Thursday, 22 December 2011

Sand Sharks



SAND SHARKS (2011)

Directed by: Mark Atkins
Story: Joe Benkis
Screenplay: Cameron Larson
Starring: Gina Holden, Corin Nemec, Brooke Hogan

The title says it all really and with this B-movie you know precisely what you are getting. Sharks: yep. Sand: yep. Sharks eating people: yep. Boobs: well sort of, most of them clad in attractive bikini tops, no actual bare ones unfortunately. So, in the world of B (and even A) movies, sharks have terrorized the deep blue sea, fought against a giant octopus and even turned into something called a dinoshark! So, hell, why not sharks that “swim” in the sand and cause a right nuisance of themselves. Which they do in this umpteenth riff on Jaws as we see a small island invaded by said sand sharks ruining some kind of beach party the town resident douchebag has set up to try and bring prosperity back to the island.

So, yeah, it’s all pretty familiar and predictable with a requisite amount of dodgy CGI sharks jumping out of the sand at regular intervals. Along for the ride is a salty sea dog complete with comedy accent, hat and shotgun, a bunch of hot youngsters who just want to dance, a cop who takes the whole thing deadly serious, Hulk Hogan’s daughter and some actor called Edgar Allen Poe IV (cool!).



It’s all breezy fun and a lot better made (despite the still obvious low budget) and less headache inducing than a lot of similar films made by The Asylum (this flick was actually produced/distriubuted by American World Pictures who do know how to make a decent B-movie) and there a few giggles at the makers working in as many silly puns as they can: “you sand of a bitch” (groan). On the downside, for this kind of film there is just too much talking. Fair play on giving us some characters and a bit of comedy to go along with all shark munching but Sand Sharks, despite the fun opening scene, does take a while to get moving. Corin Nemec as the aforementioned douchbag is good value but is given too much screen time thus becoming tiring and while Brooke Hogan is no great actress s andhe is certainly easy on the eye and often in a bikini top or daisy duke shorts (sweet).

Once the action does kick in there are lots of low budget CGI sharks jumping out of the sand, people getting chomped, people getting hilariously dragged under the sand and the sight of giant fins slicing through the sand (as they would the water) is actually pretty cool. Low budget, stuffed with rickety CGI, animals on the rampage movies seem to be in vogue at the moment and while Sand Sharks doesn’t quite live up to it hilariously awesome title and premise is a decent 90 minutes of pretty people getting eaten by monsters B-movie trash.

Tuesday, 20 December 2011

Sniper: Reloaded



SNIPER: RELOADED (2011)

Directed by: Claudio Fah
Written by: John Fasano & Ross Helford
Starring: Chad Michael Collins, Annabel Wright & Billy Zane

The original Sniper (starring Tom Berenger and Billy Zane) is an underrated gem from the 90s action heyday. Taught, well acted and shot in some awesome looking jungles it was a tense and entertaining little action movie. Berenger returned for two sequels (Part 2 was decent with some corking action; Part 3 was a bit of a damp squib) and while he jumps ship for the fourth go around, good old Billy Zane is back for what is a truly decent sequel. Berenger’s character might not be around this time but his son is (played by Chad Michael Collins) who, non surprisingly, is a highly skilled and efficient soldier. Stationed in South Africa, Sgt Brandon Beckett sees his squad wiped out by a ruthless sniper when they attempt to rescue a European farmer stuck in hostile rebel territory. Swearing revenge, he enlists the aid of ace sniper Richard Miller (Zane) who was trained by Brandon’s father and the scene is set for a high powered rifle showdown



Now this may be the fourth entry in a somewhat low budget action franchise but this is a straight-to-DVD sequel done right. The makers frame a decent story and decent characters we actually care for around all the action. Coupled with the picturesque African setting and vistas, director Claudio Fah (Hollow Man 2) and his team certainly get the most out of their modest budget. Good to see Billy Zane back in the franchise, who, despite what appears to be him wearing his own personal wardrobe in certain scenes, acts as the tough and caring mentor to Collins' more by-the-book Beckett. Chad Michael Collins, looking a little like he didn’t make the cut for a new boy band, is impressive as the tough Beckett and makes for an effective action hero. He gives it his all and really infuses his character with personality meaning we give a damn once the bullets starting flying.

Fah wisely builds to the action, mounting tension and orchestrating some excellent scenes of fire powered fuelled action. The initial attack on Becket’s squad is excellently staged (complete with groovy cameras mounted on the barrels of guns shots) and the high powered rifle showdown doesn’t disappoint either with one unlucky sod literally losing his head! This all makes Sniper: Reloaded a thoroughly enjoyable fourquel and a highly satisfying action flick that is well made and keeps a lesser known franchise chugging along with new life breathed into it.

Recommended.


Full Impact



FULL IMPACT (1993)

Directed by: David Huey
Written by: David Huey & Marc Messenger
Starring: Gary Daniels, Kent Ducanon, Linda Bennett

My capacity for bad action movies is monumental. I enjoy most of them even if they suck beyond all belief, defy all logic and feature the worst acting imaginable. But damn if Full Impact isn’t my threshold for cheapjack action movies. I love Gary Daniels, enjoy most of his action movies and think he is an excellent on screen fighter but even he can’t save this load of trash. Sure it’s one of his earlier ones and everyone has to start somewhere but man this movie is so mind numbingly bad: hyperbole for sure but I think my brain actually shut down a couple of times as it tried to comprehend why I was still watching the film despite the fact it was getting progressively worse and more bat shit crazy as the minutes ticked by.

