1.19.2019

90's Action Attack!: Drive (1998)

This Underrated Action Classic is One of The Best the 90's Had to Offer

by robotGEEK

Steve Wang's Drive is a film I've been itching to see for many, many years. While not impossible to find, it was hard enough that I didn't really try all that hard. Here in the U.S., its never gotten a DVD release, only having been released officially on VHS. I know there were some downloads to YouTube, even in widescreen, but I just always forgot about it. That is until recently, when a friend of mine, Michael Cook from Retro Rocket Entertainment Podcast Network, mentioned it was available on Amazon Prime for free this month, so I took that opportunity to finally give this a watch and boy am I glad I did.

Toby Wong (Mark Dacascos) is a human prototype capable of superhuman speed and strength. When a wealthy Chinese billionaire, the great James Shigeta (Mr. Nakatomi from Die Hard!) wants the prototype destroyed, he sends a hitman and his crew to destroy him. Wong then teams up with an innocent bystander (Kadeem Hardison) to help him escape a nearly neverending pursuit of death-defying chases, fight scenes and explosions.

Released in 1998, Drive comes to us courtesy of Special Effects master (Predator), and sometime director (The Guyver 1 & 2) Steve Wang. Yet for some reason it's never gotten a full blown solid release here, which blows my mind, because it's arguably one of the best buddy/action movies to come out of the 90's. To put it frankly, Drive is fucking awesome. A blast from start to finish, filled with some seriously impressive martial arts action and choreography, along with some killer visuals. 

If there's anything this often-forgotten action classic taught me it's that Mark Dacascos is an underrated badass, and that Steve Wang is a damn fine director. It's a crime he didn't blow up after this as an action director, because the stuff he pulls off here, even in terms of composition, is highly impressive. Frankly, I'm shocked he didn't go on to do more action films. Dacascos though, is such an undervalued martial artist. I mean, I know he's been working nonstop and has appeared in some great things, but he should be a much bigger star than he is. I'm psyched he's going to be in John Wick 3 though, so hopefully that will give him a resurgence of sorts.

Hands down one of the biggest surprises I've come across in the action genre this past year, Drive deserves a much bigger audience. I can't believe it hasn't gotten a bigger and wider release here in the states on any format. Even a DVD would suffice, but as of now, nothing. Here's to hoping it gets a snazzy Blu-Ray release soon from a cult film distributor. Drive is an adrenaline-fueled action cult classic that will blow your mind with it's sheer volume of insane action, stunts and martial arts, with none of the annoying shaky-cam/quick-edit crap that seemed to permeate the market after Taken and The Transporter. Despite it's limited budget, you would never know it. Wang handles the production, visuals and action like a pro, and Drive easily rivals any big-budget action flick that hit our local cinema's at the time. In fact, it's easily better than most of them and Drive is an underrated and underappreciated action masterpiece.

How to see it:
Currently it's streaming on Amazon Prime for free this month (January), and in widescreen to boot. The only physical release we have in the U.S. is VHS. If you have a region-free player, it's been released on DVD in other parts of the planet, though I haven't heard of a blu-ray release yet. But I could be wrong.

UPDATE
Well apparently there was a U.S. DVD release but it's so rare that it's almost impossible to find. I don't know what the quality was on that, the aspect ratio, or what cut it was but it looks like we did in fact get one once upon a time. 

1.03.2019

80's Thriller Throwback: Brainstorm (1983)

It's Time One of the Best Techno Thriller's Ever Made Finally Finds it's Audience

by robotGEEK

This is a film I'd always been aware of, but never thought twice about. That is until I came across a fascinating article about the films tumultuous and troubled production, which always fascinates me about films. Sadly, most people will always automatically associate this film with co-star Natalie Wood's untimely death, which happened during this film's production before she was finished shooting all of her scenes, but really that's just only one of the things that doomed this film from the start if you look into the films history. But guess what? For a film that nearly didn't even get released at all because the studio instead wanted to cash in on the insurance money and claim it a loss, Brainstorm is actually amazing. In fact, it's easily one of the best Techno Thriller's ever made, and one of the best thrillers I've seen in the last couple of years. Brainstorm deserves so much more recognition.

Released in 1983, Brainstorm follows the story of Michael (Christopher Walken), a scientist, who along with Lillian (Louise Fletcher) and a small team, have invented the first ever virtual reality experience where they can not only see what someone else can see, but they can taste, smell and feel those experiences. Naturally, the U.S. government wants to get their hands on this technology, much to the dismay of the team, and a race against time will determine the outcome. 

