Memorial Day (1998)


Memorial Day
(1998)- * * *

Directed by: Worth Keeter

Starring: Jeff Speakman, Paul Mantee, Frederick Coffin, Mongo Brownlee, Stephanie Niznik, and Joe Estevez 

A group of deep-state government guys led by Willard (Mantee) have decided that something needs to be done about their dwindling budgets in the post-cold war era. So, naturally, he devises a supposed terrorist threat called "Red 5". When a crusading senator, a man named Lancaster (Coffin), gets too close to the truth during his efforts to root out what Red 5 truly is, a government assassin named Edward Downey (Speakman) is called in to knock off Lancaster. Just having come out of forced incarceration in a mental institution, Downey is none too happy about being a government pawn. 

So, working with journalist Robin Conners (Niznik), he risks it all to expose the bureaucratic hacks, the brainwashing, and the evil satellites causing the havoc as Red 5. If any of what you just read makes any sense to you, do check out MEMORIAL DAY!

Also, we don't want to forget to mention the uncredited appearance by Joe Estevez. He appears in the beginning of the film as "Agency/Willard's Contact", and the speech he gives is great. It really sets the tone for what is to follow, as all the backroom dealing and government conspiracy stuff is Memorial Day's strong suit. It's not really an action movie per se, it's more of a political thriller done with a low DTV budget. That being said, our old buddy Speakman does do some Martial Arts here and there, but there definitely should have been a lot more of it.

For the first half, things bounce around in a rather unfocused manner, which is part of the fun. The idea that director Worth Keeter thought that audiences would be fully engaged in this silliness is kind of amusing. A lot of the dialogue was fun to hear, because back in 1998, it was pretty ahead of its time. A lot of what they were saying still holds true today. Throw in some footage from some other movies, and you have an outing that's very redolent of the late-90's DTV scene.

The box art, complete with its Independence Day (1996) font, would lead you to believe that this is a sci-fi slog. Thankfully, it's not. The closest it gets is all the gobbledygook about satellites. Thankfully, no aliens, space stations, or the like are on show here. To see Speakman in that context, see (or, rather, do not see) Scorpio One. That film was also directed by Keeter the same year as this, 1998. Maybe he got confused. Inexplicably, there are some Star Wars-influenced music cues on the soundtrack, and the name of the ersatz terrorist group, Red Five, is a Star Wars reference. Just why they thought this was necessary, we don't know.

Interestingly, this is not the only political thriller Speakman was in around this time. As we all know, he starred with Shatner in Land of the Free, also in 1998. That's a fun movie that's well worth checking out. Not that Memorial Day is bad, as it certainly has its charm, but Keeter's best film to date is arguably L.A. Bounty (1989).

We kept wondering why they didn't call the movie Election Day, as that would have seemed to be the no-brainer title choice for this, although there is a definite reason why it's called Memorial Day. You'll just have to watch it to unlock that secret.

In the end, Memorial Day has just enough going for it to make it a worthwhile watch. It isn't explosively awesome, but it has its merits.

Comeuppance Review By: Brett and Ty


Back In Business (1997)


Back In Business
(1997)- * * *

Directed by: Phillippe Mora

Starring: Brian Bosworth, Joe Torry, Dara Tomanovich, Maggie Egan, Guy Torry, Alan Scarfe, Wynn Irwin, Michael Clarke Duncan, and Brion James

Joe Elkhart (Boz) is just a humble car mechanic in L.A. who is a regular caller to the radio talk show of psychologist Dr. Sonia Brody (Egan). He's trying to get over the feelings of anger and aggression he feels after being a good police officer who was kicked off the force after trying to expose some dirty cops. This leads him to re-connect with his old partner Tony Dunbar (Torry), and the current cop and the ex-cop try to catch the evil drug lord David Ashby (Scarfe). Pretty soon, the FBI is involved with them, and Elkhart is involved with fellow therapy maven Natalie Walker (Tomanovich). It all comes to a head with the final showdown between our heroes and the evil Emery Ryker (James). Will Elkhart and Dunbar be BACK IN BUSINESS? Or will they be out of business?

To quote the back of the VHS box, "Named NATO 'Action Star of Tomorrow' for his high-octane performance in Stone Cold, Brian 'The Boz' Bosworth is back in business as maverick ex-cop Joe Elkhart." We didn't know NATO was in the business of naming action stars anything, but apparently they are. Finally, some tax dollars well spent. In Germany, this movie was called Stone Cold II: Heart of Stone - which is an interesting factoid, but really this has less to do with the classic Stone Cold, and more to do with buddy cop action/comedies wrought by 48 Hours (1982) and Lethal Weapon (1987).