Shot in deserted parking lots and abandoned warehouses somewhere in LA, Full Impact is as cheap as they come (well, at least it’s not shot on DV) that sees Daniels as a former cop turned vigilante who is after some serial killer who likes to kill sexy women with his bare hands after he’s gotten jiggy with them. So far, so b-movie. Yet, from Daniels’ lions mane hair, to the awful post dubbed dialogue and soundtrack, to the most (unintentionally) hilarious car chase, Full Impact is just plain painful. It seems to be two movies in one: a low rent cop flick with kung fu and a sleazy soft-core thriller. The protracted scenes of sex and nudity seem to be randomly inserted and seem to be from an entirely different movie, as if the producers were trying to spice the flick up so they could sell it to more markets. It ain’t sexy either with all said scenes seemingly shot in the same abandoned warehouses mentioned above and all participants looking extremely wooden and uncomfortable.



At least the fight scenes are copious and fairly decent but by the millionth time Daniels decides to thrown down with some goons (or hilariously decide to fight his best mate in one of those deserted parking lots) boredom and fatigue will have set in. And both will certainly set in after the epic and never ending fight between Daniels and the main villain that seems to go on FOREVER! Seriously, the brawl takes in several empty warehouses, several city blocks, the aforementioned silly car chase and somehow (and I really can’t remember how) the two end up on top of a building with one of them on fire! Action b-movie barminess at it’s most insane.

If you’re gonna watch Full Impact, at least invent some kind of drinking game to take part in while watching it: make it easy, like, drink every time someone utters a ridiculous line of re-dubbed dialogue and you’ll be drunk in about 8 to 10 minutes! I wish I’d played this game when watching it.

Monday, 5 December 2011

Helldriver



My new review of Helldriver at Far East Films

Click Here to read the review.

Sunday, 20 November 2011

Counterforce



COUNTERFORCE (1988)

Directed by: J Anthony Roma
Screenplay: Douglas Borton & Carlos Vasallo
Starring: Jorge Rivero, George Kennedy, Isaac Hayes, Andrew Stevens, Kevin Bernhardt, Louis Jordan, Robert Forster

If you can imagine an even lower budget version of The Delta Force then Counterforce is it. Yep, it’s men-on-a-mission time in this low rent, unintentionally hilarious but a whole heap of cheapjack action fun in an action film that somehow manages to make the heroes look more inept than the actual villains. Jorge Rivero (Fist Fighter) leads the counterforce team while Andrew Stevens (The Terror Within) is the martial arts expert (ok!), Isaac Hayes (Escape from New York) is the electronics expert (with a sideline in natty 80s garb: ahem!), Kevin Bernhardt (Hellraiser 3) is the young-trying-to-prove-himself new recruit (read: douchebag) and good old George (who was actually in The Delta Force) Kennedy is the token dude who barks orders at them and tells them to get the job done (and looks completely lost and embarrassed to be in every scene he features). The Counterforce is enlisted to help protect the exiled opposition leader (Louis Jordon) of a bloodthirsty dictator (Robert Forster: complete with comedy accent and hair!) which, to be honest, they make a balls up of, as several people are killed, Jordan is harmed and his wife and son are kidnapped. But, somehow, the team manage to get it together, for the gun blazing finale and rescue everybody and set the world right while looking cool doing it.



You know you’re in for a low budget good time when the team’s training gear has the Counterforce logo used on the actual movie poster and marketing materials emblazoned all over it. Awesome! This movie is so 80s that the 1980s is probably embarrassed by it as our heroes wisecrack their way through everything whether it’s a high-risk situation, having an extremely camp workout together at a gym before suiting up for a mission (so cringe worthy it’s hilarious) or someone has just died. In fact, I don’t think our heroes have one normal conversation during the whole film and why not when a smart-ass quip will do. Coupled with their penchant for wearing “stylish” 80s clothes during missions and Counterforce is low budget action nonsense cranked up to 11.

But I’d be lying if I said I didn’t enjoy this. The above is all part of the fun of these low rent 80s cookie cutter action flicks and there is a ton of low budget action to fill the fast moving 90-minute run time. There are gun battles galore, including a cool shoot-out in a hospital, a pretty cool car chase featuring ambulances and a somewhat ambitious one take shot of vehicles ramming into one another, and the obligatory rescue scene that turns out to be the team just training before the next mission (pretty much every 80s action movie featuring a team of soldiers had one of these scenes!).

Ridiculous, hilarious, low budget and action packed: so therefore, awesome.

Monday, 14 November 2011

13 Assassins



My new review of 13 Assassins at Far East Films

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Sunday, 13 November 2011

Shocking Dark



SHOCKING DARK (aka TERMINATOR 2 (no really!)) (1989)

Directed by: Bruno Mattei
Screenplay: Claudio Fragasso
Starring: Christopher Aherns, Haven Tyler, Geretta Gerretta, Fausto Monbardi

Good old Bruno Mattei. The prolific Italian schlockmeister of such genre “greats” as Strike Commando 1 & 2, Cop Game, Double Target and Robowar, tried to pass this little gem of Italian sci-fi action trash off as a sequel to The Terminator (a good year or two before James Cameron’s blockbuster sequel actually hit). Or at least the producers did. Yet, Shocking Dark has much more in common with another Cameron classic: Aliens. In fact, it has so much in common it has (pretty much) the same entire plot (save for the mad as a bag of frogs ending) with many of the same scenes and even dialogue lifted straight from Aliens. Non-surprisingly this flick has also been known as Aliens 2 in some territories. It’s copyright infringement a go-go in this ultra cheap rip-off which is an absolute hoot thanks to all the plagiarism going on, the atrocious acting and some funky cheap-jack monsters causing mayhem for a bunch of intrepid shotgun-wielding Colonial Marines, I mean future soldiers.

