Sunday, October 24, 2010

Smokin' Aces 2: Assassins' Ball (2010)

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Tagline:

May the best hit man survive!

Back of DVD:

The director of Smokin' Aces and Narc brings you back into the adrenaline-pumping world of blood, bullets and bad-asses. Packed with insane mercenaries, sexy assassins and more of the fan-favourite Tremor family. This all-new explosive film brings together a cast of grisly veterans (Tom Berenger and Vinnie Jones) and sizzling newcomers to tell the story of a low-level FBI agent with a high-price on his head.

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Movie Review:

I had somehow missed out on seeing Smokin' Aces when it came out in 2006. Looking back I don't think I saw much at the cinema that year. But I finally caught up with the movie not so long ago when I found the Bluray cheap and thoroughly enjoyed it. It was a smart action movie with big guns, likeable and funny characters and a clever twist. It had a little of the vibe that made Snatch so fantastic. And any movie where Ben Affleck is billed as the leading role and dies in the first act is good by me. Sorry if I spoiled it for anyone.

Early this year the same director came out with a direct-to-DVD sequel (though I think it's actually a prequel) starring only a couple of the original cast. As usual with this sort of thing, the budget is slashed and the A-grade stars not affordable, but that's cool in the DTV world because we get the likes of Vinnie Jones and Tom Berenger, both classic action stars in their own realms. The other good thing with DTV sequels is they rely less on creating a new and original story and concentrate more on the bodycount. Just rehash the same old shit but add more explosions. Win!

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The general plot is quite simple. Walter Weed (Tom Berenger) is just an FBI clerk but for some reason there is a hit out on him tomorrow morning at 3am. The word has spread and it is expected that the best assassins will be on their way to collect their bounty. Agent Baker (Clayne Crawford) is in charge of keeping Walter secure until the deadline passes and a plan is put into action to hide him in a secure bunker underground in an undisclosed location. With the amount of men involved in this operation and the sheer amount of concrete between Walter and the outside world, how could anyone possibly get to him by the 3am deadline?

Tom Berenger is fantastic as Walter Weed, I mean really really good. He plays the role of a disillusioned FBI desk jockey superbly and has some great emotional scenes with his protecting agents. I only really know him from Sniper (and the two sequels which I have not yet watched - expect reviews soon) and he seems to keep a low profile doing TV movies and the like and then once every so often come out with a Training Day, or most recently Inception. A class actor all the way.

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Vinnie Jones is, well, Vinnie Jones. And that's awesome. Any movie he is in instantly becomes worthy of a watch, even the delirium of Japanese comedy Survive Style 5 (where he plays.. a hitman). The guy plays the same hitman character in every single move you see; or at least if not a hitman, a real hard arse. His role is not the largest in this, even though he is the main feature of the cover, but at least they don't do an Affleck to him and finish him off in the first act. His best scene is his opener, where he is hammering large nails into a guys head, systematically shutting down that portion of his brain. Vinnie gives it his usual madcap hitman performance - he must really love these roles!

We don't quite get the same array of awesome characters that we do in the first movie, particularly with the Tremor family. It is good to see them back (at least their relatives) but the original Neo-nazi family, lead by the awesome Kevin Durand, is far superior to their hillbilly cousins presented here (though Maury Sterling does reprise his role as Lester). That's the real problem with this sequel. Outside Tom Berenger, you don't feel anything for any of the characters. In the first you sympathised with hitgirls Georgia and Shatrice, you hated the double-crossing Buddy Israel and you felt something for Ray Liotta when he snuffed it (sorry again). In Smokin' Aces 2 there isn't any real bond with the characters. The only minor relationship that is explored (briefly) is that of Vinnnie and hitgirl Ariella Martinez, a gorgeous and dangerous girl who uses her skills of seduction to get close to an enemy and kiss them with a poison lip mask. Though I'm not really sure how that would have help her get close to a guy held in a bunker.

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BUT you aren't here for all that pussy-whipping relationship malarky, this is DTV action and you want GUNS GUNS GUNS. Well there is plenty of that here; the bar shootout being the major pinnacle of the action in this movie, and the most weaponry being provided by the hillbilly Tremor family. Baby Boy Tremor is the funniest of the family, with his fascination of circus midgets ending in the firing out of a canon of not one but two midgets, wired with explosives, into the wall of the bar. He also completely decimates the bar with his minigun, not leaving much for the others to do! Daddy Tremor gets in a sweet headshot with a high calibre rifle complete with brain sliding down the side of the wall. Sure it's more obviously CGI than the first movie, and the gun is not as awesome as the ridiculous 50 cal. used in the first movie, but it's still effective.

