Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Movie Review: The Last Dragon (1985)

The Last Dragon a.k.a Berry Gordy's The Last Dragon
Delphi III Productions, Motown Productions, USA, 1985.

'Bruce' Leroy Green (Taimak) reaches the highest level of Kung Fu that his Master (Thomas Ikeda) can teach. Leroy travels to Harlem to search for Master Sum Dum Goy to learn the secrets of mystical power the Glow. Sho'Nuff (Julius J. Carry III) , the self-proclaimed Shogun of Harlem bullies everyone and Leroy is still not prepared to oppose him. Sho'Nuff apparently has a bad memory as he is always asking his followers who he is.
'Bruce' Leroy Green
Thomas Ikeda
The Master
Julius J. Carry III
Nasty pop mogul Eddie Arkadian (Christopher Murney) tries to kidnap singer Laura Charles (Vanity) to promote awful music videos of his protege Angela (Faith Prince) but Leroy saves her. Eddie hires every hoodlum in Harlem to beat Leroy into pulp. Luckily Leroy gets new friends and also some tips about women from his bratty little brother Richie (Leo O'Brien).
Christopher Murney
Eddie Arkadian
Laura Charles
Faith Prince
Angela Viracco
This is a movie I saw as a kid, and it was cool then. It is fun still although 1980s campiness is more apparent now.  "The Last Dragon" is a nice 1980s- action comedy with Bruce Lee-admiring hero. The story has tongue-in-cheek humour and no-one dies. Bruce Lee's films tend to be more serious, more this follows the comedical approach of Jackie Chan. Taimak kicks well and it is a small wonder he hasn't made a bigger film career as Kung Fu star. "The Last Dragon" has remained Taimak's most famous film role but he has made a successful career as Martial Arts instructor.

Founder of Motown Records Berry Gordy produced a blaxploitation homage, including Disco/Pop songs from his stars so the film is almost a semi-musical. Prince's protege Vanity has the role of the lady in distress. As the story is made to appeal younger generation, the sharpest edges of the 70s blaxploitation films are omitted, and so the hero is not Sexual Tyrannosaurus as many colleagues in the 70s, but a shy guy who has a lot to learn about the Power of Luuv. Still his Kung Fu skills make women have crush on him. This is probably the only film where woman tries to seduce a man by showing him a Bruce Lee movie.
William H. Macy has a role as Laura's manager JJ.
William H. Macy

Rating: Good

Starring: Taimak, Vanity, Christopher Murney, Julius J. Carry III, Faith Prince, Leo O'Brien, Mike Starr, Jim Moody, Glen Eaton, Ernie Reyes Jr., Roger Campbell, Esther Marrow, Keshia Knight Pulliam, Jamal Mason, B.J. Barie, Sarita Allen, Jacqui Lee Smith, Jodi Moccia, Sal Russo, Chazz Palminteri, Frank Renzulli, Torrance Mathis, André D. Brown, David Claudio, Kirk Taylor, Shonte, Janet Bloem, Lisa Dalton, Henry Yuk, Michael G. Chin, Fredric Mao, Thomas Ikeda, William H. Macy, Trulie MacLeod, Gary Aprahamian, Lou David, Verne Williams, Captain Haggerty, Ernie Reyes Sr., Robert Silver, Clayton Prince, Brandon Schultz, Carl Anthony Payne II, Anthony Cortino, Sebastian Hitzig, Lia Chang, Derek Schultz, Rhonda Ross Kendrick, Peter Traina, Freddie Stroble, Jack Meeks, Joe Dabenigno, Soo Gin Lee, Scott Coker, Julian Villanueva, Charlene, Joey Gironda, Tony D. Head, Silvia Mathis Manning, Jill Powell, Kariim Ratcliff, Monique Lisa Reilly, Ron Van Clief 
Director: Michael Schultz

Saturday, June 24, 2017

Movie Review: Paheli (2005)

Paheli (2005) a.k.a The Dilemma
Red Chillies Entertainment, India, 2005.

Based on Vijayadan Detha's novel and 1973 movie "Duvidha."

