Saturday, July 31, 2010

Eye Of The Eagle II: Inside The Enemy - 2.5/5

The original Eye of the Eagle was a lame copycat of the macho heroic films Rambo: First Blood Part II and Missing in Action. It was a bad, bad no brain action film and I went into this sequel with the same mentality that it was going to follow the same connect-the-dots formula. However I became completely surprised as Eye of the Eagle II: Inside the Enemy (more on that subtitle later) is not a moronic macho guy with a machine gun movie. It surprisingly is an "emotionally" driven low-budget war film that's main focus is on characters, not low budget action antics.

The film opens with a small group of men going through boot camp and then jumps to them during the Vietnam War. Todd Field is our main character Glenn and he and his platoon are left on the ground when an attack on a village gets botched. He marches through the jungle after the rest of his platoon is killed off when he comes across a Vietnamese girl. He and the girl survive the jungle and get back to safety but once she arrives she is taken as a prisoner. Glenn later learns that his commanding officer is corrupt in opium dealing and in turn has gotten the girl hooked on heroin and forced her into prostitution. Glenn goes to his officials but that only makes his commanding officer mad so he takes it upon himself to rescue the girl, and escape the country while dodging the assassins sent after them.

Like I mentioned before this film is nothing like the first film despite it being produced by Cirio H. Santiago, director of the original. The tone is COMPLETELY different and there is no plot or character carryover. No doubt this was filmed to be a completely separate film but was later retitled to be a sequel to Cirio's lame action film due to the fact they are both low budget Vietnam films filmed in the Philippines.

The acting, especially for a low budget Filipino film, is acceptable and I really dug the emotionally driven characters. Still, the low budget nature of the film does hinder it's emotional impact as some of the editing and production values are extremely lacking. The score is most terrible and doesn't fit many of the sequences it overlays. An attack on the village has background score more suited a car tailing someone as opposed to a horrific display of war. The music almost completely ruined that sequence.

Overall this isn't a bad low budget Vietnam flick and it's a damn shame more people don't know about it. I literally feel like I am 1 in 10 people that have seen the damn thing! Perhaps if the title didn't connect it to a lame action film it would be more widely seen and perhaps liked.

Bonus Rant: My bonus rant has to do with the subtitle "Inside the Enemy" which to me sounds like a porn title. Since our hero Glenn falls in love with a Vietnamese girl and they do have a sex scene, he literally is "inside the enemy" if you get my drift. Who the hell thought that this was a good subtitle for a seriously taken Vietnam flick? I bet the marketing people were having a great laugh by getting this subtitle actually put onto the film.

Written By Eric Reifschneider

Eye of the Eagle II Trailer

Eye Of The Eagle (1986) - 1/5

Antonio Margheriti may be the king of likable cheesy 80's Italian actionploitation but halfway around the world in the Philippines, a Filipino director by the name of Cirio H. Santiago was also making a name for himself in the cheesy low budget world of actionploitation. The one difference is his films tend not to be nearly as likable or enjoyable as his Italian counterparts. Eye of the Eagle is no exception.

Though Santiago flirted with a Vietnam War film in his First Blood rip-off Final Mission, Eye of the Eagle would mark his first full fledged Vietnam War film which desperately tries to copy the macho hero successes of Rambo: First Blood Part II and Missing in Action. Here we get a lame Rambo type hero in the form of Brett Baxter Clark who seems a rather oddball with his blond highlighted 80's hairdo despite the film taking place in 1970. He is in charge of a military assassination group called "Eagle" (catchy code name isn't it?). After a botched mission our group comes in contact with a reporter who has proof of an existence of a rebel American military group made up of MIAs. This rebel group just happens to be headed by the same asshole that killed Brett's brother in cold blood! Brett and his trusty sidekick (Robert Patrick, pre T-1000 role!) set out to shoot lots, and lots of bullets.

When it comes to no brain action, Eye of the Eagle could be the dictionary definition. No thought goes into this plot what-so-ever and it seems machine guns are fired through most of it's 90 minute run time. Everything cliché in an war action film is here, including a typical bar fights and double crosses. All aspects of this film are just downright poor, from its writing, to its editing, to its acting. Hell even the sets are so damn cheap that they almost fall down when Robert Patrick slams a door! You also got to love that ultra lame model helicopter explosion at the end.

The absolute worst part however is the jarring editing during the action sequences. Whenever an explosion goes off, the film has a very jarring edit before people go flying. The film is filled with these awful edits! This is the cheap filmmakers way around action sequences as he cuts at an "opportune" times to switch people out with stunt men. I have never seen this an action film utilize this technique so much and so badly.

I enjoy no-brain 80's action as much as the next guy but Santiago's action outings tend to be not only no-brain but also brain killing. It has some amusing unintentional laughs but this comes nowhere near the enjoyment factor of other cheesy Vietnam flicks produced in Italy and America. The Last Hunter... now that's a likable B-grade Vietnam war flick. My advice is to check out the work of Margheriti instead. If for some God forsaken reason you were floored by the awesomeness of Eye of the Eagle... don't worry, it was followed by two sequels!

Written By Eric Reifschneider

Eye of the Eagle Trailer

Friday, July 30, 2010

Ip Man - 4/5

After receiving pretty round about critical praise, "Ip Man" finally hit the US after making fans wait for 2 years (in fact, the sequel is already out in China) and in a fairly shitty DVD form. Its alright though, because "Ip Man" is here in all of its astonishing semi-historical fight filled drama glory.

Master Ip (Yen) lived a peaceful life in Foshan practicing Wing Chun privately and living with his wife and young son. He is generally considered the best Martial Artist in the entire city and despite a handful of challenges from outsiders and other masters willing to learn, he is left alone to his own accord. When the Japanese invade China in 1937, Master Ip is forced to live in destitute with his family eventually taking up work. His resistance against the Japanese military force and his undying morality for humanity eventually lead him into having to make an ultimate choice...betray his people or perish.

"Ip Man" carries very enthusiastic energy that blends a historical film, a kung fu film, and a dramatic moral tale together into a spirited and memorable film experience. Although some of the more historical transitions seem oddly placed and structured (going from his pre-Japanese occupation life to his post occupation life is a bit sudden), the story itself and the message it carries about the soul of what martial arts is about rings true.

With a solidly subtle and oddly charismatic performance from Donnie Yen as Master Ip, a visionary eye for blending modern techniques into a traditionally crafted historically placed kung fu film, and beyond impressive choreography from the legendary Sammo Hung, most everything about "Ip Man" reigns true to its influences whilst remaining uniquely valid in this day and age. Despite some awkward moments that try to keep us moving the with time jumps and an obvious name drop at the end that, yes Master Ip did help train Bruce Lee, this film is paced well and executed better.

"Ip Man" works like a classic kung fu film with lots of historical context and slightly deeper meaning than most. Great characters and beautiful visions from behind the camera make this a modern martial arts film one has to see to appreciate. I'm eagerly awaiting the sequel!

BONUS RANT: Most of my complaints of the film have to do with the version I have (including some oddly structured English subtitles) that are not of fault of the film. It really bogs down the overall experience one should have with "Ip Man". Here's to hoping for a slightly better version to his the US in the future. 

Written By Matt Reifschneider

Batman: Under The Red Hood - 4.5/5

"I'm going to need something to wear...and a very big truck. I'll need some guys. Not these guys because, well, they're kind of dead. (Laughs)" --The Joker.

Despite my overwhelming admiration and love for the concept and stories of the Batman universe, none of the cartoons have quite lived up to the 90s Animated Series and the few feature length flicks it produced including the highlight "Mask Of The Phantasm". Even the anime inspired series of more serious shorts "Gotham Knight" was rather hit or miss. Thusly, when "Batman: Under The Red Hood" was to be released, I was willing to wait a bit. Then the praises started to gather weight. So I had to check out this latest cartoon (but still adult oriented) Batman feature film myself. To say its one of the best Batman cartoons yet crafted only hits on part of it. This is one of the best Batman films...period.

