Friday, September 21, 2012

Dredd


  Realizing Dredd came out today, this effectively ended my posted hiatus. Being a massive fan of the British comic character, I couldn't resist catching the first possible showing of this today. It was a great decision. Many people are still recovering from 1995's Stallone action vehicle Judge Dredd.  However, it was panned by critics, despised by fans, and even failed to impress standard movie goers.  It made it's protagonist, the classic Judge Dredd, into a cartoonishly over the top (and embarassingly clad) super-cop. With massive eagle shoulder pads, and a large metal crotch protector, the coolest part (and arguable only cool part) of his ensemble was his helmet. And he only had that on for about five minutes of the movie. Which pissed off alot of fans. Let me begin the rest of the review by saying... this time, it's true...
Urban never takes off the helmet.

  This movie is sadly compared endlessly to others like Die hard or The Raid because of it's familiar plot and theme, about a skyscraper full of bad guys and only one or two good guys to fight em all.  However Dredd is it's own beast, managing to be creative and original enough to not feel like either of those movies.
From his cool looking uniform to his awesome gun, Judge Dredd shines as a character here. His methods are cold, violent, and brutal. A far cry from the cartoonishly hokey Stallone iteration.  Some may argue the movie is too violent, but I beg to differ. I think it's perfect. Spot on.  The gore and violence is over the top, but that's precisely where I want it. With so many properties being toned down, it's time we got a seriously brutal action flick.  Aside from The Raid of course... and not to mention this is how Dredd always was in the comics.  Heads explode, necks are broken, blood sprays across the screen, people are gunned down left and right... it's a bloodbath. But never dipping into extreme overkill.

  Sometimes a director finds a gimmick and exploits the hell out of it at every possible opportunity. In this case that would've been the high from a new street drug called 'Slo-mo'.  Which does quite what you might expect, it turns things into a big, vibrantly colored, slow motion, visual eye-feast from.  Colors pop and things are hyper-detailed.   It only makes sense for them to have a shootout or two while someone is tripping on Slo-Mo, that's prime for some awesome visuals. And ideed it is! It looks amazing as faces and body parts ripple and explode with splashes of bright red blood all in slow motion. It highlights, quite literally, the gruesomeness of being on the other end of Dredd's gun. Brutal.  However, the director uses this gimmick sparingly and effectively. The drug is a story point and not something gratuitously added for the sake of it's special effects. Well done guys.

  Speaking of the cast and characters, Dredd is stone cold badass. He uses just about every kind of possible ammo mode for the lawgiver. Hi-ex, rapid fire, incendiary, hotshot, and silencer mode. Also, he's a bamf even in hand to hand combat, which is just as brutal as the shootouts. Often with flinch worthy results.  You can see his outlook and tone through his violence and attitude, this is absolutely the Dredd from the comics.  And Karl Urban plays him more perfectly than I could've ever imagined. The rookie he's training over the course of a day, Rookie Anderson, is played with charm and a sympathetic twist by Olivia Thrilby.  Did I mention she's a telepath? Speaking of which, Anderson's telepathy is put to great use here. Very clever and fun to watch how she uses it. She's definitely a highlight of the movie. And a sequel wouldn't be as fun without her. Or at least, my hopes would be dashed a bit. She's a sidekick for Dredd that functions within the story, and she's a human anchor to his cold and brutal methods. She's not comic relief like the horrendous Rob Schneider was. *shudder*

  I think the antagonist, Ma Ma, (Lena Headey) has all the ingredients to be a great villain, even in the comics, and Lena Headey does a great job here... but I felt like her character should've had more to her. She seems like nothing we haven't seen before and she doesn't get an opportunity to get her hands dirty personally. Her henchmen also lack the gravitas and onscreen presence that you might've seen in The Raid from a villain like Mad Dog. In short, she's effective and gives off a sense of power and intelligence, but she hardly gets the screentime to do something TRULY memorable.  There could've been more dark humor, akin to the comics, but I think they wanted to stay in safe waters, far away the massive one liner that was Danny Cannon's Judge Dredd. Which feels much like a bad joke next to this one. However bad you thought it was before this movie, it'll seem a hundred times worse afterwards.

