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Uncle Sam (1996 Video)
I want you...to avoid this movie!
4 July 1999
Just in time for the spirit of the Fourth of July! I could not think of a more appropriate movie that relates to the Independence Day theme.

Un film de William Lustig. UNCLE SAM had the potential to be a grand cult classic. However lackluster performances plus a flawed and muddled orchestration prevent UNCLE SAM from earning its stars and stripes...

Master Sergeant Sam Harper (David "Shark" Fralick), an honorable Desert Storm hero is accidentally killed by "friendly fire" while fighting in Kuwait. Tragically, this one time hero has become a mere statistic...

Meanwhile, at Twin Rivers, USA, Jody (Christopher Ogden) sadly misses his uncle. However, when an Army Sergeant (Bo Hopkins) appears, the news of Harper's arrival back to the states is apparently not good news. This Sergeant has plaintively informed Jody and his relatives of Sam Harper's demise. Afterwards, Harper's grieving family wishes to have him receive an honorable burial.

Subsequently, a few twenty year old teenagers decide to foolishly burn an American flag near Sam's resting site. This action has provoked the indignation of Sam Harper. This undead patriotic marine feels deign to teach these delinquents some country pride in the typical fashion. Sam is willing to teach a lesson...at the cost of any human lives.

So "Uncle Sam" returns from the grave to restore rectitude and pride in a small, greedy town gone wrong. He has a fresh crop of sinners at his disposal. Among the characters include: an unlawful sheriff (Matthew Flint), a draft dodging teacher (Timothy Bottoms), a tax evading lawyer (Tim Grimm), and a scornful, self-serving politician (Robert Forster!). Uncle Sam fights for truth, (in)justice...and the American way!

UNCLE SAM was atrociously bad, but in a sort of cheesy way. The ensemble in this movie is a B-movie fan's dream. Even P.J. Soles rounds out the cast as a fastidious mother. Anyhow, the acting in this movie was tremendously weak. The characters lacked charisma, and I personally wanted to see virtually all of the cast members (even the child actors) bite the dust sometime in this film. The young child actor, Ogden, for one is too nettling for his own good. The best performance is by Hayes (Yes, that is the Isaac Hayes who provides Chef's voice in the indelible TV show SOUTH PARK) as an affectionate war veteran. Hayes is the only caring character who does a good job portraying Harper's former mentor who must dissuade young Jody from enlisting in the army. As for good old Robert Forster, let's just say that his performance is "on fire!"

Some wily cleverness manages to shine through but this film suffers heavily from an onerous pace. The death scenes in particular (i.e. Hatchet in the head, a decapitation, throat slitting, gunshot wounds) are far from adulterated. Some of the other subtleties were...unique. I especially chuckled watching Ogden play with those old all American action figures. Another subtlety was Uncle Sam's atypical costume. It is certainly the perfect disguise for a movie villain!

As for the antagonist, Larry Cohen has created a villain whose violent tactics are nothing more but "justified murders." The screenplay though, is a lot less refined. Ostensibly, Cohen had created mixed messages in this movie. Unfortunately, the screenplay fails to convey any of these individual messages thoroughly. Cohen wanted to discern a theme explaining that people throughout history have always been fighting without a cause. People supposedly have fought for the thrill of victory, but nowadays, people seem to fight for no other purpose than the pleasure of killing. On the other hand, Cohen also wanted to elucidate the fact that there are no noble heroes in war...only ones who miraculously survive with blood on his hands... These ideas are implied with the characterization of Uncle Sam and how he became so cold-hearted. The screenplay had strong intentions, but they are not fully expressed. Cohen does a much better job with satire. The mean-spirited satire censuring anti-patriotism and the lack of pride and duty among even America's finest citizens is inventive...up to a point.

UNCLE SAM is probably not William Lustig's best picture, but he has done far worst films. This film though, does not offer much substance except for a wasted great premise. Do yourself a favor and avoid the propaganda. Do not be fooled into witnessing this movie just because you see its excellent, holographic video cover. This vanity production is all decoration...and zero thrills. I may not be able to discourage you from seeing this movie, but I will exhort to you that even if this movie does sound fanciful, it really lacks a soul. If you do manage to sit through this whole movie, watch the end credits to hear a poem written by the veteran himself, cacophonous-voiced William Smith.

RATING: *1/2 out of ****.
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Alien Intruder (1993 Video)
A really warped science-fiction adventure.
3 July 1999
Hurrah! Rejoice! More madness from the PM (Pepin-Merhi) duo! ALIEN INTRUDER is notorious for being one of the PM duo's first ventures into the sci-fi (more like science-fantasy) realm. While ALIEN INTRUDER is an entertaining flick, it fails to offer enough nuances of elegance to help make this trip memorable and worthwhile...

Welcome to the grim future. The year is 2022. Aboard the U.S.S. Holly in outer space, mild mannered crew member Borman (Jeff Conaway) has apparently gone berserk. For no logical reason, Borman has callously slaughtered his own men...

Back on Planet Earth, Commander Skyler (Billy Dee Williams) has recently received a desperate call for help. The call has requested that a rescue mission must be dispatched into outer space to find any survivors of the massacre aboard the U.S.S. Holly. So Skyler decides to arbitrarily select four losers to accompany him on this rescue mission. Nick (Maxwell Caulfield) is an intransigent navigator who has almost instigated a space mutiny once... DJ (Richard Cody) is a computer hacker charged with embezzlement. Lloyd (Gary Roberts) is a woman-loving mechanic. Peter (Stephen Davies) is an expert at engineering.

As a reward for their hard work and services, the crew members of the U.S.S. Presley are allowed to relax and indulge in their own lovely gratification. The convicts are allowed a chance to vicariously live out their own pleasures via virtual reality.

Now, meet Ariel. She is every man's dream. She wants to become your playmate.

An alien virus, cleverly disguising herself as a femme fatale named Ariel (Tracy Soggins) has decided to enter each individual program...and turn these people's greatest fantasies into their worst nightmares. Ironically, these petty prisoners and thugs may become entrapped in their own fantasies... Meanwhile, unbeknownst to the daydreaming space travelers, Ariel is intent on luring them to their ultimate doom by forcing one of the crew members to navigate towards the forbidden "G-Sector." While these travelers are distracted by their own illusions, Ariel revels in seducing each victim as she appears in each virtual reality simulation. As a result, tension is created among the crew members themselves...

In space, there is no escape. In space, no one can hear a person die screaming in agony...

ALIEN INTRUDER has a unique premise, even if it is derivative of probably every other science-fiction thriller ever made. The idea of having an attractive but deadly seductress as the prime adversary is an unexpected turn for a science-fiction film.

Every science-fiction cliché ever manifested exists in this potboiler. It features lots of erotic love scenes, interpolated with sporadically violent action sequences. There are lots of gung-ho action in this flick. Along the way, the viewer is treated to a collection of beautiful women! What about the *special* effects? The special effects are not quite so special. Especially staring at that spinning spaceship...what a sizzling special effect. This film is all showmanship and little innovation. Most of the special FX, from the explosions in space to that dizzying space shuttle in distress are far from impressive, but it is allowable, considering the limited budget.

The visual sets, even the Wild West, are utterly depressing. All of the visual settings in this movie are just so murky and dismal. I guess that it kind of reflects the mood of the film in general. One of the virtual reality segments though, shot in black and white, is a sly homage to the "film noir" of the 1950s. The Wild West backdrop is sufficient as well. ALIEN INTRUDER has a really horrendous production, but it is sort of interesting to watch.

The performances in this movie are deadpan with Conaway acting way over-the-top as a psycho on the loose. Billy Dee Williams (whose payback for his supporting role in BATMAN was observably not high enough) seems to know how to have fun here as for the rest of the cast. Tracy Soggins is cute in this movie, especially when she plays mind games with the male cast. It is a joy to watch everyone acting paranoid in this movie...

ALIEN INTRUDER is sort of predictable because the viewer is always one step ahead of the characters. For example, we all know that Ariel will make herself an obligatory part of each of the space convict's dreams. It is just a matter of when she will show up which adds to part of the fun...

ALIEN INTRUDER is a decent but tedious sci-fi film. There is enough sex, violence, and eye candy to appease connoisseurs of sleaze, but this film has immensely restricted appeal. Despite this movie's flaws, it is still admissible. The film does move relatively fast enough, I suppose. At least Pepin and Merhi have managed to delete those dumb, poorly made (and sung) theme songs. Overall, think of ALIEN INTRUDER as a cross between "Playboy" and THE OUTER LIMITS...just without any sense of reverence...

RATING: ** out of ****.
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Quiet Fire (1991 Video)
A reasonably well-done thriller which is apropos, but not exceptional for action genre fans.
30 June 1999
Jesse Palmer (Lawrence Hilton-Jacobs) was one of the best men ever to serve the military during the Vietnam War. He was one soldier who always straightened out his priorities. In every mission he must accomplish, he will always return a hero, or else...he would not have returned at all... Nearly twenty years later, Palmer is out to prove his worth again...

Palmer knows a secret that is a bit esoteric. What he knows could very well have an impact on the reputation of a well-known politician. What he also knows could essentially endanger the lives of his friends and family. What he knows could put his own life on the line. This politician refuses to let Palmer tarnish his own image...so he decides to mark this loose cannon for death!

Palmer, a Vietnam Veteran must discomfit his ex-commanding officer turned crooked senate candidate named Whalen (Lance Lindsay, a Ted Turner look-alike) from conspiring to turn over part of the U.S. Government to terrorists. Whalen has all the help that he can afford. Mercenaries, assassins, a surveillance tracking system, endless firepower, and hired killers are at this corrupt senator's disposal. Oh yes, and who could forget those two muscular ladies, dressed to kill... Palmer, on the other hand, only has his wits, fists and a few other surprises to help put an end to a greedy politician's guileful schemes. This one innocent man must expose this corrupt senator before he wins the election...

Meanwhile, two dirty cops named Russo (Robert Z'Dar) and Overstreet (Jastereo Coviare) happen to work on the wrong side of the law. They have been hired by Whalen to personally annihilate Palmer himself. Not only is Palmer running from the law, but his girlfriend Jana (Nadia Marie) is inadvertently caught in this whole elaborate chase too. What these two fugitives eventually unveil though is a revelation. The "Quiet Fire" conspiracy is a devious project involving the use of high-tech weaponry for the benefit of America's prime adversaries. American may no longer be of use once their own technology on enemy soil is turned against this country...

