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.

Friday, September 28, 2007

Baller Blockin' (2000)

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I'm not sure exactly how this movie fell into our laps. I know my buddy got it, and I believe it was a gift from his brother. That's not necessarily so important. What is important is just how big this movie became amongst my friends. It may only be an hour long, but it's packed with more memorable moments than your average full length Nicolas Cage feature.

Baller Blockin' was an attempt by New Orleans Hip Hop impresarios the Cash Money Millionaires to make a film. Juvenile stars as a young man in his twenties, struggling with the memories of his dad's violent death when he was very young; and with the decision of whether or not he should leave his life in the gang he runs with with the other Cash Money Millionaires to settle down with his nice girlfriend. At the same time, the crooked New Orleans cop Curly is trying to muscle in on the gang's turf. This brings Curly in direct conflict with Beatrice (pronounced BE-ah-TRICE, played by Brian "Baby" WIlliams, or Birdman) who runs the gang. Will Juvenile live long enough to end his life of crime? Will Curly get what's coming to him? Will Lil' Wayne make any sense? We never know, because the movie ends only an hour in with a "To Be Continued". I'm not kidding.

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It's very obvious from the finished product that the Cash Money Millionaires found out just how much goes into making a movie, and they got tired of it. It's not just the abrupt "To Be Continued", but in people messing up lines without doing second takes, and in characters who were dead a scene ago coming back to shoot people. With that said, I think my friend put it best when he remarked: "this movie is perfect."

I don't know where to begin. Maybe the scene at the start when a young Juvenile watches his dad die after he didn't have the money for Gar, the crime lord of that time. The dad's funny, Gar's funny, and even funnier, Gar comes back later in the film, and hasn't aged a day in the fifteen some-odd years since he killed Juvenile's dad. And his death scene is even better. Let's just say Birdman had a hooker "bake a cake" for him.

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The dude who played the crackhead in Friday steals the show in this as Curly the bad cop's partner. He has a few moments early on that give you a taste of what he can do, and then showcases his total repertoire in the memorable Interrogation Scene. I'll just quote some of the better lines "I'ma shoot you in your fuckin' tongue!" "Did he just say [inaudible]? You're fucked up? You know that?" and who can forget "It's not in his ass, we already checked!" You haven't lived until you've seen the Interrogation Scene in Baller Blockin', and my friends and I have made sure many people have enjoyed it.

There's a mailman who's killed, not for not passing the welfare checks on time, but for giving Birdman and Turk (another Cash Money Millionaire, if you're not in the know) lip when Birdman tells him to "Pass them fuckin' checks out on time, bitch." The mailman responds to them with: "Fuck you, and fuck you." So they shoot him. Why not? That scene alone garnered myriad playbacks. Who kills a mailman? The Cash Money Millionaires do, apparently.

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That's just the tip of the iceberg. You have the All The Time Guy (a guy who responds to everything with "All the Time"), Lil' Wayne hiding from the cops in an ice cream cooler at a local grocery store, a ridiculous party that ends in a hail of gunfire, and the perfect soundtrack done in all Cash Money Millionaires songs. Oh yeah, and it's to be continued. Words can't give this film justice. It must be seen to be believed.

I have a lot of friends that're into bad movies, and only a certain segment of them really enjoy this one the way I do. We've tried our best to share this joy with others, but they don't always find it as fun. That's why I'm recommending this, but with a huge caution: it's not for everybody. Don't buy this and after watching it say: "this is crap, what was the DTVC thinking?" If you can rent it first, do so, or buy it on VHS for like $2. It's extremely ridiculous, and I want everyone to experience it once, but I'd feel bad if anyone bought it after my review and didn't find it as amusing as I do, and in the process wasted $20.

For more info: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0315253/

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Bloodfist VIII: Trained to Kill or Hard Way Out (1996)

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In seeing this on Spike recently, I had another case of bad movie deja vu. You know what I'm talking about: you think for sure you've never seen a certain movie before, but halfway through it, things look familiar, and it's more than just bad movie cliches. Then it dawns on you that yes, in fact, you have seen it, and you just didn't remember. With this film, it turned out I'd seen it a while ago, probably at a time when digital cable guides didn't exist, so I watched it without even knowing what it was. In my mind, the only thing worse than watching a bad movie once, is watching it twice because I didn't remember the pain I'd suffered the fist time. I guess as a connoisseur of bad cinema, I should probably get a journal like wine people do, so I can recall what it was like: film had bold explosions and potential with great actors, but horrible after taste with unoriginal plot. Also smelled bad once it had a chance to open up.