"Under The Red Hood" takes place further down the time line in the Batman universe. The original Robin has grown up to become his own crime fighter Nightwing. Even Robin's replacement Todd, has been dead five years at the hands of The Joker. Yet Batman still plugs along, taking down baddies and undermining the work of crime syndicate boss Black Mask and the madness of his all time nemesis The Joker. This time though, a new criminal has entered the Gotham area. His name is Red Hood, a moniker stolen from a previous alias of The Joker. He seems to be rounding up the criminals of Gotham and using them to rid the city of the larger ones. He seems to be on Batman's side but doesn't use the same morals. Now Batman has to uncover who's under the Red Hood before he starts a massive turf war with Batman caught in the middle.

What this animated film does that no other animated Batman film did is balance the comic book look (with its bright colors and intense over the top action) and the adult moral themes and dark streaks that have become popular for superhero stories in the last 10 years. Its a balance that rivals that of "Mask Of The Phantasm", although definitely bringing out more of the darkness and adult themes and less of the child friendly language and stories. The comparisons can run rampant to that of the previous animated high mark over and over again in themes of how the past affects the present, Batman's moral stances and inability to leave the persona behind, and even how the Joker always ends up somehow being at the center. Its a brilliant story telling process that takes everything that makes Batman one of the greatest (if not THE greatest) super hero of all time and rolls it into an hour and fifteen minutes of pure fun and thought provoking depth.

The animation is top notch, the story telling rivals that of an actual film in its time jumps and unique flair of the director, and even the voice acting is damn solid. Really my only complaint about "Under The Red Hood" is the fact that Mark Hamill wasn't The Joker, but John DiMaggio did a spectacular job too. The film even cleverly builds backing story about Nightwing and the events that lead to this story for those whom don't follow the Batman comic universe regularly without seeming too much like exposition.

"Under The Red Hood" is simply put, one of the best feature length works about Batman that I have ever laid my hands on and perhaps one of the most unique without trying so hard. If you are a fan of the comics or just love a good action/superhero story than this is a must see. Now if only we could see more of these out there. 

Written By Matt Reifschneider

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Maniac Cop 3: Badge Of Silence - 2/5

When I originally bought Maniac Cop 3 on VHS (with the dumb title MC3: Maniac Cop 3 on the box art), I become a little worried when I saw two names in the director credits section. The first was of course William Lustig, director of the first two, and the second was some imposter named Joel Soisson. Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome taught me that when a sequel has another director listed along with the original director, it's never a good thing. My hunch was correct and I came out of Maniac Cop 3 a disheartened Maniac Cop fan.

Of course our dead cop Cordell (again played by Robert Z'Dar) lives again but this time he has a crush. The film opens with a rogue police women who is criticized for utilizing too much physical force being gunned down while stopping a robbery (by future Freddy Krueger star Jackie Earle Haley). Our maniac cop takes it upon himself to protect her and in turn kills anyone who publicly denounces her. Our cop Robert Davi returns to try to take Cordell out one more time.

The first two films are well known for being just as much action films as slasher films and here lies our first major problem. The film, for the most part, is rather action less and instead relies on tired, slasher stalking and killing routines. With a rather uninteresting plot the film just meanders to an unfulfilled climax (though the sequence with Cordell driving a police car while engulfed in flames was rather good).

After viewing the film I am not surprised that both director William Lustig and Larry Cohen both disown the film. In my research it seems that Lustig left the film before it was done due to producer interference leaving producer Joel Sossion to finish the rest. Joel Soisson, what the hell does he know? He directed Pulse 2 & 3 for Christ sake, two of the worst horror sequels ever made (not saying the first film was any good to begin with)! The final result of the film gave me the inclination that Soisson was forcing Lustig to make a Maniac Cop film that truly wasn't a Maniac Cop film. As a fan I came out of the film feeling cheated. Thankfully the presence of Robert Davi can make this rather lifeless sequel worth finishing.

Written By Eric Reifschneider

Maniac Cop 2 - 3/5

You knew it would happen. How could a film surprisingly as good as Maniac Cop not deserve a sequel. Thankfully both director William Lustig and writer Larry Cohen both return so we can expect the quality of this sequel to be close to the original. Well I can calm your doubts as Maniac Cop 2 matches the original in being a badass action slasher film... just with a few more flaws.

Our survivors of the original Bruce Campbell and Laurene Landon are currently seeing a psychologist about their story of a "dead cop reeking revenge." Of course our killer cop returns, surviving his tumble into the harbor and quickly disposes of Bruce with his trusty knife in his billy club (Evil Dead fans' hearts are breaking everywhere!). Cordell then sets his sights on Landon and manages to kill her but not without our psychologist character (Claudia Christian, the babe from The Hidden) witnessing the occurrence. Now she, with the help of hard-nosed cop Robert Davi (a character no doubt filling in for the absence of Tom Atkins) try to stop Cordell as he is teaming up with a serial stripper killer.

The action is on par with the first film and in typical Lustig fashion the stunts are absolutely AMAZING especially for the budget. The highlighted stunt has to be a car speeding out of control with a person handcuffed to the wheel while OUTSIDE of the vehicle! There is another amazing action sequence when Cordell enters a police station all Terminator-like and literally blows the living hell out of everyone. He even throws a cop threw what seems to be like 10 walls!

Like the first film the cast is also tops for a B movie. Hardcore Bruce Campbell fans will no doubt be upset that he bites it within the first 10 minutes but the rest of the cast is a nice ensemble. I really dug Robert Davi's burnt out cop character and he was a nice companion piece to the Frank McCrae cop character played by Tom Atkins in the original.

The problem I have with this sequel is, no disrespect to Larry Cohen, is some of the plot devices. Why is Cordell teaming up with a serial killer? Somehow it all ties into clearing his name but I just didn't find it to gel well. The mysteriousness of the Cordell character is also lacking here as he is just a full on tougher than hell zombie. The original played with the aspect that he may be alive or dead but not here. He's just a zombie.

Overall this is a badass sequel to the original. Lustig again puts all he can into the film to make it look like it had 10 times the budget it did and the film looks wonderful as a result. Perhaps with a script that made more sense on the purpose of Cordell's mission would this sequel have been as good as the original. As is though this is a sequel that is highly worth checking out and in my humble opinion one of the top sequels the horror genre has to offer.

Written By Eric Reifschneider

Maniac Cop - 3.5/5

Have You ever heard of an action slasher? No? Well me neither until I laid my eyes upon this badass film as Maniac Cop is every bit as much of an action film as it is a slasher horror film. Since I am a action and horror connoisseur, this is a cult film buffs dream come true!

Our film has some violent killings going on in New York city and few witness to the crimes say it was a cop. People even start becoming scared of the law enforcement and in one memorable scene a women blows a cop away as he was coming up to her vehicle to issue a speeding ticket. Genre great Tom Atkins is assigned to the case and he connects the murders to what seems to be dead cop Matt Cordell. Cordell was wrongly imprisoned and killed by the very criminals he put behind bars. He seems to be out for revenge but is he really alive or a walking corpse? Cops Bruce Campbell and Laurene Landon are also on the case as it seems Cordell is setting up Campbell to take the fall.

So how the hell is this both an action and slasher film? Well for one thing the action sequences are major badass and the stunts are jaw dropping. There's a sequence towards the end where they flip a police paddy wagon into a bay with a guy hanging onto the side! The film is also a slasher as it has plenty of suspenseful stalking moments not to mention a villain that is so fucking memorable that he could even hold his ground with the likes of Jason Voorhees. Rober Z'Dar's mammoth chin is something to haunt nightmares with!

Not only do we get a badass action sequences and a memorable villain, we also get a great cast filled with veterans and cult actors. I'm talking about Richard "Shaft" Roundtree, William "Conan's Father" Smith, Bruce "Evil Dead" Campbell, Laurene "Hundra" Landon and of course Tom Atkins, one of my favorite cult movie stars that deserves much more respect than he gets.

So we have baddass action sequence, a memorable villain, a great cast... what else could be good? The fucking directing that's what and William Lustig proves to me yet again why he is one of my favorite B movie directors. He has the ability to take B-movie scripts and low budgets and make the movies look like they were filmed for 10 times the money. Wonderful camera shots and pacing keeps the movie trucking right along. I almost forgot to mention the extremely catchy whistling score provided by Jay Chattaway, who is mostly known for providing ultra cheesy scores to cornball action films for the Cannon group.

