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.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Vicious Lips (1988)

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This is one I've been wanting to check out for some time. Directed by DTVC Hall of Famer Albert Pyun, it was automatically on my radar, but then I saw some images of it on the Internet that looked really cool. It went to the back burner after I did a few other Pyun flicks, Bransmasher, Sword and the Sorcerer, and Blast. Now we're here though, so let's get to it.

Vicious Lips takes place in a cyber-punk future where a band, The Vicious Lips, gets their big break playing at the Radioactive Dreams (recognize that title?) when another band dies in a spaceship crash. This comes right on the heels of the manager replacing the lead singer with a girl he finds at a high school talent show. Now they just have to get their act together and get across the galaxy and make the gig on time.

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This one was a disappointment, unfortunately. The first thirty minutes or so were fantastic. Great music, great imagery, really off-beat, just a total fun time. Then the spaceship crashes, and the film grinds to a halt. We lose the music. We lose the action. We lose any of the fun. The film then resolves itself in a manner that was something of a cop out. (I will discuss in the seventh paragraph because it contains massive spoilers.) The first thirty minutes came off like a perfect cyber-punk, New Wave musical, and then it's literally no longer a musical, until we get to the final number at the very end, and that middle that wasn't a musical not only didn't make any sense, but didn't really work either.

The music in this was sweet. Very 80s. The Vicious Lips sounded like Berlin or Pat Benetar, and then there were a few background songs sung by a male that were more New Wave. It begs the question: why did such a large chunk in the middle go away from this stuff? The movie isn't that long-- 80 minutes-- so you figure it would've taken two songs, even if they were recycled from earlier in the film, placed at 15-20 minute intervals, and that would've gone a long way to break up the monotony.

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The other thing was the imagery. How do you not love the classic woman with three boobs? But then you also have a vintage/futuristic concert poster on the wall. There were so many great shots like that, including the one of the Radioactive Dreams nightclub that I have above; plus, a lot of the outfits and make-up were great too. And again, as with the music, we lose a lot of this in the movie's dead zone, where we're stuck on a ship set. It would've been nice to see more of these futuristic intergalactic city sets, and the eclectic looking characters that populated them.

This didn't have any of our favorite Pyun Mainstays, so anyone playing the Pyun Mainstay Drinking Game will be a little disappointed. The star of the film, Dru-Anne Perry, looked really familiar, but according to imdb, she's only done this, a previous Pyun flick Dangerously Close (one we haven't gotten to here at the DTVC), and a Matlock episode. Maybe she's done some commercials too, and that's what I recognize her from. Is it 80s of me to think she looks really hot with her hair teased up like that? We find out later that it's a wig, which is kind of a disappointment, but I guess it saves on the Aqua Net budget.

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WARNING CONTAINS SPOILERS!!! WARNING CONTAINS SPOILERS!!!

(I gotta say, writing in all caps with multiple exclamation points hurts my soul.) I wanted to separate this paragraph off just in case anyone wants to see this, because it'll ruin the ending. This movie uses the ol' "it was only a dream" device, which to me is a euphemism for "I just didn't feel like writing my characters out of this situation." It's always felt lazy to me, I don't know, and a little offensive as a viewer too. Essentially you're telling me, everything that happened didn't really happen, so in a sense, you wasted my time. I'm not saying Albert Pyun was doing that in this case-- on the contrary, I don't know of a director that has more respect for his audience than he does-- I'm sure he had his own reasons for doing it the way he did-- one that comes to mind is that the film had some MTV aspects to it, and a lot of music videos in the 80s used that "it was all a dream" device, and maybe that's what he was trying to do. The problem with that is, music videos are 3 or 4 minutes, not 80; and who knows, maybe if the middle worked more like the first 30, the dream thing might have fit better.

END SPOILERS!!! END SPOILERS!!! END SPOILERS!!!

Okay, while I'm not able to recommend this, I will say that, because you can catch it out on Watch Instantly right now, you might want to check it out on the cheap for the first 30 minutes or so, because that stuff was really good. Unfortunately we lose that in the middle, and with it, the film loses me.

For more info: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0163375/

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Final Equinox (1995)

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Our buddy from down under over at Explosive Action sent us this, so we thank him for that. You can also read his review of it here. Final Equinox features Martin Kove and Vincent Klyn, which on the surface looks sweet, but stars Joe Lara, which definitely throws up red flags. Let's see how it went.

Final Equinox takes place "in the not too distant future" (like next Sunday AD, perhaps?), where double threat David Warner-- astrophysicist and PhD in archaeology-- finds some alien artifact. That's when baddie Martin Kove has it stolen from the government, and now the government wants it back. Somehow Joe Lara is mixed up in all of this, and with his ponytail and leather pants, tries to save the day-- and the planet.

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This was a definite pain cave, and believe me, it will bludgeon you. Very little action, and what there is is pretty run-of-the-mill. Not sure why Joe Lara is the star, because he barely uses any martial arts, and is here for his acting prowess [cough cough]. Kove is a great baddie, and Warner is fun as the double threat scientist, but the plot is dull and lifeless, scenes go on longer than they have any right to, and ultimately we're left wondering why this movie was made at all. There were a few interesting ideas this movie could've explored that might have made for a better movie, in particular the idea that life was created by an alien race's Genesis bomb, but it was beyond this film's ken to go deeply into anything, yet the mindless action wasn't there to make the paper thin plot forgivable. As an aside, about ten years ago a buddy and I saw a movie called Deep Cheeks on the shelves at the local gentlemen's cinema outlet, and for years we've been calling this or that "Deep Cheeks". With that in mind, for the rest of this post, I'll be referring to this movie as "Final Deep Cheek-uinox".

Martin Kove was an excellent 90s style baddie in Final Deep Cheek-uinox. Bad clothes, cigar, willing to give the order to waste someone at the drop of a hat. We can at least say this was an improvement on Kiss of the Vampire, which for one reason or another couldn't recognize Kove for the great main baddie he is, but this had so much bad in it that even Kove couldn't save the day. Too bad.

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If you're like me, you don't understand the concept of Joe Lara. The hair, the leather pants, the pretty boy eyes, the lack of acting ability, it all adds up to "huh?" But then there's Lara here in a straight jacket with some kind of elaborate harness gag that looks like a watch or something's been shoved in his mouth. This made sense. When I think of Joe Lara, and I wonder why he's cast for this or that part, or wonder why he doesn't cut his hair because it's not doing him any favors, or why he's wearing leather pants because they make him look like a cheeseball, I see now that it all adds up to this. Without all of that, I wouldn't buy him in a straight jacket with an odd looking harness gag in his mouth getting kicked around by a prostitute or thrown out of a moving van. An odd oasis of getting it right in a desert of getting it wrong for Final Deep Cheek-uinox.

