10.12.2018

80's Action Attack!: Remo Williams

This Blue Collar James Bond Action Adventure Should Have Ignited a Franchise

by robotGEEK

Remo Williams is one of those films that didn't quite blow people away when it was first released in 1985, but has since gained a strong fanbase in the preceeding years through multiple releases on various formats, most recently by Twilight Time on Blu-Ray. But the fact of the matter is that ultimately, Remo Williams: The Adventure Begins should have been better.

Based on a series of books titled The Destroyer, Remo Williams was intended to kickstart a new franchise of blue collar style James Bond films, even going so far as to hire frequent James Bond director Guy Hamilton (Goldfinger, Live and Let Die) to helm the film and another Bond regular, screenwriter Christopher Wood (Moonraker, The Spy Who Loved Me) to write. Yet, it never really comes together very well and never gets as exciting as you hope it would be. It's a real shame too, because on the surface, all of the right ingredients are here, most importantly an incredible Fred Ward, who breezes through the role effortlessly, like he was born to play it.



Fred Ward plays a New York cop who's recently been "officially" listed as deceased, who's been recruited by the U.S. government to be a top secret undercover agent for the president. Trained by a Korean martial arts instructor, and given a new identity, Remo resists the transition at first, only to be faced head-on with it when trouble comes looking for him. 

I'm not gonna lie and say I didn't enjoy it, because I did. Very much in fact. It definitely possesses a unique charm and style that is hard not to fall in love with. This is big budget James Bond-style filmmaking done in a practical way that you just don't see anymore, and because of this, Remo Williams is a feast for the eyes. There's certainly a good amount of action, and some impressive stuntwork to boot, but it still tends to fall flat periodically, never really seeming to recover gracefully. And I do have some issues, like for example, Craig Safan's (The Last Starfighter, A Nightmare on Elm St. 4) score, which shifts from synth to big orchestra so frequently (sometimes in the same song) that it's jarring. While I can certainly understand the need for a big, loud, catchy theme, which it does have, I have to admit that I much preferred the heavy synth sound of the other songs and wish they'd have just stuck to that instead of throwing in that theme song every 5 minutes.

And then there's the casting of Joel Grey (who reportedly turned down the role of Chiun numerous times), under heavy makeup, as the Korean master Chiun. I mean, he was good, but it baffles me that they cast an American in a Korean role and put him under so much heavy makeup to look Korean, rather than just hire an actual Korean actor. That just doesn't make any sense to me, but Hollywood in the 80's was anything but PC.



As I said before, Fred Ward is just the best here. Much like his work in the underrated classics Cast a Deadly Spell and Miami Blues, he was just born to play this role and he really is a goddamn national treasure. He should have been a much bigger star than he was. Sure we all know who he is, even the most casual of moviegoers, but he should have been much bigger, and starring in films, rather than typically playing second fiddle to the lead. Here he plays a sort of Joe Schmo blue collar character who has a knack for reacting on impulse aggressively, and putting his foot in his mouth. Even when learning a whole bunch of new incredible talents that defy the laws of gravity and even logic, he still talks like someone you would hire to rough someone up for a few dollars, rather than a hero for the U.S. president. But despite that, Ward is a marvel here, and really makes the film as enjoyable as it is and it's a treasure to watch.

Director Guy Hamilton handles the action scenes well, in a straightforward serviceable approach, without much visual flair, but at least they're consistent and never strays towards the lazy handheld manner, thankfully. I think part of the issue with the film is it's pace, where you're given an action sequence, only to have it stop temporarily for one random reason or another, then picks back up to finish the action sequence, only by now it's left you a bit underwhelmed. This happens more than once and it gets old fast.



Overall I enjoyed it, and I can understand why some really love it. I don't see myself revisiting this often, which is probably why it took me decades to come back to it. For me it felt like a missed opportunity and it should have been a lot better. It has all the right ingredients for sure, everything's here. It just wasn't utilized efficiently in the end. I have been known to change my mind often though, so maybe my next revisit will be the time when I connect with it. Or maybe it won't.

