From the Archive – Full Eclipse (1993)



Directed by Anthony Hickox
Starring ‘Super’ Mario van Peebles, Bruce ‘Oh the’ Payne and Patsy Kensit

Tough LA cop, Max Dire (Peebles) loses his partner in a hail of bullets, only to get him back the next day, right as rain. Then the partner starts chasing cars full of gangbangers on foot, and shoots himself with a bullet cast form his lucky silver dollar.

Enter trauma councillor, tough cop and biochemist Adam Garou (Payne), who recruits Max to his team of issue-wracked cops – including the sluty Casey (Kensit) – who sleep communally, have an acute siege mentality, worship the ground Garou treads and – oh yeah – shoot up on weird shit, sprout claws and tear into drug dealers and their mistresses while shrugging off high-calibre bullet wounds.

Turns out that Garou is a werewolf – shock, horror…Oh wait, that’s his name – and is dosing ‘the pack’ with his cranial fluids to make them his little werewolfettes. Then on the night of the lunar eclipse, he plans to off them all and move on to another city. Casey goes cold turkey and dies jumping out of a high window, and come the night itself, Max faces off against Garou, who turns into a bear – I swear to God, it’s supposed to be a super-werewolf form, but it looks like a teddy bear – shrugs off Max’s silver bullets, and finally succumbs to a syringe full of silver nitrate as the moon reappears.

Then Max absorbs his power, and starts the cycle all over again.

What’s wrong with it?

In a word, it’s bollocks. The direction is stilted, the script is crappy, the cast are planks and the sound is all mumbly. The regular werewolf SFX are cheap – dodgy claws that spring from their knuckles and some facial prosthetics – and the big finale is a let down – Garou turns into a Howling-style wolf-man, but looks more like a teddy bear.

The guy is called Garou. The sign on his fucking door says ‘A Garou’ (Garou being French for ‘werewolf, if you didn’t know’).  Of course, Max’s surname is Dire, as in dire wolf.

Bruce Payne. Super Mario. Patsy Kensit.

What’s right with it?

Not much. The concept of the dodgy werewolf cop unit is okay, as is the alpha wolf offing his pack at the full eclipse. It’s just when the film moves beyond concept that it falls down.

How bad is it really?

An absolute stinker of a film. Seriously. It really isn’t even funny.

Best bit

Max sees Garou syringing his cranial fluid out, but the werewolf hears him. He drags Garou over to the mirror, and does a little routine, with ‘this is you on my brain’ in place of ‘this is your brain on drugs’. It mostly scores because you can see how they thought it would be cool, and at the same time see how it doesn’t work, and would have been cut if they weren’t so in love with it.

What’s up with…?

  • Max taking over Garou’s schtick? Garou was trusted to run these wacky units because he had a hard-won rep and like, five PhDs. Max has a badge and an attitude.
  • No one noticing that Garou leaves this trail of dead officers in his wake?
  • No one noticing – or at least no one commenting on – the rise in savage animal maulings when Garou is around?
  • No one noticing that when his silver police medal is placed in his hands, Max emits bright purple smoke?


Production values – Shitty. The lighting is dark where is should be moody, and the sound mumbled where it should be moody. The SFX blow, and we get a real faceful of how much; none of your tease the audience mentality here. 16

Dialogue and Performances – Here’s the pitch: Peebles! Kensit! Payne! Together at last! As an opportunity for a spree killing, sure; as a movie concept, no. On the other hand, the dialogue deserves so very little more. 17

Plot and execution – A good concept frittered away on a few naff action scenes, a gratuitous shag and some needless posing in fangs and make-up. 17

Randomness – Fairly true to itself, aside from Max suddenly deciding to take Garou’s place. 8

Waste of potential – Another intriguing concept made dull. Still; at least it wasn’t the start of a long-running ‘Werewolf Cop’ franchise. 14

Overall 72%


From the Archive – Amazons and Gladiators (2001)

Inflicted by Zachary Weintraub
Patrick Bergin is in it.

Marcus Crassius (Bergin), having defeated Spartacus and got way too popular, gets banished to some obscure province, where he kills people just so he can feel good about himself. In one raid, he victimises a plucky child, then has her sold as a slave.

Flash forward 10 years, and the girl, Serena, and her friend Brianna have become a popular interpretive dance act. Then she kills a senator who tries to have his way with her, and they escape to join the Amazon freedom fighters in the woods. They train; Serena gets laid; there are some fights. Then our plucky heroines are captured trying to assassinate Crassius and forced to fight in the arena.

The Amazons bust in on the act, and Serena kills Crassius. Then she delivers a stirring speech about women’s rights, and goes off to destroy Rome, with the incidental aid of the Goths and the Huns.

What’s wrong with it?

Make no mistake: Even by my standards, this film is an execrable, dog turd of a movie. It’s like Xena without the class meets Gladiator without any of the talent.

