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Archive for the ‘Action’ Category

TV movie double feature: Running Delilah (1993) and Amazons (1984)

Tuesday, February 23rd, 2021

I’d been wanting to watch this 1993 movie called RUNNING DELILAH, first because it stars Kim Cattrall as a cyborg, then because I realized it was directed by Richard Franklin (ROAD GAMES, PSYCHO II, LINK), and it didn’t hurt that it co-starred THE PHANTOM himself, Billy Zane. What I didn’t figure out until shortly after I pressed play was that it was really an ABC TV pilot that was released as a TV movie when it wasn’t picked up for a series. It’s written by Ron Koslow, the screenwriter of INTO THE NIGHT, but more relevant to this he was the creator of Beauty and the Beast, the popular show with Ron Perlman and Linda Hamilton. I guess RUNNING DELILAH was one of his romance/genre crossover ideas that didn’t fly.

And I do not believe it transcends that description, but I wanted to review it for The Cultural Record, so I’ll go ahead and throw in another TV movie, AMAZONS (1984) that was included on the same DVD. (It also had SUPERDOME [1978] and THE AMY FISHER STORY [1993,the one with Drew Barrymore]) but I didn’t watch those.)

RUNNING DELILAH finds Christina (Cattrall) working as a secretary, but she’s actually Delilah, a spy trying to steal documents from her criminal boss (Yorgo Voyagis, VAMPIRE IN VENICE). She meets up with her partner Paul (Zane), who sports what was called a “Caesar cut,” as popularized by George Clooney on ER, and laments that they never got it on. He seems to take it well when she turns him down again, and this is actually one time when it’s a benefit that it was supposed to be a TV show. If it was a movie the guy she turns down would turn out to be a traitor, but since it’s a TV show it just means there will be sexual tension and then they’ll fall for each other. (read the rest of this shit…)

Monster Hunter

Monday, February 22nd, 2021

As someone who finally got into Paul Wesley Snipes Anderson’s RESIDENT EVIL series pretty close to when it was finally wrapping up, I was thrilled to hear that the director and his wife/star Milla Jovovich (HELLBOY, not the Ron Perlman one) had purchased the film rights to a fresh new video game franchise copyright property trademark. Without any judgment on (or implied knowledge of) the respective video games, I feel that there is potential for a series called MONSTER HUNTER about monsters and hunters who hunt monsters to be better than one about zombies and umbrellas or whatever. And I loved that one!

So I had planned to see this Toho co-production based on the works of Capcom in the biggest, if emptiest theater in Seattle, until shit (the pandemic) happened and that was not possible for me. But as soon as they made it available for digital “purchase” I paid the four-or-five-dollars-more-than-the-movie-ticket-would’ve-cost and now that file access is MINE.

It begins in a world of fantasy. Pirate ships are sailing through sand. Ron Perlman (HELLBOY, the Ron Perlman one) is there. Tony Jaa (KILL ZONE 2) is there. Monsters attack. Tony gets knocked off the boat. It is sand, so he doesn’t drown, but he’s left behind.

Then we switch to a different desert, the type in our world, in our time. It even has latitude and longitude listed on screen. I think they might mention directions and clicks at some point if you want to check your map and follow along at home. (read the rest of this shit…)

Once a Thief

Thursday, February 18th, 2021

I can’t explain this, and it’s embarrassing to admit, but somehow I had never seen ONCE A THIEF (1991) until now. How the hell did I not watch the movie that John Woo and Chow Yun Fat did between their two greatest home runs? Especially since I even watched the North American TV pilot he made based on it five years later! I knew this was gonna be more light-hearted and comedic than THE KILLER and HARD BOILED and that I probly wouldn’t like it nearly as much, but come on. Obviously it was something I needed to see. As I should fuckin known, it’s a fun time with some great stunts and action and a type of ludicrousness I enjoy in many Hong Kong films, if not usually Woo’s.

