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, January 30, 2010

Merchant of Death (1997)

Photobucket

As I've been converting all of the original posts so that they all have clickable images that take readers to bigger images (instead of images that just go to my photobucket account), I've been reading the comments to some of the old posts, and unfortunately, have discovered a lot of recommendations and requests for movies that have been lost in the shuffle. I don't remember which post I found it on, but someone suggested I give Merchant of Death a try if I want some more Michael Paré. That was months ago, but I was like "that sounds good, I'll get right on that." All right, so I'm on it now, but sorry about that.

Merchant of Death has Paré as a dude who watched his family get murdered when he was a child, and it's always eaten him up inside, making him a cop who lives on the edge. Anyway, his mentor on the force dies, but in his dying breath tells him he was there for his family's murder, and gives him some clues. Paré then quits the force, and takes to the streets to solve the crime, in the hopes that he can gain some peace of mind.

Photobucket

Man, if you take out the 45 minute chunk in the middle that was all Lifetime Movie Channel with the boring investigative work and the weird scene where Paré is reliving his family's murder under hypnosis, you'd have a surefire winner. The opening drug bust in the warehouse was simply awesome. Had they just mixed some of that into the middle, we would've been all right. What is the number one rule to great action here at the DTVC? Don't let the plot get in the way of the action. The reason for this is because to write a compelling plot takes talent. You gotta be good to make me care for the characters when all they're doing is talking. On the other hand, how much effort is it to show Paré kicking people's asses, blowing shit up, and smoking cigars, all while delivering lines in that trademark accent? Not much, right, and if we're watching a movie with him as the star of a film called Merchant of Death, the last thing we want is him crying on a psychiatrist's sofa.

What this film does do, though, is drive home just how great Michael Paré is, as if we didn't know already. I know, I suck as a human being for not having more of his films reviewed, especially that great stuff he did in the late 80s early 90s. Though this is his fifth film here, it's only the first with him in a starring role. Even I can't believe I've been writing a blog that reviews DTV movies for almost three years now and am only just getting around to covering a movie with Michael Paré as the lead. I will say, in my defense, for what it's worth, I could've sworn I reviewed Gargoyles back when I first started. Still, that would only be two movies, and that's not enough either.

Photobucket

There are some definite signs that you've seen too many bad action movies. If you see a helicopter in a film and immediately expect it to be blown up, that's one. Another is if any mention of a police psychiatrist makes you think of a hot chick, and that's what we had here. The moment Paré's chief tells him he needs a psyche evaluation, and to report to Dr. So-and-So's office, I know we're talking about a chick, and we're talking about a hottie. Linda Hoffman from The Dentist had the honors this time. You know the deal too. Glasses, hair up, business suit that shows a little leg, but not too much. They don't get along at first... but then... in this case, they didn't get around to having sex, because the baddie captured her, but the implication is that they had it after the credits rolled.

Photobucket

This film took place in Portland, OR, even though it was shot in South Africa. Anyway, my sister lives in Seattle, and she just informed me that the Black Velvet Painting Museum in Portland is closing. If you haven't been, and will be out in Portland anytime soon, you gotta check it out. Anthony Bourdain's No Reservations did a segment on it for the episode on the Pacific Northwest, and when we talked to the guy who ran the museum on our visit, he told us that Bourdain's people actually called ahead to see if it would be all right to visit, meaning they made a reservation! Anyway, it's a really cool place, and it's a shame it's closing.

All right, that wasted 45 minute chunk gave me too little material to write on, so no seventh paragraph before the close for this one. The action, especially at the beginning, but also at the end, which bookended that mess of a middle is pretty good. This might be a good film to have on while your doing your taxes or writing a paper, so you can get some work done during the slow parts. For a Paré film it's good, but it could've been better. I'm not saying a movie needs to be all action, but you can't have 45 minutes of blah smack in the middle.

For more info: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0119661/

American Ninja V (1993)

Photobucket

This was recently placed on Netflix's Watch Instantly. I'd been meaning to get to it for a while, since I have all the others reviewed here, but other things keep popping up. Also, with David Bradley's performances in some of the other films we've done of him recently, I wasn't too excited about the prospect. Still, if this is the Direct to Video Connoisseur, then it needs to have all five American Ninjas on it, whether I like it or not.

American Ninja V has Bradley as a dude teaching martial arts in Key West, when his master, Pat Morita, makes him watch his 12-year-old nephew Hiro while he's away. Bradley also has a date, so he brings the boy along. As luck would have it, the date is the daughter of a scientist, and the bad guys decide to kidnap her so the scientist will do what they want. They kidnap her on the date, and Bradley chases after, the nephew not far behind. They stow away on a plane, track the girl down, Bradley teaches the boy the ways of the ninja, and they fight a James Lew whose dressed like M. Bison in drag, and save the day.

Photobucket

This had to be a comedy. Like more than American Ninja 2 was a comedy. I mean, as a comedy, it was pretty funny, if their goal was to spoof the previous American Ninja films. I don't even know where to begin, though. Maybe the bad guy guards. They were dressed in plain white T-shirts, billowy khaki shorts, and high tube socks. If it wasn't for the machine guns they were toting, I'd think they were taking a break from a nearby tech convention. Then you got James Lew in his outfit. Had it been purple with a purple mask, he'd be the Phantom Fireworks guy. The nephew was played by a somewhat annoying kid (Lee Reyes, who may or may not be related to Ernies Reyes jr.), but he would do all these things like drive a car or fly a plane, and the reactions were always like "Oh you," or "what're we gonna do with you, Hiro?" I'm not kidding either, he really would just drive cars and fly planes. Throw in all your average funny ninja stuff with none of the gore, and you've got a hilarious family ninja movie.

David Bradley's taken some heat here at the DTVC. There's the poor performance in American Ninja 3 that I gave him a mulligan on because it was his first starring role; and then the fanny pack in Cyborg Cop, which I definitely didn't give a mulligan on-- that was unforgivable. Just the same, I also gave him props for the amazing Hard Justice, one of the best DTV films of the 1990s. Here we get something in between, which I was okay with. His martial arts skills were solid, and his ability to do tongue and cheek was much improved from AN3 four years before. He was just a much more believable lead. I'm not sure what happened to him in 1997, which is the date imdb gives for his last movie, but that's it, 15 pictures in 8 short years, and he's gone.

Photobucket

This is the second film I've reviewed in a week which featured That Guy James Lew in a bigger role than just a hatchet man in a baddie's gang, the other being Circuit 3. He was definitely used better here than he was in that one. First, the mullet was in full effect, though often pulled back in the classic ape drape ponytail, you know, the kind that's really business in the front, and then, instead of party in the back, it's 80s hipster doofus. Gotta love that, but hold on cowboy, we're not done. Red gloves, red ninja outfit, and red cape. Yep, you guessed it, M. Bison's drag outfit. Again, this had to be a joke, because it was hilarious.

