11.10.2018

Blu-Ray Review: Deadbeat at Dawn (1988)




Jim Van Bebber's notorious, blood-drenched cult classic Deadbeat at Dawn rises again on the advent of it's 30th anniversary, newly restored for the first time on Blu-Ray. Fully locked and loaded with a raft of new extra's, see Deadbeat as you've never seen it before - in all it's head-busting bone-crushing glory!

The very definition of DIY, independent filmmaking (VanBebber quit film school and used the remainder of his student load to fund the production), Deadbeat at Dawn surpasses it's low-budget origins to create revenge movie that delivers more thrills and bloody spills than all of Chuck Norris' films combined.

Deadbeat at Dawn is one of those films that you never stop hearing about. Released in 1988, it immediately became a cult classic and has remained one of the most sought after tapes ever since. If you ever stumble upon one of these rare and hard to find VHS tapes out in the wild, you pretty much struck gold. Since it's initial VHS release, it's gotten a few DVD releases which also don't come very cheap, and it's cult status continues to grow.



Now the fine folks over at Arrow Video have released the definitive version we all need to have. The new transfer brings out all the vivid colors on the shot on film classic. We also get a healthy dose of extras to dig into, so let's get started.

Goose (Jim VanBebber) has a girlfriend who wants him to quit the gang life. When he does, the gang leader of The Spiders doesn't like it, and orders his girlfriend murdered. When Goose discovers who was responsible, he's hellbent on revenge and formulates his revenge during the gang's big bank heist.

What can I say? Deadbeat is fucking awesome. After finally having seen it, I certainly understand the love for it. And I can tell you, had I seen this when I was a teenager, it would have supercharged my love and desire to become a director. You see, in my early teens through my early 20's my friends and I made an insane amount of home movies in the horror and action genre's. For as long as I can remember, I always wanted to be a director. It was my biggest passion, next to comics. Of course that desire fizzled the older I got, but man, had I seen this film back then, I'm pretty sure I would have done anything to get there.

You see, Jim VanBebber not only made this film, but he literally did almost everything in it. Credited as writer, director, star, editor, makeup effects artist and stunts, VanBebber's blood sweat and tears are all over every inch of this celluloid. He may not be the most natural actor, but he's really trying. You can tell. And besides, it's not his acting chops that you're interested in. No sir, because once the film hits the halfway mark, it turns into a balls to the walls action flick that will blow your mind with just how the hell he was able to pull it all off considering it's pretty much a DIY flick. I mean, it's incredible, and I can kick myself for not having seen it sooner.

SPECIAL EDITION CONTENTS
• Brand new 2K restoration from original film elements, supervised and approved by writer-director Jim VanBebber
• High Definition Blu-ray (1080p) presentation
• Original uncompressed PCM mono audio
• Optional English subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing
• Brand new free-wheeling audio commentary with Jim VanBebber (’Goose’, The Ravens’ Gang Leader), actor Paul Harper (’Danny Carmodi’, The Spyders’ Gang Leader) and guest Cody Lee Hardin, moderated by filmmaker Victor Bonacore (Diary of a Deadbeat: The Story of Jim VanBebber)
• Jim VanBebber, Deadbeat Forever! – a brand new retrospective documentary on VanBebber and the Deadbeat legacy by Filmmaker Victor Bonacore, featuring first-time interviews, super-rare footage, VanBebber’s college films and much, much more!
• Archival 1986 behind-the-scenes documentary – Nate Pennington’s VHS documentary on a failed Deadbeat shoot
• Outtakes, newly transferred in HD
• Four newly-restored VanBebber short films – Into the Black (1983, 34 mins), My Sweet Satan (1993, 19 mins), Roadkill: The Last Days of John Martin (1994, 14 mins) and Gator Green (2013, 16 mins)
• Jim VanBebber Music Video Collection, featuring never-before-seen Director’s Cuts
• Chunkblower – promotional trailer for an unfinished Gary Blair Smith-produced gore-soaked feature film
• Extensive Image Gallery – Never-Before-Seen Stills!
• Reversible sleeve featuring newly commissioned artwork by Peter Strain
FIRST PRESSING ONLY: Collector's booklet featuring new writing by Scott Gabbey and Graham Rae

For a film shot on video in full frame 30 years ago, the fine folks over at Arrow did a bangup job with the transfer. The stark grittiness contrasted with the strong vivid colors are a sight to behold, with the almost pink hued blood-drenched chaos only adding to it's magnificent color scheme. The extra's are where the real magic is though. On top of a slew of his short films, the full length feature documentary Diary of a Deadbeat is worth the price alone, but you also get a healthy dose of other extra's to dig into so really, it's a no-brainer. If you're into cult films, this is a must buy.

10.27.2018

Blu-Ray Roundup - October Edition: Schlock, Torso, Twelve Monkeys and Distant Voices, Still Lives

SCHLOCK (1973)

John Landis' 
First Film Comes 
to Blu-Ray

A LOVE STRANGER THAN KING KONG!
From writer/director John Landis, the mind behind The Blues Brothers and An American Werewolf in London, comes a love story that transcends the boundaries of nature and good taste – the one and only Schlock!
Carnage! Terror! Banana skins! The mighty prehistoric ape Schlocktropus has emerged from hiding to embark on a full-scale rampage across a quiet Southern Californian suburb. The police are baffled. The army is powerless. The body count is rising. But when Schlocktropus encounters a kindly blind woman (Eliza Garrett, National Lampoon’s Animal House) who sees beyond his grotesque visage, the homicidal simian is presented with a chance at redemption...
Shot over twelve days on a micro-budget, Schlock launched the careers of both Landis and legendary effects makeup artist Rick Baker (Videodrome). An uproarious pastiche of monster movies, packed to the gills with irreverent humour and biting satire, Schlock serves as the outrageous missing link between the creature features of yesteryear and its creators’ subsequent varied and celebrated careers.