As I mentioned above, Final Deep Cheek-uinox broached a really cool idea, that some alien race planted a Genesis bomb here that started life on the planet. I guess the problem is, you'd have to account for eons of time between when an alien race would've dropped the bomb, and then would've come back to marvel at their work; or eons of time that they'd be studying their work. Maybe the better play would be that they forgot about it, or maybe they did it on another planet, and those people came here to see what we were up to. I think from Final Deep Cheek-uinox's standpoint, this is all way too complicated for what they wanted-- but maybe they should've thought of that before they bludgeoned us to death with a boring-ass plot that wasn't any better.

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Final Deep Cheek-uinox had some interesting co-stars. There was DTVC favorite Vincent Klyn, who was one of Kove's gang. He's killed by blue electricity to the temples. Then there was a poor man's Sam Jones, which, as you can imagine, is a bad sign for your movie if you can't get the real Sam Jones-- I mean, isn't the poor man's Sam Jones Sam Jones? Finally, there was veteran character actor David Warner. Who knows what he was doing here. Hopefully he thanked his agent after shooting by leaving a flaming paper bag full of dog crap on the guy's front porch.

We've completely spiraled out of control here, talking about flaming bags of dog crap and Final Deep Cheek-unox. I apologize for that, I must have a case of the sillies as I'm writing this review. That's a lot more than I can say for the entertainment value of this movie though. Steer clear of it, I suffer the pain so you don't have to.

For more info: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0113065/

Friday, August 26, 2011

McBain (1991)

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McBain just looks like a winner, with Christopher Walken, Steve James, and Michael Ironside. The question is, will it fulfill it's too sweet potential. There's only one way to find out, so without further ado.

McBain has Walken as a 'Nam POW who is still in captivity even after the war has just been declared over. As luck would have it, a small troop battalion on their way out spots the POW camp, and saves him and his fellow captives. Years later, the leader of that battalion leads a rebellion in Columbia against a cruel dictator, and is killed. His sister (Maria Conchita Alonso) comes to New York to find McBain and ask if he'll repay the debt to her brother. He does, along with some old friends.

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This wasn't bad. It had some slow parts that were just bad repetitive action scenes with Maria Conchita Alonso and the random rebels shooting at things and getting shot at back, which were tedious at best. I'm signing on for Christopher Walken, Steve James, and Michael Ironside, not that crap. There was also a less than stellar fighter jet dogfight that I could've done without. But the Walken we get is spectacular, everyone else was good too, and the action was good when it was there. I also liked the movie's message: is it better to do nothing and be safe, or get out there and do something to help others, even if it gets you out of your comfort zone? Overall, this wasn't bad, but could've done for a good trim of about 20 minutes.

The best Christopher Walken moment for me in McBain came when he was in some seaside house with the other guys, and he says "let's talk... out on the deck." I don't know how to type it in a way where you get Walken's unique voice inflection, just try to do your best Walken impression in your head , and you'll get it. He also has a sweet monologue on Woodstock. As far as an action lead, when he was allowed to be one, i.e. wasn't kept off screen by other crap I could've cared less about, he was great. I especially loved the Hawaiian T.

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Yep, that's Steve James, sans shirt, rocking a Wrestlemania cap. Does it get anymore awesome than that? He does some cool shit in this, firing stinger missiles, getting freaked out that his buddy doesn't know how to fly the plane, wearing Wrestlemania hats. Unfortunately, a man that was taken from us too soon by pancreatic cancer. Here's to you Steve James, you were one of the good ones.

Loved me some Michael Ironside in this as well. Wasn't expecting much. He appears early on as an extremely wealthy arms dealer, and Walken gives him the speech about how he's not really living, how he's wasting his life away in his enormous mansion. I thought that would be it, but when he shows up with Walken's weapons, he kind of sheepishly asks "can I go too?" Yes you can go Michael Ironside, what do you think this is. He had a ponytail, but no long hair like Highlander 2, which was a disappointment.

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One interesting aspect of this movie is that they use a fictional regime in a real country, Columbia, where the action takes place. I don't know, on some levels that's kind of weird. In 1991, the people of Columbia were still in as rough a situation as they were before McBain was made, it's not like McBain made their lives better. Another interesting thing, ESPN did a series of sports documentaries entitled 30 for 30, featuring all kinds of stories where sports has an impact on greater society. They did one on the 1994 Colombian World Cup team, the one where Andres Escobar was killed after giving up an own goal against the US. It was so weird watching that documentary, after remembering that game and how much I rooted for the US to win, not knowing how much more that team meant to the people of Columbia. It's always good to get a different perspective and see an event like that from the other side.

Though it's a little long and repetitive in parts, McBain isn't a bad bad actioner, and with Christopher Walken and co., it has plenty of novelty as well. It's out of print in the US, but you can get it used on DVD or VHS, whatever makes you feel good. Maybe both make you feel good...

For more info: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0102422/

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Tactical Force (2011)

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I keep wanting to call this Tactical Assault, the fighter pilot flick starring Robert Patrick and DTVC Hall of Famer Rutger Hauer. This is not that, it's Tactical Force, a new actioner starring Stone Cold Steve Austin and DTVC favorite Michael Jai White. It took me a while to get it from Netflix, but it's here finally, so let's see how it did.

Tactical Force has Austin as the head of a SWAT team in LA, featuring White, Lexa Doig, and Steve Bacic. Their tactics are a little aggressive, so they're sent out to some hanger in Big Bear to do some training. Problem is, two gangs are after a piece of property hidden in that hanger, and just happened to be there to get it when our team shows up. Now they're trapped with two sets of bloodthirsty criminals after them, and only training rounds in their guns. Will they make it out alive?

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This was okay. Great action, solid story, and excellent performances from Austin and White, including some solid fight scenes with Darren Shahlavi and Keith Jardine (the latter I'm assuming was told by the director to pretend he'd just drank sour milk, because that was the only expression he had on his face for the entire film). So you're probably asking me, why is this only okay with all of these great attributes? One guess. Yep, bad gimmicky editing. The transitions from scene to scene, with the "whoosh" sound effect and blurred screen was annoying, but I could've looked past that. The snapshot effect within a scene, where we'd hear a "poof", and the screen would go black then move ahead a frame, irked me, but only so much. Then it gets really bad. Earthquake effects when Austin fought people. Really? Earthquake effects? Why not just go with the Batman "Pow!" "Boom!" "Zoink!"? Really, who thinks that's a good idea? Then there was this constant jumping effect between action that was supposed to be happening at parallel moments. I get what they're trying to do there, but what happens is we lose the rhythm of both. This was especially egregious when they did it for the White/Darren Shahlavi fight, because that would've been pretty sweet, and instead it was butchered. I guess the question is, and I think I've asked this a lot: is this what we have to settle for in modern DTV action? Movies that would've been great in the late 80s/early 90s reduced to a mess of gimmicky editing ruining all the fun and entertainment value? Please, someone out there, just go back to the Cannon and PM Entertainment catalogs and tell me how many of those used earthquake effects or butchered their best fight scenes with jumpcuts? Exactly. I'm begging you, modern DTV action movie maker, stop ruining my favorite movie genre.

