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, October 30, 2008

The Return of Doctor X (1939)

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I figured in celebration of Halloween this week I'd take the opportunity to write a post for a film with my favorite actor in it: Humphrey Bogart. I first got wind of this during a documentary on Bogie I saw on Turner Classic Movies. He was none too pleased he had to do this movie, and went into Warner afterwards and demanded more money. I can't say I blame him.

The Return of Doctor X has Bogey as a pasty dude brought back to life by a hematologist. A newspaper reporter finds an actress dead. Then she's not. He asks his doctor friend, and he consults the hematologist. Turns out the guy is trying to resurrect people and use some kind of synthetic blood to sustain them. When that doesn't work for Bogey, he goes out and gets some of his own. Things go from bad to worse as Bogey finds more victims.

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This movie's just over an hour long, which is the best part. It is what it is: a bad old horror film. A bad old horror film that just happens to have the greatest screen actor of all time in it. That's like finding a Dolph film with Daniel Day Lewis in it. I loved the clothing styles from that time, especially the doctor's outfits that look like something Gordon Ramsey would be sporting on one of his fifteen cooking shows. Still, you can get that from any number of good films from that time period. Really, if it was any longer than it is, the novelty of Bogie in a bad horror film would wear off.

I absolutely love the slang from that period. People always tell me they get a kick out of how I talk, and though I'm flattered, I think they need to see more bad movies. This one is pretty rife with it. Really fast speech, with things being "jake" or "kept on the level", guys "crackin' foxy" or dames with great "gams". It just doesn't get any better than that for me. I can't for the life of me figure out why we don't speak like that anymore. Was it the 60s? I guess no one wants to sound like their parents, but it's funny that I never hear people from my grandparents' generation interacting like the people in these films.

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The newspaper boy in this is from Wichita, KS, and everyone he works with reminds him of that every waking minute. Makes me wish I was from Wichita. I've never actually been, but it sounds like a good time according to Wikipedia. Maybe I'll take a train out there sometime and document it in blog entitled "My Own Private Wichita: One Mainer's Search for the Midwest". That would make for interesting reading. Maybe.

Humphrey Bogart is my favorite actor. I know many of you rocking with me here at the DTVC are probably a little stunned to hear that. What about Dolph, or Seagal, or Van Damme? What about them? They're no Bogie baby. Everything about him just exudes this level of coolness that is so effortless. Even in Sabrina when he's taking Hepburn out on the boat playing "We Have No Bananas Today" it's hard not to feel like George Costanza hanging out with Dan Cortese. I'm still waiting for The African Queen to come out on DVD. It's amazing that this film did before the one movie where he won an Oscar.

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The end of this film employs a classic bad guy mistake that I've seen over and over again, and it's amazing it was used as far back as 1939, and today film makers still use it. The baddie kidnaps the female lead, then doesn't cover his bases properly, and the female leads to his downfall. This time it's the old "I'll take the gag out because no one can hear you scream anyway" and she screams and the good guys in the area hear it, and swarm him. Now granted, Bogie kidnaps his victim using a taxi, so he's probably not the brightest villain, but I just never understood why these criminal masterminds don't cross their "I's" and dot their "T's" better.

To get this on DVD you need to buy it as part of an overall set. It might be worth it to rent just this film on Netflix like I did, but maybe the set has other films you've been looking for. I doubt it, but you never know.

For more info: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0031851/

Plan 9 From Outer Space (1959)

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In honor of Halloween I figured I go a bit outside the box for this week's posts. One of the movies I picked was the Ed Wood classic Plan 9 From Outer Space. I chose it, not because it's one of my personal faves, but more due to its reputation as something of a Michael Jordan or Babe Ruth of bad movies. For people who don't watch what we watch, Plan 9 seems to come up as the one they are most familiar with, whether they've seen it or not. I don't necessarily see that as problem, just an observation.

In Plan 9 From Outer Space, some UFOs are flying around scaring people and forcing the army to roll out tons of stock footage. Coincidentally, people are being savagely murdered at the cemetery in a town outside of LA. Turns out some aliens want to teach us how to not destroy everything, and they think the way to do it is to reincarnate a few dead people and send them out on a controlled killing spree. Some brave humans confront a couple aliens on their spacecraft, and the ensuing scuffle ends in a flaming mess.

