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, October 31, 2011

Hip Hop Locos (2001)

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Through the magic of Twitter, I have been introduced to a lot of B-movie podcasts, and one of the ones I've been listening to is run by Moe Porne at Drunk on VHS (link is to the iTunes page of his pod-- our friend Ty at Comeuppance Reviews often makes an appearance too). He also writes for a site called Daily Grindhouse, and in a podcast with a fellow Daily Grindhouse writer, Doug Tilley, they described a horribly bad movie called Hip Hop Locos. You know me, I'm a sucker for pain, so I went to Netflix to see on the off-chance that they might have it, and low and behold, it's a part of a two-disc six-movie DVD set that yours truly just so happens to own. It got me thinking though, if this is so bad, maybe it's so bad it's scary... that's right, part 2 of my Halloween outside the box. Part 1, which was the Britney Spears flick Crossroads, wasn't so scary, so let's see how part 2 went. (As an aside, Doug did a write-up on Hip Hop Locos for Movie Feast about 2 years ago.)

Hip Hop Locos is about two Mexican American young men who want to make it rich, and they think the Hip Hop Game is the best avenue through which to do that. Problem: talent? Maybe, but not in their eyes. To them, it's money, and they hatch a scheme to get it: kill drug dealers, take their drugs, and sell the drugs-- or rather, try to sell the drugs to a guy with sound equipment, and kill him too and take his stuff. All of this is told to us with their found hidden camera video footage or something.

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Or rather, the "hidden video footage" is a euphemism for "bad shooting and editing techniques lazily explained away by some cheap excuse for a Blair Witch Project style of movie." I don't know where to start. I guess with the plot. There isn't much, but what there is is told and retold to us by the main characters' conversations with one another in the most "Holmes" and "esse" laden dialogue you've ever heard. It's that painful. Then there's the camera techniques. Sometimes we can't see what's going on, between the bad lighting and constant movements. Scenes go on way longer than they have any right to, with characters repeating themselves incessantly. Finally, we have no clue who these guys are, or who any of the people they come into contact with are. It's just "let's go see this guy Holmes and get that shit" "yeah man, we need to come up in this rap game esse."-- only with a "motherfucking" thrown in every two words or so too. Not only was I frightened by this movie, but it will probably give me nightmares tonight. I'll be hearing the words "esse" and "Holmes" in my sleep!

Perhaps scariest of all? The complexions of the film's two main characters. Seriously, have you guys ever heard of stage make-up? It's kind of a big deal, especially when you're doing scenes that are white-lit and close-up. We don't need to see every pore and pockmark magnified twenty times, it's pretty disgusting. The thing is, all of us have that problem, that's why all of us get make-up artists-- or at the very least, a woman who can help you out if you can't afford a pro-- when we're doing any kind of stage work. Here, let me put it in terms you understand: "yo Holmes, why you ain't be gettin' some foundation an' shit, huh Holmes? You need that foundation an' shit if you want ta' come up in this rap game esse, fa real B, dat shit ain't no joke, ain't no one wantin' ta see yo' pores and shit Holmes."

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See that shot right there? That's a good 7-10 minute scene in the movie, and it looks like that. It's that lit, and that well centered. Come on, seriously? There's no way you're serious with that, Holmes. Oh wait, I forgot, it's supposed to be their own personal hidden camera, documenting their crime spree. Ah, I get it. That's why when, later in the film, our heroes are beating a guy to death, we see our heroes from the guy who's being beaten's viewpoint. I get it, what they must've done was said "hey Holmes, you mind holdin' the camera while we beat yo' ass?" "Yeah esse, I'll do that shit fo' you, only I got this motha'fuckin' bag on my head, I can't see shit Holmes." "It's okay esse, most o' tha' motha'fuckin' movie look like it was shot by a dude with a bag over his head Holmes!"

I did like this one cool shot here. That was it, one cool shot, where they did some camera effect with the negative or something, probably a setting on the director's video camera, but the shot itself was blocked well too-- I mean, the whole movie was gimmicky crap, and it seldom looked good like it did here. On the opposite end of the spectrum, the most painful scene was the 7-minute long choking to death of a drug dealer. I'm serious, it takes about 7 minutes to choke this guy to death, and it's chock full of commentary from the Hip Hop Loco that's not doing the choking: "Choke him Holmes! Choke him esse! Choke him Holmes!" I can only imagine how freaky a scene like that would be high. I'd probably start tripping, thinking I was stuck in some Groundhog's Day time anomaly.

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The natural rebuttal from the people involved with making this film would be: "what do you know, you white dude from a small town in Maine that's a cross between a Boston suburb and a hick backwater. What do you know about what we do in LA?" Fair enough, but you can't tell me this movie has anything to do with anything that anyone is going through anywhere. There's some mention of ethnic solidarity regarding the lack of Mexicans in the rap game, which I understand, but these guys aren't any good. I could do what they do. Second, we never get any idea of what these guys' daily lives are like, no back story where we see them struggling to make ends meet, can't get a job, can't get a solid education, trying to succeed in a system that's stacked against them, and so they see rapping-- even though they aren't any good at it-- as the only means to get by, and the crime spree as the only way to get there. As far as we know these are just a couple two-bit thugs who get what's coming to them. Finally, to that point, who are we rooting for? It's not these punks. They're a bunch of dirty shitheads, killing people and robbing them because they aren't smart enough make their own money. No, the problem here is, I get Hip Hop Locos all too well, and it's horrendous.

I mentioned to Moe Porne (not his real name if you were wondering) on Twitter that I owned this and planned to watch it, and he warned me again, on top of he one the and Doug Tilley gave in their podcast; and they were right. I found this in the DVD collection entitled Serial Psychos, and while I haven't seen any of the others yet, I can tell you this one is an utter painfest and reason enough to stay off that whole set. I'm going to go have myself a good cry and try to get this one out of my system.

For more info: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0816243/

Please note, I know the word "homes" is not spelled "Holmes", I just wanted to have some fun with the post.

Crossroads (2002)

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Last month on our friend Mr. Gable's site, Mr. Gable's Reality, his buddy Alcohol Paul wrote a review on this movie, and the first thought I had was "man, that looks scary." And then I thought "hey, if it's so scary, maybe I should watch it for Halloween and see just how scary it is", and that's how we got here. I decided to make it the first of a two-part Halloween set of posts, in an attempt to do something other than just watch horror movies. Let's see how it worked.

Crossroads stars pop singer Britney Spears as a girl in a small town whose father, Dan Aykroyd, is a big push that wants her to go to school to become a doctor. She kind of wants that too, but she also loves music and has an aptitude for that that she'd like to pursue, despite her father's wishes. After graduating from high school, she meets back up with two friends whom she was best friends with 8 years ago, but whom she'd grown apart from since. One of the friends is going to LA to audition for a singing contract, and the other decides she wants to go too to see her boyfriend, who's attending UCLA. Britney thinks this might be a good chance to hitch a ride and visit her long lost mother, who lives in Tuscon. Will she find all the answers she's looking for in life?

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All right, so this starts off with Britney in her underwear, and I'm thinking "hey, maybe this won't be so bad", and then she starts jumping around and singing Madonna's "Open Your Heart", and I'm like "whoa... I don't think I can do this..." But then Dan Aykroyd comes in and saves me, and we find out Britney's character is her class valedictorian. What? I can work with this, this might not be so bad. Then there was the insertion of the guy/love-interest who drives the girls across country. He worked as my outlet, because whenever the film became too teen girl scary for me, it became so for his character too, and he'd freak out. One clear example came when the girls were driving while he was sleeping, and they were belting out the lyrics to Shania Twain's "I Feel Like a Woman". That was my breaking point, but before I could hit he stop button, he wakes up and loses his mind, and in the process saves my life. In that sense, I may have picked the wrong film, because it made it like the kind of horror film where every time someone was about to be killed, something would save the victims at the last minute. I need some killing damn it!

