Monday, 22 February 2010

This Aint No 'Rom' Com

Tough Cop
(1987 / Canada / Phillipines / USA)

‘‘Think like a man, move like a cat’’

Following tips and hunches Miami’s budget ball breakers Carpenter and Logan are the ‘B’ movie equivalents of Crockett and Tubbs from Miami Vice, with all the attitude of Dirty Harry. They constantly take down other departments jurisdictions against regulation to collar the heavily armed drug dealers. Chief Inspector Caruso has to regularly remind Carpenter that he is no longer in Vietnam and that there are rules to follow !.‘Fat Cat’ is the new big boss garnering a reputation amongst the dealers and street pushers. Whilst he eases out the opposition Carpenter and Logan squeeze his operation and Fat Cat takes note of Carpenter. His men pick up Carpenter and girlfriend Stella, bringing them blindfolded to their big boss who makes Carpenter an offer of great wealth to join him. Nick Carpenter is an honest cop but Fat Cat gives an ultimatum to work for him, or work for no one !. Carpenter is given five days to give the drug baron his answer, holding Stella against her will and making it perfectly clear what the implications of refusal will be !.

With his professional partner Pete at his side Nick Carpenter hit’s the streets for information as to Fat Cat’s whereabouts, and together the duo really kick into Action. Revving things up in a red Ford Mustang, Carpenter and Logan shake things down at a bar where a moment to talk with a drink soon turns into a brawl. Gang cronies try to call in a debt but do not cater for the Miami detectives calling out the shots, and pretty soon the two clean house well before last orders are taken.

Haunted by memories of Vietnam, war hero Nick Carpenter now patrols the urban jungle of Miami as a detective working for the law enforcement agency of Miami Special Branch. A survivor of the Vietcong torture camps he now fights to keep the streets clean of drug dealers. Along with his black police partner Pete Logan he still does things his own way to get results, constantly agitating his superior Chief Inspector John Caruso, played by the ubiquitous Mike Monty. Chief Caruso at one stage applicably verbalises to Carpenter ‘‘You’re a natural born killing machine, and a no good social worker’’.
When the governors young son is taken hostage for a $2 million ransom Carpenter and Logan again disregard the chiefs explicit order to stay out of it, and set about closing in on the heavily armed abductors in their own inimitable fashion. Holed up in an abandoned multi storied warehouse the gang of abductors are staked outside by the police but are more than prepared as they strike out with heavy artillery, including machine guns and a rocket launcher. The altercation soon turns into a fire powered frenetic free for all, but amidst the distraction Carpenter and Logan set about taking out the bad guys by surprise from within the warehouse. The Action for value exchange here is very rewarding.

All small crimes and drug dealings connect back to Fat Cat, and when Nick and Pete finally catch a guy with inside information as to the crime lords whereabouts the truly Explosive Action kicks into high gear. Employing a personal interpretation on methods of interrogation, used against himself and fellow soldiers in Vietnam, Carpenter employs a makeshift torture device to assure the lackey gives up the hideaway of Fat Cat. It proves to be a small island just off the coast of Miami. Carpenter and Logan waste no time in preparing themselves to go calling !.

Fat Cat, a Caucasian version of Barry White, with a line in suits likely picked out at the time by Ray Charles, revels in his king pin position and surrounds himself with a small army of well armed men. Nick and Pete are helicopter dropped into the waters just off shore of the island, kitted out mercenary style, armed to the hilt readied for Action. Two cops back in Action ‘Nam style, prepared to take the war to the drug war monger Fat Cat !.
Kenneth Peerless & Mike Monty

The two super cool cops soon discover that the island is a huge hording port for drugs and munitions. They set explosives to destroy the lot and set about delivering a personal message to Miami’s underworld. Armed with big guns, big explosives and big sunglasses, they storm the island on a mission intent on taking down Fat Cat and rescuing Stella.

The bullet laden explosive finale is gung ho greatness, and even has time for the odd moment of welcome wry humour. A nod to Raiders Of The Lost Ark (1981) sees a black clad, sword wielding Ninja, squaring up to Romano Kristoff and a gun. Kristoff’s reaction here, with an immediate response and delivery of dialogue, is classic.

This is Action packed, crowd rousing stuff which delivers entertainment in no small measure. How can you not be thrilled by a film that ends with Romano Kristoff audaciously squaring off against a helicopter ?. It takes a lot of bottle to stop Fat Cat getting the cream !