Patrick Bergin plays Crassius – who seems to have traded Tony Curtis for Serena’s soppy tart of a sister when he stopped being Laurence Olivier – as the bastard love-child of Christopher Biggins and Chris Tarrant, only not as menacing. The Amazons – a curious mish-mash of talentless-but-busty English, American and Australian ‘actresses’ – ponce about in their battle-bras, showing such an incredible dearth of combat skill that they’d be screwed if the legions of Rome were any better.

Serena and Brianna are at times completely indistinguishable, save that Brianna sometimes has an English accent.

It’s entirely unclear which pissant backwater Crassius has been dumped in, for as much as anyone might care.

There’s gratuitous movie sex, and some half-hearted Hollywood sapphism that makes Lust for a Vampire look daring and interesting.

The acting is universally bad.

Oh yeah; and the entire film is ripped off from somewhere else. Examples include:

  • The opening massacre, where Serena is made to balance her mother on her shoulders, with a rope around her neck, is straight from Once Upon a Time in the West, less the harmonica and the talent.
  • Serena’s lover sacrificing himself rather than fight her is ripped off from Spartacus, except he doesn’t even have the gumption to take a run at Crassius while he’s doing it.
  • Towards the end, Brianna and Serena fake a fight and Brianna seems to be killed, so that Serena can get a chance to fight Crassius while Brianna frees the other gladiators. This is lifted liberally from The Quick and the Dead (which also has a ‘you have a chance to save your hanging relative’ scene, a la Once Upon a Time…), and moreover it’s a complete mystery to me where they hid the bladder of fake blood under her figure-hugging leather battle gear.
  • Half the script is boosted from Star Wars.

What’s right with it?

Bog all really.

Best bit?

Crassius decrees that Serena must continue fighting her lover until the hourglass is empty, otherwise they’ll both be shot. Serena smashes the hourglass, and points out that the glass is empty, to which Crassius pretty much ripostes by having her lover shot.

It’s not that good, but at least it gets shot of the scrawny, Shaggy-from-Scooby-Doo-alike love lack-of-interest. If only he’d shot Serena as well.

What’s up with…?

Oh, where to start?

  • Patrick Bergin’s Christopher Biggins impersonation? He grins his way through the movie, picking up and discarding random totty (and remember, this is Laurence Olivier’s character from Spartacus here; the gay one), and generally phoning it in, and when Patrick Bergin is phoning it in, you know youse in trouble.
  • The unidentified, highly cosmopolitan backwater province of Whereinthehell?
  • The Amazon battle-bra? I mean, we don’t know where they are, but it looks fairly nippy. In at least one scene, Serena is all shivery and cold, but doesn’t even close her coat.
  • In the scene where they fake Brianna’s stabbing, where is she supposed to have hidden that bladder?
  • Serena and Shaggy from Scooby Doo discussing how the Romans ripped off everything from Greece (including, it seems, their enemies; the Amazons)?


Production values – Weak. The costumes are silly – very silly – the sets tacky, and the camerawork shoddy. Even the swords are all blatantly plastic, and everyone stabs under the cloak. When people are required to bleed, there is a trickle of blood, that apparently stains like red wine; no wonder a wineskin worked to fake a death. Even the final coup de grace on Crassius didn’t warrant any greater spending than a blood pack in Patrick Bergin’s hand. Everything about the production reeks of cheapness. 19

Dialogue and performances – This film rips off Star Wars dialogue, and makes it even more trite and pointless. It isn’t helped by the absolute woodenness of everyone in the film. Pretty much the entire cast seems chosen on the grounds of bra-size instead of acting ability; including Patrick Bergin. Absolute ‘worst performance ever’ award goes to the kid who plays Young Serena, who manages to make one yearn for the level of performance achieved by Jake Lloyd. 20

Plot and execution – Five monkeys, two typewriters; ten minutes. Actually; five monkeys, a glue stick, a copy of the script of Gladiator and a selection of cut-out quotes form Star Wars. The direction is everything that the material deserves. 20

Randomness – The whole damn film is so random. Marcus Crassius? Patrick Bergin as Christopher Biggins as Laurence Olivier as Marcus Crassius? It’s like the Comic Strip presents… gone horribly awry. The Amazons in general. The claim that the Amazons brought down the Roman Empire. The classically-educated slave dancer.
Help me; I’ve fallen and I can’t get up. 19

Waste of Potential – I’m in two minds on this rating. On the one hand, you don’t expect much from what is basically a Gladiator cash-in with more cleavage (and that’s just from Patrick Bergin). On the other, this falls so very far below even those low expectations, that a pretty decent score is earned. 18

Overall 96%

From the Archive – The Hunted (1995)


Directed by J.F. Lawton
Starring Christopher Lambert, John Lone and Joan Chen

Paul Racine (Lambert) is an American businessman. On a business trip to Tokyo, he sleeps with a Chinese…sorry, Japanese woman named Kirina (Chen), only to witness her death at the hands of Chin… Japanese master ninja Kinjo (Lone, who does at least get a ‘why yes, I am of Chinese descent’ speech).