BONUS MATERIALS:

• 4K restoration of the film from the original camera negative 
• High Definition Blu-ray (1080p) presentation 
• Original lossless mono soundtrack 
• Optional English subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing 
• Audio commentary by writer/director John Landis and makeup artist Rick Baker 
• New video interview with author and critic Kim Newman 
• Birth of a Schlock, a 2017 video interview with John Landis 
• Archival video interview with cinematographer Bob Collins 
• 1972, 1979 and 1982 US theatrical trailers 
• US radio spots 
• Reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Graham Humphreys
 FIRST PRESSING ONLY: Illustrated collector’s booklet featuring new writing on the film by Joe Bob Briggs

Schlock hits on October 15 from any number of your favorite online retailers. 

TORSO (1973)

Sergio Martino's Bloody Classic Comes to Blu-Ray With 2 Cuts!

TORSO is hailed by both Tarantino and Eli Roth as director Sergio Martino’s masterpiece. And its electrifying denouement, elevated to the level of Hitchcock, is their avowed inspiration!
 
Made after his uber stylish Strange Vice of Mrs Wardh & All The Colours of the Dark, here Martino goes deeper into sexually-charged giallo thereby becoming one of the genre’s most iconic exponent! 
 
Luscious students, whom we can only assume are studying for a PhD in stripping, head off for a vacation. Luckily for fans of psycho sexual thrillers, a black-gloved saw-wielding killer has followed them to their sapphic retreat and starts effective slayer multi-tasking by mutilating his way through a cast of hot beauties.. 
This new HD restored version is presented in its most complete form ever, anywhere, with unique new English rebuilds, finally doing justice to this Giallo masterpiece.

• Brand new 2K restoration of the film from the original camera negative by Arrow Films
• High Definition Blu-ray (1080p) presentations of both versions of the film: the 94-minute Italian and 90-minute English cuts
• Original lossless Italian and English mono soundtracks*
• English subtitles for the Italian soundtrack
• Optional English subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing for the English soundtrack
• New audio commentary by Kat Ellinger, author of All the Colours of Sergio Martino
• New video interview with co-writer/director Sergio Martino
• New video interview with actor Luc Merenda
• New video interview with co-writer Ernesto Gastaldi
• New video interview with filmmaker Federica Martino, daughter of Sergio Martino 
• New video interview with Mikel J. Koven, author of La Dolce Morte: Vernacular Cinema and the Italian Giallo Film
• 2017 Abertoir International Horror Festival Q&A with Sergio Martino
• Italian and English theatrical trailers
• Reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Adam Rabalais

FIRST PRESSING ONLY: Illustrated collector’s booklet featuring new writing on the film by Adrian Smith and Howard Hughes

Torso releases on October 30th

DISTANT VOICES, STILL LIVES (1988)

Winner of the International Critics’ Prize at the 1988 Cannes Film Festival, Terence Davies’ feature debut heralded one of Britain’s finest filmmaking talents.

Loosely based on the director’s own family and upbringing, Distant Voices, Still Lives presents an evocative account of working-class life in Liverpool, England during the 1940s and 50s. Births, marriages and deaths – and an expressive use of music – provide the underpinning for a film that is beautiful, heartbreaking, resonant but never sentimental.
Now regarded as a masterpiece of British cinema, and boasting a startling performance from Pete Postlethwaite (Romeo + Juliet, Inception) as the head of the family, Distant Voices, Still Lives has been treated to a glorious 4K restoration by the British Film Institute.

• Brand new 4K restoration, carried out by the British Film Institute
• High Definition (1080p) Blu-ray presentation
• Original stereo audio (uncompressed LPCM)
• Optional English subtitles for the deaf and hard-of-hearing
• Commentary by writer-director Terence Davies
• Interview with Davies
• Interview with art director Miki van Zwanenberg
• Theatrical trailer
• More to be announced!
• Reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Jennifer Dionisio

FIRST PRESSING ONLY: Illustrated collector’s booklet featuring new writing on the film by critic Christina Newland plus archive essays

Distant Voices, Still Lives was released on October 23rd

TWELVE MONKEYS (1995)

"The Future is History"

Following the commercial and critical success of The Fisher King, Terry Gilliam next feature would turn to science fiction and a screenplay by Janet and David Peoples (Blade Runner, Unforgiven) inspired by Chris Marker’s classic short film La Jetée.

In 1996, a deadly virus is unleashed by a group calling themselves the Army of the Twelve Monkeys, destroying much of the world’s population and forcing survivors underground. In 2035, prisoner James Cole (Bruce Willis, Die Hard) is chosen to go back in time and help scientists in their search for a cure.
Featuring an Oscar-nominated turn by Brad Pitt (Fight Club) as mental patient Jeffrey Goines, Twelve Monkeys would become Gilliam’s most successful film and is now widely regarded as a sci-fi classic. Arrow Films are proud to present the film in a stunning new restoration.

• Brand new restoration from a 4k scan of the original negative by Arrow Films, approved by director Terry Gilliam
• DTS 5.1 Master Audio
• Optional English subtitles for the deaf and hard-of-hearing
• Audio commentary by Terry Gilliam and producer Charles Roven
• The Hamster Factor and Other Tales of Twelve Monkeys, feature-length making-of documentary by Keith Fulton and Louis Pepe (Lost in La Mancha)
• Extensive image galley
• Theatrical trailer
• More to be announced!
• Reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Gary Pullin

FIRST PRESSING ONLY: Illustrated collector’s booklet featuring new writing on the film by Nathan Rabin and archive materials

Twelve Monkeys was released on October 18th

A Second Look: Predator 2 (1990)

It's Time we Recognize Predator 2 is Awesome

by robotGEEK

I've always loved this movie. I remember going to the theater back in 1990 with my best friend and just loving it. I also remember having a rad Predator 2 poster up on my wall for what felt like forever because it was a film I honestly and truly loved during it's initial run. And being roughly around 14ish when it came out, I was completely unaware of the backlash it received, and the negative critical reception. It was only when I got older did I learn all that stuff, which surprised me because while it was a pretty different experience than the first film, I still enjoyed the hell out of it regardless.

