Wednesday, February 29, 2012

JCVD vs. Death: Until Death

Are you proposing, JCVD film?  The final film of JCVD vs. Death Week (sort of) is a dark, serious film.  Unlike Wake of Death, however, the dark aspects come from Van Damme.  Yeah, he's going there!  In this film, JCVD plays a Cop who is addicted to heroin.  If he can't cry on cue, can he pull this off?  Is Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call- JCVD good?  Well, before you decide, bear in mind that they got a respectable actor to play the villain.  That man- Stephen Rea.  I love Stuck, so I'm willing to give him a little bit of leeway here.  Can Van Damme act...if it's as a complete asshole?  Can Rea make this film respectable?  Is this just an attempt to set a film in New Orleans as penance for naming the cargo ship in Wake of Death 'Katrina?'  To find out the answers to at least two of those questions, read on...
Rea here is a bad, bad man.  He deals drugs.  He kills people.  Oh yeah, he was also Van Damme's former partner.  On the plus side, he's not nameless and dead this time!
A lot of folks get down on Van Damme after a bust goes wrong and two cops die.  Sure, he does heroin and acts like an asshole, but it's not like he does anything really ba...
...never mind.  To be fair, she was a prostitute.  It's still horrible, of course, but you can at least see where he was coming from.
Despite being a bad person, Van Damme still pursues Rea.  Things catch up to him, however, when he takes a bullet to the head.  It nearly kills him, but actually turns out for the best.
While Van Damme is in his coma for months, his body goes through the withdrawal symptoms for heroin abuse.  That's...lazy screenwriting.

Oh yeah, Rea kills a bunch of people.  That's important, I guess.
While he's not a Cop anymore- since they know he did heroin and all-, Van Damme still goes after Rea.  This inspires him to attack Van Damme directly...by kidnapping his pregnant wife and killing some kid that he met twice.  You bastards!
As it turns out, the guy who was acting all indignant about Van Damme 'getting his fiancee killed' was working with Rea.  It all turns into a Mexican Stand-Off, a fact not aided by a former Cop coming to Van Damme's aid.
Well, this is it.  This is a Van Damme film, so it all comes down to...a gun fight.  To be fair, I wasn't expecting him to kung-fu fight Stephen Rea.  No, that would have been too cool.

Van Damme lives and all is well.  It sure was easy to get over heroin.  The End.
Evidently, heroin is the opposite of riding a bike.  Before I get all negative, let me cover the positive elements. For starters, it was daring for Van Damme to attempt a role like this.  While it's no Rush, it's miles beyond what Seagal is willing to do with his 'almighty, super-hero image.'  He does commit to looking damn-creepy and I will give him credit for that.  Furthermore, it was nice of them to bring some money into New Orleans, tax credits aside.  All done?  Excellent.  The movie takes a major crap on all of the good will it established by just skipping right past the whole withdrawal thing.  I can't get over that, sorry.  Why set that up if you're just going to give up?  I also like how his Captain finds out about his drug abuse, but doesn't charge him since he's in a coma.  Nearly-dying is a pass for all crimes, folks!  The movie tries some interesting things, but Van Damme can't quite pull off the role.  This is obviously not 'a Van Damme script' though.  It's better in overall quality than Death Warrant, if for no other reason than it's more daring.  Of course, they do forget to add Van Damme's head scar for this close-up though...
Next up, a film that I absolutely, positively have to warn you about.  Even by Ted V. Mikels' standard, this one is amazingly-bad!  Stay tuned...

P.S. I have no idea what that thing on his forehead is.  He's had it for a while, I guess.

Leap Day!

With this once-in-a-four-years Day upon us, I could only think of one thing...

QUANTUM LEAP!

Without this sci-fi, cult hit, we wouldn't have a couple major stars that we have today.  Here are some visual examples...

Before she fought a Leprechaun over some gold, she was a Nurse...
Before he did mushrooms and branded a prostitute on-screen, he was a Bully...
As weird and wacky as the show could get- see Dr. Ruth judo-flipping a guy- it was great.  Watch it, won't you?  Oh and remember, this happened...
P.S. I own this comic book- no lie.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

