7.27.2014

Bad Movie Night: Killing American Style


1990
Directed by: Amir Shervan
Category: Action 

When I first heard of this film, I was more than a little excited. You see, this is another low-budget action effort from the genius behind Samurai Cop, one of - if not "the" - best Bad Movies ever made. You see, writer/director Amir Shervan operates on a level of bad unlike anybody else in the business. Apparently oblivious in knowing what it takes to produce a successful action film and completely inept, his most famous film Samurai Cophas grown to cult status as one of the greatest examples of Bad Movie Cinema, and for good reason. It's terrible in absolutely every single level. Yet, that's what makes it so great, and hilarious, and fun, and the perfect addition to any Bad Movie Night. So to find out that he had made another terrible action film, again co-starring none other than Robert Z'Dar (Maniac Cop), I immediately tracked a copy down and bought it impulsively.

Here's the beauty though. Once I bought it, I did some research and discovered that while Z'Dar appears in this, the real star is Harold Diamond, and I nearly lost my shit. You see, Harold Diamond is that weird hulking looking dude in the awesome Hard Ticket to Hawaii, another brilliant Bad Movie from Bullets, Bombs and Babes maestro Andy Sadaris. Diamond appeared as a sidekick secret agent who couldn't deliver a decent line of dialogue if his life depended on it. Unusually large, tanned, and with ridiculously long poofy hair, this guy was just about the worst actor in HtTH, which obviously made him my favorite. But he's hardly been in any films, and certainly hasn't appeared in anything in the last 23 years, so to find a film directed by the guy who gave us Samurai Cop that stars the oddball from Hard Ticket to Hawaii was almost too much to bare. So did Killing American Style satisfy the way I assumed it would? The star of Hard Ticket to Hawaii and the director of Samurai Cop; match made in heaven right?

Honestly guys, not really. While it is indeed a very bad low-budget action film, it never reaches the level of absurd that Samurai Cop seemed to achieve so effortlessly. In fact, I was quite surprised to find that this was made before Samurai Cop and not after, because on a technical level, it's a much more professional and coherent looking film than SC. So to find out that the much more juvenile SC was made after this was a total surprise. 

It's hard to say what exactly is missing here, but while silly and ridiculous, it doesn't possess the endless and laughable WTF? moments that SC or Hard Ticket to Hawaii for that matter does. But the film is quite ridiculous, and if you're looking for ridiculous, this may fit the bill. Oh, and before I forget, it also co-stars Jim Brown. Yes, "that" Jim Brown.....as the police chief. If it wasn't so funny seeing someone as respectable as him appear in this film, it would be really sad.

A completely inept and ragtag group of crooks decide to hold up an ice cream cone truck company (huh?) for some cash. When the hold-up goes south, they take off in a flurry of gunfire and take shelter in the home of John Morgan (Harold Diamond). Knowing it's only a matter of time before they are killed, Morgan begins to work on a plan of escape. 

Killing American Style is absurd on every level, almost to the point of parody, only it's not parody, this is a serious action film made by a guy who's into the business seriously. Unnecessary nudity, painfully awkward sex scenes (even a make-out scene is cringe-inducing and odd), terrible dialogue, lazy action sequences, and unusual cast definitely make this worth checking out. Even the minor supporting characters sprinkled throughout are comically odd looking. And that's not even getting into Harold Diamond's wardrobe. That alone is worth checking out because it's so over-the-top, you know that no normal human being would wear those clothes, yet he does rather effortlessly and you know they cost a fortune. Seriously, I just couldn't stop commenting on this guys clothes in the entire film, no matter what he changed into. Who wears clothes like that?! This guy does, and I wouldn't have it any other way. You also can't stop staring at Robert Z'Dar's uncomfortably tight pants or his junk. It's weird. Like, they're so tight he's almost got camel toe and you just can't look away.

Killing American Style is a an awkward and uninspired attempt at making a low-budget action film. Where writer/director Amir Shervan's complete lack of talent and inability to put a decent and somewhat coherent film together is what makes the legendary Samurai Cop one of the best Bad Movies ever made, is only half realized in this slightly more streamlined attempt (!!!) at a film. No surprise then that it doesn't have anywhere near the cult status or reputation as others do in this niche sub-genre. Hell, I'd never even heard of it until just a few weeks ago myself! As with his later film, it's entertaining for it's sheer ineptness and terrible "everything", but it's a one-watch kind of film. I have no desire to ever watch this again. Samurai Cop and Hard Ticket to Hawaii on the other hand......

7.26.2014

Batman 8-Bit Figure from NECA & Their Releases so far









Holy Shit Batman!! First off, special thanks to Rob over at Actionfigure Informer for the heads up on this.

Being a comic book and toy nerd as well as a filmgeek, I felt it was my duty to inform you of this awesome bit of toy news. Mainly though because I'm just excited as shit and giddy like a little school girl.

NECA has done it again and is releasing another figure in there highly-popular and growing 8-Bit Video Game Figure Line. As much as I am a fan of the entire line of these excellent 8-Bit figures, this is the one I'm most excited about. Why you ask? I'm glad you asked.

Via NECA:

Batman is the sixth figure in our highly successful line of classic 8-bit video game tributes. Following Michael Keaton‘s iconic portrayal as #Batman in the movie, the side-scrolling game was released in late 1989 for the super popular 8-bit home console, and is a true ’80s classic.

To celebrate the 25th anniversary of the 1989 film that defined Batman for the modern generation AND its 8-bit video game adaptation, we’re proud to announce our first-ever Batman figure in 7″ scale!