I would find myself revisiting this over the next 28 years sporadically, and it wasn't until my recent revisit just last week that I really, honestly and truthfully appreciated it for what it was. It just hit me like a sledgehammer this time out. It was something that I've kind of always known, but never really understood fully until now. And that is that Predator 2 is fucking insane. Literally right from it's opening frame, Predator 2 begins with an insanely chaotic battle sequence smack in the middle of the streets of LA, and the film never lets up from that first 20 minute bloodbath...not for a single second.

What follows is a series of seemingly random sequences after another that seem to one-up the one beforehand in it's sheer audacity, and what could easily have become a forgettable sequel to a pretty great film, has stood the test of time to become arguably one of the greatest sequels to a popular action franchise. Who knew!? I know most people who dismissed it initially have fallen in love with it for the first time since it's release, and those who've forgotten about it since their first viewing, have fallen in love with it all over again too. It's just one of those films that while never finding it's core audience at first, has only grown stronger with age, and those who dismissed it as an inferior sequel all those years earlier, are now realizing that it really wasn't all that bad. In fact, it's a blast, especially when you consider all the crap Predator films released afterwards....Predators not withstanding.

I still think Danny Glover was such an odd choice for the hero lead, but I can understand if the executives didn't want to go with an obvious choice of a big, hulking muscular badass to follow in Arnold's footsteps, instead going in a slightly different direction. But still, I never would have chosen Glover for the role. Not that he's bad, because he's actually pretty great in it. He just doesn't seem to be a proper fit in the grand scheme of things. Luckily he's surrounded by a pretty stellar cast that only makes you appreciate the film even more every time you watch it.



The legendary Bill Paxton, Gary Busy, Ruben Blades, Maria Conchita Alonso, Robert Davi, Adam Baldwin fill out this killer cast, and the one and only Kevin Peter Hall returns in the role of The Predator. I mean, if that's not a dream cast straight out of the 90's, I don't know what is? And they're all bringing their A-Game to the table, making it even more badass. If there was any weak links in here, it might be Maria, who just sort of looks out of place here, but that could just be me.

Let's not forget that incredible ending either! Remember, this was before the AVP films, and that ending with the little Alien Easter Egg and the reveal of other Predators for the very first time in a finale was pure geek heaven. I mean, can you remember that moment when the other Predators make their presence known by uncloaking? I specifically remember sitting in the theater as a 14 year old, and just yelling out "No way! Wow!", and just loving every second of that final act.

Director Stephen Hopkins was a relative newcomer to Hollywood. Having directed the Australian thriller Dangerous Game in 1987, he transitioned to both horror and Hollywood with 1989's terrible A Nightmare on Elm St. 5: The Dream Child, easily one of the worse entries in the entire series. And that's not really his fault. I mean, it's an awful script, and he didn't have a hand in actually writing it, so at least he was able to offer it some solid visuals, but it's a good thing that travesty didn't derail his career because he would follow that up the following year with this gem. And I have to give the guy credit, he handles the action sequences and just the entire spectacle of it all flawlessly. For a guy who hadn't ever done a big budget film before, he handles it like a pro, while also giving the film a slick aesthetic that makes it look much more polished and professional than you'd expect coming from a guy who hadn't really yet proven himself in Hollywood. Of course, we all remember that infamous "on air" bit when actor Ruben Blades was doing a live Good Morning America interview when Hopkins rudely and abruptly grabs Blades and pulls him away to start shooting. Hopkins received so much hate, backlash and even death threats that he had to go back onto Good Morning America the following day to apologize on air about his behavior and the incident.



Of course, I'm well aware that not everyone digs this entry and I know for a fact a whole lot of people just flat out despise it, but I think what works in its favor is that it's just so damn nuts, never slowing down to take a breath, beating your eyeballs with seemingly random sequences filled with killer action, a fantastic cast, over the top scenario's and a love it or hate it vibe that is easily one of the best examples of why 90's action films were so great to begin with. Whether it was intended to be taken as a serious action film or not, the result is arguably one of the best times you'll have with a film of this type, and it's easily stood the test of time.

10.20.2018

90's Action Attack!: Crime Story (1993)

This May Very Well be One of Jackie Chan's Best, Most Underrated Films

by robotGEEK

Like everyone else, I grew up on a healthy dose of Jackie Chan films in the 80's. While they were pretty hard to find back then, I still somehow managed to come across a few here and there. But when Rumble in the Bronx exploded in the U.S. in 1995, distributors took the opportunity to cash in on his popularity and started releasing a lot of his older and most recent films for fresh fans. That's how I discovered a lot of his previous films for the most part, because this was before the internet was in every household and eBay hadn't yet been the go-to place for films like this. Anyway, I'm getting off track.

Released in 1993, Crime Story is a hard-edged action packed detective action/thriller about a cop named Eddie Chan, who tries to uncover the truth behind a recent kidnapping and ransom of a high profile businessman. Soon Chan learns that there may be more to the kidnapping that he initially thought. 

I have to say, I fucking loved Crime Story. I didn't watch any trailers and didn't read anything going in beforehand, essentially going in cold, not knowing what type of film to expect, and that might have been a blessing because I was constantly surprised at every turn and literally blown away by it's sheer force. Make no mistake, Crime Story is a powerhouse of a film in every regard. Add to that the fact that when you consider that most of Chan's films carry some sort of comedy, the fact that this one didn't have any of that, and was a straightforward action/thriller was a nice and welcome surprise.



Part 90's John Woo shoot-'em-up, and part detective thriller, this film was a constant stream of surprises for me. The action and stunts were insanely balletic, much in the way John Woo's best films are orchestrated, and the intensity that builds up to a fever pitch in the second half is nothing short of exilerating. This may very well be one of my favorite Jackie Chan films now, and much like his insanely underrated The Protector (1985), Crime Story is a shockingly overlooked gem.

But I get it. I think a lot of his fans prefer his action/comedies rather than these hard-boiled action/thrillers because honestly, they're a lot of fun. I mean, I enjoy them too, because they really are a blast for the most part. Hell, he even segued that into a bustling career in Hollywood 3 years later with his incredibly popular Rush Hour franchise. Yet, if I were to be honest, I think I love his serious action films the most, and though I've only seen The Protector and now Crime Story in this genre, I'm excited to dig into his Police Story franchise next.