Racine is left for dead, but survives, and his doctor calls in a master swordsman from an ancient Samurai family, Takeda (Yoshio Harada), and his wife to protect him when the ninjas start falling out of the woodwork – sometimes literally; they’re not terribly good ninjas.

It turns out that Takeda is actually seeking a showdown with the supposedly unbeatable Kinjo, and eventually he calls him out. Kinjo brings a cohort of ninjas to the ‘fair fight’, and slaughters all of Takeda’s followers. The ninja then get wiped out by Takeda, who is in turn killed by Kinjo. Racine – having taken some kenjutsu lessons from the drunken old swordmaker – then kills Kinjo.

What’s wrong with it?

The Hunted is pretty slow-moving in places. In particular, it takes too long to get started in the first place, spending far too long faffing about with Racine and Kirina to try and establish that it’s not just a shag, it means something. Then Kinjo poses for ten minutes. The ongoing failure of the ninjas to kill the schmuck bait Racine pretty much saps their credibility, and their assault tactics – kill everyone on the train, just to be sure – are just there to make them marginally less pleasant than Takeda. Also, the ninja only appear to know one move – an overhead swing that gets them chopped in the gut every time.

The score is nothing to write home about.

What’s right with it?

Well, the samurai is very good. A veteran of Japanese cinema, Yoshio Harada plays the role to the hilt, and carries off the swordfights with aplomb (especially compared to his rather useless foes). Also, the finale has some nice touches, with the ninja turning up to the duel with a dozen cunningly concealed buddies. There’s also some decent bits on samurai honour.

How bad is it really?

The Hunted is dull. It has some decent ideas, but does next to nothing with them. While technically interesting, even the best of the fights lack real dynamism, and the score does nothing to cover.

Best bit?

The ninjas popping up to interrupt the duel are pretty good, and the female ninja slicing off her own face to avoid identification is excellent in a wince-inducing way.

What’s up with…?

  • The bargain basement ninjas? They’re frankly all crap, and what’s more they go on about how hidebound the samurai are, but will they use a sniper rifle or a silenced pistol? Will they buggery.
  • The little girl who helps Racine out? She just pops up, hangs around for fifteen minutes and sods off again. Totally random.
  • The American businessman taking out the ‘unbeatable’ ninja after a week of casual sword training? Even with the ninja having been stabbed in the leg already, I didn’t really buy it.


Production values – Not bad, but let down by the samey choreography. The lighting is also not the best, and the score is unmemorable. 14

Dialogue and performances – Nothing to write home about. Grumpy old samurai is pretty solid, and John Lone acts his little heart out in a limited role, but Lambert just does his usual thing, and Joan Chen is barely in the film at all (c.f. Judge Dredd). 16

Plot and execution – An interesting idea squandered in a meandering mish-mash of dull fight scenes. There’s little character development, and frankly you might not care if there was. 15

Randomness – The crapness of the ninjas, rivalled only by the crapness of everyone they off. The little girl. The instant sword master. Suspension of disbelief was an early casualty. 12

Waste of potential – The Hunted had some solid ideas in it, but there was just bog all done with them. 18

Overall 75%

From the Archive – Valentine (2001)



“Love hurts”

Directed by Jamie Blanks
Starring David Boreanaz, Denise Richards, and a bunch of pretty young things you’ve never heard of

A group of friends – Kate, Paige (Richards), Dorothy, Lily and Shelley – all blow off the class nerd at a Valentine’s Day dance in 6th grade. Well, all except Kate who says she might dance with him later, and Dorothy, who makes out with him then accuses him of attacking her.

Ah, high school; breeding ground of the psycho. Especially as we later learn that Dorothy’s lie saw the nerd sent to reform school, juvenile hall and so forth.

Flash forward ten years, and Shelley blows off a dud of a date – just the first in a long line of obnoxious male characters – and heads off for some last minute autopsy revision before her med school finals. She finds a poison pen valentine, and gets her throat slashed by a killer with a nose bleed.

We then follow the four surviving girls, as they pass by a succession of men who are all either sleazy or pathetic or just plain vile. In fact, the only half-way decent guy is Kate’s recovering alcoholic honey, Adam (Boreanaz). Lily dies not long after – shot through the heart with a bow and arrow – but the rest sadly last rather longer. Also going in the ground are Dorothy’s boyfriend – a con man after her money – Kate’s slimeball neighbour, an unfortunate maid, the con-man’s last victim and a lecherous cop.

The last three buy it in the Valentine’s Party dénouement – where Dorothy waxes bitter about her boyfriend dumping her and the fat girl not having a date, again – as does Paige (buys it, that is; not waxes bitter). The lights go out, there’s a lot of tensy-tensy creeping about in the dark. Adam has a drink and gets all creepy stalker and Kate belts him with a bottle.

Then the killer attacks Kate but is shot dead by Adam, and turns out to be Dorothy the bitter fat chick.

Except that as Adam swears he’s always loved Kate, and would never let anything happen to her, his nose starts to bleed.

What’s wrong with it?

