City Heat: Reynolds Shines in an Otherwise Mediocre Affair

by robotGEEK

The one thing I think anybody walking away from this would naturally think is that City Heat should have been a sure-fire hit. No question. Just with the casting alone, 2 legends at their prime, begs the question "why was it just okay?".

Surrounded by a pretty killer ensemble supporting cast that includes Robert Davi, Madeline Kahn, Rip Torn, Richard Roundtree, Irene Cara and William Sanderson, Eastwood and Reynolds are in top form here. And while Eastwood is given top billing, it's clearly Reynolds show all the way. His character, a gumshoe by the name of Mike Murphy, is actually the character that thrusts the story forward, with Eastwood's Lt. Speer only popping in from time to time until the final act. And it's a really good role for Reynolds, here proving that he really was very good at what he did. I often forget that he was funny once upon a time, because let's face it, the last several decades have shown him to be a grumpy old man. In fact, with the exception of his hit show Evening Shade and the highly underrated comedy Switching Channels, this might have been the last time we got to see a genuinely funny Burt in front of the camera as most films preceding this were action, thrillers or drama's.

While the film has an interesting enough story, surprisingly great supporting cast and impressive set design, I think the films biggest weakest link has to be actor-turned-director Richard Benjamin (The Money Pit, Little Nikita). He's just much too bland a director to handle this particular material. I feel that had the film been much more visually stylish, especially considering it's time-period setting, it would have played over a lot better. It just mostly comes across as something Made-for-TV, and that's all because of the uninspired camera work. Still, it's not a bad film in the slightest, and Reynolds alone makes this worth the time, as Eastwood just randomly shows up playing the same character he's played for decades.

I can't help but wonder what Burt Reynolds and Clint Eastwood thought of this film or how it turned out afterwards, knowing that both of these actors are also very fine directors in their own right, both having delivered some of their best work as directors roughly around this time with Eastwood's Sudden Impact (1983) and Reynolds Stick (1985). I strongly feel that had this film been more visually stimulating, even with either of them behind the camera, it would have been a whole lot better.

Interestingly enough, comedy legend Blake Edwards was originally hired to write and direct. Once production was under way, he was either fired or quit (not sure which, as reports differ), and replaced by Richard Benjamin. Edwards kept his co-writing credit as a pseudonym, but being as he's turned out some pretty great comedy classics in his career, I wonder how different City Heat would have turned out had he stayed on as director. Rumor has it that he and Eastwood (in one of his last comedy roles), didn't see eye to eye, thus resulting in his departure.

If you're a fan of Burt Reynolds, I would urge you to check this out. It's probably one of his better performances and he's just so damn likable here, something you don't get to say too often. It's his show all the way and it's a pity his career took a sharp decline following this. I remember reading in the papers waaaay back in '84 about his health, and it's all tied to this movie. While shooting a fight scene, he was hit with a chair and suffered a broken jaw. Restricted to a liquid diet because of this, he dropped about 30 pounds, leading to massive rumors about his health. I remember he once had to come out on a talk show (I don't remember which one), and say that he was not in fact dying of AIDS (which was the kiss of death in the 80's) like the tabloids had kept saying repeatedly, but had suffered a broken jaw and dropped the weight due to the liquid diet. His next film was Stick, which he both starred and directed, and the news about his health followed him all over that production. In fact, it later came out that he had become addicted to pain killers because of the broken jaw, which set off a whole new list of problems.

City Heat should have been great, but as it stands, it's just good. It's mostly good because of Burt Reynolds, and it's excellent cast, so you'll have a good time with it. It just won't knock your socks off like it should have.


Blu-Ray Review: The Navigator: A Medieval Odyssey (Arrow Films)

Released in 1988, this is a film that I can remember always seeing on shelves of my local video stores back in the day. The name always struck me as sounding cool, but the cover art, a black and white silhouette photo if I recall, didn't tell me anything about the film in general so I just avoided it. Having finally sat down to watch it for the very first time, I can say that I regret that decision because I'm sure it would have been a personal favorite of mine growing up, had I seen it as a teenager. Because the truth is that The Navigator is a beautiful film all around. Truly unique in it's own very special way, full of gorgeous cinematography, strong performances and a story that took a direction that I had not expected. And that's a good thing. 