It's a shame his more serious films don't get the same amount of love his comedies do, because he's quite a good serious actor. Just check out his recent and excellent U.S. film The Foreigner if you need a reminder. I'm sure his natural tendencies lean towards comedy, but man he can sure deliver a helluva great serious performance when he needs to, and Crime Story see's him kicking a whole lot of ass and taking names in the quest for justice.



One of the things that surprised me that there was very little martial arts in here. I'm not complaining though, because it left room for some seriously badass car chases, shootouts and explosions. The pyrotechnics in this this is insane! But when the martial arts does make an appearance, it's goddamn brutal as fuck and makes the fight scenes that are here all the more special.

Crime Story is easily one of my new favorite Jackie Chan films now, and despite it's lack of having a badass reputation, it's wholly deserving of one. Full of suspense, crazy action sequences, and some of the best fight scenes of his career, Crime Story is begging to be discovered.

How to see it:

I'm sure there are numerous releases of this film on virtually every format, but my money is on the Shout! Factory 2-pk Blu Ray, which you can pick up for relatively cheap. Not only do you get this excellent film, but you also get my favorite Chan film The Protector, the shockingly overlooked James Glickenhaus (The Exterminator, Shakedown) classic. 

On top of that you also get a healthy dose of extras for both films (including the Jackie Chan cut of The Protector as a special feature), and most importantly, they're in glorious HD. You really can't beat a deal like that for the money, so what are you waiting for??

You can pick up this badass Double Bill at a great price on Amazon HERE.

The Cult Corner: Gladiator (1992)

This Grossly Underrated Boxing Flick Deserves Another Look

by robotGEEK

Following his action packed cult classic Road House, director Rowdy Herrington followed that up with this under-the-radar gem that came and went with little attention during it's initial theatrical run. I do recall renting it often on VHS, as did a whole bunch of my friends, yet all these years later, nobody ever talks about it. And to be honest, I have completely forgetten about this one myself. That is until Crackle threw it on this months lineup, and I immeidately jumped on it. So let's dig in.

I'll just make this short and sweet. Gladiator was awesome. It delivered in every way that made it such a memorable experience, and after finally getting to revisit it, I'm shocked it doesn't get more love.

Beginning with Herrington's exceptional visuals, Gladiator is a feast for the eyes. Shot during the winter cold in Chicago, IL, the film makes life in Chicago look miserable, yet visually haunting. Herrington teamed up with cinematographer Tak Fujimoto (Silence of the Lambs), and the result is an exquisitely dark and gritty film, much like Silence of the Lambs, where the visuals tell just as much of the story as the writing does.



I think one of the most endearing aspects of this film is it's surprisingly powerful script, courtesy of Karate Kid creator and screenwriter Robert Mark Kamen, who's also a frequent Luc Besson collaborator who also helped create and write the Taken and The Transporter franchises. On the surface it's a pretty straightforward story about loss, betrayal, friendship, revenge and redemption, but it's in Kamen's clever and heartfelt script that ties it all together so effortlessly, without wasting a single minute of needless exposition. The film plays out smoothly with no hiccups, never missing a beat and culminates in such a satisfying finale that I wanted more.

While James Marshall (Twin Peaks) won't win any best actor awards here, he does a helluva job as the lonewolf lead, a kid plucked from his suburban upbringing and dropped into ghetto hell where his "white boy" image makes him stick out like a sore thumb. If I'm not mistaken, this might have been the only film Marshall starred in, which is surprising because there's a quality about him that you don't see very often in actors who climb their way up from supporting roles. It's a shame he didn't get to go onto bigger and better things, because he has the goods. He just needed the opportunity to prove it.

While Marshall was pretty good in the lead, it's in the supporting roles that Gladiator really shines. For starters, there's the one and only Robert Loggia, here playing the "sketchy recruiter", who does a fine job constantly yelling and being aggressive. The real highlight though is Brian Dennehy, as the man in charge of the underground boxing ring, who easily shifts from charming to ruthlessly brutal in a wink of an eye. I've seen plenty of roles with Dennehy, most recently in the pilot episode of the excellent 80's cop show Hunter, and I always seem to forget how great he is as the villain, even though he mostly plays a villain.


If you're in the mood for a great flick with heart, action and plenty of style, give this one a shot. It's a severely underrated gem that seems to have slipped through the cracks of sports films that benefits from both raw and incredibly seasoned talent that ultimately is better than you expect going in.

How to see it:
Released on VHS and DVD, which you can pick up really cheap, it has yet to get a Blu Ray upgrade, which it could really benefit from since it's a visually arresting film. Currently it's streaming for FREE on Crackle this month (October), in HD, so I'd take that opportunity before they get rid of it by next month.

10.17.2018

90's Action Attack!: Delta Force 2 (1990)

Despite the Cards Stacked Against Them, Chuck and Aaron Norris Deliver One of Their Best Films to Date

by robotGEEK

I should start by saying that I've never been a fan of director Aaron Norris (Chuck's brother and frequent collaborator). So much so that usually if I see he's listed as director, I just avoided it. And really that just stems from me feeling that he's just a very bland director, never giving his films any sense of style, which is a big deal for me. I'm a very visual person, and I need to be visually stimulated with films to enjoy them. I know, it sounds silly. But I've learned to ease up on that a bit these last few years, and I was encouraged by my good friend Rob (The Cinema Drunkie) to check out both this one and Missing in Action III (Another Aaron Norris directed film I avoided), because he guaranteed me that they were awesome. Let's dig in.

