Sunday, May 29, 2011

Executive Target (1997)

Executive target poster


Kidnapping the President is worth a hell of a lot of money.

Movie Review:

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Michael Madsen plays Nick, an ex-stunt driver who is serving time for a petty crime. While being transferred to prison the bus is attacked and rolls. A group of armed militants free Nick, kill the other prisoners and take Nick hostage. He is taken to a secret base known as Area 55 where he is informed of a plan that will see him driving a getaway vehicle in a bank heist because he's such an awesome stunt driver. He is forced to do this as they have his wife held captive. The heist goes smoothly, with about a hundred explosions along the way and destruction of most of the police force squad cars, and Nick thinks that he and his wife will be set free. Keith David (They Live) who runs Area 55 has other ideas - kidnap the President of the United States and sell him to the highest bidder.

This is what I'm talking about, right here. Movies like this are why I got into this game in the first place. Holy hell you couldn't cram more action into a movie if you tried. This is 100 solid minutes of car chases, explosions and fire-fights. I lost track of how many squad cars were blown up in this film. The first 15 minutes was so jammed packed with excitement that I felt sad, because traditionally the welcome is warn out thereafter until the final 20 minute finale. I was pleasently surprised - actually ecstatic - to see that this movie simply does not stop. After the massive pile up in the beginning we cut instantly to a strip club being patroned by none other than Dayton Callie, a true TV 'that guy' who then went on to have roles in Undisputed and JCVD's Derailed. He plays Bela, a mechanic and safe-house to Nick early on and later in the film. He also gets the funniest line in the movie; running towards the bad guys brandishing a gun yelling "Cherry Coke!!!".

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After the initial kidnapping of Nick he is forced to drive again and be the getaway driver for the kidnapping of the President. If the action wasn't large-scale enough for you in the opening sequence then strap yourself in for the second act. I'm talking cars flying over bridges. I'm talking cars flying through the sides of trucks. Multiple helicopters being shot out of the sky by truck-mounted artillery, and landing on yet more piles of police cars. The old favourite of crashing through a fruit stand is multiplied as Nick crashes through an entire fruit market in a sixteen-wheeler. It all culminates in the remote detonation of a roadblock that causes squad car after squad car (I counted about 25) to fly, burning, into the ground all while a choir sings over the sounds of explosions. Sensational.

The cover of my DVD proudly states in font as large as the movie title itself "The greatest crash movie ever made!! The best car chase since Bullitt!! The fastest action movie you'll ever see!!" Yes, they did use double esclamation marks there, but I know how they feel. I am finding it hard to describe just how downright awesome this movie is. It's not a funny action movie ala 48 Hours, this is a late 90's explosive bank heist come kidnapping action movie that borrows ideas heavily from Die Hard with a Vengeance (in that the bank heist is only a cover for what would follow after) but should have come out ten years earlier. You wouldn't think that this is a PM Entertainment movie either. This comes from the same company that seven years earlier made Repo Jake and TWO years earlier made the hideous To the Limit. They had never up until this point demonstrated such professionalism with their movies - at least with the ones that I have seen so far. This could have easily had a small-scale theatrical run for the traditional action movie aficionado.

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Michael Madsen, who has been riding the DTV train of late, is solid if understated in this. In fact all the actors in the movie take back seat to the action, which I feel is how a true action movie that doesn't focus on a particular Seagal, Van-Damme or Lundgren should be. There is not much in the acting department that I can point out as especially interesting or powerful. I will say that Keith David really hams it up as the mastermind of the whole operation; he alternates between spitting bile at his underlings to drinking champagne and laughing as he watches his plan unfold. He describes this movie well when after witnessing a thirty car pile up from the safety of his couch says "This is enough to give you a hard on." Top stuff.

Roy Scheider does an admirable job as the President and even gets chucked into the boot of a car, the poor old guy. In the third act after being rescued, he agrees to let Nick and a small team infiltrate Area 55 and take the place apart in the rescue of his wife. Angie Everhart is the eye-candy in the movie playing Lacey, one of the bad girls, and she does a fine job despite a few bad lines and awkward scenes. Robert Miano (Out for Blood, No Escape No Return, A Time to Die) has a small role as one of the bad guys which was cool, but not as cool as the small role given to Matthias Hues. He's not used much and dies early but somebody does refer to him as Fabio, which was fantastic. If there was a downside to this movie, it was not enough Matthias screen time.

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I'm definitely on an adrenaline rush as I write this. That should be enough to convince you to go get this movie as soon as possible. Jump on Amazon, get on eBay or rummage through those sale bins. You need this movie in your life. Without a doubt the best PM Entertainment movie I have seen so far with massive re-playability. I have many PM flicks still to watch but I can't see how they could top this. This was very late in the career of Joseph Merhi and Richard Pepin as PM only had a few years left in it before they went their separate ways. Chronologically moving forward we have the likes of Gary Daniels' Recoil and Jeff Speakman's Land of the Free to enjoy. I don't see how they could improve upon Executive Target. In time I guess we will find that out. Right now, I think I'm having a mangasm over the possibility of watching Executive Target again.