Valentine is basically a dull, dull movie, about dull, dull people. And they’re not nice or likeable dull people either. I mean, at the end we discover that Adam is a psychotic killer who’s bumped off all his enemies and got the girl, and it’s hard not to think: “Well, more power to him!” His victims – with the exception of Shelley, whom we hardly see, and the luckless maid – are all, frankly, scum. The men are all, without exception, more unpleasant than send-you-a-scary-valentine-slash-you-with-a-big-knife Adam, and the girls… well, they’re all either spiteful or vapid or in Kate’s case so entirely drippy that you can’t give a rat’s ass what happens to them.

Actually, to be fair to Kate, she shot up in my estimation after she kneed creepy Adam in the bollocks, slugged him with a Champagne bottle then went straight for the firearms.

Back to Adam, he’s also quite a catch, psychosis aside. Having caught the creepy neighbour going through Kate’s underwear and battered him to death with the iron, he not only cleans the place up like new, he also winds the cord of the iron and sets it neatly back on the ironing board. Now there’s not many guys would be that thoughtful about the house.

Also, the stalk and slash scenes are minimal stalk and for the most part single slash. The most elaborate death is the old ‘electrical appliance in the hot-tub’ ploy.

What’s right with it?

Well, there’s a fair amount of decent eye candy on display, although it does rather favour the guys in the audience – there’s more of David Boreanaz on display in the average 42 minute Angel episode than here.

Oh, and Denise Richards plays a vapid slut and gets brutally slain, which is always good value.

How bad is it really?

Almost criminally dull, really. Not actively bad, just a little nonsensical. It’s not at the Mean Guns, monkeys on crack level of randomness, but it never really take the trouble to explain itself.

Best bit?

Really not one.

What’s up with…?

  • The killer’s tool kit? He seems able to transport the widest array of killing devices without being spotted. A bow and arrow at an art exhibition? A drill by the hot-tub? This isn’t even an array of essentially portable knives here.
  • Kate claims she knows Adam’s parents, but the nerd’s folks are supposed to be dead?
  • Dorothy’s repeated whining about being the ‘fat one’? Okay; I get that she’s ‘movie fat’, but still; it’s a bugbear.


Production values – Some understated death scenes, and nothing that screams ‘phoney’. In general the sound and vision is good, even if the content and soundtrack are not. 6

Dialogue and performances – Pretty lame and uninspired. There is nary a memorable quote in the film except for the young Paige ‘ironically’ foreshadowing her hot tub electrocution by saying she’d rather be boiled alive than dance with Jeremy the nerd. 18

Plot and execution – The plot has its holes, but fewer than it could have. It’s a little unclear how Adam manages to dress Dorothy up as the killer and throw her down the stairs on top of Kate without being seen, but otherwise most things add up. The direction however is lacklustre. The film generates little or no suspense, and even the ersatz heroine fails to conjure much audience sympathy. 14

Randomness – Another field in which Valentine scores quite well. Having accepted that there is a psycho killing people because he was victimised at school, everything else more or less fits. 6

Waste of Potential – While some people yearn for the good old days when a girl could be chased screaming through her house for the capital crime of having sex, and no one in the audience would think to ask why she didn’t just call the cops at some stage, I myself am a fan of the more self-conscious horror film. I think that the standard slasher played out; that’s why the irony comes about. What I’m trying to say is that this is an old-fashioned slasher, with little irony to its name, and thus was never going to be the catch of the day, but that by denying us our knowing asides – especially given this is the ‘breakout’ film for an actor with David Boreanaz’ self-deprecating comedic instincts – a great seam of potential is left untapped. 12

Overall 56%

From the Archive – Storm Riders (1998)



Directed by Wai Keung Lau
Starring Aaron Kwok and Ekin Cheng

Lord Conquer of the Conqueror Clan is busy a-conquering, when his adviser, Mud Buddha, gives him a two part prophecy. The first part is that he must find two boys to make his apprentices, called Cloud and Wind, and they will help him to rule the world. The second part is hidden in a funky puzzle-box.

Conquer battles the warrior Whispering Prince, to try and take his sword, ‘Blizzard Blade’, but Prince is killed by a flame beast and the sword lost. Conquer takes the man’s son, Striding Wind, as his apprentice. Then Conquer has a swordsmith killed in the search for his masterpiece, ‘Life’s Best Sword’, but it is hidden. instead, Conquer takes the man’s son, Cloud. He also has a third apprentice, Frost, and a daughter, Charity.

Twenty years later, Wind is a nice boy, Frost a bit of a tough guy, and Cloud a moody loner with purple hair. All three are in love with Charity, and she’s seeing Cloud on the sly. They get sent out on various missions, and strut their funky kung fu stuff. Each knows one of Conquer’s special kung fu styles: Wind knows the Wind Kick, which allows him to create small tornadoes; Frost has the Frost Fist, which lets him freeze opponents; and Cloud – the strongest of the three – has Cloud Palm, which lets him manipulate water with the power of his mind and use it as a form of attack.