This insanely riveting film experience comes to us courtesy of special effects legend Douglas Trumbull, who has worked on classics ranging from 2001 and Close Encounters of the Third Kind to Blade Runner. Here he wrote and directed the film (his second directing effort after Silent Running 11 years earlier) and wanted to give the audience an experience unlike anything we'd experienced before by creating something called Showscan, a 60 frame per second process that ultimately was too costly for the studio to try. Basically, Trumbull had these really great ideas for this very special film but nobody to support it. He wanted to do something that gave the audience the same feeling the characters were experiencing while in the virtual reality world. In the end, he was told by the studio that the normal scenes would be shot in 35mm, and the virtual reality scenes in 70mm, which is why the widescreen format keeps changing back and forth throughout the film. In any case, it was a way for the audience to differentiate between the real world and the VR world.

For a guy who had only directed one single film before this, and 11 years prior for that matter, Brainstorm is such a delicately polished looking film. It's the kind of film that looks like someone who's been directing big budget films for years had done, and that's a testament to Trumbull's clear unique vision and talents behind the camera. The film is awash in beautiful modern architecture, splendid visuals, strong performances and some insanely impressive effects work and compositions. Not to mention it's both compelling and riveting, as much as it is entertaining and suspenseful. The fact that I hadn't seen it until now, or that it rarely ever gets mentioned at all just blows my mind. Immediately after watching it I got online to snatch up the Blu-Ray, only to discover it hasn't yet made that leap to HD, which both saddens me but also doesn't surprise me.

This was a time when Christopher Walken was really breaking out into leading man territory. While that didn't really last too long, he surely gives a great performance here, even with his odd mannerisms and all. The scene-stealer in this film though has to be the one and only Louise Fletcher, who plays Michael's lab partner Lillian. She carried such a ferocious spunk that it's impossible not to love her in this and I'm not surprised to learn it was the most fun she had making a film.



Natalie Wood is excellent as well, and so darn cute. It's a shame this would be her last film. Reports state that she hadn't finished shooting all of her scenes so Trumbull had to rework the ending and use stand-in's for certain shots. It is also said that her death was one of the main reasons MGM, going through financial difficulties at the time, was ready to throw in the towel and recoup their loses through their insurance, but Trumbull insisted on re-cutting it. He knew he could save the film despite MGM's insistence that they just scrap it. So seeing as I just loved the film to death as it is, I'm curious how different it would have turned out had they been able to shoot it the way Trumbull initially wrote it without having to change things due to Wood's premature death.

It's a shame and travesty this doesn't get more love, or that most people have never even heard of it. Douglas Trumbull's experience was so heartbreaking and frustrating that he vowed never to direct a Hollywood film again, and he's kept his word. This film experience ruined any dreams he might have had to direct feature films again. Yet, 36 years later, it remains a technical marvel and easily one of the best surprises for me in the last few years. It's a film that invented the Virtual Reality concept before it was ever something that could become a reality, which would still take a few more decades. It reminded me a lot of Michael Chrichton's excellent Looker, as well as John Carpenter's Starman, 2 films I love to death, and I'm incredibly happy to find another film that compares to those gems. If you're looking for something different, smart, classy, clever and downright excellent, give this one a watch. I'm sure you'll enjoy it. Here's to hoping for a Blu-Ray release in the near future.

1.02.2019

Hidden Gems: A Walk Among the Tombstones (2014)


It's Time More People Discover This Gem

by robotGEEK

When Liam Neeson got a huge resurgence following Taken and it's sequels, it seemed like he was in so many copycats of the very film he made famous. And to be honest, some of them just aren't very good, which is probably why I avoided this one in particular. I don't remember the trailer, but I do know that the poster art gave me another Taken vibe.

But I remember a few years ago a fellow friend on Instagram had really talked this one up and I had never forgotten that. When I realized my dad actually owned this, I snatched it for a lazy day watch, and let me tell you, when that day finally came, I was pleasantly surprised at how strong and great this little film is.

For starters, it's not an action film.....at all. So the image of him holding a gun on the cover is a bit misleading and unnecessary. Yes he fires a gun in the film, but rarely. The reality is that this film is actually a detective thriller, more in line with the old private eye films that were so popular once upon a time. And that's one of the films many surprises.

One of the best things about this film is it's surprisingly strong cast. I won't get into the all of them and spoil it for you, but there were a lot of surprising faces in here, with Stranger Things and the Hellboy reboot's David Harbour being at the top of that list. But of course, none of that works unless you have somebody strong enough to carry the film and Liam Neeson is up to the challenge. In fact, it's effortless for him. You can say he's pretty much playing his character from Taken, just without the close combat fighting and gun battles, and it would be true. But he's just so damn good at it!

