12.04.2019

90's Thriller Throwback: Thunderheart

Graham Greene Steals The Show in This Riveting Thriller That Surprised Me At Every Turn

by robotGEEK

From writer John Fusco (Young Guns 1 & 2), and director Michael Apted (The World is Not Enough), comes this riveting thriller about a part Native American FBI agent (Val Kilmer), sent to a murder investigation on a Sioux reservation in what's meant to be an open and shut case. Partnered with veteran FBI agent Frank Coutelle (Sam Shepard), Ray Levoi (Kilmer) soon realizes that things just aren't adding up, and corruption may play a part.

I think I avoided this all these years because I assumed it was going to be a drama more than anything, but finally having seen it, I was pleasantly surprised to discover that it's in fact a sharp, taute and riveting thriller. It helps that the legendary Roger Deakins infuses the film with gorgeous cinematography, but there's so much more to offer here. For starters, John Fusco's script is excellent, giving enough time to deliver a real human connection, while simultaneously delivering the goods in the thriller department. British filmmaker Michael Apted takes great care in presenting the Native American angle with compassion, while also delivering a visually impressive aesthetic that 90's thrillers were so fond of. It's a shame most films aren't shot this way anymore, much less thrillers. It adds such a large touch of class to it all. Nowadays, shooting fast and loose seems to be the norm and it just takes so much away from the material.



Kilmer, fresh off the heels of his portrayal of Jim Morrison in The Doors, does a fine job, as does the always reliable Sam Shepard and the painfully underused Fred Ward (Tremors, Remo Williams), but it's Graham Greene who steals the show here as Walter Crow Horse, a local police officer. While he had been working regularly since the late 70's, it wasn't until his breakout role in Dances With Wolves two years prior that Hollywood took notice, and here he delivers arguably the best performance, both of his career and in the film in general.

For a film I half-expected to use as a way of falling asleep (I have insomnia and sometimes watch slow films to fall asleep), I was thoroughly invested the entire time. Thunderheart packs a punch of thrills, emotions and intensity, and combined with it's gorgeous cinematography, strong performances and riveting storytelling, makes this an impressive and unforgettable film experience.

How to see it:
Currently available on every format other than Blu-Ray (yet), you can rent it to stream on Amazon for a few bucks, or watch it for free in HD on Crackle.com, as long as you're okay with commercial breaks.


11.26.2019

The Cult Corner: Deep Star Six (1989)

Despite Being The Weakest In The Famous "Underwater Creature Features" Of 1989, Sean S. Cunningham's More Horror-Centric Entry Is A B-Movie Blast

by robotGEEK

If you're as old as I am, then you remember that 1989 was a big year for underwater Creature Features with Deep Star Six, Leviathan and The Abyss all being released the same year, with The Abyss being the only one to actually make money. But even then, The Abyss wasn't considered a hit compared to Cameron's previous films, only making 20 million on top of it's budget worldwide. When you factor in marketing, that's not much of a gain overall. Yet, all three films would find life on home video after the fact, and all would eventually go on to claim a cult status.

Produced and directed by original Friday the 13th creator, writer and director Sean S. Cunningham (The New Kids), Deep Star Six was a big surprise for me if I'm being completely honest. Maybe because I went in with exceedingly low expectations since this isn't a film a lot of people refer to when compared to the other more well known films released this same year, but I had a lot of fun with it. And why shouldn't I? The cast was ace with a solid who's who of character actors, and Cunningham, for his part, shot this thing surprisingly well considering it all takes place within the confines of an underwater station. Visually and aesthetically, the film looked better than I was expecting, and if I had anything to gripe about, it would just be the low-budget-looking model work. Still, these scenes add a bit of charm to the vibe overall, and while it's not all that surprising that it's most often compared to Leviathan, having only a quarter of that films budget, yet still looking the same (save for the low-key effects), Deep Star Six, despite its' B-Movie aura, delivers the goods far more than you'd expect.

As far as the casting goes, there's not a weak link in the bunch. I guess the lead would be Greg Evigan of the series My Three Dads, who's actually quite good in this, but Nancy Everhard (The Punisher 1989) is easily the standout. Miguel Ferrer (Robocop), Nia Peeples (Walker: Texas Ranger), Matt McCoy (Abominable), Elya Baskin (2010: The Year We Make Contact), and Cindy Picket (Ferris Bueller's Day Off, Sleepwalkers) round out the cast to full effect.

I think for me personally, I just found it entertaining in that it never really slows down, often relying on the suspense of not actually seeing the large creature for the most part, instead taking the Jaws approach. And for a film with a considerably smaller budget than it's other 2 brothers, you'd honestly never know it if it wasn't for the less than impressive modelwork. Still, I quite enjoyed what they contributed to the experience overall, and that just may be largely in part to Cunningham's strong and effect ability to get the most out of a budget as a producer. A producer, I might add, who's credits range from his underrated 80's teen thriller The New Kids, to horror classics such as Friday the 13th, House, House II and The Horror Show.

Deep Star Six, for all it has going for it, won't blow you away, but it's a film that has only gotten better and stronger with age, and while it may not be held up there with Leviathan or The Abyss, it's every bit as entertaining, just in a much more "genre-specific" way. While it's primarily an underwater thriller, Cunningham's experience in the horror genre is imprinted all over this thing. It's a B-Movie blast that deserves another look.

11.15.2019

90's Thriller Throwback: The Puppet Masters

A Surprisingly Strong And Classy Sci-Fi/Thriller That Delivers The Goods

by robotGEEK

Somehow I never got around to this one before, and I'm not really sure why. I guess it just didn't look all that interesting to me, but my tastes in films tend to change over the years and suddenly I had an urge to finally check this out. And I'm so glad I did, because this was a surprisingly great, effective little sci-fi/thriller.

A race of aliens have invaded a small rural town and taken over human bodies at an alarming rate. Within just a few weeks, they will have completely taken over the planet unless a secret government agency can stop them. 

Released in 1994, and starring an actor I'd never heard of, The Puppet Masters succeeds in it's no-frills approach by offering up decent amounts of thrills, action, suspense and just a little bit of horror to give you an overall satisfying experience all wrapped up in a neat little package. And I can't stress enough how surprised I was at how good this was. I suppose I was expecting a mediocre thriller, but instead was treated to a well-crafted science fiction thriller that literally hits the ground running right from the start.

Despite the lead (Eric Thal) being decent, but someone I'd never heard of until now, the large eclectic cast was impressive to say the least, with Keith David, Donald Sutherland, Julie Warner, Will Patton, Yaphet Kotto, and Marshal Bell all turning up in this to great effect, adding a large dose of class to the production. But it's really Sutherland's intense performance of an almost heartless and emotionless boss that carries the film.