I would've liked this on the so-bad-it's-good level, but this goes wrong in its attempts to deal with some more serious subject matter that it wasn't really equipped to handle, and which really felt out of place. We had Taryn Manning character's pregnancy, which might have worked, except we then get the revelation that she became pregnant after she was raped, then we find out her rapist was fellow traveler Zoe Saldana's UCLA boyfriend, and then, even worse, she falls down the stairs and has a miscarriage. Ouch! Did we need any of that? The other thing was how this jumped around and seldom focused or developed anything. When Britney meets her mom, played by Kim Cattrall, it's like a 2-minute scene, and then Britney's back at the hotel crying, telling us what happened. Why not show us? For an extra 5-7 minutes, we could've had more Kim Cattrall, and the movie could've been better for it. So, while this wasn't scary enough as a teen girl movie, it also was lacking too much to be enjoyable either, and the dour nature of the places where it went wrong make it hard to make fun of as a bad movie.

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Yes, that is Dan Aykroyd. I don't know what to make of him in stuff like this. I grew up in the 80s with guys like him and Chevy Chase, Bill Murray, John Candy, and Steve Martin as the kind of funny guys you built a big budget comedy around. Now we see Dan Aykroyd as Britney Spears's dad in Crossroads. I got this off of cable, but I have to hope the DVD had behind the scenes interviews where Britney talks about what an honor it was to act opposite Aykroyd, what a true master of the craft he is, how much she learned from him. Another person I want to point out is Zoe Saldana, whom I'm a big fan of, and whose new film Columbiana I really want to see. This movie does a cool thing with her character, by having her boyfriend be white, though we don't see him until the end and assume he's black before that-- I know I was surprised. Good work out of you movie to mix it up. Bad work out of you movie to make him a rapist and make the other poor girl lose her baby.

I can't do a movie about Britney Spears without mentioning her at least once. It goes without saying that quite a bit has happened to her-- probably happened to us all, but especially to her-- in the nine years between this movie and now. Watching this though, there isn't exactly a sense of a lost innocence or a gentler, simpler time in her life. For instance, Spears has a few scenes in her underwear, and seems plenty at home doing it. I'm not saying she's a bad person for that, I'm saying she's much more comfortable with herself than some innocent teen girl. And the way she acts, I forgot her character is the naive bookworm valedictorian, she seems much more down-to-Earth and wise beyond what her character's years should have been-- in a sense, it was more unbelievable that she was playing a character that was supposed to be so naive, as opposed to a character that was supposed to be going to college for pre-med. It was definitely an aspect I wasn't expecting.

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As I was navigating the teen girl discovering herself waters, I found a few familiar landmarks that helped me along. First, how do you not love the Waffle House? I could be watching Manos, The Hands of Fate, and if I see a Waffle House, I'm feeling that much better. The other thing was the inclusion of Matthew Sweet's "Girlfriend". I didn't see that coming at all, among the Britney songs and NSYNC and Shania Twain. It was almost like a bone thrown out to a guy, not expecting him to be watching this at my age, but maybe 9 years ago, if I had been dating a girl at the time that wanted to see this and I was dragged along, I hear some Matthew Sweet and I can relax a little, and not think about how I can't believe I let myself be dragged into this. (Or can't believe myself watching this as a 32-year-old trying to think outside the box for his blog's Halloween posts!)

Ultimately, while this has the classic bad teen girl movie hallmarks: the first love, the making it as a singer at the end, the almost perfunctory personal discovery; it's never anything so bad that it's the scariness I so wanted for this Halloween post, and I'm kinda not sure how it got its Razzie. On the other hand, any fun this movie could've had is betrayed by some weird plot choices, especially the rape revelation and the miscarriage. In the end, part one of my Halloween experiment failed.

For more info: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0275022/

Friday, October 28, 2011

Death Wish 2 (1982)

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This movie has been the subject of much vituperative discussion. Just a look at our friend Kenner's Movies in the Attic review of the Death Wish series, and you'll see he has this as Bronson's worst ever. Ouch! And in the comments section to Death Wish, it was nearly unanimous, of all the sequels, two was the worst. Let's see if it lived up to the hype.

Death Wish 2 picks up six years or so after part one, and finds Charles Bronson back as Paul Kersey, now living in LA with a hot girlfriend and his daughter improving at an area mental health hospital. All that changes though, when some thugs lift his wallet, and he chases one down and beats him up. That guy goes back to his friends, and they decide to go back to Kersey's house, brutally rape his maid, then kill her, beat Kersey, and kidnap his daughter, whom they rape back at their hideout, and she dies trying to escape them. Well, that was all ol' Kersey needed to get his gun and get his revenge, which he does, hunting them all down. At the same time, the NYPD finds out Kersey is up to his old tricks, and they send Vincent Gardenia out to LA in order to stop him, fearing Kersey'll lead the LAPD back to New York, and the NYPD will be revealed as having let him go.

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This is definitely lacking. It feels like it's trying to be a bigger, badder version of its predecessor, but never quite gets there. There's also the muddled situation with Gardenia, where he essentially flies all the way out from New York only to be shot by some thugs in a gunfight. Ultimately though, this suffers from us as an audience having to wonder, when is enough enough? Killing his catatonic daughter just as she's starting to get better? But then the way she dies is kind of comical, after a really bad rape scene, so all that together has me wondering where I'm supposed to go. Despite all this it still had its moments. Bronson was Bronson, and no matter what, he's compelling to watch, especially when he's killing bad guys. Other than the odd Gardenia element, after the daughter dies, this does hit a pretty decent stride, with an almost Batman-esque quality to it, where he's hiding his behavior from the people in his life. I don't know, I'm not ready to kill this yet, and I think it's worth checking out if you're a Bronson fan.

It got me thinking: how could this have been better? Where do I think they could've rectified the things they did wrong? First and foremost, leave the damn daughter out of it. In fact, add some depth by keeping her alive and improving while he's out there doing his Death Wish stuff. I even thought about the scenario where he's only mugged, and there's no home invasion, and he still goes out and kills all the guys. Now that adds some new layers, and we have to wonder if we can root for Bronson or not. In that scenario, we keep Gardenia in it more, right? We wonder what side he should be taking, because Bronson is not so clearly in the right this time. Maybe the maid rape comes later on in the film, with the thugs going to her to get back at him. I think there were a lot of places this could've gone with the Death Wish story that would've made it better than what we got.

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Bronson keeps this movie from being a total dud for me. I can understand having issues with the way his character was treated, because I had those issues too, but there's something about seeing Bronson in cold-blooded revenge mode that is awesome. I also understand that, compared with some of his other stuff, this may not stand up, but I'll watch Bronson's bad stuff more than I'll watch a lot of other actors' good stuff, because, as I can attest with this one, his bad stuff isn't always that bad.

That's big Larry Fishburne there in some pink Pizza Hut shades-- though I guess in 1982 that was before the Pizza Hut/Back to the Future II promotional campaign. He's in this slightly more than Jeff Goldblum was in part 1, but like Goldblum, also playing one of the thugs that attacks his family. He just turned 50 this past summer, but it seems like he's only gotten better as an actor with age-- or maybe he's always been this good, but only been given the good parts as he got older. Either way, Laurence Fishburne: good stuff.

