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Exists (2014)
I laughed, I cried, I went out and shot a Sasquatch.
13 February 2015
Warning: Spoilers
I laughed at the friendly banter between the vacationing group as they headed towards their doom. My heart wept when each of the underdeveloped characters died at the hairy hands of Sasquatch. I felt the poignancy of Brian's show of respect for a fallen friend when he discarded his last doobie, his grief surpassing his craving for herb. I admired his ability to set aside his fear and remain calm while filming with his hand-held camera Bigfoot playing lumberjack, using his friend Todd as an axe. Brian is prepared to document even his own demise, such is his commitment to his craft.

I am a sucker for Bigfoot films, and I do mean sucker as 99% of them are just plain bad. Exists is not in that group, it is a superior Bigfoot film and certainly watchable. It gains points just by the simple fact it features the beast and it makes an appearance in it's own film. Those who know the genre know what I mean, many films do not even show the creature whatsoever believe it or not, and when they do you wish they hadn't, such is the embarrassment. A plot point I sometimes find repetitive in environmental horror is that of provocation, people are just out there bringing the force of nature upon themselves, I know the lore but can't something like Bigfoot just be a malicious antisocial creature, if for no other reason than for the sake of film. For example, I may be wrong but I don't recall Jaws being provoked. After the release of Jaws it was reported sharks were being slaughtered in great numbers by vengeful fishermen who saw the portrayal of the killer shark in Jaws as their call to arms, the sea had to be protected after all. Lets hope Exists doesn't generate a similar response, sparking a mass killing of the Sasquatch!
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The Patrol (2013)
Propaganda film
7 December 2014
Warning: Spoilers
Well made and fairly watchable film, despite the absence of any combat action or visible enemy. What is surprising is the great accolade the film has received among IMDb reviewers for it's insight and statement, I think it's undeserved. A anti-war film? And so what, when the last time you saw a serious pro-war film? If that's one's criteria for declaring a film great then this is the non-action war film to watch. The writer/director has said he was unhappy with the way the war was being portrayed by the mainstream media. If the U.K. media is anything like the U.S. mainstream media, which has taken a non supportive view of the war in the middle east for the longest time (thou they are less vocal about it since the current President took office) then I'm not sure why the filmmaker is concerned. Though if radical Islamic groups ever decide to look for a jihadist propaganda film they need look no further than The Patrol, with it's "this is not your war" message written all over it. Again, from an American perspective, soldiers fighting this war experience fear and frustration among many other things, but generally speaking they recognize the enemy for what it is, and continue to fight because Islamic terror against the U.S began long before 9/11 and will not end until it is defeated. The characters in The Patrol stop fighting and abandon the war, but to be true to reality the film should acknowledge how Al Queda, the Taliban, and others would gladly follow them home and continue their slaughter. Though politicians try to hobble the military, it does not prevent soldiers from conducting themselves like the professionals that they are.
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The undead, the living, and the cremated.
18 November 2014
First of all, though I've seen hundreds of low budget horror films, there are folk out there much more familiar with today's low budget fear films, including many experts in zombie film and lore of the undead. Having said that I've seen and enjoyed the Dawn of the Dead remake, 28 Days Later, and yes even World War Z (never read the book), all big budget films when compared to the average independent film. I realize I'm in the minority here, but this film is enjoyable. On the technical side, just about a one man filmmaking army Rene Perez makes the most of his budget and resources, and can't be sure but looks to have done considerable planning prior to filming. He makes the most of his locations, thus he avoids the absurd number of close ups that low budget filmmakers rely on to hide the fact they have no location to speak of. I hate CGI gunfire, but here the filmmakers are wise in how it's rendered and filmed, even including the detail of discharged shells. The acting is no worse than the average teen slasher film, in fact the actors all possess interesting faces unlike the generic casting you often see in a lot of low budget horror. Also on the plus side is the camera-work, Perez has a very nice graphic sense and considering the low budget shows an ambitious eye. As for the zombies many are clearly wearing masks and stumble about in a not always convincing fashion, but hell I don't know how a zombie moves, last I checked they don't exist. The hero's combat suit is well designed and cool to look at. I applaud the filmmaker's decision to shoot the majority of the film in daylight, even big budget films have difficulty keeping night time scenes visible.

