The Direct to Video Connoisseur

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

Monday, November 30, 2009

Post 400: Van Damme Film Fest

I decided for my 400th blog post to do something entirely different. I'm often asked why I don't cover various Jean-Claude Van Damme films, especially his late 80s early 90s stuff that was in the theater and did pretty well. Now that I've opened things up to more than just Direct to Video, I guess I could do some of them, but I thought by outlining a Van Damme film fest, I could hit all of them in one fell swoop. This is what I would do if I had access to a movie theater from a Friday night into the following Sunday, and could show any of Van Damme's films during that time period that I wanted.

Friday Night:

Cyborg (1989); Bloodsport (1988)



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Starting Friday night, I would kick things off with Cyborg, the Albert Pyun classic. The only film on this list that I've actually reviewed, it was the DTV film that made the big time, and Van Damme was the DTV actor that made it big too. Though chronologically it comes after Bloodsport, I think the latter was a much more fun movie, so I figured it would leave a better taste in the viewer's mouth than Cyborg would.

Bloodsport is the film that made Van Damme who he is. The split punch, the bump on his forehead, the great accent. It also had Forest Whitaker, who won an Oscar for his wprk in Ghost Dog back in 1999. Whitaker plays an FBI agent, and his foot chase with Van Damme is one of the best of all time-- if you like chase scenes that play out like Mentos commercials. The amazing end fight with Bolo Yeung, where Yeung tries to cheat with a crushed Alka Seltzer tab he smuggled in in his pants, and Van Damme counters by punching him in the nuts, is the perfect way to leave viewers psyched for more the next day. Also of note, both are Golan-Globus films.

Saturday Afternoon:

Kickboxer (1989); Lionheart (1990)



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Saturday afternoon picks up where we left off with Bloodsport the night before, starting with Kickboxer. Noted for baddie Tong Po (played by Michel Qissi), and Van Damme's thong tank top he wears in his drunken dance scene. Okay, it's known for the dance scene as well. Like Bloodsport, Kickboxer spawned DTV sequels that didn't have Van Damme in them.

Along with Kickboxer, Lionheart helped to cement Van Damme's place as a top action star in the US. You could say that Van Damme had made it. As opposed to Friday's films, putting these two in chronological order is a good thing, because it's necessary for the viewer to see the creation of what we know of as Jean-Claude Van Damme: the splits, the buttcheeks, the need for women to want to do him. Lionheart is essentially eye candy for straight women and gay men with a plot meant for us hard core action fans. As much as this image cultivated in these two films would make Van Damme huge, they would also lead to his downfall in popular culture.

Saturday Night:

Death Warrant (1990); Double Impact (1991)



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Saturday night's films are all about the Van Damme we think of when we hear the name. These are quintessential Van Damme movies. In Death Warrant, Van Damme is sent to a prison to investigate some murders and what not. Robert Guillaume turns in his best performance since Benson, and the bad guy, known affectionately as The Sandman, teaches kids a valuable lesson in fire safety, when he stops, drops, and rolls after being thrown into a fire by Van Damme.

If the previous five films had you feeling like maybe Van Damme wasn't on screen enough, here comes Double Impact, where our hero plays two roles. Ladies, if you like the clean cut preppy type, he can do that; and if you like the bad boy, he can do that too. It's important to see that in six films we've only covered three years. You can almost see the wave cresting already.

Sunday Afternoon:

Universal Soldier (1992); Hard Target (1993)



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If anyone is back on Sunday, they'll be treated to two of Van Damme's biggest films, the point where that wave was at it's peak, before it crested and broke, sending Van Damme back, kicking and screaming, to the DTV world from which he came. Universal Soldier is his one collaboration with Dolph Lundgren, and the end fight scene between the two didn't disappoint. Throughout the time Van Damme was making it huge, Dolph was having less success post Rocky IV, with Masters of the Universe a disaster, The Punisher left unreleased in limbo, and Showdown in Little Tokyo doing almost nothing in the theater. Though Dolph had the poorer Hollywood career, his DTV career has far surpassed Van Damme's so far, and he's handled his fate much better. It's evident here, where Dolph seems to be having fun as the bad guy, while Van Damme is very serious about making sure he "acts well".

We end the film fest with Hard Target, John Woo's debut in the US. Fresh off the amazing Hard Boiled, Woo was a hot commodity, so for his first film to be a Van Damme one was confirmation of just how huge Van Damme had become. How could he know in two short years and three films later, he would make his most money for a picture in Sudden Death, and that would be it. Three years after that he was making Knock Off, grabbing onto anything sturdy as the DTV vortex dragged him back in. Also of note: Wilford Brimley co-stars.

If you wanted to go any further, you could add Timecop, Street Fighter, or Sudden Death, to emphasize the break in the wave, just like you could add Knock Off, Double Team, and especially Universal Soldier: The Return, to highlight his struggle to keep the wave from receding, but I think the 8 I picked, where the wave builds and hits its peak, is enough. You're looking at only 5 years, but it feels like so much more.

For more info: http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0000241/

(By the way, I was just notified that Forest Whitaker won his Oscar for Last King of Scotland. My bad.)

Friday, November 27, 2009

Revenge of the Ninja (1983)

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For our last post in our Golan-Globus week, it was decided that we needed to have a ninja movie. I had pretty much covered the American Ninja series, so those were out. Then there was Enter the Ninja, the first in the three part Ninja series, but that doesn't have a lot of actual ninja fighting, and Shô Kosugi was a bad guy and in it only at the beginning and the end. So it was settled, Revenge of the Ninja would be our ninja movie to end the week.

Revenge of the Ninja doesn't exactly take place after the first one, because Kosugi's beheaded at the end of that, and here he's a good guy. Anyway, his clan is slaughtered except for his mom and infant son, so a buddy from the States offers to put him up in Hollywood so the two can open an art exhibit. Turns out the friend is also a ninja, and he's using the store as a front to sell drugs. Shock, horror, gasp! Even worse, he's pissed off the mob, and they're kind of taking it out on Kosugi.

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This is amazing. Very close to the first two American Ninjas in quality. Kosugi shines, and it was a much better move to focus the film around him instead of The 'Stash like they did in part one. Sure, it's extremely silly, but the question is, how exactly would you like your ninja film? I personally prefer them catching arrows with their teeth, having the capacity to store a Walmart sized inventory of weapons on their person, and the ability to dispatch anyone not trained in ninjitsu with relative ease. This also came correct with a great ending battle, where the bad guy somehow stored a few dummies of himself in the area, knowing he and Kosugi would be fighting there. From front to back, side to side, an amazing piece of cinema.