What can I say? Rob was right. Delta Force was indeed awesome, and whatever fears I had going in were immediately laid to rest because while the first half wasn't nearly as action packed as I was hoping for, the second half more than made for it in spades. In fact, I think I loved this sequel more than the original to be quite frank. While it's true that director Aaron Norris isn't that much of a visually interesting director, it's in his no-frills approach that serves the material well, allowing the action to take center stage, and boy does it ever. With Norris having worked primarily as a stunt coordinator before transitioning to directing, he knows how to make an action sequence look good and how to get the most out of any specific action scene, and that's where his particular style of directing really allows the material to do the work. There were some genuinely badass and brutal action scenes that even took me by surprise by their brutality, and that's not something I say very often.


Chuck does what he does best, and here he's no different. Unlike the first film, his role is much more prominent here. If I remember correctly, he was only in about half of that first film. Here he's front and center, and delivers another badass performance. Nothing flashy. Just driven and stoic. I think my favorite part has to be when he was frustrated and needed to exert some built up anger, so he decides to fight his men in hand to hand combat, effectively kicking all of their asses.

The cast is pretty solid, with the one and only John P. Ryan (always a hoot) showing up as McCoy's (Norris) commander. The real standout though has to be the legendary Billy Drago, here as the villain of the film Ramon Cota, a ruthless Colombian drug lord. Drago gives a deliciously over the top performance in that very special way that only he can do. And Delta Force 2 has plenty of scenes for Drago to chew through, making it all the more enjoyable.

While there's plenty of exposition in the first half to get the ball rolling, it's in the films second half where DF2 really delivers. While Norris isn't surrounded by a large group of notable badasses like in the first film (Steve James and Lee Marvin to name a few), he holds his own as he goes on a solo trip to take down Ramon Cota after Cota kidnapped a few of his fellow DEA agents and is holding them hostage. Here he must infiltrate the drug lords compound by taking the impossible task of climbing an unclimbable mountainside, who's soon followed by his fellow agents.

Delta Force 2 was awesome and much better than I expected going in. The cast is great, the action even better, and it was a reminder that I shouldn't forget that Aaron Norris was a damn fine director once upon a time. In fact, his first 4 films are arguably his best and finest work. It's a shame he couldn't hold onto that quality after The Hitman in 1991, but at least we have Missing in Action III, Platoon Leader, Delta Force 2 and The Hitman. We can just forget about the rest.


10.12.2018

80's Action Attack!: Remo Williams

This Blue Collar James Bond Action Adventure Should Have Ignited a Franchise

by robotGEEK

Remo Williams is one of those films that didn't quite blow people away when it was first released in 1985, but has since gained a strong fanbase in the preceeding years through multiple releases on various formats, most recently by Twilight Time on Blu-Ray. But the fact of the matter is that ultimately, Remo Williams: The Adventure Begins should have been better.

Based on a series of books titled The Destroyer, Remo Williams was intended to kickstart a new franchise of blue collar style James Bond films, even going so far as to hire frequent James Bond director Guy Hamilton (Goldfinger, Live and Let Die) to helm the film and another Bond regular, screenwriter Christopher Wood (Moonraker, The Spy Who Loved Me) to write. Yet, it never really comes together very well and never gets as exciting as you hope it would be. It's a real shame too, because on the surface, all of the right ingredients are here, most importantly an incredible Fred Ward, who breezes through the role effortlessly, like he was born to play it.



Fred Ward plays a New York cop who's recently been "officially" listed as deceased, who's been recruited by the U.S. government to be a top secret undercover agent for the president. Trained by a Korean martial arts instructor, and given a new identity, Remo resists the transition at first, only to be faced head-on with it when trouble comes looking for him. 

I'm not gonna lie and say I didn't enjoy it, because I did. Very much in fact. It definitely possesses a unique charm and style that is hard not to fall in love with. This is big budget James Bond-style filmmaking done in a practical way that you just don't see anymore, and because of this, Remo Williams is a feast for the eyes. There's certainly a good amount of action, and some impressive stuntwork to boot, but it still tends to fall flat periodically, never really seeming to recover gracefully. And I do have some issues, like for example, Craig Safan's (The Last Starfighter, A Nightmare on Elm St. 4) score, which shifts from synth to big orchestra so frequently (sometimes in the same song) that it's jarring. While I can certainly understand the need for a big, loud, catchy theme, which it does have, I have to admit that I much preferred the heavy synth sound of the other songs and wish they'd have just stuck to that instead of throwing in that theme song every 5 minutes.

And then there's the casting of Joel Grey (who reportedly turned down the role of Chiun numerous times), under heavy makeup, as the Korean master Chiun. I mean, he was good, but it baffles me that they cast an American in a Korean role and put him under so much heavy makeup to look Korean, rather than just hire an actual Korean actor. That just doesn't make any sense to me, but Hollywood in the 80's was anything but PC.



As I said before, Fred Ward is just the best here. Much like his work in the underrated classics Cast a Deadly Spell and Miami Blues, he was just born to play this role and he really is a goddamn national treasure. He should have been a much bigger star than he was. Sure we all know who he is, even the most casual of moviegoers, but he should have been much bigger, and starring in films, rather than typically playing second fiddle to the lead. Here he plays a sort of Joe Schmo blue collar character who has a knack for reacting on impulse aggressively, and putting his foot in his mouth. Even when learning a whole bunch of new incredible talents that defy the laws of gravity and even logic, he still talks like someone you would hire to rough someone up for a few dollars, rather than a hero for the U.S. president. But despite that, Ward is a marvel here, and really makes the film as enjoyable as it is and it's a treasure to watch.

Director Guy Hamilton handles the action scenes well, in a straightforward serviceable approach, without much visual flair, but at least they're consistent and never strays towards the lazy handheld manner, thankfully. I think part of the issue with the film is it's pace, where you're given an action sequence, only to have it stop temporarily for one random reason or another, then picks back up to finish the action sequence, only by now it's left you a bit underwhelmed. This happens more than once and it gets old fast.



Overall I enjoyed it, and I can understand why some really love it. I don't see myself revisiting this often, which is probably why it took me decades to come back to it. For me it felt like a missed opportunity and it should have been a lot better. It has all the right ingredients for sure, everything's here. It just wasn't utilized efficiently in the end. I have been known to change my mind often though, so maybe my next revisit will be the time when I connect with it. Or maybe it won't.