The movie is filled with the non-stop banter between Bosworth, who plays a more vulnerable type this time around - you could best call him a lovable lunkhead - and the Chris Tucker/Eddie Griffin stylings of Joe Torry. Don't confuse him with his brother Guy Torry, who makes a splash at the beginning of the film.

There's a lot of silly humor amongst the shootings and blow-ups, and the radio talk show angle was a bit different. The film was made during the height of popularity of shows like Dr. Laura, so why not have Brian Bosworth be a caller on her radio show? It's an interesting combination. The whole sequence at the car auction where Joe Torry dresses up like an Arab Sheik may be a comedic movie highlight, but you know there's going to be some chases or shootouts just around the corner.

Let's face it, this isn't as good as Back in Action (1994), with Billy Blanks and Roddy Piper. You could easily mistake the two. Well, at least the titles. One of the recurring themes on the soundtrack is a drum solo that sounds like the beginning of Hot For Teacher. We were just waiting for The Boz to say, "I've got my pencil..." While the movie has blink-and-you'll-miss-them appearances from Michael Clarke Duncan and fan favorite Wynn Irwin, clearly the boo-hiss baddie is Brion James this time around, and he does it well.

Director Philippe Mora was last heard from on this site as the director of Death of a Soldier (1986), with Reb Brown. He's probably best known for directing 80's horror movies such as The Howling II: Your Sister is a Werewolf (1985) and The Beast Within (1982). He keeps things moving, and while there are a couple of slow moments towards the beginning (the basketball sequence goes on too long), things pick up considerably soon enough.

Sure, it has plenty of the "Stupid" moments we've come to love, or at least expect, but since when is that a problem? It's part of what keeps Back in Business afloat. Apparently it wasn't successful enough overall (despite its tenuous Stone Cold connection) to warrant a series of sequels with EPMD-esque titles.

Fans of The Boz (aren't we all?) and of the buddy cop genre will likely warm to Back in Business.

Comeuppance Review by: Brett and Ty

Also check out a write-up from our buddy, The Video Vacuum! 


The Pandora Project (1998)

The Pandora Project
(1998)- * * *

Directed by: Jim Wynorski

Starring: Daniel Baldwin, Erika Elaniak, Tony Todd, Bo Jackson, and Richard Tyson

When William Stenwick (Tyson) steals a newfangled laser weapon from the military and attempts to sell it for big bucks on the black market, Captain John Lacy (Baldwin) snaps into action. CIA Director Houtman (Todd) chose Lacy for the "track down and stop Stenwick" mission because Lacy and Stenwick have a past. Former friends and now rivals, Lacy is now chasing Stenwick from Colombia to Los Angeles in order to retrieve the laser (i.e. "The Pandora Project"). Lacy is doubly under the gun because he's due to marry "GNN" news anchor Wendy Lane (Eleniak) in just a few days. Can he save the day in time to get to the chapel with his longtime love? Or will the Pandora Project destroy us all? Don't be too afraid to find out...

We know what you're thinking. The President of the United States is a character in this movie. Bo Jackson is in this movie. We regret to inform you that Bo Jackson does not play the President in The Pandora Project. We thought we'd get that out of the way right off the bat so no one's hopes got too high. Jackson plays a soldier named Manson who comes and goes so quickly, it's almost at Bear-level proportions.

But the good news is, we were pleasantly surprised by The Pandora Project. Rather than be yet another plane slog, there's actually very little dogfighting and plane footage in the film. It does fit fairly comfortably among its late-90's ilk, such as Desert Thunder (1999), Black Thunder (1998), Stealth Fighter (1999), Active Stealth (1999), Tactical Assault (1998), and Surface to Air (1998), etc., etc., etc. Some of the above may or may not have also starred Daniel Baldwin. But The Pandora Project is probably among the best of these types of these Jim Wynorski or Fred Olen Ray-made DTV military outings that use footage from other movies (in this case it's Clear and Present Danger). In other words, it's not really a plane slog at all. The dialogue is a bit better than usual and there are some good characterizations by the B-actors we all know and love.

Richard Tyson is much more charismatic here than he usually is. He wears different Hawaiian shirts throughout the film, as well as a baseball cap. He's your classic wisecracking villain. In the beginning it seems like he commands a cadre of ninjas, but those are just his helpers in Delta Force-esque outfits. Most of the time, it's just Tyson as a solo baddie, which is more than enough this time around. The presence of Eleniak was welcome, as always, but she should have done more. Her part was a bit too small.

Tony Todd has a commanding presence and a voice that you really want to pay attention to. His name in the film, Houtman, is markedly similar to Trautman, and he always wants to know what the action man in the field, Lacy, is up to. Hmmm...