Based on the book by author Robert A. Heinlein, screenwriters David S. Goyer (Blade, Batman Begins, Dark City), Ted Elliott & Terry Rossio (Shrek, Aladdin, Little Monsters, Pirates of the Caribbean), the film doesn't really blow you away with anything particularly clever or groundbreaking, but it does offer ample amounts of tension and thrills consistently, all put together with class by longtime television director Stuart Orme, here marking his one and only big budget theatrical feature. And after seeing this, I'm quite surprised he never got more theatrical gigs, because he did a stellar job here. Nothing too fancy, but sometimes that's just what the project calls for, and he delivers the goods. In fact, this could easily have been a great Made-for-TV film, yet still works great as a big budget feature without losing any of it's quality.

The Puppet Masters was released on Blu Ray last year by Kino Lorber with a bunch of new interviews by the large eclectic cast as well as commentary by director Stuart Orme and editor David Yardley, with an all new scan and impressive picture quality.

Bad Movie Night Presents: The Intruder (2019)

Dennis Quaid's Over The Top Pyscho Performance Steals The Show In This Otherwise Tired Premise

by robotGEEK

There's something to be said about filmmakers who keep taking on the tired tropes of a home invasion thriller considering it's already been done to death. What that is, I don't know. But what I do know is that I'm glad they did this time around because it was one of the most entertainingly bad films we've seen in some time.

And I'm going to make this as short and sweet as possible, because I'm going to tell you you've already seen this film countless times before. It literally brings nothing new to the table. But what it DID do incredibly well is cast Dennis Quaid as the villain, and boy does he not only go over the edge, but he relishes in the psychopathic nature of the character that it's damn near a goddamn parody, and it's amazing!



Here we have the same old story. A wealthy young couple (Michael Ealy, Meagan Good) moves into a dream home in the suburbs and away from their busy city life. The former owner is none other than Dennis Quaid, here playing Charlie Peck, a retired construction business owner who can't seem to let the house go. He often stops by unannounced to cut their yard for them, or brings a bottle of wine for a quick hello. However, when his seemingly good deeds become more and more brazen and bizarre, things start taking a turn for the worst.

I swear you've seen this film before. I will say though that the acting is pretty good across the board, with the insanely gorgeous Meagan Good stealing literally every scene she's in, even if her actions, or rather her dumb decisions, are the catalyst for a lot of what ultimately happens here. But it's Quaid's show all the way and my word does he deliver the goods tenfold here. I'm sure he's played villains before, but I don't think he's ever played them so unhinged like he is here and I loved every goddamn second of it.



Director Deon Taylor (Meet the Blacks) does a fine job making the film look good. There are no complaints there. I think the real travesty here is the completely uninspired script by David Loughery (Passenger 57, Money Train, Nurse 3D, Lakeview Terrace). And it's a shame, because he's written some pretty damn fine films before. How this got greenlit is anyone's guess.

It's important to point out that you really have to be in the right mood and frame of mind to enjoy this. I mean, it's a bad film in the sense that it's an extremely tired premise and there is literally nothing really worth getting excited about. A friend of mine actually gave it a shot based on my recommendation, but couldn't get past 30 minutes. And I will say, you have to invest in this, because it takes time for Quaid's character to slowly unhinge into over the top crazy, but my gawd is it worth the investment. Literally every second he was on screen being creepy, weird and batshit crazy had us laughing out loud, yelling "WTF?" and rolling our eyes and it was wonderful. I'm telling you, if you can invest a good hour and a half and get through some pretty mediocre exposition and storytelling, you'll be handsomely rewarded with a very good time.

11.13.2019

A Case For Terminator 3: A Better Sequel Than Most Give It Credit For

Keep in Mind. Watching This Sequel Requires Being in the Right Frame of Mind

by robotGEEK

With all the hoopla over the new Terminator film hitting theaters, with most of it negative, I thought I'd take a look at one of the sequels that gets tons of flack. Well, let's face it. All of the sequels after Part 2 get lots of flack, but there's something about this one. For some reason, when people are bitching about the terrible sequels, their go-to is always Salvation and Genisys. As they should. Those films are terrible. For that reason alone, I thought I'd revisit this one since I already owned it, and really have no desire to go see the new one yet. So let's dig in.

Here's the thing, and I know I'm in the minority here, but I actually really enjoyed this a lot. If anything, it's pretty much a big budget B-Movie, much in the same way the first one actually was. Only with that first film, Cameron was such an incredible filmmaker that he made the film look and feel bigger than it actually was. The same thing can't be said about the director of this one, Jonathan Mostow (U-571, Breakdown). And I'm not really sure why that is. I mean, it looks good for the most part, and Mostow had proven himself an accomplished director with the damn near perfect thriller Breakdown. But there's something very defining in the way he shoots this thing. It just can't help but look like a B-Movie, no matter how much money they threw at it. And that's one of the reasons why I enjoy it.

At the time, this was the most expensive independently produced film, almost reaching the $200 million dollar range. But you'd never know that just by watching this. Despite being made a whole 12 years after the landmark and groundbreaking Judgement Day, the effects work here has taken a sharp detour in quality. No matter how many effects sequences they throw at us in this, both big and small, they look cheap compared to any other film in the franchise, which is crazy considering more than a decade had gone by since the previous installment.

But this film is not all CGI effects. Surprisingly, there are just as many practical effects and stunts as there are CGI, and it's in the practical side of the effects that the film really delivers and shines, with Arnold even shelling out a cool million of his own money to pay for that crazy "crane car chase" sequence in the middle of the film. It's a shame that they just didn't try and stick with it in that sense the way the first film did, by keeping most of the effects work practical and small. I feel if they had, it would have been a much better film experience overall, having gone back to basics the way that original first film did, instead of giving us mediocre effects work for a film following one of the greatest sequels ever made.

Bad CGI and strange tone aside, the film has some good things going for it. For starters, Kristanna Loken is a great Terminator. Her dead-cold stare, even when she's on the losing end of a fight, is damn impressive, as is her physical badassery. If there was ever a Terminator in the franchise that was in the same league as Robert Patrick's T-1000, I think she would be it. And there's also the moments where the film tries to infuse some tongue-in-cheek humor that falls embarrassingly flat, coming off as cheesy rather than funny. But again, that's all fitting in with it's unintentional tone.

And despite my criticisms of the film's B-Movie quality, ultimately that actually works in it's favor. If you can't get it to compare to that masterpiece first sequel, then at least going the complete opposite direction is admirable, even if it was ultimately unintentional. And that's what Terminator 3 is; a big budget mess of a film that didn't turn out the way it was originally intended, and once again stalled the franchise for another 6 years. It's hard to say whose at fault; the director, screenwriters, or producers. Maybe all of them? Somehow none of it gelled well together and created this bastard child of a sequel. But it's still a helluva lot of fun, and I'd revisit this one again before I even consider any of the ones that came after.

