80's Action Attack!: Missing in Action 2 - The Beginning

Directed by: Lance Hool
Category: Action

When I finally saw Missing in Action for the first time just a few weeks ago, I was surprised with how much I enjoyed it. Yes, I know. It's unfathomable that I never saw it until now, considering my love and obsession for Cannon Films in general (I have Cannon Films logo tattoo!), and my man-love for Chuck Norris (the actor, not the human), yet somehow in some way these never appealed to me until now. No idea why. After I watched it, I began doing some research and discovered that this sequel was actually filmed first, and then shelved while the Golan/Globus cousins hired Joseph Zito (Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter, Invasion USA) to come in and make another one. They liked that one so much better that they released it as the first film, and the original first film (this one) as a sequel/prequel. After having seen them, I get it. Zito's a much more experienced director and his film is much more professional and polished all around. It's just a better looking film. With this one already in the can, they released it the very next year and the rest is history. So let's dig in.

Under the direction of Lance Hool (Steel Dawn), this film is a much more intense experience. While Hool doesn't possess the same kind of slickness behind the camera that Zito demonstrates, he does put the film together rather well. Unlike Zito's more straight-forward action-oriented first film, this prequel is more gritty, more emotional and sometimes uncomfortable to watch, which makes it a completely different viewing experience compared to the previous film. And I felt it worked really well when it was all said and done, ultimately finding it to be just as good, only in a much different darker way.

I grew up on Chuck, and as much as I love the guy as an action hero, even I can admit his acting range is highly limited. And most of his films cater to this fact, limiting his dialogue whenever possible. But then there are times when Norris surprises me, like his funny turn in the abysmal Firewalker. While the film wasn't as great as I had hoped, I couldn't argue that Norris delivered one helluva likable performance while putting on the serious charm. For a film that is quite easily forgettable and has in fact gone largely forgotten, that's the one thing I took away from Firewalker, that given the right material, or motivation, Chuck is a far better actor than we give him credit for. His performance in this film is quite honestly the best dramatic performance I've ever seen from him. While he continues to play the silent, tough type here, he goes through a wide range of emotions, with most of them being in the dramatic range, and to my surprise, he's actually really good. So good in fact that I'm surprised he doesn't get the credit he deserves for it.

With the first film, Chuck spends the entire film working on getting the things he needs to make a rescue attempt in Vietnam, in the hopes of bringing back POW's that he knows are still being held prisoner there. This film takes place entirely in a prison camp, where Braddock (Norris) and his fellow POW's plan an escape. I think what surprised me the most, aside from it's random intensity, was how solid this was. Playing off the familiar prison camp trope's, without putting much of a new spin on the material, writers Steve Bing, Larry Levinson and Arthur Silver, going the conventional route, do offer up a tightly structured film that plays on all the themes that go along with this type of film in a strong way. You can't say it's inventive, but it sure as hell is effective.

I can't say which is better (the first one or this one) because to tell you the truth, they're both equally great, just in very different ways. They both represent strong interpretations of their respective "type" (the first as a standard 80's Cannon action film, the second as a harrowing escape film), and for that, as well as just being entertaining as hell, they deserve equal respect in the action genre. This entry in particular also represents one of Chuck Norris' finest performances, which should be recognized because honestly, they are few and far between. Missing in Action 2 was a strong film, and far better than I anticipated. It plays it straight and serious, with a grittiness to it that I was not expecting. Had I known these were going to be this good, I would have jumped on them years, if not decades sooner. Now, time to get to part 3....

How to see it:
Currently you can see Missing in Action 1 & 2 on Hulu Plus in HD, but I'm not sure for how long. They're also available in an insane number of releases throughout the years on nearly every format. The DVD just seems to be recycled over and over with only a different cover to differentiate it from the previous release. As far as the Blu Ray goes, you can pick it up cheap from several different options, including as a set along with the first one, which all lack any special features. Shout! Factory recently released parts 1 & 3 on Blu Ray, along with commentary and an interview, but for some reason can't find any information on why they weren't able to release Part 2.


New Horror Roundup: Mother! & Leatherface

Before anyone goes ballistic on me about Mother! and whether it's considered horror or not, let me explain, purely from my point of view of course. While not directly a horror film, I certainly classify it in some form of horror sub-genre. I can't tell you what exactly, maybe psychological horror? But for me, it also felt at times like a folk horror film, but not entirely. So it's a hard film to pin down, but if I were to put it in any type of classification, it would most certainly be horror. Again, those are just my feelings, and I'm sure some would disagree, which is why I love discussing films with enthusiasts and all of the different perspectives. So let's dig in.


Obviously I can't say too much about Mother! because if you haven't already seen it, it could potentially ruin it for you. I went in cold, not knowing much about it and not doing any type of research beforehand, which is usually how I like to approach controversial films like this. Let me just say that by the time it was over, my mind was heavily blown. I can't even begin to tell you how many times I thought "whaaaaat the fuck is happening?", but in the best possible way. It's a tour de force of the senses, and one of the most wtf? viscerally chaotic movies I've ever seen. There were things I'd never seen done before in here, either from a story standpoint or in the way it was made. It's a brave film for sure, and one that's completely divided the film community.

I think one of the things that makes this film memorable is in how unique it is. Most people complain that there just isn't anything new or original these days, and that all we get are cookie-cutter PG horror films or remakes......which is true. But when we do get something original and "different", those same people don't know what to think of it and usually end up disregarding it as garbage. And I can understand that initial feeling. It's a pretty fucked up movie, there's no doubt about it. Everyone's had a different reaction to it, and I'm curious to hear what your thoughts on it will be. Personally, I loved it. It's not the kind of film I'd ever watch again, but as an experience, it was a rarity for me.

I've never been much of a Darren Aranofsky fan personally. I enjoy some of his films, but usually don't really like how he goes about filming them. Outside of films like Noah and The Fountain, he tends to rely too heavily on handheld camerawork, which I typically despise. But oddly enough, I found it to work well with the material, giving it more of an air of intensity as it moved along to it's chaotically insane climax. Something I also noticed, which I hadn't seen done before, was that 80-90% of the film is a closeup of Jennifer Lawrence' face. Whether she was washing dishes, painting, walking up the stairs or watching two men fight, the camera is always right up in her face. So most of the film is through her facial reactions to everything going on around her. I'd never seen that done before, but was also a bit refreshing, and showed me just how great an actress Lawrence really is.