Bloodfist VIII, aka The Ocho, takes the overused Bloodfist premise of Don "The Dragon" Wilson against the world, and moves it to Ireland. I guess LA told Roger Corman that seven Bloodfists was really pushing it, and if he wanted to make an eight, he'd have to take his business elsewhere. Anyway, D "The D" Dubs is a former CIA agent turned high school teacher trying to raise his erstwhile estranged son. Someone puts a hit on him for killing a dude in Italy, and in order to clear his name, the trail takes him to Dublin. The CIA follows him there, because they want to kill ol' Donny too. As in every Bloodfist, he prevails against all odds.

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Wanna talk about pulling blood from a stone. They were scraping the bottom of the barrel when they put this one together. I can't lie, with the extreme success of Bloodfist VII: Manhunt, I probably would've greenlighted an eight too. It's not like any of the actors had anything better to do, I'm sure. Why not take a paid vacation to Ireland? I bet Donny hadn't been before they shot this.

Speaking of Donny, he really gives this the ol' college try. He's having trouble making the same stale storyline not so stale. I bet he's the guy you have as a roommate that saves every scrap of food because he thinks he can make a taco bake or something out of it. I'm that guy too, and I know sometimes you just gotta bite the bullet and throw that stuff out. And then you gotta bite the bullet again and buy some new food at the grocery store.

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I guess that's the issue with the Bloodfist series: they never did anything new. There was nothing that I could discern from the earlier movies that said explicitly that movies IV through VIII absolutely had to have a guy that was some sort of fugitive with everyone against him with no one he could trust. The first two weren't like that, and the third was only sorta kinda like that. Why they felt compelled to make the others essentially the same film is beyond me. I know after this they really tried to mix it up with Bloodfist: 2050, but that doesn't do anything for me here with number VIII, which is what I'm reviewing.

This may be one of the most nondescript films I've ever done for the DTVC. Other than Donny, there's nothing in it that makes it memorable at all. I've had trouble grinding out more than four or five paragraphs. It's not extremely bad; but on the other hand, if it was, it might be more entertaining. Instead it's just a big pile of blah. The only way I'd recommend watching it is if you're suffering from insomnia or up late typing a paper, and this is on at 2 AM, and it's your only option. Otherwise skip it. It's not worth any money you spend on it, no matter how small; and it's not worth any time you could spend doing something else, like watching another movie, or reading a book.

For more info: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0115711/

Monday, September 24, 2007

Submerged (2005)

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It's looking like a forgone conclusion that Steven Seagal will have his ticket to the DTVC Hall of Fame punched this October when we induct our new members. After seeing Mercenary for Justice, I wasn't so sure the selection committee (which includes myself) made the right decision. But here, with this film, I felt we had a great opportunity for the big fella (not a pun on his weight at all) to redeem himself in the eyes of the DTVC. In the opening credits, when I saw this co-starred not only English great Vinnie Jones, but also one of my personal faves, Gary Daniels, I felt Seagal's shot at redemption was all but certain.

Submerged, despite its title, spends very little time aboard a sub. It's more about some Army dudes (including Daniels) who were subjected by a mad scientist to some kind of mind control procedure. Since the US can't use the Army to take him down (because they're mind-controlled), they need to call in merc Seagal, and his merc boys, one of which is Vinnie Jones. They commandeer a sub, try to recapture the soldiers, but have to kill them on board the sub when they try to kill Seagal and his crew. Seagal then follows the bad guy to a South American country, where a businessman is buying his services. Seagal saves the day in very Seagalian fashion.

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I dug this. It had everything you'd want in a bad action flick. The fighting was nice, the explosions were great, there were solid car chase scenes, and the lead, played by Seagal, was everything you'd want a Seagal to be. The addition of Vinnie Jones was perfect, and as a connoisseur of the bad action genre, Gary Daniels was a nice familiar face.

Whereas in Mercenary for Justice, Seagal was omnipotent, here he was just the action hero. We knew he was going to win eventually, but at least he had to try. At the very end, when this big dude comes out of the elevator to confront him, I was like "this'll be good". Their fight was a little short for my taste, but it was fulfilling nonetheless. His performance here did everything to confirm mine and the other members of the selection committee in putting Seagal through to the Hall of Fame.

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The rest of the Seagal factor was in full effect here as well. He was definitely heavier, and when you first see him come in in shackles, you see that extra poundage. I'm just not sure why he's so self-conscious about it. You never saw Samo Hung worrying about it when he was acting opposite Arsenio Hall. I also love Seagal's new use of Ebonics in his acting. It was truly off the hook in Today You Die, and in this it was even better. I hope he continues to employ this speech in his future roles. It's too ridiculous not to.

If I had one issue with this film, it was the use of Gary Daniels. In my mind he was wasted. He was only in it for the first half, and he barely fought Seagal. For a man of his exceptional skill, I'd have liked to seen more. Don "The Dragon" Wilson and Daniels had a great end of movie fight in Bloodfist IV. Considering that movie came out way before this one, you'd think the film makers would see the potential for a extended scene between Seagal and Daniels, because for us who've seen enough of these films, that's what we were looking for, and we were sorely let down.

