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It's as if a 10th grader wrote an action movie script...but with one treat., 19 July 2017

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

What struck me about "Samurai Cop" was not the lead actor's hilarious lack of a performance (he makes me miss the quiet dignity of Miles O'keefe in "Ator The Fighting Eagle"), or the porn queen level moves being presented by all the female actors, or the cheesy synth and drums score, or the "Lethal Weapon"-wanna-be fight choreography (stiff, disjointed, and unconvincing), or the half-shouted dialog that sounded as though it had been dubbed by a "Speak And Spell"..

It was how well Robert Z'Dar came off in this role compared to his parts in bilge like "Future War" and "Soul Taker".

No, I'm not kidding. I have stated elsewhere that I hate Z'Dar as an actor because he uses his acromegaly as a special effect to get cast in bit parts in terrible Sci-Fi movies. (Nothing against him personally, of course. So I guess I actually hate his casting directors.) But here...someone had the bright idea of putting a beard on him and doing something different with his make-up, and as a result, his face no longer hijacks every scene he is in. He almost looks...normal...well, like a big, muscular, physically impressive guy with a strong jaw (of course). And somehow his performance is the best I've ever seen from him. (He's completely miscast as a Japanese "hit man", of course, but that's just this movie for you.)

As for the rest of it...Pure craptastic direct-to-video aping of the action classics, with 10% of their budget and 5% of their talent. Worth seeing just to be amazed at how bad everything is. Except for Z'Dar, who also sucks, but in a way that lets you see how he could possibly deliver a good performance at some point in his life.

Dark Web (2016)
I sort of wish I could "unwatch" this movie, 16 June 2017

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

"DarkWeb" is the sort of pointless,convoluted, nihilistic mess that makes you wonder if maybe the invention of film as a story telling medium was a bad idea.

OK, it's not that bad. But it misses that mark by not very much.

My reaction to this film is the same as Roger Ebert's when he had to review movies like "Chaos" before he passed away from this mortal coil: Why was this film made? What was the point of rubbing our noses in all this grim heartlessness and sadism? Were the film makers trying remind us that there are human monsters out there? We KNEW that.

Add some pretty amateurish acting and dubbing here and there; massive overuse of a few digital CGI techniques that are apparently supposed to remind us that, hey, all the participants are on camera, and we are the voyeurs; individual character actions and decisions that make no sense in context; and a gratuitously mean stinger ending that both robs audience of any sense of release AND goes on two minutes too long...and you've got a turd of a screenplay that you don't need to see.

Oh, yeah, Danny Glover is in this. But he's a talking head appearing on a TV screen. And even as a talking head, he's not very good (I'm willing to give him the benefit of the doubt, as I doubt any actor could have done well under the circumstances.) And Oliver Gruner is also in this; he's OK, given that 90% of his role is glowering and looking grim and swearing revenge.(Again, I think he did what he could with his part and the role).

I gave this three stars in spite of my reaction to it, because: the movie begins with a burst of energy as a para-military convoy rolls across deserted countryside accompanied by urgent orchestra music on the soundtrack; because I like Oliver Gruner and wish he could have been given more to do; because the young blonde woman who is the object of the hunt is quite statuesque and striking and the camera loves her; and because I think the film makers made the film they wanted to make, and even if I hate it, I recognize that a lot of work went into it.

But don't waste your time with this one unless it's late at night and you're fairly drunk and in a really weird, hate-the-world mood.

Adaptation set in modern US has its points, but can't compare to Hammer or Universal, 10 June 2017

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

If I were to take one thing away from "Dracula Reborn", it would be that "Nobody Walks In L.A."

Seriously - 30% - 40% of the movie appears to be about the characters driving around, parking, and getting in and out of cars. (Oh, and signing papers). Take away those scenes, and the movie would be about 50 minutes long. While that definitely sets a feel for the environment and modern living, it also drags a lot of the action to a crawl, and gives an airless, disconnected feel to the proceedings.

The other big problem: the urban sprawl that is the setting for the movie appeared to have about a dozen people in it altogether (including 3 gang-bangers with the worst case of verbal diarrhea in the history of cinema). I think this is meant to throw the dynamics of the struggle between Harker and the vampire for the soul of his wife into sharp relief (and to make the most of a small budget). But it also (again) drains the movie of a lot of the energy and vitality that a good Hammer or Universal movie could generate.