Most of these movies I review from the 80s and 90s have a nostalgia aspect, whether it's the clothes, hairdos, or Zack Morris cell phones. Usually it stops there, though, but not in American Ninja V. First, you got the nephew rocking the Miami Dolphins Starter jacket and hat. Classic. Then, he's playing the Game Gear. I forgot that existed! Now I want one really bad. The McDonald's they passed in the car chase looked modern, but the Doritos bag Bradley and the kid found was totally old school-- we're talking like Jay Leno commercials era... whoops, sorry, that's a bad name around here.... (The Game Gear image is above, and if you click on it or any other image in the post, it will take you to the image page, which has pics of the other things I mentioned above.)

Photobucket

One thing that was great about this was how Bradley fought different waves of ninjas through out, but each wave was a different color. The color didn't mean anything though, they didn't fight differently or better than any others, that just seemed to be how it was. Again, I think this was all done for the silliness of it more than anything, but coming from the Mortal Kombat school of ninjas, it was a little disappointing. Ninjas in different colors should all do different things. I found a website (http://www.mortalkombatonline/) that talks about the games, and I guess in some of the newer ones, the ninjas aren't all color swaps, they're actually given individual looks, which was a disappointment. Hopefully they'll make a new one that's all 2-D, with some of the classic characters, and myriad unlockable color-swapped ninjas. Maybe something downloadable for Wii Ware.

This movie isn't a bad deal, especially if you get it on Watch Instantly. It's funny-- whether intentional or not-- the martial arts is decent, and the action isn't bad. David Bradley turns in a redeemable performance, though not one that will allow us to forgive him for the fanny pack faux pas. It'll be interesting to see what we have next for him, but for right now, you could do a lot worse than see this one.

For more info:http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0106257/

And to read my other American Ninja posts:
American Ninja
American Ninja 2
American Ninja 2 (revisited)
American Ninja 3
American Ninja 4

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Drive (1997)

Photobucket

When RepoGenetic requested more Mark Dacascos, Drive was one of the films he wanted. Unfortunately, the film recently went out of print, meaning Netflix didn't carry it, and with the untimely passing of Brittany Murphy, one of the film's stars, eBay and Amazon sellers were driving the price up. That didn't stop him from getting it reviewed, though, he just sent me a copy of it.

Drive has Dacascos as a cop from Hong Kong who has been implanted with some device that amps up his adrenaline, which combined with his top notch martial arts skills, makes him unstoppable. Problem is, he's decided to sell the device in LA to a private technology firm. Now, in San Francisco, he's being chased by men working for the Hong Kong company that originally created the device, and when they track him to a bar, he takes unfortunate bar patron Kadeem Hardison with him, and makes him drive him to LA. Now this unlikely pair has to survive long enough for Dacascos to deliver the goods so they can both be rich.

Photobucket

This movie was great. Just a fun, straight ahead action film. Dacascos delivered with the martial arts, and from there it was just a matter of everyone else playing their supporting roles, and they did. I'll be honest, the plot was very Bloodfist IV-VIII, but Dacascos and the rest of the martial arts was of a much higher caliber. This is the kind of review and the kind of film people come to my site for: an action film that doesn't take itself too seriously, gives the audience what it wants, but also has an added element, in this case the well choreographed martial arts.

When you see this, right away, in Dacascos' first fight scene, your first thought will be "why is this guy not in more and bigger roles?" Mark Dacascos is in the Potential Hall of Famer category, not because he doesn't have the talent, but because he doesn't have the great films under his belt, and something like this just makes it all the more puzzling that he doesn't. My theories are that either, A) the ambiguity of his ethnicity makes directors shy away from casting him, or B) he's been unfairly pigeonholed into the status of "Poor Man's Brandon Lee", probably due to his work on The Crow TV series. Take a film like this one, though. His Hawaiian accent doesn't make him sound like he's from Hong Kong, and he definitely doesn't look Chinese, but who cares? His martial arts skills are top notch-- he can do a fight scene with anyone in the business-- that's all I care about in a DTV actioner.

Photobucket

One scene really drove home to me just how good he and this movie was. Dacascos had to fight a bunch of guys off in a garage, and I thought "this scene is as good as Jason Statham fighting the guys in the bike shop in the first Transporter". That's not an exaggeration. Maybe his recent stint on Dancing With the Stars will get him better roles, and when I say better roles I mean better action roles where he gets to let loose his martial arts skills. Remember in my Knock Off review where I described Van Damme keeping up with the fast paced Kung Fu scenes? Well Dacascos shows in Drive that he not only can keep up, but he can lead that kind of scene and look good at it.

We got a little Dwayne Wayne going on here. No, he doesn't have the same glasses he had on in A Different World, but the character was very similar. I'd like to get a movie with him, Jaleel White, and Malcolm-Jamal Warner in it. As I mentioned above, this also has the late Brittany Murphy as an air-headed girl that hits on Dwayne Wayne, pretty much reprising her role from Clueless. I hope her death wasn't what caused the prices of Drive to go up on Amazon and eBay, but it's the only explanation I can come up with considering they went up within a week of her passing, and are now coming down again.

Photobucket

This film had a pretty extensive list of errors on imdb, which isn't a big deal (you should see how many Die Hard has), but they missed one that I picked up on. When Dwayne Wayne drops Dacascos off at the bus station in San Francisco, it's actually Union Station in LA. I know, because I've been there, and according to imdb, the film was only shot in LA. Not picking on the movie at all, just thought it was cool that I could recognize that.

If you find this at a used video store or something like that, go for it. This is Dacascos the way you were meant to see him. You've got explosions for the sake of explosions, a plot that enhances the action instead of detracting from it, and Dacascos' stand out martial arts. If it wasn't out of print it would be perfect. Thanks again to RepoGenetic for sending it to me.

For more info: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0116147/

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Urban Menace (1999)

Photobucket

This is one that's always intrigued me. DTVC Hall of Fame director Albert Pyun's film starring hip-hop stars Snoop Dogg, Big Pun, Fat Joe, and Pyun mainstay Ice-T. I mean, I figured it would be hilarious, but I was still intrigued.

Urban Menace takes place in New York City and has Snoop as a form of archangel come back from the dead to wreak vengeance upon Big Pun and Fat Joe's gang. Caught up in this is King, a member of the gang who wants out and tried to work with the cops, but now has to go into an abandoned building and confront Snoop for his bosses. How will Snoop treat him as he's exacting his violent revenge on the rest of the gang?

Photobucket

This wasn't serious, was it? I mean, it had to be shot in a day, based on the poor quality. I'm not sure a gun was ever fired, instead the actors pretended to shoot and sound effects were added, a move I'm sure middle school kids use in their YouTube videos (if they had YouTube when I was in middle school, I know I would've done that). Most of the film was shot in this grainy style of film, which was weird. It's too bad, because there were some bright spots, both serious and silly. Ice-T did the music, which was really cool, almost like Miles Davis in Elevator to the Gallows-- almost. Snoop was pretty funny, especially watching him shimmy around while he was firing his pistols. You can imagine how great of actors Fat Joe and the late Big Pun were.

What killed this was a 72 minute running time, of which ten minutes were taken up with Ice-T's intro, and another ten were taken up with credits (I'm serious), so a 52 minute running time, and it felt like three hours. There was just a lot of nothing happening. One scene in the beginning had Big Pun and Fat Joe talking about this or that business thing, and it went on forever, or at least it seemed like it. A person would say something, then it would cut to a close up of Fat Joe, who would respond, then a close up of Pun, who would respond, then back to the guy. It was just hard to imagine that the guy who did Nemesis, Omega Doom, and Cyborg directed this too.

