Film Review: Kill or Be Killed (1976)

Also known as: Karate Olympia (South African English title), Karate Killer (original US release)
Release Date: June 17th, 1976 (South Africa)
Directed by: Ivan Hall
Written by: C.F. Beyers-Boshoff
Cast: James Ryan, Charlotte Michelle, Nroman Coombes, Raymond Ho-Tong, Danie DuPlessis, Stan Schmidt

Kavalier Films, Film Ventures International, 90 Minutes

Review:

When I watched and reviewed this film’s sequel, I didn’t know that this one existed. I guess it kind of flew under my radar for years.

Overall, it’s probably a better movie than its sequel but I’d say that it’s less enjoyable, as the sequel was more bonkers than this one and it was just much more over the top.

That’s not to say that this one also isn’t a bit crazy.

The story is about a Nazi general that felt embarrassed when his fighting team lost in the Olympics way back in the day because Miyagi, the leader of the Japanese team, paid off the judges with diamonds. Now, years later, the general trains and holds tournaments in a fortress in the desert.

This brings in James Ryan, as Steve – the same character he plays in the sequel, who is essentially a badass karate fighter that is forced to fight in the Nazi dude’s tournament. This movie is basically a ’90s fighting game with a Nazi twist to it.

Steve and his girlfriend want to escape the Nazi fortress but they run into problems along the way but end up getting assistance from other fighters and a midget that is sympathetic to them, even though he is the henchman of the Nazi general.

See, this movie is pretty nuts.

Anyway, it’s fairly enjoyable for what it is and I loved the locations where this movie was shot. South Africa is pretty beautiful and it provided some spectacular landscapes that made this low budget action flick seem like a much bigger production.

I thought the tournament fights and general action sequences were well done and even though this doesn’t hold a candle to the best action films Cannon made in the ’80s, it really channels the same sort of energy and vibe. It’s almost like this is a proto-Cannon film.

Overall, most people would probably serve themselves best by skipping this movie. But for those of us who enjoy martial arts schlock from outside of the US, this is worth checking out.

Rating: 5.5/10
Pairs well with: its sequel, Kill and Kill Again.

Film Review: Kill and Kill Again (1981)

Also known as: Fighter Gang (Germany)
Release Date: May, 1981
Directed by: Ivan Hall
Written by: John M. Crowther
Music by: Igo Kantor (supervisor)
Cast: James Ryan, Anneline Kriel, Michael Mayer

APC, Again Productions, Kavalier Films, 100 Minutes

Review:

“My father has been working for several years on a project to extract fuel from potatoes.” – Kandy Kane

Man, I saw this so long ago that I barely remember it. I mostly just geeked out a bit at some visual cues that re-sparked my feelings from the first time I watched this, which would’ve been somewhere in the mid-’80s. I think my cousin had this on a bootleg VHS or we rented it from the Movie Van, a cool van that provided us with lots of ’80s horror, sci-fi and action flicks when we had weekend sleepovers.

Watching it now, it’s still good at its highpoints but a lot of it is kind of boring and drab. It wasn’t as action heavy as I remembered or as the trailer implies. Most of the film is actually about building a badass team to go overthrow an insane dictator with a karate army.

One thing that caught me by surprise, though, was how funny this was. I didn’t remember it being so quippy and maybe that’s because I wouldn’t have noticed that as much as a kid. But the jokes were goofy and fun and made this a really lighthearted romp mixed with Cannon Films style action.

In fact, the humor and action mix reminded me a lot of the Amir Shervan pictures of the late ’80s and early ’90s, once the Israeli director came to the United States and made some awesome D-movie classics.

The bulk of the movie is carried by its star, James Ryan. He’s not a guy that worked a whole lot but he’s always been enjoyable to me, as he’s convincing and charismatic in these sort of roles. Other than this film, he’s probably most known for Space Mutiny and Rage to Kill. He has a sort of poor man’s David Carradine thing going for him.

Side note: this movie is apparently a sequel to a film called Kill or Be Killed, which I have never seen. That film is also referred to as Karate Killer and Karate Olympiad. I’ll have to try and track it down so I can review it.

