The Direct to Video Connoisseur

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

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Centurion (2010)

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It's always been my dream to get a Michael Fassbender film on the DTVC, and, while this isn't exactly DTV, it did only earn about $150K on 12 screens here in the US; plus, in the context of my UK Week, it isn't so much of a shoehorn job. Nope, the DTVC is officially getting Sassy with Fassy, and it feels so good.

Centurion has Michael Fassbender as a Centurion defending the Roman frontier border in Britain when he's attacked by the Picts and taken prisoner. He's set free so some of them can hunt him down, and as he's running away, he bumps into General Dominic West's 9th Legion. He joins them, only to have almost the entire legion destroyed in a guerrilla attack. In an attempt to rescue West, who was captured, a less scrupulous member of the survivors kills a kid in the Pict camp, a kid who just happens to be the king's son. Now Fassy and his remaining men are in a struggle for their lives as they're stuck behind enemy lines, with a bloodthirsty hunting party hot on their heels. Will they make it back alive?

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I really liked this one. Very bloody, nasty, yet very cool in a comic book adventure kind of way. Fassbender anchored the cast, but there were also two killer Pict warrior women that were fun to watch, and a slew of other UK notables. I mentioned West above, plus I have a particular fondness for Paul Freeman and Liam Cunningham. I also liked how this was ambiguous in who the good guys were. We're rooting for Fassbender because he's Fassbender, but are we rooting for the Romans or the Picts? Do we not sympathize more with the Pict warrior woman who leads the hunt because of the savage way the Romans treated her in the past? Yet we can't help but be caught up in Fassbender's struggle for survival. This is a fun movie and worth checking out.

About a year ago I saw Hunger, and it was the first time I looked up Michael Fassbender on imdb. Two things struck me. First, his birthday is on April 2nd, one day after mine; and second, he is only 2 years older than me (or one year, 364 days). The idea that Fassbender would've been a junior when I was a freshman if we had gone to the same high school, is tough to fathom. Trying to imagine Fassbender as a high schooler is tough to fathom. I think Centurion is a great and unique way to experience Fassbender, because it's not the big Hollywood blockbuster or the hard hitting indie drama, but Fassbender delivers the same kind of professional performance. That's Sassy Fassy for you.

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This is another flick from Magnet Releasing. Look at their rap sheet just on the DTVC: Hobo With a Shotgun, Rubber, and Tucker and Dale vs. Evil. All four of these have been great, yet all four are totally different. The only thing they have in common is that they're off the beaten path, not quite mainstream. I guess they're also all very bloody. The red in the logo stands for blood. I think it's great though that we have someone like Magnet out there fighting the good fight, and getting us flicks like these that we might not otherwise have.

I wanted to mention Dominic West and Paul Freeman quickly. West was in a great version of King Richard III (Richard III) starring Sir Ian McKellen and Robert Downey Jr. If you haven't checked that out I suggest you do so. This isn't his first time on the DTVC either. He played Jigsaw in Punisher: War Zone. (This also isn't his first time with Fassy. They were in 300 together.) Paul Freeman is a different story. DTVC readers may remember him in Aces: Iron Eagle III, or, more notably, from Double Team. I wonder where that ranks for him. On the one hand, Michael Fassbender. On the other, JCVD and Dennis Rodman. Gotta love those guys.

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On my school trip, we finished up in Edinburgh, spending a couple days there. It was cool, we got to check out the Johnny Walker plant, along with some famous castles and whatnot. We also hit a lot of pubs, which didn't just mean drinking, but also meeting a lot of great people, who were often older but very gracious and welcoming to an 18-year-old-- which, looking back on it as a 33-year-old, was very good of them. At that time in my life, I didn't hike-- it wouldn't be for another 11 years before I'd discover that passion in my life-- and when I think of the mountains there that I didn't summit, it upsets me. I need to go back there sometime and make it happen.

And you need to get on Watch Instantly and make this one happen. Sassy Fassy, cool comic book style adventure, and loads of gore. This is the Roman period flick you came for, you won't be disappointed.

For more info: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1020558/

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

The Disappearance of Alice Creed (2009)

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This is the last of our Stars Play 11, and also the second of our UK Appreciation Week at the DTVC. I picked it to watch before Netflix dumped it in part because I had in mind the idea to do a week like this, and I'd wanted to check this out for sometime. Something of a darling on the indie film circuit, it did have a very limited (10 screens according to imdb) theatrical release here in the States, before going on to do its thing in the video market.

The Disappearance of Alice Creed follows two men (Eddie Marsan and Martin Compston), lovers, who kidnap a rich girl (Gemma Arterton), and hold her for ransom so they can run away together on the cash. But things don't go quite as planned when it's revealed that Martin and Gemma might be more intimate than Eddie realized.