Photobucket

Ice-T played the narrator, something of a Ghetto Poet, Urban Philosopher, or Poet Laureate of the Cut. In the scenes where it was him just talking, as opposed to commenting on the boring movie, it was actually pretty cool. The thing was, as an actor, he was the only half-way decent talent in the film, and he ended up only being the narrator. The addition of him doing the music was great too. The problem was, it was supporting a boring movie.

Another bright spot was Pyun mainstay Vincent Klyn in a small role. We love Klyn here at the DTVC, more affectionately known as Warchild from Point Break. "Back off Warchild, seriously." He's done twelve films with Pyun, second only to Nobert Weisser's 14, but hasn't done anything period since 2004's Max Havoc: Curse of the Dragon, also directed by Pyun. That's too bad.

Photobucket

This is one of two credited Pyun forays into the Urban genre, the other being Corrupt, which I haven't seen yet. There's also the Master P flick Bad Bizness aka More Mercy, which he wasn't credited on. I haven't seen either of those, but if this is any indication, I can't imagine they're great. Urban Menace isn't of the quality we've come to expect from Pyun, so if you see this and think "Oh, Albert Pyun, I loved Nemesis and Cyborg, you'll be sorely disappointed. I did read an article that was linked on imdb from Quiet Earth, a site that seems to be devoted to post-apocalyptic films, about Pyun's next film, Bulletface. Word on the street is he's releasing his films on his own now and re-releasing director's cuts some of the older ones, including Nemesis. Could be cool, but I'm not sure how reliable the site's info is, considering they said Bulletface would be out in January, and January's almost done, and Bulletface isn't out. Still looking forward to Tales of an Ancient Empire.

Don't fall for this. It's not great work from Pyun, and the cast that seems funny isn't enough to cover for the snoozefest that we're served. I probably shouldn't even have reviewed it, but Pyun's a Hall of Famer, and we gotta take the good with the bad, and the bad with the very bad. Again, Pyun is the only DTVC Hall of Famer ever to comment on the blog, and we love him for that, but I have to be honest and call it like I see it.

For more info: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0196181/

Monday, January 25, 2010

Universal Soldier: Regeneration (2009)

Photobucket

Universal Soldier: Regeneration is set to be released on February 2nd, but thanks to RepoGenetic, one of our readers, we have an early screening, so I can give you my review before it's released. This is a first at the DTVC.

Universal Soldier: Regeneration is about a Russian separatist group that uses a Universal Soldier, played by Andrei "The Pit Bull" Arlovski, to kidnap the Prime Minister's kids. When the US government sends some of their own and they fail, they realize they have to call in the best, Van Damme. This is a bit of an issue, because a psychiatrist in Switzerland is trying to make him a normal member of society. It's only an issue to pad out the film, of course, and he eventually saves the day. Oh, and Dolph Lundgren's in this for the last 30 minutes.

Photobucket

If this wasn't billed as a Van Damme Dolph Lundgren flick, it wouldn't have been that bad. Problem is, it was, and was only able to deliver on a Dolph and Van Damme bait-and-switch. This was supposed to be a big deal for the Muscles from Brussels, and he's maybe in it for half the film, and of that, much of it is spent in a lab or doing Rorschach tests. The lack of Dolph hurt more, because his two or three scenes were great. I could see Van Damme being afraid that Dolph would show him up, but it was even worse because Dolph had only a fraction of the screen time he did, and he still delivered a more entertaining performance.

I'm not sure if you've seen the trailer, but you can check it out here. It gives the impression that a good chunk of the film is Van Damme fighting both Dolph and Arlovski. The truth is that's only the last 15 minutes or so. It's like they took everything that made the first one great, and replaced it with a lot of blah, and hoped that last fifteen would be enough. It was like buying a bag of Doritos and finding out most of the bag was filled with foam packing peanuts. It's amazing how if that happened at the store, we'd be up in arms and demand our money back, but when a movie does it we have no recourse. I'm not saying those few Doritos at the bottom weren't great as always, I'm just saying if I paid for what I think is a full bag of Doritos, and if the bag tells me there's a full bag of Doritos in there, if most of the bag is packing peanuts, I'm pissed.

Photobucket

If in my top ten DTV films of the 2000s I said Dolph answered the challenge of Steven Seagal's entry into the world of DTV action and retained his throne, Dolph started off 2010 showing Van Damme what's up too. At the 30 minute mark, when he makes his first appearance, it's like a dad going outside to show the neighborhood kids how to really play football. "You kids are cute trying to make your little DTV actioner, but let Daddy show you how it's really done." It's hard for me, because I've never had to deal with a Dolph bait-and-switch before, so I don't know how to feel. I mean, I guess with all the films he's done recently, something had to give-- one of them had to have less of him than the others-- it's just the dishonesty that irks me. Say in the trailer and on the cover "And a special appearance by Dolph Lundgren". I mean, that's all it was, not a starring role by any stretch.

And Van Damme wasn't in it much more than Dolph. Like Dolph, his only good scenes come at the very end too. He has one early where he beats up the mob boss from Direct Contact, but that's just him beating on a defenseless bar owner. His fight scenes with Dolph and Arlovski were good, but kind of muted because the guys were all wearing bulky army suits. See Jean-Claude, fight scenes aren't shot with shirtless actors in order to show off their pecs to the ladies, they're also shot that way to make it easier for the actors to move, which makes the action better. They might as well have been fighting in Godzilla suits here.

Photobucket

Now don't get me wrong, this had plenty of bright spots. The fight between Dolph and Van Damme had an amazing ending that I won't give away. Arlovski's fighting translated very well on-screen from it's UFC roots. I actually saw him in real life at Mohegan Sun in 2005 when he fought at UFC 55 and defended his title in 15 seconds against Paul Buentello. He ate at the same restaurant me and my buddy ate at. Anyway, the story itself and direction wasn't that bad for a DTV actioner. Had they been a little more honest with how they were going to use Dolph Lundgren, I might not have been as hard on it. Sure, it was plenty silly and unrealistic, but that stuff's okay. One other thing that wasn't, though: this tool bag army dude who gets killed by Arlovski seems like the guy Dolph and Van Damme were supposed to be passing the torch to for any future Universal Soldier films, as he's shown in the Universal Soldier program at the end. Not only that, but this tool bag was in the film more than Dolph and Van Damme, which hurt my sensibilities. (I want to make clear, I don't think the actor personally was a tool bag, just the character.)

Final verdict: as a DTV actioner on its own, you could do a lot worse; but as a Van Damme or Dolph film, it sucked hardcore. I've been around this DTV block plenty of times, as have a lot of our readers, and lying to them about who's in the film and for how long is a bad move. It's one thing to pull a Rutger Hauer or Gary Busey bait-and-switch, but to do it with Dolph is just evil. Not only that, but it wrecks any credibility you might have with a movie that wasn't that bad.