There’s some killing and a little fuing, and Conquer learns from Mud Buddha that Cloud and Wind are destined to bring him down. He announces Charity’s marriage to Wind, and when Cloud comes to claim her instead, tries to kill them both while they fight. However, Charity takes the shot and dies, and Cloud takes her body away. He steals the Frost Vigour from some poor luckless clan (as you do), and takes her to a mortuary. There he is attacked by Conquer and loses an arm.

Conquer tries to have Wind killed, but instead Wind eats the good drugs, reclaims his father’s sword and kills the Flame Beast. He learns of Conquer’s treachery from Mud Buddha – or was it Frost who learned that; it’s unclear – and gets all riled up. Meanwhile, Cloud gets his lost arm replaced by the Flame Beast Arm of All-Heal Yu (as you do), and comes gunning for Conquer himself.

Conquer fights Sword Saint in a duel, and is almost killed, but All-Heal Yu’s dim daughter prods Sword Saint’s body while his astral spirit is bringing the shit, and he explodes (as you do).

Cloud and Wind battle their former teacher. Cloud’s blood unlocks the hiding place of ‘Life’s Best Sword’, and they beat him down and leave him broken and defeated.

The end.

What’s wrong with it?

Well, aside from the fact that great swathes of the plot are incomprehensible, and that the characters are mostly unlikeable for one reason or another, there is just no kung fu in this kung fu movie. In the great tradition of Zu: Warriors From the Magic Mountain, Storm Riders is an SFX fest, with firebolts, chi balls and water darts flashing everywhere, but very little in the way of actually kicky, punchy, sword-fighty goodness in sight. With the digital effects and the choppy editing, Storm Riders actually plays out more like a western attempt at a kung fu movie – Big Trouble in Little China, say – than a serious kicking movie.

The film is populated by unpleasant people: Cloud is a moody psychopath, Charity a complete scrubber – Wind actually says that he won’t marry her if she loves one of the others, but she figures she can marry him and still fool around with Cloud – and Wind a big drip. In all, it’s hard to truly say that Cloud is any better than Conquer, and Wind just isn’t very interesting. All-Heal Yu of the Flame Beast Arm is pretty sorted, but his daughter is just annoying.

Anyone at all sympathetic seems to exist purely to suffer. Mud Buddha is tormented by boils and sores; the son of the Unchallenged City finds his people butchered by Cloud, seeks justice and is killed; Sword Saint gets to be all bad-ass, but then poofs because the annoying bint prods him; Frost is a genuine nice guy, if a little wild, and just gets royally shafted; the family who own the Frost Vigour only turn up so that Cloud can beat them with a coffin, throw an arrow through a pregnant woman’s chest and steal their family treasure. The list is endless.

And there’s a whole bunch of cheesy Canto-pop music, and lots of long dull scenes where nothing happens.

What’s right with it?

A few of the CGI’d fights are pretty good, and some of the supporting cast are decent. The mysterious and bad-ass Shaolin is good, and Sword Saint is just the shit until he gets prodded.

How bad is it really?

Storm Riders is a tedious action movie, and a kung fu movie with next to no kung fu. It’s not the worst film in the world, but frankly it plays like an overlong anime epic, especially with Cloud and his purple hair, and Wind’s flowing girly locks and frankly effeminate bearing. What makes it worse is that the film has been heavily hyped as ‘better than Crouching Tiger’. It’s not, and furthermore goes to show that what makes Crouching Tiger good is not that it’s just like they make them in China.

Perhaps this film would go down better in its homeland. Not being Chinese I can’t tell, but for my money, it’s just not that special.

Best bit?

Conquer follows Cloud to the mausoleum, knowing that in the desert where it is housed, his Cloud Palm kung fu will be useless. After Conquer pulverises his left arm, Cloud gets desperate, and rips his arm clean off so that he can use his own blood to do the Cloud Palm and escape.

What’s up with…?

  • The plot? I mean, really; what’s going on in this film?
  • The Frost Vigour? Cloud just shows up and demands this thing, with almost no explanation of what it is. It seems to be used to keep a body from decaying, but why? What makes it so important that the corpse stays fresh? It’s not like he’s going to keep her frozen until he finds a way to cure a chi-ball to the gut, yet he shows up and kills a bunch of folks to get it. And what’s up with those guys? We’ve never seen nor heard of them until Cloud shows up with his coffin to get their thing (which we’ve also never heard of until then).
  • The kung fu? Where is it? There’s no kung fu in this kung fu film; just CGI.