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This isn't a bad deal. I'm not sure if part of its notoriety came from the Johnny Depp/Tim Burton biopic about Ed Wood, but anyone who watches MST3K has probably seen worse than this. Not much worse, but worse. It's not exactly my cup of tea, in that I prefer late 80s early 90s bad action to the 50s/60s era sci-fi and horror, but I can see the charm, and I think that's what counts. It also doesn't hurt that the film's a scant 78 minutes long, which is perfect.

It's weird watching this having seen the biopic, and knowing that Bela Lugosi wasn't actually in it, but was a mix of archive footage and another actor with his face covered. It's obvious in the scenes where it's the other actor, but the archive footage wasn't so apparent. I wonder, between that and the file footage Ed Wood used, how much he actually filmed on his own. It's also hard for people of my generation to understand just how big Lugosi was at one time in the industry. He was one of the founders of the Screen Actors Guild. Had he been born fifty years later, his decline into the depths of drug addiction would've made for good reality TV, and he may not have done Ed Wood-esque movies to make ends meet.

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Ed Wood gets a little preachy with his aliens that want to show us how destructive we are. That's all well and good, but I prefer my aliens Richard Kiel style in the Twilight Zone's "To Serve Man". I'm still not sure how resurrecting dead people and having them savagely kill us makes a point about our need to find peaceful solutions to problems. If I were the humans that made it aboard that ship, I'd have been firing my pistol indiscriminately as well. It would've been awesome during the presidential debates if McCain had been like "my opponent is in favor of holding talks with leaders of rogue nations with no conditions. What if they start resurrecting people and sending these zombies on killing sprees? My opponent is fine with that." Then Obama would counter with "I never said I'd condone resurrecting dead people and having them murder us. This has been completely taken out of context by Senator McCain and his people."

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One thing about the aliens I liked was the hot female second in command. Those boots, tights, and ample backside all worked well for me. Now, I'm not one of those sci-fi cats who has trouble speaking when Star Trek runs out a new hot chick in a tight jumpsuit and weird ears or nose-- in reality, we're not talking so much about an alien, just a woman in a silly outfit-- but I dug this chick. If the 50s and 60s understood one thing about men's taste in women, it's that we don't find arms so skinny that the elbows can cut gashes over our eyebrows that attractive. It's okay for actresses to mix in a sandwich once in a while.

If you haven't seen this, you probably should give it a shot. On the other hand, it might be really postmodern for a bad movie honk like yourself who hasn't seen it to be able to tell people when they ask you "no, I never saw it." What, you like bad movies, and haven't seen Plan 9 From Outer Space? Man, now I kinda wish I hadn't seen it so I could say that too.

For more info: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0052077/

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Venom (1981)

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I first caught wind of this film on Netflix when I did a search of Klaus Kinski. I rented it, then found out it was released in the theaters in 1982, and made a little over $5 million. My cut off for inclusion in the blog is either $10 million or if I could take a date to see it at the local movie theater in Portsmouth, NH. I was three in 1982, so I don't know if it played there then. I'm probably straddling the line here, and I have a feeling after putting up this post that I'll have no choice but to give into the demands for a Cyborg review...

Venom is about a rich family living in London with a severely asthmatic young son. When the parents are away, the maid and chauffeur plan to kidnap the boy with the help of international criminal Klaus Kinski. Things go wrong, though, when the boy accidentally picks up a poisonous black mamba snake from the local pet store instead of the cute house snake he ordered. The snake bites the maid, and as they try to make off with the boy, a cop coming to warn the family about the snake mix-up is shot by the nervous chauffeur, leading to a deadly standoff with the police. This deadliness is only exacerbated by the black mamba.

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This was a pretty blah film. It had a very Lifetime movie feel to it, which made it feel a little silly, and I think that's a good thing. There wasn't as much Kinski as I'd have wanted, but that seems to be the case pretty often. I would've liked more people getting bit by the snake, personally, especially when the movie is named Venom, and the snake features prominently on the cover. She goes missing for large portions of the film, and I can only assume this means she needed a better agent.