10.05.2018

Bad Movie Night Presents: Seven (1979)

Andy Sidaris Delivers Another Bad Movie Night Classic, and it's Time People Finally Discover This Forgotten Gem

by robotGEEK

While Andy Sidaris films are generally hit or miss, when he hits, he hits big time. And there's no better example than his legendary Hard Ticket to Hawaii, arguably one of the best "So Bad, It's Good" movies out there, and a helluva great time in the action/trash department. Seriously, if you've never seen it, gather some buddies, crack open some beer and enjoy the ride. Trust me, you'll thank me.

Seven tells the story of 7 hitmen, recruited by ex-CIA agent Drew Savano (William Smith), who in turn was hired by the FBI, to take out 7 gangsters in Hawaii who have taken over Hawaii's drug trade. 

Seven was such a blast of 70's nostalgia thrown smack in your face like a sucker-punch. While the story tends to get a little too convoluted for it's own good, it always seems to get back on track either through random nudity, or an unintentionally hilarious action sequence. And really, these are the things we come to expect from Andy Sidaris, and he does not disappoint. In fact, I'd go so far as to say this is easily one of his best films, and the fact that it's rarely ever mentioned just blows my mind.

Released in 1979, this would mark Sidaris' second full length feature, after 1973's Stacey. Not sure why it took 6 years to do another film, but in the interim, he did a little bit of televsion work. Of course, Seven would pave the way for the type of film Sidaris would become famous for in the 80's, and it's pretty much everything you've come to expect from the trash auteur, only with a strong 70's vibe.

William Smith has made a name for himself in a string of bad guy roles in the 80's and 90's, so it was a bit odd to see him here as a not necessarily the bad guy, but not really a good guy wither. I must say though, his hair and outfits should star in their own movie, because they deserve it. And if this was from '79, and he was already looking old, how old was he then if he continued to play tough guy bad guys throughout the 80's?

While the large and eclectic cast of nearly every race, ethnicity and stereotype is plentiful here, the real standout for us had to be Playboy model Susan Lynn Kiger, here as part of the team of 7 hitmen, and um hitwomen, to take down the 7 drug bosses. Curvy, sexy, tall and oh so incredibly gorgeous, every second she was on screen (often either nude or something incredibly skimpy), made us audibly yell out "damn!" every single time. It's a shame she only appeared in a handful of films before calling it quits in '82. Thankfully there are plenty of pictorials to browse through of her on the internet.

Andy Sidaris fills Seven with so much ridiculous situations, over the top scenerio's, action sequences, nudity, and truly bizarre dialogue that it's damn near impossible not to have a blast with this. While it's true that there might be a tad too much exposition in here, it's thankfully done in a way that makes it easy to take in and get through until you get to the good stuff, of which there is plenty.

Without wanting to give too much away here, I'll just leave it at this and implore you to get out and grab this treasure of a film. If you're a fan of Andy Sidaris in his prime, or just a fan of Guns, Boobs & Bombs-style films in general, you won't want to miss this. It's a blast!

You can purchase Seven directly from the Kino Lorber website HERE, or from any number of online retailers for under $20. It comes with a bunch of trailers, reversible cover art, and a few audio commentaries.

Blu-Ray News: Albert Pyun's Nemesis Gets the Blu Treatment Via MVD

by robotGEEK

And here's yet another bit of great releasing news. Albert Pyun's sci-fi/action cult classic is coming to Blu Ray for the very first time in the U.S. courtesy of MVD Rewind Collection. While it has gotten a Blu release already in Germany and the U.K., this will be it's first time getting the HD treatment in the U.S., which is great news for those of us who love this movie to death. Another great addition to this release is that it will be in widescreen, something not available to us in the U.S. on DVD or VHS. It was available in widescreen on Laserdisc, but that's a harder format for a lot of fans to come by because it can be pretty pricey. So outside of that release, this will be the first time a lot of you can finally enjoy it in it's proper aspect ratio, which is a big deal since it's easily one of his most visually impressive films, made at a time when he was really just knocking out cult classics left and right.

