Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Repo Men (2010) - 4/5

I've never been one to necessarily go with the mainstream (probably one of the reasons I co-founded Blood Brothers to give cult film making some backing) and despite the low ratings from critics and box office flop numbers, "Repo Men" might be one of my favorite Science Fiction films I have ever seen. Not necessarily because its great, but because it takes a rather over used but clever premise and does its own dance to it. Combining some seriously funny dark humor, slick action sequences, fun acting, and a generous amount of gore I felt that "Repo Men" was doing that 80s overabundance vibe on Science Fiction nicely.

Remy (Law) and his partner Jake (Whitaker) are the best at their jobs. In the future, after a devastating war has crippled much of the world, one of the major advances in technology is artificial organs. These 'artiforgs' (oh if that isn't a classic silly Sci Fi word if you've ever heard one) are sold out to people like a bank loan by The Union. If you can pay, awesome. If not, then they send Remy and Jake to repossess the artiforg most likely at the cost of your life. When Remy's wife leaves him because of his job, he takes a gander at his life and realizes he needs a changes. But during his last repo job, he is injured in an accident and has to get a artiforg heart. Now his view on life has changed. He won't make his payments now. He now needs to stand up for all those he has killed. Now he's on the run from his own job. He has a long way to go before he can free himself from the suffering he has inflicted on others.

What makes this film such a fun and interesting watch is that at its heart (no pun intended) its your usual cheesy Science Fiction flick, but it plays all the right notes to make itself rise above its own boundaries. Yeah, the story has been done before (the dispute about "Repo!: The Genetic Opera" still rages on) but it even makes fun of that by including a scene from the Monty Python sketch about men claiming organs from organ donors. It knows what it is and it embraces that fact.

Not to mention it knows what audience that its shooting for. This explains its box office flop status. It has a ton of dark humor in almost artsy like ways and the action/gore is pretty hardcore. "Repo Men" had a specific audience in mind for this film and it might have been us here at Blood Brothers for sure. Add to those elements some wonderful chemistry between our two leads, Law and Whitaker, and this movie sparks quite a bit of charm in the cult heart of this reviewer.

If there was any complaints about the film it would have to be the rather forced upon 'romantic sub-plot' that comes about half way through the film. Although the potential is there, I felt that "Repo Men" tried to hard to give this film some padding and added urgency with it that it never really needed. Of course, it was a unique way of moving the film forward that goes against the grain of what it was plotting in the first act, but its both too forced and underdeveloped. It just padded the movie down from its slick pacing.

Otherwise, I would have to call "Repo Men" a severely underrated film that deserved more. The critics may have ragged on it and the general public may have ignored it, but take it as a fun action packed Science Fiction romp and I'm sure you will enjoy it too if you like genre films. Many of you may disagree with me on this, but mark my words: "Repo Men" will find its audience at some point and at some time. Its one of those films that just breeds that cult devotion.

BONUS RANT: I was so excited when John Leguizamo showed up as a bit character, only to have him on screen for like 3 minutes. DAMN YOU AND YOU'RE TAUNTING OF AWESOME CULT ACTORS! 

Written By Matt Reifschneider

Supergirl - 1.5/5

Superman III and IV are considered two of the most disappointing and bad sequels in a major franchise ever made. Still there is a worse entry in the franchise. An entry that nobody likes to talk about. It's an entry that the distributors even refuse to put into the Superman box sets. This dirty little secret they want you to forget is the 1984 Superman spin-off Supergirl.

Yes Supergirl is a direct spin-off from the Superman franchise. Not only is it produced by Ilya Salkind , producer of Superman 1-3, but it also has returning characters from that franchise and it even makes multiple references to events in those films. If you want to get technical this really is the first Superman IV, even though the man of steel himself doesn't make an appearance in person.

The film opens with a fantastic title sequence very reminiscent of the first two Superman movies accompanied by a huge, superhero score by Jerry Goldsmith. Right away you can tell they spent a pretty penny on this film. The film however degrades right away once the actual movie starts. We are introduced to a group if surviving people after the destruction of Krypton (Superman's home world after it was destroyed in the beginning of the first Superman movie). They live humbly under glass on an asteroid. In comes Supergirl (cousin of Superman....yes that is lame). Well she fucks up majorly when she draws a dragon fly with a "magic wand". The dragon fly comes alive, flies through the protective glass of the compound and in turn an extremely powerful toy trinket, that makes it possible for life support in the dome, gets sucked out and flies all the way to Earth. First of alll....why the fuck is a dumb ass girl allowed to play with a toy trinket that is so fucking important that they can't live in the dome without it?! Shouldn't be under lock and key where no one can get to it!!! The trinket just happens to fall right in the middle of a picnic of an evil sorceress (Faye Dunnaway) who plans to use the device for evil. In the mean time Supergirl escapes in a space ship, crash-lands in a lake on Earth, and emerges from the water already dressed in her Supergirl outfit. Where did she get that? Do people from Krypton have the uncanny ability to pull blue "super" outfits out of their asses? The rest of the film is Supergirl battling the sorceress and her black magic to get the magical cracker jack toy back before her race dies out. Where is Superman you ask? Well thanks to a car passing by we hear on the radio that he is off the planet negotiating peace or some bullshit in another galaxy. So yes, she has to fight the bitch on her own.

This spin-off is dumb, dumb, dumb. The original two Superman films rode the line of light-hearted adventure and dumb but it worked making for some really enjoyable films. Not Supergirl as she fell off the "dumb" side of the bridge. The first problem is that our Supergirl character just comes across as a ditzy blond and acts more like a damsel in distress as opposed to a "super"hero. So much for a strong female lead. The role was also the debut for actress Helen Slater and at the same time killed her career (she however can come over to my house anytime with that tight little outfit... roar!). The plot itself is uninteresting and full of holes as it tries desperately to re-capture the magic of Superman and in turn falls smack in its face.

The film however has a great look to it and you can tell this is an extremely high budgeted film. Sadly the plot is so ridiculous and overly silly that it doesn't matter how high the budget was, it's still bad! Faye Dunnaway shines in her over the top performance but it's a thankless role for her and she seems to want to forget the film as much as the distributors.

Speaking of distributors, Warner Bros was making Supergirl while Superman III hit theaters. They decided to drop distribution when Superman III tanked leaving Tri-Star to pick it up for theatrical release. They cut the film down by 10 minutes and for years the distribution rights to the film floated around from company to company. In 2004 the rights reverted back to Warner Bros. and they re-released the film on DVD with the 10 minutes of cut material restored. Even with the rights restored back to them, they still refused to include it in the Superman box sets.

If you're a Superman completist, then you have to own this movie. It does add some more to the Superman mythos (especially in showing the Phantom Zone) but overall this is a stinker. It's hard to believe there was an entry actually worse than Superman III and IV. Don't believe me? Then watch Supergirl fucker! You'll be "glad" you did!

Written By Eric Reifschneider

Supergirl Trailer

Humanoids From The Deep [Monster] (1980) - 2.5/5

In the old Universal monster movies, our beastly guys in suits always went after the women and carried them off into dark corners. Exactly why were they so interested in women? And why did they always want to carry them off to secretive hideaways? Well Roger Corman answers that question with his trashy exploitation monster movie Humanoids From the Deep (also released theatrically as Monster) showing that monsters want sex too as our monsters carry off damsels in distress in order to have their way with them. The result is a schlocky horror film mixed with extremely tasteless sequences that will be sure to offend many viewers in the audience.

Near a coastal community, a group of scientists are experimenting with genetically enhanced salmon. Unbeknown to them their creations are growing at an incredible rate into humanoid looking beasts that begin to kill local animals at first. Soon they begin wanting to mate and move to the shores, killing the men and raping some women. Two rival fishing groups take matters into their own hands to kill the monsters.