  In some small ways, this movie might leave hardcore fans wanting a little. I can imagine serious fans would say... "Mega City One still doesn't look like it's supposed to", or "the Lawmaster looks retarded", or stuff like that. But to be honest, when they've nailed the character and tone, the rest is irrelevant nitpicks. Also, it might be disheartening that alot of the wilder aspects of Judge Dredd from the comics, are absent here.  The mutants, the cursed earth, all that stuff is merely mentioned and not explored. But this movie serves as a decent starting point, a good set up for stuff to come.  And they don't do anything actually wrong with the property, instead they gave us a bare bones, hard hitting, cop story. Which is okay. It's better to start small, and hit big, and get a solid handle on the character and world before delving into stuff that audiences may not respond well to.  It's good that they have been exposed (or re-exposed) to a proper Judge Dredd flick before the franchise (let's hope, yeah?) takes a wilder, stronger sci-fi turn.

  All in all... the verdict on this gritty and violent reboot?
For fans it should be mandatory viewing.  Everyone else? I urge you to give it a chance. It's a slick, bloody, and polished ride. Not to be missed.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Wanted: Dead Or Alive


  'Rutger Hauer' as I was telling my friend, sounds like, and should probably be a brand name for big powerful guns.

  "Hey man, you take the Smith & Wesson, I want the Rutger Hauer."

  See? Has a damn good ring to it.  The actor himself is about as cool as any big powerful gun you could get your hands on too. Who else votes he should go into the firearms business? And name the company after himself? *raises hand* And after this movie, I don't think anyone would argue with me.

  Hauer plays a clever and well equipped L.A. Bounty Hunter named Nick Randall in pursuit of a terrorist who' wreaking havoc all over the city.  For those familiar with it, it's hard not to see a little bit of The Punisher in this character. The guns, the bleak military past, the black attire. It's pretty easy actually. Even the plot and pacing is not unlike a Punisher story, though people might relate this more to Dirty Harry even though Randall isn't a cop, the movie is swarming with police and FBI. Often seen as backbiting and manipulative, Nick knows how to swerve in and out of their control like a snake. A lot of the movie is devoted to him actually struggling with the police. Car chases, and decoys. Anything to lose the tail and keep them off his back while he blazes a trail through the criminal underworld looking for this terrorist.

  It's a pretty solid story to be honest and was quite fun to watch.  The characters themselves are surprisingly well developed, and... spoilers... it's all that more shocking when you see people get killed off you never thought would die. And it's so unexpected you might actually stare in total disbelief. I don't remember the last time a movie caught me off guard so badly.  It was a real shock.  And for this alone I can urge you to see this movie. It's well made.  And it doesn't 'Rambo' the picture up, it's at first in tone with something like 'Road House', nothing like it, but tonally they're similar, but as the movie progresses it becomes rather bleak and somber. When the movie ends, our lone hero sits on the side of the road and plays a few notes on his harmonica before the subtle musical score takes over and the movie fades to black. 

  For a rather care free movie that won't be remembered for much other than the awesome loft where Nick lives, it was suprisingly impactful.  It's not just a one note flick that tries to grab your attention with explosions bigger than alot of larger titles (i.e. Rambo, Commando, Die Hard etc.) instead it develops it's characters to a point where you care about them, and it peppers the movie with clever and legitimately cool little neat-o scenes.  For example, a scene where Randall locks a suspect in a metal cabinet and interrogates him by shooting random holes into it with a shotgun. It's played out so well, you can't help but be on the edge of your seat a little. 

   The movie really shines in these little moments of coolness, it has no need to be one long consistently loud shootout. Not until the end at least. And in whatever small measure this 80's action flick allows, it shows that the protagonist is a thinking man.  In so many movies of the time, the hero is either a complete and total everyman like John Mclane (Bruce Willis in Die Hard), or he's a steroided superman like John Matrix (Schwarzenegger in Commando) but rare is it that we get a happy medium.

  Rutger Hauer's Nick Randall has the on-screen presense and coolness of a Terminator-like badass, yet has the realistic gravitas of a more realer person with real problems and relationships. He has a best friend, and is in a steady relationship and the movie's playground battlefield, is his life. No matter how much he's shooting bad guys and breaking bones in their own houses or stopping convinience store robberies  out on the street, so to speak,  his own life more often than not is what truly falls casualty to the violent proceedings.