One of my favorite scenes involved the hot chic slash tough chic whose Seagal's old friend. In order to drive home to us the viewer that she's more than just a pretty face, we're introduced to her as she's beating a man much larger than her at arm wrestling. Her wrists and arms couldn't be much more than your average super model's, so I'm not sure where the muscle comes from to pull that off. I'm not sure the film makers did either.

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A quick paragraph on Vinnie Jones. He's sweet in this. He does exactly what you want Vinnie Jones to do. His best scene comes when he sneaks up on a mind-controlled sniper. The fight the two have is great, but when Jones finally gains the upper hand, he beats the guy to death with the butt end of his gun. With anyone else, I'd say that's obsessive, but it's Vinnie Jones. I guess the only thing better night have been him beating the guy to death by slamming his head repeatedly in a car door.

When you and your friends are having a bad movie watching night, this is the kind of movie you rent. It works for rookies and old pros; it works on its own, or after a couple other ones; and there's plenty to mock in this. It doesn't take itself that seriously, but it's serious enough that it's not in on the joke. Well worth the price of a rental.

For more info: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0416243/

Friday, September 21, 2007

The Hard Easy (2005)

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I, like most people, rent my movies based on their potential. Who's in it? Who directed it? What did so-and-so say about it? In the case of this film, it seemed to be oozing with potential. Sure, the cover listed a bunch of actors I have no time for like Nick Lachey or David Blahblahblah from Angel; but it also listed two DTVC Hall of Famers in Peter Weller and Gary Busey. Now that's potential.

The Hard Easy is a 90 minute film consisting of 50 minutes of fade-outs. When it's not fading out, the plot involves David Blahblahblah and the guy from ET (who was also in Psycho IV) as two fellas from two totally different situations who need cash bad. The guy from ET has mad gambling debts, so his friend Gary Busey hooks him up with the not-as-cool-as-the-movie-makes-him-out-to-be Bruce Dern, who, with the chick from The Departed, are planning a jewel heist. David Blahblahblah works with Nick Lachey, and his boss Peter Weller has gotten them all in hot water with some junk bonds or whatever. You guessed it: P Dubs has also planned a diamond heist, and it's at the same diamond shop the guy from ET's hitting. They're on a collision course to wackiness.

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This film had two things going for it: Busey and Weller. That's it. Whenever the two of them are on screen (and they're never on together, unfortunately), they hoist the film on their shoulders and carry it to a level beyond what the poor film makers could possibly hope to achieve with this complete and utter lack of imagination and creativity they're calling a movie. After Busey and P Dubs, this is simply a low-rent Tarentino knock-off.

And even worse, Busey wasn't in it much. It's one thing to make a movie bad, it's another to go light on the Abuse. If I see the name Gary Busey on the cover, I want it to be as Abusive as possible. Hit me with it, damn it. Haven't these people ever seen Point Break? The worst irony of this movie is that the film makers probably think they're above a classic like Point Break, and they're wrong, so wrong.

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Peter Weller is sweet in this, but his character becomes a monster that's just too big for the amateurs who made this sack-of-asscrack to handle. His death is a totally played-up-for-laughs yet very unfunny scene where he loads up his weapons in a stand-off, gets ready to go out guns blazing, and is felled with a single shot in the heart by a police officer. It was a travesty that they'd kill off Weller's character like that, after all he did to elevate their fried shite of a film to something resembling respectability. The best thing these people could've done was see the movie Styx. Those people knew what to do with a too sweet Weller character.

The overuse of the fade out gave me a headache. Nothing spells amateur like not being able to transition from one scene to the next. I'd expect something like that from a horrible Star Trek movie some Finnish kids put up on YouTube that my friends might make me watch; but from film makers that were able to cast Busey and Weller, it's just unacceptable. My friends and I got bored saying "Next week on The Hard Easy" or "When The Hard Easy returns", which is kind of a tradition whenever a film employs a fade-out.

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I don't get Bruce Dern in this. He was great in The 'burbs, but here we're supposed to believe he's some kind of criminal mastermind that's hardcore and really cool. He'll kill you if he gets the chance or something. Even worse, we're supposed to buy that he's anywhere near as cool as a Weller, when he's not even in the ballpark. My favorite scene is where Busey's telling the guy from ET about him, and he recalls some heist Dern pulls off dressed in clown clothes. I think the clown part is supposed to be funny and irreverent, but instead it's overused and cliched. The funny thing for me was how Bruce Dern kills his partners in the heist. Who does that? This happens again and again in movies, where the bad guy kills the people he does business with. Why do people keep working with him? And if this film's supposed to be so smart and different, why do they fall back on the same bad movie plot devices?

This is almost worth renting if you're as huge a Petter Weller guy as I am. If you cut out his death scene, it's sweet. On the other hand, you have to sit through another crummy Tarentino knock off that spends as much time as possible telling you how smart it is, when in reality, it's dumber than BloodRayne. If you're not a Weller guy, don't even consider this sack-of-asscrack.

