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.
Thursday, December 18, 2008
After The Da Vinci Treasure was such a success, The Asylum was given new life and it's shot at potential DTVC Hall of Fame-dom was back on the tracks. For the next film of theirs I decided to play it safe again and rent I Am Omega, which stars another potential Hall of Famer in Iron Chef America's Mark Dacascos. I also thought it would be interesting to review a Dacascos film the same week I did a Brandon Lee one, because we know Dacascos played Lee's Crow character on the syndicated TV series, and is kind of looked at as in the same mold of actor.
I Am Omega is The Asylum's attempt to make a little money on the highly successful (because it had Will Smith) I Am Legend. In this take on the novel, Dacascos plays a dude living outside of a city that I think is LA, in a fortified house that has tons of electricity, despite the fact that most of the human population has fallen victim to a virus that turns them into zombies. Anyway, he plans on bombing the city to kill a huge nest of them, but before he does, some military dudes from a small group of uninfected humans living in a settlement called Antioch come to ask for his help. They want him to get a girl out of the city who has the cure to the virus in her blood. Madness ensues as the Dacasc-inator kills some zombies.
This was all right. It had its moments. It was kind of weird for the first half or so, because all we got was Dacascos and the occasional zombie killings. We don't really know anything about him or his past, or why he has any of the abilities or knowledge that he does. All the time he's going around doing banal tasks like getting gas or eating, we could be learning these things. One thing that really irked me was at the end, when the bad guy shoots Dacascos in the legs and arm to disable him so he can take the girl; and without medical assistance, and in a very short amount of time, Dacascos is able to use these limbs with no difficulty. It made no sense, especially when no one had to shoot him. The baddie could've just hit him from behind, knocked him out, and left him for the zombies, and Dacascos could've escaped, then recovered believably in time for the final confrontation. I know I'm supposed to suspend belief for the most part, but that was just ridiculous.
I loved Dacascos here. My one issue, of course, was that he didn't use much of his martial arts. He really isn't the quintessential zombie killer, but probably better suited for fighting vampires a la Wesley Snipes. Just the same, I'm really beginning to like his stuff, and am looking forward to reviewing his next picture in my Netflix queue, Scorcher, starring DTVC Hall of Famer Rutger Hauer.
The Asylum is a different story. This was pretty good for another of their rip-offs, but it also had its quintessential Asylum moments. Probably worst was when the baddie had the girl lying on the ground, and he put his dead friend's head in between her legs. Weird. And I'm not sure in a good or a bad way, but definitely in an Asylum way. I'm still afraid of trying another one of their films without a big name in it, and I think I may play it safe again and try Alien vs. Hunter with William Katt for my next one.
When I looked up adaptations of the novel I Am Legend on Wikipedia, this one wasn't mentioned. According to imdb, the film does give credit to Richard Matheson, so The Asylum does at least consider this "mockbuster" a legitimate adaptation. I was wondering, because in watching it it seemed close enough to the novel to warrant the need to get the rights to avoid copyright infringement, and that just doesn't seem like something The Asylum would do. Now, looking at imdb, Fox has tried to go after them for The Day The Earth Stopped, but nothing came of that. Maybe the net's closing in.
Another thing I learned when I looked up I Am Legend on Wikipedia was how much it influenced the modern vampire and zombie genres. I guess I just never cared that much. I was always more concerned with how Die Hard and Yojimbo and Raiders of the Lost Ark influenced the action genre. That was an error on my part. Reading that article on Wikipedia was pretty cool, and, if anything, made watching this Asylum picture a positive experience.
I don't know where to go here. It's good to make fun of, but has large parts of inactivity. Dacascos is good, but The Asylum is still The Asylum, and not always in a good way. If you're a huge fan of the novel and other movies, I'd watch this just to see what it's all about.
For more info: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1075746/
Wednesday, December 17, 2008
I had heard of this movie a long time ago, but had completely forgotten about until reminded by my friend at Movies in the Attic. I knew it was vital to have this reviewed for the DTVC, especially since it has Brandon Lee before he died, and Ernest Borgnine.
Laser Mission has Lee working as a freelance spy-type dude who's hired to free Ernest Borgnine from the Soviets, or the Germans, or the Cubans, or some guy who likes to hunt... or... I don't really know, and does it matter? He's joined by a hot blond he thinks is Borgnine's daughter, and they travel to Trinidad and Tobago... or maybe it's Angola... or Namibia... or Grenada... again, does it matter? Hella explosions, sweet Brandon Lee martial arts: just a good old time.
Me and some friends watched this the night after seeing Lorenzo Lamas and Mystikal in 13 Dead Men (which I've reviewed below), and one of them couldn't take it anymore. He wanted to watch "something good", and we rented that James Bond movie Casino Royale on On Demand. I know I usually sound facetious when I make comments like this, but I thought Laser Mission was better. Other than the best foot chase since Point Break, Casino Royale had nothing going for it that I couldn't get out of a Steven Seagal flick. Laser Mission, on the other hand, was hilarious, and plot wise wasn't much more of a stretch than the yarn I was served in the Bond film. Just because the store packages the generic cola in a better looking bottle, doesn't make it taste more like Coke.
For a Dr. Rocket or Mr. Pibb, this wasn't a bad alternative to Dr. Pepper. I mean, it was cheap as hell; the plot made no sense; and I had no idea who anyone was or where in the world we were. One minute Lee's in a desert, the next he's in Trinidad and Tobago. But it hit it's spots. The main baddie kept coming back to life, and finally died when Lee rammed him into a concrete wall that exploded when he hit it. That's what I'm talking about. The movie also had it's surprises. There was a helicopter that managed to avoid being blown up. I was shocked.
