Picasso Trigger

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Salazar (Aprea) is a famously devious assassin who gets shot by a sniper just after he donates a painting (of the emblematic ‘Picasso triggerfish’) to a Parisian art gallery. This sparks a series of lethal attacks on undercover federal spy teams who are Salazar’s enemies. But are the various bad-guys, who use all manner of tricks to eliminate government agents, all working for a criminal mastermind?

Sidaris makes amusing action films by casting Playboy pinups and hunky TV actors, and crafts low-budget Bond style thrills in exotic locations. There’s not much point in expecting greatness from these stereotyped heroes and villains, as the quintessential Sidaris formula simply requires some beautiful women to strip at regular intervals, a number of offbeat stunts and violent explosions, occasional bouts of kung fu, and frequent travel scenes in small planes, flashy boats and fast cars. On these terms, Picasso Trigger is a splendidly uncomplicated production showcasing several enjoyably ridiculous gadgets: a boomerang grenade, a radio-controlled toy car bomb, and a missile launcher disguised as a crutch!

If what you want is a speedboat chase in which the hero cannot shoot straight, lots of busty babes in bikinis (or less) carrying enough weaponry to fight a small war, crooks guilty of everything from drug-smuggling to snuff movies and white slavery, and a scattering of throwaway one-liners, Picasso Trigger fits the bill, perfectly.

Jeff Young
Originally published in Video Vista
www.videovista.net

Dir: Andy Sidaris
Star: Dona Speir, Hope Marie Carlton, Steve Bond, John Aprea

Resident Evil

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“Alice in Underland”

Interestingly, in the past year, all three of the computer-game to movie adaptations have had heroines: Lara Croft, Aki (Final Fantasy), and now, Resident Evil‘s Alice, who wakes up one day with a splitting headache and no memory. I’ve had mornings like that too. However, I never found myself kidnapped by a SWAT team and dragged into the Hive, an underground complex populated by the walking dead (human and canine), a peeved computer, and a mutated computer graphic monster called the Licker. My stepson somewhat gleefully informed me that, in the game, the last-named’s method of attack is to wrap its tongue round your head and pull it off. The movie doesn’t go so far – it just kinda nibbles on its victims. I felt somewhat disappointed at this display of taste and restraint, not least because it ran contrary to much of the rest of the movie. This is not a subtle movie, relying heavily on things leaping in from outside the frame, while the soundtrack goes “Boo!”.

 Of course, that doesn’t make it a bad movie. Nor do the obvious plot-holes. Here are a few examples:

  • Why would an assault team choose to take a pair of amnesiac security guards on the mission with them?
  • Zombie humans shamble along at classic Romero speed. Zombie dogs can run like greyhounds.
  • Security lasers in a corridor zip along with a variety of heights/patters, before finally switching to an inescapable grid-pattern. Why didn’t they do that to start with?

These are forgivable – the first is necessary to the plot, and Anderson (a veteran of game/movies, having done Mortal Kombat) uses the other flaws to stage satisfyingly cool sequences, with the security lasers perhaps the highpoint of the film. It’s a shame this represents about the extent of the Hive’s defenses; I’d have liked to have seen more ingenuity of this sort. The rest of the story revolves around the T-virus, being developed by the corporation that runs the Hive – when the virus is stolen and released, the Hive goes into lock-down, with the central computer (the Red Queen, personified by a little girl hologram with a nice line in not-so-idle threats) killing all the personnel inside. Bad move, for the T-virus reanimates them, turning them into hungry cannibals, which adds an extra frisson to the assault team’s mission.

This is to…er, well, I think it was to disarm the computer, but I’m not certain about that. Mind you, I’m not certain about quite a lot in this movie. The characterisation is so woeful, I managed to combine two opposing characters into one for the entire film. And it still made sense – indeed, even after Chris enlightened me, I felt my version was better. My version would also have discarded the clock countdown, or used it as the basis for an exciting race against time through the tunnels. What’s the point of a countdown, if you don’t see it in the last ten minutes? There’s also maddeningly shallow nods to Lewis Carroll: the heroine is called Alice, who goes down a “rabbit hole”, while the computer is the Red Queen with a fondness for lopping off peoples’ heads. You should either do this stuff to the hilt, or not at all.