From it's very first frame, to it's last, AWAtT is a visual feast. Writer/director Frank Scott (Logan, Minority Report, Get Shorty) give the film a slick noir-ish, yet contemporary vibe that almost acts as a character on it's own. Either Scott did his homework, or he had this film planned out in his head from the beginning because it's one of those films that is just as visually stunning as it is gritty within the private eye genre. It's rare (these days anyway), where a filmmaker spends just as much time on the visual tone of the film as they do on the story. In that respect, AWAtT is a rare treat indeed.

Easily dismissed and all but forgotten, this one might surprise you if you're looking for something with style, substance and entertainment value. A sleek detective noir flick that gives Neeson plenty of opportunity to shine, and boy does he ever.

11.29.2018

80's Thriller Throwback: Tightrope

A Class-A Suspense/Thriller That Needs to be Recognized For it's Brilliance

by robotGEEK

Here's another in a long line of Eastwood flicks I never got around to until now. No real reason really, I guess I just never heard anything about it and when I rely on word of mouth rather than critical response, films like this can slip through the cracks. And it's a shame, since this is easily one of my new favorite Eastwood flicks.

Based in part on the Golden Gate Killer case (which at the time this was made wasn't solved), Tightrope tells the story of a New Orleans cop on the trail of a serial killer and rapist. When the killer starts targeting and taunting Wes Block (Eastwood) and his family, things start getting increasingly dangerous. 



I really and thoroughly enjoyed this one a lot. I'm always weary of thrillers because if they're not handled properly, they can really fall flat, even if the story is strong. In the wrong hands a tight thriller can easily turn into a doldrum drama. But thankfully, writer/director Richard Tuggle (screenwriter of Escape from Alcatraz and director of the underrated 80's thriller Out of Bounds) is up to the challenge and not only does he deliver the goods competently his first time out as a director, but even manages to surpass my expectations at nearly every turn.

At times feeling like a standard cop procedural, and at others like an 80's horror slasher, it's in the craftsmanship that sets this one apart. Eastwood does a fine job as per usual, where he doesn't really seem to have to try anymore at this point. He just always seems like he's naturally playing Harry Callahan no matter what other film he's in. But the film keeps a pace that never gets tedious or dull, and Tuggle's slick visuals often surprised me. The constant jazz score, in keeping with the New Orleans vibe, only adds to the films sleazy undertones and subject matter, making it feel all the more real and uncomfortable.



Rumors are that Eastwood would often take over directing duties when Tuggle took too long, which sounds pretty accurate when knowing Eastwood's fast method of filmmaking. He was pretty hands on with Michael Cimino on Thunderbolt & Lightfoot I hear, oftentimes making him only do a few takes and not the many, many that Cimino has been known for. And to be honest, I can feel Eastwood's hand all over this. So much of it "looks" like it was shot by him, because his previous directing effort was the excellent Sudden Impact, and this film looks and feels a lot like that one, which is a good thing.

On a final note, as I mentioned earlier, this story was inspired by the Golden State Killer case, which was still happening at the time this film was made and was known as The Bay Area Rapist at the time. Considering that the case wasn't solved or cracked (that would take a few more decades) at the time, the similarities are strikingly incredible. Even more so when you find out the specifics of the case today and who the Bay Area Rapist/Golden State Killer was. It's crazy and fascinating.

Tightrope is a slight departure for Eastwood, where I can only imagine the subject matter being a bit risque and controversial at the time, and the film is all the better for it. It's easily one of Eastwood's best films and now one of my personal favorite from his filmography. Here he plays a deeply flawed person, who struggles with his own demons and impulses, walking the Tightrope as they say.

Richard Tuggle would only direct one other film after this, the highly underrated and sadly forgotten Out of Bounds in 1986.

11.10.2018

Blu-Ray Review: Deadbeat at Dawn (1988)




Jim Van Bebber's notorious, blood-drenched cult classic Deadbeat at Dawn rises again on the advent of it's 30th anniversary, newly restored for the first time on Blu-Ray. Fully locked and loaded with a raft of new extra's, see Deadbeat as you've never seen it before - in all it's head-busting bone-crushing glory!

The very definition of DIY, independent filmmaking (VanBebber quit film school and used the remainder of his student load to fund the production), Deadbeat at Dawn surpasses it's low-budget origins to create revenge movie that delivers more thrills and bloody spills than all of Chuck Norris' films combined.

