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.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Storm Catcher (1999)

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We're getting down to the nitty-gritty on Dolph films. After this it's just Cover Up, and his newest picture, Direct Contact, set to be released on Tuesday. This is both exciting and sad at the same time. Exciting, because we'll have every Dolph DTV film reviewed here at the DTV Connoisseur. Sad, because we'll be out of Dolph films... until he releases more.

Storm Catcher has Dolph as an Air Force major flying a B-2 bomber with the next generation of stealth. Some home-grown terrorist organization sets him up, steals the plane, and plans to bomb the White House with it. Dolph isn't having that, and he's pissed that the baddies have used him as a patsy, stabbed his hot wife in the back, and tried to kill him in the back of an ice cream truck.

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This film is pretty sweet. As you may remember from my post a long time ago on Agent Red, the scene when Dolph's partner steals his space suit and breaks into the hangar to steal the plane, is actually used in the beginning of Agent Red, only re-cut so it's like Dolph is going in to steal it for the US. It's so much better in Agent Red, especially the scene in the helicopter before, when his commander asks him "you think you can fly it?" and he replies "hell if I know." Beyond that cool connection to another Dolph film, Storm Catcher is really just another solid, yet silly, Dolph Lundgren actioner, and really, what more can you ask for?

Dolph has like four movies coming out this year. Direct Action next week, and Command Performance, Icarus, and Universal Soldiers: The Next Generation all set to be released at a later date. I'm kind of giddy just talking about it. When I was younger, like in high school, I would get excited when bands I liked released new CDs and TV shows would have new seasons and movies would come out about this or that that I really wanted to see. I usually don't get that feeling anymore, but it's back, just talking about all these new Dolph films.

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I had seen this who knows how long ago with my friends when I first bought it. We generally don't watch it anymore, other than to juxtapose the scene in it with the one that Agent Red stole as a bumper between other Dolph films during our Dolph Fests. Watching it again for the blog, though, I saw something that I cannot believe me and my friends missed on first viewing. In fending off a knife-wielding attacker, Dolph picks up your run-of-the-mill black metal-framed college dorm futon, and uses it as a battering ram on the guy. It's just fantastic. The only explanation I can think of is that I fell asleep, and my buddy was using his laptop.

Dolph's wife is played by a model named Kylie Bax. Being a model, you can imagine she's extremely hot. She's also an extremely bad actress. And she has a New Zealand accent, which you think would cover up any acting inadequacies. She's also in the Dolph classic Jill the Ripper, but I don't remember her. Dolph's daughter is played by a girl named Yvonne Zima. Nothing special about her, except her name. Do you remember Zima? Do they still make it? When I was a freshman in high school, out science teacher asked us if we'd tried it. We were like "no, we're 14!". Anyway, he was fired at the end of the year for giving another class of students non-alcoholic champagne.

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I always check out the keywords people tag onto films on imdb. For this one, the first thing that popped up was "Policewoman killed". What? First off, I didn't remember a policewoman killed in the film. Second, why would anyone tag something like that? What significance does that have to the movie? And third, did anyone know there are over 100 films with the same tag? Really? Does anyone actually seek out movies based on whether or not they have a policewoman killed in them? Do they have collections of the best policewoman killing films? Is this a fetish or something? Maybe I'm the one that's closed minded here. I don't know.

So if you're a huge Dolph guy, you need to make this happen. The biggest thing is the scene in it that was stolen for use in Agent Red. There's also the futon wielding scene. Dolph has some great lines, there's plenty of funny stuff in it: it's an all around good time. If you're not a huge Dolph guy, you may not find this as entertaining, so be careful before you unload a bunch of cash on it.

For more info: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0179477/

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Ator, the Fighting Eagle aka Ator l'invincible (1982)

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With Miles O'Keefe as a card carrying member of DTVC Hall of Fame, it's only natural to get the work he's best known for up here on the site. We've already done Iron Eagle, another Ator film, and when I saw this one available on Netflix, I jumped at it.

Ator, the Fighting Eagle is about some evil High Priest of the Spider who isn't a nice cat, and a prophesy suggests that a child born with the mark of his deceased nemesis will take him down. A la a certain story we know in the Bible, the Spider King tries to kill all the babies born when Ator is, to no avail. The High Priest's other rival has smuggled him out of town. Now Ator grows up, and falls in love with his sister, only his dad's like "she's not your real sister, some dude brought you here", and he's all excited to marry his de facto sister, only to have the High Priest attack his village and take her with him. Now he's gotta go take this dude down, but not before the rival guy that smuggled him away shows him how to fight, and not before he's captured by some Amazon women that want his seed.

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As you can well imagine, this was hilarious. From the hubcap chest plate Ator was sporting (that had to chafe!), to the fight with a couple shadows (he actually had a sword fight with two shadows on the wall), to his end battle with a huge spider puppet, this was ridiculous from start to finish. My only complaint was it's length: 98 minutes of this crap was too much. 70 would be plenty. There are only so many funny renamed everyday items as mystical props used against enemies with special powers that are really just silly ways to get by budget constraints that I can handle.

With that being said, this had to be so much fun to make. I'd love to make a movie like this. I wonder what it would cost. There's the horses. If it was post-apocalyptic I could use broken down cars, so that would be cheaper. Then the costumes. I could maybe cut costs by having the extras bring their own outfits. Can you do that? Maybe to continue on that post-apocalyptic theme, the clothes could be from Wal-Mart. Then it's just the sets and the actors. Oh yeah, and the lawyers. Then I'd need insurance. This seems like a lot of work after all. I think I'll just stick to the blog.

