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.

Friday, July 31, 2009

Cyborg Cop (1993)

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I first saw this way back when it first came out in the early 90s. I didn't really remember it, but since Hard Justice was so good, I knew it needed revisiting. (Am I the only one who's noticed I've been doing a lot of 90s cyborg films lately?)

Cyborg Cop is a romantic comedy starring David Bradley as a disgraced DEA agent on a Caribbean island looking for his brother. He finds much more in the precocious little spitfire of a reporter who's down there looking for a story. First they can't stand each other, then they can't stand being without each other. John Rhys-Davies is a delight as the fat, jolly, bad guy.

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This movie is hilarious. Absolutely. I usually don't like romantic comedies, but this one worked. I think, for me, the worst part about romantic comedies is when the girl dumps the guy, and he becomes a stalker to win her back, and succeeds. It just sends a bad message in our society. This movie stayed away from that, and that's why it was good.

Maybe the funniest part was David Bradley, the hero, sporting a fanny pack. Are you kidding? It's not like fanny packs were so yesterday-- they were never in! Let me get this straight, I'm supposed to take this guy seriously as an action star while he's rocking a fanny pack? When combined with his tight black jeans, it looked like a cod piece and he looked like a ballet dancer. Wow.

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Um, did I mention that David Bradley is rocking a fanny pack? I'm not saying he did it in one scene to pretend he was a tourist, he was using a fanny pack to carry his wallet and passport! I'm sorry, but if your jeans are so tight you need a fanny pack to carry you wallet, you need to move up a waist size. There's been a lot of debate lately on whether a guy should use an umbrella, but I think we're all in agreement that he should never use a fanny pack.

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John Rhys-Davies was-- I'm sorry, I just can't get past the fanny pack. Who let him do that? Where was his agent? Bradley himself should've spoken up. There's plenty of blame to go around. Just look at Nicolas Cage. I mean, he's never actually worn a fanny pack in any of the movies he's been in, but it seems like he has, which is bad enough. If Cage is a tool just because we wouldn't put the fanny pack past him, what does that make Bradley, who actually wore it?

This movie is so funny, you can't go wrong. Either in a large group, or by yourself in your sweats on a lazy Sunday, you'll be entertained. You can rent it or watch it instantly on Netflix, which works; and if you see it for sale cheap on VHS I'd go for it too. You won't be disappointed.

For more info: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0109517/

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So my buddy's wife had us watching this movie, and I must say, I was skeptical at first. It looked like a bad Bring it On rip-off. I couldn't have been more wrong. This is like Ski School at cheerleading camp. It was hilarious from beginning to end, probably one of the best comedies I've seen in a while. Because it made over $15 mill at the box office, it's not eligible for it's own post, so I'm recommending it here. Great flick. Also, the two male leads are playing high school seniors, and one was born in '80, and the other '77. Wow. I was born in '79, and I'm finding I get carded less and less. Maybe if I shaved I'd look like 17.

For more info: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1083456/

Monday, July 27, 2009

Breathing Fire (1991)

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I first found this film when I was looking up Jerry Trimble films on imdb. The idea that it also had Bolo Yeung made it a no brainer. My one fear was that, because Trimble was listed as the baddie, that I might fall victim of the Trimble bait-and-switch.

Breathing Fire is about a bank robber played by Jerry Trimble who lives a double life as a family man to his two sons, one biological, one adopted from Vietnam. His latest heist involves using an old Vietman vet buddy who runs a bank as an inside man, and after the heist goes down, the bank man wants out. He gets out, when Trimble and his boys kill him and his wife, but the daughter gets away with her part of the key to the vault where the money is. She runs to Trimble's brother, who takes her to Trimble, not knowing what the score is. Luckily Trimble's two sons want to help their uncle, and now we have a huge conflict of interests. The only thing we can count on is the perfunctory Bolo Yeung pec shot.