Javier Bardem was excellent as always. Sometimes I feel he chooses projects that are beneath his ability as an actor, because he really is one of the best around, but Mother! gave him an opportunity to remind us just how great he really is. You know who's also underrated and great? Michelle Pfeiffer and Ed Harris, who turn in exceptionally strong performances as well. Pfeiffer actually returned to acting here after a 4 year hiatus, and she's still stunning, while also being so good at being bad you just want to choke her. Harris, well the man is a legend, and easily made last seasons Westworld as great as it was. There was also an interesting and original bit of casting with a supporting player here too, but I'll let you discover that for yourself.

I have a strong feeling that this will eventually go down as a cult classic. Time will only tell whether I'm right or not. But in the meantime, I urge you to see it. It's an exhausting and intense experience unlike any recent film I can recall.


I think I'm one of the few that generally enjoys most of the films in this franchise. It helps that almost all of them are not connected in any way to any specific storyline or legend, so they usually end up being their own thing entirely. I'll admit that I can't stand Tobe Hoopers sequel, no matter how many times I try. I love it's production value, and I love Hooper's strong direction in that, but I just can't stand the tone. I understand why people love it, but it's just not for me. And Kim Henkel's reboot attempt The Next Generation in 1994 was absolutely awful. But believe it or not, I did enjoy Chainsaw 3D for the most part, even with that ridiculous ending that nearly ruins it. It felt and looked more like a true Chainsaw film to me, if that makes sense? I should revisit it though, to see if my memory of that still holds true.

When I learned that the French directing duo behind the French gore classic Inside would be helming this one, I was definitely excited. Maybe some outside talent could breathe some life into this franchise, which to date had been growing more and more stale with each new film. But the inclusion of the Inside directors was promising to me, so let's dig in.

Eh, really, it's not a bad movie. At the same time, it's not great either. If it becomes memorable, it's solely due to the fact that it's a prequel, and so far the only film that shows a young Leatherface when he's normal, and the injuries that resulted in his transformation. Did we really need to know though? That's debatable, but nevertheless, we got it, and this is the result.

I will admit though that the film looked good. Directors Alexandre Bustillo and Julien Maury do a fine job behind the camera offering up solid camerawork and style, but not overly done in such a way that makes it stand so far apart from any of the others. They all carry a heavy grittiness to it, and this one is no different, much in the same way that the directors of the reboots from Platinum Dunes did.

As it's a prequel, I'm sure you realize going in that generally speaking, you're not going to get much chainsaw action. Essentially, it's a film about a young Leatherface when he's taken from his unstable home by the state and put in a mental facility for young adults as he gets older. There we meet a group of fellow patients and their escape from the facility. Hot on their trail is Texas Ranger Hal Hartman (Stephen Dorff) and his deputy, played by Finn Jones (Marvel's Iron Fist on Netflix). Hartman is hellbent on catching any members of the Sawyer family and putting an end to their bloodline after the death of his daughter by their hands, so when he discovers the youngest member of the family is on the run, Hartman, along with his deputy, relentlessly pursue him with any means necessary.

I wish I could say that this was fun, or great, but it's just an alright effort. It's a slick looking film with a healthy dose of impressive gore done practically, but not much else. When you consider that you're not going to see a guy running around with a chainsaw hacking people to death, well it can be a bit of a letdown. If you're a fan of the franchise in general, it's definitely worth checking out.

Currently, Leatherface is only available strictly on DirecTV on Demand as a digital rental or purchase. However, it will roll out everywhere else VOD on Oct. 20th.


80's Thriller Throwback!: Kinjite - Forbidden Subjects

Directed by: J. Lee Thompson
Category: Action/Thriller

A few months back I went on a Charles Bronson binge after discovering just how good a lot of his 80's films actually were. I know, it took me long enough to realize that, but hey, better late than never. Of all the films Bronson released in the 80's, with most (if not all) of them being through his contract with Cannon Films, this is the one that never appealed to me right from the beginning. The title and lame cover art always made it look like a softcore Made-for-TV thriller. When I recently got this as part of a 2-Pk, along with 10 to Midnight, I threw it on the back-burner for months, intending to eventually get to it when I needed my Bronson fix. Well that day finally came, so let's dig in.

Kinjite: Forbidden Subjects was quite the pleasant surprise in that it was great, and far better than I anticipated. In fact, I ultimately liked it so much better than some of the more recent ones I've seen from Bronson, such as 10 to Midnight and Messenger of Death. Bold claim, I know, but hear me out. Despite it's lackluster title and marketing, ultimately this is a much stronger Bronson film than it gets credit for. It's pretty much exactly what you want from any of the films he did with both Cannon and his many collaborations with director J. Lee Thompson. It plays out just like the classic action/detective/thriller you'd expect, and Bronson again delivers another tough-as-nails cop performance, the kind you've come to expect from him during this time, only this ends up being surprisingly better than most in a number of different ways.

Yes, that's an image of Charles Bronson holding a dildo, and about to beat a man to a pulp with it.

I really think that Cannon dropped the ball on this one. Starting with the title, which makes it sound like an Asian softore film, and it's weak U.S. promotional material like the poster and home video cover art, the film never looks or sounds like another average Bronson as a tough guy cop seeking revenge film, and do nothing for the film as a whole. In fact, it's a bit mis-marketed in that respect, and those who stayed away (including myself), really missed out on a solid 80's revenge flick.

One of the most interesting things I discovered about this is that it's really 2 different storylines that only marginally converge in the last act, but not entirely either. What really surprised me was that most of the film deals with Crowe (Bronson) in pursuit of a pimp named Duke, played by legendary character actor Juan Fernandez. While Duke ends up kidnapping a young underage Japanese girl, forming the link to the other storyline, in all honesty most of the film's focus centers on Crowe's relentless pursuit of L.A. street pimp Duke, even if it means breaking the law. And this is really the heart of the film, even if it does go into the other storyline involving the Japanese culture, and a man's move from Japan to the United States with his family, who ultimately ends up being the kidnapping victim of Duke. They tie it in nicely with what's going on with the "Duke pimping underage girls" storyline, but I don't think calling it Kinjite: Forbidden Subjects was a wise choice. In fact, it might have even hurt the films box office potential.....possibly. That's just my thinking anyway. Too bad it was marred by poor marketing. Just look at that awful poster above, and then look at this kickass foreign poster on the right, which speaks volumes of "badass" and sells the film far more than our lame U.S. poster art did.