For more info: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0425087/

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Cobra Verde (1987)

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In reviewing this film for the DTVC, I'm taking a slight departure from the usual fare. This definitely was a film that was overlooked when Klaus Kinski and Werner Hezrog collaborated to make it back in 1987, so it's not like I'm covering a huge foreign classic like La Strada or Seven Samurai. On the other hand, this isn't just a bad movie, but a fairly sophisticated film told within the constructs of the West African Slave trade in the mid-19th century.

Cobra Verde is about a man, Klaus Kinski in the eponymous lead, who loses his farm living in Brazil, and is forced to become a bandit, terrorizing the local countryside in order to make ends meet. He's hired by a plantation owner, and quickly he impregnates the man's young daughters. In an effort to rid himself of Kinski, he ships him over to West Africa to oversee his slave trade. There, Kinski is imprisoned by the local king, rescued by the king's brother, leads an army of women against the king, and establishes a successful trade in African slaves. When Brazil joins the rest of the world in outlawing slavery, things fall apart quickly for our hero. The movie ends in an amazing death scene where Kinski struggles to pull his beached boat into the water.

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This movie is fantastic. It deals with slavery in a very different connotation, where instead of the film being about slavery, it's told within the constructs of a world with that as it's reality. For me, I think that makes horror that was the African slave trade even starker than a film that's centered around it as its main subject. It's a very risky way to make a movie, because it doesn't come right out and say slavery is bad, which may offend some; but I feel it's pretty obvious from the lines of men marched in appalling conditions or women in pits waiting to be used for sex that there was nothing advocating or attempting to diminish the inhumanity of slavery in Herzog telling of the story.

If the solid storytelling doesn't grab you, then you've got Kinski, who's at his crazy best in this. For me it's one of his best performances. When he flips out as the king's men take him into custody, it's beyond fantastic. Even better, when he's taken away, his captors fill a gourd with water and stick one of his feet in it. So as he's carried into the king's court, he's got this gourd dangling from his foot. It's a testament to his ability as an actor that Kinski can pull that off.

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Kinski's death scene was amazing. For those who find him ridiculous and love to laugh at him, there was plenty there as he wallowed in the surf allowing the waves to engulf him. For those who find him fascinating and love the method in his madness, it was sheer brilliance to watch his futile attempt to pull this over-sized boat from the beach into the water. For me, I'm one who likes both aspects of Kinski, so the scene had it all. In addition to the amazing Kinski-ness, Herzog included in the background a man he met who was stricken with polio. His legs have severely atrophied, and he's forced to walk on his hands.

There were other great tidbits in this, too. The king's brother constantly gives Kinski the Runaway Bride stare. Every time he was on screen, he elicited laughs from me and my friends. Seeing Kinski in the sailor's outfit, complete with the hat, was beautiful too. Earlier he walks around with no shoes, and a woman asks him why he's barefoot. He tells her he doesn't trust shoes. That's one of the best lines ever in cinema.

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If you have the time and you're watching this on DVD, catch some of the audio commentary with Werner Herzog. I didn't get a chance to see all of it, but what I did see, especially in regards to Kinski, was entertaining. In one instance, the moderator asks him why a section of dialog was somebody other than Kinski's voice. Herzog tells him that Kinski wanted $5 million dollars to go back and loop the audio parts where his voice was off. That wasn't a joke. Most surprising to me was at the end, when Herzog tells the moderator that Kinski overdid his acting, and he gave the character an element of mania that Herzog didn't intend.

If you're a bad movie watcher, I'd give this a shot, even if it isn't exactly a bad movie. There's plenty to joke about, especially with Kinski being Kinski. It is in German with English subtitles, which I know turns some people off. I'm as huge a foreign film guy as I am a bad movie guy, so I never notice it, but I figured I'd put out the warning for those that don't like to read while watching a movie (or put the warning out for those that are illegally downloading it that you'll need a subtitle file).

For more info: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0094888/

Monday, September 17, 2007

Adrenalin: Fear the Rush (1996)

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Many readers have e-mailed me asking why I don't give as much attention to bad movie directors as I do bad movie actors and actresses. I must admit that this is a serious lack of sound judgment on my part, and I am now, starting with this blog, attempting to remedy that issue.

It came to my attention that Albert Pyun has directed multiple films which the DTVC reviewed. Not only that, but he's responsible for a couple classics like Cyborg and MST3K's Alien From LA. When I went to imdb to look up info for the film I'm reviewing here, I saw his name and thought: "That sounds really familiar". As it turns out, he's something of a Direct to Video Martin Scorsese... or maybe Paul Verhoeven.