The most successful killer of the bunch has to be Lazlo Soot, once again played by Tommy Flanagan, who with his face-masks manages to convince everyone that he is an FBI agent and literally walk in the door of the bunker.

This is great fun and definitely on the higher end of DTV action, alongside similar movie The Tournament. If you've seen the first Smokin' Aces through to its conclusion then you have an idea how this movie will be resolved. Fans of the first movie who appreciate DTV films will be all over this. Fans of the first movie that don't know any Steven Seagal flicks post-Under Siege 2.. well, they probably won't.

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The Video:

A glorious 1080p video presentation with a thumping DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack. Perfect presentation for a movie like this; too good in fact, with the CGI explosions looking more obvious in HD! Runtime 88 minutes.

NOTE: I can't screenshot Blurays so I have included an assortment of images I found on Google.

Sourced From:

JB HiFi for $13.

Trailer:

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Snake Eater (1989)

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Tagline:

Don't shake his rattle!

Back of DVD:

Junior is a big man with a big appetite for violence, a backwoods behemoth who loves murder, arson, rape and torture. All in all, Junior is a real snake. And a SnakeEater is coming to get him. Lorenzo Lamas (Falcon Crest) stars as the SnakeEater, a former member of a crack Marine Search and Destroy unit. Now he's a cop with a personal... and lethal... mission: search out and destroy Junior, the conscious-less killer who murdered his parents and kidnapped his sister. And he's going to take you along every thrill-packed inch of the way!

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Movie Review:

On the surface this looks like the perfect bad action movie. Lorenzo Lamas, an ex-marine-now-cop who doesn't play by the rules avenges the death of his family the way the marines showed him how - violence, and lots of it. Somehow though, the whole doesn't add up to the sum of its parts no matter how much I wanted it to.

Snake Eater starts like the majority of 80's police actioners do, a sting. A couple of comic relief cops are on a stakeout at a warehouse with Lamas (known as "Soldier") inside on his radio singing Kumbayah to amuse himself. He flips poker cards and wears sunglasses indoors; a real badass. His suspect turns up, a beautiful woman who insists Lamas strip as to prove he is not wearing a wire. He complies, only if she does the same, which thankfully she does. Boobs by five minutes, this movie is already gaining traction, and when Lamas again reiterates he is not wired she responds "Honey it looks like you are carrying the whole radio station". Then they get down to business (the sexy kind I mean) but it's all cut short as some cliched drug dealer types burst in and ruin the fun. Threatening to take the money from Lamas and not provide the drugs, he flips a switch in the floor and sends spikes through the guys feet! But with no proof to convict, the other cops call Lamas a nutcase and take his badge.

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See it started great. Then it got weird. A family on a boat somewhere get attacked by a bunch of rednecks who stuff a live fish in Dad's mouth, boil Mum's face in a cooking pot and kidnap the daughter ("This here some prime pussy!"). Then they blow the boat up. I know we are meant to hate these guys, and I do, but they are so like a hillbilly Three Stooges it is hard not to laugh at them. In fact, that happens a lot in this movie. I find myself laughing at shit like stupid rednecks just as I laugh at the bar fights, but it's a different laughter - a creepy one. I'm sorry but rednecks freak me out (I guess that's why I've never wanted to see Deliverance) and I'm not here to be freaked out. I watch bad horror movies for that not bad action.

Speaking of bar fights, there's a doozy here. Lamas riding on his motorbike stacks it into the wall of an outdoor bar. Composing himself and getting a beer, he is assaulted by a rough looking patron who pours a beer over his head. The guy is a tank and after failing to bring him down with two beer bottles, Lamas canes him with a pizza tray. Then for some reason he rips the guys tooth out. Another guy tries some karate shit but Lamas throws a beer bottle at his head and he falls. Funny stuff, but laughing time is over when Lamas is informed that his family (the ones on the boat) are dead and his sister missing.

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Lamas rides to the marina that his family rented the boat from and meets the owner, an old loveable ex-bikie gang chap, who says he doesn't know what happened to his family and why don't you ask those rednecks over there. This of course gets him knocked out by a boat oar but the marina owners' daughter (or grand-daughter, or wife I'm not really sure) shoots into the air and they leave, but not before the old guy bursts out of his shed on his own motorbike, overshoots and flies straight into the ocean. I had to rewatch that part as it was the funniest thing in the whole movie and so utterly random. Anyhow, Lamas sleeps off his injury then takes his now converted motorbike-into-jetski on the hunt for rednecks.

