Thursday 24 December 2009

Thomas 'Tinsel' Tang Treat

Ninja Condors
aka Ninja Condors 13
(1987/Hong Kong)

Filmark hit the ninja trail running full on like a quarter back in complete body kit, readied for the fray and prepared to get bruised. It’s Miller time folks, and this one goes down a treat. A Tomas Tang production that saves ten dollars on leaving the ‘H’ out of his name in the credits, to allow for a cut and paste free movie all of its own with the reinvested proceeds . Yes indeed, Ninja Condors is an entire film from start to glorious finish, and rendered to DVD in super Ninja wide screen vision with welcome relish. There’s no need for Richard Harrison to parade here with a head band decal stating Ninja, it’s clear what’s on offer and the Action show reels deliver the goods like Santa on smack.

Alexander Lou is Brian, who as a young boy witnesses the killing of his father in barbaric fashion. Hunted down, by the henchmen of a regional gang boss, he is tied and bound, stretched out by his four limbs, attached to revving motorcycles, and then ripped apart as the bikes tear off in different directions. Brian is left alone, but with a burning rage building within him as he grows into man hood, to take revenge upon his fathers murderers !.
Along with another youth Brian is raised in the ways of martial arts and the path of the Ninja, by a kindly master. Blinded by his desire to take revenge Brian falls in with an organisation that is steadily culling the region of its gangland tyranny, by replacing it with its own !. Now a man and honed in the skills of the Ninja Brian is known as White Eagle, and those that took his father from him are swooped down upon in remorseless retribution.
As the organisation garners absolute power, distributing its blades of death upon the drug cartels, prostitution racketeers, and gambling iniquities, with a lethal deftness attributable to the way of the Ninja, Brian questions his own path taken. When innocent bystanders and children are caught up in the distribution of death to those that are truly deserving he knows that the organisation has become as callous as those that it set out to bring down. Power has corrupted the head of the organisation, the one that Brian grew up with under the tutelage of the master, a man now calling himself Lucifer !.
When expected to kill a police officer who helped him when his father was slain, and his pregnant wife, Brian is compromised and his inner conflict prevails to the code of the Ninja. He rebels against the organisation, putting himself top of Lucifer’s list of priorities to deal with. The White Eagle goes in search of his master, and Lucifer’s Ninja follow in pursuit, ordered to kill !.
Brian runs into a larger than life, solid rock of a fighting man, at a bar. A big black dude named Eddie, who introduces himself by picking a fight with everyone in the bar and involving Brian to help him out. Eddie sticks around, even though Brian wants to journey alone, but with a path constantly beset by aggressive Ninjas looking to clip the White Eagles wings, Eddie’s groove grows on him. Together they play off each other like born brothers at arms, dishing out fist sandwiches with relish and whooping up a storm of Ninja magical mist to take out all that foolishly throw themselves at them. They are like the clones of Bruce Lee and Fred Williamson, brought together to beat down the bad guys and put the righteous brothas back where they belong.
With black garbed Ninjas springing out at them from everywhere, like Cato surprising Inspector Clouseau from the Pink Panther films, the rinky dink duo break bones, snap spines and spike heads in retaliation. There’s more Ninja nuttiness on display than a schizoid squirrel hoarding Snickers bars for winter. It’s tree flying, gravity defying, Ninja wizardry, vanishing into thin air following a puffing plume of multi coloured smoke, lethal steel star throwing acrobatics, and the deft dance of White Ninja Vs Black Ninja, swords of death style !.
Set piece scene stealers include a boat yard Ninja ho down and a Ninja duel on ice at a rink. Even though the movie manically jumps about like a leopard in a leotard, for shear entertainment value Ninja Condors knocks the spots off most Western made kung fu capers paws down.
The final showdown is a bring the house down classic as White Eagle squares off against Lucifer in one Hell of a round house Ninja riot. Brian and Eddie storm Lucifer’s stronghold hellacious coastal haven. Pop your corn and let your lady lick the lolly as the excitement value goes off the chart, Ninjaculation style. John Woo would be proud of the body count, and sheer amount of explosive Action on display at the finale, as the bullets fly and the grenades get launched. Blade upon blade sets the sparks flying, and a rapturous reality shift rounds proceedings off as sheer Ninja nonsense comes gleefully into play. For fruit loop frolics just add movie milk and Ninja nitrous to this scrumptious bowl of Ninja Condor goodness. This Tomas Tang treat tastes so very good.

Review Paul Cooke / Source Pal Region 2 DVD

Ninja Condors (1987)
Director James Wu
With Alexander Lou, Stuart Hugh, Eugene Thomas,
Timothy Johnson, Richard Phillips, Edward Douglas,
Mary Johnson, Mick Murray & Jay Forster

‘‘I’ll carve your ambitions on your tombstone’’

Wednesday 23 December 2009



Santa Has A Thomas Tang Treat Readying For Delivery Christmas Eve ...

Prepare The Elf's For Reindeer As There Be A Ninja Turkey To Serve Ye All

Stay Tuned Folks And Thanks For Stopping By In 2009


Saturday 19 December 2009

Steve Reeves Spaghetti Six Shooter

Vivo Per La Tua Morte
Aka A Long Ride From Hell

‘‘I’ll remember, Freeman. I’ll remember everything. And one day I’ll kill ya. You’ll remember that !’’

The Herculean Steve Reeves trades loin cloth for denims and chariot for sturdy steed, as he rides tall in the saddle in his first and only spaghetti western. A fan of the genre but sadly due to an injury his foray into this forum of film was cut short in his prime. This then proved to be his initiation into the highly popular Spaghetti franchise of the Sixties, and ultimately his final big screen appearance. But, what a entry to make for the muscular man oak. A tale of injustice, suffering and ultimate revenge with Reeves as the star flexing his muscles to the tune of an Italian Spaghetti Western theme, that enhances his credible appearance.