Brandon Lee was pretty sweet in this. He wasn't used as effectively as I would've liked, with the director favoring shots of him hanging outside of a van with his mouth open firing an uzi, as opposed to him flexing his martial arts; but overall, he was good. He was as funny as he was in Showdown, which is impressive, when you consider how often these bad movie fall on their face when they try to make jokes (see the recent Zombie Strippers! for example). It's really a shame we only have a few movies with him before he died, because he'd have been a definite in the DTVC Hall of Fame after his career waned with Van Damme and Seagal's (you know it would've, I'm just keeping it real).
Ernest Borgnine was totally wasted here. He was given a crappy accent. I just don't get this fetish people have with making actors affect crappy accents. They sound stupid. Granted, some sound funny and stupid, which can be great to laugh at. But most seem to me as ways to ruin what could've been otherwise great appearances by great actors. Would anyone have liked The Wild Bunch better if Ernest Borgnine had a bad accent in it? No, they would've thought it a stupid move on the film maker's part. As an aside, Borgnine won the Best Actor Oscar in 1955 for Marty, even though I've always thought James Dean was better in Rebel Without a Cause and East of Eden, both from the same year.
One thing that was interesting about seeing Casino Royale and Laser Mission in the same night was the juxtaposition between the Cold War and espionage, and now the attempt to remake the genre with international terrorism as the monolithic bad guy. I guess there isn't much to juxtapose: whether it's big budget gritty new millennium fare, or campy low-budget Regan era fare, it's pretty much the same thing. I haven't seen Quantum of Solace yet, but I'm not too excited about the prospect either. I think the spy film needs an overhaul, and selling it as hard-edged because a guy gets hit in the balls a lot and another one cries blood out of his eye, isn't reworking it. These people need to go back to some greats like Le Samourai or The Maltese Falcon, neither of which is about spying, per se, but the suspense and action and cool characters are all elements we'd want out of a good spy picture.
You need to see this if you haven't just for the Brandon Lee factor. He doesn't have much work out there, but what he has is all good-- at least he is in them, in my opinion. It's a fun actioner with plenty to make fun of, but beware, it's very bad and very low budget. Be ready to crack plenty of jokes.
For more info: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0099978/
Thursday, December 11, 2008
This one's been a long time coming. I saw a trailer for it while watching a Dolph movie in the spring. Then I found out Sony thought they could make a little money giving it a limited release in small theaters in big cities. So I had to wait for it on DVD. Then I got it from Netflix, along with a Corey Feldman movie, and accidentally sent it back before I watched it, thinking it was the latter. Finally, I was able to take a look at it last Sunday.
Zombie Strippers! takes place in the near future, after George W. Bush wins his fourth term in office. Some research lab calls in an elite military unit to deal with a zombie outbreak, and one of the soldiers is bitten, and escapes to a nearby underground strip club. He bites Jenna Jameson, the best stripper, and she turns into a zombie too. For some reason, though, being a zombie stripper is hot, and the guys can't stop throwing ones at her. Robert Englund, the club's owner, knows gold when he sees it, and when Jameson starts eating the clientèle, he looks the other way. Now other strippers see the opportunity to make more money, and they have Jameson bite them. But, as we all know, whenever you involve zombies, things tend to get out of hand.
This one was a slight disappointment. It was chock full of political commentary that wasn't that funny. Maybe that's why Obama was elected so easily: we were all so sick of the same Bush and Cheney jokes. And I figured Zombie Strippers! of all things would be safe from politicization. In addition, it further hurt the film because, as I mentioned above, we're in a totally different political and economic climate. These are "Yes We Can" times, not "You're doing a great job, Brownie" times, and gas isn't $4.00 a gallon, it's $1.75. I guess that's the gamble in making a horror film that's really poor political satire in disguise: it might become dated.
On the other hand, this movie has another really great message about strippers. The whole becoming a zombie thing is a metaphor for women who get breast implants and other cosmetic enhancement surgeries in order to gain a competitive advantage in the marketplace. Obviously, becoming a zombie means you're dead and it's pretty permanent and bad, and the idea of doing that to be a better stripper is a crazy concept. What the filmmakers try to tell us is that being a stripper shouldn't be an occupation that one invests in, especially at the expense of one's body. Computer programmer taking night courses to make more money: makes sense. Strippers, on the other hand, should be taking their earnings and instead of using them to make themselves better strippers, should be using them to take the same night courses so they don't have to strip. I think that was a better message than the political ones, because at least this is one we haven't heard before.
Jenna Jameson. Looks kinda scary. Emaciated, pale, lots of cosmetic surgery herself. Yet, when she takes her clothes off and hits the stage, she still has it. She really knows how to move in ways that men like. I'm a guy, I can vouch for that. Her character reads Nietzsche, which is interesting, because I'm not as up on his stuff as I was in college, but wouldn't being a stripper be as anti-Nietzchian as it gets? Maybe a hooker would be more so. Robert Englund, as the strip club owner, would probably turn to Nietzsche to make himself feel better for the stuff he was doing, but a stripper getting down on it would just be delusional.
Speaking of Robert Englund. Not too bad a job here. Is he that hard up that he needs to take roles like this? I can't imagine they could afford to give him more than a warm meal. For someone thats' not that bad at playing the kinds of parts he gets, it's surprising he was in this. According to imdb, he's making money doing voice work as villains for comic book based cartoons-- I mean I'm assuming he's making money at it. He's not listed as a producer or anything, so it's not like he has anything at stake. Maybe he just loves strippers and hates the Bush Administration.
I want to use this last paragraph before my final verdict to discuss one of my favorite cultural phenomenons, the Goth Chick. I love them. Probably any my age have long since put away their red plaid skirts and dark eye make-up for a desk job somewhere, which is fine: we all have to grow up sometime. I bring this up because one of the strippers is a Goth Chick. I was disappointed when she turned into a zombie. I guess what makes the Goth Chick so intriguing is the possibility that deep down she might have a soft side, and that goes out the window when she becomes a member of the walking undead.
This is a toss-up. Just know going in that it's politically charged. After the past year, I'd had enough of that kind of thing, but you may dig it. It's plenty gory, plenty gross, and Jenna Jameson fights her rival zombie by sticking pool balls in her vagina and firing them at her. It had it's moments, but it just wasn't as off-the-chain as its name suggests.
For more info: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0960890/
Wednesday, December 10, 2008
A friend of mine called me a few weeks ago to tell me he'd found two potential gems cheap. One of them was this film, and when he mentioned it had DTVC Hall of Famer Lorenzo Lamas and the often hilarious hip hop star Mystikal, I was immediately amped. Then I tempered my amped-ness, knowing first that this film could be a potential Lamas bait-and-switch; and second, knowing that I've seen too many of these and been let down too many times to get my hopes up.
13 Dead Men is about some no named actor who's on death row for killing a cop, and who knows where a lot of money in stolen diamonds is. The warden wants to know where they are before he's executed. Lamas is his former partner, and he wants to break him out so he can find out too. Mystikal is just some fat dude in jail who can beat people up in poorly choreographed fight scenes.
Funny in parts, but overall a total disappointment. First off, the dialog was edited. What? All Mystikal does is swear, so all of his speaking parts sound like S%#T (sorry, couldn't pass that up). Why would someone do that? The movie's bad enough as it is. The fights were poorly choreographed, which hurt, considering the film was directed by famed fight choreographer Art Camacho. Lorenzo Lamas was the only one who knew any martial arts in the picture, so even his fight scenes sucked, because he wasn't fighting anyone trained to make it look good with him. And don't get me started on Mystikal's fight scenes. It looked like an old serial western without any of the charm.
Lamas doesn't mail it in here, which is a testament to his professionalism, if nothing else. Still, it was such schlock fare, that it hurt either way. I guess we can at least feel okay that we weren't hit with the Lamas bait-and-switch, like Succubus, because he's in this film for at least a third of it. The next film of his I have lined up is Terminal Justice, and he's listed as the main protagonist in that one, so hopefully we'll have a better product. Hopefully.
Mystikal. I really don't know what to say. Maybe if I'd had a chance to hear him swear it would've been all right. Without his real lines, though, he was a shell of himself, and left with his acting skills and ability to fake fight on screen, he sank. Okay, maybe he sank because he weighs so much. Was that bad? I've battled the bulge myself, so maybe I should be a little more sympathetic. Just the same, I would love to see Mystikal on Celebrity Fit Club.
This is the seventh film directed by Art Camacho I've reviewed here. I don't know if it was his decision to edit the dialog, but if it was, it may have been his worst ever. I don't know him personally, so I can't say for sure, but if he cut all the swears out, he's gotta be regretting that one. Okay, maybe he's not, maybe he doesn't care anymore. Maybe he does, though. Maybe the decision to clean up the language wasn't his, and it's something that's haunted him to this day. What if he's like the kid from my high school that was watching one of his basketball videos at a party, and says "I made a bad decision there", to which my buddy says "why, what does it matter? You think some D-1 school cut your scholarship because of that decision?"-- which almost started a fight. I still haven't gotten around to adding in tags for all of Art Camacho's other roles in films other than director. Maybe I'll do that someday.
One final footnote to this review: the night after seeing 13 Dead Men, my friend's girlfriend dug out some of her old mix CDs, and one of the songs she had was Joe's "Stutter", which featured Mystikal. I didn't remember five years ago thinking it was as funny when he jumped in with his "watch ya self" in his trademark raspy voice, but this time we were dying. I guess, as in all things in life, when you're irrelevant, you're really irrelevant.
I have to say this is a major gamble. If the edited version is the only version, then this sucks. If, and this is a big IF, because I don't know for sure, but if there's an un-edited version out there, then this might be serviceable. And if you find one, tell me, because I'd really like to know.
For more info: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0367136/
Monday, December 8, 2008
This was released on DVD by Sony Home Entertainment, and as such, I kept seeing trailers for it on all the other bad Sony DTV films I watched. I stuck it on my Netflix queue, and it finally made its way to the top. I've been trying to figure out how a film directed by Guy Ritchie could only gross $75,000 over 12 screens here in the US. I was about to find out.
Revolver is a psychological whatever that takes place in Las Vegas. Jason Statham has just been released from jail, and he wants revenge on the guy that put him there: Ray Liotta. He gets his revenge, ripping him off of a bunch of cash, but is then caught up with two con men, played by Andre 3000 and the dude from the Sopranos that's in everything as a mafioso. He hemorrhages cash while trying to figure out what the con men are up to. Then he's gotta deal with Ray Liotta, who wants his money back. What a mess.
The only explanation I could find for why this film was given such a limited release was its complicated plot. Maybe it's just me, but I didn't find it that complicated. Sure, Ritchie put all sorts of little inside things throughout, but who needs to look for that crap? It's not germane to the plot at all, making it extraneous in a lackluster film like this. I don't know, I just wasn't feeling this one. I think Ritchie tried to go outside the box from his previous two efforts, but he didn't go outside enough, and so this movie suffered from an identity crisis that one of his psychiatrists he has at the end of the film could understand.
Jason Statham was pretty cool, but I've seen him in cooler. He never flexed his martial arts at all, which I would've loved to see. Maybe Ritchie could've dumped out the annoying stream of consciousness stuff he was doing and replaced it with scenes from The Transporter. I can't blame Statham for working with Ritchie on what must've sounded like a good project in pre-production.
Ruh-ruh-ruh-Ray Liotta. I kind of feel like he was wasted in this as a Tanorexic paranoid crime boss and owner of a casino. He wasn't wasted as the dad in Blow. He wasn't wasted as the main star in Goodfellas. He wasn't even wasted as the biker in Wild Hogs (an otherwise atrocious movie). But he was wasted here, and it sorta kinda hurts. Why make him Tanorexic? It's funny, and it'd be great if Dennis Hopper was a Tanorexic in a film (asking a goat if he could drink it's urine for the psychedelic properties). But not Ray Liotta. It made him look old and gross.
