Sunday, January 31, 2010

Blockbuster Trash: Pulse II

We're hitting upon the direct-to-DVD sequel territory now, the darkest area you can go to as a movie reviewer.  These things are usually lower-budget, lacking in stars and barely-related.  On top of that, you risk wandering into Remake-quel territory.  If you need any proof, I will sight 8MM 2 and Wargames 2: The Omega Code.  Thankfully, this is not one of those.  However, knowing what little I know about the American version of Pulse, I can barely say that this is a sequel.  Apparently, that movie ends with the ghosts all coming into our world.  This movie jumps on from there, but feels like something completely different.  It is sort of like how Feast was about people trapped in a bar, while Feast 2 involves a midget and some lesbian bikers running around a town.  I've stalled long enough, so let's dial up my review of...
The film begins by meandering around with a few characters.  One woman wanders around in the wake of the internet ghost's invasion (although, the third film is the one that has the subtitle of Invasion).  Meanwhile, a man dresses up in all red and tapes his clothes on to his body.  Guys, want to explain any of this?  On top of that, we get nothing but the world's shittiest green screen work for minutes on end.  Seriously, Feast 2's rooftop scene looks like Avatar by comparison!  Finally, around the fifteen minute mark, we get a bit of an explanation...about the woman.  In regards to the red man, you're going to have to be patient.  The woman is looking for her daughter, who is apparently missing.  She thinks that she has found her, but the girl runs away.  I know- I was expecting a jump scare there too!  We also meet a man who is looking for a little girl as well, leading us to...another fake jump scare.  Does that make you clever?  Anyhow, the girl is the daughter of the man.  We learn through the man reading his wife's journal that she died.  Wait, she is an internet ghost too?  That makes everything you've shown me- entirely pointless.  Thanks.
*
The man takes his daughter to his cabin, but not before they are stopped by a gang of armed, fat guys.  They actually remind me of the people in the Family Guy episode centered around the Y2K disaster.  Good times!  At the cabin, the pair is joined by the man's girlfriend, whose first response is to bitch at him about not picking her up.  This coming from a lady who steals a car from a man who just exploded into ash and drives it to the cabin owned by the man whose family she split up.  Anyhow, the idiot guy brings his laptop, which turns itself on.  Oh my God, Windows 7 has become self-aware!  These people act like the apes from 2001 at this sight and spend nearly five minutes alternating between 'turn it off' and 'don't touch it.'  They manage to finally power it down, but the guy logs on later that night.  By the way, they get a signal out in the woods.  In the morning, our heroes try to get away, but the girlfriend gets her soul ripped out by the ghost/wi-fi wife.  The survivors flee, but get confronted by the red-suited man.  He explains that red is the only color that they cannot get through, since the Green Lantern rule is apparently in effect.
*
The weird man explains that he needs a certain component to create his something-or-other.  Do they explain it?  Nope.  Does this bit add anything?  Well, we get a long scene of our hero trying to scramble away from a ghost/download, but that's about it.  The guy leaves them with a spool of red tape and goes on his way.  See you in the third film, maybe...I don't know.  Around this time, the 'fat guys with guns' story wraps up when one of them goes to the cabin, only to find the topless ghost of the girlfriend.  Gee, I guess you failed to check the 'no nudity' clause.  She seduces the man, only to cover him in that goop from Spider-Man 3 and kill him.  The next night, they wrap the car up in red tape...which is weird even in context.  That morning, however, the girl sees the ghost of her mom and goes to see her.  Honey, you were there when your mom exploded into ash, so I think you realize that she died!  Fortunately, a bus shows up and promises to take them to a shelter that is Wi-Fi free.  This was set-up in the original Pulse, making this more like Pulse 1.5 or something.  They run through the field to the bus, but the ghost of mom shows up again.  After some tension, it spares the man.  He stands around too long, however, and the girlfriend ghost kills him.  Don't celebrate until you're safe, dumb-ass!  The girl gets away to live happily ever after...until Pulse 3: Invasion.
*
Yeah, this movie is bad.  While I have not seen Pulse- even I have some standards- I doubt that it would improve a thing.  If anything, I think it would make it worse.  For starters, I doubt the movie has green screen standing in for sets for the first half of it!  Secondly, that film focused on some young, target-demographic teens, while this one is about an unhappy couple, a dead lady and a little girl.  Plus, we're just settled in with the idea of ghosts invading us via the internet, so nobody wants to address this.  If you want to bring in people, you may have to explain your weird voodoo/Wi-Fi magic!  The movie hits all of the cliches of low-budget horror and nothing more.  While I can't vouch for the original Japanese film Kairo, it has to be better than this!
*
Next up, a film that I did just to prove a point to my friends.  They could not handle it, but could I?  Did it finally break me?  Stay tuned...

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Morality Lessons from 'Fable II': Swingers

I might as well turn my new game addiction into a segment, since it is helping slow my pace of reviewing.  The goal: give you life lessons- right or wrong- that I have learned from it.

1. Don't let your two wives meet.

Being the sleazy Fable character that I am, I married the woman who was described as anything but pure.  I figured that she and my other wife could get a little freaky.  She did not respond the way I thought she would.

Who would have guessed?

Up next, a couple lessons in safe sex from Lionhead Studios.  Stay tuned...

Mondo-Filipino: For Your Height Only

Who does not love midgets?  I mean, they're like people, only they can fit in most backpacks!  There is one name that any fan of foreign action and adventure should know: Weng Wang.  I'll give you a moment to stop laughing.  Now then, Mr. Wang...this is not helping, is it...was a big ...okay, I'm not trying to do that...star in his home country.  His star status came from a series of movies in which he plays Agent 00.  Get it- he's short, so he doesn't get the full name!  You may think that the joke is lame...and you would be right.  Even so, this movie is pure awesome in a can- see you later, Prince Albert!  Don't believe me?  Check out my review of...
For Your Height Only
The movie begins with our hero (Weng Wang) in action.  In the first shot of him, he is wielding a full-sized machine gun, as if his small stature was not extremely evident.  He is a spy who works for the government and must stop the evil plans of Mr. Big.  Damn you, Chris Noth!  By the way, when I said I was using that review format last- I lied.
*
+ Agent 00 is given a bunch of gadgets by his boss, including a ring that can detect poison (don't ask), X-Ray Glasses and a remote control flying hat.  They all get one use (i.e. Wang catches a woman trying to poison him) and are never seen again.
+ Agent 00 befriends the girlfriend of a gang member and gets her help on getting information.
+ While battling one guy in a hotel, the fight ends in a room occupied by a woman.  With a simple 'Hey, wanna screw,' she falls for him.
+ Agent 00 kicks a lot of as, although most of it involves him punching/kicking people in the groin.  In fairness, that is right in his line of sight.
+ Near the climax, Agent 00 flies a jet pack over to the enemy's base.  Suck on that, Black Samurai!
+ He also beats up a bunch of men in karate gear with a katana.  Thankfully, they have one that is to scale
+ The final battle involves Mr. Big who...is a dwarf.  I guess being 4" tall instead of 3" tall counts, huh?  They kung-fu fight, but you already know who wins.
*
Like I said, this movie is awesome.  It has no right to be, but manages nonetheless.  Weng Wang had an odd star power that is simply unexplainable.  It is hard to imagine that a 2'9" action star could work, but he does.  The movie is not meant to replace the James Bond movies and is just meant to be fun.  In that regard, it succeeds.  The Mondo Macabro release of this comes packed with Challenge of the Tiger, which is a nice bonus.  If you like weird movies, this is a must-see and, just maybe, a must-own.
*
Up next, the direct-to-video sequel to the American remake of a J-Horror film.  When you can't get Kristen Bell to be in your movie, what does that say?  Stay tuned...

Syndicated Incorporated: Cobra

A television show starring Michael Dudikoff- sign me up!  But, before that, a bit of history.

This series was made in the mid-1990s and was originally supposed to be called 'Viper.'  However, Dodge through their car licensing behind another show, complicating the mess.  That show got the name Viper (future entry if it ever gets a DVD release) and left this show in its wake.  Of course, Cobra bombed and Viper managed to get 78 episodes.

The show is about Dudikoff playing Jason 'Scandal' Jackson, a Navy SEAL who quit when he was told to blow up a building full of people in order to get some bad guys.  Of course, they don't show us this.  Instead, we get an hilarious shot of our hero with a fake nose, a mustache and a mullet!  Why?  Because he gets shot in the face in the next scene and taken to the hospital.  Thanks to some brutal doctors, he turns into...his normal face!  Oh, the horror.

