Archive for the ‘STDVD’ Category

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STDVD: Dragons of Autumn Twilight

May 1, 2010

What the … ?

First of all, I didn’t know this existed until yesterday. Luckily, it was available in the “if you buy Into The Blue 2, we’ll give you this Dragonlance movie for free” bin at a certain video store I tell people I don’t go to.

This is such a bad film. Watch the trailer. You’ll agree.

And I had such high hopes. I loved the first Dragonlance trilogy, liked the second, read the third, and just now discovered there are 200 more books. I won’t seek them out. But that first set of books was a worthy entry-level fantasy series, something that surpassed its “let’s sell some TSR games” raison d’etre and gave us 80s fans a smart, fast series that touched all the bases.

Some questions I have about the movie:

  1. Did its creators not notice that animation has moved on from the He-Man and She-Ra look?
  2. Did they not think people would be a little weirded out by the odd mix of CGI dragons and hand-drawn, stupid-looking characters?
  3. How do you condense even one of these books into a single film without adding piles of suckness. Wait, the movie answers that question.
  4. Is it possible to make an animated movie without Michael Rosenbaum and Phil LaMarr? Nope to that, too. This is why Rosenbaum quit Smallville?
  5. Casting Kiefer Sutherland as Raistlin was inspired, but after seeing this I think Kiefer phoned in his lines from under a pile of scotch bottles in the back of a limo crashed into a tree.

In short, this is beyond bad, beyond unwatchable, and ruins what is, I think, a fine fantasy book series for people who don’t normally like this sort of thing. Go read those first three books, folks. Meet Tanis and Tas and Fizban and Flint. Have some fun with swords and dragons and dwarves and elves. You can use this DVD as a bookmark.

  • Note: This is the return of an occasional series looking at movies that go straight to DVD. The first set of reviews I wrote last year stemmed from my own collection, but now we’re going to look at new films.
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STDVD: Felon

March 14, 2010
  • Note: This is the return of an occasional series looking at movies that go straight to DVD. The first set of reviews I wrote last year stemmed from my own collection, but now we’re going to look at new films.
  • Bad sign No. 1: “Starring Val Kilmer.” Now, I like Val Kilmer. His 1980s output holds a special place in the hearts of my generation, and later, I hold The Saint and The Salton Sea in high regard. In recent years, though, Val has been a little less picky about his film roles. This is why you haven’t seen his name on a poster in an actual theatre for years, but he’s all over the two-for-$10 bin at Walmart.
  • Bad sign No. 2: “Starring Stephen Dorff.” Stephen Dorff is an all right actor, but this guy has made so many bad career choices he’s probably spending most of his time sniffing around for roles Skeet Ulrich turned down.
  • Bad sign No. 3: “Starring Anne Archer.” No, wait, that’s a good thing. There aren’t enough Anne Archer movies out there.

Guess what? It’s a pretty good movie. See, I like prison movies, and I can relate, having spent a good chunk of my life behind bars. Shawshank raised the standard, but there are many other good ones — classics like Escape From Alcatraz and newcomers like The Escapist — and its a genre that’s always ripe for exploration. This film does that, presenting us an everyman (Dorff) and his immersion in the violent, negative world of a state prison.

The prison is more Oz than Shawshank, a dirty, cramped, violent world filled with men who don’t care. And that terror, the terror felt by Dorff’s character, wafts from every scene in this movie. It works.

This is not a perfect film. But it’s worth watching, and it reminds me that (a) Stephen Dorff is a good actor and (b) Val Kilmer is scrambling now that Knight Rider is off the air.

I was a pretty good bartender, by the way.

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STDVD: Boa vs. Python

September 3, 2009

The time has come, readers, for me to talk to you about the horror, the tragedy, the disaster that is the 2004 “film” Boa vs. Python.

This product, which lives up to both definitions of the acronym STDVD, came to my attention last year when it was included in a DVD collection that was given to me. I didn’t take notice of it right away, but after a few days it began creeping into my vision. I’d notice it out of the corner of my eye, whirl … but there would be nothing there. It was like a ghost, a shade, a creeper in the night. Also, the title on the spine is almost the same colour as the spine itself, so it’s really hard to read.

