8.15.2017

Documentary Dynamite!: Batman & Bill

Let me start off by saying that this intensely engaging documentary just blew us away. Not knowing any of the backstory going in, I can honestly say that by the end of it, we were just simply floored by the revelation that this documentary presents.

Guess what? Bob Kane was not the sole creator/artist of the original Batman. No sir. In fact, he freely admitted that little fact during numerous interviews throughout his life. What's even more mind-blowing is that this isn't something that's openly discussed, yet you will find out exactly why in this thought-provoking film.

This documentary tells the story of Thomas Andrae, an author who's mission is to set the record straight about who really created the character of Batman, as well as many important pieces of the Batman universe. While the world has only ever known that person to be Bob Kane, there were in fact 2 people who did it, and just how much each contributed is the focus of this exhaustive and highly entertaining documentary. The other persons name is Bill Finger, an artist for hire who went completely uncredited and unnoticed as a co-creator of Batman his entire life. Thomas Andrae is on a crusade to right that wrong, even though Finger has since long passed, he can at least ensure that Finger's name and legacy will always be associated with that creation.

This is a MUST WATCH for any comic book fan, even if you're not necessarily a Batman fan. The details, truths and revelations will leave you floored and stunned. On the flipside, Andrae's quest to right a wrong decades later also shows you that there are still good people in the world, and for someone who doesn't want anything in return, other than for the world to know, and for WB to acknowledge this fact, is admirable.

How to watch it:
It's a Hulu original documentary, so unfortunately you have to have Hulu to watch it. But hey, for $8 a month, it's a steal. I use Hulu more now than I do Netflix as I find their content more to my liking and tastes.

90's Action Attack!: The Hard Corpse


2006
Directed by: Sheldon Lettich
Category: Action

I have to admit that around Maximum Risk and Knockoff (late 90's era JCVD), Jean-Claude lost me. I found no enjoyment in either of those films, and while I absolutely loved Double Team (1997), anything after went straight to home video, which usually means low-quality films, and that's just never a good sign. I did try a few of his films here and there, but I could never sit through one completely. They just weren't any good. So I pretty much strayed from him films until 2008's JCVD. But even then, with his career seemingly at a resurgence, nothing that came after that was any good either. In fact, the only thing I actually liked from him in the last 20 years is easily the Amazon show pilot for Van Johnson, where he was just absolutely brilliant. I haven't heard anything new about it yet, but I do hope it gets picked up for a series.

Philippe Savauge (JCVD), an army vet, suffering from PTSD, is hired as a bodyguard for local boxing champ Wayne Barclay (Razaaq Adoti). When a local drug kingpin, Terrell Singletery (Viv Leacock) is released from a prison stint, he sets his sights on exacting revenge on Barclay from a long-running feud. Savauge soon realizes he has his work cut out for him and things get even more complicated when it seems like Barclay's sister and manager Tamara (Vivica A. Fox) might have a thing for Savauge. 

The Hard Corpse reunites Van Damme with  his Lionheart and Double Impact writer/director Sheldon Lettich, and honestly, that was the only selling point for me to actually make the effort to watch this. Sure it had been many, many years since either of them had a hit, but I went in hopeful. And you know, it wasn't bad. Not at all the kind of film I was expecting, but it wasn't terrible either. It was shockingly able to keep my attention even though it ultimately ended up being the kind of film that I don't necessarily seek out. And after having seen it, it's not a film I will probably ever watch again and won't go down as one of Jean-Claude's better films.

There's really not much motivation for you to actually check this out, unless you're a die hard completest of JCVD films. There's really not a lot of action, and you only ever see him use his martial arts skills during one scene in the film. Even then, it comes across so half-assed, You'd never know these two (Lettich and Van Damme) were the same team behind some of his earlier classics like Bloodsport, Lionheart and Double Impact (a personal favorite). But still, it's not a bad film. Just not a good or enjoyable one. Sheldon Lettich, while one of the few who spearheaded the whole martial arts/action movement in the late 80's to early 90's has clearly lost his mojo by this film. While he would only ever direct 8 films in his career, this would be his last. What makes the experience more trying is that Van Damme just looks so tired and uninterested here. He literally looks like he couldn't give a shit anymore than he already does and comes across as completely bored and unmotivated. Sad day indeed. Not one of his worst, but you can certainly find a better way to spend an hour and a half of your time.

8.13.2017

80's Action Attack!: Commando Squad

VHS scan courtesy of SerialKillerCalendar.com
Up until this past year, I'd never actually seen a Fred Olen Ray film before. I'd certainly heard of him, as he's often referred to as a schlock director, along the same lines as Roger Corman and Jim Wynorski, which is awesome to me. What's even more bizarre is that I just love that kind of stuff. So the fact that it's taken me this long to get to his films kinda blows my mind. That's not to say all, or even half, of his films are good. They're not. I've dug into them randomly and for a guy who dips his toes into everything from softcore porn to family films, his quality varies significantly from one film to the next. I'm discovering that my favorite's from him so far are his early films that he did in the 80's, which is where we are right now with Commando Squad.

Released in 1987, the same year he directed the insanely badass and legendary Cyclone, and a year before his most famous film Hollywood Chainsaw Hookers, Commando Squad stars Playboy Playmate and actress Kathy Shower along with the one and only B-Movie badass Brian Thompson (Cobra, Hired to Kill). Shower plays an undercover drug enforcement officer who must go to Mexico to rescue a former flame and partner (Thompson) after he's been kidnapped by former narcotics officer turned drug kingpin Morgan Denny (William Smith).



On the surface, Commando Squad should have been a slamdunk. It has everything you'd want for a film like this, and all the right ingredients are right here. And it works for the most part, but it never quite reaches the level of awesome it could have. After 2 back to back knockouts with Armed Response and Cyclone, it's hard not to go into this without some rather high expectations. And I did, only to be somewhat let down because this, while not bad, wasn't nearly as good, fun or entertaining as either of those. And you know, I realize they can't all be, especially from a guy who typically directs a good 5 films every single year. You have to expect that they're not all going to be awesome. But it's frustrating, especially with this film, because it could be, so easily. It's all there, yet missing only 1 single thing that really could have made it great, and that one thing being action. Yes. For an action film, it's pretty devoid of it for the most part. Not to say that there isn't any, because there is. In fact, the film begins with a solid action sequence, and ends with an even bigger one that kinda sorta makes up for the lack of it throughout the middle, but it's just not enough and for a film that boasts one of the best B-Movie lineups around, with one of the best covers, from a director who knocked it out of the park with his 2 previous efforts, there just needed to be more. It wasn't bad, but it wasn't badass either.

If you're going to walk away with anything, it will probably be it's excellent B-Movie cast. Seriously, it was just missing David Carradine. Brian Thompson is always a badass, so the guy needs no introduction here. The other lead however, is Kathy Shower, a former Playboy Playmate. She wasn't bad at all, but there's just something bothering me about her in this. In real life, and on this most excellent cover, she has huge blonde hair, yet in the film she wears a short black wig. It's even explained that it's because she's undercover, and there's even a single scene where she actually takes it off for less than a minute, before she puts it back on for the remainder of the film. And it's frustratingly obvious it's a wig, and considering she has this gorgeous big blonde hair on the cover art, it's a bit confusing that she never sports it at all in the entire film, even when she's not being undercover. It was just an odd decision.