This film marks a number of important "lasts" in Bronson's career. It was his last film in the 80's, his last film for Cannon Films, and his last collaboration with director J. Lee Thompson. And really, they couldn't have gone out on a higher note. Well......maybe with Death Wish 4, which rules. But yea, it's all a matter of taste. I know some don't care for this, or even Death Wish 4, so some could say that Bronson and Thompson ended their decades long relationship on a low note, but not me. I feel quite the opposite, and while this film doesn't break any new ground, it does offer ample amounts of entertainment in the revenge/detective/thriller genre. It's exactly what I was hoping for, only better.

How to see it:
Kinjite is easily available on a number of different formats (VHS, BETA, Laserdisc, DVD and Blu Ray) as well as on a few compilations. The cheapest and best deal would have to be the 2-PK DVD of this and 10 to Midnight, which come in widescreen. I wasn't even aware of this Blu Ray from Olive Films that was released back in 2015 until just now, and I can't help wondering how great the print quality will be. And I mean, look at that badass cover. Arguably the best cover art for this film to date, not including any foreign versions. Why couldn't they do something like that from the beginning? This Blu Ray will run you anywhere from $15-$30, depending on your preferred online retailer. Unfortunately there are no special features on this release, just the film, but the best presentation of it to date, so if you're a Bronson/Cannon fan, this may very well be worth the plunge.


The Incredible Hulk: The Movie (1977)

One of the things I really love about Hulu Plus is their plethora of vintage television shows. Being someone as old as I am, but having never gotten a chance to actually watch a number of these during their initial run, I'm discovering that I really missed out on some fantastic television viewing growing up. Sure I remember all of these, but I couldn't watch everything, and now I'm finally getting the chance to check a bunch of these out for the very first time, and having a blast doing so. The Incredible Hulk series (1978-1982), was one that I would watch casually if I ever caught it, but never was obsessed about it enough to make time to catch every single episode. So this has been fun actually making the time to dig into these in order, without missing any episodes in between.

This 1977 TV Movie, which also acted as the series pilot, was an hour and a half long (2 hours with commercials) film intended to kickstart the Hulk series, and it worked. The series would go on for a healthy and respectable 5 years, followed by a number of TV Movies reuniting Bill Bixby and Lou Ferrigno. But it all started with this Movie/Pilot. As I watched this enthusiastically, there was something very strong about it. I noticed it right from the beginning, but it only got more and more prominent as the film went along. And that "something" was that this was perhaps the best interpretation of The Incredible Hulk story I'd ever seen. Despite it's countless remakes and inclusion in the Avengers franchise, none of those films captured the heart of the story and character quite like this does. We shouldn't be surprised though, right? These day's it's more about spectacle and effects rather than story. The bare-bones stripped-down approach to the material is effective, and there's just something very highly enjoyable about the entire experience here, from the solid direction, impressive script, and incredible performance by Bill Bixby, who shines so high above everything else here. It's no wonder he became the embodiment of the David Banner character, here changed from Bruce to David. He carries the show entirely, and it's his strong acting chops and magnetism that sells it. Of all the actors I've seen take on the role, none can match Bixby's fierce intensity and power.

And of course, there's the one and only Lou Ferrigno, who takes on the career-defining role of the Hulk. Lou Ferrigno "is" the Hulk. Nothing I can say about either the character, or his portrayal of the character can make any kind of sense other than that Lou Ferrigno is the fucking Hulk, plain and simple. There have been countless articles, discussions and theories as to why that is, but the fact of the matter is that nothing we can say right now hasn't been said before. Ferrigno will always be associated with the character, and will always be the best version of him, the same way Schwarzenegger will always be The Terminator, no matter how many times they try to give us a new one.

By the time the film was over, I gleaming. This was such a fantastic film from start to finish, and such a strong adaptation. There were no weak links in here, and I was blown away by how much I enjoyed it. For a film that's exactly 40 years old, and still manages to be the best adaptation to date, says a lot. And then when the film was over and the end credits rolled up, I saw the "Written and Directed by" credit and I instantly knew why it was so good. This particular film was spear-headed, written and directed by Kenneth Johnson. Now, most might not know that name, but I sure as hell do. Why? Because he just so happens to also be the brains behind my all-time favorite sci-fi series "V: Enemy Visitors". Primarily, he's the creator, and was the writer/director of the first Mini-Series. There would be a second Mini-Series soon after called "V: The Final Battle", followed by the series, which only ran for a single season. He wasn't involved in either of those later efforts, and the series would suffer as a result. But with the 2 Mini-Series, especially that first one, which he wrote and directed himself, you can see so much talent in his writing and directing abilities. So when I saw he was also responsible for this TV Movie, I wasn't surprised one bit that it was as good as it was. He's an exceptionally talented filmmaker and based solely on his work on Hulk and V, he should have gotten bigger and better gigs.

I think something that also works in it's favor is it's late 70's setting. There's just something so refreshing seeing a movie like this made during this time. It's a unique spin on the material, and almost acts as a character in the film, because it certainly adds a dash of nostalgia and charm to the experience. I also loved the Frankenstein elements thrown in for good measure. I was told that Hulk was in fact based on Frankenstein, which makes sense, but I can't confirm that. The scene that stuck out to me the most was when Hulk, after having turned for the very first time, wanders over to a lake and finds a young girl by herself, a sequence taken right out of the original Frankenstein film.

Going in, I was hoping for a bit of nostalgic fun, but I wasn't prepared for just how great this movie would end up being and how much fun I would have watching it. It really is hands down one of the best superhero films ever made, and the best adaptation of the character I've ever seen. Sure it's not without it's flaws, but just the whole practical aspect of this production makes it so much fun and more enjoyable. It's grounded in a reality circa the late 70's and makes it so much more organic. Writers can certainly learn a thing or two from Kenneth Johnson. I wish some of these superhero films these days would go back to basics like this. I guess Netflix's Marvel shows like Daredevil and The Punisher do, so I hope they keep it up. Maybe that's why they end up being better than most of the big budget movies they keep throwing at us?


Bad Movie Night Presents: Steel and Lace

Directed by: Ernest D. Farino
Category: Action/Horror

I had come across this one recently on a list of underrated low-budget sci-fi films you may have missed. While I'd already seen all of the other entries on that list, this was the only one I hadn't, and I was now intrigued. You see, I remember this film, usually as it sat on a video store shelf back in the 90's, but I never actually got around to seeing it. That is until I found a solid recommendation, courtesy of Derreck over at A Taste of Cinema. As luck would have it, after I read the article I jumped on eBay and found a Laserdisc for under $10. Score! So let's dig in.

When Gaily (Clare Wen) is raped, she commits suicide by jumping off a building when her attackers are found not guilty and released. Soon the attackers are being hunted down and killed one by one, all by someone who they thought was dead. 