I can't begin to tell you how happy I am to learn that so many of Albert Pyun's classics, some incredibly hard to find, are finally getting the respect and recognition they deserve. Most of his films came and went with little attention, no doubt as a result of their lackluster releases, most of which were usually in full frame, and some still damn near impossible to find.



Here are the specs courtesy of MVD Rewind Collection:

Final Artwork for "Nemesis" (SLIPCOVER IS LIMITED TO FIRST PRESSING ONLY... once it's gone, it's gone) and update in regards to the bonus features (which are still subject to change)...

DISC 1 - Blu-ray (This will have the main feature in both aspect ratios and the new interviews / featurettes). 

DISC 2 - Will be a DVD with alternate cuts of the film and archival features.

• High Definition Blu-ray (1080p) presentation of the main feature in both 2.35:1 and 1.78:1 aspect ratios
• Audio: English 5.1 Surround, English 2.0 Stereo, French 2.0 Stereo and German 2.0 Stereo
• Audio Commentary by Albert Pyun
• English SDH and German Subtitles
• Director’s Cut of the film (SD, 1.33:1) [87:49]
• Japanese Cut (SD, 1.33:1) (w/ Japanese subtitles burnt-in) [95:49]
• NEW! 2018 Interview with Eric Karson (HD)
• NEW! 2018 Interview with Olivier Gruner (HD)
• Introduction by Albert Pyun (SD, 2:19)
• Introduction by Olivier Gruner (SD, 3:13)
• Afterword by Albert Pyun (SD, 0:48)
• 'Making Of' featurettes (SD, 5:58, 7:13)
• Interview with Olivier Gruner (SD, 2:18)
• 'Making Of - Stunts & Effects' (SD, 2:43)
• 'Making Of - Visual Effects' (SD, 1:41)
• 'The Saga' featurette (SD, 7:26)
• 'Killcount' featurette (SD, 2:26)
• Behind the Scenes Photo Gallery (SD, 3:00)
• Key Art Photo Gallery (SD, 2:20)
• Trailers and TV Spots (SD)
• Collectible Mini-Poster

Note - Must give credit to David Wilkinson fromDrawing Board Entertainment for the cover and slip. GREAT work!


This is slated for a December release, and you can pre-order this bad boy over at Diabolik. As you can see, it will be a DVD/Blu Ray combo, and comes packed to the gills with extra's, including a mini poster. Put your pre-order in now!

Blu-Ray News: The Hitcher (1985) is FINALLY Coming to Blu!

by robotGEEK

That's right! Robert Harmon's 80's cult classic is finally getting the HD treatment for the very first time courtesy of the German company Nameless Media. No details to announce as of yet, but just the fact that they were finally able to do this after decades of people begging literally every other company, is such fantastic news. I'm not entirely sure why it's taken this long but word is that the owner of the rights always demanded too much money. I don't know if that's true or not, but that's what the consensus is, so the fact that these guys were finally able to get the ball rolling is music to our ears. With no list of extra's or specifics to announce yet, it has been confirmed that it will be getting a brand new 2K transfer and will come with 5 different covers to choose from (pictured above).



The Hitcher on Blu Ray has easily been the Holy Grail of HD releases for so many of us. Released here in the U.S. on VHS, Laserdisc and only one single time on DVD, it's a film that is so visually impressive, with so many of this film's camerawork and cinematography just being flat out stunning, much in the same way Russell Mulcahy's Razorback was, which in itself is another underrated cult classic thriller, that it never got the truly special release it deserved was so frustrating to so many of us. The one DVD release we got was in widescreen (thankfully!), but it was a pretty sub-par transfer, and it had zero extras. So you can imagine why fans of this classic such as myself have been waiting many, many years for an upgrade. The fact that it's finally happening almost seems unreal, especially considering more well-known companies such as Arrow, Shout! Factory, MVD and Kino Lorber weren't able to secure a deal. Stay tuned.....

