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Niki’s Crap DVD Clearout Review Extravaganza! part 18

Many moons ago I bought a DVD player from the Blockbuster in Finchley. It cost me £200. I could have got a much better one for that sort of money but you see this one came with 50 free movies! Bargain!

Well the DVD player is long gone but the movies remain for two reasons, firstly and ironically the cheap double sided discs would not play properly in the cheap DVD player they came free with and secondly, despite starring such luminaries as Brad Pitt, Kevin Spacey and Russell Crowe they are uniformly awful. Seriously, the biggest film of the bunch is The Lawnmower Man!

As the years have rolled by they have sat on my shelf in the ‘I’ll get round to them some day’ pile and what better reason to get stuck into them than to inflict my reviews on you gentle people.

As well as a review I shall be giving them a mark out of five which will not only be an indication of quality but a prediction of their very immediate future:

*****  Might actually keep

**** Attempt to sell on Ebay

*** Straight to the nearest charity shop

** Straight to the nearest bin

* Will give away as a gift to anyone who makes me listen to Coldplay

So here goes…

Alien IAlien_Intruder_VideoCoverntruder

Ricardo Jacques Gale

 (1993)

 Rating **

Sounds a bit rude. Go on, admit you thought it too.

 

 

You just know you’re in for some top quality film making when the opening credits proudly announce that the special guest star is the guy who played Kenickie from Grease.

Although I’m starting to suspect that was just a polite way of saying ‘dies in the first eight minutes’. You see we open with Kenickie shooting up a storm on a spaceship (read: a boiler room). It seems he’s being controlled by a sexy lady although he blows his brains out before we can find out why (including a frankly disturbing shot of the inside of his mouth). I’ve been compelled to do a lot of stupid things in the name of sexy ladies but a gun toting rampage isn’t one of them. Maybe I just haven’t met the right girl yet. The plot thickens…

We cut to Billy Dee ‘Lando Calrissian’ Williams (to give him his full title) who is recruiting a bunch of rough, tough prisoners to go on a salvage mission to bring back the spaceship where Kenickie went loopy. This ragtag group consists of an ex-navigator, played by Maxwell Caulfield (Empire Records, Grease 2, er…Emmerdale), a creepy ex-alcoholic engineer, an incredibly infuriating explosives expert who enunciates every line like a coked up sex pest crossed with Yosemite Sam, and, er, an IT geek.

They are enticed on the mission with promise of the use of a virtual reality machine which can make all their fantasies come true (as long as these fantasies involve boobs and are within the budget). This sadly leads to incredibly awkward scenes of each guy’s fantasy, all of which involve rubbing up against a hot girl in differing time periods (Wild West, a 1950’s biker gang, a Casablanca rip off, and some generic beach house). No matter what the era, all the girls look like they just walked out of a Whitesnake video. But hey, boobs right?!

alien intruder 4

…and for the ladies, an oiled up Rex Manning!

Their fantasies keep getting hijacked by the same broad who sent Kenickie gaga in the opening scenes. This doesn’t seem to bother anybody much except for old Billy Dee who has been monitoring their fantasies, which is in no way creepy at all.

alien intruder 2

“Beats cable!”

It turns out Billy Dee has been searching for the mystery woman and has engineered this whole debacle so he can be with her. You see, this lady (if you hadn’t guessed about three minutes into the film) is some sort of alien siren who lures men to their deaths with her feminine wiles. Anyway, she plays them all off against each other (leading to one of the most ridiculous fist fights this side of They Live) and they all end up shooting, punching, or plain testosteroneing each other to death. Except for Maxwell who manages to escape, or does he? Trust me, you won’t care.

I can only surmise that this film was written by a couple of 11 year old boys. They wrote a list of all the things they loved and decided those things were spaceships, boobs, and punching, and if they could squeeze in some cowboys too then all the better.

The aforementioned fantasy scenes are cringe worthy. Oily convicts pawing at Playboy models in period clothing does not entertainment make. That these scenes are even in the movie at all is on such a flimsy pretense that doesn’t even really make much sense if you think about it too hard (I know, I know, why am I thinking about it too hard?).

But the main issue with Alien Intruder is that there is virtually zero threat throughout the entire movie. The alien herself doesn’t even become a real danger until the final minutes of the film and even then it’s really quite difficult to get that scared when the alien looks like this –

hqdefault

THE HORROR!!!

In all it really feels like an amalgam of several Red Dwarf episodes (Psirens, Better Than Life, and Gunmen Of The Apocalypse particularly) only without the laughs. Actually even Red Dwarf managed to be scarier than this on occasion. Alien this is not.

The film gains a star for some unintentionally funny moments. The fistfight being a highlight and the death of the nerd being way funnier than it was intended to be. It also earned some kudos for having a title that instantly reminded me of this joke from Top Secret.

top_secret_intruder_2

Although, once again, probably not their intention.

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Niki’s Crap DVD Clearout Review Extravaganza! part 17

About ten years ago I bought a DVD player from the Blockbuster in Finchley. It cost me £200. I could have got a much better one for that sort of money but you see this one came with 50 free movies! Bargain!

Well the DVD player is long gone but the movies remain for two reasons, firstly and ironically the cheap double sided discs would not play properly in the cheap DVD player they came free with and secondly, despite starring such luminaries as Brad Pitt, Kevin Spacey and Russell Crowe they are uniformly awful. Seriously, the biggest film of the bunch is The Lawnmower Man!

As the years have rolled by they have sat on my shelf in the ‘I’ll get round to them some day’ pile and what better reason to get stuck into them than to inflict my reviews on you gentle people.