In praise for the film, it really marks the end of the "guy in rubber suit" monster films. The story is just a more bloody, exploitative version of the lovable monster movies from the 50's and before updated for 80's audiences that craved more carnage. In that aspect alone I like it as I have a soft spot for monster films. The cast is also great and their performances really add to the films quality. There is even an underlying theme of racism in the film which is brought to a head when the animal killings begin.

The film however treads a little too much in to the exploitative section of films with its graphic sequences of inter-species rape. I completely see why many people were offended by this when it was released as it is rather degrading to women. Apparently the film's rape sequences weren't as graphic when originally shot as director Barbara Peeters made the scenes take place mostly off camera. Roger Corman, upset with the results, demanded more blood and nudity so he had the second unit director Jimmy T. Murakami go and film more nudity, gore, and graphic rape scenes. You can really tell a different director made these sequences as they really don't flow with the rest of the film. It's a cheesy monster movie with good actors with a nicely flowing plot when suddenly a sequence of graphic rape rears its ugly head into the picture.

I do have to mention the great monster suits created by Rob Bottin (The Thing) and Chris Walas (The Fly). These suits look great for a low budget monster film! The bloody effects will also wet some gorehounds appetites (the new release from Shout Factory is the uncut international version of the film under the title "Monster" which also includes a graphic decapitation not ever seen the U.S. market) especially during the final moments of the film when our beasts attack a carnival.

I should have enjoyed Humanoids form the Deep much more than I did. It's got a solid cast, a schlocky monster movie plot, great monster designs and added 80's blood and carnage. The added rape sequences must have just left a bad taste in my mouth for me so I just didn't enjoy it as much as I should have. This however is a must see for fans of B-movie cinema.

Written By Eric Reifschneider

Humanoids From the Deep Trailer

Shadowzone - 2.5/5

Typical with Charles Band productions, Shadowzone falls into the same category of having a really interesting premises that just crumbles under typical horror and science fiction clichés. Even with those major faults, this is actually a surprisingly good early Full Moon production from a studio that has managed to only release crap in recent years.

The film opens with a nice atmospheric night shot of a military investigator being flown into a remote Nevada testing lab that is deep below the Earth's surface. It seems that a group of scientists experimenting with dreams and deep sleep have had a test subject die so he is brought into investigate the mysterious death. When the scientists re-intact the experiment, they release a life form from another dimension that starts to stalk our cast in typical Alien fashion.

For a Full Moon production, this film is actually taken very seriously. I'm use to their output mostly being tongue-in-cheek so it is refreshing to visit an older film in their library and getting a serious film instead. The production values, though still lower, are also a lot more lavish than their typical output. The lab itself is wonderfully lit giving it a dark, dingy atmosphere adding to the creep factor.

What hurts the film however is some dreadful dialogue and our cast consisting of seasoned vets Louise Fletcher and James Hong can't even deliver it believably. The last act of the film also degrades to typical monster movie material as our creature kills our scientists one by one. One sequence even highly resembles the cat sequence in Alien only with a monkey substituted for the cat. Speaking of Alien, Richard Band's score also seems to highly "steal" from Jerry Goldsmith's score for that film. The film also not only borrows from Alien but also from The Thing as our creature has the ability to shape shift into different organisms.

For a direct-to-video science fiction horror hybrid, Shadowzone isn't too bad. Just don't go into it expecting anything overly original and sci fi horror junkies might find the premises worth their attention.

Written By Eric Reifschneider

Shadowzone Trailer

Guyver: Dark Hero [The Guyver 2] - 2/5

I was extremely underwhelmed by the first Guyver so I wasn't really gung-ho to go right into viewing Guyver: Dark Hero (or The Guyver 2, as it reads on the DVD box artwork). Still my addiction for sequels drove me to power through it so I poured myself a drink, put up my feet in order to get prepared for another mind numbingly silly fighting monster film.

After the opening fight sequence, I noticed something a little different. First of all it was BLOODY! Did my eyes deceive me? I picked up my DVD box and noticed the film was rated R. The original was PG-13 and lacked the blood I was craving so this was a good sign. I mean how many franchises turn to an R rating? Most, including Mad Max, RoboCop and Die Hard degrade to a PG-13 but not Guyver bitches! The film also seemed to have been taken more seriously so I was actually thinking this was going to be a better film than the first. Well....

Taking place right after the first film, our Guyver suited "superhero" starts having dreams of odd shapes. He then gets news of a spacecraft has been found so he befriends a scientist to let him in. It seems the spacecraft belongs to the alien beings that originally created the human race. The evil Chronos corporation also becomes interested in the spaceship and send many of their monster morphing humans to get their hands on another Guyver unit. Lots of bad dialogue and hokey fights ensue.

Apparently fans prefer this film as it follows the source material (the manga comics) more closely. I don't read the comics so that aspect has no bearing on me. To be honest I preferred the first film as it was more tongue-in-cheek. Director James Wang (co-director of the original) takes this sequel more seriously but I'm sorry, I can't take this silly concept seriously. The original had bad dialogue, but the tongue-in-cheek nature of the film made it easier to swallow. Now the extremely bad dialogue mixed with a more serious tone makes the film seem worse.

The fight sequences are poorly staged as usual and the whole film again reeks of a more bloody version of Power Rangers. The suits are decent again but that's not enough to make this reviewer to respect the film.

The R-rating got my hopes up for this sequel but I should have known better as too many cast and crew members of the original did not return. Gone was producer Brian Yuzna, gone was co-director/special effects magician Screaming Mad George, and gone was original Guyver star Jack Armstrong (replaced by David Hayter). Fans of the manga may like this film more but not this reviewer. Give me the more tongue-in-cheek original any day. Plus the original has Mark Hamill, and he alone makes any film better! Well no, but I think you get my drift...

Written By Eric Reifschneider

Guyver: Dark Hero Trailer

Monday, August 30, 2010

Tomorrow Never Dies - 3.5/5

"Tomorrow Never Dies" gets kind of a bad rap. All right, I can admit that its pretty over the top and cheesy at times, but it's not near as bad as many dig at it for being. Unfortunately, it does have the bad timing of coming after "GoldenEye", which makes it comparably a weaker entry. It does move away from the darker side of the moon of the Bond franchise and back towards 'ridiculous' territory, but its unique take on modernizing villains, its fast pacing, and memorable action sequences do it a lavish amount of good. It may be the start of Brosnan's decent into bad Bond territory, but its still a solid Bond film on its own.

STORYLINE: The world is changing. When a GPS decoder goes missing and a British Naval ship is mysteriously sunk by a stealth boat, the blame for the catastrophe is split between China and England. The two countries are ready to go to war. With only 48 hours to figure out why this shit smells fishy, Bond is sent to investigate Elliot Carver, a media baron whom seems to always have the worst news first. With the help of a Chinese spy, Wai Lin, Bond discovers that there is more to this potential war than what's in the newspaper headlines. And Carver seems to be at the center of it all.

PLOT 4/5: Welcome to the age of information exchange, James Bond. Although the Cold War is now over, there are still new villains to arise and "Tomorrow Never Dies" does a pretty solid job at toeing the line of modernizing Bond's world wide threats. This is perhaps the greatest part about this film. Creating a villain that is the corporate baddie and a domination crazed standard Bond like villain is pretty clever. Throw on top of that adding in China as a setting (when in real life the politics of Britain letting go of Hong Kong was fresh in the air) and making them a sort of ally is pretty smart. Of course, this isn't world politics 101 all the time, because to match its fairly clever story is some seriously memorable action sequences. Whether its a massive gun fight at a black market, a car getaway sequence in a parking garage with a back seat driver, or a bad ass motorcycle/helicopter stunt bonanza through the streets of China with Bond and Lin handcuffed together "Tomorrow Never Dies" never lets off the gas once it gets going. Although both the main story and the action might be pretty ridiculous at times with the final act going for broke on both, the balance of smarts and adrenaline is pretty slick here. It may not be the most emotional or deep Bond film out there, but it might be one of the most entertaining.