It took me several attempts to make it all the way through the movie. The first few times, I got the sudden urge to go do laundry, or clean the bathroom. This does not bode well for a movie with this plot line: A billionaire tries to import a rare 10o-foot python to the U.S., but when it goes rogue and disappears, the FBI, wait for it, equips an even bigger boa constrictor with a video camera and a, wait for it, remote control unit. This allows nerds to sit in one of those FBI vans full of blinking lights and make the boa fight the python.

The special effects are about what you would expect from a movie that cost four figures to make, or at least looks like it did. Proof of this can be found in the IMDB goofs section, which is lengthy, and focuses on errors in filmmaking. And also errors of fact (“Factual errors: Snakes do not growl nor do they roar”).

Movies like this sometimes surprise us, because a decent, original story or solid acting performance pull us out of the crap effects or ludicrous plot. This is not one of those movies. Despite the presence of David Hewlett, a favourite actor of mine (star of cool stuff like Stargate: Atlantis, Pin, Scanners II, Treed Murray, Cube and Kung Fu: The Legend Continues) (just kidding about that last one), Boa vs. Python is a pile of bad writing, bad acting, bad directing, bad effects and bad catering. Everyone looks like the breakfast cart had nothing but yesterday’s McMuffins from a dumpster.

That being said, you should watch this, only to see how a really stupid idea and a bad plan can spiral into a movie that’s worse than you’d expect. It really is something to experience at least once.

Boa vs. Python. It’s real. It’s horrible. It’s here.

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STDVD: The Cookout

August 26, 2009

This trailer might make you think The Cookout is a funny little film. Great cast, after all, including Ja Rule, Queen Latifah, Tim Meadows, Jonathan Silverman a smokin’ Farrah Fawcett in a small role and Danny Glover as the world’s whitest black man. You might think this is a funny family-oriented comedy. You might think someone spent more than fifty bucks making it.

You would be wrong.

I suspect these fine actors donated their time to this 2004 project. Either that, or the producers spent all their money on casting and skipped the rest. Example: the story centres around a young basketball prodigy who goes first in the NBA draft, and how his extended family deals with his newfound success. The crucial draft scenes made me cringe. Have you ever watched any kind of sports draft? They vary sport to sport, year to year, but they never, never consist of a podium in front of curtains and a table. One table.

Cheapness aside, The Cookout just isn’t funny. Not at all. The characters are dull, stereotyped and stupid. Frankie Faison, who I enjoy in everything he does, seems to have been told his character, the dad, is supposed to be a moron. “You’re not acting stupid enough, Frankie! Come on! Stupid it up!” His performance is an embarassment.

Actually, everyone’s performance in this is subpar. It plays out like only a few people read the script, and the ones that did decided it the dialogue was unsayable. The whole cast fails in this, even Queen Latifah, who was good even in Taxi. And while I was pleased to see Jonathan Silverman again, I suspect he’ll be leaving this film off his resume.

This is one of those straight-to-DVD movies that landed in my collection last year. I managed to avoid seeing it for a long, long time, because I thought it looked cheap and stupid. Then, one night this week, I said “Well, maybe it’s one of those hidden gems.” I should have trusted my first instincts.

The sad thing about this? It was Farrah’s last film role.

For more STDVD reviews, search in the box to the right.

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STDVD: Firefight

July 15, 2009

Okay, as I prepared to watch the latest low-budget STDVD from the cellar of my collection, I took note of the obvious warning signs:

  • Shot in Canada, but pretending to be the U.S.
  • Made by a studio I’ve never heard of (Artsy Fartsy Pictures. Really.)
  • Stars a non-Alec Baldwin brother, in this case Stephen. Stephen Baldwin is rapidly becoming the go-to guy for STDVDs.
  • Stephen Baldwin plays a criminal named Wolf. Ooh, will he be wearing leather and riding a motorcycle? Check.
  • Also stars Nick Mancuso, with his name credited in such a way that I know before I press play that he’s in the movie for about five minutes.

But then I’m pleasantly surprised. This isn’t art. It isn’t artsy fartsy. It isn’t even good enough to be a TV movie. But somebody put a lot of heart into it. Perhaps it was director Paul Ziller, or executive producer … wait, I just noticed this. The movie’s executive producer is Roger Corman. Well, okay then.

