Pound Shop Movies

Last Bet (A.K.A Lesser Prophets)

In: mudwig, reviews, drama

07 Jul 2004
Last Bet or Lesser Prophets?
The back cover contains 100% of your RDA of gambling references with regards to seeing movies.

Last Bet, or Lesser Prophets, has some reasonable talent in it, including the always masterful John Turturro, NYPD Blue's Jimmy Smits, Elizabeth Perkins, Scott Glen who I shall forevermore associate with Hunt For Red October and John Spencer. It's a low budget movie, first time feature director, and looks like the kind of film the crops up in the early careers of many fine actors. However, this entry in the CV was actually made in 1997. By that point John Tuturro had already featured in Miller's Crossing and Barton Fink, Jimmy Smits was still working on NYPD Blue and George DiCenzo had provided his voice talents to She-Ra: Princess of Power. Still, evidently something attracted them away from their lucrative voice over careers for a few days, and it's a bit of shame that the script didn't land with a better director, as over all Last Bet is an enjoyable film that just could have been worth slightly more than ?1 on DVD.

The plot centers around George DiCenzo's book making operation. Detective "Iggy", played by Scott Glen, is after the trio of bookies, blaming them for his brother's suicide after they accepted a large bet for him which went south. After almost being busted they move to a new location, and make a huge bet themselves on a sure-thing, the tip being brought to them by the fairly mentally unstabled Leon (Turtuorro). Iggy tracks them down, but instead of bringing the bookies in demands the money back his brother bet. In the middle of this gambler Jimmy Smits informs the trio that he wont pay them his gambling debt, and gets himself shot, albeit somewhat accidentally, by Leon.

This may sound like a fairly dark film on paper, but it's propelled along by a weird sense of comedy, especially between the three bookies, and the random craziness that Turturro utters from time to time. The focus bounces back and forth between the main thread of the story and a whole host of side plots, including Iggy's wife's pregnancy, Leon's wife-beating neighbour and the unfortunate end of Jimmy Smit's backup man.

The script is suprisingly good, with plenty of pace and an energy that fits the New York setting. The actors put in good performances too, and really the main problems are inexperienced direction and editing. This is quite a shame, as the film had the potential to have been a much more mature and interesting piece than it ended up. Despite this, it's easy to enjoy the flow of the film, and after a bumpy first few minutes anyone with a reasonably open mind should be entertained enough to watch til the end without feeling unsatisfied.

L.A. Heat

In: mudwig, reviews, action

06 Jun 2004
(The original) L.A. Heat
The german cover has boobs.

First things first, this movie generated two sequels and (kind of) a spin off series, which proves that miracles can happen. Secondly, this is the first appearance in this mighty organ of a film by Joeseph Merhi and Richard Pepin, AKA PM Entertainment, a veritable powerhouse of direct-to-video movie producing genius. They are responsible for bringing us many, many terrible movies, and some rather better ones in the later parts of the ninties, including the non-Bruce Willis starring Last Man Standing. This, however, was their first film to star Vaguely Famous People, specifically Lawrence Hilton-Jacobs and american football legend/star of the screen Jim Brown.

Now, Mr Merhi has a fairly decent directorial style, and it's always nice to hear the directors opinion on a film they've made. However, and I mention this mostly for the advantage of Hollywood DVD, I don't want to hear the director during the film. Hopefully it's a simple SNAFU with my copy, but for some reason at various points you can hear essential comments such as "walk over to the fridge" and "cut, no keep going, keep going, keep going, good" coming somewhere off camera. Mostly this seems to be the fault of retarded editing, as there are also bits of overlapping dialogue.

