Cyber Monday: Project Shadowchaser Trilogy

Frank Zagarino dies hard!

Cinemasochism: Black Mangue (2008)

Braindead zombies from Brazil!

The Gweilo Dojo: Furious (1984)

Simon Rhee's bizarre kung fu epic!

Adrenaline Shot: Fire, Ice and Dynamite (1990)

Willy Bogner and Roger Moore stuntfest!

Sci-Fried Theater: Dead Mountaineer's Hotel (1979)

Surreal Russian neo-noir detective epic!

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Life in Poster Art: Dino De Laurentiis (1919-2010)

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Prison Prescription: LOCKED DOWN (2010)

Movies about martial arts are kind of like a Clint Eastwood spaghetti western – you get the good, the bad and the ugly.  The last two categories have been booming as of late thanks to the rise in popularity of mixed martial arts (MMA) and, more specifically, the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC). Unfortunately, like the pro-wrestling boon in the 1990s, this means lots of fighters with all the range of a remote control heading to the silver screen in the hopes of parlaying their public recognition into a second career. While some have broken into the big-time (Quinton “Rampage” Jackson in THE A-TEAM redux, for example), most fighters have languished in direct-to-video hell.

One of the current purveyors of the DTV MMA onslaught is director Daniel Zirilli.  He got his start directing rap videos and produced BLACK SPRING BREAK: THE MOVIE (1998), which I remember angering customers back when I worked at a video store.  Zirilli spent a decade producing crap that clogged video store arteries; “urban” films with titles featuring a Z in it like LATIN KINGZ (2003) done in a thug life font.  He latched onto MMA’s popularity and gave the world CIRCLE OF PAIN earlier this year.  You remember that one right?  It is the movie that gave the world the infamous Frank Mir vs. Heath Herring parking lot fight that my friend Dave said unfolded like the opening of a gay porn scene (how he knew that I don’t know).  Well, he is back with a vengeance with the MMA fighter laced LOCKED DOWN.

The film centers on undercover cop Danny Bolan (Tony Schiena, the lead of CIRCLE) and opens with him doing a drug deal with a guy named Mule (Forrest Griffin).  You can tell Mule is a badass because he has not one, not two, but THREE Tapout logos on his jacket!  Naturally, it all goes horribly wrong with an innocent rookie getting blown away and Bolan accidentally dropping Mule as he tries to save his life. Undercover cop cliché #1 taken care of, now let’s get onto #2. Bolan cleans up (shaving montage!) and gets it on with his girlfriend, who then proceeds to give him the post-coital “I don’t even know who you are” speech.  He wakes up to a Dear John letter, but that is the least of his worries as a S.W.A.T. team busts into his house and find drugs and money hidden in his mattress.  “This is a set up,” he screams.  Cliché #3 is in the books.

Bolan is quickly found guilty (no trial footage) and finds himself sent off to Blackwater prison.  And – wouldn’t you know it – it is overflowing with criminals he locked up.  What are the odds?  At the top of the list is Anton Vargas (the slumming Vinnie Jones, looking bloated as hell), a big time crime lord.  Now hold onto your hats because this might blow your mind.  Vargas runs this prison and has the warden wrapped around his little finger (thanks to young hookers). Also – make sure you are seated for this one – he runs an illegal underground fight circuit where prisoners fight to the death!  Whoa, where did they come up with such an original plot?  This barbaric bloodsport is showcased in the film’s opening when UFC fighter Cheick Kongo (as Silas) is punched in the balls (oh sweet, sweet justice) and killed by prison pound-for-pound champ Axl (Lance “The Snake” Cartwright). 

Bolan is taken to his new home (one cheap set cell block of 5 cells) and meets Irving (Dave Fennoy), his old black roommate who used to be a fighter.  Damn, I wonder if he will become his trainer and offer sage advice.  Leaving no cliché left unturned, Irving tells Bolan that when it comes to respect, “you got to earn it.”  Amazing! Of course, Bolan gets in trouble right away with thug Colton (Rashad Evans) as Bolan put away his cousin King (Kimbo Slice) down in Florida.  I’ll let Rashad’s fine acting skills explain:

Colton attacks Bolan in the lunch room and ends up with a face full of creamed spinach for his trouble.  This is the least of our cop hero’s worries though.  He meets with Internal Affairs agent Gwen (Sarah Ann Schultz), who promises to prove his innocence.  And time is of the essence for Bolan as Vargas, who is the one who framed him, wants his revenge via the underground fight league (“the cage is an institution” Vargas inexplicably says) and hopes to profit off it with his gambling operation that he runs out of his cell.  Bolan is resistant at first but a shiv from my main man Colton to the gut makes him change his mind.  Soon he is in that rusty cage and beating Colton into the land of living death (with Rashad suffering a similar fate as the Lyoto Machida match):

Naturally, this is all building to a final showdown with Axl, with Bolan beating up UFCer Joe Doerksen (as Slick!) in the process.  There is also a bit of SHAWSHANK in here as Irving plans his big escape during the final showdown.  Cue the loud guitar music!

Here it is, the film's highlight!
Wow.  Words can’t describe how bad this movie is.  Terrible action flicks are nothing new, but how are people still doing this crap in 2010?  I’m not joking – there is one guy in the opening credits who gets a “story by” credit.  Did he just say, “Hey, we should make a martial arts movie set in prison.”  Zirilli and co-screenwriter D. Glase Lomond leave no cliché unturned.  Now I’m not necessarily saying adhering to a blueprint is a bad thing (the UNDISPUTED flicks are a great example of how to do it right), but you have to have the talent to pull it off and Zirilli is no Isaac Florentine.  The direction is completely flat and – worst of all – the fight scenes adhere to the old Hollywood standard of letting editing do all the work.  Amazingly, this features better production values than the earlier CIRCLE OF PAIN.

Not gonna happen!
Of course, I didn’t watch this expecting it to be good.  I was more curious to see how the MMA fighters came off and, hopefully, find someone who is worse than BJ Penn in terms of acting.  Sadly, I didn’t get anything that bad, but we came close. I like Rashad as a fighter, but his adopting a tough guy persona was laughable. He actually sounds like a white guy doing a black street thug impersonation. Perhaps not wanting to spend money on dubbing, Frenchman Kongo is given no real dialog and Joe Doerksen only gets to scream as his leg is broken. Surprisingly, the best actors are Forrest and Kimbo.  Unfortunately, Forrest’s sarcastic delivery is totally out of place when you realize he is playing a drug dealer (whose gang likes watching strippers in the middle of a cold warehouse). Kimbo acquits himself well (he is a better actor than fighter), but his scenes of about 5 minutes are shoehorned in and don’t mix with the main plot.  With his mug on the cover twice, I haven’t seen Kimbo that exploited since Dana White put him on THE ULTIMATE FIGHTER season 10.  If I had to credit the film with anything, it would be the round about ways they worked in some nudity.  On the downside of that, you get to see helmet-haircut sporting Bai Ling lay on a naked Vinnie Jones.  **shivers** You also have to love how the MMA clothing craze apparently extends into prison life as Vargas has Hitman Fight Gear and Tapout (who “presented” this film) logos on his wall and fighter.  Really.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Reading is F'n Mental: John Russo's "Return of the Living Dead"

Warning: sometimes our eyes get tired of watching the CRT and we look at these strange little things called books.  Don’t worry, it won’t happen often.  This review has slight spoilers.  

Chances are you have heard of a little film called NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD (1968).  Produced by Pittsburgh commercial house Latent Image as their first feature, the horror classic established both the career of director George Romero and zombie mythos/blueprint that is still going strong some 42 years later (witness cable TV’s recent hit THE WALKING DEAD from Frank Darabont).  Another benefactor of the film’s success has been co-scripter John Russo.  When it came time to sequelize the film years later, Romero and Russo had a parting of the ways and came to the agreement where - according to The Zombies That Ate Pittsburgh - both men could make sequels but the yet unmade "RETURN couldn't be promoted as a sequel to NIGHT" (welcome to the world of American litigation!).  So while Romero went the cinematic route with DAWN OF THE DEAD (1978), Russo opted to follow up the film in written form and produced the sequel novel Return of the Living Dead the same year.  One of them was more successful than the other…can you guess who?

The novel takes place 10 years after the first zombie outbreak, which was apparently a localized event on the East Coast and eventually contained.  The folks in the county that was one of the epicenters of the event are divided on precautions.  Sheriff McClelland, a carry over from the NOTLD film, takes the stubborn “we’ll deal with it if it happens again” approach while the more fanatical types insist on a ritual of “spiking” the dead by driving railroad ties into their heads to quell any attempt to return to life.  When a school bus full of children crashes, a group heads down to spike the dead but are interrupted by the sheriff before they can finish.  This results in the un-spiked dead returning to life in the morgue (it is never explained what causes the resurgence).  You would think they would be prepared for something like this, but they aren’t.