I liked Andre 3000 in this. He seemed a little off at the beginning, but as the picture went on, he got better. I think this, Idlewild, and Semi-pro are his better movies, and I think that might have more to do with the movies than him as an actor. Most rapper-turned-actors other than Tupac really aren't that good, but I think Andre 3000 might be the exception.
Vincent Pastore. That is the only time I'll mention his name. From here on it's the Guy From the Sopranos. I know he'd been around quite a bit before the hit HBO drama made him huge, but now it's like we can't see enough of him. Anyone that needs a Wiseguy character actor goes to him. It's ridiculous. And here we were supposed to believe he was some kind of super con man? I believed Andre 3000 as the chess master, but I couldn't see the Guy From the Sopranos as anything but the Guy From the Sopranos, and I'll probably never see him as anything but that.
If you're one of those people who gets all geeked up trying to find hidden meanings in things and don't have the wherewithal to tackle Finnigan's Wake, you might like this. Me, personally, I don't need to impress anyone with that kind of thing anymore, so I'm fine watching Dolph Lundgren blow shit up.
For more info: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0365686/
Thursday, December 4, 2008
There's been a kind of back and forth between myself and my friend who runs the site Movies in the Attic (a link to which you can find in the section labeled Other Great Sites) as to whether or not this movie belongs on the Direct to Video Connoisseur. I always thought it was a bit too mainstream, and he thought I was being a little too restrictive in the movies I picked. As you can see, I've finally relented. I had actually planned on making this the 250th post, but I miscounted, and Toby Keith's Beer for My Horses ended up being that one. I am a moron.
Cyborg takes place in a post apocalyptic future where the world sucks, and the only one who likes it is Vincent Klyn. He runs a gang of baddies that capture a cyborg woman carrying vital information for the cure for a bad plague. The goal is to head down to Hot-lanta from New York and meet up with some scientists there. Van Damme meets the cyborg before Klyn's baddies get her, and he's talked into rescuing her after she's captured by some random woman he meets. Van Damme gets down to the A-T-L and deals with Klyn before they reach the heart of the city.
The moment I saw the opening credits again, I realized I'd made a mistake in not including this gem. It is DTV in all it's glory, it's just that rare DTV flick that made the big time. It's the Skip to My Lou of bad movies. (For those that don't get the reference, Skip to My Lou is Rafer Alston, a streetball legend who made the NBA, and currently starts for the Houston Rockets). I can't think of a better movie for post 251.
This is really good Jean-Claude Van Damme. I know a lot of people aren't big fans of his, and I think they look at his sillier work from the early to mid 90s as their reasoning. I can understand that, but his stuff from Bloodsport to Universal Soldier, is just so off the chain, that you've got to give him his props as a great action star. I mean, Cyborg was set up so well with Van Damme as the protagonist and Klyn as the baddie, that we not only wanted him to win, but we wanted him to dispatch as many dudes using awesome martial arts moves in the process. It just doesn't get any better.
For my money, this is Albert Pyun's best movie. He's made some other ones I dug, like Captain America and Kickboxer 4 and Omega Doom; and he's done some ones I couldn't stand, like Crazy Six. It's too bad he can't only do good ones, or great ones, like Cyborg, but I guess he thinks going in they're all going to be great, so I can't get on him too much. He deserves his spot in the DTVC Hall of Fame, there's no doubt about that.
Back off War Child, seriously. The only thing that detracted from Klyn being the perfect villain was the weird fake blue eyes they gave him. I don't know why they did that. Anyway, it was fine when he had his sunglasses on, so I can't complain too much. One small gripe for a movie with so little to gripe about isn't a bad deal. Klyn hasn't done anything since the Albert Pyun 2004 film Max Havok. Why? He should be in such high demand he has to turn down calls from Scorsese and Spielberg.
The Dirty South. Hot-lanta. The A-T-L. That's the city that was chosen by the writers to be the last bastion of civilization. I can't say I disagree with them, because as far as I can tell, Atlanta has a pretty decent airport. I've never actually been outside of it to see the city, but that's a minor technicality. Van Damme and his female companion actually walk from New York to the A-T-L. I looked it up on Mapquest, and even though Mapquest isn't entirely accurate, because it keeps one on the highway, and they'd be traveling almost as the crow flies, I still got a number of 883 miles between the two. I don't know exactly how many days it took, but it didn't seem like more than a few in the movie-- I'll say four-- so they were traversing about 220 miles a day. Subtract 8 hours for sleeping, and that means they were walking close to four minute miles.
If you haven't seen this, I'm not sure what's wrong with you, but are you sure you've found the right blog? If you have seen it, and it's been a while, give it another look for old time's sake. I did recently, and it felt great. I think I need a Van Damme Fest, with this, Lionheart, Kickboxer, and Bloodsport.
For more info: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0097138/
Wednesday, November 19, 2008
Last weekend I'm at a buddy's watching the Couture/Lesnar fight, when I get a text. "Would Keith Toby's 'Beer for my Horses' qualify for DTV Connoisseur review? It is pretty bad." I was fairly hammered at the time, so much so that I didn't notice that my friend had switched the Keith and Toby in Toby Keith's name. When I got back to Portland the next day, after a quick nap and five double cheeseburgers from McDonald's, we tackled it.
Beer for My Horses has Toby Keith as a sheriff's deputy in a small Oklahoma town. The chick from Mallrats comes back to town, and I guess she and Keith had a thing way back that they want to rekindle. Unfortunately Keith has pissed off some Mexican meth manufacturers trying to steal fertilizer in his town, and they've kidnapped her. Now he has to go to Mexico with his buddies, Rodney Carrington and Ted Nugent, and get her back.
I don't want to sound elitist, but I got the sense this bad boy isn't meant for anyone who places a high priority on what they call Book Learnin'. Dick and fart jokes abound. And I don't mean Stepbrothers style dick and fart jokes, where you find yourself crying as Will Ferrell says he's gonna tea bag a drum set; I mean six years old, the family dog farts, and you and your friends can't stop laughing, and the adults in the room are laughing because you guys find it so funny. As an adult, farting dogs can only take me so far.
