I’ve written about a bunch of these corny 21st century dance movies, and I always seem to be comparing them to the BREAKIN’ movies, but I’ve never actually reviewed the BREAKIN’ movies. That ends now. I’m reviewing the BREAKIN’ movies. The world could use more focus on the BREAKIN’ movies right now.
In a certain way, BREAKIN’ changed the whole world for me. I’m pretty sure it was BREAKIN’ and/or the cultural conversation around BREAKIN’ that first opened my eyes to this movement of music, art and dancing that older, cooler kids in far away New York had been building for several years. If you weren’t alive then I’m not sure you can imagine what a phenomenon it was. I remember a music teacher giving us diagrams of moves, trying to teach us (what she said was) the moonwalk, talking about Michael Jackson being inspired by breakdancers and breakdancers being inspired by James Brown. It was the music part of hip hop culture that would become important to me, and (as I said in my review of the companion movie RAPPIN’), at that time I don’t think I even knew the word “rap.” I called it “breakdancing music.” (And, though I kind of like this soundtrack, I don’t associate it much with the type of rap I soon fell in love with.) (read the rest of this shit…)
I’ve known for decades that Ice-T was in one of the many movies called BODY COUNT, but I never considered watching it until my friend Laird mentioned on Letterboxd* that it takes place on Thanksgiving. So thank you Laird, sort of, for inspiring some seasonal viewing. The only other Thanksgiving movie I had rented was HOME SWEET HOME, which I turned off when I immediately realized I’d seen it before. It’s the 1981 movie starring Body By Jake as a psycho, but they tricked me into thinking it was something newer by writing “Vinessa Shaw (Eyes Wide Shut)” on the cover. (She had a small part at about 4 or 5 years old.)
I didn’t realize I’d never reviewed HOME SWEET HOME. Next year, I guess. It probly would’ve been more fun than BODY COUNT, a thoroughly mediocre and largely uneventful low budget home invasion thriller, its one benefit being its recognizable cast. Daniel (Justin Theroux two years before MULLHOLLAND DR.) is bringing his girlfriend Susanne (Alyssa Milano two years after EMBRACE OF THE VAMPIRE) to meet and spend Thanksgiving with his very rich family, who he hates. They’re all much more snooty than him and ask him condescending questions about his job and if he’s still in “that cult,” which he clarifies was “Buddhist study group.” His drunk brother Justin (Nicholas Walker, Santa Barbara, who I honestly mistook for Linden Ashby the entire time) is particularly insulting, but somehow Susanne is nice about it to the point that it seems like they might end up together. (read the rest of this shit…)
As I might’ve told you before, I’ve got a soft spot for the hip hop movies of the ‘80s. None are exactly great films, and most are made by people who could’ve just as easily been doing one about BMX or video game competitions or something. WILD STYLE is one of the few that could be argued to genuinely come out of the hip hop culture, and I never saw that until I was older. But BREAKIN’, BREAKIN’ 2 and the more legit BEAT STREET (all released in 1984) were formative for me, softening me up for Raising Hell and Licensed to Ill to come along and change my life.
For me, enough time has passed to forgive any lacking in authenticity and enjoy these movies as time capsules of a time when exploitation filmmakers valiantly tried to straddle the zeitgeist, grab the horns of a movement they didn’t understand, and somehow wrestle it to the ground.