The bulk of the story centers on widower fanatic Bert Miller and his three daughters, Ann, Sue Ellen and pregnant Karen.  Unable to deal with her religious father during the beginning of the outbreak, Sue Ellen splits in the middle of the night.  Yes, she ain’t too bright.  When zombies attack their house and Bert is killed, Karen and Ann are forced to hide in an upstairs bedroom before they are rescued by a posse.  The eclectic group includes state troopers John Carter and Wade Connely, redneck chick Angel and deputized grease-ball Flack.  With them is Sue Ellen, who is now in a catatonic state.  The cops claim they rescued her while she was being attacked.  Also in tow they have two bound and gagged prisoners who the officers say are child molesters that they will use for “zombie feed” (Chris Hansen would be proud) in their attempt to get away.  The girls see this as odd behavior for law enforcement officials and, sure enough, things aren’t as they appear as Carter wants things done his way.  Things get worse as Sue Ellen’s boyfriend Billy arrives and Karen goes into labor while they are all trapped in a boarded up house that is surrounded by zombies.

Sound familiar?  Yeah, Russo is basically recreating the dynamics of NOTLD but with a few twists.  It works well in some cases as the author is able to pull a fast one on the reader due to their familiarity with the landmark film.  Russo does indeed pull some nice switches and you think things will go one way but then they don’t.  There is also a nice surprise about halfway through the novel.  On the downside, you will see the ending coming from a mile away.  Seriously, I was reading this and thinking, “C’mon, you’re not seriously going to do the exact same ending as NOTLD” and then he does.  The book also has serious problems in the logic department (after a zombie outbreak, no one in the government has taken precautions in case it happens again?).  This is actually the first fiction I’ve read by Russo and he is a pretty decent writer.  I’ll give him credit for having some fast-paced action scenes and some evocative descriptions of the zombie attacks. There are also a few oddball moments that I liked such as an encounter with some kids armed with bows and arrows.  It is one of those peculiar moments that you know would happen if the shit really went down and society collapsed.  Is it a classic horror book?  No.  Is it a fun zombie tale?  Yes.

Original published by Dale in 1978, Russo’s sequel novel has been pretty hard to come by in recent years. This was remedied last month as Kensington Fiction re-published Russo’s novelization of NOTLD and his sequel novel in the collection Undead.  Ah, yes, zombies are hot with the general public so you know Russo was going to chase that undead dollar.  Thankfully, each novel didn’t come with a vial of dirt from the NOTLD cemetery.  It is interesting to note that Russo was planning on making this book into a movie as well.  He sold the rights to producer Tom Fox in the late 70s and the film adaptation was scheduled to go before cameras in March 1981 with Russo as director/co-writer (alongside the pseudonymous sounding Edmondo Raphael) and NOTLD alum Russ “Johnny” Streiner as producer (see Variety ad below).  That adaptation of the film never got made for whatever reason. Perhaps Fox saw Russo’s directorial debut THE BOOBY HATCH (1976) and squashed that idea?  The project eventually got the services of screenwriter Dan O’Bannon, who started from scratch and only retained Russo’s title.  Russo and Steiner saw producer credits on O’Bannon's eventual film.  To make matters even more confusing, Russo wrote the novelization of the film version.  So, yes, he wrote a novelization of film that has nothing to do with his novel which the film is “adapting,” enough craziness to make my brains explode.  Mmmm, brains.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Sci-Fried Double Bill: WITHOUT WARNING (1980) and EVILS OF THE NIGHT (1985)

Steven Spielberg made extraterrestrials chic again with his CLOSE ENCOUNTERS OF THE THIRD KIND (1977), but – despite some scary moments – they turned out to be the nice kind of aliens who just liked to abduct average middle-class people.  I ain’t having that. Thankfully, Don Dohler burst onto the scene with THE ALIEN FACTOR (1978) and reminded audiences of the 1950s edict that “aliens are the enemy” and provided plenty of working class folks to blast their shotguns at these galaxy invaders.  Now that’s more like it.  Two examples of AVR (Aliens Versus Rednecks) cinema are Greydon Clark’s WITHOUT WARNING (1980) and Mardi Rustam’s EVILS OF THE NIGHT (1985).