JCVD vs. Death: Wake of Death

What is this now?  As my teaser said, this one of the three movies that I got for Christmas from a long-time friend/subscriber.  I had to make up a silly pretense to review this movie, but when is that a new thing?  He got this movie almost solely based on one thing: Van Damme's sad mug on the box.  That's an oddly-effective marketing campaign, guys!  It helps that it has an interestingly-sounding, but otherwise nonsensical title too.  What does that mean?  Is death like the tide?  Tide of Death just isn't as interesting, I guess.  Here's what you need to know: Van Damme goes dark.  Much like Born to Raise Hell a few years later, this movie is Van Damme attempting to make himself into a violent bad-ass.  Yes, the guy who did a split in his underwear in Timecop is scary now!  The plot: Van Damme's life goes to hell, so he shoots people.  Do you need to know more?  No.  Good.  Read on...
A Chinese gang boss called Sun Quan kills his wife, but his daughter sees it and runs off.  Is there a point to his name being the same as a famous Chinese Warrior?  No.  Pointless name-dropping that only two people get is awesome!
The kid makes it to Los Angeles, conveniently ending up with Van Damme's wife- an INS Agent.  Shit's going to go down!
Sun Quan finds the girl and starts to killing.  Caught in the crossfire is Van Damme's Mother and Father-in-Law.  On the plus side, he got rid of your Mother-in-Law, Van Damme!
Want to see Van Damme react to this?  Well, you don't get much.  Here's a shot of water poured under his eyes- since he doesn't actually cry on camera.
What makes this film so dark and gritty?  Aside from the shooting and blood, there's this scene where the wife's boss is tortured...with a power drill!  Holy Hostel, Batman!
It's important to know that this movie is gritty and dark.  Now watch Van Damme drive on this conveniently-placed ramp inside of a Mall.
The climax: Van Damme will deliver the girl in exchange for his captive son Nicholas.  Fun fact: Van Damme can't say 'Nicholas' with his accent.  According to him, his son is named 'Nikolai.'
With every other person Van Damme has known or loved- save for his son-  dead, he only has one kung-fu knowing friend.  He helps out, but doesn't exactly end up being rewarded for it.
Want to know how not to end a Van Damme movie?  Well, this film ends with a shoot-out.  No spin kicks, splits or anything.  He kills the bad guy and nobody learns a lesson in the slightest.  The End.
Evidently, murder is its own moral.  Seriously, this film has no point other than to have people be killed violently.  Van Damme does it to get his son back...eventually, but it's mostly to murder the people that killed his wife.  It's hard to blame him...to a point.  His character is vague at best and bloodthirsty at worst.  What is he, exactly?  We get one scene implying that he's a Bouncer, since I guess being a real criminal was too much for him.  On the plus side, he wasn't a Federal Agent!  I love how vague the authority figures are here too.  After the murder, he has a gun-fight in the street, but isn't arrested or really even questioned about murdering people in broad daylight.  He even asks if he can have his gun back!  Sun Quan is a neat, if one-note villain.  He doesn't really do anything other than cut people with a knife and yell.  You, sir, are a plot device and nothing more.  Why is he called Sun Quan again?  This movie is dark, dark, dark!  The torture scene is intense and very graphic.  Drill to the eye!  What can you take away from this film?  If you want to kill someone, everyone around you will die/be hurt, but you'll eventually kill them.  Hurray?  Take us away, sad and confused Van Damme face...
Next up, one final Van Damme film on Leap Day.  Van Damme invades New Orleans...and does heroin.  Stay tuned...

Monday, February 27, 2012

JCVD vs. Death: Death Warrant

I'm sorry, but is that even a thing?  In this flimsy pretense to review a few Jean Claude Van Damme films, I wanted to do Sudden Death.  I mean, it's Die Hard...but in a hockey game.  Fate had other plans, leading me to this film that actually fits me better than I could have imagined.  How so?  For one thing, is stars Art LeFleur.  Secondly, it features Patrick Kilpatrick, a very underrated villain.  It's kind of a shame that he doesn't do a lot here though.  Finally, it is by a very acclaimed and successful screenwriter, getting his first credit here.  Who is it?  I'm not telling just yet.  The plot is simple...kind of.  Van Damm goes undercover in a prison to discover why people are being killed there.  Here's a guess- it's a prison!  In all seriousness, there's some sneaky dealings going on in there and it's up to this Belgian kickboxer to get to the bottom of it.  To find out more, read on...
Remember the guy who wrote the Blade films and Batman Begins?  Well, he started here, folks!
This movie gives a big, exposition dump early on.  Van Damme is a Mountie- never in uniform, sadly- who is going after the killer- The Sandman- who killed his partner- never shown or even named.  He shoots him and that's that.  Surely there's more later...
As a Mountie who is apparently just hanging around the city for the next 16 months, he's sent undercover in a prison.  As a nice guy, he only does it after he gets the hots for his 'contact' there.  Nice.
Thankfully, he has the help of Abar, the First Black Superman in there.  Sadly, it's not really Tobar Mayo.  He'd just mind-control everyone anyhow.
He's also got Benson on his side.  He has a pointless eye scar to boot.  That's...not really all that important, thanks.
Things take a turn for the worse when our hero's identity is uncovered.  How?  As it turns out, The Sandman didn't die, despite taking four slugs to the chest.  Who know that he was immortal?  I guess beer does that.
All of this boils down to a fight between Van Damme and The Sandman.  Clearly, he's the most important character, given that he only appeared in the first five minutes.

