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Archive for the ‘Action’ Category

Raising Heroes

Tuesday, June 25th, 2019

June is Pride Month, of course, and I hope it’s been a good one for anybody who it means anything to. I never really knew a way to honor the occasion before, but that’s because I hadn’t yet stumbled across this 1996 gay-themed independent drama that shows two guys with guns on the cover – in fact the tagline is “THIS TIME THE GAY GUY’S GOT THE GUN!” – and mentions John Woo on the back.

RAISING HEROES is about a couple, Josh (Troy Sostillio) and Paul (Henry White), in the midst of a custody battle. Paul’s best friend died of cancer and wanted the two to raise her young son Nicky, but the kid’s grandmother and homophobic case workers are trying to stop that from happening. Then, a few days before a crucial hearing, Josh witnesses a mobster named Victor (Edmond Sorel, also co-writer) executing a guy in a convenience store, and various gangsters spend the next few days following and trying to eliminate him. (read the rest of this shit…)

Batman

Friday, June 21st, 2019

Tim Burton’s BATMAN is a movie about a feeling – a feeling called Batman. It’s a lonely, broken, hanging out in a cave with the bats feeling. A sad about my dead parents but trying to be me feeling. A doing a bad job of passing for a normal person but fuck you I’m gonna dress and drive how I want and do what I want at night feeling. An okay it’s true that I am legitimately crazy and even sometimes hang upside down like a bat when I can’t sleep but does that have to mean I can’t have a girlfriend feeling. The feeling is evoked by shadowy alleys, towering gothic structures (thanks to brilliant production design by FULL METAL JACKET‘s Anton Furst), matte black metal and Danny Elfman’s low, murmuring horns that climb to the rooftops, step to the edge and spread their gargoyle wings in a thunderous explosion of marching drums and rococo instrumentation.

Man, that score. There aren’t many I like better than this one. It’s as eternal as the concept of Batman itself.

Now, just as we’re in a groove here – as Batman (in a place that looks sort of like the ’40s, sort of like the ’80s, sort of like a future that never happened) is terrifying muggers, chasing gangsters in fedoras, dodging old timey reporters with similar hats, sitting in his cave looking at scans of old newspaper articles on his computer that looks sturdier than a submarine, or out of costume hiding away in his big empty manor, stewing in a mood that’s black, blue and overcast – here comes this walking splatter of white, green and purple called The Joker. The nerve of this asshole to hold himself as a parallel to Batman! Sure, we understand the need for self expression, the rebellion against conformity, the back and forth between masking and glorying in his disfigurement. And yeah, he knows how to be a funny jerk. His arrogance can be kinda charming. “You look fine.” “I didn’t ask.” (read the rest of this shit…)

Renegades

Thursday, June 20th, 2019

Maybe I’m out of touch, but I had never heard of RENEGADES. At first I assumed it was a western. It does reunite YOUNG GUNS stars Kiefer Sutherland and Lou Diamond Phillips (the original Woody & Wesley), but it’s a contemporary buddy/cop movie set in Philadelphia. And it’s as solid as you’d hope for from director Jack Sholder, following up ALONE IN THE DARK (1982), A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET 2: FREDDY’S REVENGE (1985) and THE HIDDEN (1987).

Sutherland (STAND BY ME) plays Buster McHenry, who is one of those guys who goes into a little diner and is on a first name basis with the old man behind the counter. You know the type. Like Dirty Harry, he happens to see a traffic stop turn into a hostage situation from the window while having some night time coffee. Like Riggs, he goes out and performs a crazy stunt, pretending to be a drunk guy wandering in the situation so he can take one guy’s gun, shoot two others, make one surrender. Then he slaps the commanding officer and spends a night in the drunk tank for it. He’s actually a cop but he’s on vacation, doing a private undercover case with the knowledge (but not official sanction) of his boss/mentor/dead dad’s friend Lieutenant Finch (Bill Smitrovich, BAND OF THE HAND). (read the rest of this shit…)

No Holds Barred

Wednesday, June 19th, 2019

On May 26th, 1989, PINK CADILLAC starring Clint Eastwood and Bernadette Peters was released. That’s a pretty good one, but I already reviewed it just a couple years ago. So look over that review if you want and now let’s move on to the next week, when “Rock On” by Michael Damien was the #1 single and a movie with similar levels of quality and soulfulness, NO HOLDS BARRED, came out.

When Roddy Piper wanted to star in THEY LIVE (1988), he had to leave wrestling to do it. World Wrestling Federation owner Vince McMahon wanted a piece of everything his “superstars” did, so he promised to get Piper another, bigger movie to star in if he’d stay. As Piper told it years later, he refused the offer because he knew it wouldn’t be a movie directed by John Carpenter.

