Tag Archives: Mark Dacascos

Solar Attack (2006)

Solar_Attack_(widescreen)_DVD_cover

“Prepare for the Apocalypse”

Directed by Paul Ziller
Starring Mark Dacascos, Joanne Kelly and Lou Gossett Jr.

Billionaire science maverick Dr Lucas Foster (Dacascos) is attempting to prove that greenhouse gases are a thing when his manned space plane is destroyed by the impact of a massive coronal mass ejection from the sun. Working with staff at the Solar and Near Earth Laboratory, including Foster’s ex-wife, Dr Joanna Parks (Kelly) and sacrificial ethnic Patel (Sugith Varughese), Foster must convince the President (Gossett) of the danger and then persuade a Russian submarine commander to launch nuclear missiles at the polar ice cap before the CMEs set fire to the greenhouse gases in the atmosphere and turn the Earth into a fireball.

What’s wrong with it?

Solar Attack is unbelievably silly. It’s science is terrible and its politics laughable, surpassed only by the cheapness of the effects. Substantial chunks of the film’s hour and half running time are given over to pointless set pieces intended to drum up the tension, including a submarine chase, the partial destruction of SNEL (in which the film’s only Indian becomes one of only two named casualties; the other is, admittedly, a white man) and a stand-off inside the sub in which the poor man’s Tony Stark inexplicably busts out some of Dacascos’s kung fu.

What’s right with it?

It’s only ninety minutes long and never has a chance to get slow.

How bad is it really?

It’s disaster movie knock-off filler, really; neither any good, nor bad enough to be interesting.

Best bit (if such there is)?

The hilariously overdone submarine chase.

What’s up with…?

  • Coronal mass ejections causing… well, any of the things that they cause in this film?
  • Submarines tapping into phone cables at unsafe depths?
  • The gratuitous action scenes? It’s not as if they’re any good even.

Ratings

Production values – Shockingly bad, from the CGI spaceplane to the almost cringeworthy sight of orange slow-fire creeping in a steady, even front across the sky. 18
Dialogue and performances – The actors pretty much hit their marks and pick up their cues; more than that is hard to say. The writing is blandly bad, with the pointlessly hostile head of SNEL as a stand out. 14
Plot and execution – The plot is ridiculous, but at least the film sticks with it for the most part and eschews random sex and violence. 14
Randomness – The film is completely at odds with all real-world science, but sticks to its own premise well enough. 8
Waste of potential – For bargain cable fare, this was entertaining enough. 3

Overall 57%

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Bad Movie Superstar: Albert Pyun

Opinions on director Albert Pyun are varied. The Independent Film Channel says that “(he has) carved out a unique niche as a director of low-budget, high-concept genre films starring actors past their prime”, while others call him the new Ed Wood and his frankly gushing IMDB bio (by ‘anonymous’) likens him to Jean-Luc Goddard and Sergio Leone while mourning the butchering of his unique vision by studios and producers.

For me, none of these descriptions quite fits the bill – well, apart from the bit about actors past their prime – and the best comparison to be drawn is actually with B-movie legend Roger Corman. Like Corman before him, Pyun does not have the power to make a silk purse from a sow’s ear, but does know how to bash out a sow’s ear purse for even less than the little he can sell it for, while simultaneously making a second purse from the same ear on the other side of the lot.

Sword

Beginning his career in his native Hawai’i, Pyun interned with Akira Kurosawa’s cinematographer in Japan before making his directorial debut with The Sword and the Sorcerer, arguably his best movie (although still not very good). His IMDB filmography shows the recurring themes of martial arts and cyborgs (as in 1989’s Cyborg, with Jean Claude Van Damme), but he has also worked in fantasy, contemporary action (Blast, Hong Kong 97) and even the superhero genre (with 1990s Captain America). Brainsmasher… A Love Story is a rare digression into comedy, with Andrew Dice Clay’s bouncer battling some dubious Shaolin monks over a rare flower.

And how bad is he?

Well, here’s the thing. I am convinced that Albert Pyun knows how to make a good film, he just can’t seem to actually do it. Maybe the IMDB reviewer is right and he really is an avant garde genius whose work is routinely butchered by producers, but having seen Nemesis and Mean Guns, I don’t buy it; not completely, anyway. Every so often, he puts a shot together really nicely, but he always seems to manage to screw it up; if not by the end of the shot then in the next one. 

Blast
It’s the ‘with Rutger Hauer’ credit that makes it art.

Pyun has something of a stable of regular actors, including fellow son of Hawai’i Mark Dacascos, Rutger Hauer and Tim ‘Trancers’ Thomerson, who also has a long and fruitful collaboration with of another doyen of the Corman school, Charles Band, under his belt. His film-making trademarks include the money-saving ‘shoot offscreen’ technique (requiring neither expensive GSW effects nor any retakes for fluffed timings) and heavy use of coloured filters.

Also cyborgs; lots of cyborgs.  He uses a particularly notable number of cyborgs for a man who has claimed to have no interest in cyborgs.