This won't become a low-budget favorite the way other recent's like Cyclone, Hired to Kill and Bulletproof, but it was an entertaining watch from a director who's more miss than hit. I was really hoping for B-Movie gold, and sadly it's far from it. Still, there's enough here to give it a watch. Just don't expect it to blow you away.

How to watch it:
As far as I can tell, this has only ever been released on VHS, in a big clamshell edition from Trans World Entertainment, which isn't hard to come across for under $10. Other than that, I've never seen this on any DVD set or as a cheap standalone edition. I've also never seen this on Laserdisc, but I could be wrong.

8.10.2017

Revisiting Die Hard With A Vengeance


Of the original trilogy, I'd always liked this one the least in the 22 years since it's release. Sure I revisit it often for one reason or another, but never near as many times as the first two. My main beef that I'd always had, and still do, is that I just did not like how McTiernan shot this. I didn't like the grittiness to it, and I sure as hell didn't like the over-indulgent and totally unnecessary handheld shaky-cam approach. Yes I know it's a petty complain and criticism, but the visual aspect of every single film I watch plays a huge and significant role in how I will enjoy it. For me, the visuals play just as big, if not bigger, role in how I will enjoy any film. That's why as someone who grew up on films from directors like Russell Mulcahy, Peter Hyams, John McTiernan, Craig R. Baxley and John Carpenter, it's extremely hard to find any solid enjoyment from films directed by newcomers like Pierre Morel, Louis Leterrier and Michael Bay, who's frenetic shaky-cam approach makes me sick both physically and mentally. But anyway, let's dig in.

I remember when this was coming out, how excited I was that the legendary John McTiernan was returning to the series after bowing out and letting Renny Harlin direct the sequel. It was a big deal, because McTiernan has never directed a sequel before. And though I felt he was beginning this new transition to grittier more freestyle camerawork after having seen Last Action Hero, I was still optimistic, hoping he would go back to his roots. But my initial reaction to this was when I realized my worst fears became realized. But as they say, time heals all wounds, so I went into DHwaV with an open mind and I can honestly say that having revisited this again, I absolutely loved it. While I do still feel that McTiernan did a bit too much of the freestyle approach, it actually wasn't as often as I recall. In fact, some of the shots in here are absolutely gorgeous, done in a way that only John McTiernan could do. I've since seen a number of interviews with McTiernan where he says he never wanted to do the same thing he did with the first Die Hard, because that would be boring. So in that sense, I guess I can understand, but I just don't think the handheld approach, and the extent he took it, were all that necessary. There are many moments where the film still looks gritty and dirty, yet with his gorgeous compositions, New York and the action sequences also looked stunning. And its here where I struggle with trying to understand if he could do this, why couldn't he just keep it up for the entire film?? Because for all those slick camera shots, there are just as many nauseating and frustrating ones where it's as if the camera shakes were intentional and not a result of something else. A prime example is a moment when McClane and Zeus are in a car crash, and their car has flipped upside down in the rain. As McClane is running towards the other car that caused the crash, you can't even tell what the fuck is going on because of the overzealous shaky-cam bullshit. It's just frustrating.



As a film, DHwaV is about as great and solid as they come for these types of films. This one literally begins with a bang and does not let up for the entirety of it's running time, and that's really one of the things that makes this a standout among the many Die Hard films. And there's so much action, tension and frenetic energy because it never lets up for a single second. And that's another one of it's many qualities that makes this one a standout among the others. As much as I love the first 2, with Part 2 being my favorite, I can also appreciate and respect what they did with this one, and I think it's this constant frenzy and chaos that helps me look past the shaky-cam aspect. Shooting this film in what looks like the dead of summer heat, in New York City, gives the film an aura of intensity. It's so chaotic and just being in that city at that time gives the film a huge boost of authenticity. Today, I doubt they would ever attempt that as it would be such a monumental effort. It would just be too expensive and too hard, but when you see it here, and it's not another random city substituting for NYC, it's so visceral. Every element just adds to the experience, making it a nonstop barrage of chaos in every frame.

I feel a tad silly for not liking this as much as the others for all these years, when in fact it's quite an excellent entry in the Die Hard franchise, and just as good as the first 2, in a different way. Certainly leaps and bounds better than any Die Hard film that followed. And for me, it's also a special one in that it's the last time Bruce Willis actually looked, acted and dressed like John McClane. When I see him in any of the later films, I don't even recognize him. That's John McClane? It's certainly not the Willis from decades earlier, and it's not the same character either. He's somehow turned into a superhero and it's become a bit unsettling. I know there is talk of a new Die Hard film titled Die Hard: Year One, this time going back to his early years and serving as both a prequel and sequel in some capacity. I hope they can learn from all the backlash the last few films have received. But then again, maybe not, as the director is supposed to be Len Wiseman, who directed Live Free or Die Hard. Sigh.

What are your thoughts? Comment! Let's discuss!

8.09.2017

I Finally Watched Hudson Hawk...

Now here is a film that often comes up in discussions with me. Why? Because as much as I love nearly everyone involved in this production, at the height of their creative popularity, I just can't stand it. I've never been able to get into this one......at all. And I've tried. So many times I've tried, and each time I walk away confused as to why people love this film so much. So when I saw it recently available on Crackle for free, I decided to give it another shot. It's been many, many years since my last visit, so maybe time has softened my feelings a bit and I can finally appreciate it. It's been known to happen.

Nope! Not at all. Again, I walk away confused. Why is this film so dearly loved by those that are passionate about it? I can see what they were trying to do, but it just didn't work. I feel they were trying to go for slapstick silly comedy, yet none of it lands. I sat in my chair cringing at the horrible unfunny bits that were supposed to be funny so often that you'd think I was in a dentist office getting my teeth pulled. I squirmed at every moment when you were supposed to laugh, yet I didn't hate it. There were things that I found amusing, yet not amusing enough that I actually wanted to finish it, because I didn't. I had to stop it a little over half way, but hey! That's the farthest I've ever gone with this one. I was just bored more than anything, and if the film had been this dull and unfunny up until this point, there was just not enough interest for me to keep going.

I will say though that I loved seeing Bruce Willis look like he was actually enjoying himself. He's clearly having a good time here, and I honestly can't remember the last time I thought that. When this was made and released (1991), Willis was the biggest stars on the planet, not just in the action genre, as he liked to mix it up greatly from film to film. At the time, he was turning out 3-4 films a year (that's a lot!), and continues to do so today, making him an incredibly busy working powerhouse. Yet, as I've mentioned before in other posts, I'm just not a fan of the guy Willis has become. He always looks like he's phoning it in, or just acts like he doesn't give a shit anymore. At least that's how I see him. Nothing he's released in the last 20 years has shown a hint of what Willis was doing before then, when he looked like he was having a good time and put in some solid effort. Now he just comes off as bored as he sleepwalks through his roles. I really hope he snaps out of it someday though. I mean, I know he's not the only one. Bronson made a huge career out of being exactly that in the 80's: the older action star who's unemotional portrayals in cop/action/thrillers was the norm. And it worked for him. He basically played the same exact character the same way in nearly every film he was in when he worked for Cannon Films, and it was acceptable. So maybe that's what Willis is trying to do?



