The Direct to Video Connoisseur

I'm a huge fan of action, horror, sci-fi, and comedy, especially of the Direct to Video variety. In this blog I review some of my favorites and not so favorites, and encourage people to comment and add to the discussion. If you click on an image, it will take you to that post's image page, which includes many more pics from the film and other goodies I couldn't fit in the actual review. For announcements and updates, don't forget to Follow us on Twitter and Like our Facebook page. If you're the director, producer, distributor, etc. of a low-budget feature length film and you'd like to send me a copy to review, you can contact me at dtvconnoisseur[at]yahoo.com. I'd love to check out what you got.

Thursday, July 31, 2008

Cannibal Women in the Avocado Jungle of Death (1989)

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The title should be enough. I first saw this on Comedy Central, I think. It's now considered a cult classic. I scooped it on Netflix because it had been too long since I'd seen it. Some of my friends were put off by the name, thinking maybe it was a bit too much. I'm not sure it's ever too much.

Cannibal Women in the Avocado Jungle of Death is a take on Conrad's Heart of Darkness set against the backdrop of Southern California and the late 80s feminist movement. There's a hoard of amazon women that have taken over the vast Avocado Jungle inland from California's southern coast. They kill any man who tries to harvest too deep. The US Government is not happy with that, and they send feminist ethnographer Shannon Tweed in to negotiate, and to try to convince them to move to condos in Malibu. Her guide is a chauvinist Bill Maher. Inside, she finds academic rival Professor Kurtz, played by Adrienne Barbeau, who has installed herself as the cannibal women's leader. She and Tweed fight it out to with the fate of feminism in the balance.

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This is a pretty decent film. As an anth major, it's interesting to watch the movie now and understand better the issues the film makers were discussing. I was surprised that some of my friends didn't understand that the movie was purely metaphorical. They were asking where the Avocado Jungle is in California, trying to make fun of the movie. This really isn't a movie that calls for mocking, despite the silly title. It's an attempt to discuss the roles of men and women entering the 90s in the United States in a comical and satirical manner. I think it worked.

Shannon Tweed plays the role of leading cultural anthropologist without a bit of irony, despite the fact that the irony is implicit. That's a good thing. Too often actors and actresses take these parts and try too much to give us the wink-wink nudge-nudge. Tweed let the movie work on its own, and we were better for it. This might be one of her best acting jobs ever (is that saying a lot considering the other work she's done!)

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This is the second Bill Maher film I've reviewed here, the other being 1991's the Pizza Man. Looking at his imdb bio, he hasn't been in that many movies, which is kind of surprising considering how famous he is in Hollywood. He's hilarious as the chauvinist, though not as good as he was in The Pizza Man. Maybe it was the role: here he was playing a goofball that didn't know how uncool he was; while in The Pizza Man, he was the hero, trying to get paid for his extra anchovies pizza. I'm not saying The Pizza Man was a better movie, just that I liked Maher better in it.

As a white man in the United States, I feel it isn't really my place to comment on the feminist movement. In my mind, the success of Sex in the City signaled the end of the feminist movement, but who am I to say? As far as I can tell, The Hills is my generation's Mary Tyler Moore... okay, have I gone too far? Maybe. Probably. I'm totally not soapboxing it here, just comparing feminism in 1989 to 2008. Very different picture, and I think that makes Cannibal Women all the more interesting when watching it with 2008 eyes. It makes for an interesting question: have the Cannibal Women finally bought condos in Malibu? Let's hope not.

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This is not the kind of hecklefest its title implies. Sure, it's silly enough, but under the silliness are some real concerns about both feminism in America, and the ever-changing relationship between men and women in society. The film is smart, funny, and insightful, and well worth a look if you're into that kind of thing. If not, there's always plenty of Dolph out there.

For more info: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0094834/

Monday, July 28, 2008

Snakes on a Train (2006)

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Most of my friends know about my blog and my penchant for bad movies, and it's usually titles like this that elicit that laugh and head shake. Snakes on a Plane is a funny enough idea, but when I tell them I'm watching a film called Snakes on a Train, I get one of those: "Only you, Poirier." Perhaps, only me.

Snakes on a Train is about a rural Mexican couple. The girl is cursed with some snake hex that makes her regurgitate the reptiles, and, if not cured, will turn her into a giant one. Her boyfriend is a pretty decent witch doctor, but this is too big for him and he needs his uncle's help-- who's in LA. So they hop on a WWII era passenger train in El Paso, and all hell breaks loose. Sorta kinda, I guess. Eventually the women turns into a big CG snake and tries to eat the plane-- I mean train. Whatever.

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Blah. A big ol' pile o' blah. While Snakes on a Plane was fun and goofy and had Samuel L. Jackson, this was dumb and boring and had Frank from When a Killer Calls in it for like five minutes. The plot was worthless, the acting was beyond mailed in, and I just wasn't sure why this was made. I mean, I understand they wanted to package a film with a similar title to get people to rent it. But my buddy's girlfriend and her friend suggested a better script where the snakes were banditos with sombreros and moustaches robbing the train. Why didn't they do that?

