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 29, 2011
700 is an interesting milestone number. It's not as big as 750, which is huge, because it's three-quarters to 1000, but it is something worth noting, and I figured I'd take the opportunity it affords to review a movie that has a very DTV pedigree, but did extremely well at the box office. Produced by DTVC Hall of Famers Golan-Globus for Cannon films, it was then picked up and distributed by Warner Bros., where it went onto gross almost $50 million domestically, and much more worldwide and through video rentals and sales. A big part of that was the star power of Sly Stallone, who also penned this, but it was a pretty sweet actioner too. Of the many reviews of this on the Internet, our friends Ty at Comeuppance Reviews, Simon at Explosive Action, and Kenner at Movies in the Attic (in his Stallone Binge) are three worth checking out. (And if anyone else has done this, by all means, drop the link in the comments section.)
Cobra has Stallone as Marion Cobretti, aka Cobra, a badass who wants to clean the streets, but feels like bleeding heart liberals are getting in his way-- or not. Anyway, a serial killer is slashing up women, scaring the people of LA, and causing all kinds of panic. Turns out it's a whole army of people doing the killing, and supermodel Brigitte Nielsen catches leader Brian Thompson and co. in the act of cleaning up after a murder. Now they want her dead, and will stop at nothing to do that. Only Cobra has the skills it takes to take them down, and that's just what he plans to do.
I hadn't seen this in years, but I gotta say, I think I like it even more now than I did as a kid. It's way over the top (I know, another Stallone/Cannon collaboration) in it's action, with massive explosions, gun fights, and car chases. It's a sweet case of 80s excess. Yes, it has some misguided political overtones that I'll get into later, but overall, this delivers everything we want from a bad action movie, from the hero, the baddie, the distressed damsel, the one-liners, the fantastic 80s soundtrack, and the balls to the wall excitement. This is what you came for, and Stallone and Golan-Globus don't disappoint. Also, love Cobra's car-- too bad it had to go in a too sweet chase scene!
As you've probably heard me say multiple times on here, mixing politics with action movies is often a losing proposition. I put it behind letting the plot get in the way and casting annoying kids as the worst bad action movie offenses. Here we had some really misguided, misinformed statements about the state of the justice system in 1980s America, from the idea that judges undermine police officers by being too lenient on criminals-- ask all the people who were wrongly convicted at that time that were exonerated by DNA evidence later how they feel about that--, to the media wants to turn criminals into victims-- including an absurd and implausible scene where a reporter berates Stallone for killing a guy who held the patrons of a supermarket at gunpoint and had killed hostages himself; no one has sympathy for that kind of criminal, and the media always vilifies perpetrators like that and has no qualms with the cops killing them--, to finishing with the classic "Brian Thompson will just be found insane and get away with all this"-- which is so dumb I can't even imagine Stallone himself believed that crap when he wrote it. The thing is, this is one of the rare cases where the bad action is so good it transcends these shortcomings. It's like dating the crazy girl that's hot and good in the sack-- you can handle a little psycho texting and stalking when everything else is so hot.
One thing I didn't notice when I was younger that I see now is how great the cinematographer and director infused these Hitchcockian suspense shots. This is the kind of stuff we want from a good horror movie, and it's here in Cobra for Christ's sake! Really amped up the tension for me, and made Brian Thompson that much better a baddie. A good bad action flick is only as good as its baddie, and Thompson is one of the best, but it's always cool to see a film maker taking it that extra mile, and not leaning on his or her actors so much. Modern DTV, with its penchant for using former actors and stuntmen as directors, could learn from casting directors and DPs that know what they're doing, and can add that extra layer, like we see here.
It doesn't get much bigger than Stallone in 1986. Arnold Schwarzenegger was right there with him, and then maybe Bruce Willis after Die Hard in '88, but after that there's some drop off. I have a feeling Van Damme didn't do The Expendables in part because he's always seen himself as on Stallone's level, but we all know that's not really accurate, and taking a bit part in Stallone's movie would have been a not-so-tacit recognition of that fact. The thing with both Stallone and Schwarzenegger was that they felt like they had to not only top each other, but top their own previous work. Everything had to be bigger, badder, more explosive, and eventually the kind of action movie they did imploded under its own weight. But now we've had 15 to 20 years to get that out of our system, and Stallone has come back to us with the kind of stuff from the late 80s/early 90s that we loved, with both The Expendables and Rambo. What I like about something like Cobra though, is that we get to experience 80s excess as it's happening, and guys like Stallone and Schwarzenegger are still in their prime.
This movie was brought to you by Pepsi. This movie was paid for by Pepsi. In this shot you have some Coors too, but mostly this was brought to you by Pepsi. The volume of Pepsi product placement is astounding-- it's like a frickin' football stadium here. I gotta say, though, if Pepsi advertised like this and got rid of their dumb commercials-- and they have some of the dumbest on TV-- I'd buy their shit in a heartbeat, and I don't even drink soda anymore. Same goes for Coors. Get rid of the stupid cans that tell me when they're cold, and the even dumber commercials advertising them; or worse, those annoying ones with the sanctimonious Sam Elliot voice overs; and replace them strictly with DTV action movie product placement, and I'll be a Coors drinker for life. Alas, none of this will ever happen, and so I'm left with water, coffee, and PBR.
All right, before this turns into free adverts for Pepsi and Coors, I better wrap this up. This is a classic bad actioner, and despite some shortcomings, it's a blast. Currently you can check it out on Watch Instantly, but this is one that's worth having in the collection, even if it's only a cheap used DVD or VHS. Also, I'll be saying this again in 50 posts, but I just want to thank everyone for supporting the DTVC, 700 posts and counting!
For more info: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0090859/
Thursday, July 28, 2011
This is it, our last Don "The Dragon" Wilson DTV flick. After this review we'll have had them all. I saved this one for last because, even though it's a PM Entertainment flick, it's also a family picture, and we really don't do family pictures here at the DTVC. It's solely to complete Wilson's DTV filmography that we're reviewing it-- though a PM Entertainment family movie does intrigue me.
Hollywood Safari follows a family of animal trainers that keep their animals inhumanely locked in small cages, then send them out to Hollywood movie sets and force them to act in movies-- and those are the good guys! The bad guy: a small town deputy, John Savage, who has a power trip after he's given the job of filling in as acting sheriff, and when he catches one of the family's trained mountain lions, he erroneously thinks it's the mountain lion that attacked a kid at a nearby camp. He wants the thing euthanized ASAP so he can get the pub for it having been done under his watch, and he's going insane to see it happen, to the point he's put the family's mother in a jail cell, and is detaining the US Forest Department employees unlawfully until they kill the animal. Can the kids in the family find the real bad mountain lion in time?
This wasn't that great, and I'm not saying that because it's a family movie and not my bag, but because nothing really happens for a chunk of the middle. It is very fascinating as a PM Entertainment family movie, though, because it manages to sneak in some car chases and more danger than the average family picture. Wilson doesn't have a big role, and no fight scenes-- pretty much he's the jackass who works for the family and can't do anything right, and after the first ten minutes or so, he's done. Savage made a great douchebag style baddie, and his douchebaggery enhanced any quality this movie had that I'd like; plus Joe Isuzu plays the family's father, and Nils Allen Stewart plays a poacher; both guys were solid.
