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, August 11, 2014

We Are What We Are (2013)

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After Jamie and I did Puncture Wounds, which I didn't see as the best thing ever, and considering on top of that our first film was Mega Shark vs. Mecha Shark, I wanted to give Jamie the opportunity to pick the film for our podcast (I know, how magnanimous of me!), and after a false start with a film that Jamie chose and decided to pull the plug on, she chose this one.  Also on the podcast episode we had long-time friend of the blog Mitch from The Video Vacuum, who not only discussed the film with us, but also discussed the new book he has out about his blog, The Best and Worst of the Video Vacuum, which you can go here to buy. You can get it through Amazon in both papaerback and Kindle.  Definitely worth checking out.

We Are What We Are is about a family in rural Ohio who own a trailer park and are having trouble making ends meet.  When the mother dies in a tragic accident, it's up to the two teen daughters in the family to become the women in the family, and that includes making the family meals.  At the same time, there has been a series of missing women in the area, one of whom is medical examiner Michael Parks's daughter.  After a huge rain storm floods the area and washes away some of the soil, Parks discovers a human bone, and gets suspicious.  Could it be linked to the family and their family meals?

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This is an interesting one.  From a horror standpoint, it's not goofy, it's not overly gory, yet it has some punch too, it's not just all suspense and leaving things to the imagination.  I don't want to throw around cliche terms like "Hitchcockian", but there are a lot of great elements like that in here, great shots, great scenes that build the suspense, and even though we know what's going to happen before it happens, there's still enough "what's going to happen next?" to make this work well.  Also, compared to a Mega Shark vs. Mecha Shark, this is no afterthought, no rush job either, this is competently and earnestly made, which I think has to count for something.  The key for me is two things: first, it's about 15-20 minutes too long, which doesn't sound like a lot, but in a movie can be a big drain; and second, this is not a horror film for everyone, in fact, I don't think it's a horror film for all horror fans.  I think if you read this review, and you listen to the pod, and this sounds like the kind of film you would enjoy, go check it out; otherwise, you may want to skip it.

Jamie loves this film, and I can totally see why.  It does a great job of not hitting you over the head with horror, but at the same time having some crazy, horror scenes that makes this more than just all subtlety.  For me what I loved was how it combined the elements from the great Hitchcock films of the 50s and 60s, while at the same time had those 80s horror elements that I look for when I see "horror" listed as the genre.  Also, this is story driven, yet at the same time, other than being 15 minutes long, it doesn't get bogged down in the story.  Most of the scenes add to the tension, and there are very few moments where we're like "why aren't you killing someone? I'm watching a horror film for God's sake!", which I think is important when a horror director asks us to put our faith in him or her to go with them in a film like this.  Again, the key is, do you want to go with the film maker on this trip?  Do you want a change of pace in your horror flicks?

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Michael Parks is as good as ever in this.  His role is not a leading part, though he is the driving force in discovering how our family is involved in all the area killings.  Whether Parks is doing bad material, like in Wicked, or working with something more earnest like he is here, he delivers the same great, professional performance.  What I love about him in a film like this is that he adds that level of legitimacy that it needs simply by being him.  Maybe another character actor would mail it in in the same position, but he doesn't, and that means a lot in a lower-budget indie movie.

Among the other actors in the film, we had Kelly McGillis of Top Gun fame.  I think it's great to see her here after all the these years, and I know she's been doing other stuff recently too, so that's great too.  The family were all great actors as well, between the daughters, Ambyr Childers and Julia Garner, and the father, our villain, played by Bill Sage.  All of them were nominated for Chainsaw Awards for their performances, and Julia won at the Austin Fantastic Filmfest.