Movie Rating: 7/10

Review Paul Cooke / Source NTSC VHS Japan

Tough Cop (1987)
Director Dominic Elmo Smith
With Rom Kristoff, Jimi B Jnr, Anthony East,

Saturday, 20 February 2010

Project UFO: The Phillip J. Roth Files

Project: Human Weapon
(2000 / USA)

Now this is fun, and it doesn’t even involve an underwater facility! Evan Mink (Judge Reinhold…more on that later!) is a commando who screws up his mission. This leads all to all of his men dying. Thankfully they do so in a way that entertains the audience, as Mink escapes via balloon extraction from a CGI plane. Gunfights ensue and the uber-cliché of burnt out commando to be seen later is now firmly in place, thank you. Cut to one of the many Bulgarian secret super science places that we just know exists … thanks to the world of B-movies. In this particular facility, it’s time for the final test, and a showdown between two telepaths is underway. Professor X of the X-Men times two ! Well, maybe divided by six and then times two, but it’s a cool battle, loaded with effective CGI wibble wobbles and flying barrels.
Jerry, the nice telepath who hates to kill, wins the battle! His complacency could be a problem for his ruthless handlers … but it’s not an issue … because suddenly the complex is attacked by (say it with me) The Russians. Yeah, those wacky Russians. So now Jerry is on the run and everyone wants him to either harness, control or poke and prod. He has NEVER been outside of the complex, so it’s Stranger in a Strange Land. However, he does have visions of a sister he was taken from before entering this mysterious program (against his will), and she has been making her way by using those TK abilities to cheat at gambling. They send in the aforementioned burnt out commando, Mink, to do some tracking and retrieval.

Well, it gets more complicated, but just watch it … because amidst all this plotting (oh, did I mention that Jerry does some very Jesus Christ-esque stuff ?), there is some cool CGI, one whopper of a helicopter crash (CGI of course), and a great little dogfight sequence. Fast paced fun all around. And there is lots of that studio UFO “reacting to things that aren’t there” for the actors of course ! Truly a great shot of running from a CGI explosion follow.
Project: Human Weapon has all the hallmarks of a television pilot, and one that was made in the Eighties at that. This works to it’s advantage however. The reliable CGI artists and a fast paced story come through fine, and somehow manage to overcome two very bad things. Now, I like Judge Reinhold, but the introduction of his character has him making hand signals, and dressed in camouflage in full action man regalia. No ! Sorry, I just can’t buy it. He does a passable job throughout, but there seems to be some non-character self-loathing issues for poor Judge as he wanders about and plays his character like a passive aggressive manic depressive off his meds. To be fair though, he doesn’t really take up that much (memorable) screen time. Which leads us to problem two ! Aside from a few Americans, including the seemingly reliable to studio UFO William Zabka (Johnny from Karate Kid !) the cast is Bulgarian. Are the women attractive in that special Euro way ? … yep ! Can you understand them when they speak ? NOPE ! Remember those CGI helicopters and planes that go BOOOOOM ? Keep ‘em in mind while you try to decipher what is being said. One hilarious line has the rather cute heroine speaking to Zabka, and he just looks at her and yells “WHAT ?” He was supposed to be shocked and in character, but it’s rare that an actor can break down the wall and speak for me so clearly. Art.
Don’t let these nits pick at you though, I really enjoyed this film … hey, I’d like to see a sequel. Those Jesus powers could make for one fun flick !

Movie Rating: FUN

Review David Zuzelo / Source Region 1 NTSC DVD

Mindstorm aka Project: Human Weapon (2000)
Director Mitchell Cox
With Judge Reinhold, Victor Browne,William Zabka, Rositza Chorbadjiska, Jochen Nickel & Stela Prokopieva

‘‘The power is all in his mind’’

Saturday, 13 February 2010

Joel In The Crown Horror

Blood Creek
(2009 / USA)

‘‘I’ve been seventeen longer than you’ve been alive’’

A poor German family settled in mid America, to farm and live off the land, receive a visit from a man who shows them his papers, and instruction from the homeland to take him in as their paying lodger. The year is 1936, the time of Hitler’s rule and his obsession with the black arts. The farm in which this rural family reside is set upon a formidably sized symbolic rune stone. Its properties believed to hold the secrets to life eternal !. An eerie occurrence is soon experienced by the young child of the family as she witnesses their guest, Herr Richard Wirth, bring a semblance of life back to her dead bird. An early sign of the ethereal embodiment Wirth is there to attain from his union with the rune stone. Over seventy years later, the time is now and the young girl is still living with her family at the same farm, on the same land. The girl is now a young woman of seventeen years of age, and like her family they have not aged since the first formative years of the stranger arriving at their door. The area is still and the land is lifeless, but a pernicious presence lingers and its secret cannot be contained any longer !.
Evan Marshall is a parent living apart from his estranged wife and beloved children. As an emergency paramedic he works all hours and barely survives on the minimal hours of rest afforded him. His elder brother Victor has been missing for over a year, which torments their house bound father, who blames Evan for all his perceived shortcomings. Victor was a soldier who went to war for his country whilst Evan stayed on the home front.