So this is it, thirty posts for Wilson, and his last DTV movie, at least for now, though for the entirety of our time as a blog, Wilson hasn't made a new movie, nor had anything listed as in development. That's too bad, because he's a solid DTV actor with a decent body of work, and guys who are older than him are still at it. Maybe he'll get a shot in the new Expendables, even if it's only a small part. I went back and looked at the other 29 reviews, going as far back as post 42 on May 10, 2007 for Terminal Rush. For me, his best one was Inferno aka Operation Cobra co-starring Evan Lurie. There's also the Bloodfists, for which he was most known. I think here, in Hollywood Safari, he might have been fulfilling a contractual obligation or doing a friend a solid, but it's more a novelty that he's here than anything.
John Savage was a great heel. I wonder if they were like "John, we need you to crank the douchebag knob up to 11, then break it off", because that's what he did. I think he must've had a bad experience with a rule crazy cop or something, and just channeled that anger. I love John Savage, in particular Do the Right Thing and The Thin Red Line, and we've done a couple of his flicks here, CIA II: Target Alexa and Firestorm.
Good ol' PM Entertainment. They found a way to get some chase scenes in and flip some cars over, which I was happy about. There was also that "just throw shit in there" mentality that we love from PM Entertainment, especially with family movie cliches, like the dog saving the family. It felt like some of the studio execs were looking over the project and saying "oh, you gotta have the dog save the day. The kids love that shit. Every kids movie has some kind of dog or something that saves the fuckin' day." Then there's the ending where the kids tell the mom that it was the dog that saved the day, and the scene cuts to a slow motion shot of the dog with some heartfelt music playing in the background, and the credits roll. It's almost as if PM Entertainment were making a parody of the family movie, pulling back the sugar coated topping to reveal a big pile of rotten cliches and over-worn plot devices. Again, as I said above, PM Entertainment doing a family movie is intriguing.
I couldn't finish this final Wilson post without dedicating at least one more paragraph to him. I was thinking about where he stands as far as the all time list of DTV action stars goes. If you're looking at strictly DTV career, and not big screen/DTV combined, I have Wilson third, behind Dolph and Michael Dudikoff. Gary Daniels could catch him, but he seems more content with playing bit parts in bigger DTV flicks than staring in his own, and though that will get him the record for most tags, that doesn't compare with the number of films Wilson has done as the main star. Seagal is 8 tags behind Wilson, but 8 more DTV movies sounds like a lot considering he just turned 60. And Van Damme can't get a movie released to save his life anymore. If either of them came close to 30 though, I'd put them ahead of Wilson just because of how much they've done for action in general, DTV and Big Screen. On the other hand, for all the movies Wilson's done, how many were that great? He has a signature series in Bloodsport, but can you think of a Wilson flick you'd put in your top ten of either the 1990s or the 2000s?
It makes for a good debate in any case-- maybe I'll write a 30-page thesis on it, but right now I'll wrap up this post and get us out of here. Not a good movie, but intriguing because it's a PM Entertainment family film with John Savage as the heel, and Wilson in a bit part. Probably for completists only. It's currently available on Netflix Watch Instantly for those in the States (and those not pissed that Netflix is raising their rates again!), and that's a pretty risk free way to see what it's all about.
For more info: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0236304/
Tuesday, July 26, 2011
"Matt, say it ain't so! An Adam Sandler buddy pic on the DTVC? It's not April 1st, is it? Did someone hack your Blogger account?" Nope, it's me here, you just have the wrong Bulletproof. This is one that features DTVC Hall of Famer Gary Busey and DTVC fave baddie William Smith. We're gonna be okay, I have no plan to sell you out for the short end cash reviewing bad Adam Sandler and Rob Schneider comedies. Also, our buddy Ty at Comeuppance Reviews has covered this one-- not the Sandler one either.
Bulletproof stars Busey as McBain, a crazy, fly-by-the-seat-of-his-pants police officer that makes his partner guzzle Pepto and his chief swear up a storm. Anyway, for some convoluted reason, the US military has purposefully sent a high-tech tank to Mexico to be captured by insurgents, along with the troops guarding it, one of whom is Busey's old flame-- Darlanne Fluegel, not LQ Jones, though the latter would've been awesome--, and it's with her capture that Army intelligence recruits Busey back out of non-active duty to be a "one-man suicide squad" (his words, not mine) to get them and the tank out, and destroy the insurgents.
This started off like it might be the best Busey film this side of Point Break, and then it did something unfathomable: it went away from Busey and stuck us with some boring developing story surrounding the prisoners. What? But I thought this was a too sweet Busey flick, how could you do that to me? On top of that, as the action got rolling again in the last 20 minutes or so, a good chunk of that was wasted by some crummy rigmarole about how Busey and his woman don't know how to use the tank. Come on guys, cut that shit out. It's Busey, he should just be able to drive it. Get on with things. It felt like watching a soccer game between Barcelona and Real Madrid, where I'm like "stop diving and pretending you're dead and play the damn game, you're annoying me!" This was annoying me too.
And that's a damn shame, because this had some too sweet Busey moments. First you have the opening scene. Busey up on a scaffolding telling Danny Trejo "I'm your worst nightmare butthorn!", and everything immediately after lives up to that line! The shootout, the chase, Danny Trejo throwing grenades out the back of an ice cream truck, then the explosion, and the angry police chief lecturing Busey. I was hooked. I wasn't expecting to get more LQ Jones and Darlanne Fluegel shackled in a dirty bombed out church plotting escapes and being defiant to baddie Henry Silva than I was more Gary Busey kicking ass. Then I thought we might be back in business around the hour mark, when Busey is roped to an enormous wooden cable spool, which Fluegel detonates a grenade next to, sending him rolling off into the sunset. Amazing! But then we're back to more silliness with the captured troops, followed by the annoying "we don't know how to run this thing!" when we know full well you're going to know how to run that thing. I'm sorry, but you can't give me that first scene and then mail it in for the rest. Come on Butthorn, let's get real here.
They kind of snuck William Smith in here on us. He's listed in the opening credits as "Bill Smith". Sneaky bastards. Not only that, but in his first scene he plays a Mannix villain whose partner is none other than Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa. It was so fantastic. Then, to make it more fantastic, he shows up in the end as a Russian military officer. Yes! How does someone make a movie with this level of awesome combined with such an enormous level of suck? I blame you, story writer Fred Olen Ray, I blame you.
I liked Henry Silva as the baddie, but they went too far and made his character too dark and realistic. I didn't get it. Load him up as a big time DTV baddie and let 'er rip. He was too obsessed with Darlanne Fluegel. He needed to be obsessed winning, like Charlie Sheen. I don't know what his ethnicity was supposed to be either. Arab? Italian? Korean? That part was good. Him raping Darlanne Fluegel, not so much.