I talked to a friend of mine who likes country, and she told me Toby Keith does a lot of funny songs. I didn't know that, because I'd only heard the America will put a boot in your ass song. It makes sense, though, because this film tries a lot to be funny. But it's kind of not a comedy. It's like a bad action film slash slapstick comedy that equals ten kinds of identity crisis. My favorite scenes were the attempts at back story and plot development, because they came across as stiff readings of somehow pertinent information, as opposed to actors performing in a movie. In one of these scenes, we actually see Keith mouth another actors lines, I'm assuming so he doesn't miss his cue. Sweet. Even better, the Mexicans were really uncomfortable stereotypes, and the impression was that had it not been for these dark skinned outsiders, their happy little Oklahoma town would've stayed happy. And they referred to Mexico like it was Las Vegas, as opposed to a big country. "You're gonna wear that to Mexico?"
This movie had tons of guest stars, and I wonder how many of them knew what they were doing. Empty Nest's Park Overall: probably did. Tom Skerritt: I have to hope he didn't. Willie Nelson: maybe too baked to care? Ted Nugent: looking for new beef jerky markets. The Chick From Mallrats: guess she didn't get the bump she expected from Meet Joe Black. And if I can say anything positive about this film (and I can say a few things, not just this), it's that it is actually better than Meet Joe Black.
I spent some time doing graduate studies in political science, and one of the things I learned about was international relations theory. I say this because I must defend Mr. Keith's America boot in the ass song. People wrote it off as patriotic to a goofy level, but I disagree. Mr. Keith was simply stating through his song that with the fall of the Soviet Union, we now lived in a unipolar world, and as such, we, The USA, needed to adopt a unilateral foreign policy. He felt the multilateral policies of Bush 41 and Clinton were outdated. I'm not saying I agree with him, I'm just saying we need to give him more credit in his knowledge of foreign policy affairs than we have been.
Then there's Rodney Carrington. I'd never heard of him before this movie, and probably would've never heard of him after, had it not been for a clip of a certain song of his played in one scene. The song is titled "Show 'Em To Me", and it's about his want of women to show him their boobs. In the movie, all we heard was show them to me... show them to me... unclasp your bra and set those puppies free... my friend and I looked at each other, not believing what we were hearing, but knowing it couldn't be anything else. We looked it up on YouTube, and the video we saw was of one of his concerts, where when he performed the song, tons of women in the crowd bared their chests. This thirty second bit of the movie was one of the highlights for me, proving, I guess, that though I've outgrown dick and fart jokes, the occasional boob one still gets me.
This movie's pretty hardcore. You may see it on CMT, and if you do, I imagine it'd be heavily edited with all the bad language in it. I must say, a big group might have fun making fun of it. Also, if you're a country music fan, you may get a kick out of it. I'm not too familiar with that genre, so that aspect didn't do anything for me. I think if Toby Keith or any of his cohorts read this, they'll write me off as just not having got it, and consider my criticisms invalid. I wish I could say I didn't get it, but unfortunately, that just isn't the case: I got it, and it ain't that good. Also, I labeled this direct to video, when it was actually in the theater, made $660,000 over 91 screens, and is still floating around out there. Definitely avoid this on the big screen, unless the place you go to lets you heckle it.
For more info: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1178640/
This was one of many I came across when I looked up Wesley Snipes on imdb. I actually hadn't seen the first Art of War, which was released theatrically in 2000, so I rented that first. Someone I work with told me it was great, and I took his recommendation with a grain of salt, and it turns out I was right to. This movie, I was hoping, was a different story.
The Art of War II: Betrayal takes place however long after the first one, and Snipes is working in Hollywood. He's pulled into some intrigue involving senators and arms bills. As was the case in the first one, he's framed for a murder, and has to figure out who the bad guy is, and kill him, so he can clear his name.
I saw on imdb that someone killed this, and said part one was better. I kind of have to disagree. This wasn't worse at all. It had a fair amount of Snipes doing some sweet martial arts, maybe more than the first one; and the plot was pretty much the same-- which for a DTV actioner, it was fine, but for a major theatrical release, notsomuch. There was this special gun with bullets that could go through stuff, and the computer animation for it was great. By great I mean hilarious. Maybe this one didn't have the star power the first one did, but by the same token, I didn't have to feel bad for Donald Sutherland either.
Now I'm not saying this was all good. It had some distracting qualities. They used the speed up and slow down the film technique, which probably seems like a good idea at the time, but for us watching it, becomes really tedious. Also, a lot of the great action came with a big buildup, which was really unnecessary in my opinion, especially when the scenes themselves didn't live up to the buildup. There was a shootout in a warehouse that had like ten minutes of people getting ready to go in and talking about it, and when the shootout actually happened, it was totally weak.
Snipes was awesome. A good amount of his martial arts work, which is what I want. My friend was remarking that training in martial arts can ruin someone's athletic ability, making their movements less fluid. Snipes definitely discredits that theory. I can't get enough of watching him fight. That scene in Blade 2 where he gets the blood in him and you hear "listen all you motherfuckers" is so sweet, and yet he does all these new DTV films where he's the star, and they never tap into that awesomeness. This film at least did so to some extent, and they should be applauded for that.
That brings up another issue: Snipes' legal trouble. How's that gonna work for his burgeoning DTV career? I don't know when he starts his three years, or if they'll let him out to act in movies like they did for Robert Downey jr. He has one movie listed as filming, so I guess he plans on getting that one in before, but that would suck if he has to put his career on the shelf for a while. I mean I think that would suck... not all of his DTV films have been that great.
This movie has Lochlyn Munro playing a movie star running for the senate. Not sure I can ever get over him as the crazy guy in Dead Man on Campus. That movie was a big deal for us, because in our high school, there was a huge rumor that Mark-Paul Gosselaar was dead. This was before the Internet was huge, and before the imdb, so we had no real corroboration. Then someone looked up info on this film, and we found out the truth... after I'd already graduated. For the record, I never believed it... pretty much.