Batman (1989 Video Game Appearance) is the sixth figure in our highly successful line of classic 8-bit video game tributes. Following Michael Keaton’s iconic portrayal as Batman in the movie, the side-scrolling game was released in late 1989 for the super popular 8-bit home console, and is a true ’80s classic.

Batman stands 7″ tall, with over 25 points of articulation for great poses, plus removable cape, Batarang and Spear Gun accessories. Stylized paint deco reproduces the game’s original cel-shaded look. Special window box packaging with opening flap to re-create the look and feel of the classic 1989 video game packaging.


I'm a huge Batman fan, but I'm an old-school Batman kinda guy. My favorite Batman films will always be the Tim Burton directed Batman (1989) and the weird and slightly sub-par sequel. That is quintessential Batman to me. And being as I grew up a kid in the 80's, I was an NES fan all the way. While I didn't have Friday the 13th or A Nightmare on Elm St., you can bet your ass that I did in fact have Batman the video game and played it till my fingers bled. Okay, not really, but you get the point. Being a nostalgic fella, I had bought the game again about a few years ago on eBay as part of a set and have begun playing it again randomly. This game is still fun as shit and I still love the 8-Bit graphics to this day. I don't get very far on it, because I don't have the patience I used to when I was 11 years old, but as a time-waster, Batman the video game is a helluva lot of fun still. When the SNES came out, while there was no Batman game, they did release Batman Returns, which I also own and can attest that with even better 16-Bit graphics, it's also a ton of fun.

#1: Friday the 13th
If you'll remember, they're first entry was the 8-Bit Jason based off of the terrible Friday the 13th NES game from the 80's, complete with big box packaging emulating the look of an old NES cardboard box. It was originally a San Diego Comic Con exclusive which sold out within minutes, only to have a few sold online intermittently to anyone lucky enough to snag one at just the precise minute they became available.

#2: A Nightmare on Elm Street
Realizing the popularity of these type of figures was much larger than imagined, they next released a Freddy figure, also based on the classic NES game and packaging. Another hit, they've steadily increased their line one figure at a time, leaving each and every one of us nostalgic die-hard nerds wondering what figure will be the next. If you're an old guy like me, you remember these games rather fondly, even if they kinda sucked, like Friday the 13th and A Nightmare on Elm Street for example. Nowadays, if we own these old games, it's more for nostalgia and collecting. With the exception of Batman, I'd never pop one of these into my Nintendo for fun. More than anything, these old games just look cool sitting on an aging geek's shelf. When it comes to these 8-Bit figures though, you can't deny that the attention to detail is outstanding.


#3 Robocop
Next in line after the success of Freddy was non other than Robocop. Yes!! It was nice to see them go in a
different direction and not stick purely to horror. When news hit that Robocop would be releasing soon I almost lost my shit. I assumed that the Freddy figure was kind of a fluke, with NECA trying to capitalize on the surprising success of it's Jason figure. But lo and behold they kept going and they couldn't have picked a better character and game to offer up next. Truth be told I've never actually played this game, or even knew it existed. My excitement stems from my love of the original film and that baddest of the bad poster art, which was subsequently used as the cover for the NES game. I don't know, I just love Robocop and this box art is fantastic. Maybe you're not so much a fan of the games themselves, but as toy art, these big boxes look pretty sweet sitting on your shelf.


#4 Predator
NECA's last 8-Bit retro video game release before announcing the new Batman figure was Predator, another solid effort. After each figure, I always wonder what they'll pick next and so far, I've never been disappointed. In keeping with the theme they've been using, I can only assume that Aliens, Contra, Ghostbusters, Die Hard, and The Terminator aren't far behind. Though Tron was never released on NES as far as I recall, if they could pull that off, I don't think I could contain my excitement because for me, Tron is the crown of geekdom. I'd probably have a geekasm and that's no lie.

These 8-Bit figures are a big deal to me. You see, while I collected figures as a die-hard fanatic in the 90's when Spawn first hit the market, I pretty much stopped as I got older. Now, being 38 years old, I buy them sparingly when I see one that I just can't live without, such as these 8-Bit figures or a Michael Keaton Batman. I'm still a collector, but a much more selective one I guess because you know, I got bills and shit.



























#5 Rocky
NECA just recently released some news this past June that their next figure in line for the 8-Bit figure's would be Rocky, based on the SEGA game of the same name from 1987. Not many details have been released as of yet, including the box art, but it's release date has been tentatively set for sometime in September. 

#6 Batman
Still surprised this wasn't closer up the list. I would have thought this most definitely deserved to be at least their 3rd or 4th release. Maybe it was copyright issues? Either way, the 6th figure in the series already has a street date set for October and I personally cannot wait. 

So based on their upcoming Rocky release, it seems that they're not just limiting themselves to just NES games, which gets me excited since they can and may very well delve into those other figures I mentioned before, most importantly Tron from Walt Disney. One can only dream.

As with any figure news, I need to thank my buddy Rob from Actionfigure Informer. If it wasn't for him, I wouldn't know what the hell's going on in the figure world. I had no idea this new Batman 8-Bit release was even on the horizon and I have him to thank for it. So do yourself a favor if you want to stay up to date on any badass figure release, reviews and news, please follow his Facebook page, Actionfigure Informer. He's the go-to guy for any new figure news and release and does a really bang-up job reviewing them. 

7.25.2014

The Death of 'Superman Lives' Documentary has a trailer!!

Remember way back almost a year ago when pictures and news started popping up about that Tim Burton directed/Kevin Smith penned/Nicolas Cage starring Superman project from the 90's that sounded so batshit insane that it was a wonder it ever even made it into the development phase? Well as we all know now, it fell apart before it ever began shooting and probably for good reason. While it sounded like such an odd concept, I still find it a fascinating one and I almost wish they'd actually made it. Well Jon Schnepp has been putting together a documentary on that failed and doomed project using crowd-funding sources and it's almost complete and now we have a trailer!!! 