Deadbeat at Dawn is one of those films that you never stop hearing about. Released in 1988, it immediately became a cult classic and has remained one of the most sought after tapes ever since. If you ever stumble upon one of these rare and hard to find VHS tapes out in the wild, you pretty much struck gold. Since it's initial VHS release, it's gotten a few DVD releases which also don't come very cheap, and it's cult status continues to grow.



Now the fine folks over at Arrow Video have released the definitive version we all need to have. The new transfer brings out all the vivid colors on the shot on film classic. We also get a healthy dose of extras to dig into, so let's get started.

Goose (Jim VanBebber) has a girlfriend who wants him to quit the gang life. When he does, the gang leader of The Spiders doesn't like it, and orders his girlfriend murdered. When Goose discovers who was responsible, he's hellbent on revenge and formulates his revenge during the gang's big bank heist.

What can I say? Deadbeat is fucking awesome. After finally having seen it, I certainly understand the love for it. And I can tell you, had I seen this when I was a teenager, it would have supercharged my love and desire to become a director. You see, in my early teens through my early 20's my friends and I made an insane amount of home movies in the horror and action genre's. For as long as I can remember, I always wanted to be a director. It was my biggest passion, next to comics. Of course that desire fizzled the older I got, but man, had I seen this film back then, I'm pretty sure I would have done anything to get there.

You see, Jim VanBebber not only made this film, but he literally did almost everything in it. Credited as writer, director, star, editor, makeup effects artist and stunts, VanBebber's blood sweat and tears are all over every inch of this celluloid. He may not be the most natural actor, but he's really trying. You can tell. And besides, it's not his acting chops that you're interested in. No sir, because once the film hits the halfway mark, it turns into a balls to the walls action flick that will blow your mind with just how the hell he was able to pull it all off considering it's pretty much a DIY flick. I mean, it's incredible, and I can kick myself for not having seen it sooner.

SPECIAL EDITION CONTENTS
• Brand new 2K restoration from original film elements, supervised and approved by writer-director Jim VanBebber
• High Definition Blu-ray (1080p) presentation
• Original uncompressed PCM mono audio
• Optional English subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing
• Brand new free-wheeling audio commentary with Jim VanBebber (’Goose’, The Ravens’ Gang Leader), actor Paul Harper (’Danny Carmodi’, The Spyders’ Gang Leader) and guest Cody Lee Hardin, moderated by filmmaker Victor Bonacore (Diary of a Deadbeat: The Story of Jim VanBebber)
• Jim VanBebber, Deadbeat Forever! – a brand new retrospective documentary on VanBebber and the Deadbeat legacy by Filmmaker Victor Bonacore, featuring first-time interviews, super-rare footage, VanBebber’s college films and much, much more!
• Archival 1986 behind-the-scenes documentary – Nate Pennington’s VHS documentary on a failed Deadbeat shoot
• Outtakes, newly transferred in HD
• Four newly-restored VanBebber short films – Into the Black (1983, 34 mins), My Sweet Satan (1993, 19 mins), Roadkill: The Last Days of John Martin (1994, 14 mins) and Gator Green (2013, 16 mins)
• Jim VanBebber Music Video Collection, featuring never-before-seen Director’s Cuts
• Chunkblower – promotional trailer for an unfinished Gary Blair Smith-produced gore-soaked feature film
• Extensive Image Gallery – Never-Before-Seen Stills!
• Reversible sleeve featuring newly commissioned artwork by Peter Strain
FIRST PRESSING ONLY: Collector's booklet featuring new writing by Scott Gabbey and Graham Rae

For a film shot on video in full frame 30 years ago, the fine folks over at Arrow did a bangup job with the transfer. The stark grittiness contrasted with the strong vivid colors are a sight to behold, with the almost pink hued blood-drenched chaos only adding to it's magnificent color scheme. The extra's are where the real magic is though. On top of a slew of his short films, the full length feature documentary Diary of a Deadbeat is worth the price alone, but you also get a healthy dose of other extra's to dig into so really, it's a no-brainer. If you're into cult films, this is a must buy.