As far as the production goes, the film looks great. No expense was spared and you can see it all over the screen. Though I didn't care for the characters, the large ensemble of actors were impressive to me and I genuinely enjoy them in other films. But it's really the behind-the-camera group that kind of throws me for a loop with this one. For starters, it's produced by mega-producer Joel Silver, who at the time was as big as they come and produced nearly every big action classic under the same from Commando, Lethal Weapon and Die Hard, to Predator, Action Jackson and The Last Boy Scout. He also produced a similar film titled The Adventures of Ford Fairlane, which I fucking love to death and find much more successful as a film than this one. He would continue a winning streak, despite Hudson Hawk's box office failure, and would eventually produce the Matrix series.

The screenplay is credited to the legendary Steven E. de Souza (does he really need an introduction?) and Daniel Waters. Waters was responsible for the cult hit Heathers, and who also.......shockingly, wrote The Adventures of Ford Fairlane the previous year in 1990. He would then deliver Batman Returns in '92 and Demolition Man in '93 followed by a few forgettable films and hasn't really stayed all that busy since. Certainly not like he was in the early 90's. Director Michael Lehmann, who previously collaborated with Daniel Waters on Heathers, just doesn't seem the right choice for an action comedy. Nothing he'd done previously (only 2 comedies) would lead you to believe that he can handle the action sequences, and truthfully, while he's not terrible at it, they never deliver a solid punch the way they should. He's just not up to the task and it shows all over the screen. And maybe that's part of why this film just doesn't work for me. Maybe if a more experienced director, someone capable of handling the action, was behind the camera then maybe they could have made a better film. Not a great one, but with some proper editing and action sequences, it could have been passable instead of goofy. After a few comedies, drama's and dramedies, Lehmann would stick to television, where he continues to work today.


I feel that both Hudson Hawk and The Adventures of Ford Fairlane exist in the same universe, yet I'd much rather watch Ford Fairlane any day of the week before I ever give this one another chance. I was completely thrown by how goofy this was. And I'm pretty sure I'm not alone, as it was a huge box office misfire for everyone involved. I guess people going into the theater for an action caper felt misled when in fact, it's a slapstick comedy musical with sprinkles of action and everything is just so over-exaggerated. In the end, Hudson Hawk is a hugely frustrating experience because it fails so miserably, yet most of the right ingredients are all there. They're just not utilized well at all and the film suffers horribly. Too bad. Done right, it could have been something pretty great. Needless to say, most involved with this disaster didn't suffer too greatly as their career's continued to flourish. Though I did read somewhere that producer Joel Silver was the one who suffered the most to some capacity.

Please comment! Let's discuss!

8.08.2017

Quick Shot Review: 80's Horror with Monkey Shines


1988
Directed by: George A. Romero
Category: Horror

This has been sitting in my Hulu Plus list for a while now, but with the recent passing of George A. Romero, I figured now would be as good a time as any to finally revisit this one. I did see it when it was first released in 1988, but I haven't seen it since, so I remember virtually nothing about it. When I learned that this was the film he followed up Day of the Dead with, I was more stoked to see what he had to offer, because he had been on a killer winning streak up until this point. So I was curious to see if that streak could keep going with this. Let's find out.

The answer, sadly, is a big fat no. As excited as we were to revisit this, and how this really could have been something different in terms of horror, which this was clearly marketed as, this just didn't deliver at all in any capacity: visually, emotionally or structurally. First off, it's a drama/thriller more than anything. And even in that genre, there just wasn't any sort of proper tension, thrills or intensity to really generate any sort of reaction from you, the audience in a way that would make you care or feel something. And shockingly, despite it's interesting subject matter, Monkey Shines is surprisingly dull from beginning to end. While the actors do a fine job in their respective roles, there's just not enough to like about this as a whole to keep you invested. We had hoped that the ending would somehow make up for whatever was lacking leading up to that point, but just like the rest of the film, it ends without a bang. Too bad, because we were really looking forward to some solid 80's horror from one of the masters of horror. And that was another issue I had with this. While Romero has never really been the strongest visual director, except for Creepshow, even when he wasn't trying, his films always had a very Romero-esque look and vibe to them. You could just tell it was a Romero film, but with this one, it just comes off as very uninspired and straight-forward. Like anybody could have directed it. You would never know after watching it that you just saw a George Romero film. Interesting note: For the longest time, I could have sworn it came from a Stephen King story. Guess I was wrong.

How to see it:
Currently on Hulu Plus in a beautiful HD print. Be warned, it's pretty dull though. And if you don't like seeing the mistreatment of animals, even in the very slightest, then this movie is not for you.

8.04.2017

Revisiting Brandon Lee's Rapid Fire


1992
Directed by: Dwight H. Little
Category: Action

I'll be honest. I've never thought much about this film. And now that I revisit it, I'm completely thrown as to why that was for so many years. Initially, I just didn't feel that it had much of a badass action vibe to it. I felt that it was too freestyle in terms of style, and I felt that Lee deserved so much better for his first breakout solo film. Because it was directed by Dwight H. Little, who did such a fantastic and highly stylized job with Seagal's Marked for Death just a few years before, naturally I was excited, only to be letdown (at the time), which caused me to ignore this for all these years.

But you know, I'm always willing to give films another chance, which is what I did the other day with this one, only to discover that I absolutely loved it this time around. And I made sure to pay attention to all the things I didn't like about it before, yet somehow this time around I didn't feel the same way. I thought it was a slick looking film (better than my memory dictated), with plenty of action and a highly charming and charismatic lead that we lost in his prime. Furthermore, it's the supporting cast of who's who 90's staples that really makes this work to a much higher level than you'd expect. If nothing else, Rapid Fire is a perfect example of the 90's martial arts action genre, of which there are many great examples such as The Perfect Weapon, Hard to Kill, Marked for Death, Sudden Death and so on, before the genre slowly began to fade away into the DTV market exclusively. But man, what an epic run we had in the 90's.

I think the main thing that really works in this film, even if, for arguments sake, everything else didn't (and it did!!!), was how charming and and natural Brandon Lee was. Even when he's being whinny or a jerk, you still like the guy when he turns on the charm. He's a natural in front of the camera, and more so when he's kicking ass and taking names. Who knows how far he could have gone, or big he could have gotten? At least we have the last 3 films he did, the most important.

Director Dwight H. Little was thick in the middle of his prime when he directed this. Having just begun his career just a few years earlier, he scored big time with the absurd, yet highly entertaining low-budget action film Getting Even (I love this movie!!) in 1986, where he would then segway into the horror genre with Halloween 4 (1988) and the Robert Englund starring Phantom of the Opera (1989), 2 films that I just don't like very much at all, no matter how many times I revisit them. And maybe that's why he decided to go back to his action roots the following year with Steven Seagal's Marked for Death (1990), one of my personal favorites of Seagal's large filmography. So he would seem like a natural fit to deliver another solid action film 2 years later, this time to really shine a spotlight on Brandon Lee, who was finally getting to make a name for himself after a string of low-budget films, the best being the insanely awesome Showdown in Little Tokyo with Dolph Lundgren. It worked, because while not a box office smash, it did gain some cult status and Lee emerged a new rising action star. Of course, we all know his biggest hit would come with his following film, The Crow, and that would be his last.