In the not too distant future Venice is sinking into its canals and The Tubular Corporation (the what corporation!?) send a squad of soldiers off into the sinking city (just one giant empty factory/power station with never ending corridors) to make sure the art museums aren’t being looted for their treasures (what!!!!????). Unbeknownst to our (highly untrained) soldiers some genetic scientists have unleashed a bunch of bloodthirsty mutants that take great pleasure in ripping our platoon of heroes limb from limb (what!!!, what????). Add to this a cybernetic soldier by the name of Samuel Fuller (WHAT!!!!!) an ending so bizarre it makes the rest of the film look coherent and you have one of the best 80s Italian rip-off cheese fests ever.

Basically this is just an hour and a half of non-acting entities running around darkened corridors blowing mutants away with pump action shotguns and screaming incessantly. Seriously, there is so much screaming in this film with the two female characters left alive at the end basically communicating by just screaming constantly at one another. The hilarious “non-acting” by everyone adds a certain comedy element (though to be fair they all look like they haven’t got a clue what is going on) and the film is partly entertaining by trying to spot how many scenes they’ve directly lifted from Aliens. Ripley and Newt being locked in a room with an alien/mutant while they’re sleeping (complete with waving at the cctv for help): check. Marines watching and listening to a bunch of aliens/mutants closing in on them on some kind of tracking device: check. Some unlucky bastard caught and trapped in the alien/mutant lair who chants “kill me, kill me” before an alien/mutant bursts through his chest: check. I could go on as there are many more scenes duplicated wholesale but it’s best if you can track down a copy (they are quite rare) and indulge in the sci-fi plagiarism craziness that is Shocking Dark.

Aliens, Terminators, shotguns, gore, absurdness and Bruno Mattei all together in one low budget shlockfest of awesome.

Miami Golem



MIAMI GOLEM (1985)

Directed by: Alberto de Martino
Screenplay: Vincenzo Mannino & Gianfranco Clerici
Starring: David Warbeck, Laura Trotter & John Ireland

If you love crazy Italian films from the 1980s, then get a load of Alberto de Martino’s Miami Golem. Some crazy, and badly dubbed, scientists are cloning some alien DNA found in a crashed meteorite. Now this definitely can’t be a good thing and sure enough it isn’t, with said scientists all being killed and evil John Ireland stealing the cloned DNA so he can grow it into a supreme being that he can control and take over the world with. Enter nosy, know-it-all, complete douchebag, reporter David Warbeck who decides to investigate, pretty much taking over the experiments at one point, and teams up with alien babe Laura Trotter to defeat the very tired looking (and lost looking) John Ireland and the evil, telepathic alien foetus he has grown.

And wait till you see the completely ridiculous, but kinda creepy, foetus with its big googly eyes and its penchant for chucking our hapless heroes around in bouts of telepathic nonsense. Mental doesn’t even begin to describe this action and sci-fi mish-mash that is equal parts awesome and over-the-top entertaining and just plain boring. I know, how can an Italian sci-fi film from the 1980s shot and set in Miami, featuring an alien foetus that wants to take over the world be boring? Well, it’s the pace really as Alberto de Martino (Holocaust 2000) completely forgets to have fun, taking the whole thing deadly serious and filling his silly flick with frequent periods of not much happening. Warbeck (The Last Hunter, The Beyond) is usually good value but his character is such a douche he is more annoying than heroic: though he does get a hilarious scene where he talks to an alien version of himself who explains the entire plot.

However, this being a crazy Italian produced flick from the 1980s there is plenty of insaneness and low rent action to go around to make Miami Golem a worthwhile trash cinema ride. Of course, there is that giant animatronic foetus (which is just as lame and awesome as it sounds), completely random and off the wall dialogue (“If I didn’t hurt all over, I’d be laughing!”), the fact that the opening theme tune is a complete rip off of the Beverly Hills Cop theme, Warbeck not batting an eyelid when many of the scientists he has just worked with and seems kinda friendly with have just been gunned down (as if it is the most normal thing in the world), the bizarre scene where he records ghosts on camera who come to try to warn him of the impending doom (with one ghost just being a giant hand!!!!) and, as mentioned, that everyone takes everything so seriously.

There is bit of action here and there including Warbeck being chased by a gun firing helicopter which he manages to elude and destroy with only a handgun and only after he has boarded a school bus driven by what appears to be two drug dealers, the bus appearing out of nowhere in the middles of nowhere and the whole scene even more random and weirder than any scenes involving the giant alien foetus (!!!!!!). There is a pretty cool boat chase across the Everglades and while it’s certainly dull in parts there is no denying Miami Golem is entertaining trash cinema recommended to any connoisseur of the genre.

Bonkers.