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Adrenalin: Fear the Rush takes place in a future that's now the past (i.e. 2007), where a bunch of people are infected with a virus, and those that aren't have walled themselves in. Our story is set in Boston or Bucharest (it's not really clear) in one of the zones outside the walled in area. Some mutant that looks like a dude from The Hills Have Eyes is killing people, and beat cop Natasha Henstridge is called in to save the day. She sucks, her partner's killed, so now DTVC Hall of Famer Christopher Lambert is called in with some other people (one of whom is the android that gets his head knocked off in Omega Doom-- also a Pyun film, go figure). They don't do much better, until the very end, when they finally use their guns and shoot him.

Between the title and cover, one might get the impression that this film is pretty silly. I'm here to tell you that the movie delivers. It's that silly. The biggest issue for me was the "is it Boston or Bucharest" thing. The police cars are marked "Policias", and everyone has what looks to be Romanian flags on their shoulders. By the same token, the film is adamant that we're in Boston in 2007 AD.

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That's another thing I love about the futuristic bad movie: when they put the date up as being whatever time AD. As opposed to what, BC? I've always wondered if they feel it adds a level of sophistication to their otherwise lackluster film. For me it's more of a sign post that lets me know what direction the movie's taking me, and that I should buckle up, because it could be a bumpy ride.

Natasha Henstridge plays a cop who for some reason doesn't shoot the mutant thing when she has a chance in the first twenty minutes of the film. She had a gun, and he didn't, and she had a clean shot at him. I understand that Pyun didn't want her to kill the baddie in the opening moments, because there'd be no film left after that. Just the same, I need a better reason for a trained cop to not a shoot a mutant that's just killed and mutilated a baker's dozen's worth of people beyond simply "if you kill him now, we'd have no more movie".

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Lambert is great in this. It may not be his best effort, but his voice is in full effect, and he looks hilarious in this shielded riot helmet thing. In the immortal words of Shakespeare "What, is my beaver easier than it was?" (King Richard III). In your case, Lambert, it was sillier than it was, and it made up for the fact that you didn't have the great hair you had in Beowulf and Druids. Even better, at the end, he survives something like seven gunshots to his torso. Don't ask me how.

This film is twenty kinds of silly, despite being a tad on the brutal side in terms of violence. I wouldn't recommend buying it unless you're a Lambert completist (which I'm not). Your best bet is to rent it whenever your local video store has a two-for-one deal. I did it recently with Steven Seagal's Submerged, and I felt like I got my money's worth with both. So did my friends.

For more info: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0115471/

Friday, September 14, 2007

Brain Damage (1988)

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In high school a friend who was rather new to watching bad movies thought the whole thing was a novel idea, and he planned some big MST3K-like night for us to rent a bunch and make fun of them. The rest of us didn't have the heart to tell him we'd been doing the same thing for years before that, so we just went along for it. I mean, how can you pass up a night of bad movies, right? Well, anyway, another buddy, who like me, was something of a bad movie pro, picked out Bad Taste that night, and the rest was history. It became our favorite movie.

The problem was, the friend who hosted us was jealous that my buddy garnered so many accolades for Bad Taste, that he felt he needed to one up him. It's pretty silly, I know. He rented and showed us this film in his futile attempt at one-upsmanship.

Brain Damage is about a dude, played by a soap opera actor, living in an apartment with his brother. One night he's accosted by a parasite named Aylmer. Aylmer needs to eat brains, and he has the ability to shoot Cool Mint Listerine into the soap star's brain stem, which makes him high and gives him Predator vision. While high, he brings Aylmer into contact with humans, so Aylmer can eat their brains. His life spirals downwards as he becomes addicted to the Listerine, and his girlfriend starts doing his brother. Then the old couple who originally had Aylmer come for him, because they're going through withdrawals. The whole thing ends with the soap star getting too much cool mint Listerine to the head, causing it to burst open in a flash of light, much like the Adam Bomb Garbage Pail Kid.

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Needless to say, this was no Bad Taste, and that friend was slowly phased out of our bad movie watching sessions. Bad movie watching is about the camaraderie, not who can find the best flick. And when you try too hard to find the perfect bad film, you get Brain Damage, not Bad Taste. Like I always say, the key to finding a bad movie is to let the video store tell you what to buy; don't go in there expecting anything.

Watching Brain Damage many years later, I find that I was just put off by our friend's behavior, and in fact didn't give this thing a chance. It's actually not that bad. The Aylmer thing was pretty funny: he sounded kind of like Hanna-Barbera's Purple Hippo; I dug the Cool Mint Listerine everywhere: it made for great easy puns; and the scene where Aylmer jumps out of the soap star's fly to kill a potential fellator (is that a word? one who gives fellatio?) was memorbale to say the least. It wasn't anything great, but in a large group there was plenty to laugh at.