He is recruited to work for an organization called COBRA, which helps those who cannot afford help.  The place is run by the bald guy from Masters of the Universe (aka James Tokan), a man who dresses in nothing but bright suits and vests.  Good thing those won't be dated in minutes!  He also works with a young woman to work with who is the 'I'm really smart, but also approachable' type.  Don't you just love cliches?

This show is nothing but action cliches, although it not is terrible.  The fact that Dudikoff spends a whole episode wearing a white jacket and red shirt- that is terrible!  Honestly, it is worth a look just for the sight of Dudikoff's mullet!

Next up, an icon of 1980s action cinema comes to the small screen.  Unfortunately, it is Canadian!  Stay tuned...

Friday, January 29, 2010

Cop Land: Cyborg Cop

We're near the end of Law Enforcement Week, so it's about time I covered a film by Sam Firstenberg.  This is the man who directed American Ninja 1-2, so expectations are- naturally- high.  Fun fact: Firstenberg directed a real Delta Force movie and the first of the Operation Delta Force series, a knock-off.  As I said in my teaser, it also stars David Bradley, the cream of the crop of action stars...if the stock had gone bad.  He's not terrible, but, oh is he dull.  He makes Michael Dudikoff look like a well-rounded actor that did not disappear off the face of the Earth in 2002.  Seriously, come back, Michael!  About this movie though...it also features John Rhys-Davies, so that's a plus.  Before I get off-topic again, let's dive right into...
The movie begins in the middle of a hostage situation, which is apparently being handled by two DEA Agents and nobody else.  The guy says crazy things about being a newspaper tycoon's son, which is somewhat undermined by his holding of a gun to woman's head!  One of them gets in trouble for using cop-killer bullets- since the man had on a bullet-proof vest- and is kicked off the force in a 'holy shit, could you cram more exposition into these headlines?!?' scene.  After a time-jump, we learn that the 'sane' brother is getting ready to adopt a kid.  I'm sorry, but could you not toss random plot points at me, please?!?  Before he can do that, however, he has to go on a covert mission on a deserted island.  Um, priorities, anyone?  He leaves the kid with his 'psycho cop uncle' and goes off, telling the kid that he went to Chicago.  The commandos end up on the island, but get spied on by a toy airplane controlled by an evil scientist (Davies).  I should mention that this movie was made in 1993 and long before U.A.V.s became used often.  As we learn near the end of this scene, the plane is also equipped with a bomb!  How is all of that on a model plane that is being controlled from a mile away?
*
The whole thing is a trap and most of the men are killed.  Near the end of it, Davies sends out one of his cyborg men, who kills the cop's friend and cuts his arm off with his finger claws.  Now a captive, the cop is turned into a cyborg killing machine.  Wait!  That means he is half-man and half-machine...yeah, I'm doing this joke again.  He somehow sent a package back to his brother, however, that alerts him to come to the island.  He does the only logical thing: he too ditches the kid and goes off for adventure.  See you in the pre-credits scene, kiddo!  On the island, he runs into a lady reporter and acts like a douche-bag to her solely because she works for the same paper that got him fired... by making him break the rules?  He keeps running into her, however, and ends up inadvertently taking her for a ride as he escapes from the corrupt police.  Surprisingly, going into the country under his own name and not disguising himself got the attention of the man who had just captured his brother!  The pair turn into a couple in shockingly-quick fashion, which becomes clear later when she spends the last 20 minutes of the film as a captive.  Let's get that token breast shot out of the way too, Sam.  There you go. Things become clear to our hero when some thugs working for Davies come to get him.  To fit in with the island theme, this occurs at a bar filled with Rastafarian men.  Afterward, he follows a lead to the morgue, only to be attacked by the cyborg.  After getting tossed around for five minutes, Bradley zaps the creation with an open cord that the cyborg created- good job!  Unfortunately, during all of this, the woman is captured.
*
Our hero makes his plans to get in, while Davies has a problem.  You see, the robot he sent to kill Bradley was also the one he was going to sell to the guys trying to create a coup in the country.  Well, when in doubt, sell the brother instead.  Bradley breaks in and begins to toss around explosives.  Apparently, he has an endless bag of them, as he can be seen tossing out at least a dozen of them!  We also learn that the boss from earlier who set up the mission was bad the whole time- duh- and he is killed by the titular character.  Our hero breaks in and snaps his brother out of the programmed-trance.  If you thought that this sounded familiar to the scene in Universal Soldier II, you would be right.  The good cyborg battle the re-tooled one from before- he's on the cover- and our hero saves the girl.  Unfortunately, the brother dies because...um...a spark hit him, I guess.  We're not done though- the other one is back.  Bradley battles it by...riding past it six times on a motorcycle, kicking it and knocking its head off.  After this happy ending, we see that Bradley and the reporter adopted the boy.  That's...somewhat not how adoption really works.  The End.
*
This movie is, well, quite bad.  The acting is terrible (although Davies is fun), the plot is ridiculous and the action is underwhelming.  I've said it before and I'll say it again: Bradley will never be my American Ninja!  To be honest, you can have a lot of fun with this movie.  It's pure, unintentional camp, it has stupid performances (i.e. the awkwardly-forced kiss by Bradley to the woman) and stuff that is just there to cloy at you (i.e. the kid).  I will never accuse it of being boring, especially considering that it begins right in the middle of an action scene and gives no prior exposition.  Oddly enough, I've actually watched the other films in the series about three years ago, long before I knew it actually was one.  I guess I'll have to complete this series too!  It's not like I don't have enough of those on my plate!
*
Next up, a Filipino cop defies all expectations and saves the day.  He does it all while being...2'9"  This should be interesting, don't you think?  Stay tuned...

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Cop Land: Samurai Cop

Another bad movie about an action star playing a law enforcement officer- hurray!  This one comes to us from 1989, although it was not exactly a big movie.  According to stories, this movie was found in a vault over in some Italian guy's villa.  Is that true?  Who knows?  The thing is this: all of this is more interesting than the movie.  Don't fear though.  There is a saving grace: Joe Bob Briggs.  The man is a great movie reviewer and newspaper writer, although it is hard to find the latter today.  However, he did find time to put his voice on a few Movies in the form of some Commentary Tracks.  If you ever thought 'there is no way that I can make it through Jesse James Meets Frankenstein's Daughter,' try it with Briggs' commentary.  This is the case today, so let's see if I can manage in my review of...
I know that you're going to kill me for this, but I have to resort to the format of Challenge of the Tiger one last time.  I defy you to write a review of this like a real movie!  I won't do it tomorrow- I swear.
In a nutshell,...um, I got nothing.  I know that we get a hero that seems to be the guy from Rock & Roll Nightmare, the catcher's mitt-face guy from Soultaker and a token black guy.  Incidentally, the lead actor has one credit: this movie.  Fun fact: if you put our hero's hair on the villain's face, you would have the man behind The Room!  This has something to do with a Japanese businessman doing something illegal.  If you really want to know, watch the damn thing.  In the meantime...
+ Our hero has a long, crappy fight in a parking lot.  He finds time to rip-off the original Indiana Jones film, give us a silly effects shot and to stand still as Z'dar shoots his men with a paintball gun...I mean, a real gun.
+ Our heroes have a car chase/shoot-out which involves the titular cop shouting 'shoot!  shoot!' every three seconds.  Good times.
+ In a random scene, the titular cop hits on a woman who works in an office.  This actually prompts Briggs to ask 'what is the point of this scene?'  Don't look at me, man!
+ In a laughable scene, a woman is tortured for information with...bacon grease.  Really, guys?
+ Our hero fights the legendary action star Gerald Okamura...with sped-up kung-fu.  This video sums up how stupid this is.
+ The final fight borders on parody and features Z'dar having a sped-up sword fight with the Samurai Cop.  Even Briggs is not clear whether or not this is a parody.
+ The movie ends happily, although ruins this with a final shot of our steroid-ridden hero in a speedo.  Yeah, that was necessary!
This was actually THE OTHER TIME he was in a Speedo.
I won't lie: this movie hurts.  It is so awfully-bad, ridiculously-stupid and amazingly-terrible that I wish it had stayed in the vault that it may or may not have come out of.  There is some fun to be had here, but only if you can really suffer through the terrible nature of it all.  If you are a sadist or feel the need to see every bad action movie (guilty), it is worth a watch, but solely with Briggs' commentary (UPDATE: Now with Rifftrax too!).  

Up next, David Bradley stars in a bad action movie.  This time: it involves robots, so it has to be better than American Ninja 5...right?  Stay tuned...

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

R.I.P. Tangina

Unfortunately, the world is bereft of another horror film icon.





