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, May 29, 2008

Point Doom (2001)

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I first heard of this film when I saw a trailer for it at the beginning of the Don "The Dragon" Wilson film Whatever it Takes. Both films were produced by David DeFalco. In the trailer I saw Richard Greico, Ice-T, and Andrew Dice Clay, and figured it was worth throwing on my Netflix queue. Maybe I'm just subconsciously a glutton for punishment.

Point Doom is about an LA talent agent played by Richard Greico. He's looking for a nice girl to settle down with and thinks he found her at his friend Andrew Dice Clay's strip club in the person of waitress Jennifer O'Dell. The only thing is she's involved with a biker dude (played by the guy who gets his brains blown out by Dolph in Missionary Man) who's very possessive, addicted to drugs, and into it bad after he double-crosses and kills a bunch of fellow bikers for a shit ton of coke. Now Greico's caught up in this tangled web of crap. Is he in over his head? Probably, but not in the world of movies.

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This was a pretty bad film. Maybe not even pretty bad, it was atrocious. But it's got so many famous people in it it's hard to write it off immediately. Between Greico, Ice-T, O'Dell, and The Dice Man, it's all right. Then you throw in Angie Everhart in a weird role as a woman with epilepsy, Sebastian Bach as a biker, the guy from Gremlins and Gremlins 2 also as a biker, and then the guy who gets his brains blown out by Dolph in Missionary Man, and just on star power alone you can almost transcend everything else's atrociousness. Maybe that was producer David DeFalco's plan. The reality is you can't polish a turd.

Greico was Greico. I think he was better here than in the depraved Final Payback. It's always hard for me to fully place Greico, because the name evokes memories of his 80s glory, yet films like these remind just how far he's dropped. I guess everyone's gotta eat, but I get the sense that in each of these poorly made DTV stinkers he doesn't quite feel right: like he's playing back the 80s in his mind and wondering how he fell so far. This wasn't the way his career was supposed to go, and he can only hope another Tarentino will resurrect his career the way Travolta's was in Pulp Fiction. John, not Sam.

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Ice-T's popping up rather frequently here at the DTVC. This will be the sixth film reviewed that he was in, making him tied for second with Norbert Weisser behind Daniel Bernhardt for the most movies of a non-Hall of Famer. Looking at the films lined up for future review, there's a good shot he can catch him soon. That begs the question: why isn't he in the DTVC Hall of Fame? The reality is it's a personal taste thing with some of the committee. He's kind of in that C. Thomas Howell area, where the resume's there, but a lot of people just don't like him. I must say he's growing on me. He was cool in the small amount he's in this film. Other than a part when he's slicing up his own hand with a knife, he was great as a drug lord looking for money from the guy from Gremlins. With a good showing in Crazy Six as well, I'm looking forward to what's next from him.

Art Camacho directed this. I see his name in a fair number of all the bad movies I watch. I decided to finally look him up and found he's directed five films I've reviewed if you include this one (also Crooked aka Soft Target, Final Payback, Gangland, and X-treme Fighter). Not only that, but in his roles as fight choreographer, producer, stunt man, and bit part actor, he's been in countless others. For the time being I'm just going to tag the films he's directed and call it good. Maybe if I have the time I'll go through the others and tag them as well. He's a pretty busy guy.

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In terms of all the other stars, Angie Everhart's part made the least sense. She played O'Dell's sister. The deal was she had epilepsy, and the film treated it like a debilitating disorder where she couldn't care for herself, as if she was severely mentally handicapped. She wore these drab clothes in an attempt to make her less attractive, which, considering it was Angie Everhart, didn't work. In one freaky scene, the baddie, after attacking O'Dell, grabs Everhart, and she goes into convulsions. Eww. Then she's kidnapped by the same baddie, and her health issues suddenly play no part, probably for the convenience of the plot. She's treated pretty roughly. After she's rescued, instead of being allowed the comfort of her sister, she's taken away by the Dice Man so Greico and O'Dell can get it on. It was just weird.

I can't really see recommending this. It's got some sweet B,C, and D-list actors, but beyond that, it sucks. It's supposed to be a sexy suspense thriller, and it's really none of the three. I can't lie, I like really bad films, so I picked this up, but you've gotta be in that small percentile of people like me who take it too far and need a film like this to pull us back from the ledge. Your best bet is to stay away from it.

For more info: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0186454/

Army of One aka Joshua Tree (1993)

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My friends and I first came across this classic when we fell for the Punisher bait-and-switch. We were looking all over for the good Punisher-- the one with DTVC Hall of Famer Dolph Lundgren in it. Most places only carried the new bad version with Travolta and a grimacing Thomas Jane. Anyway, this Bangor video store that rented both mainstream and porn videos told us over the phone that they had the film. They didn't, it was the new one, but we found this bad boy instead. If you're wondering, I eventually had to purchase the good Punisher from Amazon.

Joshua Tree or Army of One has Dolph as a trucker shipping illegal cargo for a dealer named Jimmy Shoeshine and a crooked cop played by Just Shoot Me's George Segal. Things go bad when a bike cop pulls Dolph and his driving partner over, and the partner and bike cop end up dead with Dolph taking the rap. While being moved from one detention center to another, two guards try to kill him, and he takes them out. Now he's on the run and he wants revenge. He takes Days of Our Lives star Kristian Alfonso as a hostage, and when she sees his too sweet abs she decides he's the side to be on. Now he's just gotta clear his name before the net closes in.

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This is a good time-- not that it ever isn't when Dolph's involved. There were some great chase scenes, especially later on when Dolph steals a red Ferrari and Segal counters with a Lamborghini. It was like the old days when me and my friends had Micro Machines and debated which car was cooler. If the chases weren't enough, there was plenty of shooting and explosions, and Dolph brought it in the fight scene department. Finally, just to complete the action film paradigm, Kristian Alfonso shows off her boobs. Cars, karate, explosions, and boobs: what more could you want?

Dolph was great in this except for one thing: his character name. Wellman Santee. What kind of shit is that? Look at the awesome Tank Concrete-esque names Dolph's had over the years: Lance Rockford (Defender), Sam Decker (Detention), Jack Devlin (Blackjack), Ivan Drago (Rocky IV), just to name four. In his newest three films he goes by Mike Riggins, Ryder, and Xander Ronson. How can any self-respecting film maker think Wellman Santee is a name associated with a guy who kicks as much ass as Dolph does? Someone should've made an executive decision and dubbed over all mentions of Wellman Santee with the name Brock Gridiron, or Todd Jackhammer, or... well, you get the idea.