I really loved Snakes on a Plane, and I think the people at The Asylum missed what made that a great film. It's possible that they don't get what makes anything a good film. Maybe I should invite a representative of their production company or whatever up to my place for Dolph Fest 2008. If I just hit them with the Showdown in Little Tokyo Bridge of Dragons two-fer, we could eliminate all their Snakes on a Trains and When a Killer Callses. That's my dream, anyway. It's like they work from such an awesome premise: rip-off popular movies in the theater with DTV releases that have similar titles. But then they forget the most important ingredient: Fun. Well, Love, then Fun. The Asylum, I want to give you that, if you want to take it.

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Peter Mervis Directed this. He's also the dirty bastard behind When a Killer Calls. In this one, he's credited as the Mallachi Brothers, and his acting part isn't credited at all. Did he not want this one on his record? The acting part was so gross and slimy, I can understand not wanting his name on that: he plays the DEA dude who gets a chick to make out with him after he busts her with a bunch of coke. Eww. He supposedly directs Da Vinci Treasure, which I may find myself watching, because it has C. Thomas Howell. We'll see what happens there.

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I haven't go anything left to give you. This was a pile of suck. And something tells me it was an intentional pile of suck, which made me more annoyed. I could've spent that 90 minutes of my life watching Live by the Fist again. The Asylum is now 1-for-3, and o-fer-the last two, so it's not looking good. At this point I'm limiting myself to only Asylum pictures that have actors I know in them, until I see a couple I enjoyed, like Transmorphers.

For more info: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0843873/

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Live by the Fist (1993)

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This movie was a suggestion from my friend over at Movies in the Attic (a link to which you can find in the section titled "Other Great Sites"). I checked out the trailer on YouTube, and knew I had to shoot it to the top of my Netflix queue. You're talking Jerry Trimble and George Takei, does it get any better? Sure, Heat was able to boast the first ever on-screen pairing of Pacino and De Niro, but in my mind, Trimble and Takei was a much more anticipated combination. Sometimes I wonder how I get to be so lucky.

Live by the Fist has Trimble as an ex-Navy SEAL who's framed for killing a woman he tried to save from being raped. He's sent to a corrupt Philippine prison, where he befriends George Takei, a kind of wise man leader of the inmates. Takei's trying to contact a human rights group chick to draw attention to inhumane treatment from the warden and guards. Trimble, as you can imagine, is always in trouble, and always has to kick some ass. He kicks plenty until the calvary's called, and he and the human rights group chick can escape.

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Now this is what I'm talking about! Amazing! It just frustrates me to know I sit through so much crap, when all DTV directors have to do is watch a gem like this to understand what makes quality cinema. Where do I begin? First fight scene, we hear this amazing electric guitar riff in the background. Think WASP "Blind in Texas" with a little early 80s Crue and mid 80s Dokken mixed in. And that riff plays during every fight scene. And it never gets old. Every time I heard it I did a Tiger Woods hitting a birdie putt at 18 in the Masters to seal the win fist pump.

Trimble shows up here. It's amazing to think I'm just north of 200 posts at the DTVC, and this is the first time a film of his was reviewed. Actually, I found out looking him up on imdb, that that's not exactly true. He was in a gang in Seagal's Today you Die, and I totally missed him because also in that gang was Karo "The Heat" Parisyan. Anyway, this is the first film I've done that he stars in, and I'll have to make sure I do more, because he was the bomb. He has this awesome voice that's like the best parts of Martin Sheen, Joe Estevez, and Judge Mills Lane all mixed together. And he's a very solid martial artist. I can't think of a better guy to root for.

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I know you all want to know, and I'll tell you: how awesome was George Takei? Was the voice there? Did he say anything fantastic? The voice was there, but he didn't have any too amazing lines to go with it (not like his trip to Howard Stern's show). His character name is Uncle Coronado, which is probably good enough. I mean, just having Takei is really enough. As long as he's there and talking, the viewer's usually entertained. I'm surprised more DTV film makers-- as in all of them-- don't cast Takei more often. If I made movies, he'd be in all of my films. I'd break the bank to get him, too. If my budget was 2 mill, I'd take out a loan and give him 3. I mean, come on, it's George Takei.

Roger Corman produced this, and that brings up a question I get all the time: why isn't he in the Hall of Fame? Who better to be in a DTV Hall of Fame than one of the creators of the genre? Well, the reason is that before Albert Pyun was inducted last year, only actors were allowed in. Perusing Corman's vast production credits, it looks like he's produced 10-15 movies that have already been reviewed on the DTVC, which would put him second behind Dolph Lundgren for most times tagged. Look for his induction to the HOF this October.

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The prison sub-genre of the bad action movie comes up often. When I watched bad action in the 80s and 90s, I'd say one out of five took place in a prison. It's just such an easy way to make a movie: the set's cheap, wardrobe's a cinch, and the plot can be written in a day or two. Unfortunately the (to my eyes, anyway) overrated Shawshank Redemption changed the way we look at prison films. Maybe I don't speak for many people, but I'll take a Live by the Fist over Shawshank any day. The guitar alone makes it for me, but I also think Jerry Trimble is a better actor than Tim Robbins.

Do you even need me to do the last paragraph? You what I'm gonna say. Rent it, buy it, do whatever you have to, but get your hands on this puppy. It frickin' awesome. It also only 77 minutes long, which has to be another selling point. Who needs a 3 hour epic, when you can watch this twice in less time.