Monday, 31 October 2011

Blood Brothers



My new review of Blood Brothers at Far East Films

Click Here to read the review.

Sunday, 30 October 2011

Blood Fighter (aka Fighting Beat)



My new review of Blood Fighter at Far East Films

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Across the Line: The Exodus of Charlie Wright



ACROSS THE LINE: THE EXEDUS OF CHARLIE WRIGHT (2010)

Written & Directed by: R. Ellis Frazier
Starring: Aidan Quinn, Luke Goss, Mario Van Peebles, Bokeem Woodbine, Gina Gershon, Gary Daniels, Andy Garcia, Corbin Bernsen, Raymond J Barry,

Charlie Wright (Quinn) is a sneaky bastard. Attempting to scarper with upwards of 10 billion dollars (some of it belonging to Raymond J Barry’s Russian mob boss) he’s caught and threatened with a long stretch in prison. But being as sneaky as he is, he disappears into self imposed exile down Tijuana way, managing to cipher away 2 billion of the 10 with him and attempts to look for a woman he abandoned twenty years earlier. However, hot on his trail are a hot shot but jaded FBI agent (Van Peebles) a hitman (Goss) and his crew sent by the Russian and a Mexican crime boss (Garica) who has his own reasons for getting hold of the money Wright stole.



Nicely shot and well acted little crime drama, Across the Line may have ambitions above its low budget and short running time but thanks to a good cast, unfussy direction and a nice authentic feel from the real Mexican locations, the film is a decent little thriller. There is perhaps a little too much going on for a film that runs only 90 minutes with a surfeit of characters all battling for screen time to tell their own story. Nothing wrong with this but some subplots and character motivations needed fleshing out which a longer running would have accommodated. We already have an interesting character with an interesting story to tell in Wright and some of the focus is often taken away from Wright to fill in the back-stories of certain other characters.



However, and as mentioned, this is a decent little thriller with a good cast. Quinn is excellent as the lost and out-of-his-depth Wright and there is solid support from Mario Van Peebles, Andy Garcia and Gina Gershon as Garcia’s (incredibly hot) wife. Luke Goss stands out as the quietly confident hired gun sent after Wright and his scenes with Gary Daniels (getting a cool little role that allows him to act) have nice antagonistic tension to them. The film also uses its authentic locale well, shooting on what appears to be the streets of Mexico, which adds some sun soaked grit.

Much more of a crime drama than an action film there is only one standout action scene when one group sent after Charlie try to snatch him from another group already holding him. A finely staged gun battle erupts in what appears to be a deserted bull-fighting arena, which ups the tension and adds a little life to proceedings when the narrative threatens to become too plodding. Things may get wrapped up a little too easily and quickly but on the whole this is a decent crime flick featuring a whole host of genre favourites.

Thursday, 27 October 2011

War Wolves



WAR WOLVES (2009)

Written & Directed by: Michael Worth
Starring: John Saxon, Tim Thomerson, Adrienne Barbeau, Michael Worth, Natasha Alam, Siri Baruc, Daniel Southworth

A squad of Special Ops soldiers (Worth, Southworth and a trio of beauties) return from battle in Afghanistan forever changed. Not only mentally scarred they have been physically altered. During a firefight they were attacked by a ferocious pack of werewolves and infected with the wolf virus. Six months later, back in the US and a little more than shell shocked, Jake (Worth) is trying to come to terms with what happened and the changes taking place within him. Unbeknownst to him, he is being tracked by two veteran soldiers (Saxon and Thomerson) who know what happened to him and what virus he carries. At the same time the rest of his squad are turning into beast fast and getting a taste for killing and also hunting down Jake for what will be the ultimate battle between man and beast.



War Wolves sure is an oddity from filmmaker and kung fu whiz Michael Worth. Definitely a B-movie but striving for more in the character department, War Wolves takes its barmy premise and spins a yarn, that while flawed and occasionally plodding, is an interesting piece that admirably tries to combine drama, action and werewolves to create something a little different. Worth (who has been in some cool action and fight films: Street Crimes, US Seals 2) takes this distinctive premise and a minuscule budget and has made a decent genre film that is a little unique, offbeat and, occasionally, action packed. There is perhaps too much going on (former soldiers feeling out of place in the everyday world, alcoholism and at one point a minor subplot about a pregnant woman and her abusive boyfriend) for what is essentially a flick about werewolf soldiers but Worth at least tries, and mostly succeeds in, infusing this little flick with some character. As the grizzled, and possibly too long in the tooth, geezers tracking down Worth and his crew, Saxon and Thomerson are on fine form both dramatically and comedically. It’s nice to see the older and wiser gents getting a good share of the screen time rather than yet another pair of generic, hip, know-it-all youngsters. Thomerson cracks wise as well and is a hoot.



The budget is certainly low (and once you see the make up effects of the transformed werewolves, you’ll see how low) and the tone wanders all over the joint (from horror, to drama, to comedy, back to horror, to martial arts) you may at some point wander what kind of film you are watching. However, War Wolves manages to hang together and provide just enough character, horror and action to make it an entertaining ride. Not as action packed as you might expect a B-movie about werewolf soldiers to be Worth and (the ever underrated and underused) Daniel Southworth get to cut loose in a couple of wickedly choreographed kung fu werewolf fights (yep, you read that right!).

