Tag Archives: action

B Movie Glory: American Yakuza

I mean what can you expect from a film called American Yakuza? There’s no lofty cultural metaphors at play here, it’s quite literally about infiltration of the infamous Japanese crime syndicate by a lone wolf FBI deep cover agent played by Viggo Mortensen, who had quite the fascinating career before Lord Of The Rings shunted him into the international spotlight. He’s an interesting guy who really broke the mold with Aragorn but before that Hollywood didn’t quite know what to do with him, casting him in a goody bag of incredibly eclectic roles that saw him serve as action hero, sage mentor, maniacal villain and even The Devil himself. Here he’s restrained, sardonic and carries the role of this somewhat renegade Fed well, underscored by solid action scenes and obligatory early 90’s melodrama. He’s caught between a ruthless yet honourable Yakuza boss (Ryo Ishibashi) who believes him to be one of the ranks, an equally ruthless mafia Don (scene stealing Michael Nouri) with no honour whatsoever who wants to wipe the Japanese out and a corrupt, unorthodox FBI section chief (Robert Forster) who is trying to pit both forces against each other and let the animals wipe each other out in a collective bloodbath. Viggo is stuck in the middle and I found his character fascinating because he’s alone in the world, the reason he joined the bureau is he had no family, nothing to lose and he sort of finds one in the Yakuza, before loyalties are tested and all hell breaks loose. This is a pretty substandard 90’s action flick that benefits a great deal from Mortensen, who could literally make interesting acting work out of portraying a soup cracker. Nouri is also a vicious treat as the Italian mob boss, an evil xenophobic asshole who loves to provoke others, intimidate his own men and is just an all round rotten bastard. Fun stuff, streaming on Amazon Prime these days.

-Nate Hill

Andrezj Bartkowiak’s Doom

I mean who doesn’t wanna see Karl Urban and Dwayne Johnson blowing up demonic aliens with excessively heavy artillery on Mars? Well plenty of people didn’t if you look at the overall critic and audience reception to Doom, but I kinda enjoyed this cheesy, bloody, dimly lit and shamelessly lowbrow yet raucously entertaining bit of space action horror. Having not played this game series beyond a few vague rounds of Doom3 back when I was a stoned teenager, I can’t comment on the congruency in style, tone or narrative of the film versus the games but if that’s a dealbreaker and you hate the film because for you it betrayed the soul of the source material, more than fair enough. All I know is I put this thing on as background noise and it served as engaging, very silly intergalactic schlock with big monsters, bigger attitudes and *incredibly* big guns to shoot them with, one plasma cannon wielded by The Rock that’s so large it almost veers into parody. Dwayne is effectively tough as Sarge, leader of a ragtag bunch of mercenaries, among whose ranks we see various archetypes like the religious zealot (Ben Daniels), the rookie kid (Al Weaver), the loudmouth clown (a scene stealing Richard Brake) and of course the strong silent hero type Reaper, played solidly by Karl Urban. The pack of them are off to Mars using a weird teleportation device made of soap bubbles (not sure if that was a staple in the games) to engage murky zombie demon mutant things in vicious firefights down dimly lit space station corridors as a perky scientist (the lovely Rosamund Pike) does her best with unnecessary exposition that had me chuckling.. like it’s a film about space marines blowing up nondescript, raving mutant monsters, do we really need a few pages of explanatory pseudo genetic-science based verbal diarrhoea to try and make sense of it? I think not. Anyways, all the shooting, fighting, bleeding, limbs flying and fast-food action horror are kinda fun, especially seeing Dwayne and Karl in shameless early career genre mode set to a bangin’ metal soundtrack.