WITHOUT WARNING opens with a hunter (Cameron Mitchell) out on an excursion with his son.  After berating him for being a sissy cuz he reads books and stuff, Mitchell is attacked by some flying sucker monsters that dig into his skin.  And we are off!  Cut to a group of teens (including a young David Caruso in some criminally short shorts) heading up to the lake for some R&R.  They stop at a gas station and encounter county crazy “Sarge” (Martin Landau) and station owner Joe Taylor (Jack Palance).  Surprisingly, it is Taylor who gives the “you don’t want to go up there” speech and not the town loony.  Of course, Taylor just might have a screw loose as well given his ulterior motives involving the love of hunting.

Naturally, the teens don’t heed the warning and continue on. Greg (Christopher Nelson) and Sandy (Tarah Nutter) decide to go for a walk while Caruso macks on his lady, but are surprised their friends aren’t around when they return.  The go searching and eventually discover their melting bodies stored inside a watershed (along with the hunter, his son and a doomed Cub Scout leader).  The helpless teens run into town for aid and think they find it at a local bar. Sarge is excited to finally meet someone who believes his stories of these tiny alien things he’s been seeing, but the revelation quickly sends him off the deep end and he shoots the law enforcement that arrives.  Thanks pal.  Instead the kids inexplicably hook up with Taylor, who is thrilled because chasing a malevolent alien represents the ultimate predator-and-prey hunt.

In terms of RVA cinema, you can’t beat WITHOUT WARNING as it pretty much has it all. This was back when low budget flicks could corral some great actors and production crew on a tiny budget. You have some great unhinged performances by both Palance and Landau (they re-teamed on ALONE IN THE DARK) and there is some fine supporting work by Larry Storch, Ralph Meeker and Neville Brand (as the world’s bitterest bar patron). Additionally, director Clark got top-notch cinematography from John Carpenter regular Dean Cundey. Most importantly, the film didn’t skimp on the alien stuff and made sure to deliver the gory goods. The tiny flying flesh discs – designed by Greg Cannom – will actually gross you out with their suckers, tentacles and teeth. The bulbous headed evil alien is pretty cool too. A lot of people have pointed out the similarities between this and PREDATOR (1987) with the “alien on intergalactic hunt” plot. I don’t doubt screenwriter Shane Black saw this film and it is interesting that Kevin Peter Hall played the aliens in both films. I’ll take Jack Palance screaming “allllllllllllieeeeeennnn” any day over that dumbass Schwarzenegger though.

On the complete opposite side of the galaxy from WARNING in terms of quality is the alien invasion non-classic EVILS OF THE NIGHT.  This one opens with a spaceship landing in the woods and – wouldn’t you know it – there are some couples making out nearby.  The aliens grab them (offing one girl’s guy while she is taking it doggy style and she continues) and take their bodies to a hospital. There Dr. Kozmar (John Carradine), Dr. Zarma (Julie Newmar) and Cora (Tina Louise) explain that they are draining the bodies of blood because it allows their alien race to “survive for hundreds of years.”  One of the kidnapped kids tries to escape but gets zapped with a green laser to his nipple for his trouble.

We now meet our lead players via a lakeside montage set to the totally 80s “Boys Will Be Boys.”  Not only do we learn about who is dating who, but we also learn that chicks will think you are funny if you stuff seaweed in their bikinis…as long as you have hot abs. That night the group sits around a campfire before Ron and Nancy take off for some place more private.  Of course, that means they are totally going to get abducted by the aliens. Instead, they get taken by some guys in ski masks.  What the hell is going on here?  Ah, seems the aliens have learned to work with rednecks this time around and have recruited dimwitted auto mechanics Fred (Aldo Ray) and Kurt (Neville Brand) to bring them nubile young bodies in exchange for gold coins.  What will they do with their wealth?  Frank plans to go to Tahiti (“where the women are nude all day, every day”) while Kurt plans to buy a castle (“with nude maids”).  As the pop track said, boys will be boys.

