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.

Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Werewolf Hunter: The Legend of Romasanta aka Romasanta (2004)

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I saw this movie on one of the Showtime channels a little while ago. I believe it is currently on either Showtime or The Movie Channel ON Demand. It has Julian Sands, which is the selling point for me. He's not a bad guy.

Romasanta has Sands in the lead role, as a sexy seducer of women in 1851 that also kills them and makes soap from the fat of their thighs and buttocks. That means he doesn't dig anorexic chicks. Anyway, a potential victim catches him making soap after a night of long lovemaking, and she escapes. She bumps into a fat guy that explains Sands is a werewolf, and Sands turned him into one too. After a frightening image of the fat guy running naked with Sands, the woman goes to the police, and they go and arrest him. He's found guilty but insane, and is sentenced to an asylum.

Romasanta was a real dude, one of the first recorded serial killers, and the idea behind him was he thought he was a werewolf. This movie was a what if kind of deal. By making it a what if, the film makers take any of the intrigue out of it. It would've been cooler to show Sands as the real Romasanta, who was nuts and thought he was a werewolf, instead of saying "what if werewolves really exist", when we know they don't. For me this movie was a lost opportunity.

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Sands is great in this, as he usually is in anything. My buddy did some research, and he said Sands and Bruce Payne went to acting school together. That's pretty cool when you consider Payne took over for Sands in the Warlock series. The two actually made their first film together in 1982, Privates on Parade. Maybe, just maybe, the next Highlander movie will cast Sands as their baddie. How can you do worse?

A woman named Elsa Pataky plays the chick that eventually brings Sands down. You may remember her as the Latin woman with the baby that sucks the poison out of the boy's wrist in the 2006 hit Snakes on a Plane. She gets naked in this, and Julian Sands washes her nude body with the soap made from other women's thighs and buttocks. She's hot enough that you can get past the grossness of the people-soap, but just the same, it's still kind of weird.

While we're on the subject of nudity, there's a nude fat dude. He runs with a Sands in wolf-form with mud all over him. But this is full frontal nudity, so you get the twig and berries, not just a big pair of buttcheeks. I'm not sure why this is in the film. If it's to legitimize the Pataky nude scene, i.e. to tell the audience they weren't just looking for an excuse to get her naked, but that it was part of the film, that's dumb. When we watch bad movies, it's understood the film makers look for any excuse to get the hot lead females naked, and we thank them for it. The other possible explanation is that the nude guy is there for the women. If that's true, then I feel bad for them, because they got short-changed.

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This film had some great moments. Sands kills a little bird by shoving sticks in its eyes and watching it fly into a tree. This scene is all the more macabre because the bird was in a little girl's hands. After he kills the girl, he gives her the same sticks in the eye treatment. There's also an autopsy where a couple dudes go over his victims while the bodies are preserved in salt. Totally gross. This film also had your classic accent issues, where Pataky and some others have Spanish accents, and Sands and a few others have English ones. I actually get behind this. Why not have Brits sound like Brits? Who cares what nationality their character's supposed to be from.

If you or someone you know has Showtime or The Movie Channel On Demand, give this film a look. When it's free, it's not a bad deal. You may want to consider renting this, but not for new release money. Get it on a night when your rental place has some kind of deal, like two for one or something. Definitely don't buy this before you see it.

For more info: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0374180/

Monday, July 30, 2007

Alienator (1989)

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I saw this listed on Encore Action, and felt it deserved a try. It said it had Ross Hagen, which, for anyone who's a MSTie like me, is known better as Rommel from Sidehackers and Chapman in Hellcats. Upon viewing, I was pleasantly surprised to find it also had Jan-Michael Vincent, and the guy who played Calgon in Space Mutiny: a real MST3K double.

Alienator, upon first blush, appears to take place in the future. An evil dictatorship, of which Jan-Michael Vincent is a higher up, has arrested dissident Ross Hagen, and plans to execute him. Stuff goes wrong, and an apparent bleeding heart liberal, who is there to oversee the execution, seems pleased when Hagen escapes. That's when things get weird. Hagen jumps in a pod and flies to Earth. In fact, this film takes place in the present time, and the people on the ship are all aliens (aliens that look like humans). Anyway, he lands in the woods, and is chased by a buff android woman. Four teenagers run into her along with the game warden, played by Calgon. Ross convinces them to protect him and fight the android. They short circuit it with chicken wire, and think they've won. Then Hagen shows he's evil, and he somehow kills one of the kids (the most annoying, luckily) and then transports himself into his body. Not sure how it works, but fortunately for Calgon, the android chick isn't dead, and she chops off Hagen's head. Oh by the way, that liberal was Hagen's dad, and Jan-Michael Vincent had to kill him too.