I must’ve known the word “rap” in ’85 – as in “a rap,” because everyone knew about “The Super Bowl Shuffle,” and I was obsessed with the Grandmaster Melle Mel song “Vice” from the Miami Vice soundtrack. But I also called it “breakdancing music.” I was learning. It might be for the best that I didn’t learn from RAPPIN’, a movie I didn’t know about back then even though it was from the same studio and director as BREAKIN’, and supposedly released as BREAKDANCE 3: ELECTRIC BOOGALEE somewhere, though I haven’t been able to find any advertising art to support that claim. (read the rest of this shit…)
TANK GIRL is a messy, silly, winkingly obnoxious version of the ’90s expensive b-movie, one of those weird ones that doesn’t exactly work but is kind of charming just because they had the gall to try. John Waters producer/FREDDY’S DEAD: THE FINAL NIGHTMARE director Rachel Talalay somehow convinced MGM to pump money into this adaptation of a cult British comic book about a smartass punk girl driving a tank through post-apocalyptic Australia. (Other MGM releases in 1995: FLUKE, SPECIES, GET SHORTY, also distributed THE PEBBLE AND THE PENGUIN, HACKERS, SHOWGIRLS, LEAVING LAS VEGAS, GOLDENEYE, CUTTHROAT ISLAND.) The movie’s story of facing off against a typical bad guy, even fighting him to the death on a raised catwalk for the climax, is too half-assed and conventional to work, but the frenetic style and goofy tangents are a successful extension of the main character’s personality.
Lori Petty (BATES MOTEL, POINT BREAK) pours every drop of hyperactive tomboy playfulness in her voice and persona into the character of Rebecca, who is never specifically called Tank Girl but does steal her would-be namesake when she escapes imprisonment by the wasteland’s fascist oppressors, Water & Power. This militarized corporation hordes the last of the water and cruelly attacks anyone who finds their own source. In my opinion they are not a good company to work for; when they fire employees they kill them with machines that harvest their body’s water content. (read the rest of this shit…)
CB4 is the comedic story of a fictional West Coast gangsta rap trio out of not-real Locash, CA. They exist in the same world as N.W.A (Ice Cube and Eazy E both appear as themselves in documentary style interview segments) but also they’re kind of supposed to be N.W.A. They dress like them, they have a similar “world’s most dangerous group” image, their videos are shot-for-shot imitations of N.W.A videos, and their hit song “Straight Outta Locash” is done over the music from “Straight Outta Compton,” but nobody accuses them of being a rip-off. Their song is not as good, in my opinion. They copy Cube’s line “Straight outta Compton, crazy motherfucker named Ice Cube” not just once, but before each verse. Watering it down.
One of the more brazen boasts is “I fucked your sister, I fucked your cat / I would’ve fucked your mom but the bitch is too fat,” which is absurd enough, sure, but it’s not as deviously clever as Eazy’s actual line, “Straight outta Compton / is a brother that’ll smother your mother / and make your sister think I love her.”
One difference from N.W.A: they don’t have an exploitative white manager from outside the world of hip hop. They have Trustus (Willard E. Pugh, THE COLOR PURPLE, ROBOCOP 2).
Another one: these guys aren’t exaggerated characters based on their real lifestyles. They’re straight up phonies dressing up like gangstas as a gimmick after their corny Native Tongues copycat act didn’t catch on. And they, uh, pretend they were in prison, which they weren’t , and that gets them into some awkward situations. Hmm. (read the rest of this shit…)
When we talk about JOHNNY MNEMONIC now it’s usually with a smirk. Rapid advances in the technology that it speculated about have made some of its vision of 2021 goofily dated. Star Keanu Reeves (BRAM STOKER’S DRACULA) was still solidifying as an action star and brought a funny surfer dude lilt to his slick underworld messenger character Johnny. And even at the time it was considered a failed moviefication of William Gibson’s “cyberpunk” style of sci-fi, which had a strong reputation as a cool, edgy type of literature as opposed to the old timey painted cover fantasies of previous eras. But they turned it into what was seen as some cheesy Hollywood bullshit.
Since the mid ’80s, tales have been told of the brave souls trying to adapt Gibson’s debut novel Neuromancer into a major motion picture (directors attached have included Chuck Russell, Chris Cunningham, Joseph Kahn and Vincenzo Natali). But this short story adaptation, directed by installation artist/occasional music video director Robert Longo and written by Gibson himself, beat it to the screen by 20 years and counting. They just had to replace the mirror-eyed “razor girl” character Molly Millions in the story with the regular-eyed Jane, because Molly was tied up with the rights for Neuromancer, since she’s in that too.
