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.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Gun (2010)

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This one's been on my radar for some time. Why did I finally decide to watch it? Maybe the 82 minute running time. Or the Netflix Watch Instantly availability. Whatever it was, we're here now, so let's see how it went.

Gun follows Curtis "50 Cent" Jackson as he attempts to take over the illegal gun trade in Detroit. In the process of killing of a rival, about six innocent bystanders are caught in the crossfire, and DPD detectives James Remar and Paul Calderon are under intense pressure to bring him in. Enter Val Kilmer, an old buddy of 50's, just out of the clink, and looking for something to do. 50 takes him in and makes him his right-hand man as he looks to make the deal that brings him him up to the next level from small time hustler to shot-caller. Will some missteps in his past come back to haunt him though?

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I really liked this. It seems like these Detroit/New Orleans DTV flicks are either hit or miss, but when they hit, they're really good. 50 is solid, and I think the fact that he wrote this allowed him to write a character for himself that was right in his wheelhouse. When you throw in great performances from Remar, Calderon, and Kilmer; plus great cameos from Danny Trejo and John Larroquette, you've got yourself something that's well beyond its DTV paygrade. Well worth checking out.

For many readers, I'm sure the idea of me and 50 Cent sounds like an invitation for me to let rip, but he's been pretty solid in the few films we've seen of him. This one might be his best. It blends the best parts of a sinister baddie, with his own trademark wit that we haven't seen as much of in his previous efforts. Plus you have the double threat that he also wrote this, which I can't imagine any of us saw working out. 50 Cent brought it here, and he deserves all the credit for that.

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I liked Kilmer as well. He and 50 Cent were great together in Streets of Blood too, which was also great. Why they work well together is beyond me, but hopefully they'll have more team-ups. I must confess, I've done a poor job keeping up with Kilmer's recent DTV oeuvre, which doesn't speak well of a Direct to Video Connoisseur, so I'll have to either get on that or change the blog title to Direct to Video Dude. As far as this one goes, there's something very Michael Madsen in Kilmer's performance, yet it's also still very Kilmer. I could spend this paragraph talking about the weight he's put on, but when he gives a solid performance like the one in Gun, he needs to be applauded.

As far as all the rest, I thought James Remar hit it out of the park. Who knows how many things I've seen him in in my life, but what separates the good and the bad for me is the fit and the scope of the character he's given. Give him something that works for him, and give him something more than just a two-scene afterthought, and you get the high quality performance we saw here. Not to be outdone, Paul Calderon was great as his partner too. Not quite the part Remar had, but it worked. Then there's Danny Trejo, who has one scene as a Chicago crime boss. I don't know that he could've had a bigger part, but it was a coup that they were able to get him to play one as small as this one. Always great to see him though. And finally, John Larroquette. How did that happen? There's something very Bill Maher-ish about his small role as a Detroit mafioso. Maybe it's the hair. Still, great to finally do a film with him in it.

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Before I get into this paragraph, I want to reiterate that I enjoyed Gun, and I don't want what I'm about to say to detract from that. The thing is, as much as I dig these DTV crime dramas shot in Grand Rapids or Detroit, I'm still waiting for a new Detroitsploitation. I'm waiting for someone to come in and give us a new Cannon or PM Entertainment-- or hell, AIP-- with action flicks shot in Detroit. I'm talking, big, schlocky, everything-but-the-kitchen-sink bad actioners. I'm talking Don "The Dragon" Wilson framed for a crime he didn't commit taking on the world as he tries to clear his name one roundhouse and jumpkick of a stuntman through a glass coffee table at a time. I want Gary Daniels driving a dirt bike away from an abandoned warehouse right before it explodes. Why are these films not being made? Yes, I enjoyed Gun, but for every Gun, there're like five of these things that don't work and were never going to work. You know what works? Cannon works. PM Entertainment works. Blowing shit up works. Jumping dirt bikes over '84 LTDs works. Roundhouse kicking stuntmen through sliding glass doors works. There's a void in the market where the old 80s/90s B-actioner used to be, and Detroit is the place to bring it back.

