- Heels are apparently in fashion when you’re a She Wolf wearing nothing but underwear. Apparently they’re the best type of footwear to sport when clomping around the desert.
- Nothing enlivens up a movie like girl-on-girl grappling! And you can set your watch to how many times the film relies on a cat-fight to pique the viewer’s interest.
- Mad Max 2: The Road Warrior reference where a dumb-head hench-woman plays with a wind-up music box in Guy’s abandoned shack and he sets off a very slow moving fuse that eventually turns her into an explosion.
- A mysterious race of nuclear damaged people called Razhuls who are misshapen zombies that worship the spectre of television in the film’s most biting piece of “satire.” Chaining Phoenix and Keela to flimsy crosses and reading from their bible, the TV Guide: “At the hour of the prime-time, we will cancel them!”
- A night-time raid on the evildoers’ fortress, which is basically a caravan and two shanty town shacks. A face-off between Phoenix and Cobalt that ends explosively, providing a useful piece of fashion advice for women in the wasteland: don’t wear grenades on your belt.
- Keela saving the day by escaping the psychic power of the evil witch woman by basically cutting HER CHORD, yes, to what – her psychic box? – and rescuing her son. Concluded by a symbol of hope and purity with Phoenix on a white horse riding along a beach front.
Saturday, 25 September 2010
Saturday, 26 June 2010
Celebrity is both a blessing and a curse. Sure, you get millions of dollars and attend glamorous parties and live in mansions etc. But the price you have to pay is all that unwanted attention from the media. One line of argument states that movie stars should expect such invasion of their private lives since they’re working in the public spotlight. Hey, sure, a guy used a telephoto lens to take a picture of you being naked inside your own house, but those are the breaks, kiddo. The other side of the argument runs that we are to blame with the public love for trashy gossip rags and celebrity gossip, thus funding the destruction of people’s dignity. And then you have the film, Paparazzi, which adds to the whole debate over the existence of the paparazzi by basically arguing that movie stars should have the right to kill them if warranted.
A good thriller relies on our ability to relate to the protagonist. Thus we have Bo Laramie (Cole Hauser, the intense Tom Berenger Jnr type who starred in Dazed & Confused and Higher Learning), an ordinary guy and loving family man, who just happens to be a movie star and attends the premieres of blockbusters like Adrenaline Force. Walking down the red carpet, he finds himself surrounded by people yelling for his attention and snapped by the bright lights of cameras on either side of him, which as the editing points out is a DIZZYING experience. Then we hear some voice-over narration where Laramie trots out the old reliable “ancient cultures believe that you lose a piece of your soul every time your photo is taken” line (Oh brother, I think the writer took an anthropology class once! That or saw Crocodile Dundee.). While Laramie can handle providing autographs for the fans, he can’t abide the inclusion of his family within this public attention, particularly when he discovers the cover of a tabloid rag simply called Paparazzi, which has a photo of him and his wife naked on the beach. His chipper son asks, “Why is daddy in a magazine with a black thing covering his pee-pee?” Ah, family humour providing solace from the onslaught of noxious parasites! Obsessed with Laramie is leading photographer scumbag paparazzi, Rex Harper, who we know is a scumbag because he’s played by the very convincing scumbag talents of Tom Sizemore. Laramie first meets Harper at his son’s soccer match where he tries to ask nicely for Harper to stop taking photos, handling the media attention in a very George Clooney fashion. “Sure thing, famous guy,” Harper wisecracks. Harper relents but then he’s back taking more photos of Laramie’s family so Laramie loses it, handling the media attention now in a very Alec Baldwin fashion. He punches Harper in the face, knocking him against Harper’s van, which slides open to reveal Harper’s paparazzi cronies taking photos galore. “Oh, you gonna pay!” cackles Harper. The plot takes a sharp turn when Harper and his gang hound Laramie and his family one night, causing the movie star to crash in a very Princess Di fashion. As Laramie and his family are knocked out unconscious in the wreckage, Sizemore and his boys stand there for a moment before running back to their cars and bringing out the cameras to record the scene with the fascination of a... car crash. The camera judges them silently, urging us to feel sick to our stomach: “Look at these parasites, they are even lowering his wife’s dress to get some cleavage in the shot, I HATE HUMANITY NOW!”