After controlling most of the fight, he opens the furnace doors...and just stands there.  It's Van Damme- guess what happens.
Inexplicably, the 'One Last Hurrah' cliche comes up and he jumps out of the furnace.  Within twenty seconds, he gets his head impaled on a pipe.  Odd.

With all of the villains dead, the movie just kind of ends.  What happens to the human organ trafficking ring?  I guess that's done.  The End.
Organs for everyone!  In spite of being about a black market organ ring, it's mostly about Van Damme looking weak.  I don't know this for a fact, but this doesn't seem like 'a Van Damme script.'  You can see films that are either written for him (or by him) or ones that lean towards his strengths.  This is not one of those films.  He does about a dozen kicks in the whole movie- low for him.  He spends most of the time trying to solve a mystery.  Clearly, the guy most famous for doing splits is the guy that I look to for my mystery-solving!  In all seriousness, this is not a bad script per se.  The problem is that it feels like big pieces are cut out of it.  For example, Van Damme's partner and his death.  It's not shown, nor is the character given a name.  Was there a flashback scene cut?  Was he in the original intro but cut for time?  There's a lot of extemporaneous stuff in this film, so it seems like they could have made room.  On a more minor point, I was denied the chance to see Van Damme actually dressed like a Canadian Mountie!  If you're not going to show it, just make him a cop or something.  Good grief!  If you want to see Van Damme do something different, this certainly qualifies.  It could have easily been a film starring Bruce Willis, Michael Dudikoff or anyone else though.  On the plus side, random black midget.  Happy Black History Month, courtesy of Mondo Bizarro...
Next up, the third film I got for Christmas from my friend.  Will Van Damme's sad mug help this hyper-violent revenge tale?  Stay tuned...

VHS For The Win: Brutes and Savages

I won't let any mish-mash holiday keep me from giving you what you want- some amazingly-racist VHS box art...
Is his name Tobi too?  If it's not, he's scary!  Show me just how scary and possibly evil he is, movie!!!

Oddly-fitting to do this after a movie about Lincoln, huh?

Up next, a film that's notable for being changed in post-production into something much more interesting.  Will the VHS box follow suit?  Stay tuned...

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Totally-Deceptive Cover Art: 976 Evil 2

Are you ready for a DVD box to lie to you?  If so, you're all set for the British box-art for 976 Evil II...
You know who's not in this movie?  It's certainly not the villain from the first movie.  He's literally in Hell!  You lie!!!

The actual villain is kind of neat-looking.  Why didn't you use him?!?

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Fangoria Crap: Dark House

Can the House be better than the Ride.  I switched to Fangoria somewhat by accident, but this was a movie I was curious about.  I'll be honest- it's because of Jeffrey Combs.  Can you blame me?  Interestingly enough, he's playing the 'scam artist' running a haunted house that goes awry, while he played by a ghost in a haunted house run by a 'scam artist' that went awry in House on Haunted Hill.  Okay, maybe I'm the only one that finds that interesting- fair enough.  This plot is basic at its core, but throws a couple of weird wrenches into the gears to make it...odd.  We have the 'girl trying to confront lost memories' mixed in with the 'fake haunted house that's actually haunted' story.  Do they work together?  Yes and no.  The film is guilty of some pretty blatant cheats to keep suspense going on and also can't quite agree on what they want to happen.  I'll refrain from saying more here, but will say that SPOILERS are coming.  No complaining now.  To find out why this movie is great and terrible, read on...
The film opens with a girl walking into a house and finding a bunch of corpses, most of which are kids.  It ends abruptly.  Incidentally, this scene is mostly a lie.  More on that later...
Our heroine is traumatized by this event, even she doesn't exactly remember everything.  The solution- go to the house.  You, sir, are a terrible Psychiatrist!
She goes to acting classes, which are interrupted by Jeffrey Combs, who wants to hire them as hosts for his haunted house show...in the house our heroine wants to go to.  What (terrible) luck!
The whole house is rigged up with computers and sensors.  They project holograms to represent the monsters and scares.  Sadly, they didn't prepare for a ghost to hack into their system and take over.  Wait- what?!?
Crazy shit starts to go down and people start to die.  At one point, the little ghost kid from The Grudge shows up to...spew poison gas.  Given the explanation(s) for what happens, you should bear in mind that this happens away from our heroine.
The good news: you won't die of terminal cancer.  The bad news: your head is getting exploded by a holographic knight's mace.
With every other cast member out of the way, our heroine confronts the evil ghost lady- who is now in 'the flesh'.  The film cuts away suddenly, just because we have to have the plot twist.