Beautiful Lachchi (Rani Mukerji) is getting married in ancient India. In the first song there is both playful anticipation of the wedding night and sadness of leaving behind family and childhood's friends. The wedding procession has to stop at a place that is said to be haunted. There a shapeshifting ghost falls in love with Lachchi. Husband Kishanlal (Shah Rukh Khan) is a trader and only interested in business. He is leaving for a business trip for five years (!) and has no time for even a wedding night, so Lachchi feels lonely and sad. The women in the family seem to be have unhappy fates as also Kishanlal's brother Sunderlal (Sunil Shetty) left his family and wife Gajrobai (Juhi Chawla) after losing a bet in camel races. 
Rani Mukerji
Shah Rukh Khan
Juhi Chawla
The Ghost disguises as Kishanlal and returns home. He tells Kishanlal's father Bhanwarlal (Anupam Kher) that he is now blessed and earns five magic coins per day.  Lachchi is happy but the Ghost reveals that he is not the real husband. Sneaky Uncle Kanwarlal (Dilip Prabhavalkar) wants to know where the gold comes from, however this subplot never comes to any conclusion. 
Supernatural romance!
Anupam Kher
Dilip Prabhavalkar
Confusing situation arises when servant Bhoja (Rajpal Yadav) comes to bring letter from Kishanlal - only to be greeted by Kishanlal. The Ghost is generally a nice guy and a benefactor of his society - however the real Kishanlal still has fondness for his wife. And to make it clear, he is not a bad guy, just a man pressed by the expectations of his father. Later when the real Kishanpal returns, wiseman The Shepherd (Amitabh Bachchan) arranges a group of tests to decide who is the real Kishanpal. How will the Dilemma be solved and will Lachchi be united with her ghost lover or her work-obsessed husband?
Amitabh Bachchan
The Shepherd
The musical numbers alternate between playful teasing and longing passion. The gigantic turban worn by Kishanlal in the DVD cover gives a comical impression, but this is mainly an exotic romantic fantasy. However there are some amusing side characters and the story is narrated by two puppets. Supernatural identity theft contrasts the reality vs Lachichis dream man where Kishanlal is the sense and Ghost Kishanlal is the sensitivity. It is beautifully filmed and colourful with nicely choreographed music numbers. Although it was generally pleasant, the acting and chemistry of the charismatic main stars, who are two megastars in India, was great and the film praised by Western critics, I didn't find it the best Bollywood can offer.
Dance now!
Then the bad. The simple story feels overlong (the film's duration is 134 minutes) making poor use of the subplots. For me the handling of real Kishanlal's story felt clumsy and the solution to the awkward situation felt forced, making shortcuts to arrive at the happy ending. And indeed, what I found out from teh Internets is that the original 1973 film had a sad ending with the romantic ghost being trapped forever and the true feelings of Lachchi ignored. This modernization seems to water down the original 1973 version's critique of the Indian social traditions and the point about woman's position in Indian society (i.e what the woman wants vs what is socially acceptable). Having a more audience pleasing happy end, the new version cuts away the stronger points that the 1973 had. Maybe I have to find the original 1973 film for comparison if I can buy it somewhere. Despite all the good things, for me "Paheli" didn't leave an Oomph-effect that the best Asian films make. But then again I'm an old crank so what do I know.  

Rating: Average

Starring: Shah Rukh Khan, Anupam Kher, Rani Mukerji, Amitabh Bachchan, Naseeruddin Shah, Sunil Shetty, Juhi Chawla, Dilip Prabhavalkar, Nina Kulkarni, Padma Rani, Sharvari Jamenis, Aditi Govitrikar, Advait Trivedi, Palak Jain, Ratna Pathak, Rajpal Yadav, Somesh Agarwal, Mohan Bhandari, Rishi Deshpande, A.K. Hangal, Vijay Mishra, Surendra Rajan, Nikhil Ratnaparkhi, Aashif Sheikh, Lekh Tandon, Anita Wahi 
Director: Amol Palekar

Friday, June 16, 2017

Movie Review: Hologram Man

Hologram Man a.k.a Cyber Killer
PM Entertainment Group Inc., USA, 1995.