10.27.2018

Blu-Ray Roundup - October Edition: Schlock, Torso, Twelve Monkeys and Distant Voices, Still Lives

SCHLOCK (1973)

John Landis' 
First Film Comes 
to Blu-Ray

A LOVE STRANGER THAN KING KONG!
From writer/director John Landis, the mind behind The Blues Brothers and An American Werewolf in London, comes a love story that transcends the boundaries of nature and good taste – the one and only Schlock!
Carnage! Terror! Banana skins! The mighty prehistoric ape Schlocktropus has emerged from hiding to embark on a full-scale rampage across a quiet Southern Californian suburb. The police are baffled. The army is powerless. The body count is rising. But when Schlocktropus encounters a kindly blind woman (Eliza Garrett, National Lampoon’s Animal House) who sees beyond his grotesque visage, the homicidal simian is presented with a chance at redemption...
Shot over twelve days on a micro-budget, Schlock launched the careers of both Landis and legendary effects makeup artist Rick Baker (Videodrome). An uproarious pastiche of monster movies, packed to the gills with irreverent humour and biting satire, Schlock serves as the outrageous missing link between the creature features of yesteryear and its creators’ subsequent varied and celebrated careers.

BONUS MATERIALS:

• 4K restoration of the film from the original camera negative 
• High Definition Blu-ray (1080p) presentation 
• Original lossless mono soundtrack 
• Optional English subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing 
• Audio commentary by writer/director John Landis and makeup artist Rick Baker 
• New video interview with author and critic Kim Newman 
• Birth of a Schlock, a 2017 video interview with John Landis 
• Archival video interview with cinematographer Bob Collins 
• 1972, 1979 and 1982 US theatrical trailers 
• US radio spots 
• Reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Graham Humphreys
 FIRST PRESSING ONLY: Illustrated collector’s booklet featuring new writing on the film by Joe Bob Briggs

Schlock hits on October 15 from any number of your favorite online retailers. 

TORSO (1973)

Sergio Martino's Bloody Classic Comes to Blu-Ray With 2 Cuts!

TORSO is hailed by both Tarantino and Eli Roth as director Sergio Martino’s masterpiece. And its electrifying denouement, elevated to the level of Hitchcock, is their avowed inspiration!
 
Made after his uber stylish Strange Vice of Mrs Wardh & All The Colours of the Dark, here Martino goes deeper into sexually-charged giallo thereby becoming one of the genre’s most iconic exponent! 
 
Luscious students, whom we can only assume are studying for a PhD in stripping, head off for a vacation. Luckily for fans of psycho sexual thrillers, a black-gloved saw-wielding killer has followed them to their sapphic retreat and starts effective slayer multi-tasking by mutilating his way through a cast of hot beauties.. 
This new HD restored version is presented in its most complete form ever, anywhere, with unique new English rebuilds, finally doing justice to this Giallo masterpiece.

• Brand new 2K restoration of the film from the original camera negative by Arrow Films
• High Definition Blu-ray (1080p) presentations of both versions of the film: the 94-minute Italian and 90-minute English cuts
• Original lossless Italian and English mono soundtracks*
• English subtitles for the Italian soundtrack
• Optional English subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing for the English soundtrack
• New audio commentary by Kat Ellinger, author of All the Colours of Sergio Martino
• New video interview with co-writer/director Sergio Martino
• New video interview with actor Luc Merenda
• New video interview with co-writer Ernesto Gastaldi
• New video interview with filmmaker Federica Martino, daughter of Sergio Martino 
• New video interview with Mikel J. Koven, author of La Dolce Morte: Vernacular Cinema and the Italian Giallo Film
• 2017 Abertoir International Horror Festival Q&A with Sergio Martino
• Italian and English theatrical trailers
• Reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Adam Rabalais

FIRST PRESSING ONLY: Illustrated collector’s booklet featuring new writing on the film by Adrian Smith and Howard Hughes

Torso releases on October 30th

DISTANT VOICES, STILL LIVES (1988)

Winner of the International Critics’ Prize at the 1988 Cannes Film Festival, Terence Davies’ feature debut heralded one of Britain’s finest filmmaking talents.

Loosely based on the director’s own family and upbringing, Distant Voices, Still Lives presents an evocative account of working-class life in Liverpool, England during the 1940s and 50s. Births, marriages and deaths – and an expressive use of music – provide the underpinning for a film that is beautiful, heartbreaking, resonant but never sentimental.
Now regarded as a masterpiece of British cinema, and boasting a startling performance from Pete Postlethwaite (Romeo + Juliet, Inception) as the head of the family, Distant Voices, Still Lives has been treated to a glorious 4K restoration by the British Film Institute.