This was the Stone Cold Steve Austin role we've been looking for. No, it's not exactly him riding around on a motorcycle, crushing beers and Stone Cold Stunning stuntmen-- that would be the ultimate-- but this one more than any of his recent DTV flicks played to his strengths as an offbeat and charismatic action lead. This was why we loved him in the WWF/WWE, because he was so cool to watch. We don't need the brooding hero with a past, and this movie understood that and didn't drag us there. Really great stuff, and I hope we get more of this style in the future.

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As good was Michael Jai White. He takes something of a backseat to Austin-- and now that you mention it, he and Austin both take back seats to all the bad guys as far as screentime, which isn't a great formula for success, but whatever. Hopefully a role in something like this will get him out there more so we can see him as the lead in more films, because Black Dynamite and Blood and Bone were both far superior to this. Michael Jai White is not a supporting player, he's the lead.

Darren Shahlavi has a really weird role in this. He's like an Italian or something, and he affects this Brooklyn accent or something, and is supposed to be like a dumb henchman or something to this really annoying douchey guy-- that's also from England in real life. Why not have them both speak in fast talking British accents? And have them play off each other instead of making the one guy (Adrian Holmes) be a douchey American style gangster that's been done to death-- and very poorly to death too. Why not make these guys cool when you have the opportunity? You did a good job with Austin and White. Here's the rule: British, Irish, or Australian accents are always cooler than poorly affected Brooklyn or American Ebonics accents.

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Finally, I'm wondering if I shouldn't charge Pepsi for advertising on this site, because it seems like all the movies I watch lately have heavy-duty Pepsi product placement. As I said in the Cobra post, I wish Pepsi would pull all their horrible TV advertising and replace it with cool product placement like this. I don't actually drink soda that often anymore, but when I do, I'm more of a Coke guy. I'd be willing to change though Pepsi, if the price were right...

As I said above, this one was okay, but it's an okay that should've been amazing, but again, the modern DTV action tendency to over edit and go all MTV on us killed another one. Maybe someday the pendulum will swing back to solid action that focuses on good, mindless substance, over tacky, hard to watch non-style. We've seen a lot worse, but this could've been a lot better.

For more info: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1458915/

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Mom (1991)

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This was the second of three movies that we watched during the Netflix Bad Movie Night, hosted by fellow bloggers at Mr. Gable's Reality, Guts and Grog Reviews, and Morbidimentia. We've already looked at the first movie from that night, Monster Dog, starring Alice Cooper, and you can check out that post for more details on what the Netflix Bad Movie Night is all about.

Mom is about an elderly lady, living alone after her kids have grown up and moved out, who takes in a border. Problem is, the border is none other than DTVC favorite Brion James, and he's a flesh eating werewolf type thing. After Mom tries to feed him her world famous pot roast, he bites her, turning her into one of him. Her son, the heel from Ski School, follows her and James one night as they go out in search of a person to eat, and he flips out, killing James and locking his mom in her room. But can he keep her and her craving for human flesh locked away forever?

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Had it not been for the morbid and dour ending, this might have been a pretty sweet piece of horror comedy. The idea of the nice sweet granny turning into a flesh eating monster is fantastic, and the interplay between her and her son made for some pretty funny scenes. Was it along the lines of Bad Taste or Evil Dead? Not quite, but maybe more in the Blood Diner vein, though the ending hurt it quite a bit. That's the thing with horror comedy, once you start down that road, you can't turn around and try to be serious at the end. It doesn't work. What also doesn't quite work is a horror comedy for a heckle party, because comedies are often too difficult to mock. If you're into 80s/90s low-budget horror, this has the feel you're looking for, just not finish.

Further on that theme of 80s/90s low-budget, Mom had me feeling nostalgic. It really has that video store find vibe to it, the 6th or 7th grade sleepover party pick-up, best enjoyed with some junk food and soda. As I was looking on Amazon to see if this was available for purchase, I realized just how much a product of its time it was. Produced before the age of Internet search engines, it's entire raison d'etre was to be found on a video store shelf; but with a name like "Mom", which is so generic, it's almost invisible now-- and there are no longer any video store shelves to see it on either. Even adding the "1991" isn't as much help as you'd expect, because Don't Tell Mom the Babysitter's Dead will pop up instead.

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We love us some Brion James. Unfortunately here, he's gone after the first 20 minutes-- he must've had better things to do. One of the all time best baddies, he really brings it in even a short period of time, and I think might have been better as a kind of Fright Night Chris Sarandon style villain that stuck around longer, but I guess his short but sweet appearance was good too. Hey, any Brion James is better than no Brion James, right?

Mark Thomas Miller plays the son, though we know him better as the heel in Ski School, my all time favorite DTV comedy. He acquitted himself pretty nicely here, though it's been my experience that the heel in a comedy romp is often a pretty funny guy himself, so it's not that surprising. This movie could've used a little Dave Marshak too-- I would've overlooked a lot of this film's flaws.

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One of the conversations that came up while watching this had to do with a scene where Miller gets his mom a hooker to eat. I asked if anyone would do the same, bring home a hooker for their mom to eat. The first response was no, she can get her own hookers. It's a tough call. I doubt I'd do it though either. Too much risk.

This is a hard one, because it wasn't bad on horror comedy until the ending betrayed it; but because it's more horror comedy than schlock horror, it's harder to make fun of on your bad movie night. Ultimately, I'd say skip it, unless you find it on Watch Instantly or something like that, and you're feeling nostalgic for the late 80s/early 90s.

For more info: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0100172/

Monday, August 22, 2011

No Retreat, No Surrender 3: Blood Brothers (1990)

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It's taken me a little while to get my hands on this one and complete the No Retreat, No Surrender series (see also part 1 and part 2), but we've got it, so let's do it. Our friend Karl at Fist of the B-List has also done this one, so you should check that out too.

