FlyBoyDC

IMDb member since June 1999
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Reviews

Armed Response
(1986)

This is a rare *million dollar* movie directed by the legendary Fred Olen Ray!
There are two sides to every war. There are the chivalrous heroes and the treacherous villains. The honorable heroes include Burt Roth (the late Lee Van Cleef), and his sons, Vietnam Vets Jim (David Carradine), Tommy (Brent Huff), and Private Eye Clay Roth (David Goss). This close-knit family will either go down fighting or stand together in victory.

Now, meet the worthy adversaries. The ringleader is Akira Tanaka (Mako), the insidious mob boss who controls the Japanese Yakuza in Los Angeles. This antagonist gives new meaning to the word "evil." Then, there is F.C. (Michael Berryman, star of THE HILLS HAVE EYES), a gigantic bodyguard who is seemingly unstoppable. When this guy gives you a fortune cookie, be afraid...be very afraid. Get ready to panic, for that is just a sign of heinous things to come...

The setting is the mean streets of Los Angeles's Chinatown. The object of affection is a priceless Jade statue. The Yakuza has intended to use this statue as a "gift" of reconciliation aimed towards the Chinese mob. However, after murdering one of his own perfidious men, Tanaka realizes that the statue is in the hands of someone else. Tanaka wants this Jade statue back...and he is willing to torture any soul just to obtain that prized possession...

The Roth family realizes that after one of their own kin unwittingly clutches the Jade statue in his hands, Tanaka is targeting them for termination. They have no choice. The Roth family has only one option: WAR. The forces of good and evil will clash in a fists-and-firepower battle. The Roth family is prepared...for an ARMED RESPONSE...

One of the best characteristics of ARMED RESPONSE is its all-star cast. With favorites including David Carradine, Lee Van Cleef, Mako, Michael Berryman, et. al., ARMED RESPONSE is armed with a terrific cast. The cast is glooming with talented character actors and actresses. Both David Carradine and Lee Van Cleef are capable as a father-and-son fighting duo who are bonded by courage, strength, and honor. Carradine may not portray the most poignant Vietnam Veteran, but at least his character still has intermittent flashbacks of the horrors of the Vietnam War. Mako is great as the sadistically evil bad guy who is a master of torture! He may be an intelligent nemesis, but sadism is his true forte. Ross Hagen is cool as a back-stabbing con artist who is posing as a detective. This guy is only interested in making a profit. Laurene Landon (MANIAC COP) and Dick Miller (GREMLINS) are amusing as a couple of thieves who are also weapons experts, mind you. Michael Berryman plays it straight as Tanaka's right-hand henchman. ARMED RESPONSE features some of the best exploitation veterans in this particular genre.

ARMED RESPONSE is not bad for a B-movie. For a mere budget of probably no more then a million dollars, this film features a lot of explosive car crashes and high caliber thrills. ARMED RESPONSE is reasonably fast-paced with a few expertly directed action scenes and stunts. Another redeeming factor is the film's fatuous sense of humor. In a way, ARMED RESPONSE satirizes on the action genre itself, poking fun at certain types of characters, behavioral characteristics, and character stereotypes. This film also benefits by having a few interesting one-liners...

Though ARMED RESPONSE is much better than some of the competition, it is still, nonetheless, a low budget film with its defects. Though the cast is excellent, the material and plot are very simplistic. This movie is nothing more then a simple tale of "heroes with a vengeance." There are a few twisted deviations, but those are nothing exceptional. If only the characters and story-line had more insight, then maybe this movie could have been an outstanding thriller. I also kind of resent the Asian stereotypes. Not since "Fu Manchu" has there been such a negative portrayal of Asians. "Here we go once again...the evil yellow man torturing the valiant white hero." That quote is a classic example of the villain pointing out the jingoistic attitudes of some Americans.

If you want to see an enjoyable B-movie, then look no further. Your search has ended here! This is one of Fred Olen Ray's first and foremost action films. ARMED RESPONSE is definitely worth a Saturday night rental. Granted, some people may detest this movie's blatant jingoism, but the overall permeating silliness of this movie makes you glad that it was made strictly for fun. This movie does not demand to be taken seriously at all!

Overall, the production values of ARMED RESPONSE are adequately adept, especially for a low budget film. This film is almost worth **1/2, but sadly, the film's ethic biases bring this film down a notch.

ARMED RESPONSE is an unrealized action flick that did not deserve to be ignored by critics. Though this movie may fall short of being an ambitious thriller, it works perfectly as a perfunctory, crowd-pleasing lunacy for action fans. ARMED RESPONSE may be junk food, but it is certainly delicious.

RATING: ** out of ****.

Coldfire
(1990)

Fine performances by Reyes and Easton help give merit to an otherwise flatly directed action film.
The "Coldfire" is a lethal new designer-drug with destructive capabilities. Its origins are unknown...and its effects are irreversible. This drug promises the "ultimate high." However, what does the user acquire instead? The ultimate way to die...

The main purpose of the "Coldfire" drug is to help the enemy cripple the United States. This drug feeds on the decadence of society. The consequences are only too severe if this drug goes "mainstream." An epidemic is imminent if the use of this drug spreads everywhere...

It turns out that the culprit who designed the "Coldfire" drug is someone who plans to destroy America "internally" through corruption and consummate pandemonium. America needs a prayer...

Will the prayers be answered? Well, entering the scene are Nick (Kamar De Los Reyes), and Jake Edwards (Michael Easton), two young but audacious police officers. They may lack age, but they certainly have attitude. These Generation-X cops hope to show some of the veteran members of the police force a trick or to. These two officers will be working with a company of experienced pros including the seasoned Lars (Wings Hauser), and the short-tempered Dix (Asher Brauner). Their assignment is to track down who or what is responsible for the distribution of this virulent drug substance...

Frankly, the introductory sequence in COLDFIRE is simply hilarious. Basically, flashing lights begin illuminating while a guy is trapped inside a chamber. The guy gradually goes berserk...then he begins to bleed. Eventually, this guy decides to take the plunge. It was probably the most entertaining segment in the whole movie! If only we had more inspired moments like the beginning here in COLDFIRE, this movie could have at least clicked as an entertaining albeit no-nonsense thriller. Instead, COLDFIRE is a listless film, especially for one belonging to the action genre. COLDFIRE is yet another film that deals with the subject of drugs. It tries to insert some moral relevance. While this movie does have its noble intentions, for the most part, it is a slack movie. COLDFIRE seems intent on being preachy and indeed that could hold true. For the majority of this film, it is rather ponderous and tiresome as it tries to deliver its message to "stay cool and never lose faith." There is of course, the anti-drug message too (though it is rarely mentioned). COLDFIRE is a misfire.

The fact that COLDFIRE is boring is only one of my main concerns. Another flaw that really distracted me was this film's inanity. Sometimes, you have to wonder whether these characters in this movie actually think about whether their decisions will have substantial consequences or not. They always have a proclivity to behave so irrationally. For example, notice how most of the police officers always communicate with guns. It is quite scary how this movie portrays cops as either inept, reckless, or both. Some of these cops (such as Lars) can even be seen as "lazy." Also, the villains in this movie are inane. They too are excessively illogical. The worst character of all is the main villain. He has such an obnoxious voice! Now, do not get me started on the plot holes. They proliferate as much as the bullet wounds on certain characters. (I.e. You would think that the Police Department would have cared knowing that two of their own cops are declared missing in action). Finally, there are times when this film just seems to be a parody of itself...

Despite the problems galore that I found in this movie, I will consider this: The two leading cast members (Kamar De Los Reyes and Michael Easton) are both proficient and promising. Although Wings Hauser (who is also the director) is top-billed, the spotlights belong to rising stars Kamar De Los Reyes and Michael Easton. Though these two actors are tyros, they have already begun to show a lot of enthusiasm and alacrity for their roles. I am confident that these two guys will find success in show business. In addition, Darcy DeMoss (LIVING TO DIE) is a fine and gorgeous actress too. As for Wings Hauser, his role is, at best, a tenuous supporting character.

COLDFIRE is a tragedy. It could have been a low-budget but first-rate thriller. Instead, COLDFIRE is a contrived, ridiculously ludicrous film with haphazard characters, a conventional and predictable plot, and languid action scenes. Still, COLDFIRE does have its attributes. An ambitious premise somewhat compensates for a dearth of ingenuity. Also, Kamar De Los Reyes and Michael Easton are capable performers. These two actors single-handedly save COLDFIRE from complete oblivion. Last, the denouncement is appropriately action-packed. It highlights the pinnacle of the whole movie... Unfortunately, most of this film's few attributes are overshadowed by its shortcomings.

I guess that my biggest complaint would be the fact that this film was so superficially made. It does not have enough depth to be considered a decent crime drama and there is little zest in this movie to help make this film truly exhilarating. If they could only quicken the pace, throw a curve ball for a plot twist, and perhaps add some excitement, COLDFIRE would have worked.

RATING: *1/2 out of ****.

Blind Fury
(1989)

A typical martial arts adventure is distinguished by an unconventional hero and a great sense of humor.
The setting is in Vietnam, the year is 1969. Amid the explosive violence and the frenzied chaos, America begins to withdraw its troops from the Vietnam conflict. Two soldiers and long time buddies, Nick Parker (Rutger Hauer) and Frank Devereaux (Terry O'Quinn, star of THE STEPFATHER) are ready to go home. However, the mission of utmost importance to take down the enemy has been bestowed upon the two volunteers. As the heroes begin to take their toll, Parker succumbs to the fiasco in Vietnam. He fights with all his might...but the devastation is simply too much for any one man to handle...

Parker falls behind the rest of the troops. He inevitably is lost within the fiery situation... Without warning, Parker is blindsided by the enemy...and left for dead. Waking up several hours later, Parker realizes that he can no longer see...he is permanently blind.

He has no where to go. He cannot see the lurid horrors of his fallen comrades. Parker is lucky to be alive... Now, hell-bent on getting out of this nightmare and returning home...Parker must find a way to survive out in the jungles before the Vietcong arrive...

Seeking refuge in a small village, Parker is aided by friendly natives. He then learns the esoteric art of fighting without relying on what he observes. He learns the hard way that there is more to the scenario than what the eyes are allowed to witness. Without his ability to see, Parker must rely on his remaining senses to guide him out of dangerous perils. As he perfects his martial arts skills...Parker knows that he must return back to America in order to complete one last mission...

The action fast forwards twenty years later. This is when Parker is assigned to track down an old buddy of his from Vietnam. Little does he know that his old friend is in deep debt with the mob. As well, Frank Devereaux is now forced to create a new designer drug to be distributed into the streets...

Under duress, Frank must either accede to the mob's requests...or else suffer the unthinkable consequences. Meanwhile, Parker decides to take care of Devereaux's obstinate son (Brandon Call), taking him on a cross country trip to Reno, Nevada, where Frank Devereaux was last seen. The invidious mob, aware that there is a vigilante out there cleaning up their acts...decides to deploy vicious mobsters and rednecks in order to eradicate him...

BLIND FURY is a surprisingly serviceable action film. This flick is a fast paced and fun adventure with raging fury. What gives BLIND FURY merit though is its uncommon valor. Admittedly, it is kind of amazing how a vision-impaired person can be so proficient in martial arts. He certainly slices up the competition! Criminals ought to beware! He may as blind as a bat, but this swordsman has the reflexes of a jaguar, the sharp acuity of an owl, the ferocity of a lion, and the perspicacity of an eagle. His courage is as unlimited as his fighting ability. Yet, Parker can also be humble at the appropriate times.

BLIND FURY contains impressively choreographed fighting sequences and a great, tongue-in cheek sense of humor. There is plenty of violence in this film to appease action fans, but the stunts and action sequences are certainly directed with flair and verve. The way the hero perforates through the villains with his steel blade is eye-catching. The comical tones in BLIND FURY also remind the audience that this film, though full of bellicose characteristics, is good natured and harmless. The thrills in this film are abundant, and even if the violence in this film is a bit excessive, the tension and humor keep this film from straying towards sadism. Also, one of the best features is the climax, culminating to an earth shattering confrontation between the blind hero and one of the greatest ninja masters ever known...

Another interesting aspect in the story involves the humorous chemistry between Nick Parker and his friend's son. The two share a "love-hate" relationship. Although the boy may detest Parker for being overly attentive and pedantic, and Parker himself is annoyed by the boy's stubborn attitude, they both still care about each other like an uncle and nephew.

As for the villains, Randall 'Tex' Cobb (UNCOMMON VALOR) is a nice addition as a wonderfully sinister, antagonistic philistine. Sho Kosugi also performs a dazzling, show-stealing act. He happens to be a professional assassin with a vendetta against Parker.

Also, BLIND FURY is a nice revision of the ancient Japanese martial arts films. BLIND FURY captures the spirit of the "Zatoichi" movies (for which the premise of this motion picture is based on). For example, the imagery of the hero running through a cornfield evokes a reminiscence of the classic Japanese samurai films. The way this scenery was shot was haunting and surreal. That one moment was extremely well photographed. BLIND FURY is a nice tribute to such Japanese classics as the films of Akira Kurosawa or the movies featuring Toshio Mifune.

