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The Spirit (2008)
6/10
Cheesy, dumb, but a lot of fun.
8 January 2009
Warning: Spoilers
I was not disappointed when I finally saw Frank Miller's film adaptation of this pulp comic book. Yes, there is no denying that the movie is ridiculous in parts and takes liberties with the source material. But overall, I found 'The Spirit' to be a very enjoyable show. The best performer in it is, of course, Samuel L. Jackson as the big bad guy The Octopus. He chews the scenery amazingly, kind of like he did when he voiced Officer Tenpenny in 'Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas'. I was a bit unsure about the part where they had him dress in a Nazi uniform, but I'll forgive that. The Octopus' obsession with eggs was a bit stupid, though. As are some other story elements such as how ridiculously oversexed The Spirit is. I can understand Dr. Dolan being teed off with him about his work with the ladies. But that said, Gabriel Macht puts in a great performance as the Spirit, with a fine line in sarcastic remarks and random soliloquies.

Eva Mendes is great as the bad girl with a heart of gold known as Sand Saref. When I first saw her movie back story I was afraid she would be a shallow character, but she comes up trumps in the end. Scarlett Johanssen is also good as the equally weird-named Silken Floss, even if all her role requires her to do is state the obvious. Although they could be annoying, the clone henchmen were mildly amusing too. Though I must say that 'Sin City' veteran Jaime King was rather wasted as Lorelei, the Angel of Death. Assassin Plaster of Paris is rather an unnecessary character as well.

But overall, 'The Spirit' accomplished what it set out to do: it entertained. I stand by my opinion, and I hope that like the 1980 film of 'Flash Gordon', which has been mentioned as being in the same league as this film, 'The Spirit' will become a cult classic. I must say that I intend to add it to my DVD collection when it comes out. Great fun.
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9/10
Absolutely amazing 80s Coen classic.
8 January 2009
Warning: Spoilers
'Raising Arizona' was the first Coen Brothers movie I ever saw, and I admit I left it a bit late before watching it, but I finally saw it as the classic it is now rightly regarded as. The quirkiness of the main characters like Hi and Ed, and the downright menace of 'Mad Max' style villain Leonard Smalls really appealed to me. Nicolas Cage, in a relatively early leading role, is excellent as the former criminal trying to go straight and a young Holly Hunter is equally on top form as the cop who wins his heart. Coen regular John Goodman also turns in a great performance as a bank robber who makes Cage's life difficult.

One thing I like about the characters is that they are mostly portrayed in a sympathetic light, the exceptions being Glen, Dot, their kids and the aforementioned Mr. Smalls. I take it that the role of Smalls will be one Randall 'Tex' Cobb will always be remembered for. If this is so, then I am glad, because the Lone Biker of the Apocalypse as Hi labels him is one of the most iconic movie villains I've ever seen. The comedy and drama is handled equally well in this movie, with a lot of laughs coming regularly. And I really like how the ending is optimistic. All in all, 'Raising Arizona' is a great movie. If the film has any faults, it's that the characters of Glen, Dot and their kids are so reprehensible it's hard to believe. But I guess that was the point. Please watch this movie. You're in for a treat.
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7/10
Great, mindless, action-packed fun
9 December 2008
Warning: Spoilers
It was 1987 when I first heard of this movie. It was the very first time I'd heard of Gary Busey and a trailer for this movie was the first time I ever heard the famous Survivor theme song. I hadn't seen the whole thing until about 2003 though. But, being a fan of mindless 80s action movies, I'm glad to say I was not let down when I finally came to own a copy of this movie.

It's sad that Busey never really made it as a leading man, because in this film he gives an absolutely fantastic performance as the wronged man Buck Matthews. Unfaily sent to prison by corrupt sheriff Seymour Cassel for killing a man in self-defence, Vietnam vet Buck is released and heads home. Things have gone decidedly bad since he was gone as the town is now in the grip of a sadistic, drug-running motorcycle gang headed by AIP veteran William Smith. Needless to say, the sheriff is on the gang's payroll and also happens to be Buck's parole officer, so things don't look good for our hero.

The film is, of course, a revenge picture as Buck engages in single handed combat with the gang after they kill his wife and traumatise his daughter. He even has his own special vehicle for the task: a weapon-laden pick-up truck sent to him by a Latino drug lord whose life he saved while in the slammer. Yes, it's THAT kind of film.

But it is actually pulled of rather well by writer Michael Montgomery and 'Vanishing Point' director Richard Sarafian. The action sequences, though sometimes grisly (a wire decapitation), are handled well, especially Buck's final assault on Smith's stronghold when good cop Yaphet Kotto finally decides to step in and help him. Kotto, Cassel and Smith all turn in excellent performances, with Cassel being particularly slimy as the crooked cop. It's very satisfying when he gets his comeuppance. The final fight between Busey and Smith is very well-handled.