A Second Look: Predators (2010)

It's Time We Appreciate This Classic

by robotGEEK

With the release of Shane Black's The Predator hitting theaters a few weeks ago, I decided to revisit the earlier Predator films (not the 2 AVP films) since it had been a long time since I'd seen them. More specifically, I wanted to revisit Predators, the quasi-Robert Rodriguez film that I didn't really care all that much for initially. I didn't hate it, but I didn't love it either. I just found it to be alright. The two things I did walk away with were thinking that director Nimrod Antal (Vacancy) did an outstanding job shooting this, and that Adrian Brody, while an unusual choice, really did a badass job as the tough, no nonsense, unemotional hero. I was curious just where I was going to fall with revisiting this. Would I love it? Or generally feel the same?

I loved it. It's a far better film than it gets credit for, and especially after the mess that is The Predator, I think more people will look back fondly on this easily dismissed, and often forgotten sequel. I'm just gonna say it. The Predator was awful. I can't believe it's from Shane Black, a writer/director I admire greatly, and Fred Dekker, who gave us some incredible classics in the 80's. To put it simply and shortly, The Predator looked and felt like a Disney or Marvel (Yea I know Disney and Marvel are virtually the same company) Predator movie. I felt the humor felt too forced and rarely ever worked, and while most people that did like the film state that they felt it was enjoyable enough (their words, not mine) and that it didn't take itself too seriously, I feel those are the reasons why it failed so miserably with the end result. I don't want to get into it anymore, but ultimately, I just wasn't a fan and found it to be easily the weakest in the entire Predator franchise, and this is coming from a Die Hard Shane Black fan. But moving on.


Predators was originally conceived while Rodriguez was making Desperado, and when the studio's passed on his take (which was ultimately pretty different from what we got here), they reached out to him many, many years later and wanted to go back and make that film he pitched to them all those years earlier, to try and re-ignite the franchise. Only Rodriguez would not write or direct it this time out, instead handing over the directing duties to Nimrod Antal, and the writing duties to Alex Litvak and Michael Finch, both of whom had never written a screenplay before. Instead, Rodriguez would stay on as producer and insist that it be filmed at his Troubleshooter Studio's, so he can have more creative control. To be honest, I think this was a wise choice as Rodriguez just isn't the badass director he once was. And I attribute that to his shift to digital filmmaking. When he made classics like Desperado and From Dusk till Dawn, hell, even The Faculty, he shot those on film, and they're easily 3 of his best films. Once he converted to digital, and began using shoddy effects work consistently and a whole lot of green screen, the quality of his films took a sharp downward spiral and outside of Planet Terror, I really have no desire to see any of his films. As much as I loved the fake Machete trailer and concept, when I saw the actual film, I was again seriously let down by it's poor use of bad CGI and lackluster filmmaking. It just didn't flow well and came across as half-assed and rushed, with a whole lot of shoddy effects work. So handing over the directing reigns to Antal was a brilliant move in my opinion.

Predators works because it's simple, yet effective. There are so many nods and references to the first film that at times it almost feels like a direct remake, Predators follows the same tone and structure (more or less) to satisfying results. The cast, production value, effects, practical effects and action sequences are all great. In fact, this 2010 release really felt more like the kind of sci-fi/action film that would have been released in theaters in the 90's. It looks that good compared to the handheld/quick-edit crap that was flourishing in the 2000's that I hate so much. Visually, Predators is a feast for the eyes and you won't find a single lazy handheld shot in the entire film.

It's a shame that director Nimrod Antal's career never took off after this, because based on his work alone here, he has the makings of a great action director, yet his career just sort of stalled. No doubt it's because of how poorly received this film was generally, but Antal has the goods and I wish he had been given more opportunities to prove it.