As much of a fan as I am with how slick Marked for Death looked, I never felt that way about this one, and it's because of this that I always felt it could have been better, which is surprising since Little used the same Director of Photography, Ric Waite, for both films. While I still agree with that sentiment, it's not nearly as bad as I remember. While a bit more gritty than MfD, there are still moments of camera badassery sprinkled throughout and though there is a lot more use of handheld in here than I like, he does a good job of mixing it with really good camera setups here and there. Sadly, Little's next film would be Free Willy 2 (???), followed by the Wesley Snipes thriller Murder at 1600, before heading straight to television work in a variety of genre's, where he's stayed ever since. Hey, at least we have Getting Even, Marked for Death and Rapid Fire that we can revisit whenever we like.

The action is fast and fierce, with enough balance of both gun fights and fist fights to satisfy any fan of either style. And that's really one of the things I liked most about this. There are just as many car chases, explosions, crashes and gun fights as there are martial arts battles, which gloriously comes to a head in the end when Brandon Lee battles legendary badass Al Leong, here having a more significant role than we're used to. While he's not the main villain of the film, he's the big guy Lee has to throw down with at the end and it's fucking brutal and awesome. I don't know for sure, but it looked and felt like Lee either did the choreography himself, or at least helped in designing all of the hand to hand combat scenes, because they're so different from what you would normally see in these types of films. A bit rough, with some interesting techniques all around, yet highly brutal, it showcases Lee's immense physical talents as a martial artist in a different way than you'd expect.

One of the brightest spots about this was it's supporting cast. Powers Boothe is always a pleasure to watch, but interestingly enough, he's not the villain here, but rather a cop who uses Lee's character to his advantage to bring a drug kingpin down. And you'll definitely notice a few other faces like Tony Longo, Basil Wallace (villain from Marked for Death), Kate Hodge, (Texas Chainsaw Massacre 3Nick Mancuso (Under Seige), Raymond J. Barry and more, but the real standouts are the random Asian actors that were constantly used in nearly every one of these films. With this one, I counted 4 Big Trouble in Little China alums (Al Leong, Donald Li, Gerald Okamura and James Lew) in various small roles, but there cold have been more. And you'll know them when you see them, because they were in every action film back then in some capacity.

I really couldn't find anything major to complain about. Nearly every aspect of this production knocked it out of the park. Sure it looks and feels very 90's, but that's also one of it's biggest strengths. Films like this that are made today are highly forgettable. Nothing about them ever stand out, yet here is a prime example of why. Solid score courtesy of Christopher Young, tight fight choreography, a ton of action, a totally unnecessary love-making scene, an eclectic kickass supporting cast, and Brandon Lee delivering the goods as an action star lead. Really, you can't get any better than this.

How to see it:
Plenty of releases in all formats except Blu Ray, which would really be nice. But I'm sure it's only a matter of time. The DVD is surprisingly not common, but not that hard or expensive to get either.

8.02.2017

Bad Movie Night Presents: Turkish Rambo aka Rampage


1986
Category: Bad Movie Night

Soooo you may have noticed that it's been quite a while since I've posted a Bad Movie Night review. It just seems like they're becoming harder and harder to find these days, as I've pretty much tapped out that little niche sub-genre as much as I could. But I know there are still more out there, I just need to find them. Sometimes it's through sheer chance, like with this one. Someone posted an amazing clip from this movie some time back on Facebook, and I immediately set out to track this down, which unfortunately would have to be a bootleg rip since it's never gotten any form of release here in the states. But let me tell you. I was not at all prepared for the insanity that was to follow once I finally sat down to watch this. So let's dig in.

What a weird fucked up movie this was, but in the best possible way. And you'll know what I mean by that right in the beginning, because unlike the U.S. films, Rambo starts the film off by being a murderer, in one of this film's first WTF?! moments, setting the tone for what's to follow. And it also begins with a weird inexplicable barrage of clips and scenes that make absolutely no sense. It's only until halfway through the film do you realize that what you saw in the beginning were random clips of the film strung together in no order whatsoever. A totally random and odd way to begin a film for sure, and done in such a way that you don't even realize that that was the intention until much later on in the film when you begin seeing those very same clips. I'm telling you, Turkish Rambo is spectacularly odd and fucked up.

What really makes this stand out from all the other Rambo ripoff's is that it doesn't follow the story of either First Blood or the sequel. In fact it doesn't even follow the same origin story of the character at all. It's it's own beast, and quite wonderful in a hilariously awful and WTF? way, with it's severe low-budget DYI quality only adding to the experience. Seriously, it looks like it took them a week to make this, and maybe it did? Most of the acting is laughably terrible, with many of the actors (or non-actors I should say) looking directly into the camera at any given moment. Hell, bodybuilder turned actor Serdar, who portrays Rambo, barely utters a word in the entire film, which might be a good thing to hide the fact that he can't act. And guess what? He's actually not bad once he does begin talking. But the one in here who takes the cake is main bad guy Ziya, portrayed by Turkish actor Huseyin Peyda, who looks like an old Hispanic version of Vincent Price. He's hands-down the standout in the film and he's just so angry and over-the-top raging in every single scene he's in for no reason at all that he absolutely steals the show.

If you enjoy entertaining bad movies, or love Rambo ripoffs, you will absolutely love this one. While not as great as the legendary The Intruder, or even the equally great Strike Commando, it's worthy of being in the same league of legendary Badass Rambo Ripoff's and certainly worth tracking down. Invite you're friends, it will surely be a hilariously good time.

How to see it:
This one will take some detective work. Never officially released anywhere in the states, there are plenty of bootlegs you can purchase from a number of online sites like ioffer and sometimes eBay. It might even pop up in it's entirely on YouTube from time to time too. You're just going to have to hunt for it. But trust me, it's worth the effort. I should warn you though, I've never come across a decent print or copy. Each one has been beat to shit, including the one I used to review this film. So good luck. I know Neon Harbor and Dark Maze worked together to release a limited edition DVD run of this some time back, but it's since become Out of Print. So who knows? Maybe someday someone else will take up the cause.

7.27.2017

Luc Besson's Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets

I usually don't do anything on here if it's related to a "new" film, as I like to keep this strictly to older and cult films in general. But after heading out to the theater last night to see Luc Besson's latest film, I felt the need to give you some insight into what to expect from the man who gave us classics like La Femme Nikita, The Professional and The Fifth Element. And I don't want to make this long or thorough, because I don't want to bore you. But I feel the need to because unfortunately this film is tanking big time at the box office, and I fear it will disappear before you've had a chance to see this for yourself on the big screen. And let me tell you, if you ever see this film, it needs to be seen on a big screen. So let's begin.

Valerian is quite possibly one of the most fascinating films I've had the pleasure of seeing this year. Is it great? No. But it's entertaining science fiction done in a way that is rarely ever done, by a gifted filmmaker who's hit-or-miss decades-long career has been largely miss for most of us. Valerian is a slight exception though, as it falls right in the middle of being either bad or great. It's good, with enough going for it that you should absolutely go see this in the theater before it's too late, as a home viewing, no matter if it's in HD, 4K or how big your television screen is, just will not do it justice. This is the kind of film that needs to be experienced, not just seen.