WARNING: Spoilers Ahead
Written and directed by New Zealand filmmaker Vincent Ward (What Dreams May Come), who's far too infrequent with his films, this medieval fantasy was such a refreshing breath of fresh air. The whole time travel angle completely caught me by surprise, and while the film spends equal amounts of time in the dark ages as well as the present day circa 1988, it's all handled with such care and precision that it's almost seamless. While not necessarily a big fan of medieval films, there's so much more to the film that it didn't bother me one bit. It helps that the film is a constant stream of stunning images courtesy of Vincent Ward and cinematographer Geoffrey Simpson (Shine), who capture it all through black and white and color in a uniquely satisfying way. 

From what I understand, this cult classic never got a really good release here in the states that I know of. Which is a shame because it's hands-down one of the most visually stunning films I've ever seen, with every frame of film being damn near jaw-droppingly gorgeous. So to have to see this in such a bad state (meaning the old days of VHS), and worse yet, full-frame, is a travesty to all the work that went into this film. Thankfully Arrow Films is here to save the day, and let me tell you, they did a wonderful job. 

Presented in a stunningly impressive new HD transfer, The Navigator has never looked so good. Clean, crisp with a faint graininess that I just adore, you will never find a better looking presentation of this landmark film anywhere. It's also presented in it's original Mono Audio, along with English subtitles. While the technical aspects of this release are pretty great, it's not as comprehensive as some of their previous releases wherein you get a vintage made-for-tv documentary about Vincent Ward's life and career that was made in New Zealand, a trailer and a new "appreciation" interview by film critic Nick Roddick, who offers some insight into the films production and release. And that's pretty much it in the Special Features department. 


- High Definition Blu Ray Presentation

- Original mono audio (uncompressed LPCM)

- Optional English subtitles

- Brand-new "appreciation" interview by film critic Nick Roddick

- Kaleidoscope: Vincent Ward - Film Maker, a 1989 documentary profile of the director made for New Zealand television

- Theatrical Trailer

The Navigator: A Medieval Odyssey is set to release on Blu-Ray this Tuesday, July 23rd worldwide and can be purchased directly from Arrow's website HERE, or from any of your favorite online retailers. 


Exit Wounds: Seagal's Last Hurrah

by robotGEEK

Having only ever seen this maybe once before, I was excited to go back to it because I remember it actually being pretty good, which isn't all that surprising if it weren't for the fact that he had 2 duds with Fire Down Below and The Patriot, preceding this release, even taking a 3 year break before coming back to this one. When you consider the fact that he typically releases anywhere from 2-6 films a year, this 3 year hiatus was a big deal. Anyway, moving on.

Produced by legendary action maestro Joel Silver, who made Seagal lose weight for the role, and directed by cinematographer (Speed, Falling Down) turned director Andrzej Bartkowiak (Romeo Must Die, Doom), Exit Wounds comes to us courtesy of his On Deadly Ground screenwriter Ed Horowitz as co-writer, along with Richard D'Ovidio (Thir13en Ghosts). And guess what? It's a surprisingly badass actioner that showcases many of the qualities we grew to love about early Seagal flicks in the first place.

Having slimmed down for the role, and having cut his trademark ponytail, Seagal swaggers his way into an eclectic cast that includes DMX, Isaiah Washington, Bill Duke, Michael Jai White, Anthony Anderson, Tom Arnold, Bruce McGill, and Jill Hennessy. He seems a bit less cocky this time around (perhaps the 2 previous misfires humbled him a bit), and with the help of some fancy wire work, we get to see him actually perform "some" of his own fighting, which is kind of a big deal considering his legacy will go down as having used laughably inaccurate stunt-doubles for even the most mundane fighting. Don't worry though. There are still plenty of noticeable stunt-doubles for him in here; they're just not as hilarious as they've since become. But moving on. Seagal carries himself extremely well in here, surrounded by an insanely talented supporting cast in a story that moves along briskly, full of big-budget action set pieces filled with impressive stuntwork, a whole lot of fighting, and a fun vibe that permeates throughout it's short 101 minute running time. To put it frankly, Exit Wounds is one of Seagal's better films from his entire filmography, and might even be his last really great action flick.