Gibson and Longo originally set out to make a $1.5 million black and white sci-fi noir, but couldn’t get the funding, so they agreed to a $20 million version with TriStar Pictures, whose other productions that year were THE QUICK AND THE DEAD, HIDEAWAY, 3 NINJAS KNUCKLE UP, JURY DUTY, MAGIC IN THE WATER, DEVIL IN A BLUE DRESS, NEVER TALK TO STRANGERS and JUMANJI. As artistic types and Hollywood rookies they may have been out of their depth trying to make a summer blockbuster with the star of SPEED, and Longo didn’t get his cut anyway. It turned out undeniably messy. (read the rest of this shit…)
“The Art of Rap is the first Ice-T film.” –first line in Ice-T’s first film The Art of Rap
Some of you may know Ice-T as a kangaroo man from TANK GIRL, or a Lo-Tek in JOHNNY MNEMONIC. Some may know him for his appearances in whichever Law & Order crime drama it is. For others he’s the guy for some reason you always confuse with Ice Cube even though they look and sound totally different from each other. But you may have also heard that before all that he was a pioneering west coast rapper. I still bust out his albums Power and O.G. – Original Gangster every once in a while, and they hold up well. (read the rest of this shit…)
You know how nowadays everybody wanna talk like they got somethin to say, but nothin comes out when they move their lips, just a bunch of gibberish, and motherfuckers act like they forgot about Dre? And this despite the widespread recognition of Dre Day, and everybody’s celebratin? Well, that must be tough for Dre, but it’s even worse for Dré.
Dr. Dre – title abbreviated, name spelled with an ‘e’, not an ‘é’ – is the famous producer/rapper, the genius behind NWA, discoverer of Snoop and Eminem, headphone consultant, Dr. Pepper advocate. He still produces, is still highly respected despite unleashing 50 Cent, appears on commercials all the time but somehow still has a mystique about him. He recently released a song from the album he’s been working on for ten years, so he’s on the cover of magazines and people are really believing it’ll come out in February. And plan to buy it. Most rap careers don’t last as long as just the time people have been anticipating this one album by Dre.
Meanwhile Doctor Dré – title spelled out in full, name spelled with a little wavy thing above the ‘e’ – you could definitely make a strong argument that motherfuckers weren’t acting, they sincerely had forgotten about that particular Dré. (read the rest of this shit…)
Didn’t Robert Zemeckis used to be a big deal for movie nerds? Right now he’s mainly looked at as a heretic because of his obsession with doing those creepy motion computerized movies that I seem to be pretty alone in appreciating. But there was another Zemeckis before that, a live action one. Everybody loved that BACK TO THE FUTURE and a couple of his other movies. It seems like people used to put him up there just below Spielberg as one of those worshipped All-American brand name mainstream directors of the ’80s. (read the rest of this shit…)
In this 1994 MOST DANGEROUS GAME ripoff, Ice-T plays a homeless man hired by a bunch of rich assholes supposedly to be their guide on a hunting trip, but actually to be their prey. Because the second deadliest prey is man, the first deadliest is Ice-T. (I wonder if Predator knows about this yet?)
The movie doesn’t really offer any backstory for why Ice-T is tough enough to survive this hunting expedition (SPOILER), he’s just Ice-T. He’s not an ex-soldier or ex-cop or trained in the Orient or anything. In fact it’s the reverse: he’s a regular guy and almost all of the people he kills are ex-CIA.
I gotta warn you this is a little on the cheesy side. It’s not exactly great action, and some key moments are bogged down by bad decisions like having Ice’s one-liner clearly recorded in a studio and looped in so it takes you out of the moment. But it’s still enjoyable to watch because it’s such a simple, classic setup and it’s an all star cast. Hunting Ice are no less than Gary (PREDATOR 2) Busey, John C. (ON DEADLY GROUND) McGinley, Charles S. (BLACK DOG) Dutton, F. Murray (SCARFACE) Abraham, and their sicko leader, Rutger (BLIND JUSTICE) Hauer. Then there’s some guy named William McNamara as Abraham’s babyfaced son, and for most of the movie that is the entire cast. So not a bad ensemble. (read the rest of this shit…)
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