"KEEP BUSTIN'."

Archive for the ‘Fantasy/Swords’ Category

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.

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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…)

Highlander: The Search For Vengeance

Tuesday, June 4th, 2019

HIGHLANDER: THE SEARCH FOR VENGEANCE is by far the best animated version of Highlander that they’ve made. Okay, that’s not saying jack shit, but I did sincerely enjoy this 2007 DTV (or OVA) anime spin-off. Like HIGHLANDER II and Highlander: The Animated Series it brings the Immortals saga into a dystopian future: “After a century of terrorism and global warming, the earth has fallen into chaos and decay,” the opening text says. And I really like this line: “Life is cheap and death comes easy, save for some.”

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

It’s a well told (if simple) tale and the design and animation are legit. Director Yoshiaki Kawajiri also directed WICKED CITY, NINJA SCROLL and VAMPIRE HUNTER D: BLOODLUST, plus segments in THE ANIMATRIX and BATMAN: GOTHAM KNIGHT. Shit, I’ve seen some of those! He also wrote the live action AZUMI 2. But the screenwriter for this one is David Abramowitz, a writer, producer and creative consultant for Highlander: The Series and Highlander: The Raven. (read the rest of this shit…)

Highlander: Endgame

Monday, June 3rd, 2019

It is the futuristic year of 2000. In the real world, HIGHLANDER II‘s prediction of solar radiation creating the necessity for an electromagnetic shield over the earth has not come to pass. Instead we got President George W. Bush and Ron Howard’s upcoming HOW THE GRINCH STOLE CHRISTMAS!.

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

It has been six years since HIGHLANDER III, which did not make back its production costs at the box office. But in that time the mythology of the Immortals has taken on a new life on television, with Connor MacLeod’s younger friend Duncan MacLeod (Adrian Paul) entertaining fans through 117 episodes (not including the two he wasn’t in). Though the show ended in 1998 and its spin-off The Raven in 1999, they have clearly left behind a fan base that takes this shit seriously. From 1994-2000 there was an annual convention called “The Gathering” in Denver, Colorado, with Paul and other stars as guests of honor. From 1997-1999 there were three “Highlander Clan Cruises.” 1997 gave Australia the first of eight “Highlander Down Under” conventions. And the list goes on. Clearly this is a group of loyal fans waiting to be exploited. I mean catered to.

And so here on the cusp of the millennium we find the immortal movie series resurfacing in the Weinstein-Brothers-cheapass-franchise-exploitation era.

(read the rest of this shit…)

Highlander: The Raven – “Reborn”

Thursday, May 30th, 2019

After five seasons of Highlander: The Series, Adrian Paul started to worry he was gonna have to play the fuckin Highlander forever. And he had dreams. He wanted to do movies and stuff, whether or not producer William Panzer considered that “somewhat delusional” (as he says on a DVD extra). Though Paul indeed appeared in John Landis’ SUSAN’S PLAN and a thriller called CONVERGENCE, it was preparations for his first appearance in a theatrical Highlander movie that really screwed with his TV filming schedule.

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

So rather than the 22-episodes of seasons 1-4 or the 18 of season 5, the sixth and final season of Highlander: The Series was lowered to 13 episodes, two of which Paul didn’t even appear in. But the producers were planning a spin-off about a female Immortal, and they decided to use the season as “a giant screen test” to find their new star. (read the rest of this shit…)

Highlander: The Final Dimension

Wednesday, May 29th, 2019

HIGHLANDER: THE FINAL DIMENSION (apparently also called HIGHLANDER III: THE SORCERER) arrived in late 1994 in the U.K., early 1995 in the U.S. It was only about three years after THE QUICKENING and already the producers were like, “I don’t know what you mean, ‘Planet Zeist.’ That’s not a thing that was ever mentioned in our movies.” And they made a new HIGHLANDER sequel that didn’t acknowledge any of that stuff – “a stand-alone alternate sequel to the original film,” as Wikipedia puts it. Of course, it takes place in 1994, so in my opinion it is for sure just an adventure Connor MacLeod had shortly before the ozone layer got real bad and he transitioned into the shield-building

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

industry and then years later was at an opera that reminded him he was from Planet Zeist.

But before they take us to Connor in the ’90s they fill in a piece of backstory that was skipped before. Turns out after his mentor Ramirez and then his wife Heather died back on the Highlands he wandered the world “searching for answers” until he “came to Japan, to the mountains of Niri and the cave of the sorcerer Nakano.” We see Nakano (motherfuckin Mako, CONAN THE BARBARIAN) forging Connor’s familiar sword. A ha*. Prequel.

(read the rest of this shit…)

Highlander: The Series – “The Gathering”

Monday, May 27th, 2019

Right now, in 2019, people sure do love a good TV series. Some claim that the premium cable and streaming shows are actually better than movies. As TV shows become more cinematic and cinema becomes more serialized, the two mediums seem to be growing into each other like a very respectable rat king. Big name real deal movie stars can star in TV shows or limited series and collect acclaim and awards instead of scorn for slumming it.

At the same time the industry is obsessed with “intellectual property” and franchises, so naturally we’re getting TV shows that prequelize or sequelize a popular movie/movie series. In recent years they’ve done Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles, Tremors, Taken, Transporter: The Series, Training Day, Limitless, Ash vs. Evil Dead, Cobra Kai, Wet Hot American Summer: First Day of Camp and Wolf Creek, and soon we’ll be getting new Star Wars and Marvel tie-ins and maybe Undisputed and all kinds of shit.