-Nate Hill

The Avengers (1998)

I hate to be that guy that always champions universally reviled films as actually being pretty good, but I have to be honest in my reviews and I really don’t see the big issue with 1998’s The Avengers, but keep in mind I’ve never seen a single episode of the original 60’s tv series. This was some seriously fun, albeit chaotic and unfocused 90’s big budget retro espionage silliness that might not be the most amazing thing, but definitely entertained me for what it has to offer. In this iteration the roles of dapper super spies Emma Peel and John Steed go to Uma Thurman and Ralph Fiennes, who both look damn sexy in the costumes and have cutesy chemistry with each other that was endearing, they’re an interesting mix and they haven’t done a film together since but I enjoyed the flavour that their pairing projected. They work for an appropriately arch government agency called ‘The Agency,’ run by two veteran cranks given the code names ‘Mother’ and ‘Father.’ The sheepish gimmick of casting Jim Broadbent as Mother and Fiona Shaw as Father is a an amusing if thinly conceived running joke that serves as a cheeky litmus test for the film’s overall saucy sense of humour. Our two heroes must do battle with Sean Connery’s Sir August De Wynter, a de facto Bond villain and all around nut-job who wants to hold the entire world ransom by controlling the weather with a giant machine he’s designed. Cue rampant meteorological destruction in London, elaborate set pieces, glib line delivery and all the big budget production design you can shake a jewel encrusted cane at. Speaking of that, I don’t care what you think of the film itself, there’s just no denying the positively stunning set design, costuming and overall visual flair… this is one seriously good looking movie, starting with its cast. Fiennes rocks that pinstripe suit to the fucking nines, while Thurman has maybe never been sexier in her skinny leather catsuit. Connery has this Burt Reynolds thing going on with his hair which oddly suits him, and speaking of suits he goes through one impressive range of wardrobe bedazzlement here, showing up in everything from full highland regalia complete with a kilt to a Snow White n’ silver custom job to a full on teddy bear costume when he arbitrarily decides to hold a teddy bear board meeting with his nefarious cronies all done up like plush toys. He gets priceless dialogue too, including precious barbs like “rain or shine, all is mine” and seems to be having a right hammy blast with the character. Shaw and Broadbent are old pros and have fun chewing scenery with droll, proverbially plummy cutlery and the cast includes the likes of the lovely Carmen Ejogo, Eileen Atkins as a charming old granny who wastes baddies with a WWII era sub-machine gun, John Wood, Patrick McNee as an accidental invisible man, Keeley Hawes and Eddie Izzard in a Paul McCartney wig who gets one solitary line of dialogue, but I suppose if you’re only gonna give that dude one line it might as well be the film’s single PG-13 F bomb. Ok so this isn’t the greatest movie ever made but it’s most definitely not as bad as the reputation would have you believe, I think the mob mentality snowballed a tad there. Sure it’s inane as all hell, there’s visible editing issues and it doesn’t flow as well as other films of its ilk but hell, if you look up eye candy in the cinematic dictionary you’ll find the drop dead dime-piece of a poster gleaming back at you. Production design, costumes and big sexy action set pieces certainly don’t save a film or shunt it into annals of pedigree but they can certainly make one well worth watching, and on that front I wasn’t disappointed, not even a bit. Sift through the bad press and make your own decisions on film, you’ll be surprised what you find yourself enjoying.

-Nate Hill

Fire Down Below

Fire Down Below might just be the most laidback Steven Seagal movie I’ve seen, and I mean that as a compliment. Many of his seemingly endless outings are obnoxious inner city bang ups, special forces hootenannies or high concept martial arts pageants, but here is a simple, down to earth, rural Kentucky set tale of one tough Fed helping out a small town of disadvantaged folks battle corporate corruption and deeds most foul. An unscrupulous company has been dumping toxic waste into a town’s water supply, lighting the canyons on fire and being a general nuisance in the region, but they really step out of line when they kill Seagal’s research partner and he’s dispatched to investigate by his agency handler (Richard Masur in the quickest cameo I’ve seen in a while). He spends the rest of the film meandering around a backwater county, making friends, getting cozy with a troubled local beekeeper (Marg Helgenberger, ditching the swanky CSI leather for a country girl’s dress) and eventually beating the shit out of underlines who work for powerful industrialist CEO Kris Kristofferson, who spends most of the film elsewhere in the big city ogling dancers at some casino. The one who does make the most trouble for Steven is Helgenberger’s pervy, volatile, very mentally unstable brother played with a high strung psychopathic flourish by Stephen Lang. Others include The Band’s Levon Helm as the local priest, Brad Hunt, Mark Collie, John Diehl, Randy Travis, country singers Alex Harvey & Marty Stuart and the great Harry Dean Stanton, giving the film’s only truly good performance as a simple local guy who gets caught up in the whole mess. This is a low key thing, the action comes in quick jolts and there’s a kickass canyon car chase with giant trucks but a lot of it is just hazy small town hangin’ our, which is fine too. There’s some great music too sung by the numerous professional musicians in the cast and briefly by Stanton himself. The main thing the film has going for it is a hilarious script by Jeb Stuart, who wrote classics like Die Hard and The Fugitive. He pens some precious one-liners here and I have to give a few quick examples because they are priceless: Kristofferson’s son asks pops if he wants him to ‘take Seagal out,’ and Kris dryly retorts: “You couldn’t take out a cheeseburger from a drive-thru window.” Another instance sees some poor fool try and threaten Steven with: “I’m gonna slap you like a red-headed step child!” Amazing stuff.