No Retreat, No Surrender 3 doesn't have anything to do with part 2, it just has Loren Avedon. Avedon plays a rebellious younger brother who runs a dojo and wears a CCCP jacket, while his brother, Keith Vitali, and his father run a private spy company. After his dad's birthday, his dad is killed by a terrorist baddie named Franco that looks like a poor man's Roland Gift with bleached hair cut in the Billy Ray Cyrus style. Now the question is, can the feuding brothers, Avedon and Vitali, get along long enough to avenge their father's death?

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This is a bit of a tough one, but I really enjoyed it. The action, when it's there, is extremely high octane. We're talking Hong Kong cinema level martial arts and stunts, which is really exciting to watch. Then you have the bad acting, worse dialogue, and amateur level direction-- seriously, were all those boom mics showing up on purpose?-- all of which was funnier than it was annoying when set against the too sweet action. The problem for me was that there were gaps in the action that at first were funny, but as the film went on, the bad acting, dialogue, and story wasn't as funny anymore, making those gaps tedious. Still, it does recover, and really brings it with a finale worthy of the solid scenes we'd seen leading up to it. I'm giving this a recommendation strictly to bad action fans and no one else-- again, if you overuse the word "cheesy" when describing a late 80s/early 90s DTV actioner, this is probably too much for you; but if you're into great action and are willing to have fun with the bad spots, you'll be rewarded.

Really liked Loren Avedon here. I think we've brought this up before, and other sites have discussed it as well, but it's a shame Avedon hasn't been in more stuff, based on how sick his skills are. Mr. Kenner at Movies in the Attic told us he spoke to the man himself, and one of the things he said was Avedon had a falling out with Lorenzo Lamas, and Lamas made it hard for him to get work after that. If that's true that's too bad, because Avedon is almost 50 years old, so we may have missed his best years-- though at 50 he'll still be over ten years younger than Steven Seagal, so maybe we'll see him again.

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What was up with all the boom mic-age? I lost track of how many there were. And you had multiple kinds too, from the fuzzy outdoor variety, to the standard one you see here. Once or twice is a novelty that we love when watching a low-budget film, but after awhile it becomes ridiculous. Is it that hard to keep the thing from floating into the shot? I guess it is, and that's why we love you.

We've done some other Keith Vitali flicks on here, American Kickboxer 1, Bloodmoon, and Revenge of the Ninja. Don't know if I remember him in any of them. His acting is pretty rough-- which is hilarious-- but his fight skills are right there with Avedon's. According to imdb though, Avedon worked 4-6 hours a day to train, while Vitali came into the role out of shape. He also busted his arm for real before shooting, so it was written into the film that his arm was shot, and then the rest of the movie people made cracks about his cast. Keith Vitali, exactly what No Retreat, No Surrender 3 needed.

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Most movies cast a veteran character actor as the President. We've seen Roy Scheider, Rutger Hauer (I know, he's not a native born American-- Birthers!), even Jerry Springer (I know, he was born in London-- Birthers!). This movie took a different tact. They used file footage of Bush 41, and acted like the villains were targeting him with a rocket launcher by drawing some green sights over it. Hey, it saves money, right? That's all public domain footage right there, you can do whatever the hell you want with it. So bad it's ingenious!

As far as I know, this is only available on VHS here in the States, but overseas you can get it on DVD-- in fact, Amazon offers a Region 2 DVD set of all three No Retreat, No Surrender films. I think it's really a matter of where you are in the bad action movie world. Do you love these things with absolutely no irony whatsoever? In that case, you should look for a copy of this. If you just kind of do this thing for some goofy fun to laugh at "cheesy" movies, this might be too much. To give you an idea, it wasn't too much for me, but I've had a blog for over four years where I review stuff like this on a regular basis.

For more info: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0100266/

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Almighty Thor (2011)

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Because Marvel can't copyright Norse mythology, the door was left open for The Asylum in conjunction with the SyFy channel to trade on the big screen adaptation of the Marvel version of Thor. I had originally wanted to go with a joke about how I thought this was called "Almaty Thor", and wanted to know what this Kazakh version of Thor was all about, but I already used that joke on Twitter. I need to be careful and not use up all my best material before I even get a chance to write the review. Also, I first caught wind of this through the post at Cool Target Action Reviews.

Almighty Thor is kind of a Thor prequel, where our hero is a whining, annoying teenager, and his dad, Odin (played by Kevin Nash) is killed by Loki (played by Richard Greico), who wanted to get his hands on the infamous hammer of invincibility or something. Anyway, one of Odin's most trusted warriors, Patricia Velasquez, takes Thor to LA so she can train him, and Loki follows them there, and all hell breaks loose. Can Thor stop being a shithead for two seconds and defeat Loki?

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Whose idea was this? "Yeah, I want to do a movie about Thor where he's a whiny, annoying teenager. Like, you know the 16-year-old who bitches about how much he hates his parents because they won't let him have the car, that human embodiment of awesomeness, that's what we're centering the film around." Really? If I want to listen to whiny teenagers, I'll go hang out at the food court at the mall. And for me, because Thor is the main character, it made the whole film a pile of suck. That's too bad, because Greico was awesome as this movies version of Loki, who looks like a cross between Edward Scissorhands and The Borg, but sounds like Christian Slater, and seemed like he was totally having fun with the film; Kevin Nash as Odin was also great, but pretty much wasted, because he barely had any scenes; loved the CGI monsters, total Asylum cheese; and even Patricia Velasquez as a Norse demi-goddess with a South American Spanish accent was pretty sweet. But whining Thor is the killer, as sauteed in wrong sauce as you can get.

As someone who grew up with Marvel comics, Thor was not one I followed. I remember he was in one of the Hulk TV movies, but after that, I didn't care. I was a little surprised they decided to make a movie about him, but I guess Marvel feels like if they make it we will come. I don't know, I didn't see it. I can think of a few that I remember that I'd have rather seen first: Cable, New Mutants/X-Force, Deadpool (not that weird thing they gave us in Wolverine), and maybe some of those space guys like Silver Surfer (I know he was in the Fantastic Four), Thanos, all those aliens and whatnot. Thor was not at the top of my list.

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If you're going to do Loki, why not do it the way they did it here with Richard Greico? It was like his theme song should've been Marilyn Manson's cover of "Sweet Dreams", and he should've been walking around LA like Sid Vicious in Urgh! A Music War strolling through Paris, shoving a piece of cake in someone's face. It's a shame that such a fun performance was ruined in a movie that decided to hang it's hat on an annoying teen Thor.