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Miles is good in this, but not quite as hilarious as he is in Cave Dwellers. There was one scene where someone close to him was dying, and I was hoping beyond hope that he'd be like "No!", but it never happened. He also never did open heart surgery, or hang glide, or fight a Long-Haired John Saxon Guy. The scene at the beginning when he's with this chick, and their saying how they love each other, and he goes "Why can't we marry?" and she replies "We're brother and sister." was amazing. It was also funny watching him get captured by the Amazon women.

My favorite character beyond Ator was this little bear cub thing with a skunk-like stripe painted on it that hung out with him. He was the cutest thing ever. I have no idea what his deal was, and for a good chunk of the film he just happened to be in almost every shot with Miles. Then, out of nowhere, Ator refers to him by name and has him run some kind of diversionary tactic. I guess we're supposed to assume he was training this thing all along. Who knows. It would've been better if it just randomly ran around in the shots with no explanation for it.

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One interesting move this film made came with its women. The brunette got the hero, and the blond was killed off. Generally it's the other way around. When I was flying out to LA, some chick flick with Kate Hudson and Anne Hathaway was showing. The idea was the two were getting married at the same time, which was a problem. I knew, from the moment the opening credits rolled, that Anne Hathaway was not going to be married in that film. When it's a choice between a brunette and a blond in a chick flick, the blond almost always wins out, and the brunette is usually okay with that because she's a brunette. I think we need more movies like Ator, the Fighting Eagle out there to show women of all hair color that they count too, and that they're not second class citizens to their blond counterparts.

Don't go spending a bunch of cash on this, but it's definitely worth seeing. It's not as funny as Cave Dwellers or Iron Warrior, but it delivers enough. If you want a bad movie that you and your friends can pick a part, you've come to the right place.

For more info: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0085183/

Monday, May 18, 2009

Stranglehold (1994)

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I saw a trailer for this while watching another Jerry Trimble film. I can't remember which one it was, but I'm not sure how much that matters. With Live by the Fist and One Man Army being so awesome, I was geared up for another Trimble action-fest.

Stranglehold is about some chemical manufacturing plant in Malaysia run by an American corporation that's taken hostage by a huge Australian man and his cronies while an American congresswoman is visiting. The congresswoman's dad has a former CIA operative, Jerry Trimble, tag along for protection, and boy did they need him. Now Trimble's gotta get the congresswoman out alive, while stopping the Australian from escaping with some nerve gas.

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This was a huge waste. Jerry Trimble, amazing kickboxer, and the director has him running around with an assault rifle the whole time. Trimble tried valiantly to pull it off, but that's not how he gets down. He looked like a fish out of water. Now, with Trimble in an extremely limited martial arts capacity, we're stuck with a low-rent Die Hard ripoff. For a film with a 70-minute running time, it felt like I was watching it for three hours.

The director of this film was Cirio H. Santiago, and he's done five other films reviewed here on the DTVC, including the amazing Live by the Fist and One Man Army. That makes this movie all the more inexcusable. What was this guy thinking? Did he not know the masterpiece he made with Live by the Fist? How could he not have? Sure, this had some great explosions, and there was plenty of shooting, but when I see Jerry Trimble's name on the cover, I expect Live by the Fist caliber fighting too.

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In the few scenes where Trimble actually did have to do some hand-to-hand combat, he excelled, as one would expect. In the trailer for the film, all these martial arts magazines are credited with saying how great the film was, and after watching it, I'm wondering why, because there was almost no martial arts action. Was it out of respect to Trimble? Even the tagline says "Bare Hands. Fast Feet. Short Temper. Ryan Cooper needs no weapon." Sure, he needs no weapon, if an assault rifle doesn't count as a weapon. I can see him using the gun sometimes for the good of the story. I'm just looking for an 80/20 or 70/30 split, with the emphasis being on the hand-to-hand stuff, and this film was more like 90/10, all machine gun.

This had a great Australian actor named Vernon Wells, not to be confused with the Blue Jays center fielder. This guy was great, and his fight at the end with Trimble was reminiscent of Joe Don Baker and Merlin Olson in Mitchell. According to imdb, this cat has been in tons of great DTV stuff, and it's strange that he's never had a film reviewed here before. We'll see if he comes up in the future.

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That's that, baby. Not much going on here. A waste of 70 minutes of your life. When I go in expecting Trimble, I want Trimble, not a misguided director's attempt to make him into a Schwarzenegger wannabe.

For more info: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0111300/

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But while I have an extra paragraph to play with, I figured I'd mention the new Star Trek movie. It was pretty sweet. The new actors were all faithful to the characters they'd played-- except for one. Sulu was played by the guy from Harold and Kumar that wasn't Kumar, and for whatever reason, he didn't have a deep voice. What? I'm not saying it needed to be Takei deep, but come on, throw me a bone here. Everything else was good, though. For those who don't like Star Trek, I think you'll enjoy it anyway, because it works well as a sci-fi film outside of the milieu of the rest of the series; but for those die hards, it has enough inside jokes to keep you happy too. Just that lack of a good Sulu voice kills me. "Wang!"

For more info: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0796366/

JCVD (2008)

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I've been wanting to check this film out for a while now. It's taken forever for it to make it over here to the States. I probably could've downloaded it illegally, because I think there're bit torrents out there of all of Van Damme's stuff, but I figured I'd wait. It wasn't like I didn't have a bunch of other films to watch for the DTVC.

JCVD has Van Damme roughly playing himself, in that it's pretty much him. He's having money problems between his taxes and the custody fight for his daughter, so back in Brussels, he goes to the bank/post office to transfer money. That's when all hell breaks loose, as he finds himself in a botched robbery hostage situation, and the cops think he's the one committing the crime. Life is imitating art-- only it's still an artist's depiction of life-- as Van Damme is stuck in a situation that reads out of one of the films he'd do.