Kinski is pretty reserved, but pretty awesome. I didn't like that as a bad guy we knew he was going to lose the whole time, because he was a cool bad guy. That's weird, because he can make himself so unlikeable so easily, that I can't see why the filmmakers wouldn't've made him more unsympathetic. He was cooler than he was creepy, which was something I didn't know he had in his arsenal: more proof of his title as the German Marlon Brando. For those liking the Klassik Kinski, his death scene is a real tour de force. If you want to just see that without watching the rest of the film, I found it on YouTube. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=m3WoeEQnNK8

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Kinski's adversary is actually pretty cool too. He's this Scottish police commander who really knows how to take care of business. Had they built the Kinski character better, we as the audience would've had a better time watching these two play some kind of deadly game of cat and mouse. As actors, too, they both gave strong performances, so it was a waste that we didn't get to enjoy the two of them more.

The snake in this is the black mamba, and we learn that it gets its name not because it's black on the outside, but because the inside of its mouth is. Kobe Bryant's nickname is the Black Mamba, and for the most part he's pretty deadly too. Luckily for me, the Celtics are great snake wranglers, and they managed to avoid the Mamba's dangerous bite. As far as I can tell, this film was the Celtics, because it made the snake pretty innocuous by leaving it out for large portions of time. Having a camera zoom through a heating duct with ominous music in the background does not a good snake film make.

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Finally, my biggest beef with this movie was how they killed off the only hot chick in the movie within the first 20 minutes or so. Why would you do that? I understand that as a baddie she needed to go, but so soon? The women watching had plenty of male eye candy, it just didn't seem fair. I guess I shouldn't complain too much, because most DTV films are rife with female eye candy for us, and the ladies are left with Van Damme's butt or Dolph's abs, which are great, but not much in the way of variety.

This wasn't too bad, but it wasn't too good either. You and your buddies aren't going to be able to yell at the screen and watch a bunch of people get bit in funny ways like Snakes on a Train, but if you ever see it on TV late at night, there's a lot worse you can watch. I just don't know that I'd spend money on it.

For more info: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0084854/

Howling III: The Marsupials (1987)

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The Howling 2 is probably to werewolf movies what Blade is to the vampire genre. That being said, it's a no-brainer that one would want to see what the sequel to all that awesomeness was all about. Blade 2 was pretty sweet, so this film had a lot to live up to. Maybe that's not really fair, but life isn't fair.

Howling III: The Marsupials has nothing whatsoever to do with it's amazing predecessor. It takes place in Australia, where a sociologist thinks an old film of an Aboriginal tribal ritual is proof of the existence of werewolves. He's right, but not before a runaway hot chick/werewolf is impregnated by a dude who looks like my cousin Kevin. She has a fit in public, and the Aussies decide werewolves suck, and they take over their compound, imprisoning the werewolves so they can experiment on them. The sociologist feels bad, and he helps some of them escape and lives with them. That's it.

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According to the trailer included in the DVD, this was lauded as the best werewolf movie of 1987. I did a little research, and found three other werewolf films that year. First, Monster Squad, is only tangentially a werewolf film, so it doesn't count. That leaves Teen Wolf Too, which the less said about that, the better; and Werewolf, the TV movie pilot to the TV series. I need some help on that, but I think that show was on USA after the Hitchhiker or something. That one may have been better than this, but I don't remember it well enough to have a solid opinion, and it may not matter anyway, because a TV movie pilot might not count when a trailer is bragging about its film.

This film totally reworked the werewolf genre, and I'm not sure if it worked. The idea is supposed to be that they're just a genetic off-shoot of homo sapien sapien. With that in mind, the story is preaching acceptance and understanding. There was still plenty of savage eating of people, so it wasn't all Up With People, but on the other hand, it didn't have that real horror movie feel that I want when I rent a werewolf picture. I need silver bullets and full moons. I need Christopher Lee toting a crossbow. This just didn't do it for me.

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That doesn't mean it didn't have its good points. There's the great image of the nun werewolves that looked like the dog from the Snausages (sp?) commercials. I don't know who thought they were werewolves instead of dog people, but I owe whoever it was a beer. There were a couple of great werewolf attacks by these teddy bear-esque creatures that looked more huggable than scary, and it was amazing to see them in action. The head werewolf looked like a fat, bald Colm Meany, and I was extremely disappointed it wasn't actually him.

This movie spoofs on other horror films, and there's a director who's supposed to be an homage to Alfred Hitchcock who's making one of these bad films. This is a much better homage than that atrocious Psycho remake that came out however many years ago. That shit hurt. It was also better than Mission Impossible 2, which was a total rip-off of Notorious. I love Thandie Newton and Tom Cruise as much as the next guy, but they're no Cary Grant and Ingrid Bergman.