Pluses: The makeup effects when the vampire (who is never actually called "Dracula", BTW) exerts his hypnotic stare are pretty good, if overused. The actor playing Harker is decent, even if he can't quite carry the movie by himself. As he plays the character, Harker is quite attractive and likable, but not impressive. The music is definitely subordinate to the events on screen, but it's well done and helps set a mood. The screenplay's conception of the character of Renfield is pretty fresh. And there is one serious jolt in the middle of the movie involving a motor vehicle homicide that genuinely startled and upset me. (I don't count the nasty twist ending, which I saw coming a mile away,because that's what 2nd rate horror films do these days).

But overall, the movie has no real life or energy. Although there is obvious professionalism and effort going into what you see on screen,it's like looking at one of those cardboard props you see in furniture stores that simulate an actual computer or television - the shape is there, but no guts.

All visuals and 2nd hand gestures, but not bad if you want a retread., 6 June 2017

Just to clear an obvious misunderstanding: The movie is not about "zombies", it's about what could be thought of as "Revenants" or "Wraiths". OK? Fine, let's proceed.

I think I rated "Gallowwalkers" somewhat higher than most of the commentators here, because it caught me in the right mood. I was home sick with a cold, and needed something pretty and striking to look at to pass the time.

The sets, the costumes, the makeup, the photography, the music...all extremely well done and evocative. And the actors do their damndest with their thankless, cardboard parts.(Casting was excellent, too - everyone here is photogenic and charismatic as can be).

So what's wrong with "Gallowwalkers"? Oh,'s pretty, but essentially empty. Key scenes make no sense, characters pop up out of nowhere (like "Skullbucket") are immediately disposed of again. And it drags just a little too much, here and there. I am sure the filmmakers were so in love with the visuals and the snappy, epigrammatic dialog that they didn't see the problem with all those lingering shots of bodies and sand and gore and figures on horses posed on top of dunes.

It's all too much of a muchness. And in spite of the fact that it's an interesting germ of a story idea, the setting and the situation (sort of supernatural Spaghetti Western) still feels derivative and done to death. (See what I did there?)

So: great movie to give 2/3rd of your attention to, or just something cool to look at when that's all you need. Or if you're willing to watch anything that reminds you of Sergio Leone.

Great slabs of cheese (with a side order of cheese), 8 May 2017

*** This review may contain spoilers ***


Hercules style movies are normally, by convention, pretty silly and lightweight, but this one is juvenile and stupid and cheesy in a way that takes the genre to new depths.

Ever since I saw "Bloody Pit Of Horror", I've had a soft spot for Hargitay, but he and Mansfield (and, let's be fair,everyone else) are pretty bad here. Not horrible, mind you - the casting leans toward attractive and interesting looking people, and everyone in the cast acts at about the same level - but pretty bad.

In Hargitay's case, especially, the vocals (dubbing?) just sucks. It's as if they used Tommy Wiseau (the epically awful actor from "The Room") to utter his lines, and Tommy had a bad migraine that week and couldn't be bothered to pay attention to what he was saying. Combine that with Hargitay's perpetually dopey, yearning expression and you have a screen portrayal that's at the opposite end of the scale from the gravitas and dignity you'd get from someone like Steve Reeves or Reg Park.

And Hargitay's blocking and fight choreography are off. For a strong man and body builder, Hargitay seems stiff, awkward and unconvincing. I know he can do better than this because he moved like a different person entirely in "Bloody Pit". The fight with the Hydra in the middle of the film is an especially egregious example of this - I've seen fights staged better at my local community theater productions.

Mansfield - well, I am given to understand that she was actually a quite intelligent and multifaceted person, but you'd never guess that from her role here. She stands around and pulls various tragic faces and, well, juts a lot.

Adding insult to injury is a screenplay that calls for the murder of Hercules' innocent wife in the first 5 minutes of the film, and then has the character (and the movie) forget all about her immediately afterwards. Seriously, she's never mentioned again. And there's a "plot" against Hercules that can only succeed if all the characters display less mental acuity than the girls in a junior high locker room. Which they do. Oh, and there's a "trial" against the Queen that proves her innocence when Hercules throws 4 axes at her...and succeeds on MISSing her on purpose instead of hitting her. (You'd think that missing a woman who occupies less than 30% of a target area would be ridiculously easy for a demi-god and professional warrior, but here the movie acts as if it's a heroic miracle).

Hmmm, and the central plot point of the movie - where the queen of the Amazons decides to seduce our hero - just marks time for 20 minutes until Herc's shield bearer finds him and then he basically walks away without doing anything heroic whatsoever. (The queen gets killed by a tree. Really).

