Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Universal Soldier: Regeneration (2009)


After the dismal second Universal Soldier movie, Jean-Claude van Damme sank into the oblivion of direct-to-video hell, churning out a string of adequate but not exactly good thrillers.  This began to change a little in 2008 with the release of JCVD and the following year, he returned to the Universal Soldier franchise, as did Dolph Lundgren.

The story is a wonderfully sparse tale of Eastern European terrorists taking over the Chernobyl plant using an advanced Universal Soldier played by MMA fighter Andrei "The Pitbull" Arlovski.  The children of the Russian President are also taken hostage which adds to the tension nicely.  Van Damme is brought in (no mention of the second movie, he's just a former member of the program having severe adjustment issues) and while he doesn't really spring into action until the last twenty minutes or so, the first hours and change is decent enough to keep things entertaining.

Lundgren comes in about an hour in and really only has three scenes but they are all solid and quite entertaining, especially the fight between him and van Damme.  It's a real knock down, drag out affair with a fantastic punchline at the end.

Arlovski also makes for a formidable opponent with an intense, lethal fighting style and personality to match.  The film is very well directed by John Hyams. son of director Peter Hyams.  He has a good eye for action and happily avoids the quick cutting that mars so many movies these days.

The film does quite a bit considering its low budget, smartly saving the best for the last twenty five minutes when van Damme goes into action.  That last twenty five is something to behold as our hero just plows through every bad guy he sees in a spectacular orgy of violence.  While the Lundgren fight is an easy highlight, the finale with Arlovski is no slouch either.

Universal Soldier: Regeneration is a great throwback movie and I really hope the upcoming fourth movie is just as good.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

VHS Memories XXVII: Vestron Home Video

Vestron was one of the largest video distributors of the 80's.  From 1981-1992, they put out a wide array of titles.  Here is but a brief cross section of titles from them as well as a little from their imprint Lightning Home Video.

 This is a nicely done (if moderately pretentious) Neil Jordan werewolf movie with stellar makeup f/x from Chris Tucker and a pretty damn good screenplay that takes the Little Red Riding Hood concept and turns it into a pseudo-feminist werewolf anthology.  Like I said, it is moderately pretentious.  Worth a look, though.

 Cheesy, gory MST3K fodder with early f/x work from Rick Baker that tells the tale of an astronaut who returns to Earth as a flesh eating mutant who also, rather inconveniently for all involved parties, is gradually dissolving.

 Charles Band's Empire Pictures put out a good deal of films through Vestron as well as their Lightning subsidiary label (most of them have been covered elsewhere on the blog) and one of their better efforts is this amusing horror/comedy about...Well, you can guess.  It has nothing whatsoever to do with the bad movie classic Troll II, however.  Probably for the best, really.

 It wasn't all horror, however as they distributed plenty of big budget films such as this decent western with Emilio Estevez as Billy the Kid...

 The cult classic Buckaroo Banzai which I have always had a soft spot for.  They also had a theatrical branch for a time, putting out hits like Dirty Dancing and...Well, Dirty Dancing was about their only hit, really.

 They also put out a ton of stand-up comedy shows.  As you can see from the image above, they were not exactly stingy.  To be fair, once you get past the opening five minutes of Bobcat Goldthwait screaming like a mentally challenged guy having a fit, his act is not half bad.

 Even better is this amazing 80 minute Richard Pryor show from the late seventies.  If you have never seen the man in his prime, you owe it to yourself to try and track it down.  Funny doesn't even begin to describe it.

And now that I've said some nice things, let's delve into some crap.

 This is a rather lame supernatural thriller that my brother and I subjected ourselves to in the early 90's.  Needless to say, it was one of those long shot rentals and as with most gambles, it didn't pay off.

 A crappy Roger Corman production that was ribbed mercilessly by MST3K during their abbreviated seventh season.  Having only seen the MST version, I can say that if it's as funny without Mike and the Bots as it is with...I think I need to see it again.

 This is a horrible Italian zombie movie, also known as Hell of the Living Dead.  Given the reviews, I am both really enthusiastic about seeing it and hoping to god I can find it cheap somewhere.  Sure it's gonna suck but what the heck!

 More MST3K fodder with this not entirely terrible conspiracy thriller about cloning that was eventually unofficially remade into The Island by Michael Bay in 2005.

We'll wrap things up with two movies from Stuart Gordon, distributed by Empire.

 First off, and one about which I don't really need to say a lot, is the gore classic Re-Animator.  One of the few 80's horror comedies that still holds up today, mainly thanks to the f/x work , clever script and great Jeffrey Combs performance.

And finally, from the same team, is another H.P. Lovecraft adaptation, this time it's a hallucinatory, kinky monster mash about hidden lusts, creatures from another dimension and tons of gore.  Good stuff.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

70's and 80's Esoterica

Comic books!  Regular books!  Miscellaneous stuff!

Let's take a look.

 First off, it's the first issue of the KISS Comic book.  Yes, famed metal group KISS, at the height of their popularity in the late seventies, had a comic book pout out by Marvel that made them into superheroes.  I've read it and...Well, it's either awesome in the worst way imaginable or terrible in the most awesome way imaginable.  I'm not sure, really.

Speaking of the Decade of Malaise, here is the set of paperbacks of the Lord of the Rings trilogy put out by Ballantine.  I love cheesy, bizarre artwork like this and if there's anything good that came out of the seventies it was stuff like this*.

*Not counting movies, the 1972 Lakers or the third season of Saturday Night Live.

 More Rings influence came in the form of the occasional Marvel Comics venture into Weirdworld.  A standard fantasy story, this ran sporadically for a brief time in the late 70's and early 80's.  Here are a few covers. 

Moving on from fantasy, let's get into some horror.

