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

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Icebreaker (2000)

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I first caught wind of this movie when I was looking up more Bruce Campbell films after (what I like to call) the Maniac Cop debacle. I kind of forgot about it though, until I saw it listed in a post about new flicks available on Netflix Watch Instantly over at Rupert Pupkin Speaks. Usually, about once a month, he does one of those posts, spotlighting new additions to the Watch Instantly line-up, making it a great resource for people who have Netflix and are looking for new things to check out on there. It's actually a recent post entitled "50 Films for 50 States" though that he did, which has me reviewing Icebreaker today, but we'll get into that later.

Icebreaker takes place at the Killington Ski Resort in Vermont. It has Sean Astin as a ski bum wanting to marry the daughter of the owner of the resort, Stacy Keach (he's the owner, not the daughter). At the same time, terrorist Bruce Campbell was looking to get some radioactive material to make a bomb shipped to him in New York, but it unfortunately crashed on the mountain on its way there. Now Astin and Campbell and everyone else are on a collision course to wackiness, and hilarity ensues.

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Though this had its moments, it's an overall miss for me. The problem was, it suffered from an identity crisis, because it didn't know if it wanted to be a bad action flick, or a send-up of the bad action genre, and as a result, failed at both. I also think the idea of making a film at Killington came before the idea of what this movie would be about, because, especially at the end, things just seemed to be tossed in there, like Stacy Keach coming from out of nowhere to disarm two guards holding him and a bunch of other people hostage. Then you have Sean Astin as the impossible hero, though due to poor writing, looked like the possible hero, leaving us to wonder where he got the training to take out armed terrorists as well as he did. If you're going to go the comedy route, that's fine, but it's a zero-sum game, and by not going all the way, we were left with zero.

Bruce Campbell was great as always. Even bald he brings it. The problem with him is, he makes such a great baddie that we don't want to see him fail. Couple that with Astin, Keach, etc. as poor heroes, and that made it even worse. Still, there's enough Campbell that he makes this movie somewhat redeemable, so if you're a huge Campbell fan, I'd go for it, especially while it's on Watch Instantly. As an aside, last summer I got to see Evil Dead II in the theater. Really cool, and if you ever get the chance, I'd say go for it too.

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I have a buddy who loves Stacy Keach, kind of the way a lot of people, including myself, love Gary Busey, if that makes sense. I want to say his fascination with him started in Escape from LA, but it really took shape after we watched Sunset Grill, a Peter Weller flick. Now he's always like "whoa, it's Keach!" or "gotta love the Keach." I think it's cool though. I'm not sure how he would've felt about Keach in this, but I think he might have approved.

I grew up about three or four hours from Killington, and though I've never been, my high school ski club used to take a trip there once a year, and one time my buddies went. I guess they missed the bus, and some dude and his dad said they could ride with them. First thing the dad says is when they hop in the car: "This is going to be a long ride... I have gas..." Not the petrol type, but the methane type. Needless to say, they made sure they were in time for the bus on the ride back. Anyway, fast forward to about three years ago, when Dateline was doing the whole "To Catch a Predator" thing. One of my buddies who was on that trip gets an e-mail saying that someone we went to high school with was on an episode. So we find the video on YouTube, and we're like "who is this guy?", he wasn't in any yearbook, and none of us could remember him. A couple days later that same buddy is like "dude, Killington trip, we went up with him and his dad!" Good times in Kittery, Maine, let me tell you.

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But this isn't about Maine, this is about Vermont, and why I wanted to get this movie in. The post about the movies from the 50 states on Rupert Pupkin Speaks had me thinking I'd like to do something similar here with DTV movies. It's not something I plan to do all at once, but over time, and next week I hope to have a page up with the states we've already done. With Icebreakers, we're just past the halfway point-- though we might be even further along, I'm just not sure about a lot of the movies I've reviewed, because I don't always mention the state it took place in in my posts.

All right, Vermont or no Vermont, other than the Bruce Campbell factor, which don't get me wrong, is still very prodigious, this is an overall miss for me. An identity crisis killed what could've been pretty good had the film makers decided to move in one direction or another. I imagine, whether it's Watch Instantly, or if you're outside the US and you see it cheap on DVD, it might be worth it if you don't invest too much, just because of Campbell; but for me, that amount would have to be very scant.

For more info: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0179861/

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Extreme Honor (2001)

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I saw this on Netflix, saw Olivier Gruner and Michael Ironside on the cover, checked it out on imdb and saw it had a bunch of other people too, and knew I had to get it. The Netflix synopsis gave me some pause, when it mentioned that Gruner was essentially the bad guy, but I figured there was enough star power to make up for that, right?

Extreme Honor is about a 300-pound pork roast of a man who is dumped from the Navy SEALs in a rather dubious decision requiring a massive leap of faith on our part. His son has cancer, and he needs to raise $5 million for some experimental treatment (I know, another leap of faith). So he breaks into evil billionaire Michael Ironside's and grabs the cash. Now Ironside wants revenge.

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This film angered me, deeply. First and foremost, let's hit the bait-and-switch. It's not only an Olivier Gruner bait-and-switch-- he's barely in it for two scenes-- it's also a Michael Ironside bait-and-switch and a Michael Madsen bait-and-switch. All three mentioned on the cover, all three barely in the film for a quarter to half of it. The bait-and-switch was so obvious, in the DVD menu, in the biographies section, they don't even list the 300-pound pork roast who was supposed to be the star. Second, after the bait-and-switch, there was a serious lack of action. I mean, we're talking half-hour stretches of gratingly bad dramatic scenes about the most inane crap by people thinking they're pulling this crap off. Seriously, no one cares how the 300-pound pork roast is doing in his new job post Navy SEALs, if he's in a bar with his buddies, spend that 10 minutes with a bar fight. It is an action film, right? Third, kids, cancer, and action flicks do not mix. Totally sauteed in wrong sauce. And finally, speaking of sauteed in wrong sauce, who centers an action film around a 300-pound pork roast, and tries to sell him to us as a smooth Navy SEAL? What's next, Donald Gibb from Bloodsport will be the next James Bond? Bad, bad, anger-inducing bad.

That's right, egregious Olivier Gruner bait-and-switch. I mean, it wasn't even funny how bad it was. He's pretty much here for a little in the beginning, and then comes back in the end so he can be thrown around a hospital kitchen by a 300-pound pork roast. God damn it! I put this frickn' DVD in my queue for that shit? What about the poor saps who bought it. I almost feel like reporting the distributors and packagers of this sack of asscrack to the Better Business Bureau, because this is so dirty. Just look at that cover and tell me what you think the film is about. You'd think it's an Olivier Gruner asskicking fest, right? Highway robbery.