-Nate Hill

Stefan Ruzowitzky’s Cold Hell

German cinema is off the hook if this one is any indication. Like some bizarre infusion of Giallo, Transporter style action and quirky family dramedy, this is billed as ‘Cold Hell’ on Shudder where I found it but it looks like the original German title translates to simply ‘The Hell.’ That has a specific meaning relating to the modus operandi of a very, very nasty serial killer who is targeting prostitutes in Vienna. Our protagonist is sullen, haunted Ozgë (Violetta Schurawlow), a Turkish cab driver who moonlights as a kick-boxer and frequent babysitter for her wayward cousin who is stuck in a cataclysmic marriage. One night she witnesses a mysterious Muslim assailant (Sammy Sheik) ruthlessly slaughter a girl in the flat across the street, he pegs her as a witness and they embark on a frenzied pursuit all over the city. I’m not sure if this was the filmmaker’s choice of if Europe is just a little crassly behind the times but there’s a harsh attitude towards women, every other person Ozgë runs into is a profane asshole, and the killer himself is a freaky religious fanatic who thinks he’s sending sinful whores to hell on his own watch, but I suppose he’s allowed to be written that way because he is of course the villain. Ozgë develops a relationship with an extremely stressed out police detective (Tobias Moretti) who seems at first to have the same shitty attitude towards her as everyone else but later we get a diamond in the rough reveal and he turns out to be quite different, quite kind beneath his gruffness and I enjoyed their arc together quite well. This is an amalgamation of sorts, blending different elements but like not blending them seamlessly, it’s very clearly a genre patchwork quilt, in a fun sort of way. There are horror vibes early on that feel distinctly like an Argento or something, then it veers hard left into action movie territory garnished with some oddball eccentricities. Ozgë is such a terrific character, a woman of few words but tons of action. She uses her kickboxing skills to get her out of tight situations, lays some bloody beatdowns on the killer and all the while she’s carrying around the toddler daughter of her murdered cousin. The cop and her form a sort of strange bond, he’s looking after his dad who has Alzheimer’s so they’re both caring for someone vulnerable while trying to catch this gnarly killer and I found myself swept up in both their relationship and collective situation. It’s a scrappy flick and certainly not the greatest thing out there but I was entertained, loved the characters and had a good time with this story.

-Nate Hill

HAVE FUN STORMING THE GALAXY: BRETT KELLY’S LAST DANCE BY KENT HILL

It has been my pleasure, nay, my privilege, to have chatted with so many fine D.I.Y auteurs throughout the years here, on Podcasting Them Softly. It is a battle to get any film made, yet this has not deterred the vast majority of creative individuals from carving out their niche in the every-changing realms of modern independent cinema.

This few, this happy few, this band of renegade artists, who work directly for the market, and who are called upon by producers hungry for content to make films directly for the distributors. Some times they are forced to make genre offerings for peanuts – but this work, while largely panned for its budgetary shortcomings, is one the last strongholds were those who have longed to get their toes wet can. A place to pursue their cinematic dreams in these exciting pockets of explosive B movie-making that is, for now, the poaching grounds for the streaming juggernauts.

Still it can be a grind. And my guest, prolific Canadian filmmaker Brett Kelly, is making one more ode to the cinema he adores so much, before moving on to the kind of creative catharsis, most effectively achieved when one is not making art to serve commerce. The kind of art that is made to fulfill one, on a deeper level.

