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.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Puncture Wounds aka A Certain Justice (2014)

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I'd seen that this was out for a bit, but when it became available on Netflix it was really on my radar.  I mean, anyone who's been rockin' with the DTVC for any amount of time knows that anything with Dolph Lundgren will automatically be on my radar, and Netflix Instant makes it even better.  We covered this one on the pod as well.  This marked Jamie's second episode as full-time co-host, and her first dip in the Dolph Lundgren pool-- always exciting!; also we had long-time friend of the site Richard Pierce on, to talk not only about the film, but to let us know about his new film, Sector 4: Extraction, which he wrote, and which stars DTVC Hall of Famer Olivier Gruner.  We'll definitely be doing that one in the near future.  But for now, it's Dolph time.

Puncture Wounds stars Dolph as a nasty baddie who's into white slavery, meth cooking, and looking like Danny Trejo.  Cung Le is an Iraq War vet with PTSD who happens to see woman of the night Briana Evigan getting roughed up by her pimps out in the parking lot of his dive hotel.  He comes to her defense and kills the pimps, which was a mistake because those pimps were just low-level guys working for Dolph.  So Dolph has Le's family burned alive in a van for revenge, and Cung Le takes out Dolph's whole operation in response.  A simple tit for tat.

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This movie is dark, and more dark than action flick.  It has some good action, for sure, but it seems to be more focused on being dark.  Rich and I were discussing that, because we both prefer our action PM Entertainment style: simple, fun, and full of explosions.  What this movie did have that worked was a cohesive plot without too many angles that tried to keep things moving.  Dolph was great as the baddie, Cung Le was Cung Le as the hero, and our supporting cast of Vinnie Jones and Gianni Capaldi were solid too.  Jamie, coming from a horror background, appreciated the darker aspects of the film more than we did, so perhaps that's the best way to look at this one: an action flick for people who like their movies a little darker.  A spray tanned action film, if you will.

Speaking of "if you will", what I certain "will" is Dolph.  Great baddie.  Between his work as a pimp/white slaver and the fact that he orders Le's family to be burned alive, this film manages to avoid the Destro Effect, which is not always easy when you cast Dolph as a baddie, especially opposite someone like Cung Le.  Even as despicable as that character was, there was still a part of me that rooted for Dolph to beat Cung Le at the end of the film.  They also tried hard by making him look like Danny Trejo.  Danny Trejo is in so many things though now that you can't really make a character look like him and expect us to say "oh, definitely baddie."  I thought maybe he was going to kill zombies, or do commercials for pre-packaged tacos.  Can you see Dolph doing that?  "What're you makin' your kids for dinner tonight?  Try our new stand-n'-stuff hard tacos and unleash the fun..."

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As we've discussed on here before, fellas like Dolph are not getting any younger, and we need a next generation to step in and fill the void.  We've looked at great guys like Michael Jai White and Scott Adkins in the past, but it seems here that Cung Le is also being tapped for that purpose.  I think the main problem with this film is that his character has no personality whatsoever.  He was good and a lot of fun in Dragon Eyes, which, as a film, was more of a mess than this one was, but at the very least shows us that Le is capable of more if the character is right.  What I'd like to see from him is a straight ahead PM Entertainment style DTV actioner that really shows us what he can or can't do.  And less UFC-esque martial arts too. I don't need my martial arts in a movie to be realistic, I need them to look good.  More kicks, fewer rear naked choke holds.

Among the others in the film, we had the incomparable Vinnie Jones.  He's a bad guy in this, but maybe not as much of a baddie?  He also has a fun scene being tortured by Cung Le.  Gianni Capaldi was something of a revelation.  We saw him in Blood of Redemption, and his character was all over the place and we were wondering why he was there.  Here he was great, got to use his native Scottish accent, had fun with the role, and also added some depth to it when it was required.  Rich mentioned that he's also in Ambushed, so I'll have to check that out too-- obviously it's a Dolph flick, so we'll definitely be checking it out.  Finally, Briana Evigan played the prostitute in need of redemption... or not, I don't really know.  Her character was more of an afterthought but it was one of those afterthoughts that's sold to us as not an afterthought, so when we get to the end the film makers are like "of course you care about what happens to her, right?"  It was kind of a disappointment, because she was fairly solid in Stash House.