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You might think by my constant use of the term "300-pound pork roast" that I'm picking on the lead too much. That would be the case, if the actual people selling this film had thought he was important enough to promote, or even put on the damn cover, since he's the lead. Hey, if it's not a big deal to them, then it's not a big deal to me, hence 300-pound pork roast. The other reason why I keep driving this home, is to elucidate how much his being cast for this part was so wrong. We've seen big guys in action leads really kill it-- One Man Force is an obvious example, but in that one, the lead, John Matsuzak, wasn't given to us as a smooth talking Navy SEAL, he was a big, boisterous, ass kicking cop, charging at guys with refrigerators and trashing his superior's desk yelling "fuck you!" Also, I don't know if you noticed this, but Matsuzak's face is all over the cover. Exactly.

This had some mega star power in cameo and supporting roles. We already mentioned Ironside and Madsen. Then there was Martin Kove, Charles Napier, Antonio Fargas, Philip Tan, Arnold Chon, Grand L. Bush, Sven Ole-Thorsen, and Edward Albert. All of these guys have been in a film reviewed at the DTVC at least once, and some of them multiple times. Michael Ironside was the closest to having more than a cameo, but, as much as he was great as the baddie, it was so poorly written that it did him as an actor a disservice. Our hero never at any time faced an obstacles in defeating him. Dude, you got Michael Ironside here, show some respect, write him a better part. I think with Michael Madsen, because he's an old buddy of the 300-pound pork roast, was there to make him seem cooler and less like a 300-pound pork roast. That move never works, as much as us guys like to think it would. If Michael Madsen was ever nice enough to hang out with me one night, I too wouldn't be any cooler, any more appealing to the ladies, just because he's so cool.

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I wanted to wrap this up with a little what would you do paragraph. In this movie, all the guys in on the Ironside heist with the 300-pound pork roast got $1 million for their troubles, and they were told "no shopping sprees for 6 months", as in, chill out and don't call attention to yourselves. I don't think that would be such a problem. I'd probably catch a bus out of town somewhere, go to a city, spend a little here and there on food and what not, but nothing big. The biggest problem would be the hotel, because you'd need a credit card for that, and that leaves a paper trail. Depending on the time of year, one could hit a sporting goods store and grab a one-man tent and sleeping bag-- but you'd need a car to take advantage of campgrounds, and cars are always easy to track. Youth hostels? I'm too old for those. Nope, I'd be a sitting duck, waiting for Ironside's men to pick me off...

Stay away from this sack of asscrack. The lowness of the bait-and-switch alone makes this beneath your time and money, but beyond that, the movie is boring and poorly made. The sheer star power give this a siren song effect. Don't fall for it, they're barely in the flick, and all you're getting for your trouble is a 300-pound pork roast.

For more info: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0264606/

Monday, April 25, 2011

The Base (1999)

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This was another one of those that Netflix had on Watch Instantly, and then decided to clip, so I had to catch it before they dumped it. I liked the Mark Dacascos combined with Commando and Showdown in Little Tokyo director Mark L. Lester factor. I think you can never have enough of those two, right?

The Base is something of a Point Break retread, this time set on an Army base (hence the title). Dacascos goes undercover to infiltrate a troop of soldiers, led by their sergeant, who are using their position patrolling the border to help smuggle drugs into the country. When he gets there, though, the sergeant takes a shine to him (who wouldn't, right?, he's Dacascos), and decides with Dacasocos on his side, he can up the ante and really become a kingpin in the SoCal drug trade. Now Dacascos is in a race against time to gather enough evidence, before his cover's blown, and before the sergeant goes too far.

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As a Point Break retread, this is pretty poor. It muddles the whole becoming sympathetic with the guy he's supposed to bust aspect, and Paula Trickey, in Lori Petty's role, was just kind of grafted in so she could get captured at the end or something. As a bad action flick, though, it wasn't bad. I've seen a lot better, but I've seen a lot worse too. Dacascos gets some good fights in-- choreographed by Art Camacho, which probably helped. On the other hand, there are a lot of missed opportunities, including one with a tank that could've had some great explosions. For a 1999 flick it feels like something from about ten years before, and in that vein, it works pretty well. Overall, I'll say it'll get you to the church on time if you're in the need for a bad action flick of this sort.

Mark Dacascos brings it again. I think we're getting to that point where it's less potential Hall of Famer, and more actual. I will say, this movie doesn't let him get off as much of his great hand-to-hand action as we'd like, which is a disappointment. I'm not sure how it's happened, but he's fallen into this military action hero lead type, which is cool, but doesn't leave as much room as you'd like to see him really kill it with his martial arts. If a guy can kick ass with his hands and feet, get rid of the guns and let him get after it.

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The beautiful Paula Trickey plays what is essentially the Lori Petty role. She's Dacascos's contact or something, and he visits her at a hotel from time to time, tells her what he knows, and she tells him it's not enough evidence, and he needs to go back in. Each trip leaves an opportunity for a new outfit, and after the second or third one they hook up. Then she's captured by the bad sergeant, handcuffed to some pipes in a basement, beaten, and then, inexplicably, not handcuffed when he takes her at gunpoint to meet Dacascos, which gives her an opportunity to knock the sergeant's gun away. At the time she made this, she had a lead role on the USA series Pacific Blue. I would have to say, she did more for this film by being in it, than it did for her by casting her, which is too bad, because in Point Break the Lori Petty role was really good, and even in The Fast and the Furious it was pretty solid, so to see it just kind of there, with someone like Paula Trickey that might have made it better, was a disappointment.

The sergeant was played by Tim Abell, the guy who played the jerk husband sheriff that Carol Alt kills in Storm Trooper. I don't know, I know most people who read this probably aren't big Vin Diesel fans, but, especially at the time, he was considered pretty cool, and Patrick Swayze-- well, his being cool goes without saying. The idea is that the leader of the gang the protagonist infiltrates in the Point Break paradigm has to be pretty cool in order for it to work, and Tim Abell just comes off as too much of a bad guy, meaning we're never sympathetic with him, and it's never believable that Dacascos would be either, meaning there's no plausible dilemma. The only way to compensate for that would be with writing, which this film just wasn't built for.

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This movie didn't have a lot of material, so I went to an old stand-by for this seventh paragraph. They did the classic dumb bad guy maneuver, having the sergeant take Paula Tricky out to see Dacascos unrestrained, just so she could disarm him in order to have the Dacascos/baddie hand-to-hand fight. It's asinine, just because earlier, she was handcuffed to some pipes, meaning the sergeant had at his disposal two pairs with which to restrain her. Why would he not do that, especially as a trained soldier. But then you have the need to get in that final fight between Dacascos and the sergeant, and no way to get there. Well, there's always the foot stomp, right? Sure, but that brought up a different problem: Paula Trickey's character gets beat up pretty badly. I guess it'd look bad to have a stunt double-- or Trickey herself-- breaking her fall with her hands out, then cut back to her with her hands behind her. Why do I know that would be an issue? It happened earlier in the film. Dacascos was transporting a drug lord, he was restrained, and the truck they're in is ambushed. The guy falls out of the truck, hands free, hits the ground, then recovers in the next shot with his hands cuffed again. Handcuff continuity is a pain in the ass, so it's better to just not have them.