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Difficult to handle was the withdrawal sequence. As the soap star tries to remove himself from Aylmer's grasp, he goes cold turkey from the Listerine injections in the brain stem.
They live in what looks like a gas station bathroom for who knows how long, with the soap star in a wife beater and tighty whities, all stained and gross. Who thought this was a good idea? Brain eating, ears falling off, all that I can handle. But sweaty soap stars in stained undergarments is beyond my sensibilities.

For fans of bad horror, there's an homage to Basket Case in a subway scene. That's just what I want in my bad horror, allusions to other ones. It's like going to the dentist, and while you're suffering through that, he or she reminds you of the last visit and how painful that was. I felt a shudder move through me as the memory passed in my head of Basket Case, and my friends saw this and asked if I was OK.

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This isn't a bad deal if you've got a bunch of people over and want to rent something silly. We had a mixed group when we watched it recently, which included people who avoid movies like this like the plague. I found they were more laughing at the fact that we were watching it than actually enjoying the movie. It was like: "Those silly guys and gals, what're we gonna do with them?" For me that's a much better reaction than: "Eww, why do you guys watch stuff like this? That's disgusting, I'm out of here."

For more info: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0094793/

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Gale Force (2002)

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It's been a while since I've managed to get a Michael Dudikoff film up here. He's a card carrying member of the DTVC Hall of Fame, and with good reason. Unfortunately, though he is still alive, he hasn't made a film since 2002 (according to imdb, this is his second to last film.). Hopefully he will give us a little something something in the future. Maybe another American Ninja film. A guy can dream, right?

Gale Force is about Lifetime Movie mainstay Treat Williams as a cop who needs cash quick, and is in trouble with the force after he accuses the mayor's daughter of staging her own kidnapping. His boss has him do a reality show where he and the other contestants will go to some island and search for treasure. Meanwhile, the show's beleaguered host has set it up so mercenary Michael Dudikoff and his crew of soldiers, including 80s teen movie bully William Zabka, will steal the treasure and give him a cut. All of this is derailed when a hurricane sweeps through the area, and the executive producer is too money hungry to abandon making the show before it hits (I guess none of these people had ever heard of insurance). Anyway, it's up to Treat to save his fellow contestants from both the natural disaster and Dudikoff and Zabka.

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This movie has a bunch of people in it. It has Booger from Revenge of the Nerds, the hot chick from Dear John and The Big Easy (TV show, not movie), and Mr. Kotter's wife from Welcome Back Kotter. This is great when you add these types of people to a Michael Dudikoff and a William Zabka.

What's bad is when you have people like this, and you load the movie up with tons of Treat Williams. This would've been way better if Treat Williams played Dudikoff's role, and Dudikoff was the hero. Then switch it so Zabka plays Mr. Kotter's wife's part, and she plays Treat's second in command. That would've been way more awesomer. As it was, I'm still having trouble with Treat Williams as the main hero. It never worked in the Substitutes, and it doesn't work here. He's more the husband who doesn't believe his wife's being stalked at first, but then has a change of heart at about the 47 minute mark (with commercials) after her brake lines have been cut. The wife can be either Judith Light, Joanna Kerns, or Meredith Baxter-Birney.

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One thing the film did mitigate well was the Treat/Dudikoff final fight. I was afraid they'd have Treat kick his ass, which would've been a bitter pill to swallow. Luckily they had Dudikoff beat him down, then die in a helicopter accident. Under no circumstances should Treat Williams ever take down Michael Dudikoff, just on levels of awesomeness alone. I mean come on: American Ninja 2 vs. Deadly Matrimony or Every Mother's Worst Fear, it's no contest.

I loved the idea of the executive producer who, upon finding out a storm will threaten the lives of the people on the show, decides they need to stay where they are because he's afraid of losing money. Who comes up with this? The amount of money the studio would lose after all the lawsuits from family members of the deceased would far outweigh any gain from not evacuating the people. Of course, if the people were evacuated ahead of time, that would mean there'd be no movie. Maybe what they should've done was have Dudikoff go to the island, and find out an evil man is cloning ninja warriors, and have to work with William Zabka to take them down. I know what you're thinking, that's the plot of American Ninja 2. So what? It's better than this.

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I loved that William Zabka was in this, even if it was on a limited basis. He played almost the exact character he did in the Karate Kid movies, Just One of the Guys, and Back to School. It would've been a better movie for me if he'd just had a scene where he beat up Treat Williams and smashed his boom box. Or even better, he could've picked on Booger, allowing Booger to reprise his role from Revenge of the Nerds.

But I digress. This film is a waste of space. The lack of Zabka and Dudikoff coupled with the volume of Treat-age makes for a bitter formula. Instead of seeing this once, you should see American Ninja and Karate Kid again. This film is definitely not the way to get your Dudikoff/Zabka fix. If you're asking yourself "who actually needs to get a Dudikoff or Zabka fix?", feel good knowing you're a normal human being. I, on the other hand, probably am not.