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Interesting choice for George Segal as the main baddie. He did Just Shoot Me about four years after this was released, but I didn't see it until well after I'd gotten to know him from the show. I just couldn't marry the concept of him as a crooked cop with the him I knew as a fashion magazine owner in my mind. I was waiting for David Spade to give him advice on how to kill Dolph. This is why it's important to cast the right baddie when making a film like this. Think of the guy from Die Hard: he never goes out of style. Neither does Brian Thompson. On the other hand, I can't think of someone I would've cast in place of Segal. He kind of fits. Maybe William Shatner or George Takei would be better, but that's it.

Anyone who's a fan of Days would recognize Kristian Alfonso as Dolph's leading lady. My mom was actually a fan of the ABC soaps, so I didn't come into contact with Alfonso until college, when a neighbor in my dorm watched it. He and I had class at the same time, and I would shoot over to his room and we would leave together. He always had to wait until Days was over to go, though, and so I followed the soap's storyline for an entire semester with only the last five minute wrap-ups each day. Anyway, with that in mind, I was pretty surprised when I saw her topless in this film. The only thing I can see is that in 1993 she'd been doing Days for ten years, and wanted to get into films, and figured this would be a way to break out of her soap star mold. Based on her imdb resume, it didn't work.

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There are some great co-stars and cameos in this. The sheriff helping Segal track down Dolph is played by Geoffrey Lewis, the guy who raised one of the Van Dammes in Double Impact. Dolph's murdered driving partner is played by Ken Foree. You may remember him both from Kenan and Kel, and Dawn of the Dead. In Dawn he was the guy who survived with the blond chick. I loved at the beginning when he tells her "I've lost a lot of brothers today", and she says "real brothers... or soul brothers?" to which he replies "both". His widow is played by CSI: Miami's Khandi Alexander. George Segal's wife is played by Michelle Phillips of The Mamas and the Papas. Then there's Nick Chinlund, who plays Lewis's deputy. You may know him from Chronicles of Riddick as the guy telling Vin Diesel "You should've dusted my dick when you had the chance."

Much of the film draws illusions to the Bogart classic High Sierra, and I get those. But I see another film and theater parallel: Tennessee Williams' A Streetcar Named Desire. Much of Dolph's manhandling of both Kristian Alfonso and Michelle Phillips reminds me of Stanley Kowalski. One thing we know about that was Kowalski embodied some of Williams' own fantasies regarding being manhandled by a brutish young man. I'm not sure if the director or script writer is depicting his desires for Dolph through the women in this film, or if he just has a low opinion of women and thinks they need to be thrown around and roughed up from time to time. Either way, in both cases (Alfonso and Phillips), the female characters seemed to enjoy it.

This is a definite one to watch. It's in my top 15 of Dolph films. Even if you're not the Dolph fanatic I am, the bad action-ness of it alone is worth it. Like I said, it fills all the main categories of a great bad movie: cars, karate, explosions, and boobs. Plus there's plenty of recognizable faces. If you haven't seen this before, give it a shot. I've seen it listed more frequently on DVD as Army of One, but you may see it as Joshua Tree as well, so look for both.

For more info: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0106309/

Transmorphers (2007)

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I'm not sure when I first learned of the existence of The Asylum. Maybe it was on imdb. Maybe a friend mentioned them. Anyway, once I saw their long list of movies with titles similar to major Hollywood hits: things like The Da Vinci Treasure and When a Killer Calls, I knew I needed to check them out. This film was tops on my list.

Transmorphers is more like Cleopatra 2525 than Transformers. It takes place 400 years after a race of robots has taken over the world and driven humanity underground. A small group of revolutionaries has attempted to break free of this cycle of futility and fight back, and they were frozen by the other humans for their efforts. But a new technological breakthrough has given humanity a new weapon in their fight, and the ring leader of the old revolution is thawed and sent to help utilize this breakthrough. If he fails, the robot will learn where the humans are hiding and exterminate them. If he succeeds, it'll be time to party!

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I wanted to hate this film when I rented it, and believe me, it's not very good; but I can't say I hated it. Sure, there really isn't anything original about it: it steals from Star Trek, Star Wars, The Matrix, it's namesake: Transformers, Cleopatra 2525, Android... I could go on. On the other hand, it's more like the film maker is stuffing everything he thinks is cool about sci-fi into one movie, and getting paid for it. Don't get me wrong, this is atrocious. The dialog is poor, the acting leaves much to be desired, and the plot is a jumbled mess. I guess it's just a fun bad movie and fun to make fun of.

There was one solid actor in this. The hero, played by Matt Wolf, and, surprise surprise, he's the only one with a half-way decent acting resume. He had a role in the recent Pirates of the Caribbean movie. I wonder if the cast asked him what Johnny Depp was like. Most of Wolf's work has been limited to voice acting in video games, which makes sense because he's from London. I hope to see him in more stuff in the future-- just not from Asylum!

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This movie is chock full of women. Many of the upper ranks of the army are female, including the head general. According to the Making Of short included in the DVD, the head general was originally supposed to be a man, and the director just decided to keep the script the same when he cast a woman. That meant she had a lesbian relationship with the woman that was supposed to be in love with the hero. That was definitely a cool move on their part to keep that. Another aspect of gender equality came from the use of the word "sir" for both men and women, stolen, of course, from Star Trek. The main question with a film of this caliber would be: is it promoting gender equity, or is it using gender equity as an excuse to populate the film with tons of hot chicks? It's probably the later, but I'll give them points for the effort.

The robots were done entirely in CGI. One friend described them as "Mechwarrior 2 graphics". Though I never played that game, I get the description. These special effects were solid in 1995, but for 2007, I think the software needs to be updated. Unlike the Transformers, these robots only come in a few types, and they don't really do anything spectacular. They may change from a foot soldier to something that flies. In some cases they don't even transform, making the title even more the cash grab that it was.

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In the Making Of segment, one of the actors makes that crucial misstep when being interviewed and takes the accolades too far. He actually says that the director, a man named Leigh Scott, will be the next Spielberg. Wow. This guy's lucky if he'll be the next Albert Pyun or Nico Mastorakis. I love watching the Making Ofs of these atrocious assaults on the art of cinema. The actors and crew do a great job of selling to us that they're really making a great film. I just wish they could watch themselves talking on camera with us people who live in the real world. I know they can't just say "This movie sucks and I only did it to pad my resume; but just the same, I think this is a little much, and I think my agent and I really need to sit down and decide if law school isn't the best option for me." Do they need to lay it on so thick, though, with the "He was such a great director to work with" or the "I really loved that with this character I got to do something I don't usually do as an actor"? We may be dumb enough to rent Transmorphers, but we're not that dumb.