11.09.2019

Documentary Spotlight: Chris Claremont's X-Men

While X-Men wasn't a title I was particularly obsessed about growing up in the 80's and 90's, I knew enough about it to be a casual fan. My main titles were Iron Man, Hulk, Spider-Man and most importantly, Punisher. But I would randomly grab X-Men from time to time, and if I'm being 100% honest, X-Men was the very first comic I ever purchased when I was a kid in the mid to late 80's. The exact year escapes me, but I'm pretty sure it might have been Classic X-Men #20. I remember being at a local convenience store (remember when they sold comics in convenience stores!!) and randomly grabbing that issue of Classic X-Men and immediately being hooked on comics to the point that I became obsessed with them for many, many years.

While X-Men wasn't a personal favorite, and even if you as a casual collector weren't necessarily an X-Men fan, it's hard to not know that Chris Claremont is alone responsible for crafting the X-Men brand into what they are today. Having written that comic for a total of about 16 years, he created so many characters and memorable storylines that ultimately became the X-Men legacy, many of which made it into the big budget feature films of the last 20 years. In short, Chris Claremont is the man who made them what they are today.

How much did he create and invent in that time? You'd be surprised! And it's all laid out splendidly in this engrossing documentary that gives deep insight into literally every year since it's creation by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby in 1963, a comic that wasn't that big of a hit by the way. Claremont is front and center here, but they also interview some former Marvel heavyweights, like former Editor in Chief Jim Shooter (Secret Wars), whom Claremont fought regularly with and honestly comes across as really unlikable.

This excellent documentary is currently available for FREE on Amazon Prime.

Haunt; One of the Best Horror Movies in Years

Saw Meets The Haunted House Theme Park in This Impressive and Gory Slasher

by robotGEEK

Released in September of this year, I was only made aware of this film after a Facebook friend posted about it in a movie group recently. Intrigued, I looked it up and found that it's produced by Eli Roth (a much better producer than he is a filmmaker) and written by the team who wrote the excellent A Quiet Place. I was sold. The following weekend I rented it on Amazon and hoped for the best on a Saturday night. Let's dig in.

In short, Haunt (not to be confused with the film of the same name from 2014) was absolutely great and just what I was hoping for. Given that a ton of these "haunted house theme" films come out every year around Halloween, it's refreshing that a new one can come out and floor you in a way that 90% of them don't. While there's nothing necessarily new here, it's in the professional way it's all laid out and put together that makes it stand out.

A group of friends decide to try out a new Haunted House Attraction after finding a flyer after leaving a local bar. Once inside, they quickly realize that what are supposed to be scary displays might actually be real. Once they try to leave, they soon discover the truth. 

Written and directed by Scott Beck and Bryan Woods, Haunt delivers the goods tenfold. The story is pretty simple, but it's execution is done in such a brutal and intense way that you're left squirming in your chair for so much of it, while simultaneously being drawn by its intensity. The kills, violence and gore are exceptionally well done, and the reveal of the killers is impressively disturbing. And that's something that becomes harder and harder to do these days, revealing a killer or killers that are memorable and not standard cliche's. Without giving too much away, I liked where they went with the identity of them here. It was different, in a good way.

When you compare any film to Saw, then you're pretty much thinking of Torture Porn, and all the things that come along with that. While this is most definitely in the same vein, the kills, gore, set pieces and effects work were all top notch and surprisingly impressive. And lets be honest, torture porn has been played out to the point that nothing is really all that shocking anymore. Most films these days tend to spend all of their effort, time and money in the kills, leaving the rest of these films (i.e. story, pace, acting, structure) pretty bland efforts. Outside of the gore, they're nothing to write home about. Haunt is different and a welcome change of pace to the genre.

Haunt can be seen on Shudder, and is available to rent on Amazon Prime.

90's Action Attack!: Virtual Assassin (1995)

Michael Dudikoff's "Die Hard in a Science Lab" is a lot better than it has any right to be

by robotGEEK

By this point, Dudikoff's once promising career as an action star had started to wane, and while he continued to work regularly, the quality of his films had diminished greatly from the once popular Cannon days. Still, he worked tirelessly and while most of his films were forgettable DTV fare, there are a few gems scattered throughout that decade. This is one of them.

Dudikoff plays an ex police officer turned janitor for a high tech science facility. When a band of terrorists, led by the legendary Brion James (no introduction needed!!!), infiltrates the lab so that they can insert a deadly computer virus that will give him world domination, it's up to Nick James (Dudikoff), who reluctantly heeds the call. 

Released in 1995, Virtual Assassin AKA Cyberjack (a much more fitting title) is basically Die Hard in a science lab, and it's great. I think for me the most surprising element is in just how well its made all around. Directed by Robert Lee, making his directorial debut after a decade as Assistant Director of over a dozen films both big and small, Lee surprisingly gives the film a professional sheen that I was not expecting. Yea sure you see the limited budget splattered all over the screen, but even so, his camerawork and compositions were something to admire. And believe me, that's not something I'm looking for in these types of films, so noticing that almost immediately was a pleasant surprise.

While the majority of the film takes place inside a large high tech computer/science lab set in the future, there are a few moments in the first and final act that implement impressive model work, and these are the moments that honestly surprised me the most. Of course they look like models, but it's in how they were implemented into the scenes and how they were shot that were most impressive. I actually wished there were more model-work sequences because they looked so great! But that's just me.

Brion James is hands-down the highlight here, sporting bleached blond blown-out hair and goatee, an oversized black leather jacket and looking like he's from an early 90's Glam Metal band, he does what he does best and that's make every scene he's in memorable. Lucky for us, he's the main villain here, giving him ample screen time to play over the top in the best possible way.

If I had any gripes, it would only be 2 things. First, they give the characters of Nick James (Dudikoff) and the villain a Boston-type accent that doesn't always work, especially in the case of Nassim (Brion James), where it seems to come and go. The second would be the title of which it's currently available as in the U.S., Virtual Assassin. It gives a sort of misleading idea that some of the film will take place in a virtual world, but there's never a single second that that actually happens. Cyberjack is a much more fitting title. Other than that, there's plenty of action, style and over the top nonsense to deliver the goods.


10.04.2019

I'm Back....

I took a LONG break from here because my love of photography took over all of my free time outside of work. As a personal art form, it has grown exponentially, and it looks like it may actually be a way for myself to make a little money at some point. I've learned so much this past year and with having dedicated so many long hours every day to growing as a photographer, I feel it's time to pursue it even further as a legitimate business. If you're interested in seeing any of my work, please follow me on Instagram, backwindfilm, and on Twitter backwindfilm. I would greatly appreciate it.

I was also let go from my job this week, which is both scary and a little exhilarating at the same time. Because I have a disability, finding work is going to be a huge challenge, so I'm currently weighing my options and trying to figure out how to move forward. But! That gives me time to get back to doing one of the things I love most, which is watching movies and telling you all about them. So expect a high volume of reviews coming soon. I hope you enjoy them. If anyone has any tips or suggestions on how I can possibly make a few bucks reviewing films for others such as well known websites and magazines, please email me at robotgeek76@gmail.com with any info. It would be greatly appreciated. Stay tuned!