Whatever ill doing is thrown at him he dishes back out come closing credits, and with a well regarded novel of the time transposed to screenplay the story is a solid one, and translates to screen very well. Finally then, A Long Ride From Hell, arrives Uncut on DVD thanks to Wild East, and it is a release that cries out for any Spaghetti Western lovers collection.
Steve Reeves plays the role of Mike Sturges, the elder brother and head of the family small ranch. Raising cattle and horses to trade at market to maintain a steady income for his dependants. When some of his men are attacked by masked cattle rustlers whilst taking cattle to town he rides off in pursuit, along with his younger brother Roy and his long time trusty foreman. Come night time they make camp at the side of the railway and become unwittingly embroiled into a spiralling decent into Hell. They are visited by an old friend of Mike’s named Marlin Mayner, who warns them not to stay as the Southern Pacific Railways have trigger happy agents patrolling the area. Mayner reveals himself to be an agent himself for the railway, but there is something that is not quite right about this chance encounter !?. When Mayner takes his leave, Mike takes a ride by horse around the surrounding area and is soon set upon by a gang of well armed men. He is shot in the leg, but left alive to bare witness to the events that quickly transpire with reckless and violent abandonment. The well organised gang of horseback riding professionals attack a train carrying a bullion of gold, as it comes to a stop to fill up with much needed water. The assault is swift and savage as no one is left alive in the barrage of bullets and explosives, ripping the train apart and leaving the robbers to escape with the gold.

Mike Sturges stumbles through the wreckage and finds his foreman dead at the scene. He crawls back to his nearby camp in search of his brother, only to finally pass out with exertion. He is forcibly awoken as morning breaks as the sheriff and his men arrive and take Mike and his wounded brother Roy as being members of the attacking gang left behind due to their injuries. Sheriff Freeman is a nasty piece of work and acts on the spot as judge and jury towards the Sturges brothers. He is prevalent in assuring the two of them get sent to do hard time at the infamous Yuma state penitentiary, knowing full well that Mike’s younger brother Roy will not survive the incarceration. Mike knows full well he has been set up and that Freeman is far from the law abiding officer behind the badge he wears.

Yuma is hell in the Arizona desert, an arid environment where the prison guards are vicious and more corrupt than the majority of prisoners that they lord over. The head warder is Bill Savage, a particularly nasty individual who takes against Mike Sturges immediately, but in order to break him he picks upon his weaker brother. Roy is tortured as an example to the inmates and as a direct act of provocation against Mike. The rage within Mike grows each day and with an inmate insurrection, led by a guy named Mason, coming to the fore Mike acts when coldly informed by Savage that Roy has died !. In the rock breaking quarry amidst the scorching heat Mike’s contained fury erupts and he strikes out at a guard, takes his gun and shoots all who stand in his way. Mason rallies the inmates and all hell breaks loose as the prisoners take on the guards in hand to hand combat, and an exchange of bullets as they overpower the weapon wearing guards.

The movie plays out in pretty much three acts and each is as satisfying as the last, but it is perhaps the survival instinct of our protagonist in Yuma that stands out. The final third act of course has Mike Sturges fully fit and focused on exacting his vengeance upon the bad guys. He uncovers a deep rooted conspiracy that involves the sheriff and the Southern Pacific Railway itself, as well as unveiling the connection with his one time friend Marlin Mayner.

Steve Reeves did a great job in getting this production up and running and takes the lead role extremely well. He does perhaps overlook the traditional dishevelled look associated with Spaghetti Westerns that stood Clint Eastwood so well as the anti hero. Reeves chooses to stay mostly clean cut looking and sporting a head band even when breaking rocks during the hard labour at Yuma Penitentiary. When he does sport stubble it adds more credence to his character. As a hands on producer what he did do with clear distinction is gather around him a very solid cast of co-stars. The cast roster reads extremely well and Director Camillo Bazzoni gets great performances out of the likes of Mimmo Palmara and Wayde Preston particularly.
Shot in Spain with a predominantly Italian crew and production the film does play more like an American western, which of course is how a great deal of these films were shot as they were aimed at the bigger financial market of American audiences. The unmistakeable opening credits are born out of iconic Italian Spaghetti Western themes, as are the regular bursts of background jingles throughout the movie to keep the pace moving along. Steve Reeves is less engaging as a western hero than he was as the god like Adonis in his epic sword and sandal cinematic roles. It would have been intriguing, however, to see him have gone on to do more westerns as he would have become more comfortable and ultimately more at ease in the genre.

Mike and Mason evade capture longer than most of the less savvy convicts that break jail with them. Hot on their tail though is the slovenly warder Bill Savage, but Mike Sturges will not hide from this evil man when the inevitable face to face time arrives, and of course it does !. There are far greater problems to overcome though as beyond the solitude of Yuma is the searing Arizona desert heat, and laying in wait are the multitude of ruthless bounty hunters !. Mike has a reason to survive beyond the reasonability of most men, and his inner fortitude to return back home and take revenge upon those that done him wrong keeps him alive.

With the trend of so many Italian movie stars throughout the years seeing them go from the sword and sandal epics into westerns, then onto crime flicks during the Seventies and ultimately then etching out an extended career with the Action movies during the Eighties, who knows how much more we could have seen of Steve Reeves as an actor ?. Seeing him alongside Franco Nero and Maurizio Merli kicking crime into touch whilst racing around the streets of Rome in a police car would have been potentially big fun. Imagine then being asked by an Antonio Margheriti or Enzo G. Castellari, in his mid fifties to head up an all Action jungle commando flick as a seasoned mercenary or Vietnam commander in those glorious Eighties adventures. Now that could have been very cool indeed.