Maniac Cop not only is my personal favorite William Lustig film, it's also one of my all time favorite B-movies. Every time I watch the damn thing something impresses me. A slasher film about a psychotic cop doesn't have the right to be this good yet it is. Why this film isn't more widely talked about in the horror world is beyond me.

Written By Eric Reifschneider

Captain Kronos: Vampire Hunter - 3.5/5

The early 70's was a rocky time for Hammer studios. A new breed of horror film with the likes of The Exorcist and The Texas Chainsaw Massacre made the companies output seem as old as the periods they take place in. Fans were expecting contemporary horror with added violence and graphic visuals and Hammer just didn't have a nitch in this market. Not surprisingly Captain Kronos tanked at the box office and this is just a damn shame as Captain Kronos is one of Hammer's most overlooked gems in their large catalog.

Like the title says, Captain Kronos is a vampire hunter. He and his humble sidekick roam the British countryside slaying vampires wherever they might come up. Young girls in a small village are coming under attack by a hooded figure who drains them of their youth. Kronos and his sidekick track down the original to an ancient family that has ties to the dreaded Karnstein family. Hammer aficionados will recognize that name as that is the family name in the Karnstein trilogy (which includes the films The Vampire Lovers, Lust for a Vampire, and Twins of Evil) so if you want to get technical Captain Kronos could be considered a spin-off from that interesting trilogy. I love little connections like that in films and I thank the filmmakers for writing that in.

The film, typical with hammer productions, has a beautiful look to it with nice direction, wonderful costume design, and solid acting. A kickass score just tops it off. Sadly there are a few flaws which keep this from becoming one of Hammer's all time great films. Captain Kronos for the most part is a rather poorly developed character. Not much is know of him other than some quick dialogue about how he returned back from the war only to have his sister attack and bite him as she was turned into a vampire (anyone else thinks this sounds familiar to Blade?). I wish his character was a little more fleshed out. Along his journey Kronos picks up a gypsy girl and she really has no plot relevance other than eye candy. Our Karnstein family here is also not as threatening as I would have liked them to be. The family is just wishy washy and I never felt that Kronos was in real danger. I also found it to be in poor taste to have Kronos's side kick to be a hunchback. Really? How much more cliché can we get guys? Why not call him Igor for Christ sake!

Despite its flaws Captain Kronos comes out being a highly entertaining Hammer film and it just saddens me that none of the planned sequels ever got made. Perhaps some of the sequels would have delved more into the back story of the character. We might have even got a team-up with Hammer's other grand vampire slayer Van Helsing. Hey, a Hammer fan can dream can't he?! The film has an ever growing cult audience and I highly recommend fans of this old fashioned-type of horror to seek it out.

Written By Eric Reifschneider

Brain, The (1988) - 2/5

Watching Syngenor got me in the mood to view more crazy antics of David Gale so I decided to pop in another forgotten horror film with the Canadian produced film The Brain. How could a film about a giant killer brain with sharp teeth not be a little entertaining? The original video box art to the film also scared the shit out of me when I was a kid and the picture on the back with a pair of bloody legs emerging from our evil brain's sharp tooth filled mouth burned its way into my memory and I have never forgotten it.

The film has David Gale as an evil psychologist who has somehow come into possession of an alien brain. The brain has some amazing psychic abilities so he uses the brain to "scan" or "control" people through their television sets. We have a juvenile delinquent who uncovers the evil plot so he and his girlfriend set out to stop David Gale. The only thing standing in their way is our gigantic brain which is hungry for human flesh!

This is a really bizarre film and it's plot never really gels together. The special effects are the highlight of as we get a lot of trippy sequences involving tentacles and the looks of the Brain itself is downright scary. Sadly the budget hinders the Brain when it grows to gigantic size at the end and it is obviously chasing our protagonists while being pushed on a cart. Other than that it's face is something to haunt nightmares!

The acting is acceptable but like I expected David Gale steals the show as he hams up the role perfectly. He knows a film about a giant killer brain with psychic abilities can't be taken seriously so he adds a lot of over-the-top antics to the character. There is even a nice headless nod to his Re-Animator role.

Though the plot never really gathers full steam, the film still manages to entertain as much as a trashy 80's film about a giant carnivorous brain with psychic abilities can. Fans of bizarre horror cinema and forgotten 80's horror are recommended to hunt this film down. Sadly Lionsgate has not released a DVD in the United States yet so fans are still forced to view their wore out VHS copies. I originally sold my VHS years ago and like many other of reviews have stated I am still kicking myself for that. Also like I've stated in other reviews for rare films like this, I have to give a big thank you to my friend Bill who again scored me a copy so I could re-view the film. THANKS BILL!

Written By Eric Reifschneider

Creature (1985) - 2/5

Inseminoid proved to me that the British didn't know what it took to make an entertaining trashy rip-off of Alien so I decided to go back over the ocean to view a home grown Alien rip-off in the form of Creature. Out of all the rip-offs that I have seen, Creature takes the cake as being the most complete rip-off copying everything from the strong female lead to the actual creature design.

Here we have an American crew landing on a remote planet (another remote planet, go figure!) to investigate a landing of a rival German spacecraft which they have lost contact with. When boarding they find the whole crew has been obliterated by an alien creature that they unwittingly released from some other alien species "pet collection". The alien of course makes its way on board the American vessel and starts killing and controlling various crew members by placing parasites on their head. If you have seen Alien, then you can connect the dots on the rest of the film.

Despite being a complete rip-off of Alien, I actually had a lot of fun with Creature which was refreshing compared Inseminoid which I had just viewed. Director William Malone loads the film up with some good shots, nice darkly lite ships, a cool new wave 80's style and an abundance of gore! Gorehounds should be extremely pleased!

The cast is also good for this type of trash film. Wendy Schaal is our strong female lead which is no doubt a take on Alien's Riply character. Schaal is a major babe and makes for some nice eye candy to go along with the gore. We also get cult actor Klaus Kinski as the head of the German space ship. He is a good actor and it just brings a smile to my face whenever he appeared in these low budget genre films. Yes he is a little old to be casted as an astronaut but his presence brings the film up in quality.

Out of all the trashy Alien rip-offs I have seen, for my money Creature is the second best only after the schlocky classic Galaxy of Terror. It's got a great cast and gory effects to make this an entertaining trashy cash-in. Sadly out of all our major players in the Alien rip-off category, Creature is the only film not to receive a high quality DVD release. Even the shitty Star Crystal got widescreen treatment and Creature only gets a cruddy "public domain" release from Diamond Entertainment. My old Media Entertainment release on VHS has better quality than this crap DVD. Creature deserves for some cult DVD company to pick up and release in a high quality release. Look at the sales figures for Shout Factory's releases of Galaxy of Terror and Forbidden World. Yes there are fans of these B-movies and Creature deserves to be re-discovered by trash fanatics.

Written By Eric Reifschneider

Inseminoid [Horror Planet] - 1/5

Roger Corman jumped on the Alien band-wagon and so did the Italians. So naturally it's the Brits turn to make their own chapter in the trashy Alien rip-off subgenre! Roger Corman's efforts, though bad, were at least trashy fun. Unlike those previous films mentioned, Inseminoid makes one fatal mistake.... it's not trashy fun and thus is just a insipid copy cat.

Our film has a British space station on a remote planet and with the crew exploring some ancient caverns. An explosion occurs injuring some crew members. While recovering one of crew members goes nuts and runs out into the caverns with some people on his tail to stop him. While in the caves one of our women astronauts gets raped by an alien creature (in very bizarre sequence). While pregnant with some monster babies, she starts going insane and killing off the crew one by one.

Though it sounds like it could be a schlocky good time, it sadly isn't. The director and cast take this lame film seriously and the production values are laughable (I love the how the train in the cavern looks more like a children's ride!). Director Norman J. Warren loads the film with some blood and gore but it doesn't counterbalance the rest of the badness. The whole film is just boring and uninteresting with forgettable characters and a director going through the motions to get a paycheck.

