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.
Tuesday, May 31, 2011
The tagline for this Don "The Dragon" Wilson actioner is "When they're in your head, how do you watch your back?" You know, that's an excellent point, how do you? It's definitely something to consider. I mean, I've always wondered how I watch my back period, right? But when they're in my head, of course, that would bring up a whole new set of difficulties. A lot to think about.
Capitol Conspiracy has Wilson as a Company Man sent to take out five deadly terrorists spread out over LA. Turns out he's taking out five people who, like himself, were a part of a CIA experiment when they were kids that gave them ESP. Now The Company wants to retire him, and he doesn't know who he can trust-- but Wilson is used to it being him against the world, and it's The Company that should be worried.
This had some lull moments and lost steam about midway through, but otherwise was a pretty serviceable Wilson actioner. It got a little too bogged down as the plot replaced the action, which we know is a no no, but Wilson made up with it with some solid fight scenes, and a couple good shootouts. Where Capitol Conspiracy makes its money though is in its mockability. Wilson makes some great faces, there's a hilarious love scene set to the same piano music you'd expect during a stalking scene in a Lifetime movie, and the bad guy looks like he's modeled his career on Frank Zagarino (more on him later). I don't know, so much of this was sauteed in wrong sauce, but it's also a lot of fun.
This is kind of rare for a Wilson flick, they're usually either pretty sweet, or they suck hardcore and we're wondering what the hell they were thinking. This one worked in spite of itself-- though not through any lack of effort on the part of the film makers in trying to kill it with a bad plot. This also had deleted scenes on the DVD, which were very telling. None of them had any action, and in two of the three, Wilson was doing more acting, which we know is never a good thing, so it's nice to see that some positive editing was done. Can we thank director Fred Olen Ray for that?
This guy here looks, sounds, and smells like Charles Napier. How can that be? Who casts a poor man's Charles Napier? How does a poor man's Charles Napier get work? Napier is in like five-to-ten movies a year, how did Fred Olen Ray and Roger Cormen not lock him up for the three or four scenes that this guy was in? Wow, poor man's Charles Napier-- I guess if you watch enough of these, you'll see everything, and I kind of feel like I've seen it all now. Time to just don that sombrero, hop on that mule, and ride off into the sunset.
A buddy was telling me about how a friend of ours called a salon about ten years ago to see if they could cut his hair so he'd look like David Bowie. This is what he said the phone call was like: "Hello, are you familiar with the artist Dav-id Bow-ie? Are you familiar with the Low era?" When I saw how much the bad guy in this looked like Frank Zagarino, I thought of my buddy. "Hello, are you familiar with the actor Frank Zag-ar-in-o? Are you familiar with his Project Shadowchaser films?"
The crux of this film was about CIA experimenting on children in order to give them ESP. Awhile back I saw a link on Tumblr to a Wikipedia article on unethical human experimentation in the US, and the section on government research during the Cold War was particularly chilling. A lot of psychological tortures in the attempt to make easily manipulated human zombies, done on innocent people off in secret hospitals and a horse stable in Montreal. The ESP aspect of this was far fetched, but the rest of it was pretty realistic. Okay, the majority of Capitol Conspiracy was not realistic, but the experimenting part was.
This is not available on Netflix for some reason or another, but you can actually buy it new at Amazon on DVD. I'd wait on this one though, until you've made your way through more of Wilson's other flicks, including the Bloodfists. Not his worst, but not his best either, so if you're going to commit $5.88 or whatever, make sure Wilson is someone you want to invest in.
For more info: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0155060/
Friday, May 27, 2011
My Netflix Instant Queue is a big void where movies available on Watch Instantly get dumped, often never to be seen again, at least until Netflix decides it wants to remove a film, and then I have to decide if I want to watch the movie before it gets the ax, or let it go and get it later on DVD. I almost never want to resort to the latter, so when this Cuba Gooding Jr. flick The Devil's Tomb was set to be removed, I bumped it up in the rotation to get it in and avoid having to use a DVD slot for it.
The Devil's Tomb has Gooding Jr. as the leader of some special ops wet-works team sent to extract Ron Perlman from some underground research facility in Afghanistan. When they get down there though, things aren't what they seem, as gross dudes with gross sores start coming out of the woodwork, quoting scripture and spitting black grossness on people. To make matters worse, Gooding's team start hallucinating. And then, Henry Rollins shows up, overacting more than a rapper in his first film role-- that might be the scariest thing of all...
I don't know, bad horror I guess, that's what this is, but not fun bad horror, more like dreary derivative bad horror. The religious bent made it even weirder. Gooding Jr., along with Perlman, and Ray Winstone in a small part, try their best to save this from blah-dom, but it was too much of an uphill battle. You've seen this before, and you've seen it better before.
This movie, perhaps more than any of Cuba Gooding Jr's DTV stuff we've done on here, really shows how much better an actor he is than the material he's forced to work with. If it wasn't for Perlman and Winstone, I would've felt really bad for him, but he had those two to share in his misery. Word on the street, if imdb is to be believed, Gooding is attached to a project called One in the Chamber, co-starring the Babe Ruth of DTV, Dolph Lundgren! I can't think of a better guy for Gooding to learn under as he gets the hang of this whole DTV thing-- of course, my posts are littered with mentions of upcoming projects that two or three years later I look back in the archives and am like "wow, that one never happened." Cross your fingers.
This is directed by Sean Connery's son. He didn't do a bad job, this just wasn't a really great or original concept, so it just was what it was. I don't even know if an assist from his dad could've saved it. Maybe, if they tweaked the script some, and had Gooding play an immortal from the Highlands of Scotland named Cuba MacLeod. "You can't die Macleod."
This had a few other recognizable names. Jason London, not to be confused with his twin brother Jeremy, Taryn Manning, and Henry Rollins were probably this biggest. I don't really know what to make of Henry Rollins, not just in this, but period. I know people who think he's the bee's knees, so maybe it's more me than it is him. I will say he was guilty of overacting in The Devil's Tomb, which meant I knew even less what to make of him.