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This film is bad. MST3K bad, which is fitting, because it has so many alumni (well, two). When people talk about bad movies, this is the kind of thing they're talking about. This is like on par with Space Mutiny and Future Wars. Horrible special effects, plot that makes no sense, infinitesimal acting skills: in short, very hard on the eyes. If you finish this one with your soul intact, you feel like you've done something big, like hike Mt. Whitney or something.

I was shocked to know that Ross Hagen still made movies. I figured Sidehackers and Hellcats were just passing fads for him. I guess what I'm saying is, how could he put those on his resume and still get work? But of course, if what we call work is fare like Alienator, I guess those other movies are just what the film makers are looking for.

Calgon plays a good guy in this. For those familiar with him from Space Mutiny, this may seem hard to take. What I did, to make it easier, was just simply not accept that he wasn't Calgon. It's not like the movie mattered enough for it to be an issue, and, if anything, it made it easier to take. This really was a hard ride.

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Teagan Clive plays the android, who according to imdb, is the Alienator. She's not as hot as the Latin chick (one of the teenagers), but she's intriguing. She's a female bodybuilder, and it shows in the barely-there outfit she wears. The film would've been way better if there had been some sexual tension between her and Calgon, but morons who make movies like these aren't able to fathom the kind of nuance like that that we as the viewing audience would love to see.

I'll be honest, I'm a pretty experienced bad movie watcher, and I think this may have been above even my pay grade. My buddies and I could take it, but it's really meant for experts like the pros at MST3K. If you think you're up to the challenge, then by all means, give it a shot. You may be lucky enough to find it on TV again. If not, don't spend more than $2 on it.

For more info: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0096786/

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Bloodfist V: Human Target (1994)

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The Bloodfist series is rough for the uninitiated. Don "The Dragon" did 8 of them, all produced by Roger Corman, and there isn't much variation between them. You get some guy framed for something and he's got everyone against him, except usually a woman who gives him a hand. But paper-thin plots aside, the martial arts in these are usually way better than their pay-grade. You gotta respect Don, at the very least, for his expertise as a martial artist.

Bloodfist V, like it's predecessors, doesn't pick up where the previous installment left off. In this one, we see Donny with a mullet getting shot by people. He wakes up in a hospital with amnesia and a haircut. A woman shows up, saying she's his wife, and they escape the hospital and the Asian mafioso trying to kill them. Turns out the woman's a prostitute hired to pretend to be her hubby, and when they go back to her pimp, we find out the pimp, played by American Ninja's Steve James (the guy who played Jackson), is in on the set up. The next 45 minutes has D. "The D" Dubs trying to figure out who he is. He thinks he's a special agent. Then he thinks he's a criminal. We find out he was a criminal, but he's good, and the prostitute was working for the government to set him up, but she loves him now, so she saves him from Steve James, who it turns out isn't her pimp, but her boss in the NSA, who also wants to kill Donny. Who cares if it's convoluted, it's Bloodfist.

Don is pretty decent in this. It's not like 4, where he fights an equally solid fighter in Gary Daniels. That's kind of disappointing, in that I'd like to see Don flex his martial arts muscles, and we don't get as much as we'd want here. Still, he's ever the survivalist.

Denice Duff is Don's love interest, and she does all right. She's actually hotter later when she dresses in her NSA business suit attire. There's also a gross scene where she's being interrogated by the Asian baddie, and he sticks an acupuncture needle right under her eye. Many of you that are fans of bad horror and sci-fi are no doubt familiar with her other work. For me personally, I remember her vividly in a Matlock episode my mom was watching once where she played the girlfriend of an older guy married to Matlock's cousin.

This film also had the distinction being the last movie that wasn't a TV movie for bad action great Steve James, who unfortunately died of pancreatic cancer in 1993, before this film was released. He was probably best known as Jackson in American Ninja 1 and 2. He had a very prolific career, despite dying young. I'd have liked to see him as the star in a movie, but unfortunately that will never happen.

With the lack of great martial arts, we're left with very little here. The action is all right in the bad action film sense, but is that enough? We can get that re-watching a great Dolph Lundgren film. Also, since the Bloodfists don't have any kind of impact on the other films in the series, you can get away with skipping one or another. I'd say skip this one. At best, watch it at 2am if you're suffering from insomnia or writing a paper.

For more info: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0106434/

Knight Moves (1992)

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I wasn't sure if I wanted to write a post about this film, strictly for selfish reasons: the title always gets the Bob Seger classic "Night Moves" in my head. But considering the film had DVTC Hall of Famer Christopher Lambert in it, I felt I needed to suck it up. Talkin' 'bout the night moves...

Knight Moves is about a chess pro/diva played by Christopher Lambert. Someone is framing him/playing a twisted game with him which involves murdering people. Tom Skerritt is cop investigating the crimes with his dimwitted meathead of a partner, played by an expertly cast Daniel Baldwin. Throw in a sexy psychoanalyst played by Diane Lane, and you've got a thriller. Who could the killer be? I'll give you a hint: you'll never guess who it is, and for once, I'm not being sarcastic.