As well as a review I shall be giving them a mark out of five which will not only be an indication of quality but a prediction of their very immediate future:

*****  Might actually keep

**** Attempt to sell on Ebay

*** Straight to the nearest charity shop

** Straight to the nearest bin

* Will give away as a gift to anyone who makes me listen to Coldplay

So here goes…

Home Team coverHome Team

 Allan A. Goldstein

 (1998)

 Rating *

Just another reason to hate football

The last time I took a dip into the murky depth of the Family Films boxset it was one of the most diabolical movie watching experiences of my life. A cheaply made, animated musical ripoff of James Cameron’s Titanic, featuring a rapping dog.

I managed to watch ‘Titanic – The Legend Goes On’ in a single sitting. The same cannot be said for Home Team.

You could argue that I may not be the target audience for this film, however even if I was six years old and had just fallen out of a very tall tree on to my head I still could not imagine getting more than half an hour into this but I turned it off and put The Goonies on again.

Steve Guttenberg plays Mr. Butler (if they ever said his first name then I missed it), an ex ‘party boy’ (their words) who’s been in some trouble and now must do community service as a handyman for a small orphanage. Also he’s the most irritating man alive. The orphanage is occupied by a bunch of plucky young scamps with nicknames like Pineapple, a comedy fat cook called (wait for it) Cookie, and a fairly normal, if slightly saccharine, lady called Karen, who we’re told is from Paris even though she’s clearly French-Canadian.

What aboot that Eiffel Tower eh?

         What aboot that Eiffel Tower eh?

Mr. Butler isn’t happy about this arrangement but tries to ingratiate himself with the household in the only way he knows how. By steamrollering into every situation with a barrage of supposedly funny monologues, impressions and comedy skits. No one takes kindly to this, least of all me. I’ve never had much of a problem with Guttenberg in the past but here he delivers every line with the all confidence of a mid-1980’s Eddie Murphy and all the wit of a mid-2010’s Adam Sandler. Every gag is like nails down a chalkboard, but not just to me, all the kids and the Canadian lady think he’s a tool as well. We’re all cringing together and wondering what possible motivation the director could have for making our main protagonist so utterly, utterly irritating. At one point in the film he kisses a live cockroach, this is easily one of least nauseating parts of his performance. And this from a man who appeared in his breakthrough role dressed like this –

BOOM! COMEDY!

                      BOOM! COMEDY!

To be honest it’s not all Stevie Boy’s fault. The script he has to work with is so moronic that even Robin Williams, at the height of his powers, would struggle to wring a chuckle out of it. In the first half hour the comedic highlights include the fact that Pineapple farts a lot and that Cookie the cook, can’t actually cook (oh my sides!).

Anyway, the kids, for some reason, don’t warm to Mr. Butler so pull some pranks on him which generally end up catching poor old Cookie instead. During all this hilarity, Canadian lady is trying to train their football team, however, as the first match proves, they are just dreadful (if you like seeing footballs in the groin and people running into goalposts, buddy this scene is for you!).

Then the orphanage burns down for some reason, plot progression I guess, and suddenly Mr. Butler decides he will train the team, and the kids all suddenly like him. Hurrah! And so with the help and funding of a comedy undertaker (I don’t know, so don’t ask), they start traininnnn…….nurgh…..I can’t, I just can’t relive this any more. Look they train and they win, and Mr. Butler snogs the Canadian lady, and something about Cookie winning a bet so he can buy a new orphanage. The end!

Man this was painful! There are few things worse than bad comedy and this is bad comedy…aimed at children! Also having everyone else in the movie agree that the leading man is painfully unfunny is an odd stylistic choice, I mean this isn’t Scorsese’s The King Of Comedy. We’re suppose to like this guy. Instead the first hour is like watching that embarrassing uncle who thinks kids love him when they’re really all Tweeting about what a dick their uncle is.

Making Police Academy look like Police Academy 6

‘He makes Police Academy look like Police Academy 6. ROFL!’

And that, in a nutshell, is what’s wrong with Home Team. A kid’s comedy about kids finding themselves in a predicament, should focus on the kids, not the guy in his late 30’s. In fact the kids are fairly likable for the most part but we rarely get to root for them before Guttenberg blunders in with another routine. It can be fun to side with the kids against the adults in a movie but not when the adults are completely dominating the scene. Take Home Alone or the aforementioned The Goonies for example. That’s how you get the balance of kids to adults.

Instead what we get is 40 minutes of eye rolling, clenched teeth and forced smiles while Steve churns out another tired barrage of gags. I imagine the filmmakers probably hoped they could use some of Guttenberg’s star power to propel this film to success.  However, as this was a good few years after his brief comedy reign, they’d have been better off focusing the story squarely on the kids and making the adults the supporting cast.

I’ve sat through rubber dinosaurs, rubbish vampires, and six hours of shit Robocop, during this series. I never expected an innocuous family comedy starring Mahoney from Police Academy would cause me the most pain. To be honest it’s got me scared. All bets are off now. I’m never going to make it out of this with my sanity!

Next time – Billy Dee Williams fights cheap aliens with Rex Manning from Empire Records!

(Send help!)

Niki’s Crap DVD Clearout Review Extravaganza! part 16

About ten years ago I bought a DVD player from the Blockbuster in Finchley. It cost me £200. I could have got a much better one for that sort of money but you see this one came with 50 free movies! Bargain!

Well the DVD player is long gone but the movies remain for two reasons, firstly and ironically the cheap double sided discs would not play properly in the cheap DVD player they came free with and secondly, despite starring such luminaries as Brad Pitt, Kevin Spacey and Russell Crowe they are uniformly awful. Seriously, the biggest film of the bunch is The Lawnmower Man!