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One of the things we discussed in the pod, is the role the DTV market will play in our future as film fans.  Not only that, but Netflix Instant and the ability to stream these films on our computers or TVs relatively easily.  Other than the Riff Trax Sharknado, I haven't been to the theater in a long time, but can I see any of the modern major release horror films delivering what this film delivered?-- and I didn't even consider this to be a total home run.  Growing up, the video store played a very important role in my movie fandom, and especially my horror movie fandom; but the movie theater can't be discounted either.  Whether we were getting signed in by our parents, or later when I was old enough to see them on my own, there was something about the horror film in the theater that you can't replicate on a computer or TV as much as you try.  But if all I get is Paranormal 33 and 1/3 or Saw XVI, I don't really have much choice.  I don't know if this is the kind of movie that gets me back in the theater, but the fact that what's out there now is markedly worse than this, is troubling.

For me this is one to see, but, again, just know it's not your average horror film, and if what you read here isn't piquing your interest, I would skip it.  On the other hand, if you're looking for something different, and you have some time to kill, you could do a lot worse this one on Netflix Instant.  I want to thank Mitch again for being on the show, and remember, you check out his book, the Best and Worst of the Video Vacuum, on Amazon now.  As far as us, you can listen to Jamie and I do the DTVC Podcast every Wednesday live from 8-9pm EDT at www.mixlr.com/2nd-unit, and you can download our five most recent episodes from the RSS feed on the site, or our archives at http://www.talkshoe.com/tc/134494.

For part one of the episode, right click here and select "save link as", and for part two (the last 15 minutes) right click here.

For more info:  http://www.imdb.com/title/tt2309021/

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Re-Animator (1985)

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This is one I'd been meaning to do for a long time, and after I asked Jamie if she'd like to be my full-time co-host at the DTVC Podcast, I thought I'd offer this one up as our first one to do, because she's more of a horror person, and to make up for the woefully painful Mega Shark vs. Mecha Shark that she had to endure for our first episode together.  Also on the episode of the podcast was longtime friend of the blog Fred the Wolf from Full Moon Reviews.  You may remember that I lost a bet to him when my Pats lost to his Giants in the Super Bowl, and as a result had to review Do You Wanna Know a Secret? with Joey "Joseph" Lawrence and Teen Star Chad Allen.  This was a much better collaborative effort between he and I here I think.

Re-Animator stars the legend, Jeffrey Combs, as Herbert West, a med student who has just transferred from Switzerland after his professor dies in a horrible accident.  Turns out the prof bit it after he and West tried a reincarnating serum that didn't work so well.  West thinks he's perfected it though, so he moves back to the States and in with Bruce Abbott, who himself is looking to finish med school and marry his sweetheart, Barbara Crampton.  At the same time, their professor, one David Gale, is also an expert in the field of brain surgery and keeping brains alive.  He's a creepfest and doesn't get along with West.  One thing leads to another, and we find ourselves in a showdown between David Gale's reanimated head and his army of reanimated corpses versus West and Abbott.  It's a bloodbath carnival.

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This is a classic for good reason, and I think a very necessary recovering flick after Mega Shark vs. Mecha Shark.  This has everything you want in a good horror flick: silliness, creepiness, great characters, gore everywhere, and a nice runtime (of course I had to mention the runtime!).  Combs and Gale are perfect as, I don't know, two villains, hero and villain?  Both exude charisma, something we take for granted when making movies, but something that's very important.  We also had a story that worked well from start to finish, didn't have too many moving parts, yet kept things interesting throughout with few dull moments.  For what should be a silly 80s horror flick, we also have a surprising amount of nuance, which is always great to see.  The other thing I loved was the ending.  It was like a fireworks finale on the 4th of July.  The film did a great job with that, building up the gore, the tension, everything, so that when we get to that moment we're looking for a big payoff, and it more than delivered.  This was a unanimous hit among all three of us, and for good reason.

Combs is the perfect place to start here.  What more can we say about him that hasn't already been said?  And this is his signature role, the one that most people know him for.  At this point he's a veteran character actor with over 120 credits to his name, and he's always great in whatever he does, even if the film itself isn't.  Here though we have the perfect marriage of good material and Combs's skill-set.  He's does both creepy and sympathetic well.  He commands every scene he's in-- except the ones with David Gale, where they both command them together and are great to see.  We're more likely now to see him in a low-budget DTV horror flick bait-and-switch with his name all over the cover for only ten minutes of screen time, but it's how he was in this that keeps us renting and watching, looking forward to even those scant ten minutes to see him do his thing.