7.26.2019

Bad Movie Night: Turbulence (1997)

by robotGEEK

Let me start off by saying I had high hopes for this one in two opposite directions. Either it could have been a great Die Hard on a plane style action/thriller, or it could have been a really great So Bad, It's Good romp with an over the top Ray Liotta being Ray Liotta. I'm sad to say that it kind of sort of falls in line between the two, never going far enough on either side

First off, if you love crazy Ray Liotta, then this movie is for you. Here he is an unhinged beast and literally the only thing that makes the film worth watching. While it's actually not bad, and quite good in some areas, you can't help but feel that it could have been a pretty great Bad Movie Night classic if they had just decided to dive head-on into cheese. Seriously, had they given it just a little bit more oomph in the cheese department, this would have been a certified Bad Movie Night classic! No doubt. But what we ultimately have here is a film that kind of teeters on that very special type of film, but never far enough. It's a competently made film, with some surprisingly impressive effects work and decent cast that easily could have made it an enjoyable 90's action/thriller, but what we're left with is a film that doesn't know whether to be a good action/thriller, or an unintentionally hilarious, but highly enjoyable cheese-fest.



For his part, Liotta is a blast to watch. In the first act, he plays calm, cool and even a bit charismatic, making you believe he's not such a bad guy after all. But it doesn't take long for his true colors to shine, and boy does he let loose in easily his most "Nic Cage-y" performance. It's easy to see he's having a blast here, and it's kind of scary how intense and good he is here in the role. Lauren Holly does a fine job as the protagonist, a stewardess who must outwit Liotta's serial killer character as well as try to land the plane solo. But I think the real standout here, or rather the most likable, is Ben Cross as a pilot who guides Holly's character over the radio on how to fly and land the plane safely. He's actually a very good and likable actor, and outside of his notable role in Dark Shadows, never really hit it big the way he should have.

Turbulence is an easy time-waster, and I can guarantee you that you won't be disappointed. While it never quite goes as far as it could, it's a hoot to see simply for Ray Liotta giving his most over the top performance to date.

7.22.2019

The Cult Corner: Armed and Dangerous (1986)

Harold Ramis, Mark L. Lester, John Candy and Eugene Levy Create Comedy Gold

by robotGEEK

It's hard to believe that it's been decades since I've last seen this. And I don't remember too much about it really, other than the main cast and the sequence where they dress up in drag and bondage inside of an adult video store. But it's been a film I've had an itch to revisit for a while now, but never found the opportunity. That is until Crackle threw it on their streaming site for the month of July. So let's dig in.

After a former lawyer (Eugene Levy) and a former cop (John Candy) take jobs as security guards, they uncover a corrupt union that includes ripping off their own companies, taking bribes, and even murder. When their concerns are met with dismissive attitudes, they decide to blow the corruption wide open. 



After finally revisiting it, I was struck by a number of things I found surprising. First, that it's a helluva lot funnier than I remember, and secondly, there's a lot more action than I was expecting. Let's start with the comedy. I was totally unaware that Harold Ramis had anything to do with this, but it shows that he has a story and screenplay credit, along with mega producer Brian Grazer, James Keach and Pj Torokvei (Real Genius, Back to School). I mean, all that talent just involved within the writing of this classic is impressive, and it's all translated brilliantly onto the screen because I laughed the entire time, from it's hilarious opening to it's action-packed climax. Yes indeed, Armed and Dangerous is a comedy gem that had me cracking up the entire time.

One of the things that surprised me was that this is directed by action maestro Mark L. Lester, a year after the Arnold classic Commando. So it sounds strange that after delivering arguably one of his best, most loved films in the action genre that he would dive into a comedy. But hey, Walter Hill did it roughly around the same time too with Brewster's Millions back in 1985 after a string of action classics that included 48 Hrs. and Streets of Fire. But what I found more surprising is how good he is at it here. I mean, the movie never skips a beat and it's genuinely hilarious for all the right reasons, so it's a surprising to me that he never did anymore comedies after this. At least none that I'm aware of since most of his films after this went straight to home video. Add to that the fact that he didn't direct a film for 4 more years until 1990's excellent cult classic Class of 1999, a sequel to his own breakout hit Class of 1984. He would then deliver a film of near legendary status the following year in 1991 with the Dolph Lundgren/Brandon Lee action classic Showdown in Little Tokyo. Anyway, I'm veering off course here.



John Candy was on such a winning streak here. Coming off of comedy classics such as Splash, Summer Rental and Volunteers, he would follow this up with his cameo in the genius musical adaptation of Little Shop of Horrors and then Spaceballs and Planes, Trains & Automobiles. Eugene Levy, who costarred with Candy in Splash, was an SCTV regular who primarily stuck to television work before and after this for the most part. But overall A&D is filled to the brim with such an impressive cast that it's hard to know where to begin. We have the adorable Meg Ryan (Innerspace) of course, and then there's Kenneth McMillan (Dune) who plays her father, but we also have a who's who of character actors all making notable and memorable appearances throughout such as the legendary Brion James (Blade Runner) and Jonathan Banks (Breaking Bad) as two of the heavy-handed union reps, Robert Loggia (Innocent Blood), Larry Hankin, Steve Railsback and Tiny Liston, Jr. just to name a few. This cast was incredibly entertaining all around.

Having an expert action director comes in handy quite often in here because A&D has a surprisingly large amount of action sequences. While most of it is played for laughs, it doesn't take away from the fact that the action is seriously badass in here. That last third act though is damn impressive with some killer action and stuntwork for sure.



Armed and Dangerous exceeded my expectations at every turn. It's hilarious, fun, and carries a large amount of action to satisfy any action fan. John Candy and Eugene Levy are in top form and honestly, make a great team. While they costarred together in a number of things before this, I'm surprised it didn't continue considering this is easily their best collaboration.

You can currently watch it for FREE on Crackle.com, or rent it for a few bucks on Amazon. There's a 2011 Blu Ray you can pick up for roughly $10, and the DVD for even cheaper.

7.18.2019

Bad Movie Night: Malibu Express (1985)

Excessive Nudity, Juvenile Script, and Mediocre Action. What More Could You Ask For?

by robotGEEK

As much as I love bad movies, I have to admit that I haven't really dug into legendary B-Movie filmmaker Andy Sidaris' filmography all that much. I think up until this point, I've only ever seen the excellent Seven (1979) and the Bad Movie Night masterpiece Hard Ticket to Hawaii (1987). Before this, he hadn't directed a film since Seven in '79, taking a 6 year break from filmmaking. But after this film, he pretty much made and released a film a year all the way through 1993's Fit to Kill. It seems that beginning with this film, he found his little niche, or stride, and just kept belting them out left and right. Whether that's a good thing or not depends on your taste in bad films, but one thing's for certain, his films are definitely entertaining.

Malibu Express tells the tale of a smooth talking Texas private eye named Cody Abilene. I mention that he's from Texas because they throw that in your face as often as possible. In fact, his characterization of a Texan is so over the top that it actually falls into a caricature territory. I'm from Texas, I would know. He's hired to infiltrate a rich and powerful family to see which one of them has been leaking high tech secrets to the Russians. 