On the plus side, we do have Milla Jovovich as Alice, and Michelle Rodriguez as the Vasquezesque Rain, who are about the only easily identifiable characters. The former drives the plot along as her memory slowly returns at convenient intervals, along with her ability to kick butt. Most notable is the kung-fu vs. zombie Dobermann battle seen in the trailer, though she does the same neck-snap with the thighs thing that Famke Janssen did in Goldeneye. It’s a further step on for Jovovich, who showed action potential in The Fifth Element, yet there isn’t enough here to truly satisfy. Rodriguez, too, is underused, marching through her third straight film (Girlfight, Fast and the Furious) with the same expression. I thought I saw her smile once, near the start, but it was probably a digital effect added in post-production.

So, not as good as it could have been, with even the most undemanding viewer able to imagine improvements. Yet, as an action/SF/horror film goes, it’s not bad at all, with very little slack or let-up. The virus is released in the first two minutes, and it’s pretty much non-stop from there on, with plenty going on. Jovovich looks the part, and the final shot has me anticipating the sequel, in a kind of Evil Dead 2 way, with her character getting totally medieval on the zombies’ asses. We can but hope.

Dir: Paul W.S. Anderson
Star: Milla Jovovich, Michelle Rodriguez, Eric Mabius, James Purefoy

Hard Ticket to Hawaii

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Also known as Hard Titties in Hawaii – at least in this house – it’s a big step forward as far as the evolution of Sidaris’ work goes. After the flailing around that was Malibu Express, he’s now firmly settled on Hawaii as a location, and jiggly action/adventure as the genre. However, he still unfortunately seems to want to cram lame comedy in there, such as clunky references to his previous films, while many of the actors appear not to have been chosen for their thespian ability – to their credit, Speir and Carlton aren’t particularly the worst offenders.

They play, respectively, a local agent and a former agent now embedded in a new identity, courtesy of witness protection, who stumble across two packets of diamonds belonging to drug dealers. With the help of a couple of colleagues, including the brother of Cody Abilene from Malibu Express (Cody has apparently gone off to learn acting – which certainly explains his previous “performance”), they have to destroy the crime syndicate, though I’m pretty sure you can fill in the rest of the plot yourself. Not least because of the wildly gratuitous “let’s take our tops off!” sequences, such as the relaxing brainstorming session, which naturally takes place in a jacuzzi. [Carlton doesn’t even bother to get anything above her belly-button wet.]

The great majority of this film is actually a lot less fun than it sounds, since too many of the earlier scenes are pointless padding, despite blatantly thieving one of the best lines from Aliens. Even the nudity is not particularly well done, and the action is limited since the sum total of federal manpower is apparently “four” – I blame budget cutbacks. Then you reach a final 15 minutes where razor-edged frisbees, a villain who proves harder to kill than Jason Vorhees, explosive-tipped crossbows, and a snake contaminated with stuff from cancer-infected lab rats (no, really!) all suddenly play their part. This turns the last reel into berserk excess that’s gory by Sidaris’ standards, but undeniably and endearingly loopy. It’s just a shame that you have to sit through 75 pretty dull minutes in order to find this madly imaginative climax.

Dir: Andy Sidaris
Star: Dona Speir, Hope Marie Carlton, Ronn Moss, Rodrigo Obregon

Malibu Express

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Female action fans would be well advised to give this a wide berth. Actually, so should everyone else, unless they’re fans of crass sexism, extremely clunky exposition and hideous country & western. Cody Abilene (Hinton) is a PI hired by Countess Luciana (Danning) to look into the export of illegal computer technology to the Russians, centred on the home of Lady Lillian Chamberlain. Who is responsible? Oversexed chauffeur Shane? Daughters Lisa and Anita? Or the maid, Marion? [groan…]

Luciana and police Detective Beverly MacFee (Sutton) are the prototypes for later Sidaris action heroines, but otherwise this is crude soft-porn with few redeeming features. Were impressed with Danning’s amazing costumes though; never realised you could do so much with a roll of coloured crepe paper. The hero starts off driving a DeLorean, which rapidly goes in for repair, and is replaced by a series of less-expensive junkers which the production can afford to abuse. The over-frequent voiceovers that add nothing to the plot. The sub-plot involving a family who’d have been thrown off the Dukes of Hazzard for being too stereotypical. Need I go on?