Now I enjoyed the film itself because it has that certain charm that many low budget 80's action/horror films possessed. Now many would disagree, but I'm speaking about movies like the Italian Road Warrior ripoffs, David A. Prior (Deadly Prey) or Fred Olen Ray's (The Assault) work. I don't go into these films looking for perfectionism, if it's there great, but otherwise I just want some cool and/or fun stuff to watch. On a final note I applaud Perez for the manner in which he weaves the hope that God offers into the storyline, most take a very hostile view of the subject, the horror genre especially, so he went against the grain in this respect, hat's off.
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I Declare War (I) (2012)
The Little Rascals in combat
24 January 2014
Warning: Spoilers
Plot of the film is kids play war, tantrums are thrown, somebody gets hurt. Though certainly watchable, this film leans towards mild exploitation rather than any serious social commentary or observation on childhood and adolescence, so if looking for something heavy like "Ratcatcher" or "Lord of the Flies" you'll need to look elsewhere. That's not to say the filmmakers intent was to produce any type of exploitation, I really don't know, perhaps they intended to produce some type of profound allegorical tale, one to cause serious contemplation. If so, judging by many of the reviews here they achieved that goal, so hats off. Myself, I did no serious anything after watching the film, but here are a few observations. When characters are kids, no one expects them to perform with sharp logic or reasoning, so many of the lapses in such can be explained there, but it's still distracting. Several things are amusing, though not sure if intended to be. The character of field commander Quinn is described by his opponent PK as a brilliant nemesis and tactician. If leadership quality includes crying and running home when one of your own grunts pelts you with a tomato, then Quinn is a regular Patton. PK appoints the role of chaplain to one of his less aggressive soldiers, a boy who attends church on a regular basis, and as is customary in film today, his faith is mocked throughout. Another of PK's soldiers is quite inquisitive, contemplative, aggressive even, yet he goes into battle forgetting his only weapon. Fighter, intellectual, or idiot, you decide. As I said worth a watch, though you might want to lower your expectations if you've read the many glowing reviews here.
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Ratcatcher (1999)
Heartwarming tale. Not.
5 October 2013
Enjoy nihilism? Scenes of squalor, abuse, emotional pain and death? Then this is the film for you. Enjoy expert cinematography, wonderfully natural performances, black humor and emotionally engaging characters? Again, this is the film to watch. An anti-Disney film centering around a boy and his misery. Has an opening credits scene I consider among the top ten of all time in terms of originality and execution. Some IMDb reviewers apply the word dull to this film, consider they were perhaps weened on MTV and the hyper active style filmmaking that followed. Ratcatcher is perhaps how cinema used to be in terms of pacing. Looking for entertainment? Look elsewhere. Need help entering a state of depression? Use Ratcatcher.
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Diablo (2011)
Argentina visits Peckinpah
29 July 2013
Diablo is an Argentine film, Spanish language, but the film is subtitled (and pretty accurately as far as subtitles go). Read the IMDb synopsis for the storyline as I'll simply address the film's quality and emotional content.

Technically everything is above par considering the film is low budget, great camera-work, set design, makeup, etc. The film also shines where stunt-work is concerned, next to acting caliber little exposes this type of film's lack of budget than it's ability to pull off fights, gunfire, etc. and while Diablo is certainly not an action film per se, it does quite well staging what action is necessary to tell it's story.

I have to say I've seen many, many contemporary independent films that attempt to weave together the elements usually associated with the crime genre, and the results are all too often convoluted and dull. Because technical expertise in filmaking is not lacking these days, filmmakers have it in spades, but storytelling ability and screen presence? Those are the qualities not always present in many genre films IMHO. Fortunately Diablo has no such problem, direction and writing are extremely tight and along with the excellent performances are what make this film fly.