This is the kind of bad film I'd expect on Lifetime or Hallmark starring people like John Laroquette and Meredith Baxter Burney. The difference, of course, is that the run-of-the-mill Lifetime thriller isn't as much fun to mock as one with Christopher Lambert and Daniel Baldwin. It'd be like having a movie where a woman is stalked by her old high school sweetheart 35 years later, and the stalker is Dolph Lundgren. I guess it's fun for us, but it was a huge box office failure, which is why self respecting movie makers pitch these sacks of asscrack to cable networks. (Lambert was one of the producers... oops.)

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One of the things that interested me while viewing this with some friends was the way we mimicked Lambert's voice. It sounds kind of raspy with a tinge of old man in it. I wondered out loud what Lambert would think of us if he were there listening to our impersonations. "Well, that's how he talks" a friend said. Sure enough, right after I said that, Lambert got into an argument with Daniel Baldwin, and he was impersonating our impersonations of him, so to speak. His chess grandmaster was really a diva who strangely got laid a lot. It sounded more like something Van Damme would think up, then Lambert.

When Diane Lane did this film with Lambert, the two were married. I'm not sure how it went down exactly, but Lambert must've had some say in her showing her boobs in their love scene. Now that the two are divorced, and she's doing bigger budget bad movies, I wonder if she regrets doing that scene. I can't remember if she did a nude scene with Keanu Reeves in Hard Ball. (I saw it on a bus ride... honest!)

Diane Lane's marriage to Lambert brings up another issue with this film: nepotism. And who is one of the biggest nepotists in Hollywood? Big Danny Baldwin. In this, like other films, he chews up scenery as this big meathead who says and does obnoxious things. Not much of a stretch, I guess, after seeing him as himself on Celebrity Fit Club. In fact, I'd say he toned his natural meatheadedness down a few notches for this role. All I can say is, this film would've been a lot better with Frank Stallone.

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The ending of the film was pretty stupid. After Lambert saves Lane and his daughter and kills the baddie, this flash of light goes off, which is the same flash of light that would go off to signal he was killing a woman. This time, though, the flash of light just leads to credits. I've always been annoyed when writers leave open-ended endings. Maybe what's worse is that a critically acclaimed show glorifying a nasty crime organization on HBO went to the Knight Moves well in finding their own series ending.

I can't think of anything particularly memorable about this one. There wasn't that great horseback slapping scene like in Day of Wrath, or a scene like every scene in Fortresses 1 and 2. That doesn't necessarily make this useless, just not as big a deal. With that being said, this is probably worth the $5 my buddy just paid for it on DVD, but that's still up for debate. If anything, you should rent it or catch it on TV first. My buddies and I are bad movie veterans, so we could tackle this and keep ourselves entertained. If you're a rookie, and you haven't seen the Fotresses start there, and work your way up to this one.

For more info: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0104627/

Saturday, July 28, 2007

Showdown in Little Tokyo (1991)

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A buddy of mine recently had me and a few friends watch The Dark Crystal with him. He said it was an important film in his life because it's what started his interest in fantasy films. I'm not sure what vulture puppets called Skankies have to do with that, but I took his word for it. Then I thought about what films were seminal in my love of movies. I guess Casablanca or The Maltese Falcon would be the ones that got me interested in Bogey films; or La Strada and Yojimbo got me interested in Fellini and Kurosawa films respectively. But that's not what the Direct to Video Connoisseur is about, it's about bad movies, and when I think of the film that got me interested in baddies, especially bad action, I think of Showdown in Little Tokyo.

I had a friend growing up whose parents stole cable, and we saw this on Pay-Per-View; for free obviously. I was twelve at the time, and though I'd seen many other bad action films before this, Showdown was the one that made me love them, and I haven't looked back since. Now I'm not saying that without Showdown I wouldn't have eventually found something else to pique my interest in this kind of schlock fare, I'm just saying that this one was lucky enough to be the one.

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Showdown in Little Tokyo is a buddy action film with DTVC Hall of Famer Dolph Lundgren as a police detective of Caucasian-American decent that's also a samurai. He's a loner, and can't keep partners. Enter Brandon Lee (before he died), an Amerasian who could care less about his Japanese half. Dolph teaches him to be more Japanese, Brandon admires his penis, and the two protect Tia Carrere while beating down Cary Tagawa and his Yakuza bad dudes. Way better than the Lethal Weapons or Rush Hours.

I don't know where to begin. One of the best scenes is in the beginning, where a bad guy is in police custody, and instead of talking to the police, he breaks his own neck. In school, my friends and I used to mimic this when a teacher was especially boring. I know necks break very easily in action movies, but this one takes it a step further.