Inseminoid was also released in the United States as Horror Planet but no matter what title you call it, it doesn't hide the fact that it's complete crap. It may not be the worst Alien rip-off ever made but it's definitely lower tear rip-off material. It's a damn shame as the director made a few interesting little horror films in the 70's with Satan's Slave and Terror but he didn't bring that visual flare to Inseminoid. It's just another forgettable film that will guarantee to disappoint fans of even trashy rip-off material.

Bonus Rant: Not that I like Alien rape sequences or anything, but why the hell is the alien's private part a "glass tube". I highly doubt any lifeform in the universe has body parts made out of GLASS. The short scene could have easily been left out.

Written By Eric Reifschneider

Syngenor - 2/5

For some damn reason the VHS cover artwork to Syngenor stuck in my mind since my childhood. I'm not sure why though as the VHS artwork isn't that great but for some reason it stuck. That and for the fact this B-monster film stars "Re-animator" star David Gale got me to buy it at a cheap price. After viewing the film and listening to the DVD commentary I was surprised to learn it is actually a sequel to a low budget film made 9 years prior titled Scared to Death. Nowhere on the box art will you find information that this is a follow-up no doubt because the DVD distributors didn't want to connect this film to an ultra low budget film made years before that not many people have seen. The makers of the movie even had this mentality as there is no reference to the events of the first film and no characters or direct plot carry over other than the beastly Syngenor itself.

Our film opens with some high class jackasses taking some high priced prostitutes to a "high tech" lab to show them some Syngenors only to have them meet bloody demises. It seems that our greedy corporation is into military weapons and their new weapon is a genetically made monster called a "Syngenor", and in case you didn't see the first film that stands for SYNthesized GENetic ORganism. These monsters were designed for desert combat and get their fluid intake by drinking the spinal fluid of their victims. Our greedy corporation (headed by the late great David Gale!) sends out a Syngenor to kill the genetic scientist that created them as he quit the company. The Syngenor succeeds but the scientist's daughter becomes a witness so she and a reporter (they always seem to team up with reporters in these type of films) join together to take the corporation down, that is if they can beat an army of Syngenors first!

Syngenor can be fun at times for a low budget monster romp but it's budget really hinders the scope of the film. The Syngenor suits look good but they don't have quite the scary image they had in the first film Scared to Death. Perhaps it's due to the fact director George Elanjian Jr. decides to film them in well lit areas as opposed to keeping them darkly lit like original director William Malone. The high tech lab where the Syngenors are kept is obviously a kitchen of a hotel with white sheets covering up all the kitchen equipment. Still with such a low budget the filmmakers seem to have done a credible job.

The acting is off kilter as some of the actors take this hokey material seriously and others ham it up. David Gale shines in this film and he had his tongue firmly in his cheek with his performance. His character starts out subtle but by the end he was a stark raging mad! I had a ball with his performance and it really added to the fun nature of the film. My favorite part of his performance is towards the end when he goes over the deep end and our protagonists find him wearing a bunny mask backwards on his head. Fuckin' great!

Though a sequel this film can easily be viewed on its own. I saw Syngenor first and never thought it was a sequel until I did a little research. After viewing the first film Scared to Death I can honestly say that Syngenor is a little better thanks to a higher budget and a little more fleshed out plot. The first film tried very hard to be scary (and failed) whereas Syngenor has more of a sense of fun to it. Fans of B-monster films are encouraged to at least give Syngenor a rent.

Bonus Rant (Spoiler): I found it odd that the plot device used to kill the Syngenor creatures is water. Water literally makes them explode. However this is a continuity error compared to the first film. The Syngenor in the original film took refuge in a sewer so it couldn't have been killed by water. I can't be too picky as Syngenor, though a sequel, actually acts more like a totally separate film which just happens to include Syngenors so I can't expect great continuity.

Written By Eric Reifschneider

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Galaxy Of Terror - 2.5/5

When it comes to trashy Alien rip-offs, there is one film that is the leader of the pack. That film is Roger Corman's seemingly lost classic Galaxy of Terror. Though absolutely "inspired" by Alien, Galaxy of Terror however isn't a complete rip-off like other films in the notorious subgenre like Creature, Forbidden World and Inseminoid. Sure there are some monsters lurking in the dark after our astronauts but there is plenty of psychological horror in addition to the basic stalking monster moments. The best way I can compare it is Alien meets Event Horizon... just trashier.

Our film opens like a complete Alien rip-off with a crew landing on a remote planet to investigate a cash landing. While there they discover an ancient pyramid where each crew member comes face to face with various monsters and die horrible, bloody deaths.

What I liked about this ultra cheap sci fi horror is the addition of the psychological horror aspect. It seems the Pyramid brings the crew members deepest darkest fears to life. This aspect itself makes this film a severed arm above the rest in the notorious "Alien" knock-off subgenre. The film is also full of amazing, practical special effects. Everything from matte paintings, creature effects to visual effects are all tops and brings out a real nostalgia feeling from this reviewer as I grew up with effects of this nature. I'm sorry but computer generated effects will never top practical effects in my book! The colorful cast of actors also makes this film a fun romp to watch. Where else can you see Edward Albert, Sid Haig, pre-Freddy Robert Englund, and Ray Walston in the same movie! Guaranteed nowhere else in the galaxy!

Even with all the praise the film succumbs to many B-movie flaws that seem to always plague Roger Corman productions. The first is the AWFUL dialogue. Sid Haig admitted the dialogue was so dreadful that he convinced to Roger allow his character to be mute. Still his crystal throwing badass was still required to say the laugh educing line "I live and die... FOR THE CRYSTALS!!!" That line gets me every time! The film also gets a little overly complicated and self-important towards the end and it becomes unintentionally funny with all its metaphysical mumbo jumbo.

People who have seen this film before are no doubt going "when are going to talk about the maggot rape!" Yes Galaxy of Terror has a grisly reputation as it has a sequence where a maggot grows to giant size and literally rapes one of our woman astronauts. This sequence is pure crass exploitation and sadly it's what the film is most remembered for. My parents went to see Galaxy of Terror in theaters when it first came out and they walked out during this sequence. This was one of two movies that my parents walked out of (the other being William Friedkin's Cruising) so I definitely had to hunt down the film that went over the acceptable edge for my parents. Viewing it now I can see why!

Galaxy of Terror deserves no more than 2 stars but I decided to bump it up a half a stare due to the fact a lot of hard work and effort went into making this film which really had no money to spend. Lots of blood sweat and tears were shed for this production and the film looks great as a result. If it just had better dialogue and a tighter script could it have become an "A" of a "B" movie. However can a film with a maggot rape scene be respectable even with better dialogue and script?

Bonus Rant: It just fucking irks me when people hear about this movie and all they can talk about is James "my way" Cameron. Yes James Cameron was production designer and second unit director on this film and yes he would go on to be an Oscar winner later but that doesn't mean he alone made this film! There is even a whole section of the documentary present on the DVD dedicated to him....grrrr

Written By Eric Reifschneider

Mission: Impossible III (2006)

Director: JJ Abrams
Notable Cast: Tom Cruise, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Ving Rhames, Billy Crudup, Michelle Monaghan, Jonathan Rhys Meyers, Keri Russell, Maggie Q, Simon Pegg, Eddie Marsan, Laurence Fishburne

The first "Mission: Impossible" was almost too smart for its own good but lacked some of the action that the crowd desired. The second film sacrificed its intelligence for style and action. This third installment, cleverly called "Mission: Impossible III", needed to balance the two sides and give the fans an action filled but smart spy film. Luckily, with some strong writing, a fantastic cast, and the vision of quickly rising J.J. Abrams in the director's chair, this third film in the series does it. Admirably well, might I add.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Mission: Impossible II (2000)

Director: John Woo
Notable Cast: Tom Cruise, Dougray Scott, Thandie Newton, Ving Rhames, Richard Roxburgh, John Polson, Brendan Gleeson

With the success of "Mission: Impossible" it was pretty easy to tell that Paramount was smelling their own Bond franchise in the air. So it wasn't all that surprising that a sequel for the franchise would be more focused on the action sequences and creation/deeping of our hero Ethan Hunt. Thus, we have "Mission: Impossible II" or "M:I-2" for those of you edgy enough to shorten a title to letters and numbers as was popular in the late 90s and early 00s. This time it's focused on the action and over-the-top ridiculously epic story line instead of the smarts and spy elements that the first one maximized and jammed into its script. Oh... and it has Tom Cruise back but this time with grungy long anti-hero hair. Cause 00s, people.