Check out the article from Jason Hughes via The Wrap below:

By Jason Hughes
The feature-length documentary film about the unfinished “Superman Lives” film is nearing completion. In an effort to raise the finishing funds for The Death of ‘Superman Lives’: What Happened?, producer/director Jon Schnepp released a full trailer featuring plenty of footage from the original film’s early production, as well as interviews with almost everyone involved in the film, except for its roster of actors.
Director Tim Burton and original screenwriter Kevin Smith were joined on screen by many people involved behind the scenes on Superman Lives, including producer Lorenzo di Bonaventura, production designer Rick Heinrichs, screenwriter Wesley Strick, costume designer Colleen Atwood, special effects supervisor Steve Johnson, storyboard artist Tim Burgard, and associate producer Derek Frey.
In the trailer, they talked about the unique take on the character they were hoping to explore, emphasizing his alien nature. But the story ofSuperman Lives is just one of many permutations in the Superman film saga over the span of a decade beginning in the mid-1990s.
Smith pitched his original outline in 1996, and it would be ten years of rewrites and false starts with the character before Superman Returns hit theaters.
While Smith wanted eventual Batman Ben Affleck as Superman, things changed when Tim Burton signed on to direct. He had his own ideas, and before too long Nicolas Cage was involved. Other names attached to the film included Kevin Spacey (who would become Lex Luthor inSuperman Returns), Tim Allen, Courteney Cox, Chris Rock and Michael Keaton, who may or may not have reprised his role as Batman.
It’s clear from the trailer that Schnepp is passionate about digging into the meat of his story, gathering an impressive array of involved people to talk about what went right, what went wrong, and what they were hoping to accomplish in Superman Lives.
He even had commentary provided by comic book professionals like Grant Morrison, Liam Sharp and Kerry Gammill, lending their expertise about the world of superheroes and the comic book community.
Schnepp is attempting to raise $85,000 to complete post production on the film, via his crowd-funding page at FanBacked.com. The bulk of the film was completed after a prior successful prior crowd-funding effort. As a reward for contributing, Schnepp is offering things like posters, signed Blu-rays and DVDs, t-shirts, and even hand-made action figures, as well as a variety of producer credits.
The post Unfinished Documentary About Unfinished Nicolas Cage Superman Movie Gets Trailer appeared first on TheWrap.


Excited??? I'm excited.

7.24.2014

The Exorcist III


1990
Directed by: William Peter Blatty
Category: Horror

Every so often a film reminds me that in the flood of mediocrity, there is a gem of true originality and talent that for whatever reason, flies under the radar of mainstream success, yet will knock your socks off and kick your ass if you give it just half a chance. One of those films is William Peter Blatty's The Exorcist III, and it is fucking awesome.

Much like Psycho II, Exorcist III is a much better sequel than people give it credit for. Released in 1990, 17 years after the release of the first one, original Exorcist author and screenwriter William Peter Blatty, who had also written the book of which this film is based on, steps behind the camera this time around as both the films writer and director. Some may wonder why Morgan Creek would put that much power into the hands of someone who'd only ever directed one other film before this, primarily working as an author and screenwriter. Initially, the directing reigns had been offered to the original Exorcist director William Friedkin, and even horror legend John Carpenter, but both would eventually turn it down leaving it to Blatty to take the job himself. But once you see Exorcist III, you'll realize he was the best man for the job because Exorcist III is steeped in a gritty, rich visual style that would be hard to duplicate with anybody else behind the camera. While the thought of Carpenter directing this baby makes me all giddy inside, the more I think about it I realize it would probably resemble his little masterpiece The Prince of Darkness a little too much.

Taking place 15 years after the events of the first film, and ignoring the second film altogether, Exorcist III's main protagonist is Lt. Kinderman (George C. Scott). Investigating a series of gruesome murders with a satanic edge, Kinderman begins to believe that they are the work of the Gemini Killer, who was thought to be deceased. Baring many similarities to the dead killer, Kinderman begins to suspect that something much more sinister is happening when he soon discovers that his old friend, Father Damian Karras (Jason Miller), also thought to be deceased after throwing himself out the window at the end of the first film, is in fact alive and catatonic in a mental hospital for the last 15 years, until waking up recently and claiming to be the Gemini Killer. 

I think one of the things I found most interesting is that above all else, Exorcist III looked and felt more like
a hard-boiled detective thriller than a horror film. In fact, it flat out is a thriller in the best sense if you ask me. It's really rather surprising too because you don't expect it obviously with a sequel to one of the biggest horror films of all time. The film excels in it's grittiness and use of the subject matter though, taking it in a completely different direction, which I think has and will take most people by complete surprise. Taking the structure of a detective thriller with a slow-burn approach I feel was a smart move on Blatty's part because it allows some truly memorable exchange between characters and some really excellent dialogue. Seriously, aside from the visual aspect, which is brilliant if I haven't already made that clear, about a good 20 minutes in we kept remarking how great the dialogue was in this and really, quite clever. I will warn you though, it's all rather complicated with a very detail-oriented storyline so you "need" to pay attention or you'll be lost.

If you follow me, then you know that more than anything else, being an artist, I'm a very visual person. I'm of the belief that if you're going to take the time and spend the money to make a film, why not infuse it with some style as well as substance? Too many films these days languish in lazy filmmaking to the point that if I'm not at least invested by the visuals, I'll more than likely be bored. For me, a movie can be terrible, but if it's pretty to look at, then at least it has "some" redeeming quality and I'll more probably enjoy it just as pure visual eye candy. So when a film like this comes along and wow's me not only from a structural standpoint, but also from a visual one, well then I'm pretty much sold and Exorcist III delivers tenfold on both fronts. But it's really from it's visual impact where this film really soars for me.