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In another scene, Dolph does Carrere in his rice paper hut, and Tagawa's men surprise them. A scantily clad Dolph tries to fight them off, and Brandon Lee remarks, after looking at his crotch: "[y]ou have the biggest dick I've ever seen on a man". This is the kind of line in a Van Damme film that a woman would say, and Van Damme would seem proud of himself. With Dolph, though, we know it's supposed to add to the tongue-in-cheekness, which makes it even better.

That's not Brando's only great scene. At the end, he throws a guy in a vat of something, and holding a lit Zippo, says "you have the right to be dead" then tosses the Zippo in, making a huge explosion. This is, to my mind, Brandon Lee's finest performance, and it's too bad this film doesn't get more run.

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Tagawa and the Yakuza are great too. They constantly cut off people's and their own limbs. Fingers, arms, heads. Like in Bridge of Dragons, Tagawa is a sexually frustrated crime boss, and has his hottie Asian woman stolen from him by Dolph. This time the hottie is Tia Carrere. Despite posing nude in Playboy, in this film, her nude scenes were done by a body double. Not a big deal, but just something to keep in mind as you're watching this.

The ending is spectacular. Dolph dons a samurai outfit with a complete straight face. He and Tagawa take swords from a parade, which means the figures in the parade were walking around with real samurai swords. Dolph gets sliced up, yet survives it all, just so he can pin Tagawa to this large wheel with fireworks surrounding it. The wheel spins, and Tagawa explodes.

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This is bad action at its best. Tons of killing, tons of martial arts, tons of car chases, a bad guy who kills people who work for him and people he makes criminal deals with, hot chicks, and, of course, Dolph Lundgren. There may be better action movies, but there isn't one that's more fun.

I bought this on DVD recently for $5. There really is no reason why you shouldn't do the same. If you watch it on TV, make sure it's on a channel that isn't censored or edited to fit a time slot. Don't watch this on Spike or USA or what not. You're really better off just buying it anyway, so that way you can see it on Spike or USA, and you'll know what you're missing. Believe me, at $5, it's so worth it, and I'd pay even more if I didn't know I could get it for that cheap.

For more info: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0102915/

Friday, July 27, 2007

Zardoz (1974)

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A friend of mine got a copy of this. He'd only heard good things, and it just seemed right up our alley. Apparently Sean Connery had trouble finding work after the Bond movies, and so the film makers got him on the cheap. Hopefully he made his money back in Rising Sun, Entrapment, and Highlander 2.

Zardoz takes place in a senseless future (meaning to the viewer, it makes no sense). Connery is a scantily clad savage that gets guns from the mouth of a big stone head and uses them to kill dirty businessmen. Curious about the head, he climbs inside and it takes him to a group of immortals who saved all of the world's achievements. The immortality comes from a crystal. The brutality of the savage Connery upsets the fragile society, but maybe for the good... I guess... anyway, he eventually slides into the crystal, shoots something, then sits next to one of the women, and the two age into skeletons.

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This movie makes zero sense. I'm not sure what it was trying to say, if it was trying to say anything at all. At some point, I think after the opening credits, I gave up. This would be an absolutely horrible thing, if the movie wasn't so damn funny. The outfits, the stone head, the Connery: it all just worked, even if the film itself didn't. When people talk about watching bad movies, this is what they're talking about.

The Connery factor is too sweet. He's dressed in this leather harness thing that was probably the inspiration for the Spartan garb in The 300. He's also got this long, braided ponytail. The whole thing is fabulous. If Connery as a Russian or a Spaniard by way of Egypt or even barking out orders in Japanese excites you, then this will blow your mind. It's that hot.

Men in business suits are tracked by people like Connery and shot at or in caught in nets. The only possible explanation for this is the film maker's attempt at a metaphor for Weber's iron cage of bureaucracy. Connery and his cronies might be the representation of the all-powerful state enforcing holding the bureaucrats in their cubicles. Maybe, on the other hand, I'm reading too much into this to link it's abject silliness with Max Weber's analysis of human society. It's probably that.

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The crystal made no sense, especially how it imparted immortality. One of the things that the immortals could do was make one of their own old. Connery found this huge nursing home where they stored all the oldies. They tried to kick his ass, and he barely made it out alive. Had this old age home thing happened early on, it would have seemed strange and out of place. By the time we see it, though, we're so lost already, that the only recourse left is to laugh at it, which I personally think is better, because it really is funny.

If you consider yourself a connoisseur of bad films like I do, this is a must have. I really should have my own copy, but instead am settling for having a friend with one. For a while it was on the free movies section of ON Demand, which is an amazing deal, because this is worth paying for. I'd pay $10-$15 for it on DVD, which if you've seen the other columns, that's a pretty big recommendation. I must stress, though, that if you're someone who can't handle a film that makes no sense whatsoever, is silly beyond recognition, and has a scantily clad Sean Connery, avoid it at all costs. For me, those three things make it the Tops, as they used to say, so I'm all about buying it.

