TAPE RAIDER ALBERT PYUN TRIBUTE PART 3: RAVEN HAWK
RAVEN HAWK is yet another Albert Pyun movie only released on VHS in the States. The only one of this review trilogy to not include any cyborgs. According to IMDb, it was #3 of five Pyun releases in 1996 (the others being ADRENALIN: FEAR THE RUSH, NEMESIS 3: TIME LAPSE, OMEGA DOOM and NEMESIS 4: DEATH ANGEL), but was filmed in 1993. It was meant for theatrical, but ended up premiering on HBO. Written by Kevin Elders (writer of IRON EAGLE, director of SIMON SEZ, therefore a legend), it’s a very basic but pretty appealing revenge movie. It follows in the tradition of the THUNDER WARRIOR trilogy (itself inspired by the success of the BILLY JACK series) in trying to mine the thrill of a Native American hero standing up to racist white bullies and land stealers. But what makes it stand out is that the hero is played by bodybuilding champion Rachel McLish, who was in PUMPING IRON II: THE WOMEN and then stole the show in ACES: IRON EAGLE III.
In the prologue, Senator Stansfield (John de Lancie, Days of Our Lives, Star Trek: The Next Generation) – who’s on the phone talking in an evil voice while a naked lady lounges by the fire nearby – pressures his stooge Thorne (William Atherton, DIE HARD) to finish “negotiations” with the tribal council to approve a land deal to build a nuclear power plant. (In a dark touch, he says if they don’t do it now the Department of Transportation will build a freeway there. Either way, the Natives are fucked.) (read the rest of this shit…)
EXTREME JUSTICE is a 1993 cop movie by director Mark L. Lester (STEEL ARENA, FIRESTARTER, COMMANDO, SHOWDOWN IN LITTLE TOKYO) that you can find on DVD, VHS or streaming on Prime. Lester has done a pretty broad range of b-movie types, but one thing some of them have in common is a great sense of exaggeration. In CLASS OF 1984, for example, he presents a world where juvenile delinquency is so severe that a previously mild-mannered music teacher has no better choice than to do battle with one of his students and dump him through a skylight into the school gym during the big recital. In its sci-fi sequel CLASS OF 1999, such out-of-control kids have led to an overreaction that includes militarized robot teachers.
So I wasn’t sure which way he would go in his movie starring Lou Diamond Phillips (RENEGADES, UNDERTOW, THE BIG HIT) as an LAPD detective who rather than getting in trouble for his police brutality gets promoted to a secret unit where “what useta get you in trouble’ll get you a round of beers.” I guess the reason I wasn’t familiar with this one is that they were worried about releasing it a year after the L.A. riots/uprising and dumped it to HBO. But I’m happy to report it doesn’t have to be a guilty pleasure – the movie is very clearly saying that this extreme justice is too extreme and not justice. It’s not the good kind of Paul Verhoeven “you have to be really thick to not understand this satire” clear, unfortunately, but right now I’ll settle for the more accessible “he has a girlfriend who’s the conscience of the movie and convinces him that this is all wrong” type. (read the rest of this shit…)
REAL GENIUS is a Summer of 1985 movie that’s completely new to me. I’ve seen the cover and known for most of my life that it was a comedy starring a young Val Kilmer that certain people swore by, and that’s about it. So the whole tone and content was a surprise to me. I had no idea it was a college movie, or that it’s grounded in a little bit of serious world. It opens like a thriller, telling us about a CIA militarization-of-space initiative called the Crossbow Project, which is very similar to the Grazer One satellite in UNDER SIEGE 2: DARK TERRITORY. Using lasers, it could zero in on and assassinate people from space. But at this point it’s imcomplete, and they’re putting pressure on professor (and TV host) Jerry Hathaway (William Atherton, after playing a punchable prick in GHOSTBUSTERS, before playing one in DIE HARD) to push his team of young geniuses at the Pacific Technical University to crack that problem with the energy source so they can “have a working weapon by June.”