On the surface, Steel and Lace is the kind of film experience I live for: low-budget sci-fi action thriller that usually falls into the "So Bad, It's Good/Campy" territory, or ends up surprising me by being a competent, well made and entertaining film. Sadly, this one is neither. It's a film that shows promise from time to time, only to be surprisingly void of entertainment value for the most part. Sure there are moments that shine, like the surprisingly solid cast for starters, and some of the kills are bizarre and cool, but then there are too many that are not, and the film suffers for it. Interestingly enough, had there been more creative kills and more of the bizarre WTF? moments, it could easily have passed for awesome Bad Movie Night fodder. As it stands, it's just alright low-budget sci-fi cheese.

One of the things that will more than likely surprise you more than anything is it's cast. For starters, there's David Naughton of An American Werewolf in London and Midnight Madness. Then there's Bruce Davison (X-Men, Lords of Salem) who's much too good an actor for this material, and who actually was nominated for an Oscar just 2 years before, but he and Naughton do solid work with limited resources and they should be commended. The star of the film, Clare Wen, sadly doesn't come across as memorable. While she's not bad, she doesn't really carry the film very well, and certainly doesn't seem the right fit for the part of a sexy siren who, through various disguises, seduces her former abusers one by one to their death. She's got the acting chops for sure, which she demonstrates in the beginning of the film during one of the emotional moments, but was she the right choice as a sexy killer cyborg who exacts revenge on her rapists? I'm not so sure.

Effects wiz Ernest D. Farino, who's worked effects and animation on films such as The Terminator, Spacehunter and The Abyss in his long career, here marks his directorial debut. There are moments that shine and show promise, but Farino doesn't really mark the film with enough of these surprisingly brilliant elements to maintain it's momentum, and the weak moments, including some of the less inspired kills, sort of spoil the whole experience. He has the talent, but just doesn't utilize it well or to it's full potential.

As it stands, it's an amusing experience. But where it could easily have fallen into either the entertaining Bad Movie Night universe, or just an enjoyable low-budget sci-fi film, Steel and Lace is stuck somewhere in the middle, making it somewhat a frustratingly lackluster affair.


The Last Outlaw Film Review

Directed by: Geoff Murphy
Category: Western

To say I was excited going into this one would be a vast understatement. Made by HBO in 1993, The Last Outlaw boasted the writing talent of Eric Red, whom I've loved with his work on The Hitcher, Blue Steel, Bad Moon and Body Bags. I know he also co-wrote Near Dark, and as much as people love that film, I could never connect with it. Director Geoff Murphy is at the helm, and after having recently been blown away by his work on Freejack and Young Guns II, I just knew he was the right man for the job at the peak of his career. Another western from Murphy? Written by Eric Red?! SOLD!!

The Last Outlaw was a solid and entertaining western, but it didn't blow me away. I liked it, but I didn't love it. Of course I went into this with rather high expectations, so I was pretty sure that the film itself couldn't meet them. But there was always hope, because Young Guns II was such a surprisingly excellent western from the same director, and while there is some really fantastic camerawork going on, the fact that it's not available in widescreen was frustrating to say the least. It being an HBO production shouldn't make a difference, since Full Eclipse was also an HBO production, yet you can easily get that film in widescreen on DVD. But for some reason this one, you cannot. And honestly, widescreen would have added so much depth to the film, being able to take in Murphy's excellent camerawork and the huge sweeping vista's of the desert landscape could only be made possible by utilizing it's full widescreen scope. But alas, what we're left with is full frame.

If there's anything that's going to standout in this film it's the excellent cast, starting with Mickey Rourke. While he doesn't show much range or emotion in here, instead playing it calm and cool, he can still carry a film quite effectively, even if he comes across as not really trying very hard. And I have to admit, he looks so strange here. There are so many changes to his face from the last film his previous film that it's oftentimes difficult to look past anything other than his ever-evolving face (what's up with his eyebrows??). But the real standout has to be Dermot Mulroney. You've seen him in countless things, including the first Young Guns, but I'd never seen him deliver such a commanding performance. While Rourke is technically the star, Mulroney delivers the best performance and in reality, has more screen time. Too bad he didn't get top billing with Rourke. In addition, the rest of this excellent ensemble cast constantly impressed me. How could it not? We have Steve Buscemi, Ted Levine, Keith David, John C. McGinley, Gavan O'Herlihy and countless notable character actors, all delivering the goods and giving the film some real star power.

I think one of the issues I had was that this film in general just wasn't very exciting. While there are several shootouts and some tension/suspense, there just doesn't seem to be enough action, violence, excitement, thrills and even tension to really keep your attention. Sure it's a pretty movie to look at, but really, it lacks in any real kind of punch. It's entertaining enough, but nowhere near as badass as I was hoping for. It tends to drag for long stretches of time, and with the amazing talent behind it, I was expecting it to be much more brutal. Instead it all feels too safe, and that's the last thing I was expecting from this. Perhaps some tighter editing would have helped it's structure, but I guess we'll never know..

The Last Outlaw has so much incredible talent behind it that even though it was technically a Made-for-TV production courtesy of HBO (back when they were killing it with original content), the tour de force of talent behind and in front of the camera should have guaranteed a knockout. It's a good film, don't get me wrong, but I can see why it never really reached cult status the way other HBO productions did. Too bad too, because all the right ingredients are there, sometimes staring you right in the face, yet rarely ever used wisely or to their full effect. It's a bit abhorrent in that regards. It could be great, but it's just good.

How to see it:
It's available on DVD for anywhere from $10 - $40. And mind you, that is for a full frame movie with zero special features, so the steep price kind of battles me. You can usually pick up the Laserdisc for much cheaper than that (also in full frame), but I have yet to see a VHS of it, but I'm sure it exists. As far as I know, I've never come across it streaming on any of the major streaming sites. It's not available on blu ray either yet.


Joe Versus The Volcano: A True Gem And Misunderstood Classic

Absolutely dreadful promotional poster

Directed by: John Patrick Shanley

As much as I watch movies of all types, and enjoy a great deal of them, every so often one comes my way and unexpectedly knocks my socks off. This is one of those kind of moments, and this is one of those kinds of films.