Zelda Rubinestein lived a nice, long life and went peacefully.  Considering the 'Poltergeist Curse,' that is a big blessing.  She will be missed.

Blaxploit-errible: Black Samurai

Right off the top of your head: do you know who Jim Kelly is?  The man became a star in the classic film Enter the Dragon, although he was third-billing to two bigger names.  Even so, he got a lot of work in the era of Black-sploitation, even when the movies were not good- i.e. One Down, Two to Go.  He is also the man behind the Black Belt Jones series, which will get a proper review in time.  Today, however, I'm going to talk about this movie.  It stars Kelly as the titular samurai, although he only wields a katana once and is never called by that name.  As an agent for D.R.A.G.O.N., he has to stop an evil cult who kidnapped his girlfriend.  You know what that means- lots of ass-kicking and posing!  Is this movie any good?  Well, find out in my review of...
Black Samurai
Much like Challenge of the Tiger, this movie has very little plot that is very interesting.  As such, I will use a similar formula as with that one.
*
A young woman is kidnapped as part of a bartering scheme by some crazed Satanic cult leader.  Our hero is on vacation when he is called in for the job.  He only agrees to help out when he learns that his woman is the kidnapee.  My hero!

+ The cult has a weird party in what looks like a Mexican villa, complete with a vulture looming over them on the balcony.  Our hero proceeds to throw this bird at them!

+ Kelly escapes via the rooftops, but only after battling some midgets.

+ Kelly gets stopped by a station wagon full of henchmen.  He defeats them and hops back into his purple sports car.  What are you, Prince?!?

+ Kelly- I shit you not- flies over to the bad guys' new base in a jet pack.  Basically, slap air conditioner tubing to a dishwasher and you got the device.
+ A group of black men dressed in tribal gear- why not- battle our hero, but are defeated on the jungle set.
+ After a lot of fighting, our hero locks the villain in a room full of snakes & blows up the remaining thugs with a grenade.  Hurray!
*
This movie is not the slightest-bit good.  Kelly has no real screen presence other than machismo.  The fact that he spends at least half of the movie fighting should tell you something!  The real fun: making a drinking game out of it.  Take a shot every time Kelly does a bad spin-kick.  If you do that, you'll be passed out by the end of it.  It should come as no surprise that this one comes to us via Al Adamson, the man behind Doctor Dracula and Dracula vs. Frankenstein.  If you want your taste of Jim Kelly- that sounded wrong, didn't it- just watch Enter the Dragon again.
*
Up next, a nearly-lost 80s film that has been resurrected on DVD.  Did you have to do that, guys?  Stay tuned...

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Impossibly-Cool Cover Art: An American Werewolf in London

Today's feature is a great example of how a country's mind-set can really warp the way that they view things.  I mean, just look at this...
They got key events from the film in there, but what the hell?!?  What ever they're smoking there, sign me up!

Up next, we take a step away from the foreign posters for a bit to check out some great VHS cover art.  Don't worry- you'll get just as much misdirection.  Stay tuned...

Cop Land: Full Eclipse

Oh Jim Wynorski, can I never escape you?  In fairness, I actually did not know that this was one of his films until I started to watch it.  Good surprise or bad surprise- you decide!  This is a film about police officers who take an extra kick in order to get an edge on the criminals of the day.  The help comes in the form of a strange policeman and his mysterious formula to create 'super cops.'  What does this have to do with werewolves?  That's for me to know and you to find out, mister!  This is...
Full Eclipse
The movie begins with a hostage situation at a night club.  The two detectives (Mario Van Peebles and Anthony Dennison aka one of the cops on The Closer) go in through the roof's vents, although the latter does his best 'I'm getting too old for this shit' routine.  They take forever to go through the vents- which support 200-lb men- and even fail to stop a guy who stupidly stands up to the Uzi-wielding thug.  Way to be man...that is full of bullet holes.  The partner makes a noise, causing him to be shot full of holes.  It is only then that Mr. Peebles decides to drop out of the vent and kill the bad guys.  Timing is not your strong suit!  The man ends up in the hospital, but is visited by a strange man who inject something in his I.V.  He shows up the next day for work and appears to have no wounds or anything.  Someone had his V8 today!  Naturally, that morning, they run across a drive-by shooting, which leads to a major action scene.  The partner actually chases the car down on foot, while Peebles follows.  He actually wrestles with one of the guys after they steal a motorcycle!  He causes the vehicle to crash and walks out unscathed, slightly freaking out his partner.  Meanwhile, we get a sub-plot involving our hero's marriage degrading.  That was...out of nowhere, movie!
*
Before all of this can sink in, Peebles' partner shows up at a 'cop bar' and blows his brains out with a strange bullet.  This drives our hero to seek industry counseling, which leads him to a mysterious man (Bruce Payne).  He is hesitant, but shows up for 'group therapy.'  They explain that they have formed a group to enforce the laws in the way that regular cops will not.  He is not quite on-board, so they take him to watch a mission of theirs.  After injecting themselves with a mysterious fluid, they swim across a river and attack a group of mafioso.  They have crazed faces and claws, which strikes our hero as odd.  He tries to quit, but is told that he is working with them- like it or not.  He is still not convinced, even after the hot blond on the team tries to seduce him.  We get some bits of him looking into his partner's death, discovering some cryptic notes he left behind and the fact that he melted his favorite silver dollar into a bullet.  At the next meeting, he discovers that just the blond is there.  When he turns her down again, she does the natural thing: she shoots a hole in his chest!  After injecting him with the serum, his wounds heal and he does the nasty with her.  She shows signs of the same crazed face and teeth.  Want to explain this at all?
*
Entering the third act, Peebles is now on-board with the whole 'rogue cops' thing.  The group gets attacked in their van by some members of the group killed earlier, but they all walk out in pseudo-werewolf form.  Basically, they have faces like the vampires on Buffy and claws reminiscent of Subspecies' villain.  We learn, however, that there is some strife in the group.  One of them is regretting the vicious actions of the group, so he has to die.  We finally learn the truth behind the serum.  Basically, Payne's character is a 500+ year old werewolf that has been taking fluid from his brain and injecting it into the people.  That's right- werewolf juice makes you heal super-fast and become Wolverine.  Before you can let that sink in, the hero and the blond escape through a glass window, but the latter dies.  Evidently, she has been taking less and less of the serum and is human enough to die.  Really, movie?  That's like saying that Luc Devaraux's brother was frozen, but not actually a UniSol!  Anyhow, Peebles convinces the others to revolt against Payne, who finally turns into a full werewolf under the full moon!  Holy Kibakichi, Batman- what took you so long?!?  Peebles manages to kill him by causing the freighter canister they were on to fall.  We get the 'It's not over' ending in the form of Peebles and his reunited wife going around and carrying on Payne's mission of vengeance.
*
This movie is honestly quite entertaining, even if it has some serious plot issues.  There is a lot of action- pseudo werewolf and other- and it moves pretty briskly.  The whole bit with Peebles partner's transformation occurring is jarring enough to hold your interest for a while.  The acting is about as good as you are going to get from an action movie made in the '90s that was directed by Jim Wynorski.  On the plus side, Bruce Payne- aka Damadar from Dungeons & Dragons- is always fun to watch.  When the movie gets around to explaining everything, it loses a little momentum though.  The whole idea is a bit silly and never quite explained enough for most people's tastes.  The real werewolf you get at the end makes up for a lot of this, but appears pretty briefly.  If you want a fun action movie that won't make a lot of sense, give this one a rental.  It's loud, pulpy and weird enough to hold most people's attention for 90 minutes.
*
Up next, a black kung-fu star becomes an international spy.  Maybe you should lose the afro for undercover work, buddy!  Stay tuned...

Monday, January 25, 2010

Kung-Fu Zero: Challenge of the Tiger

Who here is fluent in Bruce-ploitation stars?  If you are, then the name Bruce Le will still barely register to you.  He does not have the fame of Bruce Li, nor does he have the dubious notoriety of Bruce Liang.  Hell, even Dragon Lee got more press than this guy!  Hell, the first time I reviewed this movie, I thought he was Bruce Li!  Regardless of that, he got to direct and star in his own movie.  What's it about?  Would you believe an evil plot to unleash some dubious McGuffin against the world?  Man, you're good!  The movie also co-stars Richard Harrison, the man whose career was torpedoed by Godfrey Ho- but that is a story for another day.  Harrison stands out like sore thumb in this movie, especially considering that he is about 6'5 and Le is considerably-not!  The movie is honestly not terrible, but it is plagued by many problems, especially pacing of certain scenes and a lack of a decipherable plot.  Who cares about that?  More kicking, I say.  This is...
Challenge of the Tiger
To be completely honest with you, a plot synopsis will not do you a lot of good here.  The film is almost completely a set of seemingly-unrelated scenes that either involve shooting, fighting or nudity.  If you want something that involves the two latter things, check out Crying Freeman.  To make this more palatable, I'll give you the gist of it and some great scene highlights.