For more info: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0107430/

Monday, July 21, 2008

Max Havoc: Curse of the Dragon (2004)

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This was strictly a Pyun pick. Well, and the fact that it had Richard Roundtree. And Vincent Klyn didn't hurt either. I'll pretty much watch anything if Vincent Klyn's in it for five minutes. "Back off, Warchild..." Back off indeed. Oh yeah, and in case you're wondering, Max Havoc kills a guy he's fighting in a kickboxing match.

Max Havoc: Curse of the Dragon is about the eponymous hero (just the Max Havoc part, not the rest of the title-- he's Swiss, not a Kiwi!) who has to eke out a living as a photographer because he can't fight anymore after the trauma of accidentally killing an opponent in the ring. His old trainer, Richard Roundtree, is living in Guam, and Max is sent out there to do shots for the local hotel. He meets some extremely hot chick and her extremely hot sister, and ends up getting into a mess when the hot chick buys a dragon off Roundtree that some Japanese crime bosses want. By the way, the chick is an art historian, and she sounds like it too. Oh yeah, and Max Havoc accidentally killed an opponent in the ring.

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This was a pretty fun deal, but I'm not sure that was enough. I mean, the movie mostly sucked, but the martial arts were pretty solid, the chicks were hot, and it had Vincent Klyn. I'm not sure what else I was looking for in an Albert Pyun film. It was definitely ridiculous. I laughed out loud when told the female lead was an art historian. It wasn't her looks that made this implausible, it was the stilted, overly rehearsed way she delivered her lines. It was like telling me Paris Hilton was an expert on elite politics in Cote d'Ivoire. I'll take that. But there wasn't much there to make this worth while, you know? As an aside, Max Havoc accidentally kills someone in the ring during a kickboxing match. Richard Roundtree was there.

The hero was played by Mickey Hardt, a Swiss dude whose only acting credits other than the two Max Havocs are German films. I'm not sure what we were supposed to make of him. He's funny, I guess. I imagine the chicks dig him. His English ain't bad. His martial arts were pretty sweet. I don't know, he just didn't do it for me. He wasn't Dolph, or Seagal, or even Jerry Trimble. I guess that's why he isn't in more films over here. Also, Max Havoc accidentally killed a guy in the ring during a kickboxing match. David Carradine was there.

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As far as the women element goes, this film did not disappoint. Havoc's love interest, this amazing blond art historian, is so hot, when Carmen Electra has a cameo and hits on Havoc, we're actually like "dude, don't screw it up with the art historian." And that's not a knock on Electra, because she's hot too. Then you factor in the art historian's sister who's going to med school. Also amazing. Now, usually these films counter the eye candy for the guys with something for the ladies, like Dolph's abs, or Van Damme's buttcheeks, or Seagal in a sweatshirt. It wasn't that Mickey Hardt wasn't great, but compared to what us straight guys and gay ladies were given, it was obvious who made out better in that deal. Oh yeah, and Max Havoc accidentally killed a guy in the ring during a kickboxing match.

Vincent Klyn. What can you say? "Back off, Warchild..." Is there anyone else in the history of cinema who could be a Warchild better than Klyn? In this film he plays a dude named Moko who's an athlete in a sport that's the Guam equivalent to crew. He's kind of an asshole that Havoc beats up from time to time, but in the end they become friends because they aren't bad guys. Not what I want from Vincent Klyn. You can't list Warchild on the menu, and give me dog meat. Very disappointed. And in case you're wondering, Max Havoc killed a guy accidentally in the ring. He's pretty broken up about it.

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I'll bite: here's the deal with me bringing up the Max Havoc killing someone thing: there's a flashback to it every five minutes in the fricken movie. I'm serious. It gets ridiculous. With all the hot chicks and solid martial arts potential, not to mention Vincent Klyn, you're going to muddle the film with hella flashbacks? And the same one every time? It just started to hurt my soul, you know. Sometimes I ask myself: why does it always have to hurt? And I know the answer: because you wanted it to. In the immortal words of Evander Holyfield: "Time to get your whuppin', Charlie."

I just can't see it. Kinda fun film, but there's so much out there that's also fun and has more action and better acting and less flashbacks. Considering Pyun's had some great ones, he's on a two-game losing streak right now, with his last reviewed film, Crazy Six, also proving to be a stinker. As a Hall of Famer, he's gotta do better than that, and let's hope the next one we do I can recommend. Please.

For more info: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0404225/

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Out for a Kill (2003)

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For anyone out there who's been rockin' with the DTVC for some time, you probably know about my quest to find this one Seagal flick where he beheads an old Chinese man at the end with a samurai sword by throwing it at the man from a second story window. I'd seen this scene, and this scene only, when the film aired on USA. Unfortunately, the credits ran too fast for me to read the title, and I didn't have a digital cable guide to go to either. So I searched. Then I came across the trailer for this one on another Seagal flick. I didn't think much of it, because I thought it was one of his older ones. Man, I was so wrong. Out for a Kill is the one.

Out for a Kill is about the Chinese mafia, which spends most of its time having meetings in a boardroom in Paris, but manages to occasionally smuggle some dope into the country disguised as ancient Chinese artifacts. Enter Seagal, who is an archeology professor at Yale, out doing a dig in the same area the baddies want to do their bad things. His partner ends up dead, and he's sorta kinda framed for it. Then he's released, and they kill his wife. Now he's pissed, so he hunts them down, one-by-one, and takes them out.