Being as the film is based on his own novel, it's a fair assumption that if anybody knows how to deliver a solid Exorcist film, it would be Blatty since he wrote the book of which the first film is based on as well as this one titled Legion. You would think that. However, as much as I loved the film that Morgan Creek delivered to us, I'm kinda shocked to find out that Blatty had envisioned a much different take on the film, one that didn't use Exorcist in the title or even contain an exorcism in the film. These were all late addition changes demanded by the studio out of fear of losing the core audience and most importantly, money. Blatty has also stated several times that his original cut was much longer, and that he had always hoped that the studio would eventually allow him to release a much longer Director's Cut, but according to Morgan Creek, any remaining footage that was forcibly removed to create the Theatrical Cut is lost forever. It's surprising to me because the film that we were given works so well. For the first hour and a half we are treated to a clever, dark, gritty, brooding and complicated serial killer thriller that outshines most others released in the last 25 years, only to dive head-on into horror for the last act, delivering one of the most intense and satisfying finale's I've ever seen in a serial killer film. But on the flipside, this finale completely changes the entire structure of the picture, and almost seems like a completely different movie. While this exorcism ending was forced upon Blatty by the studio after a test screening, I personally loved it for all the reasons why those would think that it doesn't work. If you want to dissect it, you could easily explain why it's unnecessary and not in tune with the rest of the film. Writer/Director William Peter Blatty was clearly going for something completely different than the first two films, and fearing the disaster that was Exorcist II: The Heretic would only taint this film, Blatty had insisted from the very beginning not to use Exorcist in the title. It's hard to say if that would have made a difference in the success of the film. Would we have been able to tell that this was somehow associated with the Exorcist franchise if it was simply called Legion as originally intended? If so, would it have made the film more successful? Would the film as a standalone detective thriller using some of the same characters from the first film 15 years earlier be good enough for people not to care whether it was related to one of the best horror films ever made and also to one of the worst sequels ever made? Since Morgan Creek claims that any of the remaining cut footage is lost forever, leaving Blatty the inability to "ever" release his original Directors Cut, I guess we'll never know.

But it is after all a film/sequel to The Exorcist written by the same guy who wrote the first film and authored the books, so to try and release an official Exorcist film by the original's creator without using it's pre-Exorcist III is a fantastic film and could work effectively as it's own film; a smart, clever and gritty hard-boiled thriller. As a sequel to an existing popular horror film, it only marginally scratches the surface of that genre, mainly because it's trying hard to be completely different and distance itself from the sequel people consider to be one of the worst ever made. Yet with Exorcist III as the title, I know it's an Exorcist film right off the bat, instead of trying to figure that out later when I've decided whether or not I should give this seemingly original detective thriller a shot. So this way I know what I'm in for and what to expect, only the tables have turned once the film begins playing because while it is in fact called Exorcist III and part of the series, it doesn't look or feel like one. Bah!!
existing fanbase and reputation seems a little silly to me. Sure in time I think it would have made sense and caught on with the general public, but being that the stars of the film, George C. Scott and Brad Dourif, who were outstanding by the way, claim that the original ending shot for the film was so much better and made for a much purer film experience that didn't require all the theatrics of the effects heavy finale of the currently released version, I kind of wish we were given that other version to decide for ourselves. The stars of the film attest to a much stronger film the way it was originally written and shot and for me, that's a strong support system. So on that note, I'm really torn. I feel that

Those are my two cents. This film blew me away with it's different approach and razor-sharp execution. Full of witty and clever dialogue, outstanding performances and top-notch screenplay and direction by Blatty himself, Exorcist III is a criminally underrated film. Not the film that Blatty had wanted to release, but an intense nail-biter that easily ranks as one of the best horror sequels ever made and one that more people should be aware about.

A YouTube user by the name of Spicediver assembled a fanedit of the entire film, omitting any scene or reference of the film's exorcism and keeping in line with Blatty's original story arc and vision. He accomplished this without any of the missing footage that would have fleshed out Blatty's original concept, but still gives you an idea of how different the film would have turned out. Check out the trailer below for a glimpse at this altered version of this classic film, a version that we are more than likely never going to be able to see. I think this looks brilliant. What do you think?



7.22.2014

Wes Craven's New Nightmare

Image courtesy of nightmareonelmstreetfilms.com

1994
Directed by: Wes Craven
Category: Horror

If you 're a horror fan, then you've seen some, if not all, of the Elm St. films, even if you're not particularly a fan of the series in general. And as with the Friday the 13th films, each and every one of them vary in quality from one to the next. After Part 4: The Dream Master, it's safe to say the franchise went downhill rather quick. After the terrible returns of Part 5: The Dream Child (the lowest in the series), they decided to end the franchise with Freddy's Dead: The Final Nightmare. As is with anything in Hollywood though, nothing is ever really final and New Line head honcho Robert Shaye decided to reach out to Nightmare on Elm St. creator Wes Craven for one last film, after having not been in touch for many years due to issues with Craven not getting royalties for his character. Burying the hatchet, Craven set out to write and direct one final Elm St. film to end the series on a high note, with his intent on bringing the fledgling series back to life and back to it's horror roots. Does he succeed?