• Brand new 4K restoration, carried out by the British Film Institute
• High Definition (1080p) Blu-ray presentation
• Original stereo audio (uncompressed LPCM)
• Optional English subtitles for the deaf and hard-of-hearing
• Commentary by writer-director Terence Davies
• Interview with Davies
• Interview with art director Miki van Zwanenberg
• Theatrical trailer
• More to be announced!
• Reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Jennifer Dionisio

FIRST PRESSING ONLY: Illustrated collector’s booklet featuring new writing on the film by critic Christina Newland plus archive essays

Distant Voices, Still Lives was released on October 23rd

TWELVE MONKEYS (1995)

"The Future is History"

Following the commercial and critical success of The Fisher King, Terry Gilliam next feature would turn to science fiction and a screenplay by Janet and David Peoples (Blade Runner, Unforgiven) inspired by Chris Marker’s classic short film La Jetée.

In 1996, a deadly virus is unleashed by a group calling themselves the Army of the Twelve Monkeys, destroying much of the world’s population and forcing survivors underground. In 2035, prisoner James Cole (Bruce Willis, Die Hard) is chosen to go back in time and help scientists in their search for a cure.
Featuring an Oscar-nominated turn by Brad Pitt (Fight Club) as mental patient Jeffrey Goines, Twelve Monkeys would become Gilliam’s most successful film and is now widely regarded as a sci-fi classic. Arrow Films are proud to present the film in a stunning new restoration.

• Brand new restoration from a 4k scan of the original negative by Arrow Films, approved by director Terry Gilliam
• DTS 5.1 Master Audio
• Optional English subtitles for the deaf and hard-of-hearing
• Audio commentary by Terry Gilliam and producer Charles Roven
• The Hamster Factor and Other Tales of Twelve Monkeys, feature-length making-of documentary by Keith Fulton and Louis Pepe (Lost in La Mancha)
• Extensive image galley
• Theatrical trailer
• More to be announced!
• Reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Gary Pullin

FIRST PRESSING ONLY: Illustrated collector’s booklet featuring new writing on the film by Nathan Rabin and archive materials

Twelve Monkeys was released on October 18th

A Second Look: Predator 2 (1990)

It's Time we Recognize Predator 2 is Awesome

by robotGEEK

I've always loved this movie. I remember going to the theater back in 1990 with my best friend and just loving it. I also remember having a rad Predator 2 poster up on my wall for what felt like forever because it was a film I honestly and truly loved during it's initial run. And being roughly around 14ish when it came out, I was completely unaware of the backlash it received, and the negative critical reception. It was only when I got older did I learn all that stuff, which surprised me because while it was a pretty different experience than the first film, I still enjoyed the hell out of it regardless.

I would find myself revisiting this over the next 28 years sporadically, and it wasn't until my recent revisit just last week that I really, honestly and truthfully appreciated it for what it was. It just hit me like a sledgehammer this time out. It was something that I've kind of always known, but never really understood fully until now. And that is that Predator 2 is fucking insane. Literally right from it's opening frame, Predator 2 begins with an insanely chaotic battle sequence smack in the middle of the streets of LA, and the film never lets up from that first 20 minute bloodbath...not for a single second.

What follows is a series of seemingly random sequences after another that seem to one-up the one beforehand in it's sheer audacity, and what could easily have become a forgettable sequel to a pretty great film, has stood the test of time to become arguably one of the greatest sequels to a popular action franchise. Who knew!? I know most people who dismissed it initially have fallen in love with it for the first time since it's release, and those who've forgotten about it since their first viewing, have fallen in love with it all over again too. It's just one of those films that while never finding it's core audience at first, has only grown stronger with age, and those who dismissed it as an inferior sequel all those years earlier, are now realizing that it really wasn't all that bad. In fact, it's a blast, especially when you consider all the crap Predator films released afterwards....Predators not withstanding.

I still think Danny Glover was such an odd choice for the hero lead, but I can understand if the executives didn't want to go with an obvious choice of a big, hulking muscular badass to follow in Arnold's footsteps, instead going in a slightly different direction. But still, I never would have chosen Glover for the role. Not that he's bad, because he's actually pretty great in it. He just doesn't seem to be a proper fit in the grand scheme of things. Luckily he's surrounded by a pretty stellar cast that only makes you appreciate the film even more every time you watch it.



The legendary Bill Paxton, Gary Busy, Ruben Blades, Maria Conchita Alonso, Robert Davi, Adam Baldwin fill out this killer cast, and the one and only Kevin Peter Hall returns in the role of The Predator. I mean, if that's not a dream cast straight out of the 90's, I don't know what is? And they're all bringing their A-Game to the table, making it even more badass. If there was any weak links in here, it might be Maria, who just sort of looks out of place here, but that could just be me.

