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.
Wednesday, December 26, 2007
This is a film my buddies and I have been meaning to see for a long time. No place carried it, and when asked, they'd often confuse it with Hidden Agenda, which would get our hopes up, only to have them cruelly dashed. Finally, through the beauty of Netflix, I was able to bring this bad boy home.
Hidden Assassin, or Hidden ASS-ASS-in, as I call it, is about a Cuban ambassador who's assassinated on US soil, and it's up to Dolph to find the shooter in order to save US-Cuban relations. First thought is it's a famous chick sniper that did it, but after Dolph catches her and she helps him clean a nasty wound on his forearm in her bath water (while she's in it), he decides she can't be it. He risks everything to find out who the real shooter is, and the deeper he digs, the more he finds himself immersed in a tangled web of deception and intrigue.
This was a pretty sweet Dolph flick. You'll know it's gonna be good too, when you see the laser sight trained on the Cuban ambassador in the first scene as he's about to be assassinated. It's not done with a laser pointer, like most films would do. They use and animated red dot. It was hilarious, and the rest of the film lived up to that hilarity.
Dolph Lundgren, as always, was sweet in this. I unfortunately didn't get this film in time for Dolph Fest '07, but I'll be sure to include it next year. He's got this great 90s vintage bowl cut, that I personally liked better than the great hair he had in Pentathlon. He has a great scene where he gets drunk in trying to impress the suspected female shooter at her restaurant with his knowledge of wines. He's stumbling around, and he says to the chick "I must respectfully inform you that I'm wasted." My personal favorite was at the end, when he's running around with his classic Dolph sprinting form, and his T-shirt's soaked in blood. Good times, baby.
This had Det. Sgt. Taggart from Beverly Hills Cop. I would've preferred Judge Reinhold, but I feel like beggars can't be choosers. He plays Dolph's buddy in the CIA or whatever, and we're supposed to believe he's a sophisticated secret agent, as opposed to a blue collar cop. It's like they pulled him from a guest spot on Hardcastle and McCormick and gave him a gun and some super secret agent lines. I can't blame them for casting a Beverly Hills Cop alum, though, even if he did seem out of place.
The chick in this is pretty hot. She's a lesbian, and owns a club and a restaurant with her partner. Apparently she's not that much of a lesbian, though, because she hooks up with Dolph later on. I can't say I'm surprised. If anyone could make lesbian chicks straight, it's Dolph. I'm sure he's made some straight dudes gay. Just the same, I think she wasn't really supposed to be a lesbian, they just threw that in there to make the film more erotic, like maybe she was bi-curious.
I'm not sure I understood the premise that Dolph is running around like this to save US-Cuban relations. I know it wouldn't look good if we were assassinating their diplomats when they visited our country, but on the other hand, I never got the impression that we were blamed for the assassination, just blamed for doing a poor job protecting him. Either way, is that a major issue in the State Department? "Hey, does Cuba still hate us? Yes? Okay, well just make sure they don't hate us any more than they already do, all right?" Of course, I've heard of worse premises for movies that were more successful than this one: try our Founding Framers, strapped for cash to run a revolutionary war, decided to hide a multi-billion dollar treasure in cave somewhere, and now, some 200 years later, Nicolas Cage is on the scene to find it. I'll take Dolph saving US-Cuban relations over that sack of asscrack anytime.
If you're a huge Dolph fan like my friends and I are, this is a must rent. If you're just a bad movie fan, and you think Dolph's just all right, I'd rent this too, because it delivers on the Direct to Video action end too. It's just a good bad movie, and you and your friends will have plenty fun making fun of it.
For more info: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0114432/
Sunday, December 23, 2007
Now a few years removed from Andromeda and Hercules, Sorbo is embarking on that DTV acting career we all looked forward to. He has Walking Tall 2 under his belt, which was a fair effort, and very funny with how little the film makers cared about whether he had a Texas accent or belonged in the South. Now that he's done a sequel, I'm a little skeptical to see how anyone's going to be able to mine territory that seems to have been stripped bare.
Walking Tall: Lone Justice picks up where the last movie left off, with Sorb-doggy heading into Dallas to see the chick he hooked up with last film and her persnickety daughter. Unfortunately, the chick's targeted for a hit by a big time drug dealer looking to get off the hook for some murders and whatnot. Sorbs takes matters into his own hands when it seems the Dallas cops and the FBI can't protect her, and brings her to his ranch, where he holes up with some other cats from the town to take on these bad drug dealers. Wake me when it's over.
This is worse than only being boring. If it was just boring, I could handle that. In an attempt to breathe new life into dead concept, the film makers used some tricky yet lame editing and music. They then tried to make the film seem dark by cutting off a federal agent's thumbs. It was disgusting and superfluous: the only reason they cut the thumbs off was to artificially make what was a fairly light bad action movie into a dark bad action movie. I guess I could've withstood the bad tricky editing and silly music if it wasn't for the random thumb chopping. It was just weird and disgusting.