They're running out of time!

QUIET FIRE is definitely a low-budget and obscure action flick. There is little, if any substance in this interesting but somewhat hackneyed political action thriller. The plot is OK, but it illustrates miniscule novelty. The performances were adequate, but Karen Black was absolutely astounding in a completely off-the-wall performance. As an eccentric storekeeper, Kim (Black) manages to weasel in a few tried moments of humor in an otherwise straightforward action flick. Robert Z'Dar (MANIAC COP) tries to keep it real, but I could not help laugh at his sometimes histrionic performance as a deceitful cop. Maybe it is my perception, but that insidious senator looks so much like Ted Turner. Perhaps it is a mere coincidence...or could this case of double vision lead to a deeper machination? Lawrence Hilton-Jacobs (from the hit TV sitcom "Welcome Back, Kotter") keeps his cool here also. Hilton-Jacobs is casually talented behind as well as in front of the camera.

Though the film moves at a plodding pace, this is a reasonably fun motion picture. The action scenes are smooth and well made with well-executed car chases, gun battles, and martial arts fighting. QUIET FIRE contains stronger quality production values than the usual B-movie.

It's trite, it's generic, but it has a well-structured formula. This film works as a routine shoot 'em up action film. QUIET FIRE is pleasing but an often simplistic and plain diversion. This movie is not great by any means, but passable. QUIET FIRE is worth an overnight rental...assuming you have seen about every other action film ever made.

RATING: ** out of ****.
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Wicked fun!
27 June 1999
The soul of Satanic serial killer Charles Lee Ray is, by misfortune, incarcerated in the body of a seemingly innocuous doll. Ray's long time girlfriend, Tiffany (the seductive Jennifer Tilly) has found a book titled "Voodoo for Dummies." Now, she has called on the spirits of Hell to revive this left-for-dead doll...and to make him alive and well again!

When everything is botched in a misconstrued matter...Tiffany imminently finds herself in the body of another plastic doll as well. The two notorious murderers, known for their multiple crimes, fall in love again...and the world needs a prayer...

Yes, Chucky (voiced by Brad Dourif) the killer doll is back...and he's out for anyone's blood! Chucky's new bride Tiffany has also found herself enjoying all the twisted, creative murders Chucky has made. Chucky and Tiffany have one goal: to retrieve the "Heart of Omzilla," an amulet that will thus allow both of them to return to their former human selves...

You better watch out! Chucky is no more mister nice guy!

BRIDE OF CHUCKY is a sinister guilty pleasure! The Chucky franchise earns its much desperately needed (and deserved) revision. Thanks to Ronny Yu's (who has directed so many Hong Kong martial arts films) direction and the wizardry of special FX make-up artist Kevin Yagher, Chucky is livelier...and deadlier than ever. Yagher does a great job giving Chucky such human traits and attributes. Chucky is one demonic and realistic character whom I would NOT like to run into in a dark alley! Chucky himself looks especially deformed, with the appropriate stitches on his face and everything. For a pint size villain, he packs one mean attitude! Also, the facial expressions of the killer puppets Chucky and Tiffany are so bizarre, yet wonderfully genuine. One fact for sure, I was impressed by all the elaborate special effects... Hey, you must also adore the cogent and delightfully deviant love-hate relationship between Chucky and Tiffany.

John Ritter (!) is excellent (though unusually cast against type) as an uncompromising Security Chief Officer. Ritter should also earn an award for the best (and most unpredictable) demise. He certainly knows how to be dying in style! Brad Dourif really knows this Chucky character inside out. He delivers the wisecracks with impeccable timing before and after each killing. Alexis Arquette (THE WEDDING SINGER) is in top form as a "Goth" who encounters the devil doll. Jennifer Tilly is one fantastic, nefarious temptress.

There's plenty of bloodletting in this pleasantly entertaining (and sleazy) thriller. Lots of gory murders abound to keep bloodhounds ingratiated. This grotesquely violent and sanguinary film will easily scare away the squeamish. In addition, there are lots of cool (and sometimes subtle) references alluding to other horror flicks. I also learned from this movie that a person should not take love for granted.

BRIDE OF CHUCKY is an imaginative journey into everlasting terror. You will laugh and churn as you witness the brutal slayings as the consequences of this couple's rampage. If you appreciate dark, macabre humor, then this movie is perfect for you! By far the best film in this series. This movie is even better than the original CHILD'S PLAY ...

RATING: **1/2 out of ****.
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Eraser (1996)
Perfectly acceptable hard-hitting fun!
25 June 1999
John Kruger, a.k.a. "The Eraser" (The big man himself, Arnold Schwarzenegger) is a ferocious U.S. Federal Marshal working as a member for the Witness Protection Agency. His latest assignment is to protect the beautiful and astute Dr. Lee Cullen (Miss America's Vanessa Williams). For Miss Cullen is an employee working for a powerful engineering company specializing in high technological products for the future. This company is responsible for manufacturing powerful laser guns with destructive capabilities and mechanisms which allow these weapons to produce maximum damage. The original intent of these delicate weapons is for military purposes. What Miss Cullen does not know is that there is a conspiracy going on from within the company... Lately, Cullen has evinced an illegal, black market trading and selling of these top secret, laser ray weapons to rogue foreign terrorists... Cullen's life is in jeopardy...she has been targeted for murder...and only John Kruger can save and protect her from imminent threats...by "erasing" Cullen's old identity and implanting a new one...

Robert Deguerin (James Caan), Kruger's superior, has to make sure that everything in this operation is running smoothly and that Kruger does a decent job keeping his eye on Cullen. However, even with the guaranteed safekeeping of her own life by Kruger, Cullen must learn to defend herself from the clutches of her ruthless employer and hitherto unknown criminal mastermind organizing the whole deal alongside with renegade extremists... As well, Cullen learns to trust no one for the government itself may be embroiled in this entire catastrophe...

What predictably follows throughout ERASER is a melange of excessive firepower, brutal fist-fighting, shoot-outs performed with celerity, tons of violent carnage, massive explosions, and nonstop excitement. Yes, ERASER is a definite high testosterone thriller with state of the art effects and a wonderful sense of humor thanks to Arnold's crafty one-liners.

As a chef who owes a "debt of gratitude" to "The Eraser," Robert Pastorelli ( Striking Distance, TV's Murphy Brown ) shines with some spotlight stealing moments also.

ERASER is fun-filled and exhilarating, with a pace that moves lightning fast. However, a paucity of character development or originality in the film's cliché story-line bring this movie down a notch or so. The scantiness of actual substance is sadly common in ERASER. The premise is wonderful, but the product could have been better. The director, cast, and production crew should have been slightly more ambitious with this film's mold...

That having been said, ERASER is a fine treat for male audiences. There's plenty of action, energy, and blood with a fair amount of thrills. Interesting adventure sequences include Arnold parachuting from a burning passenger jet and Arnold again attempting to fight against a myriad of man-eating crocodiles bare-fisted. (Though instead, he had to resort to conventional firearms as weapons.) By the end, when the battle is every man for himself, Arnold's methods of nailing and eliminating the enemy with their own medicine is pure poetic justice!

Some outrageous stunts and special effects, plus the presence of Herculean Arnold Schwarzenegger boost ERASER above complete imbecility. Still, the failure to convey any character depth or meaning into a simplistic plot may classify ERASER as an "escapist" film, but also a "mindless" action film as well. Never once, do the characters convince the audience the gravity of the situation. The performers never persuade the audience to think about the consequences of their actions. Is ERASER a thought-provoking film? Yeah right! ERASER is a standard, "kill or be killed" thriller, nothing more.

Considering Arnold's earlier blockbuster achievements which actually included three dimensional characters such as TOTAL RECALL (1990), TERMINATOR 2, JUDGMENT DAY, (1991) and TRUE LIES (1994), this film is somewhat rudimentary in characterization. For many people though, this quality may not exactly be a setback.

ERASER is a film that is always fun to sit back, watch, and enjoy the action! If you expect anything profound from this movie...try again. ERASER is a cool, better than expected action film with great special effects, two appealing leads, and a package full of car explosions and other assortments of surprises and tricks. Sure, ERASER may not be a "classic" action film, but entertaining, it definitely is. A better plot though, can prove to be very conducive for a film of this caliber...

RATING: **1/2 out of ****.
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No Exit (1995 Video)
Formulaic action film with an all too familiar "fight to the death" theme.
24 June 1999
A conspicuous and uninspired retread of Richard Cornell's "The Most Dangerous Game." In spite of that drawback though, FATAL COMBAT has a few strengths and merits that buffer this piece of opus from becoming a total disaster.

Well, here goes, College Professor John Stoneman (Canadian martial artist Jeff Wincott) teaches a course which emphasizes on psychological conflict resolutions. He always dictates the use of moral ethics over violence. While trying to protect his pregnant wife from a gang of obnoxious and murderous thugs, Professor Stoneman is lured and captured by a sadistic entrepreneur of television programming. Here, Stoneman is coerced to participate in a game show that comprises of death matches, fistfights, and run-for-your-life obstacle courses not to mention plenty of booby traps hidden along the way...

Evil, bald and crooked television producer and distributor Armstrong (Richard Fitzpatrick) has designed a most optimum competition meet which forces several fighters of various skills to compete in an eight day tournament being aired live on television across Canada and presumably parts around the world. The contest is called "No Exit," and only the best and strongest of wills can survive this grueling process where tough guys beat the living daylights out of weaklings and even the brave will collapse in disillusion. The current champion of "No Exit" which airs every year is Darcona (Sven Ole-Thorsen). He has a propensity for neck snapping and breaking the spirits out of many of his competitors. He intimidates, then kills his victims like a panther without any remorse...

Stoneman has the temerity to face Darcona, but in a unexpected turn of events, Stoneman has discovered that his wife's soon-to-be born baby has been aborted, attributed to the attack earlier on. Stoneman must keep a calm composure, and somehow, he must fight back against the corporate villains...even if it resorts to breaking the rules...and losing his life...

FATAL COMBAT (also titled NO EXIT) is an interesting clone of "The Most Dangerous Game." This film is surprisingly anemic and mundane for a martial arts showcase. Some rather good fight scenes though and a shrewd, creative touch here and there with the arena and the battle scenarios. The highlights include "The Key," where two opponents race to grab the "key" and thus blow his rival away into shreds. The arena, confined in a small cage where two warriors duke it out with pulse sensory sticks while trying to avoid an electrical, surrounded fence is kind of neat. The brawl at the cafeteria was pretty cool...