Production values – Fairly spiffy, but all in all, not much more impressive than the far cheaper SFX in Zu Warriors. The music is dire, but might be okay if you liked Canto-pop. 10

Dialogue and performances – Difficult to know without speaking the language. The subtitled dialogue however was simply confusing, and often mistyped, and the leads did not come across as particularly charismatic. Might have worked better in the original Cantonese. 14

Plot and execution – The plot wanders like the condensed version of a twenty-seven hour TV mini-series, and indeed one gets the feeling this may be cut-down from a longer and less confusing effort. As it is, it’s baffling, and little attempt is made to help the audience along. 16

Randomness – Oh yes. All the usual kung fu weirdness is here. People say things like: “To find Mud Buddha, seek Fire Monkey”, and no-one bats an eyelid. Whole swathes of stuff goes unexplained, such as where All-Heal Yu got his Fire Beast Arm in the first place. All in all; ‘huh’? 18

Waste of potential – Again, it is difficult to judge, but the story is a classic, and frankly the film would have been much better if only the SFX had enhanced the kung fu, instead of replacing it altogether. 14

Overall 72%

From the Archive – Guardian (2000)

This cover is misleading, suggesting that Ice-T has a significant role in the movie.
This cover is misleading, as it implies that Ice-T has a significant role in the movie.

Directed by John Terlesky
Starring Mario van Peebles and Ice-T

During the Gulf War, Marine Recon officer John Kross (Peebles) locates an Iraqi missile site-cum-archaeological dig, where an American archaeologist and his pregnant wife are excavating the sarcophagus of Tel-al, to the horror of his wise old friend back home. The Iraqis are also removing jars of some valuable pink dust from the site. The moon turns red, the archaeologist’s wife has a baby and one of the Iraqi soldiers starts shouting about a prophecy and opens fire on the dig. The archaeologist is killed, and various soldiers start cackling wildly – almost as though they were possessed. Kross is shot, sees a mysterious veiled woman stealing the baby and coming at him with a knife, and wakes with weird cuts all over his body.

Continue reading From the Archive – Guardian (2000)

From the Archive – The One (2001)



“What if you learned the most dangerous man in the universe…was you.”

Directed by James Wong
Starring Jet Li

There are many universes, a multiverse, and travel between them is possible.

Yulaw (Li), a dimension hopping former operative of the Multiverse Agency (MVA) seeks to kill 124 alternate versions of himself, in order to become ‘The One’; a source of order and rationality, and the ultimate power in the multiverse. Each time he kills one of his other selves, he absorbs some of their vital energy, becoming stronger, faster, and more able to fight funky battles using cool bullet-time SFX.

His final target is Gabe Law (also Li), an LA Deputy Sheriff. Gabe is a decent guy, and a badass martial artist, and like Yulaw has been growing stronger each time one of his selves is killed. With two MVA operatives also tracking down Yulaw, Gabe just wants to live his life. But then Yulaw kills Gabe’s wife, and Gabe must face himself in a final battle, to determine who will be the One.

Um… Except he doesn’t. They fight, go back to MVA HQ, from where Yulaw is sent to a penal colony and Gabe to an alternate dimension where the woman he married is still alive (although ‘he’ presumably isn’t).

What’s wrong with it?

Most of The One’s flaws come down to sloppiness. It is never explained how Yulaw managed to get his first 123 kills without repeatedly breaking into and/or escaping from the MVA facility, nor why 124 is somehow the magic number. Surely in a multiverse of infinite possibilities, there are more than 125 Jet Lis? Not only are these things not adequately explained, the film never assays any explanation for them at all, not even a bad one.

The film’s climax is also deeply…well, anticlimactic. In the end, no-one becomes the One, and we are left with a tacked on ‘king of the hill’ scene, with Yulaw establishing his dominance of the prison world. We never get to see what would have happened if Gabe became the One, and while he presumably gets to live happily ever after, it rings false that the guy who loved his wife so very much could just go and live with an identical her from another universe, without being plagued by the knowledge that he had already watched her die once.

What’s right with it?

The One’s kung fu is strong. The flow-mo work is superb, the choreography smooth and flowing, and when Jet Li fights himself at the end, the film-makers have bothered to make a difference between the two, by giving Yulaw and Gabe radically different combat styles (Yulaw is all brutal power, Gabe flowing motion). Jet Li is a charismatic actor, even if he does struggle a little with the English script from time to time. It also has few pretensions of being more than it is; a fairly silly sci-fi adventure.

How bad is it really?

Not bad exactly, more disappointing, and in the end a little unsatisfying. It just feels as though with a very little more effort – giving us a few explanations and a proper conclusion for starters – the film could have been so much better.

Best bit?

The final conflict between Gabe and Yulaw, with the two Jet Lis flawlessly blended into each single shot, and highlighting the difference in their styles; a rare thing in a western kung fu movie.

What’s up with…?

  • The 124 kills? As mentioned before, in a multiverse there should be an infinite number of him, so what’s special about 124?
  • The other ‘Laws’? There’s Scandinavian Sven Law, Rasta Law, Surfer Law; all played by Jet Li in a series of increasingly unconvincing wigs. If there’s a world in which he’s a Nordic blonde, how come he still looks just like Jet Li aside from the flowing blonde locks?
  • Yulaw’s use of ‘illegal quantum tunnelling’? Okay; I get that this is the wormhole thing, but it just sounds weird. “No officer; the atoms of my body just happened to line up and let me slip through the wall.”
  • Mouse bomb?
  • What would have happened if the other Laws had just died? Would all of their counterparts have gotten stronger? It is implied that by killing Yulaw, the MVA agents would have made Gabe The One, so what would have happened if Gabe had been hit by the car in the world he ended up in? Or if he were killed in a convenience store hold up? Isn’t he now the most important and indirectly dangerous man in the multiverse?