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For me, this is the ultimate style over substance movie. Plot-wise, this is pretty trite and well-worn territory, even if it might be packaged in a different box. But it's really well-shot, and the way the tension builds then drops and we're strung along the entire time, is something far above what you'd expect from the plot's pay grade. This is truly inspired stuff in that sense. It also goes a little bit out there, not just in its brutality, but in the way it tries to cover every detail of the kidnapping. Do we need to know how they mitigate the issue of her going to the bathroom? Maybe not, but for those who feel they need that detail, the movie gives it in a way that makes you wish you didn't ask; but also in a way that adds depth to Alice Creed's plight as a kidnap victim. While this might be, as I said above, well-worn territory story-wise, it brings more than enough to the table stylistically that it's worth checking out.

We've done a lot of action films here at the DTVC, and a common plot element in them is the classic damsel in distress. Maybe she's restrained, maybe she isn't, but the idea is she's a helpless female waiting for our hero to save her. That is not anything close to what we have going on here. This is not some perfunctory hands-tied-in-front by the baddie, which allows our plucky heroine to in some way affect her escape, this is tightly tied to the bed with a ball-gag and a hood, nothing fun or romantic about that. It's very brutal in fact. You also may remember a film I did with a similar plot called Trap, and there I talked about the sensuality in bondage that the director, Jason Horton, played upon as the story unfolded. There's no sensuality here either, unless she's a hardcore chick, this is no Valentine's Day role-play. The Disappearance of Alice Creed deconstructs the notion of the damsel in distress in popular culture, and makes it much more brutal and visceral.

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That makes me wonder all the more why Gemma Arterton-- or any actor or actress for that matter-- would take a role like this. Not only would it be taxing to shoot these scenes, but, especially for an actress, none of this would look all that glamorous or flattering. She said that's why she picked this film, because it was so outside of her comfort zone, and she wanted something where she didn't have to worry about her hair and make-up. The next line most people would say after that is "you couldn't pay me enough...", except, she wasn't paid much for this either. The thing is though, no matter how good the other two actors were, this film is nothing if Arterton doesn't do what she did. I don't know how you equate it to something like Michael Fassbender starving himself for Hunger, but it's along the same lines and should be recognized as such.

Other than Arterton, Eddie Marson also has a pretty impressive Hollywood blockbuster CV (did you like my use of CV during UK week?). I almost didn't recognize him with the goatee. He's very chilling as the mastermind behind this plan, and works as a great counterbalance to Arterton's distress. Martin Compston is the man in the middle, and I don't want to give too much away by discussing his character. The only thing I'll say is it's with him that I felt like the writing was at its weakest, and as the character transitions, he feels the least organic. But, just the same, it's not the story, but the rest of the style that makes this a solid watch.

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This film was shot on the Isle of Man, and, unfortunately, my school trip didn't make it over there. One place we did go was Hull. I know what you're thinking, but it wasn't so much a tour stop, as it was where our hotel was after spending the day in York. It wasn't that bad, really. My buddy and I went out to one of the local bars and didn't have a problem. It was when we got back to the hotel that we found out that some of the kids from the New Jersey class that was traveling with us had excited some locals in a Rav-4. Why anyone would start trouble in a foreign city is beyond me, but Hull? Anyway, after that we were relegated to our hotel, where my buddy and I drank and played pool.

If you're looking for a strong, brutal, taut thriller, this might work for you. It may test your sensibilities, but it's also very well-shot, and the tension is woven masterfully. This isn't for everyone, but if you like what I've said about it, I'd give it a look.

For more info: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1379177/

Monday, April 23, 2012

Blitz (2011)

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This film had been on my radar for some time, but I also knew I wanted to do a UK week to celebrate the 15th anniversary of my high school trip there-- a trip which I remember very little of, not so much because it was so long ago, but because the 18-year-old me took full advantage of the fact that he could legally drink in the bars there. I do remember some of the trip though, plus, I know we have some great readers and fellow bloggers from the UK, so I thought this would be a great opportunity to spotlight our neighbors across the pond. Hopefully there aren't still any hard feelings about that American Revolution thing...

Blitz stars Jason Statham as an East London detective who is a little too violent for his superiors' tastes. Problem is though, someone is out there killing cops, and the only one that can stop him is our man. But can he keep himself from going over the edge and solve this case, or is going over the edge just what this case needs in order to be broken?

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Outside of Statham, this is still a pretty decent gritty suspense flick. It's very violent, and doesn't pull any punches as far as the gore and grossness goes. When you throw in Statham though, this is great. On the one hand he channels guys like Bronson, Keitel, and Pacino; but at the same time, he's quintessentially Statham. This is what you want when you see Statham on the cover, and it doesn't disappoint. I like too though that this isn't a high octane actioner, that it's a grimy, bloody police drama, but that Statham being Statham still works so well in it. Keep your eye out too for the foot chase, one of the better ones I've seen in a while. The end meanders a bit, but the actual end itself is good enough to overcome that. Overall this is a solid film.

When we look at who will be next in line after the greats like Dolph, Seagal, and Van Damme are done, Statham seems to be the one best poised to make that transition. I think Stallone understood that with the leading role he gave him in The Expendables, but just because he's in line, doesn't mean he'll exactly live up to that. Look at guys like The Rock and Vin Diesel, or the fact that guys like Matt Damon are given leading parts in action franchises. In the modern action landscape, there isn't as much room for the films we like, but Statham is definitely one that fits the bill when those roles come, and when they don't, he works in films like Blitz as opposed to Tooth Fairy movies.