Isn't it always the way that the seventh paragraph I try so hard to think of material for, becomes the longest one in the post? Anyway, this is no longer available on Watch Instantly as of this posting-- and for my readers in other countries, Watch Instantly isn't available period, so I guess that was never an option. This isn't a bad deal if you don't spend too much for it, so I'd keep your eye out for it on TV or something or if you see it in a bargain bin for a couple bucks. Otherwise, I'd pass.

For more info: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0185908/

Friday, April 22, 2011

Hitman's Run (1999)

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I saw this one on Netflix Watch Instantly, and with the cast it had, figured it would be a good one for the week of Eric Roberts's birthday. This is also a great time to bring up the blog Eric Roberts - His Movies, which is a site dedicated to looking at Eric Roberts flicks, from the popular to the rare. Check it out.

Hitman's Run has Roberts as a mob hitman who lets an old friend go that he was supposed to kill, which gets him into hot water with the mob, so he goes into witness protection. Two years later though, some kid hacks into the FBI database and gets the names of everyone in witness protection, and wants to exchange the disc for info on his dad. The mob takes it, and targets Roberts's family. Now he has to get the disc himself, and take out the mobsters.

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This had some flaws, major and minor, which proved to be its ultimate downfall. It started with a chase scene that went on way too long, especially with nothing happening in it. There's only so many shots of cars skidding through sharp turns and close-ups of guys gritting their teeth while doing the wax-on wax-off steering technique that I need to see. Of course, the only thing worse than one bad chase is two, which is what we got here. Then they introduced the annoying quirky sidekick, complete with bad jokes and obnoxious behavior. I've never gotten that move, but it happens so often, and has felled many a mightier flick. Finally, and this was the biggest one, when you've got someone like Eric Roberts in the heroic lead, someone who is usually a great baddie, he has to be a really likable character. A mob hitman who rats on his employers instead of facing them? I mean, really, who should we be rooting for, Roberts, or Robert Miano? All of this could've been saved by some solid action, but that didn't exactly happen either-- a lot of shootouts that seemed mailed in. It's kind of disappointing when you consider this was directed by Mark L. Lester, the man who helmed Commando and Showdown in Little Tokyo. I guess you can't be good all the time.

This should in no way be looked at as an indictment of Eric Roberts, because he was still as good as could be expected with what he was given. I think we said the same thing about him in Border Blues. It wasn't his fault that the basic premise of his character was so blah. What he should've been was an undercover cop who makes a huge bust and goes into witness protection. Make him genuinely likable. I get that they wanted some kind of redemptive aspect, but it didn't work, and as a result, took the film down with it.

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Yep, that's C. Thomas Howell. He plays an FBI agent, and though I think his character was supposed to have survived an attack by the mob through the use of a bulletproof vest, after the attack, we never see him again, so I guess he dies. I really liked his FBI agent character though, so the lack of him in the movie was another missed opportunity. He had this like ADD quality that made the character very dynamic-- literally.

And there's Brent Huff. He's in the film even less than Howell. I figured I'd give him a mention, because I know there are some readers who are familiar with his work, especially in Filipino low-budget imports. He's actually still doing a lot of work, including an appearance on Mad Men. Good for you Brent Huff, get after it. I know this won't be the last we see of you on here.

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Finally, I wanted to discuss the casting decision for the part of Robert Miano's son, because it was totally sautéed in wrong sauce. Seriously, was David Charvet unavailable? No Bryan Austin Green? The guy looked so ridiculous when he tried the whole mean mugging routine and the whole tough gangster face. That's a part that needs someone who works in it, otherwise we can't take his ability to threaten anyone seriously-- and it's his ability to threaten upon which the film hinges. I mean what, Ed Cavanaugh was busy?

This is available on Hulu and Netflix Watch Instantly as of this posting. I'm not so sure it matters. Look at the cover (which is what I should've done!). If that sells you, maybe you'll like this; but if you're like "wow, Roberts looks kinda like a tool there, I bet this movie sucks", then you should trust your gut and stay away.

For more info: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0174741/

Thursday, April 21, 2011

China O'Brien II (1991)

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This was a tough get. It's only available on VHS, and it's not always cheap. For a site like this though, China O'Brien II is a must, considering it's one of the roles Cynthia Rothrock is most associated with. Plus, Richard Norton, Keith Cooke, and a special appearance by DTVC favorite Billy Blanks doesn't hurt either.

China O'Brien II picks up about two years after part 1 leaves off. While China has cleaned up her small town, a big time drug dealer has escaped from prison, and the guy who sent him away just happens to be living in witness protection in her town, with his wife and her daughter, the former who happens to be China's friend, and the latter who happens to be dating Dakota (Keith Cooke). It's just the drug dealer's dumb luck that of all the small towns in all the world, the guy who ratted on him and made off with his $5 million dollars would choose the one that has Rothrock, Cooke, and Norton as its police force. Poor him.

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This is what you came for. Good, solid, straight ahead, DTV late 80s/early 90s action. Rothrock is good, Norton is good, and Cooke is good, plus there's a small cameo at the end by Billy Blanks (more on that later). I say this a lot here, but they don't make movies like this anymore, and that's too bad. It starts off small and builds the action up, getting better each time, with well choreographed fights that look great, combined with the requisite gunshots and explosions. This might not be the best of the best, but this is exactly the kind of film that kept me coming back to my video store for more of the same.

As I mentioned above, China O'Brien might be the character Cynthia Rothrock is most known for, and here you can see why. They really do a great job of flipping the classic masculine hero paradigm, and make her a strong lead who never defers to another male-- even with an alpha dude like Richard Norton-- in fact, he defers to her. On top of that, she has some really great martial arts sequences, driving home just why she's cast as the action lead. This with part 1 make an excellent Rothrock double feature.

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He's huge! Good ol' Richard Norton is back, reprising his role as Matt from the first go-'round. He and Rothrock are like the Ginger Rogers and Fred Astaire of DTV action. He does a great job here of letting her take the lead, but coming in and kicking ass when he's needed too. Beyond the fighting, there's also the funeral scene where he rocks a Canadian tuxedo. How cool is that? Everyone else is in black-- even Keith Cooke, though it is his leather jacket-- and there's Norton, Canadian tuxedo, looking as if he's about to hit the bar to catch the Flames/Oilers game with some buds and some Rolling Rocks. Classic.

Keith Cooke is back again, though his Dakota character is given almost a Robin plot tract. Based on how sick his skills are, it felt kind of weird. He dates the step-daughter of the guy the drug dealer wants, and she's in high school. Keith Cooke, in his early thirties, playing someone young enough to pick up a high school chick? Was he that young in the first one? Then he's kidnapped by the drug dealer along with the wife and step-daughter and held for ransom to force the guy to bring the cash he stole. To me, none of that works. What worked was him being the quiet, mysterious loner who kicks tons of ass, especially when we see his sweet skill set. He's no Robin, more like the Martian Manhunter.