Really, that's the bones of the story. Much like Sidaris' previous film Seven, it gets way too complicated and convoluted for it's own good, when really all we want to see is a bunch of random nudity and poorly executed action. Oh, and plenty of unintentional hilarity. Thankfully this film possesses all of those things so the over-complicated plot doesn't take away from your enjoyment too much. I think it started to sink in with Sidaris because ultimately, the main character, Cody Abilene, has to narrate the film to tell us what's going on.

I should point out that Malibu Express is strange. There are so many odd things that happen that don't make a lick of sense, but surely adds to the films overall appeal. There are too many to make an actual list, but believe me you'll be scratching your head a whole lot during the film. At it's heart, it looks and feels like a film written by a horny 13 year old boy. I'm not even joking. The dialogue is so juvenile and unintentionally hilarious that you just have to assume that Andy Sidaris must have written this film when he was a preteen. But again, that only adds to the film's appeal. On the downside though, this is sadly not Sidaris firing on all cylinders. Whereas I just love his more stricter and professional tone in Seven, and his more polished work in Hard Ticket to Hawaii, Malibu Express seems to be a decline in quality all around, from the direction, certainly the writing, editing and acting. I should also point out that while there are plenty of moments that take place elsewhere, most of the film takes place within a house, coming off as sort of a "Clue"-style thriller as he tries to figure out who's killing who.



As per usual, Sidaris shows up in a cameo as an RV tourist but he's so annoyingly over the top it's cringe-inducing to watch. It's also surprising to learn this was released in 1985, when it looks and feels more like a film shot and released in the mid 70's. There's also an ongoing gag about a hillbilly family of 3 who keep trying to challenge Cody to a car race throughout the film. I mean, these scenes are awful and such an unpleasant chore to sit through. It wouldn't be so bad if it was just once or twice, but they keep showing up over and over and it got old really fast.

While the cast is a collection of non-actors, most likely Playboy models, there are a few bright spots, like the legendary Sybil Danning, who always brings a breath of fresh air every time she shows up on screen. Also, you'll get a kick out of a pre-Police Academy 2's Lt. Mauser showing up here as a thug.



While I wouldn't say it reaches the level of some of Andy's best known and loved films, its certainly got enough going for it to make it enjoyable for any Bad Movie Night. I actually had this in my collection for years as part of that cheap 12-Movie set "Girls, Guns & G-Strings: The Andy Sidaris Collection", but never got around to watching it. When Mill Creek recently began releasing his classics on Blu Ray, I couldn't pass up the very low price of $8 for this, which you can still do on Amazon for that price I believe.

7.17.2019

Documentary Spotlight: Life After Flash

It Took Long Enough, But We Finally Have a Documentary on Flash Gordon The Movie And It's Awesome

by robotGEEK

First of all, I had no idea this documentary even existed until it hit Amazon Prime as short while ago, because I can guarantee you that if I had been made aware of it earlier, I would have been more than happy to contribute to it's crowd-sourced funding, which is how it got made. But sadly I wasn't even aware of it until now. Anywho, when it popped up while browsing Amazon recently, I immediately added it to my list and finally got to watch it this past weekend.

If you've ever wanted a behind-the-scenes making-of documentary (which we've surprisingly never gotten yet) on the legendary Cult Classic Flash Gordon, then this documentary is for you. If you ever wanted to see a documentary about Sam Jones, his life before, during and after Flash Gordon, then this documentary is for you. In reality, it's like 2 different docs in one, and though some people online have been complaining about the fact that it did not know what kind of documentary it was trying to be, I actually love that about this. I love that it's both of those things and honestly, myself, or anybody for that matter, is in no position to bitch about that because as far as I know, this is the only documentary to truly dig deep into all things regarding that Flash Gordon film.



I think one of the most fascinating, and certainly most entertaining, things I discovered in this was all the details I was not aware of until now. Like just exactly why Sam Jones never got bigger than his role as Flash, and why he never got another big gig afterwards. Or that his voice was dubbed in the film. I literally had no idea. But there are so many things I was not aware of about this movie, a movie that I absolutely adore. So learning all of these behind the scenes aspects on one of my favorite films was such a treat, and I hope it will be for you too.

Here you get a ton of brand new interviews with virtually everyone involved in the production of that first film, from actors, to the team behind the camera, and right down to Brian May of Queen, talking about his experience doing the now legendary soundtrack to that iconic film. He even digs into who exactly who contributed to each song and what parts of those songs. I'm telling you, this is a wealth of information regarding all things Flash Gordon The Movie and if you've ever been a fan, this is something you need to watch. And lucky for you, it's now available for free on Amazon Prime right now.


7.08.2019

The Cult Corner: L.A. Story (1991)

A Tour De Force of Hilarious Brilliance Pouring Out of Every Pore

by robotGEEK

Wow. Just.....wow. Those were my exact words immediately following the "experience" that is L.A. Story, a film written by the brilliant Steve Martin and directed by Mick Jackson (Volcano, Threads, The Bodyguard). When this was first released way back in 1991, I remember it well, but also remember ignoring it because it looked like a romantic comedy. And at its core, it is. But it's also so much more, which I'll get into shortly. But at the time I was all about horror and action and while I enjoyed Steve Martin comedies up until that point like Three Amigos!, Roxanne, and his brilliant role in Little Shop of Horrors, I avoided this one. Boy what a mistake that was.

L.A. Story, at it's core, is a romantic comedy. But it's so much more than that. It's an over-the-top surreal look at what life was like in L.A. in the late 80's and early 90's, and that in itself is worthy of it's own subject matter. But here, Martin brilliantly blends this with a story about a newly single local weather man who meets the love of his life (Victoria Tennant) through a chance encounter, while also newly dating a much younger free-spirited woman (Sarah Jessica Parker) as a way to move on from his recent breakup, but also because, as he puts it, he's a man. So you're getting so much in such a short amount of time and personally, I found it exhaustingly brilliant. Every single second is ripe with clever visual references that add layers of genius to an already hilarious, touching and romantic script.



I think part of the reason that maybe I, and countless others, probably avoided this was because it was marketed as a pretty basic rom/com, but it's so much more than that, which is something that the trailers never touched on. Probably because it's so unique and they were attempting to market it to the most broad audience possible (I can only imagine what people thought when they did go see it at the theater and instead were treated to a surreal look into life in L.A. via 1991). But in the marketing, they left out some of the most important elements of L.A. Story that make it so unique and just completely special and unforgettable. It's whimsical, magical, surreal, clever and most importantly, it's hilarious from start to finish. And not just with it's broad comedy, but in it's visual ques embedded throughout the entire film, which I found flat out brilliant. You really have to pay attention to so much of what's going on in the background or right in front of you.