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Best scene in movie history? Bogie sending Bergman off in Casablanca? Maybe. Brando yelling "Stella!" in A Streetcar Named Desire? Or him telling his brother he coulda been a contenda in On the Waterfront. I like these, I really do. But are they really better than Seagal decapitating an old Chinese man from a second story window? Have Bergman, Fellini, and Kurosawa in their combined infinite wisdom come up with anything matching the sheer genius of Seagal reaching for that samurai sword, just as the old Chinese man is downstairs trying to escape in his chauffeur driven car, and as he reaches for the door handle, Seagal opens the window and hurls the instrument of death, unleashing a swath of CG animation as the spinning blade propels forward, disarticulating the man's head. Nothing will ever beat that for me.

As far as the rest of the movie goes, it's pretty sweet. If you take that last amazing scene out (you could probably make a movie of that scene alone!), it's still up there with any DTV work Seagal has done. This is the ninth I've reviewed here on the DTVC, so that's saying a lot. Seagal as an archeology professor is great. I didn't mention above that he earned his PhD while in prison for stealing priceless goods. The Chinese mafia constantly sitting in a boardroom in Paris is amazing too. I guess what I'm saying is: this is bad action at its absolute best.

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There were some bad parts, but I think even those were so silly I had to let them go. Crouching Tiger was still having its ripple effect in the martial arts community in 2003, and this film couldn't avoid the waves. Seagal has one scene in a barber shop where he fights a guy using monkey style. The guy was flying all over the walls and shit. It didn't fit in the movie, and seemed pretty forced. There was also some Matrix shit with bullets floating into the back of Seagal's SUV. Of course, this stuff was more of an anomaly than a reoccurring problem, so I was fine with it. Oh yeah, did I mention Seagal decapitates an old Chinese man from a second story window by throwing a samurai sword?

The reason I never considered this as a possibility for the Seagal film with the greatest scene in movie history in it (let's stop beating around the bush and call it what it is) is its title. Out for a Kill is just Out for Justice and Hard to Kill put together. I just associated it with the older mainstream theater Seagal, and pushed it out of my mind. It was like looking for my keys and tearing the house apart, when they were right there under my nose the whole time. I tried using this trick of playing around with Seagal titles to make a new one, and here's what I got: Submerged into the Belly of the Glimmer Man 2: Under Siege; or Ticker Down Below. I think I like the second one better.

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Do I even need to say it? The only issue of course is whether or not the rest of the film is worth watching first, and believe me, it is. The first 90 minutes will blow by like nothing, and then the moment happens. This is not simply personal opinion. I can't think of a better thing to happen in a movie by any objective standards, than Seagal decapitating a man with a samurai sword by throwing it at him from a second story window.

For more info: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0323531/

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Warlock III: The End of Innocence (1999)

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Bruce Payne is a name known to many who watch the type of films we do at the DTVC. He's a household name. For a lot of my friends his breakout role was in the movie Dungeons and Dragons, which I avoided like the plague. I thought it was going to be a bunch guys in a parents' basement rolling dice. When I found out it just had Bruce Payne as a blue-lipped guy and Marlon Wayans being killed than brought back to life, I decided I had still made the correct decision. As such, it was Highlander: Endgame which brought Mr. Payne into my life, and I'm better for it.

Warlock III: The End of Innocence does not pick up where part two left off. It seems to have nothing to do with the others. An art school chick finds out she's adopted and her biological family have a colonial mansion out in the middle of nowhere. She and her friends go out to investigate. Enter Payne (and not a moment too soon, because it was becoming a snoozefest!). He knows the girl is descended from a race of good witches that, when their blood is spilled, can raise the big fella downstairs. Payne begins to cast spells on her friends so they help him take her down. Unfortunately, for whatever reason, she can overcome this, and him, and kill him.

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Wow. All I can say is wow. Stinker. Really bad. First 40 to 45 minutes hurt like sitting through a local access channel's broadcast of a town hall meeting. Then Payne shows up, and he tries his best to hoist this bad boy on his back and carry it to the finish. He almost does it too, but it proves too much, as the ending sucked, and he falls short, like the guy in the Strong Man Contest who just can't get that compact car across the finish line with his teeth. I feel for them both. I really mean that.

Bruce Payne doesn't show up-- except for like 2 minutes of flashback things-- until about the 40 minute mark. He's straight up awesome. Way better than he was in the other two films I've reviewed on the DTVC with him in them (Sweepers and Dungeons and Dragons 2). He's rocking this leather duster and matching leather pants. His wit and smoothness as he dispatches the girl's friends is so entertaining. The only thing he did as a bad guy that I couldn't get behind was killing the hot Tarot card chick, but we'll get to that later. Bruce Payne is the only real redeeming part of this film.

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I would be remiss if I went any further without mentioning Bruce's Angels, a site dedicated to all things Bruce. (You'll see a link in the section titled "Other Great Sites".) They took umbrage with the statement I made in the Sweepers post that Bruce is always a baddie. In the interests of fairness, I will review some of Payne's films where puts the evil away to play an okay dude-- but not anytime soon. Thanks to their wonderful site, I came across an amazing gem where Bruce sports a mullet, that also stars Brian Bosworth and MC Hammer. That'll be the next Payne film I do, and in that one he's, you guessed it, the bad guy.