   For such a simple movie, there's quite alot to sink your teeth into.  Rutger Hauer brings Nick Randall to life as only he can, and the supporting cast is just as great and full of familiar faces.  I really recommend you see this movie if you want an action movie with a little more heart and brain rather than just bigger action. It knows that it's action and stuff is standard fare. The action set pieces themselves can be found bigger and better elsewhere. It's full aware of this. And this is exactly why it gave a little more love to the meat of the characters and the story. And like I've said, sprinkled exceptionally cool little moments throughout.
Very fun flick.

Friday, September 7, 2012

Matango


  Just as unfair as it is to call Galaxy of Terror an Alien knock-off, it's doubly unfair to stick Matango with the tons of cheesy late night, rubber-suit, monster flicks. In fact, it's frickin criminal.  It's such a shame because, despite some very very dated effects, Matango manages to be an effectively creepy, surprisingly atmospheric, and downright unnerving character drama.  It's one of those movies that can't be done justice by summing it up by the description on the back of the DVD case. It's so much more than it's ever been given credit for.  Wish more old monster flicks were this good.

  It starts off simply enough with an unassuming and happy-go-lucky yacht trip. A bunch of big city folks trying to 'get away from it all' out at sea. However, their fun is sorely spoiled when they get caught up in some truly nasty ass weather.  It knocks their yacht for a loop and sends them drifting off directionless towards this unknown little island. On the island, it's your typical struggle for food and basic necessities, but they find another wrecked ship and despite a mysterious air about it, they decide to hole up there for the meantime.  From the reading of the eerie log book to them exploring the wrecked ship, all of it is incredibly eerie. I vastly underestimated this movie, even after reading stellar reviews on imdb. It's actually a pretty decent horror flick that manages to be scary without any gore or anything like that.

  The characters aren't always so easy to figure out. Unfortunately, many horror movies telegraphs who the heroes are RIGHT away, which I think robs the film of tension because we don't get to see these characters actually develop under pressure and insane stress.  Obviously there's the one who cracks under said pressure, there's the turncoat, there's the damsel in distress, the femme fatale, and plenty more archetypes that are pretty much essential to horror movies.

  But Matango allows you to guess which ones are which as you watch the slow and subtle, and especially unnerving transformation of these innocent vacationers into backstabbing and vicious people who are perhaps even more scary than the creatures who lurk in the jungle.
My predictions were in fact all wrong. Which was a pleasant surprise. I like movies that keep me guessing and unravel the story before you in a clever and well timed manner. Matango does just this.

  Also worth mentioning is the atmosphere and the sets. The jungle is dense and thick with all kinds of odd growth, most notably, obviously, are the mushrooms.  It looks like a lot of care and attention to detail went into making the jungle almost a character all it's own. Also theres this dense fog through a good portion of the movie which only amps up the mysterious nature of the island. Its a terrifying experience that deals more with human nature and heavy themes like betrayal and seduction rather than just a slasher flick on an island.

The movie is actually alot more intelligent that it might seem at first glance.  If you can immerse yourself in the story, and suspend disbelief with the rubber suited mushroom people, who are actually still really well done for 1963, then I URGE you to see this movie.  It's a template for how to create tension and suspense without heavily relying on tired old cliches like modern horror movies do. It feels fresh. And considering it's from 1963... that's a massive compliment.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Galaxy of Terror


  I'm a real sucker for low budget sci-fi dreck like this. Roger Corman sci-fi.  It's either way bloodier, way funnier (always unintentionally of course), or just full of way more random spontaneous lesbian sex (see: Forbidden World) than it's source inspiration (usually Star Wars or Alien). Fun right? Of course it is! What else would film geeks like me have to do at 1 am? Sleep? Pleeeease. That's for people with a life.

  Anyways, Galaxy of Terror opens kind of awkwardly, and the high pitched electronic score is not so much scary, as intended, but rather really ridiculous and frequently annoying. In fact, I think I'll just cut to the chase. Cause I could hardly focus on the first like... ten minutes or so. This spaceship and it's reluctant crew are dispatched on a recon and rescue mission to this remote planet like... really far away. It's only logical that they get there in seconds. Totally. Cause... hyperdrive, man! The solution to every sci-fi movie's problem of getting to someplace in a galaxy far far away.  Anyway, they crash... somehow. Because of stuff. That happens. And I realize I'm not doing a great job of making it sound good.