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The sociologist in this picture does what we in the biz call Going Native. It's a very un-PC term, and I'm sure the American Anthropological Association would frown on its usage, but I can't think of a better way to put it. He falls in love with one of the people he's studying, and gives up his entire life to be with her and raise a child. I totally understand the allure of the foreign, and can see an anthropologist studying actual people falling for someone he or she is doing field work on; but a werewolf is a different story. Maybe I'm just old fashioned.

Speaking of old fashioned, I noticed Rampage, the arcade game, show up in the film for a few seconds. I had no idea that game was that old, or that I was that young when I was playing it. 20 years ago seems like a long time. The one thing I remember when playing it on the Nintendo was how you could keep hitting B to get your guy to come back to life. I thought I was the only one who knew that, and scored like however many million, and I looked at Nintendo Power to see how my high score compared, only to find everyone else had 9,999,999.

I'm giving this a tentative no. If you're a big werewolf fan you've probably already seen it, and if you haven't, you may want to give it a shot because it's so different. Otherwise, it's just pretty blah. You'd think with all the Australian accents that I'd be all over it, and if it had more than just a few bright spots, I'm sure I would've been.

For more info: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0093227/

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Succubus: Hell Bent (2007)

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This was the first film I watched on Netflix's instant viewing system. I must say I was only slightly impressed. It might have something to do with my computer's settings, but whenever I tried to view the movie in Full Screen, it would pop up in the corner for a second, make a funny noise, then Internet Explorer would close. I gave up and just watched it in the viewer mode, which was kind of annoying, because I had the light from the toolbar at the top of the window affecting my ability to see the picture. I guess I could've called them to fix it, but I didn't want to sit on the phone.

Succubus: Hell Bent is about a womanizer who's stalked by this succubus named Lilith. She wants him to pay for his womanizing ways, and he does, but not as badly as his girlfriend and best buddy do. Lorenzo Lamas and Gary Busey have cameos.

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Wow, was I robbed. Gary Busey listed as first billed, Lorenzo Lamas listed as third, and the two of them are in it for a total of ten minutes. Busey's best stuff actually came in the outtakes during the credits. I guess even an old DTV vet like me can fall for the old bait-and-switch. That's why you need someone here to screen these things for you, so you don't have to waste your time and money.

Otherwise the movie wasn't that good. Sure, we all want to see a womanizer get his comeuppance, but as brutally as that? And you had Busey and Lamas at your disposal. Why not have them battle the succubus at the end? There was an aerial dogfight scene that was so-so, and nothing else after that that was that exciting. I was left with one question: why was this movie even made?

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There's the women's empowerment angle. For me it didn't work. Most of the women the womanizer slept with were manizers at best, and they seemed to have no misconceptions of what they were in for. The succubus herself was a very unsympathetic character. She pretty much forces the guy to tell her he loves her, then holds him to that as some kind of reason to torture him. Paris Hilton's My New BFF on MTV is a better example of women's empowerment: at least she's in command.

This movie has an element of John Fowles' The Magus, which was a book I didn't really care for. As in Succubus: Hell Bent, I didn't see the main character's behavior as despicable enough to warrant his treatment, either at the hands of Conchis or Lilith. Maybe as a white male it's hard to understand what these figures stand for, and on some levels I'll accept that. If Lilith made the male in this fall in love with her, then break his heart, I think I could get behind it better than killing people around him and stalking him.

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I skipped writing the seventh paragraph because I didn't feel this film was worthy of it. Waste of time. Even though it didn't really cost me anything, I lost 90 minutes of my life I'll never get back. Also, I feel the filmmaker in hopping on her soapbox and lecturing us on the ills of womanizing men, was probably more dishonest than any of the serial daters she's encountered when she told us Gary Busey and Lorenzo Lamas were in the movie, and then gave them barely any screen time.

For more info: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0775544/

Starship Troopers 3: Marauder (2008)

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I try my best here at the DTVC to review not only older movies that one might see in the bargain bin at a video store, but also the more recent DTV films that litter the New Release section. It can sometimes be a difficult task, because I only have the two posts a week, and there are so many great old ones out there that people want up, plus I have the Hall of Fame to consider, so before I know it, these new films are pushed to the bottom of my Netflix queue. Here was one that managed to fight it's way back to the top.