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I had to include a PBR photo. I've always been a big PBR drinker, which I know draws some gasps and eye rolls, because it's the hallmark of... the Hipster! Maybe I should give a brief history of my PBR love affair in order to clear up any confusion. Growing up, my father was only allotted so much money per week on beer, so often PBR was a great choice because of its value. I took that knowledge with me to college, where I was often mocked for my taste in "bad beers", but the way I saw it, I couldn't afford to drink anything else, other than maybe 40s, but $3.50 for a pack of pounders makes even a 40 a tough sell. Anyway, so time goes on, I graduate from college but am still broke and drinking PBRs, and I start seeing in magazines like GQ that PBR has become big in trendy parts of New York, in come cases going for as much as $6 a can. Enter the Hipsters. Now it's gone from "PBR, eww, how can you drink that?" to "PBR, eww, what're you, a Hipster?" Sometimes you can't win for losing, but I've decided I don't care what people think, I'll drink what I want, and what I want is Pabst Blue Ribbon.

All right, enough about my beer choices and Hipsters, let's wrap this up. Though nowhere near as good as the first 1, and in some cases a little too mean spirited and all over the place, it's still a Bronson revenge flick, and on that score for me, it still works. You may feel differently.

For more info: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0082250/

Thursday, October 27, 2011

One-Eyed Monster (2008)

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This movie was the second of three for October's edition of the Netflix Bad Movie Night, and let's just say it didn't have it's work cut out for it, because the film before it, Die You Zombie Bastards!, hurt immensely. One-Eyed Monster could've been based on a 1000-page L. Ron Hubbard novel, and it still would've looked promising compared to Die You Zombie Bastards! Fortunately it wasn't based on a Hubbard book, it was pretty decent, and it featured one of the best movie monologues I've ever seen.

One-Eyed Monster is about a porn film that's shooting in a remote cabin in the mountains of Northern California during a blizzard. Then something strange happens. Ron Jeremy loses control of his penis as he's doing a woman from behind, and the next thing you know, his manhood is disarticulated and running around on the floor, and Jeremy dies. Long story short: an alien life force has taken over Ron Jeremy in order to spawn its alien babies and take over the world, and based on it's calculations, the rest of Ron Jeremy's body is deemed superfluous, so it's dumped. Now the gang needs to fight back as this murderous member picks them off one by one in grizzly fashion. Can the addition of a mysterious old man from out in the storm turn the tide in their favor?

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This isn't as bad or as lowest common denominator as the synopsis might sound. Sure, some of the dick jokes are a bit much or a bit expected, but for the most part it's a pretty funny idea and is carried off well. Oh yeah, and then there's Charles Napier. That's right, the Charles Napier. He's the mysterious old guy, and he straight kills it. It's like someone came to him with the idea of the plot, he instantly got what they were going for, and he was all in. And his monologue (which is on YouTube, so I embedded it on the image page and will be posting it to the Tumblr) is easily one of the best I've ever seen in a movie. That alone is worth the price of admission. On the other hand, this could've used more Napier, and if I have one main complaint, it's that, because the quality drops drastically once he departs. Still, overall, it's not horrible, it's pretty fun actually, and might be worth checking out.

We usually don't associate the late Charles Napier with comedic roles, but should we be surprised when he can pull it off so well? And not only does he pull it off, but the way he completely steps into the movie and picks it up on his shoulders and carries it for his time on-screen is great to watch. This is only a semi-decent horror comedy until Napier shows up, then it becomes something much more awesome, the kind of thing where I'm like "you gotta see this!"

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One of the many things us people who write blogs have to consider is whether or not we want to go full out obscenity and stick the parental warning on it, or if we want to keep it clean and open it up to everyone. As you can see, I've gone the latter route, and I've done that because I started watching movies like this when I was in my early teens (actually even younger), and I want to make sure kids that young can come and learn about these movies that were, in many cases, released before they were born. What that means, though, is reviewing a movie about a killer penis isn't always easy. I'll say this though: this is not an X-rated film, and nothing a kid who's seen any R-rated flick couldn't handle-- just has a little more male genitalia than you're probably used to.

This did have a few other names in it. We already mentioned Ron Jeremy. He dies early on. They keep saying in the credits that they're "introducing" him, even though he was Orgazmo, so it was obviously a joke, but not a very funny one. Buffy fans will recognize Amber Benson, who played a member of the porn movie crew, like craft services or something, and then she's impregnated by the One-Eyed Monster. Going out a bit on a limb, we had also Jeff Denton as the porn director. Denton has starred in some early Asylum films, including one we've done, Transmorphers.

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As you may know, I'm a sucker for mountains in my movies, and considering it made for a good substitute to showing a prosthetic penis and getting my blog flagged for inappropriate content, I figured I'd go with it in this spot. Not sure what peaks those are. The film was shot in Mammoth Lake, California, so maybe someone has a better idea-- or maybe they aren't even from there, they're just file mountains that were taken from somewhere else. Either way, I definitely want to hike them.

But enough of that, we don't want to give people the impression that I'm not just a dude living in his parents basement getting fat off of mac n' cheese, and hiking goes against that image. What we do here when I'm not hiking is review movies, and this one, mostly on the strength of the great Charles Napier for a segment of the middle of it, is pretty sweet. At the very least, go to the image page or Tumblr and see what you think of that monologue, then take it from there.

For more info: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0988043/

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Sgt. Kabukiman N.Y.P.D. (1990)

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We've hit another milestone here at the DTVC, 750 posts, and in honor of that, I saved one of my all time favorites to review, Sgt. Kabukiman N.Y.P.D. I actually saw this one later on in my B-movie watching career, finding it with a buddy at our local video store in 2000. Not only did we quickly attach two VCRs together to make ourselves a copy because we enjoyed it so much, a couple years later when I bought a DVD player after graduating from college, I went to the Troma website and picked this up as one of the first DVDs in my new collection. A true classic, and thoroughly worthy of a milestone like this.

Sgt. Kabukiman N.Y.P.D. follows police detective Harry Griswold, who is sent to investigate the grisly murder of a family, including the wife who was thrown out of a building. In her hands were tickets to a local Kabuki show, so he attends. As luck would have it, the place is attacked by machine gun toting thugs, Griswold tries to fight back, and in the scuffle finds himself on top of one of the actors, an old Japanese man who kisses him before he dies. That's when strange things start happening to him. The old man's granddaughter informs him that he's been imbued with the superhero spirit of the Kabuki warrior, and he uses that power to clean up the city. The only problem is the evil businessman who perpetrated the initial attack is still out there, and he and Griswold are on a collision course to wackiness.

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This is Troma at it's best. It pushes the envelope in all the right ways, is funny, gory, and a lot of fun. It's really the Lloyd Kaufman take on the action hero film and the detective Noir, and it's everything you'd want and expect for that. When I first saw this, I was still pretty new to Troma, so for me it was just this 90-minute awesomefest where I felt like Mr. Kaufman, Michael Herz, and the whole Troma team had invaded my brain and made the exact movie I wanted to see. Even better, on the DVD you get Lloyd Kaufman's commentary, which just adds another level as he tells all kinds of stories about what went on as they were filming. This is a classic, pure and simple.

Part of the reason why I didn't start including Troma films until recently is that I felt they weren't exactly DTV. They have more of an independent movie spirit, and this one is a great example of that. Kaufman said they screened this at Cannes 5 years in a row or something, and they tried like troopers to get it a wide theatrical distribution here in the States, but it never came off. I guess, though, in that vein, it truly is a DTV flick, because it tried to get a theatrical release, but ultimately had to settle for the US video market. Either way, this movie, Sgt. Kabukiman N.Y.P.D., because of the special place it has in my heart, wasn't going to be reviewed any earlier than 750 anyway-- it needed to be saved for this milestone post.