One dark night Victor returns to awaken Evan from his short period of sleep during the early hours. He is startled by Victors almost unrecognisable state, long haired, fully bearded, barely clothed, and covered in mud and grime. Most startling of all is his bared back, cut, lacerated and apparently fed upon !. Bloodied and beaten, but with an abundant driven determination about him, Victor tells his brother to grab whatever weapons he can. Evan has many questions but refrains from asking them, doing as his brother asks as Victor hurriedly showers and cuts the tangled, overgrown hair from his head and face. Just before dawn the two of them arrive together at the outskirts of a run down farm, a place of great pain and torture perpetrated upon Victor by the Wollner family !?. Victor asks of his brother no questions but to believe in him that what lies before them is retribution upon a god forsaken homestead of evil doers, responsible for his state of being and reason for his durational disappearance. Held captive and tortured for so long he feels bound to end this family reign of blood letting for himself and others who have not survived the ordeal, and to ensure no one else falls victim !.

What follows is an unrelenting juggernaut of fast paced, well staged, Action horror, splattered across the screen with all the gusto of an artist bringing a painting to life with each evocative stroke of the brush. Herr Wirth is unleashed to feast freely upon those gathered within the constraints of the property perimeter, their only hope for keeping him at bay being the symbolically signed home stead. Its entrance and windows blood etched in ancient hieroglyph to ward off Evil !. This Evil that stands at their door is however eternal and having immediately fed upon the blood of the livestock is almost at the peak of its power. This is the representation of Hitler’s vision for the master race. An undying, unyielding Arian juggernaut, spawned from the satanic embers of Hell itself.

Wirth conjures up a malevolent maelstrom as a necromancer, resurrecting the dead around him to use against the living, in order to cross the protective boundary keeping him from his final feast. Frenzied attacks upon the house and its few remaining living occupants follow. The most incredible of all, and one of the truly staggeringly original moments in recent screen horror, is the sequence involving a horse brought back to life and sent charging into the property. The sight of a possessed killer horse raising up and kicking out as it charges into the house with evil intent towards man is unbelievably well done !. Victor and Evan blast the beast with guns and hack at it with knife and cleaver to bring it down in the most out of control on screen savagery witnessed in quite some time. How the sequence is achieved without resorting to completely fake CGI will be open to viewer conjecture and discussion long after the movie closes. The cut and thrust of the movie lies in the solid direction and well staged Action of the piece, never allowing proceedings to falter for even a moment. The story is straight forward but unpretentious in its telling from start to finish. This then is a genuine little gem of a mid budgeted movie that gives its mainstream rivals a real kicking in the value for money, entertainment stakes.Unabashed, unrelenting and under the radar movie majesty doffs its cult in the making crown with Blood Creek. If this be the House Of F

Movie Rating: 8/10

Review by Paul Cooke / Source Region 1 NTSC DVD

Blood Creek (2009)
Director Joel Schumacher
With Dominic Purcell, Henry Cavill, Michael Fassbender,
Emma Booth & Rainer Winkelvoss
ührer Frankenstein you are all urged to knock at its doors. Horror has come home.
Imagine The Evil Dead (1981) meets TV’s Supernatural, as on screen bothers Victor (Dominic Purcell) and Evan (Henry Cavill) play older, wiser, and tougher variants of Sam and Dean Winchester from the Cult show.

Evan is confused, but soon catapulted into an escalating myriad of madness and malignancy as evidence of dark forces envelope them. The two brothers storm the main homestead, violently shot gun blasting one of the male family members several times, only for him to still show signs of life !?. Victor wants answers from the head of the house Otto Wollner, but what he gets is of course not at all what it appears to be. Victor is not the only victim, and his return has set in motion an irreversible event that lets forth the true Evil.

How very refreshing, an exuberant horror to rejuvenate the genre and add great credence to the oft maligned straight to DVD rental market. Joel Schumacher revisits chiller cinema for the first time since Flatliners (1990) and delivers the goods with a gusto that harkens back to his cult hit The Lost Boys (1987). This one has sharp teeth in the shape of an immortal necromancer, spawned from an eternal dark evil resurrected by order of Hitler himself, condoning his predilection for the proliferation of a pure Arian race. An exercise in pure Evil that tortures the God loving family Wollner beyond their own mortal span, tearing at the fabric of time, feeding off the innocent, and straining at the bit to be unleashed upon the modern world. Terror in the form of malignant man is benign before a keeper, but once unshackled its inherent Evil shows no remorse in its rapacious cycle of carnage !.

Saturday, 6 February 2010

Room At The Asylum For ...