I think Sorbo was talked into playing this somewhat darker to remove himself from the shadow of his great work on Hercules. What that does is alienate his Herc fan base, which are probably the only people that'll want to see him in the stuff he does. In the beginning there was a great scene where he goes to get ice cream at a convenience store that's held up. His dispatching of the baddies is straight out of Herc. The he gets arrested for his antics, and I'm assuming the film makers used that as a way of telling us this ain't our regular Sorbo fare. Let the thumb amputation begin. Too bad, because the scene in the store was the best one in the film.
When this movie wasn't trying too hard to be dark, it was boring. There's a scene where Sorbo and another guy transport his girl's comatose body through a hospital to keep it away from the baddies. This goes on forever with no real tension. Eventually Sorbo has it out with them, and we knew this was going to happen anyway, so why not just cut to the chase? They're also long scenes of cars driving. Not being chased or flipping over, just driving. And not with dialog like in Driving Miss Daisy either. I'm talking just a car and a dusty country road, and bad music in the background. Who thought this played well when it was screened?
There was this stupid part where Sorbo's mom won't allow pizza to be eaten in her house, because I guess it's not country enough. Who comes up with this shit? Especially when the baddies find Sorbo's ranch using a menu for a local pizza shop found in the thumbless agent's car. If pizza's not country, then how does a pizza place make money there? I can totally see eating pizza all the time being a bad thing, but once in a while, say when your mom's been shot like the kid in this film's was, isn't the end of the world. It's like it's what Hollywood's idea of small town life in Texas is. It's just more stupidity as far as I can tell, and indicative of the crap that's thrown together in this to make a DTV DVD.
In my review of Walking Tall: The Payback, I said that if that was the kind of stuff we had to look forward to, Sorbo would be in for a great DTV career like those in the DTVC Hall of Fame. Even in that one, though, I had a problem with a gang rape that had the same effect as the thumb amputation in this. Part 2 was fun enough to get past the attempt at forced darkness. This one, on the other hand, was too boring for me to ignore the sudden removal of digits. Avoid Walking Tall: Lone Justice, your brain will thank you.
For more info: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0804551/
Saturday, December 22, 2007
This was one of those USA Up All Nite 2 AM to 4 AM staples that would pop up about once every four months. It amazes me that USA has done away with Up All Nite and all it's great movies. What happened to Rhonda Shear? I bet she has a MySpace page. Anyway, I'd rather watch quality cinema like this film and its brethren than reruns of Monk or House at 4 AM on a Saturday morning when I'm trying to work off the old spinning bed syndrome after a night of heavy drinking. Did accountants auditing USA's TV schedules years ago find the channel could really generate more revenue with this new programming format over the old one? I find that hard to believe.
Meatballs IV has little to do with its namesakes other than it takes place at a camp. This installment is a ski camp that's losing money to its ritzier rival up the road. They call in champion water skier Corey Feldman to whip the campers into shape so they can beat the rival at the area ski meet. They do, but the evil woman (played by the evil woman from the Christopher Reeves Superman movies) who runs the other camp won't give up without a fight. Seems the owner of the cute camp we like has a money back guarantee policy, and the evil woman at the bad camp wants that to backfire on him. Her goons sabotage the camp, and when Feldman finds out, it's almost too late. The only thing left is an all or nothing one-off rematch with the bad camp. It'll take everything ol' Feldy's got to pull this out.
This movie should be as lame as every other film in its genre, but it ain't, and there's only one reason why: Corey Feldman. He's so amazing in this, as he is in everything. This was a few years prior to Dream a Little Dream 2 and only three short years after The 'burbs, a classic which he did with Tom Hanks. When the drop happened, it happened quick for him. It was like Nirvana erasing the Hair Bands, and I guess Corey's Nirvana came in the form of narcotics. Either way, as I look back on my childhood and the plethora of Feldman/Haim flicks, it does seem like they vanish suddenly from the silver screen without any notice, and I'm suddenly watching the new ones premiere on Cinemax at a friend's house. He even jokes about his waning fame at the end of this film, and I think there's a sense that because he was only a few years removed from the Big Time, he'd be back quickly. 15 years later, and it seems poor Mr. Feldman is a footnote in the annals of Hollywood, relegated to a life of DTVC films and reality TV shows.
Maybe it's more the nostalgia and less the actual movie that's won me over. It's like in watching the one scene where Feldman dances like Michael Jackson to a thinly veiled instrumental rip-off of "Black or White", I'm seeing the wave of a great Hollywood career break on the surf and recede back into the abyss. At the end of the film, as he pleads "I was in Goonies and Stand By Me and Lost Boys", we plead back "God damn it! I know!" If this film had the budget, it should've played Don McLean's "American Pie" during the credits. Not the whole thing, just the slow part. "Bye... bye... Miss American Pie..."
As a huge Point Break fan, I had to notice Bojesse Christopher as Wes the hot camper. I couldn't place him right away, and almost did a mid-movie imdb search to figure out who he was. I hate doing that, because it's like surrendering without giving a real valiant attempt. But it was eating at me that I couldn't remember exactly what I'd seen him in. Then it hit me. The Hendrix playing in the background, my viewpoint being that of Keanu's Special Agent Johnny Utah walking into Bodhi's party, and there he was, Bojesse Christopher, dancing in front of me. No need for the mid-movie imdb look up, thank God.