Warning: SPOILERS ahead...
A Detective we've never seen before explains to his boss- who we've also never seen before- that our heroine was just crazy and killed everyone.  That's stupid, but at least you picked one...
Wait, so the movie ends with the ghost of the woman coming out to kill the girl who actually showed up in the beginning.  What was the point of that previous explanation then?  What really happened?!?  The *real* End.
You just had to ruin everything, didn't you?!?  I'll admit that this movie was not great to begin with.  The whole premise- a *fake* haunted house being real- is a bit played out.  It's nothing special, but it works for a movie like this.  Fangoria is not exactly trying to rewrite the rules of horror film-making, after all.  The way the movie turns is also not that realistic.  How does the ghost come to life?  According to one line of dialogue, she can't be at rest because the one girl survived.  I can 'buy' that, I guess.  How does the ghost hack into the computer?  How does it know how?  Do E-Sata cables conduct ghosts?  Even if you accept that ridiculous idea, the holograms start killing people...because they're 'solid light.'  Is it that easy to turn projections into killing machines?  If so, we should probably stop making holograms!  So now that we have illogical ghost-hacker-controlled holograms that can kill people, the movie then tells us that none of it happened.  If so, how did the murder with the poison gas happen?  How did she imagine something when she wasn't even there?  That goes for the death of 'Goth Girl' too.  They had a simple execution going- what with her being the guide- but ruined it with other kills.  Plus, how does she not remember putting glue in the locks?  Okay, I can accept this very-flawed plot twist...so why did you undo it about two minutes later?  If you can't pick an ending or a basic plot structure, stop wasting my time!  You're still awesome though, Jeffrey- good on you.  Speaking of good things, here are two of them...
Next up, a three-part look at Jean-Claude Van Damme in movies with 'Death' in the title.  First up, JCVD in prison...with black-market organ theft.  Stay tuned...

Friday, February 24, 2012

Crap After Dark: Reincarnation

I only turn Japanese After Dark!  Today's film comes to us from a fairly-successful Japanese Director.  You may have heard of his biggest film- The Grudge.  Ring a bell?  In spite of that, his 2007 film Reincarnation is part of the After Dark line.  Weird, right?  Did Sam Raimi see this and say 'Nah- I'll make my own movie.'  What is this movie about?  It's about people making a movie...but with ghosts.  This is your typical J-Horror fare, for better or for worse.  Honestly, that sentence tells you all that you need to know for the set-up.  Let's not waste any more time and I'll just ask you to read on...
A man is making a movie.  It's about some real murders that happened.  This girl gets cast because she looked at him weird.  Any questions?
Creepy little girl ghost with a doll- check.  Couldn't make a J-Horror film without at least one aspect of that, right?
Did I mention that the Doll occasionally acts on its own too?  Well, it does.  Since there's not much plot here, I'm going to waste a bit of time...
One odd sequence has our title character grabbed from a library- see above- and fly into an empty city.  Weird shit happens and...
She wakes up.  When did the dream part start again?  Was she talking to the other girl and immediately pass out?  In her bed, the Doll suddenly appears and...
She wakes up in her bed...again.  Holy Inception, Batman!  By the way, what was the point of this?
The story?  If you insist.  The Director takes the movie shoot to the actual location of the killings, rendering all of that stuff earlier about building a set pointless.  They act out a scene and shit goes down.
At the end of that, the Doll of the girl killed by her father walks up to the actress...who is the now the ghost of the dad...or something.  The bottom line...
She goes bat-shit insane.  If I attempt to explain any more of this plot, I will too.  The End.
Seriously, I've got nothing.  As I've mentioned before, I'm not the biggest fan of J-Horror or K-Horror films.  There's nothing wrong with them, but they are not for me.  Like most of those others, the pacing is all over the place.  Sometimes major scenes happen, while other scenes are just of two people sitting around explaining something.  In this movie, it's our heroine explaining Reincarnation.  In one of the first scenes, they even imply that there is an App to tell you what your past lives were.  You're beating us in the tech market, how?!?  Another problem is that our lead(s) just come off as being weird.  If I was haunted by the ghost of a little girl and her one-eyed doll, I might be a little weird too.  However, the main character is kind of crazy before- what with her obsession involving past lives and all.  Ultimately, if you like J-Horror, you'll probably like this film.  I won't say that this film is coherent or all that logical, but it is well-made.  What they were trying to say here was just lost on me...assuming there was a message.  This sums up my reaction quite well...
Next up, I switch gears to Fangoria for this one-shot review.  Can a film with no clear plot twist in mind be good?  Stay tuned...