4.15.2021

Book Recommendation: A Kind of Magic: Making the Original Highlander

 

by robotGEEK

My favorite kinds of books to read these days are books about the making of a movie, and this one hit all the right notes for me. Released in November of last year, author Jonathan Melville takes us on a journey through the entire process of making that landmark cult classic, from the initial concept, through it's many rewrites, to hiring legendary music video director Russell Mulcahy, to the casting of a then unknown Christopher Lambert. There is so much to devour here and it's a lot to take in. In a good way. 

Via Amazon:

The story of an immortal Scottish warrior battling evil down through the centuries, Highlander fused a high-concept idea with the kinetic energy of a pop promo pioneer and Queen’s explosive soundtrack to become a cult classic.

When two American producers took a chance on a college student’s script, they set in motion a chain of events involving an imploding British film studio, an experimental music video director still finding his filmmaking feet, a former James Bond with a spiralling salary, and the unexpected arrival of low-budget production company, Cannon Films.

Author Jonathan Melville looks back at the creation of Highlander with the help of more than 60 cast and crew, including stars Christopher Lambert and Clancy Brown, as they talk candidly about the gruelling shoot that took them from the back alleys of London, to the far reaches of the Scottish Highlands, and onto the mean streets of 1980s New York City.

With insights from Queen’s Brian May and Roger Taylor on the film’s iconic music, exclusive screenwriter commentary on unmade scripts, never-before-seen photos from private collections, and a glimpse into the promotional campaign that never was, if there can be only one book on Highlander then this is it!

As big as this film is to this day, I'm a bit surprised they haven't yet made a full-length documentary on the subject, but as we just passed the film's 35th Anniversary this past March, what better way than to dig into this incredibly insightful book that delivers a plethora of valuable information regarding all things Highlander. And you're sure to learn a number of facts that you weren't aware of before. I know I sure as hell did. Like that fact that Lambert didn't speak a word of English (according to the book) when cast in his career-defining role as Connor MacLeod, or that Clancy Brown was only 25 years old when he was cast as The Kurgan, based on his previous performance as Viktor in the Frankenstein film The Bride the previous year. Also interesting to learn is that Clancy Brown has very strong feelings about his experience making this film, and because of those feelings, has been hesitant to revisit or even discuss the film, even avoiding conventions. A great book all around and a highly entertaining read. 

You can order A Kind of Magic: Making the Original Highlander from Amazon for under $15 HERE

4.07.2021

Review: Godzilla vs. Kong


Sci-Fi Nerds Rejoice!!! 

by robotGEEK

Loved, loved, LOVED THIS!!
There is so much I want to say, but I'll try to keep it short. But it will be so hard, because this was fucking awesome! Firstly, this was filled with so many surprises, not least of which was the much stronger sci-fi element this time around. I was not expecting that. And not just regular sci-fi, but TRON-INSPIRED SCI-FI! What the what?! This was like a sci-fi nerds (🙋‍♂️) neon-drenched wet dream! And a synth score?! It was all too much for my nerdy brain! 😭
I've seen people complain that they thought there wasn't enough Godzilla vs Kong fighting. I counted 4 giant battles, and that's not even including the other sequences of mass destruction and carnage between fights. That's a lot of destruction for a 113 minute movie. And besides, we need the human element to break up the action, or we'd be exhausted. Yea the movie is implausible and ridiculous, but so what? It's fun, stylish and literally delivers on the hype. It's a giant monster movie people. I can pick it apart if I wanted to, but who "wants" to? Unless you just don't enjoy fun movies. It's big, loud, fun and created a world I really was not expecting to enjoy as much as I ultimately did.
Speaking of which, let's talk about the CGI for a quick second. One of the things that turns me off about these big budget films is how poorly they handle the CGI. The last film was nauseating as it felt like a big giant video game. Just because you can zoom the image in and out and swing it around all over the place doesn't mean you have to. It's like they have this amazing tool, and always seem to go in the wrong direction with it. The guy who directed Kong: Skull Island (Jordan Vogt-Roberts) did it right, and better than any director has done so far with these, and that's probably why Kong: Skull Island is still my favorite of all these new films. But here it seems director Adam Wingard (The Guest) took inspiration from Skull Island in not only delivering some stunning visuals/camerawork, but in shooting the action in a way that you can actually see what's happening without getting nauseous, on top of grappling the whole concept of integrating live action with CGI in a way that doesn't look like you're watching Sin City or 300.
This MUST be seen on the big screen. It's something I will correct the first chance I get. It's a big budget spectacle at it's finest, and the trailers did not do it justice. All of my favorite parts were things "not" shown in the trailers, which ultimately gave me lots of joy since I was going in expecting more of the same with 2019's King of the Monsters, but instead got so...much...more.