For more info: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0070948/

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Second in Command (2006)

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Van Damme, way more than Dolph or Rutger Hauer, is a difficult cast as an American serviceman. The other two have almost no accent, and what accent they have make their speech cooler. Van Damme, of course, has a thick accent, thus forcing screenwriters to come up elaborate explanations for why he's an American that doesn't sound like one. I'm not sure I understand why this is done. Why not just put him in the movie as an American with a French accent? It's not like the lack of continuity will take away some of the credibility of Van Damme's films, because they really don't have any credibility to begin with.

Second in Command is about a fictitious Eastern European country called Moldavia that is in turmoil. The benevolent, altruistic, democratically elected president is facing a coup at the hands of a brutal militia intent on installing a military dictatorship. Our government wants to prevent this coup, so we call in Van Damme. The militia lays siege to the US Embassy and it's up to Van Damme to protect the people, the embattled president, and the tenets of Democracy and Freedom, until the Marines show up with reinforcements. Along the way, he has to battle the Liberal News Media and Left Wing Big Government Bureaucracy, who hinder his attempt to vanquish the evil militia.

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This is a Right Wing propaganda film. It's not as funny as Red Scorpion, but yet isn't as brutally Right Wing as The Hunt For Eagle One movies. At the end of the movie, the militia feigns a retreat, and a liberal bureaucrat tells Van Damme they "Cut and Run". Only a few moments later, he's shot and killed by a Russian general, who the liberal thought was there to help the US, but instead was supporting the militia. Once a Commie, always a Commie.

This film smacked to me of the kind of film John Wayne would make during the Vietnam War. I know what you're thinking, and I thought it too: could a man with a French accent be this generation's John Wayne? At least in this film, yes, and it's a fantastic irony. I hadn't considered it before I saw Second in Command, but the only actor who compares to the late career of Wayne in terms of actually thinking he's the hero he depicts in his film, is Van Damme. I'm not talking about Stagecoach, I'm talking about the silly films he did much later on. It's like when you watch them, you feel like they're (Wayne and Van Damme) the only ones who don't realize how silly they look.

One issue I had with the film is one I probably only have because I have a degree in anthropology, and pursued an advanced degree in political science. Having studied the US involvement in Developing Nations, I see the naivety in this plot. The idea that the US would risk the lives of troops to protect a president of a failing country that has no strategic importance to us is ludicrous. Take it a step further to look at the actual political realities in the country, and the plot becomes even more idealistic: it would be more probable that the democratically elected president was put in power in a rigged election and the militia is popularly supported by a nation of people sick of starving while the fat cats live high on the hog off US aid. Then the militia installs a dictatorship that starts off nice, only to commit the same crimes the previous regime did. I know it's too much to expect a bad action film to be realistic, but it can't have it both ways and expect to be taken seriously as a form of political expression, while at the same time being wholly unrealistic.

The previous long paragraph works as a metaphor for the whole movie: long periods of useless elucidation breaking up lackluster moments of action. When the State Department tells Van Damme they're sending soldiers, instead of us taking their word for it, we have to see a bunch of scenes of military units communicating and mobilizing. There's also a lot of discussion about a plot that doesn't really exist. There are no twists, no ulterior motives, just a monolithic Good v. Evil paradigm. This can be forgiven, if the bad action is there, but it isn't, so I found my attention moving elsewhere.

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I'm totally unsure why Van Damme's in this film at all. He doesn't use his martial arts except for like two quick scenes. If you're not going to use his martial arts, then why have a man with a French accent play a US Military officer? Maybe he was the only one available who didn't have any qualms about the political nature of the film. It just made the film look sillier.

I was intrigued with the way this film dealt with the Liberal News Media. As opposed Hunt for Eagle One, where Mark Dacascos treats her with utter contempt and disgust, here, Van Damme is in love with her. He may decry her "stubbornness", and it is her fault that the militia knows the embassy's escape plan, but she's also very attractive. Van Damme keeps her at arm's length and gets what he needs out of her. She, in turn, softens her resolve when she sees how his way of doing things is the only way to succeed. In a great plot device, the Liberal News Media's weak willed demeanor prevents her from shooting the head baddie, which leaves us with a one-on-one showdown between him and Van Damme. It's one of the few times we see Van Damme flex his martial arts, again, one of many disappointing features of the movie.

The baddie was pretty cool. Considering it was hard for me to believe the president was the nice guy he said he was, and that the only really bad thing the bad guy did was blow up a bus full of innocent people, this film had the Destro effect. I was totally rooting for him to win. I didn't want him to kill US Marines, even if it was only a movie, but I would have settled for a retreat and maybe a solid ass kicking for Van Damme. In a movie with a simple Good v. Evil premise, the fact that the bad guy was the coolest character has to be maybe the most indicative example of how bad this movie is.