Some criminals break into a laboratory and steal some sort of chemical.  It is going to be used in a bio-weapon that will be very deadly.  As such, all of the criminal gangs in Spain- yes, that Spain- are battling over it.  In the middle of this, Bruce Le and Harrison try to save the day.

-Bruce has a kung-fu fight in the streets of Rome and is saved by Harrison, who proceeds to talk big about it and mug for the camera.  Get used to those two things, true believers.
-Harrison's introduction involves a long shot of his palatial estate (maybe in the 1970s...) and his randomly-topless woman.  If you want a scene that tops Baywatch's entire gimmick in five minutes, check out the tennis scene.  Woman with enormously-large chests (although they pale in comparison to Chesty Morgan) playing tennis...in slow-motion.  It must be seen to be believed.
-Harrisons' main skill: seduction.  This leads to two different 'whoopee' scenes that go on about two or three minutes too long.  Hold something back, Rich!
-Le gets in a fight near an arena made for bull-fighting, which leads to him falling a pit with one of the animals.  In an effects shot the predates Romeo Must Die by at least twenty years, he punches the thing and crushes its skull in a weird, cartoon effect.
-In the end, Bruce Le fights all three of the movies lead villains, while Harrison fights a small group in a warehouse.  Thanks for the help, buddy!
*
This movie is not all that good, but it is interesting to look at.  Much like a clown car crash, it is just hard to look away.  The plot is weird, the acting is bad and the direction is nothing to write home about.  It is a decent action movie, but has to constantly accommodate Harrison's lack of fighting talent and obsession with mugging to the camera.  He looks at the camera more than Dead Lerner on Garth Merengi's Dark Place- which is meant as a joke.  As far as its place in action movie history, it will go down as a ho-hum action movie with a Bruce-ploitation star that happens to feature a lot of nudity.  You know what else can say that?  The Clones of Bruce Lee!  Is that the kind of company you want to keep, movie?  On the plus side, this comes on a DVD with a much more fun movie.  Stay tuned for that later this week.
*
Up next, Jim Wynorski brings us a film about cops that take an extra step in order to enforce the law: lycanthropy.  That's commitment!  Stay tuned...

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Buy The DVD!: Deathstalker II

This is a new feature that I'm starting that is going to focus on DVD-centric features for movies that have stood out to me.  Given the prevalence of companies releasing 'bare-bones' DVDs these days,- not like it's a new thing- it seemed like a good idea.  We start off with an '80s classic...
Deathstalker II
The movie is pure ridiculousness, as it is a semi-parody of the barbarian/sword-and-sandal film.  The hero is over the top ('80s actor-turned-director John Terlesky) and the plot is silly as all get out.  That's what makes it work, especially in comparison to Deathstalker III and IV, which are quite dry.  They're not terrible- although III comes damn close- but not nearly as much fun as these.  This is aided by...

A full-length audio commentary track by the director (Jim Wynorski), the star (John Terlesky) and the actress who played the lead villainess (Toni Naples).  Unlike most commentary tracks, the people do not boast or brag about the complexity of film-making.  Instead, they joke about the low production values and point out funny things.  Examples being...

* Wynorski explains that their 'magic orb' was actually a door knob.
* Wynorski points out a car that appears at the top of a one shot, as well as some tire tracks in another.
* Terlesky talks about how all of their goons were played by the same three Mexican wrestlers.
* Naples and Wynorski explain her character's sudden exit: she had to go shoot another movie and they couldn't think of anything better.
* Wynorski explains that the stock footage from the first film- mostly the bar scene that appears in some form throughout the series- was added in post-production by Corman's company.  It's funny to hear his ironic indignation about his movie being 'dragged down.'

The actual movie is fun, but the DVD is worth the purchase for a second and third viewing warranted by the commentary.  It's unlike most you will ever hear.

Next in this series, a really terrible Jesus Franco film bears one piece of fruit.  Is it enough?  Stay tuned...

Blockbuster Trash: Kibakichi 2


Well, we're back with another dose of Japanese werewolf samurai action.  For those of you who missed the last movie, our title character is a Yokai who can turn into wolf-like creature.  Despite the movie being billed as a movie about a werewolf samurai, he only turns into a werewolf in the last fifteen minutes and never fights with his sword at that point.  So, he is a werewolf samurai, if you can be both at different times and never the two shall meet.  What does the sequel hold in store?  Will we get a real werewolf samurai?  Will we get more crazy Yokai monsters?  Will the sub-plot about the woman who wants to kill Kibakichi come into play?  To find out the answers, check out my review of...
Kibakichi 2
The film begins with a village being assaulted by a crazed man with a sword.  Um, guys, do you want to lead in to that at all?  No?  Okay then.  This goes on for a few minutes until our hero shows up.  He has a fight with the man, which ends in Kibakichi being wounded and the two separating.  Wow, that was anti-climactic.  On top of that, the village is peaceful the next day, since a murderous rampage can really wear you out.  We are introduced to our female protagonist, who is a blind woman.  In her first scene, she is attacked by a stray dog- a common occurrence, apparently- but is saved by our hero.  In return, she takes him to a doctor for his wound, but he refuses treatment on the grounds that he is a Yokai.  You guys really hold a grudge, don't you?  He eventually lets up when she sells him a family heirloom- class act.  The next night, we get another fight between Kibakichi and the man, but this time they have company!  The woman from the first film who blames our hero for the destruction of their village- because he trusted humans- is back and wants revenge...um, still.  This fight ends anti-climatically as we start to feel that the movie is leading us on.  The evil man who attacked is instantly attracted to the woman, since she is not afraid of him.  I smell a romance sub-plot...


Sadly, I am right, at least to a point.  He loves her, but she could care less.  Her whole goal is revenge and nothing more.  She even states that she plans to die once Kibakichi is killed.  I guess that there are worse New Year's Resolutions!  He continues to follow her, while the blind woman takes care of our hero.  He says almost ten words in the whole movie, so don't expect a lot out of him.  Back in the forest with our 'lovebirds,' there is another threat.  A group of mysterious strangers wait out there and sic some guys on the woman when the crazed samurai is away.  She kicks ass, but he shows up anyhow to take credit for it.  This actually happens twice in this part of the movie, which feels a bit strange.  The people talk in vague terms about what their plans are, but are pretty mum about the details.  This middle portion drags a little bit as it lacks the freaky Yokai monsters that the last ones had.  In fact, the budget differences are hard to miss here, from the squibs to the make-up work.  Maybe this will get better when they explain everything...


Well, yes and no.  First, the group of strangers attacks the town with their small group of ninjas.  See- it's different from the first movie because it's a town full of humans.  By the way, the blind lady dies, so, um, yea.  Kibakichi kills a bunch of them- still in human form- before getting an explanation about the crazed Samurai.  Basically, a crazy white man attacked them and raped their women.  One of them kept the child they had, which was shunned and went crazy.  Sure, whatever.  All three of our main characters show up in town and fight, but are interrupted by the strangers.  They turn out to be all Yokai as well, leading us to a bunch of fighting.  The crazed samurai gets stabbed a lot by Kibakichi and seems to die, but that won't last.  The werewolf pair put aside their fighting to take care of the threat in front of them, which proves to be easier said than done.  The leader is a giant-horned guy who shoots fireballs, but otherwise does nothing.  The samurai just sort of gets up- they hint that it has something to do a bite from the lady earlier- and fights some more.  After he is finally killed, the pair turn into wolf-form.  Figures- they did it again!  They quickly kill off the leader with a double ninja-dash attack, which feels anti-climatic (it's the word of the day!).  Finally, they fight in wolf form, but this looks like crap since they use dramatic slow-mo for the whole thing.  It's like bad, werewolf ballet.  He beats her, but leaves her alive to wander the world.  Sequel bait again?  The End.


This movie is not all that bad, but it has some issues.  The fighting is good, but spaced out so much between all of the duels.  There are only monsters in the last thirty minutes or so, so don't hold your breath!  The plot is alright and does manage to actually follow up on the 'revenge for deeds not-really-done' plot set up in the first film, something that my friends doubted would happen.  The clearly-lower budget really ruins this thing though.  Even in the slow parts of the first film, they had spider-demons and evil skeletons. Here- just a bunch of ninja and samurai.  Yet again, they refuse to give you the full extent of the premise, which is a real crime.  I can see it for the first film, but you are going against the principle of 'sequel-itis' by giving me less this time!  On the plus side, this film can stand alone, which is a bonus in some way.  You had the chance to embrace your premise and do something great, but merely gave me another decent film that fails to really impress all that much.  Oh and seriously, who thought that ending fight looked good?