One advantage to having Kosugi not only in the protagonist role, but also fighting a guy without a moustache at the end, was that we were able to root for him. No one expected him to defeat The Stash in the first movie. Really, it was the only way we could accept him losing, I mean, it's understandable to take one on the chin to a guy with that kind of facial hair. But in Revenge of the Ninja, he was the real deal, and we were all better for it. This was also a much better use of his great skills than Black Eagle was. I'm curious to see what he does in the new Ninja Assassin, because imdb says he's in it. It better be good, that's all I have to say. They have a lot of great Golan-Globus ninja films to live up to.

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A lot of people would write a film like this off as "cheesy". "Oh, look at that, you can see when he jumps off the building that he's bracing himself so he lands on the safety mat, then they cut away to him landing on his feet. That so cheesy!" Is it? Is it really? "That sword blade barely touched that guy, and now he's dead. That's so cheesy!" Is it? Is it really? I say it's awesome, that's what I say. I'd rather see a guy jump from a building then cut to his landing, than see him jump in front of a green screen. Maybe if Golan-Globus were still around today they'd be wearing the green screen out too, and I'd call them to the carpet for it just like I do the rest of today's film makers. Which was the better movie, the first Star Wars in 1977, or the one Lucas made in 1999 with all the computer shit? Call Revenge of the Ninja silly, call it ridiculous, call it fun, but don't ever call it cheesy.

I could've sworn John Miller from Undefeatable was in this as the police officer in charge or martial arts training who helps Kosugi out, but from imdb I can't tell. None of these bastards ever have pictures, and I never pay attention enough to the film to find out the characters names, so when I look them up, I'm like, "was that what that character's name was?" He looked a little rounder, but he delivered his lines in exactly the same way-- this kind of slow, halting style. I mean, I didn't see a John Miller in the Revenge credits, but who knows. Maybe I'm just losing it in my old age.

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Before I wrap things up, I needed to mention a scene where Kosugi and the John Miller look alike take down the Village People. I'm not sure exactly what they were going for with that, but it was amazing. Cowboy in a blue outfit, sure, why not? "Look at the guy dressed like a cowboy. That's cheesy!" Is it?... okay, I'll stop.

Perhaps no film better embodies the Golan-Globus bouillabaisse sense of film making than this one. You had Native Americans, six-year-olds, and grandmothers all fighting at some point. People were stabbed, slashed, gouged, etc. in myriad ways. Plenty of car chases, fight scenes, and explosions too. It was a virtual cornucopia of amazing action without a hint of pretense. How else would you take your action?

For more info: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0086192/

Thursday, November 26, 2009

The Delta Force (1986)

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Looking only at the Golan-Globus films we're covering this week, this was probably the biggest of the six. It has a pretty star studded cast, with Norris, Martin Balsam, Lee Marvin, Bo Svenson, Shelly Winters, Robert Vaughn, and the late Steve James. What's fascinating is how it starts off as essentially a TV drama, and turns into a Norris beatdown.

The Delta Force is based on the real life hijacking of TWA flight 847 in June of 1985. A flight full of Americans leaving Athens is hijacked by two gunmen, and taken first to Beirut, then to Algeria, then back to Beirut, all the while the hostages are threatened, harassed, and the Jewish passengers are singled out. Lee Marvin heads the Delta Force, a special forces unit sent in to retrieve the hostages and take down the hijackers. Right below him on the chain of command is Chuck Norris, and when he finally gets a chance to sink his teeth into the terrorists, it bad news for them.

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This is a hard one to deal with because the first hour and a half plays out like a TV movie drama about a plane hijacking. It's not bad, and does a great job keeping things black and white and letting us know that no matter what, no matter what cause someone is fighting for, violence and hostage taking, especially against innocent people, is unacceptable. Then, the last half hour plays out like some of the best action I've ever seen. Norris drives around in this motorcycle equipped with missile launchers machine guns, then finds the head terrorist, and beats the crap out of him in one of the greatest applause scenes in movie history. It's really a question of, do you like your TV drama topped with a half hour of amazing action?

It is very important to discuss the political implications of Golan and Globus making a film like this. They are Israelis, and the Lebanese terrorists who committed this act at the time were fighting to get Israel out of their country, of which they occupied the southern section of it. I don't think comparing the way the Muslim terrorists treated the Jewish passengers to the way Nazis treated Jews was right, because Palestinians and the Muslims of southern Lebanon have legitimate grievances against the way Israel has treated them; but the rest of the film in my mind was totally above board. If an aggrieved segment of the population decides they need to resort to violence against noncombatants, they should expect their violence to be depicted as despicable, as it was here, and it's no less despicable if the people depicting it have a personal stake in the telling.

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After 9/11, watching a movie where hijackers take over a plane full of Americans is hard to take, which meant watching Chuck Norris beat the crap out of them at the end was all the more enjoyable. That brings up an interesting issue, though. In school, we looked at two main goals that terrorists have when they carry out their crimes. The first is to hurt a small percentage of the population in order to scare the rest to do what they want. The other is to anger the rest of the population to the point they overreact, which in some cases can be worse. The US spent all of its goodwill it garnered after 9/11 with the Guantanamo prisons and the war in Iraq, but after seeing this movie, I can see better why Americans supported those measures. Because the terrorists who committed the 9/11 atrocities died with their victims, we didn't have anyone for Chuck Norris to kick the crap out of, so to speak, and we needed that.

I must point out again, though, that this wasn't all seriousness. That last half hour was amazing action, and we wanted it more because we had the first hour and a half of these bastard terrorists that we wanted to get their comeuppance. When the head baddie sneaks into that abandoned house, and Chuck Norris jumps through the window with his motorcycle, I have to believe the whole theater cheered. This was the problem for me with Walker: Texas Ranger, the bad guys were often way cooler than he was, so I couldn't root for him. I was rooting for him here, though, and it was great. As fine an example of pre-Walker Norris as there is out there. I wonder, too, looking at the paragraph above, if maybe we could convince Norris to get back into his pre-Walker days and do movies like this again, just so we could all feel better as a nation.

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Before I wrap this up, I have to give a shout out again to DTVC favorite Steve James. It was good to see him in a film that didn't involve ninjas, though it would've been nice to see more of his martial arts. I thought this might have been the most successful film he's ever been in, but he had an uncredited role in Weird Science. Let's say this was the most successful film he had a major role in. A great actor who left us before his time.