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Whereas Combs's Herbert West character is possibly either baddie or hero, David Gale's Dr. Carl Hill is out-and-out villain, and he's fantastic.  He channels that 60s creeper villain perfectly, in that Vincent Price mold, and it's there in everything he does.  It's like ghoulish-ness, like he might talk about the "Monster Mash", but at the same time it's not silly at all, purely horror villain, and it works so well.  What's great too is that we have the dark humor element of him with his animated head in a metal pan while he instructs his headless body to do things, so we're laughing about how great that is, while at the same time he's that scary villain we hate and want to see vanquished.  It's things like that that make a movie like this such a classic.

Rounding out the cast, we had Barbara Crampton, who is great in this and who everyone loves.  She's often the lone voice of reason, and also she's really put through the ringer in the finale.  Bruce Abbott we've seen here at the DTVC in a flick called Interzone, in which he plays the hero in some post-Apocalyptic wasteland.  He was great in that, and great here, though I was wondering here if he wasn't originally supposed to be the hero and sympathetic character and West more of a baddie.  Jamie and Fred were of the opinion that no, West was definitely the hero of the film, however misguided he may be.  It was just another one of those nuances the film had that added unexpected depth.

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I saved Robert Sampson, who played Dean Halsey, Barbara Crampton's father, for this paragraph, because I wanted to discuss something here about killing off characters.  Sampson's character is a total dick, and a total dick to Abbott especially.  Also he's in bed with the evil Gale because Gale brings money to the university he's the president of.  Usually when a character is a dick, we can't wait to see him bite it, but the way Sampson bites it is a bit harsh.  First he's killed when one of West's reanimated corpses crushes him with a metal door in the morgue.  Then he's reanimated by West.  Then Gale lobotomizes him so he can control him and keep him in a straight jacket in a padded room.  Finally, as he's watching Gale's disarticulated head violate his daughter, he snaps out of it and goes crazy.  Jamie and Fred were on the fence about this, but I felt like it was a tough ride for anyone, even if the guy was a total dick.

You don't need me to tell you this is a total yes.  Forget the fact that it's currently on Netflix, you should own a Blu-Ray of it or a special edition DVD-- I know I need to too.  But the fact that it is on Netflix is good, and if you haven't seen this before, or haven't seen it in a long time, you need to check it out.  As far as checking us out, we're on live every Wednesday from 8-9PM EDT at www.mixlr.com/2nd-unit, and if you miss an episode you can get the most recent 5 on the RSS feed here on the site, and for the archives of all the past episodes, you can go here: http://www.talkshoe.com/tc/134494.  Also thank you again to Fred the Wolf for joining us, he did a great job, and was very patient with how long it took me to get the archives of the episodes up.  Remember to check him out at Full Moon Reviews, and I want to thank him also for putting our episode up on his site as well.

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

For more info: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0089885/

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/

Monday, January 27, 2014

Hard to Die (1990)

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A few weeks ago I was lucky enough to be invited onto the Drunk on VHS podcast with Moe Porne and Jon of the After Movie Diner.  The subject was this Jim Wynorski joint (where he's credited as Arch Stanton).  The discussion moved from Wynorski's Ozu-esque establishing shots, to his Hitchcockian use of shadows and lighting to create tension in his audience.  Okay no, we actually spent very little time talking about the film, instead doing 80 minutes discussing Hobo Butt Flutes and a crime series starring Peter Spellos only his name is Pedro Spellos, with the "e" a long "a" sound and the "ll" pronounced the way it is in Spanish.  It was a great time, they're both really cool guys, and you should definitely go to their sites and check out what they have going on.  Also, if you want to hear what my voice sounds like, you can check out the podcast here. (On the page, right click on the download link and click "save link as".)