Up next, we begin Law Enforcement Week with a movie starring and directed by Bruce Le.  He is a master agent who is only hampered by the inclusion of Richard Harrison.  Stay tuned...

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Forgotten Sequels: Black Cobra 3

Well, I own all three films now, so I might as well make fun of this movie too.  This one returns us yet again to the Philippines, because, you know, not enough bad action movies are filmed there.  Mind you, it is better than filming in Apartheid Era South Africa like the original American Ninja films and Space Mutiny did!  What story is there left to tell about this character who has almost no back-story and is just another 'cop who plays by his own rules and gets the job done.'  You can skate by with that for one film, but four?  Let's find out in my review of...
The film begins with some sort of commando breaking into a military outpost run by foreigners.  Um, this is not Fred Williamson.  Did you guys make a movie called The Manila Connection and try to squeeze him in later?  Not as far as I can tell, but would that really be a surprise?  He escapes by use of his machine gun, some set explosives and a rigged fence.  He also manages to lazily take out a group of soldiers by running past them and firing, all the while barely glancing in their direction.  He escapes, at which point the movie randomly cuts to a naked Filipino woman.  Um, thank you?  The wounded man shows up and we get some talk about his mission to get some intelligence.  Another awkward jump occurs as a group of thugs attempt to rob a grocery store.  You'll never guess which black police detective is out shopping that day!  He allows himself to get surrounded and takes a pair of them out, the latter of which gets a punch to the groin.  What's with you and hitting the groin, Fred?  The other ones finally go down after some shots, although the last one is merely shoved into a pile of Tide.  Oh, the humanity!  Does this scene have a point?  No, not really.  Malone gets a taped message from the son of an old friend- by all means, remind us of your Star's age!- and gets sent to the Philippines again, although this time by choice.  Wow, that's completely different, movie.
*
Once he gets to the Phillipines, he runs afoul of a woman in the lobby.  She asks him to hold the elevator for her, but he acts like a douche-bag and closes the door- my hero.  After meeting the now-adult son of his friend, he learns that the woman is also their CIA contact.  Gee, what an extremely-obvious plot-twist, movie.  A search of the dead agent's room ends with the discovery of a tiny umbrella with a night club's name on it.  I guess this is supposed to be a substitute for the matchbox cliche.  They try to get information about him from a stripper there who was his girlfriend, but it leads nowhere.  One pointless fight scene later and Malone is investigating some docks with the young man.  They get into- wait for it, another silly fight scene in a warehouse.  Does it look like the same one used in Black Cobra 2?  Yes, amazingly so.  Coincidence- I think not.  The highlights: the young man looking a lot like Reb Brown in action and Williamson fighting with his belt as a weapon.  The stripper changes her mind about helping them when she suspects that something is up and gives them some information.  They search her apartment to discover some photos that the man took showing some gun-running going on.  You all know where this is going, don't you?
*
More barely-expanded upon investigation and action scenes take place.  The crux of it revolves around trying to determine where the photos were taken and, thus, where the stash is.  None of this is really bad; it's just not all that interesting.  Never mind the fact that the whole movie is a build-up to get back to a setting we are taken to in the very beginning of the film!  Once they find it, our heroes get decked out in their best Commando/Treasure of the Sierra Madre attire to kick some ass.  I should also mention that the young man has what appears to be a red grenade.  Alright then.  Once inside, they wander around and kill some enemies.  Malone even manages to kill a guy with a throwing knife without even turning all the way around to look at him- that's sad.  It all just feels like a really bad version of Metal Gear Solid- if it was done by Uwe Boll anyhow.  Blah blah blah, more running and more shooting.  You get the occasional stunt man who jumps back way too hard, but it's all pretty 'meh' by this point.  As if him and Malone were in a 'macho-ness' contest, our young man gets ahead by picking up a SAW and cutting loose.  Our heroes escape a giant explosion they set up via helicopter, since apparently Malone is a pilot!  They catch the main villain and get the evidence, but we can't end with the pointless last-minute reveal of their boss being evil too.  Thanks for that.  The End.
*
This movie is not good, but it does have some interesting moments.  For the most part, though, it is just extremely generic and bland.  Detective Malone is just not a good character here, as he acts bossy and rude to everyone.  I know that we're supposed to make peace with that because he stops bad guys, but I don't really care.  The guy is a prick!  At least the other two leads are not completely heartless bastards, although they have almost no personality.  You just have the eager, go-getter and the bossy girl who is smarter than everyone.  The action is not terrible, but very little stands out.  It is just a barrage of cheesy kung-fu, dull shooting and the occasional moment of funny over-reacting to 'being shot.'  You've seen all of this before though.  The original film has some hilariously-bad action scenes and ridiculous writing, while B.C. 2 has the over-the-top ending bit to save it.  This movie is just alright and nothing more.  Let's move on, shall we?
*
Up next, the delayed review of a Japanese werewolf film's sequel.  Was it worth the wait or will I just be left with werewolf 'blue balls' again?  Stay tuned...

Friday, January 22, 2010

Forgotten Sequels: Black Cobra 2

I've already talked about this series in the past, but here is a brief summary for those who missed it: Black Cobra is a rip-off of the Stallone movie Cobra, just with Fred Williamson (a black man) playing the part.  There really is not anymore to it than that.  Both films feature the same plots (a woman witnessing a biker gang's murder spree and a cop who must protect her) and almost the same staging.  Rather than the big showdown in the warehouse, Black Cobra has a showdown at a waterfront dock, followed by a second one in a city.  They also find an excuse to steal the entire 'do you feel lucky, punk' speech from Dirty Harry.  So what kind of quality can you expect from the sequel?  Find out the answer in my review of...
The film begins with what appears to be a blind man meeting with another man in a parking garage.  He appears to be about five feet away from the car inhabited by our hero.  Um, he's right in front of the car and smoking a cigar, how do you not see him?  Him and his motorcycle-riding companion are confronted by the rest of the police, although they fail to make the latter get off of his bike.  This leads us to a silly chase involving Detective Malone (Fred Williamson) chasing the bike rider in his '70s Sedan.  The man on the bike actually crashes, which leads us to the slowest foot chase meant to be taken seriously.  Mind you, Fred Williamson was 50 when he shot this (he's older than he looks), so you can explain away some of this.  As a shout-out to my dad, Fred wears a Cub's jacket during this scene- you should be proud.  Skipping a lot of this, the man grabs a hostage, but is shot through his helmet when he trips.  What was the point of this scene?  It all sets up the loud, angry boss (don't you love that cliche) yelling about Malone about being dangerous.  He takes the opportunity to send him on a police exchange- sure why not- program to The Philippines.  By the way, I apologize in advance to any residents of the Philippines for Malone's rant against your country in the film.
*
So our angry hero ends up at the airport, but runs afoul of a sneaky American man.  You can practically see him oozing deceptiveness, yet our hero manages to get his stuff stolen by him.  A small chase ensues when the man steals a briefcase from a businessman there as well, although our hero seems unaware of any of this.  He meets with his envoy, who is a douche-bag that gives him the 'you're working for me here and you don't get your gun' speech.  I'm having French Connection II flashbacks here, which does not work in the film's favor!  They go to the residence of the thief, but find him dead and his apartment ransacked.  They go talk to his daughter, who oddly has short hair for this one scene, and she explains that they weren't close.  In spite of that, Malone follows a lead from some matchsticks that takes him to a club where the singer is, wait for it, the girl!  They talk afterward, but are attacked by thugs.  Thankfully, Malone and his slow-mo, edited-around kung-fu is there to save the day.  The next day, Malone beats up a suspect, but is stopped by the other cop.  They get some information from a bugged phone, before the man starts shooting at them.  After a long sequence, he is taken down by Malone after he rams a cart at the man and dives behind some boxes, apparently making him immediately forgotten.
*
Right after this battle, the movie goes right into another long action sequence.  Thank God, I was worried the plot would get in the way!  We get a mildly-interesting scene involving the detective running on foot and Malone running across some props above him.  They make pretty good use out of this idea, but drop it pretty quickly.  The summary: the bad guys have the girl, since they figure that she will get them the briefcase.  Finally, we discover that the whole thing is about microfilm.  They run across a career criminal who the shotgun-wielding thug was working for.  They arrest him, but he resists arrest in a dramatic fashion and dies.  After almost no build-up, we also learn that the cop's son has been kidnapped.  No, not him!  I grew so attached to him in his one scene forty-five minutes earlier!  To top it all off, the place is rigged with bombs, including mines set on the window frames.  Fortunately, our heroes have an elaborate and ridiculous plan.  The cop sets himself up in an elevator, while Malone climbs up to the top of the building.  As the time draws near, the door comes open and one perp is shot dead.  The two remaining thugs arm the bombs, which prompts Malone to come flying through the window.  Just to note: he does so head-first and with no set-up shot.  Magic!  He kills both of them, although the last guy gets a shotgun blast to the junk before his death.  The day is saved.  The End.
*
This movie is not good.  While not as stupid as the first film (a low bar, I know), it is sub-par when compared to some American films from the time such as Commando.  Mind you, it does not help that my copy is on a three movie set put on one disc- more on that in a future segment- so I did not get a good picture quality.  Even in hi-def though, this movie is ludicrous at times and wooden at others.  It is an amazing skill to be both crazy and dry in one movie, but they pull it off here!  Williamson's Malone is basically a jerk who redeems himself by being nice to children (it's a cat in the first film) and saving the day.  He still beats people up with graphic glee and shoots people when he feels that they must die.  One guy is actually pumped for information and then has his neck snapped.  I know you're working overseas, but you can still arrest him!  The movie builds up Malone's use of kung-fu, but it looks about as good as Rudy Ray Moore's.  I can make fun of it a lot, even though that man looks better kicking ass at 50 than I do now at 26.  The difference: I'm not trying to be an action star.  I'm just a jerk with a keyboard who thinks that this movie is sub-par.
*
Up next, let's keep the Black Cobra train rolling with Part 3, which was made the same year as Part Four.  Don't worry- I'll get to that one in time too.  Stay tuned...