A major That Guy, listed as J. Trevor Edmond, is also in this. He played a jerk jock in almost everything in the 80s and 90s. I remembered him best on 90210. According to his bio, he hasn't done anything since 1999. Unfortunately, this makes plenty of sense. At thirty, it gets harder and harder to cast you as a teenager. The one show that might have done that, 90210, which had a reputation for using thirtysomethings as teens, by 1999, were into their college years. Same with Saved by the Bell. Now he's 38, and he could probably only play a teen bully in a high school spoof film, like Wet Hot American Summer, and I think Paul Rudd did a better job than he could in that one.
There was plenty of T n' A in this bad boy, as can be expected. Though I definitely dug that, perhaps the hottest woman was Sarah Douglas, the evil woman running the other camp. You may remember her as Ursa from the Superman movies. All right, so maybe it's a stretch to say she was hotter than the Asian chick the fat dopey guy wanted, or the camp councilor Bojesse went for, but she was way hotter than the girl Feldman got. What was he thinking? Rich and hot and old... well, as Meatloaf says "Two out of three ain't bad".
If you grew up in the 80s, you need to see this for the Feldman factor. He's awesome. The rest of it is take it or leave it, but so are a lot of movies. I'd rather watch this than a National Treasure or Da Vinci Code, or a rerun of House or Monk at 4 AM. If you don't like Feldman or are too young to comprehend him, avoid this, because it's crap, and without Feldman, it's got nothing.
For more info: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0104837/
A little less than ten years ago a friend and I were on a kick where we watched a bunch of Michael Dudikoff's two-word titled movies. We would sit back on a Sunday night, buy some Mississippi Mud black and tan jugs, and watch these gems of bad cinema until one or both of us were melting plastic bottles with lighters or throwing plastic lawn furniture on the roof of my dad's shed or cranking Culture Club's "Do You really Want To Hurt Me?" till the neighbors complained (or sometimes all three at once). If you look through the Dudikoff catalog, there're a lot of these two-word films: you have this one, Bounty Hunters, American Ninja, Strategic Command, Virtual Assassin, Soldier Boyz.... I wonder if any art house movie theaters have ever devoted a weekend to a Dudikoff two-word titled film fest. It'd be a hit, I think.
Moving Target, though unrelated to any of the Bounty Hunter movies, pits Dudikoff in the unfamiliar role of a man hunting people who have jumped bail. Here, he's got a pregnant fiancee that wants him to quit, but before he can, a nice Russian couple offers him big cash to find their son. Though he doesn't freelance, it's the holidays, and he knows he and his woman can use the extra scratch. Bad deal. Turns out he was used to find the guy so he could be assassinated by some rival Russian mobsters. Not only that, but he's framed for the hit. Now, with the help of a former cop and a detective buddy on the inside played by Billy Dee Williams, he's gotta clear his name, stay alive, and keep his fiancee from dumping his ass for not giving up the bounty hunting racket.
This is pretty good. There's nothing spectacular that really stands out, but there's also nothing that really sucks about it either. It's a decent bad action movie. Dudikoff is solid and he gets the job done. Billy Dee doesn't mail it in, even though you wouldn't necessarily blame him if he did, because this wasn't exactly Star Wars. He turns in a great performance. The plot's fairly convoluted, but the movie doesn't get too wrapped up in it and make it take away from the action and ass kicking, which is what you want.
In terms of Dudikoff, this may not be as memorable as American Ninja, or as silly as Virtual Assassin or Soldier Boys, but this definitely reminds me of why I like him as an action star. He's more no-nonsense than flashy: you won't see any splits or his bare buttcheeks; yet he's equally as heroic and someone you want to root for to take out some baddies. This is quintessential Dudikoff, from the beatings he takes and gives out, to the faces he makes when he's in pain or stressed. Someone who hasn't seen his more renown films like the few I mentioned above may not appreciate this movie as much, but if you're familiar with his other work, you'll be satisfied with this performance.
I believe this was the film where my buddy and I looked Billy Bee Williams up online (I think in the fledgling days of the imdb, actually), and found out his middle name, Dee, stands for December. William December Williams. As a child growing up with the original Star Wars trilogy (I'm only old enough to remember Jedi coming out in the theaters), Lando was always my favorite. Perhaps the best line in movie history is "Get goin', ya pirate!" Then there was his great Colt 45 ad campaign, which made him even cooler to me. Discovering his middle name's December, even though he was born in April, was just icing on the cake. He's not in this as much as Dudikoff, but he's in it enough to keep me, and I think other Williams fans, happy.
One of the more interesting aspects of the film was the interplay between Dudikoff and his fiancee, who wanted him to take up a new line of work. Usually these films exploit this relationship so we have a damsel in distress situation with the hero saving her from the baddies. This never went that route. There was one scene where Dudikoff is attacked by some thugs at a high school during a la mas class with his wife in the evening. The wife was never in any real danger, and the issue was more her being upset that he wasn't straight with her about the trouble he was in. Though I also like the formulaic damsel in distress situation in a bad action movie, this take where the love interest isn't involved in any danger, and the hero doesn't have all the answers in how to fix their faltering relationship, was a refreshing take.
