Friday, 12 February 2016

Zombie Ninjas vs. Black Ops


ZOMBIE NINJAS vs. BLACK OPS (2015)

Directed by: Rody Claude
Written by: Kylie Claude
Starring: Adam T. Perkins, Kira Caine &  Soa Palelei

Now that’s a great title: Zombie Ninjas vs. Black Ops. Does this B-movie live up to its awesome title? It sure does, delivering bucket loads of zombie bashing action at a relentless pace. The low budget zombie genre may have reached saturation point a long time ago but Zombie Ninjas vs. Black Ops injects the genre with some much needed adrenaline and that sure fire concept that makes anything and everything a hundred times better: ninjas. It’s action from the get go as the top secret experiments to create the ultimate soldier at SaiSei Security goes awry unleashing a squad of zombie ninjas who decimate most of the building’s occupants. A team of black ops are sent in to clean up but this doesn’t go according to plan meaning the remaining members of the team along with a few other survivors, including a bad ass military type, have to fight their way out of the building fending themselves from the ever swarming zombie ninjas. 


Mixing zombies, ninjas, guns and a little bit of Universal Soldier into the mix Zombie Ninjas vs. Black Ops gets down to business quick and rarely lets up. With little time for setup, the flick kicks off in high gear with the ninja zombies (really more like souped-up ninja soldiers that that howl and growl a lot, than straightforward zombies) already running amok. People are slain, fights break out and the good guys storm the building, heavy artillery in hand. The action comes thick and fast and it’s a nice mix of ninja styled combat, shoot-outs and zombie chasing chaos. While the narrative is streamlined to the point of run, chase, fight, run chase, fight, it works in the film’s favour as that’s really what one wants to see in a film called Zombie Ninjas vs. Black Ops. However, there a few surprises along the way not least one shock moment come the halfway point this nobody reviewer didn’t see coming and the momentum is kept up as the stakes becoming higher and higher for our put upon heroes and the fights and confrontations escalate in their intensity. 


Sure the film is very low of budget, the acting and dialogue is occasionally a little ropy and the camera is a little too close and shaky in some of the action scenes but on the whole, Zombie Ninjas vs. Black Ops is a hoot. Despite the low budget the film looks very slick using its single location to its advantage (proceedings play out a little like Die Hard with zombies!) and the cast, including UFC fighter Soa Palelei (as a big bad zombie ninja!) throw themselves into the action with gusto. The mixture of fights, gunplay and in one imaginative moment, ninja sword action, give the action scenes variety and are all delivered with brutal efficiency. The flick plays things a little more seriously than one may be expecting considering the title of the film but again this works in the film’s favour as tension is built and it’s refreshing to have a genre film, that while is certainly fun and its main goal it to entertain, isn’t always winking at the camera and pushing it’s tongue too far through its cheek! Kudos also to making the zombies actually somewhat different their striking movements, ability to fight and unsettling sound they emit, making them feel like an actual threat.

It comes with the requisite B-movie madness and low budget trappings but on the whole Zombie Ninjas vs. Black Ops is a zombie action blast and a second go around with these super zombie ninjas would be a welcome prospect.
    
                                          


Friday, 15 January 2016

The Ninja Trilogy


ENTER THE NINJA (1981) 

Directed by: Menahem Golan

Screenplay: Dick Desmond, Story: Mike Stone
Starring: Franco Nero, Susan George, Sho Kosugi, Alex Courtney & Christopher George

Considered to be one of the films that originally kicked off the 80s ninja boom, Enter the Ninja is a dated and often silly jaunt seen through today’s over-critical eyes but still stands up as a fun ride. This is due in part to leading man Franco Nero, an early on screen (and bad guy) appearance by Sho Kosugi and nicely handled, and quite bloody, ninja action scenes overseen b y Mike Stone. Nero is Cole, an all round American cool dude (complete with ace moustache!) who has just completed his ninja training in Japan. No sooner has he become a top ninja-dude (and peeved off equally badass and very grumpy ninja rival Hasegawa – Kosugi), Cole jets off to Manila to hook up with ex-army buddy Frank (Courtney) who along with his gorgeous albeit estranged wife (Susan George) are being threatened by the evil Venarius (Christopher George). He wants Frank’s land, Frank won’t give it up (well to be more be precise his strong-willed wife wont) and Venarius sends all kinds of B-movie goons to threaten him. So Cole being the deadly ninja and all round good friend that he is decides to help Frank fight Venarius (as well as bed Frank’s wife – so not all that good of a friend!) leading to mucho cool ninja action.