  Okay, the sets are surprisingly well done. The matte paintings, which really crop up in the latter half, are absolutely astounding. The pacing is really decent and there's lots of B-movie awesomeness to be had here.  The story itself is alot better than it's 'Alien knock-off' reputation would have you believe.  I don't wanna spoil it for you, cause it really is quite cool. But there is plenty of gore and 'what the fuck' scenes as a result.
So gorehounds... you will be satisfied. It's not extreme like some other similar titles in the genre, but it's pretty bloody all the same.

  It's also creative and makes a legitimate effort to be original.  Sure you do actually wonder at one point if everyone modeled their suits after Luke Skywalker's bespin outfit in Empire Strikes Back, and if their spaceship was designed by the dudes who made the Nostromo from Alien...
But hey! The setting is unique, the story is unique, the plot is decent, and the core concept is actually, from what I hear, more akin to Event Horizon.

  None of that is necessarily bad, it just makes for a familiar tone.  There is a strong air of cheesiness to it, due to some subpar special effects, how nearly every character's name is unintelligible, and especially the aforementioned ridiculous score... but for B-movie fans, you'll feel right at home. Every scene seems to strandle the line between terribly corny and legitimately well done.  For every moment of decent acting or an impressive effect, it's usually countered with an equally hammy line of dialog or an especially awkward something or other.

  Despite this, it sets such a brisk pace that you'll be caught up in the jump scares and big reveals far before you even begin to dwell on the corny bits.  It does a decent job of keeping you guessing about what's really going on too.  And as the story unfolds, you're treated to loads of creatures and plenty of odd death scenes.  It's the kind of movie, with wall to wall slime, lazers, gore, and general icky things that I would've killed to see on a drive in screen with the big bucket of popcorn and a large, ice cold Coca-Cola. Good cheesy fun to be had here that's paired with some unexpectedly good sci-fi concepts. I recommend it.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Riki-Oh: The Story of Ricky


  Okay, yeah. Wow.  I had seen this movie on a few imdb lists for extreme gore and such, but never figured it would be like this. It's a guts & gore manga-come-to-life, it belongs next to such relentlessly bloody classics as Evil Dead II and Dead Alive, and surprisingly it's not a horror movie. No ladies and gentlemen, this is a kung-fu prison movie.

  In a "futuristic" (made in 1991, set in 2001) prison, owned by a corporation and run for profit, a young man, Ricky, is imprisoned there for killing the drug dealer that caused his girlfriend's death. Trained in a special style of Kung-Fu to the point of being superhuman, Ricky uses his freakish strength and amazing Kung-Fu skills to endure torture and brutal beatings from fellow inmates and the sadistic warden. Eventually, Ricky turns the tide and blazes a bloody trail through the movie leaving mangled corpses in his wake as he fights not only for himself, but to free everyone from the corrupt grasp of the crime riddled prison.  It's honestly a very thin plot, and his backstory is revealed entirely through flashbacks. While this isn't a problem at all, it feels like the movie could've played fine chronologically. Maybe even better.

  First of all, Siu-Wong-Fan plays Ricky with an intense level of coolness. His gaze sizzles and his onscreen presence is palpable. His acting itself can fall under question and scrutiny all the haters want, but there is no denying this guy exudes badassery.  I say the only other man in the history of chop sockey beat-em-ups who could've made an audience ignore how ridiculous punching someone's jaw clean off looks, perhaps would've been Bruce Lee himself. But Siu-Wong-Fan does an amazing job. We're so focused on his intensity, that the apparent laugh factor is gone almost entirely.  It shouldn't be wince-worthy because it's so obviously fake looking, but it IS.

   Maybe that's just me. Maybe there are more desensitized people out there who would find this movie to be a comedy instead of an action movie.  But given it's relentless pace, and continuous gore, Riki-Oh actually also manages to be creative. Granted, it's creative in an insane and bloodthirsty way that only horror movie franchises (looking at you Saw) manage to get after all story and nuance has been sucked clean out of them. It may be a sign of a failing horror franchise when the gore is more creative than the story, but in this movie, it's the bread and butter.