As I said, Payne was the only real redeemable piece of the film, but it had one other bright spot: the hot Tarot card girl. She sported the same deck I have. Now I'm sure you're asking: "Dude, really? You read Tarot? C'mon." I picked it up more to fool around with, and I usually give my friends joke readings at parties. That doesn't mean that I didn't think it was hot that this woman was using my deck to try and divine some info on B Piddy. I was so disappointed when Payne killed her off, that I almost rooted for the kids. Her place in the film also left a hole in the story's continuity. There was a character that wanted the main heroine, but couldn't have her because she was in love with another man. Why he didn't just go for the equally hot Tarot woman made no sense, considering she was single. The hole comes because, if he had gone for her, Payne's whole approach in getting the heroine's friends would've been useless.

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Before I wrap up, I must make a quick note. I had this TiVoed from when it aired on Sci-Fi, and my friends actually watched that version. It is drastically cut from the one I got on Netflix. This is the danger with watching movies on TV, especially a channel like Sci-Fi that wants to fit as many commercials in as possible. I'm not sure how different the blog would've been had I watched the one I had TiVoed (I accidentally let erase after two weeks), but I'm glad I was able to get the whole picture anyway.

Bruce Payne is the only reason to watch this. That means the best bet is rent it, then fast forward about 40 minutes, and then enjoy the film. Either that, or you could get some other work done in that time. Maybe try a Rachel Ray 30 Minute Meal; pull out the Stairmaster and get that cardio in you keep telling everyone you're going to start doing; or you could even fill the Payne void by checking out Bruce's Angels. The movie is entertaining once Payne shows up. If you can get a cheap rental out of it, it's worth it for the 45 to 50 minutes of Payne-age you actually get.

For more info: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0157171/

CIA II: Target Alexa (1994)

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I was hesitant to watch this considering it didn't have OJ Simpson like the first one did. Who am I kidding, the film's directed by Lorenzo Lamas, and Kathleen Kinmont co-wrote the script. OJ or no OJ, this shit is right up my alley. No hesitation.

CIA II: Target Alexa picks up where part one left off. Lamas has rejoined the CIA, and Kinmont is hiding out in some small town with her daughter tending to a ranch. One of her old flames has part of a nuclear launch device, and the CIA wants it back. Luckily, in a completely fantastic situation, Kinmont is arrested, and the CIA can use this as leverage to reacquire her services. She infiltrates her old flame's hideout, and almost gets what she wants, before the bad guys with the other part of the nuclear bomb device swoop into the base and take both the part and Kinmont. Now Lamas must team up with the old flame to get her back.

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I hate using this term, but it's the only way to describe the film: it was what it was. We all go in with preconceived notions about what a Lorenzo Lamas directed film of a Kathleen Kinmont co-written script will be, and CIA II met all of those expectations. The acting was silly, the dialog was stilted and unnatural, and there were parts of the plot that were so unrealistic that it made me want to reach into the TV and set everyone straight, as if I was watching Who's on First? And, as you can imagine, I totally dug this. This exudes "so bad it's good".

Lamas hits it out of the park as both director, and actor reprising the role of the awesomely named Agent Graver. As a MSTie, one of my favorite scenes came when Lamas was staking out the baddies' camp while Kinmont was in undercover. He has to make a sudden escape, and in so doing, employs a hang glider. Just like in Ator, this hang glider comes out of no where. It's slightly more believable, because it was factory manufactured, so it wasn't like he had to kill a deer and tan the hides and whatever. Just the same, where he would've kept this hang glider, and when he would've had the time to put it together if he was keeping it in a bag or something, is beyond me. Also, there's a sweet shot of him flying the hang glider in front of a green screen, and it's so reminiscent of Ator, I can't imagine this was anything other than an intentional joke. If so, it'd be all the more sweet.

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The film does a horrible job putting Kinmont in jail. She goes to the local convenience store with her daughter to get some stuff, and these guys in clown masks with shotguns kill the clerk and try to rob the place, before she takes them out lethally to protect her child. The local fuzz blames her for the killing and sends her to jail. Really? You wanna go with that? Local cops dumb enough to not believe her side of the story that guys with clown masks and guns were threatening her daughter when the dead guys with clown masks and guns were lying right there. Then her attorney, played by Magnum PI's Larry Manetti, tells her to plea. Again, you wanna go with that one? Any defense attorney would be salivating at a chance to cut a case like that apart, if, and this is a big if, a local DA was dumb enough to try it. Come on guys, would it've taken that much more to do a real frame up job? She chases down a killer, ends up with the knife, and the cops find her with it and the victim's blood all over her. I loved the silliness of it, but sometimes I wish the people who made these films would sit and think for two seconds about what they're doing.

In order to complete the Renegade cast, Branscombe Richmond has a cameo as a Latin American dictator. I can't lie, I thought that was cool, but where was Lt. Dutch Dixon? Lamas never seems to use him in anything. Maybe Steven J. Cannell, the guy who plays him, is always busy. I just saw so many characters in this movie that Dutch could've played. According to imdb, they've never done anything together other than Renegade. Even worse, this is the only movie Richmond and Lamas have done, with the only credit other than Renegade and this being an episode of Falcon Crest. It seemed so natural in the film, but really it's an anomaly.

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It's Kinmont he's worked with a lot outside of Renegade, with the two of them having 6 films together. Of course, none of these films were released after 1994, which probably isn't a coincidence considering they divorced in 1993, even though imdb says they remained friendly after the estrangement. This is her fourth film on the DTVC. I don't think she'll ever make the Hall of Fame, but based on her filmography, this'll be far from her last film on here.

