Chopping Mall AKA Killbots Japan VHS

Snagged this awesome bit of Japanese VHS goodness recently. 
A lot smaller than most of the other Japanese VHS I currently own with a slightly faded spine, 
but that is one helluva badass cover. 

Chopping Mall AKA Killbots Japan VHS Cover


Enemies Closer

Directed by: Peter Hyams
Category: Action

As a huge fan of director Peter Hyams, you can say I was a little more than excited to hear he was returning to the action genre with a Van Damme film. Don't forget, he directed Van Damme in two of his best films to date, Sudden Death and Timecop, both back in the 90's when both were at the top of their game. As Van Damme seems to be experiencing a surge in popularity again, in no small part due to that amazing commercial where he does the now famous split between two moving trailers, I was or "am" hopeful that Hyams will be doing the same. Allow me to refresh your memory if you're having a hard time remembering what Peter Hyams has done. In essence, he's a rather gifted filmmaker who can work in almost any genre and is almost always his own Director of Photography, an extremely rare thing in filmmaking these days. In the science fiction genre, he's helmed the severely underrated and awesome Outland, as well the sequel to Stanley Kubrick's 2001: A Space Odyssey with 2010. He knocked the action/comedy genre out of the park with the cop/buddy movie Running Scared and gave us two of Van Damme's best with the Die Hard themed Sudden Death and the sci-fi/action film Timecop. Thriller's seem to be a favorite of his as in his long career, he seems to keep going back to that genre. Of these, a few personal favorites of mine would have to be The Presidio, The Star Chamber and Narrow Margin. After a few flops in the late 90's, most notably with Arnold Schwarzenegger's End of Days, he couldn't seem to get back in the groove, especially after the disastrous 2005 effort A Sound of Thunder. So I hope you can understand my excitement in hearing he would be once again re-teaming with his old friend Van Damme.

So was Enemies Closer any good? Right off the bat I have to admit that while it didn't necessarily knock my socks off like I hoped it would, it's not a total loss either - and by no means a bad film at all. It's just very straight-forward and uninspired. Gone are the visual flourishes that gave Peter Hyams films his signature look and feel. And missing is any kind of real genuine creativity or any real substance that would make this film standout from the many DTV flicks pouring out every week. If you're looking for something in the vein of some of Van Damme's better efforts from the Golden Age of his career, you ain't gonna find it here. But! What Enemies Closer (strange title) does offer is an almost nostalgic take on a tired genre and uninspired material. How so? Well, while Hyams doesn't wow me with the visual eye candy that always seemed to impress me with his earlier films, or rather his best known films, he can still film a movie a helluva lot better and more proficiently than most of the talentless or commercial/video generation of filmmakers flooding the market with lame action films that leave no lasting impression. The look of the film is clean and steady and most importantly, the fight scenes - of which there are many - are coherent. Hallelujah! Yes ladies and gentlemen, no quick-edit shaky-cam crap here. There are a ton of fights, some short and some long, and each one is executed with great precision in it's choreography and in how it was captured on film. Good job fellas.

Usually playing the role of hero, this time around Van Damme plays the villain, which he showed he's more than capable of in Expendables 2. Only this time he decided to go all out and though he's looking a little more tired these days, he is clearly having a blast in the role as a vegan bad guy with a crazy ass haircut. And I have to admit, as much as I love me some good ol' Van Damme playing the hero, it's just as much fun seeing him ham it up as the villain from time to time. But I think it's the rest of the cast that I had a problem with. Let's start with the other two leads, Orlando Jones and Tom Everett Scott. Scott, who you may remember from An American Werewolf in Paris, just looks so out of place in here. As you watch it you can't help but feel that there should have been a tougher looking guy in the role. Sure, Scott is not a small guy or anything, he's actually rather large, but he just looks like he's in the wrong type of film, like the comical side kick in a romantic comedy or something; not the lead in an action film. Shit, I think even someone like Sean William Scott would have even worked, but not this guy. And then there's Orlando Jones, who, surprisingly enough, also serves as producer on this film, himself also turns up as a villain here. Weird. Though he does turn out a little more believable in the role than Scott.