If there had just been a few more of those wicked fights scenes and the pace and tone tightened up War Wolves could have been a much more fun and faster B-movie but with its unique approach to character, this is still a fun genre flick from the ever talented and watchable Michael Worth. Plus any film that also finds time for genre favourites Adrienne Barbeau and Martin Kove and also manages to name drop Lance Henriksen in one particularly cool moment of movie referencing, is all right by this B-movie action fan.

Friday, 21 October 2011

Ultimax Force



ULTIMAX FORCE (1986)

Directed by: Wilfred Milan
Screenplay: Joe Mari Avellana
Starring: Arnold Nicholas, Jeremy Ladd, Patrick Scott, Vincent Griffin

Ninjas with Uzi’s. That’s basically what Ultimax Force is: ninjas with Uzi’s. So not only do we get ninjas doing cool ninja stuff we also get Uzi’s: which means lots of gunplay and squibtastic action as well. Ok, so Ultimax Force isn’t really a great film and is a cheapie Philippine action flick made to cash in on the 80s fascination with all things ninja but hell if it ain’t a good old cheesy time with some pretty solid action. It’s standard plot 101 as a bunch of non-acting dudes who are completely devoid of any personality or emotion are recruited to go and rescue some other poor dude who is held captive in the deepest jungles of Vietnam. Said four dudes are ninja badasses and are recruited by their ninja school (yes: ninja school which is blatantly signposted in one hilarious scene meaning these ninjas aren’t so secret) to rescue said captive and the four blocks of wood, albeit highly trained ninja combatants, head off into the jungle, complete with Uzi’s, to fuck shit up.

Completely unintentionally hilarious in how serious it takes itself and that not one of the leading mean express any other facial expression other than staring blankly and delivering their lines in an (again) unintentionally hilarious monotone drone, Ultimax Force still gets the fun thumbs up due to some cool action (which rarely lets up) and that it’s a decent little ninja flick. And it’s got Uzi’s in it. The action is pretty tight and fairly well choreographed and the violence is pretty harsh. Many people are gunned down quite graphically and the body count is typically high for a 1980s action flick. Some may be disappointed that the martial arts is a little thin on the ground to make way for all the gunplay but we are treated to one impressive sequence early on where the heroes have to prove themselves to the ninja school (awesome!) that they are worthy of the mission with some neatly choreographed ninja fighting and weapon work. It’s a pretty cool sequence if completely redundant as it serves little purpose other than to show how awesome our heroes are.

Ultimax Force has it all really: great B-move title, lots of ridiculous moments that defy logic, unintentionally hilarious acting and a heap of cool action. So all-in-all a B-movie action fan’s and lovers of trash cinema dream come true. Oh, and it’s got Uzi’s in it. Sweet.

Sunday, 16 October 2011

The Lost Bladesman



My new review of The Lost Bladesman at Far East Films

Click Here to read the review.

Monday, 10 October 2011

The Batman & Superman Movie: World's Finest



THE BATMAN SUPERMAN MOVIE: WORLD’S FINEST (1996)

Directed by: Toshihiko Masuda
Written by: Stan Berkowitz, Alan Burnett, Paul Dini, Rich Fogal, Steve Gerber
Starring: Kevin Conroy, Tim Daly, Dana Delany, Clancy Brown & Mark Hamill

This team up between two awesome 90s cartoons, World’s Finest is an excellent slice of cartoon action: well written, great characters, slick animation and some stonking action. The Batman cartoon series in the 1990s, produced by Warner Brothers animation, was one of the best things on TV back in the day. I watched it constantly and while I was never a big as fan of Superman, the Superman show was almost as good. World’s Finest is basically three episodes of the Superman show strung together to create a sort of mini-movie (the flick is about an hour long) which sees Batman heading to Metropolis hot on the heels of the Joker who has left Gotham to team up with equally uber bad guy, Lex Luthor.

The Joker wants to use Luthor’s seemingly unlimited resources (including some wicked giant combat robots) to take over Metropolis and has a plan that can rid the city of Superman (having nicked a load of Kryptonite). They form a shaky alliance, as do the two heroes. Bats and Supes aren’t too willing to trust one another, not least when they discover each other’s secret identities and when a sort of love triangle forms when Bruce Wayne and Lois Lane take a shine to one another. But differences are soon put aside as the two realize they are going to have to work together in order to defeat their respective archenemies. Let superhero, robot-smashing action commence.



Short and sweet it may be but World’s Finest is a great hour or so of superhero action and a reminder of how fun these two-superhero cartoons were. With a great comic book feel and a swift pace and excellent voice work, World’s Finest shows an animation team at the top of their creative game. Kevin Conroy proves he is one of the best (if not the best) Bats as the voice of Batman/Bruce Wayne and likewise old Luke Skywalker himself, Mark Hamill, is awesome as the Joker. Commissioner Gordon and Alfred perhaps get short changed a bit but with so many characters to fit it’s not surprising but there is great support from The Joker’s right hand woman, Harley Quinn.

There is no shortage of spectacle as the heroes do battle with various gangsters and super villains meaning there is mucho punch ups, gunfights and a novel sequence where Superman has to rescue Lane and The President from terrorists who have taken control of Air Force One. This all leads to the action heavy finale, which sees Luthor’s robots unleashed meaning there is some grand scale combat and destruction.

If you are a fan of the characters, comic books, animation and action then World’s Finest makes for a great hour of entertainment.