The eclectic cast is pretty ace here, full of a bunch of badasses and weirdo's to keep things interesting, including the one and only Danny Trejo who's screen time was far too short, yet delivered one of the most memorable performances. But it's Adrian Brody who leads the charge and handles the role like a pro. Reportedly packing on 25 lbs of muscle to his thin frame (it's noticeable), he grunts, grumbles and chews his dialogue and scenes like a true hardened action pro, and definitely left an impression on me.

While it's true this film borrows so heavily from the first film that it oftentimes feels like characters, dialogue, sequences and even it's structure are lifted right out of Predator, there are also enough differences to make it it's own. So while the film feels awfully familiar at times, it's still a fun experience and a far better film than it's reputation has allowed. But most importantly, for me anyway, Predators is one helluva great looking film, so give it a watch and maybe this one will help ease the pain felt with the new one while it's still fresh in your mind.

9.29.2018

Blu-Ray Review: Albert Pyun's Blast (MVD)

Terror Has No Limits 

by robotGEEK

Highly prolific and legendary filmmaker Albert Pyun has always been one of my all-time favorite directors. Some of his films are among my absolute favorites, and while I haven't seen every single film he's ever made, as I continue to dig through his vast filmography, I come across true gems like this overlooked action film from 1997.

Recently released on Blu-Ray for the first time via the MVD Marquee Collection, Blast is literally what the title implies. It's a blast of pure fun and action done in a "Die Hard in an Olympic Swimming Pool" scenario and it's far better than I expected going in for a number of reasons. For starters, this is hands-down one of the best looking and most polished Albert Pyun films I've ever seen. Pyun's visual style and aesthetic changes so frequently from film to film, and that's one of the things I love about him. He'll never be pinned down to one specific visual style, but if I were to pick, I'd have to say his visual brilliance with films like Nemesis, Cyborg, Dollman and Hong Kong '97 are my absolute favorites.

Another positive aspect is it's impressive cast, mostly of Pyun regulars, but always a pleasure to watch and always bring their A-game. Andrew Divoff (Wishmaster, Another 48 Hrs.) as the villain ringleader is a hoot (like he always is), but then there's also Rutger Hauer as an eccentric wheelchair bound Native American counter-terrorism expert who guides our hero Linden Ashby (Mortal Kombat) through dismantling the bombs in the building via radio, kind of like the way Sgt. Powell does with John McClane in Die Hard. Tim Thomerson (Trancers, Dollman, Near Dark), Thom Mathews (Return of the Living Dead), Vincent Klyn (Cyborg), Yuji Okumoto (Karate Kid II) and even a young Shannon Elizabeth (uncredited) as one of the swim team hostages round out the cast, though I'm sure you'll spot more notable faces here and there. In short, the cast is awesome. I think the only real weak link is surprisingly the star, Linden Ashby, who just comes across as a grumpy, moody and totally unlikable guy that you find hard to connect with in any way.



There are more than a few nods to Die Hard in this, so I'm not going to get into them all here, but let's just say it played a big inspiration for a lot of what happens in the film. But I really feel I need to touch on just how great this film looks. Not in the sense that it's being released on Blu-Ray, but just in Albert Pyun's compositions. As much as I love Pyun and watch his films quite often, if I didn't already know going in, I would never have guessed this was a film directed by him. It's easily his most professional looking film, complete with all the bells and whistles you come to expect from big budget action films of the 90's, and honestly, looks like any big budget "Die Hard on a" style action film that could easily have played in your local theater. The cinematography alone is impressive, but it's in the editing, sound design, score and in the way he can shoot most of the film within a single structure and still make it look interesting and flawlessly stylish. I'm shocked he wasn't hired to direct big budget theatrical action films after this, because this could easily compete with them. Or maybe he did and he turned them down? I don't know. But what I do know is Blast is awesome from any angle and a true hidden gem of a film. His style here reminded me a lot of what Peter Hyams was doing with Van Damme in the 90's with Timecop and Sudden Death. It looks that good.