I kinda dug this bad boy. I wouldn't go crazy out of my way to see it, but if you're at the video store and you're hard up and you like Wesley Snipes, you could do a whole lot worse. On the other hand, this might be decent, but it's not going to get him into the DTVC Hall of Fame.
For more info: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1233571/
I think Netflix suggested this one to me. I did a search of Lambert, or I put a Lambert film in my queue, and this one shot up after. I don't really remember. This is the second film I've reviewed here that I used Netflix's instant watch program. Again, I can only seem to get the small screen, and when I try to enlarge to full screen, it wants to do it, then my Internet Explorer closes. I'm not sure why it's doing that, and I don't feel like calling to figure it out. I guess it's better anyway, because I use the small screen to capture images that I can put in the blog.
Point Men is about some Israeli secret service agents that are all foreigners, including Lambert. After some crazy stuff happens, they're all reassigned to desk jobs. Then some terrorist dude that's had his face changed is out there offing them. Lambert's not cool with this, so takes it upon himself to fix the situation.
Not bad. Not good either. Just kind of there. I've seen worse. I've seen better. No cool actors other than Lambert. Lambert's got his moments, but nothing to write home about. You could watch this, and be somewhat entertained, but in all likelihood, you'll fall asleep or your friends will pull out their laptops and check their e-mails.
Of all the Lambert films I've reviewed here, I'd put this at the bottom, but because it's a really blah kind of movie. The problem with it is that it has no real problems. But it also has no real high points. In one scene Lambert has a disguise with a moustache that kind of makes him look like my Uncle Willy. Wow. That's just not enough when competing with chessplaying thrillers, or Lou Diamond Phillips futuristic thrillers, or thrillers that have Dennis Hopper talking to a goat asking it if he can drink its urine for the psychedelic properties. I guess the moral is, if you're going to make a Lambert movie, do something with it.
One other thing I liked was how the terrorist/assassin was able to mimic all kinds of people to get in close and kill his target. The best was the Greek playboy who couldn't speak English well. He never strayed from that, using the term "buff" incorrectly the whole time, as in "film buff". He kept telling the woman he was seducing before killing "we are both buff, yes?" These are subtle elements that, in a great film, add to it's greatness, but in a blah film like this, are essentially wasted. Too bad, because that would've been cool to use in something else.
I must admit, at one time, I was a shopaholic. One of my vices was the Von Dutch trucker hat. I had two, each setting me back $45. I still have one, and I hang it in my room as a reminder of what frivolous spending can do. One of the assassin's friends looks like he's sporting one in this. It'd be a cool touch if he was. Well, that, and the trend didn't get big until the mid-2000s, and this came out in '01, so they didn't even exist then. And four years later, they don't even exist now. Mine might be a collector's item.
This movie has a Bond Girl in it, Maryam d'Abo (second cousin to Olivia d'Abo, from The Wonder Years), who was in the Timothy Dalton classic The Living Daylights. Dalton's an interesting case, because he's considered the fugazi-est of the Bonds, which is probably true, unfortunately. That makes Maryam d'Abo, by association, a fugazi Bond girl. Though that may be harsh, looking at her imdb filmography, it's surprising this is her first go around on the DTVC. The Timothy Dalton Bond film was the highlight of her career. You know who I think'd make a great Bond? Jason Statham. Also Wesley Snipes, with no fake accent. Maybe that's too postmodern.
Don't go crazy about renting this. It's really no big deal. There's plenty else out there you need to see first, and plenty out there I should've seen first too. But I'm here so you won't have to waste your money: I've already wasted it for you... well, kinda... I mean I already pay for Netflix for other films... and it's not like I wasted a rental, because I have unlimited use of the play it now feature... so it's more like I wasted an hour-and-a-half of my life... okay, you get the point.
For more info: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0254703/
I first found out about this film when I saw it on the side of one of those red things that dispenses movies at the grocery store. I actually didn't rent it there, but made a mental note of it and got it from Netflix. I've never actually used the red thing, and I've never met anyone who has. Is it a good deal? How does it work?
Pistol Whipped has Seagal as Matt (just Matt), and ex special forces cop whose life has gone downhill after he was relieved of duty following an incident on the job. In debt due to a lot of bad gambling debts, Lance Henriksen hires him to do some super secret hits on some bad dudes. Things get hairy when one of those bad dudes is the husband of his ex-wife, and step-father to his daughter.
I must say, this was a pretty good deal. Had this come out fifteen years ago, it would've been considered a solid Seagal effort as a mainstream theatrical release. It's right up there with some of his better ones. The end battle in the cemetery was amazing. I've watched so many bad, overpriced sacks-of-asscrack in the theater that just don't know how to have a great denouement. To find it in a 2008 Steven Seagal DTV actioner shows not only how far the DTV genre has come, but that it's getting harder and harder for us action movie honks to get that same satisfaction in the theater anymore. It's a shame.
Other than Out for a Kill, where Seagal decapitates a man by throwing a samurai sword at him from a second story window, this is Seagal's best DTV film, in my opinion. His fighting and one-liners were top notch. In one scene, while bedding soap opera actress Rene Goldsberry, he tells her "any stupid motherfucka can fry an egg", or something like that. When she tells him that in order to get ahead in the corporate world, she needed to grow a dick, he replied "I find you a lot less attractive if you grew a dick, especially if it was bigger than mine." After the cemetery scene, when he's killed the head baddie, he asks him before he croaks if he wants to be buried or cremated. The guy says cremated, and when he closes his eyes, Seagal lifts him up, throws him through the window of a nearby hearse, then shoots it till it blows up, and says "You've been cremated." God, this is exactly the reason why I have Netflix hit my bank account for $17 a month.