Although the famous Survivor song is a bit overused, it seems very appropriate for the movie's action. The original music score by Don Preston is very rousing as well. I can honestly say that while Busey is excellent at playing villains like Mr. Joshua from 'Lethal Weapon' and Commander Kril from 'Under Siege', he shows here that if you give him decent enough material, and overlook some of his personal problems, he can carry a film and make it enjoyable. I enjoy 'Eye Of The Tiger' thoroughly as a great 80s action 'missing gem', and I recommend it to my fellow IMDb users with confidence.
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7/10
Not bad at all early Sommers effort
9 December 2008
Warning: Spoilers
I had wanted to see this film for years after seeing a video trailer for it. Now I have finally seen it. Yes, it is undeniably cheesy in parts, but I accept that fact and watch it for the fun. And this movie is nothing short of great. The plot is slim, but it works. The drag race scenes are all done brilliantly, set to a perfect synth score by the wonderful Tangerine Dream and the two main performances by Matt Lattanzi and Loryn Locklin as the reluctant lovers are very good. It's been a while since I've seen Locklin's later movie 'Fortress' so I had forgotten just how attractive she was. Her character, Melissa, starts out as a typical concerned high school kid, but blossoms into a hot mama by the end of the picture. This is the only thing I've seen Lattanzi in, but he handles the hero role very well.

Veteran performers Geoffrey Lewis and M. Emmet Walsh are great as the kindly school principal and the evil loan shark respectively, and the rest of the villains, such as the sneering Dirk and Manney and evil racing driver the Widowmaker are all very colourful characters. It surprised me that Stephen Sommers, later known for the first two 'Mummy' films and 'Van Helsing' would start his career with this kind of film. We all have to start somewhere I guess, and 'Catch Me If You Can' was a good place to start for him, especially as he never even had to leave his hometown to film it.

The high school kids seem like a bunch of jerks, but at least they later on admit they were and decide to actually do something about the impending school closure that Melissa and Principal Johnson are trying to prevent.

Like another favourite film of mine, Charlie Sheen flick 'The Wraith', parents seem to be non-existent in this town. But the authority figure role is filled excellently by Lewis as Mr. Johnson. It is he who turns out to have been a high-school hero back in the 50s who steps in to help when all hope seems lost.

The main attraction for me was the cars, of course. The star car role is filled by two vehicles: a lovely black '68 Chevelle driven by Lattanzi for most of the movie, and 'Fast Freddie' Johnson's '57 Chevy, which is brought out of retirement for the final race against the clock after the Chevelle is laid low by Walsh's thugs. There's also a wonderful quotient of American muscle cars present throughout. I also like in the movie how some depth is injected into the character of Dylan Malone, Lattanzi's character. He at first seems like your typical anti-authority James Dean type. It is, however, revealed that he drag races to try and earn himself college tuition money to get out of his currently dead end life. This makes the final battle against Walsh more poignant, as Malone basically agrees to become a slave to Walsh if he loses the final race.

All in all, the film is by no means ever going to win any awards. But if you just want a great, fun, popcorn movie, this is one of the best of them. Please Stephen Sommers, dust this one off and give it a DVD release!
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7/10
Definitely a B-Movie, but fun all the less
2 August 2008
Warning: Spoilers
I was curious about this movie as it featured an appearance from Nick Cassavetes, who I think is a great actor, and there were possibly car chases in it, so I just had to see it. The movie is certainly never going to win any Oscars, but I don't care as I thoroughly enjoyed it. The three 'Bimbos' are all very attractive and well-performed and Cassavetes and his 'WRAITH' co-stars Griffin O'Neal and Jamie Bozian were good as the stoner surfers that the girls meet while on the run.

There is only one real car chase in the film, but it's done very well, and features a great cameo from professional nerd Eddie Deezen as a clueless police officer and a unique use for lingerie. ASSAULT is a rather short film, but then again, the film makers probably didn't want the joke to wear thin. I lover how the girls get revenge on the guy who framed them, and earlier in the film where they give a lecherous, crooked gas station owner what-for when he tries to rip them off. It's also funny how Peaches (the 'leader' of the Bimbos) tries to artistically justify go-go dancing.

Overall, this was a great, funny movie, with sexy girls and great humour. May not be to everyone's taste, but I liked it.
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Freeway (1988)
7/10
A fantastic and enjoyable thriller
9 March 2008
Warning: Spoilers
To be fair, I expected car chases in this film. There was only really one, but apart from that, 'Freeway' was a great movie which I am glad to own on DVD. The only really big names in the cast are HOMICIDE's Richard Belzer as the radio psychiatrist and B-Movie villain par-excellance Billy Drago as the Revelation-quoting Freeway Killer. But the rest of the cast generally give good performances. I especially liked how Darlanne Fluegel gave her character, Sunny, a bit of guts. She could have been a helpless victim character but she is fully rounded as she seeks out Drago with the help of bounty hunter James Russo.

Russo, I'm afraid, comes across as rather wooden, but then again, the character he plays, Frank, isn't very well fleshed out save for a back story Sunny is given by his former commanding officer. The tone of menace is kept up superbly throughout the film and the atmosphere of the lonely LA freeway at night with the killer prowling its' length in his sinister grey sedan is an excellent way of building tension, and the music used to underscore the film is suitably composed. I don't know why there are some people who hate this movie so. Different strokes for different folks, I suppose. But I absolutely enjoyed 'Freeway' and I can strongly recommend it.
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7/10
"Justice for one, justice for all'.
5 November 2007
Warning: Spoilers
I had first heard about this Linda Blair vehicle years ago when I was interested in 80s vigilante movies in the vein of THE EXTERMINATOR etc. I finally got the picture on VHS a couple of weeks ago. The final viewing of the film was a great way to spend some time.