 I've always loved Mick Jackson as a director and I think choosing him, an outsider since he's from England, to direct a film about L.A. was an inspired move. He adds so much to the film that I think nobody else would have been able to, and certainly more than anyone who's actually from Los Angeles, CA. I've always felt him to be an underrated filmmaker, even though he's made memorable films like the dark, bleak and unforgettable cult classic Threads (1984), the better-than-it-should-have-been disaster film Volcano (1997), and the Whitney Houston/Kevin Costner thriller The Bodyguard (1992), he is rarely ever mentioned by name or reputation, and it's a shame because he's a damn fine filmmaker, and I can easily throw this in with his best.



L.A. Story is not for everyone, and I can see how some might be turned off by it's more surreal qualities, but I find them all quite whimsical and magical in nature, and I hope you do too. Above all else though, it's quite hilarious and inventive with everyone turning in great performances, Jackson's impeccable direction and the film keeping an even tone throughout, never swaying too far into serious territory. It's always funny and it's always entertaining.

7.03.2019

90's Thriller Throwback: Unlawful Entry (1992)

A Perfect Thriller in Every Sense of the Word

by robotGEEK

Unlawful Entry is the perfect example of why I love 90's thrillers the way I do. Released in 1992, it deliveries everything you could possibly want in a solid thriller, only it does it in such a perfectly structured way that I couldn't possibly think of a single thing to complain about.

After a scary break-in by an intruder who puts a knife to Karen's (Madeleine Stowe) throat, she and her husband (Kurt Russell) befriend the police officer who responds to their call. Soon officer Pete Davis (Ray Liotta) begins helping out a little too much and it soon becomes clear that not only is he unstable, but he has his sights set on Karen.

By offering up just the right amount of tension, suspense and thrills, together with some impressive editing and superb direction by Jonathan Kaplan (The Accused), Unlawful Entry succeeds in a way that so many other thrillers fail. Let's not forget, the early 90's were ripe with suspense/thrillers, so there was no shortage of them during this time. Not only does it give you a compelling story, but it creates a situation that could very easily happen to any of us, and gets you to wonder just how exactly would you react under the same circumstances.



If there was anything I took away from this film, it's that Madeleine Stowe is a goddess. Sure the film is just fantastic, but if you've never seen Tony Scott's Revenge (1990), and needed a reason to fall in love with her, then this film will do it. My gawd what a sight she is in here, and she should be, because she's the catalyst for everything that follows in the film.

And then there's Ray Liotta. By now he's known more for his intensity than anything. I mean, it's crazy (and scary) how intimidating he can be with something as simple as a Chantix commercial. But I swear, he could reach through the tv screen and literally kill you with his gaze, and that's what makes him so fun as a villain. Sure he's proven himself a great, and incredibly hard-working actor in everything from action classics, dramas, thrillers, comedies and family films, but he'll most certainly be most remembered as being so great as a villain and nobody does crazy like he does here.

I had picked up an old VHS tape of this years ago and it sat on my shelf for so long I had just forgotten about it. I did the smart thing and finally moved it over to my "watch pile" next to my tv so that I would remember to throw it on someday. Now that I finally have, I can kick myself for waiting so long because this was just such an absolute treat from beginning to end and I think it's time I add this to the collection upgraded. No Blu Ray that I know of, so it will have to be DVD for the time being.


7.01.2019

The Cult Corner: Quick Change (1990)

Bill Murray's Directorial Debut is a Forgotten Gem, Cult Classic & 90's Oddity of the Best Kind

by robotGEEK   

Here's another forgotten film I finally checked off my list. Quick Change is a comedy (and I use that genre title loosely) about a trio of bank robbers who attempt to flee the city after their crime, but are beset by a number of circumstances that take them on an odyssey through the streets of New York as they try to reach the airport.

Released in 1990, this would be Bill Murray's one and only directing effort. Some quick digging on the internet reveals that this was a passion project for Murray, and as such, he became both producer and co-director so he could have more creative control, the only time he's ever done either for a feature film. This was made and released when Murray was in a high point in his career, having just released the highly successful Ghostbusters II the previous year, and Scrooged before that, and following this up with classics such as What About Bob?, Groundhog Day, Ed Wood and Kingpin. So it's safe to say he had a remarkable amount of creative freedom to do whatever he wanted, and for better or for worse, the result is Quick Change.



While I enjoyed this quite a bit, I didn't love it like I hoped to. And after re-watching the trailer, I remember why I avoided it all these years until now. It just looks like a terribly unfunny comedy, and that's sort of what it is. But it's also a film that falls into a very niche genre of comedies that are few and far between; comedies that are not actually funny and often times offbeat, bizarre, dark and surreal like Something Wild, After Hours, Into the Night and Joe Versus the Volcano. While this one doesn't quite reach the level of those films, it gets pretty close. The little bit of humor this does have comes from Randy Quaid's childlike character, but for the most part it carries a strictly dry humor, which actually works really well here. I just feel if they had tried to make it a little darker and more weird, it could easily be a great cult classic. As it is, it's really good, but not one I see myself revisiting anytime soon.

Murray and co-writer Howard Franklin share directing credit on this and so it's hard to tell who to give credit to, but for the most part, it's a nice looking film. Nothing fancy or stylish, but it's clear they knew what they were doing in framing up their shots, with a few images really standing out, especially in the first act when dealing with the bank heist.


To Murray's credit, he plays the part flawlessly in easily one of his most subdued performances as a man who's trying to keep it together, despite a neverending series of obstacles that create chaos and tension on their journey out of the city. He never once tries to be funny, which today isn't all that surprising after fantastic performances in films like The Royal Tenenbaums, Lost in Translation and Broken Flowers. But there was a time when he attempted to do "serious" way back in 1984 with The Razor's Edge that didn't go over so well. While I wouldn't call his performance in here dramatic, it's serious enough in tone that it could almost pass for dramatic. Still, there's just something "different" about him here, and I struggle to put my finger on it. Whatever it is, it works, and it almost makes me wish he directed more, because that could be part of why he's so effortlessly good in this.

Murray's co-director and co-writer is Howard Franklin, who delivered some solid dramatic screenplays with In The Name of the Rose and Someone to Watch Over Me before this, but mostly stuck to comedy after as both writer and director with The Public Eye and Larger Than Life. Of all the films under his belt as director, I would say this is probably his best effort.

Quick Change is a noble effort, and a really good film, just barely teetering on the verge of being great. That in itself is an accomplishment, and worth your time checking out. If anything, it's worth seeking out just to see the one and only film Bill Murray has ever directed, because it's quite an impressive debut if you ask me. It hasn't yet received a snazzy Blu Ray release, so your best bet is grabbing the DVD, which you can do cheaply.