In fact, aside from it being far better than I expected, there were quite a number of things that surprised me with this. Seeing Seagal actually do some fighting for one, or that the director had previously worked on some big budget films as a cinematographer, or that Seagal himself looked halfway decent. Sure he wasn't as thin as he was in Under Siege 2, but he looks a helluva lot better than he did in some of his films following this. Even his ridiculous toupee is barely noticeable here, where he keeps his hair a natural color instead of that fake gawd-awful jet black he uses now. But the biggest surprise for me was how good DMX was in this. For a guy who can't seem to stay out of trouble, he's a surprisingly good and confident actor, even when it comes down to not saying a word, but conveying emotion effectively through a facial expression. Hell, he even gets to throw down a few times with Seagal and holds his own. It's a shame he couldn't get his shit together, because he could very well have turned out to be one of the better rapper-turned-actor's out there.

Director Andrzej Bartkowiak handles the action well enough, but oftentimes turns to crazy Dutch-angle handheld camerawork a bit too often for my personal taste during the fights. Still, it's in the other moments of the film where he keeps a steady hand and gives the film a sleek polished look, which really helps the film a lot overall in looking like a classic big budget Joel Silver action film.

Ultimately, when you consider that most of his films that followed (and we're going on almost 20 years now) are crap, Exit Wounds begins to look more and more like Seagal's last hurrah in big budget quality action films that actually hit theaters. While Half Past Dead is technically his last theatrical release, that film was pretty awful from what I can remember. Exit Wounds is different. It's actually good, fun and delivers the action goods on a remarkable breakneck pace. It's a shame Seagal didn't stick with Joel Silver. It seems like he is exactly the force/influence he needed to keep him in check.


Blu-Ray Review: Lionheart (MVD Rewind Collection)

MVD's Impressive 2-Disc Special Edition Release is a Must-Buy for any JCVD Fan

by robotGEEK

There's no denying that Lionheart is one of Van Damme's best and most loved films. Made and released in 1990, Van Damme was just breaking into superstardom. Having already made a name for himself with classics such as Bloodsport, Cyborg and Kickboxer, Lionheart would see him break out into the mainstream in a film that showcased his knack for working behind the camera (he already proved his editing skills were on point on both Cyborg and Bloodsport) as effectively as he has in front, by co-writing this film, designing the fight sequences and coming up with the story. And there really is a lot of Van Damme in this film. Whereas most would probably dismiss it as another typical underground fighting film, you can't help but feel how personal this one is to him.

Yet, despite it's reputation, it's never gotten a full-on upgrade until now. We've only had bare-bones releases on DVD in the U.S., and it was included in a 5-Movie Action Pack on blu that came with a hefty price tag. I know the German distributor Platinum Cult Edition, released an Uncut and Remastered HD Blu Ray a few years back, but that also came with a hefty price tag. So this would be our first official Blu-Ray release in the U.S., and the best part is that it comes packed full of extra's. Let's dig in.

Though I grew up on an insane dose of Van Damme and Seagal, it had been a long time since I'd seen it. So this was just the reason I needed to revisit it and I have to say, it hasn't lost it's ability to entertain. Not in the slightest. It was just as fun as it was all those years ago, 28 to be exact, and a pleasant reminder of a time when these types of films were big business, and crafted with care and precision. You can't say that about these films anymore. In fact, they don't even go to theaters anymore, instead going straight to streaming and home video.

While Lionheart is admittedly a simple premise, it's handled with professional care (surprising considering this was director Sheldon Lettich's first feature film) and offers a helluva lot of kickass fighting, intermixed with some family drama. Yet it's the fights that make the film and there is plenty to love in Lionheart, as each fight is distinctly different, culminating into a massive throw-down between Lyon (Van Damme) and Attila (Abdel Qissi). Overall it's a completely satisfying and highly entertaining film from Van Damme's Golden Era, full of heart, spirit, and a whole lot of awesome.