When my friend rented this, the guy behind the counter warned him explicitly that this was not Transformers. I missed out on that because I got it through Netflix. I think if you're going to see this silly thing, rent it from your local video store, and see if you get the warning. If you don't, try taking it back after you watch it and getting a refund. It wouldn't hurt, and you and your friends could have a discounted bad movie night.

For more info: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0960835/

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Rage and Honor (1992)

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In middle school and high school I'd seen this film more times than I could count, between rentals and all the times it would show up on TV late at night. For some inexplicable reason, I moved on from this and others like it for newer, badder films. One great aspect of The Direct to Video Connoisseur is that I've reexamined these old greats. It's probably been a long time coming.

Rage and Honor is about a teacher, Cynthia Rothrock, who is also a martial arts expert. One of her students witnesses some crooked cops kill someone. It just so happens these crooked cops are hanging the rap on visiting Australian cop Richard Norton. Now Rothrock and Norton must fight their way through the bad parts of the city to clear Nortons name and avenge the beating of Rothrock's student and find the kid's video of the murder. Oh yeah, and Brian Thompson is the lead baddie, and he not only sports a too sweet mullet, but he's Rothrock's brother.

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This film is too awesome for words. Watching it again recently, I just had this feeling that this was what bad action was supposed to be about. The plot was simple and kept to a minimum. The fight scenes were plentiful and well choreographed. And most of all, there were tons of explosions and whatnot. I think a lot of bad movie directors could do themselves a service by watching this gem. Cut out the useless plot exposition, forget the cute Bourne Whatever camera cuts, and forgo the techno in favor of some good old fashion synthesizer music. The formula works.

I must admit the DTVC has been remiss in not showcasing more of Cynthia Rothrock's films on the site. This film makes me feel that much more like a moron. On the other hand, unlike her counterparts in the DTVC Hall of Fame, Rothrock hasn't made a film in four years, and in the last ten she's only made eight. Compare that with Dolph who has done 19, and Seagal who's done 22. (Obviously we can't count Kinski because he's dead, but you gotta believe if he was still alive he'd have done more than eight films in ten years!). She's on par with Miles O'Keefe, who's done 10 in ten years, and none since 2005. What got him noticed ahead of her was his Ator work.

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Another DTV mainstay featured in this bad boy is Mr. Richard Norton, one of my personal faves. Australian accents always work. I've never seen them not work. Then you couple that with kick ass martial arts, and you've got a fantastic combination. He's been in a lot of Rothrock films, so we should expect to see him pop up more here at the DTVC. Also, he's in one of the all time great films, Gymkata, which it has recently been brought to my attention is conspicuously absent on the blog. I plan to rectify that soon.

Brian Thompson plays the bad guy/Rothrock's brother. He sports this afterthought of a mullet that looks like it was tacked on to his real hair. It's ridiculous. And he even has the audacity to tie that beaver pelt back into a ponytail. Are you kidding me? Just the same, I think Brian Thompson is one of the all time great baddies, even as an American. He's one of only a few that can compete with his British, German, and Russian counterparts. He was an excellent choice, despite the afterthought ape drape.

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One thing I noticed in watching this film again that never made a difference when I saw it in high school was the classic ATM machine Rothrock gets money out of before she's accosted by a gang of toughs. It's so awesome. It takes up most of the wall it's posted on, and has these two big buttons labeled "Withdrawal" and "Deposit". I wonder if any of those things are still kicking around. I'd totally buy one on E-bay or something if they were affordable. It'd look great in my apartment.

If you've never seen this before, what are you waiting for? If it's been a while since you've seen it, you really need to check it out again. If you're a fan of bad action and martial arts, this is a must. My sense is that this kind of film is considered a dinosaur in the industry, and it's something new DTV film makers want to stay away from. Nothing could be sadder, because I'll take this bad boy over 90% of the new crap out there any day.

For more info: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0105212/

Sci-fighters (1996)

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I first saw this on Sci-Fi while waiting for a friend to come by so we could catch the train down to Boston. I made it almost to the end, and had intended to watch it again in its entirety at another point. That was four years ago, and finally, through the magic of Netflix (it had to be sent all the way from Greensboro, SC!) I've been able to relive this bad boy. Not sure what I was missing.

Sci-fighters takes place in the future (2009, to be exact) in Boston, MA. Roddy Piper is some kind of special Black Shield cop who can do what he wants, and what he wants is to investigate a series of rapes that may or may not have been committed by a may or may not be dead Billy Drago. Even worse, these rape victims are getting sick and hatching aliens eggs from their stomachs. Bad deal. Now it's up to Piper and some hot doctor chick to stop Drago before he ends the world as we know it (or as they know it in their fictitious future).

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This movie was rough. Not just because of my bias against Billy Drago. The people making the film had very little imagination for a Boston only thirteen years in the future for them. I remember Boston in 1996, and the only huge difference between then and now is Fenway Park. This movie had a creation of a Little Beirut section, had nasty cars, and cell phone technology actually became worse. That aside, there were some cool parts. Lots of gore and violence. Exploding women's stomachs with Alien rip-offs jumping out and latching onto people's faces. It was sillier than it was good.

Piper was weird in this. He had some good fights, but a lot of them stunk. My friends and I were in hysterics in one scene where he attacks these two cops guarding the bad guy. He looked like a little grumpy kid trying to fight with his dad. Only in this case these weak, unfocused attacks actually worked. That was particularly disappointing because I watched the film for Piper. I certainly didn't watch it for Drago.

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It's so odd looking back to even a time as recent as 1996 to see how people thought that just that switch of the digits to 2000 would mark all these enormous changes in the world. One of the things this film had was a moon base. I was only 17 in 1996, and I knew we were much further off than 13 years from a moon base where the US could store its felons and make them do hard labor. It wasn't as bad as Fortress 2, where an untrained Christopher Lambert was doing work along with other prisoners outside the space station, but this was bad enough. How hard is it to simply push the fake date forward by fifty or a hundred years? It can't be any stupider than the alternative.

One interesting thing you'll note on your DVD. The word "fuck" was dubbed over. According to imdb, the director thought if he did this he could avoid an R rating-- despite all the violence and gore. He failed, so he was left with an R rated film with poor dubbing that looks like a bad TV adaptation. Anyway, I figured I'd bring it up so you'd know that you aren't watching an edited version of the film: it's supposed to be like that.

