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 15, 2007

Bloodfist III: Forced to Fight (1992)

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I caught this recently during a Bloodfist marathon on ShowtimeXtreme. I have friends with the channel, but unfortunately, they will probably be dumping it soon. I know when I had the channel myself it provided hours of enjoyment; but it is expensive, and I can totally understand them not keeping it. Perhaps we can get the channel as a tax write-off at the DTVC head offices.

Bloodfist III: Forced to Fight is the first of the series to feature Don "The Dragon" Wilson as someone other than the guy he was in the first two. In fact, all of them after III do that. Anyway, here he's in prison, and he sees his buddy raped and murdered, so he kills the guy that did it. That garners him bad attention from the cats that dug the dead guy, so he's forced to fight to survive. Richard Roundtree is his cell mate, and he's close to parole. He also represents the inmates at their parole and appeal hearings. The question is: will his supporting Donny kill him before his release date? We know it won't kill Donny Dawg.

Almost every action hero has to do the perfunctory prison flick. Don got his out of the way very early in his career, and I must say that was a good move. Though this movie is atrocious, we can forgive him for it, because he didn't have a lot under his belt. That being said, he better not do anymore, like Van Damme did, because the results could be disastrous. I think Crooked was a far better movie choice than In Hell.

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One thing I dug about this was the sheer volume of fighting in it. There could've been more if they'd just removed the plot completely, and I can't say I would've been upset with that, but I think the amount they had was enough. In one scene, Dragon fights this big dude in the laundry room. He kicks the guy backward through who knows how many hanging sheets. I'm not sure exactly what they were going for, whether that was a scene played for laughs gone wrong, or if they really thought it would be a cool effect and just got carried away, but it looked like something out of the Three Stooges.

Richard Roundtree's in this, unfortunately not reprising his role as Shaft. As a kid, the Shaft movies were to my mind the most amazing things I'd ever laid eyes on, and as an adult, my opinion hasn't changed much. We get flashes of what made Shaft great here, like when Roundtree goes upside a dude's head with a bat, but nothing like the scene in Shaft in Africa when he killed a bunch of dudes with a car; and none of the great lines like the classic "Close it yourself... Shitty!" from the first one. I think the film makers were a little over their head when they cast Roundtree, and as such, weren't able to use him to his full potential.

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This film had all the depraved hallmarks of the routine prison film, which I assume is meant to show us how gritty the prison environment is, but in the end just look whacked. This is especially true in the beginning when D "The D" Dubs' friend gets raped. Eww. Just the same, the film does a solid job in tempering this depravity, especially with how Don is able to get justice against both the warden (played by the assassin in Hard to Kill, an interesting connection between Don and Seagal) and the baddies in prison; and with the way they wrapped up Roundtree's story. I left this movie without the icky feeling I'm usually left with after other prison flicks, and I guess in that respect this film is a nice slice of all right.

If you see this again on ShowtimeXtreme or something, and you're up late typing or paper or battling insomnia, a fella or a lady could do a lot worse than watch this bad boy. On the other hand, if you spend any money, or set aside any time to watch this, you will feel sorely cheated. It's what we in The Biz call nondescript, and in my mind, nondescript is no good.

For more info: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0101481/

Mercenary for Justice (2006)

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I first caught this on Spike or something. They've been pretty good about showing some bad action like this. The Seagals and Van Dammes they usually show during the day on weekends, while the lower quality films like the Bloodfists they show at 2am on Friday and Saturday mornings (Thursday and Friday nights if you're like me and the next day doesn't officially begin until 6am.)

Mercenary for Justice has Steven Seagal as a mercenary for justice who has to mitigate between his bad employer, who has kidnapped a friend's wife and young son, and avoiding doing a job that involves breaking a major arms dealer's son out of a high security South African prison. Somehow a bank robbery is involved, along with a CIA agent. The plot is so muddled I have no idea how we get from point A to point B, but we do, and Seagal is victorious.

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I wasn't sure if I wanted to review this film or not, considering Seagal is part of a poll asking for attitudes on his worthiness for inclusion in the DTVC Hall of Fame. The reality is that it's films like this that have kept him out so far. Essentially, Seagal is omnipotent. Whatever he wants to do, he does. What makes this omnipotence all the more absurd is how the plot is centered around his boss having him over a barrel by kidnapping the wife and son. The next hour or so of film makes us wonder why, if he's able to pull off all this other stuff just by being Seagal, why didn't he just go and save the two right away, and save us the trouble? This was as poorly conceived as an episode of the old syndicated action series Nightman.

I'm also surprised Seagal took this role, because it makes him as a hero look exceedingly unheroic. In one scene, he and his hot partner rob some huge bank, and in escaping, he shoots and kills plenty innocent police officers. Right on! Later, instead of confronting his adversaries head on, he sneaks around and picks them off with a silenced handgun. To finish off his employer, he goes the very dignified route of putting a bomb in his car and detonating it while the guy drives away. Why am I rooting for him?

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Usually in a bad action film I can forgive a ludicrously muddled plot if the bad action is good. But here the bad action is so bad, that the muddled plot gave me a huge headache. I'm not sure what the CIA was doing. I'm not sure what Seagal was doing. The bank thing made no sense. I was clueless when the baddies invaded the prison, then were shot up by I don't know who. I think they just tried to get too smart with it, and as in many cases, when they try to get too smart, they just end up looking stupid.

I was trying to think of something good or memorable that makes this film worthwhile, and I just drew a blank. I haven't even had a chance to see all of the Seagal direct to video stuff out there, but I have to assume this is the worst one. Maybe that's just wishful thinking, but a guy can dream, right? Avoid this bad boy at all costs. Even if you and your friends hate Seagal, and you want to watch something to lambaste him with, watch something else. This one hurts.