Diablo is a violent, crude, and gritty film filled with black humor and completely void of pretty faced actors, not for the faint hearted or those with a semblance of normalcy. That I usually loathe the nihilistic tone in many of today's films yet recommend this speaks to the film's ability to engage. My guess is the filmmakers might cite Tarentino as an influence, yet Diablo's dialog and use of humor does not draw attention to itself in the same way Tarentino's work does. This film is not a masterpiece of cinema but the direction, writing, Juan Palomino's lead performance, and the film's characters are entirely interesting and unique. Highly recommended.
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Curandero (2005)
Mexican Harry Potter
14 June 2013
Warning: Spoilers
Carlos Gallardo (the original El Mariachi himself) is a curandero who's heart is just not into his inherited profession. For those unaware of what a curandero (spanish for "healer") does, it's like practicing voodoo supposedly combined with elements of the Catholic faith, but actually leans more towards necromancy, nothing biblical about it. For example, you get sick or think someone has cast a spell on you, Mister or Miss curandero shows up, tosses a few herbs, roots, and such on you, does a bit of chanting, you drink some foul concoction, and you're out whatever fee you were dumb enough to pay for their services, in most cases a few chickens or a hog. In this film however, Gallardo's character is like a Mexican Harry Potter and local police ask him to spiritually "cleanse" certain crime scenes that they consider diabolical, so they can conduct an investigation without getting the heebee jeebies. Of course you show up at a home where Satan worshipers have used the occupants as bloody decor and you'd be hesitant to re-enter it as well, diabolical or not.

At any rate, curandero Carlos grows close to a senorita detective investigating a series of horrendously violent crimes. Unfortunately a rather sinister, nay supernatural, individual sets his sights on the poor cop and faster than you can say "chupacabra" the poor policewoman is transformed into some kind of foul smelling goat creature. Now, many a man has terminated a relationship for reasons a lot less severe than beastly transformation, and if Carlos had called it quits with his goat-sucker girlfriend not a soul would have judged him for it. But Carlos is no such hombre, and he boldly pursues the she-beast-thing to set things right.