Don't get me wrong, there's plenty to make fun of in this too. If you've seen American Ninja, and are looking for more Dudikoff, you could do a lot worse than renting this. I'd probably watch Virtual Assassin (aka Cyberjack, as it's sometimes labeled) or Soldier Boyz first, just so you have a broader context to put Dudikoff in when you see this, but it's worth a look. Of all our DTVC Hall of Famers, I think Dudikoff gets the least attention from bad movie goers. That's partly our fault for not reviewing more of his films, and hopefully we'll rectify that in the future.
For more info: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0117096/
I first saw this in the mid-to-late nineties with a buddy-- the same one who had ingeniously discovered Bad Taste for us a few years before. We knew when we saw it on the shelves we had a potential classic on our hands. Now, over ten years later, I was looking for this gem, and been unsuccessful. That's when Netflix came in. It was one of the first films I put in my queue, and after all these years, this film definitely stands the test of time.
Bloodsucking Pharaohs in Pittsburgh is about a serial killer terrorizing the Steel City's ladies of the night, not only murdering them, but dismembering their bodies in gruesome ways. Enter detective Sweeny Birdwell, who's got a partner that gets squeamish around blood, a wife that's a disgusting chain smoker, and a boss that might kill him if he doesn't solve the case. His weak-stomached partner, Joe Blocker, admits to Sweeny that he knows all the victims, and that this case might be linked to another case he had in Vegas: the one that not only made him afraid of blood, but also coincided with his wife dumping him and him gaining a sexual disorder. Desperate to crack the case quickly, Blocker calls in his old partner in Vegas, only to have his daughter show up and find out he's missing. The daughter, despite Blocker's protests, wants to tag along and help solve the case. It's a race against time as the two beleaguered detectives and one detective's daughter try and stop this killer.
This is a horror film played up for laughs, and the laughs are definitely there in abundance. This isn't only a well done spoof on horror films, but also a parody of Film Noir detective films. There's one great scene where Blocker's trying to cheer up Sweeny's wife in an homage to something like Bogey and Bacall in The Big Sleep. Only here, the wife's face is covered in bandages, she has a cigarette protruding out of a hole in them near her mouth, and she's talking with a mechanical voice box.
Much of the humor in this isn't as subtle. You have the wife going to a service to help her quit smoking that involves men dressed in gorilla suits hitting her with fire hoses. There are constant comments made about Det. Blocker's sexual problem. Everything is as ridiculous as possible. One murder victim is killed with a jackhammer. Another with a shopvac in the mouth.
Like Peter Jackson's Bad Taste and Dead Alive, this makes everything it can gross, the way Miami Vice put everything it could in pastels. Food is unappetizing, people's living spaces are covered in filth, every character is messy as hell. I've never been to Pittsburgh, but I have to imagine there's some nice spots, and we see none of them here. To make Blocker sick, the people working at the morgue present him with a disgusting tomato salmon casserole. Who comes up with that? I loved the overall feel of this film, and the gross atmosphere just added another level to the silliness.
The best line for us came at the very end, when Blocker gets over his fear of blood to help his old partner's daughter escape from the clutches of the bad guy. After being dunked in a pool of blood, he later watches the bad guy get crushed in a trash compactor. Her blood showers him as she's squashed, and he exclaims "My spring rain." We watched that scene over and over again. I'm not sure why that, out of everything else in this movie, did it for us, but it did. It was probably his voice, which was very monotone yet pleasant, like a delivery man getting a small, yet adequate tip, and thanking you for it.
There was some dead time in the middle when the old detectives daughter first comes into the film and there's a lot of plot exposition and deciphering hieroglyphics. That's my one fault with this. Unlike other greats in its horror spoof genre, like the aforementioned Jackson classics and the amazing yet underrated Street Trash, which start out a sprint and carry that energy to the finish, this one disappears for about twenty minutes, and I started looking at the info panel to find out how much time was left. That could be a problem if you rent this with a big group, and a lot of them have ADD. It's my experience that people who watch bad films to make fun of them tend to have ADD too. What a shock, huh?
This is a great and really funny movie. It's sweet to tell people your watching a movie called Bloodsucking Pharaohs in Pittsburgh, and the film definitely lives up to its name as an entertaining horror spoof. I'd put it more in the Blood Diner category before I'd put it in the exalted status of a Bad Taste, but you'll get your money's worth if you rent it.
For more info: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0101483/
Out of everyone in the DTVC Hall of Fame, Miles O'Keefe is probably closest to the Bruce Penhall/Julie Strain lowest level of bad action movies. He has his moments, like his two films with fellow DTVC Hall of Famer Rowdy Roddy Piper, and his role in Fred Williamson's Silent Hunter; but otherwise his movies tend to scrape the bottom of the barrel, which is fine, I guess. He may be most famous for his turn as Ator in the MST3K classic, Cave Dwellers. I still feel that episode is the pinnacle of the art form of making fun of bad movies, and a must-see for anyone who partakes in that for a hobby.