I have a habit of calling Ron Perlman Bruce, I guess mixing him up with former Tennessee head basketball coach Bruce Pearl. I bet as I go back through this to proofread, I'll find some "Bruce Pearlmans" that need fixing-- and I may even miss some! I know upon seeing that the queue is starting with people wanting to hit me with the corrections comments: "you know, his name's RON, not BRUCE, duh!", and I could call him Ron for 90% of the post, but one Bruce, and boom, there's the comment letting me know.
All right, before I alienate all of my readers who scan my posts for brainfarts they can jump on-- hey, they still count as traffic and comments, so keep up the good work!-- I'll wrap this up. This film's days are numbered on Watch Instantly, but DVD is still an option, though I'm not so sure that's a good thing. Also, the Watch Instantly version was in full screen, but maybe this was originally Made for TV and no TV channel wanted it, as opposed to crammed into Pan and Scan from a widescreen cut. For our UK readers, our friend Lee Nicholson at Straight to DVD Heaven mentioned in the Sacrifice post that this finally came out on DVD over there. We wait for Seagal flicks, they wait for Cuba Gooding Jr. flicks, go figure.
For more info: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1147687/
Thursday, May 26, 2011
This is one I've been meaning to do for a long time, but it's not that easy to find. Not only is it only available on VHS here in the States (the UK get a Region 2 DVD, lucky bastards), but it's also usually expensive on the secondary market. Fortunately a buddy hooked me up with his, and now I'm passing the savings onto you... that didn't make any sense, but it sounded good.
Brain Smasher... A Love Story is an Albert Pyun flick starring the Dice Man Andrew Dice Clay as a bouncer in Portland,Oregon who runs into supermodel Teri Hatcher escaping from a band of Shaolin Monks led by Yuji Okumoto. Okumoto wants a red lotus flower, and Hatcher's sister has it, but they think they can get it through her. Now she and the Dice Man are on the adventure of their lives, trying to save the world, and maybe falling in love in the process.
This film is fantastic. A really fun 80s-style romp, similar to Big Trouble in Little China, only on a slightly smaller scale. The music was great, the dialog was great, the action wasn't lacking, and the performances more than held up their end. Not only were Teri Hatcher and Andrew Dice Clay solid, but there were tons of Pyun mainstays that were also sweet, including DTVC faves Tim Thomerson and Brion James. Top to bottom, this just works, and works really well.
It really is too bad that it's films like the Urban Trilogy-- each of which had to be fudged together because half of each film was lost in transit by Air France--, that are available on DVD and Netflix Watch Instantly, when so much of Albert Pyun's best stuff, including Brain Smasher, is out of print and only on VHS-- again, unless you're a Brit, and then you get it on DVD. I mean, this has Teri Hatcher, who is kind of a big deal on Desperate Housewives, you'd think an opportunistic distributor would pick up the rights and mass produce a bunch of $5.88 DVDs with her all over the cover.
Speaking of Ms. Hatcher, you don't need me to tell you how hot she is, and playing a supermodel means she's even hotter. She also understood the sillier side of this movie, and really made it work. This was right before she got the Lois and Clark gig, which was what made her a big star the first time, then she fell off a bit before rising again through Desperate Housewives. I wonder what she thinks of this film looking back on it, especially kissing Andrew Dice Clay. One really cool thing Pyun did with her character, as she was running through the streets of Portland to avoid Okumoto and his gang, was have her stand in front of advertisements she did as a model that were displayed in department stores and whatnot. I liked that he juxtaposed her glamorous supermodel world with her current situation, reminding us how much of a fish out of water she was-- or she was supposed to be-- plus, it made for a great shot to have multiple images of her on screen at once.
One of the ongoing jokes in the film was about Americans lumping all Asians into one ethnicity, in this case saying they're all Japanese, and that the Shaolin Monks are ninjas. Throughout, Okumoto's gang corrects people, telling them "Ninjas are Japanese. We are monks, and monks are Chinese!" The joke of course is that Okumoto is Japanese, playing a Chinese character. For me, being a fan of both Chinese and Japanese cinema, and Chinese and Japanese cuisines-- and just being an anth major in college-- I got a kick out of this, because I'm often explaining the differences to people I know too.
Now it's time for everyone's favorite game when reviewing an Albert Pyun flick: name that mainstay; and Brain Smasher had plenty. I already mentioned Thomerson and Brion James, who played great send ups of the classic 1940s Film Noir detective, grilling the Dice Man. We also already mentioned Okumoto, who played the head of the gang of monks. Then there was Nicholas Guest, another detective, only grilling Teri Hatcher instead of the Dice Man. Deborah Van Valkenburgh, who played the accountant in Mean Guns, was Hatcher's sister (she was also in Road to Hell, which I believe hasn't been released yet). Other stars who weren't Pyun mainstays included Peter Kwong, who you may remember from the Olivier Gruner flick Angel Town, but who also had parts in Big Trouble in Little China and The Golden Child; and Liz Sheridan, Jerry's mom from Seinfeld, played the Dice Man's mom. Interesting that we had a second Seinfeld connection, the first obviously being Teri Hatcher in the "They're real, and they're spectacular!" episode.
If you live in the States, either keep your eye out in used VHS bargain bins, or bite the bullet and make the Amazon purchase, but this is one you'll need. If you live in the UK, take a break from all that Steven Seagal buying and pick this bad boy up. You won't regret it.
For more info: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0106475/
Wednesday, May 25, 2011
I don't know why I went in for this one. David Bradley is one factor. Shannon Tweed another. Tiny "Zeus" Lister a third. Is that enough to go out of my way to get my hands on something? I don't know if I'm qualified to answer that question...
White Cargo has Bradley as a jack of all trades independently wealthy police detective who works just for the fun of it, investigating a murder that leads him into a dangerous underground world of drugs, models, models as escorts, Asian and Italian mobs, and his ex-wife. Can he take the heat? He's David Bradley, if not, he can always pull one of those mini handheld fans out of his fanny pack, right?
Okay, no fanny packs here, just a lot of double-breasted suits. I don't know if I can recommend this, but I liked it. No real action other than the end. Not exactly stylish enough to be good Film Noir though, or sexy enough to be a sexy suspense thriller. It was just Bradley, betting on horses, investigating murders, trading proverbs with wise old Chinese men, eating pasta with Italians, playing blues on his guitar when his ex stands him up, and doing karate when people give him a hard time. Then there's Shannon Tweed, who is hot as a modeling executive, but she doesn't have a huge part; and Tiny "Zeus" Lister (Tommy "Tiny" Lister before I get a comment from someone trying to correct me) plays a bartender at the bar Bradley owns and lives above who helps him raid a drug warehouse. I don't know, it's a funny combination of stuff that just works as funny for me, but it may not for everyone else.