Valerian is a visual feast for the eyes. There's so much magic happening visually that it's hard to take it all in at once, even in the moments where the film slows down (and there are many), the insane amount of detail and kaleidoscope of colors will keep your eyes glued to the screen as your brain tries to process it all. And if there's anything that Valerian will be known for, it's for it's eye candy, courtesy of writer/producer/director Luc Besson. There are moments where Valerian feels comfortably familiar, where Besson gives a sort of faint hint at the magic he created in The Fifth Element, and for brief periods of time you get excited. But these moments are few and far between, because like most filmmakers who have been continuously working for the last 30-40 years, their styles and techniques tend to change, and Besson is no different. Thankfully, he still shoots it fun and it's a beauty to see. It's just Besson working on a whole new level (almost entirely CGI and motion-capture), and it doesn't always deliver. And it's because of this that there always seems to be something lacking, like every action sequence and any bit of excitement just does not pack the kind of visceral punch you would expect, always leaving you a bit underwhelmed. While all the CCI allows Besson to explore things he couldn't before using traditional methods, it also takes away what made his classics so special in the first place, when he had to shoot on film, using practical effects, makeup and sets. But you know, it's a fun movie regardless, despite the fact that critics and reviews are trying to convince you that it's dull and boring, because it absolutely is NOT. There's just too much eye candy happening for that to happen.

For all it's visual beauty, Valerian suffers from a number of problems that keep it from being awesome. For starters, it's terribly miscast. I for one can't stand the lead actress Cara Delevingne. I don't know what it is, but I just don't like her. She comes across as a completely unlikable person in real life, and it's hard to get past that when I see her on screen. And while I think Dane DeHaan is a fine actor, he's just completely wrong as the lead, who's supposed to be a handsome, confident, conceded ladies man. And it hurts the entire feel of the film when these 2 leads, who spend nearly every scene together, just have no chemistry. Not that casting actors bigger, more recognizable and more attractive would have made the film any better, because it wouldn't have. But it would have made their characters more believable as they were written.

Secondly, the film is too confusing and epic for it's own good, starting with the title. After having finally watched it, the title Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets doesn't accurately fit the film. And there's so much information being thrown at you at lightning fast speed that it's impossible to understand just what the hell is going on for large periods of time, on top of the fact that important details are kept hidden until the end, but by that point so much has already happened that it's hard to keep track of every single plot point, so you've already forgotten about things that happened earlier in the film. It almost seems as if this easily could have been divided into 2 or 3 different films, which would have allowed them to flesh out storylines and character development, which might have helped it's overall flow.

If there is anything Valerian will be compared to it will be Avatar, and honestly, that's not a bad thing at all. It won't go down as one of Luc Besson's best, but it's definitely not one of his worst either. While I personally prefer Besson's older style, a la everything he did in the 80's and 90's, it also demonstrates his gift of working with CGI, and I'll admit, he handled it better than most directors today who have been dealing with it for years. He knows the importance of perspective (in regards to distance between the camera and something far away in the background), and does his best at making things look natural in the far background, which most filmmakers forget to do and it drive's me nuts.

I will mention though that this film did contain one really solid surprise, and that's Rhianna's performance. Sure she ends up being a minor character in the film overall, but believe it or not, she did an outstanding job and surprised the hell out of me in her limited screen time. Of all the actors, even the surprise cameo's, she's the one that left the biggest impression, and that's coming from someone who doesn't really care for her. She kind of blew me away in this.

I would highly recommend seeing this on the big screen as soon as you can. It doesn't matter if it's in normal digital, XD or 3D, but trust me, you just won't get the same experience watching it at home, no matter how impressive your setup is. But you better do it soon, because it's not making any money here in the states and will likely disappear within a week or two.

7.26.2017

Documentary Dynamite!: S is for Stanley


If I ever come across anything that has anything to do with Stanley Kubrick, it will always be on my radar, which was the case with this excellent documentary. Currently on Netflix, I threw it into my list where it stayed for a good month until I finally decided to watch it one Sunday afternoon.

S is for Stanley tells the story of Emilio D'Alessandro, who was Stanley Kubrick's right hand man and personal driver for nearly 30 years. When I say right hand man, I mean this guy literally did everything for Stanley Kubrick, and if you know "anything" about Kubrick, you know how meticulous and detail-oriented he was with "everything", and this charming and highly entertaining documentary will give you deep insight into the daily life of one of the most important filmmakers of our time.

This intimate portrait focuses on the lives of both Kubrick and Emilio, who met while Kubrick was working on A Clockwork Orange in 1970, and remained life-long friends in both their personal lives as well as their professional all the way to Kubrick's last film Eyes Wide Shut. It's an incredibly fascinating journey as we hear from Emilio himself as he tells about how he met the eccentric director, and Kubrick's immediate connection to him and their decades plus relationship where Emilio's responsibilities ranged from driving Kubrick to and from everywhere, handling and transporting some of his famous actors, movie props, scripts, to rescuing animals and getting them their medications.


A touching and charming documentary about one of cinema's most gifted filmmakers, writer/director Alex Infascelli keeps things movie along at a brisk pace, giving great insight to productions of Barry Lyndon, The Shining, Full Metal Jacket and Eyes Wide Shut, all while Emilio tells these incredible stories through his eyes. I think one of the best aspects of this documentary is the fact that Emilio saved nearly every single little handwritten note Kubrick would leave him on an obsessive basis throughout the years with tasks that he wanted Emilio to accomplish for the day. It's a great view into how Kubrick's mind works on any given day, and how his brain was always focused on minute little details regarding everything, not just his films. S is for Stanley is a must-watch for any Kubrick fan.

How to watch it:
Currently, I think the only way to find it is on Netflix. I can't seem to find it available in DVD form anywhere in the U.S., though there is one in Italy. Amazon doesn't even have it available to rent digitally either. So Netflix will be your only legit option at this time.

7.25.2017

Quick Shot Review: Death Race 2000

I hate to admit it, but I've actually seen Paul W.S. Anderson's remake before I actually got around to this original version. And what a shame that was, because while I did actually enjoy Anderson's remake (gasp!), this one is far superior in every way. Let's begin.

Directed by bit-part actor Paul Bartel, this film gives you pretty much everything you'd want in a film like this, and it does not disappoint. It's fast, funny in a very tongue-in-cheek sorta way with it's social satire, with tons of action, explosions, car chases, enough fake pink blood and unnecessary nudity to satisfy your craving. It's campy, but in a violent, nasty and gritty way. What's more, the cast is pretty phenomenal. For starters, the legendary David Carradine stars as the main attraction, Frankenstein. And he carries the entire film squarely on his shoulders, and does a magnificent job of it. He's cruel and sadistic, but you can't help but like him because he's so damn charismatic. But I think the highlight for us was hands-down Sly Stallone as Machine Gun Joe. He was such a sight to behold. Angry, violent, misogynistic and so full of over the top rage, I don't think there was a single moment when he wasn't yelling and it was hilarious. He was so fantastic that we kept saying how they should have made a film entirely on his character. Stallone definitely steals the show in every scene he's in.



