Saturday, December 31, 2011

U.S. Seals 2 (2001)

Us seals 2 poster


Infiltrate. Detonate. Annihilate.

Movie Review:

US Seals 2 1

I love cookie-cutter military action films. I really do. At least when they are done well, anyway. U.S. Seals 2 is one such film. After seeing the review over at the DTV Connoisseur, I knew I had to have it. And when I found it in a UK combo set containing U.S. Seals, U.S. Seals 2, Operation Delta Force and Operation Delta Force 2... for £0.01, I simply could not refuse.

Michael Worth (Fists of Iron) is Lt. Casey Sheppard of the US Seals, under the command of Major Nathan Donnor (Marshall R. Teague). After a botched capture operation where Chief Frank Ratliff (Damian Chapa) executes the hostage, and then later on brutally rapes and kills his sensei's hot daughter Nikki, the team is disbanded and Ratliff makes himself disappear. Years later a military nuclear scientist, Dr. Jane Burrows (Kate Connor) is kidnapped by mercenaries and flown to a secret island to build a bomb for... you guessed it, disgraced ex-Seal and now arms dealer Frank Ratliff. Sheppard is re-instated reluctantly as a Seal and forms a team (in 48 hours, naturally) who can rescue the girl and stop the creation and use of a nuclear missile.

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Sheppard's recruits consist of a rag-tag bunch of born-again criminals, gun-for-hire mercenaries and martial arts experts - including Kamiko, the twin sister (and same actress) to murdered Nikki. The catch is they can't fire weapons on the island due to the methane fallout from a decade old meltdown; one spark and the whole place will go up. This creates a few logic flaws with plenty of car engines turning over and cigarettes being smoked, but whatever. It's the movies.

I had a whale of a time with these seals! (get it? That was a pretty good pun). Isaac Florentine (of Shepherd Patrol, Bridge of Dragons, Ninja, the Undisputed sequels) sure knows how to direct a good action sequence and this movie has plenty of them. We start with a fast military shoot-out at night on a pier, that interrupts an illegal dealing (with a blink-and-you'll-miss-it scene with Velizar Binev) and sees flaming cars hurtle into fuel barrels. Simply amazing B-action! As good as this scene is, it doesn't hold a candle to the hand-to-hand combat and martial arts exhibited at the film's half-way point.

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The scene in question shows the Seals going up against Ratliff and his men, and is the best scene in the movie to these eyes. Ratliff stands up high on a ledge with his buxom blonde by his side then calls on his 'army' to attack. As it's a no-gun policy, his 20 strong team encircle the good guys and much arse kicking ensues. Kamiko rocks her samurai swords, Sheppard uses his feet and the others use a combination of knives, lead pipes and their fists. The Major has a sweet 'air gun' that somehow propels projectiles that bury into a person and melt, without gunpowder. The fight with Artie (Andy Cheng) was proper old school material combining a chain link rope, fancy footwork and a rag at high speed, defence style 70's martial arts.

The lines in the film are delivered direct to camera and sometimes comes off pretty amusing, though the acting is never why we watch these things anyway. The most amusing part of the film was the total over use of the 'woosh' sound effect. Whenever anyone swiped a sword, pulled a gun, kicked their leg or even just turned their head we were treated to a 'woosh' sound. It was hilarious and whilst many would start groaning after ten minutes of this, I just kept laughing and laughing. There's also an underwater scuba diver fight to giggle at.

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This may only have a PG rating but the violence is fast and often brutal. There are at least three guys that get swords through their stomachs, and the act of seppuku in the first act. That being said, it's a fairly bloodless affair for the most part. Not quite cartoon violence but somewhere in between. I am also pleased that no attempt was made to create any romantic relationship between Sheppard and Kamiko; that would have simply slowed the picture down.

U.S. Seals 2 is a solid mercenary bad-actioner from the turn of the century, with a great director and writer managing a solid cast. No messy Avid-farts and epilepsy-enducing techniques utilised here either. Good stuff indeed, and easily the best penny DVD I've ever bought. There is a part 3 to this series as well, US Seals: Dead or Alive aka Frogmen Operation Stormbringer! With a subtitle like that, it has to be awesome.

And, Happy New Year!