  People get shredded, disemboweled, exploded, and skinned. Limbs are snapped off, cut off, punched off, broken, and ground into burger. None of that... is exaggerated in the slightest. If you're a gorehound like me, you'll love the hell out of this movie.  It's not possible though, to take it seriously AT ALL.  The hero is literally way too powerful. The things he does are so far beyond belief that "bullet bending" (See: Wanted) seems plausible by comparison.  As a result of this, the movie stops trying to be serious and just goes for broke. This works most of the time, but a good example of when it doesn't is the final fight.

   It's just... too corny.  I mean, there I laughed. I couldn't help it. It was ridiculous to such a degree that it bordered on insulting.  But given as how we abandoned seriousness and plausibility like... AGES ago, one can't really complain when they get THIS for their climax.  I've seen more convincing suits on TOHO monsters. But if you don't mind that, and are in the mood for a bloody fun time, then go seek this movie out. Also worth mentioning, is how it manages to create so many interesting set pieces in just a prison.  Torture chambers galore, there is no end to Ricky's suffering, or how creative the villains manage to get in ways to inflict general pain and suffering. But noooo... fear not. Ricky makes Superman look like a 90 pound asthmatic with spaghetti noodles for arms. Step aside Goku, Ricky's way more hardcore.

  And he doesn't need to turn into a blonde to literally punch a hole in someone. Ricky withstands insane torture that involves razor blades, a metal wrench to the face (about 50 times), and even being buried alive for a week. You can see how plausibility is consistently worn down to just about... nothing. It's non-frickin-existent. Which helps some people stomach the gore. It's diametrically opposite to anything resembling 'realistic'. By the time the movie ends, you'll be about a hundreds ways smarter on how to kill someone with your bare hands if you were superhuman.  It's quite educational in that respect.

  Overall, this movie exists to be one big bloody, gory, guts-in-your-face, mess. It gradually builds up to a point where you've given up trying to explain the acts on display, let alone try to rationalize or even take serious the most mundane stuff in this movie. It's cheesier than a bad TOHO flick, and bloodier than an old Peter Jackson flick, Riki-Oh has carved out a name for itself in the annals of cult classic movies. Carved right out of some poor sap's bare flesh of course.  I loved it. You might too if you're still interested after this review.

Detention


  So many movies are simply an excercise in taking something that's already been done and doing it again, but better. Usually. Hopefully.  However, it's rare to find a movie so clever and smart and brilliant... that it takes almost everything, breaks it down into parts, and constructs it back together like a jigsaw puzzle. Make sense? Somewhat? Not really? Don't worry. It's really just that hard to describe let alone compliment Detention.

  The movie seems normal enough right away, although it opens with a girl speaking directly to the audience and using pop-up graphics to illustrate what she's saying. And this is perhaps the most average and ordinary part of the movie.  It wastes no time showing us all these characters who are your standard teenage high school archetypes. The popular kid who can't really get a good grade at all, the school bully/football jock who wants to beat up the popular kid, the blonde cheerleader,  the offbeat asian genius, the goth chick, the pervy nerd, and finally the heroine of the movie. She's actually very pretty though she's covered in this layer of misunderstood geekishness and general adolescent awkwardness. 

  She could easily be the heroine in any number of teen slasher flicks. She fits the bill. Mostly reminding me of Heather Langenkamp in a Nightmare on Elm Street, even if its just tonally.  The hero girl in this movie, Ryley, (played by Shanley Caswell) is a bit more of a tragic character than Nancy was in 'Elm Street.  We feel for her a bit more. Anyways, these are the characters the movie has to work with, plus a few I didn't mention, but every single one is important. The movie plays with them all.  I can't really say too much about the movie because it's a big and insane piece of fiction that can be classified under just about every genre ever.