Naughty bad terrorist Slash Gallagher (Evan Lurie) causes trouble for rookie Lieutenant Decoda (Joe Lara) and his rulebook trashing Chief Wes Strickland (John Amos). Slash is going to assassinate Governor Stan Hampton (Alex Cord) and despite the best efforts of Decoda and Strickland he succeeds. 
Joe Lara
Evan Lurie
Slash Gallagher
Slash is sentenced to biopersonal rectification programming in holographic prison (umm, okay). In near future that is the hottest hot in correctional facilities. While Slash is in prison, huge Biodome is build above the city. There are flying cars and stuff. Crime is increasing and the state has become totalitarian. CalCorp company boss Jameson (Michael Nouri) rules with iron fist. The laws are so strict that no one is allowed to skip watching the news. Decoda abandons Lorenzo Lamas-look and adopts Nicholas Cage's look from "Con Air." Slash's friends One-Eye (Nicholas Worth) and 8-Ball (Tommy 'Tiny' Lister) hack the prison system with traitor Manny Giggles (William Sanderson) and Hologram Man escapes. 
Evan Lurie
Hologram Slash
Joe Lara
Decoda five years later
Arabella Holzbog
Decoda and his cop partner Andy Carradine (Anneliza Scott) try to stop Slash but it is impossible as Slash is bsically a ghost. To interact with objects slash needs a rubber skin. Slash uses psychotic liberty fighter tactics to topple the government. Decoda's ladyfriend Natalie (Arabella Holzbog) is a scientist whose father created the Holographic Prison, so maybe she can balance the unfair advantage.
Anneliza Scott
Nicholas Worth
Tommy 'Tiny' Lister
There is a vehicle that has the same function as Slicer in H.B. Halicki's uncompleted "Gone in 60 Seconds 2." Lot's of location are the same as in "Cybertracker" or "Cybertracker 2" and the shoot-out in a warehouse looks eerily familiar too. Some cost-cutting had to be made as there is a lots of action with enough firearms to start a small civil war, explosive car stunts and cheesy 1990s virtual reality effects. The futuristic world looks more enthusiastically (but cheaply) made than in usual low budget direct-to-video films. It doesn't make it a great film but it is quite impressing how many weird futuristic ideas Pepin and Merhi were able to include in the story. Biodome, VR-combat training arena, wild holographic technology, fullbody rubber masks and evil mega-company, and an insane amount of explosions. The silliness of the plot can be forgiven as the entertainment value (both intentional and unintentional) is good.
Cyber killer
Rocket cars!
Michael Nouri

The Finnish DVD suffers from bad and broken subtitles


Starring: Joe Lara, Evan Lurie, Michael Nouri, John Amos, Tina Arning, Tody Bernard, Rod Britt, Chuck Butto, Joseph Campanella, Alex Cord, James Daughton, Arabella Holzbog, David Kagen, Tommy 'Tiny' Lister, Jim Maniaci, Derek McGrath, Kathrin Middleton, Stephen Quadros, Scott Riddle, William Sanderson, Anneliza Scott, Michele Smith, Paul G. Volk, Nicholas Worth, Cole S. McKay
Director: Richard Pepin

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Movie Review: Wyrmwood

Wyrmwood a.k.a Wyrmwood: Road of the Dead
Screen Australia, Roache-Turner Brothers, Guerilla Films, Australia, 2014.

Aboriginal Benny (Leon Burchill) and his brothers (Damion Hunter, Alfred Coolwell) went to forest for a little hunting. The other brother turned into a zombie and the other one died. Handyman Barry's (Jay Callagher) family became victims after zombies came in for a midnight snack. Barry's goth sister Brooke (Bianca Bradey) was filming artsy photos when rest of the crew became zombies. She is abducted by crazy Doctor (Berynn Schwerdt) who clearly enjoys his job too much.
Leon Burchill
Jay Callagher
On the road they meet some helpful people, most of whom quickly become zombie-food. Together with Mechanic Frank (Keith Agius) they build a vehicle that runs with unusual power source. Frank believes that the day of reckoning has come. Saving Barry's sister is what keeps the men going.
Berynn Schwerdt
The Doctor is in
Keith Agius
Common zombie
The debut film of the Roache-Turner brothers has energetic zombie-mayhem with Mad Max influences, makeshift armour and trucks from hell. The story shares similar twisted sense of humour as Peter Jackson's and Sam Raimi's early movies. In Australia they like beer but when you take beer from the freezer, watch for the zombie. He's chilling in there. It is not only amusing zombie-slaying as it has also some tragic and horrific turns as with the backstory of Barry shows. Brooke's character leaves a better impression than Milla Jovovich in the latest "Resident Evil" films. The script has couple of novel ideas such as using fumes emitted by zombies as fuel. Although the zombie genre is saturated, "Wyrmwood" is a fun ride and despite the low budget the production values are good. It became an instant cult classic and a sequel TV-series is on the production.