With A Long Ride From Hell, Steve Reeves bows out on a pretty memorable note though and it is satisfying to know that for him personally he got to achieve a personal goal in making a Spaghetti Western. Hercules with a hat, on a horse, now that’s some mighty movie muscle pulling power for sure.
Review Paul Cooke / Source NTSC Region 1 DVD
A Long Ride From Hell (1968)
Director Camillo Bazzoni
With Steve Reeves, Wayde Preston, Guido Lollobrigida,
Mimmo Palmara, Silvana Venturelli & Nello Pazzafini

Sunday 13 December 2009

Rumble In The Jungle ... WWE Style

Behind Enemy Lines

‘‘The only easy day was yesterday’’

A direct to video Action movie that puts many mainstream movies to shame. From the World Wrestling Entertainment movie production stable comes this canvas pounding, body bruiser of an outing, that puts a rocket into the rear pocket of bigger budget movies and leaves an indelible smile of satisfaction with its delivery of destruction.

A terrorist guerrilla militia known as F.A.R.C uses the unease in relations between Colombia and the American government to further their own propaganda amongst the Colombian people. Attacking innocent people in their own country, blaming the American dictatorship and even the Colombian army itself, brings about a pivotal turning point in one Colombian soldiers life. Alvaro Cardona is off duty and enjoying a day with his wife and child when a terrorist attack brings about an explosion which kills the two closest people in his life. He knows it is the F.A.R.C but rather than continue to fight the cause he joins up with it, embittered at his personal loss and despising the army that he fought for, he takes his military knowledge and imposes a strategic coup de grĂ¢ce.
In a remote farm land area, within an isolated barn, peace talks are set up between the Colombian army and the F.A.R.C forces, but when an American Navy Seals team is compromised at the scene through insider information it proves to be the perfect entrapment. Caught up in a staged show of might by the F.A.R.C against the Colombian representation, the Navy Seal team, headed up by Lt. Sean Macklin, witness a one sided slaughter as the Colombian soldiers are shot down like ducks at a fair. The Navy Seals are a well oiled fighting machine, but the overwhelming odds, in multitudes of equally well armed combative soldiers against them, leaves but one outcome. It’s an explosive showpiece of outstanding all Action greatness, but casualties and fatalities take the seal team down to three fit bodies, one of which is captured !.

With their own intelligence film equipment being retrieved from them Lt. Macklin and right hand wing man Chief Carter Colt not only have to rescue their captured fellow seal and friend, Petty Officer Kevin Derricks, but somehow retrieve the footage that is used against them in re-edited form to show the American soldiers attacking the seen to be peace treaty with lethal intent !. Lock and load, get ready to explode as these pissed seals don’t perform for fish, they act like fervent sharks, the smell of blood in their nostrils and a sea of problems to address. What follows is a tried and tested script formula but boy does it play out bigger, better, louder and more ballistic than pretty much anything else contending for the DTV Action awards. It’s a testosterone train wreck of tyrannical Colombian activists as passengers, hapless lemmings in the headlights of American Navy Seals, foot to the throttle, off the rails high end Action careening all the way to Redemption Day. Full steam ahead !.

Unleash WWE superstar Mr. Kennedy (Ken Anderson) into the film fray and his naturally gifted guile for the gab adds all the cocksure swagger to a larger than life on screen character, one that audiences both old and new to him will want to cheer for. He chews up scenery and spits out great one liners like Schwarzenegger chomping down on his big old cigar, dead pan and delightfully droll. When up to their necks in the deep stuff Anderson’s character, Chief Carter Colt, has to appropriate a means of transportation deep in Colombian hostile territory. Upon production of a working vehicle his commanding Lieutenant (Joe Manganiello) remarks, ‘‘This car smells like boiled ass !’’, to which Colt pointedly retorts , ‘‘Oh hey, sorry okay, it was the only thing I could find that didn’t have goats, chickens or people sleeping in the back ok !’’.
The Navy Seals training is superior to their enemies and both Macklin and Colt tick off names in all manner of quick kill plays, as they seek to free their captured fellow soldier and friend Derricks. Colombian neck ties don’t suit the trios apparel, but their use of throat adornment on their opponents comes with a red garnish at no extra charge !. Two men skilfully taking down a fortified holding facility to rescue one of their own becomes even more of a freedom fighter foray once reunited with Derricks. Yelp three seals of approval as the trio cut a swathe through the bad guys like a razor blade dividing up a line of crack. Getting up the noses of oppressors with all the same ill effects, leaving a blur of powdered residue to daze and confuse the hapless pushers of pain.
Back at American base camp their team commander, brilliantly played by Keith David, holds off the officious big wigs looking to tag their own with the can in order to tidy up a messy situation on a rogue unit !. Keith David is having none of it and spits defiance like a true leader, believing in his own men like a proud parent. His belief in his ‘children’ is a sound one as incriminating evidence against those truly responsible is within grasp of the die hardened surviving seals.
Director Tim Matheson proves he is as unassumingly adept behind the camera as he is in front, as this is a sterling piece of Action. A jungle incursion that explodes across the screen with great regularity as one ass whoopin’ navy seals team doesn’t give a F.A.R.C when it comes to Colombian extremists. Any beaten down captive soldier who can fight his way to freedom and still coolly deliver the line, ‘‘The bastards made me eat McDonalds’’, would normally steal the show, but here with a regular quota of dry quips that all hit the spot Ken Anderson steals the show. Joe Manganiello is however a great lead, enabling Anderson to fit the bill of supporting role perfectly, without having to live up to the mantle that may have been laid at his door. Major thumbs up then for Behind Enemy Lines: Colombia. Here’s hoping there may even be a sequel.

Review Paul Cooke / Source NTSC Region 1 DVD

Behind Enemy Lines: Colombia (2009)
Director Tim Matheson
With Joe Manganiello, Ken Anderson (aka Mr. Kennedy),
Channon Roe, Yancey Arias, Chris J. Johnson,
Anthony Matos, Steven Bauer & Keith David

Sunday 29 November 2009

Going It A ... Sloane


‘‘This is getting good. Just like a Humphrey Bogart movie’’

When a business mans daughter is kidnapped, and her husband is killed in Manila, who do you call to bring daddy’s little girl home safely ?. Sloane !.