For more info: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0427528/

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Bail Out aka W.B., Blue, and the Bean (1989)

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My friends and I found this film in one of those 50 movies for whatever low price kind of deals. It said it had Hasselhoff in it, so we figured it'd at least be entertaining for that. The reason my buddy bought this collection originally was its inclusion of a Joe Don Baker classic, Mitchell. If you're as big a MSTie as I am, you must watch Mitchell at least one time in the non-MST3K version. It's a trip. Not only that, but you learn what happened to John Saxon.

Bail Out is about some bounty hunters, headed by Hasselhoff, who work for a shady bail bondsman played by the guy who played Capt. Lipschitz on Silk Stalkings. They're hired for a big score, which is making sure an heiress, played by Linda Blair, gets to her court date on Monday on a huge drug trafficking charge. The fly in the ointment is that the Colombians want her because they need compensation for the $5 million in coke they lost and they think her rich dad should reimburse them. She's kidnapped, and it's up to Hasselhoff and his boys to save the day. Danny Trejo's in this for a moment near the end.

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One of the striking things about this film is how dated it seems. I don't mean because it was made in 1989 and we saw it in the new millennium. I mean for 1989 it seemed like it was much older. The film quality was like that in a Charlie's Angels or Rockford Files episode from the 70s. Then there's the use of racial stereotypes: the white guy who leads the show and gets the girl, his black friend who's a smooth talker and knows the streets, his Latino friend who does all the dirty jobs, and their stingy, penny-pinching Jewish boss. This was embarrassing to watch.

The Hasselhoff-age was pretty decent. He had this mullet that I would probably rate a 7.2 in mulletude. I've never been quite sure how I'm supposed to take Hasselhoff. As a young kid, watching Knight Rider, I still didn't know just how much Hollywood expected me to take him seriously, and then I was in first grade for God's sake. Just the same, I remember an episode of Baywatch Nights where he was playing pool in the last five minutes, and he hit this shot that I still refer to as The Hasselhoff, and have only hit it myself a couple times. The 9 ball was just off the rail in the middle of the table, and cue ball was down further, not quite in line with it. He shot the cue so it hit directly next to the 9, slamming it against the rail and back out into the side pocket on the other side of the table. It was hot.

Linda Blair is in this as the damsel in distress slash Hasselhoff romantic interest. I felt she was sufficiently attractive in that role, but I have the sinking suspicion that the movie makers would have gotten someone hotter if they thought they could. It's just the kind of movie this was. In 1989, though, you could do a lot worse than Linda Blair, and for me she was one of the few bright spots in an otherwise crappy film.

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I recently had a conversation with a group of people about Saved by the Bell. Some of them had actually made it through their 25-plus years on the planet without having seen this television tour-de-force. The conversation started when I mentioned Zack Morris' cell phone. Anyone who's seen the show enough would know exactly what I'm talking about. Anyway, Hasselhoff has a nice Zack Morris phone in this, and it's held up as some kind of status symbol, which I guess in 1989 it would have been. Now it just looks silly.

There was one memorable scene. Near the end, Hasselhoff needs to shoot a helicopter with a grenade launcher or something. He takes his sweet-ass time waiting for a clean shot while his friends are sprayed with gunfire from the baddies flying it. Finally he blows it up, and then does this great celebration. We had to watch it a few times, one, because it was so funny, and two, because we had so little to be pleased about in this horrible movie.

If you see this by itself in the store, avoid it at all costs. It's such a waste. On the other hand, if you have a friend like we did with one of these 50 movies for whatever price collections, and see this in it, and you need to kill an hour and a half, it might not hurt to give it a try. Out of the 50 movies, this'll probably be one of the best, which isn't saying much, but it's kind of how these things work.

For more info: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0098614/

Friday, August 10, 2007

Styx (2001)

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One of the reasons I have become a connoisseur of bad cinema is my constant inability to fall asleep at a decent hour. This is especially true when I'm crashing at another person's place. One time in particular, I was using a friend's couch, and decided to turn his TV on to the digital cable station that plays all 80s music in order to aid my slumber. The last song I remember that night was Styx's : "The Best of Times", and subsequently the song was in my head for two weeks straight. I thought I was over it, until I saw this movie at my local video store. Though I was happy I'd found another DTVC Hall of Famer Peter Weller film, I was dismayed that I would have to endure another week or two of that song in my head.

Styx has nothing to do with the aforementioned band, but rather the river, which I'm assuming the band named themselves after too, at least in some way. Anyway, Peter Weller plays a safe cracker, who with Cocktail and FX's Brian Brown and the guy who played Bobby the Bruce in Braveheart, plans a huge bank heist. It all goes wrong when one of their lesser accomplices is high on coke and botches the plan, leaving Weller and the Braveheart guy narrowly escaping an explosion in the ambulance they drove. Brown, surprising no one, survived as well. Robert the Bruce gets into it big with a loan shark, Eddie Tapioca, and he and Weller have to do one more heist with Brown. There's plenty of double and triple and quadruple crosses, none of which matters. We're watching this for Weller, not the plot.

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The Weller is fantastic. This is probably the highest quality Weller that didn't make it's way into mainstream cinema (I consider Buckeroo Bonzai to be mainstream, but maybe I'm wrong). His one liners and facial expressions are so perfect. Every scene he's in is fantastic. I'm not sure how many of the one-liners were his or the product of the script, but I'm certain that either way the delivery was all him. I found myself constantly doing the Tiger Woods "I just hit a birdie putt on the 18th to seal another major" pump fist in response to something Weller did. This was the '68 Bordeaux of bad action performances.

I did a review earlier of a C. Thomas Howell film called War of the Worlds which smashed the myth that Australians just by being in a movie are awesome, because that film's Australian was annoying. Well, this film was definitely not an exception like the Howell movie, because Bryan Brown was the man solely on the merits of his Australianess. In one scene he responds to a Weller query with "absa-fuckin'-lutely". Even better, at the beginning, after they're trying to escape the botched heist, Brown is beating the guy who screwed things up. It's one of the best beatings in a movie ever, especially in the way it seemed Brown would mix in more beatings in the middle of things like taking off his coat or asking how they were going to get away.