This coming from the Golan-Globus house and directed by Menahem Golan himself, Enter the Ninja has a cheese factor that goes through the roof. From Nero’s obvious dubbing (and doubling in the action scenes), to Christopher George’s wacky performance, to an abundance of odd supporting characters (The Hook!), Enter the Ninja is not only a time capsule of long gone ninja movies but of the type of movies Golan-Globus were infamous for and cheesy 80s action movies in general. That said, the flick is still a lot of fun. It’s nicely lensed, Nero seems to be having a blast even if he can’t do the ninja moves himself (handled by action coordinator, Mike Stone), Susan George makes for a spunky if put-upon female lead, Kosugi is always good value when stretching his ninja skills and the action comes thick and fast. From the impressive and sustained opening sequence showcasing Nero taking out heaps of ninjas to complete his training to the ninja vs. ninja finale, Enter the Ninja delivers lots of unfussy but violently staged fights and combat. The first in Canon’s original ninja trilogy may also suffer from wobbly pacing and Golan’s slapdash directional style but nevertheless provides requisite ninja action, looks good in this new cleaned up print and is the perfect introduction not only to this trilogy but the 80s American ninja movie obsession in general.

 REVENGE OF THE NINJA (1983)

Directed by: Sam Firstenberg
Screenplay: James R. Silke
Starring: Sho Kosugi, Keith Vitali, Virgil Frye, Arthur Roberts, Ashley Ferrare & Kane Kosugi

While not a direct sequel to Enter the Ninja, Revenge features the return of Sho Kosugi (this time elevated to main star and hero), much of the same crew including producers Golan - Globus and again centres on mucho crazy ninja action. Starting off much like Enter with an extended scene of ninja based action, Revenge opens in brutal and relentless style and rarely lets up from then on in. Cho (Kosugi) returns to his once peaceful home to find his family massacred and quickly makes short work of the ninjas that perpetrated said massacre. His dubious buddy Braden (Roberts) suggests Cho and his surviving son should move to the States to escape such violence, which they do real quick like. But no sooner has Cho relocated, set up his own gallery and thinks life is all hunky dory than the scumbag Roberts reveals his true nature, using Cho’s gallery as a front to smuggle heroin. On top of this Roberts is also a bad ass ninja, is muscling in and wiping out the local crime competition and is manipulating Cho’s foxy assistant (Ferrare) to help do his dirty work. Once Cho discovers this, he takes up ninja arms against Braden and an all out ninja war commences.

From the vicious opening battle (even a kid gets a shuriken star in the face!), Revenge of the Ninja means business and over its 90 minute runtime barely stops for breath in its onslaught of swords, throwing stars, nun-chucks and bodily dismemberment. Relocating the action to the US and shot primarily in and around Salt Lake City, Utah this sequel ups the ante in every way with rookie action helmer Sam Firstenberg delivering taught and tight action at an alarming rate and even going as far too almost top the rollicking action of his later ninja masterpiece, American Ninja 2. The sun soaked setting gives proceedings a slick look, shining through in this new cleaned up widescreen edition, and not only does Sho Kosugi get to be front and centre this time he’s backed up by his equally talented pint sized progeny, Kane Kosugi. The two of them kick, twirl, slash and disappear in a puff of smoke with relentless energy in a barrage of action that goes full tilt in the over-the-top craziness. From the barnstorming fight-cum-car-chase-cum-fight again, to Kane’s fight with the foxy Ferrare, to the extended finale set inside and on top off the bad guys hideout the ninja action is non-stop, often insanely violent  and thanks to Sho’s and stunt coordinator Steven Lambert’s overseeing, skilfully handled. They throw in every kind of fight, chase and weapon they can think of and at one particularly over-the-top moment, I’m pretty sure Sho (and ace super-kicker Keith Vitali) fight the village people! Yep, Revenge of the Ninja comes with all the requisite 80s (not to mention Cannon) cheese and looniness but with ninjas a-go-go and heaps of finely crafted action, Revenge is one of the best ninja movies to come out of the decade that taste forgot.