Wes Craven's New Nightmare, while refreshing in that it takes a fresh stab at the original characters and storyline, ultimately fails to leave much of an overall impact. It's a shame too, because it has just as many positive attributes as it does negative ones. For instance, it's got great production value. New Nightmare looks and feels like a true-blue big budget horror spectacle. The practical effects work, while standard, is pretty good. And with this new film, Craven wanted to go with a much darker, bigger and more sinister take on Freddy. While it is a rather drastic change to the character, I actually like it. He looks intimidating as fuck. Along with Freddy's trademark makeup and look, gone also are the Freddy quips and one-liners that while cheesy, made the character more of a household name in the late 80's to early 90's. With the last 3 films in particular, you just sort of expected some comedy along with some creative kills in this franchise. I actually found the fact that he excised this concept from this new film a breath of fresh air. I think the jokes wore out there welcome long ago. I also kind of dug the storyline, where Craven has taken himself and some of the actors and production crew from the first film to play themselves in the real world in which Heather Langenkamp begins suspecting that Freddy, though just a fictional character from a series of popular horror films, is somehow materializing in the real world. So it ends up being a movie within a movie sort of deal. It's a ballsy concept, and to his credit, Craven tries awfully hard to make it interesting. It's just that he only marginally succeeds.

As much as New Nightmare has to admire in this latest attempt, there are also things that seemed lacking or uninspired. One of the things you'll notice during the first half of the film is that Freddy never makes an appearance until the halfway point. And while Craven does his best to build up the tension and sense of dread for a good 45 minutes, by the time Freddy finally shows up, you've been somewhat bored up until that point so you're only semi-excited to see him. On the plus, the insane and ridiculous fantasy of the last 3 Nightmare's (Part 4: The Dream Master, Part 5: The Dream Child, Freddy's Dead: The Final Nightmare) is gone and the film looks good as an old school horror film. But it seems that visually impressive and storyline/emotionally impressive are two different things in this case - the production and actors are fine, but the film itself was rather dull. Then things finally kick into gear in the second half once Freddy shows up and it's surprisingly fun. It does delve into fantasy unfortunately, and the CGI effects work in this second half are embarrassing to say the least, even by 1994 standards. Unfortunately, while the fantasy aspect isn't anywhere near the level of absurd or silly as the earlier films, It's never really all that interesting either, and coupled with the really bad CGI work, I feel Craven should have probably grounded the film more in reality in the real world rather than create another mythical dream world where a lot of this concept still does't make sense.

So now that I'm done bitching a bit, I'll give Craven and company some well-deserved props; their attempt at going back to the franchise's horror roots and trying to deliver a solid adult horror film, one that doesn't cater to the MTV generation, succeeds from a technical, visual and artistic standpoint. The structure is solid, and the returning cast and practical effects team do outstanding work. It's just that it feels like it's almost too serious for it's own good and self aware of the franchise's past mistakes. Had they infused the film with a little of the fun factor or just kept things interesting instead of 100% gloom and doom by way of a slow build-up, maybe it would have left a more lasting impression. As it stands now though, while not nearly as great as his original film exactly 20 years before, it's probably the strongest film in the series next to the original. Robert Englund once again proved he could be scary and not a ham, and Craven displays some of his best work, helping us forget, albeit briefly, some of his misfires of the last 20 years.

7.18.2014

Robocop 3


1993
Directed by: Fred Dekker
Category: Action/Sci-fi

The Robocop franchise is a touchy subject with a lot of die-hard action/sci-fi fans. I think that pretty much the majority of the world just flat out loves the original one. Even by today's standards, it's exceptionally well done and hasn't aged a bit. In fact, I personally feel the Robocop remake was completely unnecessary. And the more I discuss Robocop 2 with fans and friends, I'm realizing that it's pretty much split right down the middle. To date, with everyone I've discussed this with, it doesn't seem to sway farther in either direction as far as those who love it and those who hate it. Right now, it's about 50/50. But then we get to Robocop 3 and it's pretty unanimous; it sucks. I have yet to meet anyone who actually likes it, and for good reason.

If you do any digging, you know getting the film from page to screen was not easy. Filmed a year after Robocop 2 was released in 1990, it sat on the shelf until it's eventual 1993 theatrical release due to Orion's bankruptcy. Legendary comic book and graphic novelist Frank Miller (Sin City, 300, Ronin, The Dark Knight Returns), who had written the screenplay for Robocop 2, had again worked on the screenplay for 3, hoping that a lot of his crazy ideas that were removed from Part 2 would make their way into this film. However, as with most films, his original vision was severely altered and cut down, resulting in Miller turning his back on Hollywood until 2005's Sin City, and a lazy, watered-down Robocop film that bares more of a resemblance to the Canadian television show than it's two predecessors. It's pretty sad really, and almost comical how silly this film is in comparison. The constant thought that kept repeating in my head over and over as I watched this was that more than anything, it looked and felt like a Made-for-TV movie.

Robocop 3 had a lot of odds stacked against it before it was ever made. In a few interviews years after it was released, years in which co-writer/director Fred Dekker was pretty much ostracized from Hollywood for his sins, he's been pretty honest about what made Robocop 3 fail. But all in all, they are things were had already assumed anyway. Like the fact that he was under orders to deliver a PG-13 Robocop by the studio. And how he himself had made the decision to try and deliver a more "heartfelt" story rather than relying on insane action to movie the film along, and that ultimately it was the wrong one. He also mentions that while Frank Miller's script was ambitious, he felt it needed "more heart and less cynicism", which was ultimately the film's failure, among other things. When it did come down to the action, which he watered-down considerably to begin with, he envisioned Hong Kong style action since he was a huge fan of John Woo and Tsui Hark. Lack of budget and tenacity prevented him from accomplishing this and he admits also that the ending was pretty "lame". He realized afterwards that despite his best intentions, the franchise and the character itself was never meant to appeal to kids. The two previous films were both rated a hard "R", and filled to the brim with insane violence, language, drug use, and a healthy amount of gore, and did considerably well at the box office. So for the studio to insist on a PG-13 rating, which is just downright preposterous logically, was the first step in this franchise's epic downfall. Dekker also admits that if he had the chance to do it all over again, he'd make it completely different. He'd make it less funny for starters, which clearly didn't work to begin with, and make it a much darker and more violent film, which is what the franchise was always meant to be. He wouldn't settle for a smaller budget, and insist on having the money to be able to deliver the bigger picture that everyone had hoped for.