It was pretty clear at the halfway mark that this wasn't going to be the slam bang picture I was hoping for. Once you realize this isn't a new piece of Badass Cinema, then you'll probably enjoy it a lot more. It's a good action film, no doubt about it, unfortunately it's just not going to blow kick your ass. Hyams still demonstrates a knack for putting a film together, albeit not up to par with most of his previous stuff. Whereas previously he had a talent for keeping the camera still with some nice cinematography, here he implores a lot more steadicam work than we're used to from him. Maybe there was a tight schedule, or the fact that it was a night shoot most of the time? If anything, I'm hoping it's just a simple case of being a little rusty and learning to get back in the groove of things. But it's a good film and more importantly, it's a fun one. In the violence department, despite a lack of hard action sequences, there are a ton of fist fights to keep you satisfied, all nicely choreographed with some bone-crunching sound effects to boot.

Interestingly enough, despite it's dramatically short running time of 1 hour and 20 mintues, there seems to be two different stories going on; one of Van Damme's character trying to acquire a shipment of heroin from the bottom of a lake and another of Orlando's character seeking revenge on Scott's character, who's a forest ranger overseeing the lake. Inevitably they get mixed up in Van Damme's mess and must learn to work together to survive, despite hating each other and one of them wanting the other dead. It just seems like they could have chosen either of these stories and make an entire film out of them rather than going back and forth between these two in the same film. It never gets complicated or anything though, so maybe I'm just bitching for nothing.

Certainly neither of Van Damme or director Peter Hyams best work, it's not a bad film in the least and in a market full of duds, you certainly could certainly do worse than Enemies Closer. It's short, too the point with plenty of fight scenes and an over the top Van Damme. In some weird way, it was a slight breath of fresh air.


Quick Shot: America Mary

Written & Directed by: The Soska Sisters
Category: Horror

I was a little hesitant about this one. I'd seen it at my one and only local video store and for some reason, this cover always made it look like some kind of documentary to me. And the title, while misleading when put into the context of the film, didn't grab me. Yea the cover is a picture of a hot chick wearing an apron holding a hacksaw, but there was something too artsy fartsy about it all. At least some international posters were more gruesome. This had also been in my Netflix queue for months before we finally decided to sit down and watch it the other day when we couldn't find anything else to watch.

Right off the bat, I'll tell you American Mary has both good and bad points. On the plus side it's a well made film; nice camerawork with a sleek visual style. Not sure if it would be categorized as a horror film though or just a thriller because while I guess technically they were going for the horror genre, there's nothing really scary about it and even when you take into account what the subject matter is, the graphic violence (of which you'd expect there to be a plethora of), is pretty minimal. But the film is stylish and looks good. So it'll always have that going for it. On the flipside though, while the film as a whole looks good, it's seriously lacking in a lot of areas. For example, it's rather slow. And while a big part of the film is the subject of body modification, they never really explore it to the level that they should. You just feel that they could have gone so much further with that idea. There's a sequence in particular that comes to mind. I'm sure had they put a little more thought into it, they could have put together a montage of real body modification enthusiasts in some way. It's a rather large and dedicated community. I'm positive any one of them would have been happy to contribute some screen time for that. But alas, that was not to be. And I'm still not sure what the title "American" Mary means. Maybe it's not meant to mean anything.

Another positive attribute to this experience is the cast. Katherine Isabelle, who stars as the titular Mary, is sexy as hell, constantly teasing us with some "almost" nudity, but never actually going there. Bummer. Apparently, she's Ginger from the Ginger Snaps films, which I have never actually seen. So she's kind of already well known in the horror community, as are the films twin sister writer/directors, the Soska Twins, who also make an appearance in the film, as....you guessed it.....twin sisters looking for some body modification. It looks like this is their biggest film to date, having previously worked on a low-budget film called Dead Hooker in a Trunk and a bunch of shorts. But if they put as much care and technical detail in their future projects as they did with this one, then I'm looking forward to what they have to offer us.

Overall, not a bad effort. It's visually a nice looking film and when it eventually does offer a few small doses of violence, they're nicely done. It just seems that it never quite reaches the level it could with the subject matter. Sparsely violent or even shocking combined with it's slow pace and sometimes confusing editing choices hinder it's ability to leave a lasting impression.