NINJA III: THE DOMINATION (1984) 

Directed by: Sam Firstenberg
Screenplay: James R. Silke
Starring: Sho Kosugi, Lucinda Dickey, Jordan Bennett & James Hong

So after the Philippine set, Franco Nero starring Enter and the all out superior ninja action of Revenge, there was really only one way for Golan – Globus to go with the final entry in their original ninja series: magic and the 80s aerobics craze! Well, obviously as if there was one thing that incited mania as much as ninja movies in the 80s it was brightly coloured lyrca based aerobics! While the previous two films are certainly silly and dated in certain aspects, Ninja III adds whole new dimensions of wackiness with body-hopping ninjas, Poltergeist styled spooky shenanigans and mucho sweaty aerobic/dance absurdness. Sexy aerobics instructor Christie (the very lovely Lucinda Dickey) unwittingly becomes the host for a dying ninja who is (eventually) shot to death by a squad of police officers trying to apprehend him after a killing spree. Transferring his soul to Christie she struggles to control her new personality as she finds herself often transforming into a kill happy ninja. Desperately trying to keep control of her mind and body, Christie attempts to thwart the evil ninja by the only means she knows how: enlisting the help of good ninja Yamada (Kosugi) and using her considerable skills for dance, aerobics and rocking tight lycra!

The 80s is the only time this film could have been created and goodness knows what the makers were thinking when they decided to shoe horn in aerobics, magic and a soppy love story into a violent ninja action film. Perhaps trying to capitalize on the success of the their dance themed Breakin’ movies (both of which starred Dickey and the second of which was helmed by Firstenberg) and mesh it with the ninja craze, Golan-Globus created one of the weirdest hybrids from a decade that excelled at weird. However, despite all the kookiness that inevitably ensues, the film is still a hoot and is also packed with lots of violent ninja action. Opening just like the other two films with an epic action scene (if there is one thing this series excels at, it is well sustained action scenes) featuring all kinds of vehicle stunts and an insane amount of police officers being slain, Ninja III still remembers to bring action in amongst all the dancing, possessed arcade games and laugh inducing love scenes! Kosugi takes somewhat of a step back this time around only really showing up for the second half of the film to kick ass with style but having a female protagonist taking centre stage gives this third entry a refreshing slant. Dickey is equal parts cute, sexy, strong, feisty and likeable and throws herself into the role of possessed ninja with aplomb. Her obvious dance talent helps with the ninja moves and while the film is perhaps remembered for all its absurd kooks, Dickey helps to ground it (somewhat) and gives the audience a plucky protagonist to root for.  While Revenge is the superior of the three, Ninja III is still an absolute blast and a perfect 80s/ninja/exercise craze time capsule complete with sword fights and car stunts.


Friday, 11 December 2015

Weekend of Trash XIX

                                   

I met up once again with a couple of the guys from Blueprint Review for another epic weekend of non-stop B-movie madness. We managed to get through yet another abundance of low budget insanity including Primal Rage, The Borrower, Kung Fu Warrior, The Junkman and Surviving the Game to name a few!

Check out Blueprint's write up.

And a few more mad delights that were watched but not reviewed

                                   

Monday, 21 September 2015

Weekend of Trash XVIII


I met up once again with a couple of the guys from Blueprint Review for another weekend of non-stop B-movie madness. We managed to get through yet another abundance of low budget insanity including Codename: Blackfire, Ghost Rock, the very awesome H-Bomb, Deathstalker 4 and, err, Bee Movie!

Check out Blueprint's write up.

Monday, 7 September 2015

AWOL-72


AWOL-72 (2015)

Directed by: Christian Sesma
Screenplay: Christian Sesma & Cecil Chambers
Starring: Luke Goss, RZA, Bokeem Woodbine, Heather Roop & Louis Mandylor

Director Christian Sesma and star Luke Goss seem to have a good thing going and re-team, after the flawed but very fun genre bending action film The Night Crew, for a more serious effort in AWOL-72. Unfortunately this second go around for the two isn’t quite as good (or anywhere near as entertaining) as their previous effort. Goss is Conrad Miller an ex-marine who has gone AWOL with some secret government information. Waking one morning, he sets off across country hoping to deliver said info to his contact but things go from bad to worse when he stops to help out a troubled young lady. Meanwhile, the LAPD, some Russian heavies and a mysterious assassin are hot on his trail hoping to get to him before he passes the information on.