Technically the film is good, washed out colors in the cinematography, fine acting, nice use of locations, etc. But after a somewhat interesting first half the film becomes muddled to say the least, and goes downhill fast, really fast. Not one of the better examples of Mexican cinema.
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Normal Life (1996)
27 May 2013
Warning: Spoilers
Yes, negative review here and sure I know, based on a true story, but there are countless true stories out there that actually lead somewhere. The filmmakers thought there was something to be said here, Myself I'm not so sure. Here we get a pair of unstable and socially inept human beings that possess a twisted "love" for one another and we are asked, by way of the filmmaking tone and approach, to sympathize with their "plight". Problem is it was impossible (for me) to warm up to these two even in the slightest. Were the character's interesting? No, not in today's light. Obviously I'm in the minority here as most of the reviews posted loved this film. Now I enjoy nihilism as much as the next person, but this film's attempt to play on one's heartstrings was lost on me here, especially as the music turned sad and sappy at the finale with the pair's predictable fate. A better approach, without sacrificing much in the way of Hollywood's "true story" element, would have been to have celebrated law enforcement's part in protecting the public from their criminal existence, at the very least I'm sure the pair's neighbor's would like to thank the police.
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The Package (I) (2013)
For Men Only.
26 February 2013
At the time of this writing this film has 6 other reviews posted, most negative. Though difficult, I did come up with a few reasons to avoid this film: If you sell girl scout cookies, wear your sister's capri pants, share hair styling tips with your girlfriend, or watch Glee. I could go on but you get the picture. Bottom line, DTV film are rarely going to break any new ground in terms of action filmmaking, so hopefully by now action fans know this going in. Having said that, The Package is above average for such a film. A cool script, that is it mostly avoids ridiculous cliché dialog such as "I'm getting too old for this %$#" or the mandatory cursing that is often substituted for actual lines. Yes the story is old (as most all stories are), but here we get nicely written dialog. The direction is certainly above par, with plenty of well staged action shot in a terrific manner avoiding the jerky-cam style so prevalent today. The fight scenes are not the slapped together affairs often seen in many DTV films. Characters are interesting, including Dolph's (and no, his role is not a cameo). Anyone familiar with Martial artist/actor Jerry Trimble will enjoy his screen time. I recommend The Package not only for action fans, but lovers of romance, humor, and drama (sorry horror fans), and for any boy out there that hopes to one day grow into a man. Now that I've given it some thought, the film should be screened in high schools across the country as part of the "no male left behind" program.
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Speeding sure is slow
9 May 2012
Warning: Spoilers
First here's the summary from the big box VHS packaging (I'd be shocked if this was released to DVD): "The Black Panthers want him to join. His girlfriend begs him to take her away from the ghetto forever. But Marcus does his own thing - and he's dead set on finding the arsonists who torched a tenement and killed his mother. Plagued by recurring nightmares of the blaze, Marcus throws himself headlong into a search that leads him through the seediest back alleys of Watts. Before long, he winds up in an incredible, high speed chase and gets a thorough thrashing from some real bad dudes. But Marcus beats the odds and has it out with Jumbo, the king size kingpin of the neighborhood, in a decisive man to man showdown." This is an extremely low budget production, not a bad thing in and of itself, but despite the above description there's not much going on here. Mostly a lot of talking, a little avant garde filmmaking, and a lot of dullness. There is some location shooting, but to say that it's of such interest as to merit a viewing of the film is probably a stretch. As Marcus, the man the Black Panthers hope to recruit, star Wiston Thrash tries hard but his effeminate style sabotages his efforts. The "... incredible, high speed chase" the summary references is actually a leisurely drive through an empty parking lot, where the biggest concern was hitting one of the hundred or so parking meters. As for Marcus having it out with Jumbo, the king size kingpin of the neighborhood in a "man to man showdown", the scene simply consists of some stilted dialog and blank stares. Not recommended for action film fans, all others, knock yourself out.
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It pays to do your action homework!
24 March 2012
Won't rehash any of the plot details here, it's enough to say this film is a Lethal Weapon for the new millennium. While the story is not original, the filmmakers brought freshness to the subject matter by: A) Hiring a terrific lead, Johnny Strong (hows that for a name!) is not the typical pretty boy actor Hollywood tries to pass off as an action hero, the guy looks and acts seriously tough. And kudos to him for taking the role seriously, as evidenced by his exceptional ability to handle weapons and the stunts convincingly. B) First rate job on the rest of the casting as well, and that means every role, not a sour note in the bunch. C) Solid, solid, and stylish direction. D) Good script, without the bland and often cliché dialog found in so many action films today. E) Very nice work from the technical advisers and trainers, this is a rare example of these professionals and an actor (in this case Strong) coming together and producing a truly convincing performance, as opposed to just an adequate one. Their attention to detail pays off here.

Of course there's plenty of other reasons, but these stand out. Highly recommended.
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Dope smoking deserters from 'Nam do the hero thing.
4 December 2011
Warning: Spoilers
Two combat soldiers in Vietnam have their fill of slaughtering women and children so head for the hills, oh wait they're already there, in which case they instead desert the military and the country and become the equivalent of seedy town beach bums. They hang out at the local bar, drink, smoke herb, and not much else. That is until they are approached by a man offering them a job training local troops to guard a wealthy family against guerrilla rebels. They at first decline but then the lure of a steady paycheck convinces them to accept the proposition. Somehow the C.I.A. become involved and the two friends find themselves in a 'Nam flashback fighting for the U.S. government.