I had to wrap up with "I'm your worst nightmare Butthorn!" Utterly fantastic, but when a film maker tosses something like that in, that's a lot to live up to, especially when it's at the very beginning. They spent that nickel too soon, but because they spent it so freely, we thought they had all kinds of cash, only to find that that was it, and we were stuck paying the bill. But that should in no way diminish how great a scene that was-- if only they could've built on it, as opposed to forgotten about it completely.
If you can get this cheap-- and that's very cheap, like almost free--, I'd do it for the great opening scene, and a few other great Busey moments. Overall though, it's more blah than butthorn, which is a shame, because it could've been fantastic. You decide how much it's worth it.
For more info: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0094813/
Monday, July 25, 2011
We're back in the Uwe Boll ring, this time with another Bloodrayne movie. I wasn't a big fan of the last one-- not really the one before that either-- but with Michael Paré and Clint Howard, I couldn't in good conscience stay off this one. Unfortunately, I realized too late that the DVD version I got from Netflix is the R-rated one, which at 79 minutes long is 16 minutes shorter than the unrated version. Keep that in mind if you've seen the latter as you read this review.
Bloodrayne: The Third Reich takes place, you guessed it, in the heart of Nazi Germany. Our heroine doesn't like Nazis, but in the process of taking out a bunch of them, bites Michael Paré, a commandant, and that turns him. That's bad news, because Pare is a kickass vampire, and after thirty minutes of nothing really happening, he decides, with Dr. Mangler's (Clint Howard) help, to create an army of Nazi vampires. Can Rayne stop them?
Wow, this could've been amazing. I don't know what happened, but the whole thing got all bogged down in a story that was useless, a bunch of monotony that was only broken up by a solid lesbian scene. Not only that, but I felt like Clint Howard was wasted. He had one good mad scientist scene, and from there he was just reciting bad dialog written by someone who speaks English as a second language, which is funny, but not funny enough. Then there was the leader of the rebellion, who was a tool, but Bloodrayne's love interest or something. Boll has this thing for casting tools as lead guys in these Bloodrayne movies. On the other hand, the beginning (after a 6 minute credit sequence) was good, and the last 20 minutes were pretty solid. If this hit a more boom, boom, action; boom, boom, action pace, as opposed to action, nothing, blah, lesbian scene, nothing, blah, action, it would've been much better.
Michael Paré is becoming something of a Uwe Boll mainstay. Here he plays the main villain, and he's pretty good at it. The problem is, he's given a bunch of bad scenes where he's trying to come to terms with being a vampire or something. They needed to cut that shit out and go right into him creating a Nazi Vampire Army with Clint Howard, providing tons of fodder for sweet fight scenes with Bloodrayne. Unfortunately, none of that happened. Still, he was a solid baddie. Paré has a pretty robust late 80s/early 90s DTV catalog that we've only just scratched the surface of (much to the chagrin of our friend Kenner at Movies in the Attic). Hopefully we'll start making more of that happen in the near future.
Nastassia Malthe reprises her role as the eponymous heroine. The thing that always betrays her is the toolbags she's cast opposite of, this time the leader of the rebellion. I can understand her wanting to get a cheap lay in with the guy while she's in a prison van heading to meet Hitler, but to take the guy seriously? That's too much. Also, for a hot action chick, she doesn't get a lot of action in. Uwe Boll needs to fix that if he plans on making a fourth one of these with a Croatian tax credit. Still, love the red streaks, black nail polish, and black leather vintage American football helmet-- hot look.
I'm a big Clint Howard guy, and when I saw him on the cast list and based on the first scene he was in, I was expecting an evil scientist worthy of a 40s/50s sci-fi/horror flick. Again, not what I got, I got a lot of bad dialog that was supposed to sound like intelligent, sophisticated dialog. Come on now. Didn't you see Ice Cream Man? Get after it Uwe Boll, and have fun with it. We don't want a serious plot driven film about vampires in Nazi Germany, especially one with a substandard plot; we want some crazy-assed shit, especially when we see Clint Howard on the cast list.
Uwe Boll seems like he should be perfect for what we do here at the DTVC, just like The Asylum or Albert Pyun; but I seem to dislike more of his movies than I enjoy them. I don't know what it is. Part of it is the bad story arcs that dominate what should be fun bad action and horror; and part of it is the casting decisions he makes. Here it was the leader of the rebellion. Then there's an annoying doughy guy he used in Bloodrayne II and Far Cry. It's like he's a good idea at the time, but in the execution he doesn't work.
And therein lies the rub. While this had pieces that worked, it had more that didn't, and ultimately made it something I couldn't recommend. That's too bad, because I wanted to like this, and I should've liked this. Uwe Boll just couldn't get out of his own way.
For more info: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1153546/
Friday, July 22, 2011
This is one we've been waiting for for a long time. First off, I absolutely love the game. My buddies and I used to play Tekken Tag all the time in my dorm, and I would clean up with the Kings (not knowing until later that the game was unfairly weighted in their favor-- though I prefer to look at it as me being so awesome...); second, and almost as important, DTVC Hall of Famer Gary Daniels plays Bryan Fury, which was something I needed to see. Finally, Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa was cast as Heihachi, which just seems like a perfect casting choice.
Tekken follows the young Jin Kazama, who works as a high risk courier in a slum outside of Tekken City known as the Anvil. After he transports some vital Tekken technology to an insurgent group, Heihachi's son Kazuya sends troops in to get Jin, killing his mother Jun instead. Jin swears revenge on Heihachi, and to get that revenge, enters the Iron Fist fighting tournament. Kazuya smells something fishy about this new kid, and while wanting to take over his father's empire, he wants to stop this Jin kid at all costs.
The hard part here is parsing out the Me as a Tekken fan and the Me as (wannabe) movie reviewer. The latter Me thinks this wasn't too bad. The fights were good, the plot wasn't too bad, and the cast was pretty sweet. As a tournament flick, I dug this one all right. As a fan of the video game though, this left quite a bit to be desired. First was the choice of characters. No King and no Paul, two of the franchise's biggest names. Hey, I understand if you don't want pandas and boxing kangaroos-- though I would've loved to have seen those-- but you can't leave out some of the heavier hitters too. On top of that, there were some, like Tiger, who would've made great inclusions to give this movie more umph-- in Tiger's case as a way to bring in some Jim Kelly style flair. With some of those characters that they could've gone with instead of the ones they did, I can see from the movie reviewer Me how this could've been a much better movie than it was, so while I liked it, I wanted to like it more.
Gary Daniels as Bryan Fury was another area that was good, but could've been better. When I think of the great tournament film heavies, Bolo Yeung foremost among them, we see them do more sinister things than just squat thrusts and busting cinder blocks-- which is all Daniels did here, and before his fight with Jin, he has only one other. Something that would've been great is to draw from Bolo Yeung's fight with Donald Gibb in Bloodsport and have Daniels beat up either Kelly Overton's Christie Monteiro or Luke Goss, and give our hero Jin that added incentive to take Fury down-- even better in the former's case, because her character devolves into a damsel in distress role. It would've been a way to both build Daniels's character, and keep Overton's consistent as a hardened fighter recouping in the hospital instead of a worried damsel in distress hoping Jin saves her.