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Yes, that handsome devil in the tangerine tank top is Billy Blanks. He's also wearing zebra print pants there. He has a small, uncredited part as the drug dealer's extra hired muscle called in for the final siege of the small town. He has only a few scenes, then one fight with Cooke that isn't quite as good as their fight in King of the Kickboxers. Considering the film only had like an 81-minute running time, an extra five to beef up that fight scene wouldn't have been so bad. My only complaint for an otherwise great flick.

To buy this on Amazon might cost you in the $10 to $15 range, which for me is a little expensive for a used VHS. Your better bet is to just keep your eye out in a bargain bin or a flea market or Goodwill, then, if you don't see it, maybe fork over that kind of cash. Unfortunately this isn't available on DVD.

For more info: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0101579/

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Reptilicant (2006)

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Word on the street is Gary Daniels did this film as a favor to producer David Huey, who also produced a lot of Daniels's early US flicks, like Capital Punishment. As an aside, this film should not be confused with the Jean Claude Van Damme flick Replicant.

Reptilicant is a flashback heavy tale about a group of treasure hunters/criminals looking for diamonds hidden in Alcatraz. Then they come across this alien reptile that looks like the Creature from the Black Lagoon, which can replicate the people it comes in contact with. Daniels is an FBI agent who shows up after everyone is dead, and he interrogates the one sole survivor.

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This is pretty rough. It would be a good bad movie if not for a few fatal flaws. First off, a movie should almost never be told in flashbacks. It's a plot device that tends to be more tedious than creative. I get that you needed a way to work Daniels into the film more, but that's not the way to do it. The film further suffers from what I call the Ninja Gaiden II Effect, and by that I mean it can't end enough. Every time we think it's over, it isn't-- just like how in Ninja Gaiden II every time we thought we'd killed the end boss, another one took his place. Those two factors together take an 83-minute film, and make it feel like 183 minutes, which is a bad look for the so-bad-it's-good type. If this had more fun action, more of the Creature from the Black Lagoon at an earlier point in the film, more Daniels kicking ass, and more of the Asian chick with the leather tank top-- more on her later--, we might have been better off. Or maybe just her and Daniels running through Alcatraz fighting the Creature from the Black Lagoon for 75 minutes. Or maybe a remake of The Creature from the Black Lagoon. That would've been sweet.

It's hard to put this one in a proper context for Daniels's career at the time, because he was kind of all over the place. You had Retrograde and Submerged, two flicks where he had small roles (almost nonexistent as far as the latter went) with bigger DTV stars, and Diamond Cut Diamond, a flick where he was the main star. I get the sense though, after this one, that he started that trend we're seeing now, where he takes supporting parts with bigger names. Maybe the combination of Reptilicant and Retrograde and Submerged made Daniels see the potential of making new friends in bigger places. Hey, I can't knock him, taking the part he did in The Expendables was a great move. Hopefully, in the end, he'll be back to leading pictures though. As far as Reptilicant goes, Daniels spends most of the film behind a desk interrogating the lone survivor, and then he has a great showdown with the alien that made me wish we'd had more of that earlier in the film.

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I loved the monster in this. He was a great throwback to the 1950s monster flicks, the way he jumped around and moved his head. Why they bothered with the whole "he can make himself look like the people he comes in contact with" is beyond me, because it wasted what was one of their best elements: the silly monster. Sometimes these low-budget flicks are just too afraid to go all the way, too afraid to get totally campy with it. You gotta go with what you got. Halfway in one direction or another often spells failure.

The most tedious element of Reptilicant was how people would take forever to explain the simplest things or answer the most straightforward questions. "Why did you do such and such?" "You wanna know why I did such and such?" [Pause.] "I'm gonna tell you why I did such and such." Seriously? Just spit it out! What looks like only a few lines in a script can feel like forever when it's finally acted out on-screen. These are the kinds of things that, when added up, take what could've been a fun bad movie, and instead make me look at my watch and eventually fall asleep.

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In one scene, we have an Asian woman (I thought she was Japanese, but her name's Neeta Kim, which doesn't sound Japanese, and her bio doesn't say one way or the other) in a leather tank top sitting in an electric chair eating a piece of licorice. Is there a fetish centered around that? There has to be. This movie seemed to have all the elements for a classic: Gary Daniels, the Creature from the Black Lagoon, and a hot chick in a leather tank top sitting in an electric chair eating licorice. How they screwed it up is beyond me, but they did.

I'm not sure how you'll get this. A buddy shot me a copy. Amazon doesn't list it. All that work to get Gary Daniels and it's not even available on Amazon to buy? I'm not so sure that's such a bad thing though. This is one of those siren song flicks, where it just sounds like it should be so much fun, and then you get it, watch it, and the next thing you know it's the credits and you've fallen asleep.

For more info: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0433441/

Monday, April 18, 2011

The Room (2003)

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Oh hi guys! Some time ago I received an e-mail from our good friend Kenner over at Movies in the Attic, telling me I needed to check something out. He described The Room, and included a link to a YouTube clip of the infamous rooftop scene. Not only did this look fantastic, but it had this enormous cult following that I knew nothing about, including midnight showings. (As an aside, I missed one last Saturday at Coolidge Corner in Brookline, MA, about an hour from where I live. Damn!)

The Room follows the life of Johnny, a man of unknown Eastern European origin who is a fairly successful banker in San Francisco, but brings absolutely nothing to the table personality-wise, which Lisa, his wife to be, sees as a problem, but her mother, "suffering" with breast cancer, thinks it isn't such a bad deal. He supports her financially and dotes on her, who cares that he has zero charisma and looks like Weird Al as Rambo in UHF (got that from the RiffTrax, not my work). Lisa decides she has a thing for Mark, Johnny's best friend, and Mark, though thinking it'd be wrong to sleep with his best buddy's girl, decides their romps through the park aren't as much fun as he and Lisa's romps between the sheets. Now the question is, how does Lisa break the news to Johnny?

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You probably don't need me to tell you that this is tons of fun. It starts out fun, and keeps getting better. David Wiseau said that his message with his film was for everyone to learn to love each other a little more, and I think he does that-- in a roundabout way, of course. I mean, it's impossible to watch this and not be a little happier about the world, right? Tommy Wiseau is like the William Hung version of Woody Allen, and based on the interview with him that comes with the DVD, he's going to ride this train for all he can get, whether he's in on the joke or not. I say good for him-- though when he tells me in that same interview that his film is so deep it needs multiple viewings, I start to find myself less sympathetic...

The thing I was wondering as I watched this was, what did everyone on set think as they watched Tommy Wiseau acting? Was it like the cast of Bullets Over Broadway reacting to Lily Tomlin's character? I think we're all glad though that Chazz Palminterri didn't off Mr. Wiseau, though can you imagine how awesome that scene would've been? "Oh hi Chazz." "Listen, just walk over there, over near the water." "But I did not hit her. She said I hit her but I did not." "I couldn't give a shit less what she said, just walk over there." "Oh hi Seagull." Blam!!!

