Monday, January 31, 2011

Cobra Mission 2 - 1/5

It may just be me but I highly doubt that "Cobra Mission" garnered enough money to warrant a sequel. Then again these late 80s macaroni combat films cost $.35 to make so even if 10 people go to the theater it makes a profit. Even so sequels in the macaroni combat genre were a RARE event (No "Inglorious Bastards 2" doesn't count!). Even so I can think of MUCH better macaroni combat films to make a sequel to other than "Cobra Mission" (How about a TRUE sequel to the classic "Inglorious Bastards"?). Needless to say director Fabrizio De Angelis of the original returns to produce (directing was left up to Camillo Teti) this three year later sequel that really has NOTHING to do with the first "Cobra Mission" other than the title. They could have called this poorly made shitfest "Viper Mission" and it would have made just as much sense.

Well we get Brett Baxter Clark as a Vietnam vet (fans of these trashy Vietnam war films will recognize him from "Eye of the Eagle"). Right off the bat we get a poorly put together flashback explaining how he attempted to go back to 'Nam to rescue some POWs. Well due to that infraction the government fakes his death but they still hire him from time to time to go on top secret missions into 'Nam. His new mission is to go back into 'Nam with a group of mercenaries to kill some military leader. Snore....

I'm all for low budget films but this film is the pits as director Camillo Teti (who previously worked as production manager on a few Leone films... perfect experience to make him a good director... sheesh) doesn't know how to utilize his limited resources. The action sequences are lame and poorly staged and all of our heroes are as boring as watching paint dry and peal. The films plot twists are predicable and the film overall is a cure for insomnia.

Even for a late 80s Macaroni Combat film this is pretty lame. Fuck it never even got a releases in America until it's less-than-stellar DVD release ported from a Japanese VHS with burnt in Asian subtitles. Hell I feel like I'm 1 in 20 people that actually saw the damn thing as there are only 8 votes for the movie on imdb.com. There aren't even any reviews for it! Yes it's so bad and obscure that bad movie fanatics don't even take time to hunt it down. On the plus side the VHS transfer VideaAsia DVD is actually watchable, unlike their transfer for the first "Cobra Mission" film.

Written By Eric Reifschneider

Mechanic, The (2011) - 3/5

Although remaking anything that has touched cult favorite Charles Bronson's snarled face seems like it might not be a particularly 'great' idea, just ask my brother, when you replace him with modern B-action film juggernaut Statham then you get a pass. Throw in some Ben Foster and Donald Sutherland and you just actually got me excited for a remake. "The Mechanic" sports some great ideas and some great executions but its lack of identity seems to spoil some of the fun. Not quite what I wanted from this film, but it did full fill my need for some dark hearted action and the occasionally solid dramatic arch.

Arthur Bishop (Statham) is the worlds most badass hit man (you mean he isn't in real life?!) who can kill anybody he chooses too and never be seen. When he is tricked into assassinating his only friend and colleague (Sutherland), he decides to take his wayward son (Foster) as his protege. When he realizes he has been had, he takes his new student on their most daring hit ever. Their own boss.

The major issue presented with "The Mechanic" is that its unable to nimbly balance the 'hit man with a heart' dramatic arch for Statham and the high adrenaline action "Mission: Impossible" inspired assassination sequences. It tries desperately to balance them both and succeeds in instances, but it rarely is able to make it cohesive enough for the audience not to notice that was the point. We get some great interaction and chemistry between Statham and Foster, but the rest of the character work seems trapped in action film purgatory. Statham is left almost too mysterious and Foster isn't given enough room to really give us the performance that his character needed to be completely sympathetic.

The action on the other hand feels the same way. As if its held back from its over the top and ridiculous paths by trying to be darker and more serious. It rocks when it nails it, with the final hit on the boss having a great vehicle sequence worth the watch, but it doesn't seem to quite be realistic enough to work in the dramatic vein and not big enough to rival the new standards set by other films (even the other ones with Statham like "The Expendables"). The potential to give the audience clever assassination plans seems washed over too quickly to get to the action and the dramatic tension and its rather disappointing.

All in all though, "The Mechanic" isn't a bad film. Not at all. It's spunky with its delivery. It's got great chemistry on screen and the cast is more then stellar in their roles. Statham rocks this role every which way but loose and Foster gives surprising depth to a role that should have been much shallower (even if it isn't quite enough). The action suffices, we get another awesome Statham headbutt that seems to find its way into all of his films, and the dark tone works for what it wanted. Could have been better, but its a solid film on its own.

Here's to making it a franchise for us Statham fan boys! 


Written By Matt Reifschneider

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Die Hard 2 [Die Hard 2: Die Harder] - 2/5

When it comes to "Die Hard" films, there seems to be a line drawn in the sand for "Die Hard 2". It's definitely a love it or hate it kind of film for sure. As one can tell from my rating, the 'Die Harder' entry is significantly weaker than its predecessor and I happen to be the 'hate' side of said fence. Although the action is solid, the story is far weaker, even more ridiculous, and its inability to blend the humor and the action like the first film makes for a fun watch but a rather weak one.

John McClane (Willis) is in DC to meet his wife at the airport on Christmas Eve. The man who is always in the wrong place at the wrong time seems to have stuck action gold again as terrorists hijack the entire airport (yes, the ENTIRE airport) to break out a drug lord on his way there for trial. Now its a race against time to stop these mercenaries before his wife's plane runs out of fuel and crashes. Bullets will fly. Bodies will fly. Blood will fly. Curse words will fly. But the planes may not.

Despite the action brilliance of the original "Die Hard", this inevitable sequel seems to rather drag its heels on giving us the things that made the original one such a damn thrill ride. Oh it doubles the action (and explosions by wrecking two, read that again, two fucking planes), but it lacks the cohesiveness and charm that made the first one so good. McClane ceases to be the 'everyman' he was and has now become a franchise hero instead. His odd placed one liners and humor seems almost forced. Occasionally it works, the 'oh shit' as he descends from his ejector seat is nicely timed, but its rather ill written the majority of the time.

The film also lacks the realism of the surrealistic circumstances for our hero. Although when one thought about "Die Hard" it was out there, at the time it felt like it could happen. Not with "Die Hard 2". Its out there. As action films got bigger and bigger in the 90s, they also got dumber and dumber. Although terrorists in an airport seems legit, the rapid fire twists and turns that this film takes make for a rather outrageous watch. It quickly circles the 'really?!' drain more and more as it goes on. Fun, but it's rarely believable.

What "Die Hard 2" does rock is some seriously cool action scenes. It's slightly heavier on the violence and blood, McClane does bite off a man's finger, and the film focuses on this. This works. After our initial scene to set up the players and location (which takes like 10 minutes since there is no character arches here), the film pretty much goes into a sprint from there. Explosions. Snowmobile chases. Shoot outs. And of course, William Sadler doing naked martial arts...hold on. Wait. No that's not a positive part of this movie, sorry. Otherwise it cranks on the adrenaline meter and never turns it down.

If you want a non-serious and ridiculous action film, then "Die Hard 2" will work for you. Compared to the original its lackluster and poorly constructed, but its still fun. By far the weakest entry for the franchise as far as I'm concerned. 


Written By Matt Reifschneider

Expendables, The (1988) - 1/5

Chances are you clicked on this review out of curiosity after looking up the review to Sylvester Stallone 2010 all-star actionfest "The Expendables." First off that film is NOT a remake of this. This "Expendables" is another trashy Filipino Vietnam war from the Cirio H. Santiago factory. Is it better than his first 'Nam epic "Eye of the Eagle"? Yea.... but when films are this bad, one that's a hair better than the other just doesn't mean a whole hell-of-a-lot.

Capt. Rosello is getting a lot of shit from his Colonel. Sure he completes his missions but in doing so he gets a high casualty count. The Colonel then assigns him a bunch of misfits, known as "The Expendables", meaning if they die it doesn't matter much. Sure the captain and the platoon bicker at first but they soon come to respect one another as they head out on their final mission to kill an escaped VC colonel and rescue some kidnapped nurses.

Typical with Santiago 'Nam epics there are millions of bullets shot and a lot of sequences of soldier's dying in slow motion, trying to heighten the emotional response of the audience. Thanks to non-existent character development and hard core overacting the scenes just come out unintentionally funny.

Overacting is an understatement for this film. Anthony Finetti (whom you might remember from a single episode of 90210... really this guy hasn't done shit) takes his acting a little too seriously for this B-movie quickie and his acting hits unintentional hilarity as he spouts such well written lines "quit eye fucking me soldier!" with serious fervor. At least "Eye of the Eagle" had some cast members you could recognize... not here. The only guy I recognized is William Steis as the Colonel only due to the fact I just watched him the Cirio H. Santiago horror shitfest "Demon of Paradise" the same night as this. Trust me I'm the only douche in the world who would recognize this guy.