For more info: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0301327/

Monday, September 10, 2007

The Art of Dying (1991)

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I first got at look at this film after a friend bought it on eBay. Her job gave her and her coworkers some cash to buy things to up their seller rating, and I suggested some Wings Hauser movies. I was stoked when she came back with this one.

Art of Dying has Wings Hauser as a police detective (isn't he always?) tracking a serial killer, who looks like a poor man's Craig T. Nelson, that reenacts famous death scenes from movies: only this time it's real! Also, Bobby Sixkiller's sister in Renegade plays some nympho that randomly shows up a Wings' house and does him. At some point the killer catches the chick from Renegade, and Hauser has to finish him off.

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As far as Wings goes, this may have been one of his best. It is ten kinds of hilarious. There's one scene where he's doing the Renegade chick, and pouring milk and other food on her, and you can see this gross puddle forming on the floor. You can also see Wings' butt cheeks, which I'm not sure how that grabs you, but my friends and I thought it was pretty funny. My personal fave was later in the film when Wings was trying to figure out why the Renegade chick kept randomly showing up and having sex with him. At one point she asks if it's better than marriage, and he says "oh, better than marriage" in this great Wings voice. Then he says that if women were going to be so independent in the 90s, he was gonna go gay. Knowing he wrote the script makes the dialog that much better.

The action is too sweet as well. Right off, Wings and his partner, a low rent Marsha Warfield, are called in to break up a domestic dispute, and the wife stabs Wings' partner, so he throws the woman through a window. It just felt great. I think I had a stitch I was laughing so hard.

Wings ends the movie with the weirdest plot twist ever: the Renegade chick is a cop. I have no idea why, I'm not sure how it's supposed to affect us, why she didn't say something sooner, why she was doing Wings in the first place-- but hey, it's better than marriage. While watching the movie, I wondered why the plot twist didn't feel contrived and unnatural in the plot to Wings, and then I reminded myself I was watching a Wings Hauser Pictures Original, and took a deep breath and relaxed.

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This film has veteran character actor Michael J. Pollard in it. In case you're not sure off the top of your head who he is, he's that guy. When you look him up on imdb (or in the picture above), you'll realize he's that guy. In the movie, he plays the only person with his shit together, and for some reason, no one believes him. He cracks the case like in the first ten minutes. The idea of Wings writing a script where he plays the hero, yet a hero who's too dumb to figure out who the killer is before a veteran That Guy, just makes this film that much greater in my mind.

If there's one drawback to this film, it's the fact that it, like many other of DTVC Hall of Famer Wings Hauser's movies, it's not meant for rookie bad movie watchers. You really need a refined bad movie pallet to pull this off. On the other hand, when you have the bad movie viewing level of expertise to be able to appreciate a film of this low quality, I can't see how you won't thoroughly enjoy yourself.

If you're a bad movie veteran and you see this cheap on eBay or at your local video store, give it a shot. I know I had my share of laughs. This may be Wings' best, and of his bad movies that I've seen, this is right up there with Mind, Body, and Soul. I'd even go so far as to say if you're a rookie, and you've only got a few good baddies under your belt, maybe give this a shot too to see where you're at. You may surprise yourself with how much horribleness in one film you can actually take.

For more info: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0101369/

Saturday, September 8, 2007

Final Payback (2001)

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I saw this on my program guide a while back, and it looked promising. It had John Saxon, Martin Kove, Corbin Bernsen, Laura Herring, and last but not least, Richard Grieco. How could a movie with this kind of star power be bad, right? Oh, it can.

Final Payback stars Grieco as a cop framed for John Saxon's wife's murder. Saxon was his boss in the department, and Grieco'd been having an affair with his wife. Anyway, he knows he's been set up by the cops, so he has to clear his name. At the same time, Martin Kove, another higher up in the department, has hired two former thugs that he has under his thumb to assassinate Grieco. Also, Bernsen is running for mayor, and has a big news conference planned, and he needs Kove to have the Grieco situation dealt with to avoid bad publicity. Finally, Laura Herring plays the estranged girlfriend with a soft spot in her heart for the degenerate Grieco. For all her troubles as the only redeemable character in the film, she's killed by a bullet meant for Griec's.

This was a pretty depraved movie. It was trying very hard to be a suspenseful thriller with a harder, dirtier edge; but it just came off blah. If the basic premise is pretty much a Hallmark family mystery, adding gore and other bad stuff doesn't make it not that, it's just means it has no identity. Or worse, it's just plain disturbing.

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The Laura Herring death may have been the worst. One thing I've always been annoyed with in bad action, horror, sci-fi, etc., is the propensity for the film makers to kill off people who go out of their way to help the hero. I'm just not sure why this makes me root for the hero, when he pawns off his life risking tasks on others. Here I was even more frustrated, because Grieco was so insistent on Herring helping him. It wasn't like she offered a hand, and then was offed; Grieco was fully responsible for her dying.