  From the start it's a slasher flick, but quickly also becomes a teen comedy about school life and general angst, this is also before all the science fiction, aliens, and time-travel plotlines come into focus. It's easier to say that this movie is like Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World + Back to the Future + Cabin in the Woods. And it makes a reference to The Karate Kid, Road House, Under Siege, Robin Hood: Prince of Theives and makes nods to Freaky Friday, The Fly, Holloween, Saw, and only about a hundred other movies my brain hasn't even processed yet. It's action packed, hilariously funny, gory as all can be, romantic, and even downright scary.

  It's a genre shattering experience that needs, and begs to be seen multiple times to catch all the subtlties and everything. I personally loved it. Its a love letter to teen movies, that's written like the ULTIMATE high school movie. Everything happens in this town, at this school.  It's a horror, sci-fi, time travel, comedy, romance flick that does justice to each and every one of those categories. This is an unusually short review, but I have no clue what else to say about it that could possibly convince you to see it. The acting is great and the story is so layered and mind blowing that you should REALLY see this movie. If you take my humble advice on anything, take it on this: See this movie. As soon as possible.

Monday, September 3, 2012

Escape from the Bronx


  Well, I praised the first one in a previous review. Thought it was great. Creative, clever, action packed, silly, basically everything that you might want from a midnight B-movie.  Well, if it was at all possible... it's sequel outdid it. In friggin spades.  Right away we see something different, GUNS. The heroes use guns. And lots of them. Guns are like in style now. As opposed to the melee-heavy first movie, this movie rarely has a fight in it that doesn't involve guns or flamethrowers. And the sound effects are ridiculously powerful too. At one point a .38 snub sounds like a .50 cal handgun.  It packs a punch but isn't very realistic.
But as any fan could tell you, realism is NOT what they're shooting for.

  The story is thankfully not a total retread. Instead, this time, the movie opens with a 'Sanitization squad' "evacuating" the Bronx. Cause it's been deemed unlivable and the corporation is going to graciously provide all the residents with new homes in New Mexico. Right.  In reality the "evacuation" is brutal, residents are hurt if they resist. Shot or burnt alive if they put up a fight.  Which includes the parents of our hero, Trash (Mark Gregory).  Enraged over their death, and along with the help of some familiar faces and a few new flamboyant personalities, he sets out on a big crusade to stop the evacuation and reclaim the Bronx using any... means... necessary! Dun dun DUN!

  The premise is an effective vehicle for an hour and a half of violence and carnage. Which will undoubtedly satisfy most action fans and b-movie freaks alike.  Though without fail, there is always a crowd who will not like a movie no matter what. They complain about one flick that there's not enough action and all the action looks cheesy, and then they find a well made piece of 'trash' like this and complain that there's TOO much action. Come on. These kinds of b-grade movies aren't expected to be anything deep or even well made.

   All I expect and want from a flick like this is shootouts and explosions. Hopefully some T&A and then some creative gore scenes.  I would love it if all the low-rent cheesy movies had shootouts that looked this convincing and thrilling, and this well staged. But they don't. Which is why Bronx Warriors 2 is a gem. It's technically good looking. It may look cheap, but it doesn't look cheesy.  It's pretty cool looking to be honest. These movies (Bronx Warriors 1 & 2) are very competently made.

  Speaking of the action, it's nonstop. It's never overkill in my opinion, but it is over the top. In a very good and welcome way.  It's proportionate to the events as they progress in the movie. Theres a small skirmish in the beginning, a fight in an apartment later and then a small little shootout, and it escalates until it gets to the twenty minute climax in the streets of the bronx with more bad guys than Darth Vader has stormtroopers.

   It's a massive battle full of very clever little camera shots and lots of slow motion explosions.  I swear, one imdb reviewer complained that the movie fetishized death scenes. Well... yeah. Cool. It does. And... it's cool. What did you really expect from an exploitation knock-off of already violent movies? In my opinion, if you sought out this movie, you should like the genre and the shtick to begin with. If you don't, stay away.  It's clearly not going to be something you'd like.

  The movie is very very watchable despite some poor dubbing and of course, hokey dialog. Though none that manage to be facepalmingly bad.  The silent but badass shtick would fit Gregory well because he still sounds a little off... Fortunately supporting characters are actually well acted and very likable.  Except for a few bad apples who manage to be either bland or annoying.  It's all good though. Mark Gregory's outfit looks servicably bad-ass instead of borderline gay-ass this time. From GO this flick has a hell of a breakneck pace. Wasting no time padding out the proceedings for any reason, the plot kicks right in and we actually get to see some more interesting aspects to this world that was established in the first one. Also, Gregory doesn't entirely sound like a tool this time either.