Another thing that surprised me is that Val Kilmer (TOP SECRET!)’s Chris Knight, the only character on the cover, is kind of the second lead. It wasn’t as shocking as learning that CADDYSHACK was about teenagers, but still, I wasn’t expecting it to center on 15-year old physics prodigy Mitch Taylor (Gabriel Jarret, “Boy at Funeral,” GOING APE!) who, while other whiz kids his age are staying home doing weird science with their horny friends, is personally recruited by Professor Hathaway to go to college and work on this project. He’s a genius, but very aware of how physically young and socially inexperienced he is, making this a very scary move. He’s heard legends of Chris, the only other person recruited to the team when he was a freshman, and can’t believe it when they turn out to be roommates. (read the rest of this shit…)
THE ROCKETEER has all the right ingredients for an aw schucks old timey circa-1938 super hero yarn. The hero, Cliff (Billy Campbell, FAT KID RULES THE WORLD), is a pilot for air shows – small time enough to be an underdog, but cool enough to strut around in his brown leather pilot’s jacket and clock a guy when necessary.
The setting is Los Angeles, so his girlfriend Jenny (Jennifer Connelly, CREEPERS, LABYRINTH) is an aspiring ingenue, the villain is suave, swashbuckling “#3 box office star” Neville Sinclair (Timothy Dalton, BRENDA STARR), and the experimental technology they’re fighting over was originated by Howard Hughes (Terry O’Quinn, THE STEPFATHER). Also involved are mobsters (because Sinclair hired them), Nazis (because he is one), G-men (led by Ed Lauter, DEATH WISH 3, THE ARTIST) and a giant named Lothar (former Austrian basketball pro Tiny Ron Taylor [ROAD HOUSE, SASQUATCH MOUNTAIN] made up by Rick Baker to look like Rondo Hatton).
The random way Cliff becomes a jet-packing hero is pretty cool. During a test flight of the craft he and his mechanic/mentor Peevy (Alan Arkin, FREEBIE AND THE BEAN) have been working on for years, he flies over a chase between the mobsters and the FBI. The mobsters think he’s with the feds and turn their tommy guns on him! Some kind of mixup causes the gangsters to get away without the jetpack they stole from Howard Hughes, but Cliff accidentally finds where they stashed it. (read the rest of this shit…)
The final MAGNIFICENT SEVEN sequel came 12 years after the original from Canadian-born TV director George McCowan, after doing FROGS the same year. Screenwriter Arthur Rowe had also done mostly TV, including a few westerns like The Range Rider and The Adventures of Rin Tin Tin. This time Lee Van Cleef takes over as Chris Adams, but if they didn’t say his name it would be easy to not realize he was the same character.
The opening is reminiscent of the much better sequel HIGH NOON PART II, because now Chris is a marshal in the Arizona territory and he’s using his recent marriage as an excuse not to use his magnificence to help bounty hunter Jim Mackay (Ralph Waite, The Waltons, CLIFFHANGER) defend a Mexican border town from bandits like he used to do in the old days. He’s not like that anymore, and all their magnificent buddies are dead or in jail. Some of them he put there.
Supposedly he even owes Jim one, but not from some incident we saw in one of the other movies, since this is not a character we’ve seen before. Continuity opportunities are also missed when Chris is asked about his legendary exploits and they have none of them are things he did in the other movies. This could’ve been an unrelated western they changed into a sequel right before filming. (read the rest of this shit…)
If you count TV movies – and I do – JERICHO MILE is Michael Mann’s directivational debut. It’s not as cinematic as his later big, wide movies, but it’s from the days when TV movies were legit enough to play theatrically overseas. It also stood out from other TV at the time, winning Emmies for writing, lead actor (over Kurt Russell in ELVIS!) and film editing for a limited series or special, and a Director’s Guild Award for “Outstanding Directorial Achievement in Special/Movies for TV/Actuality.” (?)