To this end, Brett has set his sights on a science fiction epic that stirs romantic memories of STARCRASH, THE HUMANOID, SPACEHUNTER: Adventures in the Forbidden Zone, BATTLE BEYOND THE STARS and METALSTORM: The Destruction of Jared Syn. GALAXY WARRIORS is it’s name, and Kelly (Jurassic Shark, My Fair Zombie) has teamed up with comic scribe/screenwriter Janet Hetherington (Elvira comic, Murder in High Heels) to create a plot inspired by an unmade Jim Wynorski (Deathstalker 2, The Return of Swamp Thing) project.

The story concerns a pair of bounty huntresses. Allowing themselves to be taken prisoner in order to rescue a wrongfully incarcerated inmate from a galactic penitentiary; the huntresses soon uncover a dastardly plot which is forcing those imprisoned to participate in gladiatorial combat.

For this last dance, Kelly is pulling out all the stops. Real effects, no CGI. A true homage to the epic science-fiction-fantasy film-making of a bygone era. Jurassic Shark star Christine Emes, leads the enthusiastic band of fictional adventurers that combine with Kelly’s resourceful collaborators to make this, his curtain call, one for the books. As of the Fall of 2020 the picture in 50% complete and the filmmakers now turn to you, dear reader, to become part of this glorious enterprise. Please visit : https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/galaxy-warriors-film#/ and support this awesome gem of a movie in the making….

And…don’t forget, you can keep tabs on the adventures of the Galaxy Warriors by visiting:

https://m.facebook.com/galaxywarriorsmovie/

Mel Gibson in Force Of Nature

As we sat down to watch Mel Gibson’s latest direct to video flick Force Of Nature, we barely got halfway in before my roommate commented “whoever wrote this movie has serious cognitive issues.” I agree. This is a hurtin’ ass excuse for entertainment. It’s like one of those text posts where someone forces an algorithm bot to watch over fifty hours of any given genre or existing property and have it write its own skewed, bizarre version of said material. Well a bot would have done a better job writing a ‘hurricane heist cop thriller thing’ than whoever penned this. As a category 5 storm descends on Puerto Rico, various random characters with no sense of direction or personality converge around a waterlogged apartment complex, unable to leave, coexist or tell a story that makes sense. The world’s most sarcastic cop (Emile Hirsch) and his partner (Stephanie Cayo) are tasked with evacuating stragglers, including some dude caught trying to buy one hundred pounds of beef from a supermarket to feed a literal jaguar that lives in his closet. Meanwhile a gang of psychotic thieves led by a weirdo who calls himself John The Baptist (David Zayas from Dexter) prowl the building shooting anything that moves and looking for stolen Picasso paintings passed down through a family of nazis. Mel Gibson himself plays a super grumpy, terminally ill ex cop with an exaggerated Chicago accent who refuses to leave his apartment with his nurse daughter (Kate Bosworth). Everyone runs around chaotically from apartment to apartment doing nothing in particular, the rain pours outside but never really escalates beyond intense downpour into legit hurricane weather, and… fuck I dunno man, I don’t even feel like this deserves proper punctuation or attention in a review because it obviously doesn’t give two shits about it’s audience enough to even try. Nothing makes sense, it’s impossible to care about anything going on, all the plot points and characters beats are so off the wall and I found myself just really wondering why this thing was even made at all, much less why respectable folks like Hirsch, Zayas or Mel friggin Gibson would be attached. Bosworth at least has a sheepish excuse because she’s married to the director, but even then she’s pushing her luck. A solid contender for the worst film of the year and not something I recommend you waste ninety minutes of your precious life on. The only Force Of Nature to be found here is this thing’s compelling ability to make the viewer get up off the couch and leave the room.