Mission: Impossible (1996)

Director: Brian De Palma
Notable Cast: Tom Cruise, Jon Voight, Emmanuelle Beart, Henry Czerny, Jean Reno, Ving Rhames

The first "Mission: Impossible" film holds a pretty special balance in its wake. Although Tom Cruise might be bat shit crazy now with his hijinks, Scientology rants, and criticisms of morning hosts, it's films like "Mission: Impossible" that make his career the flavorful catalog it is. With all of the talent incorporated with this film version of the cheesy 60s and 70s television show, its not surprising that it's updated admirably and is one of the most memorable (and spoofed) films of the 90s.

Ethan Hunt (Cruise) works for a mysterious agency known as IMF. They track down and complete tasks considered practically impossible on a daily basis. When his team, lead by Jim Phelps (Voight) is basically slaughtered on a mission to recover a stolen list of secret agents called the NOC list, Hunt is blamed for being a mole in the organization. Hunt then goes rogue vows to uncover the true mole that slaughtered his team. He builds a new team of rogue agents (Rhames and Reno) to steal the real NOC list and uncover the dire deeds behind his accusation.

The balance of "Mission: Impossible" is truly what makes this film a fun and intense watch. It somehow balances the 60s and somewhat cheesy vibe of the original TV series and updates it adequately with modern style and technology into a spy film that fringes onto an action film more than once. Considering that at the time it started filming there wasn't even a finished script, the smart and quickly moving plot engages you 100% of the time and never really lets go until the final climax of a helicopter and train chase. Its in these regards with its fun dialogue, smartly cast group (we do love us some Voight at Blood Brothers here), cheesy but somehow effect plot, and great balances that "Mission: Impossible" works so well.

If there were any hiccups on this film, it would have to be its almost arrogant and over thought plot twists. Half the time the film is too smart for its own good and has trouble conveying its own surprises to the audiences. Half the time it has to use a fairly cheesy voice over to remind us what we should know and at other times it just rolls with its twists making the audience just go with it for the sake of pacing. The ending on the train with all of its unveiling and double agent 'oh hell no!' moments gets almost overwhelming for about 10 solid minutes and still to this day I wonder about some of the details of it. The script that was being worked on before filming started does show its problems in this regard, but overall it's pretty minute in comparison to the rest of the film's execution. Fortunately the film charms its way through those holes and having a great moment with Cruise on the front of a helicopter yelling "Red light! Green light!" smooths over my confusion nicely.

Although it may not always work out logically, "Mission: Impossible" does too many things right to criticize it too much. Its fun. Its intense. Its a great 90s ride of spy nostalgia and charm. It works for me.

BONUS RANT: Now, Emilio Estevez has a short role as the first IMF team's tech guy in the beginning of this film. I love his character and I love that actor. He is not in it enough. Period. The more Emilio, the better I say. If I thought that was a legit reason I would knock off half a star on this film for killing him. But alas, its not really legit. And it was nice to see him once more before his career fell off the face of the Earth. 

Written By Matt Reifschneider

Hellraiser: Hellworld (2005)

Director: Rick Bota
Notable Cast: Lance Henriksen, Katheryn Winnick, Christopher Jacot, Khary Payton, Henry Cavill, Doug Bradley

The Hellraiser franchise has once again spiraled downwards since the impressive Inferno leading into this eighth installment entitled Hellraiser: Hellworld. Although the concept of the puzzle box and mythology of the hell it raises becoming an online video game fad might seem interesting, the film comes off as a rather stale and poor attempt to intertwine the Hellraiser universe into a low brow slasher. There are moments that prove that this could have been an interesting installment for the franchise, for some it still might be, but the rest is face palm inducing silliness and haphazardly strewn together concepts that never finds a pulse.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Return of Sabata - 3/5

Despite being the third Sabata film in America, Return of Sabata is technically the only true sequel to the original with our lovable ass anti-hero being played again by the god-like Lee Van Cleef after that impostor Yul Brenner took over the role in Audios Sabata. Since this is the "true" sequel (not another film retitled to be a "sequel" like Adios) we again get a spaghetti western/James Bond film hybrid, the way a Sabata film should be!

Apparently Sabata has joined the circus as the film opens with him being a marksman in a traveling entertainment group. Of course Sabata would degrade himself to a career of abashment as he is actually following a counterfeit ring. He tracks the ring to a small western town where he teams up with some oddball sidekicks to blackmail an old war buddy into getting money from the mayor of the town who has an elaborate scheme to steal residents money through taxes in exchange for counterfeit money.

Like James Bond films the plot is basically the same as the film before, but like typical sequels this one just isn't as good. It's great to see Lee Van Cleef back in the roll but the rest of the characters seem like less interesting carbon copies of similar characters in the original. Reiner Schöne as Lee Van Cleef's old war buddy isn't as interesting as the devious Banjo despite the two characters again having a love/hate relationship. Similar to Leone's Man With No Name trilogy, there are a lot of actors that return playing different characters her so that might confuse some viewers. Ignazio Spalla returns again playing a similar role but he's rather worthless spending most of the film banging on a large drum. Fans will also recognize the actor playing the unconvincing Native American in Sabata returning playing a different character that again does ridiculous jumping acts.

Return of Sabata is definitely worth a view for fans of the original. It's got the same feel and look but it just isn't quite as good. Perhaps with better writing for the secondary characters and maybe a little better pacing this could have been just as enjoyable. As is though it still can bring a smirk to a spaghetti western fans face, especially when Cleef talks about being old fashioned and that he isn't into orgies. What?!

Bonus Rant: The theme song desperately tries hard to be as catchy as the first films theme but I found it in bad taste that one of the lyrics calls Sabata the "nine fingered man." Yes Lee Van Cleef is missing part of a finger on one of his hands but why include a lyrics in the song focusing on one of his flaws? If I were him I would be offended...

Written By Eric Reifschneider

Forbidden World [Mutant] - 2/5

I went into Forbidden World (also released theatrically as Mutant) expecting a entertainingly bad Alien rip-off and boy oh boy did I get what I expected! Sometimes said to be a sequel to the cult film Galaxy of Terror but I don't see the connection. Forbidden World is just another quickie Alien rip-off produced by Roger Corman that just happens to use some of the same sets as Galaxy of Terror. To be honest Forbidden world is FAR more of an alien rip-off than its earlier more popular counterpart.

The film throws the audience right away into a space battle getting everyone interested. We have unused stock footage from the Corman Star Wars rip-off Battle Beyond the Stars giving the film some nifty space effects. On the ship we are introduced to our "hero" and his android sidekick. Our bounty hunter is called to a planet to investigate a lab where one of its creations has broken free and killing all the lab animals. Once arriving the creature has already cocooned itself into a corner and emerges, turning various crew members into gelatinous creatures themselves that it can eat. By the end our creature becomes a bad carbon copy of our Alien design (see the "Mutant" poster for a visual representation) and trust me you will be rooting for the damn thing to eat our unlikeable characters!

The women on this scientific research base take the cake as being the strangest characters. I mean they are complete sluts! With what only seems to be a few hours after arriving, one of our gals beds our bounty hunter! The next morning our bounty hunter walks into the steam room and our other lady friend almost lays him right there, until our escaped Alien/mutant decides to fuck that up. Our gals also walk around the station in skin tight outfits and "robes" that barely cover their ass cheeks. In perhaps the most unintentionally hilarious moment our gals have an important talk about how to communicate with the mutant alien by soaping each other up in the shower! The director didn't even try to hide his attempts at exploitation! I did get a good laugh when one of the women tries to communicate with the "thing" via 1982 computer and the Alien mistakes the word "co-exist" into being that she wants to be eaten.

