Monday, 29 September 2008

Direct to DVD Movies

It's a strange area. I don't see many of them because most look pretty awful. I actually think I've only seen about six or seven (and some Highlander sequels on TV, where you mean to watch five minutes and laugh at it then see the entire thing for reasons that make no sense)

I do see a lot of films on DVD first but these were release in the cinema and were old films or hard to find foreign films. Or films I just missed due to laziness or bad distribution.

So I do end up seeing a few way later after initial release (with one exception). Thing is, even though none of them rank up as great films, some do have nice moments and pass as B-movie entertainments, easier to watch and enjoy than over-produced, character-less dreck such as the Mummy films, Exorcist: The Beginning or Ghost Rider.

So I'll admit to what I've seen and what I thought. Only one of them made me want to wish the director die a horrible death.

So let's get to that one first.

It was one of the two Crow direct to DVD films. The Crow Salvation (will Terminator Salvation be better or worse?) This one has Fred Ward and Kirsten Dunst in supporting parts (as villain and heroine), is partially set in a strip bar and manages to be unwatchable. Now I'm fairly forgiving of the Crow films. None are terrific but the first one had style and another one I saw Wicked Prayer had nice character moments. But this one has a truly awful, whiny lead as the crow that you wish would stop looking soulful and do something that's not a fifteen year old goth reaction, as well as wish he was less stupid at every possible moment (or develop acting skills). There are no scenes where the dialogue is not atrocious and make you want to be physically sick. Every shot is Gothic to a horrendous degree. Its a film that you actually develop insane hatred of the director with every passing moment, in way that reminds me of my first viewing of Battlefield Earth. And yet the next Crow film, Wicked Prayer, has far less money and does a lot more with the material, being forced by lack of funds to cut down the action and goth stuff and have a non-action type lead who can act, react to grief and have dialogue scenes (Edward Furlong), have villains with an actual agenda, an interesting back-drop (Indian reservation going under) and some ambiguity in relationships. It falters with the action and some atmosphere due to lack of funds but is a very good example of a solid b-movie type film. Its the kind of film direct to DVD should be. Use the lack of funds to hire proper actors. Essentially, Wicked Prayer is a lot more fun than Die Hard 4.0

Another film I saw, My Name is Modesty, was produced by Tarantino and is a lot of fun. It was directed by Scott Speigel, who directed another film on my list. Its based on the Modesty Blaise novels and despite a weak lead actress is a lot of pulpy fun. Its a film that actually has a story, the growth of a young girl to be the heroine Modesty Blaise, through eastern European wars, as well as having a central thriller plot-line and a solid heroine-villain interaction. Like Wicked Prayer it doesn't over-spend what it doesn't have, sticks to character, does a solid turn that puts a few blockbusters to shame in character level (I'm calling out The Incredible Hulk and its awful script on this one.)

From Dusk Til Dawn 2 and 3.- Another fun Scott Speigel film. Again no budgets but fun movies. Number 3 has the advantage in originality that its set in the old west and has vampires and lots of frauds and sexual repression but number 2 has a more fun set of central characters and sticks them in an explosive situation before the vampires show up. Part 2 has Robert Patrick, another solid under-used actor, doing a nice job and not slumming despite being in a vampire sequel. Part 3 is less distinctive in cast, but Michael Parks is fun. Trust me. Its way better than Terminator 3.

Starship Troopers 2 and 3- These are sequels to a film I love and come out fine. Part 2 has mood, clean direction by effects guru Phil Tippet, is self-contained, is a fun b-movie that has an interesting biological subtext in regard to fascism. Number 3, directed by Ed Nueminer, who wrote all the films, is trickier. It has the weakest direction of the three, shots not flowing into one another, has some very bad acting that's vague and not funny like the first film, as well as clunky pacing. But it does have a lot of ideas, some sci-fi scenes that have real pulp beauty, and an interesting and ambiguous take on religion. It's a difficult one to judge as I like a lot of it but the weak points are very difficult to ignore. Still worth a look and more interesting than Hollow Man.

As I leave with my dignity and any respect for anyone reading this in shambles, let's make one thing clear as I finish. I may have seen the above films but I'm not watching Lost Boys 2. I really have to have liked the original a lot to give a direct to DVD a chance. I'm also not going to watch Transformers 2. I have some self-respect. Honest.

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