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This wasn't bad. The only thing I didn't like was the ending, where Trimble went from loving father to suddenly fighting one of his sons for the money. It would've made for a more realistic story if Trimble had been torn about fighting his son. Also, a lot of the martial arts action was done by the two kids, which detracted from Trimble and Yeung, who I love. Overall, though, a good bad action movie.

Jerry Trimble was pretty sweet, but nowhere near his Live By the Fist level. He made a better baddie than I thought he would, though. He looked like Emilio Estevez when he rocked the fake moustache in robbing the bank. Also of note: his character's name is Michael Moore. I think I speak for all readers of this blog when I say I'd love to see the real Michael Moore in an action film. Okay, maybe I only speak for myself. What about him as the tech guy living in his mom's basement that the hero goes to for help? The frumpy clothes, voice, and duck walk would fit perfectly in that role. No matter what, he'd have to escape a bomb by jumping out of a second story window into a pool.

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Bolo Yeung is in drag in this movie. It's pretty scary. Or pretty funny. Or both. It's great. anyone who doesn't love Bolo Yeung has a problem with themselves. That's what I say. On July 3rd, he celebrated his 71st birthday. Is there any doubt that that 71-year-old man could kick the average 25-year-old man's ass? Not that it matters. If I met Bolo Yeung I wouldn't want to fight him, I'd want to shake his hand. And what would he have to prove in kicking my ass? The guy swam to Hong Kong to escape Communism.

Trimble's Vietnamese son is played by Jonathan Ke Quan. He has 9 entries on imdb, and included in those are Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, The Goonies, Head of the Class, and Encino Man. He's 38 now, and hasn't done anything since 2002, but does it matter? Those first two roles alone are so iconic that for people in our generation, we'll always know who he is. The question is: who is it better to have acted with, Harrison Ford, Corey Feldman, or Bolo Yeung?

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The main hero, Trimble's brother in the film, is played by some dude named Ed Neil. His delivery of lines was so hilarious, it would've been better if they'd rewrote his character as a mute. Half the time he sounded like he had just come from the dentist, and the other half he was Rudy Juliani on SNL. It just shows that you can't just take any kickboxing champ off the street and put him in a movie and make him act well. Don "The Dragon" Wilson and Jerry Trimble may not be potential Oscar winners, but they at least they don't sound like they've been shot up with Novocain.

This is a fun deal. Look for it on Netflix. You can't go wrong with Bolo Yeung and Jerry Trimble, plus there's the novelty of the kid from Temple of Doom and Goonies. Don't go into it expecting something as awesome as Live By the Fist, and you should be fine.

For more info: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0101509/

Future Hunters (1986)

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My friend at Movies in the Attic suggested this one to me after I'd reviewed a few other films from the late, great, Cirio H. Santiago. The combination of Robert Patrick and Richard Norton sounded great. It took some work to get it on VHS on Amazon, but I did, so here it is.

Future Hunters starts in the future, where Richard Norton lives in this post-apocalyptic wasteland. He needs to get his hands on the spear that pierced Jesus Christ so he can travel back in time, put it on a special shaft, and prevent the nuclear war that started the apocalypse. Unfortunately, when he makes it to the present day, he bumps into Robert Patrick and his woman getting attacked by bikers, and in the process of defending them, he's fatally wounded. Now it's up to Patrick and his woman to join the spear with the shaft in order to save the world.

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This is bad. Bad in a good way, maybe; but definitely bad. First off, do not, under any circumstances, watch this alone. You need people around you to make this one work. To give you an idea, moviewise, this is akin to Alien From LA. Ever seen that one on MST3K? It's great with Mike and the 'Bots making fun of it, but if you were stuck with it by yourself, you'd be in trouble. I'd love to see an MST3K version of this film too.

The biggest problem is the length. We pretty much see the same things over and over: Patrick and his woman get close to something, then the baddies show, and they have a close call, and then we repeat. There were some great individual scenes, making it perfect for watching with friends, because in the spaces of nothingness in between, you can talk about how you're going to tell your staff you're hiking the Appalachian Trail, when, in reality, you're planning to see you're mistress in Argentina.