What makes FATAL COMBAT a venial though well-intentioned thriller is that the main, robust character and hero, Stoneman normally resolves his conflicts with inner peace and words rather than punches and violence. He manipulates his challengers before they can make their move. However, once Stoneman enters the "No Exit" games, he has no choice but to fight for his life. All his philosophies, his beliefs in non-violent resolutions, peacemaking alternatives, staying unnerved at the face of danger, keeping his provocations inside himself...have vanished once he has competed in the "No Exit" matches. Stoneman was originally someone with high ingenuity and humane rhetoric. Now, all those ideas and thoughts are meaningless and trivial...

Even though FATAL COMBAT tries to deliver a message about only the strongest of souls will survive the fiercest perils, this film has one too many liabilities. First, the low budget does not help though the scenic atmosphere around the Arctic area was well photographed. Second, there are too many cliches which built to a surpassing amount. Stereotyped characters, paltry action sequences, and an involving though trite characterization are examples of the film's banality. Also, what kind of sick individual would also want to rape one of the good guys?

FATAL COMBAT deserves a better criterion. Don't look for anything remotely original or intriguing in this movie. The same effects, situations, and tiresome kicking and hitting are all recycled from earlier films just with different actors trying to repaint and redesign the plot and movie. The cast and director work earnestly with this film; and their message that sometimes, choosing between what is right or wrong can be beneficial as well as detrimental is taken with consideration. Otherwise, this film is labeled with the word "PREDICTABLE" all over it. FATAL COMBAT is in fatal trouble...

RATING: *1/2 out of ****.
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A great, electrifying finale to a well-established series.
16 June 1999
In 1978, the most consummate face of evil, Michael Myers, has committed a most incorrigible crime spree ever. Many people have died as a result of his disturbing behavior, many more lives were crushed and dispirited. The only survivor who has managed to witness Myers' fiendish attacks was Laurie Strode (Jaime Lee Curtis). All of this horrifying reality took place twenty years ago...

Twenty years later, Laurie Strode must move on. Under the incognito, Keri Tate, Strode has acclimatized herself to a new lifestyle. She now works as head mistress of an elite preppy school in northern California. Laurie Strode, a.k.a. Keri Tate also happens to be an overprotective mother to her teenage son, John (Josh Hartnett). However, there is always a way the past can come back to haunt their prey and wreck vengeance to the first degree... Strode's big bad brother, Myers is back...or is she just suffering from post-traumatic stress which induces hallucinations. Either way, Strode knows that the ultimate manifestation of depravity is stalking her once again...

With most of the students gone for the weekend on a remote trip to Yosemite National Park, Strode is left alone to take care of the school. Still, she manages to bump into a few guests...and not all of them are pleasantly here to stay. Strode is luckily kept company with a kind and gentle psychiatrist and practicing counselor (Adam Arkin). Romance blossoms in the air, permeating throughout the desolate school halls. The remaining few teens also decide to have a slumber sleepover party...much to the scorn and disapproval of Strode. Strode's very own son, and his girlfriend (Michelle Williams) just coincidentally happen to be "left behind." This chance of events though will just aggrandize Myers' wrath...and now, he has an even greater opportunity to amass a higher body count...

The only means of security in this isolated prep school is an incompetent, loony security guard (rapper L.L. Cool J), who keeps his boring life and job preoccupied by reading whimsical love poems to that special someone...

Now, on Halloween night, 1998, someone holding a sharp kitchen knife with a roughneck personality to match is roaming the campus. His cravings for violence and murder may never be ingratiated. Laurie Strode knows that in order to vanquish her fears...she must confront the definitive personification of the "bogeyman," and slay this demon with a huge, powerful axe. Only then, can she overcome her nightmares which have hurt her for these past twenty years...

HALLOWEEN: H20 a.k.a. HALLOWEEN: H20 - TWENTY YEARS LATER is an arbitrarily effective shocker. The seventh installment in the financially successful HALLOWEEN franchising series has the requisite gory murders, i.e. a decapitation, impaling, throat slitting, slashing, et. al. This movie manages to conjure up an ample number of screams from the timid audiences. What abets boosting HALLOWEEN: H20 from the ordinary slasher flick is undeniably the sole presence of Jaime Lee Curtis. She has the charms, wit, looks, and demeanor to make her truly, a scream queen worth "dying for." Jaime Lee Curtis has made a poignant, puissant heroine in this "slash and stalk" flick, and her ability to show a calm countenance in the face of trouble make her a fine and appealing actress. Curtis, no doubt, became one of the horror industry's prime attractions and she should be proud of herself for progressing her own film career so well. Kudos to you, Jaime!

In the beginning, the opening homage to PSYCHO (1960) is amusing and germane. Jaime Lee's own mother, Janet Leigh (PSYCHO) also boasts a cameo in this motion picture. She happens to have only two scenes throughout this whole movie as Norma, Tate's personal assistant. Leigh though, had a gem of a cameo with her role as a smart-mouthed member of the school administration.

HALLOWEEN: H20 possesses decent suspense even if it relies too much on pretentious, false scares. Too frequently, there are so many false alarms in this movie that the audience may eventually lose their patience. They want Myers to show up...and to perform his nightly rituals. Too often, I have admitted ending up cheering for the bad guy once he starts carving up his next, unlucky victim!

Very good acting and the direction by Steve Miner (FRIDAY THE 13TH PART 2 & 3) moves this film at a modest pace. The suspense is steady enough so that the film doesn't fall down quickly into a state of boredom. It is always fun to watch everyone's favorite infamous masked murdered Michael Myers do things his way. He doesn't take any bull from anybody...he just kills them if they stand in his path...in the wake of his own destruction...

HALLOWEEN: H20 is a respectable finale to the popular series. Get ready for chills, thrills, and blood spills! From the murderous spree in the beginning to the unconditional denouncement, HALLOWEEN: H20 is a scary hayride!

RATING: **1/2 out of ****.
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Zeiram (1991)
Another great sci-fi premise with outstanding visuals...but that is barely enough to salvage this anemic picture.
5 June 1999
In the stylized tradition of 1950s Japanese monster movies and the current, popular trendy pastiche of modern Anime comes a fantastic futuristic adventure. Zeram is basically an enormous giant renegade space alien who has done quite a lot of damage aboard on other planets.

Now, Zeram has been lured to Planet Earth, with so many victims at its disposal. The only souls who can abolish this demonic presence are a female space bounty hunter, Ilya (Yuko Moriyama), from Planet Mays, and her highly intelligent albeit obstinate computer, Bob. The two have planned a trap for Zeram, and the showdown will take place in a take-no-prisoners setting inside "The Zone," a virtual reality type environment that is uninhabited, and totally unreal...

The odds are in favor of Zeram, and to make matters a lot more unbearable, two goofballs from an electric company (Yukihiro Hotaru and Kunihiko Ida), have managed to slip by... One of these employees is a Leslie Cheung lookalike. Anyway, Ilya feels very uncomfortable at this moment as the two bumbling clowns serve as the most inconvenient supplements right now...

The battlefield is set. Ilya is armed with a cool warp machine that can travel both dimensions, from the Zone to the Real World. She has a powerful space bazooka, body armor, an electric shield for protection, and plenty of agile moves to knock Zeram off into oblivion! Zeram however has: Mutant dwarves, a bulletproof armor, lasers, servants, and a miniature face within its head that serves as his primary weapon for mass destruction. He eats organic matter, and creates his own army of deformed freaks! Zeram is a grotesque creature, resembling that of a disfigured statue. Every time Zeram is apparently destroyed...he keeps regenerating, looking more disgusting every time... This creature can morph from a slow-moving juggernaut...to a slick moving spider... Zeram and Ilya are at the final match tonight...with the fate of the world hanging in the balance...

ZERAM (The film's original Japanese title is ZEIRAMU.) is an OK flick. Some decorative special effects, machinery, and lots of explosions aggrandize the film. The film is orchestrated with dazzling FX and imagery. The stop motion effects are remarkable as well. Still, despite the flamboyant technology and some rather impressive effects of its kind, the film is unfortunately waived thanks to a lack of invention and a excruciatingly plodding pace. The comedy in this film is extremely lame as well. The acute action and good martial arts skills in this movie are a plus. The gory introduction with people being literally blown away also serves as among the best highlights in this average sci-fi journey.

Even though the flashy visuals are accompanied throughout most of this movie, the film is still, amazingly lifeless and boring. ZERAM takes too long to begin picking up the pace, and although the film runs for only 90 minutes long, the movie drags so consistently that it feels like the feature is going on forever. A fastidious misfire, due to its tepid direction which is short on vigor. Also, by the end, we are very much unclear about the origin of Zeram...and we no longer give either...

This movie's uneven pace is its biggest liability. If that was not there, this movie would have been very much enjoyable and entertaining, assisted with some raw comedy. Still, there's an acceptable premise, but the movie moves way too slowly! Lighting effects, tangible technological materials, and a good musical score orchestrated just BARELY save ZERAM from sinking under its own weight...

RATING: ** out of ****.
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The Mummy (1999)
A paradigmatic horror show guaranteed to keep audiences amazed and breathless.
29 May 1999
From beneath the depths of Hell, the ultimate symbol of evil is about to be reborn. Beyond mortality, beyond death, this creature of the undead will rise. Darkness will fall for all of eternity...and this plague will forever swallow this planet Earth...

About two thousand years ago, in the land of Ancient Egypt, a well-respected high priest known as Imhotep (Arnold Vosloo) has been a very naughty man. His one-stand with the Pharaoh's mistress may very well cost him his life. After the Pharaoh discovers this illicit, forbidden love affair, Imhotep and the mistress murder the heartless Pharaoh without second thoughts. As payback though, Imhotep is to suffer the gravest consequences...

Imhotep is eventually sentenced to die a most horrifying death. The Pharaoh's guards have buried him alive inside a tomb, complete with ravaging scarabs and all. What's even worse is that the guards have placed a disturbing curse upon the buried soul. Whoever opens the tomb of this ancient evil will awaken the curse that has lied dormant for thousands of ears. All shall suffer eternal damnation, as the Mummy will release its unstoppable powers upon the lands and onto the cities. His reign of terror will spread...