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I liked this movie. It wasn't amazing, but it was good. My biggest issue was that I had trouble with the way the story was told, with them jumping to the middle, then sliding back to near the beginning and working itself back to the middle, before moving to the end. Sometimes it's cool to tell a story in a nonlinear fashion from multiple viewpoints, but here it felt like going to dinner with a bunch of friends, getting there early, and having someone tell you a story, only to have to listen to him or her tell the rest of your friends again after they arrive.

Beyond that it was really good. Not an action film as much as a postmodernist look at the DTV action genre in general, particularly through the eyes, not of us Americans, but of the Belgians that Van Damme represented when he made it big. I think it's always interesting to see the far reaching effects Hollywood has in the world. It's not just Americans who dream of making it in Tinsel Town, and our movie stars are not ours alone, but the world's, and for a country like Belgium to have one of their own on the marquee, it's just like Mainers being excited that Patrick Dempsey's in a new romantic comedy.

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This was a great performance from Van Damme. For the most part he was just playing himself, but he still had to do it in a way that made him a sympathetic figure, and he definitely achieved that. The major difference I see between Dolph and Van Damme, is that Dolph just kind of fell into a movie career on his way to MIT, while Van Damme dreamed of this from a very young age, and this film really underscores that point. For Dolph, movies like The Defender and Diamond Dogs are just gravy. He's taking this ride for all he can get. But for Van Damme, those kinds of movies hurt his soul, because they're just a reminder of how far he fell. It'll be interesting to see how the two are together in Universal Soldiers: The Next Generation; but it also gives me a level of understanding for Van Damme and why he chooses the movies he chooses.

I always bring up actors' ages on the DTVC, because I'm often astounded by how old some of these guys are, and wonder when they might slow down. The beginning of this movie actually covered this issue. Van Damme starts in this long one-shot scene while the opening credits roll, and after it, when it goes bad and the director yells cut, he tells he guy "I'm almost 50 years old, I can't do these long one-shot scenes anymore." It was cool, because, like everything else in this movie, it put a human face on Van Damme.

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During the end credits there's a cover of David Bowie's "Modern Love" by this woman named Marie Mazziotti. It was pretty sweet. Sweet enough for me to mention it here. It's weird, because a few years ago, I started saying "it'll get you to the church on time" to describe something as being good enough, or enough to get someone by. Like if a friend said "I couldn't afford the stretch hummer, so I just got the plain old limo", my response would be "I think that'll get us to the church on time." The funny thing was I hadn't heard that song for years, at least since I started using that phrase, and so to hear it at the end of JCVD was a treat. You could even say it got me to the church on time.

If you're a big time action fan, you need to rent this, whether you like Van Damme or not. It's a very cool take on genre. The version I got was on Netflix's Watch Instantly, and that one was dubbed, as opposed to subtitled. I don't know if you can get it subtitled on DVD, but I actually prefer my foreign films subtitled, so the dubbing was kind of a drawback. Either way, dubbed or subtitled, it's a must-see.

For more info: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1130988/

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Best of the Best: Without Warning (1998)

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With the first three films already having been covered, I'm sure everyone knew quatro was only a matter of time. I actually saw this again recently when I got it from Netflix along with part three. They come together on one disc. A Phillip Rhee double-dip, if you like... and if you don't, well, then it's just two Phillip Rhee movies.

Best of the Best: Without Warning takes place in LA and has Rhee as a dude helping the LAPD learn to fight. He's caught up in a whole bunch of crap when he goes to the grocery store to buy stuff to make a cake, and the grocer's daughter just happens to be involved in a counterfeiting ring, and she just happens to want out, and she just happens to be trying to escape with incriminating evidence, and she just happens to have run to her father's store with said evidence while Rhee is in there and while the baddies have chased her there, and she just happens to give him the evidence just before she dies. Now he doesn't know who he can trust as the baddies want their evidence, the cops think he killed a cop, and the woman the girl told him to go to isn't who she seems. Luckily Rhee can kick massive amounts of ass.

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This was another good one. As you can imagine, once you hit numero quatro, things get a little blah, and this was no exception. But they amped up the action as Rhee kicked some major ass amid a hail of gunfire and myriad explosions. There was one ridiculous car crash in a tunnel with an explosion so huge it blew up a helicopter hovering around outside. They start the film by blowing up Union Station. I think they felt like they had to do something spectacular to justify making a fourth Best of the Best, but I'm not so sure that's true. I could've gone with more Rhee kicking ass instead of a superfluous blowing up of Union Station that did absolutely nothing to the rest of the story.

As I said above, Rhee again was awesome. I really do wonder why he hasn't made another film since this one, ten years ago. He wrote, directed, and produced it, so maybe he feels like he's done it all. I totally disagree. Bolo Yeung was 50 when he made Bloodsport, which is two years older than Rhee is now. Until Rhee has swam from China to Hong Kong to escape Communism, he can't fully say he's done it all. So I guess that settles it Rhee, you either swim or make another movie.

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This has Ernie Hudson from the Ghostbusters movies. Maybe that's why Rhee stopped making movies. Maybe Hudson was his favorite actor, and now that he's worked with him, that's enough. Or maybe Hudson told stories about working with Bill Murray and Dan Akroyd, and he didn't like what he heard. Man, I don't know how I'd feel if Ernie Hudson was the reason Phillip Rhee stopped making movies. If so, I'm going to make a special plea right now to Mr. Hudson on behalf of the DTVC and action movie fans everywhere: convince Rhee to get out of retirement. We will all be eternally grateful.