Apart from her cameo in SCREAM, this is the ONLY film I've seen Linda Blair in (I'm not sure if I'm ready for THE EXORCIST yet). But she was great in the leading role as Brenda, the tough girl who decides to take revenge on the sadistic gang who rape her deaf-mute sister and murder her best friend who was just a few days away from her wedding.; There are typical high school clichés at points in the movie, such as the totally nasty spoilt-brat cheerleader type (whom I really hated as she makes a cruel crack about Brenda's sister because she wrongly believes Brenda's trying to steal her boyfriend) and the sneering principal, here played greatly by the late John Vernon. But in the second half of the film, Brenda gets down to the serious revenge business, suiting up in a kick ass black jumpsuit and arming herself with a crossbow for her big revenge against the evil Scars.

As Scars leader Jake, Robert Dryer is an excellent villain. A sadistic maniac who has no redeeming features whatsoever. I've only seen Dryer in two films, this and HEARTBREAKER: STREETS OF FIRE, but he was a brilliant performer in both. The music for the film is great, particularly the songs by John Farnham, best known in the UK for the one-hit wonder 'You're The Voice'. The final climactic showdown between Brenda and Jake is very intense, but suitable to the film.

I give this film a confident thumbs-up.
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7/10
Typical 80s action, but fun.
5 November 2007
Warning: Spoilers
I didn't really give this film much thought when I first saw it advertised on a VHS tape I have at home years ago. But after a few years, I did get curious and decided to have a look-see. And I have to say I'm glad I did.

Yes, the fashion and dialogue etc. is very 80s in this movie, but then again, every movie sooner or later shows signs of age. So I'll forgive the Miami VICE fashions and stereotypical characters and concentrate on what made this film good. The central performance of Stephen Lang as 'Nam vet Joe Tiger (pronounced Tee-ger) is very good as he takes it upon himself to train a bunch of juvenile delinquents whom the law has deemed as being beyond redemption into becoming survivors, fighters and ultimately those who will right the wrongs of society.

Yes, it is far-fetched, but movies are supposed to be about escapism, aren't they? The actors playing the teens range from okay to over the top, but handle the action well. And once again, Mr. James Remar, one of my favourite actors makes an excellent villain. A young Laurence Fishburne is also very good as a Little Haiti drug dealer. Lauren Holly is also great in an early role as Nikki, lover of BOTH member Carlos.

The first half of the film as the Band train with Joe in the Everglades, learning how to survive is done very well, with the Band naturally complaining about everything at first but slowly and surely adapting. The final big battle at a Miami dope farm after Joe's death is great as well, where the Band of The Hansd finally put all their experience with their mentor to the test.

The film is, in short, great. Not excellent, but great, and I strongly recommend it.
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Death Proof (2007)
8/10
'Get ready to fly, b****!'
5 November 2007
Warning: Spoilers
I was disappointed to hear of how poorly the GRINDHOUSE project fared in the USA, because the premise of it sounded great to me. What especially had me excited was the prospect of this sequence of the film, directed by Quentin Tarantino. A car chase/smash movie with Kurt Russell playing a psycho stuntman? That's a hell of a good premise for a movie in my book.

But in a way, I'm glad that GRINDHOUSE was split in two for its' DVD release, as that way we get to see some footage that was cut from the GRINDHOUSE versions of PLANET TERROR and DEATH PROOF. And even though I do look forward to getting the Region 1 copy of PLANET TERROR, I am glad to say I finally saw DEATH PROOF on R1 DVD, and it, the film that attracted me to the GRINDHOUSE project in the first place did not let me down. Granted there are a lot of 'talky' bits before the action actually gets underway, but I'm willing to forgive that because of the quality of the acting, writing and directing.

Kurt Russell is excellent as the psycho Stuntman Mike. When first seen in the movie, he does look like a harmless good old boy from a Hal Needham film (as one guy says about him, he looks like he got his scar over his eye from climbing out of a time machine). Sydney Poitier, Rose McGowan and Tarantino himself in a cameo as a bartender are very good, but Russell oozes with his usual charisma. He jokes with the first group of his victims about being a stunt double on obscure shows, which, of course, Tarantino would know about. But very quickly, things turn nasty and there's a whole bunch of corpses piling up.

There's a nice cameo by the father and son Texas Rangers from KILL BILL VOL. 1 where the father, although knowing that Mike is a killer, can't prove it because of the precautions Mike took (Mike stayed sober while his victims were both drunk driving and stoned). But then, when Rosario Dawson, Tracie Thoms and Zoe Bell come into the picture, Mike may just have met his match.

Most people will no doubt know by now that Zoe Bell was Uma Thurman's stunt double in the KILL BILL movies. But for a stunt-woman, especially considering she's basically playing herself, she is a great actress and I hope we can expect great things from her. Dawson is as good as ever. As for Thoms, this is the first film I've seen her in, but she is brilliant, completing the trio who stand up to the stunt psycho.

The final car chase is handled brilliantly, especially since no CGI was involved. Like in the days of Hal Needham movies, all the car stunts were done for real. The choice of cars was excellent too, with three great examples of American muscle being used: Stuntman Mike's two cars are a Chevy Nova and a Dodge Charger and the girls use a Dodge Challenger, just like the one from VANISHING POINT as the girls point out.