I thought I'd devote an entire paragraph to Luke Goss, even with all of the other actors that were in this film, because in the Blood Out review I made some comments about the way he was sold to us as a tough guy and hero. This movie did everything right that Blood Out did wrong. First, they kept his English accent. Much cooler calling guys "wankers" than using American Jackass speak. Second, he was never handcuffed to a bathroom sink while dressed in a Mayberry sheriff's deputy uniform. Third, because he wasn't already starting in the hole as far as coolness points go, he had a solid base from which to build his character and make him believable as Jin's corner man and mentor. This is the Luke Goss I've been looking for, and I hope I see more of it.
Tagawa as Heihachi is an obvious choice-- few do lead baddie like he does-- but then Ian Anthony Dale as Kazuya, and John Foo as Jin and Tamlyn Tomita as Jun were equally stellar. I don't even care that Dale was playing Foo's father, and he's only 4 years older. There were hints at the end of a sequel in the works, and I hope they really bring it with those characters that much more: for instance, I'd love to see Dale playing both Kazuya and the Devil. No matter what, though, they gotta get those Kings in next go around too. I need to see me some Giant Swings.
You might not be able to see exactly what's going on in this picture, but what we have here is Butt Cleavage. Kelly Overton's leather pants don't quite fit, and are laced up in the back, revealing the top of her buttcrack, pushed together so it looks like a miniature version of chest cleavage-- or just cleavage until the advent of Butt Cleavage. I wonder if this was a wardrobe malfunction, like "oh my God, the leather pants aren't fitting on Kelly! I thought you took her measurements!" "Calm down, I'll take care of this. They don't call me the MacGyver of Wardrobe for nothing." "Who's 'they'?" Well, he or she lived up to their reputation, because this was a great save, worthy of an Oscar nod.
Did we really just do a paragraph on "Butt Cleavage"? I guess it's time to call it a post then. Overall, this is a decent tournament fighting flick, with solid and well choreographed fights, a good cast, and a nice plot. Could it have been better? Yes, definitely. But do I think you'll enjoy it? Probably, and I think that's good enough for a recommendation.
For more info: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0411951/
Thursday, July 21, 2011
This had a very limited theatrical run, earning a shade over $600,000 at the box office, but it stars DTVC Hall of Famer Rutger Hauer, and the subject matter looks like it's right up our alley. I waited for it to come out on DVD, which it did about a week ago. Let's see how it went.
Hobo with a Shotgun takes place in a fictional depraved city that's ruled by an equally depraved crime boss (Brian Downey from Lexx) and his two sons. After seeing their tyranny for a few days, hobo Rutger Hauer decides he's had enough, and wants to take the city back for the people through the business end of a pump action shotgun. Naturally, the crime boss thinks this is an untenable situation, and he wants Hauer out.
Wow, 70s Grindhouse excess in 2011, right there for your consumption. It's a lot to swallow, so be prepared. Excessively gruesome, violent, and gory, Hobo with a Shotgun doesn't pull any punches-- in fact it's more like Hans Gruber telling his men to fire on the police department's SWAT vehicle. "Hans you motherfucker you've made your point, let 'em pull back!" "Thank you Mr. Cowboy, I'll take it under advisement. Hit it again." Oh, and does it hit it again. At the end of it I felt like Clarence Gilyard was in my face saying "Oh my God the quarterback is toast!", because I was toast. Good or bad, I don't know, but I had fun, so you can take that for what it's worth.
Rutger Hauer can still carry a film as the heroic lead, even into his late 60s-- something to give guys like Steven Seagal hope. This is the kind of action hero you're rooting for from the jump, and the baddies are so bad that we need a Rutger Hauer to come in with a pump action shotgun and sort them all out. As a hall of famer, he's one of the original standard bearers, along with someone like a Klaus Kinski, who helped create and define the world of DTV so guys like Dolph Lundgren, Michael Dudikoff, and Gary Daniels could thrive in it, and guys like Jean-Claude Van Damme and Seagal could drop into it after their big screen careers were done. He reminds us of that legacy here, both that the DTV industry had its roots in the 70s Grindhouse, and that he is one of the point men that got us to where we are today. Vintage Hauer.
In the past I have gotten on films for goriness that I felt was depraved or way out of place, so it may seem like I'm talking out of both sides of my mouth for enjoying it here. Let me explain. This movie hangs its hat on extreme, out of control, borderline silly gore, and from the start this is what we're sold, and it never wavers. This is totally different from an action film that wants some cheap "dark" cred by grafting in an out of place and disturbingly bad torture scene where someone loses an earlobe or fingers or something odd like that. This movie does everything with the volume cranked up to eleven, and the gore is so over the top that it's meant purely to have fun with, not as cheap "dark" cred, and that's why I enjoyed it.
One of the funnier parts of the film came near the end, when the head baddie called in two armor clad badasses called The Plague. Look at that one, he looks like the mask from the cover of Quiet Riot's Metal Health album. Remember that bad boy? The video for "Come on Feel the Noise" also had that mask in it. Too bad Kevin DuBrow is longer with us. Here's to you Mr. DuBrow, you were one of the good ones.
This is the second film we've done recently that was released by Magnet, the other being the Wings Hauser flick Rubber. For me this is a two-for-two, but I know a lot of people have been lukewarm, or less, on both, and I can see that. Either way, I think it's great that there is a distribution house out there fighting the good fight and getting these movies out there for us to see-- and based on the fact that a lot of people have said they didn't like either or both of these, it shows the kind of risk they take financially in bankrolling projects like this. Luckily the good citizens of Canada and Halifax, Nova Scotia provided their tax dollars to defray a lot of Hobo with a Shotgun's cost.
You can get this pretty much anywhere, the question is: are you up for it? This isn't an action flick so much as an amped up gorefest/exploitation flick that's like bad horror in the style of bad action, if that makes sense. If you're thinking something like Falling Down with Rutger Hauer in Michael Douglas's part, you'd be way off, and may be upset with what you find. If not, if you're up for this, then I think you'll enjoy it.
For more info: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1640459/
Tuesday, July 19, 2011
I don't know what happened with this one. I had it on my radar, then totally forgot about it, then our buddy from down under, Simon at Explosive Action, reviewed it, but that was like a full three months ago. It's funny how a movie can get lost in the shuffle like that. Let's see if it was worth the wait.
Blood Out is your classic Hellcats/Stone Cold style scenario, with Luke Goss's brother killed by a drug cartel, and Goss goes out and gets him a couple sleeves of tats and infiltrates them to get his revenge. 50 Cent, Vinnie Jones, and Val Kilmer also appear.
This was a not-so-much for me. The action was pretty solid, and until the end fight with some odd looking gladiator guy, looked good and wasn't overly MTV edited. The big thing that got me was how bad the dialog was, and how much of it we had to slog through. One scene with Goss and Tamer Hassan was mindnumbingly atrocious, and the whole time I'm expecting a payoff, like maybe Hassan finds out what Goss is up to. Nope, it was just a "we think we write quality dialog and we're going to inundate you with it until IQ drops ten points." Come on man. The other thing was Goss as the hero. It wasn't just that I'm trying to believe a former boy bander can rock a sleeve of tats and a cigarette without any irony, but earlier on we're treated to a scene where, dressed in his Mayberry sheriff's deputy outfit, gets his ass kicked and tased by 50 Cent, then is handcuffed to a men's room sink. You can't cut that many cool points off your hero and expect him to recover-- especially not when he's already starting behind the 8-ball.
