ziering was pretty annoying in this movie. I do think that that was part of his character, but if that was so, then I was pretty stoked when his character was killed off, because I'd had enough of him. I'm afraid to go back to SOAPNet and watch the 90210 reruns, because if Ian Ziering annoys me as Steve Sanders, everything I thought I knew would be wrong.

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Marc Singer in the house. The frickin' Beastmaster. Gotta love it. 61 years young. And I'm bitchin' about turning 30 in 22 days. Incidentally, he has a movie coming out the day before my big 3-0 called Dragonquest. It also stars Brian Thompson. You know I'll get to that as soon Netflix lets me. Rock on Marc Singer. And what about his cameos on The Beastmaster syndicated TV show? That show was the last bastion of great syndicated action. You just can't get crap like that at 2 AM on a Saturday night after getting a decent snap on anymore. If it was on DVD I'd buy it just for those occasions.

This is definitely worth it. I watched it on my Netflix player for my TV, so if you have Netflix, it's available to watch instantly. The problem is I'm not sure I'd call this a "kill some time on your computer" movie, as opposed to an "attack it with the support of your friends" kind of movie, so unless you have a way to watch your Netflix movies on your TV, you better get it on DVD or VHS.

For more info: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0111080/