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The rooftop scene is probably the most infamous. A good chunk of my friends don't know this movie exists, and I still say "I'm just sittin' up here thinking" when they ask what I'm doing. Then there's the mom's nonchalant reveal that she has breast cancer, which was made all the weirder by the daughter's complete lack of sympathy. "Oh you'll be fine, it's just breast cancer." Some of my favorites were a little more subtle, like how Mark and Johnny would ask their psychiatrist friend for his advice, then he'd give it, and they'd snap at him for being such a psychiatrist, to the point Mark wants to throw him off a building.

The music in The Room is fantastic. The first song is classic Skin-a-max soft rock-- which fits with the Skin-a-max scene--, but all the songs after that were like these early 90s freestyle slow jams. I don't know if these people were friends of Tommy's, or he saw them open up for Lisa Lisa and the Cult Jam in 1991. You can just see the manager going to a record label back then, trying to sell them. "Ted, Ted, can I call you Ted? Listen Ted, we have the next Expose here. They're going to be huge." Or they're going to be played over Skin-a-max style scenes in The Room.

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Michelle here was my favorite character. Look at how hot she is lying on the couch with her glass of wine, not caring at all that the slit in her skirt reveals her leg up to her waist. I got the sense overall that Mr. Wiseau had one, maybe more, bad experiences with women, because the bitterness was palpable. As such, Lisa and her mother were portrayed as pretty bad people. I think that overall effect had to have backfired on Wiseau, though, because his character looked like such a horrible person, with zero personality, who tried to buy his future wife's love, and blamed it on her when it didn't work. Michelle though, seemed to fall outside of Wiseau's wrath. Maybe there was a sympathetic girlfriend of a woman who did him wrong in real life that he liked, or maybe Robyn Paris, the woman who played Michelle, just charmed Wiseau so much that he rewrote her character. I know I was charmed.

If you live near a big city, especially New York or LA, this gets frequent midnight showings at indie theaters. If not, or you're like me and you missed it when it came to a town near you, there's always Netflix, and I think that works fine. Also, there's a Riff Trax for this, and though I haven't heard the whole thing, I did catch some of the highlights, and it's pretty sweet. It might be worth checking out, though this is the perfect big group bad movie, meaning you should be able to provide sufficient commentary.

For more info: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0368226/

Friday, April 15, 2011

Blood Angels aka Thralls (2005)

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I first saw this about four years ago, around the time I was first starting the DTVC, when it aired at 2AM on Sci-Fi (now SyFy). I wasn't entirely fond of it, and though it was a Lorenzo Lamas flick, I put it on the back burner, wanting to hit more of his 90s DTV action classics first. Then Netflix put it on Watch Instantly, so I put it in my instant queue, and forgot about it again. The vegan straw that ended up breaking the carnivore's back was when Netflix put the warning out that they were about to dump it from Watch Instantly, which put my cheeks to fire and made getting this done a priority.

Blood Angels, aka Thralls, is about a group of women who were turned into some kind of slave style vampire by vampire master Lorenzo Lamas, and held in a white room of a mansion, shackled at the ankle. They escape with a plan to turn themselves into full vampires so they can go back and take Lamas out. The only thing they have to do is perform some ritual on the night of the Winter Solstice, which they plan on doing through the help of a rave they're running. Only problem, Lamas is after them, and he's less than stoked that his possessions have run out on him.

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This wasn't too bad. I'm not sure why I didn't like it so much then, but I don't have the same animosity now. The whole thing was pretty much played for laughs, a vampire/horror/comedy so to speak, coupled with a lot of hot bodies, including the female stars. I had two big problems with it though: first, to do a comedy like this, the key is to not let the joke get stale, which is kind of what happened here. On top of that, it's hard to do comedy while at the same time falling back on a lot of cliches that traditional horror films like these use, especially the drawn out "who's going to stop Lamas's evil ritual before it's finished?" plot device, which was so tedious in the context of the rest of the film. The other problem was that a good chunk of the film's appeal was based on the appeal of the female stars, both for their beauty and their abilities as strong, no nonsense vampire business owners; but so much of that appeal is diminished by how dimly lit the rave scenes were. In fact, we only see the women clearly when they're being held as slaves by Lamas. In the end, it's one of those things where the intentions were good, which made the film fun, but there wasn't enough focus, which made the film not as much fun as it could've been.

I'm probably going to take a lot of heat for this, because Lamas isn't the most popular of our Hall of Famers here at the DTVC, but he acquitted himself very nicely in Blood Angels, especially in the comedic realm. No, I'm not getting soft on my old age, I'm dead serious, the guy was legitimately funny. He has this one great scene where he rips a drag queen's head off, throws it to his friend-- another drag queen-- then tells him "I think you'll need to find another ride home." To me, that's pretty fantastic. The problem is, even though he's top billed, the cover tells the true story, because he only has a supporting part as the head baddie-- though maybe that's not so bad, because it didn't give him a chance to get stale like a lot of the rest of the humor.

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I want to say it started with the Blade series, but somewhere along the line, among the many powers vampires possess, a mastery of martial arts became one of them. "I'm bit, now I have superhuman strength, like to hang out at raves, and can do Kung Fu." For women, it's supposed to have the added effect of empowerment, the idea that beefy, musclebound oafs can be taken down by thin, seemingly diminutive, pretty girls. We get a good sense of that early on when one of the vampires takes out a gang of thugs planning to sexually assault her and her sister, and then the theme comes full-circle when the girls team up to take down Lamas. I bring this up because, while this is the trend, the most popular vampire saga of the moment, the Twilight series, bucks this by featuring a diminutive female lead who is protected by her stronger vampire beau.

This film took place in Iowa, but was shot in British Columbia. I don't get that. Why can't it be set in British Columbia? Maybe get some shots of Vancouver in there too. I've never been, but I hear it's the most beautiful city in North America. Has it been proven with American test audiences that on average, we don't enjoy a film as much if we know it takes place in Canada? It must be the same focus group data that was used in the 80s to determine that Journey should get the most airplay on nationwide corporate radio stations. The other aspect of this I didn't get was the idea of city dwellers versus those from the country. In Iowa? Is there that big of a disparity between Des Moines and the rural outskirts? I only mention this because I grew up in Maine, and I didn't see that much difference between the people from Portland-- the state's biggest city-- and the people from the more remote locations I'd been to.

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One cool thing in Blood Angels was this quick reference to Hunter S. Thompson. One of my earliest influences in writing was Thompson, and I know a lot of other writers in the country would say the same thing. It's hard not to be inspired after reading his stuff, and though I don't see as many of his fingerprints in my current state as a writer, when I go back about ten years and look at old drafts, I'm almost mimicking him entirely.

This is no longer available on Watch Instantly as of this posting, which means you can either get it on DVD or wait for it to pop up on SyFy again. It's pretty nondescript, and other than the Lamas humor, it doesn't really bring anything special to the table. I'd say you could do a lot worse at 2AM, you're procrastinating on that final paper, and you see this on TV; but to go out of your way to find it isn't worth it.