"The Expendables" is just another trashy Filipino Vietnam war film that's only claim to fame today is that it has the uncanny connection to the new Sylvester Stallone film by having the same title. Most people will find this cheap and just a waste of time but I have an addiction to films like this. Even if they are shitty I lap up obscure trashy films of this nature. Thanks to Stallone's film this 1988 "forgotten piece of coal" (I can't call it a "forgotten gem") got released on DVD. The DVD release in a VideoAsia multifilm pack is a VHS transfer of an Asian VHS with burnt in Asian subtitles. You know you're watching forgotten trash when the only DVD release it gets is transferred from an Asian VHS...

Written By Eric Reifschneider

If You Meet Sartana... Pray for Your Death - 4/5

"I am your pallbearer" - Sartana

Ah yes, Sartana. Perhaps the second most popular name in the spaghetti western genre next to the infamous Django inspiring four official sequels and over ten unofficial ones cashing in on the name. The name Sartana first appeared in "Blood at Sundown" and director Gianfranco Parolini and star Gianni Garko loved it so much that they resurrected the name for a completely different character for Garko's next film "If You Meet Saratana Pray for Your Death". This important genre film is where the legend of Sartana begins.

The film begins with a stagecoach being robbed and it's passengers violently murdered (a priest is even shot in the chest through a bible). A long tangled series of steeling the loot and double-crosses leaves the strongbox in the hands of the blood thirsty Lasky. It is now up to Sartana to track down the missing money and to determine who was the mastermind behind the robbery.

Director Gianfranco Parolini was an enormous fan of the James Bond films that were popular at the time so he decided to take that popular character's persona and transfer it to the west. Hence why fans nicknamed Sartana as the "James Bond" of spaghetti westerns. He may not have been a spy but he was calm, cool, well dressed, great at gambling, smooth with the women and even used odd little gadgets like a four barreled pistol.

Actually this character is a lot like Parolini's next film character Sabata with the only difference being Sartana is more serious like the early Connery Bond films and Sabata is more goofy like the later Connery Bond films. To be honest I actually prefer this first Sartana film over Sabata for this reason. Even compared to the Sartana sequels I prefer the dry brooding approach to this film with the sense of humor played down.

Gianni Garko is a terrific fit for the role of Sartana and like Connery as Bond he just makes the character badass. Terrific at his job and looking cool and badass in the process. Typical with Parolini films he likes to give the lead character a somewhat silly sidekick. Here he gives Sartana a sidekick in an elderly gravedigger (dubbed with an annoyingly high voice). These sidekicks of his try to bring some comic relief to the story but usually come out annoying but I will say this character isn't near as annoying as Sabata's sidekick in that character's first film.

"If you Meet Sartana Pray for Your Death" is one of the genre's most popular films and deservably so as it introduced audiences to one of the genre's best characters (perhaps my favorite). Many fans tend to prefer some of the sequels over the original as director Giuliano Carnimeo's sequels tend to be more crowd pleasers but I still prefer the original for its brooding approach. The official sequels go as follows: "I Am Sartana... Your Angel of Death", "Have a Good Funeral, My Friend... Sartana Will Pay", "Light the Fuse... Sartana is Coming" and "Sartana's Here... Trade Your Pistol for a Coffin."

Sartana will return in "I Am Sartana... Your Angel of Death"

Written By Eric Reifschneider

Saturday, January 29, 2011

American, The - 4.5/5

Once again, I have to give a shout out to the trailer folks out there that completely made a film look nothing like it actually is. Thusly, when going into "The American" don't expect the espionage tinged thriller that is depicted on the trailers. It's a film that is character and atmosphere driven which is ironically light on action and dialogue. Which perhaps made it so much better then it had any right to be.

Jack (Clooney) had some shit come down on him. As a professional killer, his life is one of unbalance and rapid shifting. When he is thrust into a smaller Italian village to wait out and perform a gun crafting job for an assassination, he finds himself desperately clinging onto anything to give him peace. He finds some of this in the friendship struck with a local priest and in the eyes of a charming call girl. When he realizes that his latest gig might not be all that its cracked up to be, he must make amends for all of his wrongs and try to do the one thing he has never done. Find peace.

After reading a slew of mixed reviews on this film, I decided to finally take the plunge on it and check it out. Hell, I love espionage films. Why not? What I got with "The American" was a slow burning and subtle character driven film that was relatively light on the espionage and action and focused on character. Something we see so rarely in the genre, honestly. It was a breath of fresh air. The seemingly long moments of silence. The low key energy and score. The use of the settings and slow build of Clooney's enigmatic character. It's all brilliantly paced and executed. Although by the end, the audience knows nothing about Jack we still have an innate connection to him and his constant grasping for personal salvation that it relates to all of us even on smaller levels. It's this connection and drive that makes this film a riveting watch despite its slow moving and relatively long play time.

"The American" also handedly uses its 60s style drama approaches to filming and touches of Italian pizazz to give us something refreshingly old school in an age where espionage in film is rarely about being sneaky or subtle. The long drawn out shots, the splashes of intense color here and there, and the great combination of silence and sound effects make for a visual and auditory experience that really brings to life this peaceful village and contrasts it to a very intense and quiet man. The execution on all ends is stunning.

Although the re-emergence of a stronger Bond and a slick and modern Bourne have set new standards for how spy flicks work, "The American" takes the genre back to its roots and shaves away all of the fluff and glitz to give us what made these films so great to begin with. A character to truly root for in a world intent on not seeing the truth. 


Written By Matt Reifschneider

Die Hard - 4.5/5

Yippee kay yay mother fuckers! It's "Die hard" season here on Blood Brothers. What makes it justify as "Die Hard" season? Nothing, just because I said so. That and we had requests to review the franchise. So here it is, the first and still the best... DIE HARD.

"Die Hard" has a New York cop John McClane traveling to L.A. to visit his kids and wife who has nailed very high class job working for a foreign administration building. After bickering furthering their marriage problems while in her office within a high-rise building, some German terrorists invade the complex taking everyone hostage in order to rob the owner of some "bonds." McClane eludes capture and sneaks around the skyscraper donning a wife beater and no shoes taking out bad guys one-by-one with some more support from an average cop below. The result is hands-down one of the best action thrill rides ever made.

When I was a kid I lived, breathed and bled the "Die Hard" trilogy (it was only a trilogy at that time). What made me love the first film so damn much is that it offered a different type of hero in cop John McClane (atypically casted with then relatively new Bruce Willis). Up until "Die Hard" all action heroes seemed to be the Clint Eastwood mold, the strong silent types . In the 80s these type of heroes went over-the-top and seemed superhuman with their muscles and abilities thanks to the likes of Stallone and Schwarzenegger. "Die Hard" brought the action hero down to a normal, human level making McClane an ordinary man in extraordinary situations. He's not always calm or collected and doesn't know exactly the right thing to do at the any given moment. He panics and makes hasty decisions at some moments liken any normal person. This more human side is what makes the character more identifiable to audiences.

In making McClane an everyday man the filmmakers brilliantly casted Bruce Willis in the role. Up until "Die Hard" Willis had gained some fame by appearing in the romantic comedy series "Moonlighting" so "action" wasn't the first word one thought of when they saw Bruce Willis but that's what makes him so damn perfect for the part. He's not a body builder or even have a full head hair but again that makes him more human.

Bruce Willis is also surrounded by fantastic actors bringing everything they have to the roles. Bonnie Bedelia is believable as the successful, bull headed wife, Reginald Veljohnson is surprisingly good as the grounded cop giving McClane support but the guy that steals the show is Alan Rickman as our head baddie Hans Grueber. He's intelligent, he's sophisticated, he's charming and of course extremely deadly. Perhaps a picture perfect villain for a "Die Hard" film.

Director John McTiernan proves he's the right man to helm this high budget complicated action fest as he loads the film with competent filmmaking and a great style. His directing talent mixed with Willis' marvelous additions to the character makes this a film that moves at a hundred miles an hour despite it's over two hour running mark. I also love how McTeirnan took the time to allow little quirky comedy segments to make its way into the film, like how McClane balls up his feet to stop airsickness and even smaller scenes like a henchman who eyes and steals a candy bar right before a police raid. Wonderful!

"Die Hard" is quite simply one of the best action films EVER made. Everything about this film is tops from the acting, directing, scripting, score, editing and so on and so forth. The script allows our hero to be more human and flawed while allowing the far-fetched plot to actually come out somewhat believable. It's filled with uncountable memorable sequences (the glass in the foot still makes me cringe) and to top it off it is absolutely thrilling from start to finish. I don't see how any action film fan in their right mind could not like this film. Audiences and critics agreed and "Die Hard" was a smash hit spawning three sequels ("Die Hard 2", "Die Hard with a Vengeance" and "Live Free or Die Hard") as well as numerous copycats resulting in descriptions like "Die Hard on a bus", "Die Hard on a boat" and fuck probably even "Die Hard in space." It changed the way action films were made and how action film heroes were portrayed and no matter how many sequels or copycats they make, the original will always be the best.

Written By Eric Reifschneider

Dark Floors - 2.5/5

Despite my love for Finnish melodic heavy Metal mongols Lordi and their cheesy Kiss inspired madness, I was still in the ideology that "Dark Floors" was going to suck. Basing an entire film around the four band members as monsters seemed like a gimmick that was going to produce some seriously poor Horror film moments. Luckily, this film does its damnedest to give a solid story and atmosphere to a concept that could have easily just circled the drain in awful horror sewers making it worth the watch at least once.

Sarah (Bennett) is inflicted with some medical problems that have made her a mentally unstable child not progressing. The hospital seems to be at a loss to figuring out her problems let alone fixing them. Her father Ben (Huntley) decides enough is enough and takes her out of the hospital one night. When the elevator taking them down stops unexpectedly they find themselves with a group of confused hospital workers and visitors in some sort of new layer of hell. Now its a race to get out of a quickly decaying building before they find themselves on the end of the dead stick by the hands of four mysterious creatures (members of Lordi) hellbent to end them.

"Dark Floors" isn't going to be winning any awards any time soon. Although it does have a relatively strong concept, at its heart it is rather cliche and the use of Lordi as the creatures seems to push the rather serious story towards a cheesy road. This doesn't effect everything, but it does hinder the film from going down the really scary route it could have with some clever monster designs. The acting is hit or miss too with its hobnob cast (or English actors in a Finnish film...don't ask too many questions now) and occasionally the film wants to tread more deeper waters without fully taking the plunge (the odd suicidal scene and its vague and rather confusing ending). Both of these aspects seem to hint at something greater but the film never goes there.

This Finnish film does, however, succeed in many places to give it a surprisingly solid foundation. The direction is tight with some great details for those willing to look for them and the atmosphere can be downright creepy as shit. With each floor of the hospital looking more and more like the nightmarish images from the game "Silent Hill" as they progress down, there is some great atmosphere build that truly makes the audience feel like they are crawling into hell with the characters. Even though the use of the Lordi members seems cheesy they do some cool and interesting things with them (like how one is a ghostly figure and none of them speak) to help balance it out.

Although my expectations for "Dark Floors" were seriously low, it does have some surprising depth and great executions to make it not a complete disaster. It isn't great, the story does get way too out there by the end, but it has its moments of glory that one can admire. 


Written By Matt Reifschneider

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Warbus II [The Last Warbus] - 1.5/5

I just did something I despise to do. I watched a sequel without watching the original film. To top it off I'm reviewing the damn thing. I hate doing this as it is a little unfair to people reading as it gives me no point of comparison. Well I decided to as what I gathered in research this "sequel" really has nothing to do with Ferdinando Baldi's Vietnam Macaroni Combat flick "Warbus." The only comparison is that they both contain an armored civilian transit vehicle of the title. Other than that there are no plot or character carry-overs. For that I feel I can give "Warbus II" a fair review.

Shit most people wouldn't even know this was a sequel thanks to all its alternate titles. Made as and released in Italy as ""Warbus II", it got retitled "The Last Warbus" for American release and even "War Bus Commando" for video. To top it off it also got released in some areas as "Afghanistan Connection" and the foreign tape I watched (not sure what country but it had burnt in Asian subtitles) had the title card read "Afghanistan: The Last Warbus". Jesus Christ how many titles does this flick have? It rives the number of alternate titles of Amando de Ossorio "Blind Dead" Tetralogy and Lucio Fulci's "City of the Living Dead."

Well "Warbus II' was made in 1989 (four years after the previous film) and was one of the last Macaroni Combat films ever made. The year before we saw John Rambo battle Russians in Afghanistan . The Italians no doubt thought if Rambo fights a war in Afghanistan then they better make a rip-off with a similar premises. So we get Rambo-knock off character Johnny Hondo (Mark Gregory) going on a mission deep inside Afghanistan. His mission is to obtain top secret documents his father hid in the floor of a dilapidated school bus. When his rescue crew aren't able to get him out, he and some new found friends fortify the school bus and take on the Russian army to get out of the country alive.

The Basic premises of the paper thin plot is badass and bat shit stupid at the same time. The idea of fortifying a bus and ramming it down the enemies throat while driving down a road to hell shooting everything in its path gets my testosterone pumpin'. Still if you think about it the premises is also fucking ludicrous.

First of all a bus is not the ideal vehicle to take on a far superior Russian force. It's slow as a snail with hernia and would have a snow ball's chance in hell to stand up against the firepower of tanks, helicopters and the barrage of machine gun fire. Thankfully our hero Hondo has the uncanny ability to blow up helicopters with a few shotgun blasts. Second it would be a miracle to get the damn bus running. It's been sitting in a bombed out shell of a building for nine fucking years. Conveniently a prisoner Hondo rescues happens to be a god damn mechanic and to top it off a nearby town happens to have a bus they can steal parts and gas from. Think of this... if you have time to steal parts and gas off the damn thing then why wouldn't you just steal the running bus and fortify that one instead. God this movie is giving me a headache!

Needless to say by the grace of god they get the damn school bus running and fortified in a matter of hours (why this mechanic isn't working for NASA I will never know). Of course they complete just in time before the Russians bombard the place with missiles. This however still isn't the most far-fetched thing the plot offers. That honor goes to a sequence where our bus enters a Russian military compound, manages to beat tanks, guards and a fucking helicopter, steal gas and escape basically unscathed. Fuck this Hondo guy has better luck than Rambo!

The far-fucking-fetched plot is good for unintentional laughs but sadly the filmmakers had to cast that non-actor from the "Bronx Warriors" duology. Why the hell was Italian directors so interested in this guy? It must have been for his intense face to adorn poster artwork as this guy is absolutely worthless as a "hero". Card board cut-out defines this guy. To top it off they completely waste John Vernon as his "Colonel Trautman" superior with his amazing voice strangely dubbed by someone else. Oh there's also a chick that is desperately trying to look like Brigitte Nielsen circa "Rocky IV" and "Beverly Hills Cop II" but she's also completely wasted.

"Warbus II" seems to be panned even by hardcore fans of these late 80s Macaroni Combat films. To be honest I found it no worse than most of them. The plot had plenty of unintentional hilarity to it but it's a damn shame the filmmakers didn't pick a more likable actor to play the hero. Thankfully this would be Mark Gregory's final film before he faded into oblivion (did he ever rise out of oblivion to begin with?). For trash fanatics I say check it out.

Bonus Rant: I love the location the filmmakers picked to represent "Afghanistan". Desert terrain... not so much. It looks more like Spain to me.

Written By Eric Reifschneider

Monday, January 24, 2011

Cobra Mission [Operation Nam] - 1.5/5

Another throw-away later 80's Italian Macaroni Combat flick but what kills me is that this film had some real potential to be a kickass action movie with an actual director at the helm. I mean look at the cast. It's an Euro B-movie fanatic's dream come true! Christopher Connelly and John Steiner are enough to get any Italian trash fan interested but on top of that we have Donald Pleasance and Spaghetti Western great Gordon Mitchell. Fuck! Why didn't Enzo G. Castellari direct this damn thing? Speaking of him, he makes a cameo as a Major in this picture. He had the time to make a cameo so why didn't he take the reins of this train wreck and make something actually enjoyable out of it?

Well following the huge box office success of the "veteran going back to 'Nam to rescue POWS" flicks "Missing in Action" and "Rambo: First Blood Part II" the Italians weren't too far behind to jump on that bandwagon. What we get here is a trio of Vietnam vets that are bored by their everyday lives. Connelly is especially annoyed by his wife and daughter's spoiled lifestyle so he and his two war buddies take it upon themselves to meet up with their old major and head back to 'Nam to rescue some POWs. Not surprisingly their secret "Cobra Mission" (a name that really pertains nothing to the plot) isn't easy and lots of bullets fly.

The guy in charge of this mess is producer acting as director Fabrizio De Angelis (using his Americanized pseudonym Larry Ludman). He gave a shot at directing such films as the "First Blood" rip-off "Thunder Warrior" (he would go on to make three of those damn things) and the "Dirty Harry" rip-off "Deadly Impact" and proved by the result of those films that he should stick to solely producing flicks and letting his buddy Enzo G. Castellari direct them. This guy has no fucking style and makes this flick a bore to look at. Even Castellari at his worst at least made his look interesting. Not Fabrizio.

The only thing that kept me going though this picture (suffering the horrible 88th generation VHS transfer to DVD) was the cast as I do enjoy Christopher Connelly and John Steiner as they show their faces in a gazillion cult Italian genre films and their presence usually is enough to bring a smile to my face. Sadly the poor directing style ruined any charm these genre actors had to offer. People may also be interested in the fact that Donald Pleasance appears in the credits but trust me, it's a thankless small role that barely qualifies as a cameo.

"Cobra Mission" may not be the worst Macaroni Combat flick in existence but it's definitely on the lower tier despite its solid cult cast. I perhaps may have enjoyed it more if I was able to get my hands on a an actual watchable copy. I grew up in the VHS generation and I have no problem with VHS transfers of obscure films like this but this specific VHS transfer found in a VideoAsia multi-film pack is almost unwatchable: blurry beyond belief with digital flakes. Considering the film rather sucked I highly doubt a better version will ever become available. "Cobra Mission" (released in America as "Operation Nam") must have made more money than I thought as a sequel followed in 1989.

Written By Eric Reifschneider

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Takers - 3/5

To be fully truthful to my faithful readers and followers of Blood Brothers, I wasn't even fully sure if a review for "Takers" deserved to be written. Although it turned out to be a decent film (much to my surprise honestly), I figured since I reviewed "Armored" why the hell not another armored truck heist film. This lacks some the charisma of other heist films like "Armored" and lacks some of the epic drama of "Heat", but it does have some solid moments and a relatively well built heist sequence. Which is more than I expected from a film that boasts rapper T.I. and pop artist Chris Brown as two of its main attractions.

A group of well off thieves (Walker, Elba, Ealy, Brown, and Christensen) just pulled off their biggest heist yet, when a ex-team member named Ghost (T.I.) presents them with a new spectacularly hard heist to ponder. Pulling info from some rogue Russians, this armored truck heist may provide them with enough cash to never have to steal again. With betrayal seemingly boiling amongst these 'takers' and a couple of cops (Dillion and Hernandez) hot on their tail, they may have to cut it quickly and haphazardly. Something that just may lead to their eventual demise.

With an ensemble cast of semi-big name actors, "Takers" comes off as a rather lower level knock off "The Italian Job" more often than not (this is ironic since one of the characters even calls the heist an 'Italian job' at one point). Although the cast is far to big to truly develop them the way this film should have, it does get credit for trying and having the know how to focus on a couple of our thieves for the audience to build some sort of connection and sympathy for them. It's not quite enough though and the final showdown seemingly feels flat as we don't care enough to truly root for the baddies or the goodies. It just spreads itself too thin to build the drama that it could have.

It does however, despite some of its cliche moments and paper thin twists, have some surprisingly solid action pieces. The truck heist itself is well crafted (sans T.I. continued over dubbed remarks of useless nature) and the shootout with the Russians has a very epic and snazzy visual flair. This part of "Takers" was the most pleasant of surprises and carries the film up a couple of stars to where it sits now. Not sure I agree with how the director and writers handled wrapping it up, but it works for what it is.

"Takers" gets a solid 'A' for effort on trying to give depth and meaning to a rather cliche and over-packed character driven film. It's got some great set pieces and ideas that carry over some of its flaws, but it still succumbs to the foundational problems of its plot and semi-hammed up acting. Not a complete waste of time and fans of heist films will get some kicks here, but it lacks the punch and subtle commentaries it needed to push it up to the next level. 


Written By Matt Reifschneider

Bridge to Hell - 1.5/5

Umberto Lenzi will always be known for his horror, poliziotteschi and giallo films but he did make a few potential Macaroni Combat films in the 1970s with all star casts. When the 1980s rolled around he decided to give the genre a shot again by making "Wartime" and "Bridge to Hell" with both outings being astonishingly cheap and essentially plotless war "epics".

The plot is incredibly simple, so simple that Lenzi tends to let the film get off track following pointless action scenes and subplots that really have no relevance to the film. What we have here is 3 escaped Allied prisoners wandering across the Yugoslavian battlefront before running into a secret guerrilla Allied force where they learn about a 5 million dollar treasure held at a nun convent. They earn their weapons and a guide by stealing a plane and blowing up a train. While on their way to steal the treasure they get sidetracked constantly by having firefights with German forces.

Lenzi doesn't seem to know where to take the plot and just lets it meander going wherever it wants to. Along the way he lets glaring plot holes rear their ugly head. Many of the plot elements are even repeated. Our characters steal a plane, shoot some shit, and then crash it. Later on they steal another plane, shoot some shit and then crash the fucker again. This lame plot leads up to and incredibly unfulfilling ending but then again how do you tie up such a simple sloppy plot well?

The acting is incredibly bad and made me wish for all the colorful, likable actors that showed up in the classic Macaroni Combat films of the 60s, 70s and early 80s. These guys are just awful! To top it off the dubbing is subpar making the acting almost unbearable. The dialogue is appalling, but at least some of the lines get some unintentional laughter. My favorites include a nun saying "I thought Americans were like Russians. They only worship Satan." What the fuck was that comment! To make the conversation better the solder says "no we worship Martin Luther" and the nun retorts "He's worse than Stalin!" Holy shit that conversation had me rolling on the floor with laughter!

Like most Macaroni Combat films the special effects are extremely lacking but in fun entries of the genre like "The Inglorious Bastards" it just added to the charm and fun. Here it just adds insult to injury as the special effects of planes blowing up and such are pretty dire. An epic dummy fall from a bridge is perhaps the most headache inducing aspect of the lame effects.

I love Macaroni Combat films of the 60s, 70s and the early 80s but entries into the genre from the late 80s are just extremely cheap and damn near painful to watch. Is it all Lenzi's fault? It's hard to say as all his Italian contemporary directors by this time were also churning out shit so maybe he was just doing the best he could with his limited resources. Whatever the reason this film still sucks but to be honest it is better than most of the Macaroni Combat entries made in the late 80s. That my friend is a sad statement. Only for connoisseurs of trash cinema.

Written By Eric Reifschneider

Hard Target - 3.5/5

If there ever was mullet more epic than the one Van Damme sports in "Hard Target", the world just might implode on itself. And just like his wicked slicked back and greasy mullet, the film "Hard Target" is a slick and ridiculous feast of New Orleans gun slinging and over the top action. Perhaps no Woo's best film (nor the most logical), but "Hard Target" has something distinctly charming in its presentation and epic bullet ballets. Something only a combination that this film can truly embody.

Ms. Binder (Butler) found her way to New Orleans to find her father. With no help from the police department, they happen to be on strike, she goes out on a limb and hires a bayou boy named Chance (Van Damme) to help her track him down. Turns out what they find is that there is a group of hunters that have been killing men for sport. Led by Mr. Fouchon (Henriksen) , these guys take ex-combat veterans and make them a deal for some major cash if they can survive. Now Chance and Ms. Binder are on their target list. Luckily, with his ex-military training, back wood bayou tactics, ability to defy physics occasionally, and a mullet to kill for, Chance is going to make these professional hunters...the hunted.

Once again, poor John Woo ends up with a pretty shitty script for his first American film. It's not a horrible script; the writing is hit or miss with its dialogue and it's pretty cliche. How many films have we seen now about 'man: the prefect game;. This one just happens to have a very brash young Van Damme, a neat setting (New Orleans), and the visual wow of Woo. Even these can't make up for all of it though, the snake scene comes to mind with a great concept that didn't work except for unintentional laughs, and the plot holes can be vicious in bringing down the fun of the film.

The action of the film handedly makes up for its flaws though. With Van Damme's action prowess (and ability to leap!) and John Woo's penchant for making brutal violence artistic, "Hard Target" has some of the coolest action sequences out there. Some of them tend to be a bit over the top, the standing motorcycle leap for example, but the general awesomeness of their execution is something to admire. The final shootout is an all guns blazing high adrenaline classic in a great setting. A sequence not to be missed by action fans.

Despite its rather poorly built character arcs and cliche story, "Hard Target" overcomes these with its spunky and action packed charm. One of Van Damme's best films out there and one of Woo's coolest and most slick. Not quite as slick as Chance's mullet but damn close.

BONUS PRAISE: This movie also benefits from having a rather intriguing and vicious duo for villains. Henriksen is just fucking evil in this movie (The way he's yelling at his minions when his jacket is on fire is just so damn cool) and his partner has a great evil look and sound. These two might be some of my favorite action film villains for this and it helps out the plot of this film tremendously. 


Written By Matt Reifschneider

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Hell's Heroes [Inglorious Bastards 2] - 1/5

Hmmm.... the DVD box title looks like it has the same sickness as the "Demons III: The Ogre" and "Zombie 5: Killing Birds" box titles in that it is COMPLETE AND UTTER BULLSHIT!!! "Inglorious Bastards 2" my creamy white ass! Nice try Videoasia but I'm not buying it!

Well considering the film has nothing to do with Enzo G. Castellari's 1979 Macaroni Combat cult classic "The Inglorious Bastards", the so called "plot" to this film is actually just a lame retread of it substituting the Vietnam War backdrop in for the World War II setting.

Well Miles O'Keefe is a tough ass soldier that gets in trouble when he gets taped denouncing the war. He gets sent to a military prison camp and when the camp gets attacked, a handful of war criminals escape and kill plenty of Vietcong in the day-for-night shooting. Really I don't recall anything more about the plot, just kill Vietcong and survive.

Though Fred Williamson and director Stelvio Massi teamed up the year earlier to give us the vein burstinly bad "Cobra" rip-off "Black Cobra", Williamson here opts to take a supporting role leaving the lead to the ever worthless Miles O'Keefe. Judging from his amazing performances in such stellar films as "Ator the Invincible" and "Tarzan the Ape Man" we can really expect perfection from his acting. His bad acting is only made more agonizing by atrocious "Clint Eastwood" style dubbing. I almost forgot to mention that old tough guy Chuck Connors makes a small appearance before hilariously getting killed off. I'm not kidding his role is so damn small it might as well have been a cameo.

Director Stelvio Massi proves yet again he really has no creativity left in him as this is just the same by-the-numbers shooting as his last crapfest "Black Cobra." The absolute worst part is that he shoots almost half the movie in that awful "day for night" bullshit. That's when filmmakers shoot "night" scenes during the day but darken the film to give it a dusk appearance. It's a shooting technique that I'm not sad to see leave modern cinema because it never worked for me and it is utilized extremely poorly here as these sequences are almost unwatchable due to it being too dark. Thanks a lot Massi! Nothing like watching action packed machine gun firefights that you can't see.

Since this was a late 80's Italian Macaroni Combat film my expectations weren't really high to begin with but it still managed to not meet those subbasement expectations and instead of being trashy entertainment, it just came off tedious. The film wasn't helped by it's odd framing on the DVD release as it looks like the 25% of the lower half of the letterbox picture is missing. Since the day-for-night shots made half the film too dark to see anyway I don't think I missed a whole lot with that missing 25%.

Bonus Rant: My brother pointed out the hilarious tagline on the DVD box artwork that I never paid attention to. Believe me it's the only thing truly entertaining about the film.

Written By Eric Reifschneider

Friday, January 21, 2011

From the Orient with Fury - 3/5

The name is Malloy, Dick Malloy - Agent 077

This second adventure for James Bond knock-off secret Agent 077 sadly didn't out due the first film "Mission Bloody Mary" like the second Bond film and similar namesake "From Russia With Love" out did Bond's first adventure "Dr. No." Why might you ask? Well if you ask me it's due to the fact that "From the Orient with Fury" got released the same year as 077's first adventure and the hurried production reared its ugly head with flaws. It's not a complete loss as it still manages to be entertaining Euro Spy flick.

This time agent Dick Malloy must rescue a scientist from some terrorists what want him to build a laser to... du du duuuuu.... take over the world. Along the way 077 travels the globe and gets into a lot of chases, fist fights and women's beds.
The plot is pretty typical for Bond knock-off fair and the typical Bond must-haves are included: exotic locations, sexy babes, gadgets (including a camera belt and Morse code suspenders) and fist fights. Even with all this the lackluster plot tends to bog this film down and it does become dull far too often for an espionage thriller.

Ken Clark again is wonderful in the role of 077 was he is both a two fisted fighter and cool headed for a super spy. For Bond clones, you can't get better than Clark. The villains though are rather boring and the head baddie actually gets some unintentional laughter towards the end when he goes all bonkers with the death laser, disintegrating rock and soldiers in the process.

"From the Orient with Fury" is easily the weakest entry into the 077 trilogy but it is still entertaining in its own low budget, James Bond inspired knock-off way. Compared to the other entries this one just lacks a good plot and gets bogged down because of it. Like the other films this is rather obscure but is the easiest to obtain on DVD.

Like the other two entries the picture ratio screwed up on the Dorodo Films DVD. The 2.35:1 picture ratio is stretched to 1.85:1 making the image, and characters look tall and thin. Annoying, yes, but it's the only way to see the film for know. After contacting Dorado Films about the problem I was informed that they would re-release all three entries at later date with the ratio problem fixed which is great news for us Euro Cult fanatics.

Dick Malloy with return in "Special Mission Lady Chaplin".

Written by Eric Reifschneider

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Double Team - 1.5/5

It's a shame really. They bring over these great action directors from China, give them the worst scripts imaginable, and tell them to make it work. "Double Team" had to have been a bet of some sort. It's so awful. So cliche. So off the wall ridiculous. So illogical. So downright stupid. So...much damn fun! There's no way in hell I would give this higher than a star and a half, but had you been here watching it with me, you would have seen a man with a shit-eating grin plastered across his face rolling on the floor with laughter. It's so bad, but its worth every second of viewing.

Jack (Van Damme), is the world's greatest spy. When he is pulled out of retirement to finally recapture his arch nemesis Stavros (Rourke) he finds himself possibly set up (in all honesty I'm not sure if it was a set up or not even though I watched the fucking thing and generally who cares) he is pulled out for 'being too soft'. Now Stavros has taken his pregnant wife hostage and is drawing him out, so Jack recruits the help of a gun dealer Yaz (Rodman) to put an end to it all.

Firstly, the film very much plays on the idea of a 'buddy cop' formula between Rodman and Van Damme. Turns out Rodman really doesn't show up til half way through and then the rest of the film you wish he never showed up at all. Their chemistry is lackluster and the jokes they do play with them are either about Rodman's ridiculous looks (his hair changes color almost every new scene) or its an underlying basketball joke. Whoopee. I like me so Van Damme, but they did not click.

On the bright side, Tsui Hark, in his American debut, does everything he can to make this movie action packed. Even the dialogue has rotating and whooshing cameras. This is actually a life saver on the film, because the story is so stupid, that the writers had to have been drunk, high, and held at gun point to finish the script in 30 minutes for it to have sounded good on paper. For the first half hour or so I was just dumbfounded by its atrocious lack of continuity or logic that I wanted to cry. Then I realized that it had to have been made this way on purpose. By the time I got to the Van Damme throw down with the tiger in the coliseum around buried land mines with a randomly shirtless Rourke heckling and Rodman whipping around on a motorcycle doing wheelies, I knew that this movie was going to be a favorite of mine. No I did not just make up that last sentence. Yeah. Makes you wanna see it to. I know.

This movie has to be taken with some serious sized grains of salt for one not to commit suicide during its play time. Go in with the right mind set though, enjoy the horrid idea behind it and Hark's slick action directing, and just let the rest go. Otherwise you'll have a brain hemorrhage. "Double Team" is not worth losing your life over.

BONUS PRAISE: Van Damme kicking a tiger in the face. Fucking classic. 


Written By Matt Reifschneider

Arizona Colt Hired Gun [Arizona Colt Returns] - 3/5

Yes, this is an official sequel to the 1966 Giuliano Gemma film "Arizona Colt." You wouldn't get that inclination by just looking at it as the major recasting of the role with Anthony Steffen makes this look more reminiscent as another one of those westerns that merely uses an established character name to fool people into thinking this was a sequel reminiscent of all those damn "Django" and "Sartana" films. Nope, it's hard to believe but this is the real deal, the one, the only official sequel to "Arizona Colt." Even though it's official don't go into this expecting the same type of western as most of the cast and crew from the original are replaced making this only seem like a sequel on the surface.

Well our Arizona Colt with a new face is kicking it back with sidekick Double Whiskey (Roberto Camardiel. returning to the role from the original film) when he gets news that someone has set him up to make it look like he killed a station full of people. Now wanted by the law and ready to be hanged, Arizona fakes his own death and high tails it to take down the ruthless gang that set him up.

Though an official sequel, the recasting of the role with Anthony Steffen completely changes the character. Steffen plays the role opposite of Gemma making him a stoic, silent anti-hero reminiscent of Eastwood's 'Man with No Name' portrayal as opposed to the likeable smartass approach that Gemma brought to the character. Normally I like the stoic, silent anti-heroes more in these genre films but Steffen just makes the character rather boring and uninteresting.

Roberto Camardiel is still likable as the comic relief sidekick Double Whiskey but his character can become a bit wearing at times with all the damn whiskey comments. Okay, we get it, his character likes whiskey! That shtick gets old real fucking fast.

Compared to the original this film looks to have a much lower budget as it's just not grand or epic looking. Also the great grander score of the original is opted out for a silly song with humorous, yet ridiculous lyrics.

This sequel is more famous for being one of future Giallo specialist Sergio Martino's first films but even he can't make this enjoyable enough to get around its incredibly cliché plot and boring lead character makes this a more average spaghetti western compared to the first film. In reality they might as well have made this a completely separate film thanks to Steffen completely changing the character but overall this is still a good watch for fans of the genre.

The film has had two DVD releases, one from MYA Communication under the title "Arizona Colt Returns" and another from Wild East under the title "Arizona Colt Hired Gun" with the later being paired with the first film. Since both DVDs are good quality are priced about the same I'll let you do the math on which one is the better buy.

Written By Eric Reifschneider

Timecop - 3.5/5

Time travel is a tricky subject to deal with in films. Most of these films are filled with plot holes and gaping logical leaps. "Timecop" is just as bad as some of the worst. Luckily, this action/sci fi flick has a few things that cover up these foundational flaws making it one of the best Van Damme films out there along with a pretty fun concept to play with. Should it even be as good as this? Hell no, but it is.

Max Walker (Van Damme with yet another cliche character name!) has just been offered a place in an elite policing force that was just created. It's jurisdiction? Time. With the development of time travel now being widely spread, these cops have to make sure that people don't go back in time and fuck up the present too much. When a series of violations seem to lead back to a Senator running for US President (Silver), Walker will have to go to some drastic measures to bring justice to the unjust. Including changing a past, that may even save his pregnant wife from an early grave.

When one looks at all the details and parts of "Timecop" it really shouldn't be as enjoyable (or as good) as it is. Van Damme gives one of his best performances here as the dark hearted cop with too many regrets to let go and the general story is enough to keep one locked in. It helps that the character arc for Damme is tied in directly to the plot which allows some nice emotional moments for a rather cliche comic adaption into an action movie.

The film is a bit cheesy at times, don't even try to take the cars in the future (which is 2004 by the way) seriously, and falls prey to its own quirks. Considering how dark some of the film is, these moments can be a bit out of place and not stand well in the general tone of the film. Damme's one liners, although funny, fall under these awkward moments and I would have wished they would have played it more seriously more often. This film could have more impact and risen above its stereotypes.

The action is pretty solid too with highlights coming in the form of a two Van Damme beat down in the rain at the end (although I wished they would have played this up even more like in Jackie Chan's "Twin Dragons" or something) and some rather fun sequences. It still loses some of its punch do to its over the top moments, the splits on the counter is memorable but rather odd, but its made up for with some rather interesting moments.

"Timecop" has no right to be as good or as fun as it is. As it stands, it may already be horribly dated with its plot and special effects, but it has a deeper story with a solid character that makes it a wee bit better than it should be. Still one of Van Damme's best and a fun action ride.

BONUS RANT: I love how when a movie hero has a dark past or gets a little edgy they grow out their hair longer. And in the early 90s they grow a mullet. Makes for a very humorous distinction between 'with wife Walker' and 'post wife Walker'. 


Written By Matt Reifschneider

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Mission Bloody Mary - 3.5/5

The name is Malloy, Dick Malloy - Agent 077

Since my brother reviewed the golden Cadillac James Bond 007 film series, I found it perfectly fitting for me to review Italy's low budget rip-off trilogy featuring the suave, cool headed secret agent 077. I find the term "rip-off" to be a tad harsh here as this actually isn't a bad film at all. We'll use the term "inspired" instead to be nice.

Well back in the 1960s the Beatles ruled the radio, Batman ruled the television and Bond ruled the cinemas. Bond films were the box offices biggest draws but Albert Broccoli and Harry Saltzman couldn't produce the films fast enough to fill the need by audiences so Italy was gracious enough to lend a hand and release a number of "inspired" films themselves, the most popular being the 077 trilogy (subtle weren't they picking that for his code number?). Being a hardcore Bond fanatic as well as a connoisseur of Italian films, these Bond "inspired" films are a combination made in heaven for this cult film fanatic. Heaven was exactly what I got as this first 077 adventure is a perfect mixture of a gritty Spaghetti Western and James Bond thriller.

Ken Clark plays our Bond clone agent 077 but instead of working for the British Secret Service, he is American and works for the CIA. 077 is on the trail of a stolen nuclear weapon device but not surprisingly he's not the only man who wants to get his hands on it. Nipping at the back of his feet are the Russian and Chinese secret service. Espionage and action are sure to come as well with interesting twists with "what side are they on" moments.

All the staples of Bond films are here: eye catching title sequence, car chases, spies in tuxedos, exotic locations, fights sequences, gorgeous women, wonderful music, and nasty villains. Some may just call this a "low grade Bond rip-off" but the filmmakers did a wonderful job with their shoestring budget to bring us a really enjoyable espionage thriller. I especially dug the gritty filmmaking nature to the picture very reminiscent of the popular Italian spaghetti westerns of the day.

Ken Clark is a likable handsome lead and is perfectly cast as a Bond Clone. He's a decent actor and holds his own in onscreen fights (the "From Russia with Love" inspired train fist fight was especially thrilling). He may work for the CIA as opposed to her majesty's secret service but I do believe Bond has met his match!

Are you a fan of early 1960s James Bond films? Then I highly recommend this 077 adventure. It may have a tight budget and the villain is rather lackluster but it doesn't hinder this espionage thriller too bad. I say give it shot if you can find it as it is hard to come by but it was released on DVD by Dorado Films.

The Dorado Films DVD I have to admit is disappointing as the picture ratio is 2.35:1 stretched to 1.85:1 making the image and characters look taller. I found it very annoying and it detrimented my enjoyment for the film. I contacted Dorado Films about the problem and they responded with a very courteous email that they were going to fix the ratio problem with the future release of the film. I love to support small cult DVD companies and their professionalism on the matter will ensure that I will buy future DVD releases from them.

Dick Malloy will return in "From the Orient With Fury"

Written By Eric Reifschneider

Street Fighter (1994) - 1/5

If you clicked on this review mistaking it for the horrid 1994 video game adaption "Street Fighter" starring Jean-Claude Van Damme then you were not mistaken. You actually did click on this review. If you clicked on this review mistaking it for the cult classic "The Street Fighter" then quickly move away from this film and find the other one. It's much better.

Guile (Van Damme) is an NA agent hell bent on bringing the world's most egotistical warlord Bison (Julia) down. With a needlessly overcomplicated story that tries to bat smash all "Street Fighter" characters into one plot, all you need to know is that there is a military force that is going into Shadowloo (Bison's HQ) to bitch slap some sense into a militant dictator that is obsessed with taking over the world. The rest doesn't really matter.

I am very torn on the 1994 live action "Street Fighter" film. On one hand this movie might be one of the largest pieces of crap to ever grace the silver screen with its poor set designs, awful dialogue, over acting, wasted moments, and complete ignorance to the stories and characters of the video game "Street Fighter". On the other hand, its a hilarious riot of a film to be enjoyed because of its poor set designs, awful dialogue, over acting, wasted moments, and complete ignorance to the stories and characters of the video game "Street Fighter". It's a weird line that this film walks that requires a lot of grace from its audience for its atrocious-ness.

Most of the cast is miscast in their roles (with Raul Julia giving it his all as Bison only to have that shitty role as his final calling card) with their characters easily coming second to the overall plot. Their performances are just as crappy too. Its as if the makers of the film wanted to purposefully fuck it up for the sake of fucking it up when it comes to casting it.

Not to mention for a movie with Van Damme based on a martial arts fighting game, where the hell is the fighting?! It doesn't come around til the final moments and what fighting there is is horribly choreographed and shot. They seriously wanted to screw with fans here didn't they?

All in all, "Street Fighter" might be one of the most poorly constructed and executed films in history, but I'll be damned if I don't watch it at least once a year. It's hilarious in its awful one liners and complete idiocy. The makers must have intentionally made it this bad because its hard to think that it ended up this way unintentionally. Either way, its a riot for those with the right attitude, even if it is so damn horrible. It's still awful though.

BONUS RANT: Ironically, its not the worst "Street Fighter" movie out there. "The Legend Of Chun-Li" is even worse. Seriously. 


Written By Matt Reifschneider

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Arizona Colt [The Man From Nowhere] - 3.5/5

I have seen damn near 100 Spaghetti Westerns in my day and to be honest I thought I had seen most of the "must see" films the genre had to offer as I was left sifting through the bottom of the pool sucking in the left over films that were entertaining enough for the extreme genre fan but nothing to get excited about. Just when I thought I had seen all genre "must sees" I then laid my eyes upon "Arizona Colt", an extremely entertaining picture from the golden age of the Spaghetti Westerns (late 60s) that was tailored perfectly for star Giuliano Gemma. After viewing a number of lower grade films the genre had to offer I ate up Arizona Colt hungrily.

Arizona Colt is a likable smartass bounty killer who happens to be around when a ruthless gang of Mexicans break a number of inmates out of a prison. The leader of the gang, a tub of lard named Gordo, forces all the inmates to join his gang but Colt refuses and plays deadly practical jokes on the gang in the process of them trying to kill him. One of the gang members strangles the daughter of a wealthy bar owner in a local town so Colt agrees for $500 and the owners other daughter's hand in marriage to kill the brute. He does, but not without almost dying himself but is saved when a drunk named "Double Whisky" saves his life. Now he needs to save the town from the sadistic force of Gordo's gang and win the heart of the women he has his sights on.

To be honest I wasn't real keen with Giuliano Gemma when I first got into the genre as he had a little too much boyish charms for my taste of a Spaghetti Western hero. However over time the bugger has grown on me and now I like him quite a bit as he is a decent actor that has a wonderful ability to do great fight scenes. Gemma used to be a gymnast and stunt man and it shows as this film is tailored to his abilities with him wonderfully pulling off his own stunts and fights.

Gemma fits the character of Arizona Colt well by giving the character charm, smartassery (is that even a word?) and even a deadly edge. The character isn't just your average "think of myself" antihero as his character goes through an array of emotions and character twists throughout the film making the character more interesting than the average genre protagonist.

The "sidekick" character Double Whiskey is rather cliché and offers the film it's needed comic relief but the character is still likable and the rest of the cast is made up of seasoned genre vets that hardcore Spaghetti Western fanatics will recognize from multiple other films.

"Arizona Colt" (released in America as "The Man From Nowhere") is definitely one of the last unsung Spaghetti Western films that is a definite watch for fans of the genre. It maybe a little cliché at times but it's far better than the majority of the films the genre has to offer and Gemma is likable as ever. The character proved to be popular enough to warrant a sequel entitled "Arizona Colt Hired Gun" which was released four years later without Gemma returning. Released on DVD by Wild East as "The Man From Nowhere" and later by them in a double feature with its sequel under the "Arizona Colt" title.

Written By Eric Reifschneider

Girl Who Played With Fire, The - 2.5/5

The sudden popularity of "The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo" as a book and Swedish film took me by surprise. If was already sweeping across the US before the original film hit DVD here (now there's a needless remake on the way for those of you that simply cannot watch foreign films, you bastards). Now I feel obliged to review the second film, "The Girl Who Played With Fire", since I sincerely enjoyed the original and due to the gathering cult status of these films that is transforming into mainstream success. Turns out the second film is not only a downgrade from the first, but its actually a pretty massive disappointment.

After taking a year to travel around the world, Lisbeth (Rapace) finds herself drawn back to Sweden. Her friend Blomkvist (Nyqvist) has been working on a serious article about sex trades when he discovers that his main writer has been murdered. The number one suspect? Lisbeth. Now framed for a handful of murders she did not commit, the eclectic hacker has to find the true culprit and clear her name. With Blomkvist's help, she just may find that her past has finally come back to bite her in the ass. Will her past be the end of her future?

What made "The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo" such a fascinating gem of a film was its great balance of modern thriller and old school Agatha Christie whodunit mystery. This sequel lacks that. It simply comes across as a modern thriller. To make matters even more disappointing is the fact that unlike a normal 'thriller' I rarely felt thrilled with the film. The film is muddled in its presentation of the winding story that falls prey to its subtlety making it a rather boring and slow dragging watch. Thusly, by the final act of the film I didn't really feel the needed connections to the plot for it to be the pay off it tired to be. Not to mention the lack of an epilogue to the events, the film ends rather quickly, made it feel as though the writers dropped the ball on the story. Too many things and untied ends were left hanging by the final moments. It just kind of pissed me off.

On the greener side of the fence, "The Girl Who Played With Fire" is damn well executed. It's a beautiful looking film, production wise, and the acting from our two leads and the supporting cast is impressive to say the least. It carries some solid atmosphere too that really embraces that Swedish feeling of the film.

Sans the acting and general look to the film, "The Girl Who Played With Fire" is handedly inferior to its previous film. The characters aren't near as intriguing, with particular mention to Lisbeth who just lacks the mystery and edge that made her so damn interesting originally despite a solid performance, and the plot/pacing are far too slow and plodding to be as thrilling as it could have been. Perhaps one of the biggest disappointments for a sequel for this reviewer in quite some time.

Written By Matt Reifschneider

Monday, January 17, 2011

Black Cobra 3: Manila Connection - 2/5

I believe the idea for "Black Cobra 3" came about a mere minute after "Black Cobra 2" wrapped. Director Edoardo Margheriti no doubt said to Fred Williamson in his thick Italian accent "Hey, I had fun doing this cheap action drek. Want to do another one?" to which Williamson replied "Fuck yea! I got to pay for my special cigars as they don't come cheap!" Margheriti then responded "Great! We'll have a script banged up by Friday" and thus "Black Cobra 3" was born rounding out a complete trilogy (despite there "technically" being 4 films... more on that later.")

Like the last picture this zero budget Italian actionsploitation epic was filmed in the Philippines so we have to get Lt. Robert Malone back into the country some how. Well for plot convenience he has a cousin that works as an INTERPOL agent in the Philippines that gives him a call one day out of the blue to come help him with an arms smuggling ring. Malone happily agrees and the rest of the film is espionage and jungle shoot outs as Malone and his two partners sneak into a hidden compound.

Surprisingly this sequel feels far more like a Macaroni Combat picture as opposed to a Poliziotteschi picture like the first entry. I mean we have jungle warfare and machine gun fire up the ass... sounds like a typical Rambo inspired Macaroni Combat picture to me! Well the first film ripped off "Cobra" so why not rip-off a different Sylvester Stallone picture? I actually enjoyed this new approach, perhaps I just haven't had enough Macaroni Combat in my diet of late?

Since this was filmed basically back-to-back with the last film and has the same director at the helm that it shouldn't be surprising that it has the same look and flaws. Interesting camera work: Check. Poorly choreographed fist fights: Check. Extremely bad acting: Check. Long sequences of characters walking: Check. Entertaining as fuck: Check. What can I say, I have a soft spot for these zero budget Filipino shot Italian films.

Other than the new Macaroni Combat plot and approach, "Black Cobra 3" comes out being exactly what you would expect from Fred Williamson and crew. Fans of these Italian Z-grade action films will find plenty like. Sadly this was second to last Italian film Williamson made as the Italian film market would crash not to long after, no doubt due to films like the "Black Cobra" series. Still it was fun while it lasted.

Whoa... I almost forgot, this ISN'T the last "Black Cobra" film...errr... technically at least. Not long after cult director Umberto Lenzi would direct a fourth film entitled "Detective Malone" but surprisingly it doesn't have Williamson in it. Instead they used stock footage of Williamson from the previous 3 "Black Cobra" films to intermix into the newly shot footage while using stand-ins for Williamson every once-in-while. For that reason I'm dying to see it but it's hard has hell to come by. On a funny note I had a buddy meet Williamson at a film festival and he said the fourth film was a "bunch of shit." Fucking great! That just makes me want to see it more!

Written By Eric Reifschneider

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Black Cobra 2, The - 2/5

"Black Cobra", which was just a poorly executed "Cobra" rip-off, was a lame action film that wasn't clamoring for a sequel, let alone a franchise to emerge from its bowels. None-the-less a franchise did emerge and to be honest this sequel isn't too bad, for an Italian B grade film shot in the Philippines that is. What makes this sequel better than the original? Well it doesn't take much but it's mostly due to director Dan Edwards. Dan Edwards... hmmm... since this is an Italian film I doubt that is his true name. Sure enough it's a pseudonym for Edoardo Margheriti, son of Italian B-action movie god Antonio Margheriti. No wonder it's better!

Detective Malone (excuse me, it's Lieutenant in this film) is still up to his excessive force ways in the windy city Chicago (hard to believe that "Chicago" in the first film had a beach and ocean front.... continuity goof anyone?) and his boss is fed up so he sends him on an away assignment to the Philippines. While there he meets his new boss, and they predictably dislike each other at first as their methods differ but grow to like each other towards the end when they kick and shoot the living shit out of a terrorist organization.

Fred Williamson is much more lively in this sequel acting more like he's enjoying being on set by letting his charm shine through unlike that zombie performance in the first film. Sadly he is continuing to show age as fight and foot chase scenes are rather poor and you can tell he's in pain even in minor movements like getting up off the floor. Still his presence can make any B-grade film somewhat entertaining. In an odd move the filmmakers cast ex-Spiderman star Nicholas Hammond (from the 70s TV show) as his supervisor in the Philippines. I don't know about you but having Williamson and Spiderman in the same film has always been an action fantasy of mine... admit it, it was for you too!