I think the glue that holds it all together so well is Paul Bartel's slick direction. Campy, yet somehow sure-handed and beautiful. It's hard to explain, but even with such a low budget and minimal location changes, the production design department really went above and beyond in giving the film a retro futuristic look and vibe in every single scene. It's ultra-stylish when you don't expect it to be, and combined with Bartel's direction, Death Race 2000 looks amazing. It's a helluva rip-roaring good time to boot.

7.22.2017

80's Thriller Throwback: Black Moon Rising


Here's a funny story. I revisited this one this past week and as I nearly finished my review, it dawned on me that I might have already done that a few years ago and I just don't remember. I guess that tells you what to expect with Black Moon Rising in general. Anyway, I put in the time to do this, so here it is anyway. LOL

If I remember correctly, Black Moon Rising is the sort of film that kind of came and went with little notice. In fact, it's a film that I'd all but forgotten about for many, many years, until I would randomly come across that sweet cover art. Still, that never made me want to actually seek it out and revisit it. But since I'm knee-deep into the 80's thriller genre, I thought now would be as good a time as any. So let's dig in.

A thief hides important documents in a new experimental car while he's being chased. When the car gets stolen by a career car thief, he must find a way to steal the car so he can steal back his documents, with his life hanging in the balance. 

If you go in with little expectations, you'll thoroughly enjoy this somewhat tame effort. Honestly, it could easily pass for a Made-for-TV movie, but that doesn't mean that it's bad. A bit slow, but still enjoyable for brief images of that sweet car and to actually see Tommy Lee Jones look like he gives a shit and not just phoning it in, which is pretty much all he's done in what seems like forever now, but literally decades in the least. While not terribly exciting, it offers up enough entertainment value to keep you invested through a slick 80's thriller sheen. Casting, score, visuals and tone are all very much 80's, and a product of their time. And that's what makes this particular film so interesting. Had it been made today, it'd be boring as fuck. No lie. Yet it's the very specific time period in which it was made that holds your interest on a visual level. And let's face it, the star of the film is the car, the Black Moon, which just rules on so many levels. Yet for a film called Black Moon Rising, it's shockingly absent for a large majority of the run-time. Still, when it does show up, it's pretty fucking awesome.

In case you weren't aware, this is co-written by John Carpenter, also taking a "story by" credit here the same year he directed Big Trouble in Little China. And honestly, you'd never guess that just by watching it. It doesn't really carry a Carpenter vibe or flavor, but I will admit that had he directed this himself, it would have turned out much better, and certainly more stylish and interesting. Not that director Harley Cokliss is bad, because he's not. In fact, I love his work in Malone, his next film the following year with Burt Reynolds. But while there are certainly moments of pizzazz, there are just as many that are plain uninspiring. And unfortunately the trailer really sells you on the flashy scenes, which makes the film look awesome, but as a whole, it drags quite a bit and never really packs any sort of punch either on an emotional or visceral level. Too bad too, because it has a lot of the right ingredients, just not enough action or excitement to keep it all together. Still, had Carpenter directed it, just his visual eye candy alone would have made this a better movie by leaps and bounds.

7.20.2017

Glow: Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling

Going into the new Netflix show Glow, I had no idea that it was based on an actual all-women's wrestling team from the 80's. I just thought it was some really creative entertainment. In fact, I knew nothing about it going in, other than it was a new Netflix production about women's wrestling set in the 80's. So we went in fairly cold, and ended up loving the shit out of it. In fact, Glow was so damn good that it was hard not to binge-watch the entire season. It's an interesting idea for sure, and the team behind this show effectively manage to mix just the right amount of laughs and drama with brilliant casting and story.

Not knowing anything about this, imagine my surprise to see the impossibly cute Alison Brie "and" Marc Maron, who I just love in his IFC show Maron, which is also on Netflix. The supporting cast of mostly new actors and actresses also impress. I'm not going to get into the whole storyline and possibly ruin any surprises in store, so I'll just leave saying that it's a well scripted show, with just the right balance of humor and drama, full of strong performances and being set in the 80's, it's like nostalgia on crack!


When we finished the show, we were so bummed that it was over and that we have to wait until next season for more episodes, so we decided to keep the Glow vibe going by following up the finale with this excellent doc, which happened to premiere on Netflix before the show did. But again, I didn't know anything about it until I saw the show.

This fascinating doc is just as fun and engrossing as the show, if not more. Here we get to meet the actual real Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling in new interviews as well as vintage footage. They tell their stories about how they even got to be on that crazy show in the first place, what they're doing now and Glow's long lasting legacy and cult status. It truly is one of the most fun documentaries on Netflix right now, even if you're not a fan of wrestling. You don't have to be to enjoy this flashback to the 80's. It's a lot of fun. Check out the trailers for both the show and the documentary below.


7.19.2017

Cutthroat Island Film Review: A Swashbuckling Great Time


1995
Directed by: Renny Harlin
Category: Action/Adventure

I hate to admit it, but the only reason I stayed away from this film was all the bad word of mouth and negative press upon it's original release. It didn't help either that it would ultimately go on to become one of the biggest box office disasters of the century, resulting in the downfall of Carolco Studio's. Nevermind the fact that I actually really loved Renny Harlin's work as a director back then. No sir, I jumped on the bandwagon and as a result, I never saw this film until now. After finally having seen it, one thought keeps running through my mind. "What an idiot I've been".

Despite all my dumb unfounded reservations going in, Cutthroat Island manages to be hands-down one of the most fun experiences watching a film I've had in a long while. Sure I see great films all the time, but it's rare when one can match the sheer budget, spectacle and talent that easily makes this one of the best pirate movies ever made. And I'll be honest, I'm not much of a fan of pirate films. I have seen the first Pirates of the Caribbean, but I quickly learned these types of films are just not for me. So I suppose that could be another reason I stayed clear of this one for so many years. So imagine my surprise to discover that I really, really loved this one.


While it's easy to point figures and nitpick why this film did so terribly at the box office, none of them can excuse it's poor performance, when the reality is that it's quite an entertaining big budget spectacle if there ever was one. And it's all put together like a pro by director/producer Renny Harlin, here doing far more than he's ever proven behind the camera up until this point and since. If there was ever a film that could define just what a director could do with a massive budget, practical effects and stunts and a whole lot of talent, it's this film. Though most would probably consider Die Hard 2 (my personal favorite in the series) his highlight in terms of production, I have to give it to Cutthroat Island just in terms of it's sheer massive audacity. It's truly a sight to behold and when you watch films like any of the PotC for example, this film proves how much harder and just flat out better it was over 20 years ago, when CGI wasn't readily available and they had to do everything practically.

Again, this is all coming from someone who generally doesn't like pirate films, but you just can't deny the excitement, fun, thrills and insane stuntwork provided by Harlin and company with this one. And while there are a scene or two where it's obvious Geena Davis' face has been superimposed on a stunt actress, there are other moments where she's obviously doing the stunts herself and it's mindblowing. Same with Mathew Modine, who also jumps smack into the action himself flying by rope from one ship to another and it's damn impressive. Again, these swashbuckling films aren't for me, but I just couldn't help but have an absolute blast with this.