For more info: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1288403/

Friday, January 22, 2010

Waterworld (1995)

Photobucket

When I was thinking of potential wild card posts, for some reason this one popped in my head. It has a reputation as being one of the great all time busts, but the data on imdb says the film did earn some money, just maybe not too much considering what it cost to make it. What's most fascinating is this was the Avatar of 1995 in terms of budget and hype, and it's kind of scary to think how much worse it would've been had everything been replaced with computer generated images.

Waterworld takes place well in the future, long after the polar ice caps have melted (I'm assuming the tea baggers won in that time line), and the Earth is almost completely covered in water. For Costner and the people he comes into contact with, it might as well be completely covered, because to them dry land is just a myth-- that is, until the girl from Napoleon Dynamite shows up with a tattoo on her back that may or may not be a map to dry land. Dennis Hopper and his men try to get her, and she and Jeanne Tripplehorn, who's taking care of her, rescue Costner from their townspeople so he can help them escape. I forgot to mention Costner is a mutant with gills and webbed feet, and the townspeople want to kill him for that. Anyway, a bunch of stuff happens, Hopper gets the girl, Costner saves her, and the group find dry land.

Photobucket

Most movies tell me how they're going to be from the very first scene, and Waterworld, was no exception. You can infer all you need to know from that opening shot of Costner urinating. I felt it wasn't necessary to ask why, if there's a Dr. Seuss-like contraption that can convert urine into drinkable water, there isn't one for salt water too. Anyway, I loved the jet skis and water skiers attacking the ocean city, Hopper was great, and the use of actual mechanical special effects in a world today when all of that stuff would be done with computers was a breath of fresh air. I also kind of liked the Dr. Seuss quality to it all-- I mean, it would've been a lot cooler if someone was narrating it with Dr. Seuss style rhymes too, but a fella can't have everything.

Still, there was something about this that never worked for me, and when I was younger I just chalked it up to me not liking it because I thought I was above all that. Now I know why I don't like it, and I can put it into words. It's essentially a Mad Max remake on the water, only with a completely unlikeable hero. I mean, am I supposed to root for Kevin Costner's character? The guy was a complete tool bag. Mad Max was awesome, hence what was a silly post-apocalyptic film came off as awesome too. That's not my only major issue with Waterworld, the length was a problem too. If you're going to make a movie like that over two hours long, you better make it exciting. I realized after I fell asleep watching it this time that I had never seen it before without falling asleep. Still, the length would've been manageable if Costner's hero had been likable.

Photobucket

I also realized that 90 percent of the movies people try to sell me as "fun" are completely stupid, including this one. "Oh Matt, it's a fun movie. Didn't you think it's a fun movie? Better than that Babylon AD movie you liked." Actually, no it isn't, it's just as dumb. When I try to sell people on Babylon AD, I don't try to make myself look good and call it "fun", I'll admit that it's dumb as all get out, and I still love it. I think we could come a long way in this country if everyone just stood up and admitted the "fun" movies they like are often dumb. "National Treasure is a dumb movie..." "Pirates of the Caribbean is a dumb movie..." "Star Wars Episode III is a dumb movie... and I'm not ashamed that I like it." There, don't you feel better?

Jeanne Tripplehorn turned in a great performance in this, despite acting opposite a dud like Costner. The film should've been rewritten to shift the focus on her struggle to get to dry land. Her character actually had some level of nuance and likability, while Costner's character was a cantankerous moron. I have to assume Tripplehorn only did this for the paycheck and exposure, because she was too good for material like that. The girl was played by the girl from Napoleon Dynamite, which was kind of weird, because she didn't really look like a child, but just a miniature version of the girl from Napoleon Dynamite. One of the interesting things about her character was this idea that she talked too much. Everyone kept telling us how she talked too much, but she really didn't. I think Costner's character, who was supposed to be the stoic silent type, had more lines than her, even in the scenes they did together. It was like having a blond and referring to her flaming red hair the whole time, when we can all see it's not red.

Photobucket

Finally, this film sports the coolest product placement this side of Ski School's Miller Sharps boxes. Black Death cigarettes, which were what I smoked when I was a smoker back in the early oughts. I tried getting them recently, and couldn't find them, so now I keep a pack of Nat Sherman's for those sudden nicotine cravings. What was cool about living in Portsmouth, NH at that time was how cheap cigarettes were compared to Mass and Maine. They still are, but they've gone up. I could get Black Deaths for $5 a pack back in 2004, now I don't think you could get Camels for that much in NH. Definitely not in Maine or Mass.

Waterworld is currently available on Netflix's Watch Instantly, so if you're getting nostalgic, that's an easy way to check it out. One thing that is worth watching it for, if you haven't seen it in a while, is to see what films were like before computers took over. This was kind of a last gasp, and I have to feel if it was made today, Waterworld would've been shot primarily in front of a green screen, which would've removed even the little charm it had.

For more info: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0114898/

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Circuit 3: The Street Monk (2006)

Photobucket

I was trying to think back to the archives to see if there was another film like Circuit 3: Street Monk, where I reviewed it despite the fact it wasn't available on the retail market here in the States. Dolph's Retrograde comes to mind, but that was rectified last year, and now you can even get that on Watch Instantly on Netflix.

Circuit 3: Street Monk picks up where Dirk Longstreet (DTVC Hall of Famer Olivier Gruner if you didn't know) left off in part 2. It seems like his girlfriend didn't survive that coma she was put in by that film's baddie, and Dirk has given up, living a nomadic lifestyle completely off the grid out of his van, searching for the next great wave to ride. He supplements this lifestyle through illegal underground fighting, which we see at the beginning. Anyway, while surfing, a young girl who was sold by her step-dad to white slavers escapes to the beach, Gruner saves her, and a bond forms. When she's captured, Gruner must fight again to save her. Of course, what he doesn't know is his wife is actually alive, but his off-the-grid life means no one can tell him.

Photobucket

Maybe there's a reason why certain films aren't released here. This was made on what looked like a shoestring budget, and I can't imagine after that that there was much left to pay for distribution. Beyond Gruner, all you had was Jalal Mehri, who also wrote, directed, and produced, so I imagine he was cheap, and then the main baddie was Jason Carter, who's a Brit you might remember from Babylon 5 or 90210. The best they could do for a fighter for Gruner at the end was James Lew, a major That Guy who is seldom in any film for more than a few scenes and seldom for anything more than a member of Cary Tagawa's. I had trouble accepting this was made in 2006, because the film quality, dialog, and clothing, looked more like 1999.

And with that lack of talent, the action suffered. Gruner had a few moments, but he could only work with the scraps he was given. The first two were just more complete films. I have to feel like maybe Gruner and Mehri would prefer I didn't get my hands on this, because I'm sure they'd rather no one knew about it. If you go to imdb, Gruner's not even top billed. That being said, this could've been a little better. A lot of the ideas were just dipped in wrong sauce. Gruner fighting with a surf board may sound cool in the meeting room, but on screen it looks silly, and someone needed to fix that, ie cut it out. In another scene, Gruner is stomped by some surfers after the baddie's goons pay them. In response, Gruner runs out to the water where they're surfing, swims underneath them, and grabs them one at a time and brings them below the surface. Who knows what it accomplished, and who knows why the baddies paid the surfers to stomp him, because they didn't do anything after either. The movie was more moments like that than good ones.