For twenty centuries, this soul has rested in peace... Jumping forward to 1925, a bunch of foolish archaeologists, driven by profit and ignoring all admonishments, have decided to open the tomb of the wretched Mummy. Well, that decision was foolish... Now, the armies of the dead will inhabit the Earth and evil will take over... Only Colonel Rick O'Connell (Brendan Fraser) and his brave team of courageous souls can prvent the Mummy's plans to rule the planet. Along with an alluring librarian and inspiring archaeologist (Rachel Weisz), her timid brother (John Hannah), and an even more craven sidekick, Beni (Kevin J. O'Connor), O'Connell and his company of wisecracking Smart Alec folks are mankind's last hope. This though, happens to be another incident where the good guys are at the wrong place at the right time. Heaven have mercy on these souls... Will faith spare human lives, or can the world kiss hope goodbye?

THE MUMMY is so much better than I originally anticipated. The special effects alone will blow you away! It is unbelievable how the Mummy is able to transform himself from a rotting, disintegrating corpse to a fully developed supernatural being, and even to a raging sandstorm. Also, those creepy crawly scarabs scare the daylights out of me! The scarabs literally crawl under people's skins! Impressive production values, capturing and recreating the ruins of Hamunaptra at its full glory, serve as another highlight for THE MUMMY.

Sure, there are also the monstrous zombies, the nightmarish flying locusts, and the fallen skies. Yes, there is also the requisite damsel-in-distress (and love interest) who captures Imhotep's heart. The venomous super-villain who must eat the flesh of others in order to survive is a plus as well. However, director Stephen Sommers (DEEP RISING) transcends beyond cliché material. He brings to the audience original ideas with a refreshingly cool tone. He makes sure that there is style within the special effects. The eye-popping FX in general will keep crowds contented, and then some.

It is tough to keep a straight face when watching this movie, but you have to praise Sommers and the cast for letting you have so much fun. Yes, the dialogue is indeed ridiculous as for some of the sequences. One scene that had me chuckling throughout was when all the slaves were synchronically chanting "Imhotep!" Kevin J. O'Connor finds himself having some of the best one-liners as he may eventually switch allegiances and serve a different master. Yes, the humor is somewhat gratuitous, granted. However, in all sincerity, the humor is needed to lighten the film's dark tone.

The acting is more second rate. Arnold Vosloo made a terrific villain and Rachel Weisz lights up the screen with her gorgeous presence. Fraser and O'Connor are great also. The rest of the cast is kind of listless though. In spite of that, THE MUMMY is a spectacular spectacle laced with show-stopping special effects and genuine chills. The music, composed and conducted by Jerry Goldsmith is pulse pounding and excellent. The orchestration is wonderful during this film's every thread of suspense.

Overall, THE MUMMY is one of the best blockbusters of 1999. Nonstop thrills and surprises galore highlight this enthusiastic, fun-filled entertainment. THE MUMMY has lots of fun and excitement. The only flaw that prevents this film from being a full fledged four star movie is its occasional lapses in credibility and coherence. At times, this film is extremely ludicrous, but who cares, its fanatically fun to watch. Genre fans, take note.

Remember, you cannot keep the dead buried forever...

RATING: ***1/2 out of ****.
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The Big Hit (1998)
A change of pace from the standard action film.
22 May 1999
Melvin Smiley (former rapper "Marky" Mark Wahlberg) is the typical Mister Nice Guy. He cannot say "no" to any proposition being made. Melvin is also engaged to a wonderful fiancée, Pam Shulman (Christina Applegate). Did I mention that he also has a gorgeous mistress too? Well, Melvin's "mistress," Chantel (Lela Rochon) is quite upset right now, and for good reason.

What does Melvin do for a living? Well, let's just say he's very adept at disposing the "trash" of society. The pay is groovy too! Anyway, alongside with Cisco (Lou Diamond Phillips), Vince (Antonio Sabato Jr.) and Crunch (Bokeem Woodbine), Smiley and company are responsible for dispatching a certain amount of bad guys for a hefty sum...and bonuses are included too!

Realizing that they have been manipulated and cheated by their bosses and the agency, the four contract killers have decided to kidnap the daughter of a prominent Japanese entrepreneur. Keiko Nishi (model China Chow) becomes the victim of the four depraved hunters. They hold her for a voluminous ransom of a few million dollars. The father of his kidnapped daughter, Mr. Nishi (Sab Shimono) knows that he cannot withdraw a great sum of money from his account so he hires an elusive figure (Avery Brooks) to track down the contract killers...and to finish the job...

As a Jewish professional killer, the whimsical Melvin Smiley begins to lose plenty of motivation and respect in his job. He also develops an infatuation for the sumptuous Keiko Nishi. Unfortunately, a change of heart won't do for the rest of the crew, so once the kidnapping scheme has become inevitably botched, Smiley has turned into the primary target for elimination...and he must pay restitution...with his life...

One of Smiley's colleagues has happened to have gone nuts. Smiley must now face his greatest challenge...finding out who the invidious enemy is from within...

THE BIG HIT is an engaging display of firepower and utter hysteria. The motion picture is enlivened by a fine cast of caricatures and this film contains a vibrant sense of humor. The creative dialogue amid all of the profanity keeps the hilarity level at a sustained, adequate rate. Plenty of violence and energy help keep this film moving at an adequately vigorous pace.

Inventive action sequences includes Mark Wahlberg break-dancing while taking down an army of gunmen with his ambidextrous skills! The all-out gun battle at the beginning is a cinematic example of meticulous photography. Another highlight includes a psychotic driver chasing Wahlberg by means of a damaged, banged-up vehicle through the secluded woods. The climax unfolds with an impressive martial arts battle taking place inside an elaborate video store (!)

THE BIG HIT is a flick which is also a good natured parody that is reasonably palatable. THE BIG HIT also shows how one man must learn to juggle so much in his life, including his job working for the agency, his obligations with dealing with his boss, his commitment to his "true love," and all of his financial encumbrance as well.

While the film may be weird and simply strange at times, THE BIG HIT is no doubt entertaining with hip characters who add more dimension with their sardonic performances. There is plenty of over-the-hill laughs and you may cringe at Lou Diamond Phillips trying to act *ghetto* but THE BIG HIT remains fun on a personal level. In terms of trying to be a "classy," film, THE BIG HIT does not quite succeed. As a piece of escapism for those who do not like stressed out reality, THE BIG HIT accomplishes that mission alone. Action purists will appreciate this movie the most. Although THE BIG HIT may not be a major hit, this film will sure delight action fans. THE BIG HIT is a nicely drawn out parody.

RATING: **1/2 out ****.
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Intensive action along with supercharged, stylish gunplay.
19 May 1999
A fireworks display full of nonstop action, gunfire, and a deliciously high body count. LAST MAN STANDING is a bullet riddled frenzy.

Akira Kurosawa's YOJIMBO (1961) gets a revitalized reworking here in this updated tale of "every man for himself." Director Walter Hill (RED HEAT, STREETS OF FIRE, THE WARRIORS) promises the high caliber virtuosity. Also, for the sake of those drama connoisseurs, Hill has added class with a touch of loyalty, the obsession of money, bootlegging, and betrayal.

The setting is during the Prohibition Era approximately dating back to the 1920s. Taking place in the small town of Jericho, Texas, a loner with a B.A. standing for "brass attitude" enters the scene, with the sole goal of making easy cash.

His quick reflexes and amazingly perceptive intuition have caught the attention of both the organized gangs running this dried up, soon-to-be abandoned desert town. The soul's incognito is most appropriately, "John Smith." Bruce Willis (DIE HARD trilogy, THE SIEGE, ARMAGEDDON) is demure as the soft-spoken stranger who takes no official sides in this competition. Although he apparently is working in conjunction with one particular gang at first, he abruptly switches allegiance...and this is no way to make a friend here in the dangerous side of Jericho...

As Smith eventually double crosses both sides, he purposely precipitates a rival gang war with innumerable casualties and fatalities...

LAST MAN STANDING is a ruthless, bite-the-bullet masquerade that exactly knows what the audience wants. This film jolts the jugular with an electrifying fixation on audacity. Fast paced and gritty, with some compelling character angles, LAST MAN STANDING is still nothing at times but a very violent film which delivers maximum hits that fans of the genre will crave.

The talented cast is great. David Patrick Kelly is Doyle, the leader of one of the domineering organized gangs. Christopher Walken portrays a taciturn yet conniving facially scarred gangster who serves as Doyle's right hand man. Bruce Dern is tough as the Sheriff of this broken town. William Sanderson is Joe, the bartender who befriends Smith. Finally, Leslie Mann fulfills her role as an innocent bystander pulled into the crossfire.

The moody musical score composed by Ry Cooder (STREETS OF FIRE) is excellent. Also, unlike similar genre action flicks, one must pay attention to the important dialogue in LAST MAN STANDING. Watching Mr. Smith manipulate both gangs is quite captivating, exploiting their gullibility and exposing their weaknesses towards greed and power.

The violence in LAST MAN STANDING is also excessive at times with a body count surpassing a good majority of action flicks. The way John Smith shoots through his adversaries is highly preposterous, but reasonably entertaining. Many of the "torture" scenes portrayed in this film are sadistic and sickening.

It's good to see that Walter Hill has finally acceded credit to someone else instead of vainly claiming this project to be his own. Anyway, LAST MAN STANDING is an above average thriller. LAST MAN STANDING is one of Walter Hill's most recognized projects. The cast and crew have definitely dedicated their time and effort into this piece in order to give an authentic feel of the "gangster" life and times during the turmoil which occurred in the 1920s.

RATING: **1/2 out of ****.
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Nighthawks (1981)
Genuinely worthwhile thriller benefits from strong character development and great acting.
16 May 1999
Two dedicated albeit crackerjack cops (Sylvester "Sly" Stallone and Billy Dee Williams) are on a new case: They must apprehend a slick, nefarious international terrorist and not to mention notorious criminal mastermind, Wulfgar (Rutger Hauer). Wulfgar's schemes thrive on the destruction of World Order and democracy. The two detectives, whose beat have always been the petty criminals of the street, have at first expressed animadversion when they are forced to nail the wily villain, Wulfgar. They have never encountered such an eluding antagonist before. No longer can the cops use conventional tactics, but they must resort to new, fresh methods...

For Wulfgar dissembles his identity with several incognitos, thus making him a tougher target to capture.

NIGHTHAWKS is a well-mounted, well-paced thriller that puts the accent on suspense (with some bloodshed of course). NIGHTHAWKS is a neat powerhouse! The movie contains riveting chases, a spectacle for a final confrontation, and an aggressively structured formula throughout the entire film. There are lots of opportunities for combustible moments in this film as well.