For more info: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0404496/

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Bulletface (2010)

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This came packaged with the Director's Cut of Cyborg, an Albert Pyun double feature, so to speak; and it was one I've been wanting to review for a long time, so I was excited to finally get the opportunity. I put the date as 2010, though the film lists it in the end credits as 2007. I actually couldn't remember exactly when it was released, but when I'm in doubt, I usually go with the imdb number, which is what we have here. I'm not sure that it matters too much, but figured I'd throw that out there (and I wanted to fill out this first paragraph).

Bulletface follows Dara, a young, crooked DEA agent who is sent to a brutal Mexican prison after she protects her small-time hood younger brother from the same fate. A couple years later Steven Bauer gets her sprung for 60 hours, just long enough for her to use her SoCal underworld connections to tell him what kind of big drug deal is going down between two thought to be rival gangs. She has a secondary motive though, because her brother was murdered, so while she's working for Bauer, she's working for herself too, and with the clock ticking, she doesn't have much time for either.

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After the first thirty minutes or so, when this film hits its stride, I really liked it. I'd heard a lot going in about horror and Noir-ish themes, and I saw those, but for me, it was really more a modern version of the 60s/70s exploitation film. A gritty, intense flick filled with flesh, blood, and bullets; lesbianism, mysticism, and eroticism, but in a better 2000s package. I could almost see Scott Paulin's character as Jack Palence, wearing a robe and sitting in a dining room with a shag carpet. The problem for me, though, was in that first 30 minutes, there was too much stopping and starting, between the opening credits that were spread out over 11 minutes, and more importantly, with the way the film was paused every time a new character appeared on screen so he or she could be artificially introduced by a white title on a black background that would slide onto the screen. It really hindered the flow of the film, and for me, a lot of what made Bulletface great was it's build up of momentum scene after scene, making its intensity palpable; and to kill that momentum and force us to start again-- multiple times--, meant that early on the essence of the film was lost for me. By the thirty minute mark, everyone who needed to be introduced was, so the interruptions were done with, and from there I could really get into it.

I normally call a film maker to task for artificially introducing characters, calling it lazy storytelling, but I don't think that's what Pyun was doing here. I think he was going for a pulp feel, something to layer over the exploitation theme, and in that sense it sounds like a great idea, it just might have been a case of too much, or the law of diminishing returns. Of course, this is me here, a less is more kind of guy, but I just felt, looking at the last 50-60 minutes, the whole thing moved so well and so organically, that I wish I had had that throughout. This wasn't like Machete, which was a great homage to the grindhouse flick, or Bitch Slap, which was a poor send up of 60s/70s exploitation; this was more like that exploitation style, pushed into the present, and done at a higher quality-- I just wasn't allowed to see that early on with everything else.

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Bulletface continued Pyun's tradition of strong female protagonists, working again with Victoria Maurette, who was also in Left for Dead (one I haven't seen yet). She definitely had the kickass exploitation chick down, swigging JD from the bottle, and popping off lines like "I am their karma" when told she should walk away and let karma take care of the people who wronged her. The person giving her that advice was played by Francia Raisa, who, for me, had the stand out performance in the film. Her imdb bio reads like a who's-who of ABC Family Channel mainstay properties, so for her to come in and play a prostitute, and mix the tough exterior with the vulnerable interior, was really cool. I loved the chemistry she had with Maurette as well.

The most controversial aspect of the film was the prison rape scene. I thought it was necessary though, and feel that Pyun handled it in a way that wasn't gratuitous or just get to get some hot chicks naked on-screen. (I know what you're thinking: "dude, you're good with the prison rape scene, but artificially introducing characters is where you draw the line?") It wasn't one scene, it was more a series of disjointed shots, mixed and layered together, which cut any gratuitous aspect, yet kept the important part: the intensity and grittiness. Usually, here at the DTVC, the films we review use any love scene as a way to get some nude women on the screen, then the film makers turn around and try to sell us on the fact that it was "necessary for character development". Finally, after almost four years, we've found a film where it's true, because I don't think Maurette's Dara character would've had the same impact without it. (A quick note, Maurette is not nude, they use a body double.)

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I wanted to finish with a couple quick comments on some of the film techniques. This shot of Steve Bauer here is my favorite kind, framed by various elements, almost giving a split screen effect. What's interesting is how Pyun uses the actual split screen, and again I think he's going for that pulp feel, but then will switch back to something like this or a more traditional Film Noir-ish wide shot, often in the same scenes. It's a great juxtaposition. The other thing we had was the split-second freeze frame. That had me wondering if maybe that doesn't work in the age of streaming video, because as an effect, it felt more like a slow Internet connection-- you know that frustration that comes from buffering. Maybe it's just me, but I figured I'd throw it out there.

As of right now, this is either available as the bare bones film packaged with the Cyborg DC, or you can get it as it's own package with the commentary and a copy of Left for Dead. Both can only be purchased through Albert Pyun Movies and Curnan Pictures, and you can contact them at curnanpictures@gmail.com. It would be cool if these new films from Pyun could end up on Netflix Watch Instantly, because I've seen some films from other low budget companies and distributors on there, and I think it would get them more exposure. Just a thought. Final verdict: I really liked it, and I'll be honest, in that first thirty minutes or so, I didn't see that happening, and was wondering what this review was going to look like; but then it more than redeemed itself, and gave me something that I really enjoyed.

For more info: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0878654/

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Cyborg Director's Cut aka Slinger (1989)

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When word first surfaced that a director's cut of Cyborg had been found, I was pretty excited to see what this was all about. Then, when Albert Pyun offered to send me a copy so I could review it, I was even more excited. This is a very unique experience because, unlike most director's cuts which are a totally finished product, and often meant to replace the original cut in the market, this is a very rough version, not cleaned up, and intended for us as fans of the original to look at and see what we think of it. So without further ado...

Slinger, or the Cyborg Director's Cut, has some very distinct differences in story from the version we're familiar with. First off, there's no plague. Van Damme is chasing Vincent Klyn more out of revenge than to save a cyborg. As far as the cyborg goes, she's carrying data that will help get the electrical grids up and running-- or so she says, because we discover rather quickly that she and the people she works for have secret ulterior motives. And then there's Klyn, who has a different raison d'etre as well: he's like a conqueror or killer in the name of Satan, almost like a take on the medieval crusader. He feels like this world is meant to be, and wants to stop the cyborg from fixing it, so he's recruiting forces from other gangs and planning to invade Atlanta.

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We're going to start with what I liked. The new story plugs some of the holes the old one had, like, first and foremost, why the cyborg would be in New York getting key information to cure the plague. It made no sense, but this makes more sense, that there'd be info on an old computer she needed to get at. Also, this version handles the length of time to get from New York to Atlanta much better. On a technical aspect, the DC introduces the musical score that was intended to go with the movie, and which is definitely superior. There were a couple moments when it was a little heavy handed-- best example was when Prophet reveals herself to be a cyborg, and there's a "bom-bom-bom", which was a bit much-- but that was rare, and more often, it fit the mood and the shots better. The music from the theatrical version was really just filler, while here it was a part of the film. (More on the music later.)