Photobucket

Gruner's current imdb photo is for this film One Night, which is in post-production, and which marks Gruner's directorial debut. Of the five films between that and 2006's Crooked, only one, Brother's War, was available over here, including Circuit 3. That's not a good ratio. We know the Albert Pyun directed Tales of an Ancient Empire will be released here, but still... I guess in one case, Blizhniy Boy: The Ultimate Fighter, a promising film with a solid cast, the film went bankrupt and is now in limbo, probably never to see the light of day. How does that happen? The film lists, in addition to Gruner, Tagawa, Gary Busey, Eric Roberts, Martin Kove, and Bolo Yeung. You'd think a distributor like MGM would scoop that and make money on those names alone. Anyway, in Circuit 3, Gruner was pretty hilarious. He looked like teen poser rocking his Quicksilver beach visor. Again, someone should've stepped in and stopped that.

One reason why Circuit 3 wasn't released might have to do with the casting of James Lew in a major part. I don't know this for a fact, but it seems that using a That Guy like that might interfere with the time/space continuum. If too many people knew that James Lew was more than just That Guy from that movie where he played a guy in a gang, the consequences could be catastrophic, and perhaps... nah, that's crazy... okay, I was just thinking, it might mean Massachusetts might elect a tea bagger backed Republican into Ted Kennedy's senate seat, but that would never happen, would it...?

Photobucket

In one scene, Gruner and the girl break into a hotel to hide out from the baddies. To make up for a lack of blankets, Gruner uses a bathrobe. I only bring this up, because back when I was like 19 or 20, me and some buddies were drinking at one of their places while his folks were out of town. I was pretty plastered, and curled up on a recliner to call it a night. Draped over the top of it was what I thought was a throw blanket, which I covered myself in. Anyway, my buddy's sister comes home and says "um... do you need a blanket?" and I was like "Oh, no, this is fine." I had no idea why she gave me a funny look, until the next morning, when I found out I was sleeping in what looked to be their mom's bathrobe. I'd forgotten all about that until that scene.

So you can't get this over here, and that might be a good thing, I don't know. The cover picture I have up there is from an Australian set of all three movies on DVD. I don't know if that will make it's way over here, and I don't really care. Unlike Retrograde, where I'm glad it was finally released, I could do without seeing this one again.

For more info: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0498335/

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

The Keeper (2009)

Photobucket

This movie was supposed to have come out in 2009, which explains the release date, despite it coming out today. That means it's been a while since the last Seagal film was released, Driven to Kill, and that was pretty good. Can he keep it up?

The Keeper has Seagal as former cop who's forced into retirement after injuries sustained when his partner tried to kill him for some drug money. Of course, Seagal being Seagal, those injuries really weren't that bad, it was just bureaucracy that cost him his job, but it also meant he had some time on his hands, so when an old friend from San Antonio needs him to be a bodyguard for his daughter, Seagal is available. When he gets there, he finds out things aren't what they seem (they never are), but it's Seagal, he's seen it all before. There's nothing he can't handle.

Photobucket

This wasn't horrible, but it wasn't great either. It had its moments, especially when Seagal first gets to San Antonio and he takes out two goons giving his limo driver's cousin a hard time. But then it falls into lull periods, and spends more time exploring a useless relationship between Seagal and the girl he's supposed to protect. That's too bad, because at the end, when Seagal dispatches the main baddie's hatchet man by taking his open hand and shoving it through the guy's carotid artery, I wonder why there wasn't more of that in the movie.

Seagal in a cowboy hat was pretty good, though. I'm not sure why he's affected this bad Southern accent. I think it's bad Louisiana, right? Dude, you're from Detroit, the Motor City needs you right now, stop pretending you're from some place else. I mean, I've never heard Iggy Pop talk with a silly Southern accent. There was definitely some of Seagal's patented "Slap-Chop" fighting technique (you're gonna love his nuts), but the director used that horrible Bourne Identity shaky camera thing with the jump cuts. It's like, I wait all movie for Seagal to tear it up, and then I can't see what's going on. Driven to Kill may have had some of that, but not as much, and it also had very few lull periods, so if Seagal wasn't Slap-Chopping, he was at least blowing shit up. We have another film called A Dangerous Man coming out on February 9 (one week after the new Universal Soldier), so maybe that will be a better one.

Photobucket

The friend's daughter is played by Liezl Carstens, and as you can tell, she's pretty hot. She was also in the Seagal film Urban Justice, I believe as the person renting him the apartment. Anyway, I can't figure out how old she is in real life, but it was really weird seeing her fall for Seagal. They never hooked up, but she was digging it. I know it's one of the perquisites of being the star of the movie, and I guess we can be happy some restraint was shown in not having the plot go to them having sex, but this was just weird. And they tried to cover the same ground as The Bodyguard, but in a poorly written Cliff's Notes version that didn't play well at all. Maybe it was that more than the May-December element of it, because the May-December thing's been around since Bronson.

The whole premise of this film is based on the idea that a contract entered into through means of extortion is still a legally binding document, ie, Seagal's friend owns land, and the baddie wants it, so he thinks by kidnapping the friend's daughter, he can force the friend to sign over his land, and then he can do with it what he wants. I know it's a movie, so I should suspend some belief, but that's pretty outrageous. Not only that, but the guy demanded five million in cash and diamonds. How does that look in the city records department? "It says here the guy not only gave away this extremely valuable land, but he actually paid this man in five million dollars in cash and diamonds to take it. That doesn't look suspicious at all." I guess in the world of action movies, where cars explode in relatively minor accidents and glass can be run through as easily as the tape at the end of a marathon, it's not that inconceivable that land transactions can be made legally through extortion.

Photobucket

This movie marks a major milestone here at the DTVC: it's the first movie I've ever seen to feature a McDonald's that I've actually been to. You can't see it on that smaller picture there, but if you click on it for the bigger version, you can see it towards the bottom center-left. I'm not sure where this movie was supposed to take place, but that right there is San Antonio. They also had a shot of The Alamo and the Riverwalk. According to imdb, the film was shot in Santa Fe, NM, and they don't mention San Antonio at all. Maybe it was filmed there, set in San Antonio, and the shots were just from something else. Anyway, it was just cool to see a McDonald's that I have eaten at in a Seagal film.

This had it's moments, and might be fun in a group, but I don't know. I guess you need to ask yourself "are a few moments worth it?" The best way to put it is, if in other Seagal films, when he's tailing someone, he'd probably end up being cornered by some thugs, and he'd take them out. In this film, he tails someone, and then goes home and talks about it in a bad Southern accent.

For more info: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1296869/

Monday, January 18, 2010

Coldfire (1990)

Photobucket

I got this on Netflix a few weeks ago, and set it aside to use at a time when I needed something to post, and now is that time. It wasn't a rough weekend, but it wasn't an easy one either, and we'll leave it at that.

Coldfire not only stars DTVC Hall of Famer Wings Hauser, but he directs it as well. It's about some drug developed by the Soviets to use here in the US and kill us from within. It seems like the perfect high, but for months after the user takes it, any stimuli that excites him or her can cause a fatal reaction. Anyway, two rookie undercover cops stumble upon it, but they do such a bad job on their bust that they get desk jobs, and Hauser takes their case. Now the rookies have to make their name and solve it on the down low.