BLIND FURY is a commendable adventure with an unconventional hero. Exquisite sword-fighting, a great amount of dynamite action, a favorable lead, and an amusing albeit subtle sense of humor all add up to an enjoyable experience. BLIND FURY is definitely better than your typical action fanfare with plenty of chances to root for the good guys! BLIND FURY is cutting edge entertainment which is good natured fun. Overall, it is a smoothly crafted film.

RATING: **1/2 out of ****.

Rapid Fire
(1992)

A tremendous, but sadly neglected ace thriller with impressive action scenes and a cool performance by Brandon Lee.
At first glance, RAPID FIRE may only look like the undistinguished martial arts motion picture. However, once you view this illustriously grand action flick, you will be pleasantly amazed. Believe me, you will have discovered pure gold!

Jake Lo (Brandon Lee) is a young art student caught in the middle of a violent crime scene. After inadvertently witnessing the execution of a businessman, Carl Chang (Michael Paul Chan), Lo eventually finds himself to be a moving target. With no one to turn to for help, he can only rely on his instincts if he wants to stay alive...

Chang just happens to be an associate of a heinous drug kingpin named Kinman Tau (Tzi Ma). Understandably, Tau is ticked off at this very moment. Tau decides to go to war against his Mafia counterpart, Antonio Serrano (Nick Mancuso), who was the guy that ordered Chang's murder. A ferocious drug war is soon to erupt between the Chinese and Italian mobs. Guess who is caught in the middle? Jake Lo will imminently find himself fighting against both sides...

With corrupt cops and crooked FBI agents on his trail, plus the expected Chinese and Italian gangs who both want his head, the `kid' Jake Lo seems to be unfairly outnumbered. However, there are three people that Lo may be able to trust. One, he knows that he can trust himself, that's for sure. The other two `allies' are Mace Ryan (Power Booths), and his assistant, Intelligence Officer Karla Withers (Kate Hodge). Even with help on his side, the kid must keep fighting...for the sake of clearing his own name and saving his own life...

Jake Lo may be unarmed...but watch out, he is viably a one-man army.

RAPID FIRE is far from being a perfected masterpiece, but it does try. Yes, the movie has its liabilities. Admittedly, the film's major foible is its plot. Some elements are cliché ridden and the people in this movie behave in a volatile manner. These villainous henchmen obviously need target practice too. Also, an intriguing sub-plot about Lo's family participating in the Tiananmen Square massacre is well-intentioned but never fully developed. If the script focused a little bit more about Jake's family background and their involvement in the massacre, then perhaps this film could have a substantial amount of insight about the horrors of Tiananmen and how it has affected the lives of many Chinese people.

Unfortunately, another problem prevailing in this movie is the common use of typical Oriental stereotypes. On the bright side though, the Asians are portrayed more often as heroes rather then sadistic villains. Meanwhile, the Mafioso also gets the *Hollywood* treatment...

Frankly, the film may have its many cheesy moments, but I am willing to let most of them slide. The plot itself lacks the needed twists, but who cares, the action, which is essentially directed with flair, is what counts...

If action is what is important to you, then action is what you get. RAPID FIRE certainly rates high on the entertainment scale. The action is as explosive as dynamite. From the noteworthy stick fight in the beginning to the intense shoot-out inside a museum, RAPID FIRE strikes with highlighted, exceptional action sequences. The best action scene has to be the meticulously crafted fists-and-guns battle inside a Chicago restaurant. RAPID FIRE is an out-and-out thriller. It contains nonstop thrills with adrenaline pumping, glass shattering action. This film rushes at a breakneck pace. The explosive action will knock you out of your seat!

As well, the cast is accomplished, with fine performances by Tzi Ma and Nick Mancuso as the despicable villains. Powers Boothe is good as a hard-line yet compassionate undercover police officer. It is also interesting to see how this brave but irrational cop reminds the main character of his own father and how he behaved. Kate Hodge is cute but always persistently dedicated to her duties as Ryan's crackerjack partner. Tony Longo (THE ART OF DYING) is also adequate as Serrano's colossal right-hand man.

Without a doubt, the motion picture's star, the late Brandon Lee is a natural talent. He has some really cool techniques. Like his father Bruce, Brandon Lee is one of the finest martial artists to have graced the screens. Brandon Lee is an appropriately strong action hero. The director, Dwight H. Little (MURDER AT 1600, MARKED FOR DEATH) wisely keeps the film moving while allowing Brandon Lee to demonstrate his martial arts prowess. As for his acting ability, though Lee is not an adept actor, he is a refined, suave character who conveys many emotions including firm cynicism (i.e. when the hero refuses to join a politically motivated organization), requisite charisma, and occasional light-hearted humor. On screen, he may look tough on the surface, but he is inherently soft. He even has a charming sense of humor (like his father). The director continuously focuses the spotlight on Lee as the star. Lee is a deft, skillful martial artist primed to follow in his father's footsteps...

Thanks to a solid lead and some wild action sequences, RAPID FIRE is better than the customary martial arts adventure. The hand-to-hand combat is magnificent and the movie is just brimming with technical bravura. I cannot praise this movie enough. If you enjoy high-octane fun (and who does not), then prepare for RAPID FIRE excitement. It is a swift, professionally made movie that never fails to entertain. RAPID FIRE is awesome. It is a surefire bet for enthusiasts of sleek and smooth cinema.

As for the great Brandon Lee, it is too tragic that an auspicious young actor has passed on. He definitely would have been as great as his legendary father. Though Brandon Lee may be gone, his spirit will live on in everyone's hearts and memories.

RATING: *** out of ****.

To the Limit
(1995)

It is all about Anna Nicole Smith!
Can former Playboy Playmate of the Year Anna Nicole Smith act? Who says that she can? Is Anna Nicole Smith appealing? That would be a definite yes. She is an absolute knockout. As a thriller though, TO THE LIMIT is ludicrous with a plot that just does not make sense. The concept at first sounds promising, but the movie's plot is just overwhelming with too many perfunctory twists and turns that are never fully explained. The connoisseur of mindless movies may feel very alienated by this film's overly sophisticated plot. Anyway, with that said, TO THE LIMIT is bearable. Thanks to the electrifying presence of Anna Nicole Smith, TO THE LIMIT is (barely) endurable. Despite the fact that Anna Nicole Smith is an inept and terrible actress (I'm not meant to be scathing, she does try.), she has done her best in this movie.

Well, the story (You are probably saying, "You mean to tell me that there is actually a REAL plot?!") concerns Frank Da Vinci (Joey Travolta, shameful brother of John Travolta), a proficient hitman and Vietnam Veteran who tries to escape from his violent past. His attempts at both marriage and starting a new life over have dramatically ended in an unnecessary and senseless massacre. His future bride is gunned down, several of his friends are murdered...and Da Vinci himself has barely escaped death...

Then Colette (Anna Nicole Smith), a femme fatale with her own modus operandi, arrives at the scene of the crime. She has vowed revenge after her husband, China Smith (Michael Nouri in an embarrassing cameo) is killed by a car bomb. The lives of both Colette and Da Vinci intertwine and they inevitably develop an infatuation on each other. Their alliance has turned into a romance. I think we all know what that means!

Meanwhile, a boorish villain with tattoos all over his body wants a valuable item: a compact disk that contains some vital though egregious information about interesting stuff. This bad dude has attempted to assassinate Da Vinci...TWICE! Now, this villain is trying to exterminate several of Da Vinci's mob buddies including Philly (John Aprea) and Joey (David Proval).

The quest for the compact disk is in progress as Frank Da Vinci and Colette must retrieve this conundrum of an item before the evil forces do. However, Da Vinci learns that Colette also has a dark secret. Can she be trusted? Is she really Frank Da Vinci's ally, or a secret foe bent on retribution?

TO THE LIMIT is supposed to be a sequel to an earlier film titled DA VINCI'S WAR (1993). Though this picture, filmed ostensibly with a limited budget, is plagued with problems galore, I still found it to be pleasingly entertaining. The main attraction is of course Anna Nicole Smith. Yes, there are ample opportunities for her to expose herself uncensored in this film...and indeed, she takes advantage of all these chances she earns. TO THE LIMIT has its share of gratuitous sexual situations and unclothed females. As a bonus, the viewer is indulged in a number of scenes of our leading lady either in bed, in the shower, or taking a bath.

Moreover TO THE LIMIT, has enough slam-bang action in this movie to hold a B-movie lover's interest. The pyrotechnics are surprisingly good and the action proceeds at an apt pace. As well, there are some intelligent (though rather sportive) one-liners. The dialogue may be funny, but at least the cast does not remotely try to be too serious. Smith herself is a feisty person. She inspires to be hard-boiled, yet she still wants to retain her femininity. Anna Nicole Smith is kind of goofy, but that is what adds to her liveliness. She is one glorious lady.

Although the actors and actresses are not bad, considering that they are not expert thespians, there is still plenty of room for improvement. Anna Nicole Smith in particular needs to polish her acting. Sometimes, I have trouble discerning whether she is acting stern or sassy. Another of this film's shortcomings is its story-line. The convoluted plot about revenge, betrayal, dirty federal agents, and criminal masterminds is too complex for its own good. It's tough to follow, believe me! Some of the extraneous characters should have also been eliminated. Do not get discouraged though, this film is full of "eye candy" which compensates for a deficiency of logic.

TO THE LIMIT is perfect viewing for the undemanding, non-discriminating viewer who revels in these ultra *low-budget* action films. Sure, this movie is trash. Sure, you will feel guilty afterwards, but if you have always wanted to see your favorite Anna Nicole Smith portray a sexy heroic agent, then look no further.

I shall acknowledge the notion that the cast and crew have unexpectedly done their best in manufacturing both a workable plot and character development. I also guarantee that Anna Nicole Smith is certainly a visual asset. As long as there are the desired car chases (and crash and burns), the explosive shoot-outs, the beautifully seductive girls, and the high-risk stunts, why should there be a need to complain about the movie's amateurish style?

RATING: ** out of ****.

Wild Wild West
(1999)

A wildly exciting movie, but please, just remember to lock up your common sense.
Jim West (Will Smith) is the fastest gun in the Wild West. The delectable ladies can never get enough of him and the fiendish villains will never find out what hit them. With his quick reflexes, impeccable wit, and righteous charisma, Jim West is always up to the challenge against any and all innumerable odds. Jim West is out to tame the West. Artemus Gordon (Kevin Kline) is a U.S. Marshal, an inventor, and a master of disguise. He too has plenty of charm and looks. Gordon has the ability to masquerade himself as an unsuspecting damsel-in-distress...

In the villains' corner: Insane professor Dr. Arliss Loveless (Kenneth Branagh) is ruthless, heartless...and leg-less. This crippled villain has a lot of dirty tricks up his sleeve. Loveless is assisted by a renegade Confederate known as General "Bloodbath" McGrath (Ted Levine). McGrath himself has a grudge against Jim West...

Why are all the prominent scientists and inventors being kidnapped? It's up to West and Gordon to track down these scientists and thwart a madman's scheme for power. The madman behind the kidnappings is none other than arch-nemesis Loveless. Loveless has, as his arsenal, lethal flying disks, several cannons, a fortified bastion, and an 80 foot mechanical tarantula! As evident by the destruction of a small town, Loveless has a blatant disregard for public property. Dr. Arliss Loveless is hoping to capture President Ulysses S. Grant (Robert Conrad, the ORIGINAL Jim West) and therefore gain the strength to rule this nation...

Throw in a love interest, Rita Escobar (Salma Hayek) and everything is all set. That is, except for one minor conflict. Both Jim West and Artemus Gordon frequently find themselves vying for Rita's affection...

Nevertheless, our dashing heroes must fight for the freedom of humankind. As the sun rises, the adventures continue with our heroes keeping their heads up high. The action rushes by the minute...

The Wild West will never be the same again! Jim West and Artemus Gordon must be prepared for lots of trouble!

WILD WILD WEST is based on the hit TV series of the 1960s. The science-fiction and Western genres merge in this rather odd tale about heroes and the numerous challenges they must face. Star Will Smith teams up with director Barry Sonnenfeld (MEN IN BLACK) once again in this entertaining motion picture. To tell you the truth, I thought that WILD WILD WEST was a great, but not exactly spectacular motion picture. The $80 million plus special FX were flamboyant enough, and the humor was always rife in this movie. I found myself having a rather marvelous time watching this delightful action picture. From the intimate love scene in the beginning of this movie to the invigorating climax, WILD WILD WEST is fun in the West!

WILD WILD WEST succeeds because it keeps the viewer on the edge-of-the-seat. Lots of exhilarating action scenes are worth mentioning. One cool scene involved Jim West inside a room, surrounded by some "susceptible" paintings. In an instant, gunmen appear from the paintings and a brief gun battle ensues. Needless to say, West blasts his way through these six to seven outlaws. West does not even break a sweat! The scenes where Will Smith rides underneath a train are superb as well. The climax is superlatively awesome.

Yes it is true, Will Smith does all of his own stunts. Yes, you do get to see Will Smith cross dressing in this movie. (Believe it or not, it leaves a lot to the imagination!) Will Smith is "as slick as they is."