This might be one of Bradley's better roles, outside of the amazing Hard Justice. There's something about it that allows him to do what he does, without forcing him to overreach. It's as if it's so silly and over the top (Stallone style) that Bradley can't go wrong with how he plays it. Also, his martial arts, though not a large part of the film, when it's there, it's solid. All around, he enhanced the fun factor, which is a good thing.
What is that, Karl Kani Tiny "Zeus" Lister is wearing? Remember Karl Kani? It was like before Rocawear and Phat Farm, right? An urban Chessking, so to speak. If Color Me Badd wore Chessking, then Bel Biv Devoe rocked Karl Kani. I don't really know what Lister was doing here, like 90% of the film he's just a bartender, laughing at Bradley's jokes, holding onto money for him, and shaking his head when Bradley scores with a new chick. Then, apropos of nothing, he's sneaking into the drug warehouse to back up Bradley, and later wields a machine gun. Was that on his resume when he applied for the bartending job at Bradley's? "Ooh, you're handy with a piece, huh? And able to covertly enter heavily fortified buildings? Hmm, those are qualities I may need someday... I'll tell you what, I think you're our best applicant so far..."
This is like our fourth Shannon Tweed flick on here. You'd think it'd be more, but she does more erotic thrillers and sexy suspense yarns that aren't exactly what we do here at the DTVC. Her role in this was kind of odd, because at first it made sense, where she's the modeling agency exec who's getting her clients to have sex with rich people for big money (no whammies); but then she's kidnapped at the end of the film-- why, I must've missed-- and then is rescued by Bradley, which is when she decides that she too can handle a piece and knows the layout of the drug warehouse. There also wasn't a lot of her in this movie, which was a bit of a disappointment, just because she was one of the more talented members of the cast.
This guy here was like a combination of Brent Huff and Torgo from Manos: The Hands of Fate (and before more correction comments, yes, I know the Spanish word for hands is manos). It was just a cool novelty to have a character that was that combination of those two people. He takes the business end of a shotgun to the torso, which sends him five feet in the air and ten feet back into a bookshelf. Great way to go.
Amazon does have this on VHS, but you have to navigate some interesting titles to get there if you follow the link from the imdb page. This is really for the big time DTV fan, and even then I'm not sure if it'll work for you. I don't know, it just has so many quirky attributes that as a whole, it all worked in a funny way.
For more info: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0114925/
Tuesday, May 24, 2011
This is one that's been on my radar for sometime, usually something I see after doing a Martin Kove flick when I do a search on imdb of him. If you're keeping score, the last flick we did of his was that one with the 300-pound pork roast that Kove was barely in, and yes, Bare Knuckles crossed my radar again, and I decided to finally bump it up in the queue and make it happen.
Bare Knuckles has Kove as Sonny Cool, a down-on-his-luck fight promoter who discovers potential prospect Samantha working in a bar. Though she needs a lot of training, she also has a lot of heart, and a special needs daughter that she can't afford schooling for. She needs the money, he needs the money, this sounds like a great idea, so he gets her into the underground ladies fight game, leading eventually to a big pay off at a Frenchman's mansion.
There was something about this one that was a bit off for me. It was like it didn't know if it wanted to be a dramatic human interest piece, a punchfighting movie, or an indie flick. What am I supposed to think about an attempt to portray women in fighting films as more than just window dressing, but also as more than just women playing male roles, when the attempt is undermined by stereotypical punchfighting scenes of derivative music and close-ups or girls' butts? What am I supposed to think of Martin Kove and Jeanette Roxborough turning in earnest, solid performances, when the camera is all over the place in the classic punchfighting ADD style? And the fights themselves were pretty "punch-duck-punch-punch-knockdown-get-back-up-repeat", which left a lot to be desired, and wasn't helped by the annoying ref yelling "she's ooooooouuuuut!" every time a lady was on the carpet. Who's idea was that? I can't dump on this entirely, because the concept was great, and I think everyone involved really wanted this to work; I don't know, something was off in the execution, which was too bad.
Nothing was off in Kove's execution though. So often we see him as a baddie, and almost as often he's barely in the film, so this was a great change of pace, both a good guy and a large part. He is so likable as a good guy, but I guess post Karate Kid, baddie was the best chance he had for work, which was why we seldom see it. For me, he was a big reason why this was entertaining in spite of its shortcomings. The equation is simple: the more Kove, the better, and that's one area Bare Knuckles had down.
I want to stay on Kove for a bit to discuss something else: the goatee. There are very few men who can legitimately pull off a goatee without looking like they're emulating the lite beer commercial jackass. I know I can't do it. Billy Ocean, Bill Russell, and one of my buddies are the only three off the top of my head; and then there's Martin Kove. He's totally pulling it off. He's not Ben Affleck circa Reindeer Games, he's still Martin Fucking Kove and lovin' it. You rock that goatee.
Really liked Jeanette Roxborough as the lead. There was a great mix of tough, nurturing, and vulnerable that we seldom see in female action leads. She's also very pretty. After this film she's gotten more acting roles, so it'll be cool to see what she does next. The cover makes it out like this is simply a female version of the punchfighting movie, and that's certainly not the case; and I'm not sure she'd have managed as well in that type of film-- not that many stars really manage well in that type of film, considering how bad it usually is-- but I do think she'd fare well in a Cynthia Rothrock style more traditional action flick, so we'll see what happens.
Louis Mandylor, brother of Costas, played the baddie, and he was great. He had this thick, cornball New York gangster accent, combined with the cornball suits and lines. You could tell he relished the opportunity to play this part, which always makes for a great baddie. Just have fun with it, but at the same time, don't sell the evil, menacing aspect short, and Mandylor did that.
This is available on DVD from Netflix, but I'd say it's more of a Watch Instantly deal, and unfortunately they don't have it on that right now. It's also more for Martin Kove completists-- if you're out there-- than it is for anything else. I liked the idea, and I liked some aspects of it, but others didn't quite work, and overall the execution undermined what could've been a solid human interest peace.