Whereas The Night Crew was streamlined, action packed, mashed genres and had enough heavy artillery to arm to several action films, AWOL-72 is a much more serious, albeit low key, thriller more concerned with twists and turns than big shoot-em up action scenes. It’s cool Sesma and Goss have attempted something different here (presumably burning through some left over money they didn’t use shooting up the motel in The Night Crew!) and while there are certain narrative surprises (that this yahoo reviewer didn’t see coming!) and a little bit of stylish action come the climax, AWOL-72 falters with too many ideas and too many characters.


What should have been a taut and tight little thriller often feels dragged out and clogged up with too much going on. RZA’s cop on the case, who teams up with a Russian agent to find Connor, has little to do and his narrative strand doesn’t really go anywhere: though nice to see RZA playing it straight and getting to act a bit. Likewise, Connor’s journey to deliver said information takes s few unexpected turns but too much time is wasted on these divergent plot strands when the focus should have been on his quest and Bokeem Woodbine’s ruthless assassin who is relentlessly pursuing him. This unfortunately means the thriller element has very little urgency (save for the last 10-15 minutes when proceedings come alive!) and scenes of lengthy dialogue stretch on and on meaning that even the brisk 75 minute run time can feel a bit like a slog.

Still, getting past the negatives AWOL-72 is stylishly shot, Luke Goss makes for a commanding leading man (let’s get him in a big budget action film again!), the final fifteen minutes has some nicely staged gunplay and hand-to-hand fights (there should have been more of this), the supporting cast of familiar faces is a welcome touch and, well, Sesma certainly fills the running time with a plethora of beautiful women. Seriously, there is barely a scene without an attractive woman featured and this certainly helps during the more sluggish sections. Overall, not bad and a decent stab at a serious thriller on a budget but The Night Crew is much more fun and is a better showcase for Sesma’s and Goss’ obvious talent. 


Kill Zone


KILL ZONE (1993)

Directed by: Cirio H. Santiago
Screenplay: Frederick Bailey
Starring: David Carradine, Tony Dorsett, Rob Youngblood, Vic Terino

Kill Zone is essentially Roger Corman/Cirio H. Santiago-M16 firing-jungle exploding-Vietnam set-Philippine-shot version one hundred and…well, who knows how many. These flicks were a dime a dozen in the 80s (and this was definitely shot in the 80s despite good ole IMDB stating it was released in 93!) and features yet another bunch of dudes running around the jungle blowing shit up while a couple of (sort of) name stars lead the charge. Rinse and Repeat.

Kill Zone, why not the best of this once unstoppable genre, certainly packs in the firepower and at least has something a tad different going on in David Carradine’s bat-shit crazy Colonel Horace Wiggins. Not only is he horribly monikered but he’s on a one man mission to wipe out the VC, no matter the cost, leading the group of grunts he’s got on the firing line to question his motives and eventually turn on him.


All the by-the-by really as it’s just an excuse for copious amounts of ammo dispensing gunfire, ridiculous amounts of explosions and for the lead grunts to shout a lot as they dispense said ammo and blow shit up. Proceedings switch back and forth between the jungle action and Carradine’s office (looking suspiciously like Corman/Santiago’s then production office!) where he barks orders and incredibly un-PC insults, chews a cigar continuously, rocks the aviators and sweats like a bastard! Seriously, the guy was obviously feeling the Philippine heat and every shot unfortunately captures his sweaty and gross discomfort. Nice! However, he’s a hoot and obviously decided to go full tilt as the barking mad Colonel (and even dons a bandana and an M16 for the gun-blasting finale!) while the rest of the cast play it gung-go straight. The cast features a few other recognisable Corman/Santiago jungle actioner regulars along with one-time pro NFL player Tony Dorsett as one of the gun-toting grunts: he even gets his own scene where he puts his running back skills to good use to dodge bullets and lob a grenade at some bad guys. Cool.