If you enjoy the work of low budget Philappine filmmaker Cirio Santiago (Eye of the Eagle, Firehawk, Final Mission) you'll enjoy this film as it shares a similar style and subject matter, albeit this film takes a much more cynical, nihilistic, and hippie style protest view of the U.S. and it's Military. Troops in 'Nam are portrayed as baby killers and the government as inherently evil. Of course it's all executed in such a simplistic and laughable fashion that it comes off as mostly benign, allowing one to enjoy what is essentially an action exploitation film, and the action is nicely staged with a generous amount of time devoted to the combat scenes. Recommended.
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Baby Monitor: Sound of Fear (1998 TV Movie)
Baby Monitor: Sound of Fear
5 June 2011
Warning: Spoilers
No really, that's the title, and humor me here but, why can't we have more absurd titles like this one for our films? The upcoming SALT ripoff, excuse me, SALT inspired, film "Hanna" may be better suited ditching it's dull moniker and adopting a title like "I Was a Teenage Contract Killer" or "Not So Sweet Sixteen", just a thought. At any rate, with Baby Monitor Sound Of Fear, at last Hollywood has made a film for the untapped adulterer market, as the hero is a married man and father of one, who is having an affair with the film's heroine, his babysitter! Except for the abandonment of trust and mockery of marriage vows, the two are really swell people. The same can't be said for the man's wife, a mentally disturbed woman who hasn't let her condition get in the way of achieving a successful career managing her own business. Guess who the villain is in this scenario. The psychotic spouse catches wind of the affair and hires a pair of killers to off the babysitter/mistress while she's babysitting her son, hows that for a safety minded mother. Of course if the uncaring mom finds the kid as obnoxious as the audience then her decision is no surprise. So as a result, the titular baby monitor figures prominently in the storyline, unfortunately the filmmakers went the serious route with this nonsense and we are left with one less entertaining exploitation film. Oh well, at least we have the title.
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The Assassination File (1996 TV Movie)
Fairly entertaining
3 June 2011
This film is certainly nothing special, but worth watching over much of what passes for entertainment these days. Disgraced female FBI agent Lauren Jacobs (Sherilyn Fenn) takes on rogue operatives within the highest ranks of government. The film's characters act in a rational manner for the most part, and there is enough action to keep everyone on their toes, including a nicely staged foot chase. Other than Paul Winfield (as a Presedential candidate) there are not many familiar faces here. Sherilyn Fenn as the heroine does a admirable job in carrying the film, which would fit nicely as the second feature on a double bill with Eastwood's In The Line Of Fire.
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Last Stand (2000)
Sub standard sci-fi action
18 May 2011
An ex military convict is recruited to rescue the President's son (actually not sure if he's the President, but some big shot nonetheless) and the nuclear launch device known as the "football". To do so she must battle futuristic Nazis and suffer degradation.

Alright, where do I begin? Gun battles staged and edited in such a way as to be incomprehensible, constant violation of the 360 rule, poor acting, clumsily staged action, complete lack of chemistry between any of the leads, and overall absence of logic. Stilted line delivery draws so much attention to itself as to be painful, almost as if the actors were reading a malfunctioning teleprompter. The film mixes boderline softcore scenes into the absurdity, leaving me to wonder who in Sam Hill the target audience is for this travesty. I respect filmmakers working in the confines of a minimal budget (this appears to have been filmed with "Fatal Conflict"), but unfortunately "Last Stand" only succeeds as an exercise in boredom.
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Final Impact (1992)
Renegade Rocky
6 May 2011
Very entertaining martial arts film, starring Lorenzo Lamas as a washed up fighter. The cast includes Kathleen Kinmont (Lamas' wife at the time) as his girlfriend and a very young Michael Worth as Lama's protégé, a skilled fighter heading to Las Vegas for the World Kickboxing championship. The filmmakers waste no time in setting the tone, B film nonsense, by opening the film with bikini clad models covered in oil entertaining bar patrons. This film is notable for the entertaining storyline (seen a hundred times before, but always fun), the nice fight scenes, and the very good performances (as far as B films go). Jeff Langton as the evil kickboxing character Jake is the type of villain that makes these films so much fun.

