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Universal Soldier: Regeneration (2009)




Universal Soldier: Regeneration ReviewReviewed by The Foywonder

Starring Jean-Claude Van Damme, Dolph Lundgren, Andrei Arlovski, Mike Pyle, Garry Cooper, Emily Joyce

Directed by John Hyams

Distributed by Sony Pictures

So much of Universal Soldier: Regeneration takes place inside a dilapidated factory and the action consists so much more of kickfighting and mixed martial arts than the gunfire and explosions of the previous Universal Soldier films that they could have just as easily changed the genetically re-engineered zombie soldiers into androids and called it Cyborg: Regeneration.

Regeneration – more like the old generation if you ask me. Jean-Claude Van Damme and Dolph Lundgren are both back for this direct-to-DVD sequel to the 1992 Roland Emmerich original, and boy, do they look old. If you saw JCVD, then you already know how world weary Van Damme’s face looks. Lundgren may be showing his age as well, but he still looks almost ten years younger than Van Damme despite being three years older. Van Damme already returned to the franchise once before in a 1999 sequel that effectively killed his big screen career for a decade, but for Lundgren to return, it really would have to be regeneration since the last we saw of his character were bits and pieces flying out of the hay harvester he got shredded in.

In the director’s chair this time is the son of veteran filmmaker Peter Hyams, who, in addition to 2010 and The Relic, also directed Van Damme in Timecop and Sudden Death. John Hyams’ most notable directorial work up to this point was the compelling 2002 mixed martial arts documentary The Smashing Machine about the rise and fall of ultimate fighter Mark Kerr. The younger Hyams could be the reason Universal Soldier: Regeneration boasts a heavy MMA influence.

Guerrilla fighters from a Russian breakaway republic have seized what remains of the Chernobyl nuclear plant and are holding the Russian President’s two children hostage as they threaten to blast the concrete chamber encasing the reactor that famously melted down in 1986; doing so would let loose a radioactive cloud described as being “100 times that of Hiroshima”. Their demand is the release of 110 captive political prisoners. I don’t know about you, but I think if someone has kidnapped a world leader’s kids and intends to unleash a nuclear holocaust unless his demands are met, the release of 100 imprisoned allies seems like small potatoes to me.

This is not lost on the rogue Universal Soldier scientist they’ve hired to hook them up with a UniSol for back-up firepower. Tension will boil over between the rebel leader and the scientist, who clearly dreams of one day commanding his own army of super soldiers to possibly conquer the world with, as to whether or not a more financially rewarding ransom should be issued. I really wish they had done more with this crazy nerdy scientist because his motivations were far more interesting than that of generic Russian nogoodnicks that cannot hit a target even at point-blank range.

That UniSol is played by former UFC heavyweight champion Andrei “The Pit Bull” Arlovski. You can count on a single hand the amount of dialogue Arlovski has. For the best, since he makes for a surprisingly imposing foe just silently annihilating adversaries, usually using what becomes in this film the trademark Universal Soldier finishing tactic: holding the opponent down on the ground with one hand while repeatedly punching their face until its a bloody pulp with the other. Arlovski is a new generation UniSol, or “NGU” for short. Allegedly an upgrade; I couldn’t really tell the difference other than the NGU possessing a nifty retractable wristblade that the alien drug dealer from I Come in Peace would consider to die for.

After the first attempt to infiltrate the power plant by Russian-American coalition forces and four Universal Soldiers results in a bigger failure than Universal Soldier: The Return, the commanders decide the solution is to reactivate original UniSol Luc Deveraux (Van Damme). This makes little sense for a variety of reasons, not the least of which being that we just watched the NGU single-handedly – literally in two instances – terminate the quartet of UniSols sent in with the commando raid, so what makes them think one lone Universal Soldier that is of the now obsolete first generation model stands a chance?

Luc Deveraux currently resides in Switzerland, where a brilliant psychologist is working to reintegrate him into society. Comparisons are made to his treatment being like retraining a fight dog to live as a house pet. I can only assume Universal Soldier: Regeneration has chosen to completely ignore the events of Universal Soldier: The Return (probably for best) because, as you may recall, it was explained that Luc Deveraux had somehow been cured of death, had completely readjusted to his new life, and even had a young daughter. That made no sense in that film, and what we are told here makes no sense in this film. Nor does it make any sense that being injected with a special serum is all it will take to instantly revert Deveraux back into his super soldier fighting shape and mindset.

