80's Thriller Throwback: The Dead Pool (1988)

Not Quite The Banger To End The Series, But A Solid Entry Nonetheless

by robotGEEK

I've never been the biggest Dirty Harry fan. In fact, I think I've only ever seen the first one once in its entirety. While I do own the collection, I really really love Sudden Impact, and that's the one I tend to revisit the most. I think Eastwood, as director in his only directing gig in the franchise, just knocked it out of the park with that one. While Sudden Impact mostly tends to play out as a revenge-thriller rather than the type of film we had grown accustomed to with the first 3 entries, that doesn't negate any of the enjoyment factor, because it's such a cool flick all around. 

Of all the Dirty Harry flicks, The Dead Pool was the least enjoyable for me, and much like the first one, I think I've only ever seen it once. I just couldn't connect with it. There was a lot I didn't like about it, and most of my gripes have to do with stunt coordinator Buddy Van Horn (Pink Cadillac) as director. It's just kind of lifeless and stale. There's no style, no sizzle, no cool retro factor, unlike Sudden Impact, which is shocking considering it's a late 80's detective thriller. It's all very plain and dry, never once giving off any kind of aesthetics so to speak. Van Horn chooses to direct rather simply, with lots of handheld cameras, and it's worse during the action sequences. I don't know about you, but how a film is directed plays a big part in my enjoyment of it; the visuals, editing, camerawork. And I've always considered this one the least visually pleasing entry in the series. But, my Instagram buddy The Movie Cave encouraged me to give it another try, and I have to admit, I'm glad that he did. 

I don't know if it was just because I was in the mood for this kind of film, but I really enjoyed it more this time around. All the little things that annoyed me before, like the lackluster direction, didn't bother me so much. I mean, they're still there and I still noticed them, but they weren't as big an issue as before. And I have to admit, I never really noticed the horror angle before, yet fully appreciated it this time around. I loved that so much of the story was centered around the production of a low-budget horror film called Hotel Satan, directed by the gloriously arrogant Liam Neeson of all people. It definitely added a lot of flavor to the film overall, and seeing Guns N' Roses, who had just exploded into the mainstream with their album Appetite for Destruction, in a few scenes was quite the added bonus. Did I mention we're also treated to a very young Jim Carrey as a strung out drug-addicted rock star named Johnny Squares, who does a terrible lip-syncing job to Welcome to the Jungle in his first dramatic role? Yea, The Dead Pool has it all. 

In this film, Harry takes on a new partner in the form of Al Quan, played wonderfully by veteran television actor Evan C. Kim, who sadly never got the recognition he deserved, and this new dynamic (having a partner of Asian decent), really makes the film all the better. It's a shame Kim never got bigger and better roles after this. He was quite good and so damn charming. With the exception of one appearance in an episode of JAG in 2004, he hasn't acted in anything since 1992. What a shame. 

The Dead Pool, while quite ridiculous in some areas (the remote control car sequence has a lot of people divided), delivers the goods in an old fashioned way. It's a solid reminder of the kind of cop/thriller that we all love, while also giving us a solid dose of late 80's nostalgia. I still believe with all my heart that had Eastwood directed it himself, it would have been a far better film overall, but as it stands, it's enjoyable as hell. I really had a great time with it, and it just goes to show, your opinion can change, whether good or bad. It's not quite the banger we would have hoped for to end the franchise (some scenes definitely miss the mark due to Van Horns leisure approach), but it's not a bad one either. I still feel they had one more left in them, and imagining what they could have done with it in the 90's would have really been great. But oh well. We got what we got. 

The entire Dirty Harry collection is currently streaming on HBO Max. 


The Cult Corner: Dark City (1998)

by robotGEEK

A True Masterpiece of Noir Filmmaking Like No Other

Not enough people talk about Dark City, and that really blows my mind. And I'm guilty of that too. But here's the funny thing. Once you do bring it up, people go nuts over it and can't stop talking about it. It's quite the little darling in the cult film world and again, I'm shocked more people don't ever bring it up. 