Lance Henriksen plays kind of a bad guy. He's the one hiring Seagal, but he's got him by the balls. I've never been sure on how I feel about him. He just seems like a cat you get when you can't afford a guy like Donald Sutherland. What would be nice, especially in a role like the one he played in this film, is if directors go outside the box, and instead of taking an obvious choice with Henriksen, try a Peter Weller, or Gary Busey. I think we all expect the Lance Henriksen, and we're bored by it-- at least I am.
According to imdb, Matt Salinger is in this as the card dealer at the beginning of the movie. The same Matt Salinger who played Captain America in Albert Pyun's film, and the one that's the son of JD Salinger. I totally missed that, and without the film in front of me, I can't go back and check. I'm usually so good at that sort of thing, and I thought about lying and just saying I saw him in the movie, but who would I really help by doing that?
I thought Seagal's love interest looked familiar, and when I looked her up, I found out why: she's on the soap opera One Life to Live. My mom used to watch that when I was 5 or 6, but she wasn't on it then. I remembered her because I was flipping through the channels one afternoon, and saw her in a scene where she was being burned at the stake in a cheerleader's uniform. Because it was a soap opera, I only saw it for a second before it went to commercial, and then I found myself engrossed in a cooking show and forgot to turn back before General Hospital was on; but I thought, what an interesting concept. You could make an entire teen horror flick based around that. It makes me wonder how many other things I've seen that I thought were created organically, that were probably just ripped off from soap operas I've never seen.
This is so worth it. Don't hesitate to pull the trigger. It's what you're looking for when you go to the video store, it's the reason you have Netflix, and it's the reason you read this blog, so I can tell you about gems like this. Everyone's happy.
For more info: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1014801/
Wednesday, November 5, 2008
I guess this was originally a Sci-Fi channel movie. I first got wind of it when Netflix suggested it to me. The Hasselhoffian implications were enough to give it a shot. I saw the end of an episode of the new Knight Rider at a friend's before one of the presidential debates, and I was shocked that Hasselhoff wasn't reprising his old role. In my mind if you can't get Hasselhoff, you don't make a new Knight Rider, right?
Anaconda III is about some facility researching a cure for cancer and Alzheimer's using genetically altered anacondas. They break free, and it's up to mercenary hunter David Hasselhoff and some of his homeboys to track them down and kill them. The CEO of the company that owns the facility, played by John Rhys-Davies, doesn't really want the snakes killed, because he has cancer, and isn't too fond of the prospect of dying, so he sends a guy in to gain the snakes' offspring so they can make an Anaconda 4. Hasselhoff won't be around for that one.
This wasn't too bad. It was plenty silly, and the deaths had that sick humor sense to them more than the freak you out sense, which I always appreciate. The people who made it really had a thing for decapitations leaving a meaty stub on the shoulders. As a Highlander fan, I'm more into the clean cut where the head seems to still be attached except for a small red line across the neck, just before it falls to the ground. The CG snakes were awesome. Their faces take on the expressions of your average house cat, and I think that's true for all CG snake movies. It's like I can't tell if the snake wants to bite someone's head off, or is contemplating whether or not to jump on my lap.
Hasselhoff is sweet in this, but he's in it way too little. For the first 45 minutes, we see him for like a total of two minutes of screen time. Whoa, back up. Is this a Hasselhoff film, or the episode of Knight Rider where Hasselhoff's unavailable so Devin Miles is driving around in KITT? Hasselhoff is frickin' amazing, and the last thing I want is a small scale Hasselhoff bait-and-switch. I want at least 75 of my 90 minutes of movie saturated with him. In one scene he gives a guy the Hasselhoffian Head Butt. They could've sprinkled in footage of him doing that to other people throughout the first half of the film where we barely see him, and that would've been perfect.
John Rhys-Davies has lost some weight. In the movie it's supposed to be a sign of his terminal cancer. I'm hoping in real life it's just a sign of him doing more cardio. He's just one of those iconic figures in movies that I couldn't imagine not being there. He just makes a perfect millionaire bad guy, or crooked cop, or Egyptian. Crazy enough, I don't have a tag for him, despite having reviewed two of his other films (Bloodsport III, and Sunset Grill). I'll have to fix that.
I minored in German in college, so I have a solid idea of how words are pronounced. One that irks me, and I'm not sure why, is Alzheimer's. People usually say "Altimer's" or "Ol' Timer's". The "Z" in German works like an English "T" and "S" put together. Think of the "Z" in Nazi. Now, I don't have an issue with everyday people mispronouncing it, but when a herpetologist with a PhD, like the woman in this film, who's been studying Alzheimer's for years, says the word "Altimer's", it's like... really? ALTS-imers.
There was a goat in this movie. He got almost as much screen time as Hasselhoff. Anytime I see a goat, I can't help but be transported back to the Lambert/Hopper classic The Target, where Dennis Hopper asked a goat if he could drink its urine for the psychedelic properties. Hasselhoff should've done that in this movie. Even better, one of the snakes should've done that. Maybe it could've hissed at the goat, and subtitles would tell us what it said.
The only hesitation I have in pulling the trigger on an out-and-out recommendation is the lack of Hasselhoff-age. Otherwise, it's a pretty solid choice for a bad movie night: funny deaths, silly snakes, ridiculous plot. Maybe rent it on a two-for-one night, that way you won't feel as bad getting only half the Hasselhoff if you only pay half the price.
For more info: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1137996/
Monday, November 3, 2008
I first came into contact with this film at 3am on Spike TV. I fell asleep for a bunch of it, but I had intended to put it on the blog back when I started it a year and a half ago. I was reintroduced to it recently by the women at Bruce's Angels (you can find a link to their site under the section Other Great Sites), because it starred their homeboy, Bruce Payne. It was definitely better when I watched the whole thing.
Steal has Stephen Dorff as a guy who leads a band of extreme adrenaline junkies in committing some major cash heists. Bruce Payne plays a police lieutenant on their trail, and Natasha Henstridge is on his task force. As you can imagine, whenever Payne's involved, things aren't what they seem, and to make matters worse, Dorff's gang has stolen twenty million dollars in untraceable bonds. Now they've got Payne and the people whose bonds they stole after them. They may be in a little over their head.