It’s all run of the mill gun-action-jungle-destroying good times that while a bit of a slog in places, still delivers copious amounts of bullets, explosions and over-acting eccentricities from the late great Carradine. In addition, it ends on one of the most inexplicable (and unintentionally hilarious) freeze frames ever: so there’s that also! Apparently the flick recycles footage from other Corman/Santiago jungle actioners Last Stand at Lang Mei and Field of Fire, some of which can be seen in the groovy trailer below but isn’t actually featured in the film itself: ah, the brilliance of B-movies!


Tuesday, 25 August 2015

Colt 45


Check out my new review of cool French cop thriller Colt 45 over at Blueprint Review.

Thursday, 20 August 2015

Lost Platoon



LOST PLATOON (1991)

Directed by: David A. Prior
Screenplay: David A. Prior & Ted Prior
Starring: William Knight, David Parry, Stephen Quadros, Michael Wayne

During his illustrious career, David A. Prior churned out a few gems in amongst all the cheapness, absurdity and gun blazing action and this nobody reviewer considers Lost Platoon to be one of those gems. For sure it’s cheap, absurd (to the Nth degree!) and is packed with gun blazing action but it’s a neat little film with a cool concept, meshing action and horror, for some fun low budget good times.

A reporter (Knight) is saved by a mysterious squad of fighters while in combat during his service as a frontline soldier. Said squad swoop in and decimate the advancing German army during a battle in WW2. Fast forward many years later and said reporter is still covering the war, this time in war torn Nicaragua, where an evil warlord is making a right nuisance of himself.  While covering the conflict, the reporter stumbles across said squad of fighters again, who have not aged, and finally discovers their secret to eternal life and super strength: they’re vampires. Said squad, having fought through the ages, swan in to help the cause in the Nicaragua but soon realise they are up against a greater foe as the evil warlord shares their taste for blood.


Cheap, campy and oh so silly, Lost Platoon isn’t quite as cool in its execution as the above synopsis suggests but Prior (co-writing with his brother Ted) get points for trying here, squeezes out a bit of creativity despite the lack of budget and, of course, crams the flick with bullet spewing action. The concept is cool: a squad of soldiers (led by Stephen “The Fight Professor” Quadros: cool!) from wars throughout the ages and turned to vampires, form a squad of super soldiers and help fight in major battles across time. This leads to much fighting, shooting, and groovy Evil Dead style POV-speeded up camerawork that is pretty much ripped off wholesale from said franchise. The story of the evil warlord is all by-the-by really and is just an excuse for lots of dudes running around with M16s, shooting each other in bloody squib-tastic fashion: so business as usual for Prior then. 


Shot in and around the woods of Alabama, Lost Platoon suffers from the usual sluggish pacing problems and often-amateur acting found in such cheap films, but Prior buoys proceedings with the odd bit of creativity and moments of what-the-fuck! From the groovy aforementioned camerawork to crazy moments such as the squad being able to catch bullets (!) and exhibit a Jedi mind trick when the situation calls for it (which is as hilarious as it sounds!) to the opening battle set during WW2, which is actually pretty cool and nicely staged.

If you ain’t one for Prior flicks then you’ll probably find the whole thing hilarious in a so bad its good way but if you dig his films and have an affinity for low budget action and horror flicks, especially ones that are kind of like a 50s B-movie with 80s style violent action, then Lost Platoon is a hoot and one of the sadly missed filmmaker’s more enjoyable escapades.

Trailer: 


Operation Warzone



OPERATION WARZONE (1988)

Directed by: David A. Prior
Screenplay: David A. Prior & Ted Prior
Starring: William Zipp, Fritz Matthews & Joe Spinell

Ah the good old days of B-movie action films where all you needed was a bunch of dudes, some prop guns, loads of squibs and a jungle/forest setting to film it all in and voila you have a movie. Ah the good old days of the David A. Prior films when he did exactly this. Operation Warzone is prime Prior: Vietnam jungle setting, squibs galore, M16 blazing action and a bunch of dudes running around getting shot.

Here three US army troops come under heavy fire, escape the Vietcong by hiding away in their tunnels, where they rescue a couple of other US army dudes who turn out to be undercover agents looking for somebody called “The General” who has information on some other army big-wig who is out to do a shady arms deal to make a ton of money. Or something. Throw in Joe (Maniac) Spinnell as the one orchestrating it all from his cushy office in DC and a ton of bloody squib, gun blasting action and voila, Operation Warzone.