At the end of the day, DEATH PROOF proved to be as good as I thought it would be. Two thumbs up from me!
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Redline (2007)
6/10
Come on! It's not THAT bad!
5 November 2007
Warning: Spoilers
As REDLINE is yet another film in the FAST AND THE FURIOUS vein, and there are people who hated those films, I expected REDLINE to get negative press, but not to the extent that it ultimately did. Sure, the plot is minimal and the acting mostly so-so, but I am glad to say that I spent money on a DVD of REDLINE as soon as it was available and I have to say that I found it completely and utterly fantastic.

What attracted me was that producer Daniel Sadek used cars from his own extensive collection for the film, just as the late H.B. Halicki had done for his films GONE IN 60 SECONDS (the original one) and THE JUNKMAN, both of which are favourite movies of mine as well. The fact that they are all exotic cars in this movie was to be expected, and the race sequences involving the various cars are all handled excellently by director Andy Cheng.

Nadia Bjorlin, Nathan Phillips and Eddie Griffin are all great in their roles, even though their characters are little more than stereotypes. The plot DOES have predictable twists (although, I WAS surprised as I had never heard mention of it anywhere, when one of Bjorlin's opponents is the racer who killed her character's father, thus allowing her in the race to get revenge), but ultimately, REDLINE is just good, harmless, mindless fun. I mean, you can't expect EVERY movie that comes out to be Oscar material. I just like to have a good time when I'm watching a film, which is why I give REDLINE a positive six out of ten. And I'm certainly glad that there are others, no matter how few, who agree with me.
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Quiet Cool (1986)
7/10
A brilliant action film and leading role for Remar
5 November 2007
Warning: Spoilers
I wanted to see this film for years, so I was glad when it was finally released on DVD. James Remar, who plays the lead role of NY cop Joe Dylanne, and Nick Cassavetes, who plays main villain Valence, are two of my favourite actors and they both give excellent performances in this film.

Remar is great as the big city cop who is called in by his ex-girlfriend to find out what happened to her brother and his family in the forest countryside of California. Remar specialises in playing tough guys and Joe Dylanne is no exception. He is charismatic and very enjoyable in the role. Cassavetes gives a performance not too far away from his character of Packard Walsh in THE WRAITH, another of my favourite movies. Valence is a total psycho and a sadist to boot. Just see how he punishes one of his dope farmer associates for getting stoned at one point.

In supporting roles, Daphne Ashbrook, Adam Coleman Howard and Jared Martin are all excellent, although when he first appears in the movie, Howard sounds a bit of a sour note. Anyway, the action sequences are all handled excellently and the film is, in my opinion, a great show. I have the Region 1 release, so I hope it gets a Region 2 release.
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Night Vision (1997)
7/10
Enjoyasble enough for me
25 June 2007
Warning: Spoilers
I would like to say at the outset that even though I was disappointed that Cynthia Rothrock doesn't do more of her martial arts stuff in this film and I did think it a bit preposterous how indestructible Dakota Smith, played by Fred Williamson, appears to be, I enjoyed NIGHT VISION and am glad that it is a part of my DVD collection.

I was surprised that Robert Prentiss, who plays the 'Video Stalker' bad guy wasn't listed further up in the credits (his name isn't in the opening credits) as his character is very prominent. Prentiss can be a bit of a cartoon villain at times in this film but is very convincing as a psycho. In the lead roles as a pair of disgraced cops trying to get their acts together, Williamson and Rothrock are very good. Support is given to them by the excellent Robert Forster, but unfortunately he doesn't have much to do in this picture. I was a bit sad to see Forster here actually. Although I do like NIGHT VISION, it is very much a 'B' movie and after Forster appeared in Quentin Tarantino's JACKIE BROWN a lot of people, me included, thought QT would resurrect Forster's career the same way he had done for John Travolta and Bruce Willis when they appeared in PULP FICTION. But Forster is brilliant any time he's on screen.

The action is all handled brilliantly by Gil Bettman and the script by Michael Montgomery (who wrote another great overlooked action movie, EYE OF THE TIGER) has fantastic twists and turns in it. My only problem with the movie is actually the two jerk cops Bigelow and Johnson, who mock both our heroes. But at least they turn good in the end when they help the two nail the Video Stalker's crooked cop partner. I thought the black Dodge van which the Stalker travels in looks very menacing as well, and found it creepy how he seems to find out every intimate detail of his victims' lives. I think more could have been done with the plot line about the Stalker's mob connections, but overall, I rate NIGHT VISION as a brilliant action movie, and well worth spending 90 minutes of your life watching.
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7/10
A worthy conclusion to the trilogy
8 June 2007
Warning: Spoilers
I've now finally seen all three FAST AND THE FURIOUS movies. I actually own them all on DVD. I saw TOKYO DRIFT a couple of months ago. I meant to submit a user comment ages ago, but I never got around to it. But now I finally have. TOKYO DRIFT is an excellent movie, featuring the great automotive action and wonderful cars we've come to expect from the series.

It took me a while to realise that Lucas Black, who plays our hero Sean Boswell, was the same guy who played young Caleb in the short-lived supernatural show American Gothic. Here, he's all grown up and is very good in his role as the American fish out of water army brat who has to go live with his father in Tokyo after his latest street race in the States lands him in trouble with the law. Rapper Bow Wow is also good as his new best friend Twinkie. Sean's dad is a bit of a stereotypical 'my way or the highway' parent, but helps Sean save his hide in the end.