This was a pretty sweet flick. The action was almost nonstop, which I'm sure most of you know is something I need in my bad movie. The plot was sufficiently nuanced without getting in the way: a rare find in a movie of this caliber. The car chases and explosions were really solid, again proving to these Hollywood blockbusters that you don't need a lot of CGIs to entertain us. Give me a rig driving on the side of it's wheels in slow motion, or some Rollerbladers jumping a police car, or an armored vehicle exploding in flames with Bruce Payne saying "That had to hurt", and I'm plenty happy.
I've always dug Stephen Dorff, especially when he was the head baddie in Blade, one of the best vampire movies ever (along with its two sequels). I think Dorff would've made a better Dracula in the third one, to be honest. Anyway, as far as this film goes, he fit his role perfectly. Cocky, smooth talking, calm under pressure, but willing take care of business without a moment's hesitation. There was some question as to whether he or Natasha Henstridge is the protagonist, and the ending clears it up for you. I won't give it a way. What I will be doing is looking for more Stephen Dorff films to post.
Something must be wrong if Dorff beat out Bruce Payne for the coveted paragraph after the What I Thought paragraph. I'm sure my friends at Bruce's Angels know what that is without me saying it, but I'll let everyone else in: no English accent again. Come on! Really? Lt. MacGruder worked better as a character with a bad Brooklyn accent than he would've with a too sweet British one? In my mind, that horrible accent he tried to perpetrate did more to ruin the impeccable pin-striped suit he was wearing than if I'd emptied a mustard container on it. It just made him look abominable. This is my deal: how can you cast Bruce Payne, and not realize how awesome he was in Warlock III and Highlander: Endgame? What do you think makes him so awesome in those movies? His accent!
What makes this all the more frustrating is Payne's character was actually a pretty cool baddie for a pretty cool movie. The accent would've worked if Harvey Keitel was playing the role. But he wasn't, and I feel that using the fake Brooklyn accent diminished what would've been such a home run. Instead it was a ground rule double, and the runner was stranded on second. Don't get me wrong, a double is way better than a lot of the strike outs and weak grounders back to the mound that I review here, but it's hard to take when what seems like so simple an error to avoid was committed.
This is only the second film of Natasha Henstridge's I've reviewed, the other being the Albert Pyun/Christopher Lambert sci-fi flick Adrenaline: Fear the Rush. Looking at her imdb profile, she actually hasn't done that much that qualifies for a spot here at the DTVC, which is kind of surprising to me. I guess having watched her in She Spies back when I was up late doing grad school work, I figured DTV was right up her alley. I'll see if I can get Species III up, but there ain't much after that. Kind of too bad. As far as this goes, she's not in it that much, so if you're watching it for her, you can take it or leave it.
I'd say rent this. If the only real issue I can take with it is Bruce Payne's bad Brooklyn accent (and believe me, that's a REAL issue), then there's probably not much to stop anyone without that particular hang-up from having a good time with it. It tends to pop up on places like Spike late at night, and if you see it there, you could do a lot worse at that time. To quote Depeche Mode "Just like a rainbow, you always set me free."
For more info: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0282552/
I know it's been a while since I've done a Dolph film. I feel really bad about that. I had been trying to do one every 8 posts or so, but it's been 24 since I reviewed Jill the Ripper, meaning I dropped the ball. After this, I'll only have four of his DTV movies left (Storm Catcher, Cover Up, Hidden Agenda, and Direct Action), and then we'll just be waiting for him to release more while I do all C. Thomas Howell films. (Just kidding...)
Maximum Potential is a workout video featuring Dolph Lundgren. I could tell you what the workout entails, but really it's all about showing off Dolph's body in all its Dolph-ness. Just how big a Dolph Lundgren fan are you? You'll know after you've seen this.
We aired this at the recent Dolph Fest here in Maine, and it was a huge hit. It doesn't work if you're watching it alone, but in a large group, there's plenty to giggle at. Dolph's narration is hilarious. His running is even better. And then there's the gratuitous butt, ab, and pec shots. This is the perfect answer for guys who have women that can't stand all the T-an'-A in their bad action movies. An all around great time.
This is, of course, way outside the box from any other Dolph Lundgren film I've ever covered or ever will cover. One thing I found really interesting when watching him play himself, is that he's not really that different when he acts as someone else. I don't think that's necessarily a bad thing. Dolph's never been presented to us as the next Brando: he's just pure beefcake with a too sweet accent. Let Daniel Day Lewis hand-select his roles. I want the same Dolph in the same two-word-titled actioner.
In terms of work films, I must admit I haven't much in the way of experience in reviewing them. I've never seen Buns of Steel or Sweatin' to the Oldies or even Eric Nies' The Grind Workout Video. My exercise is the mile or so I walk to work and back each day, or the mile I walk to the grocery store, etc. I've lost a lot of weight doing that (60 lbs. since July of 2007), but I'm not very cut, so maybe the workout tape is the next stage in my fitness progression. Maybe I'll try yoga instead. I just don't know.
One of the best parts about watching something like this is seeing what names show up in the credits that you recognize before they were stars. Usually it's someone rather innocuous, but in this one we struck gold: production assistant Quentin Tarantino. According to imdb his job was cleaning dog feces off the lawn. The question is who's had the better career since? Pulp Fiction might be enough to trump Dolph's vast arsenal of great work, but I can honestly say anything after that, from Kill Bill to Jackie Brown isn't as good as Showdown in Little Tokyo or Bridge of Dragons. I'd say Reservoir of Dogs and those two Dolph flicks are a toss-up.
This cost me approximately $20 used online at Amazon. Yep, pretty pricey. Five years ago you couldn't find it for less than $40, so now I feel like I'm getting a bargain. I must stress that this an investment only the biggest Dolph fans should make, but if you're in that biggest category, you and your friends will love this bad boy.
For more info: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0256188/