Thursday, January 21, 2010

A Couple Notes and an Explanation

* First off, I apologize for my output being so spotty lately.  Between work and other things, I have just not had the energy I once had.  I'm working on fixing that though, so don't worry.

Of course, I also got Fable II yesterday, so that ate up most of that afternoon.

* I have some big plans on the horizon, including new media and site design.  I'll go into more when it is settled a bit.

* I also just bought FOUR new movies to review, all of them obscure and weird-looking.  You'll know them when you see them.  You can thank the VISA gift card I got for Christmas for those.

The fun is only just beginning, so stay on for the ride.  Also, click some of my lovely ads- they get lonely if you don't.  Plus, I like money.  *wink, wink*  Stay tuned...

Forgotten Sequels: Universal Soldier II

I bet most people who saw Universal Soldier: The Return assumed that it was the second film.  As it turns out, they were dead wrong!  In between these movies, two made-for-tv films were put out featuring a connected storyline and recurring actors.  These films were not exactly hits and do not exactly feature big name actors.  When you make a movie and cannot get Jean Claude Van-Damme on board, what does that say about you?  Mind you, this is a common occurrence, but still not good.  This movie does, however, feature a notable acting name: Gary Busey.  Yeah, he's about as pleased to be there as you are to see him there.  Is this movie any good?  Find out in my review of...
Universal Soldier II: Brothers in Arms
The film begins with a redone version of the ending fight from Universal Soldier.  Why is it redone?  To put our new star in it, of course.  Once that is done, we are at the Deveraux estate with Luc and the reporter.  Did you wonder why the reporter character vanished from the story in Universal Soldier: The Return?  These movies explain why...eventually.  In the meantime, we get a pointless shot of Luc's ass as they put him in a tub to cool down.  It turns out that his parents are alive & relatively alright with the 'our son is a techno-zombie' thing.  They are willing to help hide him from the government, but they can still track him.  Meanwhile, a new person is called in by a shadowy figure to turn the tide: Gary Busey.  He is a no-nonsense contractor who is willing to kill to get what he wants.  In a real cheat, the scientists at the UniSol program activate a chip in Luc that makes him return to base.  If it's that easy, how did he ever get out in the first place?!?  The next morning, the reporter sees what's up and wants to purse Luc, but he took the only car...or so he thought.  In a giant leap of logic, the parents let the reporter use a fully-functional hot rod car that they have kept in the barn for years in honor of Luc's return!  Good-bye, common sense!
*
Our heroine fails to catch up to Luc before he gets on a train, but convinces the ticket-taker to tell her where he was going.  In a slightly-smaller stretch of logic, she catches up to the train when it reaches its destination: Chicago.  Oh my God, the evil villain must be Ferris Bueller!  Sadly, the reveal in the end is much less exciting.  Back to the story, she narrowly misses Luc, but catches up to him at the docks.  He is taken onto a giant ship where he is turned back into a proper UniSol.  They even erase him memory and put him in the original outfit, along with some recently-dead soldiers.  Yeah, I sort of glossed over their scene earlier- oops.  Hours later, our heroine finally decides to do something and sneaks onto the ship in a stolen uniform.  While wandering around, she stumbles upon a room full of un-used UniSol experiments.  It is here that she discovers- I shit you not- Luc's brother Eric, who was killed in Vietnam!  She watches a video on the control unit which explains everything, which is both amazingly-convenient and retarded!  She breaks him out in one of the film's many uses of the 'slow down, then speed up quickly' editing technique.  For all of you people who hate Zack Snyder's version, this one is much worse.  They sneak around the ship, the naked man going along with the plan relatively easy before he gets a uniform too.
*
They hide out in a container, which ends up being taken off of the ship.  You see, things have changed with the UniSol program.  Without the government sponsoring it, they decide to turn the soldiers into mercenaries.  While they drive on the road, the scientists discover that the reporter broke in and instantly recognize Eric, despite it being a shot of him from behind!  They stop the trucks and capture them.  Back on the main truck, they go to kill the two prisoners, which makes Luc break out of his training and save them.  Does he know who she is?  No.  Does he somehow recognize Eric after all of these years?  Yes.  Does it make any real sense that Eric recognizes Luc, despite him being about 10 when he saw him last?  No.  Anyhow, Luc and the girl escape, but the brother is captured and taken away.  Our heroes take a camper from some newlyweds and follow, thanks to an invitation from Busey, who is now in charge.  He makes an arms deal with some Koreans, but just kills them when he gets half of the money.  Luc and the girl do a plan so dumb that I won't even describe it & get away, only to stop a little while later at a bar.  Shockingly, the bad guys catch up to them and kill Eric.  Luc kills the remaining UniSols and Busey, only to discover that his brother is not able to be revived.  They go off like David Banner in search of justice, but not before the shadowy figure is revealed to be: Burt Reynolds!  See you in Part 3, Bandit.
*
This movie is really not that good.  The story is pretty odd, what with Luc instantly returning the fold thanks to the push of a button.  The reporter is played well, but can be a bit abrasive.  Busey is completely over-the-top, but that works for him in here, since the new Luc is boring as crap!  He plays the robotic aspect up too much for his own good.  The movie does insert random bits of humor in, but they are just pure stupidity.  A running joke with the brothers bonding is nice, but killed by the mechanical delivery of Luc.  The action is alright, but it turns out to be a lot of sparks mostly.  The idea of Luc's brother coming in is pretty silly, especially with as little build-up as the film gives it.  We get one scene of the parent's mentioning his death and that's about it.  One funny thing is that they try to disguise as a real movie, but the credits are right out of television.  Swing and a miss guys.  Who knows- maybe Part 3 will be better?  Unlikely, but a possibility nonetheless.  After all, the bar is pretty damn low!
*
Next up, the sequel to a rip-off of an American film.  Oh and it stars Fred Williamson.  This can't end well.  Say tuned...