For more info: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1063327/
Thursday, May 19, 2011
I've had this in my Instant Queue for some time now, and after a couple Gary Daniels movies I had in my DVD queue weren't sent to me, I went with it because it had been a little time since I'd gotten some Daniels up here. We'll have to do them all eventually, so why not this one, right?
Delta Force One: The Lost Patrol is about a peacekeeping mission between two antagonistic fictitious Middle Eastern countries. When a patrol is ambushed and there are no survivors, Daniels is tasked to lead a recon team to find out what happened. Boy do they find out, as they walk into a big ol' quagmire involving John Rhys-Davies as an arms dealer looking to arm a rebel group with a nuke. Now the remainder of Daniels's crew needs to stop them at all costs.
Wow, this was a total painfest. It was one of those I look at the counter and find out I'm only 20 minutes in, and I'm like "Oh lord! That's it?" and then I look at the counter and there's only 15 minutes left and I'm like "Oh Lord, I still have to sit through 15 minutes of this?" I've had cardio sessions and hiked mountains less grueling than this. Where do I start? Either large pockets of no action, or some of the lamest, most blah action ever. Seriously, who comes up with a scene where Daniels's Jeep drives through a canyon where rebels fire RPGs all around them, but never hit them, from near point blank range? Daniels barely does any hand-to-hand, and it's only at the very end. There's no tension, a plot that's too plodding and dull to keep us interested in the lean times, and characters so cookie-cutter that we don't really care what happens to them. To give you an idea of how bad this is, there's a scene where one of them has a gut wound and looks close to death, and Daniels tells him "I am your commanding officer, and I didn't give you permission to die yet, do you understand?" Ouch.
I don't blame Daniels for these stinkers, because he has to take what work he can get, but it would be nice if the people who cast him could utilize him properly. It's hard to watch him sitting in a Jeep yelling at bad explosions, or delivering bad dialog, when I know how much ass he can kick. For any film makers out there, here's a tip: when you find out you've cast Gary Daniels, ditch the script and have a chat with your stuntmen and fight choreographer about your new movie with Gary Daniels as the star. I don't think that's too difficult.
This was produced by Yoram Globus of the famed (and DTVC Hall of Fame) tandem of Golan and Globus. I think with this project he was trying to dispel the myth that exists here in the US that Arabs are somehow genetically disposed to be brutal, murderous, women haters that would kill us all if they could only get the chance. The movie wanted to paint a more complex picture of people who are pretty much just like everyone else, but because of a small segment of the population that is more barbarous and brutal, and who garner much more of the headlines throughout the world, they are not only victimized, but left without a voice. I applaud them for that, but an action movie isn't the venue. Actors like Gary Daniels, Mike Norris, and Bentley Mitchum aren't the medium to broadcast the message. Great sentiment, but overall idea sautéed in wrong sauce.
If we go back about two years into the archives, there was a film I reviewed starring Robert Carradine called Firestorm. The only reason I reviewed it was because it came in a two-pack with a Jeff Speakman flick Scorpio One. Anyway, that film also starred Bentley Mitchum, who you see below. That Firestorm film was a total laugh riot, and Mitchum was a big part of that. He was nowhere near as funny here, which was too bad, because we could've used him. As an aside, I missed then but found out now that he's Robert Mitchum's grandson. (Our one Robert Mitchum film: Midnight Ride.)
Finally, I'm a big fan of Grand Theft Auto III and now Red Dead Redemption, and something in this film reminded me of a common bug in Rockstar Games' early projects. There'd be these times where I'd do something insane, and the people around me would just walk by as if nothing happened. In Delta Force One, Mitchum and a couple other characters get to this computer console, and one of them knocks out one of the rebels with the butt end of her rifle, while the rest of the rebels go about their business, wandering around near them, totally oblivious. It was very GTA III, though nowhere hear as cool.
All right, you can get this on DVD and Watch Instantly from Netflix, but do you want to? Absolutely not. What irks me the most is that this is so available while so many great DTV flicks are OOP or only on VHS. Is there any justice in the world?
For more info: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0176650/
Wednesday, May 18, 2011
I saw the trailer for this on the VHS of another Cannon film. I don't remember which one that was, and I'm not sure it matters either, just that I have it now-- or rather, Netflix Watch Instantly has it now, though I didn't know that and found it on my own.
Crack House has Soultaker's Gregg Thomsen as Rick, a Mexican-American trying to get out of the crime-ridden streets of LA and the gang he was once a part of. He doesn't quite make it though, after he gets busted shooting up an African-American gang's hideout to avenge his cousin's murder. He ends up in the clink, leaving his innocent white girlfriend as easy prey for a whole host of unsavory characters, and when she ends up strung-out on drugs and the sex slave property of drug lord Jim Brown, Rick decides to cut a deal with police detective Richard Roundtree in order to bring Brown down.
This is a hardcore exploitation flick, not the kind of thing you want to fire up with your buddies for a bad movie night. A lot of the brutality is kept off camera, outside of some fight scenes, though those are nothing you haven't seen from a good Cannon flick before. The girlfriend's descent into the world of drugs through unscrupulous character to more unscrupulous character is the most troubling to witness, because they don't really pull punches, even if they use the jump-cut to keep us from some of the tougher scenes, like her being taken advantage of when she's too intoxicated to say no, or Brown beating her with his belt while he has his way with her. Now, Cannon does get all Cannon with it towards the end, with a big shootout at the crack house, including the use by the cops of a tank-style battering ram, so it's not all serious hardcore exploitation, but enough of it is, and if that ain't your bag, I'd stay away.
For me personally, this worked. The story was potent, the sets and locations stood out, and it really felt like a 60s or 70s exploitation flick set in 1989. Not only that, but Jim Brown was an amazing baddie-- I mean, the guy scared me-- and Roundtree was great in limited minutes as the detective. Not only that, you had Anthony Geary, Luke of "Luke and Laura" fame as the creepy teacher, and Clyde Jones as BT, the predator who first gets the girlfriend strung out on drugs. It starts a little slow, plus there's the fact that I didn't want to see the predator get his prey in the girlfriend after her boyfriend goes to jail, but overall I enjoyed this-- if enjoyed is the right word considering the subject matter.