This dynamically dumb duo didn’t count on this latest batch of kids being so darn pesky though.  Brian, Heather and Connie show up looking for their friends, but the mechanics say they saw them hitchhiking (“probably going to Reno”).  These kids aren’t easily fooled so they grease monkeys have no choice but to take them captive too.  The teens keep trying to escape and Connie gets drilled by Kurt for her attempt.  Meanwhile, Nancy escapes from the hospital and makes it to the gas station just after Heather killed Kurt.  She catches Fred trying to kill Heather so she sticks an air hose in his ear (no joke, blood shoots out his opposite ear).  This all breaks down into an extended stalk-n-slash style chase before the aliens split Earth and zap Fred from outer space for his troubles.  No nude Tahitian ladies for you, my friend.

If you are looking for z-grade aliens complete with silver jumpsuits and washed up actors from every medium, look no further than this one.  Director Rustam originally was a producer for Al Adamson and on films like PSYCHIC KILLER (1975) and Tobe Hooper’s EATEN ALIVE (1977).  Interestingly, he was also one of the producers on THE BAD BUNCH (1973), the first feature for WITHOUT WARNING’s Greydon Clark. So perhaps he saw Clark’s alien flick and thought, “I could do that.”  We’ll, he can’t. This definitely falls into the “so bad it’s good” category.  You have to laugh at how hard he tried to throw in every exploitive element. The gore is there and the nudity is aplenty.  In fact, porn stars Amber Lynn and Jerry Butler have a couple of unrelated scenes shoehorned in to up the nudity ante.   Unfortunately it just congeals into a mess rather than a coherent film.  Of course, what do you expect from a guy who actually put the Millennium Falcon on the poster for his film?  Take a gander:

Friday, November 5, 2010

Gotterdammerung Epics: SOLOMON KANE (2009)

Michael J. Bassett is one of those bubbly young filmmakers who talk endlessly of their love for genre films and can’t seem to translate that enthusiasm into anything that stands as a classic in it’s own right. Not like Danny “I’m the biggest ‘Judge Dredd’ fan ever” Cannon (yes, I’m still bitter), more like a Stephen Norrington Syndrome, or maybe a Paul W.S. Anderson Disease. They are successful in The System, unlike true visionaries like Richard Stanley and Mariano Baino who’s passion make them pariahs to the Hollywood Machine. Of course, in Stanley’s case, it may have also had something to do with him dropping acid on the set, but whatever, the point stands.

After Robert E. Howard was honored post-mortem by one of the finest testosterone-laden, blood and thunder fantasy films ever made in CONAN THE BARBARIAN (1982), he was largely forgotten by everyone in Hollywood. Well, actually he was largely abandoned after everyone realized they could simply rip off CONAN. CONAN begat a sequel so bad, it even made me cringe, and I’m a guy who will cheerfully sit through the non-Joe D’Amato Ator film THE IRON WARRIOR (1987) on a semi-annual basis. In 1997 Mr. Howard would no longer be ignored as the decades of development hell finally ended and Howard’s grave was pissed on by TV director John Nicolella with KULL, in which Howard’s most violent and dark anti-hero was turned into a goofy, foppish nancyboy courtesy of Kevin Sorbo. The good news is nobody has seen fit to give Nicolella one red cent to direct a movie since. I guess there is justice in the world after all.

After firmly declaring the under-appreciated PATHFINDER as the sword movie of the decade, along comes SOLOMON KANE. I have to admit that I have never read the poems and stories, but I was a big fan of the comic book back in the day. I know, some Robert E. Howard fan I am. The comic-book incarnations, mainly THE SWORD OF SOLOMON KANE, featured six issues from ’85 to ’86, all but two of which are directly adapted from Howard’s stories and poems. The art was as pitch black as the narratives and told the story of a man who has left a life of blood-soaked piracy behind and became a puritan after discovering that Satan has designs on his soul and means to get it, sending his minions after him, while Solomon travels the earth, fighting the evils of the sixteenth century. Solomon’s world is dark, menacing and fraught with death, monsters and evil sorcery. There are no rays of light through the clouds, just darkness and evil magic.

On finding out about Bassett’s film version I was skeptical, really skeptical. Like, I'm thinking it’s going to be DOOM (2005) with a sword, kinda skeptical. Sure Bassett was better news than say Eli Roth (like Eli Roth would know who the hell Robert E. Howard was), but who would give him money to do a movie based on a story that has a guy in a buckle-hat fight evil with a couple of swords and a musket? And take it seriously. Amazingly, long-time genre producer Samuel Hadida did just that.