It's hard to figure out what the right conclusion is for this movie. As an action fan, really the only last half hour is important, but it's vitally important. As an anthropology major who focused on Middle Eastern studies and problems of violence and terrorism, I appreciated the way the hijacking was depicted, even if the story was told by two Israelis. I guess it would've been better if the film had a clearer identity-- either TV drama or low-budget actioner-- but on some levels it still works. Just know that of the total running time of two hours, only the last thirty minutes is action packed. (But it's really action packed!)

For more info: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0090927/

Missing in Action (1984)

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Missing in Action is, of course, not Direct to Video at all. It's very far from it, especially when you consider it made almost ten times its budget in US box office sales alone. That's why it's good to have weeks like this where I go outside the DTV box, and I'm glad my friend at Movies in the Attic selected this one for inclusion. It not only made Norris the star he is, but it proved to both Golan-Globus and Hollywood what audiences looked for in an action film, and paved the trail for the genre's renaissance in the 80s and 90s.

Missing in Action stars Norris as a Vietnam vet who escaped from a POW camp years after the war ended, and is selected to join a US diplomatic mission to mend fences with the Vietnam government. But Norris knows those Commie bastards are holding out on him, so he grills James Hong, the general in charge of Vietnam's diplomatic efforts, until he tells him the whereabouts of the other missing POWs still being held there. After, he's thrown out of the country, and has to go to Thailand where M. Emmet Walsh helps him invade Vietnam via the water so he can liberate his fellow soldiers.

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If this is credited as being the film that made Norris big, it's understandable. From the beginning he's amazing, whether he's in the bush toting a machine gun, sneaking around a hotel picking guys off Apache style, or saving M. Emmett Walsh from a beating in order to drive the price down on his boat, it's all great. Again, I'm sure this more brutal and violent Norris is what made him clean up his act and become the Walker: Texas Ranger Norris, but it was sure good fun while it lasted.

I must amend my first paragraph slightly. First Blood was released in 1982, and made double what Missing in Action did, and was probably the main reason Missing in Action was made at all, making it more the film that paved the way to our 80s and 90s greats. It also had a budget $12 million higher, which is telling about the Golan-Globus success model. Why do for $14 million what we can do just as well for 2, and still make $22 million off it. Where Golan-Globus starts to fail is when they try their hands at things like Superman IV. Missing in Action was a very serviceable Rambo derivative with its own stand alone star in Norris. Had they stuck with that type of film, we might still have a Golan-Globus.

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Joseph Zito directed this, along with Invasion USA, Red Scorpion, and Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter. Of those, only the last one isn't blatantly anti-Communist. It's interesting, because I couldn't find anywhere on his bio that suggests he holds those kinds of political views. It's also interesting to note that he might be the most successful director we've ever featured on here, because three of his films, this one, Invasion USA, and Friday the 13th IV, all held the number one spot in the box office. Joey Zito is gold, baby.

If I hadn't made this clear before, James Hong is the man. The guy has almost 350 acting credits on his imdb bio, starting as far back as the Golden Age of TV. I believe this is the fifth film of his I've reviewed, which is startling considering how many DTV films he's been in, but even worse, I don't have him tagged. How did that happen? What an egregious oversight. Like Richard Lynch, I need to do more of his films, and consider him for induction into the Hall of Fame in 2010.

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I'm a huge Anthony Bourdain guy, and love his show, No Reservations. He had an episode on Vietnam, and it's interesting to consider if he had had the same show in 1984, would he have gone then too? Probably not. Not only was 1984 too soon for the wounds of the Vietnam War to have healed, but we were also still engaged in the Cold War. Even in the early 90s, when I first saw this, the themes were somewhat relevant. Just the same, even if the plot is strictly a product of its time, the overall style of the film lives on in a lot of today's action films, and I imagine it still will. Vietnam becomes Columbia, the Middle East, North Korea, Myanmar, and hopefully in twenty years we'll see action films based in those locations and think how much they too are a product of their times.

This is a critical picture in the evolution of the action film, and also one of the roles that made Chuck Norris the household name he is today. I can't think of any better Thanksgiving entertainment, but if you can't watch it today, it's plenty good to watch on a non-holiday too.

For more info: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0087727/

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Death Wish 3 (1985)

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The second of two Charles Bronson films featured in our week long celebration of Golan-Globus is Death Wish 3, the third of five films in the series. Though the sequels are considered far inferior to the original, part three is really, for our purposes, the one that has had the greatest impact on the DTV action genre.

Death Wish 3 has Bronson back as Paul Kersey, in New York to visit an old friend in need of his help. He gets there too late and finds the friend beaten to death. The cops arrest Bronson, and Ed Lauter, the chief inspector, press-gangs Bronson into working for him to clean up the crime ridden neighborhood his friend was beaten to death in. The idea is, he kills the bad guys, and Lauter and his men get the credit. Once Bronson goes back to his dead friend's apartment, the guy's neighbor, Martin Balsam, gives him the lay of the land, and it's only a matter of time before Bronson goes to work.

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This is awesome, the ending especially. Urban warfare carried out by civilians, gangs, and Bronson, with a little help from Lauter. Sure, the action throughout could've been more frequent, but the end was so good it more than made up for it. You have Bronson with a high powered machine gun mowing down gang members like me using a power steamer to clean metal racks that held the pots and pans in the first kitchen I worked in in high school. How do you not love that?

I'm not sure how many more Bronson films I'll do after this one, because he's more of a mainstream theater guy than a DTV guy, but I'm sure I can make exceptions along the way. The guy is just amazing. His work in films like this paved the way for the Dolphs, Seagals, and Van Dammes. Not only that, but the way Golan-Globus amped up the action and turned down the plot, especially at the end, is something these newer guys could think about when picking their next roles. Dolph has done well with Command Performance and Direct Contact, but Seagal with Against the Dark and Van Damme with pretty much everything until Shepherd: Border Patrol aren't looking as hot. I used to make excuses for Seagal and say "well, he's almost 60, we can't blame him for winding down." Not anymore. Bronson made this when he was 64, and it was better than almost everything Seagal has done in the past ten years.

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We've had our share of Ed Lauter sightings at the DTVC, but none better than in this role. I wonder what he thought acting opposite C. Thomas Howell in The Sweeper. It must've been a joke to see Howell trying to play a role that Bronson would've killed ten years before, when Howell was still a runt with a machine gun in Red Dawn. It's a perspective on Lauter I never considered when I reviewed that film, but with Death Wish 3, I couldn't not consider it.