Enjoy is always the word for Richard Roundtree. How do you not love him? I wish he had more screen-time as the police chief though. He's splashed all over the cover, so you'd think he would be. He has one great interrogation scene with Rick, where he asks Rick about his disabled brother, and Rick tells him he's "all right." Roundtree lets out this sweet laugh, shakes his head, and says "your brother was paralyzed by a stray bullet from a drive-by. Where I come from that's not all right." I couldn't agree more.
The show was stolen though by Jim Brown. He walks into the film with about 40 minutes or so to go, and that's it, it's his movie. When the girlfriend walks out of the shower and he decides she'll do for collateral until BT can get him the money he's owed, she turns to go away, and he says "hey, you don't do anything until I tell you." I'm much more used to Brown being a good guy, so this threw me for a loop, but he was so good I got used to it quick-- and I imagine if I hadn't he'd make sure I was. He just turned 75 last February. Are you kidding me? Jim Brown, three-quarters of a century old? That's just difficult to fathom, and I wasn't even born when he played football.
One thing I liked about this movie that other movies I've seen could do a better job of, is showing people getting hit after guns are shot. It sounds simple, but I don't know how many times I've watched low-budget films where two sets of people are at point-blank range, firing weapons at one another, and barely anyone is taking hits. It's annoying, and is usually one of the first things that will turn me off to a low-budget picture, so kudos to the film makers for not turning me off here.
This is available on DVD and through Netflix either as an at home rental, or on Watch Instantly as of this printing. For people outside the US, I know at least that a Region 2 DVD exists in the UK. If the description I gave is something you might be into, then I say go for it. It has some fun bad movie elements, but overall there's not much to laugh at or joke about, which in some ways is a good thing. Just a good exploitation flick.
For more info: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0097119/
Tuesday, May 17, 2011
I've had this one in my queue for a little while, kind of on the back-burner, but when the movies above it weren't available, this jumped up the list and into my mailbox-- outta my dreams and into my car. This was also reviewed by Cool Target Action Reviews, which you can check out if you want to compare notes.
Alien Agent is about a race of aliens far away whose planet is dying. Some bad elements have decided that Earth wouldn't make a bad substitute, and they want us off of it. Mark Dacascos is a good guy alien sent by his people to stop them. The pocket he's currently fighting involve a hot TV commercial actress and Billy Zane, looking to use the expertise of Renfro-esque Earthling Kim Coates to create a portal in rural Oregon that will beam all their buddies over here for the invasion. In the process of stopping them, Dacascos befriends a young girl who wants to know him Biblically, and while Dacascos thinks that's inappropriate, he likes her company.
This felt like it should've been a syndicated sci-fi action series from the late 90s/early 2000s, and there is some basis for that, because it was meant to be a film in 2001 starring Dolph Lundgren (check out Dolph-Ultimate for a blow-by-blow of what happened), but some aspects of it were deemed off-color in the wake of 9/11, and from there the project sat, until 2007. It starts off really sweet with great action, but then it becomes run-of-the-mill when it really had no business doing so. Billy Zane was a great baddie, but he's barely used. Dacascos has a few great fights, but they're so few and far between that it's a miss too-- a really great one with Darren Shahlavi to start with was not exactly a sign of things to come. I don't know, it wasn't horrible, but it could've been so much better. It's almost as if, with the project sitting for so long, they forced it out there more than they made it.
Dacascos turns in a solid performance, and his great fight with Shahlavi, plus another one with Pit Fighter's Dominiquie Vandenberg, reminded us of his great skills. On the other hand, he spent more time in a car or in a hotel room talking to the young girl. That's an area where syndicated TV show would've been better than 90 minute movie, because too much time is devoted to cramming in all this alien backstory that weighs things down. Problem is, by the times this was made, 2007, the syndicated TV market had dried up, with only the brave Legend of the Seeker making an attempt to buck the trend.
But while Dacascos was great though slightly underutilized, Billy Zane was great and totally underutilized. It was almost like what's the point of casting him? He was such an amazing baddie, really nonchalant and sarcastic-- very Billy Zane in Titanic actually (and don't fill up this comment sheet with how much you hated Titanic, I wasn't a fan either). There were a lot of scenes with the TV commercial actress and either Kim Coates, or no one, that could've been great scenes with Zane and either Kim Coates or the TV commercial actress. As much as a great hero makes a movie, so does a great baddie, and while this had one, they didn't use him enough.
The TV commercial actress is named Amelia Cooke, and she played Zane's second in command. Seriously, she's been in like 30 different ad campaigns here in the States, though she doesn't have the black hair she does here. She was really good, it was just odd that there was more of her than Billy Zane. The other female part, the young girl traveling with Dacascos, was played by Kiwi Emma Lahana. She's much older than the character she played, so it's okay to think she's hot. Usually her type of character-- the tag-along to the main hero-- is very annoying, but she was pretty good too, which is a rarity in a movie like this. According to imdb, she's on a TV show on ABC Family, plus I remember her from an episode of Psych.
That looks like Mt. Hood, though this was shot in British Columbia, so they must've used a file photo. This marks an official entry for Oregon in our 50 States of DTV page. I have been to Oregon before, visiting Portland for the day while I was seeing my sister in Seattle. I've heard that the Black Velvet Painting Museum has closed, which sucks, because that would be my vote for coolest thing to do in Portland. Voodoo Doughnuts would be next in line, so if you're ever there, I'd go check it out and grab a frosted dipped in Fruit Loops, or a maple frosted with bacon on it.
As far as Alien Agent goes, nothing special, more like a syndicated TV show ten years too late. Usually nothing special wouldn't be too bad, but here, with missed opportunities like Billy Zane as the baddie, nothing special becomes a waste of something that could've been really fun. It's available on DVD from Netflix, but is probably only for Dacascos completists.
For more info: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0820466/
Monday, May 16, 2011
I saw this while visiting some friends last week. We pulled it up on Watch Instantly, and we were all like-minded movie watchers, so we figured it would be fun. The Asylum always feels like a can't miss proposition, but we've seen it hurt as much as it's been great. Let's see how this one went.