10.05.2018

Bad Movie Night Presents: Seven (1979)

Andy Sidaris Delivers Another Bad Movie Night Classic, and it's Time People Finally Discover This Forgotten Gem

by robotGEEK

While Andy Sidaris films are generally hit or miss, when he hits, he hits big time. And there's no better example than his legendary Hard Ticket to Hawaii, arguably one of the best "So Bad, It's Good" movies out there, and a helluva great time in the action/trash department. Seriously, if you've never seen it, gather some buddies, crack open some beer and enjoy the ride. Trust me, you'll thank me.

Seven tells the story of 7 hitmen, recruited by ex-CIA agent Drew Savano (William Smith), who in turn was hired by the FBI, to take out 7 gangsters in Hawaii who have taken over Hawaii's drug trade. 

Seven was such a blast of 70's nostalgia thrown smack in your face like a sucker-punch. While the story tends to get a little too convoluted for it's own good, it always seems to get back on track either through random nudity, or an unintentionally hilarious action sequence. And really, these are the things we come to expect from Andy Sidaris, and he does not disappoint. In fact, I'd go so far as to say this is easily one of his best films, and the fact that it's rarely ever mentioned just blows my mind.

Released in 1979, this would mark Sidaris' second full length feature, after 1973's Stacey. Not sure why it took 6 years to do another film, but in the interim, he did a little bit of televsion work. Of course, Seven would pave the way for the type of film Sidaris would become famous for in the 80's, and it's pretty much everything you've come to expect from the trash auteur, only with a strong 70's vibe.

William Smith has made a name for himself in a string of bad guy roles in the 80's and 90's, so it was a bit odd to see him here as a not necessarily the bad guy, but not really a good guy wither. I must say though, his hair and outfits should star in their own movie, because they deserve it. And if this was from '79, and he was already looking old, how old was he then if he continued to play tough guy bad guys throughout the 80's?

While the large and eclectic cast of nearly every race, ethnicity and stereotype is plentiful here, the real standout for us had to be Playboy model Susan Lynn Kiger, here as part of the team of 7 hitmen, and um hitwomen, to take down the 7 drug bosses. Curvy, sexy, tall and oh so incredibly gorgeous, every second she was on screen (often either nude or something incredibly skimpy), made us audibly yell out "damn!" every single time. It's a shame she only appeared in a handful of films before calling it quits in '82. Thankfully there are plenty of pictorials to browse through of her on the internet.

Andy Sidaris fills Seven with so much ridiculous situations, over the top scenerio's, action sequences, nudity, and truly bizarre dialogue that it's damn near impossible not to have a blast with this. While it's true that there might be a tad too much exposition in here, it's thankfully done in a way that makes it easy to take in and get through until you get to the good stuff, of which there is plenty.

Without wanting to give too much away here, I'll just leave it at this and implore you to get out and grab this treasure of a film. If you're a fan of Andy Sidaris in his prime, or just a fan of Guns, Boobs & Bombs-style films in general, you won't want to miss this. It's a blast!

You can purchase Seven directly from the Kino Lorber website HERE, or from any number of online retailers for under $20. It comes with a bunch of trailers, reversible cover art, and a few audio commentaries.

Blu-Ray News: Albert Pyun's Nemesis Gets the Blu Treatment Via MVD

by robotGEEK

And here's yet another bit of great releasing news. Albert Pyun's sci-fi/action cult classic is coming to Blu Ray for the very first time in the U.S. courtesy of MVD Rewind Collection. While it has gotten a Blu release already in Germany and the U.K., this will be it's first time getting the HD treatment in the U.S., which is great news for those of us who love this movie to death. Another great addition to this release is that it will be in widescreen, something not available to us in the U.S. on DVD or VHS. It was available in widescreen on Laserdisc, but that's a harder format for a lot of fans to come by because it can be pretty pricey. So outside of that release, this will be the first time a lot of you can finally enjoy it in it's proper aspect ratio, which is a big deal since it's easily one of his most visually impressive films, made at a time when he was really just knocking out cult classics left and right.

I can't begin to tell you how happy I am to learn that so many of Albert Pyun's classics, some incredibly hard to find, are finally getting the respect and recognition they deserve. Most of his films came and went with little attention, no doubt as a result of their lackluster releases, most of which were usually in full frame, and some still damn near impossible to find.



Here are the specs courtesy of MVD Rewind Collection:

Final Artwork for "Nemesis" (SLIPCOVER IS LIMITED TO FIRST PRESSING ONLY... once it's gone, it's gone) and update in regards to the bonus features (which are still subject to change)...

DISC 1 - Blu-ray (This will have the main feature in both aspect ratios and the new interviews / featurettes). 

DISC 2 - Will be a DVD with alternate cuts of the film and archival features.

• High Definition Blu-ray (1080p) presentation of the main feature in both 2.35:1 and 1.78:1 aspect ratios
• Audio: English 5.1 Surround, English 2.0 Stereo, French 2.0 Stereo and German 2.0 Stereo
• Audio Commentary by Albert Pyun
• English SDH and German Subtitles
• Director’s Cut of the film (SD, 1.33:1) [87:49]
• Japanese Cut (SD, 1.33:1) (w/ Japanese subtitles burnt-in) [95:49]
• NEW! 2018 Interview with Eric Karson (HD)
• NEW! 2018 Interview with Olivier Gruner (HD)
• Introduction by Albert Pyun (SD, 2:19)
• Introduction by Olivier Gruner (SD, 3:13)
• Afterword by Albert Pyun (SD, 0:48)
• 'Making Of' featurettes (SD, 5:58, 7:13)
• Interview with Olivier Gruner (SD, 2:18)
• 'Making Of - Stunts & Effects' (SD, 2:43)
• 'Making Of - Visual Effects' (SD, 1:41)
• 'The Saga' featurette (SD, 7:26)
• 'Killcount' featurette (SD, 2:26)
• Behind the Scenes Photo Gallery (SD, 3:00)
• Key Art Photo Gallery (SD, 2:20)
• Trailers and TV Spots (SD)
• Collectible Mini-Poster

Note - Must give credit to David Wilkinson fromDrawing Board Entertainment for the cover and slip. GREAT work!