Diamondbacks is about a small northern California town that just happens to be the site of the main communications conduit between NASA and two astronauts orbiting in space that are deploying a satellite. Word on the street is this satellite will be used by the US to spy on its citizens. Miles O'Keefe, head of the eponymous militia group, doesn't want to see that happen, and he and his men don black jumpsuits and Kalashnikovs and take over the command center in their sleepy little northern California town. The dude running the command center won't go down without a fight, and he does everything he can to warn GW Bush impersonator Timothy Bottoms, the man at NASA in charge of the mission, that trouble's afoot. Luckily, Bottoms is a meticulous dude, and a split second blip in their equipment that occurred when Miles and his boys commandeered the center hasn't passed unnoticed, despite how crazy his fellow NASA cats might think he is. Can the California guy get a hold of Bottoms before Miles and his boys ruin the mission?
This is a very poor film shot on what must've been a shoestring budget. One clue to the lack of money was the file footage they took for free from NASA and spliced into the film. It looked extremely out of place and hilarious, like something my friends might have done as a joke in high school putting together a movie for a class project. Back in 1981, when MTV first launched, they also used NASA footage, that of the moon landing, again because it was free and they were strapped for cash too. In that case, the moon man would become an icon forever associated with the cable television station. In this case it looked ridiculous and let us know just what kind of crap we were in for.
I liked that Miles O'Keefe was in this schlock sack of asscrack. It tells me that if I ever got some scratch together to make my own film, I could probably afford him. He had to have done this for the promise of a warm meal everyday the film was shooting, and I'm not a bad cook. I can pay that kind of rate. I hope he likes Chicken Tetrazzini. According to imdb he's done nine movies since this one, the most recent 2005's The Unknown. At least I feel better knowing he's eating (or was until two years ago... maybe we should start a charity fund in case those Ator royalties are running out!)
Watching a lot of bad horror movies, I always come across the old "The whole town is Evil" paradigm where the hero[es] are stranded in this out of the way backwater where everyone is out to kill him[them]. This film uses the same paradigm, only changes it so they're all in league with the local militia. Every time our hero escapes the clutches of Miles and his men, the local he turns to for help inevitably double-crosses him and sends him with his tail between his legs back into captivity. It's never really a surprise either, especially when he goes to the not-so-cute yet presented as cute female radio DJ/political commentator. Of course, in her case, it may not be that she digs the militia, but rather Miles' Too Sweet Pecs.
This film was made two years before the 2000 election, where George W. Bush became our 43rd president, and Timothy Bottoms found his meal ticket. Other than Haliburton, I can't think of anyone who's profited more from Bush's presidency. I can't say I blame him either. I've been told by people recently that I look like a young Martin Van Buren, and I've been out looking for an agent in order to cash in myself. Just the same, it's hard to take him seriously now in this as a no-nonsense NASA head. My friends and I had the same problem when we saw him in the previously reviewed Uncle Sam Wants You... Dead. All we see is a goofy Dubyah. According to imdb, he's taken advantage of his post-2000 fame to move up from movies like this, to movies like the ABC Family original Holiday in Handcuffs, where Melissa Joan Hart kidnaps AC Slater and takes him home to meet her family. Bottoms plays the dad along side Night Court's Markie Post as the mom. Good work out of you Tim.
I got this recently on Netflix, and I must say, I can't really recommend getting your hands on it in even that capacity. Do not spend any money on it, it's so bad. Maybe if you've got an Netflix unlimited plan, and have gotten so many movies that month that it's paid for itself twice over, you may want to waste one on this, but it's iffy. I live in Portland, ME, and when I got this, I had to wait extra time because they needed to ship it special from Gaithersburg, MD. It wasn't worth it.
For more info: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0218155/
Friday, December 14, 2007
I found this at the video store while looking for other bad movie to rent. The prominently featured Ice-T scared off some of my friends who aren't big fans of his. I agreed on some levels, but I felt the Gary Busey and Fred Williamson factors superseded any misgivings about Ice-T.
On the Edge is about a young basketball player looking to make it into a big time college program and get off the bad streets of LA. He gets into some shady deals with Ice-T the pimp/drug dealer, and when a hit is put out on him, the two bumbling Italians sent to do the job mistakenly kill another young basketball player and his mom instead. This upsets a lot of people, including the husband and father (former pro-football player and Blaxploitation star Bernie Casey) now left family-less, so he investigates. At the same time, the boy who's still alive talks Fred Williamson into helping him get Ice-T off his back. Casey and Williamson, old friends from way back, team up to solve the murder of Casey's family, only to have Gary Busey, who's called in to clean up the mess of the bumbling Italians, kill Williamson's woman. Now the shit's hit the fan, and with the cops mysteriously silent throughout these heinous crimes, it's up to Williamson, Casey, and their ol' buddy Jim Brown to exact some street justice and clean up this neighborhood.
I loved this movie. The music was great, the action was there, all the actors turned in solid performances, and best of all, it was plenty Abusive. My friends who were scared off by the Ice-T on the cover missed a great film. Fred Williamson outdid himself here as director.