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One thing I like about films made in the UK for UK audiences is that they feel more authentic than films made in the UK or starring Brits for American audiences. For instance, I have a vague idea that West London is a lot nicer than East London, but because this film was made for Brits, when a joke is made to that effect, it's not explained because everyone there knows it. More James Bond films should be like this. Who cares about the rest of the world, the whole thing should just be inside jokes that only Brits get. Fries should be chips, and chips should be crisps, and crisps should be short for Crispin Glover. (All right, maybe I made up the third one.)

Another film this reminded me of was the Michael Madsen cop drama Vice, which we did a while back. Both really bloody and gritty, not pulling any punches, not afraid to take it to that next level. They were also both about someone killing cops. Madsen is very different from Statham, though. He's all about fighting his demons and the struggle to keep his head above water; whereas Statham's character almost has no demons, he's more like a mechanism, and the police force sets him in motion at a target and hopes there isn't too much damage left in his wake. The key element that both films have though is an organic grittiness. It's not grafted on by a severed finger or something gross like that. It's there from the start and it pervades everything in the film. DTV film makers that want to channel Dark and Gritty should watch these movies to see how it's done right.

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My school trip, 15 years ago, was a tour of the UK that started in London, and ended in Edinburgh. The first three days were spent in Earl's Court in a gay neighborhood, and I think (because we also were put in a gay neighborhood in Edinburgh) that this was done on purpose to keep us out of the pubs. It didn't work, a kid from my class found a straight pub around the corner from our hotel, and the rest is a drunken haze. I did do some other things in London, like hit London Dungeons, some shopping in Leicester Square, and whatever tour things they scheduled for us. Nothing in East London though. They kept us out of that. If I had known at the time that I wouldn't be back anytime soon, I may have done more with my time-- or maybe not, considering I was only 18.

If you're a Statham fan, I think this will do the trick for you. It's vintage him, and he's there kicking ass and chewing scenery. The film itself is pretty solid too, and not just because Statham's in it either. Americans can check it out right now on Watch Instantly, and I think it's worth it.

For more info: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1297919/

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Miner's Massacre aka Curse of the Forty-Niner (2002)

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This is one I've been meaning to get to for some time, especially with the prodigious list of names associated with it. You've got Hall of Famer Martin Kove, plus DTVC favorites Richard Lynch, John Phillip Law, Vernon Wells, Karen Black, and Jeff Conaway. Can this possibly be bad? Do I need to ask based on some of the stinkers we've seen on here before?

Miner's Massacre is about a girl whose brother has just found some buried treasure, and sends her a map and a sample to let her know it's legit. Little does she know that he was killed by a ghostly Vernon Wells, the demoniac incarnation of an evil 49er who guards that gold, so when she gathers up her friends to find him and his treasure, it's a collision course to wackiness.

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This was a fun little horror film, though those names on the marquee are a little misleading. Let's see, Lynch has two scenes, one where he rips off one of the kids, and one right after where he's killed by Wells. That's better than Kove, who barely has one scene, and I don't believe he ever has a shot to himself. They intimated that he'd be a bigger part after he's introduced, but it never happens. Of this robust cast, Black has the biggest part, as the crazy aunt who tries to warn the kids and whatnot. Conaway has one flashback scene as a priest, which is technically Vernon Wells's only scene too (I believe someone else plays his modern, ghostly self). Then there's John Phillip Law, who plays the town sheriff, and also only has a couple scenes. I like that these actors are sprinkled in, but in some cases-- especially Kove's-- I would've liked to have seen more of them. Also, while some of the kills were good, some of the scenes with the kids where no one was getting killed could've been a lot shorter. I put this in the classic 3AM Paper Procrastination category, as opposed to something you'd go out of your way for.

Martin Kove is the film's one Hall of Famer, so we might as well start there, even though there isn't much to start. What, could they only afford him for half a' day? 15 minutes maybe? It did seem like his character was going to have more of an impact on the way the film went, but he really just disappears after that one scene. Also, weirdly enough, it's Karen Black's character who goes to him and tells him what's wrong, and he tells her to go inside his place where she's safe, while he looked like he was going to go out and get after it; only then, it's Black, not Kove, who is in the next scene with the kids, telling them about the evil 49er. Maybe there was supposed to be more Kove here-- though, on the other hand, he's an associate producer, so maybe there really wasn't.

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"Let off some steam, Bennett." That's right baby, Vernon Wells. I can't tell from the imdb credits if he was just in the scene where he plays his human self, or if he played the demon too. He makes a great villain in any case, and it was fun to see him in this, even in that limited capacity. I know what you're thinking, and I totally agree, the better thing to do would've been to have him not as a 49er, but in the chain mail like he was in Commando. And Martin Kove having to take him out instead of the kids. And Richard Lynch being blown up with a rocket launcher.