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The Video:

A little soft but overall a strong full screen presentation with a massive, explosive soundtrack. Better than most PM Entertainment films up to this point but nothing spectacular. Runtime 100 minutes.

Sourced From:

Region 2 DVD from eBay for a few bucks.


More Screens:

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Saturday, May 21, 2011

Sunset Grill (1993)

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For years private eye Ryder Hart lived on the edge. Tonight he'll cross the line.

Movie Review:

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Sunset Grill, also known as 'Peter Weller with a moustache', is an early 90's crime/action/thriller that feels about five years late on the scene. Stone washed jeans and Mexicans over the border themes were very of the 80's. That being said, this is a solid (if slightly over-long at 104 minutes) movie that treads the same boards we've walked many times before. It does it pretty well so there's no harm in doing it all again - after all, this is a blog dedicated to movies that half the time share the same three or four stories.

Peter Weller is Ryder Hart (awesome name), a disgraced ex-cop now Private Investigator with the aforementioned moustache. He's a stumbling drunk, is estranged from his wife who now sleeps with his best friend, he lives in squaller and hangs out at a bar called The Sunset Grill, owned by his ex wife. The film starts with him on a routine case spying on a cheating wife with a long range camera, drinking whisky from the bottle with a straw. The opening scene makes you think the film will be more comedic than it turns out to be with angry husbands bursting through closed doors; in fact outside of a few lines here and there is a fairly intentionally humourless movie. In many cases that can make for hard viewing but I was satisfied with the end results here - not overly amazed and I won't be re-watching it in any haste, but all the loose ends were tied up nicely and I'm not left with a bitter taste in my mouth, which is more than can be said for a lot of movies from the early 90's.

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Besides, I said intentionally humourless; there's plenty of unintentional humour to enjoy here. The moustache for one. The sex scenes are pretty amusing too, probably due to the soft focus lens and, well, that moustache again. Weller in a cowboy hat and leather jacket, driving a huge American car and hurling whisky bottles is gold. Weller in a pink, backwards-facing baseball cap trying to work a coffee machine is just ridiculous. John Rhys-Davies' attempt at a Scottish accent is ludicrous, as was his racist attitude to 'beaners'. Weller attempting to hide in the nut-house section of a hospital is probably actually a funny scene that was intentional. Overall though if you are getting this to laugh at with your mates over beers you will probably be disappointed. If you want a funnier and more action-packed Weller, check out Shakedown.

We learn early on that Hart is separated but not divorced from his wife Anita who now just pities him after he has hit the bottle hard and lost his career due to the death of his father-in-law that he blames himself for. We also see in Tijuana a scared Mexican kid Guillermo running from a mad, tall blond guy and his rat-like sidekick. He manages to post a letter to Hart but soon after he is caught and his head crushed. The letter arrives at the Sunset Grill but Hart brushes it to one side. Later that evening when Anita is closing up shop she is attacked and killed by the blond guy and his henchman who are looking for the letter, but they do not find it. Hart sees this on the news and after coming to terms with his grief, puts his PI shoes back on, opens the letter from Guillermo and tries to both locate who killed his wife and what the strange barcodes in the letter mean.

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Lori Singer is in this (from Footloose but more importantly in Julian Sands' awesome Warlock) as Loren, a hottie that works for Harrison Shelgrove (Stacy Keach), the owner of a gun club and more importantly a specialist hospital, which is crucial to the plot. She gets involved with Weller as well. Yes that does mean she gets her kit off, more than once I might add. Other players in the movie are the previously mentioned John Rhys-Davies (Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, Sliders) is also here as a corrupt cop that both arrests illegals and trades them. Danny Trejo has a brief appearance as the "Young Mexican" who tries to shiv Weller but gets beaten up by him instead. The one that stumped me was the Doctor who is apparently played by Randy Pelish, but I could have sworn it was Roy Brocksmith, the Doctor from Total Recall. The similarities are pretty astounding, I thought, especially the voice.

The trailer below will have you believe this is a gritty revenge movie, but it's not really. Hart is out to find his wife's killer, but he is also a PI trying to find out why these Mexicans are being killed and their organs removed. The puzzle is larger than the individual pieces, as it were. Cryptic notes are deciphered that help Hart climb the ladder to truth and as the movie goes on he learns more about his friends and associates, and their involvement in an underground people-trafficing ring with dark consequences. There is a bit of a noir feeling too with some of the shots I felt; close ups of Weller talking to the screen while talking to someone behind him, smoking a dangling cigarette. There's of course some action, mainly a few shootouts and punchups but no car chases, which was a shame.