The science of the Universal Soldier films has never made any sense, and here it’s less than ever. None of it bothered me all that much because I have long since accepted that looking for plausibility in a Universal Soldier flick is as futile as trying to find a virgin in Michael Bay’s hot tub. You just accept the illogic and hope the action delivers. It does.

The first hour makes for an above average action flick of the direct-to-DVD variety, though still one dragged down by formulaic plotting, characters, and dialogue typical of such action b-movies shot in Eastern Block countries starring over-the-hill action heroes. About an hour in Van Damme finally gets reactivated and jumps right into the best staged action sequence he has been a part of in ages, laying waste to every Golan-Globus quality foot soldier in his way, only pausing long enough to switch from a machine gun to a side arm and then just cutting loose with a survival knife. Barely a single kick or punch thrown, a no-nonsense expression on his no longer pretty boy face, not saying a single word the entire time or even letting out so much as grunt, this was the most badass I think I have ever seen Jean-Claude Van Damme look in any of his films. From then on the quality of the action steps up, and there is almost nothing but solid b-level action until the credits roll.

If you’re tuning in for Dolph Lundgren, be advised he doesn’t even make an appearance until around the 50-minute mark and doesn’t stick around very long. In what very much feels like a tacked-on excuse to shoehorn Lundgren into the picture, the rogue scientist resurrects the undead clone of insane UniSol Andrew Scott. Unfortunately, Scott is even more insane and out of control than before. The way things were going, I was halfway expecting Van Damme and Lundgren to join forces to eliminate the NGU. Instead Lundgren and Van Damme engage in one hell of a sumo rematch during which the two of them burst through more walls than Kool-Aid Man has in his entire pitchman career. Their demolition derby ends with such a dynamic kill that it really should have been saved for the very end. Not to say the 15-minute showdown between Van Damme and Arlovski disappoints; just that the Arlovski goes out with a bang where as Lundgren goes out with a “Holy crap! Rewind that!”

3 out of 5

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Desolation Review – The Joy of Being Rescued and All the Surprises That Come With It



Starring Raymond J. Barry, Brock Kelly, Dominik Garcia-Lorido

Directed by David Moscow

It’s those random, once-in-a-lifetime encounters that only a select few get the chance to experience: when we as regular participants in this wonderful thing known as The Rat Race, stumble across a soul that we’ve only witnessed on the big screen. I’m talking about a celebrity encounter, and while some of the masses will chalk the experience up as nothing more than a passing moment, others hold it to a much larger interior scale…then you REALLY get to know the person, and that’s when things get interesting.

Director David Moscow’s thriller, Desolation follows shy hotel employee Katie (Lorido) and her “fortuitous” brush with Hollywood pretty-boy Jay (Kelly) during one of his stops – the two hit it off, and together they begin a sort of whirlwind-romance that takes her away from her job and drops her in the heart of Los Angeles at the apartment building he resides in. You can clearly see that she has been a woman who’s suffered some emotional trauma in her past, and this golden boy just happens to gallop in on his steed and sweep her off of her feet, essentially rescuing her from a life of mundane activity. She gets the full-blown treatment: a revamped wardrobe, plenty of lovin’, and generally the life she’s wanted for some time.

Things return to a bit of normalcy when Jay has to return to work, leaving Katie to spread out at his place, but something clearly isn’t kosher with this joint. With its odd inhabitants (a very creepy priest played by Raymond J. Barry), even more bizarre occurrences, and when one scared young woman cannot even rely on the protection from the local police, it all adds up to a series of red flags that would have even the strongest of psyches crying for their mothers. What Moscow does with this movie is give it just enough swerves so that it keeps your skull churning, but doesn’t overdo its potential to conclusively surprise you, and that’s what makes the film an entertaining watch.

While Lorido more than holds her ground with her portrayal of a woman who has been hurt in the past, and is attempting to place her faith in a new relationship, it’s Barry that comes out on top here. His performance as Father Bill is the kind of stuff that wouldn’t exactly chill you to the bone, but he’s definitely not a man of the cloth that you’d want to be stuck behind closed doors with – generally unsettling. As I mentioned earlier, the plot twists are well-placed, and keep things fresh just when you think you’ve got your junior private investigator badge all shined up. Desolation is well-worth a look, and really has kicked off 2018 in a promising fashion – let’s see what the other 11 months will feed us beasts.