What makes NIGHTHAWKS standout even greater and better than the ordinary action flick is its emphasis on characterization and morals. NIGHTHAWKS does a terrific interpretation of how fascinating and surreptitious the terrorist bad guy is compared to a troublesome criminal. Whereas the latter simply relies on survival and desperation in the derelict streets, the former is a very intelligent person with a respectively high I.Q. and an organized purpose. His mission is clear: to fight the oppressors who have destroyed his native land and people. The terrorist covers his tracks well and moves from location and location, making his presence less conspicuous. As for the heroic cops, Deke DaSilva (Stallone) manages to preserve ethics first when making a judgment before decisive action. He knows when to call out the shot. DaSilva refuses to jeopardize innocent lives just for the sake of shooting down the villain, and in most cases, he has earned a level of propriety. DaSilva's testament to moral values is also well demonstrated in NIGHTHAWKS.

Rutger Hauer gave a genuinely eerie and chilling performance as he portrays a very psychotic but also very convincing villain with a substantially bad attitude. Overall, NIGHTHAWKS is a high caliber action film. This "above and beyond the call of duty" type quality of motion picture is a consistently thorough and memorable film. This ranks among the finest cop dramas ever composed and for over a decade, this film's reputation and aura have managed to stand the test of time. NIGHTHAWKS is a recommended hit.

RATING: *** out of ****.
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Blade (1998)
A dark, handsome thriller destined to become a cult classic.
14 May 1999
The freedom of mankind is at stake... The vampire infestation is pandemic...no one is safe... Only one warrior can vanquish the traces of evil...ironically he is one of their kin... He has the semblance of a normal human being...and the powers of an immortal... This warrior has started his own prophecy...the one legend known only as Blade!

Wesley Snipes tackles the title role with plenty of qualified skills. He's adept at all forms of martial arts, he has an edgy, wise-guy attitude, and the horrific demons of the night do not scare or intimidate him one bit! Blade's most admirable challenge yet is to destroy the evil Deacon Frost (Stephen Dorff) and cast asunder the armies of malevolence. Blade puts the teeth in fighting as he slices and dices vampire hordes one by one...

Blade's only two allies are a beautiful scientist (N'Bushe Wright) who has already fallen prey to the vampire curse, and an inventor, Whistler (country singer Kris Kristofferson) who supplies Blade with the adequate arms and weapons. Blade also has a cool arsenal of accessories. A shot-gun to kick some vampire rear; body armor; a shining, silver titanium sword, heart piercing knives; a motorcycle; shades; and a really mean attitude all add up to Blade's trademarks. However, with all the firepower Blade has at the palm of his hands, can he defeat the overwhelming odds before they consummate their plan to take over the city...and the world? No problem, right? All in a day's work for Blade...

BLADE is just one addition to the latest genre of superhero comic book characters who are adapted onto the big screen. In all sincerity, this version of the Marvel Comics action hero is given a fairly successful translation as a movie. Expect no mercy thrills with heart pounding tension, fast moving energy, and a very sick array of imaginative (and disgusting) special FX. The vampires in this movie look very, well, bleak and the gore in this film is piled to new extremes. Bonuses also include Udo Kier and Traci Lords as merciless vampires on the prowl.

BLADE is a pretty cool movie. Brutal action scenes and above average performances from a well reputable cast boost this film above standard fare. Sanguinary is one word that can also describe this movie. Prepare to close your eyes and scream at the unpredictable atrocities!

Bravura beginning and closing sequences are fantastic and surreal. They serve as the best features of the movie. Windows shatter, and the "bloodbath dance" choreography in the epilogue of this movie is strangely provocative yet stomach turning. The futuristic techno-rock and rap are awesome and mind-bending. The middle though tends to drag occasionally. Also, a subway chase scene is somewhat dogmatic and the end where the ultimate evil is unveiled will not make a lot of sense...

If you ever need a film to help provide your escape from the real world into an effervescent dimension, BLADE is just right for you. Your pulse will rapidly beat by the minute in this gore galore flick, and although the film ends up with a conventional conclusion, there are enough surprises to jump even the most jaded viewers. BLADE is a handsomely dark, moody vampire picture which offers plenty of wit and horror.

RATING: **1/2 out of ****.
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8/10
An excellent film covering a controversial subject.
9 May 1999
In the profane streets of Hollywood, California, dreams are realized...and lives are wasted. Hollywood, California is home to not only the stars, but to the absolute abject who are desperate to make a living. Jack (Wings Hauser) is a police detective who works for the vice squad. He is aggressive yet compassionate with a soft spot for teenage runaways. This tough, street-smart detective is about to be thrust into the depraved world of snuff films...

Several aspiring actors and actresses with stars in their eyes are accosted by two mysterious filmmakers. They have promised each individual model the "role of a lifetime." Little do each of these people realize that the price for stardom includes...their very own lives...

Meanwhile, Jack's one-night stand with Holly (Kathleen Kinmont) has somehow mounted to a six-month long affair. Though Jack has enjoyed every single moment with Holly, he must still find a way to rekindle their fading romance...

As the body count rises and the tension mounts, Jack must spring into action. He must investigate the case and find out who are the culprits responsible for these grisly, murderous acts. What's even more terrifying is that the staged premeditated murders are copycats from (in)famous horror movies...

People know that THE ART OF DYING is perversion in the first degree. Yet, the viewer will find him/herself strangely engrossed in the nefarious world of "murder on film." Horror film buffs in particular will take pleasure in seeing homage to such classic films as PSYCHO (1960), THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE (1974), etc. THE ART OF DYING is one of the most psychologically moving horror flicks in years. The tough, film noir -type detective knows that he has a lot to handle emotionally in dealing with psychotics who enjoy capturing the suffering of others on film. Yet, this detective knows that once he gets involved in this case, he is plunged into a decadent world of evil where escape is impossible...

A huge asset in THE ART OF DYING is the prevailing atmosphere for the moribund souls dying to be in the pictures... The jazz score played as background music only heightens the suspense to an immoral atmosphere. There are lots of violent bloodshed and nudity, but unlike most films from PM Entertainment, this movie contains no car crashes or explosions so action fans may feel alienated. However, for those who are willing to immerse themselves into a strange world where reality and illusion collide will find this film a surprise...

The supporting cast is excellent. Michael J. Pollard is a standout as Delbert, an informative criminal psychologist who seems to know too much about the criminal mind. Gary Werntz is frantically devious as Rosco, a filmmaker pushed over the edge of sanity. He is appropriately unbalanced as a struggling albeit conceited filmmaker who considers himself superior to such highly regarded film directors as Brian De Palma, Martin Scorsese, and yes, even Alfred Hitchcock. Rosco always adds a touch of "realism" in all of his scenes he directs. Mitch Hara is woefully nasty as an assistant snuff filmmaker, "Latin Jerry." Kathleen Kinmont is also a visual treat for the eyes. She is amazing sexy.

What is engaging about this film, THE ART OF DYING is that it gives a glimpse of the dark side of Hollywood. Beneath the glamour lies the phone-sex businesses which are common, prostitution which is rife, and struggling actors and actresses who are frantic to make ends meet (and also to make a few extra bucks). THE ART OF DYING is a sardonic satire on the film industry and the independent filmmaker. In this art of perverse filmmaking, money does not always equate pleasure...

Unfortunately, as superb as THE ART OF DYING may be, this film always has its weaknesses. The most significant weakness is its lapses of characterization. For example, no explanation is given as to why the crooked filmmakers behave the way they do. No motive is given to justify their sickening actions. Another weak point in this film is the chemistry between Jack and Holly. Even though these two share a wonderful relationship, their vacillation between love & kisses and then to arguments & abuses is rather unconvincing. As observed, logic and credibility sometimes take a backseat.

THE ART OF DYING is a slick, well-made thriller with strong performances and powerful subtexts about the other side of Hollywood. Stylishly directed by star Hauser himself, THE ART OF DYING is a sinister, first-rate masterpiece. Fine acting, a morbid tone, scathing one-liners, and a grim sense of humor buoy this modest sleeper hit. Although this film is an unnoticed hit for now, it will eventually earn its much-deserved recognition.

RATING: *** out of ****.
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A strong stomach is required in order to survive this macabre journey of pure evil...
4 May 1999
Pinhead (Doug Bradley) is back with a vengeance, and a personal vendetta in this vastly superior sequel compared to the first two HELLRAISER flicks. HELLRAISER III: HELL ON EARTH has the most imaginative make-up FX around, courtesy of Bob Keen. HELLRAISER III: HELL ON EARTH is an AWESOME film and yes, Pinhead and company do have lots of innovative ways to murder, maim, maul, mutilate, and simply kill unfortunate victims which are guaranteed to delight horror fans, and shock the delicate in nature.

A sleazy nightclub owner, J.P. Monroe (Kevin Bernhardt) has, in possession, the statue of Pinhead. Little does J.P. Monroe realize that he has the potential to release the ultimate evil...

Pinhead has been resurrected... Now, in the form of this statue, Pinhead must consume random victims at his disposal so that he may unleash his evil, pernicious powers to be! It's up to a feisty news reporter Joey Summerskill (Terry Farrell) to stop Pinhead's diabolical plans and to put an end to him, and his Cenobites forever. The Gates of Hell must be closed, and that effusively strange looking box holds the key to preventing Pinhead's quest for world domination...

It won't be an easy quest for Summerskill though. Despite all the overwhelming odds against news reporter Joey Summerskill, she still has one ally...

The ghost of a World War II veteran (Bradley once again, playing duo roles) can assist Summerskill and give her inklings as to how to stop Pinhead's reign of terror. Unfortunately, for Summerskill, in order to have this WWII ghost defeat Pinhead in the netherworld, she must risk her life to lure Pinhead...driving him into the other dimension...Hell. The cross-worlds between pleasure and pain are interceded...

HELLRAISER III: HELL ON EARTH is a thoroughly well-made thriller. It has a very intriguing story-line, great special effects, and lots of destruction galore against people and property. Pinhead himself is good at being bad. If nihilism is the name of the game, than look no further!

Directed with flair and style by Anthony Hickox (WAXWORK, FULL ECLIPSE), HELLRAISER III: HELL ON EARTH is one of a very small breed of sequels that is overpowering over the original hits. HELLRAISER III: HELL ON EARTH will jolt you left and right! The gory make-up FX are some of the best...and the most realistically staged, frightening sequences ever seen. The all-new, malformed looking Cenobites for HELLRAISER III: HELL ON EARTH are amazing.