I'm sure there are Van Damme completists out there that haven't seen this, and will see it despite my warnings, and let me say to you that I fully understand. Just be ready, and make sure you rent a back up movie. There's plenty to make fun of in it, but with such a slow moving plot (even for an 86 minute run time), chances are you and your friends will lose interest, even if you're making fun of it. I'd say even if you're into Right Wing propaganda films, you'll have trouble making it through this one. It's so bad Dick Cheney will be asking if Countdown With Keith Olbermann is on.

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For more info: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0458471

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

The Killer's Edge or Blood Money (1990)

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I found this film on VHS while milling around on the Internet. I had come into a little cash, and what better way to spend it than on DTVC Hall of Famer Wings Hauser's movies, especially when they have the ridiculously huge faced Robert Z'Dar in them.

The Killer's Edge is about Wings Hauser as an LA cop who likes to shoot first and ask questions later, and is also a great detective. Go figure. While trying to turn a corner in his life and settle down, a huge counterfeiting ring is ambushed by Robert Z'Dar, forcing Wings to ditch the women he wants to settle down with, which makes her so angry she does things like throw fruit at him and have sex with him. This isn't Wings' only issue. Z'Dar, who I may have forgotten to mention above has a huge face, was an old buddy in 'Nam that saved Wings' life. Also, the 90s have arrived, and Wings and the rest of the cast are fighting this fact vehemently, insisting on dressing like the year was 1984. Eventually Z'Dar kidnaps Wings' woman, and then tries to shoot Wings and his woman from a helicopter with a rocket launcher. Luckily Wings put a remote device on the helicopter before it took off, and somehow when he hit a button from another remote device, the helicopter exploded.

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When seeking out a film where Wings is the star, not just a bad guy on an action series like Walker, Texas Ranger or a TV movie like Kevin Sorbo's Avenging Angel, as the movie watcher, you're venturing into dicey territory. This film is indicative of that. We're talking pretty lousy stuff here. Yet my friends and I really liked this one. It's a fairly rich mine of material. The script is horrible and implausible: things like rocket launchers pop up out of nowhere, and a drunk Wings visits his fiancee's 6th grade class on a field trip to the skating rink.

Did I mention this film has the huge faced Robert Z'Dar? I must start by giving credit to the site where I got these pics of him from. If you want to see more of this gargantuan face, check out: http://members.tripod.com/~bmovies/zdar/zdar.htm This face thing is not something that's funny to look at once. It's a major scene stealer throughout the movie. I've seen other Z'Dar films, and no matter what, it's always the same: I can't get over that face. It rules.

The body count in this is rather substantial. Pretty much everywhere Z'Dar or Wings go, four or five people are shot to death. My buddy's wife, who's from Canada, asked if a cop can kill that many people without going up on review. In real life, I guess it just depends on who you kill, but I got the impression from this film that when Wings does get suspended, it's because the chief doesn't like him, not due to the body count, and even then the chief's overruled when the FBI chick investigating the counterfeiting recognizes him as the detective savant he is.

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Another great aspect is the clothing. My friends were convinced this film was made in 1984. Me, being a veteran of bad films, knew how bad film makers are usually 7 to 10 years behind on fashion trends. This movie was actually cutting edge, because it was only five or six years behind. I loved Wings' woman wearing a long sweater and black stirrup pants to the skating rink. I was turned on.

The Wings Hauser movie is a bit of an acquired taste, but once you've acquired it, there's really no going back. What's great about this one is the Z'Dar factor. He's so hilarious on his own, that you don't need to be a real pro at mocking movies to be able to handle it. For me, it's a great introduction to the Wings Hauser category of bad action, perhaps even better than Mind, Body, and Soul. I'd rent it if you see it at your video store, and you may want to buy it for like $2-$4.

For more info: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0102211/

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Today You Die (2005)

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Steven Seagal, though entering the DTV arena only a few years ago, has become quite the prolific actor. I always loved Seagal's films at his peak in the 90s with cats like Van Damme and Schwarzenegger. His DTV fare has actually been an improvement on his big screen roles, and for anyone who's avoided these films, I suggest you consider giving them a look-see: this is bad action at some of it's finest.

Today You Die has Seagal as some kind of Robin Hood type looking to settle down with his wife and live a straight life. Of course, he makes the stupid move of taking a job driving an armored truck for Kevin Tighe. Only Patrick Swayze has been able to take a job from Kevin Tighe successfully, as everyone else has been double crossed. Seagal is no exception, and he's forced to plot an unlikely escape from prison with Naughty By Nature's Treach. It seems he's hid Tighe's money. After some shootouts and what not, Seagal kills everyone not on his side, and then they donate the money to a local children's hospital. Sweet.

Seagal is off the hook in this. He's put on some pounds, so he's not as fit as Dolph or Van Damme, and as such, he has to wear a puffy sweatshirt to bed in order to not show off his spare tire. I guess the question is: would Orson Welles ever be caught dead sleeping in a sweatshirt? I doubt it. Don't be so self-conscious, Stevy baby, we've all put on some pounds since the 90s. His martial arts is still solid, which is really what counts. The tagline on the cover is: "What Seagal does in Vegas, nearly destroys it." Does it get any better than that?