As the years have rolled by they have sat on my shelf in the ‘I’ll get round to them some day’ pile and what better reason to get stuck into them than to inflict my reviews on you gentle people.

As well as a review I shall be giving them a mark out of five which will not only be an indication of quality but a prediction of their very immediate future:

*****  Might actually keep

**** Attempt to sell on Ebay

*** Straight to the nearest charity shop

** Straight to the nearest bin

* Will give away as a gift to anyone who makes me listen to Coldplay

So here goes…

Bruce cover

  Bruce Lee – The Man The Myth

           See-Yuen Ng

           (1976)

           Rating ****

‘Bruce Lee – The Man The Myth’ is a biopic about Kung Fu legend Bruce Lee, staring renowned Bruce Lee impersonator Bruce Li (real name Ho Chung-Tao). If that sentence hurt your head then I’d back out now if I were you. Go on, I understand.

You see, BLTMTM (as it shall hereon be known) is a biopic with a twist. The film makers decided, in a revolutionary take on the biopic tradition, to brush over such life events as Bruce’s first major role in The Green Hornet, the birth of his children, or his marriage to Linda Lee, and instead decided to focus on mostly fictionalised street fights, Bruce doing weights workouts in the gym, and frankly bizarre scenes of him willfully electrocuting himself or punching strange machines.

bruce-lee-the-man-the-myth

You thought I was joking didn’t you?

Most important life events are brushed over by a narrator or simply ignored altogether. In fact the film seems so desperate to race towards its next fight scene that it may be one of the worst paced films I’ve ever seen. Suddenly he’s played Kato, suddenly he’s in a completely different country, suddenly he has a wife and kids, couple of headaches, dead! They even drive a final nail in the coffin marked ‘fact’ with a surreal coda that suggests that Lee may have faked his death and disappeared. Poised to return in 1983!!

So why the four star rating? Well, despite this being a terrible, terrible, film, it is, without a doubt, the most entertaining movie I have watched so far in this interminable series. Therefore I have decided that the films hereon out shall be ranked by how much I enjoyed them, rather than as an indication of actual quality (I’m pretty sure I’ve been doing this unconsciously anyway).

Yes this film is awful. The transfer is so scratchy that I had pirate videos in the 80’s that looked better, the ADR (the dubbed over voices) is jarring and unsubtle, the acting is truly horrible, the foley (sound effects) is jacked up to 11, every swish of the arm sounds like a jet aircraft going past, and the aforementioned plot is laughable at best. But then isn’t that exactly what you want from a 70’s Kung Fu flick? I know I do.

Bruce Li plays the part of Lee with a smug arrogance that makes him fairly unlikable for the most part. In the opening scenes he moves from China to Washington and instantly becomes the most popular guy in town. He then saves an old guy from two unbelievably 70’s black guys which gets him in trouble with the local Karate teacher (“Karate is superior to Kung Fu!”). Lee sets him straight by beating him up.

0 (1)

You can almost hear the funk guitar.

Then the movie pretty much carries on in that vein. People challenge Lee, Lee beats them up. The absolute pinnacle being a scene where some road workers are assaulted by a bunch of English geezers, out on a run. The whole mob sound like they’ve been voiced by the cast of On The Buses,  throwing insults at Lee like “You horrible little bleeder!”. One guy even yells “CHARGE!” as he runs, fists first, at Lee. It’s a truly wonderful scene.

On a genuinely positive note, the fight scenes work pretty well for the most part. Nothing compared to the hyper-choreographed fights of today’s cinema but they retain an honest realism. It’s also full of wonderful 70’s fashions and cheesy disco synth music. Even Lee gets in on the action!

vie-fantastique-bruce-leebruce-the-man-the-my-L-dXvLFD

He could kill a man with just one of those collars.

So there you have it. I’ve seen in the new year with a film I genuinely enjoyed. Not for many of the right reasons, but still, I’ll take it over Dark Side of the Sun any day. HIIIIYYYAAAAA!!!!!!!!!!

Niki’s Crap DVD Clearout Review Extravaganza! part 15

About ten years ago I bought a DVD player from the Blockbuster in Finchley. It cost me £200. I could have got a much better one for that sort of money but you see this one came with 50 free movies! Bargain!

Well the DVD player is long gone but the movies remain for two reasons, firstly and ironically the cheap double sided discs would not play properly in the cheap DVD player they came free with and secondly, despite starring such luminaries as Brad Pitt, Kevin Spacey and Russell Crowe they are uniformly awful. Seriously, the biggest film of the bunch is The Lawnmower Man!

As the years have rolled by they have sat on my shelf in the ‘I’ll get round to them some day’ pile and what better reason to get stuck into them than to inflict my reviews on you gentle people.

As well as a review I shall be giving them a mark out of five which will not only be an indication of quality but a prediction of their very immediate future:

*****  Might actually keep

**** Attempt to sell on Ebay

*** Straight to the nearest charity shop

** Straight to the nearest bin

* Will give away as a gift to anyone who makes me listen to Coldplay

So here goes…

 

Def By Temptation102612-celebs-movies-def-by-temptation

James Bond III

(1990)

Rating **

 

 

We open on a libidinous bar tender casually telling an unseen conquest at the other end of the phone that he will pay for her abortion. This bastion of chivalry then shifts his attentions to a seductive woman who has entered the bar and within minutes they are back at her place doing the nasty. Karma’s a bitch however as she turns out to be an evil, vampire succubus who eviscerates him and drinks his blood. Women huh? Right guys?