4.06.2021

The 'Airport' Disaster Flicks Hit TubiTV for FREE!


The 70's Disaster Craze Hits TubiTV!

by robotGEEK

 For those of you who enjoy some classic big budget Disaster Flicks, TubiTV just added all of the Airport films to their streaming site. That includes Airport (1970), Airport 1975 (1974), Airport '77 (1977) and The Concorde...Airport '79 (1979). The 70's were THE decade for disaster flicks, spewing out star-studded classics left and right, such as The Towering Inferno (the crowning achievement), and Earthquake (also on TubiTV for FREE).  

I never got around to the Airport films, but I've been meaning to because I'm a sucker for good ol' fashioned 70's disaster flicks, so this is excellent news. I doubt they're all going to be stellar, but I won't know until I actually watch them. Not sure how long they're available on there, but to my knowledge, they were only barely added so we probably have a good amount of time to get through them before they're taken off. 

As you know, TubiTV offers great content for FREE, but you have to watch commercials. That's a small price to pay for such great, quality content for FREE. In HD no less. ENJOY!

3.19.2021

90's Action Attack!: Martial Law (1990)

 


A Tepid Entry In The 90's Action/Martial Arts Home Video Market Explosion

by robotGEEK

On the surface, this should be a homerun. You have a pretty killer cast of standout 90's character actors, some solid martial arts (none of that slow-mo stuff), and a premise that works for the most part. Yet, despite it's strong opening, the film really fails to deliver on it's potential. 

I think my biggest issue is that there is very little action in here. Sure there are plenty of fights, but they're a mixed bag of quality. Some kick ass, and some are surprisingly lazy and/or flat. And while the fights kind of make up for the lack of action in general, the story could have used some serious tweaking. The film tends to meander aimlessly from the family turmoil at the heart of the story, to a subplot involving stolen cars.  I mean, that's fine and all, but so many of the scenes felt abrupt and look like last-minute filler.

Chad McQueen is fine as the lead and surprisingly capable of carrying the film, but Rothrock, who is easily the standout here, is shockingly underused and undervalued as a badass. It's no surprise that she took the lead in the sequel the following year, which I still need to get to. David Carradine does a fine job as the lead villain, but you're more than likely to be more impressed with the who's who of 90's martial arts character actors who pop in and out of the film such as Professor Tanaka, Philip Tan, Benny "The Jet" Urquidez and James Lew. 

Director Steve Cohen handles everything well enough, and I liked that he chose to shoot the martial arts fast and furious instead of slow-motion. I'm sure there were plenty of moments where he even sped the film up to make the fights look faster. There just really should have been more action overall. A car chase, explosion, shootout.....something. For this reason alone, Martial Law really fails to deliver when it really could have been a standout. It makes me wonder how much better it would have turned out had it been in a studio like PM Entertainments hands. 

I also discovered something that floored me while watching this. Chad McQueen is actually that asshole kid Dutch (with the terribly bleached blonde hair and eyebrows) from The Karate Kid. All these years, I had no idea. 

Martial Law 1 & 2 are available, restored, on Amazon Prime HERE. Both of these films have been recently released on Blu Ray via Vinegar Syndrome, newly restored in 4K and with tons of extra goodies ONLY available through their website and a few indie retailers, and nowhere else. You can grab them HERE while you still can. Limited quantities available. 

3.16.2021

Bad Movie Night: Cruel Jaws (1995)

 

Bruno Mattei's Infamous Jaws Ripoff Lives Up To Every Bit Of It's Legend

by robotGEEK

Somehow, despite my appreciation for Bruno Mattei films, I never actually got around to this one until now. And it's only because it was streaming on Amazon Prime that I finally got the chance to because I never really felt the urge to try and get myself a copy. But boy was I missing out, because Cruel Jaws was just as unintentionally hilarious as we were hoping for. 

This legendary Jaws ripoff is almost a blueprint for how to take a well-known property, steal from it shamelessly, and deliver some of the most hilariously amateurish productions I've ever seen, despite the fact that Mattei had decades of film experience under his belt. Atrocious acting, hilarious dialogue, bizarre camerawork (what the fuck is up with all those weird zooms???), rampant use of shark stock footage, and repeated use of the same footage over and over again makes this Bad Movie Night GOLD. Not to mention there are really crazy looking actors who resemble other actors, like the poor man's Hulk Hogan and someone who looks shockingly like a young Billy Zane. 

It's crazy to me to think that Bruno Mattei (Strike Commando, Robowar) made this in the mid 90's, when it clearly looks like the person behind the camera has never made a movie before in their life! But that's the beauty of this oddity in a lot of ways. There are moments where they blatantly steal the Superman theme song for a few scenes, and if you look closely, they literally steal shots from Jaws! Endlessly entertaining, shockingly inept and unintentionally hilarious, Cruel Jaws was a blast from start to finish. 