I honestly only have one single complaint, and that's the lack of blood on screen. I know, it's a weird thing to complain about, but it was hard "not" to notice that in all of the shootouts (of which there are many), you never actually see someone get shot, a squib or even blood, making it almost feel like a PG rated action film. So while there's a whole lot of action, most of the violence happens off-screen. It's just a weird thing to realize considering who's making this, when so many of his films are filled to the brim with onscreen violence.

Written by Albert Pyun under the alias Hannah Blue, Blast was released the same year as Mean Guns and Crazy Six, and the three films couldn't look and feel more different from one another. But that's part of what makes his films so special, never delivering the same type, or quality, of film and always trying to re-invent himself or experiment when he can. He may not always deliver a winner, but you can't ever say he was pigeonholed into the same style, type or genre of film. He's all over the place and that's what makes him so special.

MVD is fast becoming one of the best distributors of hard to find, under the radar films on Blu-Ray, in many cases having films released for the first time since their one and only release on VHS before being forgotten. If their recent release of the Van Damme classic Lionheart is any indication, their quality is nearly unmatchable. I hope they dig further into Pyun's large and eclectic filmography and release more of his insanely hard to find, and in some cases, never released, films for the first time in HD, and most importantly, in widescreen. I say that because it's no secret that most of his early films were impossible to find in their proper aspect ratio's for decades. I even read an interview with him once where he stated that was on purpose, because the person who controlled the rights to a lot of his early films intentionally released them in full frame out of spite. I may be wrong, but I'm pretty sure I read that somewhere because it stuck with me at a time when I was always frustrated that I could rarely ever find a Pyun film, who's always been a visual filmmaker, in widescreen. Thankfully, all these new Blu-Ray releases will always come in widescreen and Blast takes full advantage of this format, with Pyun filling every single frame with beautiful imagery that was severely lost in it's cut full frame ratio on VHS.

MVD's 1080p transfer is really impressive here. Not only did they fix it by releasing it in it's true widescreen 2.35:1 aspect ratio, the image quality is fantastic. The film comes in it's original stereo audio 2.0 (uncompressed PCM). Sadly, this release has zero extras, save for a few trailers. No subtitles or audio commentary included either. It's a bare-bones release, which accounts for it's cheap retail price. Blast does come with a cool slipcase though.

Hands-down one of the best hidden gems I've seen this year, and easily one of Albert Pyun's better films. Strong and impressive cast, ace visuals and a mile-a-minute pace makes for a really fun action viewing experience all around. You can pick up Blast from any number of online retailers for roughly $20.

9.27.2018

80's Action Attack!: Rent A Cop (1987)

by robotGEEK

With the passing of Burt Reynolds recently, I used it as the excuse I needed to finally check this one out. I've been meaning to for ages, but never got around to it for one reason or another. So here we are, finally digging into a film that generally gets no love, that both Liza and Burt have called one of the worst films they've ever made. But I tend to love the films that others hate, so I went in with an open mind. Let's dig in.

Released in 1987, the same year as his cult classic Malone, Rent-a-Cop tells the story of Tony Church, an undercover cop who retired after a drug bust-gone-bad and is now working as a security guard and Rent-a-Cop. When a prostitute (Liza Minelli) is being hunted by the killer of that drug bust, she hires Church for protection. 

Rent-a-Cop starts off incredibly strong, where we witness this undercover sting operation go south when a motorcycle helmet-wearing bad guy (James Remar) storms in and kills everyone in the room, escaping with the drugs and money. Sadly the film doesn't maintain that momentum and kind of veers off into an entertaining, yet meanderingly tedious second act, before recovering by the third act, ending in a satisfying finale in the same tone that the film began.