Good move. A year later, the WWF’s biggest icon Hulk Hogan got to star in the kind of vehicle McMahon could put together as a fledgling movie producer. NO HOLDS BARRED is an unimaginative, pea-brained wrestleploitation movie that plays most of its acting, themes, jokes and drama for the back row of the stadium.

Hogan (whose idol “Superstar” Billy Graham appeared in the infinitely better movie FIST FIGHTER earlier in the summer) basically appears as himself: the big-hearted, beloved by fans and children World Wrestling Federation champion. But he’s not named Hulk, he’s named Rip, and instead of wearing shirts that say “Hulkamania!” he wears shirts that say “Rip ’em!” So it’s like an alternate dimension that’s the same as ours except Hulk Hogan has a different name. Terrible episode of Sliders. (read the rest of this shit…)

Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade

Tuesday, June 18th, 2019

When INDIANA JONES AND THE TEMPLE OF DOOM came out two years after RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK it was off-putting to many, and its PG-rated monkey brain and human heart munching outraged enough parents to inspire the more hardcore PG-13 rating. So five more years passed before director Steven Spielberg and producer/story-provider George Lucas came up with the next one, INDIANA JONES AND THE LAST CRUSADE, for summer of ’89.

To pull it off they had to back away from everything new they’d tried in TEMPLE OF DOOM and walk right up to everything old we all loved in RAIDERS. So it’s less mean, less weird, less gross, and more directly built onto the template of RAIDERS. Not that it was a total rehash. Nazis are involved, but not necessarily in charge. Marion isn’t there, and the new love interest follows a very different arc. There’s less desert and more water. There’s a wacky old man sidekick played by Sean Connery (ENTRAPMENT). And a whole sequence from Indy’s childhood. But he steals an artifact and brings it to school and then finds out about a quest for another artifact and offers his expertise and travels to different countries and looks at ancient texts that lead him to a series of riddles that he solves while pursued by Nazis, murderers and betrayers and teamed with Brody and Sallah and ultimately when they find the thing it kills the bad guys in cool face-melting special effects sequences and etc. So it’s kind of the same thing. But they did a good job of hiding it. (read the rest of this shit…)

Road House

Monday, June 17th, 2019

ROAD HOUSE is one of the canonical works of… I don’t even want to say action cinema, or badass cinema, I just want to say cinema. When I first wrote about it 15 years ago I was in awe of its unique mix of raucous bar brawls, quotable lines and heightened badassness. I mean, you’d just have to be such a chump not to get something out of a well-made movie about the world’s second best bar security expert (Patrick Swayze shortly after STEEL DAWN) being called into Jasper, Kansas to straighten out “the kind of place that they sweep up the eyeballs after closing,” along the way falling in love, ripping out a guy’s throat and freeing the town from the corrupt grip of rich bully Brad Wesley (Ben Gazzara, BUFFALO ’66), who within one scene is revealed as a domestic abuser, shuts off his victim’s aerobics music because it “has no heart,” and boasts “JC Penney is coming here because of me!” It’s a glorious elevated drive-in classic forged from the undiluted sincerity of Swayze, the rioutous fight choreography of Benny “The Jet” Urquidez (BLOODMATCH, THE BIG HIT, WAR INC.), and the savage entertainment instincts of producer Joel Silver (COMMANDO, LETHAL WEAPON, PREDATOR, ACTION JACKSON, DIE HARD, THE MATRIX). It may top even RICOCHET as the most Joel Silver movie ever made. (read the rest of this shit…)

Fist Fighter

Thursday, June 13th, 2019

When people think of the summer of ’89, it’s possible that the first thing that comes to mind is not the movie FIST FIGHTER. And when they think of the movie FIST FIGHTER, it’s possible that the first thing that comes to mind is not I am aware of a movie that exists that’s called FIST FIGHTER. Yes, this is an obscure one. IMDb says it was released on May 12th (the week when Bon Jovi’s “I’ll Be There For You” overtook Madonna’s “Like a Prayer” as the #1 single) and doesn’t list it as a video premiere, but it has no box office data, and it doesn’t register on the Box Office Mojo charts. It has only come out on VHS and laserdisc, and not even Scarecrow Video had it last time I checked. But I bought myself a copy a while back after asking david j. moore the best movies he discovered while working on The Good, the Tough and the Deadly, and fortuitously saved it to review until now.