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I don't know where to go with this. My friends and I got plenty of laughs, but at the same time, it was extremely dumb and boring in spots. The Piper factor was pretty poor, and when you add in Billy Drago, that's a rough combination for me. I can't say completely don't rent it, because my friends and I did have fun, just tread cautiously. Don't rent it at full price, how about that?

For more info: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0117566/

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Black Dawn (2005)

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If you've been rockin' with me and the Direct to Video Connoisseur for a little while now, you may have noticed I'm on a quest to find this one Seagal film I saw the end of on USA, where he throws a samurai sword from a second-story window and decapitates this old Chinese man. I actually think I may have found it now, and the film's on my Netflix queue, but I didn't know that when I rented this little gem.

Black Dawn has the Seagal-inator as Jonathan Cold, a former CIA agent who is an expert in martial arts and nuclear technology. He's gone missing for a while, but has resurfaced when he was hired by two That Guys to help in the sale of their nuclear technology to this Eastern European terrorist group. The kink in the deal comes when Seagal's former pupil, a hot chick, while working for the CIA, stumbles upon the deal, forcing Seagal to abandon his plans and save her. Now he's gotta retrieve the stuff before the baddies can blow up the world.

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This is a pretty good deal. It's the kind of film you have in mind when you see a Seagal direct to video action flick on the shelves at your local video store. As always, he's a former something (in this case CIA), he's playing both ends against the middle, and he's only got one person he can trust. There are some great car chase scenes and explosions, and Seagal gives us some solid fight scenes. Probably most memorable for me came when the baddies were after Seagal and his woman, and he's escaping in a dump truck-like deal. He actually discharges the back part, leaving it in the middle of the road, so the bad guys can crash into, causing a ridiculous explosion. It was hilarious.

I've done a huge chunk of Seagal's DTV films on the blog, and I must say it's all relatively solid. It may be extremely cheesy and at times heavy handed, but it seldom takes itself too seriously, and Seagal usually puts in a decent showing. Another great attribute of his new work is his use of Ebonics. I'm not sure where he picked that up, maybe when he worked with Ja Rule or DMX, but for us bad action fans, it's hilarious. In 2008 he has one movie already out with Pistol Whipped, and another completed with Kill Switch. Having just turned 57 last April (and people said I was old turning 29 nine days before that!), it's great to see him still kicking around and turning out quality work. If you compare that to Harrison Ford, who is nine years older, and who looked silly in 2006's Firewall, forcing him to make the new film Indiana Jones and the Cash Grab, I can only hope Seagal either A, is still awesome when he's that old, or B, will bow out gracefully if he's not. Though, I'd go see an Under Siege 3 if it was made in 2017...

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The two baddies that want Seagal's expertise in selling the nuclear technology to the Easter Europeans are major That Guys, one more so than the other. The first is the one Seagal breaks out of jail, and he's more of a soap opera That Guy, though he's done his turn on Renegade and whatnot. His younger brother, who's more of the real bad guy, has been in way more. He has almost one hundred credits of That Guy roles, appearing in everything from Pearl Harbor to Cold Case to The L Word. You'd know him the moment you saw him.

Matt Salinger's in this for one quick scene. You may remember him as the son of JD Salinger who played Captain America in the Albert Pyun adaptation of the Marvel comic. I didn't know he still worked, but there he was, and according to imdb, he's in the new Seagal flick Pistol Whipped. Good for him. Here, he sports a silly Russian accent. I'm not sure I get that. Why not have him dressed like Captain America while selling the nuclear technology? That's what I would've done.

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I must confess, when I saw this again recently, I fell asleep for some of it. I'm not sure how much that matters, but there may have been something awesome in it that I missed. If you're reading this and have already seen the film, don't hesitate to post a comment if you think I'm leaving something out. That goes for all of the films I review here on the DTVC. I do my best to stay awake, but when the plot drags, as it did in this one at the end, the beer takes over and I doze off. That's why it's necessary to watch these bad films with other people, so they can keep you up with their constant jokes, and you can return the favor. I actually did do that for this one, but the person I was watching it with fell asleep too, so it didn't matter.

Rent this. It's what you want when you pick up a Seagal flick: silly character name, Ebonnics, explosions, solid fights, and hot chicks. Get your beer or Mountain Dew, plenty of chips and pizza, and a bunch of friends, and have a blast. This was definitely a fun time.

For more info: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0443450/

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Ski School (1991)

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There are movies, and then there are movies: the pinnacle of the art form, leaving an indelible impression on all who come in contact. For me, this film is that. I feel like there's hope in the world when a screenwriter, director, actors, and various crew can create something as pure and inspiring; when their vision comes to fruition in such a state of perfection that we as the viewer are left with nothing but our gaping jaws and the word "awesome" dangling upon our lips like lavender honey from a ten dollar jar.

Ski School is about a ski school with two rival ski instructors. Reid Janssens runs section one, and is the head ski instructor (for the purposes of a movie like this, he's the heel). Dave Marshak runs section 8, and he and his ski pals party all the time and don't take anything very seriously (he's the hero). Usually Reid's team wins the annual ski meet, but when he mistakenly sends ski prodigy John Roland to Marshak's crew, the balance of power shifts. At the same time, the head of the ski resort wants to sell, and he knows he'll have trouble doing that with Marshak and his boys partying all the time. Hilarity ensues as Marshak and crew fight back in an attempt to reclaim the mountain.

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We watched this all the time in high school. It may sound like your run-of-the-mill bad sports comedy, but believe me, it ain't. Dave Marshak is probably the greatest hero in this type of film this side of Ty Webb. Janssens as the heel is almost too perfect, like he's a parody of the heel from the genre, which makes it all the easier to laugh when he's made to look bad. There's also tons of beer, and lots of scenes where people walk into a room and have a beer thrown to them, which was cool for us underage drinkers looking for role models. Plus, there is so much partying and funny pranks that when the two teams square off for the perfunctory end-of-the-movie showdown, it actually doesn't hurt.

Dave Marshak, played by Summer School's Dean Cameron, is the quintessential awesome head party guy for a movie like this. He's cut from the same cloth as an Otter from Animal House, and makes a Van Wilder look trite and clicheed. One of my favorite scenes with him comes after a woman in a bikini walks out of their dorm. "Does anyone have a problem with that?" he says in a pissed off voice. "Half-naked girls walking around at 9am? Last year they were completely naked by this time!" According to imdb, Marshak's name was originally supposed to be Marshall, but the director decided last minute that that was too ordinary. You can kinda tell that he dubbed all of the actors afterwards, because it looks weird when they say his name. I must say it was a great decision, though,because Dave Marshall doesn't have the same ring that Marshak does.