This is an enjoyable movie when you want something less silly and more serious. It's not serious in a Schindler's List way but it's definitely not played for laughs. Recommended.

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The Video:

Solid 16:9 enhanced widescreen presentation that isn't overly sharp, colourful or brilliant but it gets the job done. Dark scenes aren't too murky. The sound is fine but Weller tends to blur his speech when he mumbles which can make for a few cases of 'what was that?'. Runtime 104 minutes.

Sourced From:

eBay for a couple of bucks; the site is littered with them and as far as I can tell Region 1 is your only choice. Also available in a three-pack with low-budget crime movie Scorpion Spring and Dennis Hopper's Eye of the Storm.


More Screens:

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Friday, May 13, 2011

Mortal Kombat: Legacy (Episodes I - IV, 2011)

Mortal kombat legacy poster


They came from different places, different worlds. But they all came for the same purpose: To fight!

Show Review:

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When I first heard about a new Mortal Kombat it was just as everyone else found out. From out of nowhere, a trailer dropped (see below) that starred Michael Jai White as Captain Jackson Briggs aka Jax, a police detective profiling some most wanted types in the out-of-control Deacon city; Reptile a disfigured serial killer, Baraka a psychotic doctor, Johnny Cage a failed action movie star who ended up being decapitated by Baraka and Scorpion, a man hellbent on gaining revenge against Sub-Zero. Even Sonya Blade and Shang Tsung were thrown into the mix. The trailer showed only glimpses of what would be possible if a full series or movie were commissioned but it got a lot of people talking, including me.

On April 12th, Internet media company started showing on YouTube a brand new series Mortal Kombat: Legacy, comprising ten episodes of ten minutes length each. Some of the actors and plot has changed from the trailer; thankfully Johnny Cage is no longer dead and Baraka appears to now be a demon - both changes for the better. Michael Jai White stayed on to play Jax again and along with him are many known faces; Jeri Ryan (the Borg 'Seven of Nine' on Star Trek: Voyager) reprising her role as Sonya Blade, Matt Mullins (Bloodfist 2050) as kickboxing movie star Johnny Cage, a role he is just poured into. The killer criminal Kano is played by Darren Shahlavi, who was the bad guy in Seagal's latest movie. Not shown by episode four are others like Ian Anthony Dale (Tekken) as Scorpion and Ryan Robbins (the werewolf from SyFy's Sanctuary) as Raiden, a role I'm very curious to see played out by him as I just can't picture it.

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The first two episodes deal with Jax, Sonya and Kano; Kano is holding Sonya hostage in a warehouse and Jax and his SWAT team go in to rescue her. It's of course not easy as Kano's henchman attack and Kano himself takes on Jax in a great display of kickfighting. I started wondering how the series was going to play out as it was all very 'earthy' so far, and if you know the game you will know that the tournament is held in another dimension called Outworld, not in a warehouse in a run down American city. That's when a shock grenade that looks very out-of-the-ordinary detonates in a flash that takes out half the SWAT. In a final fight with Kano, Jax rips his right eye out before being (supposedly) blown up. The last thing we see is Kano being dragged away by forces unknown, laid on a table and having the famous cyborg eye implant attached.

The third episode is brilliant and plays a bit like JCVD's self-titled movie. Johnny Cage is an action star who can't get work and has put together a footage reel of a reality series he wants to make; In the Cage . He funded the trailer with his own money but his producers can't see it working and dump him. Cage even references Seagal's Lawman series ("No-one ever does anything in it!") and pleads for a chance but is hung out to dry. That's when he hears in the other room the producers pitching his idea to a new up-and-coming glamour girl as a 'tough chick' show. Cage loses it and beats the hell out of the guys before fleeing the scene, now on the run. Mullin's kickboxing skills are some of the absolute best that I have ever seen on screen - astonishingly fast at times. I was impressed in Bloodfist 2050 with him and he's just gotten better.

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The fourth episode is a strange hybrid of live action and Japanese-style violent anime and it works well. This is the Mortal Kombat I was expecting; a 'fantasy' world setting in the Netherrealm, with appearances by Shang Tsung and Shao Kahn, the lord of the underworld, ninjas galore and demons like Baraka. After decimating a nearby world, Shao Kahn takes Queen Sindel hostage and as his wife. She brings with her a baby daughter, Kitana, who Shao Kahn clones a sister, Mileena, using Tarkatan blood (Tarkatan's being a cross-breed of human and Neatherrealm folk) and trains them himself as warriors. The live action is interspersed with the animation well and both serve different purposes; live action for much of the narrative and anime for much of the over-the-top action, though by the end we do see Mileena and Kitana about to square off.