These two performances were extremely necessary, because this was a wafer thin plot mining material that's been way over used. You can only double cross characters so much before it's just hack writing. You could see Weller and Brown hoist this fucker onto the roof of a late 50s model Cadillac and carry it from start to finish with impeccable style. Robert the Bruce wasn't bad either.

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Robert the Bruce's gambling addiction was probably the only thing handled with style by the writers. First, there was an amazing five-card draw game, which is a rarity in films now after the meteoric rise in popularity of Texas Hold 'Em. After the game, The Bruce was confronted by a loan shark, beautifully named Eddie Tapioca. I get the sense that the immense creativity of the beginning of the film couldn't last to the end, and that's why the writing was so bad the further you got in. But these early gambling scenes were solid.

When you see this film on the rack of your video store, or listed in your program guide, you have to ask yourself one question: how much do I like Peter Weller. For me, the answer's obvious, and if it's obvious for you too, get your hands on this at all costs. Who cares how bad and unoriginal the plot is? This is vintage: Weller, maybe the best of all the films of his I've reviewed on this site.

For more info: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0250756/

King Cobra (1999)

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This was a late night deal I did to battle a bout of insomnia. It didn't work out so well, in that I lasted through the whole thing. It drew my attention because it had the late Pat Morita and the even later Hoyt Axton. I'm also a fan of snake movies.

In King Cobra a poor man's Carrot Top (which if you do the math out, that would mean poor man's as in guy collecting bottles to buy a forty) goes over his boss's head in a lab experiment and things go horribly wrong, leading to an explosion and the creation of a 30-foot cross between a rattler and a King Cobra. As most of the beasts are wont to do, this one terrorizes a small town. As people die, the boss scientist comes looking for it. A doctor looking to leave town and his police officer girlfriend help the scientist, along with Pat Morita, resident herpetologist. The doctor is about as close as you can get to being Jonathan Silverman without actually being him. Anyway, more people die, before Morita has a last stand with the snake. Then he dies, and the police woman tries to kill it. Just as the cobra's about to bite her, the doctor drop kicks it (I'm not kidding), and the two stick it in some device that gases it. There's a special appearance by Erik Estrada.

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This movie has a built in bad movie warning in the opening credits. The moment you read "Special Appearance by Erik Estrada", you either say to yourself "sweet", or you say "this looks dumb". I'm the kind of guy that says "sweet", and as such am not scared off by such warnings. I hope you the reader aren't either. As far as the appearance went, it was just Estrada overacting as a gay guy planning a beer festival that coincides with the snake's arrival. In my mind, the actual line in the opening credits telling us there'd be a special appearance was better than the actual appearance.

The snake was of great quality. Instead of going the CGI route that most of these bad monster films are going, this one went animatronic with stop motion animation. The result was a higher quality and funnier snake than the CGI ones. It's like the CGI monster is the sweatpants of the genre, and the film maker that uses it is just telling the world that he or she has given up. Well the people who made this one haven't given up... at least not yet.

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Pat Morita is fantastic in this. At three or four in the morning, by myself, I was laughing out loud at the end where he had goggles on, and was wavering as the snake kept biting him. It almost as if the animatronic snake was making an expression of "will you just die already." He just looked so silly, especially with the goggles. I guess the idea was that his blood had lots of anti-venom, so the snake had to bite him a lot. Either that, or they needed to pad the film, so they shot the snake, then shot Morita staggering as he tried to outlast the attack, then looped it over and over.

This was Hoyt Axton's last film. In it, he looked a lot like an aged Joe Don Baker, which is funny, because Hoyt did the theme song to Mitchell. For groups of people watching this, the near Joe Don-ness of him is a sweet addition. It's like I don't have to think to make jokes when he's on screen, I just go to my Mitchell well. "Bite me Mitchell".

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The main character, the doctor, is almost Jonathan Silverman. When he drop kicks the snake at the end it is priceless. I've never seen anything like it in all the years I've been watching movies. I was beginning to doubt my decision to stick with the film as long as I did, but in quick succession at the very end, I got Morita's hilarious death scene, then the even funnier snake drop kick. I'm not sure whose idea it was, but whoever thought of it should get a Nobel prize in herpetology or something.

If you see this on Sci-Fi or something, TiVo it. At the very least, you can skip to the end. The drop kick alone makes it for me one of the best of the bad horror films on Sci-Fi. I'm not sure it's worth buying it or renting it for that, but TiVoing won't cost you much beyond the space it takes up on your DVR. You don't need to see the rest of the film, but you won't forgive yourself if you miss the Morita death scene, followed by the drop kick.

For more info: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0138797/

Crooked aka Soft Target (2006)

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When I spotted this gem in the video store, I was ecstatic, so much so that my friends found it comical. This film listed DTVC Hall of Famer Gary Busey, potential HOFer Don "The Dragon" Wilson, and former Kansas City Chiefs standout and blaxploitation hero Fred Williamson as its stars. I found out from the opening credits that it also had Martin Kove. Simply amazing.

Crooked starts with Fred Williamson playing poker with a fellow cop while watching a prisoner in protective custody. The prisoner orders hookers, and things get weird. They're ambushed, and it looks like an inside job, because Williamson would never let a bad guy kill him at close range, and he was killed at close range. Busey, the department head, smells a rat, and it would seem Martin Kove, just by who he is is that guy. Don and his partner, Savate's Olivier Gruner, go in search of a hooker that witnessed the hit. All the while the mob wants to get her so she can't talk. Who can Donny and Olivier trust? Does Donny care when he's doing the hooker after he and Olivier find her? And what's Busey's role? Who knows? The whole thing ends in a hail of gunfire.

This film almost completely delivers. Unfortunately, we are victims of a Fred Williamson bait-and-switch. He's dead early on. I'm not sure I dig that. Kill someone else off and give us more Fred. Well, don't kill off Don or Busey in lieu of Fred, we need them too. And Martin Kove needs to lurk. I just could've used more Fred smoking cigars and sleeping with blonds. Maybe that's just me.