Focus shifts to a young man called Joel who is being haunted by dreams involving his preacher father and a mysterious figure in black. His father is played by Samuel L. Jackson! Yes! Maybe this film is going to be OK after all. It turns out he’s dead, and, aside from a very short scene at the end, this is the only time he appears. DAMN YOU MOVIE!

Def-by-Temptation-1

“And I will strike down upon thee with great vengeance and…ah forget it!”

Joel is training to follow in his father’s footsteps (to be a preacher, not dead) but is suffering a crisis of conscience so goes to spend some time with his black sheep brother ‘K’  in New York. K takes his brother to the bar from the beginning of the film and wouldn’t ya know it, they run afoul of miss bloodsucker, who slowly tempts Joel away from his brother and his beliefs. Apparently Joel is last in the line of something, I’m afraid this is as much as I can elucidate as it’s never properly explained. All we do know is that the sanguine queen needs him dead. As we’ve seen from her previous handy work, she’s not a gal to mess around when it comes to killing, which makes it all the more odd when she proceeds to take Joel on several coffee dates and even gets him alone on more than one occasion. Perhaps this is vampire foreplay.

K teams up with an undercover cop (Bill Nun of Spiderman fame) and attempts to save his brother from the clutches of this nocturnal harridan. They both do spectacularly badly however, as one is killed and the other turned into a vampire. In a weird, dreamlike ending that makes very little sense, Joel manages to kill the vampire and save his soul with a little help from his dead father and his mother who is about 600 miles away in a different state (I told you it made no sense).

defbytemptation

She was starting to lose her looks anyway.

It may look like I’ve been lazy with the old plot summary but for a 95 minute film there’s actually very little plot. If you remove the weird dream sequences and gratuitous vampire lovin’ then there’s barely a skeleton to hang a story on. Vampire seduces men to their deaths, one of them fights back. End.

It all comes across as an attempt to make a cool, African American version of Fright Night (or perhaps more appropriately Fright Night 2). However unlike those movies, the attempts at comedic moments just jar awkwardly with the horror. Also the clearly minuscule budget makes every scene look very much like it was shot in a studio (which they clearly were), mist and coloured lights are used to disguise the edges of the scene which makes it hard to feel like any of it is grounded in reality.

Dodgy editing also makes the film hard to follow at times. Scenes jar into each other, sometimes at random. The filmmakers must have been aware of this to some extent because on a couple of occasions a cue card would appear stating ‘The Next Day’ or ‘Later That Night’ to show the passing of time.

It is also so unbelievably ‘of its time’. Released in 1990, everything from the fashion, to the music, to the awful pun in the title screams ‘late 80’s’. I was half expecting to see a comedy cameo from The Fat Boys.

That said, the acting is fairly solid. Jackson puts in a good turn in his brief appearance, prefacing his bible spouting turn as Jules in Pulp Fiction, and Bill Nun provides some comedy as the undercover cop pretending to be a hopeless romeo while scoping out the bar.  Cynthia Bond has fun as they evil seductress even if her performance does come close to scenery chewing at times. The worst scenes sadly involve the brothers (one of whom is played by the director himself), not because of the acting but because each scene feels like it was improvised, badly. They mumble half conceived lines at each other in a directionless manner until the scene just peters out. This happens several times.

There are some effective scenes however. Some of the dream sequences are quite spooky and surreal and there’s at least one unique death where a guy is sucked into his own television which then spits out his guts and bones. However Cronenberg or Lynch this is not, and most of the time these scenes are either confusing or hilarious, or both (confarious?).

The director gets the last laugh though with his unintentionally hilarious dedication before the credits roll.

0V8eh

“Suck it forebears!”

 

Niki’s Crap DVD Clearout Review Extravaganza! part 14

About ten years ago I bought a DVD player from the Blockbuster in Finchley. It cost me £200. I could have got a much better one for that sort of money but you see this one came with 50 free movies! Bargain!

Well the DVD player is long gone but the movies remain for two reasons, firstly and ironically the cheap double sided discs would not play properly in the cheap DVD player they came free with and secondly, despite starring such luminaries as Brad Pitt, Kevin Spacey and Russell Crowe they are uniformly awful. Seriously, the biggest film of the bunch is The Lawnmower Man!

As the years have rolled by they have sat on my shelf in the ‘I’ll get round to them some day’ pile and what better reason to get stuck into them than to inflict my reviews on you gentle people.

As well as a review I shall be giving them a mark out of five which will not only be an indication of quality but a prediction of their very immediate future:

*****  Might actually keep

**** Attempt to sell on Ebay

*** Straight to the nearest charity shop

** Straight to the nearest bin

* Will give away as a gift to anyone who makes me listen to Coldplay

So here goes…

split decisions coverSplit Decisions

David Drury

(1988)

Rating ***

For this episode we take another trip into the murky depths of the Drama boxset (I’ve got to start ticking these bastards off!) for a film about a sport I have no interest in. My spirits weren’t exactly high but my fears were somewhat unwarranted as this one turned out OK. Not, you know, great, but OK, which at this stage in proceedings, I consider a win.

Split Decisions stars Gene Hackman and a bunch of actors for whom IMDB was invented. The phrase “What’s he been in?” has never been uttered quite so many times by your humble reviewer, and as such I shall do my best to describe the actors to you in the most familiar way I know how.