From the Archive – Sabotage (1996)

“Ouch”

Directed by Tibor Tackáks
Starring Mark Dacascos, Tony Todd and Carrie-Anne Moss

Former special forces assassin/hostage rescue sniper type Michael Bishop (Dacascos), who was almost killed by mercenary Sherwood (Todd) during a mission for General Tollander (Graham Greene) in some embattled European country or other, is working as a bodyguard when his principal is offed by Sherwood.

Enter suspicious FBI single mum Lou (Moss) and Bishop’s gay, English, wheelchair-bound, chess-playing ex-intelligence consultant mentor Follenfant (John Neville), add suspicion and child kidnapping; mix well.

Blah, blah; it’s all a set-up by the dying Follenfant who wants Bishop to kill him so he can go out with a bang.

Everyone but Bishop, Lou and the kid get dead.

The end.

What’s wrong with it?

As ever, Tibor Tackáks turns in a performance akin to housepaint: A good, workmanlike job, but really, really dull. Dacascos is his usual boring self, Moss is unremarkable, Greene has no opportunity to revel in a rare bad-guy role, and John Neville is criminally underused as the stereotypical flaming queen.

Oh; and I’d like to put a shout out for the child-minder, who once more pays the ultimate price during the kidnapping of the little girl. It is a thankless task to be a domestic in a thriller, and no more so to be the SWAT team: A shout out to the SWAT teams, in this and all the others; first in, first dead, and no-one ever says sorry.

What’s right with it?

Tony Todd; having a ball as ever, bless his evil, size twelve cotton socks.

How bad is it really?

Sabotage is just mind-numbingly dull. Even the action sequences.

Best bit…

Not really, no.

What’s up with…?

  • The SWAT team? Why does no one ever care about the SWAT team? No-one even gets pissed at their meaningless deaths. No- one even says: ‘They killed my men!’ Poor bastards.
  • The child-minder? Lou finds two cleaners in the back garden, carrying the lifeless bloody corpse of her devoted childminder and friend, wrapped in plastic sheeting. She shoots the cleaners, but never a tear is shed for the luckless girl who happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. Not even a ‘poor <insert name here>; she’s been looking after my kid for years’.
  • Tollander’s ‘clean-up’? He swans in, all Army Intelligency and badass, gives the corrupt FBI boss a poisoned pen, then removes all the evidence in a bin liner, and no-one even challenges him.
  • Follenfant? Not only is it a stupid name and a stupid role, what’s a crippled Brit doing involved with US military intelligence anyway?

Ratings

Production values: Certainly not actively bad, aside from a couple of iffy slow-mo bullet-cam moments. 8

Dialogue and performances: Rubbish. The script is not so much poor as simply entirely unremarkable, and the performances range from Neville’s scene-chewing to Dacascos’ usual lethargic effort. 14

Plot and execution: Competent, but deeply uninspiring. Tackáks carries off his usual trick of not doing anything wrong by not doing anything much at all. 16

Randomness: Basically the plot hinges entirely on you never asking why. Nothing actually hangs together, making the whole film essentially random. 18

Waste of Potential: All the ingredients were in place for a really dull movie, and guess what…? No real surprises here. 8

Overall 64%

From the Archive – DNA (1997)

DNA

 

“Don’t mess with Mother Nature”

Directed by William Mesa
Starring Mark Dacascos, Jürgen Prochnow and Robin McKee

Dr Carl Wessinger (Prochnow) comes to a remote clinic in Borneo, to find Dr Ash Mattley (Dacascos). Mattley – who was, of course, raised by a local tribe and taught their kung fu – once almost developed an enzyme that would cure all diseases, but could not replicate it. Wessinger claims he can, but that he needs one of the beetles Ash extracted the enzyme from in the first place to do it. Ash takes him to the site where the beetles live in an ancient temple to a towering demon-god named Balacau, where Wessinger double-crosses him (Jürgen Prochnow! The bad guy! Never!) and leaves him for dead.

Flash forward three years, and Ash is still a remote jungle doctor (because despite being evil, Wessinger was not thorough), only now with long and unhygienic hair, and local people keep getting their spines ripped out by a mysterious assailant (although that probably can’t be put down to Ash’s hair). Enter a snooty CIA field operative Claire Sommers (McKee, playing the least convincing field operative in history), who tells him that Wessinger was working for them, but has gone rogue and intends to sell his genetic research to the highest bidder. Cut to some very Jurassic Park-y bits of Wessinger’s team trying to recapture their creation, and Ash and Claire set off to find him.

To cut a long story short, they do, and are then all stalked by a big monster that looks like the Alien, except it’s apparently stolen the Predator’s cloaking device. Oh; it also looks just like the Balacau statue, and is an alien, which Wessinger resurrected using the beetle enzyme.

The bad guys all get killed – as does the token cute small child – and Ash has to go mano a talon with the beast, getting kitted out with warpaint and fightin’ axe, then shooting it in the face with a grenade launcher.