  This movie is insanely action packed. I can't believe they still had time for plot and everything.
Yet they made it work. The body count is outrageous and it's all gunplay and shootouts this time around. Which brings me to my only real complaint. Although it makes up for it in plenty of ways, this one lacks some of the low-er budget creativity the first one had. The elbow spike, motorcycle blades, finger claws, spike poles, etc. And, sadly, no Fred Williamson. But overall, I got what I wanted. Action, blood, shootouts, explosions (and holy shit theres alot) and cheesy one-liners. Great midnight 80's b-grade actioner.

   As much, if not, more fun that it's predecessor, Bronx Warriors 2 earns it's positive review with flying colors not for being quality cinema, but for being such a damn fun and undeniably explosive ride. If you see the first, which you should, and like it, you should definitely check this one out. I recommend them both.

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Hard Ticket To Hawaii


  I'm easy to please when it comes to B-grade, low rent movies with lots of tits and ass and lots of big guns, gore, and explosions. None of those things are frequented much in high class cinema. So to get your old arcade style kicks, you look to old genres of direct to video, exploitation and limited release shlock.  But every so often, not even gratuitous nudity every five minute can save a bad movie from being... actually bad.

  First of all, the poster caught my eye. Two blonde babes, nice looking bodies, stylish 80's shades and big guns. Okay. I'm sold.  An hour and twenty minutes of naked chicks and stupid jokes, and ten minutes of shootouts and action. It really should've been the other way around. The worst kind of B grade low-rent shlocky is the kind that tries to be funny. They never realize how stupid they sound. I mean, with bad writers and even worse actors, they sound funny when they try to play it straight, it double backs on itself when they TRY to be funny and its just... not. Worse, its boring and painful.

  No movie should be able to make seeing sexy blondes with rocket launchers boring. Let alone when they've clocked more screentime topless than not. The male leads are hardly in it, which isn't too much of a bad thing cause they get laid more than kill things, and they look dorky doing everything and anything. Theres a random and ENTIRELY pointless subplot about a "contaminated" boa constrictor that got loose, in a movie about drug dealers in hawaii.... Also, people die, get shot, even a honeymooning couple get eaten by said snake... and the leads seem to not care moments later. In fact they tell nobody about the couple. This movie wasn't fun. It was just so bad... that it was bad.  There are two scenes which are awesome, but hardly worth sitting through the movie for.

I really suggest you look up "Hard Ticket To Hawaii Skater Death" and "Hard Ticket to Hawaii frisbee" on youtube.

  If the movie was full of stuff like this... I'd fucking love it.
Unfortunately it's not. It's chock full of bed hopping. At some point you have to stop and wonder, goddamn man... were you making a softcore porno/soap opera or making an ACTION MOVIE?
It gets old. I don't care how nice that girl's ass is, or how gold standard some might consider her other assets, but for me, I wanted way more action and ALOT less jokes.  Even playing around IN the action scenes. It just got dumb. And considering these movies are already baseline dumb, calling one dumb is an insult to dumb movies. It's beyond retarded. Yet it's full of all the things that make an excellent midnight movie. If I had a bunch of beer and some friends, it might've been a WHOLE different experience.

  As it is, I cannot in good conscience recommend it when there are so many BETTER B-movies that pander directly to the basic need for tits, guns and gore. Waste not your time on this.

1990: The Bronx Warriors


  Shamelessly mimicking movies like Escape From New York and The Warriors, this classic italian exploitation flick Bronx Warriors may not be as big budget and grand scale like the former, and not a classic like the latter... but it's sure as hell a fun time. It was absolutely worth my time and bandwidth.

  I had just suffered through another old 80's trashy flick called Hard Ticket to Hawaii, an Andy Sidaris movie, and was sorely disappointed. It was simply put: boring.  I needed something to wash the taste out of my mouth. All the painfully unfunny attempts at humor, didn't they know they sounded funny enough trying to play it straight? Anyways, I popped in this one and was right off the bat, super excited. Any funny bits in this one are entirely unintentional. Which is the way it should be. I wasted no time digging into the cool weapons, the leather jackets, the colorful gangs, and some actually well shot and cleverly staged scenes.