Forbidden World is a BAD Alien rip-off but unlike many other BAD Alien rip-offs (cough cough Star Crystal!) Forbidden World manages to entertain by being schlocky fun. The characters are one dimensional, the acting is bad, and so is the script. Yet all this badness mixed with 80's new wave still kept me glued to the screen. I am embarrassed to say but I actually had a good time with Forbidden World. It's got enough unintentional laughs, gory special effects, and gratuitous nudity to please fans of trash cinema. Corman himself would even produce a shit remake of this film in 1991 entitled Dead Space.

BONUS RANT: The original cut of the film contained 5 extra minutes of comedic material that apparently angered Roger Corman who believed comedy doesn't belong in a "horror" film. He had the material quickly removed before wide release. Thankfully Shout Factory also released the director's cut on DVD with this cut footage intact and it gives the film more of a tongue-in-cheek feel which I dug for a bad Alien rip-off. Shame on you Corman for cutting that material out!

Also don't be confuse this film and the 1984 film Mutant. Though they both share titles they are completely different. Sadly some DVD companies confuse the films and the 1984 film Mutant received a DVD release which utilized the Mutant poster art for this film. WHOOPS!

Written By Eric Reifschneider

Give 'Em Hell, Malone - 2/5

Although the modern trend of bringing back that film noir of the 30s seems to be taking over the cult film underground, when you start throwing around names like Tom Jane or Ving Rhames or French Stewart...okay maybe not him so much...then my ears perk up. Essentially that's why "Give 'Em Hell, Malone" ended up in my watching pile. What this film does is create a fun vibe and tons of great ideas. What this film doesn't do is finish any of it out. Its like making a sweet bowl to hold water, that really can't hold water. Its still a cool bowl but it fails at what its supposed to do.

Malone (Jane) is a legend by now. He's a gun for hire who's legendary beginnings seem to change to each person you talk to. But its his latest job, retrieving a briefcase, that may be his last. Malone is a hard man to kill, but a big time mobster wants this case he has and is prepared to send some of the worlds most dangerous criminals after him for it, including Boulder (Rhames) who used to work with Malone. Now Malone has to figure out who actually hired him and why before a slew of villainous folks slaughter him.

The idea of "Give 'Em Hell, Malone" is pretty solid and impressive honestly. Its an old 30s noir inspired film done with modern techniques and an 80s sense of over the top cartoon-y ridiculousness. Its like a slightly more modern "Dick Tracy" if you will. With a solid cast (Tom Jane will always be one of my favorite cult actors) and a solid concept and some nice 30s inspired visual work, this film should be a fun shoot-em-up time with trench coats and pet names.

"Give 'Em Hell, Malone" definitely has its moments like Malone's charisma with his mother and some great over the top dialogue moments, but the film really seems to miss far to many opportunities. The humor is rather hit or miss, many scenes are played too light hearted, and our femme fatale is rather lack luster. In fact, I felt as if this film should have almost played up the seriousness of its ridiculousness not unlike the great "Shoot 'Em Up". Yet, throughout the film I felt like the script, the directing, and cast would only half ass most of their parts. Not how I want to spend my time watching something with that much potential.

This film was a fun watch, but its understandable why it ended up going straight to DVD and not getting too much attention. Its rather disappointing and more often than not feels rushed and poorly executed. It has some great moments (and great one liners) but this could easily be a skip for most folks.

BONUS RANT: The character of Matchstick is an obvious rip on Ledger's Joker from "The Dark Knight". The way he moves. The twitches he uses. Even his scars. It was so obvious that it almost made me gag a few times. Not that the actor didn't do it well, but it definitely wasn't original by any means.

Written By Matt Reifschneider

Friday, July 23, 2010

Treasure Of The Four Crowns - 1/5

I don't get it. I love trashy Italian films and I love trashy Cannon films, but for some reason when the two are mixed it comes out disappointing (Hercules excluded). Hell even the Cannon film Jungle Raiders from Italian rip-off king Antonio Margheriti came out disappointing! Treasure of the Four Crowns sadly not only ranks as the worst Cannon Indiana Jones rip-off I've seen but also the worst Italian Indiana Jones rip-off I've seen and to be honest that is quite a feat!

The film begins with our hero (played by Tony "Tony") wondering into a castle in order to find a key. In his quest he gets attacked by birds, dogs, snakes and everything else but the kitchen sink. By the time he got to the key I was thanking God they didn't have him fight ghosts like in Get Mean. I spoke too soon as no shit our hero even has to fight ghosts in the castle that cause cross bows to fire and float in air. He even has boulders chase him in grand Indiana Jones fashion. They may be smaller than the Jones versions but these ones are badass as they are on fire! After 20 goddamn minutes of him going through the rip-off motions with no dialogue, we are finally introduced to some plot. Tony Tony arrives back home to hand over his employers the key. They state the key opens all of the legendary "four crowns" and the two remaining crowns seem to be held in a high tech security hold that belongs to a Satanic religious cult. What! A Satanic cult! By this time in the film I was even questioning my own faith in God! Our hero is then assigned some forgettable sidekicks to go get the skulls, but will he be able to defeat the alarms, defeat the cult, and his own temptations? Does anyone care by this point?

This film is just dreadful and to make matters worse the film, like the previous Anthony/Baldi team up Comin' At You!, was filmed in "Wondervision 3D" so it is plum full of all the typical 3D gimmickry of shit "flying at the camera". On 2D video our 3D film looks dull and blurry. The plot is just Z-Grade Indiana Jones material full of superficial characters and an absolutely boring "hero". Tony Tony just looks too old and tired to be playing these parts (not as bad as Roger Moore circa A View to a Kill mind you) and his performance gives me the impression he didn't give a shit either. This was the final film for actor Tony Tony and trust me I didn't shed a tear. He had some fun movies in the past but it was due time for him to retire. The film however hits its absolute low towards the end when our hero grabs the two gems in the "good" crown and the "evil" crown and these two powers causes him to mutant into a half-assed monster that shoots flames from his hands. I kid you not....

This not only sucks as an Indiana Jones rip-off but it sucks as a film in general. There's nothing, absolutely nothing to recommend about this turkey and it even fails to entertain on the B-movie level that so many of its Italian counterparts are so successful at. If you want an Indiana Jones rip-off with entertainment value then see Cannon's King Solomon's Mines or some trashy adventure films directed by Antonio Margheriti. Treasure of the Four Crowns is a treasure not worth discovering.

Even though the film sucked, I have to thank my friend Bill for locating me a copy. Thanks Bill for satisfying my curiosity!

Written By Eric Reifschneider

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Host, The - 4.5/5

To say that I was completely taken back by "The Host" is easy for me to say. Calling it one of the best monster films ever might actually be an understatement of sorts. "The Host" is badass from beginning to end. It combines so many random elements together, that it feels at any time it could lose control of its bearings and everything will fall apart. It doesn't. And its this odd combination of elements and styles that makes "The Host" a completely unique and visceral film experience.

Park Gang-Du is your average slacker young man. He lives with his father and helps him run a food stand on the Han River (poorly I might add) and fails to compare to his two siblings accomplishments. His own daughter (her mother is never in the picture) looks at him as a fool and an embarrassment. When a mutant fish monster, yes you read that right, arises from the Han River to upstart a panic in the country, suddenly Park Gang-Du is in the middle of it. His daughter is taken by the creature for a later snack and the government believes that this creature is a host to a new virus and that Gang-Du and his family are now infected. Its a race against time and bureaucratic red tape for Gang-Du to save his daughter from this creature of unearthly creature.

As was mentioned in the introduction, "The Host" is one of the oddest combination of film styles I have ever had pleasure to view. Combining the obvious Monster based Horror platform with dramatic family issues, dark humor galore, and a solid socio-political satire and criticism piece and that's what you will find in "The Host". Somehow and in some random way though, director Bong Joon-Ho, the script writers, and cast make this film work in almost all the perfect balances. It's impressive to say the least.

Although the film is blessed with a solid cast and a brilliant artistic director that has a vision for the balance that this film needed, our fish monster might be one of the best parts of the film. It exemplifies all of this elements that make this film great, by being the elephant in the room for the family drama, by being the Horrific monster it is, by being created by man's own foolish acts, and by being completely created in a tongue in cheek manor (it does have random fish tails that stick out of its back and flings itself from bridge scaffolding like a gymnast). This is a perfect creature for this film and one of the more memorable monsters in the last few decades.