One thing that's really apparent from a movie like this is just how much of an influence Golan-Globus had on the Grand Theft Auto video game series. I would even go as far as to guess that the Belmont district in part III was named after the neighborhood this film was set in. Just the violence and chaos on the streets combined with people trying to carry out everyday tasks like going to the grocery store is so indicative of that game. The one difference, of course, is that the Grand Theft Auto series is about a gray area-- your character kills innocent people, runs over hookers after he sleeps with them, blows up police helicopters with rocket launchers, but still kills bad guys-- while Paul Kersey was a good guy through and through, who just played the part of judge, jury, and executioner, but he would never kill innocent people.

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MST3K fans will love seeing Martin Balsam in here. I know he's known for a lot more than just Mitchell, probably the biggest being Psycho, but are any of those roles as much fun? "Mitchell, nobody likes you, why is that?" Every line he had in this just made me think "He refrigerates his bowling bag?" or "Mitchell, I'm not going to your parents' house for Christmas." Even better, Balsam was playing the WWII vet retiree looking for someone to clean up his neighborhood while Bronson was playing the younger Korean War vet there to do the cleaning, when Balsam's only two years older than Bronson. Awesome.

I imagine eventually I'll have all five Death Wishes reviewed up here, and it is kind of a shame that I've been at this for three and a half years and this is only the first one, but we're working on it. It goes without saying that these are all required viewing, but I think my friend at Movies in the Attic was right in picking this one for this week.

For more info: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0089003/

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Invasion USA (1985)

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We continue our celebration of Golan-Globus with Chuck Norris in Invasion USA. Perhaps a product of its time, it still has had an amazing impact on many of today's action films, especially the use of urban and suburban environments and taking everyday life and plunging it into a warzone. With the landscape in the US having changed drastically after 9/11, a film like this is both improbable now, yet at the same time would be kind of scary to imagine really happening, if it wasn't for Golan-Globus' trademark cartoonish violence (which is a good thing).

Invasion USA takes place primarily in Miami, but is about an Eastern European terrorist organization that seeks to destroy the US from the inside out by attacking its infrastructure and causing anarchy. They do everything from impersonate police officers and commit violent crimes, to blowing up houses in residential neighborhoods with RPGs. The CIA know only one man could be behind this, and they know only one man can take him down: Chuck Norris. First Norris declines, because he had a chance to kill the guy before and the government wouldn't let him; but when the bad guy's attempt to kill Norris leaves his grandfather dead, Norris changes his tune.

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This was the movie Red Dawn should have been. Sure, elements of it were ridiculous, like the nice suburban neighborhood with people trimming Christmas trees suddenly under siege by bad guys firing RPGs into their houses, but at least the overall concept was a little more believable than the Soviets invading high schools in small town Colorado. And regardless of whether it was believable or not, it was way more awesome. How Red Dawn has become this cult classic, while this is overlooked, is beyond me. And Invasion USA's ability to take malls, office buildings, what have you, and turn them into pitched battles in the blink of an eye, has been emulated in the genre ever since. This is one of my all time favorite action films.

Invasion USA also brought home the difference between pre-Walker Chuck Norris and now, because pre-Walker Norris was amazing. I had something of a self-imposed ban on Norris due to his rather extreme political views (in particular, Birtherism), but I understand now that that was a mistake, because this early to mid 80s Golan-Globus Chuck Norris really was part of the blueprint that built the one-man army action hero as we know it today. This may not be his best role, but it's one of my favorites.

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The bad guy is played by Richard Lynch, a DTV mainstay who's been in more things than I can list. Strangely enough, the only other movie I've reviewed of his is Cyborg 3. My goal will be to get ten more films up of his by next October, when he'll be up for induction into DTVC Hall of Fame. As far as this goes, he was an awesome baddie with an interesting twist: he was deathly afraid of Chuck Norris. I'm not sure I've ever seen that before. Maybe Tong Po fearing Sasha Mitchell in Kickboxer 4: The Aggressor.

This is pretty violent, but never in a brutal kind of way. If it wasn't for the language and the misleading images of policemen committing serious crimes, this would be good enough for my three-year-old nephew to watch. I'm not kidding. In the 90s, this level of violence was taken to the next level with films like Terminator 2, which showed some more vicious deaths, and even the Death Wish series, which was another Golan-Globus staple and a contemporary to this film, had a more brutal slant to it; but right here, this stuff could not be taken that seriously. I have a feeling Norris wanted to distance himself from this kind of entertainment, which was why he took the role of Walker, but that was all of our losses in the end. We needed Matt Hunter, Col. James Braddock, and Maj. Scott McCoy more than we needed Walker: Texas Ranger.

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There was an actor in this named Alex Colon. His real name is Colón, and since he's no longer with us, I don't want to make fun of him, I just wanted to point out how when his name popped up on the screen, it was during an action shot of Norris driving this swamp buggy, which made it look like it was a 70s TV show called Alex Colon. I don't know if he'd be like a proctologist solving cases, but it just seemed funny.

This might be one of the best action films of all time, so I'm glad my friend at Movies in the Attic gave me an opportunity to review it. If you haven't seen it, it's must watch material. Throw it on your queue immediately.

For more info: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0089348/

Monday, November 23, 2009

Murphy's Law (1986)

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We start our celebration of Golan-Globus with Murhpy's Law, a Charles Bronson film that works as the blue print for every Bloodfist film after part III. I vaguely remember seeing this on TV when I was younger-- one line in particular I had completely forgotten about-- but I know I definitely appreciate it more now at 30 than I did at 10. Maybe not Golan-Globus' most well known film, but a great one from which to start.

Murphy's Law stars Charles Bronson as our eponymous hero. He's been framed for his ex-wife's murder, and while in the holding cell, he escapes with a girl handcuffed to him, played by the waitress from the Double Deuce in Road House. After a short tribute to the Defiant Ones, Bronson goes after the person who set him up, a local mob boss. Turns out it's not him, but now he's pissed off that mob boss, which makes finding the real culprit that much tougher.

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This really is a perfect introduction into the world of Golan-Globus. A world where every foot chase turns into a small scale riot with 10-14 innocent bystanders caught in the crossfire, only instead of these people being disembodied numbers of death tolls on the evening news, we see them as starving actors looking for a little a face time to put on their resumes. The violence, though at times extreme, is often too cartoony for anyone that doesn't have a stick up his buttocks to ever have a problem with it. If you ever wondered where the people who made Grand Theft Auto came up with their ideas, you can find them in the world of Golan-Globus.