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That aside, the rest of the star power was great. Don did his thing, even if this was a glorified Bloodfist with more people in it. A plot where Don doesn't know who he can trust and is all alone except for the girl he's protecting sounds like all the Bloodfists post III. The only difference here is that Donny has Olivier Gruner on his side. What Gruner did was add to the already high level of martial arts D "The D" Dubs brings to the table, which meant the action on the whole was better.

I've been receiving e-mails regarding the lack of Gary Busey films on the DTVC, and I must say I'm very sorry about this. With this review, he now only has two movies up, which is the fewest of any Hall of Famer. (Kinski only has three up). I feel really bad, and I'll try my best to rectify the problem in the coming weeks. This is the first of a few I've got on deck, and hopefully that will placate the Busey faithful.

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As far as this one went, the Busey was of excellent quality, making it very Abusive. His two best parts come close together near the end of the film. The first is a flashback Wilson has where Busey consoles him after the death of his father. You can tell there's a lot of ad libbing going on, which makes the scene especially authentic from an Abusive standpoint. Later, he's offing a cop in the force who he thinks is onto him. He calls her over and again seems to ad lib dialogue about what a great job she's been doing. Then he's like "I need a hug" and he pulls her close, and mid-embrace he shoots her. I loved it. You can look to the Busey voice-over at the beginning of the film as extremely Abusive as well.

Lastly, the ending was great. It had a plot twist that's only a plot twist to those who watch a lot of bad movies. The way they use Martin Kove was so unexpected based on all of his previous work in the genre. It's like he's expected to be a baddie so much, that when he's ever revealed to be anything different it feels like an ingenious plot twist.

This is so worth a rental when you and your friends have a bad movie night. I got it on a two-for-one night, so it was an even better deal for me. You'll see it at your video store as either Crooked or Soft Target, so be on the look out for both. You won't be disappointed, because this has it all: bad action stars, boobs, martial arts, explosions, and bad guys reacting in funny ways after they've been shot. I can't think of a better bad movie night movie.

For more info: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0441035/

Thursday, August 9, 2007

Late Last Night (1999)

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My buddy and I saw this on ON Demand. We were shocked to find out an Emilio Estevez movie came out and slipped our notice, and we figured it'd be worth watching. The addition of Wings' Steven Weber made it all the more intriguing. We found out subsequently that the film was made for cable TV; Showtime I think.

Late Last Night has Estevez as a guy who's just been given the ax by his wife. Looking to blow off some steam, he calls Steven Weber, who takes him on a mad romp of the town. They meet some strippers and do coke with them, go to a warehouse party that's raided, and after Estevez luckily avoids jail, he and Weber finish the night playing a round of golf in the dark. Estevez realizes throughout this that he loves his wife, and goes back to her to give it another go-round.

This was a great film. Though it sounds like a run-of-the-mill all-nighter adventure film, this really does have some great and memorable scenes. For my buddy and I a favorite one was when Weber pretended to be a valet and stole a car for him and Estevez. The car had a 70s compilation CD, and they listened to Hamilton, Joe Frank, and Reynolds' "Don't Pull Your Love Out on Me Baby". Weber's analysis of the song is priceless.

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Weber overall made for solid viewing. It was like he played his Wings character, only without the goofiness. There's some speculation, primarily in the form of Estevez's psychiatric evaluation from Catherine O'Hara, that Weber's character isn't real, but just Estevez's wilder alter ego. I'm not sure I buy it, because Weber interacted with people throughout. It was more like he was the devil on Estevez's shoulder in the form of a real person. And Weber played it perfectly.

Estevez is good in this too. He does well as the guy who's totally out of his element in most of the circumstances Weber puts him in, and we as the viewer can't help but sympathize with him. This is especially true when he's arrested. We know he's only in trouble from what Weber's done, and we feel bad that he's going to go through this ordeal, despite the fact he might not be entirely innocent. When he's interrogated by O'Hara, we think she might take pity on him and let him go, but she doesn't. Instead, just as he's about to be processed, we find out the coke in his pocket was baking powder that the strippers switched on him earlier, and he's released.

There are plenty of attractive women in this, foremost among them Dancing With the Stars and General Hospital's Kelly Monaco, who is naked. In a flashback scene, Estevez's wife finds his porno mags, and when she dumps one on the table it opens to her centerfold. Then it comes to life as Estevez fantasizes about hooking up with her. This scene alone should've gotten her the win against J. Peterman in Dancing with the Stars.

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There was one scene in this that my buddy loved. It's in the trailer, which you can view if you want on imdb from this movie's page there. Estevez and Weber are using the escalator to get to the subway. They look over and see a man in a Santa Claus suit taking a huge swig off a liquor bottle. There was something classic about that, and I couldn't blame him when he rewound it to watch it again.

The ending for me was pure genius, when Weber and Estevez play golf in the middle of the night. It was a perfect denouement to a wild movie like that. Weber had stolen a large Cadillac and picked Estevez up at the jail. He assumed correctly that there would be a set of clubs in the trunk, and he drove the Caddy right onto the course. They used the headlights to haphazardly light their play. Movies like these tend to have trouble winding the energy down and wrapping things up properly, and this late night golf game did the trick for me.

This is worth a look, especially if you're renting a movie with mixed company (i.e. people who don't really like bad movies). I think my buddy found it on Encore ON Demand, so if you have that, give it a try. For a made for cable TV movie, this is much better than most of the things that make their way onto the big screen.

For more info: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0167250/

Street Asylum (1990)

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I first saw Watergate alumnus G. Gordon Liddy act in a Miami Vice episode. It wasn't a bad deal. When a buddy scooped this film at a used video store, I was stoked. It not only had DTVC Hall of Famer Wings Hauser, but also Mr. Liddy, and the late Brion James. Count me in.