Rage to Kill



RAGE TO KILL (1988)

Written & Directed by: David Winters
Starring: James Ryan, Oliver Reed & Cameron Mitchell

Good lord Rage to Kill is bad. And I mean bad. Sure it’s also freaking hilarious and provides a good amount of bad cinema entertainment: but only just. This Action International Pictures (AIP) “epic” is so barmy, inept and features a complete douche bag as the main character that even this connoisseur of bad action cinema had trouble tolerating the insaneness and never ending explosions (two things I usually love) that is Rage to Kill. Not even a drunk (and I mean, DRUNK) Oliver Reed could save this (ok, so he was kinda humorous and inappropriate: check out the extremely random and uncomfortable hot tub scene to see evidence of this). But you know you are in trouble in a cheap B-Movie when constant shit blowing up and a drunk Oliver Reed can’t save your flick.

The “film” sees uber-ripped and annoyingly awesome Blaine Striker (Ryan) heading off to kick some ass to rescue his brother (who actually utters the immortal words, “Gee, I wish Blaine was here”) who along with some other students and what seems like a good portion of South Africa are being held under an iron grip by a mental general (Reed) and his ever loyal army. I’m not sure how everyone has come under Reed’s rule, as he seems completely inept at doing anything other than drinking, lying on sofas and partaking in some “hilarious” acting. So Blaine gets smuggled into the country, gets caught almost immediately (what a dickwad!), gets tortured, manages to bed an annoying journalist and then somehow (in what is one of the many completely absurd moments to be found in Rage to Kill) manages to train the journalist and the students to become machine gun toting soldiers who then somehow manage to overthrow Reed and his army. But not before Blaine (awesome hero name, especially when coupled with Striker) has time to show off his drag racing skills in a silly scene (supposedly) showing him racing a jet powered car just so we know how awesome he is (maybe he should have spent more time training and planning a proper rescue mission so he wouldn’t be captured straight away instead of poncing about like he’s in Days of Thunder).

Despite mucho explosive destruction of various properties and vehicles and gunfire aplenty the action is pretty dire with everybody just firing randomly and hoping to hit someone, guns never needing reloading and quite possibly cinema’s worst boat chase. Ugh. Now AIP never made great films but they made some entertaining ones (sort of) but Rage to Kill is scraping the bottom of the action barrel.

Your eyes will bleed, your brain will melt and you’ll laugh your ass off.

Monday, 3 October 2011

Rogue Ninja



My new review of Rogue Ninja at Far East Films

Click Here to read the review.

Sunday, 25 September 2011

The Kunoichi: Ninja Girl



THE KUNOICHI: NINJA GIRL (2011)

Directed by: Seiji Chiba
Screenplay: Seiji Chiba
Starring: Rina Takeda, Mayu Onomura, Shiho Fujisawa, Kotono

Japanese writer and director Seiji Chiba sure is churning out these cheap and cheerful ninja flicks. From the over-the-top Alien Vs Ninja, to the rather quite good Rogue Ninja and to the awesomely titled Evil Ninja, Chiba certainly likes his ninja movies (he also wrote the awesome Death Trance starring Versus main man Tak Sakaguchi: track it down if you can) and usually that is no bad thing. Ninja movies: awesome. Lots of cool fight scenes: awesome. Plenty of over-the-top concepts and gore: awesome. Chiba’s films have often featured at least one, if not all, of these but unfortunately Ninja Girl might just be one quickie ninja flick too many.

Ok, so it’s not that bad and essentially more of the same. The film certainly has an over-the-top concept: some nasty male ninja dudes (who have had their genitals cut off for some inexplicable reason!!) are kidnapping women and delivering them to a nearby town to be used as tools of pleasure for the higher ranking officials (who still have their genitals: presumably). Some other evil ninja then kidnaps one of the said kidnapped women himself (!) and plans to get her infected with a horrible sexual disease (by some gross looking dude kept in a cave) and then have her infect the entire town she is being sent to (the town is home to a rival ninja clan he wants to wipe out). On top of this, the original evil dudes didn’t bank on one of the women they kidnapped being a badass ninja. She is and she’s Rina Takeda (from other high kicking films such as Karate Girl and High Kick Girl: awesome titles!) who, eventually, kicks everybody’s butt. That’s a lot to fit into 65 minutes.



And this is the problem: almost too much going on. Well, too much explanation of what is going on. The film only features two sets (a forest and that cave recycled from both Alien Vs Ninja and Rogue Ninja) and for a film clocking in at just over an hour (a B-movie runtime if there ever was one) there is an awful lot of exposition about how evil this person is and what evil plans this person has and what this evil person is going to do and so on and so on. While not particularly graphic there is also a rather misogynistic and perverse tone that ultimately mars the film from being outright fun. Sure, Chiba is at least doing something a little different with the ninja genre (than just fighters out for revenge or to regain honour) but what we want is high kicking, sword wielding action.

Thankfully there is at least one standout action sequence. Takeda takes on one of the bad dudes in an awesome brawl that is tightly choreographed, well filmed and features some wicked swordplay. The girl can fight and Chiba can certainly craft an action sequence. Unfortunately it’s all too little too late and makes Ninja Girl (awesome title again) a bit of a disappointment. Chiba is still an action writer/director to watch but this doesn’t have as much kick ass action as Rogue Ninja or the bonkers fun of Alien Vs Ninja.