This is a fun movie at its best but you do have to sit through a lot of talking and a lack of action in parts. There are at least enough action sequences worked in, just when you might start getting too bored to care.

The fight choreography is decent, the plot is bonkers, the acting is barely acting but this still has a lot of heart and is mostly enjoyable.

Rating: 5.75/10
Pairs well with: the Amir Shervan pictures of the late ’80s/early ’90s, as well as most of Cannon’s action flicks from the ’80s.

Film Review: The Banana Splits Movie (2019)

Also known as: The Banana Splits (working title)
Release Date: July 17th, 2019 (San Diego Comic-Con)
Directed by: Danishka Esterhazy
Written by: Jed Elinoff, Scott Thomas
Based on: Aaa by Hanna-Barbera Productions, Sid and Marty Krofft
Music by: Patrick Stump
Cast: Dani Kind, Steve Lund, Finlay Wojtak-Hissong, Romeo Carere, Sara Canning, Eric Bauza

Blue Ice Pictures, Blue Ribbon Content, Warner Bros., 89 Minutes

Review:

“Hey kids, put on your happiest faces, because The Banana Splits Show is about to begin.” – Drooper

When I heard that a movie was being made as a horror styled reboot of a Hanna-Barbera and Sid and Marty Krofft creation, I was one part intrigued and one part worried that it would be some shitty try hard edgy boi bullshit.

Well, this was the latter. Except it was directed by a female so I guess it was some shitty try hard edgy gurl bullshit.

This was something I wanted to like and it’s not a complete train wreck but it’s far from good, way too formulaic and pretty derivative, even if the idea initially comes off as fairly original. But I’ve heard some say that this rips off the video game series Five Nights at Freddy’s. I haven’t played those games but from what I know of them, that statement doesn’t just seem like a hollow one.

As dumb as this movie is, which is fine – I love dumb horror, I still can’t wrap my head around these Banana Splits characters being actual robots. Especially, since they were created in 1969 within the continuity established by this film. We didn’t even have personal computing back then. So maybe they’ve been upgraded a lot since 1969 and eventually were given some form of A.I. but it’s still a baffling concept even in an absurd movie.

But suspending disbelief as much as I can, this is really just Chopping Mall in a much crappier setting, as the majority of the film takes place on massive sound stages that are mostly empty despite a few small sets that look worse than booths I’ve seen at local church fundraisers.

The film’s visual tone is presented through a poor man’s bronze-y Fincher like filter without any real effort at cinematography or good lighting. It’s not an ugly film but it’s certainly not an appealing one to look at.

There is a decent amount of violence and gore but it’s done in the cheapest way possible with quick cuts and gory reveals after an offscreen act of violence and a splatter of blood.

Additionally, none of the characters are likable. The mom is okay by the end of the film but I would’ve been fine with everyone dying and the Splits leaving the studio to murder the rest of the world. But whatever, that means I probably would’ve had a sequel to watch and I don’t think that this movie deserves one.

Ultimately, this just feels like some studio exec proclaimed proudly, “Hey, you guys remember The Banana Splits? Yeah? Well, we’re bringing them back as killer robots!” And then the exec was applauded because he surrounds himself with yes-men that actually hope he fails so that they can take his job.

Rating: 4/10
Pairs well with: a trip to Chuck E. Cheese with bad drugs.

Film Review: Dredd (2012)

Also known as: Judge Dredd (Jamaica, Japan, working title), Dredd 3D (promotional title)
Release Date: July 11th, 2012 (San Diego Comic Con premiere)
Directed by: Pete Travis
Written by: Alex Garland
Based on: Judge Dredd by John Wagner, Carlos Ezquerra
Music by: Paul Leonard-Morgan
Cast: Karl Urban, Olivia Thirlby, Wood Harris, Lena Headey, Domhnall Gleeson

DNA Films, IM Global, Reliance Entertainment, Entertainment Film Distributors, Lionsgate, 95 Minutes

Review:

“In case you people have forgotten, this block operates under the same rules as the rest of the city. Ma-Ma is not the law… I am the law. Ma-Ma is a common criminal; guilty of murder, guilty of the manufacture and distribution of the narcotic known as Slo-Mo, and as of now under sentence of death. Any who obstruct me in carrying out my duty will be treated as an accessory to her crimes… you have been warned. And as for you Ma-Ma… judgement time.” – Judge Dredd

Not enough people saw this in the theater, myself included. But I did see it as soon as I was able to stream it. I wasn’t a big fan of what the original 1995 film was and even though I knew that this one was a much more serious picture, it didn’t get me into the theater.

That was my mistake though, as I really liked this movie the moment I saw it. It hit all the right notes and was just a badass bonanza of bullets, blood and brutality!

Dredd is the movie I’ve wanted ever since seeing the original RoboCop. It’s unapologetic, goes for the gusto and doesn’t relent in its intensity. Plus, Karl Urban’s version of Judge Dredd holds a special place in my heart right next to Peter Weller’s RoboCop.

Sadly, this didn’t do well enough to get a sequel but talks of continuing on with Urban as Dredd haven’t died down. But for now, we’ve still got this to enjoy, even if it just feels like a small sample size of what could be.

This is just a hair over 90 minutes, which is fine. It’s so intense that anything more might have been overkill.

The action is damn good and this film is just a masterpiece when it comes to pure destruction.

Beyond that, this is well acted between the three biggest components: Karl Urban, Olivia Thirlby and Lena Headey. In fact, Headey was incredibly good as a psychotic female crime boss that literally wore here vileness on her face. When Headey and Urban finally come face to face in the movie, it’s a fantastic moment, greatly accented by both actors’ work.

This has good effects, especially in regards to the scenes where we see the world through the eyes of the drug users. The finale that sees Headey’s Ma-Ma get doped up and thrown through a window, 200 stories to her death, was stunning. It was shot very dynamically and was masterfully crafted from the camerawork to the special effects.

These type of films are often referred to as “high octane” but this one goes beyond that. It’s a real throwback to the over the top, intense action pictures of the ’80s.

Dredd is a great template for how to do a hard R action movie. Frankly, the world could always use more of those.

Rating: 8.25/10
Pairs well with: the original Judge Dredd just to compare, as well as the first two Robocop movies.

Film Review: Resident Evil: The Final Chapter (2016)

Also known as: Resident Evil 6, Resident Evil: Insurgence, Resident Evil: Rising (working titles)
Release Date: December 13th, 2016 (Tokyo, Seoul premiere)
Directed by: Paul W.S. Anderson
Written by: Paul W.S. Anderson
Based on: Resident Evil by Capcom
Music by: Paul Haslinger
Cast: Milla Jovovich, Ali Larter, Shawn Roberts, Ruby Rose, Eoin Macken, William Levy, Iain Glen

Constantin Film, Impact Pictures, Davis Films, Screen Gems, 106 Minutes

Review:

“We’ve played a long game, you and me, but now it’s over.” – Dr. Issacs

I think that the things I’m looking for in these movies are different from what others are seeking. The reason I say that is that I’ve heard really bad things about this chapter in the series yet this was the best movie out of them all, as far as I’m concerned.

I think that the extended break mixed with the experience of what worked and what didn’t over the course of the five previous films, allowed Paul W.S. Anderson to weave his best tale yet and frankly, this one surprised me and took things in a direction I wasn’t anticipating.

Also, I watched all of these movies over the course of a week and didn’t have a decade and a half to ponder this series, its direction and the reveals that each chapter brought to the series as a whole.

As an action movie with a lot of horror and sci-fi thrown in, this was satisfying. Also, it did give the audience fan service but it didn’t trip over itself like the previous movie, which was bogged down by too many cameos and a mostly incoherent plot.

By this point, I’ve accepted the flaws that bothered me in the earlier movies. Six deep into this series and some of those flaws have really become tropes. Especially the Hong Kong style wire work during fight scenes, the imperfect CGI and the overabundance of green screen scenes. In regards to the CGI, it does get better with this movie.