Boy.Take my advice and watch the Reeves or Parks or even Gordon Scott Hercules movies again, instead.

Starcrash (1978)
Jaw-droppingly Inane Italian Star Wars knock-off/rip off, 5 May 2017

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

"Starcrash" has Christopher Plummer in it for about 15 minutes of screen time, so I simply can't give it 1 star. He has a 2 minute wrap-up speech at the end where he tries valiantly to summon enough dignity and conviction to redeem the 80+ minutes of nonsense that preceded it But that feat is beyond even his abilities.

Let me put it this way: I saw this movie once, 20 years ago. And as we watched the opening episode 4 of the relaunched MST3K show, and announced that the movie would be "Starcrash", I instinctively reacted with a level of dismay that amazed (and amused) my wife. And I've seen "Manos", "Red Zone Cuba", "Incredibly Strange Creatures Who Stopped Living And Became Mixed Up Zombies ?!!", and "Monster A- Go- Go" without raising an eyebrow.

"Starcrash" appears to have been written and produced by precocious 12 year olds who really liked "Star Wars", but didn't understand a thing about writing screenplays. Or narrative logic. Or cause-and- effect. Or how human beings talk.

Worst example of this is the character of "Aktor" (who I think is Marjoe Gortner); about halfway through the movie, the character starts pulling out various Force powers and light sabers and precognition abilities every few minutes with absolutely no setup or justification, as if he were an Italian "Ultraman". And then he dies from a cut to the arm for no good reason (he won't let his teammates treat him because it was "fore- destined").

Carol Monroe, who is front and center for 90% of the movie...well she looks smashing in her thigh high boots and dominatrix bikini, but has all the emotional range of a sack of cement. Some of this may be the dubbing, because she sounds utterly American here, but I've read that she's actually British. So maybe not all her fault...but this is strictly a one-note performance.

The sets and costumes and props and spaceships are a random hodgepodge of goofy colors and textures, and outer space appears to be lit by Christmas tree lights.

In short, this makes Roger Corman's output look good. It's easily one of the stupidest movies I've ever seen, and I've seen dozens.

Half a star added because it's obviously not meant to be taken seriously.

2 out of 2 people found the following review useful:
You'll "Cry", all right!, 28 April 2017

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Like most of the posters who commented on "Cry Wilderness", my first exposure to it was via the recent MST3K version. Now, I'm not one to condemn a movie out of hand just because a bunch of professional film "riffers" made fun of it. I often think that MST3K and Rifftrax and Cinematic Titanic, etc., just take the stance that a movie sucks and then backfill their jokes and satire to convince their audience via an overwhelming volume of attack and vitriol.

But "Cry Wilderness", well, it's not very good.

It's not Ed Wood level bad, or Jerry Warren bad. What money there was in the budget shows up on screen with decent lighting, acceptable use of stock footage, nice nature photography, and photogenic actors who could at least pass muster in community theater productions.

But hoooo boy, the plot and the dialog are all over the place, and nothing in the script seems to follow from anything else. After 10 minutes of watching inane characters bouncing off each other like cats in a laundry sack, I was ready to pack it it and go watch something else (hopefully something better).

I stuck it out...but my patience was not rewarded.

You can skip this one, even in the MST3K rendition because even their riffing can't save it.

2 out of 5 people found the following review useful:
Not perfect, nor a perfect translation of the comics, but enjoyable and worth your time, 10 April 2017

The biggest problem with Iron Fist is the slow start and the uninteresting "bad guys" from the early episodes.

But I can see why they wanted to try to tell the story this way - in the original comic, Rand starts out as a driven kung-fu vengeance machine and battles his way past traps and barriers and mercenaries in a way more than a little reminiscent of "Game of Death", which makes for a great comic book (especially when Gil Kane draws it); But far too derivative and done-to-death for a live-action series/movie. So instead the creators work the "fish out of water" angle (also done to death) and make the protagonist more troubled, ambivalent, and reveal his heightened abilities more subtly over the course of the first few episodes.

Does it work? Well, mostly.

The big problem is that Rand's enemies, the Meachums, aren't especially interesting in and of themselves, at least for the first few episodes (things get weird later on). The character of Ward, in particular, is both clichéd and unlikeable, without one single trait to draw the viewer in. (I don't consider this the fault of the actor who plays him, BTW - he does his best with a thankless part.)

But I gave it some time and whistled to myself through the duller parts, and eventually the series won me over.