Loved Kevin Nash for his short scenes early in the film, and wish he'd been in this more. I remember when he, as Diesel, first came into the WWF. There was a Royal Rumble where all the guys in the ring ganged up on him to throw him out, and Shaun Michaels, who was his buddy, got in on it too. Hey, it's every man for himself in the Royal Rumble. I haven't watched wrestling in years, but I've heard he was back in the (now) WWE as Diesel. Love to see him get more work in the DTV/TV movie market-- and more than just a scene or two.

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All Asylum films have great CGI monsters, and this was no exception. Man, it's so annoying that they went with an annoying teen Thor for the hero. Did he have to be annoying? He could've been a teen but not annoying, right? It was like they were trying to channel Arch hall Jr. Sometimes The Asylum really gets it right, and sometimes they really get it wrong, and sometimes you get something like this that should be so right, but ends up so wrong. Give us Thor attacking big CGI monsters with Kevin Nash and Patricia Velasquez, and Richard Greico as Loki shoving cakes in people's faces. Is that so hard?

But wrong it is, so it's a no go for me. Maybe if you see this on SyFy you might want to watch passively while doing something else. I haven't give this one in awhile, but it has late-night procrastinating on a term paper potential. As far as a rental, whether it's on Netflix or Red Box, don't waste your time. It's not worth it.

For more info: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1792794/

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Monster Dog (1984)

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This movie was the first of three that we watched during last Saturday's Neflix Bad Movie night, which was organized by fellow bloggers at Mr. Gables Reality, Morbidementia, and Guts and Grog Reviews. It was a great time, where a bunch of us watched three movies on Netflix Watch Instantly and tweeted about it to each other. Keep an eye on their sites, and/or my Twitter feed and Facebook page for when the next one will be.

Monster Dog has classic metal luminary Alice Cooper as a pop singer who goes out to his family's cabin in the woods with a bunch of friends and coworkers to shoot his next music video. Something's not quite right though, as there are fresh sandwiches in the fridge, and crazy dogs lurking. The neighbors think Alice Cooper is a werewolf, and they want him dead, but the neighbors don't look that great either, so Cooper's friends would rather take his side. Could that be their undoing?

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This was a pretty fun movie. It starts and ends with an Alice Cooper music video for a song called "Identity Crises", which was pretty sweet with Cooper dressed in all kinds of outfits and whatnot. The movie itself is pure schlock, directed by the guy who did Troll 2, meaning if you're watching it, you can't piss on hospitality. As far as the werewolf aspect goes, I'm not sure it's even there. It's mostly just dogs biting people, like a really bad episode of the People's Court, and then at the end Alice Cooper turns into more of a were-Elliot Gould than a werewolf, which is pretty funny, but might not be what you're looking for if you're in the market for a werewolf movie. Then there's all the silly stuff thrown in, like an inexplicable empty milk carton on the dash of Cooper's van, random sandwiches in the fridge, and Cooper's $9.99 sweater he got at Sears-- very befitting a rockstar. A perfect choice for a bad movie night.

My first introduction to Alice Cooper came when I was in fourth grade, through the song "Poison", which was a very popular Hair Metal track at that time. My fourth grade teacher (named Mrs. Kruger, which automatically made her a little scary) overheard a few of us talking about it, and she told us about his stuff from the 70s that she grew up with. This was before the age of the Internet, so we had to rely on her showing us some albums and stuff, which was probably a lot cooler than Googling it would've been. As far as Monster Dog goes, Cooper is the main attraction, and whether he disappoints or not might be debatable, but the novelty of him never wears off, which is all you can ask for as far as I'm concerned-- though no one was beheaded, which was a disappointment for me.

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Do any of you MSTies recognize this guy? He was the manager from Pod People. Unfortunately the "It stinks!" guy wasn't in this as well, and also no one broke their neck from a high fall requiring the manager guy to carry her off, making sure he jiggled her spine around some more. This movie could've used some Trumpy, I'll tell you that. Alice Cooper vs. Trumpy: this time it's personal!

The female lead in this, Victoria Vera, looked hotter and hotter the more disheveled she became. That's good stuff right there, and something modern horror directors need to take note of. Torture porn is just gross, give me a chick that looks even better with fake blood and messed up hair than she did earlier in the film with her hair and make-up done perfectly. Her character was kind of all over the place, between just being a pretty face, to gradually turning into a tough chick with a shotgun and a sweater torn into Jennifer Beal mode. This is Scream Queen done right.

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I worked with a guy who saw Europe in concert, and he said they opened a closed with "The Final Countdown", and since Monster Dog opened and closed with the same Alice Cooper song, I figured I'd open and close with Cooper as well. First, his voice in the English version is not his, someone else dubbed it. It sounds pretty close to it, so I was fooled. Second, Cooper can play in all the golf tournaments and open all the restaurants in Arizona, but he'll never escape this bad boy as long as people like us are fighting the good fight and reminding people. I got your Man vs. Food right here baby, and it's in the form of a were-Elliot Gould! Finally, it was really cool to go back and revisit some of those Hair Metal era Cooper songs over at his YouTube VEVO page. I embedded a couple on the image page.

As far as the movie goes, this is a great choice for a bad movie night, it has all the elements you'd want, from the badly dubbed dialog, the schlock special effects, random elements like a milk carton on the van's dash, and finally the novelty of Alice Cooper. You can't go wrong here. As far as the Netflix Bad Movie night went, that was great as well, so thanks to Mr. Gable, Morbidimentia, Tromeric at Guts and Grog, and everyone else for having me along, and I can't wait until the next one!

For more info: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0087616/

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

American Tigers (1996)

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In a quest to get more Cynthia Rothrock on the DTVC, we find ourselves here with American Tigers. If you go to her imdb page, this is actually listed under the "Self" section, because she plays herself in it. How bad could it be though? It stars Sam Jones, Donald Gibb, and Joe Estevez-- okay, let me rephrase that, how bad can this be?

American Tigers has Sam Jones as a Major Sergeant that's been railroaded into a desk job by an unscrupulous colonel he served under in Desert Storm (the unfathomably uncredited, awesomely bemulleted Todd Curtis). Turns out that colonel is running a really bad right-wing militia, and the government, i.e. Joe Estevez, wants Jones to round up a troop of soldiers on death row and train them to take out Curtis, his mullet, and his gang. Can they do it?

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This had some potential, but ultimately too much of the movie was a bunch of boring crap involving training the recruits. I get that they wanted some kind of redemptive message, but it was boring as all hell, and pretty paint-by-numbers. We have training montages for two reasons: one, to insert some too sweet music into the film; and two, to keep things moving. Had this been kept moving, we would've had more action, and based on the end scene, which was good but not that good, it could've used a lot more. This, unfortunately, is as bad as a movie that's "starring" Sam Jones, Donald Gibb, and Joe Estevez as you'd expect.