Peter Weller seemed destined for the role, and tailor made for it. So to have someone else fill the shoes because of a scheduling conflict was a dumb move, especially a guy nobody had ever heard of before. Sure he's a recognizable face now if you watch shows like Law & Order, but back then you didn't know who the hell he was. Just that it sure as hell wasn't Peter Weller. And while Nancy Allen did return to reprise her role as Lewis, albeit briefly, it was bittersweet. Bringing a kid into the picture rather than having his trusty sidekick along for the ride was another poor decision on both the studio and writers. There is just so much wrong with Robocop 3 that there honestly isn't time to list them all here because we'd be here forever and you'd be bored to death. But needless to say, major studio interference, and Fred Dekker's own bad choices made for a tremendously mediocre and highly unimaginative film. A film that was the complete opposite of what fans of the first two were expecting, and the results are clearly evident in it's embarrassingly low box office tally; $10 million on a $23 million budget.

As I watched Robocop 3 for the very first time just a few days ago, yes it took me 21 years to bring myself to brave this atrocity, I remember thinking that while it was clearly evident that we were in for a "tame" Robocop film right from the beginning, I kept hoping that maybe the second half would somehow make up for the first, especially after the character of Otomo is introduced. You see Otomo is a japanese ninja cyborg. Needless to say, that was not the case. The second half only frustrates you even more because, among other things, this character is severely wasted and barely used in the film. And when the action finally does roll in at a snails pace, it's very tame and uninspired. And I'll admit, the concept of Robocop using a jetpack is pretty cool, but the execution was terrible, almost laughable.



The cast is littered with a lot of noticeable faces who may not have been household names then, but surely have become well known since. Action movie God screenwriter Shane Black even has a small role in this one. And as I mentioned before, Nancy Allen does return as officer Lewis again, but it's a short-lived excitement as her character is only in about a quarter of the film. The real letdown unfortunately is Robert John Burke in the role of Murphy/Robocop. While he's not terrible per say, he's definitely not memorable or even likable either. While he does slightly resemble Peter Weller in the slightest bit - not sure if that was on purpose - he's more robotic in nature than Weller and comes off as completely forgettable. I would think that if they were going to cast someone other than Weller in the iconic role, a bad move to begin with, you'd think that they would either try to find someone who can resemble him wholeheartedly in the hopes that most people wouldn't care or notice, or just go a completely different route and cast someone totally unexpected to shake things up.

Robocop 3's failures lie solely on both Orion and Fred Dekker's shoulders. What should easily have been a slam-dunk of entertainment, albeit PG-13, which could still very well have been fun had they infused the damn thing with more integrity and most importantly action, unfortunately turned into a terrible film that easily ranks as one of the top ways "not to make a sequel" in Hollywood. Obviously the majority of the problems come straight from Orion's decision to make a kid-friendly film, but most of the blunders come straight from Dekker's inability to handle the material and some really bad decision-making. As much as I admire him as a filmmaker, he seems completely out of his element in this genre, which makes me incredibly worried knowing he will be directing the next Predator film. Yes, he'll be co-writing it with the always awesome Shane Black, but with Dekker back in the directors chair with another popular sci-fi/action franchise, well I'm hesitant to get excited anytime soon. I think Black would be a much better fit directing that one. He's more than proven that despite having an incredible knack for writing hardcore action films, he's also a pretty damn good director as well as evident with his two directing efforts Kiss, Kiss, Bang, Band and Iron Man 3. But who knows, maybe in the 21 years since his last film, Dekker has learned a thing or two and I'm worried over nothing because in all fairness, while the same can't be said about Robo 3, he offered some really nice visuals in The Monster Squad.

A lot of this Robo film also just doesn't make sense. For example, when we are first introduced to Robo in the middle of a big shootout, he literally drives his car off of a building landing in the middle of the action. Instead of just stepping out and shooting, he shoots a circle out of the roof of his car so he can stand up and shoot the bad guys. Then he steps out of the car and continues through the car door. Why didn't he just step out of the car that way to begin with instead of shooting a hole in his roof? Theatrics maybe? And how does the cyborg Otomo know really anything about America like where to find a map at a gas station and whatnot if he was a full blown cyborg from Japan created from scratch and not a human that was turned into a robot?

I've been a fan of comic writer Frank Miller for as long as I can remember. Considered a God in the comic
book world after revitalizing the Daredevil comics in the 80's and blowing us away with The Dark Knight Returns, Sin City, 300, Ronin, Elektra, Wolverine, and yes, even Robocop, Miller just doesn't seem to be able to transition to film as easily as we would assume. After turning out an interesting, yet deeply flawed and lacking script for Robocop 2, his turn in part 3 only fared worse. In 2005 after a long hiatus from film due to his disheartening experience working on the two Robocop sequels, he came back to co-direct Sin City with Robert Rodriguez, based on his own graphic novels. With the directing bug in place, he next set out to write and direct The Spirit on his own in 2008, which resulted in a jumbled, weird, unapologetic mess that is easily one of the worst comic book adaptations ever made. I think it's safe to say that while he's considered one of the top creators/writers/artists working in comics in the last 40 years, his talents just don't transition well into film.