Sean still loves street racing but is new to the culture of 'drifting' in Tokyo. After losing his first race, he is taken under the wing of drift guru Han who helps him greatly. He also falls in love with Neela, who is the girlfriend of the Yakuza connected D.K. (Drift King). KILL BILL's Sonny Chiba is excellent in a cameo as D.K.'s Yakuza uncle and steals the scenes he is in. D.K. himself is a truly hateful villain and you just hope that Sean gives him his comeuppance.

Sean eventually learns to be a master drifter and finds another reason to hate D.K. after his mentor Han is wasted after a major car chase. The car action in TOKYO DRIFT is just as good as it was in the first two FATF movies, with some impressive rides on display. The final drift race between D.K. and Sean, with Sean driving a modified Mustang, is a real edge-of-your-seat moment.

The acting is generally very good, but I wonder why so many people complained about Lucas Black's accent. The guy can't help the way he talks for God's sake, he happens to be southern. The series is also given proper closure with a cameo from Vin Diesel's Dominic Toretto from the first FATF at the very end.

TOKYO DRIFT is a brilliant film. I know it's probably going to be the last in the series, but I hope a fourth film may be in the works, as this film proved when it was released last summer that the FATF franchise is box office gold. Enjoy this one! I certainly did.
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7/10
A bit like a 90s version of 'The Hitcher'
8 June 2007
Warning: Spoilers
When I first saw this film a few years ago, I wasn't exactly impressed with it, but after a while I changed my mind and wanted to see it again. I recently obtained a videotape of the film and I'm so glad that I decided to give this film a second chance as it is a very enjoyable nail-biting thriller.

As I've said in other reviews, I think it's unfair how much flak Christopher Lambert gets as he is a capable actor and can carry a film. Ironically though, even though he has top-billing here, his character Jack is sidelined for most of the film. The focus instead is on the 'road killers' of the title: a bunch of worryingly crazy guys who drive around in a blue Cadillac. Craig Sheffer is excellent as Cliff, their leader, a psychopath of the highest order. One review I read said that Sheffer's performance was over the top. I certainly disagree as I think he is excellent in the role, making Cliff a fully rounded character. The other three members of his gang are all well-performed by their actors as well, particularly David Arquette as an idiot savant and Josh Brolin as the one of the gang whose conscience troubles him.

Lambert meanwhile just plays the character of Jack very well. He's an everyman thrown into a terrifying situation and who has to protect his family. I was annoyed that he didn't have more to do, but he handles the part very well. John Pyper-Ferguson is also enjoyable in an extended cameo as Cliff's big brother Hauser. But when the two have a confrontation, we realise how truly screwed-up their family was. I thought the film was a bit like THE HITCHER in a couple of respects. Maybe it isn't that much similar, but there are moments that reminded me of that Rutger Hauer film.

Anyway, Deran Sarafian and his brother Tedi (who wrote) have produced an excellent film here, and I strongly recommend it. Here's hoping a DVD release with director's commentary will come out somewhere down the road.
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Red Line (1995 Video)
6/10
Not exactly great, but good enough.
8 June 2007
As a fan of car chase films, as soon as I heard about this one I had to see it. I was annoyed that when I tried to watch the trailer on the internet that it wouldn't play, which meant I couldn't get a taster of it. But now I finally own the film on DVD and I have to say that I'm glad I do as RED LINE, while not exactly a great car chase film, is enjoyable enough.

I think it's unfair to try and compare Chad McQueen to his father. I mean, we might as well face it. Chad will never be as good as his father Steve. But I think he should be judged for his own qualities. In this film he is very good in the action hero role, and handles the stunt driving excellently. One problem I had with the car chases was that at times it seems the cars aren't going very fast at all. But they are still exciting. It was a bit cheeky how they have Chad drive a green Mustang like the one his dad drove in BULLITT at one point, but the cars on display are all beauties, especially the contraband-carrying Corvette that the main body of the plot revolves around.

Roxana Zal is quite good as leading lady Gem and Jan-Michael Vincent is very menacing as main bad guy Keller. Strangely though, MIchael Madsen who is given very high billing in the credits is barely involved in the movie, but is still very good. It's a shame Dom DeLuise and Corey Feldman didn't have more to do. I love the way that Chad manages to stitch up both sets of bad guys looking for the Corvette's cargo in the end.

In short, RED LINE is a good enough way to spend an hour and a half in my opinion.
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Wheels of Terror (1990 TV Movie)
7/10
A fantastic and action-filled TV movie.
8 May 2007
Warning: Spoilers
I love 'killer car' movies (as people who've read my other reviews will no doubt know by now) so as soon as I read about this film, I just had to see it. Living in the UK, though, it was near impossible to find, especially since the WHEELS OF TERROR Amazon.co.UK has is actually the 1987 film THE MISFIT BRIGADE, which they mistakenly claim is this film as MB had the alternate title WHEELS OF TERROR. But finally, after going to a second-hand video shop and asking them to use their internet search engine, they found a copy of this film, the genuine article, for me.