Just The Disc:
MVD pulled out all the stops on this one. Not only do we get a much-needed HD upgrade, but we get 2 different cuts of the film; the Theatrical Cut, and the Extended Cut. The Extended Cut is pretty cool, but you can tell what new scenes are included because they're not in HD like the rest of the film. And really, it's only a few seconds of extra footage at a time and really doesn't bring much to the experience. Cool to see for sure, but it doesn't make the film any better. In fact, after having finally seen this mythical cut, I know I'll probably just stick to the Theatrical from now on.

Bonus Materials

  • High Definition Blu-ray (1080p) and Standard Definition DVD presentations of the main feature
  • Original 2.0 Stereo Audio (Uncompressed PCM on the Blu-ray) and Dolby Digital 5.1
  • Audio commentary by Sheldon Lettich & Harrison Page
  • NEW - 'The Story of ‘Lionheart’' (HD) (All new documentary featuring interviews with cast and crew including JEAN-CLAUDE VAN DAMME)
  • NEW - 'Inside 'Lionheart' with the Filmmakers and Cast' (HD) (Featuring interviews with cast and crew including JEAN-CLAUDE VAN DAMME)
  • NEW - ''Lionheart': Behind the Fights' (HD) (Featuring interviews with cast and crew including JEAN-CLAUDE VAN DAMME)
  • 'Making of' featurette (8:53) (SD)
  • Interview with Sheldon Lettich (25:52) (SD)
  • Interview with Harrison Page (13:05) (SD)
  • 'Behind the Scenes of the Audio Commentary' featurette (5:40) (SD)
  • Original Theatrical Trailer (SD)
  • Collectible Mini Poster

Aside from the Extended Cut being here, one of the highlights has to be seeing and hearing Jean-Claude do a new interview for this, something he rarely (almost never) ever does for his older films, which is really cool. He talks about how this film is somewhat autobiographical, which is why it was so easy for him to write. He also discusses how it pretty much catapulted his career and he was able to have some creative control and freedom in a few future projects, most notably Double Impact, where he re-teams with co-writer/director Sheldon Lettich the following year. You also get some great insight from the rest of the cast, as well as Lettich in all aspects of this production.

I think one of the most amusing aspects of revisiting this is getting to see some faces that I had completely forgotten about, or never noticed before. Like a blink-and-you'll-miss-it scene with Jeff Speakman (The Perfect Weapon), Billy Blanks (Back in Action), and also Lawrence Bender, Quentin Tarantino's famous producing partner, here as an antagonistic bystander during one of Lyon's early fights.

While the film is pretty great all around, it's really the plethora of extra's that make this worth the purchase. I spent an entire weekend digging through everything and had a blast doing so. You also get a sweet mini poster to add to your collection too. So what are you waiting for?!

Lionheart is available now in a 2-Disc Special Edition directly from MVD HERE, or from any of your favorite online retailers for a suggested retail price of $27.99.


80's Thriller Throwback: The Dead Pool

The Dead Pool, Dirty Harry's Weak Link

by robotGEEK

Every 5 years or so, I dig through the Dirty Harry franchise because let's face it, it's an excellent series of films and I always walk away having different feelings and favorite's than with my previous viewing. This time I was all about Sudden Impact, now my current personal favorite in the franchise, and the only one directed by Clint Eastwood himself. And of all the films, I rarely ever bother with The Dead Pool, because no matter how many times I watch it, I just don't like it. But, I always hope for that one moment where I'll actually enjoy it, that somehow I'll connect with it in a way I hadn't before. Let's dig in.

Unanimously regarded as the weakest Dirty Harry film, The Dead Pool made it's way into theaters in 1988, 5 years after the previous entry, Sudden Impact. After 5 films and 17 years, with each film being progressively better than the previous (in my humble opinion), the series ended with a thud rather than a bang, easily making The Dead Pool the worst in the series. At times it looks and feels like a Made-for-TV movie, and at others like a low-rent Dirty Harry, the film can't seem to make anything seem interesting as it trudges along in such a slow and sour pace that you can't help but wonder just what the hell happened to such a beloved franchise. I think for starters a lot of the blame falls on the shoulders of director Buddy Van Horn, Eastwood's stunt double and stunt coordinator for most of his films spanning nearly 50 years, who sat in the directors chair only 3 times, all Clint Eastwood films, including this one. Van Horn possesses no natural talent behind the camera, giving the film a cheap looking quality that comes across as something being made for television, or something sent direct-to-video. When you consider that every Dirty Harry film before had a different director, and was each distinctly visually impressive, this last entry really lets you down.

