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
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.
TUCKER, directed by Francis Ford Coppola (CAPTAIN EO), glorifies two of executive producer George Lucas’s favorite things: cars and artistic independence. It’s a starry-eyed, big-band-jazz-scored paean to Preston Tucker (Jeff Bridges), an innovator who failed to conquer the post-WWII car business, but at least made a cool car.
The titleistical dream is the idea of the Tucker, “the car of the future today,” a sleek, futuristic sedan with the engine in the back and three headlights that he says will move with the front wheels for safety. He’s just a dude with a scrappy company working out of a barn who invented some turrets for the army and a tank that they rejected because it moved too fast. He still owns one and uses it to drive the family into town to get ice cream. Nobody will invest in his dream until he gets it into a magazine and just acts like it’s something that’s happening. Next thing you know Martin Landau is able to get him meetings and investors. The Secret!
In one sense Tucker is full of shit. He thinks he can make this car, but he lets people believe he already has. He pushes his sons and trusted collaborators into overdrive to figure out how to build a good-enough prototype in time for the big unveiling. Like a movie trying to make a summer release date. The dream runs into the reality of unforeseen problems and limited time and resources, but he’s happy to just build a thing that looks like the concept art. (read the rest of this shit…)
In BALANCE OF POWER, Billy Blanks plays Niko, one of those martial arts instructors who teaches disadvantaged kids, in one of those neighborhoods where gangs go door-to-door demanding protection money. He makes the kids pick up litter in the neighborhood and lectures them if they think “the most important thing about karate” is “kicking some butt, man.” Niko is sensitive and truly cares about the kids, but he maintains a tough love exterior, hoping it will keep them in line. He’s especially worried about Billy (Adam Bonneau) because he told him not to ever go to the playground (inhabited by scary gang members) and then the dumbass went there for a girl.
Meanwhile Niko’s in trouble because the mob guys just noticed that they have mistakenly forgotten to ever shake him down for money. Embarrassing blunder there. So some thugs, including long-haired Shinji Takamura (James Lew, MISSION OF JUSTICE), come in, he refuses, they break some glass and give him an ultimatum. When he still doesn’t pay up the main enforcer guy drives a car by the playground and one of his ski masked guys does a drive-by on Billy. (read the rest of this shit…)
THE KILLER ELITE is Sam Peckinpah’s don’t-be-naive-these-covert-ops-are-happening-all-the-time thriller kinda like MUNICH. It starts with straight up perfection: a title card explaining that “This film is a work of fiction. There is no company called Communications Integrity NOR ComTeg and the thought that the C.I.A. might employ such an organization for any purpose is, of course, preposterous.”
James Caan and Robert Duvall star as Locken and Hansen, two hard-drinking, lady-loving partners who claim to have never heard of the C.I.A. even though we just saw them bomb a building. They’ve spent enough time together that they’re always singing made up songs and saying stupid jokes that seem like you had to be there. But they’re obviously having fun.
When they go to a safe house, Locken goes to take a shower and Hansen turns traitor, killing the defector they’re supposed to be protecting and then trying to cripple his partner. When he’s standing there naked with a gun pointed at him Locken doesn’t even get scared because he can only comprehend it as a joke. He really thought he knew that guy, now he’s shooting him in the shower? He never took him for a shower-shooter. (read the rest of this shit…)
CRYING FREEMAN (1995) is a pretty cool movie that I went back to hoping it would be better than I realized before. I did a brief write-up of it in a column years ago, but I’m not gonna link to it right now because most of the column is angry rants about what was going on in the news at the time and it makes me cringe. Based on a Japanese comic book (or “Japomic Book”) by Kazuo Koike, the same writer as Lone Wolf and Cub, CRYING FREEMAN is a moody, serious assassin movie with Yakuza, mind control, a witch, romance and tragedy. It takes place in 4 different countries (U.S., Canada, China, Japan) with the most convincing, of course, being the part that takes place in Vancouver, B.C. (read the rest of this shit…)
WARNING: contains spoilers for PEARL HARBOR and World War II
After three financially successful action movies in a row (BAD BOYS, THE ROCK, ARMAGEDDON), Michael Bay got a once-in-his-career itch to make An Important Movie. He probly had SAVING PRIVATE RYAN on the brain, and definitely TITANIC.
Ever since James Cameron’s movie broke all box office records studios had been threatening to make asses of themselves by blatantly trying to catch more lightning in that same melodramatic-love-story-during-historic-disaster bottle. Jan de Bont almost did a love-story-on-the-Hindenburg movie, for example. PEARL HARBOR wasn’t as obvious of a copycat as that because 1) it was a love story set against a war movie as much as a disaster and 2) the love song on the end credits was by Faith Hill instead of Celine Dion. Totally different. (read the rest of this shit…)
This review is by special request of several individuals on the STONE COLD DVD talkback and other people over the years who have tried to get me to watch this movie. The Perfect Weapon of the title in this 1991 white martial arts movie is Jeff Speakman, an American Kenpo Karate sixth degree black belt who I guess is playing himself, since they just call him Jeff. The movie opens with Jeff shirtless and oiled up, in a living room doing karate moves to that horrible song “I Got the Power (It’s Gettin It’s Gettin It’s Gettin Kinda Hectic It’s Gettin It’s Gettin It’s Getting Kinda Hectic I Got the Power!)” by the group Snap!. It’s funny because this movie is only 85 minutes long but they still felt they had time for him to do moves to that entire song. As it ends he puffs his chest out like he just won a medal.
Then Jeff goes for a ride in his convertible and as he soaks in the open road he thinks about his past. So we learn that after his mom died he was a troublemaking kid, and his cop dad wanted to send him to military school. Fortunately Pops’s Korean war buddy Kim (the great Mako) convinced him to send Jeff to Kenpo Karate Dojo instead. To learn self discipline. (read the rest of this shit…)
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