  • Film


Got your eye on that shining movie star or starlet? Better make sure it’s what you really want in life – you know what they say about curiosity.

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Wolf Guy Blu-ray Review – Sonny Chiba As A Werewolf Cop In ’70s Japan



Wolf Guy UK SleeveStarring Sonny Chiba, Etsuko Nami, Kyosuke Machida

Directed by Kazuhiko Yamaguchi

Distributed by Arrow Video

As virtually every American adaptation has proven, translating manga to the big screen is a job best left to Japanese filmmakers. There is an inherent weirdness – for lack of a better term – to their cultural media that should be kept “in house” if there is to be any hope for success. Ironically, the stories are often so fantastical and wildly creative that a big American studio budget would be necessary to fully realize such a live-action vision. But I digress. Back in 1975, Toei Studios (home of Gamera) adapted the 1970 manga series Wolf Guy into a feature of the same name. Starring the legendary Shin’ichi Chiba (a.k.a. Sonny Chiba), who at that time was in his prime, the film combines elements of crime and psychedelic cinema, delivering less of a werewolf film (despite the title suggesting otherwise) and more of a boilerplate crime caper with a cop who has a few tricks up his hairy sleeve. I should stress it is the story that plays fairly straightforward, while the film itself is a wild kaleidoscope of strange characters and confounding situations… mostly.

An unseen killer, known only as “The Tiger”, prowls the streets at night slashing victims to death and leaving behind no trace. Beat cop Akira Inugami (Sonny Chiba) is on the case, and he has an advantage over his fellow brothers in blue: being a werewolf. As the opening credits flashback shows, Akira is the sole survivor of the Inugami clan of werewolves after a slaughter wiped out the rest of his kind. Now, as the last of his brethren, he uses his acute lycanthropic skills, under the auspices of the moon, to track down underworld thugs and solve cases uniquely tailored to his abilities. As the lunar cycle of the moon sees it growing fuller Akira’s powers, too, increase to superhuman levels.

Searching for this mysterious “Tiger”, Akira is led into a subterranean world of clandestine government organizations, nightclub antics, and corrupt politicians. One night, Akira is attacked and taken prisoner by a government research lab that wants to use his blood to create werewolves they can control. Only problem is – which they don’t realize – Akira’s blood cannot be mixed with that of a human; the only end result is death. Miki (Etsuko Nami), a drug user with syphilis, comes to Akira’s aid and proves to be quite useful. She holds a secret that has the potential to vastly change Akira’s world but, first, a showdown with the criminal underbelly looms on the horizon… as does the fifteenth day of the Lunar Cycle, when Akira will be made nearly invincible.

First, some bad news: Sonny Chiba never attains full werewolf status. This is not that movie. Sure, he growls and snarls and sneers and possesses many of the traits of a werewolf but in terms of physical characteristics he more or less remains “human” the entire time. Yes, even during “Lunar Cycle Day 15”, a.k.a. the moment every viewer is waiting for, to see him turn into a wolf. Instead, he just winds up kicking a lot of ass and taking very little damage. To be fair, a grizzled Sonny Chiba is still enough of a formidable presence, but, man, to see him decked out as a full-on kung-fu fighting werewolf would’ve been badass. The film could have done better at tempering expectations because it builds up “Day 15” like viewers are going to see an explosion of fur and flesh, instead it’s just plenty of the latter. Aw, well.

Lack of werewolf-ing aside, the film plays out a bit uneven. The opening offers up a strong start, with The Tiger attack, wily underworld characters being introduced, and a tripped-out acid garage rock soundtrack (which I’d kill for a copy of). But Second Act Lag is a real thing here and many of the elements that may have piqued viewer curiosity in the first act are scuttled, and although the third act and climax bring forth fresh action and a solution to the mystery it also feels a bit restrained. Then again, this is Toei, often seen as a cheaper Toho. Wolf Guy serves as a good introduction to Akira Inugami and his way of life, which makes it a greater shame no sequels were produced.

Presented with a 2.35:1 1080p image, Wolf Guy hits Blu-ray with a master supplied by Toei, meaning Arrow did no restorative work of their own on the picture – and it shows. Japanese film elements, especially those of older films, are often notorious for being poorly housed and feebly restored. This transfer is emblematic of those issues, with hazy black levels, average-to-poor definition, minimal shadow detail, and film grain that gets awfully noisy at times. The best compliment I can give is daylight close-up scenes exhibit a pleasing level of fine detail, though nothing too eye-popping. This is a decidedly mediocre transfer across the board.