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Finally, I often talk about a film being "faux dark", or that their darkness is grafted on, like an otherwise goofy actionfest suddenly becomes "dark" by cutting a finger or ear off with a pair of garden shears.  This film had none of that, no extremities cut off, but was legitimately dark.  I can get behind dark as an identity, what I don't like is this faux dark thing that many modern DTV flicks do, and I think this movie is a good break from that.  One place though where I couldn't go with them though was in killing off Le's friend.  It's one of the worst action film tropes anyway: person who helps hero meets tragic demise for his or her trouble; but I thought here they had mitigated it properly: the friend, an old war buddy, suffering from the fact that he lost his leg, is given a chance at a warrior's death in helping his friend carry out his revenge.  Instead, he's captured by the baddies and dies on his knees when a tool bag henchman character with a gross douchebag haircut stabs him through the neck.  Really?  I expected more out of you movie, and you really let me down there.

Overall though this movie wasn't much of a let down.  It wasn't the greatest thing ever, but it wasn't horrible either.  Dolph was sweet as the baddie, and the darker feel worked.  At least while it's on Netflix it might be worth checking out.  Also worth checking out is the new film that our buddy Rich wrote, Sector 4: Extraction, starring Olivier Gruner.  It's out now on Amazon on DVD and streaming.  As far us, you can check us out live on the podcast every Wednesday from 8-9pm at www.mixlr.com/2nd-unit, and if you miss an episode, the RSS feed on the blog has the five most recent episodes, and all the archives are at http://www.talkshoe.com/tc/134494.

For the episode where we discuss this film, right click here and click "save link as".

For more info: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt2909476/

Monday, July 21, 2014

Mega Shark vs. Mecha Shark (2014)

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After doing the Drunk on VHS podcast a second time with Moe and Jon from the After Movie Diner, where we discussed the Rutger Hauer flick The Blood of Heroes-- among other things-- Moe offered me my own podcast slot in the 8-9pm hour on Wednesday nights.  I was excited for the opportunity, but for that first show, I didn't have much time to prepare or get a guest.  Fortunately, Moe connected me with Jamie Jenkins, of the podcasts Lycan In!, Devour the Podcast, Evil Episodes, and the Skeleton Crew, and she was willing to sit in with me for my inaugural episode-- a podcasting midwife, as she called it!  Anyway, because we had a short time to prepare, I figured we'd do a quickie Asylum flick on Netflix, and I chose this one because it starred one of my Asylum faves, Debbie "Deborah" Gibson.  Let's see how it turned out.

Mega Shark vs. Mecha Shark stars Elizabeth Rohm of Law and Order fame and Christopher Judge of House Party 2 fame as two experts of some sort called into action when another prehistoric mega shark has been thawed and is threatening our seas.  Their solution: a submarine that's shaped like a shark and has a computer that sounds like KITT from Knight Rider.  Now the angry mega shark is in heat, looking get a piece worse than The Situation in an early episode of The Jersey Shore, but instead of being a dick to his roommates, he's destroying aircraft carriers.  Can our heroes and their shark shaped submarine save the day?