John Saxon played the same character he's played in Mitchell and the first Nightmare on Elm Street. The problem here, is there's none of that great Johnny Mathias shooting type of Saxon that would've made him cool. He wasn't pulling Gunderoos out of drawers, or trapping people with ceder lattice. He didn't even try to confuse Grieco with an over complicated business deal to buy him off while wielding a Slim Jim. It was just a waste.

Grieco has amassed a fairly respectable resume of DTV movies. I wonder if when filming 21 Jumpstreet he thought he'd have a better, or at least as good of, a career a Johnny Depp. I guess things don't always work out the way we planned them, so while Depp is making horrible films like Sleepy Hollow, From Hell, and Secret Window, Grieco's making this. I guess the only difference is the amount of zeros after the paycheck, which I would imagine is a huge difference.

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I was trying to think of what was good in this. I'm drawing a blank. Martin Kove was Martin Kove, which is great if you're watching Karate Kid, but it's not enough to sell this bad boy. Corbin Bernsen is barely in this, and even if he was, would it matter that much? As far as I can tell, he was only great in that Seinfeld episode where he met George at the Tonight Show, and even there, George did all the work. I wouldn't even watch this for the Grieco factor, because he's all gross and degenerate-like: remember, this is supposed to be a Hallmark movie with an edge.

Don't be lured into this sack-of-asscrack. If you see it at your video store or on your program guide, and you see all the great actors listed, remember this review and run the other way. Let me spare you the pain I endured. This is hardcore bad, and should only be viewed by real masochists.

For more info: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0223284/

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

Poseidon Adventure (2005)

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During the DTVC's recent poll, I got some complaints from C. Thomas Howell's people that, while we were featuring films by Don "The Dragon" Wilson and Steven Seagal, we didn't do any of CTH's. They felt this unnecessarily biased the results against their boy. Unfortunately, with the DTVC's unplanned hiatus, we were unable to get this film up, which would've at least been one for him. Unfortunately we can't change the past.

The 2005 version of The Poseidon Adventure is a TV movie romp meant mainly to scare Americans into being jingoistic and xenophobic. The only four non-whites on a cruise liner piloted by Peter Weller have planted bombs on it, one of which detonates, causing the ship to capsize. A few passengers and crew members, led by Adam Baldwin, an officer for Homeland Security, and Rutger Hauer, a nomadic priest, band together to uphold the virtues of God-fearing white America. They succeed in only saving themselves. This also has Steve Guttenberg and Bryan Brown. Oh yeah, and C. Thomas Howell plays a dreamy doctor.

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I was disturbed by this movie. A large portion of it was the lack of imagination. You'd get more creativity if you asked a group of 5th graders to write an adventure story about the world's recent struggles against the scourge of terrorism. Why anyone was involved in this project was beyond me.

That includes Rutger Hauer and Peter Weller. Guys, we expect more. Weller is unceremoniously dumped early in when a terrorist shoots him in the back. What a waste. Hauer survives as the priest, but at what cost? Definitely his dignity. At least in Hunt For Eagle One he was visibly phoning it in. Here, he seems to be putting in some effort, and the more effort, the less I respect him.

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Guttenberg hurt. He works in Police Academy, or Short Circuit, or even Three Men and a Little Something-or-Other, but here he plays a troubled author who has an affair, but through the tragedy rediscovers his love for his family. Guttenberg doesn't do troubled well at all, considering he was barely that great goofy and irreverent. I liked him best as the cardboard cut-out in El Debarge's "Who is Johnny?" video.

One scene troubled me the most, and when I saw it coming, I told my friends I would hate this movie forever for it. For some God awful reason the film goes from being over, to inventing some convoluted reason why it's not, and makes the survivors traverse some flaming pit. This gives the holier-than-thou writers the chance to kill off it's two remaining "Evil Doers" in a fiery pit of hell. The two Evil Doers: the one terrorist Adam Baldwin didn't kill, and the Jezebel that seduced Guttenberg away from his wife. When the women went, so did the remaining vestiges of this film's credibility.

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Finally, I must discuss the C. Thomas Howell factor. There was none. He was barely in the film, and what there was of him, he was presented to us as a dreamy hunk of a doctor. Poll or no poll, I believe poor CTH's bid for a spot in the coveted DTVC Hall of Fame may be held up another year. I feel bad, because if we'd seen Side Out a month ago, and this ten years ago, he'd probably be in. But it's a what-have-you-done-for-me-lately kind of world, and with this film, you ain't done much. See you next October, C. Tommy baby.

I'm not sure what else I can say. Avoid this film at all costs. Maybe, just maybe, use it as a modern day example of the kind of Red Scare films from the Cold War, like Rocket Attack U.S.A. or Red Dawn; and only use it for an example if you're doing a project for a class on film history dealing with the subject of monolithic scare films.

For more info: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0419358/