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One of the things we learn in the commentary is how the film's Japanese backers-- which included Namco, makers of my favorite video game ever, Galaga-- thought Troma were making a family friendly superhero movie that could be turned into cartoons and a bigger consumer franchise. Even Rick Giansi, who played Sgt. Kabukiman, told Kaufman about how kids would come to the shoots and get all excited when they saw him in costume. As we know, Lloyd had other ideas, and this wasn't exactly the next Batman. I loved though how they made fun of classic superhero conventions, like those in Batman, and Superman too with Kabukiman and Lotus flying over the city. For me this movie is almost perfect, so I'm glad they didn't try to make the next Batman-- though I'd love to have bought into a whole Kabukiman franchise.

Another hallmark of Troma films is the social critique they insert into the movies, and this wasn't short on that either. Especially big in 1990 was the "Buy American" fear mongering that went around based on the perceived Japanese business takeover of the American market. For Kabukiman, it's all about merging the two lifestyles, not picking one over the other, which was a very different tune to the one that politicians were singing, in particular in New York, where Rockefeller Center had been recently bought by Japanese businessmen. Kaufman and co. were also quick to make sure they made fun of both cultures equally, which I liked. Then there was the case of the Central Park jogger, a woman who was brutally raped and beaten almost to the point of death, which Kaufman draws on when Griswold's partner is brutally attacked on a run in the park, and when Kabukiman kicks their asses, the thugs are seen as the victims. These are often subtle additions, but they make the Troma film that much more than just an out and out schlockfest.

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Susan Byun is the only person in this as far as I can tell that we've seen anywhere else before. She was in the Gary Daniels film Deadly Target. I don't know what happened to her, because other than a few more DTV roles and some small parts in TV shows, she didn't do much else, and hasn't done anything since 1998. She's pretty enough, and is a solid actress, so maybe she just got sick of it. Maybe there weren't enough well-rounded roles for Asian women out there either. In Sgt. Kabukiman N.Y.P.D. she plays the granddaughter/trainer/love interest, and does all really well, especially when she has to do it in that Troma tongue-in-cheek style. She also looks really hot in her skimpy black dresses. Ladies, one of the fastest ways to a man's heart is the skimpy black dress, and it works no matter what your figure. It's like the socialism of outfits.

One of the scenes that floored me when I first saw it was when Griswold thinks he's transforming into Kabukiman, but instead turns into a party clown. The whole thing is ridiculous, down to him escaping on a kid's bike that gets run over by a truck and converted into a unicycle. He's breathing fire, pulling lengths of knotted hankies out of his sleeves, firing glitter at the baddies, and then the whole thing ends with one car flipping over and exploding, and another crashing into a dry cleaning business. One of my mine and my buddy's favorite lines comes in the aftermath, when the cops swoop in, thinking Griswold as the clown perpetrated the crimes. He tells them who he his, and one of the cops says "holy shit it is Griswold!" There's nothing like a good clown scene that works, followed by a cop using profanity in a moment of shock.

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Despite how perfect this movie has always been to me, one scene that always stood out like a sore thumb was this one here, where Kabukiman kills a prostitute and her pimp by cutting them into a roll of sushi. I don't know, it just seemed a little macabre compared to the rest of the tone of the film. As it turned out, I wasn't the only one who thought so. In the commentary Lloyd Kaufman said that Rick Giansi was also against it, saying it betrayed the kind of character they were going for with Kabukiman, but Kaufman kept it for the dark humor aspect of it-- which I get and do love actually--, only to find in screenings that that scene didn't play well. The one he cut as a favor to Giansi instead of this was one where Kabukiman turned a rope into a snake and had it go up some bad guy's butt to kill him. I'm laughing even as I type that, so it's too bad that didn't make it in.

But everything else that did make it in makes this plenty worth it. I went to the Troma website to check this out, and it looks like they're selling the same DVD I bought over ten years ago, which is great (as of this posting it's out of stock, but I can't imagine that will be the case forever). The other thing about that DVD is it's region free, so everyone everywhere can see it. I suggest you do, because this is a totally fun time. I posted about twenty additional screen shots on the image page, plus I embedded the music video of the Sgt. Kabukiman theme song from YouTube. All worth checking out too.

For more info: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0117609/

Monday, October 24, 2011

The Ward (2010)

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I came across this while looking for movies for my collaboration with The Film Connoisseur (link is to that post) for Halloween. I couldn't believe that a John Carpenter film had only a limited European release, and a DTV release here in the States. A John Carpenter flick should be a big deal, not fly in under the radar. (Also, if you've seen this and you comment and give away the ending-- or say what movie it's similar to--, I won't publish it. I don't want to ruin it for anyone.)

The Ward has Amber Heard as a girl in 1960s Oregon who is caught setting a farmhouse on fire, and is sent to the lockdown ward of a state mental facility. There she meets her four fellow inmates, plus the mysterious fifth one, Alice, who is a ghost that is slowly bumping them off. Heard doesn't find this situation acceptable at all, and tries her best to escape. Can she do it before Alice gets her as well?

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I thought this was an excellent movie. You can see why John Carpenter is a horror master, because he hits all the right spots here, from the suspense, the tension, the creepiness, and then the brutality in the kills. How this was lost in the shuffle is beyond me, because it has the chops to compete in the US theatrical market. Maybe he personally didn't want to work with the big production houses. I don't know, and I'm not so sure I care either, because either way, this falls through the cracks and ends up in our laps, and we're better for it.

It really is startling though, when you page through Carpenter's bio, and you see all the big names, The Thing, They Live, Halloween, Escape from New York, Escape from LA, I could go on. The last one he did was Ghosts of Mars, which I saw in the theater back in 2002. I wouldn't put this one up there with any of his great classics, but from a director of his stature, this still delivers.

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I was trying to figure out where I recognized Danielle Panabaker, who played the resident vamp in The Ward, from, and it turns out she was the guy from Supernatural's partner in Friday the 13th, where she got a really raw deal I thought-- I mean, she's helping the hero out the whole time and Jason still kills her, where's the justice in that? Anyway, she was the only one outside of Amber Heard that I recognized, but I thought the whole cast did a pretty decent job. They were all supposed to play one-notes, and sometimes doing that well is too tall an order, but for them it wasn't, and gave the movie that women in prison film mixed with supernatural thriller feel that I think Carpenter was going for.

Getting back to Carpenter, I've noticed in doing this blog how much modern horror directors draw from Carpenter, so it was weird to have one of his films come into our orbit. How many bad DTV horror flicks have I seen that try to cop the Carpenter aesthetic, from the darkened locations, to the danger racing across the screen in the background. One thing they almost never get right though is Carpenter's attention to detail, and that was evident here. He never lets a moment slip that isn't in some way a tension builder or a prop or extra that isn't somehow creepy or carries with him or her an element of danger. Even in this one, that isn't one of his best, it's still that much better than a lot of his imitators.

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If you don't already know this, I'm putting it out there for you now: I'm a straight guy. And as a straight guy, I take a horror movie that takes place in a mental institution with an all young female cast for granted. I also take for granted that they're all going to be hot. I wonder though, could this movie be made with all young dudes? Us straight guys wouldn't like it, but are there enough straight women and gay men that would get into the shower scenes and all the stereotypes? Or do straight women enjoy an all hot women in a mental institution horror flick as much as straight guys do?

I enjoyed this movie-- though it might just be the straight male in me. This has all the makings of a fell through the cracks DTV gem, and with John carpenter directing, can you expect anything less? Sorry I couldn't get more into specifics about what I liked, but, again, I don't want to give too much away, because this is worth checking out if you haven't already, and I don't want to ruin it for you.

