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.
Monday, February 9, 2015
A while back Jamie and I were looking at films to review for the podcast, and she mentioned being a fan of Aaron Eckhart. I kind of like him myself, so when I saw this on Instant, I figured it would be a good deal for both of us. Let's see if I was right.
Erased has Eckhart living in Belgium with his teen daughter and working for a security firm. He also used to work for the CIA. This CIA training comes in handy when his employer decides to erase all record of him being employed with the company, and then tries to kill him. Now he needs to protect his daughter and unravel the mystery of why his employers have done this to him.
This wasn't bad. It's a little long at 100 minutes, and that extra ten or so from my usual 90 shows itself in a very clear way near the end, when things are dragging on a bit more than they should. We also finish with a beautiful airport reunion scene that feels a little like "really, you're going here?" Beyond that though, Eckhart turns in a great performance as the lead, and Liana Liberato and Olga Kurylenko are good as his daughter and former CIA partner respectively. What I love most is how Eckhart exudes his American-ness in this most European of countries, and the clash makes for great drama on top of the already packed drama of the plot. Overall, this is a fun suspense actioner, and a good way to kill 100 minutes.
As I said, I am a fan of Eckhart. My personal favorite of his was Rabbit Hole, which also starred Nicole Kidman. As I said above, he exudes a certain American-ness that really works in the dynamic of "American struggling abroad", and all of his lantern-jawed, hearty, rugged individualism plays so well in Antwerp and Brussels, these most European of cities. Eckhart would be on your short-list of actors to play Captain America, but he also has this vibe that you could see Hemingway basing a 1920s novel set in Paris around him, and you see it in the way he deals with the authorities and people trying to kill him throughout the film. I liked it, and it made him someone you could root for, not in a "USA, USA!" kind of obnoxious sense, but in a "he's just a good guy" kind of sense.
What's interesting about these kind of spy-thriller type deals, is that after James Bond, there's this idea that you can cast anyone to play them, and we'll buy it. Now after Matt Damon in the Bourne films, it's even more so, but for me, this film really shows the limitations of that concept, because Eckhart really works, and I think it's necessary to know that you can't just use any one and expect it to work. For example, let's take Sean Connery as James Bond. You could replace him with one of the guys who played Doctor Who, and do all the editing and jumpcuts you want to make us believe that that guy is really kicking ass, but Connery has a certain charisma that's required to pull the whole thing off. The same is true here with Eckhart. Yes, if you cast Matt Damon, Mark Wahlberg, or Liam Neeson, the film probably makes it into Hollywood and a wide theatrical release here in the States-- plus probably an additional 20 minutes added onto the already stretched runtime-- but it's not the same as getting a guy like Eckhart who really looks and feels the part.
I mentioned above about that dynamic of Eckhart versus Europe that the film had, and one area where it worked was in his two co-stars. The teen daughter, Liana Liberato, really had the feel of someone who had assimilated into European life, and perhaps even a kind of European cosmopolitanism. The former partner, Olga Kurylenko, of course is European, and thus brings that sensibility with her automatically. Eckhart is juxtaposed with them in a way that lets us see just how American he is, to the point where he may not say "Freedom Fries", but he's going to let you know what "football" means to him-- a sport where people seldom use their feet to kick the ball, despite the name. Go Pats!
Finally, Jamie and I have a running theme in the podcasts where I call attention to film makers who show a blatant disregard for the lives of people in the medical field, and this film might have been the worst offender. In one scene, a paid assassin finds Eckhart and his daughter in a hospital, and hunts them down while Eckhart tries to both fight back and protect his daughter. All the while, we are seeing doctors, nurses, housekeeping, kitchen help-- all but the pharmaceutical reps, because you know they know to hide when the shooting starts-- getting hit by stray bullets. This was like a national tragedy in Belgium the body count was so high. Hey, I like a good kill count in an actioner just as much as the next guy, but come on. Some of these people are working 16 hour shifts, under the most stressful conditions, and now they gotta deal with getting shot by a stray bullet as well?
As always, once the rant starts, it's time to close up shop. This is no longer on Instant, but if it comes back, or you see it on TV, it's not a bad time killer. Eckhart is fun in all his lantern-jawed goodness taking it to the Belgians. What more can you ask for? And remember, you can check us out live every Wednesday from 8-9 EDT at www.mixlr.com/2nd-unit, and can download the podcasts after on the archive page here on the site; or on iTunes, just type in DTVC Podcast and subscribe.