-Nate Hill

Roger Spottiswoode’s Terror Train

I never realized just how many slasher flicks Jamie Lee Curtis did back in the late 70’s/early 80’s. Well, she only did four, but that’s still two more than I was recently aware of and I probably never would have stumbled upon Terror Train if Prime hadn’t put it top of the queue for awhile. It’s a decent enough horror exercise that is of course no match for Halloween, but has it’s moments. Curtis and a whole pack of rambunctious college partygoers are living it up aboard a train that’s barrelling though rural Quebec in the dead of night. Several of these people were involved in a very nasty prank a few years before and the person they preyed on has returned to prey on them, in the slow build, one by one, gruesome slaughter fashion we’re used to seeing in these types of flicks. It’s essentially your garden variety slasher flick set on a train and is entertaining enough, although never close to anything you might call scary. Curtis is good as the one in their group with the strongest moral compass, who realizes quick that their past isn’t done with them yet. Infamous magician David Copperfield shows up here playing, you guessed it, a magician who entertains these college kids when they’re not drinking or getting hacked to pieces. There’s a salty old train conductor (Ben Johnson) who begins to figure out something is wrong pretty quick, and I enjoyed his keen awareness because usually the slasher lore dictates that any staff or fringe players are clueless until the hammer eventually comes down on them. Pay close attention to certain scenes where the killer is hiding in very plain sight and see if you can tell who it is (it was fairly obvious to me), they picked a very weird, kinda ‘evil pixie’ looking individual whose creepy appearance goes a long way. It’s not a horror classic by any standards, but gets the job done for fans of the retro aesthetic, plus movies set on trains always have that going for them by default.

-Nate Hill

PROPHECIES FULFILLED BY KENT HILL

мой приятель суперзвезда Alex Nevsky is back, and not even the might of a global pandemic can stand in the way of this Russian colossus as he delivers to you, dear readers, a tantalizing teaser of his next major motion picture, RED PROPHECIES.

An American journalist works in Moscow and finds himself embroiled in dangerous political games, the purpose of which is to destabilize the situation in Russia and then interfere with the holdings of the Presidential elections in the United Stares. The journalist begins his own investigation in order to uncover who is behind the operation “Red Prophecies” – special services, financial tycoons or international terrorists?

As ever Nevsky has brought his brought his awesome friends along for the ride with this stellar cast that includes Casper Van Dien (Starship Troopers), Eric Roberts (Dark Knight), Michael Madsen (Once Upon a Time in Hollywood), Oded Fehr (The Mummy), and Stephen Baldwin (The Usual Suspects).

Always ready for a showdown which is set to provide cinema-loving audiences the world over with the maximum entertainment impact of a freight train out of control, Alex is a vital force, a proud powerhouse, and a good mate. I for one can’t wait for his new movie RED PROPHECIES to mark the triumphant return of the Russian Hulk to big screens across the globe.

молодец мой друг

Stephen Hopkins’ Judgment Night

Who remembers Judgment Night? I do, and I’m only randomly bringing it up because I had a dream about it last night where I was a character in the movie, and if you’ve seen this thing you’ll know just how nerve wracking any dream about it would be. It’s one of those greasy 90’s ‘all in one urban night from hell’ thrillers that’s pulpy, over the top, formulaic yet absolutely captivating, in this case because of the villains. So basically there’s four dysfunctional yuppie bros headed from the burbs into darkest downtown Chicago for the basketball game. They’re played by Cuba Gooding Jr, Emilio Estevez, Jeremy Piven and Stephen Dorff, four varied and interesting personalities who clash even before conflict finds them. On their way home through an especially gross part of town they accidentally witness a gang of criminals full on execute a disloyal homie, and from there the thugs make like jackals and hunt our boys through the nightmarish urban jungle with plans on slaughtering them one by one. Now, the top dog thug is played by Denis Leary, who is a solid choice because even when he’s playing good guys you still get the sense you can’t really trust him. He’s a verbose, sociopathic animal here and he’s backed up by perennial badass Peter Greene as his second in command, the two of them making genuinely memorable villains. Director Stephen Hopkins (The Ghost & The Darkness, Predator 2, A Nightmare On Elm Street 3) has real talent in evoking thick, tangible atmosphere be it jungle, urban sprawl or dreamscape and he makes the slums of Chicago look like a fiery vision of hellish alienation and hidden danger around any cluttered, garbage strewn alley or rooftop. The script mostly follows the breathless, brutal pursuit motif but there’s also some clever bits of social satire thrown in, particularly in Leary’s scenery chewing dialogue and rants. The fun lies in watching him and Greene stalk, terrorize and try to kill the four bros though, and it’s all executed very well. Good times.

-Nate Hill