This is bait-and-switch city. 50 Cent: 1 and 1/2 scenes. Vinnie Jones: one scene at the beginning, a little more screen time near the very end. Val Kilmer: half scene near the middle, then shares a bunch of screen time with Jones, also at the very end. Instead we're treated to a guy from a national vodka commercial, sold to us as equally hardcore as Goss, and a bunch of extras from the sets of P.O.D. videos. Now, there are two variants of the cover-- or maybe one is a poster and the other is the cover-- and I included the version (the one I think is just a poster) that features Goss, and as such is more honest and less shady to us the consumer; and then there's the one that you see here, which is what most American renters will see, which has 50 cent, Kilmer, and Vinnie Jones out in front, and Goss buried in the back. I mean, how am I supposed to take Luke Goss seriously as the lead if the people distributing the movie can't even do it?
To be fair to Goss, when rocking the sleeve of tats and smoking, he wasn't so bad as the hero. I don't know, the whole squinting like he smells something funny all the time, the designer jeans and Abercrombie Gay Chic form fitting three-button henleys, the fashionable five-o'clock shadow and shaved head, it's all very "Dude in Vegas with his buddies checking out the UFC PPV." And again, if the people making the movie don't think he's worthy of selling it to us, why should we? So he starts the movie with that many strikes against him, and then the film has him weakly standby as 50 Cent beats him up, tases him, and then handcuffs him to a bathroom sink, all while he's wearing a cute little sheriff's deputy outfit-- also formfitting, like he's a stripper heading to a bachelorette party. What this movie needs-- and all other Luke Goss films for that matter-- is to infuse some of that natural English charisma that us Americans love. A thick cockney accent, lots of smoking and lots of tats (which this movie got right), and then crank up the soccer hooligan-ness to ten. I don't want an American jackass as my hero, so why try to make Luke Goss into one?
When last we saw 50 cent and Val Kilmer, they were in the excellent Streets of Blood. This is obviously nothing like that. No gritty crime drama, just re-tread of well worn territory, and lacking heavily on the Kilmer and the 50 Cent. But what Streets of Blood shows is that it is capable to make good DTV; and even when we're working on well worn territory like this was, it's still possible to make it good-- the action in this is testament to that. But again, I can't help going back to this: how seriously can you expect us to take your movie, if you're featuring on your cover two actors that have a combined 10 minutes of screen time? You can't think it's very good yourself, otherwise you wouldn't stoop so low to trick us.
I want to go back to Val Kilmer, because I really liked him as the bad guy here, even if he's barely in the film at all. He needed to be the head baddie and the focal point of the film, and Goss needed to be trying to take him down. Those bad dialog scenes would've been much better with Kilmer making the best of them, and a lot of the other weirdness of the film, like the grafted in S&M stuff, would've been handled much better by him too. Here's the thing, if you're going to have a person of Kilmer's talent in the film, you gotta use him, otherwise his scant screen time will be enough to make the actors you're giving bigger parts to look amateurish by comparison.
This had the action down-- for the most part-- but there wasn't enough, and the bait-and-switches combined with a lack of faith in Luke Goss and/or a script that emasculated him early on spelled a recipe for movie sautéed in wrong sauce. Too bad, because it looked like they had the raw materials to make something fun, just not the quality of execution.
For more info: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1477675/
Monday, July 18, 2011
I got this from Netflix as a part of a two-pack with Project Shadowchaser II. With only Frank Zagarino to tie it to the others-- that and I guess the guy who played the creepy womanizing orderly in Project: Shadowchaser was in this as one of the shipmates-- the whole thing seemed rather dubious, but the first two were pretty good, so I crossed my fingers.
Project Shadowchaser III takes place in the future, when a a ship called the Siberia goes missing. 25 years later it returns, on a collision course with a space station orbiting Mars, much to that crew's chagrin, considering they're two days out from going home. They link up with the ship to investigate, and find a mysterious, killer presence, in the form of a shapeshifting android, our old buddy Frank Zagarino. Can they make it out alive?
How many movies can you rip off in 90 minutes? Well, let's see. There's Alien, The Thing, Terminator 2, Solaris... that's four. I'm sure there're others, but that's enough for you to get the point. In DTV, it's okay to rip off other, bigger, more famous projects, as long as the movie is fun. This wasn't. It was really unremarkable, with nothing special, nothing over the top, a few funny bad movie moments, but beyond that, just a big ol' pile of blah. Not to mention, there was a lot of grossness, with Zagarino's android character's skin melting off and stuff. The only bright spot was Musetta Vander as the heroine, a Russian scientist on the space station, but that wasn't enough to save the rest of the film.
We had a major Zagarino bait-and-switch. They list Christopher Atkins's part as a "special appearance", even though he's in most of the movie. Zagarino should've been the "special appearance", and it should've been as the "Terminator Rip-off". None of the fun character we loved in the first two-- in fact, due to his odd shapeshifting abilities, he's often played by another actor. Whose idea was it to take the entire foundation Zagarino had built with this character over two movies, and dump it in favor of a bunch of cheap rip-off sci-fi characters?
The late Sam Bottoms is in this. Who is that you ask? None other than Timothy Bottoms's younger brother. I was going to go into a whole thing about how bad it is if you're leading man's claim to fame is that he's Timothy Bottoms's brother, but I saw on imdb that he died of brain cancer in 2008, and I felt like that would be in poor taste. Still, look at the progression: Martin Kove, Bryan Genesse, Sam Bottoms. In the female lead we've stayed pretty consistent, right? Meg Foster, Beth Toussaint, Musetta Vander. I was about to say "what, Frank Zagarino wasn't available?"... oh yeah, that's right-- though how cool would have been with him in the lead fighting an android built in his image?
You know when you fire up a movie, and the make-up effects or special effects coordinators get into the opening credits. It means the film makers have some crutches they plan to lean on in lieu of a solid story or great acting. In this case, it was vintage late 90s CGIs and the aforementioned gross skin melting as Zagarino the android changed shape. The thing is, in both cases, the effects weren't that great anyway, so to then ask them compensate for much bigger inadequacies was too much for them to bear. The reality is, both the computer and make-up effects can be horrible, as long as the film is fun, it'll still work.
We have a TGIF alum, Bill Kirchenbauer, also known as Coach Lubbock from Just the 10 of Us, the Growing Pains spin-off. He plays Wheels, a cigar smoking ship worker confined to a wheel chair, which goes all Christine on him and drives him to his death. That show, Just the Ten of Us, had two of Michael Dudikoff's female leads, Heather Langenkamp of Nightmare on Elm Street fame was in Fugitive Mind, and Brooke Theiss was in Quicksand. Another note on Brooke Theiss, she's married to Bryan Genesse, the star from the previous Project Shadowchaser.