With all the bed-hopping, this isn’t a film that has dated well – two decades of AIDS see to that. But it’s hard to imagine an era in which this could ever have seemed like passable entertainment. The occasional spurts of genuine imagination (such as the resolution, which I have to admit we didn’t see coming) aren’t nearly enough to justify the 101-minute running time. I suspect that a film concentrating on Luciana would have had much more potential – albeit at the cost of several more rolls of crepe.

Dir: Andy Sidaris
Star: Darby Hinton, Sybil Danning, Brett Baxter Clark, Lori Sutton

Stacey

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While this wasn’t Sidaris’s first feature – he’d done The Racing Scene, with James Garner in 1967 – this was likely the prototype of the BB&B (Blood, Bullets & Babes) flicks that would become his trademark. If all the elements do not quite mesh in the way they eventually would, they are all present, mostly in the shape of Anne Randall, a former Playboy playmate who plays private investigator Stacey, and looks a bit like Heather Graham.

The story bears more than a slight resemblance to Malibu Express (below), except with the sexes swapped out. Here, the PI is a she, called in by a rich invalid to investigate the shenanigans surrounding her extended family, and soon discovers an employee is banging one relative and blackmailing her gay husband, among other unpleasantness. He soon turns up dead, and there’s no shortage of suspects. Stacey finds the camera set-up he used to get the blackmail material, and retrieves a couple of rolls of undeveloped film [Yeah…that pretty much dates the film, right there!]. However, when the bullets start to fly in her direction, she realizes that someone wants to prevent the prints from being seen, and is prepared to stop at nothing towards this end.

Stacey is actually pretty cool: perhaps more so than some of Sidaris’s later heroines, the script makes it clear that she’s both smart abd capable of taking care of herself, with or without a gun. She also drives, very fast, something showcased in the final chase, pitting a race-car against a helicopter – it’s undoubtedly contrived, but the speeds on view are undeniably impressive. If they’d done a movie version of Honey West, this might have been kinda like it, though Stacey does take her top off with rather more frequency than Ann Francis would ever do.

That’s perhaps the result of this being a co-production between Sidaris’s production company and Roger Corman’s New World Pictures, each putting up half of the $75,000 cost. The production values are good, and there’s some surprisingly enthusiastic blood-squibbing going on. If some elements appear to have strayed in from Agatha Christie, and the supporting cast are entirely forgettable, there should be enough going on to keep the viewer interested, and I’ve seen an awful lot worse come out of the 70’s drive-in market.

Dir: Andy Sidaris
Star: Anne Randall, Alan Landers, James Westmoreland, Anitra Ford

Chameleon 3: Dark Angel

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chameleon3Part three is a return to form, despite a title which might now seem suspiciously unoriginal, at first glance on the video shelves. But it actually predates James Cameron’s series, leaving his genetically-altered, motorcycle-riding loner firmly in the position of late-comer. The mathematics for this one are harder to define, since the ideas on view are…well, if in light of the first two movies, I’m reluctant to claim originality, they are at least taken from less obvious sources. There is thus an “X” factor to take in account here, where X may or may not be genuine inventiveness.
(Chameleon / Kung-fu movies) + (Dirty Harry / 6)2 + Factor X

Note the semi-recursive nature of the formula, with one major element from the first film being rehashed, namely Kam’s acquisition of a child into her protective custody. Note also the plot inversion of many a kung-fu movie – these may be summarised as, “you killed my brother and you must pay!”, while here, it’s “you are my brother and you must pay!”. Yes, the chief threat here comes from Cain, another DNA-hybrid: wolf, bat, etc. though I’m unaware of any of them having the startling regenerative powers he has. Maybe the bat was part vampire, in which case Kam could always try decapitation and stuffing a holy wafer in his mouth, for nothing else – even impalement with a pipe – is a long-term solution. Time to call in Buffy, perhaps.