Now I am under no illusions about the paparazzi: anyone who is happy to crawl in the gutter to take an up-skirt special is indeed repugnant, sure. I mean anytime I watch TMZ, I want to take a flamethrower to their self-delusion that they’re reporters doing this for the Public Interest. However, I’d rather watch a good documentary following such douchebags on their rounds than what Paparazzi does, which is shoehorn paparazzi shenanigans into a hackneyed Death Wish plot. In order for us the audience to be cheering on the demise of these shutterbugs, we have to believe them to be the most heinous people ever. So you have Sizemore, all but foaming at the mouth in his performance, staring at photos of Laramie and cackling, “Laramie, I’m gonna destroy your life and eat your soul!” (Apparently a piece of Sizemore improv). Then you have Sizemore blackmailing a blonde bar-hopper he picked up, who also witnessed the car crash, by revealing that he taped them having sex and would happily send the tape to the internet and to her senator daddy if she ever told the cops. Then he and his cronies (who include Kevin Gage, Tom Hollander and Daniel Baldwin who summarises the philosophy of the paparazzi with the line, “We’re the last hunters!”) break into Laramie’s house and set up spy-cams like they’re the goddamn CIA. With his son in a coma and his wife’s spleen removed thanks to the car crash, Laramie sets out to take revenge, at first, letting Kevin Gage the biker ‘Rolex Rider’ paparazzi fall to his death from the face of a cliff after a motorcycle accident. Then Laramie sets up pint-sized British paparazzi Tom Hollander by dropping a false report to the cops about Hollander firing a gun at people. Hollander is cornered by the LAPD and reaches into his jacket for his ID, but no, there’s a prop gun planted in his jacket that gets him cut to pieces by trigger-happy cops. All the while Dennis Farina plays a cop (surprise, surprise) who is Columbo-ing the investigation and figuring out that these deaths are not “accidents.” In the end, Laramie breaks into Daniel Baldwin’s home (after Daniel Baldwin broke into his home and threatened his wife) and beats him to death with a baseball bat (the actual murder was cut from the movie because it made the audience feel unsympathetic towards Laramie). Cut to a scene of the cops taking photos of Baldwin the paparazzi’s dead body (“DO YOU SEE THE IRONY?” is what the movie screams). The climactic face-off between Laramie and Harper a.k.a. Sizemore has Sizemore breaking into the mansion then being beaten in the face by the movie star who has framed Sizemore for the death of Daniel Baldwin’s character. Sizemore is carted out by the cops into a swarm of photographers taking his picture for the papers (“DOUBLE IRONY!” The movie yells again). Movie ends with Farina letting his suspicions go unchecked with a rueful smile, basically condoning a movie-star’s numerous plotted murders of sleazy press photographers and Laramie the movie star walking down the red carpet for Adrenaline Force 2, but now knowing how to handle the paparazzi with a wink and a smile. All it took was a couple of murders!
Tuesday, 22 June 2010
Director: Lexi Alexander
When I was thirteen, I read Marvel Comics regularly. The three titles I consistently collected were Spiderman, Captain America and The Punisher. I think The Punisher appealed since the comic was not about a superhero, just some dude with a lot of guns and a skull on his chest, taking revenge on his dead family (killed by mobsters) by wasting every criminal he could get his hands on. Basically it was a Joel Silver produced action movie in comic-book form. However, there’s a pretty twisted morality going on with its zero tolerance capital punishment attitude towards evil doers, which never really went into any grey areas in the issues I remember reading. There was one scene I always recall where he busts a female flight attendant for smuggling drugs and decides not to kill her. Why? In the voice-over caption, he remarks, “I couldn’t... she was somebody’s daughter, somebody’s sister.” How very noble of you, Mr John Wayne. Too bad about all the sons and the brothers you wasted; they had it coming because this is a man’s world, blah blah blah. For such a simple concept, film adaptations have found mixed success from the 1980s Dolph Lundgren version (which I’ve never seen) to the really lame Thomas Jane version that featured old cheese-head himself, John Travolta as a really lacklustre villain. We turn to Hollywood’s new favourite word of recent years – the “reboot” – for a quasi-sequel/remake of The Punisher franchise with Punisher War Zone.