Soapbox done. Gun is plenty worth checking out. 82 minutes, Netflix Watch Instantly, great cast, fun story, it's all there for you. As I said above, these movies are always hit or miss, but this is definitely a hit.

For more info: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1560954/

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Zone Troopers (1985)

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This was the first of three films in April's edition of the Netflix Bad Movie night, hosted in part by two great friends of the DTVC, Mr. Gable of Mr. Gable's Reality and Tromeric at Guts and Grog Reviews. Because Tim Thomerson was born in that month (as was I), they decided to feature three of his movies, which was how we ended up here-- at least, I'm assuming it was because his birthday's in April that he was featured; I could be totally wrong though and it could all just be a coincidence...

Zone Troopers takes place during WWII, where Sgt. Tim Thomerson and his men are stuck behind Kraut lines in Italy. They're split up, and two are captured, while two, among them Thomerson, come across an alien space craft. At the same time, the two captured ones come across the alien, whom the Germans are holding in a dog cage. Thomerson and his soldier, Timothy Van Patten in all his Novocaine-mouthed goodness, rescue both the other two soldiers and the alien, and for their good deed, the alien helps them fight the Nazis.

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I've only been around for five or so of the Bad Movie Nights, but I gotta say, this might be the best bad movie night kind of film out of all of them. If you're talking best movie they've picked, hands down, it's Poolboy, no contest; but Poolboy isn't really a bad movie night movie, it's more like something that's too amazing for words and you want as many people as possible to see it so you showcase it in an event like the Netflix Bad Movie Night. Zone Troopers, on the other hand, is the stuff bad movie nights are made of. It's a throwback to the kind of flicks from the 50s that in the early 90s would've ended up as Dr. Forrester's torture fodder for Joel and the 'Bots, and while it's very self-aware and meant to be silly and fun on purpose, it's not like there isn't room for interactive viewing, which makes it very enjoyable. While this is on Netflix, you really should get your crew together and all the snacks and booze/soft drinks you can handle, and make this happen.

It shouldn't come as a big surprise that a big reason why this works so well is due to the lead, Tim Thomerson. He just seems to get these kinds of movies, doesn't he? And because he gets it, everything works. If you've seen him in Trancers or Dollman, and see his name on the cover of this and are wondering what to expect, expect that. Expect the kickass Tim Thomerson you're familiar with. There's really only one thing missing from Thomerson's CV, and I think we'll take care of that during Hall of Fame induction ceremonies this October.

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Speaking of MST3K, it's Timothy Van Patten. (Sorry if I got "Master Ninja Theme Song" in your head.) Looking at this film from the bad 50s flick that MST3K would've ripped standpoint, Van Patten would definitely have been that annoying guy that they would've been yelling at the screen to stop talking. They may have even devoted a sketch to him. It's funny how many of those movies from the 50s had that guy. Imagine if there had been the Internet and blogging back then. Would there have been guys like me complaining "why do they always have the annoying guy in these movies? Do they think anyone likes that?"

The Nazis in this speak German at a simplified, lowest level of conversation difficulty, yet me, someone who minored in German, could only pick out bits and pieces. This May it will have been 10 years since I graduated from college, and I guess, with very few people to speak German with, it's not inconceivable that I would've forgotten so much. I tried to get back into it by listening to a learn German podcast during my bike rides, but I was losing steam and needed to get back to music to pump me up-- just bought a little Public Enemy, first CDs I've bought in years.

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Finally, what do you see here? Star Wars? Solaris? It's definitely not original, right? The music was much worse, almost ripped completely from The Empire Strikes Back. It's funny though, at least with this shot, because you can't call it ripping something off so much as borrowing, or pay homage to. When we think about B-movies, especially from the 80s, I think we forget that these people are usually true film fans like us, and would've seen something like Solaris, and been a huge admirer of Tarkovsky, maybe even more so than any of us are. It's one of the things that's too bad about the current DTV environment, that the role of director is often given to an actor or stuntman or something, as opposed to an actual director. Even B-movies take on a better quality when done right.