 A bunch of physicists, including teenage prodigy Tess (Teal Redmann – who, Chris points out, looks like a young Renee Zellwegger), are working on a sample of “dark matter”, when rudely interrupted by Cain. He makes off with it at the behest of his master (bald head, sneer and clearly planning towards Being John Malkovich) for the usual mercenary gain purposes. Unfortunately, the dark matter is unstable and Tess has to convince Kam that in 48 hours, the planet will be gurgling down a black hole like leftover soap-suds. So far, so ho-hum, but the only way to stop it is by exploding an electromagnetic pulse bomb – and the only person to have one powerful enough is a wheelchair-bound terrorist called The Mongoose. Will they find him in time?

I imagine no-one genuinely doubts the answer, but this adds a whole new plot twist, especially as the last time the Mongoose activated his weapon, its impact was pretty heavy. What happens when it’s used here is never really shown, and there is some scientific handwaving about the black hole absorbing all the energy, but it would be gratifying to think that it became necessary to destroy the city in order to save it. Not least because Cameron’s Dark Angel starts with a very similar premise.

Even if the heroine’s chameleon-like powers have been all but forgotten, this is the best entry in the series, with some great action, notably Kam’s single-handed demolition of the Mongoose’s gang – I saw this just after coming back from Jet Li’s Kiss of the Dragon, and it’s a battle which stands up well in comparison. Her ruthless brutality is also surprising and you can only sympathise with her handlers, futilely trying to keep her in check. She does what she want, when she wants, to whom she wants, and can only be applauded for it. The child actor here is also a great deal less annoying than first time around, an obvious relief to the viewer.

There, for the moment, the series rests. What lies in the future is hard to tell, but given the ongoing success of shows like Buffy, Xena and La Femme Nikita, it’d be a foolish man who would write off the chances of Chameleon finally making it onto the small screen.

Dir: John Lafia
Stars: Bobbie Phillips, Teal Redmann, Alex Kuzelicki, Doug Penty

The Demolitionist

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KNB are one of the best-known effects studios, having worked on movies such as Evil Dead 2 and From Dusk Till Dawn. With their background, one would have hoped they might have come up with a story that’s more than a shameless Robocop ripoff, but for a microbudget work (budget was only $1m, if I recall, and it was shot in 21 days), it’s not so bad. The cast are enthusiastic, and the film does a good job of capturing the desired comic-book style.

Eggert plays Alyssa, a cop killed in the line of duty by Mad Dog (Grieco), who is then resurrected by Dr. Crowley (Abbott – his second appearance in this “cape fear” section!) as a bio-engineered crimefighter who years for her former life, but is obsessed with tracking down her murderers. Like I said: Robocop ripoff, right down to the satirical news-breaks, with references to ‘President Bono’. She even “dreams”, though the visions of hell that we see are, frankly, embarrassingly bad, and the middle act in general is sluggishly-paced.

This is the kind of role for which Grieco was made – scenery-chewing to the max, although a certain amount of angst is understandable after your brother gets electrocuted via a puddle of urine (and, say what you like, that’s certainly an imaginative demise). Eggert is fine, and indeed shows more emotion than Abbott, who also tends to mumble his lines. Looks like a few horror favours were called in for the supporting cast: beside FX-god Savini, Heather Langenkamp (Nightmare on Elm Street) plays a journalist, and Bruce Campbell has an uncredited cameo. A good chunk of the bad guys are also played by KNB employees, which keeps the wages bill down, I guess.

As you’d expect from a movie directed by the K in “KNB”, the physical effects are solid; I was particularly impressed with the blood squibs which explode as pink powder in a wildly unrealistic, yet very cool-looking, way. The heroine’s costume, gadgets and bike are also nifty, and the action is by no means badly-staged – though one suspects a fair bit of doubling for Eggert, despite her swinging a staff decently enough. It’s a shame resources ran out before they could film the climatic sword-fight between her and evil henchmen Savini.