This is slated for a December release, and you can pre-order this bad boy over at Diabolik. As you can see, it will be a DVD/Blu Ray combo, and comes packed to the gills with extra's, including a mini poster. Put your pre-order in now!

Blu-Ray News: The Hitcher (1985) is FINALLY Coming to Blu!

by robotGEEK

That's right! Robert Harmon's 80's cult classic is finally getting the HD treatment for the very first time courtesy of the German company Nameless Media. No details to announce as of yet, but just the fact that they were finally able to do this after decades of people begging literally every other company, is such fantastic news. I'm not entirely sure why it's taken this long but word is that the owner of the rights always demanded too much money. I don't know if that's true or not, but that's what the consensus is, so the fact that these guys were finally able to get the ball rolling is music to our ears. With no list of extra's or specifics to announce yet, it has been confirmed that it will be getting a brand new 2K transfer and will come with 5 different covers to choose from (pictured above).



The Hitcher on Blu Ray has easily been the Holy Grail of HD releases for so many of us. Released here in the U.S. on VHS, Laserdisc and only one single time on DVD, it's a film that is so visually impressive, with so many of this film's camerawork and cinematography just being flat out stunning, much in the same way Russell Mulcahy's Razorback was, which in itself is another underrated cult classic thriller, that it never got the truly special release it deserved was so frustrating to so many of us. The one DVD release we got was in widescreen (thankfully!), but it was a pretty sub-par transfer, and it had zero extras. So you can imagine why fans of this classic such as myself have been waiting many, many years for an upgrade. The fact that it's finally happening almost seems unreal, especially considering more well-known companies such as Arrow, Shout! Factory, MVD and Kino Lorber weren't able to secure a deal. Stay tuned.....

A Second Look: Predators (2010)

It's Time We Appreciate This Classic

by robotGEEK

With the release of Shane Black's The Predator hitting theaters a few weeks ago, I decided to revisit the earlier Predator films (not the 2 AVP films) since it had been a long time since I'd seen them. More specifically, I wanted to revisit Predators, the quasi-Robert Rodriguez film that I didn't really care all that much for initially. I didn't hate it, but I didn't love it either. I just found it to be alright. The two things I did walk away with were thinking that director Nimrod Antal (Vacancy) did an outstanding job shooting this, and that Adrian Brody, while an unusual choice, really did a badass job as the tough, no nonsense, unemotional hero. I was curious just where I was going to fall with revisiting this. Would I love it? Or generally feel the same?

I loved it. It's a far better film than it gets credit for, and especially after the mess that is The Predator, I think more people will look back fondly on this easily dismissed, and often forgotten sequel. I'm just gonna say it. The Predator was awful. I can't believe it's from Shane Black, a writer/director I admire greatly, and Fred Dekker, who gave us some incredible classics in the 80's. To put it simply and shortly, The Predator looked and felt like a Disney or Marvel (Yea I know Disney and Marvel are virtually the same company) Predator movie. I felt the humor felt too forced and rarely ever worked, and while most people that did like the film state that they felt it was enjoyable enough (their words, not mine) and that it didn't take itself too seriously, I feel those are the reasons why it failed so miserably with the end result. I don't want to get into it anymore, but ultimately, I just wasn't a fan and found it to be easily the weakest in the entire Predator franchise, and this is coming from a Die Hard Shane Black fan. But moving on.


Predators was originally conceived while Rodriguez was making Desperado, and when the studio's passed on his take (which was ultimately pretty different from what we got here), they reached out to him many, many years later and wanted to go back and make that film he pitched to them all those years earlier, to try and re-ignite the franchise. Only Rodriguez would not write or direct it this time out, instead handing over the directing duties to Nimrod Antal, and the writing duties to Alex Litvak and Michael Finch, both of whom had never written a screenplay before. Instead, Rodriguez would stay on as producer and insist that it be filmed at his Troubleshooter Studio's, so he can have more creative control. To be honest, I think this was a wise choice as Rodriguez just isn't the badass director he once was. And I attribute that to his shift to digital filmmaking. When he made classics like Desperado and From Dusk till Dawn, hell, even The Faculty, he shot those on film, and they're easily 3 of his best films. Once he converted to digital, and began using shoddy effects work consistently and a whole lot of green screen, the quality of his films took a sharp downward spiral and outside of Planet Terror, I really have no desire to see any of his films. As much as I loved the fake Machete trailer and concept, when I saw the actual film, I was again seriously let down by it's poor use of bad CGI and lackluster filmmaking. It just didn't flow well and came across as half-assed and rushed, with a whole lot of shoddy effects work. So handing over the directing reigns to Antal was a brilliant move in my opinion.

Predators works because it's simple, yet effective. There are so many nods and references to the first film that at times it almost feels like a direct remake, Predators follows the same tone and structure (more or less) to satisfying results. The cast, production value, effects, practical effects and action sequences are all great. In fact, this 2010 release really felt more like the kind of sci-fi/action film that would have been released in theaters in the 90's. It looks that good compared to the handheld/quick-edit crap that was flourishing in the 2000's that I hate so much. Visually, Predators is a feast for the eyes and you won't find a single lazy handheld shot in the entire film.

It's a shame that director Nimrod Antal's career never took off after this, because based on his work alone here, he has the makings of a great action director, yet his career just sort of stalled. No doubt it's because of how poorly received this film was generally, but Antal has the goods and I wish he had been given more opportunities to prove it.

The eclectic cast is pretty ace here, full of a bunch of badasses and weirdo's to keep things interesting, including the one and only Danny Trejo who's screen time was far too short, yet delivered one of the most memorable performances. But it's Adrian Brody who leads the charge and handles the role like a pro. Reportedly packing on 25 lbs of muscle to his thin frame (it's noticeable), he grunts, grumbles and chews his dialogue and scenes like a true hardened action pro, and definitely left an impression on me.