Again, I highly recommend HELLRAISER III: HELL ON EARTH for those brave souls who are willing to explore into "deviant" territory. The story-line is fascinating and outrageous, the action is well done, and even Pinhead made a great movie villain with his strong ability to deceive lost souls, confusing reality with illusion. HELLRAISER III: HELL ON EARTH is a complete phantasm of a movie. It combines a good plot, scary FX, and buckets of gore to challenge the viewer's credibility. Let me warn you that HELLRAISER III: HELL ON EARTH is one sinister journey with stomach churning consequences. If you are prepared to plunge into a gruesome world of horrifying proportions, then Godspeed to you... Horror connoisseurs will find much to appeal to in HELLRAISER III: HELL ON EARTH; the weak and sensitive to their stomach souls need not to apply...

RATING: **1/2 out of ****.
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Slick action film will keep the audiences enthralled in awe.
1 May 1999
A tautly made, smart and slick thriller blessed with credibility and intelligence.

Robert Clayton Dean (Will Smith) is a happy, financially successful man with a beautiful wife (Regina Kind) and handsome son (Jascha Washington). He has a top paid job, a luxurious house, and everything an all-American citizen could ever conjure up. Until...Dean's life has suddenly turned upside down into a nightmare of violence and incidents moving at tidal wave speeds.

ENEMY OF THE STATE has plenty of speed, exuberance, excitement, and a solid plot to back up all of the usual action scenes. The performances in this film were essentially superb from Voight again capturing attention as the demented main antagonist to Hackman as a lone herman geek who specializes into tapping through the main Government program. Will Smith (MEN IN BLACK) shines as the naïve lawyer, innocently caught in a gigantic conspiracy implicating the U.S. government.

ENEMY OF THE STATE has a fascinating tone which allows the viewer to be enriched with explosions, unique camera angles, and lots of interesting futuristic toys such as satellites, tracking devices hidden with subtlety inside clothing, and high-tech computers which monitors voice prints and records conversations and pictures.

Will Smith is grand for he always injects plenty of humor in even the most utmost dangerous situations. The laughs are abundant, but they do not serve as a distraction from the film's focal point.

ENEMY OF THE STATE is a motion picture that also handles the theme of "invasion of privacy" with plenty of maturity and respect. The film also tackles the issue of "National Security Vs. Civil Liberty." How far should the government go in sustaining National Security? What are the real ambitions of the government and why do they often act in such a covert manner? Are threats to U.S. Security truly as dangerous and detrimental as alleged or is paranoia too overblown? The answers to these questions cannot be given away without spoiling the film's plot twists.

ENEMY OF THE STATE is a fine treat for the eyes, mind, and soul. The film is generally a well-done thriller with a loophole or two in the film's plot and characterization. The narrow escapes from treacherous dangers may also seem implausible and improbable at times. The idea of ENEMY OF THE STATE itself is not entirely original. Still, ENEMY OF THE STATE remains a fast moving film with great chase scenes and a story line built with sympathetic and strong willed characters. The direction from Tony Scott is blended with decent technical skills. The conclusion is definitely poetic justice!

RATING: *** out of ****.
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Not another "people must learn to survive in a post holocaust"-type science-fiction thriller!
1 May 1999
In a world where government has deteriorated...laws are unbinding...and cruel savages rule the wastelands, comes a new heroic breed... The "Rangers," a team comprising of disciplined, dedicated, and laconic mercenaries are on a mission...to exterminate the evils that roam in the post-nuclear world. Led by "Nisus" (Al Cliver), the roster includes "Halakron," (Peter Hooten), "Catch Dog," (Daniel Stephen), and "Red Wolfe" (Al Yamanouchi). When the going gets tough...these guys slice it up!

The future is forsaken...all hope is lost and innocent lives are in despair. The asperity of the aftermath of World War III (or the *Atomic War*) has taken its toll on the human population... However, the remnants of the surviving human race must learn to rebuild their civilization and live in harmony...but too many obstacles and detours stand in their way...

However, an onerous dictatorship led by the Black One (Donald O'Brien) has seized control of everything: nuclear weapons, various resources, and especially human lives to utilize as slave labor. It is now up to the Rangers to help assist the wonderfully sexy Maida (Sabrina Siani) to discomfit the Black One's plans for rebuilding a tyrannical society... A rebellion must be instigated in order to revolt the New World Order or whatever...

2020 TEXAS GLADIATORS (the original title is ANNO 2020 - I GLADIATORI DEL FUTURO) is one of those movies that never ceases to amuse me! The melodramatic moments are sometimes sickening yet I enjoyed the perfunctory thrills and dramatic scenes which both serve to keep genre fans satiated. Directed by none other than the late, notorious Joe D'Amato (whose real name happens to be Aristide Massaccesi, but in this production, he also goes by the pseudonym Kevin Mancuso), 2020 TEXAS GLADIATORS is highly derivative. Virtually ideas and motifs from every other film in this particular sci-fi genre are stolen, cut-and-pasted into this drivel. Unfortunately, 2020 TEXAS GLADIATORS lacks the poignancy, the strength, intelligence, and imagination of a well-established motion picture.

With those statements said, I had a hell of a fun time watching this film. The nonstop action keeps this film moving at a steady, energetic pattern. The enlightening, dead heat violence is rampant and overwhelmingly overweening. Worthwhile highlights to watch include the Russian Roulette scene, the evil laugh courtesy of O'Brien himself, the village under siege, the prison break, the motorcycle chases, and of course, the beautiful foxy ladies. Enjoy rooting for the heroes as they raise hell and wreck havoc by the film's climax with a little assistance from a few Native Americans. Do not forget to pay attention to Donald O'Brien's performance of a lifetime as a neo-Nazi sadist with a penchant for torture and wealth. This character, played by O'Brien is perhaps one of the funniest fictional villains ever devised. He gets away too furtively with a way over-the-top role ever since his portrayal as a mind-bending, homicidal doctor in DOCTOR BUTCHER, M.D. (1979).

A special panegyric acclamation goes to Sabrina Siani. She is certainly one lascivious actress who knows how to make your pulse beat faster! Siani is definitely a magnificent Italian beauty whose elegance, personality, and the luscious facade help make viewing this movie a bit more bearable. Her presence alone makes this film worth seeing...

Just a tidbit, the title is once again a misnomer! Here's a pondering, perplexing, and ambiguous question: What does this film have to do with "Texas Gladiators?"

In spite of this film's ridiculousness, you will be mesmerized at the high voltage intensity of this spectacle. The cast is lively and prepossessing, plus this film moves at an unwontedly breathless pace. You can argue that this film is bereft of creativity, coherence, flair, and class, but what's the point of grousing about the film's foibles? This film is NOT great by any means, but it is delightfully entertaining on many levels (in a purely superficial matter, of course).

If you like movies with an absence of both logic and novelty, along with a melange of faceless antagonists and heroes who are poor decision makers, then this hideously dubbed film will appeal to you. Plus, revel in some really miserable special effects, inept acting, and unintentional laughs... Pop the champagne and enjoy!

RATING: ** out of ****.
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Third time is NOT the charm.
29 April 1999
A disappointing and lackluster entry in the MANIAC COP series. Though this film does have some competently staged action, MANIAC COP 3: BADGE OF SILENCE is unsettling and even tepid at times.

The plot revolves around a rookie police officer, Kate Sullivan (Caitlin Dulany) who is currently in a coma after being injured in the line of duty. After a violent shoot-out leaves several cops and civilians mortally wounded, Sullivan has been falsely accused of using excessive force. Meanwhile, Officer Matt Cordell (Robert Z'Dar, reprising his role) looks even more disgusting with a stone cold facade. He has an even worse attitude than before. Resurrected from beyond the grave by a voodoo priest, Cordell is more ticked off than ever. He is obsessed with revenge on the corrupt officials who have wrongly accused and convicted Sullivan.

It's up to Lt. Sean McKinney (Robert Davi, also a veteran of the MANIAC COP series) to stop Cordell before he precipitates yet another one of his own patented killing sprees, but frankly, it is too late...

MANIAC COP 3: BADGE OF SILENCE was definitely the most pretentious entry in the truly well made MANIAC COP series. There is a lack of excitement in this film, and there is no sense of sympathy for any of the main characters. The acclamation for the most amusing character though goes to actor Jackie Earl Haley as convicted felon, Frank Jessup. He is in top form as a psychopath who shoots first without thinking about the consequences beforehand. Still, there are no true, likable characters to root for, and too many flashback sequences have been used to kill time. MANIAC COP 3: BADGE OF SILENCE had slightly better action than the first film even though most of the events in this MANIAC COP sequel are confined in a hospital. However, the picayune story is missing any unique plot twists or unexpected surprises.

Yes, there are some inept one-liners, but the attempted black humor in this film is more alienating than funny. Last, though there are some new characters in this film, there is no new creativity in the film's formulaic format. The car chase scene especially in the end where Officer Cordell is "burning with rage" while pursuing McKinney and his friend may be deviant, but it is certainly drowsy. Stick with the first two entries in the MANIAC COP series; do not go for this second sequel. This film is bereft of intriguing ideas.

Look for character actor Robert Forster in a role as a doctor who gets a "first hand" experience at learning the dangers of radiation...

RATING: *1/2 out of ****.
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Deep Impact (1998)
Visually stunning epic is enervated by a lackluster pace and a sense of over-sentimentality.
16 April 1999
Suppose it is confirmed...a comet bigger that Mount Everest is about to go on a collision course towards planet Earth. Weighing over half a trillion tons, this meteor will attribute to the extinction of life on Earth as we know it...unless the comet can be destroyed before it hurls toward its destination.

As news conferences spread word on the inevitable extrication of mankind, panic reigns, fear takes over, and the world is gripped in a state of frenzy... President Tom Beck (Morgan Freeman, again in an assured, pervasive performance) admonishes to the people that chaos and disorder cannot be tolerated and that cooperation among everyone is requisite for survival if the human race is to continue...

Meanwhile, ambitious TV news reporter Jenny Lerner (Tea Leoni) has stumbled upon a U.S. government collaboration cover up pertaining to the celestial message given by the so-called "Doomsday Chronicles" heading towards all of the world. She also learns that there is more than meets the eye or what the ear is allowed to hear when the government takes frantic measures to stop this meteor before it clashes alongside with Planet Earth, leading to the perishing of all forms of life...