Let's not forget that incredible ending either! Remember, this was before the AVP films, and that ending with the little Alien Easter Egg and the reveal of other Predators for the very first time in a finale was pure geek heaven. I mean, can you remember that moment when the other Predators make their presence known by uncloaking? I specifically remember sitting in the theater as a 14 year old, and just yelling out "No way! Wow!", and just loving every second of that final act.

Director Stephen Hopkins was a relative newcomer to Hollywood. Having directed the Australian thriller Dangerous Game in 1987, he transitioned to both horror and Hollywood with 1989's terrible A Nightmare on Elm St. 5: The Dream Child, easily one of the worse entries in the entire series. And that's not really his fault. I mean, it's an awful script, and he didn't have a hand in actually writing it, so at least he was able to offer it some solid visuals, but it's a good thing that travesty didn't derail his career because he would follow that up the following year with this gem. And I have to give the guy credit, he handles the action sequences and just the entire spectacle of it all flawlessly. For a guy who hadn't ever done a big budget film before, he handles it like a pro, while also giving the film a slick aesthetic that makes it look much more polished and professional than you'd expect coming from a guy who hadn't really yet proven himself in Hollywood. Of course, we all remember that infamous "on air" bit when actor Ruben Blades was doing a live Good Morning America interview when Hopkins rudely and abruptly grabs Blades and pulls him away to start shooting. Hopkins received so much hate, backlash and even death threats that he had to go back onto Good Morning America the following day to apologize on air about his behavior and the incident.



Of course, I'm well aware that not everyone digs this entry and I know for a fact a whole lot of people just flat out despise it, but I think what works in its favor is that it's just so damn nuts, never slowing down to take a breath, beating your eyeballs with seemingly random sequences filled with killer action, a fantastic cast, over the top scenario's and a love it or hate it vibe that is easily one of the best examples of why 90's action films were so great to begin with. Whether it was intended to be taken as a serious action film or not, the result is arguably one of the best times you'll have with a film of this type, and it's easily stood the test of time.

10.20.2018

90's Action Attack!: Crime Story (1993)

This May Very Well be One of Jackie Chan's Best, Most Underrated Films

by robotGEEK

Like everyone else, I grew up on a healthy dose of Jackie Chan films in the 80's. While they were pretty hard to find back then, I still somehow managed to come across a few here and there. But when Rumble in the Bronx exploded in the U.S. in 1995, distributors took the opportunity to cash in on his popularity and started releasing a lot of his older and most recent films for fresh fans. That's how I discovered a lot of his previous films for the most part, because this was before the internet was in every household and eBay hadn't yet been the go-to place for films like this. Anyway, I'm getting off track.

Released in 1993, Crime Story is a hard-edged action packed detective action/thriller about a cop named Eddie Chan, who tries to uncover the truth behind a recent kidnapping and ransom of a high profile businessman. Soon Chan learns that there may be more to the kidnapping that he initially thought. 

I have to say, I fucking loved Crime Story. I didn't watch any trailers and didn't read anything going in beforehand, essentially going in cold, not knowing what type of film to expect, and that might have been a blessing because I was constantly surprised at every turn and literally blown away by it's sheer force. Make no mistake, Crime Story is a powerhouse of a film in every regard. Add to that the fact that when you consider that most of Chan's films carry some sort of comedy, the fact that this one didn't have any of that, and was a straightforward action/thriller was a nice and welcome surprise.



Part 90's John Woo shoot-'em-up, and part detective thriller, this film was a constant stream of surprises for me. The action and stunts were insanely balletic, much in the way John Woo's best films are orchestrated, and the intensity that builds up to a fever pitch in the second half is nothing short of exilerating. This may very well be one of my favorite Jackie Chan films now, and much like his insanely underrated The Protector (1985), Crime Story is a shockingly overlooked gem.

But I get it. I think a lot of his fans prefer his action/comedies rather than these hard-boiled action/thrillers because honestly, they're a lot of fun. I mean, I enjoy them too, because they really are a blast for the most part. Hell, he even segued that into a bustling career in Hollywood 3 years later with his incredibly popular Rush Hour franchise. Yet, if I were to be honest, I think I love his serious action films the most, and though I've only seen The Protector and now Crime Story in this genre, I'm excited to dig into his Police Story franchise next.