Street Asylum is another Wings Hauser cop movie, only this one has a twist. He plays a cop assigned to a super-secret police squad that is enhanced by a device of some sort implanted at the base of the spine. Liddy plays a mayor running for re-election who instituted the program to clean up LA's streets. He also has a penchant for sadomasochism. Anyway, Wings starts noticing weird behavior out of his fellow officers, and gets suspicious. He also has his own personality issues to deal with. So he digs around, and slowly learns the truth. He has his woman cut the device out of his back, then goes for Liddy. Nothing from the front cover happens in the movie, including the too sweet pic of Liddy with a half cyborg face.

This is a weird movie. Everyone has a weird laugh, and they use it at awkward times. Brion's character makes no sense. He's a televangelist, who appears from time to time, seemingly for no reason. At one point Hauser chases a baddie to an area where Brion is giving a sermon, and Brion lights the baddie on fire. I just don't know, really. Liddy's killed by electrocution after falling on a satellite. Your guess is as good as mine. Weirdest of all: the doctor putting the implants in the cops is killed when Wings puts her electro-orgasm generating device into the toilet while it's attached to her. Never seen a death like it in any other movie.

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Wings is great in this. His line delivery is almost Weller-esque, which is a major compliment. From what I can tell, when he goes off script and ad libs, he's better than when he tries to stick to the script. At one point his animal instincts take over and he hooks up with a hooker. His O face is hilarious. Probably the funniest moments in the film come when Wings is trying to keep his crazy partners in check. He has the one scene with Brion that I mentioned above. The best part about that is how little Wings appears to be taken aback by the utter ludicrousity of it.

Mr. Liddy. What can I say? He plays an ultra conservative near-fascist mayor of LA. If you listen to his radio show, it doesn't feel like much of a stretch. Wings' woman pretends to be a dominatrix to sneak into Liddy's office. When she whips him, he does this frightening cackle of a laugh that chilled my bones. Then it made me laugh because it was so ridiculous. This was not the solid performance of his time on Miami Vice. But should I have been expecting it?

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I'm guessing there's a message in this film about tampering with humanity or allowing a man like Liddy to take too much power or the ineffectiveness of aggressive policing programs that spit in the face of the Constitution. The real message, at least that I took away, is that if your movie is stupid and makes people laugh more than think, no one will take it seriously, especially not enough for your message to be pondered by any self-respecting human being. If you're dumb enough to think a random woman with no surgical experience can remove a device from the base of someone's spine, like Wings' woman did for him, you're not smart enough to make a movie with a message.

This is a pretty bad film. I'm laying out a strict warning that this should be viewed with extreme caution. It's got the star power, but that's not enough. Buy this only if you can get it on VHS for like $2. Even then you may feel ripped off. If you know people who are not well experienced with bad films, or you yourself are a rookie, you may not want to see this. It hurt my soul, and I'm an expert.

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For more info: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0100705/

Wednesday, August 8, 2007

China Strike Force (2000)

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I usually don't cover the myriad action movies that come out of Hong Kong here on the Direct to Video Connoisseur unless there's a special reason. This movie had a special reason. Actually it had two, but one was much bigger than the other. The little reason was Mark Dacascos, who is amassing a great resume for future consideration in the DTVC Hall of Fame. The second bigger reason is Coolio. Any time he's on the screen it's funny to me.

China Strike Force (Leui ting jin ging for you purists out there) is about two rookie cops, Alex and Darren, who are assigned to a special drug enforcement agency. At the same time Mark Dacascos, the only living relative to crime boss Uncle Ma, wants to smuggle drugs in with his childhood friend Coolio. Uncle Ma is opposed to the idea. He has a Japanese woman in town who wants her crime syndicate to do work with his. When Dacascos kills off Ma to carry out his plans, the Japanese woman is framed for the killing, and it is revealed she's working with the Japanese police. Finally she, Alex, and Darren work together to bring down Dacascos and Coolio before they can consummate their drug deal.

This has all the hallmarks of a quality Hong Kong action flick. Big stunts, well choreographed martial arts, very little to no computer enhancement. You've got guys riding dirt bikes onto the backs of trucks, a chase scene between a Lamborghini and an F-1 car, and a great finale with Coolio, the Japanese chick, and Darren balancing on a pane of glass however many stories up. Top that with a great fight between Darren and Dacascos, which was just the best of many well done fight scenes. Even Coolio fought well in this. It's hard to top the energy exuded in a movie like this.

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The Coolio factor got me. When we were in high school, Coolio was doing his "Fantastic Voyage"/"Gangsta's Paradise" thing. The whole deal was ridiculous for us. Now that he's doing bad action movies, it's even better. My friends and I can yell out things like "Who Dere?" or "We can't go to da beach, we ain't got no car! Quit cahwin' me!" What's great is he doesn't even seem to be acting, he just does Coolio. Not the angry Coolio ranting about Weird Al, but the fun Coolio on Yo! MTV Raps Today with Dr. Dre and Ed Lover. I guess in movies where he needs to be more serious, he does the "I'm mad at Weird Al" thing, but in this movie, you get the MTV Raps Coolio, and I like it.


Dacascos is great here too. I was disappointed in the Hunt for Eagle Ones, so it was good to catch a movie like this to remind myself just how good Dacascos can be. He's great as both the bad guy in this, and a good guy in other movies I've seen. I read on imdb that he's really cool to meet at an autograph session, so if you hear he's in your town, go and get your China Strike Force signed. Or maybe your Cradle 2 Grave. I'm hoping the post-Eagle One movies he does are as solid as this. I've heard rumors that he's not doing martial arts roles anymore, and if that's true, it'll be a huge loss for us all.

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The Japanese woman is extremely attractive. She's a model in Japan, and doesn't have a lot of movies listed on imdb. In this movie, she makes every scene she's in. It's surprising more directors haven't slotted her in films over here, just for the eye candy factor. I guess there are plenty of exotic Asian hotties already in the country for your various Jet Li, Jason Statham, and Jackie Chan films. Just the same, she's worth the price of admission.