I must say at the outset that it was well worth the wait to finally see this excellent film. Yes, I can see how the plot could be considered a DUEL rip-off, but it manages to be original by throwing in a plot about a real horror we must face in real life: that of a perverted and mysterious child killer. Said killer is never actually seen in the movie (not even a glimpse, unlike the DUEL truck driver whose feet and hands on the steering wheel are seen at certain junctures) but is represented by his omnipresent '74 Dodge Charger, one of the most menacing vehicles ever seen in a movie. I said to a friend recently that I always think black Chargers make excellent 'villain' cars, which is why I'm glad Tarantino is using one in his DEATH PROOF segment of GRINDHOUSE.

Joanna Cassidy is brilliant in her role as divorced bus driver Laura, trying to raise her daughter in Arizona, and eventually having to save her from the unseen child molester after she is kidnapped. I admit I haven't seen many films Ms. Cassidy has made but in the few I have seen (WHO FRAMED ROGER RABBIT, BLADE RUNNER and GHOSTS OF MARS), she has been absolutely wonderful. Her desperation and determination to save her daughter and ensure the pervert never harms anybody again are very believable. The rest of the cast are okay, though apart from Marcie Leeds as Stephanie, Laura's daughter, very few of them are on screen long enough to make much of an impact. I agree with some reviewers about the whiny kids on the bus during the big chase sequence being annoying, but at least Laura lets them out to call the police. And in case you're wondering how the school bus can keep up with the murderous muscle car, there's a gratuitous info-dump scene near the start where Latino mechanic Luis points out that he put a racing engine into the bus. Why he would do that I don't know but it explains how the bus is able to chase the Charger.

As you can see, I do believe the film has faults, other main ones being the over-use of slow motion shots in what's supposed to be a climactic car chase and Stephanie somehow not noticing that a creepy-looking car is following her down the street at one point. But apart from those minor gripes, I would rate WOT as one of my all-time favourite car chase films and I hope that it gets the DVD release it so richly deserves. Strongly recommended!
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7/10
An excellent follow-up
17 November 2006
Warning: Spoilers
I was disappointed when I heard that Vin Diesel wouldn't be in the sequel to the brilliant FAST AND THE FURIOUS, but when I went to the cinema to see 2F2F my disappointment was soon swept away. This film is an excellent second installment to the series. The vehicle action is as brilliant as ever, and Paul Walker and Tyrese Gibson are both brilliant leads as Brian (from the first movie) and his old buddy Rome.

The opening car race sets the tone for the rest of the movie as we bear witness to fantastic high-octane action. I personally was glad when Brian and Rome get hold of the Camaro and the Dodge Challenger. I don't personally have anything against Japanese cars, but I love American muscle cars. As well as great action, there are great performances from the rest of the cast, especially Cole Hauser as the stone-cold villain Carter Verone. Rapper Ludicrous also makes an impression as the king of the Miami street racing scene, as does SIN CITY's Devon Aoki as the tough chick street racer Suki.

It surprised me at the time that Roger Ebert gave three star ratings to each of the FATF films, because I thought he'd see these kind of films as lowbrow. But I was glad he liked them. 2F2F is a great sequel, and I'm now looking forward to seeing TOKYO DRIFT. I hope it can live up to my expectations after two excellent FATF movies.
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Blade II (2002)
8/10
A brilliant follow-up and excellent second instalment in the trilogy.
21 July 2006
Warning: Spoilers
So, I finally got around to posting my review for this movie. I must say that BLADE II is probably the best of the trilogy. I absolutely6 refused to watch this sequel until I'd seen the original. After I did, I wanted to see this one as soon as possible. I was not let down. I was pleased to see Kris Kristofferson return as Whistler as I enjoyed his performance in the first movie. Of course, Wesley Snipes is excellent as Blade once again. I liked how this film made use of an ensemble cast as this time, the humans and vampires are in danger and Blade must team up with a crack team of vamps who were being trained to kill him.

I was especially surprised when I heard that Luke Goss, whom I knew from 80s boy band Bros would play the big bad vamp Nomak in this film. But he is excellent any time he is on screen, very menacing. Ron Perlman and Matt (FAST AND THE FURIOUS) Schulze are very good as two of the reluctant vamps teaming up with Blade and Norman Reedus is very good as the two-faced Skud.

The action scenes are all handled brilliantly. and the final death of 'good' vamp Nyssa is very moving. All in all, a brilliant film.
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Hi-Riders (1978)
7/10
Great high octane action!
21 July 2006
Warning: Spoilers
HI-RIDERS is a little-known film, but when I finally got to see it I was not disappointed. I knew the movie would feature great car action, and it does indeed. The cars all look brilliant and the racing and chase sequences are filmed excellently. The performances range from okay to atrocious, the worst offender being Stephen McNally as bad guy Mr. Lewis. Then again, his character is genuinely unpleasant. He seeks revenge on the gang for the death of his son, which was pretty much an accident. Then again, the film is probably just trying to show that rich guys like Lewis are all scum. A bit preachy, considering our heroes drink and drive. Even so, the cars are excellent. There's a Firebird, a Dodge Charger and a Mercury Cougar all on display.

Darby Hinton is good as Mark, the latest member of the Hi-Riders and so is Wm J. Beaudine as Hi-Rider leader T.J. (according to IMDb, this was the only film Beaudine ever did. If that's true, it's a shame because he's very good here}. I know Neville Brand was a big star in the 40s and 50s, so I think it's a shame that he has a part here that could have been mailed in.