Whilst Jane really looked like he was trying hard to be tough (and failing), producer Gale Anne Hurd has recast Frank Castle a.k.a The Punisher with Ray Stevenson, a British actor best known for the HBO series, Rome, as well as playing grizzled subordinates in things like The Book of Eli. Stevenson is a good choice because he looks like the comic book character, projecting an unbreakable hardness and stone-cold resolve. However, after awhile, there’s not much else and he becomes a bit of a blank slate afterwhile, lacking any apparent charisma. We are first introduced to him at some big mafia get together birthday dinner where he cuts the power and appears on the table with a lit flare in his hand, cast in reddish light like Freddy Krueger, then slitting an old mafia boss’s throat open with his knife and then snapping the neck of a middle aged mafia moll when she goes for her gun. "Woah," I guess we’re supposed to think, "this isn’t your grandfather’s Punisher." This is followed closely by what I consider to be the lamest action cliché ever, which is that The Punisher attaches his feet to an overhead chandelier so he can twirl around upside down firing twin sub-machine guns and massacring mafia goombahs left and right. Why do producers and directors think this is so cool? You don’t have to be a special forces expert to know it’s just plain retarded. Indeed my favourite example of this was when Ice T did it in 3000 Miles To Graceland and then was eventually shot to pieces because he was dangling upside down like a fish on a hook. But back to The Punisher being aggressively cool. Man, this guy is so tough that he uses a pencil to snap back his broken nose, which made me laugh in its attempt to solicit our admiration for this tough son-of-a-bitch. Yes, the violence is particularly grisly with CGI head-shot explosions and CGI throat-stabbings galore. My favourite moment had to be when The Punisher surprises one gangster by punching him in the face and when I say punching him in the face I mean that they built a fleshy-head-rig so that The Punisher’s fist caves in the guy's face like a black hole. So yeah, The Punisher is not a technically superhero but he has superhero abilities such as fists of fucking iron! Incredible.
The story? Oh, right, The Punisher busts up another operation where he does two things that set the plot in motion. First, he throws a pretty-boy mobster Billy The Beaut (Dominic West) into a glass compactor, which tears his face up and leaves him as The Joker. Oh wait, not The Joker: “Billy’s dead... from now on, call me Jigsaw!” Yes, the film even has a scene that apes the Tim Burton Batman where West rips bandages from his ugly new face, a patchwork of flesh that doesn’t reach the heights of Gary Oldman’s plastic-flesh-face in Hannibal. Now if you had any respect for Dominic West as an actor after playing one of the coolest characters in television history, Jimmy McNulty in The Wire, please stay away from this film because he really swings for the fences here, hamming it up like nobody’s business. Similarly if you had any respect for Doug Hutchinson as an actor after playing one of the scariest characters in television history, Eugene Tombs the liver-eating cannibal in The X Files, please also stay away from this film because he also really swings for the fences here, playing Jigsaw’s younger liver-eating psycho-brother. West and Hutchinson really compete for worst Italian accent in their villainous brother act: "Who the fuck are these fahnooks?" Back to The Punisher who during this first act set-up also accidentally kills an undercover FBI agent mistaking him for a mobster, which you might think could add some shading to this basic vigilante story, but if you’re looking for complexity than I give you the scene where the Fed’s widow (Julie Benz) pulls a gun on him and shouts, “Who punishes you?” Step aside, Alan Moore, I think comics and comic adaptations just got owned by this film's brilliant writing. Oh, The Punisher also has a tough black cop chasing him, Colin Salmon (who played the tough black commander in Resident Evil) who wants to bring the vigilante to justice and faces dismissive treatment from the NYPD who are all Punisher fanboys. This led to my favourite scene where Salmon is facing static from the department and sneers, “With all due respect, Captain... this is BULLSHIT!”