Though WILD WILD WEST is a palatable flick, there are quite a number of flaws in this movie. First, the acting is something left to be desired for. I especially found myself startled by seeing respected thespian Kenneth Branagh portray a paralyzed psycho. It is unimaginable to see a Shakespearean actor act like a redneck. Kevin Kline would probably be the last actor I'd expect to see in a Western, but hey, his versatility did amaze me. On the other hand, I was dejected at the dearth of Salma Hayek's presence in this movie. This beautiful actress could have had a much stronger role in this movie. As for the proliferating breast jokes, sexist remarks, and redneck riffs, they do degenerate into utter idiocy. Finally, this film also relies more on coincidences rather than coherence. (i.e. Gordon's chance encounter with Rita Escobar, amongst other segments.)

Speaking of Kline, he had some inspired moments. It's extremely funny how Kevin Kline tries to emulate some kung fu moves at times. I was also amused at watching Kline perform in drag!

As much as I was impressed by this production, WILD WILD WEST is entertainment and nothing more. This motion picture does not have an iota of logic or realism. Watch this film solely for your own viewing pleasure. Do not anticipate anything scholarly in this movie. If you are looking for insight, look somewhere else buddy!

Although WILD WILD WEST is not Will Smith's biggest accomplishment, it is a movie that he should be proud of. "The Wild Wild West" music video is also a must-see.

Just keep in mind that, in the words of Ulysses S. Grant, James West loves to "...shoot first, shoot later, shoot some more and then when everybody's dead try to ask a question or two."

RATING: **1/2 out of ****. (Based purely on its entertainment value.)

Hit List
(1989)

A top notch thriller with a lot of verve.
Your standard good guys versus bad guys action flick is given a boost thanks to some fast-paced excitement, sharp camerawork, and a solid cast of character actors. HIT LIST is a fine achievement directed by William Lustig (MANIAC COP 2, UNCLE SAM). It is a vastly under-appreciated movie that did not earn nearly enough respect from both critics and audiences alike. HIT LIST is nonetheless an acclaimed little thriller.

Reputed mob overlord Vic Luca (Rip Torn) is in a ton of trouble. The infamous Luca is being put on trial, indicted for racketeering amongst other federal crimes. However, Luca is confident that he will be found innocent...only if he can tie a few loose ends.

First, Luca must make sure that these two witnesses, Gravenstein (Ken Lerner) and Frank DeSalvo (Leo Rossi) do not live to testify. Luca decides that he needs a right-hand man to finish the job properly so he hires Chris Caleek (Lance Henriksen), a shoe salesman by day...and a professional killer by night.

Caleek manages to permanently silence one of the witnesses...but another one is still alive.

Jack Collins (Jan-Michael Vincent) is an ordinary man with an ordinary job and an ordinary life. His ordinary life is about to take a turn for the worse...

Due to a wrong address, everything begins to be thrown off course. Caleek arrives at Collins's house, expecting to find the witness under federal protection. Instead, he finds Collins's wife, Sandy (Harriet Hall) and everything just falls apart. Caleek attacks the wrong people, kills the wrong bystander, and kidnaps Collins's son...

Jack Collins arrives home moments later only to realize that his wife is beaten and is currently unconscious. His son has also been kidnapped. With minimal help from the FBI agents Tom Mitchum (Charles Napier) and Jared Riley (Jere Burns), Collins finds himself reluctantly teaming up with the informant DeSalvo. They must race against time in order to rescue Collins's child and stop Luca's men...

The B-movie genre is one of my favorite genres. These types of films are always proliferating in the video shelves week after week. For the most part, HIT LIST is an example of a B-movie that delivers the fireworks. This movie includes just about anything and everything possible. From incredible car chases and martial arts sequences to a convoluted plot about the "Mafia," HIT LIST is your ticket to an enjoyable experience. There is enough zest in this film to satiate even the most ardent aficionados of B-movies.

HIT LIST benefits from some noteworthy performances. Many familiar faces in the cast can be recognized such as Jan-Michael Vincent, Rip Torn, Lance Henriksen, Charles Napier, and Leo Rossi. For the most part, these veteran character actors do a tremendous job with proficiency. Thanks to the great cast, HIT LIST is more than an action-thriller; it is also an intense crime drama. Rip Torn is great as a mob boss of pure haughtiness. He even enjoys mentioning quotes from Machiavelli! Lance Henriksen is in top form as a shoe store employee (and a part-time elusive ninja assassin). The vivacious Leo Rossi is excellent as an informant in trouble. His character may be cold-blooded on the outside, but he's intrinsically soft. You will end up rooting for this tough-surfaced hero! Jan-Michael Vincent is also good as an everyday man thrown into the danger zone. Vincent is back in action after having a disappointing cameo in the dismal film, ENEMY TERRITORY. In short, HIT LIST contains some surprisingly efficient performances that give this movie some extra profundity.

Of course, if the acting does not satisfy you, then the action will! The competently staged action alone makes this film worth seeing. The shoot-out inside a "Lazer Tag" center is awesome and the finale will literally take your breath away! It is one of the best action sequences you will ever see. With stylized action scenes and stunts, this movie is turbo-charged for your own satisfaction! Believe me, the action will not disappoint you!

An ironic aspect about this movie is its screenplay, which is tenuous yet strong. Though it has a number of flaws in coherence, the screenplay itself is thoughtful and meaningful. It gives some insights about the father and son relationship. The idea is that a father should always go the distance, especially for the sake of his own son's safety. The screenplay also deals a lot with justice and how it is blinded in a power-driven, money-making society. In addition, this movie wanted to make a statement saying that sometimes, justice will not always be served...

The only complaint that I can mention about this film is its occasional lax spots. Even the best action movies tend to lose their vigor once in a while. HIT LIST is no exception. The worst offender was the first half which was sometimes lackadaisical; but that would be allowable since the film's exhilarating climax compensates for a few plodding spots.

HIT LIST is a part gangster film, part urban thriller, part courtroom drama, and an all out action movie. This well-made thriller never knows when to quit! It is certainly a cool, nicely crafted movie with expert stunt-work, keen performances, and subtle undertones. Great performances + merciless action + relentless violence = a recommended sleeper hit. Make sure to add this film to your "hit list" of movies you plan to see...

RATING: *** out of ****.

Ice Cream Man
(1995)

The films of Ed Wood pale in comparison to this super low-budget cult favorite!
Do you like scary movies? Then you should stay away from this flick. It does not scare you even once. Do you like dark comedies? Well...you will be repulsed by this film's repulsive sense of humor! Do you enjoy ice cream? I guarantee that after you see this film (which I sincerely hope that you do not), you will NOT want to go near ice cream. Now, if you are one of those unlucky souls who must witness this wretched piece of art, then sit down and watch!

When a young boy has witnessed the murder of the `Ice Cream King' in front of his eyes, his mind is forever scarred. Fast forward a few years later, the exact same boy spends his childhood time in a mental institution. When this person is deemed `acceptable' for society, he is released...prematurely! This guy, who goes by the name Gregory Tudor, grows up to be – how appropriate – an ice cream man...

So, boys and girls, here comes the ICE CREAM MAN! The neighborhood ice cream man (Clint Howard, yes he is director Ron Howard's brother) is not so much a crazed lunatic...he is just a little homicidal. `I know where you live!' Proclaims the petulant Ice Cream Man. You better lock your doors...

We are then casually introduced to a group of kids called `The Rocketeers.' These four youngsters include Tuna (JoJo Adams), Johnny Spodak (Justin Isfield), Small Paul (Mikey LeBeau), and Heather (Anndi McAfree). Tuna is a dead ringer for Eric Cartman (if you watch the show `South Park,' then you will know what I am talking about)! Anyway, these four juveniles have just discovered that the Ice Cream Man is murdering naïve victims one by one. What is even worse...well, trust me on this. You do not want to know what ingredients he uses to make his ice scream. If you do, then the Ice Cream Man is recycling the victims' body parts in order to add more `taste' to the new brand of ice cream...

Ice cream has never seemed so repugnant before...

ICE CREAM MAN is an extremely low budget film that only serves as a reminder of how inept these films can be. In my humble opinion, I found the ICE CREAM MAN to be probably one of the most deranged pictures I have ever seen. The acting (except for Clint Howard's performance) is worst than bottom-of-the-barrel, and the production values...do not get me started. ICE CREAM MAN is junk, unpleasant, burdensome junk that is a sickening experience. Still, a wise person has once said that, `One person's junk is another person's treasure.'

Let me be sincere for just a few moments. Granted, ICE CREAM MAN has a few adroit subtleties. One, the frequent references to the `Pied Piper' is unique. Two, I will also admit this: Clint Howard (a reliable, appreciative B-movie actor) is genuinely scary. Last, the special effects are reasonably convincing, considering the infinitesimal budget. The special effects are fairly realistic...from the severed `talking' heads to the eyeball (`Talk about an ‘eye for an eye!') in the ice cream, the filmmakers have tried gravely to disgust the viewer. They have succeeded very well...

During some scenes, I did guffaw sporadically. That `hide the eyeball in the ice cream scoop' prank – mentioned above – is a delight, particularly for demented viewers. The `Tuna' character is hilarious too. Also, take a look at the wicked ensemble! With an all-star cast that includes David Naughton, Olivia Hussey, Sandahl Bergman (one of my favorite actresses), Jan-Michael Vincent (he rocks), David Warner, Lee Majors II, et. al., you would think that this movie has to be at least be decent, right? That is so WRONG!

As you can already tell, I am done lauding this film. Now, I am ready to condemn it like crazy! What makes the ICE CREAM MAN such a bad movie is that it is just pathetic. I know that this movie is supposed to be flippant, but it is neither stylish nor entertaining. This film could at least have some style, but NO, it ends up being a misfire. This is a rather whimsical, disoriented tale of an ice cream man with a few loose ends. ICE CREAM MAN is also slow moving and ponderous. ICE CREAM MAN should at least move in a quick pace so that the viewer stays enthralled. He/she can at least fear the unanticipated scares. If a horror film is suppose to be frightening, then it is suppose to genuinely scare the wits out of you. Instead, this movie is dull! Do you hear me! ICE CREAM MAN is very hackneyed and lethargic...

With the exception of star Clint Howard, the entire cast appears to be stoic. Most of the seasoned character actors and actresses have probably been asking themselves about what the hell they were thinking when they signed up for this project. Their apathetic, uncaring emotions on-screen are probably just a reflection of how much they regretted having uncomfortable roles in this lousy project...

In conclusion, ICE CREAM MAN is one hundred percent inane. Everything in this movie is wrong: the acting, the plot, and the humor. If this movie is suppose to be a parody, then it failed pretty miserably. The laughs are few, but the film nauseates the viewer too much. The lack of satire and social commentary is also noted. On the other hand, if the ICE CREAM MAN wanted to be a powerfully haunting horror movie, then forget it. ICE CREAM MAN may be sick, but it is not slick. This film is appropriately ICED...

What I have just remarked about this movie may not apply to all of you, but remember the doc's useful advice. He believes that every day should be a `happy, happy, happy' (I do not recall how many times he mentions the word `happy.') day!

RATING: NO STARS out of ****.

The Tom Green Show
(1999)

This is my personal critique of the notorious TV show.
"The Tom Green Show" is perverse, insolent, and disgusting...but it is equally compelling.

Imagine the ineptitude of "The Jerry Springer Show," the hilarity of "The Simpsons," and the vulgarity of "South Park," all merging together into one half-hour show. A show where boundaries are crossed, and tastelessness is pushed to new heights. This is one show where nobody is spared from the imposing wrath of one single man! He's rambunctious, he's spontaneous...he's the amazing, one-and-only Tom Green!

"The Tom Green Show", hosted by none other then Tom Green himself has one simple concept: Mr. Green chooses people at random, and cajoles them to throw away their dignity in order to humiliate themselves in front of roaring crowds sitting in the audience seats. These hapless folks, ranging from store clerks to anonymous senior citizens do not realize what sort of embarrassing situations they are getting themselves into! Tom Green's co-host is the rotund but affable Glenn Humplik, an innocent and benign man with a simple life and a fairly mundane job. This man is a saint compared to Tom Green. Humplik is also a part-time employee at a telephone company. Hey, he also likes to look at (GASP!) his sister's mammary glands! Then, there is that guy by the window, who just sits there, laughing incessantly at every joke Tom Green makes...

What is the point of "The Tom Green Show?" Well...I really wish I knew. I cannot attest that this show has a lot of intelligent, insightful meaning, but at least it never fails to make you laugh. There are so many memorable moments in this show that I can hardly contain myself. (How many times have you heard that line before?) Some of the most outrageous segments to look out for include "urine trouble," where Humplik is in serious distress, and "talk to the poo," which is...you've guessed it. Another unforgettable scene was when Tom Green made "home movies" involving both a sheep and a pizza delivery man. Yet, there are other controversial moments which are far too graphic to describe... It is moments like those segments involving scatological humor that make you glad that there are people out there like Tom Green who are entertaining the public. They make an impact in society...

Apparently, this show's success is credited to Tom Green's sick but perceptive sense of humor. He can turn any generic event into a circus. As well, in the face of danger, Tom Green never backs down...he leaps into action! From skateboarding to swimming across Lake Washington, Tom Green is ready, willing, and able. Tom Green continuously keeps his viewers awed and amused. He often concocts the most bold, daring coups ever. His enterprises are always unanticipated, never routine. Sometimes they are uproariously hilarious, other times, you will be shaking your head in tremendous shock. Nevertheless, "The Tom Green Show" is a thoroughly fun and pleasant television show that is worth at least thirty minutes of your life.