The score fares a bit better, not because the Japanese LPCM 1.0 mono mix is a beast but because the soundtrack is so wildly kinetic, exploding with wild garage rock and fuzzy riffs right from the get-go. Dialogue has a slight hiss on the letter “s” but is otherwise nicely balanced within the mix. Subtitles are available in English.

“Kazuhiko Yamaguchi: Movies with Guts” is a September 2016 sit-down with the film’s director, who reflects on his career and working with an icon like Sonny Chiba.

“Toru Yoshida: B-Movie Master” is an interview with Yoshida, a former producer at Toei who oversaw this film and many others.

“Sonny Chiba: A Life in Action, Vol. 1” covers the man’s career up to a point, with the remainder finished on Arrow’s other 2017 Chiba release, Doberman Cop.

A theatrical trailer is also included, as is a DVD copy of the feature.

Special Features:

  • Kazuhiko Yamaguchi: Movies with Guts
  • Toru Yoshida: B-Movie Master
  • Sonny Chiba: A Life in Action, Vol. 1
  • Theatrical trailer
  • Wolf Guy
  • Special Features


While the film might be a bit of a letdown given what is suggested, fans of bizarre Japanese ’70s cinema – and certainly fans of Chiba’s work – should, at the least, have fun with this title.

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Inside (Remake) Review – Is It as Brutal as the Original?



Starring Rachel Nichols Laura Harring

Directed by Miguel Ángel Vivas

While the directing duo of the cringe-inducing and original 2007 French grand guignol thriller Inside have gone on to refurbishments of their own—Julien Maury and Alexandre Bustillo recently helmed a retread of Leatherface’s origin story—their flick now has an American stamp on it with the release of the remake, also titled Inside.

A cheerless Christmas eve sets the stage for heavily-pregnant widow Sarah’s (Rachel Nichols) oncoming ordeal. It’s a frigid and snowy night. She’s got a huge house to herself, following the accidental and violent death of her husband. She wants to sell the home that was meant to hold a family, to forget the nascent memories it once held. But she’s got to ride it out until the baby is born. While Sarah is lonesome, she won’t be alone. She’s got her genial gay neighbor nearby, and her mum is going to come and stay with her for a few days. Oh, and there will be an unexpected visitor too.

When a shadowy, seemingly stranded stranger (Laura Harring) knocks on the door pleading to be let inside, Sarah instinctively balks. She even calls the cops. But the woman leaves and all seems well. Crisis averted. Sarah puts the housekeys in the mailbox outside for Mom, and goes to bed. Big mistake.

Mystery Lady shows up at Sarah’s bedside armed with chloroform, an IV bag, and a case full of sharp-and-pointies (sorry, ’07 fans… those implements do not include a pair of scissors). The horror unfolds and the expected yet lively game of gory cat-and-mouse ensues. Then the tete-a-tete becomes a body-count chiller featuring one shocking moment after another.

Nichols is fantastic in the role, giving it her all. When the original Inside came out eleven years ago, she was starring in another French-helmed horror, P2—also set on Christmas eve—and she stole the show. She does the same here but with a less-intense adversary. Harring’s killer character, unlike her European counterpart, has a lot to say—which takes away from her initially mysterious manner as the minutes tick off. Still, the girl-on-girl action is a welcome change from the usual gender dynamic one sees in these things. Both deserve kudos for their performances.

While Inside isn’t a died-in-the-wool “Hollywood” remake (Miguel Ángel Vivas directs, while [REC] co-creator Jaume Balagueró wrote it) it feels like one. For those who’ve seen the original, there will be mild disappointment (which turns to major letdown at the very end). However, Inside is still a serviceable thriller that’s well-acted, beautifully shot, and effectively scored. Folks coming in fresh, and casual horror fans, will more than likely enjoy it.

  • Inside (Remake)


Inside is a serviceable thriller that’s well-acted, beautifully shot, and effectively scored. Folks coming in fresh, and casual horror fans, will more than likely enjoy it. For those who’ve seen the original, there will be mild disappointment (which turns to major letdown at the very end).

User Rating 1.75 (4 votes)
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