Anyway, The Punisher is having a crisis in consciousness, almost retiring his whole skull-shirt act to the disappointment of his only friend, a slimmed down Newman (Wayne Knight) playing surprise surprise a gun dealing nerd who utters another priceless bit of dialogue: “We are fighting a war against the assholes who slip through the raindrops.” Not to worry, complexity is simplified when The Punisher has to rescue the Fed widow and her kid from the evil Jigsaw, which ends in a hostage situation in an abandoned hotel where a hundred different gangbangers are conscripted to be easily killed by The Punisher. The climax, just to spoil it for you, is a lot of muzzle flashes in dark corridors and CGI squibs galore, which made me reflect on how there was no real “art” to all of this mayhem (all I could think of was the awesome corridor hammer action sequence from Oldboy). Anyway, Jigsaw forces The Punisher to choose between the death of the Fed widow and her kid or the death of his nerd friend (Newman), which really made me think hard about whether The Punisher would let a kid die to save the hacker who brought down Jurassic Park so it was really suspenseful for a second there. Let me just say that evil is punished and there’s a happy ending when the widow reveals to The Punisher that her dead husband talked a lot about The Punisher when he was alive: “He said you were one of the good guys.” Oh, it’s all okay then! Good thing he was killed by his hero!
The Making of Punisher War Zone revealed that the director Lexi Alexander was female, a former martial arts champ who helmed the Elijah Wood football hooligan film, Green Street Hooligans. I don’t know why I was surprised really. Wake up already, dude, Kathryn Bigelow won an Academy Award. I’m sorry, gender equal studies. So yeah, great job, Lexi Alexander – women can make repugnant bullshit action films too!
Sunday, 20 June 2010
I think Torque’s hilarious. It’s great if you’re stoned. It’s really weird if you’re stoned, like in a good way, but also in a, “What the fuck, who made this?” way. I think it’s this weird confluence of the studio wanting to make a Fast And The Furious movie and a director who wanted to make fun of Fast And The Furious movies, and those things kind of colliding.
Saturday, 5 June 2010
Director: David A. Prior
After the bullshit masterpiece that was Deadly Prey, I was keen to experience further work from director David A. Prior and the production company behind it, Action International Pictures, a name you can trust when it comes to shitty movies released on VHS in the 1980s-1990s. Working in the tradition of Roger Corman by sticking a name actor low on funds into a cheaply made genre picture, Prior directed the sci-fi cop movie non-classic, Future Zone (1990), a sequel to the film, Future Force, where David Carradine plays bounty hunter John Tucker and was more than likely hired for only three days of shooting, slouching around like John Wayne with two holstered revolvers, the kind of hero who walks into a room of three drug dealers and quick-draws them to oblivion with fast-shooting. "You have the right to die!" he quips like a soft-spoken Judge Dredd. Yet when the situation is too hairy for conventional weapons, such as when another drug dealer attempts a getaway in a van that is going nowhere, Carradine pops his trunk, unlatches a secret case and takes out a Nintendo Power Glove! Yes, a mechanised glove that acts as a lethal weapon by shooting BLUE LIGHTNING straight out of a Thomas Dolby music video, which Carradine uses to shock the runaway drug dealer into an elliptic fit. All hail the Fist-o-matic 3000! However, as my co-viewer, The Genius, pointed out, “If the glove is so awesome, why isn’t he using it all the time?” Well, a glove like that probably sucks up a lot of energizer batteries. Be judicial in your Power Glove usage.