Our hero is a handsome, muscular man with a full head of salt-and-pepper hair, which I greatly respect. Both times I’ve watched I forgot where I knew this actor from – he’s Jorge Rivero (credited as George Rivero), the star of that Lucio Fulci barbarian movie I liked, CONQUEST. He worked primarily in Mexican films from the ’60s until as recently as 2014, but was also in Howard Hawks’ RIO LOBO with his hero John Wayne, THE LAST HARD MEN with Charlton Heston and James Coburn, and a couple English-language ’90s b-movies like this one. Here his stoicism and dry humor remind me a little of Chuck Norris when he’s playing one of his nicer, less arrogant characters. A big good looking guy who genuinely wants no trouble, wouldn’t try to steal your girl or strut around wearing sunglasses. (read the rest of this shit…)

THE LAST SUMMER OF ’80s ACTION – Prologue / RED SCORPION

Wednesday, June 12th, 2019

This year my summer review series will be a little different. I knew I had to write about the 30th anniversary of a certain culturally phenomenal event movie that gave the town of Hollywood an enema, taught us to keep bustin and set us on a path to pretty much our entire current era of entertainment. And when I looked at the other movies that came out that year it reminded me how different summer movies used to be, for better or worse. In those days they were less genre, less special effects, more straight ahead action. And it seems to me the summer of ’89 was a transitional period bridging the prevailing action movements of its decade to those of the next. So I’m going to be taking a look at 1989: The Last Summer of ’80s Action. (title pending)

Note: To help remind you and myself what it was like back then I’ll often be mentioning Billboard‘s #1 single for a particular week. For example, when RED SCORPION came out it was “She Drives Me Crazy” by Fine Young Cannibals.  But the truth is that’s not what I was listening to at the time. To re-create my summer of ’89 audio experience I’d have to get a portable radio with auto-reverse tape deck and listen to a dub of It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back over and over all day every day.

PROLOGUE

The 1980s. A time of sweaty chests and bandoliers. Half a decade after the smash success of JAWS, summer was cemented as the go-to season for mainstream crowd-pleasing movies. For the purposes of this study I’ve chosen to define summer movies as anything released from the beginning of April to the end of August – the months when kids are out of school, with some leeway at the front for Spring releases intended to play well into the summer. (read the rest of this shit…)

G-2

Thursday, June 6th, 2019

Where was I before I got off on this HIGHLANDER tangent? It was something about swords, right?

Oh yeah – G-2. I watched the Lorenzo Lamas fantasy/cop/fighting circuit movie THE SWORDSMAN (1992) and its sequel GLADIATOR COP (1995). I didn’t find out until after posting it that yes, as I kinda suspected, all the Lamas footage in the second one was outtakes from the first one. Used without permission, even. I should’ve checked The Good, the Tough and the Deadly, where david j. moore interviews Lamas, who says he only learned about GLADIATOR COP from an ad in a trade magazine, and when he threatened to sue they paid him what he got for the first one. Easy (if embarrassing) payday.

But the other weird thing I learned is that GLADIATOR COP writer/director Nick Rotundo, despite only having done the stock footage sequel, not the original, felt enough ownership of it to later do this not officially related 1999 movie about the same thing. Like both SWORDSMAN movies it deals with the (now re-designed) sword of Alexander the Great, which it again says is blessed by Apollo, and a modern day guy who’s good with swords draws pictures of it after having had dreams of it and himself in a battle in the past.

(read the rest of this shit…)

Highlander: The Source

Wednesday, June 5th, 2019

I don’t know if HIGHLANDER: ENDGAME was ever supposed to be the end of the series, but it didn’t turn out that way. Since it lost money, obviously Miramax/Dimension didn’t want to be in the Highlander business anymore, and they sold the rights back to Davis-Panzer, who probly didn’t want to work with those shitheads again anyway. They weren’t making TV shows anymore and they wanted to keep their baby alive, so seven years later they figured out a way to make the fifth in the HIGHLANDER movie series, just without releasing it to theaters.

From the dawn of 1986 they came…moving stylishly down through the decades. Movies, TV shows, cartoons, struggling to reach the time of the reviewing, when Vern will write about the franchise

HIGHLANDER: THE SOURCE arrived in 2007 and is – at least for the foreseeable future – the final Highlander movie. It’s the only one that’s about Duncan MacLeod (Adrian Paul) without Connor MacLeod, and therefore the only live action one without Christopher Lambert. It’s filmed in Lithuania with exaggerated digital colors and green screen FX, giving it a cheap but distinct look and feel. It’s not technically post-apocalyptic like the two animated spin-offs, but it does not depict civilization as doing great. The opening tells us “The world has fallen into chaos and decay. There is no law, no justice, only death and destruction. Some say it’s a sign of the coming of the apocalypse, a time that even Immortals fear.” This is illustrated by an alley where some barrels are burning and a guy is getting stabbed. I think another guy is buying drugs (gasp!). (read the rest of this shit…)