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For the JAG fans out there, Patrick Labyorteaux, or Lt. Cmdr. Bud Roberts jr., is in this, as, of all things, a ladies man. He's still goofy as hell, he just seems to get tons of chicks. Then Marshak and his right-hand-man Fitz, hypnotize him into not wanting to have sex, and he spends the rest of the movie telling all these hot chicks that he's not interested. I never got the point of JAG, other than a bad show that me and my friends could make fun of. A navy lawyer getting into all these life-or-death situations just seemed odd to me. CBS has a habit of making hour-long dramas about weird things: a Texas Ranger who drives around in a pick-up beating the crap out of people, a Navy lawyer/action hero, a cantankerous navy forensics expert, and now I've seen advertised during football games a show called The Unit. They've actually gone as far as to make a crime drama about a penis?

Speaking of weird premises (premisi?) for TV shows, Darlene Vogel of Pacific Blue fame is in this as hot shot ski prodigy John Roland's love interest. At the end she's in one of the most unintentionally funny scenes. The guys in section 8 are barred from skiing in the finale because the bad guy has had them evicted from the ski school. They show up anyway with a bunch of beer, and everyone there except for Janssens and his cronies want them to compete. There's a chant going around of "Let them Ski! Let them ski!" For some reason the film makers decided when the shot was on Vogel, they would have her voice come to the forefront over the chanting. I think it may be dubbed as well. Anyway, she says in this hilarious, high pitched voice, completely out of rhythm with the background, "Let them ski! He he he he..." We had to rewind it and watch it a couple times.

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One of the interesting things you'll see in the background are boxes of Miller Sharps beer, which is non-alcoholic. Considering this film came out in 1991, there was plenty of time before Alanis Morrisette released her hit "Ironic" to have seen it. Had she mentioned this film's inclusion of non-alcoholic beer in her song, she would've had at least one instance of irony. But she didn't, so instead she put out a song titled irony with no examples of irony in it. I guess that would be ironic, though, if the song's called irony, but nothing in it is about irony. Anyway, I'm totally digressing.

This is one of the rare cases where I have trouble in the confines of a blog describing just how good a movie is. You really have to see it to get the full effect. If you like to party, you'll love this. If getting drunk doesn't really appeal to you, though, I'd skip it. I'm personally at an age where I kinda don't do that stuff anymore, but this movie, for me, comes from a time when I did, and it's great to watch it now and reminisce.

For more info: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0102940/

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Android (1982)

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I don't remember when I first saw this. It's one of those that's always been around for me. I rented it recently from Netflix, and I think that's the first time I've seen it in at least ten years. There were things in it I noticed that I wouldn't have picked up on back then. I guess that's why it's always a good idea to re-watch these old classics.

Android takes place in the future or something on this desolate space station. Kinski plays a doctor doing research with his timid assistant Max. Three escaped convicts make it to the station, and Max lets them on board in an attempt to quell the monotony of his everyday life. Quickly the escapee realize Max is an android, and the doctor's a little off. The question is whether they can keep from stabbing each other in the back long enough to get off the ship and away from the Kinski-nator.

There are probably some sci-fi honks out there who think this is some kind of cinematic treasure, and for those cats, I feel very sorry for you. This really isn't very good: but it's plenty good to make fun of. As a classic, I'd put it more in the Zardoz category, as opposed to Blade Runner. When I was younger I think I knew how dumb this was, I just didn't make fun of it as much as I did now. Maybe I'm just better at mocking bad movies.

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The set looked more like a health spa circa 1984, where maybe a guy in a headband and short shorts would be playing racquetball, and Crockett would interrupt his game to set up a fake coke deal. The guns looked like something out of the old Star Trek, which I actually think was pretty cool. The best might have been the "futuristic" water pitcher Kinski used when he was entertaining the one chick escapee. The thing was not an improvement on the water pitcher, but a step in the wrong direction. One of my favorite things in the bad sci-fi film: new designs for everyday devices that look cool but have no utilitarian function.

Klaus Kinski is probably the most difficult of the DTVC Hall of Famers to find movies to review. He passed away in 1991, way before the birth of DVDs, and actually as VHS was still coming into its own. Often I can only find his films if I pay too much for a video cassette on Amazon from a used seller, or if I'm lucky enough to strike gold plowing through a bargain bin at a Goodwill or something. That explains the unfortunately low number of his films reviewed here on the blog.

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If you look at the imdb resume of a Rutger Hauer or a Gary Busey, doing five or six movies in one year sometimes, it's hard to imagine Kinski had he lived, even in what would've been his late 70s and early 80s, not putting out a similar work rate. He was willing to do any movie given A, the price was right, and B, he wasn't required to spend much time on the set shooting it. Without pioneers like Kinski, we probably wouldn't have the DTV market we do. The irony is that he's also probably one of the best actors in the history of moving pictures, considered by some to be the German Marlon Brando. As in all of his DTV movies, you can see that difference in his quality of acting versus his co-stars.

One element of this film I missed in my previous viewing was the seemingly ubiquitous Norbert Weisser. I think this is the first time he was in a movie I reviewed that wasn't directed by Albert Pyun. According to imdb, of his last three films, two were Pyun's, and the third was an indie flick with Christopher Walken, Josh Lucas, and Michael Caine, called Around the Bend. Might be worth checking out. Here in this film, I was disappointed, because he seemed cool, but was killed off by the asshole escapee in the group too easily. It was like he was better than the usual bit parts he does for Pyun, but the finish wasn't there. I guess I can't blame him for that.

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The idea of the android has always been difficult for me to swallow. I think it's that the actors playing them usually overdo it (one of my fave actors Brent Spiner comes to mind, unfortunately). There's usually a lack of continuity too. Sometimes as androids they can't understand this or that, but then they can understand something else. Here, the kid couldn't grasp basic human interactions, but was somehow conniving enough to waylay the authorities coming to recapture the escapees. I just think the writers get lazy with these things, and make the androids as human as possible so they don't have to write in limitations that the actors have to adhere to.

This is worth putting in your Netflix queue. It's solid cheesy sci-fi that you'll find yourself and your friends laughing at. I also liked the Kinski factor, but that's just me. Seeing his head ripped off with bad special effects just made my night.

For more info: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0083557/

Gunmen (1994)

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I first found out about this film when I saw it for sale at the local Christmas Tree Shop. It was my first trip there, and I must say, I wasn't all that impressed. For instance, they wanted $10 for this movie on DVD. Have they heard of Amazon? I can get it for half that, and that includes shipping. I guess if you're a mom looking to by knick-knacks for the house, the Christmas Tree Shop is where it's at; but for buying Christopher Lambert films, it sucks.