Hands of Steel AKA Destroyer Spanish Reversible VHS Cover

On a fluke, I messaged a fellow Facebook collector in one of the VHS groups about having any Spanish tapes of certain titles I've been looking for and lo and behold, the guy hooked me up with this amazing double-sided Spanish VHS as well as the Raiders of Atlantis Spanish BETA I posted recently. Score!

Hands of Steel AKA Destroyer Spanish VHS Cover A


Quick Shot: Wishmaster

Directed by: Robert Kurtzman
Category: Horror

Surely by now, you've heard of the Wishmaster series. I do, but only had a vague recollection of it. Mainly I remember Wes Craven being a producer on it or something with the first one so he had his name all over it to push it into the mainstream a lot easier in hopes to reach a wider audience. I remember catching it once when it first hit theaters, but for some reason I don't remember if I liked it or not. Of course, when I really stop and think about it I suppose the fact that it didn't leave an impression on me should say something, right?

Well, my fears were unfounded because having sat down recently to revisit this one, I had a blast. Unknown to me, this film has a tremendous amount of talent behind the camera. I mean, it's insane. The one and only Wes Craven is a producer, but it's also written by Peter Atkins, who wrote the best Hellraiser to date with Hellbound: Hellraiser 2, you know, the one with all the best lines of dialogue and the most quotable? Then you've got KNB Effects Group guru Robert Kurtzman on directing duties, and doing a mighty fine job I may add, and Greg Nicotero pulling double duty as second unit director as well as makeup effects. But then you have Harry  Manfredini who's done most of the Friday the 13th scores as well as coming up with the theme song does the score here, and that's not even the eclectic cast with the likes of Kane Hodder, Angus Scrimm, Ted Raimi, Tony Todd, Robert England and of course, the one and only Andrew Divoff as the Wishmaster himself--who just seems to be having a blast with this role.

For me personally, it just seemed like all the right ingredients were here for this one. As a horror film, it's not really scary--what horror films are these days--but it's a helluva lot of fun, and that's always #1 in my book. It's also made considerably well, considering Kurtzman as a director had only made one other film before this with 1995's The Demolitionist. It's even more surprising, or sad I should say, to learn that he hadn't really done much as a director since this one, with only 3 other films (all low-budget) since this film in 1997. It's really a shame. I haven't seen any other film he's ever directed other than this, but basing my judgement solely on this one effort here, I'd say he's definitely got some talent behind the camera. Either he has no desire to work as a director or he hasn't been given the opportunity to continue to hone his craft; I'll never know. One thing I do know though; he knocked this one out of the park. I have the same feelings for Clive Barker. The dude's only ever directed 3 films in his entire career, and each one has left a long-lasting impression on me. And it seemed that he only got better with each film, yet since 1995 he hasn't directed anything, not even as a director-for-hire, which seems so odd to me. How can someone with so much talent make 3 amazing films in a row and then nothing for 20 years?

But anyway, I'm getting off track here. For fans of old school make-up horror, this one is about as good as can get. Unfortunately the same cannot be said about it's many sequels, but you'll definitely have a good time with this one. Yea, there's some pretty infant looking CGI, but it's also got a ton of practical effects work, and that's where this film really shines. Yeesss, some of it is really cheesy, but that doesn't mean it's any less fun or entertaining, right? And guess what? It gets even better. This, along with all of it's sequels, are currently streaming on Netflix right now.


The Punisher Turkish Large Clamshell VHS

The newest addition to my seemingly never-ending Punisher (1989) VHS collection. 
A special thank you to Jason Arnopp for hooking me up with this beauty. This makes 10 so far in my quest to collect as many different versions from all over the world. I will be posting a picture of the entire collection as of now soon.

The Punisher Turkish VHS Cover


Raiders of Atlantis Large Clamshell Spanish BETA

Newly acquired Raiders of Atlantis aka The Atlantis Interceptors tape to add to my collection. 
This one is The Spanish BETA release. 
The cover is a little worn, but not too bad. The large clamshell case however is in pretty bad shape. It's the original one, but it's damaged and cracked in several areas. I tried transferring the cover and tape to another standard U.S. black clamshell case, but it appears ours are a tad smaller than these older Spanish ones. If anyone has a Large Spanish VHS clamshell in good condition they'd like to sell me please leave a comment.