Robert Resnik is the one man militia Sloane, a Tae Kwon Do expert who knows how to take out the trash, and not just once a week for collection like regular folk. Mr. Thursby sends for Sloane and offers him a blank cheque to rescue his daughter Janice. One time love and prospective wife, Janice and Sloane were split apart by Thursby in the past. Thursby knows that for this engagement Sloane is definitely the best man to win back his daughter !. With a steely answer Sloane agrees to accept and do it for Janice, but for Thursby it will cost him plenty !.
Sloane hooks up with an old buddy named Pete, a guy always down on his luck but someone Sloane can still call upon for local insight. Feet and fists introduce themselves to three thugs about to put a beat down on Pete at the back of a club. Sloane tips the outcome in favour of his friend as once again his ability to take opponents out with quick reflexes proves superior. To repay his friend, and not for the first time, Pete is only too willing to be put to good use and is soon out using his local knowledge with an ear to the ground for information.
With a venomous cobra now as a back seat passenger to also contend with, whilst being hotly pursued, Sloane has to act fast !. The snake gets a unique cobra clutch from a voracious Sloane, who in quick turn pulls a manoeuvre that sends the chasing lackeys snaking off the highway like extras from ‘Mad Max’.
A garage fight scene delivers some fine fighting Action and more than a dose of violence as one unfortunate gets his face introduced to the fan belt of a cars open boot running engine. Filipino face fricassee !. Sending a body filled garage to hell in an explosive inferno the intensity of the situation leaves a pumped up Sloane delivering the line, ‘‘They finally pissed me off !’’.

Sloane comes well and truly into his own when he kits up in combat fatigues, muscles up with a mighty machine gun, and stomps a mud hole in Manila big enough to mess with the main man holding his objective captive. Give him a big gun and he makes a big difference !.
It’s a mishmash of mayhem that’s infectious enough to warrant your time, and most enjoyable when its star turns into the ‘Sloane’ ranger.

Review Paul Cooke / Source Japanese NTSC VHS
Sloane (1984)
Director Daniel Rosenthal
With Robert Resnik, Debra Blee, Paul Aragon,
Ann Milhench, Carissa Carlos & George Mahlberg

There’s just about enough Action to keep this one watch able, including many a quotable line in witty dialogue, along with the bizarre appearance of marauding midgets with seemingly cannibalistic overtures !?.

Richard’s sister Cynthia, a pesky writer too inquisitive for her own good, is immediately situating herself around Sloane wanting to know about her brothers death, and sister in laws abduction. Sloane has always found her irritating and no more so when she reintroduces herself into his life. It is not long though before Sloane and those around him, including Cynthia, attract attention of the unwanted type. The returning problem solver is soon putting his martial arts skills to good use however. Saving Cynthia from two locals who invade her home and try to rape her. Sloane learns that the man who he needs to seek out is an Asian crime boss named Chan Se. Richard double crossed Chan Se in an underhand deal and kept the money for himself. Money sizeable enough that Chan Se wants, and intends using Cynthia as collateral to get it !.

The hero for hire flies immediately out to the Philippines. Having lived in Manila for seventeen years he has connections and a great bearing for the region. A long way from his new life in California, but back in Manila he is still remembered. An old police friend shows him the body of Janice’s deceased husband Richard, and Sloane calls in a favour to look over recent case files of criminal activity in the area. He believes Richard has been caught up in under hand deals for quite a while and figures this time it has cost him his life.

Sunday 22 November 2009

Spaghetti Western 'Noose'

Cutthroats Nine To Be Remade
Prepare For 'Gore'

One of the most infamous and nihilistic Westerns ever made is due the remake treatment, and with Harvey Keitel signed up, along with Mads Mikkelsen, the 'X' rated western may well herald the way for a new swathe of gritty pistol packers to come.

The original Cutthroats Nine hit European cinemas back in 1972 and was part of the 'savage seventies' cutting edge, no nonsense cinema of that period. A Spanish made film from Director Joaquin Luis Romero Marchent, a veteran of Action and western movies from the fifties and sixties through into the seventies. Claudio Undari aka Robert Hundar, stars as a cavalry sergeant who, along with his daughter, are part of a military escort for seven cutthroat prisoners. The cavalry caravan is attacked by bandits , leaving the sergeant and his daughter alive, along with the prisoners. Amongst the band of killers and thieves is a man who brutally raped and killed the sergeants wife, but his identity is unknown. The movie follows the plight of the sergeant, along with his daughter, as together they must escort the prisoners to their final destination. Their trek is by foot, across treacherous terrain, in the middle of a harsh winter. What follows is a brutal fight for survival and an Agatha Christie type storyline as to who the killer / rapist is !?. The violence is realistic and the characterisation is coarse. Throw in a beautiful but harsh back drop and horror film ladled gore and Cutthroats Nine is a rare find for the spaghetti western genre.

This is an interesting choice for a remake, but a very welcome one nonetheless, and with both Keitel and Mikkelsen on board the casting is already spot on. Since his leading performance as the bad guy in Casino Royale (2006) Mikkelsen has been catapulted into the public eye of moviedom around the world. Famous in his home country of Denmark in productions such as the Pusher movies, Mikkelsen adds great credibility to his characters, and his ability to define the bad guy role with a consummate air of chilling calm is highly creditable. Keitel, presumably will take the role of the seasoned sergeant ?, and bring an experienced grittiness to proceedings perfect for the role.

Rodrigo Gudino, the Founder and publisher of Rue Morgue magazine, will direct, and production of the film is due to begin in 2010.

Looking forward to more news and hopefully in the new year some on set production stills and further word as it becomes available. Cutthroats Nine may just slay them at the box office come Fall 2010. No skimping on the red stuff please Rodrigo and please reserve us all a Directors cut, special edition DVD just as soon as it shoots its way out of the multiplexes.

Sunday 15 November 2009

The Tournament ... Kill Or Die !