Battle of Los Angeles is an Asylum flick about a major invasion, Independence Day-style, and a small group of Air Force soldiers have held them off somewhat. Then they come across a soldier from 1942, whom they don't question after he doesn't question the fact that they have integrated troop units; and later Nia Peeples as a samurai sword wielding special agent that knows all about these aliens. Is there something suspicious about this soldier from 1942 who isn't concerned about black men and Asian chicks serving with white men? What about this Nia Peeples samurai woman, what's her deal? And can they save the Earth from these horrible aliens?
This was pretty fun. It had its goof-tastic moments, which you expect from The Asylum; plus it had its tedious moments where I just want them to get on with it, which you also expect from The Asylum. This was a fortunate case where the former outweighed the latter. I also loved the Nia Peeples character. It was a total everything but the kitchen sink move to toss her in there in that capacity, but it worked really well. The other star was Kel Mitchell, from the hit Nickelodeon show Kenan and Kel. Not as cool as Jaleel White was in Mega Shark versus Crocosaurus, but at least he was someone we recognized. I wonder how he feels looking at all the success Kenan's had on SNL...
This one was distributed by SyFy, even though imdb lists it as "video" instead of "TV". My buddy asked, after we saw the SyFy logo on the screen, if this would be a legitimate candidate for inclusion on the DTVC, considering we thought it was Made for TV as opposed to Direct to Video. With The Asylum-- and with a lot of the SyFy pictures movies-- the big thing is that they're in the spirit of DTV; plus, The Asylum started out as DTV, and if they can use SyFy as a means to get their movies out there-- movies that otherwise would just be DTV anyway-- why not go for it. Besides, DTV is just a guide, there's no hard and fast rule for inclusion.
As I mentioned above, Nia Peeples was great. She was in this hot, Kill Bill style outfit, and by the end of it she even had an eye patch, which made it even better. This would've been a cooler movie if it had just been about her going around and kicking ass, and hopefully The Asylum will do that in the near future. As an aside, she was married to the stuntman who directed the Seagal flick Born to Raise Hell. According to imdb they divorced in 2004.
Recognize Tim Abell here? He was the jerk cop husband that was killed by Carol Alt in Storm Trooper, or the bad guy sergeant in The Base. He's not in this much, but really, he's not in many of the films he acts in much-- The Base might actually be a record for him. I'm not knocking it, I think it's actually a pretty cool deal to pop in on DTV flicks and do a small part then hit the road.
One thing my buddy and I got a kick out of was how much the 1942 pilot was okay with the integrated troop unit, or the fact that there were women soldiers. It wasn't like he said something obnoxious about it, and then everyone set him straight and let him know that this is how we do business in 2011; he was acting as if women, Asians, and African Americans had always served with white male soldiers, which in 1942 was very far from the case. In some ways, though, it makes sense when you see what happens later with him, and perhaps The Asylum is making a statement about how little young people know about their history that none of them would've questioned how little the soldier was shocked by the people in the modern unit he bumped into.
I went back to my Mega Piranha review, and pretty much said exactly what I'm about to say here, only this had both fewer tedious moments, but also fewer memorable moments (nothing that approaches the amazing bicycle kick scene.) Overall though, it's a great bad movie night flick, the perfect thing to watch and talk over with your buddies.
For more info: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1758570/
Saturday, May 14, 2011
A recent search of C. Thomas Howell on imdb and Netflix Watch Instantly turned up this potential gem. It just sounded too good to be bad, but we've seen these things go pear-shaped quickly on us, so I knew not to get my hopes up. Let's see how it went.
Mutant Vampire Zombies from the 'Hood! takes place in Los Angeles, where C. Thomas Howell is a cop looking to bust a big drug deal between rival gangs. They decide to do the deal in a nuclear medical storage facility, which protects them from a massive solar flare which turns most of the rest of the human population into flesh eating zombies. Now all of these sworn enemies must come together in order to survive and make it to a safe house in Santa Monica run by astrophysicist Greg Alan Hill and his daughter.
This wasn't bad, but it wasn't exactly the schlock-fest the name suggests. It had it's moments, especially at the beginning with the mock Superman opening credits. I thought for sure when I saw that that I was going to get an amazing comedic horror romp, but this tended to lose itself, like when it tried to come up with odd scientific explanations for zombies that were this kind or that kind of undead. It also didn't know when to just tell us or the characters something, which became tedious. Sometimes these movies just need to get after it and take the plunge into all out silliness, and while this pulled the trigger in some instances, it tried in others to stick to traditional movie elements that betrayed what could've been a really fun time. Overall, it was monotony broken up by a moment here or there of fun.
I still don't know what to make of C. Thomas Howell. Sometimes I wonder if he knows what to make of himself. I do like him in the camp zombie flick though, because he's great at playing it straight, and his playing it straight adds a level of fun to the camp that you might not get with someone else. I don't know, overall there's just something about C. Thomas Howell that doesn't click for me, and I guess this is a rare occasion where that works.
One guy I've always liked is Gregory Alan Hill, or Gregalan Hill as he was known on Baywatch. If you don't remember, he was the beach cop who rolled in on his ATV and cleaned up the mess for The Hoff and whoever else after the criminals were dealt with. I actually really liked him on the ill-fated spin-off series Baywatch Nights. He was great here as an astrophysicist with a white daughter, and I was glad to see him. Here's to you Gregalan Hill, you're one of the good ones.
This movie tries to amp up the zombie paradigm by making them not only starved for human flesh, but also sex starved for human flesh. It leads to a hilarious result with one of the gang members getting his member eaten off by a zombie chick, but was a little more disturbing when a woman trying to get into her car is attacked by two zombies that try to rape her, and after Howell and co. rescue her, she walks around in stunned shock, only to be raped and disemboweled later by zombies at the same time the gang-banger has his dick eaten off. I don't know, maybe they should've stuck with the zombies just want to eat people's brains, and left it more fun for the rest of us.
The first ten minutes of this film is opening credits featuring file shots of LA, including this McDonald's sighting. Always have to get the McDonald's sighting in. I've been to Hollywood before, which I think is where that shot is taken from, but I don't remember that McDonald's being there (I was there in August in 2001). I did have McDonald's in LA though, when I was there in 2009. It was in an underground mall downtown, I had an Angus Third-Pound burger before they were available nationally, and I remember being disappointed when they came out in New England, because I thought I was eating some kind of regional variant-- like the spicy McChicken in Colorado.