It's a shame his more serious films don't get the same amount of love his comedies do, because he's quite a good serious actor. Just check out his recent and excellent U.S. film The Foreigner if you need a reminder. I'm sure his natural tendencies lean towards comedy, but man he can sure deliver a helluva great serious performance when he needs to, and Crime Story see's him kicking a whole lot of ass and taking names in the quest for justice.



One of the things that surprised me that there was very little martial arts in here. I'm not complaining though, because it left room for some seriously badass car chases, shootouts and explosions. The pyrotechnics in this this is insane! But when the martial arts does make an appearance, it's goddamn brutal as fuck and makes the fight scenes that are here all the more special.

Crime Story is easily one of my new favorite Jackie Chan films now, and despite it's lack of having a badass reputation, it's wholly deserving of one. Full of suspense, crazy action sequences, and some of the best fight scenes of his career, Crime Story is begging to be discovered.

How to see it:

I'm sure there are numerous releases of this film on virtually every format, but my money is on the Shout! Factory 2-pk Blu Ray, which you can pick up for relatively cheap. Not only do you get this excellent film, but you also get my favorite Chan film The Protector, the shockingly overlooked James Glickenhaus (The Exterminator, Shakedown) classic. 

On top of that you also get a healthy dose of extras for both films (including the Jackie Chan cut of The Protector as a special feature), and most importantly, they're in glorious HD. You really can't beat a deal like that for the money, so what are you waiting for??

You can pick up this badass Double Bill at a great price on Amazon HERE.

The Cult Corner: Gladiator (1992)

This Grossly Underrated Boxing Flick Deserves Another Look

by robotGEEK

Following his action packed cult classic Road House, director Rowdy Herrington followed that up with this under-the-radar gem that came and went with little attention during it's initial theatrical run. I do recall renting it often on VHS, as did a whole bunch of my friends, yet all these years later, nobody ever talks about it. And to be honest, I have completely forgetten about this one myself. That is until Crackle threw it on this months lineup, and I immeidately jumped on it. So let's dig in.

I'll just make this short and sweet. Gladiator was awesome. It delivered in every way that made it such a memorable experience, and after finally getting to revisit it, I'm shocked it doesn't get more love.

Beginning with Herrington's exceptional visuals, Gladiator is a feast for the eyes. Shot during the winter cold in Chicago, IL, the film makes life in Chicago look miserable, yet visually haunting. Herrington teamed up with cinematographer Tak Fujimoto (Silence of the Lambs), and the result is an exquisitely dark and gritty film, much like Silence of the Lambs, where the visuals tell just as much of the story as the writing does.



I think one of the most endearing aspects of this film is it's surprisingly powerful script, courtesy of Karate Kid creator and screenwriter Robert Mark Kamen, who's also a frequent Luc Besson collaborator who also helped create and write the Taken and The Transporter franchises. On the surface it's a pretty straightforward story about loss, betrayal, friendship, revenge and redemption, but it's in Kamen's clever and heartfelt script that ties it all together so effortlessly, without wasting a single minute of needless exposition. The film plays out smoothly with no hiccups, never missing a beat and culminates in such a satisfying finale that I wanted more.

While James Marshall (Twin Peaks) won't win any best actor awards here, he does a helluva job as the lonewolf lead, a kid plucked from his suburban upbringing and dropped into ghetto hell where his "white boy" image makes him stick out like a sore thumb. If I'm not mistaken, this might have been the only film Marshall starred in, which is surprising because there's a quality about him that you don't see very often in actors who climb their way up from supporting roles. It's a shame he didn't get to go onto bigger and better things, because he has the goods. He just needed the opportunity to prove it.

While Marshall was pretty good in the lead, it's in the supporting roles that Gladiator really shines. For starters, there's the one and only Robert Loggia, here playing the "sketchy recruiter", who does a fine job constantly yelling and being aggressive. The real highlight though is Brian Dennehy, as the man in charge of the underground boxing ring, who easily shifts from charming to ruthlessly brutal in a wink of an eye. I've seen plenty of roles with Dennehy, most recently in the pilot episode of the excellent 80's cop show Hunter, and I always seem to forget how great he is as the villain, even though he mostly plays a villain.


If you're in the mood for a great flick with heart, action and plenty of style, give this one a shot. It's a severely underrated gem that seems to have slipped through the cracks of sports films that benefits from both raw and incredibly seasoned talent that ultimately is better than you expect going in.

How to see it:
Released on VHS and DVD, which you can pick up really cheap, it has yet to get a Blu Ray upgrade, which it could really benefit from since it's a visually arresting film. Currently it's streaming for FREE on Crackle this month (October), in HD, so I'd take that opportunity before they get rid of it by next month.