Largely, however, the lack of money and time don’t destroy the picture – the main black mark against it is the severe lack of originality, which isn’t down to financing. Making a low-rent version of what is widely regarded as a classic, is hardly pushing the boat out artistically, and any comparisons will likely be to the detriment of The Demolitionist. Rather than a nice idea, poorly executed, this is a poor idea, saved by solid execution.

Dir: Robert Kurtzman
Star: Nicole Eggert, Richard Grieco, Bruce Abbott, Tom Savini

Aliens


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“Queen of outer space”

Few sequels are as good as the original, never mind surpass it. The Godfather II. Evil Dead 2. Mad Max II. But perhaps the finest of them all is Aliens, which did something obvious with the premise, yet executed it with breathtaking audacity to make what remains, even almost two decades later, one of the finest          films of all-time.

Yep, a blank, which you can fill in a number of ways. Science-fiction, certainly; horror, too. But I personally rate Aliens as one of the finest action movies of all time – whether it beats Die Hard depends almost entirely on which one I’ve seen more recently – and if you were to argue that it’s a classic war movie too, you wouldn’t hear loud complaints from me.

For in many ways, this is a Vietnam allegory. A technologically superior, arrogant military force lands in foreign territory…and gets its butt kicked by a ferocious enemy with no moral qualms, while the non-combatants are happy to plot their demise in pursuit of some other cause. It is likely also significant that Cameron worked on First Blood, Part II, which is perhaps why some reviewers e.g. the Philadelphia Daily News, referred to Aliens as “Rambo in space”.

That over-simplifies thing enormously; the script here works on a far more efficient level, both emotionally and logically. The tricky question of how to get Ripley out to face the aliens once more is dealt with smoothly – she wants to go, in order to exorcise the ghosts of her first encounter. Physically, she may have won that battle, but mentally, she has to fight it again every time she goes to sleep, and it’s killing her, one nightmare at a time. The audience might not do the same thing, but they understand why she does it.

The story also gives Ripley another reason to fight, in the persona of Newt, a young girl found in the airducts of the otherwise inhospitable base – her survival for several weeks there surely has enough material for a movie by itself. This resonates with particular force in the director’s cut, which includes a scene where Ripley learns of her daughter’s death, turning Newt into a surrogate child. This makes the final face-off between Ripley and the alien queen into a conflict of mothers, both intent on defending their offspring at any cost, even their own lives. It’s a terrific concept, almost unique in the genre up to that point, and still rare even today.

The other issue was how to make the monster as terrifying as it was originally. This wasn’t the first time Cameron had been brought in to direct a genre sequel, though I suspect he might not thank me for mentioning Piranha II: Flying Killers in this context. But here, as there, he re-invented the basic concept, albeit in this case with a good deal more logic and coherence. If one alien is terrifying, how about a hundred?

alien4In addition, he imbued them with movement, something almost lacking first time round, where the monster lurked, came out, grabbed you, then vanished into the shadows again. Here, they’re in your face – or if not, are coming towards it at high speed. With cinematic smoke and mirrors, Cameron created the illusion of dozens of creatures, but in reality only had six actual suits – if you watch the film, you’ll never see more than this number of aliens in any shot.

It does take its own sweet time getting there, with the first adult alien not being seen until over 70 minutes into the extended version of the movie. You can certainly see why some cuts were made for the theatrical version, such as the discovery of the aliens by the colonists [though someone could do an Alien 1.5, covering the gap between that discovery and the arrival of the Marines here]. But the subsidiary characters are such great fun to be around, that this delay isn’t a chore. Hudson, Hicks, Vasquez (left – Jenette Goldstein is perhaps the best supporting action heroine in cinema history), Apone, and the rest of the marines are fabulous, entire personalities being generated in just a few words, and what could come off as unjustified arrogance is actually endearing.