Aside from it's obvious issues, The Dead Pool manages to walk away with at least one saving grace, and that's the surprising bit of casting which includes a very young Jim Carrey, (before he was famous), who plays a drug-addicted rock singer, Liam Neeson, here as a sleazy low-budget film director, and a slew of other notable faces that have since gone on to bigger and better things. The real standout here though has to be Harry's new partner, Evan C. Kim, who's so damn likable, and in one scene, impressively takes down a suspect with his martial arts skills. How or why they didn't give this guy more screen-time just baffles me. While primarily a television actor, Kim more than carried the role as well as Eastwood and I would have loved to have seen more of his character. Hell, an off-shoot film built around his character alone would have been awesome.

17 years and 5 films is a pretty impressive tally. Sudden Impact (1983), the previous entry, was the most successful in the franchise, while this one was the least successful, only raking in 37 million on a 31 million budget. That's not a flop, but it's not a hit either, and Warner Brothers had high hopes for this one. It's a shame this ended the series on a low-note, rather than a high one. Eastwood did a phenomenal job on The Rookie, where he was both star and director, and I can't help but wonder what he could have done had he directed this one himself. Sadly I doubt it would have helped all that much because the script is a bit tedious, and the film just doesn't flow well. I'm glad it was the shortest entry, clocking in at an hour and a half, because by the halfway point, I was already ready to throw in the towel.

Ultimately it's a pretty big letdown for such an excellent franchise. While not terrible per say, it's surprisingly dull and doesn't hold a candle to any of the previous entries. The impressive casting helps a little, as does getting to see Harry one last time, but overall it's a shockingly tame film compared to any of the others. I'd like to think that Eastwood's excellent The Rookie (1990) is the final Dirty Harry film. That would have been a proper sendoff to a much beloved character.


Richard Stanley's Hardware Now Available on Blu-Ray in a New 4K Scan via Roninflix!

by robotGEEK

Independent distribution company Ronin Flix has been stepping up their game these past few years, releasing hard to find and obscure gems on DVD and Blu-Ray, some of them for the very first time. Richard Stanley's sci-fi/horror/cyberpunk classic Hardware aka M.A.R.K. 13 is a little different. While it has been released stateside before on literally every format (except possibly BETA), with the most recent being the DVD and Blu-Ray from Severin Films back in 2009, this is the first time getting a brand new 4K scan of the original negative as far as I'm aware. If I'm wrong, please correct me.

Richard Stanley seemed to have come out of nowhere and delivered a visceral experience within the low-budget community that seamlessly blended cyberpunk, horror, and sci-fi in a way that hadn't been done nearly as well. One of the film's most impressive aspects is it's production design and visuals. For a film on a relatively low budget, it's an incredibly impressive film to look at. If you're a lover of design, this film will surely give you plenty to admire and gloss over. I've often felt that this film, more than anything, resembles a really great slasher, much in the same way James Cameron's original Terminator did. I think if you revisit this, you might notice the same thing. In any case, it's one of the best examples of what you can accomplish on a minimal budget (1.5 million) and a clear passionate vision.

This new 2-Disc release comes packed with extra's that were ported over from that Severin release, but this one also comes with deleted and extended scenes not found on that previous release, as well as having a run time of 94 minutes, making it a minute longer than Severin's Uncut Version. The new 5.1 Surround DTS-HD Master Audio & Stereo DTS Master Audio will surely be an improvement in sound quality over any previous version, with SDH English subtitles being available for the feature film only and not on any of the extra's.