Production values – Corking. The two Jets are seamless, and the flow-mo not only well done, but a little bit different from The Matrix, with various elements of the shot running at different speeds. 3

Dialogue and performances – Not bad, but not great either. The expository dialogue is a little lacking, but at no point feels so forced as in many movies. The rest is competent, but not really anything to write home about; the film has no particularly memorable quotes. The acting is good, but again not great. Delroy Lindo as the senior MVA agent takes the Laurels, largely because Li is working in a foreign language. Voice-over guy at the beginning, who lays out the multiverse stuff for us, is the biggest let-down, and is nowhere near as convincing as Patrick Stewart or James Earl Jones. 7

Plot and execution – Sadly sloppy. Most of The One’s serious flaws come from simple carelessness in this area. The exposition is incomplete, and more importantly its holes could fairly easily have been filled if someone had just taken the time to do so. The direction however is good, and the fight work especially impressive. 12

Randomness – There is a little randomness, but not as much as in many films of this type. There is no use of the dimension-hopping as a convenient deus ex machina, or any unexplained time travel or other drastic changes of the rules. There is the mouse bomb, and of course Scandinavian Sven Law, but that’s about it. 9

Waste of potential – I’m in two minds on this one. On the one hand, it does feel that with a little more effort this could have been a superb movie, instead of just a decent one. On the other, it was originally written as a vehicle for The Rock, and while I haven’t seen The Scorpion King yet… Oh well, so it could have been better, but could have been a lot worse. 11

Overall 40%

From the Archive – Lara Croft: Tomb Raider (2001)



“Who is Lara Croft?” (And yes, this is the best of the film’s dire taglines)

Directed by Simon West
Starring Angelina Jolie

Lady Lara Croft (Jolie) is an orphaned, aristocratic shut-in with a tough ‘tude and serious daddy issues, who lives in a near-deserted mansion with faithful family servant Hilary (Christopher Barrie) and techie hanger-on Bryce (Noah Taylor). Not having to work for a living, she whiles away the days as a tomb raider; a mercenary specialising in the plundering of ancient artefacts from sites of archaeological significance; like Indiana Jones without the reverence.

Continue reading From the Archive – Lara Croft: Tomb Raider (2001)

From the Archive – Mean Guns (1997)

Mean Guns


Directed by Albert Pyun
Starring…Well, it’s got Christopher Lambert and Ice-T in it

A crime boss in ‘The Syndicate’ (like the Mob, but multiracial apparently) gathers a whole bunch of treacherous ex-employees in a newly built prison, where they are to fight to the death. The last three surviving are to split $10,000,000 between them. As the battle rages, dubious alliances are formed and broken between the killers, until finally it comes down to a four-way face off between Lou (Lambert), Moon (Ice-T), Marcus (Michael Halsey) and accountant Cam (Deborah Van Valkenburg). Pretty much everyone dies, except Cam who gets to split with the cash and the little girl who Lou snatched from her abusive father, because his real daughter was raped; or killed; or something.

It’s never really made clear. Nor is anything else.

What’s wrong with it?

The film makes no sense. Really. Even by the BMM’s standards, it’s pretty bloody random. What little exposition there is is garbled, mumbled, and contradictory. The action scenes are rubbish, largely consisting of one person after another firing a gun off the side of the screen. The whole thing is backed by a bizarre score, which seesaws between sub-Morriconne guitar jangles and Prez Prado mambo numbers.

What’s right with it?

Nothing much.

How bad is it really?

Albert Pyun occasionally shows signs that he is almost a very good director.

This is not one of those occasions.

Best bit?

Random mambo plays while Moon explains that everyone is going to die. When he asks if there are any questions, Lou asks: “Where can I get this CD?”

That really is the high point.

What’s up with…?

  • Lord. Where to start?
  • The mambo? In a book, it might be a little creepy; the idea of killers playing real, live deathmatch to a cheery mambo soundtrack. In the hands of a master film-maker, it might work to have a tense cat and mouse to same. But brutal game of death gunfights to a mambo movie score? Worst scoring decision since Ladyhawke.
  • The set-up? This is supposed to be for the entertainment of the Syndicate, yet they dump the guns on the crowd, thus ensuring a swift attrition. Surely the smart thing would be to distribute them around the playing area, a la Quake.
  • The ambush? Four people setting up an ambush by sitting in an open space, surrounded by an elevated gallery. Now, call me crazy…
  • The shoot-out? Ice-T hands out four Desert Eagles, and Lou’s isn’t loaded. A professional killer had a gun in his hand, and let someone give him another gun, and tried to use it. I don’t think so.