This film's totally worth your time to rent or TiVo. Think of it as a great Hong Kong action movie, which in and of itself may not be enough to separate it from the plethora of action fare at your local video store, but one that has Coolio, giving it that added oompf to move it away from the pack. I can't imagine anyone who enjoys bad action not loving the Coolio factor. If you don't think he's as funny as I do, then pass this up. Also, if you hear Mark Dacascos is in town, and you need to grab a copy of this so he can sign, don't play full price, but go to your local Chinatown and buy a copy there.

For more info: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0266408/

Out of Reach (2004)

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There are a few movies with this title. If you're looking for the Steven Seagal one, it's the 2004 version. I've seen this on a couple different TV stations, most recently Spike TV. I TiVoed it on my folks' box, and as I recall, I was watching it during a marathon viewing session where I was trying to see as many movies as I could at my parents' so I could erase the movies to make more room on their DVR. As such, my dad was around for this movie and a few others, like one of the Bloodfists (I think V). Anyway, he had had about enough after this one, so we took a break and watched Jerry Springer.

Out of Reach is about a former special ops dude played by Seagal who has adopted a pen pal in a Polish orphanage. She tells him she's leaving the place to go somewhere else, and he gets suspicious. At the same time, his former bosses at special ops want to kill him (why?), so he decides to shoot over to Poland to see what's up. It turns out the bad guy from and The Transporter and Torque is running a child pornography ring with the girls from the orphanage. With the help of a sexy local detective, Seagal brings down both the bad guy, and the feds. All in a day's work.

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This is pretty solid Seagal. At the beginning, the pen pal letters are given to us in voice-over. Seagal's voice in these is hilarious. I don't know how to describe it. It's almost like Snagglepuss, if you remember him from those Hanna-Barbera cartoons. In my mind it's actually funnier than the talking in Ebonics he did in Today You Die. As far as the martial arts, it's pretty much what you expect, and I'd say it's pretty good. The final battle between him and the baddie is a great sword fight set in this immaculate white building. It was like something out of a Highlander episode, and I mean that in a good way.

The plot is ridiculous. For one, they didn't write a reason for Seagal's character go to Poland. Instead of something like, say, a distress letter from the girl, they just have him go, like he's psychic or something. Also, we never find out why the feds want him dead. It's assumed that we'll buy that the feds are dicks, and they just want people dead. Who knows? Perhaps worst of all, the Turks are portrayed in this as very scheming and untrustworthy. Maybe someone in Ankara should consider getting Turkey a better agent.

Seagal's female partner is of course ludicrously attractive, and unrealistically attracted to Seagal. Even sillier, she's shot at one point, and Seagal does an impromptu surgery to remove the bullet with some garden variety kitchen utensils. Who writes these moronic scenes? Not only that, but who bankrolls this kind of stupidity? I mean, I expect a certain level of lowest common denominator out of a direct to video Steven Seagal film, but having him do surgery is just beyond all sensibility.

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I'd be remiss if I didn't devote a paragraph to this film's baddie, Matt Schulze. He's as great in this as he is in Transporter, Torque, or the Point Break rip-off Fast and the Furious. For me he's like the Vin Diesel of baddies, and I'd love to see him more stuff. Dolph and Van Damme, take a page from Seagal and Jason Statham, and sign this guy on to play your nemesis in your next movie. Please.

If you're having a Seagal night, this wouldn't be a bad choice, especially if you're either focusing in on his newer DTV stuff, or you're showcasing his older, mainstream stuff, and you want a new one for juxtaposition. It's plenty silly to get you to the church on time. The action's a little lackluster, but what there is is pretty good, and you've always got that hilarious opening with the Seagal Snagglepuss voice voice-over. I would recommend renting or TiVoing, but not buying until you've seen it once.

For more info: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0377100/

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

Psycho IV (1990)

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Sometimes I think I'm a real glutton for punishment. Sometimes I think my judgment on what's going to be a fun bad movie and what'll be a rough bad movie is not what it should be. I recently re-watched this bad boy after I'd TiVoed it on Sci-Fi, and it hurt. My buddy had fallen asleep on the couch before I started it, and woke up half way through. I felt so bad for him, because I can only imagine what was going through his head while his mind tried to take in this piece of cinematic garbage and make sense of it.

Psycho IV was a TV movie that acted as a prequel to the original yet at the same time a kind of wrapping up of the series. It had Anthony Perkins confessing his soul to a late-nite radio talk show, and then mixed in flashback scenes where a young Norman Bates was played by the kid from ET. Not Drew Barrymore. The older Norman is planning to kill his wife, who deceived him and abstained from her birth control to have kids. The younger Norman was made insane by his crazy mom, played by the hot woman who played Juliet in Zeffirelli's Romeo and Juliet. Anyway, Norman sees the light just before he kills his wife, and then burns the evil Bates Motel.

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I'm not sure what Alfred Hitchcock thought of the sequels. He couldn't be too happy. The original Psycho was a movie masterpiece that today's Hostel 22s and Saw 87s couldn't fathom. One thing Psycho IV had going for it was that it was better than any of those, and better than the remake of Psycho with Vince Vaughn. Of course, if that's what you have going for you, you're in trouble.

The most absurd thing about the film is that Norman is a free man. How does this happen? People who kill other people, even if they are deemed insane, are still put away. They don't just do a few years, act cool, then get out and hang with the rest of us. Not only that, but he's married to a psychiatrist he met at the asylum, and she's still working there, or at least at another one. This is ridiculous. Who doesn't have the basic knowledge of human society to know that if a psychiatrist at an asylum dates one of her patients, she doesn't work at asylums anymore?