The Tournament

''Are you out of bullets ?. Here have some of mine !''
Every seven years, in an ordinary town, there is a tournament, a Battle Royale. The very elite of killers from around the globe gather for the thrill of the kill, the right to be crowned number one. It’s kill or be killed. Last one standing claims the right to be revered as the greatest killer of them all. The prize $10,000,000. The goal, to stay alive in order to spend it. To reap the benefit you have to cull the competition, and killing season starts just as soon as The Tournament begins !. Seven years later, Middlesborough, United Kingdom, The Tournament is about to begin !. An industrial backdrop of mountainous stone chimney construct, spewing out the ashen remnants of its labourers as a smoke strewn cloud climbing upwards into a sky choking on its charcoaled bile, desperate for a surgical mask to protect its once naturally blue hue. Below an unsuspecting populace is about to become collateral damage as part of a battleground taken to by the planets killer elite.
The suburban slumber of Middlesborough soon turns into hells highway of gun totting, body breaking, death dealing highly trained killers all looking to be number one. Robert Carlyle is a fallen priest, lost in the bottomless pit of a bottle and about to scrape the very lowest ebb betwixt life and death as he unwittingly gets embroiled into The Tournament. Drink may be his misbegotten angel of self despair but his darkest hours are soon upon him as a cruel twist of fate has him targeted as one of the competitors after one of the entrants manages to cut out his tracking device. Carlyle’s Father Macavoy is at the mercy of those within the game until Kelly Hu’s feisty femme fatale Lai Lai Zhen as his guardian angel. The lord may well have mercy upon his soul as this babe is as fiery as a ninja nymph from Hades but as pretty as an angel posing for Playboy. If Hugh Heffner be the guardian into the gates of heaven, in an alternate universe, then may Kelly Hu be the field to furrow on route.
The Tournament is an adrenalin fuelled free for all that pays out like a one armed bandit being mounted by a porcupine dosed up on Viagra. An unashamed ‘B’ movie High Noon of an epic where a stare down is brief, and a mono brow comes compliments of a .45 burn just before the bullet nestles into the cerebral cortex, on its way to exiting the back of the skull. Purchase a ticket, place your bet, and reap the rewards as The Tournament delivers.

Review Paul Cooke

The Tournament (2009)
With Ving Rhames, Kelly Hu, Robert Carlyle,
Ian Somerhalder, Scott Adkins, Liam Cunningham,
Rachel Grant & John Lynch
The CCTV main frame is up-linked to a controlled pay per view satellite feed for an audience rich enough to afford their kicks at the expense of others. An underground magnate of gamblers willing to bet hundreds of thousands of dollars on a roster of thirty cold blooded killers, all a part of a dangerous game where stepping onto the playing field means you are not a member of any team !. Thirty combatants are entered into this tournament, each electronically tagged so that both viewers and fellow contestants are able to lock into there position. There is no where to hide. These professional killers elite have twenty four hours to take out the opposition, remain the last one alive and claim the ten million dollar prize fund. Each individuals odds come down along with each kill that takes place during the game of death.Joshua Harlow is the very first retired returning champion to The Tournament. His purpose for return is not the defence of his title, but for revenge. He has been informed that the murderer of his wife in recent months is a competitor in the event, and that is reason enough for him to step back into the most savage arena to apply his trade one last time with personal intent. It’s a darkly delicious double dose of Escape From New York (1981) spliced with The Most Dangerous Game (1932) in this lethal cocktail where the bullets have twenty nine potential names etched into their very casing.

Lai Lai Zhen soon figures out that the fallen priest is not a part of the tournament’s faithless flock. Her ultimatum from her overseeing sponsors is to carry him or kill him !.Tarantino-esque stand offs and one particular blood bath face down plays out in a titty bar, where nine killers are gathered. When all is exposed the bullets fly and the bar tab is filled with pints of blood. It’s time to ‘rack’ and roll. Winner takes the booby prize !.Body parts fly and the arterial vino bursts forth with great regularity with ever audacious rapture. The abandonment of belief is gleefully put to one side by Director Scott Mann in crowd pleasing preference to entertain. This is an Ebola filled balloon filled to burst and readily induced by a stumped at the wrist proctologist eager to fist for all its worth.
Beginning at the end of the last tournament, Ving Rhames character, Joshua Harlow, takes out the last two competitors in a blood drench slaughter house. He leaves one mean hombre with just some twitching neck cartilage, as a shot gun blast blows his head into smithereens from close range. Harlow has run the gauntlet and remained last man standing. In his wake lays a trail of dead bodies in varying degrees of remain. The only recognisable competitor is Harlow and that suits him just fine.

Saturday 31 October 2009

Halloween 'Haul' Of Horrors

The Dark Lurking

‘‘Shut up moron. You don’t have the IQ to throw consecutive punches’’

There’s something evil lurking in the dark, it’s locked in deep within an underground complex, and it is multiplying !. The bad news is that many scientists, lab technicians and general labourers are trapped in with this malevolence. The very bad news is that the small team of mercenaries sent in by the military to rescue them don’t stand a chance !.
A deep level complex is the experimental facility for a substance as old as mankind. Human guinea pigs are tested with a serum drawn from this biologically based anomaly. The highest potency results in a messy transformation, mutating the human host into a monstrosity with a compunction to kill. A flesh tearing fiend with an unyielding assault mode far beyond that of normal human exertion.

The mercenaries slip in through the air conditioning vents, arriving at a time of mass hysteria and a feeding furore. The mutations are gestated from their hosts and tearing apart those uninfected. The gears of war brought by the elite professionals are heavy and plentiful, but still barely adequate to suppress the onslaught. Concentrated fire makes pea soup out of the miscreant creatures but general body shots, even removing limbs with bloody aplomb, does not stop these mindless monstrosities.
Creature effect make up is great here. Plague victims with puss oozing boils leaking from scarified features, like microwave tans. With talon clawed hands and a deep rasping rapture that only a mother monster could love. Good old fashioned men in well made monster suits rather than sloppy CGI rendered beasties abound, and that here is definitely a good thing. Mutant mayhem that pays off in naturally rendered movement and creature kill effects that hit the fan like a raspberry red slush puppy. It truly is great fun to witness old school creativity, and this sure is a crowd pleasing sloberknocker, rubber blubber, blood venting ‘B’ movie beauty.
It’s close quarter Aliens (1986) type sets and a dimly lit foreboding atmosphere that keeps the audience on jump alert. Things get even tighter as the mercenaries retrieve a handful of survivors and head back on into the ventilation shafts, this time with pursuing company and a fright factor around every turn.