Joe is a very unhappy working class man who works a mundane job in a big facility, meandering through life in a fog of fluorescent lighting. He's a small fish in a big pond, a disposable element in a giant machine. He's a hypochondriac who feels that there's surely something physically wrong with him. When a checkup at a doctors office reveals he's got a "brain cloud", and only has a few months left to live, he takes a billionaire's offer to commit suicide by throwing himself into an active volcano on a tiny island inhabited by a small group of natives, believing that the sacrifice will not only serve a purpose in his meaningless life, but will also appease the gods of the island and prevent it from erupting. 

Joe Versus The Volcano quite simply floored me. It's nothing like what I expected, but in the best possible sense. Much like my recent experience with John Landis' Into the Night, Joe Versus The Volcano is almost undefinable. It's a fascinating and unusually competent mix of magical, mystery, dystopian society, romance, adventure, comedy and drama. Just when you think you know where this is headed or have it "figured out", it veers off into another completely direction that takes you by surprise.

On the surface, I'm not surprised this one flew so far under my radar that I never made any real effort to actually watch it. I remember this one. I remember the trailers and posters making it look like any other lame cookie-cutter romantic comedy, when in reality it's anything but. Having finally seen it now though, I guess I can understand the difficulty in marketing a film that starred comedy powerhouses Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan - Hanks coming off a string of hit comedies, and Ryan having struck gold with When Harry Met Sally just the year before. So I can only assume audiences were somewhat taken aback by a film that is nothing like a romantic comedy, or even just a comedy in general, but rather a magical film that would be near impossible to tie down to any specific genre. It's also unlike any film I'd ever seen, which makes it all the more special.

Written and directed by John Patrick Shanley, who had previously won an Oscar for his Moonstruck screenplay in 1987, here makes a remarkable directorial debut. You would never know that he'd never directed a film before. There was so much visual brilliance, so much in the way of early Tim Burton, Barry Sonnenfeld and even early Alex Proyas, yet a bit more subdued but not any less significant or meaningful. It packs a visceral punch the way very few films can. You can tell just by watching this that this man clearly had a vision in his head, and every frame is damn near a work of art. There's just something very special about the way he frames his shots. It's the kind of artistry you rarely ever see anymore, and one you would not expect to see in film like this. So many of this films stunning imagery has been permanently burned and seared into my brain. It's shocking to me to discover that Shanley only ever directed 2 films in his entire career - this one in 1990 and the 2008 drama Doubt. It's such a shame that someone with so much visual talent never continued directing films on a regular basis. He's a very special kind of talent, and if this film is any indication, he could have really given cinema some qualified gems over the years.

Art by J.R. Barker
This film is an underrated gem and misunderstood classic, there's no doubt about that. Even though it's a totally and unique original work, I feel a lot of the blame for it's box office failure should fall on the marketing department, whoever that may be. The light-hearted funny sappy little romantic comedy that was thrown at us in posters, ads and commercials does not accurately portray the final product, and while there are little bits and pieces of those things in there, as a whole it's something completely different. And it's because of this mis-marketed snafu, lovers of original cinema really missed out on something rare, and dare I say brave? Even today, with all the various releases of this film on different platforms and re-issue's, they still don't have it right. This image on the left, by artist J.R. Barker, is a much better representation of the film than any of the studio released poster art over the years. It captures several different themes from the film, and represents so much of it in general in this one image. Too bad a studio will never understand how much more effective this would be.

I should also point out that a lot of what makes the film's look and visual aesthetic so appealing is that the production design was under the vision of Bo Welch, who would design the productions of many classic visually amazing films like The Lost Boys, Beetlejuice, Batman Returns and Edward Scissorhands to name a few. You can see a lot of his gothic/industrial influences in the majority of the entire first act. Helping to bring this all together in such an aesthetically pleasing way is cinematographer Stephen Goldblatt, who did some outstanding work on a personal favorite of mine, Outland, as well as Tony Scott's The Hunger and Lethal Weapon 1 and 2. This triple threat of talent (Shanley, Welch & Goldblatt) is really one of this films greatest assets, because if you were to take away the film's compelling structure, story and performances, you'd still have one of the most visually stunning films ever made in this niche genre. No, correction. In "any" genre.

Joe Versus The Volcano is a film that's begging to be discovered. It's been a long 27 years since it was released, a quarter century, and people still don't know about it. Or they have heard of it, but mistook it for the film it was marketed as, which it ultimately is not, and ignored it. Whether you stream it, or watch it on DVD or Blu Ray, whichever you choose, just make sure that it's in widescreen. It's a film that utilizes this format to breathtaking results and only makes the experience that more stimulating. 


Cool Shit!: I Come In Peace AKA Dark Angel Video Store Standee/Display

While I work on a handful of reviews for films right now as I try to play catch up, I thought I'd share something I recently scored a few weeks ago by sheer chance. During one of my many browsing sessions on eBay, I somehow stumbled upon this thing of beauty and I knew that I just could not pass it up. I'm not even going to tell you what I paid for it, because it was not cheap, but not outrageous either. It also came from Canada, so it took a while to eventually get to me, since I'm literally in the southern most point in the United States. But it was worth the wait and worth the money. I had my amazing wife hold it up to better gauge it's size. The "I Come In Peace" video is also a separate piece that protrudes from the rest of it, making it an actual physical cassette box that the Dark Angel himself is holding.

Interestingly enough, I literally have nowhere to even display this. Not yet anyway. It currently stays folded in it's original shipping box until I get my mancave......one day.


Documentary Roundup-Comic Book Edition: The Image Revolution & Future Shock: The Story of 2000AD

Apologies for the late documentary recommendations. As much as I intended to make this a weekly post, time restraints and more importantly films, always seem to come first. But that doesn't mean I've neglected documentaries in general. No sir. I've had the pleasure of seeing quite a few good ones lately on varying topics and genre's, so today I'll mention 2 I recently saw related to the comic book industry. So let's dig in.

The Image Revolution

I was 15 years old when a group of insanely talented and popular artists from Marvel banded together, led by Todd McFarlaine, and decided to go rogue and form their own comic book company. Tired of not getting the credit they deserved for their creations or limited amount of artistic control, the industries top talent felt that creating their own comic book label and publishing company would be the logical choice. And it was. They created Image Comics, and in doing so, paved the way for other artists and creators to have complete and total control over their own creations, something neither of the 2 comic book giants, Marvel and DC, would ever allow.