For more info: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1369706/

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Death Wish (1974)

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Obviously this is not a DTV flick, though back when I did my Wild Card posts at the end of the week, this would've been one, because, while it isn't DTV, it had a huge influence on DTV bad actioners, even if very few ever truly capture what this one was going for. Anyway, even though we don't have the Wild Card post anymore in practice, I wanted to look at this one because our friend Kenner at Movies in the Attic (link is to his review of the Death Wish series) sent me VHS copies of part IV and V, but I wanted to watch the earlier ones first, and figured I'd review them as I did so.

Death Wish stars Charles Bronson as Paul Kersey, a successful New York architect whose wife is murdered and daughter brutally raped and traumatized by a home invasion. His job sends him to Tuscon after to work with a rich landowner, Stuart Margolin, and the guy changes his worldview. Instead of being anti-gun, he's now in favor of an armed response to the New York crimewave, and when he gets back, he starts a vigilante campaign, luring muggers and other criminals into thinking he's an easy mark, then gunning them down. It creates an international sensation, leaving the NYPD between a rock and a hard place: they want him to stop, but they don't want to arrest him when he's so popular. They assign detective Frank Ochoa (Frank Gardenia) to the case, and he has a tough job as he tracks Bronson throughout the city-- especially when he's not even sure he wants to arrest him if he does find him.

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I am in firm agreement with Kenner on this one. It's a truly great film, and not simply for its action elements-- in fact, it has relatively few. What it does do is blur the social commentary, blend the brutal with the black humor extremely effectively, while throughout never getting away from the core of the film, which is one man's struggle with a brutal tragedy that he ultimately can't do anything to fix. And like Kenner, I thought the fact that he never actually tracks down his wife and daughter's attackers, and is instead killing thugs in general, gives this a very different kind of revenge motif. Is it justice he's after? Catharsis? A sick thrill? Or maybe a combination of all three. But you can't help rooting for Bronson and being compelled by his character. Often imitated, but never duplicated, Death Wish.

Charles Bronson has a strong charismatic presence, but I don't think he gets enough credit for being a solid actor too, which he shows here. He starts the film as a cool guy, but very mild mannered. There are some jokes made about him being a bleeding-heart Liberal, but we find out later that there's more to it than that, and he wears those layers well. Later, as he starts fighting back, it's not an all at once suddenly he's a badass situation, it's something his character has to get used to, and Bronson does a great job with that as well. I loved the metamorphosis, and when we consider these scenes aren't shot chronologically the way we see them, it demonstrates the kind of quality of acting Bronson brought to the table. I also had to throw in a shot from early in the film of him in a Speedo. Any light beer commercial that wants to define manhood based on swimwear choices needs to shut the hell up (anyone remember that commercial?), because Bronson's much more manly than light beer, and he wore a Speedo.

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The Rockford Files is one of my all time favorite shows, so it was sweet to have two-time Emmy winner Stuart Margolin in this as the Arizona landowner. In honor of that fact, I uploaded an MST3K riff on The Rockford Files on the image page. Here he's as far from Angel as he can be, and I almost didn't recognize him. He plays a really great character, a kind of antithesis to the New York urban elite, and I loved watching he and Bronson play off each other.

This had some great cameos and co-stars beyond Stuart Margolin. We had the late Frank Gardenia, who was excellent as the detective tracking Bronson. We had cameos from Jeff Goldblum, who was in the gang that killed Bronson's wife and raped his daughter; and Lawrence Hilton-Jacobs, who had a short scene near the end as a member of another gang. The latter was unremarkable, just a cool novelty; but the former, the Goldblum one, was a trip, because he was a scary dude, channeling some Clockwork Orange or something. I think because we know going in what happens to Bronson's family, that scene of the attack had to be particularly chilling to draw us in, and Goldblum was a big part of why it did.

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One thing I thought was interesting as I was watching this, was the fact that in New Hampshire, the state I almost live in, none of what Bronson was doing would have been illegal. They have a stipulation in the law that if one is attacked, one has the right to use deadly force in self-defense. If we look at what Bronson does in Death Wish, he never provokes an attack, he has a licensed handgun-- or, at least it would be in New Hampshire, a man of his stature would have no trouble getting a concealed weapons permit--, and he's simply defending himself from muggers. If no one were to attack him, no one would be killed, and as a citizen, it is his right to walk the streets at any time of night and not have to accept that he might be attacked. I don't know how New York mitigates these aspects of the law, but it is an interesting dynamic to consider, because I'm sure New Hampshire isn't the only state that has that stipulation in the law-- though New Hampshire's motto is Live Free or Die, so you never know.

This is currently on Watch Instantly, but if you can get it on DVD in widescreen format, I'd go for it. This is a true classic, and a real landmark film that has had a huge influence over the action genre. On top of all that, it's actually really well made and deals with a lot of social and moral issues in a compelling, yet not preachy or agenda driven kind of way. It's a movie that's surprisingly as relevant today as it was 37 years ago.

For more info: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0071402/

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Fatal Blade aka Gedo (2001)

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I got this along with City of Fear. We're making our way through the Gary Daniels DTV filmography, and these are some that I probably should've done a while ago, but they slipped through the cracks. Also, this is Gary Daniels's 37th tag, meaning he now has the most all time of any actor, surpassing Dolph Lundgren. It's like Hank Aaron passing Babe Ruth for most home runs-- only Dolph is still playing, so there will probably be a little back and forth between these two.

Fatal Blade starts with a gang war in LA between a dude named Bronson and the local Yakuza. To take Bronson out, the Yakuza call in a hitman from Japan. As luck would have it, he goes to hit Bronson while LAPD detective Gary Daniels and his partner have him under surveillance, meaning everyone's on a collision course to wackiness. But it only gets wackier at the station, when a Japanese national is refuting her extradition order, and she pulls a cop's gun, which just happens to help the Yakuza hitman escape, yadda yadda yadda, long story short, Daniels partner ends up dead, he blames the Yakuza guy, when it's really the local Yakuza guy, and now everyone wants revenge on someone. Will Daniels be the last man standing?

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I liked this. It had a really cool Hong Kong/Nikkatsu Noir feel to it, and while it wasn't as great as some of that stuff, it was still pretty serviceable. Daniels had some really nice fights, including one with James Lew, that had a really fast-paced Hong Kong feel to them; and then the two Japanese actors playing the main two Yakuza dudes really exuded that Seijun Suzuki style cool that worked really well. There were a few things that would've helped it though: better music, instead of that stock crap; a tighter story, with maybe more action; and if the Daniels/Yakuza hitman team-up had been on-screen more, because we really only get it twice, but it was a cool dynamic. Overall, this is a decent bad actioner, more 90s than 2000s, maybe a little afraid to turn the calendar over, but we love that kind of thing.

If there were ever any questions about Daniels's ability as a martial arts action lead, they were all put to rest here. He brings it in some real heavy-duty fast-paced scenes, totally up to the challenge. I would've liked, in the spirit of the movies that this one came from, to have seen Daniels in some cooler clothes, like maybe a gaudy suit, as opposed to the J.Crew catalog mainstays they put him in. You'd never see Chow Yun-fat dressed like that.

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I don't know if there's a Japanese version of the Direct to Video Connoisseur, but two guys that might feature prominently on that site were in this film, Kiyoshi Nakajo and Kentaro Shimizu, the former playing the Yakuza hitman, and the latter the local LA Yakuza boss. I looked them up on imdb, and they're in a bunch of Japanese flicks with the word "video" in parenthesis after the date. I can only imagine how cool they are, because they're pretty sweet here, both really playing up the Nikkatsu Noir aesthetic. Maybe I'll have to check out some of these Japanese DTV flicks.