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My girlfriend (soon to be wife) wanted to watch this one with me, thinking it was going to be a fun time, and about 7 minutes in she was browsing Tumblr on her phone.  That just about sums up Mega Shark vs. Mecha Shark right there.  Of course, as your faithful DTV Connoisseur, I sat through the following 78 minutes of pain and ennui, trying to make sense of things.  One thing Jamie mentioned right away was that this should have been, and we both thought we were getting, a Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla shark extravaganza.  As Fred Willard said in Best in Show: "No-brainer right?  Turns out, not so."  Instead we got a shark-shaped submarine that made the penguin-shaped sub in the Batman movie look serious, and did nothing more than self-destruct at the end of the film and take the shark with it.  That's all ya got?  A series of perfunctory CGI sharks jumping out of the water and smashing things, a few overdone shark jokes (whoa, Christopher Judge just jumped the shark! wacka wacka wacka!), some slightly funnier Titanic jokes, and then all you do is self-destruct the submarine shark?  Why didn't you do that in minute 15 and save us the other 70 minutes!  This is a definite pass for me, as it was for Jamie.

Let's start with Debbie Gibson.  She's reprising her role from the Lorenzo Lamas Asylum flick Mega Shark vs. Giant Octopus, which, if I'm not mistaken, was one of the first of these Asylum large animal disaster flicks.  The problem here is that she's barley in two scenes.  What?  This movie should be all Debbie Gibson.  Piloting a submarine, saving stranded children, performing her songs in a musical interlude-- all of the things we needed and never got.  The 8-year-old me who thought Debbie Gibson was just "girl music" never could have imagined the 35-year-old him on a blog in 2014 saying a film needed more Gibson, and needed her performing those "girl songs", but he's doing it.  That's right 8-year-old me, I wasn't as cool as you thought I'd be-- we also didn't get flying cars.  (I let 8-year-old me down!)

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As far as shark movies go, this is very low on the totem pole.  As far as I can tell, we've done about eight shark movies on here (this would be the ninth), though I haven't always been good at tagging shark movies, so I may be off.  Of those eight, this isn't exactly the worst, but it may be the most unremarkable.  It just seemed like such an afterthought, which I think is the most frustrating.  It's like they took all the second-unit footage from another movie to make this one.  I get that these are supposed to be silly and low-budget, and that's what I want from them, but I also want something from someone who tries.  It's like going to a restaurant and getting burnt food or under-cooked food.  I'm not looking for Bergman or Bocuse with every movie or meal, I just want a good effort, both from the food and the film.  Is that too much to ask?

Christopher Judge is only in this slightly more than Debbie Gibson, and while he looks cool, he also has this quality in his characters that is almost like "I'm going to go play D & D after we shoot this."  His best scene was of him almost lighting a thin cigar while wearing sunglasses.  For Judge, in my mind anyway, his pinnacle as an actor was in House Party 2, when he said "If you're not giving up the rhythm, you got to go."  That's movie gold right there.  If this movie just had that, or even a Pajama Jammy Jam, I would've been happier than what I got here.  Ain't gonna hurt nobody...

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As I said above, this film had many Titanic references.  First off, Judge and Rohm, who play a married couple, are "Jack" and "Rosie".  Then, one of the carriers is split in half by the shark, and as it sinks we're treated to people sliding off the deck as they did in Titanic when the ship was sinking.  My experience with Titanic came in college.  We had a campus movie channel that would show four movies a week, each once a day, on a rotating basis, and Titanic came up a few times during my five years in school.  One of the times my neighbor came by at 12:30 to ask me if I wanted to get baked and watch the ship break apart, as Titanic was showing in the midnight slot.  I agreed.  He had this massive glass bong, one that sat on the floor and came up to my chin as I sat on the couch.  There were about five of us, and we got pretty stoned, and then the scene came, and I was in awe, mouth agape, watching the faux destruction happen on his 19" tube TV.  Eat your heart out Joe Friday, weed is good!

So the movie is a pass, but the podcast isn't, and you can check us out from 8-9pm EST, live, every Wednesday at www.mixlr.com/2nd-unit.  You can also check out the RSS feed here on the blog to download if you miss it live, or our archives at: http://www.talkshoe.com/tc/134494. I say "we" and "our", because Jamie has since agreed to join me every week as my cohost, which has been great and the show's been a lot of fun.  So while the movie itself was a bust, the podcast worked out.

To download the episode for this movie, right click here and select "save link as".

For more info: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt3152098/