With cop movies, it's not about the story per se. This one involves a drug dealer named Clarence, a badge on the line, and a girlfriend in peril, which, bar the existence of a drug dealer named Clarence, should be familiar territory. The important thing in this kind of movie is the cop's quirk. Clint Eastwood was slightly to the right of atilla the hun, Mel Gibson had a deathwish, Bruce Willis was burnt out, and Michael Winslow made funny noises. Lawrence Hilton-Jacobs as Jon Chance wants to be a cowboy, as demonstrated in various dream sequences of him, suprisingly, as a cowboy. Unfortunately, he hates violence, and hence deams of himself as a fairly sucky cowboy who gets shot by an indian with furry boots, which is the worst kind of indian there is. His dreams play themselves out, as his partner gets iced by the aforementioned clarence, and Chance has to find a way to make things right, while maintaining his principles.

Jim Brown, to be fair, makes a superb Angry Black Police Lieutenant. He ups the quality of every scene he's in, and makes the film almost seem like a proper movie. Otherwise, the acting is about what you'd expect, ranging from believable to "look that way and say this". There are some fairly amusing side characters, including some good sarcasm from the other pair of detectives, and top class professional stage fighting by a pool hustler near the end.

The end of the movie was not, however, where the tale of Jon Chance ends. He would return, again played by LHJ, a year later in '89 in L.A. Vice, then once again in 1990, this time with Hilton-Jacobs himself taking the directorial chair for Angel Of The City, though this is only according to IMDB, as I've never seen it. Most interestingly, in 1996 PM created two series of L.A. Heat for television, starring regular PM cohort Wolf Larson and going with the ever-wacky black cop/white cop combination.

With regards to this version, L.A. Heat is not really any good whatsoever. However, there is a girl in an utterly ridiculous outfit withint the first ten minutes, and if you get a chance to hear the version with the random directors comments then that's worth something in itself.

I don't care what they say upstairs, I'm a damn good cop! You don't have to kill to be a good cop - Detective Jon Chance

The House On Sorority Row

In: mudwig, reviews, horror

06 Jun 2004
The old lady is GLOWING!!!!1!
Talent was, in fact, off limits.

I'm not sure when slasher flicks featuring sorority girls became a clich?, but I'd believe that it was at the very moment writer/director Mark Rosman penned the first scene of this slice of 80's horror.

The plot is, well, a slasher movie plot. College girls on the eve of graduation accidentally bump off their weird sorority house mother in a prank gone wrong, which they were playing as revenge for her forbidding them to have a party. You see, the party was on the day that she closed the house every year for weird and spooky reasons. Unfortunately, the body disappears and one by one the girls are taken out, all while their hep party funks it's way through the night.

The eighties pervades this film like aquanet in big hair. The band that plays at the graduation party appears to be based around the concept of taking something from every single succesful group of the early 80s and mashing them together in one bemulleted supergroup. Scientists in the future will be able to precisely date items by comparing them to what appears in this movie, and I suspect that from a very early age, babies will instinctively be able to determine that the film was made in '83. All the standard college types are there, including the obligatory humourous fat guy, moronic jocks, and campus security guard. On the other hand, there's also a disembodied head placed (fairly randomly) in a toilet, so it's not all bad.

One of the pleasures of these kind of movies is what it's stars went on to do after their roles propelled them to success. Of the cast that had a further career in the movies, star Kate McNeil worked on 2001 Carey classic Glitter, which means at least this isn't the worst film she was ever in. Non surving sisiter Jane Kozak got to excercise her lungs again in Arachnophobia, and possibly in Ron Howard classic Parenthood. Still, at least it's not Glitter.

This is, above all, is a horror movie, and if you can ignore the mostly wooden acting, predictable scripting and utter eighties-ness through the majority of the film, then the conclusive chase between the killer and remaining sorority girl is actually pretty good, even though the killer seems to have the ability (admittedly fairly common in these kind of movies) to walk through walls. There are some good bits of atmosphere and tension, and it leaves you with a much better impression of the movie than it probably deserves (still not a very good impresison, but even so).

Overall, without this movie and movies like it we probably wouldn't have scream, and without scream we wouldn't have scream 2, and without scream 2 we wouldn't have the pleasure of seeing Jerry O'Connell die painfully. That, for me, is enough.