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I'd be remiss as the Direct to Video Connoisseur if I didn't quickly mention the short lived Steven Seagal energy drink. As far as I can tell no one sells them anymore, and I can understand why: they weren't that good. After the silliness of drinking a Steven Seagal energy drink wore off, the bad after taste kicked in. It wasn't a pretty sight.

One of the best elements of this film is Seagal's Ebonics. He talks in Ebonics usually when he's talking to Treach. It rules so much. I'm not sure whose idea it was to make Seagal "down", so-to-speak, but it had to be an inside joke with those people, because he sounds ridiculous. I know now for future reference if I make a Seagal film, I'll write in the script that he speaks Ebonics.

As a fan of the UFC, I totally dug Karo "The Heat" Parisyan and Randy "The Natural" Couture making cameos. In Karo's case, he was shot by some dude, but for Randy, he had his ass kicked by Seagal. Now, I'm not totally sure, but I have to assume in real life Randy could dominate Seagal because I don't think Stevy can grapple. I wonder if that scene made both of them uncomfortable, or if Randy was like "wow, I just got my ass kicked in a movie by Steven Seagal", and he didn't care, and Seagal was like "I'm Steven Seagal, damn it", and he didn't care either.

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Kevin Tighe was a wasted bad guy. He was barely in it, and when he was, the script writers tried to make him sound sophisticated, but instead made it sound like he had one of those word-a-day calendars, and he was trying to work his new additions to his vocabulary into his everyday speech to impress everyone. That's not how I want my Kevin Tighe. I need a guy who talks about "sweeping the eyeballs off the floor after last call". For a film that (not really) had so much going for it, they dropped the ball on this one.

This movie is so worth renting, just not for too much money. Say, on a two-for-one night or whatever your local video store does. I'd also TiVo it if you see it in your guide. This is pure bad action, and with the right group of friends who make fun of movies with you, you could be left in stitches. It's that silly, and, I think, that's what we like.

For more info: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0431114/

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Tactical Assault (1998)

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I saw this on the program guide and knew it had to be good. It had DTVC Hall of Famer Rutger Hauer and Robert Patrick, two screen legends. To me, this was bigger than De Neiro and Pacino in Heat.

Tactical Assault is about an Air Force colonel, played by Patrick, who is movin' on up (Wheezy!) the ranks in the service. He's leading squadrons in Kosovo, and if he does a good job, he should be the man. Also, his wife is 8 months pregnant and living with him near the base (I have no idea why). Anyway, his old buddy Rutger was shot down over Iraq and spent the previous six years as an Iraqi POW. He's back now, and he blames Patrick. It turns out he's right to, because Patrick shot him down, but he only did it because Hauer's crazy, and wanted to shoot down a commercial air liner. After Hauer tries to sabotage Patrick's life, the two must fight it out to the death: dog fight style.

This movie was hot. Hauer and Patrick lived up to their billing. There's no Hauer bait-and-switch here. He's in the film plenty, and as always, he's great as the nut job. Patrick was surprisingly believable as the all American hero. He seems like a pretty good guy, even if he was the baddie in T2 and Double Dragon. It makes me proud to be a a citizen of the United States when we have film makers with the genius and ingenuity to make a movie with these two amazing acting talents. I feel pretty good about it.

Don't get me wrong, this film is pretty hilarious too. In one scene, Hauer steals Patrick's wife's purse. When she gets home, she finds her keys in the lock and the door open. Instead of putting the missing purse and the keys together and running for help, she goes inside to investigate. She was lucky it was early in the movie, but that was exceedingly dumb. At the end of the film, Hauer chases Patrick and his wife in a tank that's just chilling with out anyone guarding it. Patrick takes him out with some RPGs that are also well guarded.

The RPG to the tank death of course is only there to allow Hauer to escape so we can end the film with Patrick and Hauer settling things in the air. It's as if the film makers had a dart board with bad action cliches on it, and they just shot a few to see what each scene would have in it. And I must tell you, I liked it.

This film's kind of devoid of hot chicks. There's one who plays Hauer's psychiatrist. She meets an unfortunate death when he hangs her. I'm not sure I exactly need hot eye candy when I have Patrick and Hauer together, but every little bit helps.

This movie is so worth it. If you can find it on DVD for like $2, totally do it. If you see it listed on your program guide, definitely TiVo it. You don't often get two screen legends in one film like this, and here you not only get that, but it delivers.


For more info: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0127917/

Friday, July 13, 2007

Idiocracy (2006)

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My friends and I found this film looking for something to watch on ON Demand. We were all surprised, based on the film's pedigree of director (Office Space and Beavis and Butthead's Mike Judge) and actors (Luke Wilson especially) that we hadn't heard anything about it. After seeing the preview, we decided to give it a try.

