Sunday, May 30, 2010

Ghetto Blaster (1989)


Tagline: He wants to take the fight to them... even if it means pursuing the gangs all the way back to the ghetto.

Back of VHS: Street gangs have turned a peaceful community into a war zone. Automatic gunfire rips through the night. Innocent victims are mowed down in drive-by shootings and the cops say they're powerless to stop the assault. But this neighbourhood has a new power. The gang's rule is over - a Speacial Forces vietnam vet has just declared war.

Movie Review:

Ghetto Blaster

From the opening 80's electro-rap music and MTV style quick editing I knew that this would be good. Sometimes you just get that feeling, y'know? A lot of the time it's all over within the first ten minutes and you start looking at the clock on the DVD player, but not this time.

Ghetto Blaster. Let's just stop a moment and consider how freaking awesome that title is. Of course it relates to the 80's all-in-one portable stereo system that many of us had, but in the bad action context think about it. It's a guy Blasting the shit out of the Ghettos. Ghetto Blaster. That's totally sweet. It says everything you need it to say, in the same way that the movie Cyborg Cop is about a cyborg cop.

This is basically a vigilante movie. Travis (played by Richard Hatch, who according to IMDB has done various bit parts in TV shows over the years and a few movies, but you may know him as Tom Zarek from the reboot of Battlestar Galactica) comes home for holidays or something with his daughter Lisa. His parents say that the town has changed in his three year abscence and that he should be careful out there. But hey, it's his home turf, why should he? What could be that different?


The town is controlled by a vicious gang, that's what. Straight away we get a car chase with shootout (yes, bins are hit and boxes avoided) between two rival gangs. One car crashes and one of the occupants drags himself out of the wreckage, pleading for mercy from his rival; but no such luck I'm afraid. And by the looks of it he was the last member of that gang, as we don't seem that particular affinity again. The movie concentrates on a gang called The Hammers (not M.C. Hammer, this is a latino gang) who are run by a guy calling himself Jesus (pronounced Hey Zeus!) and his second-in-command Chato. Travis first has a run in with them as he goes to his car and fights two of the lower-rungs away with his threat of giving them "an ass full of boot". It sure scared me.

There's a lot of that MTV flick-screen directing here - showing half a second glimpses of ten scenes all strung together over the bad electro music. We see shots of graffiti, gang colours, etc. It's pretty funny and dates the movie badly (in a good way). Travis goes to see his dad at the store that he runs. Turns out his dad is the General from Predator, so that's cool. On his way out he sees a hot girl drop her shopping (an old trick) and he goes to help her pick it up. She says her name is Gina and that her brother is Chato, a member of The Hammers. Later that night when Travis is helping his dad in the shop some more Hammers gang members come to claim protection money. When he refuses he's shot dead and Travis is beaten up.

You can see where this is going. Strangely though the death of his father doesn't cause Travis to go vigilante yet. He takes over the running of the shop and meets one of the old regulars, Mr. Dobson, a nice old man who takes his cat around with him. He of course is set on fire and his cat killed. This is what it takes for Travis to seek revenge. I found that quite odd, as he only just met the man. Maybe he really liked cats.


From here on in Travis lays traps for The Hammers like exploding ghetto blasters, mouse traps (!) and tieing motorbikes to poles so the rider is flung off. Annoying, but not life threatening. Jesus (Hey Zeus!) demands satisfaction and we play cat and mouse between Travis and the gang in who gets revenge on who.

I have to mention the best scene. Travis gets a tip off that a drug deal is going down in the park so he goes to cause a ruckus, dressed as a clown. This scene is brilliant. In full Binky the Clown getup he ties Jesus to the bench and tells him if he moves the balloons tied to his hands will explode.

This is a lot of fun. It's only 82 minutes long and doesn't stop to get boring at any point. The ending is suitably bad-action with abandoned warehouse explosions, car explosions, uzi gunfights and a cheesy drawn-out death sequence. There is no DVD of Ghetto Blasters so you need to track down a VHS (eBay and Amazon have a few cheap) or look for a torrent. Either way make sure you do.


The Video:

I watched an xvid rip sourced from a VHS. As with most VHS tapes the blacks were washed out the and whites too bright. The middle-colours were generally okay though diluted and the sound was fine. I don't think you will get any better with a movie like this, but hopefully one day someone will surprise me with a restored DVD edition.