I feel the whole "sons of the soil" plot was ill-advised. Rednecks just aren't very fun bad guys in my opinion and there is too much shit like redneck #3 playing with himself while Lamas' kidnapped sister takes a shower etc. I will say that the lead redneck, Junior, must have played his part well because I truly despised him by the end. Thankfully (and obviously) Lamas wipes them all out and there's a neat shootout at the end with who's left. One gets blown up with a calcium bomb in Lamas' most Rambo scene of the movie.

Although I was disappointed with Snake Eater, you do need to see this. Parts of it are brilliant bad-action, parts ridiculous comedy, but the character of Snake Eater is the perfect bad-action hero; vigilante cop with Rambo skills, a motorbike and even a few one liners. Actually, that's just Cobra isn't it. Snake Eater also sets itself up for two sequels. The second, Snake Eater II: The Drug Buster, I think is more a traditional cop-with-sidekick affair and the third - Snake Eater III: His Law - Lamas takes on a bikie gang. I haven't seen these yet (reviews in the future folks) but I'm going to suggest that Snake Eater is a series that gets better in its sequels. Let's see if I'm right.

Also it so happened that reader Ty reviewed this movie today on his own blog by co-incidence, so make sure you check out his opinion as well!

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The Video:

LionsGate released all three of these movies on R1 DVD. An acceptable enough full screen transfer (as it was shot, I believe), grainy and as any movie of it's type and budget nothing special to look at. Sound is fine. Runtime 97 minutes.

Sourced From:

An eBay seller for a fiver.

Trailer:

More Screens:

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Sunday, October 17, 2010

I Am Omega (2007)

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Tagline:

The last man alive must battle a planet of the dead.

Back of DVD:

Mark Dacascos (The Crow) stars as the lone survivor of a deadly plague doomed to an eternal battle with the mutant creatures that now control the Earth.

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Movie Review:

I have been meaning to check out some movies released by The Asylum for a long time now, but I had gathered that their brand of mockbuster was really quite atrocious; so bad that even bad movie fans steered clear. It wasn't until I read a favourable review of The Da Vinci Treasure over at the DTV Connoisseur that I decided to give them a chance, but the local releases were still to expensive and I don't ever get around to renting. Well luckily this month my favourite purveyor of cheap DVDs Flashback Entertainment released a whole bunch of Asylum movies for the excellent price of $2. At that price, I don't care how bad the movie is, I'll check it out.

As you've probably guessed, I am Omega is a rip off of I am Legend (which was a rip off of Omega Man, and Last Man on Earth before it) and was released to DVD in the US the same month that the Will Smith movie hit the cinema. Instead of Will Smith though we get martial artist Mark Dacascos, a proper B-movie action star from movies like American Samurai and Kickboxer 5. This is also my first Mark Dacascos movie for the blog.

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A mother is frantically packing her suitcase and organising her son for a quick escape in their car for reasons unknown. Those reasons are made apparent when the woman's skull is cracked open by a zombie creature, her body sliding down the windscreen with an amusing sqqueeeeaaakk sound effect. The son tries to help but is also knocked off.

Awaking from a bad dream, Dacascos composes himself. Hearing noises outside, he grabs his machete and pistol (as you do) and finds three zombies lurking; one he dispatches with a quick shot to the head, another's head he cuts off and the last gets caught in a trap. This is obviously a common occurrance and Dacascos goes back to sleep. His radio alarm clock starts going nuts which upsets Dacascos who shouts "There is no radio!". Instantly the radio shuts up. I guess we are meant to understand that the poor guy is getting a but unstable, what with all the zombie killings and such.

I actually really liked the first half hour. Dacascos didn't say a damn word. It's not that when he spoke he ruined the movie, he was adequate, it's just that the build up at the beginning was good in the same way that Cast Away had Tom Hanks going crazy and talking to a basketball, Dacascos has a mannequin he talks to. There was also very little music and limited sound (just the zombie splattering), probably all for budgetary reasons, but this helped the atmosphere a lot. He spends most of the time driving to various locations in the city and attaching what look like timed explosives to strategic points. He also goes on with a daily routine, stopping in at a store being manned by a corpse and buying beer, leaving the money on the counter. We also get a training montage!