If you love 80s Vietnam machine gun firing flicks, David A. Prior films and B-movies in general then you know the drill: scene after scene of machine gun spewing firepower, lots of running around, lots of shouting (and sweating!) and if all else fails/grinds to a holt/runs out of steam, a couple more machine gun spewing scenes of firepower. That’s Operation Warzone in a nutshell and if you dig all that has just been mentioned then this flick is some gun blasting good times. There is a lot of shouting from the cast (including one random Australian dude: “Enough of this dingo shit!”) lots of running around, double crosses, fist-fights (including one where it seems they ran out of ideas and so decided to just have two of the main characters punch one another!) and, yep, bloody squib gunplay galore. If Operation Warzone gets points for anything, it is for the amount of people shot in over-the-top squib-tastic fashion: so much so that even after one of the characters at the end of the film declares “It’s all over!” two more people get shot in a hail of bloody squibs! Awesome.

For it’s barely 80 minutes of runtime, Operation Warzone is an action blast but can’t escape Prior’s penchant for the absurd. Joe Spinell serves little purpose, only has a couple of scenes and is really only there to add a “name” to the cast: though he does get to look at an attractive ladies boobs in one of his scenes! The music is also all over the place: one minute 80s rock-tastic, propelling the action, the next minute going for comedy japes as the soldier’s run around looking lost. Weird! But thankfully we are never far away from the next machine-gunning action scene with bloody squibs going off! Not quite as dementedly fun as Prior’s Deadly Prey or Lost Platoon but still a bullet riddled action hoot from the late, great director. 

Tuesday, 18 August 2015

Vice


VICE (2015)

Directed by: Brian A. Miller
Screenplay: Jeremy Passmore & Andre Fabrizio
Starring: Thomas Jane, Ambyr Childers & Bruce Willis

Action sci-fi shenanigans abound in this slick if rather ho-hum thriller which sees a rather creepy guy called Julian (Willis, seemingly phoning in his performance from the future!) ruling over a fantasy section of society, called Vice, where humans can do whatever they want without consequences: basically for men to be complete dicks and kill people! Said section is inhabited by life like robots who aid scuzzy humans in living out their fantasies/depravity and when one of the said robots, Kelly (Childers), suddenly becomes self aware and realizes all the horrible things she has had to endure, decides to go on the run throwing the perfectly constructed world of Vice into chaos. After a bit of contrivance she teams up with long-haired no-nonsense cop Roy (Jane) who hates Vice and everything it stands for and the two go on the run, ever perused by Julian’s goons, in an attempt to expose Vice for the seedy and corrupt society it really is.


At a brisk 90 minutes, Vice moves along fast, has just enough gun blazing action to keep one entertained, a few good performances (sans Willis!) but unfortunately doesn’t spend enough time exploring it’s futuristic concept and setting. Kelly becomes self aware rather quickly and takes to it a little too easily so the on-the-run/chase element can kick in quicker. It’s running and chasing and shooting from there on out, which is all good and entertaining but Vice then just becomes a sort of run-of-the-mill chase thriller with a few sci-fi trappings. There is a sort of sub-plot of Kelly meeting/teaming up with a one of the originators of Vice who may be linked to her past, and he joins in with the run and shoot escapades, but unfortunately adds little interest and it would have been better if proceedings had just focused on the runaway robot and Thomas Jane’s grouchy, scruffy cop. 


Both Ambyr Childers and Thomas Jane (who always brings a bit of grit and class to genre fare), seem to be trying and give solid performances: though would appear to be in a different, and much better, film than everyone else. The less said about Bruce Willis’ lack of performance the better (extended cameo, seems asleep most of the time, picks up pay cheque!) and while some of the supporting cast are good (Johnathon Schaech coming across particularly creepy as Julian’s right hand man) they don’t get much to do in the film’s too short running time.

On the upside, the makers have certainly tried their best to deliver an entertaining package with a lower budget and a truncated run-time. Proceedings are pretty slick and some of the gun-toting action staging is well done and injects the film with some excitement. Plot absurdities abound but Childers central performance and just enough bullet spewing action keep Vice on an entertaining track, especially those looking for a small dose of entertaining sci-fi action trash.