Is it perfect? No, but it doesn't have to be. Honestly, I only have one single complaint, and it's with the casting of Davis and Modine. Geena Davis is a fine actress, but she seems ill-fitted for the role and just doesn't sell it that well. Yes she handles the physicality of it and never phones it in, but she just doesn't come across as a natural badass. I don't know, there's just something missing and she never quite hits those beats. Mathew Modine comes off much better. While it does take a little bit to get used to seeing him in this kind of film, it's soon apparent that the guy can deliver, and you know, he's likable and charming and it works. And then there's the legendary Frank Langella, who steals the show as the villain, channeling some serious Skeletor vibes a la his turn in Masters of the Universe. So good.

I don't think all the negativity against this film from the onset is fair at all, or even justified. I think you'll find that this is in fact a very fun and well-made film. It's exhilarating, exciting, beautiful and most importantly....fun. Just the visuals alone, courtesy of director Renny Harlin and Cinematographer Peter Levy (Predator 2, Ricochet) will floor you. Though he had already changed his visual style with his previous film Cliffhanger, he would go back to his more signature style that he delivered with Cinematographer Oliver Wood on his classics The Adventures of Ford Fairlane and Die Hard 2 for this film, and the results are incredible! Despite the fact that this was a blast from start to finish, my eyes were glued to the screen and my mind blown by what I was seeing, things achieved practically, on such a grande scale, and somehow, people lost sight of this fact and for reasons I don't understand, this film tanked. Instead of being heralded for it's competently brilliant film work, it was crucified both critically and by it's box office. Too bad, because it was quite an excellent film full of surprises.



The action needs to be seen to be believed. The action sequences presented in here are nothing short of spectacular, with each new one blowing the previous sequence out of the water....literally. The pyrotechnics are insane, with explosions galore left and right, bodies flying, cannon's bursting, ships exploding and guns blazing. But while they're all pretty great, none of them beat the last act, where 2 ships pull along side each other and proceed to blow the shit out of each other, all while hundreds of extras battle to the death using swords, guns, knives and their fists. It's some of the most impressive technical achievements ever put to film, and I just can't stress enough how much of this goes to Renny Harlin's eye. He was on fire here, and though his next film, The Long Kiss Goodnight (1996) would mark the end of his winning streak just a year later, we at least have a handful of classics that have endured the test of time, and that we can learn to rediscover and appreciate all over again.

If there was ever a film that taught me never to judge a book by it's cover, or to heed negative word-of-mouth, it's this one. Despite all the chips stacked against it, Cutthroat Island manages to be quite frankly one of the best action adventure films ever made, and one that needs to be experienced if you've never had the pleasure.

How to see it:
Currently on Hulu Plus in HD, and available from a variety of releases on both DVD and Blu Ray for very cheap.

7.18.2017

90's Thriller Throwback: Flatliners


There are only 3 things I remember about Flatliners. 1, that it was a slick looking thriller, 2, that the cast was pretty great, and 3, that it was one of Schumacher's better films out of his vast and diverse filmography. Outside of that, I remember virtually nothing about this (or so I thought), even though I have seen it before, but it's literally been decades. Thankfully, it's currently available through a number of online streaming services and readily available, so let's dig in.

When a group of medical students, led by Nelson (Kiefer Sutherland), experiment with near death experiments to see what happens once you're clinically dead, their competitiveness drives them to push the boundaries by staying under longer. They soon realize that there comes a price, and dark secrets of their pasts come back to haunt them. But are they real? Or or they hallucinating? 

The first thing I'll say is that Flatliners is undoubtedly Joel Schumacher's most stylish film to date. And this is coming from someone who loves his work with Lost Boys and Falling Down, but here, he's on a completely different level of slick and I can only assume a large portion of this is due to cinematographer legend Jan de Bont's (Die Hard, Basic Instinct, Black Rain and director of Speed) involvement. There was so much style in this that it acts as another character of the film. You're constantly immersed in the vivid colors that bathe each and every frame, and it's these bright colors that gives Flatliners a surreal quality. There are sequences that are awash in a single color, like for example, a sequence of Julia Roberts walking through her house while investigating a strange sound. The entire sequence is bathed in red, and there's no rhyme or reason for it, but it looks amazing. And that's what this film offers, a sort of kaleidoscope of colors and deeply rich in style, giving you a visual experience that will blow you away while simultaneously stimulate your senses.

As a thriller, Flatliners delivers the goods. It's visual eye candy certainly stimulates the senses, but the story keeps things moving at a solid pace courtesy of The Craft screenwriter Peter Filardi. It also helps that the cast is damn near impressive. This is like a dream-team of hot talented young actors in their prime, and if it wasn't for their specific involvement, I doubt the film would carry on all these years as well as it has. Flatliners is successful because of their talents. You imagine a film like this being made today with the actors we have and I can guarantee you that it won't hit the mark nearly as well as this one does, because the 90's were a different time, and an ensemble cast of talented young actors today just wouldn't or couldn't deliver as well.

This film works so well because it was made at just the right time. Schumacher smack in the middle of his creative streak, and the high point of his career, a knockout ensemble cast at the peak of their star-power, and some of the most alluring and impressive camera work to ever grace the genre, courtesy of 2 legends in the field. It really delivers on all fronts, and one of the best things about it is that it doesn't take it's time getting things started. Flatliners kicks into gear from it's very first frame and never lets up, resulting in a wholly satisfying thriller experience via the 90's. It's a surreal visual spectacle ripe with strong performances, style and most of all, substance. So strap yourself in and enjoy the ride.

How to see it:
Currently as of this posting it's available for FREE on the Crackle app, and also on Hulu Plus. You can rent it in HD on Amazon for $3.99 as well. If you need a physical copy, there's no shortage of avenues or formats to choose from. The Laserdisc, VHS, DVD and Blu Ray all come rather cheaply, and it's even included in a number of DVD collections.

7.17.2017

RoboDoc Trailer is Here!!

As you may or may not know, the magnificent documentary team behind the excellent docs "Leviathan: The Story of Hellraiser 1 & 2" and "You're So Cool Brewster!: The Story of Fright Night 1 & 2" have done it again with their new retrospective doc on Robocop called "RoboDoc: The Creation of Robocop"! I've been following the progress of this journey since it's beginning, and though there's still no firm date set for it's release, they decided to release this amazing trailer in honor of Robocop's 30th Anniversary, having been released on this day in 1987. Watch this amazingly kickass trailer and be sure to read some important info below regarding it's release. Enjoy!


TODAY (JULY 17TH) MARKS 30 YEARS of the RoboCop franchise and 1987’s original seminal sci-fi classic movie.
We’re celebrating the anniversary in style!
Here’s the OFFICIAL TRAILER for our upcoming retrospective documentary ROBODOC: THE CREATION OF ROBOCOP. Crafted by our Creative Producer and Editor Eastwood Allen.
This comprehensive documentary promises to explore all things RoboCop and provides an extensive look at every aspect of the original trilogy, plus its ongoing legacy.
We wish to thank our backers, the docs contributors and everyone who has supported us along the way.
Props to our friend BLOOD + CHROME for his sleek end 'RoboDoc' animation.
We want to give a special mention to our recent musical collaborators (featured in the trailer) who are contributing original material to the soundtrack of the doc to coincide with our composed score from Sean Schafer Hennessy.
These guys provide the soundtrack..
Lost YearsSayak StrikerBLOOD + CHROMEProtector 101KalaxArcade High and Timecop1983.
Here's a dose of Robo-nostalgia.
GO ROBO!!