Image Comics continues to be one of the top comic publishing companies in the industry today, oftentimes going toe to toe with the other 2 giants in terms of output, volume, creativity and status. And that's really one of it's biggest accomplishments, that for 26 years they've stayed at the top when for decades, it was only ever just Marvel and DC. That they've held onto their beliefs that comic book artists and writers should have legal control over whatever they create, and not the company, was the core of their foundation and continues to be that today. But it wasn't always a smooth ride, as this fascinating documentary will show you. Image might have started strong, but they endured many ups and downs, power struggles and ego's throughout their 26 years in business. And that's really one of the most fascinating things about this doc, that I wasn't even aware of most of the tensions, struggles and power trips going on behind the scenes of one of my favorite comic companies as a teenager.

If you're a comic book nerd like I am, and especially if you were one of the young readers back in the early 90's who bought every issue they put out like I did in the beginning, this is a must-watch. The Image Revolution was every bit as entertaining as it was informative, especially in it's formative years. They interview all of the key players in Image Comics like McFarlaine, Leifield, Lee, Silvestri, Larsen and more, each giving raw deep insight into some of the best and worst times. Check it out! You'll have a blast revisiting your childhood.

Future Shock: 
The Story of 2000AD

I'll be completely honest and say that I've never gotten into 2000AD. I do love Judge Dredd as a character, and love both films (sue me) to death, but never actually made the effort to read the comics or anything from the 2000AD line. So I went into this documentary knowing very little about the company, their output, save for a few titles, their roster of talent and so on. Not that you even have to to enjoy this intriguing and deep look into the history of one of the most iconic publishers in the world, but it does help.

While Future Shock gathers a lot of information about everything 2000AD, and getting down to the heart of what made 2000AD such a cesspool of incredible raw talent for many decades, I have to admit it was a bit bland for the most part. While some of the stories were amusing, it really doesn't get very interesting until the second half, which at times feels like it takes forever to get to. And I think what part of the problem might be is in how it's all put together, in a very matter-of-fact kind of way, with zero frills or fun. It starts off strongly though, with some fun animation during the credits against some hard metal music, but the majority of it is just a collection of dull interviews with no interesting transitional scenes or stimulation. There are a few standouts though, and it was surprising to finally see current artists being interviewed; artists that I admire but never knew what they looked like, but who also apparently got their start at 2000AD.

Overall it felt a bit too long, and comes off as more sad than anything. Sad for a number of reasons, which you will see in the doc. I was surprised to discover that 2000AD is still running! And while it will be a while before we discover if any of the current artists on there will aspire to the same success that made 2000AD such a hot bed for amazing fresh talent, we can still be hopeful. I did learn of quite a number of titles I'd never heard of before, yet sound incredible by some of my favorite artists and writers, so that was a good takeaway from this experience. It just felt that it really could have benefited from some stronger editing to trim the fat and make things more interesting, and some background music would have definitely helped too.

How to see these:
I rented them both on Amazon for just a few bucks. Both are also available on DVD and Future Shock is available on Blu Ray as well, though I will say that Future Shock seems to go for a hefty price for some reason.


Tales From The Crypt Revisited: Demon Knight & Bordello of Blood

As I continue to dig into The Complete Box Set of the Tales From The Crypt episodes from HBO, and having a complete blast doing so, it suddenly hit me that I hadn't seen either of the 2 feature films since their original theatrical releases. I figured now would be the best opportunity to do so since we're smack in the middle of a TftC kick. And as luck would have it, a good friend of mine just so happened to have them on Blu Ray. So let's dig in.

Demon Knight
Directed by: Ernest Dickerson

The one and only thing I remembered about this was that it was directed by Spike Lee prodigy Ernest Dickerson. And I always thought how odd it was for him to dive into genre films like this when he worked for Lee on a few of his classic dramatic films, and even beginning his directorial career with the hard-hitting urban drama Juice before diving into horror and action for a few years. 2001's Snoop Dogg horror film Bones would be his last feature film and he has stuck to television work ever since then. But hey, we're here for Demon Knight, his 3rd feature film. So let's dig in.

Between the two TftC films, this seems to be most people's favorite, and I can understand why. Dickerson's direction is very much in tune with the HBO series, and Billy Zane delivers one helluva performance as The Collector. And if truth be told, I doubt this would have been as good had someone else taken the role. Zane really gives 110% here and makes every single moment he's in a total blast. I wish I could say the rest of the film delivered the goods as much as Zane did, but it doesn't. It's not bad, and for the most part feels like an extended episode of the series, which speaks volumes of it's uneven and hit or miss structure. 

Going into this, I was pretty open to whatever. As the show has proven that you never know what to expect, I really didn't know what to expect. And since this was their first full-on feature film and quite a big deal, I was also hopeful that it would deliver the goods as much as most of the show's episodes had. And while it was entertaining, I can't say it was really all that great or fun. All of the actors, including Crypt regular and star of Demon Knight William Sadler, do well, even a very young and somewhat out of place Jada Pinkett, before she gained the Smith moniker. The gore is surely present, if at times ineffective. But I have to say that my biggest beef would have to be with Dickerson's totally uneven direction. There are moments of great visual kickassery, but then surrounded by lazy camerawork and uneven structure, you're kind of blindsided. Or at least it did me. And it's a bit frustrating too, because the scenes that standout are incredible. Dickerson obviously knows how to create some truly stunning images having worked with Spike Lee on several of his films, but it's never consistent in here and for the most part, this film looks like any of the "so-so" episodes of the show. But hey, that's just my opinion. 

If you're a fan of the show, you'll enjoy this film. Whether you love it is a matter of preference. I did not. But I did love Billy Zane's performance. I've never seen him so lively and having such a good time and really makes the film as good as it is. And while I feel it definitely could have been better overall, there's no denying Zane's magnetism. The confident cast does their best, with Sadler in the lead, and the effects work is commendable. And really, that might be enough for some people.

Bordello of Blood
Directed by: Gilbert Adler

Having not been all that impressed with Demon Knight, I still went into this one with some excitment and enthusiasm. Just like that film, I remember virtually nothing about this, even though I'd seen it in the theater. You could argue that's a bad sign, but in my case, sometimes I just have a really bad memory. When the credits began to roll and I see names like Corey Feldman, Chris Sarandon and Erika Elaniak, well that just sounded like a recipe for a really good time. Did it deliver?? Let's dig in.