BOND 4/5: Brosnan starts of his career as Bond with a pretty good wake. "GoldenEye" might still be a highlight for him, but "Tomorrow Never Dies" still shows that he has the look, the swagger, and the balls to pull of a great Bond. The film does suffer slightly from having Bond almost too cocky with his work as a character and not a lot of development for him throughout (he does have a damn cheesy moment when he is in a standoff against Carver who has Lin at gunpoint that is not reminiscent of the cold agent he was in the film prior) but his suave demeanor and charm on screen makes this one a fun watch anyway. Another solid film under the new guy's belt!

VILLAIN 4/5: Jonathan Pryce has always been a cult favorite actor of mine, particularly of his work with Python Terry Gilliam (go "Brazil"!), but his delivery of a sophisticated and maniacal media baron Carter in this film is pretty solid. The combination of a modern ideology of power hunger and his arrogant and 'above the law' delivery of the character make him a fun watch as he matches (and under estimates) the suave and un-kill-ability of Bond. He might be a little over the top with his giant screen meetings with a touch pad remote and his Dr. No like wardrobe, but he fits the overall film nicely and makes a memorable Bond villain.

BOND GIRL 2/5: Once again, this is where the Bond film falters the most. This is a very sad fact considering that the Bond girl in this film, Wai Lin, is played by bad ass and underrated actress Michelle Yeoh. She does what she can with the part, but her character is rather flat and her onscreen chemistry with Bond only ignites in the action sequences (the motorcycle scene is still awesome no matter what anyone says) as she gets to truly strut her stunt stuff. She appears briefly a few times in the beginning of the film, but only comes into play eventually towards the third act, which is not near enough time for her to get her due screen time. Her part could have been so much better had they actually used her acting abilities to match her awesome stunt work.

"Tomorrow Never Dies" is still one of my favorite Bond films to watch. It might be over the top and rather ludicrous at times with its obvious plot shifts and cheesy film elements (a stealth boat?!) but its slick action and rather unique story line lend this film to bury many of its fault under its entertainment value. Similar to what "The Spy Who Loved Me" was able to accomplish. Its the start of Brosnan's downfall into shit for Bond, but it still comes off as a highlight rather than a low point. Massively underrated in my opinion.

BONUS RANT: Stamper, the henchman to Carver, was an okay henchmen for the film but its an obvious riff on the super duper most awesome performance and character Grant in "From Russia With Love". Generally he even fails as a lead henchmen and doesn't even have any good sequences until his fight with Bond towards the end. He's over acted and makes the film lean even further into 'awkward' territory more often than not.

Written By Matt Reifschneider

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Guyver - 2/5

I first became interested in Guyver when I learned that it was produced by cult icon Brian Yuzna (producer of Re-Animator), co-directed by special effects magician Screaming Mad George (Re-Aninator sequels) and starring cult actors David Gale and Jeffrey Combs (both of Re-Aniamtor). You also might notice that it stars has-been A-list actor Mark Hamill who is no doubt doing this weird genre film for a quick paycheck. All these interesting cult filmmakers and actors doing a live-action, monster filled adaption of a popular Japanese manga comic has to make it at least worth a watch... right? Well it is worth a watch but that's about it.

I was not familiar with the manga comics before viewing this film so all I have to say that the plot is way fucking out there! The film opens with a long back-story of how the human race was created by aliens and some humans are granted to the ability to shape shift into "monsters". An evil corporation of these shape shifters called Chronos is trying to figure out how to use a "guyver", an organic suit of armor. After all that back-story given in a standard Star Wars (you didn't think I would write a reveiew on a film starring Mark Hamill and not make a Star Wars reference... did you?) scroll on the screen, we are then introduced to a scientist who gets killed trying to get the guyver unit to the CIA. The guyver unit ends up in the hands of a young man who accidentally gets the shield unit entered into his system. Now he must use his new biological armor to save his women from all the monsters sent to capture her in order to find the guyver unit. I forgot to mention Mark Hamill is a CIA agent who meanders around pointlessly.

Guyver is defiantly a film not to take seriously. The acting is hammy and over-the-the top the plot is ridiculous. However what better way to handle silly material like this? The directing is also full of energy moving the film along at a nice pace with some wacky wipe transitions. The highlight of the film however is the monster effects which are surprisingly really good for such a low budget.

The film however falls prey to too many cliche's and very dumb comedy moments (the rap music portion made me hit my forehead). The monster fight sequences are also a little too reminiscent of Power Rangers for my taste. Actually, the more I think about it, this is just a more violent, adult orientated Power Rangers variation.

Guyver is a silly, ridiculous film and die-hard fans of the manga no doubt will hate the silly approach to the subject matter. Then again I beg how can anyone take a plot like this seriously? They tried in the sequel Guyver: Dark Hero and it came out even worse. It kept my attention but I wish the filmmakers added a little more over-the-top violence to the film. This is from the makers of Re-Animator for Christ sake, where's the blood?! Even with the violence it does have, it's still a little too childish for me to truly like but I did enjoy the cast, especially David Gale in another wonderful over-the-top role! Fans of silly, comic book material and B-movies might have a fun time

Bonus Praise: I like the little nod to Re-Animator by naming Jeffrey Comb's character Dr. East, as his character in Re-Animator was named Dr. West.

Bonus Rant: The promotional artwork for the film made it look like Mark Hamill played the title character of the Guyver. Shit.... I'm sure his "fans" were disappointed that he played another throw-away role, a typical forgettable character he was degraded to playing after Return of the Jedi.

Written By Eric Reifschneider

Guyver Clip

House Where Evil Dwells, The - 1.5/5

The House Where Evil Dwells was released in 1982, the same year as another little haunted house film you might have heard of called Poltergeist. Today people still know about Poltergeist but most have forgotten about The House Where Evil Dwells. Well that's okay because Poltergeist is great whereas House Where Evil Dwells sucks, deserving of being forgotten other than for unintentional laughs.

The plot is actually similar to a recent horror film entitled The Grudge (hell even look at the new DVD cover, it looks extremely similar to the original DVD cover for The Grudge) with an American family moving into a house in Japan that just happens to be haunted. Decades earlier a samurai came back from battle only to find his wife cheating on him. He beheads her lover, kills her and then commits Harry Kerry. For same damn reason, as the motive is unknown, the ghosts decide to occasionally possess our new residents and the husband's boss to eventually reenact that awful night. In between lots of silly ghost shenanigans ensue with some just jaw droopingly bad.

The cast for the most part is rather good and we get seasoned actors Edward Albert, Doug McClure and the sexy Susan George trudging through their bad material. Sadly director Kevin Connor doesn't know how to present the film: either as a serious scary movie or tongue-in-cheek. His unfocused directing makes the film bad plain and simple.

The worst part of his direction is his handling of the damn ghosts. The ghosts are presented as cheesy transparent images that walk around our cast, making "scary" noises that only the audience can hear. The presentation of the ghosts is no better than films 30 years before and the directer seems to know it so he presents them in a rather silly fashion. The absolute worst (and most unintentionally funny scene) has a ghost's head appear in a little girls bowl of soup, make a silly face causing her to cry. The most "what the fuck" moment has to be a giant crab attack.... no I am not making this up. Our ghosts take the form of giant, monstrous crabs and chase our child throughout the house while making hokey "scary" sounds.