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's
Sherlock Holmes
(2010 / USA)

‘‘Come Watson, the game’s afoot’’

Like a Dickensian dandy The Asylum draft Sherlock Holmes to the faux film fray. With a pocket bursting bursary to match that of it’s blockbuster cousins rider list for Guy Ritchie’s Hollywood puckering chafe sticks. Star Ben Syder, as Holmes, is unknown of up against the superlative Robert Downey Junior, but in this adventure he at least gets to wield a sword up against an iron man !. A stark Marvel to behold in a comic book pulp digestible way.

The Asylum step into the world of a literary character giant wearing boots rather than fine leather shoes, but as sole proprietors of cinemas current cash in cobblers they lace proceedings with a filmic frippery bow. Dodgy opening effects that make CGI seem like real life set the opening scene for London, England during the war torn blitz, December 29th 1940. An elderly, and wheel chair bound, Dr. John Watson, recalls to his personal home nurse a tale of some very strange occurrences. An untold adventure with his dear friend Sherlock Holmes, to now be chronicled as the greatest, and least known achievement of Sherlock Holmes, ever to be kept from the public.
A bumptious Sherlock Holmes and grumpy Dr. Watson are called upon by Inspector LeStrade to assist with an investigation into this strange occurrence, and indeed other equally bizarre events in the vicinity. London’s Whitechapel is the scene of several sightings and carnivorous encounters with a beast not heard of in millions of years !?.
Sixpence for a good time prostitute gets you a mini T-Rex, value for money if euphemistically interpreted, but when proven to be a full on teeth and claws chew down there are better ways to fritter frustrations. This unwelcome flesh fumble leads to a Jurassic ‘pork’ !.
With improbable monsters and ingenious foul play at work the Sherlock shenanigans pep up proceedings to keep the movie enjoyable enough throughout its entirety. Dominic Keating, lieutenant Malcolm Reed from TV’s Star Trek: Enterprise, plays Holmes nemesis here, as the nimbly named Spring-Heeled Jack. His connection to Holmes is not hard to deduce, nor is the convoluted plot to bring down the monarchy and strike back at a country that Spring-Heeled Jack holds responsible for his paralysis whilst fighting for its cause. Only a specially designed synthetic suit affords Jack mobility. His ingenuity with mechanics is applied with malintent, and for the purpose of insurrection. By mechanised means the megalomaniacal miscreant sets about bombing Buckingham Palace with the intent of killing the Queen.

As ever The Asylum’s movie making studio house set about with well meant intent at producing a low budget entertainment package for a general audience. To this end they have again delivered on their good intent, as Sherlock Holmes is inoffensive silliness triggered to fire its ware with a true aim at its target demographic. A home rental market, low lay out investment, for a rewarding enough dividend on time invested on ninety minutes detachment from the daily rigours of the real word. To this extent The Asylum, with Sherlock Holmes, delivers pretty good value for money. In maximising viewing enjoyment it should be pointed out that a forgiveness of the vast majority of the low tech special effects is best prepared for in advance. What does work particularly well, however, is the scene engulfing excesses of the giant mechanised winged dragon. Its airborne assault upon the city of London, spewing flames forth from its steel set jaw, is a highlight. Witnessing Sherlock Holmes stalk it down giving chase in a hot air balloon, replete with an implemented machine gun, is the stuff of schlock silliness and laudable lampoonery long after viewing.It is quite elementary to deduce which of the two Sherlock Holmes movies will rake in the big bucks at the box office, but if you still haven’t a clue then you’d be as mad as a Baskerville not to investigate The Asylum’s infectious little fun filler.

Movie Rating 5/10

Review Paul Cooke / Source Region 1 NTSC DVD

Sherlock Holmes (2010)
Director Rachel Goldenberg
With Ben Syder, Gareth David-Lloyd, Dominic Keating,
William Huw & Elizabeth Arends

What works very well is the on screen relationship between Holmes and Watson. Ben Syder is extremely well cast as Sherlock Holmes, in what appears to be his first on screen role. Alongside Gareth David-Lloyd, hardly recognisable from his clean cut sartorial suave as Ianto Jones, from the BBC TV show Torchwood, the two are commendably selected choices for the iconic pairing. The texture of the film is also noteworthy as it has an aged look that adds authenticity to the period in which the movie takes place. Almost a brown hue that is associated with those decades old family photographs from yesteryear.

Release the Kraken !. May 19th 1882 amidst the English channel traverses a vessel of the realm, a treasury ship with a bounty that even a good Christian would mutiny over. It is not however a wayward crew, nor an over whelming sea that besets this craft this day, but a mighty octopus risen up from the very depths of the ocean. It’s all tentacles on deck as the sea creature tears into the ship, grabbing at sea fairing sailors like plucking wayward wisps from an untrimmed lady garden.