I think the what I didn't like was very minimal, but I figured I'd put it in here anyway. The voice effects on the flashback sequences, especially the echo, was kind of cheesy. I did like the flashback sequences here better overall though. I also liked better in the theatrical version (from here "TV") that we didn't learn the full extent of what Klyn and his gang did to Van Damme and the family until he was crucified. In the DC we learn about it earlier, but I think it had more punch by waiting. On the other hand, the crucifixion scene makes much more sense in the DC with Klyn as a twisted religious figure. I also liked the end fight between Klyn and Van Damme in the TV better. In the DC it's cut down a little more.

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Overall, I think the DC fits more with what Albert Pyun was going for, with the Spaghetti Western aspect and the samurai films. The TV had elements of that, but it became more low-budget actioner-- which was fun too, don't get me wrong. I'm left trying to imagine if Cyborg would be as much of a cult favorite had the DC version been the one we got originally, which is hard because the actual video is so rough. I actually watched the theatrical one right before the DC so I could compare the two better, and I really think that there wouldn't have been a drop off in the film's following had the DC been released, and when you combine that with the fact that the pluses of the DC outweigh those of the TV, I would have to say the DC wins. Between the superior music and the story that made just a little more sense, I'm left wondering what the Cyborg property could've been beyond the first one had the DC been the one released in 1989.

I went back to my review of the TV, and in it I said that it was maybe Pyun's best film, so to find out that the project had been taken from him was intriguing to say the least. I wasn't sure what I would think going in, because Cyborg is such an iconic film that so many from my generation saw at a young age (perhaps too young) and it was part of what sparked our interest in the action and sci-fi genres. Now that we're 20+ years after the film's initial release, I'm not sure we can do like Lucas did with Star Wars and try to erase the original from existence; but there's definitely a place for this director's cut to coexist with the version that we grew up with, and I'd like to see it as a finished product, with the images cleaned up and maybe even a director's commentary or introduction or interview-- if that's possible, I don't know. If not, this on it's own is still pretty cool.

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The soundtrack by Tony Riparetti and Jim Saad will be available in April 2011 on CD from Howlin' Wolf Records (www.howlinwolfrecords.com). When the editing process was taken away from Pyun and this score was axed, I have to imagine they went with some stock music from a previous film or something, because that's really what it sounds like, and before this, I'd never noticed the music in Cyborg. I don't know what the thinking in cutting it was either, if it was too married to the original edit that it didn't fit, or if it was too intrusive and they wanted the music to be merely filler. It's one of those crazy realities of working in movies, that people can put all this effort into making the music for a feature length film, only to have it all axed. At least now all that hard work is finally coming to light.

I guess that leaves us with only one more thing: is this worth buying? First off, if you're interested in purchasing it, you need to first send an e-mail to curnanpictures@gmail.com with Cyborg Director's Cut in the subject line, and let them know that you're interested. From there they'll send you an e-mail letting you know what you'll get, and what the cost is. For $25-- US, it's a little more for Canada and Europe-- you get the Cyborg Director's Cut, Pyun's feature film Bulletface, plus his autograph and personal message on the cover. You can see some of my cover shots I included in this post, which will also give you an idea of the new cover art, which is pretty sweet too. In the e-mail you get back before you buy you'll also be given a link to a video clip just so you see what it will look like (http://vimeo.com/20715387). They make no bones about it, this is for die hard fans and collectors, and if you don't count yourself as either, this might not be for you-- you're looking at a very rough cut. On the other hand, to get a sense of what Albert Pyun really wanted to do with the film that he might be most famous for is definitely worth checking out.

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Final verdicts: now that we're nearly 20 years on with the theatrical version, I don't know that I can say I'd rather the DC in it's place, but I also don't know that I can say I wouldn't have been as enamored with the DC as I've been with the TV had the DC been the one that was released back then, so I don't know why the project was taken from Pyun. I've always thought that Cyborg was a wasted property, and watching both versions today brought that sense back again. This wasn't just something that more could've been done with linearly-- as in with better sequels-- but horizontally as well, with things like novels and mid-late 90s syndicated TV shows that took place in the same time but in different locations with different characters. It might be too late for all of that now-- although, while the syndicated TV market may be dead, a series of YA sci-fi books might still work-- but the Cyborg saga under this DC storyline may not be over yet, if the end credits are any indication. There's mention of a Cyborg Legacy: The Rise of the Slingers. We'll have to wait and see, but that could be really cool.

Also, one quick mention before I wrap this up: the voice overs sounded like Thom Mathews. I'm not sure if it's him or not, just saying it sounds like him. Imagine him in a Cyborg spin-off as a Slinger...

For more info: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0097138/ and curnanpictures@gmail.com

Monday, April 11, 2011

The Killing Man aka The Killing Machine (1995)

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This is one that's been in my Netflix queue for a while, and when I saw we hadn't done any Jeff Wincott recently, I decided to bump it up and have a go. I'd seen trailers for it in a few other DTV actioners, and it looked good. As an aside, Lee over at Straight-to-DVD-Heaven reviewed this as well, and his post has a great Andrew Ridgely mention.

The Killing Man has Wincott as a dude who wakes up in a hospital with bandages on his face. Turns out, he was a contract killer in his former life, set up by his ex-employers, and almost killed in a fire. Now he's in the hands of Michael Ironside, who is turning him into a killing machine for the US government. Might be a bad gig, but one could do a lot worse for a new look than Jeff Wincott's mug, so our hero bumps a few people off, then finds out he's bumping off people who are unearthing proof that AIDS was invented by the US government. Heavy stuff man, but a guy like Wincott was made for heavy stuff.

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I liked this one. Maybe not the best Wincott actioner, but I kind of dug what they were going for. It was a combination action/Film Noir/Johnny Get Your Gun type deal that was much darker than the average DTV action flick; plus, there was a message about AIDS awareness, though it was only small, it was still a big deal being that this was 1995. I will admit, I prefer my action films with more of a solid identity and a lot more ass kicking, but ultimately, this worked.

Wincott's back baby, and even if aspects of this film weren't quite there, he always was. The voice-overs, the mean mugging and cigarette smoking, and of course, the ass kicking. There's one great scene early on where Ironside wants to make sure he'll kick ass when told to, and he brings in this dude with dreads who killed an elderly couple as he held up their convenience store. Wincott says no at first, but then the guy says something to the affect of "I'll kill you", and Wincott's like "you'll kill me?" Exactly, you know what happens next. One issue I did have, and that scene with the dreads guy can speak to that, is Wincott takes more hits in this one than in some of his better ones. I don't know, some Rastafarian punk criminal shouldn't be nearly kicking Wincott's ass for any segment of their fight.

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This is the perfect kind of role for Michael Ironside, total dick, no nonsense, secret service agent-- even if he's Canadian. For a guy of his talents and the type of films he does, it's a bit surprising that we haven't seen more of him-- as of this posting this is only is fourth film up here. The name doesn't hurt either, I mean, it just sounds cool, doesn't it? Ironside. And he has a knack for playing roles that you'd expect from someone named Ironside.