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Forgotten Sequels: Prom Night 3

I bet some of you did not even know that there was a Prom Night 2, let alone a third film.  I'm really going to blow your mind when I tell you that there is a fourth film too, won't I?  As for the second film, I have plans regarding a review of that.  More on that subject in the future.  Let's talk about this third film in the series though and whatever is supposed to be.  The original Prom Night is a Halloween knock-off, while the second film drifts off into a weird, random path.  This movie is supposed to be a successor to that one, but ignores nearly everything about that film, save for the bare bones of the premise.  It also is a great example of The Evil Dead Effect, but fails to follow through with it.  What you are left with is a movie with an identity crisis and no clear goal in mind.  Does it still work though?  Find out in my review of...
The film begins in Hell, although it has neither Satan nor random naked people.  Why did you lie to me, the Bible and Jose Mojica Marins!  Mary-Lou escapes from Hell by cutting her chains with a nail file and just walks out.  It's really that easy?  She comes out through a jukebox right from the 'Faith' video that suddenly appears in a High School and kills the janitor.  The next day, we are introduced to our heroes.  One of them is a dorky High School student and the other is his preppy girlfriend.  At the ribbon-cutting ceremony for the new gymnasium, the principal accidentally cuts one of his fingers off!  Does Mary-Lou make him do it?  Not according to the way the scene was framed, so why did that just happen?  Is he just an idiot?  The movie just sort of moves on, so I will too.  Our hero is bothered by the idea that he is average in every way, which is pretty low on the scale of problems one could have.  You know, some people have divorced parents, birth defects or learning disabilities!  After a bad date with his lady friend, he runs into Mary-Lou's ghost at the school.  To make a long story short, they make whoopee.  In the morning, he lives out a cliched nightmare by having to run through the hallways wearing only an American flag.
*
The movie gets pretty weird from here on out.  Our hero begins to see Mary-Lou everywhere, which leads to some 'wacky' costume changes for the ghostly woman.  By the way, this lady does not even hold a candle to Mary-Lou from Prom Night 2, but she does try.  As people in our hero's life cause him trouble, Mary-Lou kills them.  They take place in what feel like weird dream sequences and often make little sense.  They don't really explain how she is able to do that as a ghost, but I guess we're just supposed to go with it.  In addition, her deaths are very elaborate and seem to involve lots of planning.  Between gaining new, random powers and having sex with our hero, how does she have time for that?  She also helps him win a football game, which makes a jock jealous.  He mostly just mopes about it for a while, but finally summons his inner 'Zabka' and confronts our hero.  Of course, by this point, he has regressed to acting cool (i.e. wearing a Fonzie jacket) and burying the bodies of Mary's victims.  One football-themed death later and our hero has another body to bury.  Unfortunately, he buried all of them on the football field and they get discovered.  This can't end well.
*
Life turns even worse for our hero as Mary-Lou impersonates his sister and kills his best friend.  She does this by punching his heart out of his chest, which raises more questions about her powers!  He gets arrested, but decides to take advice from the hero in Jason Goes To Hell & breaks out.  During all of this, his lady ends up going to the prom with the nerdy guy who works with her on the Student Council.  He is a nice guy, but has quirky aspects to him, so he is a terrible person.  He gets killed by Mary-Lou since...um, he was going out with the girl who used to date the object of her obsession.  Wouldn't it be easier for her if the girl ended up with someone else?  Do ghosts use logical progression and common sense?  Anyhow, Mary-Lou attacks the girl, but our hero shows up in time.  He makes a deal with the ghost: take me and leave her alone.  Mary opens up a portal to Hell...which she recently escaped from him...and to her own Prom.  I would ask about Mary-Lou's ability to open Hell portals, but I stopped caring by this point.  The girl jumps through the portal in pursuit and has to fight off the people that died earlier.  I should mention that some of them were killed mere minutes earlier, proving that Hell has a short waiting list.  She succeeds and attempts to escape with a car.  They attempt to run down Mary-Lou, but she teleports them to 1954 and kills the girl.  She can do that too?!? The End.
*
This movie is not good.  It tries to be a wacky comedy, but cannot commit to it.  The death scenes are bizarre and gory.  However, the movie treats death as serious, while also doing 'bits' about our hero having to bury Mary-Lou's victims.  There are some genuinely-funny lines, the best of which is his girlfriend's explanation of how she bakes when she is angry.  Of course, they take this joke and run into the ground by the end.  Ultimately, this movie is merely sub-par.  If you have not seen Hello Mary Lou: Prom Night 2, this might be something that you could forgive.  For series completists, however, you can see a dramatic drop in quality.  The fact that this movie was released direct-to-video and not in theaters should tell you something.  You can do better than this movie, which I'm sorry to say.
*
Up next, another forgotten sequel is on the agenda.  This one involves robots, soldiers and Gary Busey.  Don't get your hopes up, guys.  Stay tuned...

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

A Rare Case *Update*: 2012- Supernova

For those of you who missed it, one of the earliest Rare Cases involved The Asylum releasing a film in time for a major release, only to see that release delayed.  So, what happened when the film actually came out?



When in doubt, make it twice.  Plus, while you're at it, get the other guy from Charmed.  Hey, it worked for Warbirds!

Next up, the film that stands out amongst the pack, even if it is much shorter than everyone else.  Stay tuned...

Forgotten Sequels: The French Connection II

You have to be wondering why I'm doing this, don't you?  I mean, the original film is a classic that even managed to win the Oscar for Best Picture!  On top of that, the movie won Best Director (William Friedkin), Best Actor (Gene Hackman), Best Screenplay and Best Editing!  Plus, the movie has been preserved in the United States Film Registry since 2005.  Why would I pick on this movie or anything related to it?  Here is the thing: people really forget about this movie.  If you need proof, check out the Wikipedia page for the original film.  Now, look at the page for the sequel.  See a contrast there?  Is there a reason for it?  For starters, there was a four-year gap between the two films, which is never a good thing.  Secondly, they changed directors, going from William Friedkin to John Frankenheimer, not that he was a bad director or anything.  On the plus side, the two lead actors and characters are present, although his partner- played by Academy Award nominee Roy Scheider- is not around.  They also changed the setting to France, which maybe alienated some people.  In spite of all that, let's check out this forgotten piece of cinematic history...
The film begins with some lovely shots of France and its landmarks.  We are quickly introduced to 'Popeye' Doyle, who has arrived on a special mission.  For those of you who are not at least aware of The French Connection, a bunch of drugs went missing and the man behind it- Charnier- got away.  Thus, we have our lead character being sent over there to get him.  It's a simple enough story, but things have to get complicated.  When he arrives, the police are out front following a lead about some missing drugs being hidden in some fish.  After a few minutes, they are informed that it was all a prank call.  Does this go anywhere?  Nope.  One thing you realize right away is that this film is not going to give you subtitles.  You see, as part of the whole experience, you are as much alienated by the language barrier as Doyle is, provided you don't also speak French.  It's a neat idea in theory, but can be a bit jarring in practice.  The film to do this idea completely right- Rescue Dawn.  Anyhow, Doyle is treated as much less than a co-worker here and the Captain makes it clear that he is forced to keep him around.  This means that nobody talks to him and he gets a nice desk next to the bathroom.  We get plenty of establishment of this and his alienation, to the point where he drinks with a bartender just to get some company.
*
Doyle accompanies the police on a drug bust, but it is made abundantly clear that he is not to do anything.  Nice guys, the French.  When a large suspect flees the scene, Doyle's instincts take over and he chases him down.  Unfortunately, it turns out that the large black man (how did he not stand out in France?) was actually undercover- oops.  Things only got worse as the cop is even more disliked and goes through a 'wandering around' montage.  This is not terrible, mind you, but it is definitely something you could only get away with in the '70s.  The point of all this: we see that Charnier is in town and trying to arrange a deal.  He decides to get Doyle out of the way, since he is still a little bit scared of him after a narrow escape in the last movie.  One night, his thugs catch Doyle, take him to a crappy motel and inject with heroin.  In a long sequence, you can see Doyle's resolve fade, even after learning about Charnier and being vindicated.  After they feel like he is broken, they dump him at the entrance to the police station.  They figure out what happened and must now detox him.  This is a dramatic and well-acted sequence, so let's move on.  I will make note of the scene where, in his rage, Doyle says the immortal line: Mickey Mantle Sucks!
*
After things are back to normal...for this movie, the Captain and Doyle have a talk.  They both know that Doyle was only there to draw out Charnier, which obviously worked.  Now it is just a matter of catching.  We have some interesting scenes where Doyle has to remember where he was taken, which is not an easy feat.  Eventually, they manage to find out about a shipment that Charnier had set up.  A typical shoot-out ensues as Charnier manages to get away, although most of his men don't.  At this point, you almost wonder if Charnier is turning into Carmen San Diego!  We get more investigation, but it does not go too smoothly.  In desperation, Doyle manages to find out that Charnier is fleeing and a chase ensues.  It is a curiously-choreographed scene as Doyle is running after the yacht, while Charnier is celebrating prematurely.  As the film reaches it's climax, our hero gets ahead of the drifting boat and lines up a shot.  As he comes into view, Doyle calls out Charnier's name and shoots the shocked man in the chest.  Before you can wonder what the implications of this will be, the movie abruptly ends!  Okay then.
*
This is a good movie and one that does not deserve to be so forgotten.  Fun fact: I only heard about this a few years ago while watching the 'E! True Hollywood Story' about Jaws.  They showed a marquee and one of the films on it was this one.  Only I would be obsessive enough to notice that, huh?  I guess that would be another reason for this film's surprising obscurity, since Jaws is the film credited with creating the 'summer blockbuster.'  There is certainly a disconnect for some fans in regards to this movie, which is a shame.  Maybe it has to do with all of the reasons mentioned in the introduction or maybe they just did not like it.  Regardless, if you have not seen this movie, it is worth a look, especially for all you fans of '70s cop films.  This is a good one, so enjoy it while I cover one.
*
Up next, the sequel to a film that reset a movie series.  The thing to note about this movie: The Evil Dead Effect.  Stay tuned...