Of all the one-scene cameos in this, I'd say it was Lynch's, just edging out Jeff Conaway's that I was the most fine with. Would I have wanted more Lynch? Of course, who doesn't. And when you think about it, if this were the 1990s and this were a PM Entertainment actioner, Kove, Lynch, and Wells would've been the leads, with Black, Conaway, and Law all holding down solid supporting parts. Maybe throw in Lawrence Hilton-Jacobs, Sam Jones, and Ernie Hudson, and you have yourself a winner.

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Man, I love John Phillip Law. And if you love him too, you'll love his couple scenes as the town sheriff. That trademark voice, and creepy ear-to-ear grin, it's all there. I found myself quoting some MST3K Space Mutiny lines like "Man you look good" or "We're always laughing you and me", because he's so Calgon. But he's also more, he's quintessentially John Phillip Law, the B-Movie mainstay who brought it long before MST3K put him on the map. Here's to John Phillip Law, you were one of the good ones.

With a scant (scanty?) running time of 85 minutes, and availability on Watch Instantly, this isn't a huge investment. A pretty fun horror flick with some big names sprinkled throughout might be enough to get you to the church on time. For me, this isn't something you center a bad movie night around, it's more like something you dip into if you're dealing with a bout of insomnia, or, as I mentioned above, it's 3AM and you're procrastinating on that paper.

For more info: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0325214/

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Return of the Outlaws aka Mexican Gold (2009)

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This was on my radar because it has Lorenzo Lamas in it. Anything with a Hall of Famer will always make my radar. It's probably been in my Instant Queue for two or three years now, and when Netflix finally decided they were going to dump it, I decided I needed to finally watch it and review it.

Return of the Outlaws is about some bad guy who gets out of jail and is looking for the gold he and his buddies stole before he went in. So he goes to the first buddy, and when that guy isn't forthcoming with his info, the bad guy kills him and his wife, leaving his son an orphan. This brings the local sheriff into things, but when the bad guy is let free on a technicality by a crooked judge, the sheriff thinks something's up and wants to find out what. At the same time, this bad guy meets up with some other friends, and finds out his gold is being stored in a safe in a loony bin. Now he just needs to find a way in and get it.

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Notice I didn't mention Lorenzo Lamas's name in the synopsis. Guess how much of him is in the film? Exactly, and we'll get into that later. The bigger issue is whether or not this is a good movie, and I'm sure you have a feeling where I'm about to go. The thing that derailed this the most was how all over the place the plot was. Weird interludes that really didn't advance the plot, and even as padding didn't make a lot of sense. Large tracts of character development that, again, didn't get us anywhere and made me wonder why they felt the need to do it. The plot was saddled with elements that hindered as opposed to added depth to it, like the whole thing with the orphaned kid. Then, on top of all that, they did barely anything with the insane asylum, throwing it in as an afterthought. That's where this film could've made it's money, but, ended up being another bad decision in a movie full of bad decisions.

As always, we reserve this paragraph for a film's Hall of Famers, so here's where we'll talk about Lamas. He plays some small supporting character, a guy in jail who seems to know more than he's letting on, helping the sheriff out from behind bars while he plays solitaire. The biggest question I have is why? Why were you in this Lamas? Who were you doing a favor for? Was it about the money, did you need it that badly, and was it the bulk of their imdb listed $1.1 million budget? The worst part was seeing Lamas at the end in his Old West outfit, wondering what could've been if this had been a Lamas-centric western.

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The insane asylum miss was one of the biggest disappointments. It was one of those things too where I'm watching the film, they're talking about the gold in this loony bin, and I'm expecting some really good stuff, but I'm noticing that a lot of time is being wasted on interludes and useless character development, and the amount left for insane asylum scenes is dwindling. Again, this is where this movie should've made its money. The insane asylum with the gold in it shouldn't be the afterthought, it should be the goal, the denouement, if you will-- but I know you won't because you didn't.

The other standout for me in this was the beautiful Samantha Lockwood, who plays a hooker that the bad guy is in love with, and whom he hopes to run away with after he gets the gold. She's actually been in another film here at the DTVC, X-treme Fighter, which also has Lorenzo Lamas in a criminally underused role, and has the distinction of being the only "X" titled film we've ever reviewed. Because of the poor writing, her character seems to come out of nowhere near the end, playing a bigger part when she was more of a background character for most of the movie. Her character should've been a bigger deal from the start, it would've made more sense.

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Finally, I want to end on the images I've included for this movie. No, not the fact that all the ones in the post are Lamas, though I did do that on purpose because I was annoyed that he was so underused here; no, I'm mentioning the images because, as you may have already noticed, they look stretched, almost as if a full screen image was turned into widescreen. I want to make clear that this was a Netflix thing, not the film makers or distributors. For the most part the film looked like this, but occasionally it popped back into the original aspect ratio, which looked much better. The thing is, I saw this one right after Watch Instantly was down for a night, and considering the movie was going to be dumped the next day, I'm wondering if these were new issues with the film that Netflix decided to just let lie with the film on its way out anyway. I wonder too if the film makers have any recourse for something like that.