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This is the fourth Robert Patrick film we've covered here at the DTVC. He was kind of weird here, because in the beginning, he couldn't hold his own against three bikers, and then later, he announces "I was in the Marines", and suddenly he's great at hand-to-hand combat. Still, the novelty of the Liquid Metal Terminator never wears off, and it's still good here. Again, another reason why this is more enjoyable among friends.

This has Bruce Le, not to be confused with Bruce Li, or the real deal, Bruce Lee. He was great for the five minutes he was there. I was expecting him to hang around and help Patrick for the rest of the movie, but for some reason he didn't. It was like being invited to dinner, offered a smidge of caviar, then told the rest of the meal will be tuna casserole. Eww.

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Since Richard Norton was barely in it, I decided to devote the final paragraph to Cirio H. Santiago. This fall, he will be the second director, after Albert Pyun, to make the DTVC Hall of Fame. That makes sense, because he's probably the second best DTV director of all time, after Pyun. He unfortunately died last September from lung cancer. Looking him up on imdb, I see that he not only did much for the DTV film industry, but he did even more for the art of filmmaking in his native Philippines. He will be missed.

I really think this is a fun movie if watched in a group; but alone you'll just be bored to tears. There isn't enough to grab onto for a solo mish, and the good parts are even better when you have people there to laugh at it and mock it along with you. Believe me, it's much better to get through the down parts if you have someone there to talk about how you need your parents to pay off the girl you were just having an affair with down in Argentina.

For more info: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0097404/

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Kill Switch (2008)

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The DTVC is getting pretty close to having every Steven Seagal DTV reviewed. Now, I won't lie, we won't finish that deal until Cover Up has been reviewed, because I can't have all of Seagal's films up before I have all of Lundgren's. Just kinda the way things are.

Kill Switch has Seagal with an appalling accent working as a serial killer expert in Memphis. He arrests one serial killer right off the bat, then goes after the next one, only to have the one he just arrested released because he beat the crap out of the guy while arresting him. On top of two serial killers, he's got an uppity rookie female FBI agent up his buttocks. He just needs to martial arts his way through all this crap.

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What? What did I just watch? Seven paired with Above the Law? It doesn't work. Seagal doesn't work in this role. Sure, the fights were okay, but who was he fighting? And that accent was atrocious. There was the occasional shootout, but again, who cares? I don't buy Seagal as a crack detective, and I don't buy the random scenarios where he uses his martial arts. I just don't understand what I was watching.

The identity crisis in the DTV film is nothing new. Sometimes it's okay, but this time it wasn't. Seagal doesn't have the range to pull off serial killer detective. Then, in an attempt to utilize his martial arts skills, they had him beating the crap out of people in contrived scenes a la Lorenzo Lamas in The Circuit 2. As if that wasn't bad enough, in one of the beat down scenes, Seagal does this disgusting thing where he pounds this guy's upper jaw into the bar, so his teeth are pressed into it. Eww. Why? This was just marinated in wrong sauce from the jump.

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Seagal makes a great former secret service or former Marine special forces or whatever. He also makes a good cop on a revenge mission taking down a huge organized crime organization. But as a serial killer expert, it just came off as ugh, and not in a good way. If the best thing is making fun of Seagal's bad Southern accent, then what do I have? We'll see what Belly of the Beast is like next.

Then there was the herky-jerky stop-and-go effects. It annoyed the hell out of me. I felt like I was watching a bad TV, where the picture would come in and out, and when it was fine, I was hoping it wouldn't go back to bad again. Why do directors do this? If Seagal's martial arts is one of the selling features, why not let me see it? This is a bad trend in movies brought about by the horrible Bourne movies, and I hope it'll finally fall out of fashion.