So, Gene plays a cop (we know this because briefly dons a policeman’s uniform, although this fails to become an important plot point) who also helps train his two boxer sons played by Cabal from Nightbreed and The Lawnmower Man. Except that Lawmower Man has gone off to the big city to seek his fame and fortune with a bigger boxing promoter, much to the chagrin of his father who is training his more loyal and level headed son for the Olympics.

split laen

“Can’t mow lawns forever Dad!”

When Lawnmower returns home he is approached by a shady boxing promoter (played by Mr. Strickland from Back To The Future) who wants him to take a dive in a fight against his prizefighter in return for a pay off. When he refuses, Mr. Strickland has the slacker beaten up and thrown from a window to his death. Marty McFly got off lightly!

Cabal decides that the best way to avenge his brother’s death is to get into the ring with the prizefighter (and aforementioned defenestrator) even though he’s clearly way out of his league and will almost certainly get pummeled to death. CUE TRAINING MONTAGE!

Well the big fight comes and things go pretty much as expected with poor Cabal getting his ass handed to him on a plate. Then, suddenly, he wins, and the police arrest all of the guilty parties. Cue near carbon copy of the freeze frame from Rocky. Seriously that how it ends! He’s on the ropes when he suddenly launches a volley of blows out of nowhere and defeats the guy. I can only assume the writer was right up his deadline on this one.

Well despite the ridiculously abrupt ending, this one wasn’t all that bad, the story is pretty derivative (seriously how many loved one’s deaths have been avenged in 80’s cinema?), but the cast are pretty strong. Hackman has little to do but not as little as The Girl From Flashdance. Oh did I not mention that The Girl From Flashdance was in this? Well that’s because she does NOTHING! It’s not that she’s in only a few scenes. She’s in lots of scenes, sitting in the background, looking a little worried, kissing the hero. Hers is one of the most underwritten characters I’ve ever seen, and she’s the only bloody woman in it (unless you count ‘Sexy Round Announcer Lady’ as a meaty feminine role)! She does has one scene with some dialogue but the main point of that scene appears to be so she can lean out of a window dressed like this –

split crop top

GIRL POWER!

I’m not even exaggerating. Most of the dialogue revolves around how she probably shouldn’t be leaning out of a window dressed like that. Germaine Greer this is not. Some versions of the DVD even have her on the cover next to Hackman, clearly to capitalise on her Flashdance fame, which is even more insulting.

But all gripes aside, this one was a whole lot better that some of the other dreck I’ve been forced to endure during this series. It rolls along fairly painlessly and for once I didn’t feel entirely like an hour and a half of my life had just hemorrhaged into the ether.

Cheesy Sci-Fi next time I think. I feel like I’ve earned it.

Niki’s Crap DVD Clearout Review Extravaganza! part 13

It’s been a while so here’s a reminder how this works.

About ten years ago I bought a DVD player from the Blockbuster in Finchley. It cost me £200. I could have got a much better one for that sort of money but you see this one came with 50 free movies! Bargain!

Well the DVD player is long gone but the movies remain for two reasons, firstly and ironically the cheap double sided discs would not play properly in the cheap DVD player they came free with and secondly, despite starring such luminaries as Brad Pitt, Kevin Spacey and Russell Crowe they are uniformly awful. Seriously, the biggest film of the bunch is The Lawnmower Man!

As the years have rolled by they have sat on my shelf in the ‘I’ll get round to them some day’ pile and what better reason to get stuck into them than to inflict my reviews on you gentle people.

As well as a review I shall be giving them a mark out of five which will not only be an indication of quality but a prediction of their very immediate future:

*****  Might actually keep

**** Attempt to sell on Ebay

*** Straight to the nearest charity shop

** Straight to the nearest bin

* Will give away as a gift to anyone who makes me listen to Coldplay

So here goes…

Train To Hell

Carlo U. Quinterio

(1996)

Rating *

train-hell-dvd-cover-art

Train To Hell! Look at that title. Train! To! Hell! It’s a film, about a train, that’s going to hell!

I think everything’s going to be alright after all.

Wait, what do you mean the film’s alternative title is ‘Night Train To Venice’? That doesn’t make sense. Is it going to hell or to Venice? Oh, Venice you say? Well that is a disappointment. My Mum and Dad went to Venice and said it was very nice. You still want a review? Fine!

The film opens on a child balancing precariously on the edge of a fourth floor balcony, cut to a tree, back to the girl, the tree, the girl, a leaf falls at a man’s feet. Cut to Hugh Grant in a library. Wait, what? Sadly this is a portent of the ADHD style editing this film will employ throughout its mercifully brief 72 minute running time.

Hugh (merely a year away from making ‘Four Weddings and a Funeral’ and assuring he never has to star in dreck like this again) is a writer who has just penned a shocking expose on Neo-Nazis, so he’s off on the Orient Express to Venice to visit a publishing house called Inferno (geddit?!) who are interested in his book.

He is joined on this journey by a bunch of colourful misfits including an actress (ironically played by a terrible actress) and her daughter, a bunch of stowaway skinheads who just might be Neo-Nazis (spoiler: they are), and a creepy gentleman known only as The Stranger. Said stranger is played by Malcolm McDowell who, apart from during his brief scenes of dialogue, appears entirely in slow motion. A curious directorial choice, especially considering he is usually standing fairly still in all of these scenes.

1998b

Actual footage. Not a still!

Anyway, Hugh seduces the actress by dropping a winner of a pick up line on her (“I like books actually, I’m an intellectual”) and that’s pretty much the last moment this film makes even the remotest sense.

Hugh and the actress have visions, possibly flashbacks, possibly caused by the stranger, possibly related to something relevant. The Neo-Nazis cause a modicum of trouble, and a terrifying, white faced, chanteuse sings La Vie En Rose, and this is all before we even get to Venice (or hell, I’m still hopeful).