A quick round up of some of the other cats in this: veteran character actor Jack McGee has two scenes as a cop at a desk. Out of everyone in the movie, he would go on to have the most prodigious career, including a part as Marky Mark's dad in the Oscar nominated The Fighter. I already mentioned James Lew, who has a small part as one of the henchmen of the local Yakuza boss. The best part with that came when the hitman accosted him, looking for his boss, and he's speaking in Japanese, while Lew is responding in English because, as we all know, he isn't Japanese! It was like Han Solo talking to Greedo in Star Wars. (Greedo, whoa-oh-a-oh!) Then we had a novelty cameo in the person of Cuba Gooding Sr. I'm not kidding, he plays a pawn broker in one scene. I wonder what Cuba Gooding Jr. thought of that.

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With this scene above, we have a few things going on. First, bigger hair, probably more at home five or six years before, and the vermilion lipstick isn't doing her any favors either. I'm not sure how I'd feel if I met a girl with no lipstick on and straight hair who showed up to our first date looking like that from the neck up, but I imagine I'd be a tad disappointed, and you can see why Daniels, who had been in a long-term relationship with her, ditched her to pursue his partner's killer. But then you throw in the black leather dress, and all bets are off. Now it's like "whoa, Gary, baby, what are you doing ditching her, she's hot!" But that's why Mr. Daniels is Mr. Daniels and we're us, because he's confident enough to know that he can ditch her, even looking as hot as she is, and will still have a love scene with her ten minutes later. That's Gary Daniels if you need him. And ladies, if you have your eye on a man out there, leather is one of the fastest ways to his heart-- vermilion lipstick, notsomuch.

And with that, we might as well wrap this up. We've seen a lot better from Gary Daniels, and we've seen a lot worse. This had it's moments, and while it had some dead spots, it also had some really solid action and great martial arts sequences. If you see this for a couple bucks in a bargain bin, I'd pull the trigger.

For more info: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0243920/

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Global Effect (2002)

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I had planned to do another Daniel Bernhardt flick in this spot, but Netflix was removing this from Watch Instantly, and I figured I wouldn't be getting to it any other way, so I didn't want to miss this chance. Should I have passed it up though? We'll see.

Global Effect takes place in South Africa, where a nasty virus has popped up, killing all 85 members of a small village. After the area has been firebombed to contain it, some hazmat cats find a boy that escaped, and they take his remains to the lab, where Mädchen Amick researches the virus and discovers a cure. Enter a terrorist group, which kidnaps her, and takes the virus and what they think is the antidote with them. Their plan: spread the virus among the South African population. Now it's up to Daniel Bernhardt and MacPhearson from Space Mutiny (anyone else want to confuse loyalty with treason?) to save the day and stop the spread of the virus.

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Which they kinda don't do. I'm not kidding. Cape Town is completely leveled. There you go, we've wiped out an enormous city. And the funny thing: it didn't have to happen. This movie employs the Two Ending Padding Maneuver, meaning the film comes to what should be a natural ending, only to be extended for the sake of taking on an extra 20 to 30 minutes. And it's in that extended time that Cape Town just happens to get blown up. How is that something we want to see? Who goes into watching a movie thinking "man, I hope an enormous S. African city is leveled and millions of men, women, and children are killed?" And I don't mean War of the Worlds style, I mean we could've ended the movie but just decided not to in order to level this city. Seriously, did the people making this movie not like Cape Town? Oh yeah, on top of all this, the movie dragged, had some good action but not enough of it, and spent more time in the Pentagon with character actors bickering than it did with Bernhardt and Amick not saving the day.

Mr. Bernhardt, it's been over two years, but you finally have your 10th tag. I kind of liked him here. He got to flex some martial arts muscles, but not really enough for what he should be cast for. A lot of great Bernhardt close-up though. If you ladies-- and some men-- are into Bernhardt's dark chiseled features, you may enjoy this-- though there are no shirtless scenes, so maybe you won't. The other problem is, due to the way the story unfolds, we lose him for a good chunk, which is a waste. This should've gone to it's natural ending, where Amick gets back to her lab and creates the antidote, but instead of the terrorist coming back and taking it-- which led to another 20 minutes of crap and the death of Cape Town--, Bernhardt should fight them off, then pursue the baddie and his gang as they're trying to board their ship to escape, which would be a better ending with a big action finale.

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We're a long way from Twin Peaks, aren't we Ms. Amick? I can't imagine what she was thinking in this movie. I guess, considering this wasn't her first trip on the DTV rodeo post-Twin Peaks, she was probably old hat by 2002. This is also the classic Damsel in Distress Disguised as a Strong Character Maneuver, where Amick is sold that she's a big shot doctor who cures the world of a horrible plague, but still spends the bulk of the film strapped to a chair and menaced by the lead baddie. Whether you're a doctor or a stripper, when you're in an action movie, you're in need of rescuing.

This had a pile of other character actors that are common to South African late 90s/early 2000s DTV, people who we either recognize from Dudikoff flicks early in that span, or Seagal flicks later on. One that stood out for me was Kirk B.R. Woller. He's pretty much done every syndicated TV show and broadcast crime drama-- including a reoccurring role on The X-Files-- but we at the DTVC remember him best as the FBI agent in our first review ever, Boa vs. Python. As always, in every film he does, he makes gross faces and acts like a jerk. Sometimes he's a good jerk, and sometimes-- like here-- he's a bad jerk. That's Kirk B.R. Woller, if you need him.

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"Who else wants to confuse loyalty with treason?" "Um, I'd like to confuse bok choy with cabbage, sir." Yes, it's the crippled bad guy that Reb Brown burns alive in Space Mutiny, playing Bernhardt's commanding officer. Another of the film's lame moves, they kill him off rather early in-- a much more dignified death than the one in Space Mutiny--, but still. Also, I can't believe I didn't notice before that he was the bad guy in Kickboxer 5. Yeah, the guy who starts the kickboxing organization and kills people who don't join. (I even just looked at my review of it and saw his picture up there!)

Not a great movie, I can tell you that. Convoluted plot that wrote itself into a weird corner that allowed only for blowing up Cape Town, combined with too much crap in the Pentagon and too little of the great action and martial arts we need from Bernhardt. If you miss this on Watch Instantly, you're not missing much.

For more info: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0330333/

Monday, October 17, 2011

Fragile aka Frágiles (2005)

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This was a another film that I came in contact with through our friend Francisco at The Film Connoisseur, with whom I am doing a collaboration with for the month of October. We're looking at supernatural films, me from the DTV angle, and while this was released theatrically in foreign markets, it was DTV here in the States. It intrigued me, because it was directed by Jaume Balagueró, the man who directed [Rec], which was the original film on which Quarantine was based; plus, it's starring Calista Flockhart, who we're more used to seeing as the precocious Ally McBeal. Let's see how it turned out.

Fragile takes place on the Isle of Wight, where a children's hospital is set to close, and only a few children remain that need transporting to a new location. Then some bad things happen. A kid's leg is mysteriously broken in two places. Then a nurse quits under dubious circumstances, which is where Calista Flockhart, a nurse with her own skeletons in her closet shows up to take her place. A patient named Maggie warns Calista of a mysterious Charlotte who lives on the abandoned second floor. Flockhart writes it off as a child's overactive imagination, until some crazy stuff starts happening. Now it's her the rest of the staff thinks has the overactive imagination, as she attempts to warn them about the truth in what the girl is saying. Can the evil spirit kill enough people soon enough for everyone to believe Flockhart in time?