If Rothrock wasn't front and center on the cover, I'd have been okay with her small part as herself-- but she is all over the cover, meaning we have ourselves a good ol' fashioned Rothrock bait-and-switch. In American Tigers, as herself, she's friends with the fictional Sam Jones character, and does him a favor by training the recruits. We get some good fights where she beats up the guys, but nothing beyond that. I wonder if she was doing someone a favor by this appearance. Who knows, she's cool, unfortunately just not in the movie enough.

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This is our first movie at the DTVC with Sam Jones as the star-- in fact, I believe this is the first Sam Jones movie with him in more than just a couple scenes as a hatchetman--, so this is a change of pace. I won't use this film to judge him, because it really didn't give him a full opportunity to be likable. He makes an excellent drill sergeant, and an excellent commando; estranged husband with a drinking problem, notsomuch. Ultimately, he's at his best with a flat top and leather jacket throwing the lead hero around, eventually getting felled by a chance fall into an electrified fence or something, so he was a little outside his element here.

This movie used one of the most agonizing and tedious devices, the old "key member of the team locked in a shed or closet by the other team and will he or won't he get out in time", which is only a step less annoying than scratching a chalkboard. When Jones's team fought a NavySEALs team to determine who got to take out Curtis and his men, Jones is jumped by a couple of dudes on the SEALs crew and stuffed in a work shed ("workshed!"). We're then treated to a bunch of scenes cut into the fights of Jones pretending to stagger to his feet, breakdown the door, then hack at it with an ax. Why not just get in my face and say "does this bug you? I'm not touching you!", because that was the cinematic equivalent.

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So we had a few other names, all underutilized, but all pretty cool. Donald Gibb played a former partner of Jones who now works at a strip club with Jones's estranged wife (she's a waitress, not a dancer). He's Donald Gibb playing Donald Gibb, so you get what you paid for there. Joe Estevez plays a general, and he pops in here and there to tell Jones he's doing a good job or that the Pentagon is riding his ass or something. He's a short mustache away from being Charlie Chaplin in The Great Dictator. Then there's Todd Curtis, he of the amazing mullet, whom you may remember as the baddie in Chain of Command with Michael Dudikoff. Man is he an awesome baddie. The mullet, the cigar, the five o'clock shadow, and in this case, the racist right wing lines. I have no idea why he wasn't credited-- maybe he requested that.

You can get this used on DVD or VHS, but the former is much rarer and more expensive. In either case this isn't worth it unless you can get it for free. If you're a Rothrock completist, this should come at the very end of your journey.

For more info: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0127417/

Monday, August 15, 2011

Expect No Mercy (1995)

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I didn't exactly what to expect with this movie, but I definitely knew what not to expect, and that was mercy. I think it's good that they let us know that going in though, that way if I do get some mercy, it was totally unexpected and refreshing. This was also reviewed over at Cool Target Action Reviews if you want to get a second opinion.

Expect No Mercy has Wolf Larson as an extremely Shaun Cassidy looking baddie that runs a virtual reality martial arts training facility/paid assassination business. Jalal Merhi is the man on the inside trying to get evidence against them, and DTVC favorite Billy Blanks is another cop sent in to help him after the previous dude in Blanks's spot was killed. Can they get the evidence they need and stop Shaun Cassidy in time before he assassinates a prosecution witness?

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This wasn't too bad. Solid 90s action schlock. Blanks and Merhi had some great fights, Anthony De Longis was a solid head baddie's hatchetman, and the action was definitely there. At one point, things slowed to a crawl, and I was thinking this review would sound different than it is, but that slow to a crawl was only the calm before a too sweet shootout at a remote cabin. As far as the 90s schlock goes, great throwback virtual reality silliness, with the headgear, the special effects, a disembodied Jalal Merhi head-- everything you could want.

We love us some Billy Blanks here at the DTVC, and he's pretty sweet in Expect No Mercy. He and Merhi were a part of the fight choreography, and it showed. Some were a little "I hit you twice, you hit me twice"-- the kind of crap I get all over the modern punchfighting flick for-- but the majority were really nice, and were all shot really well. If you're going into a movie like this for some quality Billy Blanks, this isn't a bad deal.

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Yes, that is the disembodied head of Jalal Merhi. Maybe he's not the best actor-- okay, he's definitely not the best actor!-- but at least in Expect No Mercy he gets a good chance to show off his martial arts skills. Though he and Blanks are essentially equals in the film, he gets the fight with Anthony De Longis, while Blanks fought Shaun Cassidy; but a bigger reason for that is that Merhi gets the girl, and she was being guarded by De Longis. While his martial arts skills are legit, it's his jewelry store money combined with a little Canadian tax credit money that allows him to produce and pick a nice leading lady to make out with-- in this case Laurie Holden. Unlike Talons of the Eagle though, we're fortunately spared a sex scene complete with Merhi in his tight black skivvies.

Wolf Larson looked so much like Shaun Cassidy, I was convinced he was Cassidy until I saw the credits. How awesome would it have been if the baddie was Shaun Cassidy? Or if Wolf Larson was playing Shaun Cassidy as a baddie? "After starring for years in The Hardy Boys, I decided to take the money and create this massive virtual reality martial arts training facility/assassination business." Maybe there could be shots of him looking at old Tiger Beat magazines with Anthony De Longis, reminiscing about the good ol' days, then he suddenly gets angry, rips it up, and shoots one of his grunts.

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Whoa, seriously movie? Really? A Poor Man's Billy Drago? Who does that? Who says "I'm not sure we can get Billy Drago, but this guy will work, right?" He looks like a cross between Billy Drago and David Coverdale of Whitesnake. I guess the idea behind the Poor Man's Billy Drago in this instance is he can play a small role, and people like me won't be complaining "oh man, it was a Billy Drago bait-and-switch". Still, I've always thought the Poor man's Billy Drago was Billy Drago, so this is a new revelation.

This isn't too bad, especially if you're a consumer of 80s/90s bad action. Solid fights, solid action, retro 90s computer effects, and a fair amount of fun. It's no longer in print, but you can get it used on DVD and VHS here in the States. If you see it for $5 or less, I'd say pull the trigger.

For more info: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0112998/

Friday, August 12, 2011

Double Trouble (1992)

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I've wanted to do an Elvis Presley movie ever since I started the DTVC, and I figured Double Trouble would be as good a place to start as any... oh wait, that's not Elvis, those are two dudes with enormous pecs and even more enormous ape drapes. Hey, you know what? This might be pretty good too...