The thing is, I think part 2 is worth a look, and if this is packaged with it, you might as well give it a whirl. On its own, though, I'd stay as far away as possible. Hopefully sometime they'll package parts 1 and 2, which makes more sense, because they're more alike-- and both of a higher quality.
For more info: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0114192/
Friday, July 15, 2011
This movie comes to us courtesy of the film's director, Jack Messitt, who sent me a copy of his Killer Cut for me to review, so I thank him for that. I haven't seen the original cut of the film, so I don't have a point of reference from which to compare the two, but according to him, if there's one I'm going to watch, this is the version. So without any further ado...
Midnight Movie is about a crazy man, Ted Radford (the baddie from Revenge of the Ninja), who is obsessed with the horror film he made back in the 70s. A psychologist examining him decides to show Ted his movie again, and all hell breaks loose, leading to a massacre at the mental hospital, and Ted missing. In the present, a cheap vintage movie theater has obtained a copy, and is giving it a midnight screening, prompting the investigating officer and the psychiatrist examining him to attend, hoping Ted will show up. Does he ever.
Okay, so the first 65 minutes or so, I'm thinking this is one of the best horror films I've seen in a long time. It had everything: a great roller coaster ride vibe, tension and sound effects that made me wish I was watching it in the theater, cool genre characters, funny jokes, and this really great interplay between the present and the 70s movie. But it's at the 65 minute mark, when it looks like the movie is over, that we're suddenly transported into this modern day torture porn, where the main heroine is strapped to a table and having her toes cut off. Whoa! Hey, hold the phone here! It was like the Patriots losing the Super Bowl a few years ago. They score a touchdown and go ahead, and I'm all excited, but my buddy's like "dude, there's still over a minute left", and then some scrub catches a football with his forehead and my dream is dead. It was the same thing here, I'm thinking the movie is ending, it was amazing, and it's as if that same friend were sitting next to me saying "dude, there's still almost 15 minutes left..."
So how then do we split the baby here? It's not hyperbole when I say that the first 65 minutes or so was some of the best horror I've seen in I don't know how long; but it's because horror has moved in this other direction-- the strapping a chick down and cutting off her toes direction-- that I find so little in modern horror that works for me. When the credits rolled with that SpikeTV UFC Fight Night metal band-style song, it was as if that first 65 minutes existed 15-20 years ago in another movie, and I had to remind myself how great that was in contrast to what I was seeing after. I just loved the way the bulk of the film dealt with the subject of horror movies and the whole "what if they're real?" phenomenon, the way we as kids were afraid to sleep after seeing Nightmare on Elm Street or go camping after Friday the 13th, and so to have it take such a left turn was disconcerting. It was almost like the best man toast that was so great-- until the best man mentions that guys' weekend in Vegas...
One of the things I loved about this was how well it played with the space of the old movie theater. The seats, the hallways, the basement, the bathroom, the projector room. I would've liked to see more of it actually, people's bodies dumped in the popcorn maker, or dropped from the balcony, or have their severed head stuffed in the toilet. But the essence of going to a smaller theater, the quaintness, the anti-consumerism/big budget Hollywood feel that we love about not going to the massive multiplex with stadium seating and 3D screens and $8 candy bars, was all there, and I appreciated that. Almost made me want to go to the movie theater again.
Another thing along those lines that really worked for me was the 70s-style horror movie that was shot and added into the film. The idea of the killer from a movie coming to life and killing everyone in the audience sounds like a very obvious place to go for writing a script, and something that could easily be mishandled and turned into a trite mess, but Midnight Movie did an excellent job with that aspect and actually went beyond to make it into something truly original and entertaining. It reminded me of how funny horror movies could be, but also how tense and scary, something that was a hallmark of the genre in the 80s and 90s, but isn't as common now.
The one DTV mainstay of sorts in the film was Arthur Roberts, who as I mentioned above played the main baddie in Revenge of the Ninja with Shô Kosugi. He's also done the David Bradley classic Hard Justice, and the Don "The Dragon" Wilson flick Capitol Conspiracy. Unfortunately he's gonzo after the first scene-- after he chews a chunk out of his wrist and writes some crazy crap in blood on the floor of the hospital. It's interesting that we had that over-the-top George Romero zombie-style gore there, then the bulk of the film is 80s/90s slasher style stuff, and then we wrap up with a little torture porn. You've probably figured out where my tastes lie when it comes to that stuff.
It's funny how the reviews here at the DTVC can dovetail in unexpected ways. The guy below is Daniel Bonjour. Doesn't ring a bell, does it? He played the annoying kid in yesterday's post, Project Shadowchaser II-- again, not an indictment on him, just an indictment on the roles kids have in action movies. He's grown up now, and gets to play the main heroine's boyfriend. There is a kid in this though, the main heroine's younger brother. Does my annoying kid rule apply to horror films? Pretty much. I can only think of two exceptions: Corey Feldman in Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter, and Danielle Harris in Halloween 4 and 5. I thought for a second this might be another exception, when it looked like the kid might have a part to play in the plot, but his contribution turned out to be a false resolution, leaving us back where we started. Overall, my pet peeve still stands: kids do more to hurt a film than help it; but I'll add the caveat here that the kid in this was closer to 50/50 hurt/help, as I'll get into below.
One of the things the horror film is most known for is the nude scene. A girl gets naked, and then she gets killed. This movie had a lot of women in it, all very attractive, but only one got naked, and in some ways that scene was used as a nostalgia or parody piece. Only the kid is in the theater for it, and he makes a special trip to sneak away to see it, very much like we all did at around his age, when we were too young to get porn, and there was no Internet for that kind of thing. As an adult it feels kind of perfunctory and gratuitous-- not that I'm complaining, just calling it like it is--, but this movie was able to capture that essence of twenty years ago, reminding me what the nude scene used to be to me, and that was really cool.
There was a lot of really cool about this movie, and for that reason, I'm going to recommend it. I personally thought the end hurt the overall quality, but until that point, I felt like the modern horror genre wasn't a complete lost cause, and that alone is pretty huge for me; and maybe you won't be as turned off by the toes cutting off either, it might just be my issue. I believe that the Killer Cut is not available from Netflix, only the original, so if you want to check out the Killer Cut you'll have to buy it, and I suggest you get it directly from the site, www.midnightmovie.com. The DVD has all kinds of extras, including the director's commentary, so you're getting a good amount for your money.
For more info: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0981224/
Thursday, July 14, 2011
I first saw this during TNT's movie block that used to follow Monday Night Nitro. For my money, that block combined with TNT's Joe Bob Briggs show on Saturday nights made TNT the premier bad action, horror, and sci-fi movie channel on cable in the late 90s, even slightly better than USA's Up All Night-- which was still pretty solid on Fridays and Saturdays, don't get me wrong.
Project Shadowchaser II doesn't exactly pick up where part one left off. Whereas part 1 felt like it took place in the future, this one feels more like the present. Either way, what we have is a nuclear facility taken over by our favorite android, Frank Zagarino, this time so he can get his hands on some nuclear weapons and blow everything up. To stop him, we have hapless drunk maintenance dude Bryan Genesse, along with scientist Beth Toussaint and her son (annoying kid alert!). That's about it.