This is the first time I've had a chance to look at Bronson on here, which I know is much to the chagrin of some of my readers. That was another reason why I did this week-long tribute to Goland-Globus, so I could look at two actors in particular, Bronson and Chuck Norris. As far as the former goes, I've often said Dolph is the modern day Bronson, which after seeing Murphy's Law, I think that's only partly true. Dolph is the modern, PG-13 Bronson. Also important to note is Bronson's age. He was 65 when he did this, meaning Dolph still has 13 years to go. In fact, he made Death Wish V in 1994, when he was 73. Maybe we shouldn't be looking for the next crop of action stars to replace this current one quite yet.

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"What took you so long, butt crust?" One of the all time greatest lines in movie history. The woman from Road House says it after Bronson rescues her at the end of the film. She had tons of other good ones too, making this a much more memorable role than her than he small part in the Swayze classic. Most of her current work is done on CBS TV dramas, but it must've sucked for her knowing, nothing she ever did would ever be better than "what took you so long, butt crust?" When we were younger we used to call each other butt crust all the time, which I know one of us got from watching Murphy's Law.

I had one small issue with this movie that kept it from being perfect. The running time. 100 minutes was a little too long, and had they cut the opening 20, which I felt was pretty superfluous, it would've been an amazing 80. Bad action should seldom be longer than 88 minutes, and the further past 90 they go, the more they're treading on territory they'd be better served editing out.

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I've always loved The Rockford Files, and Murhpy's Law had the guy who played Lt. Chapman as, what else?, a dick cop. This time he gave Bronson a hard time, but unlike Jim Rockford, Bronson decked him when he got out of line. Can you imagine if Bronson had played Jim Rockford instead of James Garner? I bet he would've gotten along surprisingly well with Angel. There would've been way more explosions, gunplay, and severe beatings, which might have been a bit much for prime time TV in the 70s.

Though I'm not reviewing the films in any particular order, this is as good a start point as any into the world of Golan-Globus. You get a great sense of the violence that, though at times can be brutal, is more often than not cartoonish and over the top, which is great, if you ask me. Also, Bronson works well as that quintessential Golan-Globus one-man army protagonist.

For more info: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0091575/

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Righteous Kill (2008)

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I'd been meaning to watch this for a long time, and somehow I decided it would be cool to review it on my Friday spot (which this week became a Saturday spot... sorry). De Niro and Pacino are such huge cinematic icons that did much to make the 70s what they were as perhaps the best decade for movies we've seen since the medium was invented. I must make clear again, this review contains spoilers. It is impossible for me to discuss it without giving away the ending, which, to be frank, everyone would see coming from the start anyway, and the only real suspense is whether or not they're going to be that obvious.

Righteous Kill is about two (obviously) veteran NYPD detectives investigating a vigilante serial killer who is taking out suspected criminals that were acquitted on their various crimes. We're led to believe it's De Niro the whole time, which means it has to be the person we don't expect, though of course we expect him the whole time, and sure enough, it's him.

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And it was that ending which ruined this movie for me. Out of all the characters Pacino has ever played, this was the first genuine cheeseball, the first lovable loser, and he seemed to be enjoying it, and I enjoyed watching him in it. Then, in a flash, he loses that character and is suddenly a cold calculating killer, with the only link to the cheeseball we loved being the cheeseball poems he left on his victims. I just didn't get it. Sure, maybe the script was written like that, but you've got De Niro and Pacino-- rewrite it! Call Kevin Spacey, have him be the killer. I'm sure he'd be more than willing if Pacino and De Niro were on the other end. It turned a fun experience into a fun experience with a bad taste in my mouth.

Now, don't get me wrong, this wasn't Heat or Godfather II, and we'd all expect that a film pairing these two film legends would have to be that caliber. I disagree. In 1989, yes, it should be that. But in 2008, what we have here is our best bet. Essentially, it was one of those celebrity basketball games where a couple legends get on the court and play around for fun, and I was perfectly fine with that. De Niro and Pacino, though playing off each other with a bad script, you could still see their skill in it, like a Bob Cousy still throwing it behind his back, or making a free throw effortlessly. Had the ending been consistent with what they were doing, it would've been a more complete feeling, but I was okay with what I had up until then.

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I'm going to start with Robert De Niro, because his character was more like the kind of character we're used to seeing from him, that Andy Quinn playing Zampanò from La Strada indicative in his Vito Corleone, Jake La Motta, or Travis Bickle. Here, of course, he wasn't doing it in an Oscar winning fashion, but more reminding us of that style that he had once used to win him Oscars and the legendary status he now holds. Again, looking at it as a hall of famer at a celebrity basketball game, it fits better. No one really believes a 65-year-old man, no matter how good of shape he's in, is roughing up kids half his age, just like no one expects Magic Johnson to go out now and stay in front of Rajon Rondo, but seeing Magic play the point in a celebrity game and throw one of his patented no-look passes reminds us of that guy who changed the game, the way De Niro did in movies during roughly the same time period.

Now, while De Niro played a throwback to some of his more memorable characters, Pacino gives us a whole new look. Yet, he does it in a way that suggests that he too, like De Niro, is just having fun with this, like seeing Gordy Howe play goalie at an exhibition. Growing up, while De Niro was considered an amazing actor, Pacino was the one that personified coolness. When his movie was on TV, my parents stopped flipping channels. For him to go out and play a cheeseball like this was great, especially because he too took the role the way De Niro did, as another actor just having fun. One scene really stands out to me. Carla Gugino walks in on him while he's pouring a diet Sprite into a red Solo cup. I don't think I've ever seen anyone look so cool pouring diet Sprite into a red Solo cup. No matter how good or how much fun he has playing a cheeseball, he's still one of the coolest men ever, and even he can't get away from that. It's in everything he does, down to pouring diet beverages.

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One of the reviews I read of this before I watched it said that Donnie Wahlberg out acted Pacino and De Niro. First off, that's not true. If you're expecting The Godfather II, you came to the wrong place, but I think the two of them, even having fun, were far and away the two stars of the film, and no matter how good Donnie Wahlberg gets, I think even he'll admit he'll be lucky if he achieves a tenth of what those two have, and I think he's plenty honored to be in their celebrity basketball game of a movie. The other thing is, and I know I've been guilty of it, this piling on of De Niro and Pacino for all the horrible films they've been in in the last 15 years or so. Sure, I'm not going to let an Analyze That (or an Analyze This for that matter), nor a Gigli or Two for the Money, off the hook when they are such bad films, but I'm not going to blame them for those being bad films like I used to. Even Cary Grant had his Mr. Blandings Builds His Dream House, and we can't expect them to be Daniel Day Lewis, especially when they had better careers than he did.