Well... is there anything good about The House Where Evil Dwells? Well Susan George gets naked. Fans of her will get an eye full as she bares it all for some sex scenes. It's pretty fucking pathetic that the best thing about a haunted house flick is the nude scenes! The production values are also good and the film looks like it had a decent budget but what good is that without a good script and a director that doesn't know what direction to take the film in?

So what we have is an extremely unfocused haunted house picture that comes off silly in a very dumb way. It's really only worth watching for Susan Georges nude scenes and a few unintentional laughs but those are so far between that it hardly makes it worth sitting through. If you want to see a now rather obscure haunted house picture that actually has some genuine scares then I suggest hunting down The Evil starring Richard Crenna. That's just one of the many haunted house pictures better than The House Where Evil Dwells.

Written By Eric Reifschneider

New Barbarians, The [Warriors Of The Wasteland] - 1.5/5

Oh Enzo! The New Barbarians (also released as Warriors of the Wasteland) further proves how a once respectable Italian director can circum to making complete trash in the 80's. His bleak future trash classics 1990: The Bronx Warriors and its sequel Escape from the Bronx, though entertaining, showed a director that was a shadow of his former self. The New Barbarians showed Enzo further descending that staircase from his thrown as this is even a step below those trash classics. Yes it still manages to entertain thanks mostly to Enzo seemingly having fun and not taking the material too seriously.

The New Barbarians (originally released in America as Warriors of the Wasteland) is another one of those Italian "Road Warrior" knock-offs that seemed like they were a dime a dozen in the early 80's. The film opens with an awful miniature effect with a nuclear bomb explosion in the back ground so it's safe to say that a nuclear war occurred and all that's left is roaming warriors on the highways. It seems that style and fashion has taken a turn for the queer in the future with warriors roaming around with silly haircuts, outrageous outfits, and driving moronic cars that make high pitched whines and whirls. Our bands of surviving humans are terrorized by a group called the Templars who are trying to wipe out humanity. In comes our Mad Max hero (named Scorpion, played by Giancarlo Prete whom you might remember from Escape From the Bronx) and with the help of some sidekicks (one being Fred "the Hammer" Williamson!) decide to attempt to take the Templars out.

Thankfully Enzo doesn't take the film too seriously as the film is truly awful, but not to the extent that it's unwatchable. It's actually got plenty of entertainment value due to unintentional laughs making this a great midnite movie. One shocking element Enzo includes is an odd rape sequence of our hero by the leader of the Templars (George Eastman). I kid you not! They capture him, load him up in a special contraption that bends him over and Eastman has his way with him! The sequence is so outlandish that it's unintentionally hilarious! Can you imagine Mad Max getting raped? It's a gutsy move by Enzo but it just comes out ridiculous. Another very quick absurd image I can remember is a shot towards the beginning of the film where it shows the skeletal remains of a woman in a hazmat suit that has clear plastic domes over her breasts. I highly doubt women will ever wear outfits like this but it was a nice joke the filmmakers threw in (at least I hope it was a joke).

Many people will no doubt think this belongs in cinema wasteland but I still had fun even with all its badness. There's something about these trashy Italian Road Warrior rip-offs I find insanely entertaining and The New Barbarians is definitely one of the best in this regard. It still amazes me Enzo directed it though as his 60's and 70's outings are classics of Italian cinema. Then again he wasn't the only director to take the trashy route of films when the 80's came rolling around...

Bonus Rant (Spoiler): The ending is complete rip-off of Fistful of Dollars. Our hero hires a young boy (Bob form House by the Cemetery!) to build him a bullet proof coating on his skin that's made of some special kind of plastic. Hokey beyond belief!

Written By Eric Reifschneider

The New Barbarians Trailer

Spacehunter: Adventures In The Forbidden Zone - 2/5

Out of all the 3-D science fiction pictures that came out in the early 80's, the long-winded Spacehunter: Adventures in the Forbidden Zone was one of the most popular. Does that make it good? Well no, but it does beat out a lot of the others (most notably Metalstorm) thanks to a solid cast and better productions values making for a somewhat fun, cornball science fiction ride.

Peter Straus plays our title character and as you can tell from the long subtitle that he goes on an adventure into a Forbidden Zone. Well you see three beautiful women crash-land on an E type planet (E, as in Early-type.....oh jeez) that's full of road warrior type clans and cannibals. Strauss is an "adventurer" for hire so he is hired to rescue the girls before the evil ruler Overlord (Michael Ironside) has his way with the girls. So Spacehunter and his android roam the planet in their futuristic vehicle and with the help of an annoying young girl (Molly Ringwald), they try to beat his competition (Ernie Hudson) to rescue the captive girls. Along the way they run into all sorts of weird situations they have to escape from, including a water race of super women and some monstrous fat humanoids.

A majority of the film is standard space adventure material and fans of this type of science fiction have seen these type of films before, most likely better. My main beef with the picture is our lead hero. He's supposed to be a loner, anti-hero but Peter Strauss's performance and how he is written makes the character rather boring. He is just a very blah, uninteresting anti-hero. Molly Ringwald's character is annoying as ever but it is the way the character is written so she does an adequate job in her first major role.

For a film that was filmed in 3D, it actually surprisingly lacked the "comin' at you" shots of shit flying at the camera. It also doesn't have that dull, washed look that many 3D films at the time get when getting a home video release in flat 2D format, which is good. I'm sure people at the time were disappointed as it lacked all the 3D gimmickry of shit coming at the camera but it makes it transfer to the 2D format much nicer without all those shots. I did get a chuckle at the 3D title sequence when the name Spacehunter breaks trough a piece of steel jetting out into the camera. The part that made me chuckle is when the subtitle jets out, it's so small and long that it's almost unreadable. The subtitle is too long fellas and not mention pointless! Newer DVD and VHS releases even did away with the subtitle on the box artwork, showing how pointless it is. It's like they added it as if they were intending on making a sequel. Much like Metalstorm, a sequel never got made and I doubt anyone will be crying over that fact.

Spacehunter has enough cornball sequences to please fans of cheesy science fiction adventures, but everyone else will find it forgettable. I would have enjoyed it more if our anti-hero was more interesting. He's just a bore! Thank God all the wacky situations they get in introduces much more interesting side characters.

Written By Eric Reifschneider

Spacehunter TV Trailer

Great Silence, The - 4.5/5

After Sergio Leone, the second most prolific director in the spaghetti western genre has to be a man with a similar name-sake. That similar name would be Sergio Corbucci. Comparing the two directors is difficult though as Leone was always focusing on making bigger grander epics whereas Corbucci was satisfied with making smaller scale entries. His most popular film is the rather trashy Django but not all his films followed that same mold. Django may be his most popular film but The Great Silence is hands down his crowning achievement. This dark, brooding and depressing spaghetti western in my humble opinion ranks alongside The Big Gundown for being the best spaghetti westerns after, of course, the Leone epics.

Taking a departure from the Spanish desert landscapes that were the setting for most other entries in the genre, Corbucci decides to make this a snow bound setting taking place up in the Utah mountains during winter. We have a mute, lone gunmen roaming the mountains, defending defenseless people against bandits and thieves by blowing off their thumbs. He comes across a town where a sadistic bounty hunter (Klaus Kinski, deliciously evil in the role) is starting to ruffle things up giving its sheriff (Frank Wolff) a hard time. A beautiful African American women hires our mute gunmen to kill Kinski (as Kinski murdered her husband) but the job seems to be rather difficult at first as he gets no help from the sheriff thanks to him getting murdered and in typical Corbucci fashion, our hero even gets beat to near death. Nursed back to health by the beautiful women that hired him, he falls in love and tries to take Kinski out again. Will he succeed?

