Thursday, 27 February 2014

Weekend of Trash

I met up again with a couple of the guys from Blueprint Review for another weekend of non-stop B-movie madness. We managed to get through an abundance of low budget insanity including Days of Hell, Vendetta,Mongrel, Alice Sweet Alice, Space Island and many more distinctly B-movie gems.

Check out the write up.

Thursday, 20 February 2014

Robot Wars

Check out my new review of Robot Wars over at Blueprint Review.

Bangkok Assassins

Check out my new review of Bangkok Assassins over at Blueprint Review.

Monday, 10 February 2014

Assassin Rising

Check out my new review of Assassin Rising over at Far East Films.

Monday, 3 February 2014

The Substitute 3: Winner Takes All


Directed by: Robert Radler
Screenplay: Roy Frumkes & Rocco Simonelli
Starring: Treat Williams, Rebecca Staab, James Black & Claudia Christian

Treat Williams returns to The Substitute franchise (originally kicked off by Tom Berenger) for the second sequel Winner Takes All (after he starred in first sequel, School’s Out) and it’s much the same again (solider/mercenary Williams goes undercover at another school to wipe out some form of corruption with guns and fists) but made enjoyable by the ever reliable Williams and some violent edged action. This time Williams is playing substitute at a school where the jocks are using illegal steroids and getting violent as a result. He’s covering for a former solider buddy’s daughter (Staab) who was violently attacked by the steroid taking sports stars. It seems the steroids are being supplied by a local mob boss and his squad of goons, who have illegal interests in the area, and so Williams decides it’s time to bring in his own team (including the lovely Claudia Christian) and dish out some justice with some high impact fights, explosions and even (bizarrely) a wet t-shirt contest!

This low budget threequel is all kinds of barmy action fun. Sometimes oddly all over the place in tone (the aforementioned wet t-shirt contest, Williams firing off one liners) and other times bordering on violent exploitation (severed arms, vicious beatings, again: the wet t-shirt competition) and then other times deadly serious (the opening news footage of real war combat, the prologue were Williams’ buddy meets a horrible death), Winner Takes All certainly tries to cover all bases. There’s a somewhat serious subject matter (abuse of steroids), some brutal action (a wicked fight around a pool where Williams’ takes out three goons) and a good dose of nudity (yep the wet t-shirt contest and two random nude models running around in the climactic action scene!!): so yeah, pretty much something for everyone. 

The original The Substitute is a good solid action thriller and while Williams is a fine replacement for Berenger the sequels just aren’t quite as good, perhaps due to the same formula being rehashed several times over. However, thanks to Williams, some assured direction by Best of the Best director Robert Radler and the addition of Claudia Christian (looking like she’s having a ton of fun as a tough talking, high-kicking mercenary) Winner Takes All provides a breezy, though sometimes hard-hitting, 90 minutes of action entertainment. There are some nicely done fight scenes (choreographed by Simon Rhee, Best of the Best 1-4) and it all ends in (where else?) a warehouse with a big shoot-out, some violent deaths and explosions. For high school set action hi-jinks where the teachers dish out justice with machine guns and their military training The Substitute series still delivers.

Critical Mass


Directed by: Fred Olen Ray
Screenplay: Sean McGinly
Starring: Treat Williams, Udo Kier, Andrew Prine & Lori Loughlin

It’s rip-off city, stock footage-aplooza, stitch a movie together time again in this action quickie from Fred Olen Ray that unashamedly splices in action scenes from both Terminator 2 and Universal Soldier. The legendary Udo Kier is a mad, bad terrorist who plans to blow up a nuclear power plant in order to make some kind of point (or just because he’s evil) and only lowly security guard Treat Williams (and spunky senator’s aid Lori Loughlin) can stop him. Yep it’s also Die Hard rip-off/aplooza/clone time as well as Treat gets down to kicking terrorist ass.

Good ole Fred Olen Ray (along with his regular collaborator, Jim Wynorski) made a ton of these cheap jack action flicks (not to mention horror and sci-fi ones also) and like Critical Mass, they’re usually enjoyable action nonsense. They’re fast moving, have tons of action and usually feature several familiar faces no doubt collecting a pay check but looking like they’re having fun doing it. Udo Kier is always good value as a sneering villain and Treat Williams has always made for a refreshingly believable and witty action hero (see the awesome Deep Rising for further proof). I’m guessing the makers got access to a power plant and then framed a movie around this location (and the aforementioned stock footage) and Critical Mass sticks to the Die Hard formula pretty close with plenty of shoot-outs, fist fights and a rather dangerous looking stunt involving some kind of lift apparatus. In between all the action bits every character seems to be on a cell phone either talking to those trapped inside, the cops watching from the sidelines or to the FBI who are in some office building somewhere monitoring the whole event for some reason or another. So it goes a little like this: shoot-out, phone conversation, shoot-out, phone conversation, fist fight, phone conversation, shoot-out. This is all book-ended by two massive action scenes from Terminator 2 and Universal Soldier.

The films open with footage from the Cyberdyne headquarters attack/ truck and helicopter chase from Terminator 2 and ends with the bus/truck chase from Universal Soldier. It’s all incredibly blatant and probably shoe horned in because a producer got access to the footage cheap and unfortunately leaves a bad taste in the mouth for what is essentially a silly and enjoyable action film. It’s not the first time this has been done but it’s so obviously footage from other more expensive films you will no doubt be sitting watching this going “Oh, come on, really?” Hell, the characters even refer to Cyberdyne by name which surely must incur all kinds of copyright issues? It also means Critcial Mass bizarrely exists/takes place within the same cinematic world of the Terminator films? Sort of. Maybe. Probably not.

Recycled footage to this extent is just lazy and kind of insulting but if you can get past this, Critical Mass is an enjoyably amusing low rent shoot-em up.