The ending of the film is very abrupt, though, as the surviving Hi-Riders get revenge on Mr. Lewis for killing their friends, but it just ends there. That said, HI-RIDERS is a very enjoyable picture and I'm glad to have seen it at long last. And I'm glad that a fellow IMDb user feels the same way about it as I do.
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8/10
A brilliant thriller in the Halloween mould.
21 July 2006
Warning: Spoilers
I finally saw this film recently, and I have to say that I enjoyed it thoroughly. Some people might complain that guys like Martin Landau and Jack Palance didn't have much to do in the movie, but they were brilliant. Landau as the crazed preacher is a bit over the top, but he's very good. His opening nightmare about head psychiatrist Donald Pleasence is pretty freaky. To be fair, we find out later that it's the result of a threat Pleasence uses to calm him down. Pleasence is very good in a role which I think casts him as a different version of his Dr. Loomis persona. Wheras Loomis believed that there was no good at all left in Michael Myers, his ALONE IN THE DARK character, Dr. Bain, believes that all people with any kind of mental defect should be treated with compassion. It is a noble sentiment, but that belief ultimately costs him his life at the hands of Landau.

As the other three escapees, Jack Palance, the late Erland Van Lidth and Philip Clark are all very good. I was actually surprised at how menacing Van Lidth was as child molester Ronald. I had seen him in THE WANDERERS but knew him mostly as Dynamo from THE RUNNING MAN, his last role before his untimely death. He proves here that he can be really menacing as a psychopath. I see that VALENTINE took a note from this movie as Clark suffers from nosebleeds every time he kills someone.

THE A-TEAM's Dwight Schultz is very good as the everyman who has to fight for his life against the escaped lunatics. Overall, the film is very good and I'm glad to have finally seen it. However, there were a few contrived parts, such as the lunatics believed that Schultz had killed his predecessor which is why they go after him during the power cut. But when only Palance is left alive and is about to kill Schultz, the power comes back on and the TV shows Schultz's predecessor alive and well. Also, I thought it was a bit stupid that the lunatics are kept in the hospital by a special electronic security system, but the staff didn't seem to think a power cut could happen. These minor gripes aside, ALONE IN THE DARK is an excellent film. Be prepared for some scares though.
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6/10
An enjoyable, but flawed, picture.
10 April 2006
Warning: Spoilers
I have METEOR MAN on video and I enjoy it a lot. BUt the film does have flaws. For instance, I know from reading IMDb's trivia on this film that a lot was cut out that could have made the film better, such as a story involving Meteor Man's relationship with his ex etc. Also, while there is certainly an impressive line-up of fine black performers, most of them are given thankless cameos, examples being Bill Cosby and the late Luther Vandross. Cosby appears as a homeless man who also has meteor power who ultimately helps Meteor Man in the end but he has no dialogue (No human dialogue anyway) and Vandross is an equally mute assistant to Batman's Frank Gorshin.

These gripes aside, METEOR MAN is a great family film and very funny as well. Robert Townsend is great in the lead as the reluctant superhero and so is Eddie (UNDERCOVER BROTHER) Griffin as his best friend. Roy Fegan is a scene stealer as head villain Simon. Watch out for a not-famous-yet Don Cheadle as his number two. Tiny Lister appears as another member of the Golden Lords gang. He seems to be reprising his role of Zeus from the Hulk Hogan movie NO HOLDS BARRED as he's playing a muscle-bound freak who communicates with grunts and shrieks. IT's a shame though as Lister proved in films like FIFTH ELEMENT and POSSE that he was a capable actor.

At times the movie does get too sentimental and I thought it was bit corny having one of the Meteor powers being the ability to talk to dogs. BUt it's a harmless enough picture and I give it a thumbs-up
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Cyborg Cop (1993)
6/10
Not excellent, but good enough.
10 November 2005
Warning: Spoilers
Another film which I picked up a low-price DVD release of. This is the first David Bradley film I've seen. I have videos of American NINJA 3 & 4 but I haven't really watched either of them yet. I can see why they cast Bradley in those films as he looks like a taller, dark-haired version of Michael Dudikoff. Hell, original American NINJA director Sam Firstenberg directs here. Bradley, who plays disgraced DEA agent Jack Ryan, is a great martial artist and his acting abilities are pretty good as well, but sometimes he goes over the top for the sake of 'drama', especially in the scene where he confronts the DEA boss about the mission he sent Jack's brother on a mission he was supposedly killed during.

In keeping with the title of the film, Jack's brother Philip has in fact been turned into a prototype cyborg killer by drug-dealing kingpin Kessel (John Rhys-Davies). Davies is great as the bad guy in the film (wearing the trademark Firstenberg white suit, as worn by the villains in the first two American NINJA pictures) but what's the deal with his accent. It's constantly shifting. Is he supposed to be South African or what? That said, Davies excels as the main bad guy. He get a lot of funny lines. For example, after one incompetent employee is shot dead by his henchman and falls against a wall, staining it with blood, Kessel moans 'I just had that wall painted!'.