For the Erased episode, click here, and select "Save link as".
For more info: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1645155/
Monday, February 2, 2015
Last November Jamie was in the process of moving, and she needed to take a couple weeks off from the podcast. Because I didn't do a good job booking guests for those two weeks, I decided for one of them to go solo, and I picked this movie because it was the the third of three films, the first two of which I'd already covered, and I figured if Jamie hadn't done the previous two, my doing it solo would obviate her need to. For the previous two you can go here for part one, and here for part two.
In the Name of the King 3 is an Uwe Boll joint that doesn't seem to have much to do with the first two, except that like part 2, here we also have a modern day warrior (Dominic Purcell) zapped back into the past. This time he needs to fight for a kingdom that's been usurped by the king's brother after the king dies. Hamlet it certainly isn't, but the question is, will Purcell or won't Purcell save the day.
My bad joke aside, this wasn't the worst thing ever, though it doesn't bring anything remarkable to the table to make it any more than that. Part 1 had tons of stars, as it was big screen flick, and part 2 had Dolph, which almost always works. Dominic Purcell isn't horrible here, but he's that one notch below a Dolph, and a film like this that is otherwise unremarkable needs a Dolph in the lead. It had the classic Boll low-budget schlock, like the CGI dragon, and the medieval villages that are dotted with trails beaten down by automobile tires, and that kind of thing is fun, but overall this just kind of is what it is: something you could kill 90 minutes with or maybe pop on in a bout of insomnia at 2 AM or while procrastinating on a paper.
Let's look at Mr. Boll first. He's gotten quite a reputation, most of it deserved, but this effort felt more like an Albert Pyun situation, where maybe he had a better vision of something better he wanted to do, and whether it was time, budget, casting-- or all three-- he was left trying to make the best of things. I don't know either if he's setting this one up to do a fourth installment. The thing is, the second film was a solid DTV flick, with Dolph at the helm; this felt more like it was being made for the sake of being made, and with all the projects Boll has going, it doesn't seem right that he'd do something for the sake of doing it. And the visible car tire tracks in medieval Europe doesn't feel like Boll either. My guess, and maybe I'm way off here, is that he was under contract to deliver this, and he just wanted to get it over with. If so, it showed.
Purcell is an interesting casting choice as the lead in a film like this. When I see him I think of a legit baddie, and he seemed to work well as the assassin who did his last job. It's someone like Dolph that does well in the transition to the guy stuck in a time in the past who needs to get back to the future. For Purcell to do this well, he needs more character development and more overall work in the script, and a film of this scope just isn't able to do this. It made his casting seem like an afterthought or like he wasn't the first choice. Where Purcell would have worked better for me was as the assassin who tries to get out of the business and his employers won't let him, and then from there we go into the traditional actioner.
One thing I like about the medieval movie, is it can be done simply, especially now with the advancements in computer technology. Throw in that computer dragon, while everyone else is dressed like they came from the local Ren Fest. "Would you like to sample my wares?", then Purcell beheads him and says in a monotone "not today." Throw in some Dr. Seuss names for mythical objects, and you got yourself a movie. What I don't get is why we need to keep sending people from the current time back there? Just make Purcell either from the medieval time, or set the whole thing in the current.
Finally, I loved this scene here, where Purcell makes himself a coffee in the hotel after he kills his mark at the beginning of the film. The whole hotel thing definitely reminded me of things I hate in hotels though. First off, this coffee maker was much better than any I've seen in a hotel room. Also, as he's going from room to room, we see a TV remote on the dresser near the TV. Ugh! I hate the hotel TV remote! It almost never works, and all it does is steer you to the overpriced movie channel. Then you're pressing the off button and you get nothing. You gotta hit it like five times. I just leave the TV on 24 hours and say the hell with it.
Considering I'm doing a hotel TV remote rant, it's time to wrap this up. While this isn't horrible, it's not very remarkable either. As I said above, this feels like maybe Boll was just doing it to fulfill a contract. As far as my solo podcast, it was much better than the (as of now) unpublished Force of Execution one, but as always, the pods are much better with Jamie joining me on them. You can always check us out live every Wednesday from 8-9 EDT at www.mixlr.com/2nd-unit, and can download the podcasts after on the archive page here on the site; or on iTunes, just type in DTVC Podcast and subscribe.
For the In the Name of the King 3 episode, right click here and select "Save link as".
For more info: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt2379386/