Gunmen has DTVC Hall of Famer Lambert as some conman-ish dude in a South American prison that US cop Mario Van Peebles breaks out. The deal is Lambert knows the town where his dead brother is hiding $400 million of crime lord Patrick Stewart's money, but Van Peebles knows what boat the brother hid it on. Now they've got to get to it ahead of Denis Leary, who Stewart sent to retrieve his missing fortune. That's pretty much it.

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This is your run-of-the-mill buddy picture, and I'm guessing Lambert and Van Peebles needed to do this considering that same year Highlander III: The Final Dimension was released in theaters, and they were afraid we'd think they hated each other. There are some ridiculous parts, like where Lambert shoots Van Peebles in the leg to keep him from running, then Van Peebles returns the favor a few minutes later; yet the leg wounds seem pretty superfluous, like a Lundgren shot to the left arm. This also rips off a lot of Spaghetti Westerns, especially right off the bat when Lambert catches a bug in his mouth while in prison.

But it's a pretty fun romp for a bad action movie. There are tons of cameos: Kadeem Hardison, Dr. Dre and Ed Lover, Eric B. and Rakim, Kid Frost, Big Daddy Kane, and Sally Kirkland, to name a bunch. There isn't much of a plot, and it feels like when in doubt, they blow stuff up. Obviously you can't really take this seriously, but I think that makes it a good bad action film. Give me this over National Treasure any day.

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Lambert is pretty good in this. He's supposed to be some kind of off-beat conman type, which is okay, I guess. I'd rather have him wielding a samurai sword, but I understand that must get boring, and he needs to branch out some. I will say this is probably the movie Albert Pyun should've made instead of Crazy Six, and I can only assume he didn't because this was already done. It's not like he hasn't worked with Lambert before, though!

I rented this from Netflix, and one of the interesting features they offer is a link to famous critic reviews of the film. It just so happens Roger Ebert did this one. http://rogerebert.suntimes.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/19940204/REVIEWS/402040302/1023
He absolutely killed it. One of the best things he had to say involved the name Cole. In his mind no movie has been made in the last twenty years or so with a character named Cole in it that was any good. The only movie off the top of my head other than this one (Van Peebles' character was Cole) that had a Cole in it was Days of Thunder, and as I recall that was equally stupid and awesome. Now I want to see how many movies have Coles in them out there and find out if his theory's correct.

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Patrick Stewart's in this. I'm sure many of you out there know him from Star Trek: The Next Generation. I used to watch it because I had some friends who loved it, and two things surrounding Stewart's character puzzled me. First, he was obviously from England, yet they insisted he was from France. Do France and England trade countries in the future? I asked my friends that, and they thought the concept was hilarious. The second thing involved Stewart's prowess with the ladies versus Jonathan Frakes. How did he get so many chicks? I know there's the accent, but he was still old, and Frakes was still awesome. If you put their resumes side-by-side for the Pepsi Challenge, maybe Frakes scores with Troi, but I have to deduct points because A, Stewart had Dr. Crusher, and I thought she was hotter, and B, Troi did Warf. Frakes just can't follow a Klingon on a wet deck.

I'm digressing out of control here. Needless to say, this isn't worth paying ten bucks for, but it's definitely worth renting. There's plenty to mock, it doesn't seem to take itself that seriously, and it has some great people in it, not the least of which is DTVC Hall of Famer Christopher Lambert. If you see it at the video store and you're torn, give it a shot.

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0109959/

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

The Russian Specialist aka The Mechanik (2005)

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When my friends and I first got wind of this it was listed on imdb as The Mechanik. Whenever we referred to it after that, we called it Mechanic with a "K", and the name has stuck. I recently purchased this along with Direct Action, Army of One (or The Joshua Tree) and a too sweet The Minion poster, using my economic stimulus check. You could say I'm stimulating the economy Dolph style.

The Russian Specialist has Dolph as a former Russian special forces dude in Afghanistan who lived in a small town and saw his wife and son murdered by Russian mobsters. He exacts his revenge and moves to LA to become a car mechanic, thinking he's killed everyone involved. He's wrong, and he's hired to rescue a girl kidnapped by that same thought to be dead mobster. So Dolph heads over and recruits a bunch of dudes to help him. They get the girl, then have to flee to the Finnish border. The mobsters catch up with them and the movie finishes with a showdown in another small Russian town. Does Dolph have it in him to save the day in yet another movie?

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This is the second of Dolph's three directorial efforts so far, and it might be his best. I lean a little more toward Defender because it has Jerry Springer in it, but that's just me. It's definitely better than Missionary Man. One thing that gets me about this, though, is his constant use of fade-outs. It ruins the flow of an otherwise solid action flick for me. You'd think he'd watch the movie in the screening room and see how much better scenes progress when they just bounce from one to the next. And it wasn't that he was using the fade-outs to show a long lapse of time, he was throwing them in to get from baddies storming an apartment to them getting to the doorknob. I'm not saying I expect Lundgren to be Bergman or anything, just to understand that less is more with fancy editing and whatnot: let the action and his awesome screen presence speak for itself.

And on that score, Dolph the actor is in full effect. I think I represent a lot of people when I say it's always fun to see him play a Russian. Here he kicks tons off ass, and he's pure Dolph doing it. It's funny now with him as the director, because he's the one making the decision to put himself in the sleeveless car mechanic's jumpsuit with no shirt underneath. It's like it's classier and subtler than the Van Damme buttcheeks, but he's showing off just the same. I think because it's classier and subtler, we don't begrudge him it, but rather respect and admire it on some levels. If I look half that good when I'm fifty, I'll be doing all right.

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This movie uses a plot device I'm not sure I can remember ever being used before: Finland as a safe-haven. I loved it. The whole concept of Finland has always been awesome to me, and was made even more so when Conan O'Brian discovered the woman running for president there looked like him. From Teemu Selanne, to Nokia phones, to reindeer, Finland has it all. Dolph came up with the story for this, so he must on some level feel the same way I do. I know Swedes are supposed to hate Norwegians, but I guess that hatred doesn't move East to Finland as well. Go Helsinki baby.