Both Lamas and Worth headed up their own MA films, but there are a few faces in Final Impact that did as well, starring as ring fighters are Gary Daniels and Art Camacho (who would go on to direct many MA films himself). And Mimi Lesseos, who was the lead in several MA films, has a small role as Jake's girlfriend. Joseph Merhi (himself an MA star) co-directs here, with Richard Pepin serving as cinematographer. Both men went on to form the now famous (and defunct) PM Entertainment.
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Brainless Bonnie & Clueless Clyde
17 April 2011
Warning: Spoilers
A pair of bored but demented teens engage in a crime spree that goes from shoplifting cassettes (it's a media format sonny) to robbing banks and gunning down cops. After each crime they engage in lovemaking, and this becomes the routine, committing crime followed by sex, throw in a few shootouts and you have a film, well something resembling one. A story like this requires the audience to relate to or sympathize with the main characters, who here are portrayed in a nauseatingly romantic fashion. It does not take a model citizen to develop the desire to see these two carjacking, bank robbing, teenage cop killers get caught in a hailstorm of bullets, unfortunately this comes far too late in the film. While B films are among cinema's greatest entertainment, this film is sadly quite average.
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Punch (2002)
The pugilistic problem solver
17 April 2011
Warning: Spoilers
Here's the plot, middle aged wimpy father with domineering, abrasive, and violent daughter, attempts to develop a relationship with a sweet and caring lady. Needless to say, the obnoxious offspring does not look upon her spineless father's romance with favor, and this story would be over rather quickly if not for the lady's strong willed sister, who is employed at a seedy bar as, get this, a topless boxing champ. The pugilistic sibling (who in a shocking revelation announces herself as a lesbian), propels the unsteady romance forward despite the daughter's efforts to derail it. Follow me so far? Didn't think so, anyway these dynamics make for a interesting and offbeat film nonetheless. The daughter has to be one of the most unpleasant characters to "grace" the screen since Whatever Happened to Baby Jane. The film takes a, to put it mildly, odd turn near the end, but I suppose it's an appropriate conclusion seeing as some problems are just solved with a good punch in the face.
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Making mama suffer
28 March 2011
Warning: Spoilers
A tale of a long suffering mother in the inner city. Her 2 boys run the streets and are involved in car theft, her well educated daughter becomes a statistic in teenage pregnancy, her husband is a jobless drunkard, her babysitting services land her in trouble with the state, in short, a sad and desperate situation for mom and her family. Thru it all she maintains her dignity, and where others would question and sometimes abandon their faith, this woman has the wisdom to draw herself closer to God, God being the Jesus of scripture.

Certainly some would write the film off as cliché ridden, but it does offer insight into the collapse of the family structure often seen today. It also introduces what's known as the prosperity Gospel, when the pregnant daughter goes to church to pray that the family's finances improve, she asks the Pastor what to do next. He replies she need not do anything other than "Go home and wait". She looks at him incredulously, and wisely ignores his advice, instead applying herself and working hard towards a goal.

Where the family's actions do get confusing is when the daughter tells mom she's considering an abortion, it's treated as a morally viable option. I understand this is not a Christian film per se, it is a drama above all, but the mother's faith factors prominently in the film and that it's guidance is abandoned at this point, is disappointing. Not a great film, but not entirely a poor one either, it held my interest 'til the end.
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Old school Kung Fu with Jimmy Wang Yu
27 February 2011
Terrific martial arts film starring Wan Yu (a.k.a. Jimmy Wang Yu of One Armed Boxer fame) as a rebel during the Manchu occupation of China and Hsiao-Chuang Kuo (billed as Kou Shu Chung) as a leader in the boxer rebellion. Some melodrama involved but mostly a fight film with Kung Fu battles occupying just about the entire second half of it's 92 min. running time. Plenty of edged weapons fighting, mostly swords, and anyone familiar with Wang Yu's fighting style will see it on fine display here. His female counterpart Hsiao-Chuang Kuo does an excellent job portraying the stoic proud rebel leader fighting overwhelming odds. She has a casual manner when it comes to execution of her fight scenes, but the choreography is wonderful. I viewed this on a pan and scan VHS under the title Fury of King Boxer, and even with the picture cropped the modest but impressive cinematography shines thru. If you enjoy the genre, especially old school martial arts, this film is for you.
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Hit Lady (1974 TV Movie)
Yvette Mimieux is reason enough to see this film.
20 February 2011
Warning: Spoilers
The synopsis for Hit Lady can be written in a single sentence, Yvette Mimieux portrays a hitwoman eager to leave the assassin for hire business. In the same vein, the film is a rather uncomplicated affair, usually the case with television's "movie of the week" films of the 70's, but here the lean story and budget is to the film's benefit. The excellent Mimieux carries the film more than capably and her co-stars all perform nicely as well. With a title like "Hit Lady" many today might expect this to be full of gunfire and explosions, this is certainly not the case, but it does happen to be a very engaging and well written (Mimieux is credited with the screenplay) film.