7.14.2017

Silverado Film Review


1985
Directed by: Lawrence Kasdan
Category: Western

I've always been a casual fan of westerns. Meaning, I enjoy them when I come across a good one, but I don't go out of my way to find them. Of course this also means I've missed out on a whole lot of good ones, which I'm only now discovering, because for every Tombstone I've seen, I'm now learning I've missed out on others like Silverado.

Silverado has been on my radar for literally decades. I've always been aware of it, and have always known it was written and directed by Empire Strikes Back screenwriter Lawrence Kasdan, in a time when westerns were slowly fading away from popularity, but I just never seemed to get around to it as the old saying goes. The 80's weren't totally devoid of the genre though, there were a few exceptions like Clint Eastwood's Pale Rider for example, but westerns were few and far between during this decade. When I recently stumbled upon a fun article about this film and it's lasting impact on the genre and it's insatiably fun vibe that still delivers the goods, I felt it was time to finally get off my ass and check it out. And as luck would have it, Hulu Plus just recently added it to their lineup. So let's dig in.

A diverse group of men cross paths in the most unlikely of ways, and head to the small town of Silverado. When injustice is handed down by a brutal sheriff, they band together to put a stop to it.

After finally having seen it, I finally understand it's appeal and almost cult-ish status. Silverado is hands-down one of the best westerns I've ever seen. Ripe with rich character development, an outstanding cast, and a fun vibe that never ceases to please and entertain, Silverado defied the odds and became one of the best, most entertaining westerns ever made.

Kasdan doesn't try to modernize this in any way. It's an old-school western through and through. Nothing is added to give the film any sort of punch. It's the razor-sharp script, courtesy of Kasdan and his brother Mark, and the films insanely talented cast that gives the film every breath of life it needs. And it's flawless, resulting in one of the most enjoyable western experiences ever produced.



The cast is simply fantastic in this, led by the wonderful Kevin Kline and Scott Glen in understated performances. They're soon joined by drifter Danny Glover, who would also co-star in the excellent Harrison Ford thriller Witness and Spielberg's The Color Purple the same year. His character adds much of the glue needed to hold the group together, and to help propel the story along in all the right directions. Kevin Costner joins the fun as a young, childish and naive gunslinger who can't help but act like a rambunctious kid most of the time, but can use a six-shooter like nobody else when the time calls for it. And it's really Costner who steals the show here. I have never seen him act so "lively" before in a film and his exuberance and excitement in nearly every scene shines through, leaving a lasting impression. And it's because of his role here that he would become a breakout leading man the following year with The Untouchables and No Way Out. These are the main players, but it's also the supporting cast that shines so bright, and as much as I want to talk about them, I think I'll just leave it be for you to discover on your own when or if you sit down to watch this for the first time. Let me just say, the constant "holy shit he's in this too?!" I kept yelling throughout the film was just a constant reminder of all the pleasant surprises this film continued to give me.

As great as the script and acting are in this film, attention must also be paid to Kasdan's solid direction behind the camera. The film opens with one of the best openings I've seen in any film from any genre, and it's a very fast indicator of what you have in store for the remainder of the film. Kasdan shoots with restrained precision, but it's also bold and exciting when it needs to be. For all the moments that are beautiful and subtle, there are just as many that are gritty and brutal, but never in an over-indulgent way, striking just the right balance of both. What makes it all the more impressive is that Kasdan had only directed 2 films prior to this, and what he was able to pull off in a genre he hadn't yet tackled before is so damn impressive. Not only did he deliver one of the best westerns ever made, he did so having never tackled that genre before and did a far better job than most who had been stuck in that specific genre for years, knocking it out of the park.



Hands down one of the best film experiences I've ever had, and absolutely one of the best westerns. Every minute was a welcome and pleasant surprise. An outstanding cast, strong script, solid direction and a no-frills approach that lends to an exhilarating experience that builds and builds to a highly satisfying climax.

7.12.2017

Documentary Dynamite!: 24 X 36: A Movie About Movie Posters


2016

I don't know how this one flew under my radar, because movie posters are one of my many passions, and a documentary about just that very thing would have immediately stuck in my head. But alas, I somehow missed this one. And I'm not entirely sure how I came across it now, but it looks like it was released back in 2016, but I guess it's never late than never. So let's dig in.

I think the topic of movie posters, and their ever-changing and evolving style is such a brilliant idea for a documentary. It's a topic that's rarely ever discussed anymore, except when complaining about the prices that any new Mondo release goes for. As for the state of movie posters in general, it's pretty sad, and I know I'm not the only one who really dislikes where they are right now with the big studios. Movie posters used to be an art form, just look at any of them beginning with the 20's going on through the 80's. Each decade offered a different style, but each very much an artistic endeavor, with the work being done in the 80's being a critical and commercial high point. Once we got into the 90's, it all started to change, with photography creeping into the format more and more and hand-drawn or painted artwork going out the window. And it's only gotten worse with Photoshop, where every single new film is either a floating head of the star, or a badly rendered collage of images from the film. Just look at most of Marvel's superhero films. Though I am loving DC's Wonder Woman marketing campaign and their colorful almost art deco approach to her posters, as well as Kong: Skull Island's classic artistic approach.

Personally I found this documentary to be highly enlightening, and thoroughly entertaining. It's not perfect, but a very fun way to spend 2 hours of your life, especially if you're an artist or collector of movie memorabilia. For the most part, I really enjoyed it, but I felt that it devoted too much time to the state of modern-day posters today rather than the art and skill of it in decades past. Meaning, a good chunk of this film's running time is pretty much spent on Mondo and other's like it, which is cool because they are the ones who reinvigorated the "hand-drawn movie poster" movement, but I really would have liked to have learned more about the older posters and their artists, which they do touch on early on, but I guess not enough for my liking.

At the same time it was interesting getting to see in person the artists that I currently follow, some of who's work adorns my walls, and their thoughts on the current movement and where it's headed. It also brings up an issue that I have with these new posters, and that's the flippers who buy the extremely limited quantities out within seconds and immediately flip them around for ridiculous fee's on eBay in a matter of minutes. I knew I wasn't the only one who had an issue with this and I was glad to hear from the artists themselves how it pretty much makes them sick that some asshats (flippers) are only in it for the money and take so much away from the collectors who just want one to hang on their wall, not for profit. It's good that most new companies out there that do the same thing are mass producing them instead of limited runs of 100 like Mondo, that way anyone can get one if they want. I like that idea.

Definitely worth a watch and it's a fun one at that. Just wish so much time hadn't been spent on the current movie poster crisis, and instead focused on the classics and their lasting appeal compared to the over-Photoshopped nightmare we're currently in. But I get it, trust me I do. There's a resurgence and an urgency and art about the movie poster format and it's because of companies like Mondo and others. Hell, I still try to grab one from time to time because some of them are just too badass. One thing's for sure, watching this will definitely get you into wanting to track down some old favorites, or even check out what new artists are doing with them these days.

How to watch it:
The DVD and Blu Ray can set you back roughly $20, which isn't bad at all. Or you can stream it through Amazon in HD.