In terms of Williamson, he'll be 70 in March of next year. Making this, he was 64, and you'd have never known it. He rocked his Tommy Bahama gear and licked the boobs of his younger female co-star like a man half his age. He also did all right in the action sequences. Many people have asked why Williamson isn't in the DTVC Hall of Fame, and really, we've never put him up for consideration because he's known more for his great 70s Blaxploitation work than his more recent Direct to Video roles. Lately, though, I've been forced to reconsider that stance, as Williamson has been killing it in a bunch of the films I've seen with him in them. This one stands out as probably the best.
Gary Busey is great as the professional killer called in by the bad guy to take care of business. According to imdb, there are four films that he did with Williamson. Crooked aka Soft Target has already been reviewed on here. Unlike Crooked, which had very little of either Williamson or Busey, this features both prominently. Williamson does a great job keeping the Abusive level at a solid number. He never dials it down too much, but he never over does it either. It's not quite Point Break, but what is, really? Good job.
I must confess I liked Ice-T in this as well. As a pimp/drug dealer, he comes off much better than he did as martial arts wielding crime lord in Mean Guns. I'm not saying he should only play pimps and drug dealers, but considering he was also great as the host of The Player Hater's Ball on The Chappelle Show, maybe he should think about it. Unlike a lot of my friends, though, I do kind of like him on Law and Order: Special Victims Unit. I guess you could say I don't hate him, I'm more in the realm of ambivalent.
This was the last film role for Ron O'Neal, who unfortunately succumbed to pancreatic cancer in 2004. He'll always be remembered as the great Super Fly. Swayze fans will also recognize him as Colonel Ernesto Bella in Red Dawn. Here he played the dad of the basketball player in trouble with the Ice-T. Unlike Williamson, Brown, and Casey, O'Neal started his career as an actor, not a pro football player, and it shows. He unfortunately never fully shook his reputation in Super Fly, and as such, seldom got the opportunity to play the roles his talents demanded.
The music in this was off the chain. Williamson contrasted hip hop with the soulful sounds of a band called The Love Machine to demonstrate the generational gap between today's African American youth and their parents. It might be an obvious choice to do that, but Jean-Claude Van Damme's The Hard Corps tried the same technique, and it came off as trite, where in this film, Williamson makes it apt. Also, it's just funny that a band would call themselves The Love Machine, and I can see them auditioning for Williamson, and him going "And they're called The Love Machine? They're perfect!"
Jim Brown isn't in this too much. He plays a community leader running a local after school sports program trying to give disadvantaged kids a place to go to keep out of trouble. He did have one memorable scene where he and Williamson go to the bad guy's accountant to get some answers. There's an understood "It's just like old times"/"How much longer are we gonna keep doing this" between the two that anyone who's seen them in enough movies can appreciate. It added a level of fun, as if the two know their audience well enough to understand what we expect out of them when we see their names on the cover. A lot of ass kicking.
Feminist attorney and radio talk show host Gloria Allred has a cameo in this as councilwoman Gloria Johnson. She has just one scene, where she gives Williamson the scoop that there may be more than meets the eye with the local cops. I'm not sure if she and Williamson are old friends or if he just cast her, but it's one of only like three or four theatrical roles she's done where she doesn't play herself. I'd say it's one of the more fascinating cameos I've ever seen in movie.
This is worth watching. Beyond being a statement film about the issues between old and young black America and the conflict between the police establishment and the African American community, it's also a solid action flick. The music's there, the ass kicking's there, and the Fred Williamson and Gary Busey's there. What more do you want?
For more info: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0381469/
I rented this movie back as a freshman in high school. I was having a buddy over for the first time, and I knew he was a big sci-fi honk. I really didn't know much past Star Wars and Star Trek and all the bad things I watched on MST3K, but I wanted to look like I did. As such, when I saw this I thought "Oh, Dune, sci-fi guys love Dune. This'll be a sweet film. Well, it was a sweet film, just not the way we planned.
Dune Warriors is a very short remake of Kurosawa's Seven Samurai, so short, in fact, that they cut the roster down from seven to five. The movie takes place in a grim post-apocalyptic future, where some warlord known only as William is terrorizing the local landscape. One town, the water rich Chinle, wants to fight back, but they're a peaceful people, and don't know where to turn. They send a chick out, and she finds David Carradine, who then finds four other cats in the Mos Eisley-esqu Freetown. They fortify Chinle and take down William in a battle royal.
Looking back, this film had absolutely nothing to do with dunes, so it was probably titled with the sole purpose of duping people who didn't know better, like me, to spend money on it. I fell for it. At 14, my buddy and I didn't really make it much further in the film before we decided to watch some Beavis and Butt-head episodes I taped. The next day, we wanted to see if we could get another friend to tell us the movie was awesome if we talked it up before he watched it. We told him it was better than Star Wars. About fifteen minutes in, he turned to us and said "Hey guys, this is good, but Better than Star Wars?"
At 77 minutes, though, this isn't as harsh as some in its category that run over 100. I'm not sure why bad movies are so long sometimes. 88 minutes, or eleven reels, is the perfect length for a bad film. To all cheap film makers out there: dump enough boring plot exposition to get us in under 88. All we want are the explosions and the fight scenes. Give me five minutes to explain how the bad guy killed the good guy's wife or partner or whatever, then get back to the flying cars flipping thirteen times and landing in a huge ball of fire. Thank you.