The story is about a trio of thieves, Cherie (Cherie Chung, PEKING OPERA BLUES), Joey and Jim (Chow Yun Fat and Leslie Cheung, reuniting after A BETTER TOMORROW 1 and 2). We meet them as they’re staking out an art museum for a heist, with Joey walking around admiring the art in the suave manner of Chow Yun Fat, Cherie pretending to be an idiot walking her dog through some deliverymen so she can mark the crate that holds the painting they’re planning to steal, and Joey strutting to his motorcycle in a leather jacket and scarf, bragging to a random street artist that he’s a famous thief. Soon they’re performing a really cool FAST AND FURIOUS-esque mobile truck heist that involved climbing on and under the truck, cutting a hole through the bottom, and gliding away with a parachute. (read the rest of this shit…)

Gundala

Wednesday, February 17th, 2021

I gotta admit, I barely knew Indonesian cinema existed until I saw MERANTAU and THE RAID. We all loved THE RAID and THE RAID 2 and then THE NIGHT COMES FOR US came along and that was arguably even more impressive. It was directed by Timo Tjahjanto, who’d already done another Iko Uwais martial arts movie I loved called HEADSHOT with his long-time collaborator Kimo Stamboel. They also did a horror one called KILLERS that I had to turn off in the opening scene because it was too much for me at the time. Some day I’m gonna get up the guts to go back. These days Stamboel has a heavily hyped horror movie called THE QUEEN OF BLACK MAGIC, written by Joko Anwar. Anwar is the guy who directed SATAN’S SLAVES (which I enjoyed) and IMPETIGORE (which I haven’t seen yet but it was on some best of the year lists).

So clearly there are healthy action and horror scenes over there, and those are my primary interests. But did you know they also have a local answer to the Marvel Cinematic Universe? The aforementioned Anwar wrote and directed the 2019 film GUNDALA, based on an Indonesian comic book character created in 1969, and will be overseeing a series called the Bumilangit Cinematic Universe (BCU), with seven more films planned in Volume 1.

I knew there’d be something interesting about an Indonesian take on modern super hero movies, but once again I was caught off guard because you guys, this movie is really good. It certainly takes some inspiration from the Marvel films, and there’s a costumed hero with some powers and some colorful super villains, but mostly it’s a legit martial arts movie with lots of really well directed fights. And it’s interesting to see how a character like this compares and contrasts to the ones that have caught on here. The main difference is that his life has been way harder than any of our guys. (read the rest of this shit…)

The Three Musketeers (2011)

Monday, February 15th, 2021

Well, I could’ve sworn it was a little more recent than this, but Paul World Series Anderson’s THREE MUSKETEERS came out in 2011 – two RESIDENT EVIL chapters ago, plus a POMPEII and a MONSTER HUNTER. I don’t remember if I just didn’t get to it or if I was immune to the charms of the Andersonography at that moment in time, but whatever the reason, I fuckin blew it. I can imagine the warm feeling I would’ve had watching an early afternoon show in a huge, mostly empty theater at Pacific Place. And I bet the 3D would’ve been amazing.

But at home on 2D blu-ray ten years later was good too. Maybe I should be thankful I saved it for a time when this specific type of escapism is more precious. Like that 2001 movie THE MUSKETEER that I reviewed recently, it’s loosely based on the Dumas novel and completely unembarrassed to pimp it out with modern cinematic trends and PWSA fixations, including but not limited to speed-ramping, acrobatic fight choreography and cool steam-punk weapons and vehicles. It takes the silliness much further than THE MUSKETEER, and has a much bigger budget – the climax involves two armed blimps engaged in a pirate ship battle in the sky – and I thought it was a whole lot of fun. (read the rest of this shit…)

Fast Getaway II

Wednesday, February 10th, 2021

FAST GETAWAY was apparently a hit by some standard, so three years later we got the DTV sequel FAST GETAWAY II. Like the first one, it’s still only available on VHS. Corey Haim, Cynthia Rothrock, Leo Rossi and Ken Lerner all return, and there are many direct references to things that happened in the first one, but they do at least find a new setup to make it different.

Young but experienced bank robber Nelson Potter (Haim) now lives on his own, in fact seems to be pretty rich, and is so far beyond his past as a horny virgin that he wakes up and is offered sex in the opening scene. Then there’s a bank robbery that plays off the first movie, with Nelson now graduated to his dad’s role of the ringleader-who-makes-the-bank-customers-sing-a-song, and with an attractive woman named Patrice (Sarah Buxton, THE SURE THING, LESS THAN ZERO, TODAY YOU DIE) as both the person he follows into the bank to hit on and the plant hostage he takes.

(read the rest of this shit…)

Fast Getaway

Tuesday, February 9th, 2021

FAST GETAWAY (1991) is a movie that has not made it to DVD, and the VHS cover shows a slightly Vanilla-Ice-looking Corey Haim doing a teen magazine locker pinup pose in front of a red rectangle. I was vaguely aware of its existence for many years before learning that it might be worth watching because it co-stars Cynthia Rothrock. And only when I rented it did I learn that it’s the first of only two movies directed by stunt legend Spiro Razatos. (His other one is CLASS OF 1999 II: THE SUBSTITUTE, and then he did some episodes of Team Knight Rider.)