Hell yes it did. In fact, I ended up loving this one so much more than Demon Knight, even though DK seems to be the one that gets more love. For all intents and purposes, Bordello of Blood was just a really silly, cheesy, bloody fun time. Whether that was their intention or not is up to debate, but the end result spoke volumes for me, and I loved every second of it. It's the good time I was hoping for with the first film, but this one offers it in spades and there are a lot of reasons and people to thank. For starters, let's give a big thanks to the films writer/director Gilber Adler, who was one of the series regular producers and has gone on to be a high profile producer in the industry with a lot of large projects under his belt, here making his feature film directorial debut, and he does a killer job. Though I wasn't familiar with Gilbert Adler, other than being a significant member of the team behind the series, I have to admit I was pleasantly surprised with his direction in here. In fact, much more so than Ernest Dickerson's work on the first film. He uses a very restrained and simple approach, but it works really, really well. He doesn't over stylize anything, yet it's a slick looking film at the same time. I can't explain it. Where Dickerson would offer an insane number of dutch angle's and sweeping camera movements, Adler keeps the camera still, rarely ever venturing into handheld territory, and does a fantastic job framing his scenes. It reminded me of all the best episodes of the show. Though nearly everyone involved has gone on record saying this was a disaster from the start behind the scenes and during production, I would never have guessed that by the final product. And what blows my mind even more was that this was ultimately a box office bomb, destroying any plans for the third film in the trilogy.

I have to admit, I loved seeing Corey Feldman in a big budget feature. I remember he was going through drug rehab and trying to get his life back on track during this period, and if this film is any indication, the guy still has the goods and really gave it his all. In fact, he seemed like the only one really having a good time and enjoying himself. Erika Elaniak was a surprising choice for her character, as she's usually playing the blonde bombshell, but she was actually a good fit for the role. If you hear her talk about the part of her characters background in the "making of", you get a better sense of why she was such a good choice for the part. Though her background story for the character was never included, there are bits and pieces of it in the film if you pay attention. But really, it's Chris Sarandon who stole the show for me. His televangelist character was hands-down the best part of this film and they just couldn't have picked a better person. He was hilariously cheesy and over the top and I wish there was an entire film based just on his guitar-rockin' satan-bashing televangelist character alone. This film just made me love him more. And then there's the lead vampire, Angie Everhart. You know, she wasn't bad. Clearly a newcomer to film, I have to admit that I've seen worse, and though most of her dialogue was hilariously cheesy, she handled it like a pro and also seemed to be one of the few having a good time.

The same cannot be said for star Dennis Miller. I admit, I enjoyed him in the part. His very particular snarky sense of humor is on full display here, and I clearly felt that he ad-libbed nearly all of his dialogue. And it's that sense of humor that really worked well, and actually made it much more funny......for the most part. Of course, there still always seemed something off about him in here and even though he hammed it up and was just a condescending ass in the entire thing, even in the few moments where he really put in some solid acting, he just didn't look like he wanted to be there. And that couldn't be more true as I watched the "Making Of" documentary located on the Scream Factory Blu Ray release, which was fascinating to say the least. The entire doc pretty much consisted of the films actors and production trashing Miller and talking about how he was essentially a shithead to every single person on set and that it was an easy million dollar paycheck and he did not want to be there, so he made life hell for everyone involved. He even helped in the film's box office failure by appearing on Leno and begging people not to go see the film. But really, get the Blu Ray and watch the doc for yourself. It's fascinating. They talk to nearly everyone involved and we get some deep insight into all of the turmoil on set from the people who lived it. Its still funny though. I never would have guessed any of that from watching the film. It was a blast from start to finish and I'm shocked it bombed as big as it did. I still find it far better than Demon Knight in every single aspect. I guess you just never can tell.

Bordello of Blood really offers everything you'd want in a cheesy vampire film. Tons of blood, nudity, cheesy one-liners, great effects work, a stellar cast, and most importantly, it's fun. Fun, fun, fun. 


Thriller Throwback: F/X & F/X 2

Can you believe I've never actually seen either of these before? I'd always been aware of them, but like so many 80's thrillers, I never took the time to actually watch them. I was more of an action and horror fan back then. Who am I kidding? I still am! But I have grown to really love the thriller genre as well lately, especially those from the 80's and early 90's, which is exactly where these two fall into. When I found VHS copies of these at my local thrift shop, it was just the sign I needed to finally do what has taken me 31 years to get around to. Let's dig in.

F/X: The Art of Illusion
Directed by: Robert Mandel

This film is such an excellent example of a smart, classy and competeint thriller. I really didn't know what to expect going in, but do love Brian Dennehy, whom I've seen in a lot of stuff lately, and just the fact that it's made in and set in the 80's was a big selling point. But then once the film started the full impact of how great this was hit me when I discovered that the premise centered around the fact that the main character of Rollie (Bryan Brown) is a master special effects technician in Hollywood. Boom! This just became 10 times more awesome. And better yet, they utilize that angle to it's fullest extent and I loved every second of it.

Rollie is a world famous special effects master. When a government agency hires him to create an effect/illusion for a mob witness in a scheme to put him in a witness protection program, he's double-crossed by the very agency that hired him and he sets out to clear his name.

Bryan Brown does a fantastic job in the lead. I don't think many people had heard of him outside of Australia at this point, and you have to assume that any big name actor could have played this part because it's not specific to an Australian by any means, but by casting Brown, who was big in Australia, F/X really elevates itself to a higher caliber. Brown adds his own spice to the mix, and sells it well. He plays Rollie like an arrogant, yet likable guy and really, that can be a hard thing to do to try and find the right balance. And he does it effortlessly.

I think that the main thing that makes this so great is the movie f/x angle. Here you get to see him work his magic and it's a blast to see. It's even more fun and amusing when he uses his talents to trick the bad guys and clear his name. It's almost like he's a vigilante, using his movie effects mastery to always one-up the bad guys. I'm telling you, it's a lot of fun and such a creative way to progress the story along.

If you're looking for a great 80's thriller full of thrills and ingenuity in a tired genre, this is the one for you. Solid craftmanship, great performances, and the special effects angle will surely win you over. Plus, you get to see a very young Tom Noonan as a henchman. It's ace.

Directed by: Richard Franklin

This one came 5 years after the original, and the story also utilizes that 5 year gap. One of the things that really got me excited about this one was that it was directed by Richard Franklin, who I've loved for his work as director on Psycho II, Cloak & Dagger, Road Games and the original Patrick. So unlike the first one, I really went into this one with some rather high expectations. Did it live up to them? Let's dig in.

Rollie (Bryan Brown) and Leo (Brian Dennehy) have gone their separate ways since the events of the first film. Rollie has found a new love and stepson and has retired from the world of special effects. When his girlfriends ex-husband and father to his stepson, a cop, asks Rollie to help them catch a killer by using his effects skills, he reluctantly agrees, only to have the situation blow up in his face and he's once again running for his life and trying to protect the ones he loves. With the help of his old friend Leo, they set out to exact revenge.