While Baldwin and Mancuso get top billing, they aren’t the stars. Baldwin is the villain, and Mancuso stops by long enough to spell his name for the person who designed the DVD label. The actual star is Steve Bacic, a Canadian actor best known for his roles in Andromeda (a Canadian series based on something Gene Roddenberry wrote down in his sleep one night), Battlestar Galactica, The Guard and X-Men 2 (he had a brief cameo as a non-furry Hank McCoy).

I wouldn’t call Bacic a great actor, but he sure looks good. In Firefight, he plays a volunteer forest firefighter who used to be a thief. He’s gone straight, but his small-town diner is bleeding money and his time is being burned up by a killer forest fire season. When he risks his life in a daring rescue of millions from a bank’s armoured car that’s trapped in a forest fire, he expects gratitude — but the bank is about to take his home and diner anyway.

This is when his ex shows up. She’s teamed with Wolf (Stephen Baldwin, who is, I’m sorry, not frightening in the least) and one of the armoured car drivers. They have a plan to steal millions. Will our hero pull a Robin Hood, stealing insured millions from a heartless bank so he can keep serving grilled cheeses to truckers?

The first half of the film works. The second becomes very, very strange, and hard to follow. I got the impression that Baldwin pushed for more screen time, because he suddenly becomes the main character, hamming it up badly. You can actually see him thinking about who he plans to vote for on American Idol in the middle of some scenes. He’s that distracted.

But the movie works, all in all, despite its cheapness. And there’s one reason for that: fire. Shooting in fire is tricky. This movie pulls it off. I found myself believing that the cast was surrounded by deadly flame, with no way out, over and over and over again. Plus there’s a kickass Sikh security guard, and that’s a character you aren’t likely to see in any mainstream movies.

I wouldn’t recommend paying money for this, unless you see it in a dollar bin. But if it comes on late at night, you won’t regret 90 stupid minutes spent watching a fun caper flick.

NOTE: This movie is so obscure the trailer isn’t online. If there even was a trailer.

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STDVD: Black Dawn

July 8, 2009

This will be a short review, because I didn’t finish Black Dawn. That’s rare for me. I’ll sit through almost anything, but this product — I hesitate to call it a film — was so horrible I switched it off around the 3/4 mark.

The plot, in a nutshell: Steven Seagal is former CIA agent Jonathan Cold, who is caught up in a dangerous game of something or other involving people in black clothing, and nobody knows where his allegiance lies, or something. I know, I know, you got to “Jonathan Cold” and zoned out. I did, too.

Actually, what did it for me were the cheap-ass opening titles, which looked like they were done in MS Paint and run off on a colour copier. The first five minutes are incomprehensible, until Seagal shows up, at which point things just get stupid.

Kudos, though, to director Alexander Gruszynski, who uses a variety of techniques to disguise the fact that Seagal is no longer the sleek, svelte action star he was for a day or two in the 1980s. Seagal, who used to be notable for being skinny in an action world of Arnolds and Sylvesters, now looks … a fair bit different. Solution? Put him in a lab coat! Have him stand behind things! Shoot him in shadows! Bring in a body double who looks nothing like him!

Another problem for me is the presence of Matt Salinger. For those of you with taste in films, Matt played Captain America in the stupid 1990 live-action movie of the same name. For whatever reason, Matt decided Captain America was a bit of a Nancy, and that horrendous acting choice has haunted him ever since. His name in the titles immediately drops a movie 10 points in my book. Wait, make that 20.

I talked about Black Dawn on an old episode of Weather Station 3, so I’m going to recycle the joke here: There’s only one thing worse than a Steven Seagal movie, and that’s a Steven Seagal movie that went straight to DVD. And there’s only one thing worse than a Steven Seagal movie that went straight to DVD, and that’s a Steven Seagal movie that went straight to DVD that you’ve never heard of.

What makes this movie such a disaster is not its confusing, boring story, or its terrible acting, or Seagal’s generalized state of ridiculousness. It’s just a really badly made movie. Throughout, you see behind the curtain, noting bad crash test dummies, plot holes, effects that don’t work … I swear I even saw the crew in a lot of the scenes. Cheap, sloppy and boring is no way to go through life, Steve.