It’s a prison movie, and you know Mann isn’t gonna want to soften that up. I mean, it’s TV so we don’t get any profanity, racial slurs or rape, but it’s still got a gritty feel because it was filmed in Folsom with the real inmates all around, and plenty of establishing montages that are clearly just documentary footage. You can definitely tell that some of the supporting players are real cons. I wasn’t surprised when I read that Mann had to negotiate for each of the race gangs (white, black and Latin) to have representatives on screen and vow to prevent any race wars or riots during filming so the production wouldn’t be kicked out. I mean obviously it’s an unwritten rule on pretty much all movie sets that the actors should not be involved in any race wars. But I still give them credit for not having one. Apparently there were a bunch of stabbings, one fatal, but those were allowed. (read the rest of this shit…)
I don’t know if this is true but I heard it’s good luck for movie critics to start a year with a Clint Eastwood review. So I saved TROUBLE WITH THE CURVE for the occasion.
It’s a pretty standard mainstream feel-good-about-everything-at-the-end father-daughter relationship drama, but I couldn’t resist it because Clint plays the stubborn old grump dad and Amy Adams plays the daughter. She’s pissed off and sarcastic through half the movie but I’m still powerless in the face of her charms. I’m sorry.
Here’s the situation: Gus (Clint) is a veteran scout for the Braves baseball team, sent to evaluate some young hot shot out in North Carolina (Scott Eastwood). But Gus is secretly losing his eyesight and openly losing favor in the organization to a young douchebag (Matthew Lillard) who prefers modern methods involving computers and statistics. Gus’s best friend (John Goodman with an impressive mustache) worries they’re gonna drop him if something goes wrong, so he begs Gus’s estranged lawyer daughter Mickey (Adams) to come keep an eye on him. Meanwhile, a young pitching-phenom-turned-scout who Gus likes (Justin Timberlake) helps out and tries to woo Mickey. (read the rest of this shit…)
THE LOST pulled me in right away. On the screen it says “Once upon a time, a boy named Ray Pye put crushed beer cans in his boots to make himself taller.” And to the tune of what sounds like an old rock ‘n roll tune (but is actually a modern song I guess – the time period of the movie is indistinct) we see these boots strutting awkwardly toward an outhouse. Their owner surprises a buxom young girl (Erin Brown, better known as Misty Mundae) on her way out, buck naked. “I thought we were alone out here,” she says, embarrassed. He asks her if she has a cigarette.
This could go different ways, but since the movie is based on a Jack Ketchum novel I think you can guess it’s gonna be one of the bad ones. After they part ways Ray (Marc Senter) hornily spies on the girl and her female companion (Ruby Larocca) before going back to his two friends Jenn (Shay Astar) and Tim (Alex Frost, who I didn’t recognize as the main kid from Gus Van Sant’s ELEPHANT). And he does that horny thing – he can’t stop thinking about what to do with these girls, but he keeps circling around trying to play nonchalant for a while before he tries to convince them to go look at these girls, which clearly doesn’t please Jenn. (read the rest of this shit…)
THE ARTIST is an enjoyable, cleverly made tribute movie by the French director (Michel Hazanavicius) and star (Jean Dujardin) of those O.S.S. 117 movies, which from what I have heard are also enjoyable, cleverly made tribute movies. In this one the guy plays George Valentin, beloved silent film star, on top of the world right before the dawn of the sound era. And then he’s in trouble. (read the rest of this shit…)
Albert Johnson (Charles Motherfuckin Bronson) is a trapper drifting through snowy 1931 Canada when he happens to come across some assholes betting on dog fights. One of the dogs is injured and apparently Albert loves animals (when he’s not trapping them) so he takes the dog at gunpoint. In order to smooth things over he gives the owner $200, but just to be clear he’s not negotiating. He’s taking the dog. It’s just like a convenience charge or a dogfight interruption processing fee or something like that. The owner of the dog is Ed Lauter, so this whole incident must be why they don’t seem to like each other in DEATH WISH 3. (read the rest of this shit…)
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