Because, even if the film is sauteed in wrong sauce, it deserves to be shown right. Anyway, you see Lorenzo Lamas in a western and you think you might want to check this out, don't. This is a painfest, with very little Lamas to lighten the load. Stay away.

For more info: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0830593/

Friday, April 13, 2012

Caged Fury (1990)

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For the second of two films I'm doing for Seth at The Lost Video Archive's Week of Hong, I'm taking a look at Caged Fury, a women in prison film with James Hong, Erik Estrada, Michael Parks, and Richie Barathy, among others. It looked like it could be intriguing. Let's see how it did.

Caged Fury is about a girl named Kat who goes out to Hollywood from Utah. Along the way, she picks up a girl who was hitchhiking and didn't like her driver after he tried to get payment out of her in a carnal way. In LA, this hitchhiker hooks her up with her boyfriend, who just so happens to know a talent agent. If a thing sounds too good to be true, it probably is, and she and her hitchhiker friend end up in a faux jail, filled with white slaves. Luckily for her, she made friends with Erik Estrada the night before, and he and his buddy, Richie Barathy, are looking for her. Plus, her sister, who looks nothing like her, is also on the case. Then there's police detective James Hong. All three of these forces must be able to put something together to stop this.

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But can they make this movie any good in a very limited capacity? I'm going to have to say no. It's probably one of the things that truly derails this film, the fact that Hong, Estrada, and Michael Parks aren't in this that much. I liked Barathy, and when he goes ape shit on the faux prison, taking fools out-- including Ron Jeremy-- it's pretty fun. Best part for me was when he kicks through a wall. There were some other moments that were funny in an 80s/90s B-movie kind of way, plus some familiar faces like Melissa Moore and Gregory Scott Cummins, and all of that together might-- might-- make it a fun choice on a bad movie night. On the other hand, there isn't enough T-n'-A to make it a good exploitation flick, but there's also too much of a dark aspect to make it a really fun movie too, and that makes this kind of hard to fully recommend.

We'll start with Hong again, though there isn't much to work with here. He has like two scenes. That's it. Our heroine's sister goes to the police station to find out what happened to her sister, and talks to him; then later, his dumbass partner takes the emergency call from our heroine, and it's Hong who puzzles out that she's the girl her sister was looking for, and they manage to trace where the call comes from, though not in time to save a bunch of women from being shot to death by the guards. He still has that trademark tongue-in-cheek humor that makes having him in this, if only for two scenes, a lot of fun. Still, I just wish there were more of him.

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I believe this is our first women in prison film at the DTVC. I don't know, it's always been a genre that sounds like fun at the time, but, when done wrong, can be very disquieting. There isn't so much a chauvinistic quality to them, as opposed to a seeming desire to see women put through a lot of violent, sexual abuse, which doesn't work for me. Just women in jail with shower scenes and lesbian scenes and a butch guard and warden who get their comeuppance later, that sounds good, but that's not always what we get, and that's not what we got here, which was too bad.

Erik Estrada looked like he was primed to be this film's star, only to see him drop off the map like Hong and Parks. How did this happen? He and Barathy beat up a bunch of bikers early in the film to save our heroine, then he's gone, then he comes back with Barathy to investigate the girl's disappearance, is shot in the arm, and then proceeds to let Barathy save the day, while he swoops in at the very end and gets the girl. Not one of Estrada's finest moments.

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Michael Parks plays our heroine's father, and he has some really good scenes, including a couple with some genuine emotion. How did Michael Parks find himself in these kinds of movies? But this was the kind of thing he did, and has done for a long time. It's been good to see him used in some more mainstream films lately. He's a guy who definitely deserves his due, and even I need to showcase him more on here.

But this week is about showcasing James Hong, and, unfortunately, this film doesn't feature him much, and suffers for that. Thought it had its moments, it needed more from its stars to carry a plot that wasn't sexy and exploitation enough, but too dark to have fun with. Ultimately, this is a pass for me, but with its availability on Watch Instantly, you may want to take your chances.

For more info: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0097004/

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

South Beach Academy (1996)

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Our buddy Seth over at Lost Video Archive has organized a week dedicated to the films of James Hong, and among the many blogs he invited to join him, the DTVC was one. I jumped at the chance-- I mean, who doesn't love James Hong? And I had a few of his films already on my radar, including this one, which also starred DTVC favorite Corey Feldman.

South Beach Academy is about a (in)famous school on Miami's South Beach that teaches classes on how to enjoy oneself in the sun and surf. It's run by Grandpa Munster, uncle to Harry and Billy (Corey Feldman). Harry has been down there for a while, and is very popular with the locals; while Feldman has just shown up from North Dakota, and ready to get after it. Not so fast though, Grandpa Munster is a bit of a gambling man, and he's into local mob moss Johnny Staccato (the great James Hong) for a huge bet that, if he loses, will force him to forfeit the academy. Well, Harry and Feldman can't let this happen, so they do everything in their power to defeat Staccato. Will it be enough?