Robocop 3 is a prime example of how "not" to make a sequel to a popular franchise. Lame in almost every regard - hell, even the poster is terrible - this film is probably one of the worst sequels I've ever seen. I'm talking Superman IV: The Quest for Peace kind of bad. My 11 year old son summed it up rather perfectly when it was over. "Wow, for a Robocop movie there was hardly any action and no blood!". See, even the kid gets it.

Frank Miller eventually turned all his crazy ideas for Robocop 2 and 3 into a 12 issue mini-series in comic book form in 2003 later published into a trade paperback. This right here is one of the best, most insane comics I've ever read and one that's perfectly in line with the vibe the franchise was trying to go for with the first film, only much more balls-to-the-walls. It's gory, violent, nasty and crazy as hell and if you want to check out Miller's true Robocop vision, skip the sequels and just get your hands on this book.

7.16.2014

Odd Thomas


2013
Directed by: Stephen Sommers
Category: Horror/Thriller/Drama/Fantasy

I'm sure I'm not alone in thinking that this oddly titled little film, which you've probably passed or seen repeatedly at your local video store or at the Redbox, was a paint-by-numbers low-budget direct-to-video affair. Well yes and no. "Yes" in the fact that it is a DTV release, "no", in the fact that it's anything but paint-by-numbers or low-budget. I think what will surprise almost everyone is the fact that while it's a film that sort of flew under pretty much everyone's radar, this little gem is just about the most entertaining horror/thriller/fantasy film to come out of the market in quite some time.

Odd Thomas (Anton Yelchin) is a small town fry cook who lives the simple life with his spunky girlfriend and who also just so happens to see dead people, everywhere. Having been born with this gift, he uses it for good in fighting evil and bringing murderers and whatnot to justice. Only a handful of people know his secret, his girlfriend and the town sheriff (Willem Dafoe), whom he helps regularly with cases. When a stranger shows up with an army of ghosts, Thomas sees it as a sign of something really bad about to happen in his usually quiet All-American town. Together with his girlfriend and trusting sheriff, he knows time is running out to figure out what that is and how to stop it.

Let's get some specifics out of the way. First of all, it's based on a book by Dean Koontz (whaaat?) And it's written and directed by Stephen Sommers (G.I. Joe, The Mummy, Van Helsing). It's eclectic little cast includes Anton Yelchin (Fright Night, Terminator: Salvation), Willem Dafoe, and a rather talented bunch of character actors to round things out. It's an effects heavy and often upbeat film about a young fella who has the ability to see dead people and chooses to help them cross over or to seek justice to those that were callously murdered before their time and catch the perpetrators.

Now that's out of the way, let's get down to brass taxes. So since it's a Stephen Sommers film, that means lots of CGI, for better or worse, because it's a Stephen Sommers film after all. I wonder if he'll ever be able to make a film without CGI ever again? Is it just part of his DNA? But it's also a film about ghosts, demons and spirits, and in this day and age, that's really the only way you're going to get that amount of heavy effects quickly. Now I'm not saying I support it, because I don't. Heavy CGI have their time and place. But Odd Thomas is a particular type of fantasy film that seems to warrant the use of it in this case. And thankfully we have someone like Sommers, someone who's built a career out of effects-heavy CGI films, who handles it really well.

Odd Thomas is a fun film. At times, thrilling, exciting, sad, funny and scary; and at it's heart (which it wears proudly on it's sleeve), it maintains a constant fun vibe that packs a punch of entertainment. I'll admit, even I was skeptical. I'd come across this numerous times, but never gave too much thought into it what with it's over-photoshopped cover and unusual title. But when you're trying to find a film to watch with a kid that's "kid-appropriate", your options are extremely limited these days and I'm glad to say, Odd Thomas saved the day. After the "Is this what Stephen Sommers has been relegated to?" shock wore off, I was pleasantly surprised and treated to a rather unique film that never takes itself too seriously, and when it does, seems to pull all of these different genre's together to create a unique viewing experience that will undoubtedly surprise even the most stoic or jaded moviegoer.

Odd Thomas, I think, will only grow in reputation as time passes. Even recently, I'd heard a few people on Facebook mention how much they liked it and that it was in fact, really good. So when it became available recently on Netflix to stream, I thought I'd jump on the chance and I'm so glad I did. It's kind of a funny story too. On a Sunday afternoon, 3 of us were browsing Netflix, Amazon and Hulu trying to find something we could all watch and enjoy. Having spent over an hour searching and we still hadn't decided on anything because we all just couldn't agree, in frustration I suggested at least starting Odd Thomas and giving it 20 minutes because I'd heard good things about it. If it sucked, we could move onto something else. The moment this film begins it's fast paced structure keeps things moving really quickly at break-neck speed and it really is just a helluva fun movie.

If you're looking for a "family friendly" film, but one that packs a wallop of entertainment in it's rather short hour and a half running time, and one that also isn't afraid to get a little dark from time to time, Odd Thomas will certainly fit the bill.

7.15.2014

Quick Shot: Cold Prey

2006
Directed by: Roar Uthaug
Category: Horror

I first came upon learning about Cold Prey and it's sequels on a "Best Norwegian Horror Films You've Never Seen" type of list recently and I must say, it was a rather impressive list. Some I'd heard about already, but most of them I have not, including the Cold Prey franchise, of which there are 3 of them. Described by the author of the list as pretty stellar and a much better horror film than you're expecting, it's safe to say that I went into this with rather high expectations, especially since it seems that horror films that come out of Norway are in fact pretty damn good.