"The Host" is just one massive fun and unique experience that layers plenty of thought provoking details into the mix for deeper viewing pleasure. It just strikes so many great moments and ideas that its hard not to admire it for its artistic value all the while as you enjoy a fine monster flick. Now if that's not something to love, then I'm not sure what is.

Written By Matt Reifschneider

Monday, July 19, 2010

Inception - 5/5

It's nice to see Christopher Nolan again. Despite a solid couple releases under the Batman franchise and the rather hit or miss "The Prestige", I wanted to see Nolan reach the height he set with the brilliant and beastly "Memento" and "Inception" had the means to. It did. Now that I've had about half a day to let the film sink in (honestly, its going to take a few more viewings to truly let it hit its stride I think), its time to reflect on this mindfuck of a film and the brilliance it was. Let's start appropriately though with a synopsis.

Cobb (DiCaprio) has the biggest job of his life before him. Cobb and his partner Arthur (Gordon-Levitt) are extractors, thieves that perform corporate espionage by stealing ideas from another person's dream. But their latest gig is a new attempt and step in their careers. They have to plant an idea into someone's head in an act called inception. So they gather a team together to pull off their biggest act yet, with a prize for Cobb that means he can finally overcome his own demons and finally go home for good.

"Inception" is fucking intense. Yeah. I'm pretty sure through the last 40 minutes or so I never blinked. It was so good it was painful. Right away we are thrown into Cobb's world of dreams (literally we are since there is no opening credits) and for the first half of the film we are delivered the rules of being a dream architect and the dangers and pride of doing their job. As Cobb and his partner build the perfect team, whilst dodging corporate hit men, we are introduced to these rules mostly as they learn the ropes. We are also privy to learn about Cobb and his struggles with the dream scape and real world that he lives in giving us insight and questions about how real is real.

Its this slick and fast paced script that layers itself beautifully around a wonderful Science Fiction based idea. This is truly the highlight of the film (Nolan's many many years crafting it helped I'm sure) and by the end when we find our team in true danger and dreams within dreams within dreams, its impossible as it is for the characters to pull out and just like they are you are stuck through until the end.

The film also balances the intelligence of the concept with some intense action sequences. Many times I was thrown back to the feelings of awe and intensity I felt when I first watched "The Matrix". Gunfights, chase sequences, and a massively impressive rotating gravity fist fight all make appearances throughout the visually stunning epic and greatly balance the deep character work and dialogue heavy explanation moments.

As for our characters and the badass cast driving them, "Inception" like the previous "Shutter Island" is truly a DiCaprio showcase. He, even with a stellar supporting cast, carries the burden of most of the film and ably does so. The supporting characters don't get some of the depth that one could have hoped, but it never draws away from the overall story. This is Cobb's struggle and his story and that is what you will get with "Inception".

This film is a visually stunning masterpiece of dream like quality with a raw edge enough to also throw a lot of mind food at you too. Its balanced almost perfectly with high energy action and tons of intelligent dialogue and story and of course, executed in grand form. This is definitely the highlight of my movie theater experience thus far in 2010. Highly recommended for anyone that is a fan of film making.

BONUS RANT: Nolan does need a swift kick in the ass for the ending and final shot of this film. I won't give it away (its too damn good to be that mean) but it did get a response from someone in front of me screaming "You've got to be fucking kidding me!!" and I felt the same way. Its a clever shot, but damn it was a final mindfuck to top off the rest of the film. 

Written By Matt Reifschneider

Undisputed II: Last Man Standing - 3/5

The film "Undisputed" is one of those surprisingly solid films that garnered quite a bit of attention. Was it a film that needed a sequel or to start off a franchise? No. Not at all. But it did. And surprising as it is, its first sequel "Undisputed II: Last Man Standing" is a romp and a half of bad film fun. It's a bad film with quite a bit of heart, even if most of the film is so over the top its hard not to laugh and probably more than deserving of at least a rental.

George "Iceman" Chambers (White) is a world champion boxer whose career is on the downturn. While on a random tour of Russia, he is set up on false drug charges and sent to one hellish Russian prison where the mob seems to be intent on setting him up to fight their Prison badass champion Boyka (Adkins) for a little money runs in exchange for his freedom. His stay at the prison might kill him, but he's going to learn some valuable life lessons too.

There are really only two reasons that this film ended up on my viewing platter. Michael Jai White and Scott Adkins. These two men have like a bajillion martial arts skills between them and putting them in a ring together gives that area of the Earth so much muscle weight that it would create a gravitational pull not unlike a planet. Honestly, I wanted to watch this film for those guys and the fights. That's basically what this film is too. Two charismatic action stars (with a lot of bad acting and dialogue between the two) beating the shit out of each other with some badass choreography. Quite frankly, I was loving every moment of it.

Don't expect too much else though, otherwise you will find yourself in a permanent eye rolling position. The cliche story elements, the over the top and knee slapping hilarious directing, and the poor script all make this film something of a bad film cornerstone in this modern age. Yet despite all of that, it does retain a lot of heart in its basic messages and in its many, many, many attempts at building something more. It very much knows that its bad, and goes over the top in pointing out its own ridiculousness (to its own benefit) but I'll be damned if I didn't care about Chambers position and find myself rooting for him all the way to the end. So something must have worked.

"Undisputed II" may not be Oscar material, but I had a blast watching it in all of its cheesy glory. Over the top, melodramatic, and with fight sequences to wet yourself over, this film is an A grade B movie masterpiece for an era where Action films and their stars are slowly dying. Definitely worth the watch, but bring the salt along to take it with.

BONUS RANT: The random Rap music used in this film is just as hilarious and over the top as the film was. Turn or closed captioning and read the lyrics as they play in the film and over the end credits. Its awesomely bad. 

Written By Matt Reifschneider

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Escape From The Bronx (1983)


Aka "Bronx Warriors 2", "1990: Bronx Warriors II"

Despite 1990: The Bronx Warriors being a bad film, I still enjoyed it for what it was. What can I say? I enjoy a majority of the trashy films that came out of Italy in the 80's. After rewatching Bronx Warriors again I really got the inkling to watch its sequel though for some damn reason it has never gotten a North American DVD release. Come on Shriek Show! Get off your lazy asses! I actually went to eBay to purchase an old VHS when I surprisingly came across an Australian import of the disc released by Stomp Visual that is oddly enough NTSC Region 0. Yes, that's right my friends, there is a NTSC release of this "classic" sequel and after watching this lovable trash again I still can't believe it hasn't been released in the U.S.!

Escape From the Bronx takes place 10 years after the first Bronx Warriors film (thank god they didn't add the year to the title of this film!) and the Manhattan Corporation has decided to relocate all the gangs in the Bronx to New Mexico. This is of course what the seedy corporation tells people publicly but secretly they are sending in "Disinfestant Squads" (lead by genre great Henry Silva) to burn out and kill everyone who lives with in the walls of the seedy borough. Our gangs of course don't take too kindly to this so they retreat underground, all but our "hero" Trash who returns from our previous film. Trash is pissed, especially since the squads killed his parents (I assume it's his parents as they had a HUGE picture of Trash sprawled out on one of their walls). Trash, with the help of a reporter and a mercenary, make it a mission to kidnap the president of the Manhattan Corporation. Lots, and lots of violence is the result.

What I love about this film is director Enzo G. Castellari seems to be having a ball making it. He surprisingly took the original film seriously but here he decides to just have fun making a B-grade film and he loads the film with outrageous action sequences. I actually lost count at all the slow motion, violent shots and hits to people's heads there were! Our heroes even have the ability to miraculously blow up any vehicle by shooting at it from no less than a football field away! Our hero Trash even blows up a helicopter with a six shooter! Is the some of the action implausible? You bet but it sure adds to the furious fast pace of the film!

