Shadows In Paradise (2010)

Shadows In Paradise (2010)- * *

Directed by: J. Stephen Maunder

Starring: Mark Dacascos, Sofya Skya, Tom Sizemore, Danny Trejo, Bruce Boxleitner, Vernon Wells, Steven Bauer, Andrew Divoff, and Armand Assante

Max Forrester (Dacascos) is fighting in Iraq alongside Sasha Villanoff (Skya). As a fellow soldier and Max’s girlfriend, he feels especially inclined to protect her from the baddies all around her. Max is put to the test when Sasha disappears. He tracks her to a place called Paradise Island, found somewhere in the middle east. 

During the course of their perilous journey, they uncover an illegal arms-smuggling ring run by some corrupt soldiers called Shadow Company. Since Shadow Company is on PARADISE Island, that explains the title of the movie. Meanwhile, Col. Bunker (Sizemore) and Captain Dyer (Boxleitner) are at odds because of the activities of Captain John Santos, who goes by the code name of “Ghost” (Assante). 

Could he have something to do with the arms smuggling? Or could it be Matador (Trejo), Stronach (Divoff), General Ruth (Wells), or Agent Stubbs (Bauer)? While we desperately want to invest some intrigue into all of this, we really just wanted to highlight all the names involved here. Will the hot middle eastern sun eradicate all the SHADOWS IN PARADISE? And who else will be eradicated?

Shadows In Paradise is such a textbook example of what we call the Lone Tiger Effect (for those who don’t know, it’s when a movie features a bunch of the B-Movie names we all know and love – so we think the movie itself is going to be good – but it turns out to not be so hot) that we should really consider changing it to the Shadows In Paradise Effect. Yes, all our favorite people are present and accounted for but…at what cost? In other words, while it was enjoyable to see all our cinematic buddies all together in one film, we were disappointed at the final result. Which makes things all the more disappointing.

That being said, this movie is just too darn silly to really hate. While the overall feel is one of those modern-day DTV “Seal Team” movies (i.e. junky and none too involving), and the muzzle flashes on the guns are roughly on par with the ones in Hangfire (1991) (i.e. really stupid and fake looking), once you see Tom Sizemore’s “acting”, you want to say to the movie, in a loving and forgiving tone, “I can’t stay mad at you…”

Is it any wonder, then, that with the incoherent mumblings of Armand Assante, layered with the incoherent ramblings of Tom Sizemore, that the movie as a whole is, well…incoherent? Thankfully, Sofya Skya is on board, but Assassins Run (2013) offers up a better example of what she can do. She does sing the theme song, “Don’t Break My Heart”, but with its 90’s Lilith Fair vibe, even that indicates she is capable of better. She should have followed the example of Natalie Burn and done more of a rocker.

There’s a bunch of beat-ups and shooting, and even some light prerequisite torture, but what else would you expect from director Maunder, whose only other directorial credits are Tiger Claws II (1996) and Tiger Claws III (2000)? Trejo, Bauer, Wells, and Divoff – enough to carry a movie in their own right – have glorified cameos. We believe Bruce Boxleitner was here, but it could have been Barry Bostwick. We’re still not sure. 

In the end, Shadows In Paradise is a lightweight and unfortunate example of a modern-day DTV actioner. While we were happy to see all the great cast members, to say they weren’t all used to their full potential is an understatement. It’s all pretty disposable. Bring us back to the 80’s any day.

Comeuppance Review by: Brett and Ty


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Young Rebels (1989)

Young Rebels (1989)- * * *

Directed by: Amir Shervan

Starring: Robert Z'Dar, Aldo Ray, Christine Lunde, Jon Greene, and Tadashi Yamashita

Mr. Vincenzo (Rivas) is a local California mob boss. His son Joey (Z’Dar) and his goons are causing havoc all over town. The Sheriff (Ray) (That’s all he’s credited as) is ineffectual against the reign of terror caused by the Vincenzo family. That is, until Charlie (Greene) shows up. And, to a lesser extent, his girlfriend Liz (Lunde). They decide to take on the mob family the only way they know how – extended scenes of mindless shooting. Of course, Joey Vincenzo is the scary final boss…will Charlie be man enough to take him down?

One of our favorite directors of silly movies, Amir Shervan, once again provides silly dubbing, silly editing, silly plotting, silly performances, and filmmaking that is from every angle – not to put too fine a point on it – just downright silly. Sure, while it may be a bit amateurish and repetitive, it’s also a ridiculous good time that you can’t help but love. Or at least appreciate, especially considering they really don’t make movies like this anymore. Whether that’s a good thing or not is up to you…well, we’re the ones writing the review, and we say it’s a bad thing that they don’t make absurd gems like this anymore. So there. 

