Wednesday, 26 March 2014

Badge of Fury

Check out my new review of Badge of Fury over at Blueprint Review.

Wednesday, 19 March 2014

Sword of the Assassin

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

Wednesday, 12 March 2014


WARBUS (1986)

Directed by: Ferdinando Baldi (as Ted Kaplan)
Written by: Ferdinando Baldi & John Fitzsimmons
Starring: Daniel Stephen, Romano Kristoff, Urs Althaus, Gwendolyn Hung, Ernie Zarate

Full throttle, Italian made, Vietnam military action spectacle that may just be the most streamlined 80 minutes of firepower and explosions ever committed to celluloid. Ok, so that might be an excessive case of hyperbole but Warbus gets straight to it: a bunch of soldiers, ensnared behind enemy lines, commandeer an old bright yellow school bus and set off through the Vietnam jungle, guns blazing, in an attempt to get back home. Along for the ride are a bunch of missionaries also trapped behind enemy lines and what follows is a lot of driving, a good dose of 80s Italian war film weirdness, tons of gunfire and an incredible amount of explosions: even by Italian made, Vietnam military action standards. 

After a brief opening credits sequence featuring an old war statue shot from every conceivable angle while the tiles roll over it (!), it’s straight into the gunfire and exploding huts as the missionaries desperately attempt to flee their under fire camp from the Vietcong. No messing about, straight into the action: excessive firepower, epic explosions and loads of extras getting wasted. This is how things proceed for much of the rest of the film as the bus, which picks up several American GI’s along the way, trundles through the jungle stopping frequently for gun battles, diffusing minefields (by shooting automatic weapons at them: awesome!), navigating tough terrain, more gun battles and seemingly blowing up every hut/building/free form standing building they come across. In the brief breaks between all the action, director Ferdinando Baldi keeps things ticking along with all kinds of absurdness: once character suffers from epilepsy for no apparent reason, the soldiers all shack up with the various lady missionaries at one point or another and the troupe discover an abandoned building full of alcohol at another point and stop to drink and talk about, well, I’m not really sure! 

But as mentioned, gunfire and explosions are the name of the game here and Warbus is jammed packed with both. There is a serious amount of explosions in this film, all gloriously captured and doing their job of blowing shit up good and well. It wouldn’t be surprising if the filmmakers were given a budget for explosions, found an old school bus and were told to craft a movie around the two. If so, mission accomplished. The film is also nicely shot, making good use of it locations and the cast are suitably sweaty, heroic and unhinged, in equal measure, meaning there is plenty of eccentricity to go along with all the action packed awesomeness. Those who like a little more plot to go along with their bang bang and boom boom may not find much to enjoy here (and probably shouldn’t be or wouldn’t be watching this type of film anyway!) but for the Italian jungle based military action film enthusiast out there, Warbus is a gem worth tracking down. 


Check out my new review of Arcade over at Blueprint Review.

Bad Channels

Check out my new review of Bad Channels over at Blueprint Review.

Thursday, 6 March 2014

Sophie's Fortune


Directed by: Chris Cronin
Produced by: Phil Meachem
Written by: Chris Cronin & Paul Thomas
Starring: Simon Hardwick, Donald Standen, Camercon Prudames, Steve McTigue & Elsa Busow

Now this is how you make a fun short film: thirty minutes of action soaked coolness with its tongue planted firmly in cheek all shot through like a blockbuster epic. Director Chris Cronin and his team of writers, actors, stunt people and effects artists cram so much action, fun and over-the-top imagination into Sophie’s Fortune it makes for a breezy and entertaining thirty minutes. In fact, imagination is the name of the game here as a group of dads throwing a birthday party let their imaginations run riot in their annual treasure hunt game leading to all kinds of gun play, fist fights and jungle based adventures. Thrust into the mix is newcomer Brendan (Hardwick) who has brought his niece Sophie (Busow) along to the party and promises to bring back the treasure just for her. Adapting quickly to the imagination-run-riot treasure hunt, Brendan finds himself put through his paces and fends off the other dads in a series of high-octane action scenes.

For a low budget film shot in the English countryside (effectively standing in for a jungle setting), Sophie’s Fortune does wonders with its premise becoming a sort of mini Indiana Jones adventure. Nicely shot to resemble blockbusters of the 80s and 90s with events and action scenes playing out in an un-fussy manner (meaning no silly camera shake nonsense or over editing craziness): Sophie’s Fortune is a refreshingly unpretentious affair. Adventure and action is the agenda here and once the dads run off into the woods to seek the treasure the action kicks into high gear. Featuring a nice and often non-stop mix of gunplay, fist fights and a ridiculous amount of explosions the action is varied, often creative and gets bigger and bigger as it progresses. With more than a hint of Indiana Jones, a little bit of John Woo and some high impact fights scenes, the makers of Sophie’s Fortune go for the action jugular and it doesn't disappoint. There is also a great gag when a bad guy turns up with a “Painless” style mini-gun ala Predator and proceeds to decimate everything in his path: awesome.

Speaking of gags (both funny and visual), the film packs in a few of these as well (in between all the action goodness) including a neat scene where the dads are running through the woods and transform into the heroes they perceive themselves to be (which you can preview here: and a very funny bit where we see the kids watching all the action from the sidelines and, yep, wouldn’t you know it they are bored: despite all the carnage, chaos and stuff blowing up! Sure the CGI/green screen effects don’t always convince and the run time could have been a little longer to get to know the characters a bit better (and fit in a couple more action scenes!) but all in all Sophie’s Fortune is a blast. Well shot (it looks fantastic), well acted and with well choreographed action scenes this is a mini blockbuster hoot.

Check out the full trailer: