Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Bandit 6: Beauty and the Bandit (1994) - 2/5

This is the third TV made "Smokey and the Bandit" sequel (the sixth overall entry into the series) and the screenwriters are already running out of ideas and this time Bandit is on his way to host a NASCAR race in Daytona. Now that's redneck heaven! So it's safe to assume Bandit is going to say "... and they're taking a left turn, oh wait, they're taking another left turn... hold on folks, another left turn!"

Ok, ok there's a little more to the plot than "...left turn" but not by much. A beautiful model (Kathy Ireland) steals Bandit's car to escape her mob boyfriend (Tony Curtis on call to collect his paycheck). Bandit then takes a charter bus full of nudists (don't ask) to get his car back but it's not that simple as the FBI, a bounty hunter and the mob are on his tail to get the girl.

Plan on learning to like Bandit driving a Bus as that's what he does for a majority of this sequel. Because when I think of a "Smokey and the Bandit" film, I think of the Bandit driving a Charter Bus below the legal speed limit... sheesh. Sure there's a little action but it didn't detour me from wanting to know will Bandit make it to his Daytona race on time! I NEED TO KNOW DAMNIT!

The filmmakers also ditch the "Snowman" character real quick this time around by having him waiting impatiently at the race. The writers also ditch the "Smokey" character from the previous film to focus on FBI characters on the hunt for Bandit but these characters are completely wasted and are only used as filler to pad this 40 minute plot device out to an hour and a half.

If you liked the previous two made-for-TV "Smokey and the Bandit" sequels then knock yourself out as there is more of the same with this entry. Typical it's overlong with not enough plot to keep you awake to get to the end. At least they got some great eye-candy with Kathy Ireland making up for the lack of sugar sweets in the last film "Bandit 5: Bandit, Bandit".

Written By Eric Reifschneider

Scorpion King 3: Battle For Redemption, The (2012) - 2/5

After an abysmal experience watching “Scorpion King 2”, it’s very very very hard to believe that this franchise would survive. At all. Yet here we are once again with another installment of “What The Fuck Is Going On With This Franchise?!” Let’s break down how “Scorpion King 3” fits into the picture.

This film is a sequel to a prequel/sequel for a spin-off that was a prequel to a sequel to a remake. No shit.

Mathayus (now played by Webster) has been wandering the land squandering his talents as a mercenary after his kingdom fell and his queen perished after the events of the first “Scorpion King” film. When combating brothers have him hired to end their conflict, he travels to a foreign jungle (which looks an awful lot like Thailand) to aid a king in protecting his homeland from war.

As if throwing a prequel in for good measure didn’t make things more complicated, this film happens to take place after the original one and rarely mentions what took place to get them there. Even though a major character point for our Scorpion King is his redemption (it’s the damn subtitle) they decide to just skip ahead. At this point, if continuity is a big thing for you then you better skip this one because it rarely makes sense in the grander scheme.

Beyond initial confusions and its insanely low budget, believe it or not this third entry is better than the second. It helps that it focuses down on some better action sequences (of which there is plenty with elephants, swords, magic, fire hammers, etc.) and has a much better cast (including a lead that doesn’t make me want to puke and adds his own charm to the film) for it to build on. The script is poor, the writing idiotic particularly when it comes to the villains, and it has moments of sheer relentless stupidity. Yet in the end, it wasn’t as bad as it could have been and it and it still has moments of pure silly fun that make it worth watching if you are looking for a B-movie. It’s got a silly side kick, strong women that succumb to the Scorpion King’s mighty braids, and Ron Perlman in a bad wig. Who could want more?

This is far from a great film and often enough it will have you desperately racking your brain to make it work logically. Put that aside though and it’s half enjoyable with its sword fighting and general action packed fun. It actually gives me hope for this franchise…which is sort of sad in a way…

Written By Matt Reifschneider

Monday, March 26, 2012

Bandit 5: Bandit, Bandit (1994) - 2/5

Look at that title... could they have possibly squeezed one more fucking word of "Bandit" in there? Fucking hell! Well this fifth entry into the "Smokey and the Bandit" franchise (the second in a string of made-for-TV sequels) is a little more entertaining than it's utterly generic title, which is especially good considering how overly underwhelmed I was by the first made-for-TV sequel "Bandit 4: Bandit Goes Country".

Well this time Bandit is in trouble with the law. So you're saying "what else is new", right? Well this time it isn't his fault. Someone is pretending to be the Bandit by stealing his rig and driving the same model car in order to steal a top secret prototype car that Bandit was hired to transport. Can Bandit catch the culprits and deliver the car to clear his name before the town's sheriff locks him up for good? Considering there were two more of these made-for-TV sequels I think we can safely assume that would be a "yes".

The simple plot is easy television filler and this hour and a half long movie really acts like an episode of a television series, complete with a title sequence showing clips of all four television movies playing in the background of a barf inducing country theme song. There really wasn't enough plot to keep this film cruising for its hour and a half running time and by the end I did get somewhat bored even with all the lame stunts that director Hal Needham threw at the camera.

What helps this sequel out is the addition of a "Smokey" character in the form of John Schneider, a poor Michael Biehn look-a-like. He ain't close to the classic Bufford T. Justice of the original theatrical trilogy but at least he offers an antagonistic figure to challenge the Bandit, an aspect "Bandit 4: Bandit Goes Country" sorely lacked. On the other hand love interest is dull and definitely the least interesting of all the leading ladies in these rather uninteresting made-for-TV follow-ups.

I will admit I did enjoy "Bandit 5: Bandit, Bandit" more than I thought I would and it's definitely a step up from "Bandit 4: Bandit Goes Country" but this is still basic TV filler with a plot that acts like a TV series episode stretched to film length as opposed to a proper sequel to a popular comedy franchise.

Written By Eric Reifschneider

Leprechaun 2 [One Wedding And Lots Of Funerals] (1994) - 2/5

The surprising quality of “Leprechaun” takes one by surprise. Unfortunately after watching “Leprechaun 2”, it’s fairly safe to say that it really was a one trick pony. This sequel tries to recapture the charm and hilarity of the original while adding in a few new elements, but fails to blend the horror and humor and it comes off as a film desperate for laughs and less than memorable on the horror end.

A thousand years ago, our vicious Leprechaun put a curse on his slave’s blood line. He would, in that thousand years, take the woman of descent as his bride on the night of St. Patrick’s Day. Enter recent day and Bridgette, the descendant of the bloodline, is going to have a very bad day. Luckily, her boyfriend Cody and his conniving friend/boss are not going to give her up without a fight.

Shockingly, “Leprechaun 2” is practically void of any connection to the original one. Sans a similar looking leprechaun, this baby might as well be its own film. Details don’t match up, it doesn’t explain how our villain came to be in L.A. (since he “died” in North Dakota in the first one), and his powers and weaknesses are different. Half the time was spent trying to figure out just what powers he has rather than getting sucked into the tension of its plot. Not a great way to start this film.

Beyond its annoying disconnections, this film rarely succeeds. It gets a couple of great hilarious one liners in there and a few sequences inspire some charm (including a rather Mad TV inspired skit with the leprechaun in an Espresso shop nursing a hangover), but in the end it’s not enough. Some of the humor is completely amiss and awkward. The plot is actually rather fun, but the execution of it is littered with holes and oddities that undermine the charm and experience.

The biggest disappointment with the film is the lacking horror elements. Despite a couple of rather clever kills including a lawnmower blade scene that doesn’t make a lot of sense (but who cares at this point?), there is no tension and some very disappointing deaths. At times, I debated at whether or not it was rated PG-13 in its lacking slasher elements. That isn’t good for this film either.

“Leprechaun 2” simply lacks the charm to pull of its clichés and blend of horror humor. It’s more awkward than not with its hit or miss actors and jokes. Not what I wanted from an original film that was impressively blended. Not sure if I’m looking forward to “3” at this point or not as it takes place in Vegas. We know that doesn’t always turn out good for franchises.

Written By Matt Reifschneider

Dirty Dozen: Next Mission, The (1985) - 2.5/5

The testosterone fueled 1967 World War II classic "The Dirty Dozen" is one of my all time favorite movies, not only as a "men on a mission" war film but just as an overall film in general. It had all a man could want in a chest bulging film with dream cast lead by the ever reliable Lee Marvin. Though the film was a huge success it's still hard to imagine that filmmakers 20 years later decided to make a sequel. It just seems far too long to make a follow-up not to mention it's give the ultimate preconceived death of being 'made-for-TV". Not only did they wait twenty freaking years, they made it for freaking TV guaranteeing this long-awaited sequel is going to DOA. Due to its TV made nature I actually refused to watch it for years but finally decided to go into it free of expectations and you know what, for a TV movie, it actually wasn't all that bad.

Despite the extra wrinkles and weight around our returning characters faces and waists, the plot of this decades year later sequel takes place not lot long after the original with Lee Marvin in trouble again. Ernest Borgnine gives Marvin another deal... if he takes in another Dirty Dozen behind enemy lines to complete a nearly impossible mission, the prisoners along with him get their criminal records wiped free.

Lee Marvin, despite his age, is still as tough as ever but his appearance does bring some unintentional laughs when watched back-to-back with the first film. This war has seriously taken its toll on him as he looks like he's aged twenty years (considering the plot only takes place shortly after the first film)! Borgnine has packed on a few pounds and his character has mellowed a bit. Richard Jaekel also makes an appearance rounding out our three original actors to return.

The rest of the cast is made of some real likeable character actors. What's great about this sequel is playing 'spot the actor' as you recognize nearly all of the dirty dozen from other films, such as Sonny Landham ("Predator", "48 Hrs"), Ken Wahl ("Wiseguy", "The Soldier"), Gavan O'Herlihy ("Death Wish 3", "Never Say Never Again"), among others. The secondary cast is all well picked to ensure the film will be likeable from an actor standpoint.

Director Andrew V. McLaglen is a veteran of many theatrical mediocre action films and he does what he can with the limited resources of a TV-made-production but it still has a rather hallow look about it. He still manages to craft some good action sequences which was a surprise. What he can't save is the rather hum-drum script about assassinating an assassin to kill Hitler (don't ask).

The film lacks the character development and theatrical look of the original, but all that aside this actually isn't a horrible made-for-TV sequel. Just make sure you remember that it's 'made-for-TV' or else you will be tremendously disappointed but it kept my attention for its hour and a half running time, a definite feat for a TV made movie. I still wish there would have been enough interest to make this a theatrical feature as I would have loved to rejoin the Dirty Dozen for another big budget epic but alas that never happened. "Dirty Dozen 2" did draw enough viewers on TV that two more sequels would follow: "Dirty Dozen: The Deadly Mission" and "The Dirty Dozen: The Fatal Mission". This sequel can be found as a bonus feature on the 2 Disc Special Edition DVD release of the original film, stuck on the second disc, treated as if it's some dirty little secret. Dig it out, it's worth a watch at least one time.

Written By Eric Reifschneider

Friday, March 23, 2012

Ace High (1968) - 3.5/5

I put off watching "Ace High" for years for the simple fact that it's a sequel to "God Forgives... I Don't" (which hasn't been given an American DVD release) and the second film into what is referred to the Cat Stevens Trilogy ("Ace High" being followed by "Boot Hill"). While stuck at home recovering from jaw surgery I finally decided to throw it in. I've watched plenty of sequels in Italian cinema (like "Run Man Run" and "Violent Naples") without the luxury of watching the first films beforehand and they made sense so why not "Ace High". Sure enough "Ace High" was not only watchable enough on its own, but it is also one of the better Spaghetti Westerns I've seen in a while. And all this time I put it off just for the simple fact it was a 'sequel'. Damn you cult Euro film series and US distributors for not releasing all entries into a franchise!

We open with two morally ambiguous drifters (Terence Hill and Bud Spencer) arriving into a town and by sheer threat alone get their hands a large sum of money. In comes Elli Wallach, who escapes from jail, robs our two brutes of their cash, and then decides to ride across the countryside spreading the wealth amongst the general public. Hill and Spencer of course don't take to kindly to their assets being given away and they capture, and recapture Wallach numerous times in order to get their cash back while Wallach at the same time tries to get revenge on the 'friends' that left him to rot in prison.

Die hard spaghetti western fans will notice right away the team-up of Hill and Spencer but don't be fooled into thinking this is going to be a slap stick comedy in the vein of their "Trinity" films to come. "Ace High", though not without its moment's of humor, is a rather serious spaghetti western and to be honest I much prefer this approach as opposed to the slap-stick overload in the "Trinity" films. The humor here is well-place and funny without overshadowing the serious nature of the film (which I have heard, but cannot attest too, is a little more light-hearted than the first film "God Forgives... I Don't").

The wonderful third addition to the cast is American actor Eli Wallach, hot of the heels of his wonderful portrayal of the half-breed Tuco in Sergio Leone's "The Good, the Bad and the Ugly." His charcter here, a half-breed Greek named Cacopoulos, is much in the same mold as Tuco. He's cunning, over-zealous, has a sense of humor not without a streak of deadliness. Not as strong of a character as Tuco but for fans of Wallach, this character will not disappoint.

The look of the film is also great, taking great inspiration from teh Leone films to come before it. Lots of great sun blasted, windy desert landscapes and plenty of cool camera angles supplied by genre veteran Giuseppe Colizzi. He gives the film a look of a top tier Spaghetti Western and fans of Leone will definitely like the look here. If I would have to make a few complaints is that the film is tad to long, running over two hours, so it can drag at some moments and the score surprisingly is unmemorable, very uncommon in the Spaghetti Western genre.

Paramount pictures picked up "Ace High" for U.S. distribution no doubt due to the fact it stars Eli Wallach. Hell they even plastered his name above everyone elses on the U.S. prints and poster artwork and all theater goers were blind to the fact that this was a actually a sequel. This is also why I haven't seen the first film as Paramount released "Ace High" on DVD in American but the first film is impossible to find. Considering how much I liked "Ace High" with its great cast, grand look and serious story with perfectly sprinkled moments of humor, I need to locate a copy of "God Forgives... I Don't" asap! Now only if we can also convince Wild East to re-release the third entry into the series "Boot Hill" on DVD as well...

Written By Eric Reifschneider

Scorpion King 2: Rise Of A Warrior, The (2008) - 1/5

Although “The Scorpion King” met with critical hardships, its financial earnings made it a winner. The first one was a fun film bringing the “Conan The Barbarian” kind of film into a modern age and it worked its charm to the brim. That much cannot be said for “The Scorpion King 2: Rise Of A Warrior”. It’s not like “Conan” at all. In fact, it’s more comparable to “Hercules: The Legendary Journeys” in how bad it is.

A young Mathayus (now played by Copon because it’s a prequel!) watches his legendary father die at the hands of the warrior Sargon (Couture). He trains to become an assassin to give himself the skill set to bring vengeance down on this evil king. With the help of a few new friends, he must travel to the underworld to retrieve a mysterious sword to defeat the black arts of his target.

Whereas the first film played up the swords and downplayed the sorcery, this film does the exact opposite. Our assassin must fight monsters, gods, and battle black magic in the most utterly silly ways. Most of it lacks logic and the film seems to have to travel at lightning speed the entire time to force feed all the things to make it feel like a completed movie. I won’t go into too many details about the ridiculousness of its plot and how little it makes sense (if the villain can shoot a victim seeking arrow that can navigate streets why wouldn’t he use that all the time?), but know that if you think about it while watching you just might have an aneurysm.

Beyond watching a sword and sorcery flick that features poorly crafted CGI and a poorly edited Minotaur sequence, “Scorpion King 2” rarely has anything else going for it. The action is based on special effects (which are poor), the plot heavily favors characters (which are poorly acted and given worse dialog), and its story desperately focuses on the epic (which is told with one of the worst narrations of all time and forces an almost “Pirates Of The Caribbean” like fantasy quality into it). Honestly, I had trouble just getting through the damn thing instead of enjoying it for what it is.

If you do enjoy the late night crappiness (which does have its time and place) of “Hercules”, then there is a chance that “Scorpion King 2” might play its song for you. If you, like me, feel compelled to want a bit more quality from a franchise with the potential it carried then skip this one and move on disregarding that it might even exist.

Written By Matt Reifschneider

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Night Of The Demons 3 (1997) - 1.5/5

“Night Of The Demons” is a franchise that probably should have lasted longer than 3 initial entries and a recent remake. Then again after watching “Night Of The Demons 3”, maybe it shouldn’t have. This third entry certainly tries its best to make it with its low budget and poor writing (thanks to some charm visually from director Jim Kaufman), but it’s simply too much to overcome and this horror film falls prey to its clichés and some poor executions.

When some teens looking to score some beer at a local convenience store suddenly find themselves running from police thinking their off kilter friend killed a cop, they take shelter in the fabled Hull House on Halloween to evade capture. The least of their worries happens to be their own distrust when Angela (Kinkade) shows up to steal some souls from her next set of guests.

So the formula remains the same from entries 1 and 2 as this third entry follows it to a ‘t’. Group of overly sexual and assholish young folk trapped in Hull House fighting off demons and one by one becoming the monsters they face. La de freaking da. The one twist in this one happens to be the police officer hunting them down from the initial premise that gets them to the house. It rarely makes sense and rarely follows the same rules established (and broken) in the first two, so just go with the film and don’t worry too much otherwise it hurts your brain.

As per usual, the characters are mostly stock people cut from paper thin ideas that allow for various horrible deaths. This film lacks some of the clever kills or moments that the other two had. It goes out there with some of them (A snake hand? A cat lady?) and the film does get an ‘A’ for effort. Unfortunately, it lacks a lot sell the whole thing and despite some cool camera shots, just becomes under whelming as a supernatural horror and a slasher.

Yes, “Night Of The Demons 3” is your basic entry that carries the bane of shitty characters, cliché kills, and a formulaic plot. It occasionally charms itself away from its faults with some clever use of colored lighting (not unlike an Italian horror film) and camera shots, but it’s not enough to save it though from just being drivel.

Written By Matt Reifschneider

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Kid With The Golden Arm, The (1979) - 3/5

When a studio is pumping out a film every couple weeks like the Shaw Bros were accomplishing at the height of their career, you are going to have a pretty wide range of quality when it comes to their films. “The Kid With The Golden Arm” pretty much sits firmly in the middle of the pack. It’s got some great things going for it (hey, it’s a Venoms film), but its writing and story can be confusing and oddly structured.

A small village is in desperate need for assistance so a massive shipment of gold is to be sent to them for financial help. Unfortunately, a group known as the Deadly Valley lead by the illustrious Golden Arm Kid has made it very aware that they intend to steal the gold on its way there. Thusly a group of heroic individuals of various skill under the leadership of a legendary drunken kung fu master sheriff will have to fight off the villains to deliver the gold.

Some of the beauty behind these classic Shaw Bros kung fu films is how simple they are. A group of good guys must fight off a group of bad guys over some gold as they travel with it. Stock it with some great characters and really this is all that “The Kid With The Golden Arm” needs. This is what makes it so much fun too. Our drunken sheriff might be a caricature, but he’s witty and fun and our villains and heroes ably keep up the gimmicks that these films (particularly when directed by Chang Cheh) are known for. The fights are fantastically drawn out with highlights coming in the finale and a great ambush sequence with an armored fiend. Fans of Venom films will certainly find charm in this one.

Outside of the basics though, “The Kid With The Golden Arm” wants to throw in a few twists that don’t quite add up. It builds a few subplots (including a romantic one) that really fail to add a whole lot beyond necessary plot progression and the finale adds a twist that is only briefly hinted at a couple times earlier. These don’t necessarily pay off with the lacking focus of the film, but at least it tries.

“The Kid With The Golden Arm” is quite a gimmicky film with its over the top characters and very simplistic story. It’s hit or miss in execution and confuses with its awkward twists. Fans of kung fu films will enjoy it though and in the end that’s what counts.

Written By Matt Reifschneider

Monday, March 19, 2012

Leprechaun (1993) - 3/5

Some films deserved to be franchised. Some films baffle when they are franchised. For the latter, simply look into 1993's "Leprechaun". The film is awkward most of the time with little in the way of relatable characters or plot and often enough confuses with lacking cohesiveness and the gimmicky title villain. To break it down, this film is bad. Oh so very bad...but there is an ace in it's sleeve. Writer/director Mark Jones takes a Sam Raimi inspired approach to its silly script and goofy characters. He runs with it at full speed, embraces its awkwardness, and bats one out of the ballpark with its blend of hilarious cliches and gimmicks. Somehow, against all logic, it works just like leprechaun magic.

Tory (Aniston) and her father have bought the perfect rustic house in North Dakota. It's cheap, run down, and isolated. With a group of painters/fix it guys in tow at the house, their plan is to clean it up and live in peace and quiet. The leprechaun trapped in the crate in the basement has different plans however. He has to find his pot of gold that was stolen and hidden in the house. If he has to kill a few people to do so, he will. So much for peace and quiet.

I fully admit it. Despite being unexplainably bad at times, "Leprechaun" is damn enjoyable. It's silly, tongue-in-cheek, and completely charming with its oddities and dumb ass plot. It plays up its cliches to perfection (which includes our characters like the silly side kick painters, the tough young heart throb, and the ditzy leading lady) and it's plot is fairly by the numbers in how it goes about its slasher ways. In these aspects, it's a by-the-numbers slasher mixed with a bit of creature features elements.

Then of course, Jones throws in completely random and often hilarious moments. Our leprechaun has a penchant for silly mobile transport in the film and takes to roller skates, skateboards (welcome to the early 90s folks!), wheelchairs, and the king of all kick ass go-carts to get around before he finds his teleporting ability that randomly seems to come and go in the third act. It's almost cartoon-like for the villain as he does some really strange things including going through a fence and leaving a hole that's the outline of his body. He gets pulled over by a cop in his go-cart where the cop asks how old this "kid" is to which our villain responds with 'over 600 years' or something to that effect. The charm and silliness of our villain easily makes this film a riot to watch and is the sole reason it does get a franchise. How could you not want to see more of him by the end of this movie?

At the end of the day, "Leprechaun" isn't all that original nor does it push itself to any new boundaries of horror. What it does do is take what it has, a gimmicky concept, and run with it until it charms you into laughing at it. To which it gladly laughs right along with you.

Written By Matt Reifschneider

Monday, March 5, 2012

Thing, The (2011) - 3.5/5

Cult fans around the world hold John Carpenter's "The Thing" in very high regard. We feel the same here at Blood Brothers (hell, its my brother Eric's favorite film of all time) and to be perfectly honest, we also felt the same way as the majority of fans about the fact that it was being remade...err...getting a prequel. It's pretty hard to prefect perfection, right? Why even bother? It can't possibly even touch the original one. So watching this horribly titled premake came with a cautionary stance and it doesn't even come close to the brilliance of John Carpenter's film. BUT...that doesn't stop "The Thing" from accomplishing enough to make it a decent film despite the comparisons.

When a Norwegian group of scientists in Antarctica discover a vessel buried under the ice and a creature along with it, they enlist the help of Kate Lloyd (Winstead) to excavate it and study it. Unfortunately, their good fortunes turn bad when this "thing" from the ice decides it doesn't like being left in an ice cube and breaks out. As it would happen to be, this "thing" has the ability to copy organic things and replicate them. Now the team is unsure of who (or what) may be hiding amongst them. All they know is that they have to kill it before it makes its way to mass society.

It's obvious fans of the 1982 film didn't like this one. All I heard from friends and colleagues is that "it sucks", "why did they use CGI?", or my favorite "no redeemable qualities". It was when my brother, whose favorite film of all time is the 1982 original, claimed it to be a decent film that earns its own way that I swallowed my pride and took the dive.

It's understandable why fans didn't like it. I agree with them on many points. The plot is just a little bit too similar and falls into a formulaic progression. The cast is hit or miss. The CGI is overwhelming when it comes to the monsters. These are all elements that people constantly compare to the original. Maybe its just the contextual analysis speaking, but I didn't expect it to even come close. Of course, there is CGI. No modern film company would green-light a horror film with that much expensive special effects anymore...not unless its pulling some serious cash in at theaters and the CGI is not horrible by any means. Of course, it has a similar plot. The film makers wanted to homage the original one by giving us different but similar situations and although some are a bit of a reach (the grenades for example) they worked for getting the point across. Of course, the cast is weaker. Who's more badass than Kurt Russell? It's not Winstead as she has trouble pulling off being all that tough, but its a different angle that is appreciated. I agree that these are things that hurt this film in the end, but not enough for it to be without any redeemable qualities.

"The Thing" might be a bit underwhelming in many of the aspects that people desperately wanted to see from it, but it does do one thing right. The details. In the 1982, "The Thing" we are shown the aftermath of the Norwegian camp the a handful of things that made us go 'what the fuck happened here?!'. This 2011 prequel, pays very close attention to the details. How the room looked when the alien escaped. Where the bodies of the scientists were and the details of how they died. The ax in the wall. It's astonishing at how much the filmmakers cared about these details and its these things that impressed me the most to add another full point onto the film.

If you are a fan of John Carpenter's fusion of horror and science fiction masterpiece, go into this looking at it as a companion piece. It doesn't touch the original one, but few films have in the 30 years since it came out. Take it for what it is, have fun with it, and enjoy it for what it does well and the elements they pulled off. It was a daunting task to make a prequel to such a highly regarded film and "The Thing" comes off a nice little prologue. Color me the black sheep on this one, but I enjoyed it quite a bit for what it was.

Written By Matt Reifschneider

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Young, Violent, Dangerous (1976) - 3.5/5

This was a surprise release for the Euro Crime fanatic in me. Just when I thought no more Poliziotteschi films would make it to state side in high quality DVD releases, Raro shocked the hell out of me with their announcement of "Young, Violent, Dangerous", a entry in the genre that I had not heard of prior despite the talented cast and crew involved with the film . My expectations were met as any film starring Tomas Milian and written by Euro Crime mastro Fernando Di Leo has to be good, though it definitely isn't as good as it could have been with the talent involved.

The plot is simple, yet unnerving as it follows three spoiled teenagers that go on a pointless and violent crime spree, robbing anything and killing anyone in their path. One of the teens girlfriends attempts to warn the police but their too late and it's up to the commissioner (Tomas Milian) to stop the teens before their trail of blood leads all the way to Switzerland.

The acting by our trio of killer teens is good, transcending past the lackluster English dubbing. It is unnerving how much these guys enjoy the carnage they are dishing and is especially uncomfortable in this age of school shootings around every corner. Our commissioner, despite a strong performance from Tomas Milian, sadly is a overshadowed by the rest of the film. His character is just brushed by as we follow the bloodbath of our teens. I understand the filmmakers wanted to make a film that wasn't a "Dirty Harry" clone with one cop saving the day but it would have been nice to flesh out his character a little more as Milian's talents are sadly underused.

Fernando Di Leo's script also only touches upon the perspective of why these teens from rich households decided to go off the deep end. There is a quick scene where Tomas Milian is chewing out their parents for poor parenting techniques and how money won't raise good kids. Other than this nothing is shown on how these kids could turn into cold-blooded murders.

Despite the scripts short comings, director Romolo Guerrieri gives the film a gritty atmosphere and he is even able to craft some suspense with explosive moments of sleaze and violence. Fans who love this genre know that violence is an essential ingredient and Guerrieri delivers the goods with plenty of bloodshed and suspenseful car chases. Not aiding in his direction is a poor score, which is a surprise as films in this genre tend to have tremendous scores that heighten the films likeability. Not with "Young, Violent, Dangerous" as the score is rather dull and the title sequence song is quite terrible.

With a tighter script from the late Fernando Di Leo that delved more into character development, a stronger cop character with more relevance to the story and more screen time and a better score, "Young, Violent, Dangerous" would have been one of the best the genre has to offer. Instead it is downgraded to a "good" entry that is definitely worth owning for fans of this gritty genre of Italian crime films.

Written By Eric Reifschneider

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Vengeance is a Colt 45 [Son of Django] (1967) - 2/5

As if 30 unofficial sequels to Sergio Corbucci's 1966 Spaghetti Western hit "Django" wasn't enough, distributors and filmmakers took it upon themselves to make unofficial follow-ups to the cult classic surrounding Django's offspring, much in the mold of Universal Horror films of the black-and-white days. Hence we get "Son of Django", also widely known as "Vengeance is a Colt 45". The son of Django taking revenge on his pa's death... it's a concept that sounds intriguing to any Spaghetti Western fan. Sadly it ain't and ends up being just another forgettable obscure Euro western.

We open with the violent murder of Django, witnessed by his son, and then their home set ablaze. Years later the 'son of Django has his mind set on vengeance, with a colt 45, as he heads into a small town where to warring land barons are bringing the town to its knees, with one of the barons predictably being the guy who shot his pappy in the back

The films plot reminds me a lot of "Death Rides a Horse", just minus the atmospheric filmmaking, great cast and more predicable plot 'twists'. The only actor worth mentioning is Guy Madison, one of the many fading American stars that jumped ship to star in low budget films in Italy for hefty paychecks. Sadly even the charming Guy Madison is mostly forgettable as the old gunman converted to a man of the cloth (he would later play a similar and more memorable role in "Reverend Colt").

All the cliché elements of cheap Spaghetti Westerns are present: cowardly sheriffs, women running and in distress, and plenty of guys getting shot and falling off roofs. The shoot-out at the climax was good but then again good shoot-outs in Spaghetti Westerns are a dime-a-dozen.

Nothing much to recommend about "Vengeance is a Colt 45", or "Son of Django" or whatever other titles this bland Spaghetti Western hides under. The score is likeable but everything else, mostly the characters, are completely faceless resulting in a film that can even be a little trying for die-hard fans of the genre. Released by Wild East in a double feature with "Reverend Colt".

Written By Eric Reifschneider

Star Wars Episode VI: Return Of The Jedi (1983) - 3/5

The "Star Wars" films had finally hit a high point on "The Empire Strikes Back", but alas...what goes up must come down. Luckily for us, the third entry of the original series - which is now sixth overall chronologically - is still a damn fun and exciting ride. It is rather spoiled in its ending by the title (gee, it's called "Return Of The Jedi" so I wonder if they win), but getting there is a blast. Most of the actors still suck and there is definitely some awkward moments that aren't acknowledged, but fuck it. It has a giant space battle, tribal teddy bears, and it has a slobbering man worm, a half mechanical sword fighter, and a lightning shooting tyrant as the villains. Can't say its not entertaining.

Luke (Hamill) has a lot on his plate lately. He and his friends survived Vader's trap that left Han (Ford) in the hand's of Jabba The Hut. Now Luke will have to play all of his new Jedi cards right to be able to free his friends and stop a newly constructed Death Star from lighting up all his rebel friends. Can he face his father Vader and show up the infamous Empire before the whole galaxy comes crashing to an end?

"Return Of The Jedi" is far from a great film. It's obviously a sequel that requires you to not only remember the first two, but remember massive amounts of detail from them. It also doesn't help that many of the actors in the film grate my teeth with iron mesh with their mediocrity. Hamill might have grown in the role nicely in the second film, but he still seems forced in many of the larger emotions he needs to get through here. When your best actor for the supporting cast is a one note Harrison Ford with no character arc (where did all the character development go from "Empire"?), then you know you are in trouble. This film also loves to extend out those random sequences and miss opportunities for others. Jabba's party goes on forever (even longer when it has all the new CGI) while the Ewok subplot seems rushed and paper thin  at times. Sometimes "Return" is just plain and simple: awkward. The entire time Luke tries to tell Leia that they are siblings it just cakes on the awkwardness of the moment. At times it is downright hilarious.

That being said, if you are willing to overlook the plot holes and just enjoy the movie (you better be with the first two under your belt) it's a lot of fun. Let's focus on what "Return" does well: that is taking really gimmicky aspects and making them exciting with visual flair and extensive action set pieces. The last third of this movie is jaw dropping awesome. Three different action pieces all overlap. A forest throwdown with Ewoks and giant mechanical chickens, a massive sword fight between Luke and Vader, and the massive space ship assault on the Nu-Death Star. Man, its so damn ridiculous. It's obvious that this film wanted to be an epic ending. It's non-stop when it comes to the action. They even throw in Luke fighting a giant reptilian monster in a pit at Jabba's palace in the beginning. Why? Why the hell not.

Of all the original films this one might easily be the weakest due to its character development purgatory, but its probably my second favorite in enjoyment. It's fun and action packed and that mostly overwrites its flaws of awkwardness and poor acting.

DARTH VADER'S BAD ASS MOMENT OF THE FILM: [Spoilers here so don't read if you want the ending to be a surprise!] Darth Vader might not be as bad ass as he was previously due to an Emperor showing up and putting him in his place, but that doesn't stop him from putting the Emperor in his place at the end. Vader comes back, fights off the Dark Side just in time to save his son, picks up the Emperor WITH ONE HAND, and throws him down a shaft. Seriously, he just picks up the most evil and powerful Sith lord ever WITH ONE HAND and throws him down the shaft (lightning blasting) while battling off his own Dark Side. That. Is. Bad. Ass.

Written By Matt Reifschneider