80 minutes, goofy zombie flick, Watch Instantly, but obviously if I'm struggling so much for a seventh paragraph that I'm recalling a trip to McDonald's in LA, it's not the greatest. It has its flaws, but for a bad movie night, it's not bad. I wouldn't do this one outside of Watch Instantly though-- or for free in another way for people outside the States who can't get Watch Instantly. You've seen plenty of these before, and you've seen them done worse, but you've also seen them done much better.
For more info: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0970520/
Friday, May 13, 2011
It took me a little time to track this down, otherwise I'd have done it by now. Just look at that cast. It's huge, robust, dare I say prodigious. I don't remember when I first saw it, probably on TNT or a buddy rented it. It's definitely the kind of film that I made the DTVC for, so it's good to finally be getting after it.
TC 2000 takes place in the future, after the environment has deteriorated, and any humans with means have moved underground, leaving the topside an impoverished wasteland. Billy Blanks and Bobbie Phillips are police officers who keep surface dwellers from getting underground, but after they're ambushed by a gang of them, led by Jalal Merhi, and Phillips ends up dead, Blanks is wrongly accused of her death, and he flees to the surface, where Bolo Yeung teaches him the power of the Chi; while Phillips is turned into a cyborg, and she's sent to the surface to do something for her old boss, who it turns out is a bad guy, with a bad guy right-hand man played by Matthias Hues.
This is fantastic. This is the kind of movie the blog was made for, and the kind of movie you come here to check out. Great martial arts, great stars, and a futuristic plot set in the boiler room of a factory. Does it get any better than that? This is early 90s DTV action at its best, tons of fun, tons of action, and nothing to take too seriously: the perfect combination. Get the crew together and fire it up for your bad movie night.
How do you not love Billy Blanks? He's had better martial arts in some of his other films, but this one gives him more screen time than a lot of those. And he and Bolo Yeung had great chemistry (more on that later). The one drawback might be that he only wears the shades from the cover a couple times, but I'm not so sure that's a bad thing, because he has tons of close-ups with funny looks on his face, which for me is much better. Would I have liked some better martial scenes-- not that these ones were that bad, just that we've seen better, especially in The King of the Kickboxers-- probably, but overall, Blanks was so great, I didn't mind.
In this picture Bobbie Phillips looks pretty hot, right? And as the cyborg, from the forehead down she really does look hot, it was just her hairdo that didn't work. It was one of those middle of the head ponytails where the hair comes out and flows down over the head. It was the kind of hairdo that the girls with bad dye jobs who wore Adidas track suits to the mall and always got into fights used to have when I was growing up. I don't know, I was half expecting her to talk in wannabe Ebonics and come through the screen to try and steal my Da' Brat CD. "Sooo, sooo, Funktafiiiied..." (Was I the only one whose environment was Suburban Ghetto enough for these girls to exist?)
Matthias Hues is a beast. He even makes Bolo Yeung look small. I know how silly it sounds to do the whole "in real life he could take so and so", but other than Dolph Lundgren, who has similar size and speed, Matthias Hues is someone none of the guys who pretend kick his ass on screen would want anything to do with if he came looking for them with bad intentions. I guess that's why he makes such a great baddie, because he is so big and fast-- and because he has a German accent, let's not forget that.
This review marks a first here at the DTVC. In the past I've uploaded video clips from the movies I reviewed, but this is the first time I ever enhanced one. There are two training montages in TC 2000, and I thought they were both great, but when I cut them together, I noticed the transition was bad between the first and second, so I decided to cover the whole thing with my own music. It's on the image page, so take a look at it and tell me what you think. The Bolo Yeung interpretive dance at the beginning was my personal favorite.
This is only available on VHS as far as I know. If you look it up on Amazon, one of the links they'll direct you to is another film, Expect No Mercy, which is on DVD, stars Jalal Merhi and Billy Blanks, but is not the same film. TC 2000 is totally worth picking up if you find it anywhere. Amazon is a little steep, but $5 or so after shipping is worth it, so if you can find it for that, pull the trigger.
For more info:http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0108277/
Tuesday, May 10, 2011
This DTV bad boy starring Cuba Gooding Jr., Christian Slater, and Kim Coates came out recently and went straight to Netflix Watch Instantly, so it was high on my radar. We've seen recent DTV flicks starring various combinations of this trio not quite do it, so I was hoping all three would be enough to get us to the church on time. Let's see.
Sacrifice takes place in Toronto, and centers around a narcotics cop, Gooding, whose wife and daughter were murdered by men hired by a dude whom he put away; a priest, Slater, looking for meaning in his life after he was the lone survivor of a special forces unit in Afghanistan that was hit by a bomb; a kid looking to get out of the drug cartel he's been working for; and Kim Coates as the head of that cartel. All these people are brought together when the kid steals a statue of the Virgin Mary made out of heroin, which he's hidden in plain sight in Slater's church. He's killed by Coates's men, leaving behind a 5-year-old sister who is taken in by Gooding, only to be kidnapped by Coates's men in order to find his statue. Now Slater and Gooding have to work together to get the girl back and bring Coates to justice.
This was one of those that 15-20 minutes in, I was like "wow, I'm only 15-20 minutes in? It feels like an hour!" I was actually feeling bad for Gooding and Slater, because this looked and felt so bad. It was like one of those low-budget Lifetime movies made on the cheap in Canada with a bunch of Soap stars from here in the States combined with character actors from British Columbia. But then it shifted. The story took on depth and nuance. Slater, Gooding, and Coates were turning in great performances, and the material was keeping up with them. Overall, this film really worked for me, and was a pleasant surprise after the slow opening.