Razatos is a stuntman going back to the early ‘80s (THEY CALL ME BRUCE, POLICE ACADEMY 2) who graduated to stunt coordinator with OMEGA SYNDROME in 1986. He also did SILENT NIGHT, DEADLY NIGHT PART 2. I first became aware of him when I was impressed by the crazy low budget car stunts in the MANIAC COP movies and learned he was the second unit director and stunt coordinator behind them. He also did EXTREME JUSTICE, BAD BOYS II, TALLADEGA NIGHTS and DEATH RACE, and then he became the go-to car guy with FAST FIVE and all subsequent FAST movies, plus MONSTER TRUCKS and TEENAGE MUTANT NINJA TURTLES: OUT OF THE SHADOWS, which has some good shit in it, I swear. (read the rest of this shit…)

Pray For Death

Thursday, February 4th, 2021

PRAY FOR DEATH is a 1985 American ninja movie starring Sho Kosugi. He’d already done the three Cannon ninja movies as well as 9 DEATHS OF THE NINJA, so this was not any kind of a first for him. It’s even the third one he did that co-starred his sons Kane and Shane. But if you’re like me and you like a ninja movie that is watchable and has a ninja in it, this is one of them.

It’s not surprising to see that director Gordon Hessler (KISS MEETS THE PHANTOM OF THE PARK) did a bunch of TV shows like Wonder Woman and CHiPs, because that’s kind of what this feels like. His martial arts bonafides include episodes of Kung Fu and The Master. He later did another one with Kosugi, RAGE OF HONOR. What does make this one kind of interesting is that it’s written by James Booth, an English stage and screen actor who was in ZULU, DARKER THAN AMBER and CABOBLANCO. He was once such hot shit that he turned down the title role in ALFIE, but when things slowed down for him he tried out screenwriting, starting with the Charles Grodin movie SUNBURN (1979) and the Gil Gerard TV movie STORMIN’ HOME (1985). (read the rest of this shit…)

Born American

Tuesday, February 2nd, 2021

I don’t necessarily think of Renny Harlin as one of my favorite directors, but the truth is he’s very foundational to my viewing. I grew up being obsessed with all kinds of movies, but when I try to pinpoint what truly hooked me on my twin obsessions of horror and action, it seems like the main culprits are A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET 3: DREAM WARRIORS and DIE HARD. So their sequels, both directed by Harlin, were huge for me at the time.

I understand why A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET 4: THE DREAM MASTER doesn’t get the same love as DREAM WARRIORS, but for me it was monumental because it was my first Freddy movie in the theater. When it came out on tape I watched it (and its making-of tape) over and over again. That’s how I knew there was this hot up-and-coming director named Renny Harlin, a long-haired Finnish dude who showed such promise with the 1987 horror movie PRISON that he did Freddy 4 and DIE HARD 2 – followups to two of pop culture’s biggest things going. I think some article I read in Newsweek or somewhere called Harlin “The Sequel Master.”

I rented PRISON, of course, and I’ve seen it since then, and it’s pretty good, and stars Viggo Mortensen before he was classy. But until recently I never really paid attention to the fact that Harlin made one movie before that, a Finnish production, but about Americans, and more in the action vein. (read the rest of this shit…)

Invincible Dragon

Wednesday, January 27th, 2021

I love being able to tip off my readers to a high quality, newish martial arts movie they might not have seen or heard of. Especially one that feels like an instant classic to me, like when I saw SPL 2/KILL ZONE 2 in 2015, and I just knew I had to do what I could to get the word out that it was something special.

But that’s not exactly what we’ve gathered for today. This is a different thread that I’ve been following since KILL ZONE 2. One of the highlights of that movie was Jin Zhang, now known here as Max Zhang, who played the lead henchman – a dapper, suit-wearing psycho with kicks like scalpels. He had such an entirely different vibe as the broody handsome rival in IP MAN 3 that I didn’t even notice it was the same actor. So now I pay more attention to him. His most recent release INVINCIBLE DRAGON (original title: 九龍不敗 [KOWLOON UNBEATEN]) is not in the same ballpark as his very good starring vehicle MASTER Z: THE IP MAN LEGACY (2018), and it’s sloppier and stupider than THE BRINK (2017). But I enjoyed the hell out of it because it has some of that precious Hong Kong action craftsmanship and production value, infused with the “are you kidding me right now?” lunacy of a really off-the-rails DTV movie, while managing to showcase some of the qualities that make Zhang stand out from other action stars. (read the rest of this shit…)