US Seals 2 5

The Video:

Solid fullscreen picture, very crisp and good colours and blacks. Punching soundtrack with clear, audible speech. Fine and dandy. Runtime 90 minutes.

Sourced From: on a four-pack set for one penny + postage. Cheapest DVD I've ever bought retail, and there are two double sided discs in this!


More Screens:

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Sunday, November 27, 2011

Android Apocalypse (2006)

Android apocalypse poster


Yesterday they wanted each other dead. Today they need each other to survive.

Movie Review:

Android Apocalypse 11

I'm a serious sucker for SciFi (or SyFy) channel movies and lately I've been on a real kick with them. Giant alien bugs, mutated crocodile-octopus-dinosaurs, and dozens of Henchman #3's from the channel's serial output of the Stargate franchise. Android Apocalypse is another ex-rental I picked up in a bulk lot and quickly shelved for a rainy day. Well it didn't rain today - far from it, it's excruciatingly hot here in Sydney - but I felt it was the right time for some SyFy.

It's a post-apocalyptic future and humanity's last survivors are walled up in the final city of Phoenix. As the air outside is mainly toxic, and roaming mining ships that have gone mental shoot at anything that moves, so androids have been invented to do all the heavy work. Not everybody appreciates their help and a new form of racism begins against these so called 'cogs'. One of these cogs, DeeCee (Joseph Lawrence) is ordered to rescue the son of a Phoenix executive who has wandered outside of the city. This he does, but he takes a hit from one of the roaming droids and needs to go Terminus to be repaired.

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Jute (Soctt Bairstow) is a factory worker whose job gets taken by an android and takes his anger out on another droid, disabling it. This is treated the same as murder in the new society so Jute is shipped off to Terminus prison. He shares not only a prison truck with DeeCee, but is tethered to him as well. When the truck is attacked by roaming service robots and all other droids and prisoners killed (quite bloodily, in the DVD version of the film - think Benny in Total Recall), the two leg it through the sand dunes being hunted by a sort-of vigilante android team.

Oh, and there is a mad genius Varrta, played by Troy Skog, who unknown to his superiors is building an android army to take over the city. And he's turning himself into an android. And he does so by harvesting green fluid from the back of human people's heads. That's right, green brain fluid. Still, I was pleasantly suprised here. Many SyFy films you watch once, start getting a bit tired towards the end but stick through it before saying; "Well. There you go." Android Apocalypse I didn't check the time until 45 minutes in which is a great thing for a film like this. It moved at a swift pace for the most part and the handful of fight scenes involving Lawrence and Birstow were decent enough.

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So let's just get this out of the way: Joseph Lawrence was in Blossom, the 90's teen series, and in 1994 was voted one of the 50 most beautiful people in the world in People magazine. How funny is that? So just how did this hunk do as an android? Pretty well actually. He echoed the 'nice' android that we've seen in Automatic and Solo - the kind of droid that knows how to find but doesn't like to. But when threatened - which happens quite a bit in the film - he will retaliate with much arse kicking. They didn't go all out to demonstrate that DeeCee is an android; no crazy on screen displays about power levels and targeting systems. He does get his arm lopped off at one point though and leaks green fluid.

Scott Bairstow does a fine job as the bitter man whose job is replaced by a 'cog'. It's the same relationship we've seen in plenty of sci-fi movies; Enemy Mine being a good example. Hatred turns to distaste turns to acceptance turns to friendship. At the same time, DeeCee does the same as Olivier Gruner in Automatic and learns to become more human. The relationship works well and the two team up to return to the city, which is when they discover what Varrta is up to.

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I actually quite liked the little universe that the producers made in this film and the use of limited sets worked well. As well as the normal androids you have 'police' droids that dress in motorcycle helmets that reminded me of the ones in THX-1138. The oversaturated lighting for the outisde shots did well to demonstrate the near toxic air that Jute had so much trouble breathing. A lot of the city interiors were quite cool with all the bright lights and flashing colours you expect from 'the near future'. The only real downfall was the pretty lame excuse for the mine, which was just a glorified sandpit, and the mineral was.. well, just sand.

All in all, a decent little sci-fi actioner that's a bit more sci-fi than action. If you get the DVD version you will get the sporadic moments of gore as well that I imagine are not included on the SyFy channel transmitted version, hence the US dvd subtitle "Extended Version". Oh and hey, Director Paul Ziller gave us Bloodfist IV and Shootfighter II. Recommended.