Once in Venice, Hugh finds the publishers building to be empty save for some dusty papers and a Doberman chewing on some meat. He is then chased on motorcycle by the Nazis who crash into a truck and explode while Hugh merely crashes and gets amnesia (you heard me). He wanders the streets of Venice, contemplating who he is, until we come full circle. The girl on the balcony was none other than the actress’s daughter in a cunning flash forward. She falls, Hugh saves her, this cures his amnesia, he and the actress make love over a dreadful song called Night Train To Venice (I’m starting to think there’ll be no hell in this movie at all). The end (dammit!).

"Is that a coherent plot up ahead?" "No I think it's a pigeon"

“Is that a coherent plot up ahead?”
“No I think it’s a pigeon”

Well, I’ve had some hard times trying to describe some of the plots to the movies in this series but man alive! Un Chien Andalou made more sense! People phase in and out of visions that are never fully explained, characters come and go without motive, plot points are hammered into the narrative and then forgotten about (seriously what was the point of the amnesia?).

For a film of such brevity there’s an incredible amount of padding. Extended scenes of people gazing at each other in slow motion and frankly bizarre montages that are supposed to show the passing of time fill up a lot of the space where perhaps a coherent plot might have gone.

Messieurs Grant and McDowell aside, the acting is horrible. The Nazis have weird, American sounding accents that sound like they were dubbed on as an afterthought. The actress playing the actress is amusingly stiff as a board, but nothing compared to her daughter. She reads lines so monosyllabically that I at first wondered if she was supposed to be possessed. Especially when she has been given such dialogue as “When we get back home to Venice I’ll show you all my pretty pigeons. They all have little red shoes and white wings”. Try reading that in a creepy child’s voice. Chilling!

Overall it felt like the film had been written using that game where each person writes down a sentence then folds the paper over and the next person has a go. It tries to be some sort of gothic mystery but remains so resolutely unfocussed that it feels, for the most part, like a particularly odd episode of Poirot. Hugh Grant has publicly stated that this is the worst film he’s ever been in. He was in Love Actually. Just let that sink in.

1998d

Niki’s Crap DVD Clearout Review Extravaganza! part 12

Riot

Joseph Merhi

(1996)

Rating *

 

It is always a gamble when casting a movie that heavily relies on martial arts. Do you get someone who can act and hope they look good fighting or do you get a fighter and hope they can act? This movie plumped for the latter, it didn’t pay off.

Riot stars kick boxing champion Gary Daniels and former professional boxer Sugar Ray Leonard as two marines who must rescue the British Ambassador’s daughter and friend who have been kidnapped by a street gang who turn out to be working for a group of IRA soldiers. Yes, it’s nonsense. They kick, punch and shoot their way through a riot ravaged town (a small set with a couple of burning cars) and (SPOILER) one of them dies hilariously, but more of that later.

On researching the film my first surprise was to find it was made as late as 1996, the whole thing feels incredibly like one of the hundreds of shitty, straight to video, action movies that came out in the 1980s. Our poor leads clearly are not trained actors, Gary Daniels fares OK in normal conversation but when he has to emote anything other than placid calm or kicking someone’s ass he fares pretty poorly. Sugar Ray fares little better, while he’s not awful he’s developed a starey expression that he uses in every scene.

The damsels in distress are even worse and clearly responded to an ad that read ‘Are you hot and blonde? Come be in a movie. We promise it’s not porn’.

Acting is all in the legs

But at least the fighting’s cool right? Well, no. While there is certainly a lot of fighting (there really is a lot of fighting), most of it is so incredibly stagey, actors line up to take their turns getting hit by the good guys, it all starts to look a bit like Fame mixed with Double Dragon.

There is some fun to be had though, sadly for the film makers though this is unintentional and involves the death of a major character. In this hilarious scene the heroes’ helicopter is hit by a rocket launcher (well technically a rocket fired from a rocket launcher), instead of blowing it to pieces it starts a small fire and they manage to crash on a roof, it’s not all roses though as a second rocket tips the helicopter sideways a bit and our protagonists roll out over the edge of the building. Sadly for them the waifish blonde girl is left to pull them both up which results in a hilarious minute or so of Sugar Ray Leonard pleading “Hold Me!” over and over to his friend while reaction shots show him clearly just standing on a platform pretending to wobble about. The hilarity is sadly short lived as they fail to uphold his request for a cuddle and he drops to his death.

After that I kinda lost interest to be honest. There was more fighting, a bit in a black family’s home to show how blacks and whites can get along if they stop blowing shit up, and finally the bad guys are thwarted so our hero and his really quite badly hurt new girlfriend head off into the sunset. Well, into the riot ravaged streets where they’ll probably be killed but as the credits have started to roll this is none of our concern.

You know? I’m really starting to regret ever starting this ridiculous endeavour. By the end I will have wasted about 75 hours of my life watching these movies. 75 hours that I could have used to attend an evening class, go to the gym, or go out socially and meet women. Oh well, more next week!

Niki’s Crap DVD Clearout Review Extravaganza! part 11

You know the score by now.

Tiger Warsaw

Amin Q. Chaudhri

(1988)

Rating **

Take a look at that cover for a moment. It’s called Tiger Warsaw, ‘Tiger’ in big bold letters, ‘Warsaw’ in a slashy, blood coloured font. Up front there’s Swayze with a mean look on his face, behind him a tiger with a glowing eye. I was absolutely 100% certain that at least one person would get roundhouse kicked through a window at some point in this movie. But no, Swayze does no roundhouse kicks, hell he doesn’t even take baby out of the corner or spiritually molest Demi Moore. He just emotes, a lot.