I love the dark atmosphere Corbucci brings to the film making it bleak and serious (the snowbound setting also helps). It's hard to believe that the guy who directed Django would also be responsible for such a seriously taken western. Don't get me wrong as I also love Django but I had more fun with it for its trashy elements. Not The Great Silence as this is a serious western deserving respect for good filmmaking.

The cast is just superb, lead by French actor Jean-Louis Trintignant, a great actor that sadly only appeared in one film in the genre. Even though he only made one western, he made damn sure that it was a great one! Kinski is just so damn evil as our villain. I rarely see an actor that is so good at playing a sadistic villain with absolutely no conscience so perfectly and his performance is as cold as the icy setting! It's such a damn shame the dubbing of his character is a little off, hindering the evil nature just a hair.

Corbucci's direction is solid but people shouldn't compare his style to Leone as again they are very different. Leone uses long, smooth shots where Corbucci's style is a little more sloppy, full of dirty zooms and pans. It all adds to the grittiness of the film. Corbucci's style and Ennio Morricone's lonely score fit as nicely together as Leone and Morricone.

I can't praise this spaghetti western enough. Other than Kinski's dubbing I wouldn't change one aspect. You're probably asking why I wouldn't give the film 5 stars then? Well only a special few films are awarded that highest praise but on a western scale, The Great Silence would definitely get a 5. This is a dark, bleak spaghetti western that is a definite must own for any fan. The Great Silence is one of this reviewers favorite films, that's for sure. I do find it criminal that The Great Silence got a very poor release in the United States, if at all, whereas Corbucci's lesser examples in the genre, like Navajo Joe, got wide releases by big American studios.

Bonus Praise (Spoiler): The ending left me with my jaw on the floor! Corbucci had real balls to kill off our lead hero and heroine by the hand of our villain. Not many filmmakers would go this far! Knowing damn well people usually prefer "happy" endings, he still decides to go with the downbeat ending proving that the good guy doesn't always win. Sometimes Evil prevails even though we all don't want it too. The ending is sure to stick with the viewer. Japanese distributors however weren't happy with the ending so Corbucci was forced to shoot a "happy" ending where our mute hero saves the damsel and kills all the villains. This "other" ending goes against the tone of the film and is actually rather cheesy. This alternate "happy" ending is available for viewing on the out-of-print Fantoma DVD.

Written By Eric Reifschneider

The Great Silence Trailer

Death Race (2008) - 3/5

My first experience with the remake of "Death Race 2000", simply shortened to "Death Race", was not a good one. A bad theatrical crowd and my general hatred for Paul W.S. Anderson's shitty scripts didn't make for a good time. With my brother's reviews for the original and its sequel now up on Blood Brothers, I felt obliged to revisit my time with "Death Race". Luckily with a proper mindset (dumb it down, yo!), I had a much better experience with this film and came to realize that this is a mighty fun and high octane, pun intended, little film that knows what it is and focuses in on it.

Death Race is the future's newest entertainment sensation. Pitting the world's worst criminals in a race to the death in jacked cars with armor, guns, and big engines sounds like it would sell tickets. When the first 'hero' of this race, Frankenstein, is killed so close to earning his freedom, the main lady directing the race frames Jensen (Statham) for the death of his wife to get him to replace Frankenstein and finish the last leg of the race. Can Jensen win the race, win his freedom, and get revenge for his wife? Its going to take some fancy driving and big guns to find out, I guess!

Don't be fooled by its sleek look and fairly large budget. "Death Race" is still a B movie at heart. That's how Anderson works as a writer and director I suppose. He makes bad movies that look awesome. This film has horrible dialogue and a horrible intro to get its B movie plot moving. With its cheesy explanation intro, oddly filmed sequence of Jensen's wife's demise, and occasionally dumb plot moments (the women from the correctional facility and their introduction of course) this movie isn't all that good. Don't think that it is. The plot is thick headed, the dialogue is simplistic, and the acting is over the top. In that sense, "Death Race" should by all means suck.

Fortunately, it has two things going for it. One: Anderson's directing style. It's sleek, its clever, and its damn entertaining. He has always been a great director with kinetic energy out the ass and it shows with this film. His actors may be over the top and his writing may suck some serious tree sap, but his look is sleek and over the top fun. The second thing that "Death Race" has going for it is that despite its poor writing, dialogue, and plot, none of that is used in any sort of abundance here. Nope. A good 3/4 of this film is car combat, which is what its best at. Honestly, its damn entertaining to watch cars shoot and blow up. Its like the "Twisted Metal" film I always wanted. Anderson does a great job with it too. That's what "Death Race" is about and that's what you get.

So its not a good movie, but its a fun and exciting ride of a film. "Death Race" hits all the right switches when it comes to B movie action and doesn't give us the nasty side effects of plot relevance or good acting. Its just fast paced fun and ridiculous action sequences. Hit the gas.

BONUS RANT: The fact that they had to put a disclaimer at the end of the film claiming that the cars in this film are dangerous and should not be made or used in real life is hilarious. Luckily, they don't know about my motorcycle in the back with the minigun in the side car. 

Written By Matt Reifschneider

Twin Dragons (1992)

Director: Ringo Lam, Tsui Hark
Notable Cast: Jackie Chan, Jackie Chan, Maggie Cheung

Here's the deal with Mr. Chan and all of his Jackie-ness. Many of his films are not that good. The American versions (thanks mostly to Dimension Films) are even worse with their horrible dubbing and extremely poor opening credits. Yet, some how and in some way, they are insanely fun to watch and charming to beat hell in a charm race. Although its hard for me to give "Twin Dragons" anything higher than a 2 star rating, know that I find myself watching this film quite often and having a great time doing so. Its bad. But its awesome too.

John Ma (Chan) and his long lost twin brother, Boomer (Chan also) have no idea that the other exists. Separated at birth with Boomer thought to be dead and gone, the brothers find very different paths through life. Ma becomes a great musician as a maestro and a piano gifted world renowned player. Boomer is a lowly mechanic with a very small friend, who has found his way through the world by being the toughest and fastest fighter in town. When the two accidentally cross paths as adults and find themselves being thrust into each others' lives its only comedic chaos that ensues as they try to unravel their lives that have become twisted.

"Twin Dragons" could be described in essence as "The Parent Trap" meets bad ass. Truly that's how this film works. Jackie Chan plays the two brothers and with some clever editing and occasionally odd overlapping imagines (that cleverly works at times surprisingly) they pull off the duel twin thing. Of course, the story is trite at times and the dubbing for this American version is horrendous. The opening scene with the babies being separated is comically horrific with its dubbing and black and white style.

That's somewhat of the brilliance behind "Twin Dragons" though. Chan has always had an odd knack for the funny (even if its mostly silly slapstick humor like how Boomer always snorts in this film) but this film is actually so ridiculous its awesome. The already over the top and off beat humor matched with the awful dubbing and ludicrous situations somehow works for this guy. The film might not be good in this sense but its funny.

As with any Jackie Chan film though, "Twin Dragons" also features some insane stunt work. With awesome car chases, boat chases, group beat downs, and generally watching Chan maneuver his way through a variety of obstacles this one doesn't disappoint in that factor despite its focus on the humor. If you enjoy this part of Jackie's work than this is one more for your collection.

"Twin Dragons" is far from 'good' when it comes to film making or writing, but the charm of watching Chan beat down a solid group of stuntmen than perform a orchestra maestro sequence while running and off balance is damn fun. Don't expect much more than awesome stunts and oddly charming humor sequences, but otherwise just enjoy it for what it is. 