This is as close to a paint-by-numbers Die Hard rip-off as you can get. Christmas Eve? Check. Geeky guy hacking into computers and using sports references? Check, this time in the form of DTV action mainstay Todd Jensen. Firing rockets on the cops? Check, Mr. Zagarino does the honors using a few SAMs. Other than that, this is pretty original, right? I was torn on Project Shadowchaser II actually, because on the one hand, it ramps up the bad action factor of the first one pretty well, from the railing kills and hatchets to the foreheads to roundhouse kicking flaming stuntmen to the shimmying scientists blasted with machine gun fire, this hits all the spots-- hell, even Santa gets it. On the other hand, there's a lot of stupid stuff, like the kid-- seriously, who watches Die Hard and says "you know what this is missing? An annoying kid!"-- and the ending where Beth Toussaint is able to out-muscle an android with superhuman strength. It feels like for every great thing the film did, it mailed it in on something else.
Gotta love Genesse though. No one does all-American Orange County pure-bred varsity letterman high school quarterback like him-- which is great considering he's Canadian! He does us better than we do, doesn't he? But that works so well when he's driving a vintage muscle car and talking baseball and staring at the baddie with a silly look on his face, or telling Beth Toussaint she has a nice ass under his breath. On top of that, he's a great martial artist. Roundhouses left and right, great hand-to-hand stuff, and a pretty solid end fight with Zagarino. Genesse is definitely a guy I plan to do more of in the future, and I have a few in mind to go to, so don't worry.
Mr. Zagarino, building on his performance in part one to give us something even better: a sense of humor? Absolutely. Man Frank-- can I call you Frank?... all right, sorry, Mr. Zagarino-- have you been holding out on us? Not just a sense of humor, but an all around great baddie. Yes, the no shirt under the leather jacket was a tad obnoxious, but hey, obnoxious is what we're here for, and it looks great with the rest of the Susan Powter motif, so rock on. Frank Zagarino, where have you been all our lives?
We're back with the annoying kid factor again. I want to make clear, this is not an indictment of the people who played these annoying kids, it's an indictment of the whole concept. What is a kid doing in an action movie? Getting in the way and being annoying. That's it, that's the whole purpose, and for me, a plot device that's only purpose is to annoy is useless and a detriment to the film. To every action writer out there drafting up treatments, if a kid is in your plot, hit the damn delete button and save us a lot of pain. Thank you.
I'm a moron (I'm sure a lot of you are reading that and saying "no shit!"). Here I am so worried about capping an image of Ted Le Plat, the guy who played the reporter in American Kickboxer I and it's unofficial sequel To the Death, that I didn't know Gavin Hood was in this as well, and by coincidence just happened to have capped an image of him getting electrocuted, which is okay, but you can't see his face. Don't know who Gavin Hood is? He directed Tsotsi, a South African film that won for best foreign language picture at the Oscars in '06 (and made my top ten of the oughts), and also directed X-Men Origins: Wolverine. Yep, and I never thought to check imdb before I sent the DVD back to Netflix, meaning that pic is the best one I have of him from Project Shadowchaser II.
But that's neither here nor there. This one is available on DVD as part of a double feature with part three-- which I'll get into when I write the review for it. I don't know, I think for all its faults, this does all right. I think it would be cool if this were paired with part one though, because they'd make a great bad movie night double feature, but unfortunately that isn't the case.
For more info: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0110901/
Wednesday, July 13, 2011
I've had this one for some time now, but put it on my back burner in order to get a few other reviews up instead. Then Netflix sent me the DVD with parts two and three, which put my feet to the fire and made me shuffle things around some. It works though, I've been meaning to get some Martin Kove up here anyway. Also, our man Ty at Comeuppance Reviews has hit this one too.
Project: Shadowchaser has Frank Zagarino as Romulus, an android killing machine designed by diabolical scientist and apparent big time Susan Powter fan Joss Ackland. Romulus has something of an existentialist crisis, and takes it out on everyone else by taking a hospital hostage that just happens to have Meg Foster, the President's daughter, visiting. The feds need to get her back, so they erroneously take Martin Kove out of his deep freeze imprisonment, thinking they're freeing the hospital's architect with the hope that he could give them some insight into a rescue attempt, only to have the team die in an elevator explosion. Now Kove is knee deep in it, but he may also just be America and the First Daughter's last hope.
This had its issues, was pretty derivative-- see Die Hard in a hospital-- but overall I think it worked in that 90s DTV sci-fi action cheese vein. I mean, you're not looking for Kurosawa when you fire one of these bad boys up, and this pretty much hit all the spots you'd want it too. It did have some slow areas, but with Kove involved they weren't too intolerable. He had fun with this, and his attitude had a trickle down affect through the cast, with everyone playing off him, and that fun translated well to the viewer. Maybe a little unremarkable, but for what it was, it worked for me.
Kove was great. He really played up that slick talking resourceful guy who finds himself in an impossible situation. We often don't get to see Kove as the hero (I know there are obvious examples of films where is the hero, I'm just saying they're outweighed by the roles he has as a baddie), so any chance we get is a bonus, because he's so good at it. I can see though why he might prefer being a baddie, because roles like this where the good guy is as fun as the baddie is a rarity-- have you ever noticed the baddie is almost always the most fun role in the film?
Frank Zagarino makes an excellent robot baddie-- though one could make the case that he's even better in part two when his character is given more of a personality. Either way, this is the role Frank Zagarino was made for. How is it that film makers don't look at this and say "man, this guy is so wooden, why don't we do a Project: Shadowchaser and cut the amount of acting that's required?" Also, love the Susan Powter look.
Meg Foster's character was one of the parts of the film I didn't care for, and not because of her, but because it was written very inconsistently. At the beginning we had a tough woman, won't take any crap, not just another pretty face/rich daddy's girl style character that worked really well. Then, as Kove's rescuing her, she suddenly turns vain, decides she needs to change into a dress and heels for her escape, completely betraying anything good the character had built up to that point. Over-writing strikes again, and make a muddled mess out of something that could've been so good-- and that's too bad, because she and Kove had great chemistry.
Your eyes aren't deceiving you, that's Kove with a glued on Grizzly Adams. It doesn't get any better, does it? Forget the goatee, the glued on Grizzly Adams is the way to go. I wonder if he's ever rocked the Grizz in any other roles? See, this is where the reader comments section comes in most handy. If you're going to dismiss discussing the movie completely to read off a list of other movies the cast have been in instead, give me something more than just "such and such was a WAY better movie IMO", give me some meat damn it, tell me some other movies that Martin Kove has been in where he rocks the Grizz. The request/suggestion box is full of movies right now, so if you want to stand out you need to bring it.
Now I'm rambling, so it's best we wrap this up. As far as I know, this is only available on VHS, and can be pretty pricey, even used. Not sure it's worth that, but this is a good one for collectors, so you may want to make that decision for yourself. For me, if you can't get it for less than $5, I'd wait.