Photobucket

This was ridiculous. It would've been decent (in a make-fun-of ridiculous way) if it had more Hauser, because he was hilarious, but instead he was directing, and spent more time behind the camera. I'm not sure I get that. There was nothing Hauser did as a director that any other bad late 80s early 90s DTV action director couldn't do, which meant we were left with less Hauser and the same lame movie. Don't get me wrong, there were some good parts, but it was long (almost two hours), and the lack of Hauser or anyone else gave it nothing to set it apart from the rest of the pack-- and with a pack as huge as the world of late 80s early 90s DTV, not setting oneself apart can be fatal.

Of course, this movie advertised Hauser. They promised Hauser. But did they deliver? Just because he's somewhere story-boarding the scenes or discussing what he wants shot with the cinematographer, doesn't mean he's in the film. The guy is always hilarious, and the few scenes he was in in this were nothing short of amazing, which made it all the more frustrating that most of the film was future soap star Michael Easton. Wings is the man, not anyone else. Another aspect of this that's frustrating is the relatively small amount of Wings Hauser available on Netflix. Most of his stuff is either only on VHS, or out of print, so for one of the few ones available to be a dud really hurts. What that means is I need to hit the pavement and find more of his stuff.

Photobucket

I bring up Michael Easton because this is one of his first roles. In fact, he also appeared in two other Pm Entertainment films, The Killing Zone, and the Wings Hauser great The Art of Dying. From there he went onto do some syndicated action/sci-fi TV work, and when that niche dried out, he went to the daytime soap. The one I remember him most from was Two, but there was also Total Recall: 2070. Of course, talking about syndicated TV shows, I'm forced once again to bring up the greatest of all time, Beastmaster. My buddy and I were discussing it the other day, and he made the point that the Beastmaster's sidekick was created in the mold of Gabrielle in the early Xena episodes, meaning he was useless in a fight. The question of course is, was he as hot to the ladies and gay men as Gabrielle was to the dudes and lesbian women? Man, I want my old syndicated TV shows back.

Easton has a scene with a female officer where he's trying to hook up with her, and she tricks him into letting her handcuff him to a pole by saying "are you into kink?" Kink? Is that really short for "kinky"? That's just so Wings Hauser, though, to say something like that. "Are you into kink?" and he's like "kink? uh, yeah, yeah, kink's good..." Who comes up with shit like that? "I'm watchin' a little women's bask right now." If I said that to someone who thought I was seriously trying to be cool, I'd probably get punched.

Photobucket

One thing about the 80s and 90s bad action film was the kind of damage one could endure with no lingering after effects, and Coldfire was no exception. One rookie's wife is kidnapped and when the cops go to get her, she's tied to the bumper of a car. She's also pregnant. Anyway, the car drives off, dragging her behind it. I'm talking about a pregnant woman being dragged behind a car at relatively high speeds, and when all is said and done all she has are some scratches and a dirty face. I don't know why, but I love stuff like that. I'm sure the stunt men and women didn't, but just so all you stunt men and women from the 80s and 90s know, there were a generation of kids who loved what you did.

Skip this. It seems great, but it so isn't. Also, you may see a trailer for it on any other PM Entertainment DVD, and the trailer looks awesome. Don't let that fool you, this is one film that doesn't live up to the trailer, even on the Hauser level.

For more info: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0101599/

Friday, January 15, 2010

Django (1966)

Photobucket

For this week's wild card post, I decided to make up for the treatment Franco Nero got in my review of Enter the Ninja. The truth is, he was The Stash for that film, but in Django, he was something else-- a forerunner to the modern action hero, the lone gunman who can tackle seemingly insurmountable odds. So as much as this is an apology review for Franco Nero, it's also a look at one of the greatest influences on the kinds of films we love here at the DTVC.

Django has Nero as the eponymous gunslinger who enters a border town caught in the middle of a struggle between the KKK on one side, and Mexican bandits on the other. He's got a score to settle with the KKK leader, Maj. Jackson, so he starts by killing most of his men. Then he teams with the bandits, raids a Mexican fort for its gold before Maj. Jackson can get it, only to have the bandits try to keep him from his half of the gold. They catch him, crush his hands, and now he's forced to confront the Jackson in that state. Will Django do it?

Photobucket

Obviously this is amazing. There was a 13-minute featurette on the DVD, and it said the movie was banned in various countries for being so gruesome. A guy gets his ear cut off in a manner that is so fake you can see the ear on his head while the bandits shoot him. That's it. Compare that with The Dark Knight, which was rated PG-13 and made hundreds of millions worldwide, and features plenty of carving of bloody smiles, explosions, a gross burnt face. Not only that, but The Dark Knight was an hour longer than Django and actually covered less ground. What's most amazing, is comparing the heroes Batman and Django, because Batman is really cut from that Django mold, but you can see where the new Batman really misses the mark. Nero is smooth, yet vicious and cold-hearted when he needs to be. This new Batman couldn't sit in a bar and in one motion take out five guys without making it look silly-- and that hilarious voice. I still don't get what that was about. They just don't make 'em like Django anymore.

Imdb lists this as a Yojimbo remake, which I think is only partially true. I'm not talking about the film's Italian Neo-Realist influence either, I mean just in overall story. While Sanjuro comes into town with the purpose of playing both sides against each other, Django has a grudge against the Major, and his ultimate goal is to take him out. When he teams up with the bandits, his plans aren't to leave on bad terms, but when they won't let him have his gold, he has to improvise. Yes, it had Yojimbo elements, but to call it a straight up remake leaves something to be desired. Also, in the making of featurette, there's no mention of this being a Yojimbo remake.

Photobucket

Now to Mr. Nero, aka The Stash. I admit I was wrong in not calling more attention to his great work in Django when I poked fun at him for Enter The Ninja. The truth is, a lot of these Westerns, including this one, I saw a long time ago. Growing up, my dad used to watch Westerns all the time, and that was where the bulk of my exposure came from, including Django. What I realize now is at 10 I didn't have the capacity to get these films like I do at 30, plus, advances in technology, especially with unrated DVDs, make the versions of these films better now than the cut, pan-and-scan, (in some cases) dubbed versions I watched on TV.

Of all the myriad sub-genres in cinema, I think none are as fascinating to me as the Spaghetti Western. It not only gives us an idea of how another culture sees us, but it tells us what that culture values over what we value. While our Westerns depict heroes etching out order in an atmosphere of lawlessness, the Italian ones are all about the untamed and uncivilized. I think for them, their world has been a pillar of civilization for centuries before they were born, and to have this other world that's open, perilous, adventurous, with Natives and bandits everywhere, and the man who wins is the man who wants it the most, is probably romantic. We, on the other hand, look at that same world and think "let's get it on the grid, let's throw down a JC Penny, and let's make it safe for families." Our goal is for the Ghost Town to prosper, for the bad elements to be vanquished, and for the Italians, they want the Ghost Town to exist in perpetuity so they can visit and escape the civilization they've always known.