Written By Matt Reifschneider

Friday, August 27, 2010

Worm - 4/5

Taking a hint from the modern classic “American Psycho”, this little independent film “Worm”, brought to my attention by the film’s producer Zach Green, seems to be tapping on a few unseen elements of the Thriller and Horror genre. Although only a short film that gets the audience digging into the atmosphere and style before ending, it effectively uses its time wisely to build itself nicely before its rather abrupt and tension relieving end and sparks a few ideas to where this film could go and stirs some attention towards those involved.

Geoffrey Dodd is your average teacher to the disenfranchised youth of today. Despite his efforts and attempts to spur intelligence and fire within his class, the mundane life of teaching and the irritability of his own life are beginning to come out in odd ways. His obsession with a student, his anger towards the circumstances of his life compared to the rather spoiled lives of his students, and the sheer annoyance of his coworkers are manifesting his some abnormal ways.

Although done independently (very independently might I add), the effectiveness of “Worm” is actually rather potent as we casually fall under the hypnotic decent of Geoffrey Dodd through the mundane elements of his life into a separate world of consuming darkness. This is done with some rather clever use of close ups and some solid non-verbal acting from our lead, and a well-spurred and increasingly absurd and violent inner monologue that is spliced over the film. With these three elements, this 20-minute ride into some serious issues from this character is an intense, tense, and fun ride (if you consider the collapse into madness fun, I suppose) for the audience done with some rough on the edges but promising talent. It flows damn well and quickly so that by the end, I was like “What?! It’s over?!”, which is more than a compliment for the filmmakers.

The ending was rather abrupt I might add. Although this happens to be a good thing. It was a nice relief of tension towards the coming climax that I was dreading (and perhaps curious to the results of) that the short film was obviously building towards. The ending may have had me upset to not know some of the answers I had questions towards, but that shows the effectiveness of what was in the film and its reaction in its audience. May not have been the ending I wanted to see, but it was fitting too.

“Worm” may not be the slasher or over the top odd indie Horror flick that many people come to expect these days, but its appropriate use of atmosphere and great pacing in the writing (matched with some surprisingly solid acting) overcomes many of its confines creating a great little film experience that I fully recommend. Looking forward to seeing if anything comes of the film’s makers seeing as there is quite a bit of potential lying in the depths of this film. 

Written By Matt Reifschneider

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Ninja III: The Domination - 2/5

Thanks to Cannon, Ninja films became very popular throughout the 80's. What other type of film was popular in the early 80's? Break dancing films of course so it just makes logical sense to combine the two genres... doesn't it? Well no but Cannon sure made one hell of an entertaining B-action film by doing so! Also throw in hints of The Exorcist and you have one martial arts film that you won't soon forget.

In an outrageous, violent opening we have a ninja suiting up and going on a golf course killing everyone he can find. Soon tons of cops are hot on his trail and he kills what seems to be a hundred cops before finally collapsing. Before dying, he wonders off and transfers his soul to a sexy young high wire repair girl (Flashdance anyone?) who happens to teach an aerobics class in her spare time. Soon her cop boyfriend starts noticing some changes in her as she blacks out, suits up as a ninja, and starts killing off police officers that killed the ninja in the beginning. Needing help the boyfriend calls upon good ninja Sho Kosugi as "only a ninja can call a ninja". Outrageous ninja hokum ensues.

The title may be confusing to some as what other ninja films is this a sequel to? There are no films made before the film simply called Ninja or Ninja II. Well it's Cannon's third and final film into Ninja trilogy and is preceded by Enter the Ninja and Revenge of the Ninja. Like Revenge of the Ninja there are no plot or character carryovers from the previous films so basically it's just another Cannon ninja film starring Sho Kosugi in a completely different role.

As you can tell by the plot this film is extremely cheesy, outrageously so. The opening ninja fight with the police officers is a site every cheesy action fan must see! It makes ninjas out to be unstoppable monsters as he slaughters umpteen cops by every means necessary, including jumping on cars and into helicopters. It's a sequence to behold! The rest of the film is filled with insanely stupid Ninja clichés that will have any B-movie fan on the floor laughing until it hurts. I also dug the V8 foreplay scene when Lucinda Dickey pours the juice between her breasts for her boyfriend to lick up. Definitely makes me want to drink more nutritious juices!

If I had to complain about one aspect of the film, it has to be that there is not enough Sho Kosugi. Like the first film Enter the Ninja, he really is only a secondary character here being much more in the background as our main couple hog all the screen time. Even though he's a secondary character he makes the most of the scenes he is in.

Ninja III is definitely a cheesball classic but director Sam Firstenberg doesn't quit make this as good as Revenge of the Ninja even though it is more outrageous. I did enjoy it more than Enter the Ninja and it is a must see for B-action nuts. Sadly the film, like Enter the Ninja, is NOT on DVD! What the hell MGM! Like many other films I sadly sold my VHS years ago when Revenge of the Ninja was released on DVD thinking that this and Enter the Ninja wouldn't be far behind. A big thanks goes out to my friend Bill for scoring me a copy to tide me over as I patiently wait another ten years for it to be released. If you haven't done so, please sign my petition to get this and a handful of other Cannon productions to get released on DVD: http://www.petitiononline.com/cannon/petition.html

Written By Eric Reifschnedier

Ninja III Trailer

Revenge Of The Ninja - 2.5/5

After the success of Enter the Ninja, Cannon decided to exploit this new cheesy Ninja concept so they started to develop a sequel. Actor Sho Kosugi shined in his role as the villain Ninja in that film and he proved to be very popular with the fans so Cannon opted to make him the main star of this entry. Since he lost his head in the final fight in Enter the Ninja, he obviously couldn't play the same character so one should not expect a sequel that follows any plot connections. We instead get an entirely new story that exploits the Ninja concept even further into the cheese territory making for extremely entertaining Ninja action fest that is one of my all time favorite guilty pleasures.

The film opens with an extremely violent and unintentionally hilarious attack on a Japanese family's home. Sho Kosugi and his young son are the only survivors and decide to go to America at his American partner's request in order to escape the violence and make a living by selling Japanese ceramic dolls. Is there really that big of market to warrant a store that only sells Japanese ceramic dolls? No but it does make a great silly concept to counterbalance Sho Kosugi's tough ninja character. All seems going well until his boy (played by Kosugi's real life son Kane Kosugi) discovers that the dolls are filled with cocaine! That bastard only used Kosugi to transport drugs! To top it off, that bastard is also an "American ninja" so it becomes an all out ninja war by the end!

Every cheesy ninja cliché is improved upon from Enter the Ninja tenfold here. Everything from ninja stars, disappearing smoke bombs and other ninja booby traps are used to the fullest. The result is, in my book, the best cheesy ninja film ever made. The over-the-top nature of the material just makes it a hoot to sit through. You want bloody violence and a ninja with glowing eyes in his mask? Well it is all here! One of my favorite gags is when our Ninja villain kills two people making love in a hot tub and the coroner later says "It's going to take a jack hammer to get them apart." That line gets me every time!

The film does get a little ridiculous at some points especially during the final rooftop battle sequence when our Ninja villain starts fooling our hero with mannequin stand-in's and arms. Where the hell did he get these props? Out of his ass? It still adds to the overall fun nature of the film.

When compared to Enter the Ninja, Revenge outdoes it thanks to the direction of Sam Firstenberg who gives the film much more style then producer turned director Mehamen Golan did in that film. The pace is also fast and furious with some great action sequences aided by a wonderfully cheesy score.