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Dacascos keeps checking his email in the first act. Let's forget the fact that he has electricity, that he has a working phone line, an Internet connection and that there are still working email servers in this post-apocalyptic world. He ignores the messages a few times. You can tell in his eyes that he is scared of what might happen if he opens them up. Dacascos probably hasn't talked to a human for years at this point. He finally does though and sees a woman on her webcam - Brianna - who in her excitement to see someone, freaks Dacascos out so much he falls off his chair and hides in the corner of the room. Eventually he talks with her and learns that her blood contains the cure to the zombie plague. He also learns that there is a new city in the mountains run by the military where the survivors are gathering.

The next day these two guys, Mike and Vincent, who say they are from the new city come by to visit Dacascos. They have monitored his communications with Brianna and want his help in locating her so they can use her blood to cure the plague. He disagrees so they blow his house up with a handy bazooka! We don't see any explosion though due to the complete lack of budget, the director just stops filming behind Dacascos and we have to use our imaginations. Homeless, he now agrees to help find Brianna and the journey begins.

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The leading lady Brianna (Jennifer Lee Wiggins) was pretty crap, though I'm putting that down to her lines and not her skills. In fact the whole 'rescue the damsel in distress' plotline wasn't very convincing. So Mike and Vincent needed Dacascos to find Brianna because he knew the city tunnels? I thought this was pretty funny because all we saw was one sewer pipe. Shit I could have found her there. And they found her in a pet shop in anyway. Confusing. She does get a small comic moment when Dacascos prevents her, twice, from shooting a zombie at close range.

Let's talk about the best part of the movie, the zombies. Now technically they are infected humans from some sort of plague we don't hear about, but they are far more brutal and bloodthirsty like a Romero zombie, and not like the hooded vampires from Omega Man, and certainly not like the CGI "Mummy" travesties from I Am Legend. The makeup was actually pretty good, for the most part. The zombies turn up at random intervals to attempt to chew on Dacascos, but he always thwarts them. There's a few good kills and Dacascos kicks a few zombies in the head. In one scene he takes on five of them with his nun-chucks as if they were an 80's movie Latino knife gang ("I'm so fuckin' tired of you bitches!"). There's also a machete to skull and, my favourite shown in the trailer below, when Dacascos puts his shotgun in the zombies mouth and blows its head clear off.

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I understand with Asylum pictures that the production never meets the expectations aluded to by the cover. I quite like their cover artworks, they are polished in a SciFi channel kind of way, which you would think would be enough reason to stay away from these movies. The cover for Alien vs. Hunter shows different aliens to what you get in the movie (some sort of spider creature). On I Am Omega we see Renchard (Dacascos) standing on top of a truck with a shotgun, defending himself against an army of infected zombies. This isn't that inaccurate but what we are seeing is the Star Wars 1997 version of the Han Solo chasing after the Stormtroopers scene - friggen hundreds of them. What you actually get in the movie is the Star Wars 1977 version - five. Other than that, a good cover.

Not a bad first look into the works of The Asylum. The movie got worse as it continued and the ending was stupid - there's even a Weekend at Bernies moment - but it was nowhere near the disc coaster I was expecting. And there were a few decent kills. I look forward to my next adventure with The Asylum.

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The Video:

The picture is sharp and clear as all shot-on-HD films generally look and the stereo soundtrack is fine, but there is a strange anomaly that I assume is part of the movie and not the disc. The top 1/4 of the picture has a gradient that goes from dark to light, down the screen. I assumed this was a cheap attempt to alter the skies appearance but they left it on all the time, inside rooms, cars and at night. Not sure what was going on there but it was a little distracting; I thought my TV was failing. Runtime 87 minutes.

Sourced From:

dvdwholesaler.com.au, an online outlet for Flashback Entertainment DVDs.

Trailer:

More Screens:

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Friday, October 8, 2010

One Man Force (1989)

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Tagline:

Jake Swan. Narcotics Detective. 6' 8" - 280 lbs. 21" biceps, 55" chest. No one enforces the law... like he does!

Back of DVD:

Detective Jake Swan does things by the book - his book. But when a drug bust he plans results in his partner's death, Jake goes on a rampage that ends in his suspension from the force and a quick slide into booze and guilty depression. Trying to hold himself and his partner's family together, Jake turns to private investigation, taking on the bizarre case of a kidnapped rock star. The trail descends into an underworld of drug smuggling, money laundering and international corruption, putting Jake against the same people responsible for his partner's murder. Only this time Jake uses maximum force to guarrantee that justice is served.