Production values – Albert Pyun’s trademark bizarre use of filters (orange outside, blue inside) dominates here, and is the technical high-point. The fight choreography is non-existent, the sound is crappy and the editing sucks. All in all, it looks as if the film was put together by a bunch of monkeys on crack. 18

Dialogue and performances – Even by their own standards, Lambert and Ice-T sleepwalk through these roles. Everyone else is worse. Except the little girl who sits in a car outside the prison all through the movie, who is great. You know; assuming she really was supposed to be the secret head of the Syndicate.14

Plot and execution – More monkeys. They say that enough monkeys with enough typewriters could produce the works of Shakespeare. As my flatmate said – borrowing from something we can’t quite remember – five monkeys; two typewriters. And some crack. Same for the direction, which seems to have been of the order of: “Do this and this, we’ll wave the camera at you” (or maybe just “Ook”). 20

Randomness – Lou shot a kid. No wait, his daughter was raped. No wait, Marcus killed his daughter. What’s going on? And that’s the questions around just one character. 16

Waste of Potential – Brutal cat-and-mouse around a prison; it could have worked. Unlikely; but it could have done. 10

Overall 78%

From the Archive – The Specials (2000)


“Not as good as regular superheroes, but slightly better than you.”

Directed by Craig Mazin
Starring Rob Lowe, Thomas Hayden Church and Jamie Kennedy

The Specials are the sixth or seventh greatest superteam on the planet. They have just landed a new team member, Nightbird (Jordan Ladd), and been honoured with a set of action figures. At the launch party for the figures, the team’s mind-numbingly earnest leader, The Great Strobe (Hayden Church), discovers his wife, Ms. Indestructible (Paget Brewster), is having an affair with their long-time friend and coworker, the Weevil (Lowe), and the toys are revealed to be muscle-bound – and in some cases big-breasted – caricatures armed with deadly weapons, with two team members transformed into villains and one made black to make the team more multiracial.

Strobe announces the break-up of the team, and the other members mope about for the evening. In the morning, they defiantly assemble at their suburban HQ – all save the Weevil, who sells out and joins top-flight superteam, The Crusaders – and the fight against injustice goes on.

And that’s about it really. There’s no overall plot, and no resolution. The whole thing is tied together with documentary-style interview segments with the various specials.

What’s wrong with it?

It’s a superhero film with no plot; like a middle-period Woody Allen film with dodgy costumes. The team is twelve strong – and one of the team members, Eight, is one person with eight bodies, so the screen time given to each is somewhat limited. While the film contains many good ideas, they are a little lost without a real plot framework, and however many scenes work very well, the film does not really go anywhere or do anything. The Specials came out the year after Mystery Men and the latter is by far the slicker, tighter film.

What’s right with it?

If you get over the fact that there isn’t really a plot, then the film contains some very good ideas. The notion of a world full of competing superteams; the top team being a pack of self-righteous media whores; superheroes dealing with everyday problems and the trials of being minor celebrities (they get asked for autographs, but Minute Man – who can become tiny at will – is constantly having his named pronounced ‘Min-it’ instead of ‘My-newt’). While the whole does not always satisfy, there are a number of good scenes, and some very funny lines.

How bad is it really?

By the standards of the BMM this is a classic in the mould of Casablanca. Back in the world, it’s pretty silly, but far from appalling.

Best bit?

The film doesn’t really have any set pieces, but it has some very good lines. For example: Minute Man (James Gunn) asks Deadly Girl (Judy Greer) what it’s like to summon demons, this being one of her powers. She replies: “They do your will and it makes you feel good about yourself. Does that make me creepy?”

What’s up with…?

  • A superhero film without a plot or an action scene? Deadly Girl pops Ms Indestructible when the team find out she cheated on Strobe and at the end of the film each team member does their power once, but it’s not really what you expect.
  • Well…That’s about it really. Once you get past that central conceit, the rest of the film pretty much gels.


Production Values – Cheap, but not tacky. The costumes are mostly lame, but then they are kind of supposed to be. The superpowers at the end are a little naff, and you can see why they did not feature more, but on the other hand, recognising that limitation scores points. 8

Dialogue and performances – Variable. The script is fairly good, and often very funny, and the performances are mostly solid and unpretentious. Thomas Hayden Church is either the second coming of Bill Shatner, or puts in a splendid showing (further viewing of his oeuvre supports the conclusion that he is good). 7

Plot and execution – The Specials loses major points on plot, since it really, really doesn’t have one. That being said, the execution of the not-plot is fairly strong. 12

Randomness – Again, aside from the overall randomness of making this movie in the first place, The Specials is pretty straightforward. 5

Waste of Potential – Would this film have worked if it had an actual plot? Could we have stayed interested if we’d seen any more of their crime fighting exploits than Ms Indestructible lamping a pterodactyl in the face? Difficult to be sure, but with what it is, the film odes pretty well. 7

Overall 39%

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50,000 Monkeys at 50,000 Typewriters Can't Be Wrong

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A novelist's look at veterinary school, the writing process, and all art that inspires me. Also, I now apparently review bad movies and TV shows.

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