One last thing I that feel is important to point out: this is the second film Dolph's directed where he dispatches the lead baddie with a shotgun blast to the head at close range. He did the same in his next film, Missionary Man. In that one, we saw the blast from the side and watched the brain matter spew on the road. Here, the holds the bad guy's head under water in a shallow pond, and then shoots, sending a geyser of brain matter into the air. This is the kind of thing that shows me Dolph has amazing potential as a Direct to Video action director. We need less superfluous fade-outs, less grainy white footage (Missionary Man) and more head explosions and ass kicking. In both this and Missionary Man, he's got the latter down, now he's gotta put together the former. It's a shame Missionary was a step in the wrong direction.

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If you haven't seen this and you're a Dolph fan, put it at the top of your priorities: it's pretty solid. If my only complaint is too many fade-outs (and there really are), you know the rest of it is top drawer, and it is. This will definitely be a part of my Dolph Fest '08. I'm not sure if you can put it in that class of perennial faves, like Showdown or Bridge of Dragons, but it's better than a lot of other Dolph films, and I think that's saying quite a bit.

For more info: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0435696/

The Shepherd: Border Patrol (2008)

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This is Van Damme's latest release, and I threw it to the top of my Netflix queue so I could watch it and review it for the DTVC. I must say, I didn't have high hopes: I expected a Van Damme film about US border patrol to be as monolithic in dealing with the issue as Second in Command was about Russians and The Hard Corps was about African Americans living in the inner city.

The Shepherd has Van Damme as this cop from New Orleans (always a cop out for the out-of-place accent) who mysteriously shows up in this New Mexico border town with a pet rabbit to become a border patrol agent. While learning the ropes, he first beats up some people in a nearby bar who give him a hard time, then comes across these ex-Navy Seals who have taken their crack military training from fighting in Afghanistan and put it to use smuggling drugs from Mexico. Van Damme chases them back across the border, where he's captured by the Federales (sp?), then turned over to the Seals. It takes all his resourcefulness to escape and bring these dudes to justice.

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Now, this is what I'm talking about. We saw flashes of it in Derailed and Wake of Death, but this time we got it full force: old school Van Damme-age. In the bar scene, he kicks a guy through the chair the guy's trying to hit him with, smashing it to pieces. The Navy Seals trying to smuggle the drugs use a bus that has a high-powered automatic assault weapon set on a turret at the top of it. How is that not awesome? This is how an action movie is supposed to be: kick ass first, worry about the plot later.

And where has this Van Damme been? I was getting worried that maybe his age had caught up with him. Not so here. This is extremely well choreographed, and looks like something from 1994 as opposed to 2008. Part of me is excited after this film to see what's next, but part of me is also frustrated, because he did do Second in Command and The Hard Corps and In Hell and Until Death. Come on dude, help us out here. I'm just glad he came through and gave one back to his fans.

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There's another dude in this by the name of Scott Adkins. He plays the head baddie's right hand man, and he also is the most skilled in martial arts. He's pretty sweet here, and his final battle with Van Damme was good, but could've been better. My one complaint with the film was how prior to the fight, Van Damme narrowly avoids a concussion grenade or something, and is disoriented, like Bolo Yeung had thrown a crushed Alka Selzer tablet in his face. Why not have him and Adkins at 100%, and just do it? It was what we were waiting for for the whole movie, and I felt kind of cheated.

In terms of the subject matter, this film also did a great job. Instead of preaching about immigration issues, the film makers tried to put a human face on it, and then left it for us mull over. Then they blew shit up. The movie brought up Afghanistan as the forgotten war, and gave us the question of why Van Damme's character was hailed a hero, when the bad guys had risked their lives fighting for the US. Again, they just put it out there, left it to stew in our brains, then had Van Damme and Adkins kick the crap out of each other.

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It's always interesting when I look these films up on imdb to see what kind of keywords people attribute to the film. For this one, I saw "Shirtless Male Bondage", which refers to the scene where the Seals have Van Damme, and they're hanging him upside-down, with no shirt on, and his hands tied behind his back, over a swimming pool charged with electricity. I chose the image for the blog because I thought Van Damme looked kind of like Robert Downey jr. upside-down like that, and I figured it'd be a funny thing to talk about. I never for a second considered I'd be posting eye candy for shirtless male bondage lovers. I guess we'll just call it my treat to you. You're welcome.

This movie far surpasses any of Van Damme's other DTV work. If you were having a Van Damme fest, where you're screening his more popular early 90s flicks like Bloodsport and Lionheart, you could throw this one in in the middle somewhere, and you'd be all right. This is the kind of thing bad action fans love, and you can't go wrong renting it.

For more info: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0827521/

Howling II... Your Sister is a Werewolf (1985)

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The first time I saw this it was listed in the TV Guide as Howling IV. It was awesome, and it had Reb Brown and Christopher Lee. I told all my friends, and was surprised I didn't get more of a response. Then recently, the film was on Encore, listed properly. I and my buddy both TiVoed it and watched it from our respective houses, he first. The only thing he told me about it was how the credits showed the queen werewolf ripping off her top, revealing her boobs, and clips of people throughout the movie reacting to other things, but the film makers cutting it so it looked like they were reacting to the boobage. I of course gave him a ration of shit for not noticing the film had Reb Brown: and he called himself a MSTie!

Howling II... Your Sister is a Werewolf picks up where part one leaves off, at the funeral of a dead werewolf. Christopher Lee is a resident werewolf hunter, and he's there to make sure her body is disposed of properly so she won't come back to life. Reb Brown plays the woman's lover, and he and her sister want to make sure Lee doesn't defile the dead woman's corpse. When they see the truth, they join him on a trip to Romania to stop the rising of the werewolf queen. It's awesome.

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As you can well imagine, after watching this recently, I know now that what I watched all those years back was not part IV, but this film, part II. And let me say, part II is too awesome for words. Christopher Lee rules, Reb Brown screams and does his whole Lump Beef Broth routine we know and love him for in Space Mutiny, there's this great punk-ish band, and some sweet werewolf sex. This movie does for the werewolf genre what Blade does for vampires... probably more.

Watching Christopher Lee in films like this demonstrates how poorly used he is by major directors like George Lucas and Peter Jackson in their feature films. We here at the DTVC love Jackson for his pre-Lord of the Rings work, so I think it's all the more disappointing that he didn't have the good sense to have Christopher Lee killing werewolves throughout Middle Earth. That would've kept me awake in the theater for the third movie. Lucas did a better job with Lee as Count Dukoo (sp?), only he wasted him for the first movie (I mean, if you're just gonna have that Darth Maul guy in for two scenes, make them at the beginning, kill him off, then have Lee for the rest of it. I guarantee more people would've liked Phantom Menace if it had had more Lee), then killed him off in the third. This movie got it: Lee was rocking awesome sunglasses in one scene, he was hanging out with a midget in another. After everything he did, I was doing the Tiger Woods "I just hit a birdie on 17 at Augusta" fist pump, because it rocked.

