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When my local neighborhood grocery store recently set out a dump bin overflowing with cheap, previously-viewed movies, I didn’t think too much about it. More often than not, all they’re peddling are cheesy, low-budget family flicks or mainstream movies everyone and their grandmother already owns. Imagine my surprise, then, when I stumbled upon used copies of “Command Performance”, “Trailer Park of Terror”, “Webs”, “War of the Worlds 2: The Next Wave”, and “Flu Birds” for next to nothing. My head nearly exploded from the sheer awesomeness of it all. Was this self-indulgent splurge a worthwhile investment? The full report resides below.
Here they are, in no particular order:
What happens when you let Richard Grieco and a group of bumbling electricians fiddle around with a minature nuclear reactor? You guessed it — they open a portal into an alternate dimension populated with bloody-thirsty man-spiders hellbent on murdering everyone on the planet. Director David Wu — who edited such classic action flicks as “A Better Tomorrow” and “Hard Boiled” — seems to be utterly clueless behind the camera, as “Webs” is easily one of the worst movie I’ve ever seen. Not only does every character yell their lines, but, apparently, electrical engineering is nothing more than rubbing wires together endlessly until something sparks. Who knew? The creatures themselves appear to have been pieced together using cheap Halloween costumes purchased from K-Mart. My personal favorite is the one with the bushy afro, easily the most stylishly dressed monstrosity of the bunch. Richard Grieco, meanwhile, appears lost, out of shape, and, at times, completely brain dead. “Webs” was worth the investment for the dialogue alone, though I do have a soft spot for that badass afro.
Command Performance (2009)
A tough-as-nails drummer must save the Russian Premier and a cutesy pop star from a band of vicious terrorists in director Dolph Lundgren’s 2009 opus “Command Performance”. While his contemporaries continue to languish in the direct-to-video mire, Lundgren just keeps getting better and better. In this long-time fan’s humble opinion, this bloody, tongue-in-cheek actioner is easily his strongest picture as both a writer, director, and star, far surpassing his 2005 effort “The Mechanik”. Those are big words, I know. The plot essentially boils down to “Die Hard at a rock concert,” but the film’s rapid pace and Dolph’s solid direction help mask the borrowed ideas. Then again, I don’t recall John McClane smoking a joint moments before launching into action. And while I’m not going to endorse or support the use of illegal narcotics, at least we finally have a motion picture that portrays stoners in a positive light. Not only does this burn-out save the day, he rescued some people, as well. All kidding aside, “Command Performance” is a hell of a lot of fun, and well worth the tiny amount of money I laid down to bring it home. Easily the best of the bunch. Then again, that isn’t saying too much.
Flu Birds (2008)
I learned a lot about the human condition from watching “Transmorphers” director Leigh Scott’s “Flu Birds” (aka “Flu Bird Horror”), and I must say I’m a little disturbed. For instance, if you’re fat and a burden on the other survivors, chances are they will use you as bait in order to escape. Even more unsettling is the treatment of African Americans. Every time something dangerous needs to be done, a flare gun is thrust into the token black guy’s face as he’s forced to risk his life for the group. Not surprisingly, when he too becomes injured, the white people leave him behind for the birds to eat. The subtext is terrifying. All kidding aside, “Flu Birds” is just mindless gore and inane dialogue for 90 minutes, nothing more. I had a blast watching it, especially when I realized that the picture’s portly bearded hero was none other than “The Last Starfighter” icon Lance Guest. Not as good as “Birdemic”, but I think it’s pretty close. Well worth the paltry sum I paid for it. I honestly can’t believe this sort of empty-headed trash is readily available at a grocery store in an affluent neighborhood. I keep expecting to wake up.
War of the Worlds 2: The Next Wave (2008)
Full disclosure: The only reason I purchased director/star C. Thomas Howell’s insanely goofy little sci-fi epic was to see Christopher Reid, also known in certain circles as Kid from the hip-hop duo Kid-N-Play. Unfortunately, Kid doesn’t show up until about halfway through the picture, leaving me to contend with Howell’s unintentionally amusing performance as a post-apocalyptic father who is desperately searching for his son. Instead of taking the easy route and focusing solely on our hero’s adventure, the film cuts back and forth between this journey and that of a group of fighter pilots who blast off for an interstellar mission to destroy the proverbial Mothership. There’s a bit too much dialogue for a movie of this nature, especially since none of the actors seem to understand what they’re saying to another. It’s pretty nonsensical. At one point, the Southern Belle/British scientist turns to her colleague and inquires, “Do you want to get drunk?” That pretty much sums up the entire movie: Relax, get drunk, and have fun. “The Next Wave” is just goofy enough to entertain, and that, in my opinion, is too hype.
Trailer Park of Terror (2008)
Chances are, if you combine rednecks, zombies, trailer parks, sleazy women, and several revolting scenes of fart-puking gore, yours truly will be all over it like cross-eyed hillbillies on inbred siblings. The film unfolds like a lower-budget, country-fried version of Rob Zombie’s “House of 1000 Corpses”, complete with a murderous clan of freakish maniacs, a vast array of bizarro imagery, and one curvy blonde who doesn’t mind when the camera lingers on her strong points. Problem is, most of the supposedly disturbing content seems so outlandish, so impossibly goofy, that I found myself laugh hysterically when I probably should have been violently upchucking. Questionable atmospheric pressures aside, Goldmann does a phenomenal job behind the camera, delivering a number of tense moments throughout the picture’s decently paced 97 minutes. The film’s main attraction, of course, is its wonderfully executed physical effects, a nice change of pace from the awful CG nonsense we see these days. If you can find it for under five dollars, I strongly suggest picking it up sight unseen.