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I wanted to like this one, and I can see how some might, but it didn't work for me. It's like it's two movies, one part tense, psychological thriller, and one part Bloody Mary style ghost story slasher-- and neither was that remarkable. For instance, I can only hear the same creepy music so much to denote a scene is supposed to be tense. If not for that, the rest of the opening part was really good, especially with Flockhart's performance. On the other hand, breaking a child's limbs is not something I enjoy watching, and though that was a bigger part of the end, it did happen in the beginning, and was disturbing. There were some high points though: I already mentioned Flockhart, and a lot of the other performances were great too; also the scenes, especially in the early going, were really well shot-- no reliance on jumpcuts and kitschy MTV style edits; and the sets were really nice looking. In the end, though, this just becomes like every other nothing-special thriller, only this one didn't make it into American theaters.

Watching Calista Flockhart in this, I wondered why she hadn't done similar films. She has a unique look that suits the dark thriller really well, with her large eyes and small face, she was stunning. Plus, her character was troubled and worn out-- very much the opposite of Ally McBeal. The end of the movie was so all over the place that I couldn't expect her to navigate that, but the earlier parts, which were often more subtle and were where the tougher work as an actress was, was where she was really good. I also didn't know she was married to Harrison Ford. Thank you imdb.

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This shot here with the two mirrors made for a great effect, and director Jaume Balagueró went back to it a few times throughout the movie. It was just another area where this movie was better than the bad ghost movies I'm used to seeing in theaters here in the States, but also made it that much worse when this devolved into that. I would've liked to have seen more of this kind of thing, something more Hitchcokian in its tension building. What made Hitchcock so amazing was the way every scene dripped with tension, even the most innocuous ones. This had elements of that, but it's almost like it didn't trust itself, and then it felt the need to throw all of that away and just become every other supernatural thriller on the market.

A few weeks ago I saw Dinner for Schmucks with some friends on ON Demand, and I could've sworn this woman was the one who played Paul Rudd's love interest. Notsomuch apparently. She's Elena Anaya, and the one from the other movie was Stephanie Szostak. Anaya is in the Almodovar movie, The Skin I Live In, which I can't wait to see, and she was in Van Helsing, which also had Richard Roxburgh as Dracula, and he played the doctor in this. We were just missing Hugh Jackman and an exploding carriage and we'd have had a real Van Helsing reunion.

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Finally, this movie took place on the Isle of Wight. I had no idea that it was as big or as populated as it was. This is where movies like this are great, because they introduce me to an area of the world I wouldn't have thought to look at, and gave me a reason to look it up on Wikipedia. Before this I only knew of the Isle of Wight as Queen Victoria's Kennebunkport or Crawford Ranch. See, who said low-budget films couldn't be educational? Actually, they aren't, are they? Wikipedia is.

All right, let's wrap this up. You may like this if you're into a lot of the other supernatural flicks that find their way into our theaters, but I don't, so I didn't. It had some great moments, great performances, and some really well-shot scenes; but in the end, it devolved into everything we've already seen.

For more info: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0422272/

Friday, October 14, 2011

Deep Space (1988)

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When I heard that the great Charles Napier passed away, a bunch of potential movies for a tribute post popped into my head, but none of them felt quite right, because they featured Napier in his usual supporting role. That just wouldn't cut it here. Then I thought of Deep Space, which also just happened to be on Watch Instantly. Now this will do.

Deep Space is a Fred Olen Ray directed piece that actually has nothing to do with deep space. The US government has engineered a killing monster and keeps it incubated in a satellite orbiting above the earth, the idea being they send the satellite down to wreak havoc on a country that might threaten democracy, freedom, and money. Something goes wrong though, and the thing crash lands in SoCal, prompting a meddling teen and his girlfriend to investigate, and wake the thing up. When police detective Napier is sent out to investigate, things don't add up, so he pursues it, along with his buddy (Ron Glass from Barney Miller fame), and against police chief Bo Svenson's wishes. The question is, can even the great Charles Napier kill the ultimate killing machine?

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This movie would've been perfect had the end scenes not been so dark that I could barely make them out. Otherwise, everything else was great. Maybe my screen was too dark, but I doubt it. Anyway, this was pretty solid Fred Olen Ray fare, schlock horror, sci-fi, and action all mixed into one for a fun time; but the thing takes on another level with Napier as the lead. As great as he is as a supporting character, he's that much better when it's his show. He also carried a lot of the down times that would've torpedoed this with a lesser actor. Overall, I think you'll enjoy this, and maybe you'll have more luck with the ending being dark than I did.

If we needed to do an In Memoriam post for Charles Napier, this is one the best ones to choose. We see him in a kilt playing the bagpipes, we see him in an apron cooking steaks, we even see him in bed after a long night of drinking answering the phone with a pair of panties draped around it. And that's not even getting to how much ass he kicks. In one scene he's chasing one of the monster's spawn into this woman's house, and she's cowering in the corner afraid of it. He says to her "Let me borrow your bat and I'll go after it." Not "give me your bat" or "give me the goddamn bat lady!", but in a calm, polite manner "let me borrow your bat." Then, when the thing attacks her, he gets her to push it into the air, so he can bat it through the window. If you're a Napier fan and haven't seen this, put it on your list.

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You'll notice that the alien looks kind of like the one from Alien. He attacks people in a more The Thing kind of way, with tentacles that come out of his body and pull people to him. From there, it's just buckets of blood tossed on the wall. I like all of that stuff. Sure, it's good to have great special effects, but a bucket of blood splashed on the wall and some screaming in the background is good too. What I can't abide is making the scene so dark I can't make out the action, especially when I want to see Napier going at this alien thing with a chainsaw. Fred Olen Ray giveth, and Fred Olen ray taketh away.

I loved the Ron Glass. Growing up, my parents always watched Barney Miller, though I really don't remember any episodes specifically. Seeing Glass here makes me want to go back and see some old Barney Miller episodes. Unfortunately, they aren't on Watch Instantly or Hulu, or even TV Land. What's the point of having a channel like TV Land if it doesn't show Barney Miller?

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Speaking of TV shows I love, we had Julie Newmar here as a psychic or something that gave Napier anonymous tips on the case. We all know her as the first Catwoman on one of my favorite shows of all time, Batman. You may recall we had the voice of Eartha Kitt in Pink Chiquitas, meaning we only need a Lee Meriwether to have all the Catwomen on here. Of course, during our look at comic book movies back when I did Wild Card posts, we also reviewed Catwoman-- I won't say anything else.

If you miss this while it's on Netflix Watch Instantly, then the only other way to make it happen is used VHS. I think, if you're a big Napier fan, or a fan of camp Sci-Fi, this is worth it, especially as a cheap bargain bin find. Keep your eyes peeled for it, I think you'll have a fun time.

For more info: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0092863/

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Recoil (1998)

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In inducting PM Entertainment and Art Camacho to the DTVC Hall of Fame in 2011, I liked the idea of this movie, because it was directed by Camacho, it's PM Entertainment, and it features DTVC Hall of Famer Gary Daniels. This felt like it could be everything that you'd want in an induction post. Let's see if I'm right. Also, our buddy Kenner at Movies in the Attic hit this one too.

Recoil has Daniels as an LAPD detective who is called to the scene of a horrifically brutal bank robbery carried out by a heavily armed gang in body armor. The streets are turned into a battle zone as the cops try to stop them, and in the process the robbers are killed, including a young kid who just happens to be the youngest son of the city's most powerful mob boss. Now he wants revenge, and he has Daniels's higher ups on his payroll, making it easier to get to him; but when they kill Daniels's family instead of him, he's a force unleashed. Now the mobster is in big trouble.