This has Anthony Perkins. As a huge Red Sox fan, I thought he was decent as Sox great Jimmy Piersal in Fear Strikes Out (except he threw like a girl, and Piersal had a rocket arm); I also dug him in Catch-22; and he was obviously great as Norman in the first Psycho. Here, though, he's working with shitty material, and even he couldn't resuscitate it. He died of AIDS about two years after this was made, which according to imdb, he learned he'd contracted through a National Inquirer article written after they got some of his blood and had it tested.

This also has Olivia Hussey, which for many out there, including myself, she's known only as Juliet from the Zeffirelli version of Shakespeare's play. When I was a freshman in high school, we had a long term substitute for English class, and he was pretty clueless. For three days we watched the scene where Hussey's boobs are shown, after we'd tell the teacher we'd only gotten to the point in the movie right before that. I'm sure we'd have been able to stretch it further, but the girls in the class had had enough. It's amazing what's entertaining to a fourteen year-old boy. Or a twenty-eight year-old one.

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This was a pretty unmemorable movie. It tried to make references to the original, like one where Perkins cuts his thumb, and the blood going into the drain mimics the blood in the famous shower scene. Way too obvious and pretty obnoxious. The symbolism in the burning of the Bates Motel was kind of unwieldy too, and it left a bad taste in my mouth that a bad TV movie was trying to close the curtain on a movie series that was expertly closed by a master movie maker thirty years prior. There really shouldn't be a Psycho II, III, and IV, so the effort to put a punctuation mark on a horrible run-on sentence looks extremely trite.

This is ten kinds of avoidable. I shouldn't have watched it again when I did recently. My stupidity should be a lesson to you. The only reason to watch this is if you've done something bad, like didn't offer your seat on the subway to an old lady, and you want to so something as a personal penance to clear your conscience. Maybe Chris Hansen of Dateline To Catch a Predator fame could have the cops in the towns he works show this to inmates as they process them. That may bring in the ACLU, though.

For more info: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0102724/

Last Warrior aka Last Patrol (2000)

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About two years ago my friends and I held a Dolph Fest in honor of DTVC Hall of Famer Dolph Lundgren. He's essentially the Babe Ruth of bad movies for us, and we needed a weekend film festival to celebrate his work. Ten movies over Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. This film was one I bought specifically for the occasion, because it was one none of us had seen.

Last Warrior is sorta kinda a post-apocalyptic thing with Dolph as a military dude ready to lead us to the promise land. In the near future, an earthquake measuring 9.5 on the Richter scale splits LA off from the mainland US. The survivors are trying to gather and make an attempt to get back to the mainland... I think. We find this out from a constant Dolph voice-over that sounds like bad Film Noir. There's a prison run by a dude and his geologist friend, and the inmates worship him to the point of drinking urine. Dolph and he are on a collision course to wackiness. There's a group of kids Dolph needs to help out too, as if he didn't have enough to deal with. Finally, in case you're not sufficiently bored and confused, a voodoo Christian woman does a chant and makes it rain. Not like a rich Hip Hop star dumping money on strippers, but actual rain.

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This film was the low point of the Dolph Fest. Two friends started playing Ghost Recon while we watched, and one of them cranked up the sound on his computer, which was really annoying. Part of the reason for the lack of interest was probably my friends having ADD, and this was the fourth film that day, which may have danced beyond their attention span threshold. I know it was a tad much for me too. But on the other hand, this film was so slow and plodding that I can't blame any of us for calling it a day. There were huge pockets of exposition buffered by small pieces of action. It sucked.

The Dolphage wasn't too bad. No gun play, but a fair amount of martial arts. He hits a dude in the head with a brick a la Friday or Home Alone 2. In the first Dolph Fest, we used clips of films we weren't showing as bumpers between the other movies, scenes like Dolph smashing Heyerdahl into the toilet in Silent Trigger. I think when we do our second fest later this month, we'll probably use the brick scene as a bumper. We definitely won't be showing the whole thing.

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Another scene could be the rain one. Out of nowhere, a voodoo Christian women does a chant or something, and it starts pouring. It was so absurd, it pulled my friends away from Ghost Recon. I just couldn't figure out why the scene was even in the movie. Nothing led up to it, nothing suggested that people with mystical powers existed; it was so out of left field, like Manny Ramirez cutting off Johnny Damon's throw to the shortstop.

I'm not sure I got why LA was incommunicado with the mainland. I would hope if LA was made an island after a major earthquake, the coast guard at the very least would be able to sneak over and make contact. What about Hawai'i? The film was made in Israel, so maybe the Israelis don't know of the existence of Hawai'i. It was one of many issues that weren't thought out well and very poorly explained. I usually like when bad action films have plots with huge holes and major continuity issues, but in this case, they spent so much time explaining things, that I just got more frustrated and angry. There were others too: why was there a Latin dude running a prison and having the inmates drink urine? What about the kids? Where'd they come from? I guess it really doesn't matter.

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During the Dolph Fest we noticed our favorite Swedish Beefcake has a habit of getting shot in the left arm. This is especially true of his DTV films. For the most part these wounds are incorporated into the film in a way that at least fits the plot. Usually after being shot he has a bandage on it or some kind of tourniquet, but the wound itself seems superfluous and does little to hinder his heroics. Try Detention, for the quintessential instance of this phenomenon. What makes Last Warrior great is that the left arm shot is completely perfunctory. It's comes out of no where, and seems like an afterthought. If I didn't know better, I'd say the left arm shot might actually be a running joke for Dolph, and he felt he needed to throw it in this film too.

This movie is boring and hard to handle. You may want to rent it, just to see what it's about, and I'm here to warn you to tread very carefully. If you're new to bad movies, try Showdown in Little Tokyo, Bridge of Dragons, or The Punisher first. I could probably give you another five or six Dolph films to watch before that too.

For more info: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0214871/

Blown Away (1992)

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There are a few Blown Aways out there. I was drawn to this one specifically because it was rockin' the two Coreys. How can you not want to see a film that has them in it? Did you not like License to Drive? I didn't think so.