Spurgeon Tanner (Robert Duvall) may very well be mankind's last hope into thwarting the comet. With a ragtag team of experienced experts on all multifarious technical and scientific fields, Tanner and five other man embark on the "Messiah mission." Their goal: to nuke the juggernaut of a meteor by carefully positioning and installing sensitive nuclear warheads into the core of the meteor... By August 16, Tanner and his crew must complete their mission...for failure is truly not an option...

If all else fails, a "national lottery" has been implemented which will allow approximately 1 million Americans to have their lives spared just to ensure the perpetuation of the human race...

DEEP IMPACT contained all the ingredients needed to concoct a solid motion picture including: A great premise, moody nail-biting suspense, substantive characterization, handsome production values, unfolding drama, and discreet use of big-budget Hollywood FX.

DEEP IMPACT also offers a sprinkling of *emotional* moments to permit people to use their tissues and cry until their eyes are dry! However, with all the sincere strengths DEEP IMPACT has, this movie's fallibility cannot be overlooked. Too bad for one, the product of DEEP IMPACT never reached its full realization and potential. A mundane pace distracts from some very impressive special effects. Although the motion picture is satisfactory, yet, the film moves in a non-engaging and lackadaisical pace.

Visually enchanting indeed, but the potency does not exist as profoundly as you may expect. The over-sentimentality is forced onto the audience, and an excess of emotional intensity can sometimes serve as an impediment to an otherwise well thought out script with confident character development. DEEP IMPACT is very humane with great perspectives ranging from a teen's (Elijah Wood) last moments with the girl he loves, to Lerner's brief reunion with her estranged father before disaster strikes!

DEEP IMPACT is a good, enjoyable film saved by fine performances. Unfortunately, rather than allowing the audience to acclimate to the feelings and emotions of the characters on screen, the direction and structure of this movie is sometimes coerced to make the viewers try to care about these people whether the audiences are compelled to or not. Basically, in DEEP IMPACT, the film makers strive to make the audience believe in the characters and their dilemmas they are experiencing instead of letting the audiences discern just for themselves when it is appropriate to think deeply, and weep...

Second, DEEP IMPACT could really benefit from more (and a better variety of) special effects. Not nearly enough screen time was given to the eye-popping special FX, and many people will feel crestfallen by the end when the result of this film did not attain their high expectations. DEEP IMPACT is a worthwhile film and a rather highly recommended motion picture to be seen. It's a big bang, all out special FX extravaganza by the climactic denouncement! The special effects are above par, the suspense keeps you on your toes, and tidal waves will develop...devouring cities by the whole... Also, the predictability in DEEP IMPACT is constant, with the connoisseurs always one step ahead of the characters on screen...

In all sincerity, DEEP IMPACT is a modest hit. The characterizations are excellent, the FX are well constructed, and the plot and pace, though they move too turgidly, gives the viewer a more sympathetic perception on how martial law takes its toll on everyone from the government to the citizens.

Think of DEEP IMPACT as an otherwise, routine first class film. The film is worth viewing and though a better pace is something left to be desired for, DEEP IMPACT is proficient enough as a firm, substantial thriller with compassionate characters and capable direction. This film is also commending for touching upon themes such as a forthcoming apocalypse, and the aftermath of how people must endure through the worst of times. As the characters remind us through their perseverance, the ordeal can be excruciating, but it will all eventually end... The movie, DEEP IMPACT is worth your time. Still, this film is an indubitable misfire...for this movie is just missing something...

RATING: **1/2 out of ****.
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Riot (1996)
An action packed but unspectacular thrill ride...
14 April 1999
While RIOT has absolutely nothing new to offer for the tiresome and tedious action genre, this film does sport a few incredible and breathtaking action sequences that puts this film a few light years ahead of the usual low-budget junk.

On Christmas Eve, 1999, in Florida, full grown teenage racial riots have sparked everywhere... Windows are shattered, lives are devastated, and the national guard cannot do anything that is remotely close to detaining the anarchy.

Amid the violence and the nonstop chaos comes a ruthless, merciless enemy, the IRA. These twisted souls have just kidnapped the daughter (Paige Rowland) of a powerful and popular British ambassador. Working in collusion with some of the street gangs in Florida, the IRA demands a heavy ransom of over 1 million dollars plus from both the United States and British governments, or else, they will return the Ambassador's daughter...mutilated to pieces...

Enter a tough officer and kick-boxing martial artist Shane Alcott (Gary Daniels) along with his buddy, Major Williams (former boxing champion Sugar Ray Leonard). They must save the British Ambassador's daughter and soon-to-be Alcott's betroth from beneath all that rubble and consummate destruction in the city. Alcott must kick his way into enemy territory, but to Alcott, he has an old score to settle with the terrorist group, the IRA...

RIOT is an enjoyable film which is big on action and stunts. This movie has its share of car crashes, shoot-outs, explosions, martial arts, and people burned alive. However, RIOT lacks that magic, which is a cohesive plot, that is suppose to keep this film from collapsing under its own weight. RIOT has substantive performances from Daniels, Leonard, and the villains, but this is one of those "been there, done that" type action movies. If you've seen one, you've seen them all...

Evidently, there are no salient features in this movie, RIOT, but it's still worth a look. The escape from an exploding helicopter is a highlight and the nighttime motorcycle chase scene is also well done. Gary Daniels fighting against several roller blade assassins is also fun, exciting and achieved pretty well.

Director Joseph Merhi and producer Richard Pepin, two prolific filmmakers who specialize in making "made-for-video" movies have a gift for designing solid, above average action vehicles. These films, made exclusively for the video market are short on plot, but long on excitement. RIOT is a film that has also done its best to convey a message about the consequences of racial tensions and hatred escalating into shambles. RIOT is a proficiently made, fast-paced movie which is perhaps too cliché at times...

RATING: ** out of ****.
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Relentless (1989)
Listless thriller contributes nothing new to the genre.
10 April 1999
Young Buck (character actor Judd Nelson) is depraved, demented, and mentally disturbed. Rejected from the Los Angeles Police Department on psychological grounds, this young lad has seemingly transformed from a once benign albeit afraid soul, to a psychotic serial killer. Now, Buck goes on an inevitable killing rampage as he picks his victims' names at random from a telephone directory. He calls and informs his victims ahead of time of their demises to-be before he enters their residencies and coerces the victims to participate in their own grisly deaths.

Enter Sam Dietz (Leo Rossi), a tough New York City police detective who's quickly being transferred to the L.A.P.D. Soon enough, Dietz has been assigned to track down this notorious serial killer. Dietz is to work with

his partner, Det. Bill Malloy (veteran actor Robert Loggia), who shows a lot less alacrity and more apathy than his younger counterpart, Det. Dietz. Eventually, as the body count rises, Buck has been dubbed the "Sunset Killer."

RELENTLESS is a tantalizing yet insipid thriller. There are tons of slow moving scenes in this movie, and the film doesn't offer any kind of novelty from the rest of the serial killer movies. Yes, there are profound moments in this movie. For example, the audiences plunge into the mind of Buck, seeing his past life in flashbacks as an abused child who had to partake in rigorous "boot camp" type activities, setup by his own strict father. In fact, Buck is so mentally insane that he often sees images of his late father in the mirror, telling him what to do. Judd Nelson deserves some approbation for tackling the difficult role of a mentally scarred serial mass murderer.

Another aspect of RELENTLESS that made the film slightly worthwhile to watch was the relationship between the two police detectives out to catch Buck, a.k.a. "The Sunset Killer." We see two different worlds conflict with each other as New York native Det. Dietz demonstrates a "let me at him" attitude, with plenty of intensity and anxiousness. On the other hand, Det. Malloy, who's a Los Angeles native feels that Det. Dietz is taking this case way too seriously. Malloy is more laid back, figuring that the press will blow over and the Sunset Killer will eventually disappear. The chemistry between the two police detectives is interesting, with the younger one, Dietz showing more enthusiasm and energy for catching this psycho. Meanwhile his older, more sardonic partner Det. Malloy doesn't want to pull any punches or put too much effort into solving this case. He also thought that many of what Dietz's statements were given were foolish. Malloy is admittedly lazy, letting other people do all the work for him.

RELENTLESS is not a one-of-a-kind thriller. It descends into cliche territory throughout most of this film, especially by the finale. This is not a very exciting movie with no true memorable moments. RELENTLESS is also relentlessly (no pun intended) boring at times, and it may not appeal to many moviegoers unless they have an interest in criminal psychology. Still, RELENTLESS was a satisfactory, though not a terrific effort from director William Lustig (MANIAC, MANIAC COP 2, UNCLE SAM). Although the performances throughout this film were well illustrated and persuasive, they were uninspired. Watching the two detectives argue with each other was fun, and Nelson did his best at portraying a serial killer.

RELENTLESS opened to brisk business at the box office, and it was understandable, due to this film's limited audience appeal. Next time, a thriller movie needs to offer a whole new horizon in order to grab viewers' attention.

RATING: ** out of ****.
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The Matrix (1999)
A futuristic thriller with a unique plot, excellent special effects and a profound theme.
4 April 1999
The "living" world has come to an end. Mankind's own technological advances have turned against them. Now, computers are the primary inhabitants of Planet Earth... The humans have been turned into slaves by this master race of super-intelligent beings controlled by the CPU known as "The Matrix." This devastated world appears to be a nightmare...but it is only too real...

Neo (Keanu Reeves) is a computer hacker, unknowingly living in a virtual reality world created by The Matrix in order to keep him in check. The Matrix fabricates synthetic worlds for many people in order to suppress any potential insurgence. However, an underground resistance group led by Morpheus (Laurence Fishburne) and his officer, Trinity (Carrie-Anne Moss, looking lovely in that black leather outfit) must pull Neo out from his fantasies...and force him to face the grim reality as it is...

A Prophecy has been spoken. The Oracle, a spiritual guide for the remnants of the human race has professed Neo to be that special person, the "Chosen One." However, is Neo indeed the "Chosen One?" If he is, can he exhibit the valor and courage that the Oracle has supposedly prophesized for this specific soul?

In a world ruled by computers and machines, these people are our last hope. The heroes must valiantly fight the main CPU inside the VR system...or die trying... With the abilities to dodge flying bullets and to increase their own upper body strengths, the human players do have the upper hand... However, can Neo, Morpheus and Trinity lead the human race into victory, or will the machines forever rule the planet?