Double Impact

Directed by: Sheldon Lettich
Category: Action

So check this out. One day I get a package in the mail. I don't recall ordering anything recently so I'm a bit stumped. I get home and open it up and it's a Blu ray of Double Impact. My good bud over in Germany Ingo informs me that he ordered it for me and had it sent as a gift, just because. Because you know what? I love me some old school Van Damme any day of the week, and surprisingly, this was a film I hadn't seen since it's initial release. I can't be too sure why, but I think it's just because initially, maybe it didn't really leave an impression on me. Whatever the reason, as much as I like to revisit Van Damme's "Golden Age" of films (late 80's to early 90's), I never went back to check this one out. So this was the perfect opportunity to do so.

Double Impact, to put it quite frankly, is an action fans dream. It's like Van Damme, at the height of his fame, took everything we love about action films of the 80's and going into the 90's and jammed them into one single film, no matter how silly, cliche or ridiculous some of them are. Mix them all together and you have Double Impact, one helluva badass action film. Dated, enjoyable, fast paced and awesome. Plain and simple.

What Van Damme and frequent collaborator Sheldon Lettich have done is crafted an action film for action fans. Here's the thing. Van Damme knew what he and his audience wanted and delivers it ten-fold. Remember, this was at a point in his career when he had a little more leverage as far as films go. With that being said, he is credited as co-screenwriter as well as having come up with the story. Same thing with his film of the previous year, Lionheart. This was back in the beginning of his theatrical career when he and Seagal were going head to head for this particular target audience - Seagal had released the crime thriller Out for Justice this same year and was himself on a winning streak.

As cliche'd as this film is, it's a helluva lot of fun. Take for example the typical female hottie, because you know there just always has to be one. So she's in this film for a good long while and you think to yourself "Wow, no nudity? That's new". Until Van Damme has a "dream" in which this girl has sex with his twin brother. So yea, silly but predictable stuff. I have to give props to Van Damme and his frequent collaborator Sheldon Lettich though. Being as this was 1990 while it was being filmed, I can only imagine how difficult it must have been having to film with Van Damme playing duel roles, often in the same frame, but they manage to pull it off rather nicely. Yes, CGI was in it's infancy, but they pull the green screen effects off well as well as doing lots of "over the shoulder" stuff using a double.

As with Seagal, Van Damme's career has gone through many phases, with the early 90's being his absolute best output with classics like Lionheart, Death Warrant, Universal Soldier, Nowhere to Run, Hard Target, Timecop and Sudden Death if you ask me Then some personal demons and Streetfighter: The Movie happened and it's always felt like he's been struggling to recover ever since. And while most consider Hard Target his best film, I find myself loving all of these particular entries equally for different reasons. I mean, they're all great for various reasons. For example, Double Impact is just a fun 90's action blast, while Sudden Death is Van Damme's Die Hard. Even a few of his efforts after this particular period are good, but not up to par with these.

Anyway, I'm done yappin'. For anyone looking for a good ol' piece of 90's action Badass Cinema, Double Impact is definitely one to track down. Thanks again to Ingo over at Hellford667 Move Reviews for the hook-up!!


Quick Shot: Robocop (2014)

Directed by: Jose Padilha
Category: Action

I had a free ticket, so I thought "what the hell?". I went in with an open mind based on the fact that it's received generally positive reviews, but overall I just didn't dig it at all. 

While it gives plenty of nods to the fantastic original, it plays with important themes that are relevant today and with some major changes to the story, makes it it's own film. Michael Keaton, Gary Oldman and Samuel L. Jackson nail their roles, but most of all, Kinnaman (The Killing) was solid in the lead. Unfortunately for me, there was too little action than you'd expect from a Robocop film and director Jose Padilha's spastic handheld shaky-cam got old fast. There's a constant feeling that had it been a little more polished visually, it would have played out better. The last action sequence looked more like a first person shooter video game.

While the original is drenched in satire, this one plays it straight, for better or for worse. The thing that seems to be lacking here is heart. It's got a ton of money behind it and effects wise, is rather impressive. Throw in a stellar cast and it's a nice big budget action film that has some smarter than average writing. But it's too slow, too self conscious of it's predecessors and I just can't get behind that new suit.

As flawed as Robocop 2 is, I'd sooner watch that a dozen times before I ever sit down to watch this one again, which in fact I have. I love Part 2 (Recap review attached) despite it's problems. This one I know I will never attempt to revisit again.