Monday, January 18, 2010

Syndicated Incorporated: TekWar

In today's segment, we talk about something that was very big for a little while and then faded into obscurity.  Besides Greg Evigan, we are also going to talk about the television series based on William Shatner's novels in which he starred.  They also had four made-for-tv movies, but that is for another day.
Tekwar
Basically, it is a pretty stock future.  Fancy gadgets, fast cars and holograms, etc.  What is unique, however, is the idea of Tek.  Basically, it is like logging into the internet, only it zaps your neural cortex and gives a drug-like effect.  Mind you, for many people, that describes the actual internet, but that's beside the point.

Our hero is a tough-talking, play-by-his-own-rules detective who works for a private security firm run by a billionaire.  Said billionaire is played by Shatner himself, clad in as many brightly-colored, overly-patterned shirts you could possibly imagine.  For him, the future looks a lot like very-dated 90s fashion!

The guy has all of the usual trappings too, including the smart girlfriend and the black partner.  If you expect anything other than cliches here, you will be somewhat disappointed.

One issue with the series in what I watched of it were references that are never quite explained.  For example, they refer to some big battle in Brazil in the 2nd episode, which I imagine is a bigger plot point in the books.  It's not terrible, just a little distracting.

If you like fun cliches and action, do yourself a favor and check out this series on DVD.  It won't blow you away, but it won't really disappoint either.

Next up, a tv show starring a staple of late '80s/early '90s action: Michael Dudikoff.  Unfortunately, it got a bit upstaged by a now-equally obscure television show.  Stay tuned...

Great Moments in Stock Footage: Puppet Master- The Legacy

Hot off the heels of a Full Moon release that was a clip-show disguised as a movie, here is a movie that is almost all a clip-show.  There's a subtle difference there.
The movie's plot is pretty easy to summarize.  A mean lady with a gun tracks down a friend of Andre Toulon's and tries to force information out of him.  This leads to an audio tape of Toulon being played in which he recounts all of the movie's plots- at least, the ones he's alive in.  The narrative gets a bit blurry as one of the other leads speaks on the tape too.  Did they just do a narration duet?
There are some curious choices here though.  A good majority of the film is centered around clips from Puppet Master 3, which take up a good twenty minutes.  Other ones, like Puppet Master 2, get two scenes and then the story moves on.  By the way, random cameo by Sarah Douglas, the queen of bad movie sequels in Part 3!  It also has Richard Lynch and Seinfeld's Mr. Pitt as Nazis!

In addition, if you have not seen these movies, you will be a bit confused by the order chosen.  They begin with Part 7, jump to Part 3, followed by Parts 1, 5, 4, 6 and end with Part 2.  The idea is that it is all in chronological order, mind you, but not in series order.  Maybe you guys should not randomly go back and make prequels...and then prequels to those films!

As a bonus, the movie ends with a twist, as the woman is actually trying to find a way to kill the puppets permanently.  Evidently, she was hired by other puppets...who are not evil.  Only in a Full Moon film.

As a side note, why would you conclude a series with a film that teases more?  It's called 'wrapping it up' for a reason!
Next in the series, Full Moon just says 'screw you' to using one of its stars and uses stock footage.  Good people, The Bands.  Stay tuned...

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Forgotten Sequels: Cube Zero

The Cube series is often overlooked in comparison to the film series that could not exist without it: Saw.  Mind you, the idea of people waking up in a mysterious place and trying to decipher why goes back at least as far as The Twilight Zone, but the inspiration is clear.  The biggest problem, I think, is that most people don't think of it as a series.  They either see Cube or, more commonly, Cube 2: Hypercube on its own, not realizing that there are more films.  In fact, there is this third- or zero- film in the series that attempts to explain everything.  Hopefully, it works out better than Saw III, which has needed Saw IV, V and VI to explain it.  Maybe by Saw XIII, we will get all the issues worked out.  Until then, check out my review of...
Cube Zero
The film begins with a group of people waking up in a Cube and wandering where the hell they are.  Wow, what a unique way to start the film.  I get that it is the staple of the series, but could you mix it up a little?  Well, in answer to my question, they do just that.  The bulk of the movie is built around the two guys who sit in some mysterious room and control the basic functions of the Cube.  Are these the villains of the whole series?  Well, no.  As it turns out, these guys- an older guy and a younger one with glasses- are just 'cogs in the machine' who follow a manual and do what they are supposed to.  They also wear green jumpsuits like Mike Nelson from Mystery Science Theater 3000, which was a bit distracting for me.  Anyhow, the younger guy shows the he is starting to question everything, while the older guy is pretty much a tool at this point.  It does not help when a cute blond ends up in the Cube and the young gets the hots for her.  In a new addition to the series, he monitors a dream of hers and sees her being captured & separated from her daughter.  He begins to feel bad for her and starts to question the program.  As they explain, the Cube is designed as a way to test out bio-weapons and military tech before it is put into the field.  Damn, I was hoping that it was aliens!  In addition, the workers are told that everyone is a volunteer criminal.  I wonder what will happen when he realizes that she is not...
*
We learn a bit more about these people, as well some more about the people in the cube.  The woman begins to figure out that there is a pattern to it, with each room being marked with some series of letters.  They also are smart enough to test each room by dangling their shoes into them, although that only gets them so far.  Back in the control room, the young guy gets even more doubts when he discovers an article listing the woman as a protester against the Cube Project.  I'm sorry, but if you're publicly-protesting a super-secret government operation, getting stuck in a giant death box is the least of your worries!  The movie also does not explain how people found out about this, so I guess it's not important!  The straw that breaks the camel's back is when one man gets to the Exit Room (that's not redundant or anything!) and must be tested.  Apparently, your freedom is based on how you answer a few questions whilst chained up in a black void.  Since the guy says that he does not believe in God anymore, he is fried.  I should mention two things: that guy used to be their co-worker and the reason for this question is never addressed.  For a movie designed to explain things, you have a lot of unexplained things!
*
The big turn comes when the young man decides to go in and save the people.  Of course, he is too late to save the guy who gets filled with flesh-eating bacteria AND exploded with sonics (don't ask).  Since our hero has Eidetic Memory, he figures that he can walk them through to the exit.  Never mind that he knows the exit only leads to the place where they burn you alive...  The man's plan is unfortunately thrown for a loop when his bosses- one of whom has a cybernetic eye-patch!- hit a button that makes all the letters melt.  You want to explain how that is physically possible, movie?  No?  Okay then.  In spite of this, they do a pretty good job of getting around, although the soldier guy does get killed, only to come back as a Universal Soldier...I mean, something completely original.  Oh and to make matters worse, they only have about five minutes to get out before the whole thing 'wipes itself clean.'  Translation: people gonna die!  Given the actual time spent escaping, the drama is a bit silly.  The woman makes it out past some sort of body of water, but the guy does not.  He wakes up in the clutches of his masters and is given a nice lobotomy to keep his 'super genius' in check.  He ends up back in the Cube, apparently in an attempt to make this all tie together.  Anyone buying it?  The End.
*
This movie is not bad, but it is certainly not a great film either.  On one hand, I applaud the filmmakers for trying to explain two movies that defy all explanation.  On the other hand, doesn't it almost seem better if you don't know?  The mystery of the Cube is just that the military/government are assholes that test weaponry out on whoever they don't like.  I suppose it is better than a plan involving eggs from Mars being shipped across the world in fruit baskets sent by an AWOL astronaut (Contamination).  That or a bizarre scheme involving killing people in front of a young woman in order to impress her, since her mother was a serial killer that you admired (Dario Argento's Opera).  As far as being the third- and last- film in a series, the movie does attempt some new ideas, as well as having characters act smarter than the previous ones.  Ultimately though, it does not do enough to distinguish it from the other movies in terms of setting (not that it really could, I guess), gore level and/or story.  The whole thing is pretty self-contained, however, and does not require previous viewing of the series to be enjoyed.  It's worth a look if you liked the two Cube films and wondered 'why the hell is this going on?!?'
*
Up next, is that me covering the sequel to an Academy Award winning film?  I must have some sort of alterior motive.  Stay tuned...