Hard to Die is billed as Die Hard with lingerie workers or something, or maybe it's billed as a slasher film crossed with Die Hard, or a spoof of Die Hard, I have no idea, but it really has nothing whatsoever to do with Die Hard.  It's about four women who work at the main office of a lingerie company, among them the great Gail Harris (credited as Robyn Harris), Debra Dutch (credited as Debra Dare), and Melissa Moore (credited as Melissa Moore, and she meets a far better fate than the Bacon Grease Foo of Samurai Cop).  These poor ladies are burning the midnight oil for their be-ponytailed jackass boss who I'm assuming Wynorski's casting director pulled from the nearest Chess King.  Anyway, after the sprinkler system goes off and the ladies need to have their nude shower scenes to clean up, someone starts bumping them off.  Early money's on the gross creepy Orville Ketchum (Pedro Spellos), but we B-movie watchers and former fans of Murder, She Wrote know the obvious choice is seldom the correct one.

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I think this movie will work on you in two opposing ways.  First, it'll hit you with that nostalgia factor.  This is USA Up All Night kind of fare for sure, only if you find it on VHS you can get it uncut, which is even better. Second though, it's pretty unremarkable and not a lot happens for the first 45 minutes or so.  I think with those two factors, because I'm writing this review in 2014 and not 1994, the nostalgia factor wins out, at least it did for me.  If this were made today with the modern state of DTV, I'd be killing it; but it's Wynorski and he made it in 1990, so it works.

This is where we usually talk about the film's main star, but other than Pedro Spellos, the star would be the director, Wynorski, so I guess we'll start there.  That's him below in his director's cameo.  He put himself in the film but not his name in the credits, as he went by Arch Stanton, which I think is fantastic (according to imdb it's the name on a grave in The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly).  If I ever had a son or a male cat, I'd name him Arch Stanton.  When I first started this blog almost seven years ago, I expected to have tons of Wynorski flicks reviewed, but this is only his sixth.  It shows you the degree to which the DTV world has changed in that time, with new DTV films starring major Hollywood actors coming out more often and companies like The Asylum making huge noise with schlock fare like Sharknado, Wynorski's great 90s flicks have been lost in the shuffle-- not to mention the submissions from independent film makers and distributors looking for me to review their films, which is something I love to do but something I never expected when I started either. With the state of the modern schlock flick and B-movie goof fest, in particular The Asylum and their imitators, we either forget about guys like Wynorski or Fred Olen Ray who really did it right, or we elevate their work to a higher level because we're just craving that kind of thing after being denied it for so long.  If anything, it's a reason for me to keep going into the past as much I'm trying to keep up with everything new that's coming out, because it's the 90s flicks that got me and a lot of other people into this kind of stuff in the first place.

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Pedro Spellos.  We last saw him here in the Ray/Wynorski collaboration Dinosaur Island, where he played a doughy virginal man whose grossness didn't turn off the Amazon woman on the island that he was betrothed too.  Just when you thought he couldn't be any grosser, he reprises his role of Orville Ketchum from Sorority House Massacre II, making him something of a Wynorski mainstay.  As gross as his character was and as much as I wanted him to be killed off quickly, I understood that he probably worked for a warm meal and was willing to schlep gear, so Wynorski had to keep him in the film as long as he could to keep the budget down.

Other stars in the film were Melissa Moore, who we've seen a few times in classics like Samurai Cop.  She seems like the Audrina from The Hills of the 90s B-movie (ouch, did I just admit I watched The Hills, or maybe I admitted that on here way before...).  Gail Harris (listed as Robyn Harris) played the lead.  She was in the three Circuit films with Olivier Gruner that we reviewed sometime back.  Jon loved her Northern accent, and we enjoyed imagining her as a butty in a Northern mine.  One of my favorites was Debra Dutch (credited as Debra Dare) as another of the girls.  She made these great exaggerated facial expressions, like she used to do silent film work or something.  In any slasher film you need someone like her that you root for, even though you know she's at impossible odds to be the Final Girl, and Dare/Dutch was that for me.