Starship Troopers 3: Marauder is a continuation of the series that started with the Paul Verhoeven 1997 classic. Casper Van Dien reprises his role as whoever, and in this one, he's brought up on charges by his former protege for sedition. Then he's spared the hangman's noose by this same protege when the dude needs him to save his girlfriend (played by the hot Vulcan from Enterprise) from a planet infested with bugs. With the girlfriend is the Sky Marshall, a rallying point in the war movement. His recent behavior has been rather suspect, which puts the girlfriend in even more danger. That's pretty much it: two hours of bugs, shooting, things not being what they seem, and very little substance, until Casper Van Dien steps in and saves the day.

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The last 20 or 30 minutes of this film was pretty good. The problem, or course, is there's an hour and a half of boring movie to get through first, which hurts. When I hit the display button to see how far I am into a film, and it says "0:10:44", I know I'm in for it. And the frustrating thing was it didn't have to happen. I counted about 35 minutes of film that could've been cut that wouldn't have greatly affected the continuity. I can think of many great Bergman or Fellini films I've seen that were much shorter than this. I think DTV filmmakers forget their audience and get lost in what they're doing. Here's a reminder to any future DTV filmmakers who may commit the same mistake: you're not Bergman or Fellini, you're making a Direct to Video cash grab based on an established theatrical property. No one watching it cares about an intricate plot, we want explosions, gruesome deaths, and hot chicks or dudes. Cram as much into it in 88 minutes, and we'll be happy. If we want quality, we'll hit the Criterion Collection.

That's really too bad, because cut down to 88 minutes, this could've been a really fun movie-- the sequel to the original we thought part two was going to be. There were some really great themes that are relevant today with the current political climate that were worth exploring and leaving ambiguous for the viewer. The soldiers were portrayed as sympathetic, while the government was depicted as evil. This made it interesting, because we wanted to root for Casper Van Dien, but that meant we were rooting for the people in charge who were executing war protesters and manipulating the public.

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I try my best while I review movies here to avoid discussing religion or politics, especially in a way that might make me come off as hopping on a soapbox or alienate potential readers. I want people to keep that in mind while I look at two issues regarding religiosity the film brought up, one intentional, and I think the other unintentional. I have the utmost respect for everyone's beliefs.

The first one was religion as inspiration versus something that can be manipulated by others to make people do what they want. The bugs take advantage of a spiritual reawakening to brainwash an influential person into working for them. This is juxtaposed with a girl who genuinely believes in God. She is a sympathetic figure whose faith is rewarded when she and the girlfriend are saved by Casper Van Dien in the face of an overwhelming bug swarm. As with everything else in the film, though, this juxtaposition is not cut and dry, and after, this same girl's faith is used by the government for propaganda purposes, and she's a willing participant as a leader in the religious movement. For a DTV cash grab, this discussion on religion was much more sophisticated and nuanced than I could've ever expected.

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The second issue I think wasn't given to us on purpose, I just kind of pulled it out. In one scene, a guy who has a thing for the religious girl announces that he too has found God. We know he's only doing this to get with the girl, and a bug kills him not long after; but it raises an interesting point: would you convert in order to get a girl or a guy? This girl in the movie was pretty hot, so I'd consider it, you know. On the other hand, I feel like conversion is the wrong way-- it's like changing who you are to be like the other person. Then there's the other side of the coin: would you be enamored with someone that converted for you? In the movie she seemed to dig it, but I know when girls I find unattractive pretend to like things I do, I don't find them more attractive, it's almost more the reverse. It's still an interesting question, though.

I think the issues this movie brings up can't remove the fact that it's really long and really boring. Rent at your own peril. It's not like you and your friends can't discuss these things on your own after reading my post or reading the newspaper without losing almost two hours of your life to watching people act in front of a green screen.

For more info: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0844760/

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

The Best of the Best (1989)

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It's hard to believe we're coming up on the 20th anniversary of this bad boy. It seems like just yesterday this was new. Then you watch it and realize the music, hairstyles, and soda cans are hopelessly out of date, and at that point you become nostalgic. Or you laugh at it. One or the other.