This also has that dude from all the Saw movies. I imagine Saw 263 is in post-production as we speak. Could this be the reason Rhee stopped making movies? Did this Saw guy tell Rhee about his plans to act in a series of 100-plus bad horror films in an attempt to destroy the genre? Maybe Rhee was afraid someone could usurp the Best of the Best series and make it into the Saw of bad action. Well, Rhee, if that's the case, your intentions, no matter how noble, were extremely misguided. Despite your absence, Matt Damon and The Bourne Identity movies with their overdone headache inducing quick edits have hurt the genre in ways that another ten Best of the Bests could never do. DTV action directors everywhere are using the Bourne model to shortcut great chase scenes and awesome fights by replacing them with convoluted jumpcuts so our minds can't get around the fact that the action isn't really happening.

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I was in LA recently, and I went to Union Station. We took the commuter rail to the Angels/Sox game. Now, in Boston, I've taken the commuter rail in rush hour, and it's packed to the gills. North Station is a mess. Union Station was a whole other ball game. People don't take the train there like they do on the East Coast. Is that what made Rhee stop making films? LA? Was his blowing up of Union Station a symbolic middle finger to Tinsel Town? This would make sense, when you consider Union Station is blown up, and yet there are no repercussions felt later in the film, as far as traffic and whatnot. Is he saying it wouldn't matter if the train station in LA was blown up because LA people are too tied to their cars? If that's true, then Rhee, you need to talk to Seagal and Dolph about making your films in Romania like everyone else is. You don't need LA.

This film offers many clues as to why Phillip Rhee stopped making movies, but little in the way of answers. As a movie unto itself, it's pretty sweet. I probably wouldn't watch it by itself, but paired with other Best of the Bests just so you can multiply the Rhee effect. Finding the version on DVD that's packaged with Best of the Best 3 is the optimum option.

For more info: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0130370/

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Stone Cold (1991)

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This film's omission from the DTVC has been simply because I didn't do my homework properly. This movie made under the 10 million at the box office, and I usually set as my threshold for inclusion. Now my other threshold was if I could've taken a date to see the film in my local area, and technically I could've, because this did show in my theater. Just the same, the fact that it meets one of the two criteria, and I've had so many requests for it, make me feel compelled to post it.

Stone Cold is a take off on an old movie called The Hellcats where the Boz goes undercover in Mississippi to take down a biker gang. The biker gang has turned into a full fledged criminal organization run by, of all people, Lance Henriksen. That's pretty much the long and the short of it. Oh yeah, and the Boz has what might be the greatest mullet ever!

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First off, I think I really know now why there was such an outcry in the late 80s early 90s about violence in movies, because this fucker was violent. And I'm not talking Schwarzenegger taking down 50 armed stuntmen in blazers toting fake uzis, I'm talking a room full of women and children in a courthouse slaughtered with the hero coming in way after the fact like it's no big deal. You also got burned faces and fingers being chopped off in motorcycle spokes. I really don't know why any of that was necessary, unless you just really wanted to piss off Tipper Gore.

That's not to say this movie wasn't great. The Boz killed it. Who knows what Henriksen was doing as a biker gang leader, because he was way more believable disguised as a priest at the end of the movie. But it delivered in spades on everything else. The Boz sending a motorcycle through a building into a helicopter hovering outside was fantastic, and pretty much par for the course. My favorite part was, and I know I'll get this wrong, when The Boz's partner wanted him to quit so they could arrest the gang with what they already had for evidence. The Boz says "What if I told you I could get both: Chains and the Mob. I need three tons of P2P, transportation, and an agent with the balls to pull it off", to which his partner says "Do fries come with that shake?"

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After seeing this again, I know how wrong I'd been in not posting it sooner, especially when compared with a sack-of-asscrack like The Operative. The Boz needs to be rocking a mullet and beating the crap out of people. There are no two ways about it. This movie invented the Nobel Prize in mathematics winning formula, now it's just a matter of other film makers learning it. It's not rocket science. The Operative, no; Stone Cold, yes! Oh yeah, and his character needs to have logged more biker related arrests than any other cop in Alabama.

I decided to devote a separate paragraph to the amazing ape drape exhibited by the Boz here. I've never been to the Louvre, but I have to feel like seeing the Mona Lisa in person is like seeing the Boz's beaver pelt. The way it exudes business in the front, then cascades into party in the back. The sheer pride with which he rocks it, how he even thinks he's cool-- nay, beyond cool, a trendsetter-- for having it. No, I don't think Barry Melrose could pull off the Boz's mullet in Stone Cold, and I think that's why the Boz deserves so much credit for it. He's what made that mullet awesome. Oh, so awesome.

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Lance Henriksen as a biker. What can I say? What would you say? Yes, maybe? Why not go all the way and cast Jeremy Irons? When, as a biker, you look more convincing disguised as a priest, I'd say you didn't pull off the biker well. That's probably why the Boz found it so easy to infiltrate the gang. They were like "Christ, if Henriksen's a biker, this Boz guy must be one too." Shit, maybe Al Roker's a biker. I say for Stone Cold 2, hire Regis Philbin to run the biker gang. It works for me.

This movie is certainly not DTV. You can tell by the quality of the film (I mean the actual stuff it was shot on, not the movie itself) that this was a major studio release. Just the same, it was a flop, it was pure cheese, and it's so funny. It's in the spirit of the blog, and I think that's what counts. If you haven't seen it, rent it. It's a pretty fun time.

For more info: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0102984/

Bloodmoon (1997)

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I had this movie buried in my Netflix queue for who knows how long. After I put up No Tomorrow, one of my readers, elementarybeatboxoperator (listed in the Followers section of the blog), mentioned this and White Tiger as two great Daniels films. I went to Amazon for them, and saw them on VHS, and figured that was how I'd get them. Then for whatever reason I was looking up other Daniels movies on Netflix, and saw that they not only had both films, but that I'd also already added them to my queue. To give you an idea, my queue is 267 movies long. Maybe I should do something about that.