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Movie Review:

Now this is Explosive Action! This movie is fantastic! John Matuszak is hilarious as the renegade cop that won't do things by the book, and that supporting cast: Sam J. Jones, Richard Lynch, Charles Napier, Ronny Cox! They even got an authentic, one-hit-wonder 80's pop tartlet to play.. an 80's pop tartlet (Stacey Q)! Amazing stuff indeed.

Pete (Sam J. Jones, Flash Gordon!) and Jack (John Matuszak, "Sloth" from The Goonies!) are buddy cops trying to bust an illegal Mexican drug operation. With tips provided by snitch drug dealer Chico, Pete and Jack go to their Lieutenant (Ronny Cox, Robocop) to get a search warrant but he denies it due to lack of hard evidence; the man wants FACTS! The two disregard Ronny Cox and go to the warehouse anyway, stopping by first to threaten Cico the snitch that if his intelligence was bad, Jack would "blow off your head and shit down your neck". They sneak into the warehouse and as the deal is about to proceed announce their presence, which of course results in a mass shoot-out.

Pete gets shot and in a fit of blind rage Jack absolutely loses his shit, picks up a GOD DAMN REFRIGERATOR and crushes the shooter into a pylon! See the animation to your right, it never gets old. The Mexican boss flees in his Rolls Royce and Jack carries Pete into the sunset. Action gold.

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Some time later and Jake still pissed, he find Chico in his van and beats the crap out of him, smashing his van to pieces in the process. Jack gets arrested, chewed out by Ronny Cox and then suspended from duty to which he simply yells "Fuck you!" and pushes his stationary off his desk. It takes an angry man to yell at Ronny Cox. I saw what Cox did to the last guy that did that; sent Clarence Boddicker around to his house to kneecap him.

Meanwhile there is a new report on television about a pop singer (Stacey Q, lol's) who was kidnapped at gunpoint during a concert. That night a guy who says he is the girls manager comes to see Jack about some private investigation work in locating her and he agrees to help out. Getting a lead from the station evidence room Jack checks out a local nightclub which, like all 80's action movie nightclubs, is a hive of bad fashion and bad music. This one takes the cake though with some total freaks on display including a guy on a leash. The Mexican guys from the drug deal gone bad see him and attack which then turns into a total stacks on with transvestites piling on top of him! Jack breaks free and (this is awesome) grabs the guy on the leash and swings him around like a helicopter propeller, knocking everyone into the walls and the ground! This is the best movie ever.

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The next day Jack goes to see his manager client at his house but finds him dead in his bath. Initially arrested for murder, good ol' Ronny Cox bails him out after Jack explains that he thinks the kidnappers are the same people that killed his partner Pete. Cox tells him to stay away but of course he doesn't listen, it wouldn't be a bad action movie if he did. This is when we finally see Charles Napier and Richard Lynch make their appearance as the men behind an investment firm who are dealing with the Mexican drug dealers on the side. It would seem the drug dealers are holding Stacey Q as in lieu of payment due by Lynch and co. The only real negative I have to say in this movie is that Charles Napier is sorely underused and Sam Jones dies too early. Napier only has a few lines and Lynch doesn't do much until the end, but he gets a good speech in at least.

There's just so much more gold in this movie. Jack has a car chase with Chino, shoots his windows out and drives him off a ramp and into a boat, which explodes. Jack gets captured, put into a packing crate and like the Hulk bursts out of it, on the back of a moving truck, strangles the driver and causes the car to drive off a cliff; all the while yelling "You killed my partner!" The car explodes and Jack cooly says: "Damn. I forgot to bring my marshmellows." Jack not content with throwing a fridge at a guy in the beginning throws a Pepsi machine at a guy at the end. And then there's the awesome final shootout that sees one of the bad guys (guess which one) hanging from a rope upside down swinging in and out of a blazing fire.

One Man Force is one damned fine bad-action movie. All the boxes are ticked. A loose cannon cop? A hard-arse captain? Car chases with explosions? Mexican drug dealers? Pick this one up and enjoy with friends; it's a riot.

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The Video:

A nice, grainy 80's movie picture that fits the movie perfectly. The audio was a little treble-y and clipped occasionally when John Matuszak kept screaming but otherwise fine. IMDb lists the movie as originally being filmed widescreen and there are scenes that would agree with this statement, but all the DVDs released seem to be fullscreen. Runtime 87 minutes.

Thanks to McCabe for the screenshots (my computer wouldn't read the DVD) and animated fridge-throwing image!

Sourced From:

eBay UK seller for a pound.

Trailer:

More Screens:

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