I hadn't actually seen this in quite a few years. Mainly because I bought the Directors Cut Blu Ray years ago, and for some reason it wouldn't work on my Sony Blu Ray player. There was this constant cracking noise that ruined the experience, so I just put it away and forgot about it. I've since gotten a new player, an LG Region-Free player, and decided to see if it was the disc or the player, and yup, it was the player. It plays perfectly on my new LG. So I threw it on one evening and let me say, it was an experience that I live for. It blew me away all over again and reminded me just how special this noir masterpiece is. 

One of my followers on Instagram left a comment that sums it up best when saying "Alex Proyas was a kid in a candy store with this flick". And it's true. You can clearly tell this was a passion project for him. One he's played out over and over in his head for years: certain elements, certain shots, certain designs, everything. And really, there is no one who could have pulled it off quite like Proyas did, especially after having come off the gothic classic The Crow. His very specific style of aesthetics, camerawork and tone lend themselves to a truly original and timeless experience with Dark City. It's unlike anything you've ever seen, and the fact that so much of it was made practically, having been shot in the 90's, only adds to the overall unique experience. This is Alex Proyas firing on all cylinders, which is amusing since I had attempted to watch I, Robot (2004), his big budget sci-fi film starring Will Smith, and I just couldn't finish it. He's definitely lost his very specific flavor when it comes to how he shoots, and attempting I, Robot only made realize that I miss how he used to direct films. 

I think the issue that a lot of people had initially, and this is certainly the case when it was released theatrically, and even more so the case when trying to market it to the general public, is that it's really confusing and a hard film to describe. I know for a fact that they marketed it all wrong, which resulted in it being a box office dud. But watching the "Making Of" documentary located on the Special Features of the Directors Cut Blu Ray, Proyas states that this was on purpose. He wanted the audience to be as confused as the main protagonist, John Murdoch (Rufus Sewell). Finding clues throughout the film and trying to figure out just what the hell is going on. Why people can't remember past a certain date. Why it's always dark. Why things seem to change. That is a really ambitious approach, and sadly, one that didn't pay off initially. Though, as we all know now, Dark City is highly regarded in the cult film community as an absolute masterpiece of noir filmmaking. 

Though I had remembered a lot of the plot points, I actually remember far less regarding the film as a whole than I initially thought. So in this case, it was almost like watching it for the first time all over again. And I fucking loved it. A pure visual feast, full of surprisingly great effects work, both practical and CGI, incredible production and costume design and a tone that dares to be different. If it's been a while, do yourself a favor and revisit this sci-fi/noir/drama/thriller/detective masterpiece. 


90's Thriller Throwback: Cover-Up (1991)

by robotGEEK

Sometimes you go into these little films expecting a mediocre little affair to waste some time, and other times you're surprised how good the film actually is, which is pretty much what happened here. Cover-Up is a film I've been wanting to see for ages, but just never got around to it. While it has been officially released on DVD for some time, in dreaded full frame, I still never got around to it for one reason or another. I just always meant to. But! That opportunity finally presented itself when The Punisher: The Untold Story of a Cult Classic author Jeremie Damoiseau let it be known that this film was finally given the HD and widescreen treatment and was finally available to stream via Amazon Prime. Sold! Let's dig in.

I knew going in that this was not going to be an action film. Basically all I knew, other than it was the second collaboration between Lundgren and Louis Gossett Jr. after The Punisher, was that it was a thriller, and it was directed by Manny Coto (Dr. Giggles, Dexter). What I wasn't prepared for honestly, was how good this was, and most importantly, how well made it would ultimately be. And that's an aspect that I'm sure not a lot of people put much stock in, but it's a huge deal to me. I notice. And that's an area where Cover-Up really shines. Director Manny Coto gives the film and it's visuals an aura of professionalism that you rarely see in these low-budget thrillers. I have to admit, on the surface, aside from an unnecessary nude scene, this could easily have been another run-of-the-mill Made-for-TV movie, because as Espionage Thrillers go, there's nothing really all that special about it. That's why things like impressive camera setups, solid editing and a professionals touch really go a long way with these types of films. Aesthetically, Cover-Up is fantastic and definitely one of the better and more impressive looking films in Lundgren's DTV output. 