Add in Paul Reiser’s corporate slime, Carter Burke, and Bishop the android (Henriksen), who confounds Ripley’s expectations of how an “artificial person” should act, and all of these help make Aliens one of the most eminently-quotable films of recent years. Let’s pause for a moment and enjoy, once again, some of those classic lines…

The Ten Best Aliens quotes

  • 10. Hudson: We’re on an express elevator to hell – going down!
  • 9. Ripley: These people are here to protect you. They’re soldiers.
    Newt: It won’t make any difference.
  • 8. Vasquez: Look, man! I only need to know one thing – where…they…are.
  • 7. Ripley: I say we take off and nuke the entire site from orbit. That’s the only way to be sure.
  • 6. Frost: What the hell are we supposed to use, man? Harsh language?
  • 5. Hudson: Hey, Vasquez – have you ever been mistaken for a man?
    Vasquez: No. Have you?
  • 4. Hudson: Is this going to be a standup fight, sir, or another bug-hunt?
  • 3. Newt: My mommy always said there were no monsters – no real ones – but there are.
  • 2. Hudson: That’s it, man – game over, man! Game over!
  • 1. Ripley: Get away from her, you bitch!

You can see why the Aliens patch for the computer-game, Doom, became an essential item. The two were made for each other, and I spent many hours, blasting away at face-huggers, warriors and queens with my pulse rifle, while samples such as the ones above, or accompanying this page, blared semi-randomly. Ah, happy days… Er, where was I?

On the action level, Aliens is almost flawless (I admit that a couple of effects shots during the descent haven’t stood the test of time). The first encounter between marines and the aliens in the film should be required viewing for every director interested in staging a scene more energetic than two people talking, shot in close-up. And from that point on, there’s hardly a slack second, as things go from bad to worse to this-place-is-going-to-explode-real-soon.

Ripley is more pro-active in this film than Alien, where she became the heroine almost by default, being the only person left. In the sequel, she is the first to realise that the search for the colonists has gone horribly wrong, and effectively hijacks the APC on a rescue mission. After that, she is no longer an outsider, whose opinion is an irrelevance to the professionals. She is the instigator, the innovator and also the anchor, who keeps despair from becoming as deadly an enemy as the aliens. And who can doubt her bravery when, with escape in her grasp, she turns and voluntarily goes back into the ticking nuclear-bomb of the base, in order to rescue a child she met only a few hours previously.

It’s moments like that which elevate Aliens to a special place in my heart, and the hearts of many – voters at the Internet Movie Database rank it in the top 100 films of all time. Regardless of any debate over the genre to which it belongs, this is a classic, make no mistake about it.

Dir: James Cameron
Star: Sigourney Weaver, Michael Biehn, Lance Henriksen, Bill Paxton

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Chameleon 2: Death Match

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chameleon2Unlike most mathematics, which tends to increase in complexity the more you get into it, the second part of the series has a very simple equation:
(Die Hard * 2/3) + (Lethal Weapon / 6)
Disappointingly, study of the above shows that it manages to be significantly less than any of its component parts. Again, we have theft from well-regarded sources, but here, there is almost no originality on view. Let’s see…

  • Terrorists take over a high-rise building…
  • …as a decoy operation for their actual goal.
  • The hero(ine) must take them on single-handed…
  • …save for occasional communications with the black cop running things outside…
  • …while exchanging taunts with their leader via a walkie-talkie.

The plagiarism is more focused too, ripping off highly specific elements, such as the terrorist leader accepting a hostage’s offer of help before killing him, and even the style – witness the bad guy who plummets to his doom from a window, in a shower of broken glass, limbs flailing wildly. It’s shot from above in exactly the same way as Die Hard, and was the point at which I began to yearn feverishly to watch John McTiernan’s greatly superior effort. [Though admittedly, it’s also greatly superior to almost all action movies, save Aliens]

You get a lot less sex than in the first part; in fact, none to speak of. There’s not even any sexual tension between Kam and her new partner, Booker (Siemaszko), who just engage in the kind of bickering familiar to anyone who has seen a buddy-cop film. Oddly, there is absolutely no mention of the kid who had bonded so firmly to Kam – by the end of part one, she could even say the F-word to him. That’s “family”, in case you’re wondering. I should perhaps stress that this is merely an observation, rather than a complaint.