If you get a kick out of Lorenzo Lamas, and like really bad movies, you can't go wrong here. If you need your bad movie to have a modicum of good movie in it, this might be a bit much. This is the kind of film that separates the occasional bad movie people from the hardcore sadists. I'm firmly planted in the latter category.

Fore more info: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0109360/

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Rage and Honor II (1993)

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I first saw the end of this on Spike or something like that who knows how long ago. When I saw it again from the beginning, I didn't think I was watching the same movie, because I was curious to see how they were going to get to that ending from the beginning I saw. It was, in fact, the same film, and they got to that ending with a drastic plot twist.

Rage and Honor II takes place a while after part 1. Cynthia Rothrock's gone from being a teacher to a CIA agent in training. She's sent to Jakarta for her first mission, where she meets up with her old buddy, Richard Norton, who's still on the run from the cop killing that was pinned on him back in LA. She's investigating a money laundering scheme that involves the father of a rich kid Norton's training, played by Patrick Muldoon from Melrose Place. At the same time, there's some smuggled diamonds, some crime lords, and an awesome bad guy with a sick blond ape drape-- much better than the fake one Brian Thompson tried to perpetrate on us in the first movie.

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Off the chain. That's all I can say. This was simply fantastic. Rothrock and Norton killed it again. Rothrock becoming a secret agent? Absolutely. Bumping into her old pal in Jakarta? Yes! Patrick Muldoon from Melrose? Give it to me. A sick Northern European with an even sicker ape drape? You've got a recipe for success. The action was on par for an early 90s DTV martial arts flick, with no lulls or useless plot exposition. Maybe I'm beating a dead horse here, but the people who make Wesley Snipes' new films should check these out. This is how bad action's supposed to be done.

Rothrock is slotted to be inducted into the DTVC Hall of Fame this October. The fact that she wasn't an inaugural member was partly an oversight on my part, and partly a lack of respect for what she's done on the parts of the other members of the panel. Not due to her gender, but due to the quality of her films. They're very low budget, probably a couple notches below the average Dolph or Seagal DTV fare. There's been a recent trend in bad movie watching to go back and reexamine these early 90s gems. That's a good thing, and will hopefully enrich every bad movie watcher's experience.

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Richard Norton scores big here. When he kicks people's asses, we, the viewer, want to see him do it. He's just so good at it. Now, in Gymkata, he played the baddie, and I have to admit, he did it well enough that I rooted against him. Just the same, it's not something I want to go through too often, because it's much more fun watching him kick ass than to have his ass kicked. With Rothrock's eventual induction into the HOF, Norton's bound to have more films reviewed here, and Rage and Honor II just reinforces in my mind how good that is. At 58, he probably won't be doing much more of this stuff, but he has so many older films that it could be a while before I exhaust them all.

This movie's so good it actually passed the Dad Test. That's right, my dad dug it. He was always a fan of MST3K, and I've seen my share of really old bad films with him, like Creature From the Black Lagoon. But the newer ones need to have that silly element in order to keep him interested. Norton did that. At the end, when he's kicking the last dude's ass, his taunts were so perfect, my dad was loving it along with me. They were funny both intentionally and unintentionally. I can't tell them without giving away the film.

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One of the crime bosses has a hatchet man with a sweet blond mullet. Early on we see him brush it out from off his neck with his hand. He knows how beautiful that thing is, and he's not ashamed of it. Good for him. The other thing was he could kick anyone's ass other than Norton who would make fun of him for it. That's what I'm talking about right there. Rock that beaver pelt with pride. More Swedes and Germans, especially big ones, should sport the mullet. Maybe I should go down to the German consulate in Boston and make that suggestion to them.

Patrick Muldoon from Melrose Place is in this as a guy learning from Norton. I also remember him from a movie called Chain of Command, which I could've sworn I reviewed, but I guess I didn't. Muldoon is like Sasha Mitchell, in that his network TV roles did nothing to display his martial arts prowess. On Melrose, he played Richard Hart, Jane's boyfriend who eventually went nuts and tried to kill her. Obviously, he could've easily taken her in a fight. For daytime soap fans, he also did a stint on Days in the early 90s. I'm not a daytime soap fan, so I don't remember him from that. I did watch Melrose in high school, and was shocked to find out Muldoon was an accomplished martial artist. I guess you never can tell.

I would say rent this, but if you can, watch a double feature of this and part one. It's barely three hours of your life, but the amount of enjoyment you'll get out of those three hours is so immense, you'll think it was only like two and a half. If you pride yourself on being a bad movie watcher, and haven't seen this, you gotta get on the ball. You won't regret it.

For more info: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0107917/

Lexie (2004)

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I can't remember how I first got wind of this. It may have been through a search of Gary Busey on imdb. It may have been through a search of Fred Williamson. It may have been through a search of Ice-T. Who knows? Anyway, I found it, and found out it had all three stars, so I knew I needed to give it a look.

Lexie has the first ADA from Law and Order as a dude who's a stockbroker, but used to be a major recording star until drugs derailed his career. His boss takes him to Ice-T's exclusive club, and he meets one of the chicks from En Vogue there. She inspires him to start his music career again. There're issues with the chick's ex-husband and father of her daughter, with Fred Williamson the music mogul signing him to another contract, and at his stock firm with the head honcho, Gary Busey, who thinks a major deal he brokered for Ice-T was fishy. It ends with a hilariously awesome song.