Best of the Best has James Earl Jones as a martial arts coach leading a group of Americans against a team of South Koreans in a competition out in Seoul. It's a Bad News Bears type plot, only Eric Roberts and Chris Penn are two of the Bears, and James Earl Jones is cooler than Billy Bob Thorton (but not Walter Mathau). The ending was way more inspired than I ever considered a movie of this caliber could achieve. I'm serious about that.

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This is a sports movie. Some of the sequels are action flicks, but this one is all about the competition. The beginning was pretty slow, and overall the piece was pretty formulaic, but the ending was nice, and the star power made for some solid material to make fun of. Also, the South Korean team's training videos looked like something smuggled out of Afghanistan. I didn't understand the rules of the competition, which left me completely at the mercy of the filmmakers as they artificially built up the drama. Again, the first 90 minutes were extremely silly, and the last 5 were both silly and inspired.

Eric Roberts is an interesting case. He seems to be everywhere, taking small roles in big movies, and big roles in small movies. He's even done some music videos. In this film, his hair's awesome, and later when he hurts his shoulder, he's awesome. Then watching him get choked up was a dream, it was just so hilarious. He's just all kinds of Eric Roberts and all kinds of 1989, which is a totally comedic combination.

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James Earl Jones was almost completely wasted for me. He has only one scene, where he has a monologue about his team, that makes it worth it to have him instead of someone else. I'll take it for that one scene, but I feel like when I get James Earl Jones, I want more than the equivalent of a Verizon commercial, you know? There should be a James Earl Jones law in Hollywood so this kind of thing doesn't happen, but who knows if anything will ever get done about it.

Another Chris Penn sighting. I realize now that I reviewed Redemption, another Chris Penn film, only five short posts ago. My bad. I usually try to space these kinds of things out. He's younger, but on his way to the chubbiness that would see him through the rest of his days. He played a pretty good heel who changes his stripes as the film wears on. He reprises this role in the sequel, so that's something for us to look forward to.

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Finally, I was under the impression that this even took place at the Olympics. They even had Ahmad Rashad Covering it. If that was the case, then wouldn't either the South Koreans or Americans get a silver medal just for showing up? If only two teams compete, the worst one can do is finish second. This, like the actual competition itself and the rules of the game, were never fully explained, and I guess they never had to be, so I should stop complaining.

Kind of a snoozefest and a little harder to make fun of after you see the nice ending. But the ending's a ways off, and there's 90 minutes of movie to mock, so why not give it a shot. Not bad, but not exactly good either.

For more info: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0096913/

The Da Vinci Treasure (2006)

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The Asylum production company has a reputation of putting out DTV films with names similar to more popular mainstream movies-- Snakes on a Train and Transmorphers are two examples. We here at the DTVC have reviewed three of these so far: the two listed above, and When a Killer Calls. Of the three, only Transmorphers was even passable, and The Asylum was on it's last legs on our site before we were going to pull the plug and stop reviewing their stuff all together. Let's see how they did with their last chance.

The Da Vinci Treasure is more a knock off of National Treasure than The Da Vinci Code. It has C. Thomas Howell as an anthropologist that's an accomplished cat burglar and martial artist. He's in search of a treasure hidden by Leonardo da Vinci. Also in pursuit is the evil archaeologist played by Lance Henrikson, and he'll stop at nothing to get it. Twists and turns abound as Howell and his sexy partner travel the green-screened globe.

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The verdict: I actually liked this. When people watch crap like Pirates of the Caribbean 18: Why Johnny Depp Will Never Win an Oscar Making Shite Like This or National Treasure 14: Nicolas Cage is Just in it for the Paycheck Now, and they tell me these are "fun movies", I know they're just too stupid to realize how wrong they are. The Da Vinci Treasure is the "fun movie". It wasn't pretentious, it wasn't too long, and it was plenty silly. Archaeologists with henchmen that shoot priests in cold blood and steal The Shroud of Turin is just amazing. Nicolas Cage isn't. You and your buddies will have a great time making fun of this, and at 85 minutes, you won't have time to get bored.

The Asylum came through on this one. When I tell my friends I'm watching one of their movies, the silly titles evoke images of films like this. Unfortunately we instead have gotten sacks-of-asscrack like When a Killer Calls and Snakes on a Train. This movie played out almost like a spoof of National Treasure, as opposed to a misguided tribute. It just worked, and now The Asylum is back at .500. We'll see how their next offering does.