One of our favorite scenes came in the first five minutes, when William is pillaging another village. The editing in this is horrible, and very choppy at parts. Guys get stabbed or punched in three distinct takes spliced together so they look like three distinct takes spliced together. There was one where a guy cut off another guy's head in three shots like that, and after the head fell away, there was a fourth cut of the murderer smiling. It was this great shit-eating grin, and we had to watch it multiple times because we thought it was so funny. I'd done better editing in short movies I made for class projects.
David Carradine is all right in this. It's not quite as much fun as watching him in Kung-Fu: The Legend Continues, where week after week he'd have to save his wussy son in the park from a band of ill-intentioned ninjas. He doesn't really flex his martial arts muscles in this as well as he did in that, which is a slight disappointment. I never understood why his son was such a tool on that show. My friends noticed it too. One time, when a buddy and I were at a bowling alley playing Killer Instinct, he noted: "Hey, look, it's Kane's wussy son hanging out with his kids." The guy looked pretty close, and we were wondering if we shouldn't take any chances and get out of there before the ninjas showed up.
Seven Samurai isn't the only film this borrows from. Star Wars is in it quite regularly with the Jawa-like midget people in red robes, and the Mos Eisley-eque Freetown. Carradine also wears a robe and has a sensibility that reminds us of Alec Guiness as Obi-Wan. There's also the blantant Mad Max elements, from the cars to the clothes. If you throw in that the title was meant to make us think this was based on a Frank Herbert novel, then nothing about this film is original. It's like the film makers put a bunch of movies on a dart board and took turns figuring out what to take from next.
This might one of the worst films ever. As such, it's fun to heckle with a group of friends, and if you see it at your local video or store or in a bargain bin for like $2, don't hesitate. It's 77 minutes of funny bad movie, and at the very worst, by the time you get bored of it, it's almost over anyway. You may also want to use it if you're a professor at a film school to demonstrate bad editing techniques. Good work, fellas.
For more info: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0099474/
Wednesday, December 12, 2007
For my 150th post I felt it necessary to review a film that is very near and dear to my heart. Unfortunately, until recently, I hadn't seen the film in years, probably more than fifteen. I'm not sure why I hadn't bought it sooner, but I finally bit the bullet and got it on VHS used from Amazon. Hopefully soon it'll come out on DVD.
I Come in Peace is about an alien drug dealer who comes to Earth. The best drug in the galaxy is to pump humans full of heroin, then collect hormones from the adrenal glands before the person dies. Unfortunately this alien has stolen a bunch of drugs from a major crime syndicate, and they want them back. Dolph and his partner, Dream On's Brian Benben, are investigating both the drug syndicate, and the rash of forced drug overdoses that are killing random junkies throughout the city. Eventually they figure out an alien is involved, and bump into the extraterrestrial cop sent to stop him, played by ESPN NCAA basketball analyst Jay Bilas (seriously). He dies, but they get his gun, and Dolph has it out with the bad alien, finally taking him down.
This is a classic bad action film. We featured it at our biannual Dolph Fest a few weeks ago. There isn't that one or two good things that standout individually, but the film as a whole just exudes this extreme level of awesomeness. This is the standard I look to whenever I watch a bad movie, and I'm not sure why it's so hard to achieve it. Lots of explosions, lots of gun shots, lots of killing, big alien guys, very little plot exposition, and Dolph Lundgren. Is that too much to ask?
As one of his first movies, I Come in Peace really cements Dolph's legacy as an actor who will probably spend his time on screen doing everything he can to avoid the A-list. In a career that spans over twenty years, Dolph stands out as a sort of monolith in every film he's in. He may look slightly different from time to time, but he's still Dolph, no matter who he plays or what his character's doing. I appreciate that, and I think that's why he's attained the exalted status of Babe Ruth of the DTVC Hall of Fame. He's an action star in the truest sense of the word, a real Hack Blowfist, if you will. Here's to you, Dolph Lundgren, you're one of the Good Ones.
The bad guy in this is played by Mattias Hues. We thought for sure it was someone else, and just couldn't put our finger on it. When we looked him up on imdb, it turned out he wasn't who we thought he was, because we didn't recognize any of the other films he'd been in. (Kickboxer II was the best I could do, and I didn't remember him in that.) It's a shame this guy hasn't been used more often in bigger projects as a bad alien. I could see him giving Vin Diesel a hard time in Chronicles of Riddick, or teaming up with John Travolta in Battlefield Earth.
Brian Benben plays the annoying guy with the stick up his ass that follows Dolph around. You may remember Benben from Dream On, either on HBO, or the edited version on Comedy Central. He did a good job going from annoying to slightly redeemable by the end of the film, and I think that's what we look for in an annoying guy like that. Play it too annoying for too long, and we're good with you getting murdered. Be too cool too soon, and we lose respect for the main hero when he decks you for getting in his way. It's a fine art to being the annoying partner, and Benben excels in this film.