In a time when it feels like we've probably seen all of the "so bad, they're good" movies, it's refreshing to stumble upon one that we actually hadn't seen, and was in fact so bad, it's good. 

Cruel Jaws was released on DVD and Blu Ray via Severin Films back in September of 2020, and can be picked up via your favorite online retailer like Amazon HERE. It's also currently streaming on Amazon Prime in HD.

3.10.2021

The Cult Corner: Fletch (1985)

 


Crime Film? Or Comedy? You Must Decide

by robotGEEK

For some reason, I never got around to this one until now. And seeing it for the first time, I was surprised that it wasn't nearly as funny as I was expecting. While it's no dud, it actually plays out better as a crime film than a comedy. While there is certainly attempts at comedy, they rarely ever generate a laugh. At least for me. I hear the books are rather hilarious though. And I will admit that Chase is on fire here and really, had it been anyone else in the role, Fletch would have been completely forgettable. Here you can see him doing a lot of improv, and while they're still not all that funny, they do make the scenes a lot better overall. 

The crime/investigation aspects of the film are what draw you in for the most part, where Chase plays an investigative reporter on the trail of a hot story involving police corruption and drugs. I was genuinely surprised that the film succeeded more in this area than in the comedy, but I think that just goes to show you that Fletch, for all of it's issues, does surprise you. Whether it's a good surprise is up to your mood or taste. As it stands, Fletch was only marginally funny, and the film as a whole only works because of Chevy Chase. 

I hear a reboot is in the works with Jon Hamm? While that idea is interesting, they really need to figure out what genre they're attempting first, because this version certainly wasn't a comedy, even though it's marketed as one. Don't get me wrong. I enjoyed it. It was just a different type of film than I was expecting. Killer theme song by the great Harold Faltermeyer by the way. I mean, it's really great and probably one of the most memorable things about the film. 

3.05.2021

90's Action Attack!: Point Blank (1998)


Die Hard in a Mall 90's Style

by robotGEEK

This is a film that has been recommended to me many times by several different people over the years. I never made the time though. There are just too many movies and not enough time to watch them all. Though, if they had mentioned that this was basically "Die Hard in a mall", then I can guarantee you I would have made much more of an effort to see it sooner. But here we are. I finally watched it, out of the blue, on my own accord, and boy let me tell ya. I wish I had listened to all those people and seen it sooner because this was badass. 

A group of prison inmates, during a prison transfer, break free by killing the guards and take an entire mall hostage. When ex-cop Rudy Ray (Mickey Rourke) learns his brother Joe Ray (Kevin Gage) is one of inmates involved, he secretly infiltrates the mall and attempts to save his brother, while also taking out the other inmates one by one.

Released in 1998, this actually stars 2 alumni's of Michael Mann's Heat from 3 years earlier; Kevin Gage (who played Waingro in Heat) and Danny Trejo (who played Trejo). Gage is actually one of the main leads here, which really surprised me. While Mickey Rourke is top-billed, he really isn't in here anymore than Gage is. And speaking of Rourke, he puts in a really understated performance here. He actually barely speaks, and is just huge, like a linebacker, and ridiculously tanned. Rourke plays the John McLane character, taking out the bad guys one by one in the shadows, like a ninja, and extremely proficient, while also playing Rudy like the strong, silent type. The only time he ever emits an emotion is during 2 different scenes where he cries. Other than that, he's basically a robot here. 

Rourke was fine in his understated way, and Gage was surprisingly effective, but the real standout here is Danny Trejo. Jesus Christ he's a mean motherfucker in this. I mean, he's always been a great bad guy, even though in real life his one of the nicest people you'll ever meet, and uses his fame for good. But man, he is so good at being evil. There's even a standout sequence involving Trejo and easily the weirdest pole dancing scene I've ever seen in my life. It's wild. 

Speaking of Trejo. There are several key moments where he and Rourke battle it out and boy I gotta tell you, those are without a doubt the highlights of the film as these two big buff and tanned guys kick the living shit out of each other.

The film is filled with a surprising amount of well-known character actors (too many to even name to be honest), but with that being said, there is a weak link, and that has to be Paul Ben-Victor, who plays sort of the ringleader of the entire hostage operation. His attempt at playing a flamboyant gay crime boss is odd and so over-the-top that it's completely unrealistic, and not even in a fun way. It just leaves you scratching your head most of the time. 

Point Blank is a true hidden gem from the 90's action era. It's a shame that the title and cover art offers nothing in the way of telling you what kind of film to expect going in, which is probably why I stayed away from it all this time. But I'm here to tell you that it's damn good, and certainly quenched my low-budget action thirst. The action set pieces are incredibly well-done and tight, the acting across the board is good, and it never slows down. I mean, there is a ton of action and it's a blast. 