Booker and Kam are one team sent into the hijacked tower-block to find out what’s going on and solve the problem. The next hour goes almost exactly as you’d expect, with the terrorists progressing towards their goal, and Kam trying to stop them. Even more than previously, she does seem to keep forgetting to use her power – in such hostile surroundings, I’d have it on all the time. There may be some neurological or biochemical reason for this: it’d have been nice if they’d actually bothered to mention it though.

There’s one sequence with Kam scurrying, lightning-fast, up a ventilation shaft (left) and a rather good brawl involving her that made me sit up and pay attention, offering hope for the rest of the movie. It’s a red herring. The last twenty minutes finally stop slavishly cloning Bruce Willis, with the villain not being who you’d expect (though if you think about who played the bad guys in the Die Hard trilogy, it’s not hard to work out). One good twist at the end is Kam recovering the “loot” and using it for her own ends, which extends her nicely amoral attitude. There’s also a nod to Kam’s not-entirely human origins, and how they affect her emotions, which would be a good avenue for future exploration.

But overall, this is a poor follow-up. You shouldn’t try to remake classics, unless you can bring something new to the party, and while Phillips is certainly no worse an actor than Bruce Willis, it’s not enough to stop this seeming a lame copy.

Dir: Craig R.Baxley
Stars: Bobbie Phillips, Don Battee, Casey Siemaszko, Tasha Smith

Chameleon

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chameleonIn mathematical terms, an approximation to Chameleon can be expressed by the following formula:
(Leon / Blade Runner)2 * Terminator 2 + (0.2 * Predator)
To go step by step through the equation:

  • Leon: an emotionless assassin discovers new depths within themselves, thanks to a child rescued from a corrupt government officer, also responsible for killing the kid’s parents. Together they develop mutual respect and track down the villain.
  • Blade Runner: artificially-created humanoid life, with a deliberately restricted lifespan, rebels against its creator and tries to extend its longevity. A bounty-hunter is sent on the trail. The twist here, is that good and bad are reversed from Ridley Scott’s classic.
  • Terminator 2: ass-kicking, motorcycle-riding killing machine is taught compassion by a young boy, who possesses something of potentially vital importance to the future of society.
  • Predator: the ability to blend into the background, leaving no trace save for a shimmery heat-haze.

There: that’s the essential elements covered. This is doing it a slight disservice, since it does have some genuine original ideas, but there is an awful lot which is blatantly lifted from elsewhere. However, credit must be given for stealing from excellent sources, and enough of those involved go at their work with sufficient enthusiasm and energy to make you forget its less than groundbreaking setting and storyline.

The plot revolves around a hacked computer credit chip which is the equivalent of a bottomless bank account: just before the inventor is slain, he passes it on to his son, and when Kam is ordered to kill him and recover the chip, she rebels and rescues him. She heads off to the countryside to escape, where she links up with a group living outside the urban world where the vast majority of the population now reside (nicely, the countryside has become almost a myth to townsfolk). There, she must fend off the bounty-hunter sent to track her down, as well as coming to terms with the uncertain human feelings she is steadily feeling, before returning for the inevitable showdown with her creator.

Bobbie Phillips delivers an excellent performance as Kam. In films like this, the balance is important; it’s easy for the heroine to fall into being unsympathetic at one end, or weak at the other, but that’s not the case here. Kam comes across with an almost childlike innocence in some ways, but is perfectly happy with using her sexuality for gain, at one point whoring herself in exchange for gas. It’s a nice contradiction that helps to provide depth to what could be just a stock character. Unfortunately, most of the rest of the cast don’t work as well; Eric Lloyd as the child is particularly irritating, and the villain lacks anything to make you hate him with the necessary intensity. [Returning to the inspirations above, he should take lessons from Gary Oldman or Rutger Hauer]

The action here seems restrained; a little gunplay and some minor martial arts, but nothing particularly memorable. The sexual scenes make the made-for-TV origins painfully clear, with sheets that appear to be velcro’d to Phillips’ breasts, when she doesn’t have her elbows elegantly positioned in front of them. Still, there’s enough here in the central character to make me want to see more…and lo, what’s this coming along?

Dir: Stuart Cooper.
Stars: Bobbie Phillips, Eric Lloyd, John Adam, Jerome Ehlers