6.27.2019

Wisdom (1986), Emilio Estevez's Forgotten Directorial Debut



An Ambitious, Yet Flawed, Debut as Writer, Director, Producer and Star of a Modern Day Bonnie & Clyde Tale That's Better Than You Think

by robotGEEK

Released in 1986, Wisdom would mark Emilio Estevez's first stint as a director. He made this the same year he appeared in Stephen King's Maximum Overdrive, making 1986 a pretty busy time for him. While information like that is usually enough to motivate me to check it out, I'll be honest - I never much cared to because it looked like a melodrama to me with that title and U.S. cover art. But having finally seen it, I was way off, because this is in fact a pretty impressive directorial debut that starts off as a drama, but slowly progresses into an "outlaws on the run from the law" traveling cross-country tale that takes a sharp detour into violence, which was an awesome and welcome surprise.

I think part of what makes this film so impressive is Estevez's sure-handed direction. At the time this was made, he was the youngest person to ever direct a feature film for a major studio at 23 years old, beating out Orson Welles by a year, and though he's since claimed in interviews that this was an embarrassing vanity project, I'd have to disagree. It's a film that plays true to an artist who knows exactly what he wants and how to do it. There was never a single moment where I felt it came off as amateurish, or even vain......well, maybe the opening and closing sequences. But it's a confident film without ever trying to throw it in your face. Is it perfect? No, the pacing and structure could use a little tweaking. But it's nowhere near the trainwreck the critics claimed it to be upon it's release. In fact, though most people have either hated or dismissed it, it's since grown a substantial cult following, enough for Warner Archives to "finally" release it on DVD for the first time ever a few years ago under it's "On Demand" label.



I'll be honest, the plot and the way the film plays out are a little baffling. I mean, you normally wouldn't put the two together, yet it works surprisingly well here and only adds to the aura that Estevez knows what he's doing.

Essentially, Estevez plays John Wisdom (hence the title), a recent high school graduate who can't find a job because of a past conviction for stealing a car to go joy riding years earlier. Frustrated, he decides to rob banks. But not to steal money. Instead he uses his newfound purpose in life to help aid American farmers, who are suffering from a financial crisis and are unable to pay back loans and mortgages. John decides to wipe out their debt by destroying all of their mortgage and loan records from every bank he hits instead of robbing them of their money, in the hopes that it will buy the farmers more time to be able to get out from under this financial crisis. With the law fast on their cross-country tale, time is running out.

It's easy to nitpick all the plot holes and little things that work against it rather than for it, but you can do that with any film literally. So that's not fair to do just because this is coming from a first-time director. The fact of that matter is that Estevez, a hot property at the time in Hollywood who already had a slew of classics under his belt such as Repo Man, St. Elmo's Fire, The Outsiders and The Breakfast Club, was a young 23 year old who was given an insane amount of money to produce his first film as a director. And while most would use that opportunity to overindulge, he instead keeps things subdued and to a minimum, even coming in under budget and under schedule. Yet all anyone can ever talk about are the film's problems. Honestly, after my first ever viewing, I couldn't find a single thing to complain about other than it's ambiguous title, which I feel worked against it because it says nothing about the film or what it's about, until you've finally seen it. I can only assume if it was a more marketable title, something that easily identifies the type of film it's going to be, it might have helped it's chances at the box office a little more. But who knows?



Estevez cast his real life fiance at the time, a young Demi Moore, to play his girlfriend in the film, who he haphazardly convinces to join him on his cross-country quest. A lot of the decisions the characters make are quite foolish, but it's in keeping in line with the thinking of a young 20-something year old. In fact, one of the biggest turning points of the film and for the characters comes from a stupid split-second and disastrous mistake she makes that alters their lives forever, completely changing the course of the film. If you can just remember that these are kids doing something completely noble, yet incredibly stupid, then it passes a lot more plausibly. Though Estevez says that this experience and backlash he received because of it devastated him, he rebounded nicely with back to back hits with Stakeout the following year in 1987 and Young Guns the next year in 1988, marking that film and his portrayal of Billy the Kid as arguably his most career defining role.

The only way I was able to actually watch this film (which I'd been wanting to do for a while now), was by purchasing the Warner Archives DVD. It's not streaming on any platform I could find, isn't uploaded on YouTube, and wasn't available through Netflix's DVD mail-delivery service (yea I still use that). Having an Amazon Prime membership allowed me to get this at the cheap price of $11, and that's important because all of that factors into how much I actually enjoy a film. If I want to see it bad enough and there are no other ways to do so other than buying it on a physical media, then I will just buy it, with the thinking that if I don't like it, I can just immediately turn around and sell it on eBay and hope to get some of my investment back. But if I like it, and know it's a film I will revisit at some point, I keep it and it stays in my collection. Mind you, I can't keep every film I like because I just wouldn't have the room. It has to have a re-watchability factor to it, because if I just like it and know I won't ever sit down to watch it again, then it's just taking up the limited space I have for my collection when I can use that space for something I do know I will want to revisit. Wisdom, thankfully, is a film that I know I will want to re-watch again someday, and that to me is the sign of a good film. It ultimately shares a lot in common with his impressive and better-received followup directorial effort Men at Work in the sense that it's a confidently looking film, being a film he directed released the same year he made a career-defining classic (in Men at Work's case it's Young Guns 2, both being released in 1990, and this film being released the same year as Maximum Overdrive) and carries a tone that's hard to define and describe, yet you walk away satisfied by the experience. Good job Mr. Estevez.

6.26.2019

A Case for Greatness: Black Rain (1989)

Ridley Scott's Hidden Gem is a Masterpiece Waiting to be Rediscovered

by robotGEEK

Released in 1989 (a great year for cinema), Black Rain marked a return to form for director Ridley Scott, who had weathered a series of back to back critical and box office misfires up until that point. Sure we can look at classics such as Blade Runner, Legend and Someone to Watch Over Me and bemuse over their initial reception, but the fact is that despite all of these films being great and now considered seminal works, they were all bombs and Ridley hadn't had a hit since Alien 10 years earlier in 1979. Black Rain would be a critical and commercial hit (though a minor one), paving the way for Scott to continue making films that would define his career.

Yet, despite it's now almost cult status as a certified badass within the action/thriller genre, and a tentpole for films that dig into the Asian culture, it's rarely ever regarded as the masterpiece that it should be. I mean, it is almost universally loved by anyone I come into contact with on social media whenever I mention it, but outside of that, it's rarely ever held in the same vein as other thriller classics by critics, and it's a damn shame because it really is one of the best films in this genre.

Just in case you have been living under a rock and "still" haven't seen this (it's okay - all of us have been there at one time or another), Black Rain follows New York cops Nick Conklin (Michael Douglas) and Charlie Vincent (Andy Garcia), who get caught in the middle of a Yakuza (Japanese Mafia) gang war in New York. When they arrest one of them, they are told to escort him to Japan, only to have him slip through their fingers once they arrive. With the help of a local officer Masahiro (Ken Takakura), they set out to track down this crime boss and murderer. 