Guardian Angel



GUARDIAN ANGEL (1994)

Directed by
: Richard W. Munchkin
Screenplay: Jacobson Hart
Starring: Cynthia Rothrock, Darren McVicar, Marshall Teague, Ken McLeod, Lydia Denier

PM Entertainment and Cynthia Rothrock teamed up for, well, a low budget action movie. The action movie/car chase straight-to-video producers of the 1990s, PM Entertainment, worked with many a B-movie action star (Don the Dragon Wilson, Jeff Wincott, Gary Daniels) and even managed to rope in the first lady of American kung fu, Rothrock, for this very silly but action packed vehicle. The car chases are thin on the ground this time but there is plenty of kickboxing action to go around.

Flick starts off as a run-of-the-mill cop flick as two cops (Rothrock, Teague) go gunning for a master criminal, and foxy French lady (Denier), who is causing a nuisance of her self killing people as she looks for some missing counterfeit money plates. Low and behold Rothrock’s partner (who also happens to be her man squeeze) gets killed (good old Teague, from Roadhouse and US Seals 2, exits the movie far too quickly) and this sends her into a depressive downward spiral. Enter smarmy playboy Darren McVicar. He needs a bodyguard and likes women. Rothrock can kick ass and has a great ass. And boom: she is his bodyguard. They begin a love/hate relationship, it turns out the sexy French chick was McVicar's ex, lots of attempts on his life occur, there is a hilarious sojourn to a mental asylum, Rothrock gets to kick butt and there’s some impressive stunts involving Rothrock (or her stunt double) being dragged by a horse and a silly finale featuring speedboats and a helicopter. B-movie business as usual.



Not one of PM Entertainment’s best (that would be Rage or Last Man Standing or The Silencers or Zero Tolerance or Cyber Tracker 2…) and not Rothrock’s finest hour either (try Righting Wrongs or The Blonde Fury) this is still passable low rent action thanks in part to the always likeable Rothrock (who has sparky chemistry with McVicar), many a B-action movie stalwart appearing (Teague, McLeod, Art Camacho, Robert Miano) and the fights (while not spectacular) are punchy and energetic (choreographed by Richard Norton and Art Camacho).

Decent action, the always-welcome Rothrock and lots of ridiculousness (including a guy who gets his crotch set on fire!) make this watchable B-movie trash to fall asleep to.

Monday, 19 September 2011

Undefeatable



My new review of Undefeatable at Far East Films

Click Here to read the review.

Saturday, 17 September 2011

Colombiana



COLOMBIANA (2011)

Directed by: Olivier Megaton
Screenplay: Luc Besson & Robert Mark Kamen
Starring: Zoe Saldana, Jordi Molla, Lennie James, Amandla Stenberg & Cliff Curtis

So another glossy action flick rolls off Luc Besson’s movie conveyor belt and while it features all kinds of logic defying nonsense and falls foul of too many “techniques” of modern filmmaking (I’m looking at you completely inappropriate, intrusive and annoying music), Colombiana is actually a decent and highly enjoyable action flick. It’s the age old story of a youngster witnessing the death of her parents by some slimy bad guys only to grow up and become a ruthless (and impossibly sexy) killing machine who, of course, goes after her original family’s killers: inevitably leading to a big, bombastic showdown.



Fair play really, as it’s an enjoyable plot hook that, again, works well here and Besson and his team at least give us some likeable characters to root for and some decently staged action beats to make Colombiana a worthwhile, sun soaked ride. There is a bit of grit thrown in as well, at least grit that lives within a heightened action world, as the violence is often quite brutal (though never overly graphic) and the cast at least put blood, sweat and tears into their parts and the action scenes. Zoe Saldana (who is always good in anything she is in) actually manages to convince as a 100lb lethal killing machine. She is tough as nails but infused with personality and she carries the film admirably on her very skinny shoulders. Plus if the sight of her escaping capture in nothing but her underwear and a high-powered rifle doesn’t entertain, well, then you have no right watching movies. The always underrated Cliff Curtis is great as her would be mentor and Lennie James impresses as a more down to earth cop on the deadly assassins trail.

Olivier Megaton makes up for the damage he did to the once enjoyable Transporter series (he helmed the much botched Transporter 3) by filming some dynamic action scenes that for once actually flow. Aside from one over edited/shaky cam fight scene near the end, the action scenes are well put together and most importantly thrilling. From an awesome sequence featuring Saldana breaking into a prison to the firepower heavy shoot-up finale, the action is mean, lean and full of force. It thankfully never feels too rushed and feels more born out of the situation than just thrown in to fill out the running time.



On the downside, logic often takes a flying leap out the window (a young girl somehow makes it all the way to the seedy streets of Chicago from the dangerous streets of Colombia almost entirely on her own; sim cards, or at least what looks like one, in 1992, don’t think so!) but then this is a pulp action film. In addition, Megaton just can’t get away from that annoyingly intrusive music. Seriously it plays over scenes that have no need for it and is thrust into our ears so we know, like, that this scene is dramatic. There is no need for this as the cast are more than able at conveying the emotion.

It may be a little generic of story but with taught direction, a game cast and some impressive action, Colombiana is a refreshingly straightforward and highly enjoyable action film.