What’s wrong with it?

Any good idea this film has is ripped off from somewhere else: Alien, Jurassic Park, Indiana Jones, and especially Predator, from which almost the entire last fifteen minutes is lifted whole cloth. The stuff they do seem to have come up with themselves – namely the magic beetle juice – just makes no damned sense. Prochnow phones it in as his stock Euro-baddie character, and the other actors universally suck. Intercutting with stock footage means that frequently helicopters change model two or three times while landing.

What’s right with it?

Absolutely nothing that springs to mind.

How bad is it really?

It is not as bad as Sanctuary, but that’s about the best that can be said for it.

Best Bit

Once Wessinger has his beetles, he turns and shoots Dr Ash. We dared to hope.

What’s up with…?

  • The mild-mannered doctor, raised by a tribe in Borneo, being a bad-ass martial artist?
  • The tough, experienced CIA field operative being a sissy girlie-girl? Oh, that’s right. She has to get rescued.
  • The beetle-juice of a thousand uses? it regenerates aliens from fossil bones; it incapacitates the alien; it heals all illness! But wait; there’s more!
  • CIA cissy’s big gun that shoots either grenades or these big taser things? Never explained in any way.

Ratings

Production Values – The invisible alien is about the same level of special effect as Predator; which is worrying given that that film is about ten years older than this one. The lack of care given to the use of stock footage is also notable. 14

Dialogue and Performances – With Prochnow phoning this one in, there isn’t a decent performance in the film. the dialogue is dire, and really deserves no better than it gets. 16

Plot and Execution – My God, what a pig’s ear. The plot is all over the place, frankly looking for all the world as if they’ve just taped together pages from an assortment of other scripts. The direction is also second rate, and everything is either underlit or overlit. 17

Randomness – The whole damn plot is randomness. My goody-God but it makes no sense. With the beetles, and the mystery alien and all. What the hell? 16

Waste of Potential – The material in this film could – and lets face it, did – make several good movies. 15

Overall 78%

From the Archive – Sanctuary (1997)

sanctuary

“From hood to priesthood.”

Inflicted by Tibor Takacs.
Perpetrated by Mark Dacascos (which readers may come to think of as ‘all you need to know’) and friends.

OK; so there’s this priest, right. Only he’s really an assassin, in hiding, after doing something he can’t face. A series of flashbacks reveal that he was part of an elite team, trained from childhood, loyal only to their commander, etc, etc. After years living quietly as a priest, they come after him, and he and his former lover have to shoot some people and reveal assorted nefariousness.

Um…That’s pretty much it. There’s probably some soul-searching involved somewhere.

What’s wrong with it?

Sanctuary is a film so dismal I can’t even be bothered to write more of a plot summary than I gave above. It’s full of dull characters, engaging in dull fights and even duller conversations. It’s very difficult to become engaged enough to care whether any of them live or die, except that maybe you want them off the damned screen. I only remember the lead character’s name is Luke because that’s my name.

What’s right with it?

Actually, nothing. Really, seriously, nothing.

How bad is it really?

Sanctuary is awesomely, mind-numbingly, stomach-churningly, soul-destroyingly bad. Only sheer bloody-mindedness kept me awake through the whole thing, and I wasn’t even tired. It’s suffocatingly boring, packed with characters who don’t even cease to be boring when they’re being cartoonishly evil or unpleasant.

Best bit?

The end credits came as something of a relief.

What’s up with…?

It’s a little difficult to write this section, mostly because in the case of Sanctuary, I just don’t care enough.

Ratings

Production Values – Poor. The dialogue is mumbled (this is a common flaw in this breed of film; they think characters who can’t speak above a whisper unless they’re screaming in barely coherent rage automatically seem deep and sensitive), and many scenes underlit. It’s all pretty cheap and dismal. 18

Dialogue and Performances – I’ve seen worse, but then I have seen some very poor performances. The dialogue is pretty poor, and unforgivably, is not even memorably poor. 19

Plot and Execution – No real effort has been put into developing or moving the narrative. Many of the primary plot junctures are ill-explained and nonsensical:

  • “I’m the new member of your team, who have trained and lived together since childhood. No way I’ll be trouble.”
  • “We need blackmail material against our new Congressional overseer; let’s trick him into killing one of our best operatives on camera.”
  • “We’ve lost them! No wait; I’ve picked them up on the plot-cam!”

In short: Dire. 20

Randomness – Aside from the above-mentioned narrative ‘eccentricities’, there isn’t a great deal of randomness. Unless you count the order of assassin-priests who recruit Father Luke at the end of the film. They’re pretty random. And the sporadic, almost spontaneous nature of the attempts on Father Luke’s life probably count. 10

Waste of Potential – This could have been a nice little thriller about an assassin in hiding, whose past catches up with him. The idea of a team trained together since childhood was a good one, but the film would have needed much more work to make something of it. 15.

Overall – 82%