There's been a lot of game fanboy bitching about the series on the Internet. Socrpion's costume doesn't look right. Baraka looks like an orc from Lord of the Rings. Sonya isn't hot enough. All those people can have a coke and a smile because these episodes are the best Mortal Kombat representations on film thus far. Sure some of the acting is over the top (Kano and Shao Kahn especially), but what I've seen in the first four episodes so far has gotten me really excited to see the remaining six. Michael Jai White as Jax and Matt Mullins as Johnny Cage are inspired choices. The whole series looks far more expensive than it probably is, a testament to the work that has gone into it.

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The links are below for you to watch, so be sure to check them out. It won't cost you anything but your time, and at ten minutes each you won't even have time to finish your coffee. Hopefully you'll be as impressed with the series as I am, and there are a lot of cool characters from the game like Sub-Zero, Cyrax and Raiden still to come.

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The Video:

The YouTube 1080p stream on my flatscreen looks fantastic. Sharp lines, crisp colours and deep blacks. A punching stereo soundtrack. Each episodes runs about 10 minutes.

Sourced From:

You can watch all episodes online!

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Cyborg Soldier (2008)

Cyborg soldier poster


They engineered the perfect fighter.

Movie Review:

Cyborg Soldier 1

I.S.A.A.C. (that's Intuitive Synthetic Autonomous Assault Commando if you were wondering) is a prototype soldier that was created in a lab, played by UFC star Rich Franklin. As part of his training he was ordered to do something that he didn't agree with. Cyborgs aren't meant to agree or disagree with anything, they are meant to just do, so this caused problems and Isaac (I'm not writing it as an acronym every damn time) escapes. With both his creator Simon Hart (Bruce Greenwood, Passenger 57) and a crack force of (non-cyborg) soldiers after him, Isaac takes the unlucky Deputy Lindsey Reardon (Tiffani Thiessen) hostage. The crack force have killed the Deputy's partner and planted her weapon on the scene so as to make it easier to track them down as all police in the state are looking for them now. Isaac has troubles understanding who he is and the Deputy tries to keep him safe from danger.

This movie was okay. It was solid enough as a movie with a plot but as an action movie it was a let down. As a sci-fi movie it was a let down too as we never even got to see the traditional Terminator viewpoint from the character's eyes, so essentially he was just a UFC star (which he is). The last fifteen minutes, as usual, is when things get into gear and we get a few nice fights, shootouts and explosions. It's a shame then that for the rest of the movie Isaac and the Deputy seem to just be running and driving away from things. We see in the first few scenes how Isaac can take a bullet or fifty but he doesn't become the super-soldier weapon of death that I was hoping for. He shoots to wound, helps lost children and is trying to learn about Jesus.

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That's an issue I had with this; the persistent religious overtones. I guess the film's producers were trying to ram home that this guy was still human, but we already knew that due to the lack of cool sci-fi-ness. He visits graves, asks if holding cross necklaces 'helps', and it all seemed a bit un-neccesary. Other than that it's a generic mashup of Terminator, Universal Soldier and The Fugitive. There's even a scene where Isaac is plucking bullets out of his chest that his self-repair nanobots will then take care of. There is also the usual "I don't understand these human ways" scenes where Isaac 'hilariously' consumes a whole jar of sugar, then orders everything on off the menu at a truck-stop cafe.

Tiffani Thiessen was okay as the sidekick though looked like she had been slapped in the face with a trout most of the movie. Again I would understand this if the cyborg had a shoulder-mounted laser cannon but he doesn't, and after the bullet-removal scene is just a regular guy in jeans with a monotone voice. I was wondering where I knew her from and it turns out she was Kelly Kapowski in 74 episodes of Saved by the Bell. I loved that show when I was 12 but I bet I would cringe at it now. I always wanted to punch 'Screech' in the head.

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I don't hate this movie but I don't love it. I actually don't have any real feelings for it whatsoever as it left very little impression on me. Is that strange? Franklin was fine in the role, but the role demanded nothing much from him. It could have been written so that it did. The producers were trying to play more with the emotional side of things and forgot that the movie was freaking called CYBORG SOLDIER. Blow more things up! Give him a robotic voice! Attach a rocket launcher to his arm! Do SOMETHING. Luc Deveraux (JCVD in Universal Soldier) managed to break his programming and kick arse, so why couldn't Isaac? Maybe this movie needed Dolph in it.

Cyborg Soldier apparently has Matt Smith aka the current Doctor Who playing a character called J.D. It must have been a blink and you'll miss it moment because I blinked, and missed it.

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The Video:

The R1 disc from Firstlook was as sharp as a pin prick, though the audio tracks were very quiet (so crank up the volume). Strong colours, strong blacks, all the usual. There is also a new (at the time of this review) region 4 release available. Runtime 85 minutes.

Sourced From:

eBay for a dollar.


More Screens:

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