The Devil's Tomb



THE DEVIL’S TOMB (2009)

Directed by: Jason Connery
Written by: Keith Kjornes
Starring: Cuba Gooding Jr, Taryn Manning, Henry Rollins, Zack Ward, Valerie Cruz, Jason London, Frankie G, Stephanie Jacobson, Brandon Fobbs, Bill Moseley, Ray Winstone, Ron Pearlman

Phew! What a cast. Especially for a low budget and derivative schlocker about a squad of grunts sent into some underground bunker to rescue somebody, only to get trapped and picked off one-by-one. Yep, a bunch of inept military dudes and dudettes are slaughtered while trapped underground in a movie you’ve probably seen a million times. Yet, despite the familiar set-up and a ridiculous amount of B-movie ham and logic busting barminess, this action-horror hybrid is fairly watchable and delivers a good amount of machine action and lots of gloopy gross out gore.

Ron Pearlman (collecting a pay cheque) has been tinkering with God, the Devil and fallen angels in his deep underground desert base and non-surprisingly all hell has broken loose. Cuba Gooding Jr (continuing his seemingly lucrative sideline in straight-to-DVD fodder) and his squad of trigger-happy soldiers are dispatched to retrieve him but as this type of set-up dictates, they get trapped, possessed and ripped apart accordingly. Ray Winstone (collecting a pay cheque) also pops up for some inexplicable reason (mainly in a lengthy flashback: flashbacks seeming to be a prerequisite of all straight-to-DVD Cuba Gooding Jr movies these days) and there is lots of quoting from the Bible shenanigans as the possessed cast go all heaven and hell on us.



Actually, the God and Devil angle is pretty cool and makes for a change from the usual aliens-on-the-loose or experiment-gone-wrong plot hook and provides mucho opportunity for some freaky possession scenes and copious amount of gore. The blood-splattered excesses are in abundance here and the flick is pretty damn gross. The gore is well handled and the film evokes a certain icky vibe that plays well with all the firepower action. Bill Moseley (collecting a paycheque) gets a weird scene as a possessed scientist rabbiting on about this, that and the next thing and somehow on top off all the gore, possession and military styled action the flick also manages to work in some nudity and a pretty gross lesbian scene. B-movie schlock heaven this is.

Cuba looks somewhat lost in all the gore and action hullabaloo and seems a little tired from making one B-movie after another. Winstone and Pearlman are underused but bring some reliable grit to proceedings and the rest of the cast are actually pretty good. They bring a bit more personality to their stereotypical roles and certainly throw themselves into all the gooey gore. Director Jason (son of Sean) Connery keeps everything moving fairly fast, the gore and close knit action delivered at regularly intervals making sure we viewers get our B-movie fix.

Good, silly, platoon of soldiers fighting for their lives in a sealed off underground complex schlockfest

Tuesday, 6 September 2011

Screamers: The Hunting



SCREAMERS: THE HUNTING (2009)

Directed by: Sheldon Wilson
Screenplay: Miguel Tejada-Flores
Starring: Gina Holden, Greg Bryk & Lance Henriksen

The original Screamers was a nifty little slice of hard boiled sci-fi directed by the underrated Christian Duguay (Art of War) and starring the always great Peter (Robocop) Weller. With some sharp dialogue (courtesy in part by Alien co-scribe, Dan O’Bannon) and some corking hard edged action it overcame hokiness and cheesy supporting characters to deliver a taught little sci-fi flick. Based in part on the short story Second Variety by Philip K. Dick, this belated sequel continues where the first left off and despite also featuring a whole heap of hokiness is actually a fun little sci-fi sequel.



A squad of grunts respond to a distress signal from the supposedly deserted planet Sirius 6B. Overrun by the self-evolving, blade-wielding, limb-severing robot Screamers, the space grunts find a band of survivors carving out a meagre existence all the while trying to dodge those body part-separating robots. On top of this they’ve got some kind of space storm on its way to destroy the planet, their ship has been sabotaged (isn’t that always the way?), the Screamers are taking on human form, the plot holes threaten to swallow the film whole and the so called space marines look like a bunch of rejects from 90210. Thank god for some decent action, a good dose of gore and the always-dependable Lance Henriksen.



While the budget is distinctly low, the so called “twists” sign posted a mile away and the platoon of lunar soldiers provide little grit or personality (did no-one learn from The Hills Have Eyes 2: populating your film with a group of charisma free youngsters and trying to pass them off as soldiers does not work) the film is still surprisingly entertaining. Sheldon Wilson’s direction is slick and the pace is swift meaning the killer robot action comes thick and fast. The action is a nice mix of extended gun battles and close knit robot-crunching action as the squad are, literally, torn apart by the razor sharp mechanisms. The gore is well staged and surprisingly bloody as the characters meet some nasty ends and for a cheap sequel to a cult sci-fi flick from the mid nineties, the production values and CGI are pretty darn good.

Good old Lance Henriksen makes a late last act appearance and this marks his umpteenth pay-cheque-collecting appearance in a cheap-jack sequel in the past decade (other highlights including The Mangler 2, Alone in the Dark 2, Pumpkinhead 3 & 4, Hellraiser 8, Mimic 3: geez!) but out acts everyone else and always makes anything he’s in somewhat entertaining. Despite a whole lot of plot absurdity, Screamers: The Hunting still has plenty of action, gore and weird human killing robots making it a perfect slice of B-movie sci-fi.