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The movie, as I said, takes place in Memphis. I've never had the pleasure of going there. It seems like a nice city. Of course, there are a lot of cities I'd like to just check out that I've never been to, so maybe I should find some reasons to go to them. Wichita sounds interesting, Omaha maybe too. St. Louis has always looked intriguing, as has Kansas City. When I was in San Antonio, I was close to Austin, and I've always wanted to go there. I've heard good things about Denver too. So Memphis is just kind of on that list. Also the "Walking in Memphis" song has put it on the map. Graceland, Beale Street. If anything, this movie made me want to go to Memphis, so there's one positive there.

Skip this. It's a waste of film. I will say, the one thing this movie had was the two separate villains, so it felt kind of like a Batman film with the multiple baddies. Can you imagine Seagal as Batman? Now that would be sweet. They shouldn't have made this movie, they should've made a Batman film set in Memphis. The Penguin: Vernon Wells.

For more info: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1107859/

The Sweeper (1996)

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My friend at Movies in the Attic suggested this bad boy to me. I hadn't done a C. Thomas Howell film since the surprisingly good Da Vinci Treasure. With another look at the DTVC Hall of Fame on the line, Howell still has some work to do if he's not going to have wait another year.

The Sweeper has Howell as a kid who sees his dad killed by mobsters or something, and he grows up with a chip on his shoulder. He becomes a cop and has a penchant for killing suspects in the act of arresting them. After the ninth kill, a group calling themselves Justice Incorporated (I'm not sure if they're publicly traded or not) invites Howell to join them. They take the law into their own hands and kill criminals instead of allowing them to be arrested and tried and sent to jail. Howell likes things at first, but he realizes things aren't what they appear. Now the question is, will they let him walk, or is he going to have to kill them all.

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This is pretty sweet. Massive explosions, nice chase scenes, and some good gun fights. It has a high ridiculous action quotient, in that things happen that are completely unrealistic simply for the purpose of blowing shit up. My favorite was a chase scene where the guy Howell was after cut the supports on the back of this truck carrying oxygen tanks. So the tanks are rolling down the road, and the bad guy is shooting them so they explode in front of Howell's car. Forget the sheer ludicrousness of it, or how hilarious it is, it's so awesome too.

The thing is, as far as Howell goes, though I like him, I can see how some people I know don't. The goatee, the long hair-- it looked silly, and worse, it looked gross when he was making out with his female co-stars. Towards the end, there's a sweet scene where he drives his car under an oil truck, and it cuts the top off of his car. He then kills that sweet scene by going "Heh, now it's a convertible" in this really annoying voice. This was a good movie, but perhaps it was good in spite of Howell, and as such, it's not a Hall of Fame worthy entry.

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I looked up the exact definition of "incorporated" online. Sure, the literal definition is unity, or a collection of beings united into a single entity; but the context here suggests a legal entity formed into a corporation. So, the question is, is this group traded publicly? Can I buy stocks in Justice Incorporated? What kind of dividends do they pay out? On the other hand, as I'm mocking them for this, is it not all the more awesome that they misused that word? It's essentially the same thing as the oxygen tanks in the chase scene.

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Jeff Fahey plays the dad in this. I've never had a good feeling about him. He seems like a good idea at the time, kind of like a Chinese food buffet, but afterwards I don't feel so good. He's the kind of cat that appears here and there in DTV movies, along with other similar genres like Lifetime movies and Sci-Fi pictures originals. The last film we did with him in it was the Gary Daniels Gary Busey pic No Tomorrow. I don't know. He's got quite a bio on imdb, so if anyone's seen him in something awesome, let me know.

This is a good bad action movie. I must warn you, if you're not a Howell guy, you won't like it. There's a lot of Howell to contend with, and it hurts at times, even for me, and I'm a self-styled Howell guy. The goatee doesn't help. It just looked like this hairy rodent enveloping the women's faces he was kissing. But the action is there, and it's fun, so if you like Howell, you need to see this.