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Finally, take a look at that guy's hat.  Boston Red Sox baby, getting some shine in 1990.  In 1990 the Red Sox would be swept again in the ALCS by the Oakland A's, getting swept before in 1988.  With how good the Sox have been the last ten years, we forget what they were between 1986-1990: three trips to the ALCS, with one trip to the World Series in 1986 that ended in disaster.  Now the Red Sox don't lose those games, and the 11-year-old me in 1990 could not have fathomed the 34-year-old me watching them win a third World Series in 10 years this past fall.  Nor could he have imagined the dump that was Fenway then turned into the amusement park it is now.  I don't know which is worse: drunk belligerent assholes and peeing in troughs back then; or that God awful "Sweet Caroline" thing they do in the middle of every 8th inning now.  Ugh!

Okay, I'm getting way off track here-- much like our podcast did-- so let me reel it in and wrap this up.  Used VHS is the way to go, and it's a little pricey.  If you were to find it in a VHS bin consider it a great score and even at $5-$10 it's worth it.  I know more of these are popping up on Instant too, so hopefully it'll be on there soon as well.  Also, I want to thank Moe at Drunk on VHS again for having me on his podcast and he and Jon at the After Movie Diner for the great time recording it.  Again, check out what those guys are doing if you haven't already.

For more info: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0103111/

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Repo (2010)

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Our friend Kevin from MTI Video asked if I could review this one for him, and from the trailer it looked pretty good, so I thought I'd give it a go.  It stars Jason Mewes, and growing up in the 90s and seeing Clerks, Mallrats, and Chasing Amy in the theater, Mewes will always hold a special place in my heart, so at the very least I figured he'd be entertaining, right?

Repo is about Leon (played by Ben Gourley, who also wrote and directed), a down-on-his-luck repo man that was dumped by his fiancee and is trying to get his real estate license but is afraid to take the plunge and take the test.  His buddy (Mewes) is also his coworker, and he's always getting Leon in trouble.  At the same time, Leon owns/is the property manager for (it's not quite clear) an apartment complex, and there's a nice pretty girl (Lindsey McKeon) living there that he has a thing for.  But will he screw it up?  Or will his buddy screw it up for him?  Or will they both?

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I think I could be forgiven for thinking this is a Ben Gourley vanity project, and while I'm not going to be that reductive or dismissive, it does hit all the spots: guy who can't get out of his own way, guy afraid to take chances, guy gets the girl, guy screws it up, guy's friend gets him in trouble, guy fixes trouble and gets the girl and has a great life.  I think Gourley was more earnest in making this film than simply a vanity project, but it amounts to the same thing though: the 90s and early 2000s were littered with films like this, and this one doesn't really bring anything new to the table.  If anything, it suffers because Mewes's character is more fun and someone I wanted to see more of, so he made Gourley's Leon less someone I wanted to root for.  Yes, Mewes was a fun time, and it had a few other fun moments too, but we've seen this already, and we've seen it done better 15-20 years ago, so overall it's a pass for me.

One of the things about the Mewes character that I was reminded of was how much he invented that style of sidekick or buddy with his Jay character in Kevin Smith's films.  I'm not saying this character here is Jay, what I'm saying is I've seen so many films try to have a Jay-like character in their off-beat independent comedies like this, and that character almost never comes off.  With Mewes though it all works, the only difference here compared to films like Clerks or Mallrats, in those films we had main characters that were more compelling, so we were cool with the bits here and there that we get of Mewes; and while he's a bigger supporting character in this, with a main character that was so vanilla, Mewes becomes the character we want to see, so even the bigger role wasn't enough.