There's a scene where the 5-year-old asks Cuba Gooding Jr. to tell her a story. "Once upon a time, there was a big Hollywood star who won an Oscar and everything. Then he did a movie called Snow Dogs and a movie called Daddy Day Camp, and suddenly, no one was returning his agent's phone calls and no one was sending him scripts, other than people pitching DTV projects." We kid because we love Mr. Gooding Jr., and it can't be that bad at the DTV Hotel when you have neighbors like Val Kilmer and Christian Slater. Even though this movie did end up being really good, the quality of the film stock and whatnot really gave it that low-rent Lifetime movie look that made me feel bad for him. This guy won an Oscar, he really should be making big budget Hollywood flicks or high-quality independent movies-- but while he's here at the DTV Hotel, we're going to do our best to make his stay as nice as possible.
Speaking of Christian Slater, this is now our third of his DTV movies to make it to the DTVC. Like Cuba Gooding Jr., seeing him in these movies is odd, but it's a different kind of odd. With Slater, his voice is so classic, and so recognizable that I can't divorce it from all his great roles I remember growing up. If anyone could be a priest who was a former special forces soldier in Afghanistan, it's him.
The director of Sacrifice was Damian Lee. He's responsible for four other films we've reviewed at the DTVC: Ski School, Moving Target (Dudikoff, not Wilson), Terminal Rush, and Agent Red; plus he has a few others that are in need of reviews eventually, like Abraxas and a Don "The Dragon" Wilson flick called Paper Trail. I wonder how he felt to be working with Gooding and Slater after Dolph Lundgren.
DTVC favorite Kim Coates is back, and he's pretty good as the dude running the drug cartel-- but do you expect anything less from Kim Coates? Also, should we be surprised he's an acting machine, considering he hails from Saskatoon, Saskatchewan? Rowdy Roddy Piper is also from that great city. I've personally never been-- in fact never been to Canada period-- but I'd love to check it out. Hey, if it's good enough for Kim Coates and Roddy Piper, it's good enough for me.
I say go for it with this one. Yes, the beginning is a bit of a drag, but this is a pretty solid and entertaining film overall. I'm not sure what its availability is outside of the US at this moment, but here in the States it was just released on DVD, plus it's available on Netflix Watch Instantly, which makes it less of a risk. It's worth checking out.
For more info: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1630564/
Monday, May 9, 2011
I've seen this one a few times, including on Spike in 2007, around the time I was starting the DTVC. They played all 8 over the course of a week or so. Somehow, this fell under the radar and I forgot to review it then, which I didn't realize until only a few months ago when I went to look for the post and it wasn't there. Oops. No one I knew had it, and Netflix doesn't carry it anymore, so I finally had to break down and buy it. This does mark the completion of the Don "The Dragon" Wilson Bloodfist Series for us here. Friends of the DTVC who have hit this one before us: Movies in the Attic, Cool Target Action Reviews, and most recently, Ty at Comeuppance Reviews.
Bloodfist II is the only actual sequel, so to speak, in that Wilson plays the same character he did in part 1. Long story short, we have an Enter the Dragon paradigm, with Wilson thinking he's going to save a friend in Manilla from a gambler he owes money to, only to find he's drugged, shackled, and on a boat to an island to fight. "Mr. Lu, I think I'd like to leave your island." After a scuffle, he escapes into the water, comes back to the gambler's compound to get his fighter friends, and ends up captured again and fighting the gambler's 'roid heads. Will he prevail?
This is something of a transitional picture in the Bloodfist series, because, on the one hand it has the Enter the Dragon paradigm, which makes it something of a tournament film like its predecessor, but really it's more like Bloodfists IV-VIII, in that it has that whole anywhere Wilson goes there's a potential ambush he needs to fight his way out of. Yes, Enter the Dragon is a classic, and as something of a remake, Bloodfist II doesn't do it justice; but as a low-budget Wilson martial arts actioner, it really delivers. This is a great time, something you and your friends can get a kick out of, and there aren't any dead spots or any plot to get in the way of your action.
This is one of Wilson's best. No training montages like the first one, nothing to get in the way of just a series of scenes of Wilson getting ambushed and having to kickass his way out of it. I don't know that there's another action star who plays more innocent guys that get ambushed by gangs so often. When you look at, say, Dolph or Seagal, they're usually cops or secret servicemen who go into dangerous places and fight their way out; but Wilson can't go to the corner store for a six-pack without someone trying to kick his ass. And every movie is like that too, it's just expected that the old man with the walker lurking in the background while Wilson is paying his mortgage at the bank knows karate and is waiting to try and kill him.
Rina Reyes played Wilson's love interest/woman on the inside helping him out. She looks like a mix of Kim Cattrall and Lisa Bonet, which means she's really hot. She even rocks silver spandex, which can be very dangerous and unflattering on the wrong figure, but looks great on her. As far as I can tell on imdb, she still works, but mostly in the Philippines. Perhaps the best scene came when she and Wilson had their "moment". It was very 6th grade, how their hands brushed up against each other's, then they looked, asked with their eyes if the other meant that touch, and kissed with smooth jazz playing in the background. I guess they cut out the scene later on when Wilson passed her a note with the question "Be my girlfriend?" and two boxes labeled "Yes" and "No" underneath.
I always try to get my hands on a movie to watch it before I review it, even if I've seen it before, because I almost always forget great moments-- not that I don't forget them when I'm writing the review after having just seen it too! In this one, I had totally forgotten about a scene with Tim Baker at a gym, where Baker tells Wilson "I only talk to fighters when I train", which leads Wilson to jumpkick his punching ball off it's chain and into a sparring ring, hitting one of the fighters in the back. That's a gem that if I don't watch the film again I miss out on, and I'm glad I didn't.
Baker was one of a few great members of the supporting cast, which also included Joe Mari Avellana-- not reprising his role as Kwong from part 1. One of the ones that was interesting was Richard Hill, pictured above, or Rick Hill for short. See where I'm going with this, Rick Hill same name as Deathstalker Rick Hill. In the biography section of the DVD, they actually make this mistake, showing the picture of the guy above-- the guy who was actually in the film-- but then running off the list of accomplishments that the other Rick Hill had had in the industry. How does that happen? Whose job is it to make sure they have the right Rick Hill? And does it really matter? Probably not, right? It kind of gives the DVD character.
For some reason Netflix doesn't have this, but you can buy it new or used on DVD from Amazon, so it doesn't really make any sense. Anyway, if you're into good ol' late 80s/early 90s bad action, this is right in your wheelhouse-- and if you're not, are you sure you have the right blog?
For more info: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0099155/