Personally, I find "The Tom Green Show" to be downright ribald. It is all in bad taste, but I find this show to be so comprehensively impudent that I cannot help but to snicker loudly. Novelty does count and Tom Green can always find novel ways of transforming seemingly ordinary and harmless circumstances into laugh riots. Tom Green is a disturbed little man. That's what makes him such a legend! As for Glenn Humplik, I feel really sorry for this character. I would be distraught if my best friend began ridiculing me on national TV. However, everyone knows that Humplik is a good sport and should therefore take the teasing blithely.

"The Tom Green Show" is great. It if often freaky and ludicrous, but it is a joyous occasion to see people make idiots of themselves in front of camera. If ever Tom Green has a message to say to the people of the world, then he would probably say that everyone needs to lighten up a bit and have a little fun. It is acceptable to make a travesty of yourself in front of millions of people; that is only human nature. Anyway, this show is guaranteed to make you laugh so hysterically that you will embarrass yourself in front of your loved ones. Just sit back on your comfortable couch, forget your daily troubles, and prepare to laugh out loud.

Watch out, Tom Green may be coming to your neighborhood soon...

Here are some words of wisdom from Tom Green: "My bum is on the Swedish...SWEDISH...Swedish...SWEDISH"

SPECIAL NOTE: If you ever plan to swim in Lake Washington, remember what Tom Green has said. Since the human body is "composed" of 80% water, then only 20% of the human being should have to swim. The remaining 80% of the body must "mix in" with the water. Okay? Good. This is Tom Green's theoretical theory!

P.S. Do not forget to check out Tom Green's new music number, "The Bum Bum Song ('Lonely Swedish')." It will definitely change your perspective about the human rear end!

RATING: Superb Entertainment! (These comments are based on the overall impression of the TV show. Television shows will not earn a star rating. This is because each episode will vary in its quality.)

Hit List
(1989)

A top notch thriller with a lot of verve.
Your standard good guys versus bad guys action flick is given a boost thanks to some fast-paced excitement, sharp camerawork, and a solid cast of character actors. HIT LIST is a fine achievement directed by William Lustig (MANIAC COP 2, UNCLE SAM). It is a vastly under-appreciated movie that did not earn nearly enough respect from both critics and audiences alike. HIT LIST is nonetheless an acclaimed little thriller.

Reputed mob overlord Vic Luca (Rip Torn) is in a ton of trouble. The infamous Luca is being put on trial, indicted for racketeering amongst other federal crimes. However, Luca is confident that he will be found innocent...only if he can tie a few loose ends.

First, Luca must make sure that these two witnesses, Gravenstein (Ken Lerner) and Frank DeSalvo (Leo Rossi) do not live to testify. Luca decides that he needs a right-hand man to finish the job properly so he hires Chris Caleek (Lance Henriksen), a shoe salesman by day...and a professional killer by night.

Caleek manages to permanently silence one of the witnesses...but another one is still alive.

Jack Collins (Jan-Michael Vincent) is an ordinary man with an ordinary job and an ordinary life. His ordinary life is about to take a turn for the worse...

Due to a wrong address, everything begins to be thrown off course. Caleek arrives at Collins's house, expecting to find the witness under federal protection. Instead, he finds Collins's wife, Sandy (Harriet Hall) and everything just falls apart. Caleek attacks the wrong people, kills the wrong bystander, and kidnaps Collins's son...

Jack Collins arrives home moments later only to realize that his wife is beaten and is currently unconscious. His son has also been kidnapped. With minimal help from the FBI agents Tom Mitchum (Charles Napier) and Jared Riley (Jere Burns), Collins finds himself reluctantly teaming up with the informant DeSalvo. They must race against time in order to rescue Collins's child and stop Luca's men...

The B-movie genre is one of my favorite genres. These types of films are always proliferating in the video shelves week after week. For the most part, HIT LIST is an example of a B-movie that delivers the fireworks. This movie includes just about anything and everything possible. From incredible car chases and martial arts sequences to a convoluted plot about the "Mafia," HIT LIST is your ticket to an enjoyable experience. There is enough zest in this film to satiate even the most ardent aficionados of B-movies.

HIT LIST benefits from some noteworthy performances. Many familiar faces in the cast can be recognized such as Jan-Michael Vincent, Rip Torn, Lance Henriksen, Charles Napier, and Leo Rossi. For the most part, these veteran character actors do a tremendous job with proficiency. Thanks to the great cast, HIT LIST is more than an action-thriller; it is also an intense crime drama. Rip Torn is great as a mob boss of pure haughtiness. He even enjoys mentioning quotes from Machiavelli! Lance Henriksen is in top form as a shoe store employee (and a part-time elusive ninja assassin). The vivacious Leo Rossi is excellent as an informant in trouble. His character may be cold-blooded on the outside, but he's intrinsically soft. You will end up rooting for this tough-surfaced hero! Jan-Michael Vincent is also good as an everyday man thrown into the danger zone. Vincent is back in action after having a disappointing cameo in the dismal film, ENEMY TERRITORY. In short, HIT LIST contains some surprisingly efficient performances that give this movie some extra profundity.

Of course, if the acting does not satisfy you, then the action will! The competently staged action alone makes this film worth seeing. The shoot-out inside a "Lazer Tag" center is awesome and the finale will literally take your breath away! It is one of the best action sequences you will ever see. With stylized action scenes and stunts, this movie is turbo-charged for your own satisfaction! Believe me, the action will not disappoint you!

An ironic aspect about this movie is its screenplay, which is tenuous yet strong. Though it has a number of flaws in coherence, the screenplay itself is thoughtful and meaningful. It gives some insights about the father and son relationship. The idea is that a father should always go the distance, especially for the sake of his own son's safety. The screenplay also deals a lot with justice and how it is blinded in a power-driven, money-making society. In addition, this movie wanted to make a statement saying that sometimes, justice will not always be served...

The only complaint that I can mention about this film is its occasional lax spots. Even the best action movies tend to lose their vigor once in a while. HIT LIST is no exception. The worst offender was the first half which was sometimes lackadaisical; but that would be allowable since the film's exhilarating climax compensates for a few plodding spots.

HIT LIST is a part gangster film, part urban thriller, part courtroom drama, and an all out action movie. This well-made thriller never knows when to quit! It is certainly a cool, nicely crafted movie with expert stunt-work, keen performances, and subtle undertones. Great performances + merciless action + relentless violence = a recommended sleeper hit. Make sure to add this film to your "hit list" of movies you plan to see...

RATING: *** out of ****.

Day of the Dead
(1985)

Substandard effort from George Romero still has some ingenious strengths.
I first saw this film when I was a high school frosh a couple of years ago (back in good old 1996). To this day, the images of rotting, undead cadavers mutilating their human cattle still torment my mind...

DAY OF THE DEAD probably has to be the most repulsive, nauseating, and just plain disgusting graphic horror film I have ever seen! Even if this holds true, George A. Romero's really, really gruesome masterpiece, DAY OF THE DEAD is, at best, mediocre.

The story is in a post apocalypse, where some of the "last" surviving members of the human race rush to find other lonesome survivors. For some reason, the zombies rule the Earth, and for some reason, these zombies forgot to set themselves up a hierarchy! The beleaguered human remnants consist of Sarah (Lori Cardille), a strong and intelligent scientist, and John (Terry Alexander), a pilot who just wants to get the hell out of the `shelters' that they have stuck themselves in. These people are the sane ones! Now...meet the insane survivors! There is Dr. Logan (Richard Liberty), a mentally insane scientist, and Captain Rhodes (Joe Pilato) as the even loonier and more belligerent marine.

The scientists and military men quarrel for over one hour of this film, (as confirmed by Mr. Leonard Maltin himself) trying to fix their predicament. On one hand, the scientists hope to find a cure to "heal" the living dead. On the other hand, the marines want to make mincemeat out of these primitive zombies...

DAY OF THE DEAD is absolutely slow moving, lacking the energy of DAWN OF THE DEAD and the suspense of NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD. Sure, there is a plethora of gross out moments, such as surgery, cannibalism, and lots of disembowelments, but DAY OF THE DEAD is unremittingly boring and it even produces ennui within the audiences. You cannot blame George A. Romero; he did his best with both a constrained budget and an abridged script. I am sure that even he had higher expectations of this film.

Still, despite the fact that DAY OF THE DEAD is a weak follow up to DAWN OF THE DEAD, DAY OF THE DEAD has plenty of fine moments which earn this movie its few merits. The premise about the last (and lost) survivors being victimized by their own fears and paranoia is of interest. It produces a hypnotic effect as well. The claustrophobic atmosphere in DAY OF THE DEAD works remarkably well also. In this sequel, Romero wanted to illustrate a chilling, fearful vision of an apocalyptic world ruled by zombies. As shown in DAY OF THE DEAD, this perspective is a disturbing description of what the future may look like where zombies rule the surface and the surviving humans themselves may begin retrogressing into a barbaric-like state...

Another attribute in DAY OF THE DEAD is the acting. The performances in this movie are for the most part, very good. Although the actors do have a ridiculous tendency to overact at times, the majority of the cast does a great job delineating honest characters. For once, it is a revelation how the peremptory Rhodes tries to take control of the situation...with the threat of violence. Sometimes, he holds his own cohorts at gunpoint...just so he can make message clear. Talk about the use of brute force! Also, the relationship between Dr. Logan and his "prized" zombie "Bub" (magnificently portrayed by Howard Sherman) is particularly interesting and even humorous. Out of the over thirty specimens Dr. Logan keeps as `scientific experiments,' he thinks of Bub as his most promising test subject. It is also quite compelling to watch Bub remember some of his human characteristics. Bub unusually shows signs of human memory.

Furthermore, DAY OF THE DEAD shows the consequences of what would happen if people would rather fight and argue with each other than work together. As implausible as it may seem, mankind may someday succumb to his own fallacies. If people refuse to cooperate with each other, then they might as well sign their own individual death warrants!

By the end of DAY OF THE DEAD is a particularly gut-wrenching, stomach churning, skin-ripping moment. The finale is needlessly disgusting. (POTENTIAL SPOILER!) Thanks to Tom Savini's gory special FX, the viewers are treated to an indelible moment where zombies literally rip a marine apart...limb by limb. Yes, these scenes of human dismemberment are quite sickening.

DAY OF THE DEAD has shown a lot of promise but unfortunately, it has not lived up to many of the fans' expectations. In addition to being a very talkative film with plot holes galore, this movie contains an ending that lacks coherence...and sense. The cop-out ending especially defied all comprehension, though Romero probably wanted it to be ambiguous. I was left scratching my head as to wonder when did this event take place and why. (I will not tell you the ending, see it for yourself.)

Unfortunately, the flaws in this film outweigh the assets. DAY OF THE DEAD is a daring movie with more than a nuance of nobility, but a rather slack pace and irrelevant plot elements happen to maul a wonderful concept. The idea is great; on the other hand, the story-line needs to add a hint of logic. DAY OF THE DEAD earns an `A' for effort. The product though will not be rated as leniently. Let's just say that DAWN OF THE DEAD is much better...

RATING: ** out of ****.

Virus
(1999)

Standard horror show has no imaginative twists.
VIRUS is a fairly tepid science-fiction thriller. Though the robotic, humanoid aliens look quite good, this film itself is hazardously prosaic. This film is written strictly by-the-book and the performers themselves look like they were coerced to sign up for this project. Granted, this movie does contain some nice visual effects, but as a whole, it does not have a single creative nuance in plot, characterization, or imagination.

On the American tugboat, the Sea Star, Kit Foster (Jamie Lee Curtis), Steve Baker (William Baldwin), and Captain Robert Everton (Donald Sutherland), along with several other crew members are lost at sea. While trying to sail through against raging storms and aggressive tidal waves, the crew has unfortunately lost the required cargo. Now, these people are about to lose hope. Until... ...the crew members of the Sea Star spot the Academic Vladislav Volkov, a vessel lying alone in the sea...floating still in apparent tranquility... This abandoned ship is floating in the middle of the ocean...with no signs of survivors aboard.

Despite the permeating silence throughout the vessel, the Sea Star crew refuses to give up. They climb aboard the vessel hoping to find any insinuating signs of life. These people learn only too soon that they are not alone on this Volkov ship...

An unknown alien presence has traveled in the shape of an amorphous cosmic beam into a Russian Space Station. It has then traveled down into Mother Earth and downloaded itself into the mainframe computer inside the Volkov ship. Unbeknownst to the Sea Star crew, the alien has taken over the entire ship and now...it is hiding somewhere in this very vessel. It is awakening...it is aware...and it is spreading. Worst of all, it is planning on invading this homeland. This alien is multiplying in numbers...

Before these aliens can make Planet Earth their new homeland, they must first eradicate a virus...known as mankind! These aliens feed on the life force of various human beings...and they have found their bait.

The technologically enhanced beings have the instincts of bloodhounds. They are predators: ruthless, cunning, and unstoppable. These alien beings always utilize human body parts to the max, integrating them into machinery...and that will only increase the size of their army.