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Speaking of Lee in this film, even though I loved him in it, he was of a different opinion. A friend of mine told me Lee worked with the director of the first Howling, and actually apologized for how bad part two was, and apologized for his having acted in it. That saddens my heart if it's true. I'll say it again, this is the best werewolf movie EVER, and it'd be a shame if one of the reasons it so good, Christopher Lee, doesn't recognize its sheer brilliance.

All you MSTies out there know where I'm going next: Reb Brown baby. It still saddens me that my buddy, who's seen Space Mutiny almost as many times as I have, didn't spot Reb in this gem. It's not like he's any different. His hair might be darker, but he has the trademark random screams that seem to get him no where. According to imdb, he's only had a couple things released since his guest appearance on Hercules in 1995. But, in 2008, a movie called Sin-Jin Smyth is listed as being in post-production, and that one also has DTVC Hall of Famer Roddy Piper, and adult film star Jenna Jameson. Looking forward to that.

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Another endearing trait of this movie is its 80s-ness. From the outfits, to the music, to the dialog, it's beautiful. Growing up in the 80s, it's hard to look back with my young eyes and watch that wave of coolness that was the 80s break. Maybe Nirvana killed it, or the Clinton Administration, or the end of the Cold War-- whatever it was, it was too bad. It's sad now for me, not even in my 30s (29 if you're wondering), to have people in their teens and early twenties refer to Mr. Mister as "old" or "stupid" (okay, they were stupid... but a good stupid). Had things never changed, who knows where we'd be-- I just know we'd be a lot better off. Never Surrender...

This movie has werewolf sex in it. It's interesting, because we know the trend in vampire flicks is this focus on seduction and eroticism, but werewolves are supposed to be too hairy pull that off. In the Jack Nicholson stinker Wolf, he gets it on with Michelle Pfeiffer, but more as a dude with some animal prowess, as opposed to a hairy wolf man. I think Michael J. Fox in Teen Wolf was kind of the same idea. I have to say the latter two, as opposed to The Howling II, have the right idea: werewolves are gross when they have sex. Just too much hair and sweat going on.

You may not know it, but you need this film. You got to have it. Center a bad movie night around it if you haven't already. This is a classic, plain and simple. Even if you're not a horror buff, and dig the DTVC for the bad action reviews, don't pass on this bad boy: it's so worth it.

For more info: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0089308/

Prey (2007)

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I must confess, I hadn't been keeping up with Peter Weller's current acting career as well as I should have. Between his stints on the History Channel and re-watching some of his old classics like Robocop and The Naked Lunch, and the fact that The Hard Easy was something of a disappointment, I guess I just fell behind. When I typed his name into my Netflix search engine, this film popped up, and I figured I'd give it a shot.

Prey is about a family traveling in Africa. Peter Weller is the dad, and he's trying to bond his new, young wife, Bridget Moynahan, and his two kids, a teenage daughter and younger son. The daughter doesn't like the wife, and blames her for her parents' break up. Naturally, a vacation to a secluded part of Africa is just what the doctor ordered. Anyway, Weller goes to look at some dam on business while his wife and two kids go on a day safari. Their guide is eaten by lions while trying to take the son out to the bush to take a dump. Weller finds some expert hunter/tracker to help find his family because the park rangers are inept (they always are in movies). It's up to Moynahan to hold down the fort and not get eaten before they can find her and the kids.

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This was horrible. I was rooting for the lions. The plot was fairly ridiculous, with Moynahan being pretty much a waste-of-space besides her beauty, but somehow has the ability to devise this elaborate scheme to blow up the head lion in a car and come away from the explosion unscathed. She didn't even have the wherewithal to drive the safari vehicle after the guide died, making their plight worse when she crashed it into a ditch. But now she's the hero? It was like a bad Lifetime movie. Not even that, the guide's killed in the first twenty minutes. The script writers stretch out twenty more minutes of story to make it last over an hour. It hurt.

Weller wasn't in this enough, and when he was, he was cool, but didn't fit. He was too cool for the character he was playing. The father was supposed to be naive enough to take his family on a trip to Africa when he knew they weren't getting along, and then be dumb enough to let them go on a safari without researching first to see what kind of contingencies were in place should something go wrong. The reality is the no-nonsense Peter Weller we've grown to know and love didn't jive here. We needed a Brian Benben playing the role of the dad, not our resident DTVC Hall of Famer.

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I didn't know Bridget Moynahan was as old as she is. She just turned 37. That makes her like five or six years older than Tom Brady, when I thought they were the same age. I believe in this film she's supposed to be playing someone younger, and she can definitely pull that off. I'm not sure how she went from I, Robot and Art of War to this near-Lifetime movie, but I could see her coming up with ways to kill her agent in her head as she recited the crummy script on screen.

I think the organization for international park rangers needs a better PR person. I can't recall how many films I've seen like this where inept park rangers wander around the wilderness while some crack guide who lives in a shack swoops in and saves the day. Now, mind you, there are films where the park ranger is on the ball, but not many. I can't exactly say I blame these film makers, though. I've had one bad experience where a park ranger threw me and my friends out of our local state park because I was smoking a cigar. He said: "That better not be a joint!" to which my friend said "And those better not be ranger issue shorts you're wearing." Maybe the whole park ranger system needs a complete image overhaul. They can't all be douchebags.

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This film employed a plot device that I've always found hard to swallow: the one where everyone who helps the protagonists gets killed. It was just weird how everyone's going out of their way to save these four rich Americans, and they all die. The only people who lived were the ones smart enough to stay behind and man the radio, and it's possible they were killed too, and the scenes were just cut out of the final edit. I'm not sure if the film makers were sending a message about how reckless we Americans live our lives and how it affects the rest of the world, but if so, that's worse than lazy script writing. First, there's nothing more annoying than being preached to by people dumb enough to make a bad movie. Second, most Americans, like myself, don't have the kind of scratch available to go to Africa, so the film's preaching to a small segment of the population that probably wouldn't watch this anyway. Whatever.

Steer clear of this. Don't even consider it. The only reason to put yourself through it is if you feel you've committed a grave sin, and are looking for some form of penance. The Weller factor will soften the blow some, but not enough for it not to put a serious scar on your soul. And the worthless plot that goes on forever makes it impossible to screen on a bad movie night, because your friends' ADD will kick in so bad they might actually leave. Good for them.

For more info: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0468536/