    There is one scene where all the 'Riders' pull their motorcycles up to this dock area by the water on this big empty dirt lot.  In the off-middle is a random guy tapping out a beat on a big full drum set.  The snappy and suspenseful beat sets the mood for the upcoming confrontation as a bunch of snazzy 40's looking hot-rod cars pull up, belonging to the 'Tigers' gang.  The man just sits there the whole time, riffing away on the drums. Is he a gang member? We don't know. Nobody seems to even notice him, which is kinda cool in a probably unintentionally meta way. 

  That was a real bright spot of the movie. It was unique and unexpected. Alot of the movie is very unexpected. Now, please, don't confuse unexpected with unpredictable. The plot and story are very predictable. It's not a bad story, in fact it's a decent set up for the action it contains.  The best compliment I can level at it, is to call it servicable.  What's unexpected is how it doesn't look as cheap as I predicted it would. They make great use of some really run down locations to evoke a very demilitarized feel.  It looks like they're really crawling through the ruins of big old buildings that could very well be inhabitted by a gang of freakish scavengers.  The scavengers themselves aren't that freakish, but they're effective. They all seem to carry an identical plank of wood, which just... is one of the hokier aspects of the flick.  But they ambush our heroes more than once, and they're quite ruthless.

  If you want something entirely dark and gritty, look elsewhere. The gangs here are colorful and very eighties.  The right viewer will eat it up and get lost in the movie, the wrong viewer will be taken out of it and probably laugh his way right off of it. Not many people still appreciate the appeal of roller skating, hockey stick wielding gang members. Who, by the way, wear nazi looking german-esque helmets. They're just one gang. There are a couple more. None quite so flamboyant, but still.  And speaking of looks, you'll have to get used to how awkward the protagonist looks in the jeans he wears. It's literally distracting at times.

   And whoever dubbed him sounds a bit odd at times too. But once you get past that, you can soak up all the hokey dialog and ocassionally wooden acting.  Fred Williamson and Vic Morrow are the acting talent highlights, though... Vic gets a sudden personality makeover for the climax, making him into a maniac with a god complex. Its the stuff which Raul Julia must've studied hard in order to play the role of the ridiculous M.Bison in Street Fighter.  Fortunately, Bronx Warriors is a much more creative and even keel movie than that one. Not to mention way more fun.

  The movie is about a young woman in New York, who's about to inherit a whole multi-billion dollar company, but for fear of becoming a corporate pawn she runs away to the Bronx. Which in the future of "1990" (movie was made in 1982) is a total demilitarized zone run entirely by cutthroat gangs.  Luckily! This woman is pretty looking. So, the 'ruthless' gang, the Riders, that rescue her from the roller skating thugs (oddly called 'the Zombies') doesn't hurt her OR rape her. Instead she becomes like... their groupie.  Officially she becomes their leader's 'girl' so if anyone touches her, they die. Anyways, the company's head honcho's send people to get her, mercenaries and such. Subsequently, more and more Riders are getting picked off one by one.

   So in order to prevent a full war or something like that, our hero, named 'Trash', the leader of the Riders has to cross the WHOLE Bronx to get to the 'King' who's the leader of the 'Tigers' and the most powerful cat on the scene apparently.  Trash's whole plan is to convince the king (Williamson) to band together with him in an alliance to stop the mercenary and rescue the girl who's been kidnapped again by the Zombies.  Yep.  Which is actually a pretty cool thing to see unfold.  It all builds to a pretty over the top finale as you might imagine.  It was very cool.

  Not much more I can say without spoiling the best stuff. The fights are good and intense. The movie is not boring at all.  It has a bunch of padding which could've been trimmed and replaced with more violence and shit, but overall, very cool flick. I'm trying to avoid calling it 'good', because the dialog and acting is spotty overall, as well as the story and the dubbing. But stylistically it stands on its own with lots of visually cool scenes and sets. Not bad and surprisingly entertaining.  Can't wait to see the sequel. I definitely recommend this one if you're hungry for some decent B-movie action.