Sourced From:

BitTorrent; though I think I will pick up a VHS!


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Top of the World (1998)

Tagline: There is only one problem with being on top of the world... there's only room for one.

Back of DVD: Taking a gamble on life can be a die hard experience!

Ex-cop, Ray Mercer (Peter Weller from Robocop) has just been released from the state penitentiary and no sooner is he free, than he's back in trouble again. But it's not all his fault - his soon-to-be-ex-wife works at a Las Vegas casino run by powerful businessman, Steve Atlas (Dennis Hopper from Speed) and when they stop there to take care of some business, they find themselves caught in the middle of a deadly scheme to rob the casino.

Nothing can stop this deadly operation, except an ex-cop with a knack of finding trouble. With more than a hint of Die Hard in Vegas, TOP OF THE WORLD also stars Tia Carrere (from True Lies), David Alan Grier (from Jumanji) and Joe Pantoliano (from U.S. Marshals). Watch this film if you enjoy an action packed roller coaster ride.

Movie Review:

Well, shit. Dennis Hopper died today after a long battle with cancer. I wasn't planning on reviewing this movie soon as I don't want this to become a Peter Weller blog (though that would be pretty cool) but it did seem fitting that while news sites and other blogs will talk about Easy Rider, Speed and maybe even Waterworld today in their obituaries, that I would take a look at a Dennis Hopper movie that would be overlooked; a little made-for-tv movie Top of the World. This was another movie recommended to me by Matt at the Direct to Video Connoisseur.

The movie starts with the most annoying theme song ever; a radio friendly 80's-style country song with the same name as the movie. It just kept going and going! And it didn't help that the camera panning around the city views was moving so slow I was already starting to grit my teeth. It went for like five minutes, and the damn song shows up at scene changes throughout the movie as well.

Thankfully that is the only bad part of the movie. This is pure b-grade gold. The first scene is Dennis Hopper, a Vegas casino owner, in his office dealing with a gambler at gunpoint who can't pay his debts. Hopper and his associate remain cool-headed throughout the whole dealing and explain to the poor bankrupt guy that "the casino will keep coming after you. They will sell your wife's wedding ring, they will take your organs until the numbers balance", all the while smoking a cigar. Ultimately the poor guy is convinced that doing himself in will allow his wife to claim his life insurance. That's the kind of cold hearted Hopper we deal with in this movie.

Cut to Tia Carrere speeding along to the Nevada prison where Peter Weller has just been released after four years. She wants to end their marriage 'face to face' and thus drives to Vegas for a quick divorce. Weller is less than pleased but has the attitude of "I just want to go home and have a beer" so goes along with it. They end up in Vegas when Carrere goes into the casino to get some cash. At the same time a truck full of guys rocks up to the back entrance and convince their way inside, with weapons mainly, also with the intention of getting some cash; just not by the usual way. It's pretty apparent something bad is going down, and now Weller and Carrere are in the middle of it. Did I mention that Carerre is involved with Hopper? Well, she is.

Weller has some fantastic lines in this movie. "Honey where I've just been, you get in trouble for staring", "Why don't you take that pistol and put it where you can really have fun?". Weller wins the jackpot on a fruit machine and gets to meet the boss Hopper to claim his cheque. Can you feel the tension? That's Weller and Hopper realising they both have Carerre in common.

The crooks in this movie don't mess around either. They have an arsenal of guns and take out anyone that gets remotely in the way of them robbing the casino. This is great for us the viewers as we get a bunch of car chases (one with Weller clinging onto the roof of the getaway truck giving us a monologue of his day so far) and a hell of a lot of explosions. The lead baddie is a good manic, and also seems to be in love with one of the other baddies; a nice touch there.

I should mention more on Dennis Hopper's character casino owner Steve Atlas. This is the perfect role for him and the kind of Hopper roles I enjoy the most. Cold and methodical just like the madman Howard Payne from Speed. He even manages to implicate Weller in the robbery, that's how bad this guy is. He plays off well with Weller in the love-triangle/robbery combo. When he 'catches' Weller he pulls out the "Do you have any idea who I am?" line, to which Weller retorts "Yeah, the Jesus Christ of Craps". Love it. But Hopper isn't the top dog in this flick though. He answers to mob boss Vince "I.. WANT.. MY... MONEY!" Castor played by Joe Pantoliano, who has a hilarious chase scene on a roller coaster.