One of the rescued party is a surviving experimental patient named Lena. She is suffering from blackouts from the serum programme, and is feared like a leper by the others rescued. They suspect that she may turn into one of the creatures at any moment, but her level of experimental treatment far exceeded the doses that turned the others. She is perhaps what the scientists were looking for and may be of great importance to the financiers behind the classified project.

As the mercenaries fight their way up through the complex, stopping off for munitions up take along route naturally, they and those in their protective custody are picked off until only a handful remain. Beyond the surface of the complex, beyond the hemisphere and in orbit of the Earth awaits an orbital nuclear tactical strike weapon of destruction. Its countdown is triggered by a maniacal doctor still working within the facilities lab. He believes he has finally uncovered what it is they have been looking for, and now all evidence of their transgressions to acquire the object of their endeavours must be wiped from the face of the planet. The problem for him is that the remaining mercenaries and rescued cohorts still have something to say about that, along with the mass marauding monsters now on top of them with no where else to turn. Throw into the mix the dawning of Lena’s true genetic nature and the count down itself just may not come in time !.

Evil as timeless as creation is on the verge of resurrection, and its monstrous hordes are abundant within its lair. Prepare for a closure like Lucio Fulci’s Zombie Flesh eaters (1979) meets Luigi Cozzi’s Contamination (1980) by way of Bruno Mattei’s Shocking Dark (1990). All the elements of an Italian gore fest, with lashings of glorious gore and ladles of Action to cheer at. Classic Eighties styled Euro sci fi Action goodness, served up on an Australian barbecue of sticky back ribs and charcoal grilled giblets. Swig along with an ice cold brew or two and The Dark Lurking goes down a treat.

Review Paul Cooke
The Dark Lurking (2008)
Director Gregory Connors
With Aash Aaron, Philippe Deseck,
Ozzie Devrish, Anthony Edwards,
Dirk Fouler & Bret Kennedy

Sunday 25 October 2009

Halloween 'Haul' Of Horror


‘‘We shall make the humans fear us’’
If you have a stake in vampire movies, and wish that Transformers was a Michael Bay at the moon werewolf flick that still starred Megan Fox, then Wolvesbayne may well be the ‘B’ movie blitz to kick back with. Okay so Megan Fox might be asking too much but more than a few tasty babes bare their teeth, and Witchblade’s very own Yancy Butler gets to rip out a throat or two.
Beginning with a pretty cool opening montage of the vampire legend, as chronicled by the Van Helsing lineage, and foretelling of the warring blood suckers. The vampire high council capture Lilith, the most powerful and feared vampire of them all. Evil personified and a threat not only to humans but vampire kind alike. She stands trial and is banished. Her powerful essence drawn from her, and contained within amulets that are then scattered around the lands in safe keeping from her loyal followers. For centuries they lay dormant.
Modern day America awakens to the smells and sounds of another day, barely exhaled from the hours of darkness preceding it. Russel Bayne hit’s the street early to try and hustle his way into sealing the deal on the last property purchase he needs to make, so as to raise an entire area to the ground in order for his companies latest property development to accrue millions of dollars in profit. An egotistical man with nothing but arrogant contempt for all who he perceives are beneath him. Alex Layton is a shrewd and savvy young woman however, and she has no intention of selling her ownership of the occult shop left to her by her deceased mother. There’s a strength of character about Alex that has him scurrying away in frustration, but as he leaves she warns him that he is in danger. A psychic ability or something more foreboding ?, Russel takes it as a threat.

Journeying back to his penthouse that evening along a darkened road he comes across a stranded female, her vehicle broken down. Moments later the pretty young woman is being savaged by a human like beast. Bayne jumps to her aid only to be thrown to the ground and violently bitten by the snarling man beast. He wakes up in hospital bearing the bite marks of the monsters attack, but the wound is already healing and he is anxious to get back to his hectic business.
Come the full moon Russel Bayne is convulsing in the rays of the planets orb, and in a pretty neat old school Universal Studios cut away and then back effect, transforms into a fully fledged werewolf !. He didn’t anticipate this bad moon rising, and is even more alarmed when he awakens next morning to be greet by the visceral sight of a ravaged pig adorning his lush carpeted home floor. The slaughtered pig has its entrails splayed out of its stomach, clearly in no state to squeal on its killer.
Confused, yet also intrigued by his now enhanced sense of perception, hearing, and physical fitness Bayne seeks an explanation to his condition, and believes that Alex is a psycho witch who has placed a curse on him. He confronts her back at the shop but is taken aback by her own ability to deal with his heightened anger and physical presence. The two have far more in common than he could ever have imagined. Alex too is a werewolf !. Far from your traditional fangs and fur however, as she has honed her abilities and is able to control her transformations. Alex again warns him of his predicament, but it is not until he comes face to face with the real threat of the underground forces of evil that he comes to heads her words.

Enter Mark Dacascos as the consummate carnivore Count Von Griem, a vampire antagonist who is actively seeking to resurrect Lilith from her enforced centuries of slumber.
Werewolves are an enemy to the blood suckers and are targeted for termination rather than blood letting as humans are in sustenance. Bayne is soon attacked by the left wing leeches of Von Griem, only to be saved by the entrance stealing Jacob Van Helsing, ably supported by his team of Slayers, and an on board Alex prepped for transformation. Time for some down and dirty fight Action where the fists fly and the fur bristles. Vampires are dispensed of with stylish evisceration ala Blade (1998). It’s a successful stake out, following which Russel Bayne is gotten up to speed and Van Helsing signs him up. The alternative being that as a rogue werewolf he is part of the problem, and one that the Slayers will deal with !. He accepts the conditional invitation, as Alex had before but with a heads up from her that he is still to watch his back as the Slayers are merciless themselves !.