While Ridley Scott is considered one of the greatest visual filmmakers still working today, it blows my mind that his work prior to this film, with the exception of Alien, were not well-received. And while Black Rain was generally better received than all of his 80's films, it still doesn't get the love and recognition it deserves. Quite frankly, Black Rain is a masterpiece, plain and simple. An action/thriller that digs deep into the Japanese culture, with gorgeous visuals courtesy of legendary cinematographer Jan de Bont (Die Hard: as cinematographer, Speed: as director) and of course, Scott's keen eye. This also sports an amazing score by Hans Zimmer, marking his first of many collaborations with Scott here. The Asian influence in his score is incredible.



Michael Douglas had just come off of winning an Oscar for Wall Street 2 years earlier in 1987 and hadn't acted in a film since. Black Rain would also mark the first time he played a cop on film, and boy what a badass he was in here. I think part of the reason I love this film so much is Douglas' portrayal of a morally corrupt cop, who's been put through the ringer in his personal life, and let's that bleed over into his professional life as a tough as nails cop who really is one of the coolest badasses I've ever seen on film. Douglas marked his 2 year absence from the Silver Screen with a bang here.

It's true that Douglas is the hero and badass here, but the person who undoubtedly left the biggest impression is Andy Garcia, here as Conklin's nice, sympathetic and extremely charming partner. You just can't help but love him and though he only spends about a quarter of the time on film, he leaves a huge lasting impression. Garcia had made a splash in De Palma's The Untouchables 2 years earlier in '87, and would go on to deliver a tour de force performance the following year in 1990's Internal Affairs.

Speaking of the great cast, huge props need to go to the legendary Ken Takakura, who plays their Japanese liaison during their visit. Despite Takakura's admission that he doesn't speak a word of English, his grasp of the language and performance are nothing short of impressive. Being able to use the proper subtle nuances of each English word was so impressive that I was floored to learn he didn't know English......at all. For a guy who built a decades long career out of playing samurai's, bad guys and villains, his performance here as the by-the-book, yet likable sympathetic liaison who grows more attached to these NY cops through a series of life-changing circumstances will win you over. In the extra's located on the Blu Ray, Takakura also confesses that this is the first time he's ever shown smiling in a film.

Similarly, Yusaku Matsuda, who plays the lead villain Sato, made a career out of playing cops or good guys, and Black Rain may be the only time he played the villain (I could be wrong), and boy what a devilishly perfect performance it was. Sadly, as great as Black Rain is on it's own merits, it's marked by a tragedy in the fact that Matsuda was suffering from stomach cancer at the time, and did not tell anyone about it until filming had wrapped. Knowing he was going to die anyway, he wanted to be remembered forever, as he put it, by this performance and film so he suffered in silence never letting on to anyone. He died a few weeks after the film had premiered and Black Rain is dedicated to him in the closing credits.

The film opens in New York and spends about a good quarter there before heading to Japan, where a good chunk of the film takes place. I actually love both settings because Scott is able to make great use of both locations, with a harsh gritty realism in the NY environment, and the bright neon-drenched locations in Japan. The film just looks amazing in any location they were set in, but it's within the Japanese environment where the film really flourishes. The excellent Blu Ray release of this has an incredible 2-part documentary on the making of this film, which spotlights Scott's hardships of shooting under Japans strict rules, which led to Scott proclaiming that he would never shoot a film in Japan again. The government restrictions were so great, with time limitations being the biggest factor, that they ultimately ended up shooting several key sequences in the U.S. and made to look like Japan because their shooting visa's had expired. Nevertheless, even with the constant restrictions and stress of shooting a film in a different country under extremely strict guidelines, Black Rain flourishes as one of the best examples of this type of film. The film's hard-edged tone never falters, the performances across the board are top-notch, and the visual eye candy produced by Jan de Bont and Ridley Scott are breathtaking. All of these things produce an exceptional viewing experience that never fails to impress or entertain me, no matter how many times I revisit it, which is quite often.

When Black Rain premiered in September of 1989, it hit #1 at the box office and remained there for several weeks, ultimately earning an impressive worldwide total of $134.2 million. Not bad for a film with a $30 million budget. Yet, it's never mentioned in the same breath as some of his other well-known films like Blade Runner, Gladiator, Thelma & Louise and The Martian to name a few, and that needs to change. It's a slick, hard-edged and riveting film that delivers some of Michael Douglas's, Ridley Scott's, Hanz Zimmer's and Jan de Bont's finest work in their careers.


How to see it:
Paramount released a Blu-Ray in 2007 that offers a really great picture quality as well as a healthy dose of extras to dig into that tackle the film's troubled production in Japan, the script, post-production process, release, score and casting. Best thing too is that you can get it super cheap, for under $10 so you have no excuse. If you want to go the streaming route, it's available on Amazon Prime and Hulu right now.

6.19.2019

80's Action Attack!: Eye of the Tiger (1986)

Gary Busey's First Action Lead Gig is an Instant Cult Classic

by robotGEEK

This is one of those films I never really cared too much for back in the day, mostly because I just felt at the time it was pretty standard stuff. And to a degree, it is, but that's also why it's so damn good. Watching it today at this age makes me appreciate just how great it actually is, where we live in a world full of shaky-cam/quick-edit CGI bullet holes bullshit, Eye of the Tiger is a welcome breath of fresh air.

Released in 1986, and sandwiched between Silver Bullet (1985) and Lethal Weapon (1987), Eye of the Tiger may very well be his first gig as an action lead, but I could be wrong. He would continue this trend 2 years later in '88 with the excellent Bulletproof. But unlike Bulletproof, which is pure glorious 80's cheese at it's finest, EotT is gritty and serious, never once even dipping it's toe into camp or cheese, which is surprising when you consider that it very well could have.


Eye of the Tiger tells the story of Buck Mathews (Busey), who's just been released from prison and is happy to go back home to his loving wife and little daughter. You see, Buck is a really good guy who just happened to get caught up in something stupid, so he did his time and he's ready to get his life back together. But it's not long before he comes to the aid of a rape victim at the hands of a motorcycle gang, and they soon set their sites on him. When they attack Buck's family, he sets out on a violent path of revenge.

I gotta admit, this one was really solid. I knew it could have gone either way, but I'm glad this one took the serious approach. I mean, we already have Bulletproof for awesome cheesy action, so I'll take this one any day. It's also a new favorite within the biker genre, of which there are very few really. Plus, we get the reliable William Smith (Seven, Red Dawn, Maniac Cop) as the main biker bad guy, hamming it up to number 11 on the crazy-o-meter.



Confidently and competently directed by Richard C. Sarafian (I don't think I've ever seen any of his other films), EotT benefits from his sure-handed direction, especially in the action scenes. Oh, and did I mention Buck acquires a gnarly suped-up 4 X 4 truck loaded with arsenal and kickass electronic gadgets to aid in his revenge? I'm telling you, this film has it all and it's awesome.

Eye of the Tiger is an excellent entry in the biker genre, as well as the revenge and even the 80's action categories. Gary Busey is a kickass anti-hero and while he doesn't display the crazy erratic Busey behavior we have grown to love (he does plenty of that in Bulletproof though), he's just as great here. Eye of the Tiger makes for a perfect Sunday afternoon watch. Give it a try!