Slight Spoilers Ahead:
I'm not gonna lie, Cold Prey, while a solid thriller, just didn't impress me the way I was hoping it would. And let me repeat that, it's a "thriller", not a "horror" film, a fact that was kind of shocking when it was all said and done. You see, they market this as a straight up horror film, with the trailers even implying that there's a "monster" or "supernatural" aspect to it. I'm not going to ruin it by saying whether it is or isn't, but the fact of the matter is that the trailers slightly mislead you, and while it could very well be considered a great Norwegian horror film by many in the horror community (there are 2 sequels after all), I personally just didn't think it was all that clever, original or entertaining. In fact, more often than not, I found it quite dull.

On the positive side though, it's got a nice clean stylish look to it, and the ensemble cast is pretty solid overall. At it's best moments, it carries the "slasher" aspect pretty well, an angle I wish they stuck more with and dedicated more energy into, rather than making it more like a suspense/thriller whodunit. Even then, the big reveal at the end isn't as exciting as it should have been, nor really all that surprising if you really take the time to think about it and try to figure it out.

I watched this with a group of people, and the consensus was that as a horror film, it was just alright, nothing we'd highly recommend to friends in an increasingly flooded market with other more enjoyable horror films worth checking out.

7.12.2014

Nightbreed: The Cabal Cut is finally here!!

Okay, so if you love horror movies, then you love Clive Barker's 1990 "almost" masterpiece of monster horror Nightbreed. I say almost because as you all know by now, it was severely cut down and edited when released, much to Barker's dismay, and what we ultimately got was just a fraction of Clive Barker's planned vision of his world of monsters. Nightbreed was intended to be a trilogy of films, the Star Wars of the horror/fantasy world. But the studios, after severely cutting the film down and making drastic changes, completely mis-marketed the damn thing and made it look like an ordinary slasher film in trailers and promotional material, so naturally the film wasn't seen by hardly anyone and didn't do well enough to warrant any of the planned sequels. There were always talk and whispers of this supposedly "lost footage" making the rounds in conventions and whatnot - which did in fact exist in the form of telecine tapes and badly worn out VHS copies - and well, after a petition and years of hard work, these missing elements have been found and the mythical Cabal Cut (as it's been referred to) of Clive Barker's Nightbreed is finally going to see the light of day via Scream Factory in both a 3-Disc Limited Edition Blu ray and a 2-Disc DVD/Blu ray Combo Pack.

Here are the details from Scream Factory's website:

The 3-Disc Limited Edition Blu-ray
For the first time on home video, you can experience Clive Barker’s original director’s cut of Nightbreed with over 40 minutes of new footage, all mastered in high definition from the original camera negative!

This Limited Edition, 3-Disc Set includes the theatrical cut, on Blu-Ray for the first time, and a bonus disc of additional extras (see below)!

Boone (Craig Sheffer) may be a troubled young man, but his troubles are just beginning. Set up as the fall guy in a string of slasher murders, he decides he'll hide by crossing the threshold that separates “us” from “them” and sneak into the forbidden subterranean realm of Midian. Boone will live among the monsters.

Hellraiser creator Clive Barker writes (adapting his novel Cabal) and directs this vivid leap into horror that asks: in the battle of man vs. monster, who's really the monster? The answer supplies flesh-crawling suspense, sudden fear, a colorful Danny Elfman score and a creepy array of shape-shifting beings. They are the Nightbreed, denizens of a world beyond death, beyond the imagination, perhaps beyond anything you've seen.

LIMITED EDITION SET INCLUDES:
- Only 5,000 numbered sets produced (first 1,000 numbered available from ShoutFactory.com)
- Disc 1: Unrated Director’s Cut of the film on Blu-ray
- Disc 2: The 1990 R-Rated theatrical version of the film on Blu-ray (through a special licensing agreement through Warner Bros.)
- Disc 3: EXCLUSIVE-TO-THIS-SET Bonus Blu-ray disc packed with extras (details forthcoming)
- Includes Collector’s Book with an essay and rare photos
- Slipcase includes newly designed artwork by Les Edwards and approved by Clive Barker

The 2-Disc DVD/Blu ray Combo
THIS SET INCLUDES:
- Disc 1: Unrated Director’s Cut of the film on Blu-ray plus bonus features (details forthcoming)
- Disc 2: Unrated Director’s Cut of the film on DVD (details forthcoming)
- Slipcase includes artwork approved by Clive Barker

As of this date, this news is about a week old, and though the Limited Edition Blu ray is rather pricey, it seems to be selling like hotcakes, having already sold the first 1,000 units in it's first night. Sorry guys, the newly commissioned Limited edition Poster Print is no longer available as only 1,000 were made for the Limited Edition Blu ray, which sold out overnight. Better hurry, because realistically you only have a small window of time to take advantage of grabbing one as it's a limited run of only 5,000 and will surely run out, grabbing ridiculous prices on eBay and Amazon. The DVD/Blu ray 2-Disc combo will be a lot easier to get as there is no limit on that particular release.

You can order the 2-Disc DVD/Blu ray Combo Pack HERE directly from Scream Factory and HERE to order THE 3-Disc Limited Edition Blu ray.

I don't think I need to say how important this release is and how valuable petitions are in situations like this. This never would have seen the light of day had it not been because of the thousands of signature's Occupy Midian received with their petition to make this a reality. Hell, Morgan Creek flat out stated several times that they had no desire to re-release Nightbreed, let alone dig up any of the missing footage supposedly locked away in their vaults, because they didn't think there was enough interest in it. The fact that we were able to make this a reality is a miracle in itself. "The Tribes of the Moon Embrace You".