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C. Thomas Howell is great in this too. A lot of people don't like him, and he's probably a ways, if he ever gets there, to an induction in the DTVC Hall of Fame. He seemed to get a kick out of playing in this, yet he didn't act like it was all a big joke, which is better for us as viewers to make fun of it. This is what we want out of Howell, and if we get it more, I may be able to make some more converts. He's done a lot of work recently, so I have a huge selection to choose from.

You may have noticed in my brief bio at the bottom of the page that I have a degree in anthropology. Contrary to what the film industry will tell you, a BA in anth is not a ticket to the good life. Neither is a PhD. Most anthropology professors aren't trendy dressers, good in a fight, or affluent. If they are, they do a great Clark Kent routine on campus. I wouldn't bring it up, except I know some people out there actually think on some levels some of this is true. When I was going for my BA, I had many assume a professor makes a solid six-figure salary, in the range of $300,000 a year. Let's put that to bed right now: no anth professor is worried about Obama's tax policies.

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Another thing we have to get straight in these treasure hunting movies is the cost of clothing. In National Treasure, Nicolas Cage and his two buddies were able to score three complete outfits at Urban Outfitters for two hundred dollars. Impossible. Cage's coat he bought would've been over 200 alone. In this film, Henrikson's female crony is wearing what looks to be a $50 TJ Maxx deal, and Henrikson warns her not to get anything on what he termed "$2000 Versace" threads. Really? First off, we already established no anthropologist is wearing Versace; and second, just because you say it's Versace, doesn't mean it is.

This is what you want if you're a bad movie honk. You can make fun of it very easily, and you'll enjoy yourself as you do it. When we think of The Asylum's movie titles, this is what we want, and at least in this case, this is what we got. Keep it up Asylum.

For more info: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0810817/

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

The Crow: Wicked Prayer (2005)

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I guess I knew this existed a while ago, but I only checked it out after I looked up Tito Ortiz on imdb. He was listed in the credits of Zombie Strippers, and I was curious to see what else he'd done. Not much, but this is one of them.

The Crow: Wicked Prayer has Eddie Furlong taking the reins as the hero. It has David Borea-whatever, the guy who played Angel, as the devil-- or as a dude in a gang who invokes the devil so the devil takes over his body. In doing the ritual, David Borna-whatever kills Furlong and his girlfriend, the ridiculously hot Emmanuelle Chriqui. Furlong's resurrected as The Crow, and you can guess the rest. A host of other people guest star, including Ortiz, the D-Listed Tara Reid, Dennis Hopper, and DTVC favorite Danny Trejo.

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Did I mention Eddie Furlong is The Crow? I'm not kidding. I know I do that from time to time here, but I'm not in this instance. And believe me, it's that funny. Almost as funny as David Borne-whatever (David Boreanaz?) playing a bad guy. He's tries to pull it off all Jack Nicholson doing the Joker, and he comes off as someone trying to do Jack Nicholson doing the Joker. The film's also pretty gross, with Emmanuelle Chriqui dying by Tara Reid cutting her eyes out (not shown, luckily), and there's a few massacres of innocent people. I prefer the massacres of myriad stuntmen in bad suits toting uzis. Maybe that's just me.

What's bad about this film, other than the cringe factor with the eyeball death, is also what's good about it. Endless enjoyment making fun of Furlong. He's put on some weight, so before he becomes The Crow, he looks like a chubby older kid who still lives with his folks and eats Doritos all day. As The Crow, he looks either like a lesbian, or a Nancy Boy. I just couldn't believe how silly it was, and how no one jumped in and stopped it. James Van Der Beek and Joshua Jackson thought Furlong was a stretch.

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Then you got David Boren-whatever as the bad guy. Really? I'm believing that? Why not have him play The Crow, Dennis Hopper play the bad guy, and Eddie Furlong play the Key Grip? I think that would've made for a much better film. The other movie of David Boren-whatever's we've done here was The Hard Easy, which sucked, but had Gary Busey and Peter Weller in it. This could've used both of them and Dolph Lundgren, and it still would've been bad.

Dennis Hopper was funny as this Satan worshiping brothel owner who spoke some fugazi Ebonnics. Not as good as the last time we saw him, in The Target, when he told a goat he wanted to drink it's urine for the psychedelic properties. Like I said above, he'd have made a better head bad guy. Dennis Hopper as the devil would have been his own original creation, not his bad impression Jack Nicholson doing the Joker.

