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.

Announcement

Announcement

Hi everyone, it's been a while since I checked the page, and I wanted to make a few announcements.

First and foremost, it appears a dubious site has claimed the old url, meaning any link in any review that goes to the old mattmovieguy url is corrupt. I'm in the process of trying to remove them all, but it's a lot! It's best not to click on any link without hovering over it first to make sure it doesn't have mattmovieguy in the url.

Second, it appears since my last trip to the blog, Photobucket has decided to charge for third party hosting, meaning none of my images are appearing anymore. That's simply an aesthetic issue, but still annoying.

Thank you all for your patience, and again, hopefully this will all be fixed soon.

--Matt

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Death Toll (2008)

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This movie came up when I added Striking Range with Lou Diamond Phillips and Jeff Speakman to my Netflix Watch Instantly queue. It also had the aforementioned Phillips, along with rapper DMX, and Rudy Huxtable from The Cosby Show. Plus, the 80 minute running time was very alluring.

Death Toll takes place in New Orleans and follows the lives of two warring drug lords and the cops, DEA agents, mayors, moms, and nurses who are affected by their actions, and how the actions they take in response only perpetuate the problems, making the killing worse. DMX narrates, LDP is the mayor, and Rudy is the nurse.

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This was horrible. The idea was great: a more visceral, street level version of Traffic or Crash, telling the stories of the people who live the struggle everyday in urban New Orleans. I got that. But the execution was just all kinds of bad. The dialogue felt like I was in a creative writing class reading the first draft of a classmate's short story. And the plot was all over the place, with characters underdeveloped here and making no sense over there. I didn't feel like I was watching a movie, I felt like I was watching contestants on a reality show that had to compete in an acting challenge. At one point one of the drug lords says to Rudy that he wants to run away with her, after only knowing her for one five minute conversation where they argued. Instead of being like "What?", she's like "Do you really mean that?" When the credits finally rolled, I said both things: "What? Do you really mean that?" Not only that, the director has the audacity to call himself "Phenomenon." Wow. There are probably 2000 directors with far superior talents than you out there that wouldn't dare call themselves phenomenon. What a moron.

What was Lou Diamond Phillips doing in this movie? Who is his agent? Did he fire him after? Maybe it was sold to him as the real story of the real people living in New Orleans, but he had to know from the script that he was in trouble. I mean, The Big Hit looked intelligent and nuanced compared to this film. And the thing was, LDP showed up. He didn't mail this in, he actually did a great job. You could tell he was the only one in this that had a superior level of acting talent, because he could take the bad script, and turn it into something other than just a dude reciting lines.

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Even though Lou Diamond Phillips wasn't in this as much as the cover suggested, it was DMX that we were really stiffed on. The cover makes it seem like he's one of the drug lords. Instead he appears from time to time, essentially as himself, supplying commentary on the drug lords' behavior. A bait and switch if I've ever seen one. That kind of dishonesty makes me question the motives of the people making this. Were they really out to make a picture about the real New Orleans? Did they really have good intentions that went bad in the execution? Or was this a cheaply made cash grab playing on the names of a couple celebrities?

This urban New Orleans crime drama brings us back to a favorite here at the DTVC, Baller Blockin'. Baller Blockin' brought up many of the same issues this film did, and though they did about as good of a job dealing with them, what they did do was give us plenty of great memorable scenes. The Interrogation, the Foot Chase, the Mail Man Killing-- I could go on. Also, when they advertised that their film had Lil' Wayne and Juvenile, they actually had them. What I did like in Death Toll was the corrupt DEA agent. He was doing coke off naked chicks' chests and smoking fools with a high powered sniper rifle. They should've done more with him the way Baller Blockin' did more with the corrupt cop Curly. Maybe the people who made this could've taken a lesson from the Cash Money Millionaires. I can't believe I just said that.

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We finally did it here at the DTVC. We got a Cosby Kid. Keshia Knight Pulliam, who played Rudy, is in this movie as a nurse that's in the wrong place at the wrong time and witnesses a murder. She looks fine as all get out. Watching the show, I always thought "Rudy's so young." According to imdb, she was born on April 9th, 1979-- 8 days after me! I guess I never realized how young I was watching the show. She was in the recent Madea movie, which hopefully will get her better roles in the future than this crap movie.

You gotta stay away from this. 80 minutes, DMX, Lou Diamond Phillips-- don't believe it. I just saw Ran the other day, and it's over double that length, and it felt like it was half as long. Next time a moronic director wants to call himself "Phenomenon", he should watch a little Kurosawa and learn what it's like to be a real phenomenon.

For more info: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0822802/

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