While Hit Lady is not an action film, it's star Yvette Mimieux is no stranger to the action film genre, her credits include the excellent mercenary film Dark of the Sun. Here, she provides a fine screenplay and gives an engaging performance, in a written interview she stated she had hoped to direct the film as well, but for whatever reason that did not happen. What's also of interest is the film's pedigree in the murder for hire film genre. The film's director Tracy Keenan Wynn (who also has a small role) appeared alongside Charles Bronson in the mafia hit-man film "The Mechanic". Clu Gulager who stars as Mimieux's former hit-man boss, starred alongside Lee Marvin portraying a pair of hit men in Don Siegels "The Killers". On a final note, one wonders if this perhaps served as inspiration for the excellent French film La Femme Nikita, that tells a tale of a trained assassin wanting to leave the business, and her male mentor who stands in the way. Recommended.
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Not gonna take it anymore!
16 January 2011
Warning: Spoilers
Entertaining comedy worth a viewing. Brian Dennehy carries the film and does so quite well. Simply put, he portrays a guy, pharmacist by profession, who we see endure life's daily hardships and eventually gets fed up with the "system", finally deciding to fight back by throwing out his phones, light bulbs, shutting off the water, refusing to use electricity, etc. It's amusing to see, relatively speaking, how tolerant his family is and how they submit to his authority as head of the household. I'm sure this is laughable to many of today's audiences considering the declining lack of respect for the role of the father (admittedly sometimes justified, but certainly not in the general sense) and how the traditional nuclear family is perhaps near extinction. At any rate, though it does resort to one or two moments of slapstick as well as a couple of not so suitable for family viewing scenes, the film is well written and Dennehy is at the top of his game here.
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Brazilian Brawl (2003 Video)
Bad boys from Brazil
14 December 2010
Warning: Spoilers
A southwest dirt farmer is killed for his valuable piece of dirt property. Back in Brazil his five head busting nephews, portrayed by the Machado brothers, discuss a course of action and decide, since it's a small town, to just send three of their number to deal with the evil dirt stealing dirt-bags responsible for their uncle's death and to set things straight.

Even for a micro budget B film, Brazilian Brawl is on the silly side, where does one begin? Maybe with the appearance of Bruce Lee's premier student Dan Insanto dying in a house explosion (did I say house, it's actually a miniature made from toothpicks and old cereal box) after 2 minutes of screen time. Or maybe with the unexpected appearance of Clint Eastwood's old pal and co-star Geoffrey Lewis as the main villain, who is sort of like Orville from Every Which Way But Loose, but instead of being confused and innocent, he's confused and evil. The actors who portray the female lead and deputy sheriff do an admirable job with what they're given. Which leads us to the Machado brothers, acting wise these gentleman do about as well as most other fighters turned first time actors. Well, maybe almost as well. And they of course have good physical presence. As for the fight scenes, they (the fights) show potential, but could've used more polish. As they stand they are executed at times smoothly, more often crudely, with just a few flashes of quality choreography. Needless to say, these guys can obviously fight, but staging a movie fight and capturing it properly on camera is another matter.

Some working on the film appeared to have made an earnest effort, but others perhaps used the opportunity to goof with what they saw as a none too serious project. For example, a lawyer character visits the Machados 3 times, and 3 times a low fart sound is heard as he departs. Not a problem if the scenes were played with humor, instead it's just...well weird. Geoffry Lewis' scenes all take place in a cramped office, and each time a cat is heard meowing. Again, not a problem if a cat appeared on camera, or if Geoffry said "Hey I own a cat". Instead it's just a strange cat noise. Now, you might say, "dude, maybe it was YOUR cat", well yes I own a cat, but the thing was next to me the whole time dead asleep. I don't know, maybe it was the Foley's cat.

I suspect much of the blame for the quality of Brazilian Brawl can be placed on writer and director Leo Fong who, when it comes to filmmaking, is kind of like the poor man's Fred Williamson (hard to imagine I know). For example, Brazilian Brawl looks like it was shot on partially exposed 8mm film stock found in Buster Keaton's storm cellar. Though the movie's budget did allow for one of it's more important elements, a wacky theme song for the Machado brothers titled "Bad Boys from Brazil".