I'm hoping, since I gave away the ending, that anyone reading this has already seen it, and I'm curious to see if I'm alone in my take on it, or if I'm giving them too much leeway for a horrible film. If you haven't seen it, I really haven't given away as much as you think by telling you who the killer is, and you may want to check it out anyway, just for the novelty of having De Niro and Pacino together.

For more info: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1034331/

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Cybernator (1991)

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I had a post to fill before tomorrow's review of Righteous Kill, and I had Cybernator in the can after I watched it as part of a two-pack with Richard Norton's Hyper Space, which you may remember I covered last week for as his induction post. I can't think of a better time than now to (take this passion and) make it happen.

Cybernator takes place in a future that's pretty anachronistic based on the cars and scenery, but anyway, in this future there's cyborgs everywhere, and a group of killer ones are taking out senators and stuff. A couple cops are on the case, and things smell foul when they find the military is involved. They smell even worse when that military guy is William Smith.

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Okay, so remember last week when I said American Ninja 3 was like MST3K quality. This was MST3K quality. It even had the opening credits with the font and grainy film like and Cave Dwellers and Pod People. And the quality was right there. Laser beams that look like cartoons shot out of unfuturistic modern firearms. The cyborgs were a collection of cyberpunk rejects with plastic parts raided from Toys-R-Us spray painted and stuck onto them. But this is all pedestrian. It's little things that make a film like this great. In one scene, the hero and his partner cross the street in real time to a building, and when one of them tries to open it, it's locked. In the next scene, they're inside, indicating that had the previous scene played out like it should, the door would've been open. To quote Billy Ocean, it was "simply... awesome."

The hero was amazing. I'd never seen him in anything before, and when I looked him up on imdb, I recognized a few things, but didn't really remember him. Anyway, more on that later. Between this guy's facial expressions, and the bear skin rug he had on his chest, I couldn't stop laughing. In one scene, he's lying in bed with his shirt off, and he looks like the frickin' Wolf Man. Are you kidding? No one decided to put a T on him? As far as the imdb stuff goes, he won an award for some film he made in 2008 called Beneath the Mississippi. So I looked it up, and didn't see much, till I got to the bottom where the message boards are. On the first one, his friend posed as someone else and completely trashed him, and some guy they didn't know came to his defense. When it was revealed who the trasher was, the defender said "I just saw him in Cybernator and thought he was pretty good." Ya did, did ya?

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If the 80s loved the ninja, and the oughts love the vampire, the 90s loved the Cyborg. Sometimes it's done well... I'm sure I'll think of some.... Anyway, sometimes it's done badly but in a way that's awesome, like Cyborg. And sometimes we just don't know what we're getting, like this one. One guy has a white face with tubes running out of him. Our hero does what anyone else fighting him would do, and rips the tubes out. Okay, only he thinks to do that at the very end of the movie, but I'll give him points for thinking of it. The reality is, everything from Star Wars to Cyber Tracker loves the idea of fixing humans with cybernetic parts and then asking "Are they still human?", which makes no sense, because I'm sure you ask any person who lost a limb and now has a prosthetic whether or not they feel more or less human, they'd say more. You're just less human when you have shit from Toys-R-Us stuck to you.

And this had William Smith. I know it's bad form to start a sentence with a conjunction, but I think I needed to here, because William Smith was just kind of tacked on. I was going over his more recent films on imdb, and one of them was a Skin-aMax flick entitled The Erotic Rites of Dracula where he plays Dracula. Gonna skip that one. I want to see William Smith in a Skin-a-Max flick as much as I wanted to see Dreamboat in this movie with his shirt off showing off the mole skin sweater he called a chest.

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The weirdest thing about this was the song at the strip club our hero's woman worked at. Not the song they played while she danced, but the one before. It went something like "come here little school girl, don't be afraid..." What? Are you serious? Someone call Chris Hanson. I'd give odds that someone associated with this film was busted in some kind of a sting like that. The movie had that kind of a feel to it.

This is straight up hilarious. If you and your friends want to sink your teeth into a real winner, Cybernator is the one for you. It's not a matter of whether you can make fun of it, it's a matter of how well you can make fun of it, because the material is all there to work with. Do it, England.

For more info: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0137452/

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Citizen Verdict (2003)

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I've been meaning to watch this movie for a long time, ever since I saw a trailer for it on the Dolph film The Defender. I didn't really care what it was about, all that mattered was it had Roy Scheider, Armand Assante, and Jerry Springer. It could've been a remake of City Slickers or Grumpy Old Men, I didn't care. Anyway, for whatever reason, this kept getting pushed down on my Netflix queue. Between all the foreign films, new Dolph films, Gruner and Daniels, etc., I guess it just got lost in the shuffle. Well, the shuffle's done, and it's here now.

Citizen's Verdict takes place in Florida, where the crime rate is out of control, so the governor, Roy Scheider, decides on a drastic measure: he hires TV producer Jerry Springer to make a show where one of the most violent offenders is put on trial on TV, and the people of Florida can vote on his guilt or innocence. After, if he's guilty, his execution will be televised on pay-per-view. Armand Assante is hired as the defense attorney, and his first case, that of a man accused of raping and killing a national TV cooking celebrity, isn't the slam dunk it seemed at first. Can he prove this guy's innocence, not only to the courtroom, but the rest of Florida as well?

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This wasn't that bad. Okay, who am I kidding? Without its three main stars, it would've eaten a fat dink. But it was just so awesome having them there. At the end, the three witness an execution, and all we hear is music and watch things unfold in slow motion, as the three of them sit there and react with only their subtle facial expressions. They just exude coolness. In all their faces we see "not so fast, younger generation. We still do it better than you. We're still just that much cooler than you." And they're right. There were a few other cool things, like a guy being taken away to the lethal injection room with "Somewhere Over the Rainbow" playing. Still, beyond the talent, you really just had another "Should we give the people what they want?" moral dilemma movie that's more silly than poignant.

We'll start with Armand Assante. When we last saw him on the DTVC, he was a mobster organizing underground fights with Flavor Flav in Confessions of a Pit Fighter. He was great there, and he was great in The Killing Grounds as a Turkish cop in Berlin, but it was as a hot shot defense attorney who smells a rat in Citizen Verdict that's been the best role we've had him in so far. He was smooth not in a sleazy used car salesman kind of way, but in a I'm good at what I do, and I do it in style, but I'm also in it for what's right kind of way. There was no one else to root for in this movie, and Assante made it easy for us to root for him. I saw that he was in The Chaos Experiment with Val Kilmer. I may have to check that out now, even if it seemed like a silly concept.