Android Apocalypse 4

The Video:

Sharp and probably filmed on digital video, anamorphically enhanced for the Region 4 DVD. Nice clear, explosive sound. Runtime ~90 mins.

Sourced From:

Ex-rental DVD from a video store.


More Screens:

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Monday, November 7, 2011

Mars (1997)

Mars poster


Where there is life there is also death.

Movie Review:

Mars 1

For some reason I have been really anxious to see this movie ever since I created this blog. I think it was the DVD cover - it spoke to me in a bad sci-fi kind of way that really intrigued me. I kept putting off buying it as the only option was importing it and I knew I only wanted to spend a couple of bucks on it, but then I did a trade for a copy of Blood Hands with a Canadian friend of mine and here we are. Total Recall on the cheap is what I was expecting. Did it deliver?

Olivier Gruner plays renegade law enforcer Caution Templar who arrives on Mars after receiving a message from his brother of some urgency. When he arrives he learns that his brother is dead. Not only that, but he uncovers a mystery that explains that the deadly plague that is killing the workers of this mining planet may be suspicious in nature, and that The Company are involved. With the help of a female doctor with a bizarre hair cut (Shari Belafonte), Cautions fights his way to the truth while being chased by company law enforcers who want him dead.

Mars 2

This was pretty good and moved a long at a fair clip. It was totally Total Recall done on the cheap, that's for sure. We have the constant orange dust of the planet outside, the cheap and sleazy living domes on the inside that are filled with prostitutes and strip bars with flickering lighting. There was the annoying sidekick character (though this one didn't turn out to be a mutant with five kids to feed). And of course we had the 'is he a bad guy' head of the company that runs the planet and his team of mainly incompetent goons. About the only real difference was that the main girl in Mars is an educated Doctor researching the cause of the plague, and not a full time plaything for Gruner.

Gruner fills the Schwarzenegger role admirably though the character he plays and the supporting storyline are different enough to make him stand out. And you gotta love that name - Caution Templer. Being that his character is a "Keeper" - an almost religious-like servant of the company - the surname was appropriate. But.. Caution? When his brother was in his death-throws at the beginning and his last words were "Caution... Caution..." I had assumed he was talking about the package he carried; perhaps it contained bio-weapons or some sort of alien artefact. And then Gruner walks onto screen with his identification card "Caution Templer". I did snigger a little.

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The main reason to check out a Gruner film is to see him kicking arse and he did plenty of that here. In fact from the small selection of Gruner films we have reviewed here so far (Crooked and Automatic - yes I am aware I haven't checked out the revered Nemesis yet), I think this one demonstrates his capabilities the most. There are rarely any scenes, especially in the first and third acts, where Gruner isn't round-housing come guy into a glass table. His acting is the usual Gruner affair; stare blankly, speak softly and kick things good. Though in this case his voice is DUBBED, so it's not his own voice speaking softly! Quite why the producers decided to do this is beyond me. It's not like he was hard to understand in Automatic.

I got a kick out of seeing Lee de Broux in this, better known (to me, anyway) as the cocaine dealer boss in Robocop. You know the one: "Mikey, blow this cocksucker's head off!" He was the head of security in Mars and had a bit of a cuddly uncle thing going on, not wanting to get too involved and trying to keep order and not get fired. There is also an appearance by another 'that guy' bad guy Nils Allen Stewart who turns up as beefcake thugs in many movies.

It looks like there is something exciting on the horizon. If IMDB is to be believed, 2012 will see the release of a new Albert Pyun film entitled "Red Moon" which stars Kevin Sorbo, Michael Pare, Olivier Gruner and Sasha Mitchel from the Kickboxer sequels. It appears to be a sequel to previous Pyun film "Tales of an Ancient Empire" which everybody above except Mitchel had been a part of. I've not seen Tales yet and its IMDB score of 2.8 does not fill me with confidence, but I'm kind of hoping that Gruner and Mitchell will be pitted against each other in a show of kickboxing awesomeness.