Just The Disc:

  • DISC 1: Hardware, Audio Commentary with writer/director Richard Stanley, Deleted and Extended Scenes
  • DISC 2: New Interview with writer/director Richard Stanley, Interview with Iggy Pop, No Flesh Shall Be Spared - The Making of Hardware, 3 Richard Stanley Shorts: Incidents in an Expanding Universe - Early Super 8 version of Hardware, The Sea of Perdition, and Rites of Passage, Richard Stanley on Hardware 2, Vintage Hardware Promo Videos featuring Iggy Pop and Lemmy, Theatrical Trailer (English & German)
Miramax // 1990 // 94 Minutes // Not Rated // Color // English // Region A

Please Note: The Hardware Blu-ray is available for sale to customers in the US only.  Also, the Limited Edition magnet will be delivered in the same box with the Blu-ray.  Please use caution when opening the package to avoid damaging the item. 

This Region A 2-Disc Set (with reversible cover art) comes with a Limited Edition Slipcover and VHS style magnet while supplies last. Ronin Flix currently has it listed On Sale for a retail price of $34.99 with Free Shipping. I would strongly suggest grabbing it before they sell out, which I'm pretty sure they will. You can order directly from their official website HERE.


Blu-Ray Review: Death Smiles on a Murderer (Arrow Video)

by robotGEEK

Much like Jesse Franco, Joe D'Amato was a highly prolific filmmaker spanning several decades, with nearly 200 credits to his name as a director, nearly 200 as a cinematographer, and nearly 50 as a screenwriter.....that we know of. The truth is, he used so many pseudonyms that we may never really know how many films he actually made and in what capacity, but what we do know is that D'Amato (real name Aristide Massaccesi) loved making films and worked relentlessly at a breakneck pace, sometimes directing up to 25 films a year. D'Amato dove into nearly every genre, sometimes even mixing them all together, but found his biggest success and cult status within the Italian Trash/Post Apocalyptic and horror genre's. While a lot of people would associate D'Amato with his erotic films, he would always find a way to infuse a lot of that in most of his other films, no matter the subject matter or genre. 

Released in 1973, Death Smiles on a Murderer would mark his first entry in the horror genre, and did so with style and pizzazz. A hybrid of different themes and genre's, making it a mixture of eroticism, Gothic, horror, giallo, and thriller, Death Smiles on a Murderer honestly doesn't make a whole lot of sense, but is such a treat visually to look at and admire. A nearly incomprehensible smorgasbord of different storylines that make it hard to follow, DSonM is able to rise above those pesky little issues by being a surprisingly well-made film, with some impressive eye candy, and an effective mixture of different genre's thrown together in a dream-like world.

Just The Disc:


  • Brand new 2K restoration from the original camera negative
  • High Definition Blu-ray (1080p) presentation
  • Original Italian and English soundtracks
  • Uncompressed Mono 1.0 PCM audio
  • Newly translated English subtitles for the Italian soundtrack
  • Optional English subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing for the English soundtrack
  • New audio commentary by writer and critic Tim Lucas
  • D’Amato Smiles on Death, an archival interview in which the director discusses the film
  • All About Ewa, a newly-filmed, career-spanning interview with the Swedish star
  • Smiling on the Taboo: Sex, Death and Transgression in the horror films of Joe D’Amato, new video essay by critic Kat Ellinger
  • Original trailers
  • Stills and collections gallery
  • Reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Gilles Vranckx

Arrow's new Blu Ray release of Joe D'Amato's first horror film comes in an excellent new 2K restoration from the original camera negative. The Gothic setting is captured gloriously in it's new 1080p transfer. The film comes in both an English language dubbed version as well as it's original Italian language version. For those of you who enjoy it's original language, there are English subtitles included as well. 

The extra's included are fun to dig through as well, with the "D'Amato Smiles on Death" interview being pretty fun as he discusses his career and experiences making this landmark film. I swear he looks like Robert DeNiro to me. The new interview "All About Ewa" where we get to sit down with the films gorgeously stunning Swedish lead Ewa Aulin is just as engaging and informative as she discusses her entire career and how she began as a model. Kat Ellinger's video essay "Smiling on the Taboo: Sex, Death and Transgression in the horror films of Joe D'Amato" is probably the most impressive and rewarding in the bunch, where she goes through his entire career and I have to tell you, it's easily the most informative out of anything I've ever seen regarding D'Amato.

Joe D'Amato's Death Smiles on a Murderer is available now from any number of online retailers, as well as directly through Arrow's official website HERE.