The Sea Star crew must fight against a violent new species. It's the ultimate battle between the human race and the distinct mutants. One will triumph...the other will seize to exist. Extinction is imminent for one of these kinds.

`If you have seen one, you have seen it all.' That pretty much sums up my impression of the motion picture, VIRUS. VIRUS is an ersatz, play-by-play version of the far superior ALIENS (1986). Let's see...we have the malevolent aliens planning to take over the world and only a handful of survivors can stop them. The humans quarrel with each other while the aliens attack them piecemeal. Sound familiar? I thought so...

VIRUS is a rehash of sci-fi classics. The story is the same as any other science-fiction drivel; even the heroes and villains (crooked Captain, et. al.) are identical counterparts to the early fictitious characters of sci-fi motion pictures. With the exception of Jamie Lee Curtis and Joanna Pacula, the rest of the cast seems to be either overzealous or simply bored. Donald Sutherland does not seem to be having a good time. He is quite idle in this movie. The usually talented Donald Sutherland delivers a stale performance as a greedy captain. This character is one rigid misanthrope! William Baldwin is uneven as a crew member who constantly gets into altercations with the captain.

In spite of the unpolished acting, there are still a couple of redeeming qualities. Marshall Bell (TOTAL RECALL, STARSHIP TROOPERS) has a great supporting role as possibly the oddest member of the Sea Star crew. The female leads are also spectacular. Jamie Lee Curtis is appealing as the heroic lead. Joanna Pacula (who was actually much better in the low budget film, THE HAUNTED SEA) adds a spark of interest as Nadia Vinogradiya, a sole survivor who may or may not know the answers to this whole predicament...

The special FX in VIRUS are considerably good at times. The humanoids especially, highly resemble a grotesque version of the Borg from `Star Trek.' The miniature robotic aliens are shaped in menacing forms but the humanoids look the best. The Golem creature itself, one of the main features in this movie, is seemingly indestructible with impenetrable body armor and a wicked attitude! In short, the visuals in this movie are not too impressive, but they are well-made.

VIRUS is an ALIENS clone, but done without nobility or vividness. This film does not really move quick enough. Hey, it does not even have a decent sense of humor! VIRUS is a seriously flawed sci-fi film that does not have a very high entertainment value...

However, in spite of all the diatribes I have given this movie, VIRUS is not atrocious. It is hardly bearable, but for some reason, I managed to watch the entire movie in one try. The formula is tripe, yet, the action is fairly executed. The first half needed more energy. The second half though, is more suspenseful and engaging. If you are willing to let go of your austere expectations of a sci-fi film, then you will find yourself having a short but sweet pleasurable time. Only the undemanding viewer will have some fun watching this movie. The more experienced movie devotee will not be enjoying this movie half as much.

I really wish that I could garner up more enthusiasm for this movie, but the material is too simplistic and wearied. This VIRUS is in need of a cure.

RATING: ** out of ****.

L.A. Heat
(1989)

This film is the apex of Lawrence Hilton-Jacobs's transient movie career!
I'm sure all of you remember Lawrence Hilton-Jacobs, right? Yes, he was the man who made a name for himself starring as Freddie "Boom Boom" Washington in the TV hit sitcom, "Welcome Back, Kotter" back in the 1970s. Recently, LHJ has just attempted to make a name for himself in the B-movie market as evident in such works as L.A. VICE (1989), QUIETFIRE (1991, his best film to date), and the original L.A. HEAT...

In the city of Los Angeles, California, no one is to be trusted. No one really knows who are the true good guys and bad guys. Detective Jon Chance (Lawrence Hilton-Jacobs) on the other hand, always dreamt of being a cowboy hero, living by the "code of the West." He always pictured himself as an exemplary hero who always felt that the use of guns was not a necessity. However, Chance needs to stop dreaming. He must return back to reality!

Chance's assignment (and he has no choice but to accept it) is to capture this mean faced drug dealer called Clarence (Kevin Benton). This assignment has escalated into a personal vendetta for this vice detective when Chance's partner, Carl (Vince Inneo) is murdered by this nefarious drug dealer during a routine drug bust. The predicament gets even worse when, during a second undercover stakeout, several more cops are fatally shot. A drug war ensues between Clarence, who is trying to retrieve his drugs and money, and the police, who are out to avenge the loss of their men...

An authoritative police Captain (Jim Brown) enters the scene, disappointed at the lack of results Chance is able to materialize. Jon Chance is down-on-his-luck. The Captain gives Chance 72 more hours to apprehend Clarence or else...it's his badge and dignity that are on the line...

To complicate the situation even more, Chance must deal with a small-time drug dealer named Spyder (Myles Thoroughgood). Spyder requests to Chance that he must exterminate a pitiless mob boss named Sylvio (Robert Gallo). In exchange for this favor, Spyder may or may not be able to help Chance find Clarence. Chance is obsessed with arresting Clarence, but in these modern times, every step could be his last. He must remember not to make any rash moves. Meanwhile, Chance also learns that the boys with badges may be the ones behind this conspiracy...

Chance declares a one-man war against corruption in the streets...and in the police department.

L.A. HEAT is possibly the first PM Entertainment movie to include "name" actors such as Lawrence Hilton-Jacobs and Jim Brown. This movie also makes use of the seedy locations of Los Angeles. Quite frankly though, this low budget thriller has many problems. This movie starts off extremely well, but for reasons unknown, this movie starts meandering a bit too much. For one, the characters spend too much time just standing around and being idle. They also enjoy arguing and grousing towards each other too. While some of the dialogue is needed to advance the movie's plot, much of the inane one-liners and irrelevant conversations could be deleted just for the sake of picking up this movie's arduously slow pace.

Though this movie moves at a gratuitously sluggish pace, what L.A. HEAT lacks in energy, it compensates that fault with a raw sense of humor. Some of the welcome dialogue is intentionally funny, especially in the beginning when Chance converses with his partner. It's also funny to hear these people, both cops and criminals, curse at each other's throats.

Believe it or not, the script does allow for character development. The dream sequence in the beginning is effective, providing an insight about Chance's character. Kevin Benton's high-spirited performance as a lady-loving drug dealer with an animadversion towards cops gives this film some texture. Pat Johnson contributes adequate work as Chance's love interest and Myles Thoroughgood is good as a deceptive delinquent.

It's hard to believe that this movie was directed by the legendary Joseph Merhi, the same guy who hailed masterful pieces of art such as RAGE (1995), and LAST MAN STANDING (1996). L.A. HEAT is enjoyable, considering the lack of action, but it's low budget places this film at a major disadvantage. This film needs more action. Otherwise, it would have been much more acceptable as a superficial time-killer. Then again...could the PM guys just please get rid of that annoying high-pitched voice which sang that disruptive theme song!

Think you can handle the heat...the L.A. HEAT? Well, L.A. HEAT is worth watching only once. Then stash this film away where you will never again be reminded of the burden and boredom you have suffered through watching this movie. This movie is exploitative junk aimed for the crowd who likes these type of films. This movie though is a well-meaning effort from Joseph Merhi, but it is just too mundane for my tastes. It is followed by a not-so-needed sequel, L.A. VICE (which had better action, but weaker performances). This sequel was made within a year. Go figure.

Now, back to Lawrence Hilton-Jacobs. Will LHJ become a household name after starring in a few B-movies? Probably not, but he will be back. (As a matter of fact, LHJ fans, this actor is lucky enough to have appeared in Mya's recent video, "My First Night With You." Believe your eyes when you see LHJ featured there as Mya's father.)

RATING: ** out of **** (For effort.)

Deep Blue Sea
(1999)

It's JAWS meets THE DEEP in a modernized WATERWORLD facility.
DEEP BLUE SEA does not feature an iota of originality in its whole structure. The premise is arranged in a by-the-numbers pattern and the dialogue is strictly juvenile. What this film does have is enthusiasm, pace, and lots of frightening surprises. This film is a direct rip-off of JAWS from the story conception right up to the climax. However, it boasts a few unexpected twists and turns. In general, this movie somehow works as a horror and science-fiction combination...

At an underwater research laboratory, Dr. Susan McAlester (Saffron Burrows) is conducting experiments, using people-eating sharks as guinea pigs in an attempt to find a "cure" for Alzheimer's Disease. What Dr. McAlester has done to one of nature's most feared creatures is unbelievable...

Corporate big-shot Russell Franklin (Samuel L. Jackson) has arrived at the underwater lab in order to check out McAlester's progress with the experiment. What Franklin has elucidated from this entire project is that McAlester and her colleagues have been fooling around with Mother Nature. As a result, the sharks which have been subjected to various lab tests have become more brilliant. Their brain masses have increased. The sides effects though are quite hazardous. The sharks may have become smarter...but they are meaner too!

Once these sharks have gained more intelligence, no longer do these sharks rely purely on instinct. They have become keen predators, and they know what they are after...

Only a shark wrangler, Carter Blake (Thomas Jane) and a preacher with attitude (LL Cool J) can help McAlester, Franklin, and everyone else inside the laboratory fight off these naturally born killing machines. Blake's courageous attitude compensates for a lack of brains. The preacher's wiseacre personality may also be handy. Not only do these people have to deal with one killer shark...they have to encounter a trio! The humans must escape from the madness of the killer sharks...

Consequently, the trio of sharks have one thought in mind: freedom to escape from the confinements of mankind (and hopefully munch on some human beings along the way)... Who will live? Who will bite the dust?

DEEP BLUE SEA has the same concept, same script, and the same action as any other movie involving a "Shark Attack!" However, DEEP BLUE SEA features all new special FX. Even if the sharks do look like phantom menaces, these creatures move as fast as cruise missiles. These very intelligent sharks move furtively through the sea without a moment's hesitation. They would barely give anyone any chance to escape and they have found ways which may guarantee these human survivors an imminent sign of doom. You will end up rooting...for the hyper-intelligent sharks!

The cast works well together though none of the performers are exceptional. LL Cool J delivers the best performance as a tough cook and preacher who must at one time, single-handedly fight one of the killer sharks. Saffron Burrows and Thomas Jane are both charismatic but they are not show-stealers. (That honor goes to the sharks!) Samuel L. Jackson's role is all too similar to what is expected of an assertive corporation representative. All of these heroes are merely cardboard characters compared to the swiftly moving sharks. In general, the acting seldom rises above familiarity. Still, it is a ton of fun to guess which personality will be devoured upon as the sharks' next victim...

DEEP BLUE SEA is visually strong. The production design is rather good and the cinematography is outstanding. The underwater photography is well handled too. Director Renny Harlin (THE LONG KISS GOODNIGHT) keeps this film tightly moving at a steady pace and the film only occasionally slows down.

DEEP BLUE SEA is decent and watchable, but not really remarkable. Again, the plot is bombarded with clichés and the formula is all too pedestrian. This movie constantly treads in familiar territory. The characters are not at all interesting either. The sharks, on the other hand, are cool, and that is very scary when you start cheering on the sharks! The action is sometimes easily foreseen but never let your guard down!

This movie takes on a definite silly spirit that makes this film perfectly fine for the movie-going crowds who are ready to laugh and gag at the same time. If you do not mind the movie's innate goofy essence, then you will find yourself having a fun time at the movies. DEEP BLUE SEA is better than the countless sequels to JAWS, that's for sure.

Watch while one of the main characters makes an awe-inspiring speech. Let's just say it blew everybody away...

RATING: **1/2 out of ****.

Land of the Free
(1998)

I promise that I will review another movie from the PM Entertainment Group Incorporated!
Keep in mind that just because the PM Entertainment Group made this film, it does not guarantee that this will be a high quality action picture. LAND OF THE FREE is overflowing with car crashes, explosions, shootings, paranoia, and more paranoia. On the other hand, this film lacks an intelligent script, redeeming social values, energy, and efficacy. It also does not have a shred of ingenuity either! This is one of the Pepin-Merhi duo's lamest films in years...

Imagine this: William "Captain Kirk" Shatner stars as Aidan Carvell, a militia-based terrorist who wants to be a politician representing America! He has even written a book titled "Land of the Free." Carvell has won the hearts and votes of the people across California. He has made his own proposal known as the "Free America." Little do these denizens of California realize that they are supporting a politician who is working in cahoots with the militia. Carvell has his own inner ambitions...

Aidan Carvell may be connected to a surreptitious militia organization called the "Northern Militia." Once the haughty Carvell wins the Senatorial election, he can help these guys organize a plan to take over the United States!

Martial arts expert Jeff Speakman is Frank Jennings, Mr. Aidan Carvell's campaign manager. Jennings has recently uncovered quite a ton of dirty dealings made by Mr. Carvell himself. What Jennings has discovered can jeopardize his entire family's lives.

Desperate, Jennings forces his family to enter the Witness Protection Agency for the sake of their own safety. There are only a few minor problems... One, Jennings and his family are still in the city! Two, everyone else seems to know the Jennings' aliases. Third, there is no one that they can trust! Last (and certainly the worst possible outcome), Carvell's men are hunting the Jennings down like helpless prey...

If you like watching total carnage in the name of justice, then maybe you will give LAND OF THE FREE a try. LAND OF THE FREE has plenty of mayhem as we watch cars skyrocket, and then crash and burn. LAND OF THE FREE has the opportunity to be a solid, well-written political thriller with intense action. However, torpid direction, listless performances, a lackluster script, and repetitive action sequences maul what could have been at least an interesting film.