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Based strictly on USA Up All Night nostalgia, this is pretty sweet. It's exactly the kind of thing you'd see on there at like 3AM, only on USA, all the boobs would've been blurred out. And there are tons of boobs in this, so it's like USA Up All Night plus. On the other hand, as far as a beach romp type film goes, this is woefully inadequate. There's really no romping going on. A movie like this should be following in the steps of Porky's, but instead, it's more like that Saved by the Bell season they spent working at that resort with Leah Remini. That's kind of too bad, because Hong was hilarious, Grandpa Munster was tons of fun, and who knows what Feldman was, but he was great too; but all of that is wasted on a bad plot about some Harry guy and the volleyball playing woman he has his heart set on.

We might as well start with Mr. Hong, since the week and this post is dedicated to him. He was easily the funniest person in the cast. In fact, had he had better material, he might have been even more funny. This film does one of those deals where it kind of starts at the end then goes back to the beginning and spends the next 70 minutes getting back to the start that's really the end. Anyway, at the beginning (that's really the end), our hero, Harry, encounters Hong in a bedroom in Hong's yacht, where he has some girl bound and gagged on his bed, and he's tickling her and whatnot. We find out later that she's our hero's girl, and it's really just a damsel in distress scenario; but it would've been so great if she was just some random girl he was doing that with while Harry stumbles onto him, which is what I thought originally. The crazier the better in a romp picture, and this movie was just too afraid to go there.

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Corey Feldman was all over the place. Like the USA Up All Night nostalgia factor, we also have a high Feldman novelty factor too. There's nothing wrong with that. Maybe his jokes aren't that funny-- though some of them were--, do I care? I'm just loving that we have Corey Feldman in this. The mid-90s Feldman DTV flicks were always fun, and, while this movie could've been better-- and could've had more Feldman-- it still has that mid-90s Feldman feel that I'm looking for when I see his name on a film like this.

This is our third volleyball film at the DTVC, the other two being the C. Thomas Howell classic Side Out, and the David Charvet flick Beach Kings. Side Out, obviously, is the greatest volleyball movie of all time, so this would've had trouble compared to that; and Beach Kings was pretty painful, so saying this was better isn't saying much. This should've been the ultimate beach volleyball romp, and it never got there, which was very disappointing.

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Finally, how can I not mention Grandpa Munster? He was fantastic. He was like 73 at the time, hitting on all kinds of women, making tons of great Don Rickles-esque jokes. The problem is, again, he was only scratching the surface of what you'd want a dirty old man Grandpa Munster to be doing in a romp-style movie. You need to turn him loose in something like this, and they never quite did it. Also, we had some Ron Jeremy as a sleazy strip club owner. In true wasted romp style, his comeuppance is the barely-an-afterthought shove into the pool. Come on, really? No elaborate prank?

Ultimately though, for me anyway, the USA Up All Night nostalgia makes this a yes despite its shortcomings. In 1996, if I were coming home at 3AM, with blurred vision and trying to keep the room from spinning so I could sleep without getting sick, this would've been a pretty fun deal. A sober me in 1996, maybe notsomuch; but a sober me now can appreciate it, and it is a little fun blast from the past.

For more info: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0111248/

Friday, April 6, 2012

Blubberella (2011)

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I'd been wanting to do more Uwe Boll and Michael Paré, saw this was on Watch Instantly, and figured I'd give it a go. Did I have high hopes? I don't know. Uwe is all kinds of hit and miss. One moment you get BloodRayne: The Third Reich, which didn't work at all for me; the next you get In the Name of the King 2: Two Worlds, which came in behind Mega Python vs. Gatoroid for my best DTV flick of 2011. If Blubberella is anything in between, I'll be happy.

Blubberella is a spoof of BloodRayne: Third Reich starring Lindsay Hollister as our eponymous heroine. She's a half human half vampire living in 1940s Germany, looking for potential suitors on a Jewish dating site. Problem is, all her dates are standing her up. When she discovers it's the Nazis that are the cause of this, she vows to kill them all, and this brings her into contact with the resistance, led by Brendan Fletcher, with whom she's immediately smitten. Unfortunately, in her blood lust for Nazis, she's accidentally turned Paré, and now he and Clint Howard want her blood so they can make an army of vampires to conquer the world.

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I don't know what to do with this one. It's not only a spoof of BloodRayne: The Third Reich, but it's shot in all the locations, with the entire cast except for Natassia Malthe. It's kind of like in the style of Scary Movie, only mixed with Uwe Boll. Very few of the jokes were funny, but it was almost because they were so unfunny that they were intriguing, if that makes sense. And a lot of it was just weird, like when Blubberella has a dream where she's playing Risk with Adolf Hitler (played by Boll) and (I think) Brendan Fletcher in black face. I don't know, what do you do with that? I guess I got my wish, this was somewhere in between BloodRayne: The Third Reich and In the Name of the King 2, but that's not much of a help.