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This movie hits you with the triple bait-and-switch: minuscule amounts of Ice-T, Fred Williamson (who also directs), and worst of all, Gary Busey. I was left with a Lifetime drama. No doubt, it had its moments, as all Lifetime dramas do, but that's not enough for me. I can see those anytime I want on the Lifetime Movie Network. I wanted some action, fighting, killing, explosions. That's what I want when I see those names on the cover.

As I've said before, I'm trying to make a concerted effort here at the DTVC to get hall of famer Gary Busey more posts. This movie was an attempt to do that, but I almost feel wrong in tagging him for this film, because he's only in it in one scene. I'm serious, one scene. I guess putting it up here so no one falls for the Busey bait-and-switch is a solid reason. Do not watch this for Busey, because it's almost a zero on the Abusive scale. What a waste.

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Fred Williamson directed this. I understand what he was trying to do. This was supposed to be commentary on the direction the black community's going, and also the trappings of taking the easy money instead of following one's heart. Williamson couples this commentary about the future of the black community with a further message that the children of this Hip Hop generation aren't bad, they just need the proper guidance, especially males in the form of male role models. On that level, he actually does a solid job. At points it does come off Lifetime-ish, like I said above, but at least I was able to get it. The problem was the distributors, who packaged this as an action/suspense thriller with gangs and crime lords and sketchy record execs, when it really wasn't.

Ice T is only one off Daniel Bernhardt's number of most posts for a non-Hall of Famer. Looking in the pipeline, neither has a film up for a while, so it could be months before Ice-T overtakes him, but it's probably a matter of when, not if. He's done way more than Bernhardt, and he's an Albert Pyun mainstay, which means he has more opportunities being so closely linked to a Hall of Famer. As far as this film goes, he's not in it much, but he's really good when he's in it. It's kind of frustrating, because it seems like the movies where he's really solid are the ones that barely feature him.

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The song at the end of this was awesome. It has the chic from En Vogue, and the dude from Law and Order. The dude from Law and Order comes in later than the En Vogue chick, but when he does, his voice is amazing: it's extremely deep and out of place. My roommates came in late for that one, so they were laughing, asking "what the fuck is this?" They know what kinds of films I enjoy, so it wasn't so surprising to them, but hilarious just the same.

If you're curious to see Fred Williams' directorial work, check this out. Otherwise, it's not worth it. He has some great social commentary, but the movie which acts as the vehicle for that message falls short, and the scant parts played by the three main stars prevents them from making up for the film's shortcomings.

For more info: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0400602/

Retrograde (2004)

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This is the one Dolph film that was not released here in the United States. You'll never see it in your local video store, and you can't get it on Netflix. You're probably wondering how I got it. Guess. Dolph, if you're out there and reading this, I would hate to see you lose any royalties due you, so just give me your address, and I'll send you a money order for $19.95. I can send it in Euros if the devalued dollar makes you uneasy.

Retorgrade has Dolph as a dude from the future sent back in time to the present to stop some scientists on an expedition in Antarctica. The scientists will come in contact with the remains of a meteor that has a nasty virus on it. That virus will eventually threaten the lives of people in Dolph's time. Unfortunately, on his way to the past, some dudes on his crew want to sabotage the mission, so they try the ol' mutiny trick. Dolph fends them off and manages to escape when the vessel they're in makes it to present day Antarctica. Now the fun starts. People from the scientists crew are getting sick. Dolph's trying to help them. And then the baddies show up. Dolph faces off with them in a boiler room a la Space Mutiny.

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This was pretty bad. The film quality was akin to The Asylum's Transmorphers, which isn't too good. It looked more like an educational adventure that might air on PBS. Jesus Dolph, what were you thinking? I can see why it wasn't released here in The States, though I can't imagine Dolph's name alone wouldn't get it some play on the action or sci-fi shelves of a video store. Three words Jill the Ripper. Two more: Hidden Agenda. Though a bad film, still a shame it was never available legally here.

Dolph is kind of mailing this one in too. Looking at his filmography, this was made right smack in the middle of Direct Action, and his directorial debuts in Defender and Russian Specialist. Maybe he had other things on his mind. Why did he make this then? Did he himself, so embarrassed by his poor performance, bar this from release in the US? It'll be interesting to see if this makes it to Dolph Fest 2008.

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I must make clear that, despite how horrendous it is, and it is horrendous, this film is well worth watching with a big group and making fun of. It's about MST3K quality. It's probably the lowest budget Dolph film ever, but there's nothing really depraved or insulting in it to discourage anyone from seeking it out for a bad movie night. It's just kind of disappointing for someone like myself who's been rocking with Dolph for a while.

Gary Daniels is in this. We never get to see him fight Dolph, which is kind of a waste. After the awesome fight he had with Don "The Dragon" Wilson in Bloodfist IV, I want more, and I'm not getting it, either here, or in Submerged, which he did with Steven Seagal. We did get to see him fight though, so it was some consolation. The movie used an interesting setup for the final fights. Usually, when two guys from the same side fight two baddies, the weaker fights another weaker, leaving the hero to dispatch the big one. Here, they had Daniels fight the big baddie, and Dolph fight the weaker, almost like a single elimination tournament to the final showdown. I don't know how I think about that. Had Showdown gone that route, Tagawa would've killed Brandon Lee, leaving us bereft of the classic "You have the right to be dead" line.