For more info: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0114590/

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I know I'm a couple years late on this, but I finally saw the fourth installment in the Die Hard series last week. The first Die Hard movie was to my mind one of the most influential action films ever. The paradigm of the lone hero picking off one baddie after another in a building that's been taken over by a major terrorist organization has been used in myriad DTV action films. Part two was a solid sequel, but I felt like things were getting tired by part three. Of course, now, all the old actors are coming back to reprise roles that we liked in the past: Harrison Ford, Sylvester Stallone, Bruce Willis; and word on the street is Eddie Murphy is looking at a fourth Beverly Hills Cop. The truth is, this film was just a big bunch of special effects and ridiculous action with a plot that seems nuanced, but is pretty paint-by-numbers. I included a review of it here with The Sweeper because I wanted to make a point: The Sweeper was a better movie. Just because one had a bigger budget, the smug bastard that plays Apple in those Apple commercials, and Bruce Willis reprising a role that we liked in the late 80s early 90s, doesn't make it better than the 1996 C. Thomas Howell bad actioner. One just has a flashier cover.

For more info: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0337978/

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Ninja Cheerleaders (2008)

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After watching Michael Pare in Direct Contact, I decided to look him up on imdb and see where to go next with him. This jumped to the top of potential candidates because it also has George Takei. I'll watch that guy in any movie. He's amazing.

Ninja Cheerleaders follows the exploits of three young girls who are attending a crummy local junior college with dreams of going to Brown. To make money, they work as Go-Go dancers, or de facto strippers that don't show boobs or vagina. They're also well trained ninjas. Their sensei, George Takei, is also their boss at the strip club, and he's captured by Michael Pare, a crime boss that just got out of jail, and who wants the strip club back. Pare also took the money the girls saved to go to Brown. Now the girls have to free Takei, make the game as cheerleaders, and pass all their finals.

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This wasn't bad. It was funny, it had Takei and Pare, and the martial arts was decent. One of the ninja cheerleaders was Trishelle from The Real World Las Vegas and various challenge episodes after, which was interesting. It also wasn't over-the-top silly, which sometimes these movies can be. It definitely came off better than Zombie Strippers.

What I didn't like was the fact that A) these empowered women were working as strippers, and B) the man that gave them their empowerment was their boss at the strip club, Takei. Then it got even more muddled, when, after Pare took Takei and their money, they talked about how much they couldn't stand being strippers and how they didn't want to do it anymore. I guess what I'm wondering is why Takei would hire them as strippers if he wanted them to be empowered females. Waitresses at his club would've been a more realistic job for the plot. Even more realistic would've been to dump the money angle, have them going to Brown based on their grades with need-based grants, and them having to save Takei and get their finals done at the same time. Sometimes the people who make these movies just need to understand the art of parsimony.

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Michael Pare as the bad guy wasn't in this much, which kinda sucked. He was also the bad guy in Direct Contact. I guess I'll just have to get my act together and procure some of his older catalog. I was talking to a buddy the other night, and he was saying how the CD version of the John Cafferty and the Beaver Brown Band album doesn't have "Tender Years" on it. I only had the tape, so I had no idea, but when I looked it up on Amazon, "Tender Years" was listed among the tracks. Either way, that album is very underrated in the discussion of great 80s music, and if you haven't checked it out, you should.

George Frickin' Takei. Gotta love him. The voice is the best. What I'd like to see is a Rush Hour style film with Takei and Pare as cops. They had such great on screen chemistry, they'd be more fun to watch than any I've ever seen in a cop buddy picture. Maybe you could have a scene where Pare and Takei are forced to do kareoke at a Japanese gentleman's club, and they sing "On the Dark Side". He's just so Takei-tastic, you know?