As far as stories go, it's good, unfolding as more of an Espionage Thriller rather than an Action Thriller, because as much as we had hoped, there's very little action. But the action there is, is done exceptionally well. I think what makes Cover-Up stand out from other films in Lundgren's career, especially where it sits in his filmography, sandwiched between action cult classics Dark Angel aka I Come in Peace and Showdown in Little Tokyo, Cover-Up is a stark contrast in that Dolph does no fighting, or kicking ass, or really using his brawn in general. Here he relies solely on his acting chops and he does an excellent job. If anything, I would consider this a pretty great example of his acting talents if you think all he has to offer are his muscles. 

I don't really feel the need to mention how good Louis Gossett Jr. is because the man always delivers the goods 100%, and does not let us down here. He's just effortlessly great, and no matter the size of the budget or quality of the film, he frequently reminds of that he won an Oscar for his talents. He's just amazing, plain and simple. 

I'm not saying Cover-Up will blow you away or that it's amazing, because it certainly has a few issues, like pacing and lack of thrills, but overall the film has so much else going for it that I can easily overlook those elements. It's a solid film, made exceptionally well, and if you're in the mood for a good looking 90's thriller set in the Middle East, it will certainly entertain. 

Curious little side-note. This is the only film written by William Tannen, who directed some 80's classics such as the underrated Chuck Norris thriller Hero and the Terror, and the early 80's thriller Flashpoint

Cover-Up is currently streaming in HD and widescreen for the first time ever on Amazon Prime.


Decade of Disaster: Dante's Peak (1997)

by robotGEEK

I always tend to go through phases when it comes to the kind of movies I watch. I remember last year I went through a "classic disaster" phase where I decided to finally check out some of these epic disaster flicks that permeated the 70's, creating both iconic classics, and some real duds. I think we can all agree that The Towering Inferno is the peak of how great a disaster flick can be, even by today's standards, but then films like Earthquake and Airport felt surprisingly flat. Anyway, I decided to dig into some 90's era disaster flicks, where we saw somewhat of a resurgence in that genre with films like Armageddon and Volcano to name a few. It was my absolute love of Volcano that reminded me that there was another Volcano disaster flick released that very same year, Dante's Peak. And this was the norm back then. If you recall, lots of similar films were released within the same year baring very similar ideas, competing for the top spot at the box office in those respective genre's. For example, we had Armageddon and Deep Impact (1998), Volcano and Dante's Peak (1997), and so on. 

Dante's Peak is fucking phenomenal. While this was released the very same year as Volcano, and they are both about a Volcano erupting, they couldn't be anymore different. Where Volcano was just an old school type of disaster flick that wastes no time with character development or anything like that, instead focusing on the destruction and havoc and nonstop thrills and excitement, Dante's Peak instead focuses on the people that will ultimately be affected by this impending disaster, taking the time building a story centered around an expert who's sent out to Dante's Peak, a small isolated town, to do some readings on the mountain/volcano, only to be immediately alarmed that something bad is about to happen, much to the dismissiveness of his superiors. As he gets close to the small towns mayor (Linda Hamilton) and her kids, she too realizes their town is in danger, yet the local office officials are more concerned about their economy and what an evacuation could do for business, rather than the safety of their little town. 

Dante's Peak is split right down the middle, with the first half building up some great tension as things become more and more clear that a disaster is inevitable, giving us time to get to know the characters, and most of all, care about them. Right at the middle mark, disaster strikes and Dante's Peak becomes the film I had hoped to have seen when I was younger. It's balls-to-the-wall epic destruction at it's finest, made all the more intense because you know the characters well by this point and actually care what happens to them. And there are some truly riveting, intense and harrowing moments that will leave you biting your nails. 