I think a lot of the issues come from television director Jerry London, who just can't make the film look interesting, despite his best efforts. It looks and feels like a Made-for-TV-Movie (even Jerry Goldsmith's score screams TV work) and it's such a shame, because it does have some good things going for it. For starters, the opening and ending are pretty great, and the cast is pretty remarkable and surprisingly badass. James Remar plays the helmet wearing bad guy, who is also a dance instructor (there's even a hilarious sequence of him practicing in a studio), but then there's John P. Ryan (Class of 1999, Death Wish 4, Avenging Force), the legend Bernie Casey, Richard Masur (License to Drive, Shoot to Kill), Dionne Warwick and even a "blink and you'll miss him" Michael Rooker in the beginning. So it's not a total loss. The cast makes it enjoyable enough to sit through while you're waiting for the action to kick back in.

If Burt hated working on this film (he stated this was a time when he literally took any job he can get), you'd never know it. He's charming, sometimes funny, and a total badass when the situation calls for it, and really makes the film watchable for his involvement alone. Liza, on the other hand, was a pain to endure. She's just so damn annoying in this from the very first second she appears onscreen to the very end. I could hardly stand her and if there was ever a reason "not" to watch this, it would be because of her.

Another issue is that this film was an Italian production, shot mostly in Italy, with all of the voices dubbed in post. It's painfully obvious with most of the actors except for Burt, but most hilariously noticeable with Michael Rooker's brief moment in the beginning when he's dubbed by someone else entirely. Liza and Dionne Warwick are the worst at dubbing their own voices though and are pretty cringe-inducing. I guess Burt and James Remar must be used to it already and know how to do it correctly.



While Rent-a-Cop might qualify as a mess of a film, it's not terrible either. The film both starts and ends incredibly strong, and it's supporting cast is especially impressive and well worth checking out for alone. Burt is in top form delivering a damn fine performance, while Liza is incredibly annoying. But their chemistry is undeniable and in an odd way, makes the film a bit more lighthearted than you'd expect. Thankfully, a strong first and last act bookend a less than satisfying middle, but sometimes that's okay.

How to See it:
Released on VHS, Laserdisc and a cheap bare-bones DVD, Rent-a-Cop has never gotten an official widescreen release here in the states. And honestly, it doesn't matter, because it's such an uninteresting and visually unpleasing film that full frame will work just fine. I've seen a few uploads on YouTube of the full film as well, so you can certainly go that route too.

9.25.2018

90's Action Attack!: Demolition University

The Demolition Franchise Continues With This "Die Hard on a School Field Trip", Courtesy of Witchboard Director Kevin S. Tenney

by robotGEEK

I have to admit, these Demolition films are pretty fun for what they are. While I really didn't know what to expect with the first one, Demolition High, I found it to be an entertaining "leave your brain at the door" type of film that's easily a Die Hard ripoff with Corey Haim as a new transfer student at a high school when a group of terrorists take the school hostage. Naturally Haim implores his New York upbringing to outsmart them and take them down one by one. Directed by legendary low-budget king Jim Wynorski, it was ultimately better than I expected, with a killer cast (Jeff Kober is the villain!) and a fun vibe. Sure it's silly, but it's surprisingly competent and a fun easy way to spend your hour and a half.

Released a year after Demolition High, Jim Wynorski's friend (and fellow low-budget king himself) Kevin S. Tenney (Witchboard, Night of the Demons) takes on the sequel, this time taking place partly in a college, as our hero is once again put in a situation where he must take down a band of terrorists during a school field trip.



While not as entertaining, engaging or as well made (more on that later), it's still worth a watch. At a brisk 90 minutes, there are worse ways to spend an hour and a half of your life. It seems that director Tenney, once revered within the horror community in the 80's for his horror classics, and even delivering a kickass action flick in 1990 with the criminally forgotten Peacemaker, just doesn't have the touch anymore. While the film looks "okay" for the most part, it's in the action scenes where the film really starts to fall apart. Nothing flows smoothly, with the editing, choreography and camera setups looking downright amateurish, which blows my mind considering how much I love Peacemaker, which is full of nonstop action and insane stuntwork. I don't know what happened here, but none of this looks or feels like the same Kevin S. Tenney who made a handful of classics before this.