Double Trouble follows the Paul brothers, one of whom is an LA detective that wears the same LA Raiders sweatshirt all the time, the other an expert jewel thief and wisecracker. They're forced together by the cop's chief, Jimmy Doohan, when it's revealed that the thief one stole something from criminal mastermind Roddy McDowall. Now the question is: can the brothers stop fighting with each other long enough to crack this case?

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This is a total fun time. When the jokes weren't funny, they were unintentionally hilarious. Then you had the sweet Beverly Hills Cop-style score-- in fact, the whole movie was a smaller scale Beverly Hills Cop-style movie, and it worked well. Also a solid supporting cast, featuring Roddy McDowall, Bill Mumy (who was fantastic as McDowall's be-ponytailed hatchetman), Jimmy Doohan, and DTVC Hall of Famer David Carradine in a one-scene cameo. The action was solid, and though maybe there could've been more of it, there was enough other stuff going on that it didn't matter. I thoroughly enjoyed myself.

The only other movie I've seen the Paul brothers in is D.C. Cab, where they played off of Mr. T in smashing heads and and breaking things. This was an extension of that, as they were doing more comedic work than action work, but still broke things. Their go to move was turning over vehicles. Then there were the ape drapes. 90% of the charm is in the ape drapes. Yes, the one brother in the LA Raiders sweatshirt that bordered on a belly-shirt was good, but a beaver pelt with that kind of business in the front and party in the back is just epic. I'm going 9.8 in mulletude. I do want to put out a quick warning that you should be careful about watching this movie with the sound up too high, especially if you live in a dorm or apartment. There's a scene near the beginning where one of the brothers is working out, and there is excessive grunting.

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This is our first Jimmy Doohan flick at the DTVC, and I gotta say I'm excited about that. No, he's no George Takei, but really, who is? One of my fondest Doohan memories came in the documentary Trekkies, where Doohan was telling this emotional story about a girl who wrote him a letter, saying she was going to kill herself, and he convinced her to see him at a convention. She did, but was still depressed, so she visited him at a few more, before stopping all together and ceasing all communication with him. Then, however many years later, she contacts him again, and says she has a PhD in physics. Anyway, I was watching Trekkies with a buddy, and as Doohan is telling this story, my buddy starts making fart noises. As you can imagine, it was pretty funny, and now whenever I see Doohan in anything, that's what I associate him with.

As I mentioned above, this had quite a few great supporting stars. Roddy McDowall goes without saying, and it's interesting that we review one of his films as two remakes of movies he was best known for are out or about to be released: Fright Night and Planet of the Apes (I know this one is the sequel to the remake, but still). He made a sweet head baddie, playing the tongue-and-cheek aspect of the film to the hilt. Even better was Bill Mumy as his hatchetman. I was pleasantly surprised by how well he did. Do any of my MSTie readers remember the sketch they did about Bill Mumy? I believe Crow got a timeout in that one. One you may not be familiar with is AJ Johnson, who played the cop Paul brother's partner. She was Sharane in the first House Party. Incidentally, the House Party series is one of my favorite movie trilogies-- though it isn't a trilogy if you count that 70-minute DTV fourth installment that didn't feature Kid N' Play, but I don't.

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Last night Warrant singer Jani Lane was found dead in his LA hotel room. For many of the DTVC's readers, we're in that age range where we remember when Warrant was not only relevant, but one of the biggest names in music. They came in toward the end of the Hair Metal movement, and I'll always remember Lane's anecdote about how they went to their label exec's office, and saw a huge framed poster of their album on the wall; then a couple short years later, they went back and saw Alice in Chains' "Dirt", and Lane realized the end was coming. It's by complete coincidence that I picked Double Trouble to review today-- I'd made the decision on Wednesday--, but it's fitting, because famed Hair Metal video queen Bobbi Brown, made most famous for part in Warrant's "Cherry Pie", has a cameo in this. So here's to you Jani Lane, you were one of the good ones, rest in peace.

And with that we'll wrap this up. If you're not going the Netflix Watch Instantly route-- and this is available on there as of this posting-- VHS is the next best thing. Yes, it's mainly for pure, DTV, bad action completists, but hey, what are you doing here if you're not that, right? Why not spend a few hours feathering your mullet and have a ball. It doesn't get much more fun than this.

For more info: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0104135/

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Kiss of the Vampire aka Immortally Yours (2009)

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How could this not be intriguing? Gary Daniels in a vampire flick, as a vampire? Not only that, but we have Dar from the syndicated TV version of Beastmaster, which was one of my favorite guilty pleasures ever. Then you throw in Matthias Hues, Martin Kove, and Costas Mandylor? How can this go wrong?

Kiss of the Vampire is about a vampire (Dar) who is really powerful, but would rather be mortal. This upsets his gang, led by Gary Daniels, who love the raves and blood sucking. Dar finds a woman whose dad is working for this horrible criminal cartel to help them find immortality. Dar falls in love with her, her father helps him gain mortality, and he stops the cartel.

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This was an unmitigated disaster. The story had too much going on that wasn't exactly going anywhere, the dialogue wasn't properly proofread and very wordy and overly dramatic, and there was this sappy love story aspect that screamed bad Twilight fantasy. Half the time I wasn't sure the movie was even serious, especially when Dar and the girl's father are carrying a midget off as they dash to save the girl. It was pretty hilarious, as was the midget headbutting some dude unconscious. Then you had the strange growling noises the vampires made. Are they vampires or mountain lions? I liked Matthias Hues as the vampire hunter-- he ironically makes a better good guy than a baddie I've noticed-- but that part was highly underused, as were the two investigating police officers that were also pretty solid. Even more underused was Martin Kove, because for some reason he was the crime cartel leader's main hatchetman, as opposed to the leader. Really? All the other guy had on Kove was bad hair. Top to bottom, sautéed in wrong sauce.

I will give this a plus for the fun factor of having Daniels as a vampire. I won't let this off the hook though for skimping on the Hues/Daniels fight. They should've let the two choreograph their own deal and had them get after it. I know, I'm the action guy, and this wasn't necessarily an action movie, but there wasn't a lot of other stuff going on, so why not get some good action in there, right? Anyway, fun novelty, Gary Daniels as a vampire, but nothing else beyond that.