The effects work is downright amazing. Honestly, I didn't expect it to be this good and look this badass. One of the things this film has going for it in regards to it's effects work, is that it was made in the 90's. Sure, CGI was already becoming the norm, but practical effects were still being utilized quite regularly and Dante's Peak was 98% practical effects and they were phenomenal. I was in awe (like the bridge sequence) of some of the things I saw, knowing full well that there was no way that was or could be real, but rather models, yet I couldn't tell and that's what blew me away. And that's one thing this film does well, or even better than Volcano, is that it makes you believe because it looks so fucking real. 

I realized recently that I'd never actually watched Dante's Peak in it's entirety before. I remember trying it once, way back when it was released, and I must have gotten bored or impatient with the first half, which is the part of the film that takes its time building up the story, tension and relationships, before letting all hell break loose. Watching it today, that is the very thing I love about this film, yet as a teenager, I just wanted to see destruction. In that sense, I can understand why I just didn't take to this film like I did Volcano, which hits the ground running right from the start. And even if I did watch the entire thing back then, I doubt I would have enjoyed it as much as I did today, as a 45 year old. So in a sense, I'm happy I waited because I just absolutely loved this experience from start to finish. Loved it. 

Ultimately, I couldn't pick one over the other, as I love both Volcano and Dante's Peak equally, just in very different ways. I'm sure others feel the same, though judging from the comments on my Volcano post on Instagram, people tend to pick one over the other. I can't. I love them equally, even though they're two totally different types of films. 

Dante's Peak is currently streaming on HBO Max. You can also pick it up cheap on Blu Ray, for around $10, for your physical media collection. 


90's Thriller Throwback: White Sands (1992)

by robotGEEK

Just When You Think You've Seen All The Best Ones, A Surprise Pops Up Out of Nowhere

At this point, it's almost always a surprise when I discover an underrated gem within this genre, because I feel like I've almost seen them all. And that's exactly what this is; an underrated gem. A film I am shocked nobody ever brings up. The other day I was really feeling in the mood for a solid 90's thriller, one I hadn't already seen before. So I threw on Sandra Bullock's The Net, and I couldn't get past about 30-45 minutes because it was dull as shit. I'm sure with some different casting, and a different director, it would have turned out much better, but I found Bullock a bit unbelievable as the reclusive loner, yet stunningly gorgeous protagonist, and everything else was so stale on every level; supporting cast, direction, tone, and just generally keeping you entertained. That was all lacking. Then I stumbled upon this film. Funnily enough, I actually own this on Laserdisc, having picked it up years ago from a local record shop, but never got around to actually watching it. So when it popped up on Amazon Prime while browsing the other day, I didn't even think twice. Lets dig in. 

When small town sheriff Ray Dolezal (Willem Dafoe) discovers a dead body in the desert, along with a suitcase with half a million dollars, he impersonates the man in order to get to the bottom of the case and discover how he died, only to get sucked into an FBI investigation that takes him deeper than he ever expected to go.

White Sands is the very definition of an underrated gem. The kind of film that is so good on every level, yet shocking that it never gets brought up, which is really such a crime. Gorgeous cinematography, knockout performances by a killer cast, with Mickey Rourke being the most effective, impeccable direction from director Roger Donaldson (Dante's Peak, No Way Out), and one superbly satisfying ending. This is the kind of thriller that more people need to be talking about. The many twists and turns the story took were nicely done, giving the film that hard-edged tone you really don't see much in detective films anymore. And while this would most certainly be categorized as more of a Neo-Noir, it has all the elements of a great detective-thriller as well. 