Portrait Of A Hitman

In: mudwig, reviews, action

06 Jun 2004
A designers dream of a cover

The world of cheap movies is dominated by one name, and that name is Hollywood DVD. While examples of their craft can occasionally be found maskerading as proper movies in mainstream retailers such as Virgin, the true spiritual home of these gems is the pound shops that have proliferated across our towns and cities.

One film published by the aforementioned Hollywood DVD is '77 Jack Palance vehicle, Portrait of a Hitman. The premise is fiendish in it's intricacies. Palance is a hitman, one of the deadliest in the world, but at the same time he is also a master painter, despite the fact the one painting you actually see him working on looks like the cover of a 70s romance novel. All seems well in the world of the artistically inclined assassin, until he's given the contract to kill a surgeon. Not any surgeon, but blonde behemoth Bo Svenson, who plays Palance's closest friend. Being a 70s movie, they express their friendship in the form of high speed races in sports cards, but still, Palance can't go through with it.

Sharp eyed readers may note that as plots for rubbish movies go, this isn't actually that bad. Unfortunately, a number of elements work against the film. Firstly, they clearly didn't shoot enough of it. Clocking in at 88 minutes seems reasonable, until you realise that at least 15 of those minutes are recaps to other parts of the film that you've already seen, usually with the addition of a filter, or some kind of alternative editing. To at least give it a chance of hitting the run time, most of the movie is paced incredibly slowly, apart from short bursts of hyperactively edited plot when someone realised that nothing had happened in the last ten minutes.

This isn't to say the film is all bad. Richard "Shaft" Roundtree pops up as the villian of the piece with an amusing jamaican accent and Phillip "Kung-Fu" Ahn has a role based mostly around sitting down as Palance's hitman friend, Wong. There was also a guy named Bobby, or possibly Billy, that Palance seemed pretty damn cut up about killing. We had never seen him before, but Bobby/Billy's death haunts me to the day, as does most of the movie.

These days you can get the DVDs in two-packs for a pound, so this movie should cost you no more than 50p, but please, place a value on the 88 minutes of your life you will lose, or perhaps the 20 minutes until everyone sensible has given up.

Cyborg Cop

In: mudwig, reviews, action

06 Jun 2004
Cyborg Cop
He is in fact wearing one of those Steven Segal vests under there.

Cyborg Cop. Is a cyborg better than a robot, or a "Robo"? Perhaps. Is Cyborg Cop better than Robocop 1, 2, 3 or that weird series with his magical inter-web pixie friend? No. That is not to say however that it is not worth watching.
Our story focuses around one man, who is neither a cyborg or a cop, but was once the latter. His brother goes missing on a mission for the DEA, in some Foreign Place full of Foreign People who are ruled with a drug filled fist by the fat guy from Sliders, who you may recall more recently as Gimli in the Lord of the Rings movies, John Rhys-Davies. Rhys-Davies goes under the villianous name Kessel, though I doubt even the falcon could get round him in just 12 parsecs.

Kessel is manufacturing cyborg super assasins, as were many drug lords back in '93. Personally, I think he missed the boat a bit, as surely something as sophisticated as his cyborg tech would have had lucrative medical applications, but evidently villians don't think that way. Anyway, our hero, David Bradley, goes off to rescue his brother, picking up an Attractive Female Reporter on the way to find out what happened. Martial arts ensues.

As tat goes, this is of the better variety. The pacing is acceptable, the banter is occasionally witty, and the star has a cool kung-fu style. On the other hand the film starts off on a fairly hardboiled cop/military tip, but after the girl appears in the picture gains the air of a comedy action picture, and sort of flip flops back and forth as required. Rhys-Davies utilises a deeply crazy accent to good effect, but his robot henchment look like rejected Gary Numan backing singers, and appear roughly as threatening as successful Gary Numan backing singers. Oh, and the ending is a bit rubbish, but I think it is our duty To Cinema to judge things as a whole, rather than just on the last five minutes.

Overall, Cyborg Cop is better than Beverly Hills Cop 3 , but worse than Police Academy 4: Citizens On Patrol, and you can't say fairer than that.