Rating: Good 

Starring: Jay Gallagher, Bianca Bradey, Leon Burchill, Keith Agius, Berynn Schwerdt, Luke McKenzie, Cain Thompson, Damian Dyke, Yure Covich, Catherine Terracini, Meganne West, Beth Aubrey, Sheridan Harbridge, Damion Hunter, Alfred Coolwell, Ellen Brooke Williams, Adam Penklis, Ellie Poussot, Brendan Byrne, Craig Bourke, John Michael Burdon, Aaron Collins, Clayton Galipo, Dane Hallett, Daniel Martin, Tom Matthews, Simon Mak Murrell, Melvin Okoronkwo, Justen Petch, Jesse Rowles, Adam Sanders, Deborah Joyce 
Director: Kiah Roache-Turner

Saturday, June 10, 2017

Movie Review: Just Add Water

Just Add Water
Bleeding Hart Films, Morningstar Films, USA, 2008. 

Ray Tuckby (Dylan Walsh) has a boring job and a boring life. He lives in a small town of Trona with mentally troubled wife Charlene (Penny Balfour) and troublemaker but sensitive son Eddie (Jonah Hill). Only light in the day is a cute grocery store cashier Nora (Tracy Middendorf) who has secretly yearned after Ray since high school.
Dylan Walsh
Ray Tuckby
Penny Balfour and Jonah Hill
Eddie and Charlene
Tracy Middendorf
Ray's brother Mark (Michael Hitchcock) is a crybaby with million plus one kids. When Ray finds out that Charlene has had a relationship with Mark since forever, Ray decides to start his life again. If only he could have courage to ask Nora for a date. Mystical stranger Merl Striker (Danny DeVito) opens a gas station in town and inspires Ray to follow his dreams. 
Danny DeVito
Merl Striker
Will Rothhaar
Druglord Dirk (Will Rothhaar) terrorizes the town. Dirk controls the water and electricity in the town. Every day Dirk's actions strain the townspeople more. The downtrodden town needs a hero so Ray starts slowly crawling out of his misery. Together with his friends he makes a plan against Dirk.
Merl and Elmo (John Balma) being stealthy
Off-beat Drama-comedy has nice little story with eccentric characters. The story has potential for vigilante story but it remains on the humoristic side. The humour is whimsical and surprising but often quite black though. Ray is a nice but passive guy and he grows up during the story affecting also the people around him. Danny DeVito has a small but important role and comedians Jonah Hill and Melissa McCarthy have some of their early roles. Melissa McCarthy appears as Ray's neighbors meth-addict wife who can throw a punch or two. The stroy opens up quite slowly, so the beginning takes a bit of patience. After that the characters become likeable and you want to know what happens to Ray and the town.

Rating: Good

Starring: Dylan Walsh, Jonah Hill, Justin Long, Danny DeVito, Tracy Middendorf, Melissa McCarthy, Anika Noni Rose, Lindsey Axelsson, Will Rothhaar, Joey Kern, Penny Balfour, Lee Garlington, Michael Hitchcock, Tracey Walter, June Squibb, John Balma, Chelsea Field, Lucy DeVito, Cerina Vincent, Ahna O'Reilly, Emily Arlook, Chris Owen, Nate Mooney, Jonathan Moore, Sewell Whitney, Scott Kinworthy, Brad Hunt
Director: Hart Bochner

Recommendations by Engageya