Photobucket

I was not expecting that last paragraph to be as long-winded, so I'll make this one on Italian Neo Realism short. The last scene (which I put the image of above) hit me as something very familiar, and I couldn't figure out what it was. Then, in the featurette, the set designer mentioned being a fan of Roberto Rosellini, and I was like "That's it, Flowers of St. Francis!" There was more than just that scene, it was throughout the film: the mud, the crosses, the buildings. In terms of subject matter, no, this wasn't Italian Neo Realist at all, but in terms of aesthetic, Django had it in spades.

If you haven't seen this, or haven't seen it in a while, throw it on your Netflix queue. The Blue Underground version, which is what I got from Netflix, is great, and you'll love the featurette too. One of my favorite parts of that was finding out the bad guys had hoods because the only extras they could get were ugly people, because another film in the area beat them to all the good looking ones.

For more info: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0060315/

Thursday, January 14, 2010

No Code of Conduct (1998)

Photobucket

I had forgotten this one was in my queue for a while, but when RepoGenetic put in a request for more Mark Dacascos this year, I found it again when I did a search of him on Netflix. The star power alone made this a must see, with the aforementioned Dacascos, Charlie Sheen (as Charles), Martin Sheen, Bret Michaels, and the great Paul Gleason. This just couldn't go wrong, could it?

No Code of Conduct is a tedious crime drama about Charlie (Charles) Sheen as a disgraced cop whose wife doesn't like him and whose dad (Martin), who's also his boss, wants him to get his shit together. One night, while accompanying his partner, Dacascos, doing some vice work, they fall into his dad's drug investigation, when one of the dealers picks up an undercover cop as a prostitute. Now the drug case is blown wide open, and Sheen wants to see it through, while his dad is wondering why his superiors, Paul Gleason and the sheriff from Murder She Wrote, are stonewalling him.

Photobucket

Wow. All that talent, and the best you can do is bore me to sleep for the first forty-five minutes, and barely make up for it with a decent last half-hour. I mean, after the first five minutes, where there's a drug deal gone bad, I'm thinking, this might not be so bad. But suddenly I'm transported into a world of poorly written, endless dialog inundating me with useless backstory and undramatic drama. It just goes to show, you can line up all the acting talent you want, but if the story sucks, you got nothing. Oh, and before I forget, the head baddie was played by the sheriff on Murder She Wrote. Not only that, but the good guys don't take him out, he dies when he's unable to properly back his van out of a parking garage and it explodes. I am not kidding. Even Harold Pinter couldn't make that work, so it wasn't all writing that was wrong with this.

Of course, at the DTVC, we work hard to dispel the myth that bad writing makes for a bad movie experience. We frequently showcase films with zero acting, directing, or writing talent, and we frequently extol the virtues of those films. That's because the people who make the ones we like know their shortcomings, and make up for it with plenty of mindless action, or ridiculous gore. That first forty-five minutes in No Code of Conduct that bored me to death could've been scrapped and made into some great action scenes. You've got a great talent like Mark Dacascos, why not have him and Sheen get into a bar room brawl? You can tell me all you want that that kind of thing happens in every bad action film, but you didn't do any better-- in fact you did worse, because you just made a bad action film with no action, which is even worse.

Photobucket

So I have to apologize to RepoGenetic for this first Dacascos effort of 2010, because he's completely wasted here. I just don't even know why you cast Dacascos-- I don't care if he's doing you a solid or helping out a bud in their independent production-- if you don't utilize his strengths. One of the baddies showed some knife skills early on, why not have him fight it out with Dacascos, instead of they way they killed him, by running him over. Just another way this film was totally sautéed in wrong sauce.

In watching this, I have to re-imagine the world as it was in 1998. Martin Sheen was a year away from The West Wing, Charlie (Charles) Sheen was two years from taking over for Michael J. Fox in Spin City, and five from Two and a Half Men being the hit that would bring him Hanes commercials with Michael Jordan and what not. Even Bret Michaels was still trying to make sense of a world post Hair metal, as Rock of Love was still a long ways off. It just shows how quickly one can be done and come back. I mean, Charlie Sheen had resorted to calling himself "Charles", how hilarious is that?

Photobucket

I forgot to capture an image of Joe Estevez. He was great. He played some guy named Pappy, was overweight, and had these stubby little fingers. More than anything, he looked like disgraced former Texas Tech head coach Mike Leach. I'd love to see a biopic about Mike Leach made with Estevez in the lead role. You could really play some of the better angles of the story, like Leach's obsession with pirates, or his press conference where he said his players needed to stop listening to their "fat little girlfriends". The question, of course, is whether or not Joe Estevez would have time for a movie like that. Since this came out, he's been in 97 movies, including 13 that are still in various stages of development.

This does not live up to the star power it advertises. A decent last twenty to thirty in no way makes up for an excruciating first forty-five. Poorly written, no good action to make up for it, a total waste of Mark Dacascos' talent, and the hilarious casting decision of the sheriff from Murder She Wrote as the baddie, adds up to a whole lot of bad.

For more info: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0131502/

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Revamped (2007)

Photobucket

This one caught my eye because it had Martin Kove and Fred Williamson. Of course, I mistook it for another film in my queue, Kiss of the Vampire, which has Martin Kove and Gary Daniels. Sometimes there are just too many movies for even the self-professed connoisseur to keep them straight. Of course, I now want to do Kiss of the Vampire, but I also have another Gary Daniels film in Riot I want to cover, and the Kove classic To Be the Best... so many choices, so little time.

Revamped has Jeff Rector (who has done his share of vampire flicks) as a rich dude who finds out his wife is cheating on him with Kato Kaelin (I'm not kidding). So he hatches this brilliant scheme to become a vampire-- which he can do through a commercial service offered by vampires to turn any mortal looking to join up-- and fake his death, return to life, and get his revenge. Things don't work out when he forgets she'd need his estate to pay for the funeral, so being cut out of the will, she can only afford to cremate him. His ashes are brought back to life five years later, and the world is different: vampires and humans are at war. Now it gets convoluted, and we have half-breeds, government slayers, etc. all vying for power, and Rector is the only one that save everyone and take out all the baddies.

Photobucket

This started out like a comedy, and on that level it worked. But then there were all these layers that were tough to follow and seemed extraneous. Not to mention it made the film boring in parts, and even the action that was there was kind of lame. So if the comedy and action are lame, then we need either the horror/gore or the sexiness to step up, and neither really did that either. That's too bad, because the initial idea of a company that sells as a service vampires turning humans into vampires, plus the some of the other comedic elements that they went away from, worked. Sometimes less is more.

And that's a shame, because Rector, Kove, and Williamson were all great when their roles demanded they be off-beat. Kove and Williamson especially are two guys that have been around for a while for a reason-- because they're good. The problem is, they're only as good as the material they have to work with, and this material was too all over the place. I think maybe the comedy was where they should've focused, because that was where they did their best stuff, and as such, it was where Williamson and Kove were able to do their best work too.

Photobucket

This is actually the most recent film available with Fred Williamson in it, and he's not in it much. I'm waiting for Spaced Out, a film he did with Robert Z'Dar, to come from Netflix, but I think if I'm going to really showcase what Fred Williamson is all about, I need to go further back in time, to the 80s and 90s. One that I have in my instant queue is The Big Score, which also has John Saxon and Richard Roundtree, so maybe I'll do that one in a couple weeks.