Blown Away is about two brothers, Haim and Feldman, who work at a ski resort somewhere in Canada. Haim falls for Nicole Eggert, and a romance ensues. She convinces him to help kill her dad. At the same time he's dumped the chick who played Claire on 90210. Feldman scoops her up, but she dies too, after a horse accident. Now Haim's in trouble. All the while, people in the film have expert knowledge of bomb making, and they put these sophisticated devices everywhere. Haim barely survives one, and goes to the cops. Turns out Eggert's hooking up with Feldman. The whole thing ends in a hail of gunfire, with Haim the lone man standing.

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This movie has a ton of Corey Haim's buttcheeks. Sure, it has a bit of Nicole Eggert's boobs, pre-implants, and it has some Feldman butt too, if you're into that. But it has more Haim cheeks than I'm sure anyone ever wanted to see. It was way more than I wanted, I know that.

This is your classic suspense thriller schlock, with it's twists and turns and who-do-you-trusts. We get everything from the Haim standpoint, so I guess he's the protagonist. By the end of the movie, I'm not sure any of us care. Also, the film makers seem to think sophisticated bomb making is so easy anyone can do it. People are planting these devices with digital timers and whatnot everywhere. It's ridiculous.

Like many movies with the two Coreys, this one has more Haim than Feldman. I've always been more of a Feldman guy, so I've never understood why this is the case. One of them was in Goonies and Stand By Me, and one wasn't. Just Feldman's Meatballs 4 work alone makes him head and shoulders above Haim. On the other hand, I've met many that disagree with me and say Haim is better. I guess it's open for debate.

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Nicole Eggert isn't the hottest chick in this film, it's the girl who played Claire on 90210. I was upset they dumped her so quickly. It's never clear whether she's murdered or not, but the cops in the film think Haim did it. It's never resolved. I imagine she took the role as an actress just starting out, trying to get whatever work she can. She was probably star struck too. Now she probably doesn't even put this film on her resume. At best, she wishes imdb would strike it from the record.

This movie should be on Lifetime Movie Network. That's it. Maybe rent it for the Coreys factor, but that's a big maybe. This is worse than National Lampoon's Last Resort. If you really want a movie with Feldman and Haim, just watch License to Drive again. On the other hand, if you're a veteran bad movie watcher, and you're looking for a challenge, the novelty of the two Coreys might be enough to do it for you. I guess looking back it was for my friends and me; but again, rent it at your own peril.

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For more info: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0103843/

Thursday, August 2, 2007

K9: P.I. (2002)

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I can't lie: I watched this movie just so I could light it up on The Direct to Video Connoisseur. I knew it would be irredeemable, and I sat through it anyway. My friends came into the room while I was putting myself through it, and they would sit for a second or two, ask me what was happening, then shake their heads and leave. That about sums it up.

K9:P.I. is a small scale cash grab disguised as a direct-to-video sequel of the first K9, which was itself a rip-off of Turner and Hooch, with the actually funny Tom Hanks. Here, the unfunny James Belushi plays the same cop he did in the first movie, and he and his dog, Jerry Lee, are retiring. On their way to retiring, Belushi and the dog catch a 211 in progress, and investigate. The baddies steal some computer chips, the FBI blames Belushi (which makes no sense), and his retirement pension is withheld. He works as a PI, pimps out his dog to breed it, and solves the mystery of the break in, all in time to end the movie. Oh yeah, and the dog has superhuman strength (enough to tow not only the doughy Belushi, but also a woman he was holding off a ledge), and it can use a cell phone.

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I felt emotionally bereft after enduring this waste of space. It was that bad. The dog was named Jerry Lee, and for some dumbassed reason, every time Belushi called the dog, he called it by the full name. He sounded like a damned Southern mother in a Hallmark drama or something. "Jerry Lee", "Jerry Lee", "Jerry Shoot Myself". I can't believe someone didn't say: "Hey why doesn't he mix in a Jerry, or a Jere, or something!" I'm still haunted by Belushi's voice in my head saying "Jerry Lee, Jerry Lee".

Forget the plot. It was just a vehicle so Belushi would look smarter than he is, and get woman that would be way out of the league of a cop who looks and smells like James Belushi. The dog apparently swallows a computer chip, which is what the people stole. There's plenty of dick and fart jokes attached to the dog passing the chip through his system, including the penultimate in lowest common denominator: Belushi sifting through the dog's crap with a gas mask on and gloves to actually get the chip. We as the viewing audience would have taken his word for it, and I think even if they filmed the scene, most film makers would watch it and think: "this is way below the even minimal standards of a Billy Madison movie", and cut it. But we're dealing with a much deeper level of depravity here. It's scary.

I've never understood the whole Belushi thing. I don't see how he not only gets work, but network sitcoms, and not only network sitcoms, but ones that people watch enough so that they stay on the air beyond the pilot. I asked my friends, to see if maybe it was just me, but it seemed unanimous that people think he's a tool. I'm sure as a dude in real life he's probably not so bad, but as an actor and funny man, it just ain't there. In fact, it's beyond not there, it actually hurts a little.

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This is one of those movies where the animal has super powers, but it's given to us as a film based in some kind of reality. This dog does many things like a human: he uses cell phones, is shy around potential mates, can pull 10 to 20 times his body weight, and is at home at a rave. This is good for a kids movie, but the amount of violence, drinking, and sex in this is beyond appropriate for kids. I believe it's rated PG-13, which is an issue, because without the violence, sex, and drinking, you have a movie meant for a 4th grader. The plot's too childish for anyone older.

This movie is frightening. You could repackage it as Saw 31 or Hostel 15, and it'd not only be scarier than all the others, but it'd be less gratuitously violent. If anything, this film should show horror directors that scary films can be made without killing people in the most disturbing fashion possible. On the other hand, when I saw Saw 48 1/2, I laughed, I was bored, but I didn't have nightmares. After this I did, and I had to sleep with the light on for weeks. That's why I'm saying avoid this film at all costs.

For more info: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0328007/