Willem Dafoe never disappoints. He is the consummate professional, always delivering 100%, no matter what the role is, big or small. He gives it his all and delivers the goods every single time. That's why you never really hear anything like "Dafoe was so good in this, or that, or he really kicked ass", because he always does. That's the thing. He "always" does. Rourke was the biggest standout for me though. His star had already began to wane, and his previous film, Harley Davidson & The Marlboro Man was strictly a paycheck gig. So it was great seeing him deliver in a way that had become increasingly rare in his career at this point. The knockout supporting cast is filled with refreshingly familiar faces, most notably a young Samuel L. Jackson, before he exploded with Pulp Fiction. I wouldn't be surprised to learn he was picked for that film based on his performance here. 

A smart, edgy, classy, razor-sharp thriller that really represents the best of what the 90's had to offer in this genre, and one I know I'll find myself revisiting from time to time because it's so damn good. Give it a shot if you're in the mood for a thriller. You won't be disappointed. 

White Sands is currently streaming on Amazon Prime


Rad Comes to Theaters For 1 Night Only!

by robotGEEK

That's right! As part of it's 35th Anniversary, the iconic cult classic will screen for one night only on October 14th in an all-new restoration to celebrate it's anniversary, as well as a brand new documentary titled "A Rad Documentary: Inside the BMX Movie That Changed Everything". This is huge news! And may be the one and only time for some of us to ever get to experience this on the big screen. Snag your tickets now!

Here is the official announcement via Fathom Events:

In celebration of its 35th anniversary, the 1986 BMX racing film, Rad returns to theaters for one-night-only. Featuring a new 35th anniversary restoration, the film stars Bill Allen (Cru Jones), Lori Loughlin (Christian Hollings), Talia Shire (Mrs. Jones), Jack Weston (Duke Best), and Ray Walston (Burton Timmer), along with 1984 Olympic gymnastics champion Bart Conner (Bart Taylor).

As part of the Rad 35th Anniversary event, fans will see for the first time “A Rad Documentary – Inside the BMX Movie That Changed Everything.” Featuring never-before-seen interviews with the cast and crew and behind-the-scenes footage, the documentary gives audiences an inside look into the making of the film that helped catapult the extreme popularity of the 1980s BMX fad.

Man this movie has quite the history, and a complicated one at that. While it has become quite the certified cult classic, it has been an incredibly hard film to find for decades. It never got an official DVD release here in the states, leaving the VHS and Laserdisc releases insanely expensive and highly sought after by collectors. And I believe that's all tied to it's soundtrack and all the music rights associated with it if I'm not mistaken. We finally got an official HD release starting with Vinegar Syndrome's now Sold Out Limited Edition 4K/Blu Ray combo this past year, but has since been released a few other times in much cheaper editions on Blu Ray at a far more affordable price such as this Mill Creek edition that you can get on Amazon HERE for just $13. I should also mention that these new releases and restorations give us the first time ever seeing it in widescreen, as both the VHS and Laserdisc releases were only in full frame. 

You can purchase your tickets via Fathom Events HERE. Who's going!?


Rocky IV Returns to Theaters in an All-New Directors Cut!

by robotGEEK

Retitled Rocky IV: Rocky VS Drago: The Ultimate Directors Cut, Stallone has re-edited the film, removing any scenes with the robot, adding an additional 40 minutes of never-before-seen footage (nearly an hour!!), and delivering a more dramatic and intense experience. As much as I absolutely LOVE Rocky IV (in all it's 80's montage glory) just the way it is, I'm also really excited to see what he does with this. Just watching the trailer, you're thrown into this new alternate experience because most of the footage seen is new! 

Here's the official announcement via Fathom Events:

The most triumphant sports-drama franchise in history returns with a new look in ROCKY VS. DRAGO: THE ULTIMATE DIRECTOR’S CUT. This live event is coming to movie theaters for one night only and includes an introduction and Q&A with Sylvester Stallone!  Director, Writer and star SYLVESTER STALLONE masterfully reshapes ROCKY IV, delivering 40 minutes of never-before-seen footage. With more intense fight scenes, world heavyweight champion Rocky Balboa (Stallone) defends his title once again, this time against Drago (Dolph Lundgren), a six-foot-four, 261-pound fighter who has the backing of the Soviet Union.