The Swayze (as I like to call him) plays a troubled fella by the name of Chuck ‘Tiger’ Warsaw. The reason for this nickname is never fully explained, some people just call him it. He is returning to his hometown after 15 years enforced exile after non-fatally shooting his Dad, the reasons behind this are never adequately explained and in fact contradictory reasons are offered by different characters (one even has a rather disturbingly incestuous tone to it). He’s been on a bender of drugs but is now clean and hoping to put his life back together. The first person he meets is his old best friend who might have been involved in the family mishap but as the film never fully explains that we are left unsure. I’m not sure what kind of friendship they used to have but Tiger seems to think the best way to approach him is to start playing a guitar and singing while staring into his eyes. It’s a creepy and awkward moment that sets the tone for the random ways people interact throughout the movie.

“Maybe phone ahead next time huh?”

He hooks up with an old flame who immediately takes him to bed then spends the rest of the movie trying to patch things up with his family, who are less receptive. After a vaguely exciting moment involving a scarily easily purchased shotgun he leaves town only to have the whole family forgive him in the last five minutes of the film.

So here we are again taking a dip into a Drama boxset (because there’s three of the bastards!). This film could have packed a real emotional punch but sadly it ended up feeling like a kitchen sink drama mixed with a Time Life movie of the week. Everyone over emotes, though not necessarily in a consistent way. People’s attitudes change at random the poor actors seem like they’re being directed from off camera as the scenes unfold. Poor old Piper Laurie, a great actress, is stuck with most of the hideous dialogue. She rambles on in wistful soliloquies and it honestly took a few scenes before I was sure she didn’t have some kind of Alzheimer’s.

The direction is perfunctory at best making it feel a lot like a soap opera. This reaches its logical conclusion at the end of the film where the end credits start rolling over the final wedding scene making it look incredibly like a TV show. Swayze does his best with what he has but spends most of the film either looking hurt or angry and making decisions then going back on them.

Frankly I don’t really have much more to say about this film, sorry if that’s not the witty closer you were expecting but I need to go off and do something exciting before my heart stops all together. A film with the word ‘tiger’ in the title should never be this dull.

Niki’s Crap DVD Clearout Review Extravaganza! parts 7, 8, 9 & 10

You know the score by now.

 

Robocop: Prime Directives

Julian Grant

(2000)

Rating **

“Parts 7 to 10?” I hear you cry. Well let me explain. As I have stated in previous entries in this diabolical series, all of the films are grouped together into groups of four of the same genre. This week’s entry is slightly different as it is not exactly a genre, well, unless you count ‘Robocop’ as a genre. Yes this week’s episode sees me tackle four feature length Robocop movies, and no, they’re not the ones you would have seen. I couldn’t get that lucky.

As a kid I must have seen the first Robocop movie dozens of times. Yes my parents let me watch Robocop as a kid, they were middle class. That meant that if a girl was being hacked up by a chainsaw that was fine as long as nobody had sex at any point. Anyway it’s not done me any harm. True I can’t properly achieve arousal unless I put on a hockey mask and chase a girl through the woods but otherwise, you know, I’m pretty normal.

Sorry what were we talking about? Ah yes, Robocop! I even watched the 2nd movie which was OK but lacked the fun of the first movie, but by the time the 15 rated, jetpack wearing Robocop 3 came around I had long since lost interest. There then came two animated series and a kiddie friendly live action TV series, none of which seemed to set the world alight. Then came this, known as ‘Robocop: Prime Directives’ which is comprised four feature length TV movies which continued the story arc from the original films. All four share the same story line, a story line which is in no way close to being as interesting as the first movie (or even the second). So as our American chums say “you do the math”. The first Robocop was 107 minutes long, this comes in at just under 6 hours. Ouch.

It picks up 10 years after Robocop came to be, we know this from a hilarious scene in which Robocop attends his own birthday party. We also get to see some back story from back when Robo was just good old Alex Murphy, out on patrol with his partner John Cable. These flashbacks are actually some of the best and least ridiculous parts of the film which is unfortunate as they all but abandon them by the second film. Cable hasn’t taken too well to his old partner’s Robofication and is still smarting about a time Murphy failed to shoot a bad guy who had a gun to Cable’s head.

The same thing happens again later on only with a sillier bad guy.

While all this is going on, OCP (the company who built Robocop) are creating a new sentient computer program called SAINT which will completely automate Delta City, but would you know it, some evil execs want to use it for shenanigans.

Urgh! Let’s speed this up! Cable dies, gets brought back as RoboCable (which they at least have the good sense never to call him outside of the DVD case). He and Robocop are framed by OCP and have to go rogue with the help from some mercenaries. Some camp guy is trying to infect SAINT with a virus because OCP fired him ages ago. Robo and Cable intermittently team up or shoot at each other depending on the whim of the story. Everyone ends up at OCP headquarters where Cable sacrifices himself to save the city and Robocop, who heads off into the sunset to fight crime. Oh yeah, Robo’s son also works for OCP, he didn’t like Robo at first but by the end he did. Fin!

What?! You try to summarise six hours of tripe in a couple of paragraphs. This isn’t Lord of the Rings you know?

Well, what an absolute chore this was! Where as usually I can take comfort in knowing that no matter how bad a movie is, it will all be over in about 90 minutes, this just went on and on. It’s hard to sum up what was so bad about it all, it was just really, really “meh”. It didn’t matter if smarmy OCP execs were having a business meeting or it was the middle of a gun fight full of explosions, I just remained resolutely bored throughout. How do you make Cyborgs fighting boring?