How to see it:

Last I checked, it was streaming on Amazon Prime, YouTube and TubiTV. 

2.21.2021

80's Thriller Throwback: The Final Conflict: Omen III (1981)


 Sam Neill Steals The Show in This Gem of a Thriller

by robotGEEK

I had completely forgotten about this film until it was mentioned in the excellent doc In Search of Darkness II, which led me to immediately add it to my Netflix DVD list. Late 70s/early 80s horror/thrillers are a favorite genre of ours, and this just goes to show that there are some true gems out there still waiting to be discovered. 

Sam Neill plays adult Damien Thorn, the Antichrist, who's quick rise up in power within the government leads a small group of monks to stop him at any cost. 

Boy, what a treat. First off, Sam Neill is absolutely brilliant as Thorn, hamming it up to 11 and easily delivering one of his most delicious performances ever. Literally almost every moment he's on screen is pure gold. The cast is pretty great all around, but the film really shines with it's brilliant and gorgeous cinematography (courtesy of Phil Meheux and Robert Paynter) and Graham Baker's (Alien Nation) excellent direction. 

As a whole the film is a bit silly, with an insane amount of ridiculous plot holes and questionable decisions of a lot of characters. But really, I tried not to let any of that bother me and just enjoyed it for what it was. And boy, all of it's issues aside, it's a helluva fun ride and a fitting end to the series. My one and only issue was the ending, that was incredibly anticlimactic for a film that build and builds to this finale. Still, what a gloriously cheesy good time. Stunning camerawork, fun performances and some amusing kills make it a fun time all around. You really can't beat films from this period. They're such a rare treat. 

2.20.2021

The Cult Corner: Brainscan (1994)

Brainscan VHS scan courtesy of MorbidlyBeautifl.com

by robotGEEK

A 90's Misfire For All Involved

On the surface, I should love Brainscan. The behind-the-scenes team on this thing is pretty damn remarkable, and it's this fact that forced me to finally sit through this from beginning to end....finally. Written by Andrew Kevin Walker (Se7en, 8mm, Sleepy Hallow), makeup by the great Steve Johnson, a catchy score by George S. Clinton, and directed by a truly underrated filmmaker John Flynn, who's given us some classics such as Rolling Thunder, Best Seller (a personal favorite), Lock Up and to this day, directing one of Steven Seagal's best, most gritty films with Out for Justice. And that's something all of his films have in common- a grittiness that a lot of directors don't pull off very well. But for him, it seems effortless. So to say I was intrigued to see him tackle the horror genre is an understatement. Yet this is the second time I've attempted to watch this film, because the first time I gave up after 45 minutes. But I do know there is a large fanbase for this film, so perhaps I'm missing something? I figured it was worth the trip, even if it ended up being a bad one. 

Brainscan is not a good film on any level. In fact, it's kind of a mess. It's hard to really tell what genre they were attempting here, but it definitely doesn't come across as a horror film all that much. In fact, the R-Rating is really surprising considering the lack of gore. Aside from the very brief flash of boobs, there's not even any nudity. I've seen more nudity in an 80's PG-Rated comedy! 

At times it feels like not much is really fleshed out, especially when it comes to Michael's (Edward Furlong) relationships to his only friend, his absent father and also in regards to the strange (and sometimes creepy) infatuation he and his cute neighbor seem to share with one another. Speaking of Furlong, wow he is just awful in this. I know he was the "hot" item back in the 90's and he was consistently busy with big studio projects, but I'm sorry, he's as wooden as a bedpost and really just comes across as annoying more than anything. He makes it hard to care about anything he's going through when he comes across as a whiny, moody, arrogant teenager. Frank Langella, bless him, doesn't fare any better. Probably his most understated performance ever captured on film, he seems to really not give a shit and puts in as little effort as possible. While on the opposite end of the spectrum, T. Ryder Smith as The Trickster is clearly having a blast. Still not a great character by any means, but he pops in from time to time to break up the boredom and ham it up, which in this case, was a welcome treat.

It's hard to know where to put the blame too. You have so many questions about characters, plot, relationships and motivation, but almost none of them are answered, and that is incredibly frustrating. Maybe Walkers script was more fleshed out and was cut in post? Maybe director Flynn was out of his element, or maybe directing a kid was something he wasn't cut out to do? Maybe the studio enforced edits to make it more commercially viable? I don't know, but ultimately Brainscan is a film who's reputation I clearly do not understand. Maybe it would be different had I seen this originally back in 1994 when I was 18? Perhaps. But watching it for the first time as a 45 year old, I just don't get it. 

Brainscan is currently streaming for FREE on Crackle.com with commercials