Granted, this movie does deliver the works. There must be at least half a dozen car crashes in this movie...maybe more. The best highlight has to be a joyride on a speeding bus! I am usually always ecstatic to see car chases and the ensuing destruction. This time though, it's as if the batteries ran out of juice. These action scenes all could have been very exciting...but they are not briskly paced. The way these action sequences are directed in this movie just seem too awkward with little confident orchestration. We have also seen the same redundant car wrecks in other previous works by the PM folks. They have done so much better.

In addition, the plot holes in this movie proliferate more than the number of cars demolished. I mean, what's up with the botched assassination attempt?! Why murder an FBI agent who is barely introduced into the story? Do motorists purposely crash their own vehicles? As for these bad guys, how come when they are firing their weapons, they can never hit their target? These bad guys can shoot anything, but they cannot put a single bullet into the protagonist! With problems like these, not even the great William Shatner can save this movie from being sealed by its own fate...

Speaking of William Shatner, I was surprised that Captain Kirk has contributed more than just a small cameo. He actually appears in the WHOLE (well, most of the) movie. Shatner is the only character who actually breathes life into this lifeless project. His portrayal of a dishonest politician is sometimes absurd, but mostly amusing. One question that I have continuously pondered about is what made William Shatner want to sign up for this piece of drivel anyway(?)

LAND OF THE FREE is just a disaster waiting to happen. Besides the lackluster action and the wooden performances, this movie also suffers from a lack of cleverness. There are no surprises here, we already know who are the true despicable villains. The action scenes are dull and predictable. The musical score is constantly dreary and horribly bothersome. The cinematography is pathetic. The people behind and in front of the camera fail to handle the limited material given to them. They just could not make the best of what they have. LAND OF THE FREE is without a doubt, one of the poorest entries from the prolific PM duo. Events that do not coherently connect together plus inadequately directed action sink this whole production.

Maybe this movie is worth a laugh or too. Shatner's performance deserves a few chuckles and you will laugh often at how Speakman does not seem to take the menacing perils very seriously. This is better particularly when one is intoxicated. This way, the person will not realize what kind of agony he/she is subjecting him/herself into...

RATING: NO STARS out of ****.

The Deep
(1977)

Deplorable sea adventure is neither thrilling nor titillating.
Another big screen adaptation translated from the author of JAWS, Peter Benchley. To put it nicely though, THE DEEP is very lethargic and somnolent. The characters have one-tracked minds, and the almost incomprehensible story-line is nearly impossible to understand and follow. On the plus side though, we do get to see Jacqueline Bisset in a wet T-shirt(!), and the underwater scenery can be exotic at times...though it eventually does become redundant and repetitive...

Well, okay, this movie is kind of titillating in the beginning, especially with the appearance of Bisset in that lovely wet T-shirt. However, the rest of this movie is undeniably soporific...

THE DEEP tells the water drowned adventures of lovers David (Nick Nolte) and Gail (Jacqueline Bisset) who are seeking out buried treasure in the depths of the oceans. However, instead of finding the fabled goal, the two have managed to uncover tons of hidden loot. David and Gail have just discovered under the remnants of the ship "Goliath" that there are plenty of contraband drugs, morphine, and other unwanted goods that should have remained veiled. This, my friend, has evoked the anger of both a group of Haitian Voodoo men and criminal drug smugglers. The ringleader of the operation is a bald-headed Louis Gossett Jr. Their sinister, exploitative products have been exposed...and they will do anything to get them back....even if it resolves to desperate measures such as capture, torture, and murder...

Along the way, the late Robert Shaw (JAWS) joins in on the thrills as a (partially mad) scientist who may help the island-stranded couple know the truth about the items contained in the ship. However, Shaw is ambitious, and he wants in on the money as well. His search for goal may imperil the couple's lives...

THE DEEP is a boring, trite, and unsatisfactory film. This movie was a consequential misfire. The sultry and alluring appearance of Miss Jacqueline Bisset is a visual asset, but that can not redeem this mockery of a movie. The direction is misplaced, action occurs once in a millennium, and the incoherence transforms this potentially interesting film into a mess that goes nowhere. A positive aspect of this film though, is some of the underwater photography. It adds some visual spice to this movie, and the eye-witnessing of some beautiful sea creatures makes THE DEEP an occasionally striking film. In particular, some of the suspense is not bad too. The scene where Nolte under the seas must escape from a motley of killer, man-eating sharks is pretty decent.

However, the movie spirals into repugnant mediocrity halfway through and no longer do most people even attempt to sustain any motivation for this film or its characters... THE DEEP had good visions and plenty of thoughtful intentions, but the film simply fails to live up to both the author's and the audience's lively expectations. THE DEEP is in DEEP trouble. Stick with Benchley's other movie adaptation from his novel JAWS (1975), instead.

RATING: *1/2 out of ****.

U.S. Marshals
(1998)

A well-mounted, tension-filled action thriller.
U.S. MARSHALS is a `spin-off' of THE FUGITIVE that works very marvelously. This film is an efficient package full of action, knockout thrills, and suspense driven entertainment. The cast works well together and newcomer Stuart Baird (whose only previous directing experience was EXECUTIVE DECISION) has managed to cleverly direct several action scenes. U.S. MARSHALS is a smashing success that has earned its recognition as a creditable action film.

Mark Sheridan (Wesley Snipes) is an ordinary man *framed* for a ghastly crime he did not commit. Sheridan consistently proclaims his innocence but after surviving (and escaping) a nearly fatal plane crash, he finds himself another fugitive on the loose...

It is up to U.S. Marshal Sam Gerard (Tommy Lee Jones, reprising his Oscar winning role) to track down this elusive fugitive and of course, capture him. This task will not be easy...

Gerard has learned that the man he is after is wanted for the murder of two federal agents. Gerard has his hands full trying to pursue this rather stealthy fugitive. Just when Gerard has enough problems to deal with already, an ally he considers a neophyte, Special Agent John Royce (Robert Downey Jr.) has been obligated to assist Gerard and his U.S. Marshals...

From the hidden swamps to the populated city, Gerard and his team are on a cat-and-mouse hunt after Mark Sheridan...

U.S. MARSHALS works primarily for two reasons. First, the performances are believable and second, the action sequences are fiercely choreographed with expertise and grace. Character development is well planned out also. Tommy Lee Jones is terrific as the cynical U.S. Marshal Gerard who always gets cranky when he is not having any fun. Gerard knows who he is after and he is always determined to nail his suspect under any circumstances. Though Jones does not deliver an Oscar-caliber performance this time, he knows the character of Sam Gerard only too well. Robert Downey Jr. is surprisingly confident as a special agent who has his own agenda. Wesley Snipes is remarkably good too as the main character who is dedicated to clearing his own name. Snipes's character is not nearly as sympathetic as Dr. Richard Kimball (Harrison Ford), but he is a cool, intelligent guy nonetheless. It's good that this hero relies on his judgment more than his emotions. Even if Snipes may not win as much applause from the audience as Harrison Ford originally did, this character is still respectable.

The reason for this gap in the audiences' sympathy between the two fugitives is that Kimball has tragically lost a loved one. He faces the horror of losing his wife to a serial killer. In this way, audiences can commiserate with the suffering Kimball has gone through while trying to elude from the law. On the other hand, Roberts is wanted for the murder of two guys whom the audiences hardly get to meet. The audiences may root for the hero, but they could personally care less about the victims who were allegedly murdered in `cold blood' by Roberts. Neither the main character Roberts nor the audiences can feel much substantial pain for the loss of these two agents...

U.S. MARSHALS is ferocious entertainment. The action sequences are great and riveting. From the spectacular plane crash insinuating Roberts's escape to a character's daring leap (while holding on to a dangling cord) onto the top of a moving train, U.S. MARSHALS is extremely enjoyable.

Like any other decent thriller, U.S. MARSHALS still has a few shortcomings. The plot is too convoluted for its own good. Halfway through the movie, audiences may begin to be perplexed as more unnecessary characters are implicated into this case. This film could also afford to lose its contrived sub-plot about U.S. and foreign relations and not lose too much of its punch. Also, Snipes does not have as much appeal as the original fugitive, but both characters are nevertheless winningly laudable.

As far as chase thrillers are concerned, U.S. MARSHALS ranks above the rest. It is almost up to par with THE FUGITIVE. U.S. MARSHALS is a fine sequel; it is reasonably fast paced and always nail biting. It is an aggressive, skillfully made thriller with a capable cast, noteworthy action, and a complex series of events. Enjoy!

RATING: *** out of ****.

Payback
(1999)

Dangerously over the edge entertainment?
I really wished that I could enjoy PAYBACK even more. While this film wants to be tough and lively, PAYBACK does not contain the competence to be considered a class thriller. The well-meaning cast tries earnestly and several of the performers portray their characters with aplomb, but a weak script and sodden pacing spoiled what could otherwise be a splendid film.

Porter (Mel Gibson) is not your average nice guy. In fact, he is a cold-blooded soul who does not put up with anybody. He has a proclivity towards beating up his rivals without thinking twice. Mister Porter is a career murderer who has made a number of "hits." As a hitman though, he is ticked off at this very moment...

After embezzling $140,000 from a local street gang, Porter and his partner, Val (Gregg Henry, in a wonderfully sneaky role) are in the money. Just when Porter is about to be financially secured, he then finds himself shot and left to die by his villainous double-crossing partner. What chicanery! Val furtively escapes trouble...but when Porter wants his 70 grand share back, he will gain his money back! Recovering from his bullet wounds, Porter has barely any time to recuperate. Instead, he must give his regards to Val.

A bad attitude, a bad reputation... What else does he have to lose? Well, Porter is out to make the ultimate "payback."

PAYBACK is not the type of movie that people would expect Mel Gibson to star in. Porter is also not the typical Mel Gibson role that the audiences have come to expect. With that said, Mel Gibson did a bang-up job starring as the bad guy. Gibson seems to have the time of his life as an antagonistic hero. He shoots first, and makes deals later. Trust me, you do not want to cross paths with this culprit! One fact is for sure: You will be rooting for the bad guy! Even if he breaks all of the rules...

Some of the other actors and actresses were great too. Lucy Alexis Liu gives a killer performance as a pretty sadist who delivers "pain for pleasure." You also have to adore her outfit of pure S & M style! Gregg Henry is deviously wily as the cheating ex-friend turned worst enemy. The roster of odd characters also add spice to this movie. There are a pair of crooked cops (Bill Duke and Jack Conley), a nervous drug-dealer (David Paymer), and a street-wise friend of Porter's, Rosie (Maria Bello).

Even though several of the performances were grimly on the money, sadly, I cannot say the same praises for actors Kris Kristofferson and James Coburn. Their considerable talents are rendered pointless in their nominal roles as a millionaire and a syndicate boss, respectively.

PAYBACK has more drama than the typical shoot 'em up. One interesting point about this movie is that it avoids the cliché ambivalence of a professional hitman and his self-consciousness. Instead, this movie chooses to focus on a character who wants revenge just for two reasons: the money, and to keep face.

PAYBACK features lots of snappy one-liners, sassy characters, and a couple of nifty explosions. Yet...it manages to still be kind of boring. While PAYBACK is a nice change of pace for this actor, Mel Gibson, the film itself is not at all memorable. PAYBACK wants to be dangerously entertaining, but it is more dangerously dull. It is unfortunate that a slack pace can discourage viewers from maintaining interest in this movie. PAYBACK is also not as sleek as the movie aspires to be. This film also aspires to be a "film noir" type thriller, but it is neither provocative nor atmospheric. To add insult to injury, he action scenes were simply too phlegmatic. The screenplay itself, though rife with scathing dark humor, never takes the time to fully develop its characters' personalities into entities that are even remotely captivating (save a few characters).

This picture is also unrelentingly mean and dreadful at times. PAYBACK is an immensely grim and dark movie, but it is not executed with a lot of flair. It seems that everywhere throughout this movie, the darkest colors always have to predominate the backgrounds! This film's prevalent gloominess is meant to give it mood, but instead of surrealism, we have tedium. This movie is just so depressingly dark!

In short, PAYBACK tries to be stylish and gritty, but there is not nearly enough insight and mood to keep this film intriguing. It is not remarkably good I must warn you, but it is not atrociously bad either. This film is made endurable thanks to Gibson's performance of pure callousness. Mediocre at best, let's just say that the attributes and foibles balance each other out...

This film is not a disgrace. In fact, I commend Mel Gibson for his portrayal as a criminal brute. However, I personally do not think that this is Gibson's most suited role. He should stick to being a fun-loving protagonist. PAYBACK definitely was not the film that I hoped it would achieve. The action scenes are shoddily directed and though there are a few breakthrough performances, PAYBACK is just not the prime thriller that it has so much destined to be. If you like a morbid sense of humor, then by all means...

RATING: ** out of ****.

Xia dao Gao Fei
(1992)

Superlative action film transcends beyond all expectations.
Hong Kong action movies do not get any more stylish than this hard-hitting action flick from veteran film director Ringo Lam (MAXIMUM RISK, CITY ON FIRE). In this amazingly proficient import from the East, Chow Yun-Fat gives one of his best performances ever since his portrayal as Jeffrey, in John Woo's THE KILLER (1989).