Still, it's not a terrible way to spend your time. You get Haim (also a producer on this) looking healthy and charming, Amy Dolenz being impossibly cute, and so many cliche's that you can't help but enjoy the ride. It's so silly (more so than Demolition High), and shockingly amateurish that it almost ends up being a parody.



While not as good as the first one, it's not terrible. Well yea, it's terrible, but at least it's terrible in a semi-fun way. Robert Forster is a welcome addition to this mess as a no-nonsense general, as is original SNL cast member Laraine Newman and Khrystyne Haje from the classic 80's sitcom Head of the Class. So if anything, the cast keeps it engaging enough. It's a shame this didn't turn into a series of more films, because it has potential and I quite enjoyed the first one. I don't know where it could have gone after college, but in the end, it's a fun, silly series of films that never take themselves seriously, and if anything, it's always good to see Corey Haim in top form taking down terrorists left and right.

You can currently watch both Demolition High and Demolition University on Amazon Prime for FREE.

9.21.2018

The Cult Corner: Short Time (1990)

It's Time to Give This 90's Gem Another Look

by robotGEEK

Dabney Coleman just doesn't get enough credit for being such a great actor. He steals the show in everything he comes out in, from Tootsie, to 9 to 5, to Cloak & Dagger (a personal favorite), and even Boardwalk Empire. Here, at the age of 58, and attempting to play someone in their late 40's, Dabney tried his first hand at action (if you don't count Cloak & Dagger) in this forgotten action comedy that delivers more than you expect in a big way.

Released in 1990, Short Time tells the somewhat macabre story of a police officer, who at just 8 days away from retirement, mistakenly thinks he's dying of cancer and has days to live. So in order for his family to collect on his life insurance (to ensure his young son can go to college), he decides to try and get killed in the line of duty, the only way his family can actually collect on it.

With a story like that, this film probably wouldn't get made today, but I'm also glad it was made in the late 80's/early 90's because it carries a very special flavor of action that you just don't see anymore. While marketed as more of a comedy (it is amusingly charming), it's the action that takes center stage as Det. Burt Simpson (Coleman) puts himself in harms way any chance he gets in a series of car chases and shootouts, only to find that trying to get killed in the line of duty isn't as easy as he thought. Director Gregg Champion (The Cowboy Way) handles the action sequences like a pro, shooting the film and the action in an evenhanded manner, much in the way someone like John Badham would. No frills, but highly effective when composing his shots and getting the maximum out of each sequence. And I have to admit, considering it's mostly trying to be a comedy, the action is pretty badass and damn impressive, most notably a crazy huge car chase sequence that would easily rival The French Connection and To Live and Die in L.A. respectively.



The cast is pretty ace, with Dabney's ex-wife being played by Terri Garr, who also appeared in Tootsie, and Matt Frewer playing his partner. I like Frewer for the most part, but there are times when he comes across as trying too hard to be funny and goofy, and it's a bit painful. This is one of those times. Frewer would appear in another forgotten action classic the following year with The Taking of Beverly Hills. Joe Pantoliano, Barry Corbin and Xander Berkeley round out the cast.

For his part Coleman is just awesome. I've always liked him, and here, seeing him thrusting himself head-on into dangerous situations that result in some pretty impressive action sequences was such a sight to see. While he typically plays unlikable characters, he comes across as both charming, tough and surprisingly effective as the action hero lead, who despite his best efforts to get himself killed, always turns out the hero.

I honestly can't praise this film enough. It was such a stark reminder of the type of action comedies that were actually really good once upon a time. The shot-on-film aesthetic and impressive camera setups (no handheld nonsense here) lend themselves to a visually pleasing experience full of action, heart and a tiny dose of laughs. It's a shame that to date, this has never gotten a release here in the U.S. other than on VHS. Not even on DVD, which just blows my mind. I hope a company out there like Kino or Shout! Factory snags the rights to this some day and gives it a legit release, and in widescreen, which would be a first for this film.