I've seen a lot of comments from people not understanding the logic of this, and while I can understand that point of view, I can also see it from Stallone's. As an artist, we're never happy. All we see are the things we want to change or the things we should have or could have done differently. And if you're actually in the position to make those changes, then why not? 

Rocky VS Drago will be screening for one night only at Cinemark Theaters on November 11 via Fathom Events, and will roll out digitally to stream On Demand the following day on various digital platforms. 

You can purchase your tickets via Fathom Events HERE

You can view the kickass new trailer on YouTube HERE


Decade of Disaster: Volcano (1997)


Volcano is a Blast. Literally

by robotGEEK

Much like the explosion of the Disaster Flicks in the 70's, the 90's saw somewhat of a resurgence with films like Dante's Peak, Deep Impact, Armageddon and Volcano to name a few. They don't seem to make them as often as they did, or as often as that little surge in the 90's, and they certainly don't make them like this anymore, utilizing a bevy of practical effects compared to CGI-heavy films like The Day After Tomorrow that would be the norm going into the 2000's. 

Volcano is easily one of my favorite disaster flicks. It's one of those films that more closely resembles the type that exploded in the 70's; multiple storylines, large ensemble cast of famous faces, impressive practical effects, epic, and nonstop chaos. And honestly, I think that's where Volcano succeeds where others don't quite as much. This film is exhausting, but in the best possible way. It wastes no time in setting things up. Within 10 minutes the shit hits the fan and you're thrown into full-blown chaos and it never lets up for it's entire, and surprisingly short hour and 45 minute runtime. But so much is happening that it actually feels much longer. 

It's hard to imagine how they could have filmed a movie about a volcano erupting below the surface of Los Angeles in 1997, but they sure as hell did it and did it incredibly well. And while a lot of the amazing practical effects work should take the credit, I think director Mick Jackson (The Bodyguard, LA Story) really deserves a good chunk of the credit as well. As opposed to directors like Michael Bay, who released his own disaster flick the following year with the delightfully absurd and thoroughly entertaining Armageddon, Jackson directs everything with class. This is a classy flick and it makes it all the more entertaining, reminding you of the type of film that was all the craze a few decades earlier. Whether it was intentional or not, this film, above all others, is such a pleasant reminder, and a throwback if you will, to that very specific genre and it certainly doesn't get enough credit for that. Volcano looks, feels and plays out in such a classically epic way that it's hard for these types of films to top this one for me. It's a shame Mick Jackson doesn't get more credit as a great director. He had such a great little trifecta in the 90's with L.A. Story, The Bodyguard and Volcano, all films I love to death. 

I'm not the biggest fan of Tommy Lee Jones personally, but he did a damn good job in this if I'm to be honest. It's a physically demanding role and while I don't much care for him, he certainly does a 180 compared to his horrendous performance as Harvey Dent/Two-Face in his previous film Batman Forever...but that's a whole other story. That goes for the entire ensemble cast here too. They all put in their A-Game and with nonstop chaos, action, thrills and excitement, it's an exhausting experience all around, and such a blast. 

My one and only complaint comes from the ending. There is a sequence in the last 10 minutes that, despite a hugely impressive hour and a half of effects work that literally blew me away, looks cheap and feels tacky compared to the rest of the film. Not sure why it looks so bad, but it's a shame really when the entire rest of the film is impressive as hell. 

If you're looking for classy old school epic entertainment, you really can't go wrong with Volcano. It's blast. Literally. Now I'll revisit Dante's Peak too. I've only ever seen it once, and didn't care for it at all at the time. Not sure why either. Volcano is currently streaming on Hulu Plus, but I'm definitely going to grab this on Blu Ray and add it to the collection.