In FULL CONTACT, Chow is Jeff, a merciless assassin who is involved in a double crossing deal, where he falls under the prey and manipulation of a deranged drug lord, Judge (Simon Yam, in an over the edge performance). Judge has a lust for both drugs and money. Jeff must protect his girlfriend, Mona (Ann Bridgewater), and his other friend, Sam, (Anthony Wong, who appeared in HARD BOILED, THE UNTOLD STORY, THE HEROIC TRIO) from the evil clutches of the ruthless Judge.

It was suppose to be perfect. The weapons heist was set up with precision and deadly accuracy. However, a fatal move has suddenly occurred, thus ruining the entire operation. Jeff is immediately betrayed by his once ally Judge, and in the process, Jeff's friend is systematically eliminated. As the action continues in full throttle, Jeff is shot and left for dead inside a burning house. However, Jeff is resilient...he does not die that easily...

FULL CONTACT (a.k.a. XIA DAO GAO FEI) is one of the finest action films ever to embrace audiences of any and all interests. It tells a compelling story of friendship turning into betrayal, and reprisal growing into a motivation for justice. Director Ringo Lam has done a fine job with one of his best masterpieces, and it is enhanced by better than average performances, particularly from Chow and Wong. Chow has fun as a vigorous hero who turns the tables just when everyone he knew has practically became his nemesis. Anthony Wong has a sympathetic supporting role as an old friend who may very well switch allegiances with a foul enemy. The villains are conniving and appropriately nasty. Simon Yam is excellent as an essentially slimy villain. His cunning attitude, his sick-minded, perverse personality, and tasteless vulgarity make him a repugnant yet compelling bad guy. Bonnie Fu has a debonair appeal. Her beauty is potent enough to ignite an endless array of fireworks. The strong performances establish substantiation in designing the main characters.

The action in FULL CONTACT is of course, at its breathtaking pace with absolute quality, and the film offers a surreal environment that is often rare in "pro forma" American made action movies. There are plenty of chances to cheer on for the good guy but the film has carefully mounted tension which will grip your interests. The "bullet cam" itself has to be seen to be believed.

FULL CONTACT is a rare movie, and I was lucky to stumble across a copy of this film at a local store in New York City's Chinatown. Audiences may have a hard time trying to decipher the incomprehensible English subtitles, but do not bother straining your eyes. The action itself makes this movie worth seeing. FULL CONTACT is one fashionably violent movie in the tradition of film noir.

Ringo Lam is a virtuoso at filmmaking who exhibits exceptional direction, slam bang camerawork, and majestic editing. He also has a proud technique of drawing audiences into the story. This movie continues to keep people amazed due to its technical competence and its poignant elegance. FULL CONTACT serves as a treat for action fans of all varieties, with a tale of romance, seduction, and retribution all weaving into one cinematic accomplishment.

RATING: *** out of ****.

Xia dao Gao Fei
(1992)

Superlative action film transcends beyond all expectations.
Hong Kong action movies do not get any more stylish than this hard-hitting action flick from veteran film director Ringo Lam (MAXIMUM RISK, CITY ON FIRE). In this amazingly proficient import from the East, Chow Yun-Fat gives one of his best performances ever since his portrayal as Jeffrey, in John Woo's THE KILLER (1989).

In FULL CONTACT, Chow is Jeff, a merciless assassin who is involved in a double crossing deal, where he falls under the prey and manipulation of a deranged drug lord, Judge (Simon Yam, in an over the edge performance). Judge has a lust for both drugs and money. Jeff must protect his girlfriend, Mona (Ann Bridgewater), and his other friend, Sam, (Anthony Wong, who appeared in HARD BOILED, THE UNTOLD STORY, THE HEROIC TRIO) from the evil clutches of the ruthless Judge.

It was suppose to be perfect. The weapons heist was set up with precision and deadly accuracy. However, a fatal move has suddenly occurred, thus ruining the entire operation. Jeff is immediately betrayed by his once ally Judge, and in the process, Jeff's friend is systematically eliminated. As the action continues in full throttle, Jeff is shot and left for dead inside a burning house. However, Jeff is resilient...he does not die that easily...

FULL CONTACT (a.k.a. XIA DAO GAO FEI) is one of the finest action films ever to embrace audiences of any and all interests. It tells a compelling story of friendship turning into betrayal, and reprisal growing into a motivation for justice. Director Ringo Lam has done a fine job with one of his best masterpieces, and it is enhanced by better than average performances, particularly from Chow and Wong. Chow has fun as a vigorous hero who turns the tables just when everyone he knew has practically became his nemesis. Anthony Wong has a sympathetic supporting role as an old friend who may very well switch allegiances with a foul enemy. The villains are conniving and appropriately nasty. Simon Yam is excellent as an essentially slimy villain. His cunning attitude, his sick-minded, perverse personality, and tasteless vulgarity make him a repugnant yet compelling bad guy. Bonnie Fu has a debonair appeal. Her beauty is potent enough to ignite an endless array of fireworks. The strong performances establish substantiation in designing the main characters.

The action in FULL CONTACT is of course, at its breathtaking pace with absolute quality, and the film offers a surreal environment that is often rare in "pro forma" American made action movies. There are plenty of chances to cheer on for the good guy but the film has carefully mounted tension which will grip your interests. The "bullet cam" itself has to be seen to be believed.

FULL CONTACT is a rare movie, and I was lucky to stumble across a copy of this film at a local store in New York City's Chinatown. Audiences may have a hard time trying to decipher the incomprehensible English subtitles, but do not bother straining your eyes. The action itself makes this movie worth seeing. FULL CONTACT is one fashionably violent movie in the tradition of film noir.

Ringo Lam is a virtuoso at filmmaking who exhibits exceptional direction, slam bang camerawork, and majestic editing. He also has a proud technique of drawing audiences into the story. This movie continues to keep people amazed due to its technical competence and its poignant elegance. FULL CONTACT serves as a treat for action fans of all varieties, with a tale of romance, seduction, and retribution all weaving into one cinematic accomplishment.

RATING: *** out of ****.

TerrorVision
(1986)

Do not change that channel! Check out this hysterically bizarre film instead...
TERRORVISION is a very peculiar horror-comedy that has the word "camp" labeled all over it. This fairy tale tells about a sloppy alien puppet monster who, presumably by accident, enters Planet Earth via a TV satellite dish. This enormous monster appears on the TV screen at first, then, talk about visual effects, it eventually materializes, appearing live, in the flesh! Talk about audience participation!!

Gerrit Graham (PHANTOM OF THE PARADISE, THE ANNIHILATORS) and Mary Wodornov (EATING RAOUL) portray the Puttermans, a happily married suburban couple. They do not realize the "realism" of the monster they see on TV, HA! This so-called "couple" leads a VERY dysfunctional family with a military obsessed son and his survivalist grandfather. There is also a crazed daughter who loves heavy metal rock music, and her mentally inept boyfriend, who looks like Kid Rock minus the attitude and pizzazz. There is also a horror movie hostess, Medusa (Jennifer Richards) who fits into this scheme for absolutely no plausible reason. Meanwhile, the monster devours each of the family members one by one...later reproducing their heads when necessary in order to cover up its actions.

Planet Earth is in grave danger, once again and its only chance into stopping this hungry creature is an intergalactic police alien. He explains to everyone that this creature was originally suppose to be disposed of...but instead, it lands on Planet Earth. This interstellar alien cop is the only one who can blast the gross alien creature into oblivion but...well, I'm sure that you are interested in finding out the rest, so go see this movie!

TERRORVISION is a funny, hilarious horror cult film that has plenty of humor to liven this movie up. There are silly one-liners, hokey special effects, and a variety of "eccentric" characters to give this film strength. It is a stupid film at times, and the cast definitely overacts, but if you are looking for a nice, relaxing horror film that offers a very different style from the rest of the horror movies in this genre, then TERRORVISION is recommended for you!

This film was again produced by the one and only Empire Pictures, and you know what that means: cheesy special effects and acting galore! The monster especially is the most ludicrous...hairball-type creature that I have ever seen on screen. The rest of the special FX in this movie are standard fare though, with a elegant touch of cheekiness...

If you are in the mood for a humorously bad movie, then this picture is the perfect candidate for you! In addition to being a delightfully stomach churning horror experience, TERRORVISION is a satire on the media-obsessed suburban middle class family. Hey, these guys make "The Simpsons" look and act like those mature, civilized, and pleasantly lovable neighbors living next door. If you thought that your own family may be "dysfunctional," hey (trust me), the family portrayed in this movie will add new meaning to that word!

For a fine sense of humor that will appeal to cult film fans, TERRORVISION is destined to become that next "special" classic. Beware, if you are not prepared to laugh and be disgusted at the same time, then perhaps you should skip this film...

RATING: ** out of ****.

Dawn of the Dead
(1978)

A one-of-a-kind horror masterpiece.
This is the all time greatest horror masterpiece ever created. DAWN OF THE DEAD is an apocalyptic horror cult classic by director George Romero (THE CRAZIES, DAY OF THE DEAD) which manages to be both chillingly frightening yet fiendishly funny at the same time, an achievement attained by very few filmmakers and their movies.

DAWN OF THE DEAD, the follow up to the cult favorite NIGHT OF THE DEAD (1968) has the bodies of the recently dead awakening and returning to life by a mysteriously unexplained and unknown force. Needless to say, these "zombies" crave human flesh so they thus attack the living. This "phenomenon" has become so dire that the so called "Emergency Broadcast System" has taken control of all communications in America.

A local news reporter, Fran (Gaylen Ross) has decided to escape the city of brotherly love, Philadelphia, in a helicopter with her boyfriend, Stephen (David Emge), a professional pilot. Two other policemen, Roger and Peter (Scott H. Reiniger, Ken Foree, respectively) have decided to join in on the party and fun.

However, the policemen had problems of their own. In the beginning of the film, the police have besieged a building full of minority citizens, attempting to hunt down psychotic criminals. Instead, the SWAT team police have ended up murdering several bystanders (one unlucky victim exits in a particularly horrific way, shown in graphic detail frame by frame), and taken many others into custody. The police eventually are confronted with the dead people who return to life as zombies, with several casualties ensuing. These police officers have found themselves overwhelmed by these flesh-eating cannibals. Most of the cops are killed, but a few of them were lucky to escape. Among the two survivors were Peter and Roger, mentioned earlier. With Fran and Stephen, the foursome managed to escape the city via helicopter, but an even deadlier pestilence awaits these people...

DAWN OF THE DEAD is one of the best horror films ever contrived. This film is undoubtedly one of my biggest and greatest guilty pleasures ever!! If any words can describe DAWN OF THE DEAD, then it would have to be the embodiment of the coolest exploitation film ever. The special make up FX are momentous and very entertaining music along with better acting then most horror films makes this movie fun to watch. The goofy circus melodies heard at the shopping center are music to my ears!

Although this movie is loaded with gore, this does not interfere with the movie and its social values itself. When the police have raided the building in the beginning of this movie, this cathartic moment has shown that to the eyes of the law, there is little difference between criminals, the bystanders of different races, and the ugly zombies themselves. That moment shows a parable of corruption in the police department itself. Also, a priest in this film has said, "We must stop the killing, or lose the world." This message will apply to real life because people must stop using violence in order to solve problems and conflicts.

DAWN OF THE DEAD is satire pushed over the edge. George Romero has a very odd habit of depicting and portraying his loving zombies. Apparently, hese zombies in DAWN OF THE DEAD ironically still share the characteristics of their former human egos. Like a simplistic living creature, the zombie is always curious, wondering incoherently and trying to "discover" the use of basic objects, etc. The zombies also see the shopping mall as a "sanctuary," a link between their current state and their former human embodiments. I guess that Romero wanted to express a speculation that a *zombie* still has the soul of a human being. Indeed, one of the main characters fitfully describes the zombie population in this statement: "They're us... There's no more room in hell." Even as a walking corpse, this zombie still shares the instincts of a normal human being...

DAWN OF THE DEAD has possibly the grossest special effects ever seen on screen by the naked human eye. The vile sickness of the mutilations and disembowelments are guaranteed to sicken audiences. These repugnant special effects are courtesy of Mister Tom Savini himself, who has supplied the coolest make up FX for this roller coaster ride. Strangely enough, in spite of the perpetuating violence throughout this movie, many viewers will find the continuous slaughter in this film to become quite monotonous and redundant after about three quarters of this film...honestly!

Anyway, I will reiterate that DAWN OF THE DEAD is probably one of the best if not the best horror film ever made! The direction by George A, Romero remains excellent, the gory make up special effects continue to be the spotlight grabbers, and there's a corpulence of black humor in this film. DAWN OF THE DEAD is an unsubtle, but rather intense lampoonery on consumerism and the capitalist society.