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I've never been a fan of downloading movies illegally. That's not true at all, I've always been a fan of it. In this case, though, I feel I'm justified. The movie's just not available here. And I want to be a Dolph completist, you know? I think the movie is available in Region 1 on eBay, if you either A: don't have the means to download it or B: don't want to due to your conscience.

The only reason to go out of your way (and you'll have to go out of your way) to get this is if you're a Dolph completist like me. Otherwise, don't waste your time. There're plenty of other crummy films out there for you to get on Netflix or through your local video store that'll take less trouble. If you're going to be downloading movies anyway, why not give this a shot. Also, if you speak German, French, or Italian, it's easier to find downloads for it.

For more info: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0385990/

7 Seconds (2005)

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Wesley Snipes' post-Blade DTV career is a relatively recent development (only the last few years), and something of considerable interest to us here at the DTVC. Given his awesome mainstream theater release action career, he has the potential to go down as one of the all-time DTV greats, alongside legends like Dolph, Van Damme, Seagal, and Lambert. The question is: will he be the next Michael Jordan, or another Harold Miner, Michael Ray Richards, or JR Rider. Time will tell.

7 Seconds has Snipes as a former military special forces dude in Bucharest living as a big-time thief. After a double-cross during a colossal casino heist leaves his crew dead, his girl captured, and him accused of killing a cop, he's on the run. Not only that, but there was a priceless Van Gogh painting inadvertently involved in the crime, and fortuitously Snipes has it in his possession. After a series of twists and more double-crosses, Snipes and a hot military cop he's befriended end up escaping with the painting, while everyone else kills each other.

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This wasn't too bad. It had the action. There were some great car chases. Snipes amped up the martial arts, which I definitely appreciated. Just the same, there was a fairly long interlude where Snipes gets captured by the baddies and is tortured so he'll tell them the painting's location. It was like 20 minutes, or so it seemed, and really made for a downer. It killed any momentum the film generated with the earlier action, and even with a great chase scene near the end, it just never got it back for me. It wasn't as bad as the action void we saw in The Contractor, but it was enough for me to start pouring through my bills and lose contact with the movie.

I spoke in the opening paragraph about Snipes' potential as a DTV great, and I realized I sounded similar to the girls I meet at my age who want me to settle down and get a job in an office so I can help them buy a house and kids and a minivan. "Oh, but you have so much potential, you should be a teacher or go to law school or something." I hope Wesley doesn't look at Dolph Lundgren's movies envisioning a PTA meeting. Or even a mortgage (was that in poor taste given his recent property tax woes?). It's not settling if his bad action movies admit they're bad action movies and skip the lulls. I just want one movie out of him that brings the kind of enjoyment Blade II did. All right, I want 20, but I'll take one. Then he can go back to these movies where he sprinkles some good action in with a bunch of boring scenes that make my ADD flare up.

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The female lead was pretty hot. The place her character held made no sense in a 21st century Western workplace. She was a sergeant in a NATO run military police outfit in Romania, yet she wasn't allowed to have a say in the investigation into Snipes and his gang. The reason: she's a woman. I understand that chauvinism still exists, even in 2008 (or 2005, when this was made), but I can't imagine the two guys who were freezing her out wouldn't have wanted to work with just on her looks alone. What kind of chauvinists aren't pigs when it comes to hot women? Gay chauvinists? Angry testosterone-ly charged Alpha Male gay chauvinists?

A hallmark of this and the other Snipes film the DVC has reviewed (The Contractor) is techno music. This is the new movement in bad action, and though it's not horrible, the synthesizer and bad metal guitar will always have a special place in my heart. I think in the Snipes film, the techno comes from the Blade films. Most filmmakers can't get that indelible image out of their heads of Snipes in Blade II, right after he gets the blood in him, with his samurai sword, and the listen all you motherfuckers playing in the background, as he cuts down a shitload of vampires. I get that, and I guess I can make a synthesizer and metal exception for the Snipes film.

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On the other hand, another horrible trend in newer DTV action is the Bourne Whatever shaky camera with quick cuts. This sucks, and annoys me more than you can know. One reason for the bad camera in the Bourne movies was to mask Matt Damon's inability to fight. Wesley Snipes doesn't suffer from this deficiency-- in fact, he's a pretty accomplished martial artist. We see that even in this film. I'll give this movie credit, because they use it more than The Contractor did, but I can't appreciate it if the camera's not steady. These people need to go back to their forefathers in the early 90s who choreographed timeless fight scenes that me and other bad movie honks are still talking about. Not everything newer is necessarily better.

At no point in this film did I find out why it was called 7 Seconds. Seriously. I may have totally missed it. I don't know what else I would've called it, so I guess 7 seconds is as serviceable as anything. I like the idea of a title that makes no sense. It's a definite check mark on the pro side for this film. That makes three, then: Snipes' martial arts, cool car chases, name that made no sense...

... but the cons slightly outweigh the pros. Long dull torture interlude, action scenes that weren't as plentiful as they needed to be, and the shaky en vogue camera canceled out the positives. That's an 0-fer-two so far on the DTVC, but I think this was an improvement, so I see the potential. The next film of his in the pipeline is Chaos, a film that also has Jason Statham and Ryan Phillipe. I have a good feeling about it.

For more info: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0417395/