This is a fantastic bad-action movie that definitely lives up to its ideals of being Die Hard in a casino. Great lines, great action, great Weller and Hopper, and Carrere is nice to look at as always. If you are having a Dennis Hopper retrospective tonight then skip past True Romance and Apocalypse Now. Take a gamble (pun fully intended) on Top of the World.

The DVD: I reviewed the R4 dvd by Hollywood DVD, a cheap label putting out made-for-tv movies. It was presented in OAR 4:3 fullscreen. The transfer was generally quite dark and grainy and the colours not very well defined but still absolutely watchable. The audio was clear and served its purpose. Runtime 94 minutes.

Sourced from: eBay for AU$8.00


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Friday, May 28, 2010

The Exterminator (1980)

In war, you have to kill to stay alive...
On the streets of New York, it's often the same.
...The man they pushed too far

Back of DVD:
Driven by revenge John Eastland (Finty) becomes a on-man task force who annihilates his buddy's attackers then sets out to bring down the city's entire dark underworld. To the public he's a hero but to law enforcement officials The Exterminator is a psychopath, capable of dangerously undermining an entire government administration. Soon The Exterminator gets caught in the cross-hairs of local police, the C.I.A. and the ruthless gangs in a nerve shattering game of cat and mouse that explodes into a surprise climax!

Movie Review:
While reviewing my first title on this blog, Shakedown, there was a scene where the two stars of the movie exited a 42nd street grindhouse. On the wall was a poster for The Exterminator. I bought this DVD only weeks ago and took this as a sign that I should base my second review around it.

The movie starts in Vietnam with a morose music soundtrack playing over the top of the war footage. During a battle with the enemy a few American soldiers are captured and tortured. One lucky chap is decapitated so slowly his head is left dangling - pretty gruesome from the outset - and our main protagonist John (Robert Ginty) is witness to the whole thing. Not surprising that he ends up a bit of a whackjob.

Cut to the present day (1980) and John works in a factory warehouse. While John and his buddy Michael (Steve James) go for a coffee they run into a couple of thugs stealing beer from one of the storage areas. They are attacked, but beat the crap out of the thugs. The next day in a revenge attack John's buddy is seriously injured, never to walk again. John swears to avenge his buddy and proceeds to go on a payback rampage through the city. At first he is only interested in getting even with the thugs (who we learn are hilariously called the "Ghetto Ghouls") from the warehouse but one thing leads to another and John takes it upon himself to clean up the city chasing after robbers of old ladies and corporate shills.

This was a pretty good revenge movie with a few creative kills (lowering a guy into a giant mincer feet first and setting a pedophile on fire being the highlights, and the films opening decapitation). John gets more unstable as the movie goes on and we even see some Vietnam flashbacks. Later on we spend nearly five minutes watching him file down bullets and fill them with mercury. You only do this if you want the bullet to explode on impact, so this guy is clearly out for serious revenge here.

The other interesting character in the film is Detective James Dalton (Christopher George) who is in charge of the investigation of who killed the Ghetto Ghouls gang. During his hunt for John he finds time to take a crack at a nurse from the hospital. He at least succeeds there.

There was some slow moments that could be removed (perhaps that was the fault of the directors cut edition I watched?) but overall it held my interest throughout. As usual with grindhouse movies the poster shows the best part of the movie, so don't expect to see an hour and a half of a guy with a flamethrower. A sequel was made four years later but I believe it is only on VHS. I'll track it down and review it in the future.

The DVD:
Synergy R2 release "The Directors Cut - includes never before seen footage". Having not seen any other version I do not know what extra footage was included in this cut. The presentation was in non-anamoprhic letterbox true to the OAR. Picture and sound quality are pretty reasonable, though the lack of 16x9 enhancement is an oversight. Runtime is 97 minutes.

Sourced From:
eBay for AU$2.25 + shipping from the UK


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Thursday, May 27, 2010

Shakedown (1988)

Whatever you do... don't call the cops!