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As I mentioned above, this has Trishelle from The Real World Las Vegas. That season, of course, was the one where MTV officially decided that pretty people fighting made for better ratings than interesting people fighting, and the show hasn't been the same since. I stopped watching it around Austin, I think. The second and third seasons, LA and San Francisco, to my mind, were some of the best television ever. Forget reality television, I'm talking television. Especially season 2. I can't believe that's not on DVD. As far as Trishelle being a great actress, she was playing a ninja cheerleader with the academic chops to go to Brown. Do you see her making that believable?

I wouldn't make a priority out of seeing this. It was good, but it wasn't that good. If you need some Takei, go with Live By the Fist first, and maybe listen to him saying "Wang" on Howard Stern, before you waste any effort on this bad boy.

For more info: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0972857/

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

1990: I guerrieri del Bronx aka 1990 Bronx Warriors (1982)

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This is a straight up classic. I didn't do the work I should've and looked to see if this was on Netflix sooner. I think it just got lost in the shuffle. Anyway, I got my act together, and here it is. One other note, the DVD I got from the Netflix shipping facility in Portland was almost untouched. No one's renting this gem.

1990: Bronx Warriors takes place in, you guessed it, 1990. The Bronx has been so overrun by gang violence that the city gives up and lets the gangs have it. That's until a rich girl's gone too far and run there to escape her inheritance of a major arms corporation. She won't rely on the old man's money, but it's a bitch girl, when the corporation sends former Bronx gang member now cop Vic Morrow in to get her. High and dry, out of the rain, it's so easy to hurt others when you can't feel pain, but she'll feel the pain too as the rival gangs choose sides and fight it out while the cops come in and try to take them all down.

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This is pretty sweet. I mean, it's a classic, so what can you expect. Obviously, it's 2009, and the Bronx didn't devolve into the mess it is in this movie. The director couldn't have guessed Rudy Juliani would come in and do what he did with his aggressive policing and whatnot. This is a vision of New york City that could never imagine a Times Square that wasn't full of hookers and sex shops; never imagine Forrest Gump's Bubba Gump Shrimp restaurant where the peep shows once were. Sure, it's silly at points, and you're talking about the idea that the Bronx is given up by the city, so you have to suspend belief some; but this is a really fun time that shouldn't be missed.

The biggest name here for DTVC readers is Fred Williamson. He plays The Ogre, a rival gang leader to the hero, Trash. 1982 was peak Fred Williamson, just as the wave was cresting from his great Blacksploitation films of the 70s. The only drawback, if there's any for me, it's that he's not in this as much as he should be. I looked him up on imdb, and he's listed as being 71 years old. Wow. He graduated high school in 1955. Insane. I mean, I guess if he was playing in Super Bowl I, he has to be getting up there. I just can't believe I didn't see that sooner, considering all the times I've looked him up on imdb. Maybe I just didn't want to know...

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This was Vic Morrow's second to last movie, the last being his part in a segment of The Twighlight Zone Movie. He actually died tragically while filming that movie when a helicopter crashed on him and two young children. He was great here as a bad guy, but reading his imdb bio, he actually hated the fact that he was type-cast as the "tough" after his debut in the film Blackboard Jungle. Maybe it's the Bronx accent that directors liked-- he just sounded like a "tough".

I grew up near Boston, MA, another city that went through a fair amount of urban renewal in the late 90s early 2000s. In some areas, especially Jamaica Plain, the changes were really good. It's funny to say I'm going to Jamaica Plain to older people, because they're always like "good luck". Anyway, I was watching Anthony Bourdain's No Reservations, and he covered New York City, and he was disgusted at the changes the city had undergone in the last twenty years or so. He felt like it took away some of the city's character. I understood what he was saying, but I never really felt it until I saw this. It makes me wish I'd seen Times Square in the 80s now.

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This is the real deal. Go for it. It's a must watch. Sure, it's funny, but it's not that bad either. The fact that the copy up here from Netflix was barely touched shows that not enough people are seeing this gem, and I hope in a small way my review will get the word out on it.