When not exploring the A and B buttons of a power glove, Carradine cruises around his rusty pick-up truck, receiving orders from the sassy Southern babe on dispatch through their two-way TV intercom, which seems to be the only signifier that this film is set in the near future. The actual “future” in Future Zone relates to the presence of Billy (Ted Prior, the hero from Deadly Prey) who is zapped down to Earth like Starman but is actually from the future, arriving in cowboy boots, leather jacket, mesh muscle shirt and mullet power! Beamed in to kick-start the lame buddy cop comedy engine this film is powering on, ducking bullets and trading stilted quips with his new partner, Carradine. Why? Because Ted Prior is Carradine’s son from the future, but it takes the whole movie for Carradine to figure it out, and Ted Prior is there to save his father's life. Ah, like The Terminator but in reverse and quite lame. Otherwise Future Zone is pretty generic stuff even opening with what The Genius termed to be “the scene of a hundred action movies from the 1980s”: a meeting down at the docks, a double cross with a subordinate...
Subordinate: “Hey, what’s this?”
Erudite evil boss, Hoffman: “A gun.” [shoots him dead]
Then Hoffman and his henchman assassin hit a switch and detonate an explosion on a docked ship, which keeps exploding on and on for five minutes like a sketch from The Naked Gun series. Usual buddy cop action movie bullshit follows with nerdy businessmen suspects dying in car-bombs, witnesses killed in protracted Russian Roulette torture sequences, lines of dialogue like ‘Would you like me to take him out of the picture?” and “All the loose ends have been tied up except one!” and then there’s also the great shark-smile of Charles Napier as a corrupt official caught in the middle named Mickland (!).
What distinguishes Future Zone as an Action International Picture is the lame-ass action sequences where guys run around abandoned locations to fire off blanks and stagger uncertainly when their squid-pack goes off. For example, Carradine heads to a warehouse set-up where Hoffman tries to kill him with a dozen henchmen, all hiding behind pylons, firing off a dozen weapons, but completely unable to hit the looping gait of a 50 year old codger. Prior busts in with his van to rescue Carradine and they’re shooting crooks left and right then having an “intense” high-speed chase down an empty city street, which culminates in Carradine and Prior standing in the centre of the road, waiting for henchmen in two cars to ram into them at high speed, man versus machine, man victorious with a slow-motion quick-draw. Along with the stock music score, which sounds like it was lifted out of a generic 1950s-era thriller, the whole film feels like an old western with a bit of “Future” paint splashed over it. Anyway, Carradine’s wife who looks zonked out on painkillers and is pregnant with their son, the future Ted Prior, well, she is kidnapped by Hoffman to be exchanged for confiscated drugs (no, not the wife’s painkillers, but lots of A-Grade dope from the streets). Carradine and Prior hit the weapon room with the one-liner, “Grab some of this stuff. We got bad guys to catch!” A bumper sticker could be made of such a carefully written piece of dialogue like that! A climactic junkyard confrontation occurs that eventually ends with Hoffman holding a gun to the wife’s head and threatening her death. Carradine says, “You let her go, you’ve got a chance to live.” So Hoffman lets the hostage go like the genius criminal that he is, placing his faith in these renegade cops upholding the democratic rights of due process. Carradine and Prior look at each other.... “Nahh.” Then they blow him away! Wah-wah-wah. Thankfully a helicopter with a bad guy firing a machine gun offers some more interest after that stupid scene. The Power Glove returns! Carradine hits a button on his key ring and the glove flies out of its case onto his hand and then he zaps with BLUE LIGHTNING the helicopter, turning it into an explosion. Then he tosses it aside once evil is defeated with the carefulness and respect of used washing gloves; ahh, it’s just a highly sophisticated piece of technology that saved your life twice, but yeah, hey, leave it lying around for a junkyard dog to use as a chew-toy.
Carradine is younger than he was in Kill Bill but he is in poorer shape in this earlier movie and isn’t trying too hard on the acting stakes. After his seething muscular performance in Deadly Prey, Prior is surprisingly subdued and somewhat alright as the cocky asshole he plays here. There’s some lacklustre action scenes, a boob shot here and there, some unmemorable dialogue, a lot of unnecessary pauses and grinding pointlessness. You can watch the whole 80 minutes on YouTube if you have nothing else happening in your life, but you’re better off watching the trailer and thinking of the power glove of blue squiggly line power appearing in every second scene. Now that would have been some Future Zone shit right there!