This then is a pretty darned enjoyable Sci Fi channel production that excels in its over the top deliriousness, drawing clear yet reverential influence from those old school Universal Studios horror franchises, and serving up a modern spin all its own to freshen things up nicely. Mark Dacascos as a super Vampire, with lightening quick abilities and the manoeuvres of a stealth bat, hams it up wondrously. It’s kinda insane, but smile inducing nonetheless, to see a dude of the un-dead prance about like P-Diddy, whilst popping a kung fu cap into the carcass’s moving without a pulse. Dacascos is still in great shape and even gets to sword fight here as he strives to ward off his opposing vampire brethren, and empire destroying human Slayers, in order to revive his Queen Lilith.
All involved seem to be having a blast with this well delivered production. Rhett Giles just about steals the show as he owns the role of Jacob Van Helsing. His comfortable stance in the shoes of Dracula’s descendent nemesis is perhaps due to him playing the character before. Giles’ Jacob Van Helsing also appeared in the earlier vampire outing Dracula’s Curse (2006) from the same writer Leigh Scott. Rhett also donned the Van Helsing mantle back in 2005 in Way Of The Vampire. By now Rhett Giles must be a real pain in the neck for vampire kind !.
For a lower budgeted movie Wolvesbayne makes the most of what it is afforded. The under use of silly CGI is noticeable, and the preference on good old fashioned creativity of the tangible kind is most welcome. Neat touches such as purpose made stiletto heals as stakes and quick fire dialogue all add to the enjoy ability. This then is a big Fun old school horror updating that works terrifically well for the late night TV slots and DVD rentals alike. Get your teeth into it soon before the Van Helsing of video dispatches it beyond.

Review Paul Cooke / Source: NTSC Region 1 DVD

Wolvesbayne (2009)
Director Griff Furst
With Jeremy London, Christy Carlson Romano,
Mark Dacascos, Yancy Butler,
Rhett Giles & Stephanie Honore

Saturday 24 October 2009

Halloween 'Haul' Of Horror

Timo Rose & Andreas Schnaas
Creators Of Chaos Combine

The likelihood of an iconic horror Big Screen face off between Jason / Freddy & Ash, from The Evil Dead, is sadly only something the fans can enjoy in comic book format. Perhaps the most likely and anticipated coming together is of two of Germany's two horror goremeisters, Andreas Schnaas and Timo Rose. Anticipate no more, it is happening right now !.

Andreas Schnaas' gore gannet Karl The Butcher returns to square off against Timo Rose's bloody big blade wielding outhouse Axe. Yes indeed two behemoths of 'B' movie bloodletting are coming together to vent their spurious spleens upon each other, in a post apocalyptic future where even Mad Max would cower in the corner. Does it get any bigger than this for low budget brilliance !?.

This will be the second collaboration between Rose and Schnaas in a very short period of time. Look out too for Unrated: The Movie, which also appears to have an appearance by Andreas as Karl The Butcher. Will this have a cameoing scene setting for the colossal clash with Axe to follow ?. The possibilities are mouth watering for tongue in cheek gore loving expectant fans everywhere.

Now when can we expect an Uncut / English friendly DVD release of Andreas Schnaas' Knights Templar horror homage Don't Wake The Dead ?. Long overdue a proper release for the global horror hungry Schnaas following.

Expect both Unrated: The Movie and Karl The Butcher Vs Axe in 2010. Here's hoping they become readily available in Unrated format sooner rather than later. Thanks to both Andy and Timo for letting loose their most outrageous creations upon a movie plain that could see two careers finally take off together in a very big way. Don the masks and prepare the axe for bloody battle !.

Thursday 22 October 2009

Halloween 'Haul' Of Horror

Juk-Eum-Yi Soop
Dark Forest
aka Woods Of Death
(2006/South Korea)

Sown from the seed of Sam Raimi, and nurtured by The Happening of M. Night Shyamalan, Korean cinema lets loose the Evil forces of nature upon those that dare trespass upon the Dark Forest.

Five young adults venture off for a camping trip, leaving the city behind them and getting back to nature. The lead female is overcoming the recent death of her sister, who just so happened to pass on the family heritage of psychic foresight. The ability to have a glimpse into recent events happened, or very soon to be, by having physical contact with a person or associative item. Freakier than a Carrie (1976) curtain call, and when death lurks just around the corner perhaps ignorance is bliss !.

When their preferred passage is blocked the pre twenties teens take a detour, ignoring the sign posted advice to turn back to the main road. They arrive at the parameter of a cordoned off forest, its boundary fenced and a sturdy steel gate padlocking it off from the outside world. Another vehicle is parked adjacent to the fence, its occupants no where to be seen. Taking their predecessors non appearance as an indication that they are beyond the fence having fun, as an invitation to do the same, the fun seeking five ignore the no trespass warning and cross on over into the woodlands.
All those familiar with The Evil Dead (1981) will know what to expect from here on in, and its kinda like a kid in a Korean candy store unearthing a late night treat that no one outside of its home production is privy to. Sure its shot on digital video and not film, but that just adds to the thrill factor of unearthing this well conceived little homage. It has enough in its engine to drive home the goodies all its own as well. This isn’t just a brazen rerun of the Raimi cult classic, but a modern slant with some fresh jumpy juice added to the mix.

There is nothing new about no cell phone reception in the area and one of the parties twisting her ankle to slow the progress of the group, but it’s the linear story that takes its straightforward premise from start to satisfying end that keeps it well worth watching. More than a healthy smattering of blood spurts and arterial sprays as the kills come help of course. Human possession by the unseen evil of the forest can only of course be dealt with by dismemberment and a good old fashioned shovel to the throat region, deftly applying weight behind a downward thrust foot, heads things off nicely !. With a quirkiness that hit’s the right note subtly rendered early on, listen out for a news item on the radio as the protagonists journey to their destination, that hit’s a fun fan with an ironic splatter post script, these Woods Of Death could well branch out into a mainstream remake.