Getting back to that dream sequence... I don't know.... The black face would be appalling, if this weren't a dream sequence, but in that sense it almost adds to the surrealism. I also think Boll was making fun of Robert Downey Jr.'s character in Tropic Thunder. Speaking of Boll, seeing him as Hitler is a trip. It's more than just them playing Risk. He has a meal and checks out her Jewish dating site profile with her too. There's something very Uwe Boll about the whole thing, and, I don't know, like I said above, what do I do with that?

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For some reason, there's a scene here that parodies Precious. This scene also features some black face. Of all the movies to make fun of, Precious isn't at the top of my list. I don't know, there isn't a lot in a girl living with a violently abusive mother and has a father who made her pregnant twice and infected her with AIDS that warrants humor. I don't even know if this scene was Boll's idea, because there were more writers in on this than just him. It was just very weird.

Blubberella was played by Lindsay Hollister, and I think she did pretty well. It was a lot of self-deprecating humor-- including one random scene where she's in a meat locker dropping off sausages and stuff-- but when it went away from "hey, guess what, I'm fat, isn't that funny?", and did some more fun stuff, she was definitely up to the task. I think this movie, especially with some of he odder scenes, like the Uwe Boll as Hitler ones, could've worked better without all the fat jokes, and just rested on the fact that Hollister as a big woman was playing a superhero.

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Finally, I want to give a big shout out and congratulations to our buddy Mitch over at The Video Vacuum for making it into this film. You can see him there in the blue Mexican wrestler mask. What's most amazing is how humble he's been about it. Anyone else with a movie blog-- yours truly included-- would've been trumpeting an appearance in an Uwe Boll flick all over the place, but Mitch, he kept it under the radar. Well Mitch, because you were too classy to do it yourself, I'll do it for you, and let the world know about your cool cameo in Blubberella.

And on that good note, let's wrap this up. You may find this offensive. You may find it hilarious. You may find it exceedingly unfunny. Or you might be like me an have no idea what to do with it. First thing I'd say is, if you have any plans to see this, watch BloodRayne: Third Reich first, just so you get some of what they were going for. Otherwise, tread at your own risk.

For more info: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1756427/

Thursday, April 5, 2012

2-Headed Shark Attack (2012)

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I'd been hearing a lot of great things about this one, and couldn't wait to make it happen. Then Netflix Watch Instantly aided in the process, and I had no more excuses, the time was now. Before we get into my take, three of our buddies have hit this as well: Mr. Gable at Mr. Gable's Reality, Tromeric at Guts and Grog Reviews, and Mitch at The Video Vacuum. Go see what those guys are up to, you won't be disappointed.

2-Headed Shark Attack is about some semester-at-sea program that looks like it came from one of those "universities" that advertises medical assistant programs during Maury and Jerry Springer episodes. As you can imagine, with something that well run, there wouldn't be any problem with a bunch of college kids out on a yacht in the middle of the Atlantic-- er Pacific-- Ocean, especially with a 2-headed shark lurking in the water. That's right, one shark, twice the killing power, and a whole smorgasbord of co-eds served up by professor Charlie O'Connell, who doesn't know his head from his ass. But hey, if you survive the semester, you get to wear scrubs and work in a doctor's office!

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I don't know where to go on this one. Loved the last 30 minutes. Didn't care for a good chunk of the first hour. Useless scenes of bad, poorly acted dialog, that got us nowhere, and, most importantly, left us severely bereft of any 2-headed shark attacks. Also, this film starred Carmen Electra, and she was woefully underused. How did you drop the ball on that one Asylum? That last half-hour though, that was what I came for. Where were you all my life? I loved the camp aspects, the bad Jaws rip-offs, the CG and rubber sharks, all of that worked, I just wish there was more of that and less of college kids reciting bad dialog poorly. I was looking for something to rival Shark Attack, Shark Attack III, or Cruel Jaws, and unfortunately, I didn't get that.

That lack of Carmen Electra might be one of the most egregious mistakes this film made. Come on Asylum, you do a great job with Tiffany and Debbie "Deborah" Gibson, but all you do with Carmen Electra was give her one sunbathing scene, and a few other lines? This should've been her show. She should've been the professor, not Charlie O'Connell. Seriously, Charlie O'Connell? What, were Don Swayze and Frank Stallone busy? But I do see that you had no qualms about making Carmen Electra top billed despite the fact that you gave her smaller part. After how amazing last year's Mega Python vs. Gatoroid was, I was looking at something in that ballpark. While this wasn't horrible, it wasn't that great either.

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In any shark attack film, it's important to discuss the main villain, and I think this 2-headed variety wasn't half bad. The problem for me, is that this shark film, unlike the ones I enjoyed, is that this one went away from what made it great for a good chunk of time-- the shark. In those other films, we had a scientist (O'Connell's character loosely qualifies) on a beach location, called into confront a problem, and trying all the tricks in his scientist toolbox to save the day; all the while, on a pretty steady clip, people are being eaten. The way this started off, I thought we were in for the same thing. But, because they had this silly semester-at-sea construct, we were stuck on the boat for an inordinate amount of time, then stuck on the island after the boat's hull was breached. Sometimes, just keeping it on the beach is the best way to do it.