For more info: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0085124/

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Fist of the North Star (1995)

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I saw this a long time ago, not long after it came out in the mid-90s. I didn't know it was based on Anime, or what I called at the time Japanimation. It may have given me a better understanding of its silliness, but I don't know. What I do know is I needed to revisit it considering this is the summer of Gary Daniels and Olivier Gruner.

Fist of the North Star is a post-apocalyptic film about a dictator, played by Costas Mandylor, who's trying to rebuild society through the use of an iron fist. He's also an accomplished martial artist, and he killed the leader of his rival school, Malcolm McDowell. Now it's up to his son, Gary Daniels, to take him down, and he has the added incentive of saving his woman, who Mandylor took from Daniels to be his wife.

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I've been holding off on this one because I just don't know exactly how to play it. On the one hand, it's not my kind of movie, because a lot of people have gross faces, and I'm not always a fan of that ridiculous style of martial arts where people's heads explode and whatnot. On the other, the martial arts isn't bad, and it has a very high silliness quotient. It was like it didn't do it for me, but it did, if that makes any sense. It's not like Hard Justice, where I was like, BAM!!, that's what I'm talking about. But it's not like some of the movies I hated, where I wanted to burn the disc. It's like Pizza Hut, where it's good, but is it better than that local pizza joint that just kills it, or the downtown gourmet place? No; but it's better than that scary stuff you sometimes see in a Chinese food buffet.

Daniels really gets to flex his martial arts muscles here, which is good. This was no Bloodmoon, but what is, really? I'm not sure how much I dig the dark colored mullet though. I guess the thing is he's kind of out of his element. I just see him as a cop with sick martial arts skills smoking myriad fools while making the ultimate drug bust. Stoic martial arts master with a grudge and a dark colored mullet just doesn't quite fit. According to imdb, he's playing Bryan Fury in the new Tekken movie. Though that sounds hot, I'd rather see him as Armor King, and, looking through the credits, they don't even have a King and/or Armor King. It must be because they were so dominant in Tekken Tag Team, the film makers felt like they'd have no film with them in it.

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I was going through all the tags I have, trying to pare down some of the ones that seemed a tad on the superfluous side. I found I had one for Costas Mandylor, even though he has only one film reviewed, Gangland with Sasha Mitchell. I think, at the time, I intended to review more of his catalog, and it just never happened. Now here we are, with film number 2. Again, like Daniels, I like him better as a modern cop with martial arts skills over a post-apocalyptic despot. What makes him worse as a despot is his character actually grows out his mullet. He talks about recreating civilization, and then he spawns this ape drape out of his head. The future will be business in the front and party in the back. Mandylor is busy now making Saw movies, and I believe, according to imdb, Saw 57 is in post production.

Club MTV's Downtown Julie Brown is in this as an engineer or something in a small village outside of Mandylor's city. I used to watch that show, along with everything else on MTV back then. Later it would become The Grind with Eric Nies from the first season of The Real World. Do they still have dance shows today? I never really got them. Usually my friends and I just picked out the silliest people and made fun of them for however long. The best was Ian from The Grind, who was their Alternative guy. He wore shaggy hair and US Postal Service jackets, and his raison d'etre was the one quasi Alternative dance track they'd play each show, usually "Sabotage" by the Beastie Boys.

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I was trying to decide whether to devote this last paragraph to Malcolm McDowell, Chris Penn, or Clint Howard, all of whom are in this film. I went another route. Did you know John Cho, the guy from Harold and Kumar that wasn't Kumar, is 37 years old? Young Sulu ain't so young Sulu, if you know what I mean. Man, I hope I look that young when I'm 37. Seriously, 37.

Man, I don't know where to go with this. I don't think I've ever been so on the fence in the final analysis of a film ever. What I can say is, no matter what, this is silly as all hell. Good martial arts, some grossness, but not in a cool, Cyborg kind of way, and surprisingly nice set designs. It's just a matter of whether you embrace the silliness, or disdain it. And I'll take it a step further, if you embrace the silliness, you may want to go all the way and watch Riki-Oh.