While it's true this film borrows so heavily from the first film that it oftentimes feels like characters, dialogue, sequences and even it's structure are lifted right out of Predator, there are also enough differences to make it it's own. So while the film feels awfully familiar at times, it's still a fun experience and a far better film than it's reputation has allowed. But most importantly, for me anyway, Predators is one helluva great looking film, so give it a watch and maybe this one will help ease the pain felt with the new one while it's still fresh in your mind.

9.29.2018

Blu-Ray Review: Albert Pyun's Blast (MVD)

Terror Has No Limits 

by robotGEEK

Highly prolific and legendary filmmaker Albert Pyun has always been one of my all-time favorite directors. Some of his films are among my absolute favorites, and while I haven't seen every single film he's ever made, as I continue to dig through his vast filmography, I come across true gems like this overlooked action film from 1997.

Recently released on Blu-Ray for the first time via the MVD Marquee Collection, Blast is literally what the title implies. It's a blast of pure fun and action done in a "Die Hard in an Olympic Swimming Pool" scenario and it's far better than I expected going in for a number of reasons. For starters, this is hands-down one of the best looking and most polished Albert Pyun films I've ever seen. Pyun's visual style and aesthetic changes so frequently from film to film, and that's one of the things I love about him. He'll never be pinned down to one specific visual style, but if I were to pick, I'd have to say his visual brilliance with films like Nemesis, Cyborg, Dollman and Hong Kong '97 are my absolute favorites.

Another positive aspect is it's impressive cast, mostly of Pyun regulars, but always a pleasure to watch and always bring their A-game. Andrew Divoff (Wishmaster, Another 48 Hrs.) as the villain ringleader is a hoot (like he always is), but then there's also Rutger Hauer as an eccentric wheelchair bound Native American counter-terrorism expert who guides our hero Linden Ashby (Mortal Kombat) through dismantling the bombs in the building via radio, kind of like the way Sgt. Powell does with John McClane in Die Hard. Tim Thomerson (Trancers, Dollman, Near Dark), Thom Mathews (Return of the Living Dead), Vincent Klyn (Cyborg), Yuji Okumoto (Karate Kid II) and even a young Shannon Elizabeth (uncredited) as one of the swim team hostages round out the cast, though I'm sure you'll spot more notable faces here and there. In short, the cast is awesome. I think the only real weak link is surprisingly the star, Linden Ashby, who just comes across as a grumpy, moody and totally unlikable guy that you find hard to connect with in any way.



There are more than a few nods to Die Hard in this, so I'm not going to get into them all here, but let's just say it played a big inspiration for a lot of what happens in the film. But I really feel I need to touch on just how great this film looks. Not in the sense that it's being released on Blu-Ray, but just in Albert Pyun's compositions. As much as I love Pyun and watch his films quite often, if I didn't already know going in, I would never have guessed this was a film directed by him. It's easily his most professional looking film, complete with all the bells and whistles you come to expect from big budget action films of the 90's, and honestly, looks like any big budget "Die Hard on a" style action film that could easily have played in your local theater. The cinematography alone is impressive, but it's in the editing, sound design, score and in the way he can shoot most of the film within a single structure and still make it look interesting and flawlessly stylish. I'm shocked he wasn't hired to direct big budget theatrical action films after this, because this could easily compete with them. Or maybe he did and he turned them down? I don't know. But what I do know is Blast is awesome from any angle and a true hidden gem of a film. His style here reminded me a lot of what Peter Hyams was doing with Van Damme in the 90's with Timecop and Sudden Death. It looks that good.

I honestly only have one single complaint, and that's the lack of blood on screen. I know, it's a weird thing to complain about, but it was hard "not" to notice that in all of the shootouts (of which there are many), you never actually see someone get shot, a squib or even blood, making it almost feel like a PG rated action film. So while there's a whole lot of action, most of the violence happens off-screen. It's just a weird thing to realize considering who's making this, when so many of his films are filled to the brim with onscreen violence.

Written by Albert Pyun under the alias Hannah Blue, Blast was released the same year as Mean Guns and Crazy Six, and the three films couldn't look and feel more different from one another. But that's part of what makes his films so special, never delivering the same type, or quality, of film and always trying to re-invent himself or experiment when he can. He may not always deliver a winner, but you can't ever say he was pigeonholed into the same style, type or genre of film. He's all over the place and that's what makes him so special.

MVD is fast becoming one of the best distributors of hard to find, under the radar films on Blu-Ray, in many cases having films released for the first time since their one and only release on VHS before being forgotten. If their recent release of the Van Damme classic Lionheart is any indication, their quality is nearly unmatchable. I hope they dig further into Pyun's large and eclectic filmography and release more of his insanely hard to find, and in some cases, never released, films for the first time in HD, and most importantly, in widescreen. I say that because it's no secret that most of his early films were impossible to find in their proper aspect ratio's for decades. I even read an interview with him once where he stated that was on purpose, because the person who controlled the rights to a lot of his early films intentionally released them in full frame out of spite. I may be wrong, but I'm pretty sure I read that somewhere because it stuck with me at a time when I was always frustrated that I could rarely ever find a Pyun film, who's always been a visual filmmaker, in widescreen. Thankfully, all these new Blu-Ray releases will always come in widescreen and Blast takes full advantage of this format, with Pyun filling every single frame with beautiful imagery that was severely lost in it's cut full frame ratio on VHS.

MVD's 1080p transfer is really impressive here. Not only did they fix it by releasing it in it's true widescreen 2.35:1 aspect ratio, the image quality is fantastic. The film comes in it's original stereo audio 2.0 (uncompressed PCM). Sadly, this release has zero extras, save for a few trailers. No subtitles or audio commentary included either. It's a bare-bones release, which accounts for it's cheap retail price. Blast does come with a cool slipcase though.

Hands-down one of the best hidden gems I've seen this year, and easily one of Albert Pyun's better films. Strong and impressive cast, ace visuals and a mile-a-minute pace makes for a really fun action viewing experience all around. You can pick up Blast from any number of online retailers for roughly $20.