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 8, 2011

Total Reality (1997)

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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/

9 comments:

  1. Honestly, I liked this movie and while the action was more or less adequate...This sold me on David Bradley. Indeed, I just wish he would've used this talent more in his earlier career. It reminds me of Vinny Testaverde, who had a 40 interception season and was pretty bad only to show he was a decent QB. Ergo at the end. Indeed you can't tell me that you weren't a little sad and moved by Bradley's last scene. A scene by the way that was his goodbye to B.movies. (This was his last role) His character was tragic on a lot of levels and his line "Don't look at me I only work here" after this breaks morale with troops, when he tells them that if they fail, they'll just send a new batch of soldiers. I would actually recommend it, just because I found this character so well written, well acted and indeed appealing. Though not without reserveration. What this needed was a more focal point villain, a more explained reason on why the guru's self help books lead to such totalitarian society. Also the villain while well acted is barely sketched enough as to we don't know why, plus there is no real vengeance angle on Bradley's side, even though he says "You took so much away from me" when in reality, the bad guy was opposing the government and had to leave said kids behind to fight with the cause. Indeed I liked the ambition with giving it a downbeat ending, I also liked that the movie has a lot of intriguing ideas. It's one of those movies you wish would've been given one more script rewrite. The thing is, the science fiction angle has so much potential. So while I liked it, I can say it could've been even better and that's it is a shame it's not. Still I liked it to give it a marginal recommendation. Most of it because of Bradley's surprisingly convincing performance. Like, you go into this thinking Bradley is a wooden action guy only to be like, he can act. Compare this to say American Ninja 3 and yeah...

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  2. As always, I dig your insight into these things, and I wanted to like this movie for the reasons you gave, but it just didn't quite have it for me. The gun fights for instance were so bad, and to me there was more bad than good. But I agree completely that Bradley was great, again, I just wanted more martial arts. White Cargo is one that I'd rate higher as far as his later work goes, but you're right, compare either of those to an American Ninja 3, and it's like night and day.

    And I like the Vinny Testaverde analogy. What does that make Dolph, Tom Brady?

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  3. This film actually sounds similar to Timecop 2:Berlin Decision(which i'm sure borrowed more then a little from this film), that film actually tackled the issue of going back in time to kill Hitler head on in the opening scene. Anyways i'll check this out for the sake of completing Bradley's filmography(BTW American Ninja 3 wasn't all that bad, at the very least it was better then part 5)


    Also this was Bradley's last film? I thought his last film was "Crisis" which was directed by Jala Merhi and featured Cameron Mitchell Jr.

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  4. No Dolph Lundgren is more Peyton Manning, in that he is consistent but he's on a team that is = to the 1990s Detroit Lions. Ergo the movies Dolph is in, isn't quite as good as his talents...except for his early stuff which is awesome.

    As for the Tom Brady of such, I'd argue Van Damme. In that he has made such great movies like Bloodsport, Cyborg, Kickboxer etc that we don't notice as much when he has a bad game. Like the way Tom Brady did in the playoffs two years in a row. Actually I don't know, I want to give Chow Yun Fat such an award but he hasn't made a DTV yet.

    By the way, I still owe you a review for Thanksgiving.

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  5. Dolph as the Peyton manning huh? I always put him as the Babe Ruth, and it's hard to find an equivalent to Ruth in football. Jim Brown might be the closest, but Jim Brown makes DTV flicks too! Also, I'm not sure I'd make Van Damme my Brady. Brady does a lot of the dirty work to win and makes it all about the team, while Van Damme cares more about himself being the star. Van Damme is like the TO, immense talent, but doesn't work well with others. I still like that Bradley/Testaverde analogy best, and maybe it doesn't quite extend to the best ones.

    And does this mention of a Thanksgiving review mean you might be posting again? I'd actually forgotten all about it because the Pats stunk it up hardcore against the Jets. I'm actually looking forward to the Lions more than the Pats this year-- almost.

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  6. Good review! Haven't seen this one, but will skip it for now. The last Bradley i saw was the awesome Hard Justice.

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  7. Thanks man, and yeah, Hard Justice rocks. I have it in my top ten DTV flicks of the 90s.

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  8. There are quite a few rumors about Bradley. What I know for pretty much certain is that Total Reality was supposed to have a few more fights, but they simply ran out of money. Also, Expect to Die and Crisis from Jalal Merhi were Bradley's last films. Horrible stuff. Apparently Bradley was suffering from a back injury and heart problems then, so those films have little-to-no action.

    Bradley is supposedly on Facebook, but, in these days, who can tell for sure? He did appear in the trailer for "Dagger: Operation Montenegro" in 2009. It was apparently made to raise enough money to make the actual movie, but that never happened. Some say he was forced to retire due to injuries, some say he found religion... Who knows. I hope some reputed webzine would track him down and do an article. Perhaps an article about the "American Ninja"-phenomenon, now that Dudikoff is making something of a comeback?

    As for Ely Pouget, here's a recommendation: Endless Descent aka The Rift. A fun underwater Alien/The Thing-clone with Jack Scalia, R. Lee Ermey and Ray Wise (you know, the dude from RoboCop who pushed the acid creep away so Bitches Leave could run him over), some nice effects and a good score from Joel Goldsmith. Good stuff.

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  9. We'll be getting to Expect to Die and Crisis at some point down the road, along with the rest of Bradley's films. It would be interesting to find out what happened to him.

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