Director Edoardo Margheriti learned a lot from his dad by being assistant director on many of his B-action outings and he uses all that experience in this, his first solo feature film debut, to his advantage. No doubt having a zero budget to work with like the original film, he is still able to give this sequel a much better look and style the first film sorely lacked.

I also dug the new Filipino setting. Sure they only moved the setting to the Philippines as it is cheap as shit to shoot there (fuck it seems 90% of the film output from Italy seems to have been shot there in the 80s) but it gives the film a likable, foreign looking backdrop. To top it off the hilarious low grade Harold Faltermeyer inspired score just adds to the fun.

I'm not lying when I say EVERYTHING about this sequel is better than the first film. The style, the look, the action sequences are all much greater and best of all Williamson doesn't give a zombie-like performance. Is it still a cliché, cheap jack action film? Sure it is but at least this one is enjoyable. Margheriti and Williams would team up again for the next entry "Black Cobra 3: Manila Connection."

Written By Eric Reifschneider

Parasomnia - 3/5

William Malone struck some seriously awesome chords with his "Masters Of Horror" episode "The Fair-Haired Child". It was slick and modern in all the good ways. So when his latest feature film, his first in a long time, hit DVD it was worth looking into. "Parasomnia", written, directed, and financed by Malone himself, presents us with the same style that his "MoH" episode had (as with most of his newer films) and, despite its low budget, gives us a few intriguing ideas to play with.

Daniel (Purcell) has floated through his life looking for something with meaning. While visiting his friend in a local drug-rehab wing of the hospital, he stumbles across two very unusual things. A beautiful young woman (Wilson) who suffers form 'parasomnia' that has kept her in a sleeping state for most of her life and a hooded serial killer named Volpe who supposedly possesses hypnotic abilities so strong he can make a person kill for him with just a stare or suggestion. When Dan becomes obsessed with his 'sleeping beauty' he kidnaps her from the hospital to prevent them from testing on her. What he discovers though is far more frightening then his new wanted status. This girl is somehow linked with Volpe through her dreams and this psycho has some very dark plans for her.

"Parasomnia" is one of those films that I desperately wanted to love. It's quirky. It's original. It has so many great ideas built into its plot. This film has a great sub-plotted romance story (as awkward as it is since she's a kidnap victim and all) to balance its oddities. It also has a dark humor that Malone really utilizes nicely. His directing is nightmarish, as always, and really focuses on the dark tones of color and odd angels for his shots. It works most of the time for this movie. In these aspects, "Parasomnia" is an indie horror cult classic in the making.

On its down side, the budget hurts this film immensely. One can tell from its rather hit or miss casting (the hero Dan is a miss but having Jeffrey Combs as a sarcastic cop was brilliance) and its rather limited special effects that Malone was battling money issues the entire time. In a way, this film has a special charm to its low budget quality that many fans will love, but it does hinder the presentation of the film overall.

"Parasomnia" is a great find for those willing to look for it and it works with what it has well. Malone can be a little overwhelming with his quirky style at times and it throws the balance of the film off a bit, the the film's originality and charm work overtime to overcome these flaws. Not a great film, it still needed a bit more work, but a surprising little indie release that earns quite a bit of credit where its needed.

BONUS RANT: (Spoiler) From the odd dreams that are experienced by Dan and the films ending, are we to assume that they two star crossed lovers met as children and it was this meeting that inspired him to do what he did? The story never really clarified this aspect of its unraveling and it continued to bother me well after it was finished. Was it a dream or was it a memory? 


Written By Matt Reifschneider

Machete - 4/5

When the trailer was released for the then fictional film "Machete" on the Grindhouse feature, it was a cult film person's dream. Robert Rodriguez directing Danny Trejo as an ex-federale named Machete who is involved in a government conspiracy? It was almost too good to be true. Of course, then that dream came true and "Machete" became an actual film. Would it live up to the hype that this fake trailer created? Perhaps not to the extent one would hope, but "Machete" is a fantastic throw back to the grindhouse revenge thriller of cult film past and a hilarious watch.

Machete (Trejo), and that IS his name, finds himself as an illegal day worker in Texas after his wife and daughter are killed by a very powerful Mexican drug runner (Seagal). When he is approached by a politician (Fahey) to assassinate a Senator (De Niro) on his campaign trail, he falls into a trap. Now he has to clear his name and help his people rise up against a corrupt government before they find him and wipe him from this Earth. With the help of an ICE agent (Alba), a revolutionary leader (Rodriguez) and his priest brother (Marin) he has a long way to climb out of his own grave and bring justice to all.

 If you go into "Machete" and hate watching 'bad' movies, then man you are going to HATE this one. Like many films that Rodriguez has been doing lately, sans his kids films, there is this definite and up-in-front love for the low-budget exploitation films from the 70s and 80s. This of course makes it insanely off the wall with its humor and embraces that extreme love of ultra-violence and chest thumping manliness. In all honesty, "Machete" might offend most viewers in one way or another unless you have leather back skin like our leading man Trejo. That's okay though. If you were offended in some way, then the film did its job.

Stylistically speaking, the over the top action, the stoic and gristled hero, the strong but very sexual female characters, and its oddly placed but very funny humor is a damn riot. My brother pointed out that after the opening sequence the fake scratches on the 'film' disappeared which was disappointing, but the style still remained. I personally loved the humor of the film and the dialogue was insanely quotable for characters that were fun and memorable. Some of the sub plots seemed a little like added padding (what the hell was the point of Lohan's part?) but overall the film moved like lightning and never let up.

If you are a fan of those over the top 70s and 80s throw back films, then "Machete" is a must see with its complete ridiculousness. Occasionally it can get a bit too serious with its political agenda concerning border patrols in Texas, but its down in such a way that it works with the style. A great and violent ride that really holds onto what we love here. Cult film making.

BONUS PRAISE: I (and I'm sure my brother agrees) will be seeing "Machete Kills" and "Machete Kills Again" if they actually come to fruition. A promised franchise for a film like this? Count me the fuck in.

Written By Matt Reifschneider

Black Cobra (1987) - 1/5

Wasn't Sylvester Stallone's "Cobra" bad enough? Did we really need a cheap Italian knock off of it? No we didn't but none-the-less the Italians thought it enough to rip it off and change the title just a bit to reflect its main star, cult icon Fred Williamson.

The plot is exactly like "Cobra". Sadistic gang going around brutally killing people for no apparent reason: check. Hot babe witnesses a murder and gets away without first seeing the face of the gang leader: check. Tough as nails cop assigned to protect her from the gang: check. Gang tries to murder the witness while she is in the hospital: check. Car chases: check. As you can see this is just "Cobra" with a lower budget and bad dubbing.

The main reason to see this film is for cult icon Fred Williamson but even he seems bored with the premises. He seems tired and wore out as the fight scenes are really poorly staged. He isn't even able to get his likable charm to shine through the silted dialogue as lines like "I'd do it even if it was Santa Clauses' daughter" come out more head ache inducing than unintentionally funny.

Director Stelvio Massi directed some decent Poliziotteschi films in the 70s but again like many of his director brethren his output in the 80s degrades to the Z-grade action level as this is a far cry from his superior 70s offerings. His directing just seems cheap and shoddy with poor zooms and pans. I understand he was working with nothing for a budget but he did nothing to try to heighten up the look of the film.

The worst part perhaps is the god damn score. We get one fucking piece, the same piece played over the opening credits, and it is the only piece of score played throughout the entire picture. That would be fine if it was a catchy, likeable score but it's not so it gets annoying really fast.

Like almost every other poliziotteschi film released in the 80s, "Black Cobra" weaves just above the line of god-awful and isn't even that fun for unintentional laughter. Williamonson looks bored and the directing is uninspired. For an Italian low-budget knock off this should have been a lot more fun than it was. Two sequels did follow ("The Black Cobra 2", "Black Cobra 3: Manila Connection") which are both MUCH better than this one. A fourth film entitled "Detective Malone" was also released but it was just a movie filmed around stock footage of Williamson from the first 3 films.

Bonus Rant: It was enough to rip-off "Cobra" but the writers decided also to lift some dialogue from "Dirty Harry". During the final gun battle, Willaimson's Malone character has the balls to say a slightly changed version of Dirty Harry's famous dialogue of how many bullets did he fire and if the thug feels lucky. Come on guys!

Note: The "Black Cobra" trilogy has fallen into public domain here in the United States and to be honest most of the releases are pure crap as they cram all three films onto a single layer DVD. The least crappy DVD release of these films is the triple feature from Diamond Entertainment which has all three films spread out on two discs, the second disc being dual layered so that means one film per layer! The transfer of the first "Black Cobra" though is still from a poor VHS source so only the most forgivable cult film fanatics, like me, are encouraged to hunt this DVD set down.

Written By Eric Reifschneider