Revenge of the Ninja is one of the best 80's B-action films fans can ask for. It's got loveably bad dialogue, outrageous action sequences, bucko violence, and a kick-ass hero and all mixed with decent production values thanks to my favorite production company Cannon films. Revenge of the Ninja is hands down in my top three favorite guilty pleases from the Cannon Group. Things would get even more ridiculous in the next sequel Ninja III: The Domination.

Written By Eric Reifschneider

Revenge of the Ninja Trailer

Trancers 6 (2002)


Aka "Trancers 6: Life After Death", "Trancers VI", 

"Trancers: Life After Death"

By the late 90's and early 2000's, Full Moon turned into a actual sewer of their former selves by making just horrific films that were a mere shadow of their earlier 90's output. First came the monstrosity known as "Subspecies 4", then the stock footage filled "Puppet Master: The Legacy". What other franchise did they have left to defecate on? "Trancers" of course! And what's worse is the concept of this sequel actually could have worked if it was actually executed with heart instead of the purpose of milking the cow.
"Trancers 6" marks the first (and hopefully) last entry in the series not to feature Tim Thomerson. The beginning of the film utilizes stock footage from the previous "Trancers" films to show that Deth is going to be sent down the line ("Trancer" lingo for back in time) to occupy the body of a female ancestor in order to singe more Trancers. Lots of bad acting, bad special effects and other bad shit ensues.
Yes, this time Jack Deth is a women. Again I could actually go along with this concept as it was workable. Tim Thomerson was getting a little old by this point so having his consciousness transferred to female ancestor could have been interesting twist and amusing if done correctly. Sadly the execution of this film is awful. First of all the production values are absolute home video quality. I kid you not I could make a movie that looks more professional than this! The underdone special effects are embarrassing but there is an amusing Trancer death sequence where a Trancer commits suicide by jumping out of a window and the effects are so bad it actually causes unintentional laughter. Actress Zette Sullivan as our new female Jack Deth (known as Jo Deth) is also just horrific. Her line deliver is just deadpan and pain educing making the whole film even more of a chore to sit through.
When "Trancers 6" was made, Full Moon wasn't even known as Full Moon anymore. Charles Band changed the company's name to Shadow Entertainment as he felt their output didn't have the same magic as their earlier productions. You think!?! I think the company name "Shadow Entertainment" is a reference to the company being a shadow of their former selves. A Trancers box set even came out on DVD a number of years ago and it only featured the first five films and part six was conveniently forgotten. Trust me, make believe this monstrosity doesn't exist. Part 5 was bad but this is unforgivable.
Written By Eric Reifschneider

Trancers 5: Sudden Deth - 1.5/5


Aka "Trancers V"

Trancers 5 is the left over shit form Trancers 4 and it is pretty much pointless. I really hate these sequels that are filmed back to back as they usually take one story that could really stand as one film and they stretch it out, trying to make two fucking movies and add a lot of pointless padding in the process. Trancers 5 is no fucking different.
Still trapped in a medieval dimension, Jack Death and his band of rogue humans must once again defeat Caliban in order to find a medallion to send Deth back to his own dimension. That's it.
This whole film could have been cut down to 20 minutes, tacked on the end of "Trancers 4" and we would still have a film that ran a regular hour an half length. This is just a bunch of bullshit. Deth having to hunt down a precious stone in order to get back to his own time has to be the most quickie, shit story concepts they could have possibly come up with.
Thanks to "Trancers 5" being filmed back-to-back with "Trancers 4" we are still graced with the same shitty acting, the same shitty dialogue, and the same poor production values, just with a more shitty script. The most disappointing part of the film is when Jack Deth and a rogue Trancer enter a "castle of horrors" in order to claim the medallion and the "horrors" just end up being some kind of orgy party. What?!
What a disappointing final film for Tim Thomerson in the series. The writers should have combined this and "Trancers 4" into a tighter, more comprehensible script and it would have worked good as a sequel. No instead Charles Band gets greedy and decides to make one film into two to get more money and in turn stretches out the thin script too far as well as the money resources. See it if only you are a diehard Trancer fan and my advice is to stop here. Yes there is a "Trancers 6" but unless you're a masochist... stay away!
Written By Eric Reifschneider

Trancers 4: Jack Of Swords - 2/5

The ending to Trancers III got me pumped up for another sequel. Jack Deth and his sidekick android Shark time hopping around singeing Trancers sounded like an awesome way to lay out some more sequels. However Full Moon changes their mind yet again and takes the series in a new direction, a direction that could have been interesting if executed properly. Sadly, mostly thanks to a zero budget, the film fails at its new concept of throwing Jack Deth into an alternate medieval Trancer universe.

Deth, still singeing Trancers and other monster scum through time, this time gets a new hot, hard ass female boss. After butting heads Jack then heads back to work but thanks to a hidden monster in his time machine, he gets catapulted to an alternate medieval dimension that, of all things, also has Trancers! So Deth with the help of some human rebels and a rogue Trancer (son of Caliban, leader of the tracer cult), decide to rise up and do what Deth does best, singe some Trancer ass!

The trancers here are a little different here (though a good definition of them is never given in the previous films) as they are more vampire like. They suck on their victim's necks, turning them different colors until they just vaporize. It's really cheesy and I wouldn't even call these bastards Trancers as they really seem to have no psychic abilities or turn yellow and zombie-like. They just seem to be extremely strong, aristocratic, asshole vampires.

I do like the concept of throwing Deth into a medieval setting but the film is very poorly executed. The worst aspect is the production values which are extremely low even compared to the previous films. The second problem is the plot set up as the plot is broken up into two separate films. Yes this and Trancers 5 were filmed back to back so the film ends on a very abrupt note. This also means that we are also graced with a extremely short running time and a extremely long, boring title sequence to pad the clock. The acting is also beyond terrible especially with bad actors spouting off badly written medieval dialogue with "thee" and "thou".

You know what pisses me off the most though? How they did away with the android Shark. Shark was set up in the previous film like he was going to be returning badass character in sequels to come but right away we are told that he was destroyed in a mission (his head is even used as a lamp at Deth's home). Thanks a lot for ruining that concept Full Moon!

Tim Thomerson still makes this disappointing sequel worth watching thanks to his tongue-in-cheek one-liners. Fans will definitely find something to like. Stay tuned for Trancers 5... if you actually care to see the tie-up that much.

Written By Eric Reifschneider

Trancers 4 Trailer

Lake Mungo - 4/5

It's films like "Lake Mungo" that make me want to watch "Unsolved Mysteries" again. Using stories and a technique that has been around for ages (being the ghost of a recently lost loved one haunting a family for truth and the documentary approach respectively), this little Australian gem really works its socks off to make everything work as well as it does. Although the film does suffer from its own devices at times, "Lake Mungo" makes the faux-documentary approach for film making look like play time as it easily drags its audience in. One more solid After Dark Horrorfest to chalk up for the fourth year.

Alice Palmer was your average young girl. That is until she mysteriously drowns while she is on a picnic with her family at a nearby lake. Her family, including her parents, brother, and various other close friends, are stricken by the loss of their beloved young women and in their grief begin to see and hear ghostly apparitions around their house. Whether or not these ghostly images and noises are real becomes only part of the larger questions that come to surface as this family finds that Alice wasn't everything she seemed and held some dark secrets of her own.

What impressed me so much about "Lake Mungo" was how well the film makers (mostly Joel Anderson and his writing/directing abilities) were able to utilize the style to create a pretty intense atmosphere and attention grabber of a film. With its cleverly structured use of pictures, old and new footage, and of course the ability to have the audience looking one way just to have them shocked to see something somewhere else in the frame, this film crafts itself mightily with what its working with. Having a stellar cast that somehow makes it feel like a legit documentary helps an insane amount too as they discuss prior events whilst acting out both. In this sense, "Lake Mungo" nails the style.