I liked how this film was structured and the longer running time gave it a bit more room the breathe. It felt like it had more of a three act structure than the other chapters. First, you have the beginning where Alice wakes up in D.C., gets her mission and then runs into trouble on her way back to Raccoon City. Then you have a second act where she and a group of heroes defends Raccoon City from a literal zombie army. The third and final act sees Alice and some of the survivors storm the Hive to end the Umbrella Corporation once and for all.

The plot isn’t complicated but it’s well layered, is more dynamic than some of the other RE films and it has a good MacGuffin with a satisfying ending that leaves the series on a hopeful note, as opposed to the doom and gloom each previous film left you with. To be honest, I’d like a seventh film featuring Alice on her last adventure before the Earth resets. But the ending is still fine on its own.

Seriously, I am baffled by this movie. It shouldn’t have been as good as it was, all things considered. Maybe the fifth one set the bar really low and I didn’t expect much from its follow up. But again, this is my favorite Resident Evil film in the series.

Also, zombie dragons.

Rating: 7.25/10
Pairs well with: the other Resident Evil films, as well as other horror video game films from the same era: the Silent Hill series and Doom.

Film Review: Space Mutiny (1988)

Also known as: Mutiny In Space, Southern Son (South Africa)
Release Date: August, 1988 (US theatrical release)
Directed by: David Winters, Neal Sundstrom
Written by: Maria Dante, Ian Yule
Music by: Tim James, Mark Mancina, Steve McClintock
Cast: Reb Brown, Cisse Cameron, Cameron Mitchell, James Ryan, John Phillip Law, Graham Clark, Billy Second, Rufus Swart

Action International Pictures, 93 Minutes

spacemutinyReview:

There is shit… and then there is Space Mutiny.

I kind of love Reb Brown, even though he is synonymous for starring in awful movies. Granted, I kind of love awful movies. I must be a sick and twisted person. But there is just something about films that are so flawed that they go beyond being just bad and into the realm of filmmaking insanity.

Space Mutiny is one of those pictures, where it is baffling to try and understand how it got made or why. Did the people working on this see this as quality work? I’m not saying that 100 percent effort wasn’t given but one would have to assume that the people behind this picture are completely devoid of talent and possibly delusional.

The costumes were horrendous. This film came out in 1988 yet the characters were dressed like something out of a 1950s sci-fi B-movie. Ed Wood may have provided his cast with better costumes three decades prior to this picture.

There are only two sets in this film. One is a warehouse and the other is an office building.

The warehouse stands in for just about every action sequence, whether it is the multiple snail-paced security cart chases or the endlessly running around catwalks and railing. It also stands in for the spaceship’s nightclub, which provided the film with a terribly strange sequence.

The office building is used for corridors on the ship, as well as the bridge – a bridge where they use large telephones with cords and bulky keyboards glued to the drywall.

Then you have the space battles. Luckily there are few of those. And to be honest, you might think the effects are somewhat passable for a South African sci-fi film with no budget. The problem, is that those sequences were taken from the original Battlestar Galactica. It is completely disorienting, as I was watching the film and immediately, I knew it was Battlestar Galactica.

Did I mention that there are the dancing space witches that sexually slither around plasma globes like sexy drunk girls Halloween shopping at Spencer Gifts?

Space Mutiny also has atrocious acting but that should probably go without saying.

The film is so awful, that the director claims he left the production before filming began and left those duties in the hands of his assistant. He also claims that he was unable to get an Alan Smithee credit, which is the film industry’s recognized pseudonym used by directors that disown their own work – usually because something happened to destroy their vision for the project.

If you like analyzing the worst films in history, this should probably be on the list of things you need to see. If you hate bad movies and want to avoid them at all costs, wipe this thing’s existence from your memory banks.

Space Mutiny is beyond bad. However, you can watch it in the eighth season of Mystery Science Theater 3000, where it ended up being one of the best episodes of Mike Nelson’s run.

Rating: 3.5/10