Bloodmoon has a serial killer in NYC killing people who are good at fighting. A dude pretending to be Eddie Murphy is on the case, but his boss, Frank Gorshin, thinks he should call in serial killer expert Gary Daniels. Luckily for everyone involved, Daniels is more of a martial arts expert than serial killer expert, because A: it takes him forever to track the killer, leaving more time to kick people's asses; and B: we'd have a horrible ending if Daniels couldn't fight the baddie.

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This is pretty sweet. The fighting is actually pretty good. That's the serious critique. Beyond that, this thing plays out like a Troma film, from the close-ups, to the gross fat guy of a computer nerd, to the Willmington, DE that looks more like the Hoboken Troma usually uses for their NYC. There were scenes where Daniels and his wannabe Eddie Murphy would flip over things to get to their destination, and I'd be like "why would you do that?" Then there's the bad guy's costume. I probably should've gotten an image of it, but I forgot. This is a great mix of silliness and solid martial arts work. Not a bad deal.

I've always loved Gary Daniels, and I don't know why it's taken me so long to get more of his films up here. Maybe I was too busy focusing on Seagal and Lundgren films. Whatever the reason, Daniels is a force from off the chain, and he needs more recognition. Call this the Summer of Daniels, as I try to remedy the dearth of posts of movies with him in them. One film I need to get my hands on is Heatseeker, which was directed by Albert Pyun. I see it on Amazon for like $3 (which is $6 after shipping), which is probably my best bet. I wish there was a Netflix that specialized in VHS movies so I wouldn't have to by crappy used copies of all the films I want that aren't on DVD yet.

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I kind of liked the Eddie Murphy wannabe in this. He did a pretty solid impression. He was almost a dead on Axel Foley. According to imdb, there's talk of a fourth Beverly Hills Cop. I kind of like that, if they don't decide to make it absurd like the fourth Die Hard. I was surprised to find out that Eddie Murphy is not only an Aries, being born on April 3, 1961, but that he's ten years younger than Steven Seagal. It's just hard to imagine that Seagal will be sixty soon. Is imdb right? Was Seagal really born in 1951?

The baddie was played by a dude named Darren Shahlavi. He was a pretty solid fighter, and he's been in a fair amount of stuff, including I Spy. I wonder if early in his career, when he made this movie, he said "Someday I'll be big enough to act in a movie with the real Eddie Murphy", and then 5 years later, when he was on the I Spy set, he was on screen with Eddie Murphy, and he took a moment to take it all in and thought "I really made it." I say good for you, Darren Shahlavi.

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Almost two months ago I did a Miles O'Keefe film called Moving Target and forgot it had Burt Ward in it, partially because I didn't recognize him. I made sure I wouldn't make that mistake again, so when this movie had Frank Gorshin, I was all over it. I think the old Batman TV series is my all time favorite show. I know everyone liked that new Dark Knight thing, and Jack was good as the Joker in Batman, but nothing can really get down to the essence of what Batman was all about like the TV show from the 60s. Where was Cesar Romero's Best Supporting Actor Oscar in 1966 for that Batman movie, huh? (Oh yeah, I'm sure this is getting old, but Frank Gorshin is another Aries, born April 5, 1933-- only five years before Bolo Yeung!)

Bloodmoon is a definite. Great martial arts action, coupled with so much silliness you and your friends will have no trouble making fun of it. Throw this on your Netflix queue and have your buddies over for a bad movie night.

For more info: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0118745/

Nemesis (1993)

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This has been a long time coming. Nemesis is one of those movies the DTVC was made for, and it's one of those movies that should've probably been one of my first ever posts. But back then I didn't have a copy of the movie. I finally got around to ordering it on Amazon, and the front end of it was cracked, and it didn't look like it would play. I watched The Circuit 2 just in case I couldn't make it work, so I'd have another Gruner film to review in this spot. But alas, we made it, and here it is. Also, this is the maiden voyage of my video capture software which will allow me to grab images off VHS. Not great, but the video wasn't great, so given the circumstances, pretty good.

Nemesis takes place in 2027. In it Gruner plays a cop tracking terrorists, who's ambushed and pretty much dies. He's reborn with cybernetic parts, and Tim Thomerson sends him after an old cyborg flame of his to get some data from her. If he doesn't do it, a bomb in his heart will detonate and he'll be donezo. But things aren't what they seem in 2027, and Gruner doesn't know who's good and who's bad. He doesn't even know if he's human anymore, or what being human even means. Luckily for us, he recovers from this existentialist nightmare in time to kick some major ass.

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I'm not sure if, other than maybe Stone Cold, there's been a more requested film on the DTVC. And the demand for it has only gone up since I've made a concerted effort to get more Gruner here. I actually realized when I watched it last night, that I'd seen it before. For some reason I thought Nemesis was something else. The film came out in 1993, and I probably watched it somewhere around then, so that's 15 or 16 years ago. It's crazy to think that.

This is a decent film. It's essentially a futuristic western, which is cool. The action and fighting are decent, with plenty of sweet explosions and gun play. There were tons of silly elements too, like the idea of Japan and The US merging, or that we'd annex Mexico and turn it into New America. And I have no clue what New Rio de Janeiro is. Did the Brazilians become a colonial empire in the future? Maybe all the soccer players and MMA fighters broke off and started their own country on an island in the Bahamas. The truth is, that kind of silliness makes the movie for me as much as the action does.