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I really enjoyed this one. Yes, the killing of the family at the hour mark was pretty mean spirited, and usually a film can't overcome that, but this was so unapologetically bad action that I was okay with it. There's a point where the script doesn't matter, where all we need is the next chase, the next explosion, the next shootout. I could've done with more Daniels hand-to-hand stuff, but when the movie starts with a twenty-minute pitched battle and car chase, I'll live. If you go into a PM Entertainment flick starring Gary Daniels and you're expecting something else, then maybe you're the one with the problem, not them, because this is pretty standard fare, and it's pretty awesome.

PM Entertainment is the first production company and distribution house to be inducted into the Hall of Fame. Why no Cannon you ask? Because Cannon existed before and after Golan-Globus, but it was in that era that they ran it that it was the Hall of Fame outfit we know it as, so I wanted to honor them for the work they did. After the Golan-Globus run Cannon though, no one did DTV action like PM Entertainment, and nothing shows us why like Recoil. A very everything-but-the-kitchen-sink approach to action movies that shows us how much they really get it. When they're at their best, plots don't get in the way, it's just about how much shit they can blow up, how many stuntmen they can put through the ringer, and how many firearms they can shoot off.

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Art Camacho is our first ever Hall of Famer inducted for his work on the other side camera for reasons other than directing. Yes, he is a director-- this movie is an obvious example-- but his over 30 tags are for more than that. He's been an actor, stuntman, and fight choreographer, the third of those what he's probably best known for. I thought it was time to start looking at the other people who make DTV movies possible, and when I finally tagged Camacho for more than just his work as a director, it was too big a resume to ignore. While he's not listed on this as the fight choreographer, I couldn't find anyone listed as such, so I had to assume he at least had a hand in it, because it looked great. Art Camacho, a real DTVC Hall of Famer.

Now to Mr. Daniels. I really enjoyed him here. I would've liked to have seen his family survive the attack, and he just be pissed that the mob boss would even attack his kids, and that's what makes him a force unleashed, but when the action hits this pure of a bad action level, wives and kids are merely a means to get us to more fight scenes and explosions. My favorite was right after the family dies, when he sports a white button-up shirt and black dress pants in going to the mob boss's party to go take them down. It was John Woo-like, just a really great sequence, and showed the full range of Daniels's potential. (As an aside, his wife was played by Kelli McCarty, a former Miss America from Kansas who has since had a successful career in porn.)

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Be honest, who had the laser background for their school pictures? Sixth grade for me, maybe seventh too. My grandmother still has some of those photos on display at my grandparents' house down in Florida, and it's always weird to look at them when I'm down there. Who the hell came up with the idea of school pictures? Who gives a shit, really? Is school that big of a deal that we need our own individual portrait taken there, then sold back to us in the form of 8x10s and 5x8s and wallet-sizeds? It's opinions like these that show once again why I make a much better uncle than I'd make a dad.

This is the PM Entertainment Gary Daniels flick you're looking for. It's the everything-but-the-kitchen-sink approach to action films you want. This is as good a film as any for PM and Art Camacho's induction post; plus this is some great Gary Daniels to boot. This is out of print on DVD, so used is the way to go, and a few bucks for it isn't a bad deal.

For more info: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0127751/

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Steele Justice (1987)

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This is it, this is Martin Kove's Hall of Fame induction post. Like many Hall of Famers before him, he has a lot of movies where he only played a small part, but as we'll see in a film like this, he's plenty capable of carrying the lead too, which is the mark of a true DTVC Hall of Fame actor. So without further ado... by the way, this has been covered before by Kenner at Movies in the Attic and Ty at Comeuppance Reviews-- and it's from Ty's that I hotlinked the cover image, so as always, just wanted to let you know.

Steele Justice has Kove as a Vietnam vet who's almost killed by the villainous General Kwan (Soon-Tek Oh) in the waning days of the war. He gets the last laugh, shoots a dart or something into the guy's chest, and heads home. In modern (1987) SoCal, Kove is a disgraced former cop whose former Vietnam and police partner is killed by Vietnamese gangsters-- and it smells like Kwan's work. His old chief, Ronny Cox, suspects that this could be a tough nut to crack, so he unleashes Kove unofficially on Kwan, with only his old buddy Bernie Casey to help out. Will he crack the case, or is he just too far gone to pull it off?

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This one starts off slowly, but once it kicks in, it's pure 80s bad action, the kind of car flipping, stuntmen shimmying, monster rock montage-ing, shirtless male big gun shooting good time you came for. Let's take this one quote from Ronny Cox after Bernie Casey asks him if Kove has his old job back: "He isn't being recruited, he's being unleashed!" And after about thirty minutes of a drunken Kove in bad suits getting the crap kicked out of him, this film finally unleashes him on us, and it's oh so sweet. I embedded a YouTube clip of the too sweet montage clip on the image page-- it's only 1:30 minutes, with 30 seconds to start of a scene with he and Sela Ward dubbed in Spanish, just bear with that--, and I'll be posting some of the others on the DTVC Tumblr. This is just a fun time, plain and simple.

Martin Kove really can do it all, can't he? Lead star, lead baddie, cameo, baddie's hatchetman-- though if the head baddie isn't cool enough, having him as the hatchetman can backfire. This might be his best DTV flick-- er sorry, Steele Justice made a little over $1 million in the box office (sometimes people get nervous if I call a film that had a limited theatrical release DTV)-- definitely one of his best outside of the Karate Kid movies, which he's best known for. He's inducted into the Hall of Fame with this as his 13th movie, but with over 167 imdb credits, he has the potential for plenty more, maybe making a run at the overall tagging record. Martin Kove, DTVC Hall of Famer.

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I had a lot of places to go for this paragraph with all the people in Steele Justice, but I decided to look at Renaissance Man Bernie Casey, who we've seen before in the Fred Williamson film On the Edge. He's great here as the Danny Glover-ish "I'm too old for this shit" detective who's close to early retirement, wants to get there in one piece, but knows that probably won't happen the longer he stays with Kove. Have you looked at his bio? You probably know about the pro football career, but he also has a BA and MA from Bowling Green, is an accomplished painter, and has published poetry books. The question you gotta ask yourself is, why the hell is he in this?, and I think the answer to that is he same he gave for why he played football: it pays the bills so he can pursue his art. Here's to you Bernie Casey, we're not worthy.

Now to look at everyone else. There was the always attractive Sela Ward as Kove's estranged wife. She mixed it up some in the action scenes, and played off Kove really well. DTVC favorite Ronny Cox was sweet as the dick police chief, but when is he not sweet? Not quite One Man Force good, but close enough. A personal fave for me was Joseph Campanella as Kove's old commanding officer. You may remember him best as the dad in No Retreat, No Surrender 3. The guy is 84 and still working. Shannon Tweed had a small cameo as I don't know who, maybe Campanella's daughter, but she was doing business with Soon-Tek Oh, who was also great as the main baddie. It seems like when you get these 80s actioners, the cast takes them more seriously than they would in a 2011 one, and though I get that the material might not be that serious, the fact that they all acquit themselves professionally adds to our level of enjoyment.

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I inherited my complexion from my mom's Irish side of the family, meaning I don't tan that well, but if I did, you can bet shirtless with a pink sweatshirt tied around my shoulders is how I'd go during the summer months. It kind of makes me want to go to a tanning booth or get a sprayed on tan just to be able to do it-- no, I'm not shredded like Kove is, but I wouldn't be doing it for the ladies, I'd be doing it for me.

Um, so yeah, let's finish this one up. Though it starts slow, once it decides to finally "unleash" Kove upon us, it's a film worthy of his induction post. No DVD here in the States, so either used VHS, or for right now you can get it on Netflix Watch Instantly. This is definitely worth a look.

For more info: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0094034/