 Stephen King's 1981 treatise on horror is one of the best examinations of the genre I have ever read.  King is funny, interesting and well spoken and I'd really love to see a follow-up to this.

 Of all the covers for all the King novels I have seen, this has to be my favorite.  Creepy as hell and the sort of thing that sears itself into your memory.  Oh, and the book is good too.

And to wrap things up, here are a few vintage computer ads with Captain Kirk himself...

And to really finish things off, here is one of the oddest team-ups in comic book history. 
Oddly enough, the wacky thing is actually not that bad.

VHS Memories XXVII: More Cannon and assorted goodies

Exactly what it sounds like...

Maybe Jean-Claude's best film, this is also one of the best martial arts films of the 80's.  Based on the life of Frank Dux, this benefits from some fantastic fight scenes and a great performance from Bolo Yeung as the main bad guy.  Basically the best Rocky sequel never made.

This is a decent enough actioner with Rutger Hauer as a blind Vietnam vet who has to fight to get his friend out of trouble.  Hauer is good as usual and the premise is neat.  Just keep your expectations low and you'll have a good time.

I have a grudging affection for this Frank Henenlotter film.  It's not quite as out there and wild as his Basket Case movies but it's an entertaining enough tale about a young man who gets taken over by an ugly little parasite that injects him with a highly addictive fluid.

The last Hammer film until recently, this is a rather lame attempt to cash in the success of The Exorcist with Christopher Lee as an evil priest trying to complete a satanic ritual that involves a mutant frog-baby and Klaus Kinski's daughter.  Lee is pretty much the only good reason to watch the movie.

As I said when I did my Charles Bronson article, this is one of the more unpleasant movies I've ever seen.  Bronson is back as vigilante Paul Kersey and this time his daughter is killed along with the maid, sparking his roaring rampage of revenge.  In all fairness, once you get past the first fifteen minutes or so (after the maid and daughter are dead), the movie is pretty decent but man is that first fifteen a rough road!

Not much more to say about the film that hasn't already been said elsewhere, I just love those old MGM big boxes from the 80's.

The third American Ninja movie is a rather weak sequel with David Bradley replacing Michael Dudikoff.  The action is merely okay but thankfully, Steve James is back to give his usual boisterous performance.  He basically saves the whole damned movie.  Check it out for him and him alone.

This is a neat little documentary from 1984 that serves as a sort of general primer on the horror genre.  Hosted by Donald Pleasence and Nancy Allen, it's pretty repetitious fr anyone familiar with the genre but also, thanks to the clips shown, a blast for the same reasons.  Thankfully, it can be found on the Halloween II Blu Ray.

 I already wrote about the movie but I just wanted to show this cheesy VHS cover.

And to wrap things up, here is the Warner Brothers clamshell case for the 1980 sleaze/cheese classic Humanoids From the Deep.  From Roger Corman's New World Pictures, it tells the tale of what happens when horny fish monsters encounter humans.  Blood, boobs and beasts indeed!  I also love the clamshell cases Warner Brothers used to use,.  They were durable, cool looking and...Well, durable.

Saturday, May 5, 2012

VHS Memories XXVI: Random 80's Grab Bag

First off, sorry fore the lack of posts recently, things have been a little busy on my end of things.  To make up for it, here's a jumbo-sized batch of random 80's crap.

 We'll begin with this amusing 1986 slasher/comedy that takes the standard slasher movie plot and proceeds to do what very few similar movies bothered to do.  It actually has fun with the concept, giving us some amusing gore effects as well as a fun twist ending.  Pretty good stuff.

 Less enjoyable is this weak horror comedy that benefits only from a very good cast.  A pair of goofy reporters who work for a tabloid go to Transylvania in search of the truth behind Frankenstein's monster and end up encountering...Well, it's pretty much every old cliche from the old Universal monster movies only nowhere near as entertaining.  Still, any time you can get Geena Davis in an outfit with cleavage that goes down to her navel...Sure it doesn't make the movie itself any better but...You know, let's move on!

 I freely admit to being a very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very casual fan of pro wrestling.  It's silly, stupid, ridiculous and when done well, damned entertaining.  On the flip side, when a movie about the sport is done as poorly as this Hulk Hogan cheese-fest, the results are equally hilarious.  Bad acting, seriously out of whack humor and some really sappy moments make this a must-see for fans of bad movies.

We take a little detour from stuff I've seen to a few films I remember always seeing the boxes for at the video store but never renting: The Thunder Warrior films.  Cheesy Italian knock-offs of First Blood, they replaced Stallone with a Native American  and...Well, that's about all they changed as far as I can tell, really.

 I have to say that even with the Lord of the Rings films and Dead/Alive, this might be my favorite Peter Jackson movie.  It's crude, gory as hell, quite funny in parts and also a complete blast.  Not many people can say their directorial debut is this good.

 Here's another one I really dig.  Dennis Quaid stars in a neat little movie about entering dreams to influence (and sometimes kill) people and I have to say it;s the perfect thing to watch with the first Nightmare on Elm Street.  Just a really good movie.

 Along with the original Dawn of the Dead, this may be my favorite overall horror film of all time.  Chris Sarandon is fantastic as the vampire and the Richard Edlund f/x are incredible.  The highlight is the fantastic finale which goes about twenty minutes and is maybe the finest ending sequence of any vampire movie.

 We move away from horror and return to my infatuation with comedy videos.  This is a fine example of Robin Williams at his peak (at least before he sobered up) as he goes for about 90 minutes non-stop as only he can.  Some of the biggest sustained laughs I have ever had came from this video.  It really needs to get some sort of DVD release as do his other early HBO specials.

To wrap things up, here's an old Media Home Video ad from when they first started and were actually known as Meda.

About Me

I've been a huge fan of action, horror and comedy for as long as I can remember.