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Gruner's great here. This is the fourth film of his we've reviewed, and I think it's right up there with The Circuit. Maybe just a bit behind it. But I can't argue with anyone who likes this better. Especially when one takes into account the mullet he has in one scene that looks like Adrian Paul in a Scottish Highlands flashback sequence. Amazing. As it stands right now I'm looking at Gruner and Gary Daniels as inductees for the 2009 class of the DTVC Hall of Fame. With the response I've gotten from readers about both actors, I think that'll go over well. Look for The Circuit 2 in the next 8 posts or so as his next film.

The last Pyun film we did was Cyborg, back on post 251 (it was supposed to be 250, but I miscounted, and Beer for my Horses with Toby Keith was 250), so it's been a whopping fifty entries since his last review. That's crazy, and I don't know how that happened, because he has quite a bit out there that still needs to be covered. I may do Alien From LA next, just because it would be interesting to see the non-MST3K version. As far as this film goes, I think going up and down the list of Pyun films, I put this right behind Cyborg, and maybe make it even with Omega Doom. I really like Omega Doom as a Yojimbo remake. This film really has those elements I like too: that kind of western/samurai movie set in the future. I'm excited to see what Tales of an Ancient Empire ends up looking like.

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This is quite the ensemble cast. You have Pyun mainstays Tim Thomerson, Vincent Klyn, and Thom Mathews. Then there's DTVC faves Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa and Brion James. Then there's a cameo from Branscombe Richmond of Renegade fame. A young Thomas Jane plays Billy, and I must say he's more believable as Billy than he was as the Punisher. Sven-Ole Thorsen has one of the most memorable scenes, when he's blown away by an old lady. Finally, Marjean Holden has a part, and I don't remember seeing her. If you don't know who she is, then you've never seen the Beastmaster TV show, and it's possible you might be better for that. If there's one thing Pyun does well, he loads his films with talent.

This is a difficult find. You can either try Amazon and get it used on VHS, or search the bargain bins in your area and hope you strike gold. It's definitely a necessary watch, and it'll be worth it once you finally do track it down. Why this isn't available on DVD anymore and easier to come by is beyond me.

For more info: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0107668/

Monday, May 11, 2009

Enter the Dragon (1973)

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When I first started the DTVC, I had no idea I would be still writing it two years later, or that I'd be writing my 300th post. When I look at the archives, I see films like Bad Taste, that were DTV, that would've probably been a better choice for number 300, but because I was trying to get as many films up as possible in the early going, have already been covered. I tried to think of what would really fit a milestone post, and I came up with this. Even if it isn't DTV, it's had a such a huge impact on so many DTV films, that it deserves a place here on the blog.

Enter the Dragon has Bruce Lee working for the British in Hong Kong. He's sent to infiltrate this guy Han's stronghold by way of entering in a fighting tournament Han hosts. Also in the tournament are John Saxon and Jim Kelly. Lee has to do his thing in the tournament by day, and then sneak around the compound by night looking for incriminating evidence so the Brits can call in their forces. The whole thing ends in a huge melee.

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I think you know what I'm going to say, otherwise this wouldn't be post 300. This is obviously a classic. I might go out on a limb here for a second, though, and say this isn't necessarily a great film on its own: the plot is pretty uninspired, there's plenty of ridiculousness, like Jim Kelly beating up two cops and driving off in their cop car-- what I'm saying is there isn't much to separate this film from others in the genre.

There isn't much, but the one huge factor this does have that the others don't is Bruce Lee. He's what turns the whole film into a classic. He's so powerful a presence that he can steal a scene just through one look. You almost feel robbed with every second he's not on the screen. It's like watching a bad Film Noir from the 40s with Humphrey Bogart in it. Some actors just have the ability to transform ordinary crap into brilliance. The shame is that this would be the last film of his released while he was alive, because he died the same year, in 1973.

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I'm sure I don't need to tell anyone reading this about how huge Enter the Dragon's impact has been in the movie industry. Mortal Kombat was almost a straight remake. What about Bloodfist 2? Just think of all the martial arts films that involve some kind of tournament run by an evil crime lord. All because one man elevated a mediocre movie into something truly amazing, and a generation of film makers saw him and said "I want to make a movie with him", and a generation of actors said "I want to be him".

After Bruce Lee, the next big name in the film is John Saxon, who plays a smooth talking fighter with a compulsive gambling problem. Most of us are familiar with Saxon either through his work in the MST3K hit Mitchell, or his role in Nightmare on Elm Street. I think it's a no brainer that this character in Enter the Dragon is his best. He's cool, funny, flawed, yet at heart a good guy. We wonder at the end if he chooses not to fight Lee because he knows he can't win, or because he really has altruistic motives, but it's immaterial, because he still makes the right decision.

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I mentioned above Jim Kelly is in this. He's pretty sweet, as always. When I was in high school, one of my friends wanted to have an MST3K style party where we each rented a bad movie to make fun of. I thought I was a shoo in for the movie of the night with Black Belt Jones 2 aka The Tattoo Connection. It was great, and it had Bolo Yeung. I would be undone, though, by my friend's selection of Bad Taste. "Look Poirier", he said "so great your VCR will cry out for windshield wipers. We have to get it!". That film would go on to be the biggest movie among my group of friends, with us watching it literally hundreds of times; and with it's director, Peter Jackson going on to win an Oscar; while I haven't seen The Tattoo Connection since.

We all love Bolo Yeung here at the DTVC. Wanna guess how old he is? 70. I am not fucking with you. 70 years young. I haven't seen him in anything recently, so I don't know if he looks good for his age or not, but he was 50 when Bloodsport came out, and I thought he looked pretty good for 50 then, considering I had no idea he was even close to FIFTY! According to imdb he swam from China to Hong Kong in the '60s to escape Communism. How is he not the greatest man that's ever lived?