Anyway, Mars is worth checking out and is a low budget sci-fi actioner on par with something like TC-2000. Pick it up if you see it cheap

Mars 4

The Video:

Fullscreen video that is pretty decent but the audio seems a little distant and muddy at times. I had to turn the volume right up, but then the music would sometimes overpower. Runtime 90 minutes. Note: the screenshots here I found scattered around the internet as my DVD wouldn't read in the computer for some reason.

Sourced From:

A trade with another fellow bad action fan.


More Screens:

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Sunday, October 23, 2011

The Ninja MIssion (1984)

The ninja mission poster


Agents of destruction. Warriors of darkness. Professionals of death.

Movie Review:

The Ninja Mission1

Reviewed on vhs

We need more ninja movies on the blog. There needs to be more ninja movies on all blogs, even blogs about gardening. This little number comes from Sweden and is dubbed in English, though I think the actors were attempting to speak English during filming as it all syncs up well. I knew nothing about this going in, so was quite surprised about what I ended up watching. Read on.

Polish actor Krzysztof Kolberger stars as Mason, a CIA operative and apparent Ninja. After thwarting a street attack on a young woman he has been sent to protect, Nadia (Hanna Pola), Mason explains that her father Markov, a well respected Swedish scientist who has discovered a new method of creating limitless energy, is being held captive by the Russians and she is being hunted as a bargaining tool to make him divulge his work to the enemy. She's also a nightclub singer (and we have to endure a number, performed in a see through blouse). Mason loses her in the club when a machine gun massacre breaks out and she is whisked away, unconscious, to Russia.

The Ninja Mission2

At the same time another team of operatives have arrived in Russia to bust out the professor. During their daring and violent escape (involving darts to the head!) over the water the team are killed by Markov's own gorgeous assistant Natassia (Sirka Sander) during a firefight with the Russians. She convinces Markov that they were killed in battle and to get into a waiting helicopter bound for Sweden, even though it has a Russian flag on the side. Unbeknownst to him, he is not being returned to Sweden but instead being hidden away in a Russian palace to finish his work, but convinced that he is now in Sweden he does so. When word of this treachery reaches the CIA, Mason and a small team are sent to Russia to retrieve Markov and his daughter themselves. It's time for.. The NINJA.

This is obscenely violent. Sweden may not have made many gritty action films in the 80's so they made up for it with over the top gory deaths. I'm talking the Ninja decapitating assailants through the jaw and seeing the aftermath in ultra slow motion. In fact, all the deaths are filmed in slow motion to capitalise on the prosthetic blood and gore! When Mason is given his James Bond style briefing and is outfitted with some 'new toys' - one being a set of darts that cause the head to explode when they hit their target - you start anticipating the inevitable gorefest; and boy does it eventually deliver. The last twenty minutes are up there with the best horror movies of the period. Branding irons, eye gouging, flying fox samurai sword decapitations, crossbows of toxic gas and the aforementioned head-exploding darts. Pretty full on stuff, but it sets it apart from the Cannon Ninja films.

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The title of the movie is a little misleading as the Ninja plays a definite back seat to Mason just being a CIA operative. There was really no need for him to dress up as a Ninja to complete the mission, but I guess VTC (the production company) wanted their own Swedish "Enter the Ninja" to put on the books. There's also a helicopter versus jeep chase to bring us back into standard action fair, something you wouldn't normally see in a Ninja film.

One thing that I can't work out with this movie is if it it takes place in some kind of alternate future. Why would I think that? Simple; the guns. When all the pistols in The Ninja Mission are fired they make a hysterical PEW PEW PEW laser sound. See the trailer below for an example. If not the future then I think the producers were trying to go with the sound of a silencer. I won't say that it's distracting because it adds to the fun quite a lot, though it is strange.

It's hard to write much more about this, as the plot is so straightforward and the action has to be seen, not described. The acting is fine, the dubbing not off-putting and the action top notch - if you can handle the bloodletting. The cold war scenery in Russia is nice to look at as much as Nadia and Natassia are. Recommended.

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The Video:

As watched on tape - the old Australian issue by K-Tel - this was fullscreen as most tapes are. Picture was clear and the sound was fine. There is a DVD set available in Germany of Ninja Mission and its sequel and another Swedish action film called Wardog, all in widescreen.

Sourced From:

K-Tel VHS won off eBay. I think that German DVD set would be a wise purchase though.


More Screens:

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