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Roy Scheider is stellar again playing a person of authority. He makes a great senator, president, FBI bureau chief, military general, bishop, company CEO, what have you. I think governor of a southern state is one of his best, though. He pulls off the sophisticated southern accent well. Very few have that capability-- they often hit us over the head with it, making it more hillbilly. Last Tuesday would have been his 77th birthday, and his imdb resume is huge. People have suggested putting him in the DTVC Hall of Fame, but something about him doesn't fit, like he's too good for it-- not to imply that the other members aren't great.

This is the second Jerry Springer film we've had on here, the first being Dolph's The Defender. I liked him better as the Pres than I did as a slimy TV producer. He's not a bad guy in real life, so to play a really bad guy in a movie is a stretch from him. At the end, though, when he gives a venom filled monologue, he's good. It's almost what I bet he wished his Final Thought could be on some episodes. I don't see anything else coming down the pike for him according to imdb, so this may be our last look at Jerry. At least it was a good look.

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I'm not sure how many of my readers are from or are familiar with Florida, but I have some experience with it having family down there, most notably my grandparents. As a Mainer, I have a sense of uneasiness, especially at night. Their night isn't like our night. Bad things seem to happen at night there. Just the same, nothing bad has ever happened to me, so I can't complain, but I think if one would set a film like this anywhere, Florida would be it, even over Texas-- though I get the sense that bad things happen at night there too...

This is worth renting just for Scheider, Assante, and Jerry Springer. You'll enjoy it. I think it would've been better had they made this a Grumpy Old Men or City Slickers rip-off, and now that Scheider's no longer with us, that opportunity is gone; but what we got was plenty good enough.

For more info: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0342207/

Monday, November 16, 2009

Black Eagle (1988)

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One of my favorite readers, Jill, is also a huge Van Damme fan, and she warned me that this is a dull film. "I know," I said, "but I still need to do them all for my blog." So I watched the trailer while Ian (another one of my favorite readers) was checking his mail, and I must confess, based on the trailer, it looked pretty hot.

Black Eagle is a Cold War spy vs. spy yawn fest starring Van Damme as a bad guy hatchet man for the Soviets who are in Malta trying to get some kind of weapon. Shô Kosugi is called in by the CIA despite his vacation to make sure this weapon or whatever is kept in safe hands. Stuff happens, Kosugi and Van Damme have a disappointing fight, and that's it.

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Okay, so she was right, and it was dull. Very dull. But, at the DTVC, our job is to review everything, good and bad... and this was bad. First off, Kosugi was wasted. He had some good fight scenes, but his hair looked ridiculous and his clothes were worse. In one scene he was supposed to be this cool spy playing roulette with the hot chick spy working with him, in one of those tense Bond-esque scenes where the Soviets are at the same table, making small talk. The problem is, Kosugi looked like Ernie from My Three Sons. "Hey Uncle Charley, can we take out some Commies today?" And that fight at the end with Van Damme, what the hell was that? Two great martial artists, and you give us a boring stalemate? It looked like a couple karate guys on the local news advertising their dojo, only they weren't wearing their Gi with the company logo on the back. Lame, lame, lame.

You could see, though, in this effort in total lame-itude that Van Damme had talent. He was going to be somebody. I was looking for images of this on YouTube, and someone put a video of his first kill, which is in this movie. Why is that a big deal? I'm serious, who gives a shit who the first guy he faked killed in a movie is? Anyway, Bloodsport came out the same year as this, and Cyborg came out a year later, so he didn't have long to wait for his eventual fame. My friend at Movies in the Attic mentioned that Van Damme really came from the DTV world and made it big, as opposed to Dolph and Seagal, who started in the mainstream. It's something I never considered before, but it explains why he's been so reluctant to come to terms with his fall from the Big Time. He doesn't want to make another Black Eagle, and he feels like he's one Cyborg or Bloodsport away from making it back. He needs to be more pragmatic. If Val Kilmer and Cuba Gooding jr., are joining him in the ranks of the DTV, it means that's probably where he's fated to remain as well.

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Shô Kosugi is someone I need to have more of up here, and I've known that for some time. Next week, when I do my Golan-Globus tribute, he'll be there with Enter the Ninja, so that should be good. If you're someone that's a fan, or looking to get into Kosugi, this isn't a great place to start. I am curious to see how he does in the new film Ninja Assassin. I'm kind of surprised it's taken this long to bring back Ninjas, since everything else from the 80s has been.

This film took place in Malta. I guess it's like a poor man's Sicily. That was the impression the film gave anyway. Good thing the Iron Curtain fell and Eastern Europe is becoming a part of Europe now, because I'd much rather have my low-budget actioners in Sofia or Bucharest. Malta, at least in this film, seems like the tired old country store of Europe, where people stop, look around, and then sigh and say "Geez, we better get back on the road.", and walk quickly to their cars and drive off, probably a little faster than necessary.

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I don't really have a seventh paragraph for this movie, but I thought since I was bashing a Van Damme film, I might bring up some good news regarding him. In two weeks, when I hit my 400th post, I'll be celebrating by outlining a Jean-Claude Van Damme film fest. I'll go over 8 of my favorites from him, most of them not DTV. It should be a fun time, much more fun than this snoozefest.

I'd almost go as far as to say even if you're a Van Damme completist, stay away. I probably should've skipped it for the review, despite the fact I want all of his DTV films up here. We still have No Retreat, No Surrender to do, and it looks like after we do that that will be it for a while, because The Eagle Path looks like it's coming out next never.

For more info: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0094750/

Friday, November 13, 2009

Highlander 2: The Quickening aka Highlander 2: Renegade Version (1991)

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In this edition of the box office bomb, we're going with one that was more of a critical bomb than a financial one, though it didn't make back its budget at the gate. It's also a fascinating case, because I'm not reviewing just the original, but the new "renegade" edition, which is supposed to have cured the ills of its predecessor.

Highlander 2 takes place a lot of years after the first one, and Connor is an old dude. The ozone layer had become depleted to such a degree that MacLeod has created a shield to protect us from the UV rays. We also find out that immortals are people from the distant past who are sent to the future for their crimes and forced to fight it out. Connor was sent because he staged a rebellion against Michael Ironside, and on some technicality, Connor could come back to the past and kill him, so Ironside comes to the future. Then Connor calls Connery's name, and he comes back to life. Now they're converging on the shield to take it down, and Ironside and the shield's CEO, John C. McGinley, are there to oppose them.