THE MATRIX is a neat, thinking man's science-fiction thriller. The ambitious production design is demonstrated with some spectacular action scenes laced with great special FX. This virtual reality world with provocative imagery will enrapture the human soul as he/she will experience a journey unlike any peregrination in the real world. This film is visually appetizing...with lavish, computer generated special effects. The high-tech setting will expand your imagination to new horizons. As well, the ambiguous, though-provoking story will keep your minds thinking constantly as you try to solve the stratagem behind this brain twister of a concept...

Masterful stunt-work, especially the martial arts choreography by Yuen Wo Ping and endless firepower is integrated with astonishing, maniacal FX. The much anticipated comic book violence is enhanced by plenty of digital effects. In this way, characters can perform virtually endless tricks from the book including acrobatic movements and flying jump kicks to gravity-defying combat battles. Much of the special effects are epitomized in the shape of those "Sentinels," bizarre spider androids with unfathomable powers. The scenes transitioning VR to reality and vice versa are astounding also.

A few shortcomings in THE MATRIX cannot be ignored such as a complicated plot with loose ends and some occasional slowdown in the film's pace. The plot in THE MATRIX is indeed convoluted, but this film will probably require several viewing before you can truly grasp the heart of the matter. Also, some sections of this movie are a bit hamstrung, but the rapid-fire action compensates for most of the plodding segments.

Is this film overly meretricious? Maybe. Appeasing to the naked eye? Definitely! Will you have fun watching this movie? You bet. Although THE MATRIX is sometimes uneven, garish and twisted, this motion picture is groundbreaking work from the brotherly duo, directors Andy and Larry Wachowski. If you have enough of an attention span to endure the film's slow-moving sequences, than prepare to be warped into an artificially created world where rules are not bound, laws are meaningless, and nothing is what it seems... Aficionados who are devoted to "cyber-punk" thrillers should not miss this one!

RATING: *** out of ****.
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Ronin (1998)
Unevenly paced and confusing action picture still has some breathtaking moments.
3 April 1999
They are elusive, taciturn, and disciplined. They use aliases. They are proficient with firearms, fluent in several languages, and are trained killers. They are masters of the art of espionage. These people are no ordinary spies; they are the elite unit known as the modernized "Ronin." This term, derived from feudal Japan, has been used to describe nomadic Samurais who serve no other purpose than to appease their lust for wealth. Now, these covert merciless men have a new mission: to retrieve a silver briefcase containing unparalleled merchandise...

Sam (Robert De Niro) and Vincent (Jean Reno) are two such mercenaries whose obligation it is to find the briefcase which has become the cynosure of all agents, operatives...and enemies. In the midst of this elaborate web of deceit is a mysterious woman, Diedre (Natasha McElhone) who is cognizant of the mercenaries' assignment. As Sam and Vincent dive deep into the heart of this conspiracy, they learn that no one is trustworthy...

The movie spirals down into a tale where lone warriors are immersed in a world of corruption, duplicity, and beguiling situations... These souls are about to enter the eye of the storm...

RONIN as a whole is a satisfactory thriller. This movie is helped by the exquisite Paris locations and a musical score which is illustriously orchestrated. Admittedly, the cast in RONIN is marvelous also. Both De Niro and Reno are crackling good as vindictive mercenaries willing to complete the mission at all costs. There are lots of compulsory high-energy gun-slinging action, immense shootouts, and destructive car crashes that pump ebullience into male audiences. The complicated story also keeps the acute, fecund mind thinking as well.

Evidently, with all the strengths RONIN has gathered, observers cannot omit this movie's weaknesses. The biggest foible in RONIN is the dearth of a constant motion. The car chases exist, but only rarely. It is also sad to announce that there are only two extensive car chase scenes in this entire movie. Still, even with this setback, these superbly choreographed action sequences do offer a worthwhile experience, especially for genre fans. Second, the plot is often incongruous and frustratingly perplexing. The audience tries vainly to comprehend what is the central theme of the story, but instead, they are wallowed in disconcertment, as the structure of the plot turns more complex. The surprises and double-crossings are also so intricate that they fail to engross the audiences. Third, sometimes the music tries to misleadingly elevate the tension, but that does not click. The suspense is intended, but these nail-biting moments just jump out of the window before they take place. This is a reference to an earlier statement pointing out how many supposedly "exciting" scenes turn out to be anticlimactic.

In short, RONIN is not nearly as entertaining as the film's premise promised to be. The direction by John Frankenheimer (THE MANCHURIAN CANDIDATE) may

have efficacy, but the general product of this film just misses the mark. The professional acting by the stars is a plus and RONIN does contain some of the best action sequences in cinematic history. Still, the film just does not have that magical, cohesive finishing touch to be considered an explosive masterpiece. RONIN had the potential to be an outstanding, one-of-a-kind gritty thriller, but the filmmakers simply did not take advantage of all the elements given to them such as a high budget and an e script full of enticing ideas to help make this film profound. Be forewarned, overzealous action fans may feel crestfallen after seeing this sluggishly paced film...

Tallying up all of the strengths and shortcomings, RONIN is a moderate hit.

RATING: **1/2 out of ****.
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Wicked City (1992)
Stylish, science-fiction future noir for the next millennium!
2 April 1999
The Reptoids, an alien species from beyond rule the future. They live amongst the human populace. Intelligent, urbane, charming, aggressive...and malevolent by nature... They control most of the international economy, and unknowingly to the people, the Reptoids manipulate most of the human race...

Throughout the city streets in Tokyo and Hong Kong, a lethal new drug is being distributed under the incognito known as the "Happiness." This drug promises the ultimate pleasure, the ultimate high...but it will lead to the ultimate demise...

Detective Taki (Jacky Cheung) has his hands full dealing with a series of drug related deaths. The police department also happens to be breathing down his neck. Taki is assigned to keep a surveillance over a enigmatic entrepreneur (Tatsuya Nakadai) who may hold the key to unlocking this entire riddle. This opulent entrepreneur though may in fact, be one of the Reptoids...and the "Happiness" drug is the Reptoids' method of preempting the human race, bringing them down to their knees... Only Taki, and his new partner, Ken (Leon Lai) can thwart the Reptoids' sinister plans for world domination...

Double-crossing, deception, and malediction are the name of the game as the stakes are rising.. Taki may very well realize that his partner is not who he claims to be. As well, a gorgeous woman (Michelle Reis) whom Taki has encountered before enters his life one more time...but why now?

I am a huge fan of Hong Kong cinema, and this film is no exception. WICKED CITY (The Cantonese title is YAO SHOU DU SHI) is one of East Asia's proudest pieces of work. This movie has an amazing exhibition of imaginative and mind-blowing special effects ever witnessed, especially for a film that was not made in Hollywood. The film makers throw in everything for this movie from martial arts, car chases and flying acrobats to lasers, metamorphosing creatures, liquid fiends, reptilian demons, and a humanoid pinball machine! There is even an incredible climactic confrontation aboard a moving passenger jet. Also, the dazzling and sparkling Michelle Reis adds a provocative edge to this emotionally pervasive film. Her beauty and grace are powerful enough to hypnotize the entire audience, thereby stealing the show from the two leads. Strong special effects, fine set designs, and a sexy leading lady highlight this formidable sleeper hit.

WICKED CITY was created to capture the visceral nightmarish flair of a fast moving anime. The intensity and sheer momentum in this film packs a wallop! The action sequences moves at a razor sharp pace and the surrealism of this film is omnipotent. This movie features some of the most startling (and definitely grotesque) creatures as well. The array of bestial monsters will paint an indelible picture in your mind after finishing the movie.

A stylish, science-fiction future noir for the next millennium! WICKED CITY contains the components of a future noir including a hard edged detective full of asperity, a beautiful mystery woman with a past, a bleak atmosphere, deviant camera angles, and flashbacks. Excellent characterization, magnificent cinematography, and a surprisingly abundance of plot twists make WICKED CITY a worthwhile pearl to collect. The brilliant imagery and predatory mutants propel this film several notches above the typical Hong Kong action film.

As a future noir, WICKED CITY is a heart-stopping ride descending into a apocalyptic world where time has no meaning...and life may hold no value... Certainly a fiendish, brutal vision of a future where humankind is in crisis. Director Tai Kit Mak did a great job adapting the famous Japanese manga as a big screen show where the objectives of good and evil are not always clearly defined...

For a precaution, DO NOT even bother trying to decipher a plot. Just sit back and prepare to be blown away by the most dizzying collection of special effects ever seen! While this movie is energetic and lively...just do not bother to have credibility and logic as top priorities... WICKED CITY is thoroughly wicked indeed, deserving all types of encomium with a wildly original concept.

RATING: *** out of ****.
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A fascinating piece of drivel...
1 April 1999
What is the "Bio-Force 1?" The Bio-Force 1 is described as a biological mutant DNA strain. This peculiar brand of DNA is more of a virus though, virulent enough to infect almost any living being that comes in remote contact with this strain. The symptoms of this powerful disease include homicidal impulses and an uncontrollable rage... The Bio-Force 1 also happens to be America's newest top secret weapon...

However, when this scientific experiment goes ballistic, the military has no choice but to detain this mutated DNA strain. For the sake of National Security, a rocket carrying the entire Bio-Force 1 canister has been launched, its destination: the moon. Unfortunately, this is when circumstances get much worse...

Yep, MUTANT SPECIES was one of those "so ludicrous it's funny" type thrillers. For one, the rubber-costumed monster with phony foam latex make-up is ravenously laughable! Even more hysterical is having Leo Rossi (known for his "wise guy" type roles) mistakenly cast against type as a military officer who transforms into a hideous creature, stalking his victims in the nightfall. MUTANT SPECIES has mostly unmemorable dialogue, and the characters in this film are one-dimensional and insignificant. In other words, MUTANT SPECIES is simply a terrible movie.

MUTANT SPECIES has by far, some of the WORST production values in history. (e.g. This film blatantly relies on stock footage for a scene involving a rocket about to blast-off.) Also, although the cast is capable, the script is inadequate and the monster, again looks very miserable.

MUTANT SPECIES tried to make a statement about the evils of technology; however this movie is nothing more than a monster-on-the-rampage film. This bombastic feature sounds a lot more intriguing that it looks. This film is a terminally bland piece of opus.

In spite of the errors and foibles in MUTANT SPECIES, there is an adroit action scene or two directed and the cast tried their best with a tight budget and an inconvenient production design. By no means is MUTANT SPECIES a well-made film in the slightest sense, but the decent pace and a fun premise save this film from total obscurity.

RATING: *1/2 out of ****.
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