Speaking of Baldwin, he has a Corey Hart-esque spiky brush cut, and he gives hope to those among the population who may be a bit on the chunky side but who still want to get into the fight, be physical, and be the hero. Interestingly, his military code name in the film is Avatar. The planet that the movie Avatar (2009) takes place on is Pandora. Looks like a certain James Cameron was watching The Pandora Project.

Most of the fight/action scenes are very, very stupid (although in more-or-less a good way). The laser scenes are also pretty amusing, and the whole idea that the laser will kill someone, and instead of incinerating them into a pile of ashes, they're just lying there with their eyes closed without a scratch on them never failed to provide a few laffs.

In the end, The Pandora Project is one of the better - or, should we say, more entertaining - entries in this particular DTV subgenre. In other words, don't be afraid of watching it if you come across it. Be sure to stay tuned for the after-credits sequence as well.

Comeuppance Review by: Brett and Ty


Day Of The Assassin (1979)

 Day Of The Assassin
(1979)- * *1\2

Directed by: Brian Treanchard-Smith

Starring: Chuck Connors, Jorge Rivero, Glenn Ford, Henry Silva, Susana Dosamantes, and Richard Roundtree

When the Shah of Iran's boat sinks to the bottom of a Mexican bay, word spreads that said sunken vessel contains treasure. And not just any treasure, mind you, but supposedly among the contents of the loot is a piece of paper with the most important information in the world. What is that information? Well, Christakis (Ford) wants to find out, and he's willing to pay big. So he hires Fleming (Connors) to get the paper. But it's not going to be easy, because treasure hunters from around the world want to get to it first, among them Fessler the Mute (Roundtree) and Dante Vallone (Rivero). Police Chief Jorge Gomez (Silva) is at a loss. Susana, AKA "The Princess" (Dosamantes) is swept up in it all. Which adventurer will walk away with the prized paper?

Day of the Assassin is a nice, harmless adventure outing that sports a handful of cool moments. It definitely has its flaws; it's a bit too "safe", if you know what we mean, and the peaks-and-valleys structure of the film has some pretty deep (i.e. slow) valleys. But, overall, it's pretty amusing and mildly entertaining, thanks to its cast, its quirks, and the direction of fan favorite Brian Trenchard-Smith.

It all kicks off with a fantastic opening sequence: a guy bombs, neck-snaps and knives people while parasailing. That's right, a man suspended by a parachute over a body of water by a boat manages to kill several people, while Jorge Rivero watches the incident through a pair of binoculars. We can't say we've ever seen that before.

Soon enough, we're introduced to Glenn Ford as Christakis. He wears gray formal suit pants and dress shoes with a cream-and-red Adidas warmup jacket, gold chain, and sunglasses. He may not be in the movie that much, but at least he has a funky wardrobe. Then we get to our hero, Fleming, played by our real-life hero, Chuck Connors. At least in Day of the Assassin, he looks like what Dolph Lundgren will look like 40 years from now. As Elderly Dolph goes on about his adventuring, he then encounters lots of his competition, the most noteworthy of which are Fessler and Gomez.

That's something we appreciated about the film - it features a panoply of middle-aged or older character actors that we know and love. Yes, Roundtree doesn't say anything (because he's "mute", you see), but it was nice having Ford, Connors, Silva, and Roundtree all together. Jorge Rivero is the young man of the group. Dosamantes is the only woman. Perhaps there should have been more women.

Connors, instead of wearing his usual Brooklyn Dodgers hat, has a variety of different baseball caps this time around. Maybe this was an in-joke because he always insisted on his trademark Dodgers cap, but he's seen with Baltimore Orioles, Chicago Cubs, St. Louis Cardinals (?) and perhaps one other baseball team's logo on his head. Or he'll put the hat on a desk in plain sight. Even in such a light and jaunty outing as Day of the Assassin, there's some Prerequisite Torture of our hero, Fleming. Guess you always have to have that, even in something pretty fluffy like this.

Other movie highlights include the standout score by Bebu Silvetti, who is perhaps best known in America for his Spring Rain disco album from 1977. He contributes some library music-esque funk and other notable cues. Put that together with the picturesque Spanish locations (although the movie is set in Mexico) and you've got two noteworthy elements right there.

When it comes to the films of Brian Trenchard-Smith (who's the original BTS), Day of the Assassin does not reach the heights of The Man From Hong Kong (1975), or the Jason Blade diptych Fists of Blood and Day of the Panther (both 1988) (he must like "Day of the..." movie titles), but it still holds a certain charm, especially when cars blow up with little or no provocation.

Day of the Assassin originally came to home video in the U.S. on the Prism label on VHS. There doesn't seem to be any DVD history of the film, then it jumped to Amazon Prime. Despite the film's shortcomings, there's still plenty to enjoy here, especially if you're a fan of anyone involved.

Comeuppance Review by: Brett and Ty