More often than not, in the DTV movie, the voice-over doesn't work, but here was a rare occasion when it did. Part of that is Wincott's voice, but the director also did a good job of layering them over cool scenes, and making sure the actors sounded like they were reciting the lines, not reading them. There's even a great one over Wincott and his lady interest as they have sex.

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This film seems like it's trying to defy DTV action movie conventions throughout, until it hits the end credits, when we get this too sweet hair metal song to send us off with. On the one hand, it left me with a good taste in my mouth, but on the other it kind of made me wish the whole thing was hair metal and montages and helicopters exploding and crazy fight scenes set to electric guitars...

This is a good change of pace, and in that sense it's worth a look. Plus, Wincott and Ironside are not wasted, and a lot of fun, so you get what you paid for with them. The fact that you can get this on DVD through Netflix is an added bonus, so you can take a look at it at very little risk and see if it works for you. Like I said, a lot darker than these things usually go.

For more info: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0110263/

Friday, April 8, 2011

Alien vs. Ninja (2010)

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I don't remember where I first caught wind of this. I know our buddy over at Mr. Gable's Reality had mentioned it, and he also reminded me (and everyone else) via his blog that this was on Watch Instantly, which meant it was only a matter of time before I made it happen. Let's see if it's as good as it looks.

Alien vs. Ninja takes place in feudal Japan, where a team of ninjas see a mysterious ball of fire come from the sky. They go and check it out, and find that there are some killer aliens afoot. Can they defeat them with their superior ninja fighting skills?

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This is pretty sweet. I mean, when you're talking Alien vs. Ninja, I don't think you could ask for much better. Yeah, maybe there were a couple of dead spots, but the action and martial arts were fantastic, the gore was great, the alien looked like a cross between the Predator the Alien and a dolphin, and the whole thing was made with the idea that this was going to be a fun movie, and that's what we got. This worked on every level for me.

I'm not as familiar with the modern Japanese action genre-- or really any genre in modern Japanese cinema-- so this was a good experience. This wasn't the extreme horror gore like some of its in-country counterparts, it was more in the fun, Full Moon vein, which is more my style. I like to get a kick out of my horror, not be on the verge of getting sick. Then there were the spectacular martial arts scenes-- better than a lot of the other stuff we review on here. Usually a film that combines genres does one better, while lacking in the other; but this film did all its genres really well.

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The only woman in the film was a too hot ninja played by Mika Hijii, who was also in the Isaac Florentine flick Ninja, which we reviewed a little while back. She was just too hot for words here, though, in that skin tight ninja suit. She wasn't just window dressing though, she had some nice fight scenes where she got to kick some alien ass. She also had a couple joke scenes that were like sexual double entendres, where she and her adversary were in some compromising positions that could be interpreted in more than one way. Hot, kickass, and funny, a triple threat.

These were some of the coolest ninja outfits I've seen. You know me, my standard is pretty much the Mortal Kombat ninjas, so anything that can rival that in coolness is good in my book. Often, the ninja costume is just mailed in, and for a movie like this, you'd almost think that'd be the route they'd go down, but not at all. Even for a movie that was ultimately supposed to be silly, they took a lot of aspects of the production seriously, and it showed.

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Netflix Watch Instantly has the dubbed version, and I think that might actually be better for this, though I would've preferred the subtitles. A lot of the voices sounded very similar to the ones you'd hear in a Bruce Lee film. I wonder if they're the same people. Not to toot my own horn, but I've been told I have a pretty good voice. Maybe I could get work dubbing Asian movies for American markets. A guy can dream, right?...

This is a sure bet. If you look at a film titled Alien vs. Ninja and you're expecting something serious, that's your problem; but if you're looking for a fun time, you could do a lot worse-- but why would you when you don't have to? Watch Instantly makes this an even surer bet. Go for it.

For more info: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1592503/

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

The Hostage (1998)

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Who knows when this first came on my radar. Probably as a Cynthia Rothrock flick. But then I see that it also has Ted Prior-- yeah, that Ted Prior, Danton from Deadly Prey-- and I'm all in. Now, I can't find confirmation of this, but The Hostage is also supposed to be an AIP flick. Ted Prior is the only connection I can find between this film and the famed production/distribution company though.

The Hostage is about a gang of high-end thieves who plan to break into a really rich businessman's house, hack into his computer, and download all his money. Ted Prior plays a down-on-his-luck former special forces dude who signs on with this crew so he can make some cash that he and his daughter can live off of. Things go wrong, though, and the guys are holed up in the mansion, holding the rich dude hostage, while the feds have them under siege outside, led by agent Cynthia Rothrock. Will the thieves get away with the cash?

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I don't know if you can tell from the pictures, but this is pretty hard core, as in the film stock they shot on was the same video quality of most porn films. How in the hell did Rothrock get roped into this one? What, was she in her hotel room near where they were planning to make the film, when a producer visits and says "Hey, we got some bad news. The film reels and cameras didn't make it out from LA. Yeah, it looks like we'll be shooting on video. I know I know, we're not happy about it either, but, what can we do. The other guys said you'd be pissed, but I said no way, Cynthia's a true professional..." I don't really know after that whether this was a good or bad movie, because, shot as it was, I couldn't take it seriously. Yes, script-wise it was pretty un-proofread, and after Rothrock, the acting wasn't the greatest; but it was fun for what it was, real bottom of the barrel stuff.

I have to imagine, for someone like Rothrock, she loves that people like me are big fans, but there are some drawbacks, like when I have a movie blog that spotlights her films, and I find something like this. She was great in it though, she just didn't have a big part, and never did any martial arts. I'd have loved to see her and Ted Prior go at it. She spends the entire film leading the police siege of the mansion, though she does pick up a gun and shoot some guys near the end. One great scene I liked came after she walks away from some of the local cops, and one of them remarks that she's a total bitch, and this other guy says "hey morons, you're only saying that because she's a woman. If it was a guy, you'd be like 'Yes sir' and all excited to get after it." The people who made Death Race 2 could learn a lot about their own misogyny from The Hostage.

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Ted Prior's back. I know, you probably never thought we'd see him again. He's aged a bit, and now looks like a cross between David Bradley and Rick Hill, which is a good combination to have. He has a little more action than Rothrock, but this is nowhere near the level of awesomeness that Deadly Prey was, it's more just the novelty that the guy from that was in this.

This beefy guy below was one of the highlights of the film for me. He was the leader of the gang, and he had this great voice and very doughy demeanor that was all pretty funny. It's guys like this that make a movie like this worth watching-- almost.

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Dana Plato had a small role as Prior's sister in-law. She died a year after this came out. In her early scenes, I couldn't really tell it was her, because the film was poorly lit, but at then end, when she comes back, I could see her better, and you could tell that she wasn't well. She had three more films released after The Hostage, including a soft core porn film called Different Strokes.

I don't know how you'd find this outside maybe the torrent route, and I don't know if you want to find it unless you're a Rothrock completist, or the idea of her and Prior in a film intrigues you. As a note: they never share any screen time together.

For more info: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0256082/