Hold on! Get ready for a dangerous journey into a world not too improbable from reality. DAWN OF THE DEAD is a great film not to be missed by any connoisseurs of horror films. A sheer guilty pleasure of mine with a purely immeasurable entertainment value. DAWN OF THE DEAD is George Romero's most accomplished film to date. Romero has conceived a classic film with brilliance and style. This movie works well as both a gruesomely straitlaced horror film and a morose dark comedy. It will be difficult especially for other motion pictures to duplicate this movie's potency. If you are in any way squeamish, weak hearted, or are prone to motion sickness, then you will probably not enjoy this film. Otherwise, prepare to be terrified to your very soul!

RATING: ***1/2 out of ****.

The Faculty
(1998)

Technically proficient sci-fi movie is still an appalling letdown...
THE FACULTY may be a stylish, imaginative B-movie, but it lacks vitality. Considering the talents of both director Robert Rodriguez (who made the ultraviolent but slick film FROM DUSK TILL DAWN) and screenwriter Kevin Williamson (who penned SCREAM and SCREAM 2) involved in this project, I thought that it was somewhat of a disappointment. THE FACULTY starts off well, with a creepy, suspenseful intro. Then, everything falls apart...

At Herrington High School, the teachers have been behaving very strangely. They love to mold new minds. These teachers have a nasty habit of disciplining their students. Let's meet them. Mrs. Olson (Piper Laurie) is one of the many teachers with a friendly facade...but a ghastly personality. Principal Drake (Bebe Neuwirth) may seem demure at first, but do not cross her. Coach Willis (Robert Patrick) will do anything to keep the school spirit held up high especially during the football season. Ms. Burke (Famke Janssen) may be seductive and foxy, but she's one wicked lady! Then, there's Mr. Furlong (Jon Stewart), the biology teacher who likes to experiment on more than just zygote... Also, there is Nurse Harper (Salma Hayek). To them, "cruel and unusual" punishment is meaningless...

There is a hideous conspiracy amongst the teachers themselves. What's going on here and why have these once loving instructors gone berserk?

It's up to a group of brave but foolhardy students to unravel the mysteries behind the teachers' weird personalities. These students are an interesting bunch. They include Casey (Elijah Wood), an awkward and bullied teen. Zeke (Josh Hartnett) is a rambunctious, smart-mouthed rebel. Stokely (Clea DuVall) is an alienated outcast who has a liking for science-fiction works. There's Gabe (Usher Raymond), a conceited football player, and Marybeth (Laura Harris), a Southerner who happens to be the new kid. Delilah (Jordana Brewster) is the head cheerleader who thinks she is all that! Last, but not least, is Stan (Shawn Hatosy), a star athlete but troubled student.

An all out war between the students and the faculty inevitably ensues. Who will survive the impending bloodshed? Who will fall? Will mankind prevail, or is invasion imminent?

THE FACULTY has shown so much promise just within the first fifteen minutes. With high-octane suspense and crisp direction, the viewer is at first engrossed with the film's interesting story. The viewer is drawn into the unpredictable madness. Although the viewer will indeed probably keep watching, this rather derivative premise does not keep the person enthralled... THE FACULTY starts off rather well, but it loses its intensity by the end as it descends into clichés.

In actuality though, THE FACULTY is decent trash aimed for audiences of "camp" movies. This film includes superior production values and the wide array of inventive personalities help make this film less painful. The aliens themselves are a lot more fun to watch then the stolid characters. These mean aliens, a hybrid of an insect and the octopus look awesome. The gruesome FX also accompany this motion picture. There are adequate plot twists here and there and the irascible suspense is guaranteed to make you jump. Lots of great performances too. Robert Patrick especially tears up the screen as a raging, pugnacious physical education teacher who is out of control!

So why am I left with a feeling of dissatisfaction after watching this film? Well, this movie is just not enjoyable! Technically, THE FACULTY is above average, but on an enjoyment scale, it just does not cut it. The problem with this movie is its pompousness. The people behind and in front of the camera try to impress the audience, but they only do so occasionally. The teenage cast tries to act hip, but they are the usual high school caricatures. The crew tries to display all of the wild effects possible, but it's been done before and before. Also, this movie tries to riff on the "alien parasites take over human bodies" sub-genre, but it lacks the sharp, witty references that could have made this film even more fun. Finally, my biggest complaint is the film's leaden pace. THE FACULTY is not exciting. The action sequences lack the clever direction that one would expect from Robert Rodriguez. This film tries to be enlivening but there are just too many gaps between this movie's perilous moments. Listless chases fill up most of the screen-time while lengthy conversations virtually bring this film to a halt at many spots...

I will affirm that THE FACULTY is a nice homage to the science-fiction "alien invasion" genre of the 1950s. The movie in-jokes, especially the references to MEN IN BLACK and E.T. are sometimes hysterical and impeccable. This is INVASION OF THE BODY SNATCHERS made as an episode of "The Wonder Years." Plenty of comic quips lighten the film's tone. However, considering the fact that this screenplay was written by Kevin Williamson, it lacks the sardonic, mordant edge of most of his other works. Williamson's screenplay attempts to be satirical, but it is quite dull.

Ultimately, THE FACULTY is a mildly entertaining and forbearing venture, but not much more than that. Splatter-happy fans of over-the-top, chaotic features will probably enjoy this one, even if it is only for cheap thrills. Teenagers will love it too, but true horror fans will not get their bang for the buck. A less than polished pace, a trite plot, and weakly executed action debilitate what could have been a cheesy classic. THE FACULTY is overall, an adequate thriller. The soundtrack is great too.

In conclusion, I was left discontented by this film's denouncement. I just wanted to see more action, more special FX...and more excitement.

RATING: ** out of ****.

Terminator 2: Judgment Day
(1991)

A remarkably powerful and moving motion picture.
I remembered seeing this movie in the theater back in the day. It was probably one of the best, most thrilling experiences ever! Back in 1991, TERMINATOR 2: JUDGMENT DAY ruled the box office! Yes, this movie was the summer hit of that particular year.

Of all these science-fiction epic blockbusters that I have seen in my life, no film can match the impact of TERMINATOR 2: JUDGMENT DAY. This is absolutely the best science-fiction/action film that I have seen! The mind-blowing special effects and stunts, plus unbelievable action place TERMINATOR 2: JUDGMENT DAY on the top of my all time favorite movies.

In the future, 2029 A.D., the fate of Planet Earth must be determined once again. The T-101 model (Arnold Schwarzenegger, in a rather sentimental performance) has been sent through time to protect young John Connor (Edward Furlong) and his mother, Sarah Connor (role reprised by Linda Hamilton) as well. The "good" terminator, the T-101 must stop another assassin, the T-1000 (character actor Robert Patrick), a "bad" terminator from eliminating John Connor. If the T-101 fails, thus, the consequences are unspeakable, plunging the human race into eternal extinction. Dr. Miles Dyson (Joe Morton) is also implicated into this whole predicament. In fact, he holds part of the key from the past that may lead to the future fate of the human race...

TERMINATOR 2: JUDGMENT DAY is undoubtedly a winner. The special effects are the most visually stunning sequences put onto the screen, and this film has introduced to the world, the ever-popular "morphing" effects. The action in TERMINATOR 2: JUDGMENT DAY is riveting, fast paced, and pulse-pounding with some of the most breathtaking choreography ever. This movie is simply an electrifying, crowd-pleasing fun. The performances by several of the main characters deserve plenty of praise for their accomplishments. Schwarzenegger, Hamilton, and Morton are all great but the T-1000 steals the show. Newcomer Robert Patrick earns points for portraying a reticent but sly adversary. Also, the musical score by Brad Fiedel is marvelously exquisite. Once again, director James Cameron has created another winner. TERMINATOR 2: JUDGMENT DAY is Cameron's ultimate masterpiece.

TERMINATOR 2: JUDGMENT DAY transcends beyond the usual special effects extravaganza and action with a very cathartic and touching story-line. Here, this film shows the relationship between the young John Connor, and his "surrogate" father, the good terminator. Rarely in action movies do we see a bonding relationship between two people of different dimensions. This is not talking about perfunctory friendships. Rather, this is deeply discussing the concept of people from two different "worlds" sharing their culture, understandings, and even similar interests, if any. Another moving scene in TERMINATOR 2: JUDGMENT DAY is Sarah Connor's frightening dream, or rather, a premonition she had of a burning holocaust of global proportions. This scene had definitely scared me when I first saw this movie in theaters. TERMINATOR 2: JUDGMENT DAY offers many insights on the main characters, just like in its predecessor. Character development is just as much of a spectacle in this film as for the obviously awesome visuals.

I have no regrets owning my own copy of TERMINATOR 2: JUDGMENT DAY and I think that this movie will appeal to everybody. It is one of the very few films that makes you want to see the movie over and over again, even if it is just for the amazing metamorphosing effects. This is one film where you can truly say that you do not have enough seeing it just once. Very few movies can attain the high caliber of TERMINATOR 2: JUDGMENT DAY. Of course, this film deserves every bit of respect from me...

Yes, it's true. This film rules by all accounts! A GREAT plot, tremendous action, breakthrough special effects and excellent production values make this film one hell of a science-fiction landmark!

RATING: **** out of ****.

Steele Justice
(1987)

The video box's cover art is about as cool and exciting as this movie looks...
Why, why, why do these formulaic "vigilante" movies keep proliferating by the numbers? Anyway, Martin Kove stars in this occasionally exciting action picture as Lt. John Steele, a disgruntled, Vietnam veteran. Steele unfortunately is not able to find his niche in America. For example, he keeps losing his jobs, he continues missing his many opportunities, and his wife, Tracey (Sela Ward) is divorcing him. Steele himself...is just a raging drunk.

Twelve years ago, in the year 1975 (STEELE JUSTICE takes place in 1987, a.k.a. the so-called "modern times."), Steele was an honorable soldier, fighting alongside with his friend, Lee Van Tranh (Robert Kim). The two were tough soldier boys, fighting in the Vietnam War at Chi Chu Province. Steele and Lee were ambushed by one of their most formidable allies, General Bon Soong Kwan (Soon Teck-Oh). Both Steele and Lee have fallen for Kwan's trap and they have taken the bait. Kwan has just embezzled 20 million dollars worth of "lost" CIA gold and now, he's leaving Vietnam as a rich man. As Kwan quoted himself, "The war is over." Kwan shoots both Steele and Lee, leaving them for dead... However, Steele is resilient, like so many other hardened souls...

Now heading to 1987, Steele must forget about his troubled past, and continue on with his life; but as he has gradually learned, the war isn't over, it has "just changed location." In a violent shoot-out, Steele's best friend and old Vietnam War buddy, Lee was shot and murdered by a ruthless group of underlings controlled by the modern Vietnamese Mafia in Southern California. Their emblem is best known as the "Black Tigers." People shall remember their name. Guess who are the ringleaders? They are none other than General Kwan himself, and his son, Pham (Peter Kwong). Kwan himself has now become a powerful drug lord in Southern California, systematically creating fear among the Vietnamese communities. His spread of narcotics and his reign of power are more powerful than ever...

It is now up to the aggressive, over-the-hill once proud marine John Steele to find a way to avenge the murder of his best friend, Lee, and Lee's family. Steele must also take care of Lee's daughter, Cami (Jan Gan Boyd) as well as fight the corrupted Vietnamese Mafia, the Black Tigers. Steele will take no prisoners as this tough-as-nails Vietnam Vet will unleash a new way to annihilate the sadistic drug lords... With no help from the skeptical police, Steele must utilize his own firepower and skill to stop Lee's murderers not to mention the elite drug traffickers...

John Steele obviously has a proclivity to use violent methods to teach the bad guys some respect. However, in real life, one must learn that "revenge" does not justify brutality...

STEELE JUSTICE is cliché, violent, and even jingoistic at times. It has bursts of action and there are tons of explosions in this film, but the retribution formula is so obtrusively used frequently that this once fresh and innovative concept has become mere platitude. STEELE JUSTICE offers absolutely nothing new to the action genre. In fact, the story of a bitter ex-military soldier going on a retaliation spree is strikingly baring resemblance to an earlier film, James Glickenhaus' THE EXTERMINATOR (1980). In turn, the character THE EXTERMINATOR is a rip-off of Charles Bronson in DEATH WISH (1974). Talk about credibility here, folks!

Again, STEELE JUSTICE is a trite, superficial action film that is indistinguishable from a whole bunch of already made action films, languishing on the video shelves. This film features a better cast than usual. Included in the ensemble are Ronny Cox, Bernie Casey, Asher Brauner, Al Leong, and (down guys), Shannon Tweed. She does sport a nice bikini. STEELE JUSTICE is a violent thriller that has some explosive firepower and a cool climax. (CAUTION: *SPOILER...* Anybody who intends to see this movie should skip the next two sentences.) This is where Steele uses a tank to blow away the bad guys. Now that is what he calls "Steele Justice!"

The high energy violence compensates for an otherwise routine action film that has Steele and company delivering too many wisecracks to each other as well. If you enjoy action films, STEELE JUSTICE is mediocre at best. There's enough action in this flick; but it's just the racially biased undertones which I also despise...

Frankly, this movie does have a lot more racial bigotry then intended. Asians especially may be offended by the stereotypes portrayed in this movie. (i.e. Asian youth gangs, etc.) If it were not for the potential racism, then this film might have had a chance of earning a higher rating. Oh well, too bad!

Yes, the video cover looks spectacular, but you cannot judge a movie by it's cover art...

RATING: *1/2 out of ****.

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