Idiocracy is about a dude, played by Luke Wilson, who is used by the Army in an experiment in freezing humans to store them until they're better needed or something. Maya Rudolph plays a hooker that's stored in another pod along with Wilson. In a mix up, they aren't thawed until 500 years later, when people have devolved into thoughtless meatheads. Wilson is first arrested by these meatheads, then is discovered to be the smartest among them, so is a job as adviser to the president, a former professional wrestler, in order to save the world from destruction at the hands of the morons who currently populate it. The whole time Wilson holds out hope that he may one day be brought back to the past by way of a time machine that he's been told exists.

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This movie was of very solid quality. It was almost as funny as Office Space. I'm not sure exactly what happened to this film, and why it was pretty much DTV, with only an extremely limited release. Maybe the fear was that it made fun of the core movie going audience too much.

Luke Wilson was perfect as the main character. He had this great off-beat delivery with his lines that made me wonder if he wouldn't have been better than the guy from the Sprint commercials in Office Space. As a viewer, we empathize totally with Wilson, partially because we've dealt with the kind of meatheads who rule the world 500 years into the future on a much smaller scale. He's a great everyman.

The social commentary of the film is very straightforward. Mike Judge feels there's a movement toward anti-intellectualism in the US. As a huge sports fan, the characters of the future had all the hallmarks, with the homophobia and fear of looking like a "fairy" by talking in a certain way or reading something, of the Sports Talk Radio Meatheads I was familiar with. In a recent GQ and on SportsCenter people were trying to validate and quantify the Sports Talk Radio phenomenon, with, to my mind, very little success. Judge doesn't try to make excuses for or try to understand why meatheadedness is so popular; he simply states that dumb is dumb. I think it's refreshing.

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Dax Shepard is in this as Wilson's moronic liaison to the future. In Let's Go to Prison he plays a completely different character, and he's believable in both. As a moron in Idiocracy, he doesn't just play his role with a wink-wink, nudge-nudge, trying to keep us aware that he's actually intelligent in real life. Instead, he plays the moron to the hilt, and lets Judge do his part in making fun of the trend toward moronity in the modern US.

This movie is worth it. At the very least, you should pay the $4 to rent it on ON Demand while you still can. This is one of those first rate films that slipped through the cracks of the movie industry into our laps as DTV fans. Especially if you liked Office Space, you'll dig this.

For more info: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0387808/

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Amanda and the Alien (1995)

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I first caught this film late at night on Showtime or something. I saw that it had Stacy Keach, which intrigued me. I later found out (from watching it) that it also had Michael Dorn, who is one of my favorite actors.

Amanda and the Alien has Nicole Eggert in the title role of Amanda, an artist or something, that befriends an alien. The alien eats people, becomes the person it eats, then eats another and becomes that person. The alien, as a chick, has sex with a dude Eggert's been hooking up with, then eats him, becomes him, and Eggert falls in love with him. She protects him from Dorn and Keach, who are working for the government to stop the alien. The film also has John Diehl of Miami Vice fame.

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I think this film was supposed to be a comedy or off-beat or something. Instead, it was none of that, and I had trouble figuring out who I should root for. An alien that eats people and masquerades as them to eat more, is a pretty scary thought, and I'm not interested in a Nicole Eggert trying to protect said alien because she's a weirdo. Dorn and Keach were painted as bad guys, but they should've been protagonists.

In terms of the Eggert factor, this may be one of her hottest films. I think she's better looking in this than Baywatch, Charles in Charge, or Blown Away with the Coreys. Also, a woman named Alex Meneses played the alien pre-boyfriend eating, and she was hot too, especially when Eggert was trying to fit her into a too-small bra. It's too bad she didn't have a better agent so she could've stayed in the film longer, especially since she turned into Eggert's boyfriend.

Michael Dorn is great in this, and would've been even better if this had a better script. In one scene, he goes to a pretentious coffee shop and smashes a dude's acoustic guitar. He not only should've been the hero, but he should be in more films as the hero. When he's eaten by the alien near the end of the film, it's very disappointing. He becomes Eggert's cohert, as opposed to vanquishing the alien and prevailing with Keach, which I wanted.

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You may notice that this film came out in 1995, at the height of the Morphing Craze. Movies were using this new computer generated special effect as frequently as humanly possible, and this film was no exception. The alien, before eating someone, would morph into some small insect-like thing, then wrap it's tongue or something around the next victim and go inside the person. I'm not sure where all the mass of the person goes when the morph happens, or whatever, but the whole thing just looked silly, and given how dumb this movie was, it wasn't a good silly.

Unless your a Dorn completist, avoid this film. It's not even worth the time spent to watch it for free. Eggert's hot, but I'm not sure it's worth it, even for that.

For more info: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0112339/