Yes, there are countless shootouts, chases, barfights, and stripping scenes, and some unfathomable subplot about smuggling illegals into the U.S., but really a lot of the running time of the film consists of weird-looking people beating up other weird-looking people.

Aldo Ray is in two scenes, attired in an ill-fitting Sheriff’s getup. He steals both scenes. There should have been more instances where a confused and angry Aldo Ray yells at people. Shervan mainstay and fan favorite Robert Z’Dar is also here, as chinny as ever, but the real question is: why is this movie called Young Rebels? Who are the Young Rebels? And what are they rebelling against?

Maybe it was this unanswered question that caused the lack of a wide release for this movie (although it is entirely fitting because it makes just as little sense as anything else on show here). As far as we can tell, it never got any kind of release at all, even though it was made in the golden video store year of 1989. It’s available, as of this writing, on Amazon Prime, and pretty much nowhere else. For its rarity alone (if not any of its other qualities) it’s worth seeing.

So, if you’ve seen the other Shervan Classics and are missing out, you pretty much know what to expect. It’s funny, it’s ridiculous, it’s absurd, and…forget seeing a boom mike at the top of the frame or its shadows, those can be seen in lots of low-budget efforts. Only in Young Rebels do you see a crew member clack the slate before a scene begins (It happens towards the end).

For a laughable and ludicrous good time, do check out Young Rebels.


Banzai Runner (1987)

Banzai Runner (1987)- * * *

Directed by: John G. Thomas

Starring: Dean Stockwell, John Shepard, Charles Dierkop, Marylou Kenworthy, Dawn Schneider, and Billy Drago

Billy Baxter (Stockwell) is a likable Highway Patrolman who is getting fed up with two things: drunk drivers and so-called “Banzai Runners” – rich guys with crazy-fast cars who zoom by at 150-200 miles per hour between L.A. and Las Vegas. Perhaps one of the reasons Baxter has such a vendetta against them is that his brother was killed in a road accident and now he takes care of Beck (Shepherd), his son. When the top brass declines Billy’s request to soup up his police cruiser so he can keep up with the Banzai Runners, Billy decides to go rogue: he turns to friend and mechanic Traven (Dierkop) on the sly. The eccentric Traven agrees to put in a turbo engine, but then Baxter is forced to turn in his badge (we don’t think he had a gun).

Now free to take down the speeding suckers his own way, he goes undercover to infiltrate the shadowy world of Banzai Runners. While there, he comes face to face with Syszek (Drago), the evil ‘Runner. Now with Beck at his side, and their girlfriends (Schneider and Kenworthy) more or less against them, the time has come…will the Baxters put an end to all this Banzai Running once and for all?

Banzai Runner was a pleasant surprise and part of the reason why continually hunting down 80’s VHS tapes is still worth doing. Is the movie an earth-shattering experience that will forever change the way you look at life? No, but most movies aren’t that anyway. What Banzai Runner is is an unpretentious, enjoyable gem and a worthwhile way to spend 90 minutes or so. 

As some sort of cross between Midnite Spares (1983) and No Man’s Land (1987), Banzai Runner is a fast-cars-vroom-vroom movie of the type that the male gender is always accused of loving above all others. There’s actually a little more going on here than that description would imply, but it would be nice if Banzai Runner was given a bit of credit for being a precursor to the Fast and Furious franchise – and all at a tiny fraction of the budget of those blockbusters. 

It all starts with an appropriately high-speed intro, but the presence of Dean Stockwell as the main character gives the film some grounding and gravitas. The whole thing has kind of an off-kilter, unusual vibe that we really liked. It’s really the type of movie you can’t do today, and that’s a shame. 

Yes, it does drag (no pun intended) a bit in the middle, but that’s a common problem and easily overlooked. Especially in light of the introduction of “speed stripping” into the popular consciousness. Evidently this is when if the driver of a car stays over the speed limit for enough miles at a time, the passenger has to strip. This isn’t to be confused with another car movie, Strip N’ Run (2000) with Michael Madsen. Anyway, this can also be noted as yet another movie where Billy Drago plays the bad guy.

There is some really cool and catchy music on the soundtrack too, including by a band named Los Bad Jamming Gringos, who sound like a slightly more aggressive ZZ Top. The score itself isn’t bad, but it would have been perfect if it had a Tangerine Dream-style synth score. To date, neither the score nor the soundtrack songs have been released on any format, which is unfortunate. 

It was the go-go 80’s, so of course there are going to be movies about fast cars and fast women and all that. But the organic, straightforward, and almost unassuming charm of Banzai Runner make it worth seeing.

Comeuppance Review by: Brett and Ty