Back of DVD:
Peter Weller and Sam Elliot blast their way through the underbelly of New York as they team up to get to the bottom of a police corruption scandal in this action thriller.

When a local drug dealer shoots a dishonest cop in self-defence, lawyer Roland Dalton (Weller) and renegade undercover cop Richie Marks (Elliot) join forces to clear him. But when their investigation leads them into a maze of greed and corruption, they learn that in town where everything is for sale, anything can happen. This pulse-pounding adventure features some of the most incredible stunt work and action sequences ever shot.

Movie Review:
Thanks to my friend Matt over at the Direct to Video Connoisseur I have recently found a new love for direct-to-video, shot-for-tv and otherwise little known movies, particularly of the bad action variety. With that in mind I decided to do my own take on these movies, and today I start with Peter Weller's "Shakedown".

Also known by the name "Blue Jean Cop", this late-80's action flick hit pretty much all the right buttons. Part buddy-cop movie (but replace one cop with a lawyer) and part police procedural, this movie had me hooked form the funky Faith No More style intro song.

A drug dealer is approached in a dark alley by a man in regular clothes wanting to buy drugs. The next thing we see is the two men laying on the ground, shot, being attended to by the police. The dealer survived but what he did not know was that the other guy who did not survive was a plain-clothes cop.

Cut to Peter Weller in his kitchen rocking out to Jimmi Hendrix and mixing the worst looking breakfast shake I have ever seen; the only worse thing in this scene is his tie, which his fiance also notices. Weller then goes to have coffee with the wise-cracking doctor from Scrubs (and one of the Bob's from Office Space) and, hilariously, the technician from Robocop 2 who worked on repairing Robocop (played also by Weller) and plays the prosecution lawyer in this movie. As soon as their eyes meet you can tell that there was a history, and that most likely we will see some action from these two. He even pulls out the "what am I, chopped liver?" line. Weller gets told about the case and goes to find his buddy Sam Elliot, a renegade undercover cop.

I loved the next scene for a few reasons. Elliot is asleep in a 42nd street theatre watching a bad action movie. We only see a small part of it, a guy on skis who spins mid air and fires his automatic machine guns at his pursuer. If this is a real movie, I have to see it. Weller catches up with Elliot in the bathroom (nothing kinky), buys him a hotdog (not from the bathroom) and gets a tip on the case to check out the dead cops house. Weller pulls a great line with "I don't wanna fuck with anybody, I just wanna dance." As they leave the cinema you can see posters of The Soldier and The Exterminator and the cinema sign indicates it is also playing Nightmare on Elm Street 3 and The Hidden. A great year.

Elliot and his cop buddies bust an illegal club and we see some good old fashion police brutality with one cop getting too enthusiastic with a tazer. It's clear Elliot is the only one who disapproves and we get our first sign that there are more bad cops involved in this story than just the dead one.

There is some great action in this film. Elliot jumps out a fourth story window and onto a signpost that falls to the ground with him clinging onto it, destroying a car in the process. He and Weller steal a motorbike and chase after a guy in a police car, who ultimately ends up crashing over a bridge and blowing up. We also get a shootout at a fairground (just like in Passenger 57) and a car chase under a jet taking off (also like Passenger 57). The thing is though, that Passenger 57 came out four years after this. Did Shakedown really have that much influence? A taxi chase through the city, an illegal interrogation of Weller by the bad cops complete with a russian roulette scene; it just keeps getting better.

There is also the side story of Weller double-timing his fiance with the technician from Robocop 2. At one point after doing the deed with her he goes home and crawls into bed with his fiance. Very sly, Weller, very sly.

This movie comes highly recommended. It wraps up all the loose ends and definitely deserves to be better known than it currently is. It's not hard to find on or eBay and goes quite cheap so take my word for it and check out Shakedown.

The DVD:
I reviewed the R1 dvd by Universal. It was presented in OAR 16:9 widescreen and was visually and aurally a very pleasant experience. The picture was sharp and the explosions were loud. Avoid the R4 release under the title "Blue Jean Cop" as it is NOT OAR widescreen. Runtime 97 minutes.

Sourced from:
eBay for AU$3.00 + shipping from USA


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