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I know in my last post I ripped Wanted for being a sack of asscrack, and I think I'm going to do it some more, though not just Wanted, but most new movies in general. There's a scene in this film where fruit is thrown in the air, and people throw daggers into them. All we see is the fruit going up, someone throwing a dagger off screen, and then the fruit falling with a dagger in it. I bring this up, because if this had been made today, the whole thing would've been done with CGIs, and the film makers would've been extremely proud of themselves, like in Wanted when they had bullets flying into each other. Why do they think we need that? It worked fine in Enter the Dragon without that crap, in fact it worked better, because it looked much more realistic.

If you haven't seen this, what are you waiting for? This is a must watch if there ever was one. If you haven't seen it in a while you probably should catch it again too. This is really what's about. So much has come from this one film, and I'm sure so much will come from it in the future. A true masterpiece with a true master of the craft in Bruce Lee.

For more info: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0070034/

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Wilder (2000)

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I found this on Netflix's Watch Instantly feature, and figured I'd give it a go because I wanted to get another Hauer flick up. I didn't have great expectations for this, and often my instincts are right.

Wilder has Pam Grier as a detective investigating a murder, and her prime suspect is an Ob-Gyn played by Rutger Hauer. But if Hauer was really the baddie, then the movie would be over in twenty minutes, and we still had another hour or so left, so things weren't as they seemed. Turns out more women are being murdered, and they all had sicknesses stemming from radiation poisoning that would've killed them anyway. Now Grier realizes she's up against it, as the DA looks like he's in on whatever fix there is, and all signs point to a pharmaceutical firm trying to cover it's ass. To make matters worse, Hauser's flirting with her, and she's starting to fall for him, even though he's still the prime suspect to everyone else.

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This was Lifetime Movie Network at it's finest, and I can't figure out how they got Hauer and Grier to play their parts. This needed Meredith Baxter-Birney and Bruce Boxleitner. Or maybe Victoria Rowell and Gerald McRaney. The actors just didn't fit here. They had too much edge for a Lifetime drama. On the other hand, their being out of place was the only thing that made it interesting, as it was pretty much just a Lifetime Movie Network throwaway pic.

Rutger Hauer was funny. He wasn't a baddie, which was cool. I got a kick out of watching him flirt with Grier. I think it does get old seeing him be a bad guy all the time, and it wasn't like we never saw him here, he was one of the stars, so there was no Hauer bait-and-switch. All-in-all, I can't complain about him, it was just that the movie sucked. I have a few in mind for the next film of his: Mentor, an indie flick that showed at Tribeca; Mirror Wars, a Russian airplane film with Armand Assante and Malcolm McDowell; or Bleeders.

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One of the actors in this also starred in Punisher: War Zone. That wasn't a bad movie. It wasn't great, but it wasn't bad, and interestingly enough, it only made $7 mill in the theater, so it's sorta kinda a possibility for inclusion. What was crazy was the sheer amount of ludicrous violence in it. In one scene the Punisher punches through a dude's face. Wow. Again, it was not the Lundgren Punisher, but what made this one better than the Travolta one was that it wasn't trying to replace the Lundgren one. They weren't saying the Lundgren one was bad, they were just doing their own thing.

So this is it. I'm out. I have nothing else for you. I just talked about pam Grier a few posts ago when she starred in the Busey hit No Tomorrow, so I won't tread over that territory again; and otherwise, the movie just didn't have anything else. It was a bad Lifetime movie, straight up. If you like that kind of thing, and I ain't mad atcha if you do, check LMN in your local listings. Otherwise it's not worth it, even for the Hauer factor.

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0246332/

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But... since I have a paragraph, let me talk about another movie I just rented that came out last year and did pretty well: Wanted. That bastard was atrocious. I ain't lying. My roommate and I were trying to watch it, and at a few points we almost quit on it. First off, you can guess the whole thing almost from the beginning. Second, it was either really bloody or a bunch of CG special effects. Those were your options. It may have the biggest body count I've ever seen in a movie, in that a whole train full of people was sent plummeting into a ravine. Why would you do that? And it was the hero's fault it happened, and he didn't seem to care, and neither did anyone else. Just the same, the thing pulled in like over $130 million. This is why I almost never go to the movie theater anymore, because this is the crap they try to sell me, and it actually works with enough of the population that they can keep selling it. And the film had two Oscar winners in it in Morgan Freeman and Angelina Jolie. All I can say is this new Star Trek film and X-Men film better be good.

For more info: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0493464/

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Outside the Law (2002)

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I found this movie used in a local record store in Portsmouth, NH while killing time before my buddy's bachelor party. You can't go wrong when you see Rothrock in the bargain bin, at least that's my experience.

Outside the Law has Cynthia Rothrock as a special agent type cop who sees her fiance gunned down in Columbia while they're trying to work a bust in a huge drug deal. She finds out when she makes it back to the States that her surviving the bust is a problem for the whatever department she's working for, and she's declared persona non grata, meaning she's on the run. Before she gets too far she ends up at a restaurant run by a woman and her younger brother, and the woman is dating an abusive gangster, played by Jeff Wincott. Wincott beats her to death, so Rothrock sticks around to make sure Wincott gets his.

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Pretty sweet. Pret-ty sweet. This is one of those where the plot could get in the way, and every time I think it will, a group of thugs comes around the corner and Rothrock kicks their asses. In case there aren't enough explosions, Rothrock and her buddy load a warehouse with dynamite and set the fuckers off. That's what I want to see. I got what i paid for here.

Rothrock just reinforces her DTVC Hall of Fame induction with this performance. Great one-liners, great fight scenes. In one, she smashes a dude's face through a lamp sitting innocuously on a table. How cool is that? Also, this is the second Rothrock film in a row we've covered where she carries on conversations with a dog, with her having done the same in Guardian Angel. Again, she's not as good at that as Will Ferrell in Anchorman or the skecth he did for SNL where sold a video that trains dogs through sarcasm; but it works, and it's a good bumper to the scenes where she kicks guys in the balls.