A lot of comments have been leveled against the acting here. I personally think the acting is fine - it's just different in mood and tone from a series like "Daredevil". Give it a chance and watch with an open mind and you'll gradually come to appreciate it.

I stuck with "Iron Fist" because I enjoyed the various incarnations of the character and his back story, and I'm not sorry I did. If you are coming in cold as a viewer, this may not be the series for you.

Lame and inane, but relatively harmless and fun, 20 March 2017

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

This movie was mentioned in one of my favorite guides to fringe media, "DVD Delirium", and while the review made it sound pretty lightweight and cheesy (while still being better than its sequel and the spin- off TV series), I have a weakness for cheesy and inane superheroics, and managed to track down a copy on "" one slow night when I was reduced to a Chromebook and a phone mobile "hotspot" for my movie fix.

My first reaction:"Uhhhhh...Okay...? They're really going to try to pass this off as a FEATURE?!"

And it didn't get much better after that. But I sort adjusted my expectations downward (to TV movie of the week level), and found enough entertainment to watch it through to the end,

Joan Severance is a pleasure to look at in both her civilian/cop identity and in her "Black Scorpion" duds, so this has that going for it. No, She's not a very convincing fighter, so the fight scenes are mostly jump cuts and stuntmen falling down when she waves a leg in their direction. But she has a nice, crazy gleam in her eye when the mask is on, and she's able to at least give most of her lines of dialog a decent delivery. Bruce Abbott and Garrett Morris are also in here, trying to maintain their respective dignities in thankless parts, and they don't stink or anything, either.

The plot...well, the plot and dialog appear to have been cobbled together by 10th graders who think they are funny. Roger Corman was involved in this at some executive level, which explains a lot...Corman projects almost always have a germ of something interesting or intriguing, something that keeps you watching even when the screenplay leaves plot holes big enough to drive the Scorpionmobile through and the jokes fall flat. (At least there ARE jokes). And such is the case here. I wanted to see how things came out, and so I stuck around until the end.

And in the end, I think, that's all the creators wanted.

"DVD Delirum" mentioned some sequels, but apparently at some point Severance was replaced by another hapless model/actress who didn't have her mojo, so I don't know if I'll bother to watch any more in the series.

But this? This was...Okay.

1 out of 1 people found the following review useful:
There's a lot to like about this movie, but I didn't really enjoy it., 10 February 2017

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

I think I would have enjoyed this story better if I'd read the novel it is based on ("The Full Treatment") or as a radio drama play that trimmed down the extraneous elements and didn't exhaust my patience the way this movie does. The story had promise (in spite of a psychological premise that hasn't aged well since 1960), but in the end the director and the writer couldn't quite make it work.

There is some excellent stuff here and there - I think that the opening shot that pulls back from a car radio playing a happy tune to seamlessly reveal a scene of disaster and carnage is good enough to redeem the problems with the remaining 2 hours of screenplay. But there's an awful lot to get through in the next 2 hours, and a lot of it is a slog.

I've liked Ronald Lewis since I saw his role as the chauffeur in another Hammer production, "Scream of Fear!", and I when I saw that he was going to be prominently featured in this one, I was looking forward to seeing him stretch out. But his character is high-strung and unlikeable (even though it seems that his terrible behavior is caused by what we would now call "Post Traumatic Stress Disorder") and sometimes the director can't get him off the screen fast enough for me. Lewis is out there front and center, chewing the scenery in a thankless role and I can't help but wonder if this picture damaged his career, or at least slowed it down some.

The other problem, of course, is that the whole "repressed memories leading to murder" thing has lost most of its credibility over the decades, sapping some of the drama and energy from the proceedings on screen. As this tale of psychodrama among the jet-set spins out, the thought kept intruding - "This has nothing to say to my life". Oddly, that never comes up in "Scream Of Fear!", possibly because the heroine is a "poor little rich girl" who is wheelchair bound and seemingly fragile.

But the black and white photography is crisp.There are some great visual setups (oddly, the driving scenes are the least convincing scenes in the movie, ironic considering the Lewis' character is a race car driver). Diane Cilantro is adorable and a pleasure to simply behold (although her character is missing from the middle third of the movie).And there is a fascinating contribution from Francois Rosay who is on screen for maybe 5 minutes altogether, but who pulls the final climax together with a wordless performance that is in some ways the strongest in the movie.

So, did I like it? Not nearly as much as the similar "Scream Of Fear!". Did the movie have a lot of things to redeem the problems with the plot and the unlikeable protagonist? You bet.

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