It must be noted that Leo Fong (who makes a cameo appearance in Brazilain Brawl, you'll recognize him, he's the Asian guy) is responsible for a pair of truly entertaining, hilarious, and highly recommended B action films, Killpoint and Low Blow. Now, I readily admit to being a fan of financially challenged and poorly made action films, as long as they entertain. Brazilian Brawl would narrowly fit into that category. I give it one star, while I myself enjoyed the film's complete lack of craftsmanship, I recognize any person with even minimal discernment would find the film less than stellar.
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Hired Gun (2009)
Hired Gun should have aimed lower
27 November 2010
Warning: Spoilers
Yes, Hired Gun clearly has a far left perspective story-wise, which contributes to some of the absurdity found in the film. Now I happen to enjoy absurdity, but that and the liberal perspective are beside the point, the point being whether or not the film entertains. Unfortunately, not enough to recommend it, and I don't say that out of some political bias (for ex., I enjoyed the dtv film Conspiracy with Val Kilmer). My guess is that the folks responsible for Hired Gun were not trying to make any kind of political statement, rather they were just injecting what they know into the film, leftism.

At any rate, this was an ambitious film that evidently lacked all of the proper resources and an adequate budget. Some filmmakers recognize the limitations and adjust the story or budget accordingly, scaling back if necessary, this film did not. As a result many elements are lacking, the action scenes are nothing to write home about, dialog is standard fare, and a crucial plot point suffers because of sub-par special effects. Certainly some things work, for example the leads Shane Wood and Esther Canata have solid screen presence and nice chemistry with one another. This is an honest effort from those involved, but unfortunately it falls short in my humble opinion.
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Easy Rider meets Plan 9
14 November 2010
Warning: Spoilers
Fans of outlaw biker films heads up. Those who dig the revenge genre gather round. If you enjoyed Plan 9 From Outer Space this... wait a minute, where did everyone go?!

Well it begins with an overlong scene of 30 or so young hippie folk laying around a garage (literally, there are no chairs!) getting drunk, smoking herb, and making out. There is no dialog so it serves to establish that.... well I suppose that the biker heroine of the film is one groovin' party host. Anyway, she and her brother go into the house to replenish the supply of brew when there's a knock at the front door. Brother biker opens the door and has his head blown off by a dark figure with a shotgun. At this point one might question whether this is a comedic effort due to the technical expertise here, we see what is clearly a fake dummy head explode, followed by a shot of the actor falling to the floor with head intact! And so begins Bury Me An Angel, as biker chick Dixie P. bids farewell to her mother with a nod, a spit in her direction, and some choice expletives (endearing her even more to the audience) and speeds away on her bike towards revenge.

Along for the ride are 2 male friends, and the three encounter some zaniness along the way. Most notably a strange lady living in what is maybe a desert hotel or restaurant, really not sure what it was supposed to be, but in the film it looks like a 2 car garage with curtains. At any rate, desert lady shows them love and hospitality and then declares she's a witch. The group is not hip to this and show skepticism, so the black magic broad starts with the psychic hot-line talk, "you have revenge in your heart" she tells Dixie. Well Broom Hilda might as well have described Dixie as 40 miles of bad road because she and her 2 pals go after the witch with a vicious verbal assault. The witch is unaffected by their tongue lashing, so Dixie snatches her spell writing hand and shoves it into the burning fireplace, but Zowee! Nothing Happens! She really is a witch they suddenly realize. For some reason the witch's love, hospitality, and passive attitude angered the group, but the realization that she is actually a witch endears her to the three. It's either that or the marijuana joint witch Zelda immediately produces saying "here, save this for the road, I have more" and they form a circle, fire up some wacky tabaccy, and all is well. The lesson learned? Nothing diffuses a dangerous situation from savage pothead bikers like an cannabis offering.

Parts of Bury Me An Angel are indeed dullsville, but there are enough oddball moments to recommend the film. The acting is what you might expect from a very low budget effort. Dixie Peabody's performance is so so throughout, but she pulls one out of the hat with the final confrontation and it becomes a powerful moment believe it or not.
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