For more info: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0113074/

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Hard Justice (1995)

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With my recent push to get more of the gems from the late 80s and early 90s, it was probably only a matter of time before I made this one happen. This was another of those films that I saw when I was in high school, forgot about, and was reminded of by some of my readers. Then I rent it, see it again, and think "how did I forget this?"

Hard Justice has David Bradley as an ATF agent that goes undercover in a jail to find out what happened to his friend, who was murdered. This of course comes after an explosion laden gunfight in a waterfront warehouse. As the film deteriorates into the usual action prison film where everyone's in on it and shanks come from all sides, Bradley discovers who he can trust, who sucks, and how many times he can go from beating someone down to getting beaten down himself in solitary.

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Death Warrant is perhaps the best prison film ever. Then Live by the Fist. That being said, this is no slouch. The opening scene is just amazing-- I don't even know if words can properly describe how awesome it is-- and from there it doesn't stop, leading up to a sweet prison riot to end the film. When you think 1990s DTV action, this is what comes to your mind. The only demerit I can give is the use of a helicopter at the end of the movie that wasn't blown up. Come on guys, don't get lazy on me, blow that fucking helicopter up.

I've never been a big David Bradley fan. Maybe it was how he spent most of American Ninja 4 as a prisoner as opposed to out there kicking ass. Outside the Law wasn't so hot either. But here he really makes his money. This movie came packaged with Outside the Law on Netflix, but if you go the Watch Instantly route, only Outside is available. Total ripoff. I am going to revisit some of the other films in his catalog based on the strength of this last movie. He hasn't done many, and he hasn't made a film since 1997. One of the most fitting things about his bio is he's listed on imdb as "David Bradley (V)", which means he's the fifth David Bradley, but (V) is also the term imdb uses for Direct to Video.

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Of course the other big draw in this film is the great Vernon Wells. I don't dig the face tattoo, and he seems to take a little off the amazing Australian accent, but overall he's pretty good. He plays a rival supplier of all things contraband in the prison to the people Bradley's investigating so, despite the fact Bradley's a cop, Wells is his ally. According to imdb, his crowning achievement, Bennett in Commando, will be shown on AMC this 4th of July. This is the kind of gem that is done a disservice by commercials and censoring. How does one guess when the seminal line, "Let off some steam, Bennett" occurs when there's commercials? How graphic will that scene even be? AMC shouldn't even show movies like that.

Japanese That Guy Yuji Okomoto plays the bad guy in this. You may think you don't know who he is, but trust me, you do. I looked him up on imdb, and he's been in six other DTVC movies: Ticker, The Crow: Wicked Prayer, Fortress 2, Mean Guns, Bloodfist V: Human Target, and Nemesis. I guess I should probably tag him, and maybe get rid of some of my tags for other, more superfluous actors. In case you're wondering, he was also in Pearl Harbor, perhaps the most soul crushing film ever made. Another major That Guy in here is Charles Napier. I'm not sure anyone embodies the That Guy concept more than him. When you see him, you just go, "Hey, it's That Guy." Looking him up on imdb for this review was the first time I even learned his name.

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One thing about this and a a lot of other prison films was the lack of prison jumpsuit. As far as I can tell, nothing means prison more than the jumpsuit, yet so few prison action films ever employ it. One of the advantages to the jumpsuit, obviously, is that it's harder to hide things in it than say a pair of jeans-- no matter how painted on they might be. I've never actually worn a jumpsuit in my life, prison or otherwise. I don't know, I guess the idea of unzipping my shirt every time I had to take a leak never really did anything for me.

You need Hard Justice. It's one of those things you could live your whole life without, fine in the knowledge that you have everything you want, then, after you've seen it, you can't imagine your life without it, and the idea that your life wouldn't have been quite as bright and you'd have never known, makes you pause a little bit.

For more info: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0113261/