Set in the 1600s (rather than the 1500s), the film opens with Captain Kane (James Purefoy) cutting a swath through Turkish armies in Northern Africa to claim the legendary fortunes of local lord. After finally making his way into the castle, his bloody crew are pulled into mirrors by demons and Kane finds himself trapped in the throne room with the desiccated body of the lord and a fortune in treasure. As he reaches for the treasure, the room goes cold and a wraith appears informing Kane that his time has come and he is here to collect the devil’s due: Kane’s black and evil soul. Naturally Kane doesn’t go quietly and ends up throwing himself out of a tower window. Years later we find Kane has been living in a monastery and has devoted himself to doing penance for his crimes. Unfortunately the Abbot feels that the devil’s minions will soon find him and he must leave the monastery to find his destiny. Kane heads out on a path back to his ancestral home, a place where he accidentally killed his boorish brother (Samuel Roukin sporting hair extensions that make him look an awful lot like Ade Edmondson in BAD NEWS). After being found, left for dead, by a puritan family, he discovers that, as they say, a great evil is upon the land. A sorcerer living in one of the castles of the region uses a hulking brute with a leather mask to enslave the local populace and kill those who are too weak for war. Why? Well, we never really find out, but presumably it is the Devil setting a trap for Kane.

Solomon’s world here is every bit as bleak as it should be. The skies are perpetually dark and either snowing or pouring down rain, on every tree hangs a corpse, over every hill is death and ashes. More of a series of vignettes  than anything else for the first two acts, Purefoy is absolutely flawless as Solomon Kane. Brooding, angry and wracked with guilt over his life of bloodletting, he elevates this movie to a level that it would have never achieved otherwise. You could accuse him of a monodimensional performance, but like many classic rock and punk bands, they may only be giving us three chords, but those are three freakin’ badass chords! The cast is rounded out nicely by Pete Postlethwaite as the head of the puritan family that finds Kane, and who’s death is a catalyst for Kane’s path of vengeance, Max von Sydow as Kane's father, and Mackenzie Crook as a priest with his own way of dealing with the evil in the land.

Bassett’s first film DEATHWATCH (2002) was one of a handful of WWII themed horror films to be released around the same time and while it was well shot and reasonably entertaining, it suffered from a somewhat predictable script and a weak third act. SOLOMON KANE proves Bassett still needs to work on this to grow as a filmmaker. The film, while tremendously entertaining, still suffers from the exact same malady. It doesn’t take much thought to figure out exactly where this movie is headed once the foreshadowing has been laid down. In addition to being somewhat predictable there is a general sense that it’s been done before. You could make a case that Bassett is giving nods to the classics of the genre, such as the crucifixion scene where Kane pulls himself down from the cross in almost the exact same way Lee Horsley does in Albert Pyun’s masterpiece of the genre, THE SWORD AND THE SORCERER (1982). It would also be easy to make the case that he is pulling a Tarantino and simply using someone else’s creativity in place of his own. In addition, the evil sorcerer’s throne room in SOLOMON KANE features a “wall of souls” that mimics Xusia’s infamous sarcophagus in the very same Pyun classic. Hell, the guy who gathers a small army to help Kane raid the castle (Philip Winchester) actually looks a bit like Simon MacCorkindale here!

You had me at "firesuit swordfight"
Probably the most damning thing is that I think Michael J. Bassett must share my film collection as the plot line of SOLOMON KANE could be summed up as “two brothers, one presumed dead, meet again in battle. The thought dead brother is the masked henchman of an evil sorcerer who hides in a castle spreading evil throughout the land,” which is the exact plot synopsis for THE IRON WARRIOR! Granted the movies approach these themes from completely different angles, but that feeling of sameness nags throughout the film in part due to this comparison.

Additional stumbling include the weak character of the villainous sorcerer Malachi (an amazingly uninspired performance by the overrated and over-used Jason Flemyng) who doesn’t even appear until the final minutes of the film and does so with an obligatory CGI monster. This adds up to a real failing in the final act. Getting there, however, is a blast! Even with all of the negatives, this is a hell of a lot of fun and an easy contender (out of two) for best Sword & Sorcery film of the decade. Anyone with even a passing interest in the genre should definitely check it out. Unfortunately, a full year later after its release overseas, it still seems to be having some issues getting a distributor here in the US (apparently Lion’s Gate has toyed with the idea in their typically indecisive fashion). Hopefully someone will be smart enough to figure out that this is not another JONAH HEX and give it a proper theatrical push. They’ll definitely get my ten bucks.