Yes. I mean, hell yes! I've been discussing these two films on both my Instagram and Facebook pages and this sequel really seems to split everyone down the middle. Some love it, or even like it more than the first, and others just feel it's unnecessary. I happen to agree with both, but at the same time, I absolutely loved it. Yes, there's nothing really in here that justifies a return after 5 years, but holy hell was it a blast from start to finish. There's just such a much more fun vibe this time around. We're already familiar with the characters by this point, and the ridiculous situations they find themselves, no matter how preposterous, always put a smile on my face. This guy is like McGuyver!

This is the kind of film that I always look forward to, the sequel that ends up being better than the original. But you know, that's all a matter of taste. I just so happen to feel this went above and beyond where the first film went. While the original laid the groundwork for these characters and some of the situations, director Franklin and company dial it up several notches, sometimes into the absurd, but always in a very late 80's/early 90's kind of way, which makes it somehow tolerable. There's a very specific polish to it all, a slick sheen that goes for broke in the most audacious way. While the first film plays it straight, resulting in an efficient and compelling thriller, this one has more fun with it. For me, it's like Lethal Weapon 1 and 2. The first one is dead serious and plays it straight, while the sequel, which also carries the serious tone for most of the time, also infuses more comedic and fun elements, even in the deadliest situations. That's how I feel about these two films and it's a formula that works.

I said it before and I'll say it again. I loved this sequel. It had everything I hoped it would and then-some. Brown and Dennehy make such an exciting team I wish they had made more of these. Richard Franklin's direction propels this film higher than I could have hoped. Whether it's dealing with the action sequences, thrills, drama or momentary funny bits, he handles it all with class and style, and F/X 2 is a much better film because of it.


Laserdisc Cover of the Day: The Hidden Widescreen Collector's Edition

In anticipation for the October release of this classic hidden gem FINALLY coming to Blu Ray via Warner Archives, I thought I would dig out one of my favorite Laserdiscs in my collection. The Hidden was ultimately released twice on this format, the first being the basic Pan & Scan version, and then this Special Collectors Widescreen Edition, which was on 2 discs and came in a slick gate-fold style packaging with some really nice Special Features, something of a rarity with Laserdiscs. But just being available in widescreen in a step above VHS (which also had a widescreen release) was pretty badass back then. 

As you can also see from this specific edition, sometimes you just can't beat Laserdisc packaging or presentation. In addition to it's stellar packaging job, you get the best presentation of this film prior to DVD. Even the DVD, which I own, isn't that much of an improvement over this Laserdisc. So the new Blu Ray coming out, despite not having much in the way of extras, should be a vast improvement in terms of quality. And who knows? Maybe if it's a hit and sells well they'll eventually do some sort of Special Edition down the road. 

The Hidden Laserdisc Backside

I shouldn't have to tell you just how awesome this film is, because by now it should already be a favorite in your collection. If by some chance you've never actually seen it yet, well let me tell you. It rules. It rules so hard. Directed by Jack Sholder (A Nightmare on Elm St. 2: Freddy's Revenge) and starring Kyle MacLachlan in only his third film, after Dune and Blue Velvet and Michael Nouri (Hologram Man). It's a fun sci-fi/action/thriller made only in a way that the 80's could produce, full of stunts, action, thrills and a performance from MacLachlan that I can only assume David Lynch must have seen prior to casting him in Twin Peaks and based his Agent Cooper performance off of because they're so similar. Or it could just be a coincidence. What do I know? Sholder's slick and solid direction gives the film a much more professional edge than most in this genre, and despite the fact that this didn't get a wide U.S. theatrical release, you'd never know by watching it. It's got all the bells and whistles of any big budget studio film and it's a shame it didn't get the big release and attention it deserved to become a breakout hit, which it very well should have been. The Hidden Blu Ray's tentative release date is set for October 20th. 

The Hidden Laserdisc Inside Gate-fold


Walter Hill's Streets of Fire Review

When it was announced that Shout! Factory would be releasing this on blu ray recently, it renewed my interest in wanting to finally revisit it. I honestly didn't remember hardly anything about it, other than it's cast and that Walter Hill wrote (along with Larry Gross) and directed it, and I love me some old school Walter Hill. But I also came across the soundtrack on vinyl recently, and I have to admit it was pretty damn good. So I was enthusiastic and excited going in.

I enjoyed Streets of Fire, but I didn't love it. It has a lot of great production value, with Walter Hill really giving the film a fantastic 50's era look and feel, but to be honest, aside from the opening and ending, not a lot happens for large chunks in the middle. And that's really what surprised me the most, for a film that's I assumed would be a musical, really only has 2 moments in the film that would be considered musical numbers, and it's these 2 moments in the film that I loved the most. Weird! As I'm not big on musicals in general, I was pleasantly surprised that the 2 numbers in the film that bookend the film were the parts I enjoyed the most. This is largely due to the fact that the songs are really good and really strong, combined with Diane Lane's outstanding performance as the female rocker (this girl can really move and sell the fact that she's up there giving it her all) and the tight slick editing, these musical numbers are arguably the strongest and best moments in the film.

But interestingly enough, there are only a few minor moments like a fist fight inside a cafe, a sequence where Michael Pare shoots a bunch of motorcycles in an alley as they ride up and down, and the fist fight between Michael Pare and Willam Dafoe at the end, I can't say I was very entertained in the action department. Not that I was expecting this to be an action film, but I kind of feel that it was sorely missing some important elements in that area to really give it a little punch of excitement or maybe even some solid tension or thriller elements. Still, it wasn't a bad film, just not a terribly exciting or entertaining one, and I really felt that it could have been. I mean, there's an amazing variety of talent in here, from the production design, the ensemble cast and Tough Guy Cinema vibe, to it's searing soundtrack incorporating rock n' roll and R & B and Diane Lane's electrifying performance when she's on stage. There's really just so much to like in here, but I didn't feel it fully reached it's potential. I mean, Dafoe is an amazing villain in here, but he's surprisingly absent for large chunks, and it's a shame too, because he's just such an interesting looking character.

I'm glad I revisited it, but I'm also glad I didn't pull the trigger on that new blu ray, though I will admit that the picture quality would have been an amazing improvement over the old DVD. I feel Walter Hill had some amazing idea's and the right vision, but there was just something missing keeping it from being a total badass. Whatever that ingredient can be is debatable, I personally feel it needed some more tension and action and less drama and romance, but that's just my taste. Still an entertaining and slick looking film, so it's definitely worth your time should you choose to revisit this one.