I would've liked more Martin Kove as well. He is someone, along with Richard Lynch and Robert Z'Dar, that I'm looking to feature more this year, so it's unfortunate that the first one out of the gate in 2010 has him in it in a limited capacity. Still, when he was there, he was good, and he also played a good guy, which was a different turn for him. We'll see if we can't improve upon this, whatever the next Kove film is.

Photobucket

One of the harder parts about doing the DTVC is getting images for the films I review, especially off DVDs. I should probably buckle down and pay for a good movie player for my computer, like say register my version of WinDVD, which worked well in the trial phase. As it is, I'm using a Beta version of BSPlayer, and often it won't open the part of the film I need for the picture I want; and with this film it wouldn't open anything at all. I was able to go to the film's official website, http://www.revampedthemovie.com/, and though they weren't the exact pics I wanted, they did in a pinch. I'm not sure how they or any of the other people who make the movies I review feel about me putting images of their films on here. Albert Pyun didn't seem to mind when he commented about liking what we do, so I take that as a good sign. At the very least, I'm getting the name out there for all of these films, even if I'm giving them poor recommendations.

For a film that started out so well, it was disappointing to see it fall off as it did. It wasn't atrocious-- I mean, I've seen much worse here-- but it suffered too much from an identity crisis. It tried to cover too much ground in one story, and ended up covering very little and leaving more to be desired. Still, it was an interesting take on the vampire genre, so they should be given credit for the effort, even if the film itself fell short.

For more info: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0918558/

Monday, January 11, 2010

New World Disorder (1999)

Photobucket

I saw this from somewhere in the middle of it on TV a long time ago, and was intrigued by the idea of 80s Tiger Beat mainstay Andrew McCarthy as a bad guy. But I lost track of it, started the DTVC, and my attention was taken by other things. I never forgot about it, though-- I was just never sure it really existed, chalking it up to an overactive imagination and falling asleep with the TV on-- I must've only dreamed Andrew McCarthy was a bad guy in a bad DTV actioner, it can't be real. Then I look through Netflix for any Rutger Hauer flicks I may have skipped or to see if he had anything new out, and what do I come across? You guess it, New World Disorder, starring Andrew McCarthy as the baddie. Oh, be still my heart...

New World Disorder has McCarthy as this gang leader who steals microchips and sells them on the black market. He just so happens to rob a factory while two dudes are finalizing a multi-billion dollar program that would give the possessor the ultimate in Internet security. One of the men dies trying to protect it from McCarthy, and the other hides, McCarthy thinking he's dead. Enter Hauer as the local cop with no computer savvy, and this hot shot FBI chick who's all about computers. They clash at first, then fall in love-- the usual fare-- but at the same time, it's a game of deadly cat and mouse as McCarthy and the cops try to get their hands on this program.

Photobucket

Pretty good, but not in a serious way. Probably funniest was how everyone had their data stored on Zip disks. Remember those? I think our high school year book was stored on one, and we thought ourselves the height of technology. McCarthy as a bad guy worked as horribly as you'd expect, which of course meant he worked perfectly in terms of the humor quotient. I'm not sure if the person who made this has seen Mannequin or Pretty in Pink, nor am I sure he or she has seen The Hitcher or Blade Runner, but Rutger Hauer is a legit bad ass, and Andrew McCarthy isn't, and when you try to get postmodern with it and switch the roles, it's just funny, and not in a good way, like Pierce Brosnan singing in Mama Mia!. Also, the classic late 90s techno geekdom was funny too. There's the perfunctory club where everyone is in latex or PVC clothing dancing to bad Aphex Twin wannabes, the young expert computer hacker, and all the cute animations telling us what all the programs are doing. You'll be partying like it's 1999.

Rutger Hauer was great. He's one of those rare actors that works in a big screen multi-million dollar production or a cheap sack of asscrack like this. In fact, he's the one who delivers it from sack-of-asscrackdom. As he's gotten on in years, his roles have been fewer, and the Rutger Hauer bait-and-switch has been more prominent, so it's good to go back to the 90s, when seeing his name on the cover meant seeing him for more than ten minutes in the movie. Total Hall of Famer in every sense of the term.

Photobucket

Tara Fitzgerald is supposed to be a hot shot kid showing Hauer the ropes in the computer world. In fact, though she was 32 when this was made, her character was 26, but she didn't look 26, she looked more like 32. I know older people play high schoolers all the time, and six years isn't that big of a deal, but here it kind of was. People tell me all the time that I don't look like I'm 30. I used to take it as a compliment, but now I understand better what they mean. There's no difference between looking like 27 and looking like 30, it's the word that 30 that sounds old. When someone looks at me and is surprised, it's because they don't associate 30 with looking like 27, they associate it with looking like 35. I guess what I'm saying is at 32, Tara Fitzgerald looked, at least in this film, like 35, so she didn't pass for 26 at all. I'm not saying she's not hot-- all right, I'll stop while I'm behind.

Is it wrong that Jefferson Starship's "Nothing's Gonna Stop Us Now" would start in my head every time I saw McCarthy on screen? The best was how he'd still do that wide-eyed stare at people for no reason like he did in his heartthrob roles. He'd be like getting ready to torture someone for information, and his eyes would get all wide, like they did when he talked to Kim Cattrall in Mannequin. Speaking of Mannequin, I had a conversation with someone the other day who was describing that movie to me as if I'd never heard of it, because I guess she hadn't. It was surreal, like me telling all of you about this movie called Indiana Jones where Harrison Ford plays some kind of archaeologist adventurer or something. She was like "Kim Cattrall I guess was in it, but I didn't really recognize her from Sex in the City, and the deal was she'd turn into a person, but only Andrew McCarthy could see her... it was weird." I was kind of stunned at first, then replied "yeah, Mannequin, it was a big deal when it came out. You've never seen it?"

Photobucket

Finally, I want to vent about one of my pet peeves in movies: bad guys who are suddenly dumb for the convenience of the plot. I think I may have brought this up a long time ago, but this time it was so egregious I couldn't let it pass. What happens is McCarthy kidnaps the FBI agent so he can exchange her with Hauer for the program. At his hideout, he has her taped to a chair and gagged so she can't warn Hauer of her whereabouts while they're on webcam. Perhaps she looked more like Jerry Lewis in King of Comedy, but the point was, she was restrained so she couldn't adversely affect McCarthy's plans. Fast forward to the end, where McCarthy is holding her, completely unrestrained, at gun point, as he confronts Hauer. You can guess the rest, she hits the gun out of his hand, and Hauer takes him out. It just makes no sense. It's not like they were in public and her being tied up would've drawn someone's attention, they were in McCarthy's hide out! Who thinks of this kind of dumb stuff? We're supposed to believe that this criminal mastermind who carries off all these complicated computer chip heists can't think to at least tie his hostage's hands behind her back, when he already had her tied to a chair earlier? And this kind of thing happens more than I can count in movies like this. It just makes no sense.

Okay, enough of that. I do think this is worth throwing on your Netflix queue. Hauer is great, the time warp to 1999 techno geekdom was cool to see, and of course, there's Andrew McCarthy as a baddie. ... And we can build this dream together, standing tall forever, nothin's gonna stop us now... Sorry if I got that one in your head.

For more info: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0174982/