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Let's be frank, the only way to redeem the previous film would be to Lucas Reno Raines and Bobby Sixkiller into it and make it a real Renegade version. I know a lot of Highlander fanboys and girls out there would think Lamas has no chance against Connor MacLeod, but I beg to differ. He doesn't have to kill him, just incapacitate him and take him to jail for the money. Does this all sound ridiculous, a Highlander movie that's essentially a long Renegade episode? Well, let's delve into the actual film and see what we think.

The original Highlander 2 told us the immortals came from a planet called Zeist. That was ridiculous, yes? That means the new version must be somehow less ridiculous, otherwise why make the film, right? So instead of being from a distant planet, they're from a past that's really more like a future, where humans have great bomb making technology, but no guns. This is my improvement? Sean Connery has no concept of modern technology, but Michael Ironside, also from the distant past, is fully familiar with how the subway system works, down to its specific lingo. To be quite frank, the original actually worked better.

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The biggest issue was the first Highlander painted the series into a box with its finality. They had to get crazy with it to include Connery, and it only got worse from there. I really felt, as I was watching this, that there was no way they were serious. Think of the scene where Connery, Lambert, and Virginia Madsen are in that room where the fan is coming down on them. When Connery tells them to leave, and then the bagpipes start in-- how can that be serious? So I watched that part with the commentary, hoping Russell Mulcahy would tell us how silly it was, and all I got were crickets. Nothing. They not only made that scene on purpose, they were serious about it!

I just love the idea that had Mulcahy had his way, this is what he would've done, considering he didn't want to have his name associated with the original. Why would he have his name associated with this either? The truth is, the TV series had some two-part story arcs that were much more entertaining. I agree that everyone had every right to trash the original version of this movie, but if you're the director and trashing it, that means you need to have something better that you would've done, and you definitely didn't.

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This wasn't all bad, of course. There was plenty to make fun of from start to finish, just because of the basic premise. Then, there were the amazing hairdos. Michael Ironsides sports such an amazing set of lettuce that it makes every misstep Mulcahy made worth it. Not only that, but his scenes with McGinley were nothing short of cinematic gold. And you can never discount what it means to have Connery in another bad film. Just because this was a bad movie, doesn't mean it's not a fun one too.

And here we are, paragraph 8, and I forgot to mention the film's one DTVC Hall of Famer, Christoher Lambert. What is there to say, really? He was as funny as everyone else trying to make sense of this thing. And that's what makes it great for us the viewer too: the fun we have trying and failing to make sense of it all. I'll never forget the review Siskel and Ebert did when this was in the theater, because it was the first time they killed a movie that I really agreed with them on. At 12, I was becoming better aware of what was around me, and as such, less willing to accept as good something that was in actuality utter crap.

For more info: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0102034/

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Hyper Space (1989)

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The last of our inducted actors, but by no means the least, Richard Norton has been a staple of DTV for decades. Known in part for his role as sidekick to Cynthia Rothrock in films like Rage and Honor and China O'Brien, he also has a solid resume of films where he himself is the star, and I've picked one of those to celebrate his entry into the DTVC Hall of Fame.

Hyper Space takes place in one of those futures based on one small issue from our past-- in this case what to do with all that nuclear waste. I'm not sure if it's a company or the US government that decides dumping it way out in space is a good idea, but they do, and Norton, a former Ranger (though they made it sound like he was a Marine too, which doesn't make sense), decides going on these dump runs is less excitement than almost getting killed on a regular basis by androids. But something goes wrong on the ship, and it ends up way off course with very little fuel, and to get back would take 22 years. That is until a crew member figures out a way to get the escape pod back. Only catch: only one person can go on board. After they draw straws, the rest of the crew start offing each other to get on the escape pod, and only Norton can keep order.

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This was pretty funny. Ron O'Neal was good. So was Don Stroud. I liked Norton, but too much on the ship was kind of dull, and there was a bit of a gap between his fight at the beginning, which was a flashback, and his fights with crew members later. In the first scene he fights Big John Studd, and it was pretty amazing, so for that to not be indicative of what we got after was kind of a bummer. Also, after a few minutes of the dilemma of who to send home, the characters sort themselves out as good and bad and kill each other off so there's no decision really at the end on who to send home. In a way, I kind of liked that, because action films shouldn't make me think too much, especially when they're of pretty poor quality.

Richard Norton has probably belonged in the Hall of Fame for a while, we just needed to watch more of his films, especially the ones where he's the star. In January he'll be 60 years old. He's the second of the great action stars of he 80s and 90s to hit that milestone, after Arnold Schwarzenegger who is 62. I don't know why it always surprises me that these guys are whatever age they are, considering a lot of the movies they did were made 15 to 20 years ago, and they weren't teenagers then. I guess I need to come to terms with how old I am. Norton is still making films, but I don't know how much in the way of martial arts he does in them. That's fine, he's done enough, and he has a large library that I still need to sift through, much of which is only available on VHS.

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It is always funny to see what we considered such a big deal in the past as solved now, like nuclear waste. I mean, it's still an issue, but we're not producing so much of it at so high a rate that we don't know what to do with it. I haven't even heard of a new nuclear power plant being built in the US. We have one here in NH that my dad worked on, but the one in Maine was shut down. We can only hope in ten years, global warming will have been accepted by enough people that we'll have taken the steps to reverse it and it too won't be the issue it is now, and we'll watch DTV movies from this time and think how dated they are.

One of the best parts of the low budget sci-fi film is what kinds of ordinary everyday products they use in unique ways to make them futuristic. This one used that plastic flooring with the raised circles all over it that make it look kind of like a Legos. They used it as counter tops, place mats-- you name it, it was everywhere. Someone mush have gotten a deal on it, or maybe a building went down that had a lot of it. I remember the old Omni Mall in Portsmouth, NH had that stuff as it's floor, but they were still open in 1989, so it wasn't from there.

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The late Ron O'Neal was rocking the coolest T-shirt. It had a USC Trojans logo sewn on it, and the fabric was worn and riddled with holes. Based on the color, the fit, and the wear, it would probably cost between $30 and $50 now, depending on who made it. Can you imagine? Sometimes you can find cool stuff like that at a Goodwill. I once found this amazing T that was blue with the word "Suomi" in white letters on it, and it looks and fits like a designer T. It's funny when people ask me what it means, because when I tell them it's Finland in Finnish, they don't believe me.

Considering the star power, this was a pretty good deal. Norton, Ron O'Neal, Don Stroud, and then wrestlers Big John Studd and Professor Toru Tanaka all made it more fun, plus there's a Van Patten (James). It's low-budget silly sci-fi, but the plot, after you get over the concept of shipping nuclear waste out on large space going expeditions, isn't too bad for it's genre. You could do a lot worse.

For more info: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0249591/