Another great performance is given by the late Rufus Swart as Quincy, Kessel's cyborg enforcer. He is an emotionless killing machine who seems virtually unstoppable. I knew Swart had played a rather wussy character in the MST3K film SPACE MUTINY, so it surprised me that they'd cast him as a TERMINATOR character. But he looks really menacing and executes several people in a rather grisly way. He has a great fight with Jack in the middle and at the end of the movie.

One annoying performance is given by Alonna Shaw as Kate (or Cathy as the credits call her), a nosey reporter. Well, she's annoying at first but then turns out okay as she starts to fall for Jack. Jack gives her the cold treatment at first because of the press coverage her paper gave of the incident which lead to his disgrace at the start of the film, but he cuts her some slack eventually. Like most action movie romances, this one develops very quickly and causes you to go 'Huh?', but it sure beats them fighting. Most of the big action is saved for the climax of the picture, and Firstenberg handles it brilliantly. In conclusion, CYBORG COP is flawed, but that doesn't stop it from being entertaining. But I'm still glad I got it cheap.
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A.P.E.X. (1994)
7/10
A great sci-fi adventure!
10 November 2005
Warning: Spoilers
I only just saw this film yesterday after picking it up from a charity shop. The cover, which showed one of the really cool-looking APEX robots from the film caught my attention immediately. When I watched the picture, I was not let down. In some ways, I guess the plot could be seen as a bit of a TERMINATOR rip off, but there's more to it than that. Time travel is a reality in a Utopian future but only robots, known as APEX units are sent to avoid messing up the time line. But when one APEX sterilisation unit nearly kills a family in 1973, a guy called Nicholas Sinclair travels back to stop it.

The alternate future that Sinclair returns to after accidentally altering the past is truly hellish. An unknown virus has decimated the population and to cap it all, the surviving humans have to battle with the APEX robots. People infected with the virus are shown no compassion whatsoever. Soldiers infected with it are sent on suicide missions. This particularly rattles Sinclair as the woman who was his wife in his own time line is such a person.

Sinclair struggles to set things right while facing hostility from some troop members and attacks from the robots. For a low budget sci-fi movie, this picture is very good. The action scenes are handled brilliantly and the acting from the ensemble group is very good and the robots are a very menacing threat.

There were no real big names in the cast but the cast that the film does have are great in their roles. I don't like how much of a jerk they made black soldier Taylor (troop leader Shepherd is forever telling him to shut up) but I guess no film is completely perfect. I intend to try and see some more of Mr. Phillip J. Roth's films to see what they're like. I must say though that I am glad to have APEX in my possession.
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The Fog (1980)
9/10
"We are cursed!"
7 November 2005
Warning: Spoilers
It was not until recently that I finally saw this Carpenter classic all the way through, and I must say that I was not disappointed. This picture is truly terrifying and the subtlety of the scares is excellent. For the names of the characters I saw that Carpenter went into in-joke overdrive. I knew ESCAPE FROM NEW YORK Had characters called Romero and Cronenberg (presumably after the directors) but get a load of this: there are characters called Nick Castle (named after the original Michael Myers and Carpenter's writing partner on ESCAPE FROM NEW YORK), Tommy Wallace (named after this film's production designer, editor and one of the Fog Ghosts as well), Dan O'Bannon (after the sci-fi author) and a coroner named Dr. Phibes (after the Vincent Price character). But despite these corny jokes, the film works well. The tension barely lets up, and whenever the Fog rolls in, you know trouble is never far away.

Adrienne Barbeau, Jamie Lee Curtis, Tom Atkins, Janet Leigh and Hal Holbrook are all excellent in their roles. The same can't be said about Nancy Loomis. She was in Carpenter's earlier pic ASSAULT ON PRECINCT 13 and was dreadful in it. Here, her so-called acting abilities have not improved. There's also a very good cameo at the top of the movie by John Houseman as a teller of spooky stories. Carpenter's music is excellent as always. I like the way that the Fog Ghosts are shown mostly as silhouettes for most of the film. THat makes them even more spooky. Knowing Hollywood these days, the recent remake will probably show more of them, which is unnecessary. The ASSAULT ON PRECINCT 13 remake was pretty good, but I don't think that one of THE FOG was necessary, especially when the original is so scary and memorable.

Overall, THE FOG is not to be missed. It's a Carpenter gem.
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8/10
A brilliant Burt movie.
14 October 2005
Warning: Spoilers
I have loved WHITE LIGHTNING ever since I was a kid and I'm glad I now own the DVD. This was before Burt got his moustache and before he started doing comical pictures. Here Burt proves he can handle the serious stuff as the story of this movie is very serious. Burt plays Gator McKlusky, an ex-con out to avenge the death of his kid brother at the hands of uber-crooked sheriff Ned Beatty. Beatty makes a truly hateful bad guy as he strives to keep his jurisdiction of Bogen County, Arkansas, the way he likes it ie: with him as the absolute ruler.

Reynolds agrees to help some federal agents prove that Beatty is taki9ng money from moonshiners but finds himself in a difficult moral position as it may mean betraying friends of his family. Ultimately, there are a lot of cool car chases and nail-biting drama as we head towards the final clash between Reynolds and Beatty. There is great support from Jennifer Billingsley, Bo Hopkins, R.G. Armstrong and Matt Clark, and the stunts (arranged by Hal Needham who would later direct Burt in SMOKEY AND THE BANDIT and CANNONBALL RUN) are excellent. This film is a must-see
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