I thought I had only one more movie to cover in The Last Summer of ’80s Action, but then I realized I’d forgotten about THUNDERGROUND. Like one of the first movies in the series, FIST FIGHTER, this is a WWF-wrestler-featuring bare knuckle brawler movie that I never heard of until david j. moore told me about it a while back and I ordered a VHS copy. It’s pretty much straight to video, but IMDb claims it got a release in Minnesota on September 1, 1989. Good enough excuse to squeeze yet another underground fighting movie in here.
It opens in “HOBO JUNCTION, TENNESSEE, 1989,” where a crowd of hobos gather around a campfire and a kid named Casey, who rips them off in Three-Card Monty (a strange game – the only winning move is not to play). Casey’s hat makes this look so Depression Era I honestly rewound to make sure I read that year right. Yep, it says ’89 all right, but it’s obviously inspired by period pieces. It’s about people who ride the rails and pull petty hustles just to get a little bit of money to get to the next town. (read the rest of this shit…)
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…)
BATMAN & ROBIN is 20 years cold, and CHILLED TO PERFECTION!
“There’s nobody else to blame but me. I could have said, ‘No, I’m not going to do it.’ I just hope whenever I see a list of the worst movies ever made, we’re not on it. I didn’t do a good job. George did. Chris did. Uma is brilliant in it. Arnold is Arnold.” –Joel Schumacher to Variety, 2014
It was June 20, 1997, and I thought BATMAN & ROBIN was the stupidest, most tasteless, worst big budget movie ever made. After the wholesale awfulness of BATMAN FOREVER went over well with audiences willing to sanction its buffoonery, Warner Brothers allowed director Joel Schumacher to go full Schumacher for the next one. It’s the same admirable, director-friendly approach that led to Tim Burton’s BATMAN RETURNS, and the bean counters would come to regret it once again. Schumacher’s purest artistic vision is like the aftermath of a rainbow sherbet fight in the costume storage warehouse for an ice skating troupe. He keeps the moody Elliot Goldenthal score and themes of mourning and vengeance, but buries them in a day-glo fantasia of overacting, bad puns, fetishistic rubber costumes and theme park stunt show style super hero battles. For me it became Exhibit A in any argument against the “It’s Not Supposed To Be Shakespeare/Check Your Brain At the Door” school of summer blockbuster permissiveness.
I wasn’t wrong. But twenty years later to the day, after many truly great summer movies, some of them even starring Batman, it’s easier for me to appreciate the uniqueness of BATMAN & ROBIN – the outrageously tacky designs, the subversively in-your-face homoeroticism, the laugh-out-loud ludicrousness of the plot and dialogue and settings and action, and especially the spectacle of Arnold Schwarzenegger in a bulky metal costume and glittery blue makeup as Mr. Freeze, playing like a simultaneous parody of over-the-top Batman villains, blockbuster excess and his own penchant for groan-worthy one-liners. He makes more than two dozen ice or cold related cracks without losing his boyish, gap-toothed Arnold charm.
Today I am prepared to admit that I own BATMAN & ROBIN on Blu-Ray. And have watched it twice in that format. And on purpose.
Arnold Schwarzenegger is… THE RUNNING MAN. That’s actually what it says on the credits, which makes me feel good, makes me proud to be an American. In fact, I’m gonna make a new tag for this review called “is…” If you can think of some other movies where the star “is…” the title, let me know. But only if it’s in the actual opening credits, not just the trailer or the poster, at least for now. We’ll see how many we can find.
THE RUNNING MAN was a book Stephen King wrote in 1982 when he was on the lam and hiding out under the alias Richard Bachman. I read it back in the ’80s so I don’t remember it in much detail, but I’m pretty sure it wasn’t the same kind of goofy cartoon shit as the movie. It was about a brutal game show of the future where contestants tried to get across the country without being killed. I think there were bounty hunters after them, but also they’d become famous through the show and regular people would try to kill them to collect a reward. It’s like American Idol except instead of participating by calling in you do it by shooting at the guy. The main character was kind of like Kowalski in VANISHING POINT, he ended up capturing the hearts of everybody at home and they started rooting for him to get away. (read the rest of this shit…)
I think I saw this movie back when it came out and I remember it just being ridiculous, but seeing it again I thought it was a good ridiculous. The movie begins with a melodramatic Hitchcock style credit sequence, but then cuts straight to Denzel Washington, Ice-T and Kevin Pollack playing very aggressive basketball on a playground. As far as I know this one is one of only a handful of movies in all of cinematic history that begin with those three guys playing street ball.
I like this scene because it very quickly sets up most of the major players in the movie while also establishing just why the movie is cool. For one thing, the director is Russell RAZORBACK Mulcahy, video director turned movie director who is fond of fancy hotshot camerawork. But this is 1991, still firmly in the naive days when a director followed a code of honor that they were expected to provide visual clues to the audience to understand what the fuck is going on. For some of you younger individuals it’s probaly hard to imagine, but the camera is flying around in such a way that it enhances your enjoyment of the movie, instead of pissing you off. This starts in the basketball scene with the camera somehow following right behind Denzel as he weaves through the other players and slam dunks. (read the rest of this shit…)
PREDATOR starts out with a shot of an alien spacecraft jettisoning a shuttle towards earth. We just see it from the distance, there’s not alot of detail visible, but we don’t live under a rock, so we know what’s going on here. The extra-terrestrial hunting enthusiast known only as “Predator” is arriving on Earth. The human characters in the movie get all the screen time, but Predator gets the first shot, so we know this is really his story.
Like E.T. THE EXTRA-TERRESTRIAL, PREDATOR doesn’t give us any backstory on the alien star. All we know is the guy is no botanist. Maybe an exotic meat salesman. It almost seems like an alien remake of FIRST BLOOD because you got this one crazy alien maniac out in the jungle by himself, taking on a couple platoons worth of elite soldiers and doing a pretty good job of it. John Rambo did some sick shit but he didn’t skin a bunch of guys and hang them upside down from the trees. He didn’t pull out people’s spines. So Predator’s got one on John. You even get the scene where Predator, like John, is wounded and has to do some makeshift surgery on himself. The only difference is he uses advanced alien technology to heal himself instead of just crudely sewing himself up. (read the rest of this shit…)
Now to be honest I am not usually the type of dude to go to the documentarian type pictures. In fact, I never even seen one before in my life unless you count watching the news on TV. But this Beyond the Mat was playing at one of the multiplexes in my area so I decided to broaden my horizons and what not. Turns out there were a few others trying to broaden their horizons, because this was the type of crowd that yells “YEEEEEEAAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!!!!!!!” when the Freddy claws pop out of the guy in the X-Man preview, and who randomly yell out little jokes from the south park cartoons, you know, to be funny.
This is a documentary about the real lives of professional wrestlers, and I will tell you straight off the bat this movie is great even for those of us who don’t watch wrestling or south park. I mean I like the Roddy Piper pictures as much as the next guy, I’ve watched a little grapple here and there, but I don’t know what the fuck a mankind is or the rock or whatever. I mean who knows. It doesn’t matter. (read the rest of this shit…)