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One of the weird things about this film is that it's called Repo, but it really spends more time at the apartment complex.  Like there isn't a lot of repo'ing going on.  Maybe it should've been called Apartment Complex, or Property Manager, I don't know.  Maybe Leon, but I think that name was taken.  We start off with a nice repo scene, and I thought that's what we had going on, but then we lose that for awhile while we're inundated with all the kooky characters of the apartment complex.  Hey, it's an Italian guy in a speedo!  Hey, it's an aging cougar hitting on our hero!  Hey that guy's overweight and doesn't pay his rent!  Hey, there's the nice pretty girl our hero is going to win at the end of the film!  The repo aspect was the thing that could've made this film not every-film-we've-seen-before, but instead we got the kooky characters at the apartment complex, and that we've all seen enough of.

Lindsey McKeon plays the girl Leon wins, and she does a great job doing the best she can with a classic one note character.  Oh, she's so cute and precocious with her backpack and her thin sweaters with sleeves that go just beyond her wrist and her sweetness and her going to school to be a nurse.  And the only time she's able to inject any personality into the role is when she rejects Leon because the other girl he was seeing (who Mewes paid to date him) comes back and ruins things.  But that's when things get gross and weird.  McKeon's character flatly rejects Leon, and while we know it's a misunderstanding, the fact that he can't take no for an answer and harasses her with flowers and whatnot is problematic, especially when you consider Leon is her landlord and is in a position of power over her.  It's this grossness depicted in movies and other popular media that gives guys the idea that if they just harass a woman enough, she'll breakdown and fall for him; and it's this grossness that forces women to give guys a fake number so they'll leave her alone, or lie and say she has a boyfriend.  In another movie we saw for Kevin at MTI, Slip & Fall, this issue was dealt with much better.  The hero didn't harass the woman, she came back on her own, and as a result it didn't have any of that grossness.  The other thing was, in Repo, they already spent the make-up/break-up nickel, and resolved it in a non-problematic way by McKeon helping Leon after tries to drown himself in the pool.  For some reason they decided to recycle the make-up/break-up thing by having McKeon catch Leon with the other woman again, and that's where they got into trouble.  It was a double whammy of redundancy and grossness, and helped to torpedo a film that was already having trouble.

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Finally, let's look at everyone else, because this movie had a bunch of other people in it.  First off we had Patrick Muldoon, famous on here for getting his ass kicked by Richard Norton in Rage and Honor II, and famous with my girlfriend for being the creepy neighbor in her favorite, Wicked.  He plays a former rock star living in the apartment complex, and he's not bad, especially compared to the other tenants.  Izabella Miko played the woman Mewes hires to date Leon.  Like Mewes, she adds to that vibe that our hero is not compelling, because she has more personality and makes him that much more vanilla.  Then we have Sunny Mabrey as Leon's ex-fiancee.  She's not in it much, and I think she's supposed to be a horrible person, which I guess is how it goes when we want our hero to be the hero.  Finally, Zack Ward has a small role as a local thug.  That's about it.

As of this posting, this won't be out on DVD until December 17, 2013, and I'm assuming like all MTI DVDs you can get it at Red Box and whatnot.  For me it's a pass, mostly because I think we've seen this plenty of times before, but the aspects that were good, especially Jason Mewes's performance, might be enough to make this a Red Box rental for you.

For more info: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0887161/

Friday, November 8, 2013

Blood of Redemption (2013)

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New Dolph Lundgren movie, Netflix shipped it out to me the day it was released, and now we're reviewing it.  Is there anything else you need to know?  All right, let's see how it went.

Blood of Redemption has Dolph as Axel, a bodyguard and fix-it man for mob boss Robert Miano.  When Miano finds out his protection in the FBI is done, he decides to retire, but his son, Billy Zane, isn't interested in that, so with Vinnie Jones, who is the nephew of Miano's partner, Robert Davi, he goes for one last gig, a counterfeiting operation.  But things go bad, Miano ends up dead, and Zane's behind bars.  Now it's up to Dolph to get to the bottom of things.