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

That wasn’t how it worked in the early ’90s, though. There had been a few genre shows connected to movies: Planet of the Apes (1974) (and the animated Return to the Planet of the Apes [1975]), Beyond Westworld (1980), Blue Thunder (1984), Starman (1986-1987) and Alien Nation (1989-1990). None of these ran for very long, few are well remembered. TV was lesser than movies, you could never carry over the cast or the production value, and extending a movie series onto the small screen was not really a good bet.

But shit, HIGHLANDER II: THE QUICKENING wasn’t a good bet either. And producers Davis and Panzer, stinging from that loss, weren’t ready to leave the blackjack table. Maybe a TV-sized saga of the Immortals could be more than the Starman of the ’90s. Maybe it could be the M.A.S.H. of the ’90s! (read the rest of this shit…)

Highlander II: The Quickening

Thursday, May 23rd, 2019

“It’s weird how they built a huge franchise off of the first film. I can’t quite understand it. It’s like they say in the film ‘There can only be one. ‘ In a genre film you can create any scenario you like, but once you break your own rules, the audience feels betrayed, which is what happened with HIGHLANDER II.”–Russell Mulcahy to Money Into Light, 2016

“The more cornered we were, the more stupid things we had to come up with.”–Christopher Lambert

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 look back at the whole franchise

I missed out on being disappointed by HIGHLANDER II: THE QUICKENING with the rest of the world in 1991. Somehow I never watched the HIGHLANDER movies until the 21st century, at which point I’d lived many years knowing part II had been universally rejected and mocked. And when I did watch it it was the re-edited and 19-minutes-longer “Renegade Version” put together for DVD in 1997, and I’ll be honest – I liked it! I’ve always been one for weird, not-taking-the-easy-road sequels like BABE: PIG IN THE CITY, BATMAN RETURNS, TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE 2, MAD MAX: BEYOND THUNDERDOME, BRIDE OF CHUCKY, RETURN TO OZ, JASON X, etc. So I was into the idea of Connor MacLeod in a dystopian future city working with rebels to, uh… blow up a shield around the earth, because it’s not necessary anymore. I mean — sure. Why not? (read the rest of this shit…)

Highlander

Wednesday, May 22nd, 2019

HIGHLANDER is the 1986 cult classic about immortal warriors of different nationalities waging a battle across centuries, and its opening is a clash in its own right. It starts with Sean Connery narrating flowery fantasy movie text, cuts to credits rhythmically cut to a rockin Queen theme song, and before we know it the gorgeously grainy cinematography of Gerry Fisher (WISE BLOOD, THE NINTH CONFIGURATION, DEAD BANG) and the orchestra of Michael Kamen (DEAD ZONE, BRAZIL) are lavishing cinematic glory on a super-powered sword fight between trenchcoated acquaintances in the Madison Square Garden parking garage during a professional wrestling match. The stadium rock band influenced by opera butts up against the rock arranger turned classical score composer for a sword-and-sorcery meets urban-action cage match. And somehow this all feels perfectly natural.

The production itself is a battle royale of nationalities: British and American financiers, Australian director Russell Mulcahy, Frenchman Christopher Lambert playing Scottish, Scotsman Connery playing Egyptian-Spanish, carrying a katana. Classes, cultures and eras fit together in unexpected ways, forming a movie that feels a little closer to the neo-noir-and-loneliness cinematography-porn of BLADE RUNNER than to other action films of ’86 like THE DELTA FORCE, AVENGING FORCE, NO RETREAT NO SURRENDER, QUIET COOL, DANGEROUSLY CLOSE or NEVER TOO YOUNG TO DIE. And yet HIGHLANDER developed enough multi-generational populist appeal to be declared “best movie ever made” by Ricky Bobby in TALLADEGA NIGHTS. (read the rest of this shit…)

The Swordsman / Gladiator Cop

Tuesday, May 21st, 2019

THE SWORDSMAN is an only-on-VHS Lorenzo Lamas joint from 1992. Coming two years after the end of Falcon Crest (for which Lamas was the only actor to appear in all 227 episodes), this was a particularly productive period for the actor and Taekwondo and karate black belt. His other films released that year were FINAL IMPACT, SNAKE EATER III… HIS LAW and CIA CODE NAME: ALEXA.

I’ve only seen one of those, but I bet none of them open with text about a king in ancient Greece:

“2300 YEARS AGO ALEXANDER THE GREAT INHERITED A LEGENDARY SWORD BLESSED BY APOLLO. WITH THIS SWORD HE FELT INVINCIBLE AND LED HIS TROOPS INTO BATTLE CONQUERING THE KNOWN WORLD. UPON HIS DEATH, ALEXANDER HAD THE LEGENDARY SWORD BURIED WITH HIM AS HE BELIEVED HE WOULD RISE AGAIN.”

Lorenzo Lamas plays Andrew, a cool long-haired homicide detective who has psychic visions when he touches blood and in his spare time dreams images of himself in a robe looking at old statues and swords and fighting a guy with a hood hiding his face. Then he’ll wake up, add a sketch to his dream journal, and tie his hair into a ponytail.

Andrew has a comic relief partner named Leo (Frank Crudele, BLACKJACK, STEP UP ALL IN, one episode of Highlander: The Series) and a therapist (Michael Copeman, THUNDERGROUND, SCANNERS III, UNIVERSAL SOLDIER II, six episodes of Highlander: The Raven including the pilot) who you can tell is kind of a cool ex-hippie type because he has grey hair but wears a colorful Hawaiian shirt and is into experimental therapies. (read the rest of this shit…)