The film does fall prey to its own devices though as its attempt at selling a 'true' story makes some of its supernatural tendencies fall short in the latter half of the film. The film transitions for a ghost story to an alternative family drama towards the end and even with its clinging attempts to revive the 'ghostly' aspect of the film with the final interviews and duel commentary, it loses some steam her. Still a good movie in that sense with how they worked it like a real documentary, but I felt they could have pushed it even more.

"Lake Mungo" succeeds at doing what so many other films have failed to do with this faux-documentary style. Although it does crumble a bit towards its finale, the ride was a fun and clever one, making other films that try this pale in comparison. Its a surprising win for me to watch and a definite must watch for a change of pace for your average ghost flick nowadays.

BONUS PRAISE: The final credits (the beginning at least) were the best part of the entire film. I won't give the trick away, but it makes you want to instantly skip back to the beginning and start re-watching the film and pausing it quite often. It was a wonderful and creepy way to end the film. 

Written By Matt Reifschneider

Monday, August 23, 2010

Trancers III - 2.5/5

The Trancers saga continues with this solid sequel that has the series take a darker tone without loosing that same tongue-in-cheek edge. The mixture worked making this by far the best sequel into the entire franchise, and that's even without original director Charles Band behind the camera.

In 1992, Jack Deth and Leena's relationship is on the rocks as Deth makes a living as a private investigator who basically just spies on cheating spouses. Deth, while on the way to mend fences with his wife, gets kidnapped by a ridiculous looking robot sent form the future. While back in the year 2325, his superiors make him aware that a newer, stronger breed of Trancers are whipping the humans out so he is sent back the year 2005 when the stronger Trancer program began by psychotic villain Col. Daddy Muthuh (Andrew Robinson, having a heyday by hamming up his performance). So now it's up to Deth, and his sidekick Shark (the ridiculous looking cyborg) to take these stronger breed of Trancers out! Are they too strong for Deth? Oh fuck no!

The film sadly doesn't have all the actors from the previous films return but they wrote the plot so we wouldn't need them. Somehow Band still convinced Helen Hunt to come back to make a small reprisal despite her hitting the big time with her television show Mad About You. Even though her role in this sequel is small, it's still great to see her back.

I really dug the new dark approach to the subject matter and I was also pleased they still were able to keep some of the tongue-in-cheek humor with Deth, sporting a new crew cut, still wonderfully spouting off some great one-liners. I also really liked the addition of the android sidekick "Shark" despite its appearance looking completely idiotic.

I was completely surprised by Trancers III and for a direct-to-video low budget B-movie, this was pretty decent. I highly recommend this to fans of the franchise though some may not like the dark approach. I dug it and to me it felt more like the original film as Trancers II did get a little too unintentionally funny and wacky at some moments.

Bonus Rant: Just like Trancers II, the advertising group and filmmakers can't decided if to include a subtitle or not. Trancers II had the subtitle The Return of Jack Deth on all the advertisements and box artwork but not on the film. The same applies to Trancers III as it also as the subtitle Deth Lives on the advertisements but not in the film. It may be a minor grip but COME ON guys, it's not that hard to make the titles match!

Written By Eric Reifschneider

Trancers III trailer

Trancers II - 2/5

6 years after Charles Band's underground cult classic Trancers hit theaters, he finally delivers a highly anticipated sequel (to the low budget cult audience that is) only this time direct-to-video. In the time between Trancers and Trancers II, Band's company Empire Pictures went bankrupt and his new direct-to-video company Full Moon Entertainment took the reins of the franchise and though the sequel isn't as good, it's still great to see a character like Jack Deth back on the screen, even if it is only the small screen.

The plot takes place 6 years after the events of the first film with Deth and his girlfriend Leena (again played by Helen Hunt) still protecting the ancestor of our last remaining council member of the future from Trancer scum. No Trancers have been sighted for years until one day they suddenly pop up but thankfully Deth is there to foil their plans. It seems that Whistler's brother Wardo (Richard Lynch) has popped up in 1991 Los Angeles, running psycho wards in order to breed new Trancers. To make matters more complicated, Jack Deth's ex-wife, who died, was rescued before her death and sent down the line to spy on Wardo. We all can see a predicable love triangle happening here!

The best part of this sequel is that Band reunited almost all of the surviving characters of the original Trancers so it's a hoot to see them all together again and to see how they've changed over six years. Band also adds great cult actors Richard Lynch and Jeffrey Combs to the mix. Lynch is great in his token villain role but Combs is rather wasted and only seems to be thrown into the film to appease the cult film fanatics.

The main problem with the film is the budget constraints and it looks and feels far more low budget then even its shoe string original. The action sequences are very low grade, poorly shot and with lots of slow motion. The climax is also hardly anything to get excited about with low grade action antics. The low production values actually cause more unintentional laughter than anything.

Even with no budget, Tim Thomerson makes the film worth seeing alone as he again perfectly plays the lovable jackass Jack Deth like he was born for the role. His outrageous one liners always brings a smile to my face ("Damnit McNulty! Next time someone hands you an exploding ham, I'm gonna pass the mustard!"). This is definitely worth checking out for fans of the original.... others may not apply.

Bonus Rant: During one sequence the movie blatantly focuses on a movie trailer for Charles Band's Crash and Burn which is shown on a TV. It's one thing to be subtle about such nods to other films by having them on the screen in the back ground and such, but to actually break the plot flow in order to focus on the trailer is kind of sad. It's like Band was wanting people who were watching this film to go rent Crash and Burn right away. Nothing like hitting people in the head by shamelessly promoting your other material Band!

Written By Eric Reifschneider

Trancers II Trailer

Kill Or Be Killed (1966) - 2.5/5

Italian director Tanio Boccia is best known for his entries into the Peplum genre directing such films as Caesar the Conqueror and Triumph of Maciste, but he made more than one attempt directing films in the spaghetti western genre in his career. Of the films he directed Kill or Be Killed is one of the more forgettable entries. Not because it's bad but because it's so damn mediocre.

We have a fiddle playing gunmen that drifts into a remote town only to piss off some psychotic sons of a local patriarch. While defending a beautiful woman and her family from the psychos, he kills them all. Their father hires an assassin but that plan falls flat. He then sends his oldest son to get vengeance and he devises a plan of killing the sheriffs deputies, pinning their deaths on our hero and then burying our hero up to his neck in the desert. People who have seen lots of westerns know that this technique never works as our hero is discovered, nursed back to health just in time to go kill the bastard that put him in the ground before he marries his women.

Kill or Be Killed isn't a bad spaghetti western but that is where lies the problem. It's so mediocre that it just fails to stay with you. The directing is adequate, the script is adequate, the acting is adequate but nothing is great resulting in another spaghetti western forgotten in the pile. Our filmmakers try to make the film stand out by having our hero play a fiddle but it's a feeble attempt at best. I do have to commend an interesting bar fight though where we have our hero punch guys while having his fists inside of beer glasses.

A few plot elements I have problems with is of course our love interest. She is extremely poorly developed and on top to it she is extremely gullible as she believes every lie told to her about her lover. I also found the hired assassin a poorly developed subplot as it really gathers no steam.

Recommended only for the most hard core spaghetti western fans. It lacks the fun trashy elements of poor spaghetti westerns and it lacks the wonderful film-making qualities of the grand spaghetti westerns making a very average, albeit forgettable spaghetti western adventure. The film is available in a high quality double feature from Wild East Productions for those who are curious.

Written By Eric Reifschneider