For more info: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0105178/
Tuesday, July 12, 2011
This one first came on my radar in a search of Don "The Dragon" Wilson on imdb, and now that we're almost done with his DTV filmography (after this we'll only have the PM Entertainment family film Hollywood Safari), it was high time I got around to reviewing it. Problem was, it took Netflix forever to send it, finally shipping me a copy from Hartford after weeks of waiting. Good work out of you guys.
Trail of a Serial Killer follows Chris Penn as a disgraced FBI agent, called back into action by old buddy Michael Madsen after a serial killer Penn chased for years resurfaces. He's killing chicks and severing their body parts. But why? What is the motive? And how do they find him? There's a connection with psychologist Jennifer Dale's group therapy sessions. Is there a killer among them?
This was a plodding, more blah than good, suspense thriller yarn. Penn and Madsen were solid, but the material was well worn, no matter how much they wanted to spruce it up, and there was a bunch of extraneous BS concerning Penn's estranged family that the film could've done without, especially since they never dovetailed back in with the rest of the film. I don't know, I just need a little more than simply the killing of young women. I'm funny like that.
I was considering not starting with Mr. "The Dragon" Wilson, because he's only in the film for one scene and that's it; but he is also the film's one DTVC Hall of Famer, so why not go for it. One scene, that's it. No bait-and-switch, though, because he isn't splashed all over the cover, and doesn't even make the first page of credits on imdb; more like it's just a novelty that he has the cameo. What I hope this review does do in terms of Wilson, though, is keep anyone from seeing it listed on his bio and thinking he's in it for more than just the one scene.
I went second with Michael Madsen, even though he isn't the main star, Penn is, because Madsen is so cool-- notice the Reservoir of Dogs look he's copping in that image above. If anyone can play the Noir-ish detective in a sexy-- or not so sexy, but preferably sexy-- suspense thriller, it's him. Too bad he had to play second fiddle to Penn, because had they switched the roles, it would've added a completely new dimension to the film.
Not that the late Chris Penn couldn't hold his own here, just that he's no Michael Madsen. Still, he does pretty well, except for when the writers tossed in those inane digressions about his estranged family, which did little more than annoy and distract me. Also, as you can probably tell from the picture, Penn was rather husky. Juggly, doughy, pudgy, whatever adjective you want. At the end of the film, he has this bloody, jiggly running scene that wasn't doing him any favors. Not sure whose idea that was, but it was an idea sautéed in wrong sauce-- or hilarious sauce if you're us, the viewer.
WARNING: THIS PARAGRAPH CONTAINS SPOILERS. READ ON AT YOUR OWN PERIL!!!
One of my pet peeves is the killer twist where we find out our murderer wasn't a guy, but a woman, and we're supposed to buy that a male stuntman that was running around tackling and manhandling people much bigger than the actress that is revealed to be the killer, could've done that. Seriously, earlier in the film, the killer knocks down Chris Penn. A 100-120 pound woman is dropping Chris Penn? She'd bounce right off him! And what annoys me more is how the film makers are like: "see how clever we are? You thought only a guy could be a killer!" No, I thought only the 6-foot-tall 200 pound stuntman who was running around as the killer would preclude any 5'3" 100-pound women from being the killer. Silly me.
This isn't an easy get from Netflix, but Amazon has it both new and used on DVD and VHS for not very much. The problem is, anything more than free isn't worth it. Other than Penn and Madsen, this is pretty run-of-the-mill, and even with them the material is so bad that it can't be saved. Too bad, because those two could've been great.
For more info: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0119856/
Friday, July 8, 2011
A buddy of mine had this in his collection, I saw that it starred David Bradley, and I went for it. Did I have the highest expectations? Maybe not, but I gotta say, Mr. Bradley is growing on me.
Total Reality takes place 200 years in the future, where a self-help/cult movement inspirational book written in the late 1990s has grown into an intergalactic dystopian nightmare. Bradley works for the side of the baddies, stamping out a rebellion, but when his CO blasts a ship full of innocent civilians, he blasts his CO and gets sent to military prison with a death sentence. Thing is though, a couple rebels have flown off in a time traveling ship, headed for Earth 1998, so they can take out the dude who wrote the book and the Senator whom he's in cahoots with. Bradley now has a battle of conscience, because if he doesn't complete his mission and kill these rebels, his head will explode, but if he does, the world he knows will continue to suck.
I liked the idea of this one. It was like one of those "if you could go back in time and kill Hitler, would you?" kind of deals. The execution was off though. First and foremost, there was only one good Bradley martial arts scene. Seriously? Why not just do none at all? By doing one, you show us that you understand the concept of Bradley's martial arts, and are purposefully not using it. Second, to follow that up, the gun fights were the classic, really bad, two guys at point blank range firing obscene amounts of ordinance, with neither one hitting. Lame. Finally, the ending was a little weird, but I don't want to give it away. All I'm saying is it was weird. What we end up with is a cool concept, poorly done.
Don't let that be an indictment of Bradley though, because he was great-- though could've been better had he been allowed to by the material. I don't know what it is, but he just seems like a really good guy. Like when he saves a couple kids in a movie, it feels genuine, like he's the kind of guy who'd be good with kids in real life. I just don't get why he was cast and not given more than one martial arts scene. This was for the most part a sci-fi actioner, he was rolling around firing guns and evading explosions, why not take dudes out with some sweet martial arts? A little hand-to-hand combat goes a long way.
I have always been a fan of Ely Pouget, and she was great here. I didn't know this, but the only other film of hers we've done is Death Machine, co-starring Brad Dourif. I could've sworn we'd done another, but I guess not. In Total Reality, she played the ex-husband of the self-help guy, which brings her into Bradley's orbit as the two try to track him down. They don't have a love scene or anything though-- the weird ending precluded that possibility.
The going back in time thing is always a weird one for me. It's very messy, the idea of what is changed and to what extent. You have to assume if time travel were possible, someone would've already come back and killed Hitler or something, right? The best was this YouTube video some guy made where he analyzed a film from the 20s or something on a DVD that was shot outside of Mann's Chinese Theater. An old lady walks by, touching her head, and this dude is absolutely certain that she's clutching a cell phone. Yes, out of all the explanations of this, it's that someone traveled back in time and gave her a cell phone. It wasn't that she was touching her head because she's a crazy bag lady, was it? Has anyone else seen this thing? It's pretty funny.
Ely Pouget was not the only great actress in this, Misa Koprova played Wingate, a member of Bradley's extraction team. Absolute hottie. It doesn't get any better than a hunting vest, tight black pants, and big boots, that's what I always say. Fastest way to my heart is for a woman to wear that on our first date. Bradley had his work cut out for him here between her and Pouget, but somehow he managed to get through the movie with no love scene. Man Brads, you need a better agent-- or you could just stop making movies, which it looks like you did.
This isn't on Netflix, but Amazon has it used and new on DVD and VHS, but I'm not sure you need it in any case. This just doesn't quite have enough of anything to merit a recommendation, especially for what it would cost to procure it on Amazon. Better off passing.
For more info: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0120356/