And this, for as many things that might be wrong with it, it feels so right. Think of it as a true bad movie night extravaganza, the kind of thing you can center it on, and know everyone will have fun. Great characters, not so great characters, funny special effects, and just a whole lot of schlock-lety goodness that you need to sink your teeth into.

For more info: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0092298/

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Screwball: The Ted Whitfield Story (2010)

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After the 90 minutes of pure amazing that was Poolboy: Drowning Out the Fury, I had to see what else Ross Patterson had to offer, and fortunately, he had a couple on Watch Instantly. I went with this one, because I liked the idea of a movie based on Whiffle Ball, something I used to play growing up.

Screwball: The Ted Whitfield Story, is about Ted Whitfield (Patterson), a star in the SoCal Whiffle Ball league, who finds himself something of a celebrity in 1994, when the MLB strike brings a few more people to the game. In 1995 though, when the MLB strike ends, Whitfield, in a desperate attempt to keep people at the games, makes a charge at the league's home run record, something he'll do at any cost. Will he succeed, yet lose himself in the process?

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While this is not Poolboy, very little is, and this still has some great moments. Patterson is hilarious, as are many in the cast. I think people who have seen Poolboy will recognize Patterson's style, from his line delivery, to some of the random craziness-- one of my favorites being when he threatens an ump with a box cutter. The film meanders a bit near the end, but Patterson picks it back up, and there's a twist ending that had me in stitches. See Poolboy first, then check this out, especially if you're here in the States and can check both on Watch Instantly.

Ross Patterson is one of those types of comedic actors that can say anything in a movie and make it funny. All of the scenes with him in them were hilarious, whether he's working out and smoking and taking blue dinosaur vitamins-- performance enhancing drugs-- or he's hitting on women giving interviews. His writing in this is great too, especially when the woman who played Peters in Poolboy (Edi Patterson) enters the film as Whitfield's wife, and describes her harrowing ordeal of being vaginally raped by a mountain lion-- in sign language. Who thinks of that? Ross Patterson apparently. The two of them have great comedic chemistry too-- Patterson and Patterson, not Patterson and the mountain lion. What you gotta love about this is that, even though it's not as good as Poolboy, you can see how he gets better from film to film, meaning FDR: American Badass could be something so fantastic words won't be able to describe it-- I may not even be able to review it.

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Another thing Poolboy has going for it that might make it more of a fit for readers of this blog is that it's about action movies, which everyone here is familiar with, while Screwball is about sports, and I'm not sure how many of my readers that connects with. Also, this makes fun of the issues Major League Baseball had with players taking steroids, and I'm not sure how many readers outside of the US and Canada know or care about that. For me personally, having grown up an hour north of Boston, I was raised on baseball, and a lot of these jokes rang true. I also grew up near some trailer parks, so a lot of the red neck jokes rang true too.

Whiffle Ball in particular hit close to home. We all used to play in my neighborhood, plus my dad and I would play in the back yard. The idea of a Whiffle Ball league is great, and I imagine people actually have them. I know my buddy played in a kickball league in Portland. No irony either, this was competitive rec league kickball. He asked if I wanted to check out a game, and I asked if I should bring orange wedges. He thought it was funny, his teammates not so much.

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Finally, fans of the blog might recognize Jaime Bergman. She appeared in the very first film we reviewed, Boa vs. Python. In this she plays a reporter interviewing Ted Whitfield, who is only in a robe and jock strap. Snippets of the interview play throughout the film. I think in a couple spots she was trying not to laugh. I gotta think there were a few retakes in some of those scenes, because I know I wouldn't be able to keep a straight face. I also thought it would be good to put her picture up here, because her husband is David Boreanaz, and his pics are all over Tumblr. Gotta even things up a bit.

If you haven't seen Poolboy, do that first-- and do that now!-- then take a look at this. You'll recognize things you liked in Poolboy in this, even if you're not a sports fan. The jump in quality though from this to Poolboy has me wondering if the world can handle FDR: American Badass when it comes out. We'll just have to see.

For more info: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1262978/