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Yes, we finally got a Dar movie in here. I know, 700+ posts in, it was a lot sooner for some other syndicated TV guys I love, including Adrian Paul and Kevin Sorbo-- plus Lorenzo Lamas, one of the few who would make both a DTV and syndicated TV Hall of Fame. Seeing him here reminded me of the great times I had when syndicated TV ruled. Before the days of limited syndication for new TV shows and syndication of cable TV shows, some of the best stuff was in straight to syndication. Highlander: The Series, Star Trek: The Next Generation, Renegade, Hercules, I could go on. Then there were the ones that weren't so great, but still tons of fun, like Nightman, She Spies, and syndication's last gasp, Legend of the Seeker. When that was cancelled recently, an era officially ended. I don't know what to make of Dar in this movie, because I was just so happy it was Dar, it didn't matter. It would've been better though if he had a staff and listened to animals talk. Oh, and if his buddy replaced the midget.

This one totally dropped the ball in its casting of Martin Kove. The main baddie's hatchetman? The main baddie was played by Eric Etebari, who directed Bare Knuckles, a women's fighting flick that featured Kove too. Anyway, switching Kove and Etebari would've done a lot to enhance the movie and made both actors work better. If Kove is going to be the hatchetman, you need an extremely powerful head baddie, like a Malcolm McDowell. If not it doesn't work. Speaking of great hatchetmen, we also have Matthias Hues. I don't get it, but he makes an exceptional good guy, which is crazy, because he almost always plays a bad guy. I loved the way the wordy, poorly proofread dialog mixed with his German accent, because it made everything that much more awkward.

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It seems to be a popular thing right now to have human women in unrequited romances with vampire men, which is cool, but it got me wondering: why don't they do the reverse? I saw some pretty hot vampire chicks in this, why not have her date a guy and show us all the problems that come with that. On the one hand, the leather and hot outfits would be amazing; on the other, at 32, the whole rave thing would be a bit much. Also, I love to hike, and it's hard to do that at night; not to mention, it consumes a lot of calories, so even if we did go on a night hike, she'd need to fill up a Camelbak with blood. And there's the whole meeting the parents thing. Does she have any outfits that don't involve skintight black leather and/or fishnets? Yes, 90% of the time that stuff's awesome, but meeting my parents, I'd prefer something a little more understated.

This is ten kinds of miss. Not even close. As sautéed in wrong sauce as you can get. Only the cast makes this worth a look, and even then it's pretty painful. You'll find yourself like me, at the 75 minute mark going "just end it already! Find me one of those WRAP IT UP signs!"

For more info: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0758755/

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Fatal Combat aka No Exit (1997)

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A Jeff Wincott movie always seems like a good idea, right? That was the thinking behind watching this one, the more Wincott, the better. Our friends at Comeuppance Reviews and Explosive Action have both covered this as well, if you're looking for a second and third opinion.

Fatal Combat is a forced to fight movie about a professor who teaches the peace first warrior philosophy, Jeff Wincott, but is captured by the villainous Armstrong, a man who runs a prison/death match TV program in the arctic. Now Wincott's peace philosophy is put to the test. Will he bow down to Armstrong, will he fight back, or will he kill him with kindness?

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I didn't really care for this one. First off, the forced to fight construct never really works for me, because by nature it makes the hero weaker; and here we get tons of the hero getting beaten up by a loser hatchetman and making idle threats to the villain that we know won't get him anywhere until we hit the 80 minute mark, when he suddenly needs to turn the tables so we can wrap up the film. This is especially disconcerting when we're talking about someone who's as awesome as Jeff Wincott is. I understood the idea of wanting to put Wincott's character in a situation where his philosophy is put to the test, but I think a better way to do that would've been a Most Dangerous Game construct, with a villain way off in a guarded compound and Wincott having to fight his way to him. The Most Dangerous Game construct brings me to problem number two: the lack of action and good fights. More of the film was spent training, prisoners talking about their plight, and Wincott talking to the head baddie about how crazy he is. That Most Dangerous Game construct would've given us a constant stream of fights, keeping the action fresh and preventing the plot from becoming too stale. Finally, this was a little too dark for my liking, and I wouldn't have minded that, if there had been a payoff at the end, but we didn't really get that either. Worst offender: a prison rape of Wincott's friend at the hands of Sven-Ole Thorsen, which wasn't really necessary to enhance the plot, meaning you're talking about a gratuitous prison rape scene-- never a good thing. It was like dark for the sake of being dark.

All of that is a shame, because it wastes Jeff Wincott for the most part. He's great as a professor, he's great beating up dudes to protect his wife, and he's even great talking philosophy and training; but he's not great constantly defeated and getting beat up by much lesser dudes. The main baddie's hatchetman was a total tool. Wincott should be beating that guy down, not getting hit over the head by the guy's nightstick. When we think of Wincott's best stuff: Last Man Standing, Mission of Justice, and Martial Law II, we see a dude who kicks much more ass than has his ass kicked. Sounds like a winning formula to me, right? Give Wincott a cigarette, a scowl, shirt optional-- right ladies?--, and a room full of stuntmen ready to be knocked out.

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Sven-Ole Thorsen is probably the next biggest name in this-- also had Richard Fitzpatrick as the main baddie, and he wasn't bad. Thorsen played the classic big, evil fighter our hero has to overcome. In the first scene he's in, he has on these sweet ski goggles and a winter hat. Problem is, he's also wearing tight black stretch pants. Ouch! What, were the leopard print ones at the cleaners? Not quite the fanny pack, but I'd say worse than the pants Sasha Mitchell had in Kickboxer 3.

The music in this was pretty sweet, including "No Exit", the theme/training montage song. Think not quite 80s Hair, but more like 80s Corporate Rock, like a band that would open for Survivor or something. That was pretty sweet though, and I can listen to that crap all day. When it was more background music, it was like Skin-a-max stuff, only with a louder drum track. You know the kind, heavy guitar, solos that might be done by a guy in an over-sized blazer with long, curly hair. I wonder if they thought that too, and added the drums to make it seem more action oriented.

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I spent five years as an undergrad pursuing my degree from 1997-2002, and another year doing grad work in 2005, and if I had had Jeff Wincott for a professor, I would've done another five years and racked up even more student loans. How great is that, taking a course with Wincott? Much cooler than Steven Seagal as a professor in Out for a Kill (though that movie is far superior to this one by virtue of the fact that Seagal decapitates an old man by throwing a samurai sword from a second story window at him). Here's my pitch: Wincott as the next Indiana Jones. I can hear the Nazis shaking at the thought.

This is a no go for me. Not enough action, a plot construct that shows our hero getting his ass kicked more than he's kicking ass, and dark for the sake of being dark all adds up to a pile of blah. As far as I can tell, this is only available on VHS here in the States, and that would be under the Fatal Combat name; there is a Region 4 version (and maybe Region 2) on DVD, and that would be under the No Exit title. Whatever the name, it's all bad to me.

For more info: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0113990/