It’s a basic plot and the premise is pre-emptive, yet the sauce on the movie meat is tasty enough, and the ending has a surprise bite to it to satisfy the horror hungry brigade.

Review Paul Cooke / Source: Region 3 NTSC DVD

Dark Forest (2006)
Director Kim Jeong Min
With So Yi Hyun, Lee Jong Hyuk

Monday 19 October 2009

Autumn Seasoned Zombies


‘‘We have no future. Our past is meaningless’’

It’s Autumn, the leaves are falling to the ground, but so too are the people !. An epidemic hits mankind without warning. A viral postman delivering its packages of death, stamping an indelible mark upon those susceptible. Its visible toll, blood coughed up from a congested thorax invaded by its invisible parasitic host. Unseen, uninvited, and unilaterally devastating in its deliverance of death.
The streets are littered with dead bodies, shops and homes are open coffins for the deceased. Those uninfected huddle together in groups, like homeless people seeking shelter from the elements. Solace is taken in the suffering of others bereft of the comforts taken away from them in a weapon less war. There is no electricity, no commonplace everyday commodities, only a confused state of union.
Dexter Fletcher stars as Michael, a school teacher who watched in sheer horror as his classroom students convulsed before him, with him helpless to save them. He is now one of the few rational individuals amongst the growing mass of paranoia, tangibly festering throughout his fellow survivors. The inner compunction of man to self destruct is all too evident, and Michael knows he has to get out of town with anyone he can trust and rely upon who is willing to go with him.
A couple of days after the living drop dead they rise up again, awakened yet unaware, walking but without purpose. They stagger around, oblivious to their surroundings. Dead to the world, like junkies tripping in a world only they can comprehend. Initially they pose no threat to the living. The greatest posed threat now is that of the reanimated carriers harbouring disease and decay. Their rotting flesh decomposing into the atmosphere, swept along by the wind in the air that is inhaled by all those still breathing !.

As arguments rear, and an hierarchy is not far from establishing itself amongst the unorganised people, Michael and four others separate off from the group and drive off in search of a safer haven. The small band soon becomes a group of three, leaving Michael with Emma and Carl to fend for themselves away from the conflicting group back in town. They come upon an isolated farm house and decide it is a good place to hold up in. A place to take stock of events and formulate a plan of survival. A residence that has a generator for power, and the amenities to enable them to self sustain beyond the regular tinned supplies. Winter is coming, and the cold hard reality of what has happened to the world hits them. The dead outnumber the living and just like themselves they are now showing signs of survival instincts. Their instincts seem to be returning, and the shambling stumbling steps are becoming progressively more purposeful. The three companions soon recognise that it is not just the impending elements of the cold that they need to keep out, but the chilling realisation that these risen corpses are now the living dead !.
Faithfully following the David Moody book Autumn may well be the most realistic interpretation of what a Zombie would be like in its inceptive form. A reanimated husk of a being no longer self aware of its existence. No more than a bumbling exterior shell without a soul. An interesting premise, yet ultimately unrewarding for the traditionalist Zombie loving film fan raised on Romero, and feasting on Fulci intestinal film fortitude !. The theme here then with Autumn is most definitely off kilter as far as the gore and chunk blowing goes. It is, however, an intelligent piece of story telling in this highly over saturated genre. What lets it down more, for any self professing Zombie gore follower, is the real lack of obvious budget and its repetitive sequences that play out with unforgiving annoyance. To view a set up twice from perhaps different angle is one thing but to show the same driving scene layout on four occasions is really aggravating to patrons laying down their hard earned cash to be entertained.

Where Autumn picks up plus points is in its attention to make up, which for Zombie effects is well done and not skimped upon even for the back ground players. The air of global doom and gloom is a realistic one as the every day resources we all take for granted are here laid to waste. The protagonists are truly outnumbered, and have to contend with more than just a physical threat.
The performance of Dexter Fletcher is head and shoulders above anyone else in the cast. He gives a professional and consummate recital that adds a believable quality to proceedings. His characterisation of Michael is the best reason to invest your time in the film.
If you are looking for visceral entertainment then Autumn is not the Zombie fest that you are doubtlessly used to. It is a sombre interpretation of a world rendered impotent by a long overdue assault by nature against its rapacious inhabitants, man !. In an ironic twist of events it is its very same inhabitants that rise up once more, like puppets of nature, to reap from its remaining living counterparts that which has been ravaged for so long, with unrepentant extreme prejudice.
For those seeking something different from the plethora of Zombie films, Autumn is a journal for the minor league inquisitive, and those with a want to expand upon their incursions into bold film making. Rewarding enough for those seeking a story to screen nigh on prose perfect visual narrative, but all too benign a prospect for the masses who drool over the mighty entrails strewn across the screen gone before.

David Carradine makes for a creditable eccentric cameo in the movie, locking himself away from the outside world where the Zombies roam, only to paradoxically seal himself in with his mom, as he affectionately refers to her, who is past her live by date and doing a turn on The Exorcist (1973) Regan's character that will turn a few heads for sure !. As a tribute to one of his final on screen performances David Carradine, even in such a low budget performance, shows the star quality that kept him in the movies as a top star for such a very welcome duration.
Conclusively, just as the Zombies in the movie are referred to as Walkers, this is a plodding production that although creditable in its intelligent narrative is too heavy handed to garner any great box office. This Autumn sadly Falls short.

Footnote: Big dues to Mr. Steve Genier, of Cinema Nocturna, for his boundless enthusiasm and contribution to the production of Autumn. Steve is amongst the end credits as Videographer Behind The Scenes. Congratulations Steve for fulfilling one of lifes dream assignments.

Review Paul Cooke

Autumn (2009)
Director Steven Rumbelow
With Dexter Fletcher, Dickon Tolson, Lana Kamenov,
Anton Brajek & David Carradine