I'm not sure I've watched a movie for this blog that was harder to capture images for. Fred Olen Ray's son, Christopher, directed this, and it looks like it was all shot on a handi-cam. Either the camera is moving at all times, or the actors are. Hey, I'm all for dynamic shots, but there's a point where you need to cut back on the Red Bull. Leave the jumpcuts and constant motion for the attack scenes, and let me relax my eyes for a second the rest of the time. Hey, people have blogs to write and images need to be captured in the process. Can you help us out a little?

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I wanted to quickly mention Brooke Hogan's character, because I like what they did with it here. Normally her part would've been played by a guy: the total dick who's also kind of heroic and can save the day. I liked that they gave it to Brooke Hogan, and I think she did pretty well with it. It would've been much better though if her character wasn't the one this hinged upon. We needed Carmen Electra as the scientist and shark expert. And we needed this on a beach. And we needed Electra to want to close the beaches. And we needed mayor M. Emmett Walsh to tell her that's not possible during the peak tourist season.

Okay, so we've seen a lot worse from The Asylum, but we've seen a lot better too. Netflix Watch Instantly is the best place for this, because, at 87 minutes, it's not the longest investment, and if you can stream it, all you're investing is time. It's quite possible that the good in that first hour will outweigh the bad for you, but it didn't for me; on the other hand, there is a very solid finish, and that might be enough to get you to the church on time.

For more info: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt2043757/

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Popcorn (1991)

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We're starting to get to the end of our Stars Play 11, this being the tenth. I went with this one because, though I'd never seen it before, I remembered seeing it on the video store shelves, and while it did make about $4 mill at the box office, that still puts it safely under my $10 million maximum for qualification. Which will this be, 90s cult horror classic, or total swing and miss?

Popcorn follows the struggling film department at a small university that decides to clean up an old local theater and host a classic horror triple bill in order to make some much needed cash. In their clean up, though, they come across an old film reel, which reveals some creepy footage-- creepiest of all to our heroine Maggie, because the film is exactly like the bad dreams she's been having. Turns out her dad ran a cult, and he made that movie, with the plan that he'd kill her and her mom before the final act. He got her mom, but obviously not her, and when, during the night of the shows, her fellow classmates start dropping, she suspects old dad might be back to finish his final act.

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I don't know what this was supposed to be. Camp horror comedy? Maybe, but then why is the baddie out for revenge because he was badly burned at the showing of the creepy film however many years before? That was pretty dark, getting into details about how horrible his childhood was after having his face disfigured. You gotta give us one or the other. It's either camp or dark, and when you get dark like that, you lose all the camp; but when that same dark baddie is killed by an enormous mosquito puppet, you've lost me. A lot of the film was like that too: really dark here, really campy there. A film needs one solid identity, otherwise we as an audience are lost.

The thing is, this didn't even need to be a horror film. This would've been great as a fun feel good movie about a struggling film department and what they went through to put on this show. That was the interesting part. And when the show actually happened, all the cool horror fans that attended made it even more fun. Plus the throwback horror films they made bits and pieces of for the movie were great too. Those were things that this should've leaned on more, and then developed some of the really cool characters in the students and faculty that now can be developed because they don't need to be killed off so quickly. It could've been like Summer School, only for a college film studies program.

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Jill Shoelen plays Maggie, the heroine, and I bring her up, because she's in another horror flick that came out in theaters four years earlier, didn't do as well at the gate, but lived onto cult status after while this one dropped off into obscurity. The film I'm talking about is The Stepfather. I think what makes The Stepfather so superior to this, is that one, it has a clear and consistent identity, and 2, it has a real memorable baddie that is well developed throughout. So the question is, $2 million more at the box office, or cult status and a remake over 20 years later?

Other stars in this include Dee Wallace-Stone (now just Wallace) as Maggie's aunt, Tony Roberts as the film department head, and Ray Walston as some kind of Hollywood memorabilia honk who helps renovate the theater, then disappears from the film. All of these have minor parts and are really there to sell the film by having their faces splashed across the cover. Another name I thought I'd mention is Kelly Jo Minter, who plays one of the students. You may remember her from Summer School, Nightmare on Elm Street 5, or The Lost Boys. Personally, I remember her from House Party, where she told Play "I don't even appreciate how you're treating me right now." and Play replied "Ooh, but I do appreciate how you look in that dress."

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Finally, I loved seeing that TDK cassette tape there. They were the ones with the ad where the guy gets blown away in his seat, right? The old mix tape, once the hallmark of any a music listening experience, now an extinct dinosaur, only to appear in 80s and 90s films. I had a buddy who as recently as ten years ago still made mix tapes. He used to get these clear dark blue ones that looked like they were made out of Clearly Canadian bottles-- Christ, even Clearly Canadian is dated, isn't it?

Before I start feeling too old, I better wrap this up. Not enough nostalgia, not sure if it wants to be camp or dark, and ultimately a miss for me. I'd get your 80s/90s trip down memory lane fix somewhere else, because this one didn't do it for me. Try the original Stepfather instead.

For more info: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0102690/