If you really feel you have to see some Seagal, stick with the first three or four, in which he plays a lone wolf who uses his martial arts skills and ponytail to strike back at the bad guys who’ve targetted his family. I like the one where he wakes up from a seven-year coma, ready for action, and immediately gets with his nurse.

From last time around, a refresher on STDVD:

This is the latest in an occasional series I’ll be bringing you. I have this stack of bizarre movies, DVDs given to me a few months back. You may have heard me go through some of these on Weather Station 3, but that was more of a review of their stupid covers and stuff. Now I’m really watching them.

Most of them are STDVDs. You know, bad movies that get passed from person to person, sometimes unknowingly, sometimes on purpose, with a deliberate hint of malice. It might also stand for straight-to-DVD, I guess.

There are a few definite signs of an STDVD. Remember these, as I will refer to them often:

  1. You’ve never heard of it. This becomes a bigger problem if it features well-known actors, but you still haven’t heard of it.
  2. It looks like a recent theatrical release, but something’s off. “Wasn’t it called Snakes on a Plane?”
  3. It stars siblings of famous actors. “Wow, this movie has Don Swayze in it!” Worse: He’s promoted on the cover by his last name only.
  4. It has a wrestler in it, not counting The Rock. He cracks me up.
  5. It has Jean-Claude Van Damme in it. I have about a half-dozen Jean-Claudes, and they’re at the bottom of the pile.
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STDVD: Bachelor Party Vegas

June 27, 2009

This is the first in an occasional series I’ll be bringing you. I have this stack of bizarre movies, DVDs given to me a few months back. You may have heard me go through some of these on Weather Station 3, but that was more of a review of their stupid covers and stuff. Now I’m really watching them.

Most of them are STDVDs. You know, bad movies that get passed from person to person, sometimes unknowingly, sometimes on purpose, with a deliberate hint of malice. It might also stand for straight-to-DVD, I guess.

There are a few definite signs of an STDVD. Remember these, as I will refer to them often:

  1. You’ve never heard of it. This becomes a bigger problem if it features well-known actors, but you still haven’t heard of it.
  2. It looks like a recent theatrical release, but something’s off. “Wasn’t it called Snakes on a Plane?”
  3. It stars siblings of famous actors. “Wow, this movie has Don Swayze in it!” Worse: He’s promoted on the cover by his last name only.
  4. It has a wrestler in it, not counting The Rock. He cracks me up.
  5. It has Jean-Claude Van Damme in it. I have about a half-dozen Jean-Claudes, and they’re at the bottom of the pile.

Our first STDVD is Bachelor Party Vegas. Now, I’ve had this since November, but I didn’t watch it until yesterday. And that was because I saw The Hangover, and I wanted to see a different approach to the concept. You know, for research. Bachelor Party Vegas, as it turns out, is nothing like The Hangover, although it does have a lot more boobs.

BPV, as I like to call it, stars Kal Penn, Donald Faison and three other guys you don’t know. One of them is the groom. Kal is the best pal, who organizes the Vegas bachelor party to end all Vegas bachelor parties. This leads to robberies, car chases, paintball, strippers, gambling, pornography, twins, MMA fighters, murder, gangsters and naked ladies, but all in a good way.

It was actually funnier than I expected. Penn plays a cocky, savvy character, far more with-it than his classic Kumar role. Faison, who is great on Scrubs, plays … basically the same character. The other three guys hold their own, too. But it’s the cameos that make this movie. Jaime Pressley plays herself, and does all right. Kathy Griffin rocks the casbah as the world’s only spaghetti-wrestling female Elvis impersonator. My favourite, though, was Lin Shaye, who you will recognize, as a stripper whose best years are long behind her. (Shaye played Woody’s horny, disgusting landlady in Kingpin).

There are many, many flaws. Some of the acting is … not really acting. The twist in the story is obvious right from the start. And while there are a few original concepts, they play out in pretty cliched ways. When it’s an STDVD called BPV, though, I know enough to expect that going in.

So I wasn’t disappointed. I usually am, as you will find out next time, when I talk about a Steven Seagal movie. BPV? I won’t remember it a few months down the road, but it was a fun 90 minutes. If you see BPV in a discount bin for a buck or two, and if you like lowbrow comedies, pick it up. I wouldn’t recommend paying any more than that.

Bachelor Party Vegas on IMDB.