It’s just all very TV. From the acting, to the effects, to the script everything is just very average. Page Fletcher, who play Robocop does a pretty good job as Alex Murphy in the flashbacks, but as Robocop he looks like a kid in a homemade robot costume or Kryten from Red Dwarf. It doesn’t help that he’s shorter than almost everyone else in the cast, plus, and this may sound shallow, he has quite a prominent nose. This is not a problem when he’s Murphy but where as Peter Weller looked badass when he took his helmet off as Robocop poor Page looks more like the Tin Man.

Fans of 24 will recognise Leslie ‘Mrs Bauer’ Hope as the decidedly butch and terribly named renegade Ann R. Key but other than her it’s just a sea of bland TV actors. The OCP execs are particularly grating, all passive aggressive smirking and looking out of the top of their eyes. Characters change motivation seemingly on a whim as the story dictates, as I mentioned earlier, Robocop and Cable spend half the movie fighting and half of it working together. Speaking of the Robos, I’m pretty sure the 2nd prime directive given to Robocop was ‘Protect the innocent’, though apparently this doesn’t extend to military police or security guards who are just doing their jobs in trying to stop the metallic pair. Also, businessmen do not good villains make, our main antagonist has lots of meetings and bosses people around, and that’s about it. Hans Gruber he is not.

But the main problem I had with it all is that throughout Robocop is just a bit rubbish. I know that the idea is that he is becoming obsolete but almost from the off he gets beaten up over and over again and is constantly having to be rescued and patched up. He’s a long way from the Robocop who spiked Clarence Boddicker in the throat despite having just had two tons of steel dropped on him in the first movie.

The script is terrible; lines get repeated seemingly because the writers thought they were poignant whereas it just serves to remind you how cheesy they were. They try to give Robocop a sort of Terminator 2 style humanisation as the films go along, this also fails and simply turns him into a wisecracking ass who keeps getting beaten up.

Also there’s no ED209, I fucking loved ED209!

As painful as this was, I take strength in knowing that not only did I mange to knock out four movies in a single article, but no matter how bad the rest of them get they’ll never be the endurance test this one was. Now, I wonder how much the original Robocop is on DVD.

Niki’s Crap DVD Clearout Review Extravaganza! part 6

You know the score by now.

 

Call of the Wild

Peter Svatek

(1997)

Rating ****

As these reviews trundle on I have realised that the scores I am giving are becoming more and more relative to the other movies in this series rather than movies in general. This almost certainly isn’t a four star film in the scheme of things but in comparison to the dreck I’ve sat through so far it’s practically Oscar worthy.

From the off this film has TV Movie written all over it, but not the sort of tosh that gets shown on SyFy, more the sort of movie your mother would sit you down in front of on a Sunday afternoon to keep you quiet for an hour or so. You know, the sort where a child or an animal (or a child with an animal) would have some kind of old-timey adventure where they learn that not all men are good but ultimately triumph through the power of friendship. Call of the Wild: Dogs of the Yukon (to give it its full title) is based on the popular novel by Jack ‘White Fang’ London and tells the tale of a young Leonberger dog called Buck who is kidnapped from his California home and sent to the Yukon (that’s North West Canada geography fans) as a working dog pulling sleds. Yes while Rutger’s grizzled face adorns the DVD cover it is the dog who is the star of this one, and what a gorgeous dog he is! As a dog lover I thought the animals that played Buck were beautiful and very well trained, even if in one scene you can clearly see the red laser pointer that is guiding the dog through the set. In fact there’s dogs galore in this one so if you’re a dog lover too you’re in for a treat even if (SPOILER ALERT) not all of them make it to the end. Rutger himself doesn’t appear until around the 25 minute mark and then it’s only a brief and frankly confusing appearance, he doesn’t appear properly until the last 40 minutes of the movie.

Buck begins his adventure with a couple of kindly (and thoroughly Canadian) mail men, though ‘mail men’ rather undersells what they do as most mail men these days don’t have to brave icy plains on a dog pulled sled. He learns to steal food, stand up for himself and gets in a rather bloody fight with a bully of a German Shepherd called Spitz. From there he is sold to a rather irritating bunch of rich Southerners who are out looking for gold, the trio are ill equipped and poorly tempered and it’s when Buck collapses from exhaustion outside Rutger’s camp that the man finally makes a proper appearance, saving Buck from extermination at the hands of a tweed covered Jim Carrey-alike.

"Alrighty then!"

Yes, while most of us picture Rutger Hauer as either a rouge replicant, a murderous hitchhiker, or more topically, a tramp with a firearm, he here plays a kindly prospector who forms a close bond with Buck. Buck however is constantly torn between his beloved master and ‘the call of the wild’ and the urge to roam free with the wild dogs of the Yukon. Fortunately his mind is made up for him when Rutger gets killed by Indians leaving Buck to head off into the wilderness and folk legend.

Don’t get me wrong this film is not without its flaws, the story sometimes lurches wildly forward without segue, the direction is fairly rudimentary, and the narration often tend to give the dogs far more credit for rational thought than is believable. That aside overall I found this a gentle and enjoyable experience, despite the odd death it’s clearly aimed at children but the story moves along quite nicely, the acting is pretty solid, the landscapes are beautiful and speaking of the narration, it’s by Richard Dreyfuss, and any film that features the narrator of Stand By Me is OK in my book.

This one was from the Adventure box set. We move on to Sci-Fi next week, my hopes aren’t high.