Our hero Trash is also a bit more believable here. Mark Gregory just came off a little too feminine for me to accept as a bad-ass biker gang leader but he's definitely gotten better with a few films under his belt. At least he seems to be able to walk and run like a man in this film! There is even a piece of a dialogue where guy goes "Look how he runs! He's a fag!" Is this a little nod to how he moved in the first film? If it is then I applaud Enzo for including that little in-joke! I also was really digging the new villain played by Henry Silva. This guy is so bad ass that he is introduced with the line "Fuck Headquarters! We do it my way!" Okay, okay Silva... settle down buddy! In my humble opinion he made a much more interesting and threatening villain than Vic Morrow's somewhat forgettable mercenary in Bronx Warriors.

If I had to make one complaint it is the lack of interesting secondary characters. Everyone cool in the last film was killed off (sniffle, sniffle Fred Williamson) so there isn't much here. Trash is no longer a leader of a gang so he's more of a loner so there is no interesting gang members under him. Strike, the mercenary that helps Trash, does pick up some of the slack plus fans of Italian trash will recognize him from Enzo's The New Barbarians.

Though this is technically a worse film than 1990: The Bronx Warriors, I however enjoyed it more and found it more memorable. Mark Gregory is more "tough" as our lead anti-hero and the action is much more furious and fast paced. Mix a that with a director having a sense of fun with the over-the-top material and your guaranteed to have a great time! Now some company needs to get off their ass to provide this film to fans in America! If you can't wait then there is a link below to the Australian Region 0 / NTSC DVD that I have.
Written By Eric Reifschneider

Friday, July 16, 2010

1990: The Bronx Warriors (1982) - 2/5

 1990: The Bronx Warriors

Talk about dating your film fast by making it only take place 8 years in the future compared to the year the film was made and slapping that year in the title! Any who what we have here is a full fledged B-film from once grand director Enzo G. Castellari. Like all once great directors from Italy's golden age in the 60's and 70's, Enzo has now been reduced to making complete B-grade drivel when the 80's came rolling around. Is it non-watchable drivel? Oh hell no as I enjoy these early 80's Italian action and science fiction trash but it's still bad none-the-less.

Apparently in the year 1990 (as if you couldn't get that from the title!) the Bronx has been declared a "no man's land" and gangs are left to roam free without any following any laws or no worry of police interference. A young woman who is the daughter of the president of the "Manhattan Corporation" escapes into the Bronx since she disagrees with her father's views. Almost being killed by a roller skating gang, she gets saved by "The Riders" who is lead by a guy named "Trash". Her father in the mean time hires a mercenary called "Hammer" (Vic Morrow) to go into the Bronx to get her back.

1990: The Bronx Warriors is like a bastard combination of The Warriors and Escape From New York as all the gangs in the Bronx have their own themes. I'm talking about a roller skating gang, a biker gang, a black gang, and even a tap dancing gang. A tap dancing gang? That's a real stretch there Enzo! Hell there is even a gang with painted faces and clubs reminiscent of the baseball gang in The Warriors.

The definite highlights of the film are the real life Bronx locations which really add to the filthy backdrop to the film and of course the plethora of action sequences. The secondary characters also a hoot with some big name actors mixed with the usual Enzo stock players. Where else can you see Fred "The Hammer" Williamson, George Eastman, Christopher Connelly and Vic Morrow in the same film? This is a Italian trash lover's dream cast!

The most atrocious aspect of the film is the casting of Mark Gregory as our lead hero Trash. What the hell was Enzo thinking? This guy is a little too feminine for me to take seriously as a "bad ass leader of a biker gang." He even walks like he is gliding across water has a stick up his ass! Not only is he too FEMININE, he also can't act worth a shit and when he starts making "deep" speeches about "death" it makes me want to stick a fork in my ear.

Despite the films rather silly premises Enzo surprisingly takes this material seriously giving us plenty of unintentional laughs. Poetic lines like "Your gray matter is in your ass" will make anyone with a B-movie funny bone hit the floor laughing. Thank god for some great B-movie vets in supporting roles to make up for our lackluster gang leader. Perhaps he would have been better casted in a film about hair dressing? For a B-Italian film I found it entertaining enough but it is a far cry from Enzo's grand spaghetti western and poliziotteschi entries. Followed by "Escape From the Bronx".
 Written By Eric Reifschneider

Never Say Never Again - 1.5/5

The very existence of this film just frosts my ass. The legal battle that resulted in this un-necessary and rather arrogant remake of "Thunderball" is trite with greed and power struggles. The result of this odd legal battle results in this unofficial Bond film called "Never Say Never Again" (that's an inside joke for the return of Connery as Bond...again) which not only takes the cake as one of the most awkward Bond films but also one of the worst. Even if it is 'unofficial'.

STORYLINE: James Bond is called back from some time teaching (I'm sure that worked out well for MI6) and retraining his now older self to investigate the dealings of SPECTRE when they steal two nuclear warheads from the Americans and threaten to use them. This leads Bond to investigate into Largo (through a series of hunches) and follow the rich gamer from the Bahamas all the way to France to discover if he is in league with the ultimate evil foundation.

PLOT 2/5: The biggest problem with "Never Say Never Again" is that it is SO FREAKING AWKWARD. In fact, at times its hard to tell if this isn't a James Bond parody so much as a true Spy/Action film. The very awkward attempts at at Jazz score, the poorly written dialogue, the odd uses of soft camera lenses (that are SO OBVIOUS), the poorly developed plot lines about people trying to kill Bond...oh yeah lets stick a really loud beeping magnet to attract wired sharks that will work, and of course every other scene in the film. Yes. Every scene is just damn awkward. They try to update the plot for the 80s and strike that balance of fun humor and serious Bond that worked in the 60s but they never get it right. It just ends up awkward. A tuxedo and ball gown party with arcades that leads to a showdown between Bond and Largo playing a really intense game of Virtual Boy?! What?! Its these moments that truly make this film laughable and so hard to take seriously.

BOND 1.5/5: Connery returns as the illustrious James Bond and pretty much seems to think its a joke. Through the entire movie it seems like he's in on some joke we don't get and he portrays the character that way. He left the role for a reason (a few) and its obvious that he has moved on and really doesn't throw himself into creating the suave and cold spy again. He just floats through with the awkward dialogue and other awkward characters (what the hell is Mr. Bean doing in this film?!) and makes the film feel like a parody rather than an exciting romp.

VILLAIN 1.5/5: Largo in "Thunderball" may have been over the top but he was a badass (he has an eye patch for fuck's sake!). Largo from "Never Say Never Again" is just a pretty boy who designs video games about world domination on the side of being an evil number 2 in SPECTRE. When he starts to go crazy towards the end its rather mind numbing in how its brought about. Once again its like he's in on a private joke about the film that we don't know. What's even worse is his hench woman, Number 12. When she and Bond get into a standoff after the motorcycle chase her crazy laugh makes the scene so ridiculous you have to laugh! Then of course she goes out with a bang that's even funnier. Unintentionally though.

BOND GIRL 1/5: I feel bad for her. I really do. She gets a handful of dialogue and the rest is her looking either confused or playfully coy. That's it. Her chemistry with Bond feels forced and again, awkward. Its as if they were like, "well she was in the other movie lets just throw her in there as a damsel in distress a few times and as eye candy. We can have her almost nude in a couple scenes to be edgy! Would the audience really care about her? Nah. They don't need to. She's there for plot relevance only!" Thanks guys. No really thanks. Its nice to have that. Sigh.

If you really want a good time (of unintentional laughter and awkward moments galore) then "Never Say Never Again" is the Bond film for you. Its as if they made it to out stupify some of the Roger Moore films in the 80s instead of making their own film. Occasionally the action can be solid but that's about it. Otherwise its actors sleepwalking through their roles and a plot that's so shamefully dumb that we end up not caring about the last half hour or so. If you are willing to sit through the awkwardness of this film then I commend you. I, on the other hand, will try to forget and move on. Bring on "View To A Kill"....damnit....three in row?!

BONUS RANT: The opening title sequence just kicks off the the odd juxtaposition nicely for this film. Despite a solid and intense action sequence (one of the best scenes in the film), its completely ruined by the title song. The song is good. The scene is good. But together they ruin each other. Its like watching a sensual love scene put to the music of Slayer. Just doesn't work. 

Written By Matt Reifschneider