One interesting piece of trivia: this is the only theatrical performance for ESPN NCAA basketball analyst and former Duke basketball stand out Jay Bilas. He plays the good alien chasing the bad alien here on Earth. I'm surprised he hasn't parlayed his success on TV into a more lucrative film career. He's got the physique, plus, with his law degree, he can avoid being swindled by a shady producer with a crummy contract. I'm not sure how often that happens, but I'd imagine with the kind of bad films I watch, it happens enough. I'm sure there are plenty of stunt men who had trouble paying their rent one month because a scurvy shyster producer took the cost of all the shrimp cocktail they ate at craft services out of their paychecks. The guy probably sees his what he made, then sees the deduction, and groans, remembering how sick the shrimp made him anyway.
If you have never seen I Come in Peace, you really can't call yourself a bad movie honk officially until you do. It's only out on VHS, and you may have to get it through Amazon. If money's tight, then I'd say don't go the Amazon route, because you may end up spending over $10. Do keep your eye out for it in bargain bins and places that sell used VHS tapes cheap, though. It's worth it.
For more info: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0099817/
Tuesday, December 11, 2007
I first saw this on a local TV station who knows how long ago. I caught it somewhere in the middle, and figured I got the gist of it from there. Since then, I've caught it a few more times on TV, all from about the same starting point. When I got Netflix, I put this on my list, and figured I'd see what the beginning was like. As it turned out, I had no idea what I was missing.
Mask of Death is the classic bad guy and cop look alike so the cop infiltrates the baddie's crime scene and cracks a case film. In order to make us think that Lamas only slightly resembled Lamas, they made the bad Lamas out with really made-up eyebrows, and made the good Lamas look like Jeff Foxworthy. Anyway, a bad accident leaves the bad Lamas dead, and the good one in need of plastic surgery. FBI agent Billy Dee Williams figured, since you're going under the knife anyway, why don't you look like this bad guy you already look like and help us bring the rest of his friends down. Of course, undercover, the good Lamas realizes there are things he has to do that the bad Lamas did, but make his skin crawl. He kills a rat who might have given up his cover. He kills a cop to make himself look badder. He may be doing police work, but is he losing his identity in the process?
It turns out the beginning of this film is head and shoulders the best part. Seeing Lorenzo Lamas in a bad wig with a bad moustache is too much. The film makers must've been big Jeff Foxworthy fans. I want to excoriate them for making Lamas look so ridiculous, but it was so funny, I'd feel dumb if I did. It gave the film an overall silliness that it wouldn't have had without it; and I know from having seen the film from the middle on without the silliness how much it added. "If you go out of your way to watch bad Lorenzo Lamas films... you might be a redneck."
The rest of the film was probably even slower than I remembered. The first time I watched it while I was doing something else like writing a paper or perusing the Internet. This time I showed it with a group of friends. The initial hilarity of the Jeff Foxworthy get-up died as the film became mired down in a slow moving plot with predictable action. We could only keep making those jokes so long before we just wanted the movie to end so we could all go to bed.
Billy Dee Williams is in this, which on its own isn't all that spectacular, but when you add him with Rae Dawn Chong you get the second film she's done with a Star Wars alum (the first being Time Runner with Mark Hamill-- unless you count Soul Man with James Earl Jones). I wonder if she's trying to lock them all up. Was she pissed when Lucas made three more? Especially with A-List actors she'd have more trouble working with? Not that Billy Dee isn't ten times cooler than everyone but one actor in the new ones, and probably five times cooler than that one, Samuel L. Jackson. I read in GQ recently and had it reaffirmed on imdb that he's 70 years old. He was 59 when he did this. Wow. Colt 45: It works everytime!
Tom Cavanagh of Ed and whatnot fame is in this as an annoying lower level gangster that Lamas dispatches in an applause moment in the film. I never got the whole Cavanagh appeal. I've disliked him since I saw him D-ing up Justin Timberlake in a celebrity basketball game like his life depended on it. What kind of loser thinks he has something to prove at a celebrity basketball game? There's a reason why his shows get canceled early in their lifespans, and it's not because their too off the beaten path for the mainstream; it's because they think they are, but are just crappy shows with an even crappier Tom Cavanagh. As far as this movie went, they'd have been better off with Steve Buscemi, because all Cavanagh did was a poor imitation of Mr. Pink. (Someone just informed me that Ed was on for four years, from 2000-2004, and not the single year that I thought it was. That just doesn't make any sense to me. What was I doing all that time that I'd missed that?)
One interesting Dolph connection in this film. The bad guy Lamas is trying to take out is played by Conrad Dunn, who also played a security guard/special agent in Dolph's Silent Trigger. Conrad was involved in the infamous Chris Heyerdahl drug induced freak-out where he ripped off his shirt and screamed about his tattooed spiders. If you haven't seen Silent Trigger and are unfamiliar with Chris Heyerdahl's work in it, check it out. You won't be disppointed.
This film is only worth watching really for the Lamas as Jeff Foxworthy. The rest is take it or leave it. If you've got Netflix like I do, it might be worth blowing a rental if you have an unlimited monthly plan just for that. Otherwise, you gotta ask yourself if it's worth the money to rent Mask of Death just for the first fifteen minutes. For me and my friends, it probably was, but we're sick like that. Are you?
For more info: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0117003/