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There's been some call from a few areas to get some Jeff Wincott up here, and really this one's kinda not what they had in mind, I'm sure. I have a couple where he stars in the pipeline, so you can really see his action prowess. This one he never uses any martial arts skills, and never fights anyone. Call it a Jeff Wincott Amuse Bouche, if you will.

There are two elements to creating a great heel in a movie: the first is we have to find him utterly annoying; and second, we need to see him get the crap beaten out of him every time he's on screen. This film does that perfectly. They get some guy with a goatee and slicked back hair (second only to the goatee and ponytail combination for sheer toolishness), have him say obnoxious things and grab women's butts, and then Rothrock shows up and kicks him in the balls. It just works over and over. To contrast this, the Bosworth film we just reviewed, The Operative, has a heel, also with a goatee, and a potential for a ponytail with his long hair; and yet when he acts like a heel, his only retribution is his hitting Bosworth in the back of the head with the butt end of his pistol. This is the message to all film makers out there: if you're going to make a heel, we need to see his ass kicked, and kicked repeatedly. Thank you.

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The local detective on the take was played by the dad from The Wonder Years. I used to watch that show sorta kinda when I was growing up. It was cool, but not that cool. I think I always thought Fred Savage was kind of a douchebag. Remember The Wizard, I think it was called, that movie that sucked major ass? I'm sure Fred Savage isn't a bad guy, he just played a lot of douchebag-ish parts, but at 10, I had no ability to separate a person and the characters he or she played. If you're really not a douchebag, Fred Savage, than I'm sorry for ever having thought you were.

If you see this in a bargain bin like I did, go for it. It's so good, and so worth it. I think I paid like $5, which definitely wasn't too much. I don't know if I'd go ten, but five totally worked.

For more info: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0290014/

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Best of the Best 3: No Turning Back (1995)

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My friend at Movies in the Attic (a link to which you'll find in the section labeled "Other Great Sites") was not a fan of this movie, and he made no bones about telling me how he felt. As far as he was concerned, the film was racist for the sake of being racist, and it didn't go over well with him. I hadn't seen it in so long, and with my having reviewed the other Best of the Bests, I figured it was time to give it another spin.

Best of the Best 3: No Turning Back has Phillip Rhee back at it as Tommy Lee (not the well-endowed Crue drummer), this time visiting his sister in a small Southern town called Liberty. Her hubby is the sheriff, and the sheriff has his hands full with a group of well-armed Neo-Nazi terrorists. Obviously, he can't handle this on his own, so Rhee's gotta step up and take care of business. Throw in Gina Gershon as a prim but no less hot school teacher, and you got yourself a movie.

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I must say I have to respectfully disagree with my friend here. The racism was depicted in this film as nothing short of evil. It may have been a little too visceral, but it was definitely plausible. One additional element I liked was how Dee Wallace Stone's son joined the Neo-Nazi gang because he was poor, jobless, and educationless. This is a formula that terrorist groups look to for recruitment all over the world, and it was a touch of realism I wasn't expecting in a DTV actioner. The film also did a great job discussing how separate but equal only reinforces the idea that one group of people is inferior, which is an important point in developing racial sensitivity in this country.

That being said, where this film was totally unrealistic was in how the sheriff wasn't in on it. What I mean is, had the local police been in cahoots with the skinheads, you could see them taking over the town; but with the sheriff actively opposing them, it makes no sense that he wouldn't call in the FBI. The federal government would love to know if a Neo-Nazi terrorist group was arming itself with stinger missiles and high-powered assault rifles, and in a few days they'd shoot down there and take them out. The common joke about the KKK is that they have more undercover FBI agents in their ranks now than actual members. It just would've made more sense if Rhee had to take down both the local cops and the skinheads.

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Speaking of Rhee and the overall action, it was pretty stellar. Rhee is just amazing. I don't know how this guy ended up only being in so few films. According to imdb he's only 46, which, when compared to Seagal, makes him a baby. He just kicks so much ass, it's ridiculous that he has such a small filmography. He also directed this film, and the action was relentless. Once it kicked in, it didn't stop. Rhee understands what we want out of an action film: killer martial arts, major explosions, and extreme gunfire. This film delivered in spades.

Rhee's sheriff brother-in-law was played by Shooter McGavin from Billy Madison 2: Happy Gilmore. As far as the Billy Madison movies go, I think Happy Gilmore is probably the one I liked best, after the original, of course. By the time we hit Billy Madison VI: Little Nicky, I felt like maybe the series had run its course, but the film still made almost $40 mill, and who knows how much more after with rentals, DVD sales, and TV rights. I can't blame Sandler for still going to that well if the cash is there, even if the movies make me feel dumber for having watched them.

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The bad guy was played by Mark Rolston, a pretty ubiquitous That Guy who you'd know if you saw him. He was in one film we've already reviewed, Scorcher, which had Rutger Hauer as the President. Anyway, who he is isn't important. What got me about him was how he wore these big black boots over his jeans. As I'm sure many people know this is a style that women rock quite a bit nowadays, and mentally I've kind of associated that look with femininity, so seeing him rock that look too made me him seem off. It was just weird. Maybe it's just me.

So I'm all in favor of this one. I say just take a night and watch all four, because even though I haven't reviewed it yet, I can tell you four's hot too. The racism in three is rough stuff, but it doesn't go unvanquished, and it's pretty well understood that it's a very bad thing that must be dealt with. Rhee's awesome, the action's awesome, how can you go wrong?

For more info: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0112483/