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While I was watching this, my girlfriend asked me how it was going, and my response was "well, at least it has Dolph in it."  This thing was just all over the place from the word go.  Zane's character uses the term "too many moving parts", and that's what this film suffered from.  On imdb it lists three writing credits, and this had the all-over-the-place feel of a film with three writers.  For instance Gianni Capaldi plays Zane's younger brother, and in the middle of the film his character is developed like he'll be a key player, only to have him have zero impact on the film's finale.  Then what are we doing here developing a superfluous character?  We're wasting valuable time, time that could have been some great Dolph Lundgren action instead, but because we have so many writers, we have no consistency.  "Blood of Redemption" denotes a simple formulaic action plot about a man on a revenge quest, instead of this convoluted over-complicated mess that focused so much energy on a web of intrigue and a plot twist at the end that no one didn't see coming.  As is often the case with DTV action: the simpler the better.

In terms of Dolph, he's great as usual, but this is a movie that doesn't use him the way the cover would have you believe.  This isn't really his story, though he's telling it, he's usually talking about things other people are doing.  He actually says at one point "I needed to sit this one out."  Are you kidding me?  Dolph Lundgren in a Dolph Lundgren movie doesn't ever sit anything out!  I'm not watching a Dolph Lundgren DTV flick so he can "sit this one out"!  Cut the shit man, that's as sauteed in wrong sauce as it gets.  Now he does have some great moments, especially one scene where he has to fight a dominatrix, which might go down in the Dolph canon as one of his classics, but the film itself will not.

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If you've been rockin' with me for some time now, you know that I'm a solutions oriented guy.  I'm not content enough with saying the movie was bad and why, but what I think could have been done to make it better, especially from a writing standpoint.  As I said in the first paragraph, the obvious first step is to simplify and streamline it.  I'd go for a simple revenge plot, where Billy Zane betrays his father, and maybe even frames Dolph for it, and now Dolph needs to clear his name.  Simple but sweet, and Dolph cuts such a compelling lead that it wouldn't take much to develop him, nor would it take much to develop Zane who's a great baddie.  No convoluted flashback storytelling style either.  Let's just go start to finish and every 15-20 minutes you have an action scene.  Maybe you'll say "but we've seen that before Matt?"  Well we've seen the kind of film that we got before too, and we know which of the two has a proven track record.  Again, simple always over complicated.

As you saw above, this film has a lot of names, so let's go through them.  Billy Zane was as cool as ever.  He was wasted though by not being made the out and out baddie.  Vinnie Jones was great too, and this was a bigger role than we're used to with him, which was nice to see.  The more Vinnie Jones the better, that's what I always say.  DTVC favorite Robert Davi attempts to affect an English accent for his role, and it was interesting how it was really good in the scenes he acted out with Jones, and non-existent in the others.  Hey, why not, he's Robert Davi.  Finally, one of my favorites, Robert Miano, had a small role as the patriarch of the mob family.  Always good to see him.  Great names in a not-so-great film.

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From a technical aspect, this had the pernicious modern DTV rapid-jumpcuts coupled with bad camera effects, which just made things even worse.  In one of Capaldi's fight scenes, there was this effect that I guess was supposed to mimic what a seal's vision is supposed to be, I don't know.  I know it made me sick to my stomach though it was such a mess.  Even worse was the gratuitous use of the character title cards.  I mean, it was so bad that characters were literally introduced to us in a prior scene, then they did that.  What?  What the hell are you doing?  And see that one with Dolph?  Guess when that comes in?  At the very end.  How the hell is that helping us?  All it's doing is disrupting the flow of the film, and believe me, this movie needed all the help it could get to maintain any kind of flow with the way it's story hashed out by multiple screenwriters was all over the place.

I wish I could recommend this.  I wish on the strength of Dolph alone I could recommend it, or because of all the other great names.  Unfortunately Dolph has been bitten by the bad DTV bug, and even he couldn't save it.  I mean this was so much cliched modern DTV that I was surprised that "Wake Up to the Bleeding" or whatever it's called song didn't come in at the credits.  You know the one I'm talking about, the one that's in all those UFC punchfighting flicks.  Anyway, whatever, this is available from all the usual suspects on DVD if you want to check it out.

For more info: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt2510268/