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Danny Trejo, our man, is holding it down as some kind of tribal leader. He has a great scene where he does a dance with his shirt off to bring The Crow's crow back to life. This might be the best Danny Trejo scene since he gave Van Damme a foot massage in Desert Heat. As any great character actor, he does all of these scenes very professionally without a hint of a wink-wink nudge-nudge. That's why we love him here.

Tara Reid has been D-Listed for a fair amount of time now, and I can't believe I never considered checking her out on imdb to see what kind of DTV crap films she's been starring in. I should probably put her in the Future Hall of Famers section right above Kevin Sorbo. I can't lie, though, Crow: Wicked Prayer was silly, and it was much more fun than any of Sorbo's stuff has been, or Wesley Snipes for that matter. Some of her others look interesting, so we'll see what happens.

If this is on cable late at night, I'd give it a shot. If you're spending money on it, make sure you know what you're doing. You can have a fun bad movie night with it, but in order to really enjoy it, you'll need to be making fun of it the whole time. Have you got the energy?

For more info: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0353324/

Hardball aka Bounty Hunters 2: Hardball (1997)

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First saw this back in the late nineties early 2000s when a buddy of mine and I were on a Dudikoff kick. We actually saw it without seeing the first Bounty Hunters. I'm not sure that matters. Do I care about the continuing misadventures of Jersey Bellini? Could he just as easily be Dakota Pasta Primavera fighting the same baddies as another bounty hunter with Lisa Howard as his screwball romantic comedy-esque love interest? Sure, and I wouldn't care either way.

Hardball picks up where Bounty Hunters left off, with Howard and Duds trying to make the whole bounty hunter/lovers partnership thing work. She dumps him, and he gets the mob after him because she botches a jewelry store heist and they trace the botch to him. So he beats guys up, has a bunch of almost deaths, blows some shit up, and Lisa Howard gives him a hard time and kicks some more guys' asses. Pretty much the first Bounty Hunters.

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The question, of course, is why was this movie made? It's one thing for scriptwriters to get lazy and rip ideas off for bad DTV films, but a whole 'nother level when they're too bored to come up with new characters and package the thing as a sequel. Was the first Bounty Hunters so successful? Were people writing the producers, clamoring for more stories involving bounty hunter Jersey Bellini and his on again/off again woman? I'd like to meet those people if they existed.

Getting past the fact that this movie was needless as a sequel, it was as much fun as the first one. There's still the suspending belief that Lisa Howard and her 110 frame can punch people out as effortlessly as Mike Tyson, Dudikoff is as funny yet kick ass as ever, and there's plenty of action throughout. All in all, this does the job. It's what you're looking for in a bad action movie.

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With the 2008 class of Hall of Fame inductions coming in a week or two, it's nice to take a second here and recognize a member of the inaugural class, Michael Dudikoff. No one says DTV better than he does. He really hasn't been in any major motion pictures. His fame is only through cable TV and the video store shelf. He's a real classic, and this film is classic Dudikoff. According to imdb, he hasn't done a film since '02. Come on, man, get back in there and make Bounty Hunters 3... or Cyberjack 2... or American Ninja 5.

Tony Curtis is in this as a crime boss. I'll always love him from Some Like it Hot. It's weird seeing him in this, because his role's really small, and it's not very good. Then I look him up on imdb, and he's doing all sorts of bad stuff, some of which they don't even sell on Amazon. Tony, baby, what's going on here? Does this mean if I put together a picture, I got a shot at landing a screen legend like Tony Curtis? Wow.

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There's one interesting scene where a guy who looks like Screech has the snot beaten out of him by the bad guy. Anyone who's seen him on Celebrity Fit Club knows what an asshole he was, and so this was kind of an after-the-fact applause scene for us, but it was welcomed. Considering Screech was having trouble paying his mortgage, I wonder what it would cost to land him in a movie where you could have Tony Curtis beat the crap out of him.

Are you a Dudikoff fan? If you are you've probably already seen this. If not, you may not want to. Watch the first one, and if you're really hungering for more misadventures of bounty hunter Jersey Bellini and his partner/love interest... well, you're in luck.

For more info: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0119258/